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Understanding a Connection Between Mental Illness & Family History

 

Many with a mental illness may feel like they need to silence their suffering. The stigma attached to conditions like major depression or bipolar disorder can suppress people into hiding their pain or continuing to live a debilitating life in secret. But organizations like The Mighty, To Write Love On Her Arms and Mental Kilter are bringing a sense of normalcy to mental disorders, supporting people facing mental health challenges.

Connecting with these types of organizations, along with seeking medication, therapy or a deeper understanding of a mental disorder, can help you (or help you support a loved one). The following sheds light on the topic of mental illness and family history. By learning more about mental illness and factors beyond your control that may have cultivated it, you can start working toward managing your disorder step-by-step and stigma-free. Connection, information, and knowledge are empowering in the context of your mental health.

Multifactorial Disordersman covering his face with his hands who has a mental illness which is depression

Mental disorders are known as multifactorial inheritance disorders. This means a combination of multiple genes, acting alongside environmental factors, can cause a genetic disorder, including behavioral, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. Genetics Home Reference also explains that although disorders do cluster in families, there is no definitive pattern of inheritance. In other words, a person with a strong family history of mental illness may be at high risk for developing one, but it’s not concrete. Uncertain specific factors and varying genetic contributions make it difficult to clearly identify if a person inherits a disorder. You could have a high functioning depression, for example, whereas a sibling has a mild case or no symptoms of depression at all.

Environmental Effects

As a multifactorial disorder, mental illness arises due to environmental circumstances (in addition to genetics). Factors like trauma, emotional harm, substance abuse and even experiencing stress in the womb can make a person susceptible to a mental disorder. A paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information identifies research that a woman’s psychological distress while pregnant can affect fetal behavior and child development. Studies show that maternal anxiety and depression, for example, can cause an increased risk for neuro-developmental and mental disorders in children. Moreover, science journalist Annie Murphy Paul, during an interview with Scientific American, refers to a theory speculating that the effects of the stress hormone cortisol can increase the likelihood that anxiety and depression in a woman cause the baby’s development of mental illness.

5 Psychiatric Disorders Sharing Common Genetic Factors

The National Institutes of Health points to the idea that psychiatric disorders can indeed run in families, as well as share genes and similarities biologically. These five illnesses include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.

Types of Mental Illness That Share Common Genetic Factors

  • Autism – Autism is a mental condition that usually develops during early childhood. It is considered as a highly heritable psychiatric disorder in which 1 out of 166 people has this neurodevelopmental disorder. Studies show that there is an 80 percent chance where the other twin will have this mental illness when one identical twin has it.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – This mental disorder is commonly diagnosed in children that affects teens as well in which progresses into adulthood. The symptoms may differ from person to person but the most common are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. This condition likely runs in the family where the genes acquired from the parents are one of the major determinants of having this condition.
  • Bipolar Disorder – Individuals with this type of brain disorder, have a condition wherein their serotonin and dopamine do not function properly which causes mood swings and unusual changes in energy and activity levels. This condition may be hard to diagnose but there are signs and symptoms that will help identify the disorder. Researchers believe that genetic predisposition is present in this condition where abnormalities are found on specific genes.
  • Major Depression – Major depression is also known as the major depressive disorder (MDD). A person with major depression has a constant feeling of sadness and find it difficult to carry out daily activities such as eating and sleeping. Studies show that at least 10 percent of individuals in the US are diagnosed with depression of which around 50 percent of the cause is due to genetic predisposition. In this case, if a person has a history of depression in their family, that person will more likely have a high risk of developing major depression in comparison with an average person.
  • Schizophrenia – Schizophrenia generally develops in early adulthood or late adolescence and have symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. It is more likely that one of the causes of this mental disorder and a primary determining factor is genetics or heredity. Individuals who have blood relatives with schizophrenia tend to acquire this chronic brain disorder themselves.

If your family has a history with one of these five illnesses, then you may be pre-dispositioned to developing one as well. Mental Health America provides a list warning signs that can indicate a mental illness, along with coping strategies, that you can refer to if you’re concerned you have symptoms. Lifestyle habits like healthy eating, regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress management and emotional support services can also help reduce symptoms of mental disorder and your risk of developing a mental illness.

Seeking Counseling & Exploring Mental Illness Furtherwoman in a psychologist's office who is dealing with a mental illness

Mental illness is complex, resulting from interacting genetic and environmental components; determining high or low risk isn’t clear-cut. But speaking with a certified therapist can help you with any mental illness-related concerns such as:

  • Managing an already diagnosed mental illness
  • Any concerning emotional or mental problems
  • Fear you may develop one because of your family history
  • Fear you may pass on a disorder because of your family history
  • Living with someone with mental health problems, helping a loved one in need

If you need to connect with a professional to share worries or ask questions, schedule an appointment with ThriveTalk. ThriveTalk specializes in tele-therapy services provided by certified therapists who can conveniently and remotely treat and counsel via video conference.

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Internet Addiction. Unplug Once a Week. It’s Good for You.

 

Internet addiction is epidemic in today’s society, and it’s bad for your physical and mental health. The average American adult now spends more than 10 hours a day staring at a screen whether mobile devices, gaming, working or watching TV — based on Nielsen audience report about internet addiction statistics.

All this time online can take a toll on your mind and body. Here are seven reasons why unplugging from the Internet at least once a week is good for your mental and physical health.

Benefits of Unplugging from the Internet

It Builds Self-Control

When you’re constantly going online for socializing, videos or gaming, it can become a compulsive behavior pattern. You can tell your technology is starting to control you when you start to feel anxious whenever you’re away from your smartphone, you feel a need to drop everything to answer a text alert, or you spend all your free time gaming, which are signs of technology addiction. Disrupting this compulsive behavior can help you develop self-control, says Entrepreneur.

It Lets Your Brain Relax

teens using smartphones who are addicted to the internet are forming a circle

Constantly staring at a screen bombards your brain with visual and auditory stimulation. This keeps your nervous system from relaxing, which is unnatural and builds stress. Thirty-eight percent of millennials feel stressed from technology overload, a Cornerstone OnDemand study found. Spending less time on the computer will help you calm your mind.

It Improves Your Mental Health

The stress of constant online stimulation can strain your mind as well as your nerves. You can start to feel fatigued, anxious, irritable or even aggressive. If you’re online constantly because of work, you may start to resent your employer. Recognizing this, French workers have successfully lobbied for a right to have hours on evenings and weekends when staff is not allowed to send or respond to emails.

It Allows You to Be More Present

Constantly interrupting what you’re doing to answer texts or catch up on games keeps you in a state of distraction. This can hurt your ability to concentrate on important tasks, as well as your ability to relax, enjoy life and socialize with others. Unplugging periodically can help you learn to be more present to yourself and to others around you.

It Frees You to Pursue Your Life Goals

women giving high five to each other learned how to stop being addicted to internet

Being preoccupied with the Internet can distract you from important priorities such as long-term life and career goals. Disconnecting can give you time to reconnect with your top priorities. Or take on a new hobby. Get rid of habits that make you unhappy, and focus on achieving your goals.

It Promotes Family Bonding Time

Being online constantly robs you of precious moments you could spend bonding with your family. Scheduling periodic downtime on evenings and weekends give you an opportunity to spend quality time with your family. You can use this time to focus on each other and on offline activities you can enjoy together.

It Deters Obesity

Spending too much time online can hurt your physical health by promoting obesity. Harvard research has already established a correlation between too much TV viewing and obesity, and research suggests a similar correlation between obesity and computer, video game and internet use. Unplugging can give you a chance to get in some exercise and improve your health.

The negative physical and mental consequences of too much internet and gaming time are numerous, and the benefits of taking a break from online activity are compelling. Unplugging from the internet can be a struggle at first, but it will help you develop self-regulation and meet your goals.

If you feel you are at risk of having excessive internet use and starts to question yourself, “Am I addicted to the internet?”, then this is the right time to find ways on how to prevent internet addiction. Below are some tips on how to restrain yourself from spending too much time on the internet and save yourself from the addiction.

How to Avoid Internet Addiction

1. Acknowledge that you may be addicted to the internet.
You need to admit first to yourself that you are at risk of being addicted online. Once you acknowledge your internet dependency, it will be easy for you to get help. Start by finding support groups that will help you in dealing with problems associated with the use of the internet.

2. Set a specific time when using the internet.
When you use your computer, make sure that you set a definite time on how many hours you should spend in surfing the net. In this way, you can regulate your computer use and do the things that are more important.

3. Distract yourself from the computer.
Call your friends and spend more time with them. Going out with your friends for at least 3 hours a day will help you divert your attention from using the internet. Also, you can gain better mental health by socializing. Research shows that interacting with other people improves your mood and weakens the feelings of depression.

4. Find a hobby that doesn’t involve using the internet.
There are a lot of things you can do without the internet. You can take a yoga or cooking class, get involved with local events in your community, or go for a run with friends. By doing these activities, it will help you take a break from the internet.

5. Create a to-do list and stick to it.
Internet activities distract you from doing your obligations which results in procrastination. You should put your obligations first and do the things that need to be done. Only allow yourself to do fun-focused internet activities after you are done accomplishing your obligations.

The internet allows you to have endless social interaction and keeps you entertained in ways that reality doesn’t seem to be interesting. If you want to steer away from the hooks of internet addiction, incorporate the tips mentioned in your day-to-day life to help you avoid compulsive internet use.

If you’re concerned you may have an internet addiction or your child is showing signs of gaming addiction, consider scheduling an online therapy session with a qualified counselor who can help you manage your problem. You can schedule an online therapy appointment with ThriveTalk.

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How to Cope With a Divorce

 

Everyone’s heard the “half of all marriages end in divorce” statistic. And like most things in life, the impact of this statistic is negligible until it happens to you.

Divorce is devastating, even under the best of circumstances. The sadness, stress, and emotions can be overwhelming at times. If you’re going through a painful divorce and it feels like you’re just not coping well, take heart — you can heal. We have some tips on how to cope with divorce as a man or a woman that should make today just a little bit better than yesterday.

Acknowledge Your Emotions

orange scissors cutting a marriage certificate refers to coping with divorce

To put it bluntly: It’s normal to be a mess. Divorce isn’t just the dissolution of a union; it’s saying goodbye to our dream of attaining our very own happily ever after. That feels terrible.

In fact, divorce requires a grieving process similar to what we go through when a loved one dies. It’s completely appropriate to feel a wide range of emotions — anger, sadness, fear, frustration, confusion — and there doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason as to why you feel what at any given time.

The negative feelings will lessen over time, but in the meantime, give yourself permission to feel. Divorce is messy, but sometimes acknowledging that fact inherently makes it just a tiny bit easier. 

Go Easy on Yourself

You will likely be less productive than you normally are. That’s OK. You probably won’t feel like doing much of anything; that’s OK too. You don’t need to be superwoman. Treat yourself as you would treat your own sick best friend.

Granted, you can’t drop out of life completely, but it’s perfectly acceptable for your productivity and social life to take a downward turn while you go through a divorce. As long as you don’t stay there for months and months, this is to be expected.

Seek Support

This tip is vital: Lean on others for support. Talk, cry, express yourself — just don’t keep it bottled up inside. Allow your friends and family to be there for you. 

Sometimes we need more support than an understanding friend can give us. In these cases:

  • Look into divorce support groups. There are Facebook groups and other online forums as well as in-person meetups and church-based groups that will help you on how to cope with separation from your husband or wife. Start with a simple Google search to see what’s available and sounds good to you.
  • Seek professional counseling. If the pain of your divorce is too much or if you are having difficulty carrying out normal day-to-day activities, it may be time to seek divorce counseling. You could do therapy to help improve your life.

Care for Your Body and Mind

Stress can cause myriad health problems, including headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, overeating/weight gain, digestive problems and reduced immune function. In addition, stress can cause a host of ill emotional effects, including anxiety, depression, inability to focus, lack of motivation, irritability, and anger. No fun at all.

It’s essential you take care of your mind, body, and spirit during this time. Doing so will minimize the effects of stress, helping you to recover and move on. Now more than ever is the time to:

  • Eat well
  • Get regular exercise
  • Keep a regular sleeping schedule
  • Spend time in nature
  • Nurture your friendships
  • Make time to relax and do things you enjoy
  • Tend to your spirit through prayer/meditation (or whatever that means to you)

Avoid Power Struggles & Arguments with Your Ex

woman angry with her partner is on a restaurant and is dealing with divorce

One of the most important life lessons that will help you get through this difficult time is this: You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself and how you react to them.

Stop trying to force your ex to see it your way, be sorry for something, apologize, etc. Don’t get involved in power struggles that are only about being “right.” Refuse to participate in any manipulative or malevolent behavior. In the end, you’ll be happier for it.

Reconnect with Your Prenuptial Hobbies

Did you use to love to restore old furniture? Brew your own beer? Hike? Blog? Now is the time to resurrect any interests and activities you may have let slip when you became part of a couple. Or, explore new ones.

Set Time Aside for Positive Thinking

This is a simple yet powerful tool for overcoming any challenge, especially when going through a divorce. Most of us know that positive thinking is — well, positive —  but we don’t make a conscious, concerted effort to do it.

Change that. Block off just five minutes a day and devote them to manifesting good things in your life. Write them down in an “I deserve a joyful life” journal. Learn about the power of positive affirmations, and then do them.

Divorce is one of the toughest things a person can go through but you will get through it and be OK. Take time to grieve the loss, stick close to your loved ones and be good to yourself.

Life After Divorce

Coping with divorce can be difficult, but in every challenge, there is always a positive aspect to it. Amidst a painful separation, positive things can happen after going through a divorce, it is a matter of how you can identify and embrace these great things.

Great Things That Can Happen After Dealing With Divorce

1. It gives you a second chance at life and more opportunity to do the things you always wanted to do.
2. You can find more peace as opposed to when you were a part of a married couple.
3. It is much easier for you to handle challenging situations and you become fearless.
4. You feel more independent and confident in yourself.
5. You will discover who your real friends are who have supported you through the tough time.
6. You will be happier compared to when you were still married, you will no longer fight change and life starts to get easier.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional counselor if you feel overwhelmed or that you can’t go on. ThriveTalk provides online therapy and can help you get through this difficult time. You’re worth it!