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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in mental health
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5 Ways to Reduce Your Anxiety About Birth

As exciting and rewarding as expecting a baby can be, it’s also completely normal and somewhat expected for women to feel a certain amount of anxiety about giving birth. For some women it’s manageable, but for others it can turn into paralyzing fear. 

The good thing is that so many women have done this before you, which allows you to learn from their experiences and provides you with an opportunity to prepare your body and mind for what awaits. Here are some effective methods to reduce your anxiety about birth.

Don’t ignore your fear

If you’re truly scared about labor and you feel anxious increasingly more often and for longer periods of time, the worst thing you can do is to smile and pretend everything is just fine. Bear in mind that you’re not alone in your body any more and that you have to put your baby’s health first. According to researchers from Zurich, if you’re under long-term stress during your pregnancy, the rise in the cortisol levels can affect your amniotic fluid as well. 

In order to avoid this, it’s imperative that you don’t simply ignore the issue and hope it will disappear on its own. So, before you can find ways to actually help yourself and deal with your problem, it’s essential that you realize that a problem even exist. Once you do that, you’ll be on a good way towards composing yourself and defeating your anxiety.

Avoid stories which stress you out

With so much information available online, it’s often hard to filter out what’s real and objective, and what’s overexaggerated or even made up. There are numerous truly frightening stories you can read, some of which may have ended badly, but this doesn’t mean that you have to read those stories and let them add to your already existing stress. Even if those stories are 100% true, there’s no reason for you to think that something like that can happen to you or expect only the worst possible outcomes of everything related to childbirth. 

Make it your mission to avoid documentaries, movies and shows where the sole focus is on the bad experiences and other women’s traumatic recollections. Instead, opt for neutral, informative and calming books, articles and videos, so that you can concentrate on your own and your baby’s well-being and get ready for the delivery day.

Talk to other mothers

5 Ways to Reduce Your Anxiety About Birth

As mentioned above, the problem of birth-related anxiety isn’t uncommon and there are many other women who struggle with the same issues as you. You can expect that those women have also tried to alleviate their stress one way or another and that, for many of them, something eventually worked. Furthermore, there are women who have already gone through all of this and have given birth to healthy children without any complications. In cases where there were some complications, perhaps you’d like to know what lead to them and what you can do to avoid them. 

For all of these reasons, you should seek out other mothers, so that you can exchange stories about your experiences. Some close friends, neighbors or family members would be good candidates for this, but if that’s not an option, there are some amazing apps allowing you to connect with other moms. Some women use these apps only to chat, but sometimes these like-minded moms meet in person, too. That way you can sit down and have meaningful and helpful conversations with some of them in a relaxing atmosphere.

Attend antenatal classes 

No matter where you’re from, there should be organized antenatal classes near you. These classes are useful for many reasons. Not only can they help you understand the changes your body is going through, how to take care of yourself during pregnancy and how you should behave once the labor begins, but they can also ease your mind and tone down your childbirth-related fears. Some of these classes are held for the pregnant women only, but there are those which welcome their partners or another trusted person as well. Things that you can learn there range from maintaining a healthy diet and exercising throughout pregnancy to mastering different relaxation techniques and helping yourself go through labor and birth. You can also learn how to take care of your newborn. 

Furthermore, becoming familiar with the Lamaze method can also help you unwind and even control your pain during childbirth, so ask if there are classes available to you that teach it. Most maternity hospitals offer antenatal classes, so talk to your obstetrician or your midwife and ask for their recommendations. 

Form a good support team

Having people you can rely on when things get overwhelming can mean a lot, which is why you should ask a person or several of them to provide you with the support you need when you go into labor. This can be your partner, your doula, a family member or a friend, but they should be informed of your delivery plans. It’s important that they know whether you want to give birth vaginally, or have a cesarean section, whether you want pain medication or not, but most importantly, they should know you. 

When there’s somebody at your side who knows exactly what kind of music helps you relax, what you need to hear to feel more empowered and exactly what they can do to calm you down at the perfect moment is priceless. Maybe you just need somebody to hold your hand through it all, and that’s fine. So, choose the people you want in your support team and have them ready to step up and help you when the moment for that comes.

Don’t let your fear and stress grab you by the throat, but rather find a way to control them and get them out of the way. The advice from this article should help, but feel free to ask your doctor anything else you’re curious or worried about.

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5 Massage Therapies That Can Improve Your Mental Wellness

Most people don’t give massages enough credit. Beauty, pampering and relaxation are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to benefits of massages. They can also be great allies when it comes to improving your mental health. Furthermore, it’s important to know that not all massages are the same and that there are different massage treatments to address any health issues you may have, whether they’re physical or mental. So, if you’re looking for something to help you gain balance and maintain your mental health, here are some massage treatment suggestions you could try.

Aromatherapy massage

Essential oils are compounds which are extracted from various types of plants, often through distillation or cold pressing. On their own, these oils can affect the part of your brain called the limbic system, which has an important role in your behavior and emotions, but also long-term memory. By rubbing them on your skin or inhaling them, essential oils can relax you, energize you or reduce your stress. When you combine this with a massage, your mental wellbeing can receive just the help it needs for you to function normally and feel satisfied with yourself and deal better with any circumstances that can put you under stress. The choice of essential oil is important, since each of them has a specific health claim linked to them. For instance, chamomile can relax you and boost your mood, jasmine can assist when battling depression, while lavender is famous for stress relief. 

Thai massage

This type of massage aims to align your body’s energies, which is accomplished by pressuring specific points on your body in a gentle manner. Other than this, it can also involve some stretches and compressions, as well as rocking your body. This basically means that you don’t simply lie in the same position while your therapist works on you, but they rather stretch you and guide your body into a series of postures, similar to yoga. You can even say that Thai massage combines acupressure, yoga postures and some principles of Ayurveda. It can energize you more than any other type of massage, while also lowering your stress levels and enhancing your flexibility. During the therapy, which can last up to two hours, you remain clothed and in constant physical contact with the therapist, and no oils are used to massage you. 

Swedish massage therapy

When people talk about getting a massage, they usually talk about Swedish massage therapy. It is known to be very relaxing for your whole body, and this is achieved through long and smooth strokes, circular movements and rubbing your upper muscle layers. It uses either oil or massage lotions to keep these strokes as pleasant for you as possible. It’s a gentle massage meant to increase the oxygen levels in your blood and improve your circulation, all the while lowering tension. It may decrease the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in your body and keep you calm and lax. Your mental health can only benefit from it, so if you’ve never had a massage before, perhaps booking an effective professional massage is a wise place for you to start.


This is a Japanese form of massage therapy, which relies on putting pressure on precise acupuncture spots on your body rhythmically. Each of these spots is held for a period of two to eight seconds, in order to enhance the energy flow and restore body’s natural balance. And even though Shiatsu translates from Japanese as “finger pressure”, Shiatsu therapists are also known to use their palms, elbows and even feet and knees when applying pressure. Other than providing you with a very enjoyable experience, this type of massage therapy is great for your overall well-being, including your emotional and psychological health, helping you combat depression and anxiety. 

Hot stone massage

This type of massage therapy uses heated stones, smooth and flat, which are carefully placed on different points of your body. The aim is to warm and relax your tense muscles and put your body’s energy centers in balance. The stones are usually made of basalt. This is a volcanic rock which can preserve heat, which is important, since these stones are usually warmed up to about 60°C and this warmth is meant to be comforting. They can be placed along your spine, over your stomach and chest, or on your face, palms or feet and toes. Aside from improving the state of your immune system and relieving you of pain and tension, hot stone massage can also reduce your stress and anxiety and improve your sleep.

If you’re searching for new ways to improve your mental well-being, you should turn to one of these massage therapies and let them help you stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

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Breathe Freely: Importance of Decluttering Your Living Space

Clutter is one of the main reasons why some homes look unsightly. An old stack of magazines here, an empty bottle of perfume there, and before you know it, you’re settled in a messy living space. However, the moment you start being surrounded by a pile of unnecessary stuff, you’ll feel cramped and it’ll affect your way of life as well. Therefore, it’s time to turn your cluttered home into a neat and tidy place, where you’ll feel amazing.

Stop producing clutter

It’s always better to prevent the problem in the first place than to work on solving it. Therefore, if you wish to have a clutter-free home, stop creating clutter. Hoarding is a sneaky and horrible habit, but also it is often a sign of depression. Storing unnecessary magazine issues, old perfume bottles, or piling up on figurines will only turn your home into an unpleasant living space. So, keep only the last two issues of magazines, and cut out the specific articles you may have liked from all the rest, and file them into a binder that you can store neatly. 

Living room decluttering

No matter the size of the living room, some furniture can simply be too much for the space. Stick to the basics, and only get a sofa, a bookshelf, an end table, a coffee table and an armchair so you can create an uncramped living space where you’ll be able to move freely. What’s more, go with the multifunctional furniture that can serve as both a storage compartment and a nice ottoman. Try to keep 75% of the coffee table clear, and consider investing in those with drawers or shelves underneath. It’s essential to keep the floor as spacious as possible as well, because too many items will only shrink the space visually. While they may look too sterile, clear floors will, in fact, offer you a clean look that you can jazz up a bit with a stylish rug you can layer over a bare floor.

Tidy up the bedroom

A messy bedside table is the worst piece of furniture you can have in a bedroom. Therefore, create a harmonious night space and free the nightstand of clutter with one easy method. Create compartments in the drawer, and organize all the knickknacks you’d otherwise have on display. The top should always be clean and clutter-free – try only having a lamp on it. Furthermore, go through your wardrobe, and start picking out the clothes you rarely ever wear, and donate it to charity. Those skinny jeans you wore in college, a shirt that’s been in the closet for years, and the pile of those unnecessary “maybe I’ll wear it sometimes” t-shirts are the perfect items to get rid of and make room for something you’ll actually wear.

Don’t forget the outdoors

Most people tend to forget about the outdoors when they’re decluttering their home. That is, frankly, quite surprising. Our backyard is an important part of our home, and it deserves to look clean and polished. The smart thing to do about this “problem” is call a reliable company for rubbish removal, so why don’t you? Don’t let the rubbish pile up in your backyard.

Neat shelves

If you’re a passionate book lover, chances are your shelves are crowded with numerous literary works you’re in love with. However, choosing to show off only a couple of your favourite books will look much more attractive than displaying all of them. Leaving space for one or two decorative pieces, and the rest of the shelves empty is the best tactics to decluttering the space. Don’t keep all the souvenirs on the shelves, but only have two to three pieces per shelf, to avoid cluttering. If you display groups of photos in similar frames, you’ll achieve that impeccable and cohesive look. Boxes and lightweight bins can find their place on the bottom shelf if you don’t know where else to store your kids’ toys.

Final thoughts

A clutter-free home leads to a decluttered mind. Therefore, stop sticking to unnecessary stuff that will only transform the otherwise clean home into an unsightly living space. Don’t stack old magazine issues and overstock the shelves, but clear out your wardrobe regularly, invest in multifunctional furniture and create storage compartments for all the knickknacks you’d otherwise leave out in the open, to create a clutter-free home.


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Health Benefits of Emotional Support Animals for People Under Depression

According to a statistic by the ASPCA, Americans own a staggering total of 78 million dogs and 85.8 million catsThose numbers don't include other categories like birds, fish, and other reptiles. It's obvious that animals play an important role in our lives and even made them part of the family.


For people struggling with depression, pets can even play a more crucial role. They can become a source of companionship and comfort, leading to a positive outcome in our lives and improving our overall well-being. An Emotional Support Animal or ESA offers unwavering companionship to their owners helping them deal with mental and emotional difficulties.


Here are the top health benefits of emotional support animals for people suffering from depression:


Benefit #1 - Emotional Support

When you're suffering the effects of depression, you may, from time to time, experience bouts of loneliness. You feel isolated from the rest of the world and nobody seems to understand what you're going through. Not only an emotional support animal can offer you companionship, but they can also be a sort of emotional outlet. You can freely talk to them without worrying that they will judge you.


Moreover, owners gain a new sense of purpose by caring, feeding, playing and providing love for their pet. It gives them a renewed sense of responsibility importance within themselves, which can be useful in combating negative emotions.


Benefit #2 - Companionship

Emotional support animals can be great companions especially if you feel lonely. In fact, these animals are known to be very intelligent. Most ESA dogs know how to be in tune with human emotions. Thus, it's easier for them to sense their owners’ feelings. They can approach and respond to someone who's feeling down. This submissive behavior equates with feelings of empathy.


As you build a strong bond and friendship with your pets,  they could also help prevent you from feeling lonely. They also have the capacity to show unconditional love to their owners.


Benefit #3 - Reduced Levels of Stress

Time and time again, several researchers support the idea that pets can ease the psychological and emotional effects of depression. Health benefits include easing muscle tension, lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, a person experiences lower stress levels and reduced feelings of sadness, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts.  


The result is that it can significantly benefit one's overall physical health. Adopting a furry friend in the household can lessen your chance of acquiring a stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Also, they can significantly speed up the recovery of a person who had an accident or is suffering from an illness.


Benefit #4 - Lessens Isolation

Having an emotional support animal in your household means you constantly have to be on your toes feeding, caring or playing with your pet. For instance, dogs love to have regular walks, which can be an excellent excuse to go for a relaxing stroll to the park and live a more active lifestyle.


Since dogs are generally friendly creatures, plus the fact that they’re real human magnets, they can make great conversation starters. This will make it easier for you to interact and meet friendly acquaintances in your neighborhood. ESAs provide these exceptional benefits that can lessen one's feeling of isolation and loneliness.


Benefit #5 - Reduces Anxiety

Since ESA pets give a sense of familiarity and security, this helps their owners stay calm in changing environments or meeting new people. A pet's constant presence can help provide comfort and decrease any feelings of uneasiness.


Not only that, but they can be an excellent distraction from negative thoughts, keeping depressive symptoms at bay, therefore, significantly reducing any feelings of anxiousness and can even help a person to exude a sense of calm.


Just enjoying the moment with your pet will help in keeping you from worrying the past or future. In fact, according to a study from the University of Missouri, the simple act of stroking and cuddling these adorable creatures releases dopamine, the happy hormones in your system. Natural pain-killers are released in your body and as a result, this significantly improves your mood. It's a great alternative to conventional medicines that have side effects.


In Summary

Some people suffering from depression may feel hopeless, but having a trusty companion by their side can turn their life around. There are many amazing health benefits that an emotional support animal (see this ESA faqs page for more) can do in helping treat depression and other mental and emotional difficulties. Their presence isn't just there to ease the symptoms, but they also provide unconditional love and companionship to their owners.


Having an emotional support animal by your side can reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and isolation. Knowing you have a steady and trusted friend by your side no matter what can be a huge relief. It gives you a renewed sense of hope and purpose to start over and live a better and happier life.  

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How Your Mental Health Impacts Your Overall Health

People often try to make a distinction between the mind and the body. But even though some think of them as separate entities, they actually go hand in hand. Poor physical health can increase your risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, if you’re suffering from mental health problems, you’re more likely to experience issues with your physical health.

The one thing that’s we know for sure about mental health is that it can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a long and supportive family with a lot of money and you have a job, you can still experience issues with your mental health. Unfortunately, a lot of people choose to ignore their mental health problems. However, if you do this, your condition will only get worse. That’s why it’s important to completely understand what you’re suffering from and know what to do to get better.

The Most Common Types of Mental Health Problems

  • Anxiety disorders - Anxiety is completely normal if you experience it from time to time. But suffering from chronic anxiety will have a negative effect on your quality of life. For people with this disorder, anxiety rarely goes away. Because of this, it can often interfere with their relationships, job performance, and school work. Anxiety disorders can also lead to headaches, insomnia, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Depression – People suffering from depression often stop caring about their health, which can lead to quite a few different problems. On top of that, these people don’t have healthy eating habits, rarely exercise, and may use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Depression may increase the risk of asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
  • Bipolar disorder – Those who suffer from bipolar disorder often experience episodes of depression and mania. Bipolar disorder can lead to significant changes in daily habits. Most notably, it can completely change your eating and sleeping habits. You may experience a decline in focus and energy. People who suffer from bipolar disorder have an increased risk of obesity, migraines, heart disease, and diabetes.

Improving Your Emotional Health

If you want to improve your mental and physical health, you will need to learn more about dealing with your emotions. By having great emotional health, you will be aware of your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. This will help you find healthy ways to deal with stress and problems that you face on a regular basis.

Having strong emotional health will help you deal with certain situations in your life that can lead to anxiety, stress, and sadness. If you’re aware of your emotions and thoughts, you’ll find it easier to deal with losing your job, getting divorced, suffering an injury, and having financial problems.

Keep in mind that your body will always respond to how you feel, think, and act. When you’re sad, anxious, or stressed, you can increase your risk of suffering from physical health problems. That’s why it’s important that you take all the necessary steps to ensure both your physical and mental health is in good shape.

Improving Your Physical and Mental Health

There are quite a few ways that you can improve your physical and mental health. The first thing that you should do is start exercising. Working out regularly will not only help keep in your body in top shape, but will also improve your mental wellbeing. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like hitting the gym or jogging for a long amount of time, then you’ll be happy to hear that it only takes 15-20 minutes of exercising a day to keep your body and mind in good condition.

Apart from working out on a regular basis, you should also consider improving your eating habits. By eating a lot of processed food, fat, sugar, and fast food, your mental and physical health will steadily decline. Not having proper eating habits can lead to huge amounts of stress and pain on a daily basis. Since the food you eat is supposed to provide your body with essential nutrients, it’s common sense that you won’t be in good health if you don’t eat healthy. By eating healthy, you will reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Good nutrition is also essential to mental health, and can even help you battle anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia. In order to keep your brain healthy, you should avoid foods that are high in sugar. On the other hand, it’s recommended that you eat more fruit, vegetables, nuts, lentils, and cereals.

You should also do research on how to improve your health through supplements and fitness gadgets. Healthy Heroics offers quality reviews of products that will put your on a path to improved health.

The only way to ensure that your mental and physical health is improved is to avoid habits like smoking. Most people with mental health problems smoke because they believe it helps them relieve their symptoms. However, this can only provide a short-term solution. Know that the nicotine found in cigarettes interferes with chemicals in your brain.

If you want to reduce your stress levels and combat your anxiety or depression in a healthy way, then you should maintain a normal sleep schedule. It’s recommended that you get at least seven hours of sleep each night. The next time you get into bed, try to avoid watching a TV show or checking social media on your phone, since this will make it harder for you to fall asleep. Keeping your electronic devices at bay is one of the best ways to improve your sleeping habits.

If you notice any issues with your mental health, you should contact a doctor immediately. Health problems should never be ignored, since acting fast may help you prevent your condition from getting worse. People suffering from mental health problems should seek support from their friends and family members. Although it may be a difficult topic to discuss, you should never be afraid to reach out to the people close to you for support.

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Why Paying for Cancer Treatment is as Painful as the Treatment Itself

Cancer strikes to anyone regardless of the age, popularity, religion, ethnicity, and culture, lifestyle, or financial situation. It’s an illness that doesn’t discriminate. Even the wealthiest ones like Steve Jobs wasn’t spared from this sickness. It only shows that cancer doesn’t care if you’re a rich or poor.

And this is the odd part, what’s more than being broke and then gets diagnosed with this disease.

Yes, there are health insurances available but this may not be enough to pay for your treatment. Moreover, since health insurances are usually provided at work, you may not be in the position to take long absences from work to focus on fighting your disease. Your money may not be sufficient to try hospitals who specializes in cancer treatments especially on what stricken you. Even with an insurance, it's not 100% guaranteed that it won’t drain your bank account.

A cancer diagnosis carries with it lots of stresses, not to mention the physical and emotional aspects of dealing with it. But the financial aspect is often overlooked by the medical practitioners and hospitals, and that a lot of them doesn’t know how to bring the subject up.

Medical expenses for Cancer Patients

Learn a lot as your mind can absorb before your cancer treatment starts. It will help you know what to expect and how to deal with it. It can also help you plan for the costs it will incur. Most cancer patients have medical expenses for things enumerated below:

  • Hospital and doctor visits for check-ups and treatments
  • Various repetitive Laboratory tests (such as blood tests, urine tests, and other specifics)
  • Procedures (for diagnosis or treatment, that  include room charges, machinery and medical equipment use, one or more doctors’ fees, and more)
  • Imaging tests (like x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, which include separate fees for the radiologist, equipment, and any medicines used for the test)
  • Radiation treatments (implants, external radiation, or both)
  • Drug costs (in-patient, out-patient, prescription, non-prescription, and procedure-related)
  • Hospital confinements (which can include many types of costs such as drugs, tests, and procedures as well as nursing care, doctor visits, and consults with specialists)
  • Surgery (surgeon, anesthesiologist, pathologist, operating room fees, equipment, medicines, and more)
  • Home care (can include equipment, drugs, visits from specially trained nurses, and more)

5 Helpful Ways to Pay for Cancer Costs

Government Programs

Numerous government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, federal grants, and others not mentioned can offer financial and medical assistance to cancer patients. These include veterans and military benefits, children’s health insurance programs, and financial support programs for low-income earning women who suffer from breast and/or cervical cancer.

Life Insurance Loans

You may have decided to purchase other life insurance policies with the intent of transferring it to a loved one I  order to protect their sickness in the future. This purchased policies may be able to provide you with a cash should you need it.

Life insurance loans through Fifth Season Financial are available to those diagnosed with advanced stage illness. Moreover, it can provide a relatively huge percentage of your policy’s death benefit available in just a few days’ time.

Advantages to life insurance loans are those facts that the lender assumes the payments of your loan mostly from the time you are diagnosed of such illness, and that any remaining death benefit is still available for your named beneficiary.

Friends and Family

During this dark side of your life, the first ones you can seek help are your family and friends. For sure they’d be more than willing to help, even if they don’t have much capacity to do so. Others may lend or give you money, while the others can help through organizing fundraisings in order to help you pay for cancer treatment costs or day-to-day expenses.

Home Equity Loan

If you have a real estate property, you can use this as a collateral to get a line of credit of a lump sum home loan. The funds you can raise will help you with your cancer treatment costs.

The disadvantage however of getting a home loan is that regular monthly payments will be required, and you need to pass a credit check to be approved for the loan. The dilemma is, you may find it hard to do so if they found out you’re undergoing a treatment and struggling for bills.

Personal Loans

Similar to a home equity loan, personal loans will require you to pass the credit checking. This will also have either a lump sum payment or monthly amortizations. The advantage it, it does it does not necessarily require a collateral.


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Genes and Personality: An Introspective ExplorationAfter being chronically ill for 20 years, having been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) at the young age of 11, I have grown increasingly interested in psychology and particularly the traits required to survive an illness that robs sufferers of so much (what I would give to be able to just go for a run).

My ill health has also included multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), and adrenal fatigue, which are all terrible things to deal with in themselves and have forced me to draw on every last bit of inner strength I could muster to keep going despite a distinct lack of enjoyment in life.

Rather than crushing my spirit however, these trials and tribulations that have shaped my life, have actually strengthened my resolve, given me greater confidence in myself and my abilities, and changed my outlook on life for the better. When one is suicidally depressed as a result of severe S.A.D. during northern England's dark winters, thoughts inevitably turn to the big questions. Some may be surprised to hear that I actually feel grateful for having experienced deep depression and uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. One cannot know true happiness without having experienced the depths of despair, I have discovered. When you are at your lowest is also a brilliant opportunity to truly learn about yourself and what makes you tick. I have come through these experiences with the feeling that I now have an appreciation of both the best and worst aspects of my personality. I am especially aware of my strong stubborn streak...which can be both a blessing and a burden!

So, I should really get to the title of this post before I go any further. In November of 2010 I had a panel of tests carried out looking for common genetic variations which affect the activity of key genes involved in environmental illnesses. Specifically, what the tests look for are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced "SNiPs"). SNPs refer to the substitution of one base (C, G, A or T) in a DNA strand with another. These tiny alterations in the DNA structure of genes in turn can result in the substitution of one amino acid in a protein, commonly an enzyme , with another, and this can have profound effects on the activity of the enzyme.

Here's where I really started to find things interesting. Since my first memories as a child I had been aware that I was a very nervous person. In fact, I have always felt hugely conflicted as I am essentially an adventurous and outgoing person and want to sample all that life has to offer, yet I have always been held back, particular in social situations, by this invisible barrier - my nerves. With the arrival of my SNP test results came genetic and biochemical explanations for the nervousness and the conflict within my personality.

We have two copies of each gene, one on each chromosome (one from each parent), and my SNP results revealed I had inherited the poorest functioning variants of two key genes involved in neurotransmitter metabolism, from both of my parents. The genes in question being MTHFR, which is key to folate metabolism (as part of the methylation cycle) and neurotransmitter synthesis, and COMT, which controls the rate at which neurotransmitters are broken down.

Just looking at the SNPs in both copies of COMT it became apparent that a lot of the nervousness and shyness I had battled with all my life could be explained (at least in large part), by the variants of this gene I had inherited from my parents. It turns out SNPs in both copies of the COMT gene (a "homozygous" variation) significantly increases an individual's risk for nervousness, excitability and mood disturbances. As noted previously, the COMT enzyme (which the COMT gene regulates) controls the rate at which neurotransmitters, and also hormones, are borken down - particularly the catecholamines (adrenaline (epinephrine), noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and dopamine). Research has shown that people with SNPs in both copies of the COMT gene have significantly reduced activity of the COMT enzyme and this results in higher than normal levels of adrenaline in the blood at rest, a higher spike in adrenaline during the stress response, and also a greater subjective experience of stress. This was all a revelation to me. To have markers in my very genetic code that explained my subjective experience of life blew me away!

Thankfully SNPs in COMT are not all bad news as they are also associated with increased intelligence and mental peformance. Without bragging I think this has been vital for me. Without the confidence that I was intelligent enough to figure out my hugely complex illness and improve my condition with the right interventions I am not sure I would have coped with the mood disturbances, caused in part by the same genetic variation.

While I personally got very excited thinking about the implications of my SNP results and finding within them explanations for both my current health problems and my personality, I know many of you will not be so enthused by this aspect of genetic testing. The good news is that testing for SNPs can also be hugely beneficial for guiding treatment for illness or even as a guide for preventative medicine. Testing for SNPs in genes such as MTHFR and COMT which are important for many biochemical processes within the body (particularly in the case of MTHFR) means we know where are weaknesses lie and as a result we can supply our bodies with the correct forms and amounts of nutrients to nullify, or even bypass, our genetic weaknesses. In my case both my MTHFR and COMT results are of great use as they play important roles in neurotransmitter and hormone metabolism and the methylation cycle, to name just a few areas which have been implicated in ME/CFS and the other conditions from which I suffer.

I have been ill for a long time and endured a lot of suffering but with advances such as relatively inexpensive genetic testing I am hugely excited about the future, both in terms of what we can learn about ourselves indivudually and as a species, and with respect to more effective treatments for ME/CFS and other environmental illnesses.

I would love to hear your thoughts on genes, personality and illness. Please use the comment form below...


Genes and Personality: An Introspective ExplorationDynamic Neural Retraining Program (DNRS)


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 Pets help fight depression and anxiety in environmental illness Many people suffering from environmental illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and particularly multiple chemical sensitivity, lead very lonely existences. This blog entry will look at how pets can offer valuable company for some. 

The symptoms of these disabling conditions such as fatigue, pain, and cognitive difficulties such as confusion, poor short term memory, and inability to focus, mean that sufferers are often unable to remain in their jobs or enageg in social activities. To make matters worse these symptoms and many others are aggravated by both physical and mental exertion, as well as environments that are noisy or have bright lighting - typical of work places and coffee shops, bars, and other places where people typically socialise.

It is a sad fact that people unaffected by these types of illness find it very difficult to comprehend what sufferers are going through, or even that they are ill at all. This leads to the breakdown of both friendships and relationships as partners inevitably struggle to understand and feel their lives are also greatly restricted.

People suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) undoubtedly live the most lonely lives in many cases as they are essentially restricted to their homes and often can't even have visitors - at least not without the use of face masks containing carbon filters or supplying oxygen; any exposure to everyday chemicals such as fragranced personal care products triggering an array of symptoms that can last for days and be serious in nature.

Obviously the loneliness associated with environmental illnesses in itself is enough to cause depression and anxiety but these illnesses themselves can also cause depression and anxiety due to various biochemical disturbances resulting from the disease processes.

For people in this terrible situation a pet such as a cat or dog can offer significant companionship and comfort. Medical research is even showing that pets have a measurable positive effect on mental illnesses including depression and anxiety. A short article in The Gaea Times this week reported on just this issue.

The article asserts that having a "four-legged, furry pet" is one of the most effective safeguards against developing depression and anxiety, not just for those suffering from the isolation of environmental illnesses, but for everyone. 

Rebecca Johnson, associate professor at the University of Missouri , is cited as saying "Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives." Johnson adds that "Pets provide unconditional love and acceptance" - likely to be an instrumental factor for environmental illness sufferers who find these qualities hard to find in people.

James Griffin, scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), agrees that so far research suggests "pet ownership may have multiple health and emotional benefits for both children and adults." However, he cautions that further research is required to confirm these findings and find out how having furry friends around the home have such seemingly profound health benefits.

Now I would be negligent in a piece about environmental illness and pet ownership if I neglected to add a caveat about pet allergies. Obviously those who suffer from allergies to cats, dogs, or other furry pets will not benefit from having them around. Research suggests having cats and dogs in the home with children reduces the risk of a child devloping allergies - but if allergies are already present avoidance is necessary in the absence of successful neutralisation therapy. Perhaps an alternative option would be a reptile or maybe a bird if that is your thing!

I personally have always been an animal lover and have had cats and dogs in the home since I was born. As the research suggests I never developed allergies to animal dander despite developing chronic fatigue syndrome aged 12, hayfever shortly after, and chemical sensitivities aged 21.

I would not be without a pet, they definitely provide comfort to me when I am down and can often put a smile on my face with their playful antics. I know not everyone loves animals like I do but since research points to the benefits discussed above I thought it would be interesting to hear from others on this subject.

Do you have pets? Do they help you get through the hard times of living with environmental illnesses? Please let us know using the comments box below!


Pets to help fight depression and anxiety in environmental illnessDynamic Neural Retraining Program (DNRS)


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Allergies also affect mental health

If you suffer from respiratory allergies such as hayfever I'm sure you know that symptoms aren't limited to the obvious sneezing, itching, runny nose and watering eyes. Of course these are very annoying and often distressing but what those who don't have allergies don't realise is that mood disturbances such as depression, irritability and insomnia are also a common result of allergic reactions and can be equally or more distressing than the obvious allergy symptoms.

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