Therapy That Works...

Anxiety - Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Monday, July 08, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder and when to seek professional help - click here.

Social Anxiety is the fourth most common mental health diagnosis in the United States.

It is a very common, often misunderstood psychological issue that affects up to 12% of the U.S. population or 15 million Americans. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

Gender Bias:

Women develop Social Anxiety at twice the rate of men. However, women are less likely than men to report Social Anxiety as an ongoing issue.

Defined By Shyness:

Social Anxiety tends to develop in childhood or adolescence and the most common age of appearance is between 11 and 16 years old. If it goes unaddressed, it can become a defining part of many important stages of life including high school, college, and early work experience. It can rob your child of wonderful social opportunities and limit their ability to experience the world.

Contradictory Experiences:

Surprisingly, those who are socially anxious often have excellent social skills when they are one-on-one. In a group, they may present as somewhat shy or reserved, but they are actually extremely socially capable and have a lot of skills interpersonally. They continue to search for evidence every moment of every day that they are somehow compromised socially.

Family Tree:

You are ten times more likely to develop Social Anxiety if you have a relative who also has a form of Social Anxiety. The early life family system reinforces social withdrawal as normal and not a serious mental health issue. Over the years, they become convinced that they lack the social skills to reach out and develop connections to those around them.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of Social Anxiety:

  • A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations
  • Fear of exposure to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny
  • Regularly worrying that they will humiliate or embarrass themselves
  • Fear of exposure to social situations
  • Panic attacks that are confined only to social situations
  • Avoidance or endurance of social or performance situations
  • Intense anxiety or distress during social or performance situations
  • Anxious anticipation of social or performance situations
  • Significantly changing their routines to avoid social activities or relationships

Social Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have Social Anxiety, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition” by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Belzer et al. 2005

Chapman, Mannuzza and Fryer, 1995

Fiuieira and Jacques, 2002

Grant et al. 2005

Merikangas, Lieb, Wittchen and Avenevoli, 2003

Rapee, 1995

Anxiety - What Is Social Anxiety? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, July 05, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what social anxiety is, some of the signs of social anxiety, and when to seek professional help - click here.

Have you ever been struck with fear when you walked into a crowded room?

Do you begin to feel overwhelmed with panic and anxiety right before a party or public presentation? You may be suffering from social anxiety if you regularly experience significant dread before or during social situations due to a fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. Social anxiety is a very common, often misunderstood psychological issue that affects up to 12% of the U.S. population or 15 million Americans.

Social Anxiety is the fourth most common mental health diagnosis in the United States.

Sufferers tend to narrow their lives in an effort to preserve any sense of safety and predictability. Over time, the social anxiety usually becomes more entrenched and more profound. They shape their lives to avoid any anxiety-producing social situation and to avoid any social settings that may make them feel vulnerable and nervous.

In fact, they often avoid professional treatment due to the overwhelming anxiety.

They usually only begin treatment once there has been an event in their lives that forces them to face the problem. Typical examples include professional responsibilities that require public performance or even family responsibilities like being a leader in their child’s PTA or other activities. For them, romantic relationships are a true struggle and they often avoid dating of any kind.

Instead of addressing the problem head on, most sufferers build a new life that helps them avoid social situations that trigger their anxiety.

They may begin to accept the loss of friends and family since their anxiety is too overwhelming to be involved. In the end, they truly collapse their lives around them until they are safe, secure, but ultimately alone.

Social Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have Social Anxiety, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition” by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Belzer et al. 2005

Chapman, Mannuzza and Fryer, 1995

Fiuieira and Jacques, 2002

Grant et al. 2005

Merikangas, Lieb, Wittchen and Avenevoli, 2003

Rapee, 1995

Resilience - The Three C's of Psychological Resilience - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 28, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the three C's of psychological resilience - click here.

Why do some people sail through adversity while other people fall apart at the drop of a hat?

Why do some of us remain happy despite repeated setbacks and losses? Several decades ago, psychologists began to research these questions hoping to not only define the personality characteristics behind psychological resilience but to teach others how to easily weather the ups and downs of life.

Their research concluded that psychological resilience could be summarized in three central attitudes, or “the three C’s”:

Commitment:

We establish our belief in ourselves and in our purpose by remaining steadfastly committed to a cause, to a philosophy, or to a larger identity. Working for a greater purpose in our lives, whether it’s rocking your baby to sleep or working on the cure for cancer, can create a sense of stability and purpose that helps in healing anxiety.

Control:

Anxious people try to control everything and everyone in their lives. If they cannot control you, they may try to dump you instead. Resilient people are assertive but leave room for you to be your own person. They focus on what they can control and disregard what they cannot change. They don’t sweat the small stuff, and they stay anchored in the moment and less reactive to life’s frustrations.

Challenge:

Resilient people view change as an opportunity instead of a burden. While change can leave a lot of uncertainty and room for anxiety, they look for ways to turn it to their advantage. They choose to engage life with joy and creativity. In the end, this belief system fortifies their hope and optimism that the best is yet to come.

Sources:

"Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You" by Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D.

"The Hardy Executive: Health Under Stress" by Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D. and Suzanne Kobasa, Ph.D.

OCD - Living With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what it's like living with OCD and some signs that you may have OCD - click here.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD affects about 2 percent of the American population every single day.

Sufferers are flooded with intrusive, recurrent thoughts that appear spontaneously and are highly upsetting or disturbing. Obsessions are usually paired with a compulsion or required behavior that soothes their anxious mind.

So, what is it like to live with OCD?

Camouflage of Normal:

Many OCD rituals are subtle and can often be hidden from others. Other people often see them as somewhat normal or a part of the person’s need to be perfect. However, compulsions cross the line when they become repetitive and are used intentionally to soothe anxiety. For instance, washing your hands before and after a meal may be normal, but an OCD sufferer may wash their hands 10 times in a row because they didn’t properly check one of the locks on the front door.

Acting For Relief:

Most of us complete tasks to accomplish a goal. We wash the dishes every night so we have clean dishes for tomorrow, and we make sure that the oven is turned off to avoid any nasty surprises while we are sleeping. OCD sufferers don’t necessarily engage in behaviors to accomplish something. They are often acting to relieve their anxiety or fear of what will happen next. These fears are often unrelated to the task or they are an extreme case of what might happen. For instance, they may say a particular prayer every time they turn off a lamp so that the devil doesn’t appear in the dark room.

Higher Burdens:

As obsessions and compulsions become more entrenched over time, they become harsher and more demanding masters. They may have to engage in compulsions more regularly or increase the scale of their compulsive acts to meet the new requirements for relief. For instance, they may have once calmed themselves by slowly counting to ten, but now they must count to 187 before they feel relief.

Reinforcing Cycle:

Many OCD sufferers have more than one type of obsessive thought or compulsive behavior. They may have to wash their hands five times in a row to avoid a terminal illness, but they also have to recite a poem every two hours to make sure a meteor doesn’t fall on their mother’s house. As they add more and more tasks to soothe their troubled minds, they are often physically exhausted and more vulnerable to new anxious thoughts. The cycle starts over again once those anxious thoughts create new obsessions and new compulsions to relieve the anxiety.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

At some point in the OCD cycle, they may begin to believe that their compulsive behaviors really do work. They believe that their actions are the only thing standing between them and disaster. Since they become far too agitated and anxious if they are denied the ability to perform their compulsive behaviors, they never find out what would happen if they didn’t follow through on their compulsions. As long as they keep up with their tasks, they can be sure that everything and everyone will be OK. Why should they tempt fate by not completing one of their tasks?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have OCD, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

SOURCES:

"Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts" by Christine Purdon, Ph.D. and David Clark, Ph.D.

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn, 2012

CBT - What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, June 24, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is and why it is one of the most effective types of psychotherapy - click here.

Our emotions can be overwhelming.

Everything’s fine one moment, and the next you can be flooded with a tempest of swirling thoughts and smothering feelings. Most people in a psychologist’s office come to their first appointment tortured by emotions and thoughts that seem to be taking over their lives. Their emotions define their daily activities and they can’t seem to regain control. They regularly experience thoughts that seem catastrophic and discouraging. They don’t understand how to fix the problem of chronically feeling anxious and depressed, and they often resort to self-sabotaging coping skills like oversleeping, overeating, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, or altogether hiding from the world. Life is narrowed, pacified, and safe, but nothing is ever solved.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the psychological treatment model that has the highest success rate of all psychotherapies according to research.

This approach presents a totally different method of dealing with troublesome emotions than most of us use. Rather than allowing feelings to direct our lives and steal our happiness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT recognizes the close relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Here are a few ways this therapeutic approach works:

Correcting Inaccurate Thoughts:

Actions and feelings begin with your thoughts, and if those thoughts are based on inaccurate beliefs, they can lead you into a dark place. Negative personal schemas, or sets of beliefs, can seem accurate when they occur. But like light refracted through a dirty, inaccurate lens, they are often slanted toward the negative and are completely misleading. Through CBT, we can clean the lens and make your thoughts more optimistic, effective, and accurate.

Taming Your Emotions:

Again, thoughts lead to feelings and your feelings determine your behaviors. When your negative, inaccurate thoughts are in the driver’s seat, you are bound to end up off course. Your emotions are treated like facts and are often used to determine what to do next. They are not questioned and they are not denied. We endow them with credibility that is undeserved. Psychologists call this Emotional Reasoning. CBT works to reestablish the critical relationship between thoughts, facts, and emotions in decision making to help you make the best choice in the future.

Dodging Thinking Traps:

Many people do not realize that their thoughts distinctly trend toward the negative. Many of us make unfair comparisons of ourselves to others or we overgeneralize a challenge as defining our past, present, and future. CBT teaches you some of the most common types of thinking traps, and it helps you develop a new way of thinking about and overcoming adversity.

Fighting Back:

One of the main strategies of CBT is disputing your negative thoughts and correcting your thinking if it gets off course. CBT teaches you how to make your mind work for you instead of against you. By arguing against inaccurate thoughts and emotions, you will find your mind to be clearer, calmer, and more optimistic.

Anxiety - Common Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorders and how you can tell if you have it - click here.

Three percent of Americans have a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder or “G.A.D.”.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a wide and pervasive state of anxiety that anything and everything will go wrong. Sufferers regularly feel extreme amounts of anxiety and worry, and they are often hit with mental and physical symptoms every single day. Instead of being worried about a specific situation or issue, like social anxiety or specific phobias, they worry about everything and everyone in their lives. Many people with Generalized Anxiety try to normalize their thoughts by saying that they are just “worriers” or “planners,” but the truth is that they are using worry in an attempt to calm themselves down.

Here are some important points about Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Mind-Body Connection:

Generalized Anxiety usually comes with a collection of physical symptoms in addition to the mental health issues. Sufferers usually experience restlessness, irritability, muscular tension or cramping, overwhelming fatigue, and insomnia.

Slow Build:

Generalized Anxiety does not happen overnight. It builds slowly over the years and seizes control of your mind usually in your late twenties or early thirties. In fact, most cases begin in early childhood and some studies have found that sufferers wait an average of 25 years before seeking professional help.

Necessary Certainty:

One of the underlying beliefs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that uncertainty only leads to negative outcomes. They feel that if they are not constantly worrying, they are irresponsible and they are probably sabotaging themselves. One of the red flags for Generalized Anxiety Disorder is when someone is constantly planning their future. They cannot tolerate any uncertainty, so they have to plan every detail of their lives.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have G.A.D., please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.ADAA.org)

Mindfulness - Mindfulness For Grief and Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 14, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how mindfulness techniques can help you through the grief process and one of the easiest and most effective mindfulness skills - click here.

Few other life transitions are as impactful as the death of a trusted family member or cherished friend.

Even if we intellectually understand that their loss is approaching and even immediate, there is no amount of rehearsal that will ever fully prepare us for the final goodbye. The long nights ahead of us without our loved one can break even the sturdiest of hearts.

Many people turn to therapy after they have lost someone.

They are often extremely capable in most other areas of their life, but grief is the one problem that requires an entirely new set of solutions. They cannot escape the loss nor can they pretend that it never happened. They have to learn new skills to manage their grief and continue to live their own lives.

The traumatic effects of grief can be effectively managed with mindfulness and meditation techniques.

Research from Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn reveals that mindfulness training and meditation can alter the physical structures of the brain. With regular mindfulness meditation, we can retrain our brain and learn to calm our emotions in just a few moments while still remaining present in what is happening around us. When we regain control, we can experience loss as painful and deeply sad but not as an overwhelming event. We are able to focus on our problems as temporary, solvable issues, not as impossible puzzles.

One of the easiest and best practices for mindfulness is intentional or focused breathing.

It is an incredibly effective strategy for handling the effects of overwhelming anxiety. Deep breaths slow down our thoughts and our bodies, and we can begin to focus only on the present. As you focus on this moment and calm down about the future, you can regain control and choose how you want to react.

Sources:

“Mindfulness For Beginners: Reclaiming The Present Moment – and Your Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Full Catastrophe Living: Using The Wisdom of Your Body and Mind To Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

OCD - Common Types of Compulsive Behaviors - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common types of compulsive behaviors associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - click here.

The definitive signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or “OCD” are obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Even though only one of them is required to diagnose OCD, over 90% of OCD patients experience both obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Compulsive behaviors are the obsessed mind’s solution to horrific thoughts and fears.

They act as the release valve and allow some short respite from the overwhelming anxiety and obsessive thoughts. Compulsive behaviors or rituals can be either physical or mental actions and must be performed fully before the mind feels any relief. Many OCD patients are unable to work or even leave their homes due to their obsessive thoughts and their need to perform rituals to relieve their anxious minds.

Although uncertainty and worry are common to many anxiety disorders, OCD is the only anxiety disorder that causes patients to doubt themselves constantly. Maybe they didn’t perform the ritual correctly, maybe they forgot to complete the ritual on schedule, or maybe their eyes or their minds are deceiving them entirely. They become completely lost in the loop of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, and they often lose themselves completely to the cycle.

Here are some of the most common types of compulsive behaviors or rituals:

  • Repeatedly checking locks or appliances to make sure they are turned off
  • Excessive or ritualized washing
  • Hoarding behavior
  • Keeping objects in specific locations, orders, or patterns
  • Confessing to others
  • Asking for reassurance
  • Obsessive counting
  • Reciting words, phrases, or prayers

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may experience OCD, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn

OCD - Common Types of Obsessive Thoughts - By Chris Gearing

Monday, June 10, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common types of obsessive thoughts linked to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - click here.

The definitive signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or “OCD” are obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Even though only one of them is required to diagnose OCD, over 90% of OCD patients experience both obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Obsessive thoughts usually begin the cycle of OCD.

Your mind is flooded with thoughts, urges, or images that may provoke feelings of humiliation, horror, or disgust. Most obsessive thoughts directly mirror the ideals and values that we hold most dear. For instance, a loving parent obsesses about the safety of their child or a body builder obsesses about the size of their physique. Most OCD patients recognize that their thoughts and fears are exaggerated, but they cannot stop their intrusive obsessive thoughts and feel compelled to perform their rituals.

Like most OCD cases, they may turn to compulsive behaviors or rituals to soothe and reassure themselves that they are doing all that they can to prevent some unexpected disaster. Their anxiety overwhelms their minds, and they search for a way to relieve the psychological pressure.

Here are some of the most common types of obsessive thoughts and fears:

  • Worries about cleanliness
  • Hoarding objects that they may need later
  • Needing objects in a specific location, order, or pattern
  • Fear of supernatural or spiritual harm
  • Worrying about contamination or death by disease or poisons
  • Anxiety about negligently causing harm to themselves or to a loved one
  • Fear of compromising or violating their own beliefs and values

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may experience OCD, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn, 2012

Suicide - Is This Generation More Depressed or More Aware of Suicide? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 07, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing examine why the rate of teen suicide is continuing to climb even though we know more about teen suicide than ever - click here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

Psychologists know more about suicide than ever, but the rate of teen suicide has climbed steadily over the generations and is now the third leading causing of death for Americans from 15 to 24 years of age. So, why does the rate of teen suicide continue to grow even though Americans are taking more action than ever to stop suicides?

Epidemic Depression:

Part of the answer is that teen depression and anxiety are reaching epidemic levels. Research has found that teen depression has increased tenfold over the last century and it strikes a full decade earlier than it did fifty years ago. That means that this generation is ten times more likely to reach clinical levels of depression, and they will likely become depressed when they are still children. In addition once depression and anxiety have set up shop in your child’s mind, they are more likely to return in the future. Severe depression reoccurs about 50% of the time.

Swept Under The Rug:

Even though suicide attempts indicate very serious mental health issues, very few suicidal teens actually receive professional treatment. According to research, 60-80% of American teens who attempt suicide do not seek out professional treatment until after the second suicide attempt. Their friends and family downplay the suicide attempt and try to make it a temporary anomaly. Hopefully, they don’t wait until it’s too late.

Deadly Differences:

Eighty-four percent of completed suicides, or attempts that end in death, are committed by boys. Girls are much more likely to attempt suicide, but boys tend to use much more violent and lethal means in their attempts. They may use a gun, intentionally wreck their car, or even jump off of buildings. Girls tend to use much less violent methods such as poison or overdosing.

If you are worried about your teen, here are some suicide warning signs to watch out for:

  • Stressful life event or loss like a relationship breakup
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of peers or acquaintances
  • Increased withdrawal from others
  • Increased rate of angry outbursts
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Low appetite
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • History of previous suicide attempts

Clinical depression and suicide are very serious issues. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by By Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov


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