Category Archives: Mental Health

Straight, No Chaser: Tips to Deal with Depression and The Holiday Blues

Holiday_Depression-300x199

I don’t mean to bring anyone down during what is supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ but in reality there are many people hurting. For some, life’s tragedies happen this time of year the same as they might any other time. For others, this may have already happened, and this time of year is a permanent reminder of an unfortunate experience. For others still who struggle with depression, anxiety and mental illness all year, the holiday season can exacerbate these feelings and may make holidays especially long, depressing and potentially dangerous times.

Today’s Straight, No Chaser is not meant to drag you into the dumps but to empower you with tips to assist you in the event this is a difficult time for you. By the way, I’m extremely thankful that you’ve chosen to give me moments of your day and life. I take that gift seriously and hope you continue to find it a worthwhile use of your time.

HolidayDepression

Here’s five tips for your holiday mental health:

  1. Remove yourself from stressful environments and avoid situations you know will create conflict, mental duress and/or danger. I can not emphasize this enough. If you put yourself in a bad situation, you can not be surprised when bad things happen.’
  2. Find support. Specifically, have ‘go-to’ friends and family that provide you comforting support. There’s a time and place for tough love, but in the midst of depression or suicidal ideation, ‘buck up’ is not good advice. Know where your support lies and be sure (in advance) that it will be accessible if you need it.
  3. Find success and happiness where it is. During the holidays, people tend to lament what isn’t. That’s not a formula for success. Yes, all of your family may not be around, but celebrating happy memories with the ones you can often fills the room with the joyous presence of loved ones not around. Enjoy the pleasures and successes you do have access to, whether big or small. Focusing on the positive keep you positive.
  4. If you’re struggling, admit it.  You already know you’re hurting. Often the first step to getting past it is acknowledging it. Once done, then you can put coping mechanisms in place to address your feelings.
  5. Avoid holiday activities that will create post-holiday angst. This applies to eating, drinking, shopping and personal interactions. Some use the holiday as an excuse to overindulge as if the consequences won’t be there afterwards. Reread #1 above.

BBKING_SU_C_^_SUNDAY

Know when you need professional help. If your support system doesn’t sufficiently address your needs, and you’re feeling severely depressed, can’t function or are suicidal or homicidal, find a physician or mental health professional ASAP. Of course, you can always contact your SterlingMedicalAdvice.com expert. If you type mental health, depression or other keywords into the search bar above, you can access many other Straight, No Chaser blogs on behavioral health concerns that may provide you the support you need. I wish you all the best today and throughout the year, and hopefully the picture above will reflect the only type of blues you’ll have to deal with this year.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

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Filed under General Health and Wellness, Mental Health

Straight, No Chaser: Are You Depressed and/or Suicidal?

In our first post on clinical depression and suicide, we looked at the scope of the disease, and in the next post we will provide tips for you to address depression and an inclination toward suicide. In this post, we carefully tread onto your tendencies that may clue you into the need for help. Remember that 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com provides crisis mental health services for those in need.

areudepressed

I have a strong distaste for do-it-yourself websites that want to ‘screen’ you for depression.  Folks, if you’re wondering whether you’re clinically depressed, you don’t need validation from some makeshift online questionnaire.  That said, if you’d like to learn something, go ahead and find one.  More importantly, seek assistance immediately from a qualified counselor or therapist.  They do wonderful work and can get through to you before you get to yourself.  Instead of a quiz, I will simply give you common signs and symptoms consistent with the diagnosis.  Note the progression in the symptoms.  The bottom line is: odds are, you already know if you need help.  Yes, there are different depression syndromes; I’m not getting into that.  You and a psychiatrist or therapist can sort that out.  Don’t be reassured by a quiz when you already know better.

suicide counseling pix

You may be depressed if…

  • You feel sad, hopeless, empty, or numb to the point where you wallow in these emotions, and they dominate your existence.
  • You have a loss of interest in your normal activities of daily living.  It’s not just that you don’t enjoy things.  You don’t even want to be bothered with them.  You don’t want sex.  You don’t enjoy your friends.  You don’t want recreation.  You can’t eat.  You can’t sleep, or you can’t stop sleeping.  You can’t breathe (because of your crippling anxiety).  You might actually be depressed if you have these symptoms and didn’t get the ideas from listening to the lyrics of a Toni Braxton song.
  • You find yourself exceedingly irritable and/or anxious. These feelings are explosive and over the top.  You’re waiting, ready and looking for a reason to embrace gloom, doom or anger.
  • You have difficulty moving forward and making decisions. This occurs for many reasons.  Your attention may be shot.  Your interests aren’t there.  You’re overwhelmed.  Stuck in a rut is not only where you are, it’s where you want to be.
  • You feel worthless and blame yourself for any and everything.  Again, these feelings are explosive, dramatic and over the top.
  • You have thoughts of death and suicide. This is where things get beyond scary.  You may simply have a passive wishing that things would end and a belief that your friends, family and the rest of the world would be ‘better off’ without you.  You may have fleeting voices that aren’t your own suggesting or commanding suicide as an option.  You may see visions of people telling you to harm yourself.  You may have an active plan.  When depression gets to this point, nothing good is going to happen without intervention.  Never allow someone to make such comments and then pretend as if they were insincere.

suicide-sign-hand-SS

Now consider these most common precipitants for suicide:

  • Problems with one’s intimate partner
  • Problems with one’s physical health
  • Problems with one’s job
  • Problems with one’s finances

You will have a lot better chance getting someone help at a warning stage than preventing someone from doing something once they have a weapon in their hands.  Approximately 30% of suicides result after the individual has expressed an intent to do so.  Listen up…  Take the signs of depression and any expressed thoughts of suicide seriously.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

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Filed under Mental Health

Straight, No Chaser: Battered Woman Syndrome and Why Victims Stay In Abusive Relationships

battered wife syndrome

Domestic violence has been in the news quite a bit lately, and among the many questions asked, perhaps the most frequent is beguiling to many: “Why do the victims stay in the abusive relationship?” Today’s Straight, No Chaser discusses the Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS). In recent Straight, No Chaser posts, we have looked at several aspects of domestic violence, including the following (click the links to access the posts):

As suggested by the name, many more women are victims of domestic violence and battered woman syndrome than men, although men are also victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. As viewed by the psychiatric community, BWS is a subcategory of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To be clear, this is about power, control and violence. Both the symptoms produced and the treatment offered revolves around 1) identifying and breaking the perpetrator’s control and 2) identifying and changing the environment fostering the victim’s previous inability to escape that control. In some men, the need to exert power and to control women simply exists (whether learned as a child or innate), and abuse is how it is expressed. Until battered women take back some control over their lives, some will continue to suffer from the consequences of this disorder.

Let’s answer a few commonly asked questions about battered domestic partners.

battered wife syndrome cycle

What are the symptoms of battered woman syndrome?

  • Avoidance behavior and emotional numbing (usually expressed as depression, dissociation, minimization, repression and denial)
  • Body image distortion and/or physical complaints resulting from psychological stress
  • Disrupted interpersonal relationships resulting from the abuser’s power and control measures
  • Hyperarousal (jitteriness) and a high level anxiety
  • Unwanted, intrusive recollections of associated traumatic event(s)
  • Sexual intimacy issues

battered woman coping responses

What is the treatment approach and plan for victims of BWS?

The survivor therapy empowerment program (STEP) is the central approach to helping BWS patients recover.

  • Labeling and validation of abuse and safety planning (i.e. identify it, name it, and develop a plan for ongoing safety)
  • Cognitive restructuring (i.e. mentally free the victim from the willingness to accept the abuse and conditions producing the abuse)
  • Recognizing danger and building strengths
  • Reducing stress and PTSD symptoms
  • Learning about the existing cycle of violence (between behaviors and abusive actions)
  • Identifying and treating additional components of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Calculating and adjusting for the impact on children
  • Grieving relationships and letting go
  • Emotional re-regulation (i.e. reprioritizing your emotional investments)
  • Rebuilding new relationships
  • Learning to appropriately allocating your pleasing behaviors and compliance issues
  • Termination (i.e. ending association with negative behavioral and individuals)

battered woman investment_model_abusive_relationships

Why do women stay?

It really is both a complicated and easily understood answer. There are many components to why victims stay and what’s necessary for them to escape, including any or all the following.

  • Domestic violence involves violence. Death is an option. This option becomes most viable when victims are escaping or have left, as the perpetrator no longer has control of the situation and fears the impending consequences. Clearly the victims understand this as well.
  • The dependency on the abusive environment often precludes leaving. Not having an escape plan, a safe haven or sufficient support are prohibitive to removing yourself from an abusive environment.
  • Battered women syndrome includes a certain mentality of invested love, hope and fears of loss that victims often do not care to easily relinquish.
  • In many cases BWS involves children, which further enhances the emotional investments and sense of impending loss, by both perpetrator and victim.

If you find yourself in such an environment and manage to escape, speak early, often, loudly and broadly about your prior situation. It will generate the various levels of support needed to prevent a relapse or recapture. Given that between a quarter to a third of women are or have been in an abusive relationship, someone you know is at risk. This is so prevalent that most emergency rooms now screen every woman for domestic abuse. Take the time today to ask your friends and loved ones if they need help. If you are that person, get help while you can.

national-domestic-violence-hotline-big

The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You should definitely memorize it, but I hope you never have to use it. Unfortunately, the odds reveal that many of you will. I have attached a related TED talk on this same topic by a survivor.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

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Filed under Mental Health, Public Health, Sports Medicine, Trauma

Straight, No Chaser: Domestic Violence – How to Get Out of an Abusive Situation

physabuse

Remember: You are not to blame, and you need not face domestic violence alone.

With the recent attention in the news on domestic violence and debates about responses and responsibility, I thought this post would refocus attention on where it needs to be: getting the abused individual safely out of harm’s way.

This is the third in a three-part series on domestic violence. The first post focused on the scope of domestic violence. The second post focused on risk factors and identifying whether your situation places you at risk.

When it comes to domestic violence, it is the immediate danger that can make it difficult for you to figure out the safest next move. Thus, it becomes important to know in advance the how and where of your escape plan.

Escaping the Crisis

If you are in a crisis situation, first make sure you and any other family members (e.g., children, parents) are safe. Leave the scene immediately, and find safe haven wherever it exists, such as an emergency shelter or the home of a friend or family member. You can find a shelter by calling (800) 799-SAFE. Call the police if you think you can’t leave home safely or if you want to bring charges against your abuser. If possible, take house keys, money and important papers with you. The staff members at emergency shelters can help you file for a court order of protection.

Be advised: Do not use drugs or alcohol at this time, because you need to be alert in a crisis. Even while you do what you feel you must do, be aware that use of weapons (even in a life-saving defense) will likely complicate and confuse matters.

If you can, just in  case, plan your escape. Establish escape routes and a safe haven. Secure important documents.

Where Do I Go If I’m Mentally or Physically Hurt?

Talk to a physician or get to an emergency department. We are prepared to check you for any life-threatening consequences to your abuse, treat any medical issue, provide mental health support and make referrals. Should you find an emergency shelter, counseling and support groups are available for you and your children. 

physabuseman

Dealing With Your Abuser

Your primary focus should be on finding help for yourself and escaping the danger.

  • First things first: Call the police if you believe that you are in danger.
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), your state domestic violence coalition and/or a local domestic violence agency. Seek out and speak with a family law advocate at your local crisis center. He or she can help you press charges against the perpetrator, file a temporary restraining order and advise you on how to seek a permanent restraining order.
  • Don’t keep your circumstances hidden. Discuss them with a physician, nurse, therapist, friend, family member or spiritual advisor when you first believe yourself to be in a dangerous environment. Be careful to avoid advice that attempts to place you back in harm’s way or to do anything that is not best for you or your family. Don’t let someone talk you into doing something that isn’t right for you.
  • Document any attempts at contact by the perpetrator. Save any new messages (especially threatening ones).
  • Keep photographs that show any injuries you received. You will need this should you pursue legal action (e.g., press charges or file a restraining order).
  • While it’s best to avoid the abuser completely, if you must meet to exchange documents or personal effects, do it in broad daylight where plenty of people are around, particularly those you know. It is preferable to have someone else make those exchanges, if possible.

dvhotline

After You’ve Escaped

You need to remain detached from your former situation as much as possible and implement changes in your life. Consider these following tips:

  • Establish a new routine. Someone looking for you will look for you in places you’ve frequented in the past.
  • Maintain an escape plan in your new location. It may seem counterintuitive, but avoid a route that takes you through areas with potential weapons – your attacker may end up with them instead of you.
  • Change your mobile or home phone number immediately after you’ve escaped the situation.

Being subjected to repeated domestic violence can extract a devastating psychological toll. Although many domestic violence survivors do not need mental health treatment, and many symptoms resolve once they and their children are safe and have support, for others, treatment is a major component of their plan for safety and recovery.

Again, the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You should definitely memorize it, but I hope you never have to use it. Unfortunately, the odds reveal that many of you will.

I hope you have found the information in this series helpful. Good luck. Feel free to contact your Sterling Medical Advice expert consultant with any questions you have on this topic.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

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Filed under Mental Health, Neurology, Trauma

Straight No Chaser: Identifying Risks of Domestic Violence

domestic-violence1

Today we point to knowledge as the key to preventing potential life-threatening episodes in the household. This is the second in a three-part series on domestic violence. The previous post focused on the scope of domestic violence. The next post will focus on actions to take if you find yourself in a relationship in which domestic violence occurs.

Certain environments or conditions may increase your risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence. Here are certain considerations that suggest you may be at risk:

  • Drugs and alcohol can exacerbate an already volatile situation.
  • Be aware that pregnancy is a particularly sensitive time emotionally, during which abuse may start or increase.
  • Women with fewer resources or greater perceived vulnerability—girls and those experiencing physical or psychiatric disabilities or living below the poverty line—are at even greater risk for domestic violence and lifetime abuse.

Children are also affected by domestic violence, even if they do not witness it directly. To protect them and yourself, evaluate your mate or others in a position to exert control over you. Abusers are masterful at isolating, manipulating, intimidating and controlling those they abuse. Abusers don’t always attack with a frontal assault. Abuse may begin slowly and progress. You may accommodate certain demands in an effort to “keep the peace” in your relationship and then find yourself beyond an easy retreat from a once generous and loving person who is now intimidating and threatening.

The insidious nature of abuse must be reemphasized. What may seem, at first, to be an isolated incident complicated by theoretically understandable factors may grow into a way of life with seemingly small events triggering abuse. Your abuser may change from an individual showing regret and remorse to someone who seems repulsed by your existence, blaming your every action (or inaction or anticipated action) for the abuse that follows.

The following conditions and circumstances have been associated with propensities for abuse. Don’t consider these as absolute predictors as much as risk factors about which you should be aware.

  • Whirlwind romance
  • Abnormal desire to be with you all the time
  • Tracking what you’re doing and who you’re with
  • Jealousy at any perceived attention to or from others
  • Attempting to isolate you in the guise of loving behavior, including going to lengths to convince you that your friends and family don’t adequately care for you (e.g., “You don’t need to work or go to school” or “We only need each other”)
  • Hypersensitivity to perceived slights
  • Quick to blame you or others for the abuse
  • Pressuring you into doing things you aren’t comfortable with (e.g., “If you really love me, you’ll do this for me”)

cycle of abuse

Are you at risk? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Are you ever afraid of your partner?
  • Has your partner ever hurt or threatened to hurt you physically or someone you care about?
  • Does your partner ever force you to engage in sexual activities that make you uncomfortable?
  • Do you constantly worry about your partner’s moods and change your behavior to deal with them?
  • Does your partner try to control where you go, what you do and who you see?
  • Does your partner constantly accuse you of having affairs?
  • Have you stopped seeing family or friends to avoid your partner’s jealousy or anger?
  • Does your partner control your finances?
  • Does he/she threaten to kill him/herself if you leave?
  • Does your partner claim his/her temper is out of control due to alcohol, drugs or because he/she had an abusive childhood?

If you answer yes to some or all of these questions, you could be at risk for or already suffering abuse.

In the next Straight, No Chaser, we’ll discuss actions you can take to protect yourself and remove yourself from an abusive environment.

It’s personal. We understand and we can help. Please … contact us if you’re in need of support. Our expert crisis counselors are here for you, 24/7. 1-844-SMA-TALK or www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com. You don’t have to “endure with dignity.”

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

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Filed under Endocrine/Metabolic, Mental Health, Surgical Care, Trauma

Straight, No Chaser: Keys to Mental (Un)Health and (Un)Happiness

Mental-health

Straight, No Chaser is mindful that there are multitudes of us excessively happy and unhappy. Everyone has thoughts about the keys to happiness, but we can objectify the conversation and identify what’s most likely to make you unhappy and lead to depression. You may find this hard to believe, but outside of medical causes of psychiatric illness and factors outside of your control, there are actually three choices we make that most commonly adversely impact your happiness and good mental health. Take it for what you will, but the data is what it is. Stay away from these circumstances, and you’re less likely to be unhappy. Sometimes it’s about addition by subtraction.

HealthIssues

Health Problems: People who are sick or have significant illness in their families generally aren’t happy. Although this may seem obvious and perhaps unfair, given that some illnesses and conditions are inherited or occur haphazardly, be mindful of the things you can control. Of course, this gets to the negative effects of obesity and smoking. More so than any other health-related activities/conditions, these will eventually lead to deteriorating health and subsequent unhappiness.

need-job

Job Problems: You don’t have enough to do with your time? Yep, an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop, as the saying goes. It should be pointed out that neither too much work nor the wrong type of work (i.e., low job satisfaction) seems to promote happiness. On average, people change careers seven times during their lifetimes. It’s often due to a search for happiness and actually is a good thing to do to avoid being stuck in a bad situation. Follow the job you love, and you’re more likely to be both happy and successful.

relationship-problems

Relationship Problems: You make bad relationship choices? Well there’s one specific choice that is shown to be most likely to reduce your happiness—choosing a neurotic partner. What’s neurotic? For one particularly disruptive example, think about the so-called Drama Queen/King. A neurotic partner responds emotionally to events that wouldn’t affect most people, and their reactions tend to be more intense than normal. They’re more likely to interpret minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions persist for unusually long periods of time. In short, if you want to be really unhappy, become attached to such a person. They will negatively affect your world, keeping you embroiled in drama and unhappiness, no matter how good the financial, physical, or other parts of your relationship.

Mental Health

Now your results may vary but probably won’t. I’m not make judgements, just sharing the data. Life choices have consequences. Choose wisely!

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

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Filed under General Health and Wellness, Mental Health, Ophthalmology/Eyes

Straight, No Chaser: Fibromyalgia

fibromyalgi

Previously, Straight, No Chaser has discussed the frustration of uncertainty some patients have with having symptoms and not being given a diagnosis (much less a cure). Imagine if that uncertainty arose in the context of excruciating pain lasting for what seems like all day. There was a time when this was the case to a much greater extent, and then several medical conditions gained recognition and/or prominence. Some of these include chronic pain syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ syndrome), endometriosis, inflammatory bowel disorder, vaginismus, vulvodynia and still other conditions. Today’s Straight, No Chaser addresses one such condition, fibromyalgia.

 Fibromyalgia_pain

The symptoms of fibromyalgia include muscle pain and fatigue. This pain may take one of several typical forms, including headaches, painful menstrual periods and – most interestingly – “tender points.” Tender points are specific places on the body that hurt when you apply pressure. These can occur most anywhere but usually involve the extremities, neck, back, hips and shoulders. Other symptoms include numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, difficulty sleeping and morning stiffness. In some cases a condition called “fibro fog” occurs, in which clouding of thinking and memory occurs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these other symptoms often result in clinical depression.

Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is a condition, not a disease that we can attach to a specific cause. However, there are several diseases to which fibromyalgia has been linked. In short, many stressful life conditions and events can serve as triggers for this disorder. Some of the more notable conditions and triggers include ankylosing spondylitis (aka spinal arthritis), motor vehicle crashes, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (aka lupus). So many such triggers exists that now over 5 million Americans have been labeled with the diagnosis. Interesting, 80-90% of those so diagnosed are women, most during middle age.

Given the absence of an identified cause, treatment is mostly symptomatic, attempting to address the pain and other things that disrupt one’s activities of daily living. More importantly, once affected, you need to implement the lifestyle changes that have been shown to help, including improving diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, changing one’s work and home environments, and taking medications as prescribed.

I would be remiss (and not very Straight, No Chaser), if I didn’t address the controversies surrounding fibromyalgia. Given the absence of a defined cause, many patients suffering from fibromyalgia and similar disorders are often perceived to be drug seeking, particularly in emergency departments. It is very frustrating for physicians to care for patients they can’t “fix.” Although drug-seeking patients do exist, multiple medical studies have shown that inadequate treatment of pain remains one of the great faux pas of medicine. It is an equal disservice to give in to a patient’s request for pain medication as a routine matter without the benefit of a full evaluation. There are many defined medical conditions that present with pain. More deliberate and vigorous evaluations can not only put a more definitive name to the pain but can lead to better outcomes for those patients.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

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