What is antenatal and postnatal depression?

As part of the Clinical Psychology unit I am currently studying, we have done a fair bit on parental mental health. This week I thought I would talk about depression, addressing what antenatal and postnatal depression is. I hope this is useful for you and sheds light on new things you may not have considered before.

The Frugal Frenchie

Symptoms for antenatal depression

According to the diagnosis criteria (DSM-5)…

  • Chronic anxiety
  • Guilty
  • Incessant crying
  • Lack of energy- which lack of sleep doesn’t help
  • Relationship worries- will my partner leave once the baby is born?
  • Conflict with parents
  • Isolation – from friends, or due to not feeling the same as other mums
  • Fear to seek help – will my baby be taken away if I speak out?

Causes of antenatal depression

  • Physical

There are many physical changes during pregnancy. For some, body changes can be distressing: weight gain, swollen breasts, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, heartburn, fainting etc. It can lower self-esteem and make normal, mundane activities suddenly seem unachievable or difficult, which can lead to isolation or feelings on inadequacy.

Hormonal changes and tiredness can also impact mental health – in fact, Ohayon & Roth (2003) found over 40% of participants reported symptoms of insomnia before developing a mood disorder, including depression and bipolar disorder. This was supported by findings showing that treating insomnia symptoms can be beneficial towards reducing/preventing depression (Londborg, et al, 2000).

What is antenatal and postnatal depression? Continue reading “What is antenatal and postnatal depression?”

What are mental health illnesses?

With people often misusing mental health terms, it can become difficult to truly understand the meaning of mental health. Are people just exaggerating? What can we do if people are truly struggling? Before answering these questions, I thought it’d be best to answer what are mental health illnesses? Let me know if this has been useful.

The Frugal Frenchie

What are mental health illnesses?

“Abnormal” behaviour

In the past, before mental health awareness, people would describe those, who showed “abnormal” behaviour as mad, crazy, or other derogatory words. This is something I’ve mentioned in a previous post about mental health stigma, so make sure to read that too.

Now, the sheer idea of “abnormal,” is controversial. What does this mean, exactly? Traditionally, it’d be defined as a behaviour or act that doesn’t conform to societal standards, expectations or norms. This is all subjective, however: whose norms are they? Who is establishing them? People’s behaviour, or judgements, are 100% subjective. Even our self-judgements are not necessarily fair representations, as our beliefs can be distorted.

As a matter of fact, in clinical psychology, “abnormal,” behaviour is not defined or measured according to how strange an act or behaviour is, how unjustified or irrational it may seem. It’s defined by the degree of interference the behaviour has on life, work and relationships. When somebody says “I love having my desk tidy, I’m so OCD about it,” that is not interfering with your life. It isn’t something that stops you working, restricts you doing activities you love and so on: that’s an incorrect and potentially offensive way of using the term OCD.

The degree to how a behaviour interferes with one’s life is an essential symptom for many mental health illnesses. Otherwise, it would be very hard to establish when somebody’s negative thoughts were just due to a bad week, or if it was associated with ill mental health.

Cultural and societal norms do not make the definition of “abnormal.”

Continue reading “What are mental health illnesses?”

Mental Health Stigma- does it still exist?

Mental Health Stigma- does it still exist? Perhaps a bold title and question to discuss, but it’s important to openly speak about it, out of fear of otherwise, subconsciously, becoming a silent supporter of this stigma. This is a different style of post, based on lectures that I have received during my BSc in Psychology. Hope you learn something new.

The Frugal Frenchie

Defining a stigma

First of all, do you know what is meant by a stigma? It can mean several things:

“a mark or sign of disgrace or discredit”
“disqualified from full social acceptance”
“negative effects of a label”

 

The Institute of Psychiatry actually described a stigma as having three components: that of ignorance (as a stigma is based on preconceived ideas and assumptions), prejudice and discrimination.

Note: discrimination and stigmas are not the same. Stigma focuses more on prejudice and ill-educated statements (a reason I’m writing this post today), whereas discrimination is more of an act. An act, preventing people from being treated equally or having equal access to opportunities or services. Continue reading “Mental Health Stigma- does it still exist?”

What does positive body image actually mean?

Society nowadays encourages us to embrace our bodies and to commit to activities that boost our self-esteem and encourage self-care. Nevertheless, we all have those days where we experience a negative body image and feel down about ourselves. What does positive body image actually mean? Despite what you may think, it’s not actually the opposite of negative body image. Let me explain….

What does positive body image actually mean?

In psychology, we would define positive body image as:

  • Appreciation for your body and the functions that it performs
  • Accept and admire the majority of their body, including parts not in line with society’s ideals
  • Feel beautiful/handsome, comfortable, confident and happy with their body
  • They can be viewed as having an “outer glow”
  • Emphasise body assets rather than dwell on imperfections
  • They can interpret incoming information in a body-protective manner
    • Ie. they will internalise positive information and reframe or reject negative information received
  • Favourable opinions of the body
  • Respecting your body by attending to its needs and engaging in healthy behaviours
    • E.g. if you’re hungry you’ll eat and not threat over “I’ve eaten too much today I might gain weight”
  • This links to protecting  the body by rejecting unrealistic ideal body images portrayed in the media

If it’s still not very clear, here’s what positive body image isn’t:

  • Being highly satisfied with all aspects of appearance, people can still hate a certain part of their body they’ve just learnt not to emphasise that area and have learnt to counteract it with what they find positive about their bodies
  • It is most certainly not expressed as narcissism or vanity
  • Positive body image isn’t foolproof against all body image-related threats. People might still feel a bit down after seeing a very thin model in a magazine, however, they can overcome it and focus on the positives
  • It’s not linked to disengagement from self-care, sometimes, people may have a positive body image because they engage so much in self-care
    • E.g. regularly moisturising etc.
  • Another important thing to note is that positive image isn’t aided by frequent appearance-related compliments from others, confident and appreciation for one’s body has to come from oneself.

What does positive body image actually mean?

It could be said that positive body image is more body acceptance than anything. It’s really the start to loving yourself and who you are. There are other benefits though, which can only encourage us to seek positive body image even more:

  • Less depression
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours
  • Lower drive for muscularity
  • Greater intentions to protect yourself from UV exposure and damage
    • This might seem like an odd one, but in many places, the ideal is also to look slightly more tanned than is our natural tone. Some people go as far as to say that people who are too pale naturally look ill, which definitely doesn’t help the situation!
    • As a result, those with a negative body image might spend time in sun beds, applying darker foundation or even spending unhealthy amounts of time in the sun, whereas those who have a positive body image won’t do such thing as they’ll want to protect their skin from damage over appealing to the ideal

It’s easier said than done to achieve a positive body image, so if you struggle severely with a negative body image, there’s help you can seek (links I’ll leave below), however, if it’s just a matter of feeling self-conscious and loving yourself a bit more, here are some tips you can try to help increase just that!

  • Engage a little more in a technique called “Protective filtering.” This is where the body is interpreted in a self-protective manner,  so you learn to filter out negative information that’s potentially harmful to your body image.
  • This mentality is slightly linked to the next technique which is called “Media Literacy,” where you critically evaluate the media’s depiction of appearance ideals and try not to internalise the ideal but instead to ignore or reject it. I’ve written out some actual examples that participants came up with in an experiment, just so you get the gist.

– “The advertisements have clearly been digitally altered.”

– “The women in the adverts had hair and make-up done by professionals.”

– “The women aren’t a true representation of women in society.”

– “The women look the way they do as it’s their job.”

– “The women might not necessarily be healthy or happy.”

  • Another thing you can do is to engage with people who have positive body image and who don’t engage in fat talk
    • By doing this, you can avoid making comparisons between peers and there’s no “reference point” established for your group-weight-norm.
  • Unconditional acceptance of any defects you might have or areas you don’t like

What does positive body image actually mean?

Remember, your size, shape, look, hairstyle… none of that defines you. Let your personality and behaviour be the things to stand out at people and let that be what you put the emphasis on when you go out. Avoid opening the makeup bag but instead, open the door to people discovering your true self.

The Frugal Frenchie x

 

Links for help (including interesting articles to read on different treatments):

 

References:

  • Tylka and Wood Barcalow, 2015 :

What is and what isn’t positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition

  • Wood-Barcalow, Tylka and Augustus-Horvath, 2010 :

Positive body image characteristics and a holistic model for young-adult women

  • Gillen, 2015 :

Associations between positive body image and indicators of men’s and women’s mental and physical health

  • Andrew, Tiggemann, Clark, 2015:

The protective role of body appreciation against media-induced body dissatisfaction

  • Mirror exposure:

Delinksy et al. (2006) Mirror Exposure for Body Image                                                    Disturbance

  • Cognitive dissonance:

Stice et al. (2001) Randomised trial of cognitive                                                                    dissonance  programme

  • Acceptance and Commitment:

Pearson et al. (2012) ACT intervention for                                                                              body image and ED (eating behaviour)                                                                                      attitudes