How to Deal With Multiple Mental Illnesses

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Having a mental illness can change your life. Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness can alter the way you live every day. While this can certainly be hard, perhaps even more difficult is a diagnosis of two or more mental illnesses.

Having more than one medical illness is known as a comorbid condition. Unfortunately, comorbid mental illnesses are more common than most people think.

Comorbidity in Major Depression

The most common comorbidity with major depression is an anxiety condition. The comorbidity rate can be up to 60%. It’s so prevalent that the appearance of one disorder is often considered a predisposing factor for the other. Approximately 5-9% of the general adult population has an anxiety and depression diagnosis.

Patients with major depressive disorder also have higher rates of psychotic disorders and suicidal risk. Those with a higher suicide risk may have a higher risk of anxiety or psychotic disorder. Continue reading How to Deal With Multiple Mental Illnesses

A Faith-Based Perspective on Overthinking and Anxiety

anxious woman smartphone

Overthinking can lead to depression, anxiety, an inability to move forward, and wrecked emotional health, according to groundbreaking research from psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema of the University of Michigan. We may not even realize we are overthinking because we’re thinking all the time and it comes so naturally to all of us.

I find myself constantly living out scenarios in my mind that don’t come to pass. It gives me relief to know I am not alone in this. When we are nervous about something — whether it be a deadline for work, a conversation we are not looking forward to having, or a major event that could go well or poorly — it is so easy to let ourselves be consumed with the “what ifs.”

When I find myself in this trap, I will lose sleep, become irritable, and struggle to focus on anything else. None of the scenarios I imagine have ever come to pass, yet they already cause me stress! How backwards is that? And yet, most of us do this all the time. Continue reading A Faith-Based Perspective on Overthinking and Anxiety

Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

woman in bed anxiety light on

Despite advances in neuroscience during the past several decades, sleep continues to remain mostly a mystery. We know we need it as much as water, food and air. We can go weeks without eating food, but what would happen if you went weeks without sleep? Maybe you have. Various degrees of insomnia, and official sleep disorders, are serious conditions. But, what about periodic anxieties that are significant enough to disrupt our sleep. Missing one night of sleep can disrupt our normal biorhythms enough to disrupt the next night’s, and the next!

Anxiety, for the most part, originates in the mind. The body sensations and feelings we have surrounding anxiety occur because of the psychosomatic nature of our mind-body system. In other words, when we think about situations, even if subconsciously, that appear to be in some way a threat or potential danger, hormones and chemicals are secreted from glands which then give rise to the physiological experiences of tension, tightness, constriction.

These are useful in fight or flight situations, which we believe, at a subconscious level, exist — even if they don’t. The perceived threat or danger is mostly psychological and consists of “what if” statements and pictures in the mind, that are at best unpleasant, and at most, lifestyle threatening. Most all, anxiety is about a future that is, factually, unknown. Anxiety is based on a lot of conjecture.

If you’re too anxious to sleep, there are things you can do to help set up an environment, both internal and external, more conducive to sleep. Consider these tips: Continue reading Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries

Unboxing the Realities of Moving with Anxiety

woman moving box

I’ve always tended to romanticize the thought of moving away. Once I shed my hometown, I would finally become someone who never forgets to floss and sleeps precisely eight hours a night in crisp white linens. Making the big move is an ideal time to introduce other changes in your life too, but you can’t move away from yourself. Or your anxiety. After the move, I might have become slightly more committed to my oral hygiene, but my Persian cat’s weepy eyes still constantly left mysterious beige spots on my cotton sheets.

Perhaps, like me, the idea of starting over somewhere new is your go-to escapist daydream. As the realities of moving set in, however, it can become difficult to keep your anxiety in-check.

Before setting off I tried to deal with the less romantic realities. Pondering housing, thinking about relationships, and coping with these changing elements of my life gave me somewhere to focus my anxiety. I reasoned that this focus would help me identify everything that could potentially go wrong and eliminate the risks. This strategy, however, kept me from acknowledging I was doing something brave and that the risk was part of what made the experience exciting, too. Continue reading Unboxing the Realities of Moving with Anxiety

Anxiety Helped Me Become a Better Person

anxious man bed

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empowered those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

I believe that every story has two sides and that each side deserves to be told. More importantly, both sides deserve to be heard.

As I became more involved in the mental health community and began speaking openly about my illnesses, I quickly realized one side of an important story wasn’t being heard. People often overlooked it, ignored it, or saw it as a fairytale. This was the story about how I became resilient, compassionate, and aware of my emotions while attempting to endure another seemingly endless string of self-sabotaging thoughts. It was the positive side of my mental illness.

I’ve suffered from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for eight years. For a majority of those years, I spent my days in agonizing physical and mental pain. My day would often consist of relentless attacks of intrusive thoughts, shortness of breath, erratic behavior, and total isolation.

Living with anxiety is similar to the feeling an astronaut would get if you opened their helmet in space but, as they started to suffocate, you pulled them back inside to safety so they could breathe again. Continue reading Anxiety Helped Me Become a Better Person

A New Type of Meditation to Reduce Anxiety

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Originally a tool for our ancestors’ survival, anxiety is not as handy as it used to be, what with the shortage of predatory animals inhabiting the same space as us. As an anxiety sufferer of almost 17 years, I can hardly recall a time when I wasn’t nervous or scared of something. I developed it at the age of five. But when I was that young, I didn’t even understand what it was.

It wasn’t until I took a psychology class in high school that I became fascinated with mental health. I realized I had anxiety, depression, and a laundry list of other issues. But over the last year or so, I’ve spent a lot of my time researching and practicing ways to better cope with and even quell these illnesses.

Compared to all other means of getting my anxiety to chill out, meditation has been the most effective and beneficial to my overall well-being. When we see the word “meditation,” we sometimes picture a monk in lotus pose perched atop a rock on a mountain. While that would be considered meditating, that’s not the only way to go about it. Meditating, at its core, is an act of quieting the mind. It can be on a mountain or in your living room. Continue reading A New Type of Meditation to Reduce Anxiety

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?

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders: How Are They Classified?

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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?

A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

ambulance red light woman anxiety

As part of May’s Mental Health Month, we shared stories that raised awareness about mental illness and empower those who suffer from it. This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others. #LightYourWay

Every morning before work was exactly the same. Prior to getting out from under the covers, I spent time dreading the day that was ahead of me. I’d look out my window at the downtown Manhattan skyline — it no longer brought me joy. Then, I’d cook scrambled eggs and toast, only to take one tiny bite of each before dumping it all in the trash. This was my life as a 21-year-old who had everything going for her. But, with crippling depression and anxiety, it didn’t matter.

Each day in the summer of 2015, when my mental health was at its shakiest, I got weaker and my clothes got baggier. I had no desire to eat, which is how I knew something was seriously wrong. One morning in August, I woke up weaker than usual. What did I expect? I’d barely eaten in days. How could I when I felt so horrible? I could barely get out of bed, and when I did, I thought I was going to topple over. My mind raced, I was petrified.

Leaving my building, my hands trembled. Every step seemed to be a step closer to passing out. Before even getting to the street corner, I decided going to work wasn’t physically possible. Quickly but cautiously, I walked back to the entrance, one hand gripping onto the building’s exterior, and told the security guard I needed an ambulance. I was mortified. Continue reading A Day in the ER: Hitting Rock Bottom with My Anxiety

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