Abuse / Trauma
A traumatic or abusive event can be an extremely difficult and painful experience. Examples of traumatic events include physical or sexual abuse, a violent attack or witnessing a catastrophic event such as war or natural disasters. These events can make you feel helpless and unsafe and can lead to anxiety, depression, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder. You may also find your appetite and sleep patterns change dramatically. It is important to bear in mind that what one person finds traumatic another person may not, and so it is perfectly natural for you to feel emotions that another person may not.
When a substance or activity makes you feel happy your brain releases feel-good chemicals that make you want to do it again. But if seeking out the ‘high’ has developed into a compulsive and uncontrollable desire in spite of the increasing negative and harmful consequences it is having on your life, then you are dealing with an addiction.
No matter what kind of addiction you have, all can take a serious toll on your physical and psychological health. Symptoms can include depression, panic attacks, sleep disturbance, obsessive-compulsive traits, deteriorating relationships, poor work performance and escalating financial problems caused by your increasing preoccupation with the activity.
Work, relationships and illnesses are all examples of life changes which can cause stress and anxiety. In most cases many individuals adjust to these stressful life events within a few months and normality returns. However, some may continue to feel deeply distressed and feel completely overwhelmed by their, once normal, daily routines. As such, these individuals cannot adjust to these changes and the stress simply becomes unbearable affecting all aspects of their life. This reaction may be indicative of an adjustment disorder.
Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Whilst many assume that attention deficit disorder is an issue based solely in childhood, it can in fact be a disorder in adulthood as well, even affecting those who were not diagnosed as a child. Often adults with ADHD have difficulty focusing, crave excitement, blurt out inappropriate thoughts without thinking, and have poor organisational skills. They may similarly suffer from irritability or mood swings, low self-esteem and often have an explosive temper. Paradoxically, they may also have a tendency to become completely absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding, becoming so engrossed they neglect everything else they are supposed to be doing. Consequently, left untreated ADHD has the potential to cause problems in virtually every aspect of life.
While being angry from time to time is an integral part of our evolutionary make up (it can help us detect and respond to threatening situations or motivate us to change aspects of our lives we are not happy with), constant, uncontrollable anger can be an incredibly destructive and dangerous emotion.
Anger and high adrenaline trigger physiological reactions such as raised heartbeat, higher temperature and palpitations. This level and intensity of emotion over a prolonged period of time can lead to serious physiological and psychological health problems including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and lower-functioning immune system to name just a few.
Anxiety and Stress are normal responses to threatening situations. But anxious feelings can also produce unpleasant side-effects of sweating, tension, panic and avoidant behaviour. If left untreated, anxiety can cause wider difficulties in relationships, at work, and in general mood levels.
Bereavement is the feeling of grief when we lose someone, or something, close to us. Death and loss are an inevitable part of life. Shock, numbness, anger and sadness form part of the natural grievng process. However, if left unprocessed, such losses can leave us with emotional scars and long-term difficulties including mental health issues.
Bipolar Disorder / Manic Depression
Bipolar, previously referred to as Manic Depression, is a mood disorder. The individual's mood swings between episodes of extreme depression and extreme mania, with each episode lasting for several weeks.
The depressive phase includes feelings of sadness, poor concentration, a lack of energy and feelings of hopelessness. The mania phase includes feelings of euphoria, boundless energy and irritability. There may also be symptoms of psychosis - hallucinations and delusions.
Most people will have experienced stress from time to time. This may be due to redundancy, marital problems or even something positive such as going on holiday. Yet, persistent and prolonged stress can lead to ‘burnout’. Burnout occurs when you feel completely overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands of your life. You may feel like all of your energy has disappeared along with your interest and motivation, leaving you feeling hopeless and with nothing more to give. Feelings of frustration, isolation, and emotional outbursts are similarly all characteristic of burnout. This feeling does not usually happen overnight but is a slow gradual process that increasingly worsens.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Also known as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). It is a condition which causes long-term tiredness that affects everyday life. These feelings of tiredness do not go away with sleep or rest and substantially limit the ability to undertake mundane life activities. Although there will be periods where the symptoms do improve, there will also be times where the symptoms will flare up and get worse. The symptoms of fatigue can be mental as well as physical and include muscular pain, headaches, stomach pains, sleeping problems and psychological difficulties such as depression, irritability and panic attacks.
Also known as Oniomania. It is a form of addiction specifically in relation to shopping. Spending money can give the individual a buzz or a high and is commonly used to improve the individual’s mood when they are angry, depressed or lonely. They commonly go through a form of withdrawal whereby their thoughts are preoccupied with spending money. It is usually not the specific item that they are buying which excites them, but the processes of buying it. They therefore can have numerous items still with their tags on and which have never been worn or used. This form of addiction can result in devastating financial consequences, with individuals running up substantial debit.
Co-dependency describes when an individual has a strong desire to control the people around them and believes that without them individuals such as their spouse, children or colleagues are incapable of undertaking the tasks they are responsible for. They have good intentions and desperately try to take care of people who are experiencing difficulty; however, these good intentions can quickly become compulsive and defeating. Due to an inability to say ‘no’ to requests made of them, they may find themselves the victims in abusive relationships and believe that if they are loving enough they can change the other person’s behaviour.
From time to time we can all feel sad, miserable and fed up, but if these feelings persist, they may be signs of depression. Depression affects one in six of us, with common symptoms including lack of motivation, difficulties in concentration, pessimism, sleep disturbances, irritability, crying, suicidal thoughts, social withdrawal, changes in appetite, loss of sex drive and lack of enthusiasm and pleasure. Feelings of sadness can continue for weeks and months, and interfere significantly in relationships, employment and health.
Drug Abuse / Drug Addiction
Drugs, whether legal or illegal, are chemical substances that act on the brain and nervous system resulting in changes to a person’s mood, emotion or state of consciousness. However, some of these substances carry the potential to induce addiction with damaging psychological and physical effects. Like with alcoholism, indications of drug dependency can be seen in symptoms such as feeling like you are not able to function without it, preoccupation with getting hold of it and requiring more of the substance to feel an effect. Likewise, withdrawal symptoms are a common feature of drug addiction, with symptoms such as fever, sweating, nausea, chills and body aches all common place. It is important to be aware that legal drugs such as benzodiazepines (tranquillisers) carry the potential to be equally as addictive as illegal drugs such as heroin.
For some people, restricting food content can be a way of keeping in control. However, binge-eating can be a way of relieving anxiety or stress. The type of eating issue can be particular to the individual, and needs to be understood in order to find ways of working through it.
Having distorted eating patterns can lead to many physical complications such as tooth decay, kidney damage, bone density loss, high or low blood pressure, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems, stunted growth (in adolescents and teens) and depression.
Persistent negative thinking can create a vicious cycle and can lead you to avoid taking on all kinds of activities and tasks because you fear failure. This can sometimes lead to a catch 22 situation as cutting yourself off from life’s challenges can leave you feeling even more hopeless and unhappy.
If you are experiencing exhaustion, lack of motivation, feelings of failure, or thinking negatively about your abilities and opportunities, and wishing life was better then you are probably suffering from low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a very common anxiety disorder that is characterised by the presence of obsessions and compulsions that are felt to be unreasonable and that impair daily functioning. OCD can be very distressing - it may be accompanied by depression and may also negatively impact relationships.
Panic Disorder / Panic Attacks
A panic attack is an unexpected episode of intense fear and associated physical symptoms. It is natural to experience feelings of unease, anxiety and even panic. However for someone with panic disorder these feelings are incredibly intense, occur on a regular basis and can arise at any given time, usually for no obvious reason. In the UK it is estimated that one out of every hundred people suffers from panic disorder, which frequently develops in the 20s age group and is twice more common in women than men.
Other conditions may cause severe anxiety, and may be related to panic disorder. The most common of these are: phobias, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and general anxiety disorder (GAD).
Personality Disorders (Narcissitic, Paranoid, Avoidant, Borderline, Dependent)
As human beings we each have our own unique ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. For example, some people are shy and reserved, whilst others are more lively and outgoing. However, for some of us, parts of our personality develop in such a way that makes it difficult for us to live with ourselves and other people and these are termed personality disorders. These disorders can be highly distressing for both the individual and their loved ones who may find the subsequent behaviour unusual, and perhaps even offensive. Consequently, as someone with a personality disorder you may find it difficult to make or keep relationships, control your behaviour or keep out of trouble. As such, having a personality disorder can make life incredibly difficult and isolating and so other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or drug and alcohol problems are also very common.
Like generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks, a phobia is an anxiety disorder. It is characterised by an extreme or irrational fear of an animal, object, place or situation. Phobias are more than simple fears; however, they can completely dominate the life of an individual who reorganises their whole life around avoiding the particular thing they fear and the very thought of coming into contact with it, will lead to intense feelings of anxiety and panic. In more complex phobias such as agoraphobia (fear of open spaces and public places) and social phobias the individual may find it very difficult to lead a normal life, as these situations are not easily avoided. Individuals suffering from a phobia are similarly likely to suffer with depression and panic attacks are common.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological and physical condition that is caused by very frightening or distressing events such as wars, natural disasters and violent personal assaults such as rape or being mugged. It is characterised by the individual reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks causing disabling anxiety. The individual may also find sleeping difficult and may be withdrawn, hypervigilant and prone to emotional outbursts. Alcohol and drug use are also prevalent, as the individual tries to block out the memory. This condition can have substantial implications on the life of the individual with relationship breakdown and problems at work being common place.
The arrival of a new baby is one of life’s happiest moments, yet it can also be associated with a huge amount of anxiety, exhaustion and stress. Almost half of new mothers can go through a period of feeling very emotional and tearful after the arrival of a child (the ‘baby blues’) and an estimated one in ten can go on to develop more intense and long-term symptoms, known as postnatal depression (PND). These symptoms usually develop in the first four to six weeks after giving birth and can result in overwhelming feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness. Postnatal depression can affect individuals in many different ways. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last from a few months to, in severe cases, well over a year. Symptoms include, feelings of irritability, loss of libido, anxiety, tearfulness, feelings of hopelessness and guilt, and disturbed appetite and sleeping patterns.
The term psychosexual describes such issues as sexual dysfunction and emotional blocks within relationships. This could include erectile failure, premature ejaculation and retarded ejaculation for men and conditions such as vaginismus, painful penetration and orgasmic dysfunction for women. It can also look at issues within relationships such as anger, resentment and jealousy, and how these issues translate into your sexual relationship.
Psychosis is a condition that affects an individual's mind and causes changes to the way they think, feel and behave. For example, the individual may be unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination. Psychosis is not necessarily a condition itself, but is a symptom of other conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. An individual experiencing psychosis may have hallucinations - seeing and hearing things that are not there, and delusions - believing things that are not true. The individual may also experience symptoms such as confused and disturbed thoughts and a lack of insight and self-awareness. Experiencing these symptoms for a length of time is known as a psychotic episode.
Relationships are complex and there are many situations and problems that can affect them. They can be triggered by unexpected events such as redundancy, illness or death and even expected changes such as moving house, a new baby or having parents move into the same home. Additionally, some relationships are highly stressful, for example, when a partner is abusive or an alcoholic, has affairs or may be suffering from a long-term illness. All of these issues can put substantial pressure on the relationship and can lead to each partner feeling stressed, anxious and depressed.
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition which is described as a psychotic illness. This means that the individual may not be able to distinguish their own thoughts and imagination from reality. The condition has a range of symptoms which can be classified into positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are those that most individuals do not normally experience but are present in people with schizophrenia such as hallucinations and delusions. Negative symptoms, in contrast, are deficits of normal responses such as appearing emotionless, flat and apathetic. Episodes of acute schizophrenia are characterised by severe positive symptoms, followed by periods where they experience few or no positive symptoms.
Like with other addictions such as alcohol, drugs and gambling, sex addiction is characterised by the individual being driven by a compulsion to seek out and engage in behaviour that brings them benefits, or a ‘high’, even though it may have severely negative consequences. In sex addiction, the individual is driven to pursue a markedly increased amount of sex in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled. This may lead them to engage in risky sexual behaviour, multiple affairs, and excessive use of pornography. The individual may spend large amounts of time planning or engaging in sex and missing important social events or work in order to pursue sex. Sex addiction is also characterised by emotional high and low mood swings. Following sex, and the high that fulfilling that need brings, the individual may then suffer from an emotional low such as shame, regret and remorse. The only way to relieve these feelings is to pursue another sexual encounter. As a result this can lead to great interference in employment, hobbies and relationships.
There are several issues that come within the bracket of ‘sexuality’. For example, it could be issues to do with love and sex, sexual performance or sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a term used to indicate to whom an individual is sexually and emotionally attached. This can mean to members of the same sex, opposite sex or both sexes. Many people feel confused about their sexual orientation and are sometimes scared about the reaction they may receive from those close to them.
Most of us will have experienced the strains and difficulties of stress. Stress is the feeling of being under pressure and in some cases it can actually be quite beneficial leading to increased motivation and performance. However, too much stress or stress over a prolonged period of time can cause substantial psychological and physical problems. Symptoms may include a lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, anger, depression and exhaustion. Suffering from stress for a long time can lead to more severe consequences such as high blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Work and Occupational Stress
Many of us suffer from the pressures and strains associated with our chosen careers and employment. However, work and occupational stress describes a situation where the demands of work exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. This affects a large number of people and is linked to high levels of sickness absence, staff turnover and other problems such as human error. The symptoms of work and occupational stress can be both physical and psychological and can include headaches, muscle tension, exhaustion, feelings that you cannot cope, irritability and mood swings and finding it hard to concentrate.
Many people would assume that being a compulsive worker is a positive attribute and is associated with higher pay, promotions and bonuses. However, an unhealthy inability to stop working can lead to numerous personal and social problems. It can put considerable strain on relationships, and can lead to severe problems with health such as sleep disorders, gastric problems and chronic fatigue. It is usually associated with a long-standing feeling of inadequacy.