Friday, 27 April 2018

Anxiety Treatment

There are few things worse than not feeling like yourself because of mental health struggles. Some people will never live through this experience. But the reality is, 20 percent of the population suffers from mental illness. I am in that 20 percent. There have been three distinct times in my life where I haven't felt like me: The first time it happened, my grandma had passed away, and I began experiencing OCD symptoms around the age of 10. Back then, therapy ended up helping me break the cycle.

Then, when I was in a second semester sophomore in college, and I fell into a spiral of insomnia, anxiety, OCD, and depression caused by heartbreak. Family financial issues played a part in my turmoil too, and I felt like I was losing the joyful, calm, sleep-loving person I had been. I had disassociated from myself, and all I wanted to be was the person before the trauma.

Luckily I went into therapy and (at first reluctantly) started on an antidepressant. For about seven years, my symptoms were manageable. Then life struck once again. Last year, I was laid off; around the same time, my uncle passed away. To say my body didn't react well to the financial pressure and heartache is an understatement. I developed PTSD, my insomnia came back with a vengeance, my OCD thoughts were constant, and my anxiety was paralyzing. I began to dread the things I once loved: dressing up, wearing makeup, going to concerts, writing, and hanging out with friends felt torturous.

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When you're desperate enough, you'll do anything to feel like you again. For me, that meant trying something I had never before considered: hypnosis.

For people living with OCD, PTSD, phobias, anxiety, or depression, sometimes therapy and medication don't feel like enough. That's where hypnosis comes in. “Anxiety is actually self-hypnosis in a negative way — when you [practice] hypnosis, you reprogram the mind with different beliefs,” hypnotherapist and psychotherapist Fayina Cohen says. She adds that the stereotypes about hypnosis being fake or for hippies are just that: stereotypes.

But the stigma and skepticism attached to hypnosis mean a lot of people struggling with mental health issues don't know it's a real option for them. My therapist, whom I credit with a ton of my improvements, recommended I try hypnosis. I, of course, reacted like most people: with serious doubts. I imagined someone waving a long, gold chain connected to a pocket watch across my face while I miraculously passed out. But when you're barely able to function, you'll try just about anything. That's how I came to try hypnosis, and how I became a believer in its power.

Appointments with my hypnotist began with talk therapy that helped to inform the second part, the hypnosis session itself. My hypnotist read from a carefully crafted script, which she adjusted each week based on the issues we were targeting. The sessions would range from 15 to 30 minutes, and for about eight months, I had homework: to listen to a recording before I would go to bed.

The recordings themselves don’t always make a ton of sense, but embedded in them are commands targeted at your subconscious mind. The commands are meant to bring you into a more relaxed state — akin to what you feel when you daydream or when you miss an exit driving on the highway (something called “highway hypnosis”). “Your subconscious mind is loaded with negative messages, so it’s necessary to have a hypnotist clear this stuff out for you,” explains certified clinical hypnotist Joanne Ferdman of Theta Healing Arts in Huntington, New York. “Hypnotherapy is great for managing your thoughts, clearing out negative experiences and giving you empowering messages.” But while your mind is taking in said thoughts, hypnosis isn’t mind control. “Hypnosis isn’t something that can make you do something against your will,” explains Ferdman. “Your conscious mind already knows what you want to work on. I can’t give you a suggestion that your conscious mind isn’t in complete agreement with.”

When it comes to results, timing is different for everyone. Some people see full changes — including greater relaxation, positivity, and feeling of control — in just a few sessions; others take longer to start to heal. It depends on the person and the state of their subconscious. According to Ferdman, “We have 60,000 thoughts a day, and most of them are negative." The more negativity you're dealing with, the longer it may take to notice the effect of hypnosis — no matter how much you consciously want things to change.

Essentially, hypnosis is a series of reminders to reduce anxiety and fear, encouraging clients' minds to go in more positive directions when they feel overwhelmed by negativity. Sometimes it’s necessary for hypnotists to clear out past experiences, which means they’ll do something called “regression” — they will guide you back to the first time a traumatic experience occurred and help you process it so that you can release it from your subconscious.

If you’re still with me, and intrigued, you're not alone. According to hypnotists, hypnosis is becoming a more commonly used practice. “Because of the Internet, there’s more education that expels the myth of hypnosis,” Cohen says. “In the last 10 years, I’ve been getting more phone calls about hypnosis than ever before.”

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re willing to give hypnosis a try:

Find a hypnotist you trust. Do your research, inquire about their training and certification, and ask to speak to past clients of theirs. Confidence in your care provider, whatever their specialty, is key.

Focus on your motivation to change.You may not be fully convinced of the potential at first, but if you remain open-minded and stick with it, results will likely follow.

Hypnosis is a partnership. Both you and your hypnotist work together in the healing process. Whether you're listening to your hypnotist read a script or taking in their tapes on repeat, it takes two.

You don’t need to be actively listening for hypnosis to work. The commands and messages your hypnotist embeds in your script are absorbed by the subconscious mind

You are in control of your session. You still have free will, and you’re not in a trance. The hypnotist is just there there to facilitate.

You’re not too "strong-willed" to be hypnotized. Your hypnotist is helping you to hypnotize yourself — you're not giving in or tricking yourself into a state of mind you don't actually want to enter. This is something you're doing for you, as part of a full treatment plan you and your care providers work out together.

Finally, hypnosis wasn't an easy or automatic fix. It required patience, commitment, and consistency in showing up to my appointments and listening to my recordings. But I'm so glad I gave hypnosis a chance. I count it as one of the therapeutic techniques that helped me feel like myself again — and that has been worth every minute I've spent on it.

Originally posted on
 this website 


Thursday, 19 April 2018

From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Traditionally, linguistic analyses in this field have been carried out by researchers reading and taking notes. Nowadays, computerised text analysis methods allow the processing of extremely large data banks in minutes. This can help spot linguistic features which humans may miss, calculating the percentage prevalence of words and classes of words, lexical diversity, average sentence length, grammatical patterns and many other metrics.

So far, personal essays and diary entries by depressed people have been useful, as has the work of well-known artists such as Cobain and Plath. For the spoken word, snippets of natural language of people with depression have also provided insight. Taken together, the findings from such research reveal clear and consistent differences in language between those with and without symptoms of depression.

Content

Language can be separated into two components: content and style. The content relates to what we express – that is, the meaning or subject matter of statements. It will surprise no one to learn that those with symptoms of depression use an excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, specifically negative adjectives and adverbs – such as “lonely”, “sad” or “miserable”.

More interesting is the use of pronouns. Those with symptoms of depression use significantly more first person singular pronouns – such as “me”, “myself” and “I” – and significantly fewer second and third person pronouns – such as “they”, “them” or “she”. This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words.

Negative words and first person pronouns can give a clue.hikrcn/Shutterstock

We know that rumination (dwelling on personal problems) and social isolation are common features of depression. However, we don’t know whether these findings reflect differences in attention or thinking style. Does depression cause people to focus on themselves, or do people who focus on themselves get symptoms of depression?

Style

The style of language relates to how we express ourselves, rather than the content we express. Our lab recently conducted a big data text analysis of 64 different online mental health forums, examining over 6,400 members. “Absolutist words” – which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as “always”, “nothing” or “completely” – were found to be better markers for mental health forums than either pronouns or negative emotion words.

From the outset, we predicted that those with depression will have a more black and white view of the world, and that this would manifest in their style of language. Compared to 19 different control forums (for example, Mumsnet and StudentRoom), the prevalence of absolutist words is approximately 50% greater in anxiety and depression forums, and approximately 80% greater for suicidal ideation forums.

Pronouns produced a similar distributional pattern as absolutist words across the forums, but the effect was smaller. By contrast, negative emotion words were paradoxically less prevalent in suicidal ideation forums than in anxiety and depression forums.

Our research also included recovery forums, where members who feel they have recovered from a depressive episode write positive and encouraging posts about their recovery. Here we found that negative emotion words were used at comparable levels to control forums, while positive emotion words were elevated by approximately 70%. Nevertheless, the prevalence of absolutist words remained significantly greater than that of controls, but slightly lower than in anxiety and depression forums.

Crucially, those who have previously had depressive symptoms are more likely to have them again. Therefore, their greater tendency for absolutist thinking, even when there are currently no symptoms of depression, is a sign that it may play a role in causing depressive episodes. The same effect is seen in use of pronouns, but not for negative emotion words.

Practical implications

Understanding the language of depression can help us understand the way those with symptoms of depression think, but it also has practical implications. Researchers are combining automated text analysis with machine learning (computers that can learn from experience without being programmed) to classify a variety of mental health conditions from natural language text samples such as blog posts.

Language analysis can help diagnose depression. Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Such classification is already outperformingthat made by trained therapists. Importantly, machine learning classification will only improve as more data is provided and more sophisticated algorithms are developed. This goes beyond looking at the broad patterns of absolutism, negativity and pronouns already discussed. Work has begun on using computers to accurately identify increasingly specific subcategories of mental health problems – such as perfectionism, self-esteem problems and social anxiety.

That said, it is of course possible to use a language associated with depression without actually being depressed. Ultimately, it is how you feel over time that determines whether you are suffering. But as the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 300m people worldwide are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% since 2005, having more tools available to spot the condition is certainly important to improve health and prevent tragic suicides such as those of Plath and Cobain.

Originally posted on  this website 


A new study found that teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless and are more likely to consider suicide. Researchers found a sudden increase in teens' symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular, says Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study.

Twenge's research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that's regardless of the content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time — not the specific content — goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.

"It's an excessive amount of time spent on the device. So half an hour, an hour a day, that seemed to be the sweet spot for teen mental health in terms of electronic devices," Twenge says. "At two hours a day there was only a slightly elevated risk. And then three hours a day and beyond is where you saw the more pronounced increase in those who had at least one suicide risk factor."

Twenge spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the dangers of excessive smartphone use among teenagers, how parents can manage their teens' social media usage and when is the best age for them to get smartphones.

Interview Highlights

On how parents can help teens manage their time on social media and their phones

I think a great rule for both teens and adults is to try to keep your use at two hours a day or less. And then you put that phone down, and you spend the rest of your time on things that are better for mental health and happiness, like sleeping, seeing friends and family face to face, getting out and exercising. These are all things that are linked to better mental health. So if you use the phone to facilitate those things rather than stand in their way, that's a good way to go.



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On how it's known that higher rates of depression are linked to smartphones or social media and not other factors

The idea that they're under an increasing amount of academic pressure, and they're spending more and more time on schoolwork doesn't turn out to be true when you look at these large, nationally representative surveys. For example, there's a large survey of entering college students, so that's exactly the population you'd expect would feel a lot of pressure to have spent a lot of time on homework and extracurricular activities. Among that group, when they report on their last year in high school, homework time is about the same as it was in the '80s, and the time they spend on extracurricular activities is also about the same ... The other thing is, we also found that teens who spend more time on homework are actually less likely to be depressed.

On when is the best age for teens to get a smartphone

I think ideally, 14. Beginning of high school is a good age to aim for because there's some other data suggesting that the links between, for example, social media use and unhappiness are the strongest for 8th graders versus 10th or especially 12th graders. By the time they're at that age they're better able to handle the demands of social media. And some of the mental health trends are the most pronounced for the youngest teens, as well.
Originally posted on
 this website 


Over 60 percent of adults who were diagnosed with depression by a clinician didn't meet the official criteria for the disorder upon re-evaluation

By Lindsay Abrams

PROBLEM: Over the course of 20 years, according to the most recently available data, the U.S. saw a 400 percent increase in antidepressant use, resulting in 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 taking some form of depression medication by 2008. Debate rages between those who believe that increased diagnoses mean we are turning normal human experience into a disease, and those who push for increased awareness of a very real psychological illness. Depending on who's doing the arguing, people are either being treated or are suffering in excess.

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METHODOLOGY: Ramin Mojtabai of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at a national sample of 5,639 participants who had been diagnosed with depression by a clinician in a non-hopital setting between 2009 and 2010. In face-to-face interviews, the  participants were all re-evaluated for major depressive disorder (MDD) as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). To meet the official criteria, they had to have experienced a major depressive episode -- defined as a debilitating depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities for a least two consistent weeks -- in the past twelve months.

RESULTS: Only 38.4 percent of participants who had been diagnosed with depression by their doctor were judged in the re-evaluation to have had a major depressive episode in the past year, and thus, in the author's opinion, to actually meet the criteria for MDD. Those participants were more likely to have "probable severe mental illness" and to report thinking about or attempting suicide. The discrepancy was more prominent among older adults: for those 65 or older, only 14.3 percent met the criteria. Participants with higher levels of education, who were out of the workforce, who were divorced or separated, or who believed themselves to be in poor health were more likely to have what were judged to be correct diagnoses. 

Of the 61.6 of participants who did not meet the criteria for MDD, 42.7 percent did qualify as having had depressive symptoms at some point in their life, in the form of either an earlier major depressive episode or what would be diagnosed as minor depression. 

Although the people whose diagnoses were not confirmed by the study reported feeling less distressed and impaired, and used fewer services, almost 75 percent of all the participants reported using prescription medications to manage their symptoms. Even excluding the people with some depressive symptoms, the majority of remaining participants with unconfirmed diagnoses -- 69.4 percent -- had used antidepressants.

IMPLICATIONS: The diagnosis of mental disorders can certainly be subjective; because of that, it's often impossible to say with certainty whether or not someone's diagnosis is "correct." Mojtabai writes that more than anything else, these findings may reflect doctors' uncertainty about ambiguous diagnostic criteria. But especially when medication is involved, while we don't want to devalue people's suffering, we also don't want to be too quick to throw pills at problems for which better, non-medical solutions may exist.

"Clinician-Identified Depression in Community Settings: Concordance with Structured-Interview Diagnoses" is published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

Originally posted on  www.theatlantic.com 


Tuesday, 17 April 2018


“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.




The art of speaking wisely is one of the most difficult arts and for a very long time people have been trying to master it, so as to be able to better express themselves and hence better communicate their thoughts and emotions with other people.

Here you will read three basic tips on how to speak more wisely. By following these tips, you will be able to engage in meaningful conversations, grab the attention of your audience and inspire those who are listening to you.

1. Think before you speak.

This is one of the most important tips that you should follow, if you truly want to utter meaningful ideas that will make others take you seriously. Many of us are used to small talk and rarely pay attention to how many unimportant, sometimes even silly things we say. If you want people to pay close attention to what you say and listen deeply to your thoughts, be sure to think what you are about to utter, so whatever comes out of your mouth will be meaningful and coherent.

2. Speak out your mind.

The second basic tip you should follow in order to speak more wisely, is to be sure that whatever you are saying is coming out from the depths of your mind and your heart. In other words, speak honestly and authentically. The more you do so, the more power your words will have and the more confident you will be. In this way the people you are talking to will pay sincere attention to you and trust more in what you’re saying.

3. Don’t speak too much.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, if you want to speak wisely, you need to learn to talk only when it’s necessary. Many of us are used to talking all the time, saying insignificant things that are tiresome and matter to no one, and so we inevitable find that nobody truly listens to what we’re saying. From now on, be sure to listen more and speak less, and I assure you that each and every word you utter will have more weight and will attract the attention of others as naturally as a magnet attracts iron.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” ~Plato



Originally posted on this website 


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