Skip to main content

What Does An Addiction Medicine Specialist Do?

What does an addiction medicine specialist do?

Addiction medicine was formally recognized in 1990, and defined as “the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of persons with the disease of addiction, of those with substance-related health conditions, and of people who show unhealthy use of substances, including nicotine, alcohol, prescription medications, and other licit and illicit drugs.” It was not until 2016 that the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognized addiction medicine as a medical subspecialty under the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM). Addiction specialists are addiction medicine physicians and addiction psychiatrists who hold either subspecialty board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Preventive Medicine, subspecialty board certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), board certification in addiction medicine from the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), or a Certificate of Added Qualification in Addiction Medicine conferred by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

What Do They Do?

With the additional training and education, addiction medicine specialists focus on addictive diseases and the treatment of such diseases. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that addiction medicine specialists “provide prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment services for patients with unhealthy substance use or substance-related health conditions.” The various types of addictions that can be treated with addiction medicine include, but are not limited to the following examples provided by the New York Society of Addiction Medicine:

  • Tobacco Use Disorder: an addiction medicine specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity, and offer treatment options. Typical treatment plans for tobacco use disorder may include a combination of:
  • Alcohol Use Disorder: an addiction medicine specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity, and offer treatment options. If the individual requires detox (acute medical stabilization and withdrawal services) the addiction medicine specialist can help to arrange those services. The subsequent treatment plan for those struggling with alcohol use disorder may include:
  • Opioid Use Disorder: an addiction medicine specialist will conduct a thorough evaluation, provide an accurate diagnosis, assess the severity, and offer treatment options. It is not uncommon for those struggling with opioid use disorder to require detox, which the addiction medicine specialist can help to arrange. After the successful completion of the detox process, the treatment plan may include a combination of:

Physicians in the subspecialty can also treat family members who have been adversely affected by a loved one’s substance use or addiction. They serve as clinical experts, teachers, faculty, and researchers. Addiction medicine specialists are qualified to recognize and treat the psychiatric and physical complications of addiction. 

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment. 

What Is A Food Therapist Called?

What Is A Food Therapist Called?

The most common reason to reach out to a food therapist is to help treat an individual struggling with an eating disorder. Though there are several different types of eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), in a very broad sense, eating disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that involve extremely unhealthy eating habits. If left untreated, eating disorders can have devastating effects and lead to severe short and long-term consequences. The treatment plan for an individual with an eating disorder will be unique and cater to his or her nuanced needs. It may include certain medications, a distinct combination of therapeutic modalities, and most treatment plans will require direct supervision from a food therapist. There are a couple of different types of professionals that may act as food therapists, such as a dietitian and a nutritionist. 

Dietitian

Dietitians are experts in dietetics, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as “the branch of knowledge concerned with the diet and its effects on health, especially with the practical application of a scientific understanding of nutrition.” A registered dietitian must gain certification through the completion of a bachelor’s degree, supervised experience (at an accredited healthcare facility, community agency, or foodservice corporation), and passing a national exam administered by the Commission of Dietetic Registration. Dietitians develop diet and nutrition programs that are tailored to each person’s objectives and personal needs. They play an integral role in the treatment of eating disorders, as they can provide the pertinent support needed to address abnormal eating behaviors.

Nutritionist

Nutritionists provide general support through nutrition education and community health. They can offer advice on how to live a healthier lifestyle and work with people to help them achieve health-related goals. Depending on one’s needs, a nutritionist may provide an individual with basic eating plans, motivations for eating well, and/ or address one’s fears and concerns regarding food and weight. Nutritionists are usually employed in hospitals, cafeterias, schools, athletic organizations, and long-term care facilities. Food therapists are not only for individuals recovering from an eating disorder. Anyone can benefit from working with a dietitian and/ or a nutritionist, as they are qualified experts on food and nutrition. Food therapists can help people learn how to better nourish their bodies, offer personalized guidance, and customized support. 

Feeding Therapy

It is important to note that although one may assume a nutritionist or dietitian may provide feeding therapy services, they do not. This service requires an entirely different skillset and is often facilitated by a trained occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist. Feeding therapy is used to treat individuals who lack proper feeding and swallowing skills (e.g., an adult recovering from a traumatic brain injury, a young child with low facial muscle tone, etc.). It is a therapeutic intervention that is designed to improve oral motor abilities, and provide comprehensive management of feeding, eating, and swallowing conditions for those in need.  

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment. 

Is There A Connection Between BPD and OCD?

Is There A Connection Between BPD and OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as an anxiety disorder. It is a neuropsychiatric disorder affecting between 1 to 3 percent of the population. OCD is characterized as a mental illness involving recurrent unwanted thoughts and/ or actions. OCD is known as one of the most common mental illnesses in America. The precise cause as to why an individual develops obsessive-compulsive disorder remains unknown. Several risk factors that have been noted to increase one’s predisposition for developing OCD include:

  • Presence of other mental health disorder 
  • Family history of OCD (e.g., parent, child, and/ or sibling diagnosed with OCD)
  • Differences in the makeup of one’s brain
  • History of child abuse (e.g., physical, verbal, and/ or sexual)
  • Experience with trauma

It is also possible for OCD to develop in children because of a streptococcal infection. This is referred to as PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections). An individual with OCD will engage in repeated and compulsive rituals that greatly interfere with his or her daily life.

Borderline Personality Disorder

The DSM-5 lists ten personality disorders that are classified into clusters. Although each personality disorder has distinct characteristics, each of the different personality disorders is categorized into one of three clusters (cluster A, cluster B and cluster C). The personality disorders that make up each clusters share similar symptoms and have overlapping characteristics. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed under cluster B in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and is recognized as a chronic, mental health disorder. As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), “borderline personality disorder is an illness characterized by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, behavior, and self-image.” The cause for borderline personality disorder remains unknown. However, research “suggests that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors play a role, or may increase the risk for developing borderline personality disorder.” It is highly common for individuals with BPD to lack the ability to foster and maintain meaningful, lasting relationships. 

The Connection

Experts haveon noted that “personality disorders are a common comorbidity in obsessive-compulsive disorder.” The most evident connection between BPD and OCD relate to the symptoms present in both ailments. The Journal of Psychopathology asserts “Obsessive-compulsive symptoms are…considered intrinsically related to borderline psychopathology. These symptoms are severe and are characterized in BPD patients by poor insight and resistance and obsessive control evident in personal relationships.” The symptoms that manifest because of borderline personality disorder often mimic those of other mental health disorders, which can make the diagnosis process rather challenging. It is, however, possible to be diagnosed with BPD and OCD. In fact, studies show that between 75 and 90 percent of people with BPD also meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one type of anxiety disorder, such as OCD. Specifically, evidence of a higher-than-expected overlap between OCD and BPD first came from the Epidemiological Catchment Area study, where 23 percent of those with BPD also met criteria for OCD. Subsequent studies have consistently supported these findings with rates as high as 15 to 35 percent.  

Disclaimer:

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

What Is Secondary PTSD?

What Is Secondary PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a mental health disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it.” Secondary PTSD, also known as vicarious trauma, secondhand trauma, secondary trauma, and PTSD by proxy, is the emotional distress that results when an individual hears about the first-hand trauma experience of another person (e.g., family member, close friend, neighbor, stranger on the news, etc.). The difference between PTSD and secondary trauma is that secondary PTSD occurs after an indirect exposure to threatening events while PTSD occurs due to a perceived direct threat to an individual. Akin to PTSD, the symptoms of secondary trauma can be difficult to manage without proper guidance.

Who Is At Risk?

Some people are more susceptible to secondary trauma than others. Common risk factors that increase one’s propensity for developing secondary PTSD include, but are not limited to the following, provided by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN):

  • Mental health complications prior to hearing about the trauma
  • Greater geographical proximity to the event
  • Gender: females are at increased risk
  • Lacking social support networks
  • Acquaintance with those involved in the trauma
  • Emotional dysregulation 

It is important to note that not all individuals exposed to one or more of the above risk factors will inevitably go on to develop secondary trauma. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are many possible signs and symptoms that could manifest because of secondary PTSD. Some examples could include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following, provided by the Boston Children’s Hospital:

  • Fear
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Physical ailments
  • Agitation
  • Depression 
  • Reckless behaviors
  • Regressions
  • Irritability
  • Isolation
  • Irregular sleep
  • Difficulty with physical contact
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Constant feelings of fear and worry
  • Experiencing crying spells
  • Tense muscles
  • Social anxiety

Additional symptoms, according to American Academy of Pediatrics may include “hypervigilance, avoidance, re-experiencing…and an impaired immune system.” The signs and symptoms associated with secondary PTSD typically mimic those that present with post-traumatic stress disorder. Much like with PTSD, often the symptoms of secondary trauma interfere with one’s ability to function in his or her daily life. 

Secondary PTSD Treatment

There are many treatment options for an individual struggling with secondary PTSD. An individual with secondary trauma will likely require a customized treatment plan that may include a variety of treatment modalities. The main types of psychotherapy that are commonly used to treat secondary trauma include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy, and talk therapy. Guidance from a qualified mental health provider can help provide an individual suffering from secondary PTSD with the much-needed support in cultivating effective coping strategies and learning applicable skills to aid in the recovery process. 

Disclaimer:

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

BPD And PTSD: Are They Often Confused?

BPD And PTSD: Are They Often Confused?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines borderline personality disorder as an “illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior.” These patterns will often result in reckless and hasty actions, negatively affecting one’s relationships. The term “borderline” was initially coined because psychiatrists believed that its symptoms hovered on the border between psychosis and neurosis. The symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder can pervasively interfere with an individual’s ability to function optimally in his or her daily life. Common symptoms of borderline personality disorder can include any combination of the following examples, provided by the Mayo Clinic

  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Risky behavior (e.g., gambling, having unsafe sex, etc.)
  • Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
  • Fragile self-image
  • Unstable relationships
  • Erratic moods
  • Frequent displays of intense anger
  • Stress-related, fleeting paranoia
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Threats of self-injury

It is not uncommon for people with BPD to feel extremely intense emotions for extended periods of time. This makes returning to a stable emotional baseline far more challenging, especially after experiencing an emotionally triggering event. 

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder as defined by the Mayo Clinic “is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it.” PTSD is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a diagnosable mental health condition and is listed under the new category called Trauma- and Stressor- Related Disorders. PTSD can occur when an individual has experienced severe stress or anxiety after being exposed to a traumatic event. The most widespread symptoms associated with PTSD could include any combination of the following examples, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Agitation
  • Reckless behaviors
  • Regressions
  • Flashbacks to the event
  • Irritability
  • Irregular sleep
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Difficulty with physical contact
  • Depression 
  • Severe anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Constant feelings of fear and worry
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Experiencing crying spells
  • Tense muscles
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Exhaustion
  • Risky behavior
  • Social anxiety

The symptoms of PTSD can be incredibly distressing. Every individual who suffers from PTSD will have his or her own set of unique symptoms. Although borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two distinct mental health ailments with different characteristics they are often confused. This is primarily because they share a remarkably similar list of symptoms and triggers. While there is significant overlap in symptoms, the difference between BPD ad PTSD is that the symptoms of PTSD are provoked by external triggers and the symptoms of BPD stem from an inconsistent self-concept

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment. 

Coping With Pregnancy And BPD

Coping With Pregnancy And BPD

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic mental health disorder. It characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behaviors, and an inability to appropriately self-regulate. The symptoms that manifest because of borderline personality disorder often mimic those of other mental health disorders such as histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar personality disorder. Individuals with borderline personality disorder feel prolonged, intense emotions and are unable to return to a neutral emotional baseline after facing an emotionally charged experience in a timely manner. This can affect all areas of one’s life as the duration it takes an individual with BPD to process, integrate, and recover from emotional challenges is elongated. Further, the symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder can interfere with an individual’s ability to function optimally in his or her daily life.

Impact Of BPD In Pregnancy

To effectively cope with pregnancy and BPD it is helpful to be aware of some of the effects that can occur when these two conditions coincide. Women with borderline personality disorder during pregnancy are faced with additional challenges, as risk of certain complications increase, and BPD symptoms influence various aspects of pregnancy. For example, leading experts assert “Women with borderline personality disorder during pregnancy have been found to be at increased risk of gestational diabetes, premature rupture of the membranes, chorioamnionitis, venous thromboembolism, caesarian section and preterm birth.” It is not uncommon for women with BPD to experience distress when touched. The anticipation of birth is often perceived as traumatic, and women will frequently request early delivery. 

What To Do

Pregnancy is a major period of transition in one’s life that is filled with wide ranging emotions. Along with the typical strains and stressors that can accompany pregnancy, individuals that simultaneously struggle with managing symptoms of BPD while pregnant are at increased risk of encountering avoidable challenges. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to help woman with BPD navigate her pregnancy and manage her symptoms. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Minimize the number of people caring for the pregnant woman: leaning on the same person or small group of people during the pregnancy can be helpful for women with BDP, as continuity of caretaker/s provides consistency and familiarity. 
  • Encourage the pregnant woman to identify and seek practical and/ or emotional support services.
  • Urge the pregnant woman to focus on making healthy daily choices (e.g., eating nutritiously, establish good sleeping patterns, etc.).
  • Engaging in regular exercise can be advantageous, as it promotes the release of endorphins and increases serotonin levels.

Although for some women with borderline personality disorder, the idea of getting pregnant may seem outlandish or dangerous, it is important to note that with the proper support, a woman with BPD is fully capable of having a perfectly healthy pregnancy. 

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment. 

Helping A Partner Who Has BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Helping A Partner Who Has BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, mental disorder. As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), “borderline personality disorder is an illness characterized by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, behavior, and self-image.” Individuals with borderline personality disorder feel prolonged, intense emotions and are unable to return to a neutral emotional baseline after facing an emotionally charged experience in a timely manner. This can affect all areas of one’s life as the duration it takes an individual with BPD to process, integrate, and recover from emotional challenges is elongated. Individuals with borderline personality disorder often struggle with relationship issues, lack self-esteem, have a poor self-image, and have an inability to appropriately self-regulate. Borderline personality disorder is not an uncommon disorder, as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) estimates that 1.4% of the adults in America experience BPD. 

Diagnostic Criteria 

There is no definitive medical test to diagnose borderline personality disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), borderline personality disorder is diagnosed when an individual experiences “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood” and must experience five or more of the following symptoms in a variety of contexts:

  • Emotional instability
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Efforts to avoid abandonment
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Identity disturbances
  • Inappropriate, irrational and/ or intense bouts of anger
  • Transient paranoid and/ or dissociative symptoms
  • Unstable interpersonal relationships
  • Suicidal and/ or self-harming behaviors

Due to its illusive nature, borderline personality disorder can be extremely difficult to diagnose. As such, to obtain the most accurate mental health diagnosis it is imperative to undergo a comprehensive evaluation that is conducted by one or more qualified mental health professionals. 

What You Can Do

Despite the challenges that BPD can bring to a relationship maintaining self-care practices and utilizing effective communication skills are essential for both partners, and integral to the health of the relationship. Consider the following suggestions to help you navigate your partner’s BPD:

  • Increase empathy: learn as much as you can about borderline personality disorder to increase empathy in your partnership
  • Remain calm: do not engage in serious conversations unless your partner is calm 
  • Be supportive: provide your partner with emotional support and understanding, and be sure to let your partner know that you fully support their treatment 
  • Avoid shame and blame: remember that labeling and blaming is not productive nor will it help to de-escalate or resolve any situation
  • Take threats seriously: threats of self-harm should not be minimized or ignored, and should prompt you to seek immediate professional help

It is important to bear in mind that although BPD is a chronic condition, with proper support, is it possible for an individual diagnosed with borderline personality disorder to learn strategies, techniques, and tools to effectively manage the symptoms associated with BPD, reducing the severity of symptoms experienced and increasing one’s quality of life.

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

Are Binge Eating and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Connected?

Are Binge Eating and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Connected?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic mental health disorder. It characterized by a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image issues, and difficulty managing emotions and behaviors, which interfere with one’s ability to function in everyday life. Although there is no single cause of borderline personality disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) alludes to research that “suggests that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors play a role, or may increase the risk for developing borderline personality disorder.” Akin to BPD, the exact cause behind why individuals develop eating disorders remains unknown, but research has found that it is likely due to a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors. 

 

Binge eating disorder (BED) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a severe, life-threatening eating disorder. According to National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), it is characterized by “recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.” Binge eating disorder is currently known to be the most common eating disorder in the United States.

 

Are They Connected?

Yes, binge eating, and borderline personality disorder are connected. More so, research has found an undeniably strong relationship between borderline personality disorder and dysregulated eating behaviors, such as binge eating. The symptoms of BPD often result in reckless and hasty actions, negatively affecting one’s relationships. Some highly regarded professionals in the mental health field suggest that it may be that the symptoms of BPD play an active role in the development of binge eating disorder. For example, common symptoms of BPD such as chronic impulsivity and urges to self-harm could lead to an individual engaging in detrimental eating behaviors, which would subsequently increase one’s susceptibility for developing an eating disorder. Conversely, engaging in dysregulated eating behaviors may cause an individual to experience overwhelming stress, which may trigger BPD in someone with a genetic vulnerability for the disorder. The prevalence of eating disorders is about 6 to 11% in those with borderline personality disorder, which is far greater than individuals with an eating disorder in the general public that amount to an approximate 2 to 4%. Hence, the rate of BPD in people with eating disorders is notably elevated when compared to the general population.

 

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment. 

Signs of Self Harm and Treatment Options

Signs of Self Harm and Treatment Options

Self-injury, synonymous with self-harm, refers to the non-suicidal act of deliberately harming one’s own body. While the most common form of self-injury is cutting, there are a number of ways in which an individual can harm themselves, such as:

  • Breaking bones
  • Hitting or punching
  • Burning (with matches, cigarettes, hot objects, etc.)
  • Head banging
  • Carving symbols into skin
  • Piercing
  • Picking at a wound that interferes with healing
  • Biting
  • Pulling out hair

There is no diagnostic test for self-injury, rather diagnosis is based on a physical and psychological evaluation. 

Signs and Symptoms

Every person is unique and those that struggle with self-harm may exhibit slightly different signs and symptoms. Some of the possible examples that may indicate that an individual is engaging in self-harming behavior could include, but are not limited to any combination of the following, provided by Delta Specialty Hospital:

  • Cuts or burn marks on legs, arms, abdomen
  • Hiding sharp objects (e.g., box cutters, knives, razor blades)
  • Bizarre excuses for injuries 
  • Strange scars on one’s body
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Broken bones
  • Agitation 
  • Wearing long sleeve clothes in hot weather
  • Depression
  • Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
  • Emotional instability
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Self-imposed social isolation

Many people that engage in self-harming behaviors will do so in a location on their body’s that is not visible. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for an individual to become attached to their scars and will repeat the behaviors directly over them (e.g., cutting in the same spot). This behavior occurs as an individual self-harming views his or her scars as a physical sign of strength, which is reinforced by inflicting, continued self-harming behaviors in the same location.

Treatment Options

There are a variety of treatment options available for an individual struggling with self-harm. Typically, self-injury is most effectively treated by attending a formalized treatment program. There are outpatient mental health programs that require an individual to participate in the treatment program for a certain number of hours, daily. There are also acute inpatient mental health treatment programs that offer twenty-four-hour care and support throughout the duration of the program. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary. Regardless of the format, an individual in treatment for self-injury will be provided with a customized treatment plan to accommodate his or her nuanced needs. Generally, the treatment protocol for individuals that engage in self-harm will include some combination of different psychotherapy approaches. Certain therapeutic modalities that are commonly integrated into treatment plans include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), expressive arts therapies, and more. Depending on one’s needs, treatment plans may also include medication. Certain medications can be helpful in decreasing uncomfortable symptoms associated with other underlying mental health issues, which in turn can reduce the urge to self-harm. 

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

Diagnosing and Treating Depression

Diagnosing and Treating Depression

Depression has become an integral term used in American society to describe sadness. However, depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, is listed as a medical illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and is recognized as a serious mood disorder. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that depression is “characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities,” resulting in significant impairment in one’s daily life. An individual who suffers from clinical depression has a chemical imbalance in his or her brain, resulting in an inability to return to an emotional equilibrium as quickly as others when experiencing an emotional low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) depression affects nearly 10% of the general population in America.

DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

To be diagnosed with major depression, a person’s symptoms must fit the criteria outlined in the DSM-5. An individual must be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

These symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

The Treatment Process

There are many approaches to treating depression. For those who have a mild case of major depressive disorder the treatment could comprise primarily of psychotherapy. There are many different types of therapeutic modalities that could be incorporated into one’s treatment plan, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). CBT is a type of therapy that combines behavioral therapy with talk therapy. DBT primarily uses mindfulness-based principles to help an individual learn tools and techniques to work towards achieving one’s therapeutic goals through understanding one’s emotions and subsequent behaviors related to one’s emotions. IPT uses an interpersonal filter to explore and examine the relationships and their effects on one’s life. 

Some people diagnosed with severe major depressive disorder may benefit from including medication into the treatment plan, in conjunction with various therapeutic methods. The different types of medications prescribed for MDD include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). A quality treatment program will consider all treatment options and create a nuanced treatment plan, incorporating medication when needed as well as the best possible therapeutic modalities that are expressly geared to one’s personal needs. 

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.