Weekly Theme: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Weekly Theme: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Can Happen to Anyone

Continuing with the idea that we are not our diagnoses, we want to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) this week. PTSD has gone by many names: shell shock, soldier’s heart, combat fatigue, and war neurosis, to name a few. By looking at historical terms, it might appear as if it only affects soldiers fighting or refugees fleeing war. However, PTSD can happen to anyone.

 

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops in individuals who have experienced some type of trauma in their lives. By trauma, we mean a shocking or dangerous event that their minds were unable to process completely. It’s perfectly normal to feel scared in these types of situations. In fact, the body often naturally reacts by releasing hormones triggering a “fight-flight-or-freeze” response. Usually, these feelings will dissipate after the threat has passed. However, individuals suffering from PTSD continue to feel this reaction when exposed to events that remind them of their original trauma. For example, a veteran who saw combat may be triggered by the sound of fireworks or a car backfiring.

 

Treating PTSD at Barn Life Recovery

Barn Life does a very good job at facilitating an atmosphere that is a safe place to share and deal with trauma. Some of our clients have had some really scary things happen to them in their lives. Barn Life staff work very hard to build a rapport with every single person who comes into the program to feel safe, heard, and not judged. It is a special place with dedicated and caring people who are very good at reaching our clients who are struggling. It is important to continue to bring out those uncomfortable topics like someone’s trauma that they are terrified to discuss. Our clients come in giving all their power to their trauma. However, it is our continued role in their lives to show them they are in more control than they believe.

Weekly Theme: Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Weekly Theme: Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Psychosis and Schizophrenia

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is sensory perceptions and abnormal thinking experienced by an individual struggling with a schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic-based disorder. Reminder! We are not here to judge you or label you. We are here to help you manage these symptoms with resources and support.

 

How Does Someone Even Get This Disorder?

There is no clear indicator of how an individual develops the symptoms of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Researchers suggest that it could be anything from genetics to psychological or environmental factors. It’s also important to note that it manifests in the late teens, 20’s and even early 30’s and affects both men and women.

 

What Do Sensory Perceptions and Abnormal Thinking Mean?

Sensory perceptions, or hallucinations, are perception-like experiences that occur without an external stimulus. They can occur as things you vividly and clearly hear, see, smell and even touch. Sometimes they happen throughout the day but research suggests that they mostly occur before you fall asleep or as you are waking up. Delusions, or abnormal thinking, are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change despite conflicting evidence. One might believe they are being harmed or harassed, or that a celebrity is in love with them.  They might even believe they have superior abilities, wealth, or fame. Additionally, we have disorganized speech (incoherence), abnormal motor behavior (catatonia) and negative symptoms (similar to depressive symptoms) that also fall under this category. Also, none of these symptoms and behaviors are induced by a substance or medical condition; it is all happening in the individual’s perceptions.

 

What is Schizophrenia?

Everything I have covered, is in reference to very extreme or severe measures. If you feel like any of this information applies to you, reach out to your therapist. We can have an open conversation about the symptoms and if they are an area of concern or valid/caused by your current diagnosis. Now that you have this foundation, you’re probably wondering…what is schizophrenia then? This is a diagnosis that is given to an individual that experiences at least two of the five behaviors (delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, abnormal motor behavior, and negative symptoms) and that it is affecting at least two important areas of their life (like school and relationships). Schizophrenia is one of 10+ disorders that have psychosis as a symptom. For example, the list of schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic-based disorders and disorders that have psychotic features include:

  • Delusional Disorder
  • Brief Psychotic Disorder
  • Schizophrenia Disorder
  • Schizophreniform Disorder
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Substance/Medication Induced Psychotic Disorder
  • Psychotic Disorder due to Medical Condition
  • Catatonia Associated with another Mental Disorder
  • Other specified Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder
  • Unspecified Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Major Depressive Disorder

 

Treating Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Okay, you’re probably thinking…this is deep stuff but how do we help someone struggling with this? With unconditional positive regard, patience, and medication management. Also, with psychoeducation, therapeutic services, group counseling, and even hospitalization. (This isonly in order to ensure the safety of the individual and others). We as therapists, case managers, clinical directors, family, and friends are there for those that are struggling with this complex disorder. Psychologists still research this diagnosis so that one day we can provide more support necessary to stabilizing or helping those struggling to manage these psychotic-based symptoms and disorders.

Weekly Theme: Depression and Negative Belief Systems

Weekly Theme: Depression and Negative Belief Systems

Depression

A New Way of Thinking

For some, “depression” is a scary word that carries a connotation of weakness and shame. For others, it’s a warm blanket to withdraw into over and over again despite knowing the suffocating ramifications. We may be fearful of it, comfortable with it, or just sick of it. Whatever the case, depression on some level is probably part of the reason that brought us to Barn Life. Though some may argue with this, depression is not simply biological or inherent. Your life experiences molded you and created it as a reaction. Of course, some therapists and psychiatrists may have made you feel you are helpless to the monster “Depression,” and that you must live with it.

 

Years of Internalized Low Self-Worth

It would be easier to tell you to rely on medication*. Or to just accept this is who you are and you’ll have a lifelong struggle. However, that’s simply not based in truth and does you a great disservice. Depression is years of internalized low self-worth. The degree to which someone is conscious of their self-worth varies. Some of us are extremely aware of the hateful thoughts that run through our minds toward ourselves and others. On the other hand, some of us have fallen into disconnected behavioral patterns that numb and keep it out of awareness. We don’t engage in self-endangering or self-imploding behaviors when we are truly connected to our value. We feel proud of who we are, living out our life with meaning.

 

Reshaping Negative Belief Systems

What drives those behaviors? Belief systems. Negative belief systems are ingrained in us from external forces – caregivers, upbringing, other people’s thoughts, failures, traumatic events, and so forth. Beliefs like “I will never be loved, I am stupid, I am never good enough, I will never amount to anything”. Reshaping these beliefs into adaptive truths such as, “I am enough,” “my life has purpose,” “I deserve happiness,” “I deserve to love and be loved,” are much more difficult. They require us to work from the INSIDE OUT. We will not change these beliefs simply by engaging in behavioral changes or hearing from others you’re worthy and lovable. We need to spend intimate time with ourselves adapting our thoughts. Furthermore, we need to decide who we want to be in alignment with our values. This takes great intention and putting away distractions including seeking validation from others.

 

How We Choose to Engage with Life

Depression may a part of a bipolar diagnosis or the aftermath of our mania. If so, reflect on what the words are that swirl in your mind during those low periods. Is it telling yourself you’re shameful for your actions? Is it feeling like a lost cause, feeling like you can’t ever do things right or that you’re doing enough? What thoughts fuel the desire to shrink from the world? Remember that our choices send strong messages to ourselves and others. Every day we have an opportunity to change how we internally speak to ourselves, how we treat ourselves and our bodies, how we treat others.

Remember that depressive symptoms result from beliefs, choices, and behaviors – overall how you live and interact with your life. You cannot control life’s circumstances. There will be depressing events and relationships in your life. How you choose to engage with them will make a difference.

*Please note Barn Life honors client choice in seeking medication for intervention and does not devalue the effectiveness of this for some clients (in conjuction with therapy).

Weekly Theme: Anxiety is a Teacher

Weekly Theme: Anxiety is a Teacher

Anxiety is a Teacher

Don’t Shoot the Messenger!! 

Extreme and constant emotional states (i.e. mania, anger, fear, sorrow, grief, and worry) lead to serious mental health disorders (i.e. anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc). Anxiety, for example, is a normal reaction to stress and certain life situations. Getting rid of it or ignoring it is akin to shooting the messenger because you do not like the message. That approach fails to generate change. Anxiety helps one to cope and alerts us of an unresolved opportunity to grow. However, it CAN become excessive, like any good/bad thing. The constant dread of possible future moments can literally paralyze a person in and terror. This is when anxiety devolves into a crippling disorder.

 

Harmonizing with Anxiety

Re-framing anxiety as an invitation to engage in our own healing process is an important overall motto we are keeping in mind this week. What sorts of practices and life patterns can we help teach clients? What useful and VERY SPECIFIC practices and habits can we learn that will help interpret what anxiety means in our specific and personal realities? Again, we want to offer tools and encourage change, not just talk about feelings. Action steps are vital. So we are coming up with some great ways to harmonize with anxiety and seeing what it has to teach us all!

 

Becoming Masters of Signs and Symptoms

Anxiety manifests itself in several forms in Western medicine: Generalized Anxiety Disorders, Panic Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, PTSD, Social Anxiety Disorders, and phobias. We are exploring all of these conditions this week. The general idea is that this feeling can be a useful warning system that we can use to get ahead of an episode before it fully manifests. Clients need to become masters of mental health signs and symptoms so that they can train themselves into a better NOW. Knowing the terrain (how anxious feelings are triggered and how do they present in my specific life) is vital. Building a plan with specific tools and techniques is next. Putting that plan into live-action when the bullets fly is after that.  We will find out what works and what doesn’t. Each of our clients is unique.

Maybe think about how you personally deal with the emotional stress that manifests as anxiety. Maybe explore the approaches other cultures use to treat it. Perhaps explore common triggers and complex triggers that affect us and propel us into a frenzied state.  Again, anxiety is not an affliction to remove. Rather, it is an invitation to transform.

Weekly Theme: You Are Not Your Diagnosis

Weekly Theme: You Are Not Your Diagnosis

Mental Health Diagnosis concept - sunrise superimposed over a head's silhouette

Navigating the Sea of Modern Mental Health Diagnosis

Our themes from this week forward are going to be a general overview of mental health diagnosis. However, we want to do it in a systematic order week by week. We will start with the root and move outward towards the branches. Everyone knows the modern definitions for depression and anxiety and bipolar disorders, etc., etc. Some even wear these labels as badges of honor or identity. Other people overidentify. Some are blind to any labels or words existing for what they are experiencing and need help organizing and learning these ideas.

 

Finding the Way Back Home

The human psyche is vast, wonderous, and treacherous. We have depicted it in so many ways in so many great stories and paintings and movies and music and books across epochs of time and thousands of cultures. The human psyche is baffling and addictive and keeps ya’ coming back for more and more. Why? Because we all have one. And we all haven’t a clue as to why. Just opinions, best guesses, and the occasional “proof was in the pudding” moments. If we can find some new ways or old ways or a mix of ways to help people navigate the seas of depression and anxiety and all the other waves of diagnoses, we can maybe help them find their way back home, or perhaps make a new home.

 

Starting with the Roots

This week we will introduce the idea of EMOTIONS and THOUGHTS. This is the root. This is the fertile soil where it all begins and ends. You experience mental health disorders AS A RESULT of emotions and thoughts.  Maybe think about what emotions are, exactly. What if you felt an emotion that doesn’t have a name yet? Ouch. Is that like creating a new color and naming it?  Hard to fathom. Or perhaps explore the world of thought and where thoughts originate. How do they morph and grow into actions and patterns?  How can I change my thoughts or at the very least guide them in some cooperative way?

 

Making a Real Difference

Where to look? Explore Western culture and its philosophies over the millennia regarding emotions. Have they changed? Why have they changed? Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have a few ideas. St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas had some thoughts. Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Hume, and Kant are all weighing in on this topic. There is also the James-Lange Theory of Emotions, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the idea of the reptilian brain. This topic is so rich with so many branches it is literally mind-blowing. So, shop around and find some stuff you like. Just get curious. We have an amazing opportunity to make a real difference in the world, and we have to rise to that challenge if we want to be on the front lines.