Moving through my abnormal psychology course, I found it extremely challenging (in the emotional sense). I had a difficult time keeping my boundaries – by keeping my emotions in check – from the material read. In a very real sense, I related to many of the psychopathological disorders. Having family members that have some psychopathologies, it has given me a sense of understanding; it allows me to empathize; and yet it permits me to know that “everyone” can seek out support if they “choose” to create healthier relationships with them-selves and others. Nonetheless, at the end of this course, I needed to recognize what I got out of the material I studied, and how this material can better serve me and others. I came to realize five essential pieces.
1.) Is there a “Normal”?
First, after looking at the prevalence rates (new cases) for various abnormal disorders, I’ve come to ask the question, “What is normal, really?” Somehow, I think that we could be alluding ourselves in believing that there is something called normal. Or have we just grown used to the abnormal behaviors and now call them normal? Of course, with psychopathological disorders that consist of harming others or oneself, these are special cases and required immediate help. Anyways, maybe by knowing that there is a “normal,” this could be a way for us to feel “safe” or comfortable and, perhaps, to even point fingers at others that don’t fit in to “our” normal.
To illustrate whether or not there is a normal, let’s consider the high prevalence rates of multiple mental disorders. If we add the prevalence rates of anxiety and panic, unipolar and bipolar mood disorders, substance-abuse and dependence, and various personality disorders, they are all moderately high (anxiety, depression, and bipolar being the highest). Take these into account and then add the severe psychopathological disorders, such as schizophrenia, symptom disorders, such as enuresis, and pervasive disorders, such as autism, what population do we have left, really? In reading the abnormal psychology text, I’ve come to realize that each one of us, more-than-likely, suffers with something but in varying degrees; and, just to note, the majority of us don’t seek out help for our behaviors or symptoms. Many of us suffer in silence!
Furthermore, with the growing pharmaceutical and illicit drug industry, the environmental toxins, the toxic and non-nutritive foods, and the extreme stress to “keep-up” with society, we should not be shocked about the increase in prevalence rates for various psychopathological disorders such as anxiety and depression. We must admit there is an interconnection with all things so everything affects us! As well, ever since the explosion of the industrial age, prevalence rates for many mental disorders have sky-rocketed! Nonetheless, what worries me is that if we continue to deny there is a “real” increase in mental health disorders, we unconsciously accept that these behaviors and symptoms are the “next” generation normal. It could be compared to obesity. Is it the next generation normal?
2.) Control Stress Levels.
Second, studies have confirmed that we can take control of our behaviors and psychological issues by taking control of our stress levels. I am not alluding to the fact that medications should be discontinued or therapies should be halted. What I am saying is that by reducing our stress level, managing our way of thinking, changing our behaviour, and dealing with internal conflicts from the past are some sure ways of dealing with psychopathological symptoms that may be causing a lifestyle dysfunction.
3.) Healthy Family Relationships.
Third, let me not forget the family unit. A dysfunctional family unit is a HUGE contributing factor to mental health disorders starting from childhood. If we believe that children can surface from a stressful, traumatic, or anxious family state with unscathed marks, we’ve got our heads in the sand. Just because we have heard of a few dozen individuals in the news that have overcome their obstacles on their own, this doesn’t mean that everyone can. And, obviously the increase in prevalence rates is saying that we cannot do it on our own! The media does allude to individuals watching that “everyone” can do the same thing. This is not true! We all have a tolerance level (and we all “vary” considerable in our tolerance levels) – our breaking point. The severity, chronicity, and whether the stress and/or trauma are controllable or expected are significant factors to a child growing up with or without mental health issues.
4.) Awareness of What You Consume.
Fourth, everything has to be taken into account including what we consume – eat and drink. Let me give the example of alcohol since it is a major problem in our county. Chronic alcoholics are susceptible to brain damage leading to an amnestic disorder (or Korsakoff’s syndrome) which causes memory loss and other cognitive deficiencies. Korsakoff’s syndrome is the depletion of Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Before running out to grab some B vitamins, chronic alcoholics have a dysfunction in absorbing the nutritive value from the foods they eat so popping vitamins won’t help either. Another example is dementia caused by vitamin deficiencies (there are various subtypes of dementia, though). Dementia is a disorder that has a gradual onset with increasingly marked deficits in motor control, judgement, and so forth. In the end, this subtype of dementia sounds much like a disorder created by years of poor nutrition or lack of vitamin absorption due to other factors; hence, the vitamin deficiency. These examples show us the significance in what we orally consume or not consume has an effect on us.
5.) Balance Creates Harmony.
In the end, a holistic approach is essential in the prevention of mental health disorders and dis-ease or for the redevelopment of health in all aspects – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. As I have always concluded, balance creates harmony in mind and body!
*Ways to Put It All Together*
First, if you are behaving in unfavorable ways that seem far from normal to you, seek therapy or counselling or spiritual guidance. Second, control your stress level. Quit trying to keep up with the neighbors, friends, colleagues, etc. Meditate, mindfulness, relaxation, exercise, and biofeedback may be all you need. Third, build happy and healthy family relationships. If they are abusive (whether verbally or physically), leave, and build other close relationships. Keeping relationships with abusive family members is NOT healthy! Another alternative is family therapy. Fourth, be aware of what you consume whether it is alcohol, drugs, food, etc. Also, be aware of what you put on your skin! Moderation is usually a key factor. Fifth, balance creates harmony in mind and body. A holism approach is best. What affects the mind affects the body. What affects the gut effects the mind. What affects the spirit affects the physical. And, so forth. Be aware and be vigilant. To your health!