What Is Anxiety?

A scared man with his mouth open keeping his hands over his eyes

Anxiety: Entering Another Dimension

There are many forms of anxiety: panic attacks, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, substance-induced anxiety, agoraphobia, etc. Anxiety is prevalent in all cultures and nobody is immune to it. The Existential School of Thought actually believes that the source of anxiety is existence itself.

Not all anxiety is bad however; it is normal to have anxiety if you are being threatened. That means that your sympathetic system is warning you that potential danger lies ahead. On the other hand, other forms of anxiety can be very debilitating and paralyze people.

What are panic attacks? A panic attack is a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety: a fear of the world coming to an end, sweating, palpitations (heart beating fast), a fear of being “doomed”, a fear of loss of control of oneself, trembling and shaking, shortness of breath or chest tightness, chills or even hot flashes.

Multiple recurrent panic attacks over a month with a future fear of having more panic attacks results in a diagnosis of Panic Disorder; this can be caused by genetics or substances such as excessive alcohol use.

If anyone has even experienced a panic attack, they know that it is extremely unpleasant. I have experienced panic attacks and I can attest that the feeling of “derealization” is very real: an alteration of the experience of your surroundings. For example, you may lose track of time or you may feel a sense of disconnection with your surroundings. On a positive note, panic attacks can be treated with medication and CBT.

What is generalized anxiety disorder? This is 6 months or more of excessive and exaggerated worrying and tension about everyday things, that other people would normally not worry about. For instance, a mother may excessively worry about: going to work, paying the bills, picking her son up from soccer practice, putting food on the table, doing the laundry, not making enough money, not exercising enough, not having enough friends, etc.

These are all normal things to worry about, but patients with GAD take it to the extreme where the worrying becomes debilitating: it interferes with their sleep and relationships and they may even experience feeling lightheaded or shortness of breath. Thankfully, GAD can be treated with medication and therapy.

What is social anxiety? This is the intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social situation. For instance, you go out with your friend to a bar on a Friday night and he suddenly storms out within 20 minutes of being there. When you find him outside on a bench down the street from the bar, his reasoning may be “I thought everyone was staring at me and judging me” when in fact, nobody was.

This disorder can be very debilitating because it prevents people from having a normal social life; some may not even go to work or school anymore due to a fear of being humiliated. The solution is medication, therapy and encouraging the person to socialize despite having the irrational fear.

What is substance-induced anxiety? As you can guess, it involves anxiety that has been brought upon by a drug, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, K2, methamphetamine, etc. The anxiety usually occurs while the person is under the influence of the drug. They may feel panic, worried, have shortness of breath and sweating and feel like they are going to die.

The anxiety usually subsides after they come out of their high. Some drugs such as alcohol can cause panic disorder, which persists after the intoxication from alcohol goes away. This is treated with medication, therapy and sobriety.

And lastly, what is agoraphobia? This is an extreme fear of being in open places, such as a mall or college classroom, and results in the person not wanting to leave their home, in order to avoid the anxiety that comes upon them when they are in the open place. They interpret these open places as “being difficult to escape from.”

A lot of times, agoraphobia is associated with panic disorder, because the person may have had a panic attack in an open place (a mall, a college classroom, a gym, etc.) and therefore, has developed a fear of being in that open place; they try to avoid having a future panic attack by not going to that open place again.

Agoraphobia can be very serious as it can paralyze people and prevent them from leaving their home. It is a very depressing condition to have. This is treated with medication, therapy and encouraging the person to go into open places and live a normal life, despite their fear.

There are more anxiety disorders that haven’t been covered here, but I hope you are able to understand the serious nature of these disorders and their impact on humanity. The DSM movement encourages everyone to come together and share their experiences, so we can unify and tackle these problems together.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Focus On Your Goals In Life

Fist pump directed towards the sunset after achieving your goals

Keep Your Garden Free Of Distractions

It is important to be goal-oriented and shoot for the stars! Goals give you direction and allow you to visualize where you want to stand in the future. The problem is that we tend to lose track of our goals or give up on them. People give up on their goals because of lack of success in achieving them, laziness, distractions, drugs, addictions, mental illness, relationship issues, etc. Goals become replaced with distractions, and distractions prevent you from achieving your maximum potential in life.

Why should we shoot for our maximum potential? Because it can provide us with more happiness when we realize that we achieved everything we set out to accomplish. Falling short of the prize can result in regret and even depression in some. Our maximum potential can open up new doors in life that can take us in directions beyond our wildest dreams. Never give up on your goals and do not be afraid to fail! Failing is part of the process and even the most successful people have said “learning occurs more from failing than succeeding.” This is because through failure we build character and receive the opportunity to analyze our shortcomings and grow from them. Failing, ironically, is therapeutic to our mental health because it instills perseverance, growth, character and resilience; and we need all of that in this day in age!

Sometimes we become distracted from our goals. Distractions are like weeds that pop up in a garden; sometimes we forget to take them out. At first, the weeds may not even be noticeable, but over time, the garden starts to look messy and unattractive. That is what happens when we let distractions take over our life and interfere with our goals. Make sure you tend to your garden (mind) everyday and keep it precious and a place of comfort and happiness. Together, the DSM movement is our garden where we can come together and share our goals, experiences and mental health concerns.

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What Is Psychotherapy?

Beautiful attractive blonde girl sitting on the couch

Dive Into The Mind With Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental disorders by psychological rather than medical means. There are many forms of psychotherapy, each with its different school of thought and techniques for helping patients achieve more order in their lives. Did you know that you do not need a mental illness to undergo psychotherapy? Some people attend sessions just because they want to improve their lives; it can be very therapeutic and help one rediscover their ways, thought processes, intentions, motivations, problems, etc.

There should be no shame seeing a psychotherapist. Think of it as reorganizing the files on your computer (your mind); after years of use, it can get messy in there. Psychotherapy can be performed by a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist trained in mental health. Who you see does not matter as much as whether you actually start the process of psychotherapy itself.

What is psychoanalysis? This is a form of psychotherapy founded by Sigmund Freud – one of the greatest minds the world of psychology has ever seen. This form of therapy aims to treat mental disorders by investigating the interaction of your conscious mind and your unconscious mind, and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into your conscious mind by techniques such as dream interpretation and free association.

You might have seen free association in movies, where the patient lays down on a couch with his or her back to the therapist and speaks whatever is on their mind; this helps facilitate a natural flow of thought and allows the therapist and yourself to understand why you think of the things you do. Freud called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.”

He believed that dreams provided images, clues and information about your unconscious mind, but because of the difficulty of interpreting a dream’s meaning, it has to be carefully deciphered. This is a little harder to do because many people don’t attempt to recall their dreams. Often, a dream diary is required for this process.

Overall, psychoanalysis needs to be performed 3-4 times a week for a patient to reap its benefits. The total duration of therapy is based on each individual case. And lastly, it can get expensive. Usually this form of therapy is sought out by people who have time and money on their hands. One recent famous example is Howard Stern; he was recently on CNN talking to Anderson Cooper about how he has benefited from psychoanalysis. And boy, did he look like a changed man!

What is cognitive behavioral therapy? CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression. This is less time consuming than psychoanalysis because this allows a patient to meet once a week with the therapist. This form of therapy does not attempt to analyze your unconscious, nor does it attempt to get to the root of the problem. Oftentimes, the root of the problem is very difficult to discover.

For example, you might have a fear of flying in airplanes which started 6 months ago. Prior to that, you never had that fear. CBT does not attempt to analyze why you developed this fear in the first place, because it might have developed from a multitude of factors, which can take years to arrive to or maybe never. Secondly, arriving at the source of the problem will not fix your present fear of flying.

So what CBT does is provide you with a set of tools and techniques to help you comfortably fly again. The therapist might advise you to attend a flight simulation laboratory where you experience the act of flying in gradual steps. Think of CBT as “I recognize your problem, I’ve seen five others patients in my career with your problem, here are a set of tools that have worked for them and which I believe will work for you.”

There are many other forms of psychotherapy. The important point to understand is that some people can benefit from talking more than they can benefit from medications alone, and that there should be no shame or stigma of seeking someone to talk to about your mental health concerns.

The DSM movement is about promoting an open community where people feel proud to share their mental health concerns, and are loving and caring with each other.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Importance Of Exercising On Your Mental Health

Attractive woman jogging on stadium bleachers in blue spandex

Exercise Helps You Escape Reality

There is something magical about putting your body in motion. If you learn to be focused during your exercises, whether that is through music or socializing, you will find out very quickly that you enter a “fitness tunnel” that keeps you motivated to push harder during your workouts. This results in endorphins or “endogenous opioid neuropeptides” or “feel-good hormones” to be released by your Central Nervous System and Pituitary Gland into your system to help you feel good. Your body literally interprets the intense exercise as fatigue and injury, and so it rewards you with natural painkillers to feel good. And guess what happens when you feel good? You keep exercising because you want more. And guess what happens when you keep exercising? You are distracted from depression, anxiety, worries, stress, work, relationships, etc.

Exercising is a natural remedy for treating mental health issues. Your body and mind click during exercising like two pieces of puzzle; they are both preoccupied with the workout. But when you are suffering from a mental illness, your mind is preoccupied with the symptoms and your body is just there, not really doing anything – see the disconnection? Now that is not to suggest that you should no longer take psychiatric medications if you start exercising. It’s always best to talk to your psychiatrist about any changes in treatment, but I believe exercise and medications is better than medications alone.

Is exercising hard? Sure it is. You have to maintain your motivation, establish a routine, actually step outside your home and perform the activities. But is going to work or school hard? Just because you don’t get paid during exercising doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. With exercising, you reap the benefits that same day: your circulation (blood flow) is increased, your LDL (bad cholesterol) goes down and your HDL (good cholesterol) goes up, your glucose (sugar) is burned, your muscles start breaking down and rebuilding into a more fit and lean structure, and lastly: you are taking care of your mental health; you feel happier! The DSM movement is all about excellent mental health and proper fitness!

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Dating, Mental Health And The Impact On Millennials

Millennials sprayed in skin paint taking a group picture with a cell phone

The Emotional Epidemic

Loneliness rates are increasing at an all time high and dating has turned into superficial hookups and one-night stands. Burnout was just recently classified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. Depression and anxiety are increasing, not decreasing. Friendships and relationships are becoming more superficial; no one has time for anybody.

People are marrying at a later age and divorces are still at an all time high. Student debt is plaguing the country with unhappiness; one report tells the story of a student who attempted to import Cocaine from Panama to try to pay his student debt. It is evident that the millennial generation is facing a unique time of hardships not experienced by prior generations.

What is behind this rise in hardships and why is our generation experiencing it? The culprit, unfortunately, might be technology itself. We have become so hooked and dependent on laptops, cell phones, television, social media, Instagram and Facebook, that it has caused us to become detached from one another.

Back in the day, the lack of technology forced people to interact with each other on the street, work and school way more frequently than present day; that was the only opportunity for socializing. Nowadays, if millennials go out, they may attend a bar which again involves superficial relationships that either lead to an intimate rejection or an overnight quickie, only to never see the person after the next day.

Is there a solution to this madness or are we doomed? I believe the solution involves deleting dating apps, spending as little time as possible on social media websites, watching television at a bare minimum, and in return, spending more time exercising, meditating, praying and getting involved in hobbies. Even psychotherapy can be beneficial; a mental health diagnosis is not required.

I think most importantly is changing our mindset: lowering our expectations, being more loving with each other and being forthcoming regarding our mental health issues; putting an end to mental health stigma! We need to lose our selfish mentality that everything is “about us.” We need to form a cohesive alliance again, and tackle these hardships together. The DSM movement is about prevailing together!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Will Psilocybin Help With Mental Health?

A man's hand holding magic mushrooms

The Resurgence Of Psychedelics In Medicine

Psilocybin is the hallucinogenic chemical in “magic mushrooms.” It is converted to psilocin within 45 minutes after ingesting the mushrooms. Users start to feel “mind loosening”, increased perceptual awareness, heightened senses, and expansion of consciousness. Psilocybin has been studied for years in clinical trials at John Hopkin’s as well as a recent clinical trial in terminally ill cancer patients at NYU.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been studying hallucinogenic compounds for years; their famous study shows MDMA proving to be helpful for patients with PTSD. The MDMA helps the patients become very relaxed and empathic with the therapist, to the point of feeling extreme comfort reliving their traumatic experiences, and working through their traumatic experiences to help avoid being affected by them. But is there evidence that mushrooms and psychedelics can help the medical field, in particular, psychiatric patients?

Psilocybin and LSD actually used to be utilized in psychiatry in the 1950s and earlier on patients with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and even alcoholics. Alcoholics were given LSD and the trick was to induce a frightening experience or “trip” similar to delirium tremens; a naturally scary hallucinating experience experienced during alcohol withdrawal.

It was shown that after their experience with LSD, many alcoholics refused to consume a drink even two months after the experience; a much better result than any medication assisted treatment present in 2019. Psilocybin has been shown to be effective in terminally ill anxious cancer patients who are afraid of dying; the chemical delivers a profound experience, resulting in increased self-acceptance of their fate, as well as drastically reduced anxiety.

Many people have experienced mystical and profound experiences on psychedelics. They come out of their trip reporting “being a new man”, “having rediscovered myself” and claiming to have their ego dissolved. One famous actor in the past even reported “young women are now very attracted to me.” Will psychedelics be utilized in the near future to help heal all the depression and anxiety which people are suffering from in modern day times? Let’s hope!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Addiction Epidemic Of K2

A man lighting up a k2 joint

K2: A Parasite Of The Brain

K2 or Spice is a drug sold in convenience stores across the United States. It is made up of synthetic cannabinoids that bind to the same receptors in the brain that THC in Marijuana binds to. It is mass produced by chemists in China and other countries, resulting in mass-importation on the black market.

However, this garbage of a drug causes seizures, bizarre behavior, psychosis and even death. This is because the chemists alter the chemicals after the DEA bans the last batch’s chemical properties. In return, users never know what they are inhaling.

The drug continues to remain easily accessible because of the changed chemistry of new batches that enter the market. It is very unfortunate that people lower their standards and use drugs that are chemically manufactured and which serve no purpose. Supposedly, the high is similar or more intense than Marijuana, but why do people choose to smoke a fake version of Marijuana that can cause them to have seizures?

The answer is because addiction comes in many shapes and forms; it is like a demon creeping in the alleyway, waiting for its next victim to terrorize. That is why we must come together and better understand how to defeat addiction. Consciousness may be universal, and by coming together, we can create a better and more thorough understanding of our thoughts; sort of like a “world wide consciousness.”

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

What Is Gambling Disorder?

People gambling on a poker chip table

When Casinos Hijack The Reward System

Imagine coming from a successful family: your dad is a lawyer, your brothers are physicians and you’re spending endless nights in Atlantic City gambling your life away, hoping to earn more money . . . deciding at 5am that you no longer have energy and you run back to your hotel to crash, only to wake up at 6pm and start all over again. In addition, you consume alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine; anything that can give you that extra edge. Welcome to Gambling Disorder.

Gambling Disorder is a real diagnosis experienced by millions of people worldwide:

1) Gamblers need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to experience a desired excitement. $100 dollars no longer does it. $1000 dollars no longer does it. $10,000 is the next magic number, until they crash and burn.

2) Gamblers become restless and irritable when they crash and burn. They attempt to stop but can’t. The loss is on their mind. They believe that next time will be different. And so they return back to gamble more hours of their life away.

3) Gamblers have made many unsuccessful attempts to cut back. The virus has struck their mind and their circuity has been hijacked: they need to win more money so they can feel good again. Not gambling actually makes them sad.

4) Gamblers think of ways of obtaining money for which to gamble with. Some forge checks, some steal, some use all their money from their jobs. It’s a never-ending cycle.

5) Gamblers gamble when distressed: anxiety, guilt, helplessness, depression. Their mental health takes a toll; they will sacrifice their well-being for the hope of winning money.

6) Gamblers “chase one’s losses.” They will return the next day to make up for what they lost. Say goodbye to your job, your family and your friends.

7) Gamblers lie. They cannot reveal to people that they have an issue. The only people who know at first is the employees at the casino. But they don’t care. It’s a business.

8) Gamblers lose relationships. Their friends and families give up on them. They have a failed marriage, a failed career. Their addiction as taken over them.

9) Gamblers have desperate financial situations. They ask others for money. They do anything to go back to the casino. They have lost it.

This is the life of a person with Gambling Disorder. We must come together and help these people live a normal life again. Stigma and pointing the finger are not the answers. This is a mental disease that needs grave attention. We are in this together.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Time To End Mental Health Stigma

A female leaning her head against a man's shoulder

Stigma Prevents Progress

Why is there disgrace associated with mental disorders? Because someone is suffering from depression, anxiety, personality disorders, psychosis or addiction, society attaches stigma to the symptoms the person is experiencing? This no longer can go on, if we want to help society be open about mental disorders and their corresponding treatments. Stigma halts progress; it is a barrier that stands before us and keeps many people hidden in the shadows; hidden from seeking treatment. The more we come together and share our experiences, the sooner mental health will be normalized and accepted.

There should be no shame to one experiencing depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts; the brain is undergoing neurochemical changes and needs help reestablishing order. Just like any sick organ in physical disorders, the same applies to mental illness. The key is coming together and sharing our experiences. Let’s learn why we feel depressed, anxious or experiencing hallucinations. All of these experiences are frightening, but imagine how much more frightening they are for someone who cannot share them due to fear of stigma? This person can commit suicide due to stigma; his or her emotions will literally bury them if they cannot live in an open society, free to share their mental health concerns. Let’s come together and put an end to stigma. I encourage everyone reading this post to share it as much as possible with your friends and family! Spread the word: we will end mental health stigma.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Mental Health Involves Consistency

A woman with makeup holding a piece of white paper with a smile drawn on the paper

Consistency Involves Determination

The daily stress we encounter can take a huge toll on our mental well-being; jobs, errands, relationships, tasks, etc. All of these can add up and influence our genetic makeup – it’s called epigenetics. Our genes can be turned on or off, resulting in depression, anxiety and for some, unfortunately, psychosis. So what do I mean by consistency?

You have to maintain a certain mindset where you remain happy and content with your life, preventing stress from influencing your behavior and emotions; this must be done on a daily basis. This does not mean that you shouldn’t shoot for the stars as in my previous post; you still want to remain motivated for success. But do it in a way where you don’t get bogged down in worry, stress and anxiety.

But you have to be determined to remain in a consistent state of mind. Determination means it has to come from your heart and mind; you are motivated to be consistent and mentally-healthy. And if you are not determined, you must find a way to become determined: look back at how you felt when you were once happy, content, joyful, glad and excited! When you can tune in with those positive emotions, it will become easier to remain consistent and determined to maintain a positive state of mind.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)