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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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Pandemic 101: How To Decide On The Right College During Covid

A lot of college acceptances have been coming in recently. Parents and teens are feeling incredibly overwhelmed in the decision making process because of the changes that have occurred within the world, but more specifically on college campuses.

For those individuals who require additional support (both academic and emotional) what is the best way to determine the “goodness of fit” with a particular college? Is staying close to home now more important on the list of priorities?

First, What Makes A College A Good Fit For You?

Most students have a favorite college or university in mind that they think is the best fit for them. It may not always be an objective measure of a good fit, but it is important that they get to use this “voting process” to narrow down the top college choices.

Aside from that, a college is a good fit if it:

  • Is affordable to you or your family
  • Offers strong degrees in your career choice or the fields you are interested in
  • Provides access to internships
  • Mostly has students who are on the same academic level as you (in other words, have similar GPAs and test scores)
  • Has personalized, strong student support in place
  • Has a good reputation and is regionally accredited
  • Provides instructors for first year and lower level classes who are full time faculty, rather than part timers who may be stretched thin by working on more than one campus

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has added another qualification to this list, though – what about safety? What measures has the school taken to ensure the health of their student community? Is the college located in a Covid hotspot?

If you stay home and take your college classes completely online, you’ll no doubt be safer, but there are a myriad of other things to ask yourself (and answer honestly) about attending virtually, such as:

  • Are you able to learn effectively with remote instruction?
  • Will you be able to find a quiet place to study at home?
  • How will you feel if you miss out on the “college experience” you can only get by being on a campus?
  • Does online learning frustrate you?
  • Will you be motivated to do your coursework online or are you easily distracted?
  • How will being more isolated, with a lack of social connections make you feel?
  • Would you be okay with finishing your degree on campus once the pandemic ends? Don’t choose a virtual school just because it’s online – be sure you would have wanted to go there if we were living under normal circumstances.

Are Virtual College Visits Worth It?

At any other time, in-person college tours would be available to help you make a better decision about which school is a good fit. Due to the pandemic, however, many colleges and universities have cut back on or eliminated campus tours altogether. Instead, they are offering safer virtual tours.

The drawback to virtual tours is that they may not show you a real view of campus life. Instead, they could be more like a travel video that highlights only the best parts of the campus and housing. They might show you certain areas of the campus, a sterilized slice of campus life, and only include interviews with select students or faculty who will present the college in its best light.

A better choice, if any of the schools you’re deciding between offer it, is to sign up to take a live, virtual guided tour with a student. They’ll walk around the campus and answer your questions via a live stream, so you’ll at least get more insight into life on campus.

In addition, many schools are offering live virtual workshops, which allow you to get answers to questions about their degree programs, housing, financial aid, and so on.  

You could also try connecting with current students on social media, through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. This way you’ll get an overview of the current safety protocols, how the college has communicated with students during the pandemic, and whether they are following CDC guidelines.

Final Thoughts

In a normal year, it can be difficult to choose between colleges, but the pandemic has put a different twist on college selection. Obviously, safety is a priority, but you also must be sure to choose a school that is supportive to students and is an academic fit, as well as a financial and social fit.

In addition, consider the college’s distance from your home to decide whether you’d be comfortable flying there (or home) when school begins or on school breaks, assuming Covid restrictions are still ongoing. If you wouldn’t, then it might be best to only consider schools within driving distance or those which are strictly online.

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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educator teaching virtual classes

Distance Learning Tips For Parents

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

Remote learning can be difficult for kids in many ways:

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

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

How Can Parents Support Learning At Home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Kids Cope During The Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Are Here For You

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

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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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book cover for Hope for OCD: One Man’s Story of Living and Thriving With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Hope for OCD: One Man’s Story of Living and Thriving With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Millions of Americans go through each day tormented by the uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) and compulsive rituals and behaviors that characterize OCD. Difficult to understand and even harder to experience, Hope for OCD – One Person’s Story of Living and Thriving with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a profoundly courageous inside look at navigating life with the challenges of this anxiety disorder.

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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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symbols of USA politcal parties

How Election Anxiety Affects Children

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

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

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

Results Of Election Stress On Kids

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

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

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

How To Help Kids Cope With The 2020 Election Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Children With Anxiety

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

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woman wearing facemask amid coronavirus particles

Navigating The Pandemic Paradox

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.

Is There A Pandemic Silver Lining?

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.

The Pandemic’s Harmful Effects On Mental Health

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:

  • Disturbances in our patterns of sleeping or eating
  • Problems concentrating
  • Anxiety about our health and that of our loved ones
  • An increase or worsening of mental health conditions
  • Deterioration of ongoing health problems
  • An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

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

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.

Self Care For Pandemic Anxiety

  • Try to distract yourself. I know there are restrictions in some areas and more being put back into place, but you have online options for such things as cooking classes, music lessons, learning a language, yoga or meditation. Look up virtual options for visiting the museums you’ve always dreamed of or places you’ve always wanted to see (Google Earth and YouTube are great platforms for this).
  • Don’t scrutinize every physical symptom. This is allergy season, plus there are always summer colds out there. Remember that a cough is likely just a cough and not an indicator that you have COVID-19, especially if you have been cautious and isolating yourself from others.
  • Turn off the news stations. News reports can start catastrophic thoughts racing and dramatically increase your anxiety. By constantly watching news coverage of the pandemic, you never get a mental break. Remember that news reports are designed to make you tense and concerned – it’s what keeps you clicking on the news websites or tuning into to their broadcasts to find out what’s happening.  

Professional Help For Pandemic Anxiety

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. 

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