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.

Articles

Anxiety Disorders

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population each year. Despite the fact that it’s so common in the U.S and highly treatable, less than 40% of suffers get help for their condition.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors. Genetics, brain chemistry, personality traits, and life events all contribute to the onset of anxiety disorders. In our world of constant stimulation, tight deadlines, hectic schedules and never-ending to-do lists, it’s easy to see why anxiety is so ubiquitous. Anxiety is a blanket term for a number of specific occurrences that can affect your daily life significantly. Anxiety can present itself in General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder or Specific Phobias. Individuals can also suffer from conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Generally, most of these conditions develop in adolescence and are more prevalent in women than men. Symptoms include an overall sense of dread, nervousness in social situations, rapid heartbeat and inability to control worry and negative thoughts. For some people, anxiety can be a small yet controllable issue throughout their day, but for others, it can take over their existence and cause extreme problems in all areas of their lives.

You often hear anxiety and depression being mentioned together and there is a good reason for this. Almost 50% of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety. It’s a combination that can contribute to substance abuse issues and higher instances of divorce and even suicide.

So, what do you do if you believe that you have anxiety? As mentioned before, it’s a common problem but relatively under-treated. The best way to start treating your anxiety is to document times when you feel overwhelmed, nervous, full of dread or worried. Having documentation about your feelings and how often they happen is a great way to begin a dialogue with a medical professional. Your therapist will ask you about when you feel anxious and how it affects your daily life, so having a good record of it will help facilitate a smooth conversation. After you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, you may be asked to employ various methods to reduce your anxiety like breathing exercises, visualization, journaling, physical exercise, or meditation. These exercises are a great way to help train yourself to better navigate anxious episodes so you can learn how to react to stress in a positive way. Various methods of talk therapy may also be used as a way to understand the underlying cause of your anxiety and work towards a resolution.

The most important thing to remember when you’re thinking about your anxiety is that it’s a treatable condition that can get better. Implementing therapy, journaling, meditation, breathing exercises and medication are all great ways to help combat this common condition. With consistency and a little work, your anxiety is an easily treatable condition that will get better.

Anna M. Hickey, Counseling Macomb, works with couples and families struggling with relationship issues


More On Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Your mind is an incredible thing. Every moment of your life is processed and analyzed almost instantaneously so you can react accordingly. Your brain is so reactive and sensitive to stimuli that the way you frame stressors and respond to issues can positively or negatively affect your well-being in incredible ways. Essentially, the way you react to your daily life can be either good or bad for your mental health.

If your thoughts lead to anxiety or depression or you suffer from conditions like PTSD, disordered eating, OCD, or borderline personality disorder, using a technique called Cognitive behavioral therapy may be the way to break from your negative thought patterns and forge ahead.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychosocial intervention technique used for improving mental health. It’s the most widely used evidence-based practice due to its ease of implication and general effectiveness. Guided by empirical research, CBT focuses on developing personal coping strategies that aim to change detrimental patterns in beliefs, behaviors, and emotions. It was originally designed to treat depression and is now used to help individuals with various other mental health conditions.

The primary distinguishing factor of CBT over other approaches to psychotherapy is that it is more problem focused and action oriented. CBT actively works to combat an individual's negative thoughts, feelings, and actions to help them achieve a stronger sense of self-worth and confidence. The beauty of CBT is that it looks at a person as a whole being and not just as a condition that needs to be fixed. It helps identify maladaptive thinking and changes it to help modify behaviors in ways that will positively influence all parts of a person’s life.

How it works:
When using the CBT technique, a therapist will first identify critical behaviors in a patient and then determine the frequency and intensity of these reactions to obtain a baseline. Once behaviors are determined, the positive ones are fostered to increase their rate, and the negative ones are discouraged to lessen or eliminate them. These behaviors are molded through various therapies including positive behaviors distraction, motivation, self-talk, and positive reframing.

Try it now: Change your mindset.
Some aspects of CBT can be done on your own as a way to help positively affect your mindset. By simply talking negative thoughts and turning them into positive statements, you can help alleviate stress and change your outlook for the better.

For example:
Instead of complaining about rush hour traffic, say “I’m grateful for being able to wake up each morning and be gainfully employed.”

Or, instead of stressing over a mess that your kids made, reframe it in a positive light: “I have healthy, happy kids that are capable of playing.”

Making small changes to your thoughts will help you to react better to difficult situations and find the value in every day.

However, despite your mind’s inherent power, it doesn’t change over night. It needs to be exercised just like a muscle in order to get stronger. The best outcomes from CBT take time and dedication. After all, you’re retraining your brain to work through negative stimulus more healthily. That’s hard work and when it comes to CBT, slow and steady wins the race.

Dr. Takos is a Newport Beach Psychologist specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, and trauma-and stressor-related disorders.


What Are the Causes of ADHD?

The symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often found in children lead many people to believe those particular kids aren't disciplined, or that they are given too much control at home. Those same symptoms in adulthood can lead others to believe that person is lazy or unmotivated, and even immature.

Unfortunately, there are many myths associated with ADHD in all ages. This is usually because most people don't take the time to learn the underlying causes of the disorder to begin with. ADHD is not about a lack of discipline in childhood or being lazy as an adult. It is a real disorder with real factors attached.

While most research suggests that ADHD is largely caused by genetics, there are more studies being done about possible external factors that could play a role in the disorder. Let's take a look at some of these potential causes.
Pesticides

While more research needs to be done, a 2010 study in Pediatrics discovered a possible link between certain pesticides and this disorder in children. If you are concerned about this link, there are two easy ways to fight back against the risk: Either choose organic produce for you and your children (even when you are pregnant), or gently scrub any non-organic produce that may have residue from pesticides.

Pregnancy Choices

It's common knowledge that the choices you make during pregnancy can have a lasting effect on your child. When it comes to ADHD, smoking and drinking have been linked to the disorder. In fact, children who have been prenatally exposed to tobacco or alcohol are nearly 2.5 times more likely to have ADHD than those who were not.

Genetics

The most important factor to consider when looking at ADHD is genetics. There are multiple other myths and factors associated with the disorder. This includes everything from too much sugar, to too much time in front of the television. While many of these 'myths' are continuing to be studied, there simply isn't enough evidence to showcase a strong correlation.

Genetics are the main cause of this disorder, as touched on earlier in this article. That means that it is passed on through the genes of parents, and not how they raise their child.

It has been shown that a child is more likely to have ADHD if a close relative has it, but more research needs to be done to determine which type of genes cause the disorder. As of now, it is believed that ADHD is caused by a missing gene or duplicated DNA segments.

Is It Possible to Prevent ADHD?

Because ADHD is mostly based on hereditary factors, it's very unlikely that you can prevent it from happening. Until more research is done on external factors, there aren't many ways in which to 'protect' your child from the disorder.

What is important is to recognize the symptoms for what they are. If someone in your family has the disorder and you notice your child showing similar symptoms, it's a good idea to get an official diagnosis.

No matter the official cause of a child or adult's disorder, getting it diagnosed quickly and recognizing that there is treatment available is the most important thing. Always be sure to stay up to date with the latest research being done on this disorder. The more studies and tests doctors and scientists are able to perform to determine a specific cause (or even a specific gene), the better treatment will become.

Marcy M. Caldwell, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment and assessment of adult ADHD Psychologist Philadelphia.


The Good Ways to Argue

For most people, arguments are a way of settling disputes without anyone getting injured.

For some, however, arguing actually includes the getting hurt portion, and the winner is the one who can stay upright longest.

It doesn’t have to be that way, nor does anger have to be a “bad” thing. Counting to 10 while holding one’s tongue can lead to peace, but equally as often it leads to the kind of festering resentment and lingering bad feelings.

So let’s define some good and bad ways of arguing. Starting with the good ways:

First person please. “I feel hurt” is a lot less threatening than “You hurt me”, and – like a good wine – it also goes down more easily.

Own your anger. Don’t keep shoving it down and smiling as though everything was perfectly fine, until it seriously and irreparably isn’t.

Something else you need to own is the fact that you knew, before you said or did it, that your spouse/mate/life partner would be upset. And you knew this because you have said or done it before. Past the one-year mark, almost all arguments are repeat performances that haven’t been resolved yet.

You are not “in it to win it”. An argument with a loved one or friend is designed to find common ground, not a trophy. So put it all in perspective and try to see the bigger picture.

Stay focused on the issue at hand, and don’t bring a list of all the other things your significant other has done in the past 10 years to hurt you. If you must, write the problem down, with input from both sides. If it still seems too overwhelming, by all means give it some time, at least a short break. After which both of you might realize how silly the argument was, and how much you really like one another.

Different habits for different life partners. Some couples enjoy arguing and others are appalled by raised voices and harsh words. Whichever type your relationship is, factor temperament into your fight rules.

The good ways to argue? Well, there are never going to be any good ways, but there are fair ways – or should we say “non-righteous” ways. Dictionary.com defines righteous indignation as: retribution, retributive justice; anger and contempt combined with a feeling that it is one's right to feel that way (i.e., anger without guilt).

So, a few rules. A good argument follows a script. Couples who learn the script can avoid hurting each other too badly, but first they need to agree on their lines – and what type of behavior crosses that line. For many, these are specific words, like “always”, and “never”.

Going forward, imagine that these words have been redacted from your script, as have such trigger words as “chill”, “fine”, and “never mind. Also draw a marker through the words “seriously?”, and “whatever”. This latter, in the hands of your very angry significant other, comes out sounding extremely dismissive. Remember, being heard is the goal for both parties.

Carolyn Ehrlich LCSW, CGP specializes in Relationship Counseling NYC


Do I Have Postpartum Depression?

You came home from the hospital three weeks ago, a proud mom after eight grueling months of pregnancy.

You should feel on top of the world. Your baby is perfect: ten little fingers and toes, and the softest skin. The effects of labor – the tiny red spots all over your face and neck from pushing, the aching belly and back muscles, the sting of the stitches – are mostly gone. All the hormones that rushed into your blood during pregnancy have leveled off. Life is no longer an emotional roller coaster, just a rainy day.

You could probably get past – or at least get used to – the “new baby blues”: up every four hours to change and feed your little one as the laundry piles up, the floors need sweeping, the dishes threaten to overflow the sink, and dinner is pizza or whatever else can be delivered.

What you are having trouble getting used to is the fact that you are no longer the center of attention. Your friends – who used to call once a day to make sure you weren’t in labor on the basement floor – don’t call as often. Your husband or significant other jokes that you look like a zombie, albeit without the blood.

You know he (or she) is right, so you set aside a half-hour a day to shower, run a comb through your hair, and put on lipstick and blusher. Or at least you try to, but it seems baby has other ideas, and invariably starts crying the moment you step inside the shower. Your reaction is “oh, shit!”, and you wonder if maybe having a baby was a bad idea. A very bad idea.

Your mood plunges – to a place you have never been before. You feel excessive fatigue, decreased sex drive, loss of appetite (or the desire to gorge), and frequent changes in your response to others. Worse, you feel them far more often, and more intensely, than seems warranted. Even your gorgeous, extremely sexy husband or significant other is puzzled by your lack of interest, because you used to be the hottest thing since habanero chili peppers.

You may have postpartum depression, or PPD. Because the symptoms so readily mimic the feelings and behaviors of women who have recently given birth, it’s sometimes hard to tell. However, if the behaviors persist beyond the first two weeks, and get stronger rather than fading, you probably have PPD.

Other symptoms of PPD include:

Loss of pleasure in things you once loved
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness
Persistent depression
Thoughts of death or suicide
Thoughts or hurting someone else, including those closest to you

A number of risk factors can influence whether you get PPD. These are:

A history of depression
A history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD
Your age at the time of pregnancy (the younger you are, the greater the likelihood)
A pregnancy that runs contradictory to your plans for life
The more children you already have, the greater the probability you will develop PPD
Having few friends or family, and no husband or SO to offer support and encouragement
Living alone
A conflicted relationship

The most important fact a woman undergoing PPD should take to heart is that the problem can be resolved. Between regular therapy sessions and antidepressant medicines – some of which can be taken while nursing – new moms stand a better-than-average chance of beating PPD.

Most therapists will also recommend joining a support group, because there is strength in numbers and problems seem smaller when you can talk them out with like-minded new moms!

Dwan Reed, PhD, LCSW, DTM, of Tallae Counseling & Wellness Center is a therapist specializing in Depression Counseling in Houston, TX.


How to Argue Effectively

Fighting is a part of almost every relationship. Even couples with the healthiest of relationships argue from time to time, whether it be about something simple and silly, or something more concrete and serious. For the most part, those in relationships get through fights eventually, and move on. But, if you've ever felt as though the arguments you have with your partner are unproductive, and they continue to linger in the air for days on end, you may not be arguing effectively.

Yes, there are several ways to 'fight a good fight,' and turn your disagreements into something that can actually be beneficial for your relationship. Let's take a look at a few simple tactics you can use during an argument to get through it successfully.

Don't Run Away From It

Far too often, arguments get swept under the rug. Or, maybe you brought up a subject once that was important to you, but it triggered a disagreement, so you have decided to avoid it ever since. Ignoring potential arguments is bound to build up frustration in one, or both of you. Ask the big questions, share your genuine opinions and feelings, and talk it out before it becomes an even bigger issue. The longer you sit on something that's bothering you, the larger it can become.

Take it Slow

Heated arguments rarely end well. In fact, they make it easy to say things we might later regret. To really argue effectively, you both need to agree to take things slowly, and start the conversation in a calm, collected tone. Think of it as an understanding, open conversation, instead of a disagreement.

If you're able to take things slowly, and respect each other's turn to speak, the disagreement is likely to have a better outcome for both people involved. Plus, feelings are less likely to get hurt.

Make Rules Beforehand

If each person goes into an argument not knowing what to expect, there are no boundaries. That's when things can easily get out of hand. Set ground rules for your disagreements during a more neutral time. Rules could be anything from trying to come to a 'big picture' solution, to agreeing not to name call or dig up certain subjects from the past. They will be different for every couple, so suit them to fit your needs together.

Don't Forget You're On the Same Side

It's so easy to consider your partner an enemy during an intense argument. Unfortunately, that usually doesn't end well. Instead, go into a fight mentally acknowledging the fact that you're on the same team. Ultimately, you both want what's best for your relationship, you may just have a different approach to getting there.

Arguments typically happen because one person is struggling with some aspect of the relationship. As partners, you should do what you can to come to a solution regarding that struggle. You may have different ideas as to how to do it, but using these tools and techniques, your disagreements don't have to feel so hostile. Instead, they can be productive and thought-provoking. You can actually accomplish your goals as a couple.

By remembering that you're in this relationship for the long haul, it's easier to look at your partner and want to figure out a solution, rather than lash out at them. Don't forget the commitments you've made to them, and yourself, and your arguments can be far more effective.

Written by Kin Leung, MFT, providing couples therapy Burlingame


How to Handle Depression After a Breakup

Break-ups are never easy, no matter how amicable they may be. Dealing with a broken heart isn't just some old tale. The fact is, going through a hurtful break-up can have real psychological effects, including depression. It can also be a trigger into deeper anxieties and depressive actions, if you're prone to the condition.

While curling up with your favorite movie and a pizza might be the stereotypical remedy for getting over a bad break-up, there are better coping mechanisms to help pull you from the depression it might cause. Follow the tips below to help you get through this rough time, and know that what you're feeling right now doesn't have to be permanent.

Give Yourself Time

Many people might tell you to jump right back into the dating scene after a break-up, to take your mind off things and find someone new. Unfortunately, that's likely to do more harm than good, and you won't be giving yourself the time needed to fully get over what happened. It's important to understand that you don't need to get over a relationship overnight. Work through things at your own pace, and don't expect to feel better right away.

Additionally, give yourself the chance to be emotional. It's okay to cry, or feel angry, or even feel sad for a week or two. Suppressing your real feelings will make it harder to truly get over the split. These feelings won't last forever, so don't be ashamed to give yourself a release.

Keep Up With Your Routine

Sometimes, a split from your significant other can throw a huge wrench into your life – including something as simple as your daily routine. Sometimes, even having meals regularly and getting enough sleep can become chores after a break-up.

Try as best as you can to follow your regular routine after your relationship ends. This will be harder to do at first, but if you keep putting in the effort, the familiarity of that routine can provide comfort and help to reduce stress.

Spend More Time With People You Love

After a relationship ends, It's easy to feel as though you're all alone, or that no one cares about you. In reality, that's likely very far from the truth. Don't be afraid to tell the people closest to you what happened, and how you're feeling. A strong support system is crucial after a break-up. Let them be there for you. They'll help to take your mind off of things, and give you reassurance that you have some incredible people in your life.

Accepting the Truth

Accepting any hard truth is never easy. But, it's important to think about what the end of this relationship means for you, and to realize that it wasn't a waste. Being bitter about the end is only going to make it easier for depression to creep in. Instead, try to focus on things you may have learned, and what you can take with you into future relationships throughout your life. Moving on and moving forward, after giving yourself enough time to do so, is the best way to get through a break-up and fight back against depression that may want to linger because of it.

Dr. Jeffrey Ditzell is a Psychiatrist in New York City and specializes in issues involving Anxiety & Depression.


Happiness – Cause or Effect

Is happiness a joyful state of being? How about a pleasurable experience? Or possibly a positive emotion? Merriam Webster says it’s actually all three. Even with multiple definitions, words cannot really capture the idea of happiness. Psychologists refer to emotion as “procedural knowledge”; a skill such as riding a bike. Procedural knowledge cannot be learned or fully explained in words. Only experience can lead to a true understanding. And so it goes with happiness.

Psychologists tell us that happiness has three components:
1) an overall satisfaction with life
2) satisfaction with life domains (work, relationships, etc.)
3) for the most part, higher levels of positive emotions and lower levels of negative emotions

Even so, happiness as an experience changes throughout a person’s life span. Researchers studied twelve million blogs to extrapolate words that related to happiness. Younger writers, those in their teens and early twenties, used the words “ecstatic” or “giddy.” On the other hand, older writers in their forties and fifties conveyed happiness through words like “content, satisfied, relaxed.”

Happiness comes from three distinct sources:
1) 40% from intentional activity (self controlled)
2) 10% from circumstances (outside of self control)
3) 50% from “set point”

Set points appear to be genetically influenced and are a result of certain personality traits. People who rank high on the extraversion scale may find they experience more happiness. While people who rank high on the neuroticism scale may find they experience less happiness. A life event, whether triggered by an intentional activity or an outside circumstance, may create waves of happiness, but over time, the set point will take the person back to their innate level of happiness.

Returning to the relationship of age and happiness, people between the ages of thirteen and fifty or sixty, enjoy a rise in happiness throughout life. A fast descent occurs thereafter. Another important factor discovered in research is that attitudes and actions affect happiness; examples are:
1) having a positive attitude and seeing a silver lining in any dark cloud
2) prioritizing activity such as spending time with friends and family
3) completing an important life goal

Is too much happiness a bad thing? Psychologists say yes, in some cases. The risks of too much happiness are as follows:
1) being too happy may lead to not recognizing risky situations
2) being overly happy may be expressed at an inappropriate time
3) trying to be happy all the time in not authentic behavior. The risk of offending or confusing others with too much happiness is high.

Happiness is associated with many positive life outcomes: good problem solving skills, a creative, helpful image to the world, greater professional accomplishments and good decision making capabilities. There is an association between education, successful marital status and financial success; all three are associated with happiness. Some psychologists believe that these life outcomes are “effects” of happiness while other psychologists take another position. They believe that positive life outcomes are not “effects” of happiness, but that happiness is the “cause” of the positive life outcomes. Stop for a minute and think about this concept. It is very empowering to believe that choices, attitudes and actions are paramount to circumstances that “appear” to be out of our control. This concept in no way suggests that we should fake happiness in order to achieve a life goal. Instead we have the option to create coping skills. When life circumstances become obstacles, reframe those circumstances as opportunities, see the silver living and hold on to the positive outlook. You might find that happiness is a natural result regardless of outside circumstances.

Written by Lori Ralko, M.A., RP, RSW Registered Toronto Psychotherapist


Depression in Seniors

Often we sense a sadness among the members of a senior care facility. We might also feel that same sadness around a widow or widower who is living alone. Sadness or an occasional “blue day” is about as normal as those same emotions experienced by a younger person. But when occasional sadness morphs into a longer term condition, the person may be experiencing geriatric depression, a mental and emotional disorder affecting senior citizens.

If a senior citizen is female, there is a higher risk of developing geriatric depression. Other risk factors include being single, divorced or widowed without the support of a social network. Stressful life events may also contribute. Many times seniors are forced into early retirement because of health reasons or even corporate downsizing. Ensuing financial insecurity creates a risk for geriatric depression. Further, as seniors advance in age and develop physical illnesses such as heart disease including invasive procedures for these illnesses, the door is open for geriatric depression.

Seniors who are prescribed powerful medications may find that mood alterations, including depression, are a side effect of the medication. Blood pressure medications, antibiotics, antiarrhythmics and steroids are only a few drugs that may influence mood and cause depression.

One might summarize from the information above that illnesses actually bring on bouts of depression; in other words illness is the cause and depression is the effect. However, that premise was challenged in research conducted by Lynanne McGuire, Ph.D. at the John Hopkins School of Medicine. McGuire and her colleagues findings supported the opposite premise; persistent mild depression in older adults may lower immunity and impair the ability to fight off disease. Depression is actually first cause. It is interesting to note that the length of the depression, not the severity, actually impairs a senior citizen’s immunity. Therefore depression can accelerate immunological declines.

What then are strategies to hold depression at bay, maintain immune strength and hold on to good health as one ages? One strategy involves activity, especially in retirement. Retirement need not be thought of as obsolescence and a rocking chair. Retirement is an opportunity for personal reinvention. Activity includes travel, joining a gym, thinking of all the things that one wanted to do while working but could not. Retirement is the time to do those things if resources are available. Volunteer work is always an option to create a reason to rise early and engage in the world. If, for example, a retiree is a pet lover, they could volunteer at a pet rescue organization. If a retiree is good at working with people who are in need, hospital work is an option.

Another strategy is to conduct a self assessment on lifestyle. Review all life habits such as diet, exercise, sleep patterns, even sociability. Most everyone can make improvements in some areas. As part of retirement reinvention, lifestyle changes can make a difference in attitude as well as mental and physical well being.

Probably the most important self assessment for senior citizen is personal attitude. How much time is spent during a day thinking sad thoughts instead of happy thoughts. Remember, thoughts are choices. How many times during a day are events or situations perceived through the “half-empty” glass perspective instead of the “half-full” glass perspective. Regardless of a person’s age, an occasional attitude adjustment may help ward off mild depression. Laughter is greatly underrated for its therapeutic benefits.

These strategies are suggested to manage mild bouts of occasional depression. If depression persists and is perceived as more severe, professional help should be sought. A trained certified therapist can make a diagnosis, develop a treatment plan and put the senior citizen on a more productive and fulfilling life path.

Copyright © 2015 Directory for Therapists


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, InSession.io 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.