Archive for November 2010

Seasonal Affective Disorder   Leave a comment

For those living in the Northern Hemisphere the temperature is dropping and the days are getting shorter and this signals the return of Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a form of depression that occurs in relation to the seasons, most commonly winter.

Many people find themselves spending less time outdoors and receive very little sunlight. A moderate amount of sunlight each day, about 30 minutes, is very important to our well-being. Sunlight nourishes our bodies and supplies us with Vitamin D, which promotes the absorption of calcium in the body helping our bones become stronger. Sunlight also inhibits the body’s production of Melatonin, a sleep related hormone that has been shown to be correlated with SAD.

Other benefits to receiving adequate amounts of sunlight are

  • Strengthening of cardiovascular system

  • Normalizing blood pressure as well as blood sugar

  • Increased metabolism

  • Aiding in weight loss

  • Ensuring proper functioning of kidneys by eliminating wastes

  • Enhanced liver function

  • Improved digestion

  • Above all, sunshine can alter your moods and cheer you up, thereby preventing anxiety and depression

SAD becomes an even more relevant issue today because more and more people spend their entire working hours in cubicles or other places with few, if any windows. With the shorter days upon us these people leave the offices shrouded in the darkness of night only to repeat the process again the next day and the days after. Over time this can take its toll on some people and they can become fatigued, anxious, socially withdrawn, and even unable to concentrate.

However, even with the sunlight limitations of modern living there is a technological aid that exists to treat SAD. A simple contraption known as a Light Box can be used to alleviate the symptoms of SAD and allow your body to receive an adequate amount of light comparable to receiving sunlight. Known as a light box, it takes up very little space and can be kept on ones night stand or even at the work desk. For more information about SAD, light therapy, and light boxes visit the

Mayo Clinics Website on SAD

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Living with a Family Member Suffering from Mental Illness   1 comment

Living with a family member suffering from mental illness can present itself with many challenges not only for the person suffering directly from the illness, but for all those who exist within the person’s social system, primarily the family. If you conceptualize the family as an interconnected unit, with every part of it effecting every other part, it is easy to come to the conclusion that if one part of the unit is suffering psychologically, it is going to have an effect on the entire unit. We are after all highly social beings who are influenced by those in our personal social systems.

For example, people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder experience dramatic emotional swings from even the slightest stimulus. Having great difficulty regulating their emotions, such people tend to unleash their outbursts and direct their dichotomous, or black and white thinking (I love you/ I hate you) towards the people they are most comfortable and connected to, usually their family. This is not a simple tantrum, I’m speaking of psychosis, even escalating to self-mutilation as is common with BPD.

Now, suppose a brother or sister were to make a humorous comment towards this person, maybe other family members are present, maybe not. There is a good chance this person will perceive the comment not as a gesture of humor, but as a personal attack, one which quickly draws upon their anger. Being unable to control his or her emotions this persons anger will likely be directed toward the sibling making the comment in the form of cursing, screaming, even escalating to the point of psychosis. The family in turn, may get upset with the person suffering from BPD because of this kind of reaction. The family members become upset with this person which further incites the situation, enforces the persons irrational thinking, and can turn the very dynamic of the family into one where the sufferer is the root of the “problems” of the family. There becomes an “us” vs. “him/her” mentality in regards to the person who is truly ill. This is but one potential scenario where a person’s mental illness effects those around him or her.

Now consider the rest of the spectrum of mental illness. Families have people in them who suffer from major depression, bi-polar disorder, substance abuse, and the hallucinatory and delusional thought processes from schizophrenia. All of which has an effect on the persons social system. It can be very difficult for family members, and the person him or herself, to work through the fallout that their mental illness may have created over time.

There are some simple ways to minimize the negative impact of mental illness on the family;

—–Become aware of and recognize the reality of psychological suffering. Yes, people become stressed, upset, angry, and irrational at times, but it is important to use discernment and see that if patterns of behavior exist that are causing the family member to persistently suffer, and in turn other members of the family, that it should be understood for what it is; the person is suffering from mental illness.

—–Communicate this with the family member so that he or she will consider seeking out professional treatment. Go with the person to have their physical health evaluated. Blood tests and brain scans can reveal things such as nutritional deficiencies, brain abnormalities, and heavy metal toxicity, all of which can contribute to mental illness and if treated properly will relieve symptoms. Psychiatric evaluations should also take place to assess the persons psychological state and determine if the person requires a medical or psycho-therapeutic intervention.

—–Make sure all family members are aware of the persons mental illness. Embracing, accepting, and educating oneself of the person’s condition will create healthier interactions with the person and help the family become a more cohesive unit. The persons mental illness should not be the basis for shame or guilt nor is it helpful to hide the problem in the dark. Rather, bring it out in the light so people will have a better understanding of the person.

This is by no means a universal template. Everyone’s personal situations and family dynamics are going to vary. It can be very difficult to convince someone that they are suffering from mental illness, there can be tremendous resistance. For adults of free will, unless they present direct harm to self and/or others, you cannot force them to seek treatment. Living with a family member with a mental illness can be very frustrating for everyone involved but with a concerted effort on the part of the family, the negative impact of this persons illness can certainly be mitigated and will create a more adaptive social environment for the person to recover over time.