How You Know When You’re Ready For Therapy

male client therapist couch

It’s a natural reaction — when something good happens to us, we want to share that experience with others. Some of my friends had this reaction after their first experiences with therapy. They would recommend it casually, as if it were the new restaurant down the block.

“You’ve got to try it.”

“Everyone should be in therapy at least once.”

It was a life-changing experience for them, and their hearts were in the right place when they suggested it to those who would listen. I had harbored an interest in therapy and had even made psychology the focus of my undergraduate studies. I would listen with interest to their stories, but my response would always be the same.

“One day, but not right now.” Continue reading How You Know When You’re Ready For Therapy

The US Versus UK: Comparing Mental Health Care and Stigma

NHS England homepage

When I was a child growing up in the UK, much of my knowledge of the US came from reading comic strips like Peanuts, which were published in the Sunday newspapers. I remember reading the series in which Lucy, the female nemesis of the insecure Charlie Brown, set up a makeshift shack offering psychiatric counseling for five cents a session (no insurance accepted, presumably). Having no clue what a psychiatrist was, I asked a friend’s elder brother, who often knew about adult things, for an explanation.

“I think that’s the person they send you to see if you’ve gone completely nuts,” he said.

Although the UK’s awareness of mental health care has improved radically since back then, there is still an associated stigma that would surprise most Americans. For instance, a visit to a psychologist in the US is perceived as somewhat routine, but that’s not so in Britain, where seeking therapy is a big step – it’s an admission of an illness that is considered shameful, so therapy sessions would probably be kept secret. Continue reading The US Versus UK: Comparing Mental Health Care and Stigma

7 Ways to Deal with Cyberbullying

woman cyberbullying cartoon

Bullying isn’t new, but the way people go about it has changed. What was once reserved for the schoolyard now occurs at home or at work via social media. In fact, cyberbullying affects adults as much as children. A 2012 study from the University of Nottingham and the University of Sheffield found that eight out of ten of the 320 adults surveyed across three different universities had been victims of cyberbullying in the last six months. About a quarter reported feeling humiliated, ignored, or being the subject of online gossip at least once a week.

Rude comments or bullying in general can make one feel hurt, sad, or angry, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, or self-esteem issues. When the rude comments or bullying are online — when people are looking at social media at home or at work — it can be even worse because it is happening in a place where they should feel safe. It can happen when they are around people important to them such as their children.

The written word is sometimes worse than the spoken word due to its permanency, and it can feel impossible to escape bullying. People see the comments every time they return to a page. Unlike in-person bullying, the bullies who makes the rude comments online cannot see how their victims react. They may go further with their bullying then if they were actually able to see the victim’s physical reaction. Continue reading 7 Ways to Deal with Cyberbullying

Ask Anna: Should I Ditch My Disappearing Husband?

woman up in bed with husband sleeping

Talkspace is pleased to introduce Ask Anna, a new Question & Answer column featuring Anna Akbari, sociologist and author of “Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness.” Send your mental health questions for Anna to [email protected].

Hi Anna,

I’m not sure how this is going to work or if you are legit or not.

I would like to start off by saying that I have always been ambitious, always looking to conquer the world. However, I haven’t finished college yet due to some body and health issues. As of now, I’m not working because I recently gave birth to my son. But let’s get to the point.

My husband works overnight at a parking lot Tuesday through Sunday. He has his days off on Mondays and every Monday he goes out without telling me where he is and gets home the next day. He has been doing this ever since the baby was born seven months ago.

He claims that he isn’t doing anything wrong, but that’s just it. I feel strongly that not being home at night and coming home still drunk the next day is definitely not right. I don’t know what to do any more. I just want to end the marriage because of how unimportant and neglected I feel. Continue reading Ask Anna: Should I Ditch My Disappearing Husband?

How to Ask Your Therapist For Changes

woman on couch with therapist

When Michelle started therapy with Talkspace, she was happy with how it was going. Her therapist, Rachel, generally reiterated what Michelle said and then asked some questions to dig into the issues.

At first this style suited Michelle, and she was making progress. After a few weeks, however, Michelle felt the therapy had become stale.

“I was feeling frustrated by all the questions and really wanted something more actionable from her,” she wrote in her review of Talkspace.

Then Michelle remembered what Rachel told her at the beginning of their work: “Tell me how you feel things are going so this can be beneficial to you.” Following Rachel’s instructions, Michelle communicated her concerns. Rachel responded by offering actionable mental health strategies. Continue reading How to Ask Your Therapist For Changes

5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity

man praying church bible

“Why doesn’t the church know what to do with depression?” That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since the moment I experienced my depressive episode. The perspectives about mental disorders vary greatly throughout the church.

This isn’t to paint the church with broad strokes, but generally, depression is a topic Christians tend to avoid in the community. Misconceptions about mental illness are pervasive throughout all aspects of our culture. Nonetheless, some of the “church-y” misconceptions about clinical depression come from a genuine desire to understand them through the scriptures. There are things, however, that well-meaning Christians tend to get wrong.

To sort out the conflicting rhetoric and misconceptions, here are a few things you should know: Continue reading 5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity

Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy

woman smartphone summer

I’ve always dreaded holidays like the 4th of July — and this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m lacking American pride. Occasions that aren’t family-centric like Christmas or Thanksgiving generally come along with an obligation to have plans with a group of friends or significant other. As a result, we feel the need to have something special planned (because you know everyone’s going to be asking you what you’re doing for the 4th) and make what we do look epic on social media (because getting a lot of “likes” means that we’re doing something right).

It’s a lot of pressure. Hello, anxiety!

FOMO, or, fear of missing out, goes hand-in-hand with the uneasiness that can arise from the holidays or the onslaught of summer fun in general. FOMO is so real that it was recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries, and defined as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

There’s SO much pressure to attend events and socialize on the 4th of July…and every other weekend throughout the summer season. Naturally, this can be rough on anyone’s mental health, but the FOMO dynamic is taken to another level when mental illness comes into play, when sufferers may already feel on edge about social situations. In this case, summertime events can definitely be a trigger. It’s hard enough for someone with social anxiety or depression to face interacting with others. Add on the resentment and guilt that comes with the fear of missing out, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous, and combustible combination.

Here are a few pointers (tested by yours truly) to keep your FOMO at bay. Continue reading Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy

The Stories PTSD Tells Me

woman on floor next to shower white towel

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.

Images flash back through my mind.

I am locked in a dark office in the corner of another locked room during a free class period of the high school day. I’m balanced precariously on the edge of a desk with my legs wrapped around his body, the bulge in his pants gyrating in the crook between my legs. My mind wanders and eventually lands on my aching muscles, my trembling arms and legs. They’re not going to hold much longer.

He is standing fully clothed, his usual beat-up brown loafers planted on the floor. I smell his Cheer-washed dress shirt and Dial soap-scrubbed skin. His Docker’s are hemmed a couple inches too short. He is 43. I am 17. Those loafers rise and fall off the floor with every thrust of his crotch into me, the friction of fabric on fabric a barely noticeable sensation. All my attention focuses on my awkward position on this desk — my muscles ache and burn in protest.

He grinds away, oblivious in ecstasy, his face turned upwards, making those moaning sounds. Finally, my body overrides my mental willpower to stay upright and my muscles collapse. I start to fall off the desk, headed toward the floor, before he catches me and props me back on the desk.

Other memories follow. Continue reading The Stories PTSD Tells Me

PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder: A Gendered Divide in Diagnosis?

white male solider and black woman split image

As with many types of traumatic or mental disorders, certain criteria must be met to receive a diagnosis. Following the structure of these guidelines is meant to allow for an accurate and unbiased determination. However, when it comes to the differentiation between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the question of whether men and women are diagnosed differently has been raised.

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 1.6% to 5.9% of adults in the U.S. have BPD. And of those actually diagnosed, 75% were women, despite the fact that men are just as likely to display symptoms. A non-profit organization, PTSD United, found that roughly 8% of Americans have PTSD. Additionally, 1 out of 9 females in the U.S. have PTSD, while the rate for males is about half that. These statistics alone call for us to question whether there is a divide in diagnosis based on gender. Before we can safely address the issue of gender, though, it’s important to look at the symptoms and characteristics that are used to diagnose both Borderline Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For a mental health professional to diagnose a patient with BPD, they must display at least 5 of the qualifying symptoms. These include unstable relationships altering between idealization and devaluation, frantic efforts to avoid social abandonment, a distorted self-image that affects emotional stability, impulsive behaviors, suicidal and self-harming behavior, periods of depression, irritability, or anxiety that last between a few hours to a few days, chronic boredom or feelings of emptiness, uncontrollable anger, and dissociative feelings. Most psychological research indicates the causes are genetic, environmental (from the experience of a traumatic event), neurological, or a combination of the three. Continue reading PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder: A Gendered Divide in Diagnosis?

The History of PTSD

soldier holding another in his arms

June is PTSD Awareness Month. To participate in raising awareness and challenging the stigma of mental illness, we are publishing several pieces that show what it means to live with PTSD.

Soldier’s heart. Shell shock. Combat exhaustion. Traumatic neurosis. Gross stress disorder. Combat fatigue. Rape trauma syndrome. Post Vietnam syndrome. It’s gone by many names, but post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms have been cataloged for thousands of years. In fact, descriptions of PTSD can be traced to ancient texts such as The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Soldiers from nearly every war, accident victims, and survivors of natural disasters, rape, and child abuse have exhibited the classic signs of PTSD, including reliving the event, avoidance, negative beliefs, and hyperarousal.

To best tell PTSD’s story, World Wars I and II — and particularly the Vietnam War and Women’s Movement in the 1970s — best capture the evolution of the diagnosis, treatment, and popular perception of what is now code 309.81 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: PTSD. Continue reading The History of PTSD