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Mental Health Mood Disorders Personality Disorder Recovery Self-Care

Mental Health is Mental Wealth

When someone suffers from mental illness, there is a deprivation of the joy and emotional recoverypathwealth that’s present when there is ideal mental health. Mental illness can drain our joie de vivre, and make for a muddy emotional existence. Relationships with loved ones tend to be difficult, and there tends to be a propensity for loneliness and isolation. Worse yet, when mental illness is left untreated, the toll it can take on the one suffering and their loved ones can be taxing and sometimes devastating.

 

Some types of mental illness are more straightforward in their treatment: anxiety and depression, for example, are often treated with various modalities of psychotherapy and balanced with medication. Personality disorders are complex and there are some instances where the patient doesn’t recognize their illness despite their deep suffering. The work involved in treating all mental illness requires a nexus of therapeutic support and a desire for positive change from the patient themselves. The question many have is, Why are personality disorders so challenging?

 

Personality disorders are grouped into three clusters:

  • Cluster A personality disorders are “characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are:  paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder
  • Cluster B personality disorders are “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Cluster C personality disorders are “characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

 

Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for all types of mental illness; the most efficacious modality is determined by the needs of the client. Findings show that DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) in particular is the most effective therapeutic treatment for personality disorders and bipolar disorders. Other effective tools used in treatment may include:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Neurofeedback

 

To date, the FDA hasn’t approved of any medications to treat personality disorders. However, medications are often used to treat symptoms that are detrimental to the individual’s recovery. Medications like:

 

  • Antidepressents: for depressed mood, anger, irritability, mood swings, impulsivity and hopelessness.
  • Mood stabilizers: to even out mood swings, and to reduce impulsivity, irritability and aggression.
  • Antipsychotic medications (also known as neuroleptics): if symptoms include losing touch with reality (psychosis), and sometimes anxiety and difficulty with anger
  • Anti-anxiety medications: For anxiety, agitation or insomnia. Note, in some cases, they may increase impulsive behavior and are avoided with some personality disorders.

 

Treating mental illness requires the cultivation of balance. Participation from the client, a cohesive treatment team, and the correct combination of medication can create the desired environment of mental health.  It takes work, dedication, and a willingness to unveil one’s difficulties in order to create a healthy shift toward mental health. I have experienced the shadow side of untreated mental illness with family members who are unwilling to get help. It does, in fact, take a toll on everyone involved. I have learned that one of the key pieces for my own recovery is developing clear communication skills, creating firm, compassionate boundaries, and building consistent program of self-care. Families struggling with mental illness need to ensure that their own wells are filled, that they are getting their own needs met, and that they have a community of support around them.

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Bipolar Disorder Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Mental Health Therapy

DBT, Mental Health & Addiction

Image by kenleyneufeld via Flickr

Sometimes someone comes into contact with treatment because their drug use got out of control only to discover their problem isn’t actually addiction, but rather, an untreated mental health issue. Often times the misuse of drugs and alcohol is an ardent attempt to quell the feelings of anxiety or lift the fog of depression. Sometimes it’s a way to disengage from the flashbacks of trauma. Sometimes it’s a way to close the door on a panic attack. However, many times, these modes of self-treatment go too far, and the claws of addiction sink in, creating another layer to uncover and treat. Still, once the addiction piece of the puzzle is treated, therein lies the deeper, more complicated issue of mental illness. What then?

At Visions, we have embraced the mental health component of treatment and are adding a mental health track to our existing treatment plan. We are utilizing a wider range of treatment methodologies and branching into the area of Dialectical Behavioral Training (DBT). DBT is a “comprehensive cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha M. Linehan over the last 25 years,”[i] and has primarily been used to treat patients struggling with suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, a desire to self-harm, and self-mutilation. After discovering numerous problems with the traditional use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in treating this particular clientele, Linehan began to integrate validation strategies (also known as acceptance-based interventions) into her treatment methodology.  By integrating these validation strategies, Linehan inevitably began empowering her clientele and creating an environment of acceptance, while also encouraging them to begin to recognize the need to consciously change negative behaviors. DBT has also become one of the more successful treatments for patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD), a group typically resistant to the traditional use of CBT.

To illustrate some of the problems Marsha Linehan and her team encountered, here are the three issues they found to be the most troublesome with traditional CBT:

  1. Clients receiving CBT found the unrelenting focus on change inherent to CBT invalidating. Clients responded by withdrawing from treatment, by becoming angry, or by vacillating between the two. This resulted in a high drop out rate. And, obviously, if clients do not attend treatment, they cannot benefit from treatment.
  2. Clients unintentionally positively reinforced their therapists for ineffective treatment while punishing their therapists for effective therapy. In other words, therapists were unwittingly under the control of consequences outside their awareness, just as all humans are. For example, the research team noticed through its review of audio taped sessions that therapists would “back off” pushing for change of behavior when the client’s response was one of anger, or emotional withdrawal, or shame, or threatened self-harm. Similarly, clients would reward the therapist with interpersonal warmth or engagement if the therapist allowed them to change the topic of the session from one they didn’t want to discuss to one they did want to discuss.
  3. The sheer volume and severity of problems presented by clients made it impossible to use the standard CBT format. Individual therapists simply did not have time to both address the problems presented by clients – suicide attempts, urges to self-harm, urges to quit treatment, noncompliance with homework assignments, untreated depression, anxiety disorders, etc, AND have session time devoted to helping the client learn and apply more adaptive skills.[ii]

In addition to utilizing validation strategies, DBT also employs the use of mindfulness as one of the core concepts behind this therapy. Mindfulness is beneficial in the treatment of addiction and mental illness: it introduces the concept of non-judgmental observation, where we can observe our own actions and behaviors without criticism; Being mindful requires that we are engaged in present-time awareness: the here and now. This is where mindfulness is truly invaluable. If we are aware of our actions in the here and now, we are less likely to get caught in the destructive patterns of “what if? and “remember when?” In the practice of meditation, the act of “coming back to the breath” helps one stay in the present. Learning how to label emotions and feelings that may present themselves can help sufferers from getting lost in negative thought patterns. For example, if we are feeling scared or triggered, paranoid or angry, naming that emotion with non-judgmental observation will help us retain our present-time awareness.

In time, hopefully, the implementation of treatments such as DBT and mindfulness will help provide sufferers with some valuable tools for regulating emotion, distress tolerance and managing interpersonal relationships.


For more detailed information on DBT, please visit these sites: