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Signs You May be a Hypochondriac

A hypochondriac is someone who lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them. Hypochondriacs experience extreme anxiety from the bodily responses most people take for granted. For example, they may be convinced that something as simple as a sneeze is the sign they have a horrible disease.

Hypochondria accounts for about five percent of outpatient medical care annually. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with health anxiety (also known as illness anxiety disorder) each year.

Hypochondriac Symptoms

Hypochondria is a mental health disorder. It usually starts in early adulthood and may show up after the person or someone they know has gone through an illness or after they’ve lost someone to a serious medical condition. About two-thirds of hypochondriacs have a co-existing psychiatric disorder, such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or major depression. Hypochondria symptoms can vary, depending on factors such as stress, age, and whether the person is already an extreme worrier.

Hypochondriac symptoms may include:

·         Regularly checking themselves for any sign of illness

·         Fearing that anything from a runny nose to a gurgle in their gut is the sign of a serious illness

·         Making frequent visits to their doctor

·         Conversely, avoiding the doctor due to fear that the doctor will find they have a dreaded disease or serious illness

·         Talking excessively about their health

·         Spending a lot of time online, researching their symptoms

·         May focus on just one thing: a certain disease (example: cancer) or a certain body part (example: the lungs if they cough). Or, they may fear any disease or might become focused on a trending disease (example: during flu season, they may be convinced that a sniffle means they’re coming down with the flu)

·         Are unconvinced that their negative medical tests are correct, then worry that they have something undiagnosed and that no one will be able to find it and cure them

·         Avoiding people or places they fear may cause them to get sick

Health anxiety can actually have its own symptoms because it’s possible for the person to have stomachaches, dizziness, or pain as a result of their overwhelming anxiety. In fact, illness anxiety can take over a hypochondriac’s life to the point that worrying and living in fear are so stressful, the person can become debilitated.

You may be wondering what triggers hypochondria. Although there really isn’t an exact cause, we do know that people with illness anxiety are more likely to have a family member who is also a hypochondriac. The person with health anxiety may have gone through a serious illness and fear that their bad experience may be repeated. They may be going through major life stress or have had a serious illness during childhood. Or, they may already be suffering from a mental health condition and their hypochondria may be part of it.

Hypochondriac Treatment

Often, when a person repeatedly runs to their doctor at the first sign of a minor symptom, their doctor doesn’t take them seriously and may consider them to be a “difficult patient,” rather than a person who is honestly concerned about their health. Worse, some doctors will take advantage of the person’s fears and may run unnecessary tests just to appease the patient. In fact, it’s been estimated that more than $20 billion is spent annually on unnecessary procedures and examinations.

Self-help for hypochondria can include:

  • Learning stress management and relaxation techniques
  • Avoiding online searches for the possible meanings behind your symptoms
  • Focusing on outside activities such as a hobby you enjoy or volunteer work you feel passionate about
  • Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs, which can increase anxiety
  • Working to recognize that the physical signs you experience are not a symptom of something ominous, but are actually normal bodily sensations
  • Setting up a schedule for regular appointments with your primary care doctor to discuss your health concerns. Work with them to set a realistic limit on medical tests and specialist referrals.

Professional treatments for hypochondria include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is very helpful for reducing patient fears. In this type of therapy, the person learns to recognize and understand the false beliefs that set off their anxiety. Research has shown that CBT successfully teaches hypochondriacs to identify what triggers their behavior and gives them coping skills to help them manage it.
  • Behavioral stress management or exposure therapy may be helpful
  • Psychotropic medications, such as anti-depressants, are sometimes used to treat health anxiety disorder

It is worth noting that many sufferers are unwilling to acknowledge the role anxiety plays in their symptoms. This makes them less likely to seek help from a mental health professional. Often, hypochondriacs are so resistant to the idea that they have anxiety that it takes intervention from loved ones to help them understand that they need assistance.

Get Help for Health Anxiety Disorder

Being a hypochondriac and experiencing health anxiety can be debilitating. It can severely affect the lives of the people who suffer from it.  The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are experienced in helping those with illness anxiety. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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13 Ways to Overcome Travel Anxiety

The summer travel season is just kicking off. Scores of tourists are excitedly packing their luggage and consulting websites or glossy brochures as they anticipate their upcoming vacations. While the idea of seeing new places or relaxing in cozy, familiar locations is appealing to most people, there are those who find the whole idea of travel frightening. It’s hard to get excited about new adventures when the mere thought of taking a trip brings up travel anxiety.

Here’s How to Help Your Travel Anxiety

For some, just being out of their home and familiar surroundings can be enough to bring on travel anxiety, especially if you suffer from panic attacks. Meeting new people or experiencing new foods can also make people feel insecure, plus worrying about how you’ll react emotionally may trigger anxiety.

If you have travel anxiety these tips should help you feel more in control:

  • Plan for your anxiety. Brush up on your coping skills and bring along items you know will help you stay calm. For example, you might check to be sure your favorite music is downloaded to your phone or you might tuck your favorite pillow into your suitcase so you’ll be sure to get some restful sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before your trip, so you can use them the minute you start to feel anxious.
    • Focus on a calming image in your mind or on an object you can physically see to take your mind off your fears. Concentrating on a book or watching a movie is distracting and can keep you from stressing over the unfamiliar.
    • Use affirmations, such as “I am safe,” to calm your thoughts.
    • Long, slow breaths have been proven to reduce anxiety and it’s worth it to learn deep breathing techniques. Breathing in slowly through your nose, then exhaling gradually through your mouth helps keep you from taking the short, hurried breaths that can trigger a panic attack.
    • Learn to meditate, which has been proven to reduce stress and boost overall health. Meditation can be done in so many ways – did you know that getting lost in music or even daydreaming are forms of meditation? Regular meditation practice can build long-term resilience.
  • Remind yourself of why you’re traveling. Picture your life a year from now – will you regret not having gone to your destination?
  • Because anxiety often stems from a feeling that you’re not in control, plan the first few days of your trip in detail. Look for photos of the airport and its terminals, explore the city’s subway system or figure out local transportation, look for your hotel on a maps website, and check out nearby restaurant and read their reviews. Having the details handy helps to keep your from worrying about the unexpected.
  • Join a community. There are many online forums or local support groups for anxiety sufferers where you can talk about your travel fears and find support.

If you’re scared of flying (also called aerophobia), these tips can help make your next flight the best you’ve ever taken:

  • Travel with a companion who is an experienced flyer. Having someone there to explain what the various sounds of flying mean or to walk you through the procedures associated with flying (security checks, boarding passes, terminals, etc), can go a long way toward calming nervousness. If they can sit next to you, they can help distract you with conversation, play games to keep your mind off of flying, or give your encouragement.
  • Be sure to talk with your travel companion before you board so they are aware of your fears and they know what you need. For example, if you don’t like to be touched, they should be told they shouldn’t try to hold your hand during a tense moment, which could increase your anxiety.
  • Avoid alcohol, which can alter the way your brain reacts and may increase your travel anxiety.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before your flight, then keep using them from the minute you reach the airport.
    • Focus on an object you can see or on a calming image in your mind.
    • Take in slow, long breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.
    • Try tensing each part of your body for ten seconds, then slowly relax it and move on to another body part (example: tense your right hand for ten seconds, then relax and tense your right arm for ten more seconds. Repeat on your left side, then move to your legs, etc.).
  • Listen to your favorite, calming music on your phone or other device or watch a movie or television show.
  • Try the SOAR app for Android or iOS. Part of the SOAR fear of flying program, developed by Capt. Tom Bunn, a former U. S. Air Force pilot and commercial jet pilot, the app has reassuring features like a built-in G-force meter that reads your plane’s current turbulence so you’ll know the jet can sustain it. It also links to weather and turbulence forecasts and allows you to download videos of Capt. Bunn walking you through each step of the flight process so you know what’s happening in the cockpit and on the plane.
  • Exercise before you fly. The endorphins from exercise are calming and will help dissipate your nervous energy. If you can’t exercise before your trip, try walking around the terminal to distract yourself and to keep your muscles loose, which helps reduce travel anxiety.
  • Consider booking a seat towards the front of the plane and along the aisle, so you don’t feel hemmed in or like you’re in a tunnel. Seats toward the front may cost more, but the additional expense can be worth it for more leg room, making it easier to relax.

If you’ve tried some of these tips on previous trips and they haven’t worked for you, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They may prescribe medications to help ease your travel anxiety and often have programs that teach coping techniques you can use when you’re scared of flying. Some even offer virtual reality sessions that simulate the flying experience in manageable doses in a safe office setting, so you can conquer your fears before even setting foot on a plane.

Get Help for Travel Anxiety

If you’re still facing travel anxiety after trying our tips to reduce your stress over an upcoming trip, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Midlife Anxiety

When someone goes through dissatisfaction with their job or marriage and they are in their forties or fifties, the first thing everyone says is that they must be having a midlife crisis. We hear about this phase of life as people transition from young adult to middle age so often that it almost feels like a crisis is a “given”. And, on some level, it may be. As people go from being the young, carefree person of their twenties who is just getting established in a career or marriage, to the responsible person who is expected to have gotten their lives together by the time they reach their forties, it is inevitable that people will look back and second guess decisions or wonder “what if.” For many people, this emotional jolt can bring on midlife anxiety.

Midlife Crisis Symptoms

Unlike a medical condition, midlife anxiety doesn’t have specific symptoms. Instead, it’s a mixture of emotions, feelings, and body changes that lead to the strong sense that something needs to change.  Among other things, it can be triggered by factors such as an event that reminds you that you are aging, the death of a parent, children leaving home for college, or a health scare of your own.

Things that might be signs of midlife crisis are:

  • Unexplained annoyance or anger
  • The desire to get in shape or surgically modify your body
  • Coveting that shiny new sports car or wanting to try something daring, such as skydiving
  • Feeling trapped – whether it’s financially, career-wise, or in your relationships
  • Becoming preoccupied with death
  • Constantly wondering where your life is heading or regretting your life choices
  • Losing sleep or changing your eating habits
  • Dissatisfaction with the things that used to make you happy

Additionally, keep in mind that the feelings of helplessness or worry aren’t just confined to midlife anxiety. These emotions can come up anytime during a period in which you are transitioning to a new phase of life. Leaving the teen years and becoming a college student, a parent’s empty-nest syndrome, or an elderly person who moves from a beloved home into a senior-care apartment are all examples of situations that can bring on the same symptoms as those of midlife anxiety. Even being diagnosed with a medical illness or condition can make you feel vulnerable and may bring up these symptoms.

How to Cope if You’re Having a Midlife Crisis

When you’re faced with midlife anxiety, the urge to do something – anything – can be very powerful, so the first thing to do is: nothing. Despite how you feel, this really isn’t the time to make major changes in your life that you may find yourself regretting when your anxiety has diminished.

Instead:

  • Mourn your losses, but don’t dwell on them. Try to reframe the negatives by looking at them in a different way.
  • Take some space away from your daily routine to pause and think about the next phase of your life. What new ambitions do you have? What would you like to accomplish over the next few years? Ignore the little voice in your head that tells you that you are being selfish or should stop daydreaming.
  • Count your blessings. Recognize and write down the things in your life for which you are grateful, then reread your list when you are feeling regretful about something.
  • Do something that will refocus your thoughts – volunteer, take a class, or get involved with a mentoring program.
  • Let go of the things that aren’t serving you and embrace the positives. Challenge your negative thinking (for example, make a list of the trials and pitfalls you went through to get where you are today to remind yourself that the “good old days” weren’t always carefree and wonderful).
  • Be gentle with yourself. Don’t try to stuff your emotions or judge yourself for having them.
  • Talk to someone. Psychotherapy for phase of life anxiety can help lessen or alleviate the ongoing symptoms that come with a midlife crisis before they get out of hand. For some, group therapy is a great way to interact with others who are going through the same issues so you can see that they have the same concerns and problems as you. If therapy isn’t an option, reach out to supportive friends, read books on how to help a midlife crisis, or turn to your clergy for support.

Can Midlife Anxiety Actually Help You?

Remember that midlife anxiety doesn’t have to be something that leads to a crisis! You can channel your concerns into new opportunities and bring greater meaning to your life. This can be a time to:

  • Set new goals to replace your outdated or less relevant objectives. For example, if you’re no longer aiming to climb the corporate ladder, try mentoring a younger colleague.
  • Start that hobby you’ve been thinking about pursuing. After all – if not now, when?
  • Learn a new language or acquire a new skill.
  • Give back through volunteering or community work, such as coaching a team sport or helping out at a soup kitchen.
  • Renew or consider beginning a spiritual life to help you find strength outside yourself.
  • Begin stress management strategies. Take up yoga or learn meditation. Practice mindfulness. Keep a gratitude journal. Start an exercise program.

Professional Help for Midlife Anxiety

If you or a loved one is experiencing midlife anxiety, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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ADAA Session Recording -Treatment Resistant Panic Disorder

Our team presented at the 2018 ADAA Conference on Treatment Resistant Panic Disorder: A Multidisciplinary Multimodality Approach. You can access the audio recording of our session here with the below login credentials.

Username: arosen1980@aol.com

Password: 1667947

We hope you find the recording of our presentation helpful and informative!

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LGBTQ Mental Health

Studies have shown that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) suffer from higher levels of anxiety and depression than the general public. In fact, approximately 30 – 60 % of the LGBTQ population have anxiety and depression and, as a whole, the LGBTQ community faces disproportionately high rates of suicide, self-harm, substance abuse and addiction. While there are many things that can influence a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, prejudice and discrimination add additional trauma to LGBTQ mental health concerns.

Factors that Affect LGBTQ Mental Health

In and of itself, simply being LGBTQ does not affect a person’s mental health condition. Identifying against a cultural norm, however, exposes an LGBTQ person to prejudice and discrimination that their heterosexual counterparts don’t generally face. Some factors that affect LGBTQ mental health are:

  • Bullying
  • Homophobic societal attitudes
  • Hate crimes against LGBTQ people
  • Minority stress, which is a constant need to be “on guard” and to watch out for potential threats
  • Negative self-image and self-loathing due to societal attitudes
  • Lack of awareness of where to find positive role models
  • Media coverage that is beginning to embrace the LGBTQ culture on one hand, but shows detrimental news stories about the treatment of the community on the other
  • Worry about showing their true selves at work for fear of losing clients or promotions
  • Fear of being denied housing
  • Discrimination against transgender people within the LGBTQ community

Despite the fact that society is slowly becoming more accepting of the LGBT community, an uphill battle still remains. LGBTQ people have heard from birth that being something other than heterosexual or identifying with the gender you were born into is wrong. For example, although gay marriage was recently legalized, federal law still allows for legal discrimination in the workplace because it doesn’t protect people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. People can still legally be evicted from housing, fired from their job, or refused public or private services because of their LGBTQ status. Additionally, it is all too common for family members to reject someone who comes out to them.

Up to 65% of LGBT people suffer from some level of homophobia themselves (the belief that being LGBTQ is wrong). Hearing throughout their lives that they are somehow flawed causes many people to internalize those negative thoughts. Those who don’t have family or peer support have a harder time, as do those individuals who tend toward more negative personalities or have gone through adverse experiences, such as rejection or bullying.

On the other hand, even LGBTQ people who have supportive family and friends can end up feeling that their sexual or gender identity is somehow wrong. Often, people who love them want to help, but have no idea how to do so, and end up suggesting “cures” or a laundry list of worries (“you’re going to get AIDS”). These things contribute to the person’s feeling of being unworthy or hopeless. When the individual internalizes this shame from a young age, it often leads to long-term mental and emotional consequences.

Compassionate Care is Needed

For LGBTQ people, talking about their problems can feel like they are reinforcing the damaging stereotype against the gay and transgender community. Many individuals have been kicked out of their homes or shunned by family members and friends after they’ve come out. As an example, it’s estimated that about 40% of the homeless population in Southern California consists of homeless LGBT youth.

Compassionate care is needed to help the LGBTQ community recover from its serious mental health issues. Obviously, mental health providers should approach and treat their LGBT patients in the same manner as they would any other patient. However, they also need to understand how oppression and other factors contribute to anxiety and depression in these patients.

We Can Help

Our mental health professionals provide caring, compassionate LGBTQ mental health services. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. Call us today at 561-496-1094.

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How Stress Affects Child Development

free anxiety workshop on childhood anxietyStress surrounds us on a daily basis. From traffic delays to work projects, worries about finances or health, and news reports of world events, the demands of our everyday lives produce both positive and negative stress. Stressors (which are the things that cause your stress) can be physical, emotional, theoretical, or environmental. Even positive events like weddings and job promotions cause stress.

Whether negative or positive, one thing is certain – stress raises the body’s anxiety levels. When we’re under stress, the “fight or flight” response kicks in, raising blood pressure and heart rate, and sometimes causing you to lose sleep or feel like you can’t breathe. While this response usually subsides after the stressor is removed, a prolonged or permanent stress response can develop in someone who is under constant stress. It’s called toxic stress, and children can be affected by it just the same as adults.

What are the Effects of Stress on Kids?

The incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart problems, cancer and other diseases goes up when a child lives with toxic stress. Additionally, their chances of depression, substance abuse and dependence, smoking, teen pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted disease, suicide and domestic violence greatly increase. So does their tendency to be more violent or to become a victim of violence.

Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that when a child is subjected to frequent or continual stress from thing like neglect, abuse, dysfunctional families or domestic abuse, and they lack adequate support from adults, their brain architecture is actually altered and their organ systems become weakened. As a result, these kids risk lifelong health and social problems.

Of the 17,000 people who took part in the CDC study, two thirds had an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score of 1 or higher. 87% of those people had more than one ACE. By measuring and scoring ten types of trauma ranging from childhood sexual abuse to neglect or bullying and even divorce, researchers were able to assess the chronic disease risk for the study’s mostly white, middle class participants. Their results show that the problem of toxic stress isn’t limited to children who face poverty or to those who come from certain ethnic groups – children from all walks of life can have high ACE scores.

If you are interested in finding out your ACE score and what it might mean for you, go here.

Signs of stress

Children who are exposed to toxic stress exhibit:

  • Poorly developed executive functioning skills
  • Lack of self-regulation and self-reflection
  • Reduced impulse control
  • Maladaptive coping skills
  • Poor stress management

Research on children who face continued toxic stress shows they have:

  • More trouble learning in school
  • More difficulty trusting adults and forming healthy relationships and an increased chance of divorce as an adult
  • Higher incidence of unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual experimentation and unsafe sexual practices, engaging in high-risk sports, smoking and alcohol abuse
  • Higher incidence of depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), behavioral disorders, and even psychosis
  • Poor health outcomes such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a higher suicide risk

Help for Toxic Stress

Awareness is key to preventing and reducing toxic stress in kids. Now that we know about the effects of ACEs, many states have conducted their own research. Some cities have set up task forces and others are working with schools, pediatricians, daycare centers and the justice system to set up screening programs that can turn lives around.

Protecting children from toxic stress involves a multi-faceted approach that targets both the caretaker and the child in order to strengthen family stability. Treatment includes intervention and implementation of methods that decrease stressors and strengthen the individual’s response to stress.

As more programs are enacted, researchers are finding that children benefit even when the solutions are solely focused on their caregiver and not on the child. This is likely because the caregiver’s altered interaction with the child makes the child feel safer. Parenting classes, family-based programs, access to social resources for parents, telephone support and peer support are beneficial, as are cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness. Additionally, community-based programs like Head Start have been shown to be effective.

Do you have Questions?

For more information about toxic stress and its effects on child development, talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

 

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Gambling Addiction

We’d all like to be rich. Playing the lottery or making an occasional trip to Las Vegas or some nearby casino allows us to indulge in the dream of being wealthy someday. Bright lights lure us in and sporadic gaming payouts tempt us into believing we might just hit it big. But, while it’s generally fine for most people to wager on games of chance once in a while, for those at risk of a gambling addiction, giving into the temptation may trigger a slide into a gambling problem.

Why do People Gamble?

People don’t usually gamble for one single reason, although the underlying motivation for gambling is typically profit based. The thought of seeing coins flowing out of a slot machine like an endless silver waterfall or the Hollywood movie scene of a casino piling stacks of money in front of a winner can move almost anyone to take a chance on gambling.

Aside from profit, however, people often gamble for:

  • Excitement – think about the thrill of the flashing lights and bells that go off when someone wins on a slot machine
  • Pleasure and the euphoria of winning every so often
  • Escape from troubles
  • Social valuation – even if they lose a lot of money, a person may feel that the act of gambling shows they are successful enough to be able to afford to lose it (even if that isn’t really true)
  • Pride – if someone wins a few hands of poker, they feel smart and invincible
  • The chance you could change your life with very little effort
  • Social acceptance – this applies to many games, ranging from playing bingo at church to joining in football pools with friends on Game Day

Pathological Gambling Risk Factors

Around 1 to 3 percent of people in the United States are impacted by a gambling problem. As with other addictions, gambling disorders tend to run in families. Those who suffer from this impulse-control disorder also tend to have issues with anxiety and depression and/or problems with substance abuse or alcoholism. The disorder symptoms may come and go, but without treatment, the problem will return.

A gambling addiction usually starts between the ages of 20 and 40 in females and in early adolescence in males, however it can happen at any stage of life. While it can affect anyone, the risk of compulsive gambling increases in those who are highly competitive, are workaholics, have a friend or family member with a gambling compulsion, or in those who have bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

Symptoms of a Gambling Addiction

In the same way as alcohol or drugs, gambling stimulates the brain’s reward center. Just like with any addiction, a person with a gambling disorder can’t resist gambling even if they don’t have the money to lose. They hide their need to gamble from family and friends and vehemently deny they have a problem. They feel compelled to keep playing in order to recover their losses. They also become tense and anxious when they can’t satisfy their urge to gamble and will feel relief when they finally get their “fix.”

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines a gambling disorder as involving “repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress. It is also called gambling addiction or compulsive gambling.”

If family, friends, or coworkers have talked to you about your gambling, you may have a gambling problem. To help clarify if you may be a compulsive gambler, this list from the APA can help you decide:

A diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year (Note: this questionnaire is not intended to replace professional diagnosis):

  1. Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
  2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
  4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
  5. Often gambling when feeling distressed
  6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
  7. Lying to conceal gambling activity
  8. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
  9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

Add up your score:

  • 4 to 5: Shows a mild gambling problem
  • 6 to 7: Points to a moderate gambling problem
  • 8 to 9: Indicates a severe gambling problem

Self-Help for Gambling Addiction

The biggest step toward recovery is acknowledging that you have a gambling problem. While it is difficult to quit gambling, many people have done so and were able to rebuild their lives. The path is easier when you have support.

Some self-help tips are:

  • Find a support group, like Gamblers Anonymous or get support from a mental health professional
  • Seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression, which can trigger a gambling problem
  • Reach out to family and friends for help
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga or mindfulness
  • Distract yourself by starting an exercise program or taking up a sport.
  • Spend time with non-gambling friends or take up a hobby. Be certain not to isolate yourself
  • Visualize what will happen if you gamble. How will you feel if you disappoint everyone again or if you lose all your money again?
  • If you are the family member or friend of a gambler, don’t pay off their debts. You run the very real risk of enabling them to gamble again.

Help for Gambling Addiction

If you or a loved one need help to stop compulsive gambling, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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7 Tips for Dealing with the Trauma of School Violence

The nation has been horrified to hear about another mass shooting this week. For many in South Florida, however, the trauma surrounding school violence has hit particularly hard because it happened right in our own backyard. Many people likely know someone or know of a family with a child who attends the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Because of this, you might find it challenging to deal with your feelings about the event.

Keep in mind that it is normal to experience strong emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, grief, and shock – even if you don’t know someone who is personally connected to the shooting. You might also have trouble sleeping or concentrating and you may even feel numb when discussing the incident with others. All of these reactions are typical responses of trauma psychology.

Tips for Overcoming Trauma after School Violence

It will take a while to move past this heartbreaking tragedy, but we have some tips for managing your emotions during this horrific time. Following these guidelines can help you build resilience – the inner strength that you can draw on when you’re exposed to trauma or adversity.

  • Don’t suppress your feelings. Everyone processes a stressful situation in different ways. Give yourself time to mourn the tragedy and remember that working through grief takes a long time. Don’t try to rush it. If you have a more intense reaction than you feel you should, talk to others or to a mental health professional.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s harder to work through strong emotions when you are tired or not eating well. Try to eat a balanced diet and get plenty of rest. Set aside some time during the day to get some physical exercise, which has been proven to reduce stress. Also, try to avoid using alcohol or drugs to deal with your reactions – studies show they intensify negative emotions and can suppress your feelings, making it tougher for you to deal with your emotional pain.
  • Turn off the news coverage of the event. Overexposing yourself to the anxiety and raw emotions of this community violence by watching endless replays on the news or by reading numerous reports on the internet can increase your stress. In particular, images of the school violence can trigger new anxiety or prolong episodes of distress about the event. Try to focus on something positive to help raise your optimism, which will, in turn, help you feel more encouraged.
  • Maintain a routine. Patterns can provide a sense of comfort and security when your world has upended.
  • Talk about it with others. By doing so, you give yourself permission to mourn. Additionally, sharing your shock and distress makes you feel more supported, less alone, and less overwhelmed.
  • Help others. Being of service to someone distracts you from your own problems, plus it boosts serotonin levels, which will help you feel more positive.
  • If you and your family or friends have been directly impacted by this mass shooting, you will experience some form of grief. You may experience survivor’s guilt because you have lived and your loved one did not. You may feel alone and want to avoid others. Grief is unpredictable – it can seem to lessen, then reappear when you least expect it. Milestones, such as birthday or holidays, will often trigger a fresh round of mourning. Understand that this is part of grief and grieving is a long process.

If you find you can’t move past this school violence or another traumatic event that has happened in your life, it may be beneficial to seek out a support group or turn to a qualified, licensed mental health professional in order to move forward. It is especially important to do so if you are unable to carry out the daily tasks of living, such as sleeping, eating, and other functions.

Our Trauma Professionals Can Help

The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorder’s Trauma Center has specially trained clinicians on staff to help those who are grieving or who have gone through traumatic situations. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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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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Meet Dr. Andrew Rosen

Our very own Dr. Rosen was recently interviewed by VoyageMIA! See the full interview here.

Dr. Rosen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

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