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!

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?

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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

CPR: Sustainable Mental Health Habits

Dr. Andrea Dinardo MENTAL HEALTH HABITS

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty
/səˌstānəˈbilədē/

The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

Catch Pause Repair (CPR) is a Framework for Sustainable Mental Health & Resilience Habits.

CPR includes three simple steps as outlined in the video below:

1. Catch

Catch yourself in the midst (or before) before a stress response escalates by becoming more aware of what triggers you.

2. Pause

Pause and take a 60 second time out when you feel the physical sensations of stress begin to escalate.

3. Repair

Repair the root source of the heightened stress response which is often physiological in nature. Possible unmet needs include: sleep, food, fresh air, exercise.

DrAndreaDinardo.com QUOTE

Supporting Student Health

Requested by

The CPR Presentation  was developed for the St. Clair College Student Sustainability Group as part of their initiative for supporting the health and wellbeing of college staff, faculty, and students.

New Opportunity

This was the first time I’ve been approached to make a video for a third party. And it was so much fun!



			
					

Have you experienced stage fright or performance anxiety?

PUBLIC SPEAKING TIP

How to Turn Fear into Excitement

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Neuroscience Solutions & Insights

Did you know that fear and excitement share the same set of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.

And the best way to shift from performance anxiety to excitement is to say one sentence on repeat.

Watch the video to discover the fun sentence! 🎙 

And also learn why telling someone to “calm down” is never the solution to stage fright.

Video Credits: Big thank you to Windsor Entrepreneur Taylor Lanoie for asking such a great question during my Pitch with Passion Workshop. And also for giving me permission to share our dynamic exchange with all of you.

Additional Resources

Click Here to Download PDF of Harvard Research on “Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety“, the basis for 1) this video presentation, and 2) a similar performance skills video filmed earlier this year.

PUBLIC SPEAKING TIP Practice the Pause

Stop saying “Um,” or “Ah,” during speeches with this one simple tip:

The next time you have a speech to give, try taking a pause between thoughts.

In doing so, you allow your message to sink in.

Giving yourself and the audience a much needed break.

Allowing time for everyone to digest the information.

Ultimately replacing “ums” and “ahs” with breathing space.

Try the pause and let me know what you think! 🎙 🍃

Watch Video: Practice the Pause

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.

The Shadow Effect.

Psychology Class

The Shadow Effect

One of the things I love to do is share what’s happening on campus in my psychology class.

Today’s topic: The Shadow Effect

Watch this short video and consider the following questions:

  1. What is your shadow?
  2. How does your shadow serve you?
  3. Where does your shadow come from?

Shadow.1

How do I bring shadow side of myself into the light?


Helpful resources and activities

  1. The Positive Power of Negative Emotions: amazon.ca/books
  2. One Minute Meditation: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3ucdU7URx5g
  3. Give Pain Room to Breathe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp_QjmmCzeU
  4. Lean Into Loneliness: https://www.thedrivemagazine.com/posts/lean-into-loneliness
  5. Failure as Feedback: https://www.thedrivemagazine.com/posts/failure-as-feedback

There is transformative power in our negative emotions. The key is to create a safe, welcoming space to lean in and hear their lessons.

Mind over matter.

dream

When the going gets tough do you focus on the dream or the sacrifice?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl

Boost your motivation and raise your energy by laser focusing on what is within your control during challenge and adversity — Your Mindset


Related Post: The stories we tell ourselves.

Positivity first.

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My job description as a psychology professor includes this quote.  Because first you foster peace and positivity. Then you teach. 🍎

Related Post: Let peace begin with me.

Reading People: Lesson #1 Self Awareness

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long, long way.”

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Intrapersonal Intelligence ⇔ Interpersonal Intelligence

The first lesson in reading people, using the principles of emotional intelligence, is to understand yourself more deeply.

What motivates you. What excites you. What angers you. What lifts you up!

As self-awareness is essential for both personal and relationship success.

If you can’t comprehend your own emotions and motivations, how will you ever understand the behaviour of others?

Understanding Yourself  ⇔ Understanding Others

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Self-awareness as a daily practice.

Notice how your emotions ebb and flow throughout the day.

One way of doing this is to schedule time at the end or beginning of your day for quiet contemplation and self-reflection.

Find your favourite place to relax and unwind. Perhaps in the garden or in a cozy chair by the window. Or on a walk by the trees. 

Alternatively, enjoy a 2 minute “Self Check In” at the top of each hour.

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Pause. Reflect. Breathe Deeply.

Journal. Meditate. Create. 

What you will find is the more consistently you pay attention to your own drives and desires, the better you will understand the emotions and motivations of others.

Simple self-awareness exercise.

In the video below, I share the simple exercise I use to enhance self-awareness in myself and others. Can you guess the EQ questions I ask students?

Your Turn:

How would you describe yourself in one word?

To hear my “one word” — check out the 1 min video above.  📌🎥


Coming Soon!

Reading People: Lesson #2 

Social Awareness

1000 views on the official TEDx site!

I am so excited to share that my TEDx video hit 1000 views today! 🎥

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A BIG thank you for watching and sharing my TEDx talk with your friends and family. We are stronger than our stress. This I know for sure. Together we will thrive under pressure. 💥

Click on TEDx Video → Thriving Under Pressure

Strengthened by adversity.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” C. S. Lewis

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When was the last time you had to start over?

This was a big week back at St. College College — and all colleges across Ontario. Students were returning to school after a 5 week province-wide strike.

An arduous situation that was well beyond student control.

So it was essential that I foster a safe space for students to transition back onto campus and into my psychology classroom. To help them begin again.

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My intention was to bridge the gap from stress to strength.

To remind them of times in their lives where they had experienced the stress of starting over. Including the strike. And triumphed despite all the suffering.

For it is in our dark times that we discover our light. And it is in our pain that we find our power. Difficult times force us to dig deep for courage and reach out for support.

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And ultimately discover a strength far greater than any adversity.

This week I have never been more proud to be a college professor.

This week students taught me.


What strengths have helped you through challenge & adversity?

Related: The Paradox of Strength.

Who motivates you?

Students, past and present, motivate me!

“The future of the world is in my classroom today.”

One of my first year BScN nursing students (Mona on the right) asked if I would sign the psychology textbook that I co-wrote and take a photo with her after class this week.

She said that an encouraging note and a picture with her professor would give her the motivation she needed to stay focused, work hard, and study throughout the semester.

Of course I said yes! It was a full circle moment. For my students are my motivation. And everything I do is with their success in mind.

Also pictured above are Sarah Ryrie (on the left) and Justin Fox (in the middle) – two St. Clair College alumni and former student representative council presidents who continue to inspire me today!

Related Post: Staying motivated in the midst of a challenge.

Your Turn: Who motivates you?

What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

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Shifting students positive.

So many students come to class anxious and stressed out. The last thing on their minds is learning. Which is why I start each class by asking students what’s the best thing that’s happened to them today.

Reflection ◊ Connection ◊ Motivation

Their answers fascinate me. And give me insight into what motivates them. From simple to profound. From food to relationships. From money to purpose. From grades to destiny. And everything in between.

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Less stress. More learning.

Interacting with students in fun and uplifting ways brings laughter and lightness to the classroom. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Yet it creates a significant shift in student stress and comfort levels.

Students need to feel safe. Students need to feel heard. Showing them you care (while having fun) works every time. Only then can the real learning begin!

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 Shifting students from stress to empowerment.

One question. One conversation. One class. At a time.🍎

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Liked vs. Respected

This question came to mind last week when I took over a college class halfway through the semester.

I know how tough it is for students to have 2 professors over the course of a 12 week semester. 2 sets of rules. 2 sets of expectations.

So it’s more important than ever that I play my “first impression” card right.

Students are more likely to “test the limits with the “new teacher”. Accordingly, I use a more strict than usual demeanour at the start of summer semester.

It usually works well. As my tough love approach becomes more on the love side, and less on the tough side as the weeks roll by.

However, this time I knew my first class authoritarian approach was not going to work.

Suddenly I had my hands full right off the bat. One of my students was not impressed in any way.

After laying down the law, the student looked up at me and said: “I’m not going to like you very much.”

And I said: “Good, because I’m not here to be liked, I’m here to teach you something.”

The student loudly responded: “Good, because I just learned something!

To this day I am grateful for how much this student underscored my purpose in the classroom. 

I am not here to be liked. I am here to teach psychology.

A life lesson in self-worth that applies to us all.

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”

Enthusiasm is contagious.

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Photo from keynote at a College Student Alliance (CSA) student leadership conference.

I believe in the power of education. Deep down in my soul. And it’s this core belief that translates into a high level of enthusiasm and excitement for student success in my classroom.

I believe so strongly in the impact of enthusiasm on motivating students, capturing their attention, and enhancing their learning that I wrote my PhD dissertation on the topic.

Education + Enthusiasm = Student Success

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What core beliefs guide your work? Your life? 💫

Teaching Psychology with Enthusiasm

I love teaching about psychology as much as I love writing about psychology. And that’s a lot!

Psychology is my passion 

Students First Is My Philosophy

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Which is why I take every opportunity I have to support and encourage student success and development.

  1. Whether it be as a reference for college scholarships.
  2. Helping stressed out students thrive in the classroom.
  3. Writing psychology textbooks for students across Canada.
  4. Developing a blog geared to student resilience and empowerment.

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Your Turn:

  1. What are you most excited about in life right now?
  2. How do you make your passion and purpose a daily priority?

Peace begins within.

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A glimpse of my psychology lecture on student stress and mindfulness.

Remember to breathe.🌿

Related Post: The Sweet Spot.

Hold the vision. Trust the process.

Create a vision for your life that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

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This “Why Vision Board” was created by my psychology students this past September.

Why Vision Boards in the classroom.

At the beginning of the semester, I ask my nursing students to share their reasons “why” they wanted to become a nurse. Why this program?

This simple question gives students insight into what motivates them. Something I consciously tap into throughout the school year.

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Students are enthusiastic about learning at the start of  the semester. New textbooks. Colourful notebooks. Dreams still fresh in their minds.

Illuminating lifelong dreams has the most impact midway through the school term.

This is when students truly need a boost in motivation (right about now). This is the time where I insert their original “Why” vision board into my PowerPoint lecture slides.

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 “Why Vision Board” created by a different group of students.

Halfway through the semester, students are surprised to see a photo of their own words, projected onto the big screen.

They are instantly drawn back into their reason “Why”.

An animated discussion ensues where students compare their initial motivations with their current state of mind and affairs.

Rekindling their dreams. Giving them a much needed reminder as to why they picked their program in the first place

What’s changed? What’s stayed the same. And why?

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Why Vision Board” in action!

Ultimately, their “why vision board” transports them to a higher place, well above the stresses of their exams, to a place where all their dreams began.

Boosting their motivation. Lifting them up. Multiplying their energy.

A simple why? question that works. Every single time.

Reminding them why their dreams matter.

Why school matters. Why they matter.

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Reignite instrinsic motivation in one simple step: Ask yourself “Why?” you do what you do. Every chance you get!

Related Post: What's your why?

Summer school.

Bittersweet Ending

The end of a college semester is always bittersweet.

Summer school is no different.

The final psychology exam was just this week.

And I miss my summer students already.

Full disclosure: Psychology is my passion.

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A glimpse of my summer lecture on mindfulness, health psychology, and patient care. 

Pre-Nursing Psychology

I am grateful to have met so many wonderful St. Clair College students in the pre-nursing program this summer.

They worked hard. Followed their heart. And never gave up.

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Each student hoping to gain admission into the highly competitive four year BScN program starting in September.

(Summer school is a pre-nursing qualification program.)

New Beginning

Every ending is a new beginning.

Because of the program I teach in, I will have the opportunity to teach many of my pre-nursing students again this fall in the BScN nursing program.

Fingers crossed that they (all) get in to nursing! 🏥💉

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Just because the semester ends doesn’t mean the learning ends.  I am, and will always be, my students’ “Professor for Life“. 📚❤️

Related Post: What's your why?

What side of the brain do you live on?

rightleftMy stroke of insight would be: peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is silence the voice of our dominating left mind.  Jill Bolte Taylor

Have you ever wondered how your best friend lives so freely “moment-to-moment” while your mind is imprisoned by thoughts of past events and/or planning of future events (so neatly) written in your (overly structured) daytimer?

Brain Hemispheric Specialization provides insight into why some of us are more present focused and able to “go with the flow” (Right Brain dominant); while others are busy planning their days with the step-by-step precision of a NASA engineer (Left Brain dominant).

Left and Right Brain

Brain and Behaviour

Despite being identical in structure, the two halves of the brain specialize in how they process information (e.g., Past vs. Present), and how they function (e.g., Verbal vs. Nonverbal).

Processing Differences

  • Left hemisphere – processes information sequentially, one bit at a time
  • Right hemisphere – processes information globally, considering it as a whole

Functional Differences

  • Left hemisphere – includes verbal tasks, such as speaking, reading, thinking, and reasoning.
  • Right hemisphere – includes nonverbal areas such as the understanding of spatial relationships, recognition of patterns and drawings, music, and emotional expression.

To learn more about neuroscience and behaviour – Download Chapter 2 of my psychology textbook with McGraw-Hill Ryerson Higher Education.

BRAIN

Neuroscience in Your Life

Have you ever wondered if you were more Left or Right Brain dominant?

  1. Complete Left/Right Brain Dominance Test to find out which brain hemisphere currently dominates your life.
  • I obtained a score of 10 on this test – indicating that I am equally Left and Right Brained. Which didn’t surprise me as I often “lay the table” with outlines, organizers, etc. (Left Brain) And the moment I feel safe, grounded, and prepared, I sit back and watch the ideas fly! (Right Brain)
  • What about you? How did you score on the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test? Was it what you expected? Were the results consistent with how you live your life? Did you learn something new about yourself?

Who would you be without one of your hemispheres?  How would you cope?

2. Watch this 20 minute video to discover how Neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor turned her real-life tragedy into an awe inspiring “Stroke of Insight“.