As we move through National Eating Disorders Awareness Month, let’s look at eating disorders and the myths associated with them. Eating disorders are on the rise, affecting approximately 24 million people in the United States. Despite the prevalence, there are many misconceptions and false beliefs about eating disorders, starting with what they are.
Eating disorders is a broad term for several psychological conditions that can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Many people associate eating disorders with anorexia nervosa, a condition where people resort to restricting food and relying on unhealthy activities in an attempt to reach an unnaturally low weight. Other eating disorders include:
Bulimia nervosa involves eating large amounts of food over a short time, followed by purging via actions like vomiting, excessive exercise or taking laxatives.
Binge eating disorder is a condition where a person will eat large amounts uncontrollably over a short period of time without purging. Similarly, binge eating disorder can cause marked distress.
Many eating disorders are associated with shame and embarrassment, which is why it is important to openly discuss these conditions. Eating Disorders Awareness Week, scheduled for February 27-March 5, focuses attention on eating disorders as it works to educated and provide hope and support to people who are struggling. Like many mental health conditions, though, eating disorders are associated with a number of misconceptions. Therefore, by understanding the facts around eating disorders, we may be in a better place to recognize them among ourselves and the people we love. Read on for some common myths and learn the facts.
Eating disorders mostly affects rich teen girls
Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their age, sexual orientation, gender and socioeconomic status. Most people with eating disorders fall between the ages of 12 and 26, but eating disorders can and do affect people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and higher. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, one in three people with an eating disorder are men.
People with eating disorders are always underweight
Many people associate eating disorders with people who are extremely thin, and that can be the case with people who are struggling with anorexia, which is characterized by a significant reduction in food intake. However, other eating disorders like bulimia and binge eating disorder may not be associated with low body weights. Binge eating disorder, the most common type of eating disorder, often affects people who are overweight or obese.
They are a choice
Eating disorders are complex medical conditions. There may be biological or sociological factors involved. Many patients also struggle with other mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders. Eating disorders tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. People with eating disorders are already struggling with feelings of worthlessness. Calling them a choice diminishes their complicated causes, which even the most accomplished researchers do not completely understand.
They aren’t really serious
This myth can have devastating consequences. Eating disorders can cause serious medical issues, including brittle bones, cardiac problems, and kidney failure. Left untreated, they can be deadly.
Eating disorders do not respond to treatment
If there is any good news in the discussion about eating disorders, it’s that they can and do respond to treatment. Recovery can take months or even years. Relapse is not unusual. Because of this, treatment must also address other underlying issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and nutritional concerns. An effective treatment plan seeks to restore physical, behavior and psychological health, and these changes require work and commitment. For instance, treatment can involve intensive inpatient care, or it may only require outpatient care with a trained mental health provider. Your healthcare professional can help you make this important decision.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. If you would like additional support or want to speak to a support navigator, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center at www.behealthy365.org or call 317-468-4231. You can also find additional information and links to treatment at the National Eating Disorders Association website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
As we move into the winter months, you may be experiencing what’s known as seasonal affective disorder. You may know it by other names, like the winter blues, seasonal depression or the aptly named acronym SAD. December is Seasonal Depression Awareness month, and it’s no wonder. Shorter days and a lack of sunshine can throw our bodies into a winter funk that is hard to shake.
Let’s look at what we know about seasonal affective disorder and how it can be treated at home and by your medical professional.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depressive disorder triggered by the changing seasons and lack of sunlight. It causes signs and symptoms similar to major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, but it is limited to certain months of the year, particularly the winter months. It occurs in .5-3% of the general population, although it is more prevalent among those who are already diagnosed with major depressive or bipolar disorder. Common symptoms include:
If your seasonal affective disorder symptoms are starting to interfere with your ability to work and live your daily life, make an appointment with your doctor. Seasonal affective disorder responds to various treatments, including:
Light therapy can mimic the sun and promote changes in your brain chemistry that lift your mood. Your doctor can help you decide if light therapy is a good option for treating your symptoms. You can buy a light box without a prescription. Keep in mind that these devices are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so talk to your doctor and do your research before you invest in one.
Antidepressant therapy may lift your mood by increasing the level of certain chemicals in your brain. Your doctor can talk to you about the benefits and drawbacks of these medications. You may need to try more than one medication to find the one that works best for you.
Talk therapy is always a good idea when you’re having trouble coping.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. You don’t have to try to do everything at once – even small changes may have big results.
Exercise. Yes, we know. Oversleeping is a symptom of seasonal affective disorder, and we understand that you’d rather stay in bed. But, if you can pull yourself out from under the covers and add daily activities, you may notice it gets easier each time. Walk the dog. Do some jumping jacks. Sign up for a fitness class at the nearest Hancock Wellness Center.
Be social. Isolation can lead to increased depression, which is the last thing you need to add to your winter burdens. Make sure you’re having regular human interaction. If you can’t meet in-person with your favorite people, try a video call. If holiday parties suck the life out of you after a while, consider inviting a friend to go to a movie or grab a quick dinner.
Set a schedule. You may be sleeping too much in the morning, which leads you to hours of staring at the clock at night. When you finally fall asleep, you’re back to your mixed-up schedule that doesn’t fit with your family and work commitments. Sticking to a schedule is the first step to making your days and nights more predictable. This includes eating at regular intervals, rather than grazing throughout the day and night. Check out more healthy sleeping tips here.
Avoid alcohol and other substances. ‘Tis the party season, but misusing alcohol and other substances can exacerbate your depression.
The good news? Most seasonal depression lifts in the spring, as the days become brighter and longer. In the meantime, we have plenty of coping strategies. People rarely “snap out of” depression, but you may find your symptoms gradually lifting.
If you are struggling with addiction or a mental health condition and don’t know where to turn, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center. Our trained support navigators can help you find resources that guide you to a healthier, happier and well you, no matter what season we’re in.
Have you heard about the Mental Health Campaign from the Hancock Health Foundation? Launched early last year, the goal of this $3.5 million campaign is to bring mental illness and substance misuse issues to light in Hancock County — and to bring an end to the darkness and suffering. The campaign has now reached $3 million in generous donations, and we are hoping to finish strong and band together to get our community to the finish line. Are you able to help fund this critical support and resources for Hancock County?
What are the goals of the Mental Health Campaign?
The Hancock Health Foundation’s Mental Health Campaign was started as an honest conversation about the issues of mental health and substance misuse and their impact on Hancock County. But it’s more than just the raising of voices. The $3.5 million goal for the campaign was put in place to fund two new mental health navigators, 10 new licensed social workers, school-based prevention and early intervention services and medication-assisted opioid treatment.
What has the Mental Health Campaign done so far?
So far, the campaign has used generous community donations to make great strides in meeting those goals. Two new social workers have been hired, and navigators have seen 160+ clients. Contracts have been set with two local school systems, and multiple mental health programs have been established within those schools. Additionally, the newly launched RISE program is set to provide dual diagnosis services and medication-assisted treatment for those who need it.
These services are primarily being conducted through the Healthy365 Connection Center, where Support Navigators work as caring community partners, provide a confidential listening ear and connect clients with local resources to overcome life’s many challenges. Even prior to the start of the campaign, Healthy365 was hosting their QPR suicide prevention training and CRAFT support group for individuals who have a loved one in addiction.
Why does the community need this campaign?
Some people might think that local Hancock County residents aren’t impacted by issues with mental health or drugs, but mental illness and substance misuse leave no community or age population untouched. In the U.S. overall, 1 in 4 adults—and 1 in 5 children—live with mental illness. More specifically, Indiana ranks 5th in the nation for states with the worst drug problems and ranks 2nd for youth suicide attempts.
And right here in Hancock County, recent studies show that 65% of our youth report knowing someone who has had serious thoughts of suicide. But with your generous support, you can help us open up about mental health and substance misuse in our community. Early education and intervention about these concerns, particularly in schools, can literally save lives.
Success stories from local residents
Don’t just take it from us. The Healthy365 Connection Center has served hundreds of clients in Hancock County – with life-changing results. Said one client, “I was just ready to walk out and give up. In all honesty, Healthy365 helped me a lot. It has changed so much since someone finally just listened.” And working with a Support Navigator is not just a one-time outreach. “They take the time to listen and get to know you and your needs and help you every step of the way,” said another client. “It’s not just done after one phone call, they really created a relationship with you and keep in touch regularly to make sure you are okay.”
Many individuals in our community have been trying to get help for their mental health or substance misuse for weeks, months or even years. But the Support Navigators are trained to provide a non-judgmental (and confidential) listening ear, as well as a connection to local resources. “I have been searching for help for the last 4-5 years,” said an additional client. “I’ve had overwhelming anxiety and did not know what to do. When I called Healthy365 I didn’t feel brushed to the side due to my history. They took time to listen, understand, and helped me figure out what to do.”
Would you like to learn more about the Hancock Health Foundation or their Mental Health Campaign? Visit their website today. Any support you can generously offer is appreciated as they aim to reach their final campaign goal of $3.5 million in donations.
Did you know that October is ADHD Awareness Month? We’re tackling exactly what ADHD is, the different symptoms that individuals may experience both in childhood and adulthood, as well as a variety of mental health treatments that can support focus and reduce the hyperactivity that comes with an ADHD diagnosis.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is a condition that affects behavior, making someone seem restless, impulsive or distracted. It is thought that symptoms begin in childhood, and often become more noticeable when they begin attending school. Research shows that the condition often runs in families, and some differences in the brain and its chemicals/neurotransmitters have been identified, although the exact cause remains unknown.
ADHD is not thought to manifest later in life, but some individuals, particularly women, can go undiagnosed well into adulthood. These days, schools and healthcare professionals are becoming more adept at identifying ADHD, and with intervention and treatment, it can generally be well-managed.
What are the most common symptoms?
The symptoms of ADHD are often divided into two different categories. People with ADHD may experience symptoms from both categories, or they may just fall into one or the other. One category is inattentiveness/difficulty focusing and the other is hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Some of the most frequent symptoms related to inattentiveness may include a short attention span, careless mistakes at work or school, forgetfulness, or appearing unable to listen. Symptoms related to hyperactivity can include lack of concentration, fidgeting/being unable to sit still, excessive talking or movement, interrupting, speaking without thinking and little sense of danger.
How does ADHD affect children and adults differently?
There is a great deal more research on children with ADHD as opposed to adults, mostly due to adults going undiagnosed. In fact, research shows that nearly one in 10 children are diagnosed, compared to less than 5% of adults. For adults, hyperactivity tends to decrease, and inattentiveness symptoms may become more subtle.
Some suggested symptoms can include a lack of attention to detail, poor organization, inability to prioritize tasks, speaking out of turn, mood swings, extreme impatience and risky activities. Additionally, other mental health conditions can resemble this condition, including depression, anxiety, thyroid problems, sleep disorders, or alcohol/substance misuse.
What ADHD treatments are available?
The most common treatments are behavior therapy and medication. For children under the age of 6, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends utilizing behavior management and parent training before trying medication. After 6 years of age, behavior training is usually combined with medication. Therapy for ADHD can include social skills training, talk therapy (CBT) and educational programs.
For adults, ADHD treatment is also often a combination of medication and therapy. Adults diagnosed later in life can benefit greatly from education and skills training to learn new coping mechanisms. Medications generally include either stimulants to boost and balance neurotransmitters, or antidepressants for adults.
However, it is important to note that ADHD treatment can help manage your symptoms, but there is no cure. If a specific treatment causes side effects or does not work for you, don’t give up – keep trying other options to determine what is best for your situation.
If you suspect that you or your child may have ADHD but you don’t know where to start getting help, you are always welcome to contact the Healthy365 Connection Center. Our Support Navigators provide free and confidential services to connect you to local resources that can help identify and treat mental disorders.
Have you ever had a mental health screening? October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, and this common practice can be a true life-saver. Let’s explore what happens when you take a screening, how to analyze your results and how organizations like the Healthy365 Connection Center can help you find the support that you need.
What is a mental health screening?
A mental health screening is a quick and simple exam that can help determine the state of your mental wellness. You may receive one of these exams during a visit with your primary care provider if you are exhibiting symptoms of a mental disorder, but many physician’s offices have also made these screenings a standard practice. For example, most people who give birth will receive a screening at their one-week and six-week appointments because postpartum depression can be so prevalent. The purpose of a mental health screening is to diagnose mental conditions and help the recipient find appropriate treatment.
Where might I receive a mental health screening?
As mentioned, you are likely to receive a mental health screening in your primary care provider’s office in order to connect you with a mental health provider. If you are already seeing a mental health professional, they may administer a screening in order to best determine your course of treatment.
Due to the fact that approximately 50% of lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% begin by age 24, organizations like NAMI continue to advocate for periodic screenings in schools. The average delay between symptoms and treatment of a mental health condition is 11 years, and early intervention can bridge that gap. You can also easily access at-home mental health screenings online in order to identify symptoms and seek out treatment.
What happens during a screening?
There are several different types of mental health screenings. You may receive a more generalized screening to check for a variety of mental health symptoms, or you can take a screening based on specific symptoms you have been experiencing. You may want to speak with your healthcare provider or take an online test if you have been noticing common symptoms such as:
Excessive worrying or fear
Major changes in personality, eating habits, and/or sleeping patterns
Dramatic mood swings
Anger, frustration, or irritability
Fatigue and lack of energy
Confused thinking and trouble concentrating
Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Avoidance of social activities
Thinking about hurting yourself or attempting suicide — if you are feeling suicidal feelings, call the 988 Suicide Lifeline immediately
Many tests pose their questions in the following way, “Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems,” which you can answer with “not at all, several days, more than half the days, or nearly every day.” With some physicians and mental health care professionals, you may just discuss your symptoms and answer questions aloud. In other cases, you may be asked to fill out a paper or digital questionnaire.
In addition to questions about your mood and behavior, your primary care provider may also give you a physical exam. Sometimes a physical disorder can cause mental health symptoms, such as thyroid disease, and a simple blood test can detect it.
What is the benefit of mental health screenings?
The biggest benefit to taking a mental health screening is earlier identification and intervention for mental health conditions. Many people who are affected by mental disorders will find improvement from medication and/or talk therapy with a mental health professional.
In a recent statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that all doctors should issue regular screenings for anxiety in adults under 65, even if they do not present symptoms. According to the Associated Press, “the recommendations are based on a review that began before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating studies showing potential benefits and risks from screening,” and given the surge in mental health concerns during the past few years, this guidance makes more sense than ever.
If you have taken a recent screening and/or would like to access help from a mental health professional, you can contact a Support Navigator at the Healthy365 Connection Center. Our team provides free and confidential services to walk alongside you and your family and connect you with local resources to support your mental health journey. Call us at 317-468-4231 today!