The Eye-Opening Guide to Depression and Mania That You Need to Know

Exploring depression and mania and how neither are one-size-fits-all.

Source: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Currently, 1 in every 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental health disorder. That could be your sister, brother, cousin, or neighbor — anyone can have a mental health disorder.

There is a myth that we can simply control our feelings (and it’s supposedly as easy as that!). It’s often thought that depression isn’t real or we possess the ability to ‘snap out of it.’

It’s as if we can flip a switch and turn our symptoms on and off.

If you don’t want to feel anxious, don’t feel anxious.

If you don’t want to feel depressed, don’t feel depressed.

With that logic, it would be like telling someone with knee pain to not feel the pain. But mood disorders are so much deeper than we feel; they can wreak havoc on someone’s life.

Presently, there are about 5% diagnosed with depression globally. While there are about 7.5% of people who have experienced mania. It’s essential to keep in mind that these stats are based on people who have been diagnosed.

Mood disorders can actually be explained on a spectrum. There are two types of moods on the spectrum that are considered extremes:

Depression and Mania.

There aren’t any levels or stages that someone enters into, though. Instead, there’s a degree of severity to depression and mania — helping to understand how mental health varies greatly.

Instead, it is a helpful tool for understanding how mania and depression can look.

Source: TheCalculatingMind

The mood spectrum model is never used as a diagnostic tool (or away to diagnose someone with a mental health disorder). Instead, the mood spectrum visually represents how mood disorders will vary.

I found the mood spectrum model extremely valuable when learning about psychiatric disorders. Seeing the mood on a spectrum can help us understand the different variations of symptoms to which depression or mania can present or show themselves through someone’s behavior.

It’s important to understand that someone may exist on the mood spectrum at any level, even without having a complete mental health diagnosis or disorder.

Understanding mood disorders

Mood disorders are a category of mental health disorders; every type of mental health disorder is categorized. Mood disorders cover mental health disorders ranging from depression to bipolar.

Bipolar is when someone exhibits mood swings from depression and mania. Although someone with bipolar experiences depressive and manic symptoms, they won’t experience them simultaneously.

Though depression and mania may be opposites on the mood spectrum, both disorders can take a severe toll on someone’s quality of life.

Within bipolar and depression lies various subtypes or variations that can occur from one person to the next. Depression or an episode of mania will never look the same for two people.

There isn’t just a single type of depression or mania that someone can experience. One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t exist.

Through my studies in psychology as a graduate student, I have learned that every disorder will look differently from one person to the next. No two people will experience identical symptoms — each person’s mental health is unique.

Much like any other disorder, there will be variations in how the disorder presents — mental health disorders are not exempt from this.

There is certainly more than one type of depression or mania — meaning there is a range of symptoms people can experience that you may not have known could happen.

Note: the contents of this article are not meant to treat or cure any disorder. Nor is the information listed here enough to replace mental health treatment from a licensed mental health professional.

Depression

Depression is a disorder that can negatively impact your life and cause you to think, feel, and act differently. In fact, both extremes on the spectrum will negatively impact someone, either with depression or mania.

Growing up in my toxic family, I always noticed how my depression symptoms were treated as something that was nothing more than the sniffles.

It wasn’t that big of a deal.

I was treated as if my symptoms were nothing more severe than the next ‘depressed’ person. In fact, my toxic family acted as if I was a liar, a fake, and seeking nothing but attention.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these are the typical list of symptoms (or diagnostic criteria) of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

(Source: National Institute of Mental Health, Depression)

This is only an essential list of symptoms that are most common to see and used for diagnosis. Not everyone will experience every symptom on this list. But this also does not mean symptoms are merely confined to what is on this list.

Different Variations of Depression

Mental illness will look different for everyone, so we cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. The variations in circumstances, genetics, and environment can influence people in drastically different ways.

Throughout my life, I have noticed how differently depression can affect everyone. I noticed how my depressive episodes would look drastically different than a friend experiencing the same disorder.

Variations occur with any disorder — not just mental health — it’s to be expected.

Major Depressive Disorder

People who live with major depressive disorder experience periods of depressive symptoms but also have periods of being at their baseline. This type of depression doesn’t frequently occur for someone, but that doesn’t lessen the severity.

A depressive episode can last anywhere from a few weeks to months — some symptoms can persist for a year.

Dysthymia

Also known as persistent depression, it is where someone experiences ‘mild’ depression symptoms every day with little to no relief. But don’t let the word mild fool you; mild symptoms can still affect someone’s quality of life.

Compared to a depressive episode, someone will experience symptoms of depression daily. Dysthymia can last for nearly two years, but the symptoms won’t be as severe as major depressive disorder.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression isn’t always caused by some significant reason — other than it being a complication of giving birth to a baby. Sometimes these feelings of depression can be misunderstood as the baby blues.

It’s not uncommon for someone to experience the “baby blues,” but that should typically last for only 3–5 days.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Typically people with SAD will experience a lessened mood in the fall, which continues until the conclusion of winter. Also known as seasonal depression, this disorder occurs with changes throughout the year. The parts of life we most certainly have no control over include the changing seasons.

Although it is common to see seasonal affective disorder during the fall or winter months, it is possible to experience SAD during the spring or summer.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is a sub-type of major depressive disorder where someone displays psychotic symptoms. Psychosis refers to hallucinations that can appear in the following ways:

  • auditory (hearing voices, etc.)
  • visual (seeing people or other things that others do not see)
  • olfactory (smelling something that doesn’t exist, etc.)
  • Tactical hallucinations (being able to feel sensations without anything actually causing them)

Mania

Mania is defined as a state where someone has an abnormally elevated mood, far from who they usually are — and is noticeable by others. The elevated mood others notice must last longer than just a few days.

In most cases, mania must typically be present for at least one week to receive a diagnosis. An elevated mood for a few days isn’t uncommon. Sometimes experiences in our life can make our mood better — it’s normal.

What matters is how the person’s elevated mood affects their behavior, interaction with the world, and duration. During a friend’s manic episodes, I witnessed them exhibit reckless behavior.

Symptoms of Mania

  • feeling very happy, satisfied, or overjoyed
  • talking very quickly
  • feeling full of energy
  • feeling self-important
  • feeling full of great new ideas and having important plans
  • being easily distracted
  • being easily irritated or agitated
  • being delusional, having hallucinations, and disturbed or illogical thinking
  • not feeling like sleeping
  • not eating
  • doing things that often have disastrous consequences — such as spending large sums of money on expensive and sometimes unaffordable items
  • making decisions or saying things that are out of character and that others see as being risky or harmful

(Source: NHS.UK, “Symptoms — Bipolar disorder”)

Someone with mania can place themselves higher than the moon, setting their immediate sights on the far distant stars. But, not everyone who experiences mania will experience this exact feeling.

But not every person I knew with mania would participate in drug use or promiscuity. Sometimes, it looked like reorganizing their entire home with little to no sleep.

Different Variations of Mania

Like depression and other disorders, there will be variations in the types of mania someone can experience. Understanding how mania can fluctuate and vary can help you understand how mental health is truly different for everyone.

Mania is associated with irritability, agitation, negative energy, and a pessimistic attitude and outlook on life. The mania that I witnessed through family and friends was not always consistent from one person to the next. 

There were definite similarities, but there was a clear distinction between each person’s manic episodes.

No two people will have the same manic episode.

Euphoric mania

Most commonly known as euphoric mania, someone will feel absolute euphoria that is expansive. This type of mania is what we typically think mania will look like exclusively.

[Euphoria is] a feeling of happiness, confidence, or well-being sometimes exaggerated in pathological states as mania.

Source: Dictionary.com

This type of mania has the potential for reckless acts, as the person may feel grandiose — or even invincible. Behaviors like this will still be present in other forms of mania, but they may not be as present at such an extreme.

Dysphoric mania

This side of mania is the opposite of what we typically view mania. In fact, someone experiencing dysphoric mania will have depression symptoms — otherwise called a “mixed episode.”

In fact, around 40% of people who experience bipolar have experienced dysphoric mania. There can be a mix of symptoms simultaneously and/or proceeding or following the other, lasting days to even a couple of weeks or more.

Hypomania

Hypomania is considered a less severe form of mania (but don’t let the less severe fool you). Hypomania is still noticeable to others; there are still changes to someone’s mood, affect, and energy level.

For hypomania, symptoms only need to be present for 4 consecutive days to qualify for a diagnosis. This type of mania may seem less intense, which is true — but it can still bring complex challenges to someone’s quality of life.

Sub-threshold

For sub-threshold mania, someone is displaying symptoms of mania but not enough to be considered full-blown mania. This is where someone is teetering between mania and being at their baseline.

Sub-threshold can be someone who experiences mania for 1–3 days, therefore not meeting diagnostic criteria. Someone with this type of mania isn’t going to look very much like what we typically imagine mania to be.

Baseline

There is a spot within the mood spectrum between depression and mania— this is considered someone’s baseline. For comparison purposes, a baseline is essential in a clinic setting to know someone’s daily functioning.

a line serves as a basis or reference point for observing behavior. Because this behavioral performance is stable, it is often used to assess how interventions and manipulations would affect the outcome.

Source: Psychology Dictionary

The baseline can also be described as average — whatever that may look like for someone. This is where someone is closer to who they usually are — or how they would be before displaying depressive or manic symptoms.

That’s where we all fit, somewhere between the two extremes.

When someone is at their baseline, then they are considered stable. Someone functioning symptom-free or nearly symptom-free — with the help of intervention — can be considered stable.

Stable means being at your baseline or where you are ‘normal.’ Although the word normal is highly discouraged, it’s a good indicator to understand how someone may feel.

Being or feeling normal is entirely reliant on who that person is ultimate. Normal isn’t one-size-fits-all as well.

While working for an adult psychiatric unit, I saw people reaching their baseline after weeks of depression, mania, and even psychosis. Quite frankly, someone you meet in a manic or depressive episode will almost always be completely different from when they left.

If someone feels normal, whatever that may be, they can bounce around somewhere in the middle between the two extremes of mood disorders.

But this really boils down to how all these ties into what we need to know. What makes all of this information so important?

Why does this matter?

So, why does all of this matter — why do we need to understand that depression and mania can vary. Well, mental health is just as important as physical well-being.

There are many stereotypes in society that can hinder someone from reaching out to receive treatment. Understanding how different depression or mania can look is crucial.

Everyone deserves treatment — fear shouldn’t be a block for them anymore. I was afraid to receive treatment for years — even after learning about mental health through my undergraduate years. I thought I was not normal or would be viewed differently.

I have seen firsthand just how mental health is misunderstood. That depression, mania, or any health mental health disorder is considered fake.

But that isn’t the case.

Taking care of our mental health looks very different for many people. Mental health is essential to maintain as we move through life.


Much like everything in life, there is a grey area. Not everything will be the same for everyone — one-size-fits-all isn’t realistic. Depression and mania affect someone’s quality of life; seeking help is always the best option. No one should have to go through this alone.

Any type of depression is necessary and needs proper medical treatment from a licensed mental health professional. Mental health is complex and unique to each individual.

From my personal experience with various family and friends, depression and mania can undoubtedly look drastically different from one to the next.

‘One-size-fits-all’ simply doesn’t exist.


Stay Connected with This Author: https://linktr.ee/ThatPsychNerd (check out my ‘Story Spotlight’ to read more of my work! Happy reading! 🌞)

*Author’s Note*

Over 3 months off from writing and I am back, and ready to share some new and exciting work with you! As That Psych Nerd, I want to share my love of psychology with other fellow psych nerds! See you soon!

As Originally Posted on Medium

Understanding the Link Between ADHD and Anxiety

People with ADHD 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder.

Source: Alex Vámos on Unsplash

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, is a common mental health disorder, along with anxiety. ADHD and anxiety are two different types of mental health disorders that can both influence one another.

Many people with ADHD are known as the person who is always running late or are a perpetual mess. Behind that late, messy friend lies someone who could very well be experiencing anxiety.

People living with ADHD are nearly 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder than people without ADHD. With an alarming statistic like that, it’s essential to know how ADHD and anxiety can intermingle and affect one another.

Anxiety and ADHD

Someone with ADHD may experience anxiety because of their poor attention skills or hyperactive behavior–I know this was partially true. I already had anxiety as a child growing up. The lack of attentive skills and time management really affected me.

I felt like a failure compared to my friends. I couldn’t manage my time as well as other people, which meant I had to limit my opportunities. I knew that i wasn’t able to take on extra responsibility, and if I did I would have to work hard to stay on track.

Research has actually shown that ADHD can actually worsen anxiety symptoms with restlessness and issues with concentration. With the symptoms of ADHD being hyperactive behavior and inattentiveness, there can be moments of the world you miss simply because you couldn’t pay attention.

Anxiety pulls your attention to focus on your anxiety symptoms, which can distract you from your daily tasks. Coupled with inattentive behavior, it can snowball into a mess. Before you know it your day is over and you haven’t been able to accomplish what you set out to do.

For example, I struggled to focus and concentrate in school while in lectures. It was difficult, and it caused me to have added anxiety. I felt that my inattention was due to a lack of motivation or willpower. I felt like the weakest, most unmotivated, lazy person in my entire life.

For me, the ever-nagging thought that I would forget something or neglect something by accident. Maybe I would be the office chatterbox. I was terrified of how I indeed was because of my ADHD. I wanted to branch out from that, but it was hard.

Can ADHD impact anxiety?

Research suggests that someone with ADHD experiencing anxiety may have heightened ADHD symptoms. Anxiety and ADHD seem to crash against one another, aggravating symptoms and causing more distress.

With the symptoms of ADHD, they are bound to interact and cause or aggravate someone’s anxiety. The inability to focus AND properly plan leaves a massive gap in my day.

I have little understanding of time awareness–I am entirely time blind, thanks to my ADHD. Couple that with the stress that anxiety brings, there heightened struggle everyday.

With the increase in stress, anxiety can increase too. If someone lives with a lot of anxiety and has ADHD, the symptoms can keep worsening, creating a chain reaction of issues.

The duration, severity, and comorbidity of the disorders combined can feel overpowering.

Long term effects

The long-term effects of ADHD and anxiety can be the vicious cycle that keeps those suffering looped in. In the long term, people have to learn to survive; they learn to adapt to these symptoms. Adapting is a difficult thing to reach, especially when it feels hopeless.

Constantly seeking relief from anxiety and ADHD symptoms may lead some people to lean towards harmful behaviors such as drug use.

Overall, ADHD and anxiety have lowered my self-esteem and confidence in my abilities simply because I couldn’t work as my classmates did. Sitting still and doing the same thing every day feels like torture.

Through time I learned to treat myself as the girl who wasn’t too bright because she couldn’t keep track of her keys and wallet. I turned my ADHD into a joke so I could pass. I was worried that I would be the target enemy if people saw just how forgetful and inattentive I could be. Of course, I didn’t really feel like in my friendship groups, but more at work.

I had to turn my struggle into a joke because I didn’t want people to see how much of a mess I was. Having to live with this mantra in your head can really eat away at you.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

What Living With a Mental Illness Really Looks Like

From daily symptoms that don’t seem to dissipate, to the effect on our self-esteem — mental health disorders can take a toll.

Source: Kevin Bosc on Unsplash

For some people, mental illness or mental health, in general, is a somewhat taboo topic. How mental health was spoken about throughout our childhood is crucial in our attitude and beliefs around mental health presently.

Sometimes the culture you grow up in does not tolerate mental health talk. Either emotion wasn’t allowed to be expressed or heavily frowned upon.

Mental health can sometimes be viewed negatively — as if this is a topic we shouldn’t talk about. But why is that? Why shouldn’t we talk about mental health?

I specifically grew up with a family that didn’t discuss our mental health. If you have any mental health issues, you are‘ lazy.’ Frequently, the word ‘crazy’ would be thrown around to tell everyone that mental health was a joke.

I want to take this time to really explore what mental illness can look like on a day-to-day basis. We can’t change how we were brought up or the lessons we’ve learned throughout our life — but we can always educate ourselves.

Daily symptoms

Symptoms of mental illness aren’t experienced in a regular schedule — it’s sporadic and maybe even constant at times. It is so difficult to really pin down what anyone might feel.

Think of a mental health disorder as a chronic pain disorder. Symptoms flare up on their own, and they have little rhyme or reason at times.

Reading through the lists of disorders, like ADHD, and depression can be beneficial in understanding the specific struggles associated with each disorder.

I live with anxiety daily. It is tough to try and avoid my anxiety. Some days it is just there, and there isn’t anything I can do about it. It can be challenging to get up and move with constant anxiety, leaving you stagnant and miserable. And on my good days, I try to do as much as I can — I worry when my next good day maybe.

Overall, daily symptoms will look different for every person based on their own disorder, unique life circumstances, and even their personality.

Possibility of no recovery

It’s important to understand that treatment does not always lead to recovery. Recovery is when someone is fully recovered from their disorder. Treatment will help you relieve your symptoms, but recovery does not always happen.

Recovery can take years of treatment that some people don’t have the strength, money, or hope to complete.

Sometimes, there is no chance of full recovery with mental illness, specifically bipolar, personality disorders, or schizophrenia. Sometimes anxiety and depression can be in remission–even OCD too, but that can be hard to achieve.

It’s important to understand that recovery or improvement of symptoms cannot come from seeing a doctor alone. Change has to occur in nearly every part of your life. That change can be challenging for some. Letting go of maladaptive coping mechanisms and building healthy habits can be life-changing for some.

But this does not mean that your life is hopeless. People who live with mental health issues can still live full, happy lives — we just have to cope in unique ways and take more time for our mental health.

Low self-esteem

Anxiety and maybe even paranoia daily can wear away at your self-esteem through all the ups and downs. My self-esteem was struggling because I felt like I was failing. I had so much anxiety and despair in my heart that I felt lost in the path I was taking.

I was worried that people could see how anxious I was. That I was one second away from crying and losing my mind. So I preferred to stay away from other people. If I don’t have people around me, I can’t get hurt.

With this poor self-image and low self-esteem, it is difficult to socialize. I felt a massive struggle trying to relate to my peers — especially as a teenager.

Living every day with a mental illness can be a challenge. In times of struggle, it’s hard to stay with our heads above water. But know a mental health diagnosis, is not a death sentence — nor a mark on who you are as a person.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

3 Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Knowing the signs of a toxic relationship can help you stay aware.

Source: Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

When any relationship begins, it rarely intends to turn toxic — not consciously, of course. But certain behaviors in the relationship can give you an idea of how this relationship may be in the long run.

Warning signs can be hard to spot — that’s why we must know them. Being educated on toxic relationships can help you spot, identify, and potentially avoid a toxic relationship.

Toxic relationships begin in similar ways, with a pattern of behavior being exhibited by the other person — or both parties. There are 3 critical features of toxic relationships that are relatively consistent amongst various toxic relationships. Now please be aware that these are only 3 warning signs. There may be more — each relationship is different and unique.

1. Love bombing

The efforts to win you over by showing excessive affection and attention are called love bombing. This can often seem like such an out-of-this-world experience, or you’re left stunned — and flattered — by the attention.

The constant admiration, whirl-wind type of romance that sweeps you off your feet can feel intoxicating. Maybe this person, who you may have just met, is telling you that you’re the one or you are both meant to be together. At a glance, this may seem so sweet and loving. It’s like a dream come true!

But if anything seems like it’s too good to be true, then it is.

But then that love bombing is used as a way to gain your trust. Love bombing can come in the form of gifts or money in a way to win you over.

Love bombing is a strategic plan to win over the person’s heart–then that love turns to control.

2. Isolation

Spending time with your new partner is such a wonderful thing; you can’t get enough of each other. But there is a point where you are both spending so much time together that you become isolated from friends and family.

Isolation is another key sign that this may be a toxic relationship. When you are isolated from your friends and family, you cannot see them or spend time with them. This is restrictive and controlling behavior that keeps you isolated.

Not being able to move freely and talk to who you would like leads you to be cut off from the world around you. You still need to have a life outside of your relationship.

If your partner threatens you or guilts you into not seeing family and friends, you should know that is not okay. If friends feel like a threat to your partner, that is a red flag that should be addressed.

3. Codependency

From the isolation and love-bombing, you become landed in codependency. Codependency is when one partner leans on another partner excessively.

This means someone will become reliant on the other person. Codependency can be in the form of socialization, financial, or anything that causes you to overly rely on your partner.

One partner is unable to be autonomous without the other partner.

Someone doesn’t just wake up one-day co-dependent. The other person had caused their partner to become reliant on them. Through excessive conflict, isolation, and love-bombing, someone can be forced to become co-dependent.

Take Maid on Netflix, for example. Alex, the main character, is in a relationship that keeps her isolated from her friends and family. Due to Alex being isolated from the outside world, she becomes co-dependent on Sean, her partner.

A healthy relationship will typically have two fully independent people— where neither one is controlled by the other.

If you feel like you may be in an abusive situation, please know there are resources available — it’s okay to get help. If you are unsure and want to talk to someone, I encourage you to visit: https://www.thehotline.org/

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Understanding the Disorder Behind a Narcissist

Breaking down narcissistic personality disorder.

Source: Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

Narcissists are a topic that has been flooding media for the past few years. There is a lot of misinformation about what a narcissist truly is. To begin, we have to understand narcissistic personality disorder to truly grasp what a narcissist is.

Narcissistic personality disorder is listed in the DSM-5 as a clinical diagnosis. NPD is a real disorder, and narcissists are real, BUT you can’t just call anybody that seems selfish a narcissist.

There must be specific criteria met that far surpasses selfishness or arrogance. Some people can be selfish and/or arrogant and not be a narcissist.

Symptoms of NPD

Narcissism itself is a personality disorder. This person who had NPD is diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional. No article or quiz will tell you if someone is a narcissist (or if you are one yourself!)

Like any other disorder, a narcissistic personality disorder will have a strict set of symptoms that must be met to qualify for the diagnosis. Below is the list of NPD symptoms that a doctor will use to diagnose:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

Some of these symptoms can be challenging to see at first — you have to spend time with the narcissist to notice these patterns of behavior. After reviewing the symptoms, we can clearly point to self-satisfaction and superiority. There’s also a lack of empathy, along with overt, negative behaviors.

It’s unfortunate, really, because the narcissist could receive help. But as we all know, treatment doesn’t resolve issues; it’s only a bandaid. You have to work to make the treatment work.

What causes NPD?

Through this entire process, a narcissist may seem content and truly powerful when they may feel empty, worthless, and are battling insecurities on the inside.

A narcissist is insecure and weak — so they need to compensate by being controlling and attention-seeking.

Narcissistic personality disorder can be caused for various reasons. Still, there is typically an environmental, genetic, and neurobiological cause behind the disorder developing. Now, this isn’t too uncommon–other mental health disorders are caused by environmental, genetic, and neurological disorders.

But there are specific adverse life events that someone can experience that would lead them to develop NPD. The Cleveland Clinic has listed a few reasons to why NPD forms:

  • Childhood trauma (such as physical, sexual, and verbal abuse).
  • Early relationships with parents, friends, and relatives.
  • Genetics (family history).
  • Hypersensitivity to textures, noise, or light in childhood.
  • Personality and temperament.

Throughout the narcissist’s childhood, they must have faced some damaging abuse or neglect. The narcissist in my life was abused as a child — it was something that had been disclosed to me through other family members.

How to treat NPD?

Someone with NPD will be unwilling and heavily resistant to changing their behavior. Those with narcissistic personality disorder are forever in love with the hyped-up, grandiose image that they paint themselves as.

With any type of mental illness, there will be a treatment option. A combination of various therapies and medication can help mitigate the adverse effects of the disorder.

NPD can first be treated/assessed by seeing a licensed mental health professional. From there, a psychiatrist (or other qualified professional) can recommend treatment options.

Understanding where NPD comes from can help you better understand a narcissist. Understanding narcissism doesn’t excuse the behavior. The effects of a narcissist’s behavior are real and damaging — a diagnosis doesn’t erase that.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Breaking Down Toxic Families: Household Types and Roles

Breaking apart the specific household types and roles of toxic families.

Source: Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

I grew up in a toxic family. My days were filled with conflict, emotional turmoil, and anger. Overall, the toxic family I grew up in ruined my childhood.

I have not allowed the pain I suffered to turn me sour — I will not carry on these toxic behaviors. I had to learn to survive and adapt; I will never be like my family was.

I am a product of a toxic family, but I am not my toxic family.

Through my budding adulthood, I spent a lot of time away from my family. I wanted to explore what else was out there — without their influence. Through my time, I learned that my family wasn’t typical.

I devoted much of my studies to child development, which led me to study family relations. My courses based on families highlighted the dysfunctions present in my own; I was so embarrassed.

I learned that there were names for these toxic families through my courses. There has been established research conducted on toxic families. Toxic families are different, but specific characteristics can be identified. These characteristics are used to identify the types of toxic families.

Toxic Family Types

The parents are the leaders of the family. The reinforcement of the behaviors in the family lies in the parents’ control.

The parent’s actions or inaction within the family can set the stage for a toxic family to form. There have been five types of toxic families that have been recognized as presented by the clinmedjournals.org:

Chronic conflict family

There is always conflict, no matter what. My family specifically fell into this category. We were always labeled as the family with conflict. But it was true–there was always an argument brewing.

Pathological households

There are multiple mental health disorders and/or substance use from the parents in this household, specifically personality disorders or schizophrenia/bipolar.*

* Please note that not all households with parents who are bipolar or who have a personality disorder are inherently toxic. Many factors, such as support, treatment, treatment adherence, and many other factors, need to be considered.

The chaotic household

The kids are not looked after well, and there is little parent involvement or control. Essentially the children are free to do as they please without structure, guidance, or oversight. So this leaves the family in a chaotic state.

The dominant-submissive household

There is an imbalance of power within the family where there is a ‘dictator parent’. Everyone within this family is unhappy. Typically there is a large amount of conflict and negative emotions.

Emotionally distant families

This family does not prioritize love and affection for their children. So the children do not grow up knowing what love and affection should be. In fact, it teaches the children that their feelings and emotions should be repressed.

Throughout each family — no matter the type — there will be specific roles that each person plays.

Toxic family roles

Toxic families grow and morph into toxic relationships that we carry without throughout the rest of our lives. So let’s understand that all toxic families are different, but the roles will typically be the same.

The roles help people understand what their part is within that toxic family. Now, if you see yourself in one of the roles this does not mean anything on you; we all are trying to survive.

There are scientifically-backed roles and family types of toxic families within this article. I will be adding my input along the way. There are specific roles within toxic families that have been identified:

Hero or responsible child

Self-sufficient, responsible, perfectionist, and an overachiever. They seem to put together and seem to be the shining star. Still, they are carrying the burden of toxic behaviors from their parents.

Scapegoat or trouble maker

The scapegoat is the one who takes all of the blame in the family. The scapegoat child is the one who is deemed the source of the problems within the family. Underneath all of it, they are emotionally sensitive and are emotionally and psychologically hurt by their toxic parent’s behavior.

Lost child or dreamer

This child is withdrawn and stays with their nose in a book. They like to stay away from the family and spend lots of time in solitude. I resonated with this the most because I was the dreamer in my family. The environment I grew up in was so toxic that I needed to get away to feel safe.

Mascot or class clown

The mascot is the entertainer in the family that can lighten that mood at the drop of a hat. I learned to be the mascot to bring up everyone’s spirits. I learned how to be that tension breaker.

Enabler or caretaker

Typically the enabler is a spouse, but a child can assume this role. The enabler or caretaker will be passive and submissive in order to avoid conflict. Their behavior will allow for other toxic behavior to occur within the family.

The research conducted around toxic families is very informative. It reassures those living in a toxic family that they are not alone. Toxic families can take on so many different types and roles that the combinations are endless. If you recognized any of these types within your family — know there is help and hope.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

How Manipulation Works in Relationships

Unraveling the various structures of manipulation.

Source: Matt Paul Catalano on Unsplash

Manipulation is something that everyone has experienced. We all have encountered one person in our life who manipulates people as a way to get by.

Manipulation doesn’t have to be in a romantic relationship; it can be in any relationship.

Maybe a friend manipulates you to feel bad for them to avoid responsibility for their actions. Perhaps a romantic partner begins buying you gifts and is overly helpful — utterly different from who they usually are. Then the secret is out that they were caught in a lie and wanted to use this to get out of it.

Manipulation can happen in a wide array of different relationships and scenarios. But, at the root of it, manipulation is vile and reward-driven.

I’ve discussed manipulation with narcissists, but I wanted to branch that topic out and evaluate manipulation. I’ve discussed narcissism and manipulation, but there is much more to the surface level of manipulation.

So what is manipulation truly?

Power imbalance

When someone manipulates you, there is a power dynamic at play. The person manipulating you may exploit your weaknesses, target your insecurities, and cause you to become more dependent on them.

When they exploit your weaknesses, they are targeting your insecurities. By targeting your flaws and insecurities, they are looking to control you.

“A manipulator will actively lie to you, make excuses, blame you, or strategically share facts about them and withhold other truths. In doing this, they feel they are gaining power over you and gaining intellectual superiority.” (Manipulation: Symptoms to Look For WebMD)

Sometimes a power imbalance can look like one person having more decision power in the relationship. Or perhaps your friend’s opinions are more important than anyone else’s.

A power imbalance is created for one party to control the other. This puts the power off, making one partner more in control. It’s a damaging dynamic that can have lasting effects.

A power imbalance usually leaves the person manipulating to get the desired end goal that they want. This puts the manipulator’s wants and desires as being a top priority.

There should always be equal power in a relationship, no matter what. One person is not more important than the other. There should always be proper balance within a relationship. There has to be sacrifice and balance to have a healthy relationship.

Guilt

The manipulator will use a large amount of guilt to get you to do what they want. Honestly, guilt seems to be the most common way people manipulate others.

Manipulation always seems to have a touch of guilt, which is the emotional factor. If you feel bad for someone, you may be more inclined to help this person. It’s easier for someone to manipulate you if you feel bad for this person.

The people in my life that have always manipulated me (my narcissist, to be exact) were out to make me feel bad for them. If I felt bad or guilty for my behavior, they were much more likely to impact my future behavior.

Guilt was a strong motivating factor to be compliant with what someone wanted. If I felt bad for my actions or pitied them, I would be much more likely to be there for the manipulator.

Motivating factors

At the root of it all, what causes someone to manipulate? There can be many reasons, but it’s from self-desire, as discussed earlier.

According to good therapy, there are a plethora of reasons why someone manipulates:

  • Poor communication
  • Avoiding connection
  • Fear
  • Defensiveness

Someone wants something from you, and they will manipulate you to get that. Manipulation doesn’t always need to be in the form of fraud, cheating, or destruction. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as not getting into trouble.

But regardless, the manipulation affects you — it sucks.

Most likely, the manipulator is insecure and sees manipulation as the only way to survive (for some people, that can be very true). Sometimes it’s easier for someone to lie and manipulate because telling the truth would be too hard. This isn’t an excuse but rather a reason why some people may manipulate.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

What Relationship OCD Can Look Like

Understanding relationship OCD.

Source: Natalia Sobolivska on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

Anxiety around relationships is normal for everyone. But when someone with OCD has strong obsessions and compulsions towards their relationship(s), then there can be major problems that can drastically impact interpersonal relations.

Everyone’s felt jealous or unsure in a romantic relationship–it’s not uncommon. But usually, that anxiety can be dispelled by logic and reasoning.

For example, your partner has been coming home late from work the past few days and hasn’t said much to you. This is different from their usual behavior. Your anxiety is building, all these scenarios are running through your head–you are terrified.

So you talk with your partner — hoping that will alleviate your anxiety. When talking to your partner you find out that work has been far my stressful than normal, and the work has been piling up at the end of the day. Your partner expresses how exhausted they are at the end of the day, so they go straight to bed when they get home.

Through this, you gain perspective on what your partner is telling you — everything adds up. This would be the logic and reasoning behind their behavior. Typically this would suffice — there’s no issue growing or the worst happening. But someone with relationship OCD will be more inclined to pursue this anxiety far more.

What is relationship OCD?

Relationship OCD is an intense obsession that centers around the major relationships in someone’s life. Specifically, romantic relationships are the center of focus within relationship OCD.

Questioning your relationship with a long-term partner is normal at some point in a long-term relationship. Still, those with relationship OCD can take that much further and experience questioning and doubts consistently. The thoughts and obsessions around the relationship are time-consuming and cumbersome.

According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Owen Kelly, on verywellmind, relationship OCD can present in the following symptoms:

  • Needing constant reassurance from your partner
  • Experiencing persistent intrusive thoughts about your partner and/or your relationship
  • Thoughts about being with someone else over your current partner
  • Questioning your love and relationship with your partner
  • Exessive worry and concern for your partner’s well-being

These symptoms happen repeatedly over time and cause extreme distress to the sufferer.

How it affects relationships

Those who live with relationship OCD or OCD, in general, are more prone to intimacy issues, according to the United Brain Association.

The person in the relationship with OCD will be going through a heavy amount of anxiety–this relationship is nearly all they can think about it. This is all their brain will allow them to do; it’s devastating.

All the partners may see is the constant attacks and questioning they are receiving.

The fears and anxieties within the relationship bounce back and forth. Both partners can become worn down, and there can be a struggle. But when you fall into these times, it’s best to connect with a therapist.

Anxiety can boil over and become so unmanageable. Over time, that can really eat away in a relationship. Getting help — even if you don’t have OCD but are struggling with anything mentioned in this article — will help you.

Issues come up in any relationship — bumps are normal. If relationship OCD is taking over your world, or you are just having a lot of anxiety in relationships — seeing a mental health professional is the best option.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Depression in Children: What Parents Need to Know

Knowing the signs and symptoms.

Source: Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Although I have personal and professional experience in the mental health field, I am not a licensed mental health professional. The information contained in this article is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this article are not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disorder.

Around 3.2 million children aged 12 to 17 have had at least one major depressive episode. With numbers like that, parents must know the essential signs of depression in children.

Psychiatric disorders in children may not present the same as they would in adults. Meaning, depression in adults will not look the same as depression in children.

Anxiety and depression can really go hand in hand, so it’s important to know the signs of both. Getting your child early intervention can be beneficial to their long-term growth.

I’ve dedicated much of my elective studies within my undergraduate and graduate degrees to focus on children’s psychology. Specifically, I studied the life span but had a specific interest in infant and adolescent development.

I worked as a psychometrist for a year, where I saw adults and children that would come in with depression — each person displayed their symptoms differently.

Children don’t have the ability to truly share how they feel, so we have to know the signs that can help us spot them.

Symptoms

Much like anxiety in children, there will be different signs that adults will experience.

So children will have their own unique symptoms that could point to depression. But it is essential to always bring your child to their doctor to receive a proper evaluation.

Depression can take a toll on development, and stunted social skills. This combination of issues may cause a child to be isolated from friends and family.

Children with depression may not be sullen, and inactive — compared to most adults with depression. In fact, I have seen children with depression be full of energy. The lesser-seen signs of depression in children are what need to be looked at as well:

  • Behavior issues at school
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Irritable
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities

Some of these symptoms might not seem too off target. But behaviors that might get children into trouble can, like destructive behavior at school, could potentially be a sign of distress.

Children don’t have the knowledge or language abilities to express how they feel. In order to express themselves, children will act it — it’s all they know.

How does it happen?

There are many different reasons why a child may develop depression. Trauma, extreme stress, health conditions, grief, loss of family or close friends, bullying, abuse/neglect, and much more can all be reasons a child may develop depression.

There is also a genetic component to mental illness in general. Still, it is not a primary dictating factor in someone developing a mental illness. Mental illness occurs with a combination of genetics, environment, and their own unique temperament.

How to help

If depression in childhood is not effectively managed, it can increase the risk of suicide and cause interpersonal relationship issues.

If you are worried your child might have depression, it’s best to speak to their pediatrician. You can simply ask for your child to be screened for depression. Usually, the doctor’s office will provide questionnaires for you (and maybe your child, depending on their age) to fill out.

What you can start doing now is really taking the time to listen to your child. Don’t just assume about issues they may be having — listen and get to know them.

You need to be there as their support system.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak

Breaking Down Exposure Therapy: Treatment for OCD

Exploring the most effective treatment for OCD.

Source: Wonderlane on Unsplash

Exposure therapy is commonly understood as a treatment for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). OCD is a disorder rooted in obsessions and compulsions. These obsessions can usually form from an anxiety someone has relating to their obsession.

I have experienced OCD for many years. For me, I experience deep anxiety about my animal’s health. Growing up, I had a few animals pass unexpectedly. Due to those times, I was afraid of my animal’s health — I didn’t want them to die.

So I began obsessing about my animal’s health. This led me to worry excessively because I thought that would help prevent an unexpected death in the future.

Whenever my animals are sick or need to go to the doctor, my anxiety is through the roof. I might take some CBD or meditate to help ease my stress during that time.

In a way, that is how exposure therapy can work. But I learned to face my fear through asking questions, learnings and becoming informed. This is just a real-life example of exposure that has worked for me.

This by no means indicates how exposure therapy works. I want to present you with a real-world example of an issue that could be treated by exposure therapy.

Exposure therapy is actually far more detailed. But the idea is still the same. Being exposed to your anxieties can help you overcome that fear. Exposure is the best way to treat anxiety, as it targets the fear directly.

A deeper look into obsessions and compulsions

When we become afraid of something, we avoid it. If we prevent a problem, we are preventing it from ever being a stressor. Exposure therapy works by exposing someone to stimuli or situations that are anxiety-provoking.

Usually, when someone faces their obsessions or anxiety, they will use their compulsions to relieve their stress. For me, my compulsion was to watch my animals and overly check on them. I essentially became a helicopter pet mom worried about them dying in front of me.

Over time, there becomes a reliance on that compulsion to get rid of the negative feelings. There is a strong bond between obsession and compulsion — compulsions are the coping mechanisms that have to be completed in order to relieve the anxiety.

But what makes obsessions with OCD unique is the frequency of these obsessions. I have a panic attack nearly every day, worrying about my animal’s health. Learning to stay away from my compulsions has helped me move away from them. But I am nowhere near free.

Being faced with your phobias and fears challenges your belief about them. It’s terrifying because exposure to the upsetting stimuli, or whatever someone is trying to avoid, will make that person surge with anxiety.

Types of exposure therapy

Like other therapies out there, exposure therapy has different types. Treatment is not a one size fits all deal — everyone is unique.

The standard exposure therapy techniques are:

Graded exposure

Graded exposure is done by easing someone into facing their fear. If a child is afraid of dogs, slowly exposing the child to a dog safely will allow for more to occur each time.

One day the child might see a picture of the dog; the next time, the dog might be at the same park as the child. Slowly, reintroducing the dog or fear back into someone’s life slowly is how graded exposure works.

Systematic desensitization

Systematic desensitization is done by exposing someone to the stimuli that cause anxiety and giving the patient a relaxation tool instead.

Relaxation can commonly be from meditation. Where someone can steady their breathing. Someone is essentially replacing their fear response with a relaxing response.

Flooding

When someone is completely exposed to the stimuli, causing the maximum amount of stress. This can help someone conquer their fear much quicker but traumatic.

In vivo exposure

Confronting your anxiety and fear in real life. This needs to be done under the guidance of a qualified mental health professional.

Imaginal exposure

This type of exposure is simply imagining stressful stimuli. Instead of facing fears in real life, there is only imagination. This may seem easy, but for some, this could be challenging.

Interoceptive exposure

This type of exposure therapy is aimed at bodily sensations (etc., racing heart) to detach anxiety from that sensation.

Virtual reality exposure

This form of exposure therapy takes a technological approach. Someone can do exposure therapy with the use of virtual reality software.

Overall, exposure therapy really covers a variety of ways. But please remember, exposure therapy needs to be done by a trained mental health professional — an app, VR game, or a rando on the internet is not a substitution for proper treatment.

Success rates

The success rate for exposure therapy is between 60–90% for those who complete treatment. With that in mind, it’s an effective treatment. But unfortunately, not everyone can afford treatment.

Money, work, and life stressors can get in the way of someone seeking treatment. Although it is an effective treatment, it’s not always accessible.

But the treatment itself can only go so far. Someone who goes through exposure therapy will need to give it their all and truly be a part of treatment.

Exposure therapy works if patients are 100% willing to be in treatment.

In the end, treatment is the best option for dealing with a mental illness. OCD is still a disorder that is being learned about. Moving away from the stereotypes of tropes associated with OCD in the media — there is a real disorder with real people.

As originally posted on Medium and NewsBreak