Gun Violence Research–Why can’t there be any?

Although I don’t see gun control as a mental health issue, really, it seems that anytime there is a shooting event in this country the very next topic will be to question the shooter’s mental health status.  I don’t understand this connection.

Yes, sometimes a mentally ill person uses a gun to harm someone, but that really is not the norm.  The only psychiatric disorders I know of that make someone more likely to use a gun for harm would be Axis II disorders of personality, not Axis I disorders.  Personality disorders are dangerous, but people with these diagnoses are productive and essentially normal except for how they perceive their connections and relationships.

These disorders, when treated, require much time and effort to overcome and usually there is no drug to “fix” it.  Borderline personality disorders have issues with abandonment, antisocial personality disorders have issues with empathy, narcissist personality disorders have ego issues.  True psychopathic personality disorders, while not found frequently in the general population, simply don’t care what any other person feels or thinks.

Where does this fit in with guns and shootings?  In this article, the Congressman who headed a controversial amendment in 1996 looks back at what he accomplished with great regret.  Good for him, but how do we fix the mess he left us all with?

Please read this article in its entirety and then make up your own mind about gun violence research.  Could good research over the past 20 years have made a difference in the situation we find ourselves in today?  I think it is possible.  What do you think?



10/06/2015 08:03 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2016

The Congressman Who Restricted Gun Violence Research Has Regrets

Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) authored the controversial 1996 amendment that remains in place. He wishes Congress would change it.

gun violence, gun research, gun control


WASHINGTON — Looking back, nearly 20 years later, Jay Dickey is apologetic.

He is gone from Congress, giving him space to reflect on his namesake amendment that, to this day, continues to define the rigid politics of gun policy. When he helped pass a restriction of federal funding for gun violence research in 1996, the goal wasn’t to be so suffocating, he insisted. But the measure was just that, dampening federal research for years and discouraging researchers from entering the field.

Now, as mass shootings pile up, including last week’s killing of nine at a community college in Oregon, Dickey admitted to carrying a sense of responsibility for progress not made.

“I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time,” Dickey, an Arkansas Republican, told the Huffington Post in an interview. “I have regrets.”

The politics of gun control were as divisive in the 1990s as they are today. Republicans had won big in the ‘94 elections by campaigning against President Bill Clinton’s gun control legislation. And in the spring of 1996, the National Rifle Association and its allies set their sights on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding increasingly assertive studies on firearms ownership and the effects on public health. The gun rights advocates claimed the research veered toward advocacy and covered such logical ground as to be effectively useless.

At first, the House tried to close down the CDC’s entire, $46 million National Center for Injury Prevention. When that failed, Dickey stepped in with an alternative: strip $2.6 million that the agency had spent on gun studies that year. The money would eventually be re-appropriated for studies unrelated to guns. But the far more damaging inclusion was language that stated, “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Dickey proclaimed victory — an end, he said at the time, to the CDC’s attempts “to raise emotional sympathy” around gun violence. But the agency spent the subsequent years petrified of doing any research on gun violence, making the costs of the amendment cleareeven to Dickey himself.

He said the law was over-interpreted. Now, he looks at simple advances in highway safety — safety barriers, for example — and wonders what could have been done for guns.

“If we had somehow gotten the research going, we could have somehow found a solution to the gun violence without there being any restrictions on the Second Amendment,” Dickey said. “We could have used that all these years to develop the equivalent of that little small fence.”

Read the entire article here 

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Pets Invaluable to Those With Mental Conditions

In this article from WebMD, this is a look at a study done in the UK and is based on self reported answers from patients there.  Pets are a valuable source of stimulation, and comfort for those with mental conditions yet pets are rarely thought of when treatment plans are being built for that same person.

Pets help us much more than we give back to them.  Pets aid some with anxiety, sometimes pets become caretakers for medical conditions, pets provide social interactions for a segment of the population that is usually not included in social activities.

Please read this article and do your own research.  See if you don’t agree that pets can be a major asset in the life of a mentally compromised person.


Pets Invaluable to Those With Mental Conditions

6 out of 10 patients put furry or feathered friends at the top of their support list, study finds
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Robert Preidt   HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Cats, dogs, birds and other pets can help people manage their mental disorders, a new study says.

Researchers from the United Kingdom asked more than 50 adults with long-term mental conditions about the role pets play in their social networks.

Sixty percent placed pets in the central and most important circle — above family, friends and hobbies. Another 20 percent placed pets in the second circle.

Many said the constant presence and close proximity of their pets provide an immediate source of calm. For some, a pet helps distract them from symptoms and upsetting experiences such as hearing voices or suicidal thoughts.

“You just want to sink into a pit… the cats force me to sort of still be involved with the world,” one patient said.

Another patient said: “I’m not thinking of the voices, I’m just thinking of the birds singing.”

The findings were published Dec. 8 in the journal BMC Psychiatry.

“The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles, such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgment,” said study lead author Helen Brooks, from the University of Manchester.

“Pets were also considered particularly useful during times of crisis,” Brooks said in a journal news release.

“Pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which [the patients] were often not receiving from other family or social relationships,” she said.

Despite this, pets weren’t considered in the individual care plans for any of the people in the study, Brooks said.

The results suggest pets should be considered a main source of support in the management of long-term mental health problems, Brooks and…(read the rest here)

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For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness

Here is a wonderful article from NPR about a whole Belgian community that has a very different take on dealing with the mentally ill person.  Mental illness is not viewed as something to be afraid of or to treat.  The mentally ill strangers in this town are placed into the homes of the citizenry, who then take the responsibility for watching over and helping that person.

There is a process to be allowed into this community if you are mentally ill.  They do screen for violence and antisocial behaviors, so they have very few problems in the community.  Mostly, these people live lives full of support and help but not control by others.  The community simply views the behaviors of their visitors as just who they are and they accept them exactly as they present.

I am truly amazed at this community and wish we could do such a wonderful thing here in the United States.  The treatment of mentally ill people in our country is not harmless and does not encourage living a fulfilled life.  Please read the entire article and make up your own mind about this remarkable community.


For Centuries, A Small Town Has Embraced Strangers With Mental Illness



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How to Help Save the Mentally Ill From Themselves

This article is from the NY Times and gives us a glimpse of the impotence we feel when we have to try to save the mentally ill person from themselves.  This is a sad story but one that recurs quite often.  A mentally ill person dies from poor judgement or unsafe practices.  It is not against the law to be mentally ill and those who are mentally ill have the same rights and responsibilities as each of us do.  That being said, it is clear that our legal system is struggling with this problem more so than our mental health system seems to be.

This author sustains a devastating loss of his son and feels despondent that he was unable to help him.  How many other family members feel the same way?  What can we, as a nation, be doing to prevent unnecessary loss of life for the mentally ill?  How can we, as a society, stand to lose some of the most creative people among us?

The author talks about this new bill being placed before Congress that may help us to deal with just this issue.  It is not the total solution, but it is a temporary step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, most bills that reach the Congress are subject to politics and argument–with a lot of compromise worked into it.  This bill may never pass.  This bill may pass but not be the bill it was when it was presented.  We have a problem and I hope someone, somewhere is listening.

Please read the entire article and see what you think about this issue.

How to Help Save the Mentally Ill From Themselves

Credit Lilli CarréPhoto by: Lilli Carré

MY older son, Matthew Ornstein, died at age 34 on Jan. 3 from carbon monoxide poisoning. It was accidental — he fell asleep in a tent with a propane lantern — but his death was shaped by a lack of judgment driven by a 10-year struggle with mental illness.

Matthew was a brilliant, warm, funny, compassionate and empathetic person. He was a national champion high school debater and celebrated standup comic who excelled in his studies at Princeton, then moved to Hollywood, where he and his debate partners created a sharp and witty show called “Master Debaters.”

At age 24, Matthew had a sudden psychotic break, and that began a difficult decade-long journey for him and for his family and friends. Whatever his illness — his condition was never formally diagnosed, but he probably suffered from bipolar disorder — Matthew was particularly afflicted by one component of his illness: anosognosia, the inability of a person to recognize that he or she is ill. Since Matthew was over 18, neither family members nor professionals had any legal authority to get him treatment for the symptoms that kept him from living a stable life.

Matthew was not violent at all, and largely kept to himself. His appearance could be off-putting — he kept a long beard, did not cut his hair and smoked heavily. We constantly feared that a police officer might misunderstand his condition and that he could end up injured or killed; we also at times prayed that he would get arrested and could have the happy ending that Pete Earley describes in his powerful book “Crazy,” when a compassionate judge offered assisted outpatient treatment for his delusional son.

We tried everything to help Matthew, from acceptance and enabling to tough love, but the trajectory was not a good one and its ending has scarred and devastated our lives forever. I cannot say with certainty that if we had been able to force treatment on Matthew, including anti-psychotic medications, that he would have survived. In addition to suffering from anosognosia, Matthew became very religious after his break, embracing his Judaism, keeping kosher, and he was convinced that taking medication was dishonorable and would offend God.

But I do know that for many, treatment saves lives. The true insanity is that our laws leave those who suffer to fend for themselves. But Congress is now ready to grapple with the issue in a bipartisan bill introduced by Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania and the only clinical psychologist in the House, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas who is a psychiatric nurse….(read the rest of the article here)

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For Police, a Playbook for Conflicts Involving Mental Illness

Here’s an article from the NY Times about how our failing mental health system is forcing our police to learn new ways to deal with conflicts involving mental illness.  I believe that is a good thing, but I also sympathize with the officers who have to go through hours of additional training to do their jobs.  I have never thought that being a police officer was an easy job.  In today’s world, policing of any kind is under a microscope–increasing the pressure the officers feel when they go to work.

Please read the article and see if you agree with the author that this change is for the good and more police forces need to follow the lead of these officers.

For Police, a Playbook for Conflicts Involving Mental Illness

Officers in Portland, Ore., with an individual they interact with on a regular basis who was later taken to the hospital. Credit Amanda Lucier for The New York TimesPhoto by: Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

PORTLAND, Ore. — The 911 caller had reported a man with a samurai sword, lunging at people on the waterfront.

It was evening, and when the police arrived, they saw the man pacing the beach and called to him. He responded by throwing a rock at the embankment where they stood.

They shouted to him from a sheriff’s boat; he threw another rock. They told him to drop the sword; he said he would kill them. He started to leave the beach, and after warning him, they shot him in the leg with a beanbag gun. He turned back, still carrying the four-foot blade.

In another city — or in Portland itself not that long ago — the next step would almost certainly have been a direct confrontation and, had the man not put down the weapon, the use of lethal force.

But the Portland Police Bureau, prodded in part by the 2012 findings of a Justice Department investigation, has spent years putting in place an intensive training program and protocols for how officers deal with people with mental illness.

At a time when police behavior is under intense scrutiny — a series of fatal shootings by police officers have focused national attention on issues of race and mental illness — Portland’s approach has served as a model for other law enforcement agencies around the country.

And on that Sunday last summer, the police here chose a different course.

At 2:30 a.m., after spending hours trying to engage the man, the officers decided to “disengage,” and they withdrew, leaving the man on the beach. A search at daylight found no signs of him…(read the rest of the article here)

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We’re surrounded by smiling, successful, talented people who are depressed

Here is an article from  It denotes the fact that mentally ill people are all around us and we may never know it.  She states that there are many successful and talented people walking around who are depressed.  She talks about a group in England that started up to walk together for anyone with a mental illness.  It seems that giving this population a sense of community may be beneficial and may help us all to de-stigmatize the mentally ill.

I was pleased to read that she was planning to start a group in New York soon.  For most if not all of the mentally ill, there is a terrible sense of loneliness fed by the very illness they are dealing with.  I hope that she starts her walking group and that it flourishes and many more groups just like it pop up all over the U.S.

Please read the entire article to see if what she proposes makes good sense to you, too.

We’re surrounded by smiling, successful, talented people who are depressed

  • By Olivia Goldhill,
  • September 11th, 2016

You don’t need to be told that mental illness is very, very common. There are statistics galore: One in five people in the US will experience mental illness this year. When considered over a lifetime, that figure rises to one in four people worldwide.

But it still doesn’t feel very normal. We’re surrounded by millions of people who look great, do brilliantly at work, and walk to the subway every day feeling totally trapped and isolated.

To help change this, my friend and former colleague Bryony Gordon has set up Mental Health Mates, a walking group in the UK for people with mental health issues. This fall, I’m setting up the organization’s first New York branch. We’ll meet at the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library by Prospect Park at 10:30am on the 25th of September. It’s not therapy, there won’t be professional advice, and those who come don’t have to talk about their problems—although of course they’re welcome to do so.

I love this group exactly because it isn’t formal or clinical. Professional treatment is an absolutely necessary and proper response to a mental illness diagnosis. Thankfully, the stigma has faded enough that most people now recognize that. But mental health doesn’t have to be a secret locked behind a doctor’s door. Indeed, Gordon’s second book, on her struggles with OCD, explores just how normal it is to be weird.

She says she started Mental Health Mates after hearing an old interview with the novelist Carson McCullers (who later died due to alcoholism) talking about how she felt like everyone was part of a “we” except for her. “I thought, ‘You were wrong, you were part of a we, you just didn’t know it,’” says Gordon.

Rationally, I understand that many people, including friends and colleagues, are quietly living and dealing with mental health issues. But during the two, thankfully brief, periods when I had depression, I forgot. I didn’t feel confident enough to talk about it until I was better. And yet when I did, nearly all of my friends told me that they too had experienced some period of mental illness.

Fostering this sense of a shared identity is important. The internet can be a useful tool, and there are many online support groups and forums for those looking to connect and talk. But this virtual openness hasn’t yet translated into openness in everyday life. Chris Barker is a professor of clinical psychology at University College London and a researcher who specializes in the benefits of both professional and non-professional psychological support. He notes that online support groups “can be very anonymous” and many members “feel a bit lost.”

In contrast, the social aspects of in-person relationships can provide real benefits. Seeing others with mental health issues creates a powerful sense of community. “There is de-stigmatization, there is empowerment, people feel less ashamed and embarrassed about their condition and feel stronger generally,” he says. “It normalizes their own problems to know other people feel similarly.”

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The Misconceptions About Mental Illness We Need to Unlearn

This is a really good article from  The author knows what he is talking about and he is honest.  He goes on to list 5 misconceptions about mental illness that interfere with our ability to really see the mentally ill person.  I especially like that he points out the difference between mental illness and a sinus infection!

Please read this article to the end.  I think he makes valid points and speaks from personal experiences.  He does not hold out “false” hopes, but rather states that to do nothing is to get nowhere.  I hope by reading this article you will better understand what the mentally ill person is going through and you will be better able to support and help them.

The Misconceptions About Mental Illness We Need to Unlearn

Mental illness isn’t like a sinus infection. You can’t just wait it out or take a pill to make everything go away. Our brains are complex and enigmatic, and mental illness is no different. This leads to a lot of misconceptions that make recovery much harder. Here are a few things you should know, whether you’re a sufferer or not.

Just get over it!

Just get over it!

Before we talk about misconceptions, it helps to identify just what “mental illness” means. Everyone has stress and difficult emotions from time to time and this is normal. Mental illness, on the other hand, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect your relationships, your job, or prevent you from reaching any otherwise attainable goal.

If that sounds like a pretty wide definition, it’s because the human mind is complex. Mental illness can range from anxiety and mood disorders that have a severe and tangible effect on your emotions and motivation, to psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that affect your perceptions or senses with things like delusions or hallucinations. Living with any of these can be debilitating. We rely on our senses, emotions, and perceptions to get us through the day. When any of those fail, it can make life difficult.

I’ve struggled with mental illnesses for decades. Over the years, I’ve had diagnoses ranging from depression to Asperger’s and I’ve encountered a ton of misconceptions. Some are basic things that the general population just hasn’t learned about, while others are deep-seated beliefs that even I have had to un-learn. Here are some of the ones that still seem to stick around…(read the rest of the article here)

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America’s Largest Mental Hospital Is a Jail

In yet another article from the Atlantic, here is a rather lengthy piece that deals with Cook County Jail.  It is the largest jail in the United States and serves a wide swath of the population.  This article seeks to explain how the mentally ill person could end up a prisoner in a jail.

The author gives a really good look at changes being implemented at this jail; a precheck to determine whether the person has any mental illness issues.  This is a big deal, since no other major jail or prison does this.  By identifying the mentally ill, the staff are better equipped to find solutions for these individuals before they go to court and before they get sentenced by a judge.  It doesn’t always work, but it is a start.

I know this article is really long, but please read the whole thing.  Maybe you can come up with some ideas for dealing with this population besides putting them in jail.  I hope someone does, and soon.  Our jails and prisons are crowded to the max and just maybe some of the inmates should be treated somewhere else.


America’s Largest Mental Hospital Is a Jail

At Cook County, where a third of those incarcerated suffer from psychological disorders, officials are looking for ways to treat inmates less like prisoners and more like patients.

It was 9 o’clock in the morning at Cook County Jail, but in the subterranean holding cells where dozens await their turn before a judge, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Pre-bail processing here takes place entirely underground. A labyrinth of tunnels connects the jail’s buildings to one another and to the Cook County Criminal Court. Signs and directions are intentionally left off the smooth concrete corridors to hinder escape attempts. Even those who run the jail get lost down here from time to time, they told me.

No natural light reaches the tunnels. Human voices echoed off the featureless walls, creating an omnipresent din. On this Monday, when those arrested over the weekend in Chicago and its suburbs filled the fenced cages, that din became a roar. Many inmates were standing, sitting, or milling around. But some—perhaps two or three per holding pen—were lying on the floor, asleep.

If you can sleep through this, you’re fighting far greater demons than the commotion outside. And the doctors here want to know what they are.

At Cook County Jail, an estimated one in three inmates has some form of mental illness. At least 400,000 inmates currently behind bars in the United States suffer from some type of mental illness—a population larger than the cities of Cleveland, New Orleans, or St. Louis—according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI estimates that between 25 and 40 percent of all mentally ill Americans will be jailed or incarcerated at some point in their lives.“This is typically what I see everyday,” said Elli Petacque-Montgomery, a psychologist and the deputy director of mental health policy for the sheriff’s department. She showed me a medical intake form filled with blue pen scribbles. Small boxes listed possible illnesses: bipolar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, and so on. The forms are designed to help jail officials identify which inmates have mental illnesses as early as possible. Details from four new inmates could fit on a single sheet. She showed me a completed one. “Of those four,” she said, pointing to the descriptors, “I have three mentally ill people.”

On a nearby counter, a nurse took down notes for a Hispanic inmate with an injured eye. A white inmate with dreadlocks wearing a Chicago Bears jersey—they had defeated the San Francisco 49ers the night before—stood next to them, translating his fellow inmate’s Spanish for the nurse.

What sort of crimes had these people been arrested for? One kid on the list had a tendency toward aggression, but officials emphasized that the overwhelming majority were “crimes of survival” such as retail theft (to find food or supplies) or breaking and entering (to find a place to sleep). For those with mental illness, charges of drug possession can often indicate attempts at self-medication. “Even the drugs of choice will connect to what the mental illness is,” Petacque-Montgomery told me. People with severe depression might use cocaine “to lift their mood.” Those who hear voices and have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder often turn to heroin to regulate their sleep. Marijuana use “is just constant for kids with ADD and depression,” she notes. “I’ll ask, ‘Can you eat or sleep without this?’ and they’ll say no.’”  (read the rest of the article here)
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Although this is not an article but rather a blog post, I still feel it is appropriate to post here for you to read.  The writer obviously lives in or near San Francisco, so the numbers he gives have no value to most of us.  However, his point does.  Who do you call when confronted by a person having a mental health crisis on the street?  What should you do?

I applaud his thought that he SHOULD do something to help the person affected. Most of us just try to ignore them and walk past or around them quickly.  I applaud his desire to be of service to a distressed individual on the street.  Not many people feel that way anymore.

I agree with him that you should find out who to call for various types of crises in your area.  Does 911 cover everything in your city?  Most large cities do have a Mobile Crisis
Team to deal with psychiatric emergencies; does yours?

Please read this blog post to its conclusion.  Maybe you will begin to feel the way that he does and learn what to do in your area.  Maybe you will just expect 911 to work.  Either way, we are all connected and we should help a fellow human who is in crisis of any type.


18FEB2016Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Justin Keller’s absurd, entitled, whiny, anti-homeless rant got me thinking about this.

Not long ago I was walking near Church and Market and suddenly there was a bunch of hubbub behind me. You know what I’m talking about, it’s not loud and raucous but there’s some kind of disturbance that sets off your Spidey-Sense and makes you turn around.

Just then, a butt naked African-American woman in her 40s, ran by screeching and then went into one of the local businesses. It was obvious from the scene and the way things went down that she wasn’t one of the nudists who hang out in the Castro (or at least used to before Scott Wiener banned it). She was absolutely having a mental health crisis and needed help.

But the question was: who was I supposed to call?

I knew for sure that I didn’t want to call the police. There’s the great quote by Abraham Maslow that says “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” And unfortunately that’s often how it is with the American police. They are trained in ending crisis situations forcefully, but there isn’t enough training in how to deescalate them so that no one gets hurt or killed. While that is in the process of changing as we speak, I’d still rather involve people who already have the training.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the answer then, and as some of the business owners had begun making phone calls, I continued on to my way hoping they did know who to call. But I decided then to find out who I should call next time something like that arises. Below are the answers: (the rest of the article is here)

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The Dangers Of High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety

This article, written by Nicole Kordana at St. Michael’s College and published in the Odyssey online, is worth your time to read.  She gives you a glimpse of the struggle she deals with and toward the end of the article she gives some ways to be proactive about your health and some important tips for when you are feeling low.

Please read the entire article and see if you understand the struggle she talks about, maybe better than you want to. I think there are quite a few people who would meet this diagnosis if they ever sought to get help.

The Dangers Of High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety

It’s been eight years since I was diagnosed with depression, and five since I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety. For many people when I tell them, it comes as quite a shock. “Wow, you don’t seem depressed” or “I’ve never seen you panic about anything” is a rather common response. Reflecting on this, I can understand why it would come as a surprise. I graduated high school with above a 4.0 GPA because I loaded my schedule with Advanced Placement courses so I could get ahead in college. I participated in sports, I volunteered, I had a job, and generally seemed to be doing pretty well. I was accepted into the colleges I applied to and started school in the fall, where I also excelled and became involved in many activities around me. I was functioning as a “normal” young adult, so how depressed or anxious could I be right?

My depression and anxiety seemed like a war going on inside my head, reeking havoc on my physical health and general outlook on life. You never would have known by looking at my grades, my endurance on the soccer field, my performance at work, or my interactions with peers. It was easy to go about my daily life and excel in public, my mind was too busy to be sad or nervous, but when I returned home I entered a different world. I was inconceivably sad and overwhelmed reflecting on the day I had. I knew I had a list of things I needed to complete before I could fall asleep in good conscience, but I lacked all motivation to complete a single task. On the other hand, not completing anything made me irrationally fearful that I would not succeed. I was sitting in the shell of my body unable to do anything. Do your homework. I can’t. If you don’t you’ll be a failure, you’ll never be accepted into a good college. I’m too tired to do anything tonight. If you don’t do anything tonight, your grades will plummet; your teacher will be disappointed with you. I’d go back and forth with myself until I forced myself to agonizingly and poorly complete something. The physical toll on my body was no less. My back hurt immensely, I experienced migraines frequently, my panic attacks made me feel like my heart was going to be ejected from my chest, and my outbursts of anger toward my family were uncontrollable. And despite my insisting “nothing was wrong” my mother took me to see a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist informed me that I experienced high-functioning depression and anxiety, which is not uncommon, especially in teens and young adults. High-functioning illnesses are scary in the fact…(read the rest of the article here)

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