Students discuss mental health awareness

Sophomore Emmanuel Destine spoke to a group of students in the Center for Inclusive Excellence about the different types of mental disorders and the importance of a proper diagnosis on Wednesday.

Destine described four types of disorders – obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety and bipolar depression.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes people to experience multiple impulses, according to Destine. He played a short documentary about living with OCD, in which a man was seen doing normal activities in threes. The man would pour three tablespoons of sugar into his tea, stir the tea three times, and take three sips before setting his cup back down. His OCD was so severe that it made him late to work almost every day. The man knew his excessive actions were unnecessary, but was afraid that if he at any point stopped, something bad would occur.

Paul Welch, director of the counseling center, said, “People have a lot of shame about what they’re experiencing.”

ADHD can be mild or severe and varies from person to person, according to Destine. He played a clip from Katie Couric’s “Katie,” in which Dr. Edward Hallowell, an expert on ADHD, said the disorder is like “having a Ferrari engine for a brain with bicycle brakes.”

Welch said boys are diagnosed with ADHD sooner since they are more hyperactive, while girls are quieter and have trouble focusing. Students in college who are not diagnosed with ADHD often have academic problems since focusing on lectures and school work can be difficulat. Students who are undiagnosed often compensate by self-medicating and smoking marijuana, said Welch.

Destine said social anxiety is excessive panic in social situations triggered by the fear of being judged or watched. Destine described social anxiety as having to walk over a crack on the sidewalk – an extrovert would just step over it, but for someone with social anxiety, that crack becomes a gap between two cliff formations. In order for them to get to the other cliff, the person would have to jump 500 feet. That’s how far somebody with social anxiety has to work to be exactly like an extrovert, said Destine.

AnnMarie Samar, a nursing professor, said, “This is where substances come in as social lubricants. [If] somebody’s really uncomfortable, a substance can make them feel more comfortable – I’ve heard people in recovery talk about a hole in the soul and how they would use substances to become the life of the party.”

In order to overcome social anxiety, one has to stop hyperfocusing, said Welch. For example, somebody with social anxiety may think everybody is looking at them, but in reality it is all in their heads. People make things bigger than they actually are, said Welch.

Bipolar depression is when a person’s mood shifts unusually, said Destine. This shift, or manic episode, can last as long as seven days. Samar said she worked with someone who had a really difficult time controlling her bipolar disorder. The woman had no control over her impulses and would blow through $15,000 in a weekend, but when she wasn’t having a manic episode, she was one of the most brilliant clinicians.

Chon’tel Washington, CIE director, said, “It makes me more mindful about the language we use. We’ll joke like, ‘Oh, you’re so OCD,’  but to see what someone actually goes through makes you think, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t throw that word out so willy-nilly because it’s a real condition.’”

Destine said, “Society always wants to have a fixed perception of how life should be, and that’s not how it should be. That’s not how we should live our lives.”

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