Archive for January, 2012
While pregnancy is often considered as the golden period in a woman’s life, there are a host of physical as well as mental challenges faced by them then, that usually go unnoticed. While the apparent physical problems associated with pregnancy are often addressed, it is the psychological challenges related to mental health and pregnancy, which often go unheeded. Although pregnancy and childbirth have gained some recognition, as significant risk factors in the development and exacerbation of mental health issues, most women are still unaware of the devastating effect of these conditions. As a matter of fact, nearly 20% of women suffer from mood or anxiety disorders during the gestation and postpartum periods, with the women with a previous history of mental problems being at an increased risk. However whether the condition affects the woman during pregnancy or post it, it can cause significant morbidity for the mother as well as the child. It is therefore vital that the patient be well informed about the risks involved on both sides and take into account her specific diagnosis and the recommendations of the health care provider.
Common Psychological Disorders: Mental Health during Pregnancy
Broadly classified under maternal depression, perinatal mood disorders are a result of the physiological and hormonal changes the body undergoes and the stressors involved in pregnancy. There are various gestational or antepartum disorders that affect women during pregnancy and postpartum or postnatal mood disorders that occur after pregnancy. Anxiety and depression constitute the major emotional disturbances in the perinatal stage. However the clinical classification of perinatal mood disorders falls in three major groups of mental disorders during pregnancy.
Major Depression – Gestational and Postpartum Depression: Referred to as ‘baby blues’, depression is a common and self-limiting mood disturbance, that can severely affect the lives of the mother and child. It affects nearly 10% of pregnant women and poses a risk to the mother and the fetus. The condition referred to as postpartum depression can develop and worsen after the birth of the baby. The trigger factors could be, the rapid rise in hormone levels during pregnancy or the change in the levels of chemicals in the brain, which govern moods. A disruption in either of these, can lead to depression. The other causes of depression could be stressful life events, financial troubles, or a death in the family.
The symptoms of major depression in pregnant women include:
Difficulty in sleeping or oversleeping
Weight loss or change in appetite
Irritability or mood swings
Constant fatigue or lack of energy
Restlessness or feeling slowed down
Unpredictable, uncharacteristic, or bizarre behavior
Recurrent thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
Untreated depression may lead to substance abuse, self harm or suicide and could even cause the death of the baby. Most pregnant women with depression, experience preterm birth, spontaneous abortion and low birth weights. It may also impair a mother’s ability to promote the infant’s cognitive and emotional development.
Clinical Mood and Anxiety Disorders: They can occur during pregnancy and following childbirth, usually within six months to a year later and often necessitate treatment. Usually as common as depression, anxiety disorders are characterized by panic attacks, hyperventilation and obsessive compulsive disorders. The woman may have repeated thoughts or images of frightening things happening to her baby.
Postpartum Psychosis: This is the most extreme form of perinatal mental illness, usually occurring within a few weeks of childbirth and constituting a medical emergency. This form of maternal depression may lead to poorer neonatal outcomes and even infanticide.
While the effect of psychotropic medications during pregnancy is not ascertained, the risks associated with untreated psychiatric illnesses during and after pregnancy have to be taken into consideration and necessary treatment should be provided. One of the best treatments for psychological problems during pregnancy, is psychotherapy. Not only is psychotherapy completely safe and healthy, for both the mom and the baby, it also works to find out the root cause of the depression and can help you to deal with feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness. It is advisable that before taking antidepressants, mood stabilizers or anti- anxiety agents, a health care provider is consulted. Since mental health and pregnancy are synonymous with the well-being of the mother and the child, women should formulate a treatment plan to manage this common disorder.
Of the wide spectrum of human emotions, grief is probably the most profound one. It’s very difficult to come to term with the loss or death of a loved one, and it may take days and even years to come out of the shock. One goes through a gamut of feelings which starts with denial – ‘This can’t be happening to me’. This is followed by guilt, anger and depression. Every individual goes through the 7 stages of grief till he/she finally accepts the loss. This journey can be emotionally stressful during which one is vulnerable to suffer from ailments and even fall prey to addictions like alcoholism and drug abuse. Hence it is very important to know how to deal with grief.
Ways to Deal with Grief
Accept the Truth: You can’t get your loved one back by denying the truth. Accept the loss. Talk to friends and family, a loved one who would understand what you are going through, or someone who has suffered the same loss. You would be amazed at how light and relieved you feel after having poured your heart out. Write a journal and then destroy it if you fear that someone might read it. It’s all about letting those feelings out. Keeping one’s emotions locked away will only accentuate and prolong the pain.
Feel the Pain: This might feel ridiculous at the stage when the pain of losing a loved one feels like a sharp stab in the chest. But believe me, feeling the pain will work in shortening the grieving period. The more you keep shoving away the pain the more it will torment you. Deal with it and it will end. Otherwise it will keep resurfacing throughout one’s life and interfere in relationship with others.
Adjust to the New Life: Learn to live in the environment in which the loved is no longer there. Visit the places that both of you used to go to. Spend time at home without the loved one around. Celebrate anniversaries. Face every aspect of life of which he/she was an integral part. The first time you do this it will be immensely painful but with time it will become easier to deal with the grief and loss.
Join a Support Group: When it comes to sharing one’s pain there is no one better to share pain with than one who has already been in the same situation. People often find it easier to relate to those who have suffered similar losses as they seem to understand their loss better. These people seem to have the right words and give the best advice on how to deal with grief and loss.
Turn to your Faith: Those who are religious would often find peace in spiritual activities like prayer, meditation and visits to the church. Talk to a clergyman or any other person in your religious community. Religion can provide great strength. Embrace the comfort that the mourning rituals your religion provides.
Take Care of Yourself: The process of grieving is an immensely stressful one. It is important to take care oneself. Eat well and exercise regularly. Meditation also gives the strength to deal with grief.
Approach a Counselor: In case the grief becomes too much to bear, call a mental health professional. These trained professionals have experience in grief counseling. They can help one to handle the emotional turmoil and overcome difficulties that hinder the healing process.
There is nothing wrong in being able to deal with the pain of losing a loved one. You cannot do any good to the one who is gone by grieving. However, by knowing how to deal with grief, you would be doing a big favor to those who are still around and love and care for you.
Mental health therapists are trained professionals who counsel individuals, families, and groups to treat mental and emotional disorders. These professionals help their patients deal with stress, substance abuse, addictions, low self-esteem and grief. Some of them even specialize as marriage counselors and career counselors. These professionals work with other mental health specialists like psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and school counselors in promoting emotional and mental health of their patients.
Mental Health Therapist Job Description
Mental health therapists work though observation, interviews, and tests, to get information about patients. Based on their observation they decide the right type of treatment for the patient. They listen and talk to their clients to understand their problems. These professionals counsel their clients and help them make informed decisions about themselves, their lives, and relationships. They help their patients to analyze their problems and make informed decisions about themselves that would help them deal with the problem. They make use of a number of therapeutic measures to address issues and carry out mental health evaluation and risk assessment of their patients as and when required. Mental health therapists monitor the treatment of their patients by maintaining accurate records and documents. These documents can be used by other professionals for further treatment of the individual. To carry out these functions, a mental health therapist can schedule client appointments with their clients, either at home or in the hospitals or at treatment facilities.
Becoming a Mental Health Therapist
Mental health therapy is a holistic approach that takes into account a person’s external and societal influences, while also considering his physical and emotional health. To fulfill mental health therapist requirements, one first needs to get a master’s degree in mental health counseling with a certification or license in a specialty like:
Educational, school or career counseling
Marriage and family counseling
Substance abuse counseling
Most of the master’s degrees are a two year program. One will also require to complete an internship during this period, working with people, and gaining hands-on experience in the field. For better career opportunities, a doctoral degree in mental health counseling or related field should be obtained.
Choosing the Right Mental Health Therapist
Mental health problems often stem from deeply personal and often painful episodes. Due to such a personal nature of the problem, it is very important that one is careful while looking for the right mental health therapist. The first step towards finding one is to rule out the possibility of a mental condition that may produce symptoms like loss of appetite or fatigue that may be mistaken to be caused due to depression. Refer to your physician first to confirm that the symptoms are not caused due to a medical problem. Getting referrals will be a great help in finding the best mental health therapist for you. Ask your friends, family members, or even co-workers for reference. Your physician could also give valuable information in this regard. After all this has been taken care of, finding out which mental health conditions are covered under your insurance would be a wise decision. While you consider a mental health therapist, be sure to check his certification. Also confirm if he has relevant experience in treating people with problems similar to yours. If you are satisfied with the findings, fix a date and appointment with the therapist.
According to a survey done by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2007 the median salary that mental health counselors earned was $36,000. The highest earnings are made by those who are self-employed and work in well established practices. It takes almost 5 years for mental health therapists to develop a private practice after getting a license.