Hypnosis: A Viable Alternative Treatment

hypnotherapy

Contrary to popular notion, hypnosis is not an obscure practice customarily carried out only by charlatans or mediums.  Hypnosis is a legitimate therapeutic tool utilised by some in the medical community.  In the field of psychiatry, hypnosis is known as hypnotherapy, a very helpful aid in the practice of psychotherapy.

The Hypnotic Spell

Hypnosis or hypnotherapy employs guided relaxation and sustained concentration on something to bring about a trance.  A trance is a state in which a person is so highly aware or focused on something specific that external stimuli is blocked out or ignored.  A hypnotised person is so engrossed on his point of focus that he does not register anything going on around him for the time being.

For the skilled psychiatrist, hypnotherapy can be a very effective adjunctive treatment.  Hypnosis can be a useful behaviour modification tool and as such can prove to be invaluable to the field of psychotherapy which seeks to change behaviours and mindsets in treating many mental disorders.  Under the state of a hypnotic trance, patients can perceive and explore painful memories, thoughts, and feelings that may be present in their subconscious minds but hidden from their conscious ones.

What Hypnosis is Used For

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis (a type of psychotherapy) criticised hypnotherapy and consequently only reinforced the negative perception hypnotism was getting over fifty years ago.  However, after WWII, hypnotism gained favourable ground and is now an internationally acknowledged valid medical method to treat not only psychiatric conditions but also such physical
diseases as AIDS, asthma, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome.

In psychiatry, hypnotism is basically used for:

  • Removing symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression
  • Decreasing stress
  • Treating psychological traumas
  • Treat phobias
  • Alleviate chronic pain such as arthritic pain
  • Manage psychosomatic symptoms such as high blood pressure brought about by anxiety
  • Control destructive behavioural impulses such as those typified by anorexia, gambling, and sexual addiction

Two Types of Hypnosis

As a therapeutic aid, hypnotism may be used as two different strategies:

  1. Analysis Therapy

Hypnosis is used to relax the patient and bring him to a point where he and the therapist may pinpoint the root cause of the mental problem.  The cause is usually a painful memory hidden by the brain in its subconscious area.  Once the original trauma has been uncovered, it can now be addressed with behavioural therapy, counselling, and other psychotherapy treatments.

  1. Suggestion Therapy

Destructive behaviour such as smoking, drinking, or hair pulling can be minimised or eliminated by the suggestive power of hypnotherapy.  Hypnosis opens patients up to suggestions to change bad habits, alter their perceptions, and even adapt to sensations.  As such, hypnosis has also proven to be very useful for pain management.

Does Hypnosis Work?

Yes it does, especially if the person undergoing hypnosis is highly suggestible.  Research points to those who can become very engrossed in a daily task or activity (i.e. reading or painting) may be more hypnotically inclined than most.

Hypnosis is gradually brought on a willing individual through the verbal guidance of a hypnotherapist.  The hypnotised person is neither asleep nor unconscious but is acutely aware and hyper responsive at a subconscious level.  His subconscious mind is more open to suggestions and therefore has improved propensity to change unwanted behaviour when brought back to his normal mental state.

Hypnosis however is not an immediate cure.  Several sessions may need to take place before some progress may be seen.  Moreover, subjects must be willing patients to undergo this type of therapy for this to work because hypnosis cannot make one do what he does not want to do.

Is Hypnotherapy Safe?

Generally, hypnosis is safe but it must be performed by qualified hypnotist-physicians.  Contrary to general belief, hypnosis cannot change your ethics or moral values.  A person cannot be forced to do something he doesn’t want to do or change the way he thinks.  The value of hypnotherapy lies with making wanted behavioural changes much easier.

As with almost anything, however, hypnotherapy can be abused.  There is such a thing as regression-based hypnosis which takes the patient backwards through his life in order to recover repressed memories.  This can be dangerous because the hypnotist can accidentally suggest memories that never occurred.  Because hypnotism puts the person under a highly suggestive mode, little add-ons to already traumatic memories may lead to additional mental health problems.  Patients with a history of psychosis must talk to their physicians first before putting themselves under hypnotherapy.  Hypnosis can increase the risk of a psychotic episode happening.

Safety and Support When Going Online

online support

For many seeking help for mental illness, the web is a complex goldmine of information.  With a wealth of facts just a mouse click away, it is but natural for those seeking to understand their type of mental illness to turn to online for answers and later for support.  Unfortunately, the net is also a vat of disinformation and a playground for hostile individuals and groups.  In this regard, the internet user must know what sites to trust and what social networks, support groups, and chat rooms to be on the lookout for questionable members and activities.

When trawling the net, one must look after his privacy and his well-being especially when using the internet to look for support.  One must learn to deal with cyber abuse and be cautious with online advice from just any support group.  Not everything published on websites are a hundred percent reliable either because anyone, whether they be experts in their field or a common Joe just giving his two cents worth, can post just about anything they want online.

Where to Go For Reliable Information?

If you want to understand more about your mental issue, go to sites that have been certified to carry reliable content.  Ask yourself these questions before deeming any content you read as factual:

  1. Does the content have verifiable factual information or is the content written from just someone’s personal opinion or experience?
  2. Is the content written by an expert in the field?  Are they certified professionals?
  3. Is the content current?  When was it written?
  4. Is the content relevant to your mental health issue or circumstances?

It may be difficult to discern the legitimacy or illegitimacy of many sites.  Fortunately some sites have been certified as reliable by the Information Standard, a mark of accreditation by the National Health Service (NHS England) that certifies the content reliability of certain websites concerned with health and care.  A site marked with the following logo ensures trustworthy information for your guidance:

information-standard-member-logo-positive_full_1

Mind and NHS are good examples of sites that host very dependable, informative health content.

Finding Support Online

If you are thinking of finding a therapist online, it pays to do a little background search on his or her qualifications first?  The mental health therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must be accredited by a professional body such as the BACP (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy).

Chat groups or forums also exist that deal with specific mental health issues.  There are forums for bipolar patients and support groups for depressed people.  These are online communities with the ideal goals of providing as much factual information and as much support to their members.  Being part of these groups may help you discover new coping strategies and give you a sense of belongingness.  Sometimes, knowing that you are not alone can be a big help.

As much as support groups are beneficial, bear in mind the following:

  • Not all information you glean may be applicable to you.  If a group member swears by a certain medication, it does not mean this medication will work or will have fewer side effects for you as well, even if you and that member share the same diagnosis.  It is always wise to refer the information you get with your GP instead of acting on it on your own.
  • Other people’s comments can trigger some emotional issues.  Your comments may trigger theirs as well.  For example, if someone is saying that he feels like harming himself, you start feeling the same because of the suggestion.  If you feel this is happening, don’t pursue the thread.  Go to some other site.
  • Manage your online relationships.  People you have met online are not ones you have built a relationship with face-to-face; so be careful about giving personal information.  In addition, respect other people’s feelings and opinions even if you don’t agree with them.  Moreover, do not tolerate online mistreatment such as bullying by nipping any first attempts in the bud.
  • Manage expectations.  Do not believe what people write about 100% because it could just be their opinion, not fact.  Furthermore, other people’s experiences are circumstantial to them and may not be relevant to your own situation.

As much as the internet is a great tool for helping you manage your illness, there is still no substitute for face-to-face therapy or consultation with your psychiatrist or general practitioner (GP).  Having said that, online support from a licensed mental health professional through webcam talking therapies or email therapy is the next best thing.  Just be fastidious in establishing your online therapist’s credentials with the BACP, BPS (British Psychological Society), or other accrediting bodies.

Community Treatment Order (CTO)

In November of 2008, the CTO or Community Treatment Order was inserted into the Mental Health Act 2007.  Applicable in both England and Wales, the CTO is a law that provides power to a responsible clinician to decide whether to psychiatrically treat an individual outside the hospital.

ctoIf a patient has been mandatorily sent to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, a Community Treatment Order may be issued by an approved clinician to get him out of hospital care, if patient is not harmful to himself and others, provided he agrees to certain conditions for community treatment.  If the agreed conditions are violated, the responsible clinician may make an order to return the patient to the hospital.  A patient under CTO is known as a community patient.

Criteria for Community Patient Eligibility

A patient may be granted a Community Treatment Order only if the following requirements are met:

  • The individual must have a diagnosed mental health disorder
  • The patient requires treatment in order to be safe from himself or to protect those he comes in contact with
  • The required treatment can be administered outside hospital bounds
  • The required treatment is available in the community or outside the confines of a hospital
  • The responsible clinician must be able to order the patient back under hospital care when necessary.

Duration of a CTO

From the date the order was issued, a CTO can last for about six months.  The order is renewable for another six months and thereafter on a twelve-month basis on the conditions that the patient:

  • has been available for examination under the conditions set by the CTO
  • has visited a second opinion appointed doctor (SOAD) when required to.  SOADs give their opinion on whether they agree with the current treatment the patient is receiving.

Conditions of a CTO

All CTOs have the above two conditions stipulated in every agreement.  Other conditions may apply but these will be influenced by your circumstances.  Examples of other conditions may include:community treatment order

  • place to stay during therapy
  • testing for alcohol or illegal drugs
  • attending scheduled therapies
  • cooperating with treatments such as taking the prescribed medications

These other conditions must involve a patient’s participation in planning his treatment after discharge.  If this is not applicable, then his nearest of kin or guardian must be fully aware and agreeable to the conditions under the CTO.  All these conditions should be based on the necessity behind the patient’s recovery and protection of other people around him.

Any condition in the CTO may be contested for unlawfulness if it unnecessarily restricts the patient’s freedom or if such condition is impractical in light of a patient’s circumstances.

Can Changes to Conditions of a CTO be Made?

The responsible clinician may change or stop the application of the conditions.  One may request for changes in the conditions through written or verbal communication with his clinician.  If the clinician refuses the request, the patient may have recourse by:

  • lodging his complaints using the hospital’s complaint procedure.
  • bringing his case to the Care Quality Commission
  • applying for a judicial review.  In this case, one would need special legal advice.

When a CTO Ends

A Community Treatment Order is limited by a timeframe.  When a CTO ends, a patient is no longer required to follow the conditions or compelled to be recalled for hospitalization by the responsible clinician.  A CTO ends when:

  • It expires and is not renewed.
  • It is revoked.  If a patient has been hospitalized, a CTO revocation can mean he is no longer eligible for treatment outside the hospital and must be detained in the hospital.  This is usually done when the responsible clinician deems he is of danger to himself and others.
  • The responsible clinician believes there is no more legal necessity to keep the patient under CTO and therefore discharges the patient.
  • The patient’s application to the Mental Health Tribunal is approved with a discharge.
  • A discharge comes from a hearing by the hospital managers.
  • A request for a discharge by the nearest relative or kin is approved.

What the Law Says on Disability Discrimination

Discrimination is a reality for many people and is based on a number of reasons:  gender, race, creed, religion…the list is sizable.  Physical and mental infirmities are part of the list rendering disabled persons unfortunate targets of society’s prejudices.  Disabled people may encounter discrimination at the workplace, school, or even in business dealings such as buying or renting property.  Disability does not only refer to physical impairment but includes mental infirmities as well.  People with mental health problems are considered disabled and are therefore entitled to the same disability rights and protections under U.K. law.

disability discrimination

Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA)

The DDA or the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 was a civil rights law which made discrimination of disabled persons unlawful when it came to provision of goods and services, education, and employment.  It demanded that disabled persons be accorded some reasonable adjustments with regard to their infirmities.  Modifications to the DDA have since been enforced when this law was repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act 2010

Injustice, unfairness, prejudice, harassment, and mistreatment of mentally ill people is categorised as discrimination.  Discrimination against the mentally ill and people with other types of disability is illegal and therefore can be challenged in court as per the Equality Act 2010.

Under the Equality Act 2010, any individual who is physically or mentally compromised to a point where there is a long-term negative effect on these person’s normal daily functions (such as driving, answering phone calls, talking with colleagues) is considered disabled.  This law provides protection from discrimination in many areas such as:

  • Employment — during an application for a job; leaving a job; or being currently employed
  • Education — when applying for and studying at a school or university
  • Business dealings — buying and renting property
  • Clubs — joining private clubs or organizations
  • Dealings with public functions such as crime investigations, tax collections, etc.
  • Services – hospitals, gyms, restaurants, etc.

When fighting on legal grounds, it is important to establish in court that a particular mental problem you are inflicted with is truly a disability.  The Equality Act can cover the conditions of autism, depression, dyslexia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and many others.

Categories of Discrimination

Direct Discrimination

When a disabled person is prejudiced from receiving the same treatment as the average individual because of his infirmity, he is being directly discriminated.  To illustrate:   Joe who has been diagnosed with clinical depression has been bypassed for promotion in favour of a colleague who has fewer qualifications for the position.  Because of his mental illness, Joe has been discriminated from advancing in his career despite the fact that his condition can be lived with and controlled.  Joe has the right to turn to legal advice under the Equality Act 2010.

Discrimination by Association

When a person is discriminated against because he is associated or related in any way to a disabled person, then discrimination by association occurs.  For example, Catherine, who despite her mental illnes discriminationobvious qualifications, was rejected after a job interview for the sole reason that she has a schizophrenic mother at home.  The rejection was on the grounds that possible emergency situations in the future could hamper her work.

Discrimination by Perception

A 40-year old pilot has been bypassed for captainship just because he looks 15 years younger.  People’s perception of his young age was used as basis for impeding the pilot’s career advancement.

Indirect Discrimination

A rule or criteria applied to everyone but is unreasonably prejudiced to a certain individuals because of their disability.  A rule that all employees in a certain department must begin work at 7 a.m. may be discriminatory for an employee under long-term medication.  The 7 a.m. rule may not be feasible because the drug makes him less alert early in the morning.  If the company can afford to simply shift this particular employee’s schedule to 9 am and allow him to end his shift at a later time than his colleagues, but just unreasonably refuses to, then the company commits indirect discrimination.  The company has refused to make reasonable adjustments.

Victimisation

A person who made a complaint or supported a complaint made against circumstances violating the Equality Act 2010 may be treated badly.  Such discrimination is typed as victimisation.

Harassment

Harassment by one’s employers or colleagues occurs when unwanted behaviour from these individuals are directed toward person or persons with “the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

A company may also be liable for harassment even if the perpetrators are not employed by the company.  For instance, if a client constantly pokes fun at a mentally ill employee of the company and management has not done anything to address this customer’s behaviour, then the company is liable for discrimination under the Equality Act.

What Do Reasonable Adjustments Mean?

The law requires companies to make reasonable adjustments where disabled workers are concerned. Reasonable adjustments refer to small changes in the workplace that allow disabled employees to do their jobs well.  The term reasonable is important because the company is not obliged to make unaffordable changes that would qualify as an “unjustifiable hardships” for the company.  If the required changes arising from the employee’s disability will cost the company some significant expenses or be detrimental to other employees, then the company has the right not to make any adjustments as these are no longer reasonable.  For instance, should adjusting the end working hours for a disabled person require the company to hire additional security for his safety,  the court may rule this requirement as an unreasonable change and may uphold the company’s right to keep its working hour rules despite being detrimental to the disabled person’s personal schedule.

Clinical Negligence

Inspector. Graphics are my artwork. Thanks. Red leather Clinical Negligence law book with gold embossed type and stylised syringe logo, with a judge’s gavel.

What is Clinical Negligence?

Under the laws of the U.K., clinical negligence, also referred to as medical negligence, occurs when a healthcare professional has been found in breach of a duty of care which has caused the patient to suffer physical or psychological injury or even death.  Healthcare professionals do not just refer to medical practitioners such as surgeons, cardiologists, and gynaecologists.  The term also encompasses dentists, midwives, nurses, physical therapists, psychiatrists, and other people with occupations under the healthcare profession.

In order for clinical negligence to be recognized in court, there are three things that must be proven:

  • Liability or Breach of Duty
  • Causation
  • Damage

Breach of Duty

If a healthcare professional’s care for a patient has fallen below the standards of care required by his field and can be proven in the court of law as such, then he is guilty of a breach of duty.  A certain test used by the court, “The Bolam Test” serves as a scrutiny on whether the defendant’s patient care actions have been subpar and clearly have not met the standards known to a body of practitioners also skilled in the same field.

Breach of Duty may arise from:

  • wrong diagnosis or failure of diagnosing condition
  • failure of warning or giving proper information about the risks of treatment suggested
  • failure to get proper consent to treatment
  • prescribing or giving the wrong medications
  • careless surgical procedures; mistakes while doing a procedure or operation
  • delayed referral to other specialists

Causation

It is not enough to prove that the healthcare professional has not been meeting his field’s standards of practice.  It must also be proven that the damage or injury to the patient has arisen from the practitioner’s negligence or breach of duty.  In practice, this is more difficult to establish than the fact that the accused professional has not met his field’s standards in patient care.

For instance, the aggrieved patient may be able to prove that his psychiatrist made a wrong diagnosis but he may find that he may have to work harder to prove that his worsening depression is a direct result of that error and not part of an already existing mental illness.  In this case, the court may agree that there has been a breach of duty but no causation or resulting damage; thereby, no compensation may be given.

In rare cases where the healthcare provider may admit a breach of duty, this is not enough to neither establish a clinical negligence case nor expect the accused to be liable for any damages.  It must be proven first that damage clearly arose from that breach of duty before liability can be established.

Damage

When breach of duty and causation has been proven, the claimant must prove the existence of the damage against which a claim can be made.  Damage refers to physical injuries, psychiatric injuries, and financial losses such as loss of income.  Psychiatric injury refers to a recognised psychiatric impairment such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), clinical depression, and anxiety disorder.  Normal emotional upsets and grief are not psychiatric disorders and are therefore not considered damages for which claim can be made.

Other Factors to Consider When Pursuing a Claim

Clinical negligence is not easy to establish and court proceedings may take some time to resolve the issue.  A High Court claim may take as long as six years.

There is a time limit for applying legal action for clinical negligence.  The time limit is 3 years unless stipulated in the Limitation Act 1980.  Getting your solicitor’s services way before the three year application period is over will give him time to review your case properly and gather the necessary documentation.

The cost for a clinical negligence case is prohibitive so one has to be financially prepared when filing this particular lawsuit.  Most clinical negligence cases can no longer claim the benefits of legal aid under the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.  Legal aid is only available in clinical negligence cases where a child suffers from a neurological damage which results in her being severely disabled during childbirth, pregnancy, or the 8-week postnatal period.

 

The Achievable State of Well-Being

Well-being (1)

We all try to achieve well-being; but, for many people this state of balanced health and happiness is an elusive prize.  Even governments realize the need to measure their nation’s well-being as a factor of national health.  How does one define well-being and why is it important?

What Well-Being Is

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary simply defines well-being as “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous. “  One’s well-being or welfare does not only imply the absence of illness but it is a complex combination of a person’s state of satisfaction socially, psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

A person’s general well-being is based on the state of health of two aspects:  the physical and the mental.  A person must be healthy both physically and mentally for his well-being to be in peak form.

An individual’s well-being may be in stasis for some time and then change gradually or suddenly.  Well-being may also vary from month to month or even from day to day.  To illustrate:  Chris may be dominating the gym, topping workouts for three months, and feeling self-confident and chippy.  A sudden death in the family however throws this equilibrium off balance, finding Chris shocked, grieving, and unable to muster the same motivation to work out as he previously did.  Chris goes through an emotional upheaval and becomes depressed.  Because he does not feel like working out much anymore, Chris gains weight, loses muscle tone, and starts down a gradual physical spiral.  In other words, Chris’ well-being takes a turn for the worse.  In this case, the deterioration of his mental well-being has led to that of his physical well-being as well.  This points to the fact that the welfare of both mind and body are connected; therefore, what affects one certainly affects the other.

Factors Influencing Well-Being

There is a multitude of factors that contribute positively or negatively to one’s well-being.  The degree to which these common factors are present may indicate one’s state of welfare:

  • Sense of purpose and relevance to others                                     aspects of well-being
  • Self-worth; self-confidence
  • General perception of life; level of optimism or pessimism
  • Possession of realistic and achievable aims
  • Financial security
  • Balanced nutrition
  • Sufficient regular exercise
  • Adequate rest and recreation
  • Fulfilling career
  • Spiritual life
  • Sense of belongingness
  • Freedom
  • Family relationships
  • Friendships and work relations
  • Ability to adapt to change

Many of these factors affect one another.  The level of one may dictate the levels of others.  For instance, having enough money allows one to experience more of life through travelling or taking up another hobby, thereby increasing one’s opportunities for recreation, self-growth, more friendships, and a higher sense of freedom.  Some factors may even compensate for the lack of other must-haves.  Being a successful mother may offset the lack of a working career and significantly higher income.

It actually depends how the person perceives the mix of factors he possesses by which he gauges his overall life satisfaction or well-being.  He may be a millionaire with a lot of power and freedom; but he may lack satisfying familial relations or friends he can trust.  In this case, he may regard his well-being as negative and may even envy a person of average means but with family and friends to rely on.

Maintaining Your Well-Being

Although life always throws us those proverbial left hooks, one must always try to achieve a positive sense of well-being in order to be happy.  The key word then is balance.  Try to achieve a balance between your mental and physical states.  Remember, your mental well-being depends on your physical one and vice-versa.

Mental Well-Being Maintenance

  • Build relationships

No man is an island and therefore everyone needs someone.  If you build constructive relationships with positive and supportive people, you are more likely to have a better self perception, a network of people you can talk to, and a lesser chance of feeling lonely and depressed.

Maintain the relationships you already have or have built.  Relationships need to be worked on or you lose touch.  Give time to connect with family and with people you consider as friends.

  • Keep Learning

There is always something new to learn and discover so make it a mission to do so.  Keep your mind spry by reading, learning new skills, and discovering new concepts.  Knowing more may push you to achieve more or see things in a different light.  In any case, any self-improvement goes toward boosting self-esteem and mental well-being.

  • Give Unto Others

A kind word, gesture, or token can make someone happy and you as well.  Giving of one’s self has a positive mental impact in terms of making one feel needed and relevant.  Joining a cause or humanitarian group could buoy your sense of well-being by opening you up to more friendships and helping you tap that innate well of good feelings when helping others.

  • Be Mindful

Mindfulness is being presently aware of everything around you.  Sometimes we forget how beautiful life is so we take a lot of things for granted.  We forget to see the beauty of a tree or how pleasant water feels when we drink.  Our mind is always on a million other things except for what is happening in the moment.  Being mindful is a practice that can help you approach challenges and increase your mental state of well-being.

Physical Well-Being Maintenance

Practice a lifestyle of:

  • good nutrition
  • regular exercise
  • adequate sleep

These are the foundations of good physical health.  It is worth including the habits of good hygiene and safe sex as additions to these tenets.

Every aspect of your life contributes to your well-being.  It is essential to find that balance and try to maintain it.  Of course, life changes can always throw you off-kilter, but one must always learn or know how to get back on that wagon of general contentment, happiness, engagement, enjoyment, and health…well-being.

Emotional Issues in College Life

Girl, at table, having trouble studying

The transition from high school to college is one of the milestones that mark one’s transition from childhood to adulthood.  For emotionally healthy young people, the transition is a challenge, positively met with plans, goals, and tests of their newfound independence.  For those with some emotional instability, the transition may compound brewing stress and anxiety, a crippling disadvantage that may outweigh any educational gains hoped for.  Before a student can take on the more demanding life college brings on, he must be in good physical, mental, and emotional shape to cope with inevitable triumphs and pitfalls coming his way from a new environment.

Common Mental Health Problems in College Students

Stress in college is the overwhelmingly huge trigger for mental health problems that may have been absent, hidden, or controlled during high school.  A May 20, 2013 article in the Guardian states, “Those who do experience mental health problems cite coursework deadlines (65%) and exams (54%) as triggers of distress.  Financial difficulties (47%), pressures about “fitting in” (27%) and homesickness (22%) also contribute to mental ill health.”

Common symptoms of mental illnesses plaguing a significant percentage of college students are:

  • Depression — the most pervasive problem among the other mental issues.  Depression can be dangerous as it carries the high risk of suicidal tendencies.  Depression should not be left untreated.  Students afflicted with depression must be aware of the triggers and symptoms and seek professional help in school if available or outside.
  • Anxiety Disorders — Seventy five percent of people who have had panic attacks, social phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and the like have had anxiety symptoms before the age of 22.  Anxiety can be debilitating when it morphs into extreme worry based on unrealistic perceptions.
  • Eating Disorders — Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating are common eating disorders that affect more female than male students.
  • Self-Harm  — Cutting, burning, or banging one’s head for the purpose of inflicting pain are signals of deeper emotional disorders.
  • Substance Abuse — The abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs, or recreational drugs is also a pervasive phenomenon.  Even mentally healthy individuals may fall prey to a drug habit when they start using drugs to stay awake for exams or simply to have fun.  The danger of substance abuse is addiction, sexual promiscuity without safety measures, and even sexual assault.
  • Sleep Deprivation — Drugs, depression, or simply a radical change in lifestyle of which college life can bring on, can trigger insomnia.  Bad sleep habits and chronic sleep loss can exacerbate any mental or physical health condition and even dampen coping mechanisms of mentally healthy individuals.  Insomnia is also a symptom of depression and anxiety.  Students need to factor in their sleep as an important necessity, one as vital as food is.

What Parents Should Know

Any adolescent can develop a mental health problem.  The problem is, parents often think these problems happen to other people’s children, not their own.  It is important to ascertain that your child has the emotional and mental capability to weather the ups and downs of being on their own in college.

Studies are showing that the greatest impediment to success in college is emotional instability caused by depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.  For the majority of emotionally challenged students, emotional instability can spell missed opportunities in their academic and social milieu.  For some whose mental health is in a more dangerous or debilitating condition, their lives could be at stake if their issues remain unaddressed.  Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among the college populace.

It is important to catch the first signs of a deteriorating mental health so that symptoms can be easily reversed.  In such a case, communication, lifestyle changes, and treatment must be addressed in order to effect positive changes and boost coping mechanisms.

college mental issues

What Colleges Should Know

Colleges should be sensitive and alert to the fact that one in five of their student population may likely be suffering some form of mental health issue; but, only a rare few of their students actually avail of the university’s counselling services.  In fact, only a handful would probably admit that they are suffering from anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, impulse control issues, personality disorders, substance addiction, or other mental health problems.

In this regard, universities may need to seriously look into their current student services that aim to address mental health problems.  Are counselling services diverse enough to meet differing personal and psychological needs?  Expanding institutional services or creating partnerships and referral services outside the school to include those such as women’s health centres, spiritual or religious organizations, substance abuse clinics, and the like may be of huge help in boosting student morale and health.

Sex and Relationships

How Vital is Sex in a Relationship?

sex and relationships

 

At the beginning of a relationship, when all is romance and mushy hearts, sex (or its lower derivatives such as kissing, fondling, petting) is a love language couples often indulge in as an integral expression of their intimacy.  As the relationship progresses over the years and familiarity starts breeding mundanity, the frequency of this intimate expression may dwindle down from occasional, rarely, to absolutely nil.

In sad situations where couples have gradually foregone sex as an inessential component in their relationships, trouble may be brewing in paradise.  Many studies have shown that “sexless marriages” (those in which sex occurs only 10 times or less in a year) involve couples that have very low satisfaction levels with their lifetime partnerships.  Couples with good sex lives, however, also manifest high levels of relationship satisfaction.

Many people, women especially, have the tendency to think that sex is unimportant.  This is a fallacy that could prove dangerous to intimacy in a relationship.  Sex can become a gargantuan issue if a couple’s sex life becomes frustratingly unfulfilled.  In a marriage or a serious relationship, sex functions as a pressure valve which allows a couple to take time out from the daily grind by experiencing the kind of pleasure, closeness, and sharing only intimate partners can give to each other.  Sex in this context just does not mean sexual intercourse alone; it also includes touching, hugging, kissing, caressing, and even holding hands.  Touching provides the physical comfort and affection your partner needs and thus must be perceived as a healthy component of sexual life.

Relationship therapists know that people deprived of sex in a marriage feel rejected, frustrated, unfocused, depressed, and generally have low self esteem.  When one partner craves the physical or emotional satisfaction of sex and the other just has no interest in getting amorous between the sheets, sex becomes unsatisfying and intimacy starts dropping until it becomes non-existent.  Partners start to become less engaged with one another and more emotionally disconnected.  Heart-to-heart talks and little dinner dates start dwindling.  Dangerous questions such as “What did I see in him/her?” begin peeking out.  Soon, couples find that they have drifted so far apart from each other when infidelity and divorce rear their ugly heads.

Rekindling the Flame

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If a relationship is to survive the long haul, partners have to find a way to be physically intimate and loving through the many changes life throws in their way.  Sex can keep a marriage strong; the lack of it can break it.

It is important to recognize that sex waxes and wanes in a long term relationship like marriage.  Partners must be aware that relationships need to be worked on daily and this includes the sexual aspect of their bond.  For one to rekindle the flame, these approaches may help:

  • Know the signs of a low sex relationship:

    • Has sex become a chore?
    • Do you not feel close or intimate with your partner after sex?
    • Is your spouse/partner uninterested in sex?  Are you?
    • Is there a lack of spontaneity?
    • Does your mate turn to pornography?

These signs may be red flags that your sexual life needs a change and a boost before your relationship gets negatively affected.

  • Communicate.  Talk to your spouse about the no sex or low sex situation of your relationship.  What you say and how you say it will be very important to get your partner to be receptive to the situation.  Communication is one essential way to re-establish intimacy.  Keep the lines open.

When in one of these intimate talks, find out what pleasures him and reveal what pleasures you as well.  Decide how you both can improve and revive your sex life.

  • Both you and your partner must accept that salvaging your sexual relationship will be difficult.  Both of you just must make a commitment to strengthening your bonds.
  • Be open to trying new things.  Both of you must however be comfortable with the suggestions in order for this to approach to work.  Coercion or the feeling that one has to do something despite his misgivings may simply backfire on your intimacy.
  • Recognize that there are no hard and fast rules to sex.  What may be considered low sex relationship in standard norms may not be so to you as a couple.  If both of you are happy with a once in three months rate, then your sexual life is actually fulfilled.  It is only when one partner craves more than the other that problems about sex start to exist.
  • Both of you must make the time to get intimate.  If you must, schedule.  Remember, prioritizing time with your partner pays off in loads of closeness and affection.
  • Don’t expect sex to be perfect all the time.  Learn to laugh over your foibles.  Humour adds another dimension to intimacy.
  • Bring back those date nights.
  • If the sexual side of the relationship seems to be in an especially difficult slump, consider asking the help of a qualified therapist.

Dealing with Body Dysmorphic Disorder

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What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is the condition when a person obsesses about a flaw in his physical appearance. Usually, this flaw is just imagined or it might be present but not really prominent or alarming. This preoccupation might affect a person’s everyday activities. It may cause significant distress in a person’s social and occupational aspect. The most common perceived defects are face (nose, pimples, complexion, and wrinkles), hair (thinning and baldness), breast size, genitalia, tone and size of muscles, flaws of the skin and the appearance of veins.

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What are the causes?

                The exact cause of Body Dysmorphic Disorder is still unknown. According to previous research, neurotransmitters play a major role in the development of the disorder. Although there’s no evidence yet of the specific cause of this disorder, there are a number of factors which increase the chances of a person to develop the disorder. Some of the things that trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder are childhood teasing, any form of abuse, genetics, generally low self-esteem and even society’s definition of beauty.

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What are its symptoms?

If someone you know starts exhibiting the following symptoms, it is best to consult a professional right away:

  1. Extreme self-consciousness
  2. Looks in the mirror all the time
  3. Avoids all mirrors
  4. Avoids social situations
  5. Excessive grooming
  6. Puts too much makeup on or wears excessive clothing
  7. Thinks he has a physical defect that makes him ugly
  8. Refuses to appear in photos
  9. Feeling the need to stay in his home all the time
  10. Thinks that other people will see his perceived flaw
  11. Compares his appearance to that of others

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What are the effects?

  1. Overdo cosmetic procedures
  2. Unnecessary shame and embarrassment
  3. Social isolation
  4. High risk for developing major depression

How can it be treated?

Usually, Body Dysmorphic Disorder is treated with the combination of psychotherapy, family/group therapy and medication.

  1. Psychotherapy – This is one type of one-on-one counselling. Its goal is to change a person’s thinking (cognitive therapy) and behavior (behavioral therapy). This therapy aims to correct the patient’s false belief about the perceived defect.
  2. Medication – Antidepressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI will be prescribed. It decreases the patient’s obsessive and compulsive behavior.
  3. Family/Group therapy – The emotional support of a patient’s family is very crucial to the success of the treatment. It’s important for them to understand the symptoms and effects of the disorder.

Open your mind.

Looking for help can be very big step for you but think about the outcome, relief and joy when you get help for your mental illness issues.

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