Alison

The Debilitating Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a tragic disease that can rip loved ones away from their familiarity with people and things closest to them. Everyone suffers when someone they love is diagnosed. Alzheimer’s is an age-related brain disease in which an individual experiences progressive memory loss. Known as one of the most common forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is associated with loss of functioning in daily activities and occupational domains.

Understanding the Disease

Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that causes changes to the brain resulting in memory loss, impaired judgement and reasoning skills, difficulty with self-care, getting lost in familiar surroundings, spatial and visual relationship problems, anxiety and impulsive behavior, and paranoia and confusion. This can be terrifying when a loved one is experiencing these kinds of symptoms. We tend to want answers and to be able to make sense of what is happening to the people we love, when nothing makes sense about their behaviors or actions.

Understanding some of the science behind the changes in the brain can help ease frustrations tremendously for both patients and caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia – a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.

There is hope and help

Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations. Younger people can be affected by Alzheimer’s, but it is less common. Some early signs to watch out for with loved ones include getting lost in familiar places, trouble handling money or bills, difficulty [...]

The COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health

By now, we are all well aware of the physical symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for: loss of taste and smell, sore throat and congestion, dry cough. We have adapted to guidelines to keep the community as safe and healthy as possible. October is depression and mental health awareness month, so what better time to reflect on the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental wellbeing.

Unprecedented Times

We have been living in pandemic times for over a year and a half in the United States, and many changed facets of life are now simply viewed as the “new normal”. However, it is important to recognize that the unprecedented changes we’ve experienced have taken a toll on our society in more ways than one. Unemployment rates skyrocketed, small businesses struggled to stay afloat, and families have tried to juggle remote school and work under one roof. Frontline workers have put their own health at risk to tend to those with severe cases of COVID, and many are fearful of contracting COVID or spreading it to their most vulnerable loved ones. As a result of these tumultuous times, the nation is experiencing a mental health crisis that should not be ignored.

The Mental Health Crisis

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2 in 5 Americans reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus. Some are having trouble eating or sleeping, and feelings of loneliness and isolation brought on by quarantining and social distancing have led to an increase in depression and anxiety among the population, and no demographic is exempt from these effects. Stress, anxiety, and grief surrounding the uncertainty of the times has led [...]

The 3 Phases of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a common neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink in size and brain cells to die. It is a progressive brain disorder, meaning that it slowly gets worse as time goes on. Currently, there is no known cause or cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatment options available to patients to slow the progression of the disease. There are three stages of Alzheimer’s: mild, moderate, and severe. Read on to learn about the key differences among each phase of this disease.

Stage 1: Early-Stage Alzheimer’s

An individual with mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s can function independently and go about their everyday life with little interruption or assistance. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s in this stage may not be widely apparent to loved ones at this point in the disease. The main symptom of mild Alzheimer’s disease is memory lapse, which can include misplacing a valuable item, difficulty planning or organizing, or struggling to come up with the right word in a conversation.

Stage 2: Middle-Stage Alzheimer’s

Once an individual progresses into moderate or middle-stage Alzheimer’s, they require a higher level of care. Typically, stage 2 is the longest phase of Alzheimer’s and can last for several years. Individuals may struggle to perform some everyday tasks without the assistance of a caretaker and symptoms become more noticeable to others. As the brain continues to deteriorate, noticeable personality changes may occur. For example, a moderate Alzheimer’s patient may become moody, withdrawn, suspicious, or compulsive. Forgetfulness becomes more apparent as well; it may be difficult to recall events, what day it is, and personal history.

Stage 3: End-Stage Alzheimer’s

Stage 3 Alzheimer’s is characterized by symptoms so severe that an individual loses the ability to actively participate with the [...]

The Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

Nearly everyone has experienced the pain of pesky headache at some point in time. It can be a dull, aching pain focused in one area, or a sensation of pressure around the entire head. Headaches can occur due to stress, dehydration, or other common issues, but the good news is that the pain of a headache is typically manageable and short-lived. A migraine, however, is a debilitating condition that over 36 million Americans experience. Do you know the difference between the two conditions?

Symptoms

A migraine presents itself much more aggressively than a headache. The pain of a migraine typically usually just one side of the head, and those who suffer from migraines often describe the condition as a unrelenting, throbbing pain. Migraines don’t just affect the head, either; a migraine episode may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, pain behind the eye or ear, sensitivity to light and sound, and even noticeable changes in vision. These changes in vision can ranging from seeing spots or flashing lights to temporary vision loss. The symptoms associated with a migraine can last for several days and be so severe that they disrupt everyday tasks, whereas a headache is typically just a nuisance that is dealt with while going about the day’s activities and goes away after a few hours.

Treatment

Over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can usually take care of a headache in no time for most individuals, but unfortunately, migraines don’t usually go away so easily.  If over-the-counter medications don’t provide relief, prescription drugs aimed at either prevention or treatment may help and are often recommended by health professionals. Home remedies may provide some relief, too, such as laying down in a dark room, maintaining proper hydration, and [...]

OCD Defined: How to Spot OCD Symptoms

Recognizing and understanding the signs and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are the first steps to helping a loved one living with this mental disorder. OCD often receives the cliché of maintaining cleanliness for fear of contamination. Whereas this may be a relevant symptom, there is a lot more that goes into it. At its core, OCD is the obsessive fear of the unknown and compulsive actions are a way to justify control over the unknown, mentally.

Obsessions: Individuals living with OCD commonly have unrelenting obsessive thoughts and behaviors that creep into the mind and are difficult to get rid of. Unwanted and unrelenting mental images or urges are signs of compulsive thoughts that can interfere with daily life and cause anxiety to the individual. These obsessions can be particular to the person living with this illness, but there are many that overlap from patient to patient.

Compulsions: Control is a powerful trait of humanity. To be in control of one’s behaviors, actions, and outcomes creates a peace of mind for those that may feel threatened otherwise. Historically, control is either the goal of the action or the main piece to reach the goal. As aforementioned, people living with OCD live in a constant state of mind that they are not in control. Compulsions are the action of mentally maintaining control. Without this perceived control, the obsessions may take hold in a larger and more significant way.

Obsessions and compulsions can be minor, evolve to harmful and life-threatening situations, and everything in between. Here is a small list of common obsessions along with the compulsions that often overlap with people diagnosed with OCD:

O: Fear of contamination

C: Repetitive washing, cleaning, and sanitizing.

O: Being unsure if [...]

The Effects Of Depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) can be debilitating and have devastating affects if not properly treated. Melancholy and disinterest in daily life are two red flags that may lead to further evaluation by a medical professional. Recognition of the signs of symptoms of depression could help you or a loved one and is crucial to understanding and managing this disorder.

Everyone has bad days here and there, but once it becomes a struggle to get out of bed, or perform simple tasks, it could be a sign of a much bigger problem. Mental exhaustion can have a significant effect on the body. For instance, people living with depression tend to lack energy, are resistant to take part in activities with others, are sluggish, and may subsequently lack motivation to seek help. These physical effects may stem from the feelings of worthlessness or guilt and depleted mental energy. MDD patients that don’t want to face the day ahead due to these feelings may turn to hiding from the world as a temporary solution.

Often, holidays can enhance the feelings of loneliness for people living with depression. Holidays, such as the 4th of July include gatherings of friends, family, and loved ones. During these times, depressed individuals can often withdraw from social interaction and feel enhanced feelings of low self-esteem. A strong support system and mindfulness from loved ones can provide encouragement and assistance for individuals living with depression.

If this sounds like you or a loved one, it is important to contact a medical professional to receive the treatment that may be right for you.

 

Pharmasite Research in Pikesville, MD is enrolling people diagnosed with MDD for a clinical research investigational treatment. Sign up and see if this clinical research [...]

The Relationship Between Athletes and Mental Illness

Athletes are often perceived as people with higher self-esteem who are immune from mental health issues due to their accomplishments and status. Often, people tend to view their sports heroes, role models, or idols as superhuman. The truth is that athletes are as human as anyone else and are just as susceptible to mental illness. Depression in athletes is so prevalent that research studies have been conducted to determine just how many athletes suffer from mental health conditions and substance and alcohol abuse. In 2016, ‘Psychology Today’ published a study that found 6.3% of collegiate athletes met the threshold for clinical depression[1]. On the professional end of sports, a study from the ‘British Journal of Sports Medicine’ found that 19% of elite athletes had alcohol abuse problems and 34% of current elite athletes suffer from anxiety and depression[2]. So why are athletes so susceptible to mental illness?

Stress and Failure

Life, preparation, and expectations can put a significant strain on any person within the boundaries of a job, a school, or even parenthood. The same concept can be applied to athletes. Often, when an athlete sets their goals to accomplish great and spectacular feats it comes with a great deal of stress to perform at the highest possible level. Aside from the personal expectations, these expectations can also be set by coaches, parents, family, friends, teammates, and fans. Olympic gold medalist and icon Michael Phelps has admitted to alcoholism, loss of identity, and suicidal ideation all due to the pressures of being one of the most regarded elite athletes. In his HBO Sports documentary, “The Weight of Gold” Phelps speaks in depth about his battles with these mental health issues. In the documentary, he vocalizes [...]

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease and its Effects

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia and a common disease that affected an estimated 5.8 million Americans 65 years and older in 2020[1]. This disease can also take a large toll on the patient’s loved ones. Why is this? Alzheimer’s causes an individual to forget aspects of their life, extending to the point at which they may have no recognition of their loved ones. The patient may no longer recognize their close loved ones visiting them, even though they may have known them for years. Although this devastating effect of Alzheimer’s disease may be the most known symptom, there are many others that people may not know about. Follow along as we take a look at the other symptoms to help you or a loved one understand a more in-depth view of Alzheimer’s.

Memory Loss: As aforementioned, memory loss can have a damaging effect on personal relationships. This is not the only troubling effect from the loss of memory. Memory loss may cause crucial mistakes in a patient’s life. Examples may include misplacing money or important objects, trouble keeping up with bills and other tasks that were once simple and routine, getting lost in public, and trouble remembering how to do work, which may lead to termination.

Dwindling Attention Span: People living with Alzheimer’s disease can often find it difficult to pay attention. Unintentional disruption and lack of attentiveness may occur in activities such as reading books or magazines, watching television shows and movies, or paying attention to someone in a conversation. Not being able to concentrate or carry out once basic enjoyments may lead to a patient experiencing frustration and a potential outburst of anger.

Incontinence and Lack of Bodily Control: Bodily functions may be [...]

Know the Options for PTSD Treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that takes an exhaustive toll on the those living with it.  The disorder begins when trauma from a traumatic event manifests in the form of anxiety, triggers, and intrusive memories or flashbacks. Traumatic events can include but are not limited to serious incidents such as a car accident, exposure to a traumatic event, loss of a loved one, physical assault, childhood or domestic abuse, sexual assault or rape, and torture. Military soldiers are especially prone to PTSD, as violence from war can be deeply traumatic for those involved. PTSD can begin within one month of the event.

Treatment for people living with PTSD exists in multiple forms. Below is a list of PTSD treatment options and tips that may help you or a loved one.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This form of therapy, also known as CBT, involves a therapist who can assist with processing the traumatic event. Often, PTSD symptoms can affect how the individual handles adverse events and can diminish their self-confidence or sense of control. At its core, CBT aims to help the person living with PTSD regain control of their life.
Medications: A person living with PTSD may want to contact their doctor about medication options. SSRIs and SNRIs are common PTSD and antidepressant medications that are used to increase the serotonin level of the patient. Serotonin can often fight fear and anxiety as the hormone plays a large role in stabilizing mood, happiness, and the feeling of well-being. When considering medication, it is important to talk to your doctor or medical professional to see what medications may be right for you.
Coping Mechanisms to Use and Avoid:

Use: If [...]

Helping A Child Treat Their Migraines

Migraines can be painful for at any age – from adolescence to adulthood. Migraines are intense headaches that can create a throbbing on one side of the head. These debilitating, throbbing pains can also come with a variety of other symptoms, from nausea and vomiting, to visual and hearing impairments, and even a numbness of the face.

Migraines are so prevalent in children and teenagers that about 10% of children live with migraines and just over a quarter of the population of teenagers between the ages of 15-19 years old[1] live with them as well. Seeing a child suffer can be hard. How can you help your child in need? Below are a few ways to help lessen the impact that migraines may have on your child.

If applicable, utilize a 504 plan. A 504 plan ensures a student has the proper resources to adapt to any medical needs necessary. These resources can include test taking in a quiet space, changes to instruction, and changes to how a curriculum is presented to the student. These optional resources for the student or child in your life may provide a safety net in case a migraine occurs.
Dehydration can play a major factor for triggering migraines. Each child should have the proper amount of water intake relative to their age. Children 4 – 8 years old should maintain an intake around 5 cups of water daily, whereas children 9 years old and older should maintain a daily intake of 7 – 8 cups of water.
Taking note of your child’s stress levels can help monitor migraines triggered by stress. Stress can manifest in many ways. Sports, puberty, and school are some of many contributing factors [...]