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  1. A new and improved version of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin has been developed by University of Queensland researchers. View the full article
  2. Feeling sad can actually be a good sign. Depression is a clinical term used to label a group of behaviors and internal experiences associated with a depressed mood. It is also a clinical diagnosis. Depression is different than being sad. Sadness is a normal part of life and, as long as you are not feeling it all the time, it is actually a healthy thing for you to feel. It is important to realize that learning how to be happy again after depression looks slightly different for everyone. Sometimes, we battle our way through a bad bout of depression and come out on the other side, only to find ourselves still feeling sad. While this can be a frustrating and disappointing reality about life “after” depression, it is important to acknowledge that feeling sadness can be an indicator of positive progress. Depression often leaves us unable to feel anything at all, let alone sad. It may not be your first pick for your team, but sadness truly has its hidden virtues. The truth is that “after depression” just isn’t a reality for many people. Depression is actually a lifelong challenge that we learn to live and work with, more and more effectively. So, it’s understandable that knowing how to be happy again after depression may seem far-fetched or unattainable to many. And if you think you might be depressed, you should not be ashamed about that experience or of asking for help. If you are in that “after-depression” space, it can take a bit to get back to regular habits. Here are some tips on how to get over depression to help you get back on track: 1. Give Yourself Time to be Sad. If you are still feeling sad, the most important thing you can do is give yourself space to feel that way. Be deliberate. Sit on the couch for an hour and let yourself be sad. Then, get up and get moving. How to Tell the Difference Between Sadness, Grief, and Depression 2. Start Slow. Often times depression leads to inactivity which can push us out of the healthy habits that we might have at other points in our life. Don’t expect to jump straight back into all your activities. Give yourself lots of time to slowly bring things back. It is good to push yourself, but don’t push too hard. 3. Make It Easy. Sometimes what was a small step for us when feeling better is a huge step after being depressed for a while. The smaller and easier you can make your new activities, the more likely you are to succeed. Give yourself that chance. 4. Acknowledge Your Progress. It can be easy to be critical of your abilities and your progress, especially if you have an anxiety disorder that exacerbates this behavior. It is vital that you acknowledge each new and beneficial thing you add to your life. You just ran an emotional marathon and now you are showing up at the gym. This is no small thing. Learn How to be Happy With Yourself (Despite What Others Think) 5. Choose the Lessor of Two Evils. Our perspective gets skewed when we are depressed. We lose sight of what is good for us. When you are recovering from depression, you might feel as though you are choosing between something that is not so good and something that is worse. Try and choose the easier or slightly better option. 6. Take a Day Off. Yes, you want to get back on track, but if you give yourself a moment to breathe, it may help you get where you want to go faster in the end. 7. Stick With It. You did not get to where you are in one day. You won’t get to where you want to be in one day either. Keep making efforts and you will see results, even if it takes time. You’ve got this. Mental illness isn’t something you can just will to go away, but there are treatments that can help you deal with your depression. If you’re still feeling sad after your depression, I hope these actionable tips help you. Life is a continuous journey and it usually isn’t a smooth one, especially if you’re learning how to be happy again after depression. Whether you suffer from depression or not, the best thing you can do for yourself is build up these life skills and techniques so you can put them into place when you’re able. This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: How To Be Happy Again After Depression, Even If You’re Still Sad. View the full article
  3. Happy Saturday, Psych Central readers! This week’s Psychology Around the Net takes a look at what “self-care” actually means for many people with mental illnesses, the different types of depression and anxiety a new study has identified, which people are more prone to sleep paralysis, and more. Let’s go! This Twitter Thread Perfectly Sums Up What Self-Care Is Like for People With Mental Illnesses: Author and blogger Jenny Trout drops some eye-opening truth bombs about what “self-care” means for many people with mental illness. (HINT: It’s ain’t Instagram-worthy bubble baths.) Mindful Yoga Can Reduce Risky Behaviors in Troubled Youth: A long-term study out of the University of Cincinnati researches the link between stressful life events and an increase in problems like irresponsible sexual behavior and alcohol and drug abuse among a diverse group of 18- to 24-year-old young adults and the positive effects of mindful yoga and other coping strategies. Experts Challenge the Science Behind Ban on Psychiatrists Discussing Politicians’ Mental Health: While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) stands by its Goldwater Rule — which states that it’s unethical for psychiatrists to offer professional opinions about public figures unless they’ve conducted exams and received authorization — some mental health professionals are challenging the ban and even asserting that watching and listening to a person from the sidelines — rather than during an interview exam — could be more effective in getting accurate insights. Many Different Types of Anxiety and Depression Exist, New Study Finds: In an effort to “disentangle the symptom overlap,” researchers from Stanford have identified five new categories of mental illness, defined by their symptoms and areas of brain activation: tension, anxious arousal, general anxiety, melancholia, and anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure). Mental Health Apps Made Me Feel More Overwhelmed Than Ever: While Samantha Cole admits some of the many, many, many mental health apps out there are backed by peer-reviewed research and could potentially help change lives, she notes that more of them than not are actually “at best bloatware bulls*t — and at worst, actively harmful.” Sleep Paralysis Is Linked to Stress (and Supernatural Beliefs): Alice Gregory, a professor of psychology at Goldsmiths University of London, says sleep paralysis “occurs when features of REM sleep, specifically muscle paralysis, continue into our waking lives.” But what exactly causes that to happen? View the full article
  4. The holidays bring a special challenge to people who live with bipolar disorder or depression. The challenge is a combination of the increased stress that the holiday season often brings along with the symptoms — such as mania or depression — of these disorders. As a result, people who live with bipolar disorder or those who live with depression might dread the upcoming holidays. Whether you’re stressing about money, family issues, remembering a loss or loved one who’s gone, or just feeling lonely, there’s a few things you can do to help better cope around the holidays. A person who lives with bipolar disorder typically has a treatment plan that includes medication that helps prevent or reduce the cycling that is a hallmark of the condition. And a person with depression’s treatment plan often includes an antidepressant medication to help keep their mood elevated. Nearly everyone with bipolar disorder or depression also benefits from seeing a psychotherapist on a regular basis — especially at this time of the year. Stress is a common trigger that can make a person’s mood worsen, even while they’re on medication. The holidays bring most of us additional levels of stress, even if we’re generally feeling good about them.1 6 Tips to Help with Bipolar Disorder & Depression These tips may help you better deal with the challenges around the holidays. 1. Don’t hibernate or isolate. One coping mechanism many people resort to when under stress is to go underground — to hibernate or isolate themselves from others and social situations. While this may help deal with the stress and anxiety surrounding being social when you don’t really feel like it, it contributes significantly to feelings of loneliness. 2. Keep spending — and comparisons — in check. Social media sites like Facebook or Instagram are wonderful for keeping up on your friends and family. But they can also make us feel badly about ourselves when used as a comparison tool. “Oh look, Amy is buying a new laptop for their daughter… I wonder how that’s going to make my daughter (her friend) feel since she’s still using one that’s 3 years old…” Get off that hamster wheel and avoid social media if you find it’s making you feel bad about yourself. You can’t spend yourself into feeling better (despite what marketing tries to convince us otherwise). 3. Stick to your treatment routine — and up it, if need be. A person with bipolar disorder at this time of the year may be feeling like they’ve been doing so well, the last thing they need to worry about is taking their prescription as directed. And a person with depression may feel like, “Well, the meds don’t seem to be working as well as they once did, so why continue taking them?” A desire to make a significant change to one’s treatment plan during a hectic time of the year is usually unwise. Stick to your existing treatment plan and think about adding to it temporarily — like with an additional support group meeting or even another therapy session — to help you cope. 4. Plan your holidays with a little forethought — don’t try and do it all. Too many of us try and do it all around the holidays, and when grappling with a mood disorder, this can be an overwhelming combination. Many of us feel buffeted around by the holidays, going from one thing to another and feeling like we have very little choice in the matter. The truth, however, is that we very much have a choice — we just go along with things the way they always are because that’s what’s easiest. But it may not be what’s best for us. It may help to sit down with your calendar and your holidays out, choosing the things you want to do and go to and saying “no” to things you really don’t want to do this year. 5. Remember moderation. It feels good to let go sometimes, especially if you have bipolar disorder and remember some aspects of a manic phase that were positive (while conveniently forgetting the less positive aspects). Holiday times might seem like a good time to let loose and over-indulge, whether it be in eating, drinking, buying presents, or consuming social media. But overdoing it in any area of our lives rarely results in anything positive. Resist the temptation to overdo it, and remember moderation in all things. 6. Rest, forgive, take responsibility, and give thanks. Throughout it all, remember the holidays are a time to celebrate life, friendships, family, and being thankful just for being alive. It’s a good time to make amends if need be (with a friend or family member), take responsibility for your own behaviors, and try and be more mindful of the many moments you are living. We take for granted that we will always get more of them with all the same people, but that won’t always be the case. Keep your expectations minimal and well in check and you may find this to be one of your better holidays. And remember, one of the best things you can do is to stick to your routines and don’t try to change anything big. Happy holidays! For further reading Coping With Depression During The Holiday Season 9 Tips to Cope with Holiday Depression Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays 5 Holiday Tips for Managing Bipolar Disorder 5 Positive Things about the Holidays and Bipolar Disorder Our Complete Coping with the Holidays Guide Footnotes: Not all stress comes from bad events. For instance, marriage is one of the happiest moments in a person’s life — but also one of the most stressful. View the full article
  5. We’ve expanded our minds. It’s no longer contained inside our heads — it now includes our devices, social media, and essentially anything digital. While the connectedness available to us today has opened a number of doors, it’s not always a good thing. We no longer have time to think and create our own ideas. In fact, too much digital connectedness can be a bad thing — for our mental health as well as our creative ventures. Constant surfing and intake of bite-sized information crowds out time for contemplation. Because of neuroplasticity (which is the ability for our brains to change), the more we use the web, the more we train our brains to be distracted. As a consequence, we then rely even more on the net because we have trouble remembering. We don’t need to recollect anything. Most people are constantly attached to a smartphone, which has become a portable brain. Over-dependence and overuse of all-things-digital not only impacts our capacity for concentration and contemplation, it has changed the way we think. The internet is a fire hose of information, but we can only transfer a small portion of that to our long-term memory. Rather than deep complex thought developed by a coherent stream of one thing at a time, we receive drops of information. All day long. As we invite this scattered information into our minds, the result is less time for reflection. And the multimedia nature of the information we invite in further strains cognitive abilities. Absorbing text only is thing of the past. Popups, videos, and ads all clamor for our attention, resulting in us feeling worn out. This constant influx of bite-size information makes it difficult to think and we end up too tired to process what we receive anyway. Let’s talk about how this impacts our mental health. When I worked with clients as a licensed therapist, I often ask about their technology use because it’s part of a whole person approach to treatment. With depression, one symptom is inability to concentrate. Too much time on our browsers going from tab to tab also leads to an inability to concentrate. Are we mimicking depressive symptoms with our online behavior? I think so. Whatever the cause of our trouble concentrating, when focus is lost, the mind fixes on the negative. This symptom is seen in depression as people focus on the negative parts of life. This also impacts the mind-body connection. Those with depression adopt a defeated posture where they are hunched over, somewhat curved in toward themselves. People constantly on their smartphones adopt the same posture. Since our minds and bodies are connected, we tell our minds we are depressed when we curve inward checking text messages all day. How about anxiety? Frequent interruptions, such as constant dings notifying us of a new message, can make us anxious. On the flip side, people feel anxious when they don’t have their phone, which is another issue because they’ve trained their brains to “need” constant hits of information. And the continual hits of negative news, whether it’s our presidential election, shootings, or natural disasters, pumps stress hormones through our bodies all day without reprieve. And if we’re struggling with mental health issues, productivity will decline. Even if a person has not formerly been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, it doesn’t mean immunity to the symptoms of it. Bottom line — overuse of the internet impacts your productivity. Sadly, there are still job postings where “multitasking” is a desired qualification, although it is not an asset. Multitaskers respond to everything, giving it equal weight, so it becomes impossible to respond well to one thing. Yes, it’s a great trait if you’re building widgets all day but not for any ventures dependent on creativity or deep thought. Since multitaskers don’t have a good filter, they are slowed down by irrelevant info and become addicted to inefficiency. Their brains accept constant distractions as normal and as a result have difficulty engaging in genuine deep work. Bouncing from task to task becomes the norm. So who is to blame? It’s our human nature to look for external sources that cause our problems and in this case, we can do that to an extent. Google is in the business of distraction and trains us to look for the new at the expense of the essential. Every click sends signals back about what people find interesting or view as important. And of course, many publishers and advertisers do the same thing and use that information against us. (Side note: I’m also a digital marketer, certified in Google AdWords, so I’m partially to blame. Walking contradiction. I know). Every time we land on a new site, we make decisions about navigation which distracts the brain from interpreting information. This sense of overwhelm impedes retention and causes our brains to become overtaxed. One way we can prevent this from happening is to have a plan when we go online and be intentional rather than mindlessly clicking on links that contain information we don’t care about or news that will only bring us down. A plan for surfing? Yes. Blaming Google, and AdWords consultants is legit, but we need to still take responsibility for our actions. The compulsion to be online stems from the same dopamine with other addictions. A constant intake of meaningless information puts us in a dopamine loop and we can’t focus on a single task. We’re always seeking our next hit. And it’s this unpredictability and intermittent reinforcement that stimulates dopamine and encourages compulsiveness. As we click, click, and click again, something new will eventually show up on our screen and occasionally that something is great. We receive that lunch invitation from a friend. We hear back about the job we want so badly. The internet is one big slot machine which occasionally delivers rewards. It’s the constant checking though — whether that’s social media, text messages or email – that keeps shallow concerns at the top of mind. As a result of constantly feeding our brains garbage, we construct an understanding of life as filled with irritability and triviality. Here’s the good news — we have a choice. We can control the input. Although digital moves at a fast pace, we generally do not need to keep up with everything, unless of course that’s our industry. And we have the power to change our behaviors. Like any addiction, it’s not easy to make a healthy change. But it is doable and it starts with being mindful about your actions. Ask yourself — Why I am doing this? Why am I reading this? What am I avoiding right now? It starts with a recognition that your internet use may be killing your productivity and a willingness to do the hard work of changing ingrained habits. If you need some help breaking your tech habit, and I promise it is worth the effort, read my five tips from an earlier post. It provides some practical suggestions for developing new, healthier, habits. View the full article
  6. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is the evidence-based psychological treatment of choice for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Basically, the person with OCD is exposed to his or her obsessions, encouraged to feel the anxiety, and asked to refrain from engaging in rituals (compulsions) to reduce the fear. I hear from many people with OCD who say that while they understand what ERP therapy is, and even how it could be helpful to many people, they don’t think it would work for their type of OCD, and therefore they don’t pursue treatment. This is indeed unfortunate as ERP can truly benefit all those who deal with obsessive-compulsive disorder. But wait a minute. What if people’s obsessions involve horrible things happening to those they love, or a fear of going to hell? What if their worst obsession is the fear of being involved in a fatal car crash? Certainly these are not obsessions we want to, or are even able to, expose ourselves to. How can ERP ever help someone with these types of obsessions? I previously addressed this issue when I discussed imaginal exposures, which are based on imagining different scenarios as opposed to them actually happening. These types of exposures can be extremely helpful in certain cases. So you see, while OCD can be tricky, it can always be beaten. Sometimes you just need to be more creative than usual. Speaking of creativity, researchers at Stanford University have been studying the use of virtual reality (VR) in the treatment of various brain disorders including OCD. They describe VR as using “computer technology to simulate physical environments, sights, sounds and other sensations to make the computer images seem more ‘real’.” Now that could be quite an exposure! “In illnesses such as OCD, a patient faces situations such as contamination fear,” Professor of psychiatry Elias Aboujaoude said. “VR provides a convincing atmosphere so the patient can expose themselves to the stimulus and gradually become desensitized to this fear.” Dr. Aboujaoude believes VR can be effective but acknowledges it is not available to everyone. VR is also still typically associated with video games, and that perception might be a hindrance. While the research at Stanford is new, the use of virtual reality in the treatment of OCD has been around for a while. In this 2009 NIH article the use of VR in the assessment and treatment of OCD is evaluated and discussed. The article is long and detailed for those who wish to read it, but the bottom line is researchers conclude that the use of VR does have value for those with OCD. While the premise of ERP therapy might be simple, its implementation is not always straight forward. But we are smarter than OCD, and as I said earlier in this post, it can always be beaten. If you are willing to engage wholeheartedly in ERP therapy with a qualified therapist who understands the importance of imaginal exposures and possibly even VR, you will be on your way to a life of freedom from OCD. View the full article
  7. Self-control refers to our ability to restrain acting on momentary urges, impulses, and wants in favor of longer term goals. Who doesn’t want more of that? Most of us think that it’s important to have a lot of willpower, to be able to resist temptation. We all hope that we’ll be able to avoid giving into that impulse to eat more ice cream, keep ourselves from expressing anger at a loved one, or make ourselves finish an important project even though we don’t feel like it. And generally, self-control is a good thing. Society needs people with high levels of self-control, those who can inhibit their momentary desires, think about long term goals, and take planful action toward them. What if we can have too much of a good thing? So if a little is good, a lot must be better right? Or, could it be that there is such a thing as excessive self-control? New research suggests so. This body of research shows that excessive self-control can actually be a problem for some people. This is the central idea behind Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT), a new evidence-based therapy for people who engage in excessive self-control, or, people who are “overcontrolled”. Overcontrolled people are typically: Conscientious and responsible Risk averse and overly cautious People who have a hard time relaxing and “taking it easy.” Perfectionistic People who have high personal standards, even if they feel like they can’t always meet them Excessively rigid and rule governed People who pay attention to details Focused on details at the expense of seeing the bigger picture People who tend to keep their true opinions or feelings to themselves until it feels like the “right time” Mask their true, inner feelings Reserved, taking a while to get to know Aloof and distant in their way of relating to others These patterns of maladaptive overcontrol result from a combination of hardwired, genetic and temperamental factors and family/environmental factors that serve to reinforce these ways of coping. While being overcontrolled may serve some adaptive functions, it unfortunately tends to come at a high cost, particularly in terms of people’s relationships and sense of connection. Specifically, the behaviors characterizing overcontrol tend to interfere with the formation of close social bonds and, as a result, people who are overcontrolled typically suffer from strong feelings of loneliness. They may often spend a great deal of time around others, but walk away feeling disconnected, unappreciated, lonely, and often exhausted. Since overcontrolled people are generally responsible, reserved people, they generally don’t garner a lot of attention, but instead suffer in silence. Most often they suffer with problems like chronic depression, anorexia, or obsessive-compulsive personality. People who are overcontrolled tend to answer yes to questions like those below: Does it feel like no one really gets what it is like to be you, especially some of the closest people to you? Have you learned to mask, suppress, or control hurt and tender feelings? Is it hard for people to get to know the “true” you? Do you consider yourself reserved or shy? Do you pride yourself on your self-control and yet at times feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated? Is it hard for you to enjoy or even take downtime or to break one of your own rules? Do you sometimes feel all alone, even surrounded by people, and no one would guess how miserable you feel on the inside? Many treatments focus inward, attempting to help people better regulate their emotions, change dysfunctional thinking, or learn to restrain problematic impulses. However, RO DBT is based on the idea that people with excessive self-control don’t need to learn to work harder, think more correctly, or better restrain their emotions. Instead, RO DBT focuses people OUTWARD, helping overcontrolled people change the social signals they emit, so that they can engage in more flexible ways of engaging with others.1 Overcontrol can severely disrupt the fluid and natural give-and-take that is part of relationships when they are functioning well. RO DBT teaches skills that help people relate more effectively with others so that they can change their relationships in positive ways. Rather than applying more self-control, RO DBT teaches skills for being more spontaneous in social situations, how to take it easy, how to make true friendships, and how to activate the neurologically based brain systems that regulate more friendly and fluid ways of interacting with others. Other skills address the rigid thinking and perfectionism that can interfere with learning how to adapt to constantly changing life contexts. So, can you have too much of a good thing? Research seems to say that the answer is yes, at least in relation to self-control. Reference: https://www.newharbinger.com/blog/lonely-apes-die%E2%80%94-new-psychotherapy-chronic-depression-and-anorexia-nervosa View the full article
  8. Happy Saturday, Psych Central Readers! This week’s Psychology Around the Net covers the successes (more specifically, lack thereof) of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, how mental illness might be passed down from generation, the #speakthesecret campaign for postpartum women, and more. Enjoy! Health Insurers Are Still Skimping On Mental Health Coverage: Although it’s been almost a decade since the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act passed (an act that’s supposed to make it just as easy to get treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems), patients are still struggling to access treatment. The Science And Psychology Behind How Tinder Works: “The promise of reward is a powerful motivator, and this system of seemingly random rewards encourages addiction.” (Basically, we’re all a bunch of B.F. Skinner’s pigeons.) NIH Study of WWII Evacuees Suggests Mental Illness May Be Passed to Offspring: New research shows mental illness associated with childhood adversity might be passed from generation to generation — even when the child didn’t experience the same childhood adversity as the parent. Researchers don’t yet know why this happens, but some possible explanations include the parents’ behaviors changing (due to the adversity) or epigenetic changes (chemical alterations in gene expression, without changes to underlying DNA). Nutritional Psychiatry: Emerging Evidence and Expert Interview: This interview with Felice Jacka, PhD of Deakin University in Australia, the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), and the Food and Mood Centre, tells us more about the influence our diets have on our mental health. These Comics Capture the Silent Struggle of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Licensed clinical social worker, postpartum mental health author, and founder of The Postpartum Stress Center Karen Kleiman has launched the #speakthesecret campaign. With the help of illustrator Molly McIntyre, the #speakthesecret comics show the silent struggle of postpartum distress — the feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation, and guilt that postpartum women aren’t saying out loud. Rick And Morty’s Dan Harmon Has Some Empathy and Wisdom for Anyone Suffering From Depression: Using Twitter, a fan asked Harmon for advice dealing with depression; his answer went above and beyond. View the full article
  9. When religious and faithful individuals are told that the unremitting thoughts that they are trying to get rid of are due to their OCD, they have difficulty accepting it. They may remember how and where their symptoms began, and may attribute their sinful thoughts to Satan or being cursed somehow somewhere. They may eventually acknowledge the symptoms as OCD but continue to doubt their worthiness. As they question their thoughts and actions, uncertainty persists. They believe they may find surety if they make a more exerted effort. For example, they may say, “If I pray longer, the intrusive thoughts will stop. Perhaps I didn’t confess all my sins. I must go back and do better. My service to others is not enough. I need to be more humble.” Their mind may come up with countless reasons and stories behind their inability to stop their thoughts and incessant guilt. They may feel evil and don’t realize that OCD is zeroing in on their religion and moral values. When individuals are devout to their spiritual beliefs and struggle with OCD, treatment can become complex, stressful, and painful. Below are some clarifications regarding scrupulosity OCD. The “Fix-it Machine”: Our mind allows us to solve external problems by coming up with ways to repair or discard malfunctioning items. When we experience feelings and thoughts that aren’t working for us, our fix-it machine provides ideas to help us feel better. Just like we can stop the water from a leaking faucet by repairing it, our wonderful mind may propose that we can stop shameful thoughts. Have you noticed what happens when you try to do this? The mind’s other strategies also include: distraction, avoidance, figuring things out, time traveling (ruminating about the past and future), and repetition. Scrupulous individuals agonize, as their guilt and anxiety appear to be non-stop. They compulsively try those unhealthy coping skills. The results seem inconclusive and short lived. Impure Thoughts: Many religious and OCD sufferers feel conflicted and tormented when they experience wicked thoughts. They believe that they are not abiding to their religion’s precepts because those thoughts should not exist, yet they persist. They may say, “I’m wicked. I must remove these thoughts permanently.” Their observances such as prayers, singing, and reciting spiritual verses usually provide some comfort. As the thoughts return, they persevere in their belief that they may not be trying hard enough. They then increase the intensity and duration of their observances so they can have longer effect. Soon enough, they find themselves trapped in the obsessive-compulsive web. Their affliction heightens as the unclean thoughts resurface again and again. The Sin of Certainty: Individuals who struggle with OCD yearn for the certainty that will set them free of guilt and anxiety. Ensuring that they are forgiven may become their primary focus each day, but certainty continues to elude them. They forget that their everyday routines include uncertainty. When it comes to the feared consequences related to their doctrine and beliefs, uncertainty is unacceptable in their view. They continue to do whatever they can to decrease the disturbing dissonance between their souls and their thoughts. The sin of certainty occurs because they become distracted from what matters most — their faith and love of God. Eventually, exhaustion takes over and they may feel dejected and depressed. They may become disenchanted with their religion. They may say, “If I stay away from the triggers that create this agony, I will be better off.” Sometimes, their anguish may turn into animosity towards their church. The OCD Web: The quest for certainty becomes a stumbling block to their faith and their desired spirituality. Individuals become entangled with their thoughts and feelings and are unable to separate themselves from those internal experiences. As they feel trapped, the entanglement ensues with obsessions and compulsions that become their demise. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can unravel yourself from unhelpful thoughts and become more flexible with them. When you notice you are getting caught up in the OCD web, remember that: The mind is continually producing thoughts. Therefore, controlling and stopping thoughts is not possible. It is only wishful thinking. Every mortal being will have impure thoughts at one time or another. This is not to reassure you, but to remind you that it is best to come to terms with the fact that you are an earthly creature and imperfect. Trying to achieve purity in thought is not possible in this life. Because you have scrupulosity OCD, the thoughts that show up may be opposite to what you hold dear in your heart, such as your faith and moral values. Remember that this is what happens. Don’t be surprised when OCD morphs or entangles your thoughts and feelings related to other important areas of your life. Notice what happens when you hold your thoughts lightly. Observe them as they move at their own pace. You can learn to do this instead of trying to figure out why you had them. Remember, you have thoughts — pleasant and unpleasant ones — for various reasons including: you have a human mind, and religion and moral values are important to you. You don’t have to get trapped with the sin of certainty in the OCD web. You have a choice! View the full article
  10. Your doctor may relate to your mental health concerns more than he or she can say. Imagine you are sitting with your primary care doctor sharing your symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD or anorexia. Imagine in that difficult and lonely moment, your doctor makes the decision to self-disclose that she not only understands your symptoms from a professional standpoint, but also personally as someone who also struggles with a similar diagnosis. What would you think? My friend Eliza just finished her medical residency and explains that this scenario has played out in her head plenty of times, but never in person. She explains that thus far she hasn’t felt that it was information that would support patients in ways she couldn’t achieve otherwise. However, she says that her struggles are a large part of what makes her an effective provider. “Yes, suffering from some of these mental health disorders can make it more difficult to discern and compartmentalize and not project things on my patients, but I am better at treating psychological issues than many of my peers who have never encountered them outside a professional setting. I’m really familiar with the drugs and things that can go wrong and the side effects, because I’ve been through them. You could call it an unpleasant firsthand learning experience.” Eliza talks about how her depression and recovery from anorexia allows her to empathize with people more deeply than she otherwise would be able to. Her anxiety makes her really productive. Her ADHD makes her more creative, allows her to multitask and look at things differently than most. She explains that her personal experience with mental health disorders make her a better doctor, however the stigma around mental health in the field can be very problematic. “Some people view it as a choice or illegitimate. When someone suffers a bout of major depression, people are expected to push through it. That has to change. It’s detrimental when we force people to tough it out. Especially in my field because I will put that on my patients.” When Eliza decided to apply to medical school she did a lot of investigating into whether or not to disclose her personal experiences. She recalls reading about how applications to med school should be as personal as possible. She read a testimony online where an applicant was talking about having bipolar and being hospitalized and why it would make her a better physician. Eliza still remembers that the overwhelming response from peers was “NO NO NO. Do not share this. You will not get in.” Eliza admits she chose to only self-disclose to a few close friends in her program. She talks about how challenging and dark it got during school and how important conversations with understanding experts were. She recalls a very affirming conversation with the disability program manager at her school, who explained her ADHD diagnosis to her better than she had ever heard before. “People think that people with ADHD are paying attention to a million things at once because you can’t pay attention to anything… but your brain just needs a certain/higher threshold to be able to lock in and tune in.” After this conversation she stopped buying the textbooks that she couldn’t focus on and started constructing her own adaptive techniques to learn the material. “I got through school because of my iPad and foam roller. I would watch videos on the floor while foam rolling and I realized that once I had visual, auditory, and body movement I could actually recall information.”. Eliza knows how her mental health and sense of safety to confront stigma ebbs and flows, but she says now, having finished school she feels fiercely about advocating for herself and her patients. When I asked her what her aspirations are for her career she responded proudly, “Hopefully crazy attracts crazy.” View the full article
  11. I’ve been diagnosed, at one point or another, with depression, anxiety, PTSD and ADHD. It’s an annoying characterization of myself because my medical ‘diagnosis’ does not define me. Yet it has also been incredibly helpful to me as it explains certain behaviors and reactions, and gives me the tools I need to research and manage them. But let me be clear. What I ‘have’ does not equate to who I am. As despite the challenges, we can all thrive. I can say this now, as I’m in a new chapter in my life with success under my belt. My first consumer product turned into a 35 million dollar retail brand, and raised more than a million dollars for charities. I have presented at the UN, World Bank, and more. I sit on several global advisory boards, helped get mental health added to the sustainable development goals, helped create a youth mental health movement, and shared my story around the world. So I come with experience and wisdom to share. I’m grateful to say I been off medication for some time, another feat I never thought I would accomplish as managing my moods on my own didn’t seem within reach. As you can imagine, the combination of anxiety, PTSD, depression and ADHD is not easy to handle as many of them actually create havoc on the other. Even one alone can debilitate a person making the entrepreneurial journey virtually impossible. And it is not to say medication is bad. It has saved many, many lives. Including my own. I just prefer to work through the ‘stuff’ to get to my core. I may at some point go on meds again, and that is OK. I’m also grateful that today I don’t need them. So how did I do it? Initially, therapy and medication, healthy lifestyle choices including meditation, exercise, cutting out alcohol and addictions. I got a handle on my triggers which would often spark unwanted life pivots. Ongoing mood management led to practicing presence. And then beyond presence, but actually enjoying the moment. Which of course led to my company. That was the initial work, and it allowed me to start seeing and manage the various triggers without folding into a heap of despair, or running off to chase the latest addiction that alleviated some unwanted feeling or lack of feeling. The second step was to approach the ‘diagnosis’ like a curious child. To explore their darkness and light, understand their messages, and use the mess they could potentially cause to instead drive meaning and purpose in my life. And this is what I found helpful with each diagnosis: ADHD: I initially didn’t even realize I had the ‘H’ as I’m not necessarily a hyperactive person. I am, however, an impulsive person in thinking and action and this is how it plays out with my ADHD. So how did I manage as an entrepreneur? I created smart coping strategies to get organized including budgeting, hiring an assistant, writing lists, and checking with advisors to keep me accountable. And how does it benefit me? It is pretty powerful once channeled, and I focus on the gifts of creativity, ideation for new products, drive, hyper-focus, and efficiency. It is an incredibly powerful ‘diagnosis’ once correctly managed. Depression: This is super hard to handle, and almost impossible to imagine how it might help an entrepreneur. As any entrepreneur knows, we need to get stuff done. Being in bed, unable to move and unmotivated to work does not get us there. At least at first glance. What I found, however, was that I could actually work when I was depressed, from bed, with writing. The power of depression is it takes you to an emotional depth you never knew you had and wouldn’t wish on anyone, yet also gives you insights, deep deep feeling and empathy. It was in my bed that I dreamed up Hopeful Minds, initially called Schools for Hope, something that we are now teaching kids around the globe. It was in my bed, in my darkest time, that I found my ability to write and plan and solve mental problems in a way I never imagined possible. My intense, insatiable, excruciating mental anguish drove my thoughts and ideas, when I channeled them the right way (not to darkness, but to light) to new places I had never imagined with both my business and my nonprofit. Anxiety: This may seem easier, as it is an energetic state and in my experience much less stigmatized than depression. However, it can be just as challenging as it can leave us in total paralysis. We absolutely have to stop everything because we can’t get a single thing done and we think our brain might explode trying to figure it out. The good news? I found my brain never exploded. That’s right, it never exploded! I found my anxiety to be a great driver once I could calm the brain down and get present through meditation, deep breathing, and putting all my “to do’s” on lists in a big brain dump. As even if I didn’t get everything on my list done, simply writing it down and taking a single small step in the right direction got me moving forward again. Once I was moving, the anxiety dissipated. PTSD: This is not a fun one. It has thrown me off track as an entrepreneur so many times, and it is such an automatic reflex, unless it is truly healed, it is so challenging to make progress. As any time I perceive that I am betrayed or abandoned my PTSD kicks in and I freeze. Literally, I’m frozen in thought and action, unable to make a decision or trust people or realize the universe really does have my back. Thank goodness, however, it is a thing of the past for the most part. How did I resolve it? Through lots of EMDR, hypnosis, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Now when I’m triggered I breath. Deeply. Many times. I focus on getting present. And sure enough, the energy moves through me. And what is the benefit PTSD? It made me really aware or my surroundings and how people are feeling. I am hypersensitive to the marketplace, incredibly aware of how audiences or groups are reacting, and have a deep understanding of what is working and what isn’t. It also sometimes forces me to stop and reflect, which is so necessary in business and so often missed because I think I need to be ‘doing’. Often times, it is the ‘being’ where the magic occurs. Even though the stigma is strong, these are not curses in my life. They are gifts that I simply needed to transform into my full being. To fulfill my life’s mission and purpose. The beneficial traits of these illnesses can provide unique advantages if harnessed. I manage all of this on an ongoing basis, while not perfectly, with much more grace and success than I ever thought possible. Thankfully, I’ve had great therapists and doctors that have helped me desensitize what triggered all of these different ‘responses’ in the first place, and more effectively managed my emotions thus increasing my emotional intelligence. When we act from these negative mood states, we end up acting in a way unaligned with who we really are. So, no matter what, as an entrepreneur or anyone else, getting into a hopeful, positive state through meditation, exercise, healthy eating, talking to a therapist, or connecting with your higher power (if applicable) is critical to success. The biggest tip I can share (which again I’m still working on) is to not ever act from a state other than hope and love. We cannot be in a hopeful state and an angry or anxious state at the same time. Get some distance from the intense emotions and action. Then, once you have clarity, use the emotions to fuel inspired action. Both The Mood Factory and iFred, my for-profit and my nonprofit, have given me satisfaction and fulfillment beyond my wildest dreams. They never would have been born without my story. I never thought I’d say it, but I am thankful for it. All of it. Each and every diagnosis. I hope that if you have any of these diagnosis, or any other ones, you don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams. As an entrepreneur, you can thrive. Find the hidden gems and use them to your ultimate advantage in whatever you do. Please do share your strategies, journey, and triumphs in the comments if so inspired. View the full article
  12. Running away has always seemed so much easier than facing the problems we have in life. We believe that, if we get ourselves as far away as possible, our problems won’t follow us. I once ran away every single time. I thought that I could one day outrun my problems and leave them in the dust so I could finally start living again. There are a few ways we run away from problems. We might ignore it and pretend it’s not even there. This seems rather silly since it’s no different from a young kid closing his or her eyes thinking such an action makes whatever scares them go away. Yet, that hasn’t stopped us from doing exactly that by distracting ourselves with other things. I have always enjoyed gaming, and I distracted myself through that activity. I enjoyed the feeling of being in an environment where I have more control over the outcome. The real world seems to have the odds heavily against me while games, especially single player, allows me to be in complete control and a simple reload lets me to right a certain mistake. Another way we run away is through excuses and placing blames on others. This is one thing I despised about my old self because I made too many excuses and blamed others for it. Not once was I willing to take responsibility for what I have done and that has been the reason why my life kept going downhill the last few years. Excuses are so easy to make. I can do it without much thought because I’ve made so many. I hate to admit it, but I have quite an archive of excuses I can use to “justify” a certain situation. Blaming others is equally easy for me to do. Yet, both of these methods were simply me running away. I never wanted to face the problems head on to finally deal with them. Placing blame on others is actually worse since this can harm more people, too. What happens when we blame others for something that isn’t going our way? We think that they should also clean up our mess, too. After all, why should we clean up a mess made by others when we don’t have to? It’s much easier to leave them the mess and let them take care of it. This actually results in a bigger mess since we antagonize other people in the process. We all have enough problems in our lives without making enemies and add more problems to our list. Working together to solve the problem together, assuming both parties are directly involved, is more logical but many people nowadays don’t have the patience to use such an approach. I learned the hard way that running doesn’t solve anything. If anything, it makes the situation worse by allowing the problems to accumulate over time. When the problems eventually catch up to us, we find ourselves faced with something so overwhelming we don’t even know where to start. What began as a small issue suddenly grew into a giant that can level mountains with ease. That’s basically what happened to me. I kept running and running while my problems, like a snowball rolling down the side of a snowy mountain, kept growing and growing. A snowball might hurt briefly, but I’ll live. When I’m hit by an avalanche, there’s no telling what might happen and I’m just finding out by living through the aftermath of my avalanche. In life, we must deal with our problems. It’s easier to find a solution when it’s a small problem. If we break someone’s favorite vase or lose someone’s valuable collectible, we should be honest about it. It’s true that, in the short term, we have unfavorable outcomes but, at the very least, we won’t have something haunting us from our past and waiting to give us a nasty scare. View the full article
  13. Daylight saving time has ended, and winter is in the air. During these darker months, up to five percent of people in the United States might suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This article on SAD describes it as follows: Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression that occur in the fall or winter months when the temperatures begin to drop and the days grow shorter. The depressive episode is often associated with excessive eating, sleeping, and weight gain. Depressive symptoms begin in the fall or winter and persist until the spring. Women are twice to three times more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men. Seasonal affective disorder can also impact people during the summer months (“the summer blues”), too, but it is less common. People suffering from SAD either are unable to function or function minimally during the season in which their disorder occurs. Seasonal affective disorder shares several symptoms with other forms of depression including lethargy, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and social withdrawal. A recent study published in Psychiatry Research explored the possibility of a connection between obsessive-compulsive disorder and SAD. Study author Oguz Tan and his colleagues at Uskudar University in Turkey referenced past research that indicates the prevalence of OCD is highest in Autumn, and light therapy, which is used to treat SAD, has been shown to benefit some people with OCD. According to the researchers, it has already been established that both SAD and OCD share some of the same underlying neurophysiology involving some type of dysfunction in regards to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Interesting results of the study include: More than half of patients with OCD have seasonal mood changes. Only a quarter of controls without OCD reported seasonal mood changes. The severity of seasonal affective changes does not appear to affect the severity of OCD. Most participants with OCD who reportedly had SAD suffered in the colder months, though there were some subjects who had a more difficult time in warmer weather. For this sub-group of people who had both OCD and SAD, compulsions were also worse during the time of year they were affected by SAD. For those who specifically had SAD during the colder months, the severity of their compulsions directly correlated with the lack of daylight hours. The scientists acknowledged that their study has some drawbacks, such as relying on the participant’s self- reporting of OCD and SAD symptoms. They recognize that a better study model might involve measuring people’s OCD symptoms over a longer period of time and noting if and how they fluctuate with the seasons. The researchers believe the connection between SAD and OCD warrants further study, especially to determine things such as the effect of SAD on the quality of life for those with OCD. How does SAD affect the prognosis, treatment response, and risk of suicide in those with OCD? These are all important questions to answer. You can read more details about the study here. View the full article
  14. Daylight saving time has ended, and winter is in the air. During these darker months, up to five percent of people in the United States might suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This article on SAD describes it as follows: Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression that occur in the fall or winter months when the temperatures begin to drop and the days grow shorter. The depressive episode is often associated with excessive eating, sleeping, and weight gain. Depressive symptoms begin in the fall or winter and persist until the spring. Women are twice to three times more likely to suffer from the winter blues than men. Seasonal affective disorder can also impact people during the summer months (“the summer blues”), too, but it is less common. People suffering from SAD either are unable to function or function minimally during the season in which their disorder occurs. Seasonal affective disorder shares several symptoms with other forms of depression including lethargy, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and social withdrawal. A recent study published in Psychiatry Research explored the possibility of a connection between obsessive-compulsive disorder and SAD. Study author Oguz Tan and his colleagues at Uskudar University in Turkey referenced past research that indicates the prevalence of OCD is highest in Autumn, and light therapy, which is used to treat SAD, has been shown to benefit some people with OCD. According to the researchers, it has already been established that both SAD and OCD share some of the same underlying neurophysiology involving some type of dysfunction in regards to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Interesting results of the study include: More than half of patients with OCD have seasonal mood changes. Only a quarter of controls without OCD reported seasonal mood changes. The severity of seasonal affective changes does not appear to affect the severity of OCD. Most participants with OCD who reportedly had SAD suffered in the colder months, though there were some subjects who had a more difficult time in warmer weather. For this sub-group of people who had both OCD and SAD, compulsions were also worse during the time of year they were affected by SAD. For those who specifically had SAD during the colder months, the severity of their compulsions directly correlated with the lack of daylight hours. The scientists acknowledged that their study has some drawbacks, such as relying on the participant’s self- reporting of OCD and SAD symptoms. They recognize that a better study model might involve measuring people’s OCD symptoms over a longer period of time and noting if and how they fluctuate with the seasons. The researchers believe the connection between SAD and OCD warrants further study, especially to determine things such as the effect of SAD on the quality of life for those with OCD. How does SAD affect the prognosis, treatment response, and risk of suicide in those with OCD? These are all important questions to answer. You can read more details about the study here. View the full article
  15. In this episode of the Psych Central Show, hosts Gabe Howard and Vincent M. Wales discuss the pros and cons on “retail therapy,” the practice of shopping solely for the purpose of making ourselves feel better. They discuss the many benefits of such purchases, while also warning of the dangers of “comfort purchases.” Gabe warns especially of such purchases when in the manic phase of disorder, leading to hyperspending. Each of them share personal stories of their own purchases, both large and (comparatively) small. Other items discussed are oniomania, why we feel a “need” for retail therapy, window shopping, and some unexpected fringe benefits of retail therapy. RETAIL THERAPY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS “We should be allowed to spend money to make ourselves feel better. Isn’t that the purpose of money?” ~ Gabe Howard [1:43] What triggers the need for retail therapy? [5:00] What’s the difference between “good” retail therapy and “bad”? [7:40] Retail Therapy + Bipolar Disorders = Hyperspending [10:26] What is oniomania? [12:09] My therapist made me buy a Rolex [15:21] Buying nostalgia on eBay [19:02] The fringe benefits of retail therapy. . Subscribe to Our Show! . Proud Sponsor of The Psych Central Show About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. In addition to hosting The Psych Central Show, Gabe is an associate editor for PsychCentral.com. He also runs an online Facebook community, The Positive Depression/Bipolar Happy Place, and invites you to join. To work with Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com. Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. In addition to co-hosting The Psych Central Show, Vincent is the author of several award-winning novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. Visit his websites at www.vincentmwales.com and www.dynamistress.com. View the full article