Self harm or self-injury is the intentional wounding of one’s own body. Most commonly, a person who self harms will cut themselves with a sharp object.
Self harm can also include:
Generally, a person who self-harms does so in private. They often follow a ritual. For example, they may use a favorite object to cut themselves or play certain music while they self injure.
Any area of the body may be targeted, however the arms, legs, or front of the torso are the most commonly selected. These areas are easy to reach and easy to cover up so the person can hide their wounds away from judgmental eyes.
In addition, self harming can also include actions that don’t seem so obvious. Behaviors like binge drinking or excessive substance abuse, having unsafe sex, or driving recklessly can be signs of self harm.
There isn’t a simple answer for what causes people to self-injure. Although this extreme behavior may seem like a suicide attempt on the surface, it’s really an unhealthy coping mechanism.
People cut or hurt themselves to release intolerable mental distress or to distract themselves from painful emotions. Often, the self-mutilator may have difficulty expressing or understanding their emotions. People who self harm report feelings of loneliness or isolation, worthlessness and rejection, self-hatred, guilt, and anger.
When they attack themselves, they are looking for:
People who self harm often describe an intense yearning to injure themselves. Completing the act of mutilation and feeling the resulting pain releases their distress and anxiety. This is only temporary, however, until their guilt, shame, and emotional pain triggers them to injure themselves again.
Self harm occurs in all walks of life. It is not restricted to a certain age group, nor to a particular race, educational, or socioeconomic background.
It does occur more often in:
Although anyone may self harm, the behavior happens most frequently in teens and young adults. Females tend to engage in cutting and other forms of self-mutilation at an earlier age than males, but adolescent boys have the highest incidence of non-suicidal self injury.
Physical signs of self harm may include:
Emotional signs of self harm may include:
The first step in getting help for self harm is to tell someone that you are injuring yourself. Make sure the person is someone you trust, like a parent, your significant other, or a close friend. If you feel uncomfortable telling someone close to you, seek out a teacher, counselor, religious or spiritual advisor, or a mental health professional.
Professional treatment for self injury depends on your specific case and whether or not there are any related mental health concerns. For example, if you are self harming but also have depression, the underlying mood disorder will need to be addressed as well.
Most commonly, self harm is treated with a psychotherapy modality, such as:
Treatment for self injury may include group therapy or family therapy in addition to individual therapy.
Self care for self-harming includes:
If your loved one self-injures:
Are you engaging in self harm or is your loved one self injuring? Don’t wait to seek help – speak to one of our caring, compassionate mental health professionals today. Contact the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida for more information or call us at 561-496-1094.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines a person as having gender dysphoria when they feel strongly that they don’t identify with the biological gender they were born with, when it causes them distress, and when they have felt this way for at least six months. Although children as young as age four may express gender nonconformity, often a person isn’t aware of their gender dysphoria until they reach puberty and recognize they are not comfortable with the new changes going on in their bodies. Because this realization may take their families by surprise, some researchers have been recently exploring a new subset of gender dysphoria called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD). On the surface, ROGD seems to occur very suddenly and without the child having expressed any prior distress with their physical gender.
The term “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” has only sprung up within the past decade or so. ROGD has not been established as a distinct syndrome and this type of dysphoria has only been casually – but not scientifically – observed.
In ROGD, an adolescent or young adult who has seemingly always identified as their physical (birth) gender abruptly starts to identify as another gender. It is important to note that the child would not have met the APA’s criteria for gender dysphoria prior to this, nor would they have shown any discomfort with their birth gender. Moreover, often multiple friends within the child’s same peer group simultaneously begin to identify with another gender and become gender dysphoric around the same time.
A Brown University researcher recently published a study designed “to empirically describe teens and young adults who did not have symptoms of gender dysphoria during childhood but who were observed by their parents to rapidly develop gender dysphoria symptoms over days, weeks or months during or after puberty.” The study author, Lisa Littman, is an assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown’s School of Public Health.
For the study, Littman surveyed more than 250 parents who had reported their children developing gender dysphoria within a very short time period. Of these parents, about 45 percent noticed that their child had increased their social media use before announcing their dysphoria. They also told Littman that the child had one or more friends who had become transgender-identified around the same time as their child.
These findings led to Littman’s hypothesis that gender dysphoria could be spread, at least partially, by social contagion. She proposed that a child’s peers, coupled with information obtained from social media, could cause the child to embrace certain beliefs, such as the idea that feeling uneasy with the gender you were born with meant you were gender dysphoric. Because many gender nonconforming teens also push for medical transition to the gender with which they identify, Littman went further and suggested that medical transition could be a harmful coping tool in much the same way that alcohol or substance abuse are negative coping mechanisms.
Her hypotheses set off a firestorm. Transgender advocates aggressively condemned Littman’s study saying, in part, that it was methodologically flawed because Littman only interviewed parents and did not get input from the transgender-identifying children. They also called the study “antitransgender” and a denial of transgender affirmation while citing the fact that a person who is questioning their gender would naturally read up on the subject and communicate with supportive friends who had similar thoughts and feelings. Advocates also pointed out that a true gender dysphoria diagnosis requires evaluation by specialists, but the Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria study only required the parent’s perspective.
As a result of the criticism, Brown University withdrew their press release about the study. They also released a statement explaining their decision to conduct a post-publication re-review of Littman’s Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria study. They worried that the study “could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”
We know that gender dysphoria exists, but clearly more research is needed in order to settle the question of whether Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is real.
For those with gender dysphoria, early diagnosis, gender-affirming approaches by parents and family, as well as individual and family counseling can help the transgender person and their loved ones deal with the emotional challenges of gender transition.
Often, transgender people take some type of action to outwardly embrace the person they feel they are. They may change their name to one more aligned with the gender they express or may dress as that gender. Other options may include taking puberty blockers, hormones to develop the physical traits of the gender they identify with, or completing sex-reassignment surgery.
We know that people with gender dysphoria have higher rates of mental health conditions like depersonalization disorder, anxiety, depression and mood disorders, and suffer from an increased rate of substance abuse. They also have higher suicide rates, therefore it is important for them to seek mental health treatment. The objective of this treatment is not to change the person’s feelings about their gender, rather it is to give them a way to deal with the emotional issues that come with their gender dysphoria.
If you or a loved one are distressed, anxious, or depressed about your gender identity or worried about ROGD, we can help. Contact the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida for more information or call us today at 561-496-1094.
Stress surrounds us on a daily basis. From traffic delays to work projects, worries about finances or health, and news reports of world events, the demands of our everyday lives produce both positive and negative stress. Stressors (which are the things that cause your stress) can be physical, emotional, theoretical, or environmental. Even positive events like weddings and job promotions cause stress.
Whether negative or positive, one thing is certain – stress raises the body’s anxiety levels. When we’re under stress, the “fight or flight” response kicks in, raising blood pressure and heart rate, and sometimes causing you to lose sleep or feel like you can’t breathe. While this response usually subsides after the stressor is removed, a prolonged or permanent stress response can develop in someone who is under constant stress. It’s called toxic stress, and children can be affected by it just the same as adults.
The incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart problems, cancer and other diseases goes up when a child lives with toxic stress. Additionally, their chances of depression, substance abuse and dependence, smoking, teen pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted disease, suicide and domestic violence greatly increase. So does their tendency to be more violent or to become a victim of violence.
Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that when a child is subjected to frequent or continual stress from thing like neglect, abuse, dysfunctional families or domestic abuse, and they lack adequate support from adults, their brain architecture is actually altered and their organ systems become weakened. As a result, these kids risk lifelong health and social problems.
Of the 17,000 people who took part in the CDC study, two thirds had an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score of 1 or higher. 87% of those people had more than one ACE. By measuring and scoring ten types of trauma ranging from childhood sexual abuse to neglect or bullying and even divorce, researchers were able to assess the chronic disease risk for the study’s mostly white, middle class participants. Their results show that the problem of toxic stress isn’t limited to children who face poverty or to those who come from certain ethnic groups – children from all walks of life can have high ACE scores.
If you are interested in finding out your ACE score and what it might mean for you, go here.
Children who are exposed to toxic stress exhibit:
Research on children who face continued toxic stress shows they have:
Awareness is key to preventing and reducing toxic stress in kids. Now that we know about the effects of ACEs, many states have conducted their own research. Some cities have set up task forces and others are working with schools, pediatricians, daycare centers and the justice system to set up screening programs that can turn lives around.
Protecting children from toxic stress involves a multi-faceted approach that targets both the caretaker and the child in order to strengthen family stability. Treatment includes intervention and implementation of methods that decrease stressors and strengthen the individual’s response to stress.
As more programs are enacted, researchers are finding that children benefit even when the solutions are solely focused on their caregiver and not on the child. This is likely because the caregiver’s altered interaction with the child makes the child feel safer. Parenting classes, family-based programs, access to social resources for parents, telephone support and peer support are beneficial, as are cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness. Additionally, community-based programs like Head Start have been shown to be effective.
For more information about toxic stress and its effects on child development, talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. Contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
The nation has been horrified to hear about another mass shooting this week. For many in South Florida, however, the trauma surrounding school violence has hit particularly hard because it happened right in our own backyard. Many people likely know someone or know of a family with a child who attends the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Because of this, you might find it challenging to deal with your feelings about the event.
Keep in mind that it is normal to experience strong emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, grief, and shock – even if you don’t know someone who is personally connected to the shooting. You might also have trouble sleeping or concentrating and you may even feel numb when discussing the incident with others. All of these reactions are typical responses of trauma psychology.
It will take a while to move past this heartbreaking tragedy, but we have some tips for managing your emotions during this horrific time. Following these guidelines can help you build resilience – the inner strength that you can draw on when you’re exposed to trauma or adversity.
If you find you can’t move past this school violence or another traumatic event that has happened in your life, it may be beneficial to seek out a support group or turn to a qualified, licensed mental health professional in order to move forward. It is especially important to do so if you are unable to carry out the daily tasks of living, such as sleeping, eating, and other functions.
The Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorder’s Trauma Center has specially trained clinicians on staff to help those who are grieving or who have gone through traumatic situations. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
Children are referred for a psychological assessment for many reasons. They may have attention or behavior problems at home or in school, be subjected to bullying, be depressed or anxious, or have a learning disorder. Often when kids are struggling in school or seem to be behind their peers developmentally, a counselor or teacher will suggest the child undergo a psychological assessment.
The findings from this type of evaluation will let us know where the child excels and which areas he or she might need to address (for example: an undiagnosed learning disability). Dr. Ryan Seidman, the Clinical Director at our Children’s Center notes that, “Having your child evaluated can promote improvement in academic and emotional functioning.”
Psychological assessments are done by highly trained child psychologists who are specialists in their fields. These mental health professionals evaluate the child’s strengths and weaknesses, then work with parents and teachers to come up with an approach that will help the child progress.
These assessments aren’t like “actual” tests can be and they aren’t something the child can study for. In fact, it is best if the child is relaxed during the evaluation, so the assessment isn’t a “pass or fail” test.
During a psychological assessment, the psychologist will:
Psychological testing isn’t a quick assessment. The evaluation will likely takes several hours to complete and often involves more than one session to be certain the psychologist has all the details about a child. By putting this information together, the child psychologist comes to an understanding of where a child needs assistance and can develop strategies to help them reach their full potential.
When the testing is complete, the child psychologist will go over the results with the child’s parents. Keep in mind that the outcomes do not reveal everything about a child’s potential, abilities or skills. Rather, the evaluation is used as a way to learn about their “present functioning level” emotionally, in their school and home environments, how they learn, and their strengths and weaknesses.
The child psychologist will discuss areas in which the child does well and offer suggestions to help them improve in areas that need to be addressed. If the child is diagnosed with a learning disability, or a behavioral or emotional issue, recommendations will be made for ways to help the child manage that specific concern or problem.
By evaluating and understanding where the child has issues, child psychologists can provide positive coping strategies, reduce the child’s stress and enrich their competence and well being.
For more information about how our child psychologists can help your child with a psychological assessment, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.
October is National Bullying Prevention month. Organizations and schools use this month to raise awareness of school bullying, while working to prevent its impact on children.
School bullying is defined as the use of power to control another person. Bullying always intends to harm the targeted child – usually psychologically, but sometimes physically, as well. Additionally, bullying is carried out by the same person or the same group of people who repeatedly go after the same child. A child who is being bullied might be either unable to fight back against attacks or might have a hard time defending themselves.
The kids most at risk of being bullied are those who:
About 1 in 4 children report having been verbally or socially bullied at school and most bullying happens in middle school, although it can occur at any grade level.
While bullying can be verbal (teasing, name-calling, threatening someone) or physical (for example: hitting, fighting, or forcing a person to do something they don’t want to do), today’s children also face social bullying:
The symptoms of school bullying can be both physical and emotional. Your child may experience:
A child who is bullied may avoid situations and interactions with others that could actually be positive for them. The effects of school bullying can create depression and anxiety disorders in the child who is being attacked. Often this depression and anxiety will stay with the youth and follow them into adulthood. In fact, someone who was bullied in school is more likely to be the target of workplace harassment as an adult.
In all cases of school bullying, it’s important to seek help and report the incident as soon as possible. Ignoring the issue often makes it worse because the bully begins to think it is okay to continue hurting others. Additionally, the targeted child sometimes begins to believe what is being said about them.
StopBullying.gov offers the following suggestions to help stop school bullying. They say:
StopBullying.gov also lists things your child can do to stay safe in the future:
Additionally, child psychologists, such as the professionals here at The Anxiety Center, can work with your child to develop coping techniques that will teach them how to react in particular situations. Child psychologists can also help bullying victims rebuild their self-esteem and confidence so that future harassment can be avoided.
For more information about how we can help your child learn to defend against school bullying, contact the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, or call us today at 561-496-1094.
The Center for Treatment has team members from some of the top universities in not only the country, but the world! Dr. Andrew Rosen’s alma matter, Adelphi Universtiy’s Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies Studies has been ranked fourth worldwide among psychology and psychoanalysis schools by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR). Adelphi was ranked #4 worldwide with only the Columbia University, New York University and Harvard University departments of psychology ranking higher on the list. More than 26,000 degree-granting institutions were included in the annual ranking.
Find out more about Adelphi Universities achievement here.
If you are looking for psychological or psychiatric treatment, The Center for Treatment has a highly skilled staff that is ready to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
One of the hardest things for a new mother on maternity leave to do is go back to work after it ends. You carried your bundle of joy for nine months and have had time off from your job to bond with your child. After taking care of their every need, it can be difficult to turn them over to strangers at a day care center and be separated from your son or daughter for an eight-hour period or longer. And, even if you know the babysitter – maybe it’s your mother-in-law, a friend, or a trusted neighbor – new parents will still go through an adjustment period when maternity leave ends and mom return to their job.
The end of maternity leave means new routines and more work to do. Now you not only have to get yourself up and out to work, you need to get another person ready to go as well. There are clothes and toys, diapers, and possibly special foods or medicines to prepare and pack for the work day. The household chores still need to be done, not to mention tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, or trips to the pediatrician. Deciding which parent will take care of which tasks after the end of maternity leave can be a job all by itself.
Additionally, some new mothers go through postpartum depression. Returning to work can add to their symptoms of crying, mood swings, loss of appetite, the inability to bond with their baby, and the guilt that accompanies this type of depression. If your postpartum depression symptoms don’t lessen after two weeks or if they are getting worse, be sure to call your doctor. Postpartum depression can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two.
Some working moms experience feelings of guilt for leaving their child with someone else or feel inadequate for not being a “superwoman” capable of handling the stresses of a new baby, new routines, and a new “normal.”
For all the books you can find about expecting a baby or the period immediately following birth, there are few resources that address the emotions and anxiety that going back to work after maternity leave can bring up for a new parent. This period has been called the “fifth trimester,” a term trademarked by Lauren Smith Brody, a former Glamour magazine executive editor. She struggled with returning to work and ultimately wrote a book to help new parents manage their expectations. She describes the shift from maternity leave to working mom as “a monumental transition.”
One of the best ways to help ease this maternity leave transition is to set things in place before the baby comes.
It can be challenging to be a new mother going back to work after baby. One of the things working moms must do is find the balance that allows them to hold a job and maintain their pre-baby life, while also preserving their sanity.
If you are finding this more difficult to do than you thought, remember that the transition after maternity leave takes time. Give yourself an adjustment period. After this interval passes, if you still can’t handle it, it might be time to try working with your boss to discuss other options (example: working from home a couple of days per week) that can allow you to have a realistic balance.
If you have concerns about maternity leave and going back to work after baby or if you are suffering from the symptoms of postpartum depression, the therapists at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are there to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.