A Rising Epidemic Among Young People

The other day, I was at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines to serve as consulting psychotherapist to university students for their Mental Health Campus project. Everyone who came to my consulting room was going through serious depression. It’s an emotional illness to which many of our brightest students in the university have become subject to.

Just being depressed does not mean something is wrong with your IQ or intelligence. These UP students I talked to were scholars who are highly gifted intellectually. Perhaps the fact that each of them has to live with UP’s highest standard of academics and be subject to perpetual pressure in their studies is enough to depress them!

Depression is universal. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “the state of being depressed … dejection, as of mind … a lowering of vitality of functional activity … an abnormal state of inactivity and unpleasant emotion.” To my knowledge, no one is exempted from this universal experience of human life, to a greater or lesser extent, including the youth.

In the Philippines, almost 50% of the total suicide cases recorded since 2010 are from the youth. The report based on a bill filed in the Philippine Senate showed that 30% of those who committed suicide are young adults aged 20 to 35 years old. The remaining 16% or more are teens aged 10 to 19 years old.

We need to protect our youth. They’re our hope of tomorrow. Happy are we who can face the weakness of depression among our young people, and diagnose its roots. That is half the battle. For once we fully understand the roots of their depression, all we have to do is help them remove those roots and get the right cure.

Let’s reason our youth way out of their depression!

As Dr. Aaron Beck, founder of Cognitive Therapy, put it: “If you could reason with depressives persistently enough – or, better yet, get them to reason that way with themselves – you may be able to free them from the stranglehold of their negative thinking – and from depression itself.”

Overcoming Your Need to Please Others

Do you feel an overwhelming inner need to please others?

If you do, know that psychologists call it with varied descriptions. Approval Addiction. People-Pleasing. Need-to-be-Liked Syndrome. Whatever we call it, it refers to getting your self-value through the approval of others.

A patient, Rebecca, hated the job offered to her. But because it’s her father’s office and business, she said yes when she really wanted to say no. She quieted her inner voice of protest for she believed it would displease one who’s significant to her. She overextended her self.

As a result, Rebecca got too depressed and sick that led her to seek therapy. Her days were filled with boring routines, sadness, and moments of crying while on her desk. She eventually developed signs of insomnia and anxiety-panic. She felt helpless.

A first major step for Rebecca to cure her condition is to become totally aware of her behaviors. Her people-pleasing. Her approval seeking. Her avoiding confrontation – not “rock the boat.” Awareness of it includes understanding how it created her emotional wounds that she can’t heal if she doesn’t take a look at them.

“The need to feel ‘okay,’ liked, or approved-of is rooted in the messages a person received about their inherent worthiness and belonging while growing up,” says clinical psychologist Erika Martinez. “Somewhere along the way, people with contingent self-worth learned that their worth came from others’ approval, not from within themselves.”

To cure approval addiction, you learn to practice getting your self-worth from within yourself and not from what people say about you. That takes self-love. Self-compassion. Accepting who you are – flaws and all. It’s understanding that even if people dislike or disapprove of you, it’s not a reflection of your value as a human being.

How do you know you’re overcoming your need to please others? A sign is when you find yourself able to speak up when mistreated or wronged. It’s tolerating disapproval, criticism, or dismissal without hurting yourself in some way. It’s taking a stand, asserting your unique identity and gifts.

The Fantasy of Pornography

“What love? We just have sex,” Melanie cried during a session. Melanie, whose husband is heavily into pornography, experiences no tenderness in their marriage. Everything is done so fast. She just feels so used.

Pornography damages. Psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. It enslaves addicts in sexual activities and fantasies that destroy their personhood. Far from making a man or woman a better lover, pornography poisons relationships and sexual enjoyment.

Author Victor Cline, in his book “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children,” wrote: “Pornography contains much scientifically inaccurate, false, and misleading information about human sexuality, especially female sexual nature and response.”

Recently, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner (who died recently) once compared himself to Jesus Christ. He said he was a “missionary” whose important achievement was “liberating people from sexual hang ups” through his worldwide pornography business.

If Hefner is right, wouldn’t the porn addicts find themselves happy, fulfilled, with a strong sense of psychological identity? If Playboy pornography aids great sex, wouldn’t you expect that married partners will have a good sense of love and real mutual pleasure in sex?

Brenda Mackillop, a former Playboy bunny, model, and prostitute, who worked with Hefner frequenting his mansion from 1973-1976, confided, “I lived the Playboy philosophy. I felt worthless and empty. Out of my despair, I attempted suicide on numerous occasions.”

Not too long ago, a patient was telling me that watching porn on the internet during bedtime puts him to sleep. He “fantasize” first before going to bed to put himself to sleep. The pornography he watches appears to alter his mood.

Psychotherapist Dr. Mark Laaser writes, “Fantasy can be addictive. It stimulates chemical reactions in the pleasure centers of the brain. The addict then uses these effects to escape other feelings, to change negative feelings to positive feelings, and even to reduce stress. Given the chemical changes it creates, sex fantasy addicts are, in reality, drug addicts.”

Evidently, pornography only produces psychopathology. It destroys self-worth, dignity, and mental health. It not only stimulates sexual coercion or predation, it encourages rape, promiscuity, and other forms of sexual addiction or sociopathy. Rather than enhancing love and great sex, pornography destroys marriages and relationships.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light; but if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then, the very light in you is darkened, how dense is that darkness!” (Matthew 6: 22, 23)

Knowledge is Never Enough

In my practice of therapy and counseling, I’ve always found one thing: knowledge is never enough.

At best, I helped my counselees see and know the psychodynamics of their emotional or mental disturbances.

But, I’ve always realized that their knowing is not the same as their capacity to change their thinking, their emoting, and their behaving.

Their knowing has always been inadequate to stop them from self-sabotaging.

One counselee I had recently gained insight. Her rage or uncontrollable anger is traceable to her unconscious hatred of her mother.

In her work and social relationships, she realized how she has been “transferring” that feeling into other females who have similar traits to her mother.

Surely, she understands how she got the ways they are — but not what to do. Not the ability to apply what she already knows.

Insight and expression of repressed feelings alone don’t work in my sessions. Something needs to be incorporated in order for a broken person to heal.

That sets me to do some tall thinking about psychotherapy. I went back to tools of therapy and started giving application assignments, among others.

Data alone is not enough for deep and lasting personal change. The truth is, most of us are very good at identifying what’s wrong with us and our experiences.

Yet that knowledge in and of itself rarely produces deep level personal healing and recovery.

In fact, without the appropriate steps and frames, insight may result in “re-traumatizing” a hurting person.

So, make sure you have insights plus the experiential aspects in your recovery journey.

Better Life Through “Manufactured Risk”

In the 70s, a psychology research project was done on the subject of “human wholeness.” In the interview of subjects, this question always came up: “What ingredients of wholeness would be common to anybody in any culture or society of the world?”

The responses were varied but implied that normalcy depends considerably from culture to culture. However, when pressed more deeply, the experts found a common key. In unique ways they heard: “A healthy person is someone who can choose risk and danger.”

I’ve known of a wealthy CEO of a large food company who loves riding his motorcycle, even commuting through it every so often. Once told that his main problem is a psychological “midlife crisis,” he was advised by his doctor to be careful and take it easy.

He decided not to take his doctor’s advice. He didn’t believe in middle age. If he avoids anything new or risky, he claimed, it would only hasten his whole aging process. No matter how stressful or boring his days at the office, his motorcycle drives gave him more energy and excitement.

Mother Teresa in India is another example. She chose a life of risk and danger in the worst slums of Calcutta. As a result of her adventures, she blessed her life as well as the lives of countless others all over the world, even for generations to come.

To be whole means to be open to creative risk. Outside of our comfort zone. Beyond our unrelieved boredom. Freeing ourselves from dull routine. When life is crushing you with boredom or routine, are you able to manufacture risk, adventure, and excitement to heighten your life?

Many years ago, I made a radical work change. I had safety and comfort where I was working. Then I accepted the call to be an independent practitioner, an entrepreneur, in my own field and passion. From there on, the risk and uncertainty of daily life in my “adventure” have made life exciting and stimulating for me.

As former world chess champion Gary Kasparov put it, “Attackers may sometimes regret bad moves, but it is much worse to forever regret an opportunity you allowed to pass you by.”

Watch Your Brain Nutrition

Natural brain nutrition is essential for our mental health. Healthy foods and supplements have a positive effect on the serotonin and dopamine levels needed by the brain.

Serotonin used in the brain is known to affect mood and social behaviors. It also moderates appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire/function.

Dopamine, on the other hand, functions as a neurotransmitter (a chemical released by nerve cells or neurons to send signals to other nerve cells). Dopamine affects way we perceive pleasure/rewards.

Mental disorders, such as clinical depression, addictions, or personality maladjustments, partly stem from a relative deficit in serotonin and/or dopamine levels.

Natural foods to keep our brain “healthy and happy” – counterbalancing serotonin and dopamine levels – include oily fish, whole grains, blueberries, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, eggs, chickens, brocolli, nuts, among others.

It’s interesting to note that, in two studies in the American Journal of Psychiatry, it’s found that the highest suicide rates are found among those with the lowest protein levels. Proteins are building blocks of brain neurotransmitters.

Natural brain supplements are especially helpful. They are known to have a positive effect on serotonin, dopamine, and protein levels of the brain.

I often recommend Transfer Factor Plus and Brain Recall supplements (http://drsubida4life.com) to my clients, which balance serotonin and dopamine levels as well as increase blood flow in the brain. Many of my clients report how these supplements strengthen their focus, impulse control and overall immune system.

Nowadays, our common diet is filled with fast-food meals and harmful ingredients. This modern-day food “norm” has a negative, even a toxic effect, on the brain and our mental health.

The way to go is natural brain nutrition through healthy foods and supplementation. When psychopathology symptoms are present, natural brain nutrition is often life-saving.

Don’t forget it!

Revolutionary Psychotherapy

I’m not a traditional psychotherapist. I lament the routinely wretched treatment of mental patients throughout the world. Instead of drugs and chains of the old traditional system, I offer a loving innovative system of support and deep process healing.

I value humanity. And I act as a fellow human and traveler to those who seek help to heal.

In my sessions, I drink coffee, walk and talk, with clients in normal life-spaces. Only a few times do I see clients in a confined cubicle or fixed office space. Mostly, I’d rather bring life recovery to a therapeutic space where client and I process while we “soak in humanity” around us.

For me, this is most effective and humane than psychiatric incarceration, forced hospital or facility confinement. It’s least costly. The hurting person is freed from the zombie-like effects of brain drugs. And it’s based on empowerment of family responsibility/support as well as faith of the individual.

Working with his parents and sister, I once delivered intensive psychotherapy services to Mark into their family home. He’s 25 with a history of manic depressive episodes, depression, and severe dependency to psychiatric drugs, who might otherwise be institutionalized.

Echoing themes of my revolutionary psychotherapy, I bypassed traditional mental health approaches and invited the family, including Mark, to see me first in a coffee shop. Having been into brain drugs and in and out of facilities for years, it’s his family’s last-ditch effort to get through Mark’s hard-core.

The personalized direct involvement of the therapy hour in a casual space proved effective for Mark. It did him a lot more good and a lot less harm. He shared he felt “normal.” The nontraditional, non-invasive intervention calmed both Mark and his family.

For the first time, unencumbered by psychiatric institutional red tape, ideology, and pharmacy, Mark expressed how he felt differently. It avoided unnecessarily humiliating him and his family. He functioned better enough to think through his deeper issues without the medication.

Revolution in psychotherapy!

Time for change.

No more drugs. No more forced hospital/facility incarceration. No to dehumanization. No to shame. No to incomplete, invasive treatment. No to abrogation of family responsibility and connection.

We say “Yes!” to the Total Person deep process. Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual. Natural mental health. Drug-free. Brain Health. Going to the roots, not mere fruits. Family and community.