Month: November 2019

What’s the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD?

Article:https://themighty.com/2019/06/difference-between-ptsd-cptsd/?utm_source=newsletter_mental_health&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_mental_health_2019-11-15&$deep_link=true

What’s the difference between PTSD and C-PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health issue that can occur in people who have lived through a specific traumatic event or series of events that have a definitive time limit, or in many cases, only happen once.

C-PTSD, is the result of prolonged exposure to trauma over long periods of time, often during childhood.

Alexithymia: The Emotion-Processing Dysfunction That Makes It Hard to Identify Emotions 

At some point in our lives, most of us have answered the question, “How are you?” with an honest, “I don’t know.” 

It’s natural to struggle with knowing how we really feel from time to time. Sometimes life is going so fast that we don’t have a moment to slow down and check in with our emotions. Other times, we’ve been cycling through so many emotions at once that we don’t know which one is affecting us most.

But for people with alexithymia, identifying and processing emotions isn’t a now-and-then kind of struggle. It’s something that can feel next to impossible the majority of the time.

What Is Alexithymia?

If you’ve even heard the word “alexithymia” before, it’s likely because actress and Disney alum, Alyson Stoner, opened up about her struggles with it earlier this year. But if you haven’t heard of it, you’re in good company. 

Though alexithymia is fairly well-known in clinical circles, it’s not as well known outside of them — perhaps because it is not an official diagnosis recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Alexithymia can best be described as an emotion-processing dysfunction. 

“Alexithymia is essentially a dysfunction in the normal emotional awareness processes that make it difficult for people to put a name to their feelings,” John Richey, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychology at Virginia Tech, told The Mighty.

According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Sifneos coined the term “alexithymia” back in 1973 to describe patients who struggled to identify their emotions and therefore had trouble engaging in certain types of psychotherapy. 

The lack of emotional awareness people with alexithymia experience can sometimes also affect their ability to empathize with others. One studyfound that participants with alexithymia were less able to recognize emotional expressions in faces than people without alexithymia. 

“A child or adult with alexithymia often struggles to understand his or her own self experience,” Deborah Serani, Psy.D., who specializes in treating depression, said. “Individuals with alexithymia have difficulty understanding how others feel and think too.”

At the moment, there isn’t much research on alexithymia, so experts aren’t able to definitively say what causes it. Dr. Richey told The Mighty there is still much to explore when it comes to alexithymia, but he felt reasonably confident in the belief that alexithymia could be impacted by how much emotional labeling was modeled, and reinforced or punished in childhood.

Who Can Have Alexithymia?

Anyone can have alexithymia, but it’s slightly more common in men than women. Dr. Serani told The Mighty approximately 8% of males and 2% of females will experience this emotion-processing dysfunction.

Alexithymia also shows up in people with certain mental health conditions, most notably, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In addition to people with mental illnesses, some studies have linked alexithymia and autism. 

In their piece, “Am I Ready for an Autism Diagnosis?” Mighty contributor Anonymously Autistic wrote about how alexithymia made it difficult to describe their experience of autism in therapy:

I have alexithymia. It is part of my autism that makes it hard to describe my autism. I have had to teach myself to describe my feelings because if I don’t consciously ask myself how I feel, I don’t know. Before I started asking myself this question, I never would have been able to explain what I was feeling because people always told me how I was feeling growing up.

If the description of alexithymia sounds similar to your experience, you’re not alone. There are tangible ways to work on expanding your emotional repertoire — we’ve outlined a few of them below.

Treatment for Alexithymia

Though there isn’t a treatment out there that targets alexithymia specifically, people with alexithymia can benefit from existing forms of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help individuals focus on identifying and understanding the connection between thoughts and emotions. For people with both alexithymia and depression, this can be particularly useful.

“When someone with alexithymia says, ‘I’m depressed,’ it could be that he or she is very sad. But it might also mean frustrated, lonely, disappointed, mournful, empty, fatigued, lost, helpless,” Dr. Serani explained, adding:

Much of depression can be reduced with shifts in thinking and feeling. So, it’s vital for a person who has depression to become well-versed in the textures of their own symptoms to know what techniques to put into action. While it can be very challenging for those who struggle with alexithymia to broaden their emotional awareness, psychotherapy greatly reduces [the struggle].

Dr. Richey also encourages people with alexithymia to pay attention to the physical sensations that accompany the emotions they do feel. For example, you might notice your heart beat faster when you feel angry or upset. You might notice your body feels sluggish when you’re sad. You might notice yourself sweating when you feel embarrassed or anxious. Learning to link your physical sensations to emotions takes time, but as you work on emotion identification, it will slowly get easier.

Whether you have alexithymia or not, struggling with identifying and processing your emotions can be difficult and sometimes discouraging. While your feelings are always valid, we want you to know there is hope. 

“The best thing I could say as a word of encouragement is that you’re certainly not alone. There are many people who struggle with alexithymia,” Richey said. “There are also many people who are thinking about it from a research perspective. So I think there is a community of people who are very interested in understanding this problem and developing better treatments.” 

If you’re struggling, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted mental health professional. If you don’t have a therapist or don’t know where to look for one, check out this handy therapist finder tool. And as always, if you need support, you can always turn to our community by posting a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. Our community wants to support you, no matter what you’re facing.

16 Signs You Grew Up With Bipolar Disorder

The article:

16 Signs You Grew Up With Bipolar Disorder

There’s a certain misconception that children are “too young” and don’t have enough life experience to have a mental illness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies show the age of onset for mental disorders usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. Of course, these mental disorders are often unrecognized by our peers and parents, and both diagnosis and treatment typically don’t occur until years later.

If you live with bipolar disorder, there’s a chance you grew up with it. But what signs might there be in childhood? To find out, we asked our mental health and bipolar disorder communities to share “signs” they grew up with bipolar disorder they can recognize now as adults.

From childhood depression to being a “problem child” in school, we hope their answers can give you insight into your own childhood, or shine a light on why a child in your life could need some extra help and understanding.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1 “As a child, I was always way more sensitive than other children. I would break down for hours and cry. I thought about my death and my family’s deaths abnormally often. At 10, I lost parts of my hair from being so depressed, or I would have these hyper attacks where I would laugh for no reason for a long time and I could never stop talking. I’d also be cleaning my whole room over and over again. It was exhausting.” — Morgan T.

2 “Not knowing who you are without your disorder. I have become comfortable with my sadness; it’s all I know. If I have an ‘OK’ day, I don’t even know how to feel about myself. I don’t feel like me when I’m not depressed.” — Shannon M.

3 “I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I reached my 40s, but looking back, my erratic sexual and spending behavior, in addition to my bouts of depression, should have been major red flags. I had no idea it was due to bipolar; I just figured I was ‘screwed up.’” — Jessi F.

4 “I started cycling at 12 years old so I have no idea what the Alysha without bipolar disorder is like. It’s also why I say ‘I am bipolar,’ instead of ‘I have bipolar.’” — Alysha F.

5 “Irritability. I was always irritable, no matter what. That’s why, when I was diagnosed, everything I felt started making sense.” — Katelyn S.

6 “I was always super sensitive and prone to anger outbursts. I could also focus on something so intently the world would fade away. I’m still angry and sensitive but therapy is helping me get through it.” — Beth B.

7 “Thinking I was invincible at 14. I would sneak out at night and go on walks because I couldn’t sleep, I would still wake up in time for school but could only sleep four or five hours a night. I walked a lot just because I had the energy during the day and then more at night.” — Cassandra K.

8 “Growing up, my parents and sibling thought I had inherited my father’s extreme anger and violence. My teachers and fellow students thought I was just lashing out and enjoyed getting into fights at school, constantly getting suspended, until ninth grade when I was asked to leave. This all started when I was around 5 years old, but it was not until I turned 12 that a doctor told me I had bipolar disorder. Growing up and constantly being misunderstood, from my feelings to my behaviors, is one sign I grew up with bipolar disorder.” — Samantha W.

9 “Everyone else thought something was ‘wrong’ with me. I had impulse control issues and was so afraid I’d be disliked that I’d lie to be liked. I was diagnosed 21 years ago.” — Sasha S.

10 “The cycles I had with my moods. I would do great in the spring and summer, but as soon as it hit August and fall started approaching, it all went downhill. I always knew it was around the time that school was starting that I would start to cycle into an episode, so it would increase my anxiety and I would absolutely dread going to school. I never realized it was a sign until recently, when my team and I figured out my cycles and it all just clicked and made sense. I was diagnosed at 17, but honestly I think I’ve been bipolar since I was probably between 8 and 10 years old.” — Megan D.

11 “I would have painting sprees. I wouldn’t want to paint for a while, and then all of a sudden I would do like two paintings a day in middle school and high school, convinced I was getting visions from God, and it was my duty to share my genius with the world. Sometimes, I fantasized about my death, wondering what it would be like at my funeral and how no one would come except my mom and dad, or people would stomp on my grave and laugh at me. In my freshman year of college, I didn’t sleep and stayed up all night doing homework full of energy, and I always forgot to eat. I became very religious and believed I was getting visions from God again. For the first time in my life, I was a social butterfly. I did many paintings and even started a website out of the blue. Then I crashed for the first time in my life and started having suicidal thoughts. I have always either been heavily invested with something and then suddenly not interested in that thing or activity at all.” — Zoe S.

12 “I never slept, but was never really tired. I just chalked it up to being a kid and having energy, and then as a teen, having a night job and then having to do homework once I got home. I also repressed everything.” — Morgan W.

13 “I was very shy, reserved and sensitive. I had a lot of fears and cried very easily. But then there were times when I would stay up for days with little to no sleep, cleaning and rearranging the house. My mom thought it was odd but harmless so she didn’t stress over it. As soon as I was diagnosed, it all made sense.” — Courtney B.

14 “I spent weeks remodeling my bedroom, covering every inch of wall with collages and pictures. I even built a table. Then, a year later, I ripped all of it off the walls in an hour leaving blotches of drywall and became depressed for weeks. I was 16.” — Emma T.

15 “As far back as 6 years old, I would do great in the fall with school and family. Every spring without fail, and still at age 49, I have three weeks of productivity and fun followed by three weeks of the most rage and hostility I had ever known. Those were my first memories in general.” — Beth P.

16 “Being described as ‘the problem child’ because people thought you were just dramatic and a mess; they didn’t realize the behavior was uncontrollable due to the mental illness.” — Sabrina G.

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