When Does Normal Anxiety Become a Mental Illness?

anxious man hand in head

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

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

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

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

Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips

hands green brain

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

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

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

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

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

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders: How Are They Classified?

woman male therapist clipboard

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

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

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

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

What Is a Mental Health Counselor?

mental health counselor client couch

The basic definition of a mental health counselor is simple. Understanding all of what the term can mean, however, is more complicated.

Mental health counselors are licensed professionals who help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They communicate with clients to understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Depending on the context, “mental health counselor” can refer to a specific license rather than the actual work. Mental health professionals can earn the proper mental health counselor license, but their daily work might not involve counseling. Before or after their clinical work, many become administrators, educators, or consultants. Nonetheless, most professionals who advertise themselves as mental health counselors provide mental health support as their primary source of income. Continue reading What Is a Mental Health Counselor?

Talkspace Therapists Weigh in on Data-Driven Therapy

hand smartphone data app

The verdict is in: Therapy is becoming more data-driven. Because of advancements in psychology metrics and the gradual spread of feedback-informed treatment [FIT], an increasing number of therapists are relying on data to improve their performance and clinical outcomes. There is already evidence that using data can decrease the number of clients who leave therapy or see a deterioration in their mental health.

But with some advances in a field comes resistance, criticism, anxiety, skepticism, division, and debate. The majority of in-person therapists do not use FIT or any formal system of data in their work. Some believe data has no place in something as artful, personal, and private as therapy. Every client and therapeutic relationship is different, so therapists are often not confident in the ability of data to account for this variance.

At Talkspace we are at the forefront of data-driven and online therapy. We frequently survey clients and use the anonymous feedback to work with their therapists to improve the quality of treatment. Nonetheless, we understand the perspectives of therapists who are weary of big data’s role in therapy.

To start a positive and productive dialogue about the role of data in therapy, we sent our therapists this article about data-driven therapy. We asked them to read and respond with comments and constructive criticisms regarding the use of data and FIT in therapy. Continue reading Talkspace Therapists Weigh in on Data-Driven Therapy

Different Types of Anxiety Attacks: Understanding the Factors

woman drowning anxiety

Classifying different types of anxiety attacks can be difficult. “Anxiety attack” is not an official clinical term. You won’t find it in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the handbook most mental health professionals reference. There is also the issue of both mental health clients and professionals confusing anxiety attacks and panic attacks.

“Anxiety attack” is a colloquial term clients created to describe intense or extended periods of anxiety. On a scale of intensity, an anxiety attack is between mild feelings of anxiety and a panic attack. Because of its frequency, many mental health professionals adopted it. To learn more about what an anxiety attack is and dispel any confusion, read our piece on anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks.

Unlike repeated panic attacks, anxiety attacks are not necessarily a sign of a mental health condition. If you are experiencing a lot of stress or going through a rough patch in life, it’s natural to have intense anxiety that occurs frequently. Experiencing many anxiety attacks without an apparent cause, however, can be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Despite it not being an official clinical term, there are types of anxiety attacks. Many therapists recognize they are legitimate mental health issues. We decided to classify them based on the factors that determine how people experience an anxiety attack. Continue reading Different Types of Anxiety Attacks: Understanding the Factors

How Working at Talkspace Has Improved My Mental Health

Talkspace therapy bubble event

Before I started working as the Content Marketing Manager and Staff Writer at Talkspace, I was unemployed for about 11 weeks during the summer of 2015. After taking a historic financial hit, my parent company had to lay me off, along with almost everyone else in our startup.

As if it was some scene from “Up in the Air,” a woman who looked a bit like Anna Kendrick flew to our New York office, pulled me aside, and told me what I already knew was going to happen. It was all so blatantly unnecessary. Rather than feeling better after talking to her, I wondered why someone whose job it was to fire people was more important to the company than my coworkers and I. A letter or email would have sufficed.

The unemployment period was difficult and fraught with other unfortunate events. Bed bugs infested my apartment and pooped all over my bedroom walls. My building was able to handle the situation without kicking me out of the apartment, but it still took a financial and emotional toll on me. I had to throw out all of the sentimental items the bed bugs had crapped on, including a thoughtful gift my girlfriend had bought. Throwing everything out and buying new linens depleted a lot of my savings. Continue reading How Working at Talkspace Has Improved My Mental Health

Dealing With Depression: What You Need to Know

woman sitting lake mountains landscape

If you are dealing with depression, remember that you are not alone. More than 300 million people around the world live with depression. It is the leading cause of disability.

Dealing with depression is a lifelong journey of overcoming pain, accepting change, challenging your mind, training your body, and engaging in something outside of yourself. To thrive during this sometimes harrowing journey, you might need knowledge of the strategies, treatments, and lifestyle changes that will help you. We outlined them below:

Treatment Options for Dealing With Depression

In-Person Psychotherapy

Working with a licensed psychotherapist in-person is an effective treatment for reducing symptoms of depression and learning to cope with depression, according to the American Psychological Association and many other credible institutions. A therapist can help clients with depression by:

  • Identifying events, negative beliefs, patterns, behaviors, and people that contributed to the development of the depression; then working on strategies to address these issues
  • Setting realistic, specific, and actionable goals for dealing with depression; then helping maintain accountability for these goals
  • Helping develop skills to cope with symptoms and problems

There are many types of therapy, and some might work better for you than others. Continue reading Dealing With Depression: What You Need to Know

The Pain of Anti-LGBTQ Bullying: Ending the Silence

sad woman sitting on floor

April 24, 2017 was GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an annual campaign that brings awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment. To participate in this campaign, we decided to share the stories (anonymously) of Talkspace clients who faced anti-LGBTQ bullying and used therapy to heal.

How Childhood Bullying Has Lasting Effects

When people face anti-LGBTQ bullying — or any other form of bullying — during their youth, it can affect them for the rest of their lives. One of our therapists worked with a client who was bullied in school because he was gay. His peers also taunted and teased him because he was quiet and shy. Rather than supporting him and being compassionate, his parents told him to “toughen up.”

This had profound effects on the course of the client’s life. Now in his 40s, the client has trouble making friends and believing he is likeable. He finds it hard to believe that anyone would want to spend time with him. He often takes neutral behaviors personally or perceives them as punitive. His world feels small and he struggles with the daily pain of his loneliness. Continue reading The Pain of Anti-LGBTQ Bullying: Ending the Silence

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Which One Are You Having?

anxiety vs. panic attack illustration

Knowing the difference between an anxiety attack vs. panic attack is more than an issue of semantics. It can shape the course of your mental health. If you don’t know which one you are having, it will be difficult to find the appropriate treatment or develop useful coping skills. You might waste time addressing the wrong issues.

By understanding the issue of anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks, you can more efficiently address your mental health and the issues behind the attacks. It starts with understanding the more confusing of the two, anxiety attacks.

What Are Anxiety Attacks? – Clinical Terms vs. Colloquial Terms

“Anxiety attack” is not an official clinical term. The latest edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” [DSM-5], a book the vast majority of mental health professionals abide by, does not list it (we’ll be sure to update this article if that fact changes during the next release of the DSM). Continue reading Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Which One Are You Having?