All posts by Dr. Andrew Rosen

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An Omicron Infection Is Not A Failure

For nearly two years, the country has tried their best to dodge the coronavirus. We have submitted to lockdowns, hidden ourselves away at home, and shunned gatherings with friends and family. When vaccines rolled out last year, many Americans lined up to get the jab. Millions more have gotten a booster and vaccinated their children as soon as they were eligible. Despite our vigilance, the Omicron variant is ripping through the country, infecting both the vaccinated and unvaccinated in record numbers. After being so careful for so long, how have we failed to stay safe?

In part, some of our distress at the high number of Omicron cases is due to a misunderstanding of what vaccines do. When they were first rolled out, both the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines reported above 90-percent efficacy rates against the virus. If you got the feeling that you were pretty much invincible after being fully vaccinated, you’re not alone. Vaccination, combined with mask-wearing and social distancing, made it seem as if we were golden.

Not so much.

Then, at the beginning of the summer of 2021, the CDC loosened mask-wearing restrictions. They told us that it was fine to gather in small groups, as long as everyone was vaccinated. We began to feel like we were climbing out of the valley and catching tiny glimmers of hope that the pandemic might be nearing an end.

But then Omicron replaced the Delta variant across much of the world, and suddenly everyone is either sick or knows several people who are.

The timing of the new variant was awful, coming right around the holidays. Many people were forced to cancel plans to see loved ones, or to travel, and all the trauma of the past two years came flooding back to us.

After all, the pandemic has been very traumatic for countless people. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) have now become part of our daily lives.

By definition, a post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when someone has “experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with a terrible event.” Although facts and figures are still emerging, mental health professionals are now recognizing that factors associated with the pandemic have given rise to what is being called “Covid PTSD.”

“We are seeing more and more traumatized people in our clinic and many express a feeling of being hopeless and disheartened now that Omicron is here,” says Andrew Rosen, Ph.D., psychologist and Clinical Director of The Center for Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Delray Beach, FL. “If they catch it, they feel as if they have failed themselves and everyone around them.”

But, is catching Omicron really a “failure”?

Absolutely not. In reality, we have succeeded. What we need to do now is revise our way of thinking about the pandemic’s trajectory.

When the virus began, our arsenal was designed around “flattening the curve.” It was never intended that we could completely stop the virus. We only hoped to slow the spread so we wouldn’t overwhelm our resources and wouldn’t have more sick people than hospitals and staff could handle.

Now, we have Omicron, which Dr. Anthony Fauci says, “with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody.”

Scientists have determined that Omicron has “upwards of 50 mutations in its genome, 30 of which exist in the gene encoding Spike,” according to the American Society for Microbiology. With an unprecedented rate of transmission (it replicates 70 times faster than Delta), we aren’t going to be able to outrun it or hide from it.

Instead, right now it is very important to find a calm “center” – something that can help to shield you from the stress. After all, you may not be able to change the larger picture, but you can definitely control your personal environment and work towards attaining a small measure of peace.

Making time for self-care can help you regain a sense of control, which reduces anxiety and soothes your emotions. “Above all, make sure to break away from what you fear if it is something you are focusing on too much,” says David A. Gross, MD, a psychiatrist and the Medical Director at The Center. “When we are in the grip of fear, it is sometimes hard to stop the catastrophic “what if” thoughts that come along with those emotions.”

If you are highly focused on something that is creating stress for you, that laser-focus creates more stress and anxiety. Redirecting your attention to something else can break that destructive pattern. Things that require the sensation of touch – like knitting, kneading dough, folding laundry, or exercising – are very helpful in allowing you to turn off and let go of your distressing thoughts.

“Know that it is okay to ask for help,” says Dr. Rosen. “We all have days when we feel sad, stressed, or angry, but it is best to seek help if you can’t shake those feelings after a reasonable period of time. Think of it like you would if you had a wound on your arm that won’t stop bleeding or a headache that won’t go away. You would go to a doctor for help in those cases and you should do the same for the Covid trauma that is troubling you now.”

“Remember that mental and emotional trauma create changes in brain function, which means your distress is not your fault. In many cases, you can use self-care to reduce your anxiety, but if your symptoms continue for more than two weeks or seem to be increasing, we encourage you to seek therapy.”

Dr. Rosen and Dr. Gross are co-authors of Covid Trauma, Healing From The Psychological Impact Of The Coronavirus Pandemic.

Learn To Feel Safe Again

If you are struggling with coronavirus anxiety, reach out and get the help you need. By working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can experience recovery from your PTSD relating to the pandemic. For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.

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It’s All About Trauma

“Now is the winter of our discontent,” a speech by Shakespeare in Richard III says it all as we muddle through the beginnings of a third year of this pandemic. This horrendous experience has taken a toll on all of us. David Brooks in his op-ed in the NY Times (America Is Falling Apart at the Seams, NYT, Jan 14, 2022) comments on the current misbehavior of Americans. He describes the angry outbursts noted on commercial airline flights, in retail establishments, as reflected in highway fatalities, suicides and homicide rates or even evident in members of Congress. He identifies the usual suspects including the pandemic, politics, media, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram et al.

I think that we would all agree with his observations and many, if no most of us identify with the frustrations, irritability and general crankiness that has resulted from the Covid 19 “gift that keeps on giving”. However, I believe that there is more to the story than what is stated above. It is my contention that the entire populace has been traumatized by the unfortunate saga that we have endured. The unremitting psychological stress has resulted in anger, frustration intolerance, depression, hopelessness, out-of- character risk taking, impulsivity, substance use and a general loss of trust.

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Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED – Consult The Expert On How Virtual Schooling Is Affecting Children

The Center’s newest clinician, Dr. Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED, is an expert on the psychiatric concerns of children and adolescents. A former high school teacher, he has a unique perspective on how children learn and the societal skills they can only develop through social interaction with peers. Since the pandemic, what he has seen has left him genuinely concerned.

During these last two years, parents and kids have had to adapt to shut downs and periods of online learning. While some students do just fine with virtual classes, many more are struggling – not just with learning through an online format, but with the loss of the in-person connection with classmates. “Covid has really devastated these kids,” he says. “Though some children can do well in this environment, virtual learning causes an issue for most.”

“The virtual learning modality is basically a lecture modality,” he continues – and therein lies part of the problem. “What do you and I do when listening to a lecture? If we are honest, most of us listen to it in the background while doing other things, so we miss a lot of the information.”

“Children are no different,” he says. “From a developmental standpoint, it is clearly better for kids to attend in-person schooling, but the unfortunate reality is that we need to be worried about public health, as well. In many cases, virtual learning is all we have right now, but this isn’t workable for many kids.”

Loss of knowledge isn’t the only side effect the pandemic has had on the nation’s children. “Virtual classes have their place because kids need to be learning, one way or another, but it comes at a price,” he explains. “It is very obvious that our children’s socialization has been affected and will be for a long time to come.”

“At this point, we have lost at least eighteen months of socialization,” he says. “Society pushes the idea that we need others to validate us, so kids rely on social acceptance for much of their self-worth. Covid took away much of that.”

Even older teens are being challenged by this new world. “The pandemic has been very hard for kids who are transitioning to college,” he notes. “Life is drastically different for them, especially if they are having to do their first year of college virtually. They are missing out on the social aspects that help them adjust to college life.”

He is optimistic, though. For most kids who are struggling, “it isn’t too hard to stabilize them and they can do really well,” he says. “Counseling and working one on one with kids will make things better in the majority of cases.”

When working with children, Dr. Siegmeister believes in treating the whole person. Depending on the child’s individual needs, this may mean combining two or more treatment methods, such as using cognitive behavior therapy along with medical treatments if there is an underlying psychiatric concern. He also likes to take a team approach to treatment and frequently involves parents, teachers, or college faculty, so the child can achieve the quickest resolution of their symptoms.

As unlikely as it may sound, Dr. Siegmester says there is actually a silver lining to the pandemic. “Mental health is often swept under the rug,” he says, “but depression is now pretty pervasive in both children and adults and people recognize this. In fact, many so called “sick days” happen because the person is depressed and really needs to take a mental health day. The positive outcome from covid is that people are now much more aware of anxiety and depression because they’ve experienced it themselves. This means it has become much more acceptable to seek help.”

About Jerome Siegmesiter, MD, MaED. (Child And Adolescent Psychiatry / General Psychiatry)

Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED, is a South Florida Native. He has worked with clients of all ages, and believes that the whole person needs to be treated. Consequently, he evaluates all aspects of the situation, from medical to situational, to determine the best initial course. He has a background in both individual and group therapies, employing supportive, behavioral, and insight oriented approaches, as appropriate to best fit his client’s needs, as well as comfort with medical treatment of any underlying conditions that might manifest psychiatrically. He has significant experience in all forms of psychiatric issues, including mood symptoms, thought disorders, anxiety, phobias, attention deficits, behavioral issues, insomnia, compulsive disorders, emotional lability, substance abuse, and trauma.

Dr. Siegmeister graduated with his Bachelor’s from Florida International University, after which he spent a number of years teaching, and obtained a Masters from the University of South Florida in Career and Technical Education/Adult Education. Upon deciding to pursue medicine, he initially completed a Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Certificate program at the University of Miami, and then obtained his MD from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, staying there afterwards for his specialty training in Psychiatry, followed by a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where he served as Chief Fellow, and was awarded with a Research Distinction. After training, he has worked providing Emergency care, with additional work in inpatient settings, both in mental health and as a consultant to medical units at multiple hospitals. He is currently Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in both general Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons in Psychiatry.

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Marsha Glines, PHD

Marsha Glines, Ph.D – Consult The Expert On Overcoming Learning Challenges

Marsha Glines, Ph.D is the only person on the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorder’s team who is not a therapist or behaviorist – she is an educator who brings a diagnostic standpoint to the Center. Her role is best defined as that of an academic coach. “I believe very strongly that learning should be empowering and meaningful,” she says. “Everyone learns differently and not everyone can learn through traditional classroom methods.”

The frontal lobe of our brain synthesizes and organizes information. “We have more than 100,000 neurons in our brains, so we each receive information differently than anyone else,” Dr. Glines says. “This means we also process the information we receive differently from each other.”

These information reception and processing systems are called metacognitive skills. Figuring out someone’s metacognitive skills tells how the person thinks, which then can help determine their learning strengths.

When an individual has challenges with learning through traditional classroom methods, “My role is how to find the appropriate path to learning for this person. Part of that is really getting to understand the student. This involves analyzing how they look at a problem and adjusting my strategies to help them learn and understand.”

To better recognize how each client learns, she begins by observing the individual and asking questions to help figure out their learning process. In addition, Dr. Glines takes an informal “inventory” of the skills and methods the person has successfully used in the past. Putting this information together gives her a good indication of where the student is in terms of learning.

The process then turns to modifying and experimenting with this information to see what works for the student. “If they are struggling in algebra, for example, we need to figure out how to change up the way they study algebra to make it useful for everyday skills.”

“The goal of my work is to find meaningfulness and purposefulness in how we learn. I help individuals find what their strongest cognitive pathways to their brain are, how to understand these pathways, and how to learn with them,” she explains. Does the client do better by hearing a lecture? Are they a visual learner? Do symbols or colors combine with what they are hearing to help them learn? Uncovering these unique methods makes a huge difference in the person’s understanding and retention of information.

Once Dr. Glines knows these strengths, she creates personalized education plans for what would be helpful for this person’s learning method. To do this, she uses repetition, challenge, novelty, and movement. “Our brains are wired to respond to new things, so changing up our learning method helps us learn and retain information,” she says. “I might teach them how to use symbols to remember something. Tools like mind maps and graphic organizers work well for a visual learner, for example.”

Similar to mnemonics, using tools, such as color coding the papers that students take notes on, can help with processing and retention.

At one point, Dr. Glines worked with students in a Psychology class to help them remember the differences between the pioneers in the mental health field. “These historical figures can all blur together,” she says, “so we discussed what color they thought of when they learned about Freud. Let’s say it was red. They assigned the color red to everything about Freud, even down to taking lecture notes on red paper.”

“Maybe Jung was the color brown”, she continues. “So his information was keyed to everything brown. At test time, when they saw a question about Freud, they recalled that he was red, not brown.” This allowed the students to “see” their lecture notes section in their notebook, which jogged their memory and often allowed them to correctly come up with the answer to the test questions.

Along the same lines, spatial models, symbols, and even acting out the information can function like a mnemonic. “Instead of just thinking in language and words, this is a different way of processing information and memory. It taps into different pathways of the brain’s retrieval system.”

Dr. Glines might also incorporate technology into the student’s learning process. “There are devices like smart pens that can record a lecture as the student takes notes, then lets the student replay that lecture,” she says.

This can be especially helpful for individuals who have learning disabilities. The person may not be able to visualize a spoken word in a text form, for example, which makes taking notes extremely challenging.  A smart pen can record oral notes, however. Later, the student can replay the lecture and even transform it from oral form to written text with the touch of a button. “A student can even tap a word in those notes, which then comes up to show them the meaning of words they find challenging,” she says.

Before any of these non-traditional learning plans can help an individual, though, they need to take ownership of what they value and what is important to them.

“What have you achieved and what do you hope to achieve? These are things you value and every decision we make is based on what we value,” she says. “These answers are empowering. Many people don’t take their school knowledge and think of how to apply it in real life, yet this is what gives ownership to the information we learn. If you can give the topic or subject meaning, you can learn and recall it much better.”

About Marsha Glines, Ph.D. (Academic Coach / Learning Specialist)

Dr. Marsha Glines has a national reputation in teaching and learning theory, special education, non-traditional program design and higher education curriculum development. Prior to joining the Lynn University community in 1991, Dr. Glines was the founding president of Beacon College and in October 2021 she was awarded an Honorary Degree Of Humane Letters from Beacon. While at Lynn University, Dr. Glines created and provided oversight of many academic alternative, innovative programs including: an undergraduate human service degree, the Advancement Program, the Lynn Educational Alternative Program and the “nationally recognized” Institute for Achievement and Learning.

Among her many achievements, Dr. Glines has published several pieces on post-secondary learning opportunities for students with learning disabilities and her work has been discussed in several books. In addition, she has conducted numerous training workshops both nationally and internationally and is a frequent presenter at various conferences on learning and higher education. She continues to teach remotely in Regis College’s undergrad and graduate education departments.

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What Type Of Therapy Is Best For Trauma?

Trauma is the result of a life-changing, emotionally devastating experience that significantly alters our sense of normalcy. It may cause us to change the way we live our lives and make us question the world around us.

Trauma often manifests in heightened anxiety levels and feelings of isolation if others can’t understand what we have been through. In some cases it can even catch us off-guard if its effects suddenly surface years after the traumatic experience(s).

The list of what might constitute a traumatic incident is extensive but examples include such situations as:

  • experiencing or witnessing interpersonal violence
  • being the victim of bullying, hate crimes, homophobia or racism
  • can also occur after being diagnosed with a serious or potentially life-threatening medical condition, such as getting Covid-19 or cancer, or after the sudden death of a loved one
  • may result after being involved in combat or a terrorist attack, experiencing or witnessing sexual assault or abuse, or surviving natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

Any unexpected, overwhelming event can leave you feeling traumatized, shocked, and confused. You may feel like your world has tilted on its axis, but there are some things that might help.

What Are The Treatment Options For Trauma?

Trauma and the subsequent recovery process is unique to each person. The treatment that works for one person may not help another at all, because everyone has different responses during their recovery.

If you are seeking treatment for trauma, it is important to look specifically for therapists who specialize in this area. This specialist should do a comprehensive intake assessment at your first appointment, so they can create a treatment plan that is specifically tailored to your goals and needs.

As part of this plan, the specialist should advise you of the individual trauma-informed therapy they feel will best help you. This could include a combination of:

  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) – EMDR is a powerful therapeutic technique that helps people process trauma on an emotional level. It has been shown to help sufferers of PTSD heal faster than through traditional therapy, often in as few as six to twelve sessions. EMDR uses bilateral (both sides of the body) stimuli to tap into the biological mechanisms the brain uses during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The theory is that using REM while recalling the disturbing thoughts or memories of the trauma helps the brain process it naturally, allowing the mind to heal.
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to become aware of your beliefs and thoughts about the situation. Once you identify them, it gives you the skills to see whether there are facts to support those thoughts and how to let them go if there aren’t.
  • CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy) – Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is an effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been proven to help reduce symptoms in people who experience trauma.
  • CBP (Component Based Psychotherapy) – CBP is an innovative, evidence-based approach to treatment that was developed for adult survivors of complex interpersonal trauma. It works especially well with those who have experienced childhood emotional abuse or neglect
  • DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) informed individual and group therapy – DBT is a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy. It focuses on living in the moment and teaches positive coping strategies along with healthy ways to regulate emotions.
  • Psychodynamic therapy – Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of “talk therapy” that helps patients find relief from emotional pain. It attributes psychological problems to the subconscious motives and conflicts in one’s life, which can be due to past experiences or unresolved issues from childhood.
  • Medications may be used in conjunction with therapy, in some cases. Medication is safe and effective when used properly and may be recommended as an option, depending on severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and other individual circumstances.

In some situations, couples therapy or group therapy can be a helpful addition to these therapies.

When To Seek Professional Therapy For Trauma

When people experience a psychological trauma, it often shakes them to their core. They may feel hopeless, helpless, and deeply unsafe. Trauma can take a long time to recover from, but recovery is possible.

Trauma symptoms can:

  • Make it difficult to have a close, fulfilling relationship
  • Create problems at home or at work
  • Cause you to avoid situations, places or people, and other reminders of the traumatic experience
  • Leave you feeling “disconnected” from others or numb
  • Cause you to turn to substance abuse as an escape method
  • Begin or increase flashbacks, nightmares, or terrifying memories
  • Cause you to suffer from severe fear and anxiety that doesn’t seem linked to anything in particular (i.e., constant low-grade stress)
  • Create negative thinking or cause you to blame yourself for what happened

If months (or years) have gone by and you are unable to shake your symptoms or they are dramatically affecting your day-to-day life, it is time to seek professional help.

Working through trauma can be a difficult and potentially re-traumatizing process. The best way to heal from these experiences is by working with an experienced trauma therapist.

It is important you feel safe, respected and understood when seeking therapy for trauma. If you don’t feel like you can trust your therapist, look for another who will work better for your specific situation.

Let Us Help

Trauma can be difficult to understand and even more so, to handle on your own. Whether your challenges are recent or from years ago, the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Help For School Anxiety During Covid

School is starting up again and many school districts have gone back to in-person learning. While back to school anxieties are typical during any given year, COVID-19 is still with us, which has added more uncertainty and stress for everyone involved.

Since virtual, at-home learning took place during the previous school year, many kids may now find it difficult to adjust to being away from the safety of their home and parents. Add to that the fear that others around them may unknowingly be sick and you may find that even well-adjusted children are experiencing heightened stress. For children who already suffered from anxiety, however, the return to physical classrooms may mean their anxiety worsens when they return for the first day of class.

What Signs Of Stress Can Be Observed In Children During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

In general, children are resilient. Many kids will manage this transition just fine with help and support from their parents. Those who already struggled with anxiety or emotional problems or who had behavioral or developmental concerns before the pandemic may need additional assistance, though. It’s important that you keep a watchful eye on them, as they might be at risk for increased or severe depression and anxiety.

Signs of stress to watch for include (by age group):

Preschool age – Children in this age group may be more whiny or clingy than usual. They may have problems sleeping, have nightmares, or become afraid of the dark when they weren’t before. You may also find that they withdraw or their behavior may regress. They may lose their appetite or become picky eaters.

5 – 9 – Children who are in elementary school also may be clingier. They may be angrier or more irritable and cry or otherwise resist to going to school. They might have nightmares and sleep problems, along with poor concentration. In addition, your child may stop showing interest in friends or activities they used to enjoy.

10 – 19 – Adolescent children may show everything from sleeping and eating disturbances to agitation or arguments with others. They may have physical complaints such as headaches or stomach aches. They may also exhibit poor concentration or engage in some type of delinquent behavior.

Parent Anxiety About School During Covid

The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic makes in-person schooling nerve-wracking for some parents. Obviously, they are apprehensive about their child’s health and well-being, but they also have to address their child’s concerns and reassure them that they will be safe in school. For many, it’s a balancing act of trying to be supportive while also telling the child to be careful, wear their mask, and social distance. Talk about stressful!

It is important to keep in mind that your children look up at you for guidance on how they should react during times of stress. You want to show them that they need to take the situation seriously, but without panicking.

We all do better when we have a sense of control over something that worries us. Children are no different. Discuss their fears and help them find positive ways to deal with their stress.

Ensure they know how to wear a mask correctly (it should cover their nose and mouth). Teach them to carry and use hand sanitizer and how to wash their hands (wash for the time it takes to sing the birthday song). Make sure they understand how social distancing helps to reduce the spread of the virus. Teach them to cough into their elbow or a tissue and to throw a used Kleenex away immediately.

Lastly, protect your child’s health by encouraging them to eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise daily. This will help build their immunity so they can fight off illness in the future.

Helping Students Return To School After Covid

Going back to in-person learning is a transition and, as with any big change, there will be upset and stress for a couple of weeks until the child settles into the new routine. This is particularly true during the pandemic, when kids are having to adjust to so many new things.

You may find that your child is overly tired during the first few weeks of school. They may be more emotional than usual or act out more often. But if there are major shifts from their normal behavior – such as withdrawing from friends or refusing to take part in things they usually enjoy – and this behavior doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, this could signal problems and you should consider seeking help.

This is the time to sit down and talk to your kids. Encourage them to tell you what’s bothering them; acknowledge their concerns even if you don’t agree with them. When you know what is concerning your child, work with them to come up with a plan for addressing it. What can you, as the parent, do to help? What can the child do? Does the school need to get involved?

Remember that you also need to take care of yourself. What helped you before the pandemic? Was it calming to work on crafts? What about yoga or engaging in exercise? Maybe listening to calming music or reading reduced your stress? Whatever worked in the past should help you now, but you must take the time for self care.

Keep in mind that even just taking a small break can help you mentally regroup and make you feel less overwhelmed. Take a short walk around the block or indulge in some deep breathing exercises. You don’t have to take a long break – a little bit goes a long way!

Pandemic Anxiety? We Are Here For You

If you are experiencing pandemic fatigue and anxiety, we are here to help. Contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center today.

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Managing Pandemic Anger And Frustration

Earlier this year, we got a taste of our prepandemic lives when vaccines became available and Covid-19 cases decreased. People began to gather for social events again, we went back to our favorite restaurants, and travel resumed. Then the Delta variant emerged, and with it a lot of anger – mainly directed at those who are refusing vaccination.

As Delta continues to spread and there is news of the Delta-Plus and Lambda variants, we are facing the reimplementation of mask requirements and the possibility of closures and more interruptions to our lives. It’s no wonder people are angry and frustrated!

The Delta Variant And Pandemic Frustration (Why Do I Have So Much Anger All Of A Sudden?)

As we have transitioned through the pandemic, we’ve all had to quickly adapt to the almost-weekly changes the virus has laid at our feet. Many of us were already struggling with mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or anxiety, before we ever heard of Covid-19. In the last year and a half, mental health concerns have continued to rise as we’ve gone through shut downs, job loss, illness in ourselves or loved ones, and more deaths than we thought possible in such a short time.

As a result, we now feel exceedingly unsafe   – both in our daily lives and as we look forward into the coming months. Will we be able to be with loved ones during the holidays? Will we be able to work? To travel? To go into a store without worrying about catching a variant?

Unfortunately, the news media and social media have stoked our insecurities by sensationalizing information. Misinformation, confusion, and conspiracy theories have overtaken logic and science.

We’ve had so much waffling from experts about the correct procedures to keep us safe that it’s no wonder many people have given up trusting news reports. For example, at first the CDC said we didn’t need to wear masks, then everyone from two years and up was required to wear one. This spring, the CDC announced that we could drop mask wearing if we got vaccinated, now everyone is being told to wear a mask despite their vaccine status.

This back-and-forth has added to our frustration. One recent study by Serafini, et al reports that, “the poor or inadequate information from public health authorities may be a significant stressor because it provides inappropriate guidelines concerning call for actions…”

Is Pandemic Anger A Recognized Condition Now?

While not necessarily an “official” condition, pandemic anger is being recognized by mental health professionals the world over. There is even an unofficial term for it, patterned after a candy bar commercial: pandemic + angry = “pangry.”

Being pangry is understandable. Recently, we had restrictions lifted and “normal” life dangled in front of us by the CDC’s dropping of mask requirements and the promise of the new vaccines. Thus, we dared to hope we could put the pandemic behind us, but now emerging virus variants are changing that once again.

Officials are increasingly laying blame for rising cases at the feet of the unvaccinated. For the vaccinated who “did their part” by taking the jabs, resentment is building against those whom they feel aren’t doing their part to stop the spread of the virus.

Conversely, some of the unvaccinated don’t see the need to get the vaccine because they have acquired natural antibodies through their own Covid illness. Others may not trust what they are being told about the safety of the new type of vaccine and its mRNA delivery.

While this mistrust and confusion is understandable, many vaccinated folks are making decisions to stop seeing friends or loved one who aren’t complying with vaccination pleas, while the unvaccinated feel their rights are being trampled upon.

Dr. Hans Steiger, Professor Emeritus of Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, states that, “The COVID situation does present us with unprecedented challenges which interfere unrelentingly with all our lives. Social isolation may be the best tool to keep the virus under control, but this clashes directly with the need for social interventions helping us resolve anger and rage when being at the mercy of injustice and uncertainty. In such conflicts we need to remind ourselves that diatribes, lies and accusations will not move us forward; compassion empathy and the reminder that we are all in this horrible situation together will inspire us. Because in the end all of us can contribute to finding solutions to the problem.”

What Can I Do To Feel Better If I’m Feeling Anxious And Scared About COVID-19?

There are several things you can do to help reduce your anger and fear about the ongoing pandemic:

  • Don’t let social media make your decisions for you. Social media comes to us filtered through the agenda of the person who posted it, so limit your exposure.
  • Don’t let politics or partisanship influence your emotions too much. They will counteract logic instead of helping us see our needs clearly.
  • Be kind in your judgments of others and their reasons for choosing to get vaccinated or not. You do not know their story. Perhaps they have a medical complication that precludes vaccination. Perhaps they saw or lost ill loved ones, making them adamantly pro-vaccines.
  • Eat nutritious foods and get the best quality sleep you can.
  • Begin or strengthen a meditation or mindfulness practice. These calming techniques help you become more resilient, which allows you to face your stressors more positively.
  • Focus on finding balance in your life, through such activities and getting outside in nature, getting regular exercise, indulging in a favorite hobby or starting a new one.
  • Maintain some social interaction either virtually or through safely distanced, masked in-person contact. Being with others is vitally important; isolation breeds depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

We Can Help

If you are experiencing emotional and mental health challenges during the pandemic or afterwards, our licensed therapists are available to help with your needs. We offer in-person sessions as well as video sessions. All conversations remain confidential under strict non-disclosure policies so that we can maintain absolute privacy while offering effective solutions.

For more information, contact 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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woman wearing face mask

What We Have Learned From 2021

No one can deny that 2021 has been a momentous year. It has had a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly for sure. It has at times been frightening, confusing, comforting and educational. We have witnessed a very unusual presidential election, a subsequent denial by some of the validity of the election and an unheard of polarization of our peers and lawmakers. Most critically, we have endured a gift that keeps on giving; the novel coronavirus that has killed countless people world-wide and more fellow Americans than we would have ever anticipated. We have had to learn the meaning of the word epidemiology as it relates to health and wellness. Unfortunately, we now know explicitly what a spike protein is and looks like. More than ever before we have been influenced (for good and bad) by the internet and social media. Although we have been witness to conspiracy theories in the past, but this year has certainly been a boon time for them.

So it is important for us to sit back and take stock of the emotional and psychological impact of these events. A major fallout has been the confusion over what is fact and what is fiction. We have seen the major news networks disagreeing on many important issues. Who to believe? Proponents of networks that broadcast their unique take on the news may be diametrically opposite of the proponents of the “other” networks. To avoid getting into trouble I will leave the network names blank, but I am sure you know what I am talking about. There was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when veteran newscasters like Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, Douglas Edwards educated us nightly on national and world events. Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” conveyed the power and influence of the media. Somewhere during the subsequent decades all this has changed. It became apparent to television and radio that communicating news is basically a form of entertainment. Like most popular entertainment venues it becomes essential to be able to sell the programs to the masses. Media outlets have always been for profit businesses (exceptions being Public Radio and Public Television) but it seems that profitability became linked to the entertainment value of their shows. Newscasters and news commentators became the entertainers that we see today. Walter Cronkite would not succeed as a newscaster in 2021.

Along comes the world wide web and internet bringing to us the 24/7 experience of social media. Humanity has not been the same since. Due to the openness of social media to anyone with internet access, a huge amount of content has appeared on the screens and podcasts of this world. An interesting paradox has developed. Most social media participants should realize that what they see and hear reflects subjective information. However, at the same time, we are witnessing the tremendous influence of social media on the minds of attendees. It is as if misinformation has become the norm. Conspiracy theories have had a heyday. Part of the problem is that human beings have a strong tendency to be voyeurs. They like to be entertained. We are drawn to the unusual, fantastic and bizarre. Hence the success of reality TV no matter how strange or sensationalistic it can be. Consider the popularity of horror movies going back to the days of black and white silent films. It does appear that what we have been witnessing is the natural evolution of multimedia fueled by both the profit motive and the change in its audience. 

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How Too Much Screen Time Affects Your Kids (And How To Set Limits)

As pandemic restrictions begin to ease, we’re emerging with new addictions to our devices. For many families, lock downs meant turning to virtual entertainment and increased online communications with friends and loved ones.

The result is that we’re more comfortable with the virtual world than ever before – and many children are finding it hard to break their screen time “habit” now. How can parents restrict their kid’s online time and do they really need to?

How Long Much Screen Time Do Kids Get?

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