My Childhood Experience in Therapy

teen boy couch therapist

While Talkspace is not available to people under 18-years-old, we recognize the importance of providing support for the parents of children with mental health issues.

I’m no stranger to therapy and mental health help. Long before I faced my own mental health issues, my mother passed down stories of my grandmother, who spent most of her life battling the demons of drug-induced psychosis and what, in retrospect, seems to have been borderline personality disorder.

Later, my mother also opened up about her own struggles with depression, anxiety, and the post-traumatic stress she carried from her abusive childhood. Likewise, my oldest sister, my father, and many of my family friends talked frankly about their issues.

Naturally, this has a downside: there’s nothing like being six-years-old and realizing everybody around you has some serious issues. But it also offers some benefits. Mainly, I didn’t have to deal with the stigma when the time came for me to seek help for my own problems.

As you’ll see, by the time I was facing true despair, I’d already had years of experience with mental health professionals. My story will enlighten you on the experience of seeing a therapist while you’re still growing up and what we can accomplish for our children. Continue reading My Childhood Experience in Therapy

When I Knew I Had Bipolar Disorder

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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

Recently I began experiencing symptoms of hypomania. I was irritable, had the sex drive of a teenage boy, and felt euphoric. I knew something was off with me. I hadn’t felt this way before, not to this extent. I contacted my psychiatrist and made an appointment. He confirmed that I was experiencing hypomania, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II.

It was a relief to know what was happening. Nonetheless, I was frightened because — unlike what the media portrays — mania isn’t fun. It’s exhausting and scary.

You do feel temporarily euphoric, at least I did. The feeling of mania is surreal and sometimes wonderful, but other times terrifying. It makes you feel out of sorts and a different version of yourself. I feel pressured to speak quickly, keep moving and keep doing things until my body can’t take it anymore. It’s awful and I don’t wish these feelings on anyone.

Mania isn’t wonderful. It’s a terrible feeling that impacts people living with bipolar disorder. Continue reading When I Knew I Had Bipolar Disorder

Steps Your Teen Can Take to Reduce Chronic Anxiety

asian male teen test classroom

Talkspace is not yet available to people under 18-years-old. Nonetheless, we have a duty to provide mental health advice to parents of teens.

Parents know being a teenager can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. There is a barrage of tests, social pressures, and people constantly nagging teens about their future. It’s no wonder one in eight adolescents have an anxiety disorder.

If your teen is feeling stressed out, worried, and nervous about various aspects of life, they’re not alone. Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences.

Chronic anxiety, however, whether it be seasonal, general, social, or specific phobia-related, is something that should be addressed. When anxiety begins to take a toll on day-to-day life and starts affecting social interactions and relationships, your teen could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Below are some steps your teen can take to get chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder under control. Continue reading Steps Your Teen Can Take to Reduce Chronic Anxiety

Online Therapy is The #1 Tool for Single Moms

single mom holding daughter field

I was going to have my dream wedding, marry my dream man, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately adult reality does not always align with childhood dreams. My own parents divorced when I was 11. I remember how difficult it was for me to understand that they didn’t love one another any more, that my love for them both wasn’t enough. I was powerless to bring them back together. Those feelings haunted me far into my teens.

In the US, 83% of single parents are mothers. For us single mothers, solo parenting can often be joyous, but it also brings tremendous stress and anxiety.

You’d think there’d be more support for such a common experience, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Statistically, we face a number of scary statistics:

  • More than half live below the poverty line
  • 28.7% face severe mental disability
  • Twice as high an incidence of anxiety disorders as single fathers

Single parenthood is still in many ways stigmatized in our society. Not every single mother imagined parenting by herself, but even those of us who did, didn’t necessarily think of how to protect our mental health. While there are some resources for us, groups focused on providing emotional support and community, many still suffer in silence. Many are afraid to ask for help.

Though women are more likely to reach out to their support network, or just to talk about their struggles, we often face more difficult challenges than those of single fathers. Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women, and we’re also more likely to be raising the children. That means increased responsibility and financial burden. Continue reading Online Therapy is The #1 Tool for Single Moms

#LightYourWay for Mental Health Month in May

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Each May, Mental Health Month aims to raise awareness about mental health issues, to advocate for equal care, and provide support to those in need. This advocacy is more important than ever. A recent study from researchers at NYU Langone found that the number of Americans suffering from serious psychological distress is increasing while important access to mental health care has decreased. Talkspace is devoted to reversing these statistics — we cannot let this trend continue.

During May 2017, we focused on empowering individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. Throughout the month we brought tips and tools directly from a therapist to help improve daily well-being and deal with ongoing mental health challenges. No appointment needed! Continue reading #LightYourWay for Mental Health Month in May

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

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Today, it’s widely accepted by major scientific associations that addiction is a medical illness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] and the American Psychiatric Association [APA] both define addiction as a “brain disease,” and the DSM-V lists criteria for classifying addiction as a mental health condition called “Substance Use Disorder.”

However, it wasn’t always this way. In the United States, there’s a long history of vilifying not only drugs and alcohol, but also the people who use them. Less than a century ago, addiction wasn’t seen as an illness outside of one’s control, but rather as a moral failing rooted in one’s personality.

In the 1930s, when scientists first began to study addiction, the prevailing view was that addicts were simply those too weak in willpower to say no. Because addiction wasn’t seen as an illness, there was no concept of treating it with rehabilitation centers and 12-step programs. Instead, heavy users of drugs and alcohol were seen as degenerates and criminals and were treated accordingly; they were imprisoned or institutionalized so as not to be a nuisance to society. Continue reading Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

Dealing With Depression: What You Need to Know

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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

5 Therapist-Approved Ways to De-Stress Your Day

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Daily stress management is one of the key indicators of mental health and wellness. By being proactive in dealing with stress, we can minimize its impact. Regularly engaging in stress reduction techniques emboldens us to stave off feelings of being completely overwhelmed, depressed, or persistently anxious or panicked.

Here are five ways you can start de-stressing your day today:

1. Journaling

Journaling is a tried and true practice for therapists. Many of us came up in training programs that required writing to process our own experiences as students and trainees. Journaling is a simple yet powerful tool that allows for internal thoughts, worries, and concerns to become externalized onto a page. This can help you gain greater insight into your feelings, thoughts, and motivations as well as provide an emotional holding space for difficult material.

2. Spend More Time in Nature

Often overlooked, spending time in nature has great therapeutic effects. With the power of Vitamin D (which helps lift mood), spending time in nature can also be a great mindfulness activity. By communing with nature, many people discuss feeling a greater sense of peace and less rumination (which is consistent with worry and anxiety). Sites like parks and beaches are often popular because they tend to convey feelings of bright energy, enjoyable activities, and generally pleasant conditions. Continue reading 5 Therapist-Approved Ways to De-Stress Your Day

Online Therapy is the #1 Tool for Travelers With Depression

depressed man airport red suitcase

I always wanted to travel. In college I attended information sessions in stuffy rooms and echoing lecture halls, for at least five different study abroad programs. I dutifully filled out the paperwork, scheduled doctor’s appointments, even met with the other folks I’d be spending time abroad with. It was exciting. But something always held me back.

My depression.

Traveling opens our minds and keeps us young. Women who vacation every two years have a significantly lower risk of heart attack than women who vacation only ever six years. Men who don’t take an annual vacation have a 20% higher risk of death (30% higher risk of heart disease). However, for those of us with depression, travel can pose many challenges or even make it impossible.

Immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture –– and actually getting there –– can be challenging. Between long flights and layovers, short connections, cancellations, not understanding the language, being unfamiliar with the cuisine, uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, altitude changes…there are many variables that can pose issues even for the most seasoned traveler among us. Layering in mental illness can exacerbate these situations.

Just because traveling guarantees a disruption of your normal schedule and poses a variety of potential challenges, does not mean you have to abandon your travel plans, give up exploring new areas, or forego trips to visit those you love. There are ways for all of us with mental illness to maintain our mental wellness, while hitting the road. Continue reading Online Therapy is the #1 Tool for Travelers With Depression

The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

gay man rainbow paint couch therapist

In 1965, TIME magazine published an article titled “Homosexuals Can Be Cured.” The article focused on the “triumphant” results of group therapy work led by psychiatrist Samuel Hadden, who was also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School at the time. Hadden had been leading long-term (four to eight year) therapy sessions for men who identified as homosexual in the hopes of “curing” them of their sexual “perversions.”

TIME’s article celebrated Hadden’s ability to help men work through their “symptoms” of “illness”—whether that was wearing inappropriately feminine clothing or being sexually interested in men instead of women. Hadden was only one of many esteemed psychiatrists and psychologists to consider — and treat — homosexuality as a sickness during the 1960s. In fact, homosexuality was not removed from the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” [DSM] until 1973.

The pathologizing of homosexuality was not, however, contextually specific to 20th century America. Many of the earliest writings condemning homosexual acts as “unnatural” caught on in 12th century Europe, when religious leaders like Saint Thomas Aquinas denounced homosexuality as a sin in their early writings. Popular disdain against homosexuality, began in the realm of religion, but it quickly moved into the legal arena in centuries to come. Continue reading The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy