Sensory Processing Sensitivity: An Overview

We are exposed to internal and external stimuli at almost every moment in our lives, its forms being physical, emotional and biological; it is either foisted upon us or we willingly welcome it. Each individual’s management of and reactions to these impulses vary in intensity—while in some people, the cognitive processes unfolding behind the scenes might be cursory, in some others these processes involve and are driven by a heightened sensitivity of the central nervous system. The topography and depth of these processes, referred to as sensory processing sensitivity, is measured in order to discern the strength of one’s responsiveness to stimuli. 

What is Sensory Processing Sensitivity?


Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is a personality trait that is represented by an increased sensitivity[2] to sensory stimuli, however subtle or miniscule. It is measured and calculated using a questionnaire that inquires the respondent’s sensitivity to stimuli. A high measure of SPS in a person is indicative of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). An important consideration to note and remember about SPS is that it is not a disorder, and that the similarly named sensory processing disorder is different. SPS is simply a personality temperament that characterizes a class of people referred to as Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). These terms were coined by Dr. Elaine Aron in the mid-1990s, a pioneer in the study and the proliferation of SPS and HSPs in academia and society.

Who can be categorised as a highly sensitive person?

Since an HSP is someone who is simply more receptive and responsive to subtleties around them, this trait can be found in people of all ages, from babies, children, teenagers and adults, affecting about 15-20% of the population. It is an innate quality, and has also been found in non-human species[1].

What are the traits of a HSP?

HSP have been observed[1] to be more prone to having a “pause to check” reaction when presented with a novel situation. They are also found weaving strong, deep and complex cognitive maps, mostly based on emotional processes and reactions, whether positive or negative. A highly sensitive person can be identified through the following tangible characteristics[3]:

  • Prone to sensory overload. Chaotic environments such as those containing loud noises, strong smells and graphic images deeply overwhelm HSPs.
  • Low pain tolerance. The threshold for pain of any kind, physical or emotional, of HSPs is lower than that of non-HSPs.
  • Easily moved. An HSP is often vehemently moved by evocative forms of art such as imagery, music and dance. They are also more nature-inclined than most. HSPs are also often deep thinkers, due to their complex cognitive processing pathways. As a result, they might also be seekers to life’s big questions, diving deep into the WHY of things that happen in and around their lives, and might become upset when they don’t encounter satisfactory answers.
  • Deeply perceptive. They recognize and pick up on other people’s discomfort, unease or any other negative emotion, and might even absorb the moods of others.
  • Rich inner world. HSPs are people who can get lost in the landscape of their inner world, and are often found in a state of trance and daydreaming.
  • Avoiding of violence. HSPs often cannot handle violent depictions of any kind, whether in media or in real life. Cruel and brutal situations affect HSPs, making them upset and sometimes even prone to physical symptoms such as nausea, or at the very least leave them feeling deeply unsettled.
  • Conflict avoidant. Since disputes have the potential to rake up unpleasant emotions, HSPs tend to avoid them as a protective measure to their sensitivity.
  • Prone to withdrawing. When the world around HSPs keeps shifting and changing, and when things become overwhelming as a result of being bombarded by stimuli, HSPs have the tendency to retreat in order to allow their mind to catch up with their external surroundings.

Reminders to HSP

  • Allow yourself to retreat. You are allowed to withdraw from environments, people, situations and things that make you uncomfortable, even if you were conditioned to believe that it is the norm, or that you should stick it up. You are not a quitter for engaging in unapologetic self-preservation.
  • Make time to rest. It is easy, especially in the edifice of capitalism, to feel “lazy” for needing more rest than what others, or even you, deem the norm. This results in a tendency to work more than you can handle and edge into burnout. Remember, Rest is an indispensable requisite, not a luxury you can opt out of.
  • Feel however you deem necessary. The way you feel is justified, even if the people around you do not understand the intensity, potency and ferocity of it. You are allowed to carve out the space you need to express yourself to the fullest, without suppressing your feelings.
  • Set boundaries. Not everyone will appreciate your sensitivity, and that’s their choice. It is also your choice to walk away from people who do not hold space for you.
  • Remember, you are strong. Being highly sensitive to and having a low threshold for pain, whether emotional or physical, does not make you weak.
  • Think, process and act for yourself only. You don’t need to burn-out trying to deduce what others might need or think. Trust the people in your life to seek your help if they need to, do not push it on them. This process not only tires you out, but might also breach others’ boundaries.

How can you help HSP?

  • Research and learn. Round up resources to educate yourself on sensory processing sensitivity, and invest time and energy towards realizing their reality. They will thank you for it abundantly.
  • Openly talk about SPS and HSP. About 15-20% of the population have high sensory processing sensitivity, the number reflecting a minority. Learning and openly conversing about these things helps remove the stigma behind sensitivity and its usage as a yardstick for “strength”, and helps push the HSP in your life toward self-acceptance.
  • Do not infantilize them. The intensity of their emotions is not an excuse to treat them as a child and belittle them, nor is it an excuse to tell them that what and how they’re feeling is wrong. Do not treat their emotions as if it were a tantrum.
  • Hold space for the extent of their feelings. Remember that their tendency to viscerally feel does not discount their humanity. Motivate them towards an acknowledgement of the magnificence that they are.
  • Accept their need to withdraw and encourage it. HSPs saunter through life embodying a myriad of emotions, thoughts and questions. Allow them a non-judgemental room to process it all.
  • Communicate clearly. While HSP are susceptible to non-verbal cues, it does not necessarily mean they are always cognizant of their intricacies and origins. Talking to them with clarity allows them peace and strips away any room for anxiety.
  • Support them. HSP often needs reminding that the way they feel is justified, that they deserve rest, and that they are not weak. Remind them that there is nothing repugnant with their sensitivity.
  • Be gentle with them. Since HSP have heightened responsiveness, adopting tender words and actions towards them helps in not overwhelming them.

Reference used and Sources to learn more

  1. Aron EN, Aron A, Jagiellowicz J. Sensory Processing Sensitivity: A Review in the Light of the Evolution of Biological Responsivity. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 2012;16(3):262-282. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1088868311434213
  2. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, December 8). Sensory processing sensitivity. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:24, February 7, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sensory_processing_sensitivity&oldid=993026828
  3. Sarah Corsby, @themindgeek on Instagram | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
  4. Dr. Elaine Aron’s website: The Highly Sensitive Person
  5. Self tests on Dr. Elaine Aron’s website: Self-Tests – The Highly Sensitive Person (not to be treated as a professional diagnosis)

How to reset your elusive sleep schedule

Sleep is a biological necessity. Contrary to what many people say, sleep  deprivation is not a symbol of hard work , and sleep is not a luxury that can be traded for more work or sadly, even for parties. Name any bodily system- digestive, endocrine, immune- chances are, it is going to be affected by problems in sleep.  Apart from the quality and quantity of sleep which are more frequently discussed, the regularity of our sleep-wake cycle is important too. It is ideal to have the required hours of sleep around the same time everyday, rather than sleeping at 10 p.m one day and at 2 a.m the next. 

Circadian Misalignment

To maintain the rhythmicity of our sleep, body temperature, blood pressure and other biological activities, our body has an internal clock called the “circadian clock” that is primarily handled by the Suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain (It is a mouthful, so let’s call it SCN). In a way, it is the internal representation of the 24-hours cycle that is calibrated by a lot of factors around and within us. It is ideal to have this biological clock synchronized with your social clock, because major incompatibilities between the two clocks can be distressing and can have negative effects on functioning. These incompatibilities which include “delays, advances and/or complete dysregulations of someone’s sleep-wake cycle”, if clinically significant, can be diagnosed as a disorder under the umbrella of “Circadian rhythm sleep disorders”. Find more information on the disorders here.

But why fix it?

Even if many of our cycles are not disrupted enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis, there is no reason to not fix it nonetheless, given there are evidence-based ways to do so.

The importance of a good night’s sleep has been outlined in a previous lonepack post. An irregular sleep-wake cycle takes a toll on our mental health too and we will be left to navigate through the day feeling irritated and unable to concentrate. There will be difficulty in fulfilling social obligations and a lot of time will go wasted in failed attempts to fall asleep. We will also feel a loss of control and predictability which would lead to frustration. To top it all off, motivation and productivity also will plummet. Research studies link this circadian rhythm disruption to Depression-like symptoms, anxiety, Bipolar disorder, and Schizophrenia. Note that this does NOT necessarily mean that irregular sleep cycles lead to these disorders, or are consequences of having such disorders; it just means they have a tendency to co-occur. 

Now, the “HOW”

It is pertinent and fair that we clarify a few things at this point:

  •  The following steps will probably be more helpful for those who wish to realign their sleep-wake pattern than for those who wish to sleep more. 
  • There is also a real chance that some people might require professional help based on their personalized needs and history. 

1. Light

Light is the most important cue by which our internal body clock estimates the time of the day, which in turn translates to the time of our sleep or wakefulness. Recent research by Dr.Andrew Huberman and his team suggests that there are specialized cells in our eyes that can detect the yellow and blue wavelengths of the sky and communicate it to the SCN (the timekeeper that we talked about). In other words, our subconscious processing of the sky colour has the potential to adjust our internal clock. Leveraging it, approximately 8 minutes of watching the evening sky that transforms from light to dark can be a strong cue for our SCN. So take a look outside for a bit everyday to help with the cues for your SCN. 

However, unlike our ancestors, the technology that we have has provided us with many sources of light other than the sun, which can confuse our brain clock. Although any light during night can be off-putting to our sleep, blue light has the highest capacity to suppress melatonin secretion (Melatonin is a hormone which is involved in making us sleepy). Now, apart from the obvious but difficult option of avoiding devices close to bedtime, there are other alternatives to iron this out. There are several applications out there that filter out the blue light from the devices and some phones have a built-in “Night mode” option that can help with this. So, use blue light filter applications or better yet, minimise screen time at night to help reset your sleep cycle.

2. Exercise

Exercise and Sleep have a mutual, give-and-take relationship between them. Enough quality sleep is necessary to undergo exercise and appropriate exercise can help with sleep. It was found in a study that every hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity above an individual’s average can advance the onset of sleep by 18 minutes. So, make sure to get some optimal exercise in but also be aware that it is advised that people with disrupted sleep-wake cycles do not perform exercise close to bed time  (5-6 hours before sleep) , as it may stimulate our nervous system and increase body temperature which is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.  

3. Caffeine

Caffeine is ingested by most of us on a daily-basis in the form of tea, coffee or chocolates. But there are at least three ways by which caffeine interrupts sleep. It increases dopamine making you more alert, it suppresses melatonin and blocks adenosine, both of which play a role in making you sleepy. So, make sure to take caffeine only in the initial part of the day, as it has a long half-life period of around 6 hours, meaning it takes 6 hours for half of caffeine to get metabolized in your body.

4. Diet

We all have heard at some point that eating heavy before sleeping is bad, but how? Our digestive system does not actually turn off when we are asleep, but it does tend to slow down. So a heavy meal during the later part of the day may cause indigestion and/or the regurgitation of food and stomach acid which we call “acid reflux”. We might not realize that our sleep is affected by this but it does prevent us to enter deeper stages of sleep. So begin the day with larger meals  and proceed to lighter ones as we near our desired sleep time. 

5. Calming the nervous system 

Apart from these, anything that has the tendency to calm our nervous system might work because a hyperactive brain and body are the villains of sleep initiation. Keeping the temperature a bit lower, meditation practices, or anything from music to weighted blankets can help in this regard. Using the bed only for sleeping and not for anything else allows us to form an association between the bed and a relaxed, sleepy state.   

However, if certain factors like anxiety and stress have been playing a role, then you probably need more intervention to address the issues. Always remember, you gotta get the ZZZs, the right amount at the right time, to feel the YAYYs as you spring out of bed.

REFERENCES:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44059-9

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-020-0694-0

http://www.hubermanlab.com/publications.html

https://www.circadiansleepdisorders.org/index.php

Therapy 101

How does therapy work?

Have you ever wondered, what happens in therapy?

Would it just be a person sitting on a couch and pouring their heart out to a stranger? Or is the therapist going to swing a shiny crystal, making the client  spill all of their past memories and unconscious thoughts ( suddenly, you recall reading about a peculiar theory by Sigmund Freud) . Well, the possibilities are endless and now you’re just really confused and nervous.

The society’s notion of therapy varies greatly, resulting in a lot of myths and confusion about what it really is.

What really is therapy? 

 Most psychological therapies are talk therapies, where the therapist tries to get an understanding of what is troubling the client and then uses different ways to approach and help with the issue. 

Who should go to therapy?

Therapy isn’t only for those who have mental illnesses, but also for those coping with new environments, major life transitions, stress or even for those finding difficulty in maintaining relationships or not finding joy in things as they did before. The goal is not only to treat illness, but also to promote wellbeing in everyday life.

Now one might ask, how is therapy different from taking advice from a friend  or a family member?

1. Therapy provides a safe space and is confidential. One does not need to worry about any judgement or the feeling of burdening someone. The  therapist is there only to help us.

2. Therapists go through a lot of training to identify maladaptive thought patterns and help in the process of healing, helping the client in the process of self-reflection and recovery. The therapeutic relationship is very different from friendship.

3. Therapy is more scientific than being a product of opinions and biases. It  provides long term value on how to deal with future situations, analysing various perspectives in making long term decisions. Also,there is a lot of research proving how important and helpful therapy is.

It’s also important to understand that therapy is of different types. While there might be different schools of thought when it comes to psychological therapies, they are all well-researched and are proven to aid in the process of well being.

Some of the different types of therapies are:

1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This therapy revolves around the belief that one’s negative thoughts affect behaviour, causing trouble. The therapist works along with the client to help rewire these negative thoughts and beliefs, focusing on solutions to overcome them.

2.Psychodynamic therapy

The therapist will try to explore how past experiences might influence one’s current troubles. The focus in this therapy is to identify hidden patterns or meanings in what the client says/ does, that might be contributing to the problem. The client and the therapist, together, work through these, focusing on emotional understanding and re-education.

3.Humanistic Therapy

Here, the therapist provides a supportive, empathetic environment in which the client can look at themselves in a non judgemental way, with honesty and acceptance, helping them maximize their potential.

This isn’t an exhaustive list ;there are  so many other types of  therapies as well, a few being dance and movement therapy, art therapy (spoiler alert: you don’t have to be good at dance or art for this) which stem from the belief that creative expression can help in the healing process and also help develop self- awareness. There are also family therapies and group therapies.

Therapy just aims to create a safe space, free of judgement and opinions.  Ultimately, it is a tool which really helps individuals  in trying to navigate difficult emotional and mental situations in the long run. Going to therapy is perfectly normal and it is for anyone and everyone.

The Kingdom of Dreams

When I was younger,
I dreamed of being Cinderella,
The beautiful, distressed, princess
Who would be saved by her Prince Charming
From the big, ugly, ogre.
If only I had understood then 
That beauty is in the eye of the beholder
And the ogres and demons existed inside my head.

When I was a little older,
I dreamed of being Jackie Chan
(From the cartoon, duh!)
And tour the world with Uncle and Jade
And Toru and El Toro and all the others. 
If only I had known then
That no number of magic stones
Could help me to fight the battles of the real world.

When I was older still,
I dreamed of being Hermione Granger,
(Because a brilliant witch is way cooler than a brave wizard, IMO)
Wise, loyal, but fierce if need be,
I wanted to fight evil with Harry and Ron by my side.
If only I had known then
That true evil exists in the heart and head
And it takes more than a cloak, a wand and a stone to vanquish it.

Fast forward a decade,
I’m too old for my own good.
And all I want to do now,
Is to go back to the Kingdom of Dreams,
A time when 9.00 AM was Popeye and 9.00 PM was shuteye.
A time when bingeing on Cheetos was the norm.
A time when having imaginary friends was considered cool.
A time when anything was possible…

The Lessons that the Men’s Mental Health Movement can Learn from Feminism

In recent years, many women and men have increasingly rallied behind the feminist movement, which fights for equality in opportunities and rights between men and women. The idea is to eradicate gender stereotypes, the age-old argument that ‘men and women are not the same’, at its rotten core. Being ‘same’ is not the same as being ‘equal’. Proponents of the women’s rights movement have made progress in finding the words to convey this stance and drive the wider public to their cause. This is apparent from the growing attendance at marches and protests across the world that mark important milestones in the movement.

Destigmatisation through dialogue and demonstrations

An intentional yet subtle outcome of the movement has been the growing change in perspective and the consequent destigmatisation of conventionally taboo topics of rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence. The normalization of discussion of these issues in the widespread media through the sharing of stories by influencers and stars (the ‘Me Too’ movement is a prime example) has given strength to the common public to come forth with their own life stories. As the dialogue surrounding these topics grows louder, awareness increases, allowing development of sensitization to these issues.

This outcome is exactly what is expected when it comes to men’s mental health. We need to shatter the stigma surrounding the issue and engage the media, thus reinforcing the fact that it is okay to discuss these issues which are also considered taboo. The measures that were effective in the Feminist movement can help the men’s mental health movement too. November is men’s health month, also called Movember, as men grow mustaches to raise awareness for issues such as prostate and testicular cancer and also mental health of men. While on one hand, men dominate professionally and politically, they’re also more susceptible to suffering from a wide range of mental health issues such as suicide. This article by the American Psychological Association outlines the guidelines for psychological practice with men and boys. Organizing events surrounding this month’s theme and engagement by widespread media can grow the movement by leaps and bounds. 

Enemy Number One

The women’s movement has a clear Enemy Number One – The Patriarchy. So protests and marches were led targeting this common foe. There is no single person who represents this enemy – it is rather the idea that there is something to fight against, which inspires people to rally and come together. It lifts the haze of incoherence and provides a focal point around which the entire ideal can be constructed. In terms of men’s mental health, such an adversary is absent, which is because clarity can be scarcely afforded on a deeper investigation of the subject. This should be a primary goal of the movement as it is stories which instill passion in the public rather than just a bulletin of goals. We need to ask the question, ‘What is stopping men from discussing their mental health?’ and we might find our rallying cry in its answer.

Equity not Equality

Finally, the solution to women’s rights being equity rather than equality to the whole cacophony of ‘men are not the same as women’ has a profound lesson for the men’s mental health sphere. We are all different and unique in our own way. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to destigmatizing men’s mental health issues. We need to approach the problem in a different way, by creating additional opportunity for the severely-disadvantaged in a disproportionate fashion so as to bring them on equal footing. This might mean that we need to research heavily on what bolsters chances of men seeking therapy and what undermines these efforts. We may also come up with innovative and unique therapeutic methodologies to sensitively address the issues so as to build trust in male patients. 

We need innovative solutions to tackling the difficult challenge of destigmatizing men’s mental health and inspiration is abundant for those who look for it. We may need to look no further than to women in their fight and learn from their struggles and victories to build a better tomorrow for men, too.

Mental Health in the Workplace

With the quarantine in full effect, Some of us have been working from our beds – the line between home and work completely blurred. Some others have a little too much family time and work has been their escape. And, for yet many more the pandemic has cost them their jobs and uncertainty looms like a guillotine over their lives. The undeniable fact remains that this lock-down is a little crazy and completely chaotic, and working from home has only added fuel to the fire.

The conversation surrounding mental health has never been more important, and while more and more people are talking about it, one space that it is rarely discussed is work. The internal separation between our ‘professional’ work-selves and our home-selves makes the topic of mental health issues taboo at the workplace. The need for this dialogue is also scarcely driven by employees. Changing this corporate culture must be driven by every worker. Spreading awareness and building support for demanding these benefits is a vital starting point. Encouraging more open conversations about mental health between colleagues and peers can lead to a more robust employee-driven implementation of policies. Finally, focusing on continuous improvement and adapting to change is key to support a workforce that deals with rapidly changing ways of working. Regardless of the myriad occupations that each of us hold, we can focus on these common spokes to turn the wheel of change. 

While some companies have started recognizing this and provide benefits catering towards employee mental-health such as free therapy and paid time-off, this is far from being the norm. Corporations exploit this diffidence to enhance their profit margins. However, businesses may actually profit from providing mental health services as part of their benefits. The World Health Organisation estimates that the cost in lost productivity due to depression and anxiety disorders is nearly US$ 1 Trillion. 

The pandemic and resulting work-from-home paradigm has brought forth a new challenge to the mental well-being of the digital workforce. While traditionally, most companies viewed working from home with suspicion, the current state of the world has brought enlightening new facts to dispel this doubt. Microsoft was among the first companies to enforce work-from-home for its employees. It has also been proactive in studying the results of this ‘experiment’. Some of the highlights (or sobering facts, to be accurate) from this study are, 

  • Employees were spending 10% more time in meetings when working remotely.
  • Instant Messaging usually slows down by 25% during lunchtime. However, when working from home, it dipped by a mere 10%.
  • Instant Messaging usage soared by 52% during 6pm and midnight.

The World Economic Forum recommends these 10 tips to boost your mental health when working from home. Here are some of the key points.

  • Set up a dedicated workspace, which should be as free from distractions as possible.
  • Develop a schedule, which includes phases of focused work as well as breaks.
  • Try to establish simple routines which don’t require any self-control, such as a coffee break or starting your working day with an easy routine task.
  • Set up dedicated times for work and leisure – and stick to these times.
  • If possible, work in a different room than the one you spend your leisure time in. Particularly avoid working in your bedroom as it may remind you of work related issues, preventing detachment when you go to sleep.
  • Engage in absorbing activities, which capture your full attention after work. Good examples include exercise, cooking, mindfulness meditation, or focused playing with your children or pets.

Due to the advances of technology and to the delight of managers, the feeling that an employee is available at any time when working from home has become the norm. Mental health has taken a back seat. Zoom burnout and loneliness (especially in the case of the younger workforce) are frequent complaints. In a 2010 experiment conducted by Nick Bloom, a British Economics professor at Stanford University, for a Chinese travel agency Ctrip, one half of a 250 employee-group, were told to work from home while the other half worked in the office. To the surprise of the agency, the productivity of the Home group went up by 13% and the company could save nearly $2000 annually per employee from this arrangement. But the experiment also measured happiness and ‘feelings of loneliness’ were the main reason for employee dissatisfaction. 

A majority of people spend one third of their adult life at work. Even if the social value of dispelling stigma surrounding mental health at the workplace isn’t enough, there is also a clear economic motive. The same study that estimated the cost of lost productivity due to employee mental health issues also provides hope. As a positive incentive for companies to take up the cause of mental health in the workplace, the research estimates that for every US$ 1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity. Here are the key takeaways from the steps recommended by the World Economic Forum to build a mentally healthy workplace,

  1. Be aware of the specific needs and circumstances of the work environment of your employees and tailor policies best suited for your company.
  2. Seek inspiration from motivational leaders and employees who have taken action.
  3. Be aware of other companies who have taken action to put mental health policies in place.
  4. Successful implementation of mental health policies and delivery of benefits relies on collaboration. Take practical steps to put this into place.
  5. Figure out where to go if you or your employees need professional help for their mental health concerns.

Most of these measures can be implemented whether the employees are at office or working from home. The most important step is to ‘Start taking action NOW.’ Employees have found innovative ways to stay connected with colleagues, who for many, double as best friends and form an important part of their social network. It is time for businesses to open a more humane side of operations and recognize that whether their employees are working from home or at the office, their mental health is as much of a tangible factor in their success as any profit margin.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: An Overview

What is DID?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), is a severe manifestation of the group of psychological disorders known as Dissociation. DID is characterized by an individual experiencing a splitting or fragmenting of their original personality into two or more different ones.

This leads to a lack of clarity in a person’s thought, emotions, memories and actions.

What causes it?

Extensive research by organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association shows that DID is more often than not caused by severe emotional, physical or environmental trauma in a person’s past. These causes include physical, sexual, and mental abuse, the loss of a loved one, and life-threatening or near-death incidents, usually occurring around the age of 6.

Who does it affect?

DID occurs very rarely; studies show that it affects 0.1% to 1% of the general population. But when it does occur, there is no age bracket or cases of medical history within which patients fall. DID can affect anyone, living at any place, of any age, or with any background. The onset is commonly observed to be during childhood, but the symptoms may take years to manifest, making it very difficult to diagnose and treat the individuals.

However, it is also commonly agreed-upon by medical professionals that females are more susceptible to this disorder than men.

How can you recognize it?

The following symptoms have been recognized and grouped among individuals with DID:

  •       Eating and Sleeping disturbances
  •       Amnesia
  •       Hallucinations
  •       Self-injurious behavior
  •       Prolonged headaches and migraines due to irregular sleep patterns

One other symptom that is observed is an alternation of personalities; a radical shift in thoughts, behavior and emotions, due to the emergence of the different ‘alters’.

Methods of Treatment

  • Psychotherapy: Also called ‘talk therapy’, it is designed to work through whatever triggers the DID.
  •  Hypnotherapy: Clinical hypnosis can be used to help the person access and deal with repressed memories and feelings that are potential causes of DID.

Another effective form of therapy is encouraging the affected individual to indulge in the creative arts, music, or exercise; anything that can help to reduce stress in a positive way.

Misconceptions about DID

Multiple personality disorder, as DID is more commonly known, has been featured time and again in novels, television series, and movies, the most famous of them being the character of Gollum in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, and Alfred Hitchcock’s blockbuster hit, Psycho (1960). While it makes a good premise for pop culture, the severity of this mental illness is often disregarded and misunderstood.

Though most fictitious characterizations show one or more of the personalities as being ‘good’ or ‘soft’, and some as being ‘violent’ or ‘psychopathic’, in reality, one can never predict the nature of the ‘alters’. So it is best to seek professional help when dealing with a person with DID. 

How can I help?

You can help the patient by recognizing the symptoms at the right time and taking immediate action. DID is a very serious condition that needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed.

You can find out more here:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/what-are-dissociative-disorders

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/conditions/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders

 

 

How to Be a Good Ally to the LGBTQ+ Community

The world is a beautiful place, filled with people of different age, race, religion, economic class, able-bodied status, gender, sexual orientation, etc. These infinite identities, in their various combinations, are the ones that make our everyday experiences unique and powerful.

In the case of gender and sexual orientation, over time, our ideologies have become conditioned to be more accepting of familiar binary identities while often disapproving those who identify beyond the binary. Identifying differently is not something that is up to choice and is simply the way they are. It is nothing uncommon and there are ample examples of non-binary identities throughout history and even mythology

While there has been a slow and growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, they continue to face different forms of prejudice. This often forces the community into living a fearful and closeted life. Everybody, regardless of their choices deserve to live a life that is free of discrimination, which is why becoming an ally and standing up for what is right is of great significance and importance. An ally is a person who is genuinely concerned about the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community and strongly advocates for equal rights and fair treatment. While there is no such thing as a perfect ally, here are a few tips on how to be a good ally.

1. Understand Gender, Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression

  • Do not confuse sex, gender and sexual orientation. Recognize the range of identities that a person can associate with.  To know the difference between sex, gender and sexuality and to learn more about the various identities, please check out our blog article, Infinite identities – understanding sex, gender and sexuality.
  • Try to do your own research. It is unfair to ask the LGBTQ+ community to justify their identity for your better understanding.
  • Always use the appropriate pronoun to address people. If you are unsure of what to use, ask the person how they might want to be addressed. Also, get to know when/where it is safe to use the chosen pronoun. ( e.g. In front of the family / at their workplace)

2. Do listen when a person talks about their identity

  • Talk inclusively about sexualities in your everyday conversations, to make it easy for someone to know that you’re a safe person to share their identity with.
  • Be aware of the process of opening up about one’s identity and realize that the process is not a one-time thing and is unique to each person. It is okay to ask questions but make sure they are posed in a sensitive way.
  • Appreciate them for having the courage to tell you, do not judge them, and most importantly respect their confidentiality.

 3. Speak up for the Under-represented

  • Speak openly about the LGBTQ+ people in your life, if they have opened up and are comfortable with it.  Again, be aware of when/where it is safe to do so.
  • While social media is a wonderful tool for education and building community, take online activism further into real-life scenarios. Anti-LGBTQ comments are very hurtful. If you find yourself in a situation where such discrimination happens, speak up and say that you find them offensive.
  • When people speak up, it helps educate others and also reduces instances of intolerance from repeating again in the future. It will also give others the courage to stand up against discrimination.

 4. Check yourself whenever you’re “performing” as an ally

  • We have to acknowledge that we can still do harm, even when we’re trying to do good. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes while getting to know the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • If you mess up, do not beat yourself up for it. What is more important is to learn from them and move forward. Apologize for your actions and aim to do better next time.

Being an ally is about embracing the differences and looking past them to create a better world. It is choosing to strip down all the different labels and to remember that we are all human. It is about being Otis to Eric [1] and Captain Holt to Rosa [2]. While one person by themselves cannot change the world or undo the past,  one can do their best and that’s good enough. 

 Here is a list of other resources, that you can refer to help you become a better ally:

 

REFERENCES

1 From the Netflix show, “Sex Education

2 From the Netflix show, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine

https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a28159555/how-to-be-lgbtq-ally/

https://engage.youth.gov/resources/being-ally-lgbt-people

https://buffer.com/resources/lgbtqia-resources/

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a27703265/how-to-be-lgbtq-ally/

LGBTQIA Resource Center:  https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/educated/ally-tips

A look at LGBTQ issues – Relationships, Religion and Access to Resources

‘Who am I?” – This question has haunted thinkers and philosophers forever. We attach an identity to a person and aim to form a generalized opinion of the mass through this segregation. However, each person has multiple identities – a woman, a biracial person of color, a brother, a social worker, a queer man… the list is endless. It is when we feel supported and recognized in every aspect of our collective identity that we feel accepted as a person. This realization, that each of us have something or the other in common and that we are ‘brothers’ through some shared identity, allows us to empathize when we see others being shunned for their sense of identity, for example, being LGBTQ+.

The LGBTQ+ movement is focused on getting EQUAL rights, to overcome the disadvantages they face on a daily basis and to earn a place of respect just as any other person could but without hiding their gender or sexual identity. The road to equality and acceptance isn’t always the same for people of differing identities. Sometimes, it is an uphill struggle with no reprieve – especially for minorities and disadvantaged groups. This fact, in any way does not discount that it might be difficult for a person not belonging to these groups, but only that there is an added hurdle of discrimination that cuts deep into the progress by someone who is LGBTQ+.

This is evident in major aspects of any person’s life – relationships, religion and access to resources. In all these areas, scientific studies conclusively state that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to face hurdles and have less success in achieving a fulfilling life.

Relationships

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Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Even in countries with a generally progressive view on LGBTQ+ rights, people belonging to the queer community are far more disadvantaged and having a lifelong relationship with a partner remains a distant dream. A 2013 Survey of LGBT Americans shows that only 16% of LGBT people, mostly bisexuals with opposite sex partners are currently married compared with about half the adults in the general public. We can safely assume that the numbers are even lower in conservative and religious countries such as India. Acceptance by family is another major aspect to the problems faced by LGBTQ+ people. The stories of prosecution and attempts at conversion therapy of LGBTQ+ youth who have come out to their family deter the many others still deeply closeted. It is cruel that even their family is no place of solace from the continuous stress and trauma owing to the fear of judgement from society. 

However, there is hope. The trend in urban India shows that there is an uptick in the activism and awareness surrounding LGBTQ+ issues. With the repeal of the colonial-era law criminalizing homosexual relationships, the support on social media and general public has increased. This move in India has also inspired movements in other former British colonies to throw out this outdated law. Support systems form an essential building block in the foundation of LGBTQ+ relationships. Many LGBTQ+ people’s accounts show that they received support and help from online platforms anonymously, opening up an avenue for closeted LGBT people to seek a sense of community. Hopefully, this social acceptance can also translate to more and more families accepting their children’s sexual and gender identity.

Religion

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Faith and hope can come from more than one place. Spirituality and religion can impart a sense of belonging and must be a safe haven for everyone who wishes to practice it. ‘For a member of the LGBTQ+ community , however, that avenue is also riddled with danger. The outlook for homosexuality’s acceptance in Indian religions is grim. Most religions either oppose or remain mum on homosexual relations and this lack of basis in written tenets alienates the LGBTQ+ population from following religion. This is exacerbated by the fact that most liberal religious leaders do not raise their voices for fear of prosecution. 

In our blog article, The Language of Love, we discuss how homosexuality and gender identity aren’t radically new concepts in the context of Indian history. This attitude is slowly changing; in an article published in Indian Express, there are examples of how acceptance by a local church father, temple priest, or Muslim cleric can make an impact at a wider level. As stories such as these are adopted and shared by the media, more and more religious leaders might step up to the need of LGBTQ+ people’s concerns in Faith. A study by GLAAD, Missing Voices, reports that mainstream media outlets were disproportionately reliant on anti-LGBT religious voices and provide a skewed outlook of general opinion. As an example of proof to the contrary, Catholics support marriage equality at 54%, which is higher than the U.S. national average. Faith and Spirituality must be non-political, open, and accepting to all, for it is a sanctuary for the emotionally and spiritually wounded to open up and that is not possible when there is fear of judgement.

Access to Resources

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Deprived of meaningful connections through relationships or religion, it is sad but not surprising to find that this has a direct impact on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ+ people. This issue is compounded by the fact that to access resources, a gay or lesbian person has to overcome hurdles of substantial proportions. Financial independence can be a strong factor in the decision to come out of the closet. A curated study by the World Bank in India, finds clear evidence of stigma and exclusion for LGBT people in India and that this stigma has a possibly substantial economic impact of lower productivity and output because of employment discrimination.The situation is far worse in the case of health resources. In an exhaustive guide and resource kit published by the U.S. Department of Health, it is stated that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to contract physical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity and mental health issues such as suicide and substance abuse. 

However, In the same guide, it also finds that culturally sensitive mental health services have been shown to be more effective in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of these conditions. At the height of the gay rights movement in the U.S. the fight for access to resources to combat AIDS was a strong motivator. Providing these resources contributed significantly to improving the overall health of the population and bringing about awareness of the deadly disease. A research study published in World Development which analyzes economic data from 132 countries from 1966 to 2011, finds that there is a strong sign that economic development and LGBT inclusion are mutually reinforcing. Just one additional point on an 8-point scale of legal rights associated with a whopping $2000 per capita GDP increase. This shows that there is a strong basis for governments and industries to fight against LGBT discrimination and secure their rights in the workplace.

Open LGBTQ+ people are a minority. The majority of the population might feel inclined to not support their rights or that their problems are exclusive and trivial to a straight person. The research and data however paint a picture to the contrary. Inclusion of LGBTQ+ people has a direct positive impact on the overall health and economy of a nation. If data and statistics aren’t enough to convince you to be a supporter of their rights, we must look past the identity of a gay man, a lesbian woman, a transexual or queer person and see that they too hold an identity that you might associate with; a college student, a sister, an Indian, a neighbor in your community. It is through this shared identity that we must motivate ourselves to be compassionate and empathetic to their cause. Only through this attitude of acceptance and approval can we truly become open and accepting to our own identities and those of others’.

The Silent Crisis

TRIGGER WARNING: MENTIONS OF SUICIDE

 

There is no right way to begin talking about something like this. And that is exactly why it should be talked about; because conversations surrounding mental health issues are uncomfortable, need vulnerability and most importantly take a damning amount of courage. 

You see, the fight against the stigmas surrounding mental health dialogue and creating awareness about mental health issues is an everyday push-and-pull. India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. There are days when the world seems receptive to conversations, seems accepting of mental health issues, but some days just go on to show just how much of an uphill battle it actually is. LonePack was started with the very purpose to fight to start getting people to talk about mental health and to normalise mental health issues and their treatment. But it is absolutely gutting to see so much insensitivity and dismissal that still shadows mental health. It makes you think just what does one need to do to tell the world that they need help? And this is essentially what it is – this is the heartbreaking yet sobering reality that millions who are battling their own demons face every single day. 

If you scream out for help with everything you have but no one listens, you forget how to speak with time. 

It is high time everyone joins the battle against de-stigmatising mental health. It is not a taboo, it is a crisis. And it is time that the world starts recognising that. 

To bring to attention a few things that need visibility, especially now.

 

  • Be extremely careful of the words you use. It is very easy to throw words out there that in reality can deeply affect and trigger someone who is battling mental health issues. Be very sensitive to the content you share on social media. Be mindful of your language and educate yourself on the proper way to address those who reach out to you for help or talk to you about their mental health. Here are a few resources that you can refer to

Ten Commandments for How to Talk About Mental Health

Mental illnesses: Terms to use. Terms to avoid.

  • Do not misuse hashtags on social media. The aim as a collective is to bring attention to the issues surrounding open dialogue on mental health. It is not to be taken lightly and not to be used as an exploitative tool for any sort of personal of professional gain. 
  • Talking is definitely  a great first step but if you wish to open yourself up as a listener to those who need it, do keep in mind the accountability and responsibility that come with it. It is not to be taken lightly. You have to provide a non-judgemental, safe and inclusive environment for people to talk to while taking care of your own mental health. Here is a document that outlines some of the do’s and don’ts of being a listener https://lonepack.org/blog/index.php/2020/06/15/talking-to-someone-who-is-suicidal/. Again, let it be known that it is not an easy task. Instead, gently guide them to professional help and resources.
  • Please, please be kind. Battling mental health issues is not easy in any sense. Mental health is often romanticized as being quirky, moody, or anti-social and its portrayal in media is only now slowly changing. It is not pretty, it is not cute, it is not an adjective in any sense. It is raw, it is messy, it is uncomfortable, and it is wrenching. Be kind to those around you. 
  • The road to recovery is long and winding. Be patient. Anyone who has battled or is battling mental health issues can attest to the fact that recovery is not simple, it is not easy and it is not linear nor definitive. It is not a switch that you can flip and consider yourself to be “cured”. It is an everyday battle and every single, small step taken towards getting better counts.  Please be patient and understanding. 
  • Reach out. Mental health issues are silent. Those who are battling them might not feel ready or comfortable or safe to talk about it. The stigma surrounding mental health issues has made it incredibly difficult for those who battle mental health issues to come out and talk about them. And most often than not, they are driven to believe that they are alone in their battles. It is important to let them know that they aren’t and offer unyielding support. Reach out and check in on people with kindness and gentleness. 
  • Educate. Both yourself and those around you. Use your platform, no matter how small, to spread awareness by sharing proper established sources of correct information. This is one of the most important things to do if change is to be brought. Here are a few resources to check out.

Mental disorders

Health Topics

 

It feels unreal when someone who battles mental health issues gives up on it. That is someone’s friend, sibling, parent, partner, colleague but most importantly a genuine human being. Life is not to be taken lightly. Empathy and understanding is often dismissed when addressing issues such as this in the press and on social media. It is sickening to see the way a person’s life is turned into a mockery of sense in the wake of their death. And it has to stop. They are more than their achievements, they are more than what we see. There are so many who need help and are unable to have access to it. It is up to us to become allies and fight against the stigma. Fight for changes at the grassroots levels. Fight to normalise mental health issues and its treatments. If not now, then when will change happen? How many more lives do we have to lose to see change? Do your bit in helping. Here are a few ways you can be a strong ally

  • An audiovisual representation of what does it mean to be an ally 

How to be a mental health ally

NAMI Infographic – Helping Others Along the Road

To reiterate, mental health right now is not a taboo but a crisis. We need change and we need it right now.