IS THIS NORMAL? Temporary Emotions vs Mental Illness

The most common question people ask when they discover I’m a retired psychologist is – “Is This Normal?

This question is a significant motivator for creating this psychology blog in the first place.

Because too often people suffer because of lack of understanding versus a diagnosable medical condition.

differential diagnosis  ·  the process of differentiating between two or more conditions which share similar signs or symptoms.

Case Study

Two people present with similar symptoms (e.g., rapid heart beat, excessive worrying, difficulty concentrating) with vastly different causes.

On closer inspection

One person’s symptoms is caused by lack of sleep, excessive caffeine consumption, and a recent breakup.

While the other person’s symptoms is caused by a mental illness, as diagnosed by a registered psychologist, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

One improves with time and lifestyle changes, while the other requires more intensive psychological intervention.

Education Empowers Everyone

This is why it’s my life mission to share psychology everywhere, all the time.

In the classroom. During podcasts. On YouTubeRadioTelevision. Psychology articles, textbooks and blog posts. On the TEDx stage.  Instagram . In between sets at F45 workouts.. and at the local coffee shop.

Psychology is my favourite subject after all.

Psychology Goals

To make DAILY mental health education accessible, sustainable, and easily APPLICABLE.

To eradicate misconceptions about normal versus abnormal functioning.

To help students develop positive coping techniques in fun, interactive, and uplifting ways.

To reduce stigma about mental illness.

To encourage people to seek professional help and guidance for mental health queries.

Instead of simply asking a friend’s opinion on a topic of utmost importance.

Video:

Therapy versus Talking to Friends: What’s the difference?

Especially when it comes to transitory states, emotions, and situations.

Stress versus panic disorder.

Sadness versus clinical depression.

Neatness versus obsessive compulsive disorder.

The topic of this week’s psychology video:

Video:

What’s Normal? What’s Not?

Temporary Emotions versus Mental Illness

For example, distressing emotions often improve with rest, perspective, and time.

While mental illness requires more ongoing medical support and therapy to see improved functioning.

My hope is that mental health education becomes paramount in both the classroom and the doctor’s office.

An ongoing conversation about what’s healthy versus what’s not.

So that people don’t automatically assume they’re mentally ill simply because they’re having a bad day.

More Resources Coming Soon!

Mental Health Matters

Host Dr. Kathy Garland

SITUATIONAL ANXIETY with Dr. Dinardo

Live Interview

Airing July 31, 2020!

Stay Tuned for Dr. Garland’s Video & Podcast!

Stay Open to the Possibilities

Embrace Uncertainty

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One of my favourite ways to energize before teaching psychology classes at St. Clair College is to summarize a theory in practical and concrete ways in the parking lot.

Literally! 🚘 

filmed this video 5 minutes before I was about to teach a lecture on personality and positive psychology in my liberal arts class.

Just a few weeks before all St. Clair College classes went fully online due to COVID-19.

In the video above, I talk about the connection between openness and happiness. Openness to experience is one of the Big 5 Personality traits – see figure below.

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Why Openness?

The more open, adventurous, and flexible we are in our thinking (and being), the more likely we are to perceive ambiguity as a pathway to something new and exciting.

A whole new road, yet to be discovered.

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Today’s Psychology Lesson

We never know what’s waiting on the other side of COVID uncertainty.

So let’s stay open to the possibilities. 

Trust and believe in our shared journey. 

Even if we can’t see the outcome. 

Together in faith, anything is possible!

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Video of Post ⇒ Click Here

Peer Pressure: What happened when I quit drinking?

Getting ready for my online summer courses which requires a lot of new psychology videos.

Including video discussions on health, wellness, and personal empowerment.

Similar to in person college classes, the goal is to stimulate active discussions and open communication.

For example:

Discussion Topic

What happened when I quit drinking?

Watch this short video on my own experience with peer pressure, alcohol, and behaviour change and answer the questions below.

Reflection Questions

  1. How has peer pressure influenced your life decisions?
  2. Have you experienced unexpected push back from friends and relatives when you made a significant health change? If so, how did you handle it?
  3. In what ways have your peers and community sabotaged your health and wellness choices?
  4.  In what ways have your peers and community supported your health and wellness choices?
  5. What strategies help you stay committed to positive lifestyle decisions?

empowering changeEmpowering

Conversations ⇔ Change 

I also encourage use of this video and reflection questions as an opportunity to talk openly with friends and family about the powerful impact of social influence on substance use. Open conversations empower youth to think for themselves and in turn, reduces their susceptibility to coercion.

Watch Psychology Video Click Here

Psychology on YouTube

Dr. Andrea on YouTube Latest YouTube Video

My number one intention for becoming a psychologist and psychology professor has always been to help people live a better life, no matter their life circumstances.

And since there are only so many hours in a day, I’m always looking for new ways to reach and teach as many people as I can. All at once, if possible.   

Which is why I created a Psychology Tips Playlist on my YouTube Channel that I contribute to weekly.

Fun Learning Opportunity

The purpose of my Psychology YouTube Channel is to share the key lessons of my 3 hour psychology lectures in 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Giving people far and wide access to virtual classes, especially those who don’t have the money or means to an undergraduate education.

I know how busy everyone is. And I love a good challenge! 

I also include videos of psychology workshops and keynote speeches.

Be sure to visit my psychology playlist weekly for new videos!

Better yet: Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Visit YouTube Channel Click Here

https://m.youtube.com/c/DrAndreaDinardo

How does a psychologist make a clinical diagnosis?

Psychology in Your Life

The intention for this post is to introduce you to one aspect of the diagnostic process — specifically: differential diagnosis.

And ultimately to help you understand that psychological assessment is a complex, worthwhile process.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo

What’s normal 🆚 clinical?

To answer that question, I would like to invite you into my clinical psychology class. 

Specifically, when I teach the concept of “Differential Diagnosis” using the STATE versus TRAIT anxiety distinction. 

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STATE 🆚 TRAIT ANXIETY

Misdiagnosis

People often believe they have generalized anxiety or panic disorder, when in fact, what they are experiencing is an acute reaction to a short-lived, stressful circumstance.

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Differential Diagnosis

For example, STATE anxiety involves temporary and situational symptoms to stress inducing events (public speaking, midterms, first dates) universal to all of us. 

In contrast, TRAIT anxiety has more lasting, debilitating, and pervasive symptoms (eg., impacts all aspects of an individual’s life) independent of external events.

Psychology on Campus

For additional insights into the diagnostic process, including how I teach this concept in the liberal arts program, check out my latest video:

Reflection Questions

1. How is understanding the state 🆚 trait distinction applicable and/or helpful in your daily life?

2. Have you ever jumped to the conclusion about yourself or someone else regarding a diagnosis, only to discover later that the condition was temporary?

3. What psychology topics and ideas would you like to learn more about?

Dr. D 📕❤️

DrAndreaDinardo.com

My philosophy of teaching.

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I have one intention in mind when I walk into a classroom:

 How can I warm up the room? 🔥

“Enthusiasm is contagious.”

In this short video I share the thoughts that go through my mind as I walk into a classroom and meet my psychology students for the first time. I also discuss the specifics of how I connect with and encourage students each new day.

What goes through your mind when you walk into a room?

Visit my YouTube Channel for more fun and uplifting videos.

Positive psychology on campus.

What is Positive Psychology?

Optimism Bootcamp with Student Leaders

“While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.” Source: Psychology Guide

Strengths first.

I am passionate about what positive psychology can do for students and educators in and out of the classroom. By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their current limitations, history, and circumstances.

Link to: VIA Character Strengths Inventory

Balance is key.

Positive psychology is not about being happy and successful all the time. Instead, happiness is aspirational like a delicious meal at a 5 star restaurant. Wonderful but not to be expected, at every meal, all the time. (Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment on the Kraft Dinner days.)

Instead, the field of positive psychology helps bring out the best in us. In a balanced way. The ebb and flow of life. Negativity is to be expected. The question is – how long do you stay there.

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Safe uplifting atmosphere.

As a professor, I believe it is paramount to create a safe and uplifting atmosphere in the classroom. A secure and consistent milieu where students know what to expect class to class, week to week, semester to semester. A place where students are encouraged to build upon their existing strengths, while feeling supported enough to share their current struggles.

Link to: Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotion

As I teach mostly nursing students, it is critical that I practice what I teach in and out of the classroom. Nursing students will also be responsible for creating an encouraging and safe space for their clients one day.

The yellow t-shirts are from the Yellow Umbrella Project, an Ontario wide college campaign for battling the stigma of mental illness on campus.

YellowUmbrellaProject.DrAndreaDinardo

 Positive psychology and student empowerment.

My highest goal is to work with young Canadians in a way that empowers and encourages them to become the best version of themselves. Cultivating success in a way that is unique to them. I believe that interactive lectures combined with warmth and real-life stories is the best approach for achieving this goal.

Link to: Positive Psychology Interview

The photo below is from a leadership conference for college students where I discussed the connection between optimism and student success.

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Celebrating students every chance I get.

Ultimately, I hope to remind students of their gifts. While encouraging them to embrace their challenges. For we are the sum total of all that is powerful and vulnerable – within and around us. And it’s this extraordinary combination of strong and weak, good and bad, light and dark, that makes our world and our classrooms such a fascinating place to live and thrive.

Repost from July 5 2017

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Happiness: What deters it? What contributes to it?

The Happiness Class

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One of my favourite things to do as a professor is to stay after class and talk to students. They look at the world in a very unique way. Motivating me to think about psychology at a whole different level.

  • Especially when it comes to FOMO and happiness:

FOMO is an acronym for fear of missing out, which is a feeling of anxiety that manifests itself in various ways, from a brief pang of envy to more intense feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy. Source: Macmillan Dictionary

Student Insights

In the video below I share the insightful questions my psychology students asked about social comparison and happiness today. Each question underscoring the famous quote:  

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Happiness, FOMO, and Social Comparison

FOMO and “measuring happiness” against each other’s’s lowlight reel (difficult times) and highlight reel (celebratory times) was also an active discussion on social media

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I would love your insights too!

How would you answer the questions posed by my students:

  1. What are 2 deterrents to happiness?
  2. What are 2 contributors to happiness?
  3. How is your happiness influenced by other people’s highlights and lowlights?
    • Social comparison and happiness was the crux of today’s class discussion and accompanying video.
  4. What simple changes can you make today to enhance your happiness?

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Optimism Bootcamp - Click Here

Peer Pressure and Alcohol: Stand Your Sacred Ground

The Social Side Effects of Change

Motivation to make a change is as much about you, as the people all around you. And unfortunately, not everyone agrees with our decision to grow, change, and evolve. In whatever form it may take.

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Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re brave enough to be yourself“

For when we change, we unknowingly push friends and family outside their comfort zone too. And that’s ok. The important thing to understand is that not everyone is going to support our choice to change. Something I learned personally.

My story

This post was inspired by my own journey of quitting drinking in 2005, motivated by three reasons:

1. Starting a family with my husband.

2. Improving my health.

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3. Being a role model for my students

Unexpected Side Effects

What I did not expect was the pressure to keep drinking that came along with my decision to give up alcohol over a decade ago.

The pressure to remain the same.

The pressure to behave like everyone else.

A resistance to change from others that I did not foresee.

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My students’ stories

— Peer Pressure and Alcohol Use in College

Students over the age of 19 have a choice when it comes to drinking alcohol.

A decision to drink or not drink that is often overshadowed by peer pressure and the widespread culture of risky drinking on and off Canadian campuses.

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Too often students drink to “fit in, reduce stress, numb anxiety” (their words) because they know of no other way.

Excerpt from today’s class:

Class Discussion and Solutions

Which is why it’s more important than ever to open up the conversation of what it’s like to be a young person amongst the culture of alcohol use and abuse today.

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A hot topic that stimulates honest and open debate in my classroom each year. Including remedies to the pressures of college that extend far beyond alcohol.

To listen to our discussion click here.

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Your story

1. What motivates you to make a health change?

2. What de-motivates you?

3. Have you experienced pressure from others to continue unhealthy habits? To not change?

4. How do you stay true to your personal choices?

Coping with Peer Pressure 

Rather than debate or argue your case.

Be still and hold your space.

Take a deep breath, and trust your choices.

Trust that being yourself is enough. 

You get one life. Make it yours. 

Stand Your Sacred Ground.

Video of Blog Post — Click Here

Empowering Conversations.

Empowering Conversations

In today’s psychology class, we discussed how important it is to empower friends, family, and clients going through difficult times.

And how even if we’re an expert in psychology, medicine, or business – it does not make us the master of someone else’s life.86413B3A-117A-451E-9318-CB334FF5E5CC

Together we explored strength based techniques for uplifting and encouraging others in conversation and in daily life.

Acknowledging that we still have so much left to learn about friends and family.

And the only way to do this is to create an inviting listening space between ourselves and the people we meet to be themselves.

its ok to not be ok

Next Steps

Helpful tips for enhancing conversations with clients and family members can be found in the June article in The Drive Magazine (click here) and in the psychology video below —


The Story Behind the Story

This post was inspired by my sister Noelle.

12BB321D-E44A-4F1F-A3DF-D616562A0831“When my sister was 19, she had a brain aneurysm. Every day since, she has struggled to maintain her independence and financial security.

Despite her trauma, Noelle continues to thrive in unexpected and beautiful ways. She never gives up, no matter what comes her way. Over the years, I have discovered the difference it makes when I support Noelle from her perspective, rather than dictating what she needs.”

Excerpt from The Drive Magazine | Issue 122, p. 49

EMPOWERING

Someone with a Brain Injury

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Written with the help of my sister ❤️