Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cloudy red sunset

When the Sun Sets, the Sadness Rises

Couple more hours ’till 7pm… The sun approaches 5pm and your sadness is thriving. You scratch your head wondering why this repeats year after year. You hate the darkness; it makes the day feel shorter. A shorter day means less time to have fun. Less fun means more isolation. More isolation attracts sadness. Feeling sad means you’re in a rotten state of mind again. And the pattern only continues as fall progresses into winter. Once winter arrives, you pray that you can see spring again; or at least people with seasonal affective disorder do.

The key to avoiding sadness is learning how to be positive regardless of changes in your environment. You don’t have control over what happens around you, but you have control over your mind. It’s when you lose control of your mind that you become most susceptible to outside forces. And when this happens, you become an easy target. In this case, time is the outside force. As fall approaches, it gets darker out earlier in the evening. When winter arrives, 4:20pm becomes your last hit before the darkness settles in at 5pm.

White woman suffering from seasonal affective disorder, standing outside in snow

So What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a depressive disorder that causes people to become sad during seasons with shorter daylight hours. In addition, less sunlight during the winter months also contributes to symptoms such as fatigue, sadness, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, etc. The most common months to experience SAD are January and February. Other symptoms may include:

  • Craving carbohydrates
  • Hypersomnia
  • Loss of energy
  • Pacing and the inability to sit still
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts

The disorder usually starts between the ages of 18 and 30. Treatment involves light therapy, antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. SAD goes away during spring and summer, but therapy and medications help alleviate the symptoms sooner. Seasonal affective disorder occurs due to a biochemical imbalance in your brain, believed to be caused by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. It’s unknown why some people experience SAD and others do not. It definitely does not help if you live in a location that lacks sufficient sunny days during the year.

What is your experience with SAD? If any, what have you found to be helpful?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Feeling Sad for No Reason

Sad woman in black cardigan near trees

See Where Sadness Takes You

Don’t hide from your sadness; see where it takes you. Observe how it makes you feel and what thoughts it brings to the surface. We all tend to shy away from sadness and use the unconscious, immature defense mechanism known as denial. We all tend to carry on like sadness is “Not for me.” But it is for you! You have to stare sadness in the eye and tell it, “You’re back. What are you going to teach me this time?” Feeling sad for no reason is not a thing. There is always a reason as to why you’re feeling sad; you just have to discover it.

Sadness should not bring you embarrassment; it happens for a reason. Your job is to find out the reason and learn from it. If you suppress your sadness, do you think it’ll go away? Maybe only temporarily. Suppression means that you are consciously moving a negative emotion or thought into your unconscious mind. This prevents you from experiencing the negative emotion or thought. But oftentimes, it comes back out at a later date, causing you to feel sad again.

White woman feeling sad for no reason

Feeling Sad for No Reason – There is Always a Reason

Many people don’t want to learn about the reasons behind their sadness. It’s easier to suppress your thoughts or medicate yourself with substances. Many people drink alcohol, smoke cannabis or consume hard drugs to counteract their sadness. Drugs are great tools for alleviating sadness, but they only work temporarily. Once you come down from the high, the sadness resurfaces, sometimes even more powerfully. Don’t be afraid to seek the reasons behind your sadness.

When you’re feeling sad, this is a sign that something needs to change in your life. I know it’s not easy to make changes when feeling sad, but it’s worth it. Sitting there and feeling sad all day long does not accomplish anything. You need to be honest with yourself and discover the reasons behind your sadness. But also just discovering the reasons is not sufficient. You need to implement the necessary changes to avoid feeling sad again. If you’re lonely, then make the effort to be social and meet up with people. If you’re drinking too much, make the effort to cut down on the booze. There is always something that you can improve on that will prevent you from feeling sad again.

You just have to seek, implement and change.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Talking About Mental Health

Selective focus photography of hand holding crystal ball

Planet Zer0

Imagine a world where mental health does not exist; let’s call it Planet 0. In this society, there is no recognition of depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, ADHD, tic disorders, drug addiction, etc. If you suffer from a disorder of the mind, you are considered “weird,” “abnormal,” “strange” or “other-worldly.” In this world, if you have a mental illness, you are ostracized from society; you have to find your way back home because you are not getting into this circle. In this world, talking about mental health is not an option.

Talking about mental health - old man with dementia laying in bed

Talking About Mental Health is Not an Option

People who commit suicide are viewed as weak; “he would have never made it anyways” is the mentality. Drug addicts are considered the scum of the earth on Planet 0. Suffering or even worse, dying, is celebrated by the masses. Psychotic people are one of the most feared and despised. Governments all around the world are considering passing a law to allow citizens to shoot at a psychotic person if they feel threatened.

Essentially, humanity on Planet 0 does not want to have anything to do with mental health. If you are feeling down, your family warns you to get yourself together. Your friends start to lose interest in you if you’re suffering from anxiety. If you are feeling insecure, your significant other is expected to leave you. If you are hallucinating, society no longer knows of you. Psychiatric medications are for lab rats. If you’re even heard of having some medications in your home, your landlord has the right by law to evict you.

In this society, people prefer to be free of mental illness, but do not want to address it. The stigma of mental health is sky-high. Laws are being considered to prevent pharmaceutical companies from creating psychiatric medications. Pharmacies are considering banning psychiatric medications. The suicide rate is on the rise and over 60% of the population is depressed. But society doesn’t care. They view mental illness as a plague and want to wash it off the face of the hearth.

Why do we talk about mental health?

So we can avoid experiencing any sort of stigma that slightly touches or resembles Planet 0.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Overthinking a Mental Illness?

Person overthinking by standing in field of flowers holding ball against face

Mysteries of Mental Illness

The act of overthinking in and of itself is not a mental illness. Overthinking can be observed as early as childhood, when children become obsessed with certain passions or activities. It can also be observed in adolescence, when they start analyzing their peers, their role and how they view themselves in the social realm of their life. Overthinking is not a bad experience unless it starts to chip away at your education, work and quality of relationships. You should never be overthinking to the point of experiencing daily disruptions.

What is Overthinking?

So why do we overthink in the first place? If I could come up with all the reasons for it, this would become the world’s longest blog post. In a nutshell, we overthink because we’re insecure by nature. Thinking is the process of accumulating available information, analyzing it and making something meaningful out of it. Overthinking can also be a process of protecting yourself from toxic relationships. Ideally, you want to process the information at a comfortable rate and move on. But when you’re overthinking, you’re spending more time than needed analyzing information and connecting dots. Some dots may not be fruitful or even exist in the first place.

Can overthinking be a mental illness? Those who do have a mental illness such as OCD tend to overthink. They experience obsessive thoughts that are anxiety-provoking, followed by compulsions such as cleaning, checking or ordering. Their obsessive thoughts are rooted in the act of overthinking. OCD is one of the most difficult anxiety disorders to treat, often requiring very high doses of antidepressants along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

White woman laying down on brown leaves thinking

Treatments for Overthinking

What is a way to treat overthinking so that it doesn’t affect your quality of life? Try meditation, a process where you become nonjudgmental of your thoughts and observe them floating away like clouds in the sky. Meditation helps you let go of those thoughts that cause you to overthink, by dedicating a select amount of time each day to thoughts that bother you. It’s not a quick fix, but it certainly can help. You can also try exercising. The act of distracting yourself from overthinking by indulging in physically strenuous behavior does help. Your mind becomes focused on the physical exertion rather than any annoying thoughts.

Another option to help you with overthinking is to find someone who you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and concerns with. Talking is one of the most therapeutic acts and when you find someone who is a great listener, it becomes even more therapeutic. The act of sharing with others what is on your mind can greatly alleviate your suffering from overthinking. By revealing your concerns in the open and making it easier for you to discard them, you’ll feel more at ease in no time.

What is your experience with overthinking?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Overthinking mental illness smiley winking GIF face

Pandemic Mental Health Crisis

Black woman in white tank top holding sad child with mask on face

My Mental Health is Deteriorating

The seeds of the pandemic mental health crisis sprouted when we experienced the Spring 2020 lockdowns where non-essential businesses were forced to close. Many people were left without a job and struggling to make ends meet. We all experienced the recommendations of spending less time outdoors to avoid contact with potentially sick pedestrians and limiting our time in stores. I personally used to run in the park and spend time on benches to enjoy nature. Many people also cluttered in parks. But many people also got very scared and listened to everything the media and government told them. They spent their days locked in their apartments staring out their windows in the midst of a brewing depressive and/or anxiety crisis. Some parts of the world today are still experiencing lockdowns, such as Australia. Doesn’t the government know that they contribute to mental health disorders ? Of course they do.

Pandemic Mental Health Crisis: The Jabs

This is a very controversial topic because half of Americans and many across the world are weary about getting vaccinated. These vaccines were released to the public in a year. The average vaccine trial takes about 14 years. In addition, Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines use mRNA technology to deliver the genetic material coding for the viral spike proteins. mRNA vaccines were never previously introduced unto the public. Why did they introduce them now during a pandemic? What are the long-term side effects? To make things even worse, local and state governments as well as the federal government have been pushing vaccine mandates. NYC recently passed a law prohibiting unvaccinated people from indoor dining, going to the gym or any public events without proof of vaccination. Healthcare workers and many other businesses are now being mandated to become vaccinated or risk termination. Don’t you think this raises the stress level of many people who rightfully choose to be unvaccinated? This is increasing the anxiety level in many people. On the other hand, many believe that the benefits of becoming vaccinated outweigh the potential long-term risks of these vaccines. People don’t want to catch COVID! Both sides make great points, but this doesn’t mean that mental illness is not at play here.

Bottles of COVID vaccine

The Unpredictable Future

Considering that the current vaccines only prevent severe illness from COVID and not minor illness, in addition to similar viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, will this not result in deadlier strains in the near future? I find it silly that the USA is going to provide booster shots starting the 20th of September. Many third world countries have still not gotten their first shots. Don’t they realize that new variants will arise in those countries, making booster shots essentially meaningless? The point of a booster shot is to raise your antibody levels back up to when you got your last shot 8 months ago. If new variants will arise that will likely be immune to the current vaccines, what is the point of booster shots? All of this is raising the stress levels in many people, causing them to become anxious and depressed, and many even isolated inside their homes.

What is your experience with mental health during this pandemic?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The COVID Pandemic: A Mental Health Crisis smiley GIF face

Psychosis: A Taste of Insanity

White woman laying on floor with face in trash bin

Inpatient Care

Psychosis, a taste of insanity minds you no time

It’s no longer the dominant factor

Your mind has discovered the matrix and does as it wishes

Hallucinations or reality, that no longer matters

Feeling good and partaking in the psychotic realm becomes the agenda

Psych patients often become violent when you’re interfering

Inpatient care isn’t easy when they’re freely swinging

You offer them medications but they’re freely swinging

Psychosis: A Taste of Insanity, Part II

Imagine a football team about to tackle them

Those sharp needles entering their body; they become spent

Sometimes four-point restraints don’t even provide a dent

Psychosis doesn’t give a damn; immovable hallucinations become the trend

To the patient this is nothing but part of the experience

You try to educate them but they continue their resistance

Psychosis is their best friend, but sometimes their best enemy

Satan enters their mind and tricks them into a deeper insanity

What can you do besides have potent drugs handy

Blank white psychotic face with hands on head

Do you see how Tricky Psychosis can be?

Many recover but many remain dormant

In the psychotic experience in which they keep roaming

Is there a cure to this madness?

Medications work but sometimes they flop

You keep pushing intramuscular injections

The patient becomes sedated and begging

“I want more, give me another shot”

You tell them they’ve had enough

They lose it even more banging against the wall

Their bleeding forehead leads them to their downfall

You order another injection to calm their nerves

By the time the nurse administers it

The patient is already on the floor hurt

After the chaos calms down you become relaxed

The staff becomes happy and you expect some claps

But who are you kidding

These patients are mentally ill

You didn’t do much besides feed them a pill

Psychosis, will you ever accept a cure?

Or will you keep torturing these human souls

Keeping their psyche in a stir

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psychosis: a taste of insanity GIF face

Cannabis Legalization

Indoor cannabis farm

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Let’s start off with The Good of cannabis legalization: governments will get to regulate the production and distribution, ensuring quality products in stores asking for an ID just like how it’s asked for alcohol and tobacco. This will ensure that people are not smoking synthetic cannabinoids (such as K2 or Spice) or low quality flowers which provide shorter durations of high, motivating people to smoke more frequently. In addition, the social aspect of legalization is surely a victory; here is a natural product that has been used since ancient China for medicinal and social purposes. It’s finally available (legally).

The Bad: mental health problems will rise. Yes, I know the argument that people who want to smoke already smoke, whether legal or not. But now imagine opening up stores all around your neighborhood with green crosses flashing. It’s going to be much more tempting for people to purchase some flower; even people who never previously smoked. The idea that it’s legal and the psychology of seeing so many people enter the shops on a daily basis will be quite enticing! In addition, the THC content of modern day cannabis is much higher. Research is still ongoing regarding whether THC can cause psychosis vs. an increased susceptibility of developing psychosis in those with genes for psychosis.

Dank green cannabis buds

Cannabis Legalization: The Ugly

The Ugly: it makes me normal!” Psychological addiction will increase. The downside with higher THC products is that people will like it more: they will experience a more intense euphoria and increased urges to smoke more and more often. Euphoria is very nice when experiencing the daily hustles and bustles of work, stress and relationship conflicts; marijuana is great at helping you let go and enjoy the moment. With cannabis at a store near you, it will be more enticing to order products delivered to your home, seeking that euphoric high much more conveniently; getting high will become easier than doing your own damn laundry!

There, you have my take on legalization. Do I like it that it’s happening? Yes, I do. Am I realistic? Yes, I am. I truly believe that in the long-run, we will see more mental health problems surrounding cannabis, but only time can tell. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

smiley winking Gif face

Alcohol Addiction

Two white women laughing and holding drinking drinks

Mental Illness and Alcoholism

Alcohol addiction is a mental illness. Whether it’s through genes, environmental experiences or simple curiosity, once alcohol enters your bloodstream, it salivates its way to your brain. It then smoothly crosses your blood-brain barrier and camps for as long as it can. It then makes your brain its home. If you are already vulnerable, such as experiencing emotional pain, suffering from a mental illness or the victim of peer pressure, you will quickly learn that alcohol is like a potion. It quickly numbs away your painful experience. Once booze and your brain shake hands, call it a deal made in hell.

Does this mean that you are now prone to developing an addiction? Not necessarily. Is it possible? Absolutely. Many people with anxiety disorders or depression love alcohol. The substance helps lubricate their shyness, fears, anxieties and low mood, but only in the moment! Once your brain soaks up all the ethanol like a sponge, it crashes. You feel hungover or even worse you start to experience withdrawal effects such as tremors, anxiety, restlessness, sweating, insomnia and excessive thoughts of acquiring more alcohol. Severe withdrawal effects include seizures, shaking, confusion and hallucinations, also known as delirium tremens.

White woman holding cocktail drink next to bar

Can you Recover from Alcohol Addiction?

Absolutely, but it takes a strong will to do so. If you’re even 10% ambivalent, the chances of a successful recovery slim down. You must want to be free from alcohol. Quitting alcohol means no drinks whatsoever. You can no longer have a glass of wine at dinner or a beer when out with friends. I know this sounds harsh, but the saying is very true, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” To quit alcohol addiction, you must be 100% sure that you’ll never drink ever again. Too many recovered addicts take a chance thinking that one drink will not do anything, only to find themselves back in their old habits. My point is this: you can successfully recover from this mental illness but you have to sacrifice alcohol from your life for good.

Why does alcohol love your brain so much? Or simply reversed, why do you like alcohol so much? I’ll let you answer those questions.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Alcohol addiction GIF smiley face

How To Open Up About Your Mental Health

White man standing next to white woman

In therapy, the psychiatrist can only help you as much as you want to be helped. But there are ways on how to open up about your mental health without feeling ashamed. It’s very important to find that comfort zone and open up about your symptoms. When you open up, it makes easier for your doctor to better understand you. Withholding your symptoms will only delay the process to your mental health recovery and you will suffer more in return. Find a psychiatrist who makes you feel comfortable and divulge to them everything going on in your mind. Your doctor can’t wait to help you but you have to want to help yourself as well.

Stressed man talking to counselor on couch during therapy

How To Open Up About Your Mental Health: Finding Trustworthy People

Finding trustworthy people can be a challenge. Trustworthy people should make you feel comfortable enough to share anything with, including your mental health problems. The problem is that the mental health stigma is still alive and many people are afraid to open up. They are ashamed of their symptoms, believing that they will be judged and ridiculed if they divulge them. The fear of being judged makes them keep their struggles a secret, worsening their symptoms in return.

It takes courage to come out about your mental health symptoms in the same way that it takes courage for gay people to come out. But once you do it, you’ll immediately feel better because you’ll feel a great weight come off your shoulders. It’s very therapeutic to share with others what you’re going through. It makes you feel like you’re being heard and no longer isolated inside your world. If you prefer a professional to talk about your mental health symptoms with, then even better! But you never want to be ashamed of talking to someone about your symptoms. Take that initial leap of faith that things will work out and the rest of your journey should hopefully become easier.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Dealing With Mental Health Labels

Portrait of insane abstract face

When psychiatrists inform you of your diagnosis, they are not doing it with the intention of labeling you. No one is denying that dealing with mental health labels can be difficult, but it’s important to also understand what a diagnosis is. A diagnosis is given to inform you of what we think may be going on and as a guide for treatment. Psychiatric diagnoses do not define you as a person. It’s important to mention this because many patients experience an uncomfortable feeling when certain psychiatrists slap a diagnosis on them. Informing patients of their diagnosis is very important when it comes to delivery of the information. Empathy and being nonjudgmental are crucial to making patients feel comfortable. At the end of the day, we are here to help you overcome your symptoms.

Dealing With Mental Health Labels: The Diagnosis

When a patient first becomes diagnosed with a mental disorder, it can be very uncomfortable and frightening for them. There’s a tendency by some patients to believe that a label or diagnosis makes them less human than others. First, let’s clarify the difference between a label and a diagnosis. A diagnosis is the assignment of a mental disorder unto a patient based on the symptoms he or she is experiencing. Psychiatric diagnoses were created based on the observation of human experiences. They help to classify patients with different disorders so that physicians can more effectively treat them. A psychiatric diagnosis is an objective term while a label is subjective.

Depressed man dealing with mental health labels

So What Are Labels?

A label is like someone saying, “you are crazy” or “he’s weird, he’s got schizophrenia or something.” A label is like a tag that someone identifies you with and usually in a negative manner. Mental health labels are used by the public who is not formally educated in psychiatric diagnoses. You can imagine that the labeling of patients can be very embarrassing and difficult for them to experience. This is especially true for children and adolescents who are still very much in the mindset of fitting in to get approval by their peers.

Just remember that as a psychiatrist, we don’t label you. We give you a diagnosis if we think you have one based on your symptoms and experiences. I know it can be difficult to sometimes accept a diagnosis, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t define who you are as a human being. A diagnosis is just a definition of your symptoms that allows us to provide you with the correct treatment so that you can improve and no longer suffer. In a nutshell, the public does the labeling but mental health workers provide the diagnoses.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)