The summer brings many reasons to rejoice — warmer weather, vacations, road trips, barbecuing, and usually a little extra time with loved ones. Yet for some of us, no other season brings such apprehension, especially at the mention of “bathing suit.”
We’ve come a long way in our understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. From the early designation of “shell shock” for military veterans to transforming the label of “hysteric” to PTSD for survivors of rape, we know that trauma can have lasting physical and emotional effects on those who experience it.
However, often we default to discussing only soldiers and victims of sexual violence when we talk about PTSD. These experiences are certainly among the leading causes of the mental illness, yet they aren’t the only type of trauma that result in PTSD. Let’s expand on how trauma of any kind changes us and how that impacts the way we think about PTSD.
Oh, the internet. Home of cute cat videos, sarcastic memes that make us cackle, social media to engage with anyone anywhere, and lightning-fast news with real-time live video. What could go wrong?
For better or worse, the internet has largely become how we consume and share information and interact with others from every corner of the world. Because of its vast and complex nature, it’s hard to determine just how the internet impacts those who use it on a daily basis. But what about for those of us who live with post-traumatic stress disorder? Does the internet make PTSD worse?
It’s a regular Tuesday evening when I realize my Talkspace therapist, who consistently answers twice a day, didn’t respond a second time that night. A fleeting thought darts through my head: “What if she died?” With my life-long history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am no stranger to such macabre thoughts, so I dismiss it. It’s just a thought without evidence.
Soon the thought pops back into my mind. I open the Talkspace app on my phone. No message, but it’s probably nothing. I answered her too late in the day, she’s busy, she’s taking a well-deserved night off, her app isn’t working…All reasonable explanations.
Not two seconds later, the thought’s back, and even with all my years of therapy and an arsenal of coping skills for moments just like this, that thought grabs me hook, line, and sinker. I launch into a full-blown panic, which eventually proves to be unfounded when my therapist messages me as usual the next morning.
Does this anecdote sound familiar? It’s just one example of obsessive thinking, and I’m confident we’ve all had a version of this experience at some point. These types of thoughts are unhelpful at best, and debilitating at worst.
This post is part of our #TherapyHelpedMe series for Mental Health Awareness Month. Talkspace shares stories of how therapy helps people of all backgrounds work through the daily challenges of modern life.
My therapist sits next to me on the couch, my eyes red rimmed. We’re both staring at the phone face up in my palm, my right index finger hovering over the call button. I’ve already protested about making this phone call, but my therapist insists. I look at her one more time and then hit the call button. My mom’s phone starts ringing.
Fifteen years earlier, this was the scene…
Ever been on the receiving end of the following conversations?
It’s Mother’s Day brunch, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July picnic, and a well-meaning person sidles up to ask, “When are you having kids?”
Or worse yet, you’re at a networking event and an acquaintance asks the same. As if inquiring about personal reproductive issues is appropriate small talk, let alone in a professional environment where choices about children are complicated (for women especially).
Discussion about having children is a charged issue that has no place in unsolicited conversation. Not only that, whether they’re child-free by choice, haven’t made up their mind yet, or have experienced heartbreaking issues while trying to have children, asking a person or couple if they’re having kids can be damaging to their mental health.
The human brain and body are designed to handle one-off anxiety reactions like a champ. The body gets flooded with chemicals such as the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare you for a fight or flight response. Resources such as blood flow are diverted to areas of the body that prime us for action.
It’s common to feel keyed up during these moments, as heart rate, sweating, and muscle tension increase. As soon as the threat has passed, the chemicals discharge and we return back to a normal, balanced state. From this perspective ― tied to running away from predatory animals in the early days of human life ― anxiety is not only normal, it’s a healthy adaptive response designed to keep us safe.
Drinking has a firm foot in our culture, and it seems to fit any occasion.
Having a birthday and turning 21, 30, or 50? Have a round on the house!
Getting married? Crank up Rihanna’s “Cheers (Drink to That)” and throw one (or five) back while grooving on the dance floor into the wee hours of the morning.
Going on a first date? Why not meet at the bar for a classy cocktail or glass of wine?
Had a hard day at work, bad week, or even a rough month when you just can’t seem to shake that sinking feeling? Nothing a drink to lift the spirits can’t solve…
And that’s where we begin to run into trouble — self-medicating our depression through alcohol consumption.
Feeling stressed out lately? If so, we’re not surprised.
According to a 2015 American Psychological Association study, 24 percent of Americans experience extreme stress on a regular basis. A similar study in 2017 found that 63 percent of the U.S. worries about the future of the country, 62 percent about money, and 61 percent about work, and stress levels have been steadily increasing over the last decade.
By now most of us know the symptoms of major depression well: Loss of pleasure in favorite activities, irritability, significant weight gain or loss, changes in sleeping habits, loss of energy, feeling worthless, an inability to think clearly, indecisiveness, hopelessness, and at its most severe, recurring thoughts of suicide.
The impact of depression is debilitating. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression — approximately 5 percent of the world’s population — and it’s the leading cause of disability. What’s worse, even in high-income countries nearly 50 percent of those with the illness don’t seek treatment.
And while depression reaches the lives of so many worldwide and is arguably one of the most studied mental illnesses, we still know little about its origins. Is depression genetic? Is it environmental? Short answer: It’s complicated.