Bell Let's Talk day is a wonderful way to put Mental Health in the spotlight.
I am very passionate about Mental Health from a holistic standpoint.
I believe in education, options, awareness, and recovery. I have chosen to focus my practice on Mental Health after experiencing the pain it brings myself. Furthermore, the field is overdue for a transformation.
Integrative or Holistic Psychiatry is finally beginning to bridge the gap in Mental Health care. The gap that leaves people in a medication induced state without resolving deeper issues or factors which have contributed to their mental illness; the gap that has not addressed the ever increasing rates of mental health illness; the gap that has not addressed the soaring rates of long-term disability as a result of mental illness; the gap the misses the body-mind connection, that misses the whole person, the whole picture.
For decades, we have been approaching mental illness from the standpoint of a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, what is often overlooked and swept under the rug is the fact that these are really only "theories". This means that they have not been proven to be the sole cause of mental illness, yet physicians and the public are told that it is fact. For example, depression, one of the largest causes of mental illness and disability world wide, is treated most commonly with a drug called an "SSRI" - A Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that has roles in mood regulation.
It has long been hypothesized that serotonin, or lack of serotonin, is the cause of depression.
So, in order to treat depression, one takes a medication that allows serotonin to remain active in the brain longer, thus resolving the concern.
It would really be great if that were the case. It would be wonderful. However, our brains are plastic, and our bodies are homeostatic. This means two things:
- The brain changes itself
- The brain likes balance
So when you give the brain a chemical, that stops it from taking up a neurotransmitter at the rate/speed it likes - the brain compensates. It finds a way to re-balance.
This means, that over time, the drugs become less effective, it means people suffer from side effects of the drugs when the dose continues to increase over the years, and it means that the brain is forced to change in a way that actually makes it harder for us to have naturally balanced moods and brain chemistry.
What's even worse, is that long term outcomes and rates of recovery have continued to decline over the decades of psychiatric medication use. For example, from Robert Whitaker's "Anatomy of an Epidemic" he writes the following:
"A century ago, fewer than two people per 1,000 were considered to be “disabled” by mental illness and in need of hospitalization. By 1955, that number had jumped to 3 .38 people per 1,000, and during the past 50 years, a period when psychiatric drugs have been the cornerstone of care, the disability rate has climbed steadily, and has now reached around 20 people per 1,000.
Psychiatric drugs perturb normal neurotransmitter function, and while that perturbation may curb symptoms over a short term, over the long run it increases the likelihood that a person will become chronically ill, or ill with new and more severe symptoms".
To demonstrate this, with some figures:
- Pre-drug era: 50% of people hospitalized for their first episode of manic-depressive illness [bipolar disorder] were free of symptoms long term, with only 15-20% becoming chronically ill, and 75-90% had no cognitive decline long term
-Today, bipolar patients suffer with more episodes of mania and depression, they are more likely to be rapid cyclers, with only 33-40% having regular employment. Many also show long term cognitive impairment.
The National Institute of Mental Health's Carlos Zarate states: “In the era prior to pharmacotherapy, poor outcome in mania was considered a relatively rare occurrence. However, modern outcome studies have found that a majority of bipolar patients evidence high rates of functional impairment.”
This is why we need alternatives, why we need to look at root cause, and why we need to treat the whole person. The drug based model can be life saving, help with stabilizing acute symptoms, and be extremely powerful for emergency settings and initial treatment - but it just is not addressing long term concerns, or helping people recovery. Evidence suggests that if anything, the drugs often worsen outcomes.
So what does the alternative/holistic/integrative approach look like?
It understands that we are the sum of our biological-psychological-social-spiritual realms, and that, in order to really address mental health concerns, acknowledging these other areas is incredibly important!
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health concern, let's talk about whether a more holistic approach could benefit you!
Yours in health and happiness,
Adapted from Christine Northrup's article: http://www.drnorthrup.com/wisdom-of-menstrual-cycle/
While this may sound like some kind of riddle, or the beginning of a one-liner joke, the connection between these three interact is actually quite fascinating!
Being a full moon last night, I thought this might be particularly interesting for those of you who like to think of the body in more holistic terms!
Let’s start from the beginning.
The first day of menses marks the first day of a new cycle. Often, if your body is in sync, this can also be the time of the “New Moon”. It’s a new beginning, and it is all about movement and flow. In Chinese Medicine, this represents a very “Yang” time – energies improve, creativity can blossom, physical movement and activity often increases, and there is the physical movement of fluids from the body. In Chinese Medicine, you want to promote this flow of qi and blood, and “stagnation” of either can lead to pain, breast tenderness, anxiety, anger.
Before referencing Chinese Medicine too much, let’s look at the basic qualities of yin versus yang:
Yin and yang, while opposite in nature, cannot exist without the other. They flow back and forth. Our menstrual cycles follow a this flow of hormones back and forth which leads to distinct physical, mental, and emotional changes.
Back to the cycle:
Before ovulation occurs, which is when conception can follow, many women find they’re more outgoing, connected with the outside world, energetic, “yang”. At this time however, yin is beginning to develop in preparation for possible conception.
Mid-cycle, when ovulation occurs, receptive nature can begin to take-over, libidos may rise, and a transition begins to occur.
Following ovulation is often a time, yang is at it’s “peak”. Again, if cycles are in tune with the moon, this will be around the time of a Full Moon. Interestingly, it’s been shown that rates of conception, fertility cycle, and menstrual cycles are all correlated with light, the moon, and other environmental signals. Peak rates of conception tend to correspond with the full moon as well! Around the same time, women’s temperatures begin to rise [Basal Body Temperature = BBT, is often a marker used for fertility]. Yin, which has been building through the cycle starts to dominant and women may feel this is time for more introversion and reflection, emotions may run higher. Yin is all about building, nurturing, nesting. Women, like the moon, can experience a “period of darkness”, where the energies and mood may lessen temporarily. In many cultures this is very well understood, accepted, and supported. However, in our less feminine North American cultures, we tend to view many signs of Womanhood as innately “bad” whether it’s moodiness, PMS issues and missed work, the marketing and promotion of the menstrual cycle being an “inconvenience” to be dealt with rather than celebrated as a marker of fertility.
However, listening to our bodies natural cycles may allow us some good insight into how we should be taking care of ourselves, and also understanding that unlike our male counterparts, the cyclical nature of our cycles, emotions, and bodies is something to support, not condone.
As Christine Northrup, a holistic MD who this post was inspired by, states:
“The luteal phase, from ovulation until the onset of menstruation, is when women are most in tune with their inner knowing and with what isn’t working in their lives”.
She also writes that premenstrually,
“the veil between the worlds of the seen and unseen, the conscious and unconscious, is much thinner”, making it an even more powerful time for reflection on life.
So.. yin, yang, the moon? What does all this mean, how do we make sense of this and use it to our advantage?
If you suffer from:
Please feel free to book an appointment or come in for a free consult on how Natural Medicines work for women's health!
Thanks for reading!
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