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Conditions

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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

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Traumatic events—such as an accident, assault, military combat or natural disaster—can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health. While many people will have short term responses to life-threatening events, some will develop longer term symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms often co-exist with other conditions such as substance use disorders, depression and anxiety.

Symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months after experiencing or being exposed to a traumatic event. Occasionally, symptoms may emerge years afterward. For a diagnosis of PTSD, symptoms must last more than one month.

  • Re-experiencing type symptoms,such as recurring, involuntary and intrusive distressing memories, which can include flashbacks or bad dreams.
  • Avoidance, which can include staying away from certain places or objects that are reminders of the traumatic event.
  • Cognitive and mood symptoms, which can include trouble recalling the event or negative thoughts about one’s self. A person may also feel numb, guilty, worried or depressed.
  • Arousal symptoms,such as hypervigilance. Examples might include being intensely startled by stimuli that resembles the trauma, trouble sleeping or outbursts of anger.

Young children can also develop PTSD, and the symptoms are different from those of adults. It is essential that a child be assessed by a professional who is skilled in the developmental responses to stressful events. A pediatrician or child mental health clinician can be a good start.

Treatment

Though PTSD cannot be cured, it can be treated and managed in several ways.

  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive processing therapy or group therapy
  • Medications
  • Self-management strategies, such as self-soothing and mindfulness which can help ground a person and bring her back to reality after a flashback
  • Service animals, especially dogs, can help soothe some of the symptoms of PTSD

Click here for more information on PTSD and treatment options we provide.

You are not alone. We can help you or someone you love cope with PTSD. Take a fast, confidential online screening test.

Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

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What is Substance Use or Abuse?

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Opioids and other substances that alter how we feel, think and act have overtaken our culture, and have been declared a public health epidemic. Substance use and abuse of opioids, heroin, cannabis, stimulants, alcohol, and others is becoming far too common and can have extremely damaging effects.

Substance use disorders commonly co-occur with mental health conditions, especially serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, PTSD and other forms of trauma. People with mental illnesses often turn to drugs and alcohol to quiet their symptoms, and drugs and alcohol can adversely affect our nervous system and increase risk for mental illness.

Solutions

Prevention. This includes school-based programs that provide youth with decision-making skills and methods of controlling their moods and impulses.

Screening. Early identification of a problem means early intervention, before the substance use disorder becomes more firmly rooted. Today we have very good screening tools to help.

Treatment. Families and people affected by addiction should advocate for the strong, comprehensive treatment approach they need. Effective treatment means first detecting the presence of a co-occurring mental (or physical) condition and assuring it’s also treated. Treatment for a substance use disorder should then combine:

  • Cognitive therapy that focuses on reducing the triggers of relapse
  • 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
  • Family education and support
  • Medications

You are not alone. We can help you or someone you love cope with substance abuse.  Take a fast, confidential online screening test.

Information excerpted from Lloyd I. Sederer, MD., a psychiatrist, public health doctor and medical journalist. His new book is The Addiction Solution: Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs (Scribner, 2018).

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What is Schizophrenia?

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Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It is a complex, long-term medical illness, affecting about 1% of Americans.

Symptoms

For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms must be present for at least 6 months:

  • Hallucinations – These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.
  • Delusions – These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.
  • Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships.
  • Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking – People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treatment challenging.

It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability. Other factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis.

Treatment

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed with medication management and psychotherapy.

You are not alone. We can help you or someone you love overcome Schizophrenia.  Take a fast, confidential online screening test.

Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

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What is Bipolar Disorder?

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Bipolar and related disorders may cause dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar experience high and low moods—known as mania and depression—which differ from the typical ups-and-downs most people experience. Treatment can help control and manage the symptoms of many bipolar disorders.

Symptoms

Symptoms and their severity can vary. A person with bipolar disorder may have distinct manic or depressed states but may also have extended periods—sometimes years—without symptoms. A person can also experience both extremes simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

Severe bipolar episodes of mania or depression may include psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. Usually, these psychotic symptoms mirror a person’s extreme mood. People with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms can be wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia.

The depressive symptoms that obstruct a person’s ability to function must be present nearly every day for a period of at least two weeks for a diagnosis.

Treatment

With early identification of symptoms and a thoughtful treatment plan, many people live well with this condition.

Treatments may include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle and a regular schedule

You are not alone. We can help you or someone you love overcome bipolar disorder.  Take a fast, confidential online screening test.

Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

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What is Anxiety?

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We all experience anxiety. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause. With treatment, anxiety disorders can be effectively managed.

Symptoms

There are several types of anxiety disorders. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Feeling tense or jumpy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

Physical symptoms:

  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
  • Sweating, tremors and twitches
  • Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD produces chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday life. This worrying can consume hours each day, making it hard to concentrate or finish daily tasks.

Social Anxiety Disorder

More than shyness, this disorder causes intense fear about social interaction, often driven by irrational worries about humiliation. Panic attacks are a common reaction.

Panic Disorder

This disorder is characterized by panic attacks and sudden feelings of terror sometimes striking repeatedly and without warning. Often mistaken for a heart attack, a panic attack causes powerful physical symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset.

Phobias

We all tend to avoid certain things or situations that make us uncomfortable or even fearful. But for someone with a phobia, certain places, events or objects create powerful reactions of strong, irrational fear.

Treatments

There are many treatments for anxiety disorders including:

  • Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medications, including anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants
  • Stress and relaxation techniques

You are not alone. We can help you or someone you love overcome anxiety.  Take a fast, confidential online screening test.

Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

What is Depression?

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Depressive disorder, often simply called depression, is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who have it and their families. Fortunately, with treatment, many people can and do get better.

Some will only experience one depressive episode in a lifetime, but for most, depressive disorder recurs. Without treatment, episodes may last a few months to several years.

Symptoms

Depression can have different symptoms. But for most people, depressive disorder changes how people function day-to-day, and typically for more than two weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
  • Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts

Treatments

Depressive disorder often responds to treatment. The key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. Safety planning is important for individuals who have suicidal thoughts. Patient-centered treatment plans can include any or a combination of the following:

  • Psychotherapy including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy.
  • Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.
  • Exercise can help with prevention and mild-to-moderate symptoms.
  • Brain stimulation therapies can be tried if psychotherapy and/or medication are not effective.
  • Light therapy, which uses a light box to expose a person to full spectrum light to help regulate the hormone melatonin.
  • Alternative approaches including acupuncture, meditation, faith and nutrition can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

You are not alone. We can help you or someone you love overcome depression.  Take a fast, confidential online screening test.

Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness