By Nick BeJeaux
When the idea of mental illness crosses your mind, you may think of schizophrenia, PTSD, or psychosis; but what about anxiety, depression, and even grief?
The Wellness Studio has been helping Baton Rouge, Covington and New Orleans cope with these issues and more since it opened its doors in January 2013. Co-owners and licensed professional counselors Mary Kathryn Rodrigue and Katie Fetzer use an inviting space to offer their patients counseling and therapy in a relaxed, and creatively decorated, space.
In an interview with DIG, Fetzer discussed the five most common mental illnesses in Baton Rouge: anxiety, depression, mood disorders, adjustment disorders, and grief.
Anxiety is by far the most common illness on this list. Some anxiety is actually good for you; It pushes us to meet deadlines and uphold responsibilities. But for some, it can be completely debilitating.
“Generally speaking, anxiety is a buildup of stress,” said Fetzer. “It’s when life starts to feel unmanageable—it’s a fear-based disorder. It’s driven by irrationally-based thinking.”
In addition to being the most common, anxiety is also the most easily treated illness on this list. The biggest obstacle for treatment is usually the reluctance of the patient to seek help.
“The best way that someone can cope with anxiety is to seek help and to not be afraid of seeking help,” said Fetzer. “One can try to deal with things themselves, but why do that when you don’t have to? There are so many resources out there that can help empower someone to work through the anxiety that they are experiencing.”
In many ways, depression is a lot like anxiety. Some people are mentally predisposed to it, but outside external factors can lead to the disease.
“There are many external things that can lead to and worsen depression,” said Fetzer. “Very big triggers that I see are relationship issues, work demands, family conflict, and grief. People began to feel like they’ve lost control and can’t really manage the external world around them, like with anxiety.”
Treatment for depression depends on the severity of the case, and can involve medication, psychotherapy, counseling, or any combination of the three.
“We follow what is called ‘evidence-based guidelines’ which are whatever the research shows to be effective,” said Fetzer. “Treatment depends on the severity of the depression. If someone is depressed only at home because of family issues, then counseling and psychotherapy alone may be able to treat the depression. But if a person’s depression is inhibiting all areas of their life, then medication would become involved.”
3. Mood Disorders
Mood disorder sounds similar to depression on the surface, but they are actually quite different. Depression (and anxiety) are linked to a feeling of losing control of the external world. Mood disorders are symptoms of losing control in the internal world.
“They are an instability of one’s mood, or one’s inability to control one’s mood,” said Fetzer. “A good example of a mood disorder would be bipolar disorder. People with this go from very depressed to very manic very quickly.”
Fetzer also said that treatment for mood disorders tends to be very nuanced to the particulars of each individual case.
“Like all mental health issues, there is no blood test to tell us who has what mood disorder and what treatment to pursue; it goes case by case,” she said.
4. Adjustment Disorders
Think back to your freshman year in college, or when you were living alone for the first time ever. Some people take to their newfound freedom very well. Others, not so much. People who find being thrust into new circumstances debilitating may suffer from an adjustment disorder, which you may have guessed are very similar to anxiety.
“Adjustment issues are without a doubt related to anxiety,” said Fetzer. “It’s any time you find yourself having trouble with a life transition. For kids with divorcing parents, breakups, etc., they can experience a lot of anxiety or sadness.”
Fetzer said that cause for adjustment issues are typically rooted in the physical world, and treat ment usually consists of helping the patient deal with the trigger change.
“In terms of coping with the actual change, it really comes down to psychotherapy,” she said. “You’re helping the person over time in very structured sessions to adapt to new perspectives and change their ways of thinking into something that is more positive and realistic. It sounds like brainwashing, but all it is correcting factually incorrect or irrational ways of thinking.”
Grief is often associated with death, but Fetzer would say it is more correct to associate it with loss. In fact, she most often sees it in the aftermath of breakups.
“Break ups are a big deal,” she said. “You, I, and everyone can relate. It really shakes up everything. It’s very difficult for some people to cope with.”
You may have heard of the Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) in a movie or TV show. Fetzer says that model is correct, but with some slight differences in every case.
“It seems to be the best way to understand and describe what a grieving person is going through, but I wouldn’t say it’s cookie cutter. Not everyone will go through the stages in the same order, or for the same amount of time.”