Your Mind Matters: Episode 10 – Cultural Factors in Mental Health, Replaying Conversations, and Vivid Dreams

Your Mind Matters: Episode 10 – Cultural Factors in Mental Health, Replaying Conversations, and Vivid Dreams

Does your anxiety and depression impact people around you? In honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, in this week’s episode we talk about how different cultures view mental health differently, how our anxiety and depression can affect those around us, and how to manage anxious thoughts about conversations we’ve had. Our grab bag question is about vivid dreams and how they can sometimes be hard to distinguish from reality.

Call us with your questions for future episodes: +1 415-855-0553.

Introduction

As Christine expresses her excitement for her upcoming vacation, both she and Chris briefly reiterate the importance of work-life balance. Vacations are a nice way to reset and recharge your emotional batteries.

Question 1:

I know of a lot of different cultures– I’m Hispanic; they don’t believe in things like depression and anxiety. They think it’s made up, that it’s a way to get attention. I have a hard time getting my family to connect with me and understand that I need help. How do I go about having a conversation with my family to get them to understand?

  • First, there is as much diversity within groups as between them, so while we often do stereotype, it’s very often not accurate. Often people think of stereotypes, or a particular ethnic group in a certain way, which is used almost like a shortcut to understand the group, to make broad generalizations. But you really do need to think of people individually and not make assumptions about their thoughts or behaviors based on their ethnic background or race.
  • There are different explanations or understandings of mental health in different groups around the world.
  • For example, there’s a term called neurasthenia, this term was previously used in Western European cultures and is still used today primarily in East Asian countries. It’s a syndrome that involves symptoms of fatigue, headache, tiredness, sleep disturbance, irritability–all which can be symptoms of anxiety or depression. So while it might be related to mental health challenges, some people in those societies may focus more on the physical symptoms, framing it different, and may reduce stigma or barriers to help seeking by doing so.
  • One factor that may be at play for the caller is that in the Latino culture there is some tendency for people to be less willing to seek treatment for mental health. It may be that there is more of a tendency to keep these sorts of concerns within in the family.
  • There may be a lack of knowledge in the caller’s family on the topic so it can be helpful to explain the symptoms, the situation, the fact that treatments do exist, and that this is something that can get better with treatment. You can try to explain that you’re not interested in the added attention, and hopefully help educate your family on the topic.
  • If your family is unreceptive to a conversation around support, other possibilities can be to reach out to other support groups or people in the community, perhaps a teacher or church leader.
  • Finally it’s important to manage the self stigma, meaning not being so hard on yourself.

Question 2:

My question is about depression and anxiety. I’m wondering if other people around you in social situations can feel what you’re feeling and if it can affect them in a negative way? I’ve had a hard time being around other people at times because I feel like my depression or my anxiety is affecting the people around me, and it really made me not want to be around others because I didn’t want to hurt them. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.  

  • It is common for people with social anxiety to naturally feel uncomfortable in social situations, but probably not to the extent that your mind is telling you.  
  • Christine explains how if you are very depressed it can rub off on others. One thing you can do is decide how to interact with those around you. That might mean asking people to help you go to appointments or talk to you when you’re feeling low. People generally want to be helpful and supportive but do need some guidance. If you’re worried about overwhelming one person you could try to see more people but for shorter period of time or less frequently.
  • People who are struggling with anxiety and depression have a tendency to withdraw and isolate, but it’s not helpful and often makes your symptoms worse. Reaching out to trusted friends or family can help you get well.
  • Think about how you would feel about a friend who was struggling. Would you want to avoid them or would you be interested in trying to be there for them? Most likely the latter. For the most part people want to feel helpful and supportive and caring. Although your anxiety or depression may affect those around you, there are positive things that can come from it.

Question 3:  

I was wondering what a good strategy to use if you have repetitive thoughts about how you could have done something differently when you were stressed out. Thoughts that you can’t turn off even when you are trying to focus on something else. What are ways to stop that in its tracks?

  • The question sounds a little like a social anxiety issue, where you replay something in your head from a social situation. Many people do this, but it’s important to remember that the other person has probably already forgotten it, and it more focused on themselves or their actions.
  • Sometimes we do this to reassure ourselves that it will be OK. Sometimes we are trying to learn from it and not make that mistake again. Often though it’s trivial and is just frustrating to replay these thoughts.
  • Option 1: Focus on something else, try to distract yourself. For example meditate, go for a walk, watch a movie or read a book.
  • It’s also helpful to remember how many exchanges you have with the people you are close with. They will take what you said in context, keeping in mind all of the other times you’ve interacted and keeping in perspective. So for people who know you well, their perceptions likely won’t drastically change.
  • Complete a thought record. In Pacifica, I would recommend the “Evidence” tool or the “Reframe” tool. Thought records can help you check your self-talk and see if what you’re telling yourself is really true.
  • Remember that you can always slow down. You don’t have to immediately respond. Give yourself a minute to process the event. You’ll be less likely to say something you regret if you give yourself a chance to formulate a response or statement.

Grab Bag:

I’ve been having strong, vivid dreams almost every night for the past two months. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t tell if I’ve dreamt a memory or if it’s actually happened. Is this normal? What’s going on?

  • Christine explains how there are certain medications that can cause very vivid dreams. There are also other potential causes such as very spicy foods or watching something emotional before bed. Her personal theory is that dreams are unresolved thoughts or experiences from that day
  • There is some interesting research that came out regarding the paracingulate sulcus. A sulcus is a fold of grey matter in your brain. What the study found is that some people don’t have this fold, and those that do not have it have a harder time defining accurate vs inaccurate memories. Not to say that this is necessarily the case for the caller, however, it’s an interesting study to think about why some people may or may not have trouble distinguishing accurate vs. inaccurate memories.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553.