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Health & Wellness

To E or Not to E

Much has been said about the recreational pill Ecstasy – though the mainstream information received is against it, so that those who still use it get information from those who are similarly lacking in information. Not to be taken as a backing, this piece provides information that could save the lives of those who decide to take E, by knowing the pros and cons of doing so.

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He popped a pill. Or probably two. And it wouldn’t have mattered – except that he was in the middle of a dance floor, a weird spot to take medication. He saw me look. He smiled, winked, then turned to make small dance steps. Half an hour later, he was on a ledge, took his shirt off, tucked it in his back pocket, then danced, this time wildly, without a care as he shook, swayed, gyrated, whatever, eyes closed as if in concentration. When somebody banged against him, his eyes opened – and I expected a fight to erupt. But he was smiling. Widely. “Sorry,” the offender said. “It’s okay,” he said. “Everything’s cool!” And then he was back to his dancing. Much, much later, when people were already starting to leave, he was still on the dance floor, extra nice to everyone, incessantly stating “I love you!”. And he looked like he meant it.

“Took E,” somebody said.

And he must have. He looked happy. No, he didn’t just look it, he was happy. And I guess that was all that mattered to him then.

THE PARTY DRUG

Ecstasy – a.k.a. E, Adam, Bean, M, Roll, X, XTC, Playboy bunnies, Nike swoosh and CK, among others – is one of the most popular drugs among young people today, with an estimated 10 million people – 2.8 million of them teenagers – having tried the drug at least once, and many becoming regular users afterwards (2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health). This is no wonder because, although even simple possession (much more pushing) of the drug is highly illegal, the designer drug gives temporary justice to its name by giving feelings of emotionally based love and empathy, expansive sense of well-being, ego softening, neurotically based fear dissolution, heightened present moment awareness, and a high that interrupts the feeling of fatigue and tiredness allowing the person to be active all day and into the night – all without visual effects (hallucinations) so lucidity is retained.

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Interestingly, even with all the hullabaloo surrounding it, E was an unplanned by-product of the synthesis of Hydrastinin, a vasoconstrictive, and styptic medicine (Methylenedioximetamphetamine or MDMA) by the German Merck Company in 1912. Since then, it has been used as an appetite suppressant, cure to Parkinson’s disease, a possible truth serum, psychedelic therapy drug, and a reducee of hostility in marriage counseling sessions. Sometime in those years, E started to be used for “recreation.”

From that time on, E was on its way to infamy.

While it has become a controlled substance (only licensed physicians may prescribe it), illegal possession of which carries the stiffest penalties (even death), the number of users continue to grow every year, as if proving the local saying Masarap ang bawal. Thus, it is always worth giving attention to – not to promote it, but because even with the accompanying risks, there are those who’d still use it, and knowledge (not just prohibition) alone may save them.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

There are numerous misinformation about E, e.g. that it causes Parkinson’s disease (a confusion between MDMA and MPTP); or that users simply fall while dancing (people have actually died from heatstroke while at raves on E, but caution and use of common sense could prevent this).

Taking effect in as less as 30 minutes, with two to three hour plateau, and then six hours to baseline, E is popular because of its effects. There’s entactogenesis (touching within), a generalized feeling that all is right and good with the world. Empathogenesis, a feeling of emotional closeness to others (and to one’s self), coupled with a breakdown of personal communication barriers. An enhancement of the senses, since E can significantly enhance (sometimes distort) the senses – touch, perception, vision, taste, smell. Prolonged stamina, with users dancing ‘til the wee hours of the morning. And, since E can catalyze a broad range of psychotherapeutic effects (surfacing of repressed memories, dealing with emotional issues, et cetera), alternative psychotherapy.

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With a detection period of one to two days (though generally depending on the amount and frequency of usage), E, nonetheless, has been known to have numerous ill effects.

While the physical effects of usual doses of E are subtle and variable (including dryness of mouth, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, nystagmus (eye wiggles), sweating, shivering, tremor or nausea), E causes an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate, modest in most people, similar to moderate exercise, so that people with a history of high blood pressure, heart trouble, or stroke are advised not to use E, or at the very least are advised to start with a much lower than average dose. Liver or kidney problems. Loss of appetite. Mild to moderate post-session fatigue. Lessening of the awareness of pain (whether through chemical analgesia, or through psychological analgesia), so bodily damage from extensive dancing, hiking, climbing, et cetera, without noticing it until after the damage is done. Inhibition of serotonin reuptake (though this could be prevented by taking anti-oxidants). Possible internal hemorrhage (E has anticoagulant properties that can cause this). And Psychoses.

Taking the drug is, then, at your own risk.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

This is not an encouragement to take E, but at least if/when you do, be safe doing so.

  • Avoidance is the first advice. But since many avoid the avoidance recommendation, check physical condition before using, since E puts serious strain on the body.
  • If you feel that you are uneasy about taking it, and not comfortable with being that open with yourself and having your image stripped from you, then don’t do it.
  • Find a situation you feel comfortable and safe in – and find someone you can trust.
  • Drink as much water as you like, but avoid alcohol (while it’s not going to kill you or make you sick, alcohol will deaden the effect of the drug) and other drugs (combining with any kind of speedy drugs like cocaine, shabu, et cetera can kill you).
  • If you are dancing, realize that you may be dangerously overheated even without feeling uncomfortable. Look after friends and get them to look after you. Taking vitamin C and E may help reduce exhaustion. Get good sleep afterwards.
  • Don’t take more than one pill or take it more than once a week. Your body builds a tolerance to X very quickly.
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The drug is HIGLY ILLEGAL, and, if caught, you will be jailed and be even sent to die by lethal injection just for a brief moment of ecstasy.

You have been warned. Now learn the truth for yourself and make up your own mind about E before taking it.

REFERENCES:
Toxicology Associates, Inc.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
www.a1b2c3.com/drugs/#ecstasy
American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology
Neurology Journal
csdp.org
DanceSafe.org
maps.org

"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

Health & Wellness

10+ lifetime sexual partners linked to heightened cancer risk

Those who reported a higher tally of sexual partners were also more likely to smoke, drink frequently, and do more vigorous physical activity on a weekly basis.

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A history of 10 or more lifetime sexual partners is linked to a heightened risk of being diagnosed with cancer, reveals research published online in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

And among women, a higher number of sexual partners is also linked to heightened odds of reporting a limiting long term condition, the findings indicate.

Few studies have looked at the potential impact of the number of sexual partners on wider health outcomes.

To try and plug this knowledge gap, the researchers drew on information gathered for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a nationally representative tracking study of older adults (50+) living in England.

In 2012-13, participants were asked how many sexual partners they had had. Complete data were provided by 5722 of the 7079 people who responded to this question: 2537 men and 3185 women. Responses were categorised as 0-1; 2-4; 5-9; and 10 or more sexual partners.

Participants were also asked to rate their own health and report any long standing condition or infirmity which impinged on routine activity in any way.

Other relevant information obtained included: age; ethnicity; marital status; household income other than a pension; lifestyle (smoking, drinking, physical activity); and presence of depressive symptoms.

The average age of participants was 64, and almost three out of four were married. Some 28.5% of men said they had had 0-1 sexual partners to date; 29% said they had had 2-4; one in five (20%) reported 5-9; while 22% reported 10 or more.

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The equivalent figures for women were: just under 41%; 35.5%; just under 16%; and just under 8%.

In both sexes, a higher number of sexual partners was associated with younger age, single status, and being in the highest or lowest brackets of household wealth.

Those who reported a higher tally of sexual partners were also more likely to smoke, drink frequently, and do more vigorous physical activity on a weekly basis.

When all the data were analysed, a statistically significant association emerged between the number of lifetime sexual partners and risk of a cancer diagnosis among both sexes.

Compared with women who reported 0-1 sexual partners, those who said they had had 10 or more, were 91% more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer.

Among the men, those who reported 2-4 lifetime sexual partners were 57% more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than were those who reported 0-1. And those who reported 10 or more, were 69% more likely to have been diagnosed with the disease.

While the number of sexual partners was not associated with reported long standing conditions among the men, it was among the women.

Women who reported 5-9 or 10+ lifetime sexual partners were 64% more likely to have a limiting chronic condition than those who said they had had 0-1.

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. Nevertheless, the findings chime with those of previous studies, implicating sexually transmitted infections in the development of several types of cancer and hepatitis, suggest the researchers.

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They didn’t obtain information on the specific types of cancer participants reported, but speculate: “…the heightened risk of cancer might be driven by those types known to be associated with [sexually transmitted infections].”

And they suggest that enquiring about the number of sexual partners might complement existing cancer screening programmes by helping to identify those at risk, if further research can establish a causal association between the number of sexual partners and subsequent ill health.

But an explanation for the gender difference in long term condition risk remains “elusive,” they write, especially given that men tend to have more lifetime sexual partners than women, while women are more likely than men to see a doctor when they feel ill, so potentially limiting the associated consequences for their long term health.

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Health & Wellness

Visual disturbances in Viagra users

In a new study, Viagra patients suffered numerous visual disturbances, including abnormally dilated pupils, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and color vision disturbances, which included intensely blue colored vision with red/green color blindness.

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Sildenafil is commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction and is generally regarded as safe with limited side effects. However, a recent study in Frontiers in Neurology has highlighted the risk of persistent visual side-effects, such as light sensitivity and color vision impairment, in men who have taken the highest recommended dose of Viagra. While these effects appear to be rare, the research suggests that first-time Viagra users should start with a lower dose before increasing it, if necessary.

Erectile dysfunction can have significant psychological consequences for men who are affected by it, and it can make fulfilling sexual relationships more difficult to achieve. Sildenafil, more commonly known by its trade name Viagra, became available in 1998 as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. It soon became the fastest selling drug in history, demonstrating the phenomenal demand for treatments that enhance sexual performance.

Originally developed as a treatment for high blood pressure, the drug dilates blood vessels and relaxes smooth muscle in the penis, making it easier to achieve and maintain an erection. The effects of the drug normally last 3-5 hours and although side-effects such as headache and blurred vision occasionally occur, they usually disappear relatively quickly.

However, Dr. Cüneyt Karaarslan of the Dünyagöz Adana hospital in Turkey, noticed a pattern in 17 male patients who attended the hospital. In the new study, Karaarslan reports that the patients suffered numerous visual disturbances, including abnormally dilated pupils, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and color vision disturbances, which included intensely blue colored vision with red/green color blindness.

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All 17 patients had taken sildenafil for the first time, and all took the highest recommended dose of 100 mg. None of the men had been prescribed the medication. The visual side-effects began once the drug took effect, and were still present when the men arrived at the clinic 24-48 hours later.

The doctors in the clinic conducted various eye tests and monitored the patients over time to see how their symptoms developed. Fortunately, in all 17 patients the symptoms had cleared up by 21 days later, but this was doubtless a difficult experience for the men involved.

“Many men use non-prescription performance enhancing drugs to help with sexual anxiety and erectile dysfunction,” said Karaarslan. “For the vast majority of men, any side-effects will be temporary and mild. However, I wanted to highlight that persistent eye and vision problems may be encountered for a small number of users.”

So, why were these men susceptible to such long-lived side-effects? It may be possible that a small subsection of the population does not break sildenafil down and eliminate it from the body efficiently, leading to very high concentrations in the blood compared with most users.

These men also took the highest recommended dose of sildenafil on their first time taking the drug. Starting with a lower dose may have meant less severe side-effects. In addition, taking the drug under medical supervision would likely have meant that the men would not have used such a high dose on their first time.

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So, if you are struggling with erectile dysfunction, should you be worried about trying Viagra? In short, no. Such persistent side-effects appear to be very rare. However, it is always best practice to consult your physician first, it may be best not to start at the highest dose, and in case you are particularly sensitive, consider first using the drug under medical supervision.

“Although these drugs, when used under the control of physicians and at the recommended doses, provide very important sexual and mental support, uncontrolled and inappropriate doses should not be used or repeated,” said Karaarslan.

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Health & Wellness

Poor sexual health more common in women than men

Several important at-risk groups may be in danger of being overlooked by current sexual health intervention efforts, so more tailored approaches may be needed, the authors conclude.

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Poor sexual health is more common in women and affects them in more diverse ways than men, according to a UK study – “Latent class analysis of sexual health markers among men and women participating in a British probability sample survey” – published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Out of 12,132 men and women included in the study, 17% of men and 47.5% of women reported poor sexual health. Several important at-risk groups may be in danger of being overlooked by current sexual health intervention efforts, so more tailored approaches may be needed, the authors conclude.

To get a better idea of how sexual health varies within the UK population, a team of researchers at the University of Glasgow, UK investigated patterns of sexual health markers, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexual function problems, in 12,132 sexually active men and women, aged 16-74 from England, Scotland and Wales, who were interviewed between 2010 and 2012. The data came from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. The authors also examined associations of sexual health with socio-demographic, health and lifestyle characteristics, as well as with satisfaction or distress with a person’s sex life.

Alison Parkes, who led the study at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit said: “‘Sexual health’ is an umbrella term that covers several different health risks, such as STIs, unplanned pregnancy, sexual function problems and sexual coercion. A greater understanding of how these risks are patterned across the population is needed to improve the targeting and delivery of sexual health programmes.”

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Based on markers of sexual health that were most common in different groups of people, the authors identified sexual health classes, four of which were common to both men and women; Good Sexual Health (83% of men, 52% of women), Wary Risk-takers (4% of men, 2% of women), Unwary Risk-takers (4% of men, 7% of women), and Sexual Function Problems (9% of men, 7% of women). Two additional sexual health classed were identified in women only; a Low Sexual Interest class which included 29% of women and a Highly Vulnerable class, reporting a range of adverse experiences across all markers of sexual health, which included 2% of women.

Highly Vulnerable women were more likely to report an abortion than all other female sexual health classes except unwary risk takers, and most likely to report STIs. They were also the most likely to report sexual coercion. Risk of sexual coercion was found to be low in all male sexual health classes. Among men, only those in the Sexual Function Problem class were more likely to perceive low satisfaction / high distress with their sex lives than those in Good Sexual Health. By contrast, all female poor sexual health classes were more likely to perceive low satisfaction / high distress.

Parkes said: “We identified several groups who are not well served by current sexual health intervention efforts: men and women disregarding STI risks, women with a low interest in sex feeling distressed or dissatisfied with their sex lives, and women with multiple sexual health problems. These groups had distinctive socio-demographic profiles, and may benefit from new tailored programs.

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“However, we also noticed that poor sexual health groups had certain characteristics in common. They were generally more likely to have started having sex before the age of 16; and to experience depression, alcohol or drug use. Knowledge of these comorbidities may inform interventions designed to improve sexual health across different vulnerable populations.”

The authors caution that the observational nature of the study does not allow for assumptions about cause and effect. Causal mechanisms underlying associations such as between substance use and sexual health are likely to be complex and bidirectional.

Parkes said: “At a time when financial pressures are being felt by sexual health services across Britain, it may be advisable to prioritize interventions with the most widespread benefits. Our study identified widely-shared characteristics of different groups at risk of poor sexual health. Targeting these lifestyle and health factors could mitigate a broad spectrum of sexual health problems.”

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Health & Wellness

Pornography is not a ‘public health crisis’, say researchers

“The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt, not reflective of best available evidence.”

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Existing evidence suggests pornography may negatively affect some individuals, but it does not qualify as a public health crisis, and calling it one could cause harm.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

“The movement to declare pornography a public health crisis is rooted in an ideology that is antithetical to many core values of public health promotion and is a political stunt, not reflective of best available evidence,” write Dr. Kimberly M. Nelson and Dr. Emily F. Rothman, both faculty in the Department of Community Health Sciences at BUSPH.

While 17 U.S. states have introduced nonbinding resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis, the authors write that pornography does not fulfill the public health field’s definition of one. Pornography use has increased steadily over time rather than spiking or reaching a tipping point; it does not “directly or imminently” lead to death, disease, property destruction, or population displacement; and it does not overwhelm local health systems.

Instead, Nelson and Rothman write, the existing evidence suggests that there may be negative health consequences for some people who use pornography, no substantial consequences for the majority, and even positive effects for some (for example, through safer sexual behaviors such as solo masturbation). Motivating people to use less extreme pornography, and less frequently, are reasonable harm reduction goals, the authors write, instead of trying to end all use. Increasing pornography literacy would also be useful, they write; Dr. Rothman and colleagues outline their pornography literacy program for Boston area adolescents in a paper in the same journal issue.

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What is the harm of calling pornography a public health crisis? Nelson and Rothman argue that this mischaracterization can lead to unwarranted policy or funding shifts, rather than saving the power to mobilize the public health workforce for real crises. “Moreover, pathologizing any form of sexual behavior, including pornography use, has the potential to restrict sexual freedom and to stigmatize, which is antithetical to public health,” they write.

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Health & Wellness

When caregivers need care

Caregivers provide tremendous benefits for their loved ones, yet they may be at risk for lacking access to needed services which puts their health in jeopardy.

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People who regularly care for or assist a family member or friend with a health problem or disability are more likely to neglect their own health, particularly by not having insurance or putting off necessary health services due to cost.

This is according to “Healthcare Coverage and Utilization Among Caregivers in the United States: Findings from the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System” by Jamie L. Tingey, MS, Jeremiah Lum, MS, Whitney Morean, MS, Rebecca Franklin, MS, and Jacob A. Bentley, PhD; and which was published in Rehabilitation Psychology

“Caregivers provide tremendous benefits for their loved ones, yet they may be at risk for lacking access to needed services which puts their health in jeopardy,” said Bentley of Seattle Pacific University, co-author of the study. “We found that caregivers were more likely not to have health care coverage or forgo needed medical appointments and services. They were also at an increased risk for experiencing depression in their lifetime as compared with non-caregivers.”

The study focused solely on people who provided care to family and friends, not professional caregivers.

More than 43 million adults in the US (alone) function as caregivers each year, according to 2015 data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP cited in the study.

“Informal caregiving provides enormous economic value to our society because if we were to replace informal caregiving with formal, paid caregiving services, it could cost the country upwards of $600 billion in wages for home health aides,” said Bentley. “Despite the economic benefits for society and valuable assistance provided to care recipients, attention must also be given to caregivers’ own financial, physical and emotional challenges.”

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The study used data from more than 24,000 people who participated in the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System annual phone survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most participants were white women under 65 earning between $10,000 and $70,000 per year. Half were employed, half were unemployed or retired.

Participants reported that they had provided regular care or assistance to a family member or friend with a health problem or disability within the 30 days prior to the survey. More than half of the participants provided care for up to eight hours a week, typically doing household tasks such as cleaning, managing money or preparing meals. The vast majority indicated that they did not need support services, such as support groups or individual counseling, suggesting a need for additional research into alternative support services that are prioritized by caregivers, according to Bentley.

Participants were also asked if they had health insurance, if there was a time within the 12 months before the survey that they did not see a doctor because of the cost and if they had ever been diagnosed with a depressive disorder by a health care provider.

“Caregivers had a 26% higher risk of not having health care coverage, compared with non-caregivers, and they were at a significantly higher risk, a 59% additional risk, for not going to the doctor or getting a necessary health service due to cost, ” said Bentley.

Further, one-fourth of the caregivers reported that they had been diagnosed with a depressive disorder by a health care provider at some point during their lives, representing a 36% increased risk over non-caregivers, according to the study.

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“Also, nearly 30% reported experiencing at least one limitation to daily activities because of physical, mental or emotional problems,” said Bentley.

Bentley and his colleagues believe that some of these disparities may be due to financial barriers experienced by caregivers. Previous research has indicated that their duties may interfere with their ability to seek employment outside of the home or advance their careers due to the need for flexible schedules to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities, he said.

“While we expected caregivers to be more at risk in these areas, we were concerned to learn of the extent of these risks and barriers to health care access encountered by caregivers,” said Bentley. “Given the scope of difficulties acquiring health care coverage and utilizing needed services in this large national sample, we believe our findings warrant additional research and likely the development of low-cost and accessible services that meet the multifaceted needs of caregivers.”

“At a broader level, these findings can serve as evidence for policymakers focused on public health agendas because they have the power to develop policies aimed at reducing financial burdens and heath care service gaps among caregivers who are vital not only to those in our communities who need care, but also to our overall health care economy,” he said.

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Health & Wellness

Guide to dealing with a new mental health diagnosis

It’s important to remember that mental health is a very wide categorization and not all disorders are the same or even similar.

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It’s estimated that around one-third of use will have to deal with a mental health issue at some point in our lives. But although there are still those who don’t understand fully how mental health works the stigma surrounding such diagnosis is thankfully on the decline.

It’s important to know how to deal with a diagnosis of this kind. It can be very upsetting and confusing, you will no doubt have lots of questions but it can also be a very good time because it means you are suddenly on the course to getting the help you need and this will ensure that you can live your life in a better manner. This is the start of a new phase of your life, and here we will look at some of the ways to start dealing with this situation.

Read Up on Your Diagnosis

Although we are as guilty of anyone of doing this it’s important to remember that mental health is a very wide categorization and not all disorders are the same or even similar. If you take depression as a particular example, even this is a very vague diagnosis and can vary wildly in both its symptoms and its severity. Other conditions such as schizophrenia can exhibit symptoms such as hallucinations, both auditory and visual, delusions of grandeur and you can have all or some of these and they can come and go. So whatever you have it’s good to get an idea of what the symptoms are and what the causes of the condition are as well.

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Look for Support

These days it’s important to know that you don’t need to suffer alone and there are plenty of resources and sources of help. First of all, you will have the doctor or Psychologist who diagnosed you and they should always be your first port of call for support. If you stay on top of your condition and regularly stay in touch with your medical professionals then it can prevent relapses and critical issues, even having to end up being admitted to hospital. But if you do end up having to spend some time in a hospital ward then it’s not the big issue it was in the past. You are suffering from an illness and shouldn’t feel bad for seeking medical help, think about it you wouldn’t berate a cancer sufferer for taking chemotherapy, so mental health treatment should be no different.

Permanent or Temporary

It’s also important to remember that not all mental health conditions are permanent, some of them indeed are and you might need to manage them throughout your life. However, you can end up with a reactionary condition that is temporary. This can be a reaction to a stressful life event if this is the case understanding adjustment disorders is very important.

Be Patient

Patience is also a good quality to have. Being diagnosed will a mental health issue can be a long process, and it may have taken a good while to even get to this stage. What you also find is that once you have the diagnosis it can take a lot of trial and error to get the right medication and the correct dose, so bear with it while they take the time to work it out, this is fairly normal.

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Talk to Your Family

Your family is most likely feeling a little apprehensive as well as often in a family setting they are dealing with something like this for the first time. So it leaves your loved ones feeling unable to help and not knowing how they can best be supportive. What can be helpful to them, and to you, is keeping them updated with how things are going, and they will then have more of an idea of what’s going on.

Dealing With Being Misunderstood

Although we mentioned at the start that awareness of mental health issues is much improved from where it has been in the past there is still a great deal of misunderstanding of what certain conditions are all about. If we take schizophrenia as an example, many people still confuse that with split personality syndrome, which in itself is a condition that is disputed as to its existence. Mental health is always a field that is progressing and new conditions and diagnoses are coming around all of the time, if we take gender reassignment, there are still those who wish to try to force individuals into a gender identity they don’t agree with can lead to poor mental health results. 

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