Category Archives: Mental Health Month

Social Anxiety. It’s More Than Shyness.

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I have occasional days where it feels overwhelming to leave my house. I just want to have the quiet solitude of no interactions. This is a microcosm of the life of someone with social anxiety disorder. Although I do not suffer from social anxiety, it is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder. With the average age of onset being the early teenage years, it is a disorder that affects school, work, activities, and social interactions.

Social Anxiety is not shyness. It is an intense fear of being judged, rejected, or embarrassed in a social or performance situation. Symptoms may play havoc with daily routines, work performance, social life, and intimate life.

Social anxiety can be self-perpetuating. For individuals who suffer, avoidance of feared situations is common. The fear then becomes even more entrenched when exposure to anxiety provoking situations is limited. In my work. As part of the therapy process, I frequently meet people in various anxiety provoking settings.

Important facts:

  • A very broad range of interactions can be fear provoking. These might include having to return an item to a store, talk to a server in a restaurant, say hello to a neighbor, or place an order in a fast food drive-through.
  • Signs and symptoms experienced by individuals with social anxiety disorder may include blushing, sweating, racing heartbeat, shaking, avoiding eye contact, or feeling that their mind is going blank.
  • Misreading the behavior of others is a common factor. They might think that another person is frowning at them, angry at them if they don’t return a hello in the hallway, or believe they are being stared at.
  • Emotional distress may be experienced while being introduced to strangers, being teased or criticized, being the center of attention, having to speak in front of others, job interviews, group projects, meeting authority figures, or in classes or conferences that require social participation.
  • “Just face your fears, and they will go away,” does not happen. Therapy includes insight, strategies, practice, exposure, and fine-tuning.
  • Medication has been found to be very helpful, but is not the only solution. These may include antidepressants, beta blockers, and anti-anxiety medications.

Can We Talk About Suicide?

I really struggled with this blog post. I first sat down to write it weeks ago, in anticipation of Mental Health Awareness Month. But it was hard and I was busy with so many other things, and so I kept putting it off.

Suicide is something that’s so hard to talk about, often even for mental health professionals. But it is absolutely essential to have the conversation.

And so, if we’re going to talk about suicide, let’s start with some stark facts.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States across all ages.

There is one death by suicide in the US every 12 minutes.

An estimated quarter million people every year are suicide survivors.

There is one suicide for every 25 estimated attempts.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15 through 25.

Lesbian gay and bisexual kids are three times more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

Females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts.

African-American, Latino,  Asian-American, and Native American individuals who are lesbian, gay, transgendered, or bisexual have the highest rates of suicide.

Suicide rates among the elderly are highest for those who are divorced or widowed.

Males over 50 have the biggest increase in suicide rates in recent years.

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If you, or someone that you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-799-4889 or 1-800 Suicide. Another great resource is 211 for essential community services,  including disaster assistance, utilities jobs and support for veterans, housing, meal plans.

Sources: Center for Disease Control (CDC); National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

 

Depression Facts

Depression Facts

Depression Facts

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and so this month we join Mental Health America in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about.

This is the first blog post in a series designed to help people have a better understanding of some of the most common mental health issues.

This week I’ll be sharing some facts on depression.

Depression is so often misunderstood. It’s a real illness. People with depression are NOT weak or crazy.

Depression is more than ordinary sadness. Everyone experiences sadness in reaction to painful circumstances. Depression is an illness caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters that play an important function in regulating your mood.

Some depression facts:

  • 80% of depression sufferers do not receive treatment. The reasons for this are variable, including stigma, lack of exposure to screening or treatment, or a medical professional’s failure to adequately understand the symptoms.
  • Depressed people might not look depressed. People can seem cheerful and “together”, and still be struggling with symptoms. We are caught by surprise when a celebrity commits suicide: “But they seemed like they had everything. “ For many reasons, depressed people may not show their struggle.
  • Depression is a leading cause of disability. According to the national institutes of health (NIH) and the world health organization (WHO), depression is debilitating. It affects decision making and makes everything a monumental effort. Further, it is a leading reason for calling in sick to work.
  • Exercise is an antidepressant. Endorphins that are released from at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity make you feel better.
  • Recent research in gastroenterology indicates that there may be a link between the brain, the central nervous system, depression, and “good bacteria” in the gut. Emerging research suggests that a diet that includes probiotics may help manage depression.
  • Depression is not just “in your head.” It can cause headaches, stomach problems, body tension, insomnia, and shortness of breath, according to the national Institute of mental health (NIMH).
  • Depression tricks your brain. Your mind can distort your thinking when you are depressed. Working with a professional or checking in with a trusted friend can help with these glitches in thinking.
  • J. K. Rowling based the Dementors, horrifying creatures from the Harry Potter series, on her own experience with depression. These creatures suck all the warmth and happiness out of any wizard within 100 meters, an apt metaphor for depression.
  • Depression can make people seem selfish. It’s hard to think about other people and their needs when you are wrapped in a fog of sadness. Getting help is important for yourself, and for others in your life.
  • Persistent irritability can be a symptom of depression, especially in children and teens. If things are constantly annoying you, or you’re lashing out or withdrawing from people in your life, you may actually be suffering from depression.
  • Depression is hard on your loved ones. Some people may distance themselves from a depressed person because they feel helpless or pulled into the pain. Others might feel that you don’t care about them.
  • Depression is often experienced as anxiety. You may have to see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis.
  • Depression can have different triggers. People going through a stressful life event, past episodes of depression, or close family members who have suffered depression are more at risk.
  • Medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pain, can trigger depression.
  • Warming up can help you feel better. Exposure to heat can reduce symptoms. More research is needed, but a warm bath or shower, hot tubs and saunas are ways to help take care of yourself.
  • Though many people take antidepressants, psychotherapy and other treatment modalities, including cognitive behavioral strategies, mindfulness, and TMS can play a very important part in alleviating symptoms.
Embolden Psychology