The number of college students seeking help for mental illness is on the rise, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. As campuses scramble to provide sufficient services for these students, some students are seeing increases in tuition rates to cover the cost. Despite the spending increases, many schools are still lacking the number of support staff needed based on the size of the campus to handle the students in need. More concerning is the fact that one-third of all schools do not have a psychiatrist on staff at all.
Did you know that 8% of teens between the ages of 13–18 have an anxiety disorder? And did you also know that of these teens, only 18% of them receive mental-health care?
Some anxiety is a function of being a human being. It’s not unusual for anxiety to present itself in predictable situations (going on a job interview, starting a new school, speaking up for ourselves), but for most, it fades as soon as the initial fear passes. Anxiety is our nervous system’s way of telling us we are overwhelmed and need to pause. Anxiety is also our sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response in action; the anxiety is the red flag letting us know we are emotionally under fire. If you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, chances are your parasympathetic nervous system will automatically engage, arresting the fight or flight response and engaging its remarkable rest-and-digest function. However, for someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, the sympathetic nervous system gets stuck in the “on” position, forcing it to stay in its fight-or-flight response longer than is emotionally sustainable. The parasympathetic nervous system, aka, the rest-and-digest function of our bodies, gets shoved to the side and is unable to do its job.
DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the tryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT. This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain. Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.
Anxiety is a normal function of stress. It is the nervous system’s way of telling you it’s on overload and needs a break. Scientists have discovered that the amygdala and hippocampus play a significant part in most anxiety disorders. The amydgala is the part of the brain that alerts the rest of the brain and lets it know a threat is present; this will trigger a fear or anxiety response. The job of the hippocampus is to convert threatening events into memories. Interestingly, research is showing that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in people who have suffered from child abuse or served in the military.
It’s time for Graduation!
During graduation time, it’s not uncommon for many teens to fall under great pressure from parents and teachers to exceed in academia or to get accepted into the ideal university. Stress tends to be high at the end of the year, no matter how you spin it. Often times, stress is somaticized (converted into physical symptoms) and it shows up in the form of : stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating more or eating less, and even mood swings.
Social anxiety/social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a significant fear
of social interactions and interactions with other people which bring about feelings of “self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation, and criticism”1 by those they interact with. In other words, “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.”2 What social anxiety is NOT is simple shyness, but rather a more deeply internalized anxiety disorder. Recently, the National Institute of Health analyzed data gleaned from a study done by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A S), which surveyed more than 10,000 adolescents (ages 13-18). The survey involved a structured, diagnostic interview, assessing a “broad range of mental health disorders.” Those who met all eight “lifetime DSM-IV criteria for social phobia, including one or more social fears, were classified as having social phobia, regardless of shyness.”3
Even as someone in recovery from self-harming behavior, the statistics regarding who and how many continue to self-harm still hits home. A recent study by Dr. Paul Moran at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, found that “1 in 12 young people self-harm as adolescents, with the balance skewed toward girls.” Moran’s study followed a group of “young people from Victoria, Australia, from adolescence (14-15 years old) to young adulthood (28-29 years old) between 1992 and 2008.” According to the study, out of the 1802 participants responding to the adolescent phase, 149 (8%) reported self-harm. More girls (10%) than boys (6%) reported self-harm, which translates to a 60% increased risk of self-harm for girls compared to boys.1 Self-cutting/burning was the most common type of self-harming behavior seen in adolescents, but other forms of self-harm include self-battery, poisoning and overdose. Additional findings in Dr. Moran’s study show that self-harm was also associated with “antisocial behavior, high-risk alcohol use, cannabis use, and cigarette smoking,” but that “most adolescent self-harming behavior resolves itself spontaneously.”
On the heels of my recent blog about fat talk and its negative ramifications, I am broaching the subject of food, anxiety, and eating disorders once again. It’s almost Thanksgiving, after all, a holiday which not only acts as a huge trigger for many suffering from or recovering from an eating disorder, but is often used as fodder for fat jokes and the subsequent fat talk. As if sitting down to dine with your already dysfunctional family isn’t enough.
A history of sexual violence can create an ideal environment for a variety of mental-health issues, addiction, and alcoholism. Often, the triggering event or events are hidden in the annals of one’s mind and perceived as shameful, deep, dark secrets too horrible to share…with anyone. As a result, drugs, alcohol, and risk-taking behaviors are often seen as the primary issue when one enters treatment. Time and again, we see that this isn’t always the case; That becomes clear when we look at it in terms of statistics:
OCD is a form of anxiety occurring when the brain has difficulty dealing with worries and concerns. As a result, someone with OCD will constantly worry and obsess over things that may seem banal to a non-sufferer. For some kids, their worries are focused on cleanliness or germs, resulting in repetitive hand-washing rituals. For others, it could be repeatedly straightening out an area, trying to achieve perfection. These obsessive and repetitive behaviors are done ritualistically or compulsively in order to quell the pervasive anxiety induced as a result of obsessive thought patterns. Often, an OCD sufferer will focus on things being in “order” or “just right,” also as a means to reduce the lingering, scary thoughts infiltrating their minds. While some kids may recognize they don’t need to act on these behaviors, the disorder itself propels then to do it anyway. It’s not their fault. Interestingly, acting on the repetitive thought patterns does minimally reduce the anxiety, albeit temporarily.