All Posts in Category: Panic Attacks/Disorders

Can Using Medical Marijuana Increase Anxiety and Depression?

As of this writing, 30 states, Guam, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico all have approved the broad use of medical marijuana. Additionally, other states allow limited medical use and 8 states (and the District of Columbia) allow recreational use of the drug. Even though the use of pot and weed is becoming more acceptable, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I substance, meaning it is likely to be abused and it completely lacks medical value. This classification also means there hasn’t been much research into the efficacy of the drug for medical conditions and, in particular, we lack long-term studies that would tell us whether it is safe and/or effective when used over a long period of time.

What we do know is that, in clinical practice – both in our practice and in discussions with colleagues in other practices – mental health professionals are seeing an increase in the number of incidents of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and even psychotic reactions now that marijuana use has become more mainstream.

Did you know that:

  • THC, the primary chemical in marijuana, is believed to stimulate areas of the brain responsible for feelings of fear.
  • According to available scientific literature, people who use weed have higher levels of depression and depressive symptoms than those who do not use cannabis.
  • Frequent or heavy use in adolescence can be a predictor of depression or anxiety later on in life – especially for girls.
  • Even if using cannabis seems to alleviate symptoms in the short-term for some users, it can lead to delay in getting appropriate treatment.
  • Scientific evidence suggests cannabis use can trigger the onset of schizophrenia and other psychoses in those already at risk of developing it.
  • A 2015 study found that university-aged young adults are more likely to have a higher risk of developing depression from heavy marijuana use.
  • Numerous research studies show that marijuana is an addictive substance. The more you use it, the more you need to use in order to get the same “high.”

Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational Marijuana

Whether it’s used recreationally or medicinally, both forms of pot are the same product. The medical version contains cannabinoids just like recreational marijuana. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals found in the medical form.

Although medical marijuana is used for many conditions (among them: multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, seizure disorders, and glaucoma), its efficacy hasn’t been proven. “The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity [tight or stiff muscles] from MS,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, a substance abuse specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Mental Illness and Psychoactive Substances

As noted above, there aren’t many studies on the relationship between marijuana use and mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder yet. However, research done in 2017, examined marijuana use in conjunction with the depression and anxiety symptoms of 307 psychiatry outpatients who had depression (Bahorik et al., 2017). This study found that “marijuana use worsened depression and anxiety symptoms; marijuana use led to poorer mental health functioning.” In addition, the study determined that medical marijuana was associated with reduced physical health functioning.

Part of the problem with using marijuana either recreationally or medically is that there is no way to regulate the amount of THC you’re getting, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t oversee the product. This means not only the ingredients, but the strength of them can differ quite a lot. “We did a study last year [2016] in which we purchased labeled edible products, like brownies and lollipops, in California and Washington. Then we sent them to the lab,” Bonn-Miller says. “Few of the products contained anywhere near what they said they did. That’s a problem.”

Another area of concern is that, as we know from regulated psychiatric medications, one dose may affect you differently than it affects your sibling or a friend. People are unique – each person’s reaction to a medication will vary, which is why psychiatric medications are monitored by the prescribing doctor so that the dosage can be adjusted for your specific needs.

Be Careful with Marijuana Use

In summary, if you choose to use marijuana either medically or recreationally, be careful. Talk to the doctor who authorized it, or speak with a mental health professional if you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of depression or anxiety, or if you have panic attacks that begin or worsen while you are using pot. Additionally, be sure your doctor knows your psychiatric history before they authorize medical marijuana for you, especially if you have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, or psychosis.

Do You Have Questions?

We can help! The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can answer your questions about how medical or recreational marijuana use can affect your anxiety, depression, or other condition. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

Resource:  Bahorik, Amber L.; Leibowitz, Amy; Sterling, Stacy A.; Travis, Adam; Weisner, Constance; Satre, Derek D. (2017). Patterns of marijuana use among psychiatry patients with depression and its impact on recovery. Journal of Affective Disorders, 213, 168-171.

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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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Online Agoraphobia Therapy

People with agoraphobia (an irrational fear of being out in public) can have such anxiety about leaving the safety of their home that it may be extremely difficult for them to take part in therapy sessions. And yet, it is very beneficial for them participate in psychotherapy, both alone or with others who suffer from the same condition, so they can become more confident and less fearful. An excellent way to meet the needs of an agoraphobic patient is for them begin online agoraphobia therapy through online chatting, by video on Skype or Facetime, or by receiving counseling through email.

Why Choose Online Agoraphobia Therapy?

  • Online agoraphobia therapy allows the person to get help in the comfort of their own home
  • This type of therapy lets the patient write down their thoughts and feelings without having to formulate them under the pressure of interacting with a therapist who is physically present in the room with them
  • Online agoraphobia treatment eliminates the need to commute for those who are physically disabled or for those who may not have the means to travel to a therapist’s office
  • With agoraphobia online therapy, patients don’t need to mingle with staff or other patients in the therapist’s waiting room
  • If the person is depressed, they may not be motivated to leave the house for treatment. Online agoraphobia therapy makes it much more convenient for these patients to get help
  • Online agoraphobia treatment allows the patient to feel more in control of the therapy session and the healing process
  • Online or email counseling can be very useful for those who do not have privacy and lets them get help if they have limited time
  • Recent studies have shown that patients can achieve the same therapy benefits from online treatment as they can from being physically present in an office setting

Online agoraphobia therapy can be a great way to begin treatment while still remaining in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s also an excellent supplemental therapy service for those who are coming in for office visits. The computer-provided “barrier” helps patients feel secure and protected until they gain self-confidence and are ready to experience therapy in a more traditional setting.

For more information about online agoraphobia therapy, 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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Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

Stress is a natural part of life. We all go through it whether we want to or not. For some, it might arise with work or relationship troubles. For others, it might be develop while working toward an important goal or experiencing a life change. While we might be used to a touch of stress in our lives, most of us are not used to the panic attacks that sometime develop as a result of that stress.

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that occurs when there’s no real danger or apparent cause. It can trigger severe physical reactions and make you think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Stress is one of the biggest causes of panic attacks, but they can also occur as a result of:

  • Certain changes in the way your brain functions
  • Genetics
  • Major life changes
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • Having a temperament that’s more susceptible to stress

Research shows that most of us will have one or two panic attacks in our lifetime. The symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Hyperventilation
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness

If you or someone you know has begun experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis, it’s important to seek help immediately. In many cases these attacks can get worse without help and are often difficult to manage on your own. If a person begins experiencing panic attacks regularly, they often begin changing their lifestyle to avoid the triggers that set off their attacks. This pattern of avoidance, combined with an increased anxiety level, leads to a condition known as panic disorder. The longer a panic disorder persists, the more likely you are to develop complications, such as:

  • Increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts
  • Development of phobias, such as a fear of leaving home
  • Depression
  • Alcohol or substance abuse

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is generally the most effective treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder. It helps the person focus on the behaviors and thinking patterns that are triggering the attacks. Exposure therapy (where the patient is exposed to the physical sensations of panic in a safe, controlled environment) is another treatment that has been very effective in treating panic disorder.

Don’t let panic attacks disrupt your life or impact your work, school, or family. For more information on panic attacks, panic disorders, or getting assistance for yourself or a loved one, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. They can be reached by calling 561-496-1094 or by emailing Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder Therapy

More than four million people experience panic attacks annually, across the country. These attacks can occur anytime and anywhere: on the drive home from work, in the movie theater, at a child’s little league game, or in a thousand other unexpected places. While many people have heard of panic attacks, most may not be aware of the specifics of this frightening anxiety concern.

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that develops for no apparent reason. These attacks can trigger severe physical reactions and generally make the sufferer feel as if they are losing control or possibly having a heart attack. In the extreme, panic attacks can make a person feel like they may be dying. These attacks often begin without warning and can happen at any time or place. Most symptoms peak within ten minutes and last for approximately half an hour.

Symptoms of panic attack may include:

  • A sense of impending doom or death
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hyperventilation
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Faintness

You may notice that these symptoms are similar to serious medical conditions, such as a heart attack. Because of this, it is very important to seek the help of a physician if any of the above physical reactions are experienced. Beyond these symptoms, however, one of the worst aspects of a panic attack is that it often triggers fear that another attack is imminent. This fear can take over a person’s life. Over time a panic disorder may develop if a person has four or more attacks or lives in constant fear that more will occur.

Once a panic disorder develops, seeking panic disorder therapy becomes even more important: left untreated, panic attacks can lead to severe phobias or other anxiety disorders, to avoidance of social situations, to suicidal thoughts or actions, to financial problems, to work or school problems, and/or to alcohol or substance abuse problems. Because panic disorders do not go away on their own, experts encourage people to seek therapy as soon as they realize they are altering their day-to-day lives in order to cope. Most sufferers will undergo cognitive behavior therapy or exposure therapy as part of their panic disorder therapy. These treatments may be combined with medication depending on the specifics of each case.

For more information about panic disorder therapy in the Delray Beach, Florida area, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen at 561-496-1094 or email him today.

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