Freedom Counseling is Expanding!

Anxiety: Impairment, symptoms and coping solutions

How bad is it to have anxiety?

Anxiety is a persistent and cruel disorder that affects more people that one might suspect.  It is indeed a widespread issue in our society. If not treated timely, and may I add –  properly, it can severely inhabit an individual’s day-to-day functioning by impacting his/ hers personal and/or professional life. The stats regarding anxiety are nothing less than jaw dropping. Data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R) survey performed by the Harvard Medical School in 2007 found that “an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives”. In reference to impairment, 22.8% among the adults who suffer from an anxiety disorder had a severe impairment and 33.7% had moderate impairment (Harvard Medical School, 2007). Consider that for a moment – more than 50 % of the individuals who took part of the study reported considerable impairments in their work/life functioning due to an anxiety disorder!

Common misconceptions

Anxiety disorder is just feeling a little “nervous” or “stressed”, right? Actually, that is incorrect. In order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, individuals must have a number of symptoms present. The duration and the severity of the symptoms are also important. Feeling a “little” nervous because you couldn’t come up with the “right” answer during that conference call this morning is one thing. Feeling excessively worried most of the time for at least 6 months, and not being able to fall or stay sleep is surely a cause for concern and will have clinicians inquiring if you’ve experiencing any other relevant symptoms.

The cause of anxiety disorders is still unknown although there’s quite a bit of data available showing a  biological and chemical link. The brain’s amygdala and hypothalamus are important components when processing data while under stress.  Similarly, your neurotransmitters do not stay idle either. Deficiency of the GABA and serotonin neurotransmitters is believed to make it impossible for the individuals to control the overwhelming feeling of worry (Nuss, 2015).

Recognize the symptoms

There are several anxiety disorders, the most common of which are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (also called Social Phobia).

By the way, this list is by no means all-inclusive; it simply outlines the most common anxiety disorders recognized by the general population. Okay you may say, so what are the symptoms? The answer is… it depends.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5 ) aka “the Bible” of all mental health gurus, gives us a glimpse into some of the symptoms. I want to caution you however, do not diagnose yourself with these. If you have concerns or questions, the best approach is to get in touch with a specialist.

For instance, below are just a few of the criteria (not all!) of GAD

  • Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge.
  • Being easily fatigued.
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
  • Irritability.
  • Muscle tension
  • The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse,a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

Coping skills and treatment

Depending of the severity of the symptoms, there could be several options available for those trying to cope with their anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy is a common treatment that people can turn to in conjunction with medication management (this is especially true for those suffering from more complex trauma such as PTSD). If you are being treated by more than one clinician, it is important to inform them so they can work together and brainstorm best possible solution/s for your plan of care. Medications are often helpful, but as a mental health professional I firmly believe that psychotherapy is also a powerful and effective treatment option to battle the negative effects that anxiety (or for that matter any other mental illness) can have on a persons life.

Are you feeling “blue” during the holidays?

christmas

How the holiday season promotes commercialism and negatively impacts our mental health.

Is it really that bad you may ask? Well, Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner folks! We have officially rolled into the final week before Christmas. And while many people joyfully anticipate the approach of holidays, the statistics show an entirely different reality for many families in the U.S.

Not so merry after all…

By the now you have probably grown tired of the endless Christmasy commercials consistently flashing from your TV screens presenting us with perfectly wonderful families, dinners, gifts and unexpected encounters. And if that wasn’t enough, we also have social media to top it off! Just in case our moods were not already sufficiently altered with negative feelings (for more info regarding social platforms please check out my recent blog post).  What you wont see in the commercials or posts is the fact that many, and I mean many people struggle psychologically during the holidays. For instance, strained family dynamics, the stress and anxiety of financial burdens including credit card debt, and the inability to meet the expectations of others all contribute to feelings of depression and negativity.

What can you do about it?

Set realistic expectations of yourself – This one is specifically for you perfectionists!  The world is not going to end if your house is not decorated as shown on Pinterest or Instagram. As long as you feel comfortable and at peace in the comfort of your home you should be able to enjoy the holidays. After all, it’s the people, not things that matter most, right?

Set realistic expectations for others – I know this is a tough one. What will people say if you don’t shower with them with expensive gifts? Well, do you want to go into debt over the anxiety of saying “No” to others? Feeling disliked and rejected is not pleasant, but the reality is that those who truly love you will love you no matter what. Set a firm budget, and only buy what you can afford. And if a family member is giving you a list of presents they want, you can give it back to them carefully revised to be within budget!

Don’t compare yourself to others – This applies to every aspect of life, not just the holidays. It is almost as an automatic thought process. It can be challenging to witness how others seem “to have it all” while you’re barely making ends meet. So I say it again, do not compare your life to others. Remind yourself that you’re at a different stage in your life; your path is your own, and your timing is different than theirs.

Take care of yourself – Bubble baths are a nice options but I have something different in mind. What does your soul need most? What brings you inner fulfillment and contentment? Reading, walk with your pups, chat with a long distance friend, see your grandchildren, whatever makes you happy, do more of it. This will not only alleviate your stress, but will also center you and remind you of the more important things in life.

Double down on your appointments with your therapist – if the holidays are negatively impacting your mood, and you sense that your depression is worsening, be sure to seek professional help. Remember, your mental health is important and is not “a phase that will pass”. Mental health is real and has a significant impact on individuals’ day-to-day life as well as their relationships, aspirations and general life goals.

How are the holidays affecting your mood? Feel free to share and comment!

And if you feel you may benefit from therapy, Freedom Counseling LLC would be happy to assist.

Merry Christmas!!

Find your joy during this holiday season!

Is Social Media running your life?

The instant gratification we feel when liked.

How you’re keeping up with the Joneses without even knowing it.

No, not me you might say, I don’t need to prove nothing to no one. Right? Think again…

Although many people nowadays feel they are impervious to the power of social media (such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and the like) not many realize that they spend countless hours every day on these very platforms. For instance, Facebook – by far the platform of choice (with the most users in the world) has become the official keeper of family history used by millions, if not billions of people. Long gone are the days when your mom proudly displayed your graduation photos in a neatly arranged paper album. Nowadays, all pictures are digital, and dutifully posted on Facebook, Instagram or any random “you name it” app that has an “on this day” feature to conveniently remind us how proud we must have felt on the anniversary of this date.

 

 

Back in the day (that is to say 10, 15 years ago), people modestly accepted but typically downplayed over complimentary praise. These days there’s a hashtag used for almost anything (#andIlluseonenow) in pursuit of attention, validation and/or acceptance. Each post displaying feelings, opinions, actions and situations to share with the world. Such use of social media can be healthy, it can also be damaging…

How so, you might ask? Perhaps its impact on you is positive … unless, the digital form of communication takes precedence over your real-life relationships and interactions. The need to share every aspect of one’s life – the good and the bad –  in addition to the instant gratification one gets when a post is liked by others, can have negative consequences on peoples’ lives possibly even altering thought perceptions and behavior patterns. The want, and inevitably the need to be accepted, not just by your immediate circle, but by countless online viewers (some of whom you may not even know) can “downgrade” the attention received by spouses, partners, parents and/ or lifelong friends who you truly care about. Welcome to the digital world of the 21st century: where social media makes, and breaks people.

Is it worth it? Only you can tell. Let me know what you think – drop me a line, share and comment.