Exploring and understanding OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

When referring to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there seems to be a very common misconception among society: that it is simply an odd or erratic behavior, which masks the seriousness of the illness. According to Wikipedia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is “an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions”. An individual suffering from OCD may exhibit odd or erratic behavior, but there is a reason; they are doing so to try and prevent intrusive thoughts or alleviate their anxiousness. The afflicted individual may act in this manner because they feel it will circumvent what they deem a potentially life-threatening or catastrophic event.

The repetitive actions that afflicted individuals makes are called compulsions and may take form in a variety of ways, but generally can be referred to as: a repetitive, compulsive action performed by the afflicted individual which usually adheres to a pattern. Some of the compulsions may be: constantly checking an object to make sure it is in order (adhering to a pattern), hoarding various goods (such as perishable items, news papers, etc.) and organizing them in a certain manner, adhering to a pattern (alphabetically, by expiry date, by weight, etc.) or; excessive cleanliness, stemming from fear of contamination (contracting germs). These are some but not all of the potential compulsions an individual may exhibit.

OCD is also usually accompanied with one of the other various mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, etc.) which has the unfortunate side effect of exacerbating the accompanied illness, making it quite difficult to diagnosis. If anyone feels as though they have been experiencing symptoms of OCD or any other mental illness, or even simply have further questions about mental illness in general, please contact your local Mental Health Association or a medical health professional

In closing, I would like to share with you all this video. It gives more insight as to what OCD really is and the ramifications it can have on an individual’s life.

Advertisements

Exploring and understanding Depression

Often times, society is perplexed about what depression is and ends up correlating it with sadness, which is not only incorrect, but also hinders understanding what depression truly is.

As with all things, we must define what it is before we can delve further into understanding it. According to Dictionary.com, depression is “a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason”. Depression is a prolonged state of mind, whereas sadness is an emotion, which can (and usually does) accompany depression. The feeling of sadness is completely different when a depressed individual experiences the emotion. It is amplified tenfold, to the point where the individual feels hopeless, dejected or eternally unhappy.

Depression is unique in this regard. Because it is a state of mind, it takes time to onset, meaning the individual has to be exposed to certain external stimuli to invoke a certain thought pattern. Some of these external stimuli are: loss of a loved one, isolation from friends/family/activities you enjoy, a particular argument with a significant other or even constant exposure to stress. After prolonged exposure to a certain stimulus, an individual starts to develop negative thinking patterns, becoming hyper-critical of oneself, setting unrealistic expectations for them self, which eventually evolves into the individual feeling jealousy, sadness, anger, anxiousness, hopelessness, etc.

Not only does depression impact the mental aspect of an individual’s life, it impacts their social life and physical well-being. When depressed, an individual may experience lethargy beyond anything experienced before, causing them to not want to do anything but stay at home and lay in bed. This causes social withdrawal, leading to poor self-care, adding fuel to the depressive cycle. Individuals can therefore be depressed for months, or even years if they do not seek assistance, which may lead to suicidal ideation or even suicide attempts. With this information, we can therefore ascertain that depression is not sadness – it is something much more terrifying and disturbing.

Depression is not inevitable; there are preventative measures one can take. Some of them are, but are not limited to: eating healthy and exercising, getting a proper amount of sleep, taking time out of one’s day to relax and analyze what has happened (managing stress), and allocating time to recreational activities (video games, friend outings, date nights, etc.). If anyone feels that they’ve experienced a prolonged period of intense sadness that isn’t what they believe warranted, please seek medical assistance. Depression is treatable if help is sought. Nobody needs to suffer in silence when there are treatment options available.

Exploring and understanding Anxiety

This week’s subject of focus will be mental illness – specifically the types of mental illness. We will be exploring several of them in depth; however, the first we will be covering is anxiety.

As with all things, we need to define what it is in order to be able to understand it. According to Webster, anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (such as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it”.  This definition in itself is a good explanation of what anxiety is, but it doesn’t explain why people become anxious.

Anxiety is always triggered by a certain stress in an individual’s life. Like all stress, if not dealt with, it can compound upon itself in the subconscious, manifesting into anxiety over time if not recognized and dealt with. When a stress manifests into anxiety, it is an experience quite unlike any other. The symptoms for each individual may vary, and they can be very debilitating. The most common symptoms are: feeling of impending doom/general uneasiness, sleeping issues, heart palpitations, muscle spasms/tension, cold/sweaty extremities and potentially dizziness. Other symptoms may include: feelings of going insane/losing your mind, derealisation (feeling detachment from reality/self or a continued perception of reality being “unreal”), suicidal ideation/tendencies, etc. As one can imagine, these symptoms can be quite terrifying. Usually when an individual experiences anxiety, they are unable to properly communicate their thoughts – they are so focused on the particular anxiety that they’re unable to focus on anything else. The key to combating anxiety is to manage stress efficiently so that it is unable to manifest into something that one cannot cope with.

To help manage anxiety, an individual should be aware of what is stressing them and why. As with all thoughts, anxious thoughts begin with an external stimulus. Being aware of what and why a thought is stressing you allows you to deal with it before it can manifest into something unmanageable. It should be noted that anxiety is never a flaw or personal weakness – it is merely a thought that has lingered too long in the subconscious. In addition to external stimuli inducing anxiety, drugs like alcohol, caffeine, marijuana or cocaine may also exacerbate certain anxious thoughts, bringing them from a dormant to active stage, or amplifying the intensity of a currently active anxiety. This is not to say that all anxiety is bad. Anxiety can help an individual out in dangerous situations, giving adrenaline for intense focus (think near-hit collision while driving).

If one feels like they are suffering from anxiety and unable to cope, awareness is not an immediate cure, but definitely a step in the right direction – please seek help from a medical professional. Medication and other methods have been proven to help treat anxiety. Awareness, although not a cure to anxiety, is a great tool in managing and preventing it. Practicing awareness isn’t a skill one masters over night – it may take months or even years for an individual to effectively utilize.

The science of awkwardness

This week’s final video will be from one of my favorite channels, a YouTuber who calls himself Vsauce. The video delves into understanding awkwardness and it’s relationship to society.

I thank all of those who have followed, liked and read this blog so far. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to leave them below.

Have a wonderful weekend and see you all next week.

Exploring the effects of stress on the mind

Today, we will be exploring what stress is and how to identify what is causing stress.

As with all things, to understand it fully, we must be able to define it in a way we can comprehend. Oxford defines stress as “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. By that definition, stress can be anything from an individual’s friend lying to them, leading the individual to doubt the friendship, to the death of a loved one, triggering a strong emotional response in the individual, causing mental anguish in the form of grief. These types of stress are fairly easy to notice because they are potentially major life events.

Stress such as the death of a loved one takes time to get over – the process of grieving cannot be done in a day. It is a unique process that one should experience fully. It allows an individual to fully understand what their connection was with the individual who has passed, allowing one to see the true beauty of the human experience. It gives an individual insight about life, allowing them to fully appreciate how beautiful a relationship between another individual can be, but inversely, it opens one’s eyes to how potentially short life can be.

Given that grieving should be experienced, even though it may feel negative initially, we can then insinuate that there are positive stressors.  These are called “Eustressors”, which can be anything from starting a new job/receiving a promotion to having a child. These types of stress motivate an individual to do well. Negative stressors have the opposite impact. These are called “Distressors”, and there are many more distressors than there are eustressors. Distress can be harmful if left rampant, leading to the torment of an individual.

When an individual is stressed, their emotions are being manipulated by the stressor, quite similar to the state of mind of an individual who is angry. It forces the individual to focus on the stress until there is either a temporary solution, or until the compounding stress of the stressor becomes too much for the individual to cope with. When distress is ignored, it begins to manifest into larger issues over time – namely an individual can become very anxious, depressed or even potentially experience panic attacks. This isn’t all that stress is capable of doing if not dealt with. There are many physical symptoms that may manifest as a result of stress, such as experiencing chest pain randomly, sudden loss in sex drive, loss of appetite, etc. Identifying stress before it manifests into something unmanageable is crucial for an individual’s well-being. With a stress being identified, an individual can maintain equilibrium between eustress and distress.

Keeping with the trend from the previous day’s post, I’m going to show a video pertaining to the subject at hand. This video is from BBC’s YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Exploring context by metaphor

In today’s post, we’re going to explore what a metaphor is, and how they are used to pass on an abstract idea or concept to an individual by reference.

In order to first understand what a metaphor is, we have to define it. According to Dictionary.com, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example: he is a lion in battle.” Let’s break that down. Metaphors allow an individual to pass on an idea or concept through language via contextual reference. You’re contextually representing an idea or concept and relaying it to the individual listening/reading, allowing them to reference it in their own unique way based upon their understanding. Therefore, if we have the metaphor “he is a lion in battle”, it could mean a myriad of things, depending on how the individual perceives in. It is a contextual reference to a concept. The individual is not literally a lion in battle. The metaphor is comparing the individual’s combat style to that of a lion in battle. That could mean that the person is very aggressive in combat, or it could mean that they fight until there is nothing left in them to fight. Metaphors are very unique in this way. They live through language, allowing them to be temporal, giving individuals a contextual reference to a concept or idea. Understanding what a metaphor is representing allows a metaphor to refer to but not teach a concept or idea. It allows the individual to think about what is being represented in a way that is relative to them.

There are different ways that metaphors can function. Metaphors can work with music, giving a listener contextual empathy – a sad sounding song will infer that the mood or theme is solemn, or sorrowful, but the slightest change in a succeeding note can completely change that empathetic response. Music is very powerful in this regard – not only can we add lyrics to accompany the inferred empathy associated with a certain musical arrangement; we can amplify that empathy by adding metaphor through lyrics. Adding metaphors via lyrics gives a song a human contextual reference, allowing the song to resonate personally within an individual.

One of the most prominent ways we are taught metaphors growing up is through poetry. Poetry is rich with literary device manipulation: alliteration, similes, hyperboles, etc. The one that seems to be lost upon most individuals while growing up is metaphors. In order to fully appreciate what a metaphor is referencing, one must have experienced something akin to what is being referenced. Let’s take apart a simple metaphor: “He drowned in a sea of grief”. At a first glance, without relating anything, it would appear that this man had drowned in a “sea of grief”. Well, that is impossible. Nobody can drown in a sea of something that is “invisible”. Let’s put a human element to it. What is grief? Grief is, according to Dictionary.com, “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret”. So this wonderful metaphor, “sea of grief”, is stating that this man was wrought with sorrow, a much more elegant way of relating to an individual that “this man was really sad”. Using metaphor in this way allows individuals to relate on a personal level. When they understand what a metaphor is inferring, they can successful understand what an individual is relating, making the metaphor more meaningful to the reader. It allows the reader to experience the contextual reference in their own, unique way.

Akin to yesterday, I will be ending here with another video. This video is from the TED-Education channel, and is a great explanation of metaphors: