All Posts Tagged: cognitive behavioral therapy

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Increase Health Anxiety?

It’s October and pink ribbons are popping up everywhere. While this time of year is good for reminding women to do their breast self-exams or get an annual mammogram, it also can be a month of great concern for women who suffer from health anxiety.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines health anxiety as “the misinterpretation of normal bodily sensations as dangerous.” It is the excessive fear of physical illness and women who have the disorder often find it difficult to cope with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For these women, every new twinge or tiny pain in their breasts likely signals cancer.

People with health anxiety may be so overwhelmed by their fears that they find it hard to live a normal life. They can spend hours online researching a symptom, convinced that a minor symptom is a sign of a serious illness. When October rolls around, the stories of breast cancer survivors may drive a woman with health anxiety to compulsively examine her breasts, positive that every small bump is a tumor just waiting to kill her. Or, she might feel something as innocent as an itch in her breast and suffer severe anxiety because she’s surrounded by breast cancer images on the news and on social media. And, like too many people with health anxiety, she may beg her doctor for unnecessary tests and spend an exorbitant amount of time and money visiting doctors in the quest for a diagnosis that will never come.

What are the Symptoms of Health Anxiety?

Health Anxiety Disorder is also known as hypochondria. Roughly 1-5% of the population suffers from health anxiety. It’s estimated that those with hypochondria use about 10-13 times the health resources that the average person does.

People who suffer from health anxiety:

  • Frequently check their bodies for new pains, blemishes, lumps, or lesions
  • Live in terror that any new physical symptom is a sign of a serious or life-threatening disease
  • Research health problems obsessively
  • Compulsively check their vital signs, take their temperature, or monitor their blood pressure and pulse rate
  • Switch doctors frequently because their current physician can’t find anything wrong with them
  • Either avoid doctors altogether or go to numerous medical consultations
  • May have strained relationships with friends or family
  • Are reluctant to consider that anxiety and other psychosocial factors may be causing their symptoms

Who is at Risk of Developing Health Anxiety?

While there are no easy answers, the people who are most at risk of becoming hypochondriacs tend to be worriers. They may strongly believe that being in good health means you have no physical symptoms or sensations. Frequently, they know someone with a serious disease or they went through a serious illness themselves during their childhood. Additionally, health anxiety can be triggered by the death of a loved one.

Overcoming Health Anxiety

Often, patients with hypochondria are so resistant to the idea of having an anxiety disorder that it may take intervention from their loved ones to help them understand they need treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very effective for the treatment of health anxiety disorders. This type of therapy focuses on recognizing and understanding the false beliefs, thoughts, and actions that bring on the anxiety. Because people with hypochondria assign meanings to certain symptoms or sensations (“My breast is tender and that definitely means I have breast cancer”), CBT helps patients realize that it isn’t the symptom that causes the anxiety, it’s their reaction to the symptom that does.

By changing their mindset, a person with health anxiety learns to see a worrisome situation in a different way. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches them how to stop the negative behaviors that reinforce the disorder.

It’s Important to Get Help for Health Anxiety

If you or someone you care about is overly worried about health concerns, it could be caused by health anxiety. Delaying treatment for hypochondria can cause complications such as depression and substance abuse, not to mention financial difficulties due to excessive medical costs or health risks from undergoing unnecessary procedures. Our compassionate mental health professionals are here to help. Contact the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida for more information or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Can Virtual Reality Therapy Treat Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders affect a person’s physical and psychological functioning differently than any other mental health disorder. Once thought to be a problem of the wealthy, eating disorders are now known to impact various cultures, socioeconomic statuses, ages, and genders, and can be found worldwide.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) characterizes people with eating disorders as having “pathological eating habits and a tendency to overestimate their weight and body shape.” Eating disorders are not to be taken lightly: patients with an eating disorder faces a high risk of medical and psychological effects, along with the possibility of death if their condition becomes severe enough.

Eating disorders are also more common than you might think. In fact, a 2007 survey by Hudson, et al., noted that about 1.5% of American women (0.5% of men) experience bulimia nervosa, about 0.9% of women (0.3% of men) have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, and roughly 3.5% of women (2% of men) struggle with binge eating disorder.

Until recently, eating disorders have been treated mainly through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). New advances in the emerging field of virtual reality therapy (VRT), however, are being combined with traditional therapy and show promise for more effective treatment.

How Does VRT Work?

Virtual reality therapy is a high tech approach to helping people learn effective ways to cope with the fearful situations they dread. During VRT, you wear a virtual reality headset that looks similar to the type you’d use when playing video games. The therapist plays a simulation program that displays avatars in a variety of anxiety-provoking settings, such as in a restaurant or a store dressing room for those with an eating disorder. These settings are low stress to begin with, then stress levels are increased as you become more desensitized to the worrisome scenario.

You use a virtual “body” during VRT. Although this avatar isn’t really “you”, studies show that people feel a close enough association to the avatar that they emotionally respond as if they were in the actual setting. In this way, they can address their eating disorder and work through their body-image issues in a safe, controlled environment. The psychologist listens in during the session to coach, help with relaxation techniques and provide coping skills. They also can control the environment and either stop the program or lower the stress level if you become too upset.

How Effective is VRT for Eating Disorders?

Virtual reality exposure therapy gives people an experience that is just real enough to trigger an emotional response to their eating disorder, but is it effective?

In 2017, DeCarvalho, et. al., did a systematic review of several studies that used virtual reality therapy for binge eating and bulimia nervosa (BN) treatment. One of the studies they analyzed was done by Perpina, et. al., and focused on treatment with a combination of VRT and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) versus treatment with CBT alone. The study found that the “VR treatment group showed more BI [body image] improvement than CBT and greater improvement in the behavior clinical measures. At post-treatment, the VR group improved on body attitudes, frequency of negative automatic thoughts on BI, body satisfaction, discomfort caused by body-related situations and BN symptoms (measured by Bulimic Investigatory Test; BITE). These results were maintained or continued to improve (body attitudes, frequency of negative automatic thoughts on BI) at one-year follow-up.” All participants improved in the eating disorders measures and it was also maintained at follow-up.

In a different study, a body-swapping illusion was used in conjunction with virtual reality. Women with body image anxiety were asked to estimate their own body size before participating in two different body-swapping scenarios. In both illusions, the women were shown a virtual image of themselves with skinny stomachs.

The theory was that it may be possible to modify a person’s allocentric memory (a type of spatial memory in which the person mentally manipulates objects from a stationary point of view) for the positive. Indeed, after going through the virtual scenarios, the women in the study reported a decreased estimated body measurement and assessed their body size more accurately than before participating in the illusion.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders impact a person’s biological and psychological functioning in ways unlike other mental health disorders. If you are struggling, we can help through both traditional and virtual reality therapies. Talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida today. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

Reference:

Hudson JI, Hiripi E, Pope HG, Kessler RC. The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 01;61(3):348–58. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/16815322. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

De Carvalho, M. R., Dias, T. R. de S., Duchesne, M., Nardi, A. E., & Appolinario, J. C. (2017). Virtual Reality as a Promising Strategy in the Assessment and Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder: A Systematic Review. Behavioral Sciences, 7(3), 43. http://doi.org/10.3390/bs7030043

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Midlife Anxiety

Patient in need of In Vivo Exposure Therapy.A 2014 study by the British government found that while most people of all age levels are generally content with their lives, those in the middle age years – between the ages of 45 and 59 – are the least happy. These respondents reported low ratings of overall happiness and life satisfaction and a sharp increase in midlife anxiety. Interestingly, even adults aged 90 and older reported being happier and more satisfied than the middle aged group.

What Causes Anxiety in Middle Age?

The U. K. study, done by the Office of National Statistics, analyzed data from more than 300,000 respondents during a three-year period from 2012 to 2015. It generated average scores for specific areas including happiness, life satisfaction, anxiety, and the feelings of being worthwhile. The scores showed that anxiety levels were highest for people between the ages of 40 and 60. The peak anxiety levels were noted in those in the 50 – 54 age group.

Many things can cause midlife anxiety, ranging from underlying health problems to financial concerns. In women, even the fluctuating hormones of menopause and perimenopause can change the chemistry in their brain and bring on anxiety and panic attacks.

For men, while many are aware that anxiety disorders exist, very few realize how often anxiety affects them. Men often refuse to admit to themselves or others that they might have a mental health issue and may seek out unhealthy ways to cope (example: alcohol use) rather than admit to the concern.

There is no one specific trigger that causes midlife anxiety. Instead, people who experience anxiety in middle age are often burdened with simultaneous stressors that other generations aren’t facing: the raising of children, while at the same time trying to hold down jobs and care for elderly parents. Top this off with the financial pressures of putting children through college, empty nest syndrome, and facing worries of possibly not having saved enough for a retirement that is drawing ever closer, and stress rises even higher.

Midlife Anxiety Treatment

Self-help:

One of the best ways to manage anxiety is to reduce your stress. There are several things you can do to accomplish this and a side benefit is that they are also good for your overall health:

  • Get daily exercise. The newest research recommends that we all do some type of aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a day, a total of 5 days per week. Regular physical exercise causes the brain to release serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Serotonin helps to reduce stress, improve your mood, and gives you more energy. Low-impact exercise, such as swimming, yoga or walking are great examples of workouts that will help raise your serotonin levels.
  • Make time for relaxation. When your days are filled with rush, rush, rush – getting the kids to school, getting yourself to work, finishing projects, taking the kids to after-school activities – relaxation time can be hard to come by. Yet, relaxing is crucial to reducing anxiety and stress levels. Try to set aside time every day, just for yourself. Relaxation can come from simple activities that you look forward to, such as soaking in a warm bath at the end of your day or taking a few minutes to read, meditate or listen to some soothing music.
  • Silence your phone and put away your laptop or tablet (or at least turn off all but the most important alerts). Limit your use of social media and reduce the amount of time you spend reading the news. We’re so used to having our electronics with us at all times, but getting constant notifications and reading endless news reports about crime, wars, and world problems can keep you from truly relaxing. Give yourself an electronic break every day.
  • Visualize yourself in a peaceful setting. Your brain can’t distinguish between a real setting and one you visualize, so reduce your stress by imagining yourself on a tranquil beach or in a beautiful forest. Smell the salt air at the beach or the pine trees in the woods, imagine the sound of the waves on the sand or the birds singing in the forest. Being as specific as you can and really trying to imagine all the aspects of the setting can take you away from your stressors and help you unwind.

Professional help:

When you have anxiety, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your emotions. When that happens, people tend to react to certain aspects of their lives in a more negative way. It is common to begin to avoid the situations or experience that make you anxious, but that avoidance can actually increase anxiety.

If self-help to reduce your midlife anxiety isn’t working any longer, consider seeing a mental health professional, particularly if your anxiety is causing you extreme distress or disrupting your daily life. Anxiety is treatable and the majority of people who seek help are able to improve, reduce or eliminate their anxiety symptoms after working with a psychologist to address their own, specific concerns.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that is very effective for treating anxiety in middle age. CBT helps you understand how your own negative thoughts contribute to your anxiety symptoms. By learning to recognize these negative thought patterns, you can change them, which allows you to manage your symptoms. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you skills and techniques for coping with your midlife anxiety.

CBT is often used in conjunction with exposure therapy. Exposure therapy allows you to gradually confront your fears in a safe environment and in a way that gives you control. When you face your fears without harm, you reduce your anxiety by learning that the outcome you feared is unlikely to happen.

Get Help for Midlife Anxiety

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and facing midlife anxiety, we can help. Talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida today. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Child Anxiety – Divorce Therapy for Children

Going through a divorce is stressful enough for the couple involved, but when children are added to the mix, it can bring a youngster’s fears to the forefront and trigger a cycle of child anxiety. The youth suddenly finds his or her world fracturing apart as the family divides into separate households. And, often the child has to adjust to living in a new home or going to a new school in addition to coping with their parent’s split.

Among other things, a divorce can increase a child’s aggression, bring up issues of separation anxiety, and negatively impact either (or both) the social and school performances of the youngster. It also increases the stress levels in children who already suffer from anxiety issues or mood disorders and can initiate anxiety-related concerns in children who do not normally have them.

Helping Children Cope with Divorce

When parents divorce, their children often react by showing:

  • Regressive behaviors (bedwetting, tantrums, thumb sucking, refusing to go to bed)
  • Rebellious behaviors (anger, disobedience, or (in an older child) disregard for the parents)
  • Increased episodes of crying or whining
  • Feel “sick” when they are healthy or becoming clingy
  • Separation anxiety
  • Blaming themselves for the divorce

The following are some ways that you, as a parent, can help diffuse some of the tension and child anxiety when going through a divorce:

  • Respect your child’s feelings and encourage them to talk to you about their fears. You may not have all the answers, but sometimes just listening and being supportive to your child can be enough.
  • Remember that your child has lost something, too. They have lost their time with one parent when they are with the other parent and, in many cases, have lost their familiar surroundings, peers, and maybe even a beloved pet or best friend.
  • Reassure your child that, no matter what, you love them now and will always love them. Be sure they understand that the divorce was not their fault and that there is nothing they could have done to prevent it.
  • Try to keep the same routines for bedtime, homework, play time, etc. New routines might need to be added (for example: going to the other parent’s house every Friday night), but keeping as close as possible to the same schedule helps children feel secure. It lets them know what to expect.
  • Rituals also create a sense of safety for your child. A family ritual such as “game night” creates an anchor for your child and gives them a sense of familiarity and a way to relate within their new world.

How Divorce Therapy for Children Can Help

Many times children will adjust to the breakup of a marriage after a “settling in” period, but in the case of youngsters who already have some anxiety, therapy might be the answer to helping children cope with divorce.

Divorce therapy for children is usually conducted through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of treatment is based on the theory that our thoughts cause our behavior and our resulting feelings – other people do not cause them. By understanding this and learning to modify our reactions, we can influence our emotions in a positive way so we can feel better about things we can not change. Becoming aware of inaccurate or negative thinking allows your child to change to a more positive way of thinking in order to decrease their anxiety.

Need More Information?

Is your child struggling with your divorce? We offer divorce therapy for children in a safe, supportive South Florida environment. 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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Complex PTSD

 

The majority of us have heard about PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), the condition that can occur when someone is exposed to a situation over which they had little or no control and from which there was little or no hope of escape. It is often associated with members of the military who have witnessed the horrors of battle, or with people who have endured an extreme physical or emotional trauma. PTSD can occur after experiencing even just one threatening situation, such as being involved in a car accident. But, what about those who have gone through long-term exposure to a continuing, intense level of stress?

Recently, mental health experts have begun to realize there are more layers to the emotional suffering experienced by people who have been through long-lasting stressors like childhood sexual abuse, for example, or years of domestic violence. In cases like these, a PTSD diagnosis partly addresses their condition, but doesn’t adequately define the severe psychological harm that has resulted from the trauma. Therefore, some mental health professionals now believe there should be a new category added to the PTSD diagnosis – one that will encompass this emotional scarring from long-term, chronic trauma: Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).

Even with this new classification, it is important to note that the victims of chronic trauma can have both PTSD and Complex PTSD simultaneously. Here is an easy way to see the differences between the two conditions:

  • A child witnessing the death of a friend in an accident may show some symptoms of PTSD
  • A child who has lived with years of sexual or physical abuse may have symptoms of C-PTSD in addition to PTSD.

CPTSD Symptoms

People who have gone through a long-standing, extremely traumatic situation may exhibit both physical and emotional symptoms related to their ordeal.

Emotional symptoms may include:

  • Rage displayed through violence, destruction of property, or theft
  • Depression, denial, fear of abandonment, thoughts of suicide, anger issues
  • Low self-esteem, panic attacks, self-loathing
  • Perfectionism, blaming others instead of dealing with a situation, selective memory
  • Loss of faith in humanity, distrust, isolation, inability to form close personal relationships
  • Shame, guilt, focusing on wanting revenge
  • Flashbacks, memory repression, dissociation

Victims of C-PTSD may also have physical symptoms, such as:

  • Eating disorders, substance abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity
  • Chronic pain
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Migraines

Help for Complex PTSD

With Complex PTSD, healing cannot happen on its own because the survivor keeps reliving the trauma through flashbacks and dreams. People who suffer from C-PTSD may go for years before making the connection between their symptoms and the chronic stress and trauma they have been trying to cope with. Once they do, healing can begin and many people have been able to overcome their past to find a more meaningful and healthy present.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be highly effective in treating both PTSD and Complex PTSD. This therapy works to change unhelpful thinking and behaviors. It challenges deep-seated patterns and beliefs. CBT therapy helps replace “errors in thinking” (for example: magnifying negatives, minimizing positives, and overthinking) with more realistic and effective thoughts. This serves to decrease both emotional distress and self-defeating behaviors.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a fairly new therapy that helps specifically in the treatment of trauma recovery and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/CPTSD. It has been shown to help trauma survivors heal faster than through traditional therapy. In fact, EMDR can be successful in as few as 3-12 treatment sessions. This means that relief from your pain is not only possible but it can be obtained in a relatively short amount of time.

We Can Help

Complex PTSD can be debilitating. Those who suffer from CPTSD may be at greater risk of substance abuse or of deliberate self-harm in order to cope with their emotional pain. We can help! To learn more, contact the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email The Center today.

 

 

 

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Fear of Public Speaking

We’ve all experienced it: you have to give a presentation and you’re stressing about getting up in front of a room full of people. What’s the first thing everyone always says? “Just picture your audience naked,” they’ll tell you with a chuckle. While that can work for a few people, for many, a fear of public speaking is no laughing matter. Studies have shown that some speakers can’t even calm down after beginning their speech: instead, they become increasingly more nervous as their lecture goes on. For these people, even presenting their ideas to a small group in a workplace meeting can be a harrowing experience.

It’s no secret that glossophobia or fear of public speaking is the number one fear reported by people in the United States. This anxiety comes from a worry about being judged and often has origins in social anxiety. Speech anxiety has increased in today’s cyber-world of communication where we are often “faceless” and can remain relatively anonymous by sending emails or texting instead of speaking directly to people.

Tips for Overcoming Speech Anxiety

For many people, a fear of public speaking can often be helped by learning a few skills:

  • Know your topic: the more you know about your topic, the less you will stress if you accidentally lose your train of thought or make a mistake.
  • Practice your speech: go over (and over) your presentation in front of a supportive friend or coworker (videoing yourself can also be helpful). Have them ask questions about your topic so you are prepared to give answers. Also, ask them for feedback and consider making any changes they might suggest.
  • Visualize a successful outcome. Mentally picture yourself being announced, approaching the lectern or stage, smiling at your audience, presenting your slides or PowerPoint images. See yourself being congratulated for your ideas and shaking hands with the admiring people you’ve spoken in front of.
  • Be prepared – organize your slides or handouts, listen to any audio clips, and run through your presentation from start to finish so you can see how it “flows.”
  • Bring water with you to the podium in case your mouth gets dry or you need to take a quick pause to regroup.
  • Clasp your hands together or stand with your knees slightly flexed to help keep them from trembling if you are nervous and shaky.
  • Take a few deep breaths and smile (even though smiling is probably the last thing you’ll want to do!). Deep breathing helps you relax and studies have shown that smiling can help lower your heart rate and aid in physiological recovery after stressful situations.
  • Focus on your material instead of your audience.
  • Keep in mind that audiences will generally sympathize with a nervous speaker, so try not to worry about appearing uneasy or anxious.
  • After your speech, mentally congratulate yourself for putting yourself up there in front of everyone! Write down some of the positive aspects of your lecture (did you remember to make eye contact with your audience or toss out statistics without a mistake?). Focusing on the positives will help keep you from over-analyzing any slip-ups you made (even world-class speakers make mistakes!).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Public Speaking Anxiety

In many cases, the apprehension we experience before giving a speech can be used as a way to focus: in our nervousness, we go over and over the points we want to make and read through our notes repeatedly which helps ingrain them in our memory. For some individuals, however, instead of focusing on the details of the presentation they are about to give, they will zero in on their own physical symptoms and won’t be able to settle in once they’ve begun to talk. They’ll turn their attention to how their hands are shaking or how nauseous they are and they’ll become progressively more anxious as their lecture goes on.

Often, they end up carrying that anxiety over after the speech ends, too, so they stay keyed up instead of relaxing – even to the point of becoming physically ill. For these people, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) done through a licensed mental health professional can help quickly identify and challenge inaccurate or negative thinking. CBT can often provide coping mechanisms that can help them gain confidence and overcome their public speaking anxiety.

Keep in mind that not everyone who benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy has a mental health condition. In the case of “stage fright”, CBT simply gives you the power you need to cope with a public speaking situation in a more effective and healthier way. Because CBT utilizes a goal-effective approach, it can be an effective tool to help you learn how to better manage the stress of speech anxiety.

Learn More

If these tips and tricks don’t help you when it’s time for your next public lecture, it might be helpful to speak with a mental health professional like Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. For more information, call them at 561-496-1094 or Contact 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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Alcohol and Holiday Anxiety

Everywhere you look holiday decorations are being strung: wreaths, Christmas trees, and twinkling lights grace windows, doorways and storefronts. You can watch your favorite holiday classics on television and listen to beloved songs and music on the radio. But along with the smooth swells of Christmas tunes, holiday anxiety brings more opportunities and reasons to down alcoholic beverages, such as a cold beer or glass of wine.

To add to the holiday anxiety, it’s not unusual for the number of parties and other social events to double or triple during this time of year. This usually means an increase in the consumption of alcoholic beverages as well, especially for those people who are trying to cope with stress. In social situations like office parties or neighborhood gatherings, people may feel as if they’re being judged by others or may be anxious to others give a good impression of themselves. With these concerns heightening their nerves, it’s not surprising that many people think a quick gulp of wine will ease their social anxiety and loosen their inhibitions. And, in addition to contending with social functions, the stress of dealing with hordes of shoppers and budgeting concerns can only exacerbate holiday anxiety, making it easier to reach for alcoholic beverages.

Also, let’s not forget those of us who may be having a harder-than-normal holiday season. Although Christmas is known for being one of the happiest times of the year, it is also one of the most stress-filled and saddest times of the year. For some people, it can be overwhelming to try to fulfill gift expectations after having been laid off from a job earlier in the year. Others may be facing the emotional pain of the first holiday season since the passing of a loved one or as a newly divorced or newly single person. As a result, many people turn to alcohol as a way to numb their pain and depression. For someone experiencing holiday anxiety in addition to this turmoil, alcoholic beverages, stress and fear can be a wicked combination.

The problem with turning to alcohol in these situations is that alcohol is not a long-term solution. In fact, when holiday anxiety is combined with alcohol use, the risks of developing a dependency on alcohol are even greater than normal. Research shows that alcohol reduces the brain’s ability to cope with anxiety, which, in turn, makes people want more alcohol to dull their anxiety symptoms. Then, when the person decides to stop drinking, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may increase their stress levels, making it harder to break that habit of reaching for alcoholic beverages.

This is why it’s so important to seek treatment if you’re experiencing holiday anxiety. Pursuing the correct form of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can make all the difference in getting you back to experiencing the joys of a normal holiday season. For more information on coping with holiday anxiety, 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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PTSD Symptoms Rise After Hurricane Sandy – Even in South Florida

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Northeast is struggling to return to normal. As of November 1, 2012, it was reported that nearly 650,000 people were still without power, looters were ravaging the streets, the U.N. Headquarters in New York was severely damaged, and the subway systems had been shut down, among other things.

Fortunately, most damage will be repaired. It may take time, but eventually all power will be restored, the U.N. building will be repaired, crime will be taken under control, and the subway systems will be operating at normal capacity. But what about the lingering psychological effects a storm of this power can have?

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) incidents often flare up after a traumatic event like Hurricane Sandy, even for people living far from the affected area. South Florida is a prime area for PTSD reactions due to its frequent close encounters with hurricanes. PTSD symptoms often appear immediately but, in some cases, may take a while to manifest. No matter when they appear, though, PTSD symptoms have been known to linger for long periods of time, during which this disorder can have a dramatic effect on the daily lives of its victims.

Some PTSD stress symptoms that hurricane victims might experience include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • An acute stress reaction, such as being easily startled or frightened
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Flashbacks to the hurricane
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Unsettling dreams related to the storm
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Angry outbursts
  • Memory problems
  • Avoidance behavior, such as keeping away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the storm

If you or someone you know is experiencing PTSD symptoms like these it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible because the sooner treatment begins the easier it is to keep the disorder under control and work toward relief. Delaying treatment of PTSD symptoms can mean that the PTSD can become so severe the victims could end up harming themselves or others.

Treatment for PTSD symptoms may include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and/or medication. Psychotherapy will allow victims the opportunity to discuss the hurricane and related events, while learning ways to manage their symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help people recognize and adjust trauma-related thoughts and beliefs in a more positive way. In some cases, medication may be used in combination with these other therapy techniques. Above all, therapy helps the person understand that a disorder like PTSD develops because of the extraordinary stress they have experienced, not because of their own weakness.

For more information on PTSD and for help and treatment of PTSD symptoms in the Boca Raton, Florida area, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorder. You can reach us by calling 561-496-1094 or by emailing Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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