11 Habits That Can Actually Be Signs Of Mental Illness

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While the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses can be tricky to spot, it helps to consider how they might show up in the form of certain daily habits. By knowing what to look for, it can be easier to see these habits for what they really are, and even get some help. Because if they’re holding you back, or negatively impacting your life, then they very well may be something worth treating.

“A habit becomes a sign of mental illness once it hijacks your physical and/or mental well-being and interferes with your [life],” Dr. Georgia Witkin, Progyny’s head of patient services development, tells Bustle. “For instance, constant worry [can lead you] to make life-altering changes, such as not leaving the house,” which can impact your career, relationships, and hobbies.

These habits can take many forms, and will be different for everyone. But what you’ll want to keep an eye out for are habits that seem out of character, or ones that are making life more difficult. When that’s the case, “it’s worth a visit to a healthcare provider who can help to identify and address the underlying issue(s),” Susan Weinstein, co-executive director of Families for Depression Awareness, tells Bustle.

With that in mind, read on below for some habits that can be a sign of a mental health concern, according to experts.

1. Wanting To Spend More Time Alone

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“No longer wanting to see loved ones or participating in hobbies is indicative of mental illness,” Dr. Witkin says, with depression being one of the most likely culprits, since it can make it difficult to go about your usual routine.

That said, it’s always OK to take time for yourself, and hang out alone. But if you used to go out, see friends, or enjoy certain hobbies, it may be a good idea to reach out to a therapist, if you can no longer find the energy to do so.

2. Missing Work Or Appointments

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If you’re generally on top of your schedule, but have developed the habit of showing up late to work, calling out, or blowing off appointments, take note.

“Individuals [that] frequently disengage could be dealing with high anxiety, which often leads to avoidance, or possibly depression, which can lead to an inability to reach out,” Reynelda Jones, LMSW, CAADC, ADS, tells Bustle.

Even things like bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues, can make it difficult to get to work on time — or even get there at all.

3. Spending A Lot Of Money

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There’s nothing wrong with going shopping, or treating yourself to something nice. But for many people, excessive spending can be a sign of a health concern.

For example, “spending large amounts of money often manifests in an individual whose experiencing a manic episode,” Jones says, which is an aspect of bipolar disorder.

“Often the individual spends money beyond [their] financial means,” she says, only to feel really guilty or hopeless about how much they spent, once they come down from this phase. If this has become an issue for you, it may be time to ask for help.

4. Feeling Irritated & Picking Fights

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While it’s fine to have the occasional disagreement, acting in an excessively angry or cranky way, or picking little fights with others, isn’t a habit that should be overlooked.

“Anger and irritability, such as flying off the handle or constant grousing, can be signs of depression or bipolar disorder, particularly when they seem unprovoked and unusual for that person,” Weinstein says.

If these habits sound familiar, reaching out to a therapist may be a good next step, so you can figure out what’s going on.

5. Starting New Projects And/Or Businesses

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This is another habit that’s common among people who have bipolar disorder. But unlike folks who are starting businesses because they’ve thought it through and are thinking clearly, someone with this disorder might go forth with no concern to the risks they’re taking on, Jones says.

When someone is manic, they might also talk rapidly or jump from topic to topic, Dr. Indra Cidambi, psychiatrist and addiction expert, tells Bustle. Or they’ll take on too many things at once. Oftentimes, manic episodes are followed by periods of depression, which is when these grandiose plans can fall apart.

While it’s always great to learn new things, start new projects, and get excited about business ideas, this habit could mean something isn’t quite right.

6. Developing New Mannerisms

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“A shifting posture or gesture or even how we walk throughout our day can signal shifts in mood, which can often be a sign of mental health concerns or maybe even mental illness,” therapist Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, tells Bustle.

It could, for example, point to a mood disorder, since movement can be a “reflection of our emotional state and mental health,” she says. Think along the lines of new mannerisms, and other habits that seem out of character.

7. Misplacing Things

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Not being able to find belongings in a messy room, along with an inability to make decisions and forgetting things, can be a sign of depression, Weinstein says.

If this is a problem you’re struggling with, let a doctor know. They can help you figure out if it is, in fact, stemming from depression, and set you on the right course of treatment.

8. Staying Up All Night

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“Sleeping either too little or too much can be a symptom of a mental disorder,” Dr. Witkin says. “Often times, anxiety disorders cause insomnia or restless sleep, while depression causes oversleeping and eventual fatigue.”

In general, it’s healthy to sleep about seven to nine hours a night. If this is something you struggle to do, you may want to look into reasons why, including possible mental health issues.

9. Worrying About The Day Ahead

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While it’s common to feel a bit stressed or worried as you think about the day ahead, it might be a sign of anxiety if you worry to the point of distraction, avoid certain situations, or play out worst-case scenarios.

As Dr. Cidambi says, “Excessive worrying that is disproportionate to normal, everyday events is one important sign that one may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.”

10. Repeating Small Daily Rituals

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“Normal rituals we might all partake in that are a way to mark a change of pace for the day — such as kissing a [partner] goodbye, or checking to make sure that we have our keys or phone — are normal, and can be helpful rituals,” licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Scott Hoye, PsyD, tells Bustle.

But for folks with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these habits can take over. Instead of locking your front door once, for example, you might lock it ten times, or even drive back home to lock it again.

That’s because this disorder can cause you to doubt yourself, perform rituals over and over again, or experience magical thinking. So when a habit has turned into an obsession, Dr. Hoye says it may be a sign of a mental health concern.

11. Needing A Drink After Work

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There’s nothing wrong with getting a drink after work, having wine with dinner, or hanging out at the bar. But if this habit has turned into something you need to do in order to relax, consider how it might be a way to mask symptoms of anxiety or depression, Dr. Hoye says.

It’s not uncommon for folks experiencing excessive worry, for example, to develop ways to relax, such as reaching for a drink. So if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to let a doctor know.

It can be tough to spot these habits, and see them for what they are. But if you or someone else notices them, it doesn’t hurt to seek out the help.

By speaking with a therapist, you may realize that one of your habits was, in fact, a sign of a mental health concern. And in doing so, you’ll be starting the process of getting help and support, so you can get back to feeling better.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.`

What You Need to Know if You’re Dating Someone With Depression

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DEAR DR. JENN,

When my boyfriend and I first started dating, he told me that he struggled with depression. In retrospect, I think I was naive. I didn’t realize how much it would impact me and our relationship. What can I do to help him? What can I do do help our relationship when he’s struggling? —Down (Not Out)

DEAR DOWN,

You are not alone and neither is your boyfriend: According to the American Psychological Association, as many as 17 million adults in this country suffer from depression. Depression does not discriminate based on age, socioeconomics, fame or success. In fact, many celebrities have spoken openly about their own difficulties with depression, including Lady GagaKristen Bell. Most recently, reports have come out that the newly married Justin Bieber, while thrilled with his marriage to Hailey Baldwin, has been struggling with depression and has undergone treatment for it. This really speaks to depression being an underlying issue and not a reflection of someone’s relationship. That said, it impacts a relationship enormously. Studies have shown that relationships where at least one partner suffers from depression have a divorce rate that’s nine times higher than the average. Understanding the signs and difficulties that depression can bring, and exactly how to get help, are crucial to keeping yourself — and your partnership — on an even keel when tides get rough.

The symptoms of depression can vary from upsetting and concerning to debilitating, and it’s obvious how this would impact a relationship. It is common to see sufferers struggle with apathy, hopelessness, loss of joy or interest in things that once brought pleasure, mood swings, exhaustion, obsessive thinking, sadness and anxiety. And in terms of lifestyle or behavior, depression can impact sleep (insomnia or sleeping too much), eating (loss of appetite or overeating), energy (low energy or restlessness), and cognitive ability.

Often, depression in men shows up up differently, in the form of agitation, irritability or anger. While anyone can experience depression related to a life event — a death of a loved one, loss of a job, traumadivorce, e.g. — certain people are more prone to general depression. People who have one or both parents who struggle with depression, have experienced abuse, suffered from neglect growing up, and people who have drug or alcohol issues are among those who can be predisposed to depression. Whether your partner is dealing with a-once-in-a-while down mood, or has been diagnosed with a mental illness that will be part of your lives for good, here’s what you need to know.

It’s Not About You

Depression greatly impacts the way a person thinks. It creates a lot of negative filters when it comes to how a person views the world. Someone who is depressed tends to see the glass as half-empty and anticipate the worst a situation or person can offer. They typically do not feel worthy of love, kindness and care. They may appear lethargic or lazy when in fact they are just too physically exhausted from the depression to do much of anything. Many people who are depressed feel emotionally numb or sad much of the time.

RELATED: I Thought I Needed Klonopin — Turns Out I Needed a Divorce

Keep in mind that his depression is not a reflection of you or your relationship. (Think of Justin Bieber and how over the moon he is for Hailey, even while he says he’s “struggling a lot” and asking for prayers and healing.) While it impacts you, this is your partner’s own struggle and it is important not to take it personally. Separating yourself from the “cause” or reason your partner is depressed can help you better support him. Understand that even if it’s hard for him to take action against depression, he does not want to be depressed. Depression is not a choice. Do not feel blamed or attacked for it “happening to” you or your relationship; and speak about it with empathy. Getting mad at someone for suffering from depression is like getting angry at someone for having cancer.

View Getting Help as a Sign of Strength

The single most important thing you can do to help your boyfriend is to encourage him to get treatment. In a more general sense, creating a judgment-free zone where he can be vulnerable and talk about his struggle can be very healing. Anything you can do to help reduce his stress and lighten the load while he is struggling can be helpful.

In order for you to help your partner, it is very important that he be open to help. Too many people who struggle with depression mistakenly think that getting help is a weakness. A woman recently wrote to me on Instagram saying that she had been “so weak” that she started therapy. The opposite is true. Getting help shows enormous strength. It is brave to be willing to face your pain, work on making things better, and be honest about your emotional state. Many people are too afraid to do the work. It is important that your boyfriend knows that you view this as a strength.

And the “work” shouldn’t be seen as insurmountable. Depression is extremely treatable. It is the common cold of psychotherapy, and something every licensed therapist knows how to handle. Psychotherapy can be very helpful treatment. For those who are experiencing depression that is more resistant to psychotherapy, the combination of antidepressants along with talk therapy can be extremely effective. Helping your boyfriend to utilize whatever support system he has is important. People who are depressed tend to isolate from those who love them, which only feeds their depression. In addition, encouraging him to take good care of himself is an important component of treating depression and even preventing it. Encouraging him to get enough sleep, eat healthy, get sunlight, exercise, and utilize stress reduction techniques can help.

RELATED: How to Salvage Your Sexless Marriage

De-Stress Your Sex Life

Depression will impact your sex life together. It can kill a person’s libido, or simply challenge intimacy as it makes your boyfriend struggle to connect. If he is pulling away from you in bed, it does not mean he is not sexually attracted to you, it is the result of a chemical imbalance. And unfortunately, some antidepressant medications can lower libido, too. Do your best to work together to address these issues. You won’t want to put pressure on him to perform, as that could exacerbate the problem. Each person should have space to express their wants and needs, and the safety to know their boundaries will be respected. Proceed with care.

Look Out for You, Too

Men who suffer from depression often experience it as anger, meaning they have a short fuse and can be very moody. It is also not uncommon for them to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol which can have terrible results in terms of mood and temperament with their partner. It is important that you have good boundaries and self-care when it comes to how he treats you. If his illness manifests in poor treatment of you, or abuse of any kind, you may not be able to stay together. If someone is unwilling to get help and is consistently mistreating you — as hard as it can be to leave someone you love — sometimes you have to leave for your own well-being. You are allowed to do this, even if the other person is suffering from mental illness. You are not expected to endanger or harm yourself out of a sense of guilt for what the other is going through.

Call for Help

In some severe cases, people with depression may become suicidal. If your boyfriend expresses anything along those lines it should be taken very seriously. It is important to share with his therapist if he has one, family and support system, especially if it seems as if he isn’t addressing it how he needs to. Sometimes it is necessary to call authorities so they can determine if he’s a danger to himself, and needs to be checked into a hospital where they can monitor and treat him. (This is called “50150,” and can be a life-saving measure.) Another resource if you are concerned about suicidality is the Suicide Prevention Hotline (there’s a web chat, or you can call 1-800-273-8255). That can be a resource for you, for him, or for anyone else who is concerned.

Social Anxiety & Substance Use Disorder Were Linked In A New Study & Here’s What You Should Know

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At one point or another, you’ve probably met someone who identifies as “a social drinker” — you may even identify as one yourself. People drink casually for a host of reasons: to help them unwind, because they enjoy the taste, and even as a “social lubricant” to help feel less awkward and make socializing a little easier. While there’s nothing wrong with responsibly sipping some wine or beer at a party, alcohol also has the potential to be misused, particularly when it comes to dealing with social anxiety. A new study found that social anxiety disorder may be linked to substance use disorder, and specifically alcohol use, that weren’t reflected in other types of anxiety disorders.

Lots of people feel nervous when meeting someone new or entering new social situations, but social anxiety disorder is distinguished by a constant fear towards a variety of social situations where the person “is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others,” the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) writes. A person with the disorder may be anxious about embarrassing themselves to the point where it interferes with their ability to live their life, and NIMH estimates that roughly 12 percent of American adults experience social anxiety disorder in their lifetime. The new research, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, focused on understanding how the disorder might affect an individual’s relationship with alcohol and their drinking patterns.

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Researchers interviewed roughly 2,800 adult twins, assessing level of alcohol consumption and mental health factors including panic disorder, specific phobias and agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder. People with the disorder were associated with a higher risk for potentially developing alcoholism later in life, while the other studied anxiety disorders didn’t appear to be risk factors. Alcohol abuse also had the most significant link with social anxiety disorder.

This link is significant because of how it could affect treatment for both disorders. “Many individuals with social anxiety are not in treatment. This means that we have an underutilized potential, not only for reducing the burden of social anxiety, but also for preventing alcohol problems,” study author Dr. Fartein Ask Torvik said in a statement. “Cognitive behavioral therapy with controlled exposure to the feared situations has shown good results.”

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Cognitive behavioral therapy, otherwise known as CBT, is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients by altering patterns of harmful and unhelpful thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The therapy largely focuses on solutions that help patients question and confront “distorted cognitions and change destructive patterns of behavior,” according to Psychology Today, as well as to develop coping skills. It’s been proven effective as a treatment for a several mental health issues, including anxiety disordersdepression, and eating disorders.

Based on the study results, treating social anxiety and helping prevent it with therapies like CBT could potentially have the benefit of limiting alcohol abuse in patients. The relationship the study pinpointed between excessive drinking and social anxiety suggest further research on the topic is necessary, especially if people are drinking to deal with their mental health instead of seeking mental health treatment.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).

The Many Conditions that Mimic Depression

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Finding the right diagnosis for any disorder requires a comprehensive evaluation. Indeed, many illnesses share many of the same symptoms.

Take symptoms such as headache, stomachache, dizziness, fatigue, lethargy, insomnia and appetite loss. There are countless conditions with these exact indications.

Similarly, many mental illnesses share the same symptoms, said Stephanie Smith, PsyD, a psychologist in practice in Erie, Colo., who specializes in working with individuals with depression. Which makes “the process of diagnosing mental illness tricky, to say the least.”

For instance, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder can look like depression. All three cause difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, and increased worry, Smith said.

Anxiety also mimics depression. According to psychotherapist Colleen Mullen, PsyD, LMFT, like individuals with depression, people who struggle with anxiety might not want to get out of bed. They might stop going to work. They might withdraw socially. However, depression isn’t driving the person’s behavior. Anxiety is.

“An anxious person may stop engaging in their outside world because of the level of anxiety they experience when they try to leave their home.” Because of this, they might, understandably, become depressed, as well. Still, it’s important to treat the anxiety symptoms first (which, in turn, will help to diminish the depression), said Mullen, founder of the Coaching Through Chaos private practice and podcast in San Diego.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another condition that’s hard to distinguish from major depression. According to Mullen, “PTSD and depression share the following symptoms: memory problems, avoidant behaviors, reduced interest in activities, negative thoughts or beliefs about self or others, inability to concentrate, feeling disconnected from others, irritability and sleep disruptions, and of course, mood changes towards negative emotions.” The biggest tell-tale sign of PTSD is that a person experiences or is exposed to a traumatic or tremendously emotionally straining situation, she said.

Medical conditions mimic depression, too. Two examples are chronic fatigue syndrome and low blood pressure, Mullen said. In this piece Psych Central blogger and author Therese Borchard discusses six conditions that feel like clinical depression but aren’t: vitamin D deficiency; hypothyroidism; low blood sugar; dehydration; food intolerance; and even caffeine withdrawal.

Gary S. Ross, M.D., believes all patients diagnosed with depression should be screened for thyroid dysfunction. As he writes in his 2006 book, Depression & Your Thyroid: What You Need to Know:

There may be rare cases of depression that cannot benefit from thyroid treatment. Nevertheless, in every case of depression, it is optimal practice to test very thoroughly for thyroid dysfunction, much more thoroughly than is usually done in initial screening examinations. When the testing is thorough, then if anything is found in keeping with a low thyroid function, it is crucial to include some kind of thyroid treatment protocol in the overall treatment plan for maximum benefit to the patient.

(Learn more about testing and diagnosis in this piece.)

Having the correct diagnosis is vital. “[I]t leads to a more precise, effective treatment plan,” Smith said. “If we don’t know what we’re dealing with at the beginning of treatment, our interventions can be like shooting arrows in the dark: not very accurate and possibly dangerous.”

Indeed, an accurate diagnosis is life-saving. Literally. Mullen has heard horror stories of primary care physicians diagnosing women with depression when their sluggishness, depressed mood, and weight gain were actually symptoms of cancer. Similar symptoms also may be due to a heart condition, which if undiagnosed, puts a person at risk for severe medical consequences, she said.

This is why it’s so important to have a comprehensive evaluation. See your primary care physician for a series of tests to rule out medical conditions. Ask for a referral to a therapist who specializes in mood disorders, so you can receive a psychological evaluation.

What does a thorough psychological assessment look like?

“[A] good clinical interview includes lots and lots of questions,” Smith said. She asks everything from how long clients have been experiencing their low mood to whether they’ve recently had any changes in their life. Mullen takes into account the person’s current stressors and psychosocial history. The latter involves assessing social support—or lack thereof—and work, education, legal, medical and family history. “It helps us understand the person in the full context of their life thus far.”

Smith also might give objective screening measures such as the Beck Depression Inventory. “It can take one to four sessions to get all the information I need to make a fully informed diagnosis.”

You may or may not be struggling with depression. As Smith said, “depression is a condition almost everyone is familiar with, so it can easily become a catch-all phrase or diagnosis. But there are literally hundreds of other mental health disorders, one of which may better capture the symptoms you are experiencing.”

Either way, take your symptoms seriously and seek second opinions, Mullen said. Because you know yourself better than any professional who spends several hours assessing your symptoms. “Advocate for yourself and ask questions so that you understand what [the professional] recommends for a treatment plan and why.” This is your body. Your mind. Your health and well-being. Advocating for yourself in all areas of your life is one of the best things you can do.

Does Anxiety Cause PTSD or Does PTSD Cause Anxiety?

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This question came up in conversation when I was speaking with someone who has experienced severe panic attacks to the point of calling them “debilitating”, requiring inpatient care.  As they were sharing about the ordeal, they told me that when they contemplate the time spent seeking treatment and the aftermath, it ramped up both the anxiety and PTSD symptoms. Even as a career therapist with decades of experience treating people with stand-alone anxiety, with no overt PTSD symptoms, I had not considered that remembering the anxiety was re-traumatizing. I have heard clients share that anticipating panic attacks was in and of itself anxiety provoking. For this person and so many others, it is hard to determine the line between the two.

As is the case for many who struggle with this condition, they experienced body memory, flashbacks and tremors, as if the events of the past were recurring. Reminding themselves, “I am here and now, not there and then,” alleviated some of the more intense indicators.

This person is also intent on taking on challenges and resilience is one of their superpowers. Overcoming life changing physical conditions were part of the symbolic exercise equipment that helped them to become stronger and more flexible. They were aware that life events happen, unbidden at times and all they can do is ride the waves, sometimes treading water, until things settle back into place. Having solid support from family, friends and professionals keeps them afloat.

Although it might be hard to acknowledge an upside to anxiety or trauma, this person and others I have encountered in both personal and professional realms have been grateful for accompanying lessons. Keep in mind, that no one is sugar-coating it, nor are they denying the pain. They are making a conscious decision to face what comes their way. Paradoxically, the one certainty of life is uncertainty. A catch-22, since anxiety thrives on unpredictability.

The field of Positive Psychology, which offers a strengths-focused perspective to recovery from traumatic experiences, was pioneered by psychologist Martin Seligman, who directs the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. One concept in this approach is post-traumatic growth, which reflects counterintuitive responses to horrific circumstances. Research from Lawrence G. Calhoun and Richard G. Tedeschi of the University of North Carolina Charlotte found that survivors of trauma often experienced profound healing, a stronger spiritual faith and philosophical grounding. One powerful reframing is referring to the outcome as Post Traumatic Growth.

The 21-item Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory examines responses to painful event in five areas:

  • Relating to others
  • New possibilities
  • Personal strength
  • Spiritual change
  • Appreciation for life

When survivors view themselves in that light and additionally as thrivers who give back or pay it forward, rather than as victims who have no choice but to feel as they do, healing is possible. One such thriver is Michele Rosenthal, a keynote speaker, award-winning blogger, award-nominated author, workshop/seminar leader and certified professional coach. Michele is also a trauma survivor who struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for over twenty-five years. She calls herself Chief Hope Officer (CHO) of Your Life After Trauma, LLC.

Her trauma came in the form of a condition called, ToxicEpidermal Necrolysis Syndrome (TENS), which she describes as “a freak allergy to a medication that turned me into a full-body burn victim almost overnight.” This horror was followed by a series of physiological and psychological conditions that would flatten even the strongest of people. It took years of determination to recover that led her to be symptom free and now she guides others to overcome their own trauma-trials.

What helped her see her way clear to the other side of suffering is what she refers to as a “healing rampage.”

Rosenthal says, “It is an approach to recovery that is, 1) committed — we keep going no matter what; 2) consistent — we work at it every day; 3) creative — we look for new options and healing opportunities; and, 4) complex — we do the deep work rather than skim the surface as we seek relief.

These are important resiliency building skills regardless of diagnosis or symptomology, whether it falls under the umbrella of anxiety or PTSD.

  • Learn relaxation and breathing techniques to center yourself in the here and now.
  • Do grounding exercises such as walking barefoot on the grass or sand or tapping the bottoms of your feet.
  • If possible, avoid people, places or things that may overtly trigger reaction. Some PTSD survivors may steer clear of fireworks or large numbers of people if loud noises or crowds are related to the initial events.
  • Contemplate an exit strategy if you get inadvertently triggered.
  • Breathe in relaxing aromas, such as lavender, chamomile, vanilla or bergamot.
  • Listen to music that is soul soothing.
  • Seek support from family and friends who may understand your situation and if not, offer a listening presence.
  • Engage in therapy with a licensed professional.
  • If medications are indicated, work with a Psychiatrist or CRNP (Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner) who can prescribe.
  • Attend a self-help group.
  • Utilize the therapeutic modality of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
  • Exercise, whether it is in a gym, or a dance floor or basketball court assists in moving the energy. I think of emotion as ‘e-motion’ or ‘energy in motion’.
  • Spend time in nature which is restorative.
  • Dig in the dirt, and plant seeds for new beginnings.
  • Avoid self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, gambling, work, shopping or food.
  • Indulge in healthy hobbies, such as reading, crafts, music, playing board games, putting together puzzles or models.
  • Volunteer your time in your community.
  • If you have a spiritual practice, use it as an additional therapeutic modality.
  • Determine your passion and live it as fully as you can.
  • Spend time with children and learn how to be silly from them.
  • Lighten up by experiencing Laughter Yoga.
  • Enjoy a pampering therapeutic massage.

How Familiar with High-Functioning Depression Are You?

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Amanda Leventhal who is an undergraduate student at the University of Missouri has recently explained in an article how depression is underdiagnosed and overlooked in high functioning individuals. Her article has inspired a host of online discussions regarding the complex nature of depression and why it is so important to talk about this epidemic problem. Even in today’s societies, the causes of depression remain unknown and mental disorders such as manic-depression (bipolar disorder) are still unfairly stigmatized making mental health still a taboo topic that needs to be clarified and brought to light.

What is Depression?

Most guidelines today define depression as a mental disorder marked by low mood, aversion to activity and that also affects a person’s thoughts, behavior, and well-being. The exact causes of depression are unknown but possible triggers are stress, trauma, low self-esteem, chemical imbalances in the brain, prolonged illness, loneliness, and lack of light. Brain scans of depressed persons show that certain regions of the brain such as the frontal and temporal cortex, the insula, and the cerebellum are hypoactive. Furthermore, a growing number of studies have found a link between illness-caused inflammation and the development of depressive symptoms. What this means is that depression can no longer be considered an invisible illness but a very much palpable disorder that definitely requires treatment.

Depression in High-Functioning Individuals

Depression, just like the majority of all illnesses manifests with many symptoms. The most common symptoms of depression are low mood, apathy, a lack of motivation, troubles concentrating, problems with memory, sleepdisturbances, etc. The symptoms of depression tend to affect almost every aspect of a person’s life making this illness quite debilitating. An article published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that 79% of people with depression report that their illness has interfered with their ability to function at work. Since depression is considered a disorder that affects a person’s ability to function in life, we have to wonder if it is possible for people to be high-functioning and depressed at the same time? The short answer is yes as there are different types of depression. According to Harvard Health Publications, there is such a thing called dysthymia which is low-grade depression that lasts five years on average. The disorder is not as crippling as major depression but is a risk factor for episodes of major depression and it is probably under diagnosed in the general population.

The Stigma of Mental Illness and Why It Is a Problem

The stigma of mental illness causes a great deal of suffering and missed opportunities for those afflicted. Unfortunately, the invisibility of mental illness makes it harder for people to emphasize with a person suffering from mental disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression or manic-depression, and many often see the illness as made up or all in their head. The stigma may make it harder for people with mental illness to find employment, housing, and build secure relationships. People struggling with depression are very well aware of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and those going through depression may ignore their symptoms believing they have everything under control. This creates a problem that could lead to depression becoming worse with time and leading to poor health and even suicide if left untreated.

What You Can Do

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Knowing the nature of depression can help friends and family recognized atypical symptoms in loved ones. High functioning depressed persons may be better at hiding their symptoms, but behavioral and personality changes are usually good indicators something is going on. Irritability, anger, and a morose attitude is a good sign a person is depressed. Another sign could be increased sleepiness, weight gain, moodiness, and excessive fatigue. Asking the person that you believe is depressed about how they feel may help them understand that their behavior and mood is not normal but a result of depression. We have to understand that depression tends to skew a person’s view of themselves and the world and they may not recognize this as a sign of illness but rather as a normal reaction to a seemingly gloomy reality.

Conclusion

Although we tend to associate depression with low levels of functioning, some people may develop atypical symptoms of depression that can make it harder for them to believe they need help. The problem with mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder and manic-depression is that they often go unrecognized until a person develops severe symptoms that interfere with everyday functioning. The stigma attached to mental illness complicated matters further by making people already struggling with their mental disorder deal with feelings of shame and guilt. The result is often missed opportunities and low quality of life. Recognizing the symptoms of depression even in high-functioning individuals is something we need to take notice of today.

Learn about their diagnosis. Every mental illness is different so every person needs a different approach. It can be very affirming when your loved ones take the time to learn about your diagnosis and the way in which it effects you. Having a better understanding of your loved one will help you make sense of […]

via How to help Someone with Mental Illness — The Psych Talk

Why Does Depression Make Me Want to Be Alone?

Author Article

Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia

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Welcome to Coping, Episode 21.

I never realized how little I knew about depression until I became depressed. I didn’t know, for instance, how depression can snatch away your sex drive, leaving you feeling newly—and involuntarily—asexual. I didn’t know that depression attacks your attention span, your energy, and your ability to finish things. During a recent bout, I had trouble finishing magazine articles and movies. The number of emails I sent plummeted. Everyday errands felt like Herculean tasks.

But perhaps most surprising was the emotional numbness. Nothing about hearing the word “depression” prepared me for having a moment of eye contact with my two-year-old niece that I knew ought to melt my heart—but didn’t. Or for sitting at a funeral for a friend, surrounded by sobs and sniffles, and wondering, with a mix of guilt and alarm, why I wasn’t feeling more.

Tonic writer Phil Eil goes on to explore depression-induced numbness here.

Ask the therapist

Q: Why does my depression make me want to distance myself from other people?

A: This is a confusing, very real, phenomenon: I don’t want to be alone… but leave me alone.

I like to think of depression as an entity, separate from you, and as something that grows and shrinks. There are certainly many behaviors that help depression grow: isolating yourself, over-sleeping, staying indoors, not eating, eating unhealthily, neglecting hygiene, etc. These are likely not behaviors you would engage in on your own without depression, but depression can creep into your brain and make you want to only do these things. It tells you it’s all you’re capable of doing, and then doing them worsens your mental state and keeps you depressed for longer.

The other part of my answer is that absolutely nothing is wrong with you for wanting to distance yourself from other people. It could very well be that you’re not feeling yourself, and just showing up feels like it won’t work or will be too exhausting. But if you can, you should fight these feelings, because sometimes your brain snaps out of its depressed state, even just for a little while, when you’re involved with people you care about.

Here’s my best tip: When you’re depressed, do the opposite of what your body is telling you to do. So if you feel like sleeping till 2pm, force yourself to go for a walk outside instead. If you feel like ordering takeout or eating chips for dinner, organize yourself enough to cook a simple meal. The more often you can take a moment to identify whether what you are about to do will grow or shrink your depression, the more you can separate yourself from the thoughts and behaviors that depression brings on.

Michelle Lozano is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and member of the ADAA.

What It’s Really Like Going Through a Deep, Dark Depression

Author Article

How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.

In early October 2017, I found myself sitting in my therapist’s office for an emergency session.

She explained that I was going through a “major depressive episode.”

I’d experienced similar feelings of depression in high school, but they were never this intense.

Earlier in 2017, my anxiety had started to interfere with my daily life. So, for the first time, I’d sought out a therapist.

Growing up in the Midwest, therapy was never discussed. It wasn’t until I was in my new home of Los Angeles and met people who saw a therapist that I decided to try it myself.

I was so lucky to have an established therapist when I sunk into this deep depression.

I couldn’t imagine having to find help when I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

I probably wouldn’t have even tried, and I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened to me if I hadn’t sought professional help before my episode.

I’ve always had mild depression and anxiety, but my mental health had rapidly declined that fall.
It would take me close to 30 minutes to coax myself out of bed. The only reason I would even get up was because I had to walk my dog and go to my full-time job.

I’d manage to drag myself into work, but I couldn’t concentrate. There’d be times when the thought of being in the office would be so suffocating that I’d go to my car just to breathe and calm myself down.

Other times, I’d sneak into the bathroom and cry. I didn’t even know what I was crying about, but the tears wouldn’t stop. After ten minutes or so, I would clean myself up and return to my desk.

I’d still get everything done to make my boss happy, but I’d lost all interest in the projects I was working on, even though I was working at my dream company.

My spark just seemed to fizzle.
I’d spend each day counting down the hours until I could go home and lie in my bed and watch “Friends.” I’d watch the same episodes over and over. Those familiar episodes brought me comfort, and I couldn’t even think about watching anything new.

I didn’t completely disconnect socially or stop making plans with friends the way many people expect people with severe depression to act. I think, in part, it’s because I’ve always been an extrovert.

But while I’d still show up to social functions or drinks with friends, I wouldn’t really be there mentally. I’d laugh at the appropriate times and nod when needed, but I just couldn’t connect.

I thought I was just tired and that it would pass soon.

3 Ways I’d Describe Depression to a Friend
It’s like I have this deep pit of sadness in my stomach that I can’t get rid of.
I watch the world go on, and I continue to go through the motions and plaster a smile on my face, but deep down, I’m hurting so much.
It feels like there is a huge weight on my shoulders that I can’t shrug off, no matter how hard I try.
The switch from deep depression to considering suicide
Looking back, the change that should have signaled to me that something was wrong was when I started to have passive suicidal thoughts.

I’d feel disappointed when I woke up each morning, wishing I could end my pain and sleep forever.
I didn’t have a suicide plan, but I just wanted my emotional pain to end. I’d think about who could take care of my dog if I died and would spend hours on Google searching for different suicide methods.

A part of me thought everyone did this from time to time.

One therapy session, I confided in my therapist.

A part of me expected her to say that I was broken and she couldn’t see me anymore.

Instead, she calmly asked if I had a plan, to which I responded no. I told her that unless there was a foolproof suicide method, I wouldn’t risk failing.

I feared the possibility of permanent brain or physical damage more than death. I thought it was completely normal that if offered a pill that guaranteed death, I would take it.

I now understand those aren’t normal thoughts and that there were ways to treat my mental health issues.

That’s when she explained that I was going through a major depressive episode.

Reaching out for help was the sign that I still wanted to live
She helped me make a crisis plan that included a list of activities that help me relax and my social supports.

My supports included my mom and dad, a few close friends, the suicide text hotline, and a local support group for depression.

My Crisis Plan: Stress-Reduction Activities
guided meditation
deep breathing
go the gym and get on the elliptical or go to a spin class
listen to my playlist that includes my all-time favorite songs
write
take my dog, Petey, on a long walk
She encouraged me to share my thoughts with a few friends in LA and back home so they could keep an eye on me between sessions. She also said talking about it might help me feel less alone.

One of my best friends responded perfectly by asking, “What can I do to help? What do you need?” We came up with a plan for her to text me daily to just check in and for me to be honest no matter how I was feeling.

But when my family dog died and I found out that I had to switch to a new health insurance, which meant I might have to find a new therapist, it was too much.

I’d hit my breaking point. My passive suicidal thoughts turned active. I started to actually look into ways I could mix my medications to create a lethal cocktail.

After a breakdown at work the next day, I couldn’t think straight. I no longer cared about anyone else’s emotions or well-being, and I believed they didn’t care about mine. I didn’t even really understand the permanency of death at this point. I just knew that I needed to leave this world and unending pain.

I truly believed that it would never get better. I now know I was wrong.

I took off the rest of the day, intending to go through with my plans that night.

However, my mom kept calling and wouldn’t stop until I answered. I relented and picked up the phone. She asked me repeatedly to call my therapist. So, after I got off the phone with my mom, I texted my therapist to see if I could get an appointment that evening.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was still a little part of me that wanted to live and that believed she could help me get through this.
And she did. We spent those 45 minutes coming up with a plan for the next couple months. She encouraged me to take some time off to focus on my health.

I ended up taking the rest of the year off of work and went back home to Wisconsin for three weeks. I felt like a failure for having to stop working temporarily. But it was the best decision I ever made.

I started to write again, a passion of mine that I hadn’t had the mental energy to do for quite some time.

I wish I could say that the dark thoughts are gone and I’m happy. But the passive suicidal thoughts still come around more often than I want. However, there’s a little bit of fire still burning inside of me.
Writing keeps me going, and I wake up with a sense of purpose. I’m still learning how to be present both physically and mentally, and there are still times when the pain becomes unbearable.

I’m learning that this will likely be a lifelong battle of good months and bad months.

But I’m actually okay with that, because I know I have supportive people in my corner to help me continue fighting.

I wouldn’t have gotten through last fall without them, and I know they will help me get through my next major depressive episode too.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, help is out there. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Are Constant Nightmares A Sign Of Mental Health Problems?

Author Article

Constantly having nightmares can be very stressful on mental health. It disrupts your sleep; your mind doesn’t get the rest it needs and you could wake up feeling down, tired or sleep-deprived, which in turn affects your day-to-day activity. But why do these unhelpful dreams sneak their way into your head and are they a sign that something bigger is going on in your life? It can be particularly difficult to deal with a barrage of nightmares if you aren’t aware of any mental health issues that you’re suffering, because you might not have tools to deal with these issues. We find out what having consistent nightmares can be an indication of and how to manage them (so that you can finally get a good night’s rest). What causes nightmares? Nightmares usually occur during REM sleep – similar to dreams – and although they can be a sign of an underlying issue, they’re not always this complex. According to WebMD, having a snack late at night can trigger nightmares as it boosts your metabolism and tells your brain to ‘be more active’. Taking medication or coming off medication can also stimulate nightmares, as can alcohol withdrawal. You get less REM sleep when you drink, and although it may seem tempting to have a nightcap, reduced REM sleep also means your mind’s ability to process dreams is impaired – so you might not be able to deal with what you’re dreaming about. Interestingly, sleep-deprivation in itself can also lead to nightmares, meaning you’re effectively stuck in a loop of bad sleep. A study from 2016, which measured the role of insomnia, nightmares and chronotype (essentially your biological clock) in relation to mental illness revealed that 8% to 18% of the population is ‘dissatisfied’ with their quality of sleep, and between 6% to 10% suffer with some form of insomnia disorder. The same study showed that a disruption in sleep patterns ‘commonly presents prior to acute psychiatric difficulties’, such as a manic episode, paranoia or ‘transition to major depression’. (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk) Lola, 21, is currently going through a phase of sleep disruption – she’s only sleeping a few hours per night and when she does, her sleep frequently consists of nightmares. ‘After every night’s sleep, I wake up and remember the wholly vivid nightmares I’ve just had’, she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘They vary from being a mash-up of several short intertwined dreams about people, some good that I don’t want to wake up from, but mostly horrible ones. ‘Sometimes they involve people from my life, sometimes faceless figures, which makes it even more creepy. Mostly I will wake up intermittently throughout the night. ‘I’ve had dreams of my teeth crumbling out of my mouth and anxiety nightmares, where I spend the entire time feeling anxious within the dream. ‘When I wake up, I’m worn out and extremely tired, which makes me not want to get out of bed – it’s paralysing. I’ve pretty much had nightmares my whole life, but they never used to be as frequent as they are now. They definitely happen more when I’m stressed or anxious, but I’ve never spoken to anyone about them because I’m so used to it.’ When should you seek help for your nightmares? Just like mental health problems are very individual, so are nightmares, and having the occasional one doesn’t automatically mean you also have a mental health problem. Therapist Sally Baker tells Metro.co.uk it’s how these affect you that could be a sign of something troubling underneath the surface. ‘Occasional nightmares are completely normal and many people experience them,’ she said. ‘It is how you feel about having those nightmares and the judgements you make about them that indicates how you are feeling about yourself and can give you insights into whether you are feeling emotionally balanced and okay, or may need to seek professional help. ‘Dreams and nightmares are one of the ways the sub-conscious mind processes emotional challenges, so recurring nightmares can be a clue that your mind is struggling to cope with real life negative emotions or events. ‘The nightmares may even vary with different narratives but if they engender the same feelings on waking from them such as heightened anxiety or feeling of dread you are definitely struggling to process.’ How can you deal with constant nightmares? Hayley, 30, has suffered from night terrors for years and tells Metro.co.uk these are similar to nightmares, but completely ‘take over’ her mind. ‘It’s hard to deal with them, as I’m not sure when they will happen,’ she said. ‘I can go for nights without anything and then bam, suddenly I’m screaming in my sleep. The main difference between nightmares and night terrors is that night terrors completely take over. I also remember them a lot more vividly than nightmares. ‘They’re always the same – someone is trying to kill me. ‘Counselling helps and communicating what happens in my night terrors helps too, as it allows me to process and understand what’s happening in my head. ‘For example, whenever they happen, it’s always in the flat I lived in with my mum and I have a lot of negative emotions and memories in that place that I’ve never addressed. ‘The night terrors have actually allowed me to understand this and address these fears directly. ‘I often find if I’m relaxed or I’ve done a workout in the evening, this will rest my mind but ironically, my night terrors seem to be worse when things are going great – it’s a cruel twist.’ Sally also recommends speaking with a therapist about your nightmares, especially if you experience persistent after effects or if they’re anxiety-inducing. ‘If you are left with heightened anxiety or depression after recurrent nightmares, you can work with a therapist to resolve the negative emotions even when you are not sure what is bothering you,’ she said. ‘Be your own detective and focus on the feelings you’re left with, not the storyline of your nightmares as that will be more helpful in finding out what is at the root of your scary or disturbing dreams. ‘Also ask yourself what you may have been ignoring in your life or overlooking. ‘Your intuition or your gut reactions are always on your side and are your best friend, so ask yourself what have you been overriding in your life that in your heart of hearts you’re not really sure about.’ MORE: HEALTH You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I have MS but I get told to give up my train seat’ Will a CBD spree of workouts, croissants, and high tea get rid of your stress? Teenager uses coffee to colour her hair after dye left her looking ‘like a monster’ Having singular nightmares are usually not a sign of mental health problems. But if you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and suffering from nightmares or even night terrors, it’s worthwhile speaking to a medical or mental health professional about it. Don’t ignore your sub-conscious mind – it can be just as telling as your conscious one.

 

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/02/17/constant-nightmares-sign-mental-health-problems-8649694/?ito=cbshare

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