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
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.
Symptoms & Features
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 activities and relationshread more
Description 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 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 follow 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 nightmares, 4) read more
Description 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 unsucce read more
Description 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 obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and cause anxiety; 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
Description 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. Symptoms & Features 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 wh read more
Description 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. Symptoms & Features 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) t read more
Description It is important to distinguish between acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you of possible injury and the need to take care of yourself. It is often a short lived and fleeting type of pain. Chronic pain persists and pain receptors continue firing in the nervous system for days, weeks, or even years. Chronic pain can be worsened by environmental and psychological factors. Causes can vary from degeneration of discs, cancer, burns, headaches, sciatica, neuropathy, and countless other sources. Some stem from injury, diseases, or various syndromes or conditions. You might be experiencing chronic pain if any of the following are true for you: your pain has lasted more than 6 months, you have pain from an injury that should have healed by now, your pain gets worse when stressed or angry, your pain medications have stopped working even if your dose has been increased, you have trouble sleeping from your pain, your pain is affecting your social life, you regularly call in sick due to the pain, or it’s hard for you to enjoy activities due to pain. Symptoms & Features There is no one set of criteria or symptoms that fit chronic pain. In addition to the enduring pain symptoms such as burning, aching, soreness, tightness or stiffness a person experiences, read more
What Is Anger? Anger is an automatic reaction to a perception of injustice and is designed to energize people to take action and correct the wrong. For instance, if your neighbor stole your car stereo, you would become angry and the anger would cause you to want to confront your neighbor and seek justice. Most people are somewhat passive to mildly assertive and anger pushes them up the spectrum to become more assertive in handling problems. Anger gets a bad reputation when people behave in aggressive ways such as assaulting others. So long as anger can be controlled and channeled in productive ways, it is actually a constructive emotion. Managed poorly, it becomes destructive. Poorly handled reactions of anger can result in a variety of consequences including: legal, financial (destroying property), occupational, relational, and physical (injury or long term effects). Many people struggle with anger for a variety of reasons. Some people have never really learned how to handle and manage emotions and continue to struggle into adulthood. Other people have been over-controlling emotion by suppressing it. Suppressed emotion builds internally and can result in explosive outbursts, which seem out of proportion to the event, but are really an accumulation of emotion that is discharged all at once. The intensity of that emotion makes it difficult to co read more
- Remember that although your feelings and symptoms are frightening, they are neither dangerous nor harmful.
- Understand that what you are experiencing is merely an exaggeration of your normal reactions to stress. 3. Do not fight your feelings or try to wish them away. The more willing you are to face them, the less intense they will become. 4. Don’t add to your panic by thinking about what “might happen.” If you find yourself asking, “What if?” tell yourself “So what!” 5. Stay in the present. Be aware of what is happening to you rather than concern yourself with how much worse it might get. 6. Label your fear level from 0 to 10 and watch it go up and down. Notice that it doesn’t stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds. 7. When you find yourself thinking about fear, change your “what if” thinking. Focus on and perform some simple, manageable task. 8. Notice that when you stop thinking frightening thoughts your anxiety fades. 9. When fear comes, accept it, don’t fight it. Wait and give it time to pass. Don’t try to escape from it, and remember to breathe. 10. Be proud of the progress you’ve made. Think about how good you will feel when the anxiety has passed and you are in total control and at peace.
To learn other effective strategies for dealing with panic attacks, make an appointment today to meet with one of our therapists. To get more read more