Sarah is a typical teenager. She is going about her life happy, full of energy and excitement. She has her wobbles at times, but overall is a pretty contented young adult.
One day, out of the blue, the spark vanishes. Inexplicably, she consistently feels tired. Day by day, she is getting listless. All these changes begin to make her feel anxious and frightened.
So what would you do if you were Sarah’s mother or father?
As a parent, worrying your head off is a given. A thousand questions about her condition may arise.
What’s wrong with her? Is she sick? Has someone said or done something to leave her feeling this way? Why is she not telling what’s going on?
OMG! What if it’s me? What if I have said or done something wrong?
Perhaps you start blaming yourself for something that happened when she was little. Maybe you should have given her more attention? Maybe you gave her too much attention?
The symptoms can point in a number of directions about the cause. There is a high probability Sarah’ symptoms are due to one of the most prevalent mental health conditions teenagers experience. Depression. A recent study found the 24% of 14-year-old teenage girls suffer from depression. Approximately, 20% of the teenage population suffer from depression by the time they reach adulthood.
Seeing your child go through anxiety or depression is one of biggest nightmares any parent face. Depression is not restricted to childhood. It is the predominant mental health problem worldwide, followed by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
There are several ways to deal with people with anxiety and depression symptoms. But they can be limiting. The often-cited signs and symptoms of depression include:
- A sense of hopelessness
- Lost interest
- Increased fatigue and sleep problems
- Change in appetite
- Uncontrollable emotions
- Having a sense of morbidity
Depression can be triggered by traumatic life events, poor diet, genetics, blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalance, lack of exercise, medications, a compromised digestive system or drug and alcohol abuse. These events have a significant impact on brain chemistry, especially the regulation of neurotransmitters. These chemicals carry signals between the brain and nerves. When there is disruption in this communication system, mental and physical problems occur.
But what if the diagnosis is wrong?
The Hidden Problem Behind Highly IQ People
From 2002 I was getting regular invitations to deliver motivational workshops and talks for high school and college students throughout England and Wales. Sometimes the requests were for workshops for behaviourally challenged students.Many of these young adults are from troubled homes and neighbourhoods.
From time to time, students would clearly demonstrate super normal intelligence abilities. It did not make sense. How could an individual be so intelligent, yet have such terrible mood swings and behavioural challenges?
Not all mental health problems are due to trigger events discussed above. High IQ (intelligence quotient) is promoted as a predictor of positive outcomes like income level, education success and longevity, for example. Yet, it turns out that the picture is not as rosy as it appears. bIn a 2018 landmark study, Ruth Karpinski and her team compared the percentage of the 3,715 respondents from Mensa, a high IQ society, who reported each disorder to the national average.
The biggest difference between the Mensa group and the general population were in mood disorders and anxiety disorders. 26.7% have reported being formally diagnosed with a mood disorder; 20% reported an anxiety disorder. The difference between the general population and the Mensa group is statistically significant. An even more stark difference is that environmental allergies are far more prevalent in the Mensa group (33% versus 11%).
The conclusion was those with hyper intellectual capacity (hyper brain) have abilities that makes them prone to several psychological disorders and physical health issues that includes a compromised immune system.
The theory is that being highly intelligent is associated with physiological and psychological “overexcitabilities” or OEs. An OE is an unusually intense reaction to an environmental threat or insult. Such threats can vary from a perceived threat to an actual confrontation with another human.
People with psychological OEs tend to overthink, over-analyse and worry. Unfortunately, this may trigger physical OEs and, thus, causing a vicious cycle. For example, if the individual gets disapproval from his/her partner, it may trigger the fight, flight or freeze syndrome. Thus, causing a physiological response such as inflammation.
A high IQ individual may appear to be happy and on a “high”, but then suddenly change their mood without notice. This specific condition, known as “cyclothymia” or “cyclothymic disorder” causes such mood swings. It is similar to bipolar disorder and is treatable. However, it often goes undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated. Thus, the individual is at a risk of the cyclothymia developing into bipolar disorder.
Nikola Tesla was often mentally compromised, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart suffered from mood swings. Beethoven was periodically depressed. Tolstoy was a strange, otherworldly, idiosyncratic aristocrat. Super-genius, Sir Isaac Newton, was considered periodically outright psychotic.
The misdiagnosis of mental health issues can lead to the unnecessary prescription of medication or activities that do not help. Whether an adult or a child, there are several impactful ways to deal with all mental health challenges regardless of the specific condition.
- Share the load by talking to someone you trust such as a family member or friend. You can also speak with a specialist in mental health such as a psychotherapist, psychologist or healer.
- Practice mindfulness. This involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander.
- Make meditation a daily habit. This time pay attention just to your breath or a singular object such as a candle. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath or the object.
- Make physical exercise a daily habit. This could be going to the gym, swimming, dancing, walking, climbing, tai chi or yoga. A reasonable amount of physical stress placed on your body releases important biochemicals that support good mental health.
- Individuals experiencing anxiety or depression often feel overwhelm due to too much human interaction or brain activity. Therefore, take time out to be alone in nature or read a book. Anything that just takes you away from day-to-day activity, chores and interaction.
- Improve your dietary habit by minimising, if not eliminating processed or overcooked foods. Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits over cooked foods.
- About 75% of the brain is made up of water. This means that dehydration, even as small as 2%, can have a negative effect on brain functions. Therefore, sip water throughout the day to ensure you maintain brain hydration.
Although our teenager, Sarah, may be demonstrating anxiety and depression signs, there is hope. The symptoms usually don’t appear overnight, but the issue takes root over time. Therefore, compassion, patience and true empathy must be exercised over potentially a long period of time. As a parent, carer or partner, the best thing we can do to help is create the environmental conditions to help in his or her transformation.