All Posts in Category: General Mental Health

woman wearing mask

Are You Struggling With Covid Stress Syndrome Or Covid PTSD?

Those with mental health concerns often feel like they can’t control the world around them. Sometimes they may feel like they, themselves, are spiraling out of control. Now that we’ve gone through the last year and the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic, I think most of us can relate to those feelings in some way.

For many people, going through this pandemic means that trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has now become a part of their life. This can be for a variety of reasons.

Maybe you’re a front line worker who is burned out and mentally exhausted. You may have had the personal experience of having had Covid-19. Or, perhaps you’ve had to face the illness and/or passing of someone close to you, due to the disease. Even going through lock downs, losing jobs, and being separated from friends and family for long periods can wreak havoc on our mental health.

No matter the reason, anyone who witnesses or goes through the events surrounding a traumatic, life-threatening illness like Covid-19 may find they have anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress afterwards.

What Are The Effects Of The Covid-19 Pandemic On Mental Health?

Prior to Covid-19’s appearance, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about one in four people, worldwide, would suffer from mental health concerns at some point in their lives.

Now that we’ve all been so touched by the pandemic, the CDC estimates that around forty percent of us are struggling with mental health, suicide ideation or substance abuse concerns. Ken Duckworth, the CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) backed this up when he reported that, “data showed that about one in five Americans suffered from some sort of mental illness before the pandemic, and that number is now two in five.” 

In reality, these numbers are probably low, as the instances of anxiety, depression, trauma and stress-related disorders have been steadily rising as the pandemic drags on. Clearly, we will continue to see the mental health repercussions of this worldwide health crisis, even long after the world returns to normal.

What Are The Possible Mental Symptoms After Recovering From Covid-19?

When people experience trauma, it usually shakes them to their core, especially if they felt they had little to no control over the event. They feel helpless, they may experience flashbacks, or they may experience a persistent fear that something bad will happen to them again.

If you are someone who has had Covid-19, you may have recovered from the illness, but you might now have some lingering side effects. These can affect you physically or mentally, or both.

Possible mental health symptoms related to having Covid-19 can include:

  • Brain fog
  • Short term memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Not feeling “like myself”
  • Problems concentrating

Covid Stress Syndrome

If you lost a loved one to the illness, you are no doubt coping with grief, along with fear for yourself and others with whom you are close.

Even if you never lost your job, didn’t get sick or didn’t lose anyone to Covid-19, however, you still have been affected by the pandemic. The separation from those we care about, combined with shut downs, social distancing, mask wearing, working from home, changes to a child’s schooling, virtually non-existent travel, and other interruptions to our normal lives has affected everyone in some way.

Furthermore, these continued disruptions – without a known end date – have resulted in and ongoing Covid stress syndrome for many of us. As a result, some people are avoiding medical or dental services and healthcare workers altogether. They may be gathering (and possibly hoarding) PPE like masks and gloves, or be terrified to go into stores or anywhere that others might potentially expose them to the virus.

This stress may also be causing:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Angry outbursts
  • Changes to your eating patterns, such as not eating or over-indulging
  • New or increased substance abuse (tobacco, alcohol, or recreational drug use)
  • Chronic health problems may be getting worse
  • Pre-pandemic mental health conditions may be worsening

Covid PTSD Symptoms

Signs of Covid PTSD are similar to the signs of trauma that people experience after going through disturbing and life-threatening events, such as natural disasters, wars, or other serious medical diagnoses.

Even though emotional responses are part of a normal reaction to a stressful situation, trauma actually changes patterns in your brain. It causes you to carry the emotional distress long after the events have passed.

The symptoms of Covid PTSD can include:

  • Flashbacks to the event
  • Sudden, overwhelming fear for no apparent reason
  • Anger or irritability
  • Physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, sweating, or difficulty breathing
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feeling guilt or blaming yourself for what happened
  • Worry that something bad will happen again, to you or a loved one
  • Beginning or increased substance abuse
  • Suicide consideration

Covid PTSD Self-Assessment Quiz

Sometimes, taking a self-assessment quiz can be helpful. While taking a test such as this isn’t a substitute for the opinion of a qualified expert, it can quickly help you determine if you should seek help before your symptoms become overwhelming.

The following quiz has been adapted from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. If you suspect that you might suffer from PTSD, answer the questions below, please share these results with your health care professional.

Are you troubled by the following?

Yes No You have experienced Covid-19 or witnessed a loved one’s life-threatening Covid-19 event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Do you have intrusions about the event in at least one of the following ways?

Yes  No Repeated, distressing memories, or dreams
Yes  No Acting or feeling as if the event were happening again (flashbacks or a sense of reliving it)
Yes  No Intense physical and/or emotional distress when you are exposed to things that remind you of the event

Do you avoid things that remind you of the event in at least one of the following ways?

Yes   NoAvoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations about it
Yes   NoAvoiding activities and places or people who remind you of it

Since the event, do you have negative thoughts and mood associated with the event in at least 2 of the following ways?

Yes   NoBlanking on important parts of it
Yes   NoNegative beliefs about oneself, others and the world and about the cause or consequences of the event
Yes   NoFeeling detached from other people
Yes   NoInability to feel positive emotions
Yes   NoPersistent negative emotional state

Are you troubled by at least two of the following?

Yes   NoProblems sleeping
Yes   NoIrritability or outbursts of anger
Yes   NoReckless or self-destructive behavior
Yes   NoProblems concentrating
Yes   NoFeeling “on guard”
Yes   NoAn exaggerated startle response

Post Covid Anxiety Treatment

The goal of anxiety treatment is to get you back to a more “normal” world as soon as possible. Sometimes you can achieve this through self-care, however if your symptoms are affecting how you go through your daily activities or your emotional upheaval lasts longer than two weeks, it’s time to seek help through a professional.

Self-Care

Self-care includes:

  • Being kind to yourself – don’t criticize yourself for how you feel. It’s normal to have strong emotions when facing a life-altering event.
  • Eating nutritious meals
  • Getting plenty or restful sleep
  • Keeping to a schedule for eating, sleeping, showering, cleaning the home, etc.
  • Exercising – even as little as walking 15 minutes a day can help distract you, allowing a reset of your emotions
  • Limiting your news and social media consumption. News organizations make money when you click on their stories, so they are certain to post worst-case scenarios to lure you in. This keeps your emotions running high, which is why setting viewing limits can help.

Meditation or mindfulness is also very helpful for retraining the brain to be calmer and less anxious. In fact, studies show they actually help to increase your positivity and reduce negative thinking.

If you don’t know how to work with these modalities, you can find YouTube videos or books to instruct you. Also, there are a variety of phone apps that can help, including:

  • Calm (free for those with Kaiser insurance)
  • Headspace
  • Personal Zen
  • Mindfulness Coach

Professional Treatment For Covid PTSD And Anxiety

By working with a mental health professional who specializes in trauma, you can recover and learn to feel safe again.

Covid PTSD can be treated through two very effective therapies: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitizing And Reprocessing (EMDR).

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify and manage your distorted thoughts and beliefs about the event so you can replace them with accurate views.

Eye Movement Desensitizing And Reprocessing (EMDR) helps you process your trauma on an emotional level. This therapy is simple, yet studies have shown that it can help PTSD sufferers heal faster than through traditional therapy.

We Are Here For You – Through The Pandemic And Beyond

If you are experiencing emotional and mental health challenges during the pandemic or afterwards, our licensed, professional therapists are available to help – in person, online or through a video session. Our virtual platforms are highly secure, allowing us to maintain absolute confidentiality with strict non disclosure policies.

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

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virtual therapy

Will Teletherapy Continue After Covid?

Before the Covid 19 pandemic, the potential of telehealth and virtual therapy was just starting to be recognized as an option for the treatment of mental health disorders. Then, the world shut down and remote care exploded into universal acceptance.

In the months since, people (and insurance companies) have learned to navigate the ins and outs of virtual therapy. Once we are free to resume our normal lives, however, will this option go away?

What Is A Telepysch Appointment For Mental Health Care During The Covid-19 Pandemic?

In a nutshell, a telepsych appointment for mental health care is pretty similar to an in-person session – with a few convenient differences.

With telemedicine, the client talks to their licensed mental health professional from the comfort of their own couch, instead of going in to the office.

Clients can choose to see their therapist via an online platform like Skype or Zoom or they can take part in an online chat session via their phone or computer. They don’t have to worry about traffic or commuting to the office in bad weather – and don’t even have to change out of their pajamas!

Because there was often no other option during the pandemic shut downs, individuals who had been in therapy before covid-19 quickly adapted to virtual and online teletherapy. This allowed them to safely continue treatment at a time when stress levels were through the roof.

How Effective Is Teletherapy?

We already knew that teletherapy was effective before the pandemic. In fact, studies by the Veteran’s Administration showed that vets who suffered from PTSD and received counseling via videoconferencing did equally well, in general, as those who went to in-person appointments.

Other reviews have shown that children and adolescents who received teletherapy for substance abuse and eating disorders did as well with virtual sessions as they did in traditional settings.

Moreover, in a review of 24 studies on teletherapy, researchers concluded that, “Telephone-delivered and VTC-delivered psychological interventions provide a mode of treatment delivery that can potentially overcome barriers and increase access to psychological interventions.”

Risks And Benefits Of Teletherapy

Along with being able to receive therapy from the comfort of your home, there are other benefits to virtual and online therapy:

  • It saves time and money on commuting costs.
  • Allows the client to keep their session in the event of car trouble or transit delays and keeps them safe from possible covid exposure from commuting to a session via public transportation.
  • The client can talk to any therapist they wish. This gives them flexibility if they live in a remote area and allows them to keep the same therapist if they move to another city.
  • Removes the stigma of mental health therapy and provides anonymity (there’s no chance of bumping into a friend or neighbor as you are walking into a therapy session)
  • This type of therapy is accessible for those who have a disability or physical limitations.

As with anything, there are certain negatives to teletherapy, as well. They include:

  • Technology problems could be frustrating and result in rescheduling a much-needed appointment.
  • Distractions can reduce the effectiveness of the therapy session.
  • Insurance coverage may not be available for virtual mental health treatment, although many insurance companies have begun covering it since the pandemic.
  • Possible state licensing limitations if you wish to see an out-of-state provider. Some states will only allow an out-of-state psychologist or mental health therapist to provide services in that state for a short period of time (generally for less than a month).
  • Can reduce the facial and physical cues a therapist would pick up on if they were seeing the client in person. This may mean they may not get a clear idea of the client’s mood or thoughts, or the client may have a harder time expressing their emotions and concerns.
  • Lack of privacy for the client if others (for example, roommates or family members) are around when they are speaking with their therapist.
  • Providers may unknowingly be using a platform that is not HIPAA compliant.

Will Teletherapy Continue After Covid?

It is highly likely that telepsychology will continue after the pandemic is over. While clinicians and clients were slow to embrace the technology, once they were forced to do so out of safety concerns, most quickly adapted.

Now, both therapists and clients are seeing the benefits. Jeanine Turner, PhD., a professor of Communication, Culture & Technology at Georgetown University, says, “Last year, within weeks, the system had to absorb all the challenges of wide-scale adoption. Now, it’s taken off—and there will be no going back.”

One hurdle to get over may be that of health insurance coverage. While the major insurance carriers are covering telepsychology, some are starting to balk at covering it, despite the ongoing pandemic.

Also, many people have self-insured plans, covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which is not required to cover teletherapy. To combat this, the American Psychological Association (APA) is advocating to ensure coverage.

Our Teletherapy Services Are Here For You

If you need expert help during the pandemic or afterwards, you can talk with our licensed, professional therapists online or through a video session. Our virtual platforms provide the highest possible security to your personal information and allow us to maintain absolute confidentiality with strict non disclosure policies.

Whatever the difficulty that you are facing in your life, we are here to listen and offer effective solutions. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Our Search for Meaningfulness

The human brain is a curious organ. It is programmed from birth to actively search the world around us. As we get older and mature this search gets fine tuned and focused. We pursue education, friendships, hobbies, sports. Our quest for life experience allows us to learn about the world around us and just as importantly develop a better sense of our own identity. We progress from a period of knowledge acquisition (“knowing”) that can last decades into a prolonged journey that requires that we utilize what we have learned and productively participate in life. This “doing” often includes pursuing gainful employment and careers, raising a family, involvement in spiritual endeavors, development of hobbies, political involvement and altruistic pursuits.

Is there a common thread throughout the stage of knowing and the stage of doing? Both stages involve the presence of meaningfulness. Knowledge, employment, raising a family, friendships all invest humans with a sense of value and worthiness. Curiosity without meaningfulness leads to emptiness. Curiosity requires the attainment of goals and real-time accomplishments. Otherwise curiosity ceases and is replaced with apathy and malaise.

All of us need day-to-day meaningfulness to replenish and sustain our souls. A healthy sense of self thrives on it. The covid 19 virus has created an overwhelming challenge to life’s meaningfulness. Our pandemic world has led to anxiety, an overarching sense of helplessness, and problematic hypervigilance as we worry about getting infected. Covid 19 imposed social isolation has led to depression, hopelessness, helplessness and family stress.

How to cope with a world that none of us have control over? It is natural to experience anxiety in this scenario. Besides day-to-day meaningfulness, human beings have a need to be in control. The pandemic has brutally interfered with our belief that we have control. Social media, news outlets and politicians have contributed to our sense of helplessness by providing confusing messages and advice as we have tried to navigate this new world.

What can we do to make the best of this difficult life situation? When life around us appears chaotic and out of control, it is imperative that each one of us focus on our own personal worlds. This can best be accomplished by attending to day-to-day structure and routine. If you can’t influence the external world you certainly can control your personal life. Attention to sleep, nutrition, exercise, hobbies, family and friends, fun can facilitate healthier life balance during trying times. Meaningfulness can be derived from basic life interactions. This will sustain us through life’s travails until normality returns. And normality will return. Once normality returns, we will hopefully have become wiser and better prepared for the post pandemic world.

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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sad woman looking out the window

Pandemic Fatigue: How To Stay Mentally Healthy In The Covid Era

As 2020 draws to a close, many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue. We’re all tired of wearing masks and social distancing. Most of us just want to go back to traveling, enjoying time with family and friends, and the normal world we used to know. This is the time when it is so important for our mental health that we keep a positive outlook and not allow boredom and pessimism to creep in.

Often, when we get closer to the end of a trying period in our lives, there is the temptation to give up. After all, going through long stretches of a challenge can make it seem as if we are not making progress. In the case of the pandemic, isolation from our friends and family coupled with fear of getting sick and concern for loved ones just adds to our anxiety and stress.

Signs Of Pandemic Fatigue

Our emotions have been running on high alert for months now. Living under this elevated level of awareness without a break means we’re always in fight-or-flight made, resulting in pandemic fatigue.

Signs of pandemic fatigue can take several forms, including:

  • No motivation
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Not sleeping well or sleeping too much
  • Feeling irritable or on edge
  • Overindulging in unhealthy foods or skipping meals altogether
  • Substance abuse or increased use of alcohol, recreational drugs, etc.

What Can I Do To Feel Better If I Am Anxious And Scared About Covid-19?

If you feel like you are constantly on edge or overly worried about the pandemic, know that you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.”

This pandemic has not only brought disease to our front doors, it has given us other things to cope with, as well. Many of us are dealing with job loss and/or grieving the loss of loved ones. We may have new or worsening relationship challenges or financial concerns. Dealing with a pandemic is one thing, but adding these other stressors makes it much more difficult to cope. Be kind to yourself during this time.

One of the most helpful things you can do is to disconnect or limit your social media feeds and news reports. The constant news coverage of death tolls and illness can be demoralizing and social media posts can drive those fears to new levels. It’s enough to make us despair of ever getting our old lives back.

We recommend that you set a time limit for watching the news or reading news stories. In addition, set a goal that you’ll only check them once a day.

Likewise, we suggest backing off on your social media time and limiting your interaction to once a day for a reasonable amount of time. You may feel more anxious at first due to fear of missing out, but stick with it and you’ll soon see the positive results.

Another important thing to do is to stay connected to loved ones and friends, particularly those whom you trust with your concerns. Video chats and phone calls can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. They can also be great distractions.

Set a routine. Keeping to schedule sounds boring, but the structure it provides can help keep us from sliding further into our fears and depression. For example, if you maintain a meal schedule, you are less likely to skip a meal, which can add to your depression.

Try to distract yourself. Activities like meditation, mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques or writing in a gratitude journal can help to keep negative thoughts at bay. Likewise, scheduling time to exercise or get outdoors will contribute to positive emotions.

Now is a great time to learn a new skill, start a new hobby (or work on a current one) or take up a musical instrument. Indulging in something you enjoy takes you out of fear-based thoughts and provides a more meaningful outlook.

Covid Era Depression? We Are Here For You

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

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Is It Okay To Take A Break From The News?

The further we go through 2020, the crazier the year seems to get! The coronavirus pandemic is ramping up (again) and there are worries about more potential layoffs and job losses amid the new surge. Top these concerns off with the back-and-forth sniping over the presidential election’s disputed results and many people have begun asking is it okay to take a break from the news?

You bet it is! In fact, we highly recommend it, particularly to those who have already been experiencing heightened stress and anxiety due to the pandemic.

Does Watching The News Cause Anxiety?

In a word, yes. While you may feel that tuning in to the latest headlines keeps you informed, in reality, doing so causes information overload. There’s even a term for it – headline stress disorder. Although not an actual medical term, the phrase was coined by psychologist Dr Steven Stosny to define the high emotional responses one has after viewing endless media reports.

You see, by checking in and reading (or watching) the gloom and doom headlines, we begin to feel as if the world is on a roller coaster we can’t escape from. One minute we hear there may be a vaccine forthcoming, the next we hear that it may not be as effective as we’d hoped. Or we hear that the election has been called by the media, then we hear that the results are suspect and a recount is happening.

This rise of hope, followed by having it taken away only increases our anxiety and the feeling that the world is out of control.

On top of that, for those who have obsessive compulsive disorder, this constant checking of headlines and news stories can become a new ritual. They feel better while scrutinizing the news, which can reduce their anxiety if nothing has changed over the course of the day. But, it also triggers a cycle of compulsive checking just to be sure there isn’t some new disaster lurking.

Psychological Effects Of The News

In a 2019 article by Hoog and Verboon, published in the British Journal Of Psychology, the authors pointed to several studies that showed a direct relationship between negative news exposure and negative emotional states.

They report that “After being exposed to negative news reports, positive affect decreased, whereas negative affect, sadness, worries, and anxiety increased. Other studies have found indirect effects on psychological distress and negative affect through an increase in stress levels and irrational beliefs.”

Although researchers aren’t sure exactly what is at play that causes adverse reactions like depression or anxiety after habitually viewing negative media stories, they theorize that it has a lot to do with personal relevance.

To support this, Hoog and Verboon, pointed to studies of people’s stress levels as they related to the 9/11 attacks and also the Boston Marathon bombings. In both cases, people’s anxiety and PTSD levels were actually higher four weeks after these incidents than they were immediately after the attacks.

This is likely because of personal relevance. The authors noted that “…people who are anxious or depressed are more likely to focus on negative information or information that corresponds with their mental state (Davey & Wells, 2006), which in turn only increases their anxiousness or depression.”

How Do You Deal With News Anxiety?

Here are some self-care tips that can help you reduce your anxiety by giving you a way to regain control:

First, stop watching news coverage and limit your time on social media. As we’ve discussed, when something grips us with fear, it is sometimes hard to break away from the catastrophic thoughts that come along with it. By endlessly checking headlines and reading social media posts about current events, you don’t give your mind a chance to gain some mental distance from it.

Also remember that news coverage is written in a way that makes us tense and concerned. A fearful headline makes us click on it – and it’s what keeps the reporters or news channels in business.

Do some stress reducing activities: Meditate, take a walk, sit on your patio in the sunshine, or try an online yoga class. Or 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. Now is the time to get organized, clean out that cabinet, or try a new recipe or hobby. Staying active means your mind will be engaged by something pleasant, which will help to reframe negative emotions in a more positive way.

Therapy In A Safe Environment

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 current events, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In that case, it’s best to turn to a professional.

Often, just talking through your concerns may be enough to reduce them, however speaking to a therapist can benefit you in many other ways by helping you sort out your fears and allowing you to gain a new perspective.

If you are concerned about exposure to the coronavirus during therapy, most mental health practitioners now have tele therapy options available. With tele therapy, you can talk to your therapist from your home, so there is no need to go into the office.

We Are Here For You

To get more information and help for headline news anxiety, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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Telehealth

A Message About Telehealth Amidst COVID-19

We hope that you, your children and families are doing well in the midst of this unprecedented time. After carefully considering the CDC guidelines, we at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety & Mood Disorders have decided that we will no longer be conducting therapy in our office at this time.

In good news, we have the capability to conduct appointments either over the phone or via Telehealth. We are happy to keep all appointments during this time. If you already have a scheduled appointment but you would prefer to postpone your to a later date or an alternate time, we are happy to do that as well.

We greatly appreciate your understanding during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment at (561) 496-1094.

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How Meditation Benefits Mental Health

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years by cultures across the globe. It is only recently that Western medicine has discovered that the practice actually has physical and mental benefits, aside from just making you feel less stressed.

Studies done on meditation have shown that, physically, it can:

  • Aid your quality of sleep
  • Help you better cope with the emotional effects of chronic pain
  • Possibly reduce age-related memory loss
  • Manage or reduce symptoms of high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and tension headaches, among other things.

In fact, a 2014 meta-analysis done by Goyal, MD, et al., looked at over 18,000 meditation studies, eventually finding 47 that met their criteria for studies that were well designed, had good controls, and were  not based solely on participants who already felt that meditation had a positive benefit.

The results of this meta-analysis showed that the 3,515 participants experienced improvement in anxiety, depression, and pain, especially in those who practiced daily mindfulness meditation.

Meditation is also great for an individual’s well being and emotional intelligence. In fact, studies are showing that this ancient practice can have a positive impact on your mental health by actually changing the structure of your brain.

How Does Meditation Change The Brain?

In the brain, the amygdala controls the “fear centers” and triggers the body’s fight or flight response.

To find out if meditation changes the brain or if it only affects a person while they are meditating, a 2012 study by Debordes, et al, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to look at the brains of study participants. The researchers wanted to see “how 8 weeks of training in meditation affects amygdala responses to emotional stimuli in subjects when in a non-meditative state.”

The subjects underwent an MRI at the start of the study, so the researchers had a baseline to compare to. They then took part in an 8 week session of “either Mindful Attention Training (MAT), Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT; a program based on Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation practices), or an active control intervention.”

At the completion of the study, the participants underwent another MRI to look at their amygdala responses. While there was no effect in the control group, the researchers found:

  • A reduction in right amygdala activation when viewing positive images for those in the MAT sessions.
  • An increase in right amygdala response to negative images in the CBCT participants, which is associated with a decrease in depression.

The researchers stated that, “This finding suggests that the effects of meditation training on emotional processing might transfer to non-meditative states. This is consistent with the hypothesis that meditation training may induce learning that is not stimulus- or task-specific, but process-specific, and thereby may result in enduring changes in mental function.”

Can Meditation Help With Anxiety?

Anxiety begins with our fears about the future or our worries about our relationships and our daily lives.

One way that meditation can help with anxiety is by allowing you to stop focusing on the past or the future and permitting you to concentrate on the immediate present. In fact, being present in the here and now is the basis of mindfulness meditation.

By being mindful, we can learn to calm the emotion behind our worries and fearful thoughts and begin to stop reacting to them.

  • To begin a mindfulness meditation, focus on your breathing.
  • Take notice of the sensations you feel. Be aware of your breath flowing through your nose and into your lungs as you inhale and exhale. Feel your chest expand and contract as you breathe.
  • Take note of the room’s temperature, listen to the sounds humming around you, notice the smells or fragrances in the room, and your physical reactions (sweating, pulse rate, etc).
  • If you have an anxious thought, give it a name, but don’t focus on it. Instead, think “that is a fearful thought” or “that is a sad thought,” then take three deep breaths.
  • After releasing the last breath, try to gain perspective about the anxious thought. Was the worry or fear valid or was it actually something you might be making more of than it deserves? Could you possibly be jumping to conclusions with that thought? 
  • As you gain perspective, you’ll have a few seconds of calm that will allow you to release the anxious thought, so simply let it go and focus on your next breath.
  • Don’t judge yourself for having anxious thoughts. Once you notice them, gently return your attention to your breathing and repeat these mindfulness steps.

Each time you focus solely on the present, your mind gets a chance to relax so you can see things from a new perspective.

Although it’s likely that you won’t experience a total release of anxiety the first time you try mindfulness, you should get some relief from your worries. If you keep practicing, you will improve over time.

Is Meditation Good For Depression?

Depression is triggered by stress and anxiety and how we react to them, so anything that can help reduce these conditions should also help ward off depression.

Since even a short meditation can help prepare you to face a stressful situation (example: by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to calm yourself before going into a business meeting), it can also be helpful for tamping down the anxiety and stress that can lead to depression.

In an article from Harvard Men’s Health Watch, published by Harvard Medical School, Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital said, “Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious.”

He added that, “When you meditate, you are better able to ignore the negative sensations of stress and anxiety, which explains, in part, why stress levels fall when you meditate.”

As with anxiety, you won’t get total relief from depression after just one meditation session. “But with practice, meditation can help many people control how they react to the stress and anxiety that often leads to depression,” Dr. Denninger noted.

In Getting to Know Anxiety Drs. Rosen and Gross offer readers an overview of today’s challenging mental health issues and the most current treatment methods available, as well as practical strategies for mental and emotional self-care.

When Meditation Isn’t Enough

Although meditation can be helpful for keeping stress, anxiety, and depression at bay, if you find that your anxiety or depression are impacting your life on a daily basis it’s time to seek help. For more information, contact 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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What Is Overcontrol And Is It Contributing To Your Social Anxiety?

What Is Overcontrol And Is It Contributing To Your Social Anxiety?

One of the most quickly growing areas of clinical research and treatment implementation is for people who are considered to be overcontrolled. What does being overcontrolled mean, and what does it have to do with feeling socially anxious? The concept of self-control refers to the ability to inhibit problematic behaviors. This is generally accepted by our society as a positive thing to have! It is true that to an extent, being overcontrolled can be very adaptive and helpful. Overcontrol is associated with the ability to delay gratification, follow rules, and valuing accuracy and fairness. However, when these traits are very pronounced and overemphasized, they can become problematic and affect our mental health. It’s like having too much of a good thing.

Social and Emotional Impact of Overcontrol

There are common difficulties with people who have maladaptive levels of overcontrol. The first is low receptivity and openness. This can result in avoidance (a hallmark of anxiety disorders) and an aversion to having new or novel experiences. Also, there tends to be a strong need for order, structure, and rules. There is a focus on right and wrong, which we know is not conducive for more flexible thinking (which is important for decreasing anxiety symptoms). The third feature is reduced emotional expression and emotional awareness. This means that people who are maladaptively overcontrolled may not display emotions that one would expect (having a flat face when someone tells a joke), making it difficult for others to feel connected to them. The final trait that tends to cause difficulties for people is feeling a lack of closeness to others, and/or feeling different from other people. Loneliness and isolation are often experiences of those who are overcontrolled.

Given these features, it is not uncommon for people with chronic social anxiety to also be overcontrolled. The reliance on emotional and situational avoidance makes it difficult for people to learn new things (challenging their social anxiety) and feel connected to others. Their difficulty in successfully social signaling to others often results in them being disliked or rejected (a self fulfilling prophecy). People who are more overcontrolled also tend to engage frequently in social comparisons, which is also frequently observed in the socially anxious population.

Learning to Open Up and Connect

The most effective treatment for disorders of overcontrol (which include chronic depression, treatment resistant anxiety, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and anorexia nervosa) is called Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It is a skills-based protocol to help people struggling with overcontrol to be more open to experiences, and more emotionally expressive in order to connect with others in a more meaningful way. We are a social species, and when we feel disconnected from others, this impacts our mental health. RO-DBT is conducted both individually and in thirty-week classes. For more information, check out www.radicallyopen.net.

How to Get Help for Social Anxiety

For more information, contact 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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How Much Is Too Much? Technology, Screen Time, And Your Mental Health

It’s no secret that people are somewhat “addicted” to their screen time. Just look around you at any restaurant and you’ll see families and friends interacting more with their phones than with each other. The same hold true for almost anywhere you go: some people can’t even take their eyes off their screens when driving or walking, which has resulted in numerous accidents and deaths.

In a 2018 study done by the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of teens aged 13 – 17 said they were concerned about the amount of time they were spending online and on their phones. In fact, they were so alarmed about it that “Some 52% of U.S. teens report taking steps to cut back on their mobile phone use, and similar shares have tried to limit their use of social media (57%) or video games (58%),” according to the researchers.

Parents don’t do much better. The study reported that, “36% say they themselves spend too much time on their cellphone.”

Because of all the time spent watching screens, research is being done to find out the physical and emotional effects it might be causing for us.

What Does Too Much Screen Time Do To Your Brain?

Since phones and computers have only been easily accessible and affordable for people in the last thirty years or so, we don’t yet know the long term effects of screen time on the brains of kids or adults. But, we do know that, because children’s brains are still in the process of developing and growing, it seems likely that they would be affected by this technology.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study by the National Institutes of Health agrees. It has been following more than 11,000 kids, ages 9 and 10 years old, at 21 different areas throughout the United States. According to an article on Healthline, the initial results of the research show that:

  • MRI scans found significant differences in the brains of some children who reported using smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day.
  • Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

The scary thing is that it will take many more years to discover whether these effects are the result of too much screen time or whether the differences were from something else.

So, does that mean adults are safe from the adverse effects of too much screen time? Actually, no.

Today’s adults have been estimated to spend more than 10 hours a day in front of screens (Harvard T. H. Chan School Of Public Health). Because the activity is sedentary, this exposure has been linked, in part, to higher obesity rates (which can lead to diabetes) and sleep problems.

Additionally, when asked, 15 percent of adults reported that they were more likely to lose focus at work due to checking their cellphone, which is double the number of teens who have trouble focusing in class for that same reason.

And, the Pew Research study indicates that more than half of teens (51 percent) say their parents are “often or sometimes” distracted by their own phones while in conversation with their child, leading to feelings of unimportance in the child.

What Are The Emotional Effects Of Too Much Screen Time?

For kids, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are often the result of too much screen time. A 2018 population-based study by Twenge and Campbell showed that after an hour of screen time per day, “…increasing screen time was generally linked to progressively lower psychological well-being.” The researchers also noted that, “High users of screens were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.”

But maybe screen time isn’t bad if kids are texting or gaming together? After all, they are interacting with each other and developing social relationships, right?

Again, the answer is ‘no’. According to a Psychology Today article by Victoria L. Dunckley M.D., “…many parents mistakenly believe that interactive screen-time—Internet or social media use, texting, emailing, and gaming—isn’t harmful, especially compared to passive screen time like watching TV. In fact, interactive screen time is more likely to cause sleep, mood, and cognitive issues, because it’s more likely to cause hyperarousal and compulsive use.”  

In addition to the physical and psychological effects, too much social media time can lead to problems with social skills and their application, as well as a decrease in self-esteem – in both children and adults. Furthermore, kids can be bullied online while sitting right next to their parents and they can’t get away from it.

How To Limit Screen Time

For parents who are wondering how to limit their child’s screen time, the American Academy of Pediatrics set out updated media guidelines based on the latest research. They suggest:

  • For children under 18 months old, no screen time.
  • For children 18 to 24 months old, parents should choose only high-quality media and watch it with their child.
  • For children 2 to 5 years old, less than one hour per day of high-quality programming is recommended, with parents watching along.
  • Don’t use screen time as a way to calm your child down or as a babysitter.
  • No screens 1 hour before bedtime, and remove devices from bedrooms before bed.
  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child play times screen free for children and parents. Parents can set a “do not disturb” option on their phones during these times.

For adults who are trying to limit their own screen time:

  • As with the suggestions for kids: Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent–child play times screen free
  • Use phone apps to remind you when it’s time to stop using the phone
  • Turn off the majority of your notifications
  • Delete your social media apps
  • Stop using your phone as an alarm clock because it’s too easy to get caught up in checking for updates from friends, scanning texts, and reading emails if you pick up the phone to turn off the alarm

We Can Help Break The Screen Time Cycle

If you are concerned about your teen or ‘tween’s screen time amount – or your own – we can help you take steps to “disconnect.” For more information, contact 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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