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A Psychiatrist Against Psychiatry?

Psychiatry | Hope Counseling

Thomas Szaz’s book The Myth Of Mental Illness, published in 1961, was a spearhead for the “Antipsychiatry” movement and created a coalition whose voice is still loud today.

 

Essentially the antipsychiatry movement believed that psychiatry was being used to control, label and stigmatize people who exhibited what society might call “deviant” behavior, but were no threat to themselves or others. They thought that traditional psychiatrists were in league with the pharmaceutical companies, whose main goal was to over-medicate those who simply did not “fit in”, to make them manageable. They did not believe in the concept of “mental illness”, abhorred the term, and thought that psychiatry was not based on empirical evidence and fact and could not prove real “brain illness” in most people.

 

The “nature vs nurture” argument was not a quandary for those against psychiatry. Nurture and environment were responsible for unacceptable and self-destructive behaviors in their opinions, and they thought that counseling and education could eradicate the issue. “Problems in living” was the phrase Szaz used. They even believed that the use of psychiatric diagnoses in the legal system was unconstitutional. A lot of social activists jumped on the bandwagon.

 

At the time this movement was at its height, psychiatry was going through a major transition. Freud was being debunked, and the foundations of traditional psychiatry were cracked. According to Benedict Carey, writer for the New York Times, in his obituary of Thomas Szaz, “Dr. Szaz argues against the use of coercive treatments, like involuntary confinement, and the use of psychiatric diagnoses in the courts, calling both practices unscientific and unethical.”

 

Szaz was a professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, and while there he wrote hundreds of articles, books and essays including Ideology and Insanity: Essays on the Psychiatric Dehumanization of Man.

 

Thomas Szaz allied himself with the Church of Scientology in 1969 to found the Citizens Commission on Human Rights which, Carey goes on to say, “portrays the field (of psychiatry) as abusive, and regularly pickets psychiatric meetings.” This move for Dr. Szaz damaged his credibility and he eventually put some distance between himself and Scientologists. But, as a result, he was denied a position in a teaching hospital which trained psychiatric residents.

 

Unfortunately for Dr. Szaz, his soapbox has been all but eclipsed by the practices of modern psychiatry, with advanced technologies providing the bases for diagnostics, and more effective medications with fewer side effects. While mental illness still carries a stigma with it, more and more sufferers are living full, happy, and healthy lives because of the advances in psychiatry. The vast majority of psychiatrists are caring and ethical professionals, who do not over-prescribe, and are interested in giving a mentally ill person more than just maintenance.

 

The Ego: Can We Really Take It or Leave It?

What is the ego?

 

Dictionary.com defines “ego” as “the ‘I’ or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.”

It goes on to say that the definition in psychoanalysis is “the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environments.”

 

New Age gurus everywhere have said that the ego is that part of the human experience that makes us separate from others, the part that individualizes itself, the mind chatter that plagues us, the child part of ourselves that needs constant attention, and the part of the self that makes decisions based upon the past, and coming from a place of fear. They also tell us that the more evolved we are, the less interference the ego presents in our lives, and that letting go of the ego is the ultimate goal. This attitude makes a lot of people involved in the New Age movement feel “less than” because they can’t seem to quiet or eradicate the ego. It’s a very counter-intuitive thing to put on people.

 

Whether you are religious or on some spiritual path, or a total atheist, learning to live with the ego is part of accepting yourself totally and embracing the human experience. Stressing over the ego’s chatter, being in a constant battle with it, and beating yourself up for mistakes it has made, are all a waste of energy. As long as we are in bodies, having a human experience, we are going to have to deal with the ego. Learning how to quiet it in order to de-stress is a wonderful practice to get into. Meditation is a good way, so is listening to your favorite music, getting out in Nature. Getting into the habit of giving yourself time to make decisions so that you know that your decisions are not coming from a place of fear – which is the ego – is also a practice that it is good to take on.

 

Not accepting the ego as a part of who you are is essentially denying a part of who you are. But the ego doesn’t have to be in control. You love your child, but you wouldn’t allow her to drive the car, would you? Learning how to manage it takes practice and self-awareness is the key. You really can’t eradicate the ego, but you can befriend it, embrace it, and acknowledge the role it plays in making you who you are. Self-esteem requires that you accept the totality of yourself, and the ego is just one aspect of that.

Mental Illness and Creativity: Is There a Connection?

artistic expressions

A great many creative people – artists, poets, musicians, even philosophers – have been thought to be mad since ancient times. Some cultures honored their eccentrics, the “different” ones, but others often had them put in asylums or even executed as witches. Obviously times have changed since then and society has become much more open minded about mental illnesses. Psychological studies have shown that there is, in fact, a connection between mental illness and creativity. While mental illness does not necessarily equal creativity, and vice versa, there have been found many cases of links between the two.

 

For many people who live with mental illnesses, it provides them with an opportunity for a unique perspective on life, coming at reality from an oblique angle. Couple that with creative talent and intelligence, and an artistic genius can be born. People with serious mental illnesses such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders exist with their sensory volume turned way up. It is harder for them to filter out information for the purposes of focus, and so they take in much more than most people do. While this may cause a lot of inner turmoil and suffering, it also gives them the ability to form connections out of seemingly disconnected things, feelings, and ideas.

 

William Lee Adams, who writes for CNN, said in his article The dark side of creativity: Depression + anxiety x madness =genius?, “Celebrated Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s life was fraught with anxiety and hallucinations” But, he goes on to write, “The painting (The Scream) is thought to represent the angst of modern man which Munch experienced deeply throughout his life, but saw as an indispensable driver of his art. He wrote in his diary, ‘My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art’.”

 

Psychologists, having been almost enraptured with this question, conducted early studies of well-known artists who worked in a variety of media, and the conclusion was that many highly creative people suffer from mood disorders. Clinical depression plagued people like Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Jackson Pollack, and Anne Sexton.

 

Many of these studies rely on anecdotal evidence and have been harshly criticized. But neuroscientist Andreas Fink of the University of Graz in Austria published a study in which he compared brains of creative people to those with schizotypy, which is a milder form of schizophrenia.

 

Adams writes that the psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, who also writes for Scientific American “has summed up the results (of this study) this way. ‘It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the floodgates, and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas’.”

 

While creativity remains somewhat elusive, the answer to the question posed in the title of this article is “Yes”. There is a connection between mental suffering and creative expression. The depth required to probe the human condition through art of any kind, sometimes takes a special vision and sensitivity that the “normal” person often escapes. Is creativity a curse? Modern pharmacology has made it less so. But people need to want to be helped and many artists hold the sentiments of Edvard Munch – that without their illness, their art wouldn’t exist.

Rethinking Mental Illness

Mental Health and mental illness | Hope Counseling

 

All throughout history, individuals with mental illnesses have been marginalized, if not brutalized and shunned. In ancient times, the mentally ill were often seen as possessed by demons, or in league with the devil, and as a result, were put to death. It is a sad commentary on world perception, that the mentally ill are still stigmatized, living as the outsiders among us, considered to be not “normal”, and sometimes dangerous.

 

People tend to fear what they don’t understand, and unfortunately, the mentally ill are still all too often misunderstood, and thought to be people to avoid. They are considered to be “strange”, “weird” and “crazy”. As a result, their lives are often lived in secret, and they seek no help or support. Even people who are well-educated have many misconceptions about mental illness, and frequently, it is up to the mentally ill to teach the rest of us what it’s really about.

 

That mental illness is physiological, that there is frequently medication involved in treatment, and there is a “diagnosis”, a label placed on the mentally ill person, that label oftentimes follows that person all her life. People say of the mentally ill, “She is a schizophrenic”, and instead of the schizophrenic saying “I have schizophrenia”, she will tell others, “I am schizophrenic”, thus identifying the totality of who she is with her illness. She takes societal stigma and judgment and places it on herself. Society’s stereotype becomes her own. She has become her illness. It is so counter-intuitive to her potential wellness.

 

The truth is that the those who live with mental illnesses are us. They often continue to live lives that are full and meaningful. They want to love and be loved and accepted, and to feel useful – that they matter. They want to be seen as more than just one part of who they are. They can be intelligent and creative and productive. And they walk this earth, not as outsiders or ghosts, but as human beings, the just the same as regular people. They only need the chance to become as fully realized as they can be. For that chance, it is up to us to educate ourselves and in doing so, to eradicate the terrible stigma that has followed people with mental illness for too long.

 

Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and bi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and several other mental illnesses are difficult to live with, but can also be overcome. For those that suffer these illnesses, it’s possible to live a completely normal life, without revealing that the illness is present. On one hand, this is great because it allows the person to live without prejudice. On the other hand, it forces them to be underground about their symptoms.

 

The solution is to allow change the way we think about mental illness. It can be scary and unpredictable. But at the root, it can be simply another hurdle for us to overcome. Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders is paramount.

Scared to see a counselor?

 

Being scared to seek counseling is really common. After all, we’ve been taught that we should solve our own problems! Sometimes overcoming the realization that we need help isn’t an easy thing to do. Even if whatever your challenge is isn’t serious, admitting that we can’t fix the situation ourselves is difficult. Maybe you know what you should be doing, but you aren’t motivated to do it. Maybe you’ve just got a couple roadblocks to overcome. Whatever it is, you’re thinking that talking it over with a counselor might be helpful, but you’re a little scared to get started. Counseling can be the first step you take in making a difference in your life.

Here are some things to think about while considering seeking some guidance:

Hope Counseling | Session

 

It’s only a conversation

Sometimes all it takes is one meeting with a counselor to get the advice we’re looking for. Maybe it’ll take two. Maybe you’ll decide it’s really helpful and become a returning client. Either way, you’re not losing anything by just making one appointment.

You run things

If there’s a topic you don’t want to discuss, you don’t have to talk about it! Sometimes people are afraid that counselors will try to get inside your head and read your thoughts. Although this would be an amazing super power, I don’t know any counselors that can actually do that. If there is a topic you don’t want to talk about, just say so. If you feel like the conversation is going in a bad direction, say so. You have the stage to work on whatever problem you want to work on.

It’s Effective

You know how just venting to your friends is so cathartic? Imagine that your friend was actually educated in how to help you perfectly. That’s what counseling is. Many people have overcome depression, relationship issues, or self-esteem issues just by working through their problems with a therapist. They’ll help you look at your situation from a different angle.

Start with a phone call

Call the office and request to just talk to someone on the phone, to get a feeling if talking it out is something that can help you. You’ve got nothing invested, and you’re totally anonymous. If once you talk to the counselor for a bit, you’ve decided that it might be helpful to schedule a full session, go ahead! You’ve already made huge progress.

How to Cope with Being Alone

Hope CounselingHumans are inherently social creatures. We thrive from connections that we create with loved ones. And although there is a large spectrum of comfort with social contact, it is true that we all need to feel connected. When we are forced to be alone by whichever life matters have brought us there, coping with solo life can be difficult. Here are some things to consider trying during your streak of independence:

Have a happy mindset:

Most of our troubles are created by our frame of mind. Look at this as an opportunity to explore and learn more about yourself. You now have this time to devote to yourself! This really is true independence. Keep an open mind about meeting new people, and engaging in new activities. Happiness comes from within. Don’t make excuses!

Learn Something New:

What is something that you always wish you had learned? For me, I would love to learn how to play the guitar. During a time when I was alone previously, I learned how to knit. Take lessons or watch video tutorials online. Connect with others who have a passion for whatever it is you want to learn to do. They will love the opportunity to share their passion, and you will get to absorb their knowledge!

Adopt a Pet:

For longer periods of time alone, pets are great way to focus your need for connection. Dogs are great because they really love their humans. Their reliance upon you will help to give purpose to your day. If you can’t adopt a pet, volunteer at your local animal shelter. Walking the dogs is a great chance for you to get out, take walks, and connect with another being.  

Read:

This summer my goal is to read five new books. There is always something to be gained from reading. You’ll become more educated, pass time, and become a better-rounded person. Check out some classics like Huckleberry Finn, Wizard of Oz, The Catcher in the Rye, or The Great Gatsby. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau is about a spiritual quest to live independently in nature.

Exercise:

Imagine getting that body you’ve always wanted. Now you have no excuses. Wake up with the sun and just take a walk. Join a work out class. There is Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Spin, Zumba, Weight Lifting, and SO MANY MORE! Some big cities offer free exercise classes outside during the summer. You’ll look great, feel better, and you’ll seriously impress your loved ones next time you see them. See this story about a woman who took advantage of her time away from her husband to drop 100 pounds.

Pick up hours at work:

Focusing your extra hours into your work life will give you an extra cushion in your bank account. You will have more free money to pay off bills or save for your next goal. If putting in more hours at work sounds like the worst idea in the world, consider volunteering. It’ll still keep you busy, but you will have more control over your schedule and hours. You’ll be making a positive impact in the world as well!

Explore:

Go outside! It’s a big beautiful world out there! You won’t meet any interesting people by staying home. Get yourself a pair of hiking shoes and explore local state parks. Connect with nature by kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, swimming, or even just having lunch in the park.

 

 

 

3 Major Breakdowns on Grey’s Anatomy

mental breakdown

Television can teach us a lot about what happens to people in certain situations, particularly the traumatic and difficult ones. While Grey’s Anatomy might not always be medically accurate, it does get one thing right: the psychological breakdowns. We have seen this in 3 major events in the past decade of Grey’s Anatomy.

Meredith’s “Shoot Me Instead” Speech

We all know from her “pick me, choose me” speech that Meredith would take a bullet for Derek. She proved this in season 6. People had been speculating suicidal tendencies in Meredith Grey for years, and this was the final proof they needed. This isn’t her first experience at flirting with death either, hence her college nickname “death”. Meredith offers herself up to the gunman partly because of her love for Derek, but also partly because she’s okay with dying herself. It wasn’t until well after season 8 that we watched Meredith actually fight for her life.

Would she have consistently been chasing death if she had a better childhood? What if Ellis Grey were mother of the year? 

Christina’s Silent Treatment

After the plane crash at the end of season 8, Christina Yang was not herself. We see her being somber, passive, and silent. It was terrifying to see such a lively personality become so bland and empty. Eventually, when she did talk, a part of us wished she had stayed silent. She told Owen of the trauma she experience while staying awake for 4 days, something she might not have been able to do with anyone else. She found comfort in Owen, who worked through his PTSD issues with her in the past.

Would these two have been such a strong couple had they not bonded over traumatic experiences? It’s hard to say.

Arizona’s Cheating

Once “Calzona” said their I Do’s, time stood still for those short few minutes of the episode. We LOVE Calzona; everyone does. There is something magical when they are together, but when they fall apart, we (the viewers) fall apart with them.

Season 9 ended with the  episode “The Perfect Storm”. There could not be a more fitting title out there for this episode, you could describe a relationship that is being destroyed a storm. Callie finds out that Arizona cheated on her with Dr. Lauren Boswell when realizing that Arizona’s wedding ring is pinned inside Lauren’s scrubs. Remember now, this is not the first time that Callie has been cheated on (George, her 1st husband also cheated on her). Callie is the strong fighter that we all know and love, that has so much on her plate that she often pushes things to the side and never deals with the issues head on. 

Unfortunately, Arizona’s cheating did not end with Dr. Boswell. She then subsequently has an affair with Leah Murphy, a surgical resident, and tries to hide this affair from Callie as well. After this affair, Callie decides to face this affair head on, unlike in the past, she goes to her dad for advice and learns that he one put her mother in those same shoes that she is wearing and they turned out just fine. 

In the end Callie chooses to forgive and forget Arizona’s indiscretions and throw herself into the relationship to make sure that their relationship will work out in the end  They choose to move out of their current apartment, the one that has all the memories of Mark, Arizona lying in bed recovering from the loss of her leg and other bad parts of their life.  As we end season 10 Callie and Arizona are once again in a good place, and we can only hope that season 11 brings back the marital bliss that we all once enjoyed between this couple.  

Would Arizona have cheated on Callie had she kept both legs? We’ll never be sure, but it’s doubtful. When Arizona lost a part of her, it changed her. She felt broken, as if her wife is trying to fix her – and then someone else came along and felt attracted to her, as is.

 

 

 

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Observing Students’ Emotional Response to the Game Portal

 

What Portal and Similar Video Games can Teach Us

portal video game helps students at wabash collegeWabash College might just have the coolest and most innovative professor in the country. Portal was on the syllabus in a 2011 semester at the college, and with good reason. The professor understands that certain games, movies, songs, and books can pique different emotional and human responses.

They can also teach us about life, and give insight into some of life’s most provocative and unanswered questions. Portal is the perfect game for the existentialist.

Professor Michael Abbot used Portal as educational material during his “Enduring Questions” class. During this time, he taught the students while observing their emotional responses to playing as Chell.

With copies of the game from Valve, Abbot’s students ventured into a world of emotional enlightenment. Abbot’s precursor to the game was his demonstration of Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Dr. Goffman’s book explains how humans display different versions of ourselves in various situations. When we’re in social settings, we are not the same as when we are alone. There’s a saying, “he knows me better than I know myself“. While only an expression, the phrase can’t have true meaning because we are always most honest with who we are, when we are alone. Only the closest people in our lives can see into that person, and even then, it’s still not the same.

GLaDOS, as a character, is aligned closely to Goffman’s text about slowly removing the protective layer to get down to one’s true personality. Her position in this created a great example of how we become ourselves once we’re comfortable in our environment. The game displays this by letting you into her personality slowly, test-by-test. Then, in the sequel, you learn even more as you go into the history behind the snide, sassy computer-villain.

Beyond the fan-favorite GLaDOS character, the game puts Chell in a few other emotionally straining situations.

  • Emotional Stress – The pressure to escape or die might leave her with a ton of emotional baggage at the end. Chell has to live in constant “Fight or Flight” mode; the stress will eventually get her if she doesn’t get out.
  • Verbal Abuse – GlaDOS calls Chell a slew of names and ends many tests with a fat joke. Chell will end up with an eating disorder.
  • Loneliness – Chell doesn’t speak; she won’t give Aperture the satisfaction of a response. There are no other humans around, all she has is her companion cube.
  • Manipulation – Giving Chell a companion cube to love, only to make her kill it in the end; it does things to a person
  • Abandonment – Unclear whether it’s true or just a jab, Chell hears repeatedly from GLaDOS that her parents didn’t want her.

During and after playing the game, Abbot used a student forum to create a discussion about the game, and the responses varied. Some students identified with the main character, and said they hoped that they’d escape. Other students felt a sense of accomplishment, as they felt like they were escaping.

The game also inspired creativity for many, and with the comedy, emotion, and suspense going further in the sequel, it has gotten a lot of attention for its impressive storyline. A fan-made film, by Dan Trachtenberg, depicts the emotional responses from Chell, and the events in the test chamber.

 

 

It doesn’t have to be Portal, but when you feel overwhelmed by life’s burning questions, escape into an elaborate story, and analyze your feelings afterwards. You’ll be amazed at the wonderful effect it can have. Video games like Portal and Bioshock make effective stories because they’re anecdotes that you interact with, and in some cases, you determine the outcome.

Three Major Psychological Problems in AMC’s Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad” recently won Best Drama Series for a good reason. The journey from white to black was a traumatic one, and the show is actually very accurate when it comes to displaying how a human would react to these situations in real life. To say goodbye to TV’s best emotional roller coaster, we’ll cover a few of the psychological catastrophes in the show.

Notice: We mention spoilers, be careful if you’re not current with the show, as ruining the experience is another psychological catastrophe for a different day.

Walt

A recent episode started with a flashback to Walt’s earlier days, when he was still himself, and it starts with the first lie he ever told about his new life. This shows us how that person still channels in through Walt sometimes, which is why we love and hate him all within a span of about twelve seconds. The idea is he could be compartmentalizing another part of himself, the part he lost with Grey Matter. You can see the change vividly in a more recent event, when he called Skylar on the phone, fighting tears back to assault her with a slew of insults, which conveniently exonerate her. The show, coupled with Cranston’s exceptional acting skills, created a highly emotional scene that told us something good might still be inside of him. By the end of last week’s episode, we learned that Heisenberg might have completely taken over. In earlier episodes, it seemed that the cancer was the catalyst to his behavior, but it’s possible that this personality transformation is a result of deep-seated anger and resentment and a passion for chemistry.

counseling for psychological trauma - breaking bad gif

The Problem: Personality disorder, possible Schizophrenia, anger, God Complex
The Solution: Walter White would need to turn himself in, and seek professional help while under custody. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much time left, so it’s safe to say Walt is gone for good.

Jesse

Jesse’s drug addiction and lifestyle have always been the bane of his existence, and for a while, we all wanted him to get better. Everyone wants nothing more than a good, happy life for Jesse. Unfortunately, for him, after torture and losing everyone he’s ever loved, it’s likely he’ll return to a life of drug abuse and crime. A happy conclusion for him would entail a lot of therapy and love, which everyone is rooting for. The Bad News? With one episode left, it doesn’t seem likely. Aside from seeing death around every corner, we have to remember that Jesse was abjured by his parents, and he still has PTSD from shooting Gale.

The Problem: PTSD, Depression, Drug Addiction, Torture, and Kidnapping
The Solution: In order for Jesse to have a fighting chance, Brock needs to make it out of next week’s episode alive. If all goes well, Jessie could return to rehab, manage a deal with the DEA, and (hopefully) move on to a happy, new life.

Skylar

Skylar’s act of an abused spouse may be more than a ploy to get out of trouble. It’s possible that since the moment Walt told her that he is “the one who knocks”, she’s been terrified to make her own decisions. It’s also possible that she feels the same way we all did in the first season, sympathetic and understanding of his reasoning and motives.

counseling for psychological trauma - breaking bad gif

The Problem: Domestic Abuse Victim
Solution: Do everything to use what Walt gave her to move on to a good life with the children, seek outpatient therapy and life counseling.

 

Todd

We don’t have enough time for Todd.

Problem: Everything
Solution:
Nothing

 

 

 

 

*gifs courtesy of
http://brbagifs.tumblr.com/

Does Diet Affect Your Mood? Five Tips for a “Happy” Diet

When you’re depressed, you  don’t stop to think about things, let alone the mundane everyday tasks you’ve always done, like eating. You might not realize that vitamins and hormones dictate our emotions, and serotonin plays a huge role in depression. Serotonin is a chemical that your brain produces when it’s feeling genuinely happy and content. Depression often comes from situational turmoil in one’s life, but it can also come from inadequate serotonin production, which means a person can feel depressed even if he or she has a great life. Other vitamins influence our moods as well, so it does make sense that the foods we eat play a role in how we feel.

Here are some foods you can eat to help improve your mood on the “bad days”.

  • Eggs, fish, lean beef and chicken are all rich in Vitamins B-6 and B-12. These vitamins help promote chipper and relaxed moods.
  • Nuts and seeds, like almonds, are magnesium rich. Magnesium is a big one if your depression is from a chemical imbalance because it promotes serotonin production and it increases natural energy levels. Opting for sugary or salty nuts won’t work as well as the unsalted or unsweetened brand.
  • Complex carbohydrates like strong grains take longer to digest, and that helps regulate blood sugars. When blood sugar isn’t spiking, irritability isn’t either.
  • Green tea contains an amino acid L-theanine that diminishes the appetite, which prevents overeating and the subsequent remorse, and it naturally increases happiness.
  • Opt for complex fruits, like pineapples and pomegranates. Foods that are rich in Vitamin A and C as well as copper and fiber all help you feel and look better. A good theory is that if it’s hard to eat, and if it takes effort to chew, it will probably take longer to digest, and it improves blood flow, serotonin production, and weight loss.