All Posts in Category: Child Anxiety

Helping Students with Anxiety Succeed in School (Regardless of the Format)

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Join our panel of five experts from around the US for a roundtable discussion on best practices for helping students with anxiety learn to meet their demands at school, gain confidence, and thrive. Top clinicians and innovative educators will share trends, insights, tips, and resources for professionals who work with students and their families. Bring your questions to this lively conversation that will help you better support students with anxiety.

Join Us:

Date: Thursday, January 28
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST

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educator teaching virtual classes

Distance Learning Tips For Parents

As the pandemic lingers, life as we used to know it continues to elude us. One of the most significant adjustments has required children (and parents) to adapt to the challenges of virtual learning. While we’ve become more adept at navigating through online studies by now, one of the things that kids still miss most in remote schooling is the academic and social enrichment that being in a classroom provides.

Remote learning can be difficult for kids in many ways:

  • They aren’t in a classroom where everyone is doing the same thing
  • They may not feel like they belong to a group
  • There may not be a rigid structure to their learning time like there is in a classroom
  • They may not feel supported by teachers who aren’t physically present.
  • They may not feel motivated to learn or complete coursework

Let’s face it, virtual learning can be tough for kids. In many ways, they have had to take on some aspects of their own education that they wouldn’t normally, despite the presence of an online educator.

How Can Parents Support Learning At Home?

One silver lining of remote learning during the pandemic is that kids can and will pick up new skills in a virtual environment. I am certain that while your child may have struggled with online learning at first, they are now pros at working with virtual platforms.  They are probably a little more independent, as well.

Although they have gained new skills, they may still be challenged by other concepts, though. For example, it can be difficult for kids to avoid the distractions that come with learning at home. Siblings, toys, and social media are all close at hand, competing to draw their attention away from their schooling.

For that reason, try to set aside a quiet space in your home that is just for your child’s education. This is their “classroom,” so to speak, so it needs to be a place with good internet or wifi access. Despite distractions, however, don’t close it off, as an adult needs to be able to monitor what the child is doing (and seeing online).

Be sure to check in with your child’s teachers regularly. This way, your child won’t fall behind on coursework and you can help them stay on track. You can also quickly address any negative patterns they may be developing, such as not turning in homework on time.

Keep in mind that kids need exercise and play time to stimulate their minds and release pent-up energy. If possible, encourage your family to take a walk after dinner. Or visit a nearby park, play board games together, or start a hobby that you can take part in together. This also helps children find balance between screen time and real world experiences.

Lastly, encourage your children to maintain contact with friends, but monitor their social interactions. Moving through a cyber world can make people feel anonymous, which can lead to kids bullying others or becoming the target of a virtual bully themselves.

Helping Kids Cope During The Pandemic

In addition to school related support, parents can provide other ways of helping kids cope during the pandemic:

Provide structure – Structure can make kids feel more in control because they know what to expect and when. If you have a smart device in your home, such as Google Home or Alexa, try using it to set reminder times for your child. For example, it can alert them that it’s time to logon to classes, time to do (or turn in) homework, time to get ready for bed, etc.

Also, keeping to the same eating, sleeping, and playtime schedules fosters a sense of security in both kids and adults.

Stay positive – Even if you are very worried about the pandemic or aspects of it, try to refrain from “what if” thinking. You may not realize it, but kids can pick up on their parent’s fears through their tone of voice and their body language, so do your best to stay calm and be reassuring to your kids.

Keep an eye out for changes – During the pandemic, watch for signs that your child is anxious or depressed. Let them know that you are open to discussing their fears or worries. Ask them how they are doing or if they are concerned about anything at school.

Have their sleeping habits changed? Are they not eating well? Do they have frequent headaches or stomach problems? Do they seem newly irritable or withdrawn? These are all signs of anxiety and stress that need to be addressed.

It can help to have kids “draw their feelings” on paper or express them through play. Such activities open the door for discussion and allow a child to let you how they are feeling even if they don’t know how to communicate it to you.

Take care of yourself – Lastly, be sure to support your own emotional and mental health. Many parents have lost jobs and are struggling financially. Some have found their own anxiety levels have increased for other reasons. The interruption of our normal lives and reduced social connections have led to depression in still other parents.

It can help to keep in contact with family and friends virtually. Also, try to get outside for both exercise and as a distraction. Meditate, use deep breathing exercises to help calm your thoughts, and try to limit sensationalized news coverage as much as possible.

If you notice significant changes to your or your child’s eating or sleep patterns, physical complaints, irritability or aggression, or withdrawal from the things you or they normally enjoy, it’s time to consider calling a professional.

We Are Here For You

If you are experiencing anxiety or depression due to the ongoing pandemic, we are here to help. Contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us at 561-496-1094 today.

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symbols of USA politcal parties

How Election Anxiety Affects Children

While the country waits for the official results of the 2020 election, anxiety is mounting. In this unprecedented pandemic year, the highly contentious and now unresolved election has raised everyone’s stress levels. With the topic being on everyone’s mind, there is no doubt that this election anxiety has impacted the nation’s children, as well.

No matter which side of the debate you land on, it is likely that the election has been a topic of conversation in your home. Shortly before the election, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a “Stress in America” Harris poll designed to gauge stress levels.

The results showed that the majority of Americans (68 %, in fact) faced a significant amount of stress about the presidential race, and this stress was felt across party lines. How much the pandemic stress has contributed is unknown, but it is clear that the hotly debated and at times, nasty, election has affected many people.

Results Of Election Stress On Kids

With so many adults talking about the election unknowns, their distress and fear is trickling down to their children.

Young kids may not understand the implications of the votes, but they will pick up on their parent’s stress even when parents try to shield them.

Older children who understand the election process may have become victims of bullying as teens take sides. Those who haven’t been harassed have likely felt a sense of loss of control or may have gone through arguments with peers who fall on the opposite side politically.

How To Help Kids Cope With The 2020 Election Anxiety

The first thing to do when helping your child through both election stress and the pandemic anxiety that has dogged us this year is to give them a safe outlet for their fears. Let them know that it is normal to feel distress over things that are out of our control. Tell them it is okay to ask questions or to talk about their emotions.

The next thing to do is to limit everyone’s news coverage and social media exposure during troubling times. Binging on news reports about the election recounts or debates about the outcome only serves to keep emotions running high.

Instead, do something together as a family. Get out the family board games, work on holiday crafts, take a walk, visit a park, or engage your children in other activities that they enjoy. The point is to take care of yourself and your children’s mental health first.

The election can also become a life lesson if you teach your children to respect other’s opinions and political parties. Help them understand that it is okay if people have different beliefs because we all have come from different backgrounds and experiences. Tolerance for another viewpoint does not mean they have to agree with it.

In addition, when the winning candidate is officially declared, your reaction can also be a life lesson for your kids. Showing them how to be gracious if your candidate won or how to respectfully accept defeat and disappointment if they didn’t teaches kids how to work towards a kinder world going forward.

Helping Children With Anxiety

For more information about how our mental health professionals and child psychologists can help you or your child deal with election anxiety, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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frazzled college student

Is The Pandemic Affecting Your College Student’s Mental Health?

Across the country, another year of college is in full swing. Although some schools have gone to strictly virtual learning in an effort to control infection spread among their students, many are combining this option with in-person classes, thus creating more potential for exposure to the virus. Also, many campuses are dealing with students who flaunt social distancing guidelines and gather for parties, which spreads it even more. While many young people were eager to get back to school after being fairly isolated during the summer, these seemingly reckless situations are negatively affecting the mental health of many students.

When the American College Health Association collected information for their Spring, 2020, National College Health Assessment, an average of 49.6 percent of the 50, 307 respondents reported moderate stress levels. Another 24.9 percent said they were experiencing high levels of stress – and that survey only included schools who had begun their data collection prior to March 16, 2020, when many states began shutting down. Today, those numbers are much higher.

In fact, according to a study done at nine public research universities across the U. S. and led in part by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), the incidence of major depressive disorder has more than doubled since Spring, 2019.

Anxiety Symptoms

There are several factors which can indicate whether your college student is suffering from anxiety. They may not have all these symptoms or they may only have a couple, so it’s important to talk to your child if they are experiencing some of these concerns.

  • Problems concentrating on coursework (or in general)
  • Distress about their own health or the health of loved ones
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Trouble sleeping
  • An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • A worsening of mental health conditions they may already have

There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

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

Self-Care For Student’s Mental Health

To help reduce the mental health aspect of college life during the pandemic, we recommend the following:

  • Know that this is temporary. At some point, we’ll have a vaccine and the pandemic will ease.
  • Meanwhile, stay connected with friends and family, either in person while safely social distancing or via a video application, such as Zoom or Skype.
  • Look for campus support groups, which will help them feel less alone.
  • Maintain a routine. As much as possible, they should try to get up or go to sleep on a schedule, eat at regular mealtimes, do coursework on a schedule, etc.
  • Set daily goals for completing assignments.
  • Set aside time to get outside. Getting fresh air, a change of scenery, and endorphin-releasing exercise can help to rejuvenate the mind.
  • Make time every day to do something they enjoy. It can be as simple as carving out time to read, do yoga or meditate, or write in a journal.
  • Limit online and social media time to avoid being sucked into the gloomy headlines that are so prevalent right now.
  • Know that it is okay to feel scared or angry, homesick, sad or anxious. But they should tell someone how they are feeling and if they seem to be feeling worse.

If these self-care measures aren’t enough to help your student with their distress, suggest they reach out to their campus’ psychological services. The campus counseling center likely can help through phone, telehealth or video platforms. This eliminates the need for your child to visit the center in-person.

We Care

If your college student is struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic, we also can help. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email The Center today.

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What is self-harm

What is Self Harm?

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:

  • burning or branding (using cigarettes, lit matches or lighters, or other hot objects)
  • severely scratching
  • hair pulling (trichotillomania)
  • biting themselves
  • excessively picking at their skin (dermatillomania) or wounds
  • punching or hitting themselves
  • head banging
  • carving words or patterns into their skin
  • excessive skin-piercing or tattooing, which may also be indicators of self harm

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.

Self Harm Causes

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:

  • a sense of control over their feelings, their body, or their lives
  • a physical diversion from emotional pain or emotional “numbness”
  • relief from anxiety and distress
  • punishment of supposed faults

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.

Who is At Risk for Self Injury?

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:

  • people with a background of childhood trauma, such as verbal, physical, or sexual abuse
  • those without a strong social support network or, conversely, in those who have friends who self harm
  • those who have difficulty expressing their emotions
  • people who also have eating disorders, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder, or those who engage in substance abuse

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.

Self-Harming Symptoms

Physical signs of self harm may include:

  • unexplained scars, often on wrists, arms, chest, or thighs
  • fresh bruises, scratches or cuts
  • covering up arms or legs with long pants or long-sleeved shirts, even in very hot weather
  • telling others they are clumsy and have frequent “accidents” as a way to explain their injuries
  • keeping sharp objects (knives, razors, needles) either on their person or nearby
  • blood stains on tissues, towels, or bed sheets

Emotional signs of self harm may include:

  • isolation and withdrawal
  • making statements of feeling hopeless, worthless, or helpless
  • impulsivity
  • emotional unpredictability
  • problems with personal relationships

Help for Self Harm

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:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify negative beliefs and inaccurate thoughts, so you can challenge them and learn to react more positively.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy, which helps identify the issues that trigger your self-harming impulses. This therapy will help you develop skills to better manage stress and regulate your emotions.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which helps you learn better ways to tolerate distress. You’ll learn coping skills so you can control your urges to self harm.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies, which can help you develop skills to effectively cope with the myriad of issues that cause distress on a regular basis.

Treatment for self injury may include group therapy or family therapy in addition to individual therapy.

 Self care for self-harming includes:

  • Asking for help from someone whom you can call immediately if you feel the need to self injure.
  • Following your treatment plan by keeping your therapy appointments.
  • Taking any prescribed medicines as directed, for underlying mental health conditions.
  • Identifying the feelings or situations that trigger your need to self harm. When you feel an urge, document what happened before it started. What were you doing? Who was with you? What was said? How did you feel? After a while, you’ll see a pattern, which will help you avoid the trigger. This also allows you to make a plan for ways to soothe or distract yourself when it comes up.
  • Being kind to yourself – eat healthy foods, learn relaxation techniques, and become more physically active.
  • Avoiding websites that idealize self harm.

 If your loved one self-injures:

  • Offer support and don’t criticize or judge. Yelling and arguments may increase the risk that they will self harm.
  • Praise their efforts as they work toward healthier emotional expression.
  • Learn more about self-injuring so you can understand the behavior and be compassionate towards your loved one.
  • Know the plan that the person and their therapist made for preventing relapse, then help them follow these coping strategies if they encounter a trigger.
  • Find support for yourself by joining a local or online support group for those affected by self-injuring behaviors.
  • Let the person know they’re not alone and that you care.

Need More Information?

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.

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Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Does it Exist?

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.

What is Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria?

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.

Why is ROGD Controversial?

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.”

Gender Dysphoria Treatment

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.

Get Answers about Gender Dysphoria and Rapid Onset 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.

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How Stress Affects Child Development

How Stress Affects Child Development

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.

What are the Effects of Stress on Kids?

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.

Signs of stress

Children who are exposed to toxic stress exhibit:

  • Poorly developed executive functioning skills
  • Lack of self-regulation and self-reflection
  • Reduced impulse control
  • Maladaptive coping skills
  • Poor stress management

Research on children who face continued toxic stress shows they have:

  • More trouble learning in school
  • More difficulty trusting adults and forming healthy relationships and an increased chance of divorce as an adult
  • Higher incidence of unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual experimentation and unsafe sexual practices, engaging in high-risk sports, smoking and alcohol abuse
  • Higher incidence of depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), behavioral disorders, and even psychosis
  • Poor health outcomes such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a higher suicide risk

Help for Toxic Stress

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.

Do you have Questions?

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.

 

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