Are you in a relationship with a person who thinks they are far superior to you and to everyone around them? Or maybe your parent ran your life, expecting nothing less than excellence from you and being envious of your achievements – so much so that they found a way to make your triumphs all about them. Perhaps you are married to someone who is “difficult” – they demand all your attention, have an inflated ego, and are frequently critical of you because things are always “your fault.” If you have a difficult, selfish, and unemotionally available loved one and feel like you have less self-confidence, have less independence, or have given up your family, friends, hobbies, or a career for this person, you may be dealing with narcissistic abuse.
Emotional trauma or psychological trauma is a reaction to an experience or event that is deeply distressing or disturbing to the individual. Trauma can be the result of things such as going through a natural disaster, being involved in a car accident, living through a major event, such as war or abuse, or having been the victim of a crime. A trauma response will be similar no matter what caused it.
When people experience a psychological trauma, it often shakes them to their core, especially if they felt they had little to no control over the event. They are left feeling helpless and they may experience flashbacks or have a persistent fear that something bad will happen to them again.
Even though these emotional responses are part of a normal reaction, trauma changes patterns in your brain, causing you to carry the burden of distress long after the events have passed. However, by working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can experience trauma recovery and learn to feel safe again.
In general, trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. When loosely applied, this trauma definition can refer to something upsetting, such as being involved in an accident, having an illness or injury, losing a loved one, or going through a divorce. However, it can also encompass the far extreme and include experiences that are severely damaging, such as rape or torture.
Because events are viewed subjectively, this broad trauma definition is more of a guideline. Everyone processes a traumatic event differently because we all face them through the lens of prior experiences in our lives. For example: one person might be upset and fearful after going through a hurricane, but someone else might have lost family and barely escaped from a flooded home during Hurricane Katrina. In this case, a minor Category One hurricane may bring up traumatic flashbacks of their terrifying experience.
Because trauma reactions fall across a wide spectrum, psychologists have developed categories as a way to differentiate between types of trauma. Among them are complex trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and developmental trauma disorder.
Suicide is devastating to the ones left behind. It brings up a myriad of powerful emotions: among other things, you must deal with feelings of shock, anger, guilt, and overwhelming grief. The survivor is left wondering if they could have done something to prevent the person from taking their life. They are often furious at the deceased person for leaving them or for putting them through this heart-wrenching experience. And, the survivor must learn about the grieving process when it comes to coping with suicide so they can continue on with their own life.
*If you are grieving a loved one, please be gentle with yourself during this devastating time and know that you could not have done anything to prevent this suicide. More than ninety percent of the time, suicide happens because the person was deeply depressed or facing another form of mental illness. Depression and mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, which keep the person from seeing their situation clearly. In their mind, they believed there was no other way to deal with their pain.
Also, if you are facing the loss of a loved one through suicide, please know that you do not have to go through these intense emotions alone. Talk with your family, join one of the suicide support groups in your area, turn to the clergy or supportive friends, or speak with a therapist who specializes in trauma and grief counseling.
Trauma can come in many forms. The soldier returning from active duty in a war zone, the child who lives with physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect, the first responder who must deal with human suffering on a daily basis, and the adult who endures domestic abuse all are experiencing trauma. Complex trauma occurs repeatedly and often involves direct harm to the victim. Its effects are cumulative and generally transpire in a specific setting and, frequently, within a particular time frame or within a specific relationship.
Going through trauma can make an individual experience intense feelings of guilt, as if they are somehow responsible for the event(s) that are so terrifying to them. This altered sense of shame and painful self-perception is crippling. It can make the person feel isolated and hopeless, and as if they are no longer in charge of themselves.
Humans are social creatures. We bond with friends, engage with coworkers, and pair up in relationships. In many ways, we need interaction with other people but, for individuals with social anxiety disorder, being in a social setting can be a huge source of stress and anxiety. This is where virtual reality therapy can help.
The standard treatment for social anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and in-vivo exposure therapy. This combination physically exposes a person to social situations in small doses, allowing them to gradually desensitize their fear and build up their tolerance. The individual also participates in role playing to learn and practice social skills for even more confidence.
But, being physically present in an anxiety-inducing setting can be difficult, not to mention time consuming when you have to travel to a location. With virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), however, people with social anxiety can work behind the scenes to challenge their fears in a safe, realistic environment, and in a way that gives them control.
Social Anxiety Disorder is the persistent, sometimes overwhelming anxiety or chronic fear of being in everyday social situations. People who suffer from the disorder feel that they are constantly being watched and judged by those around them. In a social setting, they worry continuously that they will do something to embarrass themselves. While these people are aware they might be making more out of a situation than it really calls for, they can’t help stressing about it anyway.
Social Anxiety can be present in just one area of a person’s life (for example, they may fear giving a speech in front of their team at work) or it may be so encompassing that a person with the disorder finds it extremely traumatic to go to school or work, or perhaps even to the bank or the grocery store.
VR Therapy is a high-tech method that helps people learn effective ways to cope with the anxiety-laden situations they dread. During a VRET session, the person wears a virtual reality headset similar to the kind used in video games or to watch movies on the phone. A simulation program plays and one or more avatars are displayed. The person engages with these avatars in a variety of common social situations in order to become better prepared for interactions in real-life situations.
The programs start at a low threshold of anxiety stimulus and are gradually increased as the person builds their coping skills. A therapist listens in to the session, providing coaching and feedback. Relaxation and stress management techniques are often also used and sometimes medications can provide a benefit.
Virtual reality exposure therapy allows you to feel as if you are in a setting, but the therapist can stop the program if you become truly upset. Even if a person knows the virtual reality program isn’t real, what they experience is enough to trigger an emotional response to their phobia. By working through their reactions, nearly 83 percent of people who have tried virtual reality therapy have managed to put their fears behind them.
In a 2013 study, participants who had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder took part in a randomized trial that compared virtual reality therapy with in-vivo exposure therapy. The group was assigned to present a speech in front of their peers.
Before doing so, some participants went through eight sessions of VRET, some went through eight sessions of in-vivo exposure therapy, while some were waitlisted and had to give the speech without either type of therapy. After completion of active treatment, both therapy groups showed significant improvement and reduced anxiety levels over the waitlisted group. Furthermore, at the 12-month review, both groups continued to maintain this improvement.
Although more studies will be done in the future, the findings from this one show that there were no significant differences between the physical and virtual treatments. VR therapy is just as effective in treating social anxiety as traditional therapy, but with the benefit of being in an office setting rather than in the actual, emotionally-charged environment.
The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida is a regional center for the National Social Anxiety Center. Our certified therapists provide compassionate care and have specialized training in social anxiety treatment and virtual reality therapy. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
Delray Beach Award Program Honors the Achievement
DELRAY BEACH July 5, 2017 — The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders has been selected for the 2017 Best of Delray Beach Award in the Mental Health Clinic category by the Delray Beach Award Program.
Each year, the Delray Beach Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Delray Beach area a great place to live, work and play.
Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2017 Delray Beach Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Delray Beach Award Program and data provided by third parties.
Read the full press release here.
To learn more about how the center’s services may help you, please call us at (561) 496-1094 or complete our contact form.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD is a medical disorder involving abnormalities in brain function. Often, this disorder can be passed genetically through families from one generation to the next. The condition is generally diagnosed in childhood, however we now know that ADHD commonly continues into adulthood. Although the hyperactivity component usually subsides in adults, attention and concentration problems often persist. If not caught in childhood, adults often become suspicious they may have adult ADHD when their children is diagnosed, and they recognize the same set of symptoms in themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately four percent of adults have the disorder. The risk increases in those people who have close blood relatives (parents, siblings, etc) who also have ADHD, in people who were born prematurely or were exposed to environmental toxins, or those who were born to mothers who smoked, drank alcohol, or abused drugs during their pregnancy.
The following can be warning signs of adult ADHD:
The signs that are so telling for ADHD in children are often more subtle when you reach adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a comprehensive list of criteria for adult ADHD symptoms. If five or more of the symptoms on each list are present now and were noticeable before the age of twelve, if they have persisted for more than six months, and if you are age 17 or older, you may have adult ADHD:
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
Since the focus of attention deficit hyperactive disorder is normally on children and helping them learn to function through their challenges, if you’ve reached adulthood without an ADHD diagnosis, it may seem silly to consider treatment. However, it is still very important that you address your condition. As noted above, untreated adult ADHD can cause ongoing disruptions in your life, such as workplace or relationship problems, and alcohol or substance abuse.
Adult ADHD treatment can be very effective and can help turn your life around. A combined approach works best. This includes prescribing appropriate ADHD medications to help balance and boost the brain’s neurotransmitters, as well as psychotherapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT teaches life skills in time management and organizational development and provides aids that may allow some people to eventually discontinue their medication. Additionally, couples therapies can be used to help improve communication skills and teach your significant other ways to understand and help with your Adult ADHD condition.
It is challenging to have adult ADHD, so don’t go through it alone. The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are here to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
Most people are somewhat familiar with the term “sex addiction”, particularly because they’ve heard about the occasional movie star or entertainer who seeks treatment for their compulsion. But, while sex addiction is recognized and there are rehab centers and support groups that can provide help, its polar opposite – sex avoidance – is hardly ever discussed. And yet, sex avoidance is just as shattering – perhaps even more so, because a person with sex avoidance shuns intimacy and the enjoyment that comes with having a sincere connection to a loving partner.
Additionally, while sexual avoidance can be troubling on its own, it is also often a side effect of having an anxiety disorder. Things like performance fears, being distressed and upset, and low libido can make people even more anxious and can lead to the avoidance of sex.
In general, the aversion toward sex is a defense mechanism. When thinking of intimacy or engaging in sex, the person with sexual avoidance feels emotional distress and physical symptoms, such as nausea and tensed muscles, or they may have panic attacks. They may also experience humiliation, shame, and low self-esteem for rejecting their partner.
As with any condition, there are people who fall on either end of the spectrum. Sex avoidance can come in the form of sexual anorexia, which happens when sex and intimacy are obsessively evaded in the same way anorexics shun food. In some cases, the sexual anorexic may enjoy physical intimacy once it has been initiated, but may not be able to instigate sex. Or, they may take it a step further and turn down their spouse or partner’s desire for physical closeness more often than not.
On the other extreme, the American Psychological Association has classified an actual disorder called Sexual Aversion Disorder. With this disorder, the individual actively seeks to avoid genital sexual contact with a sexual partner. Often, the person will even avoid genital contact related to a gynecological exam or procedure. Sexual Aversion Disorder can be so traumatic that the person won’t allow any physical touch or kissing.
There are various reasons for avoiding sex. The most obvious is the case of a person who has suffered childhood sexual abuse and now dodges anything that brings the trauma back up in their mind. However, not everyone who has been abused will avoid sex, just as not every person who shuns physical intimacy has been abused.
In some cases, people with anxiety disorders also shun sexual encounters. When a person has an anxiety disorder, they suffer physical effects along with their mental stress. Physically, the Mayo Clinic reports people with an anxiety disorder may experience the symptoms of:
But, why would these symptoms cause someone to avoid the comfort of a physical relationship? One reason is that the act of intimacy raises your heart rate, induces heavier breathing, and makes you sweat. These bodily reactions mimic the physical “fight or flight” responses people experience during a panic attack, so much so that some individuals will go to great lengths to avoid feeling them at all.
Additionally, people who already suffer anxiety may choose to forego sexual encounters so they don’t have to add more fears to their list of concerns. Engaging in sexual activity can bring up worries about their attractiveness, their ability to perform, or may increase feelings of shame or guilt.
If your anxiety disorders are leading to sex avoidance, turn to the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.