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.

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

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

Sadness versus clinical depression.

Neatness versus obsessive compulsive disorder.

The topic of this week’s psychology video:

Is This Normal? 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!

FOMO ANXIETY Simple Tips for Feeling Better

This post is for anyone experiencing FOMO. Particularly on a long weekend holiday!

Psychology Insight:

Holidays heighten social anxiety of every kind.

FOMO especially.

Consider these questions as you explore what’s going on below the surface.

1. Do you remember the first time you experienced FOMO?

2. How did you cope with the anxiety of missing out?

3. What if anything would you be willing to give up in your life in exchange for the fantasy of someone else’s life or experience?

4. What about your life do you cherish above all else?

Please share in the comments below, including your own strategies for handling FOMO. I’d love to know!

Savour this moment.

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Optimism Bootcamp: 3 Steps to Empowerment

Nathalie Begin author of the Gutsy Feeling Blog invited me to give a positive psychology workshop called Optimism Bootcamp at a Symposium for Crohn’s & Colitis Canada.

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The audience was filled a very special group of people. Individuals that have been battling the chronic condition of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) their whole lives.

Optimism and Health Empowerment

What’s IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of conditions, the two main forms of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD also includes indeterminate colitis.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition, and eliminate waste in a healthy manner.

Source: Chrohn’s and Colitis Canada

Health Warriors

Individuals with chronic health problems such as IBD often feel a sense of helplessness and disempowerment over their bodies.

Which is why teaching concrete strategies for focusing on what’s within one’s control (beliefs and attitudes; deep breathing; present moment awareness) and letting go of what’s not (waiting times; IBD diagnosis; doctor availability) is so important.

Believing you can is half the battle.

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Optimism Research

Research in health psychology shows that optimism and having hope in one’s future has a significant impact on whether patients follow through on medical advice.

Optimism has also been found to improve overall quality of life, well-being, and happiness of cancer patients.

Click Here for Research on Health, Hope, and Optimism

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Good News!

Optimism Can Be Learned

The good news is that optimism is a skill that can be learned.

  1. Optimism / pessimism are not fixed personality traits that someone is lucky (or unlucky) enough to be born with.
  2.  Optimism / pessimism are states (not traits) that are malleable and open to change.
  3. Optimism / pessimism are attributional styles that can be taught and reinforced over time.

Additional insight on how our minds work

Excerpt from Optimism Article:

Using Attribution Theory, I can tell a lot about someone by the way they interpret the events that happen in their lives, particularly the explanatory style they use in analyzing setbacks versus successes.

attribution theory table

The pessimist perceives failures as personal, permanent, and pervasive, and thus has difficulty moving beyond setbacks. They often get lost in a recurrent loop of negativity.

In contrast, optimists see setbacks as universal. to everyone, temporary in time, and limited to one or two areas of their lives.

Source:  Dr. Andrea Dinardo, The Drive Magazine

Optimism in Our Community

Hope changes everything. It transforms pessimism into optimism. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy.

Daisaku Ikeda
Read Optimism Bootcamp Article: Click Here