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12 Things You Should Know About Anhedonia

anhedonia symptoms treatment

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Anhedonia has received an increasing amount of attention in the past few years. What exactly is it? A working definition of anhedonia would be that it is one of the primary symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD).

In Greek, anhedonia directly translates to “without pleasure.” Anhedonia is a symptom of other psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Note that major depressive disorder/anhedonia are not the same thing as dysthymia, which is also known as a persistent depressive disorder.

Have you ever gone through a phase (perhaps you’re in the middle of one now) when you wake up in the morning without any emotion, opinion, or interest in life? Completely “blah” about everything? Caring about nothing? Emotionally flat?

Typically, when you experience something pleasurable, the “happy chemical” dopamine rushes through your brain’s reward mechanism. Some research indicates that anhedonic conditions might be caused by lower activity in a region of your brain called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC).

Anhedonia inflicts a loss of interest in activities and hobbies that you once found pleasurable, such as eating, socializing, touching, friendships, relationships, music, events, conversations, and even sex. It’s as if the brain’s pleasure/satisfaction center shorts out or shuts down completely.

This inability to experience pleasure (or to maintain a good mood for very long) can severely impact the quality of your life.

Anhedonia symptoms and signs

How does anhedonia manifest? Following are some common symptoms/signs to be aware of:

  • Despondent and with feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Inconsolable, and non-respondent when comfort is offered
  • Practically impossible to smile or laugh at anything; mirthless
  • Unexplained paranoia, dread, fear, social/emotional withdrawal, and/or irritability
  • Frequently sick, with the flu, colds, etc.
  • Increased difficulty adjusting in social situations; intently observant of others, but without engaging socially, almost as if not present in the room
  • Severe difficulty following a conversation; lack of interest in listening
  • Refusal to seek support or assistance
  • Negative feelings about self and others
  • Significantly reduced emotional abilities, including difficulty articulating thoughts and feelings
  • Difficulty pinpointing exactly what you feel, if anything at all
  • “Going through the motions,” with a tendency to act out emotions, because that is “how you’re supposed to feel”
  • Decreased sex drive, and lack of interest in physical intimacy
  • Suicidal ideation, fixation with death

Anhedonia risk factors

Risk factors for anhedonia include a family history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. Females are at a heightened risk of suffering from anhedonia.

Other risk factors include eating disorders, a history of abuse and/or neglect, recent trauma and/or heightened stress, major illnesses, etc.

12 things you may not have known about anhedonia:

  • There are two types of anhedonia: Social Anhedonia and Physical Anhedonia. Social anhedonia is manifest by an overall disinterest in social situations and engagement. Physical anhedonia is a pronounced inability to feel pleasure from everyday activities.
  • Depression may reduce the brain’s hedonic (pleasure) capacity, but studies have led some researchers to formulate another theory: that anhedonia is not caused by an inability to feel pleasure so much as it is caused by difficulty sustaining positive feelings consistently.
  • Some people who suffer from anhedonia don’t have any mental illness at all.
  • Aside from MDD and schizophrenia, anhedonia can result from other conditions/illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, psychosis, anorexia nervosa, and substance abuse-related disorders.
  • Anhedonia may have a role in sparking a desire to take part in risky behaviors, such as bungee jumping or skydiving.
  • One of the reasons that anhedonia has received increased attention is the fact that it has come to be known as a good predictor of whether someone with depression will respond to treatment. Popular anti-depressants typically don’t work as well for people who have depression with anhedonia than for those with depression, without anhedonia. Research continues to demonstrate that common treatments for depression don’t help alleviate anhedonia and may even exacerbate the problem by inflicting sexual anhedonia, anorgasmia (the inability to orgasm), and what’s known as emotional “blunting” (feeling an utter lack of any kind of emotion).
  • Some evidence indicates that an anhedonic state can increase the risk of suicidal tendencies.
  • Some research shows that many individuals with anhedonia can experience pleasure along with the best of them. The problem is that there is something “off” in regard to the dynamics between motivation, anticipation, and reward.
  • Anhedonia may also sap your energy significantly.
  • Currently, there are no treatments specifically to treat anhedonia. It is usually treated in tandem with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
  • Anhedonia may bring about thought disorder (TD) or formal thought disorder (FTD) which shows up as disorganized thinking and disorganized speech. Thought distortion includes such issues as: poverty of speech, tangentiality (tendency to speak about topics unrelated to the main topic of discussion), derailment (conversational narrative consisting of a sequence of unrelated or only remotely related ideas), illogicality (drawing conclusions that do not follow from the premises), perseveration (repetition of a particular response (such as a word, phrase, or gesture), and “thought blocking” (ceasing to speak suddenly and without explanation mid-sentence).
  • Anhedonia can cause emotional detachment, which can mean a couple of different things. It can mean an inability to connect with others on an emotional level, and it can also refer to a means of coping with anxiety by avoiding trigger situations (also known as dissociation, or “emotional numbing”).

As mentioned, anhedonia can bring about suicidal thoughts and intents and can be very dangerous. If you suspect that you or someone you love is experiencing anhedonia, contact your primary care physician or a mental health professional as soon as possible. Anhedonia tends to dissipate when depression is being managed properly.

Are you going through a phase experiencing anhedonia? It is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

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Brace Yourself – Autumn is Coming (And What You Can Do About It)

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (also known as seasonal depression) affects an estimated 10 million individuals in the United States every year, and another 10 to 20 percent show mild signs of SAD. The typical age of onset is somewhere between the ages of 18 and 30, and the disorder affects women four times more frequently than men. Some symptoms are severe enough to affect an individual’s quality of life, with more than five percent of those with SAD result in hospitalization. Regardless, SAD can make the normal changing of seasons extremely unpleasant and wreak havoc on an individual’s mental health.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically makes one think of the colder, wintry months of the year. You are most likely familiar with common slumps in mood due to fewer daylight hours and cold weather, but the truth is, SAD can affect different people at different transitional times of the year. Even autumn, a season we connect with pleasant things like beautiful colors, refreshingly crisp weather, etc. is no exception.

In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild, but then become more severe as the season progresses.

SAD, not Crazy                 

SAD is a type of recurring depression related to changes in seasons, and mood volatility sparked by shifts in the weather can really put you through the wringer. It is a major culprit when it comes to robbing someone of motivation and joie de vivre, and it typically begins and ends for an individual at about the same time every year.

The important thing is that you acknowledge it for what it is. Don’t write it off, and don’t let people tell you that it’s merely a “passing case of the blues” that you just have to push yourself through on your own. There are some key things you can do to manage this mental illness-related issue. Let’s discuss.

The Lowdown on SAD Symptoms

What does SAD look like?  If you suspect you suffer from seasonal affectation, you’re probably familiar with the most common symptoms. Here is a more inclusive (though not exhaustive) list:

  • Notably low energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and/or guilt
  • Feelings of sluggishness and/or spiked agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depressed mood throughout most of the day, just about every day
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Sleep problems (particularly oversleeping in the autumn/winter)
  • Significant fluctuations in appetite and/or weight (often coupled with cravings for high-carbohydrate foods)
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts and/or fixation on death

Note that for individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder, spring/summer SAD can invoke manic episodes, or sometimes a less intense form of mania known as hypomania. Autumn/winter-onset SAD can mean long stretches of depressive episodes.

Also…

The specific cause(s) of SAD continue to remain a mystery. Some experts point to an excess of melatonin (a sleep-regulating hormone) in the body, and fewer daylight hours during winter are known to boost the production of melatonin.  More melatonin means less energy and more lethargic states. Reduced levels of sunlight can also disrupt the body’s internal clock, leading to heightened depression.

Another suspect in the prolonging of depressed moods is difficulty in regulating levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter directly related to regulating an individual’s mood. A significant lack of natural vitamin D, believed to play a role in serotonin activity, has also been labeled to be a cause of depressive symptoms.

Diagnosis

Ultimately, SAD is not managed as a stand-alone disorder, but rather as a specific type of depression with a recurring seasonal pattern. For a reliable SAD diagnosis, an individual must show symptoms of major depression that coincide with specific seasons, for two consecutive years, at least. This seasonal depression should also be shown to be dominant over other types of depression.

Do You Need Medical Attention?

Days of “down” moods and feeling blue are normal, especially during the winter. If your depressed mood lasts for days at a time and you can’t seem to get enjoyment out of your regular activities and hobbies, you should definitely seek clinical help. It becomes even more critical that you get help if your appetite and sleep patterns are disrupted; turning to alcohol for comfort and relaxation instead of addressing the disorder can lead to feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Some Things You Can do to Help Yourself

  1. Just Breathe

An easy method to help keep yourself grounded is to practice mindful breathing. At your desk or while you’re driving, inhale slowly and deeply for a count of five, hold your breath for five, and then slowly exhale for another five counts. Yoga and mindfulness meditation can certainly keep you in practice with steady breathing, as you want to avoid shallow breathing which can make you hyperventilate.  And that will only kick your body into heightened alert “fight or flight” mode.

  1. Get Your Vitamin D and Magnesium

Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to anxiety and depression. After the Summer Solstice on June 21 in the northern hemisphere, daily doses of sunshine (natural Vitamin D) slowly begin to decline. There are Vitamin D receptors located all throughout your body (e.g., brain, heart, muscles, immune system, etc.), and when there is a shortage of it, your body will start to panic. Your body needs plenty of Vitamin D all throughout your system to function properly. You can also invest in a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp, which simulates sunlight indoors.

Magnesium is a mineral with a definite calming effect, and which helps the central nervous system. Calming your nervous system is a great way to reduce inclinations to anxiety and panic. Dark, leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale are great ways to get your magnesium every day, as is dark chocolate (though careful not to get used to too much sugar!).

  1. Simplify

This one can be difficult to remember, especially for A-type personalities. Do not overextend yourself in regard to extracurricular activities! Pushing yourself harder while feeling a lack of energy will only exhaust your body, make you prone to illness, and drive your mood downward more.

When you recognize your SAD kicking in, eliminate every unnecessary activity, responsibility, or stressor that you can. Focus your energy on doing the things you must like work and/or school, and let go of the rest.

  1. Challenge Yourself (in Non-stressful Ways)

Setting goals and achieving them can be good for you mentally and psychologically. A brain that is used is a happy brain. Just make sure that those goals decrease your stress levels, rather than increase them.

Rather than getting involved in so many things and overcommitting yourself to too many activities, pick a goal such as working out for 30 minutes a day for the next month, practicing a musical instrument, or making time to read a good book every week. Learning how to cook some new meals for yourself can also be a boost, as you more mindfully get the nutrients you need. Cooking can be challenging and satisfying, just not mentally exhausting.

  1. Treating Allergies

Autumn and spring are very allergy-prone seasons for a significant number of people, and grappling with allergies on a regular basis can contribute to anxiety and depression. Being aware of this dynamic can go a long way to put your mind at ease because you’ll keep yourself from thinking that something is “wrong” with you.

Allergies can attack your immune system, and rightly so, as research has shown that the same biological processes involved in fighting off an infection are the same as for someone dealing with mania or depression. It has also been shown that volatile allergy symptoms during times of low and high pollen coincide with spikes in reports of anxiety and depression (did you know there is a spike in suicides during spring every year?).

Are you concerned about severe mood swings that come and go with the seasons? You’re not alone! If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

The Top 5 Mental Health Blogs You Should Be Following

Best mental health blogs

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Top mental health blogs? Maybe it’s never occurred to you to follow one.

It’s no simple task to keep up with all the latest in regards to mental health research, updates, news, etc. To be sure, it’s a landscape that is constantly in flux. If you live with a mental illness or have someone you care about that does, you should be following as many expert mental health blogs and writers on as many related and relevant mental health issues as you can. Many are fighting hard to reframe the mental health discussion, tearing down misperceptions and stigma regarding mental health, and to just give you a new way to think about the issues you face. With any luck, one day the world can be one where mental health issues are taken seriously, and those with mental health are not discriminated against.

Check out some of the following blogs and writers, and see if you can’t learn something new from them:

  • Reddit (Mental Health/Mental Illness)
    For those not familiar with Reddit, it is a U.S.-based social news aggregation, web quality content rating, and open discussion website. Registered members can submit content to the site such as articles, text posts, images, and other links, and then the Reddit community votes each post up or down. The most popular and interesting, relevant, and interesting posts surface to the top.Website: https://www.reddit.com/r/mentalillness
    About This Blog: A place for openly discussing mental health and mental illness with other interested community members
    Frequency: Nearly 30 new posts weekly
    Facebook followers: 1,159,181  Twitter followers: 565K
  • The Mental Elf (Mental Health)
    Oxford, UKA resource to help you find just what you need in keeping up-to-date with all of the latest important and reliable mental health research and guidance. Blog posts featuring short and snappy summaries that highlight evidence-based publications relevant to mental health practice.Website: https://www.nationalelfservice.net/mental-health/
    About This Blog: Keeping you up to date with the latest reliable mental health research, policy, and tips.
    Frequency: 3 new posts weekly
    Facebook followers: 5,641  Twitter followers: 59.6K
  • Sluiter Nation (Mental Health)
    West MichiganKatie Sluiter (pronounced “Sly-ter”) is a wife, a mother, a teacher, a reader, and a writer living in a small town in West Michigan. She has a Master’s Degree in English Education from Western Michigan University and teaches in a Title 1 Junior High School near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her writing has been published in the 2012 anthology of Every Day Poets, the May 2013 issue of Baby Talk Magazine, the book Three Minus One ,  the anthology My Other Ex, and in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan. Most recently her essay about her struggle with postpartum depression was published in Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience.Website: https://www.sluiternation.com
    About This Blog: Katie has experienced many challenges in her life including various losses and mental health issues. The adversity she has faced inspired her to write her story and set up a blog to provide inspiration to the people and mothers, who like her, grapple with mental illness.
    Frequency: 2 new posts weekly
    Facebook fans: 1,274  Twitter followers: 5,981
  • Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. (Mindfulness/Psychotherapy)
    West Los Angeles, CADr. Goldstein is currently a licensed Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and also teaches mindfulness-based programs through The Center for Mindful Living and InsightLA. It’s all about mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to cultivate awareness of the present moment while putting aside our programmed biases. It is being in connection with the direct experience of the present moment, the here and now.  http://elishagoldstein.com/blog/
    About This Blog: Articles, free audio/video, and other resources that can give you insights into working through a mental illness and toward growth and recovery. Stress? Anxiety? Depression? Trauma? Addictive behaviors? No matter what you bring to the table, this is a place where you will find help and support.
    Frequency: 4 new posts monthly
    Facebook followers: 11,085  Twitter followers: 20K
  • From Both Sides of the Couch | Psychology Today (Mental Health)
    New York, NYA therapist reflecting on her time with patients…and her time as a patient. Her writing explores her journey with mental illness and healing.Website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/both-sides-the-couch
    About This Blog:  Gerri Luce is a licensed clinical social worker, publishing under a pseudonym to share her experience and insights. Now in her 50s, she spent her late twenties and thirties battling anorexia, major depression, and borderline personality disorder. Her essays have appeared in a number of literary journals and anthologies.
    Frequency: About 1 new post monthly
    Facebook followers: 7,384,665  Twitter followers: 571K

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start following a mental health blog that really speaks to you! Come to think of it, why not keep up with the valuable information in this blog?

 Do you or someone you love struggle with mental health issues? Fear not! You got this! If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

The Best Free Apps to Help You Manage Your Mental Health

Best Mental Health Apps

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Mental health apps? Just when you thought you’d seen an app for just about anything, now we have apps for mental health for both the Android and the iPhone.

Mental health apps can be very effective in making therapy portable, accessible, and efficient. What do “mental health” apps do, exactly? In short, they help you better manage your mental health by offering you reminders, tracking, remote counseling, etc.

If you’ve never used a mental health app, you may not know what kind of helpful resource you’re missing out on. Below are a few that have undergone independent review by Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) members unaffiliated with the apps’ development and promotion.


Live OCD Free
(Adults, teens, children)

Imagine a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy treatment of OCD that can help both children and adults. Live OCD Free features a cognitive toolkit, pre-programmed as well as exposures you can design yourself, entirely behavioral exposure response prevention (ERP) exercises, and an ERP guide offering preset and customized ERPs.

Another feature users enjoy is the support of direct as well as loop tape exposure via microphone. The duration of ERP exercises is defined by time-lapsed, rather than a decrease in your anxiety level.


Breathe2Relax
(Adults, veterans, teens)

 

Are you familiar with panic attacks? Hyperventilation?

This mobile application was designed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (NCTT), and functions as an intuitive, simple, and aesthetically pleasing interface to help you manage your stress and learn breathing techniques.

Personalize Breathe2Relax to whatever non-intrusive pace you prefer. The app includes reading materials, a video demo, and charts to track your progress — includes a video demo, reading materials, and graphs to track your personal progress. Whether you’re a self-starter or are already working with a therapist regarding an anxiety disorder, stress, and/or PTSD, you will benefit radically from the app’s consistent use.

MoodTools (Adults, veterans, teens)

 

MoodTools was especially created to help you cope with feelings of depression. It helps you get educated about risk factors and psychosocial approaches to treatment. The app also features a depression symptom questionnaire (PHQ-9), a suicide safety plan, a thought diary, and videos including meditation guides.

Talkspace (Adults, teens)

 

Talkspace offers counseling and therapy on the go to help you connect with an affordable, convenient, and confidential resource to help you deal with stress, depression, anxiety, chronic illness, and relationship issues.

Meet privately whenever you need to with your therapist when you upgrade, to get whatever you need to off of your chest. Pricing plans are as low as 20 percent of what traditional office visits would be.


SuperBetter

 

SuperBetter is a game that rewards you for increasing your resilience and the ability to remain focused, optimistic, and motivated when confronted by challenges. The app will help you to improve your skills, strengthen relationships, implement new habits, pursue and complete meaningful projects.

In case you needed an excuse to try it out, a University of Pennsylvania study indicated that 30 days of playing SuperBetter reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved users’ mood, and boosted their self-confidence in regard to achieving goals.

So, there you have it. Portable help for you to manage your mental health more effectively, at the tip of your fingers. Did we forget one of your favorite mental health management apps? We’d love to hear about it!


Are you feeling overwhelmed by issues arising from a mental illness? If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about managing mental health issues, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at
 Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

10 Sunny Songs for When Life Feels Shady

Uplifting summer music

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Got the summertime blues? Is your sunny summer songs playlist ready? Eddie Cochran may be right about there being no cure for the summertime blues (yes, it’s a real thing!), but there is a remedy. It’s hard to keep a good song down, and a good summer song is practically impossible to ignore. No matter how you may feel, summer favorites are always capable of elevating your mood.

Can you think of any memory from any summer that isn’t somehow related to songs like “Forget You,” “Shut Up and Dance,” ‘Sugar,” and “Despacito?”

Just as the stifling heat and warm weather blues are getting ready to settle in (brace yourself for the days to start getting shorter come June 22… wait, didn’t summer just begin?), don’t despair. You may love what’s in the Popular Music Top 40, but you may also like to mix your summer sunny-ness with some bittersweet nostalgia.

Below is a timeless, surefire summer songs 2018 playlist, worthy of being blared at summer cookouts, blasting while you drive around and sing with the windows down, and kicking through the speakers while you kick back at the pool. Sunny and sure to make you smile.

  1. “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles (1969)

A great song inspired by hating your summer job. When Beatles manager Brian Epstein died in 1967, the band members had to handle more of their own paperwork, accounting, and business management. And one Beatle in particular (George Harrison) hated it. Harrison wrote the song after a long afternoon of business meetings while playing one of Eric Clapton’s guitars, in Clapton’s garden. The inspiration came from England’s long, dreary, and seemingly endless winters. “No piece of music can make you feel better than this,” said Tom Petty, one of Harrison’s good friends. “It’s such an optimistic song, with that little bit of ache in it that makes the happiness mean even more.”

  1. “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin (1973)

Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant is all about summer celebrations of getting down and cutting loose on long, hot evenings: “Dancing days are here again, as the summer evenings grow,” Plant enthusiastically wails. Led Zep recorded “Dancing Days” at Mick Jagger’s mansion, and following the session, the band was so stoked they went outside, blared it through the studio speakers, and danced to it in a carefree way that only summer can inspire. Just like you should do.

  1. “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)

Only Tom Petty could take an urban legend from the 1960s about a University of Florida co-ed taking hallucinogens for the first time, thinking she could fly, and then tumbling face down on the concrete below her window (some versions of the tale maintain that she leaped from as high as the 13th floor). In a day of limitless possibilities, such an event represented the seeming end of innocence experienced by an entire generation later in the 70s. For his first album, Petty wrote an upbeat, engaging, and relevant song around this haunting sense of disillusion. “…It was the start of writing about people who are longing for something else in life, something better than they have,” said Petty. As morose as that may sound, as summer road trip songs go, there aren’t many that compare.

  1. “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” by Pavement (1992)

It’s too early to be thinking about summer winding down in a couple of months, too early to think about loading up the car after vacation and heading back to your day-to-day grind. Pavement, in this surprisingly upbeat tune, captures all the melancholy and anxiety of the end of a summer romance. “In an abandoned houseboat, I’ll wait there, I’ll be waiting forever…You’re my summer babe.” Too much fun NOT to enjoy in the sun.

  1. “Staring at the Sun” by U2, Live Acoustic Version (1997)

Though the album version fell short of expectations, the uplifting, summery live acoustic version of “Staring at the Sun” by Bono and the Edge is nothing other than charming. “I think it nails a certain mood, where you actually don’t want to know the truth because lies are more comforting,” said Bono about the tune. Fitting, since the first time the entire world-renowned band attempted to play this song live, they were all playing at different tempos, and it fell flat on its face in front of the Las Vegas crowd. A little bit of schadenfreude is good for the soul, no matter what time of year it is.

  1. “Drop it like it’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell (2004)

No one does cool in the summer than Snoop Dogg. Drop it. Park it. Pop it. Straight from the ultimate timeless summertime dance party playlist, this 2004 hit featuring Pharrell dares you to NOT bump to it whenever it starts to play.  “Two!” “one!” “yep, three!” S-N double O-P, D-O double G…”

  1. “Walkin’ on the Sun” by Smash Mouth (1997)

This bouncy song about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots was written by Smashmouth’s guitarist, Greg Camp, in a tongue-in-cheek spirit of “can’t we all get along?” Camp wanted to capture how he felt about that time in U.S. history like things were spiralling out of control, and “like we might as well be walking around a planet on fire.”

  1. “Steal My Sunshine” by Len (1999)

Nothing screams late 90s like any number of the lighthearted hip-hop-alt-pop-influenced musical jaunts from that era (e.g., Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Beck). This trippy, catchy, bouncy summer song is all about baking in the sun atop your favorite park bench, sipping on frozen slushies, and wondering where your summer love all went wrong: “My mind was thugged, all laced and bugged, all twisted round and beat.” Though it’s about a bit of a downer, this tune still makes you feel great.

  1. “Heavy Metal Drummer” by Wilco (2002)

Remember going down to the river in the summer and listening to heavy metal cover bands with your special friend? Most of us don’t either. But Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy came up with the perfect song about rocking out in the summer on the river landing, “I miss the innocence I’ve known…playing KISS covers, beautiful and stoned.” Can such a fun summer song feel so sweetly nostalgic and achy at the same time? Hear for yourself.

  1. “A Little More Summertime” by Jason Aldean (2016)

Sadly, summer always comes to an end. But not without memories of all those unforgettable moments: long, sultry days on the beach, followed by warm, humid nights at the local carnival. Enough to make you wish you could stop time and savor it just a little bit longer. This summer song will make you feel warm, happy, and wistful, all at the same time. And you wouldn’t trade in those memories for anything.

Music really can make you feel better. What do you think about our playlist? Did we miss any of your favorites? We’d love to hear what songs keep you going in the summer!

Are you struggling with summertime blues? Not to worry, it is very common. If you or someone close to you needs to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

I Can’t Talk About My Mental Illness

mental illness conversation

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“Who can I talk to about my mental illness?”

So, you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. You might be feeling like your world is coming to an end, but it’s not. Life goes on, and it’s up to you to “keep on keepin’ on.” And you are not alone.

There are things in everyone’s life that don’t make one eager to share with others: A break-up, job loss, loss of a pet or a significant person in one’s life, a mental illness diagnosis, etc. The list goes on.

Who can you talk to about your mental illness? Why would you want to? Whom can you trust? It’s easy for many people to shut down and turn inward at times when what they really should be doing is building a support system and getting buy-in, support, and understanding from others, especially those they feel closest to friends, family members, trusted members of the clergy, a trusted counselor.

The most important thing for you to remember is that you are NOT your mental illness, and you should never feel ashamed about being diagnosed with one. You’re not inferior to anyone because of your diagnosis. It’s not your fault and there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with you. You shouldn’t feel any more ashamed than if you were to have broken an arm, or caught a cold.

You have a condition, a mental illness, it is manageable, and it’s absolutely OK to talk about it.

The more you talk openly about your mental illness, the easier it will get. It’s just your “normal.” If you’ve decided to confide in someone you about your mental illness, you might feel anxious about how it will go, what the person may think, and what he or she may say.

Everyone’s different, and no two people will ever have the exact same response to a situation, but most human beings are rational and reasonable. Your odds are good that they won’t “flip out” or ostracize you from society, especially if they are someone who cares about you like a parent, sibling, significant other, or friend. Don’t let the fear of rejection control you.

What can you expect when it comes to this kind of conversation?

This conversation is merely the opening of an ongoing dialogue. No, talking about mental illness is not just a “one and done,” kind of scenario. There will be plenty of more interactions and conversations in the future. At least you’ve gotten much of the “heavy lifting” done by opening the doors for an honest prologue.

Though it might feel awkward at first, you’ll probably feel somewhat relieved to get this off of your chest. It might be tough to broach the subject, but remember that it’s always cathartic to be able to open up and share something that’s been weighing on you and that you have been guarded about. Chances are the person you’re sharing with has had similar personal experience, or knows someone who has received a similar diagnosis. This should help you feel not so alone.

Anticipate questions. For example, “How long have you known about this?” “Can you tell me what it’s like?” “Did something traumatic happen to trigger all this?” “How are you managing it?” You are under no obligation to have an appropriate response to every question. In fact, “I’m not sure how to respond to that” or “I’m not sure how to describe it for you” are perfectly acceptable and reasonable answers. The person probably isn’t “grilling you” or being nosey. He or she probably wants to understand what you’re experiencing and feeling in order to be able to help.

What if the person doesn’t understand? This may happen, and even though the person you’re sharing with may have some experience, they may not be able to relate to exactly what you’re struggling with. He or she may not know what it “looks like.” That’s also OK. You don’t need him or her to possess a full understanding of your plight in order to feel validated yourself.

The reaction you’re hoping for? Prepare yourself for the reality that you might not get it. It might feel frustrating to open up a dialogue that’s so meaningful to you only to be told “M’eh, it’s all in your head,” or “Everyone feels blue from time to time. It’ll pass,” or “You should think more positively,” or “Don’t be so dramatic; you’re fine!”   Though it’s often unpleasant to hear the things that people are “supposed to say” in such a situation, try to remember that it’s just social conditioning that prompts such responses. Be patient and make it clear that your mental illness is making it extremely difficult for you to live a happy and healthy life, and that you aren’t sure exactly how to proceed toward a resolution. If for whatever reason the individual doesn’t quite “get you,” don’t let it faze you, and don’t let it push you back into despair. Who else can you share with to open up a more constructive dialogue?

The journey ahead may seem long, but it’s worth it. Your mental health issues might be the result of a specific event or situation (e.g., mourning a loss), but once you’ve had time to process your thoughts and feelings, your condition may improve significantly. An adjustment or change may also be just what you need (like getting a transfer or a new job if you’ve been dealing with a bully at work). You may, however, have a long term illness. While mental illness is common and treatable, it might take a few different tactics and approaches before you find what works for you personally.

You may need to talk to a mental health professional next. Don’t put it off, and remember that your mental illness is NOT a reflection of your inherent value as a human being. Your mental health professional’s responsibility is to assist you in finding your way to a place where you feel confident at having the tools and coping skills to effectively manage your mental health going forward. A combination of appropriate medication and counseling can be very effective, and in many cases, it may not be an every week thing, necessarily.

Finally, yet another reminder: No matter how anyone responds to you sharing about your mental illness, you are NOT your mental illness, so never give up on yourself. You can do this.

Are you worried about not feeling confident talking to anyone about your mental illness? Remember that it’s treatable and manageable! If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

 

Hopeful Reminders for Someone Beginning a Mental Health Recovery Journey

Mental Health Recovery Journey

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What is mental health recovery and what does it entail? A true-to-life mental health recovery definition will cover not just getting back to the point of being able to function, but will include more of helping you achieve your best, most-satisfying life. You might have already questioned whether or not you can make the journey at all.

The recovery journey back to health has no ideal to strive for. Everyone’s looks different, custom-made for the traveler, if you will. Most people who have traveled the mental health journey will tell you that their path was rarely, if ever, a straight and steady one—more like a roller coaster or traveling over rolling hills, with plenty of hits and misses, plenty of ups and downs, with setbacks, insights, positive changes, and epiphanies along the way. Recovering your mental health in full will be a gradual process that takes time, and positive changes will happen so subtly, you won’t notice them other than in retrospect.

You may have already noticed that your mental health has had significant impact on your life in several ways regarding such aspects as normal and every day activities, once-familiar friendships, intimate relationships, and your ability to maintain employment and financial security, to name a few. To make matters worse, the more losses you incur, the more you will feel overwhelmed, like you are losing your grip on things.

What can you do to help yourself bounce back? Above all, remember that mental illness is manageable, no matter how bad it may seem at times. Here are some ways to manage your expectations.

  • You don’t have to do it ALL. There is no end of advice that you will receive from well-meaning friends and family, and it will likely all sound cliché’ish, like “fortune cookie wisdom.” And it can nudge you toward feeling hopeless and helpless. But you don’t have to do everything you’re told. Do what appeals to you, and what you think you might like, and ignore the rest. It is yourjourney, after all.
  • Adjust and adapt. You may find that some approach or other that you’ve found to you cope well, like a certain medication, is beginning to lose its effectiveness. You may find this frustrating. Don’t worry about it. You are the one supplying your own arsenal of tools, so if one stops working, or you can’t keep up with it, just let it go. You’ll find another to replace it.
  • This is going to drain you a bit. Managing your mental health can be demanding mentally, emotionally, and even physically, especially for the first few months. Changing negative beliefs and self-defeating talk takes quite a bit of effort, so don’t be surprised. Don’t feel guilty about asking a friend or family member to run an errand for you because you’re just feeling overwhelmed, or about taking a nap if you need to, or about going to bed early on a weekend. Moving in the right direction will take a lot out of you, and that’s OK.
  • Your “new normal” is normal.Roll with it. Whether it means regular medication, therapy, rehab, finding a more low-stress job, just roll with it. Your journey isn’t “supposed to look” any particular way. It just looks the way it does. Not better or worse than anyone else’s, because it’s uniquely yours.
  • Don’t ever give up on trying to solve the puzzle. If your mental illness ever felt overwhelming, trying to figure out how to manage it can feel even more so, like a puzzle or an equation that you just don’t get at times. Your medication may not be working like you think it should, your therapy sessions and/or rehab may not seem to be getting you anywhere, but don’t ever quit. You will figure the puzzle out eventually, so just learn to enjoy the process.

No matter how many stumbles and discouragements, it is one of those journeys where you will not see how far you’ve gone, until you stop for a rest and look back. As you go along the path of your mental health recovery journey, you will find slowly find pieces of yourself that you may feel you’ve lost. There will be times when you feel like you’re returning to the “you” you’ve come to know.

You got this. Enjoy the ride, and remember that you’re not alone, and that you are worth it.

How are you doing? How is your journey going so far? We’d love to hear from you, even just to talk! If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Be Aware of the Effects of Social Networking on Mental Health

Negative social media effects on mental health

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Looking back in time, one might say that social media sites as we know them today crept up on modern society unawares. Those of all ages–ranging from the very young and impressionable, up through adolescence, young adulthood, and even mature adulthood–have come to follow social media apps consistently (and even obsessively, one might argue).

Over three-and-one-half billion people worldwide use the internet, and over three billion of them use social media regularly, amounting to about 40 percent of the earth’s population. It is certainly one of life’s more ever-present daily activities for a significant portion of humankind, whether for a few minutes daily, or for hours at a time. Some of social networking’s benefits include the ability to stay informed, self-educate, build and relationships with family and friends, professionally network, interact with another human being at any time of day or night, and share expertise. But have you ever wondered if you can use social media sites too much?

Unfortunately for those who love their social media time, there is enough evidence to argue to some degree or another that the downside of social media effects on mental health well outweigh its touted benefits.

Sources of lowered self-esteem, social anxiety, and moodiness in social networkers have been shown to include cyberbullying, heightened stress levels, unhealthy comparison of self with others, jealousy, depression, feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness, impaired ability to manage emotions, disrupted sleep, and decreased productivity leading to a decreased sense of achievement.

According to a 2015 research study at the University of Missouri, researchers noted that regular Facebook use can lead to depressive symptoms if the interaction creates feelings of envy in the user. In a study conducted by the British disability charity known as Scope, 1500 Facebook and Twitter users were surveyed, and as high as 62 percent of them reported feeling “inadequate” and 60 percent reported feelings of “envy” caused by comparison of self to other users.

Think about it. It stands to reason that if you have a generally negative outlook on life, or are already feeling somewhat down, regularly scrolling through pictures of happy couples and other cheerful characters living what appears to be a “perfect” life, it can easily make you feel worse. Excessive online social networking and mental health are not always a harmonious combination.

What else do social media and mental health statistics have to teach us? Excessive social media use has been directly linked to less happiness overall. Other studies have shown that Facebook use was linked to less life satisfaction overall, as well as less moment-to-moment happiness. Another study suggests that social networking creates a heightened perception of social isolation in the user unlike other solitary activities, and this perceived sense of self-isolation is one of the most emotionally destructive dynamics humans can encounter.

While it still stands that social networking has some benefits, there are plenty of convincing reasons that factual data can show us how social media affects us negatively.

You don’t need to “swear off” social media cold turkey, but you can motivate yourself to use social media in moderation. Here are some ideas to help manage its effects in your life:

  • Choose to seek out the positive, and soak in the gratitude for your own victories as well as for those of others.
  • Remind yourself regularly that social media isn’t an accurate representation of real life.
  • Stop tormenting yourself with comparisons of yourself to others.
  • Don’t be afraid of missing out by unfollowing your most (seemingly) happy and successful friends (even if just for a while).
  • Give social media a rest by deactivating your account(s) (you can reactivate them later at any point).

The effects of social networking continue to be studied, but nothing we’ve learned so far has even remotely indicated that its effects are anything but detrimental to your mental well-being. You’re still on the computer? One final tip: go outside, face the world, and start creating your own realistic and successful, happy moments.

Do you suspect that excessive social networking is having a negative effect on your mental health or on that of a loved one? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Showing Support for a Friend or Loved One Who Has Attempted Suicide

suicide attempt

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The suicide attempt of any individual creates an unsettling ripple effect on the lives of those close to him or her. Fortunately, he or she failed in the attempt, but in the mind of the suicidal individual, this failure only exacerbates problematic feelings of depression, incompetence, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and worthlessness. You may feel overwhelmed and want to dissociate from the problem, or you may feel angry, or you may worry about a subsequent attempt by the individual. You may want to panic, criticize, or lecture the individual. None of these reactions will help the situation, however. The best thing you can do is show the suicidal individual understanding and that he or she has your moral support by being thoughtful, caring, kind toward your friend or loved one, and by handling the situation very delicately.

 

If you’re like most people close to someone who has attempted suicide, you may not know how to be supportive because you probably don’t know exactly what to say. When a friend or loved one attempts suicide your own emotional state may also be impeding you from knowing how to help.

Don’t be afraid, and don’t press the individual to answer questions. Making yourself available, gently asking open-ended questions, and actively listening to the responses can help keep communication lines open. Be enthusiastic and offer hope. You can create a “safe space” for the individual so that he or she feels understood, listened to, supported, and comfortable talking about any emotions being experienced.

The tone you use to help facilitate a dialogue should be reassuring to your friend or loved one should be reinforced by statements that help validate his or her inherent worth, the validity of his or her emotions and experiences, and the fact that you are available to listen. Some suggestions for what to say to help break the ice include:

  • You’re not alone in this. I hope you’ll talk to me whenever you feel the need to. Tell me what I can do to help. We can get through this. I believe in you.
  • Your feelings are valid and they are OK. You don’t have to feel guilty about anything you have felt or are feeling.
  • You’re important to me. You matter.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself and your feelings.
  • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been feeling so powerless and overwhelmed. I’m so grateful that you’re still with us.

Another show of support for your friend or loved one who has attempted suicide is to do everything you can to help keep him or her safe. Know ahead of time whom you can contact (trusted counselor, clergy member, or family member) for help if a situation with the suicidal individual begins to go south and you fear for his or her safety. Another way to show support is by gathering resources for him or her. There are several support hotlines available for someone who is feeling suicidal, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the National Hopeline Network (1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)).

The most important thing you can remember is not to feel selfish about setting healthy boundaries and taking care of yourself. You can’t “save” or protect anyone all alone. Help create a support network of friends and/or family members that are willing to make themselves available for your friend or loved one to talk to and confide in.

The thought process and emotional turmoil that lead to a suicide attempt is a long and complicated one, and you should give your friend or loved one the needed time to heal. Be patient with the process. There are no quick fixes or shortcuts for helping the individual after the attempted suicide. Take things slowly and in small steps. The individual needs time to work through and process any emotions, and this is perfectly normal. Just don’t downplay, minimize, or oversimplify what your friend or loved one is going through.

Your loved one can bounce back given time and space. Slowly and surely.

Having trouble starting a hard conversation after a friend or loved one attempts suicide? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about support for someone who may be suicidal or feelings of being overwhelmed, we’d like to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

3 Major Ways Mental Illness Affects Relationships

Mental illness effect on relationships

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Mental illness in relationships is often a dynamic that gets marginalized and considered peripherally, at best. Every individual, and hence, every relationship is unique, so how mental illness affects relationships depends on many singular factors.

For the affected partner (or both partners), many questions loom: “What kinds of issues will arise because of my mental illness?” “When and how should I talk about it with my significant other?”  “Should I even be in a relationship?”  “Will she/he get tired and give up on me?”

As far as healthy relationship tips go, you should ever keep in mind that everyone deserves to be in a supportive, committed relationship. For the long haul.

A healthy relationship can provide much-needed emotional and social support, while an unhealthy relationship can only contribute to exacerbate the already daunting symptoms of a mental illness. But it’s important for both partners to develop reasonable expectations as well as an awareness of appropriate ways to manage issues that arise due to mental illness.

Following are three common ways that mental illness affects relationships.

Co-dependency

One common dynamic seen in couple relationships where at least one partner has a mental illness is that the “healthier” partner will spend a lot of time taking care of the ill partner, especially early in the relationship, and sometimes for several years. Problems arise when the caregiving partner neglects his or her own needs and begins to feel the effects of burnout (not unlike those that affect nursing staff in psychiatric hospitals). Burnout can result in resentment, irritability, angry outbursts, and infidelity.

Another problem occurs when the affected partner develops a perceived sense of helplessness without the caregiver partner. A counterproductive codependency can fester and undermine the relationship.

It’s important for you and your partner to develop some reasonable, healthy boundaries in order to avoid someone getting resentful and burnt out.

Disrupted communication

Someone with a mental illness not only has the illness to cope with, but also overwhelming waves of emotions to address. Often, it is difficult for the affected partner to articulate how he or she is feeling, or may downplay what is really going on out of fear of being abandoned and feelings of guilt.

For the partner of an individual affected by mental illness, communication can become strained and superficial, and as he or she realizes that the effects of the mental illness are not the affected significant other’s fault, feelings of guilt can develop and fester.

It’s important for you and your significant other to communicate openly and to keep everything as transparent as possible. There’s nothing worse for a relationship than one or both partners not having a sense of “what is really going on.”  

Disrupted Intimacy

There are several ways in which mental illness can negatively impact a couple’s sex life.

Side effects from medication can inhibit libido, disrupt arousal, and prevent orgasm.

Such symptoms should be discussed with your partner, as well as with your physician. Discussing the issue openly and working on an optimal medication and dosage can help mitigate adverse side effects.

Remember that it is critical you do not stop taking your medication. A psychotic or manic episode can do far more extensive, lasting damage to your relationship than side effects that hamper things in the bedroom.

Approaching a solution

Individual counseling for one or both partners may be what your relationship needs to stay healthy. Medication can be a huge help. Couples therapy is an option for many relationships.

As you and your partner work on the best approach to managing issues caused by a mental illness, you both should be sure to show support, appreciation, and affection for one another. The effects of a mental illness on a relationship don’t have to be permanent.

Having trouble starting a hard conversation about a mental illness condition? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we’d like to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.