There’s a line that states:
“Cognitive-behavioral therapist teach that when our brains are healthy, it is our thinking that causes us to feel and act the way we do.”
What are the steps that take place in diagnosing when a brain is healthy and when it is not?
Through the completion of a biopsychosocial assessment that involves a series of questions related to various areas of a person’s life/situation/circumstances, a diagnosis of a mental health condition may be formulated. The diagnosis given is based on criteria that indicates a presence of maladaptive functioning over a certain period of time for this individual. Based on certain criteria (duration, frequency, types of symptoms, impact on functioning) paired with clinical knowledge and judgement, I can determine when a brain is healthy and when it is not.
When a brain isn’t healthy, this person may have difficulties with or experience the following: irregular sleep patterns (i.e. decreased need for sleep[-3 hours over a period of days], or increased sleep throughout the day), sleep disturbances (i.e. nightmares, awakened with intense panic, sweating), lack of appetite/overeating, excessive worry/fear, overthinking, lack of social contact/isolation, avoidance (emotionally, or of a particular setting or social situation), cognitive distortions (i.e. catastrophic thinking/magnification thoughts of the worse happening), persistent mood disturbances (depressed, anxious, irritability), seeing or hearing things that others do not (hallucinations), perceptions or ideas believed to be true when they are not (delusions), thoughts of harming oneself/others, continuous inability to maintain employment or housing, and self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. These are just some effects but the list certainly continues.
When a brain is healthy, this person is able to regulate their emotions, consistently implement effective coping skills (i.e. assertive communication, journaling, listening to music), complete activities of daily living, maintain stable housing, have job stability, control sleeping patterns, create eating patterns with a consistent appetite (i.e. 2-3 meals daily), concentrate and focus on desired tasks, separate perceptions and thoughts within reality, engage socially, nurture healthy relationships, and exhibit self-control (i.e. thoughts, behaviors).This person has personal interests and a desire to live.… Again, these are just some effects as the list continues.
One may ask, “How can I really know if I am living a healthy life, when I’m not doing well?” Is my “normal” really considered “normal”? How long should I deal with this? When is it time to seek help? In order to answer the questions, we must first understand what a healthy brain looks like in comparison to an unhealthy one.
A healthy brain has a consistent pattern of being able to reasonably adjust and adapt to changing circumstances over a period of time. But what does that mean? It means possessing the ability to do the following:
• fall and stay asleep without any disturbances (i.e. excessive thinking, nightmares)
• control feelings of sadness, anger, worry, stress, etc.
• develop and maintain relationships
• be comfortable in social settings
• avoid excessive substance use
• maintain responsibilities (i.e. employment, living arrangements, school/grades)
• value one’s own life and self-worth
• live within reality
Can you relate? Are you having difficulties with some of the things mentioned above? Where do you start?
• Try to maintain a balanced diet and consistent appetite (2-3 meals daily, including wholesome foods i.e. fruits, vegetables, protein)
• Get adequate rest with 6-8 hours of daily sleep
• Say “no” and set boundaries with others to limit excessive activities
(helps from developing feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, being overwhelmed, etc.)
• Designate time each week to spend with significant others (i.e family, friends)
• Have at least one short-term personal goal, with a plan to complete it within 30 days
• Practice assertive (direct, open, honest, without offense) communication
• Stick to a schedule/routine
• Create a positive affirmation to recite daily
If you begin to feel overwhelmed with managing any of the suggested activities please feel free to reach out to me. I’m always here to help.