Hello, friends! I apologize for being so off the blog-grid recently, but with looming graduation and transitioning into the Real World, I have been quite the busy bee. Your patience and support have been totally humbling and wonderful. Thank you, truly.

As you might be aware, May is Mental Health Awareness Month! In honor of this groovy time, I am going to highlight various mental illnesses or mental health issues to educate and to raise awareness. I am going to start off by discussing an illness that has a certain significance in my life: schizophrenia.

I will give you the lowdown on schizophrenia, but keep in mind that schizophrenia is an extremely complex and serious mental illness. If you think you or someone you know may be exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, see a mental health professional immediately.

What is schizophrenia?

According to NAMI, schizophrenia is an illness that “interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.” This definition is generic because schizophrenia is incredibly complex, but basically, it makes organizing thoughts or ideas very difficult and can often interfere with the perception of reality.

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

This is where it gets tricky—there is not one certain symptom that identifies schizophrenia, but there are a several different symptoms in three different categories: positive, negative, or cognitive.

Positive symptoms are symptoms that are ADDED to an individual’s personality. Some of these symptoms include hallucinations or delusions. There is a BIG difference in hallucinations and delusions, but it can be easy to confuse them. Hallucinations are things that a sufferer can physically hear or see, while delusions are beliefs or ideas that tend to materialize irrationally. For example, a hallucination would be hearing a voice that people around you do not hear, while a delusion would be a belief that your classmate is trying to steal from you.

Negative symptoms are things that are taken away from an individual’s personality. Some negative symptoms of schizophrenia are an inability to complete a sentence or thought, emotional flatness, or social withdrawal. Self-isolation is a huge indicator and aggravator of schizophrenia!

Cognitive symptoms affect a person’s thinking patterns. These symptoms make it difficult or impossible for someone to organize thoughts, complete tasks, or have insight. For example, a person may be unaware or in denial that they have an illness.

There are different TYPES of schizophrenia?! What??

Yes, you read that right. Despite what movies tell you, not all individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer from hallucinations or paranoid delusions! Here is a brief description of the different types of this illness:  

Paranoid—this is the one you aaaalways see in movies or crime television shows; sufferers have delusions that revolve around someone or something being “after” them. They feel suspicious most of the time.

Disorganized—sufferers of this type may not have delusions or hallucinations, but they have difficulty communicating and can seem to have incoherent speech or thought patterns.

Catatonic—sufferers of this can seem to be mute or unresponsive. Often they have “waxy” posture, where they will assume an unusual physical position for a period of time (example: silently standing with one leg outstretched for 5 minutes).

Residual—these individuals once suffered from delusions or hallucinations, but they don’t anymore! Yay! However, they still have difficulty engaging or participating in life or activities.

Schizoaffective disorder—this is kind of a two-for-one illness; sufferers show symptoms for both schizophrenia AND a mood disorder, like depression or anxiety.

What causes schizophrenia?

No one is really sure what exactly causes schizophrenia, but doctors are sure of one thing: the brain composition of people with this illness is different than the brain composition of someone without it. Professionals think that there is a genetic component and they think that it could have something to do with birth complications.

People that have schizophrenia usually begin showing symptoms in later teens or early twenties. Women usually show symptoms later in life than men do, but in all genders, the illness has usually taken full-form in the mid-to-late twenties and symptoms are usually not exhibited for the first time after age 45. Schizophrenia affects all genders equally and it affects 4-5 of 1,000 individuals.

How do you treat schizophrenia?

As I said before, schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness and it MUST be treated with medication and consistent psychiatric treatment. Even if this illness isn’t curable, it is totally treatable. Many people with schizophrenia have productive and enriching lives, but are frequently unable to work or live alone. Every person is different, though, with or without schizophrenia, so treatment varies depending on the individual!

Are people with this illness violent? Are they crazy?

First of all, the word crazy should literally NEVER be used to describe any person at all ever, especially someone suffering from mental illness. So, the answer to that question would be a resounding ABSOLUTELY NOT. Because schizophrenia often causes psychosis, or a loss of touch with reality, it can seem difficult to understand and very scary, but no, these people are not crazy.

I actually did my senior social work research on the likelihood of violence among people with schizophrenia and (spoiler alert) people with schizophrenia are human beings! When receiving proper treatment, they are not any more violent than any other human. If they are not receiving proper treatment or are using substances, they can become violent if their symptoms (specifically hallucinations or delusions) become aggravated. In another shocking revelation, other human beings can be violent when they use drugs or alcohol as well, sooo…

 Okay, I know this was a hefty read, but I hope it was helpful and educational to you! This illness is especially important to me because someone in my life that I love more than words can convey suffers from schizophrenia; it is frustrating to me to see the misunderstanding and stigmatization of this illness, so this is my attempt to diffuse some of that. People with schizophrenia are people; just as people with anxiety, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis are. They are not scary, they are not dangerous; they are human beings that have a brain complication that makes organizing their thoughts difficult. I hope you feel educated and aware and that this was a great way to start off Mental Health Awareness Month!

In other news: Punk Talks is on Facebook! Check out the Punk Talks page! If you are a new follower, find me on Twitter, too! If you believe in what I am doing, I would be so grateful if you would consider donating to my cause to help me continue helping the scene. You can click on the Donate button on my dash or simply go here! 

As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need someone to talk to. You don’t have to be sad. punktalks(at)gmail(dot)com.

<3 Sheridan

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

As some of you might be aware, May is Mental Health Awareness Month! This is a totally wonderful way to get the ball rolling on some discussion about illnesses that we (or our loved ones) may be affected by or suffering from. I have done a spotlight on schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, but was recently approached about an illness that does not get much attention: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD

It is no secret that the topic of sexual assault has been at the forefront of conversation within our community over the last several weeks; while this is an entirely different issue, understanding PTSD is a wonderful way that we can begin to help supporting the survivors of assault. So, let’s talk PTSD. Here are the basics:

PTSD is characterized by a prolonged period of a “fight or flight” response that is typical of human nature when in a fearful situation. Someone suffering with PTSD will experience this response long after the danger has ended or at a time when danger is not actually present.

PTSD is best known for its “flashbacks,” or a triggering event that causes sufferers to re-live the traumatic event. A common example of this is a loud, gun-shot type of noise causing a post-war veteran to believe they are back in a combat zone. Other symptoms of PTSD include avoiding certain places or people, feeling unreasonably jittery or tense, or having trouble sleeping. Children with PTSD can experience inappropriate bedwetting, intense clinging to an adult, or acting out the event.

Women are, historically, more susceptible to developing PTSD than men, but there is some research that suggests that this condition may run in families. However, the individuals that are most at-risk for developing this disorder are those who have survived an extremely traumatic event. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will suffer from symptoms of PTSD, but they are at a higher risk than those who have not. The best method of treatment for this condition is psychotherapy; medication can be helpful for this condition, but sitting down with a qualified mental health professional is the most effective way to manage symptoms of PTSD.

If you or someone you know if experiencing post-traumatic stress, seek help from a qualified mental health professional! If you are unaware of resources in your area, I can do my best to help you identify some!

As always, for any questions, comments, or if you need help managing negative emotions, do not hesitate to get in touch: punktalks(at)gmail(dot)com.


Anxiety Disorders

Hello sweet friends! As you (hopefully) (probably) know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I have decided to pay homage to this very awesome and important month by highlighting various mental illnesses for some good ole fashion education and awareness. You can read the first installment about schizophreniahere.

Today, I am gonna be spittin’ facts about something that really affects me, lots of other people, and probably some of you! Anxiety disorders are the MOST COMMON mental illnesses and they affect around 40 million Americans. While this number can seem scary and overwhelming, this statistic should give you hope because that means that you are not alone. Of those 40 million, only about 1/3 seek treatment, but the good news is that anxiety disorders are super duper treatable!

So, what constitutes anxiety? What is the difference between being “a worrier” and suffering from anxiety? Everyday anxieties are common stressors that we manage effectively, even though they are annoying; think bills, school, relationships, etc. Anxiety disorders are symptoms of stress that interfere with your ability to live your life; think an inability to leave the house for fear of embarrassment, a constant and unceasing fear of an object or situation, etc.

There are a few different types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, separation anxiety, and other specific phobias. 

If you think that you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, please seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional. If you don’t know how to find one in your area, let me know! I will help you! If you are experiencing everyday anxiety and need help coping with that, get in touch! We can chat about some ways to help alleviate stress and practice self-care. Email me at punktalks(at)gmail(dot)com.

Remember! You can follow Punk Talks on Twitter and Facebook. If you believe in this project and want to help me continue trying to make the scene a happier place, you can donate here!

Lastly, a pretty cool thing is happening tomorrow that I think you will like lots, so keep your eyes peeled!

<3 Sheridan.