Mental Health Counseling

When Should Someone Go To Counseling And What To Expect

Do I Have a Mental Health Problem?

Often when people think of mental health disorders, they think of their symptoms as being feelings/emotions, and the thoughts/cognitions associated with them. But, there are many physical symptoms of mental health disorders. Thus, these people go to physicians thinking they have serious medical conditions when they do not. For example, many people go to the hospital thinking that they are having a heart attack because of chest pain, racing heart and shortness of breath. But, these symptoms are also characteristics of a panic attack, a type of anxiety disorder. When a medical professional indicates that all their medical tests are negative, they think there is nothing wrong. Their family and friends will sometimes tell them that they are not actually having these symptoms. Because of this, they do not get the professional counseling they need because of the shame they feel.

Why Don’t People Who Suffer from Mental Health Conditions Attend Counseling?

I hope this article helps those who have a mental health condition to recognize their symptoms. I want to ease the shame or fear that prevents them from initiating counseling. Thus, they are more likely seek the services they need and lead a happier, productive life. Some people think that they are crazy if they have a mental condition and that they will be treated differently. No one is at fault for having a mental health disorder or having behavioral difficulties. Recovery and being asymptomatic has nothing to do with will power, weakness, immorality, or competence.

Most people have sought some type of counselling in their life and sometimes more than once. Having a mental health disorders/condition does not mean that someone cannot function. It does mean they can't be socially respected and be a successful person. As long as someone receives the necessary professional counseling, they can function just fine. There are people who have symptoms of depression or an anxiety disorder who do not need to take professional help. This is usually because the symptoms are minor or are not affecting their normal life. But, it is time to seek profession help when symptoms affect their life.

Biological Causes of Psychological Disorders

Mental health symptoms are characteristics of psychological disorders. These are caused by and result in physical, emotional, cognitive, and social issues. Many psychological conditions have genetic factors in which they are passed down from one generation to another. Examples of these are Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Phobias, Depression, and addiction. If you know you have one of these diagnoses and know your family history, most likely you can think of family member(s) who has/had it too. Having a relative who has your mental health condition may be good if they are or have taken steps to progress in their treatment. The professional methods that helped the anxious or depressed family members may help you reduce your symptoms. Psychological disorders can be result of an imbalance of brain chemistry. This can cause anxiety, depressed mood, anger, mood swings, hallucinations/delusions, and paranoia. Large amounts or depleted chemicals in the brain that create these symptoms are serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. (Alcohol and illicit drugs have this similar effect on the brain). Psychiatric medications prescribed by physicians, psychiatrists, and APRNs take the role to replace or balance natural body chemicals and reduce symptoms. A relative that may have chronic mental health symptoms does not mean another family member will have it. If a person knows their family's history of mental illness, they can take precautions to reduce a mental health condition. These precautions include early recognition of symptoms, medication management, and/or following recommended counseling.

Like your biological factors can affect you emotionally, the stress of prolonged psychological symptoms and conditions can cause bodily ailments. Anxiety can cause headaches, migraines, stomach aches and ulcers, and muscle pain. Depression contributes to lower immunity to medical problems, self bodily harm, injuries, and suicide/death.

Overlapping Symptoms of Different Psychological Diagnoses Associated with Thoughts and Feelings

Along with physical symptoms of a mental health condition, there are also thoughts and feelings that are associated with psychological disorders. Usually thoughts are connected to feelings and feelings are connected to thoughts. If someone is depressed, they may have thoughts of low self-worth and pessimism. Due to feelings of failure, they are unmotivated or lack the energy to make attempts to feel better. This results in lack of underachieved goals reinforces their negative feelings of self-worth. If someone has past thoughts of regret and worries about certain things or most things most of the time, they will avoid some or many situations that trigger fear and become anxious when they are exposed to threatening situations. Again, this can hinder the participation in activities that would promote personal goals and happiness. Thus, anxious and depressed thoughts and feelings also have negative outcomes on behavior. Negative symptoms of anxiety and depression such as irritability, restlessness, anger and isolation can have negative impact on family and social relationships.

Because of the nature of different mental health disorders, many of them have overlapping symptoms of anxiety and depressed mood. Someone with escalated anxiety who is fearful of situations will also feel hopeless and depressed. Feelings of failure, negative self-thoughts and depressed mood may lead to anxiety about the future. Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder include mood swings, mania, anxiety and depression. Hallucinations or delusions of a schizophrenic will create feelings of anxiety. Someone with social phobia will have anxiety in social situations or when meeting new people. Someone who has post traumatic disorder will be depressed when they have flash backs of past trauma. They will also have anxiety when they are triggered in the future by events reminding them of the trauma.

Symptoms and Diagnoses

It's important to be able to identify and diagnose mental health conditions when getting counseling. It will help with the approach, treatment plan, and effective medication.

Below are the physical, thoughts, and feelings associated with Anxiety Disorders and Depression.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Cognitions/Thoughts: Worried thoughts about particular situations or many things most of the time. Unrealistic anticipation of negative outcomes of future events. Thinking many things at once. Inability to concentrate and memory deficits.
  • Emotions/Feelings: Excessive worrying resulting and inability to function. Nervousness, fear, and restlessness.
  • Behaviors: Tapping, biting nails, nonstop talking, fidgeting, and pacing.
  • Physical or autonomic: Racing heart, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, stomach problems, headaches, dizziness, and/or feeling faint. Shakes, chills, trembling, numbness, and muscle tension and aches.

Common Types of Anxiety

  • Generalized Anxiety: Excessive worrying about most things most of time.
  • Panic Disorder: Sudden and unrealistic feelings of pending doom.
  • Social Phobia: Excessive fear of being judged or disapproval from others. Fear and anxiety in groups, social events or when meeting people.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Cognitions/Thoughts: Negative thoughts of self, others, or outcome of events
  • Emotions/Feelings: Depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness & worthlessness, Guilt, low esteem, fatigue and loss of interest and pleasurable feelings.
  • Behaviors: Isolation, monotone & slow speech, low motivation and low activity
  • Physical or autonomic: Difficulty sleeping falling sleep, staying asleep and early morning awakenings or sleeping to much. Lower or heightened appetite. Weight loss or weight gain.

Common Types of Depression

  • Depressive Disorder (mild, moderate or severe): One episode of depression
  • Recurrent Depressive Disorder: Two or more episode of depressive episodes
  • Dysthymia: Chronic depressed mood lasting at least several years, but not severe and individual episodes are not prolonged for severe, moderate of recurrent depressive disorder.
  • Post Traumatic Disorder (PTSD): Difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Depressed mood and anxiety triggered by Flashbacks, nightmares and memories of trauma event(s).

Medical Treatment and Psychological Counseling

  • Physical Exam: Medical disease, conditions are assessed and ruled out before evaluating and diagnosing for a psychological disorder by a physician.
  • Medication Management: Once a medical condition has been ruled out, a psychiatric evaluation is implemented by a licensed psychiatrist, social worker or counselor so a diagnosis is determined for medication. Follow up medication appointments are scheduled when medications are prescribed.

Common Counseling Approaches I Utilize in my Counseling Practices:

  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET):
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness:
    • Breathing Relaxation Exercises: Slowing done breathing that reduces the physical symptoms of rapid breathing, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath and muscle tension
    • Breathing Relaxation with Imagery: Imagery with relaxation exercise
    • Systematic Desensitization: Using relaxation exercises while visualizing being in anxiety provoking situations rated 1 low) to 10 (high) in trauma
    • Exposure in vivo: Using relaxation exercises while being in anxiety provoking situations rated 1 (low) to 10 (high) in trauma