There are many factors related to the coronavirus pandemic affecting the mental health of people, with social isolation and fear of the virus being at the top of the list. Based on other pandemics and natural disasters, as many as 50% of people may experience anxiety, depression, and some post-traumatic stress symptoms.
If those without mental illness are having a difficult time right now, you can bet those of us with mental illness, particularly anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and obsessional or phobic disorders are having an exacerbation of symptoms due to the current situation.
If you begin to feel anxious, irritable, worried, or are unable to concentrate or sleep, or find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may want to reach out to your healthcare professional. If you’re questioning whether you should reach out or not, go ahead and reach out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you do not have a healthcare professional, call a hotline or a supportive friend to help you find one. Mental health issues are treatable and do not last forever. You can and will get better if you seek the help you need.
So tell me, how are you doing? I’m hanging in there. Where’s your head right now? Are you having an exacerbation of symptoms? What are you going through? As always, comments are open for questions and for sharing your experience.
Bipolar disorder usually consists of moods alternating between extreme highs, or semi-highs in the case of hypomania, and extreme lows, with stabilized moods in between. The highs can include symptoms such as:
Having lots of energy
Feeling high or wired
Having racing thoughts
Taking more risks
Needing less sleep than usual to feel rested
Having more distractions than usual
Having intense senses, such as smell and touch (Source: WebMD)
The lows can include symptoms such as:
Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
Sleeping too much or too little
Gaining or losing weight
Feeling restless or irritable
Thoughts of suicide or death (Source: WebMD)
A person experiencing a mixed episode is having symptoms from the highs and the lows at the same time or in rapid succession with no break in between. This is a very disturbing type of episode to have and can cause much confusion and anxiety for the person. The person can, for example, feel depressed and tired most of the day with no motivation or hope, but still feel compelled to act out impulsively with regards to sex or spending money at times. They can be crying uncontrollably one minute and extremely happy the next. This can go on for days, weeks, or months.
Treatment usually includes some form of medication. Treatment by a doctor is definitely required as this is something that will not go away on its own and if left untreated carries an extremely high risk of ending in self-harm or suicide. Mixed episodes in particular are even more at risk of suicide than straight bipolar mania or depressive episodes alone.
The good news is with medication management by a qualified doctor these episodes can be arrested and a safe, healthy, happy life can be attained even with a life-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I am living proof of that.
Comments are always open for questions regarding my experience with bipolar disorder and how I’ve learned to manage and live positively with it after being diagnosed almost 15 years ago.
How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.
The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.
According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:
“Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
Restlessness or feeling slowed down
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)
If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.
Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!
Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.
Unprecedented times can sky-rocket anxiety that is already high for those of us with mental illness. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves if we are feeling particularly out of sorts during this craziness. Let’s remind ourselves that it will not last forever and that life will go back to the way it use to be relatively soon. In the mean time, let’s make a plan of ways we can cope with our anxiety and get through each day, moment by moment, knowing that there is no shame in merely doing the best we can no matter what that may look like.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy. Get exercise. All the usually advice. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. A hobby or special interest. Watch relaxing or funny videos or movies or shows. Read uplifting or positive material. Create a soothing environment in your home with soft lighting, pleasant aromas, de-cluttered rooms, and quiet or calming sounds.
I’m going to be all right. My feeling are not always rational.
Anxiety is not dangerous. It’s just uncomfortable.
Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I will be fine.
That picture or image in my head is not a healthy or rational picture.
I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now.
It’s not the first time I feel anxiety. I am going to take some deep breaths and keep on going.
Finally, remember this: “You have survived everything you’ve gone through up to this point. The best day of your life is still yet to come. There are still people you haven’t met and things you haven’t experienced. YOU CAN DO THIS.” (Source unknown)
Depression can present itself in many different ways. Some common signs of depression include the following.
sadness, loneliness, or emptiness
loss of interest in things normally enjoyed
tiredness and chronic low energy
difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, making decisions or remembering
feelings of worthlessness and guilt
irritability, frustration or anger
restlessness and agitation
change of appetite
recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
There is also something called hidden depression or “functional depression” where the individual with depression may not experience the common signs of depression, but the depression manifests itself it other, less obvious, ways, such as the following.
perfectionism with a constant, critical inner voice
heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
difficulty with accepting and expressing painful emotions
worry or need for control over self and environment
intense focus on tasks, using accomplishments as a way to feel valuable
active concern about the well-being of others, while not allowing anyone into his inner world
discounts or dismisses hurt or abuse from the past, or the present
accompanying mental health issues involving control or escape from anxiety
a strong belief in “counting your blessings” as the foundation of well-being
intimate relationships may be difficult, but are accompanied by professional success.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself lasting more than a few weeks, please talk to your doctor about them. Depression is a real illness and is not something we can wish away or control by will power alone. Get the help you need so you can live the life you were meant to have.
Depression affects the whole person. Not just our thoughts, not just our emotions, not just our behavior. It affects everything, including our physical body as well.
In a nutshell, below is how depression may present itself in these four areas.
thoughts of death and suicide
withdrawal from others
neglect of responsibilities
changes in personal appearance
lack of energy
sleeping too much or too little
weight gain or loss
loss of motivation
If you recognize these symptoms of depression in you or someone you care about, talk to a doctor about it. There is help for those who suffer from depression. I am one of those people. It is not the end of the world. There is life beyond depression. It does go away. Getting through it until it is gone is what you need help with. I can share my experience with you via my Facebook page here. Or feel free to comment below.
Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes people to be fearful of social situations where they might be embarrassed or judged. Psychological symptoms include self-consciousness when around other people, excessive worry about upcoming events where interaction will be expected, avoidance of places or events where people gather, and difficultly making friends and maintaining friendships. Physical symptoms include excessive sweating, difficultly speaking or catching one’s breath, a sensation of flushing, trembling or uncontrollable shaking, and nausea.
There are many behaviors people with social anxiety may do or not do in an attempt to cope with the overwhelming anxiety this disorder produces such as not talking because of being afraid of being judged, not being able to go anywhere alone, staying inside all day, hating when the teacher calls on you in class, avoiding eye contact with others, avoiding eating in front of others, counting money before you pay, not leaving voicemails, not asking for help when you need it, always preparing what to say ahead of time, being worried about running into people you know, going to the bathroom to escape, using a phone or some other crutch to avoid people, dwelling on a small awkward moment for much longer than necessary, never going to any social event without a person that makes you feel comfortable and following said person way too much, worrying about the person beginning to find you obnoxious, and faking an illness to get out of a social event.
Have you done any of these behaviors to deal with social anxiety? How else do you cope with your social anxiety? What are some positive ways to cope with social anxiety disorder?
Thinking about things is good, right? When we have important decisions to make we have to think about them before committing one way or another to ensure we are making the correct decision. We have to weigh the pros and cons, ask others for advice, sleep on it; you know, think about it. After all, thinking is one of the main things that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Does there come a time, however, when thinking becomes a liability to our well being? I believe there does.
Signs of Overthinking
second guessing everything
analyzing things to death
expecting the worst
hating to make decisions
would rather someone else decide things for you
regretting things often
have a hard time letting things go
taking things personally
being a perfectionist
criticizing yourself a lot
never feeling one hundred percent certain
feeling like you can’t turn your brain off
What to do if you are overthinking
Journal – writing down your thoughts can sometimes take them out of your head and keep them out. It is worth a try.
Talk to someone about your thoughts – again the idea is to get the thoughts out of your head. The longer you keep them bottled up, the longer they will just swirl around in there.
Use positive distractions – engage in a creative hobby, something that gains your entire focus so you are no longer thinking about anything else except for the task at hand. Sometimes our thoughts just need to be interrupted by action, whether we feel like taking that action or not.
Are you an overthinker? I am. What do you do to deal with it? Leave a comment or message me on my Facebook page here.
Chances are you or someone you know has an anxiety disorder since it is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over eighteen percent of the population (reference). But do you know how to help that someone, or better yet tell others how to help you if you are the one who has the anxiety disorder?
Below are eight ways to help someone with an anxiety disorder.
Be predictable. Don’t surprise them. If you say you are going to show up at a certain time, be on time. Don’t change plans at the last minute or bring an unplanned guest to dinner or take them on an impromptu date or a spur of the moment trip. People with anxiety need time to prepare mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, for most events. Give them that time and notification well in advance.
Don’t assume you know what the person needs, ask them. How long do they need to prepare for events? Don’t guess. Ask them. When they are worried or stressed, don’t come up with solutions for them. Ask them what would help them at that moment or in general. If they don’t know then tell them you are there for them when they think of something, which brings us to number 3.
Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery. Don’t pressure them to get well quicker than they are able to. Don’t expect fast fixes or for coping skills to work perfectly every time in every instance. Recovery is slow and messy. It is not a straight forward moving process. It is some steps forward and many back and some more forward and back again. Eventually the forward steps out number the backward ones, but it happens over time, not over night.
Speaking of progress, it is best to find something positive in every attempt at progress. Meaning even if the attempt is unsuccessful that time, something positive should still be acknowledged about the attempt so as to encourage subsequent attempts in the future.
Take care of yourself first. Don’t sacrifice your own life wants and needs too often. This will only lead to resentments later on. It will do neither of you any good if you both are ill.
Don’t get emotional when the person with the disorder gets upset or panics. Keep a calm, cool demeanor, talk with a compassionate tone and when all else fails take a time out, telling the person you need to walk away for a moment to gather your thoughts, and come back when you can deal with him or her. If he or she is being irrational, sometimes it is impossible to rationalize with him. It is best just to validate his feelings (because feelings are not right or wrong, they just are) and keep him safe and see number 7.
Encourage them to seek out therapy. You are not a professional. And even if you are, you cannot treat your own friend or family member objectively. Most people with anxiety disorders need some type of professional help.
Finally never ridicule or criticize a person for being anxious or panicky. It is truly a physiological and psychological phenomenon beyond their conscious control in many instances that takes months, if not years, to figure out and overcome.
If you have any questions about anxiety disorders in general or panic disorders or complex PTSD, I have experience with all of them and would be glad to discuss. Leave a comment or contact me via my Facebook page here.
We all have rough days where we are tired, irritable, or anxious. Maybe we didn’t sleep well the night before or we have a big test coming up or deadline at work. Maybe the kids are acting up and your husband forgot your birthday.
Things happen that make us feel bad for a little while, but when these negative emotions last for more than a few weeks or more, you may want to consider talking to your doctor or a professional counselor about it.
Here are eight warning signs you may be mentally and emotionally exhausted:
You are easily irritated. Everything gets on your nerves and just kind of bugs the heck out of you.
You have no motivation to do anything even the things you usually love doing.
You are having anxiety or panic attacks, which include racing heart, rapid breathing, feeling like you’re going to pass out or die, or even less intense – just worrying incessantly about the same things over and over again and are unable to make yourself stop.
You are having trouble sleeping. You either can’t fall asleep, can’t sleep through the night, and/or wake up early in the morning before you have to get up.
You have little patience and lose your temper easily with family, friends and coworkers.
You start crying out of nowhere. Sitting at your desk, taking a shower, driving in the car just minding your own business and all of the sudden you burst into tears.
You feel detached from reality, meaning that you go through your day without really feeling a part of anything or connected to anyone. You feel numb like you are experiencing the world through a fog.
You feel empty. Although at times you feel strong emotions of anger, sadness, and fear, much of the time you actually feel void of any emotion. You feel like an empty vessel floundering in a vast sea of nothingness.
If you can relate to any of these signs, remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. I have been through all eight of these symptoms at one time or another. For me, talking to my doctor about them is the best way to ensure the symptoms do not get out of hand to the point of becoming dangerous to my well-being. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health, depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety. Contact me via my Facebook page.