Tag Archives: Alcohol

Still Afraid

One of Mama’s Losin’ It’s prompts for this week is to write about something you were afraid of as a child and to share whether you’re still afraid of it. Immediately, an interaction I had with my husband a few weeks ago came to mind that brought back my extreme fear of denatured alcohol.

My husband offered me a sip of vodka because I had a bad cold and he’d heard that strong drinks help with this. They don’t, but I wanted to try a sip anyway just to have an idea of its taste. Then we got talking about the time my ninth grade science teacher distilled alcohol and let us drink some. This would’ve been a totally stupid idea if he were any good at distilling, but well. I had it in mind that we had drank pure alcohol, which my husband said would’ve led to our esophaguses burning up in smoke. Turned out my teacher was really bad at distilling alcohol, because the vodka my husband gave me tasted stronger than I remembered the distilled alcohol tasting.

Then we got talking about mehtanol, a poisonous kind of alcohol, which surfaces at the first distilling round. I remember my father, who worked at my school back then, talking about how some students the year before me were either allowed to taste the first distilling round or almost did so despite not being allowed. I assume it was the latter even though memory tells me otherwise, as I’m pretty sure that teacher would’ve been fired and prosecuted for allowing students to taste something even remotely resembling methanol. My husband joked that if his teacher had allowed him to taste distilled alcohol, even if it was safe, he’d be tempted to fake methanol poisoning just to get the teacher fired.

I was by this time quite scared already. The evening of the alcohol tasting experience in ninth grade, I discovered my vision had worsened. This was due to a cataract, which is a known complication of my eye condition. However, I had the irrational thought for years that if I hadn’t tasted distilled alcohol, it wouldn’t have happened.

You see, I had and still have no clue about the signs of methanol poisoning other than blindness. Even though I ran a much higher risk of going blind from my own eye condition than from methanol poisoning, as soon as I learned about this, I was deathly afraid of methanol poisoning. Since denatured alcohol usually contains methanol, I was scared of that too. I would never touch any surface cleaned with denatured alcohol, afraid that I’d get methanol on my hands and lick it off. Worse yet, in my magical thinking, denatured alcohol could somehow replace tap water. Each time I was about to have a drink of water, I looked at the running tap water to see whether it was blue. After all, in the Netherlands, denatured alcohol is dyed blue.

I still have a pretty bad fear of denatured alcohol. For soap making, I use alcohol spray to make soap bubbles go away, but I somehow never made the connection. As soon as I did, I wanted to discard my denatured alcohol spray. After all, what if some leaked out of the bottle and somehow dripped onto my coconut oil, which I use for lip balm making? Both the spray alcohol bottle and the coconut oil can are tightly shut, but you never know.

I was also somehow scared that I’d accidentally drink denatured alcohol at home. My husband went looking for it to see whether he even had it in the house and he had. He joked that the bottle of denatured alcohol was next to the vodka, which of course made me freak out.

It’s not like I never handle any other poisonous products. I mean, soap colorants and fragrance oils are probably not the healthiest thing either. I also have a few shower products, which I use daily, which state clearly to keep them away from children. I reckon this is for good reason. However, it never crossed my mind to drink shower gel. Not that I would purposefully drink denatured alcohol, but if that can replace tap water, what substance can’t?

Mama’s Losin’ It

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S – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to day 19 in the #AtoZChallenge on mental health. We’ve arrived at the letter S. Here goes.

Self-Injury

Self-injury or self-harm is the deliberate infliction of wounds upon oneself. Some scientists make a distinciton between self-injury and self-harm. Self-injury is then seen as leaving relatively minor, local wounds such as cuts or burns. Many people with depression, anxiety or emotion regulation issues such as in borderline personality disorder self-injure. Self-harm then is the infliction of grave harm onto the self, such as amputation. This is seen more often, according to these scientists, in people with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. In reality, of course, only a small portion of even the most severely psychotic patients engage in severe self-mutilation.

In DSM-5, non-suicidal self-injury was introduced as its own mental health diagnosis. Prior to that, many people who self-injure were misdiagnosed, often with borderline personality disorder. The DSM-IV guidelines even said that, if someone self-injured to cope with overwhelming emotions, BPD should be diagnosed, even though BPD has nine criteria, five of which must be met for a diagnosis.

Self-Medication

Self-medication refers to the abuse of alcohol or drugs with the goal to cope with mental health problems. It can also refer to the use of prescription medications that haven’t been prescribed to that specific person. Many people “self-medicate” with alcohol, even though alcohol does not have any medical benefits (except in mouthwash). In fact, it can make symptoms worse. Same for drugs. For instance, many people with psychotic symptoms use cannabis because it seems to calm them, even though it is in reality thought to worsen psychotic symptoms.

Of course, some drugs sold on the streets actually do help with certain symptoms. For example, people with undiagnosed ADHD might start using stimulant drugs to counter their symptoms. It is for this reason that self-medication needs to be taken very seriously. In my post on dual diagnosis last October, I addressed the complicated relationship between alcohol or drug use and mental illness

Survivor

Many people were and still are treated for mental illness against their will. In the antipsychiatry movement, people who come out of (forced) psychiatric care are seen as survivors. Many mentally ill people have indeed endured traumatic experiences at the hands of professionals. Many also have had other traumatic experiences, which may’ve contributed to their mental health condition. As such, they’re also survivors.

A – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to the #AtoZChallenge on mental health. I discussed many topics related to mental health already last October for #Write31Days. As I menitoned in my theme reveal post for the #AtoZChallenge, I’m going to give short descriptions of several words for each letter (sometimes though I have only one). For today, my letter A post, I have quite a lot of words. Here goes.

Acute unit


Also called “admission unit” in the Netherlands, here is where people go if they’re in crisis. The acute unit is for short-term treatment only: up to three months. Even so, some people stay there much longer. Like, I spent sixteen months on an acute ward because the rehabilitation unit didn’t want me.

Addiction

Though addictions are typically treated in separate units or even by separate agencies than mental illnesses, many people with a mental health diagnosis also have an addiction.

Admission

The process of getting admitted to a psychiatric unit. If people are admitted to an acute unit, this is usually through the crisis service or psychiatric liaison in the emergency department. On treatment units, such as for eating disorders or personality disorders, people usually get admitted through their outpatient treatment team. An admission interview typically consists of a brief assessment of one’s symptoms and some standard questions (eg. does the patient know where they are and what date it is). Details of the patient’s initial treatment may also be discussed.

Aggression

Aggression is quite common among mentally ill people, especially those in inpatient care. This may not be a politically correct statement but it’s true. Most times, this consists of verbal aggression, but nurses and patients sometimes get attacked physically too.

Alcohol

Alcoholism is not as common among mentally ill people in inpatient treatment – they often take their addictions out on other drugs. However, still you get the occasional alcoholic on an inpatient mental health unit. Most instituttions don’t serve alcohol in the cafeteria, though near my institution is the railroad store where they do sell alcohol.

Attention-Seeking

Us mentals are supposed to crave attention more than do people without mental illness, hence the common belief that a mental illness is “attention-seeking” behavior. Well, let me tell you: mentally ill people often keep their symptoms hidden for a long time and most don’t crave attention more than do mentally healthy people.

Attitude

A similar myth about mental illness is that it’s an attitude problem. It’s not. I wrote a post on mental illness and attitude last October. The idea that mental illness is an attitude problem is very damanging to people with mental illness, who often have a lot of shame as is. There is a group of people wiht an attitude problem here and they’re the people who think they can judge another person’s attitude like this.

Overeating or Binge Eating Disorder: Is It “Food Addiction”?

I have had issues with disordered eating since early adolescence. I mostly engage in overeating or maybe even binge eating (a binge being a distinct period of severe overeating accompanied by a feeling of being out of control). When I still purged regularly several years ago, I took my eatig issue much more seriously than I do now, despite my overeating/bingeing having gotten worse over time and my weight recently having increased to a number that is within the obese range for my height.

Overeating is often seen as an addiction. I’ve never really seen my eating habits as such, and I wonder what the implications would be if “food addiction” were formally recognized. Curtis & Davis (2014) ask the same question in the conclusion to their qualitative study of “food addiction” in obese women with and without binge eating disorder (BED). In their study, all BED women met criteria for “food addiction” when DSM-5 criteria of substance use disorder were used with food being the substance. Obese women who didn’t suffer from BED also often displayed “food addiction” symptoms. They however attributed their inability to stop overeating more to liking the food or not wanting to stop than to feeling intrinsically unable to stop.

Interestingly, many women in the study weren’t sure whether they were food addicts when directly asked about it. I can relate to this. I at one point participated in an unofficial Overeaters Anonymous online group, and didn’t feel this suit me really. I do notice that I hold many of the same misconceptions about what an addiction is that the study authros found. For example, I tend to believe food cannotbe addictive because we need it, that substance abusers use their substance all the time, etc. The idea of food as an addictive substance does raise questions about what it is to be dependent on a substance. I know that the DSM-5 removed the distinction between substance abuse and substance dependence, and, in a way, this is good. Then again, you can get physically dependent on certain substances, and that makes an addiction to that substance (eg. alcohol) look more real than an addiction to a substance that you won’t develop physical dependence. Addiction to a substance you can’t get physically dpeendnet on, in turn, looks more real than behavioral addictions like “Internet Addiction”. These novel addictive disorder concepts do create fundamental debates about personal responsibility, which do have implications for treatment. After all, an impulse control disorder is treated differently from a substance dependence.

Reference

Curtis C & Davis C (2014), A Qualitative Study of Binge Eating and Obesity From an Addiction Perspective. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 22(1):19-32. DOI: 10.1080/10640266.2014.857515.