Emotional problem or mental illness

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Confused brain

Mental illness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What is the difference between an emotional problem and a mental illness?

Emotions and mental illness Is there really a difference?

Back in the Freudian days, they tended to think that there were two kinds of problems, Neurosis and Psychosis. Those with Neurosis had problems of living; they were too sad, too anxious, or worried too much. Those with psychosis were clearly mentally ill. The heard voices saw things did things that looked irrational. We sent them away to the sanitarium, now called the state hospital. We also tended to mix the mentally ill in with those with an intellectual disability.

Then this nice neat system began to crumble.

Medication can reduce the symptoms of “mental illness.”

First, they discovered a medication that stopped or reduced the voices and other hallucinations. If a med could shut off voices, was the person with a psychotic disorder really “crazy” or did they have a treatable illness?

Then we found that voices were not an all or nothing phenomenon. They did not happen all the time to some of the people who had them. Sometimes hearing voices happen to the “normal” people. Very depressed people might hear voices sometimes and not others. Talk with them, watch their depression recede and the voices shut up.

Also, we found that most teenagers hear voices now and then. You hear a sound; do not know what it is and the brain interprets it as something you know well, like your own name.

Additionally, a lot of otherwise normal people hear angels or a religious figure; some people see or hear loved ones who have died. If it was a religious vision we were reluctant to call that psychosis.

The walls between emotional problems and mental illness began to get thin. In places, we thought we saw people crawl through the cracks in our system designed to keep the normal’s in one place and the mentally ill in the other places. We started calling those that crawled through the fence “borderlines” and other “personality disorders” because they seemed to live in the land between normal and not normal.

Recovery moments happen.

Then came various assorted recovery movements. There was recovery from alcoholism, addiction, and gambling. There was also the consumer movement and then we saw that people with serious and persistent mental illness can and do recover.

People, prominent, important people, came forward and talked about their struggles with mental illness and their own very personal stories of recovery.

The newest trend is to talk in terms of wellness and recovery. That life’s emotional problems are on a continuum. You may have times when you are stressed or depressed and your emotions get out of control. There are other times that your emotions are on a par with the best of them.

Acute versus chronic mental illnesses.

Clearly, for some people, life is more challenging than others. Some people have hereditary predispositions to having more of one problem or another. Some people have multiple problems to deal with. Some people’s problems are chronic and other people’s problems may get better or worse and then better again.

Some of those conditions we have come to call “mental illnesses” have an underlying structural difference in the brain. Some emotional problems are the result of difficult experiences in life. The brain rewires itself based on experiences. Not everyone has or should have all the same skills or the same challenges.

What we continue to see is that these things that bring the majority of people for mental health treatment are not those long-term underlying differences. What most trips folks up are the everyday problems of living, the unemployment, the relationship conflicts, and the times of loneliness.

The line between those with a serious and persistent mental illness and those with a current emotional problem is becoming harder to find.

The truth is that everyone has times of emotional difficulties and everyone can recover and have a happier, better life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Nervous constitution or Anxiety disorder?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Anxiety provoking.

Anxiety.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How much nervousness does it take to get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder?

Some people are just nervous by nature. Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental or emotional illness in America and probably the rest of the world also. How much anxiety does it take to get you the label of having an anxiety disorder?

Clearly, there are some extremely debilitating disorders whose main characteristic is anxiety. In Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) some telltale symptoms are recurrent intrusive thoughts and efforts to avoid stimuli that remind you of the original trauma. Panic disorder results in anxiety produced physical symptoms that can be difficult for a trained physician to tell apart without lab work.

Short of those extreme cases, there are a lot of people who have varying degrees of symptoms, less severe symptoms than what is seen in Panic attacks and PTSD but still very impairing to their quality of life.

This makes me think of the days when most anyone who went to see a psychoanalyst got the label of Neurotic. If everyone is neurotic then does the label tell us anything about your problem and what you need to do to get better? I would not be willing to agree that everyone is sick and no one ever gets any better.

While neurotic does not get diagnosed much anymore we seem to be slipping into an area where everyone gets a psychiatric diagnosis.

One thing we were taught in graduate school was to be careful to not pathologize all our clients. That beginning student mistake of having learned about a new disease you begin to think that every client you see has something wrong with them. Keep this up long enough and the therapist starts thinking they have the illness also.

Now look, I am not even sure that anxiety is a bad thing. Sometimes it is when it gets out of control, but it can also be a good thing. Anxiety is supposed to warn you when you are in danger.  If you live in a bad part of town, with lots of drive-by shootings, and you hear gunfire, I think it is a good idea to get anxious and duck behind something for protection.

So a little bit of anxiety is good. Too much is bad. How can you tell if you have too much or too little?

Too little anxiety probably is not a big problem in our society. If you fail to appreciate the danger and don’t duck, you get shot. Maybe you die. If you continually get into dangerous situations and get hurt, consider that you may have the volume turned down too low on your anxiety detector. That or you may be subconsciously trying to get hurt. So if you take excessive risks talk with someone about that. Preferably talk with a professional or become a daredevil and get an agent.

What about those who are anxious all the time?

Here are some things you need to consider. Do others around you feel the same anxiety? Just because going to the mall terrifies you, does not in all likelihood mean that your particular mall is life-threatening. If you have high levels of anxiety in situations where your friends, family, or people you trust have no problem, then you may have excess anxiety.

If that excess anxiety begins to keep you home from work, we call that interfering with occupational functioning, then it is a problem. If it interferes with your social function, keeps you from being with or doing things with family and friends then it is excessive.

So anytime a mental health symptom interferes with family, friends, or your job, and school counts as a job, you need help. If this anxiety is bothering you, we call that subjective distress, you should also get help.

Consider also what age you were when you began to experience anxiety. Children can have more anxiety than adults. They don’t know what should scare them and what should not.

Our fairy tales and media entertainment can scare them, also. They are likely to be scared of strangers and going to school these days despite the fact that they are far more likely to be molested by a family member than a stranger. They are also more likely, here in the United States to be shot at home by their parent than to be injured by someone with a gun while at school.

Keeping guns out of schools and avoiding strangers are two more fairy tales we tell our children to make ourselves feel safer. Providing more mental health treatment for people with anger issues and other mental illnesses is too logical a solution to ever become popular with most politicians.

Sermon over – back to post on anxiety.

People who develop a severe, life-impairing, anxiety in their adult years frequently had excess anxiety in childhood. If you remember having excess anxiety, being scared all the time as a child and did not grow out of it, you should especially consider getting help for this issue.

If your child has excess anxiety and does not seem to be growing out of it, then the sooner they get help from family, friends, or professionals the less likely they are to have to struggle with an anxiety disorder for the rest of their life.

Additionally, if your anxiety has a basis in a real trauma, you were raped, molested, abused or experienced a traumatic event, and this anxiety is not fading as time goes on, you need to seek help for the skills you need to cope with life. Look for a counselor that wants to help you heal from the pain and is able and willing to hear whatever you need to tell without them having the compulsion to cut you open and dig out every detail of every trauma you may have experienced.

What has been your experience with a nervous constitution, an Anxiety Disorder, PTSD or panic disorder, or any other fear-based problem?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Where have all the neurotics gone? – Looking for your neurosis?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Confused brain

Mental illness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do people still get treated for being neurotic?

On my bookshelves are a whole lot of older books on mental health and mental illness. Many of them talk about neurosis. A couple even has the word Neurotic or neuroses in the title. I mentioned “Be glad you are Neurotic,” by Bisch in a previous post. With all the literature on Neuroses, where have all the neurotics gone?

Neurosis was a pretty inclusive term. In the older psychological literature, you could get three diagnoses, Neurosis, psychosis and that group that seemed to move back and forth across the line got called “Borderline” because they appeared to live at the border between Psychosis and Neurosis.

Today our understanding of the possible mental illnesses is getting much more complicated. For example, one new piece of research from the University of Buffalo seems to suggest to me that over a hundred different genes may be causing schizophrenia because of their effect on one structure in the brain. Eventually, we may diagnose and or treat dozens or even hundreds of different types of psychoses.

The word Neurosis has leaked from psychiatry into the popular vocabulary. It like so many other words mean different things to different people.

Some dictionary definitions include “relating to, involving, affected by, or characteristic of a mild psychiatric disorder characterized by depression, anxiety, or hypochondria” and “overanxious, oversensitive, or obsessive about everyday things.”

So by this definition of neurosis, most of the things that today we break out into anxiety, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a few other disorders would all be thrown into the category neuroses.

Neuroses have been completely dropped from modern psychiatric diagnosis, largely because neuroses were based on theories of what is going on inside the person like dreams and the unconscious. The current preference is to primarily use symptoms that are visible to others or can be described by the client, like lack of sleep, loss of pleasure, or similar characteristics as the basis of diagnosis.

This older term, neurosis, also included most of the currently recognized personality disorders.

One effect of this move from the simple classifications system, you either had a psychosis or a neurosis, has been that people with many symptoms now may get a number of diagnoses.

Neurosis used to include symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Now that the two are separated and further separated into many types of anxiety disorders and mood disorders, many people qualify for both a depressive diagnosis and an anxiety diagnosis. The overlap is so large that a combined depression and anxiety disorder was considered for the new DSM-5. (It did not become a separate diagnosis but there are specifiers for this.)

All the neurotics now get to have dozens or more of new diseases and disorders that are the result of refining our system of classification rather than in any real change in human behavior or the way in which mental illnesses affect people.

So you can go on feeling you are neurotic if you chose. You can say others are acting neurotic, but the diagnoses that the clinician will give you will have one of the newer disorder names.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel