Brain and Behavior Articles

Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in Psychosis

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in PsychosisIn the midst of a psychotic episode, whether the result of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one of the main motivating factors in our jilted decisions is the imagined symbolism in meaningless circumstances or objects.

I can remember when I was out on the streets of New York and Boston, deep in the midst of a major psychotic episode. I was convinced I had a mission to bring peace to the world, and though I was destitute, I wandered around following signs and colors and motions of passersby convinced there was some deeper symbolism or meaning in these insignificant things.

Therapists Get Anxious, Too

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Therapists Get Anxious, TooMy heart was pounding, my breathing restricted, my hands sweaty.

My instinct screamed at me, “You’re too young to die. Turn back now.”

My rational brain said, “That’s just your anxiety talking. You’re only going up the stairs of a lighthouse.”

My rational brain also said, “Lean forward as you climb the stairs, because if your panic makes you pass out, you don’t want to fall backward into the spiral of doom.”

9 Ways to Find Happiness

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

9 Ways to Find HappinessIt may seem self-serving to some to study happiness in a world full of misery. However, research findings support the theory that being happy motivates people to constructive action in the world. So cultivating happiness and well-being influence your energy and enthusiasm.

Happiness is not a static state or a finish line. Emotions provide important information; they direct action and interaction. Negative or painful emotions may be entirely appropriate to a situation and serve to inform intelligent actions. Opportunities for building happiness may be maximized, when appropriate, and often consist of incremental changes that become new habits over time.

The Paralysis of Analysis: On Overthinking

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

over-thinking-680x1024A friend told me the other day to stop overthinking.

“Bah ha ha ha!”

That’s like telling the pope not to get on his knees, my daughter to stop craving sweets, or a teenage boy not to think about sex.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who didn’t need a second longer with a menu. The truth is, I don’t even read the whole menu because I get so overwhelmed. I go to the salads section, where I only have to choose between five items. And I hope that it comes with dressing, because that decision could involve up to 10 candidates.

The Importance of Having a Friend to Talk You Down

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

take-friendship-next-level-honestyI’m stable. At least that’s how I usually am.

In the eight years I’ve lived with schizophrenia I’ve managed to find a pretty strong footing for my life. I take my meds and go to therapy and practice my social skills and hell, I even have a job, which is more than a lot of people with schizophrenia can handle.

That said, there are times where the stars align for madness and you lose yourself in being overwhelmed with feelings or thoughts that confuse and delude you.

This past week was one of those times for me.

Robin Williams, Creativity & Mental Illness

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Robin Williams, Creativity & Mental Illness

Robin Williams’ suicide this past week has brought forward some commentators who are linking his creative genius to his mental illness. While we can’t say for certain whether his creativity was due, at least in part, to his mental illness, we can say this — there is a lot less of a link between these two things than most people think.

We should remember Robin Williams and attribute his creativity to where it probably best belongs — to a personality, intelligence and insight into the human condition that few people have.

And we should put to rest the myth that in order to be a creative genius, one must also be mentally ill.

3 Creative Ways to Combat the Blues

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

3 Creative Ways to Combat the Blues Often, stress, disappointments, and mundane realities of everyday life plague our inner worlds so much that it’s difficult to experience positive emotions such as joy, peace, and spontaneity. Unfortunately, it becomes a vicious cycle.

The negative emotions build up even more, sapping our mental and physical energies to the point where it’s a challenge just to get through our daily routines. Our bodies become just as blunted as our spirits. Happily, though, there are three easy and inspiring activities that can help us beat the blues and increase our general well-being.

On Hating Yourself Less

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Child punishmentIn her informative yet entertaining book, “Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself,” Anneli Rufus tells this story:

Accepting his third annual Teacher of the Year award, Jeremy gazed out at an auditorium packed with wildly applauding children, parents, and colleagues. Silently he mourned. I was supposed to get my doctorate. I should be famous by now, not teaching fourth grade. I was supposed to have made earthshaking discoveries. It was expected of me. And I failed.

Withdrawal: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Withdrawal: the Good, the Bad, and the UglyWithdrawal makes love addiction different from codependency. Like any other addict, a love addict wants a fix — in this case, the object of his or her obsession. That could be a particular person, or a relationship in general. So what happens when that “substance” goes away?

There are two ways a love addict enters withdrawal: They’ve ended the relationship or tried to. Or his or her partner has left the relationship — explicitly, or by becoming obsessed with his or her own addictive behavior. As soon as the love addict feels the other person’s absence, it will trigger feelings of loss.

5 Medications or Supplements that Made Me More Depressed

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

healthtap.comThe more medications and supplements I try in an effort to minimize my symptoms of depression and anxiety, the more I realize that every edible item you place in your mouth has a risk associated with it. Even the natural ones that are supposedly made from cats’ claws, wild yams, or some organic plant. Moreover, you need to read about its potential side effects and inform yourself before you place the thing on your tongue, because chances are your doctor won’t be well-versed in all the strange reactions it could cause.

6 Conditions that Feel Like Clinical Depression but Aren’t

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

2e503ef3c30738e85e847238e0c34babIf a person went to his primary care physician and complained of symptoms of fatigue, guilt, worthlessness, irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite, loss of interest in regular activities, persistent sadness, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide, I am pretty sure he would leave that office with a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and a prescription for Zoloft, Prozac, or another popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). After all, the guy has just cataloged the classic symptoms of clinical depression.

However, those same symptoms belong to a variety of other conditions that require treatments other than antidepressants and psychotherapy, the two pillars of conventional psychiatric recovery today. They may certainly look and feel like clinical depression to the outsider, but they may require just a small tweak in diet or hormones. Here are six conditions that fall under that category.

Relearning How to Relate to People After a Major Trauma

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

IsolationWhen I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago, it was almost impossible for me to talk to people, let alone relate to them.

If it wasn’t the constant anxiety and paranoia keeping me from engaging, it was the burden of having an 800 lb. gorilla that nobody understood hanging over my head.

How could I possibly get on anyone else’s level when there was this immense self-stigmatizing diagnosis of being crazy sitting on my shoulders?

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