Understanding Bipolar Disorder

bipolar moods

 

A staggering estimated 51 million adults worldwide suffer from bipolar disorder. China is home to the most bipolar sufferers with 12 million cases compared to Britain’s measly 250,000 patients. Still, bipolar disorders cost the U.K. an estimated £342 million worth of healthcare based on 2009-2010 prices.

In men, this mental disease is prevalent in early adulthood between the ages of 15 and 25 while women often exhibit the symptoms at the later ages between 25 and 30. Somehow, it is rarely found in children less than 10 years of age or in adults over 40 years of age.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness characterized by alternating manic-depressive emotional states. Bipolarity is symptomised by extreme shifts in mood, energy, behaviour, and way of thinking. Normal emotional shifts are usually fleeting and do not generally cause major life disruptions. With bipolar illness, the severe ups and downs in emotions and consequent behaviour negativelybipolar moods impact careers, relationships, personal lives, and school performance.

A person with bipolar illness may feel intensely excited, euphoric, and have the delusion of being able to take on the world for a couple of days or months. These super high moods inadvertently come crashing down in time to a particularly low state of despair, hopelessness, depression, and lack of motivation.

Hypomania, the Manic Episodes

Hypomania is somewhat akin to a drug user’s “high” phase in which an individual feels unrealistically powerful, confident, and so energetic that even his sleeping patterns suffer disruptions. The person in a manic state may feel invincible and behave in ways he would normally avoid. He may splurge and acquire credit card debts, quit his job on impulse, speak volubly about grandiose schemes, be sexually promiscuous, and engage in other high-risk behaviours while being on this temporary emotional high.

It is not easy to spot bipolarity in hypomanic people as these types seem so elated, positive, and generally happy. People in this state hardly believe they can be ill of something much less run to doctors for their happy condition. When the dire consequences of their extreme decisions come crashing down, hypomanic people transition fast into a depressed state in which living day-to-day become a big struggle.

The Depressive State

Coming down hard from an all-time high is one of the worst states a person with a bipolar disorder can find himself in. It is this stage in which feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt, self-loathing, despair, and lethargy assault the individual. He begins to struggle holding down a job; maintaining rapport with colleagues, friends, and family members; dealing with consequences of financial decisions; and the like. Unfortunately, this negative state lasts longer, time making it all the more dangerous for the entertainment of serious thoughts on self-harm and suicide.

Nature of the Mood Swings

A 3d rendering of the classic comedy-tragedy theater masks isolated on white with a clipping path

 

The patterns of mood swings vary greatly among bipolar patients. Some go from mania to depression in a matter of days. Others may go for years without experiencing problems.

Often, most bipolar sufferers stay in the depressive phase more than in their manic state. Some mania may be so mild that the condition can go unnoticed.

There is also such a thing as a mixed episode. This is characterized by a combination of hypomania and depression, or high energy and low moods. A bipolar sufferer in the middle of a mixed episode may be energized and distracted by rapid, changing thoughts while exhibiting anxiety, irritability, and restlessness. This combination mode is particularly lethal as this episode poses a high risk of suicide.

Extreme mood swings affect other parts of a person’s life such as memory, concentration, energy level, judgement, sleep patterns, sex drive, confidence, and motivation. Bipolar disorder has also been linked to other health issues such as substance abuse, alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

There is no single cause to this mental illness; although, genes play a big part in it. Not everyone however with an inherited risk develop the illness. Other factors that accompany heredity may trigger the onset of the disorder:

Stress — sudden life-changing events, whether these are good or bad
Medication — Some antidepressant drugs, corticosteroids, thyroid medicines, appetite suppressants, and even OTC cold medications may trigger bipolar disorder.
Substance abuse — Although substance abuse does not cause bipolarization, it may act as an episodic trigger. Alcohol, caffeine, and tranquilizers can kick-start the depressive state while uppers such as amphetamines and ecstasy can trigger mania.
Insomnia — Lack of sleep can cause a manic episode.
Seasons — Summer brings out the mania while winter, spring, and autumn make for the low moods.

A bipolar disorder left untreated only exacerbates the problem leading to dire consequences. Bipolar illness can have fatal consequences with the sufferer usually turning to suicide as a way out.

Treatment for the mental illness is a long drawn out affair but one well worth the effort. Since the disorder is chronic, relapses are to be expected so continuance of treatment is still necessary even when the person feels better.

Being a complex disorder, bipolarity needs to be handled by an experienced psychiatrist. Diagnosis is not simple and planning out a treatment strategy is best left with a mental health professional. For one, drug prescriptions need to be closely monitored.

Psychiatric treatment may follow a manifold approach involving a combination of drugs, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and social support.

Bear in mind that bipolar disorder is a treatable illness which one can learn to live with. There is no cure for it but people who undergo professional treatment do have the promise of living normal lives, even ones with successful careers and happy family and friend relationships.

mania and depression sign

 

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects an estimated 26 million people globally.  About 60% of patients worldwide are moderately to severely disabled with this mental illness.  The number of diagnosed schizophrenic cases in England and Wales totalled to about 220,000 in 2007 and accounted for about 30% of the country’s expenditures for adult mental health and social care services.  As this is quite a substantial piece of the expenditure pie, let us take a closer look at this debilitating mental disease.

What is Schizophrenia?

schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a major illness that may strike 1 in 100 people at least once during their lifetime.  This long-term psychotic illness disrupts a person’s sense of reality.  During a schizophrenic episode, a person may:

  • see or hear non-existent stimuli or things that are not there
  • not be able to distinguish between reality and hallucination
  • be delusional or believe in irrational situations.   Ex.  The patient may believe that people everywhere are spying on him when the reality is, no one isn’t.
  • act strangely in response to hallucinations and delusions
  • feel disconnected from his emotions

Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia does not involve the “split personality” syndrome.  It also usually does not endow a person with the propensity toward violence, although there are unusual cases, such as if the person already has a criminal bent.  In fact, schizophrenics are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators of it.  The danger these patients pose are predictably more to themselves than others.  The chances of suicide for sufferers are 1 in 10 within 10 years from the time of diagnosis.

Because schizophrenia compromises one’s cognitive functions and judgement, this mental illness is highly disruptive to a person’s day-to-day life so much so that work, relationships, and even self-care and hygiene may be affected.

 

schizophrenia stats

Risk Factors

Schizophrenia often manifests in people between the ages of 15 and 35, although it may occur at the late age of 70.  The disorder has the following high risk factors:

  •  Genes

Schizophrenia is a hereditary disease.  One can inherit the disorder from relatives related up to the second degree.

  • Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter functioning as a messaging system between brain cells.  Scientists have found a link between too much dopamine in the brain and the occurrence of schizophrenia.

  • Stress

A huge amount of stress or life-changing events such as death of a loved one, homelessness, poverty, joblessness, social isolation, and physical and verbal abuse can trigger schizophrenia.

  • Drug abuse

Drug addiction can cause schizophrenia.  A study published in the medical journal “Lancet” have shown that smoking marijuana can actually make one psychotic, even years after one has stopped using cannabis.  Those who smoke cannabis everyday run the increased risk of psychosis by 200%.

  • Other Risks

Women with hormonal imbalance (especially those undergoing menopause) may be at risk for developing the mental illness.  Brain injury may be linked to the disorder as well.

Treatment for Schizophrenia

Early diagnosis is key in treating schizophrenia.  Treatment is a must because the long-term symptoms are the most dangerous.  These often lead patients toward self harm or suicide.  Some of these long-term symptoms usually include:

  • Loss of interest in anything
  • Listlessness, lethargy, dullness
  • Unemotional responses
  • No interest in self hygiene
  • No interest in doing daily chores such as dishwashing, cleaning, and doing laundry

Treatment usually consists of a combination of antipsychotic medications and psychotherapy.

Antipsychotic medications

These prescription drugs help people live with their mental illness.  They reduce the impact and frequency of hallucinations and delusions, enabling patients to think more clearly and have more motivation to take care of themselves.  These usually inhibit the overreaction of dopamine in the brain.  Unfortunately, like all drugs, these medications have their side effects:

  • Fatigue
  • Sexual difficulties
  • The drug group of chlorpromazine, haloperidol, and zuclopenthixol is particularly responsible for restlessness, shakes, or stiffness.
  • Olanzapine, risperidone, and quetiapine cause diabetes and weight gain

Psychotherapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps the patient acquire the skills to manage:

  • coping strategies for dealing with the hearing of voices and other hallucinations and delusions
  • the psychological side of dealing with the side effects of medication
  • stress to dampen symptoms of schizophrenia
  • social anxiety
  • depression

Family Intervention Therapy can assist a patient’s family to cope with the illness.  The family members learn how to support a person with schizophrenia and how to deal with some problems that may crop up on a daily basis.  The aim of this therapy is to assist the family to communicate and problem solve effectively so as to provide the understanding and loving support the patient critically needs.

mental illness

Schizophrenia is a complicated mental illness.  Medical and psychiatric interventions are vital for equipping the patient and his family with the coping skills necessary to live with this mental affliction on a daily basis.

Anxiety Disorder: How It Affects Life

 

Teenage girl looking thoughtful about troubles in her life.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

It is perfectly normal to be a little anxious from time to time. When we face pressure-inducing situations, being anxious can actually help us be more focused. Anxiety is acceptable if it is experienced in moderation and not too frequently. However, some people experience anxiety that does not go away and could go on for months, or even years. This anxiety can even get worse as time goes by. It will affect a person’s everyday life and can turn into a serious mental illness. Constant fear and worry could be really overwhelming and destructive to a person.

anx4

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  1. Panic Disorder – This disorder is characterized by spontaneous panic attacks which results to constant fear of a recurring attack. It usually happens unexpectedly. Sometimes, panic attacks occur even during sleep.
  2. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – General Anxiety Disorder is characterized by unrealistic and constant worry about normal, everyday things. There is a high risk of developing this disorder between childhood and middle age.
  3. Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) – This disorder is the unnatural fear of being judged or scrutinized by the people around a person. A person with this disorder tends to avoid social situations out of fear of humiliating or embarrassing himself.
  4. Specific Phobias – Some people have a strong irrational fear of a specific thing. Some examples of specific phobias are fear of animals, flying, closed spaces, heights, clowns and thunder.

What causes Anxiety Disorder?

The specific cause of anxiety disorder is still unknown. Researchers found that this disorder might be developed because of certain factors like personal weaknesses, stress, changes in the environment, character flaws, changes in the brain, bad upbringing and a lot more.

anx1

Find Out if You Have Anxiety Disorder

These are some of the signs that a person is suffering from an anxiety disorder:

  1. Sleeping problems
  2. Digestion problems
  3. Overly self-conscious
  4. Irrational Fears
  5. Experiences panic attacks
  6. Obsession with perfection
  7. Self-doubt
  8. Finds it hard to concentrate
  9. Nausea

anx3

Best Remedies for Treating Anxiety Disorders

  1. Psychotherapy –It’s a type of counselling which focuses on a person’s emotional response to a mental illness. Health professionals help patients understand and deal with their anxiety disorder.
  2. Medication – Drugs like anti-depressants are prescribed to reduce the symptoms.
  3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy – It’s a type of psychotherapy that will teach a patient to recognize and also change thought patterns which cause those troubled feelings.
  4. Relaxation Therapy – Relaxing one’s mind and body helps with a person manage stress – which can cause anxiety disorder.
  5. Dietary and Lifestyle Changes – A person with a sound mind and healthy body will less likely develop a mental disorder. It will also help in a patient’s recovery.
  6. Self-help – A patient can help himself recover by doing these:

*Challenge negative thoughts.

*Write down his worries.

*Accept uncertainty.

*Create an anxiety worry period.

*Adopt healthy eating habits.

*Exercise regularly.

*Get enough sleep.

*Reduce alcohol and nicotine.

 

Pornography Addiction

porn-computer-key_large

Never has there been a time when porn has been as accessible as it is today with the proliferation of the internet.  The uncensored World Wide Web has made it very easy for anyone, even minors, to access both visual and written sex.  Aside from videos and erotic stories on straight sex, gay sex, BDSM, and incest, to name a few, one may download video games that cater to these adult predilections.  Therefore, it should not come as a surprise if porn addiction is enjoying an unprecedented rise in today’s globally wired world.

About 10-30% of websites on the net today are dedicated to pornography.  The demographics of porn watchers have become even more diverse and younger.  Because of the privacy and easy access the internet can offer, more women are climbing onboard the porn wagon and so are more minors.  Disturbingly, a study published in the journal Pediatrics reveals that about 42% of internet users aged between 10 to 17 years old have already been exposed to some type of adult content.  As children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to habit-forming activities, porn viewing at this early age can form a permeating addiction, endowing lasting negative repercussions on their future lives.

The Nature of Porn Addiction

Porn is the short colloquial term for pornography which is any sexually oriented material produced for sexual arousal.  Pornography may be presented through videos, video games, eroticHow is porn addictive literature, sculpture, photographs, anime (hentai), and sound recording platforms.

A person who is said to have a porn habit may not be addicted to porn…yet.  A habitual porn user has the psychological capacity to choose or control whether to engage as a porn audience or stop being a porn user.

A porn addict, however, is drawn inexorably toward pornography.  Similar to a drug or alcohol addiction, pornography addiction compromises the individual psychologically and physically by depriving him of control over this bad habit of voyeurism.  Where an overwhelming interest on sexual imagery can become a bad habit, a porn addiction is formed by a bad voyeuristic habit that has spiralled into obsessive, uncontrollable behaviour.

Since addiction builds one’s tolerance levels, a porn addict’s taste in porn becomes increasingly perverse as he progressively builds his shock and arousal level of tolerance.  His sexual tastes may become increasingly deviant.  In addition, the frequency by which he engages in his addiction may become markedly increased over time.  Just like any addiction, porn addiction takes toxic possession of one’s thought patterns, one’s relationship with others and his environment, and consequently one’s whole life.

A person with an addiction is usually prone to hiding their psychological affliction from others.  It is no different with porn addicts.  Porn addicts are very secretive of their obsession as they feel shame and guilt about their predilection.  This is why it is very difficult for pornography addicts to seek help for their affliction, even as they recognize it to be so.

The Stages of Porn Addiction

An individual does not become a porn addict overnight.  Just because someone views porn occasionally does not make him an addict.  He may have sporadic interest in the subject matter or he may have the bad habit of wanting some porn for sexual titillation.  What makes porn addiction different from just another bad habit is the excessive psychological attachment to sexual imagery.

Porn addiction progresses in five stages:

  • Exposure and Habit Creation

Most porn addicts have been exposed to pornographic material as a child, often around the age of 10.  Curiosity may breed a porn viewing habit, leading one to often seek arousing material and to eventually incorporate this activity with some regularity.

  • Escalation

This is the stage where one’s tolerance level begins to increase.  Straight sex may now not hold so much appeal as the next level, gay sex.  After some time, gay sex ceases to stimulate, so the hunt for the next sexually novel thing continues toward other forms, such as bestiality, incest, and so forth, escalating further down the line to more deviant forms.

  • Desensitisation

At this point, explicit porn no longer doles out the sexual thrills the addict was attracted to in the first place.  Very deviant images have become too mundane to illicit any arousal.  The addict becomes desperate trying to get his excitement fix but is hardly able to find any sexual material that can satisfy his already jaded sexual palate.

  • Acting Out

This is the tipping point where the porn addict has become so callous to graphic pornography that he attempts to seek out real world experience.  The behaviour often entails risk and may escalate to perverse sexual actions that in time may turn severely criminal.  This way, one can say that porn addiction may be a gateway to drug to more serious sex addictions like rape, incest, paedophilia, and even murder.  In the case of Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer, his aberrant sexual crimes all stemmed from a fascination with smut magazines he discovered at the age of 13.  This captivation escalated through the years from pornographic addiction to grisly serial killing.

Stopping Porn Addiction

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The first thing a porn addict must come to terms with is to acknowledge that (1) he has a problem and (2) he needs professional help.  Therapies are designed to stop the addictive behaviour and improve mental and emotional health.  In the early stages of treatment, individual therapy may be applied in order for the mental health professional to make an in-depth assessment of the patient’s mental and emotional psyche.  Group therapy with a 12-step recovery program may also be part and parcel of a treatment strategy.

Engaging in pornography often starts as harmless curiosity which in some may unfortunately escalate to deviant and damaging behaviour.  Everyone should guard themselves against falling headlong into porn addiction or any addiction for that matter.  As long as one is addicted, one is held thrall to their own physical and psychological impulses.  The road to recovery will indeed be rough; but, with enough help and personal motivation, the addiction to porn can be eliminated.  If you find yourself with such an addiction, the best time to seek help is NOW.

Self Harm:  Why People Do It

As difficult as it is for normal people to understand how someone would actually have the inclination and the craving to harm himself, it is a fact that many people turn to self destructive behaviour as a response to emotional or mental health issues.

self harmCutting is one type of self harm that deeply disturbed people have an addiction to.  When asking someone why one would deliberately cut and inflict pain on himself, you get answers that in themselves are puzzling.  Authors of some young adult books echo the variety of answers one gets when asking the inevitable question:  “Why do you do it?”

“In case you didn’t know, dead people don’t bleed.  If you can bleed-see it, feel it-then you know you’re alive.  It’s irrefutable, undeniable proof.  Sometimes I just need a little reminder.”

Amy Efaw, After

“She felt so much emotionally, she would say, that a physical outlet – physical pain – was the only way to make her internal pain go away.  It was the only way she could control it.”

Richelle Mead, Vampire Academy

“The fear of an unknown never resolves, because the unknown expands infinitely outward, leaving you to cling pitifully to any small shelter of the known: a cracker has twelve calories; the skin, when cut, bleeds.”

Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game

One thing is for sure.  Cutting is a person’s desperate plea that an insurmountable psychological problem needs to be addressed.  A person who cuts himself is trying to run from emotional pain by diverting his attention to physical pain.

What is Self Harm?

Self harm encompasses many forms or ways people inflict damage on their physical and mental health in order to deal with deep-seated emotional problems.  Although suicide is never the intention of a person addicted to self destructive behaviour, death or permanent disability can result from their actions.

There are many ways people choose to cause the pain and the subsequent rush they crave:

  • Cutting — Slicing skin is the most common form.
  • Poisoning / overdosing on drugs / alcoholism
  • Anorexia or bulimia
  • Burning skin
  • Hitting head or other parts of the body
  • Scratching
  • Hair pulling
  • Extreme exercising
  • Needlessly putting one’s self in high risk situations
  • Inserting things in the body

Self Harm vs. Suicide

When “self-harmers” think of inflicting pain or damage on themselves, their purpose is not usually to kill themselves.  Their actions are intended to make physical pain relieve them from insurmountable emotional pain.  This is not to say of course that a person who self harms does not think of suicide; some do, but the compulsion for the moment is to feel physical hurt or momentary emotional pleasure (in case of alcoholism, drug abuse), not die.

Why Do People Engage in Self Harm?

For many, their reasons are ambiguous.  Some feel emotionally numb so physical pain makes them feel alive.  Others find the control they seek in being able choose and inflict the severity of hurtrisk factors for self harm they impose on themselves.

The deviant practice of self harm brings an even darker side (yes, there’s worse):  addiction.

Addiction is a very compelling reason why people would choose to hurt themselves again and again. Among cutters and self mutilators, the drug of choice is pain.  To a mentally unhealthy mind, pain can be perceived as a cleansing agent, a purifier of bad feelings and thoughts.  Pain can also double as an alleviator of boredom, an anger diffuser, or a justified self punishment.

Nothing however can turn into an addiction without the reward of pleasure that it brings.  Much like intense exercise that brings out the feel-good hormone, endorphins, tolerable pain perversely also encourages the production of endorphins.  Over time, your brain builds up a tolerance to pain just as it does when it is constantly subjected to alcohol and tranquilizers.  The self-harmer is then forced to ramp up the severity of harm they inflict on themselves in order to feel the level of pain they desire.  So, they cut deeper or pull out hair in greater clumps.

People who engage in self harm often are not out to seek attention.  The opposite is actually true.  People who harm themselves go through great lengths to hide their self inflicted damage because of shame, guilt, alienation, and the inevitable judgement of others around them.  It is therefore important to be respectful and compassionate when dealing with people with self-destructive behaviours.

What to Do about the Compulsion for Self Harm

  • Seek qualified, professional help  — A psychiatrist, doctor, psychologist, or counsellor is trained to help people with self destructive tendencies.  They may tailor certain therapies such as dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to the individual’s needs and situation.  Certain medications may also be prescribed.
  • Talk to qualified respondents online or on the phone — For people who are not ready for a face-to-face encounter, online and phone support services such as Get Connected offer help free of charge.
  • Talk to someone you trust — If you are a self-harmer, it is important that you have someone you can pour your heart out to.  That someone will have your interests in mind; so, listen to his or her advice with an open mind.
  • Know the triggers — Know what ignites that drive toward self destructive behaviour.  Knowing what sparks the urges can help one keep away or control harmful behaviour.
  • Help one’s self and try different approaches — Each person is different; so what works for one may not work for another.  One must continue to seek the best coping strategies.  The more alternatives he finds, the better are his chances of winning over his addiction.

hurt

Infant Mental Health

One may think, “Infants are too young to have real emotional issues.”  Truth of the matter is babies are very vulnerable to mental health problems.  This is not widespread knowledge but scientists are increasingly becoming aware that a child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive developments are intrinsically tied to infant relationships, especially with his primary caregiver.  Although, other relationships in later childhood and adolescence are crucial as well in a person’s psychological development, the foundational key to sound mental health is in infant-caregiver relations.

 

blue eyed baby

Scope of Infant Mental Health?

Infant mental health encompasses the social and emotional well-being of a child from birth to his preschool years.  Central to these vital developmental years are the child’s relationships with his parents, immediate family members, and primary caregivers. These early relationships form the foundation of his capacities to love, manage the gamut of human emotions, develop his sense of self and worth, and have the resilience to adapt to his environment.

How Do Infants Acquire Emotional Problems?

It is surprising but babies can start being depressed as early as 2 to 3 months after birth.  Because infants cannot communicate verbally very well, one may not discern classic signs of mental issues in babies.  Depression, anxiety, and fear are usually symptomised by poor sleeping patterns, restlessness, feeding difficulties, gastric problems, and attachment insecurities, to name a few.  If these distress signals are not constantly responded to with love and devotion, emotions babies can instinctively sense, the tendency to acquire mental health issues in the next few years or later in life becomes more imminent.

Because the period of dependence takes many long years, humans are evolutionarily designed to seek security and love from parents or other primary caregivers for physical and emotional survival.  A child’s unwavering faith that his needs are and will be met usually forms the basis for his lifelong sense of self worth and confidence.  The lack of trust in these early relationships, on the other hand, creates the foundations of psychological and mental issues.

Why Focus on a Baby’s Mental Health?

If we want to raise a happy, confident adult, we have to provide the nurture from day one.

A baby must feel constant love and attention to feel confident enough to start exploring the world outside of himself.  He needs to know that there is a secure “base” of a loving relationship to fall back on for reassurance when trying new things and making mistakes.  The more a toddler feels valued, the more confident he will be to discover himself and the world around him.

When children experience kind, nurturing relationships, they learn valuable social relationship skills essential to their advanced mental growth and development.  These are the kids that grow to care for others who generally will respond in kind.  Healthy social relationships are important factors to achieving positive outlooks and good experiences in life.

Signs of Mental Health Problems

In an Infant and Toddler:

baby with pacifier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Inability to calm or console himself
  • Does not display much emotion
  • Exhibits fear ; very guarded
  • Shows sudden behavioural changes
  • Not easy to soothe or calm down
  • Rejects touch ; avoids being held
  • Avoids playing with others
  • Exhibits disinterest in many things
  • Does not seek comfort or help from adults they already know

 In a Preschool Child:                                                                                                             worried baby

  • Refuses to socialize in play with others
  • Looks very sad; withdrawn; prefers being solitary
  • Very fearful of things, situations, and other people
  • Loses earlier skills like toileting and sentence construction
  • Destructive behaviours towards self and others
  • Unusually hyperactive
  • Exhibits inappropriate reactions to situations (ex. crying when everyone is enjoying something)
  • Frequently picks fights
  • Behaves inappropriately or makes sudden behavioural changes

How Are Infants with Emotional Problems  Treated?

Treatment usually involves working with parents and babies.  Scope of treatment usually emphasizes parent-baby interaction and the knowledge of how to meet emotional needs of babies.  Mental health providers who specialize in very young children may include approaches like home visits, infant-parent psychotherapy, and attachment focus strategies.

To nip mental health disorders in the bud, it is important that parents, primary caregivers, and other family members are made aware of the importance of maintaining nurturing relationships with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

The Unvarnished Facts of Anorexia Nervosa

i wont eat

 

When anorexia starts looking glamorous, I say we are in big trouble.  While many of us cannot believe how scary thin a lot of people can desire to be, know that there are a proliferation of blogs today that support, understand, and encourage anorexia nervosa.  Yes, it’s the “You go girl!” type of posts that leave many open-mouthed at how an eating disorder can be twisted around as the ultimate beauty make-over.  Even scarier are the numerous positive responses these blogs get from empathisers who equally believe in their “Think thin! Starve on!” motto.

There is a rising worrisome trend of personal blogs that paint eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia as desirable aspirations or ideal lifestyles.  In fact, terms have been coined for these blogs to specifically describe their reader niche:  the pro-anas and the pro-mias.  “Pro-ana” bloggers glorify anorexia; “pro-mia” bloggers extol the virtues of bulimia.

There are about 1.6 million people in the U.K. that have some sort of eating disorder.  The Health and Social Care Information Centre disclosed about an 8% increase of hospital treatments for eating disorders in 2013.  Blogs that make mental illnesses like these sound cool are bound to or have already exacerbated the difficulties of fighting the evils of eating disorders.  Experts believe that there is a silent epidemic of anorexia that is sweeping through Britain’s schools today.

Anorexia is a health evil indeed.  It is an illness that gradually devastates both a person’s mental and physical well-being.  Anorexia is fatal.  Fortunately, there is hope in its chances of being a treatable illness, one in which full recovery is even possible.

Facts of Anorexia Nervosa

An eating disorder is a complex psychological issue.  As anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder, it also has its convoluted roots with three main distinguishing features:

  1. Intense fear of weight gain
  2. Absolute refusal to maintain or exist at a healthy weight range
  3. Distorted perception of one’s body   — Anorexics perceive their body as grossly fat despite being painfully skinny or severely underweight

Serious and potentially fatal, anorexia affects men and women of varying ages; although, the young are more susceptible.  The modern beauty norm, “Thin is super in” often lures young girls to anorexia’s promise of a rail thin physique.  Of course the promise is nothing but a distorted reality of emaciation and consequent unattractiveness; yet, many anorexics do not see what healthy individuals normally perceive.  This is why those who are afflicted with anorexia nervosa often fail to recognize just how thin is too thin and at what level does skinny start becoming unattractive, let alone unhealthy.  No matter how much the scale confirms an anorexic’s severe weight loss, those lost pounds are just never enough.  More always have to go.images

Anorexia, however, is not just about obsessions over weight and food per se.  These are just the surface symptoms.  The core of the problem goes quite deep as causes of eating disorders often do.  As discussed in my other article on eating disorders, anorexia can come about as a response deep-seated emotional issues of powerlessness, low self worth, perfectionism, and the like.  Extreme control on one’s diet may engender feelings of having command of at least something like one’s own body.  Moreover, just like many illnesses, anorexia can be hereditary especially if one has a family history of eating disorders.

Do I Have Anorexia

You may be anorexic and not know it.  You also may know of someone whose behaviour mirrors an anorexic.  The best way to tell whether one is simply a healthy but determined dieter or someone way too obsessed with weight loss is to take a good hard look at your intentions and the whys behind the behaviours.  Here are the differences:

An anorexic would:

  • Go on an extremely calorie restrictive diet despite being already at the low end of or under the normal weight range
  • Obsess about every calorie, and every fat and carbohydrate gram to the point of eking out a nutritionally unbalanced meal so ridiculously low in calories.  Anorexics do not care about eating for health.  Anorexics are consumed by eating foods with the lowest energy inputs; macro and micronutrients do not matter.
  • Chronically think of food.  They may cook for others, collect myriad cookbooks, and make meal plans; yet, will eat air if they simply can.
  • Hide the fact that they are eating too little with strange behaviours such as always eating privately, chewing food just to get its juice and spitting it out after, playing with food, throwing food away when no one seems to be looking, etc.
  • Use laxatives and abuse weight loss drugs
  • May secretly vomit food they have eaten after meals in the bathroom
  • Follow a gruelling exercise regimen with the simple aim of burning calories despite negative workout conditions like bad weather, injury, and illness.  If one chronically punishes one’s self for eating “bad” (high calorie) food with compulsive exercising, anorexia could be an issue.
  • Constantly feel and declare being fat despite being obviously underweight
  • Always stand in front of a mirror, seeing only the flaws.  An anorexic would always see himself as fat despite admonitions to the contrary.
  • Have drastic, unhealthy drops in weight which do not seem to abate
  • Obsessed with scale readings down to minute changes in weight

On the other hand, a healthy dieter would:

  • Eat and plan meals around the aims of both weight loss and a balanced nutrition
  • Not regard slimness and weight loss as the holy grail to happiness.  Weight loss is just a way to improve health and appearance.
  • Diet to lose weight only,  not to compensate for emotional deficiencies
  • Have a sense of self esteem that is not based on weight or how one’s body looks like
  • Have normal eating habits

How to get help for Anorexia Nervosa

Fortunately, there is hope for many anorexics.  The first healing step one must do is to admit that a serious eating problem exists.  Getting professional help is another.  Quality guidance and treatment from qualified counsellors, nutritionists, and medical doctors can help tremendously to get one back on track to a healthy weight and an equally healthy mindset.  Emotional and financial support from family and friends are invaluable as well on one’s road to recovery.

While getting outside help is a huge boost towards wellness, one must also help himself.  This means avoiding triggers like pro-ana sites, fashion magazines, and groups that talk mostly of diets.

The road back to health will be steep and difficult; but the climb will be worth its weight in health gold.

What is an Eating Disorder?

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Why one starves himself while another eats himself to an early grave are behaviours often rooted in complex psychological issues.  Extreme forms of eating behaviours are not merely a modern day malady.  Eating disorders have been recorded human behaviour since ancient times and have been mentioned in many documents and literature sourced around the world.

The era of ancient Roman Empire for one is marked as a period of excess.  During the time of its great generals, Marius and Julius Caesar, the perverse cycle of binge eating and vomiting (bulimia) during banquets seemed to be de rigueur among rich Romans.  African lore, on the other hand, speaks of the heroic efforts of parents who fasted during extreme famine in order to save food for their children.  This practice had the same effects as modern anorexia in that long after the famine crisis was over, these adults continued to restrict their food intake to the point of dying from starvation.  In other words, these adults had developed an eating disorder in the course of their survival efforts.

What Typifies an Eating Disorder?

Today’s brands of eating disorders are an amalgam of psychological problems.  There is no one single reason why one would develop the disorder but it can arise from a complex mix of other issues.

The National Centre for Eating Disorders defines an eating disorder as “extreme shape and weight control behaviour which is underpinned by excessive concerns about your weight or your body shape.”  A person who obsesses about his or her weight and figure to the point that it already undermines his personal, social, and work life may, more often than not, suffer from an eating disorder.  Such a person is quite likely to possess very low self-esteem.

tape around mouthEating disorders are mental illnesses, the common types of which include binge-eating, bulimia, and anorexia.  These illnesses usually creep up on one gradually but there are cases in which one of these appears suddenly.  Most of the time, people afflicted with an eating disorder usually don’t know they have a problem until they are deep into their syndromes already.  Generally, patients with an eating problem excessively worry about how they look physically, what they eat, and how much they eat.  They also have an obsessive compulsion to compare their bodies to “perfect ones” on magazines and other commercial images.  At present, an estimated 725,000 people in the U.K. have some kind of eating disorder.

At the onset of the malady, it is possible for a person to carry on normally in every facet of his life, except where his diet is concerned.  He may have normal relationships and a progressive career; but, as his illness deepens, many aspects of his life such as work, education, and relationships start falling down the rabbit hole of either starvation or overindulgence.

How Do Eating Disorders Come About?

How someone can grow to be extremely invested emotionally on their weight and shape is a question that needs to be drawn from myriad factors of a patient’s circumstance.  An eating illness may be a convoluted issue.  Eating disorders can arise from a negative complex link of familial, genetic, cultural, experiential, and social elements (to name a few).  One thing is clear, though.  Most sufferers begin their syndrome through initiating bad dieting behaviours.

A bad relationship with food is a coping mechanism to deal with things a person feels he has no control of.  Although there is a multitude of reasons for eating disorders, there are commonbinge eating characteristics that stand out among the afflicted:

  • Low self-esteem; feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Usually avoids emotional problems; inability to face issues head on
  • Lacks the ability to manage relationships to get some satisfaction from them
  • Possess low assertion skills
  • Very sensitive to rejection or abandonment
  • Carry extremely high standards for themselves, although they may not expect those same qualities in other people
  • Always anxious to please
  • Cannot say “No” to requests

Can Eating Disorders be Treated?

Although an eating disorder is a serious ailment, it is treatable; in fact, a full recovery is possible.  The earlier this illness is tackled, the higher the chances of a patient making his way back to a life no longer dominated by bad food relationships.  Treatment should deal with a patient’s psychological, emotional, physical, and of course, nutritional aspects, necessitating a holistic but personalised approach.

What Can One Expect from Treatment?

A patient fully recovered from an eating disorder may look forward to:

  • A more positive outlook on life
  • No more obsessions with food
  • Feeling better about one’s self and body
  • Being able to manage feelings in a healthy manner
  • More self control especially with cravings
  • Better sleep
  • Improved energy levels
  • No more emotional eating or stress eating
  • Coping without a food crutch
  • Being generally happy and loving one’s self
  • A better looking and stronger body

Response to treatment is varied and recovery times are highly individual.  What is important is to get help that tackles the heart of the issue and not merely its symptoms.  As mentioned, a holistic type of treatment is the road toward the best chances for optimal recovery.

The Ugly Truth of Domestic Violence

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In a previous article, we have discussed the importance of anger management.  A person must learn to regulate the volatile emotion of anger in order to prevent undesirable offshoots.  Especially for people prone to abuse, one of the fallouts of an unmanageable rage is domestic violence.

Defining Domestic Violence

Under U.K. law, the term domestic violence is no longer simply limited to physical and sexual abuse.  The term now encompasses psychological, financial, and emotional assault.

The new legal definition states:  “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.  The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional”

Domestic violence even falls under a larger umbrella, gender violence.  Gender violence is abuse perpetrated against women and girls, predominantly by men who need to express their power and control by using both natural and societal inequalities inherent in the female gender.  Aside from domestic violence, gender abuse encompasses forced marriages, honour-based abuse, trafficking, female genital mutilation, rape and other sexual assaults, stalking, and harassment.

Although the largest percentage of victims are women and girls,  men and boys do comprise a less but still substantial slice of the victim pie especially in situations where they are part of same-sex partnerships.

U.K.’s New Law on Domestic Violence

infographicAs per the new definition of domestic violence, men who exercise unreasonable financial control over their partners or family members are now eligible for incarceration just as those found to have physically or sexually hurt their dependents or spouses.  This goes the same for individuals who wield their warped sense of power through emotional and psychological abuse.  As an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, persons convicted of exercising coercive control may face a jail-term of up to 14 years.

The new law is intended to improve the government’s agenda of protection which is hoped to lead to more reported cases and successful prosecutions.

The Stats on Domestic Violence

According to the 2013-2014 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), domestic abuse victims totalled to about 4.6 million females and 2.4 million males.  These figures translate to about 28.3% of the women’s population and 14.7% of the men’s.  Age range of these statistical data cover adults aged 16-59 only.  With these numbers, it is predicted that 1 in 4 women and 1 man in 6 in the U.K. are likely to be victims of domestic abuse in their lifetimes.  What’s more, the reports say that on average, 2 women are killed each week by their partners or ex-partners.

Why Some People Are Prone to Domestic Violence

There is no cut-and-dried demographic where domestic violence chooses to rear its ugly head.  This crime can strike families or couples of any ethnicity, creed, religion, social status, and even sexual orientation.  It is as old as history.

Domestic violence is all about coercion and control often assisted by unmitigated, unresolved anger.  Abusers usually feel the need to dominate their partner and other family members because of any of these following reasons:

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Problems with anger management
  • Low self-esteem
  • An inferiority complex resulting from the partner’s superior education, income, social background, etc.
  • Cultural / Religious belief in women’s gender inequality or children’s status as “properties”
  • A history of being victims themselves of domestic violence or being daily witnesses to domestic abuse.  Usually boys who grow up with abused mothers don’t learn to respect other women.  Girls tend to end up as victims of their partners when exposed to domestic violence in childhood.

Know that domestic violence is not caused by depression, stress, alcohol, or substance abuse.  These factors merely exacerbate violent tendencies.  Domestic abuse is actually a learned intentional behaviour, often witnessed by the perpetrators in their formative childhood or teenage years.

Signs of Maltreatment from Domestic Violence

Victims of domestic violence often go out of their way to hide their misery.  Albeit this being a short list, it is good to be aware of the telltale signs of mistreatment:

  • Physical Symptoms

Common domestic abuse types of injuries are:

  • Rectal or genital injury
  • Injury to the eardrum
  • Abdominal cuts or bruises
  • Broken/loose teeth
  • Facial wounds or fractures
  • Bruises on body, breasts, buttocks, or limbs
  • Bruises or scrapes on the head or neck — site of about 50% of abusive harm
  • Broken/fractured/sprained small finger on the forearm or palm used to block blows to the head or chest
  • Bottoms of feet used to kick out at abuser

Oddly enough, victims who may or may exhibit bruises, wounds, or other physical signs of trauma may complain of medical conditions that do not have any direct underlying cause such as abdominal pain, headache, numbness and tingling, choking sensations, rapid heartbeat, and even urinary tract infection.

  • Mental Health Symptoms
    • Substance abuse
    • Post traumatic stress disorder
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Constant fatigue

A Victim’s Recourse

A victim must realize that he or she has the power to stop being the abused; but it is imperative (even life-saving) that a good, solid plan must be thought out first before concrete actions of escape are carried out.

Gathering information on resources that can help can you plan, execute, and live after the break is vital.  One good resource may be The Survivor’s Handbook by Jackie Barron, a free downloadable PDF file from Women’s Aid providing invaluable information on money, housing, legal rights, etc.

The abuser must never know of your plans as this knowledge may simply intensify the violence.

Some suggestions to incorporate into a safety plan:

  • Avoid alcohol and other mind-altering drugs which impair your capability to protect yourself and your children.
  • Try to avoid arguing in small rooms or in spaces that do not have alternative exits.  Also avoid fights in rooms which house things that can be used as weapons (kitchen, closed garage, etc.)
  • Keep the following in one place and accessible in the event you need to leave your residence urgently:
    • Money, credit and debit cards, check books
    • Important documents such as birth certificates, driver’s license, marriage certificate, mortgage papers, insurance, health records, passports, etc.)  in one place and immediately accessible in the event you need to leave your residence.
    • Prescribed medications and their prescriptions for you and your kids
    • Clothes, a few comfort toys
    • Duplicate set of house, car, and bank keys
    • Contact list of family and friends
    • Contact list of community agencies and resources that can help you
  • Keep in mind doors and windows which may provide good exits for a sudden escape.
  • Tell someone you can trust about the plan.  Enlist their help by telling them to contact the police or other law enforcement agency when they hear anything irregular coming from your house or over the phone.  Agree on a code word to mean “Call the cops.”

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Domestic violence must never be tolerated in our society.  Domestic abuse is a crime and must be reported to proper authorities.  Know that the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) offers free and speedy injunction services to anyone of any gender, sexual orientation, race, or economic status.  This agency works closely with the police, legal counsels, and other resource groups that help survivors of domestic violence.

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