journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. They affect around one in four people in Britain, and range from common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, to more rare problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A mental health problem can feel just as bad, or worse, as any other physical illness – only you cannot see it.

Some people think that there is an automatic link between mental health problems and being a danger to others. This is an idea that is largely reinforced by sensationalised stories in the media. However, the most common mental health problems have no significant link to violent behaviour. The proportion of people living with a mental health problem who commit a violent crime is extremely small. There are lots of reasons someone might commit a violent crime, and factors like drug and alcohol misuse are far more likely to be the cause of violent behaviour than mental health problems.


Warning Signs

There are over 200 classified forms of mental illness so its clearly very important to be aware of the warning signs. Mental Illness has no clear victim. It affects people of all ages, young and old, of all races and cultures and from all walks of life. Mental illness, like physical illnesses, is on a continuum of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe.  More than 7 million people from the UK have a mental illness in any given year.  Mental illness affects one in four adults and one in five children. Very few people, however actually seek treatment for mental illness. Many aren’t even aware of the different types of mental health problems and struggle to spot the signs.

So what ARE the warning signs of mental illness?

In an adult:

  • Marked personality change
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Drop in functioning – an unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Strange or grandiose ideas (impulsive, boastful, exaggerated, dreams and fantasies)
  • Excessive anxieties
  • Neurotic or repetitive behaviour (rocking, biting, hitting, head banging, pinching)
  • Prolonged depression and apathy
  • Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Extreme highs and lows
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
  • jumpy/nervous behaviour, easily startled
  • problems with concentration, memory and speech
  • disconnected from self or surroundings
  • withdrawal and a lack of interaction with others
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behaviour

A person who is thinking or talking about suicide or homicide should seek help immediately.

In a child:

Having only one or two of the problems listed below is not necessarily cause for alarm. They may simply indicate that a practical solution is called for, such as more consistent discipline or a visit with the child’s teachers to see whether there is anything out of the ordinary going on at school. A combination of symptoms, however, is a signal for professional intervention.

  • The child seems overwhelmed and troubled by his or her feelings, unable to cope with them
  • The child cries a lot
  • The child frequently asks or hints for help
  • The child seems constantly preoccupied, worried, anxious, and intense. Some children develop a fear of a variety of things–rain, barking dogs, burglars, their parents’ getting killed when out of sight, and so on–while other children simply wear their anxiety on their faces.
  • The child has fears or phobias that are unreasonable or interfere with normal activities.
  • The child can’t seem to concentrate on school work and other age-appropriate tasks.
  • The child’s school performance declines and doesn’t pick up again.
  • The child loses interest in playing.
  • The child tries to stimulate himself or herself in various ways. Examples of this kind of behaviour include excessive thumb sucking or hair pulling, rocking of the body, head banging to the point of hurting himself, and masturbating often or in public.
  • The child isolates himself or herself from other people.
  • The child regularly talks about death and dying.
  • The child appears to have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. Over and over the child may make such comments as: “I can’t do anything right.” “I’m so stupid.” “I don’t see why anyone would love me.” “I know you [or someone else] hates me.” “Nobody likes me.” “I’m ugly. . . too big. . . too small. . . too fat. . . too skinny. . . too tall. . . too short, etc.”
  • Sleep difficulties don’t appear to be resolving. They include refusing to be separated from one or both parents at bedtime, inability to sleep, sleeping too much, sleeping on the parent’s or parents’ bed, nightmares, and night terrors.

If you spot any of these warning signs in yourself or in another person please speak concerns to a health professional such as a GP or a charity that can help with advice such as childline or samaritans.

For more information on mental illness:

Mind

Rethink

NHS

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autism · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · savannah lloyd · Uncategorized

Living with Autism: World Autism Day

April the 2nd 2017 is World Autism Awareness Day 2017!

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.

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 All my life, I knew I was “different.” As a child, I was described as shy. I had “temper tantrums” frequently. I found it difficult to make friends, couldn’t make eye contact, found it hard to speak to others, and struggled with both social skills and communication skills — even confidence. I remember going through primary school with severe anxiety. As I went through each year, it became harder and harder to make friends. I remember feeling so different from my peers that I tried to change myself in order to be accepted. Eventually, as an 11-year-old, I was diagnosed with mental health difficulties. I let myself accept the reason I was so different was because of the difficulties associated with my mental illnesses.

That was until my mental health disability adviser turned to me one day during one of our meetings and mentioned the word “autism.” Of course, I had heard of autism. As a student who is training to be a special needs teacher, I have come across many children who have been diagnosed with autism. I have done academic research and even essays on the disorder. So when my disability adviser turned to me and mentioned the word in relation to myself, I paused for a second. In this stigmatised world, autism may be seen as something most often associated with children. Many of the children I had come across with autism faced challenges and most were nonverbal. Though I struggle with everyday tasks, I have always put this down to my mental health challenges.

Despite my doubts, my disability adviser handed me an AQ-10, an autism-spectrum quotient questionnaire, to fill in. I scored 10 out of 10. An autism referral is strongly suggested when a person scores six or above. Once she had my consent, she registered me for a referral with an autism assessment charity, and the journey began. I realised most of the behaviours I had put down to my mental illnesses were pretty consistent with those associated with autism spectrum disorder. Although I communicate, I have difficulty reading expressions or body language. Although I know you’re there, I cannot make eye contact. I am hyper-aware of my senses; I am either too stimulated or under-stimulated, which leads to repetitive movements known as stimming (rocking, hand-flapping, knee-bouncing) and meltdowns that last for hours. I like tactile objects and explore with my hands. I cannot deal with social gatherings or being outside of the house. I cannot ride public transport or leave the house effectively. People sometimes feel I am selfish or short-fused; I have meltdowns when I cannot deal with my emotions and struggle to understand when you are not OK. Time is a big thing for me. Routines and timetables are the centre of my life. I cannot hold down a job, despite being able to do it. Though it may not appear to be so, I struggle every single day.

Autism is a broad spectrum. On March the 22nd 2017 I was diagnosed with informal Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. A final paper diagnosis assessment will be in the next few months.  However, I feel already I have learned so much about myself through this that I had never learned before. I feel as though autism explains my life, and I am not ashamed of that.

Having a diagnosis of autism does not limit the possibility of being something amazing.

I may be different, but I am not less.

#autismawareness

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Suicide is NOT a sin

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of opinions on suicide. As a person whose been suffering with suicidal thoughts since the age of 11, I’ve had a good first hand experience of suicide. It often bothers me when people refer to suicide as a sin. I’m a religious person, but I believe God loves you no matter what you do. We are human; we feel, we make mistakes, we suffer. God doesn’t love us any less because of that.

Suicide is NOT a sin. It isn’t. It makes me so sad that so many people regard suicide as a sin so bad that it cannot be forgiven. A person who thinks, attempts or dies by suicide are hurting so badly that suicide seems the only option. How it is right to regard suicide as a sin when it is the result of a person suffering so much that suicide seems the only way? I’ve been there. At 11 years old, there was no other possible option. Suicide plagued my every thought. I was crying all the time. I despised myself completely. The world didn’t seem like a safe place to be. Attempting to take my life that day does not make me any less of a person than someone who has not thought about or attempted suicide.

In Exodus, suicide is referred to “a grave sin equivalent to murder”. I disagree. Murder is in no way the same as suicide. How can they even be compared to each other? Murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of a human being by another. Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your life. The difference with these two acts is the person behind it. Murderers are criminals, who often sadistically plan out the murder of another human being for days, weeks or months before the act. People who die by suicide are not criminals, nor are they sadistic. I would not compare myself to a murderer, nor would people who know me. Of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder. These people are struggling. These people often have mental illnesses, or suffer extreme abuse and bullying or hardships in their life. These people struggle every single day to just live here on this earth. In no way is Suicide a sin. I’m not saying that I haven’t sinned before, because I have, but suicide is not my sin. For 7 years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts and attempts but that does not make me any less in the eyes of God.

I wanted to write this blog post because of my recent experience with religion calling suicide a sin or a mistake. I want to let you know that your mental illnesses do not make you any less than those who do not have mental illness. You will not go to hell for suffering with suicide, or mental illness. You are human, you are loved, you struggle, but you also feel joy. I believe in God and church is a huge part of my life. Many people in my church are accepting of mental illness and do not see me any less in the eyes of God, but some churches do teach that suicide is a sin.

Please, do not refer to suicide as a sin. So many people in this world are affected by suicide in some shape or form. Please educate yourself on mental illness and suicide before making a judgement.

“Mental illness is like a war. You either win or die trying.”

Hebrews-9-23-28

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Inside Anorexia Nervosa

A lot of people wish that they looked different or could change something about themselves, but when a preoccupation with becoming thin takes over thoughts, life and eating habits, its a sign of an eating disorder

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, life threatening eating disorder that affects women and men of all ages. Anorexia Nervosa has three main features; the refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, an intense fear of weight gain and a distorted body image. Eating and mealtimes can be severely stressful for someone with Anorexia but yet food occupies almost every thought. Thoughts about dieting, food, exercise, calories and your body often take up the entire day which means there is a little or no time for friends, families and other activities once enjoyed. Life becomes a relentless pursuit of thinness and perfection. In the purge sub-type of anorexia, weight loss is achieved by vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics.

Anorexia Nervosa is actually not about food or weight! At least not at the core. Eating Disorders are complicated and food and weight issues are usually symptoms of something deeper including but not excluding depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect and feeling out of control.

A lot of people with Anorexia feel powerless in many aspects of life but in control when it comes to food. Saying no to hunger, controlling numbers on scales and calories can make a person feel strong and successful for a short period of time. People with Anorexia often strive off hunger pains or noises.

Living with anorexia means constantly hiding habits. This makes it hard at first for friends and family to spot the warning signs. When confronted, a person with Anorexia might try to explain away disordered eating and wave away concerns. But as Anorexia progresses, people close to the person wont be able to deny their instincts that something is wrong. As anorexia develops, a person become increasingly preoccupied with the number on the scale, how they look in the mirror, and what they can and can’t eat.

Anorexic food behaviour signs and symptoms

  • Dieting despite being thin – Following a severely restricted diet. Eating only certain low-calorie foods. Banning “bad” foods such as carbohydrates and fats.
    Obsession with calories, fat grams, and nutrition – Reading food labels, measuring and weighing portions, keeping a food diary, reading diet books.
    Pretending to eat or lying about eating – Hiding, playing with, or throwing away food to avoid eating. Making excuses to get out of meals (“I had a huge lunch” or “My stomach isn’t feeling good”).
    Preoccupation with food – Constantly thinking about food. Cooking for others, collecting recipes, reading food magazines, or making meal plans while eating very little.
    Strange or secretive food rituals – Refusing to eat around others or in public places. Eating in rigid, ritualistic ways (e.g. cutting food “just so,” chewing food and spitting it out, using a specific plate).

Anorexic appearance and body image signs and symptoms

  • Dramatic weight loss – Rapid, drastic weight loss with no medical cause.
    Feeling fat, despite being underweight – may feel overweight in general or just “too fat” in certain places, such as the stomach, hips, or thighs.
    Fixation on body image – Obsessed with weight, body shape, or clothing size. Frequent weigh-ins and concern over tiny fluctuations in weight.
    Harshly critical of appearance – Spending a lot of time in front of the mirror checking for flaws. There’s always something to criticize. Never thin enough.

Purging signs and symptoms

Some people with Anorexia Nervosa often use purging as a way to get rid of calories. The difference to those with Bulimia is that when a person with Anorexia purges, they have not binged but consumed little calories.

  • Using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics – Abusing water pills, herbal appetite suppressants, prescription stimulants, ipecac syrup, and other drugs for weight loss.
    Throwing up after eating – Frequently disappearing after meals or going to the bathroom. May run the water to disguise sounds of vomiting or reappear smelling like mouthwash or mints.
    Compulsive exercising – Following a punishing exercise regimen aimed at burning calories. Exercising through injuries, illness, and bad weather. Working out extra hard after binging or eating something “bad.”

People with anorexia are often perfectionists and overachievers. They’re the “good” daughters and sons who do what they’re told, excel in everything they do, and focus on pleasing others. But while they may appear to have it all together, inside they feel helpless, inadequate, and worthless. Through their harshly critical lens, if they’re not perfect, they’re a total failure. In addition to the cultural pressure to be thin, there are other family and social pressures that can contribute to anorexia. This includes participation in an activity that demands slenderness, such as ballet, gymnastics, or modelling. It also includes having parents who are overly controlling, put a lot of emphasis on looks, diet themselves, or criticize their children’s bodies and appearance. Stressful life events—such as the onset of puberty, a breakup, or going away to school/university, rape, abuse, family dysfunction—can also trigger anorexia. Research suggests that a genetic predisposition to anorexia may run in families. If a girl has a sibling with anorexia, she is 10 to 20 times more likely than the general population to develop anorexia herself. Brain chemistry also plays a significant role. People with anorexia tend to have high levels of cortisol, the brain hormone most related to stress, and decreased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are associated with feelings of well-being.

The effects of Anorexia Nervosa

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Tips for helping a person with anorexia

Think of yourself as an “outsider.” In other words, someone not suffering from anorexia. In this position, there isn’t a lot you can do to “solve” your loved one’s anorexia. It is ultimately the individual’s choice to decide when they are ready.
Be a role model for healthy eating, exercising, and body image. Don’t make negative comments about your own body or anyone else’s.
Take care of yourself. Seek advice from a health professional, even if your friend or family member won’t. And you can bring others—from peers to parents—into the circle of support.
Don’t act like the food police. A person with anorexia needs compassion and support, not an authority figure standing over the table with a calorie counter.
Avoid threats, scare tactics, angry outbursts, and put-downs. Bear in mind that anorexia is often a symptom of extreme emotional distress and develops out of an attempt to manage emotional pain, stress, and/or self-hate. Negative communication, threats to tell, tactics meant to scare such as “you’re going to die”, or isolating the person often makes things worse.

mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder that prevents the brain’s ability to integrate information received from the body’s sensory system. Sensory Processing Disorder is often seen in people on the autistic spectrum as well as people with mental illness. People with the disorder tend to react more extreme than normal. The disorder ranges from barely noticeable to having an impaired effect on daily functioning.

There are so many symptoms for Sensory Processing Disorder so I’ve decided to list a few of the common symptoms in late teenage years and adulthood:

  • Atypical eating and sleeping habits
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Very high or very low energy levels throughout the day but more active at night
  • Very resistant to change in life and surrounding environments
  • heightened senses (sensitive to sounds, touch, taste, sight and smell)
  • very high or very low energy levels
  • Lethargic or severely tired most of the day
  • Motor skill problems – unexplained injuries and bruises with no recollection of how or when they occurred
  • Difficulty concentrating and staying focused – often in ‘own world’ or ‘glazed off’
  • Constant use of neurotic behaviours – swinging, rocking, bouncing, rubbing skin
  • repetitive and stimulating behaviours
  • Can appear self destructive (such as head banging, pinching, biting)
  • doesn’t notice dangers (such as walking in the road) or recognize pain
  • easily overwhelmed, frustrated, emotional and very tearful
  • clenching of extremities (hands and feet)
  • Sensitive to certain fabrics or textures

facts:

  • Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults.
  • At least one in twenty people in the general population may be affected by SPD.
  • In children who are gifted and those with ADHD, Autism, and mental health problems, the prevalence of SPD is much higher than in the general population.
  • Studies have found a significant difference between the physiology of children with SPD and children who are typically developing.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder has unique sensory symptoms that are not explained by other known disorders.
  • Heredity may be one cause of the disorder.
  • Laboratory studies suggest that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are not functioning typically in children with SPD.

To find out more about Sensory Processing Disorder feel free to follow the link below:

http://www.spdfoundation.net/

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