Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, has been studying the brain for over 20 years. His unique focus has been exploring the effects of meditation and mindfulness on the brain, and he has come to recognize that meditation and mindful awareness can alter brain function, mental activity, and interpersonal relationships. His research and extensive books and articles on the brain, has led to providing easy to understand descriptions of difficult scientific concepts about the brain. Read more!
It’s so easy to forget about mental health. Often, our attention is focused on the physical that we forget about the health of the interior, such as a teen’s emotions, thoughts, beliefs, dreams, and reactions to experiences. As long as your adolescent looks like he or she is doing okay, it’s easy to conclude that he or she is fine. Read more!
It’s true that electroconvulsive therapy has received a poor reputation, for good reason. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) formerly known as electroshock, gained widespread popularity among psychiatrists in the 1940’s and 1960’s. However, it appeared to be a crude form of treatment, producing horrifying muscle jolts, crackling noises, and pain.
Since then, this form of therapy has evolved. Today, it is done under anesthesia and considered to be one of the safer methods to treat severe cases of depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other forms of mental illness, particularly mood disorders. Read more!
There has been an increase in youth suicide in recent years, including suicides and suicidal ideation among gifted adolescents. Although there is no direct evidence linking suicide with the unique population of these children, many researchers in the mental health field are beginning to explore this connection and recognize that additional research is needed.
It is only recently that mental health professionals are becoming more aware of the unique psychological and emotional concerns of gifted children and teens compared to non-gifted children. Some of the specific impairments that a gifted teen might experience include: Read more!
Everyone, regardless of whether they have a mental illness, needs to learn to manage their strengths and weaknesses. However, with a mental illness, weaknesses might be a bit heftier to contend with.
With teen Attention Deficit Disorder, there are typical symptoms that an adolescent experiences that can begin to get in the way of functioning well as school. In fact, when a teen starts to show signs of impairment in their academic activities, often ADD is explored as a diagnosis. It is common to diagnose children with behavioral concerns with teen Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is essentially ADD with hyperactivity added in the list of symptoms. Because ADD teens do not typically display hyperactivity, their symptoms are not usually recognized until later in adolescence when academic responsibilities increase. Read more!
There are many benefits to group therapy. It is a form of support that is unlike traditional psychotherapy in that the stories of others in the group become a significant form of support.
Group therapy includes the presence of a therapist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional who is facilitating the group experience. Also in the room are others who are all experiencing the same diagnosis or life problem. For instance, adults who were sexually abused as children might make up a group in therapy. Typically, everyone in the room, aside from the therapist, is experiencing the same life challenge. Group therapy for teens with Bipolar Disorder can be incredibly supportive and healing. Read more!
Adolescence is an already challenging time. The amount of stress from psychological, emotional, and physical changes can be overwhelming for some teens. Add to this breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, parents divorcing, or the loss of a close friend to death and adolescence becomes that much more challenging. Read more!
When some people think of mindfulness, they might think of religion or spirituality. Although mindfulness is sometimes a part of religious or spiritual practices, it alone is not a religion. Nor is it really all that spiritual.
Put simply, mindfulness is the practice of becoming conscious of your internal and external environment. It is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting the existing feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and surrounding activity. Today, it is often used as a therapeutic practice among therapists and psychologists. Read more!
Psychopathology is the study of mental disorders. Yet, to break it down further, pathos means suffering in Greek. Pathology means the study of diseases or disorders, and psychopathology is the study of mental suffering or mental disorders.
Teen Mental illnesses that have the symptom of dissociation in common are known as teen Dissociative Disorders. Dissociation is a break in conscious awareness, memory, a sense of identity or a combination of these. Dissociative Disorders is a group of disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standardized text used by clinicians across North America. These disorders range in severity with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) being the most severe. The following is a list of the dissociative disorders listed in the most recent edition of the DSM.
- Dissociative Amnesia
- Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder
- Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD)
Although not all traumatic events cause dissociation, it is the common cause for dissociative mental illness. An experience that is considered traumatic is one that threatens the injury, death, or physical integrity, and is usually accompanied by terror and helplessness. A traumatic event could be the death of a friend or family member, sexual or physical abuse, an automobile accident, domestic violence, school violence, experiences of war, the effects of natural disasters, and acts of terrorism.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than 2/3 of children report experiencing trauma before the age of 16. As a result of experiencing such an intense ordeal, along with feeling powerless to do anything about it, psychological symptoms often result. Although, each adolescent will respond to certain experiences differently, there are common indications that point to whether a mental illness exists. For instance, the symptoms that develop after experiencing trauma include:
- Feeling numb, detached, or emotionally unresponsive
- Amnesia of parts or all of the traumatic event
- De-realization, a symptom in which the environment seems strange or unreal
- De-personalization, a symptom in which thoughts and feelings do not seem real
- Flashbacks or recurring images of the trauma
- Feelings of reliving the traumatic event
- Feeling high levels of stress when an object or person reminds you of the event
- Avoiding people, objects, and places that stimulate reliving the trauma
- Trouble sleeping
- Chronic tension
- Easily startled
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to sit still
This is a mental illness in which a teen has lost or blocked critical pieces of personal information due to the experience of a traumatic event. However, the DSM makes clear that this illness should not be made a diagnosis if there is a medical cause, such as injury to the head. The amnesia that occurs can be specific to the trauma; localized to a specific period of time, such as forgetting everything prior to the traumatic event; generalized, as in forgetting large parts of one’s life, and systematic, such as losing a specific category of information. The experience of dissociative fugue is now considered a symptom of dissociative amnesia; previously it was its own diagnosis. Dissociative fugue is when an individual takes off on a journey of some kind without later recalling how he or she arrived at a foreign place.
This disorder is characterized by feelings of detachment to one’s experience, body, or self. These feelings tend to be recurrent and chronic. Specifically, de-realization is a symptom in which the environment seems strange or unreal. De-personalization is a symptom in which thoughts and feelings do not seem real. Of all the dissociative disorders, this is the one that tends to be the most easily recognized and diagnosed frequently to those who have experienced trauma.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
Sybil and The Three Faces of Eve are popular movies with characters having multiple personalities. However, what was once called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is now clinically known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
The dissociation in DID is seen as a disturbance in an individual’s identity, where two or more distinct personalities become evident and where behavior with each is clearly recognized and distinct from other personalities. DID in teens often get misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Treating DID usually includes psychotherapy that attempts to establish a therapeutic relationship with the alter that is self-harming. Attempts to reduce this behavior are a focus in therapy as well as trying to establish communication among the various personalities. Establishing dialogue between alters helps with retrieving memories of trauma that are then worked with to help the client heal from these early difficult experiences.
Treatment for Dissociate Amnesia and Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder include a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Because dissociative disorders are often the result of trauma, they typically co-occur with depression and anxiety. For this reason, anti-anxiety and anti-depressants are used for treatment. Additionally, psychotherapy includes a safe exploration of the trauma in order to bring to light and heal the intense, trauma-related emotions.
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In recent years, there has been focus on how the quality of attachment between an infant and a caregiver can affect that infant’s psychological future. For this reason, researchers have begun to look closely at the types of relationships caregivers have with their children and how that plays a significant role in that child’s later life.
Research on this subject began in the 1940’s when psychiatrist John Bowlby was asked to write about the psychological difficulties homeless and orphaned children experience. A theory on attachment grew from Bowlby significant research on the deprivation of maternal care. Attachment theory describes the long-term relationships between individuals by looking the relationship an infant has with its primary caregiver. Read more!