Eric Spinner

Eric Spinner, Psy.D – Consult The Expert On Eating Disorders

This month, we talked with Eric Spinner, Psy.D. Beginning in September, he will be working at The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorders as a PostDoctoral resident.

For the past two years before joining the team, Dr. Spinner worked at a residential facility for women, treating adolescents to older adults with eating disorders. As a result, this area of treatment is of special interest to him. “I feel like eating disorders do not get the attention they deserve,” he said. 

He was quick to point out that there are several misconceptions surrounding these conditions. “Culturally, when we think of eating disorders, we might think of certain body types. For example, one common myth is that people with eating disorders are always very thin. The reality is that an eating disorder is not solely diagnosed based on body type or weight. Someone of average weight, or even above average weight, could be struggling with an eating disorder.”

The danger in being concerned about someone strictly based on body type means the disorder can go unnoticed by family or friends – or even by the person themselves. “The fact is, anorexia nervosa accounts for the smallest percentage of those diagnosed with an eating disorder, whereas OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorders) and binge eating disorder account for the two highest,” he said. 

“When considering an eating disorder diagnosis, it is important to look beyond a person’s weight or body type. Instead, look for the behaviors that cause medical issues. These can be things like extreme dieting and losing a lot of weight in a short amount of time, missed menstrual cycles, and low heart rates.”  

What Is OSFED?

Most of us have a vague idea of what anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder consist of, but what is the meaning of the other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) diagnosis that Dr. Spinner mentioned? “OSFED is basically an umbrella term,” he explained. “It is meant to capture individuals whose eating disorder presentation does not meet the diagnostic criteria for any other eating disorders.”

“individuals with OSFED may present with many of the symptoms of other eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, but will not meet the full criteria for diagnosis of these disorders. This, however, doesn’t mean that the eating disorder is any less serious or dangerous.” 

A diagnosis of OSFED can be further specified using some of the following terms: 

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa (all of the criteria are met for anorexia nervosa except that, despite significant weight loss, the individual’s weight is within or above the normal range)
  • Bulimia nervosa of low frequency and/or limited duration (all of the criteria for bulimia nervosa are met, except that binge eating and compensatory behaviors occur, on average, less than once a week and/or for less than three months)
  • Binge eating disorder of low frequency and/or limited duration (all of the criteria for binge eating disorder are met, except that the binge eating occurs, on average, less than once a week and/or for less than three months)
  • And purging disorder (recurrent purging behavior to influence weight or in the absence of binge eating). 

Dr. Spinner cautioned that not having a more defined “label,” such as anorexia or bulimia, in favor of a lesser known diagnosis like OSFED can sometimes cause the person to feel they aren’t really that sick or that they somehow don’t belong. On the flip side, if the person receives an OSFED diagnosis, it can help to ease their anxiety to know that the most common eating disorder is OSFED. 

“Don’t get hung up on the diagnosis, though,” he warned. “It isn’t always important, for the individual struggling with an eating disorder, or their loved ones, to know the exact diagnostic box that they fall into. What is important is being able to identify that they are struggling in a way that is negatively impacting their daily functioning, along with getting them the help they need.”  

Regardless of which eating disorder diagnosis an individual is given, Dr. Spinner said they will still get the correct treatment. “Most of the prominent treatments used with individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder are transdiagnostic, meaning the underlying concepts of the treatment are similar across the various types of eating disorder diagnoses.” 

What Are Some General Eating Disorders Signs To Watch For?

I asked what someone should look for in a loved one if they are concerned the person may have an eating disorder, Dr. Spinner was quick to respond. “Caregivers should be on the lookout for dramatic behavioral changes, like increased food intake or restriction, extreme dieting, or excessive laxative or diuretic use. A change in the duration or intensity of exercise behavior and increased mirror checking can also indicate a concern.”

“Sometimes an individual might engage in food rituals, such as playing with their food, cutting it into very small pieces, or pushing it around on the plate so it looks like they are eating, although they really aren’t. Caregivers should also watch to see if the activity [exercise, food preoccupation, and so forth] is a big topic of conversation or if the person talks in ways that indicate they have a poor body image.”

“Eating disorders are seen as emotional disorders,” he said. “The behavior helps the person avoid or escape the unwanted emotions or situations they don’t want to engage in. These individuals often have more frequent or intense experiences than others, which can be scary. An eating disorder can give them a feeling of control and help them avoid those emotions.”

Because these disorders are so closely linked with emotions, Dr. Spinner said a parent who suspects an eating disorder in their child can begin by asking about the child’s emotional state. “They can say something like, “I notice you seem down or anxious lately,” which can help the child understand the parents are open to talking.”

Eating Disorders Treatment

It’s difficult to apply a particular treatment to a particular eating disorder because there are many variables that therapists need to consider. ”The thing to target may be different from one person to another, so we focus on the different thoughts and behaviors specific to each individual, and treat those. A particular diagnosis can help us know what to focus on, but may not change the person’s treatment exponentially.”

Among other modalities, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is typically used. CBT helps the patient become aware of their unreasonable thoughts and beliefs so they can view the situation more realistically and react in a healthier way. In addition, therapists might use any other therapy that works to address thought change.

Specific Support Strategies For Parents (Emotional Distress Strategies And Meal/Post Meal Strategies)

Dr. Spinner listed some strategies that can be used to help support someone who is going through therapy for an eating disorder, both in general and during and after meals. 

Emotional distress strategies (when trying to support a loved one during times of emotional distress):

  • Notice the person’s cues, both verbal and nonverbal. You know them and their characteristics, so you’ll know that being short with you means they are angry or depressed, sighing means they are frustrated, and so on.
  • Help them to label and express their emotions. “You can ask, “How are you feeling? Put it into words.” If they can’t verbalize their feelings, then try saying, “It seems you are feeling like…” or “I thought you might be having…” This can help them identify their emotions.
  • Validate their emotions. Caregivers are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of their loved ones struggling with an eating disorder to better understand and validate their loved ones’ distressing emotional experiences.  
  • Meet their emotional needs and give empathy, support, and comfort.
  • Fix or problem solve. If your loved one can’t resolve the issue on their own, don’t collude with the disorder or try to avoid it. For example, don’t give them one piece of chicken if their recovery meal plan says they should have two, because you send the message that it is okay to disregard the plan or not follow it exactly.

Meal/post meal strategies for someone who is struggling with an eating disorder:

  • People who have eating disorders have intense emotions, so if they get distressed, remain calm to help them calm down. 
  • Show compassion and concern and don’t confront them or argue about their eating.
  • Be consistent and confident with the nutrition meal plan given by the therapist or nutritionist (“I know you can do this, it will get easier.”). 
  • Refrain from talking about calories or food. Instead, keep mealtime light and enjoyable. Talk about a class the person likes in school or the job or hobby they love. 
  • Refrain from talking about a stressor, such as an upcoming exam. 
  • Also, it may not be helpful to engage in distracting activities like watching television during meals as it allows them to avoid dealing with the emotions that may come up during the meal, which serves to further perpetuate avoidance behaviors. 
  • After each meal, engage in relational activities to get them out of their head. Plan a structured activity for the first 45 minutes to 1 hour (work on arts/crafts, look at photos, do scrap booking, play games, or work on hands-on projects).  Again, it may not be helpful to engage in distracting activities like watching television after meals as it encourages emotional avoidance. 

Final Thoughts

At the conclusion of our discussion, I asked Dr. Spinner if he had one takeaway that he wanted to be sure our readers understood.

“Be aware that an eating disorder can affect anyone – of any size or gender,” he responded. “If the person’s perceived self-worth is tied into weight, size or body image, and it is interfering with their daily life, please encourage them to talk to someone. It is possible for someone to have an eating disorder and not realize they have one.”

Have Further Questions?

If you or someone you love has questions or would like further information about treatment for eating disorders or other mental health concerns, 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.

About Eric Spinner, Psy.D.

Dr. Eric Spinner is a postdoctoral resident specializing in individual therapy, partner and family therapy, and group therapy across the lifespan. His primary focus is on the treatment of eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. Utilizing a collaborative approach, Dr. Spinner focuses on each client’s strengths, life experiences, and cultural background to address their individual needs, while providing a safe, open, and judgment-free therapeutic environment. He incorporates a variety of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical-behavioral therapy, and rational emotive behavioral therapy.

During his APA-accredited Clinical Psychology Doctoral Internship, Dr. Spinner provided treatment at the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders in Coconut Creek, Florida. There, he obtained extensive experience in treating primary eating disorder diagnoses, including working with individuals, families, and groups, and within various levels of residential, day, and intensive outpatient care. Additionally, Dr. Spinner provided comprehensive treatment of his client’s co-occurring mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma, and personality disorders, as well as facilitating numerous group therapy sessions, process groups, and manualized skill-based groups. 

Dr. Spinner earned both his Master’s and Doctor of Psychology degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He holds a certificate in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and conducted research into the treatment of specific phobia for older adults during his doctoral training. Dr. Spinner also has clinical experience working at both the Intensive Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Clinic and the Adult Services Clinic at the Psychology Services Center at Nova Southeastern University.

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distressed senior woman

Does Anxiety Get Better With Age?

It’s no secret that the elderly population is the fastest growing age group in the United States. In fact, there are now approximately 76 million baby boomers in the United States and that number is increasing daily. While some things get better with age (think of fine wines), will aging affect mood disorders? Does anxiety get better with age?

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Although there are reasons we might expect a senior to have less anxiety, such as being retired and no longer living with the stress of the workaday world, for many older adults anxiety may not necessarily improve. In fact, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems among older adults.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to anxiety in older adults.

  • Many seniors experience losses such as the death of a spouse or the loss of independence.
  • There are age-related brain and neurological changes that take place.
  • There are fears about the aging process itself.
  •  Social isolation and loneliness can contribute to anxiety.
  • Additionally, chronic health conditions can mimic anxiety symptoms or lead to anxiety about pain, mobility limitations or disability, and even death.

Cognitive impairment (and the fear of it) also becomes more of a concern as we age, along with a higher potential for a diagnosis of dementia and the anxiety that often comes with the condition.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that, “Anxiety has reported high prevalence rates among people with dementia. It has a negative impact on cognitive impairment and is associated with agitation and poor quality of life. The presence of excessive anxiety can be difficult to establish in people with dementia, especially when expressive or receptive speech is impaired.”

How Common Is Anxiety In Older Adults?

Anxiety is a very common problem among older adults. Depending on the resource you consult, it is estimated that between four percent and twenty percent of senior citizens experience anxiety.

This wide range is due, in part, to the fact that many elderly people will only report the physical symptoms they feel and do not talk about their worries, fears, or anxious feelings. They may shy away from reporting anything that might make them feel ashamed or “weak.” They may also feel that anxiety is an inevitable part of aging (it’s not).

What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety In The Elderly?

Anxiety is the overall feeling of unease. Real anxiety isn’t the same as a case of nerves or worrying about an upcoming event, although those things can make you anxious. Rather, genuine anxiety takes over your life and can prevent you from functioning. It can lead to a range of different symptoms, from feeling constantly on edge and irritable to having trouble sleeping and concentrating.

In general, we can experience psychological, physical or mental symptoms of anxiety – or a combination of them.

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Unable to sleep

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscles are tense or clenched
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Feeling panicked or apprehensive
  • Engaging in rituals (such as repeated handwashing)
  • Withdrawal and/or refusal to participate in activities you used to enjoy

The National Council On Aging states, “While symptoms are an important aspect of diagnosing anxiety in older adults, even more critical is how these symptoms affect day-to-day living. Anxiety is considered problematic when it interferes with your daily functioning, your quality of life, and even your health.”

How To Manage Anxiety In The Elderly

It’s natural for the fear response to kick into gear when there’s uncertainty about what might happen next. As we grow older, life changes can be more frequent and dramatic. Additionally, our resilience may be reduced, which can make it harder for us to handle those changes in a healthy way.

Thus, when changes occur, an older adult may be more likely to struggle to find ways to cope with the new situation or unexpected loss than they would have in their younger years. They might begin to respond from a more an anxious state.

Common triggers for anxiety can include such things as:

  • A change in routine (for example, maybe a senior used to enjoy playing golf twice a week, but has been ill and unable to recently)
  • Financial concerns
  • Planning for end of life care for themselves or a loved one
  • Loss of independence
  • A change in surroundings (for example, moving to a new residence or into a care facility)
  • Health concerns
  • Loss of mobility
  • Reduced ability to take care of the tasks of daily living (dressing, bathing, feeding oneself, etc)
  • The passing of a loved one
  • Medication side effects
  • Insomnia or sleep problems
  • Genetic predisposition (mood disorders run in the family)

It can help to manage your anxiety if you try to understand what triggers your symptoms. While you can’t avoid everything that increases your anxiety, you can learn coping methods to build your resilience and better allow you to deal with your distress.

It’s also helpful to have a social network to rely on. Friends and family members or support groups (in person or online) can be a great resource, especially if you are alone or isolated.

Doing something physical can help break the cycle of troubling thoughts and calm your mind. Try to set up a regular exercise routine. This can be as simple as getting outside to walk or taking a gentle yoga or tai chi class. Activities that involve the sense of touch, such as cooking, knitting, or painting, are also helpful.

Mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or journaling, can be calming, as well. There are YouTube videos and smartphone apps available to guide you through meditations or engage in deep breathing.

As much as possible, try to have balance in your life. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and continue to stay socially connected. Absorb yourself in the activities you enjoy and look forward to.

Anxiety can have a devastating effect on your life, so it’s very important to speak to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional about what you’re experiencing – especially if your symptoms have been present for more than two weeks or are getting worse.

Have Further Questions?

If you or someone you love have questions or would like further information about anxiety in seniors, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida, can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Finding Meaning: From Post-traumatic stress to Post-traumatic Growth

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. At Dancing Lion Studio we are dedicated to bring you the best in not only yoga, meditation and movement, but all the healing arts. Beginning this summer we will be offering a wide variety of workshops lead by professionals who’s ideals are in alignment with ours. Let us help you ride the waves of your feelings. 

Finding Meaning: From Post-traumatic stress to Post-traumatic Growth

Please join Terri Samuels for this important workshop. 

Date & Time: JULY 17TH 1:30 pm

Have you suffered from Grief? What about Trauma? Cant forget the effects of Covid-19? Feeling like you are on a hamster wheel with your thoughts?  How about chronic Pain? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then this POWERFUL workshop is for you.

Join Terri Samuels, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor who has completed extensive certifications in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Integrative Medicine and Nutrition, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and many more current topics; in a discussion relating to finding more meaning in your life. We will do some activities to lead you to a place of post traumatic growth and a brief grief yoga practice that will help loosen the trauma that is stored in your body. This workshop guarantees a chance to reach your highest potential!

Also available virtually on Zoom! @dancinglionstudio 

Register: on Mindbody app or call 561.562.5080
Location: 290 SE 6th AveDelray Beach, FL 33483

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Darbi Miller, MS, LMFT – Consult The Expert On Increasing Relational Self-Awareness

For this month’s Consult The Expert interview, we spoke with Darbi Miller, MS, LMFT, one of the marriage and family therapists here at The Center For Treatment Of Mood And Anxiety Disorders. Although she likes working with all ages, she enjoys the dynamic surrounding family and relationships.

“One of my favorite things to work with is increasing clients’ relational self-awareness,” she said. “I also enjoy exploring peoples’ Families of Origin, which is connected to self-awareness from my perspective.” 

What Is Relational Self-Awareness?

I asked her to explain what she means by relational self-awareness. “Family of Origin and self-awareness are related,” she said. “In any experience with another person, relational self-awareness can look like asking ourselves, “What is mine? What is yours? What is ours?”

“We each have our own stories, beliefs, and experiences,” she continued. “Relational self-awareness looks at what each person brings to the table and how this affects the interaction between us. If we are self-aware, we have a compass for ourselves which translates into tolerance. We are able to share our personal values and beliefs and hear the other person’s.”

“If we are not self-aware, our interactions are based in fear. We begin looking for approval or we get defensive because we may feel we will “lose” in some way if we are vulnerable with the other person. When you have self-awareness, however, you can be vulnerable and can create more intimacy in all of your relationships.”

Ms. Miller cited a Harvard study that has followed individuals over an eighty-year period. It found that the quality of our relationships has more impact on our health than even our cholesterol levels. “It turns out that surrounding ourselves with positive, close relationships creates a better sense of community within ourselves, which in turn, has a better health impact,” she said.

We discussed how relational self-awareness can help with anxiety treatment. “With anxiety, behind that is usually fear on a basic level. Our thoughts are powerful. If you can get to the core and understand the fear (how can I feel more connection with myself?), connecting to your body and grounding yourself, allows this to be part of the healing process.”

How Does Family Of Origin Fit In?

Ms. Miller explained how Family of Origin fits into treatment of mood disorders. “We come from our own system that was learned in childhood. This is the Family of Origin,” she said. “This system has patterns, beliefs, and values that we can sometimes see, but sometimes aren’t aware of. We all have a family role – maybe we’re the funny one, the responsible one, or the nurturing one. This role can carry into our adult lives and play out between couples.”

“Sometimes people go into a relationship expecting it to heal their Family of Origin wounds. Although it can happen that a new relationship can be good and healing, if we enter it expecting our partner to instinctively know what we need to heal, that may not be the case and we’re disappointed,” she said. “If you are expecting your partner to heal you, where is this coming from? The answer leads back to relational self-awareness.”

How Do These Concepts Help With Therapy?

I asked how knowing what we bring with us from our Family of Origin can be used to improve our own mood disorders.

“Knowing what you have “inherited” and what you can change can be very empowering,” Ms. Miller said. “You don’t have to operate out of same system you inherited. You have control. The realization that you don’t have to follow the same patterns – and you get to decide – can help with anxiety and trauma.”

“I mainly use this work for people who feel stuck in their life, work, and relationships,” she explained. “During therapy, my approach is always to start at the top. We begin with something action-focused, like behavior organization, and getting back into routines that can have a positive effect on the person’s mood and decrease anxiety.”

“I also use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge negative thoughts. Taken together, these give people some relief. But if they are still looking for more, this is when we explore other things like Family of Origin and relational self-awareness.”

“When we look into Family of Origin, we can choose to do the work for ourselves and also within the family roles, with siblings and parents. I typically go three levels up within the family to look at the generational dynamic,” she continued. “Doing this work can uncover patterns that influence a person’s mood, narratives, and the core beliefs that influence mood, which can be healing.”

“People want to explore these concepts, but in a safe space,” Ms. Miller said. “So, we balance a safe space with these tools, allowing them to go deeper to uncover the aspects that may be underlying their anxiety, depression, or trauma.”

Have Further Questions?

If you or someone you love have questions or would like further information about treatment for anxiety disorders, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida, can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

About Darbi Miller, MS, LMFT

Darbi Miller is a Licensed registered Marriage and Family Therapist. She has extensive training in Integrative Systemic Therapy however, does not believe one model fits all. Her approach is strength-based, collaborative, holistic, and geared to meet her client’s specific needs and goals. She works to truly understand each client and the systems that surround them. She believes therapy is a courageous step and feels privileged to bear witness to their journey. Through her authenticity, empathy, and compassion, she provides a safe space for exploration. Darbi works to integrate her knowledge into meaningful and collaborative sessions with individuals, couples, and families. Her areas of interest include walk/talk therapy, the mind/body connection, increasing relational self-awareness, high-conflict couples, and full family work. 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northwestern University, where she received academic distinction. She is also certified as an Eating Psychology Coach and a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. Darbi has worked in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, university clinics, and in-home. She also published an article in the Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy on conjoint sex therapy.

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coworkers gosspiing about another colleague

Post-Pandemic Social Anxiety: Simple Steps To Start Living Again After Covid

My colleagues and I have noticed a dramatic increase in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders over the past two pandemic years. While apprehension is a typical response during times of strife, as we return to more normal lives, many people have been caught off-guard to realize how uncomfortable they now are in social situations – especially if they were never fearful before.

And for those who were challenged with social anxiety prior to Covid, being distanced from others for two years was a blessing in disguise. They were able to stay in their comfort zones, skip distressing situations entirely, and avoid in-person interactions. Now that everything is changing, they worry about venturing out once again.

But, if we consider that we’ve been fairly sequestered from each other for such a long time, it makes sense that social anxiety is now present in so many people. Although strict social distancing measures were necessary, they helped us feel protected and stay safe, which makes it all the harder to let go and start interacting socially now.

In addition, many people experienced a great deal of trauma, uncertainty and fear during the pandemic. They learned to associate social situations with infection. As a result, they now feel vulnerable around others, and those helpless feelings will be hard to shake as the pandemic moves into the endemic stage.

Is It Normal That I Feel Anxious After The Pandemic?

Some emotional aspects of social anxiety involve perceived feelings of judgment and disapproval by others. Physical signs include sweating, a racing heart, difficulty concentrating, and feeling nauseous. For many, simply thinking about going out socially could bring on any of these symptoms or a combination of them.

Superficial differences also contribute to social anxiety, especially now. Some people have already dropped Covid protocols, but others will continue to hold tightly to safety measures, like mask-wearing and standing away from people. Consequently, those who don’t do the same may feel judged for their own relaxed standards.

For example, if they go to a social event unmasked, they may spend the entire time feeling extremely anxious around those who are wearing one. They might become nauseous or break out in a cold sweat when interacting with a masked person – even if they are surrounded by family or friends.

They may also have problems concentrating or focusing on conversations. Feeling confident in themselves could seem next to impossible when they are convinced that everyone is staring at them.

If this happens often enough or their reaction is strong enough, their anxiety might cause them to avoid social situations entirely. While doing so brings short-term relief, continuing to evade people over time can lead to isolation and a feeling of being disconnected from others.

How To Deal With Social Anxiety After Covid

Some of us will fill our social calendars in the coming months while others will struggle emotionally with the current relaxed social standards.

If you are feeling anxious about resuming a social life, don’t accept every invitation, at first. Remember that this is a time of transition for everyone. Be choosy about which social gatherings you attend, limit yourself to the ones that enforce similar personal protocols, and give yourself a breather in between them.  

The same goes for your return to the office. If you are able to be flexible, take baby steps when going back into the workplace. Perhaps you can go into the office one day a week for the first week or two, and then slowly increase your number of days from there.

If you can’t ease your way back into the workplace, reach out to others for support. Most likely many people you know will have already been in the office for a few weeks. Ask them how they handled their nerves when they went back. What did they do to cope? No doubt, they found each successive work day a little easier to manage as they got used to their old routine.

Be kind to yourself during this transition, as well. Keep in mind that, as is frequently the case with social anxiety, the anticipation is often worse than the actual event.

Try to eat a good diet, relax and do something you enjoy, and get a good night’s sleep the day (or weekend) before you go back into the office. Above all, avoid anything that might stress you and negatively affect your first days back.

Additionally, it is crucial to stay positive and optimistic, even when social interactions are difficult or uncomfortable. With time and patience, it is possible to manage social anxiety during this difficult period and eventually regain your normal routine.

If social anxiety is still causing significant distress or impairment in your life even after trying these strategies, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you explore other options and develop a treatment plan that works for you.

Did You Know? We’re a Regional Clinic for the National Social Anxiety Center

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.

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Lonette Belizaire

Lonette Belizaire, Ph.D. – Consult The Expert On Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) And Self-Care

Dr. Lonette Belizaire works with young adults in our Anxiety Center, as well as with children and teens in our Children’s Center. Her primary treatment approach utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a modality which helps people recognize and change their negative thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective in treating many mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Do negative thoughts and behaviors really contribute to anxiety? “The brain has plasticity,” Dr. Belizaire says. “Trauma, anxiety, and distressing life experiences actually create structural changes within the brain.”

She explains that when we encounter something that worries or scares us, or puts us on guard, the amygdala – a small structure within the brain – responds with a nearly instant message to our hypothalamus. This activates the release of stress hormones and heightened physical responses, along with building new neural pathways.

This is designed to keep us safe. These responses help us take action during a dangerous situation or an imminent threat, such as making us leap out of the path of a speeding car. “The fight or flight response is protective and good,” Dr. Belizaire says, “but at times we apply this response when we’re not in danger.”

“For example, someone who is anxious and facing a work project may have the thought “I can’t get this done on time and I’m going to be fired,” she explains. “The distress response from this negative thought can lead to the person stalling or avoiding the project altogether. However, with cognitive behavioral therapy, this person would learn how to challenge their negative thought and replace it with a more positive one, such as “I can do my best to complete this project on time.”

Exploring Thinking Patterns

The longer we focus on and worry about something stressful, the more robust those neural pathways become and the stronger we respond. This is involuntary, of course, but it means the key to calming anxiety is through destroying those negative pathways and building more positive channels. In turn, our positive emotions support the building of new neural responses that suppress the old, negative reactions.

“I begin by having my clients look at their thinking patterns. I want them to explore how they see themselves, others, and how they operate within the world,” Dr. Belizaire says. “Part of our work together involves identifying these patterns and working to challenge those distortions.”

“When working with adults, we may explore how early childhood responses to early attachment figures may still be operating in adult relationships,” she says. “Are those messages still in place? How do these responses show up across relationships, in both the past and present?”

The answers to these questions can be illuminating. “Sometimes this is the first time the person has thought of it this way,” she says.

Incorporating Self-Care

Along with traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, Dr. Belizaire often integrates self-care into her therapy sessions. Grounding techniques and mindfulness exercises help to refocus anxious responses and build positive neural pathways. “These techniques are aimed at the amygdala,” she explains.

“We know that self-care and self-regulating activities engage the physical to help the mental and emotional responses, so I try to find out what the client likes to do. What are their interests? Once I know, we incorporate regular self-care strategies in our work.”

For example, Dr. Belizaire may encourage yoga, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, meditation, or progressive muscle-relaxing exercises. When using visual imagery, “I may incorporate breathing exercises with visual imagery and have the client visualize breathing in calming white light or a calming word, phrase, or memory filling their body, and then exhaling black smoke, for example…or stress, anxiety and visualize it escaping their body with every breath.”

At times, she also gives “homework,” but it’s the kind that clients want to complete. “I’m not giving out actual homework,” she chuckles.

“Along with self-care homework, I may ask them to monitor their cognitive distortions between now and our next session, or implement a new sleep hygiene, or reward themselves after achieving a step towards their treatment goal.”

This self care work doesn’t have to be time-consuming either. “Something as simple as writing in a gratitude journal can help reframe your thinking more positively,” she says.

Just as with school-based homework or working out at the gym, Dr. Belizaire says that engaging in daily self-care exercises brings results.

“If you can learn to do them when you aren’t anxious, the habit kicks in when you are fearful, which helps ease your stress response. After all, when you are in those anxious moments, you are in fight or flight activated mode and you may not readily recall the strategies that will help reduce your stress response.”

In addition, a big step in reducing stress comes from being prepared for it. “If you can anticipate a trigger, such as an upcoming anniversary, exam, or anxiety-producing situation, you can prepare for it in advance, which can help reduce the stress during the actual event.”

We Are Here For You

Dr. Belizaire is primarily seeing clients through teletherapy right now. “There are advantages to telehealth, which includes scheduling,” she says.

One thing to keep in mind: “Teletherapy may not be appropriate for everyone and for every presenting concern,” she cautions, “but many people do benefit. Young children tend to do better with in-person interaction, but ‘tweens, teens, and adults all do well with teletherapy.”

If you are concerned that your child or teen is struggling emotionally or showing signs of anxiety or depression, we can help. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Belizaire or our other clinical team members, contact the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 496-1094.

About Dr. Lonette Belizaire, Ph.D.

Dr. Lonette Belizaire is a licensed psychologist with over 15 years of clinical experience working in a variety of treatment settings. She has worked with the gifted and talented child and adolescent school population, in college counseling centers, city hospitals and in private practice. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety, adjustment issues, interpersonal concerns, stress management, and bicultural identity. Dr. Belizaire’s approach is grounded in evidence-based treatment. She utilizes an integrative model that draws upon cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based interventions tailored to meet the client’s needs. She has found that building an awareness of the neurological basis of anxiety, how it is created and maintained in the brain, has also been particularly transformative for clients.

Dr. Belizaire earned her doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University, Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Miami, and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Stony Brook University. She has worked in some of the top institutions in the New York area including the Hunter College Campus Schools, Cornell University, and Pratt Institute. She is licensed in both Florida and New York.

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Nonie L. Craige, LCSW – Consult The Expert On Communication And Relationships

In our second Consult The Expert interview for March, we spoke with Nonie L. Craige, LCSW, a psychotherapist at the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders.

Our conversation touched on elements of communication, including emotional blackmail, narcissistic abuse, and how to respond to them. We also explored different temperament traits and how parents can learn to adapt to their children’s innate natures to create a healthier parent/child relationship.

“These are my passion areas,” Ms. Craige said, “because they help build self-esteem. Self-esteem is at the foundation of everything!”

Relationship Issues And Communication

The first area we discussed was emotional blackmail. “Back in the ‘90s, Dr. Susan Forward wrote a book called, “Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You,”” Ms. Craige said. “This book examined a very common, hurtful problem that affects our daily living and how we communicate.

Most of us are unknowingly being emotionally blackmailed at one time or another by someone we know and depend on. It could be our spouse, our child, our boss, or our friend. Sometimes, we can be the blackmailer, as well.”

I asked Ms. Craige for an example of emotional blackmail. “Let’s say your mother surprises you with a special dinner – on a night you have other plans,” she responded. “Mom calls you up, very excited to share this delicious meal with you.

You say, “Mom, I can’t come over tonight. I have tickets for a show.” Instead of her saying, “Oh I didn’t know. I should have asked you first,” your mom makes you feel uncomfortable. She says, “But, I made this meal just for you. I cooked your favorites! I thought we were close. I thought you wanted to spend time with me.” This is emotional blackmail, because she is pushing you to change your plans to satisfy hers.”

Ms. Craige says that emotional blackmail is not a matter of miscommunication or different communication styles. “It is about the imbalance of power and control. There are different ways to manipulate, but basically Dr. Forward’s book says that the tools of emotional blackmail are fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG). No relationship or communication should ever include FOG. It is unacceptable.”

Although emotional blackmail implies planning and being devious, Ms. Craige says it really is an impulsive act that’s done because of feeling insecure. “People say things to make you feel uncomfortable and use manipulation if they feel rejected, because it gives them power. When we do this within the dynamics of a couples or parental relationship, we change from a loving spouse or parent to a manipulator in order to feel safe and secure for the moment. We ignore why the person can’t do something and focus on why they should do it for us.”

Emotional blackmail is ultimately a form of emotional abuse, however, and can cause damage to the person who is being victimized.

Narcissistic Abuse In Relationships

How does emotional abuse correspond to narcissism? “The new buzzword right now is “narcissistic abuse,” Ms. Craige said. “Emotional abuse can look like narcissism, but it isn’t a true personality disorder.”

She notes that only about five percent of the population may be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The disorder includes such traits as requiring excessive admiration, lacking empathy, and having no interest in how others feel or what they need.

“The mother who makes you dinner and then says something to make you feel guilty about not coming to eat with her isn’t being narcissistic,” Ms. Craige said. “If she’s usually a warm, loving mom who is giving and caring, then she’s not a narcissist. She’s manipulating you about this particular dinner because she’s feeling rejected.”

“Keep in mind that you are allowed to feel very strongly about something and express those feelings without it involving emotional blackmail,” she says. “If there is no pressure or threat to make the other person feel bad, it is not emotional blackmail. If, in this case, your mother had said she was disappointed that you weren’t coming to eat with her, she would be voicing her feelings. It became emotional blackmail when she made you feel guilty and uncomfortable for not giving up your own plans.”

An emotional blackmailer wants to win at all costs. “If the person who wants something won’t give up, it is abuse. This abuse doesn’t have to come from a person with NPD.”

How To Remedy Emotional Blackmail: Being Assertive

“Assertiveness skills tie into standing up for yourself, but not being angry,” according to Ms. Craige. “Let’s be crystal clear – assertiveness is not being nasty, angry, sarcastic, belittling or nagging. There is no attitude involved in being assertive.”

“Instead,” she continued, “being assertive is sharing how you feel right now. If you are yelling at someone, you are being loud, not assertive. Being assertive is finding the right balance between expressing how we feel, with tact and not being aggressive. It is developing and acknowledging yourself, honing your communication skills and confidence about your message, along with control of your delivery and getting your message across. Don’t distort your message with angry emotions.”

We all have responsibilities we have to take care of. “Many women want to say no when someone asks for help, but they say yes, despite their responsibilities. Once you say yes, you take away your downtime and add stress to your life.”

I asked Ms. Craige how someone can assertively say no in such a situation. “If it fits your schedule, it is okay to help out, but if you can’t do it, then offer to help another time,” she answered.

“If you aren’t comfortable saying no, then don’t say it. Instead, you can offer to help at a later, more convenient time. Say something like, I do want to help, but today won’t work. How about Tuesday instead? You don’t have to give a hard no, but notice that this response is not angry: it gives you a way to say that you want to help without being pushed. And, it conveys that you have other things on your plate, but are willing to help – on your schedule.”

Whether it is your friend, spouse or your boss, when you are asked to do something you feel uncomfortable with, “You can simply say, “I feel uncomfortable about doing that. Can I get back to you?” Ms. Craige replied.

Parent/Child Communication Challenges

Ms. Craige also talked about communication between parents and kids. “The way we interpret and interact with the world around us is called our temperament, she said. “We are all born with different temperaments. Knowing the differences between them is very important for raising children and having a less stressful home life.”

“There are nine main temperament traits,” according to Ms. Craige. “Learning about them will help you understand how you, your spouse, and your children interact and will make life easier.  A child’s temperament is not a matter of right or wrong or a result of bad parenting skills. Each of us responds to the world in our own unique way.”

“For example,” she continued, “a parent might be a laid-back type who enjoys relaxing when they have down time, but their child might have an active temperament and enjoy being busy all the time. This can result in irritation for both. An important part of parenting is to reduce friction and frustration by adjusting to the child’s unique needs. A “goodness of fit” must be developed between the parent and child.”

What Is Goodness Of Fit?

Goodness of fit “influences the parent/child relationship and should be monitored and adjusted to by the adult’s behavior, not the child’s,” Ms. Craige said. “This is the bedrock for all areas of development. The parent/child relationship that is influenced by a poor fit between parent and child can disrupt the flow of the household, create unnecessary stress, and places the child at risk for developing other issues.”

Although there are nine temperament traits, we discussed what she considers to be the five most important ones:

  • Activity – is the child in constant motion or calm and relaxed? An active child bounces, jumps, runs, and is always moving even when sleeping, eating, bathing, etc. A less active child will enjoy sitting and playing quietly with dolls or reading books or drawing for hours. Be sure to give an active child more time to get ready, get dressed, to finish homework, and so forth, because they will resist being rushed.
  • Regularity – some children are predictable: they want to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom at roughly the same time each day. They seem to have their own internal schedule. Children who are not predictable may not want to eat at a scheduled time or may go to sleep early one day and want to stay up on another.
  • Approach – some children accept every stranger with enthusiasm and are eager to try new things. Children who are more cautious will hold back and may fuss when asked to do something new, start a new school, and so on. Don’t criticize a cautious child, instead be encouraging and give them time to observe, think about, and adapt to new people or situations.
  • Adaptability – some kids take new situations and people in stride. Others have a harder time. For the child who struggles with being adaptable, set routines, avoid unexpected changes, and give them extra time when switching modes. 
  • Intensity – How does your child react to different situations? Some react strongly and cry or yell when frustrated. Others work through them calmly and with a smile. Try not to overreact to the intensity of a strong reactor. You are not doing anything wrong, this child’s temperament is simply intense.

“Remember that what can seem like a negative temperament trait in childhood can be a positive one in adulthood,” she noted. “You might be annoyed to have to adjust the time for your son who is very methodical and slow when getting ready to go somewhere, but you’ll definitely appreciate his caution when it comes time for him to start driving!”

She said it is important to understand that temperament allows the parent to not take their child’s behavior personally. “What can seem like them intentionally pushing your buttons is often just the child’s traits driving their behavior. It’s not a personal affront.”

Never pit one child against the other, either. “Creating the idea that one child’s response is wrong and their sibling’s is right can create some very disturbing outcomes,” Ms. Craige said. “When it comes to temperament, telling a child to be more like his brother or sister is out of place. The other kid may be doing something more the way you, yourself, would do it, so you feel comfortable with how they are doing it. But this child likely isn’t doing it better than the other child, it’s just that you are more comfortable with their behavior.”

She finished by saying that a child should not be criticized for how they respond. “It is not an issue of being good or bad,” she said. “Remember that the individual response is not inherently wrong, it is most often simply a matter of innate temperament.”

We Are Here For You

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is using emotional blackmail to control your behavior, you can learn to counter their manipulation very calmly and put an end to this unhealthy pattern of communication. Remember that you have a right to set boundaries and, by offering options to help, will eliminate the dreaded word “no” that you don’t want to say. Likewise, parents who may be challenged by their child’s behavior may need some extra support.

Our caring professionals are available to help you on your journey to a healthier, happier life. Contact us for more information or call us today at (561) 496-1094.

About Nonie L. Craige, LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Work Therapist

Nonie L. Craige, LCSW is a licensed Clinical Social Work Therapist who uses a collaborative interactional approach to create a safe supportive environment during a time of expressed concern and stress. Using several different approaches including Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Ms. Craige focuses on enhancing self-esteem and core issues of anxiety and conflicts. Therapy includes enhancing assertiveness and healthy communication skills. Ms. Craige promotes this life changing journey with each patient as she helps you gain new insights and learn new tools with which to reduce or eliminate unhealthy anxiety.

Ms. Craige works successfully with adults who have experienced various forms of childhood and adult abuse. Whether it is emotional, physical, neglect or sexual abuse, patients will gain better awareness and control as well as freedom from self-defeating thoughts.

Ms. Craige received her degree from Adelphi University in New York. She also obtained training at the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry and Psychology and conducted training workshops at FORDHAM University.

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Covid Stress And The Pandemic’s Effects On Society: A Psychologist’s Observations

As a psychologist who treats anxiety daily, I’ve been in a unique position during the pandemic. I can distinctly see the difference the last two years have had on individuals, families, and society in general.

Right now, we are seeing so many kids in our Children’s Center, it is mind-boggling. Children have been struggling with online teaching, loss of contact with friends and peers, and the disruption of everyday routines – and it shows.

We are also seeing many more adults in our Anxiety Center. Parents are trying to juggle lost incomes, kids learning virtually at home, relationship challenges, and the illness or loss of loved ones. The family/children aspect is also a big concern for parents right now. They are very worried about their kids and the schools are, too.

I remember when the pandemic started. At the time, I told colleagues that this virus would have two parts to it. Of course, the first and most apparent part would be the medical aspect, because we knew some people would get sick from it.

The second part, however, was the mental aspect, because every one of us would be affected by it in some way. This could be due to personally contracting the virus, or a lost job, the death of a loved one, the stress of shut downs, or the upending of our normal lives. Even if we have somehow managed to escape the virus’ direct impact, we have become aware of this bigger force looming over and all around us, over which we have no control.

Pandemic Trauma Effects

The pandemic is malignant. It is evil, malicious, and malevolent. The virus infects indiscriminately. It sickens or kills the young, the old, the rich, and the poor. Knowing this does not sit well with us.

Usually, we have an inherent coping mechanism that helps us distance ourselves from a traumatic event. We are capable of feeling sad or upset about a tragedy, while being able to go on with our usual day-to-day lives. But, this virus, this pandemic, is so big and so menacing, it is impossible not to pay attention to it.

In my opinion, one of the best stories ever written about life and how we ultimately deal with tragedy’s fallout is the Wizard of Oz. In the story, the bad, malignant force is the Wicked Witch. Dorothy needs the wizard to protect her from the witch and send her back to her normal world.

After many challenges, she finds there is no all-powerful wizard, just a mere man hiding behind a curtain. Her hopes are dashed. She has to manage on her own. Like Dorothy, we are on our own as we try to cope with the upheaval of the pandemic, both as individuals and as part of society.

We entered this crisis relying on authority figures (our governmental leaders, the CDC, the World Health Organization, etc.) to help us navigate through the unknown, but this hasn’t turned out as well as we had hoped. The problem is that humans have dependency needs. As children, we relied on our parents to keep us safe. Today, our needs are not being met by those in authority.

No Escape From Covid Stress

Because we feel fearful and unsafe, we’ve begun lashing out at other targets – and finding them in our fellow sufferers.

Think of it like this: If you were lost in the forest, you’d want to be with others instead of alone. But if the group couldn’t find their way out within a reasonable time, its members would begin turning on one another. “It’s your fault we didn’t turn right, instead of left,” someone might say. Soon the group would be fighting amongst themselves and people would start doing their own thing in an effort to feel like they had some control.

This is being reflected in the infighting we’re seeing amongst ourselves lately. Unfortunately, it will continue to be a long term effect of the pandemic. Indeed, as we emerge from this crisis, we won’t suffer as much from the medical aspect of the virus, but from the societal and psychological factors that are the result of it.

I can’t stress enough how essential it is to get your head out of the news headlines. They are almost always negative, shocking, and upsetting, and that is not good for your emotional health. Dealing with so much trauma in the news and in our personal lives creates chronic stress and disillusionment. This is much like the battle fatigue we see in military personnel during a war. It wears you down.

In this case, though, we have no battlefield to come off of.

The fact that we literally have no escape only adds to the mental fatigue, apathy, anxiety and depression the world is dealing with. As in my forest analogy, it seems that no authority figure can make things better, so we’ve become defiant. As a result, there are fights on airplanes, vaccine mandate protests, trucker blockades, and mask and vaccine refusals.

Resiliency And Moving Forward

There is no easy answer for managing the emotional stress of the past two years. As we move forward and the pandemic recedes, however, the resiliency we have as humans will allow us to bounce back. People can basically recover from anything. I’ve seen it happen over and over during the past three decades as a practicing psychologist.

That doesn’t mean we’ll develop amnesia or that there won’t be long term negatives from the pandemic. Doubtless, some people will come out of this feeling kinder towards each other, while some will feel more entitled, selfish, and rebellious. Nature has a way of correcting itself, though. It is like a pendulum swinging: for every reaction, there is an opposite reaction. I am hopeful that our innate nature will help humanity to better cope going forward.

Clearly, we need to take care of ourselves during this time. As the pandemic drags on, many people have begun reevaulating their priorities. This is contributing to The Great Reset we’ve been hearing about. We’re examining the things that are important to us. We want something new in our lives, something better – be it a new career, a new relationship, or a new hobby.

So, I encourage you to take the time to do the things that make you happy. Spend time with family. Look deep inside yourself to figure out what you want going forward. Take what has happened and learn from it.

Become more spiritual in a way that is meaningful to you. Be more aware of time and how quickly it passes: use your time well. Go out and live, but don’t be irresponsible. Instead, use this experience to make your life meaningful.

Remember that the Japanese symbol for ‘crisis’ is the same as the symbol for ‘opportunity.’ So, find your opportunity and turn this crisis into something positive!

If You Are Struggling…

We can help. Whatever the difficulties you are facing, we are here to listen and offer effective solutions. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

About Andrew Rosen PH.D., ABPP, FAACP

Dr. Andrew Rosen received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Hofstra University in New York in 1975 and completed an additional six years of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic training at the Gordon Derner Institute in New York, where he earned his certification as a psychoanalyst in 1983. In 1984, Dr. Rosen founded the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida, where he continues to serve as Director and to work as a board-certified, licensed psychologist providing in-person and telehealth treatment options.

Dr. Rosen is Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). He is also a Clinical Fellow of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and a Diplomate and Fellow in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology (FAACP). He is an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, the Florida Psychological Association (FPA), and the Adelphi Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Dr. Rosen was appointed a Clinical Affiliate Assistant Professor at the FAU College of Medicine in November, 2021. He is a Board Member of the National Social Anxiety Center. He has previously served as president of both the Palm Beach County Psychological Society and the Anxiety Disorders Association of Florida.

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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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