All Posts Tagged: delray beach

Using Virtual Reality Therapy for Phobias

 

What would you think if you had a phobia about something (example: a fear of flying) and you could overcome your fear just by sitting in your therapist’s office and watching a movie? We think you’d sign up for that! Okay, it’s not entirely that simple (although it almost is), but virtual reality therapy for phobias is now giving patients a high-tech, cutting-edge solution for helping them get past their fears so they can live a better life.

How Does Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy Work?

Many types of phobias can be overcome or greatly reduced when the sufferer goes through cognitive behavioral therapy. In this type of therapy, a patient learns to recognize the thoughts causing the negative feelings surrounding their fears. Once these thoughts are identified, the patient learns how to replace those undesirable beliefs with more positive ones.

In-vivo exposure therapy goes hand in hand with cognitive behavioral therapy. With in-vivo exposure, the patient experiences what they fear in a controlled way and in small doses. By taking small steps, they can confront and gradually conquer their phobia.

Virtual reality exposure therapy combines the best of cognitive behavior therapy and in-vivo exposure. It allows people to work through their fears in a realistic environment without actually leaving the comfort and safety of their therapist’s office.

Virtual Reality Therapy

In the case of the fear of flying phobia mentioned above, a patient comes to our office, sits in a comfortable chair, and puts on a pair of virtual reality therapy goggles. In conjunction with coaching from their therapist, they view a simulation of the inside of an airplane’s passenger compartment and can look around to see all aspects of the interior.

The patient not only sees the plane, they also hear the same sounds they would experience if they were really on a flight, such as the flight attendant’s announcement or the rumble of airplane engines. Additionally, our virtual reality therapy chair vibrates with the motion of the plane “taking off” or “flying” to provide an even more convincing simulation.

Even if a person knows the virtual reality program isn’t completely realistic, there is enough realism in it to trigger their emotional responses to their phobia. And, by working through these reactions, in some types of phobias or traumas, nearly 83 percent of people who have tried virtual reality therapy have managed to put their fears behind them.

Virtual Reality Therapy Benefits

Some of the benefits of virtual reality therapy include:

  • Allowing the patient to try the therapy without as much anxiety. For example: in the case of a phobia about flying, it is much easier for someone to agree to try working through their fears in an office than to have to force themselves to physically go to the place they know will bring an emotional reaction.
  • Experiencing the phobia and/or its triggers without taking the time to travel to an actual location. For the fear of flying phobia, you simply sit in a chair, rather than going to the airport numerous times for several small exposures to your triggers.
  • Confidentiality for the patient: you don’t have to face potential embarrassment by running into someone you know or possibly becoming upset in a public area.
  • The therapist can carefully control the situation, meaning if you are afraid of elevators or airplanes, you don’t have to get in one. Virtual reality exposure therapy allows you to feel as if you are in a location, but the therapist can stop the program if you become truly upset.
  • The therapy is more realistic, in that you can go places or experience things you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to (you can’t get on and off an airplane as part of your flying phobia therapy, for instance). That being said, it is much safer than the real-life setting and minimizes any risk involved.
  • Virtual reality exposure therapy sessions are shorter than those that require you to visit an actual site for therapy (so, there is no travel time from the therapist’s office to the airport for our fear of flying scenario.)
  • Sessions can be repeated several times until the patient has conquered that portion of their phobia and is ready to move on to another phase.

Studies show this treatment has a powerful real-life impact and a great track record, over time. Virtual reality therapy has been successful in treating both children and adults for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), social anxiety, panic disorder, anxiety disorder, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and phobias. It is also a very effective tool for treating children who suffer from phobias such as school phobia or sleep fears.

Do You Have Questions About Virtual Reality Therapy?

Virtual Reality Therapy is coming to our practice very soon. For more information or to find out when it becomes available, 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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Pregnancy and Mental Health

Having a baby should be a joyous event, but for many women, the time surrounding a pregnancy can come with a variety of emotional and physical struggles. For those who are coping with postpartum depression, infertility, prenatal depression, or miscarriage, the issues related to getting pregnant (or even of becoming a mother) can be stressful and may lead to depression and other pregnancy and mental health concerns.

It isn’t unusual to experience sadness or fear about your pregnancy or becoming a parent. If you are trying to become pregnant, infertility concerns or the costs you may be facing for infertility treatments can be worrisome. Also, any woman may become anxious or depressed during their pregnancy or after they have a baby. If you do, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, and you don’t have to suffer through it. The most important thing to do is talk to someone and get help if you feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed before, during, or after your pregnancy.

Postpartum Depression

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, postpartum depression and its accompanying anxiety can affect nearly 15% of new mothers at some point during the first year after giving birth. Postpartum depression can be a very serious mood disorder and is different than having the “baby blues” that some women experience due a change in hormone levels after childbirth. In general, postpartum depression lasts longer than two weeks and is more severe than the post-birth blues.

Left untreated, postpartum depression can lead to postpartum psychosis in which you consider harming your baby, yourself, or contemplate suicide. If your symptoms do not improve after two weeks or if they get worse, call a medical professional without delay!

Infertility and Mental Health

Infertility affects between 10 and 15 percent of couples. If you have tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for more than one year (or, for more than 6 months if you are 35 or over), you may have infertility concerns. Additionally, women who become pregnant but are unable to carry their fetus to term may also be infertile.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common when you want a child but have not been able to conceive. You may also experience marital issues, low self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction.

Prenatal Depression

Roughly 10 to 20 percent of mothers-to-be will struggle with prenatal depression (depression during their pregnancy). Stress can contribute to the development of depression. Marital problems, the age you are when you become pregnant, limited social support, uncertainty about the pregnancy, or having a prior history of depression can also contribute to new or worsening depression.

Prenatal depression can keep you from sleeping well, eating right, or taking good care of yourself. It can make you more likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs that could harm you or your baby. Additionally, some studies suggest that depression during pregnancy may increase the risk for pre-term delivery and low infant birth weight.

Your health and that of your baby should come first. Talking to your partner, your family, or your friends about your concerns can often make all the difference in helping lessen your prenatal depression. If you feel sad or anxious, consider talking with a mental health professional. They will work with you to manage your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help you cope.

Coping with Miscarriage

Going through a loss of pregnancy is devastating, no matter the stage of pregnancy or the circumstances of the miscarriage. After losing a pregnancy, you’ll need to go through a grieving process. You may feel bitter, guilty, angry and helpless. Certain things may set you back, such as seeing a friend who is pregnant or passing a family with a new baby on the sidewalk.

Allow yourself time to mourn your pregnancy loss and to accept what’s happened. Talk to your partner, your family, and your friends or join a support group. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, taking things slow, eating right and exercising. It may help to keep a journal of your feelings.

If you have tried these things and are still having trouble dealing with your grief and loss, talk to your physician, a grief counselor, or a mental health professional for support.

Mood Disorders and Pregnancy

If you already have a mood disorder and become pregnant, it can be tempting to discontinue any psychotropic medications. However doing this can cause harm to you and your unborn baby, and can make you particularly vulnerable to relapse. One study showed the risk of recurrence was significantly higher in women who discontinued treatment with mood stabilizers. Before stopping any medication, you should discuss your pregnancy with your mental health professional so they can conduct a thorough risk/benefit analysis. This analysis should include the impact of untreated illness on both you and your baby, as well as weigh the risk of using medication during your pregnancy.

Treatment for Pregnancy and Mental Health Concerns

If you have anxiety, depression, or other pregnancy and mental health concerns, physical causes should be ruled out first. A medical exam will be able to exclude hypoglycemia, thyroid deficiency, or other health conditions that may be causing your depression or anxiety.

Next, speak to a mental health professional. Talking to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker will help you learn how to change the way your depression makes you think, feel, and act. They may recommend talk therapy, either one-on-one or in a group, to help lower your stress and your mood symptoms.

In some case, your mental health professional may prescribe medication to help you manage your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Have Questions About Pregnancy and Mental Health?

If you need help dealing with postpartum depression, infertility and mental health, prenatal depression, coping with miscarriage or other pregnancy and mental health concerns, we are here for you. 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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Children’s Mental Health – Psychiatric Help for Children

While we tend to think of childhood as a carefree time of life, the fact is that many children suffer from mental conditions and disorders, just the same as adults. Among other things, children’s mental health concerns can include emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders such as eating disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHA), and autism. And, similar to adults, children can be impacted by conditions like anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Additionally, as children grow and mature into young adults, they can develop other problems associated with adolescence, such as underage drinking and substance abuse.

Left untreated, any of these conditions or disorders can result in difficulties with making friends, and behavior issues in school and at home. What is most troubling, however, is that research has shown that a majority of adult mental disorders start early in life. This makes it critical that children’s mental health conditions be caught promptly and treated appropriately.

Symptoms of Child Psychological Disorders

Child psychological disorders and conditions can affect any ethnic group, and income level, and those living in any region of the country. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites a study from a National Research Council and Institute for Medicine report that estimates about 1 in 5 children across the United States will experience a mental disorder in any given year.

Symptoms often change as a child grows and matures, so the signs of a problem may be difficult to spot in the early stages. Often, parents are the first to recognize that there is an issue with their children’s emotions or behavior, however problems may also be brought to your attention by your child’s educators or another adult who knows your child well. Some general signs to look for include:

  • Marked decline in school performance
  • Strong worries or anxiety that causes problems at home or at school
  • Random, frequent physical aches and pains, such as headaches or an upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
  • Marked changes in eating habits
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having low or no energy
  • Aggressive behavior, disobedience, and/or confrontations with or defiance of authority figures
  • Temper tantrums or outbursts of anger
  • Thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming themselves or others

Psychiatric Help for Children

  • Please get immediate assistance if you think your child may be in danger of harming themselves or someone else.  Call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

Getting psychiatric help for children, in the form of early diagnosis and receiving the correct treatment, is essential for your child’s well being, both now and throughout their life.

If your child’s problems persist across a variety of settings (for example: home, school, and with peers), some of the steps to get help include:

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling. Find out if they would like to discuss a problem with you or another adult. Actively listen to their responses and concerns.
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician, school counselor or school nurse, or a mental health professional if you see behaviors or problems in your child or teen that worry you.
  • Seek evaluation from a specialist who deals with children’s mental health concerns.
  • Ask the specialist if they have experience with treating the problem or behavior you see in your child.
  • Don’t delay in seeking help – early treatment generally gives better results.

Children can be treated in a variety of settings that range from one-on-one (or with a parent) sessions with a mental health professional to a group setting with a therapist and the child’s peers. Talk therapy can help change behaviors and may be used in combination with other treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be very effective in helping children learn coping strategies so they can change unhealthy behavior patterns and distorted thinking. Additionally, medications may be recommended for disorders such as ADHD or may be given for other types of severe or difficult cases.

Need More Information on Children’s Mental Health?

If you have questions or need more information about psychiatric help for children, we can help. The professionals at our child-focused department, The Children’s Center, specialize in child psychiatry and psychology, and other services related to children’s mental health. 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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Depression and Anxiety – Women’s Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to Help Reduce Depression and Anxiety

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

Need More Information?

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

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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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Childhood Obesity: Weight Control and Your Child – Conceding the Battle to Win the War

In this day and age in which the media has exposed the epidemic of childhood obesity and associated diabetes, it is impossible for parents to not be more attuned to this issue with their children.  For better and worse, we have access to data, research and information like never before.  This is clearly the case in the area of food, nutrition and physiology.  No doubt, understanding the implications of how we feed our bodies and how we move our bodies is invaluable information.  What can often be a difficult task is translating this information into utilizable material that our children can understand.

As parents, we must be persistently aware of, not just the information we deliver, but HOW we deliver it.  Sometimes being accurate is not enough to help children benefit.  Sometimes accurate information can be useless, if not harmful, when delivered ineffectively.  In trying to educate children about food, weight, nutrition and healthy eating, we must be sensitive to the subtle nuances in our delivery.  We, as parents and caretakers, must be aware of how we deliver potentially embarrassing or shameful material to children.

Phillip says to his mother, “Amanda told me that I’m fat.  I want to lose some weight.  How much should I lose?”  “Well,” said her mom, “Dr. Speilman said on your last check up that you could stand to lose five pounds.  Why don’t we start there?”  Phillip agrees and quietly walks away.  Conversation over?  Hardly. For all practical purposes, Phillip’s mother likely feels like this was a good opportunity for her to address his pediatrician’s concern about his childhood obesity.  She probably feels relieved that someone else did her the service of alleviating her of hurting her son’s feelings.  What she failed to realize is that she delivered the confirming “blow” to Phillip’s self esteem.

In discussing matters of this nature, it is essential to realize the subtle impacts you may have.  It is more fruitful to address the biological and medical aspects of this discussion and to STEER CLEAR OF NUMBER OF POUNDS! For example, you might address blood elevations such as cholesterol or pulse as the impetus for change, or simply the concept of supporting the development of a healthy heart that will “take care of you,” or “keep your body strong for the rest of your life.”  By externalizing the issue of childhood obesity, you reduce the sensitive issue of self-esteem or physical acceptance.  Further, you engage your child in a process about which your child can be more curious and motivated.

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Media-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Veterans of the Vietnam war have sadly raised our awareness of the existence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a chronic, sometimes lifelong condition resulting in pathological changes in mood, thinking and behavior. It can be incapacitating and lead to job loss, family turmoil and dissolution, poor quality of life and often suicide.

We now understand that the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has its basis in enduring alterations of brain function, which helps to explain the chronic, persistent nature of this disorder. Treatment can be helpful but frustratingly inadequate. Unfortunately, there is no “magic bullet” medication. Research has supported the use of specific psychotherapeutic protocols but community availability can be a problem.

While PTSD’s origins stemmed from war related trauma, we now understand that a wide spectrum of life stressors can result in this disorder. The twenty-first century has brought terror attacks to the world stage. “Lone wolf” attacks, Islamic terrorism, and most recently, violence against the police have become a national preoccupation. In previous decades, our awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was based on either our familiarity with individuals suffering from this disorder or the occasional print news article. However, the media technology revolution of our current century has brought us both the blessing and curse of 24/7 connectivity to world and national events.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  and Media Coverage of Traumatic Events

For several years, the therapists at the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders have been very concerned about the repetitive exposure to traumatic life events that people experience via internet and television broadcasts. Recent terror attacks around the world are cases in point, for one cannot avoid the media’s persistent replaying of the visual imagery and dramatic accounts of these human tragedies.

Before the media revolution we learned of traumatic events through the newspaper, the 6:00 pm news, or the news hour on the radio. One only has to recall the steady calm recitation of bad news by the likes of Walter Cronkite and compare it to the present day dramatic and horrifying presentation of similar news stories. Clearly, horror sells and is profitable. We have become captive audiences for this traumatic exposure. To make matters worse, we are transfixed by it and have difficulty “unplugging” ourselves from the TV set or internet.

This brings our therapists to their greatest clinical concern. Repetitive exposure to graphic trauma has an impact on our central nervous systems. Even though we may not be the victim of the terror, we are passively being terrorized. Adults have a greater capacity to process such horror, but imagine the difficulties this creates for our children. Their immature nervous systems and reasoning ability pose significant obstacles for coping with this type of daily non-stop life stress. We fear that we are all becoming victims, in our own way, of the “madness” we are being exposed to.

We have a responsibility to control our children’s exposure to traumatic media and to prevent the damage that can result. As adults, we should heed this advice, as well. Ultimately, we must change the way that public media communicates traumatic events, however, this is easier said than done.

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Separation Anxiety and the Transition to College

We’ve passed the midpoint of the summer vacation break and parents and children are beginning to think about the upcoming school year. This is the time to start planning for new clothes and school supplies, including the dorm room items you’ll need if your child will be going off to college in the fall. Yet, with all the preparation parents make before their child goes away for the first time, often neither they nor the child think about separation anxiety and the emotional aspects of the transition to college.

New college freshmen often “talk big” about how glad they are going to be when they can finally get out on their own, but this may be just their bravado speaking. The first semester of college can be very stressful for your teen – many don’t realize that they’ll have to manage their day to day existence by themselves and won’t have their parents to fall back on. Also, it isn’t just the student who can have some problems coping – often parents struggle to adjust to this new phase of life without their teen and find themselves going through a bout of separation anxiety when their child leaves for school.

Even the most independent person can experience some homesickness in college during the first few weeks (or even months) in their new environment. They’ll have to make new friends, adjust to living with a roommate, and learn to navigate a new routine. If they have feelings of inadequacy before their transition to college, those emotions will be amplified, at least for a while.  Additionally, the child’s identity can be shaken during the transition to college – familiar peers who have given them a sense of “where they fit in” will no longer be around and the new freshman will have to figure out where they belong in the new world they’ve entered. With all this stress, it’s no wonder that about 21 % of college students use illegal substances and approximately 45 % binge drink in order to cope.

Separation Anxiety Symptoms

The following separation anxiety symptoms can affect both teens and parents:

  • A feeling of helplessness, sadness, worry, or anger
  • Excessive worry, allowing your thoughts to run wild (“what if?” thinking)
  • Fear or reluctance to go off to school and leave the familiar comforts of home
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomachaches, loss of appetite
  • Crying
  • Racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Substance abuse

How to Help Your Child Deal with Separation Anxiety

It’s normal for children and parents to go through many of these separation anxiety symptoms during the first semester of college, but many are too embarrassed to seek help. Keep in mind that those who already suffer from a depression or anxiety disorder will require even more emotional support. Here are some ways you can help your new college student adjust to their transition to college:

  • Talk to your child before they leave for college and let them know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed as they adjust to their new life away from home.
  • Listen to your child and encourage them to talk about the stress they are feeling.
  • Encourage them to join a club, group such as a sorority or fraternity, or get involved in extracurricular activities as a way to make new friends.
  • Visit them at college if you are able (and if you are needed).
  • Educate yourself about the places your child can go for help, such as on-campus support groups or counseling centers. If necessary, get a referral to a nearby mental help therapist if there are no available resources at your child’s school.

Learn More

If you or your college student are suffering from the symptoms of college separation anxiety during the transition to college, we can help. 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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Postpartum Depression

Welcoming a new family member into your household is an exciting and joyous event. There is so much anticipation about the new baby and women often go through their pregnancy daydreaming about happy things: who will the baby will look like, what will their first words be? Understandably, the knowledge that you’re going to have a baby can also give rise to a certain level of concern and anxiety – there will be sleepless nights, adjustments in your daily life, and possible financial concerns to face.

It’s perfectly normal to feel both anxious and excited after the birth of a new baby and it’s also quite common for new mothers to experience the “baby blues” as they adjust to the arrival of their child. In fact, research shows the symptoms of the baby blues (mood swings, difficulty sleeping, crying, and anxiety) can affect up to 80% of new moms. These symptoms usually begin somewhere in the first few days after giving birth and generally last for about two weeks.

For some new mothers, however, the birth of their baby can trigger a long-lasting and more severe episode of depression, called postpartum depression or postnatal depression. Additionally, and rarely, a new mother can go also through postpartum psychosis – an extreme and dangerous mood disorder.

What is Postpartum Depression?

First, whether you are experiencing “just” the baby blues or an actual incidence of postpartum depression, understand that it is not a sign of weakness on your part and it doesn’t mean you are “a bad mom”! There is plenty of evidence showing that this mood disorder can actually be a complication of the birth process for some women.

After giving birth, many physical and emotional changes take place: hormone levels drop dramatically, you’re sleep-deprived, you may feel overwhelmed, and you may feel like you’re losing control of your life. Researchers think these changes may contribute to the development of postpartum depression. Furthermore, studies have shown that women who have a past history of depression and anxiety or those with a thyroid imbalance may be at higher risk for postnatal depression.

At first, postpartum depression can be mistaken for the baby blues, but the symptoms of postnatal depression last longer than the typical week or two in the case of the baby blues and are more profound. And, while the symptoms of post partum depression generally begin within the first few weeks after having a baby, they can even start anywhere from six months to a year after giving birth. Left untreated, postnatal depression can last a long time, ranging from several months to several years.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic  lists postpartum depression symptoms that may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Postpartum Psychosis

As mentioned above, postpartum psychosis is rare, occurring in about .1% of births or about 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. Postpartum psychosis is severe and usually comes on suddenly – most often within the first two weeks after giving birth. The women most at risk have had a prior psychotic episode or are those with a personal or family history of bipolar disorder.

Postpartum psychosis can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Bizarre beliefs
  • Irrational judgements

Research shows that, in women undergoing postpartum psychosis, there is a suicide rate of about 5% and a rate of infanticide of approximately 4%. Because of the woman’s psychotic state, her delusions and beliefs feel very real, make total sense to her, and may cause her to act on them.

It is imperative that a woman going through postpartum psychosis get immediate help. This condition is treatable, but it is an emergency condition. Call your doctor or an emergency helpline to get the assistance you need as soon as possible!

Getting Help for Postpartum Depression

If you suspect you may have postpartum depression, the sooner you seek help, the better for both your baby and yourself. Call your doctor or a mental health professional right away if the signs and symptoms of your depression:

  • Don’t lessen or go away after two weeks
  • Seem to be getting worse
  • Are making it hard for you to care for yourself and/or your baby
  • Are making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks
  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Treatment for postpartum depression may include counseling and talk therapy via Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as the use of antidepressant medications.

Learn More

Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from postnatal depression, 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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