Mental Illness In Children

Young girl with depression covering her face with palm

Understanding A Young Child’s Mind

Children are much different than adults in many aspects, one of them being how mental illness manifests in them. While mania is mania and depression is depression, it doesn’t mean that a mental illness demonstrates the exact same presentation in children as it does in adults. Mental illness in children can be quite different. That’s why it’s important to understand a young child’s mind and where they’re coming from.

Children view the world much differently than adults. Jean Piaget established stages through which a child develops intellectually throughout the course of childhood. While the stages won’t be mentioned here, one can easily find them and understand what children experience when growing up.

For instance, depression in children does not always manifest with the obvious sadness that can be observed in adults. Children with depression often display irritability and oppositional behavior. Parents may report that their child “does not feel like doing anything anymore” and “he’s always moody or angry!”

Some children may display borderline traits such as self-injurious behaviors, unstable relationships, risky behaviors such as smoking marijuana or cat-fishing the opposite sex on dating apps, etc. But these same children may also experience inattention and hyperactivity.

It becomes a challenge to properly diagnosis a child: is it borderline personality disorder, ADHD or normal childlike behavior? Some children and teens may even present with psychotic features. Parents may complain that their child talks to themselves, refuses to leave their bedroom, has a hard time making friends, is isolated and even hypersexual!

In child psychiatry, it is very important to listen to the parent’s side of the story as well as the child’s. But most importantly, understanding a young child’s mind is key to making a proper diagnosis or any diagnosis. Some children may need a lot of time to express their thoughts and feelings, and they will often shy away in front of their parents.

While mental illness is mental illness, child psychiatry is a different world from adult psychiatry. As much as the patient comes first, the parents or caretakers are just as important for collateral information. This makes child psychiatry a very team-dependent field.

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Suicidal Abyss

Suicidal man wearing gas mask and holding torch inside dark tunnel

Not Seeing Past The Darkness

Many people have different intentions when it comes to suicide. Not everyone who you think might be suicidal is, and not everyone who you think is not suicidal isn’t. Sometimes the topic of suicide lies in a gray zone, like a chronic patient with schizophrenia telling his psychiatrist that he is experiencing auditory hallucinations of voices telling him to kill himself.

There are many terms for suicide such as active/passive suicidal ideation, suicidal behavior, other suicidal behaviors, self-harm and suicidal self-directed injury. A person can fall into any one of these categories. Sometimes they don’t even know themselves in which category they fall into.

The reason that there are numerous terms on the topic of suicide is because it’s not always clear-cut which category a person falls into. It’s very important to be able to discern which category a person falls into, in order to help them by preventing injuries or even the loss of life.

Here are some examples of the terms listed above:

  • Active suicidal ideation: the person has a series of steps or plan in his or her mind in regards to ending their life (i.e.: “I’m going to jump in front of this incoming bus”)
  • Passive suicidal ideation: the person wishes that he or she were dead, but has no active plan in mind (i.e.: “wish this bus would swerve off the road and hit me on the sidewalk”)
  • Suicidal behavior: the person demonstrates actions which are intended to end his or her life (i.e.: swallowing a bottle of pills, standing on a bridge ready to jump, heavily drinking and downing some pills in a bathtub)
  • Self-harm: the person performs an action that is intended to cause harm in some way (i.e.: cutting one’s skin, burning oneself with cigarettes, self-induced bruising)
  • Suicidal self-directed injury: the person purposely injures him or herself (i.e.: breaking one’s bones, pulling out one’s hair, poking objects through body openings)
  • Other suicidal behaviors: the person demonstrates actions which are intended to cause harm or death (i.e.: stops eating and drinking altogether, consumes heavy drugs with the hope of overdosing)

The suicidal abyss can reach great levels of depth, not always necessarily causing death to the victim. This bottomless pit cause have people suffering from a mental illness for years at a time, causing nothing more than darkness and pain in their immediate surroundings. Can you imagine how it must feel to not see past the darkness?

If you know a friend, acquaintance or family member who you suspect is suffering from a mental illness or suicidal ideation, make sure to either gently approach them and carefully listen to what they have to say, or get help right away by contacting emergency services. It all depends on their severity. But never assume that “they must be alright.”

No one is ever ” all right” when it comes to a mental illness or suicide.

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Weaponizing Mental Illness

Young girl sitting on sofa and checking social media on MacBook air with headphones on

Social Media Linked To Depression In Girls

The weaponization of mental illness is not a topic which you hear often; as a matter of fact, you almost never hear about it. That’s because to believe that there is a covert agenda to weaponize mental illness sounds outlandish and even extreme. Who would think of doing that and what would be the reason for it?

One interesting connection that can be made is the use of social media. New studies are revealing that the more frequently children and teenagers check their social media accounts (3 times per day is considered high), the higher their risk of developing depression. This is because a higher frequency of social media use results in poorer sleep, distractions from academics, sports and in-person relationships, cyberbullying and less physical exercise.

The evidence is demonstrating that social media use impacts girls more than boys. Girls are more likely to be emotionally affected by cyberbullying and are more prone to developing depression. It’s believed that depression is more common in females because of the sex steroid known as estrogen; it’s not clear why estrogen increases the risk of depression.

Taking away your children’s cell phones and access to computers is not a realistic solution in this day and age. But some possible solutions include:

  • No tech use in the bedroom at night
  • Teaching your children from a young age to focus more on academics and sports
  • Teaching your children about the dangers of social media use
  • Teaching your children discipline and balance
  • Setting a good example as a parent by not using social media that often

But what does this have to do with weaponizing mental illness? While a stretch, it’s always good to think outside the box and keep an open mind. Social media may be the platform that is relied upon by a covert organization to consistently contribute to the development of a mental illness, especially in children and adolescents.

By utilizing social media to cause mental illness in the masses, this tool helps to mentally destabilize the population, contributing to violence, mass shootings, hatred, division and suicides. Because there is no way on Earth that nature would contribute to mental illness, the only ways that a covert organization would increase mental illness is by technology and the reliance on genetic mutations.

How surprised would you be if scientists discovered that more than 1 hour of screen time per day would cause brain changes and genetic mutations, that would lead to the development of a mental illness? Would this be considered the weaponization of mental illness?

People are more prone to make irrational and impulsive decisions when suffering from a mental illness, especially when not medicated or under-medicated. And rather than relying on genetics for the development of mental illnesses in the masses, an environmental trigger must be created and utilized for fast results.

Is that where social media comes into play? Once again, this connection between social media and the weaponization of mental illness has absolutely no basis in the scientific literature. This is simply an idea worth entertaining, especially for those folks who keep an open mind to things and enjoy thinking outside the box.

If you’re not one of them, then forget that you ever heard of the weaponization of mental illness.

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Worrying Can Kill You

Worried man sitting outside with hand on face

Worrying: A Catalyst To Mental Illness

The act of allowing your mind to dwell on difficulties, troubles or unnecessary thoughts promotes stress, fatigue and even the development of a mental illness. This act is called worrying and we do it all the time; day and night. If you are worrying a lot during the day, then you can bet that you are unconsciously worrying throughout the night.

Worrying is your mind becoming stuck in a repetitive loop that is focused on a certain set of thoughts; it’s very much tied in to anxiety. But it doesn’t mean that you have anxiety if you are constantly worrying. It can just be a bad habit which you have developed secondary to your life circumstances.

People who live in urban environments are especially prone to worry about many different things. This has to do with living a fast-paced life, environmental stress, over-population, traffic and feeling rushed a lot of times. Whenever you are feeling rushed, you start to experience pressure regarding certain thoughts and behaviors.

For instance, you might feel rushed to leave your home in the morning and make it to work on time. In the process, you forget if you turned off the stove or closed the fridge from 5 minutes ago. So you go back and check them, but because you are in a rush, you end up worrying about your kitchen later on that day.

And this pattern of worrying may continue to get worse. Your worrying can even start encompassing new thoughts and behaviors; the more you feed into it, the more powerful your worries become. Worrying is also very much tied in to OCD. Once these thoughts become too negative to handle, they’re often followed by compulsions in order to alleviate them.

Excessive worrying, stress, anxiety and other symptoms can lead you to feeling suicidal. Your brain becomes overloaded with negative clutter, which distracts you from thinking clearly about your life. When you are distracted, other things in your life start to crumble; as those things go down, they also pull onto you to sink you down with them.

Keep your worries at a minimum. Often times, they’re actually never really needed.

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Hoarding Disorder

Room full of excessive hoarding of hats and other items

Is Hoarding A Mental Illness?

Hoarding disorder is the repetitive accumulation of unnecessary items, when these items are no longer needed. The first signs begin around ages 11 to 15 and become noticeably worse as the person ages. It’s considered a mental illness because the act of accumulating unnecessary items, to the point of causing a health hazard, is not considered normal.

Hoarding is more common in older adults than in younger adults. It is not known what causes hoarding disorder, but it is believed that personality, family history and stressful live events might play a role. People with this disorder tend to be indecisive; for instance, they may excessively weigh the pros and cons of throwing away a receipt.

Most people either keep a receipt or discard it. But someone who is prone to developing this mental condition, will lean towards holding onto many receipts for various reasons:

  • They believe that they will need the receipts in the near future
  • The receipts may have some important emotional significance
  • They don’t want to waste the receipts
  • They feel safer by holding onto the evidence

. . . and the list goes on. It’s important to note that hoarding and collecting are not the same thing. Someone who has a collection is not adversely affected by it: their living environment is not cluttered and does not bring upon distress or an impairment. But someone with hoarding disorder may not be able to cook in the kitchen or shower in the bathroom, due to the severity of the cluttering.

There are many problems that come along with this mental illness. Some people hoard trash, causing their place to become extremely unsanitary. This poses a risk to their health and wellbeing. In addition, many hoarders develop significant conflicts in their relationships, especially with those who try to help them by removing the clutter from their home.

Other complications due to hoarding may include:

  • Creating a fire hazard
  • Social isolation (they are embarrassed of their situation and don’t want anyone to know about it)
  • Eviction
  • Increased risk of falls (especially in the elderly)
  • Poor work performance (they are mentally distracted and preoccupied with the accumulation of specific items)

. . . and the list goes on again. It’s been observed that people with hoarding disorder also may experience depression, anxiety, OCD or ADHD. It makes sense when you connect these other mental disorders: someone with depression may not care enough about their living environment; someone with anxiety may be too afraid of the consequences of discarding something; someone with OCD may have negative thoughts about discarding items; and someone with ADHD may be too distracted to care enough about maintaining a sanitary environment.

There is no actual causation behind hoarding disorder that has been discovered. But as you can see, it’s related to other mental disorders based on common symptoms and traits. No mental disorder is unique on its own; everything is interrelated to a certain extent. How great that relation is depends on the disorders being considered. For instance, 30-50% of patients with Tourette’s disorder have OCD!

Hoarding disorder is a mental illness.

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Celebrity Mental Health

Hollywood movie studios, palm trees and carts parked on street

The Mentally Ill Mind Of Celebrities

Fame. Fortune. Cars. Money. You name it. Mental illness has no boundaries and celebrities are no stranger to it. As a matter of fact, they may even have more experience with mental health services than most Americans. That’s because the life of a celebrity is not as great as one may think.

An artist has to come up with fresh albums, perform on yearly tours, attend photoshoots, do interviews, travel the world, etc. The limelight also takes a toll on their mental health: privacy goes out the window; everyone wants to know about their lives; endless questions about their careers and relationships circulate, etc.

Many celebrities became famous from a young age. They never had time to enjoy their childhood and just be a kid. Some examples include Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson and many more. When your mind skips the natural growth process of being a child and jumps prematurely into an adult state of mind, this affects the psyche of the celebrity adversely.

All stages of human development must be appropriately experienced in the right amount of time. When childhood prematurely ends because a person has suddenly developed stardom and is earning millions of dollars, that celebrity’s mind will unconsciously become stuck in the childhood phase of development.

When they get older, the fame and the money will no longer matter as much; they will have become desensitized. But what will slowly come back to the forefront of their minds is their inner longing for being a child again, except that now they are in their mid-twenties or older. They can’t be children anymore, and so they experience anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

A celebrity is just like any other person: they have feelings, emotions, desires, needs and the hope for a healthy state of mind. Many people envy celebrities for everything that they have, but this is not the right way to view them. We must be cognizant of the fact that their jobs are very stressful and hard on the psyche.

Celebrities are not any better than us, and we are not any better than them. We are all in this together!

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Famous People With Mental Illness

Men with mental illness hugging each other

Mental Illness Has No Boundaries

Fame, money or talent does not prevent mental illness from affecting one’s mind. No one is immune to mental illness, just as no one is immune to cancer. The brain is the most sophisticated organ in the human body and we have no access to it besides with imaging. And even then, we cannot really tell what is happening at the neuronal level.

Mental illness affects even famous people:

  1. Adele: suffered from postpartum depression, stating “I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me.”
  2. Lady Gaga: suffers from PTSD from a rape that she experienced at 19 years old, stating “my own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others.”
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio: suffers from OCD, stating “I’m able to say at some point, ‘OK, you’re being ridiculous. Stop stepping on every gum stain you see. You don’t need to do that.’”
  4. Michael Phelps: suffers from ADHD since 9 years old, having used the swimming pool from a young age to burn off all of his excess energy.
  5. Demi Lovato: suffers from bipolar disorder which has caused her to battle drug addiction, eating disorders, self-injurious behavior and depression. She states the following about learning coping skills in therapy, “for the first time in my life, I started to feel.”

. . . and the list continues. Mental illness is real and can affect any human being on this planet. There is no reason to be ashamed of your mental illness. The goal is to make every person in this world comfortable with their diagnosis; not proud, but comfortable! Comfort brings upon happiness.

And we can use more happiness in this day and age!

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Cocaine-Induced Depressive Disorder

Depressed woman sitting on wing chair withdrawing from cocaine

When Cocaine Steals Your Happiness

The withdrawal from cocaine can be so intense that users literally become depressed, when the drug is no longer inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine in their synaptic clefts. The depression is not severe enough to qualify for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder; hence the diagnosis of substance-induced mood disorder.

Cocaine causes a very intense but short euphoria which makes the user feel on top of the world; think Al Pacino as Scarface. But because the euphoria lasts 20 minutes or less, this promotes the increased usage of the substance. As the user repeats this behavior over and over again, tolerance develops, followed by withdrawal when the cocaine is no longer consumed.

“The crash” is the intense depressive withdrawal state that a user experiences after cocaine is stopped. Many users will binge on cocaine for weeks or months at a time in order to prevent the crash. But more cocaine only worsens the situation: it reinforces the addictive behavior, destroys the brain and body and no longer delivers an intense high.

Either a user battles through the storm and quits cocaine for good, or goes back to using the drug to avoid feeling depressed. This is the addiction in and of itself. At this point, a user does not even feel that high anymore; the drug basically makes them feel themselves again.

Instead of feeling very low or very high, cocaine makes a chronic user feel “normal.” This is not too say that higher doses will not get the user euphoric again; they will, but never at the level of their first highs which initiated the entire chasing process in the first place. At this point, the user is in a never-ending roller coaster ride.

The roller coaster ride is never-ending because a user often has trouble wanting to stop the joy ride. Instead of taking responsibility by going to work and living a productive life, that has been replaced with chasing pleasure, whether high or low. For the user, the experience of feeling high and enjoying the ride has become more important than remaining sober and contributing to society.

Is it worth trying cocaine? Besides the physiological effects and bodily harm which it does, it also tremendously increases your chances of developing psychiatric illnesses such as depression and psychosis. And you never know how you will react! You may be that one person whose brain loves cocaine and never wants to stop.

Don’t try it. Cherish your god-given happiness.

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Unique Keys To Mental Illness

Focus photography of psychedelics used for treating mental illness

Psychedelics For All Walks Of Life

Can chemical compounds such as DMT, psilocybin, LSD and mescaline be one day utilized to treat mental illness? MDMA is already in phase 3 clinical trials for the treatment of PTSD. Defeating mental illness has already proven to be a difficult challenge for the medical community, with many drugs simply not touching the pathology responsible for these destructive conditions.

Psychedelics may one day prove to be unique keys to mental illness because of the altered states of consciousness in which they provide. It’s not necessarily their mechanism of action in the brain which is proving to be useful, but the meaningful and profound experiences which they provide for users.

Many patients in clinical trials have reported relief in their anxiety and depressive symptoms after having meaningful trips on psilocybin. The idea is that hallucinogens force the user to confront their troubles and unconscious conflicts directly in the trip; their madness comes out in a controlled and supervised medical setting.

Perhaps anxiety and depression is much more complex than the monoamine hypothesis of not having enough serotonin circulating in the synaptic cleft. Perhaps the reason why psychedelics are proving to work against these mental illnesses is because they directly tackle the unconscious conflicts which have gone haywire; psychedelics help the user untangle the intricate and sticky unconscious webs.

One exciting point about hallucinogens is that they’re non-addictive; no one wakes up everyday and states, “I want to trip on ibogaine today.” This is because hallucinogens provide such powerful experiences, that the mind simply does not have energy to “trip” on a consistent basis. This prevents users from becoming addicted.

Throughout history, psychedelics have been regarded as sacred medicines used for guidance, learning and healing. They were even previously used in the field of psychiatry in the 1950s before they left the laboratory and blew up into the free love social movement. In return, the Nixon administration viewed hallucinogens as a threat to the mind and soul of America’s youth and made them schedule I drugs; the research was buried underground.

As more traction is gained regarding the research studies on psychedelics, maybe one day we will be able to utilize these powerful medicines to help alleviate mental illness, and provide a higher quality of life for people from all walks of life.

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Is Mental Illness Genetic?

Colorful abstract illustration

Genetically Programmed To Experience Mental Illness

Researchers are in the process of learning more about how genetics play a role in the development of mental illness. We already know that many mental illnesses are genetically tied: major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many more.

But we do not know how or why genes play such a large role in the development of mental illness. It most likely relies on similar reasoning as to why physical disorders are tied to genetics: a manifested disorder modifies the genetic code of the parent and the parent passes those modified genes onto his or her offspring.

Many argue that the future of medicine lies in the field of genetics. DNA is the carrier of genetic information: units of heredity which are transferred from parent to offspring and are held to determine some characteristic or trait of the offspring. When someone tells you “you resemble your dad or you have his temperament”, they are indirectly addressing your genetic makeup.

This does not mean that we are doomed because genetics is tied to mental illness. On the contrary, researchers are very optimistic to learn more about this subject in order to attempt to identify the exact genes responsible for various mental illnesses. With identification of the exact genes, the goal becomes to study them and see if there is any way that future generations can avoid them.

It’s believed that genes will provide us with the information necessary to learn more about how to treat mental illness. As of today, there is no cure for any mental illness; only prevention and treatment are available. But a mental illness most likely develops from environmental factors and possibly faulty genes. It’s these genes and its influence on the human mind that we are trying to learn more about.

Some genes that are tied to mental illnesses or physical disorders are responsible for the malfunctioning of certain enzymes in the human body. With the replacement of those enzymes, theoretically, we have a chance of better treating a mental illness. Therefore, genes may provide us with more information on the pathophysiology of mental disorders.

Genes may contain our genetic makeup but do not contain our soul!

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