Category: Mental health

Scientifically Proven Ways To Relax

11 Scientifically Proven Tips for Relaxing
https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/mind-and-soul/11-scientifically-proven-tips-for-relaxing/ar-AAFOr8J?ocid=spartandhp

© KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock via Getty Images 11 Scientifically Proven Tips for Relaxing

1. Chew gum.

Strange as it may seem, chewing gum—not to mention the fun of popping bubbles—has been shown to improve reported mood as well as lower cortisol levels.

2. Surround yourself with plants.

Immersing yourself in nature can make you feel happier, and even just a little exposure can help you relax. One study at Washington State University found that entering a room with plants can lower your blood pressure and increase your productivity. Plus, plants increase oxygen, helping you breathe easier.

3. Mow the lawn.

a close up of a toy car in a field: lawnmower

© Provided by Sportority, Inc. (Mental Floss) lawnmower

A chemical released by a mowed lawn (think of that fresh-cut grass smell) causes people to feel happy and relaxed, according to research. Another benefit? Getting a chore out of the way—and off your mind.

4. Listen to classical music.

Music can brighten up your day, but it turns out there’s also a physiological impact to listening to music: One study found that listening to classical music lowered participants’ blood pressure, slowed their heart rates, and reduced levels of stress hormones.

5. Pucker up.

Sometimes feeling weak in the knees isn’t a bad thing. Kissing releases oxytocin, a chemical that reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

6. Reduce your screen time, especially before bedtime.

a person in a blue shirt: Teenage girl looks at her phone while in bed

© Provided by Sportority, Inc. (Mental Floss) Teenage girl looks at her phone while in bed

Spend the majority of your day sitting in front of a screen only to go home and stare at another screen (or two)? That artificial light can mess with your melatonin production and alter your circadian rhythms, which can impact your sleep. Young adults in particular are likely to be affected. Studies have shown that teenagers who use their phones late at night are more likely to be depressed.

7. Drink some tea.

Scientists at the City University of London found that a single cup of tea reduces stress rates by as much as 25 percent. And certain types of herbal tea, like green tea, contain L-theanine, which has also been shown to reduce stress.

8. Put your head in a paper bag.

It’s become a bit of a joke, but it turns out breathing into a paper bag will actually make you calmer. Research suggests that since when people feel anxious they often breathe too quickly, their bodies build up an overflow of oxygen. Breathing into a bag for half a dozen breaths increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your body and helps you feel better.

9. Grab some chocolate.

a close up of a rock: chocolate

© Provided by Sportority, Inc. (Mental Floss) chocolate

It’s not your imagination: You do feel better after eating chocolate. Even eating just 40 grams, the size of a regular Hershey’s bar, lowers your amount of stress hormones.

10. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

If chocolate isn’t your thing, try citrus. Scientists have found that vitamin C helps regulate cortisol and prevent blood pressure from spiking.

11. Have a laugh.

Watching funny videos—and laughing—physically helps you relax by releasing endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their happy fuzzy effect.

Thank you for reading 🙂

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Do You Sit? Maybe You Should

7 Reasons You Need A ‘Sit Spot’ In Your Life

Connecting with nature can have a very grounding effect on the mind and the body. Nature and Forest Therapists recommend finding a Sit Spot for yourself — a place where you can regularly visit and connect with the earth. Even in urban environments, finding a regular Sit Spot is wildly beneficial for body, mind and soul.

How to find a Sit Spot

Finding a Sit Spot may be as easy as looking to your own backyard. I have a gorgeous tree in my yard that provides shade on sunny days that I’ve chosen for my Sit Spot. A few of the roots are partially exposed, and bees love to buzz overhead when it blossoms in the spring. It’s also a great place to connect with nature because I know no one is going to walk up and disturb me — or if they do, it’s a member of my family. In other words, I feel safe there.

If you have a quiet place in your front or backyard, then pick a part of it for your Sit Spot. If you live in an apartment or city, select a small part of a nearby park for your Sit Spot. You can select a bench or large rock to sit on, or you can just sit down on the ground. Once you’ve found your place, simply sit, relax and observe the world around you.

Here are some of the many benefits:

1. You’ll experience improved mindfulness

Much like meditation, a Sit Spot offers a great way to engage in self-guided mindfulness training. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) states that when we’re out in nature, our ability for directed attention is restored. It’s easy to lose this as we go about our busy lives, but a Sit Spot interrupts the pattern of your fatigue or stress. As you sit and observe the world around you, you are training your brain to focus on one thing at a time, without the distraction of technology or the interruption of a coworker or family member. Soon, you’ll find yourself able to just “be” when you’re in your Sit Spot.

2. You’ll get a chance to disconnect

While there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your Sit Spot, be sure to leave your phone at home or on your desk. You should be able to enjoy a 30-minute Sit Spot experience without your phone, no matter how much it may annoy you the first time out. For most of us, nothing earth-shattering or life-changing is going to happen during that time. Emails and texts can wait until you are done with your practice. The effect might surprise you by helping you approach those messages with a calmer outlook.

3. You’ll connect with nature

If your Sit Spot has a water element to it, which is ideal, then you’ll have more chances of observing different types of wildlife. Birds, squirrels and — depending on when you go — deer might happen across your path. Even a park with a duck pond will reveal a number of different species of waterfowl and fauna. Plus, as you make visiting your Sit Spot a regular practice, you’ll begin to notice changes in the seasons in the wildlife and plant life around you.

4. Your stress levels will drop

According to Psychoevolutionary Theory (PET), our positive response to nature is due to our evolutionary development. The outdoors were our first home, and it’s believed that being around natural resources helps lower our stress levels. A Japanese study published in 2010 examined the practice of Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” and found that there’s credence to the theory.

People who regularly spent time in nature experienced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, lower pulse rate and lower sympathetic nerve activity than those who did not get out in nature. Other research also shows that the consumption of Mycobacterium vaccae — a bacterium found in soil — helps decrease anxiety levels.

5. You’ll experience improved mood

Being indoors all day can leave you feeling unhappy. If you work indoors, your whole day — even the time you’re in the car — is detached from nature to some degree. But getting outside can have a profound impact on your mood. A 2015 study from Stanford University found that people who walked in nature, as opposed to those who walked the same length of time in an urban setting, experienced less anxiety, less rumination or focused attention on the negative parts about yourself, and had a more positive outlook overall.

6. You might become more creative

One of the other great benefits of a Sit Spot is it can help boost your creativity. When you detach from everyday distractions, you relieve attention fatigue. We have all experienced brain fog or simply feeling drained after a particularly difficult task at work. Moving away from things that demand our attention, or taking a Sit Spot break in your workday, can help boost creativity.

In 2012, a study from the University of Kansas found that people on a four-day backpacking trip were able to solve puzzles easier and quicker than the control group at a rate of 47 percent more. It stands to reason that shorter periods outside have a positive effect on your creativity as well. Another study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that being out in nature helps restore people’s ability to pay attention to harder tasks afterward.

7. You will become kinder

As you connect with nature on a more regular basis, it’s impossible to avoid the sense that you are just one part of a much larger whole. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found in a series of studies published in 2014 that people who regularly observe and engage with nature experience higher levels of generosity, trust and a willingness to help others when compared to those who don’t get out among the birds and trees.

It’s clear getting out in nature is good for us, but giving yourself a place to relax in the form of a Sit Spot might make your life better in ways you can only imagine.

Thank you for reading 🙂

Being Mindful~ There are benefits to it

‘Mindfulness’ has become a bit of a buzz word, and seems to be gaining in popularity every day. It’s easy to see why.

Unlike a formal meditation practice, which requires a commitment to retreat from the world, sit still, and be quiet for a period of time, mindfulness is a technique that can be practiced throughout the day as you go about your life. This makes the technique especially appealing for people who are busy, or feel daunted by a more formal meditation practice.

So what exactly is mindfulness? According to mindfulness teacher and writer, Jon Kabat Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” In other words, mindfulness involves consciously directing your attention onto what you’re doing, feeling, thinking, or experiencing in the present moment.

As Kabat Zinn says, to practice mindfulness, we must, “watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear?” Many people find that practicing short, mindful moments of this nature regularly throughout the day to be an effective way to relax, refocus attention, and reconnect with the present moment.

Mindfulness can be practiced at literally any time throughout the day, during any activity. However, sometimes when we are first starting to practice, we forget to be mindful. For this reason, it can be useful to incorporate some mindfulness exercises into our day that allow us to get used to the practice.

Here are 5 mindfulness exercises that take one minute or less.

Before answering the phone, take a breath.

Mindfulness teacher and monk, Thich Naht Hanh, advises to use the ring of the telephone as a ‘bell of mindfulness.’ Instead jumping up in instinctively to answer it, take a deep, mindful breath before you respond to the sound. The same can be done with text messages, emails or other notifications that we tend to react to immediately.

Walk mindfully.

Walking is a great opportunity to incorporate mindfulness throughout your day. Whether you’re walking to a meeting, the bathroom, or the fridge, take that short amount of time to notice and be thankful for every step your feet take, or as Thich Naht Hanh says: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

Just breathe.

Whenever you find yourself ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you can connect with the present moment through your breath. Notice the way it feels entering your nostrils, and how your chest and belly rise with your inhales, and fall with your exhales. Say to yourself: “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,” and “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.”

Body scan.

mindfulness

Take one minute to scan your body from head to toe, noticing any sensations you discover along the way, pleasant or unpleasant, without judgment. You might have a headache, tension in your neck, an itch on your cheek, a pleasant tingling or warmth in your fingers—anything. Don’t react or judge.

After scanning, take another minute to focus your mind on consciously relaxing the areas where you experienced tension or pain, and then again, notice any changes or differences.

Take two mindful bites.

Although many teachers suggest making every bite mindful, this can be hard to practice in our day-to-day lives, as meal times are often social times, full of conversation. Instead, try to make the first two bites or swallows of any eating or drinking you do, mindful.

Notice the taste, texture, appearance, smell, and temperature of the food or drink, the sounds you make and the sensations in your mouth and throat as you chew and swallow. You may notice that after starting your meal times this way, you naturally become more mindful throughout the eating process.

Practice regularly and eventually you will see, as Thich Naht Hanh says:
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”

-The Alternative Dailyhttps://www.thealternativedaily.com/no-time-for-meditation-try-these-5-one-minute-mindfulness-exercises/

Thank you for reading 🙂

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Anxiety? There is an herb for that

Anxiety is a reaction to life, and it is natural. Some in small amounts can be a good motivator and help to get you prepared for important events, meetings, etc.


Your cat has been enamored by it for ever. Most cats enjoy it but I personally have a cat who despises it. I guess he is already crazy, haha.. Catnip is like a potion when our caats sniff it, they usually can be seen running throught the house, rubbing all over things incesently and they act like they are on drugs. In a way they kind of are. A natural drug though, not a harmful one.. It can help relieve anxiety in us as well. It is easy to grow. I know, I have planted it in a small batch outdoors in my flower bed and it has increased in size almost 10 tens the amount I started with. It looks happy. Green leaves and flowers on the end, it is not an eye-sore that’s for sure.

You can drink it, by making a tea out of it and you can take it as a supplement. When cat’s sniff the stuff it males them go nuts. The opposite of what it does for us humans. For us it is a calming and relaxing effect.

Image result for catnip

Image result for Catnip facts

Other uses for catnip

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Image result for Catnip facts

Fun Facts About Catnip

  • Catnip is actually a perennial herb belonging to the mint family Nepeta cataria.
  • It’s the chemical nepetalactone in catnip that triggers a response in the brains of susceptible cats.
  • Not all cats are affected by catnip.
  • Catnip makes some cats aggressive rather than happily euphoric or pleasantly relaxed.
  • Scientists have discovered nepetalactone is a very effective pest repellent against flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites.
  • Catnip is also used by humans (but not by pregnant women, please). When prepared as a tea or infusion, the nepetalactone acts as a mild sedative, which can be helpful in relieving nausea, headaches, and even toothaches. Enjoy a warm cup of catnip tea at night and it might even help with insomnia.

    Catnip in capsule form, available at health food stores, is also used to treat headaches and digestive upsets. Catnip can also be used topically for cuts by crushing and moistening fresh catnip leaves and applying the paste to the wound. It is also used as an herb for cooking.
  • Catnip is a cinch to grow from seed or a seedling, planted after the last freeze of the season. The plants need lots of room to grow and do very well in porous soil and full sunlight. When full grown, the cuttings should be hung upside down in a dark, dry, airy space to dry. The dried leaves can then be stored in airtight containers in the fridge.
  • Catnip can be used to entice your kitty to use her scratching post or the expensive pet bed you purchased that she wants nothing to do with. It can also be used to help an inactive housecat get some much-needed exercise.
  • Organic catnip (which I recommend) comes in a wide variety of forms including sprays, loose leaves, flowers and buds, pellets, dental chews, scratching pads, and catnip toys of every conceivable kind.
  • Some cat lovers are philosophically opposed to providing their pet with a substance that produces goofy or sleepy or seemingly out-of-control behavior. Some folks feel it is exploitive to get a cat ‘high’ on catnip. Certainly it’s a matter of personal choice whether you offer catnip to your pet, but rest assured it is neither addictive nor harmful to kitties, and is an herb that naturally grows in the wild.

Catnip Precautions

One of the most important things to remember about catnip is that humans should not consume catnip that is sold for use in cats.  It is not subject to the strict regulations that herbs sold for human consumption are, and it could be contaminated with other plant products.  Catnip for humans may be found at most health food stores, or you can grow your own.

Pregnant women should not take catnip, because it contains chemicals that can affect uterine muscle tone.  Catnip is also not recommended for breastfeeding mothers or children.  Those who are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs that have sedative effects could experience sedation or mental impairment if these drugs are used with catnip.  The same applies to sedating herbs.

Side effects of catnip are rare, especially when it is taken orally.  If large doses are taken, fatigue and mild headaches may occur.  Some amount of sedation is to be expected, but it could be more pronounced in some individuals, causing confusion or impairment.


How to Take Catnip

Catnip is available in capsule or liquid form.  See the product’s labeling for dosage.

Catnip also makes a delicious tea.  Simply soak 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried catnip leaves in a cup of boiled water for ten minutes.  The water should be removed from heat before adding the catnip, because boiling it can destroy active ingredients.  Catnip tea may be taken up to three times per day.

Anxiety sufferers can benefit tremendously from the calming effects of catnip.  Whether taken in an herbal supplement or made into a tea, catnip works well without the side effects associated with prescription drugs.


FUNNY!!!

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See the source image

Thank you for reading 🙂

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Mental health~DYK

Intrusive thought

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate.[1] When such thoughts are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and sometimes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the thoughts may become paralyzing, anxiety-provoking, or persistent. Intrusive thoughts may also be associated with episodic memory, unwanted worries or memories from OCD,[2] posttraumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or psychosis.[3] Intrusive thoughts, urges, and images are of inappropriate things at inappropriate times, and generally have aggressive, sexual, or blasphemous themes.[4]

General

Many people experience the type of bad or unwanted thoughts that people with more troubling intrusive thoughts have, but most people can dismiss these thoughts.[1] For most people, intrusive thoughts are a “fleeting annoyance”.[5] Psychologist Stanley Rachman presented a questionnaire to healthy college students and found that virtually all said they had these thoughts from time to time, including thoughts of sexual violence, sexual punishment, “unnatural” sex acts, painful sexual practices, blasphemous or obscene images, thoughts of harming elderly people or someone close to them, violence against animals or towards children, and impulsive or abusive outbursts or utterances.[6] Such bad thoughts are universal among humans, and have “almost certainly always been a part of the human condition”.[7]

When intrusive thoughts occur with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), patients are less able to ignore the unpleasant thoughts and may pay undue attention to them, causing the thoughts to become more frequent and distressing.[1] The thoughts may become obsessions which are paralyzing, severe, and constantly present, and can range from thoughts of violence or sex to religious blasphemy.[5] Distinguishing them from normal intrusive thoughts experienced by many people, the intrusive thoughts associated with OCD may be anxiety provoking, irrepressible, and persistent.[8]

How people react to intrusive thoughts may determine whether these thoughts will become severe, turn into obsessions, or require treatment. Intrusive thoughts can occur with or without compulsions. Carrying out the compulsion reduces the anxiety, but makes the urge to perform the compulsion stronger each time it recurs, reinforcing the intrusive thoughts.[1] According to Lee Baer, suppressing the thoughts only makes them stronger, and recognizing that bad thoughts do not signify that one is truly evil is one of the steps to overcoming them.[9] There is evidence of the benefit of acceptance as an alternative to suppression of intrusive thoughts. A study showed that those instructed to suppress intrusive thoughts experienced more distress after suppression, while patients instructed to accept the bad thoughts experienced decreased discomfort.[10] These results may be related to underlying cognitive processes involved in OCD.[11] However, accepting the thoughts can be more difficult for persons with OCD. In the 19th century, OCD was known as “the doubting sickness”;[12] the “pathological doubt” that accompanies OCD can make it harder for a person with OCD to distinguish “normal” intrusive thoughts as experienced by most people, causing them to “suffer in silence, feeling too embarrassed or worried that they will be thought crazy”.[13]

The possibility that most patients suffering from intrusive thoughts will ever act on those thoughts is low. Patients who are experiencing intense guilt, anxiety, shame, and upset over these thoughts are different from those who actually act on them. The history of violent crime is dominated by those who feel no guilt or remorse; the very fact that someone is tormented by intrusive thoughts and has never acted on them before is an excellent predictor that they will not act upon the thoughts. Patients who are not troubled or shamed by their thoughts, do not find them distasteful, or who have actually taken action, might need to have more serious conditions such as psychosis or potentially criminal behaviors ruled out.[14] According to Lee Baer, a patient should be concerned that intrusive thoughts are dangerous if the person does not feel upset by the thoughts, or rather finds them pleasurable; has ever acted on violent or sexual thoughts or urges; hears voices or sees things that others do not see; or feels uncontrollable irresistible anger.[15]

Aggressive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts may involve violent obsessions about hurting others or themselves.[16] They can be related to primarily obsessional obsessive compulsive disorder. These thoughts can include harming a child; jumping from a bridge, mountain, or the top of a tall building; urges to jump in front of a train or automobile; and urges to push another in front of a train or automobile.[4] Rachman’s survey of healthy college students found that virtually all of them had intrusive thoughts from time to time, including:[6]

  • causing harm to elderly people
  • imagining or wishing harm upon someone close to oneself
  • impulses to violently attack, hit, harm or kill a person, small child, or animal
  • impulses to shout at or abuse someone, or attack and violently punish someone, or say something rude, inappropriate, nasty, or violent to someone.

These thoughts are part of being human, and need not ruin quality of life.[17] Treatment is available when the thoughts are associated with OCD and become persistent, severe, or distressing.

A variant of aggressive intrusive thoughts is L’appel du vide, or the call of the void. Sufferers of L’appel du vide generally describe the condition as manifesting in certain situations, normally as a wish or brief desire to jump from a high location.

Sexual thoughts[edit]

Sexual obsession involves intrusive thoughts or images of “kissing, touching, fondling, oral sex, anal sex, intercourse, and rape” with “strangers, acquaintances, parents, children, family members, friends, coworkers, animals and religious figures”, involving “heterosexual or homosexual content” with persons of any age.[18]

Like other unwanted intrusive thoughts or images, everyone has some inappropriate sexual thoughts at times, but people with OCD may attach significance to the unwanted sexual thoughts, generating anxiety and distress. The doubt that accompanies OCD leads to uncertainty regarding whether one might act on the intrusive thoughts, resulting in self-criticism or loathing.[18]

One of the more common sexual intrusive thoughts occurs when an obsessive person doubts his or her sexual identity. As in the case of most sexual obsessions, sufferers may feel shame and live in isolation, finding it hard to discuss their fears, doubts, and concerns about their sexual identity.[12]

A person experiencing sexual intrusive thoughts may feel shame, “embarrassment, guilt, distress, torment, fear of acting on the thought or perceived impulse, and doubt about whether they have already acted in such a way.” Depression may be a result of the self-loathing that can occur, depending on how much the OCD interferes with daily functioning or causes distress.[18] Their concern over these thoughts may cause them to scrutinize their bodies to determine if the thoughts result in feelings of arousal. However, focusing attention of any part of the body can result in feelings in that part of the body, hence doing so may decrease confidence and increase fear about acting on the urges. Part of treatment of sexual intrusive thoughts involves therapy to help sufferers accept intrusive thoughts and stop trying to reassure themselves by checking their bodies.[19] This arousal in the part of the body is due to conditioned physiological responses in the brain, which do not respond to the subject of the sexual intrusive thought but rather to the fact that a sexual thought is occurring at all and thus engage an automatic response (research indicates that the correlation between what the genitalia regard as “sexually relevant” and what the brain regards as “sexually appealing” only correlates 50% of the time in men and 10% of the time in women[20]). This means that an arousal response does not necessarily indicate that the person desires what they are thinking about. However, rational thinking processes attempt to explain this reaction and OCD causes people to attribute false meaning and importance to these physiological reactions in an attempt to make sense of them.[21] Sufferers can also experience heightened anxiety caused by “forbidden” images or simply discussing the matter which can then also cause physiological arousal, such as sweating, increased heart rate and some degree of tumescence or lubrication. This is often misinterpreted by the sufferer as an indication of desire or intent, when it is in fact not.[22]

Religious thoughts

Blasphemous thoughts are a common component of OCD, documented throughout history; notable religious figures such as Martin Luther and Ignatius of Loyola were known to be tormented by intrusive, blasphemous or religious thoughts and urges.[23] Martin Luther had urges to curse God and Jesus, and was obsessed with images of “the Devil’s behind.”[23][24] St. Ignatius had numerous obsessions, including the fear of stepping on pieces of straw forming a cross, fearing that it showed disrespect to Christ.[23][25] A study of 50 patients with a primary diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder found that 40% had religious and blasphemous thoughts and doubts—a higher, but not statistically significantly different number than the 38% who had the obsessional thoughts related to dirt and contamination more commonly associated with OCD.[26] One study suggests that content of intrusive thoughts may vary depending on culture, and that blasphemous thoughts may be more common in men than in women.[27]

According to Fred Penzel, a New York psychologist, some common religious obsessions and intrusive thoughts are:[13]

  • sexual thoughts about God, saints, and religious figures
  • bad thoughts or images during prayer or meditation
  • thoughts of being possessed
  • fears of sinning or breaking a religious law or performing a ritual incorrectly
  • fears of omitting prayers or reciting them incorrectly
  • repetitive and intrusive blasphemous thoughts
  • urges or impulses to say blasphemous words or commit blasphemous acts during religious services.

Suffering can be greater and treatment complicated when intrusive thoughts involve religious implications;[23] patients may believe the thoughts are inspired by Satan,[28] and may fear punishment from God or have magnified shame because they perceive themselves as sinful.[29] Symptoms can be more distressing for sufferers with strong religious convictions or beliefs.[13]

Baer believes that blasphemous thoughts are more common in Catholics and evangelical Protestants than in other religions, whereas Jews or Muslims tend to have obsessions related more to complying with the laws and rituals of their faith, and performing the rituals perfectly.[30] He hypothesizes that this is because what is considered inappropriate varies among cultures and religions, and intrusive thoughts torment their sufferers with whatever is considered most inappropriate in the surrounding culture.[31]

Associated conditions

Intrusive thoughts are associated with OCD or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder,[32] but may also occur with other conditions[3] such as post-traumatic stress disorder,[33] clinical depression,[34] postpartum depression,[8] and anxiety.[35][36] One of these conditions[37] is almost always present in people whose intrusive thoughts reach a clinical level of severity.[38] A large study published in 2005 found that aggressive, sexual, and religious obsessions were broadly associated with comorbid anxiety disorders and depression.[39] The intrusive thoughts that occur in a schizophrenic episode differ from the obsessional thoughts that occur with OCD or depression in that the intrusive thoughts of schizophrenics are false or delusional beliefs (i.e. held by the schizophrenic individual to be real and not doubted, as is typically the case with intrusive thoughts) .[40]

Post-traumatic stress disorder

The key difference between OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is that the intrusive thoughts of PTSD sufferers are of traumatic events that actually happened to them, whereas OCD sufferers have thoughts of imagined catastrophes. PTSD patients with intrusive thoughts have to sort out violent, sexual, or blasphemous thoughts from memories of traumatic experiences.[41] When patients with intrusive thoughts do not respond to treatment, physicians may suspect past physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.[42]

Depression

People who are clinically depressed may experience intrusive thoughts more intensely, and view them as evidence that they are worthless or sinful people. The suicidal thoughts that are common in depression must be distinguished from intrusive thoughts, because suicidal thoughts—unlike harmless sexual, aggressive, or religious thoughts—can be dangerous.[43]

Postpartum depression and OCD

Unwanted thoughts by mothers about harming infants are common in postpartum depression.[44] A 1999 study of 65 women with postpartum major depression by Katherine Wisner et al. found the most frequent aggressive thought for women with postpartum depression was causing harm to their newborn infants.[45] A study of 85 new parents found that 89% experienced intrusive images, for example, of the baby suffocating, having an accident, being harmed, or being kidnapped.[8][46]

Some women may develop symptoms of OCD during pregnancy or the postpartum period.[8][47] Postpartum OCD occurs mainly in women who may already have OCD, perhaps in a mild or undiagnosed form. Postpartum depression and OCD may be comorbid (often occurring together). And though physicians may focus more on the depressive symptoms, one study found that obsessive thoughts did accompany postpartum depression in 57% of new mothers.[8]

Wisner found common obsessions about harming babies in mothers experiencing postpartum depression include images of the baby lying dead in a casket or being eaten by sharks; stabbing the baby; throwing the baby down the stairs; or drowning or burning the baby (as by submerging it in the bathtub in the former case or throwing it in the fire or putting it in the microwave in the latter).[45][48] Baer estimates that up to 200,000 new mothers with postpartum depression each year may develop these obsessional thoughts about their babies;[49] and because they may be reluctant to share these thoughts with a physician or family member, or suffer in silence and fear they are “crazy”, their depression can worsen.[50]

Intrusive fears of harming immediate children can last longer than the postpartum period. A study of 100 clinically depressed women found that 41% had obsessive fears that they might harm their child, and some were afraid to care for their children. Among non-depressed mothers, the study found 7% had thoughts of harming their child[51]—a rate that yields an additional 280,000 non-depressed mothers in the United States with intrusive thoughts about harming their children.[52]

Treatment

Treatment for intrusive thoughts is similar to treatment for OCD. Exposure and response prevention therapy—also referred to as habituation or desensitization—is useful in treating intrusive thoughts.[18] Mild cases can also be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients identify and manage the unwanted thoughts.[8]

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is the treatment of choice for intrusive thoughts.[53] According to Deborah Osgood-Hynes, Psy.D. Director of Psychological Services and Training at the MGH/McLean OCD Institute, “In order to reduce a fear, you have to face a fear. This is true of all types of anxiety and fear reactions, not just OCD.” Because it is uncomfortable to experience bad thoughts and urges, shame, doubt or fear, the initial reaction is usually to do something to make the feelings diminish. By engaging in a ritual or compulsion to diminish the anxiety or bad feeling, the action is strengthened via a process called negative reinforcement—the mind learns that the way to avoid the bad feeling is by engaging in a ritual or compulsions. When OCD becomes severe, this leads to more interference in life and continues the frequency and severity of the thoughts the person sought to avoid.[18]

Exposure therapy (or exposure and response prevention) is the practice of staying in an anxiety-provoking or feared situation until the distress or anxiety diminishes. The goal is to reduce the fear reaction, learning to not react to the bad thoughts. This is the most effective way to reduce the frequency and severity of the intrusive thoughts.[18] The goal is to be able to “expose yourself to the thing that most triggers your fear or discomfort for one to two hours at a time, without leaving the situation, or doing anything else to distract or comfort you.”[54] Exposure therapy will not completely eliminate intrusive thoughts—everyone has bad thoughts—but most patients find that it can decrease their thoughts sufficiently that intrusive thoughts no longer interfere with their lives.[55]

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a newer therapy than exposure therapy, available for those unable or unwilling to undergo exposure therapy.[53] Cognitive therapy has been shown to be useful in reducing intrusive thoughts,[56][57] but developing a conceptualization of the obsessions and compulsions with the patient is important.[58]

Medication

Antidepressants or antipsychotic medications may be used for more severe cases if intrusive thoughts do not respond to cognitive behavioral or exposure therapy alone.[8][59] Whether the cause of intrusive thoughts is OCD, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs (a class of antidepressants) are the most commonly prescribed.[59] Intrusive thoughts may occur in persons with Tourette syndrome (TS) who also have OCD; the obsessions in TS-related OCD are thought to respond to SSRI drugs as well.[60]

Antidepressants which have been shown to be effective in treating OCD include fluvoxamine (trade name[a] Luvox), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and clomipramine (Anafranil).[61] Although SSRIs are known to be effective for OCD in general, there have been fewer studies on their effectiveness for intrusive thoughts.[62] A retrospective chart review of patients with sexual symptoms treated with SSRIs showed the greatest improvement was in those with intrusive sexual obsessions typical of OCD.[63] A study of ten patients with religious or blasphemous obsessions found that most patients responded to treatment with fluoxetine or clomipramine.[64] Women with postpartum depression often have anxiety as well, and may need lower starting doses of SSRIs; they may not respond fully to the medication, and may benefit from adding cognitive behavioral or response prevention therapy.[65]

Patients with intense intrusive thoughts that do not respond to SSRIs or other antidepressants may be prescribed typical and atypical neuroleptics including risperidone (trade name Risperdal), ziprasidone (Geodon), haloperidol (Haldol), and pimozide (Orap).[66]

Studies suggest that therapeutic doses of inositol may be useful in the treatment of obsessive thoughts.[67][68]

Epidemiolog

A 2007 study found that 78% of a clinical sample of OCD patients had intrusive images.[3] Most people who suffer from intrusive thoughts have not identified themselves as having OCD, because they may not have what they believe to be classic symptoms of OCD, such as handwashing. Yet, epidemiological studies suggest that intrusive thoughts are the most common kind of OCD worldwide; if people in the United States with intrusive thoughts gathered, they would form the fourth-largest city in the US, following New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.[69]

The prevalence of OCD in every culture studied is at least 2% of the population, and the majority of those have obsessions, or bad thoughts, only; this results in a conservative estimate of more than 2 million sufferers in the United States alone (as of 2000).[70] One author estimates that one in 50 adults have OCD and about 10–20% of these have sexual obsessions.[18] A recent study found that 25% of 293 patients with a primary diagnosis of OCD had a history of sexual obsessions.[71]


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