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Pets and Mental Health: Healing with Animals

Stress, anxiety and emotional distress are experienced by millions of people all over the world each year. And while medications and therapy have become the mainstay of treatment for mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, some people find relief with less conventional treatment options. Many people suffering from emotional distress or mental health problems find that spending time with their pets or other animals makes them feel content. This beneficial effect on mental health has been studied, and it turns out that having a pet just might help!

Pets and Mental Health

It is estimated that almost 70% of households in the US have pets. Of those who have pets, 95% consider their pet as a member of their family. This strong bond between pets and their owners has made people wonder how that interaction could impact a person’s health.

The Human-Animal Bond

The human-animal bond has been studied to evaluate the impact that “interactions with animals” has on people’s lives. With such a strong bond between humans and their pets demonstrated in surveys of pet owners, it makes sense that these animals may, in fact, influence the lives of their owners. There has been extensive research in this area to determine the benefits that animals and pets provide. Through this research, it has been discovered that direct interaction with certain animals can actually improve some measures of mental and physical health.

Research

There has been a lot of research evaluating the benefits of human interaction with animals. Some of the research done in this regard has demonstrated the physical health benefits of interacting with a pet. It has been found that children with pets have lower BMIs and adults with pets tend to have lower blood pressure. In addition to these physical health benefits, pets have also demonstrated a huge impact on mental and emotional health. Research has shown that pets reduce anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation. They may also improve a person’s daily routine and, moreover, having a pet could encourage social interactions with others. The research in this area has been extensive. Many studies, that look at specific mental health conditions and how pet therapy may or may not benefit these conditions, can be found online. It should also be noted that some conflicting evidence exists that does not support pet therapy for mental health conditions.

Benefits of Pet Ownership

Pet ownership has been shown to improve the mental and physical health of many people. Pets provide an unconditional love that offers comfort and support for their owners. This can lead to a reduction in feelings of emotional distress and, ultimately, improved mental health. Pets also require their owners to establish some form of routine. This type of routine can be therapeutic for those who suffer from anxiety or feelings of overwhelming stress. In addition, many owners feel a sense of responsibility for their pet’s physical health. This often means that having a pet encourages owners to be more active, improving their physical health as well.

Pet Owners: Mental Health Statistics

A surprisingly high number of people are thought to suffer from mental health conditions in the United States. It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 5 children suffer from a mental health disorder each year. With such a high incidence, there has been extensive research into medical and non-medicine therapies for those who experience the struggles of mental health conditions. When looking at how pets impact mental health, research has found that people who have pets have lower rates of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. When surveyed, 74% of pet owners said that they felt their pet provided them with relief from their mental health problems. In addition, 75% of these pet owners had witnessed an improvement in a friend or family member’s mental health issues when they had pets. These high numbers support the idea that interaction with animals can benefit those who suffer from mental health disorders.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are animals that provide emotional support for people suffering from mental or emotional health problems. Most often, emotional support animals are dogs or cats. However any animal that provides comfort or stability can be considered as an emotional support animal. For example, there are studies showing that guinea pigs, fish and even horses can have a positive impact on mental and emotional health. Animals that are considered dangerous to their owner or others are not able to become emotional support animals. Having an emotional support animal requires a letter from a licensed medical health professional. This letter provides the owner with legal protection and financial assistance in some cases.

Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal

While emotional support animals and service animals are both beneficial for the health of their owners, there are differences between the two. Emotional support animals help to improve the emotional and mental health of their owners, but they are generally not specifically trained to do so. Most of the time their mere presence in a person’s life is what benefits the owner. Service animals, on the other hand, receive special training to be able to provide aid and perform skills to assist with their owner’s health. Service dogs can be used for mental health problems, but they are used to help people with certain medical conditions as well. There are also differences in how emotional support animals and service animals are treated by certain establishments. Service animals can enter public places, like restaurants and workplaces, while emotional support animals often cannot. However, both can travel and live with you free of charge.

Pets and Mental Health

Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Depression

Pets can be beneficial for reducing rates of depression and also for improving some of the symptoms of depression. Spending time with a dog or cat can actually increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain; this is similar to the way in which antidepressant medications work. In addition to the effect that a pet can have on the brain, owning a pet requires the owner to take care of it, which in turn encourages them to also take care of themselves. This includes getting exercise (such as taking the pet for a walk or playing) and also regaining a sense of purpose each day (because your pet relies on you for food and bathroom needs). Pets also have a way of providing unconditional comfort and love, both of which can help those suffering from depression feel less isolated.

Anxiety

Owning a pet can reduce the incidence of anxiety. There are studies showing that children who had a pet dog suffered from anxiety less often than those who did not have a dog. Similarly, a study done in children with autism found that those who were allowed to play with guinea pigs experienced reduced anxiety levels and they showed improved engagement. Petting or playing with an animal can help take the focus off an anxiety-inducing situation and provide comfort for someone who feels anxious. This interaction also boosts the release of oxytocin and endorphins in the body. These are chemicals that induce calmness and relieve pain, respectively.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety-related disorder and people who suffer from this condition can benefit from animal interaction. Animals provide the anxiety-relieving characteristics discussed above. In addition, some people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder benefit from a service animal that is trained to help them through difficult times. These service animals can be trained to comfort their owners through panic attacks and alert them to dangerous situations. They can also be trained to ensure that their owner gets their medications. Through their comforting actions and unwavering love, these animals can give their owners the support they need to face their insecurities each day and get back to living their lives.

Mood Disorders

People suffering from various mood disorders can experience some relief in the presence of animals. They improve symptoms by reducing feelings of loneliness and improving daily mood. Service animals can also be utilized in patients with mood disorders, such as bipolar depression. For these people, service dogs can be trained to recognize mania, reorient their owner to reality and help alert emergency services if necessary.

Pets in Patient Care: Future Perspectives

Pet therapy has a place in mental and emotional health treatment. With the guidance of a licensed mental health provider, you can find an appropriate way to incorporate an animal into your therapy. A provider can help you to determine which type of animal would be most beneficial for you and if you would benefit from an emotional support animal or service animal. As evidence continues to grow in this area, it will be beneficial to learn more about the roles that animals can play in therapy and how they impact mental health.

Animals provide us with unconditional love and a sense of comfort. They are being utilized more and more to help stressed-out college students and lonely nursing home residents improve their mood and reduce their anxiety.

As we continue to learn more about the interaction between humans and animals, the ways in which animals can be utilized to improve mental and emotional health will continue to expand. For now, you should consult your mental health provider to determine how animal therapy may benefit you.

 

Resources

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320950.php
  3. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/alleviating-anxiety-stress-and-depression-pet
  4. https://www.certapet.com/emotional-support-animal/
  5. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/6386-millennials-led-us-pet-ownership-to-846-million-in-2016
  6. https://www.apaservices.org/practice/update/2015/08-27/animal-assisted-therapy
  7. https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers

Things Will Get Better! Looking Beyond Your Diagnosis

Have you been diagnosed with a mental illness? If you feel overwhelmed, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. Good treatment along with the needed support can go a long way. Things will get better with time. Learning more about mental illness and your different treatment options can help you to recover a sense of well-being. Talking to your mental health professional about different coping strategies can also be beneficial.

Being Diagnosed With a Mental Illness

In order to obtain a diagnosis, you’ll need to consult with a mental health professional. They will take your symptoms and behavior into account while determining which mental illness you are struggling with. Your therapist will also talk to you about your thoughts and feelings. You may need to complete a questionnaire during your psychological evaluation. Mental health professionals are generally guided by the DSM-IV when making a diagnosis. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is important because, with the right treatment, things will get better.

Types of Mental Disorders

Depression is a common mental health issue, which is characterized by persistent sadness that affects your ability to cope with daily activities. One in ten adults struggles with depression each year. While feelings of sadness are a part of life, depression is diagnosed by mental health professionals using the DSM-IV. If you have suicidal thoughts, it’s essential to seek help immediately.

The pressures of our busy lifestyles can be a lot to handle. Therefore, anxiety disorders are another common mental health issue. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worry, which affects your quality of life. You may find yourself adjusting your behavior to avoid certain situations if you’re suffering from anxiety. Other mental health issues in this category include phobias, panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychotic disorders are associated with a disconnection from reality. You may be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder if you’ve experienced delusions or hallucinations. Another symptom that may accompany these types of disorders is disorganized thinking. Schizophrenia is a well-known mental health issue that falls into this category.

Bipolar disorder is associated with alternating periods of mania and depression. If you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may have experienced high levels of energy and excitement which were followed by persistent sadness that made it difficult to for you to cope with your life.

Personality disorders typically involve emotional instability as well as unhealthy behaviors which could disrupt your life. You may also find that your symptoms have a negative impact on your relationships. Mental health issues that can be listed under this category include borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Coping With Mental Illness

Having a support network can make it easier to cope with mental illness. Consider joining a support group where you can share your experiences with other people who are also having a hard time dealing with mental illness. If there are no groups in your community, think about joining one online. It can be helpful to stay in contact with friends and family who can offer you support during tough times. Another useful coping strategy is to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.

Dealing With The Diagnosis of Mental Illness

The period that follows your official diagnosis can be a confusing time. You may not understand how it happened. How you got to this place. Perhaps you feel like your world is shattering around you like broken glass.

Why Me?

When you receive a mental illness diagnosis, you may experience a range of emotions. Relief, hope, shock, and fear are just some of the feelings that may accompany your diagnosis. You may also find yourself asking, “why me?”

Is It My Fault?

You may be stuck wondering what caused your mental health problem in the first place. You may even start blaming yourself for your problems. It’s important to understand, however, that there are various factors that cause mental disorders and that you are not to blame for your illness.

What Now?

A diagnosis is just the beginning of your journey towards reclaiming your life from mental health problems. Next, you’ll need to learn more about mental illness and work together with a therapist to develop a treatment plan.

Things Will Get Better

Treatment Options For Mental Illnesses

Your mental health professional will determine which treatment option is best for you based on your diagnosis. Many professionals prefer using a combination of different treatments to get the best results.

Medications

Psychiatric medications may help you to find relief from your symptoms. This type of treatment is usually much more effective when it is combined with psychotherapy. Common psychiatric medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy could help you to get your life back on track. This type of treatment involves talking to a mental health professional about your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. These sessions may help you to gain insight into your mental illness and to learn about useful coping strategies.

Brain-Stimulation Treatments

Brain stimulation treatments are considered a last resort if other treatments haven’t been successful. There are risks associated with this type of treatment so it’s important to consult with a mental health professional that you can trust before considering this type of treatment.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

You can support your treatment plan by changing your lifestyle and by using home remedies. It’s important to adhere to your treatment plan. Beneficial lifestyle changes include avoiding alcohol as well as eliminating recreational drug use. Eating healthy food and exercising regularly can also be supportive for your recovery. Lastly, you can decrease your stress levels by making your priorities clear and by decreasing your workload.

Participate in Your Own Mental Health Care

Did you know that by participating in your own mental health care, you can possibly achieve greater results sooner?

Read-Up On Mental Health Disorders

You can get better results from your treatment by getting involved in your own mental health care. Improving your understanding of your diagnosis can be useful in guiding you towards the best treatment. Read up on mental illness to discover more about your symptoms and treatment options.

Proper Communication With Your Therapist

Effective communication with your therapist guides your treatment plan so that you can receive the best possible care. By working together with your therapist, you can ensure that your treatment plan matches your personal preferences. With help from your therapist, things will get better faster than if you tried to cope with your mental illness by yourself.

Focus on Treatment, Recovery and Beyond

Feeling confused and overwhelmed when you first hear your diagnosis is a normal reaction. However, your therapist can help you to process these difficult emotions so that you can focus on your treatment and recovery. Don’t allow your diagnosis to limit your possibilities. Lift your head up and think of what you can achieve beyond the symptoms that are associated with mental illness.

Things Will Get Better!

It’s important to remember that things will get better with the right treatment and with support from loved ones or others suffering from mental illness. Let your diagnosis be the first day of the wonderful life that lies ahead of you!

What is Therapy? Your Complete Guide to Psychotherapy

Therapy is also called psychotherapy, talk therapy or counseling. It is an effective treatment option for a wide variety of emotional and mental health issues. There are many different types of therapies, some of which are aimed at a particular condition; and some which are used for a variety of conditions. Therapy can take place individually, as partners, as a family, or in a group. Mental health professionals who guide therapy sessions are usually psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed counselors or social workers. Therapy can be a treatment option on its own, or it can be administered together with other types of treatment, such as medication.

What is Therapy?

Therapy sessions are typically held once a week and last for about 50-minutes. During the session, you will be encouraged to express your thoughts, feelings and anxieties or any concerns that you may have about your mental health. Therapy is based on establishing an honest, open and trusting relationship between the therapist and client.

The therapist’s job is primarily to listen and to gently guide people into looking at situations differently or adopting new skills to help them to resolve their concerns. Your psychologist or psychiatrist will never tell you what to do. Instead they will help you to understand your emotions and to discover behavioral options, that you may not have considered, for improving your mental health. Together with the therapist, you will define the problems you wish to solve and set goals to help you achieve emotional well-being. Usually, therapy sessions will continue for less than a year, but they can sometimes go on for longer.

Benefits of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy has the benefit of being totally natural and without side effects. While it can take some time for results to be noted, therapy has the advantage that the benefits tend to be long-lasting.

  • Therapy can provide support during a difficult period. It can help you to set realistic goals in your life and it can show you how to make positive changes in the way you deal with things.
  • Therapy can offer guidance in a specific relationship, life or work issue. And it is also effective for tackling long-standing mental health conditions.
  • Therapy can help you to increase your self-confidence and enables you to face challenges more easily. It can help you to heal past pains and to identify and change behaviors which are getting in the way of your happiness and well-being.
  • Setting goals can also help along with learning new ways to solve problems. It can show you how to deal better with strong emotions and provide you with ways in which you can improve your relationships.
  • Therapy can also help you to learn more about your condition or your symptoms, so that you can cope better.

Types of Therapy

There are many different types of therapeutic approaches. The most common ones are listed below.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy is known to work well for many mental health conditions especially anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. It can work in two ways. First off, it helps the person to develop positive thoughts and beliefs about their life and to dispel negative misconceptions. Additionally, it helps them to learn how to take actions that are healthier and better for them in the end.

Humanistic Therapy

This therapy focuses on each person’s strengths and aims at boosting their self-image. It considers each person to be a totally unique individual, capable of understanding and adapting their feelings to achieve fullness in life. The therapist helps the person to gain better insight into their inner conflicts and to become self-actualized.

Family Therapy

This type of therapy encourages better communication between family members. It shows them how to deal with conflicts and how to seek solutions to problems. It is often used for people with eating disorders or bipolar disorder.

Psychodynamic therapy

This therapy looks for repressed memories or unresolved conflicts which could be contributing to your current mental health problems. It helps people to discover unconscious emotions and to come to terms with them.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is still led by a therapist but involves a group of people usually with shared or common mental health conditions or situations. Sharing experiences with others can be very helpful in finding solutions.

What is Therapy

Online Therapy

Many people are now opting for this option as they can choose from many different therapists, it reduces traveling, they have various appointment options, it can be less expensive and it offers a very similar success rate as face to face counseling. Also, it ensures your total privacy. Many people find it easier to talk with someone while sitting in the familiar surroundings of their own home. Be sure to seek an online therapist from an approved site such as Thrivetalk.

Making the Decision to Seek Therapy

Many people find making the decision to seek therapy the hardest part. Some may fear the stigma that is still unfortunately attached to mental illness and psychological health problems. Others may feel embarrassed about the prospect of discussing their innermost thoughts with a stranger. Most, however, find that once they have made the initial contact; they feel fine about therapy and that their fears were unfounded. Therapists are professionals who respect your privacy and they are skilled at making you feel comfortable so that you can open up and find the solutions to your problems.

Tips for Finding the Best Therapist for You

Always make sure to verify a therapist’s professional qualifications and remember to ask if they are licensed to work in the state you live in. If possible, find their website to read about their skills and areas of specialty. You could also check out the reviews left by other patients. It is important that you decide beforehand if you would feel more comfortable with a man or a woman, someone older or younger, with a formal or a more friendly style, or if you would prefer someone from your own race or culture.

It is really important to find a therapist who you feel at ease with and who you feel empathizes with you. For effective therapy, you need to trust your therapist. Finding the right therapist can sometimes be a trial and error process. If you do not feel comfortable with a therapist, the best idea would be to look for another one.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

Do you have any experience in treating people with conditions similar to mine?

How often will therapy take place?

Can I get in touch with you between sessions if I need to?

How long does each session last?

After how many sessions will I start to see an improvement?

Getting the Most Out of Therapy

Therapy requires commitment. Sometimes, making changes or letting go of past emotions or behaviors can be hard, so it is important to remain motivated and committed. For this reason, it is vital to have confidence in your therapist and a strong desire to feel better. You should also be flexible and willing to try new things. It usually takes several sessions before you feel the benefits of therapy. In fact, some people may feel worse at the start of their therapy journey as they are confronted with feelings and emotions that they have been avoiding for years. However, if you persist you are very likely to get huge benefits out of therapy.

How Can I Find a Good Therapist Near Me?

There are different ways in which you can find a therapist near you. You can ask your doctor to recommend a good therapist or you can find a qualified online therapist who can help you at Thrivetalk. Talking with a therapist online can be just as effective as talking to them face to face and it has many other advantages as mentioned above.

Recently therapy has become much more accepted. It used to be limited to people who could afford it and many people were proud to be able to afford a therapist. Nowadays, therapy has become much more accessible and available to many more people. If you feel that therapy could help you, don’t wait any longer to seek help and begin to feel better!

Resources

  1. https://www.goodtherapy.org/what-is-therapy.html
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/therapy
  3. https://psychcentral.com/psychotherapy/
  4. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/therapy

Am I Crazy? What It Means To Need Professional Help

Have you ever asked yourself “Am I crazy?” Maybe you did an online test to see if you could be classified as crazy, or if there was anything “wrong” with you. The easy answer to this question is no, you are not crazy. The term “crazy” is commonly used in a colloquial sense to describe anything from losing one’s temper to experiencing a psychotic break. It is certainly not used as a medical diagnosis.

There is also a lot of judgment associated with the question: “Am I crazy?” All mental illnesses are medical conditions, rather than judgments of your character.

Instead of asking if you’re crazy, you should consider whether you may suffer from a mental illness. Mental illness affects around one in five American adults and is nothing to be ashamed of.

Here is everything you need to know about mental illness along with ways in which you can determine whether you are suffering from a type of mental illness.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness refers to illnesses with symptoms that are primarily exhibited in your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. These illnesses affect your mood, personality and the way in which you think about life.

Mental illnesses range from mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder (which affect how you feel for extended periods of time) to personality disorders (which affect the way in which you engage with life on a personal, career and social level).

Early Signs of Mental Illness

The following are early signs that you may be suffering from a mental illness:

  • Extreme mood changes, causing you to feel very low or (conversely) ecstatic
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Binge eating
  • Not eating until it becomes absolutely necessary
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Extreme anger and aggression
  • Difficulty forming or maintaining relationships

If you are experiencing one or more of these signs, or if you have asked yourself “Am I crazy?”; you may be suffering from a mental illness and you probably should seek professional help.

Risk Factors

No one is immune to mental illness, regardless of their socioeconomic status or their upbringing. With that said, there are various factors that may put you at a higher risk for developing a mental illness than others. For example:

  • A family history of mental illness
  • Coming from a dysfunctional family
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Homelessness
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Having experienced prejudice against your race or sexuality

However, if any of the factors listed above apply to you; it does not necessarily mean that you will suffer from mental illness. On the other hand, even if none of the factors in the list apply to you; you may still be suffering from mental illness.

Mental Health Statistics

If you have asked the question: “Am I crazy?”, you are not alone. Millions of people in the United States suffer from a mental illness of one kind or another. Many of them have not sought out professional help due to stigma or the fear of being called crazy.

There are some very telling mental health statistics that make this clearer.

  • Nearly one in five American adults suffers from one or more mental illnesses. That’s over 44 million people.
  • Only 43% of this number (19 million) received treatment in the last year.
  • More women receive treatment than men.
  • Although women are more likely to report mental illness, men are twice as likely to commit suicide.
  • Young adults (18 to 25) are more likely to seek treatment than any other adult age group.

As you can see, despite the fact that mental illness is a huge problem in the US, most people who suffer from it do not receive treatment. This is in part due to the lack of access or awareness. The stigma that is associated with being “crazy” is certainly another significant aspect.

How Does Mental Illness Develop?

When you stop asking “Am I crazy?” and begin looking at mental illness through a more scientific lens, you can begin to get a better understanding of your problem.

Mental illnesses develop due to a number of factors. While we differentiate between mental and physical illness, most mental illnesses also have physical aspects. Thus, the risk of mental illness can be passed down in the genes.

Many mental illnesses can be caused by an imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain. The most common example is depression. It is caused in part by low levels of serotonin, the chemical that is responsible for the feeling of joy.

There are also environmental factors that can lead to mental illness. These include trauma in your past, low self-esteem and family problems.

Mental Illness Stigma

Whatever the cause, it is important to remember that developing a mental illness is not your fault. No matter how you are doing in life, you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Good treatment provides you with better resources that you can use to manage your emotions and cope with your mental illness.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Some people still have an archaic view of mental illness. They typically regard it as a weakness or even as a spiritual affliction. This makes it all the more difficult to speak about your struggles and, sadly, it is often the reason why some people choose to suffer in silence.

No matter how strong you are, you can become afflicted with mental illness. Mental disorders are illnesses just like any other types of disorders, and without professional help you are going have trouble recovering.

Common Mental Disorders

The following are some of the most common mental disorders you may be suffering from.

Anxiety Disorders

People suffering from anxiety disorders are perhaps the least likely to Google the words “Am I crazy?” They often seem so, well, normal. And anxiety is indeed normal. Everyone will experience anxiety at some point. However, it is when the anxiety begins to affect your everyday functioning that it is classified as a disorder.

The most common anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders refer to mental illnesses that cause extreme mood changes. While feeling sad or joyful is perfectly normal, being in a state of extreme depression or ecstasy is not. Without treatment, these disorders can lead to major problems along with the threat of self-harm and suicide.

The most common mood disorders are:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

Other mood disorders generally include periods of depression or mania (or both) that are present at specific times; such as after the birth of a child or during a particular season.

Schizophrenia Disorders

Schizophrenia disorders are those in which an individual experiences what is called a psychotic break. They may feel dissociated from themselves and they are not always able to tell what is real. They may experience hallucinations or delusions and they are generally unable to think coherently.

People who ask “Am I crazy?” are often thinking of schizophrenia, seeing as it is a mental illness that blurs the line between what is real and what isn’t. However, unlike the vague and chaotic “craziness” many people imagine; schizophrenia has a very specific definition, diagnosis and treatment.

People with schizophrenia are often unlikely to seek help on their own terms and may need a loved one to find treatment for them.

Am I Crazy

4 Reasons Why It May Be Time To Get Help

Okay, so you’re suffering from a mental illness. But maybe you have been suffering for a long time without dangerous or permanent consequences. Why should you get help now?

It Affects Your Daily Functioning

Everyone experiences many of the symptoms of mental illness throughout their lives. However, unless it affects your daily functioning, it is not considered a disorder. It does not mean that you should not get help. But once it starts affecting your daily functioning, you are in particular need of it.

Obsessive Thoughts

Obsessive thoughts are a sign of mental illness and it is often a driving factor that convinces people to seek treatment. These may be anxious thoughts, suicidal thoughts or thoughts that you would not expect to be thinking about repeatedly.

Feeling Distressed or Overwhelmed

Anyone struggling with mental illness will feel somewhat distressed. But once you start feeling overwhelmed, you will most likely recognize that you cannot handle this on your own.

You are Totally Convinced

If you have asked “Am I crazy?” and answered with complete certainty that you are, you should definitely seek help. This does not mean you’re actually “crazy,” but it does mean that you’ve recognized that there is a serious problem that you need help for.

Mental Health Treatment Options

Once you’ve decided that you need help, there are some mental health treatment options you can consider.

Psychotherapy

Therapy is the original psychological treatment for mental illness and it is still considered critical in treating any psychological disorder. In therapy, you will discuss your problems and work with your therapist towards managing your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors more effectively. These days, therapy no longer needs to be a massive time commitment. You now have the option of using online therapy from wherever you happen to be.

Medication

If you are suffering from a mental illness with a physical cause, medication may be helpful. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, which can treat anything from depression to schizophrenia, with varying levels of success. Medication is best used in conjunction with psychotherapy and other treatments.

Self-Help

If you’re not convinced that you need to see a professional, you might be open to trying self-help. This includes everything from choosing to eat better, exercising more and quitting drugs or alcohol. While self-help can be useful, it is not usually sufficient when treating mental illness. Rather see a professional who can advise you on the best course of action.

Am I Crazy?

If you’ve been asking yourself “Am I crazy?” you are certainly ready to get help. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step towards dealing with it. Remember, you’re not crazy, but you may be suffering from an illness. Get the help you need and search for treatment options, as you would for any other kind of illness.

Psychology 101: Your Introduction to This Fascinating Topic!

The idea of psychology appeals to many. A body of expert knowledge that trained practitioners use to better the lives of thousands of people. But ultimately, “psychology” is an incredibly broad discipline that spans a range of different practices and theories. In this article, we provide something of a psychology 101 introduction, helping you to get a sense of what psychology is all about.

What is Psychology?

So, you’re looking for a guide to psychology 101? Upon asking an expert about what exactly psychology is, you’ll quickly realize that there are multiple ways of answering this seemingly simple question. Similarly, if you read-up on the topic “psychology 101”, you may find the volume of information to be both daunting and overwhelming.

One might think of psychology as the study of human behavior. However, it also encompasses many other aspects of the human experience. So, the “simple” answer is that psychology is the scientific study of the mind and the behaviors that arise therefrom. The tricky thing about this definition, however, is that it can be interpreted and elaborated on in a multitude of different ways. Several of which we discuss below.

Therefore, if you decide to read up on psychology 101, it’s important to realize that psychology is a multifaceted discipline. It encompasses a variety of branches, schools of thought and theories. This truly is an exciting and ever-evolving field. Let’s delve a little deeper.

Psychological Theories

There are many, many psychological theories out there. Below, let’s hone-in on some of the key ideas. The theories that you would likely learn about if you were to enroll in psychology 101 at college.

There are four overarching branches of theory in psychology, the first being “developmental theories”. They describe the principles of human development and include, for example, John Bowlby’s attachment theory as well as Erik Erikson’s theory of psycho-social development. The second important branch of knowledge is known as the “grand theories”, which were proposed by major influencers of psychology. These theories include the psychoanalytic theory (Sigmund Freud) and cognitive developmental theory (Jean Piaget). It’s important to keep in mind, however, that grand theories are often considered outdated in modern psychology. Despite the fact that they are thought to have paved the road in terms of what we know about the mind today.

A third category of psychological theory can be referred to as “mini-theories”. This category focuses on particular aspects of development, such as the formation of self-esteem in early socialization. Finally, “emergent theories” are recently developed theories which are often built using a combination of mini-theories. Many of these theories still need further research and evidence due to their novelty. One example is the approach of neuropsychoanalysis, which uses brain-imaging technology to elaborate on Freudian hypotheses about the mind.

Key Concepts

Psychology touches on so many aspects of human behavior; which, as we know, is a very complex topic. However, there are a few key concepts that should be included in any psychology 101 course.

  • Psychology is the study of the mind and consequent behavior
  • It encompasses both individual and group behavior
  • Psychology rests on scientific methods and principles
  • It is influenced by multiple (and sometimes competing) perspectives
  • Psychology is complex!

Early Beginnings and Evolution of Psychology

Although it is a relatively new discipline, Herman Ebbinghaus (1908) wrote that: “Psychology has a long past, but a short history.” This is such a powerful statement, because “psychological questions” have been around since long before psychology was recognized as a particular discipline.

Why are we here? What makes us human? What is emotion? Why do we dream? How do we adopt healthy behaviors and abandon harmful ones? These are examples of psychological questions that have been asked since the early days of humanity. And yet, psychology has only recently evolved into the respected school of science that it is today. So, in other words, the “past” of psychology can be traced back as far as 387 BCE. This was when Plato suggested that mental processes happen in the brain. It may not have been a popular view back then, but in our modern world, psychology often focuses on the link between the brain and the mind.

So, when did the “history” of psychology actually begin? Some say that it started with Wilhelm Wundt (the “father” of psychology), who founded psychology as an independent experimental field of study. He set up the first laboratory that performed psychological research exclusively at Leipzig University. Shortly after this, in 1890, the American Psychological Society (APA) was founded. This is when things really began to change for the discipline. Most of the advances within the field of psychology happened in the past 150 years, thus giving rise to vastly different schools of thought throughout this time.

Psycho-Analysis

Sigmund Freud is arguably the most recognized name associated with early psychology. This Austrian neurologist established psychoanalysis in the early 1890s. He believed that bringing unconscious thought and motivation into consciousness would lead to greater insight that would ultimately “cure” psychologically ill individuals. Thus, psychoanalysis can be described as a set of theories and treatments related to this hypothesis.

In psychoanalysis, problems are thought to stem from the unconscious mind. In other words “hidden” disturbances may manifest themselves as specific symptoms. These latent symptoms typically arise from unresolved issues stemming from early childhood development or repressed trauma. Psychoanalysis views mental disorders as the conflict between the conscious and unconscious mind. Which is why treatment using this method focuses on bringing unconscious thoughts into awareness. Traditional psychoanalysis has fallen out of favor due to treatments being lengthy and expensive. However; modern psychotherapy techniques, that draw on psychoanalytic ideas, have been shown to be effective in the treatment of various psychological conditions.

Behaviorism

Behaviorism was founded a while after psychoanalysis. Specifically, John B. Watson (another well-known name in the psychology world), founded this approach in 1913. Behaviorism aimed to understand behavior by measuring only observable behaviors. It emphasized more scientific and objective measures, as opposed to the subjective approach of psychoanalysis.

The approach of behaviorism assumes that behaviors are a response to the environment and that they are consequently learned by interactions with this environment. This school also states, however, that the individual’s history and current state influence these responses. Although behaviorism recognizes that inherited factors may play a small role, it places a much larger emphasis on environmental factors. Thus essentially excluding these inherited factors. Ultimately, behaviorism states that individuals are “blank slates” who act in ways that are learned from the environment.

Humanism

Described as the “third force” in psychology, this approach arose during the 1970s and 1980s. It offered a new way of viewing and understanding human nature. This approach was heavily influenced by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. It moved away from and basically rejected both the psychoanalytic approach and behaviorism, as they were seen as deterministic and ultimately too dehumanizing. This approach looks at the whole person and the uniqueness that each individual possesses, rather than looking at the separate parts in a fragmented manner. It views humans as having their own free will as well as drive towards self-actualization; which is basically the progression towards realizing one’s own personal capabilities. Ultimately, humanism assumes that individuals are inherently good and that they innately want to better themselves and the world. Thus emphasizing personal worth and human values.

Psychology 101

Modern Psychology

Although psychology has been shaped by specific schools of thought, it is slightly different today. Most psychologists do not associate themselves with only one specific school of thought. Rather, modern practitioners tend to identify with specific areas of expertise and they use a variety of different approaches; drawing from multiple schools of thought. Therefore, modern psychology can be divided into several sub-disciplines. Each looking at different aspects of behavior as well as mental processes and ultimately, human nature. This allows for those who work within the field of psychology to constantly evolve as the discipline does. Allowing for new ways to explain human behavior as well as new treatment approaches.

Branches of Human Psychology

Some of the better known branches of modern psychology, likely to be touched upon in any psychology 101 course include:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Personality psychology

Is Psychology a Science?

The human mind has been a topic of discussion by dedicated researchers for centuries, but is psychology truly a science? There have been extensive debates on whether psychology can be classified as a science, and the answer has yet to be agreed upon.

Science rests upon empirical research which emphasizes that knowledge arises through the senses (by observation or experience), rather than through logic. Psychology rests on scientific principles as psychological research uses the “scientific method” to investigate questions and reach conclusions. Techniques such as observation, experiments, case studies and questionnaires are used to gather information in psychological research. While some might argue that these approaches are unscientific, others argue that they constitute the most scientific of methods that we have for examining the human condition. Further, psychological findings are published in peer-reviewed journals (much like other “scientific” subjects) allowing for the scrutiny of their results. Finally, psychologists are encouraged (and in fact, required) to incorporate the findings from academic research into their everyday practice and intervention methods.

What is a Psychologist?

We have seen that there are many different types of psychologists, each laying claim to their own field of specialization. However, in a broad sense, a psychologist is someone who has been professionally trained to explore mental processes and behaviors relating to human nature. A psychologist does this by observing, interpreting and recording the interactions of individuals with themselves and their environments and intervening appropriately.

What Does a Psychologist Do?

A psychologist uses the skills gained during their studies to help individuals deal with mental health issues and a wide range of other problems. For example, psychologists help to treat people who suffer from mental illnesses; ranging from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They also help with short-term problems that individuals may experience; such as navigating a new job, or the death of a loved one.

Psychologists aim to help in all aspects of human encounters; which may range from short-term to chronic conditions, stressful situations, addictions or specific mental health issues. Psychologists also administer tests and assessments related to human behavior. These tests are often used to help with the diagnosis of a specific mental disorder or to gain insight into how a person thinks and why they behave in a certain way. Finally, psychologists may work primarily as researchers. This involves working in a range of different settings to further our knowledge about various aspects of human functioning.

How to Become a Psychologist

To become a psychologist in the United States, you need a bachelor’s degree in psychology (undergraduate), as well as a doctorate in psychology from an accredited university. It is also mandatory to pass a national board exam. Most states also require you to complete a supervised internship. However, the specific requirements vary from state to state. Once you have fulfilled these national requirements, as well as your specific state requirements, you can become licensed to practice.

Goals of Psychology

There are four main goals of psychology: to describe, explain, predict and change behavior (in positive ways). Each one rests upon the other and each goal is important in the broader scheme of things. Describing and understanding behavior allows for psychologists to potentially predict future actions. All of this knowledge finally allows for psychologists to constructively influence and change behaviors in a way that positively impacts the lives of individuals, families and groups. In essence, psychology aims to understand the human mind by exploring thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviors.

Psychology 101: The Future of Psychology

Although psychology has evolved tremendously since its origin, it is important to note that it will continue to be an ever-changing topic. It’s the study of human nature. As Ian Hacking once said, “humans are moving targets”; once you study and begin to understand them, they evolve. We are a constantly evolving species, which is what makes psychology such an interesting topic!

Depression During Pregnancy: You Don’t Have To Deal With It Alone!

While pregnancy can be an exciting time, many women experience fear and confusion during this period of their life. Hormonal changes and stress are some of the triggers for this mood disorder. If you’re suffering from depression during pregnancy, it’s advisable to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Depression During Pregnancy: What Is It?

Depression during pregnancy, or antepartum depression, is a mood disorder which is characterized by intense negative emotions over an extended period. People who are suffering from depression may have persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, which has a negative impact on their quality of life. This mood disorder is accompanied by alterations to your brain chemistry. Expectant mothers are at risk for developing mood disorders because of the hormone changes that take place during pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s important to know what the symptoms of depression during pregnancy are. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to consult with a mental health professional so that you can get the support that you need. Expectant mothers, who are faced with persistent sadness for more than two weeks, may be suffering from depression. Anxiety and feelings of worthlessness are also possible signs of a mood disorder. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, it’s important that you get help immediately. Other possible indicators of depression during pregnancy are insomnia or sleeping too much as well as the inability to concentrate. Feelings of apathy towards the activities that usually bring you joy is another symptom to look out for.

Statistics

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists asserts that 14% to 23% of women will struggle with aspects of depression before they give birth. Also, one in 4 women struggle with this mood disorder at some stage of their life. Despite the pervasiveness of depression, many pregnant women are incorrectly diagnosed because their symptoms are attributed to hormonal imbalances. It’s important for expectant mothers to be properly diagnosed so that they can get the necessary support.

Risk Factors for Depression During Pregnancy

Expectant mothers, who have a history of anxiety and depression, are at an increased risk for suffering from mood disorders during pregnancy. Stress can also trigger the onset of symptoms that are associated with depression. Lack of social support and unintended pregnancy can increase the chances of an expectant mother for experiencing depression. Intimate partner violence is another trigger. If you are suffering from intimate partner violence it is vital for you to get help so that you can be certain of your own safety and get protection for your baby.

Complications of Antepartum Depression

It’s essential to get treatment if you’re suffering from antepartum depression as it can have negative consequences for your own well-being and that of your baby. This mood disorder may interfere with your prenatal care as well as your ability to care for yourself properly. If you suffer from a mood disorder during your pregnancy, there’s also a greater chance that you’ll struggle with postpartum depression. Feelings of persistent sadness after you give birth (the postpartum period) can make it very challenging for you to bond with your baby.

First Line Treatments

If you suspect that you’re suffering from depression during pregnancy, consult with your mental health professional to determine which treatment option is the best for you. Therapy and support groups are the preferred option for many women who are suffering from a mood disorder.

Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective in finding relief from the symptoms of mood disorders. Interpersonal psychotherapy has also had good results in the treatment of depression.

Medication

Expectant mothers, who are considering taking medication, need to work closely with their healthcare professional. Make sure that you know the advantages and risks of the medicine before you take it. Research each option with the help of a medical professional to determine which medication poses the lowest risk of harm to your baby.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy involves passing a low-level electrical current through the brain. ECT comes with the risk of side effects such as nausea and pain. It is used only as a last resort for women who are suffering from severe depression.

Support Groups

Lack of support is a risk factor for depression during pregnancy. Joining a group of women who are also struggling with this mood disorder can help you to feel supported during this difficult time.

Depression During Pregnancy

Additional Treatment Options

Less intense treatment options are generally preferred for treating depression during pregnancy. With guidance from your mental health professional, you can try other strategies to find relief from the symptoms of this mood disorder.

Regular Physical Activity

Exercise helps to give your brain a boost of serotonin, which can elevate your mood. Not only does getting your body moving promote happiness, but it also reduces stress.

Good Quality Sleep

If you’re sleep deprived, you may find it more difficult to cope with challenging situations. Getting a good night’s sleep supports your mind and body so that it’s easier to handle stress in your daily life.

Diet and Nutrition

Eating healthy food is essential as many junk foods can have a negative impact on your mood. Avoiding caffeine as well as sugar can be beneficial for your emotional and physical well-being. Other foods to eliminate from your diet include processed carbohydrates as well as artificial additives.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Studies show that Omega 3 can help to promote health. Not only can Omega 3 boost your overall health, but it may also help to offer you relief from low moods. As with any supplements, check with your health care provider before taking it.

Mindfulness Practices

Meditation is used to promote relaxation and decrease stress. This technique can be used to alleviate the symptoms of mood disorders. Yoga can also play a role in the treatment of depression.

The Risks of Not Getting Help

If you don’t get help, depression can have negative consequences for you and your baby. Untreated depression can result in self-medicating with alcohol or cigarettes, which puts your baby at risk for developmental challenges. Moreover, smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy can result in preterm birth. Another risk of untreated depression is suicidal behavior, which can put both you and your baby in harm’s way. Untreated depression during pregnancy may also result in babies who are less active and more agitated.

Find a Therapist Now!

If you’re struggling with depression during pregnancy, find a therapist now! At Thrivetalk, our fully accredited mental health practitioners are available to help you through the unique struggles you may be facing during pregnancy.

Understanding depression is the first step towards finding the right treatment. Once you’ve identified that you’re struggling with the symptoms of this mood disorder, you can get the support that you need to recover your emotional well-being.

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