Obesity and Its Impact on Mental Health

obesity scale

While the world’s population has been going on a rising trajectory, it has also been growing heavier by the year.  Obesity is now a global health issue.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the epidemic is spawned by the pervasive issues of unhealthy diets and low physical activity.  Obesity is expected to be one of the biggest killers by the year 2020.

High body mass indices (BMIs) of 30 or more plague an estimated 300 million people globally at every social class and age group, particularly in the U.S., U.K., Middle East,  Australia, China, and the Pacific Islands.  Much more disturbing is the phenomenon of rising child obesity which has almost tripled within the last three decades.

Notwithstanding the fatal repercussions morbidly excessive weight can have on physical health, obesity takes its toll on mental health as well.

The Relationship between Obesity and Mental Health

Research backs evidence of an intrinsic link between obesity and common mental disorders. Obesity can cause depression, anxiety, and other unhealthy mental conditions just as these mental illnesses can lead to obesity.  According to the March 2011 National Obesity Observatory paper on Obesity and Mental Health, studies point to a two-way correlation between depression and obesity.  “Obese persons had a 55% increased risk of developing depression over time, whereas depressed persons had a 58% increased risk of becoming obese.  Another recent systematic review and meta-analysis found a weak but positive association between obesity and anxiety disorders.”

Generally, an obese person is not a very happy person.  Obesity can trigger many unhealthy psychological conditions:obesity stigma

Depression

A higher incidence rate of depression occurs among morbidly obese individuals, especially those with BMIs of 35 and over.  Studies also reveal that obese children often rate their quality of life lower than children suffering from cancer.  The Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study disclosed that very obese individuals often had as much as or higher depression scores than patients who were afflicted with chronic pain.

Western culture places a stigma on weight and as a result, excessively overweight individuals tend to develop self-imposed social isolation, poor self-image, and low self-worth, all major contributory factors to depression.  This has not been without just cause, though.  Society has not been very kind to the excessively overweight.  Fat people have often been ridiculed, ostracised, and stereotyped; hence leading most overweight individuals to adopt even more self destructive behaviours such as binge eating and substance abuse.

There is a silver lining though.  When obese patients begin to take off significant weight, their mental state also begins to improve.

Anxiety and Mood Disorders

A study that involved NESARC data found that obese persons were one and a half times more likely to report a mood disorder or panic attacks that have been plaguing them for the past year or as long as they can remember.  Extremely obese individuals were twice as likely to report the same.  The anxiety phenomenon is stronger in women than in men.

Because of Western culture’s aversion to fat people, obese individuals can develop social anxiety disorder (SAD) just from the sole reason of being extremely overweight.  Such a disorder has served to impair their functioning in their social milieu.

On the obverse, anxiety can breed obesity as well.  Anxiety can trigger compulsive and excessive eating patterns and depress the will to engage in physical activity, two factors which generally lead to obesity over time.

What Can Be Done?

For people with mental health disorders due to obesity, there is good news.  Mental health conditions significantly improve as one reduces his weight.  However, making radical changes to lifestyle eating and movements may backfire if one does not make such changes with a support group or team.

Consider approaching the obesity problem with the help of qualified professionals.  Your GP can draw up a safe, balanced eating plan and exercise regimen while a psychiatrist or psychologist can help you discover the core issue behind overeating and your subsequent weight gain.  These professionals can also help you deal with negativity and low self-esteem.

Depending on the level of obesity, medications for obesity or surgical procedures such as gastric bypass, bariatric surgery, and the like may be prescribed.  However, lifelong lifestyle changes will always be obligatory to complement and maintain obesity treatment.

Mental Health During Pregnancy and Postpartum

pregnant-depressed-women1

Pregnancy is a life changing condition.  Physically and mentally, there are many changes that happen with new life growing within.  These changes during the perinatal and postnatal periods often put new mothers and mothers-to-be at high risk for developing anxiety and depression.  Less common but worse conditions may include bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis.

Women may develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or may have a recurrence of such a problem if she had such issue before pregnancy.  Women on medication for some mental disorder may have to stop taking their prescriptions when they get pregnant.  Unfortunately, they form a high risk group for recurring symptoms.  Seven out of ten women who stop their antidepressant medication for instance fall back into depression or anxiety during their pregnancy.

In the U.K., about 10-15 out of 100 pregnant women become clinically depressed or anxious.  The cause is not singular but it is usually a mix of factors and it can happen to anyone.  These factors may depend on:

  • Degree of recent or ongoing stress in one’s life such as a death of a loved one, divorce or separation, etc.
  • Attitude toward pregnancy.  The thought of raising a child, for instance, may put undue worry on a person especially one with a difficult childhood.  Changes in weight and shape may take an emotional toll especially if the mother has an eating disorder.
  • Whether one is on treatment or medication.  Stopping treatment could make one fall ill again.
  • Type of mental illness one has experienced

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

As pregnancy and post pregnancy are times of great changes, depression symptoms may not be so easy to identify.  Depression signals may come when there are big changes in everyday routines or habits such as short sleeping hours, increase in appetite, etc.

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms for more than two weeks, get some help:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, emptiness, sadness, and other feelings of inadequacy
  • Very low moods; extreme sadness
  • Feeling numb
  • Easily irritated, angry, or resentful
  • Unfounded fears for the baby or of motherhood
  • Loss of interest in things that were normally enjoyable
  • Withdrawal from social contact
  • Not taking care of self
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration and decision making
  • Harbouring thoughts of harming the baby or one’s self; thoughts of suicide
  • Decreased energy; extreme lethargy

Anxiety is a common partner of depression.  When experiencing these symptoms, you need to see your GP or health professional who may test your degree of depression and anxiety using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).  The EPDS is a questionnaire which assesses your feelings if these fall outside the normal range and into the depression/anxiety scope.  This test may be conducted twice during pregnancy and once after childbirth.

Seeking Help

A pregnant woman, who has had prior history of mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia, or severe depression, must make a wise decision to talk to her GP.  Consultation with a specialist, even if she feels very good about herself and her pregnancy at the moment, is important because there is a high enough risk for her mental illness to recur during pregnancy or after childbirth.  One needs a care plan drawn up by a GP in order to head off or at least lessen the effects of the illness.

Medication During Pregnancy

Since many pregnancies are usually unplanned, some women may be under medication at the time of conception.  If you are under medication but suspect a pregnancy, do not stop medication suddenly but go see your doctor immediately.  He will assess whether to change or gradually take you off your medicines.  Stopping medications suddenly can quickly cause a relapse of your symptoms or cause undesirable side-effects.  If the doctor sees no harm to the foetus with the drugs you were prescribed with, he may insist that you continue with your medicated treatment.

While many medications are unsafe for pregnancy, selected antidepressants such as a few serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are considered safe for pregnant women.  These few have not been associated with birth defects and pass at very low levels through breast milk.

The decision of your doctor on whether to continue or not to continue medication may rest on the ff. factors:

  • the likelihood that you may not be able to take care of yourself when off medication
  • your tendency to turn to drugs or alcohol because you feel unwell without medication.  This tendency is harmful for both you and the developing foetus.
  • your tendency to develop postpartum depression which will affect your nurture and care for your baby
  • you are at a high risk for a relapse.  A relapse may require more medication, usually a higher dose or a supplementary drug, both situations that can be very harmful to the baby.
  • if talking therapies are not enough to mitigate your mental health issues.  Mental health problems like depression must be addressed because these can cause a host of problems from low birth weight to infant development.

Talking Therapies

Talking therapies or psychological treatments may be imperative treatments for pregnant women afflicted with depression or anxiety.  Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for one can help you cope with your feelings by changing the way you think and behave.  Talking therapies help people identify the problem and ways to change their thinking and behavioural patterns so that the effects of the triggers are significantly lessened.  Some people may do away with medication and get by very well with talking therapy alone.

Talking therapy may be done as a one-on-one consultation or as a group event.  This type of therapy may also be conducted online as e-therapy through e-mail or video sessions.

postpartum blues

The Exercise and Mental Health Connection

exercise lifts moods

The mind-body connection is so intertwined that one’s well-being hinges on the health of both of these major areas of the human organism.  An ailing body poses a psychological impact on the otherwise healthy mind.  Likewise, an unhealthy mind also impacts a person’s physical health.  For an individual to be considered in top form, both mind and body must be in good shape.

A person who wishes to achieve a balanced state of well-being in both mind and body should have a good level of physical activity as part of his lifestyle priorities.  People with jobs that demand some cardiovascular and muscle toning movements daily, such as fire fighting; construction work; and farming, are lucky to have some measure of fitness incorporated into their lifestyle.  Exercise does not just mean sports-related activities such as running, cycling, or weight lifting.  It also encompasses everyday movements that get tasks done like walking to the store, scrubbing floors, and lifting grocery bags.  The lowly house chores demand daily muscle movement and cardiovascular toning if one just does some manual cleaning.  For instance, floor scrubbing by hand can work your core area and back muscles.  Taking out heavy garbage bags and moving furniture also works on your gluts, thighs, arm, core, and back muscles.  You just have to know the proper form of deadlifting heavy weights so that you avoid any injury.

What Physical Activity Can Do For Your Mind

Many people underestimate the power of physical activity.  There is more to exercise than just muscle strengthening and cardiovascular endurance.  The human body is hard-wired to move frequently and the brain responds to these movements.  The amount of physical activity we do daily does have an impact on our brains.  Daily high levels of physical movements equate to more psychological positivity while an almost daily sedentary lifestyle may play an indirect or direct role in accelerating the degree of mental health issues over time.

Exercise Maintains Our Cardiovascular Health through the Sympathetic Nervous System

Research at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan discovered physical changes in brains of rats which were kept sedentary for three months.  These rats’ neurons acquired extra branches that connected to the sympathetic nervous system, part of the brain that controls our involuntary functions like breathing, heart pumping, constriction of blood vessels, and digestion.  Too many neuron branches apparently overstimulate the nervous system.  Because this system regulates the heart and blood vessels, an overactive sympathetic nervous system can spell hypertension and other cardiovascular illnesses.  It can also cause depression, anxiety, and disturbed sleep, among other things.  This just goes to show how dangerous long periods of physical inactivity can become.

Regular Exercise Improves Mental Healthbenefits-of-exercises1

Those who suffer from depression or anxiety disorder stand to gain a lot from a regular exercise regimen.  There is much scientific evidence that physically active people have significantly lower incidences of anxiety and depression than sedentary people.  Regular exercise helps minds cope with stress and maintain good moods.  A ten-minute brisk walk may even help alleviate a low mood, albeit temporary, much like a quick fix for a headache does.

According to a study, people who regularly do vigorous exercise may be 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety disorder in the next five years.  Exercise can actually form part of a therapy for some people who respond quite positively to it.  For mild depression, exercise may even take the place of antidepressants as a treatment alternative.

Physical activity stimulates the brain towards the production of endorphins, those feel-good hormones that give one, the “runner’s high.”  Endorphins are natural sedatives and analgesics which reduce one’s perception of pain, tamp down stress, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep.  Regular exercise then improves mood and maintains it with the constant flow of “euphoric” endorphins.

Regular Physical Activity Promotes Good Sleep

One of the most telling symptoms of depression and anxiety is sleep deprivation.  A stressed person usually has a difficult time keeping to a healthy sleeping pattern.  Sleep deprivation contributes to fatigue, a form of stress, which exacerbates very low moods, worry, nervousness, and irritability.  It also impairs memory, perception, and other cognitive functions.

Regular exercise however has proven to be beneficial to insomniacs in the long term.  A study revealed that people with sleep problems reported improved sleep and rest after participating in a four-month long regular exercise program.  The key word here is regular because one just cannot expect better sleep patterns after one or two bouts of physical activity.  Steady sessions of exercise however builds up the body’s propensity toward better sleeping patterns.  This is why many physically active people tend to have better sleep quality than sedentary ones.  Better sleep quality translates to better mood states and reduced degrees of anxiety and depression.

Getting the Habit to Move

One has to incorporate some extra physical activity into his daily routine.  Instead of riding a car to work, have you thought of walking or biking to it?  How about getting that usual cup of coffee from a cafe a little further down your usual route?  Once you make a habit out of some extra activities, it would not be that hard to get moving more everyday.

 

Depression: When Sadness Becomes More Than Itself

depression

Clinical depression is a growing concern in the Western World.  It has become a common debilitating mental disease with one in five persons in the U.K. having had depression at some point in their lives.  It hits all age groups, income levels, and communities.  Its growth is accelerating to the point that it could become one of the most incapacitating conditions in the developed world by 2020, second only to heart disease.

Normal bouts of sadness are natural occurrences.  Death of a loved one, for instance, may cause one, grief.  In a mentally healthy individual, the intensity may last for a short time and taper off eventually to a steady acceptance.  Grief that spirals into clinical depression however will stay with the individual for the long haul and could disrupt his daily functions.

Depression Is a Real Illness

A person with a depressive disorder is truly sick.  Much like a physical illness in which an organ or its system is weakened, so it is with depression of which its compromised organ is the brain.  Diabetes, for instance, is a physical disease that involves the impaired function of the metabolic system to handle the hormone, insulin.  Likewise, the condition of depression involves an impairment of the nervous system manifesting with the imbalance of certain brain chemicals; low production of neurons and nerve cell connections; and impaired nerve cell growth and nerve circuit functions.

Many factors can trigger depression.  Life events can traumatize people into a depression.  Our biological makeup such as genetics and brain chemistry are major factors as well.  Serious medical illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease can also lead a person into a depressive state.  Some medications used to treat physical illnesses may have depression as its side effect.

The State of Depression Varies for Each Person

The degree, frequency, and length of depressive symptoms are as individualized as the person afflicted by it.  Symptoms vary from person to person with the variety dependent on age, gender, culture, and other factors.  Some people feel only a few symptoms while others are burdened by many.  In addition, there are people, especially children and adolescents, who do not even recognize the symptoms of depression.  Men feel it differently than women and have different coping strategies as well.

Symptoms of Depression

The tell-tale signs of depression include but are not limited to the following:

  • Sad or anxious mood that does not go away for a long time
  • Chronic empty feeling
  • Thoughts of suicide; attempts at suicide
  • Increased pessimism; hopelessness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Decreased cognitive functions.  Depressed person has trouble remembering or making sound judgements or decisions.
  • Physical aches, pains, and other symptoms, such as headaches, palpitations, and stomach aches which do not test positive for any physical illness
  • Feelings of very low self-worth, inferiority, and guilt
  • Chronic reduced energy levels; exhaustion; fatigue
  • Fast weight changes and appetite changes
  • Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed; loss of interest in anything and anyone
  • Markedly reduced libido

Some people may not be aware of their depressed state because symptoms can come gradually to them.  They may have kept themselves busy to avoid feeling sad or hurt.  Eventually the strain does catch up to them and they start to exhibit some of the above symptoms.  Physical pains however without any physical cause may also signal that a person has a psychological issue.

Treatment for Depression

The good news is that depression, even severe cases, can be treated; however, diagnosis and treatment is best at the early stages where recovery is faster.  When you suspect yourself of being depressed, seek professional help as soon as possible.  Expect treatment to include talking therapies with your psychiatrist.  Antidepressant medication may also be prescribed if your situation warrants it.

What You Can Do to Help Yourself

Aside from seeking professional help, there are a number of ways by which you can help yourself feel better.  First thing you can do is take charge of your physical health.  As the mind and body are tied together, whatever affects the body affects the mind and vice-versa.  You can start by:

  • Eating a well balanced diet everyday
  • Beginning and sticking seriously to an exercise program
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and illicit drugs.  These substances just worsen depression.
  • Fixing your sleeping patterns.  Getting a good night’s rest everyday is crucial to your recovery.

Your emotional state needs nurturing as well:

  • Find a trusted friend or family member you can talk to about your issues and emotional condition.
  • Approach depression with a plan.  Write down what you think is causing the problem and the positive ways you can fight your negative state.
  • Join a support group of people with the same problem.
  • Avoid making any major life decisions until you can handle big changes.
  • Avoid piling up more work to perpetually take your mind away from your issue.  You need to set aside time to go over the problem so you can eventually come to terms with it.

stronger than depression

Learn all you can about depression in order to understand the condition better.  The road to recovery may be a shorter path if you simply work positively toward achieving that healing goal.

Workplace Discrimination against Employees with Mental Health Problems

workplace discrimination

People with mental health problems may often exhibit behaviour that triggers bullying and other discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.  If you have a mental health problem, it is important that you know your rights, although applying them may not be easy.

Mental health issues are particularly in the gray area of human rights protection because the law only recognizes a disability if this can be proven under this definition:  “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his [or her] ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”  The difficult thing about proving a mental health problem as a disability is the fact that bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and the like may take on “invisible” symptoms.  Not many people will exhibit all-out signs of their conditions in a social setting much less a workplace setting.  People in these settings are trying their hardest to function normally to keep their jobs and dignity intact.  Mild behaviour may manifest, if ever, which is not enough to let others see the full-blown picture of an employee’s affliction.

The Equality Act

The Equality Act is a law passed in the U.K. to protect people with disabilities against discrimination at work.  If you are a regular employee, a contract worker, or an apprentice, this law protects you from being discriminated on the job, dismissed, made redundant, and even when applying for work.  Volunteers however are not covered by this Act.

A mental health disorder is considered a disability, although your particular condition must be proven in court as such.  If so, it is covered by the Equality Act which deals with:

  • Direct discrimination — you are treated badly at work because of your mental health issue or other employees are treated more favourably than you because of your disability.  This may involve all job stages including recruitment, employment, and dismissal including dismissal from redundancy.  Companies or employers are not allowed to make you take a pre-employment questionnaire concerning your health before a job offer.
  • Indirect discrimination — rules or practices that put workers with mental health illnesses at a disadvantage.  For example, obligatory shifting of work schedules to night hours which may affect sleeping patterns of employees with clinical depression.
  • Harassment/ victimisation — In a situation in which a worker with mental health disability is bypassed for a promotion in favour for someone with good mental health but with much less competence is an example of victimisation.
  • Employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments for your disability — some workplace practices applicable to your job are not adjusted for your disability or no aids to help you adapt to the job have been made available
  • Discrimination arising from disability — arises when an employee is “punished” or meted out a consequence borne from his inability to perform his job for a short period of time because of his mental illness.  For instance, if an employee needed to take three days off from the job because of depression, disciplinary action against this employee may take the form of discrimination.

The Equality Act actually offers a broad range of protection against discrimination.  It also protects against discrimination of age, gender, race, religion, civil status, sexual orientation, and pregnancy.

Should You Tell Your Employer?

Should you tell your boss or your colleagues at work?  The answer is ambiguous at best and it would depend on you, your situation, and the type of people you choose to reveal your illness to.  If company rules and practices have been unknowingly discriminatory to you and is affecting your working abilities, it may be best to be upfront with your boss or human resources.  Of course, you may not need to tell all; but a certain amount of information which can help them understand your needs may have to be disclosed.

Be prepared for both positive and negative reactions.  Negative reactions may stem from their concern that the job you are being paid for may not be performed properly.  In addition, many mental health illnesses are often misunderstood so that your boss or colleague’s idea of say, bipolar disorder, may be that of an acute case which may be many levels far away from your own.

Set a good time and the right venue to talk to your employer about your condition.  Timing is important, especially when you are dropping a bomb.  Expect a lot of questions or even none at all. Your news may shock so different people have differing ways of accepting the news and working around it.

Remember, the aim in disclosing your illness is to help you get some reasonable concessions so you can perform your job better.  For instance, if you have anxiety problems, you might be able to wrangle a periodic work-from-home compromise.  Or if you have depression, permission for a once-a-day check-in with your mental health provider during work hours may be sanctioned.

 

Having mental illness does not give anyone the right to discriminate against you.  Understanding and a reasonable bit of work flexibility is all that may be needed to help you do your job well.

end mental health discrimination

 

Major Mental Disorders (MMD)

The acronym MMD stands for Major Mental Disorder of which there are five broad categories:  anxiety disorder, mood disorder, psychotic disorder, dementia, and eating disorder.  These mental illnesses are not a result of one cause but rather an interplay of a variety of factors which include environment, genetics, and lifestyle.

mmd

Anxiety Disorders

An anxiety disorder is positive in a diagnosis if the patient has any of these three symptoms:

  • illogical or inappropriate fearful and anxious response to objects, events, people, and situations
  • inability to control these fear responses
  • having no control over anxious feelings so much so that it disrupts normal functioning

Anxiety disorders are specifically manifested by these mental sub-illnesses:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) — GAD is characterized by excessive or chronic worrying about one or many areas of life such as family, income, career, friends, and school, among other things.  The fears may often be unfounded and skew off tangent; if there is some basis, the amount of worrying is excessively way out of proportion to the real situation.  A person afflicted with GAD may find himself unable to go about his life normally because of excessive dread.
  • Panic Disorder — characterized by feelings of terror and fear which may or may not occur suddenly.  These are repeated panic attacks accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, chest pain, sweat, tremors, and disorientation.
  • Phobias — intense fear, often irrational, of something that actually does not pose any immediate or even potential danger.  Ex.  fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); fear of crowds (agoraphobia);  fear of darkness (achluophobia)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  — often characterized by emotional numbness and recurring vivid memories of traumatic incidents.

 

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are known as a set of mental illnesses that involve a distortion of reality.  To someone plagued with psychosis, delusions (assignations of unreal meaning to normal and innocent events) and hallucinations (experiences of non-existent things that are not connected to any genuine sources such as hearing voices) are perceived to be as real as normal people see things to be.

Mental maladies under psychotic disorders are:

  • Schizophrenia — a serious mental disorder that is marked by distorted thought patterns, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, all of which lead the individual toward strange, irrational behaviours.  Schizophrenics may hear voices not attached to any source or may believe in delusions such as being a real princess or warrior.
  • Schizo-affective Disorder — a variant of schizophrenia mixed with mood disorders such as mania or depression.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are also known as affective disorders.  Persistent feelings of sadness or abnormal elation over a certain period of time may qualify under this mental malady.  Extreme emotional fluctuations also characterize this category under which these illnesses belong:

  • Bipolar Disorder — a disorder identified by extreme changes in mood from mania (“high” mood state) to depression (“low” mood state).     major mental disorder
  • Clinical Depression — surpasses the normal feelings of sadness and puts one in a chronic state of pessimism, hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, anxiousness, and other severely low mood situations.  Patients cannot just bounce back from their low moods, unlike unafflicted individuals who have the abilities to cope with abysmal feelings.  Clinical depression has been known to be the cause of some suicide cases.
  • Dysthymic Disorder — an illness marked with constant low-grade depression for more than two years.  Symptoms include low energy, feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem, sleep and appetite problems, poor focus, and indecisiveness.

The danger to these depressive mood disorders is that the risk for suicide among sufferers is high.

Dementias

Dementia refers to a slew of mental health problems symptomised by rapidly declining memory and other cognitive functions.  Dementia is diagnosed when the one or more of the following are impaired:

  • Memory
  • Ability to concentrate or pay attention
  • Visual perception
  • Language and communication abilities
  • Judgement and reasoning

The cause to all these impairments are brain cell damages which hinder these cells from communicating adequately with each other.  Alzheimer’s disease makes up a large percentage of dementia cases, followed closely by vascular dementia and dementia due to medical problems such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.  Toxic substances such as drugs, alcohol, mercury, lead, etc. can contribute to the development of dementia as well.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve extreme thoughts, attitudes, and behaviour towards food and weight.  These disorders manifest as either of these issues:

  • Anorexia Nervosa  — a condition that is indicated by an overwhelming and all-consuming dread of being fat.  Anorexics have a distorted body image and obsessive thoughts about food, calories, and weight on which they impose severe restrictions.  For sufferers, one can never be too thin.  Anorexia is dangerous because the condition can cause death from suicide, cardiac arrest, starvation, and other medical complications.
  • Bulimia Nervosa —  an eating disorder in which the sufferer chronically binge eats and then frantically purges the calories consumed as an attempt to lose weight or not gain the pounds from overeating.  Bulimics, like anorexics, have an obsession with food; only they overeat with the thought that they can purge their “sins” later.  A person with bulimia can consume between 3,000 – 5,000 calories in a short hour.  In the next, he often guiltily purges what he has consumed by inducing vomiting, applying enemas, exercising voluminously, or going on crash diets.  The constant binge-and-purge cycle wreaks havoc on the metabolic system, forcing bulimics to gain weight over time.
  • Binge Eating Disorder — chronic overeating without any purging involved.  The cycle moves around binge eating, feeling guilty and ashamed for gluttony,  then emotional eating again to assuage the guilt.  Binge eaters are usually obese and may suffer from hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety.

 

These major mental illnesses are treatable but need the help of professional mental health practitioners.  The stigma associated with mental maladies however is the main cause of why  people avoid treatment or fail to recognize that they need treatment.  More information and education about mental illnesses should be provided so that early stages may be recognized and tended to correctly.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The human mind can be both fragile and tenacious, depending on whom it belongs to.  A seriously traumatic event may have different responses from individuals who have been exposed to it.  A person’s mind may be provoked towards high levels of stress while another individual may find ways to mitigate the experience.

Fighting a war, being a victim of rape or sexual abuse, witnessing a terrible crime, and being homeless after a flood are examples of traumatic events that can unhinge many people, mentally.  Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually the result of shock to one’s nervous system.

ptsd veteran

What Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Is

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe form of anxiety disorder caused by traumatic, frightening, or distressing events.  More often than not, purposeful violent acts cause more shock than do natural or accidental incidents although these account for many PTSD cases as well.

PTSD can manifest itself right after a traumatic event or take months, even years, to make itself known.  The response from each person varies and it is unclear why some individuals develop the disorder while others cope well enough to live normally after the stressful experience.

When the mind is assaulted with shock, it may numb itself as a coping mechanism then open itself to emotional and physical reactions later.  These reactions may include insomnia, nightmares, feeling upset, and others.  These are natural responses to trauma which normally takes the mind a short time to resolve.  In some people, however, their responses to trauma may continue for over a month or may show some time way later after the traumatic incident.  In this case, PTSD becomes a developing issue for which psychiatric intervention may be imperative.

PTSD disrupts lives and can cause a person to have marital problems, poor career and personal relations, and social isolation.  If not treated urgently, the disorder may deteriorate to include other issues such as depression, acute fear, memory disruptions, substance abuse, and self harm.

Signs of PTSD

It is important to recognize PTSD so that the root cause, not just the manifestations, may be addressed.  A person is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder when he is experiencing these three types of symptoms:

  • Reliving the Trauma

Trauma can leave behind a vivid footprint to plague the PTSD sufferer.  When a similar or unrelated event, object, or person, triggers intense memories, these often occur as flashbacks.          Flashbacks can seem so real that the afflicted may believe the event most feared is happening again.  A war veteran may react to an exploding firecracker as a gunshot or grenade explosion.  He     may experience intense fear, go into survival mode, or relive whatever emotions he had during a shoot-out.

Some of these intense memories may not even need a trigger.  These may come unbidden at any time, forcing the person to relive the trauma and experience the following:

  • nightmares
  • flashbacks or vivid images that jolt the person into thinking that his worst fears are happening again
  • intense distress at anything reminding the person of the trauma
  • physical symptoms such as sweating, pain, nausea, and tremors
  • feeling on edge
  • being easily angry, upset, or startled
  • lack of concentration or focus
  • insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns

 

  • Avoidance and Numbing

When someone experiences something bad, it is but natural to avoid things that remind him of it.  A PTSD victim however would avoid everything that smacks as a reminder of the traumatic           experience, part of which would be his memories.  Avoidance would constitute these behavioural symptoms:

  • keeping extremely busy
  • Avoidance of persons, places, things, events, and even sights, sounds, taste, and smells that remind the person of the traumatic incident.  People with PTSD may avoid watching a particular TV show or go anywhere near where the trauma took place.
  • using drugs or alcohol to numb the impact of memories or forget them

Numbing is another coping strategy of the mind that allows the person to cut off his feelings.  This emotional disconnection renders the person unable to be in touch with his feelings and to             express what he feels.  Sometimes the person literally forgets or refuses to talk about the major parts of the traumatic event.  A numb person experiences:

  • difficulty in empathising with others
  • difficulty showing or expressing affection
  • emotional desensitisation
  • social isolation

 

  • Arousal Symptoms

People suffering from PTSD have very heightened emotions and alertness.  Their emotions are aroused so that these individuals always seem to be on their guard.  Their chronic vigilance    causes them to experience:

  • constant tension
  • sudden bursts of anger, annoyance, and irritability
  • sleeping problems
  • difficulty keeping focus or concentration
  • being easily startled
  • panic when faced with reminders of the trauma, whether related to or not

People with PTSD often have difficulty functioning normally.  The syndrome is especially prevalent in war veterans who have more social, familial, and unemployment problems than many in the PTSD group.  Vietnam vets with post-traumatic stress for instance seem to struggle with keeping interpersonal relationships intact, holding down jobs, and reducing their propensity for violence.

PTSD can cause other mental health problems to crop up such as depression and other anxiety disorders.  It may cause physical or medical problems as well although research is still ongoing on this matter.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a treatable syndrome.  If you know anyone or are yourself undergoing acute stress from trauma, get professional help as soon as possible to help you come to terms with your trauma.  You cannot change your past but know that you can be in control of your present.      

PAT-E749-P.T.S.D. Not all wounds are visible

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.