Monthly Archives: July 2016

Telling Your Family About A Mental Health Issue

Due to the many stigma attached to mental health issues, it can sometimes be hugely difficult for a sufferer to confide in individuals about their condition. They may feel that their confession will be laughed off as being all in the mind, or that it will change the way people look at them. In many cases the fear will be disproportionate to reality – but then, this is how mental health issues affect people.

There is a traditional opinion that mental health issues are somehow less serious than physical conditions. Because a physical condition is usually something that can be seen, there is a tendency to rate them as being more serious than mental health issues. But depression, OCD, SAD and others have affected people so badly that they kill themselves – so it is only right that they are treated seriously too.

In most cases, the anxiety over telling a family member of a mental health condition will be misplaced. They will be concerned for the sufferer and want them to get better. As yet, widespread understanding of mental health issues is not uniformly great, and it may take more explanation than a physical condition. However, in the end the family member will want their brother, son, wife or other family member to feel better, and will learn what they can to help them.

Aside from this, a family has a right to know that their relative is ill. They would be horrified if the secret went to the grave and they had not had a chance to help. It may be difficult to face up to, but telling family is important.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety is at the crux of a great deal of mental illnesses. The pain of a mental illness is that it comes from within you and attacks you with weapons you have unknowingly given it. Due to this, anxiety is a very powerful influence on mental illness – because no-one knows what you are afraid of better than you do, your brain will in its disordered state confront you with the things that scare you and make you anxious. As a consequence you will find it all the harder to beat the problem because part of you is causing it.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD is an illness which is characterized by worry about everyday, mundane things. It is typically a disproportionate worry about something that, in all likelihood, will not be a major problem. Typical flashpoints for GAD are things such as money, work and relationships – things that may well be going well for the sufferer, but due to the disorder will begin to niggle in their mind.

An individual with GAD may be in an excellent, well-paid job with prospects for the future, a stable and happy relationship and have numerous good friends. The disorder will pick at one or more of these and present the individual with the fear that something will go wrong. Most usually, it will use a small problem and expand it until the problem is all the sufferer can see. Usually treated using anti-depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, GAD can become debilitating, but if it is tackled head-on the sufferer can overcome it and lead a happy life.

Can Herbal Medicine Cure Anxiety Problems?

In the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the world went mad for Prozac. Everyone, seemingly, was on the most famous anti-depressant of them all… until a few, select clinical studies showed it could actually worsen symptoms. Even though expert doctors tried to stress that Prozac was completely safe in all but a few cases (as with any drug), the damage was done – drugs for mental health problems are still distrusted by many to this day.

This leads many people suffering from depression or anxiety problems to turn their backs on conventional medicines, and seek out a herbal solution. There are some famous remedies touted, the most famous of which being St. John’s Wort as an aid for both depression and anxiety problems. Anxiety specifically has the famous Rescue Remedies, based on herbal ingredients, which claim to calm and soothe the user when ingested.

So do they work? Well, yes and no. For a start, with any medicine, herbal or otherwise, there is a placebo element that must be considered. If someone with an anxiety problem is told that Rescue Remedy will absolutely, undoubtedly help them, they may believe it will help so much that it actually does. While the medicine itself has not helped, the effect is the same – mind over medical matter, almost.

Bearing this in mind, it is important to say there is no firm, clinical evidence that St. John’s Wart or anything other herbal remedy can help with an anxiety problem. There is certainly no physiological evidence. It would appear your money is best spent on therapies and psychiatric understanding, though there is no reason not to give a herbal remedy a try once in awhile.

Is “Mental” Health Really Just In The Mind?

Imagine you are asked to describe what depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Bi Polar Disorder are. Would you say “mental health problems”, or similar? Most would, and there is a general perception that these problems are purely based in the mind. There is still something of an attitude that people with mental health and anxiety problems should be able to “snap out of it” or get over it, just like that. Yet many mental illnesses actually have physical reasons.

For example, clinical depression. A much-misused term, depression is now used to describe someone feeling a bit low. However, if someone has full, clinical depression, they will experience long periods of horrifically low mood, low motivation and a general feeling of emptiness. A cruel illness, but one that is described as being mental, and a regular target for the “pull yourself out of it!” brigade.

Yet depression does have a physical basis. Depression is caused by a lower-than-average amount of serotonin in the body. Also known as the “feel good” hormone, serotonin controls the mood, personality and feelings of an individual. If serotonin levels are low, the individual will experienced depressive, low thoughts. This is a physical problem with mental evidence, but it is physical nonetheless – anti-depressants work on increasing serotonin levels, and tend to have a decent success rate.

Furthermore, preliminary scans have shown those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have enlarged lobes at the front of the brain. These lobes control our worry and anxiety mechanism, and when enlarged, the anxiety goes into overdrive – resulting in what we know as OCD.

So these mental illnesses are, more often than not, physical in basis after all – and one can no more “shake off” or “get over” a hormone imbalance than one can “shake off” a broken leg!

Mental Health In Your Child: Look, Listen and Learn

There is a difficulty that presents itself to all parents when their child reaches the age of 13 or so; are those mood swings natural teenage, hormone-driven angst – or are they something more?

Mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders or depressive illnesses, tend to begin to manifest around puberty – clouding the issue all the more. There is also puberty itself to contend with, meaning that many teenagers may be experiencing the beginnings of a mental health issue, but do not want to confide in their parents. It is a primary worry for parents, as they watch their child grow – how do you know if your child is going through a natural change, or if it’s a medical problem?

The real trouble is, there is no real way to know. Many teenagers themselves may not know. Studies done by a UK Obsessive Compulsive Disorder charity show that many sufferers’ do begin to exhibit signs during their adolescence, but do not even see for themselves that they are developing a problem. It is often put down to normal teenage moods, and it can mean decades of miserable suffering in silence for the unfortunate individual.

As a parent, you want to protect your child, and if they do have an anxiety disorder, you want to help them. Learn to observe the way your child behaves. Reinforce with your child that you are there for them, and let on in other ways that you are understanding of mental illness. Hopefully, when if they do experience problems, they will then feel they can talk to you, and help can be sought.

The Myth of Mental Illness

Despite all appearances to the contrary, the world is still somewhat old fashioned. An excellent example of a continuation of long-held views is no more apparent than with the general perception of mental health problems.

It is understandable that, in years gone by, there was a general distrust for those who did not appear to be as mentally healthy as one could hope. Yet as time has passed, we as a species have been able to learn more and more about mental health issues. We should know by now that not everyone who has a mental health problem is crazy – or, a favorite of the down market media, “schizo”. Mental health is varied and layered – and what is “normal” anyway?

Just because an individual is diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness does not mean they are not “normal”. All it means, in the basest of ways, is that part of their brain malfunctions. This does not mean they are going to start wielding a knife or break down crying. The vast majority of those who suffer with mental health issues carry on exactly as normal, hiding their condition – which, in turn, can worsen it. There is still a terrible stigma toward mental health problems across the globe.

Many people fear those with mental health – by default, regardless of their condition – do so out of ignorance. It is important to remember that, across the span of your life, you will meet hundreds of people with clinical diagnosed mental health problems – and you will have no idea. A few select cases of those suffering from extreme forms of mental illnesses have lead to a general, and incorrect, assumption of perceived danger. Until the stigma fades, mental health will still be a dark area, where sufferers’ feel they cannot be honest about how they are feeling.

Exposure Therapy: The End To All Anxiety?

Exposure therapy is nothing revolutionary, but it is now being recognized as an effective method of conquering people’s fears and anxieties. It is now regularly included in a program of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which itself is one of the most useful ways of treating a phobia or anxiety program

There is no doubt that exposure therapy is unpleasant. If someone has a clinical mental condition, it will usually be based around a fear of some sort. This fear can be totally irrational, but it can also be a rational fear of a genuine problem – except the level of fear is higher than is necessary, and is out of proportion with the actual threat. Whatever the reason behind it, when people have a fear of something, they will do all they can to avoid it.

Yet avoidance actually feeds a fear and gives it weapons. Subconsciously, when we avoid something we fear, we are actually building another block of dread. We are relieved to avoid the situation, and when we feel relief at avoiding it, we also feel extra fear for what we have avoided. The feeling of relief reinforcing our mind’s incorrect assumption that something is dangerous.

Exposure therapy removes this element by forcing people to face what it is they fear. It works particularly well with phobias, as well as people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is the epitome of confronting your fear. Yes, doing so is unpleasant and distressing, but with continued exposure therapy you will soon learn there is nothing to fear. Over time, and the help of a mental health professional, any anxiety or mental health condition will improve immeasurably.

The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It may seem like a bit of a mouthful, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (known as CBT) is one of the foremost treatments for anxiety and panic disorders – and also one of the most effective. Many patients find a combination of CBT and traditional psychiatrist help and assessment is just what they need to combat their anxiety problems.

CBT is based on retraining the way they brain thinks. When someone suffers from an anxiety problem, it is because their mind is making a subconscious decision or overreaction to a particular stimulus. CBT is designed to find the root cause of the problem, and persuade the mind through therapy sessions and workshops to see things differently. This can remove the element of fear and whatever else may be causing the anxiety, but not by riding over the top of the problem as medication might. Instead, CBT focuses on retraining the brain.

In terms of efficacy, CBT is perhaps the most realistic way of overcoming problems with anxiety. It is replacing conventional psychiatric treatments for some people, who prefer the less intensive and intrusive elements of CBT. A session with a psychiatrist can be quite taxing mentally, whereas CBT is designed to move at your own pace.

CBT is generally conducted by psychologists’, and tends to work as an intensive program of six or eight weeks. Patients can have as many programs as they wish, until they feel they have grasped the problem. When CBT is grasped and the new methods learned, a patient may need nothing more than an occasional refresher course for the rest of their life.

Anxiety Disorders & Medications

We live in a fix-all society, where we are all programmed to think that problems can be fixed quickly and easily. This “have it all, now” mentally extends throughout our lives, and even into our health. It is therefore understandable that, for most people, going to see a doctor and getting medication is the obvious answer to any malady.

This is proven in mental health in that Prozac, an anti-depressant, is one of the most prescribed drugs in the world. Anti-anxiety medication, such as Diazepam, and other suppressants are also freely marketed and used as an answer to anxiety problems. Yet it is worth considering the downsides of such medication.

The problem with medicating yourself through periods of severe anxiety is that, at some point, you are going to need to stop taking the medication. The only other option is to medicate forevermore, and spend the rest of your life in a drug-addled state. All the anti-anxiety medications have a sedative quality, even if it is mild, which can make you feel sleepy and lethargic. This is the point, of course, as in quelling your conscious mind the medication in turn quells anxiety, but this is nothing more than a short fix solution.

While medication can dull an anxiety attack, they can’t cure it. No prescription medication can definitively “cure” a mental illness, they can only lessen its impact. So unless you are willing to accept that you will be heavily medicated for the rest of your life, it is more beneficial to seek psychiatric and psychological therapy rather than reaching for the pills. It may take longer, but the results will last longer, too.

When Anxiety Strikes

Panic attacks can be the bane of your existence, and can make being out and about in the world extremely daunting. Never knowing when – or why – an attack can hit makes life unpredictable, and searching for a way to control your anxiety is a natural step to take.

Most anxiety attacks come on suddenly – however, there are usually warning signs that one is about to strike. It may only be a few seconds warning, but try and identify the signs that things are about to get complicated. You may feel your chest tighten, feel lightheaded or begin to shake – all are the immediate signs of a rush of adrenaline, which is one of the main identifiable psychological reasons for an anxiety attack.

As soon as you feel an attack beginning to develop, stop what you are doing. If you’re driving, pull over, and try and sit down if you’re standing or walking. As the attack begins to flower, take slow, steady breaths. Breathe in for five seconds, and out for five seconds. One of the main things people do when they are experiencing an anxiety attack is to breathe in short, sharp gasps; by slowing and focusing on your breathing, you are distracting your mind and resetting the scales.

Keep breathing in this fashion. If necessary, close your eyes and tilt your head back so you have a clear throat passage for air to move through. You may also find some form of self-comforting useful; try rubbing the side of your wrist with a fingertip. Remain calm, focus on your breathing and rest until the feeling has passed.