Substance Abuse and Mental Health: Understanding Dual Diagnosis

Those who suffer from both a substance abuse disorder and mental health condition(s) have what is called a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder. It is quite common for people struggling with drug or alcohol dependency to also have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental health condition. In fact, there are even some situations where the undiagnosed mental health condition may have led to substance abuse. This is not always the case, but it is quite common. Understanding dual diagnosis and how to find the right resources can make all the difference in successful treatment and recovery. 

 

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse

With a co-occurring disorder, both the addiction and the mental health disorder cause a variety of their own symptoms that can interfere with daily life and functioning. These conditions can affect a person’s abilities at work, reduce their ability to maintain healthy relationships at home, and even just make it difficult to handle life in general. When mental health conditions are incorrectly diagnosed or left untreated, substance abuse generally gets worse. The increased drug or alcohol abuse will lead to an increase in the symptoms or issues related to the mental health disorder, creating a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. 

 

The other thing these two disorders have in common is their stigma. Although there is an increasing public awareness of mental health disorders and addiction, it is still something a lot of people don’t talk about. Therefore, it is natural for many suffering from these conditions to feel shame or guilt, and doubly so if they have a dual diagnosis. This can make it difficult to seek help. However, as many as 50% of those with a severe mental health condition also struggle with substance abuse, so no one has to feel like they are alone. 

 

Which Comes First?

Although there is a close link between substance abuse and mental health disorders, neither directly causes the other. Instead, what tends to happen is that alcohol or drugs exacerbate the symptoms or are used as a means of self-medication. It takes a trained professional to diagnose a co-occurring disorder, and the treatment requires an integrated approach that addresses both the substance abuse and the mental health condition. 

The Potential Downsides of Mental Health Apps

Mobile apps provide users with the opportunity to obtain desired information 24/7. The prevalence of using electronic technology among the general population gave rise to thousands of apps encompassing hundreds of topics that include health and mental health. There are approximately 165,000 apps concerning health and mental health that are easily obtained free of charge or for a nominal fee. The apps claim to help people living with anything from addiction, anxiety or depression to schizophrenia. However, in terms of mental health issues, the apps may have some shortcomings to consider.

 

No Regulation

Medical specialists may combine efforts with engineers to design and create apps for mental health. However, presently there are no regulating agencies to ensure the information offered concerning mood, medications or other treatments is necessarily sound. Few apps have undergone medical scrutiny.

 

Of all the available mental health apps, 14 designed for bipolar or major depressive disorder have been officially reviewed by mental health professionals. Seven apps for psychosis were reviewed. The evaluations revealed that the programs offered little in terms of effectiveness and were not necessarily deemed as being safe.

 

Thus, there is no way for users to know whether the recommendations or therapies provided are safe or effective. Dissatisfaction with a mental health app might also dissuade someone from seeking one-on-one professional help.

 

Privacy Issues

Mental health apps may require users to submit personal information concerning symptoms, habits, medications or other data. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires that health information remains private and inaccessible to anyone except the patient and their health care provider. Unless the app provides some form of security measure, personal information might be obtained, used and abused by other people. Before installing an app, potential users must ensure that the program is biometrically authenticated, password protected or both. All data should also be encrypted in the event that the mobile device becomes lost or stolen.

 

Lack of Customization

Two people diagnosed with depression may differ greatly in terms of the severity of their symptoms and treatment needs. Mental health apps must also be flexible enough to accommodate patients who span the spectrum of specific mental health issues. Unfortunately, many apps do not fulfill the need to be diverse in terms of information. Thus, once again, they are rendered ineffective.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

Mental Health Benefits Of A Therapy Pet

The loyalty and camaraderie pets display can bring a great deal of joy to a person’s life. However, in certain instances, animals might actually play a vital role in helping someone maintain a healthy mental state. Let’s highlight several ways in which therapy pets could benefit your mental well-being.

 

What is a Therapy Pet?

Therapy pets, or emotional support animals, are typically dogs who receive official certification designating that they are providing necessary companionship and comfort to individuals stricken with specific mental or systemic ailments. A documented therapy animal may accompany its owner on traveling excursions or to other locations normal pets would not be able to go.

 

Anxiety Reduction

Individuals afflicted with moderate to severe anxiety conditions can experience difficulties executing basic day-to-day functions. The accompaniment of a therapy pet could help to ease the extreme tension afflicted persons can be experiencing. By reducing anxiety, a person will be able to function easier in their daily life.

 

Increases Socialization Levels

Certain mental disorders render some people incapable of engaging in social activities or at the very least, makes such interactions quite challenging. Therapy animals are also capable of improving the socialization abilities of some people. These comforting creatures might not only boost the confidence of their owners but they can make the act of socializing easier. Most people like animals and will often be more apt to interact with individuals who have them.

 

Encourages Quicker Recoveries

Therapy animals, like most pets, often exhibit a great sense of loyalty and care to their owners. The presence of at least one living creature, who can stand by them through thick and thin, can encourage those with a mental illness to get the help that they need and begin to take steps to overcome their affliction. Certain mental health professionals believe that stricken individuals might actually recover more expediency or, at the very least, witness a decrease in the severity of symptoms with the aid of a therapy pet.

 

Limits Feelings Of Isolation

Individuals with certain mental health problems often experience periods of isolation. In certain cases, they might actually be living alone or have no family or friends close by that they can relay on. However, to others, their condition might lead to actions that colleagues, neighbors, and even loved ones cannot understand. Such circumstances lead to even greater feelings of loneliness. By always being at their side, therapy pets can help said persons overcome the despair potentially caused by isolation and loneliness.

 

While a therapy pet may not be right for everyone and it can never replace the help of a licensed therapist, they can potentially ease your symptoms and provide you with a consistent source of companionship. Talk to your therapist today to see if a therapy pet is right for you!

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

 

The Truth About Hypochondria

Have you ever known someone who was overly obsessed with their health and wellbeing? They continually went to the doctor for phantom illnesses? It is easy to categorize this type of person as a liar or someone who just wants attention, but more often than not they are legitimately suffering from hypochondria.

Hypochondria is a mental illness where someone will become obsessed with the idea that they have a severe health condition that is undiagnosed. This obsession leads to extreme anxiety about their health and the state of their body. A simple cold or even a sneeze can send this person into a frenzy. They often think that it is indicative of a much more serious bodily condition.

Hypochondria usually coincides with another disorder such as panic disorder, anxiety, OCD or depression. Sometimes this stems from a loss this person had of a loved one to a severe health condition, or it could be the result of them living through their own major illness or health condition. While many may think of this as just a quirky or obsessive character trait, it is a serious mental health behavior. It is unhelpful to assume this person is just grasping at attention instead of trying to help them get the treatment they need.

The symptoms of hypochondria are varied but follow a similar strain. Those struggling with hypochondria will be checking themselves for various illnesses and thinking of small ailments, such as a cough or a runny nose, as telling of a much more serious issue. They will often visit the doctor frequently or on the adverse, avoid the doctor altogether because they are nervous that they will actually learn about an ailment that they have.

 

While obsessing about their health, often hypochondriacs will check online about their health and possible symptoms to try to self-diagnose. The internet makes this condition even more dangerous. The anxiety that is birthed out of a hypochondriacs behavior will generally lead to actual physical issues, such as upset stomachs, as well.

Many who are struggling with hypochondria can often benefit from self-help treatment such as avoiding the internet or looking up potential symptoms, practicing stress-relieving techniques and even engaging actively in a hobby that they enjoy. For more severe conditions, it is essential to talk with a therapist about professional treatment such as medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

What is Bipolar with Mood-Incongruent Psychosis?

Psychosis is at its core being unable to recognize what parts of the world around you are real and what is fake. Generally, psychosis is characterized by a gradual but eventual break from reality. While most commonly associated with schizophrenia, this type of behavior can also be found in people who struggle with bipolar disorder. Those with bipolar may suffer from the hallucinations or delusions that come from psychosis during either their manic or depressive phases, although it is more common during the manic stage.

It is not 100% known why those with bipolar disorder may have psychosis as well, but it could be related to a genetic trait, brain structure or a chemical imbalance. The symptoms of the psychosis can start with things like diminished performance in school or work, building lack of personal hygiene, more and more difficulty communicating or concentrating.

These symptoms can build into more serious ones such as limiting social contact, constant suspicion of those around them, lack of emotion, and anxiety. These symptoms all cumulate into hallucinations, delusions, incoherent thoughts or speech and a general lack of awareness. You may notice that this person uses rapid speech and often has unconnected and irrational thoughts. They lose track of their thoughts quickly and often will abruptly change subjects without notice.

Hallucinations are at their core, things that someone experience through any or all of their senses but is wholly unnoticeable by those around them. A delusion, however, is an unshakeable belief that they will hold about something that is untrue. These can be positive and great things they believe about themselves, such as they have these fantastic superpowers, or they can be more paranoid delusions such as someone is always following them or out to get them.

Mood-incongruent psychosis is when the hallucinations or delusions that a person is experiencing are not related to their current feelings or beliefs. These behaviors will seem entirely out of place and tend to be more severe than the ones that come along with mood-congruent psychosis.

Those suffering from bipolar with mood-incongruent psychosis will often be prescribed different types of medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. Therapy will often consist of psychotherapy or electroconvulsive therapy.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

 

Department of Education Seeks to Improve Mental Health

The Department of Education of Louisiana publicized that the state was lucky to receive a $9 million grant that was set to be directed on improving and expanding mental health services primarily to students. This aid is aimed at supporting healthy development. The funding was also aimed at preventing violence that originates from the youths. The donation was given through the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

 

Commenting on the Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education grant, the State Superintendent John White said that the education department is obliged to understand and meet the learning needs of every child to genuinely serve them all. Mr. John White also emphasized the understanding and improvement of the social and emotional needs of students. John White continued that Louisiana State has received an exciting opportunity to ensure that the learning, social, and emotional needs of all children across the State are taken care of, and the learning is propelled.

 

The Project AWARE looks forward to awarding Louisiana State with $1.8 million every year for the next five years. The Department of Education is set to partner with the Louisiana Department of Health with the aim of ensuring proper utilization of the funding in the bid to establish and equip a complete Louisiana School Mental Health Support Program. The programs will be targeting to increase awareness of mental health problems among the school-going children. The program also aims at offering customized training to equip school personnel on ways to detect and give an appropriate response to mental health challenges.

 

The aid come following a drastic increase in mental health problems among the school-aged youths that attend school from 6th to 12th grade across Louisiana. According to Dr. Janice Peterson, the mental health cases in 12th grade increased from 21.7% in the year 2014 to 24.7% in 2016.

 

The program is set to begin its services by prioritizing 34 most affected schools in Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and the City of Monroe school systems. The listed schools were in the past identified by the state as struggling with the highest rates of out-of-school obedience. The same schools were asked to come up with plans on how they intend to improve every site and submit those plans during the 2018-19 school year.

 

Herrick Lipton – CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center

 

Herrick Lipton has always believed that behavioral health is incredibly important and should always be the focus of healthcare in communities. Empowering the individuals who struggle with behavioral issues, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities has always been Herrick’s passion because providing stability for those that have behavior health issues will ensure that they are able to live longer, healthier lives overall.

Herrick Lipton started at the New Horizons Counseling Center when he was just a teenager. He took on an administrative role initially because he felt compelled to contribute to the organization and be an advocate for those who struggle with mental illness. While in this role, he felt it necessary to reach out to members of the community and listen to their needs to help the New Horizons Counseling Center develop their mission and be able to help as many people as possible. Herrick soon took on more responsibilities such as financial director in addition to his other duties. After decades of serving as the administrative and financial director at New Horizon Counseling Center, Herrick Lipton became its Chief Executive Officer in 2013.

One of the first actions he took as CEO was to build a location in the New York City area that would be accessible to many people who would benefit from the services NHCC provides. Herrick Lipton worked with New York City government officials to build a welcoming space in Howard Beach that would not only be a suitable location, it would also be a storefront style building that would allow those that need help to be greeted without stigma or fear of judgement.

Throughout the years, Herrick has never lost sight of the programs that need to be started or the ones that should be rethought, restructured, and redesigned to better suit those that need them. The New Horizons Counseling Center covers a wide variety of different services for those with developmental disabilities, alcohol and substance abuse problems, mental illness of all ages, Alzheimer’s disease, and elder care. It’s important to Herrick and the rest of the staff at NHCC that each issue has its own program and every individual that walks through the doors will receive the best care possible.

In his current role as CEO, Herrick Lipton is in charge of operations of New Horizons Counseling Center, and the years since he took on this position the organizations has seen unprecedented growth in the often neglected industry of behavioral healthcare. This growth includes a 125% increase in clinical services offered by the center and an overhaul of existing business models for maximum efficiency and outreach. New Horizons Counseling Center was founded in response to massive cuts in social services for mentally ill people, and Herrick Lipton and NHCC staff continue to fight back against the lack of representation, resources, and ultimate rehabilitation that people deserve.

Herrick Lipton has created numerous new programs to make NHCC the most reliable and supportive resource for clients. He diversified the center to include a specialized suicide prevention program, the need for which is not only due to behavioral issues and substance abuse, but to the disappointing stigma that prevents people from reaching out for help at an early stage. He also founded and outlined NHCC’s Day Habilitation Without Walls for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. This program is emblematic of NHCC’s motto, “empowering individuals, strengthening communities,” because it focuses on teaching basic vocational and employment skill sets to people with developmental disabilities– and then helping them utilize these skills as active members of their local communities.

Although he’s made many strides in behavioral health and wellness, the largest and fastest-growing expansion project which Herrick Lipton has directed is NHCC’s care coordination and management program. This program provides the comprehensive and personalized guidance that people need to maintain their health not only day-to-day, but long term. The program’s “life coaches” offer support and insight for every aspect of life, from finding housing options for homeless clients to monitoring regular checkups to researching the most affordable local pharmacies.

The Current State of Mental Health Care on US College Campuses

Between 2009 and 2017, the number of college students needing mental health services increased by 30 percent while student enrollment increased by just 6 percent. This vast increase in the number of students needing mental health counseling has so overwhelmed university health services that students face long wait times just to talk to a therapist. Not surprisingly, many students drop out of universities because of mental health struggles.

 

Students clearly need help. The pressures of college life are harming their health. Bright students with great potential may feel they have no choice but to quit. No degree, job, or career path is worth going through stress and anxiety that causes students to become depressed, suffer crippling anxiety, and engage in harmful behaviors like self-harm. But students need degrees in order to pursue the opportunities that will lead to a fulfilling life later.

 

Stress-related illness underpins a large part of the problem. This can be seen from statistics that show student visits to mental health centers increases as the term goes on, often doubling a midterms approach, as shown in Time Magazine.

 

Many students find the challenges of university life are too much. Between heavy course loads, social and peer pressures, extracurricular activities, fear of disappointing parents, and financial struggles and student debt, college students carry a heavy burden of worry and sometimes difficult, if not impossible, expectations. These expectations may be self-imposed or external, but either way, they can lead to physical and mental breakdown when students run themselves ragged day in and day out to meet them. College, after all, is supposed to be a time of self-discovery. It’s supposed to be fun and provide students with new found freedom.

 

Anxiety and high expectations have always been part of the university world. The current epidemic of negative effects may stem from an increasingly competitive society and the expectations that every student needs a high degree that lands them a prestigious job. Pressure like that is tough for anyone to take. Throwing an 18-year-old into such an environment seems to ask for trouble.

 

Universities across the country are taking note. As noted in Time Magazine, institutions like the University of Pennsylvania are increasing funding for mental health services. Off-campus, private mental health providers are creating programs aimed at helping students cope with the pressures of college life.

 

The epidemic of stress-related anxiety and depression clearly indicates these measures are needed. Parents, too, should be aware of how stress and pressure are affecting their children. Having goals and ambitions is important but should never come at the expense of health.

 

Managing Workplace Anxiety

herrick lipton - anxiety

 

There’s no denying work can be stressful. For those of us who suffer from an anxiety disorder, each day can be a struggle to get out of bed, get dressed, and get to work on time. Those who are unsure of their talents and abilities may voluntarily miss out on opportunities that would put them ahead in their companies because they don’t know if they’d be able to fulfill the needs of the position. Public speaking and traveling can be difficult for most people to adjust to, but missing opportunities willingly can also exacerbate symptoms of anxiety disorders.

 

In order to mitigate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and manage anxiety in the workplace, it’s a good idea to be proactive every day so you can live a happy and healthy work life. It’s also important to realize that feeling anxious is a perfectly normal response to stress, but if it becomes overwhelming, that’s when you need to actively take steps to make positive changes for your overall wellbeing.

 

Be Self-Aware

Being self-aware means checking in on your own physical and emotional responses when feelings of anxiety arise. Be mindful of what exactly is causing your stress and try to see how you can make changes. Are you overwhelmed by unrealistic deadlines? Do you dread everyday responsibilities? Figure out whether or not you need to reorganize or if you’re procrastinating on projects. Don’t try and disregard your feelings because they won’t go away, in fact, they’ll probably intensify. Instead, try to pinpoint exactly what is causing the excessive stress.

 

Make time for yourself

When our plates are full and we feel like we have no time for ourselves, that’s when we especially need to carve out our day and make extra time. When we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, we’re less likely to exercise, but our bodies need it most at that time. Try hard to care for your mind and body by eating the right foods, getting enough sleep each night, and squeezing in some workout time.

 

Reach out to friends and family

Loved ones can be a source of guidance, wisdom, and support. More than likely, you have someone in your circle who is experiencing feelings of anxiety and a loss of control. If not, someone is going to have gone through it at some point in their past. Even if you don’t want to discuss this with friends and family, just knowing they are there for you can be a positive re-enforcement.

 

Seek help from a professional

There is no shame in asking for help if you aren’t managing your anxiety alone. If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, it’s best to seek out help in order to manage it effectively. A clinical psychologist will help you figure out not only where your stress is coming from, but how to deal with it so you can live a life that is not controlled by anxiety, but by yourself.

Spread the Positivity Virus

herrick lipton - positivity

 

Peer pressure is something adults tell children to watch out for. They are afraid because children are thought to be impressionable. Little do they know, the attitudes of their friends can affect them in similar ways. Your colleagues may not try to get you to engage in illegal behavior, but surrounding yourself with negative people may lead to negative feelings, and the same can be said with positivity. But why does this happen?

The culprit may be social cues. Most humans have the ability to sense a mood shift, based off of nonverbal cues. These can include posture, facial expression, and movement. Someone who is frowning is sad. Someone who can’t stop tapping their fingers is jittery. Someone with their arms crossed is closed off. There are hundreds of social cues humans subconsciously recognize.

Social cues are said to make up 55% of all communication. Before we learn our first words, we observe our family’s behavior and categorize behaviors by their intended effect. This means we can recognize the mood in any given situation without directly asking about it even before we begin school.

Obviously, social cues are a key to this puzzle, but how exactly do they fit in?

When someone does not adhere to social norms, they stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes, there is an event which calls for celebration or one that calls for grief. However, sometimes a group’s mood can be a byproduct of one or two people’s attitude.

Daniel Goleman says that leaders influence their teams’ moods. A manager who angrily points out all of your mistakes can make you feel angry in return. A respectful boss will inspire respect from their employees. In your social group, there is almost always one particularly vocal friend (whether they are happy, sad, or any other emotion), who acts as the leader of the group. Everyone else tends to model their behavior around this centralized person.

There are circumstances where it is appropriate to experience negative emotions, but living a happy life is important to your mental health. Spending all of your time with negative people will ultimately lead you to feel more negative. Experiencing the world with positive people will allow you to enjoy more in life and lead to a deeper appreciation of all life has to offer.

Positivity can be spread as easily as a disease. Every positive word or action transfers this positivity to the next person. Surrounding yourself with positive people is the best and easiest way to live a fulfilling life.

So what are you waiting for? Go out into the world and find new people to share your positivity with. After all, your positivity is just as contagious and can make ripples in the world.