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Providing health care services in supportive environment and dedicating our experience and resources to maintain quality of care emphasize patient satisfaction.

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Taking Steps to Better Heart Health.

Our Vision

defining our path to continued growth and enhanced connectivity with the people we serve, embracing the spirit of change prevalent in society, technology and health care.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Infant vaccinations , Antibiotics , The artificial heart & Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Infant vaccinations: Today, over 80 percent of children age three or younger receive vaccinations. As a result, some of the deadly diseases, like smallpox and polio, are completely controlled in developed countries, while worldwide programs try to spread this success into the underdeveloped countries. Furthermore, new vaccines are available (like for chicken pox) that weren’t available 30 years ago. People born in 1955 were the first to receive vaccinations in infancy, starting with polio.
That factor alone significantly increased that generation’s lifespan. In the years to follow, more childhood vaccines were added, such as measles in 1963, mumps in 1967, and rubella in 1969.

Antibiotics: People have been receiving antibiotics since the 1940s for bacterial infections, such as syphilis, tuberculosis, malaria, and pneumonia. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 and first used medically in 1940.
After the discovery of penicillin, the rate of development of newer antibiotics was paralleled by fear of emerging resistant bacteria. In the 1950s, new resistant bacteria emphasized the need to limit use of antibiotics to keep new resistant bacteria for emerging. Today, the improper use of antibiotics is widespread, leaving researchers nervous about the inevitable development of newer resistant bugs. Follow your doctor’s recommendation about taking antibiotics seriously to help avoid further resistant strains from improper antibiotic use.

Medical technology: Medical technology drives the improvements in modern medicine. To make better medications, vaccines, and diagnostic tests, there needs to be advances in equipment to identify and create them. Diagnosing disease in its early stages, which improves outcome, comes from better diagnostic imaging. Patients with disease that has advanced to a point where organs are failing are given hope from technology advancements in prosthetics, organ transplantation, and tissue repair. Here are a few of the major breakthroughs:

• The artificial heart can be used to keep heart failure patients alive until they can receive a donor heart.
Computer-aided tomography (CAT) scan produces three-dimen-sional images of the body that can show doctors whether a tumor is present and how deep it is in the body, to guide diagnosis and treatments.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is when magnetic fields and radio waves cause atoms to give off tiny radio signals, making it possible to detect cancer and other ailments early.

Despite these amazing advances, some diseases are still constant — cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death in the world, and although cancer, respiratory illness, and diabetes all trail behind, they’re still major health threats (see Chapter 2 for more info on cancer and CVD). 

The Fountain of Youth, at Your Finger Tips


Viral and bacterial infections with no medical treatments or vaccines: Viruses and bacteria infections caused death in high numbers of both adults and children. Worldwide there have been many pandemics (affecting a large group, even the world) from the Spanish Flu in 1918 to the Asian Flu in 1957 that killed more than 50 million people. Polio, smallpox, diphtheria, and measles killed many adults and children before the advent of vaccines and still do in third world countries.
Hazardous work environments and hard physical labor: Starting as young as age 13, exposed to dangerous fumes and bacteria, and with minimal protective equipment, people worked 10- to 12-hour shifts. The number of work-related deaths peaked around 1900 and then started to improve with the formation of unions and other safety requirements.
Lack of certain nutrients: People from soldiers to sailors as well as malnutrition in the poverty stricken suffered from lack of nutrients.
These deficiencies included
Pellagra: A deficiency of niacin (b3) that may include symptoms of dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death.
Goiter: Goiter is caused by a lack of iodine in a child’s diet that can lead to hyperthyroidism (elevated thyroid hormone). Complications include heart problems, impaired mental function, and birth defects.
Scurvy: Lack of vitamin C led to scurvy, a condition where the body can’t properly absorb iron, causing anemia.
Rickets: This affliction was due to a lack of vitamin D, which is necessary for bone mineralization. Children with rickets had bones that didn’t fully develop and were deformed, often with the classic bowing of the legs. Kids were also more susceptible to whooping cough and measles.
. . . This is now

There has been a change in the major health concerns today versus 100 years ago, but globally, some similarities still exist. Worldwide, infectious disease is still a major cause of death, and the threat of newer strains of viruses and bacteria are always present. In addition, the mutation of “superbugs” that are immune to many antibiotics has been created by overuse of antibiotics.

Major medical discoveries and inventions have improved the outcomes of many conditions by earlier diagnosis and better medications and treatments, but lifestyle changes have resulted in the current prevalence of chronic and often preventable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness, diabetes, and stroke, which have the highest mortality rates today (see Chapter 2 for more info). 

So You Want to Look and Feel Young Forever

Life Expectancy in the 21st Century
The last 100 years have seen a tremendous change in the way people live and the ailments they fall prey to. The epidemics of yesterday have been wiped out in industrialized countries, and life expectancy has increased. But even though folks are living longer today, this life expectancy brings a whole new set of problems and solutions.
Today, many folks take for granted that they’ll live into adulthood, while in the past, people were well aware of the unpredictable threats on their lives.
Some of the most damaging health threats in the world today can be modified by lifestyle choices. Making healthy choices is the basis of healthy aging and the recurrent theme of this book.
To examine why people live longer lives today, you must first look at why people didn’t live as long more than a century ago. This section focuses on the differences.
That was then . . .
Malnutrition, acute illnesses, infant mortality, and war were major contributors to shorter life expectancy 100 years ago. In the period of 1918 to 1919, the influenza virus (the flu) infected more than 400 million people worldwide and killed nearly 40 million. Today people still die from the flu, but not nearly at the mortality rates common in the past.
Poor living conditions and poor sanitation were also major causes of death.
Each incident people experienced had a negative cumulative effect on their health. Even diseases that didn’t result in death left people more likely to develop chronic illnesses when they grew older and lead to poor life expectancy.
The statistical probability of a person 100 years ago going through life unscathed was extremely low. Here are a few of the problems that caused widespread disease and mortality then:
Crowded and unsanitary living conditions: These scenarios resulted in multiple outbreaks of malaria, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and flu. Survivors often faced lifelong health consequences.

War: War caused death directly and also exposed soldiers to foreign disease. During the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865 there were twice as many deaths from disease associated with the poor health than from battle wounds. More than 200 million people died in the beginning of the 20th century from a combination of combat and disease. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Feeling Itchy With Allergy Testing

Doctors sometimes use skin prick testing to find out what may be causing certain allergies. Potential allergens (substances that may be the cause of an allergy) are put on your skin in drops. The skin is then pricked and you wait for a reaction about 20–30 minutes later. If your skin becomes red and itchy or swells up, you’ve had a positive reaction, and doctors then discover more about what you may be allergic to. A different form of allergy testing called patch testing can also help to pinpoint the cause of an allergic skin reaction. In patch testing, certain substances are placed directly on your skin to identify skin allergies. Allergy testing is useful only when you don’t really know what you’re allergic to, and so that you can identify potential causes.

Testing Your Blood


Blood tests can be useful for diagnosing and monitoring many medical con-ditions and can tell you whether some organs are functioning properly or if they’re struggling because of some kind of damage. The thought of needles may put you off, but blood tests don’t hurt much. You feel only a little sting, like pinching your skin gently between your fingernails. Here’s a brief glance at a few types of blood test:

Blood sugar (or glucose): Doctors use this test in diagnosing diabetes.

Full blood count (or FBC): This test looks at various cells and plateletsin your blood and is helpful in investigating anaemia, infection or bleed-ing problems (see Chapter 1 for more info on blood cells).
Kidney function (U&Es or C&Es): This test looks at the salts in yourblood and overall kidney function. Doctors commonly send you for this test to monitor diabetes and when you’re prescribed certain medications.

Liver function (or LFTs): Although called liver function, this series oftests is more about assessing liver damage.

Tests for inflammation or infection: Plasma viscosity (or PV) or eryth-rocyte sedimentation rate (or ESR) tests rise in infection or inflammation such as arthritis.

Thyroid function (or TSH): This test is useful when diagnosing andmonitoring an underactive or overactive thyroid gland, which can cause symptoms such as tiredness and constantly feeling cold

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Knowing What Not to Do When Giving First Aid


Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do in an
emergency situation. Take care and try to avoid these common mistakes
when dealing with an emergency:

. Don't put butter, ice or anything else apart from a clean dressing
onto a large or deep burn: Anything you put on a deep burn, other
than a clean dressing, is of no use and would need to be removed in
hospital . ouch! Using ice can even cause additional damage. Instead,
put your burn under running water for at least 10 minutes and wrap it
loosely in clean cling film or a clean non-fluffy cloth. Go to an Accident
& Emergency (A&E) department if you suffer any burn thatfs larger than
the cap of a milk bottle, because even small burns can be deep.

. Don't take large objects out of wounds: You may cause even more
damage and set off a major bleed, ending up in a right old mess. Instead,
build a ebridgef over the object by applying pads to the skin surrounding
it. Build up padding around it until this bridge is higher than the object.
Finally, cover everything with a clean bandage and call e999f.

. Don't put your finger in the mouth of a choking child: You may induce
vomiting or damage the childfs throat.

. Don't hang a choking child upside down by the feet: Doing so can be
very stressful for the child and you run the risk of accidentally causing
a head injury if you drop the child or bang the head against another
object.

. Don't move if you suspect an injury to the spine: Doing so may make
things worse. In the worst-case scenario, you may even cause serious
permanent damage.

Providing Simple First Aid for Bleeding

Bleeding can range in severity from a simple scratch to life-threatening loss
of blood. Here’s a quick low-down on dealing with some forms of bleeding:
✓ Bleeding from minor cuts and grazes: Wash and dry your hands, put
on disposable gloves and then clean any of your dirty cuts or minor
wounds under running water. Raise the affected area above the level
of the heart if at all possible. Use a sterile dressing to cover the wound
temporarily and clean the surrounding skin with water and soap. Instead
of then patting the area dry, always take one swipe with a clean pad and
then use a new one if possible. Finally, cover the wound completely with
a sterile dressing or plaster.
✓ Nosebleed: A common reaction to nosebleeds is to tilt your head back,
but avoid the temptation to do so – you may swallow blood and vomit
as a result – and also placing a cold object on the base of your neck is
unlikely to make any difference. Instead, sit down, lean forward and
pinch the soft fleshy tip of your nose rather than the hard bit. Avoid
coughing, sneezing and speaking, because doing so may set off the bleed
again. If you feel weak, lie down on the floor and take up the recovery
position (as I describe in the preceding section) until the bleeding stops
and you feel better. Go to hospital if the bleeding doesn’t stop or is very
severe.

✓ Severe bleeding: Wearing disposable gloves, press onto the wound
with a dressing pad, or with your fingers (to interrupt the bleeding and
prevent further blood loss) until you have a sterile dressing to hand. If
you can, raise and support the injured area, but be particularly gentle if
you think you may have broken a bone. Lay down to aid circulation if a
danger of shock exists (a dangerous loss of body fluid –

. Bandage the dressing pad firmly until you control the
bleeding, but make sure that you don’t make it so tight that you stop the
blood circulating to your fingers or toes. If the bleeding continues and
seeps through the bandage, apply a second layer of bandage. If this process
still doesn’t work, remove everything, start again and call ‘999’ for
an ambulance.

Suspecting autism and Asperger syndrome - Autism Treatment Solutions

We previously talked about about Analyzing Autism Spectrum Disorders

Now: what is autism in details ?
Autism is a form of developmental disability that interferes with the way
people communicate with, and relate to, other people and the world around
them. Asperger syndrome is a particular form of autism.

People with autism and Asperger syndrome have difficulties in the following
three areas:

✓ Social communication.
✓ Social interaction.
✓ Social imagination.

Autism Treatment Solutions

Although all people with autism have difficulties in similar areas, their condition
impacts on their lives in different ways. Experts think that both environmental
and genetic factors may lead to changes in the way the brain develops
in people with these conditions, but no-one knows for sure.
Experts are fairly certain that autism hasn’t got anything to do with the way
you’re brought up or your particular social circumstances – and be reassured,
the condition is certainly not your fault or that of your family! You’re born
with the condition – and you can’t catch it from other people or from childhood
immunisations such as the MMR vaccine.

Autism
Autism is a condition in which you have problems with social interaction,
and find communicating or interacting with other people difficult. If you have
autism, you find that making sense of the world around you is difficult, which
in turn can create a feeling of anxiety.

Autism stays with people for life but can affect them in a variety of different
ways, which is why professionals tend to refer to it by the term autism
spectrum disorder. Many people with autism can lead an almost normal life,
whereas others may struggle and need a lot of help and support because of
their learning difficulties.

If you suffer from autism you’re likely to experience the following problems in
the areas of social communication, interaction and imagination:

✓ You find communicating with other people difficult.

✓ You struggle to interact with other people socially. Doing so just doesn’t
come naturally. You may find social rules – such as how close to stand
to people or what are acceptable topics to talk about in certain situations
– hard to understand.

✓ You may find that you’re misunderstood a lot of the time and struggle to
get jokes or understand sarcasm.

✓ You don’t easily understand other people’s body language and have
problems appreciating the significance of tone of voice or facial
expressions.

✓ You have a hard time expressing your emotions or feelings.

. You struggle to imagine what other people may be thinking or to understand
abstract ideas.
. You may find predicting ewhat will happen nextf difficult.
If you have autism, you may also display these other characteristics:
. You may like routine and have a fixed daily schedule or way of doing
things.
. You may be very creative . lots of people with autism are talented and
skilled writers, musicians or artists.
. You may show increased or reduced sensitivity to certain senses . taste,
smell, sound, touch or sight.
. You may develop a very strong interest in a certain subject or hobby .
reaching a level of eobsessionf which other people find unusual.

Asperger syndrome
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome have
fewer problems engaging in conversation, are often of average . or above
average . intelligence and are without the learning difficulties that many
people with autism suffer from (look at the previous section on eAutismf for
info on typical symptoms). However, people with Asperger syndrome may
have specific but often less disabling learning difficulties such as dyspraxia
(difficulties with thinking out, planning out and executing planned movements
or tasks) or dyslexia (which may include problems with reading,
spelling, writing, speaking or listening), as well as other conditions such as
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and epilepsy.

A key feature of Asperger syndrome, however, is that you tend to be preoccupied
with complex issues. For example, people with Asperger typically hold
jobs in engineering, computing, mathematics or academia because their concrete
thinking is often much better developed than their abstract thinking.
You may also find that other people think of you as eccentric, because youfre
more likely to take up activities such as trainspotting or collecting.

With Asperger syndrome you may have quite complex emotional or relationship
needs, and so if you show symptoms, consult your GP who may offer to
refer you to a specialist for further assessment and arrange help and support
for you.
With the right support and encouragement, you’re likely to lead a full and
independent life. You can improve your quality of life in many ways, and various
therapies and interventions are available such as behavioural therapy and
dietary changes.

Experiencing obsessions and compulsive behaviour


Images, urges or thoughts that keep coming into your mind (for example, a
fear of being locked in, or having to check something over and over again)
are called obsessions. Obsessions are more than just your normal worries in
day-to-day life – they tend to be unpleasant for you and may make you feel
anxious. Even if you try to ignore your thoughts or suppress them, you may
not be able to get rid of them, with the end result that your obsessions can
start to rule your life. Some people develop strategies to work around their
obsessions, but life can become difficult when these attempts fail.

Here are some examples of common obsessions:
✓ An exaggerated or unpleasant fear of making a mistake.
✓ A fear of getting contaminated with germs.

An extreme need for exactness or symmetry.
✓ An excessive worry that you’ll come to harm.
✓ A powerful fear of behaving unacceptably.
✓ A strong sexual or religious urge that you feel is unpleasant.

Obsessions such as these ones can lead to actions that you feel you need
to repeat constantly – a condition called compulsive behaviour. Compulsive
behaviour is usually directly linked to obsessions – you’re trying to respond
to the anxiety or distress that your obsessions cause.

Obsessions may lead to compulsive behaviour such as the following:
✓ Having to carry out certain rituals on most days.
✓ Needing to perform certain acts or having to behave in fixed repetitive
ways most of the time.
✓ Cleaning things or washing your hands very frequently, perhaps every
few minutes.

✓ Having to order and arrange things in a certain way.
✓ Checking again and again that you’ve switched off the lights or your
oven (you may regularly get up again to do so after you’ve gone to bed),
or when you calculate sums you go over your results over and over
again . . . just to make sure.

✓ Hoarding items to what other people would consider to be an excessive
extent, although you yourself may not perceive this behaviour as a
problem.
✓ Carrying out mental acts such as repeating words silently, counting or
ruminating.

When obsessions and compulsions impact on your life, they become jointly
known as obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. OCD can be very mild (in
fact, many people sometimes show OCD-like behaviour some of the time, and
this can be entirely normal) or so severe that you’re quite disabled and
distressed.

OCD can start at any age, but most people develop this condition in childhood
or adolescence. The exact causes of OCD aren’t known, but experts believe
that genetic factors, adverse life events, abnormalities within a group of
nerves in the brain (called the basal ganglia) and changes of some chemicals
in the brain play a role.

Coping With Boundless Energy and Depression: Mania and Bipolar Disorder


Being elated and full of grandiose ideas and energy can be a great feeling, but
may also be a sign of mania or the less severe form, hypomania – which is
mania without any delusions or hallucinations. The main problem with suffering
from mania or hypomania is that you can lose touch with reality. You
may not realise that you’re doing so, but to other people you may be behaving
oddly or even bizarrely. No-one knows exactly what causes mania, but
experts think that a combination of physical, environmental and social factors
may play a role.

When mania or hypomania alternates with episodes of depression (check out
Chapter 21 for more details), it’s called bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a
serious mental health condition that can severely impact on people’s lives.
The ups and downs of bipolar disorder are quite different from what people
experience in their daily lives, in that the episodes of depression and mania
can each last for a few weeks. During the depressive phases, your thoughts
are more negative, your mood and energy levels are low – particularly in the
morning – and you no longer enjoy your daily activities. You may also start to
feel guilty or develop low self-esteem for no apparent reason.
Check the following list to see if you recognise any of these symptoms in
yourself:

✓ Activity: You may be very active – both mentally and physically –
and feel out of control or even ‘unstoppable’. You may also have an
increased or (more commonly) erratic appetite and have grandiose or
self-important ideas. Although you may not recognise all these symptoms
in yourself, other people may tell you about them. Your sleep
pattern may be all over the place, and not surprisingly you may feel
exhausted.

✓ Finances: Recklessness with money is common during manic phases,
and may affect you and your family considerably. Debt problems aren’t
unusual.
✓ Hallucinations: Hearing voices that aren’t really there may also occur in
mania.

. Ideas and delusions: During manic phases, you may feel that your ideas
are of great importance or brilliance, or that you have extraordinary
abilities, powers or privileges . without much evidence to support your
delusions.

. Mood: You may feel extremely happy or be irritable and angry. Each of
these feelings may last for several weeks at a time.

. Physical health: Without treatment, your physical health may also be
affected in that you may eventually lack sleep, feel tired and lose weight.
. Risk taking: You may become less risk-averse and engage in behaviour
that may put your health at risk. For example, you may have an
increased sexual drive and become sexually disinhibited, exposing you
to a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections.

If your symptoms are severe, you may even lose the will to live and stop looking
after yourself. See your GP for further assessment and advice. For more
information, contact The BiPolar Organisation on 0845 6340540 or visit the
website at www.mdf.org.uk.

Sussing out schizophrenia

Sussing out schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a fairly common and chronic serious mental health condition.
If you suffer from schizophrenia, you show symptoms of psychosis and
may hold abnormal beliefs (called delusions), see or hear things that aren’t
there (known as hallucinations), have abnormal thoughts of someone persecuting
you or feel that your thoughts don’t belong to yourself. Typical of
schizophrenia is that you’re unable to distinguish between what’s real and
what’s in your imagination, which can be quite frightening.

Nobody knows exactly why some people develop schizophrenia, but experts
believe that a mixture of environmental and genetic factors may be responsible.
Schizophrenia may occur together with other mental health problems
such as depression and anxiety, and drug and alcohol misuse is not uncommon.

A common belief holds that when you have schizophrenia, you must have a
so-called split personality – which isn’t true – and that you’re violent towards
others. Again, this belief is a myth – most people with schizophrenia aren’t
violent towards others and are in fact much more vulnerable to violence from
other people themselves.

Forget the myths about schizophrenia, and use this list to help you recognise
the actual symptoms:
✓ Decision making: You may find that making decisions is difficult, or that
you make decisions that seem impulsive or foolish to others. Your decisions
may have endangered you or other people in some way.

✓ Delusions: You may hold an irrational belief that, for example, an elaborate
conspiracy against you exists. You may fear that someone is out
to harm you and may interpret normal occurrences in an unusual way.
Again, you may not notice this symptom, but other people may do and
bring it to your attention.

✓ Drive: If you suffer from schizophrenia, you may lack drive and ambition,
and find engaging with the world around you to be difficult. Other
people may tell you that you seem apathetic. Your friends and family
may feel that you’ve become emotionally flat and lack motivation. You
may not bother looking after yourself and cease wanting to socialise
with other people.

✓ Hearing voices: A typical symptom of schizophrenia is ‘hearing’ voices,
often as if two people are talking about you. You may feel that the voices
are giving a running commentary of what you’re doing, or that the
voices are arguing with each other. However, the experience may feel
normal to you.

✓ Influence from others: You may feel that other people or organisations
are influencing and controlling your thoughts and behaviour, perhaps
by ‘broadcasting’ messages to you, or have a feeling that other people
can read or hear your thoughts.

✓ Language and speech: Friends or family may tell you that your use of
language seems odd and that you’re using words that no one else understands.
You may also talk much less than you used to.

✓ Self-esteem and the way you feel about yourself: Your self-esteem may
be low, and you may feel that ‘something funny is going on’ in the way
you perceive the world or other people around you. You may not realise
that this feeling is a problem, but other people may worry about you.
Noticing any of these symptoms in yourself doesn’t automatically mean that
you suffer from schizophrenia. Other issues can produce similar symptoms;
for example, medical causes such as infections, hormone disorders, other
physical conditions and dementia can mimic schizophrenia. In addition, intoxication
due to alcohol or drug misuse (cannabis or stimulating drugs called
amphetamines are typical examples) or a drug overdose can produce the
same symptoms.

Considering Unusual Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour

Along with everybody else, you have ups and downs in your daily life
and experience a range of emotions over time. Everyone is different,
and some people feel or experience things more intensely than others. Most
people, however, know which feelings and thoughts are normal for them.
A change in your normal self – such as developing obsessive thoughts or
behaviours, feeling that you’re ‘in two minds’ or starting to experience the
world around you in a way that seems strange, threatening or unsettling for
you – can be quite frightening. You may wonder whether having these symptoms
is okay, or whether you need to seek help from a health professional.
This chapter aims to give you some idea of what certain thoughts, feelings
and behaviours may mean, whether they may indicate an illness that can be
regarded as a mental health disorder (for example, psychosis or compulsive
behaviour) and when seeking medical advice is appropriate.

Feeling ashamed or embarrassed when you develop thoughts that are unusual
for you is natural, and it may put you off seeking professional help. If you feel
that any of the problems mentioned in this section apply to you and these
interfere with your life, though, don’t hesitate to contact your GP or the
other sources of support I mention – they’ve heard and seen it all before. And
remember that you’re not the only one, so don’t ‘bottle it up’ for too long if
you’re worried.

Feeling ‘Different’
In this section, I help you decide whether to seek advice if you – or someone
you know – start to worry that any of your feelings, thoughts or behaviours
have become abnormal.

Dealing with unusual feelings and thoughts
Changes to the way humans feel or think are often caused by common mental
health conditions and problems, such as the following:
✓ Alcohol and drugs: Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs are
common causes for problems with thinking, feeling and behaviour.

✓ Anxiety: Anxiety (when worries seem to take over your life) and panicattacks (when you suddenly experience an intense feeling of apprehension
or impending disaster) can cause a whole range of unusual feelings
and thoughts. (Chapter 21 has more on anxiety and panic attacks.)

✓ Depression: If you suffer from depression you may feel low in mood,
worthless or guilty, often with no obvious reason. You may be convinced
that people hate you, or feel that your life isn’t worth living.
Depression is a treatable illness, so see your GP for further assessment.

Other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, which you can read
about in the following section ‘Sussing out schizophrenia’, can also be the
root of unusual thoughts. Medical causes such as acute infections or conditions
affecting your brain can also be to blame.

Making sense of mental health symptoms can be quite difficult, even for experienced
doctors and other health professionals. Therefore, do consult your GP
if you notice any of the following symptoms, which may suggest that you need
professional help:

✓ Abnormal beliefs/delusions are where you hold onto unshakeable – and
usually wrong – beliefs despite evidence to the contrary, which other
people may find unexpected and unusual for you.
✓ Abnormal perceptions: When you wrongly interpret what’s happening
around you, you experience an illusion. When you see something
that isn’t really there, you experience a hallucination. Or, you may not
feel ‘real’, as if someone else is playing yourself – a bit like an actor.
Similarly, things around you may feel unreal or dreamlike.

✓ Abnormal thoughts: Your ideas may leap around like a yoyo, or your
thoughts may suddenly get completely interrupted, with your mind
going blank. You may also feel that your thoughts don’t belong to yourself,
but have been planted into your mind by someone else, or that
someone is taking your thoughts away.

Delusions and hallucinations are sometimes also called psychotic symptoms
(or symptoms of psychosis), which suggest that you can’t really distinguish
between what’s real and what you imagine.

Countless more examples of unusual feelings and thoughts exist, including disturbed
and confused thoughts as well as lack of self-awareness and insight. Any
such beliefs, perceptions or thoughts should prompt you to see your GP for
further assessment. Likewise, concerns about other thoughts, perhaps around
your sexuality, or becoming unusually aggressive or tense – particularly when
this change is affecting your life or that of those around you – mean that you
need to consult your GP to find out what’s going on.

Handling panic attacks


Panic attacks are when you suddenly experience an intense feeling of apprehension
or impending disaster. You’re likely to become anxious very quickly – often
without warning and for no apparent reason. These attacks affect a lot of people
and can be very frightening. Nobody really knows why panic attacks occur,
but experts think that traumatic life experiences like the death of a close family
member, unpleasant childhood experiences or changes in the chemicals within
your brain, for example, may play a role.

If you suffer from panic attacks, you may recognise some of the following
symptoms, at least four of which typically show during an attack:
✓ You suffer from a fast heart rate or palpitations.
✓ You feel short of breath or that you’re choking.
✓ You notice chest pain or discomfort.
✓ You feel dizzy, unsteady on your feet or faint.
✓ You feel sick or have stomach pain.
✓ You feel flushed or suddenly cold.
✓ You feel shaky and tremble.
✓ You’re afraid of doing something that you can’t control or that may
seem crazy to other people.
✓ You feel like you’re not yourself.
✓ You may feel as if you’re about to die.

During a panic attack, try to tell yourself that you’re not coming to any harm,
and that the symptoms you experience are due to anxiety. Remind yourself
that attacks will pass, and ‘ride it out’. Try not to leave the situation that is
causing you to have a panic attack and ‘confront’ your fear. By staying in the
situation you give yourself the opportunity to discover that nothing serious is
going to happen to you.

If you feel that you may suffer from panic attacks and that these attacks
impact on your life, consult your GP. She can then exclude any potential
underlying physical causes and discuss the different management options
with you.
Useful sources of more information are No More Panic (www.nomorepanic.
co.uk) and Anxiety Care at www.anxietycare.co.org.uk.

Grappling with phobias


A form of anxiety that occurs only when you’re in a certain situation is called
a phobia. If you suffer from a phobia, you typically try to avoid the situation
that provokes your symptoms and you may become anxious even just thinking
about getting into that situation.

Some examples of phobias are as follows, starting with simple phobia and followed
by the more complex ones:
✓ Simple phobia: You’re inappropriately anxious when faced with an
object such as a spider or mouse, or in certain situations such as flying
or being in enclosed spaces. Simple phobias commonly start in the early
years of life following a stressful situation or some frightening life event,
although experts don’t always know why this type of phobia occurs.
✓ Agoraphobia: You feel panicky or may even faint when you’re part of a
crowd, out of the house or in a situation from which escape is difficult.
To avoid these situations, you may avoid going out altogether, which
can sometimes lead to depression and other mental health problems.
We don’t know exactly why agoraphobia occurs, but it’s thought that life
experiences, genetic reasons and changes of chemicals in the brain may
all play a role.

✓ Social phobia: You have a strong and persistent fear of being negatively
seen by others, and so you try to avoid social situations such as talking
to groups, speaking on the telephone or going out with friends. In
contrast to just being shy, social phobia can be quite disabling. Previous
anxious or intense experiences in certain social situations may cause
social phobias – particularly if you’ve always been shy since childhood
and haven’t been able to fully develop your social confidence.

To avoid a phobia getting out of hand, consult your GP to discuss the many
forms of treatment and therapy that are available. If you’re in a situation and
start to feel anxious, try to relax and take control of your breathing. Open
and stretch your hands, which can help release tension – our natural reaction
to stress and anxiety is to close our hands or make a fist.

To find out more, you can contact Triumph Over Phobia (TOP) on 0845
6009601 or visit their website at www.topuk.org. Turn to the next section
on ‘Handling panic attacks’ for info on dealing with more severe symptoms
that you may experience when you suffer from phobia.

Understanding anxiety


Feeling anxious can be quite normal, as long as any feelings of apprehension
or tension go away again by themselves or aren’t severe enough to impact on
your life. Anxiety often accompanies depression, and as with depression and
stress most people feel anxious at times, particularly when confronted with
a stressful situation. You can also experience symptoms of anxiety for no
apparent reason, and particularly when worries seem to take over your life
you may suffer from what’s known as generalised anxiety disorder. This can
be difficult to distinguish from depression and stress.

Anxiety isn’t always easy to recognise, and so consider these indicators:
✓ You feel nervous or on edge.
✓ You find relaxing and controlling your worries difficult.
✓ You tend to worry a lot, perhaps much more than you or other people
feel is ‘normal’, and tend to think the worst.

✓ You’re so fidgety that you find sitting still difficult at times.
✓ You suffer from mood swings or get easily wound up.
✓ Your worrying affects your day-to-day life significantly – including your
social life and work.
✓ You often think that something bad’s going to happen.
✓ You find your worries upsetting and stressful.
✓ You suffer nightmares or from increased sensitivity to noise.
Physical symptoms commonly develop when you suffer from anxiety, and so
you may also notice the following:
✓ Your hands are shaking and you may notice strange sensations such as
tingling or numbness.
✓ You easily get a dry mouth or find swallowing difficult.
✓ You get headaches or feel dizzy.
✓ You experience chest discomfort or palpitations.
✓ You pass urine or open your bowels frequently.

If you feel that you may be suffering from anxiety – particularly if you’ve had
symptoms of anxiety for a few months or longer – visit your GP for further
assessment and to discuss the treatment options. If appropriate, your GP
may want to exclude other possible causes that can also lead to symptoms of
anxiety, such as:

✓ Developing an overactive thyroid gland (called hyperthyroidism).
✓ Drinking too much coffee or tea.
✓ Experiencing low blood sugar (known as hypoglycaemia).
✓ Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol.

Anxiety is incredibly common, but many people with symptoms of anxiety
struggle to summon up the courage and seek professional help because
they’re anxious or because they’re ashamed or embarrassed about the way
they feel and think. Remember that your GP is well trained in dealing with
anxiety, and that lots of other people also have these symptoms.



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