Part 2: We had just started to discuss the brain-heart connection in Part 1 of our interview with Dr. John M. Kennedy. We continue here:
DJK: We all need to understand the brain-heart connection and work with it. The heart and brain are in constant communication. We are learning that the heart has its own mini-brain. It sends impulses and signals to the brain, as well. We have to pay attention, though.
When we have sweaty palms, dry mouth and other symptoms of stress, those are bodily cues that remind us that this conversation between the heart and brain is going on. These cues are an invitation to us to stop stress in tracks.
Now, if we relax instead of stress, we lower the heart rate, blood pressure, inflammation and so on.
I give talks to doctors, and of the last 3000 of them I asked if emotional stress precipitates heart disease, well, 3000 out of 3000 agree. The emotions impact morbidity and mortality. We all agree, there is absolutely no question.
However when I asked these same doctors what we do to teach our patients to reduce stress…Zero. Not one doctor was teaching his patients how to do this.
I would be surprised if your schedules didn’t change over the course of therapy. During therapy, as you do more intense work, the frequency of your sessions might increase, and as you improve, the frequency will usually decrease.
I remember waking up a week later in my Las Vegas apartment feeling very different. It was as if I had lived my entire life in black and white and for the first time I was seeing the world in color. The difference between wanting to end my life and wanting to live forever, was contained in 40 milligrams of Paxil. That tiny magic little pill. It had finally kicked in.
In December of 2001 and I was on tour with “The Osmond Brothers” and everything changed. We were just about to close for the season when my body collapsed without a warning. In the blink of an eye I found myself on the stage floor not sure of what had just taken place. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. One thing was very clear. I wasn’t in control anymore. Unable to move, I remember feeling as if I was paralyzed. As if I had an elephant sitting on my chest. Unable to breathe, I was rushed to the hospital only to be told after a battery of tests that it was “all in your head”. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong.
There are correlations, sometimes causative, between physical illnesses and mental illnesses. For example, the American Diabetes Association says that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression than those without the disease. Diabetics are not alone. After a heart attack or cardiac surgery, patients are naturally likely to feel depressed. But for some, especially those with cardiovascular disease, as many as 15 percent experience major depression. For those who’ve had coronary artery bypass surgery the number is as high as 20 percent.
There may be many reasons why this is so. For some, the fear and sadness triggered by having a debilitating illness, if left unchecked, can develop into major depression. But sometimes the diseases themselves can cause physiological changes that mimic depression, especially in the case of diabetes.
To give our readers a better sense of what an effective mental health treatment plan looks like, I have been recreating a treatment plan here through a series of blog posts. To see other posts in the Mental Health Treatment Plan series, please click here.
The next section of the mental health treatment plan is often referred to as “Recommendations.” Recommendations are closely related to our previous post in the Mental Health Treatment Plan series, the section about Partners in Therapy. Recommendations, which may require serious thought, fine-tuned perception, as well as practical research by your therapist, may actually refer to some of your partners in therapy. For example, your therapist may recommend that you see another type of professional while you are in therapy, such as a psychiatrist, a medical doctor, a social worker, and so on who might also be described as a partner in therapy. He might be specific—for example, he may recommend you get a complete physical in order to determine that your symptoms don’t have a physiological basis. Or he might suggest that you do a particular activity with a supportive friend or family member.
On the one hand some people might need to affirm that they were at one point innocent victims in order to get rid of crippling shame/blame/guilt. On the other, some may have to give up their status as victims, in order to learn to take responsibility for their thoughts, speech, and actions.
In part four of the video series “Skills for Psychotherapy Patients” Richard talks about concrete communication. It is a basic but important skill that calls for unambiguous talk about specific feelings, situations, and behaviors. This short video explains what concrete communication is and why it’s helpful.
Are those suffering from schizophrenia more likely to commit violent crimes? It depends. Most people with schizophrenia though suffer quietly. The disease usually only makes headlines when bad things happen, skewing our perspectives of this sometimes unsettling mental illness that affects nearly one percent of Americans. It’s important to remember that appropriate medication in conjunction with psychotherapy can help patients with schizophrenia live more productive lives and lessen painful symptoms. The stigma of mental illness in general, and schizophrenia in particular, can be mitigated by education and public appearances by spokespeople with mental illness, such as Ann Kolsrud, of Iowa City, author of Almost Normal, who speaks openly about having schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia can manifest with a variety of symptoms. To learn more about schizophrenia, visit the National Institute of Mental Health web site. Also, check out Psych Central’s comprehensive schizophrenia reference pages.