When Does Normal Anxiety Become a Mental Illness?

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Imagine a caveman returning from a hunt. He is dragging the heavy carcass of a wild boar behind him. As he nears the glowing cave where his brethren await him, he constantly peers around to ensure there are no more threats.

If something attacked him now, it would be difficult to defend. He hasn’t seen anything dangerous for an hour, yet his eyes continue to dart around. He checks his back every couple of seconds.

Then he hears a rustle in a bush next to him. He reflexively thrusts his spear toward the noise.

In its purest, primal state, anxiety is an emotion that keeps us alive and unharmed. Our ancestors needed it to avoid being eaten by wild animals. By worrying about threats ahead of time, they became prepared to fight or take flight when necessary. This helped them survive and eventually thrive. Continue reading When Does Normal Anxiety Become a Mental Illness?

Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Chinae Alexander

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Throughout Mental Health Month, we are focusing on ways to empower individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this celebration, we are profiling “Mental Health Warriors,” individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. Today we caught up with lifestyle and fitness expert Chinae Alexander.

Talkspace: Society imposes some pretty impossible standards around female beauty. Did you absorb this message as a child or was it something you became more aware of later on in life?

Chinae Alexander: I think it was a little easier for us growing up, those pressures were certainly there, but with the onslaught of social media, etc, I can’t imagine what it’s like being a young girl now. I also grew up with a mom who always reminded me of my beauty. It’s amazing how shaping that has been and I’m glad I had that foundation to help me navigate the current age. Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Chinae Alexander

Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips

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Good mental health is both a state of mind and a lifestyle. Part of it is developing a rational, positive mindset about oneself and the world. Having sources of pleasure and a manageable level of stress facilitates good mental health as well.

Additionally, it’s important to have a lifestyle that helps maintain this state of mind. This goes beyond fulfillment in work and relationships. It’s about regularly engaging in activities that provide a sense of peace or catharsis, including being in nature, meditating, or working with a therapist.

By practicing good mental health, people become more resilient and able to cope when their lives are riddled with stress and misfortune.

“Practicing good mental health habits before you feel distressed is like putting money in the bank for the bad times,” said Jude Miller Burke, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of The Adversity Advantage. “When a bad time then comes, you are more prepared.”

If you feel like you’re missing a positive mindset or healthy lifestyle, try out some of the tips we gathered by asking therapists how to practice good mental health. Continue reading Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips

My Lost Decade: A Story of Addiction and Recovery

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As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we’re sharing stories that raise awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

It is the middle of the morning and I am standing in front of a sliding pocket door. The pocket door is made of wood and my forehead rests against the surface. The door divides the apartment: me on one side and my roommate on the other. It’s not a particularly nice piece of wood — unfinished, some rudimentary bevels — but it is holding me up. Earlier in the morning, I was snorting Ritalin in my closet. I have a pretty indigo glass plate I use for crushing the pills that’s now scratched with use. I was looking down at a line of powder on the plate. It was my fifth or sixth pill of the night, at a time when I was snorting 20 or so pills in a day. With the straw in my hand, I considered a couple of truths: I’d stolen the pills from my roommate; I’d eventually be caught; part of me wanted to be caught; part of me hoped I’d die before that happened.

“We really have a problem,” I said to myself. When things got really bad — when I couldn’t believe the things I was doing — I’d start referring to myself as a group.

I snorted the line. The burn felt like pain and ecstasy and shame. But no matter how high I’d get myself those days — dripping sweat, heart jumping in my chest, and ringing in my ears — I couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness. And later in the evenings, I’d start drinking whiskey to slow down my body. Rinse, lather, repeat. Continue reading My Lost Decade: A Story of Addiction and Recovery

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders: How Are They Classified?

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There is a history of division in the psychological community regarding how to classify different types of anxiety disorders. For decades before the release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-5] in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association [APA] classified the following under the broad umbrella of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder [GAD], social anxiety disorder [SAD], panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD]. The DSM-5, however, removed OCD from the anxiety disorders category and listed it as its own category, along with other related disorders.

The prevalence of anxiety is still a component of OCD, and the DSM-5 acknowledges this. The manual focuses more, however, on the differences.

“The trademark of OCD is a behavioral aspect that is not necessarily present in anxiety disorders” said Anya Shumilina, a director at Behavioral Associates, a center that specializes in providing cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT]. “Individuals diagnosed with OCD are known to engage in rigid compulsive and repetitive behaviors, such as switching lights on and off 10 times before leaving the house, to alleviate stress brought by obsessive thinking.”

On the other hand, people with anxiety disorders are not likely to use these behaviors to cope. Anxiety disorders also tend to emphasize concrete worries and concerns, Shumilina said, including losing one’s job for specific reasons. OCD, however, often involves obsessions with vague fears such as germs. Continue reading Different Types of Anxiety Disorders: How Are They Classified?

The Global Refugee Mental Health Crisis

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Even when refugees remove themselves from the imminent physical dangers of war zones, their problems are far from over. If refugees relocate to camps within their own country, they often face issues like poverty, and physical and sexual abuse. If they flee abroad, racial and religious discrimination, along with cultural isolation, are often added to their list of woes.

Less talked about than physical and social issues, mental health problems are extremely prevalent in refugee populations, whether they are located in their home country or abroad. Civilian experiences in a war zone can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and physical manifestations of stress like the loss of the ability to move parts of the body. According to a report by the German Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists, more than half the number of refugees from war zones suffer from some kind of mental illness.

The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011 and has so far displaced over 12 million people, with 4 million seeking refuge abroad in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, has brought about a greater awareness of the mental issues experienced by refugees, especially children. Around half of Syrian refugees are under 18 years old, and around 40 percent are under 12. Three major reports — Save The Children’s March 2017 report, “Invisible Wounds,” the Migration Policy Institute’s (MPI) 2015 report,  and a 2015 UNHCR report focus on the mental health issues of Syrian refugees. Continue reading The Global Refugee Mental Health Crisis

A Quick Guide to Social Media and Smartphone Addiction [Infographic]

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Spending too much time on a smartphone or social media can have negative effects on mental health, according to a wealth of research. If you want to protect your mind from your smartphone, start by getting educated. Check out the infographic below for some quick tips and insights on managing smartphone and social media use. Continue reading A Quick Guide to Social Media and Smartphone Addiction [Infographic]

Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Brandon Marshall

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Source: Chicago Splash

Throughout Mental Health Month, we are focusing on ways to empower individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this celebration, we are profiling “Mental Health Warriors,” individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. Today we caught up with famed NFL wide receiver, mental health advocate, and founder of Project 375, Brandon Marshall.

Talkspace: You have been open about sharing your experience with having Borderline Personality Disorder. Thinking back, at what point did you realize you had an issue?

Brandon Marshall: It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized something was off. I had made it to the NFL, but my life had become a living hell. After living in my own hell for six years, I finally sought help and ended up at McLean Hospital in their outpatient program. I spent three months there and that’s where I received the diagnosis of BPD. Once I got the diagnosis, I started doing Dialectal Behavioral Therapy as well as some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It was the most phenomenal experience and it changed my life. Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Brandon Marshall

The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

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The female body has long been misunderstood. Women are often misdiagnosed by doctors, either due to the belief that they are over-dramatizing symptoms or because of a lack of adequate research on illnesses predominantly faced by women. As frustrating as this is, it’s no new phenomenon.

Dating back to 1900 BC Egypt, an ancient medical document known as the Eber Papyrus contained references to hysterical disorders thought to be caused by abnormal movements of the uterus. In the 5th Century BC, Hippocrates was the first to coin the term “hysteria” and agreed with his predecessors that this so-called condition — attributable only to women — was due to a “wandering womb,” believed to be caused by sexual inactivity. Recommended cures were, naturally, that women should increase sexual activity within the bounds of marriage. This diagnosis was not founded in science or medical research (though that may seem obvious now), but in gender bias against women and their experience of emotions and the perceived lack of sexual interest.

As currently defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, hysteria is, “behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess.” An alternate, psychiatric definition is, “a psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances of the psychogenic, sensory, vasomotor, and visceral functions.” While the definition of hysteria might seem broad, it has also altered over time. While medicine and mental health have changed a great deal over the centuries, hysteria is a historically gendered diagnosis that often served as a catch-all when doctors couldn’t identify another illness. It was extremely common to find women labelled as “hysterical” defined more by their stature as women than by their symptoms. Continue reading The History of Hysteria: Sexism in Diagnosis

A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

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As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we’re sharing stories that raise awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Every morning before work was exactly the same. Prior to getting out from under the covers, I spent time dreading the day that was ahead of me. I’d look out my window at the downtown Manhattan skyline — it no longer brought me joy. Then, I’d cook scrambled eggs and toast, only to take one tiny bite of each before dumping it all in the trash. This was my life as a 21-year-old who had everything going for her. But, with crippling depression and anxiety, it didn’t matter.

Each day in the summer of 2015, when my mental health was at its shakiest, I got weaker and my clothes got baggier. I had no desire to eat, which is how I knew something was seriously wrong. One morning in August, I woke up weaker than usual. What did I expect? I’d barely eaten in days. How could I when I felt so horrible? I could barely get out of bed, and when I did, I thought I was going to topple over. My mind raced, I was petrified.

Leaving my building, my hands trembled. Every step seemed to be a step closer to passing out. Before even getting to the street corner, I decided going to work wasn’t physically possible. Quickly but cautiously, I walked back to the entrance, one hand gripping onto the building’s exterior, and told the security guard I needed an ambulance. I was mortified. Continue reading A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety