Categories
Personality Disorders

Schizoid and Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Have you ever felt judged because of something that you could not change, for a flaw that you did not ask for, a trait woven deeply in your personality, for something that is just you and is there to remain? It does not feel too great, does it? There are policies for racism, sexism, and assault, but what about for unfair treatment towards mental illnesses? The right to have medical records not disclosed to an employer is protected under HIPAA, but what if your mental disorder is already known or you have been outed? Being a member of the workforce is already stressful, but now you are made to feel unworthy, irresponsible and unreliable all because of something that you cannot change. Sure, every person’s experience is different, but for people living with Schizoid Personality Disorder (PD) and Schizotypal PD, experiences at the workplace can be even more challenging.

It is a common mistake to connect schizoid PD and schizotypal PD to schizophrenia. Although these disorders do present with overlapping symptoms, they are in fact different. Regardless, many people are not aware of that and automatically attach the stigmas of schizophrenia to schizoid PD and schizotypal PD. For example, “schizo” a slang term derived from the word schizophrenia has now become synonymous with “crazy” in society. Therefore, when people hear that someone is living with schizophrenia, they often disregard the humanity of the person. Instead, they think of the negative connotations associated with this personality disorder and deem the individual as being “unpredictable or dangerous” (Whiteman, 2014). This type of mentality can lead to both subconscious and conscious biases and stereotypes. Such stereotypes not only hinder the day to day lives of individuals dealing with these personality disorders, but it also affects their ability to work. For example, only 8% of people living with schizophrenia are in the workplace in the UK (Evans, 2017). Additionally, not only do these general stereotypes affect people living with schizophrenia, but it also affects people living with schizoid PD and schizotypal PD because people believe that they are all the same. Not only do such individuals have to deal with the biases and stigmas of their own disorder, but now of another disorder with the close sounding name. That’s twice as much stigma and twice as many misunderstandings and stress.

While these disorders are co-morbid, as aforementioned they are indeed different. Schizoid PD and Schizotypal PD are defined as Cluster A disorders meaning that they are characterized as “odd, eccentric, or bizarre” (Burton, 2018) A person living with Schizoid Personality Disorder is usually defined as “detached and aloof and prone to introspection and fantasy” (Burton, 2018). Also, a person with Schizoid Personality Disorder may often display characteristics of “detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of emotional expression” (Kaurin et al, 2018). For this reason, others may assume that the person is cold or rude, which can negatively affect relationships, especially in environments where teamwork and cooperation are required. On the other hand, a person living with Schizotypal Personality Disorder is characterized by “oddities of appearance, behavior, and speech, unusual perceptual experiences, and anomalies of thinking similar to those seen in schizophrenia.”

These behaviors can also allow people to assume a negative perception which hinders relationships. Along with the usual stigmas of mental disorders, there also comes the stigma of mental disorders in the workplace. Usually, it falls along the lines of less efficiency, productivity losses and feelings of uncomfortableness. This type of thinking can lead to the ostracization of their coworkers and lower productivity. A study found that “initial reluctance to seek help may result in decreased productivity, which may lead to confirmation of stereotypes and additional stigma by co-workers resulting in further reluctance to seek help” (Knaak et al., 2017).

To combat this, there should be more awareness about mental health in the workplace in general. Workshops, where mental health disorders are taught and discussed to de-stigmatize and educate, should be mandated. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a type of legislation that will protect people living with mental illnesses from prejudice and discrimination in the workplace.

References

Evans, A. (2017, September 19). Metro News. Why are so few people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder employed? Supporting mental health must begin in the workplace Retrieved from https://metro.co.uk/2017/09/19/why-are-so-few-people-with-schizophrenia-and-schizoaffective-disorder-employed-supporting-mental-health-must-begin-in-the-workplace-6937626

Kaurin, A., Funder, D., & Sauerberger, K. (2018). Associations between informant ratings of personality disorder traits, self‐reports of personality, and directly observed behavior. Journal of Personality, 86(6), 1078-1101. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jopy.12376

Knaak, S., Mantler, E., & Szeto, A. (2017). Mental illness-related stigma in healthcare: Barriers to access and care and evidence-based solutions. Healthcare management forum, 30(2), 111-116. doi:  10.1177/0840470416679413

Burton, N. (2018). The 10 Personality Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/the-10-personality-disorders

Quide, Y., Cohen-Woods, S., O’Reilly, N., Carr, V., Elzinga, B., & Green, M. (2018). Childhood trauma is associated with social cognition and schizotypal personality traits in psychotic and healthy populations. (PDF). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a831/9902945603d45387df8502fd085c80feb679.pdf

Whiteman, H. (2014, October 10). MedicalNewsToday. Schizophrenia: shattering the stigma. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283776.php

Categories
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Mind Your Words: OCD Stigmatization From Normalization

Take one: Sitting at one of the lunch tables, I noticed a group of girls building a house of cards. They’re almost done with it when it topples. The cards scattered across the table and floor creating a sea of jacks, queens, hearts and spades. Mimicking the cards, the girls’ smiles began to fall except for one, who laughed and said, “Oh no, my OCD is kicking in.” As she moved her hair out of her face and proceeded to pick up the scattered cards, they all laughed along, without a second thought.

Take two: While talking to one of my friends in the hallway, waiting in line for class to begin, I noticed this boy standing in front of me. Well, no. Actually, I noticed that his tag was out and my first instinct was to tuck it in for him. After doing so, he turned around and smiled saying, “Thanks. Are you OCD about that?” Puzzled, I forced a smile and turned away.

Take three: Before taking a test, I placed my pencil on the desk and waited for the papers to be distributed. The boy next to me placed his three pencils parallel to one another with equal distance between them. I thought, it looks cooler that way. This girl passing by his desk noticed it as well. Shaking her head she said, “You’re so OCD”. He furrowed his eyebrows and turned to me, as if I could offer an explanation. I shrugged.

Many people may be able to relate to the aforementioned conversations and perhaps have found themselves in similar situations because an odd trend has developed: people use mental illnesses as adjectives in their everyday life. However, this behavior only contributes to the stigma surrounding mental illness. Individuals that adopt mental illness vocabulary in a colloquial manner are usually only vaguely familiar with the mental illnesses that they have chosen to help communicate their thoughts. With obsessive-compulsive disorder individuals commonly perceive it as simply partaking in the compulsive or physical aspects of the illness rather than the psychological aspects. Many times people reference stereotypes of individuals diagnosed with OCD because it is all that they are exposed to. Consequently, they align the attention of small details or little annoyances to the illness, which promotes misunderstandings between those who have OCD and those who do not.

Oftentimes, mental illnesses are utilized for comedic effect on popular television shows. This inconsiderate utilization of mental illnesses is especially common pertaining to OCD due to the compulsions associated with the illness. In the audience’s eyes, the efforts of the character with OCD seem futile. For example, there is “the classic comic gag of the barber trimming a customer’s mustache, and repeatedly finding that one side is longer than the other” (Weg, 2011). This ultimately leads to the mustache being completely trimmed off, however the audience fails to recognize that these efforts are caused by intense anxiety, which affect the individual on a daily basis. Another example is, “where the featured character is depicted as constantly rearranging misaligned items in a comical manner” (Beyond OCD, 2018). It is imperative to recognize, however, that this is only amusing to an outsider; the individual with OCD is not amused at all.

The portrayal of individuals with mental illness is evolving over time. As more characters are considerately shown as having a mental illness and coping with it, people gain a broader understanding and knowledge of the illness, thereby reducing stigma. For example, the popular television show Monk, stars a main character who has OCD. While the show is a comedy and consequently pokes fun at the main character, it “managed to entertain without making fun of Monk and others with OCD” (Health24, 2006). In other words, Monk’s mental illness was not the punchline to every joke and therefore didn’t hurt individuals with OCD. As a result, “the viewer develops empathy for Monk and gets some idea as to the devastating impact such a disorder can have on a person’s life” (Health24, 2006).

The bottom line is that many people are vaguely familiar with OCD but usually remain unaware of all aspects of the mental illness. Their fragmented understanding and  bit of exposure, however, does not give such individuals the authority to cling to certain mental illnesses as a means of effectively describing their thoughts or justifying their actions. Using mental illnesses as adjectives, creates a barrier to communicating effectively because those words are interpreted differently among those who have and have not been diagnosed with OCD. Using mental illnesses, such as OCD, as adjectives discredits the experience of an individual that has OCD. In our individualistic and low-context society many of us typically fail to empathize with or simply reject those with mental illnesses. However, caution, consideration and a minor change in language can help to propel the de-stigmatization of mental illnesses. Therefore, I urge you to mind your words.

References

Beyond OCD. (n.d.) Extreme Need for Symmetry or Exactness Retrieved from http://beyondocd.org/information-for-individuals/symptoms/extreme-need-for-symmetry-or-exactness

Health 24. (2006 August 28). Monk’s OCD: Fact or fiction?  Retrieved from https://www.health24.com/Mental-Health/Disorders/Monks-OCD-Fact-or-fiction-20120721

Weg, A. H. (2011 July 16). The Many Flavors of OCD. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-ocd/201107/the-many-flavors-ocd

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
Schizophrenia

Befriending Schizophrenia

Friendships are sacred; they are one of a kind. Friends are there whether you need someone to lean on or just for making great memories. Friends also make going through tough times a little bit easier by being there. The stigma of schizophrenia has led people to believe that those who struggle with the illness are not capable of maintaining friendships, but this is not true. While it is true that some people with schizophrenia find it difficult to have trust in someone, once they do, it is very possible to maintain a friendship.

In fact, friendships make the symptoms of schizophrenia easier. It is always nice to be able to confide in someone. According to Dan Hoeweler, friendships help keep a grasp on reality by building a stronger, healthier mind. In “Schizophrenia and Relationships” by Sherry Rauh, an individual with schizophrenia says that it is nice to have someone to be able to monitor the symptoms by making sure they take their medication, eat regular meals, and stay away from unnecessary stress (Rauh).

It is difficult for some people with schizophrenia to find friendship in people, but according to Rauh, there are steps that individuals can go through in order to help them overcome this. These steps include finding proper medication to control the symptoms, engaging in therapy to practice skills that help maintain friendships, and lastly, practicing social exercises (Rauh).  

Hoeweler states that many people are mislead about schizophrenia and often resist finding friendship with those who suffer. He says, “Good friends are people who will judge you by your good deeds, and not by what your health issues are” (Hoeweler, 2011). This quote goes for any person living with any illness. Getting others to realize that people are not defined by their illness is key to aid in the de-stigmatization of these diseases.

Cathy Cassata, writer for HealthLine, explains how her childhood friend, Jackie, started to develop schizophrenia and it was difficult watching someone you love go through it all. Cassata explains there was no problem a cup of ice cream could not fix when they were young, but it is hard to help someone you love go through a problem that is so serious. All you can do it offer support and sometimes, that is enough. Cassata states, “I hated the heartbreaking situation Jackie was in. I resented the illness that had put her there, but I decided that while this might be part of Jackie’s life now, it would not define her” (Cassata, 2017).

In Cathy’s case, learning about an illness in order to be more informed and help a friend was a difficult task. At times, people may feel helpless while attempting to make their loved one feel better. WebMD offers advice on how to make everyone’s lives easier when dealing with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. The first step is to become educated on the subject matter. It is important to be knowledgeable about schizophrenia, the signs and symptoms, medications that are useful, and resources available. When a loved one is experiencing a hallucination, remain calm and ask if there is anything you could do to help them. Refrain from arguing with them if they do not believe that you are not able to see or hear what they are experiencing (Healthwise Staff).

It is important to make sure that those struggling with schizophrenia take their medication. Although some side effects may be troubling, it is important that the patient understands how much it is truly helping suppress the symptoms of schizophrenia (WebMD).

Despite the stigma, it is possible for people with schizophrenia to make friends and maintain those friendships. Having loved ones in their corner will provide support during their experiences and allow them to confide in someone else.

References:

Cassata, C. (2017, April 24). I Won’t Let Schizophrenia Define Our Friendship. Healthline. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/health/my-friend-and-schizoprenia#8

Healthwise Staff. Schizophrenia – For Family and Friends. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/tc/schizophrenia-for-family-and-friends#1

Healthwise Staff. Schizophrenia: Helping Someone Who Is Hallucinating – Topic Overview. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/tc/schizophrenia-helping-someone-who-is-hallucinating-topic-overview

Hoeweler, D. (2011, December 15). Finding Friendship with Schizophrenia. HealthyPlace. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2011/12/finding-
friendship-with-schizophrenia/

Rauh, S. National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia and Relationships. (n.d). WebMD. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/features/schizophrenia-and-relationships#2

Categories
Bipolar Disorder

The “Blessing” of Bipolar?

I’ve been blessed haven’t I? … because I’m able to experience life in sort of what some people describe as kind of extremes, it just gives me an opportunity to feel things and experience things that I wouldn’t otherwise do, simple as that.”  If someone you just met were to tell you they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, most likely the first thoughts that would come to your mind would not be to make a remark congratulating them on their diagnosis; you would probably say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, that must be difficult to deal with.” While the 2.6% of the population diagnosed with bipolar disorder would almost certainly have their share of devastating stories to tell recounting depressive episodes or suicidal ideation, many people with bipolar also learn to view their illness as an asset to them. The unique perspective their illness gives them allows many people to not only accept the illness as a part of their individual identity but to embrace it for what it contributes to their life as a whole, struggles and setbacks included.  

While it is now a well-circulated fact that there is a link between bipolar and creativity, as there also seems to be with other mental illnesses, the reasons bipolar can be an important part of a patient’s identity extend well beyond creative advantages. Bipolar patients claim their illness allows them greater empathy for others going through similar situations, gives them a tenacity lacking in others who do not have to experience the same struggles and gives them the motivation to focus on all parts of their overall health and well-being, including their physical health. One patient who wrote an article on her experience with bipolar as a mother of three implied that her bipolar has actually provided her with several advantages as a parent. Though she used to feel guilt over how her children would perceive her as they grew older and became more aware of her depressive episodes, she worked to change her own perspective of her illness and used her bipolar and her openness in discussing it with her children as a way to encourage them to examine their own emotional health and freely express how they feel.

The experts also have things to say about why a bipolar diagnosis does not need to be viewed as something that will only cause harm and suffering to the individual. Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, MD and author of the book A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness, claims that the traits inherent in those with bipolar diagnoses could also be linked to greater leadership capabilities. According to Dr. Ghaemi, “Depression enhances empathy and realism and the mania enhances creativity and resilience … so when people have bipolar disorder, they have the full gamut of benefits.” Distinguished historical figures, like Winston Churchill and Florence Nightingale, both known for their tenacity, their wit, and their leadership capabilities, were also plagued by both depressive episodes and periods of enhanced drive and motivation that were rumored to be signs of bipolar disorder. “A lot of the reason we can do what we do is not necessarily in spite of [having bipolar], it’s because of,” explains one bipolar patient.

While bipolar disorder is certainly a difficult diagnosis to deal with and the illness does not come without a very challenging set of trials and setbacks, bipolar does not need to be thought of as a life-ending diagnosis. Many patients learn to view bipolar as an important part of their identity and their personage, learning to cope with the illness by embracing all the parts that come with it, the wild manic episodes, the devastating depression, and the periods in between. And just as patients learn to cope with their bipolar symptoms by viewing them as more than simply a disadvantage or a disability, the same can be said for people with a whole range of mental illnesses, from anxiety to personality disorders to depression, that are just as stigmatized as bipolar.  Learning to embrace this mindset can be helpful in dealing with their diagnosis, and in managing their mental and physical symptoms.

References:

Parry, W. Bipolar Disorder Has Its Upside, Patients Say. Retrieved on November 26, 2017, from https://www.livescience.com/20185-bipolar-disorder-positive-effects.html

National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder Among Adults. Retrieved on November 26, 2017, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/bipolar-disorder-among-adults.shtml

Wootton, T. Advantages in Bipolar Disorder: No Longer If, But Why and How. Retrieved on November 26, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bipolar-advantage/201306/advantages-in-bipolar-no-longer-if-why-and-how

International Bipolar Foundation. 5 Positives of Living With Bipolar Disorder (Besides Creativity). Retrieved on November 26, 2017, from http://ibpf.org/article/5-positives-living-bipolar-disorder-besides-creativity

Adams, Y. 5 Things to Remember When Being A Parent With Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved on November 26, 2017, from https://www.bphope.com/blog/5-things-to-remember-when-being-a-parent-diagnosed-with-bipolar-disorder/

Forbes, E. Finding the Positive Side of Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved on November 26, 2017, from https://www.bphope.com/accentuate-the-positive/

Categories
Bipolar Disorder

“The Feeling Will Pass”: Misdiagnoses In Mood Disorders

In a world where mental health is still highly stigmatized, another struggle also plagues the mental health communitya lack of accurate diagnoses. Patients struggling with their mental health, even after taking their first initial step toward seeking treatment from someone with experience in the broad spectrum of psychiatric disorders, still struggle in getting a proper diagnosis for their symptoms. Sometimes this is due to a simple lack of awareness by general practitioners, and other times, it is because symptoms overlap to such an extent that it becomes difficult to distinguish one disorder from another. One example of that is in the misdiagnoses seen in bipolar disorder and other similar depressive and personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder, or BPD.

Dealing with any mental health disorder and getting a proper diagnosis is challenging, but it can become even harder to get a clear diagnosis when the disorder you are dealing with is highly related to shifts in mood. Tilly Grove, for example, a 24-year-old journalist in the U.K., shared part of her story with BPD in a recent article from The Guardian. “I battled to get a diagnosis for two years,” she says, recounting her struggle in trying to get a mental health professional to take her chaotic mood swings seriously. To make matters more complicated, BPD is oftentimes highly confused with bipolar and a number of other disorders, as in the case of Maggy van Eijk, a journalist who had been misdiagnosed with unipolar depression, bipolar, and even PTSD, all before clinicians landed on a proper diagnosis of BPD. Both bipolar and BPD are presumed to be caused by a combination of genetics and environment, both involve mood fluctuations, and both can be harmful to the individual and the people around them. So how does one tell the two disorders apart when they are so similar?

A main distinguishing factor is the frequency of the mood swings and their intensity, and the individual’s sleep patterns throughout the mood swings. Whereas patients with BPD can experience mood changes quite rapidly, bipolar patients, especially those with Bipolar I, tend to have extended periods of depression followed by periods of mania, where the symptoms are quite pronounced and can lead to dangerous behaviors. BPD mood swings also appear to be triggered situationally, by experiences, as opposed to bipolar, where there may or may not be a situational trigger that sends one into a manic or depressive phase. Because of this, BPD sufferers are more likely to see the effects of their disorder in their unstable personal relationships.

How do these factors impact diagnosis, and why is it important to take this into account? In many cases, a proper diagnosis can mean the difference between returning to a normal routine of life or receiving improper medication that potentially makes the condition worse. Bipolar patients for example, when mislabeled with depression and given antidepressants for treatment, can actually be triggered into a manic episode as a side effect of the medication.

Even still, however, lack of awareness on a clinician’s part cannot account for all of the error in pinning down specific mood disorders. This diagnostic issue is also a reflection on the mental health community and the stigma mood disorders, in particular, can carry, and a lack of urgency for treatment. Perhaps the common link shared by bipolar and BPD, sudden shifts in mood, is viewed by patients and their families as something less detrimental than, for example, schizophrenia or another mental illness related to psychosis and hallucinations. After all, when are you more likely to go to the doctor, or when is a loved one more likely to push you to seek medical helpwhen you are feeling upset and hopeless, something that is arguably “easier” to cover up with a smile or a forced laugh, or when you are hearing voices in your head and having psychotic hallucinations? While mental disorders related to psychosis are seen as mental illnesses in their “purest form,” perhaps mood disorders are viewed both by the patients themselves and their family members as something less serious, or at least not serious enough to seek help for. After all, controlling one’s mood is seen as something much more accessible to most people than quieting voices in their head, or “unseeing” frightening images from a hallucination. Not only is it important for clinicians to be more aware and alert for early stages of depression, bipolar, or BPD, but it is also important for the patients themselves, and their family members, to realize that something detrimental and life-altering does not need to occur before medical help is sought. It is true that not all mental illnesses are created equal, but they all have the potential to be equally dangerous and equally life-altering. It is our responsibility to be just as vigilant aware of our own mental health, and that of others, as we expect our clinicians to be.

References:

Reynolds, E. Borderline personality disorder: ‘One GP told me I wasn’t ill, just a bad person.’ Retrieved on November 12, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2017/oct/27/borderline-personality-disorder-stigmatised-misunderstood-misdiagnosed

Van Eijk, M. What it’s really like to have Borderline Personality Disorder in the workplace. Retrieved on November 12, 2017, from https://inews.co.uk/opinion/really-like-go-work-borderline-personality-disorder/

Duckworth, K. Borderline Personality Disorder And Bipolar Disorder: What’s The Difference? Retrieved on November 12, 2017, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/June-2017/Borderline-Personality-Disorder-and-Bipolar-Disord

NHS Choices. Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved on November 12, 2017, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/

Bushak, L. Bipolar vs. Borderline Personality Disorder: The Differences Between The Two And How To Avoid Misdiagnosis. Retrieved on November 12, 2017, from http://www.ibtimes.com/bipolar-vs-borderline-personality-disorder-differences-between-two-how-avoid-2610556

Categories
Addiction

Celebrities and Media to Spark “Stigma Revolution”

What is the one major commonality shared between every mental illness that exists? Lack of awareness. The awareness does not have to be in regards to the symptoms, causes, or treatment, but just a general understanding of the strong negative consequences these crippling disorders have on strugglers. This lack also often leads to stigmas being created, followed, and believed by both the person suffering and the people creating these stigmas. The common question is, how do we increase awareness and eliminate stigmas?

One disorder often accompanied by a lack of awareness is addiction. Many addicts struggle to find help because they fear the judgment that results from stigma. This stigma stems from the way people talk about addiction. What many perceive as a battle of willpower and control is truly a battle between neurobiological forces. Addiction does not just stem from conscious choices made to take drugs but results from an involuntary combination of genetics and environmental factors (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014). With this stigma supporting ambiguous and commonly confused beliefs such as this running rampant, addicts are unlikely to get the help they need and deserve to live a happy, healthy life.

The effect the media has on the public is obvious, as do celebrities and Hollywood; this leads most parents to believe that media, celebrities, and Hollywood in general fuel addiction. This is a difficult claim to refute because it is clear that celebrities have a strong impact on their fans, young and old, and are notoriously known for their addictions. For this reason, we need more celebrities and more media organizations to come forward and share stories of recovery and hope. Celebrities such as Steve Aoki, Travis Barker, Macklemore, Dan Smith, and Anthony Anderson have spoken up about how addiction has affected their life or the life of a loved one. Others like Demi Lovato, Theoren Fleury, Amber Valletta and Pete Doherty have addressed addiction publicly and directly in hopes of helping others and breaking the stigma. Media such as the show Intervention, celebrity interviews, news outlets and blogs tell stories of addiction through fiction and nonfiction, while accurately demonstrating the consequences of addiction, no stigmas included. The power that celebrities and media hold over the public is immense. There’s no doubt that addiction is a serious, triggering and touchy subject when it is openly discussed. However, celebrities and media have the power to spread awareness about addiction, inspire hope and recovery and potentially spark a “stigma revolution.”

Help and recovery may look different to everyone, and it is not my place to say what people need nor to say that celebrities speaking up will cure addiction. Unfortunately, addiction is likely to be seen in generations to come. We can only hope that increased discussion and accurate media portrayals of addiction and recovery will inspire addicts to get help and meet their full potential. Through new insights into addiction and recovery, fears of judgment are being diminished, allowing addicts to seek help without unnecessary social fears.

References:

A Center For Addiction Recovery (2015, December 28). “Actor Anthony Anderson Addresses Addiction Recover – Video.” Retrieved from https://www.centerforaddictionrecovery.com/blog/actor-anthony-anderson-addresses-addiction-recovery-video/

A Center For Addiction Recovery (2016, August 23). “Dan Smith: Olympic Swimmer “Comeback Fairytale.”” Retrieved from https://www.centerforaddictionrecovery.com/blog/dan-smith-olympic-swimmer-comeback-fairytale/

A Center For Addiction Recovery (2016, October 10). “Macklemore, “I’m One of Millions of Americans Who Has Struggled with Addiction and Abused Painkillers.”” Retrieved from https://www.centerforaddictionrecovery.com/blog/macklemore-im-one-of-millions-of-americans-who-has-struggled-with-addiction-and-abused-painkillers/

Baltin, S. (2017, October 9). “Steve Aoki, Travis Barker, and More Open Up on Fighting Addiction and Depression in Industry.” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebaltin/2017/10/09/steve-aoki-travis-barker-and-more-open-up-on-fighting-addiction-and-mental-illness-in-industry/#1a6b0c32bbfa

Freedom From Addiction, (n.d.). “Understanding the Link Between Celebrities and Teen Drug Use.” Retrieved from https://www.freedomfromaddiction.com/publications/how-do-celebrities-affect-teens-when-it-comes-to-drug-use-and-drinking

Mayo Clinic Staff, (n.d.). “Drug Addiction: Causes.” Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/causes/con-20020970

Patterson, E., (n.d.). “Famous Drug Abusers.” Retrieved from https://drugabuse.com/library/famous-drug-abusers/#stigma-breakers

Rehab Today: Drug and Alcohol Rehab Blog, (n.d.). “How the Internet is Spreading Hope of Addiction Recovery.” Retrieved from https://rehab-international.org/blog/internet-spreading-hope-addiction-recovery

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

Categories
Videos

Through another’s eyes: Capgras Syndrome

Through Another’s Eyes is a video series that explores how different individuals perceive the world. Capgras Syndrome is very rare, but it reminds us how much our brains do behind the scenes, and is a helpful reminder to be patient with others.

 

For more about Capgras Syndrome:

When a ‘Duplicate’ Family Moves In by Carol W. Berman, M.D. in The New York Times

Seeing Imposters: When Loved Ones Suddenly Aren’t by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich on Radiolab

Categories
Depression

Suffering in Silence

It has been known in the psychological community for years that not all cases of depression are the same. Each individual presents different symptoms, and experiences the illness in their own unique way. However, something that is not often considered with regards to depression treatment and therapy is how cultural factors influence the individual’s ability and desire to get help. Values specific to one’s own cultural identity can heavily influence someone’s view of mental illness, and if an individual lives in a culture where mental illness is not really discussed, they could struggle with obtaining the resources they need. There are varying levels of stigmatization across cultures, with increased levels of stigma being present among minority communities. In particular, South Asian Americans experience higher levels of depression, but use mental health services in extremely low numbers.

“I had everything, but life is a double-edged sword. If I tell everything, I will lose everything.”

This is the note Neil Grover, a medical student at the University of Massachusetts, left before committing suicide in 1998. Neil’s death came as a shock to his South Asian family – they never knew that he was suffering from depression. Over the years, there have been all too many similar cases of suicide among high achieving South Asian youth.

Numerous studies have shown that South Asian women do not seek treatment for mental health unless it has become far too much to bear. South Asian immigrants are additionally less likely to stay consistent with medication after a mental health diagnosis. These outcomes are mostly likely due to cultural factors – South Asian families often cling to strict ideals of perfection, and the presence of a mental illness is viewed as completely shattering this illusion. Oftentimes, having a mental illness is viewed not as something to be treated, but as something that is the fault of the individual.  Additionally, South Asian parents tend to push their children to achieve at extremely high levels, and this is not always conducive to good mental health. In many cases, when children express concerns about not liking their job or their studies, they are told that they just need to work harder. These strict standards coupled with shame, silence and stigma often lead to South Asian youth hiding their own struggles until they are too great to bear.

In a community where failure is equated with giving up, pushing through is often the only option. This is especially true when the community in question is a minority in America and is subject to the social pressure of conforming to model stereotypes. Admitting to flaws within the community would take away the comfortable status that South Asian Americans enjoy within mainstream society. As a result of this, there is an enormous amount of pressure for South Asian immigrants and their children to live up to their own ideals of perfection, and for some, these standards are too high. The tendency of South Asian families to tell their children that others always have it worse than they have is extremely damaging. As a result of this, what is often perceived as a crisis point in mental health is not necessarily treated as one.  

Mental health professionals need to keep this in mind when dealing with patients. As it is, depression is stigmatized enough in normal American society, but it is even more deeply hidden among South Asians. The illusion of perfection is just that – an illusion, and until this is realized as a cultural problem, many South Asians will continue to suffer in silence.

References:

Chew-Graham, C., Bashir, C., Chantler, K., Burman, E., & Batsleer, J. (2002). South Asian women, psychological distress and self harm: lessons for primary care trusts. Health and Social Care in the Community, 10 (5), 339-347.

Ahmad F, Shik A, Vanza R, Cheung AM, George U, Stewart DE. Voices of South Asian Women: immigration and mental health. Women Health. 2005;40:113–30.

University of Missouri Health. (2015, July 23). U.S. South Asians more reluctant to seek medication for pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150723125609.htm

Tabassum R., Macaskill A., Ahmad I. (2000, September 1). Attitudes Towards Mental Health in an Urban Pakistani Community in the United Kingdom. doi: 10.1177/002076400004600303

Sohrabji, S. (2013, July 12). Suicide Amongst Indian Americans We’re Stressed, Depressed, But Who’s Listening?. India — West. pp. A1-A22.