phone playing a podcast

If, And How, Does Covid Shift The Themes, Styles And Goals of Psychotherapy?

One of The Center’s founders, Andrew Rosen, Ph.D. was recently a guest on The Experts Speak, a free podcast series from The Florida Psychiatric Society, to discuss some of the changes, themes, and pivot points that telemedicine and the Covid crisis have produced, and how it may modify – or not — the styles and goals of psychotherapy.

Listen to the full podcast here.

Professional Help For Anxiety

We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options.

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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back to school separation anxiety

Back To School Separation Anxiety During The Pandemic

As the 2020 – 2021 school year begins, many parents and children are experiencing a form of separation anxiety over sending kids back into the classroom during the pandemic. The beginning of the new school year can be threatening to a child during normal times, but the prospect of going into a situation where the coronavirus is likely to be present has raised anxiety levels in many families.

For parents who live in school districts that offer a choice between virtual or in-person learning, it can be overwhelming to make a decision over which is best for their child. Being safe at home means that kids who have special needs or who learn better in person will lose out on many learning opportunities, while children who are fearful of being in a classroom will struggle if they have to go back into the school.

All this stress can bring up separation anxiety and school refusal in kids, not to mention heightened school anxiety in parents.

Separation Anxiety And In-Person Schooling During Covid-19

Sometimes separation anxiety and school refusal come up for children after they have gone through an illness or an emotional trauma, such as moving from one neighborhood to another. In the case of the pandemic, however, illness and death is all we hear about on the news, so a child who may already be inclined to separation anxiety will only worry more.

Parents hardly fare better – in many cases they are having to choose whether to stay home with kids who will be learning virtually (thus, risking their jobs) or sending their child into a possibly contagious environment. Either way, the decision is distressing.

Anxiety Definition

An anxious child may develop a separation anxiety disorder if they show excessive concern about a separation from a parent or caregiver or from their home. Separation anxiety may also be present if they show anxiety about the separation that is inappropriate to their age or stage of development.

Even though it seems that separation anxiety is something that only children face, parents who are extremely worried about the safety of their child during the pandemic may also show similar symptoms. This could indicate their own anxiety disorder.

Emotional and Physical Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

Children and parents who have separation anxiety may have symptoms including:

  • Difficulty going to sleep, fear of the dark, and/or nightmares
  • Excessive worry about potential harm or illness happening to them
  • Children may be clingy, may fear being alone in a room, or may need to see a parent at all times
  • Adults may feel anxious about the child’s safety if they aren’t within sight
  • Avoiding activities that result in separation from the parent or child
  • Trembling
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches and/or nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Needing frequent trips to the toilet
  • Constantly imagining worst-case scenarios

If a parent or a child exhibits three or more of these symptoms for more than four weeks, they are likely to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder.

Separation Anxiety Treatment

While you can’t control the things that happen around you, you can learn how to control your responses and actions. When someone is being treated for separation anxiety, therapists try to help the person learn to identify and change their anxious thoughts. Then, they teach coping methods to help the individual react less fearfully to the situations that trigger their anxiety:

Remember – it is natural to worry, but you can learn to keep from going down the rabbit hole of fear by “naming” and identifying your thoughts. For instance, if you start to imagine your child getting sick in school, and then becoming sicker and sicker until you are picturing them in the hospital, noticing and labeling these thoughts as something less threatening (ie:”There go those Peter Cottontail thoughts again!”) often helps remind you that they are just thoughts. You are in charge of how you react to them.

Sometimes, however, self talk still can’t calm the fears and an anxiety disorder can begin. If you suspect that you or your child are developing an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible because the longer the anxiety continues, the harder it can be to treat.

We Can Help You Get Past Your Fears

To get more information and help for separation anxiety and anxiety disorders, 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 facemask amid coronavirus particles

Navigating The Pandemic Paradox

Sometimes it seems as if we’ve all become trapped in a movie that is playing out worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen before and has indelibly changed our lives. This time last year, people would have laughed if you’d predicted the shuttering of schools and businesses, that face masks would become a fashion statement, or that our normal lives would be turned upside down so completely. Yet, despite this upheaval, there are still good things that have come from the pandemic.

Is There A Pandemic Silver Lining?

One of the things I have been hearing a lot is how the pandemic has allowed people to step back and “reset.” We’re learning what is important to us. In many ways, this “time out” from our day to day schedules has brought us closer together.

One of the most significant changes are the family ties that formed or were remodeled once our hectic lives were halted. Parents and kids have finally been able to spend time as a family without extracurricular activities taking precedence. Parents who are working from home have extra time to interact with their children now that they don’t have to commute. Most children aren’t going off to summer camps or day camps this year, so families are vacationing together.

People have had the chance to start hobbies, adopt pets, and broaden their world by trying new recipes. They’ve been virtually visiting museums and art galleries, and finding creative ways to keep in touch with loved ones.

Carbon emissions are down thanks to reduced commutes. People are rethinking their careers, saving more money, decluttering, and finally working through their to-do lists.

Even silver linings come with stress, though.

The Pandemic’s Harmful Effects On Mental Health

There are clear concerns for people’s mental health as the virus continues to affect the world. Initially, the skyrocketing death rates made everyone anxious that they or a loved one could be the next victim. Then, stay-at-home orders magnified our sense of losing control. We saw this play out in the form of panic buying and hoarding. Lastly, the implosion of the economy and the massive layoffs and job losses have dampened hopes of a quick recovery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the mental health effects of all the stress that has come from coping with the pandemic could include:

  • Disturbances in our patterns of sleeping or eating
  • Problems concentrating
  • Anxiety about our health and that of our loved ones
  • An increase or worsening of mental health conditions
  • Deterioration of ongoing health problems
  • An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

  • Nausea and sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath or a rapid heartbeat
  • Headaches or an increase in migraines

Not everyone will have experienced these pandemic anxiety concerns because we all react to stress differently, but some people may be dealing with several of these challenges – particularly if they suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic.

Self Care For Pandemic Anxiety

  • Try to distract yourself. I know there are restrictions in some areas and more being put back into place, but you have online options for such things as cooking classes, music lessons, learning a language, yoga or meditation. Look up virtual options for visiting the museums you’ve always dreamed of or places you’ve always wanted to see (Google Earth and YouTube are great platforms for this).
  • Don’t scrutinize every physical symptom. This is allergy season, plus there are always summer colds out there. Remember that a cough is likely just a cough and not an indicator that you have COVID-19, especially if you have been cautious and isolating yourself from others.
  • Turn off the news stations. News reports can start catastrophic thoughts racing and dramatically increase your anxiety. By constantly watching news coverage of the pandemic, you never get a mental break. Remember that news reports are designed to make you tense and concerned – it’s what keeps you clicking on the news websites or tuning into to their broadcasts to find out what’s happening.  

Professional Help For Pandemic Anxiety

Sometimes, however, self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your anxiety seems to be increasing as the coronavirus pandemic continues, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or continue for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options.

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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Man looking hopeful

Psychiatrists Prescribe Medication, This Psychiatrist Prescribes Hope

A first time patient comes into my office. I attentively listen to their story, ask pertinent questions, order tests when necessary, make an assessment and recommend a course of treatment. The prescription of medication is often involved. Thankfully, most people get better. But why do they get better? Was it the medication, the talking therapy or just the “tincture of time?” I would like to think that it was my careful choice of medication while the psychotherapist will want to take credit for their role. I think that the honest answer is more than the sum of these parts. 

I would like to suggest that there is a component of treatment often ignored. It is the power of hope. Hope you say! What does this four letter word have to do with medical care? It certainly has no relationship to the tremendous advances in medical science and technology that exist today. I don’t want to minimize the power of medical science. But I contend that in fact the power of hope provides an essential component of the therapeutic process.

Maurice Lamm, a respected theologian has suggested that the ability to hope is uniquely human. He believes hope is what separates homo sapiens from other animal species. Our ability to look into the future and anticipate positive change is what sets us apart. Hope is everywhere, we just don’t know it. We tend not to even look for it. We are all too preoccupied with our internal ruminative self talk. Hope allows us to see beyond the here-and-now no matter how painful the present is. Unfortunately, most of us get stuck in our present circumstances and are unable to step outside of this black box. We just suffer.

We are not born with a negative hopeless mental set. Hope is actually built into our consciousness, we just don’t know it. In fact, hope is an adaptive and health-inspiring core component of the human psyche. It can be fostered but this requires an active effort on our part. It is blocked by anger, sorrow and despair. Our loops of negative self talk keep it hidden. The resultant hopelessness is extraordinarily painful and self perpetuating. 

This brings us back to the patient in my office. Most individuals present with feeling stuck in the emotional state that they present with. How to help this person access their own inner hopefulness? I have found that the first step is to educate the patient in an understandable manner, that he/she can take a healthy ownership for the illness and most importantly to take ownership for their treatment and anticipated recovery. This is in many respects a team process with the patient and I joining forces to combat their suffering. It is not until the patient recognizes that I serve only as a facilitator of recovery and that their ability to recover is an ember waiting to ignite. Education is the key. Knowledge about their illness and treatment opens the door to recovery. Recovery requires that I have an active partner in this alliance. 

Even if the initial course of treatment is not fully successful hope is buoyed by an open and honest discussion about the treatment to date and the rationale for the next step. It is empowering for the individual to be part of this process. It has been my experience that this active interaction between patient and myself maintains the installation of hope. One cannot just fill out a prescription for a medication. One must prescribe hope.

Get Hope Today

If you’re struggling with negative thoughts or anxiety, speak to one of our trained mental health professionals. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options.

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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anxiety words

Morning Anxiety – Starting Your Day Overly Stressed

Does your anxiety begin before you even hit the alarm button in the morning? Or maybe you are waking up early with anxious thoughts about the day ahead already coursing through your mind. Morning anxiety is common simply because stress is common, and it’s usually nothing to worry about. If you find that you are frequently anxious about the everyday tasks and situations that most other people aren’t threatened by, however, you may have developed an anxiety disorder.

What Are The Symptoms Of Morning Anxiety?

As with other forms of anxiety and anxiety disorders, the symptoms you may experience upon awakening with morning anxiety can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tense muscles, fast breathing, or a pounding heartbeat
  • Feeling irritable, on edge, restless, or “keyed up”
  • Racing thoughts or, conversely, you may not be able to concentrate or may find that your minds goes blank
  • Difficulty controlling your anxiety or stopping yourself from obsessively worrying

What Causes Morning Anxiety?

When you start the day overly stressed, worried, and with racing thoughts from the moment your eyes open, it’s pretty accurate to say that you are going through morning anxiety. The term “morning anxiety” isn’t a medical term, however it perfectly describes the crack-of-dawn distress that many people experience.

Why would you have anxiety before your day even starts? There are several possible causes:

  • Going to bed worried or waking in the night with anxious thoughts will contribute to morning anxiety.
  • Researchers have found that cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are highest within the first hour of waking, and then slowly drop during the day. This peak cortisol level can be even higher if you are already under stress.
  • When you awaken, your blood sugar levels are low, which can result in an increase in anxiety symptoms. Eating a food containing high protein first thing in the morning can help to lower your anxiety if low blood sugar is contributing to it.
  • Too much sugar and caffeine can also increase your anxiety, so be aware of what you eat when you first awaken. Again, aim for eating something with protein in it as opposed to starting your day with something like a cup of coffee and a sugary cereal.

Is Morning Anxiety Common?

Morning anxiety is more common than people think, however it should go away once whatever is worrying you has gone away. In other words, if you are worried about a job review, for example, your anxiety should resolve after you have gotten your review. If you are still very anxious after that or find that you are dealing with undue anxiety, worry, or stress in the morning, you may have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

When you have a generalized anxiety disorder, you worry uncontrollably and excessively about things like money, your job, family and health. If you have GAD, these worries will interfere with your daily life, creeping into your day to day activities and persisting for at least six months.

How Can I Stop Waking Up With Anxiety?

Many times you can stop morning anxiety through simple lifestyle changes. Get plenty of sleep, limit caffeine and sugar intake, and eat a healthy diet. Exercise helps to reduce stress levels as does meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness training.

You might also try challenging your negative thoughts. You can do this by stopping yourself and asking yourself if the thought is accurate. If you had a good friend who was worried about the same thing, what would you tell them? Would you think their fear was valid?

Another exercise to try is limiting your negative thinking. If you can’t stop yourself from obsessing about something, then go ahead and worry – for a 10 minute period. At the end of that time, get started on a task or project. The idea is to do something to distract yourself so you can stop focusing on your negative thoughts.

Practicing gratitude can also help. Keeping a journal of the things that make you happy and reading through it can be very helpful when you are stressed.

If these self-care tips aren’t working, it may be time to turn to a professional. Therapy for GAD and excessive anxiety can include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to learn new ways of thinking and reacting to circumstances that cause anxiety
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy to help you gain new insights into your feelings, behavior and thoughts
  • Mindfulness training
  • Group therapy
  • Sometimes short term use of medications may be prescribed

Get Help For Morning Anxiety

If your anxiety seems to be increasing or you find that you are experiencing anxiety upon awakening in the morning, you may have an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or persist for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options.

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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COVID Paradox

The COVID Paradox

Never before in modern memory has the human race been faced with such a stressful and anxiety provoking foe. The novel coronavirus or COVI-19 has resulted in untold emotional unrest and fear among all nations and peoples of our world. There has been a lot of talk about the “invisible enemy,” an RNA based complex protein that looks like a World War 2 anti-ship mine with spikes sticking out of its surface. We are informed daily by the media that young and old victims of this virus are ending up on ventilators for weeks at a time if they survive. To “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming our hospitals we have had to become socially isolated, settle in place in our residences, wear masks when going out and remembering to wash our hands and not touch our faces. And after three months of dealing with this enemy of grown ups we are now being informed that children who we believed were not at risk of being made seriously ill have suffered as cases of a strange multi system inflammatory syndrome much like Kawasaki disease began to appear at hospitals.

The reality of this plague is bad enough to fathom by any rational person. The facts we are presented with certainly evoke fear and apprehension. Our frontline healthcare providers who are by their profession somewhat desensitized to run-of-the-mill suffering as they treat patients with terminal illness, heart attacks, metastatic cancer or debilitating strokes, find themselves traumatized by the COVID crisis.

So what is generating this degree of emotional suffering? Much of it comes from the unseen enemy, this virus that is only visible under special microscopes. Some of it comes from the fact that its genetic structure is novel. No human being had been exposed to it prior to its appearance in Wuhan so our immune systems had no defense against its onslaught. It is extraordinarily infectious so that an infected person will infect several people in close proximity over time.

What is the paradox that I am referring to? Actually, there is more than one paradox. The first one involves the media explosion that began last century and has exponentially continued this century. We appreciate all the benefits from being plugged in 24/7 to social media, internet messaging and an abundance of television news all day long. The digital revolution that amazed us has also proved to be harmful to our emotional well being. Multimedia exposure during the COVID pandemic has been like watching a horror movie that never ends! What we valued and embraced has turned out to be a traumatizing process. If you check the Centers for Disease Control website for data on the influenza outbreak for the 2018-2019 season you will find that 35.5 million Americans came down with the flu, 490,000 hospitalizations resulted, and there were 34,200 deaths. Imagine if the media tracked the annual flu season like they have tracked the COVID pandemic. Every flu season would be emotionally traumatizing. We certainly don’t go into lockdown every year for the flu nor do we social distance. We do have a flu shot available, but data on its effectiveness suggests a 45% effectiveness this past season. Our advantage with influenza is that over time, all of us have had some level of exposure to this family of viruses imparting a degree of “herd immunity.”

This brings us to the core paradox. If we stay locked down and isolated indefinitely there will be no herd immunity developing. The concept of herd immunity means that if enough of our population is exposed and develops immunity to this virus, ongoing spread becomes very difficult. For example, smallpox, chicken pox, measles and mumps had been the scourge of society until the administration of vaccines essentially created a herd immunity.

We will eventually have an effective vaccine for COVID-19 but it will be some time before we will be able to provide mass inoculation. If there had been no COVID-19 social isolation our healthcare system would be over run, resulting in a tsunami of fatalities.

So the course that is being taken is to gradually open up our lockdown while we carefully prepare for future waves of illness. Be reassured that there will come a day in the not too distant future that this horrible virus will be no greater a threat than the annual flu. That time will come.

Connect With A Psychologist.

If you are experiencing anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are available for online services. For more information, contact the The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 496-1094.

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game tiles spelling anxiety

Is The Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Your Mental Health?

For months we’ve been hearing about the spread of the coronavirus and rising COVID-19 death rates. Some areas of the country have begun to slowly reopen, but others still remain either locked down or people are very restricted. While we tend to think of the virus in terms of health and physical illness, there is also a mental health toll to the fear and stay-at-home orders that have resulted from the pandemic.

What Are The Effects Of COVID-19 On Mental Health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the mental health effects of the stress generated by coping with COVID-19 can include:

  • “Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs”

We all react to stress differently, therefore not everyone will experience the same concerns. Some people, however, are dealing with several of these challenges, particularly if they suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic.

People who may have a harder time dealing with the mental health effects of the coronavirus are those who:

  • Are first responders, such as front-line doctors and nurses
  • Have loved ones who have gotten the virus (whether or not they have recovered)
  • Are already dealing with mental health concerns
  • Engage in substance abuse
  • Have been temporarily laid off or have lost their jobs
  • Are in abusive relationships
  • Are over age 65
  • Have chronic medical conditions

Anxiety Symptoms

When we are faced with the unknown, fear and anxiety can take on a life of its own.

If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are now having physical symptom, as well. Maybe you are having headaches or stomach problems. Maybe you aren’t sleeping well or are having trouble or eating. Whenever someone experiences new symptoms, worry and fear can quickly become overwhelming.

Anxiety can also become evident through psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Having trouble concentrating or insistently worrying about the virus
  • Being short-tempered with your family or others
  • Feeling like you are constantly “on edge”
  • Worrying that you are losing control

In addition to psychological symptoms, there are other physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

  • A rapid heartbeat and/or shortness of breath
  • Insomnia and problems sleeping, which leaves you fatigued
  • Headaches or an increase in migraines
  • Nausea, sweating, muscle tension

Reducing Stress And Anxiety During The Pandemic

These self-care tips can help you regain control and reduce your anxiety about the coronavirus:

Stop watching coverage of the pandemic: The first thing you should do is to stop watching the news and reading about the pandemic online. When something grips us with fear, it is sometimes hard to break away from the catastrophic thoughts that come along with it. By continuously engaging in news coverage, however, you don’t give your mind a chance to gain some mental distance from it.

Keep in mind that news coverage is often designed to be presented in a way that makes us tense and concerned. This is what compels us to click on the new report or tune into the television station – and it’s what keeps the reporters or news channels in business.

Don’t focus on physical symptoms: If you know a symptom of the virus is a cough, for example, it’s natural to scrutinize every tiny cough you have. But remember that there are other, more likely causes of a new physical symptom than the coronavirus.

This is also allergy season, which can cause a cough. You may have been around dust or be dehydrated, which could cause a sore throat. The point is that there are numerous reasons for many of the symptoms of the virus that are normal and not a result of being sick.

Do some stress reducing activities: Meditate, take a walk, sit on your patio in the sunshine, or try an online yoga class. Take one of the endless online classes and virtual museum tours that have popped up during this time of social distancing. Being active lessens the stress hormone, cortisol, and also serves as a distraction.

Additionally, you might focus on doing something you’ve been meaning to do, such as clean out a drawer or a closet, organize a closet, paint a room, or plant spring flowers.

Professional Therapy For Covid-19 Anxiety

Sometimes self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or if you find that a couple of weeks have gone by and you are still feeling more anxious than you think you should about the pandemic, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In that case, it’s best to turn to a professional.

They can help you sort out your fears and gain a new perspective. Just talking through your concerns may be enough to reduce them, however speaking to a therapist can benefit you in many other ways as you navigate this pandemic.

The vast majority of mental health practitioners are using tele therapy to aid their clients during the shutdown, as well as after reopening. With tele therapy, you can talk to your therapist from your home – there is no need to go into the office.

 If it is decided that you would benefit from therapy, treatment may include one or a combination of these:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy, which can help you get a better understanding of your anxiety and teach you ways to cope.
  • Mindfulness training, which teaches you to refocus your attention away from thoughts about your fears and your symptoms.
  • Medication, which is also sometimes used short term and in combination with other forms of therapy. If you would benefit from a medication, the therapist may prescribe it or your primary care physician could do so.

Virtual Anxiety Help

If you find that you are experience anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, overwhelming and disabling, you may have an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or persist for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today. 

Read More
game tiles spelling anxiety

Is The Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Your Mental Health?

For months we’ve been hearing about the spread of the coronavirus and rising COVID-19 death rates. Some areas of the country have begun to slowly reopen, but others still remain either locked down or people are very restricted. While we tend to think of the virus in terms of health and physical illness, there is also a mental health toll to the fear and stay-at-home orders that have resulted from the pandemic.

What Are The Effects Of COVID-19 On Mental Health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the mental health effects of the stress generated by coping with COVID-19 can include:

  • “Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs”

We all react to stress differently, therefore not everyone will experience the same concerns. Some people, however, are dealing with several of these challenges, particularly if they suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic.

People who may have a harder time dealing with the mental health effects of the coronavirus are those who:

  • Are first responders, such as front-line doctors and nurses
  • Have loved ones who have gotten the virus (whether or not they have recovered)
  • Are already dealing with mental health concerns
  • Engage in substance abuse
  • Have been temporarily laid off or have lost their jobs
  • Are in abusive relationships
  • Are over age 65
  • Have chronic medical conditions

Anxiety Symptoms

When we are faced with the unknown, fear and anxiety can take on a life of its own.

If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are now having physical symptom, as well. Maybe you are having headaches or stomach problems. Maybe you aren’t sleeping well or are having trouble or eating. Whenever someone experiences new symptoms, worry and fear can quickly become overwhelming.

Anxiety can also become evident through psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Having trouble concentrating or insistently worrying about the virus
  • Being short-tempered with your family or others
  • Feeling like you are constantly “on edge”
  • Worrying that you are losing control

In addition to psychological symptoms, there are other physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

  • A rapid heartbeat and/or shortness of breath
  • Insomnia and problems sleeping, which leaves you fatigued
  • Headaches or an increase in migraines
  • Nausea, sweating, muscle tension

Reducing Stress And Anxiety During The Pandemic

These self-care tips can help you regain control and reduce your anxiety about the coronavirus:

Stop watching coverage of the pandemic: The first thing you should do is to stop watching the news and reading about the pandemic online. When something grips us with fear, it is sometimes hard to break away from the catastrophic thoughts that come along with it. By continuously engaging in news coverage, however, you don’t give your mind a chance to gain some mental distance from it.

Keep in mind that news coverage is often designed to be presented in a way that makes us tense and concerned. This is what compels us to click on the new report or tune into the television station – and it’s what keeps the reporters or news channels in business.

Don’t focus on physical symptoms: If you know a symptom of the virus is a cough, for example, it’s natural to scrutinize every tiny cough you have. But remember that there are other, more likely causes of a new physical symptom than the coronavirus.

This is also allergy season, which can cause a cough. You may have been around dust or be dehydrated, which could cause a sore throat. The point is that there are numerous reasons for many of the symptoms of the virus that are normal and not a result of being sick.

Do some stress reducing activities: Meditate, take a walk, sit on your patio in the sunshine, or try an online yoga class. Take one of the endless online classes and virtual museum tours that have popped up during this time of social distancing. Being active lessens the stress hormone, cortisol, and also serves as a distraction.

Additionally, you might focus on doing something you’ve been meaning to do, such as clean out a drawer or a closet, organize a closet, paint a room, or plant spring flowers.

Professional Therapy For Covid-19 Anxiety

Sometimes self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or if you find that a couple of weeks have gone by and you are still feeling more anxious than you think you should about the pandemic, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In that case, it’s best to turn to a professional.

They can help you sort out your fears and gain a new perspective. Just talking through your concerns may be enough to reduce them, however speaking to a therapist can benefit you in many other ways as you navigate this pandemic.

The vast majority of mental health practitioners are using tele therapy to aid their clients during the shutdown, as well as after reopening. With tele therapy, you can talk to your therapist from your home – there is no need to go into the office.

 If it is decided that you would benefit from therapy, treatment may include one or a combination of these:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy, which can help you get a better understanding of your anxiety and teach you ways to cope.
  • Mindfulness training, which teaches you to refocus your attention away from thoughts about your fears and your symptoms.
  • Medication, which is also sometimes used short term and in combination with other forms of therapy. If you would benefit from a medication, the therapist may prescribe it or your primary care physician could do so.

Virtual Anxiety Help

If you find that you are experience anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, overwhelming and disabling, you may have an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or persist for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today. 

Read More
Coping with COVID-19

Coping With COVID-19

The virus pandemic has certainly had an impact on all of us. Not being able to meet with my patients in person has required a major clinical adjustment. Thankfully, telemedicine has provided me with the ability to provide necessary ongoing treatment. But I also know firsthand how difficult and taxing social isolation and sheltering in place can be.

What has made this viral illness so stressful? After all, we have been dealing with annual episodes of influenza for decades. We also successfully made it through the fears of the bird flu, SARS, and swine flu. What makes Covid 19 so special and so scary? Covid 19 is called a novel virus because it is a protein that is totally new to the world’s human population’s immune systems. Our immune systems therefore do not have the capacity to adequately fight off this infection. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially at risk. But 20 to 65 year olds are not immune from infection and risk severe illness if they are not cautious and follow CDC guidelines.

We can all agree that there are reasons to be fearful of this unique virus. We would all agree that sheltering in place and social isolation plays a role in our unease and insecurity. The inability to see loved ones and friends certainly takes a toll. Job loss and the subsequent financial stressors contributes as well. Lack of definitive treatment or a protective vaccine adds to our worries. But the level of emotional unrest seems to be much greater than what these issues would suggest. So what accounts for our level of apprehension?

It is my belief that our emotional upset and fearfulness is being fueled by an incessant level of media exposure, a 24/7 bombardment of our senses by vivid and at times sensationalistic accounts of the impact of this illness on our society. The negativity is inescapable. The drama can be horrifying. I do believe that we are being psychologically traumatized by the effects of this multi-sensory media explosion. Modern theories of post traumatic stress disorder have now implicated the impact of day to day low level traumatic experiences. We certainly deserve to be kept up to date, but non-stop communication of human suffering at this level can be seriously problematic.

So what can we do to minimize the stressors of these times? The answers are rather straight forward and simple. When the world around you seems out of control, frightening and foreign it is important to pay attention to our own personal world and life space. You may not be able to change what is outside of you but you certainly can have the ability to influence your own world. These are some basic guidelines to follow:

  1. Add consistency, structure and predictability to your day to day life.
  2. Go to bed at the same time every night and awaken at the same time the next day.
  3. Schedule exercise, studying, work (if you are lucky enough to still be working), meals, fun etc. at set times.
  4. Get outside while following CDC guidelines on a regular basis, even if it means sitting on a balcony or patio for extended periods.
  5. Do not allow yourself to isolate. Maintain social contacts through phone calls, video chats, emails, etc. Socialize with a friend or family member while maintaining the appropriate safe distance.
  6. Limit your news media exposure. Get the data you need to be adequately informed but don’t give in to the tendency to be a news voyeur. Sensationalistic news coverage can be addicting. Be careful and avoid over exposure.
  7. Attend to your basic activities of daily living that include your appearance and hygiene, maintaining healthy nutrition and caring for your living space.
  8. And most importantly, recognize that this period of difficulty and sacrifice will come to an end.

There will be life after Coronavirus. At some point in the near future, this virus will be treated no differently than the annual influenza virus. The same way that pharmaceutical companies formulate the year’s flu vaccine by taking into account the types of flu viruses prevalent that year, it will also include the coronavirus as part of the vaccine recipe.

The real challenge for the future will consist of what we can learn from this experience. How can we be better prepared? How can we improve our healthcare system and its inequities? How can we maintain the improvement in our environment that has resulted from reduced pollution, crowding overuse of natural resources? How can we return to person to person human contact and minimize communication through digital media only? How can the media learn to balance coverage with more hope and support? I wish that I had the answers. We shall have to wait and see.

For more information , please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or contact us here.

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Man wearing face mask

Stress Relief For Dealing With COVID 19 Anxiety

The worldwide outbreak of COVID 19 has thrown everyone into chaos. For starters, we’re all worried about catching the virus. Some of us are dealing with financial stressors due to layoffs. Then there is the strain of having kids and spouses at home 24/7. In addition, medical workers are caring for numerous sick and dying patients, as well as the fear of bringing the virus home to their families. For many of us, this sudden upending of the world we knew has led to unprecedented anxiety levels and an inability to cope with it all.

Taking Control Of Your Coronavirus Anxiety

We all have natural reactions to the fears and stressors in our lives. We want to feel better, so we turn to certain behaviors to try to settle ourselves down.

There are, however, both positive and negative coping behaviors. For example, exercise can be a positive coping method, while excessive drinking is a negative response.

How we choose to cope also varies because stress is made up of several components. Each aspect causes us to respond differently, yet they each can affect us deeply.

  • Psychological stress – The fight or flight response is activated under the psychological stress of fear. For some, there may be reactions in the body, such as a pounding heart, racing pulse, or headache. Others experience a cognitive response, including confusion or obsessively thinking or worrying about the stressor.
  • Physical stress reactions -If you have underlying physical conditions (irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, or asthma, for example), you may find those symptoms coming up more frequently when you are under stress. You also might be constantly fatigued or may have difficulty sleeping.
  • Emotional stress response – You may feel numb or, conversely, you might be jumpy or angry and find it difficult to turn off your fearful thoughts. You might also unintentionally withdraw from others as a way to protect yourself emotionally.

Self-Care For Coronavirus Stress

We can actually amplify our own responses by dwelling on our fears. While it is perfectly natural to worry and ask “why” or “what if,” fixating on trying to find the answers only increases our anxiety, which escalates our frustration and emotional responses.

To help reduce your anxiety about COVID 19:

  • Turn off the news – and especially don’t watch it right before you go to bed. If you start watching news coverage then, you are more likely to start your mind running again, which means you may ruminate on the upsetting facts and figures while trying to sleep. Instead, pick a time earlier in the day to watch news updates. Then turn off the news (or shut down the internet) and do something enjoyable to help your emotions settle down.
  • Do the same with emails and social media – try to compartmentalize these activities so that you aren’t constantly going back to them throughout the day. If possible, spend an hour on them earlier in the day (you may need to set a timer!), then shut them down. Don’t go back to them until the following day.
  • If your anxiety is waking you in the middle of the night, get up and write down your thoughts. It can be helpful for you to put pen to paper because the act of writing your fears and worries often makes you feel like you have gotten them out and can let them go.

The antidote to anxiety is to get out of your head and get into your body. Grounding exercises, like those used in mindfulness, can help you settle your physical body down and take your mind (or emotional body) out of the trauma.

By “settling down,” I mean to calm down into your body by turning your attention inward to the feeling of your breathing. In focusing on the physical, you distract yourself from the emotional component of stress.

Things that require the sensation of touch – like knitting, kneading dough, folding laundry, or exercising – can also help to let you turn the upsetting thoughts off so you can let them go.

Here is a simple mindfulness exercise to try:

  • Sit in a straight-backed chair, glasses off, eyes closed or using an unfocused gaze.
  • Put your feet flat on floor.
  • Feel your feet on the floor, noticing the connection between the soles of your feet and the floor.
  • The idea is to engage your senses, so make an effort to feel your legs and back against the chair and your shoulders opening wide.
  • Sit up, but don’t be rigid. Don’t lean forward or push back against the chair, just relax.
  • Breathe slowly and calmly. This activates the relaxation response because slowing your breathing tells your body that there is no reason for alarm.
  • If you notice any pains or twinges, just acknowledge them and let them go. Bring your awareness to just below your navel and try to feel your body from the inside out.
  • As you feel your body and center your thoughts on it, imagine the tension and energy of your racing thoughts coming down into your abdomen.
  • Now, picture this energy sinking down through your legs and feet and flowing out into the floor or ground below you. Simply focus on relaxing and letting go.
  • Let any thoughts that come up float by. Don’t give them any emphasis or attention. Don’t judge yourself for having them.
  • Take a few moments to enjoy the release of your tension. Focus on your slow breathing.
  • When you are ready to tune in to the world again, press your feet gently against the floor, wiggle around slightly, gently shake your hands and then open your eyes.

We Can Help You Feel Safe

If you try these ideas for self-care and are still struggling with anxiety, know that many practitioners are continuing to see patients virtually during the pandemic. If your stress is interfering with your daily life and has continued for longer than two to three weeks, it’s time to reach out and get the help you need.

For more information, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.  

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