All Posts in Category: General Anxiety

Sex Avoidance and Anxiety Disorders

Most people are somewhat familiar with the term “sex addiction”, particularly because they’ve heard about the occasional movie star or entertainer who seeks treatment for their compulsion. But, while sex addiction is recognized and there are rehab centers and support groups that can provide help, its polar opposite – sex avoidance – is hardly ever discussed. And yet, sex avoidance is just as shattering – perhaps even more so, because a person with sex avoidance shuns intimacy and the enjoyment that comes with having a sincere connection to a loving partner.

Additionally, while sexual avoidance can be troubling on its own, it is also often a side effect of having an anxiety disorder. Things like performance fears, being distressed and upset, and low libido can make people even more anxious and can lead to the avoidance of sex.

What is Sex Avoidance?

In general, the aversion toward sex is a defense mechanism. When thinking of intimacy or engaging in sex, the person with sexual avoidance feels emotional distress and physical symptoms, such as nausea and tensed muscles, or they may have panic attacks. They may also experience humiliation, shame, and low self-esteem for rejecting their partner.

As with any condition, there are people who fall on either end of the spectrum. Sex avoidance can come in the form of sexual anorexia, which happens when sex and intimacy are obsessively evaded in the same way anorexics shun food. In some cases, the sexual anorexic may enjoy physical intimacy once it has been initiated, but may not be able to instigate sex. Or, they may take it a step further and turn down their spouse or partner’s desire for physical closeness more often than not.

On the other extreme, the American Psychological Association has classified an actual disorder called Sexual Aversion Disorder. With this disorder, the individual actively seeks to avoid genital sexual contact with a sexual partner. Often, the person will even avoid genital contact related to a gynecological exam or procedure. Sexual Aversion Disorder can be so traumatic that the person won’t allow any physical touch or kissing.

Reasons for Sex Avoidance

There are various reasons for avoiding sex. The most obvious is the case of a person who has suffered childhood sexual abuse and now dodges anything that brings the trauma back up in their mind. However, not everyone who has been abused will avoid sex, just as not every person who shuns physical intimacy has been abused.

In some cases, people with anxiety disorders also shun sexual encounters. When a person has an anxiety disorder, they suffer physical effects along with their mental stress. Physically, the Mayo Clinic reports people with an anxiety disorder may experience the symptoms of:

  • Insomnia, trouble falling asleep or problems with staying asleep
  • Fatigue, particularly if they aren’t sleeping well
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • May be easily startled
  • Muscles aches, tense or clenched muscles
  • Twitching or trembling
  • Sweating

But, why would these symptoms cause someone to avoid the comfort of a physical relationship? One reason is that the act of intimacy raises your heart rate, induces heavier breathing, and makes you sweat. These bodily reactions mimic the physical “fight or flight” responses people experience during a panic attack, so much so that some individuals will go to great lengths to avoid feeling them at all.

Additionally, people who already suffer anxiety may choose to forego sexual encounters so they don’t have to add more fears to their list of concerns. Engaging in sexual activity can bring up worries about their attractiveness, their ability to perform, or may increase feelings of shame or guilt.

Sex Avoidance Treatment

Depending on its root cause, sex avoidance can be effectively treated either on its own or as part of an anxiety disorder therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy can help reduce anxiety, fear, and negative emotions. These therapies can be conducted on a one to one basis, in group therapy, or online depending on the particular preference of the client.
  • Sexual function can often be improved with the use of certain medications. For example, SSRIs may have the side effect of delaying orgasm and can often help men who suffer from premature ejaculation.
  • If you are already on anxiety disorder medications, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medicine so it has less effect on or can help with your condition.

A Place to Turn for Help

If your anxiety disorders are leading to sex avoidance, turn to the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Depression and Anxiety – Women’s Health

Today’s women face a variety of life and family stressors. These pressures can lead to mental health concerns that can range anywhere from simple “burn out” to mood disorders and beyond. In fact, it may surprise you to know that women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Obviously, researchers want to know the reason for this alarming statistic. Is there a biological component at play in a women’s body that isn’t as prevalent in a male? Do females learn to worry more because they pattern themselves after a mother who worries? Or, is it simply because women are more likely than men to admit they have symptoms and seek help?

The official view of the mental health profession is that the sexes are similar in the numbers of each gender who experience psychiatric disorders. However, according to the authors of The Stressed Sex, it actually turns out that “in any given year, total rates of psychological disorder are 20-40% higher in women than men.”

Indeed, studies are beginning to show that a female’s physiology can contribute to their higher rate of physiological disorders. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that women’s fight-or-flight responses are more sensitive than a man’s and the response stays activated longer in a woman. Additionally, the female brain is more sensitive to stress hormones and does not process serotonin, the neurotransmitter believed to influence psychological functions, as fast as the male brain.

Women also have a variety of external stressors that can lead to higher levels of depression and anxiety:

  • If you have children, there is a lot of pressure to be a “perfect mom.” This burden often leads to overscheduling activities and taking on more tasks, which takes away from relaxation and “decompression” time.
  • Caffeine comes in many forms today – think about sodas, coffee and tea, caffeinated beverages, and water enhancers, just to name a few. Caffeine affects brain chemistry by raising dopamine levels. High dopamine levels are what make you feel jittery after drinking a caffeinated beverage – if the level is high enough, it can bring on panic attacks.
  • Food allergies and food sensitivities can set off symptoms of anxiety in some people. This is because nutrition affects serotonin levels which, in turn, affects your mood. The gastrointestional tract is a major source of serotonin production.
  • Certain medications, including anxiety medication, can worsen the symptoms of anxiety. If at all possible, they should be used on a more temporary basis.
  • Wide use of sunscreens are great, but they’ve contributed to vitamin D deficiencies. A decrease in vitamin D has be shown to be related to depression and mood disorders.

In addition to these external stressors, physical reasons for depression and anxiety in women can include:

  • Hormonal issues that can influence mood: an imbalance in your hypothalamus, in your pituitary gland, or in your adrenal glands, can cause panic attacks and chronic anxiety.
  • Perimenopause – anxiety is often the first sign of perimenopause. The fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone levels impacts both mood and energy levels.
  • Hormonal balance can be affected by a lack of physical exercise, resulting in an increase in depression and anxiety.
  • Lack of sleep – women often don’t get as much sleep as they need or don’t sleep well, but sleep is imperative for brain health.

Ways to Help Reduce Depression and Anxiety

  • Make the time to do something you enjoy. Reading even just one chapter in a book or one article in a magazine can help you decrease stress. Work in the garden or take up a craft. It can be hard to find the time, but it is essential to find balance in your life.
  • Meditation or mindfulness training can help you learn how to better cope with stress.
  • Exercise not only allows you to release, it also helps regulate hormone levels.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, or breathing exercises.
  • Start a gratitude journal and record five things you are grateful for every day. This helps you focus on the good things that surround you, which helps you feel more positive.
  • Turn off the television so you stop focusing on the bad news of the day!
  • Seek guidance from a mental help professional if you find these techniques are not helping you reduce your depression and anxiety.

Need More Information?

If you are a woman who struggles with depression and anxiety, we can help. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Physician Burnout

There is no denying the fact that physician burnout is a growing problem in the United States. The statistics that support this trend are appalling:

  • Approximately 1 in 3 doctors experience physician burnout at any given time
  • Doctors are 15 times more likely to experience burnout than other types of professionals
  • 45% of primary care physicians report that, if finances allowed, they would quit their jobs
  • There are approximately 300 to 400 physician-suicide deaths every year

These numbers make a strong case that physician burnout is a major issue that needs to be addressed and addressed quickly.

Physician Burnout Symptoms

The symptoms of physician burnout bear a strong resemblance to those typically seen in other stress disorders, but there are also distinct differences. Dr. Dike Drummond, author of the blog, “The Happy MD“, hits the nail on the head by identifying that physician burnout occurs when stress is present and a doctor is unable to recover from it in their free time. He pinpoints three distinct burnout symptoms:

1. Physical and emotional exhaustion that leaves you worn out and unable to recover during down time.
2. The development of a cynical and negative attitude with regard to your work and your patients.
3. A reduced sense of purpose and a feeling that your work is meaningless and without value.

The Factors

A variety of factors in a doctor’s work life combine to explain why burnout has become so prevalent. The most common factors that lead to this syndrome include:

  • The inherent stress that comes with the job. Any profession that includes high responsibility and a small amount of control over outcomes is bound to be stressful. Adding to this stress are the kinds of outcomes that can occur as a result of physician decisions. It’s no wonder that stress levels are high.
  • The extreme lack of work-life balance. Doctors are expected to be available 24/7. This expectation, combined with long hours and shifting schedules, can have a negative impact on physicians in numerous ways, including:
    • Poor sleep patterns
    • Interference with family relationships (doctors tend to have a divorce rate that is 10 – 20 percent higher than the general population)
    • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Overwhelming administrative hassles. Being a physician in today’s medical world is rarely as simple as just being able to treat illness. Navigating the mazes of insurance paperwork and the new burdens of healthcare reform has added extra administrative work to a doctor’s duties. They must keep up with it if they want to get paid for their services and remain compliant with government regulations.

An Even Greater Challenge

It’s easy to see how the everyday challenges of being a doctor can continuously build up until the physician hits the burnout stage. The real difficulty lies in understanding how we can improve those statistics. The unfortunate reality is that many doctors will not seek assistance for physician burnout even when they realize there is a problem. There are several reasons for this:

  • Fear: licenses have the potential of being denied if a doctor is under treatment for substance abuse or depression and many physicians are afraid to take that risk.
  • Pride: in comparison to other professions, the world of physicians is pretty small. This means that a doctor seeking treatment would most likely be getting help from a colleague. Since doctor’s careers are built on reputation, it can be difficult for a physician to let a colleague see their perceived weaknesses, even in light of patient privacy laws.
  • Poor self-care: the combination of all the stressors mentioned above often lead to a doctor not taking care of themselves simply because they don’t have the time or energy to do so.

Where to Go from Here

If you or someone you know is showing signs of physician burnout, it’s important to seek help. Don’t let yourself become part of the growing statistics related to this trend. Recognizing and acknowledging this is a concern can be the biggest stepping stone toward finding a resolution.

For more information about easing the effects of physician burnout, contact the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders at 561-496-1094.  Also, you can email The Center at their Delray Beach, Florida location.

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How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

The holidays have come and gone and a new year has begun. You should be feeling inspired and happy to start working on your New Year’s resolutions and doing what you can to make this year better than the last…right? Maybe not.

Even though many people do greet the new year with excitement, there are also many who find themselves suffering from the post-holiday blues. This is understandable: the holiday season is a time of family gatherings and festive parties, which all comes to an abrupt halt right after the calendar page turns to the next year. Instead of all the merriment, we have to deal with fatigue, going back to work after taking time off, taking down those cheerful decorations, and stress from paying for all the gifts we’ve given. Additionally, the long, cold, dark days of winter, can lead some people to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you think about it, it’s no wonder many of us experience some depression after the holidays!

Symptoms of Post-Holiday Depression

The symptoms of the post-holiday blues period are similar to those of “regular” depression – headaches, insomnia and trouble sleeping, anxiety, weight gain or loss, and agitation. In general, depression related to the holidays is short-lived, though, lasting just a few weeks into the new year. For some people, however, it can be long-lasting and overwhelming: in these cases, counseling and support groups can help immensely.

Tips for Getting Over Depression after the Holidays

In order to help avoid (or climb out of) that post-Christmas depression period, many mental health professionals recommend taking a pro-active approach to the New Year. You might try:

  • Reflecting on the good times you had over the holidays. Spending some time to remember the enjoyable things that happened during the holiday season can help you focus more on the blessings you have in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal can also be helpful.
  • Getting some rest: things always look bleaker when you are tired. If you can, take some time to relax and do something just for yourself: reading the book you’ve been wanting to finish, watching a movie or two, or indulging in some “me time” can all give you a brighter perspective.
  • Starting a hobby or picking up one that you’ve enjoyed in the past. Activities you delight in will help take the focus off the end of the holiday season.
  • Starting to plan your next vacation or what you’ll do on your next long holiday weekend. There are holidays in January (Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday) and February (President’s Day) that you can start looking forward to. Even something as simple as planning a dinner with friends over those weekends can help you refocus your thoughts away from the holidays.
  • Volunteering: if you are lonely and missing those gatherings with family and friends, this can be a great way to get out and be around people.
  • Phototherapy: If your depression is more related to the dark days of winter, phototherapy can help immensely. Seasonal affective disorder generally responds well to light therapy, in which patients are regularly exposed to bright light. In particular, fluorescent lights have been shown to significantly improve depression. People with SAD can purchase “light boxes” which are used for approximately 30 minutes daily in the morning and evening.
  • Setting realistic New Year’s resolutions. Don’t aim so high that your goals are unattainable or you may end up disappointed in yourself for breaking them.

Above all, expect to enjoy the year ahead of you. Look forward to the coming months: plan some of the things you’d like to do this year, make a list of things you’d like to accomplish, stop looking backwards at the past. Put your goals for the year down in writing or tell them to a friend, so you’ll be more likely to make them happen.

Learn More

If you’ve tried some of these tips and are finding that you’re still having a hard time kicking the post-holiday blues, it might be helpful to speak with a mental health professional. Dr. Andrew Rosen and the therapists at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, call them at 561-496-1094 or Contact Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Insomnia and Anxiety/Depression

Most all of us have had the occasional sleeplessness night for one reason or another. Maybe you have a work project on your mind or it could be that you are worried about a family issue and can’t seem to fall asleep or stay asleep. Whatever the reason, having more than a few nights of less than quality sleep can make anyone feel fatigued and more than a little depressed. That stands to reason: after all, who wouldn’t be depressed when they are totally exhausted?

But, the combination of insomnia, depression, and anxiety may mean more than just a lack of sleep. In fact, studies have shown that at least 80% of people who suffer from anxiety and depression also have chronic insomnia. This is so prevalent that researchers are now saying that chronic insomnia may actually be a predictor of the onset of depression and/or anxiety.

Insomnia Symptoms

Chronic insomnia is defined as having trouble falling asleep or having problems staying asleep most nights during the month. Insomnia symptoms may include some or all of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking too early or waking up throughout the night
  • Being sleepy or tired during the day
  • Feeling irritable, anxious, or depressed
  • Loss of interested in social activities
  • Loss of libido
  • Difficulty in completing tasks or staying focused
  • An increase in accidents or errors
  • Physical symptoms of insomnia may include headaches, stomach or GI distress, or not feeling well, in general

Is There a Link Between Insomnia and Depression/Anxiety?

If you can’t get to sleep or can’t stay asleep, it’s easy to see why you’d become depressed from fatigue or become so tired that you might become anxious about things that might not normally bother you. Current sleep research has found, however, that “insomnia and depression are two distinct but overlapping disorders,” says Michael Perlis, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and director of their behavioral sleep medicine program.

“Until recently, insomnia was typically seen as a symptom of depression,” says Perlis. “Treat the underlying depression, the thinking went, and sleep problems would go away.” But, recent findings show that insomnia often shows up or gets worse just before a bout of depression. “Insomnia may serve as a trigger for depression,” Perlis says. “But it also appears to perpetuate depression.”

Treating Insomnia and Depression or Anxiety

In our practice, we find that Cognitive Behavior Therapy, used in conjunction with Mindfulness Meditation, often helps the most to relieve the anxiety experienced by having insomnia. CBT teaches people healthier behaviors and helps them gain more positive and realistic thought processes regarding their sleep. This therapy encourages better sleep habits and helps reduce the fears and replace the negative thoughts that can keep them from falling asleep or staying asleep.

Research has shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has longer-lasting, more sustainable effects on insomnia and depression. This is because it teaches you a skill set that you can use for the rest of your life. CBT gives you the power to cope with your situation in a healthy way and feel better about yourself and your world.

Mindfulness Meditation is also used to help the patient learn self-awareness. It teaches that our inaccurate view of the world is what triggers our negative emotions. Through practicing Mindfulness Meditation, the person trains their mind to overcome their worries and painful emotions, so they can be free of their suffering.

Other Ways to Treat Insomnia

There are also other schools of thought about ways to treat both insomnia and depression or anxiety. One idea is to specifically treat the insomnia by itself: research indicates that the treatment of sleep problems can help relieve and prevent a recurrence of depression and anxiety. In fact, several studies have found that depressed people who also had insomnia and were treated with both an antidepressant and a sleep medication did much better than those who were treated just with antidepressants. They slept better and their depression scores improved significantly over people who were just taking antidepressants alone.

Another method for treating insomnia is to actually wake a depressed insomniac early. This boosted mood in 30-60% of cases, but the cure is short-lived: the sufferer often becomes depressed again after they sleep once more.

Chronotherapy has also been used – in this type of therapy, those who have trouble falling asleep reset their internal circadian rhythm by adjusting the time they go to sleep over a period of days. Light therapy can also help: it exposes the insomniac to bright lights to help change their sleep cycles.

We Can Help

Are you or a loved one fighting chronic insomnia? It may be time to talk to a professional to see if there is an underlying condition that is contributing to your sleep problems. Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are ready to take your call and make getting help easier. Contact Dr. Rosen at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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LGBT Anxiety

It is said that it is human nature to fear things or people who are different. For centuries, society has pointed to this as justification for judging and discriminating against people who fall into “non-traditional” categories.

Every day our society is becoming more and more accepting of the differences we see in each other. Despite this progressive acceptance, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender still face a number of social stigmas and discrimination. It’s no wonder that this can lead to stress and anxiety for those in the LGBT community.

Potential Issues

If you are a member of the LGBT community and you’ve experienced anxiety tied to your identity, you’re not alone. Thousands of people just like you experience the same concerns every day. Let’s consider the facts:

  • According to a 2007 survey, students who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender were almost ten times as likely to experience bullying and victimization at school.
  • LGBT people were also twice as likely to have considered suicide as their heterosexual, non-transgender classmates.
  • People who identify themselves as homosexual or transgender face a number of common issues:
    • Discrimination and oppression at work or school
    • Stress and anxiety based around coming out to friends and family members
    • The struggle to identify your “true” self despite social expectations
    • The anticipation of potential discrimination or harassment even in situations where it hasn’t occurred yet

 Finding the Right Therapist for LGBT Anxiety

The ethics of professions tied to mental health, such as social work, psychology, and psychiatry require that therapists provide services to all people without discrimination. That being said, some therapists may be better than others when assisting with the specific needs of the LGBT community. Because of this, there are a few factors you may want to consider when seeking therapy for anxiety about your sexuality:

  • Similar experience: A therapist who is homosexual or transgender will have real-life experience similar to yours and may be able to provide more extensive assistance.
  • Professional focus: Many therapists focus their energy on specific areas of psychiatry. Finding someone who specializes in the anxieties of the LGBT community may provide you with more options as you go through your therapy.
  • The therapist’s view on reparation or conversion therapy: Decades ago, the mental health community operated on the misguided notion that homosexuality concerns were mental health disorders. During this time period it was common to find therapists who focused on “fixing” what they considered to be “improper” romantic attractions. Obviously, this practice is highly discouraged now and, in many states, has actually been banned. However, it’s still good to be aware of this so you don’t accidentally find yourself working with a therapist who has different intentions than you do.

Remember, the LGBT anxiety you face on a regular basis is not a result of there being anything wrong with you. They arise because of the environmental factors that surround you. Appropriate therapy will aim to help you understand and cope with those factors to improve your daily interactions.

Are you or someone you know facing severe anxiety as a result of your sexual or gender identity? Dr. Andrew Rosen knows the best techniques for helping you work through this anxiety and cope with difficult situations that arise. For more information, contact Dr. Rosen or call The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094.

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Terror Threats and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

It seems like every time we turn on the news lately, we hear reports about terrorists and attacks by suicide/homicide bombers. News stories about kidnappings, beheadings, and raids by Islamic terrorism groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram are a “normal” part of the daily news now. And, even though the vast majority of these attacks take place in cities and countries on the other side of the world from us, the constant bombardment of these threatening stories can begin to make anyone feel helpless and can instill worry, stress, and fear in them. This is especially true for people who already suffer from anxiety and anxiety-related syndromes, such as generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Even though personally experiencing an ISIS terrorist attack is unlikely, sometimes fear and anxiety over a potential threat can take on a life of its own. When you are anxious in general, you may begin having headaches, stomach problems, trouble sleeping or eating, or can even have a panic attack. And, if you have generalized anxiety disorder, your worries and fears become overwhelming. What was “normal” anxiety crosses over the line to the point that you worry:

  • About the worst-case scenario in most situations
  • Almost daily for six months or more
  • Uncontrollably, or your fears significantly disrupt your work or social life, or your daily activities

Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Persistent worrying or obsessing about your concerns
  • Feeling like you are always “on edge” or keyed up, being easily startled
  • Trouble concentrating, feeling irritable
  • Fearing rejection or worrying that you are losing control

Some of the psychological symptoms of anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping and its accompanying fatigue
  • Nausea, sweating, muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath and/or rapid heartbeat

What Can You Do To Help Calm Your Terror-Related Anxiety?

While it’s understandable to worry about terror threats, keeping the following in mind can help you calm your fears and lower your anxiety levels:

  • Try to detach – obsessing and worrying about ISIS and other militant groups will not solve the problem and will only serve to make you more anxious and upset. Remember that your upset is only yours – fixating on a possible attack will not change the outcome or stop a terrorist act. Try to focus on something else – a hobby, exercise, your loved ones – so you aren’t constantly preoccupied with the news.
  • Take care of yourself: eat nutritiously, exercise regularly to help relieve stress, and try to get enough sleep. Meditation can help to calm your mind, as can yoga or something as simple as deep, rhythmic breathing.
  • Turn off the TV, stop checking newsfeeds and Twitter and make the decision to limit your exposure to distressing news. Fear is addictive and constantly watching world events will keep your mind focused on the negative.
  • Remember that news organizations thrive when people are watching and paying attention to what they are saying. In spite of everything, we actually live in a safer world than ever before. It is also one that is healthier and richer than in the past, and one in which people are living longer than ever before.
  • Maintain your normal routine and continue to do the things you enjoy so that you feel more in control of the world around you.

Keep in mind that fear pulls the enjoyment out of everything. Living in fear keeps you from taking pleasure in your life and it won’t change what happens in the world – either in another country or right down the street. Only you can choose whether you will focus on the negative or whether you will embrace the happiness that is all around you. Be kind to yourself and don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in negative news stories and worries about terrorist threats.

If, however, you use these ideas and are still finding yourself stressed and troubled about terrorist threats, it might be time to speak with a professional to discuss more specific steps. To get more information and help for worry about terror threats and your anxiety or about generalized anxiety disorder, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Coping Mechanisms for Overcoming Holiday Stress

Once again it’s that time of year for holiday music, joyful giving, and memorable parties. Unfortunately, however, holiday cheer is not always as easy to find as one would think. In fact, the holiday season is often the time of year that anxiety, stress, and depression is highest for many people.

It makes sense when you think about some of the factors that come along with most people’s holidays. Consider these triggers, which can cause a spike in anxiety and holiday stress during this festive season:

  • Going home – Returning to your childhood home can bring up associated unhappy memories and old anxieties.
  • Relatives – Most people have at least one family member they avoid throughout the year because of the toxicity that person brings to social interactions. Family gatherings during the holidays often mean these less-than-cheerful reunions will occur.
  • Life changes – This is the time of year where people tend to reflect on the previous year and the major changes that have happened, such as divorces or deaths in the family. The seasonal cheer and happiness often opens the door to anxiety and depression when these thoughts come up.
  • Holiday parties – This is the time when we are expected to attend office parties or get-togethers with friends and neighbors. Crowded rooms and large groups of people can be difficult to face for anyone, but these types of gatherings can be especially difficult for those suffering from social anxiety disorder, even if they are not the center of attention.
  • Routine – While focusing on changes are difficult for some, focusing on routine and the sameness of family tradition can be a struggle for others. Visiting the same homes, going through the same conversations, and having the same dinners can demonstrate a monotony that makes people feel like their lives are stuck in a rut.
  • Lowered Defenses – The holidays come at a time when the weather is changing, flu is rampant, and holiday engagements leave us sleep-deprived. It’s no wonder that our body’s defenses are not up to the rigors of fighting the anxiety that can come around at this time.
  • Travel – People have to face the crowds and travel issues that make them avoid traveling the rest of the year. And, for someone who suffers from social anxiety disorder or a fear of flying, holiday travel can bring up extreme distress and worry.

Holiday Coping Mechanisms

While it’s easy to see how this time of year can provoke anxiety and stress in a number of people, there is good news. There are a number of holiday coping mechanisms you can use to ease your way through the holiday stress:

  • Accept imperfection. Oftentimes, we idealize the holiday season and envision a movie-like perfection to how it will go. Perfection is not reality and realizing this early will go a long way in preventing holiday stress.
  • Don’t look to alcohol or drugs for relief. While this may seem like an easy solution in the moment, it often makes things worse in the long run.
  • Reach out to others. When holiday depression starts to sneak in, look for relief in the company of others. The holidays are filled with religious and community events that often make it easier to seek social support.
  • Maintain healthy habits. People correlate the holidays with weight gain and unhealthy eating but it doesn’t have to be that way. Loading up on baked goods and fattening meals can lead to negative self-thoughts. Look for healthier alternatives instead.
  • Stick to a budget. Financial concerns are one of the leading stressors for this time of year. Whatever your financial situation is, set a budget and stick with it to maintain control of your situation.

Coping with Holiday Travel Fears

One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the holidays is the dreaded travel to family events. Traffic delays, crowded airports, and overflowing train stations can bring about an entirely different type of stress, especially if you already suffer from a fear of flying or of crowds. Just like with any other anxieties, however, there are ways to confront and overcome these fears:

  • Plan and confirm all details – Organization is the best way to ensure your travel plans will go as smoothly as possible.
  • Think ahead – Oftentimes, giving voice to your anxiety is the best way to address it. What are you stressing about? Make a list of all your concerns and pre-plan ways to overcome them so you’ll be prepared if the worst happens.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If you’re flying and claustrophobic, don’t be afraid to ask for an aisle seat. If you have a fear of flying, let the flight attendant know when you board so they can help make your flight more comfortable. Asking for help can provide more relief than suffering alone in silence.

Ultimately, if you find holiday stress is becoming overwhelming despite the recommendations listed above, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Your holiday season does not need to be ruined because of stress, anxiety, or depression. If you or someone you know is unable to cope with the holiday burdens, it may be time to reach out to a professional.

To get more information and help for holiday stress, anxiety, or depression, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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College Students: Why Are We Seeing an Increase in Psychological Disorders?

College is supposed to be the highlight of young adult lives. It represents a time for independence, new experiences, and carefree living before the “real world” and true responsibilities kick in. So why is it that today’s college students are so susceptible to so many mental health concerns?

The statistics related to psychological disorders and mental health concerns among college students have become so alarming that many are referring to it as a mental health crisis. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 1 in 4 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental condition.
  • More than 64% of young adults who are no longer in college are no longer attending because of a mental health related reason.
  • Over 30% of students meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse diagnosis.
  • A 2006 survey showed nearly 20% of students had eating disorders whereas a study in the 1980s revealed only 4-5% of students with this concern.
  • The suicide rate for young adults ages 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s.
  • A 2013 survey found that 57% of college women and 40% of college men reported “overwhelming anxiety” in the year leading up to the study.
  • Students are facing college depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that, in 2011, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment (ACHA–NCHA—a nationwide survey of college students at 2- and 4-year institutions—found that about 30 % of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.
  • 95% of college counseling center directors state that there are growing concerns on their campus with the number of students who demonstrate significant psychological problems.

What’s Different for Today’s College Student?

There has always been a certain amount of phase of life adjustment anxiety that goes along with leaving a familiar setting and going off to college. But, what could explain why the numbers associated with psychological concerns among college students have risen so greatly over recent years? Surely colleges have always had the same high standards with regard to homework and reports? While that may be true there are, in fact, quite a few factors that could be contributing to these statistical increases:

  • Technology – while one could argue that technology makes college student’s lives easier, it also provides high potential for chaos, information overload, and hyper-connectivity, which can all combine to create additional stress.
  • Lack of family structure – in today’s fast-paced, divorce-heavy world it can be challenging to find young adults who have a stable, reliable family system. When they’re thrust into the new realm of college living this lack of guidance and support can lead to increased mental health concerns.
  • Early education concerns – many studies show that students entering college today are not as prepared for it academically as they should be. Bridging that gap between their lack of knowledge and increased expectations of college versus high school can play a huge role in the psychological issues we see today.
  • Overprotective parents – in today’s world of participation trophies and overindulgent, parents, children are often not prepared to cope with disappointment or negative feedback. This can lead to them entering the college world completely unprepared for higher education’s normal challenges and the resiliency to adjust to them.
  • Economic pressures – high unemployment and a tough economic climate mean parents are less able to help their children with the financial responsibilities of college. Along with this comes an increase in students working in addition to school, and additional issues for them to worry about.

How Can You Help?

Today’s college student needs to understand that it’s okay to talk about the difficulties they’re facing. Even as society becomes more open to discussing mental health concerns there is still a lot of stigma attached to the subject and it can be scary for students to admit there’s a problem. As many of the above factors show, lack of structure and guidance also plays a big role in the psychological troubles of our students. Knowing they have support and understanding can give students a way to plant their feet in and work toward resolving their issues. Take time to help them learn how to prioritize and structure their new responsibilities so they can reduce the chaos that surrounds them.

In some situations, the best resolution will be to seek professional help. A therapist or other mental health professional can help students get to the root of their problems and provide coping techniques that will allow them to move confidently through the rest of their college years.

If you know a college student who is struggling with college phase of life adjustment anxiety or if you need help yourself, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Anxiety and Sexual Disorders

Recently, several small studies have suggested that there may be a link between anxiety disorders and sexual disorders. While the study of this relationship is just beginning, researchers have seen connections wherein those who suffer from panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder also have noted an increase in impairment of sexual function, arousal and desire, and a decrease in satisfaction and enjoyment of sex.

Why Do These Disorders Coincide?

While there are many more reasons that anxiety and sexual disorders occur together, the following offer a glimpse into why they might be found in patients with anxiety:

  • Just experiencing anxiety by itself can be enough to impair sexual function in some people. If a man is concerned that he may not be able to please his partner, for instance, that fear may cause him to avoid sex, it may increase the potential for erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, or it may weaken arousal or satisfaction.
  • Certain medications can cause sexual side effects. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are commonly prescribed for panic disorders and social phobias (an example is Prozac) and these drugs are known to delay orgasm in many men.
  • Stress, worry, and fear can impede sexual function and the subsequent worry about one’s sexual function can create a vicious cycle of fear, worry, and stress.

What Can You Do About It?

  • Tell your doctor or therapist if you are being treated for an anxiety disorder and also have problems functioning sexually as these conditions can be treated simultaneously. Additionally, sexual problems often have a root physical origin and a medical exam will help identify and treat any physical condition that may be causing the dysfunction.
  • If you are on anxiety disorder medications, your doctor can adjust your medicine so it has less impact on or helps with your situation.
  • Other medications can be utilized to help your sexual function. For example, because SSRIs can have a side effect of delayed orgasm, prescribing them often can help men who suffer from premature ejaculation.
  • There are many therapies, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy to help reduce anxiety, fear, and negative emotions. Discussing your concerns with your therapist can help you find the way that works best for you.

Even though researchers have seen that anxiety disorders and sexual disorders often co-occur, these disorders do not coincide in all anxiety patients. For that reason, more studies will need to be conducted so we can better understand how to treat people who suffer from both conditions.

To get more information and help for a possible connection between your anxiety and sexual disorders, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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