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Common Mental Health Conditions

Common Mental Health Conditions

In a previous blog we discussed depression, anxiety and stress, which are the most commonly recognised mental health conditions. However, there are other mental health conditions that we treat regularly at Dementech Neurosciences.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings ranging from highs (mania or hypomania) to lows (depression).

Find out more about bipolar disorder in this short video.

 

Symptoms of bipolar include:

  • Depression – feeling hopeless or sad, losing interest in most activities.
  • Mania/Hypomania (a less extreme type of mania) – irritability, euphoria, feeling energised.

The condition can affect the ability to think clearly as well as affect judgement, behaviour, energy levels, activity and sleep. It cannot be cured however treatments are available that can help you to manage the symptoms.

Treatment options for bipolar disorder:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on identifying unhelpful or negative behaviours and beliefs and replacing them with positive and healthy ones. It may be helpful in identifying triggers for episodes of bipolar and developing strategies to help you cope with your condition.
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy aims to stabilise daily routines and create a more consistent pattern of sleep, exercise and diet.
  • Family therapy can help family members to understand more about the condition and how to recognise and manage the early signs.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This is a complex disorder that cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition. The symptoms include extreme fatigue which does not improve with rest. Scientists are unclear what causes chronic fatigue syndrome although it is believed to be triggered by a combination of factors which may include psychological stress and viral infections.

Symptoms include:

  • Extreme exhaustion which does not improve with rest or sleep
  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Headaches and/or muscular or joint pain

Treatment options:

Cognitive training involves talking to a counsellor to help you feel more in control of your life. This can help as chronic fatigue brings with it many restrictions and uncertainties. You may also benefit from gentle exercises which you can build up gradually.

Phobias

A phobia is a fear of a specific thing, situation or animal. People can have phobias about a whole range of things, from heights to needles and the symptoms of a phobia can occur suddenly and without warning.

Symptoms can include:

  • Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Headaches, nausea or dizziness
  • Panic attack

Some of the most common phobias include:

  • Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  • Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
  • Acrophobia (fear of heights)
  • Aerophobia (fear of flying)
  • Cynophobia (fear of dogs)
  • Social Phobia (fear of being in a social situation)
  • Agoraphobia (fear of public places)
  • Mysophobia (fear of dirt or germs)

Treatment options for phobias:

Phobias produce a fear response which can be extreme and may interfere with daily living, resulting in anxiety and, in some cases, depression. Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective for phobias and panic disorders and may be used alongside prescribed medication and self-help techniques like meditation and mindfulness.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that is characterised by pain throughout the body, accompanied by fatigue, sleep and memory problems and mood swings. It is believed to be caused by a change in the way the brain processes pain signals, leading to pain sensations becoming amplified.

The condition may begin after some kind of physical trauma, psychological stress, infection or surgery. In some people symptoms develop gradually over time.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain throughout the body that is experienced as a dull ache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders including sleep apnoea and restless legs syndrome
  • Difficulty concentrating

The condition may be accompanied by other disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and cystitis.

Treatment

Fibromyalgia is a painful and distressing condition. There is no single effective treatment. However, doctors may prescribe medication to relieve pain and to help promote sleep. CBT, mindfulness and counselling may also help people to deal more effectively with the stress of the condition.

To find out what the best treatment is for fibromyalgia for you, it is best to speak to a specialist who can assess your symptoms and offer advice on how to manage the condition.

Dementech specialises in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders including all types of mental health conditions. For more information contact our experienced and friendly team.

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patient with mental health problem

Common Mental Health conditions and how to treat them

Mental health problems are becoming increasingly common, but why is this and what can be done about it?

Causes of mental health problems

There is no single cause for the growth in mental health disorders over the last 10 years. We believe there may be many different contributory factors. There are more demands on people now compared to previous generations, fuelled by the pressures of social media and instant news. The pace of life has accelerated to such an extent that people are at greater risk of burnout than ever before. Our cognitive and emotional workload is increasing, and many people are finding it harder and harder to find any downtime or to relax in the short amount of leisure time they may have. The result is rising levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

Why is mental illness on the rise? Mr Stelios Kiosses explains in this video.

 

Depression

Depression is very different to feeling low or unhappy. When someone is depressed it can impact every aspect of their lives and they may feel unable to cope with everyday activities. It may affect their physical and mental health, resulting in a loss of interest in things that previously they enjoyed. They may lose their appetite or find themselves unable to sleep.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural human response to a perceived threat. It is what we feel when we are worried or tense about things that might happen, particularly if we are facing stressful events or major life changes.

Anxiety becomes a problem if it starts to have a significant detrimental impact on your life. You may be diagnosed as having anxiety if you have felt anxious for a long time or your fears are disproportionate to the situation. You may be experiencing distressing symptoms such as panic attacks, or you may find it hard to go about your normal life.

Stress

Stress is normally related to our reaction to feeling under pressure. This is very individual and what one person finds stressful, another may take in their stride. Stress can become particularly acute when we feel we don’t have control over what is happening to us or we become overwhelmed. Stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis however it can trigger mental health problems like anxiety or depression. Conversely, mental health problems can lead to stress.

Stress can also cause physical symptoms including tiredness, headaches and gastrointestinal problems. When we are stressed our bodies produce high levels of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are responsible for the body’s fight, flight or freeze response. When we are unable to release these hormones as our ancestors would have done (by running away or fighting, for example) they remain in our bodies and can cause unpleasant physical symptoms.

Treatment for anxiety and depression

The right treatment for mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, varies from one person to the next, depending on the type and extent of the problem and the person’s individual thoughts, beliefs and preferences.

Medication may be prescribed to deal with certain problems, such as anxiety or problems sleeping, but this will not get to the root of the problem. A therapeutic approach such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be effective in tackling some of the psychological issues that lie at the heart of a person’s depression.

CBT for mental health

CBT works on a person’s behaviour first. This is because when someone becomes depressed, they may stop doing things that they used to enjoy. They may lose motivation and become tired and listless. The focus of CBT is to try and increase the person’s activity levels first, so they begin to experience some of the things they used to enjoy and start to feel better. Once this is in place, the therapist may help the person to work on any negative thoughts or rumination.

How does mindfulness reduce depression?

Mindfulness-based CBT brings together mindfulness techniques such as meditation, stretching and breathing exercises and combines this with elements of CBT. It can be effective in helping to break the negative thought patterns that are a symptom of recurrent depression.

Evidence suggests that mindfulness-based CBT can reduce the risk of relapse of people who experience recurrent depression by as much as 43%. It is recommended by NICE for the prevention of relapse in such people.

Dementech specialise in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders including mental health conditions and can suggest the best treatment plan for you. For more information contact our experienced and friendly team.

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Treatment for Aphasia

To continue to raise awareness for National Aphasia Month, and to follow on from our previous article about Types of Aphasia, we look at the various aphasia treatment approaches.

Aphasia Treatment

Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects a person’s ability to process language. It may develop after a stroke or brain injury or as a result of a neurological disorder or infection. People with aphasia may struggle to speak, understand language, read or write.

Speech and language therapy

Treatment will depend on which type of aphasia a person has and how severely they are affected. If the brain damage is mild, the individual may recover their language skills without needing to have specialist treatment. However, most people with aphasia have some kind of speech and language therapy to help them to recover their language skills as much as possible and develop other ways of communicating.

It is unusual to regain pre-injury levels of communication even after treatment, however certain factors appear to affect treatment outcomes. Starting soon after the brain injury has been shown to be effective, according to some studies, and working in a group environment with other people affected by aphasia may also help. Computer-assisted therapy is increasingly being used to help people to relearn word sounds.

Aphasia treatment approaches

Aphasia treatment falls into two main categories. It is likely that most people with aphasia will be treated using both. As the condition develops, the treatment will be adjusted to ensure it remains effective.

Impairment-based therapies

Impairment-based therapies are designed to stimulate listening, speaking, reading and writing. The aim is to improve language function over time by attempting to repair the damaged areas. A speech-language pathologist may set particular tasks that enable the person to understand and speak as well as they are able. Computer software may be used to improve word-finding, comprehension and day-to-day problems.

Among the types of impairment-based therapies are:

  • Constraint-induced therapy – this follows similar principles to physical therapies for paralysis which restrict or constrain functional parts of the body in order to force the damaged areas to work. In constraint-induced therapy, people with aphasia may be constrained from using gesture to communicate in order to encourage them to use their impaired speech. The therapy is done in short bursts – usually two or three hours a day for a period of two weeks. It is normally done alongside communication-based therapy which encourage people with aphasia to use whatever abilities remain available to them in order to communicate.
  • Tele-rehabilitation – this is a new approach currently in the early stages of development. It uses webcam and the internet to enable the person with aphasia and the therapist to be able to interact remotely.
  • Melodic intonation therapy – this is based on the principle that certain types of aphasia leave people able to sing but not speak. This therapy uses melody to enable people with the condition to construct sentences. It is suited to people who have a good level of understanding of speech and some ability to express themselves.

Communication-based therapies

Communication-based therapies are designed to help people with aphasia to manage the day-to-day challenges of their condition by learning how to communicate using any means. The aim is to overcome frustration by helping people to make themselves understood.

Among the types of communication-based therapies are:

  • Supported conversation – this approach uses volunteers who engage in conversations with people who have aphasia. Supported conversations help to enhance the confidence of people who have lost their natural ability to communicate and have conversations.
  • PACE (Promoting Aphasics’ Communicative Effectiveness) therapy – this introduces elements of conversation into a simple picture-naming procedure.
  • Conversational coaching – this aims to increase the confidence of someone with aphasia by scripting conversation. A computer programme called AphasiaScripts features a virtual therapist who helps and supports the person with aphasia.

Dementech specialise in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders including all types of aphasia. Following diagnosis, we can discuss the most appropriate treatment approach for you. For more information contact our experienced and friendly team.

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Understanding Types of Aphasia

Understanding Types of Aphasia

To mark National Aphasia Awareness Month, we are looking at what aphasia is, the different types of aphasia and how you can communicate more effectively with people who have the condition. In a separate post, we will be considering the treatments available for people with aphasia.

What causes aphasia?

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language but does not affect their intelligence.

People are not born with aphasia, but they may develop it after a stroke, brain injury, infection or as a result of a neurological disorder. Aphasia may cause people to struggle to understand language, to speak, read or write.

The disorder can vary in severity. In its most severe form, it can be almost impossible for someone with the condition to make themselves understood, while other types of aphasia may affect the ability to remember particular words or to construct a sentence. Sometimes, someone may lose the ability to read.

Often people with aphasia may experience impairment in several different forms of communication but may still have some ability to communicate. Treatment for the condition tends to focus on determining how much function remains and enhancing those channels that are still available.

Aphasia versus dysphasia

Aphasia is sometimes confused with dysphasia. While aphasia and dysphasia have the same causes and symptoms, dysphasia tends to involve moderate language impairments whereas aphasia is more severe, potentially resulting in a complete loss of speech and the ability to understand speech. Some health professionals use the terms interchangeably, which can be confusing.

Types of aphasia

There are various different types of aphasia depending on the location and extent of the brain injury. These include:

  • Global aphasia is the most severe form of the condition. Patients understand little or no spoken language, can produce few recognisable words and cannot read or write. It can occur immediately after a stroke but may improve quite quickly if the extent of brain damage is not too severe.
  • Broca’s or non-fluent aphasia severely impacts speech. People may not be able to utter more than a few words and the formation of sounds may be laborious. The ability to read and understand speech remains intact, however, although the ability to write may also be affected.
  • Mixed non-fluent aphasia is form of aphasia where the person will have very limited speech (as with Broca’s aphasia) and may also struggle to understand speech. Reading and writing may be very limited.
  • Wernicke’s or fluent aphasia affects the ability to understand speech. The person may still able to speak themselves, although the meaning might be unclear and sentence structure can often be jumbled. Reading and writing may be severely impaired.
  • Anomic aphasia affects the ability to recall nouns and verbs which can make speech and writing vague and difficult to understand. Those affected can understand speech well and read adequately.

Primary progressive aphasia

Unlike other forms of aphasia, which are the result of stroke or brain injury, primary progressive aphasia is caused by neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration.

The deterioration of brain tissue associated with speech and language causes this type of aphasia to worsen over time. Initial symptoms might include problems with speech and language but other issues such as memory loss may develop later.

Communicating with someone with aphasia

There are some simple ways to improve communication with someone who is suffering from aphasia:

  1. Be patient. Allow the person plenty of time to process what you are saying and respond.
  2. Talking in a quiet place without too many distractions can help.
  3. Do not patronise. Remember, the condition does not affect a person’s intelligence.
  4. It can be frustrating for the person with aphasia to try and communicate. Using an iPad, pen and paper or gestures may help them to express themselves more easily.

Dementech specialises in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders including all types of aphasia. For more information contact our experienced and friendly team.

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