Facts and Opinions

SAD…it isn’t just an emotion

We have now made it towards the end of the year. We watched the weather heat up during the month of May, letting us walk around through out the spring and summer season with our arms bare and our skin glowing with the sun’s rays. Then we transitioned into the fall. The leaves on the trees changed their mood; showcasing red, orange, yellow, and brown hues as they fell to the ground. We saw families put pumpkins in front of their windows, getting ready for the night when ghosts and goblins walk from house to house collecting their sugary loot. With the shift in seasons, the air shifts in tune as well; with the weather calling for jackets and gloves. At the moment, it is about fifteen or sixteen degrees; a stark contrast from the seventy degree weather us Chicagoans were still getting in the middle of September. We were practically begging for the weather to get colder. Well now it’s here, and while some of us are embracing the slightly bitter cold with our Ugg boots on our feet and plaid scarves wrapped around our necks, others are struggling to grasp Mother Nature’s changes. Sometimes, it can psychologically bring us down. There’s a reason for that, and it has a name.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the changes in seasons. Typically, it begins to set in at around late fall to early winter, but by spring and summer it usually goes away. Now, that does not mean that episodes can not take place during seasons with warmer climates…it just isn’t as common. There are a few tell-tale signs that may indicate that you may be experiencing bouts of seasonal depression, some may include:

  • if your depression persists nearly every day for most of the day
  • there’s a loss in the activities that you once enjoyed
  • insomnia or difficulties sleeping
  • hypersomnia or irregular sleep pattern
  • increase or decrease in weight
  • a drastic change in appetite and abnormal cravings
  • feeling rather sluggish or fatigued
  • heightened agitation
  • restlessness
  • having a hard time focusing
  • violent outbursts

Remember, just because you exhibit one of the symptoms on this list, it doesn’t mean that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if the symptom you exhibit is disrupting your way of life and your mental health, you may want to seek some professional mental help. There may be some other factors that may increase your chances of having SAD. For instance, if you’re a woman, it is four times more likely that you will be diagnosed with it than men. If you live further from the equator, then there is a higher chance that you may get it, or if you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder. Also, age plays a factor too. Younger adults are more affected by SAD. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be overlooked either, they too can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.

Christmas time and holiday cheer may be a positive point during the winter, as well as the whims fall brings, the growth spring attracts, and the warmth of summer, but people with SAD don’t get a chance to experience all of that, and it isn’t that they don’t want to, their brains have a hard time letting them. People with SAD may have difficulty regulating their serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes a person’s mood. This is a pretty important hormone; it practically controls your entire body. Serotonin helps brain cells and other nervous system cells communicate with each other. It is found in your stomach as well as your intestines; aiding eating, sleeping, and digestion. It even helps heal your wounds, triggering tiny arteries to narrow, forming blood clots. Serotonin is great, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Too much serotonin can lead to depression and excessive nerve cell activity. It may also lower your arousal. Low levels of serotonin can be associated with emotional and behavioral disorders such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and OCD. Having high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis; making your bones weaker. Some symptoms of increased serotonin are shivering, high blood pressure, diarrhea, twitching muscles, high fever unconsciousness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.

Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel heavy during the holidays, but there are plenty of ways to manage it.

Medication-

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s can be given to people who are dealing with SAD. Some take certain antidepressants like bupropion, which can also be taken to help people stop smoking. It may take a while to find the right medicine for you; all of them do not affect each person the same. Some of these medications may cause some pretty severe side effects. This article by the National Institute of Mental Health helps you understand some of your medications just a little better (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml).

Light therapy-

I hadn’t heard of this one before, but apparently it has been used to treat SAD since the 1980’s. This is typically used during the months that contain shorter days and colder weather. The whole idea is to mimic and replace the diminished sunlight of the fall and winter months. This helps the patient get a higher dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and nervous system, and of course the brain. It also helps combat some of the symptoms that come with having too much serotonin, like weak bones and teeth. Some people are told to sit in a well lit area to soak up the sun or a light box for about 20 to 60 minutes. A light box blocks out ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin creating premature wrinkles and in more serious cases skin cancer. A light box exposes a person to at least 10,000 lux, an SI unit of illuminance that’s equal to one lumen per square meter. It is more than twenty times the amount of light you would get by being indoors. You would do this first thing in the morning between late fall and early spring.

Psychotherapy-

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a widely used method; they even have a specific method for SAD called CBT-SAD. It identifies negative thoughts while trying to switch them with positive thoughts using a technique called behavioral action. Remembering and doing the things that make the person happy may be a positive way to let the person cope during their episodes.

Vitamin D-

It was talked about a little in the Light Therapy section, but Vitamin D is good for your body. The sun is the most natural source, but you can also buy supplements at your local grocery store.

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or where you are, people show a wide array of emotions every single day. However, for some of us, some of those emotions aren’t so jovial, and it can be a lot harder to overcome, especially during certain times of the year. It may seem difficult, but there are many ways to combat seasonal depression and manage it, you just have to find the right method for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

http://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin

UV Radiation

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Facts and Opinions

All About Mental Illness & Health #worldmentalhealthday

Today is not just some normal Thursday, today is much more important than you may think. Today is World Mental Health Day! As a mental health blogger, this is a very important day for me. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for one to protect their mental health. Everyone goes through something, and no matter how small or severe, it is valid and deserves to be attended to and healed.

I can’t understand why people don’t make their mental health a priority. I mean, it’s your brain for God sakes…you know? The thing that helps you make daily decisions? The thing that is the reason why you decided to read this today? It is the control room for the body. It receives signals from sensory organs, and then sends that information to your muscles. The brain is probably the most important part of the body besides the heart; the two go hand in hand. The brain stores our memories; when we lost our first tooth, when we got our first kiss, when we got married, the brain holds all of that! Why do we just treat it in any old way?

As much as the brain is important, the brain is also quite complex. It actually is the most complex organ in a vertebrate’s body. Your brain consists of over 80 billion neurons. Neurons are specially designed to transfer information throughout the body. The brain has four lobes; the frontal lobe, the occipital lobe, the parietal lobe, and the temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is located in the…well, guess. This part of the brain is involved with voluntary movement, thinking, personality, emotion, memory, sustained attention, and intentionality. The occipital lobe is placed in the back of the brain. This controls your visual perception. The temporal lobe has an active role in hearing, language processing, and memory; it’s located at the bottom of the brain. Lastly, the parietal lobe is an important factor in registering spatial location, maintaining attention, and administering motor control. It may just all seem like a bunch of words, but your brain does all of that! That’s insane that the body is capable of doing so much.

Within those parts of the brain we have the parts that control our emotions like the limbic cortex, the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and so on and so forth. The limbic cortex impacts your mood, motivation, and judgement through two structures, the cingulate gyrus and the parahippocampal gyrus. While the limbic system is doing its thing, the hippocampus is making sure that you remember the things that you are supposed to. The hippocampus helps retrieve certain memories. It also helps out with recognizing space in your environment. The hypothalamus controls emotional and sexual responses, while the cute little amygdala helps coordinate responses that are in your environment, more importantly the ones that elicit an emotional response. Fear and anger are also ruled a lot by the amygdala. That’s quite a bit right? So what happens when these functions don’t function the way that they are supposed to? What causes it?

Having a mental illness may feel as if you are not in control of your own body. You may experience a certain emotion more than average, or maybe they experience an emotion on a lesser basis than average…some might not experience emotions at all. Professionals have been saying that chemical imbalances in the brain are the main culprit of mental illness since the late 1950s. What causes these imbalances?

Heredity and other biological factors:

Sometimes it’s all in your genes. If a loved one has a mental illness, there’s a chance that it may run in the family. However, it doesn’t always mean that you will inherit the condition. Sometimes due to injury the brain can change. Other times it’s due to prenatal damage, or just being born with abnormal functions in the brain.

Psychologically:

Enduring a large amount of trauma can mentally affect someone for sure, especially when the trauma is endured at a young age. Our brains don’t finish developing until around the age of 25, so experiencing a certain act at an early age can damage the growth to crucial parts of the brain. Hell, experiencing trauma at any age can disrupt crucial parts of the brain. Some people over exert themselves to the brink of a breakdown. Sometimes the situations that we are in can cause us too much stress, which can create some psychological turmoil.

Drug Usage:

Certain types of drugs like psychoactive drugs can create manic episodes or psychosis and damage different parts of the brain. Narcotics such as cocaine and LSD can trigger paranoid behaviors.

Other factors may include poor diet, exposure to lead or other dangerous chemicals and etc.

How do people treat mental health? There isn’t just one way. One method may not work for everyone. I go to counseling with my therapist in a private and intimate setting; within the session, it’s just me and her. However, some people like to be around others in a group therapy session because they like to know that they aren’t alone. A support group is a great way to express your feelings and your grievances, It’s good to know that you aren’t the only person that is going through what you’re going through, and maybe you can get some extra help from someone who has been in your shoes before. I found a few support groups for different issues on PsychologyToday.com. You can also find therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers on there as well. I like the one on one setting personally because I feel like I’m not wasting time with the things I feel I need to get off my chest. Every session I talk about something different, but each session is working towards the end goal. I have done something called cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps treat the problem by boosting happiness through modifying dysfunctional moods, behaviors, and thoughts. That’s a form of psychotherapy. In some cases, medication can be administered. Remember! This does not cure the illness, but it can improve the person’s way of living. Case management can help the person seeking services find different resources that may be able to help the person live in a happier and healthier way. Many people like to turn down the holistic path. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can increase gray matter concentration, decrease stress hormones, and help combat depression…just to name a few benefits. If it is really serious, hospitalization may need to occur. It’s okay. Whatever needs to be done should have no shame behind it. This is your life, do what you need to do to stay healthy.

Some seem to think that people with mental illness are just these all ’round crazy individuals. People who experience mental health problems may fear that they will face rejection, bullying or discrimination. There are so many people who could be treated, but because of the stigma that is behind mental health, they are afraid of opening up about their situation. This can lead to the worsening of someone’s mental illness, greater destruction, and even death. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, around one million people commit suicide per year. In the States, one in five people go through mental illness. In 2017, 970 million people were reported to have a mental or substance disorder. Do you see how many people that is!? And that’s just estimated, there is probably way more. Anyone out there who is going through something mentally, trust me, it may feel like you are the only one trying to stay strong…but trust me, you aren’t. It’s a battle that a lot of people face.

Maybe you play into the stigma? Can you break it? Yes! There is hope. It never hurts to educate yourself on mental illness and mental health. Remember that the person is still a person, not their condition. Try not to be judgmental and attempt to come from an understanding place. And lastly, try to take action. If you know someone that may be going through some things, don’t be afraid to lend an ear. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do. Support goes a really long way.

Even though World Mental Health Day is only one day, you can still promote better mental health everyday! Know your limits; take time to yourself if you need it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed when you need to ask for help. There are hotlines out there who are willing to listen to whatever you are going through. Here’s a link to a few good ones here:

https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources

Don’t listen to people who tell you that mental illness isn’t real. Don’t listen to people who tell you to just push it to the side and forget about it. Don’t listen to people who discourage you from trying to be the best version of yourself. Do what you need to do when it comes to your life. Everything will be just fine.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Santrock, John W. Child Development: Fourteenth Edition. 2013, June 18th. McGraw-Hill Education.

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-part-of-the-brain-controls-emotions#the-limbic-system

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/causes-of-mental-illness

https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-treatments

https://www.nami.org/stigmafree

https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health

 

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