As mental health providers, we are often asked by clients about whether what they are dealing with is a result of how they were raised (nurture) or whether it is all just genetic (nature). It is very normal to want to figure out the origin and root of issues, not only to understand how things evolved to be where they are, but also to get to the bottom of things in hopes of fixing it. The short answer to this question, that no one really likes, is that it depends.
There are definitely some conditions and issues that lean much more heavily on the nature side of the fence. This often comes down to the genes we inherited from our family lineage, but can also include our particular biochemistry or physiology. For instance, schizophrenia is a good example of biochemistry gone awry. We have learned through research that there is an imbalance in dopamine that is largely responsible for the hallucinations and delusions that people with schizophrenia suffer. It most cases medication is a necessary treatment to correct this imbalance. Similarly, bipolar disorder is often the result of an imbalance in neurotransmitter that requires a mood stabilizing medication. ADHD is another condition that is more impacted by chemistry and physiology. PET Scans have shown that children and adults with ADHD do not have the sameread more
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1% of the population worldwide. It is characterized by two key features: hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations can be of any type, but visual and auditory are the most common. Delusions are beliefs that are outside the scope of probable situations, such as believing the government is conspiring against you or that you are some famous person. Although there are treatments for schizophrenia, most people will have to cope with some symptoms throughout their lives. It affects men and women equally, onset is generally in late teens or early 20’s, but could occur as late as 30-45 years old.
Symptoms & Features
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought immediately if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia. Early detection and treatment has been shown to improve outcomes. Symptoms include two or more of the following symptoms lasting more than a month: 1) delusions, 2) hallucinations, 3) disorganized speech, 4) grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, 5) negative symptoms such as flat affect, very little spread more
What is Social Anxiety?
Social phobia, more commonly known as social anxiety disorder, is the third most common mental health condition behind depression and alcohol abuse. Upwards of 7-13% of Americans will suffer with social anxiety at some time in their lives, affects men and women equally, and tends to start in childhood or adolescence. Social anxiety disorder is not the same as shyness. People with social anxiety disorder fear being in social or performance situations to the extent that it interferes with their lives. While people generally recognize their fears are excessive and irrational, they simply cannot overcome it. Situations that tend to trigger social anxiety include: public speaking, eating with others, using a public bathroom, meeting new people, being called on in class, being watched while doing something, going on a date, attending parties, or talking with people of authority to name a few.
Social Anxiety Symptoms
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if the following symptoms are persisting and interfering with your ability to perform normal routines, function in work or school, or engage in normal social activitieread more
Despite how the holidays are portrayed on television and in the movies, they often create a lot of stress for people. Research says that 8 out of 10 Americans are expected to feel stressed out by the holidays. Nearly two-thirds of people claim that the holidays create financial stress in their lives. Upwards of 40% report eating unhealthy during the holidays in large part due to stress. Spending time with family and relatives, although enjoyable on one hand, often fuels stress on the other hand as old family dynamics are recreated and played out. Almost 65% of people say that the lack of time to plan and prepare for the holidays is one of the top stressors during the holiday seasons. This year, try to take a proactive approach to keep your stress more manageable and in check. Talk with family members early on to coordinate dates, times, and locations. Start meal planning 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you have plenty of time to shop for food and get supplies. Consider splitting up the meal and have each family member bring a couple of items. This will be much more affordable for everyone and you won’t have to try to prepare and cook so many dishes on the day of. Gift-giving is a wonderful expression of love and appreciation, however, don’t feel obligated to out-do yourself from last year. Talk to family members, set a spending limit that everyone is comfortable with, and consid read more
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after exposure to any number of traumatic events that can happen to people. Some common types of traumatic events that can result in PTSD include military combat, physical or sexual assaults, accidents, or natural disasters such as a tornado, hurricanes, etc. Although PTSD has likely existed since humankind has been involved in traumatic situations, PTSD has only been recognized as a diagnosis since 1980. It should be noted that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will end up with PTSD. Many people endure and recover from difficult life situations just fine. Others develop less severe problems such as depression or anxiety problems. Traumatic events that are enduring (military combat) or recurring (physical or sexual abuse) increase the likelihood of developing PTSD.
Symptoms & Features
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you suspect you might have PTSD. The diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult and complex. In response to a traumatic experience where real or perceived life-threatening situations have occurred, people experience some of the following symptoms. There are re-experiencing symptoms that include: 1) intrusive thoughts or images, 2) feeling like the event is recurring or reliving it, 3) dreams or nig read more
What is Compulsive Gambling?
Where many people enjoy gambling as an occasional social or recreational activity, for others it becomes a real struggle. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble despite experiencing negative consequences or continuing to gamble despite a desire to stop. An estimated 15 million Americans have problem gambling with more than 3 million of them having severe problematic gambling. Problem gambling is not a bad habit or moral weakness, but a serious condition that is treatable. Although it is commonly referred to as gambling addiction, it is actually categorized as an impulse control disorder. However, like chemical addictions, it is a progressive and chronic condition. Problem gambling tends to strain relationships, affect one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school, and can lead to financial catastrophe. It can lead people to do things they never thought themselves capable of such as borrowing or stealing money from partners, employers, and even their children.
Symptoms & Features
Pathological Gambling Disorder is a persistent and recurring maladaptive gambling pattern as evidenced by five or more of the following symptoms: 1) a mental preoccupation with gambling, 2) a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement or effect, 3) repeated unsuccessful efforts to con read more
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It manifests with two components: obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions are unwanted and recurring thoughts, images, beliefs, or impulses that are intrusive and upsetting for people. Common obsessions include fear of contamination, having things orderly or symmetrical, aggressive impulses, or sexual images or thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors people feel compelled to do in an attempt to reduce anxiety stemming from the obsessions. Examples of compulsions include washing, cleaning, counting, checking, orderliness, or hoarding things. An important qualifier for OCD is that it is interfering with a person’s ability to function. Many people have obsessive or compulsive “quirks”, tendencies, or traits, but they are not of the level or degree that it is causing them problems in their lives.
Symptoms & Features
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you believe you have OCD. Symptoms of OCD include either obsession and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and cause anxiety; they are not just excessive worry about real-life problems; attempts are made to suppress or ignore the thoughts, and are recognized to be a product of one’s own read more
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most common form of clinical anxiety and is different from normal everyday worry. Where most people report having some general and specific worries, they are capable of controlling it. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience exaggerated worry and fears throughout the day with little or nothing provoking it. Their anxiety is intrusive, difficult to get off their mind, and often uncontrollable. They may be overly preoccupied with money, relationships, health issues, career, or ruminate about decisions and choices. GAD is twice as common in women as men. The disorder can occur at any age but commonly manifests in adolescence to middle age. Untreated GAD is prone to the development of other issues such as depression or abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if three of the following symptoms are persisting for six months or more in conjunction with excessive worry and preoccupation that is difficult to control. 1) muscle tension, 2) disturbed sleep (insomnia or excess sleep), 3) being easily fatigued, 4) restlessness or feeling on the edge, 5) irritability, 6) indecisiveness or lack of concentration. Unlike physical issues like strep throat, there is no laboratory test to prove whether a person ha read more
What are Eating Disorders?
There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Anorexia is characterized by intense fear of gaining weight. It generally affects young women, but can occur in anyone. It is a severe illness wherein hormone levels changes from low weight and lack of body fat. Proportionally, anorexia has the highest death rate of all mental health issues with 5-20% dying from it. Bulimia is the second major eating disorder characterized by binging (eating a lot of food in a short period of time) and then trying to prevent weight gain by getting rid of the food, called purging. 5 to 10 million females and one million males struggle with eating disorders. Binge eating disorder is when people eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control when doing so. They may eat when they are not hungry, feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating.
What are the Symptoms?
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if there are symptoms of an eating disorder. Anorexia is diagnosed when: 1) there is refusal to maintain body weight appropriate to height and age and is often less than 85% of expected weight, 2) they have an intense fear of gaining weight even when underweight, 3) the person experiences a distorted body image and sees themselves as fat, 4) the loss of one’s menst read more
What is Depression?
One of the most common mental health issues that people are familiar with is depression. As many as 20-25% of people will experience depression at some time in their lives. There are actually a few different types of depression. Major Depression is the one most people think of when they think of depression. People will have many or most of the symptoms listed below consistently for at least a two week period of time, however, many people will have been dealing with it for several months or longer before taking action. Persistent Depressive Disorder manifests fewer symptoms but often lasts for two or more years. This is sometimes referred to as a functional depression in that it most people are still able to function in their daily lives, despite the bothersome symptoms. Substance-Induced Depression is far less common and evolves from the abuse of chemicals such as alcohol or opiates (depressants). Often when the person stops abusing chemicals, the depression naturally lifts on its own in a few weeks.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if 4-5 of the following symptoms are persisting for two or more weeks. 1) depressed (sad or empty) mood most of the day, 2) loss of interest or pleasure in usually enjoyable activities, 3) appetite/weight gain or loss, 4) di read more