Archive for July 2013

Swallowed In The Sea[Note: the following is the second guest post from Jared Friedman.]

Is your spouse acting differently? Are you feeling like something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on the problem?

The changes may be chemical, but are coming out to you as behavioral changes in the person you love most. There are signs you can use to gauge if your spouse needs mental health treatment.

Millions Affected

Depression and anxiety affect millions of people each day, and we often attribute the symptoms to long work hours, lack of sleep, or life changes, but mental illness is not something to take lightly.

Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are altering the lives of silent sufferers, and the lives of those who care for them the most. When left untreated, mental illness only gets worse.

Warning Signs

Does your spouse show the following symptoms of mental illness? Do you need to look into mental health treatment?

1. Loss of Interest

For many people with the symptoms of a mental illness, activities and hobbies that used to bring joy are no longer of any interest.

Did you and your spouse used to participate in a group of any kind, or a social activity together that he or she no longer wants to do? If your spouse had a hobby that no longer warrants any time, or interest, this may be a significant sign of a mental illness.

Withdrawal from activities, friends, and family members is an indicator of the need for mental health treatment.

2. Changes in Mood

Does your spouse express, verbally or nonverbally, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fear, or worry? Depression and anxiety are the most common forms of mental illness, but low self-worth and constant mental and emotional discomfort can also indicate another type of mental illness.

Did your spouse used to be happy and more upbeat than he or she has been lately? Changes in mood that have impact on relationships is a tell-tale sign of mental illness requiring professional assessment.

3. Anger or Hostility

Along with emotional changes and mood swings, newly expressed anger and hostility can indicate underlying issues. Anger can present as an external expression of internal pain and sadness. If you notice progressively worse rage in your spouse, it’s time to think about mental health treatment.

4. Substance Use

In countless mental illness cases, the sufferer attempts to treat the symptoms with drugs and alcohol. If your spouse is drinking or using drugs to self-medicate, mental health treatment is probably needed. Dual diagnosis, the clinical applicability of a mental illness and a substance abuse or eating disorder at the same time, requires special treatment. Your spouse can be treated for two disorders at the same time, and can heal from both concurrently.

5. Detachment From Reality

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder lead people to do things out of their normal character. The chemical imbalance leads to an inability to live a “normal” daily life, and can even lose touch with reality. If you notice a detachment of any kind in your spouse, seek the guidance of a mental health professional.

Treatment is available for every mental illness when approached the right way. Any signs of mental illness are cause for immediate intervention.

Jared Friedman has a masters degree in psychology from Pepperdine University.

photo by: KellyB.

tackling stressLast Friday, I had the final for the summer statistics course I was taking throughout June. It was an intensive course; four months worth of material condensed into a month-long semester. Usually, school isn’t something that actively stresses me out, unless of course I’ve been procrastinating. And yet, the morning of my final exam, I had a panic attack and was forced to take a propranolol so I could get through my exam. (The exam went fine, but not as well as it could have.)

Stress hits us anxiety sufferers particularly hard. While stress and anxiety are distinct states, they do overlap in much of their biological underpinnings and definitely seem to work together. Stress brings on the release of adrenaline, just like anxiety, and thus leaves us with a lot of the same feelings: racing hearts, labored breathing, restlessness, decreased focus.

Acute stress is beneficial in many ways, and for most people it can be a helpful force. Unfortunately for those of us with sensitivities to increased arousal, acute stress can also make us panic. Stress seems to pile on quicker when you’re living with an anxiety disorder, and it seems to be lurking around every corner.

While learning proper stress management techniques is important for everyone, it is especially crucial for us anxious folks. We have brains that are constantly on the look out for potential stressors, so we need to do everything we can to make sure there are as few stressors as possible in our lives. Since we can’t eliminate all sources of stress of course, learning proper stress management is necessary.

So how do we deal with stress?

Tackling stress goes back to the same sorts of coping techniques we used to overcome our anxiety.

Deep breathing is always a good starting point. Remember that proper diaphragmatic breathing helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system that works against your fight-or-flight response to calm you down.

Mindfulness can be another great coping technique. Try to keep yourself in the present rather than letting your mind wander to those “what if” scenarios that are major sources of stress. (“What if I don’t get this paper in on time?” “What if I’m late for that client meeting?” “What if I don’t pass this big exam?”)

If you’re a procrastinator like me, maybe you need to look into methods to reduce your procrastination. Procrastinating is a big source of stress for me. “Why didn’t I start studying for this exam earlier? Maybe I would have been able to finish all the practice problems if I’d just started earlier.” I’m not only stressed that I haven’t studied enough, but I’m also frustrated at myself for putting things off, which just ends up leaving me more unsettled.

Having a health lifestyle is probably the most important, yet most vague, way you can help reduce your stress. Rather than dive into healthy eating and exercise, I will leave you with some great resources that you can peruse if you’d like to know more. (I will delve into eating and exercise later on!)

Coping with Stress from the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Stress Management from the Canadian Mental Health Association

Stress Management from Health Canada

How do you deal with stress? 



photo by: Helga Weber

Memories.[Today is a guest post from ex-anxiety sufferer Ryan Rivera.]

If you suffer from anxiety, whether it stems from work, school, a friendship, a romantic relationship, your home life, or post-traumatic stress, it is important for you to have a safe place to retreat to where you can privately examine your thoughts and feelings without feeling overwhelmed or pressured. This is why many people choose to keep a private journal.

Keeping a journal is an easy, stress-free way to privately express yourself. It can be as simple as writing down a description of what you do each day: you’ll find yourself adding little details about how you felt and what you thought about the people and events you encounter, and pretty soon you will be able to write entries entirely made up of things you are thinking about. If you enjoy writing, keeping a journal is an inherently soothing experience.

Whatever your skill or interest level, you will find that journaling is a reliable way of decreasing your anxiety.

How to “Write Right” and Achieve Anti-Anxiety Effects

Putting pen to paper may not seem like it would be much help at first glance, but that simple action can have a multitude of benefits for anxiety-sufferers. Find out below how allowing yourself to literally “read your own thoughts” can relax you in the short term, while making you less susceptible to anxiety attacks in the long term.

  • Create A Familiar Space – Journal writing, when done regularly (for example, right before you go to sleep) becomes more than just a chore. Your journal is a space for you to say whatever you want and examine how you really feel without any judgment or pressure from the outside world (and can be carried with you almost anywhere you go). The anxious brain appreciates reliable routines and spaces where it can feel safe, and over time you will begin to find that just picking up the pen in your hand and opening your journal to a fresh page in and of itself has an instantly calming effect on your mind and body.
  • Take Your Mind Off the Stressor – When you are anxious, sometimes what you need the most is a temporary escape. Journal writing can serve as an opportunity for meditation, not just on the event, person idea causing you stress but upon any subject you can possibly think of. When you need to calm your mind, writing in detail about what you see around you, or things that make you happy (such as baby animals, walks in the woods, your favorite holiday) can help you to stop obsessing and reach a more positive, functional mental state.
  • Get to Know Yourself – The added benefit of journaling is that it forces you to make time for yourself. In the midst of texting and running errands and getting to our jobs and various appointments on time, it’s a rare moment when you are allowed to get in touch with yourself. Use this time to organize your thoughts. This allows you to find out, almost from an “outsider” perspective, what your thoughts/experiences “sound” like when written out, which can give you valuable insight into what parts of your mental process are less rational than you may have realized, and show you how you can behave more rationally next time.
  • “Tell Yourself a Different Story” – To help prepare your mind to better handle anxiety in the future, try writing “stories” or brief narratives in which you encounter and overcome your fears. Describe the scenario as vividly as possible, writing down exactly how you will behave and what you will say. Another good way to “rewrite” bad mental habits is to list any negative thoughts or stresses you are having that day, and then write an accompanying list of positive, believable thoughts or “solutions.”
  • Expose and Halt the Vicious Cycle of Anxious Thoughts – Writing while experiencing anxiety can help you examine your thought patterns when you reread the entry later, or even while you are writing it. Watching for thoughts that reoccur within the writing can reveal to you to the beliefs that trap you in that loop of anxiety, which you can then address directly (for example, by asking yourself “what belief would be more useful to me?”).

Whether you are dying to go out and find a beautiful and artfully designed journal that reflects who you are, want to save a few bucks on an ordinary one you can leave plain-looking or design any way you want, or find it easier to imagine keeping a journal online or in a text document, today is as good a day as any to start using journaling to stop anxiety from your affecting life.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera was someone that suffered from a great deal of anxiety in his life before finding relief from many home methods. Now he has a website about overcoming anxiety at