Hastings, Bexhill, Icklesham, Fairlight, Winchelsea, St Leonards, Robertsbridge, Brede, Guestling.

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Where do local people turn to for counselling or psychotherapy?

We are in a time when mental health is increasingly recognised as one of the most debilitating illnesses that causes immense distress to many people

At a recent meeting the question of how a person would go about locating a counselling therapist was raised? For many individuals it is such huge step to take, firstly to recognise that there is a problem, then to take steps actively seek help. But where should a person begin?

It is estimated that of those individuals who approach their GP, relatively few actually receive counselling. Many people express dismay at having to wait for lengthy periods only to be rationed into a few sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy.

There is generally a waiting list for over six months to see an NHS psychologist. This is unhelpful as the problem is here-and-now. Sussex counselling can provide immediate access to therapeutic intervention, helping people find strategies to reduce their symptoms in the present, not some time in the distant future

 

East Sussex counselling are currently receiving clients from, Hastings, Bexhill, Icklesham, Fairlight, Winchelsea, St Leonards, Robertsbridge, Brede, Guestling.

Please contact to discuss your situation

Why Talk to a Therapist?

menWhy indeed? What’s so different from speaking with a friend?

Why should a person pay for someone else to listen?

Friends and relatives may certainly be of help and support in many instances and their contribution should never be undervalued. However the unique advantage a therapist has over these close relationships is their ability to remain impartial and objective. Therapists have undergone many years of interpersonal training, personal therapy and reflection that has enabling effects on allowing them to walk alongside the client during painful journey while not becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of the content.

Many of our friends and relatives are too close, knowing something very deep and personal may change the nature of the relationship,

Furthermore close people may have some vested interest in the material of the disclosing party and unintentionally end up exacerbating the issue(s).

Relationships with family members or friends often rely on how each person perceives the other. Revealing something that was hitherto unknown can inadvertently change the nature of a relationship.

A therapist can offer a safe space for an individual to try out and practice saying what they feel they need to reveal, at the client’s pace and only what the client feels is necessary.

A therapist is completely non-judgemental and intuitively knows what is necessary to reflect back to the client and may suggest alternative perspectives or strategies to consider.

An experienced therapist will have a wide range of therapeutic knowledge and a rich palate of world experiences to draw upon and provide for their client.

There is some further useful information contained in this article

 

Mental illness mostly caused by life events not genetics, argue psychologists

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When a third of all G.P. surgery consultations relate to mental health problems and a half of all adults experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives why is it that the MRC (Medical Health Council) allocate only 3% of their annual research budget on mental health research? Furthermore of this 3% the greatest slice of the pie is spent on genetics and neuroscience.

This seems misappropriation as it is widely recognised that the origins of the majority of mental health problems lie in complex societal factors such as relationships, self perception, employment, resource insecurity to mention a few, rather than biological factors.

In this article published in the Telegraph, 

So it would seem that money goes into machines and not into understanding interpersonal factors

 

Suppressing traumatic memories can cause amnesia, research suggests

It has long been understood in the world of psychotherapy that traumatic experience frequently leads to suppression of unwanted memories. These unwanted memories become locked away in a kind of time capsule, blocked from consciousness these traumatic experiences continue to exist in a person’s subconscious; simultaneously many emotional states or responses associated with the events also become locked into this time capsule. These unconscious processes that continue to exert themselves on individuals perceptions of life and influence everyday actions. Now there is neurological research to corroborate these findings. Suppressing bad memories from the past can block memory formation in the here and now, research suggests. The following study could help explain why those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological conditions often experience difficulty in remembering recent events.

A recent study (you can read the full article here; Justin C. Hulbert, Richard N. Henson & Michael C. Anderson) “Inducing amnesia through systemic suppression”, explores how forgetting past incidents by suppressing  recollections can create a “virtual lesion” in the brain that casts an “amnesiac shadow” over the formation of new memories. “If you are motivated to try to prevent yourself from reliving a flashback of that initial trauma, anything that you experience around the period of time of suppression tends to get sucked up into this black hole as well,” Dr Justin Hulbert

Decades of research on memory formation show that the hippocampus is essential for constructing new episodic memories. Hippocampal damage irreversibly harms people’s ability to store new memories, causing profound amnesia for life’s events

Reversibly disturbing the hippocampus through optogenetic, electrical and pharmacological interventions temporarily disrupts memory formation. Research indicates that people often downregulate hippocampal activity through cognitive control when they are reminded of an unwelcome event and try to stop retrieval.

Together, these findings imply a striking possibility: if stopping (suppressing) episodic retrieval reduces hippocampal activity, this may broadly disturb all hippocampal functions, including—critically—processes necessary to form and retain new, stable memories.

Retrieval suppression may, in essence, induce a transient ‘virtual lesion’, leaving in its wake, an amnesic shadow for any experiences—whether related or not to the memory being suppressed—that simply have the misfortune of happening near in time to efforts to forget.

Professor Chris Brewin, an expert in PTSD from University College, London, who was not involved in the study.

“I think it makes perfect sense because we know that people with a wide range of psychological problems have difficulties with their everyday memories for ordinary events,” “Potentially this could account for the memory deficits we find in depression and other disorders too.”  (Guardian 15 March 2016)

Dangers of Meditation

Meditation is great for our well being – but does it carry any dangers?

Article by Itai Ivtzan Ph.D.    Psychology Today 11 March 2016 

In this article Itai Ivtzan argues there could be potential risks to certain individuals, These include:

  • Facing dormant or buried emotions. One profound  experience  encountered during meditation is the interaction with yourself. This can often get people in touch with buried and suppressed emotions for which they are not prepared.
  • Frustration at not achieving the experience which is hoped for. There are many claims of elaborate transcendence in popular culture which can be unrealistic or un-achievable.
  • Being with the wrong practitioner or not in the ‘right’ type of practice.  There are many approaches to meditation, with many claiming that there is only one effective way to meditate. Such claims are just restrictive. Practising a wrong meditation technique or with the wrong practitioner could be a harmful experience for a person
  • Meditation is not a replacement for therapy. If someone is facing difficulties and seeking help, meditation might not offer the support they are hoping for. It might be that they need to see a therapist to feel heard and understood.
  • Not being able supply enough self-compassion . Engagement with meditation can present uncomfortable feelings and sensations within. Practice requires an obligation towards ourselves to be self-compassionate. A peril lies here in pushing too far, too much, beyond the capacity of our heart and soul, at that given moment.
  • Dangers of non-attachment. Non-attachment is one of the building blocks of meditation. It is the skill of taking a step back from whatever happens, or whatever we feel, acknowledging that it is transient, and accepting that it will soon change and transform. However,  such non-attachment does not mean avoiding, repressing or disregarding anything. We should not detach ourselves from the people and activities we love and enjoy, nor should we become passive or inactive.

Talking therapies can be better than pills, but you have to find the right one

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Talking therapies can be seen as a viable alternative to the over-medicalisation of mental health conditions. However, if something has real effectiveness, a transformative power to change life, it also has the ability to make things worse if it is misapplied, the wrong treatment or  done incorrectly.

Letting someone poke around inside your car or laptop is likely to do more harm than good unless the it’s done by someone who is properly qualified to fix it; why shouldn’t the same be applied to a distressed mind?

AdEPT    Is an organisation commited to understanding and Preventing the Adverse Effects of Psychological Therapies. They have published a very useful site promoting and supporting safe therapy for both therapists and clients click the link for more details “supporting safe therapy”

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Lesser known conditions that are ‘just as serious’ as anorexia and bulimia

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Independent 23rd Feb 2016: Kashmira Gander

 

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are dealing with eating disorders, and attempting to cope with skewed attitudes towards food and obsessive behaviours. This article brings into focus several other types of eating disorders which are equally as serious

Anorexia nervosa, where a person restricts their food and exercises excessively, and bulimia, where a food is binged on and purged, are among the most commonly known disorders. However many people display symptoms present in more than one disorder, Mary George, a spokeswoman for eating disorder charity Beat told The Independent.

She stressed that such conditions can be “just as serious” and can impact people’s lives, as well as those of their families, carers and communities.

She added that a report published by Beat in 2015 found that nearly 50 per cent of those affected have binge eating disorder.

Ms George highlighted that those who seek help early have a 33 per cent relapse rate compared with 63 per cent who sought help later.

“A change in behaviour, withdrawing from social situations, avoiding mealtimes are all possible signs of the illnesses,” she said, urging anyone concerned that they have an eating disorder to seek help as soon as possible from their GP. Further information can be found on the Beat website.

Nia Charpentier from Rethink Mental Illness said: “Eating disorders are complex and there are many different kinds, but what they all have in common is an unhealthy relationship with food and weight. It’s important to remember that anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age, gender, cultural or racial background.”

To mark Eating Disorder Awareness week, here are some lesser known eating disorders and conditions linked to obsession and body image.

Binge eating disorder

This condition is characterised by eating a large quantity of food over a short period of time on a regular basis.

Those dealing with binge-eating disorder are known to buy foods especially for bingeing episodes, according to the NHS.

In rare cases, those with the condition report losing control over what they eat and experiencing a state of confusion where they do not remember what they consumed.

Feelings of guilt associated with over-eating and gorging in private to avoid embarrassment are also apparent.

Such behaviour interferes with the body’s blood sugar regulation, leading to cravings.

Muscle dysmorphic disorder

The form of body dysmophic disorder linked to anxiety is also known as “megarexia” or “bigorexia”.

Mainly affecting men, it involves a person becoming fixated with becoming muscular, sculpting a lean physique, and striving for a particular shape.

In a reverse of the symptoms of anorexia, those with the condition believe their bodies are small despite being large and muscular.

Those with the condition spend an excessive amount of time weightlifting with the aim of building muscle, even when injured, and are overly pre-occupied with working out.

They are also obsessed by food, and become fixated with special diets and supplements.

Compulsively comparing physique with others and mood swings are also signs, according to the Body Dysmorphia Disorder Foundation.

Orthorexia

Not a medically recognised disorder, orthorexia has been gaining traction as “clean eating” and attending the gym have become more fashionable.  Coined in 1997 by Dr Steven Bratman, the term describes an obsession with healthy eating and “disease disguised as virute”. Ms George of Beat told The Independent last year that such actions resemble obessive compulsive disorder, such as being fixated on eating “pure” foods, and avoiding contamination with “impure” foods. The heightened awareness of such behaviours are linked to the “huge focus on healthy diet and lifestyle,” said Ms George.

Pica

Eating items that aren’t food and have no nutritional value for at least a month is the main sign that a person has pica.

Sometimes triggered by a lack of nutrients, according to the US National Library of Medicine, pica sufferers have been known to eat animal faeces, glass, clay, dirt, hairballs, ice, paint and sand.

The condition can be particularly dangerous when the fixation involves sharp objects or lead paint.

“Most people will be familiar with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, but there are many others. For example Orthorexia, which is a fixation on eating food that you feel is healthy and pure. It may begin as a healthy diet but becomes rigorous and obsessive. Another example is Pica, which is when you eat things you shouldn’t, like chalk, stones or cigarette butts. The symptoms of these two examples differ greatly, but they both come back to the unhealthy relationship with food, and can have serious, even fatal, consequences on your health,” said Ms Charpentier.

Emotional overeating

Responding to negative emotions by consuming large amounts of food regardless of whether a person is hungry is what sets emotional eating apart from other disorders.

People with the condition use the behaviour as a coping mechanism, but are then plagued by feelings of guilt and shame. Foods high in fat and sugar are often sought, and overtime, the condition can lead to weight gain.

While physical hunger comes on gradually, emotional hunger hits suddenly and needs to be satisfied immediately, according the Beat. Eating until a person is full does not stop their urge to continue.

Can obesity be viewed as an eating disorder in the same way as anorexia?

Obesity is an eating disorder just like anorexia – and it’s time we started treating it that way.

In an article published in the Independent 23rd Feb 2016 Natasha Devon argues that obesity is just as much an eating disorder as anorexia. She raises a very important case on how society and particularly the media discriminates between how we fat people and thin people are perceived.

After I was diagnosed with anorexia-not-severe-enough-to-be-sectioned and put on a waiting list for ‘talking therapy’ by my GP, there followed a period of compulsive eating. What I found in my binges was another way to express my discontent

Sometime around Christmas 2013, I found myself on ITV This Morning’s sofa discussing the case of a 5-year-old girl who had been taken away from her parents after reaching ten stone.

As is their wont, This Morning had paired me with an ‘opponent’, a health journalist called Danni Levy, who is now also a reality TV personality.

Danni maintained that allowing your child to become obese was ‘child abuse of the worst kind’ and she supported the decision for the anonymous girl to be taken from her family. I couldn’t help but wonder (aloud) whether Dani, the tabloids (who had without exception gleefully jumped on the story, digitally dismembering the child’s body and pasting chunks of her belly flesh across their front pages) and the public’s attitude would have been the same had this child had anorexia.

It’s a question I also posed during a radio debate with Nick Ferarri of LBC, when he asked why he should feel sorry for a Scottish teen who was too large to leave her bedroom (while he made ‘mmm mmm mmm yummy’ noises, for reasons best known to himself).

I asked whether his reaction would be more compassionate if the teen was starving, instead of bingeing, behind the walls of her house. His response was a gratifying nanosecond of dead air.

In both instances the social media reaction was swift. I was called a ‘daft bint’, a ‘silly cow’ who didn’t understand that anorexia was a ‘serious mental illness’ whereas obesity was simply about greed (and possibly sugar addiction).

Now, let me be clear. I’m not talking about common-or-garden slight overweightness, which in all probabilityis the result of greed or sugar addiction of the type most of us are guilty. But if one eats oneself into a state where it is impossible to move, that must, in my opinion, suggest a psychological element. It is not the sign of a mentally well person to abuse one’s body with such vicious disregard.

I speak from personal experience. In my early teens, long before the eight years I languished under the suffocating presence of bulimia nervosa, I briefly ‘flirted’ with anorexia. I starved myself for less than a year, yet it was still enough to stunt my growth (I’m 5 foot 11 but my doctor reckons I should be 6 foot 2) and to leave me undernourished.

My body reacted as bodies are wont and it cried out for nutrients in whatever form it could imbibe them.

Our bodies don’t understand our long-term goals. They aren’t designed to withstand whatever random regimes our minds dream up in the hope of fitting into our bikini for summer. They can only exist in and respond to two states – getting enough food, or not. The latter results in an urge to ‘binge’ (which is why diets are so often fail).

And so after I was diagnosed with anorexia-not-severe-enough-to-be-sectioned and put on a waiting list for ‘talking therapy’ by my GP, there followed a period of compulsive eating. What I found in my binges was another way to express my discontent.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses, born out of one or a range of complex emotions – low self-worth, a response to trauma, bullying or abuse, a desire for control, to name but a few. The food and exercise element is a symptom, an expression of whatever is happening in the mind. For me, overeating came from the same emotional and mental space as starvation and continued long after I had compensated for the calorie ‘deficit’ caused by anorexia. Which is why I’m reluctant to dismiss extreme obesity as simply a case of physical greed.

B-eat, the UK’s largest eating disorder charity, agree with me and last year classified ‘binge eating disorder’ within its official spectrum of definitions.

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in the UK and I’d like to use it as an opportunity for us to put aside our prejudices, and try to summon some of the sympathy we feel when we see a severely underweight person when dealing with those who fall at the other side of the spectrum.

The prevailing press rhetoric might encourage us to sneer at the overweight and the ‘strain’ they place on our NHS, but until we acknowledge the psychological elements of overeating we’ll be no closer to solving the obesity crisis (or, as I call it ‘the crisis of bad lifestyle’, since some obese people are perfectly healthy).

Put simply, it’s time we changed our attitudes.

Mental illness is a result of misery, yet still we stigmatise it: Richard Bentall

Illustration by Nate Kitch

In this excellent article in the Guardian 26th Feb 2016 Christina Patterson provides a deeply insightful report on the current state of mental health as viewed from a psychiatric standpoint.

It matters how we talk and think about mental health. Get it wrong, and people can end up being misled, or even worse, hurt. Last week the BBC ran a well-intentioned season about mental health that, unfortunately, gave a completely lopsided view of psychiatry.

The headline programme was Stephen Fry’s The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive: 10 Years on. Like many mental health professionals, I have enormous respect for Fry’s openness about his mental health. I also feel a personal sympathy towards him: we were both boarders at Uppingham school, Rutland, in the early 70s (though he has no reason to remember me). Our unhappy experiences there have no doubt helped to shape our pathways since, which have converged many years later on a shared interest in mental health – in my case as a clinical psychologist and researcher.

The BBC focused on an extreme biological approach to psychiatry, which is contested by many psychologists and psychiatrists. This approach sees psychiatric problems as discrete brain conditions that are largely genetically determined and barely influenced by the slings and arrows of misfortune. According to this view, psychiatric conditions occur largely out of the blue in individuals who are genetically vulnerable, are uncontrollable and lifelong conditions, and the only appropriate response is therefore to find the right medication. This approach is not supported by recent research, which tells a more complex story.

To begin with, we now know to a level of certainty that diagnoses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not separate conditions. Patients who experience a mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar symptoms are quite common. Furthermore, large numbers of people manage to live productive lives despite experiencing symptoms of severe psychiatric disorders at some time or another, and without seeking help. There is, for instance, an international network for people who hear voices, many of whom manage perfectly well without psychiatric care.

And the outcomes for severe mental illness are much more variable than was once thought. Research suggests a surprising number of people manage to make full or partial recoveries, even when not taking medication – though recovery means different things for different people. Whereas mental health professionals often think of it in terms of recovery from symptoms, patients more often emphasise the importance of self-esteem, hope for the future, and a valued role in society.

Of course genes play a role in making some people more vulnerable to psychiatric disorder than others, but the formidable advances in molecular genetics over recent years show that the same genes are involved when people are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD and even autism.

More importantly hundreds, possibly thousands, of genes are involved, each conferring a tiny increase in risk. Hence, as American genetic researcher Kenneth Kendler says: “The genetic risk for schizophrenia is widely distributed in human populations, so that we all carry some degree of risk.” Everyone reading this article is likely to have some risk genes although, of course, some will have more than others.

The fact that so many genes are involved suggests it is unlikely that studying them will lead to therapeutic breakthroughs anytime soon. (Consider Huntington’s disease, a terrible degenerative neurological condition that is caused by a single dominant gene with a known biological function. Years after this gene was discovered there is still no sign of a medical therapy for this simplest of all the genetic conditions.)

Recent studies have pointed to a wide range of social and environmental factors that increase the risk of mental ill health. These include poverty in childhood, social inequality and early exposure to urban environments; migration and belonging to an ethnic minority (all trending in the wrong direction); early separation from parents; childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse; and bullying in schools.

In an analysis of all the research on childhood trauma and psychosis, my colleagues and I found that exposure to any of these childhood adversities increased the risk of psychosis approximately three-fold, and those who had multiple traumatic experiences were at much higher risk. In fact, the evidence of a link between childhood misfortune and future psychiatric disorder is about as strong statistically as the link between smoking and lung cancer.

There is also now strong evidence that these kinds of experiences affect brain structure, explaining many of the abnormal neuro-imaging findings that have been reported for psychiatric patients. And of course there are myriad adult adversities that also contribute to mental ill health, including debt, unhappy marriages, excessively demanding work environments and the threat of unemployment. Arguably the biggest cause of human misery is miserable relationships with other people, conducted in miserable circumstances.

Why is all this important? For one thing, many psychiatric patients in Britain feel that services too often ignore their life stories. In the words of Eleanor Longden, a mental health activist, “They always ask what is wrong with you and hardly ever ask what happened to you.” Patients are routinely offered powerful drugs (which clearly have a place but only help some patients), but very rarely the kinds of psychological therapies that may help them come to terms with these kinds of experiences, or even practical advice (debt counselling probably has a place in the treatment of depression, for example).

A narrow medical approach has been extraordinarily unsuccessful, despite what many people assume. Whereas survival and recovery rates for severe physical conditions such as cancer and heart disease have improved dramatically since the second world war, recovery rates for severe mental illness have not shifted at all. Those countries that spend the least on psychiatric services have the best outcomes for severe mental illness, whereas those that spend the most have the highest suicide rates.

To make matters worse, research shows that an exclusively biological approach tends to increase the stigma associated with mental illness. The more that ordinary people think of mental illness as a genetically determined brain disease, and the less they recognise it to be a reaction to unfortunate circumstances, the more they shun psychiatric patients. An exclusively biological approach makes it all too easy to believe that human beings fall into two subspecies: the mentally well and the mentally ill.

Finally, a narrow biomedical approach entirely neglects the public health dimension. Given the evidence, we should be able to dramatically reduce the prevalence of mental health problems by, for example, addressing childhood poverty and inequality, figuring out which aspects of the urban environment are toxic (not surprisingly, living close to a park appears to provide some protection against mental illness), and by aiming to ensure that all our children experience benign childhoods. Some potential influences on mental health (eg the way we organise our schools) have hardly been studied. We cannot create a mentally healthier world if we spend all our time peering into test tubes.

This is not to say that biological approaches have no value, or that research into the genetics and neuroscience of psychiatric disorders has no place. I have been involved in biological studies myself. But portraying mental ill health simply as brain disease can only increase stigma, diverts our attention away from other ways in which we can help patients, stops us from building a healthier world, and encourages in patients alienation, pessimism and a deep despair