Understanding Symptoms

Do you ever wish people would stop judging or disliking you and instead take the time to get to know you better before jumping to conclusions or just not even give you a chance at all? Well, if you are similar to me in any way and have or had a longing to be understood... this post is for you. This blog segment is also for anyone who is trying to understand people who deal with mental health illnesses. 

From childhood to young adulthood, I remember growing to be frustrated and hurt towards people who didn't seem to care to understand why I was acting out. I hardly even knew why I felt the things I felt or why I did the things I did. Now that I am a grown adult and in a healthy space mentally and physically and have had some time (maybe I've spent too much time) to replay the past in my mind, I can now reflect on each circumstance and give both a reasonable and scientific explanation to each. I hope you find this useful when you relate it to your own journey (or someone you know) in hopes to understanding and treating these conditions in the proper way. 

Social anxiety...

Do you or someone you know experience social anxiety and grow to become 'awkward' and/ or overly critical of themselves in social interactions?

What is the true definition of social anxiety anyways?...

Social anxiety is the fear of social interactions with other people that automatically bring on intense feelings of self-consciousness, judgment, and criticism. Interestingly enough, epidemiological studies here in the United States have recently marked social anxiety disorder as the third largest psychological disorder in the country.

A specific social phobia would be the fear of speaking in front of small or large groups, whereas the more generalized social anxiety indicates that the person is anxious, nervous, and uncomfortable in almost all (or majority) of social situations.

Symptoms:
People with social anxiety disorder usually undergo intense emotional distress in the following situations:

  • Being introduced to other people
  • Being teased, shamed, and judged 
  • Being the center of attention
  • Being watched while doing something
  • Meeting people who are of authority (people who are "higher up")
  • Social encounters, especially with strangers
  • Making small talk
  • Going around the room in a circle and having to say something

So, how do you treat social anxiety? CBT (Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy). I will touch more on CBT on a later day... but I strongly suggest looking into it or other therapy options if you or someone you know experience any of these symptoms. Anxiety is often times debilitating for many so it’s best to treat it sooner than later.

Pushing people away...

Do you or someone you know push people away, even the people who seem to genuinely care? 

From my own experience, my friendships never lasted for any length of time as I was too “intense” or “emotional” along with lacking the ability to trust my peers and society in general. I would typically find myself getting too close, too quickly and then stressing over why they didn't seem to like me as much as I liked them. I would question things like, ‘why haven’t they texted me back? Did I do something wrong? Why haven’t they checked how I feel? They must not actually care about me. They hate me.’ The relationship would then usually come to crashing end with me saying something irrational in an explosive and upsetting way.

When an individual is undergoing such emotional and mental turmoil, the last thing they want to be is a burden to other people (I know this to be true from my own experiences). For me, I would push people away who may have genuinely cared about me because I feared that they would eventually abandon me for my mental health conditions, just like many had done in the past. During this time, in my subconscious mind, the pain of being "let go of" for my flaws could be avoided if I was the one to do the "breaking up" with. In time, I learned that this madness would never result to me being involved in any healthy relationship(s) whatsoever. I had to learn through personal reflection and therapy how to regain trust in others and myself which hasn't been easy especially when there is deep trauma stemmed from people who were once close to me. 

Extreme Anger and Aggression...

Do you or someone you know go through bouts of reacting in extreme anger and aggression?

According to my research, the most commonly used psychiatric diagnoses for aggressive, angry or violent behavior are Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Conduct Disorder (in children and adolescents), Psychotic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Antisocial, Borderline, Paranoid and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, with Disturbance of Conduct, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Clearly, that is a wide spectrum of disorders... all of these disorders are under the umbrella of an impulse control disorder in which is characterized by repeated failed attempts to resist aggressive impulses that result in violent acts or destruction of property.

I have never been diagnosed particularly with any of these disorders myself except ADHD, however, I believe I might have had one other of these that thankfully has been managed through constant self-taught cognitive behavioral therapy. 

If you know someone who acts out in anger and aggression, avoid shaming or putting them down as this can certainly worsen their behavior and put them in a tailwind of depression and/ or anxiety causing the viscious cycle to continue. Instead, seek immediate professional help (click my ‘Crisis Resources’ tab for the number to speak to SAMHSA- a hotline in which will direct you to seeking professional help).

Obsessing over self-image and food...

There would be times that I would eat nothing at all, and others where I ate everything in sight resulting in a dramatic change of weight. 

I believe as a teen I was growing into the development of an eating disorder, ultimately stemming from depression and anxiety. I would obsess over what I ate, how much I ate, my body shape, etc. When I couldn't measure up to my unrealistic expectations regarding the consumption of food or how my body looked, I would stress eat/ go into a depression over why I let myself "go too far". Food became an addiction as well as the obsession of how I looked in the mirror.

If you or someone you know is experiencing similar symptoms and obsessions, looking into treatment or therapy for an eating disorder could be a good option to regaining a positive self-image and a healthy relationship with food.

The best way to support someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder is to refrain from statements like, "Wow, you are looking really skinny", "I think you are putting on some weight", "Why are you so obsessed over what you eat?", "Quit looking into the mirror, you're so into yourself". Instead, guide them to an understanding that their obsessions may be toxic and unhealthy, but in a loving and compassionate way.

Detachment from reality...

Detachment can be considered physical, emotional, and mental. It is important to be aware of the many different anxiety issues that lead to all three of these types of detachment. The truth is, each and every one of them seem to contribute to heightening anxiety. 

Why do people who deal with mental health conditions detach themselves from other people? From my experience, I can state that it could be simply because of how difficult it is to feel comfortable in their own skin around others... like I stated earlier, when you are undergoing social anxiety and/ or detachment, why would you want to be around people? For me, I would much rather be alone than have the constant thought of, ‘what do they think about me?’

Another type of detachment is emotional and mental detachment, also known as the "flat affect." Emotional and mental detachment is feeling as though you have no emotions whether that be positive or negative. Of course, your emotions aren't completely non existent- there is still a bit of emotion present but it is typically of a dull/sad emotion, otherwise the emotions are not felt strongly. In a state like this, it can be hard to ever picture yourself happy again. One can feel such an absence of emotion to the point of not remembering what happiness feels like at all. The best way I can explain it is similar to having a terrible sickness, and it feels as though you cannot remember what it's like to be healthy and well. The same idea is applied to emotional and mental detachment- you've become detached from your emotions to the point where they feel nearly absent. It’s important to see the signs of detachment as this is the state where many suicides occur. 

If you yourself or someone you know has the symptom of detachment, a simple, "Hey, I am thinking about you. How are you? Is there anything I can do for you?" can go a long ways as most likely the individual is more than likely feeling lonely and extremely depressed. 

Of course there are many other symptoms and conditions that I personally faced and others have experienced regarding mental health illnesses and symptoms, but these are just a few common ones. I hope you got something out of this as I know I did simply by writing it out and reflecting. 

-XO Ixchelle