All Posts Tagged: delray beach psychologist

coworkers gosspiing about another colleague

Post-Pandemic Social Anxiety: Simple Steps To Start Living Again After Covid

My colleagues and I have noticed a dramatic increase in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders over the past two pandemic years. While apprehension is a typical response during times of strife, as we return to more normal lives, many people have been caught off-guard to realize how uncomfortable they now are in social situations – especially if they were never fearful before.

And for those who were challenged with social anxiety prior to Covid, being distanced from others for two years was a blessing in disguise. They were able to stay in their comfort zones, skip distressing situations entirely, and avoid in-person interactions. Now that everything is changing, they worry about venturing out once again.

But, if we consider that we’ve been fairly sequestered from each other for such a long time, it makes sense that social anxiety is now present in so many people. Although strict social distancing measures were necessary, they helped us feel protected and stay safe, which makes it all the harder to let go and start interacting socially now.

In addition, many people experienced a great deal of trauma, uncertainty and fear during the pandemic. They learned to associate social situations with infection. As a result, they now feel vulnerable around others, and those helpless feelings will be hard to shake as the pandemic moves into the endemic stage.

Is It Normal That I Feel Anxious After The Pandemic?

Some emotional aspects of social anxiety involve perceived feelings of judgment and disapproval by others. Physical signs include sweating, a racing heart, difficulty concentrating, and feeling nauseous. For many, simply thinking about going out socially could bring on any of these symptoms or a combination of them.

Superficial differences also contribute to social anxiety, especially now. Some people have already dropped Covid protocols, but others will continue to hold tightly to safety measures, like mask-wearing and standing away from people. Consequently, those who don’t do the same may feel judged for their own relaxed standards.

For example, if they go to a social event unmasked, they may spend the entire time feeling extremely anxious around those who are wearing one. They might become nauseous or break out in a cold sweat when interacting with a masked person – even if they are surrounded by family or friends.

They may also have problems concentrating or focusing on conversations. Feeling confident in themselves could seem next to impossible when they are convinced that everyone is staring at them.

If this happens often enough or their reaction is strong enough, their anxiety might cause them to avoid social situations entirely. While doing so brings short-term relief, continuing to evade people over time can lead to isolation and a feeling of being disconnected from others.

How To Deal With Social Anxiety After Covid

Some of us will fill our social calendars in the coming months while others will struggle emotionally with the current relaxed social standards.

If you are feeling anxious about resuming a social life, don’t accept every invitation, at first. Remember that this is a time of transition for everyone. Be choosy about which social gatherings you attend, limit yourself to the ones that enforce similar personal protocols, and give yourself a breather in between them.  

The same goes for your return to the office. If you are able to be flexible, take baby steps when going back into the workplace. Perhaps you can go into the office one day a week for the first week or two, and then slowly increase your number of days from there.

If you can’t ease your way back into the workplace, reach out to others for support. Most likely many people you know will have already been in the office for a few weeks. Ask them how they handled their nerves when they went back. What did they do to cope? No doubt, they found each successive work day a little easier to manage as they got used to their old routine.

Be kind to yourself during this transition, as well. Keep in mind that, as is frequently the case with social anxiety, the anticipation is often worse than the actual event.

Try to eat a good diet, relax and do something you enjoy, and get a good night’s sleep the day (or weekend) before you go back into the office. Above all, avoid anything that might stress you and negatively affect your first days back.

Additionally, it is crucial to stay positive and optimistic, even when social interactions are difficult or uncomfortable. With time and patience, it is possible to manage social anxiety during this difficult period and eventually regain your normal routine.

If social anxiety is still causing significant distress or impairment in your life even after trying these strategies, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you explore other options and develop a treatment plan that works for you.

Did You Know? We’re a Regional Clinic for the National Social Anxiety Center

The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida is a regional center for the National Social Anxiety Center. Our certified therapists provide compassionate care and have specialized training in social anxiety treatment and virtual reality therapy. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED – Consult The Expert On How Virtual Schooling Is Affecting Children

The Center’s newest clinician, Dr. Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED, is an expert on the psychiatric concerns of children and adolescents. A former high school teacher, he has a unique perspective on how children learn and the societal skills they can only develop through social interaction with peers. Since the pandemic, what he has seen has left him genuinely concerned.

During these last two years, parents and kids have had to adapt to shut downs and periods of online learning. While some students do just fine with virtual classes, many more are struggling – not just with learning through an online format, but with the loss of the in-person connection with classmates. “Covid has really devastated these kids,” he says. “Though some children can do well in this environment, virtual learning causes an issue for most.”

“The virtual learning modality is basically a lecture modality,” he continues – and therein lies part of the problem. “What do you and I do when listening to a lecture? If we are honest, most of us listen to it in the background while doing other things, so we miss a lot of the information.”

“Children are no different,” he says. “From a developmental standpoint, it is clearly better for kids to attend in-person schooling, but the unfortunate reality is that we need to be worried about public health, as well. In many cases, virtual learning is all we have right now, but this isn’t workable for many kids.”

Loss of knowledge isn’t the only side effect the pandemic has had on the nation’s children. “Virtual classes have their place because kids need to be learning, one way or another, but it comes at a price,” he explains. “It is very obvious that our children’s socialization has been affected and will be for a long time to come.”

“At this point, we have lost at least eighteen months of socialization,” he says. “Society pushes the idea that we need others to validate us, so kids rely on social acceptance for much of their self-worth. Covid took away much of that.”

Even older teens are being challenged by this new world. “The pandemic has been very hard for kids who are transitioning to college,” he notes. “Life is drastically different for them, especially if they are having to do their first year of college virtually. They are missing out on the social aspects that help them adjust to college life.”

He is optimistic, though. For most kids who are struggling, “it isn’t too hard to stabilize them and they can do really well,” he says. “Counseling and working one on one with kids will make things better in the majority of cases.”

When working with children, Dr. Siegmeister believes in treating the whole person. Depending on the child’s individual needs, this may mean combining two or more treatment methods, such as using cognitive behavior therapy along with medical treatments if there is an underlying psychiatric concern. He also likes to take a team approach to treatment and frequently involves parents, teachers, or college faculty, so the child can achieve the quickest resolution of their symptoms.

As unlikely as it may sound, Dr. Siegmester says there is actually a silver lining to the pandemic. “Mental health is often swept under the rug,” he says, “but depression is now pretty pervasive in both children and adults and people recognize this. In fact, many so called “sick days” happen because the person is depressed and really needs to take a mental health day. The positive outcome from covid is that people are now much more aware of anxiety and depression because they’ve experienced it themselves. This means it has become much more acceptable to seek help.”

About Jerome Siegmesiter, MD, MaED. (Child And Adolescent Psychiatry / General Psychiatry)

Jerome Siegmeister, MD, MaED, is a South Florida Native. He has worked with clients of all ages, and believes that the whole person needs to be treated. Consequently, he evaluates all aspects of the situation, from medical to situational, to determine the best initial course. He has a background in both individual and group therapies, employing supportive, behavioral, and insight oriented approaches, as appropriate to best fit his client’s needs, as well as comfort with medical treatment of any underlying conditions that might manifest psychiatrically. He has significant experience in all forms of psychiatric issues, including mood symptoms, thought disorders, anxiety, phobias, attention deficits, behavioral issues, insomnia, compulsive disorders, emotional lability, substance abuse, and trauma.

Dr. Siegmeister graduated with his Bachelor’s from Florida International University, after which he spent a number of years teaching, and obtained a Masters from the University of South Florida in Career and Technical Education/Adult Education. Upon deciding to pursue medicine, he initially completed a Post Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Certificate program at the University of Miami, and then obtained his MD from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, staying there afterwards for his specialty training in Psychiatry, followed by a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where he served as Chief Fellow, and was awarded with a Research Distinction. After training, he has worked providing Emergency care, with additional work in inpatient settings, both in mental health and as a consultant to medical units at multiple hospitals. He is currently Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in both general Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons in Psychiatry.

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masked man with image of coronavirus in the background

Managing Pandemic Anger And Frustration

Earlier this year, we got a taste of our prepandemic lives when vaccines became available and Covid-19 cases decreased. People began to gather for social events again, we went back to our favorite restaurants, and travel resumed. Then the Delta variant emerged, and with it a lot of anger – mainly directed at those who are refusing vaccination.

As Delta continues to spread and there is news of the Delta-Plus and Lambda variants, we are facing the reimplementation of mask requirements and the possibility of closures and more interruptions to our lives. It’s no wonder people are angry and frustrated!

The Delta Variant And Pandemic Frustration (Why Do I Have So Much Anger All Of A Sudden?)

As we have transitioned through the pandemic, we’ve all had to quickly adapt to the almost-weekly changes the virus has laid at our feet. Many of us were already struggling with mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or anxiety, before we ever heard of Covid-19. In the last year and a half, mental health concerns have continued to rise as we’ve gone through shut downs, job loss, illness in ourselves or loved ones, and more deaths than we thought possible in such a short time.

As a result, we now feel exceedingly unsafe   – both in our daily lives and as we look forward into the coming months. Will we be able to be with loved ones during the holidays? Will we be able to work? To travel? To go into a store without worrying about catching a variant?

Unfortunately, the news media and social media have stoked our insecurities by sensationalizing information. Misinformation, confusion, and conspiracy theories have overtaken logic and science.

We’ve had so much waffling from experts about the correct procedures to keep us safe that it’s no wonder many people have given up trusting news reports. For example, at first the CDC said we didn’t need to wear masks, then everyone from two years and up was required to wear one. This spring, the CDC announced that we could drop mask wearing if we got vaccinated, now everyone is being told to wear a mask despite their vaccine status.

This back-and-forth has added to our frustration. One recent study by Serafini, et al reports that, “the poor or inadequate information from public health authorities may be a significant stressor because it provides inappropriate guidelines concerning call for actions…”

Is Pandemic Anger A Recognized Condition Now?

While not necessarily an “official” condition, pandemic anger is being recognized by mental health professionals the world over. There is even an unofficial term for it, patterned after a candy bar commercial: pandemic + angry = “pangry.”

Being pangry is understandable. Recently, we had restrictions lifted and “normal” life dangled in front of us by the CDC’s dropping of mask requirements and the promise of the new vaccines. Thus, we dared to hope we could put the pandemic behind us, but now emerging virus variants are changing that once again.

Officials are increasingly laying blame for rising cases at the feet of the unvaccinated. For the vaccinated who “did their part” by taking the jabs, resentment is building against those whom they feel aren’t doing their part to stop the spread of the virus.

Conversely, some of the unvaccinated don’t see the need to get the vaccine because they have acquired natural antibodies through their own Covid illness. Others may not trust what they are being told about the safety of the new type of vaccine and its mRNA delivery.

While this mistrust and confusion is understandable, many vaccinated folks are making decisions to stop seeing friends or loved one who aren’t complying with vaccination pleas, while the unvaccinated feel their rights are being trampled upon.

Dr. Hans Steiger, Professor Emeritus of Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, states that, “The COVID situation does present us with unprecedented challenges which interfere unrelentingly with all our lives. Social isolation may be the best tool to keep the virus under control, but this clashes directly with the need for social interventions helping us resolve anger and rage when being at the mercy of injustice and uncertainty. In such conflicts we need to remind ourselves that diatribes, lies and accusations will not move us forward; compassion empathy and the reminder that we are all in this horrible situation together will inspire us. Because in the end all of us can contribute to finding solutions to the problem.”

What Can I Do To Feel Better If I’m Feeling Anxious And Scared About COVID-19?

There are several things you can do to help reduce your anger and fear about the ongoing pandemic:

  • Don’t let social media make your decisions for you. Social media comes to us filtered through the agenda of the person who posted it, so limit your exposure.
  • Don’t let politics or partisanship influence your emotions too much. They will counteract logic instead of helping us see our needs clearly.
  • Be kind in your judgments of others and their reasons for choosing to get vaccinated or not. You do not know their story. Perhaps they have a medical complication that precludes vaccination. Perhaps they saw or lost ill loved ones, making them adamantly pro-vaccines.
  • Eat nutritious foods and get the best quality sleep you can.
  • Begin or strengthen a meditation or mindfulness practice. These calming techniques help you become more resilient, which allows you to face your stressors more positively.
  • Focus on finding balance in your life, through such activities and getting outside in nature, getting regular exercise, indulging in a favorite hobby or starting a new one.
  • Maintain some social interaction either virtually or through safely distanced, masked in-person contact. Being with others is vitally important; isolation breeds depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

We Can Help

If you are experiencing emotional and mental health challenges during the pandemic or afterwards, our licensed therapists are available to help with your needs. We offer in-person sessions as well as video sessions. All conversations remain confidential under strict non-disclosure policies so that we can maintain absolute privacy while offering effective solutions.

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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Resilience

Resilience

What is resilience? Resilience is something we all want, few of us practice and most of us have little idea as to what it is. We go through our lives in lock-step dealing with life’s numerous pitfalls and challenges without an understanding of the impact that stress has on our bodies and psyche. Resilience represents an individual’s ability to effectively tolerate life’s stressors, to more effectively “go with the flow” so to speak. To be resilient means that even though we cannot avoid stress we have the capability of actively managing it.

So it becomes quite clear that there is value in better understanding this concept. More importantly, we need to develop the capacity of resilience. For some, resilience may be an inborn trait. These individuals are lucky enough to be born with nervous systems that automatically foster resilience while others may be born with nervous systems that overreact to stress. The pathological worrier when faced with a life challenge may intensify the stress reaction by catastrophic thinking that leads to unhealthy emotional and physiologic reactivity. Those of us with resilience traits should learn how to enhance them while those with limited stress-control capabilities need to find ways to develop such traits.

Simply speaking, resilience is multifaceted. It requires first that we make ourselves aware of how we journey through life. When we are stuck in traffic and find ourselves being late for a meeting or activity, how do we react to this potential stress. We have a choice of fretting over it to the point that our heart rate goes up, stomach acid gets released in larger quantities and our brain fires off alarm reactions. This type of stress further releases unhealthy bodily chemicals like free radicals, brain chemicals that signal danger. It is not uncommon for this to result in back and head musculature contraction leading to tension headaches and backaches. But we also have the choice of placing this stress in a more appropriate perspective by consciously acknowledging that we truly may have no control over the traffic situation, did not cause it and certainly have no way of clearing a path through bumper to bumper vehicles. This does not mean that we shouldn’t feel badly about being late for our appointment and apologize when we get to our destination, but at the same time we don’t need to get ourselves into a tizzy over this. We can further trouble shoot and adjust our departure time if this route is known for traffic jams. Just discuss highway travel strategy with anyone residing in the Los Angeles area!

Resilience is about reasserting locus of control in situations that appear to be beyond our control. A psychological term, locus of control refers to establishing a mindset of control despite the nature of the challenge facing us. This requires being cognizant of how we are dealing with the issue in front of us no matter how vexing it may be. It sounds so simple yet this concept is mastered by few of us. We tend to be engaged in a mindless dance through life without attending to the need to be “present”, to attend to how we are reacting to each step of our travels. The task at hand is to regain the locus of control, to get back into the captain’s seat of life and actively do the best we can under the circumstances.

In reality, resilience is multi-faceted. It is about balance and the conscious decision to attend to the myriad aspects of our daily life journey. There are some simple aspects to this balance. Attending to nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise, establishing a daily routine and maintaining social interactions comprise a core set of basics. Self awareness is an essential component of this balance. However, as indicated earlier in this discussion, self-awareness escapes many of us. For example, how many of us are aware of our breathing? How shallow or deep, rapid or slow? Do we breathe in or breath out through our nose or our mouth? Does it make a difference? Do we inhale by natural downward excursion of our abdominal diaphragm or through the expansion of our ribcage? Research decades ago revealed that diaphragmatic breathing is healthier because it allows for a more robust intake of air than that of ribcage breathing. In fact, a researcher identified what is called the Q reflex or Quieting reflex in response to diaphragmatic breathing. It is no accident that the ancients emphasized the importance of breath work and diaphragmatic respiration as the core of meditation that is today a critical component of Yoga meditation.

Healthy self-talk is another major aspect of resilience development. We all engage is self-talk. Unfortunately, much self-talk is negative and self critical. Becoming aware of this tendency is absolutely essential. It is one thing if the negativity is well earned. We should certainly own up to our mistakes and failures. However, it is more common for self critical thinking to not be based on the facts but emanate from a life of low self regard and confidence, much of it based on unhelpful childhood conditioning.

This brings us to the importance of pursuing mindfulness in our quest to develop resilience. Mindfulness requires attention to our present situation, not just a cursory approach but a comprehensive assessment of the here-and-now. It is much more than our motorist we previously discussed stuck in traffic reacting to being late by getting upset and wallowing in this negative state. It requires an active participation in the event, acknowledging the problem, recognizing the absence of realistic control over the traffic jam, the need to call ahead and alert our destination of the unfortunate circumstance while appropriately apologizing for this situation. Mindfulness also involves taking active responsibility for our self-talk and learning how to develop more effective filters for the negativity that invades much of our personal internal banter. This ability can be learned and must be practiced regularly to become more of an automatic process. The ability to clear one’s mind of negativity becomes one of the finest gifts that we can provide for ourselves. Successful meditators will tell you about the bliss they encounter when they are able to empty their minds of non-essential thoughts.

Finally, we cannot have a discussion about resiliency without understanding the concept of emotional dysregulation. It turns out that the human psyche is composed of two operating systems. We are all aware of the two popular computer operating systems, one that runs Apple software and the other Microsoft software. The human operating system that we are most aware of is composed of words that result in language based communication. This particular system is based on logic. It is what this article utilizes as you read it. However, parallel to this operating system is one that is based on emotions. Emotions are not easily defined using words or language. Emotional expression is by its nature illogical. It is most important to understand that the operating system that governs emotions is extremely powerful and often gains control over our logical language-based operating system. Abusive relationships, addictive behaviors, impulsive and rash life decisions are examples of the dominance of emotions over logic.

Our challenge becomes one of regaining control over our emotional being. The first step in this process is to becoming mindful of our emotional production and not allowing emotions to run amok without conscious awareness. Once we can recognize problematic emotions we have the ability to modify and channel them in a more helpful manner. One can actually learn the skillsets necessary to control the emotional operating system and with practice incorporate them into our daily existence. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) a component of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been a major advance in addressing the painful human toll of emotional dysregulation.

The twenty-first century has its own unique challenges and stressors to say the least. World events, internet connectedness, social media pressures and information explosiveness make our reality more complex than ever before. Fear not, for even though one may not be born with innate resilience it is possible to nurture this capability. However, this is not a passive process. It requires hard work and introspection often involving the assistance of a trained mental health professional. The benefits of resilience are immeasurable and certainly worthy of our efforts and hard work. Good luck!

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The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders Receives 2017 Best of Delray Beach Award

Delray Beach Award Program Honors the Achievement

DELRAY BEACH July 5, 2017 — The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders has been selected for the 2017 Best of Delray Beach Award in the Mental Health Clinic category by the Delray Beach Award Program.

Each year, the Delray Beach Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Delray Beach area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2017 Delray Beach Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Delray Beach Award Program and data provided by third parties.

Read the full press release here.

To learn more about how the center’s services may help you, please call us at (561) 496-1094 or complete our contact form.

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New Mothers Workshop

New Mothers Workshop

New Mothers & Babies Workshop

Saturday, April 1st 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Click here to register.

Are you adjusting to a being a New Mom? Join the Boca Pediatric Group and Dr. KC Charette, Clinical Psychologist from The Center for Treatment of Anxiety & Mood Disorders for a free 1-hour workshop on adjusting to being a new mom and to having a new baby. Join us to learn about the adjustment process and to meet other new moms. Babies are welcome too, of course!

Click here for more information on this free workshop.

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Fear of Flying

Boca Raton Psychologist Discusses Fear Of Flying

Millions of people across the country suffer from a variety of anxiety disorders. The typical disorder is characterized by extreme fear, nervousness, or worry that leads a person to avoid specific places or activities. Dr. Andrew Rosen, a Boca Raton psychologist, notes that one of the most commonly known fears is a fear of flying. He says that, as with any anxiety, there is an irrational exaggeration of the possibility of something bad happening even though the risk of being hurt or killed in a plane crash is one in many millions. Additionally, a fear of flying can involve several components of anxiety that are not specific to airplanes. These components can include:

  • Not understanding the reasons for strange sounds and sights around you
  • Being dependent on the judgment of an unknown person (in this case, the pilot)
  • Fear of heights
  • Dislike or fear of enclosed spaces or crowded conditions
  • Sitting in hot, stale air
  • The possibility of terrorism

The physical and emotional symptoms associated with a fear of flying are similar to those seen in most anxiety disorders. The physiological symptoms can include:

  • Muscle tension and labored breathing
  • Chest pain and/or heart palpitations
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Flushed or pale face

The psychological symptoms can include:

  • Impaired memory
  • Narrowed perceptions
  • Poor or clouded judgment
  • Negative expectancies

The Boca Raton psychologist says there are many coping strategies that can be effective when working through a fear of flying, such as:

  • Expanding your awareness beyond the unpleasant situation. Realize that being paralyzed with fear will not make you any safer.
  • Understanding that your anxiety won’t disappear overnight. Celebrate even the smallest successes you have, such as making it to the airport, then making it on to the plane, then getting through the takeoff. Take one thing at a time.
  • Focusing on what you can do to relax instead of focusing on your fear. Many people bring books, puzzle books, music, or computers with them while they travel. Having something like this gives you something else to focus your energy on.

The fear of flying can be a debilitating anxiety but it can certainly be treated and overcome. For more information on this or other anxiety disorders and their treatment methods, contact Boca Raton psychologist, Dr. Andrew Rosen at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen today.

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