What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

Family therapy 1
(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H

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Autumn leaves and Mental Health tales. (by founder Eleanor)

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(image: http://www.thechakrahouse.co.uk/chakra-hygge-fairy-lights/)

I wanted to write this blog today because I have been reflecting. Over the years, I have come to really love the Autumn (Fall) season, despite being born in summer. Its cosy and calming at times, however these months can bring on some anxiety again for me.

I think that we are all human and are affected by the changing seasons. I know that my bipolar goes in phases, but is largely controlled and stabilised by medicines. However, sometimes hormones can make me feel lower at times of the month or life events can make you feel a bit sadder than normal, and in some cases, provoke depression.

My anxiety arrives in the form of morning panic and I can find it harder to do certain tasks. However, I am lucky that I am not depressed currently but the anxious thoughts are getting worse again.

I will worry about being around crowds, travelling far or socialising en masse with people I havn’t seen for a while. I live within a community where we all gather together for religious festivals and it can be harder to do this when I am more anxious. I particularly find early mornings hard- and don’t want to leave the house before 10am usually!

Working from home is both a blessing as I can work my own hours but I go out less. I am really trying to work on going out more- even down the road, especially before it gets too cold and dark.

Despite the increase in anxiety in the past few days, I am feeling thankful. There are so many good things to look forward to. There are so many exciting projects I can be a part of. When one door closes, I know that another will open.

I am still writing my book, still running my blog and have some articles being published soon. I also do social media management. I hope that my career will continue to diversify and bring joy.  I also need stability and the life of a freelancer, though fulfilling at times, is never easy.

There is a lot to be grateful for- family and friends, my fiance and life- despite the fears, anxiety and catastrophising that I do at times and am trying to limit. Positive mindset is so important- I am working on it!

Autumn can make us feel sadder or more anxious, or cause other mental health symptoms.  However, like now, it can also feel comforting- as I write on my computer, sipping a cup of tea as the darkness is falling. (Is it too new age of me to use the word ‘hygge’)?

As the leaves begin to fall and the frosts come its so important we find our lights in the darkness.

How are you doing? Let me know below!

Love,

Eleanor

Mindfulness and Unplugging: Digital Detox

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(image: Gizmodo)

In my life, I have found that what is truly important is having time away from work, fears, worries, busy-ness in general and unplugging. If I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or like things are too much, I take an hour or two in the week (and sometimes a day at weekends) to really, properly switch off.

I love social media and  I am always checking my email but sometimes its really good not to have to answer emails or mindlessly scroll through feeds. I love Instagram, but it is an excellent distraction from what I probably should be doing too!

Every Saturday in the Jewish world is Shabbat, the sabbath. I have a complete digital detox and find that I am a lot calmer and more present in the world. I go for walks and look at trees and flowers, without the distraction of my phone. I sleep without the radio (normally at night its on). I am not checking each notification, each app for something new.

I feel free for those 25 hours. I often curl up with a book, sleep and just relax. However, any longer and I really would miss the outside digital world- its a fine balance.

For me I want to be more mindful and appreciative and not live life constantly by social media. It is how I promote my work and stay in touch with people. I love that contact but I also like to unplug my mind and rest.

What about you?

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

Can Animals and Pet Therapy help our Mental Health? Guest post by Dawn Prime

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(image: http://www.usatherapydogs.org/)

Can animals help our mental health? Approximately one in four people in England will experience a mental health issue each year (YouGOV). Every mental health issue is individual, and every situation is different; this can be shown in many forms including stress, anxiety and depression. Living with a mental health condition can affect many aspects of our daily life, with many describing it to be a lonely and isolating experience, whilst others withdraw from social interaction.

So, can animals help with mental health? In my experience they certainly can, and the therapeutic power of pets has been well documented. I believe that this is done in a number of ways, from improving mood, to calming down and giving a sense of purpose.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, rabbits or fish – each animal has a way to help and offer great companionship to those experiencing and overcoming mental health.

Mental health benefits associated with pets include:

* Decreased anxiety

* Reduced loneliness

* A known sense of comfort and safety

* A greater improvement of self-esteem and confidence

* Help in depression

At the best of times a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, and in many ways they can help us all to live mentally healthier lives.

Caring for a pet gives our day a purpose and reward, similar to that sense of achievement in say, looking after a child. For example, owning a pet – especially a dog – means you will need to go for walks, which can often lead to conversations with other dog owners along the way, so simply put, it’s helping someone with mental health stay connected and less withdrawn in a social circle. Social anxiety can be a major hurdle to overcome but by having a dog, you have a ready-made conversation, as dog owners like to talk to other owners about their dogs!

Pets can also give owner’s incentive to remain calm – most pets are generally cute or cuddly and have the ‘awww’ factor, however our pets’ mood, at times, can very much reflect our own, so if we feel sad, our pet could be too.

Commanding and teaching our pet brings confidence and reassurance, and in time this will naturally train our own brains to let go of any negative stress. Unlike people, pets won’t judge your illness, so many people find it therapeutic to talk to animals as they listen – remember they are non-judgmental, and who knows they might just understand!

We can take stroking our pet as something we sub-consciously do whilst we watch the TV or read a newspaper, but did you know that stroking a pet can, at the same time, stop our minds drifting into negative thoughts.

Our mind releases feel good endorphins, so can make us feel better and calmer. The simple act of stroking a pet is also well known to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing physical and emotional stress.

Therapy animals also have a valuable role to play; often in a professional setting they provide comfort, support and can help to engage people. Therapy animals are trained to help people with mental health conditions such as depression and provide a calming atmosphere – with a typical therapy session involving the therapist, the animal and their handler.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months (Pet Partners).

Personally, I have known people whose anxiety has improved since having a pet. They find it very comforting in having some company which isn’t human, and someone they know who will love them unconditionally. It is re-assuring to know that they have a responsibility for looking after someone else that takes their mind off their own problems, whilst having a positive impact on their own well-being – helping them cope with everyday life.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and it’s vital to be aware of the commitments they bring, for example a dog will need good walks at least twice a day and a horse will need to be ridden out. If you are not sure about taking on a pet but want the benefits that are associated with being around animals, then there are many local animal sanctuaries which would value a volunteer.

Animals can be wonderful creatures and really therapeutic for our mental health.

This article was written by animal nursing assistant, health advisor and writer Dawn Prime. 

On feeling ‘meh’: Mental health journey

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(image: Whisper)

I am writing this because in the past few days, I havn’t been feeling that brilliant. Our mental health rarely stays the same and often goes through peaks and troughs. For me, it is likely that I am hormonal due to withdrawing from one of my medications (which controls female hormones).

I do feel very tired and a bit low some of the time. However, I am able to distract my mind and combat it through being busy at work and seeing friends or my fiance when able.

Even work I normally love doing feels exhausting this week- but I am trying to do the best I can.

Its important to have space and time for me. My family have been really helpful too.

There has been a lot of really exciting things happen and I am trying to keep afloat and make sure I practise lots of self care.

Things feel a little bit ‘meh’ right now. It could be that having returned from holiday and the isolating nature of my job means that I may be feeling less happy than normal. It largely does feel hormonal as my hormones are currently changing level.. so I am going to give it time too.

What I do know is I am very excited about my book project and other writing projects and I am just going to pace myself and take it day by day.

How are you feeling? Do you ever feel like this? I really try thinking positively but sometimes you just feel like you need a break.

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

Dealing with my mental health on holiday abroad: Trip to Israel

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(image: GoThinkBig)

On Monday, I returned from a wonderful holiday to Israel with my fiance Rob, seeing friends and family. I hadn’t been to Israel in 9 years for various reasons and he hadn’t been for 13 years (!) so we were determined to make the most of our trip. We definitely don’t want to leave it so long next time.

We travelled around the country staying with family and in hotels too. If anything, we almost packed in too much trying to see everyone- and I still didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to as we were only there for a week. I was also very conscious of the fact that it was very hot and it became apparent that I couldn’t cope with walking  in 36 degree heat for too long!

I made sure that I had lots of water on me as my medication, Lithium,  dehydrates my body quickly so I have to intake more water than most. I found that through heat and dehydration, I would get tired quite quickly so if we had spent a morning travelling, I would need to spend a few hours either resting in air conditioning or sleeping.

In general, my anxiety is better when I am abroad, though there were a few days where morning anxiety did overwhelm  and I chose to rest and sleep and then go out later in the day. My fiance was very understanding of this and went for a wander some mornings. However, once I was rested and had eaten breakfast/ drunk lots of water, I was able to enjoy and do lots of fun things.

On our trip we went to visit my best friend/ cousin and her family in a place called Tel Mond, near Netanya and we went for a day trip to Netanya- which is a beach side resort. They also made a barbeque for us when we arrived which was lovely and we saw other friends who live there. We met their newest arrival – gorgeous baby girl- and I had lots of cuddles with my new cousin!

We then went to Jerusalem for a few days- to the Western Wall to pray, walking in the Old City, seeing my other cousins and catching up over ice cream and meeting friends for dinner in the evening. We spent time in the Jerusalem First station near our hotel, which has restaurants and stalls as well as live music- a bit like Covent Garden! Rob and I went shopping and bought things for our future home as well as for family in England.

After this, we travelled to spend Jewish sabbath- shabbat with my other cousins who moved to Israel last year- and spent time walking around where they live and meeting their friends. It was restful and lovely to catch up with them, eat delicious food and rest.

Our final day was spent in Tel Aviv, going in the swimming pool,  walking around the streets by the beach, drinking iced coffee and going out for dinner with another cousin who happened to be travelling there with her friends. Rob and I also had time to ourselves which was important and we didn’t want to leave!

I am lucky that my medication very much helps my bipolar and so I was able to do all of the above.

For me when abroad, my main concerns are taking my medication on time and each day, getting enough sleep, eat well, staying out the sun at hot times and making sure I rest and drink enough. If I follow that, I can largely function.

Sometimes my anxiety  about being in a new place can kick in upon waking- so I was thankful my fiance understood it took me a bit longer to adjust to the day, but once I was rested, I was able to really enjoy the holiday.

Its important to note that everyone is different on holiday. However, it is vital to cut yourself slack, take rest days (or rest half days) and also take medication on time. I don’t drink alcohol on my meds- but keeping hydrated if you are is so important too.

Also make sure you declare your condition on travel insurance so you are covered if you become unwell abroad! This will make it more expensive but worth it. You don’t want to get sick abroad and have no cover.

I am pleased too that I stayed well- despite being very tired on my return. I made sure I caught up on sleep and didn’t go straight in to work – although I am now back at work.

I am missing my trip already and so thankful to my fiance, friends and family for making it so special.

Why you can overcome mental health challenges and anxiety to succeed in life: Guest post by James Kenneth

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(image: OMG Quotes)

Hi, I’m James. I’m 25. I’m a regular person just like you.

I suffer from clinical anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I’ll take you on a journey through my life experience and perhaps this, in turn, will help you on your life path.

As a child, I was rather timid – not the most sociable. I spent a lot of my time reading (which I still do). And, I was rather anxious too.

Every week, several times a week, I would wet my underwear at school because I was scared to tell the teacher that I needed the toilet. Every week without fail, several times a week, I would wet the bed at night because I was afraid to go to the toilet by myself in the night-time. All this wetting myself only stopped when I reached the age of 11, and boy was that a relief. Not just for me, but for my Mum as well – the laundry pile reduced massively.

By the time I went to secondary school, it was clear that something really wasn’t right. I wasn’t making friends, and I just felt downright awful.

My Mum, to whom I am eternally grateful, decided to put me in talking therapy. And it helped. I actually ended up being in therapy, on and off, for ten years. I’ll talk more about my experience with therapy a bit later.

At aged 14, I had a major positive breakthrough. I was on a school trip with 30 other teens. We were outside the country, in a totally different environment, away from home.

At first, I was how I’d always been – shy, worried, quiet. But then something big happened. I opened my mouth. Not only that, but people liked what I had to say. People found me fun and humorous, and  liked me. That gave me a major confidence boost. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

It’s all because I was determined to change, to grow. I, of my own volition, opened my mouth, took a leap, and overcame a big emotional obstacle.It wasn’t easy but it was needed.

When I was 19, I moved to a different country. Was I ready to? I was still an emotional wreck to be honest. Much more mentally healthy than I had been at age 11, but an emotional wreck nonetheless. But, thank G-d, really big positive transformation began from this point on.

The main reason – because I am, and always have been, 100% determined to totally manage and overcome my anxiety and I know I will. I was ready to make big changes.

With G-d’s grace, I searched for and acquired some fabulous mentors to help me. They aided me to deepen my self-awareness and hence overcome more emotional obstacles. It is known that awareness is often the first step towards change.

At age 21, I decided it would be a good idea to see a doctor. I was prescibed with Venlafaxine. It took 6 weeks to kick in and then wow – life changed dramatically. I was still James Kenneth, but I was calmer, more content, and level-headed. I’m not saying the medicine totally removed the anxiety, but it helped – big time.

While on the Venlafaxine, since I had a calmer mind, I was able to work even more on overcoming my emotional obstacles. And I did. I was on that medicine for a total of three years and it worked me wonders. And then I came off it when I no longer needed it.

Let’s talk more about my therapy. As the many years of therapy went by, I spoke out what was on my mind and I became increasingly self-aware. With the new self-awareness I had and the support, I was able to gradually change my way of thinking to a healthier one.

It’s funny, the reason I actually stopped therapy after 10 years of it, was because I now understood myself and what I had to work on, far better than the therapist did. It definitely gave me more insight.

Another thing that’s help me in more recent years is reading self-help books. Some of these books have really helped me on my journey of growth. I very much recommend. “The Road Less Travelled” by Dr. Scott Peck, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” co-written by Richard Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I recommend having a browse online and finding out more. I think they’re great!

To end, I’d like to tell you how things are now, in my current life situation. Not only am I no longer an emotional wreck – I’m a happy, self-aware individual who lives a great life. I’ve been happily married now for a year and a half. I’m not saying I no longer have any anxiety. I do. But I’m not the same person I was at age 11.

Heck, I’m not the same person I was even one year ago.

Every year I’m making leaps and bounds in managing my mental illness because I am determined to overcome it and live my best life. I believe that you can get better to, just reach out for help from others- be it medical teams, mentors, doctors or counsellors . With this help, we can recover and it is ESSENTIAL to reach for help and practise self care, kindness and compassion.

James Kenneth is a writer who has had  clinical anxiety and writes on self help. 

How to Manage Insomnia when you’re planning a Wedding- (blog extract) for Metro.co.uk by Eleanor

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(image: Irish Wedding Blog)

Last month, my fiancé proposed to me at the Shard with a beautiful London sunset as the backdrop. We had been dating for 18 months and had talked about marriage and future plans, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. But it was still very exciting when he went down on one knee. As I accepted his proposal, we both felt huge excitement as we started this new chapter.

We were buzzing to share the news with our nearest and dearest. In the days following, I had so much adrenaline that I found it hard to sleep. I was regularly lying awake at 4am reading messages or trying to absorb the occasion. I found it hard to switch off. I wondered whether others had gone through something similar following their engagement, and how best to deal with the stress.

Alison Gardner, a psychologist and sleep expert at Sleep Station, which provides cognitive behavioural therapy and has been commissioned and approved by the NHS, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Insomnia varies in how long it lasts and how often. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks.’

Insomnia is defined as chronic when a person has trouble sleeping at least three nights a week, for a month or longer. For many people, a stressful event could be the trigger that stops them sleeping. This is normal, until insomnia becomes chronic.

Mental health problems and insomnia often come together. It’s been estimated that 60% of people who meet the criteria for major depressive disorders complain of insomnia. But life events, such as the stress of an engagement and planning a wedding, can lead to missed or poor sleep.

Cat Phillips, a blogger and writer, says: ‘I had sleep issues when planning my wedding. I had months of bad anxiety dreams about everything going wrong, and a reccurring dream where I needed to go to the church but one drama after another kept stopping me.

Cat says she was keen to make sure everything was thoroughly planned and set up so that the day would run smoothly. The stress was heightened by a recent addition to the family.

‘I also had a newborn baby while organising the wedding, so I desperately needed sleep all the time,’ she explains. Starting a fitness routine proved to be a positive step. An exercise plan can help to ease the stress of wedding planning.

Exercise really helped with my baby blues, it was great for relieving depression. Most important to remember, for me, was that its not about the wedding, but about the marriage.’

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/30/i-had-months-of-anxiety-dreams-how-to-manage-insomnia-when-youre-planning-a-wedding-7587582/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

On Selfie Day: Is social media bad for our health? Guest post by AXA PPP Healthcare

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(image: https://www.designweek.co.uk)

Today’s world is dominated by social media and it seems to be playing an ever increasing role in our lives.

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare acknowledges that social media can give young adults a certain perception of life, that isn’t always reality.

 “Social media is a window where people choose what they want to present to the world – whether this real or altered – and in many ways it can be a ‘false reality’.

 It’s natural for an onlooker to make assumptions about others based on what they see online, but often those who are vulnerable cannot make this distinction, which can have a negative affect both on their mental health and their body image.” comments Dr Winwood.

For some, being online is their main source of social interaction and, over time, this can turn out to be an isolating and lonely experience. And, whilst the ‘rewards’ of communicating online are instantaneous, this isn’t necessarily a good thing” he says.

Social media website Instagram has been rated as having the worst effects on teenagers’ sleep, body image and fear of missing out.

 Ultimately with four of the five most popular forms of social media found to be harming young people’s mental health, it is important for young adults to realise that there is a world outside of the screen.

In 2016, seven young people who switched off from social media told the Guardian about the positive results they experienced. One said “I can live my life instead of trying to shape it into one that looks good online. I also have a lot more time now, and it’s easy enough to keep in touch with my friends in other ways.

If you decide to have a social media holiday, here are Dr Winwood’s observations:

 Suspend your accounts – suspending them for a week means you can take a break without the temptation to check for any new notifications.

Make an effort to meet up with friends face to face – you may find that cutting down on your social media time leaves a temporary void, so arrange to see friends and family personally and you’ll feel in touch when you’re off-line.

Enjoy the gift of renewed focus – think of all the occasions when your attention was split between checking social media and having a conversation or watching TV or walking along and just tune in to the moment of what you’re doing without the distraction.

Get an alarm clock – using your phone as an alarm can make it tempting to automatically check the online scene the minute you’re getting up. Having a separate alarm clock removes that temptation from arm’s reach.

If you find you crave social media try checking out apps designed to block certain sites at certain times of the day. This approach helps avoid that mindless checking and re-checking we all fall victim too.

This guest post was written by AXA PPP Healthcare.  If you think you might be addicted to social media, find more tips and advice at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre or speak to one of its help at hand nurses online.