Everyone does say that laughter is the best medicine. Your medications are just a supplement.
Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals- we cannot give you a diagnosis or medication advice. Please speak to a health professional for this. If you are in crisis please contact one of the hotlines on our page.
People with PTSD may also experience dissociation. Dissociation is an experience where a person may feel disconnected from himself and/or his surroundings. Similar to flashbacks, dissociation may range from temporarily losing touch with things that are going on around you (kind of like what happens when you daydream) to having no memories for a prolonged period of time and/or feeling as though you are outside of your body.
Both flashbacks and dissociation may occur as a result of encountering triggers, or a reminder of a traumatic event. To the extent that people are not aware of their triggers, flashbacks and dissociation can be incredibly disruptive and unpredictable events that are difficult to manage. However, you can take steps to better manage and prevent flashbacks and dissociation. These are described below.
Know Your Triggers
In coping with flashbacks and dissociation, prevention is key. Flashbacks and dissociation are often triggered or cued by some kind of reminder of a traumatic event (for example, encountering certain people, going to specific places), or some other stressful experience. Therefore, it is important to identify the specific things that trigger flashbacks or dissociation.
By knowing what your triggers are, you can either try to limit your exposure to those triggers, or if that is not possible (which is often the case), you can prepare for them by devising ways to cope with your reaction to those triggers.
In addition to reducing flashbacks and dissociation, knowing your triggers may also help with other symptoms of PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts and memories of a traumatic event.
Identify Early Warning Signs
Flashbacks and dissociation may feel as though they come “out-of-the-blue.” That is, they may feel unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, there are often some early signs that a person may be slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state. For example, a person’s surroundings may begin to look “fuzzy,” or someone may feel as though he is separating from or losing touch with his surroundings, other people, or even himself.
Flashbacks and dissociation are easier to cope with and prevent if you can catch them early on. Therefore, it is important to try to increase your awareness of early symptoms of flashbacks and dissociation. Next time you experience a flashback or dissociation, revisit what you were feeling and thinking just before the flashback or dissociation occurred. Try to identify as many early symptoms as possible. The more early warning signs you can come up with, the better able you will be to prevent future flashbacks or episodes of dissociation.
Learn Grounding Techniques
As the name implies, grounding is a particular way of coping that is designed to “ground” you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and reduce the likelihood that you slip into a flashback or dissociation. In this way, grounding may be considered to be very similar to mindfulness.
To ground, you want to use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight). To connect with the here and now, you want to do something that will bring all your attention to the present moment. A couple of grounding techniques are described below.
· Sound: Turn on loud music: Loud, jarring music will be hard to ignore. And as a result, your attention will be directed to that noise, bringing you into the present moment.
· Touch: Grip a piece of ice. If you notice that you are slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state, hold onto a piece of ice. It will be difficult to direct your attention away from the extreme coldness of the ice, forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.
· Smell: Sniff some strong peppermint. When you smell something strong, it is very hard to focus on anything else. In this way, smelling peppermint can bring you into the present moment, slowing down or stopping altogether a flashback or an episode of dissociation.
· Taste: Bite into a lemon. The sourness of a lemon and the strong sensation it produces in your mouth when you bite into it can force you to stay in the present moment.
· Sight: Take an inventory of everything around you. Connect with the present moment by listing everything around you. Identify all the colors you see. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. List off all the noises you hear. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment.
Enlist the Help of Others
If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support. Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers and knows how to tell and what to do when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state.
In the end, the best way to prevent flashbacks and dissociation is to seek out treatment for your PTSD. Flashbacks and dissociation may be a sign that you are struggling to confront or cope with the traumatic event you experienced. Treatment can help with this. You can find PTSD treatment providers in your area through the Anxiety Disorder Association of America website, as well as UCompare HealthCare from About.com. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) also provides a wealth of information on the connection between trauma and dissociation, how to cope with dissociation, and provides links to therapists who treat trauma and dissociation.
1. Promise not to do anything right now
Even though you’re in a lot of pain right now, give yourself some distance between thoughts and action. Make a promise to yourself: “I will wait 24 hours and won’t do anything drastic during that time.” Or, wait a week. Your suicidal thoughts do not have to become a reality.
2. Avoid drugs and alcohol
Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger if you have taken drugs or alcohol. It is important to not use nonprescription drugs or alcohol when you feel hopeless or are thinking about suicide.
3. Make your home safe
Remove things you could use to hurt yourself, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If you are unable to do so, go to a place where you can feel safe. If you are thinking of taking an overdose, give your medicines to someone who can return them to you one day at a time as you need them.
4. Take hope - people DO get through this
Even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now manage to survive these feelings. Take hope in this. There is a very good chance that you are going to live through these feelings, no matter how much self-loathing, hopelessness, or isolation you are currently experiencing.
5. Don’t keep these suicidal feelings to yourself
Many of us have found that the first step to coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings is to share them with someone we trust. It may be a friend, a therapist, a member of the clergy, a teacher, a family doctor, a coach, or an experienced counselor at the end of a helpline. Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. Don’t let fear, shame, or embarrassment prevent you from seeking help.
Worrying is usually focused on the future—on what might happen and what you’ll do about it. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries by bringing your attention back to the present. This strategy is based on, first, observing and then letting your worries and anxieties go. It can help you identify where your thinking is causing problems, while helping you get in touch with your emotions.
· Acknowledge and observe your anxious thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsider’s perspective, without reacting or judging.
· Let your worries go. Notice that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. It’s only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.
· Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.
Using mindfulness meditation to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes practice to reap the benefits. At first, you’ll probably find that your mind keeps wandering back to your worries. Try not to get frustrated. Each time you draw your focus back to the present, you’re reinforcing a new mental habit that will help you break free of the negative worry cycle.
Dependent personality disorder (DPD) is one of a cluster of disorders defined by symptoms of anxiety and fear. It is the most diagnosed personality disorder and is found equally in women and men. Unlike other conditions, it appears quite late – typically in early to middle adulthood.
The specific, identifying symptoms include:
· Being emotionally dependent on others; feeling they can’t take care of themselves
· Investing a lot of time and effort in trying to please significant people
· Displaying clingy, passive and needy behavior
· Avoiding disagreements for fear of losing approval and support
· Experiencing separation anxiety and intense fear of abandonment
· Finding it hard to be alone
· Putting the needs of others before their own
· Tolerating mistreatment and abuse for fear of disapproval and abandonment
· Being crushed, and feeling helpless, when relationships end – and forming new relationships as soon as possible
· Being unable to make even the simplest decision without the input and reassurance of others
· Rarely taking the initiative
· Avoiding personal responsibility
· Avoiding responsible jobs and careers that require independent, autonomous functioning
· Being over-sensitivity to criticism
· Feeling negative and pessimistic; expecting to disappoint and fail
· Having low self esteem and lacking confidence, including a belief that they are unable to care for themselves.
The cause of disorder is still unclear, and probably includes both a genetic and environmental component. Some researchers have speculated that it could be linked to an authoritarian or overprotective parenting style – which acts as a trigger for a genetic predisposition.
Treatment is usually initially sought for some other problem or concern – such as feeling overwhelmed – so that they can’t cope with life. Also, sufferers will often have a mood disorder so they seek help for depression or anxiety at first.
The normal treatment for this particular disorder is counselling or psychotherapy. However, the emphasis is short term therapy so the person doesn’t form a dependency – and then look to the counsellor to take care of them. Prognosis with support is generally good.
Asperger syndrome is form of autism. People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed. Although people with Asperger syndrome often have difficulty socially, many have above-average intelligence. They may excel in fields such as computer programming and science. There is no delay in their cognitive development, ability to take care of themselves, or curiosity about their environment.
· People with Asperger have problems with language in a social setting.
· It may be difficult to choose a topic of conversation, their body language may be off, and it may be difficult for them to recognize that the other person has lost interest in the topic.
· They may speak in a monotone, and may not respond to other people’s comments or emotions.
· They may have difficulty understanding sarcasm or humor.
Other symptoms may include:
· Problems with eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, or gestures (nonverbal communication)
· Singled out by other children as “weird” or “strange”
· Difficulty developing relationships with children their own age
· Inability to respond emotionally in normal social interactions
· Not flexible about routines or rituals
· Lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people
· Do not express pleasure at other people’s happiness
· Preoccupied with parts of whole objects
· Repetitive behaviors, including repetitive behavior that injures themselves
· Repetitive finger flapping, twisting, or whole body movements
· Unusually intense preoccupation with narrow areas of interest, such as obsession with train schedules, phone books, or collections of objects
Genetic factors may play a role. The condition appears to be more common in boys than in girls.
Everyone experiences symptoms of anxiety, but they are generally occasional and short-lived, and do not cause problems. But when the cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms of anxiety are persistent and severe, and anxiety causes distress in a person’s life to the point that it negatively affects his or her ability to work or study, socialize and manage daily tasks, it may be beyond the normal range.
The following examples of anxiety symptoms may indicate an anxiety disorder:
1. Cognitive: anxious thoughts (e.g., “I’m losing control”), anxious predictions (e.g., “I’m going to fumble my words and humiliate myself”) and anxious beliefs (e.g., “Only weak people get anxious”).
2. Physical: excessive physical reactions relative to the context (e.g., heart racing and feeling short of breath in response to being at the mall). The physical symptoms of anxiety may be mistaken for symptoms of a physical illness, such as a heart attack.
3. Behavioural: avoidance of feared situations (e.g., driving), avoidance of activities that elicit sensations similar to those experienced when anxious (e.g., exercise), subtle avoidances (behaviours that aim to distract the person, e.g., talking more during periods of anxiety) and safety behaviours (habits to minimize anxiety and feel “safer,” e.g., always having a cell phone on hand to call for help).
Several factors determine whether the anxiety warrants the attention of mental health professionals, including:
• the degree of distress caused by the anxiety symptoms
• the level of effect the anxiety symptoms have on a person’s ability to work or study, socialize and manage daily tasks
• the context in which the anxiety occurs.
An anxiety disorder may make people feel anxious most of the time or for brief intense episodes, which may occur for no apparent reason. People with anxiety disorders may have anxious feelings that are so uncomfortable that they avoid daily routines and activities that might cause these feelings. Some people have occasional anxiety attacks so intense that they are terrified or immobilized. People with anxiety disorders are usually aware of the irrational and excessive nature of their fears. When they come for treatment, many say, “I know my fears are unreasonable, but I just can’t seem to stop them.”
What is the difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist and counsellor?
o A psychiatrist is someone who has trained as a medical doctor and then specialised in different psychological disorders. This ranges from personality disorders (such as schizophrenia) to disorders of aging (such as dementia). A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, as well as providing guidance and counselling.
o A licensed clinical psychologist will have completed both an undergraduate degree and a 4 to 6 year doctorate program. A psychologist cannot prescribe medication. They provide counselling, guidance and support to clients based on their particular theoretical orientation (for example, behaviourism, CBT, solution focused therapy.)
o A therapist (or psychotherapist) will have at least a masters degree plus some additional psychotherapy training. Exact training requirement vary from country to country, state to state, and province to province. He or she will have supervised practical experience, and will also have undergone psychotherapy themselves. A therapist works with clients on their problems, using some kind of talking therapy. They are unable to prescribe medication.
o A counsellor will have extensive training in counselling theory and skills. They will have undergone counselling themselves, and been supervised in their practical skills. They work with clients to help them explore, understand and work towards solutions to their problems. They are unable to prescribe medication.
Note: All psychiatrists, psychologist, therapist and counsellors can specialize in different areas. The most common ones are: couples, family, addictions, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, stress management, PTSD, abuse, grief and loss, life transitions and groups.
1. Expect mistakes and knocks as they’re a normal part of life. The chances are you’re not any worse than other people!
2. Remind yourself that, on the whole, you are good enough. You may not be perfect – but at least you’re trying. It take courage to step out, and to get up when you fall down. Just being willing to do that is a true mark of success.
3. Don’t over-react. It is better to stay calm, to maintain your composure and choose how you’ll respond. A knee jerk reaction often leads to real regret.
4. Try not to think or worry about how others see you. Don’t let other people determine your self-worth.
5. Put a positive slant on a bad experience. What can you learn from this that moves you closer to success? What can you laugh about with friends; what can you see as humorous?
6. Fix your focus on your goals, then look ahead and keep on going. Don’t let a setbacks deflect you from your purpose and your dreams.
Depression is much more than simple unhappiness. Clinical depression, sometimes called major depression, is a “mood disorder” that is a significant mental health problem.
The main symptom of depression is a sad, despairing mood that:
· is present most days and lasts most of the day
· lasts for more than two weeks
· impairs the person’s performance at work, at school or in social relationships.
Other symptoms of depression may include:
· changes in appetite and weight
· sleep problems
· loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
· withdrawal from family members and friends
· feeling useless, hopeless, excessively guilty, pessimistic or low self-esteem
· agitation or feeling slowed down
· trouble concentrating, remembering and making decisions
· crying easily, or feeling like crying but being not able to
· thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)
· a loss of touch with reality, hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas (delusions).
Major depression can occur in 10 to 25 per cent of women — almost twice as many as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women — particularly during times such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy and postpartum, miscarriage, pre-menopause, and menopause.
Men with depression typically have a higher rate of feeling irritable, angry and discouraged. This can make it harder to recognize depression in men. The rate of completed suicide in men is four times that of women, though more women attempt it.
A child who is depressed may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy, and feel misunderstood. Because normal behaviours vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary “phase” or has depression.
· “People should just get over the blues and get on with their lives.” Clinical depression is not just unhappiness — it is a complex mood disorder caused by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, personality, stress and brain chemistry. While it can suddenly go into remission, depression is not something that people can “get over” by their own effort.
· “My life will never be normal again.” Most people can and do return to function at the level they did before they became depressed.
1. Try and discover why you feel so lonely. When did you first become aware of the feelings? Is there anything that’s intensified it?
2. Recognise that there’s a difference between feeling lonely and having to spend some time on your own. When we’re used to being around other people, perhaps before we broke up with our girlfriend or boyfriend, then suddenly being single can feel awkward and strange. However, being alone here is different from intense, painful feelings of loneliness.
3. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Just sharing how we feel can make a huge difference. It helps us to feel heard and understood – so we don’t feel so abandoned, unwanted and alone.
4. Work on developing your self-confidence. Always being busy and hanging out with others can stop us from finding and being our true self. But as you start to develop your own tastes and interests you’ll find that you start to feel more confident.
5. Be the one who initiates activities with others. For example, suggest a movie that is popular right now, and try and get some friends to go and see it as a group. Or, invite a few friends over – don’t wait for them to do it – and you might be surprised by how much fun you have!
6. Reach out to others and help when you can. It will soon take your mind off yourself and your feelings – and you’ll grow in self-respect and self-confidence.
A large number of people have never been taught how to successfully manage their emotions. Because of this, they repress how they feel or they engage in a range of unhealthy behaviors – from substance abuse to outbursts of rage. However, expressing our emotions in a balanced, healthy way is the most appropriate way of managing our feelings.
Below are some instructions to help you with this.
1. First, recognize the importance of acknowledging your feelings and expressing them in a healthy, open way. Buried, unexpressed emotions are usually damaging and lead to a multitude of problems in the end. For example, repressed hurt and anger lead to ongoing problems with sadness, depression or anxiety.
2. Learn to label the emotions you are battling. Many people can’t acknowledge any negative emotions – or they only have permission to express certain ones (depending on what’s allowed in their family or home). Hence, they cry when they’re angry, or get angry when they’re hurt, or they trivialise their heartache and act likes it a joke.
3. Decide that you’ll confront and try and deal with your emotions, instead of ignoring or denying how you feel.
4. Understand … expressed emotions usually dissipate in time whereas those which are repressed will usually linger and do damage.
5. Express emotions in a manner that is safe and constructive – such as going for a walk, or encouraging the tears. If you can “wallow” for a while then you will usually feel much better … but then pick up the different pieces and move on with your day.
6. Seek healing for deep wounds. You need to open up the wound and let the cleansing pain bring healing so a healthy scab is formed, and you can truly live again. Time isn’t the great healer – you need to work through all that pain.
7. Don’t forget how to laugh – look for humour in the dark days. It will help disperse the sadness, and will ease the pain inside.
Schizoaffective disorder is a mental condition that causes both a loss of contact with reality (psychosis) and mood problems. The exact cause is unknown. Changes in genes and chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) may play a role. Schizoaffective disorder is believed to be less common than schizophrenia and mood disorders. Women may have the condition more often than men. Schizoaffective disorder tends to be rare in children.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder are different in each person. Often, people with schizoaffective disorder seek treatment for problems with mood, daily function, or abnormal thoughts. Psychosis and mood problems may occur at the same time, or by themselves. The course of the disorder may involve cycles of severe symptoms followed by improvement.
The symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can include:
· Changes in appetite and energy
· Disorganized speech that is not logical
· False beliefs (delusions), such as thinking someone is trying to harm you (paranoia) or thinking that special messages are hidden in common places (delusions of reference)
· Lack of concern with hygiene or grooming
· Mood that is either too good, or depressed or irritable
· Problems sleeping
· Problems with concentration
· Sadness or hopelessness
· Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
· Social isolation
· Speaking so quickly that others cannot interrupt you
· Treatment can vary. In general, antipsychotic medications are used to treat psychotic symptoms and antidepressant medications or “mood stabilizers” may be prescribed to improve mood. Talk therapy can help with creating plans, solving problems, and maintaining relationships. Group therapy can help with social isolation.
People with schizoaffective disorder have a greater chance of going back to their previous level of function than do people with most other psychotic disorders. However, long-term treatment is often needed, and results can vary from person to person.
· Abuse of drugs in an attempt to self-medicate
· Problems following medical treatment and therapy
· Problems due to manic behavior (for example, spending sprees, overly sexual behavior)
· Suicidal behavior.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are totally unique, and have different talents, abilities and strengths.
2. Never criticise or put yourself down. There are plenty of others who will do that for you. You need to be your biggest, and you greatest, fan. Be understanding, gentle and kind to yourself.
3. Consciously accept every compliment you get and see them as accurate and genuinely meant. Don’t brush them off as stupid, wrong, or meaningless.
4. Keep affirming yourself until it changes how you feel. It may feel false at first when you say something like “I accept myself completely– and believe I’m valuable”. But as you constantly repeat it you’ll find that, over time, you do accept and value the person that you are.
5. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people. If you hang out with people who always put you down, and never seem to like or approve of your ideas, then you’ll soon stop believing in yourself as well (and it will also crush your creativity).
6. Make a list of your successes and accomplishments – like playing an instrument, learning how to cook, passing an exam, graduating from high school, or getting into college, or receiving an award. Review this list often – and be proud of yourself!
7. Make a list of your positive qualities and traits. Are you an honest, reliable and caring friend? Do you make time for others? Do you try to do your best? Again, review this list often, and get into the habit of focusing on your positive qualities and traits.
8. Spend your time doing things that you are good at, and enjoy. We become more alive when we’re doing things we love - and that naturally increases our self-confidence (as we’re being our true selves and not just acting out a role).
9. Get involved. If you sit on the sidelines and avoid all challenges then you won’t be able to achieve much in life. But if you push through the feelings of anxiety and fear, then you’ll grow, be successful, and have higher self esteem.
10. Be true to yourself; live a life that’s really “you”. Don’t let other people decide what you should do, or what is best for you, or who they think that you should be. You only have one life – choose your own path – just be you!
Meditation is a mindfulness practice that allows you to “let go” and be present in the moment. In the fast-paced world that we live in, we often do not take the time to clear our heads and be truly present in our surroundings. This can be especially true for if you live with mental illness, because we often experience high levels of anxiety or constantly racing thoughts.
There are numerous meditation techniques, which often work in combination with one another. Meditation, or sitting quietly in the present moment, can require a small time commitment of just five minutes up to, if time allows, even hours. Meditation takes practice; retraining your mind to let go does not happen immediately, but if you take the time to practice once a day or a few times a week, it becomes increasingly easier to access a meditative state. Making meditation a part of your life can lead to lower levels of stress and anxiety and a greater level of personal connectedness. Try the steps below to begin your meditation practice.
1. Find a quiet place where you can be alone and away from distractions such as the conversations of others, the television or the radio.
2. Sit down, either on the floor, a cushion, grass or a chair. Keep your shoulders back and your head upright. If sitting in a chair keep your back straight. You can also lie on your back. Wherever you decide to sit make sure you are comfortable.
3. Rest your hands flat on your legs or clasp them together, laying them on your waist. Again, do whatever is most comfortable for you.
4. Stay still. You can close your eyes or lower your gaze, letting your eyes de-focus on the tip of your nose or an inch or two in front of your face.
5. Focus on your breathing, feel your surroundings, feel the air brushing against you, the ground or the object you are sitting on.
6. Clear your thoughts. Your mind will naturally begin to wander when meditating; it is inevitable, especially when you are first starting. Instead of fighting these thoughts, simply try to let them go and return back to your meditative focus and correct body position.
7. The more you practice the easier it becomes to get into and stay in a meditative state. Start with five minute sessions. As you become more comfortable increase the amount of time you put aside to meditate.