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anxiety disorders

Mental Illnesses on Movies

Movie attractions about mental illnesses

Recently I wrote about the premiere of a new movie, Mania Days, which stars Katie Holmes and is based on the life of the author who has Bipolar disorder.  One of our Facebook friends asked where it could be seen.

Well, the answer, in short, is “not yet”.  It is an independent film and caught my eye because it premiered in Austin TX, near where Old Fox MovietoneI live. Unfortunately, no matter how good it is, it won’t be released on the “big screen” until the writer/director/producer has an offer from a large movie production company – for a lot of money.

He may get one of those offers at upcoming independent film festivals, and the prospects look good as the film has received positive reviews.  It is likely that no matter how good the film is, we won’t see it in theaters for several months, if not longer. (It will probably be available on DVD though)

Sorry if it was a big tease.  In any case, it got me thinking that there are some well-known and available movies that you can see.  Maybe you have seen them, but you probably haven’t seen all or even most of them.

The good news is that since mental disorders tend to produce notable or even outrageous and shocking behaviors, they do make good subjects for movies.  This list is only a few of the movies that I have seen – and in many of them, there is no clear “diagnosis” for the characters but the symptoms are there.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Most of the films that feature characters that may have borderline personality disorder focus on murderous women.  Certainly BPD doesn’t only affect females but it does make good movie fodder.

•    Fatal Attraction
•    Single White Female
•    Casino
•    The Cable Guy
•    Margot at the Wedding
•    The Crush

Anxiety Disorders –

Anxiety disorders are harder to see in a movie as a single issue as they often occur with other disorders – as they do in real life.

•    Ordinary People
•    Parenthood

Social Anxiety Disorder

Can result in avoiding being in public, speech disorders and fears of other social situations.

•    The Kings Speech

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is a real problem, but many people don’t realize how debilitating it can be.  In addition, it is also an anxiety disorder but doesn’t show as well on the screen.

•    The Aviator
•    As good as it gets

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD often follows a “war” event – but can follow other traumatic events. In most cases, these events are “acute” but in some cases they are chronic, occurring over a period of many years.

•    Prince of Tides
•    Forrest Gump
•    Born on the Fourth of July
•    First Blood
•    Sudden Impact
•    Reign Over Me
•    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Autism

There is really only one good example that I know of – and it is a classic.  That said, it is not an exact example as Autism is a “spectrum disorder” that ranges from high-functioning to non-functioning.

•    Rain Man
•    The Boy Who Could Fly

Bipolar Disorder

There are actually a lot of movies that can be seen showing bipolar disorder though. Rarely do they discuss the actual diagnosis but here are a few good ones.

•    Mad Love
•    Blind Date
•    Michael Clayton
•    Manic
•    Of Two Minds

Clinical depression

In most cases, clinical depression doesn’t look good on a screen.  Unless the character has some other event going on, watching someone not do anything doesn’t attract movie attention.  In these cases, there were other things going on in the movie that made them interesting.

•    The Fire Within
•    Leaving Las Vegas
•    Rushmore

Silver Linings PlaybookAnd the winner for “Most Psychiatric Disorders Featured in One Movie” goes to:

•    Silver Linings Playbook
•    Girl Interrupted

Both movies show a number of intertwining psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and eating disorder, are great films and two you really shouldn’t miss.

Most of these movies should be available on DVD.

Melissa Lind

List of films featuring mental disorders

New Online Tools for Anxiety Disorders

What can online tools for Anxiety Disorders do for free?

There has been a dramatic upsurge in websites, smartphone apps and hi-tech gadgets to monitor health conditions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and calorie output – all physical measurementsMental health doesn’t easily lend itself to computer monitoring.  Most people who need intervention go to a therapist or other mental health professional.  When that isn’t affordable, people usually “go it alone” which can have disastrous results.

Online Tools for Anxiety DisordersA new company “Joyable”, is developing an online web platform for people with anxiety disorders.  The company is a start-up venture that aims to create online tools for a variety of mental health conditions.  So far, they have raised over $2 million from Venture Capitalists – and “Angel Investors” which may bode well for additional funding.  Joyable will be starting with Social Anxiety Disorder but plans expansion into other conditions such as generalized anxiety, OCD, PTSD and others.  The big problem with this development is that it isn’t cheap.

The company plans to offer their online tools for a significant cost of $99 / month. Though hi-tech has entered the medical field in other areas, costs are usually low, if not free and available on a smartphone.  The developers state that their program is usable on a smartphone or tablet through the internet. They also have plans to develop a native app for smartphones and tablets as well, but they will probably still charge for the service.

The NIH reports that 15 million Americans may suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder but only about 15 percent of those are adequately treated – leaving 12 million or so, with unattended issues.  The good news is that there are online tools for people with a variety of mental health conditions, and some of those are free.

Not to disparage therapy – but a lot of it is talk and even with insurance, it can be expensive.  You talk, the therapist talks, you talk, the therapist listens.  If you are in group therapy – you also have to listen while others talk.  Sometimes the problems match your own; sometimes they don’t.  In a lot of cases, you may be able to get some insight from hearing others talk about the same thing – but the best information is stuff that you learn about yourself.

The best place to start looking for help online is through forums – nearly always free.  You can find plenty of people with nearly any mental disorder that you can chat with and take or leave the advice as you want.  There is also no shortage of educational – and even entertaining websites (like this one) that offer information, quizzes, daily planning – all for free.

Smartphone for Anxiety DisorderIf you are willing to pay a bit, there are online therapists who are cheaper than going to an office.  Therapists who will attend you privately on the computer – or even by phone.  Joyable is planning on offering three categories of activities – education, cognitive exercises, and behavioral activities.  They plan to have “coaches” who are “empathetic” and “good listeners” – trained by the company.

Psychologists oversee the program, but it is not very likely that you will get personal attention from a licensed professional.   With a little bit of work, you can probably get much of the same service at a low cost – or even without spending a dime. But for the future, the attention that the service may bring might provide promise and signal hope for people with mental disorders.

One development often leads to another. An App, even at a cost may provide assistance for those who won’t otherwise receive adequate care – particularly with disorder such as PTSD that don’t often get enough or the right kind of attention.  For now, you can probably skip the cost – and gather up the services yourself.

Melissa Lind

Anxiety Treatment Method – Mental Imaging

Use of mental imaging as an anxiety treatment method

While there are many wonderful medications that aid in the treatment of anxiety symptoms, there are other methods for controlling anxiety as well. Mental imaging is one such treatment.

Mental ImagingMental imaging is used in many instances and professions. Professional sports players, speakers, and actors use mental imaging. For the purpose of anxiety, mental imaging works as a relaxation technique. It can be used to negate negative thoughts, and replace those negative thoughts with positive images that help one to face or get through a situation that makes them feel anxious.

To practice mental imaging, you must predetermine what your image will be. Will you see yourself handling a tough situation? Will you see yourself doing something that you didn’t think you could do? Again, you need to have your mental image ready to go before you need it.

The hardest part of mental imaging remembers to use it when you need it. This is not always easy to do when you are feeling anxious, and worries are clouding your mind. You may also need mental imaging aids at the beginning, such as cassette tapes to get you into the state of mental imaging. You may need to close your eyes to practice mental imaging in the beginning as well.

Mental imaging can also be used outside of anxious situations — when you are calm — to help build confidence in yourself.

In fact, people who suffer from anxiety disorders who practice mental imaging outside of anxious situations find that the anxiety episodes that they do have are fewer and far between — and that they don’t last as long.

While mental imaging is very easy, and can be done by anyone, it should not be used to replace medical treatment for anxiety. You still need treatment from a doctor, and you can discuss mental imaging with your doctor.

Mental Imaging and Anxiety

Getting Out of Depression

Some tips to get you out of depression

Major depression is the third most common mental disorder in the US.  Nearly 7 percent of the US population is affected in any one year.  Incidentally, if you are keeping track, the two most common mental disorders are Anxiety disorders and Phobia disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Major Depression, also called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has an average onset of 32 years of age and is more common in women than in men.  It is also called “unipolar depression” by those who are familiar with Bipolar disorder.  It may include a subset of depressive disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects people yearly – usually in the winter and Dysthymic Disorder, which is a less severe form of depression.

In order to be diagnosed with Major Depression, a person must meet the DSM criteria including at least five of the following for at least two weeks:
•    Depressed mood most of the day
•    Diminished interest in all or most activities
•    Significant, unintentional weight loss or gain
•    Insomnia or sleeping too much
•    Agitation or psychomotor retardation (slow movement) noticeable by others
•    Fatigue
•    Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
•    Diminished ability to think or indecisiveness
•    Suicidal thoughts

In some cases, depression can be relieved by changes in lifestyle or with psychotherapy, but in severe cases – medication may be warranted.  We are fortunate today in that there are a number of effective medications that have fewer side effects than previous treatments, and the category continues to evolve.

Even with medication – that may not begin working for at least several weeks – some lifestyle changes, and habits may help a person “emerge” from their depression and manage symptoms in the future.

Major DepressionLifestyle changes are difficult, particularly when depressed, but the effort it takes to “soldier through” is worth it in the end.  These tips for helping with depression are not easy – especially when you do not have any energy and don’t feel like getting up, but even though they may not provide a cure – they almost always provide some help.

  1. Get up and move – this is the hardest for most people to do.  It may take a tremendous amount of efforts but even simply getting off the couch or out of bed and walking around the house will help.  Getting up and moving around will increase your blood flow and heart rate will help increase blood flow to your brain and may convince your body that “hibernation” is over.
  2. Get dressed – you may have been wearing the same clothes for many days.  Changing into a “daytime” outfit can help regulate your time clock and may help you feel like you can accomplish something.  If you wear makeup or fix your hair, do so – and by all means, take a shower.
  3. Get out in the sun – don’t stay long enough to get a sunburn but studies have shown that bright light helps your brain wake up.  It resets your internal clock by adjusting your melatonin levels (a hormone responsible for inducing sleep).  It also triggers a “springtime” effect – that again tells your brain and body that winter is over, and it is time to come out of hibernation.
  4. Talk to a friend – making a phone call may not be tops on your mind, but even a wordless chat can help you feel like someone else is aware of your existence.
  5. Watch something enjoyable – even if you don’t want to enjoy anything, do something that would normally make you happy.  Just a little bit of happiness peeking through can go a long way.
  6. Go to bed and get out of bed at normal hours – sleep patterns are often destroyed by depression.  Reestablishing those normal patterns will help reset your internal clock to a natural level.
  7. Don’t take naps – again with both the normal sleeping hours and with the “getting up.”  Reinforcing physiologic habits will help establish normal brain functioning.
  8. Eat healthily – you may want to eat everything, nothing, or only certain foods.  Likely, no matter how much or how little you are eating, you are deficient in some of the necessary vitamins and nutrients – so eating a healthy diet and taking a multivitamin mineral supplement is a good idea.  B vitamins are especially helpful to restore nerve cell functioning, C and E are useful for combating inflammation that can cause sluggishness, D vitamins are useful to aid in the “sunlight” phenomenon discussed before, Calcium and Magnesium are good for the brain cells which are malfunctioning.

Most people who are depressed will find a lot of these activities difficult – and you may only be able to do one or two a day.  None of this is meant to be insulting, but there is science behind all of it – and others have been through it before.
With the help from the medication and the lifestyle adjustments – you will feel like you are coming out of the fog – and be able to do all of them – or sometimes, choose not to.  Choosing not to do something is different than feeling like you are unable to do something – and you want to have control of your life.

– Melissa Lind

Counseling for Anxiety

Counseling is a vital part of treatment for anxiety.

Stress and AnxietyAnxiety is a serious problem, and it does require treatment if it is prolonged. Unfortunately, many people fail to realize that complete anxiety treatment requires medication, as well as counseling. They may visit their medical doctor and get the medication, but fail to follow up with the appropriate counseling. This means that the anxiety is never actually dealt with effectively.

Counseling is an essential part of treatment for anxiety. In fact, the counseling that seems to work best is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. You won’t find yourself in therapy discussing your childhood and bringing up every wrong thing that your parents did. This is not what CBT is about.

CBT is about forming new ways of thinking — or changing your thinking patterns, as well as your own behavior. You can literally change the way that you react to events in your life, and this in turn, will control the anxiety that you experience. It focuses on how you feel about yourself, not on how others have mistreated you or unpleasant things that you’ve done in the past. You don’t have to admit all of your deepest and darkest secrets to your therapist to treat anxiety.

Exposure therapy also works well for those who suffer from anxiety. In this situation, you literally state what your fears are in a fully controlled environment, and you are exposed to that fear. Remember that this is a controlled environment, meaning that the fact that you fear cannot hurt you in this environment, despite the fact that you are exposing yourself to it.

The idea here is that, by exposure, you get a greater sense of control over this thing that you fear — seeing that it isn’t as horrible as you imagined it was. You learn, firsthand, exactly how to deal with the fear that you feel.

Therapy for anxiety is not usually a lifetime thing. In fact, most CBT programs are completed in 12-20 weeks, depending on the extent of anxiety and the patient. CBT can be conducted privately, or with a group of other people who suffer from Anxiety Disorder.

Also; read about “The Anxiety Attack“!

And; “Anxiety Untreated”

Stress and Anxiety Defined

Find a good strategy to reduce the negative effects of stress.

Ever since the term was first coined in 1936, there’s been an ongoing debate about the definition of stress.

Being such an ambiguous concept, people think that stress isn’t real. But the truth is that as common as stress is, it can have serious effects to your health if left unmanaged.

Even though we all know what stress is, it’s hard to perceive it as something damaging because it’s so intangible, and the effects of stress vary from person to person. This is another aspect that interferes with its being defined in the same way by different people.

Hans Selye - About StressWhen Hans Selye invented the term “stress” in 1936, he defined it as “the nonspecific response of the organism to any pressure or demand.” Later on, as he progressed in his studies and he modified the definition to: “The rate of wear and tear on the body.”

While these are very general definitions, they are very accurate in describing how it is perceived.

Stress is the result of a person’s inability to cope.
Whether you have an urgent project that needs to be done to perfection or you’re going through, and emotional crisis, the effect of stress will depend on how well you can cope with that situation.

Do you feel that you can handle it? Or is it too much?

Because the emotional response is such an important aspect of stress, I like this more modern definition a lot better: “Stress refers to any reaction to physical, mental, social, or emotional stimulus that requires a response or alteration to the way we perform, think, or feel.”

If the failure to adapt to a situation exists, this results in stress. In many cases, stress and anxiety occurs if we are encountering something new or unknown. But stress isn’t always originated by a failure to adapt. Pushing you to complete a presentation or even the thrill of landing that prestigious position can cause your body to experience stress/anxiety.

Whether it’s a good change or a bad change, any change is bound to be stressful.

Finding a good strategy to cope with pressure, change, and responsibility can significantly reduce the negative effects of stress.

Also read: The Biology of Stress