Mental Health News Guide for Therapists

According to the U.S. surgeon general, mental health is the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and providing the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.

The term mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders—health conditions characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress or impaired functioning.

A person struggling with his or her mental health may experience stress, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, addiction, ADHD or learning disabilities, mood disorders, or other mental illnesses of varying degrees. Therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners or physicians can help manage mental illness with treatments such as therapy, counseling, or medication.

Mental illnesses are categorized as follows:

Neurosis: Also known as psychoneuroses, neuroses are minor mental illnesses like phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anxiety disorders, among others.

Psychosis: Psychoses are major mental illnesses in which the mental state impairs thoughts, perception and judgement. Delusions and hallucinations are marked symptoms. This may require the use of psychotic drugs as well as counselling techniques in order to treat them.


Teens & Smartphones, The Downside

It’s not an unfamiliar scene. Teens huddled in groups tenaciously clutching their smart phones while checking social media sites and appearing to be mesmerized by Instagram, Facebook and thousands of other apps. Teens have replaced conversation at family meals with smart phone use; some of them following the lead of their parents. The source of the compulsion to spend up to nine hours per day with smart phones or tablets is a psychological study unto itself. The effects are another. The purpose of this article is to examine proven and speculated effects.

Most people will not question the practical advantages of being connected via smart phones. Smart phones have become a body appendage feeding us with news, weather, driving directions, traffic reports, instant communication via text or email not to mention thousands of quite useful apps. Few would argue with these practical benefits. However, practical benefits aside, how do parents respond when cell phone abuse begins to negatively affect teens physical, emotional and mental health.

Sleep Deprivation: Many argue that cell phone use has become an addiction for many teens. They feel social pressure to remain constantly available to receive and reply to text messages and other communication. This pressure created by cell phone addiction increases stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation for many teens. Extended sleep deprivation may lead to drowsiness, irritability, fatigue and poor performance at school. One study showed that for each ten minutes later a teen went to sleep, there was a 6% chance they’d used drugs or alcohol in the past six months. If you notice your teen is sleeping with their cell phone on, try to instill a habit of turning off the phone before bed to allow for a full uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Brain Chemistry: Dopamine is an important chemical substance created by our bodies. Because of dopamine we are able to experience pleasure and reward. If dopamine production is interfered with due to addiction (even addiction to smart phones), the parts of our brains that impact executive control and emotion processing are impacted. Science has noted that teens (and adults) addicted to smart phones have a reduced amount of dopamine receptions in their brains. In order to experience continued pleasure, more cell phone use is required such as downloading new apps or receiving more notifications from various platforms.

Reduced Physical Activity and Mobility: If on average teens spend nine hours per day on their smart phone that means they are spending less time engaged in physical activity. Nine hours per day spent in a particular stationary position negatively affects physical development, back and spine pain and stiffness as well as soreness in wrists, fingers and elbows. There are now terms to described wrist, finger and elbow pain from habitual texting; “text claw” and “cell phone elbow”.

Cancer Risk: Cell phones do emit radio-frequency energy or electromagnetic radiation. This energy is absorbed by human tissues where the phone is held. However, there is no conclusive research or evidence that cell phones cause cancer. Speculation is a different matter. It is speculated (not proven) that if cell phone use causes cancer, it is likely to be more probable with people who begin cell phone use in their teens. Younger people are speculated to be at greater risk since their nervous systems and brains are still in a developmental stage. Making your child aware of this risk and encouraging cell phone use of no more than twenty minutes daily may help mitigate the risk. Further, using a land line for longer conversations could be helpful.

If parental intervention does not help curb the use of cell phones with your teen, and if you believe the use of cell phones has become abusive or addictive, the help and guidance from a professional certified psychologists trained in teen behavior may help.

Colin B. Denney, Ph.D., is the Director of the Pacific Psychology Services Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, he is a Child Psychologist Honolulu.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly referred to as PTSD, is a disorder that develops in individuals who go through horrifying, dangerous, scary experiences. It is natural for people to feel afraid after traumatic events and this fear triggers many split-second changes that help the body avoid or defend itself against danger. While most people recover from traumatic events fairly quickly, there are those who continue to experience problems and these are sometimes diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. People with PTSD often experience fear even when they don’t face any danger.

Causes of PTSD
The range of events that can trigger PTSD include natural disasters, terrorist attacks, being held hostage, military combat, witnessing violent deaths, severe neglect, prolonged violence and sexual abuse, violent personal assaults as well as serious road accidents just to name a few. PTSD can manifest immediately after a scary event. It can also take a while i.e. days, weeks, months or even years, to develop. And while it’s not clear why it develops in some people and not everyone, at least one out of three people who have traumatic experiences develop PTSD.

Signs and symptoms of PTSD
Not everyone who goes through a traumatic experience develops acute or chronic PTSD. It’s also important to note that not everyone who suffers from PTSD has necessarily gone through a traumatic event. Some experiences like the death of a close family friend can trigger PTSD. Symptoms develop within a period of three months but may take several years to develop in some individuals. For symptoms to be considered PTSD-related, they have to persist for at least a month and so severe that work or relations are interfered with. The severity of these symptoms varies, with some people developing chronic PTSD. The following symptoms must be experienced for one month before an adult can be diagnosed with PTSD.

At least one re-experiencing symptom - frightening thoughts, flashbacks, and bad dreams.

At least two cognition and mood symptoms - disinterest in fun activities, negative thoughts about the world or oneself, distorted feelings like the guilt of blame.

At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms - trouble sleeping, angry outbursts, feeling on edge or tense, being easily startled.

At least one avoidance symptom - staying away from people, places, and events that remind one of the traumatic events, avoiding feelings or thoughts related to the event

Treatments and therapies
There are various types of psychotherapy that are utilized to help treat patients struggling with PTSD. Such include stress inoculation training, cognitive restructuring where people learn to make sense of bad memories, as well as exposure therapy patients, are safely exposed to their trauma events to help cope. Those experiencing PTSD due to on going trauma such as abusive relationships, feeling suicidal, drug abuse and depression are encouraged to seek treatment from experienced medical professionals. It is important to note that not every treatment works for every patient as PTSD manifests uniquely in each person.

Miriam Gold, LCSW, PLLC
Springboard Therapy
Therapy Services for Children, Adolescents, Adults, Families, and Groups

Miriam Gold specializes in trauma PTSD therapy in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her treatment specializations also include childhood and adult Trauma, adult survivors of trauma, both recent and past. Treating children and adolescents; Neglect/Sexual Abuse/Physical abuse, Community/War/Political Violence, Natural Disasters, Life Threatening Medical illness, Serious Accidents, School Violence, Traumatic Loss, Foster Care and Adoption, Attachment Concerns. Miriam is Rostered in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) through the North Carolina Child Treatment Program. TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment for children, adolescents, and their parents or caretakers who have experienced trauma or loss. Extensive training in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), an evidence-based therapy for adults.

Mental Health Bill, lawmakers tackle federal policies

Mr. Murphy, a clinical psychologist, had been tapped by House leaders to investigate mental health treatment in the U.S. in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. He and other advocates of changing the system have cited the obstacles family members faced in caring for people with serious mental illness, including privacy laws and provider shortages. These issues were also highlighted in a Wall Street Journal investigative series in 2013.

In the years since, Mr. Murphy and other backers of the law have agreed to soften some portions of the legislation in an effort stave off opposition. The bill has a Democratic lead co-sponsor, Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, and was unanimously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Earlier iterations of the bill had sought to change the privacy rules in a law known as HIPAA so that providers could share details of a patient’s diagnosis, prescriptions and appointments with a known caregiver, require states to pass laws that compelled treatment for certain people as a condition of getting federal funding, and restrict advocacy groups that receive federal health funding from helping patients bring legal challenges to their treatment.

Read the article here.

The Denial Defense Mechanism

We all use different forms of defense when we need to. Whether we’ve been through a traumatic experience, we’re arguing with someone, or we simply don’t want to deal with something negative, our minds and bodies work to create defense mechanisms to help protect us. Unfortunately, there are instances where these mechanisms can get out of hand.

One of the most popular and widely-known defense mechanisms is denial. It’s considered to be a ‘stage of grief,’ and is apparent in many different defense mechanism research.

Believe it or not, denial is actually an unconscious defense mechanism, not a ‘lie’ or falsehood someone is doing on purpose. Quite simply, denial is the refusal to admit or acknowledge than a specific event has occurred. An example could be an alcoholic to refuses to believe they have a problem, or a wife hearing her husband was in a car accident, but refusing to believe it, etc.

Denial is used to avoid thinking about painful things, and is one of the most basic and primitive defense mechanisms we have, even from childhood. It also goes hand-in-hand with repression, or the idea of not letting certain thoughts into our heads.

Denial At Work

Denial can be both helpful and harmful, in different ways. Studies have suggested that small amounts of denial can actually be beneficial for the right situation. For example, if someone experiences a traumatic event, living in a state of denial for a short period of time can actually give their mind and body more time to process what actually happened, allowing it to come as less of a shock later. In these cases of denial, it’s almost as though reality is simply sinking in more slowly, and the person is willing to get past the denial naturally over time.

However, denial becomes harmful when someone is not able to overcome it. When they are not able to rationally talk about the issue and eventually get past ignoring it, it can simply snowball into something even bigger. A common example of consistent denial might be something like a couple facing a mountain of credit card debt, but refusing to believe it, so their bills keep adding up every month, and they don’t even look at them so they don’t have to face reality.

Finding Help

If you feel as though someone you know struggles with denial to the point where it is affecting their lives, and the lives of those around them, there can be help available from mental health professionals. The best thing you can do, however, is not to make the person struggling with denial feel forced into anything. If you can offer to see a professional with them, just to talk, it can be a great first stepping stone into beating denial. It’s never an easy journey when someone who has been using a defense mechanism finally has to face what they were hiding from, but it is the healthiest way to move past something like denial.

To read more on Denial and other mental health topics visit, therapist website design & marketing

Dissociative Disorders - A Better Understanding

Dissociative Disorders - A Better Understanding

There are different stereotypes, opinions, and subconscious thoughts that go along with the term ‘Dissociative Disorders.’ Unfortunately, those stereotypes aren’t usually fair, and the assessments people make about these types of disorders can be dangerously false. Because dissociative disorders affect a relatively small number of people (roughly 200,000), we tend not to consider them to be as serious as we might with other mental or physical health issues, but that small number packs a big punch in terms of what these disorders can do, and how they can affect those dealing with them, and the people surrounding them.

Types of Dissociative Disorders

By definition, a dissociative disorder is characterized by an involuntary escape from reality. There is a ‘disconnection’ of thoughts, identity, memory, and consciousness. Many of these disorders arise because of a prior traumatic event, but no one is immune from it. They can happen at any age, to any race, or gender. However, a common candidate for dissociative disorder can oftentimes be children, who have suffered long-term emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. The disorder allows them to escape, become someone else, and forget about/cope with the pain and trauma they’ve had to deal with. Realistically, a dissociative disorder is nothing more than an extreme defense mechanism from our own thoughts.

Types Of Dissociative Disorders

Because dissociative disorders can be different things to different people, depending on their idea of ‘escape,’ there are different categories to make the disorders easier to understand, including:

Dissociative Amnesia - Difficulty remembering important information about yourself, such as abuse, or even identity.
Depersonalization - Lasting feelings of detachment from everything personal.
Dissociative Identity Disorder - Alternating between multiple personalities/identities.

What To Look For

Even though dissociative disorders can show up differently for different people, there are a few common traits to consider, including memory loss of specific events or people, out-of-body experiences, additional mental health issues (depression, anxiety, etc.), a lack of self-identity.

Dissociative disorders oftentimes go hand in hand with other, similar issues, including PTSD, so it’s not uncommon for them to be misdiagnosed, or mistaken for something else. Treatment can include anything from psychotherapies, to rapid eye movement conditioning, or even the introduction of similar medicines used to treat things like depression.

Dissociative disorders can be terrifying for the people having to go through them, and the families and friends surrounding those people. Yes, they are viewed as a way for an individual to escape, but there’s a good chance they are only harming themselves further in the process. If you think someone you know may be struggling with a dissociative disorder, it’s ultimately up to them to seek out the kind of help they need, but don’t be afraid to gently encourage it, if the disorder has become a real problem in their everyday life.

To read more on Dissociative Disorders and other mental health topics visit, Dr. Lynn Alexander, Palo Alto Therapy & Counseling

Social Drinking vs. Alcoholism - How To Know The Differences

We live in a society where going out for a drink or two is more often than not, the norm. And there is certainly nothing wrong with having a cocktail at a party, or sipping a beer over a ballgame, etc. Drinking has always been viewed as a social event, and many gatherings cater toward the alcohol itself, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem.

However, because of today’s open acceptance of social drinking, it can sometimes be hard to tell when someone might be going too far, or past their limit - especially on a consistent basis. There’s a fine line between social drinking and alcoholism, and it can be more of a blurred line than many of us realize.

How To Know When It’s A Problem

Alcohol affects every single person differently, so it can be difficult to tell when a problem arises. One person might be able to have three or four drinks with no issues, while another might feel a ‘buzz’ after just one drink. Unfortunately, that’s why conditions like alcoholism stay personal for far too long, before other people begin to notice. Once other people do begin to step in, it’s often at a point where the illness has really grown, and become a huge problem.

So, there are a few things to consider for yourself before letting anything get out of hand:

Do you feel sometimes as though you should cut back on drinking?
Does drinking ever make you feel guilty?
Do you think about drinking or actually drink at ‘inappropriate’ times of the day? (ie; having a drink to cure a hangover in the morning, etc.)

Another thing to consider is the social aspect of drinking itself. Can you go to a party or restaurant/bar with friends and choose not to drink without any issues? If the answer is ‘no,’ and you feel as though you either have to have a drink to enjoy yourself, or to fit in with your friends, it may be time to take a step back and consider that to be a problem, before it escalates into an even larger one. Alcoholism results from a lack of control when it comes to drinking, which, in essence, is the very opposite of social drinking itself.

Ultimately, alcoholism is a battle, and an addiction, and the signs for it can be different for every individual. Some people can go months, or even years without showing any real signs of the illness while still struggling with it, while others will open up quickly and admit they have a problem. If you, personally, have felt as though you may have a problem with this addiction, don’t be afraid to seek out help before it snowballs - friends and family are a great way to start, but support groups, life coaching, and even therapy can be a big help when it comes to kicking the addiction.

To read more on alcoholism and other mental health topics visit, Kristy Hellum therapist Santa Rosa

Married Without Children - Choosing Not To Have Kids

Marriage and children have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of time. As a culture, we’ve been trained to think that having children is simply what you do after you get married. In the not-so-distant past, many couples would have multiple children because it was a societal norm, and because those children were ‘needed,’ to help work, manage farms, etc. Having between 5-10 children or more was normal in the early-mid 1900s, and while forms of birth control were obviously less readily-available during those times, the idea of having that many kids wasn’t only accepted, but encouraged.

Even in more recent years, children have simply been expected as a result of being married. With women especially, the conversation of getting married and having kids always seemed to be a popular one. Today, though, that conversation is changing.

More and more couples are either choosing to have children later in life, or simply choosing not to have kids at all.

Why are couples choosing not to have kids?

There are hundreds, if not thousands of individual reasons people choose not to have children, and most of them are 100% personal to the couple making that choice, however, some common reasons include: Putting career first, trouble in the marriage, fear of a sluggish sex life, the cost of a child, etc.

Again, most reasons people give for not wanting kids is strictly personal, but as societal norms have changed, so has the pressure of having kids. Granted, it’s not accepted 100% - it’s still more often than not that married couples do have at least one child, but the focus on ourselves, our careers, and our relationships with our spouses and other people have greatly affected our overall desire to have kids.

This certainly isn’t to say we live in a selfish world. In the United States alone, over four million babies are born every year. However, many of those births are not the result of a marriage, and that stigma has begun to float away as well. Many people are seeing the choice to have a child or not to be something a woman has a right to decide for herself, whether she’s with her husband, or on her own.

In marriage, many people want to put their relationship first, especially if it’s a relationship that has had hardships or struggles. Where having a baby used to sometimes be a method of ‘strengthening’ a relationship, more and more couples now realize that bringing a child into a damaged situation can only make things worse for everyone, including the baby. Still, even the happiest of marriages choose not to have kids for personal reasons, and even though it may not be the ‘norm’ as of yet, the idea of not having kids in marriage is more widely accepted than ever before, and there’s no reason to believe those trends won’t continue.

To read more on Marriage and other mental health topics visit, Donna Shanahan, LMFT couples therapy Pasadena

Does Exercise Help Keep Our Brains Young?

For most of us, our bodies begin to lose flexibility and efficiency as we enter our 40s. Running and other movements slow down and become more awkward, and something similar seems to occur within our heads. As middle age encroaches, our thinking becomes less efficient. We don’t toggle between mental tasks as nimbly as we once did or process new information with the same aplomb and clarity. Click to read more from GRETCHEN REYNOLDS.