Sometimes it seems as if we’ve all become trapped in a movie that is playing out worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen before and has indelibly changed our lives. This time last year, people would have laughed if you’d predicted the shuttering of schools and businesses, that face masks would become a fashion statement, or that our normal lives would be turned upside down so completely. Yet, despite this upheaval, there are still good things that have come from the pandemic.
One of the things I have been hearing a lot is how the pandemic has allowed people to step back and “reset.” We’re learning what is important to us. In many ways, this “time out” from our day to day schedules has brought us closer together.
One of the most significant changes are the family ties that formed or were remodeled once our hectic lives were halted. Parents and kids have finally been able to spend time as a family without extracurricular activities taking precedence. Parents who are working from home have extra time to interact with their children now that they don’t have to commute. Most children aren’t going off to summer camps or day camps this year, so families are vacationing together.
People have had the chance to start hobbies, adopt pets, and broaden their world by trying new recipes. They’ve been virtually visiting museums and art galleries, and finding creative ways to keep in touch with loved ones.
Carbon emissions are down thanks to reduced commutes. People are rethinking their careers, saving more money, decluttering, and finally working through their to-do lists.
Even silver linings come with stress, though.
There are clear concerns for people’s mental health as the virus continues to affect the world. Initially, the skyrocketing death rates made everyone anxious that they or a loved one could be the next victim. Then, stay-at-home orders magnified our sense of losing control. We saw this play out in the form of panic buying and hoarding. Lastly, the implosion of the economy and the massive layoffs and job losses have dampened hopes of a quick recovery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the mental health effects of all the stress that has come from coping with the pandemic could include:
There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:
Not everyone will have experienced these pandemic anxiety concerns because we all react to stress differently, but some people may be dealing with several of these challenges – particularly if they suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic.
Sometimes, however, self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your anxiety seems to be increasing as the coronavirus pandemic continues, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or continue for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals. We offer both virtual / online and in-office treatment options.
For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.
Health anxiety disorder is underreported, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and possibly affects 12 percent of the nation’s population. (The group’s annual conference this week was nixed due to the coronavirus.) Those who suffer from the disorder are usually thought of as hypochondriacs or germaphobes.
The current alarm about the coronavirus could be hard on OCD sufferers, prompting them to overdo it even more than usual. However, some people with health anxiety may be coping better during the pandemic than individuals who aren’t used to worrying about sneezing and coughing and handshakes and other casual physical contact, says Andrew Rosen, who runs the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Fla.
The battle between wanderlust and fear affects tens of millions of people every year.
In this article from Conde Nast Traveler, Dr. Rosen of The Center for Treatment shares a few tips to help put your fears aside.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) has officially been declared a pandemic. Across the globe, people are being quarantined, cruise ships are being denied entrance to ports, and social gatherings have been curtailed. This has resulted in a stock market free fall and panic buying as people hoard food and products in case of their own quarantining.
As the count of infected people rises, the unrelenting news coverage can make anyone feel helpless. It brings up worry, stress, and fear. This is even truer for those who already suffer from anxiety and its related syndromes, such as generalized anxiety disorder.
In the face of a pandemic, the fear and anxiety about possible exposure to the illness can take on a life of its own.
If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are having headaches or stomach problems. You may begin to have trouble sleeping or eating, or can even have a panic attack. And, if you have generalized anxiety disorder, your worries and fears can rapidly become overwhelming.
Your normal anxiety levels might ramp up to the point that you:
Anxiety can also manifest as psychological symptoms, such as:
In addition to these psychological symptoms, there are physical symptoms of anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder. These can include:
While it’s understandable to worry about catching COVID-19, you may be able to calm your fears and lower your anxiety levels by doing the following:
It’s also good to remember that fear sucks the pleasure out of everything. Living in fear keeps you from enjoying your life – and it won’t change what happens in the world.
However, you are the only one who can choose whether to focus on the negative or whether you will look for ways to turn this into a “positive”. Be kind to yourself and don’t permit yourself to get wrapped up in negative news stories and worries about COIVD-19.
If, however, you use these ideas and are still stressed and fearful about the coronavirus, it might be time to speak with a professional to discuss more specific steps. Many offices, including ours, now have virtual options available, so that you can speak to someone without having to leave your home.
For more information on our virtual (or in-office) help for your anxiety about COVID-19 or for a generalized anxiety disorder, please 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.
It’s October and pink ribbons are popping up everywhere. While this time of year is good for reminding women to do their breast self-exams or get an annual mammogram, it also can be a month of great concern for women who suffer from health anxiety.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines health anxiety as “the misinterpretation of normal bodily sensations as dangerous.” It is the excessive fear of physical illness and women who have the disorder often find it difficult to cope with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For these women, every new twinge or tiny pain in their breasts likely signals cancer.
People with health anxiety may be so overwhelmed by their fears that they find it hard to live a normal life. They can spend hours online researching a symptom, convinced that a minor symptom is a sign of a serious illness. When October rolls around, the stories of breast cancer survivors may drive a woman with health anxiety to compulsively examine her breasts, positive that every small bump is a tumor just waiting to kill her. Or, she might feel something as innocent as an itch in her breast and suffer severe anxiety because she’s surrounded by breast cancer images on the news and on social media. And, like too many people with health anxiety, she may beg her doctor for unnecessary tests and spend an exorbitant amount of time and money visiting doctors in the quest for a diagnosis that will never come.
Health Anxiety Disorder is also known as hypochondria. Roughly 1-5% of the population suffers from health anxiety. It’s estimated that those with hypochondria use about 10-13 times the health resources that the average person does.
People who suffer from health anxiety:
While there are no easy answers, the people who are most at risk of becoming hypochondriacs tend to be worriers. They may strongly believe that being in good health means you have no physical symptoms or sensations. Frequently, they know someone with a serious disease or they went through a serious illness themselves during their childhood. Additionally, health anxiety can be triggered by the death of a loved one.
Often, patients with hypochondria are so resistant to the idea of having an anxiety disorder that it may take intervention from their loved ones to help them understand they need treatment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very effective for the treatment of health anxiety disorders. This type of therapy focuses on recognizing and understanding the false beliefs, thoughts, and actions that bring on the anxiety. Because people with hypochondria assign meanings to certain symptoms or sensations (“My breast is tender and that definitely means I have breast cancer”), CBT helps patients realize that it isn’t the symptom that causes the anxiety, it’s their reaction to the symptom that does.
By changing their mindset, a person with health anxiety learns to see a worrisome situation in a different way. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches them how to stop the negative behaviors that reinforce the disorder.
If you or someone you care about is overly worried about health concerns, it could be caused by health anxiety. Delaying treatment for hypochondria can cause complications such as depression and substance abuse, not to mention financial difficulties due to excessive medical costs or health risks from undergoing unnecessary procedures. Our compassionate mental health professionals are here to 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.
A hypochondriac is someone who lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them. Hypochondriacs experience extreme anxiety from the bodily responses most people take for granted. For example, they may be convinced that something as simple as a sneeze is the sign they have a horrible disease.
Hypochondria accounts for about five percent of outpatient medical care annually. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with health anxiety (also known as illness anxiety disorder) each year.
Hypochondria is a mental health disorder. It usually starts in early adulthood and may show up after the person or someone they know has gone through an illness or after they’ve lost someone to a serious medical condition. About two-thirds of hypochondriacs have a co-existing psychiatric disorder, such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or major depression. Hypochondria symptoms can vary, depending on factors such as stress, age, and whether the person is already an extreme worrier.
Hypochondriac symptoms may include:
· Regularly checking themselves for any sign of illness
· Fearing that anything from a runny nose to a gurgle in their gut is the sign of a serious illness
· Making frequent visits to their doctor
· Conversely, avoiding the doctor due to fear that the doctor will find they have a dreaded disease or serious illness
· Talking excessively about their health
· Spending a lot of time online, researching their symptoms
· May focus on just one thing: a certain disease (example: cancer) or a certain body part (example: the lungs if they cough). Or, they may fear any disease or might become focused on a trending disease (example: during flu season, they may be convinced that a sniffle means they’re coming down with the flu)
· Are unconvinced that their negative medical tests are correct, then worry that they have something undiagnosed and that no one will be able to find it and cure them
· Avoiding people or places they fear may cause them to get sick
Health anxiety can actually have its own symptoms because it’s possible for the person to have stomachaches, dizziness, or pain as a result of their overwhelming anxiety. In fact, illness anxiety can take over a hypochondriac’s life to the point that worrying and living in fear are so stressful, the person can become debilitated.
You may be wondering what triggers hypochondria. Although there really isn’t an exact cause, we do know that people with illness anxiety are more likely to have a family member who is also a hypochondriac. The person with health anxiety may have gone through a serious illness and fear that their bad experience may be repeated. They may be going through major life stress or have had a serious illness during childhood. Or, they may already be suffering from a mental health condition and their hypochondria may be part of it.
Often, when a person repeatedly runs to their doctor at the first sign of a minor symptom, their doctor doesn’t take them seriously and may consider them to be a “difficult patient,” rather than a person who is honestly concerned about their health. Worse, some doctors will take advantage of the person’s fears and may run unnecessary tests just to appease the patient. In fact, it’s been estimated that more than $20 billion is spent annually on unnecessary procedures and examinations.
Self-help for hypochondria can include:
Professional treatments for hypochondria include:
It is worth noting that many sufferers are unwilling to acknowledge the role anxiety plays in their symptoms. This makes them less likely to seek help from a mental health professional. Often, hypochondriacs are so resistant to the idea that they have anxiety that it takes intervention from loved ones to help them understand that they need assistance.
Being a hypochondriac and experiencing health anxiety can be debilitating. It can severely affect the lives of the people who suffer from it. The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are experienced in helping those with illness anxiety. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
Is there a link between vaccines and autism? This question has been at the center of an ongoing debate ever since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) began reporting that autism was on the rise in the United States and around the world.
Currently, about 1 child out of every 68 will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is classified as a developmental disability. Whenever there is an increase in a disorder or disability, people start looking for reasons for the change. Since ASD can be seen in a child as young as the age of two, research has focused on the factors early in life that might contribute to an autism diagnosis. From birth, children receive many immunizations, so fears have been raised of a possible connection between these vaccines and autism.
In particular, there have been concerns about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that had been used in MMR and other inoculations. Since 2003, nine studies have been conducted into the relationship between thimerosal and ASD, however the Institute of Medicine has determined there is no link between the vaccine and the development of autism.
In reaction to concerns about whether thimerosal in vaccines and autism were related, the preservative was either removed from vaccines or reduced to negligible amounts between 1999 and 2001. Today, this preservative has been limited to use only in multi-dose vials found in some flu vaccines. If you are still worried, however, you can request your child receive a thimerosal-free vaccine.
Additionally, a 2013 study by the CDC determined there is no link between vaccines and autism. It looked at the number of antigens (they help the body’s immune system fight disease) and found no difference between children with ASD and children without the disorder.
The CDC is currently conducting research to find out if autism has an environmental, biological, or genetic cause. There are many categories of disability along the autism spectrum and, at this time, specialists haven’t found any one specific reason for the development of the disorder.
We do know, however, that there are factors which can indicate a higher chance that a child will develop autism. These components are:
Although autism can affect either gender, the disorder occurs about 4.5 times more often in males than in females. It is found in every socioeconomic, racial, and cultural background, although it is more prevalent in white children than in African-American or Hispanic children.
People with ASD may have problems communicating or interacting with others, or may have difficulty focusing or learning. Additionally, early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder may include:
Although there is no cure for ASD, early intercession can reduce the severity of a child’s developmental delays and can teach them important skills. The earlier a child is diagnosed and begins treatment, the better their chances of reaching their full potential. ASD treatment and early intervention can begin as soon as 3 months of age.
If you are concerned about your child and the way they interact with you or others, the way they speak or act, or the way they learn, the first step is to call your child’s pediatrician and discuss your worries. Your child’s doctor can help answer your questions and, if alarmed, should refer you to specialists for further evaluation. Psychologists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and/or pediatric neurologists are specially trained to assess and diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Additionally, if you need a free assessment, you can contact your state’s early intervention programs. To find out more about your particular state’s Child Find evaluation, visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.
If you have questions about the early signs of autism, treatment and intervention, or have other autism-related concerns, the professionals at our child-focused department, The Children’s Center, can help. For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.