All Articles Tagged "mental health"

No News Is Good News: How Avoiding Sad Stories Protects My Mental Health

June 15th, 2016 - By Tracey Lloyd
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I barely watch the news. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty, like I’m an uninformed rube or something, but I don’t avoid the news because I don’t like to keep up with current events. I do it because news stories, like those about the Orlando mass shooting, make me very anxious and very depressed.

The Orlando shooting happened overnight, so I had a brief respite from the breaking story while watching “CBS Sunday Morning,” the kind of news program that fills my need for information. That was until the “Breaking News” graphic covered the screen and I was filled with dread; no TV station ever breaks into programming for a positive story. That’s when I learned what had happened and I was sad, for the families of the victims, for my gay and lesbian friends who lost a sense of security, for the country.

My sadness isn’t clinical, like my depression. You can’t treat it with medication. But it activates the constant thrum of melancholy that I feel every day, even under the best circumstances. It triggers a litany of negative thoughts about when the violence will be turned against a group of Black women like me, and how much worse it has to get before our laws are changed. The thinking and the over-thinking — plus the positive affirmations I need to help move my mind in a good direction — are exhausting. Actually, it’s exhausting to go through the process on a regular day. Add in a national tragedy and the chatter in my brain becomes unbearable.

Added to the story about the Orlando shooting — as happens with all public violence — is the topic of mental illness. The shooter always has a mental illness, or has seen a therapist, or maybe had a behavioral problem as a child. This layer of the story is something that I always ignore. There are millions of people with mental illnesses who aren’t violent. Who don’t buy guns or knives or weapons of any kind. Who are more of a danger to ourselves than we could ever be to others. But the general public will learn, again, that people with mental illness are dangerous killers to be feared and possibly locked up. This makes me just as angry as anything else, ready to don a t-shirt saying “I Have Bipolar and I’m Not Violent.” Not that the rabid news media would pay attention to a bit of truth.

So what do I do to maintain my sanity? Mostly, I ignore the daily drips of information. I never watch TV news, shielding myself from stories that aren’t intended to be useful but are meant to boost ratings. I don’t click on Facebook or Twitter posts about the Orlando shooting; I read the headlines and move along. I refuse to engage in conversations about the violence. Anger isn’t my best emotion, and I choose to avoid i,  lest it turn into anxiety and depression, which it usually does. I look at pictures of puppies and kittens and babies as a palate cleanser and a therapeutic tool to reset my mind.

You might think I’m a baby who can’t handle the real world, but I disagree. Mass killings aren’t normal, and I refuse to treat them as such. And I’m adult enough to know what I need to do in order to keep myself happy and healthy. So bring on the kitties and just let me watch.

For Your Mental Stability, You Should Start Unfollowing And Blocking People On Social Media

June 14th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Remember when social media was a new thing? Or more importantly, when it used to be fun?

I’m talking about the days before mama, grandma, and your aunties and ‘nem joined and started judging your every comment, picture, and relationship status update.
In the early days of MySpace and Facebook, you would gather up your pictures on a scanner (terrible quality by the way) to share with your bunch of friends (or the thousands of strangers you decided to let into your world), excited to interact with people you met at college events and orientations, or just through the world wide web. It was all so simple.

But I should have known that things were going to go downhill when they introduced the “Note” option on Facebook. Out of nowhere, you were being tagged in long messages from ex-boyfriends, stressed friends and the like, where absolutely too much information would be shared. Don’t even get me started on the “As this year comes to a close” notes.

And then, as big events rolled around, whether it be holidays or presidential elections, you started seeing a different side of the “friends” you pretended you knew. Irritated by their rants about your favorite candidate, tired of their gripes with small, harmless things, inundated with subliminal attacks on significant others, former friends, and “haters,” hell, even beefs with the Christmas holiday, it was as if people started to have too much to say and share. Nothing was the same.

At this point, you log into Facebook and other social media pages and find yourself bombarded with all kinds of things that don’t really enlighten or enrich your day to day. Instead, they get on your absolute last nerve. And according to research, these messages and Debbie Downer people can actually leave you depressed.

In a study done by the University of Pittsburgh in March, 1,787 American adults were asked to share how much time they spent on social media, and they had their risk of depression assessed through a questionnaire. What researchers found was that, on average, people spent about 61 minutes on at least one platform during the day. The more time spent on it, the greater the risk of feeling depressed. As Cosmo pointed out from the study:

What you’re exposed to when you dive into your social accounts is also a huge player in how positively or negatively they affect you. Consider signing on to a feed filled with angry political rants, updates on breaking tragic news items, and hundreds of posts about people struggling with, say, debilitating illnesses or interpersonal turmoil. Compare this to perusing a newsfeed peppered with adorable animal photos, funny quips, and inspiring quotes. Chances are, the latter would be more likely to make you smile while the former would make you feel anxious, aggravated, or sad — no matter how strong your self-image is.

I wouldn’t say that I was left feeling down in the dumps by the actions and statements of the people I followed, but I definitely found that my mood would morph when I would come across certain negativity. Irritated by bait set to cause trolls to attack people comfortable in their skin (from women without makeup to plus-size girls and even EJ Johnson), over the shots of people sending the most mindless and offensive memes around with the caption “#facts,” and exhausted by the pointless, self-absorbed images people would post back to back to back in a day, I thought that I just needed another sabbatical from social media–my second in a year. But as my friend pointed out, I just needed to do some cleaning.

“Unfollow them,” she said.

Could it all be so simple again? In the back of my head I always imagined that such a move would create drama. In college, if you unfollowed an individual, say, on Facebook, they would notice. We were so thirsty to have a gang of “friends” that looking and seeing a decrease in just one would leave people feeling some type of way. But as she pointed out, “You have to filter out the negativity. Just follow people and things that bring you a sense of peace. There’s so much foolishness out there.”

And so I did. I clicked and clicked and clicked unfollow until I was left with the people I actually knew from school, media work, and my old neighborhood. That and fitness enthusiasts to keep me inspired. No more looking at friends of friends I had never spoken to, mean-spirited pages, or just flat-out ugliness. It has made surfing social media to be inspired, uplifted and enlightened so much easier…and dare I say, fun.

And I think that’s what more of us need to do for our mental stability and in our search for positivity. Some of us often feel trapped staring at feeds filled with foolishness and videos with the most ridiculous behavior to the point where we feel drained after scrolling through after a few minutes, but continue staring at the shenanigans anyway. And considering that we spend so much of our day on social media (at least an hour based on the aforementioned study), we need to do a more thorough job, for ourselves, of being better gatekeepers to the things that infiltrate our psyche and our spirit.

Social media is a big part of the way we communicate, get our news, and just stay connected to the world around us. Considering that it is something that will likely expand and be around until the next great tech development surfaces, for the sake of your sanity, know what to invite in, and what to block (or unfollow) out.

 

Women Are Twice As Likely To Experience Anxiety, According To Research

June 6th, 2016 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Women are twice as likely to struggle with anxiety disorders in comparison to men, new research from the University of Cambridge, which was published in the journal Brain and Behavior, suggests.

According to The Independent, researchers also found that the disorder, which is estimated to affect four in every 100 people, disproportionately impacts those under 35 years of age.

“Anxiety disorders can make life extremely difficult for some people and it is important for our health services to understand how common they are and which groups of people are at greatest risk,” said Olivia Remes with the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at Cambridge. “By collecting all these data together, we see that these disorders are common across all groups, but women and young people are disproportionately affected. Also, people who have a chronic health condition are at a particular risk, adding a double burden on their lives.”

It’s currently unclear why anxiety seems to attack certain marginalized groups at greater rates than others, but according to Glamour, one licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Alicia H. Clark, speculates that the heightened risk for women my be explained by the fact that, historically, we’ve assumed the role of caretaker, which has caused us to be more protective and cautious. Brain chemistry differences between men and women may also play a role, Clark speculates. Apparently, women’s brains may be more optimized for intuitiveness and analytical thinking while men’s brains are enhanced for motor skills.

“This brain difference is important when it comes to anxiety, or the ability to predict, feel, and protect against future risk,” Clark says. “For better or worse, women appear to be better able to identify and think about future risk, and this can translate into experiencing more anxiety.”

Hormones may also play a role.

“Many studies have noted a correlation between female hormone fluctuation, emotional sensitivity, and anxiety,” Clark explained. “Female hormones appear to facilitate more acute experiences of emotions which can lead to more anxiety.”

“We hope that, by identifying these gaps, future research can be directed towards these groups and include greater understanding of how such evidence can help reduce individual and population burdens,” said Carol Brayne, director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health.

Can Race And Class Affect A Person’s Ability To Receive Therapy For Their Mental Health?

June 2nd, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Woman in therapy. Photo: Shutterstock

Woman in therapy. Photo: Shutterstock

At some point, Black folks are going to have to realize that we are on our own.

This is especially true if you are poor and Black.

What am I talking about?

I’m talking about therapy. And how CNN is reporting that Black people are less likely to get an appointment with a therapist based on the color of our skin.

More specifically:

To study whether therapists had biases, researchers hired actors to record voice messages for 640 therapists in New York. In all the messages, the actors read scripts saying they had been feeling down, had insurance and would like to make an appointment.

The scripts varied the names, vocabulary and grammar to reflect race and class differences. For example, the name Amy Roberts was supposed to indicate that the caller was a white middle-class woman, whereas Latoya Johnson was used for a black middle-class woman. The scripts for working-class individuals used more slang and some grammatical errors.

The researchers waited one week for the therapists to return the calls, which went to a voice mailbox created for the study. The researchers recorded whether the therapists agreed to see the new client and whether they could accommodate the desired time, which was a weekday evening.

Middle-class black women and men were about 30% and 60% less likely, respectively, than their white middle-class counterparts to hear back from a therapist agreeing to see them. Working-class individuals fared even worse: Women and men, regardless of race, were about 70% and 80% less likely, respectively, to get an appointment, compared with white middle-class individuals.

No surprises there. Still, this is kind of depressing – pun intended.

According to CNN, the study, which appeared in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, was authored by Heather Kugelmass, a doctoral student in sociology at Princeton University. Generally speaking, it is best to not make sweeping statements based off of a single study, but as CNN has pointed out, Kugelmass’s study also mirrors previous research, which has suggested that various other biases including income and weight may hinder a client from receiving proper mental health treatment from a therapist.

The article also mentions that working-class people were also less likely to get a call back at all.

The current study found that therapists’ response rate was low in general, with only 44% returning the call. In many cases, the therapist left a message saying he or she did not have availability: Only 15% of inquiries resulted in a therapist offering an appointment time.

Therapists were less likely to call back if the clients sounded black and working-class. Only 34% of black working-class individuals got a call back, compared with 49% of black middle-class and 51% of white middle-class individuals.

“As consumers, or potential consumers, of mental health care, we would like to think that everyone deserves a response,” Kugelmass said.

Overall, 28% of the middle-class white individuals seeking care were offered an appointment, compared with 17% of the middle-class black group and 8% of the working-class white and black groups.

What’s interesting here is just how dismal the response rates to folks’ mental health help queries are in general. Is anyone taking mental health seriously here? I mean, this is America. The place where people roll up into movie theaters and start shooting all because some strange voice in their heads told them to do it. We better start taking mental health seriously.

But back to Black folks…

There is this common belief among many that Black people are anti-therapy. While not conclusive, this study does raise the poignant question of what happens when Black folks make the effort to help themselves but are still rejected? And perhaps the reason many of us don’t seek out therapy is because we already know that people are not interested in helping us.

Personally, I have had good experiences with therapy, although I do feel that race was one factor in my decision to stop going. (My therapist was White and young. And while she was very insightful, due to my history with White folks in positions of power, I just couldn’t develop the trust needed on my end to be fully comfortable telling her all of my business).

I also want to take this opportunity to point out that Black people help everybody. No, for real. Just check out this article on a 2012 W.K. Kellogg Foundation report, which suggested that Black people are more likely to donate to a charity than their White counterparts. And while you’re at it, make sure you check out this video by ABC News on another study, which suggested that Black people are eight times more likely to be heroes.

It’s a damn shame that we can’t always expect the same kind of empathy and compassion back.

Nayla Kidd And Why Doing “Crazy” Things Doesn’t Mean You Have a Mental Illness

June 2nd, 2016 - By Tracey Lloyd
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nayla kidd explains featBy now, we’ve all read about Nayla Kidd, the Columbia University sophomore who ran away from her life and was thought missing for several weeks. Since the true story of Kidd’s disappearance broke, I’ve seen the scuttle on Facebook and Twitter hypothesizing that she was suffering from depression. Based on her own words, I’m going to refute that notion. I know what it’s like to be a depressed Black woman at an Ivy League institution and it looks nothing like Kidd’s behavior.

First, let me get this out of the way: yes it’s hard to be a Black woman at a large university and in the sciences. There aren’t many people who look like you and there aren’t many people who understand you. But when your mother is an academic and you went to prep school in Ojai, California – one of the whitest, most exclusive enclaves in the United States – I’m going to go with the fact that you’re used to a low-minority environment and that you have support available in your family. The fact that Kidd seemingly didn’t talk to her mother points to some family issue rather than a mental health issue. But I digress.

When I was a freshman at Yale, I suffered a little from Little Fish/Big Pond syndrome. For the first few months, I was sure that the admissions office had made a mistake, that I didn’t belong in school with the brilliant people around me. Soon I figured out that everyone else felt that way too, which made things a little better.

Then, I started not being able to pay attention in class. I was sleepy all the time. I couldn’t focus on my reading. I stopped going to classes because I just couldn’t get out of bed. I worried again that I wasn’t smart enough and got an F in some science class, not because I couldn’t do the work, but because I didn’t show up for the exams.

I tried to hide my grades from my parents, and I was worried about what they’d say, but they handled the failing grade better than I did. We chalked it up to me being away from home for the first time and the stress of an only child managing shared living spaces.

The next semester, I returned to school and felt the same way I had initially. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t find anything to hold my interest. I started drinking with my friends every weekend. I withdrew from other social activities. Again, my grades suffered because I didn’t have the focus or energy to go to class or study. I spent most of my time in my tiny bedroom, kicking out my roommate and her boyfriend when I wanted to be alone, which was most of the time.

My behavior during that time looks nothing like that of Nayla Kidd, who actually had the energy and the wherewithal to create a new life for herself. Had she been depressed — or even suffering from anxiety — her symptoms would have paralyzed her into inactivity. Yes, she was sick of her life and didn’t know how to manage it, but by her own words, Kidd just wanted to get away. Depression doesn’t look like leaving your life for a new one. It looks like withdrawing from the life you have and not wanting to live period. I’m not saying that Nayla Kidd doesn’t have issues, but according to her self-described behavior, mental illness probably isn’t one of them.

Depression is a serious disease. It’s not the catch-all description for people when they’re sad or stressed or fed up, even though all of those emotional states can trigger a depressive episode. We need to be careful to understand what mental illness really looks like so that we can help the people who really need serious help and not put labels on those who might have other problems to solve.

Chekierra Parker On Bouncing Back After Anxiety Attacks And Depression Left Her Jobless And Homeless

June 1st, 2016 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Franklin, Louisiana, native Chekierra Parker is on a mission to raise awareness about how mental health illnesses can affect one’s employment, housing status, and even familial relationships. We reached out to the 26-year-old counseling grad student to learn more about the motivation for her undertaking and Parker opened up about the coping mechanisms she’s used to overcome her own issues, like persistent anxiety attacks and bouts of depression, as well as her plans to pay it forward to other millennials of color affected by mental health illnesses.

MadameNoire (MN): How did determine you were suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Chekierra Parker (CP): I found out when I started to see a counselor, psychiatrist and social worker. I know something was wrong [because] I used to sit in the bed and cry. [And] I didn’t want to do anything. I [also began] pushing the people that loved me away and I just knew something was wrong. So I went to a social worker and the first thing he said was “you have to use what you were taught from your social work studies.” So, I began to have sessions with him and later began seeing a psychiatrist. She [the psychiatrist] diagnosed me after I told her about the past trauma I experienced and the symptoms I was experiencing. Afterward, she put me on anti-depressants and medication that would allow me to sleep.

MN: What triggered your mental health issues? 
CP: I began to have anxiety attacks at my jobs, despite sustaining very good jobs. It was a cycle—one job would let me go and I would find another until the anxiety attacks would start again. My jobs would let me go because they saw me as a threat because of all the anxiety attacks. Because I couldn’t sustain a job, I couldn’t sustain a home or a car. I ended up moving in with a friend but that didn’t work out so I ended up losing the car that I had, but I was still in school. After receiving a financial refund, I bought a $400 car from my uncle and would sleep in it in apartment parking lots. I would try to blend in my car with the residents’ vehicles and when daytime would come I would go to the library and get myself together. I would also go to the CVS bathroom to flat iron my hair because the library and Walmart didn’t have an electric plug in their bathrooms. [In the meantime] I kept applying to jobs but for the most part something would come up that would hold me back. For example, my driver’s license was suspended or my car wouldn’t make it to an interview. That’s basically how anxiety attacks triggered my depression and PTSD—things not going well with my family or friends and not being able to hold a stable job. The only thing that sustained me during that time was food stamps; that’s how I ate.

MN: Did anyone in your family step up to get you the help that you needed?
CP: To be honest, no. Not at all. Everything was becoming horrible. I had a mental breakdown at my last job and a crisis unit got me from my job and placed me into a mental institution. While I was in the mental institution, everyone would tell me “Use what you were taught to get yourself out of this.” Other than that, no one gave me an encouraging hand. Some people thought it was a joke or that it was funny that I was placed in a mental institution. The only thing that kept me going was God. I knew he made a promise to me: He told me he would renew my strength. So basically I didn’t ask anyone for anything. [When I was released] from the institution, I would still sleep in my car or on cold nights sleep in a Mission’s shelter.

MN: What coping mechanisms were you taught that helped you manage your anxiety attacks during this time?
CP: For me, I have to stay away from things that stress me out. I am not saying that I’m living a stress-free life but I [focus] on living an unnecessary stress-free life. For example, I moved to New Orleans two years ago but have no friends. So I’m just focused on doing my school work or on social media all the time. So, sometimes I have to catch myself from entering depression mode. So instead of focusing on that, I tell myself to read to perfect my craft of learning more about mental health issues. I also use positive affirmations as coping mechanisms, as well.

MN: Why do you think Black people shy away from addressing mental health issues, whether it concerns themselves or family members?
CP: People know that other people are very judgmental. They are very dependent on what other people have to say and how other people feel about them. [When people speak about] mental health issues, it becomes very emotional. When people find out you have a mental illness, they immediately ask “Are you crazy?” That’s when the jokes or bashing comes in. Also, some people don’t want to admit that some mental illnesses come from genetics.

MN: What can you tell us about your business, New Season?
CP: New Season is just a platform at the moment for others to gain support and awareness. I’m currently in graduate school for my Master’s to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). After I overcame my own trials with my mental health illnesses, I knew I had to change my course of study. Once I graduate with my LPC, I will turn New Season into a mental health agency. Currently, the platform is for motivating others and sharing my story.

Pop Mom: Caring For A Mom With Alzheimer’s

May 19th, 2016 - By Erickka Sy Savane
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Uncle Bill Palmer and Aunt Babe.

Uncle Bill Palmer and Aunt Babe.

Not long ago, I was helping a friend behind-the-scenes at an event, and one of the featured guests had Alzheimer’s disease. We were expecting her to show up at a certain time for hair and makeup when we received a call from her husband. She had jumped out of the car they were in, and he couldn’t find her. It was unsettling, to say the least. When he called back a few hours later to say that he’d found her and everything was okay, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. And Alzheimer’s. It’s such a mysterious disease. I start googling and discover that it’s on the rise. Right now, over five million people have it and by the year 2050 that number is expected to reach 16 million. That’s a lot of Alzheimer’s.

My mind shifts over to my friend Jonyse whose mother has it. Maybe she can give me some insight. Jonyse says that she never saw it coming. “I went to my mother’s place one day and it was unusually messy, and another time she had no food, even though she said she had just gone food shopping. When the bank teller called to say that she was coming in every week to get new cards because she couldn’t remember her PIN, I knew something was out of whack.”

She took her mother to the emergency room and they diagnosed her with dementia–11 years later, she has full-blown Alzheimer’s. When I ask Jonyse if her mother knows who she is she says,

“It feels like it. They’re still who they are, but on a different plane; in another dimension. She still speaks to me, but differently. I have to raise my level of consciousness when I’m around her because I have to be open to the fact that she’s still my mother; my greatest teacher. There are things that I can still learn from her.”

That’s refreshing.

Read the full article here.

If I’m Not Clinically Diagnosed, Does That Make My Depression Invalid?

May 16th, 2016 - By Deja Jones
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Corbis

Corbis

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population. Included in this statistic is the one-third who actually get treated, which is an extremely small group. It left me thinking about the people who aren’t diagnosed or treated. It also left me thinking about my own situation. I often think about what depression looks like, it’s many faces, and it always brings me back to that Zoloft commercial where the white bouncy blob struggles to function and do simple tasks. A storm cloud settles over it. I can relate.

Sometimes I go through short periods where I’m questioning what my life means. Some days, like the bouncing ball in the Zoloft commercial, I’m disinterested when it comes to doing anything. There are some days where I feel like a lazy bum, and I’m ashamed of it, but I’m too lethargic to get up from my bed and be productive. Sometimes I get extremely overwhelmed, stressed, and I worry about everything. Some days I feel trapped in my own skin and just stuck in life.

There are times when I’m dealing with these sporadic bouts of despair. However, I haven’t been clinically diagnosed with depression. I am, for the most part, a happy person. But when things are bad, it feels as though they are on a downward spiral and I sink into it. Sometimes it’s the big stuff that triggers it—like being overwhelmed with work, weight gain, feeling unmotivated to write, or family issues—but often enough, feeling low is also triggered by other things as simple as crappy weather, being in stuck in a dismal city, a rough night’s sleep or too much sleep. I don’t know how to define what I feel as anything but depression, but there are times when I feel that because I haven’t been clinically diagnosed, my phases of sadness aren’t as valid, as strong or as clearly defined as depression as they are for those who have been clinically diagnosed and who are medically battling for their mental health. So, often times, I ignore it and wait until I get over it. I felt I was being politically incorrect by saying things like “I’m depressed,” so I sought out a deeper understanding of what it really means to be just that, even when there is no clinical diagnosis. I had to ask myself, am I just extremely bummed out or am I really depressed? And what is the difference?

I’ve found my own form of therapy in being able to have open discussions with friends whenever these dark feelings arise, and I’ve learned that there are levels to mental health that go way beyond a clinical diagnosis. I’ve learned that whether I’m bummed out for weeks on end without reason, or I’m temporarily feeling helpless because nothing seems to be looking up in my life, these aren’t issues that need validation in order for me to seek whatever help or counsel I deem necessary for them. So does not being clinically diagnosed invalidate my depression? Nope, not at all.

When It’s More Than Stress: 7 Symptoms To Be Aware Of

May 11th, 2016 - By Martine Foreman
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Shutterstock

Is it just me, or does it seem like we blame everything on stress? Sure, stress is the culprit when it comes to many of our challenges in life, but I really can’t agree with stress being the only culprit.

I do agree that our ability to manage the stress in our lives is incredibly important, and mismanaging stress can lead to a host of other issues like overeating, poor sleep, and even changes in mood to name a few. But as women, and especially as moms, we have to remember that what’s going on with our bodies and minds is not always stress-related. Sometimes there are other issues at play.

Many medical issues can mimic the symptoms of stress, and since mothers tend to be juggling a lot anyway, we do run the risk of writing something off as stress-related when we really should be visiting our physician for evaluation and possible testing.

So how do we know when it’s just stress and when it’s something deeper? The truth is, we don’t always know. That’s why we need to seek professional help so we can figure out what’s really going on. In addition to seeking the opinion of a medical professional, we must pay attention to our gut. Don’t ignore that feeling you have that tells you something is just off.  Is it possible your gut is wrong? Sure, it’s possible. Is it likely, though? Not really because no one knows your body as well as you do.

Here are seven common symptoms that may be more than stress. If these symptoms are present in your life and they have been ongoing (or you just have that funny feeling that something is wrong), please seek medical help. Although I am in no position to offer medical advice, I feel pretty comfortable urging you to get help if you think something may be wrong.

Sleep Issues

It’s not uncommon for people under a great deal of stress to have sleep issues. Insomnia, oversleeping, and unrestful sleep are common complaints. However, if your sleep issues linger, you should consider the possibility that you actually have a sleep disorder or some other medical problem that may be disturbing your normal sleeping pattern.

Weight Gain or Loss  

I am an emotional eater, so I know that being stressed out can lead to indulging a bit too much. But if your eating and exercise habits haven’t changed and you find that you are gaining or losing weight at a rate that’s unusual for you, seek medical attention. Several medical conditions can cause a sudden fluctuation in weight.

Chronic Fatigue

What busy mom isn’t tired? I know I sure am.  And although being extra tired when your stress levels are high is pretty normal, feeling drained and having an overwhelming sense of fatigue may be signs that something deeper is going on. Being exhausted all the time should not be your norm.

Mood Swings

When under a lot of stress it’s normal to get irritated easily or even feel frustrated or anxious. But when your mood swings become very evident to the ones you love, and it starts to impact your relationships, consider the possibility that it’s more than just stress. Could you be suffering from depression? Is it possibly you have an anxiety disorder? Explore all possibilities if you or the people you love feel like something may be wrong.

Upset Stomach

An upset stomach, constipation, nausea, and diarrhea can all be triggered by stress. That said, chronic stomach issues should not be ignored. There are several gastrointestinal conditions that can show these exact same symptoms. If your stomach issues are ongoing you should visit your physician.

Loss of Sexual Desire

What mom hasn’t been just too tired to have sex? But being too tired to have sex sometimes is different from never wanting to have sex because you absolutely have no interest in it at all. If you feel like you have lost your sexual desire, stress may not be the culprit. Talk to your doctor to explore other possibilities.

Frequent Colds & Infections

It is true that chronic stress can lower your immunity and make you susceptible to frequent illness, but lowered immunity can also be a sign that a larger issue is at play. If you are becoming ill far more frequently than you ever have before, consider the possibility that a vitamin deficiency or underlying condition may be causing it and seek medical attention.

Martine Foreman is a freelance writer, lifestyle blogger, speaker and coach. To follow her journey as a busy mom, wife, and honest chick from Brooklyn, NY (now living in the burbs), check her out at CandidBelle.

Why Do We Need Mental Health Awareness Month Anyway?

May 10th, 2016 - By Tracey Lloyd
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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I know, it seems like we’re recognizing a different disease every month. Breast cancer. Cystic Fibrosis. Autism. All of these conditions are serious, certainly, and it is to the benefit of public to raise awareness about their diagnosis and treatment to save lives. Why, then, do we need Mental Health Awareness Month? Many of us believe that mental health isn’t important, isn’t fatal, or that other aspects of our lives are more important, like physical health. However, mental health is a very serious issue in the Black community, and raising awareness of mental health issues will prove beneficial for us.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority health, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites. This distress is caused by experience of systematic racism, like poverty, racial microagressions and some physiological conditions. By contrast, Black people are 50% less likely to receive medications to treat serious mental distress. This gap between experience and treatment of psychological stress can lead to longer, more intense suffering without the tools necessary for relief, namely therapy and medication.

Some of the difference between African American experience and diagnosis/treatment of mental health conditions comes from our community’s substandard access to all health care. Yet many of us have financial and practical access to health care and still refuse to utilize it for mental health services. Our reluctance to participate in mental health care is rooted in our cultural beliefs and stigmas surrounding our mental health.

Religion plays a large role in traditional Black communities, used as a source of comfort, strength and support. Many times, we rely on spiritual guidance for mental health issues when traditional therapy should be added to address psychological symptoms. Prayer and religious guidance have little effect on serious mental conditions, causing us to become more distressed. Other beliefs, like “therapy is for White people” and “Black people are too strong to have emotional problems”, further push African Americans away from the mental health care that we need.

What does all this mean for Black women? It means that when we experience lingering emotional distress, we don’t hear the messages that we need. It means that we can persist living in the “Superwoman” myth that we can have it all and do it all without showing weakness. We watch young, Black males suffer in silence until their suicides become a leading cause of death. We don’t realize that emotional disturbances like stress and depression are making us physically ill. We dismiss emotionally volatile behaviors in others as “cray-cray”. We don’t get help.

As a Black woman, I’ve personally experienced the effects of community stigma on my mental health. The first time I experienced symptoms of depression, I went to church. When prayer didn’t work, I thought that I was a failure. I never considered therapy because I never heard a Black person talk about it. I dismissed people with erratic behavior as “crazy”, not believing that they had a serious problem. I suffered for years before getting treatment. Those years of suffering could have been different if I’d known that I had a disease. If I hadn’t been afraid to go to therapy or take medication. If I hadn’t borne the shame I felt about my condition before I “came out” 10 years after diagnosis.

Mental health is as important, and as impactful, as physical health. Ignoring it, or not treating the signs of compromised mental health, has a detrimental effect on the quality of one’s life. That’s why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important, particularly for the Black community because we have so many barriers to overcome about mental health.