Behavioral health conditions

The mind and body connection

Our minds are powerful. So are our bodies. In fact, there is a strong link between our minds and our bodies. So much so, that mental health issues can affect conditions like heart disease, diabetes, smoking and obesity. And the other way around.

Luckily, there are ways to treat your complete being. Many treatments take your mind, activities, and your spiritual beliefs into consideration to get at the root of your physical problem.   

Many “mind” activities can help your body get healthy. Exercise, yoga, relaxation and meditation are some of the holistic treatments that work on the mind and the body at the same time. They have been shown to improve health conditions like chronic pain, anxiety and high-blood pressure. And they’re helping people not only live longer, but also live better. 

More resources: Mind-body therapies

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

The fear of anxiety

It is normal to worry about stressful situations. Not having enough money or speaking in front of a group of people makes most of us at least a little anxious. Believe it or not, a little anxiety is actually good. It’s the body’s way of protecting you from harm and preparing you to act in case there’s danger.

But if you live in fear of something that may or may not happen, you may be suffering from anxiety. With too much anxiety you can’t sleep, think clearly or enjoy life.

There are five types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - You worry for too much and for too long (at least six months) over everyday problems.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - You have this endless loop of thoughts running through your head. You can’t get rid of them. And, what’s worse, you can’t stop yourself from doing certain things over and over again, like brushing your teeth or cleaning the refrigerator.

Panic disorder (PD) - You have sudden attacks of fear that come out of nowhere when you least expect them. All you can think about is when the next one is going to hit. They may happen in your sleep.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - You play a tragic event that happened in the past over and over in your head as if it just happened. This could have been an accident, natural disaster, rape, the death of a loved one or anything that could have threatened your life. Sometimes months or years can pass before these thoughts pop up.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobias - You live in fear of someone judging or not liking you, especially in social settings. This fear may keep you from making friends or having a loving relationship.

There is hope
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may feel trapped and hopeless. But there is hope. Most of these disorders can be treated successfully with either therapy or medications. Sometimes your doctor will recommend both as part of your treatment.

Growing up with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Your child can’t sit still, pay attention in class or play nice with his or her friends. Yes, your child could just be acting like a kid his or her age or your child could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Either way, you might want to have your child see their doctor for an evaluation. ADHD affects 3 to 10 percent of children today. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, help is available. Medications, special diets and mind-body treatments may help your child to focus, learn and behave properly.

When your child becomes an adult, there’s a 60 percent chance that he or she will continue to have the same symptoms. This means they could have a hard time getting organized, following directions, staying focused or completing tasks on time. He or she may have problems at school, work and with relationships.

It might be genetic
ADHD tends to run in families, and many adults that have it don’t even know they do. If you —or any of your family members— are easily distracted, fidgety and at times reckless, you may want to take this screening quiz.

Talk to your doctor
If your child has ADHD, talk to your doctor. Ask about other treatments besides medications. Ask about therapies that help the family cope. Also ask about special diets and biofeedback (helps the brain relax and focus), which may help children with ADHD behave better. 

Don’t give up on autism

She didn’t speak a word until she was four, but today Temple Grandin is the most famous speaker on behalf of autism. She knows first-hand what it means to be locked inside herself, unable to express her thoughts or understand what other people feel.

There are many levels of autism. Autism can range from gifted (or very bright) to severe (or unresponsive). That is why it is referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). And while the symptoms may be different for each child, one thing is for sure:  The brain of an autistic child is different from that of “average” children, so the way they respond to things may also be different.

Autistic children may: 

  • Prefer to be alone
  • Not be able to speak or express what they want to say
  • Not act like most children their own age
  • Not like touching or hugging people
  • Not be able to make eye contact
  • Prefer routines
  • Like to repeat words, activities and certain movements
  • React strongly to certain sounds or noises
  • Not be able to show feelings like joy or happiness
  • Not understand when someone is angry or in pain
  • Not answer when their name is called
  • Not be able to point to something
  • Speak using pictures or sign language

An autistic child can be difficult to deal with. That is why it is important to have your child tested as soon as you notice any of these differences. Today, there are many tools and technologies available for schools and for the home that can help your child grow and learn in a way that works for them. It may take more effort for the whole family, but if you keep trying, the rewards could be huge. All children have talents. Tap into your child’s talent and use it to teach them about those things they find difficult.

And see your doctor about the different treatments available for autism. They may include counseling, medication, and ways to learn how to deal with their struggles.


The ups and downs of bipolar disorder

One day you wake up excited about a great idea: You’re going to buy a new car. You shop around for several days, looking at more and more expensive models you can’t afford. Finally, you buy the car and drive it around, showing it off to your family and friends. A week later, you don’t even want to get out of bed. And you get angry anytime someone mentions the car. If this describes you, you may be bipolar.

Bipolar disorder is also called manic depression. A person can go from being very happy and confident (manic) to being very sad (depression) in a short amount of time. This has nothing to do with events that can make you happy or sad. They are your moods that swing from one extreme to the other without any real reason.

Bipolar disorder can be confused with depression. You want to make sure that:

  • The episode of very high moods lasts at least a week. 
  • You experience at least three of the symptoms before seeing your doctor so you can tell him exactly what you went through.
    • Hard time sleeping
    • Talked a lot
    • Came up with lots and lots of ideas
    • Couldn’t focus
    • Worked on a number of projects at the same time
    • Did things that were fun but risky (spending money, diving off bridges, using drugs, etc.)  After which, you felt very depressed.

 There are four types of bipolar disorders. Find out more from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Forgotten memories – dementia

You can’t find the phone. You’re not sure if it’s Thursday or Friday. And you can’t remember what time your daughter gets out of school today. Don’t worry. It’s ok to forget things as long as you remember them afterwards. But if you can’t remember them, and you’re finding it difficult to think straight, you may want to see your doctor. You may have dementia.

  • Dementia is used to describe a number of symptoms related to the loss of memory and thinking ability that prevents you from doing everyday things.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It affects 60 to 80 percent of those with dementia.
  • Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It normally follows a stroke.

But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia. The good news is that some of these conditions can be undone with treatment as in the case of thyroid problems or lack of certain vitamins in the body. One thing to keep in mind is that, while it is natural to forget a bit more as we age, serious loss of memory and ability to think clearly is not normal.

When sadness becomes depression

Facts about depression

  • Almost 1 in 10 American adults report depression each year.
  • About 11 percent of teenagers will suffer from major depression at least once before they become adults.

Is your child or teen depressed?

If he or she has been showing at least three of these signs, you should schedule a visit with a doctor. 

  • Is sad, teary or crying all the time
  • Not interested in usual activities or sports
  • Feels hopeless
  • Is always bored and has low energy
  • Doesn’t talk much and keeps to himself
  • Doesn’t like himself very much and feels guilt
  • Is very touchy about rejection or failure
  • Is more angry than usual
  • Has trouble with friends and family
  • Complains of headaches and stomachaches often
  • Is not going to school or is not doing as well as usual in school
  • Can’t focus
  • Eats or sleeps a lot more or a lot less than usual
  • Talks about running away from home or does it 
  • Thinks or talks about suicide


When pain gets in the way

Have you had any pain lately? If so, it’s no surprise. You see, pain is the number one reasons Americans visit their doctor. Pain affects more people than diabetes, heart disease and cancer put together. And chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability.

There are two types of pain:

  • Acute pain – caused by a specific disease or injury. Acute pain will go away when the disease is cured or the injury is healed.
  • Chronic pain – doesn’t end when the disease is cured or the injury is healed. It is long term and may be caused by the mind more than the body.

Treatment for pain

The treatment for your pain will depend on the type of pain you have. For acute pain, your doctor will prescribe something to deal with the disease or injury. For chronic pain, your doctor may have to find different treatments. He may prescribe medications, psychotherapy and other therapies.

Besides pain medications (which can cause addiction), there are a number of other ways to treat pain. These include:

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture 
  • Relaxation
  • Electrical nerve stimulation (called TENS)

Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for your pain.

Ten tips for those with chronic pain:

  • Get help from someone who understands chronic pain.
  • Get in touch with your feelings.
  • Your pain is not all in your head. How you think about it, though, makes a difference in how you feel.
  • Learn to relax and enjoy the moment. When you are tense, the pain gets worse. 
  • Stay as active as possible. Try to remain flexible and strong so you can feel good about yourself.
  • Set goals you can keep and chart your progress toward them.
  • Remember that when you’re in pain, your whole family feels it.
  • Talk to others that have similar problems so you won’t feel alone. 
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel.
  • Help yourself.


After having a baby, many women have mood swings. One minute they feel happy, the next minute they start to cry. They may feel a little depressed or have a hard time concentrating. They could lose their appetite or find that they can't sleep well even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms usually start about 3 to 4 days after delivery and may last several days.

If you're a new mother and have any of these symptoms, you have what are called the baby blues. The baby blues are considered a normal part of early motherhood. It usually goes away within 10 days after delivery.

Some women have more severe symptoms of the baby blues or symptoms that last longer than a few days. This is called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is an illness, like diabetes or heart disease.

Signs of postpartum depression include:

  • Feeling sad or down often
  • Frequent crying or tearfulness
  • Feeling restless, irritable or anxious
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Less energy and motivation to do things
  • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep or sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless or guilty
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Feeling like life isn't worth living
  • Showing little interest in your baby

Many women get depressed right after childbirth. Some women don't begin to feel depressed until several weeks or months later. Depression that occurs within 6 months of childbirth may be postpartum depression. Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.

A health care provider can diagnose a woman with postpartum depression. A woman who experiences any of these symptoms should see a health care provider right away.Counseling and medication are the most common treatments.


Relieving the horror

In the day, you have flashbacks. At night, you have nightmares. You’re safe now but at some point, you suffered something traumatic. And you can’t shake it. You relive it time and time again. You have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This could have been caused by:

  • Combat
  • Sexual or physical abuse as a child
  • Terrorist attack
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Serious accidents, like a car crash
  • Natural disasters, like a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake

Children also can have PTSD. Their reactions will depend on their age and the type of event that it was. Learn the signs of PTSD and how you can talk to your child about what happened. The symptoms of PTSD may not show up for months, even years, after the traumatic event. If you or your child have any of these symptoms, see your provider.

Symptoms of PSTD
That fear you felt when the event happened is back to haunt you. But this time it’s just a memory. Sounds, places or smells can cause you to relive the horror. They can make your heart race and your body breaks out in a sweat. 

Avoiding places and things
You may avoid people, places and things that remind you of the traumatic event. Crowded spaces (like shopping malls), or an intersection or part of town are examples. You may also feel numb, and stay away from family and friends.

On high alert
A person with PTSD may be “on edge” all the time. You may scare easily, and feel annoyed. These feelings can make you feel stressed and angry. It may prevent you from concentrating, sleeping, eating or enjoying life.

You may also have:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Depression
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Pain or other symptoms
  • Problems finding work
  • Problems with relationships, including divorce

Ways to treat PSTD
There are different types of counseling used in treating PTSD. The most effective treatments are:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) - teaches you to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy – focuses on talking about the trauma until memories no longer upset you. It forces you to visit places that you’ve been staying away from trying to avoid flashbacks, but that are really safe.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) focuses on sounds or hand movements while talking about the trauma in order to reprogram the brain.


What you see may not be real - schizophrenia

Everywhere we go, we’re blasted with information. Now, imagine hearing even more voices inside your head. Or, seeing things that no one else sees. Or, thinking people are trying to control your mind when they’re really not. This is called schizophrenia.

The symptoms usually start in the late teens and early 20s, and can be seen as:

  • Thoughts or beliefs that aren’t based on reality
  • Repeated out-of-control movements
  • Difficulty speaking and showing feelings
  • Problems paying attention, remembering, or organizing things
  • Problem understanding information and making decisions

There is a high possibility that a person with schizophrenia may die an early death or commit suicide. That’s because they may be unable to get the medical care they need.

What we know about schizophrenia

Scientists are still learning about schizophrenia. So far they believe that:

  • Schizophrenia runs in families. But it’s not caused by only one gene from one parent. It is mostly a combination of genes that are different. These different genes can change the way the brain grows.
  • The brains of people with schizophrenia are different. They may have more fluid than most.
  • These differences in the brain may be there from before birth. But they are noticed only during puberty when the brain is on its last growth spurt.

If you know someone who shows symptoms of schizophrenia, try to get them to a doctor. There are many medications and other treatments available to help manage this disorder. There is no cure for schizophrenia, but a person can live a normal life with the right treatment.


Are alcohol and drugs controlling your life?

Drinking occasionally is acceptable. And, so is taking prescription drugs when prescribed. Addiction is when you can't control your use of alcohol or drugs. Or if you become dependent on a substance to cope with daily life. Addiction to alcohol and drugs can affect your school, work, even relationships.

Substance use disoder is a disease that affects both your mind and your body. It can cause depression, anxiety, memory loss and suicide as well as:

  • Heart problems
  • Strokes
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney/liver failure
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases