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How to overcome emotional stress

Almost everybody suffers from occasional emotional stress.
Fears, neuroses, anxieties, insecurity, worries, compulsions are all commonplace today.
What's the CAUSE?
What is the secret of sound emotional control?


LIFE should be worth living. Yet the feeling that life is not worth living "is the most challenging problem that confronts the modern physician," said Dr. Frank J. Ayd, Jr., chief of psychiatry at the Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore.

Of all the ills to which man often succumbs, depression is one of the most common.


Fears, Anxieties?

Are you or members of your family bothered by neuroses, fears, anxieties, continual depression? How emotionally balanced and healthy is your family?

If you live in a modern city, then take note: A study checking on the mental health of city folks discovered that only 18.5 percent of them are completely well mentally! The findings are part of a community health study in a midtown area of New York Hospital and Cornell University Medical College.

Psychiatrists classified 23.4 percent of those studied as being mentally impaired to the extent their illness interfered with life functions. Another 21.8 percent had moderate symptoms of mental illness. The largest percentage — 36.3 percent — had mild symptoms of mental disorder.

If you live in a noisy, crowded, tension-paced city environment, then — according to this study — your statistical chances of being emotionally and mentally sound are only about one in five!

People in the country, however, have been found to experience the same symptoms of mental illness as city dwellers — and in the same proportion. The worst areas in the country were the economically depressed "country slums." This study was also conducted by Cornell University researchers.


Children Hit

Perhaps the most serious mental illness problem today involves children. A Senate study a few years ago reported that four and a half million American children need psychiatric treatment. The report asserted that one American child out of 10, from 5 to 17 years old, showed signs of odd behavior. Said Senator Thomas J. Dodd, many of our juvenile delinquents come from this disturbed group.

Compared with a decade ago, THREE TIMES as many children 14 and under are being admitted to mental hospitals annually. And the suicide rate among teenagers is up sharply. In the past decade, the suicide rate in the United States has risen, especially among the 15 to 19-year-old group where it has increased nearly 50 percent!

These figures are indeed tragic. They reveal a story of what is happening to our youth — our nation's number one resource!

Said Dr. Edwin Shneidman of Los Angeles, special consultant to the National Institute of Mental Health: "We are tormented because we say, 'Here is a person who is about to enter the external potential of life and yet because of internal conflict takes his. own life.' "

A recent study conducted by Dr. Thomas S. Langner revealed that twelve percent of Manhattan's children are seriously mentally disturbed, "the kind of kids that Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan were." The 5 year study sampled 1,034 of the city's children between ages 6 and 8.

Only twelve percent of the children were found to be mentally healthy, or as the study pointed out, minimally impaired.

Are college students also affected? Indeed they are. An estimated 10 percent of all college students already are seeking psychiatric help, said a Harvard psychiatrist. Declared Dr. Dana Farnsworth: "There is something happening at our institutions increasing emotional conflict and psychosis among college students."

But why are so many of us emotionally handicapped or mentally ill today? What are the causes of mental illness? What can be done about this terrible scourge of emotional problems that afflicts over 20,000,000 Americans and between 15-20 percent of the world population?


What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness may briefly be defined as impairment of the proper functioning of a person's mind and emotions.

Such a person in some way does not function normally in society. His illness causes him to behave somewhat oddly and erratically. It may cause him to have physical symptoms of some organic disease. It may cause him to become erratic in judgment — unable to properly handle problems, meet crises, and make decisions. It results in lack of confidence, security, faith and ability to make a decision and stick with it. It may lead to a life of crime, drug addiction — or even to suicide!

What are the signs of emotional or mental stress? One is the inability to function at one's job. Another is a marked personality change, brooding, irritability, unreasonable outbursts, or bizarre behavior or hallucinations. Also, if a person has headaches, insomnia, pains when there is nothing physically wrong, then the trouble may well be psychosomatic.

But what are the causes of mental illness? There are many suspected causes, among them the frustrating tensions of modem life, poor interpersonal relations, improper or lack of discipline, lack of positive instruction and training in childhood. Even nutritional factors may be responsible for contributing to mental illness. Some psychologists claim that mental illness results when some basic human need is not fulfilled.

Read what one basic psychiatric text has to say: "Perhaps there is no phase of psychiatry which has given rise to so much discussion and dispute as has the one concerning the causes and even the nature of mental disorders . . ." (Noyes and Kolb, Modern Clinical Psychiatry, 1963, p. 93). The authors then list some of the multi-various causes of mental illness: heredity, metabolic abnormalities, cerebral diseases, hormonal imbalances, injuries, alcoholism, lack of the basic bodily needs (oxygen, nutrition, fluids, vitamins, sleep), social and cultural factors, anxiety-inducing situations on the job, interpersonal pressures within the family group, and so on.


Other Causes

Experiments with rats and studies of wildlife populations suggest that much neurosis can also be caused by over-crowding. Few will quarrel with the idea that overcrowding has profound effects on human behavior. But studies of rats have shown that they, too, are profoundly affected — some become "dropouts," some become violent "criminals," homosexual, bisexual, and frequently cannibalistic. One such study was conducted by Dr. John Calhoun in 1958 at Washington's National Institute of Mental Health.

Another suspected agent contributing to the increase in mental illness is our chemical environment. Dr. George S. Freuenberger, a pediatrician noted for research into mental retardation, points out that food impurities may lead to mental handicaps. He mentioned certain foods, food additives, insecticides or fertilizers used on growing crops.

Obviously, there is no single cause of mental illness. Most of the identified causes, however, have to do with our MODERN WAY OF LIFE! All are dependent on the individual reactions of people toward their environment — healthy or unhealthy. But what is the solution to this tragic health problem?

If you have troubles with your emotions — fear, phobias, anxieties, neuroses, depression, lack of confidence, hostility, anger — what can you do about it?

Experts have sought the answers to these problems throughout man's history. But they have been unable to solve and eradicate people's mental problems. The reason is clear. Too often experts have sought the answers in the wrong places.

Consider one "grasping-for-straws" attempt — the use of drugs.


Are Drugs the Answer?

Many people, young and old, today believe that drugs may provide the answer to emotional stress or mental illness. But consider these facts from an expert: "New drugs, alas, often turn out to be less valuable than early assessments promised. Pharmacological history teaches us how often a particular drug is thought of as a magical panacea.

Then with experience of its practical use, the 'great' drug becomes 'a great drug but', later still, it is thought of as a 'useful' drug, and finally, as its miracle effects occur with diminishing frequency and the catalog of alarming side effects is compiled, its true value is recognized and the revolution, once heralded with such optimism, becomes aborted" (Abse, Medicine on Trial, 1969, pp. 88, 90).

One widely heralded drug for the mentally ill was the tranquilizer meprobamate. Later scientists found that it caused frequent allergic reactions, some people became addicted to it, and at any rate the drug was finally discovered to be no more effective than a placebo!

But if drugs are not the answer, what about psychotherapy?