HIGH FUNCTIONING YET DYSFUNCTIONAL

With 2017 coming to an end, this year saw a lot of debates and discussions about Mental Health issues than ever before. The Mental Health Act was passed this year on April 7th, which decriminalized suicide attempts. However, the world endured a lot of negativity as well. On the other end of the spectrum, this year also saw the rise of the Blue Whale challenge that shook the children of the world and we had to join hands to fight against it. The newspapers also carried headlines of an unprecedentedly large number of suicides, with most of the victims being teenagers and college-goers. And a mammoth of a question remains unanswered – What really pushed them to do this?

Charlie Brown from Peanuts

You see, the students that made it to the headlines this year all seemed to fit a certain profile. All of them were academically well off and had a normal relationship with their friends and family. No visible symptoms of depression or anxiety could be found out, they weren’t looking any different, their daily activities weren’t affected in any way, and all of them seemed normal and as they would every other day. Their suicides came as a big, unpredictable blow to their friends and family since literally nothing pointed to them suffering from any kind of mental health issues or, so they thought.

This observation or the lack of it reveals a darker truth. Most of us aren’t aware of a class of disorders that has now become to be known as “high-functioning” disorders. It is a recent development in the field of psychology and one that has come in a much-needed time.

Anxiety Girl Comic – Courtesy: Chat for Adults with HFA and Aspergers

For those who don’t know what they are, High-functioning disorders are the same as any other mental health disorder that one may suffer from but possess a darker trait, they do not affect your daily life. Psychologists are more worried of the people who suffer from these class of disorders since they are extremely difficult to diagnose. People with high-functioning versions of disorders such as anxiety and depression will not seem any different from a person without the disorders, superficially. They will continue with their normal lives as if nothing affects them at all, their body and brain cope very well with their conditions and as a result, their work and academic lives remain undisturbed. They’re social and active, all smiles and whatnot but on the inside, they’re still suffering and unable reach out to anyone.

For someone who is suffering and looks to the internet first to arrive at some kind of a self-diagnosis, it really doesn’t help when none of the mental health disorders’ so called “symptoms” fit them. Not many articles relating to these high functioning forms of disorders are present even on the internet, which is one of, if not the largest communicative space globally. And hence understandably, not much awareness is present with regard to these issues.

Anxious Overachievers – Courtesy: realbusiness.co.uk

 

However, people, one by one, are now coming forward to share their experiences with high-functioning disorders. This is an article written by a woman who suffers from High-Functioning Anxiety and Depressionhttps://themighty.com/2017/11/high-functioning-anxiety-depression-looks-like/

If you are suffering from not being the best version of yourself and doubt that it could be anxiety or depression or any other issues but experience none of the visible giveaways, do consult a psychologist.

It is never easy to battle these on your own and you shouldn’t either. The world is here to listen and to help. And if you doubt that one of your loved ones is suffering but do not know what to do since they do seem normal to everyone else, sit them down and talk to them. Ask them if they’re doing okay and if not, tell them that you’re there to help them get through this.

Everyone needs a hand sometimes. You could end up saving a life from further suffering because of the lack of awareness. Do your bit and spread the word.

 

-Srivasupradha Ramesh

Is being OCD=Perfectionist?

We all wish to be perfect and do our work well. To this aim, we utilise some skills that enable us to channelize our behaviours so that we don’t spend too much time on doing routine chores – e.g. keeping the keys, wallet, shoes etc in the same place everyday, trying to leave work the same time each day to beat the traffic and so on. These things we learn as a result of our experiences and sometimes the difficulties we face. Persons who we call perfectionists invariably have a reasonably good “error checking” system in place and thus, are able to use the above mentioned skills to their benefit. The easiest example to consider would be the character Wasabi from the movie Big Hero 6 who would quote – “a place for everything and everything in its place”.

But, just imagine a scenario where the above skills go haywire and then we have people focusing on the trivial details with an inability to stop the process of error checking. This is not based on any prior learning or a misinterpretation of prior learning taken to absurd levels. Then we have people who are unable to control their impulse to make sure that things (even trivial ones) are placed “exactly right”, doing things over and over (whether it be checking, counting, cleaning or whatever) to “just to be sure”, having illogical/ magical beliefs and so on. This would intrude on their daily functioning and would impair their ability to do the most basic things with any efficiency. This would be OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Obsessions could be anything – a thought, an image, an impulse to do something.

One common feature of obsessions include the fact that at some level, the person having them identifies them as illogical, unnecessary, excessive, intrusive and distressing.

Compulsions are any behaviour(s) aimed at reducing the anxiety that is created by the obsessions. They could be things like doing things a particular way, or doing it repeatedly, or a particular number of times.

Its important to recognise that there are people who are obsessive about certain things and that makes them who they are but, this is different from people with OCD who dislike this part of themselves that prevents them from living a full and happy life.

-Dr. Shiva Prakash

Clique management for Dummies

Remember that scene from Kung Fu Panda where Po struggles to make friends with the Furious Five and receive reactions ranging from awkwardness to hostility? Like:

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Does this seem to be relatable to you? Seem to strike a chord somewhere? Remember when you are about to express yourself on some topic amongst your friends only to receive dismissive comments, change of topic or weird silence ( especially in whatsapp groups) almost every time?(Disclaimer: I mean the seemingly mundane topics). Or you feel emotionally drained out when hanging out with them, conforming to some unspoken rules which you secretly hate but don’t disclose for fear of being judged? Or find yourself pandering to the wishes of the queen bee(in simple words, the most dominating person in the group)?  Welcome to the clique phenomenon.

Due to the need to be approved, liked or to avoid being lonely, people unwittingly join such groups.

While this word seems to be lifted off from an American high school sitcom, the phenomenon exists everywhere, across all age groups. People in the age group of 12-20( in some cases, younger) are adversely affected by this, which saps their confidence and self-esteem resulting in anxiety. Due to the need to be approved, liked or to avoid being lonely, people unwittingly join such groups. Though it may be fun at first, if the person happens to have any of the qualities that intimidate the queen bee’s position, then that person becomes the target. While guy’s cliques aren’t that overt with targets, girls or mixed cliques overtly ignore them during planning, subtly criticize whatever the target does and ensure that the target isn’t really  the person they once were. And unlike Po’s case where he eventually becomes a part of the Furious Five( hey, they weren’t bad people..) you can’t expect wonders to happen.

Read a brutally honest post here on how it feels to be excluded and treated like a third wheel:   Story of my Life

Cliques, are especially detrimental during school and college life. When you need to be enjoying and building your career , you seem to be perennially stuck in abyss instead, not able to do the things you love. Isn’t that terrible? With increasing peer pressure, it isn’t really surprising that many adolescents and college goers suffer from crippling anxiety which can spiral into something worse, like losing your individuality.

Though it isn’t easy (or desirable) to leave a clique abruptly, especially if you have some good friends who are stuck like you, here are some steps to help you deal with cliques:

  • Engage yourself in some activity that you love. Join clubs and get yourself engrossed in the activities. Joining multiple clubs does involve a lot of time management. If you’re not that okay with balancing a lot of activities, especially when you have a lot of academic workload, it’s absolutely okay to restrict yourself to a couple of clubs. When you get to do something that you love, you’ll be so engrossed in it that you wouldn’t be bothered about the outing that the clique has specifically excluded you from. Also, chances are high that you’d find your best buddies in the club. When you do an activity you love with other people who also love it, isn’t that the best thing you can afford to have?
  • Also, if you find yourself being mocked by the members for some specific characteristic of yours, muster all the will-power you have, give them a grin and shrug your shoulders. Don’t ever change yourself. For example, when the queen bee taunts you for submitting your assignment early, chances are high that the person would’ve submitted the assignment much before you would’ve (no jokes). Repeat the grin and shrug every time, the clique will get tired of you( Disclaimer: This point is not applicable to well-meaning advice)
  • Learn to say ‘NO’. That’s the toughest thing to do but you should learn to refuse and disagree on some issues assertively(aggression never works). You’ll receive a lot of emotional blackmail into doing something you’ve never liked but listen to your conscience and trust you gut. They’ll never fail you.
  • If you’re still feeling the brunt , talk it out with a person you trust. It could be a parent or an older sibling or an older cousin. Only when you open up, will you realize that there are people who actually care for you.

Friendships enable you to grow, not cliques.

While these steps cannot show results in a short period of time ,with patience and persistence, you’ll surely grow out of it. So, instead of focusing on what the clique was thinking/will think of you, remember Master Ogway’s words:

 

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-Pooja C

Image credits: Google