Paranoid Personality Disorder

Like many other mental health issues mentioned before paranoid personality disorder is ridden with stigma and stereotypes. Even mentioning it makes people think of the Hollywood version of the issue with someone fidgeting and jumping at every creak and snap. While this can be the case in an extreme example, this issue deserves the respect of understanding the full picture.

The first step to understanding is defining it. The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines paranoid personality disorder as a “person has a long-term pattern of distrust and suspicion of others.” An important fact with this definition is that the person does not have a full-blown psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia. Like other personality disorders, paranoia is characterized by rigid, inflexible, and unwilling to adapt and function under the expectations of the individual’s culture.

While paranoid personality disorder shares similarities with other disorders it has some very unique symptoms. According to Psych Central these  are:

  • Suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her
  • Is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates
  • Is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her
  • Reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
  • Persistently bears grudges (i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights)
  • Perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others, and is quick to react angrily or to counterattack
  • Has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner

While the symptoms can be very noticeable it can be hard to diagnose Most physicians are not qualified to make such a heavy diagnosis so a trip to a licensed mental health professional is recommended. With this in mind there are no physical yes or no tests to confirm this mental health issue. The majority of the diagnosis is based off of symptoms and a person’s life history which is why it is important to have a transparent conversation with a licensed mental health professional.

Treatment is very similar to the other personality disorder. It ultimately comes down to psychotherapy. While medicine may be prescribed to help the most helpful and effective treatment is long-term psychotherapy from a qualified therapist. If you want to learn more about paranoid personality disorder check out any of the resources under the Useful Resources section.
~Be Mindful of Mind

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental health issue that affects a large amount of people. At 5.9%, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) affects 14 million Americans at some time in their life (Borderline Personality Disorder). Like most personality disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can make everyday life difficult. Psych Central states that a main characteristic of BPD is “a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions.” Most people who have BPD suffer from difficulty regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive/reckless behavior, an unstable relationships.

While BPD affects so many people, researchers have still not narrowed down a specific cause. Despite this, researchers believe that there can be two main causes. The first is trauma. Where trauma more commonly causes PTSD it can also affect personality of a person. The second is genetic. In recent studies it has can be seen that a person can inherit personality traits as well as BPD from their parents.

While understanding the causes of BPD is important it is also important to identify it in friends, family, and potentially yourself. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in order for a person to be diagnosed with BPD they must show an enduring pattern of behavior that includes at least five of the following:

Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived

  • A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
  • Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
  • Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.

With BPD half the battle is discovering it. While it is a fairly prominent mental health issue it is still widely misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed. The lucky thing about BPD is that there is treatment for it. The two major ones are psychotherapy and medication, both of which have proven to be effective. While these forms of treatment do work they still take time to be effective and the road will not be easy. Make sure if you or a loved one is suffering from BPD that you get educated on it and support them every step of the way.
~Be mindful of the mind.

Personality Disorders

We have all heard the term before. “Personality Disorders” is a term that is loaded with stereotypes and false imagery of what it a personality disorder looks like. While a stereotypes are built on nuggets of truth one needs to look into Personality Disorders on a deeper level to truly understand the depth of the issue.

The first and one of the most important thing to understand about personality disorders is that there is no one blanket condition. In fact there are 11 main forms of personality disorders according to Psych Central.

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder
  • Multiple Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

In fact because there are so many personality disorders a person may exhibit traits of multiple disorders. That is why it is important for a professional to e the one the gives out a diagnosis.

The second important thing to know about personality traits is that they are not fleeting once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Instead, professionals see it “as an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it” (Psych Central). These patterns that people exhibit are seen across many situations. In order to clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder rather another disorder, one needs to have a behavioral pattern must cause significant distress or impairment in personal, social, and/or occupational situations.

In the coming posts I will go over three personality disorders: borderline personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Enjoy the following posts as we tackle personality disorders.

~Be mindful of the mind

Now what? – Eating Disorders

Realizing that you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder can be an earthshaking experience. When facing the situation it might be impossible to think about things could ever go back to being normal. Leaving you to ask the million dollar question, “Now what?” Now like any health issue, the road to being in a healthier mental state is not necessarily quick or easy. However the good news is that there are plenty of people along the way who want to help you. While anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating have similar actions that need to take place to seek healing they also have some aspects that unique. The one thing that is almost a constant amongst all three is an underlying mental health issue such as depression.

Treatment for Anorexia:

-In order to conquer the physical challenges of anorexia, a doctor will create a carefully prescribed diet. This will normally start with small calories intakes gradually increasing over time to a healthy amount. This process can be done at home but in severe cases a patient will be admitted to a hospital to insure eating habits are restored.

-The next step is to conquer mental side of anorexia, this breaks down into two areas:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy is prefered by most people with anorexia. It helps a person understand how their thinking, negative self-talk, and negative self-image can impact their behaviors especially eating. This process focuses on finding the root cognitive patterns and working to change them for a positive and healthier lifestyle.
  2. Family Therapy: This type of therapy helps the person with anorexia understand the impact and role they have within their family, and how their eating behaviors maintain that role.

Treatment for Bulimia:

-Just like anorexia, the first step to recovery with bulimia is removing the immediate danger. Depending on how sever the bulimia is it can be hard for people to stop without hospitalization and medication. Once the immediate threat is over their dietary choices are monitored. Outside of this, people with bulimia normally benefit from counseling sessions like with anorexia. In addition to this, antidepressant medications have been useful..

-Just like with anorexia there are two ways you can conquer the cognitive side of bulimia:

(1) Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy is prefered by most people with anorexia. It helps a person understand how their thinking, negative self-talk, and negative self-image can impact their behaviors especially eating. This process focuses on finding the root cognitive patterns and working to change them for a positive and healthier lifestyle.

(2) Family Therapy: This type of therapy helps the person with anorexia understand the impact and role they have within their family, and how their eating behaviors maintain that role.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder:

-Just like anorexia and bulimia, binge eating treatment first focuses on the immediate health of the person who has been binge eating. Then the primary focus on psychotherapy to bring about permanent and positive change.

(1) Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy is prefered by most people with anorexia. It helps a person understand how their thinking, negative self-talk, and negative self-image can impact their behaviors especially eating. This process focuses on finding the root cognitive patterns and working to change them for a positive and healthier lifestyle.

(2) Family Therapy: This type of therapy helps the person with anorexia understand the impact and role they have within their family, and how their eating behaviors maintain that role.

 

Despite eating disorders being fairly common, it should not be taken lightly. Eating disorders can be extremely damaging to the person’s health as well as whatever role they play socially, especially within the family. If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder please seek immediate help.
~Be mindful of the mind

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

This is the last of the “big three” of eating disorders. Binge eating is the opposite of anorexia. Where anorexia is self-starvation, binge eating is the disorder that describes someone who is both psychologically and emotionally unable to control their eating habits. It is important to remember that this is not obesity, obesity is a medical illness and not a mental health issue. When someone engages in binge eating it is called an “episode.” For most people who experience binge eating, they experience an episode at least once a week.

According to Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, the criteria for a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder is:

  • Loss of control over amount of eating
  • Marked distress over binge episode
  • Occurs at least once per week for 3 months

And, THREE or more of the following:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty after overeating

What makes binge eating such a hard problem to face is that it can easily be hidden from friends and families. If you suspect someone suffers from BED make sure to ask them some questions in order to check-in. If you feel like someone is make sure to support them through the process and get medical help.
~Be mindful of the mind

Bulimia

While anorexia is one of the more well known eating disorders, it is actually bulimia that is the most common eating disorder. According to Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) there an estimated of 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women will have bulimia at one point in their lifetime. Bulimia which is formally called bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by binge eating followed by purging the food in ways such as abusing laxatives/diuretics, exercising obsessively, or inducing vomiting.

What makes bulimia such a hard eating disorder to stop is the fact that it is hard to notice. Anorexia by nature is easier to spot because it is categorized as people with a weight loss of 15% or more of the ideal body weight caused by self starvation. In contrast, people who have bulimia maintain a normal weight making it hard to spot at a first glance. Johns Hopkins state that some warning signs and symptoms of Bulimia include:

  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food, often alone or secretively (binge-eating)
  • A sense of loss of control over eating
  • Excessive dissatisfaction with body shape and weight
  • Feelings of shame and secrecy concerning bulimic behaviors
  • Self-induced vomiting or intermittent starvation
  • Excessive exercise
  • Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills

If you notice someone exhibiting these symptoms start engaging them in conversation asking about their eating habits and their motives behind it. As stated in earlier posts, watching what you eat and exercise is not the issue. The issue is the reason and the approach. If you or a loved one is or believes that they may be experiencing bulimia nervosa please reach out and seek help.
~Be mindful of the mind

Anorexia

In the journey of exploring the different aspects of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa will be the first one we cover. Anorexia nervosa or more commonly known as simply anorexia is one of the more well known eating disorders. According to Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) the number of both men and women who suffer from eating disorders in the US reaches 30 million people.That being said, women are more likely to develop an eating disorder compared to men for a variety of reasons. It is estimated that only 5-15% of men will have anorexia, this number can be skewed due to self-reporting and social pressures. The number of American women who will experience anorexia is 1/200. For both women and men the number of those dealing with Anorexia is too high, here is a bit of information on it so you can be educated to help yourself and others if the situation arises.

Anorexia is technically called anorexia nervosa and is characterized by Johns Hopkins Medicine as a form of self-starvation. This can be carried out through fasting, binge-eating, excessive exercise, as well as self-induced vomiting. When a person starts down the road of anorexia they are acting on a belief that they need to lose weight. Just to clarify, losing weight is not the issue here. If done in a healthy manner, losing weight and staying in healthy condition is not wrong, its the way you approach it. Starving yourself has much more adverse side effects that outweigh the simple weight loss. On top of that scientist and health experts have proven that by not eating you actually slow the weight loss process down more than if one simply eats a balanced meal with the daily exercise.

Now just because someone wants to lose weight and goes on a diet does not mean that they are anorexic. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, look for these symptoms. The most common indicated is seen by a person’s refusal to maintain a body weight which is consistent with their build, height, and age. They express a consistent intense and overwhelming fear of gaining weight, body image, or being fat. The key thing with this symptom is that this occurs regardless of their real weight. This is where the mental health issue comes in. Regardless of what is true the person suffering from anorexia believes that their worth and joy comes from their body’s weight, shape, and size.

After I post the next two eating disorder articles I will go over the treatments and solutions for them. Just because eating disorders are “common” does not meant that they should be taken lightly. Don’t be afraid to get help for yourself or a loved one.

~Be mindful of the mind

Eating

Eating is a normal experience for humans. In fact all living creatures need to eat in one form or another. With eating being so common we forget how it can actually be a struggle for some people. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), a nonprofit that focuses on eating disorders, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from some form of a significant eating disorder in the United States. This is around 10% of the United States. That is a large percent suffering from something that is so easily overlooked.

Just like other mental health issues eating disorders is a broad category in its own right. While there are many types, according to PsychCentral the main three are Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder. In short Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa) is the name for simply not eating, Bulimia (Bulimia Nervosa) is excessive eating and then purging the food, then binging is simply binging on excess food.

While any one can be a victim of an eating disorder up to 90% of those affected each year are adolescent and young women. Even more staggering is that eating disorders can affect up to 5% of the teenage girl population. This is due to variety of reasons like the pressures society put on them and what they may be interested in at that age.

Hopefully this has been a quick and intriguing bit on the vast mental health issue that is eating disorders. Throughout this week I will be going over the three main forms eating disorders to better understand this topic.

~Be mindful of the mind

Know the Five Signs

As I have been doing this blog I am in constant search for information and tools that can help take the intimidating topic of mental health issues and make it more manageable. With each mental health issue comes its own challenges, not to mention how each individual person handles the challenge. All of this makes it hard to come up with a way to generalize a way to identify mental health issues. This is where awareness and education comes in handy. As I was searching for new information I came across this great organization called Change the Direction.

Change the Direction is an organization that has the goal of changifilmstrip-adprint2ng the way our culture views and treats mental health issues. Like this blog and so many other organizations its goal is to raise awareness and education in hopes to bring about change. What I really like about Change the Direction is that it has a tool that takes the complex issue of catching mental health issues and makes it simpler to understand. Its tool is called “Know the Five Signs.” It is the idea that there are five five emotional signs that can be flags for seeing that someone is in emotional pain. These are the signs and their descriptions from their page:

  • Personality Change: Their personality changes. You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves. He or she may behave in ways that don’t seem to fit the person’s values, or the person may just seem different.
  • Agitation: They seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody. You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable or unable to calm down. People in more extreme situations of this kind may be unable to sleep or may explode in anger at a minor problem.
  • Withdrawal: They withdraw or isolate themselves from other people. Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities he or she used to enjoy. In more severe cases the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in someone’s typical sociability, as when someone pulls away from the social support he or she typically has.
  • Poor Self-Care: They stop taking care of themselves and may engage in risky behavior. You may notice a change in the person’s level of personal care or an act of poor judgment on his or her part. For instance, someone may let his or her personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing
  • Hopelessness: They seem overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by their circumstances. Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking.

With this knowledge you have the power to have conversations and look out for those you care about. By recognizing when someone is in emotional pain you can walk beside him or her and help them get help. You can make the difference in someone’s life. You can help those suffering from mental health issues and help.

~Be mindful of the mind

Helping those who fight for you

“Freedom isn’t free.” This is one of the truest clichés of all time, yet why do we so quickly ignore or forget the weight it holds? The irony is that we have the freedom to forget about our soldiers because they sacrifice it all to give us that opportunity. While I know war can be a polarizing political issue, one thing that shouldn’t be is the way we treat our soldiers. Despite your views those who have served deserve better treatment than they get. While this could open a whole discussion into the broken system of the Veteran Affairs, I want to focus in on the main mental health issue soldiers fall prey to, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The reason I want to pick them out specifically is because while their PTSD is not different from civilian PTSD, but because they are not given help from the Veterans Administration along with the fact that they are greatly misunderstood.

PTSD is hard to deal with for veterans and their loved ones. Where many wounds on the battlefield are physically received, PTSD is one that is unseen. Many veterans will come home and think they are fine and others will believe it, then PTSD will slowly become present. Other times veterans can come back and seem fine to the world but they know something is off, whether or not they know its PTSD is the hard part. The mental wound of PTSD is hard because it can misdiagnosed or ignored.

In order to better understand PTSD with veterans let’s look at some statistics from the Veterans Affairs. *A quick disclaimer, while the VA has been treating our veterans in an atrocious manner their statistics are still valid and credible.*:

  • The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:
    • Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
    • Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
    • Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
  • In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% and that’s only the reported and diagnosed cases.

These statistics are staggering and heartbreaking. The thing is that this is not an issue that is just a harmless one that affects one person. Suicide rates from veterans are on the rise. Marriages and families are falling apart. That is why as a community we need to raise awareness and help our veterans. That starts with education on PTSD and how to spot it. Check out my previous blog post, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, for symptoms and treatments.

Outside of getting professional help for you or a loved one there are a few more things you can do. If you are experiencing a crisis feel free to call the confidential and toll-free hotline: Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or Text to 838255. There is will be support 24/7 all year long. If you are not experiencing a crisis but would like to talk to someone with shared experience check out the site Make the Connection. Make the Connection is a website that looks to find and match veterans together to talk. You can find fellow veterans based on gender, war/era, branch, and combat.

Overall PTSD is a hard issue to tackle. It is unseen, stigmatized, and an issue that is plagued with miss information. If you or a loved one is experiencing PTSD make sure to tell someone and get professional help. Healing is possible you only need to take a step in the right direction.

~Be mindful of the mind

Myths about PTSD

Hey everyone! I hope you learned something form my post on PTSD. As I was learning more about it I found this great Myths and Facts section about PTSD on PsychCentral by Sara Staggs (LICSW, MSW, MPH) and I wanted to share it. Here is what I found:

EXPOSURE MYTHS:

  • MYTH: Everyone who experiences a life-threatening even will develop PTSD.
    • FALSE. Most people who experience a qualifying event will not get PTSD and will gradually/naturally see a decrease in symptoms.
  • MYTH: People who are weak get PTSD.
    • FALSE: There are so many factors involving PTSD and none of it is personal strength. The factors can range from the triggering, gender, how one is raised, to their social support but personal strength is not one of them.

 

SYMPTOMS AND COPING MYTHS:

  • MYTH: After some time I should be alright from my traumatic experience.
    • FALSE: Sometimes you can have forgot about a traumatic experiencing and something can trigger and bring up the memory.
  • MYTH: I can’t seek any healing because the trauma I experienced happened too long ago.
    • FALSE: It is never too late to seek help. While it is great to get help and talk with people about your experience, you can still receive help many years after the trauma.
  • MYTH: I should be able to handle this myself.
    • FALSE: If you broke you are you wouldn’t sit around the house waiting for it to heal on its home, you would go to a doctor. The same way you would go to a doctor, seeking help is always beneficial. Statistically the group that has the hardest time seeking help is men.

 

PTSD THERAPY MYTHS:

  • MYTH: Once I get it done with and talk about this trauma I will be fine.
    • FALSE: While discussing the trauma helps it is not the entire solution. Seeking help can range anywhere from a few sessions to a year or more. The goal is not to rush through therapy but to get the help you need to be free of PTSD.
  • MYTH: If I can’t remember the abuse, I won’t be able to process and heal from the trauma.
    • FALSE: While memory can help process trauma it is not the only way. There are new forms of therapy that focus on the emotions the body feels in regards to the trauma that have proven to be successful.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

For tPTSD 2he next two blogs I want to talk about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder because I want to tackle something that is in the news a lot and affects a lot of people. When you hear PTSD more likely than not you will think of the soldiers coming back from the Middle East. While PTSD came to general awareness because of soldiers it can affect anyone. In fact PTSD can occur whenever any person regardless of gender, age, race, etc because it is defined by Mayo Clinic as “mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either by experiencing it or witnessing it.”

Due to the nature of PTSD occurring from uncontrollable events it is impossible to prevent. As expressed above war is one of the most common causes but outside of active combat there are many other causes. Some examples that Psych Central list include “kidnapping, serious accidents such as car or train wrecks, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, violent attacks such as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive.” The common factor in PTSD triggers is that it normally is caused by something/someone threatening a person’s life or an others life.

A practical example of this happening on a large scale is the 9/11 attacks. Many people in New York and Washington, D.C. did and are suffering from PTSD. According to the New York Times, “one measure of the psychological impact of 9/11 is this: At least 10,000 firefighters, police officers and civilians exposed to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center have been found to have post-traumatic stress disorder.” This example shows how people actively involved, onlookers, and people who had loved ones in the situation were affected.

Unfortunately because PTSD affects people’s emotions it can manifest itself differently in everyone but there are common symptoms. These symptoms are categorized into four groups: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

  • Intrusive memories symptoms:
    • Unwanted reoccurring memories that cause stress.
    • Flashbacks
    • Upsetting dreams
    • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
  • Avoidance:
    • Avoiding talking, and thinking about the event as well as avoiding places, activities, and people that remind you of the event.
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood:
    • Negative feelings about yourself or other people
    • Hopelessness about the future
    • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Changes in emotional reactions:
    • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
    • Always being on guard for danger
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Being easily startled or frightened

While these are common symptoms it is important to remember that these are not the only ones one may experience if they have PTSD. Feeling distraught or confused after a traumatic situation is normal. However, make sure to reach out for help if you or a loved one has symptoms for more than a month or if suicidal thoughts are present.

As much as PTSD can be hard to live with there have been successful advancements in the treatment for it. There are two main forms of treatment – psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy is common for almost any person suffering from PTSD. These are commonly carried out through cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy. As for medications, they are normally taken with psychotherapy. While they do not take away PTSD they can help alleviate symptoms so one can learn to manage and fight PTSD.

While there is no clear cut solution to PTSD it is possible to find ways to beat it. With the help from professionals, friends, and family it can be overcome. The first step is to not be afraid to talk about it. The stigmas and a pride can make it hard but it is the first step. With education and open dialogue we can conquer PTSD.

~Be mindful of the mind

Postpartum Depression

Despite being one of the three main forms of depression, postpartum depression is underestimated leaving many women unprepared and uneducated for something that affects the majority of women. According to Postpartum Progress, Postpartum depression is so prevalent that the CDC reported that 950,000 women suffered from it. The real catch with this statistic is that it is self-reported. That excludes all the women who were ashamed, confused, or unaware of what they were going through had a name. When comparing this issue to other major diseases for women in America each year approximately 800,000 women will get diabetes, about 300,000 women will suffer a stroke, and about 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. With such a high number of those who will be touched by postpartum depression there is a need to raise awareness and education.

The first step is to understand what is postpartum depression. According to Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression is a form of depression that may occur after childbirth. Just like other forms of depression postpartum depression is different than a momentary spell of feeling down. Postpartum depression can occur anywhere between the first few days after birth to sixth months after birth. If it does occur it can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.

At this point you may be wondering why postpartum depression is even a thing, after all childbirth is a normal human occurrence. Well the answer can be found when looking at the impact it has physically and emotionally. Physically after one gives birth there is a large change in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Where a mother was producing hormones for two there is suddenly one body and it takes time physically for the mother’s body to switch processes. Emotionally becoming a parent is taxing. It can be a daunting task to suddenly have another human being rely on you for its livelihood. Now while there is no single cause of postpartum depression, either of these issues combined with various external factors can be the causes.

Now in order to identify postpartum depression or help someone through it you have to be able to spot it. According to Psych Central some symptoms of postpartum depression can look like this:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Fear that your not a good mother
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Problems with appetite and/or sleep
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Reduced interest
  • Thought of death or suicide

It is important to remember that while this gives a list of common symptoms of postpartum depression symptoms these are not the finite list. It is possible for you or a loved one to experience symptoms that are not on the list

Postpartum depression is a hard thing for someone to experience and deserves to be treated like any other illness. If you or someone you know seems like you may have postpartum depression do not wait for it to pass. Please tell someone and seek help. Just like the other forms of depression it can be treated with medication or psychotherapy.

Lastly it is important to remember that postpartum depression isn’t a sign of character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it can be a complication of giving birth. If you find yourself experiencing any of these signs get help as soon as possible in order to get back on your feet and love your newborn.

~Be mindful of the mind

 

The Winter Blues

Have you ever gotten sad or down on a cold winter day? Believe it or not this is actually a common experience. This As discussed in the previous blog post, depression is a large mental health issue. The Winter Blues or more commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a branch of the mental illness depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is directly related to changes in seasons. According to Mayo Clinic, “SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.” SAD typically begins in late fall and carries into the winter months, and in more rare cases it occurs in the spring or early summer. While the time of year plays a big role in SAD so does geographic location. SAD normally affects people in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

During these times of experiencing SAD most people experience depression like symptoms and sadness. These symptoms include depression, anxiety, mood changes, low energy, and losing interest in activities and people. As it says in its name SAD is a seasonal depression and should be treated as such. Any depressions symptoms may occur while experiencing SAD.

Now while many of us would love to be able to go to the tropics during the winter months that’s not always possible. So the questions is how can you fight SAD? Unlike other forms of depression SAD is easier counter and luckily you can do a lot of it yourself. The first and most important is get as much natural light as possible. According to Psychology Today people with a higher exposure to natural light report a higher quality of life. Other than natural light you can buy artificial lights that emits light on the broad spectrum of light that is similar to natural light. If light exposure does not do the trick there are also the standard depression treatments that include medication and psychotherapist.

So if you find yourself getting blue this winter tell someone and see a doctor to see if you are experiencing SAD. Also remember to keep moving and get as much natural light as possible. The sun is always shining you just have to find it.

~Be mindful of the mind

 

“I am good, just a little blue today.”

“I am Good, just a little blue today” is a phrase we have all probably heard from other or said ourselves. We all feel blue from time to time. It is a perfectly normal emotion and there is no need for shame. The issue is when it becomes a constant in everyday life. While this may seem cut and dry, the difference between a bout of sadness and clinical depression is a common point of confusion. Expressions of sadness are often followed by “I promise I will be better tomorrow.” What happens if tomorrow comes and you are still feeling down?

Clarity begins by considering the definition of depression. Mayo Clinic describes it as such: “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.” The key part of this definition is “persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” Those not prone to depression may struggle to understand how one can feel down for such a long period of time, but it is actually quiet normal. In fact, 6.9% of Americans live with some form of major clinical depression. With more than 3 million cases a year, clinical depression is no trivial matter.

With such a large number of people affected by a variety of forms of depression, the first question is “why do people get depression?” The honest answer is there is no one cause. Depression can be caused by inherited traits from family members or a combination of, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. The breadth of causes makes it hard to proactively diagnose or prevent depression.

The societal stigma associated with depression also contributes to the difficulty of diagnosis. Many people are ashamed of feeling depression and therefore hide it from friends and family. Mental health professionals at the Mayo Clinic have compiled a list of symptoms to help others see through the attempts to cloak depression:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness.
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports.
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort.
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people.
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness.
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility.
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things.
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.

Keep in mind while these are general symptoms and not everyone will exhibit one or more as described. Many find it hard to express how they feel while suffering from depression. Vincent van Gogh once described depression through this metaphor: “One feels as if one were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom of a deep dark well, utterly helpless” (Brain Picks).

When dealing with someone who may have depression, it is important not compare their situation to times you have been sad. Chances are you may have experienced similar things on paper, but in reality the way someone feels and internalizes different experiences are uniquely their own. The best choice is to let them talk about their experience and ask questions to help them process their emotions.

Now that we have a good understanding of depression, it is time to consider courses of treatment:

  • Depression can be treated through medicine and psychotherapy and there is a large market of antidepressants available to physicians to prescribe. It is always important to remember that all medicines do not work for everyone and that there is always a potential for side affects.
  • Depression can be treated with psychotherapy. A psychotherapist can help patients address their feelings through open discussion and by developing personal strategies to combat depression.
  • Depression can be treated through Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). This treatment has greatly improved over years and is nothing like the immediate images that are brought to mind. The patient is administered anesthesia and is asleep through the minor electrical pulses. Patients do not have memory of the treatment, and it has proven effective in many cases.

Depression is a complicated mental condition that carries some unfortunate stigmas. Regardless, there is no need to let depression rob you of a happy life because there are effective courses of treatment. If you even believe you may be experiencing depression, seek the support from friends and family to face the issue head on. If you know a someone that you may suspect is experiencing depression, ask them about it and let them know you care. Starting the dialogue is the first, critical step.

One last note. Depression in the most extreme cases can lead to thoughts of suicide. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255. The hotline is is open 24/7 or you can visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

 

Anxiety

Anxiety… A word that we have all heard. It is one that is often used without much thought without considering the weight of what it means. In all reality anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). It is so prominent that it affects 40 million adults in the U.S. in the age 18 or older, which turns out to be 18% of the population. With 18% of the population affected it is over double the next most prominent disorder is depression which 6.9% of American adults have. While there is such a high occurrence of anxiety it is highly treatable, however only one-third of those with anxiety receive help. A lot of this has to do with a misunderstanding of treatments, stigmas, and lack of education on anxiety.

Like most things in the medical field anxiety is a broad term that actually encompasses many forms of anxiety. While many organizations have their own lists the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) recognizes three main types of anxiety disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia). While these three types all fall under anxiety that have certain aspects that make them unique:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common. It normally is seen by having anxiety that is more intense than a situation warrants. People who have GAD tend to have a harder time sleeping, relaxing, concentrating, and can be startled easily. While most people with GAD can carry out normal day activities, those with severe GAD can find it very difficult.
  • Panic Disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as prominent in women than men. Panic attacks can occur at any time and usually reach their max intensity within 10 minutes. Where as some attacks occur once some people may experience reoccurring attacks. This can make going about a daily routine hard especially if one has to encounter the panic attack trigger everyday. An example of this could be having to change apartments because of elevators causing panic attacks.
  • Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) is an anxiety disorder that most people have experienced with speech anxiety on a small scale. It is normally manifested through being anxious to being with and engaging with people. People with Social Phobia will be self conscious and are very afraid people will judge them.

While there has been leaps in understanding anxiety many researchers have had trouble narrowing down a singular cause. Instead, many researchers have narrowed down two main causes. The first is that it is possible that it runs in the family. There has been a strong connection between parents experiencing anxiety and their children experiencing it as well. When that isn’t the case researchers believe that it can be caused by several parts of the brain, which can come through chemical imbalances.

Despite not knowing the exact cause researchers have progressively gotten better at creating treatments for anxiety. Two main treatments involve medicine or a psychotherapist, both of which have been proven to be extremely effective in helping individuals. Sometimes both of these are needed in tandem, and in extreme cases sometimes people will choose to be committed to a hospital to remove the stimulus that causes anxiety. Regardless of the cause there are many treatments available that have been proven to help those who suffer from anxiety.

Overall anxiety disorders are one of the more common mental health issues. Despite being so common there is a horrible stigma around anxiety. This stigma has created a standard of shame in our society that prevents people from getting the help they need. If you or a loved one suffer from anxiety there are a few things you can do. The first thing is know that you are not alone and that what you or they are experiencing is normal. The next step is tell a loved one and get help. Now with getting help the important thing to remember is that it takes time and that not everything will work. Sometimes it will take different medicines or different psychological approaches to find the one that works. Lastly, don’t be discouraged. Anxiety can be controlled, sometimes it will take more effort than other times but with help and determination it will be conquered.

Be mindful of the mind.

The Mindful Mind

As a country and a global community we have accomplished a lot of good. We have cured diseases, put people on the moon, and strived for gender and racial equality but the one area we have failed to make a difference in is mental health issues. Mental health is an area that is plagued by stigmas and lack of education. The very phrase “mental health” causes people to jump to conclusions. They either think of a loved one, a bad experience, or a stigma they have formed. My goal through this blog is to alter this first thought. My goal is to educate and create an open discussion that will change the way our American and global society views and treats those affected by mental health issues.

First off before I go any further I want to define what are mental health issues. The World Health Organization(WHO) defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” When one has mental health issues their ability to reach that state of well-being that is jeopardized by genes, biology, environment, or lifestyle (Mental Health America).

Another aspect of mental health that I will cover in this blog is developmental disorders. This categorizing aspect of developmental disorders is widely debated because some organizations and government agencies accept as being under mental health while others do not. For the sake of this blog I will consider it under the umbrella term mental health because I believe it is also a topic the general public is widely uneducated on and that it holds a stigma as well.

I hope that you enjoy reading about this blog as much as I will enjoy writing this. If you have any questions feel free to reach out or comment. Also I will be researching all my claims but if you notice any mistake or have a suggestion let me know. One thing is for sure and that is that I am excited to take a step in advocating for change in an area that affects one in four adults (WHO).