The Importance of Mental Health and Counseling

An excerpt from a patient who suffers from mental illness:

DepressionWhy write a blog about mental illness.  Is it an illness?  Is it a disease of the mind?  Is it an abnormality?  Am I normal?  Why put myself out there when it will only invite unwanted criticism and name calling. Being known as someone who has depression and anxiety carries a tremendous personal burden, a steep price of added suffering and torment – one extra hill to climb out of.  So again you ask, why am I doing this?  Because mental illness is just that.  It is an illness.  Most people need to understand that. And the more people who are aware are able to help.  We need a community to band together and stop the shame of depression.  Stop the teen suicides.  If my story can help in anyway shed light on this illness then I am willing to battle the scars of criticism.

Prejudice, stigmas and bigotry take the path of least resistance – they are free of the chains of clear thought, consideration of the differences of others and plain fact. They are free to spread and indiscriminately injure and wound. They are escaped prisoners that need rounding up. They are the bullies that need to be grabbed by the ear and told. Whether they listen or understand or change their nasty ways remains a mystery to me. I mean, if you’re stuck in a revolving door of fear and ignorance long enough eventually you have to jump out, shake off the dizziness and reorient yourself — perhaps desperate optimism or naive hopefulness on my part. I’m sensitive yet thick when I need to be.

Being brave, open and vulnerable.  I am able to with a quiet courage to leave my house every day and endure the mean spirited off handed comments from bored and ignorant. So many, including myself live in fear that our dark secret will somehow get out. That someday someone will catch us taking our medication. That the jabs and ribbing will one day become more than we can stand. Courage, bravery and raw endurance occurs daily in utter silence. You are not alone!

Picture of the brain
Photo by sdCrea – yayimages.com

Overview

We are all aware of the dangers to society when a person whose mental health issues goes undetected, sometimes resulting in tragic and disastrous results. Although there are thousands of people and organizations working to determine what causes people to react this way, there was no indication of this behavior, it is an ongoing and tedious process. And so far, no substantial or specific reason has been confirmed.

Although violence rests in the category of extreme mental illness, most people whose mental health has been affected one way or another usually suffer from stress, depression and/or addiction to drugs.

In this article, we will not dwell on the specific illnesses that exist, nor will focus on the politics related to mental health issues; indeed, this subject alone fills entire websites. Instead, we will concentrate on the underlying factors regarding mental illnesses and simply bring them to light here.

Stressful Environment and Mental Health Disorder

Young Woman in DepressionOne conclusion regarding mental health issues is that there is a direct connection to today’s contemporary world and the the stresses that are associated with it. Just about every one of us have been subjected to some type of stress during our live time, but it is how we deal with it and how we proceed that determines what will happen next.

For many, these anxiety-prone situations can lead to frustration, anger, depression and/or melancholia. When we face such situations, it can cause a deterioration in our daily performance and functioning, as well as the possibility of developing more serious mental health issues.

What is mental health?

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), good physical health starts with good mental health. It is the most basic element for our holistic well being.

Good mental health provides us with the ability to cope effectively with the stressors of our lives. When we are healthy, we are able to use our full potential, perform productively and contribute effectively to our community.

Statistics reveal that over 450 million people worldwide are negatively affected in their cognitive well-being at one time or another and one in six adults and one in ten children suffer from serious mental health issues.

Causes of poor mental health

There are a wide range of factors that can cause mental health deterioration: genetic factors, prolonged stress, physical illness and traumatic events. Political and social environments also play a role in influencing our mental health.

Social Environment

Suicide is not uncommon among American teenagers, especially girls. Many families have to cope with teens that resort to overdosing on prescription or even over the counter drugs. But what caused them to overdose in the first place? According to a multitude of case histories, young girls can resort to attempting to ‘kill themselves’ because they broke up or simply had a argument with their boyfriend. Whether it is just to achieve attention, get back at the boyfriend or something else, most of these young teens survive. As they mature, this precarious mental state subsides and they go on to live normal lives like it never happened.

In one case history, a 15 year old girl grabbed Tylenol and overdosed on them. She wasn’t able to feel her hands or feet and the boyfriend called her parents. She was immediately taken to the hospital. Doctors determined that she will need to sleep it off, but if she happened to take just a little more, she could have had more serious complications, including a damaged liver. Fortunately, she came out of it alright, but a prerequisite from being released from the hospital was to see the hospital psychiatrist. There, she was ‘set straight’ regarding how close she was to running her internal organs, as well as being admitted to a psychiatric ward. The girl is now in college. So in this particular case, a sudden scare into reality was all that was needed.

Other teens are not that lucky. Some are subjected to a more serious mental stain and perceive their issues as ‘not worth living’. Bullying, simply because they are different in some way, can become a motivation towards suicide and unfortunately, in these cases, some do not make it through.  

Depression and anxiety are the most common health disorders that you might face if you are not able to cope with stress that may be affecting your emotional well being.

One of the major reasons that mental health has become a concern is lack of awareness, inability to have effective coping mechanisms and the stigma attached in some societies to get help and go to a professional mental health counselor. Not looking for the assistance that you may need out of fear for being isolated, bullied or not being able to get jobs.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, there are two major categories of mental disorders: neurosis and psychosis. Few indicators of poor mental health are feeling lethargic, withdrawing from society; drop in your productivity and performance, feeling like crying all the time and weight gain or loss.

Benefits of maintaining mental health

Living with mental health disorders affects your relationship, studies, parenting skills and work. It is important in order for you own well being and others that you take the support of mental health counselors.

Your emotional well being improves your quality of life and gives you peace of mind and the ability to live life to the fullest while coping with stressful factors effectively.

Well balanced mental health will help you to cope with stress and be able to maintain healthy relationships, make sound life decisions, use your potential to the maximum level and maintain both your mental and physical health.

Those of you who maintain your mental health and take support of  counselors have to spend less money on their health. Poor mental health causes many physical ailments that increase your frequency of visiting doctors and taking medication. Similarly when you have poor mental health you will take more medications and therapy sessions. Both will increase the cost of medical bills but after you receive proper mental health counseling or therapy you will be more mentally fit and will not have the need to visit the doctor or take medication. This reduces the cost of your medical bills.

Good mental health prevents poor physical healing and dangerous habits such as smoking or unhealthy eating behavior.

Many research studies have provided evidence that those for those of you who took proper mental health care and support of a counselor the number of medical visits decreased.  

Good mental health increases your energy level and provides you with the effective coping mechanisms for stressful environment. It helps you deal with difficult situation and improves your performance and efficiency at work by utilizing your potential to the maximum level.     

About mental health counseling

A mental health counselor helps you deal with your emotions, provide tools to cope with your stress in healthy way and deal with mental health disorders or trauma that you may have faced. Mental health counselors work in various avenues such as school, office and hospitals.

These counselors use various approaches for providing mental health support. Such as cognitive analytical therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, crisis treatment, group or life changing counseling and substance abuse counseling.

Importance of counseling

Mental health counselors help you deal with your emotions, daily life stressors and experiences. It helps you set goals, design action plan for those goals and gain further insight.  

According to the American Counseling Association counseling empowers you to achieve mental well being, education, career goals and mental health.

They are highly trained professionals that help you live a more happy and productive life. The school counselor help you deal with your academic and other school related concerns and daily life stressors related to your school and studies.

The career counselor’s help you improve your productivity and deal with work related stressors or career related identity crisis. They help you find the best career path for you and deal with other employment related concerns.

Mental health counselors play the most significant role by treating those of you who may be suffering from mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.

A Mental health counselor helps you become productive and efficient and by helping you gain a healthy mental well being they help you become an effective member of your society.

Avoiding treatment through mental health professional can cause considerable negative social and economic impact to you and your society.

Mental hygiene and counseling

We may take care of our physical health but ignore the importance of staying mentally fit. Dealing with daily life stressors and unexpected extraordinary difficult situation can take a toll on you. By going to a counselor you can vent out your feeling and emotions, gain better insight and be able to cope with your difficult experiences in effective and healthy manner. Thus, keeping your mind and body healthy and becoming an effective member of your society.

 

Improving Your Quality of Life With the Help of Meditation

Meditation can calm the mind and body
Woman in seawater at sunset meditating

Stress and anxiety have become a norm of the modern-day lifestyle. Unfortunately, for a very long time, people didn’t consider these psychological problems as worthy of attention. We were more focused on keeping our bodies physically healthy, and lost focus on the importance of mental hygiene and keeping a healthy mind. However, over time, the perception of various mental issues have changed. Now more people strive to find the solutions for these problems, because they are aware of the fact that without the healthy state of mind it will be difficult to achieve the improved quality of life.  

What is quality of life?

The term ‘quality of life’ is outlined by a set of different parameters like physical health, financial stability, education, family and religious beliefs of an individual. All of these parameters, which determine the quality of life, are strongly associated with one’s mental health. It is safe to assume that no matter how well you are doing with all the mentioned aspects, if you don’t have mental peace then you can’t able to appreciate the quality of life.

If mental problems persist for long, it can negatively affect all those characteristics necessary to attain the improved quality of life.

What is the solution?

In the previous section, it has become quite clear that how important mental health is to lead a happy life. So how one can get rid of all those mental ailments that make it difficult for us to cherish our lives? The answer lies in the mental exercises carried out by humans being for thousands of years. According to ancient Hindu scripts, meditation was nearly started 5000 years ago.

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware. It is also known as the exercise in which person observes his train of thought without judging and interrupting them. The mindfulness achieved through meditation helps you to focus on the present moment instead of getting distracted by the ever-persisting clutter of thoughts.

There are several benefits of meditation to the mental health that can help you to improve the quality of life.

Meditation: The stress killer

Reducing stress through meditation is the best gift you can give to yourself. Our modern day lives are crammed with so much stressor that our mind gets overwhelmed by all that negativity of the stress. Different stressors basically fires up neurons, the constant stimulation of nerve cells results in agitation. You can tackle this mental agitation by practicing meditation.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps you to shape up the responses of your brain to the incoming stressors. When you are more in control of your brain, it is less likely that brain will go haywire all of a sudden by releasing the stress hormone cortisol. It has been reported that mediators takes less toll of the stressful conditions as compared to other people. Shedding considerable amount of stress from your everyday life automatically contributes to improve the quality of it.

Meditation gives you a less distractive mind

We are living in an era where we have been distracted by a plethora of things in every given moment of the day, thanks to the technological innovations. Our concentration levels and attention spans are greatly affected by those distractions. Loss of attention and concentration contributes to the poor grades for students and less productivity of the working professionals. Quality of life is strongly connected to good education and professional success.

Since meditation is about ‘focusing’ on the present, it helps in increasing the capability of mind to focus and concentrate which assist person in different life affairs.

Meditation makes you more self-aware

Meditation also increases the level of self-awareness in a person which helps him in becoming less harmful to himself. Simply put, highly self-aware person tries to adopt healthy lifestyle. People start to eat healthy and many people quit smoking and excessive drinking after regular practice of meditation.

Meditation helps in accepting oneself

Accepting one’s self is the hardest thing many people come across with. Meditation helps you to accept yourself with all the faults and shortcomings. People can’t able to experience the feel of present moment just because they don’t want to accept their present self and they keep continue to chase the illusion of perfection. Meditation helps people to accept themselves with ifs and buts and that helps them to experience and feel the happiness of the given instant.

It is given that all the discussed benefits of mediation can certainly increase the quality of your life and also of the people around you.

Increased Physical Activity is Linked to Improved Cognitive Functions


”elderly
Photo by Wavebreakmedia – yayimages.com


According to a recent study from the University of Sydney, the gradual increment of muscle-strengthening activities can lead to better cognitive functionality. This analysis is based on a trial that includes the Study of Mental and Resistance Training (SMART) done on patients aged between 55-58 years old with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with MCI are more vulnerable to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  

MCL is a strong indication that the individuals will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the near future and nearly 80% of the elderly people suffering from MCI develop Alzheimer’s in the course of six years.

Significance of the Study

Results of the study are very significant considering increased cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among the aging demographics. According to the annual report of Alzheimer’s Disease International, 47 million people are suffering from dementia worldwide and this number will be increased threefold by the mid of the century. Predicted figures for the US suggests that there will be 13.8 million citizens affected with Alzheimer’s by 2050.

It is also worth mentioning that the healthcare cost for patients with dementia is very high, making it imperative to find other preventive measures to increase the quality of a patient’s life. Therefore, finding a relation between increased physical activity and improved cognitive function will certainly help in alleviating the intense effects of these debilitating diseases.

This study examined 100 senior adults with MCI. Patients with MCI face slight cognitive difficulties that are not detrimental enough to hinder daily routines. These patients were divided into four sub-groups and assigned with four type of activities:

  • Resistance exercise activity
  • Placebo resistance exercise
  • Cognitive training
  • Placebo cognitive training

Cognitive and both of the placebo activities did not result in cognitive improvement. However, the study concludes that there is a direct relationship between improved muscle strength and improved cognitive functions. Some previous studies have also shown a proportional link between increased physical activity and muscle strength. But this research assisted by SMART trial has provided useful details about the exercises that can help in improving brain function. The trial lasted for six months in which the participants attended weightlifting sessions twice a week. With maintaining their peak strength at 80%, the weights used in the exercise were regularly increased, as their muscles got stronger with time.

According to the doctor leading the research team, including resistance exercise in the schedule of elderly can result in a healthier aging population. However, it can only be effective if it is done on regular basis and integrated as a part of a lifestyle.

Exercise Assists Physiological Process Necessary to Avoid Cognitive Impairment

Even before the SMART trial research, studies have proven that physical exercise can help in improving brain function by assisting different physiological processes. Exercise helps in improving cardiovascular health and glucose regulation in the body and both in their optimal form are necessary to avoid the risk of cognitive diseases. Exercise can also help in even improving the brain functions such as selective attention, multitasking and planning.

Exercise can Increase the Size of Certain Brain Areas

Hippocampus is that area of the brain associated with the processing and retention of memories and especially long-term memories. With aging, it starts to shrink in size leading to cognitive impairment. Aerobic exercises have a proven role in increasing the size of the anterior part of the hippocampus. The fractional increment in the size can improve the spatial memory of an individual.

What’s Next in the Research Line?

According to the researchers of a SMART trial study, it is still unclear that whether resistance exercises are directly influencing and decelerating the deteriorating effects of old age, or whether they are commanding some bodily functions that are helping the cognition improvement. New researchers will try to find the exact relation of increased muscle strength with cognitive activity. They will also study the effects of muscle strength on size and activity of certain brain areas.

All the researchers and studies that we have discussed in this article share the same conclusion that healthy lifestyle with increased physical activity can reward aging people with a vigorous and active mindless prone to old age cognitive diseases.

Panic Attacks and Disorder: Causes and Some Self-Help Techniques

You are in the hospital on your way to visiting a loved one and the doctor tells you that the person has passed away or you come to work thinking it is a going to be a normal day and you are handed a pink slip. Maybe it’s a situation where you relationship with your spouse is deteriorating. These are just some of the situations that could spark a panic attack. For those lingering situations, such as the relationship scenario, you may encounter panic attacks routinely and randomly.

What Exactly are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are the sudden episodes of extreme fears that can lead to the activation of several body functions that may include irregular breathing or problems breathing, rapid heartbeat, nausea, stomach pains or cramps, muscle or chest pains or other abnormal physical experiences.

As mentioned in the scenarios above, you may experience a few panic attacks in your lifetime, such as dealing with financial problems, divorce, work related issues, personal health issues, seriously ill family member or other circumstances where fear overrides your every day mood. In some circumstances, women who give birth may feel depressed, called Postpartum Depression.  If the panic attacks continue, it could elevate you condition to a level of stress denoted as panic disorder and if not addressed by a medical professional, other ailments may materialize, such as depression.

For many, the panic disorder they are feeling are based upon a real experience they are going through, while others worry about things that may not be that realistic, but due to some metabolic reasons, they too may suffer from panic disorder.

If you do experience a panic attack, it is highly recommended to seek the advice of a medical professional for possible treatment. In the interim, there is so much information associated with this condition, we can only scratch the surface, so, as a guideline, we summarize below answers to some questions you may have regarding panic attack.s

Causes of panic attacks

Besides sudden, unexpected natural life experiences, researchers attribute additional factors that can increase the risk or even become an underlying factor of panic attacks in adults. 

Genetics

There is partial evidence that panic disorders might be attributed to genetics, as studies have shown that people with a family history of panic attacks and disorders are more vulnerable to this psychological ailment; however, it has not been proven that genetics is the root cause or only attribute to cause this effect. Indeed, for many, it may not be a contributing factor at all. 

Major life events

For some, stress can be part of their everyday lives and might not lead to panic attacks. However, there are some life events, such as the death or serious illness of a loved one that can cause considerable anxiety, which can ultimately lead to panic disorder. In most cases, these attacks are temporary and usually die down with gradual lowering of stress levels.

Traumatic Memories

For many people, different incidents become the reason of panic attacks. Physical or mental abuse, sexual assaults or serious accidents are some of the reasons that can induce panic attacks.

Unhealthy lifestyle

Eating junk food, alcoholism, excessive smoking and caffeine consumption may increase the risk of panic attacks. Caffeine especially can cause your heart to beat faster and when you are suffering from panic disorder, drinking caffeine related liquids is not recommended.

Some foods that can help keep you calmer are:

  •  Green Leafy Vegetables
  •  Organic Turkey Breast
  •  Blueberries
  •  Dark Chocolate
  •  Pistachios
  •  Avocados

And then there is exercise. How much exercise do you get each day? If you had to think about that one, you most likely are not getting enough physical exercise. Experts suggest exercising to the equivalent of 10,000 steps per day; however, we reiterate, seek the advise of a professional before changing your diet or physical lifestyle, especially if you are on medication.

Panic disorder can affect the quality of your life

Constant panic attacks at different times can confine you. People try to avoid the places where they have experienced a panic attack. These consequences can make your social life very challenging. As a result, people often start to avoid all the situations where human interaction is involved. Other bad consequences of panic attacks are:

  • You will see a sharp dip in your confidence level and it will consequently affect your professional and educational life
  • Your family and the loved ones will also be affected by episodes of your panic attacks

Self-help measures to tackle panic attacks

Determined to help yourself is very important to courageously face the issue of a panic attack. There are several measures one should take to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the occurrence of these attacks.

Keep Calm

Some people find solace in meditation, while others are able to find a sense of relaxation listening to soft music. Others keep them self busy and feel gratified with daily senses of accomplishments.

Then there is therapy or visiting a psychiatrist, which could include prescribed medication to help you keep calm.

Any of these methods or any combination of these methods could be beneficial to your well being when being subjected to panic disorders.

Accepting the problem

Most people try to avoid the problem of panic disorder instead of facing it. This behavior can’t help you to get rid of the panic attacks. Accepting the problem and all the emotions associated with it is the first step to treating this psychological problem. Whenever you experience a panic attack, it is helpful to keep reminding yourself that it will end soon. Knowing that you will come out of the situation unharmed can reduce the intensity of the symptoms.

Accepting panic attacks also reduce the levels of anxiety before or after the occurrence of panic attacks.

Try to rationalize it

Another thing which can help you survive an episode of panic attack is to keep yourself grounded. Panic attacks can the reaction to imaginary perceived threats, i.e., one is not in an actual danger. Also keep reminding yourself that the attack is caused due to chemical imbalance in the brain and it will get back to normal after few minutes.

Tackle the triggers

Handling the triggers of panic attack is very crucial in managing panic attacks. Triggers of panic attacks are a set of conditions may remind you of a bad experience. Let’s suppose you acquire a panic attack while shopping in the grocery store. Shopping or grocery store might not be the reason of a panic attack, but your brain may acknowledge an event on an unconscious level where some feature in the store makes an association with something unpleasant and that can trigger an attack.

People who make you anxious and uncomfortable may also prove to be the triggers of your anxiety. Avoid these triggers if possible, but it might not feasible to do it every time. Therefore, it is imperative to carefully recognize the signs so you can already know what is happening to you in order to apply an appropriate coping mechanism.

Apart from treating yourself with self help techniques, you can also try alternative medicines and other methods of treatments to address the problem of panic attacks, but NEVER DO IT ON YOUR OWN!  Seek the advice of a medical professional. You may be pleasantly surprised what some therapy can do. In addition, your doctor may prescribe medication that can keep you calm. There are scores of prescription medications available for stress and anxiety related issues, but speak to your medical professional first before doing anything on your own.

In addition, if you are looking for help, but don’t know where to turn, this website is a valuable source of information that can help get you started.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Symptoms of Postpartum DepressionCommonly known as baby blues, Postpartum Depression hits some mother’s post childbirth pretty hard. The condition is also known as postnatal depression and is caused by the sudden lapse of hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone along with various hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Production of these hormones generally plummets after childbirth. Add sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts and anxiety and feeling of loss of control over one’s life; and you have a recipe for disaster.

In order to have a better understanding of postpartum depression, you should know what to expect in post birth and how to assist your spouse with this type of depression, the symptoms of postpartum depression are the following:

Inability to bond with baby

One of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression in women is the inability to bond with the baby. This could be both, physical and emotional. While some women experience lack of connection with their newborn and have to ask for their partner’s assistance or the hospital staff, others may find it difficult to hold and nurse the baby themselves at all.

Crying Fits

If you have forgotten all about PMS during pregnancy, you are in for a huge surprise after you deliver the baby for the postpartum symptoms, which includes excessive crying on top of the list. The feelings of guilt due to not being able to care for your child, the inability to help the baby latch on to you for a few days, or simply a colic child can induce the feeling of inadequacy, which are too common during the phase of postpartum depression.

Loss of Energy

Not only do new mothers face a drastic shift in their energy levels, but they also experience severe drops in appetite as well as overwhelming fatigue most of the time. Mothers experiencing these symptoms should consult their medical practitioners for treatment.  

Suicidal Thoughts

Postpartum depression is obviously heightened if the mother is having suicidal thoughts or thoughts to cause physical harm to herself and (or) the baby. Usually, these symptoms occur in cases of acute depression. Anxiety and panic attacks are also common symptoms of postpartum depression.

Constant irritability

It is one thing being annoyed the morning after your baby had kept you up wailing all night, and it is an entirely different thing to be irritated at everything and every person around. Symptoms of postpartum depression include constant irritability and expressed thoughts about not being a good mother, or feeling unworthy of the bundle of joy.

Shift in Sleeping Patterns

Either the patient suffering from postpartum depression would face severe insomnia or would be sleeping too much. In either case, the symptom needs to be monitored for whether it is only the postpartum fatigue or postpartum depression (postpartum depression would be paired with various other symptoms of postnatal depression along with disturbed sleep patterns).

Reduced Interest in general Activities

Some postnatal depression patients report a sudden loss in interests and activities which they used to enjoy a lot. Many people lose interest in their jobs and quit considering it as a general aftermath of giving birth, but that’s not it. Also, many postpartum depression victims show symptoms of diminished thinking ability or lack of concentration on general matters.

Though it is often a difficult battle, overcoming postpartum depression is not impossible. It is critical that you seek help for it immediately, ensuring that you would be, in time, able to take the best care of your baby. Prolonged postpartum depression is detrimental to mental health in the long run and may heighten the risk of the problem recurring after future pregnancies.