Thought Tuesday’s: A Personal Opinion To Last Month’s Thoughts

Last month I pondered on a question… I pondered on this question for awhile.  I read a wide range of articles and blogs, even glanced at a few scientific-journals.  None of which provided a clear precise answer to my question posted last month: Why does mental health seem so secondary to physical health?  

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So, today, you get an opinion….my opinion.

In my opinion, I think mental health is secondary to physical health for three reasons:

  1. Crappy History
  2. Psychology is Fairly New
  3. Mental Health Stigma

A Little Healthcare History

During the 1800’s, the United States had a poor healthcare system.  Practicing physicians were not licensed, very few were actually formally educated, hospitals were filthy, and medications were nothing more than a dangerous concoction of narcotics and bathroom cleaner.  In fact, dentistry at that time was a little more evolved than the general medical practice.  If you think about it, you gotta have teeth to eat, right?  Anyways, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s, surgeons realized the crazy notion that sterile surgical equipment and better hygiene practices, resulted in better health outcomes for their patients; basically, their patients lived longer.  That was the spark that ignited modern healthcare practices today.  Amazing what washing your hands can do!  Unfortunately, mental healthcare was moving along on its own path…an extremely rough slow path.

What To Do With The Mentally Ill

A little less than 200 years ago, the mentally ill were sent to cruel, immoral asylums where they were locked away and forgotten.  Living conditions were extremely unsanitary and patients were often abused and chained to the wall.  These immoral conditions didn’t begin to improve until the 1830’s and even then, nobody knew what to do with the mentally ill.

When the general-care hospitals were evolving into cleaner facilities and better practices, the immoral asylum practices of isolation and mistreatment of mentally ill patients was eventually deemed unacceptable by society, forcing asylums to improve living conditions and attempt to actually treat the mentally ill; unfortunately, the treatments provided were not scientific.  The behaviors expressed by the mentally ill were largely misunderstood and often considered something evil and unnatural; instead of sick or different.  People often fear what they do not understand. 

Although mental health was a growing concern, there was still very little known about the human mind.  Wilhelm Wundt, the father of psychology, was the first to crack open the mental barrier of the human brain; however, it wouldn’t be for another 50 years before Sigmund Freud developed actual scientific-based treatments for mental health conditions.

Medications to effectively manage mental-health conditions were developed in the mid-1900’s; however, many of them were pretty much bad for ones overall physical health despite their effectiveness on mental health.  During this time, many long-term mental health patients were being deinstitutionalized and forced back into the communities as a moral way to deal with the mentally-ill.  Unfortunately, many still required long-term treatment and care.  It was as if society had good intentions, but still no official game plan to treat the mentally-ill.

Slowly, but surely, mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, and mental health hospitals were eventually established to effectively treat and morally care for the mentally-ill; however, mental health is still not recognized as importantly as a ticking heart, breathing lungs, and pumping liver.

Recognizing The Connection Between Mind, Body, & Soul

Many different cultures around the world largely accept the important connection between the mind, body, and soul; however, interestingly, such an important concept is not widely practiced in modern day medicine.

When I go for my annual health physical, the only assessment done on my mental health is a 10 question survey asking if I “think” I am depressed.  General physicians do not seem concerned about how depression may affect mood, personal choices (addictions), or that a slight chemical imbalance causing depression might be part of an underlying health disease or illness; instead, their 10 question survey focuses more on suicide prevention.

I found an interesting article last night about mental health history that mentioned the mentally-ill often suffered from underlying diseases rather than true mental health disorders.  A common example is neurosyphilis, in which is a psychotic disorder developed from untreated syphilis.

Today, it is recognized that both mental health practitioners and general health practitioners have to work together to provide quality care to patients with certain mental-health disorders; but I can only imagine this to be a lengthy and expensive process to uncover and treat underlying diseases affecting mental health.  But, before any amount of diagnosing can begin, patients have to feel comfortable enough to seek help in the first place without the fear of being locked up in a padded cell.

Mental Health Stigma

Looking at history, I feel as if the study of psychology is a fairly new science.  From what I gather, society, has just recently (say, last 60 years) begun to really recognize mental-illnesses as health related issues instead of mystifying evil.   Thinking about it, 60 years is not a long time, nor is 200 years since society used to cruelly isolate and mistreat the mentally-ill.  For me, that was only 3 family generations ago, meaning, my grandparents view mental health much differently than I do.

Society probably has mixed views regarding mental health, but those views are nothing compared to the personal views one holds of themself who is struggling to cope with a mental-health disorder.  Nobody wants to be labeled as “abnormal,” “different,” “odd,” or even “broken.”  Nor does anyone, including a general physican, that does not have a psychology degree want to simply imply one may be slightly “broken,“unless a physical bone is protruding out from under the skin.  Personally, I do not even think psychologists and psychiatrists enjoy that part either, despite their fancy degree hanging on their office wall.

My point is, recent negative views on mental health is still lingering and it provides very little encouragement for those in need to seek professional help for mental health disorders.  Furthermore, people trust their general-health practitioners, because doctors have been around much longer than psychologists; and if mental health is not part of “general” health concerns, why worry about it?

The Future of Mental Health

I am optimistic, in that I believe after a few generations, mental health will be considered just as important as physical health.  Through public awareness, further advancement in neuroscience and general pyschology, as well as, positive encouragement, mental health will no longer be second to the heart, lungs, and liver.

Just An Opinion

As I mentioned earlier, this post is a just my personal opinion.  Although I try to formulate opinions based on researched facts, that doesn’t make my opinions right or wrong.  In fact, my opinions are nothing more than random thoughts open for polite discussion.  Please do not take my opinions personal.  You are welcome to disagree, but if you wish to express your disagreement, please do so in a kindly manner for that I personally value and respect different perspectives.  Lastly, please keep in mind that my opinions and the opinions of others have feelings too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Faulty Fight or Flight Response System: Hit and Run OCD

“…my Fight or Flight Response System, it is more or less like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.”

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In the beginningI counted traffic lights, memorized traffic light patterns, and wasted gallons of gas driving back and forth to reassure myself that I had not caused any accidents with my car.  This is how my brain decided to rewire itself after my stressful situation with a faulty blinker on the freeway.  For me, it was the beginning of insanity…

Different Forms of OCD With One Common Theme

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder.  There are many different forms of OCD and not everyone experiences OCD the same.  What is truly fascinating about OCD, is that a person can experience more than one form of OCD; however, each of those forms of OCD all tend to share a common theme.  For me, I have been diagnosed with  Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (no compulsive behaviors); yet, I also experience what is called “Hit & Run” OCD (with compulsive behaviors).  For me, both forms of OCD share a common theme:  The irrational fear of having harmed others through some form of negligence.  Unfortunately, for me, my Pure “O” OCD amplifies my Hit & Run OCD, almost to the point I thought I was going insane.

Hit & Run OCD

Fortunately, there is nothing insane about my membranes, except for a little OCD bully brain.  “Hit & Run” OCD is when the brain responds inappropriately to a stressful situation.  Instead of recognizing and appropriately dealing with the true source of anxiety, the OCD brain twists thoughts and emotions around causing a person to doubt not only their true character but also events associated with their anxiety.

An example of a “Hit & Run” OCD episode would be like an OCD driver driving in an area crowded with pedestrians (like New York City).  It is absolutely normal to feel nervous, because people are unpredictable.  You never know who might run out into the street or step out of a parked car into passing traffic.  It is truly a stressful situation.  The purpose of anxiety is to keep the driver alert, but the driver’s OCD brain, kind of goes on double high alert and begins to misinterpret the situation.  The driver runs over a pot hole that triggers an OCD episode where the driver begins to have irrational fears that he may have ran over a person. The bad case of “what if’s” begin to affect the driver’s self-doubt and then worst case scenarios cross his mind making him feel like a terrible person.  To relieve his fears, compulsion sets in, where he may turn around to check for an accident, check his car for damage, or read the newspaper everyday looking for a report of an accident.  A mix of guilt and paranoia could also set in from extreme anxiety.   He might even think he has gone insane, because the thoughts and emotions feel so real, not only doubting reality, but also his true character.  The driver is a good person, who in reality, would not drive away from a true accident.  Unfortunately,  OCD loves to mess with good-minded people and the driver with OCD endures a long period of extreme emotional suffering.

The good news is that those experiencing “Hit & Run” OCD  or any form of OCD have not gone insane.  OCD is all based on feelings and emotions and as I have been told a million times before, “the truly insane do not feel insanity.”  It’s just a little faulty wiring with our Fight or Flight Response System causing false evidence to appear real.

F. E. A. R. The result of my faulty wiring

I often refer to my OCD episodes as “OCD fears,” because my OCD episodes generally focus on some kind of irrational fear about something.  Thus, my favorite OCD acronym is F.E.A.R., in which cleverly means: “False Evidence Appearing Real.”  At first, I didn’t really understand what it meant, because everything was too real to consider any of it as false.  However, I know now that F.E.A.R. is the result of my faulty wiring in my OCD brain.  So, what is going on with this faulty wiring?

The autonomic nervous system in our body controls all those amazing things our body does without the need of us having to think about it.  This includes breathing (automatic), heart beating (automatic), digestive system (automatic), and hormone regulation (automatic).  This system is broken down into two parts: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.  The faulty wiring lies within the sympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system; also known as the “Fight or Flight Response System.”

The Fight or Flight Response System is responsible for anxiety.  Anxiety is actually a good thing when it functions properly.  In stressful situations, anxiety tells the body something is up and to be on the look out for danger.  Kind of like a safety alarm system, prompting us to immediately assess the situation.  From there, we are forced to make the decision to either Fight (stay and deal with it) or Flight (run away from it).  Below is a Caveman scenario from college about how our Fight or Flight Response System works: 

My Cave Man Scenario:  A hairy caveman comes out from his den to play with fire; something him and his friends have recently discovered by accident (funny story by the way)…anyways, while walking along the beautiful plains of the Palaeolithic era, he comes across a large saber-tooth tiger sleeping peacefully among the high grass.  The caveman’s sympathetic nervous system is going off!  His heart begins to beat faster, his palms start to sweat, and his body starts to shiver in fear.  His body is screaming DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

There are only two options: FIGHT or FLIGHT.

This caveman valued his life very much and of course FLIGHT took over.  He quietly took a few steps back, turned, and quickly ran back to his den.  Later, around the community bon-fire with his buddies, he told them about his encounter with a vicious saber-tooth tiger.  Instead of telling them he had ran away;  he told man’s first epic hero story of man vs. beast and man won.  🙂

Faulty Wiring In The Fight Or Flight Response System

OCD is an anxiety disorder, because the OCD brain has faulty wiring in the Fight or Flight Response System.  Stressful situations trigger the Fight or Flight Response System; however, the OCD brain is like a rotten school kid who likes to pull the fire alarm when there is no fire.  The Fight or Flight Response System is wired in such a way that it triggers on false alarms.

For me, stressful situations trigger anxiety, like it should, but my OCD has taken over the Fight or Flight Response Division of my brain and is now, more or less, like a very old, overdramatic, senile emergency dispatcher who can’t seem to remember all the facts and misinterprets the danger levels.  Instead of appropriately responding to a stressful situation with normal Fight or Flight Response protocols, my OCD brain triggers an irrational fear creating self-doubt, extreme guilt and worry; forcing me to deal with F.E.A.R.: false evidence appearing real.

Detective of OCD Related Incidents

Over the years, I have become quite the Sherlock Holmes of OCD related incidents; especially those episodes pertaining to my “Hit & Run” OCD.  To get over a major OCD episode, I have to write it all down.  Basically, take down my own official statement of events.  After recognizing the trigger, I can work on collecting all the false evidence that appears to be real.  Then, logically prove such evidence is indeed false.  I say, my dear Watson would be extremely proud.

Eventually, writing is no longer necessary when one begins to immediately recognize triggers, a powerful tool used to defuse OCD before it can even start.  Today, I experience very little driving anxiety.  In fact, I love to drive!  Pedestrians and other drivers do make me slightly nervous, but that is completely normal.  The important thing is that I do not allow my OCD to make it more than what it really is by being a confident driver.  Also, if I drive with an anxious mind, OCD episodes are prone to happen.  I also know I am good person and I refuse to let my OCD convince me otherwise.

For those suffering from Hit & Run OCD, please remember that you are not crazy or insane and that you are a good person despite how your OCD makes you feel.   ❤