DR. NICOLE Wagner – Q&A

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TSM: How can one find a local mental health specialist? 

DNW: You have several options of finding a local mental health specialist. If insured you can contact member service of your carrier, local online search specifically to your geographical area. Referral by a medical professional, friend or other community based supportive service. 

TSM: How does someone acquire a mental illness?

DNW: Mental illness itself occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors, such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic event which can influence or trigger an illness in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it. Some people are pre-exposed to the diagnosis of mental health disturbances. Is it all in the person’s head? Mental health is a disease, it is an illness that impacts daily life, it impacts how people do things, it impacts the way your brain works. Mental health is all in your head, but not for the negative reason’s others give you, simply because the brain is sick. To answer the question of “is it all in a person’s head” psychosomatic illness says yes, but still a real mental health illness. Psychosomatic illness, where your body acts as if it’s sick but there isn’t anything wrong. This is common and very misunderstood. It places the spotlight on how powerful the brain is. If your brain believes something it becomes very real, thus resulting in a diagnosis of a mental illness. Some other common types of mental illness diagnosis associating it to being all in your head is Anxiety Disorder. This is a group of mental illnesses that cause constant fear and worry within a person disrupting their quality of life. All in the head, yet very real to mental health professionals. Schizophrenia is another head mental health illness. This disorder is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and behavior. Again, one might say all in the head, True but very real in the mental health industry because  again it disturbs the quality of life for those persons suffering from it. Psychosis is another mental disorder characterized by disconnection from reality which results in strange behavior often accompanied by perception of stimuli (voices, images, sensations) and other hallucinations. 

TSM: How common is mental illness? 

DNW: Let us first define mental illness for understanding. It is a disorder that can cause psychological and behavioral disturbances with varying severities. Some of the common types of mental illnesses include but are not inclusive of anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, psychosis, panic attack, conduct disorder, major depressive disorder, conversion disorder and antisocial personality disorder just to name a few. According to Ronald Kessler, professor at Harvard Medical School says “more than one in four U.S. adults per year have some form of mental illness or substance abuse problem/diagnosis. Many of those cases are mild, but 14% of the population has moderate or severe mental illness”. There should be no surprise that during the COVID/Pandemic that the number of suicide cases and escalation of mental health onset with triggers have increased. When you think about the fear in people freely sneezing or coughing or a runny nose, sore throat leading to the diagnosis or assumption they have coronavirus it puts the question in perfect light.

TSM: What are common signs and symptoms of mental illness? It is important to understand that each mental illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include but not limited to the following:

*Excessive worrying or fear

*Feeling excessively sad or low

*Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning

*Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

*Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger

*Avoiding friends and social activities

*Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

*Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy

*Changes in sex drive 

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Primarily because they have not yet fully learned how to identify or talk about their thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral and include but not limited to the following:

*Changes in school performance

*Hyperactive behavior

*Frequent temper tantrums

*Frequent disobedience or aggression

*Frequent nightmares

*Excessive worry or anxiety for instance fighting to avoid bed or school. 

TSM: Are you living your true self?

DNW: By all understanding of what it means to live your true self I am. I know more of my authentic self at age 46 but the journey of learning never ends. I connect with the caring for others as I desire to live a selfless life, knowing that it is not about me, yet the work of God. I am clear on my core values so that I am in compliance with them. My actions are always/mostly aligned with my values and I live according to my spiritual beliefs. I commit to my choices; I remain receptive to necessary changes that allow me to grow and I give myself the freedom of letting go to be me unapologetically. 

TSM: How can I see a counselor? 

DNW: Before seeing a counselor, finding the appropriate level of treatment is first. Getting a diagnosis is just the first step, knowing your own preference, goals etc. is important. Remember there is no “one size fits all” treatment design as there are many applicable mental health treatment options including but not limited to medication, counseling (therapy), social support and education for preventative measures. In order to obtain this information an assessment must be completed and discussed with the individual seeking mental health professional support. The determination of need and level of treatment is discussed with the patient and sometimes their present support person/persons (support network). An individual may need a psychologist, counselor, clinician, therapist, social worker, primary care physicians also treat patients for mental illnesses (at their discretion), pastoral counselors or certified peer specialists. Most states have an online community base support/resource website, Baltimore City also has a crisis hotline (BCRI-Baltimore Crisis Response Incorporated). This organization meets the individual in emotional crisis wherever they are and assesses them with a nurse, therapist and peer. Individuals can always contact their insurance member service department for guidance/assistance in selecting a counselor. 

Why did you choose a Behavioral Health Professional? The Behavioral Health Profession chose me, or should I say God selected me for the assignment. In my decision to attend college it was to grow my household income as a single mother not wanting to remain on welfare. The plan was to obtain my licensed practicing nurse (LPN) degree and license for a more lucrative household income then return to school for my registered nurse (RN). I had it all planned out, or so I thought. But God! On graduation day as they called my name walking across the stage to receive what resembled my degree, I heard them say my area of concentration. Human Services with a focus in Substance Abuse Counseling. I remember saying as I looked to the ceiling, “Ok God let’s 

see what you are about to do”. I have been in the behavioral health field for going on 21 years and I have no regrets. Since entering the field within my current organization I believe I have been instrumental in changing the stigmatizing language and beliefs surrounding mental health illness. I have been able to educate not only patients, family members, friends, recovering addicts and other people on the disease of addictions. But aside from helping people the best reward in my being chosen by God for this field is individual development personally and professionally. There is no way you can work in this field and not conduct personal self-evaluations. I am changing lives of many, improving communities with community outreach including the SAVE A Life approach, finding out new things and I get to be a part of the action plan of needed change. Many conversations are held regarding changes/shifts in the opioid epidemic (crisis), and I am at the table for some of those conversations. I am a part of the process. It is such a fulfilling reward finding new and innovative ways to assist people in increasing their quality of life be it mental illness or disease of addictions, I am part of that process of change. Now who would not want to be a part of the history of change in the behavioral health industry.

TSM: How can people reach you? 

DNW: I can be reached on the following social media platforms:

Instagram: drmzdovely_Phbmore 

Facebook: DrNicole Wagner

Twitter: LovelyCounselor

LinkedIn: Dr. Nicole Wagner

Phone: (571) 336-6428

Email: nwagner47@gmail.com 

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