Mental Health Awarness Month: Schizophrenia

May is mental health awareness month. When I started this blog in late May of last year (2014) it was in response to how I as an advocate, am going do my part to help stomp out the stigma of mental illness. In fact, it still is the goal of this blog to educate other’s on mental illness in hopes that it will reach enough people to make a dent in the stigma that mental illness brings.  I’ve realized over the last year that I haven’t done much educating on mental illness with the exception of me blogging about my personal experience with a mental illness and how those with a mental illness are productive members of society.

With that being said, I decided that today’s educational topic will be Schizophrenia. Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and am unable to diagnosis people if you think you have Schizophrenia or another mental health diagnosis please seek out professional help from a doctor or mental health professional. The information I am about to share on Schizophrenia, with you is info I got from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website at https://nami.org/.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It is a complex, long-term medical illness, affecting about 1% of Americans. Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40. It is possible to live well with schizophrenia.

Symptoms

It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability—common and nonspecific adolescent behavior. Other factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop schizophrenia, this stage of the disorder is called the “prodromal” period.

With any condition, it’s essential to get a comprehensive medical evaluation in order to obtain the best diagnosis. For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms are present in the context of reduced functioning for a least 6 months:

Hallucinations. These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.

Delusions. These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.

Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.

Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking. People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have anosognosia or “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treating or working with him much more challenging.

Causes

Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:

  • Genetics. Schizophrenia isn’t caused by just one genetic variation, but a complex interplay of genetics and environmental influences. While schizophrenia occurs in 1% of the general population, having a history of family psychosis greatly increases the risk. Schizophrenia occurs at roughly 10% of people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent or sibling. The highest risk occurs when an identical twin is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The unaffected twin has a roughly 50% chance of developing the disorder.
  • Environment. Exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, particularly in the first and second trimesters has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia. Inflammation or autoimmune diseases can also lead to increased immune system
  • Brain chemistry. Problems with certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Networks of neurons are likely involved as well.
  • Substance use. Some studies have suggested that taking mind-altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk. Another study has found that smoking marijuana led to earlier onset of schizophrenia and often preceded the manifestation of the illness.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy. Sometimes using drugs, such as methamphetamines or LSD, can cause a person to have schizophrenia-like symptoms. The difficulty of diagnosing this illness is compounded by the fact that many people who are diagnosed do not believe they have it. Lack of awareness is a common symptom of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and greatly complicates treatment.

While there is no single physical or lab test that can diagnosis schizophrenia, a health care provider who evaluates the symptoms and the course of a person’s illness over six months can help ensure a correct diagnosis. The health care provider must rule out other factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently in the context of reduced functioning:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms

Delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Identifying it as early as possible greatly improves a person’s chances of managing the illness, reducing psychotic episodes, and recovering. People who receive good care during their first psychotic episode are admitted to the hospital less often, and may require less time to control symptoms than those who don’t receive immediate help. The literature on the role of medicines early in treatment is evolving, but we do know that psychotherapy is essential.

People can describe symptoms in a variety of ways. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens she is looking through. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, probably due to differing cultural or religious beliefs or language barriers. Any person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia should try to work with a health care professional that understands his or her cultural background and shares the same expectations for treatment.

Treatment

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.

With medication, psychosocial rehabilitation, and family support, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be reduced. People with schizophrenia should get treatment as soon as the illness starts showing, because early detection can reduce the severity of their symptoms.

Recovery while living with schizophrenia is often seen over time, and involves a variety of factors including self-learning, peer support, school and work and finding the right supports and treatment.

Medication

Typically, a health care provider will prescribe antipsychotics to relieve symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations. Due to lack of awareness of having an illness and the serious side effects of medication used to treat schizophrenia, people who have been prescribed them are often hesitant to take them.

First Generation (typical) Antipsychotics

These medications can cause serious movement problems that can be short (dystonia) or long term (called tardive dyskinesia), and also muscle stiffness. Other side effects can also occur.

Second Generation (atypical) Antipsychotics

These medications are called atypical because they are less likely to block dopamine and cause movement disorders. They do, however, increase the risk of weight gain and diabetes. Changes in nutrition and exercise, and possibly medication intervention, can help address these side effects.

One unique second generation antipsychotic medication is called clozapine. It is the only FDA approved antipsychotic medication for the treatment of refractory schizophrenia and has been the only one indicated to reduce thoughts of suicide. However, it does have multiple medical risks in addition to these benefits. Read a more complete discussion of these risk and benefits.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for some people with affective disorders. With more serious conditions, including those with psychosis, additional cognitive therapy is added to basic CBT (CBTp). CBTp helps people develop coping strategies for persistent symptoms that do not respond to medicine.

Supportive psychotherapy is used to help a person process his experience and to support him in coping while living with schizophrenia. It is not designed to uncover childhood experiences or activate traumatic experiences, but is rather focused on the here and now.

Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET) works to promote cognitive functioning and confidence in one’s cognitive ability. CET involves a combination of computer based brain training and group sessions. This is an active area of research in the field at this time.

Psychosocial Treatments

People who engage in therapeutic interventions often see improvement, and experience greater mental stability. Psychosocial treatments enable people to compensate for or eliminate the barriers caused by their schizophrenia and learn to live successfully. If a person participates in psychosocial rehabilitation, she is more likely to continue taking their medication and less likely to relapse. Some of the more common psychosocial treatments include:

  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) provides comprehensive treatment for people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Unlike other community-based programs that connect people with mental health or other services, ACT provides highly individualized services directly to people with mental illness. Professionals work with people with schizophrenia and help them meet the challenges of daily life. ACT professionals also address problems proactively, prevent crises, and ensure medications are taken.
  • Peer support groups like NAMI Peer-to-Peer encourage people’s involvement in their recovery by helping them work on social skills with others. The Illness Management Recovery (IMR) model is an evidence-based approach that emphasizes setting goals and acquiring skills to meet those goals.

Complementary Health Approaches

Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, have shown some promise for treating and managing schizophrenia. Some researchers believe that omega-3 may help treat mental illness because of its ability to help replenish neurons and connections in affected areas of the brain.

Additional Concerns

Physical Health. People with schizophrenia are subject to many medical risks, including diabetes and cardiovascular problems, and also smoking and lung disease. For this reason, coordinated and active attention to medical risks is essential.

Substance Abuse. About 25% of people with schizophrenia also abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can make the treatments for schizophrenia less effective, make people less likely to follow their treatment plans, and even worsen their symptoms.

Helping Yourself

If you have schizophrenia, the condition can exert control over your thoughts, interfere with functioning and if not treated, lead to a crisis. Here are some ways to help manage your illness.

  • Manage Stress. Stress can trigger psychosis and make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to get plenty of sleep. When you’re on medication, you most likely need even more sleep than the standard eight hours. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise and avoiding caffeine can help.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. It’s indisputable that substance abuse affects the benefits of medication and worsens symptoms. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.
  • Maintain connections. Having friends and family involved in your treatment plan can go a long way towards recovery. People living with schizophrenia often have a difficult time in social situations, so surrounding yourself with people who understand this can make the transition back into daily social life smoother. If you feel you can, consider joining a schizophrenia support group or getting involved with a local church, club, or other organization.

If you live with a mental health condition, learn more about managing your mental health and finding the support you need.

Helping a Family Member or Friend

Learning about psychosis and schizophrenia will help you understand what your friend or family member is experiencing and trying to cope with. Living with schizophrenia is challenging. Here are some ways you can show support:

  • Respond calmly. To your loved one, the hallucinations seem real, so it doesn’t help to say they are imaginary. Calmly explain that you see things differently. Being respectful without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior.
  • Pay attention to triggers. You can help your family member or friend understand, and try to avoid, the situations that trigger his or her symptoms or cause a relapse or disrupt normal activities.
  • Help ensure medications are taken as prescribed. Many people question whether they still need the medication when they’re feeling better, or if they don’t like the side effects. Encourage your loved one to take his or her medication regularly to prevent symptoms from coming back or getting worse.
  • Understanding lack of awareness (anosognosia). Your family member or friend one may be unable to see that he or she has schizophrenia. Rather than trying to convince the person he or she has schizophrenia, you can show support by helping him or her be safe, get therapy, and take the prescribed medications.
  • Help avoid drugs or alcohol. These substances are known to worsen schizophrenia symptoms and trigger psychosis. If your loved one develops a substance use disorder, getting help is essential.

Related Conditions People with schizophrenia may have additional illnesses. These may include: Substance abuse Posttraumatic stress disorder Obsessive-compulsive disorder Major depression Successfully treating schizohprenia almost always improves these related illnesses. And successful treatment of substance abuse, PTSD or OCD usually improves the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Thank you for reading. I know today’s blog is quite long. I felt like it is necessary to give the above information to better educate myself as well as you the reader and/or follower. Please remember I am not qualified to diagnosis anyone of any physical or mental health condition. I hope to blog more about other diagnoses as well as various treatments for mental health conditions as time goes on. Well, I’m going to end this blog for now. Have a good day and Peace Out!!

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100th Blog

Writing this particular blog is a major milestone; a milestone in the fact that it is my 100th blog. Blogging on the subject of Mental Illness hasn’t been an easy feat. It hasn’t been easy for me to write on the topic of mental illness due to my own struggles with it and the lack of education. I have the lack of education to convey what I desire to tell you in regards to mental illness. Due to my struggles with mental illness I was unable to go to college and now it’s the lack of funds that I am unable to attend college. On the flip side, I am able to convey how one feels as well as how one deals when one struggles with a mental illness. I am however able to convey something on mental illness that and “educated” person cannot because I live with one. Who better to educate others on mental illness than those who struggle with one? Well, maybe those who not only struggle with a mental illness but have an education in field that deals with mental illness.

Dealing with a mental illness is not an easy thing to deal with because of the struggles one must have to endure when it comes to symptoms.  Learning to deal with the symptoms of a mental health diagnosis in a positive way is a start in  the recovery process. Recovery is not only a difficult journey as well as process but a difficult choice. Yes, recovery is a choice, a choice which one must be a willing participant. Of course being in recovery is an effort that others must be included in because going the journey alone just makes the journey not worth the effort to do. Once a person chooses the road to recovery that person will need all the support they can receive.

The support that one receives looks different to everyone’s own recovery. For me and my own recovery my support system is continuing to grow and be more supportive. My support system includes professionals (such as my therapist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, primary care physician, etc.) as well as natural supports (such as my boyfriend, friends, current and past co-workers, selected family members, etc.). If it wasn’t for the continued support of the people I consider my support system, I would not be able to enjoy my life or even be in recovery. Yes, it is choice that I must make and choose to make however without the support I would not be able to continue on the road of recovery.

The point I am trying to make is that one who struggles with a mental illness needs all the positive support they can get especially when they choose to walk in recovery. Choosing recovery is a personal decision not a forced decision. Being forced into recovery (and in most cases treatment) does more harm than good. The last thing we who struggle with mental illness is to be forced to go into treatment. Yes, in some cases it is a good idea to be put into involuntary treatment but in most cases it is NOT a good idea.

My recovery means the world to me. Yes, there might be relapses and bumps in the road but I will have the support of my support network as well as all the skills I have learned throughout the years. If it wasn’t for my recovery I would not have been able to be employed at my previous employer much less get my current job as a consumer aide at a mental health agency. I have worked endlessly to get where I am at and I owe it all to those who have helped me through out the years. It is to those who have helped me through out the years that this blog is dedicated to. If it wasn’t for the help of many people I would have not been able to be posting my 100th blog much less been able to start this blog to share my recovery as well as to educate those who do not have a mental illness. It is my hope that this blog continues to educate people as well as give hope to those who are struggling and that recovery is possible.

I want to thank you for reading and/or following my blog. It means a great deal to me. I hope that with the next hundred blogs that I will able to continue to convey hope and recovery as well as educate on mental illness. Yes, I know I am not a teacher however some of the best educators in my life  were NOT teachers.

I hope to blog again in the next day or so. I am thrilled that I am able to share my life with you as well as be able show people that there is hope and recovery is possible and that people with mental illness are fully capable human beings. Have a good rest of your weekend all. Peace Out and have fun!!!

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

It’s the end of the work week and I haven’t blogged in nearly a week. I have not only been busy with work but with life in general. I mentioned in my last two blogs that once mental health week was over with, that I would continue educating you on a particular mental health diagnosis. That is what I plan on doing this evening. I plan on educating you on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I have been diagnosed with a mild form of OCD. The information I am about to tell you I got off of the Natation Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website at nami.org.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

     Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts – unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly appear in a person’s mind. Again and again, the person experiences disturbing thoughts, such as “My hands must be contaminated; I need to wash them”; “I may have left the gas stove on; I need to go check it fast”; I am going to injure my child by accident; I need to be very careful or else something bad will happen.” On one level, he or she fears these thoughts might be true. Trying to avoid such thoughts creates great anxiety, distress and dysfunction.

     Compulsions are repetitive riturals such as hand washing, counting, checking, hoarding or arranging. An individual repeats these actions many times throughout the day and performing these actions releases anxiety, but only momentarily. People with OCD feel they mush perform these compulsive rituals or something bad will happen to them or their loved ones.

Most people at one time or another will experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder occurs when an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions for more than an hour each day, in a way that interferes with his or her life. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 2 percent of the U.S population, or nearly one out of every 40 people, will be diagnosed with OCD at some point in their lives. The disorder is two or three times more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

OCD is often described as “a disease of doubt.” Individuals living with OCD experience “pathological doubt” because they are unable to distinguish between what is possible, what is probable and what is unlikely to happen.

Who gets OCD?

People from all walks of life can get OCD. It strikes people of all social and ethnic groups and both males and females. Symptoms typically begin in childhood, the teenage years or young adulthood. The sudden appearance of OCD symptoms later in life merits a thorough medical evaluation to ensure that another illness is not the cause of these symptoms.

What causes OCD?

People with OCD can often say “why” they have obsessive thoughts or “why” they behave compulsively, but the thoughts and the behavior continue. A large body of scientific evidence suggest that OCD results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. For years, mental health professionals incorrectly assumed OCD resulted from bad parenting or personality defects. This theory has been disproven over the last few decades. People whose brains are injured sometimes develop OCD, which suggest it is a medical condition. If a placebo pill is given to people who are depressed or who experience panic attacks, nearly 40 percent say they feel better. If a placebo is given to people who experience obsessive-compulsive disorder, only about two percent say they feel better. This also suggest that OCD is a biological condition as opposed to a “personality problem.”

Genetics are thought to be very important in OCD. If you, or your parent or sibling, have OCD, there’s close to a 25 percent chance that another of your immediate family members will have it.

OCD has been found to be connected with dysfunction in certain parts of the brain, can cause the repetitive movements and rigid thinking that effects people with OCD. Successful treatment with medication or behavior therapy changes the activity in these brain regions, which decreases the symptoms of OCD. Two specific chemicals in the brain – a neurotransmitter called serotonin and a hormone called vasopressin – have also been studied by scientist who have found a link between these chemicals and OCD. Researchers believe OCD, anxiety disorders, Tourette’s and eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can be triggered by some of the same chemical changes in the brain.

A world-renowned expert, Judith Rapopart M.D., describes OCD by writing, ” something in the brain is stuck, like a broken record.”

Now that I have educated you on OCD, I hope that you have learned something. I got the above information  from NAMI’s website at nami.org.

I plan on blogging on one mental health diagnosis a week so I can be able to continue to educate others on mental illness. I just want to  lessen the stigma of mental illness. I am going to call it an evening. Peace Out!!

Mental Health Araweness Week; Day 7: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) & Recovery

It’s Day 7 of Mental Health Awareness Week. That means it is the last day and I struggled with what I wanted to discuss today. I really wanted to discuss another diagnosis as well as recovery. With much discussion and consideration with different people in my life, I have chosen to not only talk about Recovery but Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as well. I chose these two topics because I at one time was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and because I have worked so hard in recovery I no longer meet the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). So you can see the topics of Recovery and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can go hand and hand for me.

I will discuss Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) first. From here on out for the remainder of this blog, Borderline Personality Disorder will be written as BPD. The following information on BPD I got from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website at nami.org.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that can be challenging for everyone involved, including the individuals with the illness, as well their friends and family members. BPD is characterized by impulsivity and instability in mood, self-image, and personal relationships. The treatments and longer-term studies of BPD offer hope for good outcomes for most individuals who live with BPD. Ideas to name the condition in a manner that better describes the patter of concerns (e.g., Emotion Dysregulation Disorder) have been advanced but no name change to the condition is planned for the release of DSM-5.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and how is it diagnosed?

Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed by mental health professionals following a comprehensive psychiatric interview that may include talking with a person’s previous clinicians, review of prior records, a medical evaluation, and when appropriate, interviews with friends and family. There is no specific single medical test (e.g., blood test) to diagnose BPD and a diagnosis is not based on  a single sign or symptom. Rather, BPD is diagnosed by a mental health professional based on patterns of thinking and behavior in an individual. Some people may have “borderline personality traits” which means that they do not meet the criteria for diagnosis with BPD but have some of the symptoms associated with this illness.

Individuals with BPD usually have several of the following symptoms, many which are detailed in the DSM-IV-TR:

  • Marked mood swings with periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/or anxiety last a few hours to a few days (but not in the context of full-blown episode of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder).
  • Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger.
  • Impulsive behaviors that result in adverse outcomes and psychological distress, such as excessive spending, sexual encounters, substance use, shoplifting, reckless driving or binge eating.
  • Recurring suicidal threats or non-suicidal self-injurious behavior such as cutting on one’s self.
  • Unstable, intense personal relationships, sometimes alternating between “all good,” idealization, and “all bad,” devaluation.
  • Persistent uncertainty about self-image, long-term goals, friendships and values.
  • Chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness.
  • Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.

Borderline Personality Disorder is relatively common – about 1 in 20 or 25 individuals will live with this condition. Historically, BPD has been thought to be significantly more common in females, however recent research suggest that males may almost as frequently affect by BPD. Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed in people from each race, ethnicity and economic status.

What is the cause of Borderline Personality Disorder?

The exact causes of BPD remain unknown, although the roles of both environmental and biological factors are though to play a role in people who develop this illness. While no specific gene has been shown to directly cause BPD, a number of different genes have been identified as playing a role in its development. The brain’s functioning, as seen in MRI testing, is often different in people with BPD, suggesting that there is a neurological basis for some of the symptoms associated with BPD.

Neuroimaging studies are not clinically helpful at this time to make the diagnosis and are research tools. A number of hormones (including oxytocin) and signaling molecules within the brain (e.g., neurotransmitters including serotonin) have been shown to potentially play a role in BPD. People who experience traumatic life events (e.g., physical or sexual abuse during childhood) are at increased risk of developing BPD, as are people with certain chronic medical illnesses in childhood.

The connection between BPD and other mental illnesses is well established. People with BPD are at increased risk for anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse. BPD is often misdiagnosed and many people find they wait years to get a proper diagnosis, which leads to a better care plan.

Many people with Borderline Personality Disorder have a first-degree relative with a serious mental illness (e.g., bipolar or schizophrenia). This is likely due to both genetic and environmental factors.

Now that I have bored you about BPD, I want to thank you for reading to this point. Again, I got the following information from NAMI’s website at nami.org.  I will now continue on with the next part of my blog.

The next part of the discussion is Recovery. According to the Webster’s dictionary Recovery is defined as following: noun: The process of combating a disorder (such as alcoholism) or a real or perceived problem. Now that you know the definition of Recovery, I can tell you how recovery looks to me especially when it comes to BPD.

Recovery has been a long and difficult process for me. In fact recovery is a lifelong process for people with any mental health diagnosis. For me, my recovery process in regards to my mental illness (not the eating disorders I struggled with) started 11 years ago this month (October or 2003) when I went into a two year intensive outpatient Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program. When I was in DBT I learned on ways to learn how to deal with my intense emotions. Most of the emotions I was dealing with and still deal with on occasion, I learn as a child to hold them in. So, holding in my emotions I ended up self-harming by cutting myself. I’m getting a little off topic, when I was in the DBT program I learned the proper skills or tools I needed to express my emotions appropriately. Because I learned how to express my emotions in an appropriate manner I was able to hold down a job at the same employer for 9 1/2 year as well take the training and examination to become a Certified Peer Support Specialist (aka Peer Counselor). Not only was I employed at the same employer for 9 1/2 years I was able to quit that job and become  Consumer Aide with Peer Counselor responsibilities at a mental health agency.

Yes, after I graduated the DBT program I continued with my previous job as well as sought out a new therapist. I have had my current therapist for 6 years this December. My current therapist Diana (pseudonym) and have worked endlessly with the pain of my past. She is the one that encouraged me to get my peer certification as well getting my new job as a Consumer Aide. Diana and the DBT program I graduated from in November of 2005 have played a key role in my recovery. In fact I have come to rely on myself as well as my friends and a select family members as well as people I consider family more than I do my own treatment team. Diana, my current therapist, is the one who declared me a recovered Borderline. As of the summer of last year (2013) I know longer meet the criteria of Borderline. My natural support system will see to that I will never get the diagnosis of BPD back. In fact my natural supports are a key to my recovery.

The reason why they are key to my recover is because like I said earlier recovery is a life long process. See I deal with other mental health diagnoses like the ones I have shared with you this past week. In fact I struggle with a few other diagnoses and will continue to educate you on those tomorrow. Going back to the topic, most mental illness’s are life long. Most of the personality disorders are the only mental health diagnoses you can eventually no longer meet the criteria for and Borderline is one of them. Yes, I will most likely struggle from time to time with my other mental health diagnosis however I have great friends and family as well as a therapist that are all invested in my recovery. They wont give up on me nor will they allow me to give up on myself.

Now that I have practically written a chapter or two of a book I better let you all go. I will continue to keep educating you on different diagnosis’s. I will continue with the ones that deal with. Have a great rest of your weekend I hope that I have educated you all on mental illness during Mental Health Awareness Week. I hope you all will continue to read and/or follow my blog. I hope I was able to convey to you this week that I was hoping to and hope to be able to convey more to you all in other blogs. Thanks for reading. Please do not hesitate to share my blog on social media site just as long as it is done in a respectful manner. Again thank you for reading. It means a great deal to me that you read my blog.

I should really let you go. I will blog again tomorrow and yes I will be blogging about another mental health diagnosis. It will be one that I have been diagnosed with. Again, thank you for reading. Peace out and enjoy your weekend.

Mental Health Awareness Week; Day 6: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

It is Day 6 of Mental Health Awareness Week. Today’s topic of discussion is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Todays discussion is quite difficult for me because I am struggle with PTSD and I am sure that this topic will bring up some painful memories from my past. I am aware that this particular post might take me all day to post because if I need to stop for a while I will. I need to do what is best for me but I also realize that I still need to educate you all on PTSD. Again the information I will give to you on PTSD, I got from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website at nami.org.

The symptoms of PTSD:

The DSM-IV criteria for identifying PTSD require that symptoms must me active for more than one month after the trauma and associated with the decline in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The three broad symptom clusters can be summarized as follow:

1. Persistent Re-experiencing

A person experiences one or more of the following:

  • recurrent nightmares or flashbacks;
  • recurrent images or memories of the event – these images or memories often occur without actively thinking about the event;
  • intense distress of reminders of the trauma; and/or
  • physical reactions to triggers that symbolize or resemble the event.

2. Avoidant/Numbness Responses

A person experiences three or more of the following:

  • efforts to avoid feelings or triggers associated with the trauma;
  • avoidance of activities, places or people that remind the person of the trauma;
  • inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma;
  • markedly diminished interest in activities;
  • feelings of detachment or estrangement from others;
  • restricted range of feelings; and/or
  • difficulty thinking abut the long-term future – sometimes this expresses itself by a failure to plan for the future or taking risk because the person does not fully believe or consider the possibility that they will be alive for a normal lifespan.

3. Increased Arousal

A person experiences two or more of the following:

  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep;
  • outburst of anger/irritability;
  • difficulty concentrating;
  • increased vigilance that may be maladaptive; and/or
  • exaggerated startle response

Again, I got this information off of the NAMI website at nami.org. The DSM has since got an updated version now DSM-5.The diagnosis of PTSD has been updated in the DSM-5 so for more updated information you might want to check it out.

As I thought I am having some problems writing this particular blog. I have made the decision to make this particular blog shorter than I had hoped. It has been quite triggering for me. I am a survivor of multiple traumas and some of those trauma’s were when I was a child. Writing this blog has brought up some unpleasant memories of some horrific parts of my life. That is why I am needing to end this blog. I am sorry that I was unable to convey everything that I wanted. I hope that someday that I will be able to convey more on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I need to take care of myself and I know with the years of therapy that I have had and continue to have that if continuing this particular entry will trigger me even more.

On that note, I will blog again tomorrow on another subject. I am not really sure if I am going to write about but I do know that I will write about mental health. I hope that you will continue to follow and/or read my blog when Mental Health Awareness Week ends. Have a great weekend everyone. Enjoy it to the best of your ability. Peace out and enjoy life!!!!

Mental Health Awareness Week; Day 5: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It is Day 5 of Mental Health Awareness Week. Today I will be discussing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is sort of a continuation of yesterdays topic of depression. SAD is personal to me as well because I was (and still am) diagnosed with it. This is another diagnosis I have had over half of my life. Again the information I am going to give you is from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website which is nami.org.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

     The symptoms of depression are very common. Some people experience these only at times of stress, while others may experience them regularly at certain ties of the year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, usually in late fall and winter, alternating with periods of normal periods of normal or high mood the rest of the year.

Whether SAD is a distinct mental illness or s specific type of major depressive disorder is a topic of debate in the scientific literature. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) first posited the condition as a response to decreased light, and pioneered the use of bright light to address the symptoms. It has been suggested that women are more likely to have the illness than men and that SAD is less likely in older individuals. SAD can also occur in children and adolescents, in which is usually first suspected by parents and teachers rather than the individual themselves.

While no specific genes has been shown to cause SAD, many people with this illness report at least one close relative with a psychiatric condition – most frequently a severe depressive disorder or substance abuse. Scientists have identified that a chemical within the brain ( a neurotransmitter called serotonin) ma not be functioning optimally in many patients with SAD. The role of hormones, specifically melatonin, and sleep-wake cycles (also called circadian rhythms) during the changing seasons is still being studied in people with SAD. Some studies have also shown that SAD is more common in people who live in Northern latitudes (e.g., Canada and Alaska as opposed to California and Florida).

What are the patterns of SAD?

For all depressive episodes, it is important to understand the patter of the condition, in other words, what stressors or triggers contribute to the depressive symptoms. In SAD, the seasonal variation in mood states is the key dimension to understand. Through recognition of the pattern of symptoms over time, developing a more targeted treatment plan is possible.

Symptoms of SAD usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April. Some patients begin to “slump” as early as August, while others remain well until January. Regardless of the time of onset, most patients don’t feel fully “back to normal” until early May. Depressions are usually mild to moderate but they can be severe. Treatment planning needs to match the severity of the condition for the individual. Safety is the first consideration in all assessment of depression, as suicide can be a risk for more severe depressive symptoms. Although some individuals do not necessarily show these symptoms, the classic  characteristics of recurrent winter depression include oversleeping, daytime fatigue, carbohydrate craving and weight gain. Additionally, many people may experience other features of depression including decreased sexual interest, lethargy, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in normal activities and decreased socialization.

In a minority of cases, symptoms occur in the summer rather than winter. During that period, the depression is more likely to be characterized by insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss and agitation or anxiety. In still fewer cases,a patient may experience both winter and summer depressions, while feeling fine each fall and spring, around the equinoxes. Many people with SAD also report that their depression worsens or reappears whenever there is “less light around” (e.g., the weather is overcast any time of the year, or if their indoor lighting is decreased).

Some people with Bipolar Disorder can also have seasonal changes in heir mood and experience acute episodes in a recurrent fashion at different times of the year.I has been classically described that some people with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience depressive episodes in the fall/winter and manic episodes in spring/summer.

A person with any of these symptoms should feel comfortable asking their doctors about SAD. A full medical evaluation of a person who is experiencing these symptoms for the first time should include a thorough physical examination as well as blood (e.g., thyroid testing) and urine testing (e.g., pregnancy testing, drug screening). A medical evaluation is appropriate because SAD can often be misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, infectious mononucleosis or other medical conditions.

Again I got this information from NAMI’s website at nami.org. I hope that I am able to convey to you the reader and/or follower on what I am wanting to educate you all on. It being Mental Health Awareness Week it is my desire to educate people especially those who do not have any mental health diagnoses.

I deal with the symptoms of SAD the same way I deal with Depression. If you want to know how I deal with depression you can easily read yesterdays blog titled Mental Health Awareness Week; Day 4: Depression. SAD effects me mainly in late autumn through mid spring. It is key with any mental health diagnosis to know what your triggers are and I know what my triggers are with SAD. As with any mental health diagnosis treatment is another key compounding element with SAD.

I hope that I will be able to blog again tomorrow to continue to educate other on another mental health condition. It is my hopes that my blogging about mental illness that maybe just maybe the stigma that surrounds mental illness will start to lessen. Stigma is a major reason why those who suffer from mental illness suffer in silence and alone. Please don’t be afraid to share this on any social media site you want just as long as it is in a respectful manner. Have a good day everyone. Peace out!!!!

Mental Health Awareness Week; Day 4: Depression

It is Day 4 of Mental Health Awareness Week. Today, I will be discussing Depression. I will be discussing Depression because I not only struggle with it but many other people in my life struggle with it as well. I personally was diagnosed when I was 14 years old. That means I have had Depression my than half my life. I will again be giving you information that is posted on National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website. NAMI’s website is nami.org.

What are the symptoms of major depression and how is it diagnosed?

Depression can be difficult to detect from the outside, but for those who experience major depression, it is disruptive in a multitude of ways. It usually causes significant changes in how a person functions in many of the following areas:

  • Changes in sleep. Some people experience difficulty in falling asleep, waking up during the night or awakening earlier than desired. Other people sleep excessively or much longer than they used to.
  • Changes in appetite. Weight gain or weight loss demonstrates changes in eating habits and appetite during episodes of depression.
  • Poor concentration. The inability to concentrate and/or make decisions is a serious aspect of depression. During severe depression, some people find following the thread of a simple newspaper article to be extremely difficult, or make major decisions often impossible.
  • Loss of energy. The loss of energy and fatigue often affects people living with depression. Mental speed and activity are usually reduced, as is the ability to preform daily routines.
  • Lack of interest. During depression, people feel sad and lose interest in usual activities.
  • Low self-esteem. During periods of depression, people dwell on memories of losses or failures and feel excessive guilt and helplessness.
  • Hopelessness or guilt. The symptoms of depression often produce a strong feeling of hopelessness, or a belief that nothing will ever improve. These feelings can lead to thoughts of suicide.
  • Movement changes. People may literally look “slowed down: or overly activated and agitated.

Mental health care professionals use the criteria for depression in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to develop a diagnosis.

There is a strong possibility that a depressive episode can be a part of Bipolar Disorder. Having a physician make the right distinction between unipolar major depression and bipolar depression is critical because treatments for these two depressive disorders differ.

Again, I got the above information from NAMI’s website at nami.org. NAMI is an awesome resource in regards to mental illness. I am grateful that NAMI and other such organizations are out there to help spread the word about mental illness and to help stop the stigma that goes along with it.

Depression effects me severely for many different reason. One of those reason is that when my depression gets severe I get psychotic. When I mean psychotic, I hallucinate. With some people’s depression they have psychotic features along with it. I know when things get severe with my depression when the psychotic features rear their ugly head and that usually means that I need to be hospitalized. Thankfully, my depression hasn’t been that severe in about 3 years. Another thing in regards to my depression is that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD is another form of Depression however it is its own separate diagnosis.

I maintain my depression in various ways. I not only take an antidepressant for my depression but I also see a therapist every other week. (Side note: If my symptoms get bad I then see my therapist every week) I also eat regularly and try to make sure that I eat as healthy as possible. I also exercise on the regular basis even if that means I only walk 3 miles that day. I always at least walk 3 miles a day even if its rainy and stormy outside. Yes, I even walk 3 miles a day when it is icy and snowy outside. I do this because I know it helps with my depression. Plus it gets me outside. With depression I tend to isolate and getting out to walk helps me not isolate. Getting outside even when rainy and/or cloudy gives you that natural light that every needs and you even get Vitamin D through the clouds from the sunlight. I also make sure I have good sleep hygiene. I try to go to bed at the same time every night as well as get up at the same time every morning. I do this because it helps me with my depression even on nights I don’t get much sleep. I do many other things as well but I don’t want to bore you with them. I just wanted to try to convey on what depression was and how I deal with it to try to keep it at bay.

Well, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your Wednesday. I hope to blog again tomorrow on another mental health diagnosis. I hope that I am conveying to you the reader and/or follower that I am intending. I hope that I am educating you all on mental illness. Well have a good rest of your day. Peace Out!!!