Categories
Depression Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Still in Neverland: Childhood trauma and Interpersonal impact

In any given year, there are 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States alone. Many of these reports are made after these children reached maturity, and their confessions are no less sobering. 28.3% of adults report having experienced physical abuse during their childhood, and 20.7% of adults reported sexual abuse during their childhood. Based on the statistics, that translates 849,000 cases of physical child abuse and 621,000 cases of sexual child abuse. To put that in perspective, the University of Central Florida, the school with the largest undergraduate of on-campus enrollment, has 56,972 students. Imagine entire college campuses, in every dorm, in every classroom, in every lecture hall, with 2 floors of seats, packed by students who have gone through something unspeakable.

 

This is the state of child abuse in America.

 

Why don’t we talk about it?

 

Children are often victims of abuse. Childhood trauma and its well-studied effects on interpersonal issues. After child abuse shakes the foundations of their world, people with childhood trauma generally have trouble trusting others and battling their own emotions.

 

It is commonly known to psychologists that interpersonal trauma, or trauma inflicted with a target and intention, are more psychologically damaging than those cast without. In short, the accidental death of a loved one is a non-interpersonal trauma, while getting raped by a family member as a child is an interpersonal trauma. Both are terrible, but one is more likely to cause difficulties in regulation, changes in attention and consciousness, a manifestation of mental strain into physical problems, disruptions in self-identity, and harmful behaviors.

 

In addition to the above list of symptoms, one of the most noticeable impacts of childhood abuse is the way it affects how people perceive the world around them. Those who’ve experienced childhood abuse often have a hard time making and maintaining personal relationships. There’s little information about the specific nature of these interpersonal difficulties, but those who’ve experienced child abuse often feel vulnerable, ashamed, guilty, hopeless, and worthless.

 

In a recent case study by Dr. Kimberly and her team, a patient with an abusive background was evaluated for depressive symptom with the BDI-II and interpersonal ability with the IIP-32. Both tests consisted of inventory questions that sorted patients on a scale of severity. For example, the scale of someone with minimal to none depressive symptoms scored from 0-13. The patient scored 30 on her BDI-II and 57 on her IIP-32. Her score showed definite signs of severe depression and above average problems with interpersonal aspects of her life. She had expressed that her father’s abusive aggression and her mother’s lack of intervention has left her with feelings of shame, anger, and she did not know how to let go. This bled into her personal life, as she felt the need to be in control and was unable to express herself.

 

As part of the study, the patient underwent Short Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, otherwise known as STPP, for 20 weeks. STPP is designed to focus on undermining feelings and thoughts that disrupt one’s ability to communication, work, and maintain relationships. Post-therapy, the patient has shown drastic improvements in her depressive symptoms and interpersonal problems, with a score of 2 on her BDI-II and an 8 on her IIP-32. A year later, her score remained relatively low, with a score of 8 on her BDI-II and a 13 on her IIP-32.

 

Children abuse and therapy are one of those problems that people just don’t talk about.

 

Sometimes, it’s exactly what we don’t talk about that is the problem.

 

What we refuse to talk about, refuse to make a part of our reality, are an undeniable part of someone else’s.

 

You can help, there is a list of organizations that support and advocate those who experienced child abuse.

 

If you’d like to learn more about resources for you or someone in your life that has gone through childhood abuse, the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a page dedicated to research and common questions for your understanding.

 

If you need someone to listen, here is a guide to help find the right therapist for you.

References:

Barkham, M., & Hardy, G. E. (n.d.). The IIP-32: A short version of the inventory of interpersonal problems. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.2044-8260.1996.tb01159.x

Beck depression inventory-II (BDI-II). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.commondataelements.ninds.nih.gov/doc/noc/beck_depression_inventory_noc_link.pdf

Lindsay, S. (n.d.). The 37 biggest colleges in the united states. Retrieved from https://blog.prepscholar.com/the-biggest-colleges-in-the-united-states

Short-Term dynamic psychotherapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310903

Myths-about-child-abuse.jpg [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from

    https://www.paperrevolution.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/

    myths-about-child-abuse.jpg

Van Nieuwenhove, K. (n.d.). Interpersonal features in complex trauma etiology, consequences, and treatment: A literature review. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma. Retrieved from Taylor and Francis Online database.

Van Nieuwenhove, K., Truijens, F., Meganck, R., Cornelis, S., & Desmet, M. (n.d.). Working through childhood trauma-related interpersonal patterns in psychodynamic treatment: An evidence-based case study. Retrieved from PsycARTICLES database.

What is Child Abuse? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse/

 

 

Categories
Depression

Depression and Insomnia

We all know what it is like after a bad night’s sleep. You wake up feeling groggy and 10 years older. No matter how many cups of coffee you down, the way you sleep stays with you for the rest of your day. In a fast paced, modernized society, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by. For those with depression, sleep is a battle rarely won. While most of us hear that those with depression tend to sleep more than the average person, often we do not hear about the people who struggle with depression and insomnia.

 

According to WedMD, the medical definition for insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep. Since the quality of our sleep is a vital determinant of the quality of your waking hours, insomnia can be quite debilitating to one’s health and daily life. In addition to anxiety and intense emotional burdens, it is well documented that insomnia is often linked to someone’s sleep reactivity, also known as the tendency and to have disturbances in their sleep. One of the common factors that determine someone’s sleep reactivity is something that is often out of our control: stress. Generally speaking, sleep reactivity is not a characteristic unique to insomnia and could be associated and indicative of other disorders. For instance, studies have shown that insomnia has extremely high comorbidity and tend to co-occurrence with depression. If sleep reactivity can be a predictor of insomnia, what if it can be a predictor of depression? While there are lots of studies that confirm the association between sleep reactivity and insomnia, a lab in Michigan set to find more about the link between sleep reactivity and depression.

 

At the University of Michigan, a study by Dr. Vargas looked to find the link between sleep reactivity and depressive symptoms. To do this, he conducted a survey on 2,250 participants with insomnia and asked questions about their sleep disturbances and mental health. When he studied the results, Dr. Vargas found that the association between depressive symptoms and sleep reactivity was statistically significant. Therefore, the results of his data were not just caused by chance, there is an association between the way you sleep and how you feel. So, what exactly is the link? Dr. Vargas thinks that stress plays a big part. A lot of what keeps us up at night is the stress of our working hours. Stress is a universal emotion, but it impacts us all differently. Compared to an average individual, people with depression tend to have more stress and fewer tools to cope with it. Thus, they are more likely to have higher sleep reactivity and not get enough sleep. This would generate additional stress and create a vicious cycle of reciprocal sleep debt.

 

Before sleep reactivity is utilized for assessing risk for depression, Dr. Vargas thinks that there should be more research done. He believes that insomnia, a disorder closely associated with sleep reactivity and depression, could have been the real cause of the strong association between sleep reactivity and depressive symptoms. This means that the reason sleep reactivity may be more strongly associated with depression symptoms purely because of its strong ties to insomnia. Thus, we need more research before sleep reactivity can be accurately used to predict and treat depression. Evidently, sleep is a big factor in how we manage stress. With more time and sleep-focused research, scientists like Dr. Vargas can look forward to utilizing the link between sleep and other stress-rooted disorders to provide earlier detection and treatment. 

References:

Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Robert Segal, M.A.  (2018) Insomnia. (n.d.) https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/insomnia-causes-and-cures.htm/

 

Vargas, I., Friedman, N. P., & Drake, C. L. (2015). Vulnerability to stress-related sleep disturbance and insomnia: Investigating the link with comorbid depressive symptoms. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 1(1), 57–66. https://doi-org.proxy.library.stonybrook.edu/10.1037/tps0000015

Categories
Depression Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders: The Consequences

Eating disorders are a set of widespread and life threatening conditions.  According to a new study published in Biological Psychiatry based on the largest national sample of U.S. adults of 36,309 people, around “0.8 percent of adults will be affected by anorexia nervosa in their lifetime; 0.28 percent will be affected by bulimia nervosa; and 0.85 percent will be affected by binge eating disorder” (Udo & Grilo, 2018).  Furthermore, eating disorders affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group and could have severe consequences on a person’s emotional and physical health (“Risk Factors”, 2018).

Eating disorders affect every organ system in a person’s body, including the brain.  Because of this there are many health consequences associated with having an eating disorder.  By consuming fewer calories, the body starts to break down muscle and tissue for fuel. Due to this, the heart has fewer cells and less fuel to pump blood with and pulse and blood pressure begin to drop and the risk of heart failure increases (“Health Consequences”, 2018).  In the case of orally purging the body of food, the body is losing electrolytes which “can lead to irregular heartbeats and possible heart failure and death” (“Health Consequences”, 2018). Not only does purging cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, it has severe consequences on the gastrointestinal system.  Purging can lead to a deteriorated esophagus and stomach problems such as blocked intestines from undigested food, bacterial infections, constipation, intestinal perforation and in severe cases stomach ruptures (“Health Consequences”, 2018). In addition, purging and malnutrition can cause of pancreatitis or an inflammation of the pancreas (“Health Consequences”, 2018).

Neurologically, due to the restriction of calories in the body, the brain will not receive enough nutrients to function and could lead to a toxic cycle of obsessing about food and difficulties concentrating (“Health Consequences”, 2018).  Furthermore, not eating enough can create difficulties falling or staying asleep, numbness and tingling in the extremities of the body due to damage to the neuronal insulations, seizures and muscle cramps due to electrolyte imbalance, and fainting or dizziness (“Health Consequences”, 2018).  Even more alarming, in the endocrine system sex hormones decrease and can increase bone loss and starvation can cause high cholesterol levels (“Health Consequences”, 2018).

However, the consequences of eating disorders are not merely confined to the physical body.  There are many cognitive and emotional effects associated with restrained eating. People suffering from eating disorders have their cognitive performance and function disrupted by thoughts of food and/or weight (Polivy, 1996).  People with a history of dieting were also found to have more difficulty concentrating than their peers and experience feelings of irritability and negative emotionality and heightened affective responsiveness (Polivy, 1996). Self-harm, suicide attempts and death constitutes as some of the highly associated risks with eating disorders (Keski-Rahkonen & Mustelin, 2016) .  

In fact, according the the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.  One in five people with anorexia die by suicide (“Eating Disorder Statistics”, n.d.). This statistic does not include those that die due to pure self-starvation. The Standard Mortality Ratio, how likely one is to die over the study period compared to same aged peers of the general population, is 5.86 times more likely for people suffering from anorexia nervosa and 1.93 times more likely for people suffering from bulimia nervosa (“Eating Disorder Statistics”, n.d.).  

As eating disorders are complex in nature, the risk factors of eating disorders involves an interaction between a range of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors (“Risk Factors”, 2018). Eating disorders are extremely prevalent and consequential and with more information, education, and funding for research there can be more support for those fighters and survivors of eating disorders.   

References

Eating Disorder Statistics • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

(n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2019, from

https://anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

Health Consequences. (2018, February 22). Retrieved February 10, 2019, from

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences

Keski-Rahkonen, A. & Mustelin, L. (2016). Epidemiology of eating disorders in Europe. Current

Opinion in Psychiatry, 29(6), 340–345. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000278.

Polivy, J. (1996). Psychological Consequences of Food Restriction. Journal of the American

Dietetic Association,96(6), 589-592. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(96)00161-7

Risk Factors. (2018, August 03). Retrieved February 10, 2019, from

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/risk-factors

Udo, T., & Grilo, C. M. (2018). Prevalence and Correlates of DSM-5–Defined Eating Disorders

in a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Adults. Biological Psychiatry,84(5),

345-354. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.03.014

 

Categories
Depression

Depression in Graduate School

As we reach the near end of March, many senior students will be preparing for their post-graduation plans. Suitably, many individuals will be hoping to continue their studies in graduate school or immediately working in their career fields. Obtaining a graduate school degree can increase the chances of getting a job as well as putting an individual better prepared for a specialized occupation, thus many students may opt to continue on with education. Among the stress of studying, a major health crisis exists in academia (Evans). It is no surprise that pursuing a graduate degree may be emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing. In fact, numerous graduate students experience depression during their graduate school career.

Based on a study published in the Nature Biotechnology Journal, graduate students were found to be six times more susceptible of being diagnosed with depression (Evans). About 2,279 students were surveyed where about 41% showed severed anxiety and 39% showed symptoms of depression (Evans). Furthermore, based on a survey conducted at UC Berkeley, 45% of graduate students reported having emotional/stress related problems over the past year, with women being twice as likely as men to report these stressors (Djokic).

There are many explanations as to the rise of depression among graduate students. Martin Seligman’s theory of “Learned Helplessness” proposes that when animals were faced with stress/punishment they were later found to have poor learning, low functionality, and lower levels of serotonin, correlating to depression. Much is explained in the animal’s lack of control and feeling of helplessness when faced with stress.

Another theory, known as “Social Competition Model of Depression,” is coined by Paul Gilbert, who claims that animals when facing stress, lose motivation to either struggle or win. In many ways, graduate students demonstrate this “Learned Helplessness” and “Involuntary Defeat”. Furthermore, students may fall under a lot of stress and lack of motivation, leading them to develop depression.
There are various ways to deal with depression in graduate school. One of the first steps includes getting diagnosed and finding the right treatment. It is vital to understand the environment and expectations of one’s department and advisor and seek support when needed. There are people out there who care; in your department, your university, and in your life.

References:

Djokic, Denia (2014). This is your mind on Grad School. Berkeley Science Review. Retrieved from http://berkeleysciencereview.com/article/mind-grad-school/

Evans, Teresa (March 2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles

Depression in Grad School and Beyond. Retrieved from https://academicladder.com/depression-in-grad-school-and-beyond

Nuvvula, Sivakumar. (December, 2016). Learned helplessness. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5141652/

Categories
Depression

The Effects of Social Media on Depression

In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to avoid some sort of social media. From Facebook to Instagram, several media platforms allow for individuals from all around the world to communicate. This rise in public networks can often lead to negative impacts on an individual’s mental health. Given that ability, researchers have been able to link an increase in social media usage with depression. According to a study done by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, researchers found that the more time young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed, accounting also for outside factors including age, race, gender, etc (Lin, 2016).

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders composing of biological, social, and psychological factors. Additionally, depression can be described with symptoms of anxiousness and feelings of emptiness (NIH). On average, teenagers seek to fit in with their peers. However, technology works to magnify these struggles of not being outcasted. Social media is seen as an outlet in which people hope to highlight their best moments. Although it is known that every individual experiences hardship, people are more likely to not show any negative aspects of their lives. Thus, this may lead to a false representation to the public. Teenagers are likely to compare this to their own lives and feel out of place or depressed (Nalin). Author Lui Yi Lin claims that it is possible that depressed individuals use social media to fill a void (Lin, 2016). Furthermore, utilizing certain platforms and connecting with others can serve to give purpose in their lives. Within a study published in the Journal of ADAA, it is claimed that “the exposure to highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead a happier, more successful lives”. In addition, people that engage in activities of little meaning on social media may feel that they are wasting time.

Certain platforms can function in spreading emotions and influencing others. A team of researchers led by Adam Kramer at Facebook studied to see if online interactions can influence people’s emotions in the same regards as a face-to-face interaction can (Kramer 2014). For one week, some users would be shown fewer posts with negative emotional words, while others saw fewer posts with a positive one (Kramer 2014). Results were found to be significant and indicated that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions and thus indeed are contagious (Kramer 2014). Therefore, an online presence can have just as much of an effect on mood, as in person.

Additionally, the flexibility and increase in communication brought about by various online platforms can lead people to be susceptible to cyberbullying. With little effort, individuals can reveal secrets, pass around rumors, and taunt others (Nalin). There are several possible treatments for depression. This can range from medication to certain therapies. Beyond treatment includes trying to say active and exercise (NIH). Researchers are continuing to study the impact of social media on mental health and remain spreading awareness of cyberbullying.

References:

Adam D. I., K., Jamie E., G., & Jeffrey T., H. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, (24), 8788. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320040111

Lin, Liu Yi (2016). Association between social media use and depression among US young adults. Journal of Anxiety and Depression Association of America Retrieved by http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/da.22466/abstract

Nalin, Jeff. Social Media and Teen Depression: The Two Go Hand-In-Hand. Journal of Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved by https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/social-media-and-teen-depression-two-go-hand#

National Institute of Mental Health (October 2016). Depression.

Categories
Depression

Praying Away the Sadness: The Nuanced Link between Spirituality and Depression

Initial results from a study published by Cambridge University Press present extremely nuanced findings regarding the relationship between depression and religion. In cases where individuals were intrinsically motivated to practice their respective religion, their faith served as a preventative measure for symptoms of depression. People who practiced their faith and felt accepted in their own respective religious communities were found to be at less of a risk for depressive symptoms. Additionally, people who did not practice religion at all were found to be at more of a risk for depression than the individuals who were intrinsically motivated to practice. Perhaps the most interesting finding of this study is that people who were already exhibiting depressive symptoms generally were at more of a risk for clinical depression when surrounded by people in their respective religious communities.

The reality of the situation is that oftentimes, depression, in particular, is extremely stigmatized in religious communities. In many religions, particularly monotheistic faiths, belief in God and the afterlife is supposed to be the ultimate coping mechanism for depressed thoughts. Focusing on the afterlife is supposed to make worldly concerns and problems seem more bearable. In addition, individuals who suffer from depression are often seen as “ungrateful,” or told that their faith is not strong enough. Beliefs in the suffering of prophets such as Jesus and Muhammad often add to this stigma. Individuals are told that their suffering can never compare to that of their prophet. As a result of this, people in the early stages of depression often have their feelings invalidated, which can lead to feelings of isolation and worsening symptoms.

There is also a certain level of self-stigma that goes along with depression in religious individuals. People take depression as an indication that their faith in God is not strong enough, and that there is something lacking in their prayer and beliefs. In addition, depressed individuals who struggle with suicidal thoughts tend to struggle even more, because suicide is considered a major sin in most monotheistic religions.

Religious individuals have been shown to be even more reluctant to receive mental health treatment than the average individual. While this is mostly due to stigma, this problem could also be due to the lack of mental health professionals that openly identify with their faith. Religious people might feel more comfortable talking to a counselor that is of the same faith as them and understands their concerns, and many counselors do not specify their religion or are not particularly religious.

Overall, changes need to be made in both religious communities and in mental health treatment to make getting help for religious individuals more accessible and less stigmatized. Depression should not be attributed to a lack of faith, and the focus should shift to the religious community coming together to support the individual through love and acceptance. In addition, more openly religious mental health professionals need to be present for counseling. In the meantime, counselors who are not religious should still be getting at least some form of training on how to better serve the needs of more religious clients. If not, many individuals will continue to suffer in silence.

References:

McCullough, M. E., & Larson, D. B. (1999). Religion and depression: a review of the literature. Twin Research, 2(02), 126-136. doi:10.1375/twin.2.2.126

Mir, S. (2014). Muslims and depression: the role of religious beliefs in therapy. Integral Psychological Therapy, 2(2).

Petts, R. (2008). Religion and adolescent depression: the impact of race and gender. Review of Religious Research, 49(4), 395-414.

Categories
Down Syndrome

False Images: A Case of Down Syndrome and Mental Illness

Small chin. Slanted eyes. A tender and pleasant smile. When you type “down syndrome (DS)” into any search engine, these are the first images you see. You find yourself engrossed in photos of jovial men, women, and children. These images etch the impression that those with down syndrome are carefree, innocent, and cheerful in our minds. Very few photos will portray any negative emotions such as anger, sadness, or guilt. Some may even be surprised to found out these cheerful faces plastered in photos, may have mental illnesses.

The National Down Syndrome Society reports that approximately half of those who possess DS face a mental health issue throughout their lifetime. The most common issues include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sleep-related difficulties, and depression, among many others. People with down syndrome who possess severe limitations in terms of language and communication skills may find it difficult to articulate their feelings. This increases the difficulty of diagnosing and identifying mental illness in those with DS.

A metacognitive study analyzing over 390 articles concerning depression and down syndrome states several risk factors that are associated with those born with DS. A study of the general population has shown that those with a smaller total brain volume are more likely to develop depression. The same results were found with those who have lower IQ scores (Walker et. al,  2011).

Diane Levine has a son named Cooper, who has down syndrome has always had the illness define who he is. During a conversation with friends discussing their children, one of them will say something along the lines of,  “My neighbor has a little Down’s boy. They’re such angels, aren’t they?” or I love children with Down Syndrome. They’re like gentle lambs (Levine, 2017).” The picture of people with DS being gentle and delightful is not always the case. People with DS have a range of personalities and emotions; just like those without DS. Levine reiterates “I don’t want Down syndrome to define him — except it does, in many ways.”

The image that we have of those who possess down syndrome is a bright and infectiously happy face. However, this falsely paints people with DS as being free of worries or problems. It is important to acknowledge that people with DS are susceptible to mental illnesses just like those without DS.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Levine, D. (2017, April 28). My Son With Down Syndrome Does Not Fit Your Stereotype. https://themighty.com/2017/04/my-son-with-down-syndrome-does-not-fit-your-stereotype/

Munir, K. (2018). Mental Health Issues & Down Syndrome. https://www.ndss.org/resources/mental-health-issues-syndrome/

Walker, J. C., Dosen, A., Buitelaar, J. K., & Janzing, J. E. (2011). Depression in Down Syndrome: A Review of the Literature. Research In Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 32(5), 1432-1440.

Categories
Depression

Hate Crimes and Depression

Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh-American man, was walking down a New York City street one morning in 2013, minding his own business. Suddenly, a group of men came out of nowhere, yelling at him, calling him “Osama” and “terrorist.” The harassment did not end there. The group of young men punched Dr. Singh repeatedly in the face, ultimately breaking his jaw. Over the next few weeks, Dr. Singh reached out to the mental health services at his university but did not receive the support or attention he needed.  He found these services ill-suited for his needs, given that they were geared towards people with more severe mental illnesses.

Over the next few months, Dr. Singh’s attack got significant media attention, and before long, his inbox began piling up with messages from people whose relatives or friends had experienced hate crimes of a similar nature. They were looking for comfort, and most of all, support. Four years later, Dr. Singh still receives these messages. Over time, through reading these countless emails, Dr. Singh has slowly realized that although there is a growing number of people experiencing hate crimes due to the recent administration changes, there is a significant lack of resources tailored specifically to these individuals.

In the recent months, there have been increasing levels of distress among individuals targeted by President Trump’s campaign, specifically Muslim, LGBTQ, and Latino Americans. Muslim Americans, in particular, have been going through a rough time in recent years. They have dealt with the aftermath of 9/11, the 2015 Paris attacks, and Trump’s election, inauguration, and subsequent Muslim ban. The two major surges in anti-Muslim hate crimes have occurred directly after 9/11, and now, directly after Trump’s election. According to the Family and Youth Institute, which studies the mental health needs of American Muslims, there have been increased instances of anxiety and depression since Trump’s campaign began. There has also been an increase of Muslims seeking therapy and treatment, which is extremely significant because mental health is often stigmatized in Muslim communities. The fact that people are still seeking help, even in the face of this stigma, is proof that there is something seriously wrong.

Although Muslims, in particular, are experiencing increased aggression, there has also been a recent rise in hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals, African American individuals, and individuals of  Latino descent. In addition, people are becoming less specific with their hatred and instead extending their bigotry and prejudice to encompass all American minorities. Just over two months ago, the Birmingham Islamic Society received an email directed towards all African Americans, Latino individuals, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. The message was simple: “run or die.”

Hate crimes such as these have serious psychological consequences. In the short term, hate crimes can lead to fear and paranoia in the victim. However, over time, this can become a more serious problem. The victim can experience post-traumatic stress and is more likely to develop anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Hate crimes are often deeply destabilizing to the very core of an individual, which is why they have such serious ramifications.

If victims of these crimes are not supported, the trauma from their attack often manifests into a more serious form of depression. Resources need to be established so that victims of hate crimes can receive more solid support in order to prevent their mental health from deteriorating once they or someone they know gets attacked.

One type of resource that has proven to be valuable in the past is a support group for victims of hate crimes. Staff at a YMCA in western Michigan established a weekly therapy group for individuals who were not only direct victims of hate crimes but knew someone who experienced a hate crime. This group also supported people who felt victimized by the policies of the recent administration.

Programs like this are extremely effective but are currently few and far between. People like Dr. Singh are working to bridge this gap. Dr. Singh, along with Dr. Sameera Ahmad, is working with the Council on American-Islamic relations in order to develop more training programs and support groups for Muslims dealing with hateful rhetoric. This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully, in the future, more programs like this will be created and implemented for all minorities experiencing hate crimes.

References:

Latvian Centre for Human Rights. (2016). Psychological Effects of Hate Crime. Retrieved from http://cilvektiesibas.org.lv/site/attachments/30/01/2012/Naida_noziegums_ENG_cietusajiem_Internetam.pdf

The New York Times. (2017, April 17). When Hate Leads to Depression. The New York Times.

The New York Times. (2017, April 30). Spread of Hate Crimes Has Lawmakers Seeking Harsher Penalties. The New York Times.

Pew Research Center. (2017). Anti-Muslim assaults reach 9/11-era levels, FBI data show | Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/21/anti-muslim-assaults-reach-911-era-levels-fbi-data-show/

Categories
Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders Depression

Combating Anxiety: An Interview

This interview was done with a current college student who recently began her journey towards improved mental health. The article anonymously covers her journey from seeking treatment, combating symptoms, and discussing concerns about the perception of anxiety by the greater public.

Question: Can you tell me a little bit about your diagnosis?

Response: I was officially diagnosed this past summer…it’s a combination of depression and anxiety, so I’m treated for both. As far as my condition goes, it’s not circumstantial; it is more of an everyday kind of thing, it’s always constantly being worried you aren’t being productive enough but at the same time being constantly worried that you’re not resting enough, you never feel like you’re in a balance.

Q: How did you discover it?

R: I had been feeling very not-myself for awhile, especially since coming [to college] because it’s different, so having to change everything definitely made it more difficult for me and it got really bad towards the end of last spring, and when I went home I was still having some issues so I was like alright I’m going to get checked out, make sure everything is fine and that when that happened.

Q: What would you describe as your biggest struggle?

R: My biggest struggle is to remember that everything is going to be fine. I think the hardest thing for me is remembering that everything is going to be fine. How anxious you feel and how everything possible that could go wrong might go wrong, and you have to just learn that everything will eventually be ok; that’s the hardest part for me.

Q: What do you do to combat/calm your nerves and anxiety?

R: Sometimes I just have to remove myself from a situation. Sometimes if I’ve been sitting there for hours working on something and I get really worked up about it because things aren’t going the way I want them to go, I have to get up and walk away; out of sight out of mind. I might talk to a friend, or go eat or try to remember to do the bare necessities and then come back to it when it is a little easier to deal with. 

Q: Have you faced any misunderstandings with either your diagnosis or why you do the things you do?

R: The hardest thing for me in terms of social awareness is that there are a lot of people out there who, really advertise anxiety for what it’s not. They create a stigma where people don’t take it as seriously, I think, as they should because they might not necessarily understand [the disorder] or they might think that ‘oh, everyone has some form of anxiety’ but it depends on the level. Is it just freaking out every once in awhile or is it this constant think that’s always on your mind. I think the stigma that’s been created is that it’s not as significant as other mental disorders. I just think when anxiety is falsely advertised or over advertised it is taken less seriously.

Q: Do you think that is the case with anxiety more so than other disorders/Have you come across anything personally?

R: Specifically for me, it took so long for me to acknowledge that I had something I needed to deal with because of that stigma. [People will downplay] the severity of the disorder, but I thought because I didn’t have any of those things [bipolar, depression, everything] that it wasn’t as important so I didn’t feel as much inclination to address it [my disorder] and I feel like that’s the case with a lot of people. They might feel that other people have it worse, so I shouldn’t be complaining, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get help if you think you need it.

Q: What was your process of getting help when you decided you needed it?

R: When I realized it wasn’t just school that was causing it, I went home and for at least 2 months it continued on that way. I realized if I’m not at school, then there must be something else going on and to be honest, my family didn’t really believe me.They thought “oh you’re being dramatic” and that also made it really hard for me to go get help because I didn’t feel supported. But I ended up going anyways and when i came home with a prescription and everything else they finally took it seriously.

Q: Did you go to therapy on your own or did you have someone with you?

R: I went on my own…it was scary but I have other friends that had gone before and they told me what to expect and I really thought that I needed the help so I’m glad that I went. To be honest, I would have rather gone alone than with someone in my family who didn’t really understand what was going on or support what I was doing.

Q: Has therapy helped, or have you seen a difference in yourself since starting therapy?

R: Yes, It helped me because it finally felt like someone was on my side, someone was willing to listen to all my problems and I was just unloading anything on anyone. It’s hard to talk to your friends sometimes because you know they’re going through a lot and you don’t want to complain about your life when you know they’re going through stuff too. It’s someone on the outside who can understand and also give you new perspective, they help you look at it in different ways and go “Oh I have reason to feel this way” or “Oh, maybe I don’t have reason to feel this way, and I’m just thinking about it all wrong.” So it definitely helped me gain perspective and help me learn how to cope in more productive ways. It helped me a lot, I still go. I see a family therapist, just because that’s what’s available near where I live, but I go to a psychiatrist and a family therapist that are within the same practice. They’ll make sure my medication is the right dose, doing what it should be doing and monitoring everything.

Seeking out treatment and combating stigma is a concern regardless of the perceived intensity of a disorder. Though occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, anxiety disorders involve more than a temporary feeling. Anxiety disorders disrupt the flow of your daily activities and can impact your professional and academic life, as well as relationships. It is important to recognize anxiety disorders as serious mental diagnoses that require proper treatment.

Categories
Depression

Dying a Lovely Death: The Glamorization of Depression

Imagine this: You wake up every morning with an ache in your chest. You haven’t showered in three days, because you’re too mentally exhausted to wash the grease from your hair, let alone function as a normal human being. You’re sitting in class but the teacher’s words are meaningless, distant, and indistinct. You feel this constant emptiness in your chest, and you feel like crying, but you don’t know why.

You’re nervous. You’ve been fourteen minutes late to school every day this week, with no explanation for your tardiness except that you couldn’t get out of bed. Your mind cycles through a seemingly endless spiral of irrational thoughts, and you’re just tired. This is the harsh reality of the cycle of depression.

Imagine this: You go online looking for solace, a place where you can feel like you belong, a place where you can feel loved. You see a girl in a black and white photograph with perfectly tousled hair, eyeliner artfully smeared across her cheeks, and smudges of violet underneath her eyes. The caption on the photo describes how suffering is beautiful, how depression is “mysterious.” You scroll further and find blogs about self-harm that present cutting as the best way to deal with your emotions. These posts ultimately convince you that suicide is the best option.

This is the sad reality that many young people have experienced in response to the rise of self-harm in depression blogs and content on social media.

Over the years, the conversation surrounding mental illness has experienced a profound shift. For much of the 20th century, mental illness was not addressed at all and was instead ignored and extremely stigmatized. As the decades went on, depression and other mental illnesses were brought to the forefront of public attention through celebrities who talked about their experiences with the disease. However, with the increased prevalence of social media, online communities have formed what are perpetuating ideas of “beautiful suffering”. This facilitates negative feelings and misunderstandings of what it means to be clinically depressed.

One of the main social media sites that has perpetuated the idea of depression being “beautiful” and “mysterious” is Tumblr, a platform where social communities often form around specific topics. Individuals have their own blogs, and can quickly share images, photos, and other media through the act of “reblogging” a post. Individuals often form communities around different disorders seeking some form of support and acceptance. However, with depression, in particular, the culture on photo and video sharing websites like Tumblr and Instagram has shifted from supporting people who are clinically depressed to glamorizing ideas of sadness. Black and white photographs of mystical emaciated women who stare off into the distance put psychological torment and beauty on the same page. Quotes like “So it’s okay for you to hurt me, but I can’t hurt myself?” and “I want to die a lovely death,” try to justify self-harm. All this is at the tip of anyone’s fingertips: anyone can search tags like “self-harm,” “depression,” or “sadness,” and find thousands of blogs with a similarly distorted vision of what it means to be depressed.

In addition to perpetuating negative feelings, beautification of depression often leads to people taking the disease less seriously. People begin to blame the victim, and instead of accepting clinical depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain, people begin to believe that people with depression are faking it for the attention. People who self-harm, in particular, are often targets of these misconceptions. Instead of scars from self-harm being seen as cries for help, these injuries are misconstrued as superficial pleas for attention.

This glorification of self-pity, as well as victim blaming, takes away from the fact that depression is a very real, and often very debilitating mental illness that starkly contrasts with the pretty pastel photos on social media. The glamorization of depression only adds to the stigma surrounding the illness. Although it is a step in the right direction that many individuals are talking about depression online, we need to foster communities that talk about depression in a way that breaks down stigma instead of adding to it.  

References:

The Atlantic. (2013, October 28). Social media is redefining depression. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/social-media-is-redefining-depression/280818/

Periscope | I Want to Die a Lovely Death: the Glamorization of Depression in Popular Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.chsperiscope.com/perspectives/2015/02/16/i-want-to-die-a-lovely-death-the-glamorization-of-depression-in-popular-culture/

Tanner, E. (2015). Girls, Instagram, and the glamorization of self-loathing. Dissenting Voices, 4(1). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1046&context=dissentingvoices