Can Mental Health Issues Be Prevented?

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Avoiding The Mind’s Obstacles

Mental health issues can certainly be prevented with the proper care since childhood. But it is important to keep in mind that many people are genetically predisposed to developing a mental illness. It’s based on the two-hit hypothesis: the first hit are the faulty genes and the second hit is an environmental stressor that makes your mind go overboard, resulting in the development of an illness.

Genetic predisposition towards developing a mental illness is not uncommon, because genes spread from older generations onto newer ones. But even with the genes present, it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily develop the illness that your grandmother or mother had. It depends on how impactful the faulty genes are and what kind of environment you are raised in.

The environment is just as important as your genetic makeup. For instance, a teenager may be genetically predisposed to developing schizophrenia. At 16, he also starts smoking marijuana on a consistent basis: this may very well be the tipping point into schizophrenic territory.

The same may apply with depression, anxiety and many others. That’s why it’s very important to minimize the stressors in your life and maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as adopting a good diet and consistent exercise routine. These things aren’t stressed just for the sake of maintaining your physical health; mental health is just as important.

Everyday stressors add up and can really affect your mental health over time. That’s why it’s important to incorporate healthy outlets in your life such as mindfulness, exercise, healthy relationships and a good sleep hygiene. These methods of relaxation help you to prevent the development of a mental illness; especially depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, there are times in peoples’ lives when preventing a mental illness becomes extremely difficult. This applies to people who have experienced a traumatic event, resulting in acute stress disorder or PTSD. For them, these stressors were so impactful that the development of these trauma-based illnesses were almost inevitable.

Overall, for the most part, mental health issues can be prevented with a consistently healthy lifestyle in place. Keep in mind that just because your father or mother had an illness, does not mean that you will too! Minimize your stressors and maintain a positive outlook on life.

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Can Mental Health Issues Be Cured?

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Living With A Mental Illness

The word cure is very powerful: to relieve someone of his or her illness. Multiple physical conditions can be cured, but something like a mental illness is not curable. It doesn’t mean that you will experience an illness for your entire life; you may not even experience an illness for longer than 6 months! But we cannot say that your depression is “cured” when we don’t even know what causes depression in the first place.

The truth is that we do not know what causes anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and many more. We have theories based on altered neurotransmitter levels, genetic mutations, malfunctioning receptors and traumatic memories, but we do not have a definitive explanation as to what causes a mental illness.

But just because mental health issues cannot be cured, does not mean that you cannot successfully recover from them. Many people continue to live normal lives after being diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, panic disorder, OCD, borderline personality disorder, etc.

As of today, the aim is not to cure a mental illness: it’s too treat it and stabilize the patient to the point of achieving remission. Remission means that an illness is under control and a person can live a normal life without being symptomatic. No treatment is perfect, and residual symptoms may linger depending on your personality and severity of the illness.

The hope remains that one day we will have a cure for all mental illnesses. But until then, we must remain positive that the treatments that we do have available are capable of controlling the symptoms brought upon by a mental illness. Many people do obtain symptomatic control with psychiatric medications, psychotherapy, family support and a positive mindset!

Never lose hope in your recovery. There is always help around the corner and The DSM Ready Community is always available for comfort and support!

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Are Mental Health And Emotional Health The Same?

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The Mind’s Bag Of Tricks

Mental health and emotional health are interrelated: one can have mental health problems and emotional problems or emotional problems but no mental health problems. Generally, one cannot have mental health problems and not also have emotional problems; any mental conflict is sure to strike some emotional differences in a person. This is the mind’s bag of tricks at work!

While it’s easier to understand why a person with mental health problems most likely has emotional problems as well, how can a person with emotional problems not have mental health problems? Because we experience emotions every single day; they make up our personality.

But this does not mean that we have a mental health problem just because we are experiencing different emotions as often as every 2 minutes. Emotions are natural and expected. Sure, one can experience emotional dysregulation, but that’s when it has become pathological, involving mental health in the mix.

Generally, mental health and emotional health go together like peanut butter and jelly. But many times, you can enjoy the jelly (emotional health) without the nuts (mental health). The reason why they go together so well is because emotions originate from our mind. Your personality is determined by your mind, and your mind is determined by your genetic makeup and environmental influences.

Separating the two is permissible, but it’s easier to just understand that mental health and emotional health are interrelated. For instance, you may not have an official psychiatric diagnosis, but have been feeling sad for the last 5 days in a row. This emotion of sadness is part of your mental health in a way: sadness alters your perception of yourself, others around you and your environment.

If you continue to remain sad for another 9-10 days or so, with other symptoms in the mix, you may develop what is called major depressive disorder. So what started out as a natural emotion known as sadness, can eventually progress to a major psychiatric condition within as little as 2 weeks!

While the mind does not actually have a bag of tricks, this expression is meant for you to understand the intricacies of the human mind; a very complex and mysterious organ of the human body. What happens in the depths of our mind is often unknown to us. If we are dealing with such a big unknown, can you imagine how many possibilities there are for our mental and emotional health to go astray?

Let’s not dive deeper than we have to.

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Reading Body Language

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Mental Health And Body Language

If you take away anything from this article, it’s that body language speaks louder than words. Especially during childhood and adolescence, words and expressions often have a much greater impact on communication than body language does. But reading body language can be mastered even at a young age, such as when girls attempt to show boys that they are not interested in them.

As one ages and matures, body language starts to become more obvious in everyday interactions. But believe it or not, many people don’t master reading body language because they don’t pay attention to it: it either doesn’t come naturally for them or they continue to make the same mistake of carelessly ignoring it.

Reading body language will divulge much more valuable and honest information about one’s character than the words coming out of their mouth. Why is that? Because body language is controlled by the unconscious mind, while words are specifically chosen in the moment.

No one deliberately controls their body language: “I’m going to cross my legs now in order to show someone that I have patience.” Body movements happen on an unconscious level and can be utilized to your advantage to learn more about someone’s character. Think of it like a cheat code: you can abstract information about how someone thinks and feels without even hearing them speak!

Except that it’s not a cheat code: it’s reality. Mental health also comes into play regarding body language. In behavioral health, this is called someone’s “affect”: how you perceive their body language in regards to their mood. One may state that their mood is “depressed” and their affect may by congruent: slouched position, sad face, maybe even tears.

Utilize body language to interpret your family members’ and friends’ mental health. If their posture and the way that they carry themselves is not mood-congruent, then you know that something is up with their mental health. An even more effective tool to add to your social toolbox is listening more than talking, while observing one’s body language!

If you can effectively listen and observe one’s body language without talking too much, you are setting yourself up nicely for understanding one’s character. Always remember that body language speaks louder than words. If you can master reading body language, you will increase your emotional intelligence and prosper in the realm of socialization.

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The Death Of Kobe Bryant

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The Importance Of Being Thankful

On January 26th, 2020, the world was shocked to hear about the passing of one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Kobe Bryant. Only 41 years of age, Kobe was in a helicopter with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people. This goes to show you that tomorrow is never promised. The death of Kobe Bryant reminds us that one day we are here, and the next we are not.

The reality of life is that bad things happen to good people and we will never understand why. Why do so many bad people continue to live on while good people like Kobe Bryant pass away at such a young age? While we will never know until we all reach God’s kingdom, this goes to show us how important it is to not take life for granted.

We often complain about this and that and how we want more in life, but we forget to take a step back and be appreciative of the fact that we are alive, breathing, walking, thinking and talking. These basic human capabilities are often taken for granted: they become replaced with complaints, arguments and hatred.

The importance of being thankful for your life and everything that you have cannot be stressed enough. Every day, innocent people die for no apparent reason. It’s just the way the world is designed. We’re not always meant to understand why we have to experience the pain that we do; it happens, we grow from it and we move on.

It’s important to remind yourself to be thankful for everything that you have on a daily basis; not just when a celebrity star unexpectedly passes away. When stars pass away, they remind us how important and precious our lives are. It makes us feel sad and terrible pain inside, even if we didn’t know the stars personally.

But this pain is a reminder of how much suffering death brings to us, and why we have to count our blessings every single day! Even when we are annoyed, sad or angry, we must remind ourselves, “Despite all of my emotions, I am alive and I am thankful that God has given me a chance to experience life.”

Rest in peace Kobe Bryant. May God continue to bless you and your family for eternity!

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Envious Friends

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Knowing Who Your Real Friends Are

Having good friends is crucial for your mental health because it helps to prevent loneliness, increase your self-esteem, improve your confidence and much more. But as anyone knows, it can be quite difficult to make good friends. Many friends who you think might be good, actually turn out to be envious: these envious friends can be quite poisonous.

Knowing who your real friends are can be quite a challenge at times, especially in the beginning when they are new. They may be nice, supportive, entertaining, funny and caring, but these traits can often disguise their envious nature. If you are not good at reading between the lines, you may not notice that one of your friends is actually envious of you and does not really like you as much as you think.

Spotting envious friends should not be that difficult. Look for some of these signs:

  • They often make fun of you for no apparent reason
  • They often look at you from the corner of their eyes like you’re better than them
  • They may talk behind your back in a negative way
  • They may not seem that interested in your presence when hanging out
  • They may appear superficial and distant around you

. . . and more. You’d be surprised on how many people miss the above signs in their friendships, carelessly holding onto these toxic relationships. Because they miss these signs, the toxicity may not necessarily be apparaent to them, but guess what is working 24/7 and recording everything?

You guessed it! The unconscious mind. These toxic friendships take a toll on your unconscious mind, further adding to the pile of mental conflicts that we all carry on a daily basis. Even worse, some people may know that they have envious friends and still hold onto them!

It’s not that surprising. It’s similar to people who remain in dysfunctional or unattractive relationships out of the fear of being single again or starting their dating experience from scratch. But if you are holding onto envious friends or a bad relationship, then you are doing yourself a disservice.

You should always put your mental health and well-being first, even if it means cutting down on many current friends that you have. It’s better to be by yourself than to have friends who are envious or don’t care that much about you. Even though it might be emotionally difficult to be by yourself in the present moment, it’ll be better in the long-run when you do find meaningful friends who have your back.

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Understanding Depression

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Carefully Listening To A Patient’s Story

Depression and anxiety are mental conditions that can occur unexpectedly. There is no typical presentation or initial signs and symptoms that proceed depression or anxiety. Understanding depression is very important for clinicians, family and friends, because it helps to understand where one is coming from and what factors played a role behind the development of one’s symptoms.

When we think of depression, we often relate it to something bad going on with the person, such as job loss, lack of friends, a failed marriage or substance abuse. But someone who develops depression does not necessarily have something going wrong with them. Often times, it’s members of their family who are suffering in some way, causing them to develop depression as a result.

For instance, a patient may have children who are suffering in some way or a spouse who is not supportive financially or as a parent. Many parents struggle when their children develop a mental illness, are born with a developmental disorder, are defiant and not doing well in school or simply leave “the nest” and go on to attend college. In these cases, it’s not unusual for a parent to develop adjustment disorder or major depressive disorder.

Some patients complain that their spouses are not financially supportive, “all he does is sit at home! I’ve told him countless times to get a job! This situation makes me so sad.” Marital problems are very common and oftentimes the cause behind the development of depression. It’s important to always listen very carefully to every detail provided by a patient.

Overall, understanding depression involves understanding a person’s story and their perspective on reality. Oftentimes, their stress and depressive symptoms have altered their perception on reality for the worse. During these cases, psychodynamic psychotherapy can prove to be an effective treatment, allowing the patient to unveil their unconscious conflicts.

Even if you’re not a clinician, you always want to listen attentively and attempt to understand depression based on what a person shares with you. Do not be interruptive or intrusive; listening often goes a long way in the treatment process.

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March For Life

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The Controversy Regarding Abortion

The March for Life is an annual rally held in Washington D.C., protesting both the practice and legality of abortion. It is held on or around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, a landmark decision which legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. The controversy regarding abortion is very much still prevalent today, not only in the United States, but around the world as well.

Many people who are in favor of abortion argue that it’s the woman’s right to decide what to do with her body. Proponents believe that because there are many cases where women are either raped, experience unplanned pregnancies or have a change in heart, that it should be their right to choose whether to experience childbearing.

Opponents do not agree with the arguments presented above. They believe that a fetus, regardless of weeks of age, is a human, and that any process that takes one’s life, such as abortion, is murder. Opponents do not argue against the hardships presented by rape or unplanned pregnancies; they just don’t agree that it should be taken out on the fetus.

In reality, pregnancy is an opportunity to give life to a human being, despite the route that was taken to become pregnant. No one can understand what a female experiences emotionally, mentally and physically after she was raped; the experience is very personal to her and only she can fully understand it.

But this does not mean that an abortion should be the solution. What did that fetus do wrong to deserve this fate? A fetus is life in the mother’s womb: it depends on the mother for nutrients, proper care and even good mental health on the mother’s part. A fetus has the potential to be the next Kobe Bryant, Prince, Elvis, 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Bob Marley, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and more.

Bad things happen to good people all the time, but this does not mean that we should end future lives! For instance, Jesus Christ, the son of God, was murdered by man by being placed on a cross to suffer a slow and painful death. After this occurred, did God suddenly wipe out mankind from the face of the Earth?

While we cannot judge others’ decisions for choosing an abortion, we can agree that life does not depend on age: it depends on a beating heart that has the potential to one day allow the fetus to be an amazing human being outside of the mother’s womb!

We are pro-life because after all, why are we fighting against mental illness, AIDS, the coronavirus or any human suffering in the first place? Because we love life and want all of us to be happy, caring and loving towards each other.

That was God’s plan from incepetion. Let’s continue to live as faithful servants of God and allow life to prevail.

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Diversifying Your Days

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Preventing A Repetitive Lifestyle

The importance of diversifying your days cannot be stated more clearly. This applies to people of all regions of the world, whether poor or wealthy or living in an urban or remote environment. Repetition in regards to the layout of your day is never good: it promotes boredom, temptations to use substances and even mental health problems.

Repetition is great when it comes to tasks: getting better at certain activities, improving your work performance, getting stronger in the gym, mastering your serve in tennis, etc. But the same repetitive tasks performed every single day without any diversity, may prove to be terrible for your well-being.

No matter how fun and exciting certain activities may be, if you do them every single day without changing things up, they will get old, causing you to become bored. When people get bored, guess what magically starts crossing their minds? Substance abuse. Drugs (including alcohol) are very enticing tools to get rid of boredom and to enhance activities, especially the ones that have been performed countless times.

The solution is to change your routine throughout the day: maybe start listening to different genres of music, go out with a friend on a random Tuesday evening, practice group mindfulness, order out from Seamless, write a blog post, etc. You don’t have to go overboard with this suggestion, but definitely try diversifying your days from time to time.

It might be a little difficult at first, but once you start incorporating new activities throughout your days, you’ll start to really feel the positive effect on your mental health: you’ll feel happier, more at ease and more appreciative of your time and process in general. As with anything in life, it might take a little nudge for you to get going, but it’s well worth it once you apply diversity into your life.

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The Gateway Drug

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From Marijuana To Other Drugs

When people hear marijuana being the gateway drug, they are quick to become offended and dismiss the saying right away. But what they fail to admit is how marijuana increases one’s curiosity to either get higher or try a new substance that will provide a new effect. The gateway theory is not as farfetched as many would like you to believe.

Marijuana does an amazing job at enhancing your senses, making you think outside the box and helping you escape reality. Your perception while high is significantly altered: movies become more interesting, Netflix becomes your best friend, iTunes glows louder than ever before, hooking up feels better than ever before, etc.

Guess what happens when one starts coming down from a high, especially after having a good time? They want to get right back up. And that’s what they often do. The reinforcer is all the pleasurable activities that are enhanced by marijuana itself. But many eventually give up on marijuana, and not for a good reason.

They give up on it because they have lost their taste buds for the substance. They want something more potent that will take them to Pluto instead of Saturn (even though Saturn might be more safe and fun). And so that’s when marijuana users become influenced by others around them, “Hey man, have you ever tripped on acid before?”

In general, the use of marijuana can lead to an interest in recreational psychedelic use. Because high doses of marijuana itself can be a little trippy, it’s not unusual for many users to be attracted by the allure of tripping on magic mushrooms (psilocybin), LSD or even DMT.

But tripping is not done very often; nobody dedicates every weekend to using hallucinogens. So now the user scratches his or her head and thinks of a new drug to try. That’s when they become influenced by others around them again, “Hey man, there’s a party this weekend. Have you ever tried coke?”

In conclusion, that is what is meant by the gateway drug. People might wrongfully believe that “one hit of marijuana means hit one of something else”, but that’s incorrect. The gateway theory is based on the idea that regular use of marijuana can slowly spark one’s curiosity to alter his or her mind with a more powerful substance, or a substance that provides a different effect in general; not necessarily a stronger high.

That’s the gateway theory.

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