Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, ADHD, Et al: How to Support a Friend with Mental Illness

By: Sarah Cohen

When helping a friend with a mental illness, the first step should be assessment of their symptoms. Sometimes they just might be going through a difficult time, but if certain common symptoms associated with mental health issues persist it is imperative to respond sensitively. Majority of the time, friends will just want to know they have your support and that you care about them. A good way to show your support is by talking to them. If you provide a non-judgmental space for them to speak about their issues it will help encourage them to be open with their problems. Let them lead the conversation and don’t pressure them to reveal information. It can be incredibly difficult and painful to speak about these issues and they might not be ready to share everything. If you aren’t their therapist do not diagnose them or make assumptions about how they are feeling, just listen and show you understand. If someone doesn’t want to speak with you, don’t take it personally, just continue to show them you care about their wellbeing and want to help as much as possible. Just knowing they have support can give them the strength they need to contact someone who can help them.

If a friend is having a crisis, such as a panic attack or suicidal thoughts, you must stay calm. Try not to overwhelm them by asking a lot of questions and confronting them in a public setting. Ask them gently what would be helpful to them right now or reassure them. If they hurt themselves, get first aid as soon as possible. If someone is suicidal, contact the suicide hotline at 800-237-8255 immediately.

The best way to help someone is by connecting them to professional help. By expressing your concern and support you can show them that they can get help and their mental health problems can be treated.

If you or someone you know needs support with their mental illness, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/supporting-someone-mental-health-problem

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/friends-family-members

Mental Illness: Genetics or Environment?

Mental Illness: Genetics or Environment?

By: Isabelle Siegel

The term “Nature vs. Nurture” describes an age-old scientific debate regarding whether behavior, personality, and other individual characteristics are the result of nature—one’s biology and genetics—or nurture—one’s environment and upbringing. The development of mental illness is a prime example of the Nature vs. Nurture debate, as scientists and others seek to understand: Is mental illness caused by genetics or environment?

The Big Question. Is Nature or Nurture responsible for mental illness? This is essentially a trick question, as both Nature and Nurture contribute to the development of mental illness. In fact, it is ultimately the interaction between one’s genes and one’s experiences and environment that leads a person to develop a mental illness. According to the Diathesis-Stress Model, genetic predispositions develop into mental illnesses when they are met with stressful environments and/or experiences. For example, a person can be born with a genetic predisposition for depression, but that person may not develop depression unless they experience stressful environmental events such as abuse.

Nature. What are the biological and genetic causes of mental illness? It is well-documented that mental illness can be hereditary, or passed on within families. For example, a person is four to six times more likely to develop Bipolar Disorder if someone in their family has or had Bipolar Disorder. Another potent biological factor contributing to the development of mental illness is brain anatomy and brain chemistry. Research suggests, for instance, that people with schizophrenia have less active prefrontal cortices (the area of the brain associated with decision-making, planning, and personality). Other biological factors implicated in the development of mental illness include exposure to infection or toxins, damage during pregnancy, and use of substances.

Nurture. What are the environmental causes of mental illness? The development of mental illness can often be associated with one’s childhood experiences. Exposure to abuse is a potent example of an environmental factor that can lead to mental illness. Other experiences can also result in the onset of mental illness, including death, divorce, and/or other forms of grief or trauma.

In conclusion, neither Nature nor Nurture is solely responsible for the development of mental illness. Rather, genetic and biological factors combine with environmental and experiential factors to result in the onset of mental illness. 

If you or a loved one needs support for mental illness, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Image Source: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-nature-versus-nurture-2795392

Mental Illness: How to Support a Spouse with Mental Illness

Mental Illness: How to Support a Spouse with Mental Illness
By: Isabelle Siegel

Every relationship has challenges, but relationships in which one partner has a mental illness can be even more challenging. The presence of mental illness in a relationship can leave both individuals feeling alone and helpless. However, it is not impossible to be in a happy, healthy, and successful relationship with someone with a mental illness. If you are wondering how to support your partner/spouse with mental illness, know that it is possible. Although your partner’s/spouse’s mental illness may at times feel all-consuming, certain steps can ultimately help manage the overwhelming ups and downs.

Develop an understanding of your partner’s/spouse’s diagnosis. It can be helpful to research the symptoms of your partner’s/spouse’s disorder in order to better recognize and label them as they arise. Having a basic understanding of what your partner/spouse is experiencing can help you to put yourself in his/her shoes and to gain insight into his/her struggles.

Just be there. Having a mental illness oftentimes makes people feel alone and as though they are a burden to their loved ones. The single most powerful way you can support your partner/spouse with a mental illness is to be there for him/her. Communicate that you are there for the highs and lows, and be ready to love your partner/spouse through them.

Do not let mental illness take over your entire relationship. Although it is important to communicate, try to keep your relationship balanced by limiting discussions about mental illness. Even when your partner’s/spouse’s mental illness feels all-consuming, continue to engage in activities that pull you and your partner away from thinking about his/her diagnosis and struggles.

Communicate openly how you feel. Regardless of a mental illness diagnosis, open communication is a critical component of any relationship. Be honest with your partner/spouse about how you feel, communicating any emotions with the goal of productively working through them.

Understand that your partner/spouse is trying the best he/she can. It can be easy to assume that a person with mental illness would feel better if only he/she tried harder. Oftentimes, people with mental illness are coping with their struggles in the best way they can.

Accept that it will be challenging at times. Being in a relationship with someone with a mental illness is going to pose challenges. It can arouse difficult emotions such as frustration, anger, resentment, sadness, etc. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and be willing to communicate them with your partner.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. It is important to understand that your partner/spouse is not the only one who needs support. Never feel guilty for prioritizing your own needs, and consider seeking therapy or other support in order to take care of your own mental health.

If you or a loved one needs support, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Sources:
https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2018/How-to-Be-Supportive-of-Your-Partner-with-Mental-I
https://www.nami.org/Personal-Stories/How-To-Love-Someone-With-A-Mental-Illness
https://www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-a-mentally-ill-spouse-2302988

Image Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/1XXGCnGttHazLixy5

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD

By: Cassie Sieradzky

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is classified in the DSM-5 as a trauma and stress related disorder. PTSD is commonly triggered after a traumatic event, such as violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat. PTSD is frequently comorbid with depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. For PTSD to be diagnosed, symptoms must be present for at least 1 month and they must create distress in the individual and impact daily functioning.

First, an individual must be exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way: direct exposure, witnessing the trauma, or learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma.

One intrusion symptom must also be present. The intrusion symptoms include unwanted upsetting memories, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders, and physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders. Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma occurred is also a symptom of PTSD. For example, an individual may avoid trauma-related thoughts or feelings or situations that remind them of the trauma. Two symptoms of negative changes in thought are also required for a diagnosis. An individual with PTSD may experience an inability to recall key features of the trauma, overly negative thoughts or assumptions about oneself or the world, exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma, negative affect, decreased interest in activities, and/or feelings of isolation. Lastly, to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the individual must experience alterations in reactions and behaviors, such as irritability/aggression, risky or destructive behavior, hypervigilance, heightened startle reaction, difficulty concentrating, or difficulty sleeping.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

DSM-5 Criteria for PTSD. (2018, March 14). Retrieved April 02, 2018, from
https://www.brainline.org/article/dsm-5-criteria-ptsd

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder