Blending Food With Mood: How Eating Right Affects Mental Health

eating right affects mental health

Mental health, particularly depression, is a global concern. Despite an increase in mental disorder treatment, the illness is increasing rather than decreasing, more common in young people. The 20th Century has witnessed a dietary shift globally. There’s an increase in the consumption of snacks, sugars, high-energy, and takeaway foods. On the other hand, the use of fiber-dense and nutrients foods is declining.

As we always say, what we eat affects not just our physical health but our mental health and wellbeing too. Our brain takes care of our thoughts, our physical movements, breathing, and senses. It works continuously 24/7, which means your mind requires premium fuel. Our food is fuel for our brain, and hence what we eat directly affects the function of our brain and, ultimately, our mood. Eating high-quality foods loaded with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants nourish our brain and protect from oxidative stress.

Food = Mood

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our appetite, sleep, moods, and inhibit pain. Fact, 95% of our serotonin is produced from our gastrointestinal tract, and it is lined with a million neurons or nerve cells. The inner workings don’t just help digest food but guide our emotions.

The billions of good bacteria influence the function of neurons and serotonin production. These good bacteria make up our intestinal microbiome. These bacteria protect our intestines lining and creates a strong barrier against toxins and limit inflammation, improve how well nutrients are absorbed and activate neural pathways that travel between the gut and the brain.

Studies reveal that when people intake probiotics, their stress perception, anxiety levels, and mental health improve as compared to people who did not take probiotics. Other studies have shown that traditional diets like the Japanese or Mediterranean diet have shown that the depression risk is 25% to 35% lower compared to the modern diet.

how eating right affects mental health

These traditional diets are high in fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, seafood, and fish and moderate amounts of lean meats and dairy. Sugar is considered a significant reason for inflammation and feeds harmful bacteria in the GI tract. It also causes a temporary spike in dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitters. This results in a fleeting sugar rush followed by a crash that breaks down your mood.

While sticking to healthy food, you face fewer mood fluctuations, a happier outlook, and an improved concentration. To sum up, good food = a good mood!

What type of food should you pick?

So, what should you put on your plate? Here’s a quick overview of what food you need to put in your cart.

  • Whole foods: Food colorings, preservatives, and other additives may induce or worsen hyperactivity and depression. Remember to eat real food or minimally process food. Think of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Fiber: Fiber helps your body absorb glucose or food sugars, helping you avoid sugar crashes. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are rich in fiber.
  • Antioxidants: They are called inflammation fighters. They are commonly found in leafy green, vegetables, berries, turmeric, Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon, and black chia seeds. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants but indulges in moderation.
  • Folate: Folate helps with dopamine production without forcing sugars in the body. You can find them in lentils, greens, and cantaloupes.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential in the production of serotonin, and we get it from sunlight. However, reishi, cordyceps, and maitake mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D.
  • Magnesium: They take care of everything from muscle and nerve function to keeping heartbeat steady. But it’s also essential for the food-mood connection. A magnesium deficiency can hurt your gut bacteria and cause depression. Find them in dark chocolate, almonds, cashews, spinach, leafy vegetables, beans, and bananas.
  • Fermented Foods: Fermented food are loaded with probiotics- live bacteria good for your GI tract. They are hidden in kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha. These foods are also high in sodium, so consume in moderation or avoid them if you have high blood pressure.

What do you need to do?

Start paying attention to your diet. What are you eating? How are different foods impacting your mood? Try switching to a clean diet for a few weeks—which means cutting out sugar and processed foods. You can add fermented foods or try going dairy-free or grain-free. See how you feel. You can slowly introduce new superfoods in your diet accordingly.

Incorporating functional foods in your diet can be a little challenging in the beginning, but you can prepare a week meal. Inrush, you can use frozen or canned vegetables minus the salt, whole-grain couscous, or quinoa. You can switch from white rice, bread, or pasta for whole-grain versions. And replace a bag of chips, pick a side salad packed with seeds, nuts, and colorful vegetables. It may take some adjustment but it is essential that you do whatever it takes to help your mental health so that you can live a healthy, happy, and productive life.

 

Inheriting Mental Disorders

In the research of finding causes of mental disorders, scientists are connecting the dots at genetic factors. Often, we get the compliment that we look like our parents. We might have their mannerisms, physique, cleverness, attitude, or physical features. But does it relate to the fact that my parents are the reason for my anger or anxiety? Is it because I suffered a tragic loss of my brother in the growing years? Or is it written into my DNA?

The fact is, if a family member has a mental disorder, the chance of an individual having a mental disorder is higher. Even though mental illness is inherited, there may be differences in the symptoms among family members sharing the disease.

One person might have a mild case, while others will have a severe case. However, mental illness does not follow a pattern of inheritance.

Mental health is sometimes a difficult topic to talk about. Those who deal with it always looks out for a reason to avoid the discussion. 

Mental illness is not about a single gene but a collection of genes. According to a recent study, the chances of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder being carried down through family members depend on the type of mental illness and severity. See the table below-

 

  Schizophrenia Bipolar
Lifetime chance (the chance of someone in the general population developing the condition during their lifetime) 1 in 100 Bipolar
If one of your biological parents has the condition 13 in 100 2-30 in 100
If both of your biological parents have the condition 45 in 100 15 in 100
If your brother or sister has the condition 9 in 100 50 in 100
If your identical twin has the condition 40-50 in 100 40 – 70 in 100
If your non-identical twin has the condition 10-15 in 100 20  in 100
If a second degree relative has the condition (for example, your aunt, uncle or grandparent) 3 in 100 5 in 100

 

Always remember the chances of not developing a mental illness even though it runs in your family is high, then chances of developing one. The table clarifies that the chances of not developing bipolar are 97 out of 100. That’s on the positive side.

Source: https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/carers-hub/does-mental-illness-run-in-families/

 

The Intersection Of Mental Illness And Inheritance

  • Epigenetic Regulation: This affects how a person perceives and reacts to environmental patterns and may contribute to mental disorder. Epigenetics is not a constant one. It goes on and off over time — a right combination of epigenetic regulation and environmental factors are responsible for a mental disorder to develop.
  • Genetic Polymorphisms: Polymorphisms found in our DNA make us unique as an individual. It alone may not lead you to mental illness. However, the combination of many specific polymorphisms and environmental factors can lead to the development of a mental disorder.

For example, in addiction, genetics plays a significant role in knowing whether someone is likely to develop an addiction or not. But there are a lot of other things that one should consider–like the environment, mental health history in your family, and complications you might have. Parents who have experiences with mental disorders in the past can help children equipped with solutions when they see the first symptoms. 

The Risk

The probability of developing a specific mental disease is high when a biological parent or other related family members have the same condition. Researchers are working extensively to find patterns in twins and adopted children. The risk of developing schizophrenia is 1% in the population, but the risk is ten times higher if a parent suffers from the illness. The chance increased to about 40% if both parents have schizophrenia.

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The lifetime risk of schizophrenia is correlated with the degree of relationship to the patient (first-degree relatives are at higher risk than second-degree relatives)

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696847/

How Can Parents Work on Mental Health Challenges?                                                                                         

  • Talk to your child: You may feel a little anxious before taking this issue up. But speaking openly about mental health issues and your story is an invaluable way to reduce the risk of passing the illness to your child. Make your children aware of your behavior, how difficult you feel sometimes, and how they can help you overcome those challenges together as a family. There’s no shame in feeling depressed or anxious. Explain to them don’t blame anyone. Children often internalize their parent’s moods. This will lay a foundation for them to stand with strength when they walk down the same mental health path in their life.
  • Inculcate healthy exercise: Try and incorporate daily exercising and meditation sessions in your family wellness program. It helps to boost your therapy while improving your child’s concentration and memory. Explain to them how the treatment is helping you improve your disease. Your kids will learn at the early stage how it is essential to take care of mental and physical health equally.
  • Don’t fear but teach: It is common that those with mental health issues fear of passing the illness to their kids. There is a genetic element to many mental disorders. Please don’t shy away from the fact that there are chances that they might not inherit them. There are so many factors that you don’t have control over. Right now, you have the power to create the most supportive and nurturing environment for your kids, where they can talk openly to you and share their challenges.
  • Stop Punishing Yourself: You have both good and bad days while going through mental health issues. Honestly, parenting is challenging, and it can trigger mental health issues. Do not ignore these signs and, if possible, take a break and divert your energy on your mental condition. When your kids are aware of your situation, they will understand and help overcome those periods.  

There’s no hidden fact that mental health issue is a tough topic, and we all have a fear of passing them to our children. But believing in fear and creating an overprotective environment might pull your kids away, affecting your conditions. It’s better to talk about the situation with your doctor. Learn how you can bring this topic with your family and build a support team, not just for yourself but for your future generations. Unlike yesterday, we are having a healthy discussion on mental health. As we see, more solutions and support are coming forward to help people suffering from mental health disorders live a healthy and fuller life.

Is Your Boss Destroying Your Mental Health?

Toxic Workplace-two words define everything that might be going wrong in your life. We tend to spend a big chunk of our life in our workplace. We learn, share, and grow as an individual while climbing the career ladder. However, these winning moments also overshadows our efforts, mental stress, and ignorance that we take every day. Firstly, your job is your self-worth. You do what you love. Honestly, your job pays your bills. But can money drive your mental health?

That constant fear in your gut.

The constant pressure to impress your boss.

Those anxiety-fueled thoughts, restless nights, never-ending nightmare. Yes, you’re right. Your job is killing you.

Is your boss responsible for mental trauma? Do you enjoy your office environment? Ask yourself.

As “The Toxic Boss Survival Guide” says – It’s easy to spot a toxic leader. They’re controlling, egomaniacal, two-faced, and narcissistic.

But when you know your boss is killing your work culture and affecting your mental health, how do you cope up with such situations.

 

Work on Controllable Task

Working in fear is damaging your physical and mental health, according to health experts. A toxic boss brings worry into your life and work. You don’t enjoy your work because you have constant pressure to impress and deliver. This takes a toll on your skills and experience. The fear of losing a job, being bullied, or targeted for every silly mistake are some of the reasons for your mental fatigue.

In such a situation, you must stay calm. Pick things that make you feel positive, create a balance between work and personal life, and detach yourself from work in your free time. One of the best advice ever heard- work on your controllable task and stop worrying about uncontrollable things. You can control your work, next presentations, but people’s reaction, getting a raise is something beyond your control. This allows focusing on the happenings that you can control.  

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Exercise, Food, Sleep and Repeat

I don’t have to emphasize on the benefits of exercise, food, and sleep. Kickstart your day with a power exercise and health-loaded breakfast. You can pick yoga, meditations, a brisk walking under the sun, or a Zumba training. Keep yourself active and nourish your body with a balanced diet.

Sleep deprivation can hinder your ability to react to complex challenges at a personal and professional level. When work is keeping you all night, try sleep hacks- read a book, pick a coloring book, use morning for your worry time, exercise for 20 minutes, practice sleep meditation before bed or set up a sleep routine.

 

Connect with your team/colleagues

A very early sign of toxic, dysfunctional workplace brings significant communication challenges and often between multiple departments, employees, supervisors, and management.

We’re a social animal by nature. Community is a baseline of our behavior. But you might shut yourself from co-workers because of the micro-management from your boss. You put yourself in a social isolation zone that can bring loneliness. Such isolation is linked to increasing levels of stress hormones, accelerated cognitive decline, and poor sleep patterns.

Cultivate healthy relationships with your colleagues, who plays a significant role in keeping your work environment stress-free. Treat them with humility and gratitude, become an observer, listener, and plan an informal dinner/meet-n-greet outside your office.

 

Say No

Never try to become a guy who know-it-all and do-it-all because in this situation, you work like crazy without getting recognition. Take projects where you can dedicate your energy and time, which is also beneficial to your company.

Don’t turn down a project on a whim. For example-

The project is challenging – if you have the skills, you can try to learn new skills and implement them quickly.

Different than your job description- if you have the skills to complete the projects, don’t turn down because it wasn’t part of your job description.

But say no because of the unrealistic deadline, too much on the plate, you lack the necessary skills. Explain your management about your current workload. Delegate your work and set realistic benchmarks and timeframe. But Say NO when needed. Don’t take projects to avoid a conversation with your boss.

boss contributing to mental illness

Address The elephant in the room

After all the tactics, you still feel pressured and bullied at your workplace. It’s time to have to talk to your boss about his treatment. Explain the A-Z of his behavior with you- how negative attitude is disturbing your mental health. It’s difficult to open to someone who has a history of being unnecessarily rude to you. But at times, you need to spot the elephant in the room. You can’t let him ruin your day, your health, and your life.

If you don’t feel comfortable, ask your human resource team to join the conversation. Don’t make yourself look weak, but don’t forget to point out flaws in your boss’ leadership. If they fail to find a solution that works for you, I believe it’s time to leave your current employer and look out for an environment where you are valued.

 

Be Honest and Make a Choice

The foremost important thing is to ask yourself – is your job killing you? Do you want to see your boss tomorrow again? Are you being ridiculed in front of your co-workers? Is he putting your confidence down every time you speak in the meeting? Think harder.

So, the job that is killing your will to live is not the right job for you. Do you agree? You can’t hang in the toxic workplace with a control-freak boss looking for hope. I know, quitting a job is a tough decision. But don’t take this decision hastily. But if you know, it’s the time to bid goodbye, plan your options and make the right move. You deserve to be respected and treated well for your ideas, your work, and your experience. 

 

Things aren’t perfect, and you can’t walk away from an opportunity without trying. You can decide to strike a balance and give your 100 percent to make things work for you and your boss. But you can’t pick your toxic job over your mental health. Don’t let a lousy history play with your confidence. Look out for new opportunity stored for you. Putting your health- physical and mental- will bring back strength in your life.

Celebrities that struggled with OCD

OCD is one of the most common mental disorders seen in the United States. OCD is a chronic and long-lasting disorder that triggers a person’s highly obsessive and recurring thoughts and behaviors. 

OCD is quite common between men and women. As per the reports, it affects nearly 2.2 million adults; that make up for 1 % of the US population. 

As we can see, the commonality of the disorder, not even the celebrities are spared from it. Famous personalities in different fields suffer from OCD.

So, let us look at some of the celebrities who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

David Beckham

One of the most excellent soccer stars David Beckham has recently in an interview opened up about his fight with OCD.

He said, “I’ve got this obsessive-compulsive disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line, or everything has to be in pairs,” 

Beckham has confessed about the hard time he is facing to urge restraint to these obsessive impulses. 

He has also admitted his addiction to the pain inflicted by tattooing. 

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio gave one of his finest performances in the film Aviator, where he portrays the Hollywood Moghul Howard Hughes. 

Howard Hughes had intense OCD for cleanliness and order. Just like his character, even DiCaprio has OCD, although not as fierce as Howard’s.

He gets obsessive impulses of walking through doors a lot of times. Interestingly, he also gets intensely obsessive urge to step on chewing gum stains.

Celebrities with OCD

Justin Timberlake

Pop icon Justin Timberlake recently admitted on David Letterman’s show about his on-going struggle with OCD.

He spoke about how severely it is disturbing various facets of his life. On top of this, he also has Attention Deficit Disorder, which makes it difficult to focus on. 

He said in an interview recently, “I have OCD mixed with ADD, You try living with that. It’s complicated.”

It is clear to see how difficult it is for him to carry on daily tasks.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was one of the most influential music icons in the 60s. Although there is no clear account of him talking about his OCD, his wife has recently opened about some of the intimate parts of his life. 

In her memoir Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank, she confessed about Frank struggling with intense OCD.

He was a cleanliness freak. Earlier, he was obsessed with keeping his hands clean. And this obsession with cleanliness grew steadily and reached its peak during the latter half of his career. 

He would take more than ten showers a day to keep clean. People associated with him say that he would always smell amazing. 

Howard Hughes 

Howard Hughes is one of the most celebrated personalities in Hollywood. He was a successful businessman, a filmmaker, and making advancements in the aviation industry. This tells us what an extraordinary genius he was. 

 As it is said that all genius comes along with some eccentricity, Howard Hughes had numerous idiosyncrasies. Most of them associated with cleanliness and order. 

Howard Hughes was always at the center of news during his active period. One such long period was when he disappeared entirely and hid inside his projection room, re-watching his films. 

He had spent nearly four months in his movie room and surrounded himself with Kleenex boxes that were stacked continuously and re-assorted. 

He also had bottles of milk lined up across a wall and stored his urine in it. A famous personality that he was there is a brilliant film by Martin Scorsese that chronicles his complexities.

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Howard Stern

An icon of radio broadcasting, Howard Stern admitted about his OCD on David Letterman show on Netflix in 2018.

Stern also said that for a significant part of his life, he failed to acknowledge and address his anxiety. Later he confessed that before going to work, he would spend hours in his bathroom just touching things. 

Howard Stern shared about his life on the show, talking about his struggle with himself. However, today he is in a much position thanks to psychotherapy.

He told Letterman, “I’ve come to understand that this behavior is trying to control a world that is out of control.”

Howie Mandel

Howie Mandel has had a long career in Hollywood. He is a comedian, hosted a reality show called “Deal or no deal,” and been a judge on America’s Got Talent. 

He has been very open about his struggle with OCD, Depression, and anxiety. He even has a book published called “Here’s the deal: Don’t Touch Me.” The title is about his intense obsession with cleanliness. 

He was also diagnosed with ADD that made it difficult for him to focus on his professional life. It was only with the help of psychotherapy, meditation, and comedy that he got out of the hold of these illnesses.

Katy Perry

Katy Perry has been very vocal recently about her struggles with her obsessive tendencies towards cleanliness and order.

She admittedly said in an interview that she follows “crazy cleaning rituals in her house.” On a Z100 Radio show, she told the host, “I’m so OCD, I always want to put things in alphabetical order. I’m also a little Howard Hughes about germs.”

She also has germophobe tendencies that make it very difficult for her to carry on with her routine life. 

5 Movies That Best Portray Mental Illness

Cinema has always been a huge source of education. It is a fact that we can learn a lot by watching a movie. There have been, unarguably, tons of movies based on mental illnesses. However, very few films have managed to explore the subject with seriousness and incisiveness that is demanded. Some films breathe mediocrity by arousing strong emotional celebration amongst the viewers, which is a huge sign of failure. On the other side, some films deal with mental illness more maturely. The following are the movies that have been regarded as some of the most beautiful films on this subject.

 

Silver Lining Playbook

This comedy-drama film by David O ’Russel is about a young man named Pat portrayed by Bradley Cooper. Pat has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He is discharged from the psychiatric care after he got in a brutal fight with the man his wife cheated on him with. 

The film is shown from the pat’s point of view. It focuses on his mental health journey as he strives to get back his wife. The film circles around him and a young widow named Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany helps Pat with dance practice as he appears in a dance competition.

This film has been a subject of a lot of debates about if this movie is a precise exploration of the illness. No matter that these debates are constant, one thing is for sure that the film is genuinely optimistic and a hopeful view of life from someone who is stuck in the murkier and dark waters of bipolar disorder.

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Taxi Driver

The taxi driver is regarded as one of the brilliant movies made in the 20th century. The film follows Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro), who is a Vietnam War veteran. As he has insomnia, he takes up cab driving. Things take up a terrible turn when his attempts to reconcile his love for a woman named Betty fail.

The film has a lot of layers to it. Right from his inability to connect with his immediate surroundings to the degradation of modern culture, this film takes on a broad range of themes. However, at the center of this, we sense the real loneliness of this man. Regarded as one of the detailed explorations of loneliness and boredom, this film does not provide any easy answers but raises a lot of essential questions. 

 

Raging Bull

Raging bull has often been mistaken as a film about boxing. The movie is based on the true story of boxer Jake La Motta. This film explores his mental deride that is, in many ways, a consequence of what happens inside the ring. 

Jake La Motta is plagued by paralyzing jealousy and sexual insecurity that makes his life difficult. Once he loses grip from reality, he loses all his loved ones around him. Considered as one of the great classics of cinema, Scorsese makes no mistake here. There is more to this film, which makes it one of the most incisive character studies. It is one of the most influential and imperative movies that everyone should watch.

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Aviator

The Aviator is a psychological biopic-drama based on the life of Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Howard Hughes was a famous businessman and one of the most influential movie directors. His life was a constant pendulum between cinema and aviation industry, further perplexed with his romantic affairs with some beautiful Hollywood actresses. His life goes on a negative spiral as his obsessive-compulsive disorder becomes more and more intense.

As his condition worsens and his life begins to crumble down, he gets completely detached from the outside world in the last decade of his experience. This is one of the best performances (often overlooked) by Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Yet another masterpiece by Scorsese, despite its grandiosity and glossiness, the film takes its viewers inside the mind of this genius creating a real portrait of Howard Hughes and his demons.  

 

Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting is centered around Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon. Will is a janitor at MIT University. He is a bright young man who can have a promising future. He solves incredibly complex puzzles in his spare time that the other college students find hard time-solving.

However, things are not easy for Will because he has experienced a harsh and abusive childhood. Even though he is incredibly gifted, his mind is a dark pool that makes his life difficult. His life begins to take shape when he meets his therapist (played by Robbie Williams). It’s only when he develops a strong bond with his therapist; he begins to look at life much differently. This helps him get over his depression and build up his life. Good Will Hunting is an instant classic and an essential watch for anyone who is going through a difficult time. 

mental health awareness

These five movies are highly essential for people going through a tough period in their lives because mainly, it imbues you with a sense of assurance that you are not the only one going through something like this. 

Films like Taxi Driver and Raging bull gives you a harsh look into the minds perplexed by its complexities. And movies like Good Will Hunting and Silver Lining Playbook are films with beautiful and uplifting messages that will help you see life from a different perspective.

Understanding Your Inner Child

The inner child.

If you’ve majored in psychology, or have done psychology work as a patient, you’ve likely encountered this phrase or notion. We hear about it in popular psychology, and your therapist may have brought up the idea to you.

But what exactly is an inner child and why is this work important to help you heal? Why is it important to nurture, parent and address the needs of the inner child in order to become truly free?

In this blog post, we’ll discuss those questions and more, as you learn how to nurture the inner child in you that relies on you for help and sustenance.

Read on to help your inner child receive the care it did not originally.

What is the Inner Child?

Before we go on, you should be aware of what the inner child actually is. If you’re not familiar with psychology or the spiritual practice of inner child work, it might sound like a “hippy dippy” notion. But, it is incredibly helpful, especially for those who did not receive everything they needed as children.

The formal definition of the inner child is the person’s “original or true self,” and one that is not necessarily shown in their everyday life after they reached adulthood.

This can be one working definition, but many others refer to the inner child as the child you once were and the trauma inflicted on you during this formative period. As a child, almost everything that happened to us left an impression. And as a child, no matter how perfect our parents were, there were still needs that they could not meet. This is often due to their own issues.

But, it doesn’t necessarily mean that inner child work is blaming your parents for their shortcomings. An inner child may have not had their full needs met by other adults in their lives that let them down. Or, they may have suffered abuse at the hands of adults that were not their parents.

The inner child, as such, is kind of the shell or ghost of the you that you once were before puberty. It represents all of the needs and traumas you suffered that were not addressed.

Childhood Trauma Treatment

Why Do We Focus on an Inner Child?

Of course, some people may have had very happy childhoods and only experienced traumas in their adulthood. It may be these adulthood experiences that have led them to seek therapy or other support. But does that render inner child work null? Not at all.

The very core and fundamental beliefs about ourselves were set in our minds as inner children. How adults and other children behaved, the way we were raised, the culture we were raised in, etc. all have influences on the way we think today.

For example, you may have decided to seek therapy after a particularly nasty divorce. This divorce may have crushed your self-esteem, and you may feel that inner-child work is unnecessary. After all, you had everything you wanted growing up, and your parents were amazing. Why do you need to nurture your inner child?

Well, inner child work can help you understand why this divorce crushed your self-esteem so badly. As a child, maybe adults were not as supportive as you remember them to be. Maybe your religion or culture taught you that you were not good enough unless you did or were specific things.

Perhaps these echoes still play out in your mind as an adult, causing this divorce to be more difficult than it might be if you had given your inner child permission to heal.

As your formative years shape and inform almost everything about you as an adult, tapping into your inner child is one of the fundamental ways to begin healing.

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Nurturing Your Inner Child

Inner child work can take many forms. You may choose to meditate to connect with your inner child. You may choose to write a letter to your inner child. Or, you may choose to discuss what your inner child needs with your therapist.

Once you connect with your inner child, you can begin to tune into the things your inner child is missing. Does your inner child miss a parent who was always at work? Does your inner child need someone to let them know that your external appearance isn’t everything? Does your inner child miss a parent who chose not to be involved in your life when you were very young?

What your inner child needs is specific to you and your journey. Everyone’s inner child had needs that weren’t met for one reason or another. But your job is to pinpoint those needs and try to fulfill them now. Once you’ve been able to establish what it is your inner child wants and needs, you can begin to move forward, and give your inner child permission to heal.

Giving Your Inner Child What It Needs

Inner child work can be intense. It can be highly emotional and even painful. It may even bring up feelings and thoughts you didn’t know you had surrounding your childhood. But, it is a great way to help you tear down negative thoughts and the hurt that you faced as a child so that you can begin on a clearer path to balanced mental health.

If you’re ready to begin intensive mental health treatment, D’Amore is here to help you on your journey. Click here to read more about our varied and effective mental health programs.

How to Become a Psychotherapist

Do you have a passion for helping others through difficult and dark times? What if you could parlay that interest into an enriching and rewarding career?

Psychotherapy is an ideal field for anyone interested in helping individuals overcome personal issues and combat addictions via psychological, rather than medical, means. 

Yet, like any career of its kind, this one includes certain steps you’ll need to complete before you can start practicing. Not sure where to begin? That’s why we’re here.

Today, we’re sharing a quick guide on how to become a psychotherapist, so you can have a clearer understanding of the journey ahead.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

How to Become a Psychotherapist: Start Early

Before you can begin the practical graduate work that will prepare you for your career as a psychotherapist, you’ll need to achieve your undergraduate degree.

If you know that you want to become a psychotherapist at this point, you can go ahead and choose a related undergraduate major that will feed into a therapy-centric graduate degree. A few of the most common majors include:

  • Psychology
  • Education
  • Social Work

If you want to be able to prescribe medicine as a psychiatrist, you might pursue a more science-based undergraduate degree, such as:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Pre-Med

Regardless of which specific major you choose, look for courses that relate to the field of therapy. These might include introductory psychology, human development, and behavioral disorders. If there is no such coursework on your transcript, you might be required to complete additional classes before you begin your graduate program.

Remember that the grades you make as an undergraduate will help determine the kind of graduate programs you’ll be able to get into, so it’s important to focus on your grades even at the very beginning of your academic journey.

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Complete Your Advanced Degree

If you decide that you want to be a licensed psychotherapist after completing your undergraduate degree, you can begin your career path in a few ways. These include pursuing one or all of the following:

  • Master’s degree
  • Doctoral degree
  • Advanced training

Why are there so many options?

The field of psychotherapy is vast. It encompasses a range of services designed to help individuals work through such issues as:

  • Mental illness
  • Addiction
  • Marriage therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD)
  • Some psychiatric disorders

As such, practitioners who provide psychotherapy don’t always treat the same clients or use the same approaches. Rather, they hail from a myriad of different academic disciplines and educational backgrounds.

Note that while most licensed therapists have a master’s degree or years of study in a relevant training program, clinical psychologists or psychiatrists must undergo more years of post-secondary school to obtain higher doctoral degrees.  

Yet, while the industry itself might be broad, there is one common thread that ties all of these areas of practice together: All psychotherapists must be licensed.

Psychiatrist and Therapy in San Diego

Complete Your Clinical Work

Knowing that becoming a therapist requires a license in your field, how can you pursue one?

First, make sure you have the preliminary steps completed. As mentioned, you’ll need to have at least a graduate degree or a doctorate degree in a therapy-related field such as clinical psychology, clinical social work, or counseling.

As you pursue your advanced degree, you’ll complete a two-year supervised clinical practice. Here, you’ll get the chance to apply the theoretical knowledge you learned in graduate school to a real-world medical setting.

Not only does this give you hands-on training, but it also gives you a great opportunity to make sure this is the field for you.

This training is often called a residency or internship. Depending on the state where you want to be licensed, most of these programs require between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of training.

Take Your Board Exam

After your training is complete and before you can pursue your license, most therapy fields will require that you take and pass a national exam in your field. 

Examples include the following:

  • National Counselor Exam in Mental Health Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) National Examination
  • Examination for Master Addictions Counselors
  • National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification

Your graduate studies and clinical training will prepare you for this examination and will direct you to the specific one required for your field.

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Apply for Your Licensure 

With your graduate degree and a passing exam score under your belt, you’re ready to pursue your industry license. The next part depends on where you live.

Begin by researching how your state labels its requirements for your counseling licensure. Some are specific in nature, listing licenses such as “Addiction Treatment Specialist” or “Marriage and Family Therapist.” Others group the requirements into a more general category, such as “Licensed Professional Counselor.”

Your state licensing board will be able to guide your search, showing you where to look to find your local requirements. You can also contact the National Board for Certified Counselors to get state-specific licensing information. There are also certain boards dedicated to helping you pursue licensure in a specific therapy niche, such as the Association of Marital and Family Regulatory Boards. 

While the exact prerequisites will vary by state, most boards will require at least some form of the following before granting your licensure:

  • Evidence of graduation from an accredited graduate degree program
  • Evidence of completed supervised clinical training hours
  • Jurisdiction-specific licensure requirements

Once you obtain your license, you’re ready to begin practicing in your field!

Achieve a Rewarding Career, One Step at a Time

As you’re researching how to become a psychotherapist, it’s easy to become overwhelmed at the many steps ahead of you.

However, it’s important to keep a big-picture perspective as you attend the classes, hands-on training and clinical work required along the path from undergraduate degree to license. This is especially true if you plan to specialize in addiction support and therapy.

Your work can change the life of someone struggling to overcome the grip of substance abuse and drug addiction, leading them toward a path that’s healthier for both themselves and their loved ones. 

For more information on the power of therapy or to get in touch with a licensed mental health therapist, get in touch with us today.

The Biological Effects of Trauma on the Brain

What exactly defines trauma? In essence, trauma is characterized by a life event that has left a lasting impression on your brain. But the difference is that this impression is not a positive one. It holds memories that are haunting, scarring and sometimes completely inescapable. 

When most people think of trauma they associate it with the likes of childhood abuse, physical abuse, assault, exposure to violence, and near-death experiences. While these experiences may result in traumatic impacts on the brain, trauma is not black and white. Outwardly, it does not look the same for everyone. But internally, the damage is done.

Learn more about the effects of trauma on the brain and understand how to come to terms with PTSD…

What Does Trauma Look Like?

The physical scars associated with traumatic events heal with time. But emotional wounds take far longer to heal, if ever.

The effects of trauma on the brain and your overall psyche have the power to stop your life dead in its tracks. The condition is widely known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can completely overtake every aspect of your life, changing the structure and overall function of the brain. 

PTSD is classified as a mental health condition and can develop after a recent traumatic event or after an event that took place decades ago. Generally, the trauma involves a sense of threat in terms of abuse, violence, pain, or near-death experience. 

PTSD is characterized by the recall of a traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional instability. Depression, severe anxiety, anger, aggression, hyper-arousal, and distressing thoughts are also very common. 

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The Anatomy of the Brain 

The human brain is comprised of three main areas: the brain stem, the limbic region, and the cortex. Each area of the brain is responsible for its own set of functions. Although, these three areas must work in unison to live out a normal day-to-day life with measured responses.

The brain stem is the first part of the brain that is developed in the womb, therefore it’s the ”oldest”. This region controls arousal and our automatic responses as humans, i.e. survival mode reactions.  

The limbic region evolves next and includes areas such as the amygdala and the hippocampus. It’s responsible for our expression, emotional reactions, decision-making and memory recall. 

Finally, the brain’s cortex develops last and is responsible for cognition and thinking. In essence, the cortex allows us to reflect, and concentrate.

So, how do these areas relate to traumatic events?

The Brain Stem and Amygdala 

Any perceived threat is registered in the most primitive parts of the brain – the brain stem. The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure found deep within the temporal lobe. It is triggered and our natural fight, flight or freeze reactions kick in. The amygdala also helps to activate the sympathetic nervous system which helps us deal with threats. 

The Hippocampus

After this, the hippocampus quickly processes information about the threat. With the support of the amygdala, memories associated with this traumatic event are then safely stored away. This is where memories are coded. Time and spatial contexts are added to memories and they are imprinted in our brains forever.

The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC)

The pre-frontal cortex is located in the frontal lobe of the brain, just behind the forehead. It helps us to consciously process a threat after our survival mode has been triggered by the amygdala. The cortex helps us to associate feelings and emotions with traumatic events and helps us plan how we will respond. The cortex also has the ability to ”switch off” our survival mode responses after we have assessed there is no threat. In a nutshell, the PFC helps us determine the meaning or significance of specific events.

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Understanding The Effects of Trauma on the Brain 

When your brain detects a threat, the amygdala sends a multitude of signals to different parts of the brain. This stimulates the release of hormones such as adrenaline, and other substances like norepinephrine and glucose. If the stressful situation continues, signals are sent to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. From here, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the body.  

Meanwhile, the pre-frontal cortex consciously assesses the situation, trying to deactivate the flight or fight response. In other words, it works overtime to try and keep you calm. 

But how do these responses work in the brains of those suffering from long-term PTSD? 

Studies have shown that people with PTSD have hyper-reactive amygdalas as well as an under-active pre-frontal cortex. In short, the amygdala reacts a little too strongly, and the PFC is hindered in its ability to keep you calm. 

1. Hyperarousal

With an overactive amygdala, your brain stimulates the release of excess norepinephrine. This can lead to hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilance, sleep disruption, insomnia, and constant edginess. Hyperarousal can be triggered by almost anything that resembles trauma or shock in those with PTSD.  

2. Anger and Impulsivity

An overactive amygdala means that those with PTSD are always on the alert. They are ”armed and ready” for quick action in the face of a perceived threat- even if there is none. This leads to impulsive behavior. In addition to this, your motor behavior is unregulated due to an underactive PFC. Ultimately, this leads to reactive anger which is difficult to control.  

3. Increased Fear and Negative Emotion

Most people suffering from PTSD will tell you that they are constantly hounded by negative thoughts and emotions. They may find it difficult to enjoy simple, day-to-day tasks or even feel regular emotions. This is a result of a hyperactive amygdala, which is over-communicating with the insula. This is an area of the brain responsible for emotional awareness. An underactive PFC also means you’re unable to regulate their emotions when needed.

San Diego Trauma and PTSD Treatment 

Treatments For Trauma

Some of the most successful treatments for those with PTSD include psychotherapies that focus on and enhance the capabilities of the pre-frontal cortex.

Mindfulness interventions or retreats hosted over a 10-12 week period are also known to decrease the hyperactivity of the amygdala. However, actively confronting your trauma is a long and slow process and takes a great amount of support and introspection. 

Ultimately, one of the best things a person can do is to find a mental health professional who can help them process and understand their trauma through therapy. 

Find the Help You Need with Solara Mental Health 

Now that you understand the effects of trauma on the brain a little better, allow Solara Mental Health to help you work through the trauma that is dictating your life. 

Based in San Diego, we offer well-versed health professionals who specialize in a range of disorders, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychotic disorders and more. Get in touch today and reclaim your life… 

LGBT Suicide Rates Drop with the Legalization of Same Sex Marriage

Being a teenager is hard, but being a teenager who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer in some other form or fashion is a whole over level of difficult. Among teenagers, LGBT suicide rates are more than three times higher than among their straight peers. But the good news is we’ve seen a significant drop in those suicide rates in the last four to five years.

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, LGBT suicide rates have dropped by more than half, and overall teenage suicide rates have dropped several percentage points. Read on to learn more about this connection and how we can continue to work to keep our teens safe.

Suicide Rates Among the LGBTQ Community

Teenagers are some of the people at most risk of committing suicide, and it’s not hard to see why. Your teenage years are a tumultuous time when you’re coping with hormonal changes, identity crises, and more. According to a study that ran from 1999 to 2015, an average of 8.6 percent of teenagers attempts suicide every year.

But among LGBTQ youth, that number skyrockets. That same study reported that 28.5 percent of teenagers who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual attempted suicide each year. But that study took place before the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide in June 2015.

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Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Prior to the landmark 2015 ruling, thirty-five states had already legalized gay marriage. And, in fact, the study we mentioned looked at 32 of those 35 states and compared them to the states where same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized until the national ruling. The states that legalized same-sex marriage before the national ruling saw drops in suicide rates beginning when they made the change.

The case that made the difference was Obergefell v. Hodges, which was decided on June 26, 2015. Prior to that ruling, according to a Gallup poll, only 38 percent of same-sex couples were married. As of 2017, that number had risen to 61 percent.

Drop in Suicide Rates

Along with a rise in the number of married same-sex couples, the June 2015 ruling brought changes in the LGBTQ suicide rates. According to some research, the suicide rates of all teenagers dropped about 7 percent following that ruling. And among LGBTQ teens, suicide rates dropped by about 14 percent – a decline of nearly half.

This drop is significant especially given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States. And it is incontrovertibly tied to the legalization of same-sex marriage; for one thing, the drop in suicide rates continued for two years after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. For another, the states that did not legalize same-sex marriage before the national ruling saw no drop in their suicide rates before 2015.

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Reasons Behind this Drop

There are a number of reasons that the legalization of same-sex marriage has led to a drop in LGBTQ teen suicide rates. For one thing, it helps decrease the stigma of identifying as something other than straight. The more teenagers see married same-sex couples, the less likely they are to bully a classmate for being interested in someone of the same sex.

But for those teens who do still experience bullying, legal same-sex marriage offers them hope. The reason why people commit suicide is that they can’t see any hope for their future being better than their present. If a teenager is being bullied in high school, at least they can hope that someday, they might be able to have a marriage and a better life.

How Many Teens Identify As LGBTQ

According to the Associated Press, as of 2017, 26,252 students identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. The study didn’t address transgender students, those who identify as asexual or genderqueer, or those who were questioning their sexuality. But based on that 26,252, let’s take a look at just how big an impact same-sex marriage had on our teenagers.

Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, more than 7,481 students who identified as LGBTQ attempted suicide every year. After the ruling, that number dropped to 3,675 students a year, meaning more than 3,800 more LGBTQ students lived every year. And with the overall drop in suicide rates among teenagers after the ruling, researchers estimate that legal same-sex marriage may save more than 134,000 lives every single year.

Steps We Can Still Take

While the legalization of same-sex marriage was a crucial step, we still have more than 3,500 LGBTQ teens attempting suicide each year. One great way to help drop those numbers even further is to let any teenagers in your life know they have a safe space with you. Encourage them to support the LGBTQ people in their lives, too; just having someone in their court can make a literal life and death difference.

We also need to take steps to support trans students, especially trans women of color. Trans students should be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their identified gender, and teachers should use their correct gender pronouns in class. These small steps can go a long way towards validating these students’ identities and giving them hope.

San Diego Mental Health Treatment

How to Talk About Suicide

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, the most important step is to reach out and get help. If you are thinking about hurting or killing yourself, call the Trevor Project hotline at 1-866-488-7386. They provide suicide crisis counseling for LGBTQ people in a safe, judgment-free way.

If you are worried someone you know may be thinking of killing themselves, talk to them and let a trusted adult in their lives know you’re worried. Tell the person you’re worried, ask how they’re feeling, and let them know they aren’t alone and that they have your support. And if you believe they are in imminent danger, encourage them to call the Trevor Project hotline, or call 911 yourself.

Learn More About LGBT Suicide Rates

LGBT suicide rates have dropped exponentially since the legalization of same-sex marriage. Teens now feel less outcast and have hope for a better adulthood now that same-sex marriage is legal. And remember, if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, reach out and get help.

If you’re struggling with suicidality or issues dealing with your sexuality, reach out to us at Solar Mental Health. We have in-residence and intensive outpatient treatment programs to help you get the expert care to get back to full health. Contact us today and discover how we can help.

Signs That You’ve Outgrown Your Partner

A recent study found that most people who remain in unhappy relationships do so for the sake of their partner. In other words, they’re not staying because they believe that things will improve but rather because they don’t think their partner could take the breakup. 

If there are red flags in a relationship but you continue to stick around, we understand that you feel like you’re doing the right thing. However, take into account the ways that your negative relationship could affect your health in the short and longterm.

Research has shown that people who stay in bad or unhealthy relationships not only have increased mental health issues but have a heightened risk of physical health problems. These include high blood pressure and even fatal heart conditions. 

If you’re wondering how to know when your relationship is over, read on. We’re going to talk about some of the red flags that indicate that it’s time to move on.

Your Goals in Life Are Different

At some point in your relationship, discussions of the future will arise. These tend to encompass big things like where you want to live, what job you want to pursue, and whether or not you want to have children. 

It’s okay and normal to have some disagreements and to make compromises for one another. However, everyone has a handful of goals in life that they shouldn’t have to compromise. In fact, you may have some goals that differ so much from your partner’s goals that a compromise simply can’t be reached.

Take, for example, the subject of having children. If one partner has always wanted children and one partner has never wanted children, how can this be resolved? No matter what, one person is going to be unhappy.

You’re Moving in Different Directions

The direction you’re moving in falls into a similar category as the goals you keep. The difference is that your direction correlates not just with what you hope to achieve, but what you’re actively achieving (or not achieving) in the present.

This applies to more than the concrete directions you’re moving in with, say, your career or your education. Consider the direction you’re moving in with your mental health. Perhaps you’ve been suffering from depression and have begun seeking therapy but your partner, also suffering from mental health problems, is not putting in the work to cope and heal.

When we move in different directions, it becomes harder to come together as a couple. What’s even more of a red flag in a relationship is when one partner’s direction is either harmful or inhibitive to the other’s.

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The Patterns in Your Relationship Aren’t Healthy

As relationships develop, we develop patterns with our partner that create a sense of unity and continuity. If these patterns are healthy, this is a great way to sustain the relationship. 

If the patterns are unhealthy, they’re going to cause harm to both partners. It may also be a lot harder to break those patterns for yourself when they’re reinforced by your partner’s desires or behavior.  

The “Bad Days” Are Becoming Bad Cycles

No relationship escapes a few bad days here and there. It’s normal to argue and even to fight, but only on occasion, especially if these fights are high-stakes. 

Perhaps your partner gets angry with you when they’re in a bad mood and apologizes later, rather than recognizing their behavior before it gets away from them. It happened from time to time in the past, but now you’re noticing that it’s happening more frequently or the bouts of anger are lasting for longer periods of time.

Bad cycles are an indication that your partner either doesn’t recognize that their behavior is harmful or that they do and simply won’t work on it. Either way, these bad cycles are exhausting, manipulative, and leave you on edge.  

You’ve Realized the Relationship is Codependent 

When it comes to codependency, it takes two to complete the cycle. Both partners have a role to play and both need to play it. Unlike dependence, where feelings are mutual and care is both given and received equally, codependency entails that one partner needs the other while the other partner needs to be needed.

This may not sound too bad, but it’s actually a huge red flag in a relationship.

Partner A cannot feel positive emotions or self-worth without the constant feedback and approval of Partner B. In order to fulfill these needs, Partner A will alter their behavior or make large sacrifices that attract the attention of Partner B.

Meanwhile, Partner B enjoys this role and may even take advantage of it. It makes them feel powerful or satisfied that they have the ability to both give and take away Partner A’s happiness, health, and safety.

If this sounds familiar, it is important that you leave your relationship. By the very nature of your codependent relationship, you cannot fix these personal issues together. This goes for both Partner A and Partner B. 

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Being Together is Draining

We’ve all heard the metaphor about introverts and extroverts that goes as follows: introverts are drained by interactions with others, while extroverts are recharged. That being said, even introverts should feel recharged (or at the very least, not drained) by the presence of certain people, including partners.

If you find that spending time with your partner leaves you feeling tired, unhappy, or frustrated, break down the reasoning. It might be that they treat you poorly or it might be that you’ve simply grown weary of their actions and mannerisms you once found endearing. Both are valid reasons to move on from the relationship.

Don’t Ignore Red Flags in a Relationship

When you start to see red flags in a relationship, pay attention to them. They may indicate small issues that can be addressed and overcome with proper communication, or they may indicate that your relationship is not going to work.

If you aren’t leaving a bad relationship out of a concern for your partner, ask yourself why you aren’t granting yourself the same care and consideration. You may find that you’re neglecting your own mental health issues.

We believe that taking care of your mental health is important, and we also believe that you shouldn’t have to do it alone. If you need help adjusting or managing your mental health, contact us today to find out what we can do for you.