What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

brain illustration

When American soldiers came home from the Vietnam War, many found it hard to return to normal life. They were haunted by nightmares; unable to shake the images of explosions and death from their minds, even while awake. They struggled with feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger; confused about how to to make sense of what they had witnessed. In 1980, the afflictions of these soldiers — along with research on the psychological impact of trauma on Holocaust survivors, rape victims, and others — led the American Psychiatric Association to define a new condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the DSM.

Although people often associate PTSD with veterans affected by the horrors of war, the condition can develop in anyone who has experienced a dangerous, shocking, or life-threatening event such as rape, childhood abuse, or a serious accident. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD will affect 6.8% of U.S. adults in their lifetime. The condition is defined by symptoms like panic attacks, depression, and insomnia, but one of the most characteristic and debilitating symptoms of PTSD is something called “flashbacks.” Continue reading What Happens in Your Brain During a PTSD Flashback?

Talkspace 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:

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. Continue reading Talkspace Online Therapy is The #1 Tool for Single Moms

Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with John Duran

John Duran head shot quote

Mental Health Month may be over, but we are still dedicated to empowering individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this commitment, we are continuing to profile “Mental Health Warriors,” or individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. This week, we caught up with West Hollywood city councilor, human rights lawyer, and LGBTQ activist, John Duran.

Talkspace: How did you first get involved in advocating for equal rights and mental health?

John Duran: I first got involved in June of 1985, when a close friend of mine named Scott Fleener died very suddenly of HIV related pneumonia. I hadn’t been very politically involved up to that point. I couldn’t tell you who my member of Congress was or how he or she voted on issues regarding equal rights or mental health. His unexpected death at 26 years of age rocked my world. Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with John Duran

What Critics Got Wrong About ‘13 Reasons Why’

cassette tapes headphones desk

13 Reasons Why, the newest Netflix success, is still causing controversy. Critics welcomed the show with warm reviews on March 31st, but, as the series’s hype increased, there was some backlash and disapproval of the depiction of the main character’s depression and ultimate decision to end her life. The show, however, was responsible for bringing awareness to mental health problems, mainly those most common with teenagers.

The show is based on a 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher. The story is about Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old girl, who, after struggling with depression, psychological and physical abuse for over a year, decides to kill herself. Before dying, Hannah records 13 tapes in which she discloses the 13 reasons why she killed herself. The reasons, however, are all people.

Critics questioned the way the Netflix show depicted the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. Some said the series expressed the idea that suicide is inevitable because the people surrounding Hannah felt a sense of helpless about her situation. They were not able to help her or prevent her from killing herself because she was already dead by the time they understood she needed help. Instead, Hannah’s acquaintances were only able to agonize over her tapes and feel guilty for being one of her “reasons.” Continue reading What Critics Got Wrong About ‘13 Reasons Why’

Addressing the Clash Between Generations of LGBTQ Activists

lgbtq activist pride parade make america gay again flag

To start a discussion on LGBTQ activism and mental health during Pride Week, we asked two LGBTQ activists of different generations to meet and discuss their views, experiences, and perspectives. Michael Noker, a millennial who has written about LGBTQ issues, interviewed Patrick Cleary, a long-time LGBTQ activist who fought for gay rights during the AIDS epidemic and beyond. The two discuss the grief and mental health implications of losing a generation as well as the critical need for activism.

Noker: What would you say was the most monumental moment for the LGBTQ movement in your lifetime?

Cleary: There are a few, so forgive me for not picking only one. The 1987 FDA approval of AZT, a drug for treating HIV/AIDS is the most monumental thing I can think of as a gay man, because it meant that my friends stopped dying so often.

Ronald Reagan hadn’t even said the word “AIDS” until the year before. The honest opinion of most of the country was that AIDS was something that should burn itself out. It only affected gay guys and drug addicts, and we weren’t worth the trouble. Continue reading Addressing the Clash Between Generations of LGBTQ Activists

3 Tips for Sober Travel While in Addiction Recovery

Woman on phone traveling

Most addiction recovery programs tell you it is not only OK to seek out help; it’s mandatory. Recovery is tough, and it’s extremely hard to do it all on your own. Even during relaxing times, you might need help staying sober. If you’re looking to plan a vacation that’s both rewarding and celebratory of your newfound sobriety, it’s important to know how to help yourself avoid the pitfalls of venturing away from your comfort zone.

Keep reading for three tips to help you do just that:

Continue reading 3 Tips for Sober Travel While in Addiction Recovery

What Does LGBTQ Pride Mean to You?

stonewall inn memorial LGBT pride

Every June, communities across the world celebrate Pride, also known as “Gay Pride” or “LGBTQ Pride.” For many it’s a celebration of identity, representing freedom of expression and freedom from social oppression. For others Pride represents a time in which they can watch from afar those who have been able to live their lives in an “out and proud” way. For people not in the LGBTQ communities, the month’s events may represent something different.

Pride began as a movement to solidify the rights and existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s — in which Black communities fought for the same legal and civil rights of their white counterparts — spawned its creation.

There are differing stories as to how Pride actually began, yet people commonly think it originated in New York City. Like other activist movements, the modern gay liberation or civil rights movement included violent interactions with police. Most people think of the Stonewall Rebellion (also referred to as riots) as the catalyst for the modern march for civil rights for LGBTQ folks. Continue reading What Does LGBTQ Pride Mean to You?

How My Therapist Helped Me Become The Best Single Mom I Could Be

single mom holding daughter

Despite the fact that an estimated 45% of all marriages in the US end in divorce, I was committed to not be on that side of the bleak statistic. 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.

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. Before I go on, I want to be clear that while I am writing from the specific point of view of a single mother, I know every single mom’s trajectory is different. Some women must bravely escape the confines of an abusive marriage or relationship, while others are widowed, and for some, being a single mother is simply a beautiful choice. I celebrate and salute all of you.

Like all great love stories begin, I met Charlie in an accounting class during college. We were both in the business track –– he would graduate, I would not (story for another day). We fell in love fast and hard and made the decision to get married at 22. It was quick but we were young and in love, so why wait? I remember thinking at our wedding, “this is it. This is what they mean when they say ‘true love.’” Continue reading How My Therapist Helped Me Become The Best Single Mom I Could Be

How to Turn Your Childhood Hardship Into Success

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It is possible to experience childhood adversity and still feel good as an adult. In my most recent study of 310 successful men and women — featured in my latest book, The Adversity Advantage — 40% experienced child abuse, witnessed domestic violence, or had an alcoholic/substance abusing parent struggling with addiction. If you broaden the definition to include poverty, death of a family member, divorce, or mental illness, 60% experienced serious childhood adversity. In spite of these impactful childhood problems, this group of successful people reported a high level of life satisfaction as adults, much higher than the average in the population.

Many reported that things did not come easily for them, however. They grew up with poor role models for communication, conflict negotiation, self-esteem, forming relationships, and expression of anger. The abuse they experienced created many personal and work problems. Turning their adversity into successes required them to become students of factors that lead to success.

Continue reading How to Turn Your Childhood Hardship Into Success

How Changing Masculinity Is Good For Mental Health

daughter putting lipstick on father

Men are statistically less likely than women to seek help for mental health and to celebrate Men’s Health Week we’re highlighting issues specifically related to men and their mental health.

There’s a scene at the beginning of Anchorman when the narrator talks about the seventies, a time when, “only men were allowed to read the news.”

It’s said in earnest, in a deep, booming voice, and you get the impression the man behind the mic longs for that lost, halcyon era. It’s also meant to be a joke. The kind of thing we laugh about now because the character the film goes on to lionize is quite clearly a jackass. Burgundy’s misogyny and toxic masculinity is something we look back on almost fondly because we imagine we’ve progressed beyond his willful ignorance.

Of course, toxic masculinity has a ways to go before it disappears. There remains a huge number of men driven by insecurity and a mix of hatred and fear of women. It would be foolhardy to swaddle ourselves in the belief that gender issues are a thing of the past in our society.

Continue reading How Changing Masculinity Is Good For Mental Health