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  • What’s Up in Your Brain: World Mental Health Day
    Added by My Identity Doctor
    Last week, we shared a post for Mental Health Awareness Week and how people can develop resiliency skills for better mental health. Today’s post for World Mental Health Day is going to focus on mental illness education, briefly outlining the most common types of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and addiction or addictive behaviours [1], and what they mean.
    An unsolved rubiks cube on a table.
    Sometimes called “clinical” or “major depression”, depression is more than being sad. Depression is caused by genetics, brain chemistry, and requires treatment to get into a state of remission (being asymptomatic), usually a combination of medication and therapy. [2]
    Depression is an umbrella term that includes major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, dysthymia (chronically low mood with some symptoms of depression), and on occasion, depression with psychosis, which can be a more severe form of depression. [2]
    Anxiety Disorders
    Like sadness (“depression”), anxiety is a normal response to certain events in life. However, when the “fight or flight” response goes into overdrive, this can cause an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders cause irrational or excessive fear, tension, apprehension, and these symptoms are extreme and interfere with daily life. [2.1]
    Anxiety disorders include phobias that interfere with life, panic disorder, agoraphobia (fear of leaving safe situations; of going into situations that may cause panic [3]), generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, and separation anxiety disorder. [2.1] Obsessive compulsive disorder is also a type of anxiety disorder. [2.2]
    Treatment of anxiety disorders depends on the type of anxiety disorder experienced. It may include therapy, desensitization, and medication, among other strategies.
    Eating Disorders
    Eating disorders are a wide range of disorders that affect a person’s eating patterns and behaviours—eating disorders are not about weight, and many people with eating disorders maintain a normal weight, or may be overweight. Eating disorders can affect anyone: though women are most often affected, children—both boys and girls—and men can develop eating disorders. [2.3] Anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known eating disorders, but they are not the only ones. Binge eating disorder [4], avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (only eating certain foods—this disorder does not have a body dissatisfaction component [5]), rumination disorder (chewing/spitting), pica (eating non-food items regularly), and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)—having behaviours of but not meeting criteria for a “full diagnosis” of above eating disorders, or night-eating syndrome—and unspecified feeding or eating disorders that do not meet the criteria of any of the above disorders. [5]
    Eating disorders may be treated with education, nutrition counselling, therapy, and sometimes, medications like anti-depressants (in bulimia), or in the case of binge eating disorder, stimulant medications to decrease appetite, may aid in recovery. [2.3]
    Schizophrenia means a person has periods where they are unable to differentiate between “what is real and what is imagined”. [2.4] People with schizophrenia may have delusions, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), and disorganization of mood, thoughts and behaviour. [2.4] Treatment includes psychotherapy, education, family and caregiver education and support, and social and life skills training, as well as anti-psychotic medications. [2.4]
    Bipolar Disorder
    Bipolar disorder manifests as extreme ups and downs in mood. It can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviours and ability to function. Because people bipolar disorder experience three distinct phases, or states, including one of mania and one of depression, bipolar disorder used to be called “manic depression”.  [2.5] The manic phase may consist of very high self esteem or grandeur, lots of energy without need for sleep, increased talking and sped up movement, fast or racing thoughts, poor judgement and sometimes psychotic symptoms. The depressed phase consists of typical symptoms of depression, which may include psychosis. [2.5] Medicine, psychotherapy and education, and sometimes, maintenance therapy are required. Unlike some other disorders, stabilizing bipolar disorder with medication before other methods may be required. [2.5] Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, although in the past it was not diagnosed as frequently, so family patterns in the disorder are only recently being identified.
    Addiction/Addictive Behaviour
    True addiction to a substance consists of craving, compulsion to use, loss of control around a substance—amount used or frequency used—and continued use of a substance despite consequences associated with use. [2.6] The substance a person is addicted to, be it alcohol, illegal or illicit drugs, prescription medicines, or nicotine, will impact treatment methods. Psychotherapy, detoxification (withdrawal from a substance, sometimes under medical supervision or using small amounts of the substance), and holistic treatment are important in dealing with addiction. Sometimes, stress/anger management, grief and trauma counselling, or developing parenting skills are part of treatment, as might be training on life skills such as accessing housing, finding a job or finishing education, nutrition, applying for social assistance (welfare) or disability benefits, and money management, are also included in treatment of addiction, especially if a person has been using for many years and has few supports remaining in their life. [2.6] Much addiction or addictive behaviour has a genetic component–alcoholism, for example, is highly genetically based.
    Depending on your mental heath condition, medications, and symptom manifestation, a medical ID bracelet for mental illness may make you feel more comfortable. For instance, if your mental illness sometimes makes you unable to speak or articulate your thoughts, or you are at risk for life-threatening medical crisis, such as with an eating disorder or if you self-injure and could experience significant blood loss, a medical ID bracelet may be useful to provide crucial information in your treatment.
    Published by My Identity Doctor on October 9, 2017


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