psychology

The 8 Best Online Resources For Mental Health

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This is a reblog from another site.

It’s normal to struggle with stress from time to time, but what happens when that feeling of overwhelming misery becomes more of a near-constant battle than an occasional annoyance? Well, that’s what it’s like for the 15.7 million Americans who struggle with depression alone – and those staggering numbers don’t even include the myriads of other disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Bipolar Disorder.

If you struggle from any number of mood, anxiety or other mental disorders, you are certainly not alone. In fact, I myself suffer from GAD and Panic Disorder! More importantly, there’s no shame in seeking help for your mental health. Whether you’re suffering from a full-blown mental illness or just stressed out of your mind, the Internet can be an amazing resource for helping you take control of your mental health – if you know about the amazing websites that are out there.

So, here are just 8 of the best mental health resources available online today (as of September 2017) to help you feel happier, healthier and overall better about yourself and your life. And remember: this is NOT medical advice. If you’re in crisis, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for confidential help ASAP!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Safe Space

Ever find yourself needing to slow down and just BREATHE? Sometimes we forget to take that time for ourselves during the day, and find ourselves quickly becoming panicked and overwhelmed. Thankfully, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a resource called Safe Space on its website. Described as a “calming, de-stimulating environment,” the Safe Space encourages you to breathe in a minimal landscape until you find yourself calm, cool and collected once more. (Note: if you are in crisis, this is not a suitable alternative to calling the lifeline. Please call the hotline above or visit your nearest crisis center ASAP!)

ADAA Online Support Group

A good support group won’t replace professional therapy for those who suffer from anxiety or depression – but itisa great supplement to help you connect with likeminded people and remember that you’re not alone in this struggle! The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a free online support group through the site HealthUnlocked, which you can access via web or mobile app. Simply log into HealthUnlocked, follow the ADAA support group and start communicating almost instantly!

TalkSpace

TalkSpace is an app that provides text and video chat therapy that you can access anytime, anywhere. Just shoot your therapist a message whenever you’re feeling low, or have got something on your mind you just can’t shake, and they’ll reply to you next time they’re online. The only downside to this app is that you have to pay for it – but if you don’t have insurance or have confidentiality obstacles, TalkSpace is a great, cheaper alternative to traditional talk therapy.

Pacifica

If you struggle from a mood or anxiety disorder, Pacifica is an awesome tool to help you track your moods, unravel your negative thinking patterns and calm down on the go. Once you create a free account, Pacifica can be accessed either via its website or the mobile app. Inside the app, you can enter your mood and Pacifica will recommend an appropriate activity for you to complete to help yourself feel better instantly. You can also listen to a guided meditation, add positive pictures to your Hope Board and write a journal entry to help you identify the thought patterns that might be hurting you.

Happify

Happify is another excellent tool for anyone suffering from a mental illness, at their wit’s end or simply looking to boost their mood in the long term. With Happify, you complete activities and games that are scientifically-designed to help you feel happier – and stay that way! First, you create an account and receive recommendations for “tracks” (i.e. mini courses) to choose. Then, you choose a track, view your recommended activities and complete them daily for a chance to win medals – and even monthly raffle entries!

Therachat

Therachat is an anxiety self-help tool originally designed for therapists to help their clients track their mental health between sessions. However, anyone can use this app regardless of whether or not they have a therapist to guide them! With Therachat, you can customize a chat bot to guide you through journal entries and mood ratings with your preferred style and tone. The app even uses a therapist-approved approach called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that guides patients through the process of recognizing and altering their negative thought processes.

Calm

In case you haven’t heard, meditation and mindfulness are all the rage for helping you cope with negative emotions and mental illness. Luckily, Calm is a free resource to help you stay more mindful and connected to the present moment. With the Calm app, you can meditate along to guided audio or in silence – or simply enjoy the calming scenery and soundscape. You can access Calm online via their website, or download their mobile app for meditation on the go. Still craving more? You can pay to subscribe to Calm’s premium version, which provides you with even more guided meditations and ways to relax.

MoodMission

The MoodMission app will help you conquer negative feelings like stress, anxiety and depression by completing mini actions to boost your mood and make you happier. You begin by choosing whether you’re feeling depressed, anxious or neither, and the app will recommend a challenge accordingly. For example, when I’ve been feeling flat, drained and numb, MoodMission has told me to try the puppy yoga pose, scroll through my favorite websites or make a list of three things I’m grateful for. Once you accept the challenge, it’s up to you to complete it – and watch your mood rise when you do!

Substance Abuse & Suicide Guide

“Alcohol and other drugs can cause a range of health problems. Substance addiction also increases a person’s risk of facing other life-changing consequences. Overdose, disease and legal problems are among the top hazards for people with substance use disorders, but there’s another major risk that’s often overlooked.”

“‘A lot of times, suicide is not on the radar of drug and alcohol treatment providers or families because, for understandable reasons, they’re so focused on safety around substance use,’ Mark Ilgen, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, told DrugRehab.com. ‘Sometimes suicide risk goes unnoticed and doesn’t get the attention it needs.’”

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Friendship

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When I’m old and look back on my life, memories from times with others is what will feel important. Not how many books I’ve read, not what I’ve eaten for dinner or when I cleaned the apartment. What really matters are conversations, laughter, feeling connected to others. But although I know this, I often forget how important it is.

Today one of my best friends came to visit us. Yesterday I thought this was inconvenient. It meant less time with my book and time for scrapbooking, and that annoyed me somewhat. But it turned out to be a wonderful evening. We had dinner together, talked and played a board game. She held my son and showed me a video from when her son was the same age as Gabriel is now, and I felt the warmth of sharing my life with her. The good feeling in my body from just being together with a person I care about.

When I get old, I will look back at this evening and remember that I felt happy. I’m so grateful for my friends. They have been there when I needed it the most, offering support and consolation. They have seen me cry and made my laugh again. Friends make everything easier, they give you hope and offer different perspectives when you don’t see clearly. We are hard wired for connections; and it’s no secret that loneliness often hides behind depression or anxiety.

Isolation is never good for us, so if you feel that you don’t have time to be with others, then just think about what you will think about when you’re old. It’s not the hours you spent at the office or the money you made.

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7 SUBTLE SIGNS YOUR TRAUMA RESPONSE IS TO ‘FAWN’

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This is a reblog from the blog lets queer things up.

Sam Dylan Finch is the blogger behind Let’s Queer Things Up!, where he writes about mental health, body positivity, and LGBTQ+ identity. He’s also the Editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline.

As an advocate, he’s passionate about building community for people in recovery. You can find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, or learn more at samdylanfinch.com.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash.

Last month, I wrote about the fourth type of trauma response — not fight, flight, or even freeze, but fawn.

The term was first coined by therapist and survivor Pete Walker, who wrote about it in his groundbreaking book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.” And let me tell you, as a concept, it thoroughly changed the game for me.

In a nutshell, “fawning” is the use of people-pleasing to diffuse conflict, feel more secure in relationships, and earn the approval of others.

It’s a maladaptive way of creating safety in our connections with others by essentially mirroring the imagined expectations and desires of other people.

Often times, it stems from traumatic experiences early on in life, as I described in last month’s article.

It resonated with so many you, and since then, I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how to recognize this type of response in ourselves, particularly in our day-to-day interactions.

I can only speak from personal experience, but there are a number of commonalities among “fawn” types that I think are worth noting.

I’m going to share seven struggles that a lot of us seem to experience as people-pleasers. If it sounds familiar, you, my friend, probably know a thing or two about fawning.

1. YOU STRUGGLE TO FEEL ‘SEEN’ BY OTHERS.

If you’re a fawn type, you’re likely very focused on showing up in in a way that makes those around you feel comfortable, and in more toxic relationships, to avoid conflict.

But the downside to this is that you’re not necessarily being your most authentic self. The more you fawn and appease others, the more likely you are to feel unknown to others, even in your close relationships.

If no one sees your authentic self, it can lead to feelings of being misunderstood, and even resenting the fact that no one really “sees” you.

The painful irony is that often times, you’re the one obscuring their ability to see you in the first place.

2. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SAY ‘NO’ TO PEOPLE.

Fawn types are almost always stretched thin. This is because we’re so eager to make others happy, we blurt out “of course!” and “yes!” before it even occurs to us to say “I can’t right now” or “no thanks.”

Your catchphrase might even be something like “it’s no trouble at all, really!”

Meanwhile, you’re silently dreading the mountain of favors you’ve signed up for — a list that only seems to get longer as the day wears on.

You’ve got a love/hate relationship with being helpful, and no matter how many times you try to break up with the word “yes,” saying “no” just doesn’t come naturally to you.

3. YOU’RE EITHER SPEWING EMOTIONS OUT OF NOWHERE OR UNLOADING THEM ONTO DISTANT STRANGERS.

This might seem paradoxical, but it’s not, if you really think about it.

You want to make those closest to you happy, which means you’re reluctant to open up when you’re struggling — so you only do so when you’re on the brink of totally breaking down, because you’ve held it all in for far too long.

On the other hand, distance makes it easier to have feelings, too.

Which is why people we’ve just met can suddenly become as intimate as a best friend in a single conversation (and why I became a blogger, let’s be real).

A kind stranger in a bar? Sure, I’ll tell you all about my trauma. Oh, here’s a Twitter thread about the worst thing that ever happened to me. Here’s a frightening Facebook SOS— I mean, status.

We need an outlet for our emotions, but having emotions can be sooo off-putting, right? So we unload them onto people we aren’t yet invested in, that we won’t see again, or where a safe distance (like on social media) is in place.

That way, if someone bails on us for being messy or “too much” — otherwise known as being human — it stings less, and the stakes don’t feel as high.

4. YOU FEEL GUILTY WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY AT OTHER PEOPLE.

You might make a lot of excuses for the lousy behavior of other people, defaulting to self-blame. You might get angry, only to feel like an Actual Monster for having feelings at all five minutes later. You might even feel like you’re not “allowed” to be upset with other people.

I did this just recently when I was almost hit by a car, and immediately went to a place of wondering if I’d simply misunderstood what happened.

It’s pretty hard to “misunderstand” someone hitting the gas pedal when you’re crossing in front of their car, but I was convinced that somehow, some way, it had to be my fault.

If you struggle to get mad at people, opting instead to blame yourself or justify someone’s cruddy behavior, you’re actually fawning — because you’re pushing your feelings down, and rewriting the story, all in an effort to appease the other person involved.

5. YOU FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S REACTIONS.

Whenever I recommend a restaurant or a book to someone, there’s a moment or two of intense panic. “What if they hate it?” I wonder. “What if it’s not as good as I remember?”

Sometimes I just let other people make decisions on where we go and what we do together, because if something goes awry, it won’t be because I “failed” to make a good choice.

I once felt guilty because a friend of mine spent thirty minutes looking for parking near the cafe I chose to meet them at. As if I somehow control whether or not a parking space is available.

It’s a little nuts if you think about it, right? Because you can’t arrange someone else’s tastebuds, magically know their book preferences, or anticipate whether or not that art exhibit you want to see is actually worth going to.

Yet I take a ridiculous amount of responsibility for whether or not people are having a good time — so much so that I forget that I’m supposed to be enjoying myself, too.

This is just another sneaky manifestation of the “fawn” response in action (and a dash of codependency added in there, for good measure).

We’re trying to anticipate someone else’s happiness, because deep down, we feel responsible for it — and are trying everything in our power to ensure that the people we care about aren’t disappointed.

6. YOU FIND YOURSELF COMPROMISING YOUR VALUES.

This can be difficult to notice at first. You might think of yourself as being agreeable, good at compromise, easy to get along with. But if you pay attention to the conversations you’re having, you might notice you’re a little too agreeable — to the point of validating viewpoints that you don’t really, fully agree with.

Sometimes it’s benign things, like saying you don’t have a preference for where you get dinner when you actually do. Other times it’s a deeper issue, like validating a perspective or behavior that you don’t agree with.

“Sure, the sexism in that movie really only bothered me a little bit, but you’re so right, the cinematography was top-notch.” “Oh yeah, she probably isn’t being a good friend to you, I can see why you sent that angry text.”

If you find yourself sitting on the fence as not to upset anyone, you’re likely fawning to some degree — and it might be time to self-reflect on whether or not you feel okay continuing to do so.

7. YOU SOMETIMES DISSOCIATE IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS.

Fawning often requires that we shut down emotionally. The less we have distinct feelings of our own, the easier it is to adapt to and accommodate the emotions of other people.

Sometimes this can lead to dissociating, where we disconnect emotionally. This can show up as daydreaming, spacing out, withdrawing, or even “going blank” when we’re overwhelmed in social situations.

This is also why fawn types can relate so much to other trauma responses, like flight or freeze.

If we feel that “fawning” is failing us in an argument, that it won’t work with a particular person, or that we just don’t know how to please someone, we might check out emotionally, or rely on other “escapist” mechanisms so that we no longer have to engage.

We’re more prone to anything that involves dissociation because we’re already distancing ourselves from our own emotions for the sake of others.

SOUND FAMILIAR?

I think I need to put “Fawning Isn’t Fun” on a t-shirt or something, because it’s true: It sucks.

It can be painful to constantly silence yourself and push your emotions away, all while working overtime to anticipate the emotions of other people.

A number of people have asked of fawning, “Isn’t this manipulative?” But I think that misses the point. It’s disempowering, it stems from pain, and guilt is simply not an effective way of motivating people to unpack their trauma and show up differently for the people they care about.

But hopefully, if you start by noticing these patterns in your life, and have the opportunity to work with an awesome therapist, you can begin to reorient yourself toward a more authentic, fulfilling way of connecting with others.

LOOKING FOR MORE?

If you’re looking for more about fawning and how to challenge it, in addition to reading Pete’s book and the articles I’ve published around this, I also put together a zine for my patrons on Patreon that offers some actionable advice!

The zine includes writing prompts and guidance on how to notice this mechanism as it relates to your own life. And it’s really pretty, so if you’re a design nerd like me, you’ll probably appreciate it.

A lot of you have asked if you could chip in to support my work. Supporting me on Patreon is the best way to ensure that I can keep creating free mental health resources, so hop on over if you’re interested!

Either way, please know that I’m right there with you in this messy, complicated journey. It does get easier, though — I can promise you that.

And for what it’s worth, I’m proud of every one of you for taking steps to show up differently. It’s tough work, but you deserve to feel whole and seen in every relationship you have.

You work so hard to offer that compassion to others — why not offer that to yourself?

Sam Dylan Finch is the blogger behind Let’s Queer Things Up!, where he writes about mental health, body positivity, and LGBTQ+ identity. He’s also the Editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline.

As an advocate, he’s passionate about building community for people in recovery. You can find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook, or learn more at samdylanfinch.com.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash.

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I believe in miracles

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Millions believe in miracles. And millions have experienced it too. Six weeks ago, I was the lucky one. My miracle appeared the 20th of April, when my son was born. It is still so strange to have a son. One week after he was born, his eye was infected and I had to get a remedy in the pharmacy. When she asked me if it was for myself or someone else, I proudly announced it was for my son. It hit me then. I am now a mother, with all that it entails. First and foremost, that means being there for him, making him secure. He has already got a little personality, and so far he has been a very kind and calm baby. These last days he has also become more social and engaged with the world. Every little development is a miracle, just him being here is. How lucky am I ?

Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and the Microbes Inside You

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This post is a reblog of a post by Candida Fink, MD.

I found it very interesting and hope you like it too! The post can be found on her blog: bipolar beat at psych central

Can the bacterial community that lives in your gut actually be related to psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? Research on the human microbiome and its effects on health and illness has exploded into the worlds of medicine and research. It is increasingly clear that the microorganisms in the human intestinal tract, and the genes produced by all of these microscopic living things, play critical roles in an individual’s patterns of overall wellness — far beyond helping us digest food effectively.

Microbiota and Microbiome Defined

Microbiota is the ecological community of microorganisms (mostly bacteria, but also fungi, viruses, and so on) that live in a particular location, such as your gut. Microbiomerefers collectively to the genes harbored in these microorganisms. Researchers must understand the patterns of both the organisms and the genes to help clarify the roles these microscopic creatures play in the body’s health and function. So, if you read something about the microbiome that’s about only the bacteria and not the genes, you know it is an incomplete discussion. Also, while most of the discussions are about the gut microbiota and microbiome, humans actually have colonies of microorganisms living in other areas in and on their bodies, including their skin, reproductive tract, and the mouth and throat (which are technically part of the gut but sometimes are not thought of in that way).

A study in the journal Brain, Behavior, Immunology (May 2017), entitled “The microbiome, immunity, and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” summarizes some of the current research looking at the microbiome as it relates to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The article reports that many studies in animal models have shown that the gut microbiome could affect thinking and behavior through effects on the immune system. Some human studies have shown that people with psychiatric conditions took antibiotics more frequently than people without these disorders. Humans take antibiotics to kill off unwanted bacterial infections, but these medications also kill off some of the microbiota, changing the person’s microbiome. The question that comes up then is whether these microbiome changes were related to the development of the psychiatric conditions. This article also points to studies that found different microbiota in the mouths and throats (oro-pharyngeal microbiota) of people with schizophrenia compared to those without.

Babies are born with “sterile” guts; they don’t have any gut microbiota. But in the birth process, microorganisms colonize the baby’s mouth and intestine, starting off their process of building a microbiome that eventually looks like an adult’s. Many researchers are exploring how the developing microbiome might affect the developing brain and nervous system. While it seems clear that there are effects, the exact processes mediating the effects and what exactly gets changed or affected remains very unclear. While the immune system is thought to be one pathway, other mechanisms are also being investigated.

Many other areas of research show promising results when looking at the microbiota, microbiome, and illness. Autism researchers are looking at the “gut-microbiome-brain” connection, and there are strong indicators that the microbiota and microbiome have some relationship to autism. Obesity — not a mental illness but of concern to so many people living with mental illness — has been shown to have some very interesting connections to the microbiota in mouse studies. Changing the patterns of bacteria in mouse guts can transform the mouse from lean to obese and vice versa without changing diets. A study from China last month in the World Journal of Gastroenterologyreports a case of a 20-year-old with Crohn’s disease and seizures. They treated her with fecal microbiota transplantation — giving her the gut microbiota of a healthy person — and her gastrointestinal symptoms and seizures improved significantly.

The potential benefits to understanding how the microbiota and microbiome interact with the brain and central nervous system could be enormous. Understanding microorganism mechanisms that increase the likelihood of mental illness such as bipolar disorder or neurodevelopmental condition like autism would make room to build new interventions that target those mechanisms. The research in these areas is still in early stages, and there is much more to do, but this is an intriguing and promising story in the quest to understand and treat disorders of the brain.