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Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Click HERE for more information on depression.
Grief is a normal reaction to a loss, which can be anything from the loss of a job to the death of a loved one. You may not be prepared for the intensity and duration of your emotions or how swiftly your moods may change. You may even begin to doubt the stability of your mental health. But be assured that these feelings are healthy and appropriate and will help you come to terms with your loss. Grief is likely to be expressed physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For instance, crying is a physical expression, while sadness is a psychological expression. Profound emotional reactions may occur including anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, and thoughts of suicide. In some instances, grief may develop into depression.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. Anxiety is a normal emotion experienced by everyone, but people with GAD may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues and often find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems normal or expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for any concern. Normal anxiety becomes a disorder when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and it interferes with their daily functioning. Symptoms of GAD may include the following:
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
Click HERE for more information on anxiety disorders.
People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes or longer. These attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during an attack. It may feel like they are having a heart attack and can occur at any time. Many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack. People with panic disorder may have:
Physical symptoms may include:
- Weakness or dizziness
- Pounding/racing heart
- Tingly/numb hands
- Chest/stomach pain
- Stomach pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden and repeated attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
- Feeling of loss of control or impending doom
- Intense worry about the next attack
- Fear/avoidance of places where attacks occur
Click HERE for more information on panic disorders.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ~ PTSD
PTSD is a condition triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Diagnosis of PTSD is based on at least 1 month of each of the following: at least one re-experiencing symptom, one avoidance symptom, two arousal and reactivity symptoms, and two cognition and mood symptoms.
Re-experiencing symptoms :
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
Avoidance symptoms :
- Staying away from places or events that reminder you the traumatic event
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Arousal symptoms :
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts
- Trouble remembering key features of the event
- Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Distorted feelings like guilt or blame
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and unusual behaviors. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are drastically different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the majority of people.
Manic episodes may include:
- Feel very “up,” “high,” or elated with a lot of energy
- Have increased activity levels feeling “jumpy” or “wired”
- Have trouble sleeping and are more active than usual
- Talk really fast about a lot of different things
- May be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
- Feel like their thoughts are going very fast
Depressive episodes may include:
- Feel very sad, down, empty, or hopeless with little energy
- Have decreased activity levels, tired or “slowed down”
- Have trouble sleeping, may sleep too much
- Feel like they can’t enjoy anything
- Trouble concentrating, worried and empty, forgetful
- Think about death or suicide
Click HERE for more information on bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling. Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children may develop schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is typically a chronic condition requiring lifelong treatment. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
Psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. Like:
- Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
Disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Like:
- “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions)
- Reduced feelings of pleasure
- Difficulty beginning or sustaining activities
- Reduced speaking
Cognitive symptoms may range from subtle to severe and patients may notice changes in memory or thinking. Like:
- Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Problems with “working memory”
Schizoaffective disorder is where a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, as well as mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania. Symptoms can be severe and need to be monitored closely. Symptoms may include:
- Hallucinations: seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
- Delusions: fixed, false beliefs that are held regardless of contradictory evidence
- Disorganized thinking: switching quickly from one topic to another or provide answers that are completely unrelated to the question asked
- Depressed mood: feelings of sadness, emptiness, worthlessness or other symptoms of depression (see above)
- Manic behavior: feelings of euphoria, racing thoughts, increased risky behavior or other symptoms of mania (see Bipolar above)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ~ ADHD
A brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
- Inattention: wandering off task, difficulty sustaining focus, being disorganized.
- Hyperactivity: seems to move about constantly, excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with constant activity.
- Impulsivity: hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking, desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification.
- Often make careless mistakes in school, at work, or other activities
- Problems sustaining attention in tasks
- Do not follow through on instructions and fail to finish tasks
- Problems organizing tasks and activities
- Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Lose things necessary for tasks or activities
- Easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Forgetful in daily activities
- Fidget and squirm in their seats
- Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected
- Unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
- Constantly in motion as if “driven by a motor”
- Talk nonstop
- Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed
- Finish other people’s sentences
- Have trouble waiting their turn
- Interrupt or intrude on others
Adjustment disorder is an abnormal or excessive reaction to an identifiable life stressor. The reaction is more severe than would normally be expected and can result in significant impairment in social, occupational, or academic functioning. Most of the time people adjust to such changes within a few months. With an adjustment disorder, you continue to have emotional or behavioral reactions that can contribute to feeling anxious or depressed for a prolonged period of time. Symptoms may vary widely.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder of unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts. Typically OCD features unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause significant distress. Both obsessions and complusions often have themes including:
- Fear of contamination or dirt
- Needing things orderly and symmetrical
- Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others
- Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, sexual, or religious
- Washing and cleaning
- Checking, counting, orderliness
- Following a strict routine
- Demanding reassurances
Dementia isn't a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of other causes of dementia including alcohol abuse and heart and/or vascular disease. Dementia can involve both cognitive and psychological changes.
Cognitive changes: Memory loss, difficulty communicating or finding words, trouble reasoning or problem-solving, difficulty handling complex tasks, trouble planning and organizing, trouble with coordination and motor functions, and confusion and disorientation
Psychological changes: Personality changes, depression, anxiety, inappropriate behaviors, paranoia, and agitation
A brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use or behavior despite harmful consequence. People with addiction have an intense focus on a certain substance or behavior, such as alcohol, drugs or gambling, to the point that it takes over their life. These behaviors persist despite negative consequences such as loss of job or family. There is a significant biological component to addiction, meaning if you have a close relative with an addiction then you are at increased risk of developing one yourself.
Eating disorders are a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. The abnormal eating habits negatively impact your health, emotions and ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on your weight, body shape and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors. Eating disorders can range from mild that can be treated in our office to severe requiring inpatient medical stabilization and specialized residential treatment.
Consequences of Lack of Treatment
NAMI research reports:
- Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
- Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
- Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.17 Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
- Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–1421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.
- More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
- Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.
*Information prepared using National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) and Mayo Clinic reference material.