Category: Anxiety Disorders

Girl with dress and rain boots on walking through rain puddles.

Five Techniques to Move Forward through Difficult Times

It can be said that life’s a journey. The only way to progress through this journey is to take steps forward. Throughout our lives we will encounter a number of twists and turns, perhaps even a few pitfalls. Obstacles make life challenging and rewarding. It’s important to remember that even though we may find life difficult at times, we must continue moving forward.

Depression and anxiety can make moving forward seem impossible at times. Overcoming these challenges starts as simply putting one foot in front of the other. Learning small daily strategies can help dismantle the overwhelming negative feelings caused by anxiety and depression, and other similar disorders. This can be hard, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult crossroads, or a path that seemingly leads to nowhere. The only way we can find our way is to continue moving forward.

Five Tips to Continue Moving Forward in Therapy

1. Don’t Give Up

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly – don’t give up! Just because an obstacle emerges, no matter what size, does not mean that the journey is over. Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a multi-award winning psychotherapist, explains that “once you quit, it is never quite the same. Whether it’s a relationship, a job, or your life, you are in charge of your choices. Giving up may enter your mind, but find some way to keep going, even if you have to do things a little differently.” So when the going gets tough, don’t be afraid to find another path, or, to find a way to overcome the obstacle obstructing your way. The journey continues from there.

2. Stay Positive

It may seem a bit cliche to say that positivity is key, but the truth is often worth repeating. A positive mindset can make all the difference when it comes to progressing through one’s life and it’s challenges. It is also important to remember that the world is not our enemy. True, we will all face our own shares of ups and downs, but when we are confronted by the “downs”, we must remember that they don’t happen because the universe hates us or that we are the victims of some sort of terrible cosmic vendetta. Rather, by adopting the perception that the world around us exists to do us good, we can learn to see the opportunities that surround us, instead of just focusing on the obstacles. In this way, we open ourselves up to the possibility to flourish, and learn not to assume failure.

3. Take Things One Day at a Time

A simple yet effective piece of advice is also to take things one day – or one step – at a time. Trying to tackle problems head on all at once is the easiest way to get overwhelmed and, consequently, want to just give up. Instead, it helps to learn to tackle things one at a time. For example, if we’re having problems within a relationship, attempting to fix all of them at once can seem not only difficult but outright impossible, which can lead us to feeling defeated before we even try. But by approaching our problems one step at a time, we can improve this relationship by strengthening the parts that comprise it. To begin with, we might start by improving communication, then maybe we schedule more dates or quality time. One-by-one we take on the things that were causing us to feel upset and stressed, and by doing so we not only improve the health of our relationship, but our own personal health as well.We don’t need to do everything at once in order to see progress. In fact, we may find that it is easier to move forward when we are taking steps, rather than large, uncoordinated leaps.

4. Go at Your Own Pace

Life is not a race, therefore there is no need to rush progress. Dr. Goldsmith states that “you may have been beaten down, but you are not broken. Even if you have suffered and lived through a life-altering trauma, if you still have a beating heart and air in your lungs, you can get back on your feet.” The key is doing what we can, when we can, and taking breaks when we need to. These periods of rest can be what we need in order to get the energy to continue forward. However, we must remember that taking breaks should not be the same thing as stopping entirely. In other words, if we’re trying to get healthier and decide to have a cheat day, we shouldn’t allow that day to become everyday, otherwise it defeats the purpose. We must continue on our journeys, but there is nothing wrong with taking time every now and then to collect ourselves and refocus on what we really want in life.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Disappointment

Unfortunately, disappointment as natural to life as as breathing. People from all walks of life experience disappointment, regardless of who they are. That being said, disappointments, while admittedly discouraging, should never stop us from moving forward. There is nothing wrong with feeling disappointed from time-to-time, but disappointment is not an excuse to give up or stop trying to accomplish what we want. No matter what, we must keep going. After all, we have a lot to see and do before our journeys end. So why stop here?

Learn more about moving forward through the journey of self-improvement and mental health treatment by calling our office @ 800-378-9354.
A man in his 20's who seems tired and anxious as he sits on a couch, looking out a window.

The Connection Between Sleep and Anxiety

One of the most overlooked and yet essential components of good mental health is enough sleep. Without enough sleep, each day can seem longer and more strenuous. Stress and overwork can be exhausting not just for our bodies, but our minds a well.  Anxiety and sleep are much more closely connected than most people think. Anxiety causes the mind to race at a million miles per minute resulting in overwhelming thoughts, which make it difficult for us to properly relax. Instead, we may experience heightened, intense emotions, such as fear, anger, or strong feelings of sadness. During stress, our bodies also release more hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, which contribute to bodily tension by making us more aware and raising our heart rate and blood pressure. Anxiety can be exhausting, leading to a vicious cycle of feeling tired and anxious day in and day out.

Poor Sleep and Anxiety – A Never Ending Cycle

When feeling anxious, it’s harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. We may find ourselves waking early for no reason other than our own feelings of stress, causing us to feel “out of it” throughout the day. Symptoms associated with anxiety resulting from lack of sleep can be indicative of the beginnings of insomnia. There are various forms of this condition, which is normally the result of periods of high anxiety. In fact, extreme stress, typically caused by unexpected life events or challenges, can cause what is known as acute insomnia. This condition comes on suddenly and lasts for a few days. By comparison, chronic insomnia occurs when such anxiety symptoms are constantly present. Chronic insomnia can last at least a month or more, which only contributes to existing feelings of anxiety.

Dr. Michael Breuss, clinical psychologist and Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, explains that “stress and sleep exist in a bidirectional relationship. Just as stress and anxiety trigger insomnia and other sleep problems, lack of sleep increases stress and anxiety.” Without proper sleep, we are likely to be more susceptible to symptoms of irritability, aggression, feeling overwhelmed, lacking energy or motivation, difficulty concentrating, or even heightened emotional sensitivity. This increased susceptibility also increases the risk of suffering from greater mental and physical illness as lack of sleep can really wear us down. Thankfully, therapists have offered a number of ways that we can manage stress and anxiety and improve our sleep cycles to ensure the rest we need to be both happy and healthy.

Three Things to Try to Sleep Better

1. Biofeedback

One technique commonly recommended by healthcare professionals is a practice known as biofeedback. These techniques help us collect information about the body which raises our awareness of stress, allowing us the opportunity to relax before things progress any further. In biofeedback, sensors track and measure various physical functions including heart rate, perspiration, breathing, body temperature, muscle movement, and sleep stages. These measurements help us better understand our stress levels. When we learn to be aware of the physical changes we experience at the onset of stress, we can better prepare ourselves to combat these uncomfortable feelings using effective relaxation methods.

2. Autogenic Training

Another proven, although admittedly lesser known method of reducing stress-related sleep deprivation is autogenic training, or AT. AT incorporates various exercises to help us focus our attention on the physical sensations our body is experiencing. Similar to how biofeedback works, this heightened awareness places us back in control of our own experiences, with both our body and mind. AT training focuses on generating sensations of heaviness and warmth in various regions of the body. Using visual images and verbal cues, therapists can employ AT to help calm racing thoughts. Patients are encouraged to practice these exercises regularly, as they can help manage stress on a daily basis.

3. Guided Imagery

Many therapists employ guided imagery as a part of their primary treatment technique as it can be a successful way of helping the patient better understand their own thoughts and experiences. As Dr. Breuss explains: “When we imagine something, our bodies respond as though they were actually experiencing that moment.” Thus, this mind-body technique engages all of our senses, connecting our conscious and unconscious mind. This can help direct us towards more positive physical responses, like better sleep. In fact, guided images can be used with various goals in mind, among which is reducing mental stress and nighttime anxiety. Therapists can help the patient develop a successful practice for guided imagery which the patient can then practice on their own in an as-needed basis.

Physical and Mental Relaxation

The benefits of genuine physical and mental relaxation are well documented. These techniques have been tested and proven to be effective to treat a variety of symptoms of late night anxiety, stress, and insomnia. For best results, it is recommended that we combine these practices with other forms of therapeutic intervention. After all, the best way to remedy a problem is to uncover its source. Therapy can help determine what is causing us this unnecessary stress and, in doing so, help us discover the best path to treat these negative feelings. Through this, perhaps we can finally learn to relax.

Speak with a Boca Raton therapist today about how to cope with anxiety and poor sleep cycles @ 800-378-9354.
Young woman sitting in a dark room, wearing a one-piece jumpsuit, obsessing over her weight with a measuring tape in hand.

Eating Disorder Treatment Based on Attachment Theory

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “eating disorders are real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships.” Claiming that eating disorders are a fad, or merely a poor lifestyle choice is harmful to the millions of people who struggle with them. Eating disorders are serious and potentially life-threatening. This mental health disorder can impact a person’s health both physically and emotionally.

Better Understanding Eating Disorders

The NEDA reports that “in the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or EDNOS.” However, they also acknowledge that a large number of cases go unreported. But why? There are many reasons why a person may choose not to divulge their eating disorder, but most signs point to the personal nature of the condition. In fact, the majority of individuals who struggle with an eating disorder also experience body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. All of these issues relate back to our self-image and self-esteem, which can be difficult (though necessary) topics to talk about.

It is possible to overcome an eating disorder. Studies show that success rates for treatment are largely dependent on whether or not the individual chooses to seek help early on. The earlier treatment is initiated, the more likely it is to be successful. The longer a person waits to seek treatment, the more time and opportunity the eating disorder has to become an ingrained aspect of daily lives and routines. This means that it can be harder to break and overcome (though still not entirely impossible.)

Eating Disorder Treatment

What also matters is how one approaches the treatment of the disorder. For example, some clinicians and researchers believe that how a patient developed their eating disorder doesn’t really matter for treatment. Many therapists argue that treatment should be based on what is necessary for patients to recover. Other professionals like Dr. Judy Scheel, President of Cedar Associates Foundation, disagree on this topic. The mission of the Cedar Associates Foundation, a non-profit organization, is to assist in the prevention, education, and research of eating disorders. In her line of work, which spans 20 years, Dr. Scheel has found reason for her belief that “uncovering causation enables the individual to understand motivations (what purposes the eating disorder and its symptoms serve in someone’s life.)   Knowing the factors driving the proverbial bus can support informed decisions about what is necessary in maintaining recovery and long term health and well-being.”

Dr. Scheel notes that patients diagnosed with eating disorders have been shown to also have profound interpersonal and psychological issues. Because of this, treatment and the recovery process can be long and challenging. According to Dr. Scheel, “research repeatedly affirms that pre or co-existing anxiety and/or depression co-occur with eating disorders.” These co-existing conditions are what make people with eating disorders particularly susceptible to criticism, shame, and fear, especially with regards to behaving in a manner that they consider to be imperfect. Many researchers are now beginning to find that perhaps these qualities stem from childhood attachment issues.

Dr. Scheel explains that “Many in the psychodynamic and psychoanalytic camps would agree that these fragile interpersonal qualities are the outcrop of childhood attachment experiences and their intensity is compounded as a child grows throughout life.” Thus, she concludes that “eating disorders therefore are ‘natural’ consequences as they attempt on the one hand to correct the vulnerable states  through perfection and fitting into the culture as well as are the means in which to punish the individual for being imperfect i.e. having vulnerabilities.”

The Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is a psychological model that attempts to describe the dynamics of long-term and short-term interpersonal relationships between humans. This method has been invaluable to the study and treatment of eating disorders. The Attachment Theory respects the relationship between the therapist and patient as a significant vehicle for recovery. The role of the therapist is to create a safe and understanding environment for the patient. This environment allows for the development of trust. It is through that trust that an opportunity unfolds where patients may be able to deal with their negative emotions and confront their behaviors. Patients can discuss their self-destructive impulses and conflicted relationships within the trusting environment constructed by the therapist. As Dr. Scheeler puts it: “compassion, forgiveness and empathy therefore have an opportunity to be experienced and shared. Attachment Theory provides a natural framework in the relationship between therapist and patient.”

Dr. Scheeler does advise, however, that the Attachment Theory approach doesn’t work for the therapist who is uncomfortable with a more intense relationship with their patients. Practicing Attachment Theory requires a high level of control over one’s own emotional responses. The therapist must be comfortable with discussing various topics of an emotional and psychologically impactful nature. Dr. Scheel explains that “if a therapist is uncomfortable with feelings of anger, or cannot tolerate their patients’ dependency, or is uncomfortable with discussing sex and sexuality, then Attachment Theory is not likely a comfortable lens from which to practice.  If a therapist has not confronted their own competitive issues or lacks compassion and empathy creating a safe place for the truth to be told is hampered.”

Assuming that the therapist is able to practice it, the Attachment Theory provides a useful technique for dealing with conditions such as eating disorders. In fact, there are  researchers who suggest that the emotional, intuitive impact of therapists may be more influential than the cognitive or behavioral suggestions. Or, as Dr. Scheel says: “the relationship between patient and therapist are paramount in treatment and recovery as the attachment patterns developed in childhood are contemporarily unavoidable and necessary to be played out in psychotherapy.” In this way, Attachment Theory enlists the therapist’s creativity, as well as their knowledge about their patient’s disorder and related issues. Through this unique method, they can provide a healing opportunity for their patient that is incomparable to any other existing form of treatment.


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Finding the Right Therapist to Treat Anxiety and Depression

With so much misinformation out there, unfortunately a good therapist can be hard to find. Everyone has needs which are unique to them as an individual, and it is the goal of therapy to address and cater to those needs. However, due to the diverse array of unique problems patients can present, there’s a likelihood that patients and therapists can be mismatched. Furthermore, just as in any profession, there are certain individuals who are more qualified for their position than others. The key is not to give up on seeking help if you need it, but to find the therapist that is best equipped to address your needs.

There are many reasons why someone would look towards therapy for help. For some, it may be as simple as needing extra support. Perhaps they feel as though the support system in their own lives is lacking in some respects, and that’s where a therapist can come in to help. Weekly check-ins can be just what the patient needs to feel fulfilled and secure in their lives. For others, the necessity of a therapist can be more acute. These situations likely need more intensive methods than the aforementioned weekly check-in. Research Assistant Professor at Boston University, Dr. Shannon Sauer-Zavala, explains that “If you are experiencing symptoms of anxietyand/or depression that are interfering with your daily life, recounting the events your week may feel validating in the moment, but is unlikely to lead to lasting relief.” Dr. Sauer-Zavala points to the effectiveness of methods such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) in such instances.

Because CBT is one of the most well known and successful therapeutic treatment methods for dealing with symptoms of anxiety and depression, many therapists claim it as one of their services offered. However, this information isn’t always accurate. According to Dr. Sauer-Zavala: “Many therapists list CBT on their websites as a service they provide, but actually fall back on more supportive (How was your week?) techniques in practice. As a result, people seeking a therapist need to be savvy consumers who ask the right questions to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth.” Because of this, she, and many other healthcare professionals are advising patients to ask important questions when seeking out help from a therapist. Doing so will ensure that the therapists in question are providing evidence-based strategies to help with anxiety and depression, not just empty promises.

What to Look For in Therapist to Treat Anxiety and Depression

It’s no secret that anxiety and depression can color our perspectives and alter our views of ourselves and the world around us. As such, those of us struggling with either disorder have a tendency to view things from a negative point of view. In CBT, the cognitive aspect refers to the practice of questioning these initial thoughts in order to achieve a more realistic and balanced perspective. In other words, rather than just jumping into negative assumptions, we are encouraged to recognize all aspects of a given situation in order to better understand it. For example, if a friend doesn’t message us back, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they hate us, but rather, they may have been busy or not had their phone on their person in order to immediately respond to the message. Dr. Sauer-Zavala explains: “Challenging negative thoughts is a hallmark of CBT!” As such, she advises patients to “ask a potential new therapist if he/she teaches cognitive restructuring, which is CBT-lingo for challenging our negative first impressions. Also ask if he/she uses a thought record, a standard practice form that facilitates learning how to challenge thoughts.” Therapists who are familiar with utilizing this technique will likely have a greater chance of success in treating patients struggling with depression and anxiety.

Avoidance Isn’t the Answer

People with anxiety and depression have a tendency to avoid situations or activities which may trigger negative emotions in an effort to self-treat their symptoms. These methods may work in the short-term, they almost never have any lasting success. This is where legitimate CBT is especially useful. Dr. Sauer-Zavala puts it thusly: “The more you struggle against negative emotions, the more limited your life becomes (e.g., avoiding going to a party means you won’t feel anxious but it also means you won’t expand your social circle).” In CBT, the behavioral treatment involves encouraging individuals to engage in situations that are relevant to their life goals. A good CBT therapist will encourage their patients to pursue the paths that will ultimately allow them to move forward in their lives, even if these paths present emotional challenges along the way. After all, it is necessary to face these situations which provoke such strong emotions, also known as “exposures,” in order to improve one’s quality of life.

Modern CBT: Mindfulness Over Matter

Modern CBT methods have begun to include meditation and similar mindfulness techniques aimed at restoring a balance between the body and mind. The goal of these practices is to ground oneself in the present in a nonjudgmental fashion. This is aimed at combating the self-destructive thoughts and feelings people struggling with anxiety and depression may experience at any given moment. The most likely reason for these recurring thoughts, according to Dr. Sauer-Zavala is that “Often people with anxiety and depression are hard on themselves for the thoughts and feelings they experience…They mistakenly believe that beating themselves up for feeling anxious or down will make them less likely to feel that way in the future.” But research reveals that the opposite is actually true. Judging oneself for having feelings will actually do more harm than good. As a result, many therapists these days incorporate mindfulness techniques into their treatments to help their patients think and act without harsh judgment and/or criticism. Thus, for patients with anxiety or depression, it is good to ask any potential therapist who claims to specialize in CBT whether or not they also advocate mindfulness or related techniques.

Of course, the effectiveness of any treatment, CBT included, is entirely dependent on how often it is practiced. The teachings learned in therapy are only as effective as the patient’s commitment to them. This can really make a difference in whether or not the therapy itself is successful. That being said, the therapist also makes a large difference. Patients must look for a therapist qualified to treat their unique needs. This will require research, inquiries, and investigation, but will be well worth it. Matched with a compatible treatment program, patients with anxiety or depression can improve their conditions and significant reduce, if not eliminate, the symptoms of their condition.

Schedule an appointment to begin treating anxiety and depression with our Boca Raton Therapists @ 800-378-9354.
young woman experiencing negative emotions

How to Personalize Anxiety Treatment with Genomics

These days there is a plethora of treatment options available for anxiety-sufferers, ranging from medication to counselling. In anxiety therapy, the therapists teach clients who are struggling with anxiety techniques and skills needed to help better manage those feelings. However, the sheer number of treatments available these days, combined with the vast archives of information (both true and false) available on the internet can make seeking out what treatment is best for oneself seem intimidating. After all, with so many options and answers to choose from, how can we be sure which is right for us? Moreover, what if one treatment alone isn’t enough to manage our anxiety? Does this mean there’s no help? The short answer to this question is “no.” In fact, many anxiety sufferers greatly benefit from a combination of treatment methods designed to target the sources of the anxiety as well as the symptoms.

Finding the Anxiety Treatment that Works Best for You

Unfortunately, there is no one intervention method that works as a catch-all for everyone. Because of this, searching for the right methods can be a bit more challenging than anticipated. It’s important not to neglect individual needs in favor of following a popular convention. For example, just because someone with mild anxiety was able to successfully treat their condition by meditation and eliminating caffeine from their diet doesn’t mean that someone with more moderate to severe anxiety symptoms will be affected in the same way by doing the same things. Furthermore, not benefiting from these treatment methods doesn’t mean that the person still struggling with anxiety has somehow failed or cannot be treated. The real question is what treatment method(s) will work best for them!

Genomics: A Gateway to Better Understanding Anxiety

So how can we determine what treatment or combination works best for us? The answer may lie in our genetics. Some healthcare professionals are using off-the-beaten-path means of assessing what interventions work best for certain anxiety patients. Called genomics, this method involves sequencing and analyzing our genome, thereby creating a genetic map by which we might be able to better understand disease. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): “virtually every human ailment has some basis in our genes. Until recently, doctors were able to take the study of genes, or genetics, into consideration only in cases of birth defects and a limited set of other diseases. These were conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, which have very simple, predictable inheritance patterns because each is caused by a change in a single gene.”

Scientists are now extending their research to examine the effects of the genome on our mental health as well as our physical one. This direction perhaps isn’t surprising considering that DNA is responsible for the development and direction of all activities in nearly every living organism. Mapping these DNA sequences can help generate unique, individualized genetic profiles for patients who are seeking customized treatment for their needs. Rather than following hype and faulty advice, those struggling with anxiety or any other mental health conditions can follow their own genetic makeup to discover what treatment will be most beneficial to them. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Susan Heitler explains the potential of genomics thusly: “The ‘right’ answer starts with your genes, your DNA. Your DNA provides instructions for everything.  It  instructs your body to optimize nutrients, balance emotional and physical bodies, protect you from foreign invaders and provide vital energy.  Sometimes however glitches in the DNA code that writes these instructions creates a faulty switch in a person’s ‘software.’ When these switches are put into an unhealthy environment, the system may falter or crash.”

Finding the Faulty Switches

The truth is that we all have what Dr. Heitler would call “faulty switches.” These are what lead to disease of both the body and mind. Faulty switches are different from inherited diseases, though, as small changes in our DNA known as SNPs are actually fairly common. More than 10 million of these SNPs have been found in the human genome. Left unchecked, SNPs can cause problems in the body’s biochemistry and metabolism. These problems can, in many instances, can either result from or be exacerbated by unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices.

When we recognize our SNPs and get a better understanding of our genome, we can ultimately make more informed decisions based on what our bodies and minds truly need to be healthy. This can include anything from increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake to customizing medicating dosages to suit our unique profiles. Therapy can also help in targeting the underlying  causes of our anxiety thereby reducing feelings of stress. Because of genomics, we can better understand what treatment methods will work best for us and in what measure, thereby increasing our likelihood of successful anxiety management and even recovery.

Anxious business man sitting in a chair, laptop in his lap, hands covering his face

Three Simple Steps for Fighting Anxiety

It is estimated that around 40 million US adults aged 18 and older suffer from an anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders not only in the US but worldwide. Recent studies estimate that approximately 1 in 3 people across the globe are struggling with an anxiety disorder. Among these individuals with anxiety disorder, it is believed that close to 6 million adults suffer from panic-related anxiety in the US alone (approx. 2.7% of the total population).

Interestingly, in most anxiety disorders, excluding social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, women are considerably more likely to be affected than men. Panic-disorder is no exception. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or ADAA, when it comes to panic-disorder anxiety, women are almost twice as likely to be affected than men. That being said, both sexes can suffer from panic attack-inducing anxiety, which typically develops during early adulthood. Moreover, panic anxiety has a high comorbidity rate with major depression, which can only worsen existing symptoms.

At first glance, these numbers and statistics might be intimidating, but what many people don’t realize is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most influential causes is when people do not recognize that their disorder is real and able to be diagnosed. Many people struggling with anxiety may mistakenly classify their anxiety as being harmless paranoia or jitters when, in reality, what they may be experiencing may be more pervasive. Unfortunately, as with any issues pertaining to mental health, anxiety sufferers, too, often face a stigma that recognizing their anxiety as being a legitimate issue means admitting that there is something mentally and fundamentally “wrong” with them.

Anxiety is Highly Treatable

This mode of thinking is not only toxic but dangerous, as well. Mental health is a serious concern, and is not to be dismissed, regardless of how seemingly mild. To have anxiety is not to have something “wrong” with oneself, but rather to acknowledge that there is a challenge that needs to be overcome to sustain a happy and fulfilling life. By reframing this thought pattern, we can not only allow ourselves to feel better about ourselves and what we’re going through, but also we open ourselves up to the opportunity to heal and overcome those challenges we had been facing.

Fear of admitting anxiety can prevent us from seeking the treatment we need to move past it. Anxiety, even when it induces panic-attacks, can be treated by a number of therapies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is among one of the most common options for treating anxiety, but it is far from the only one. Other popular therapeutic treatments for anxiety sufferers include Exposure Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), to name a few.

How to Treat Daily Anxiety

But what happens when treatment isn’t readily accessible? For those of us who do seek regular treatment for our anxiety disorders, there may be times when we are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, like panic attacks, while we’re out and about during our daily lives. In these situations, our therapists are nowhere to be found, and we’re left to face our anxieties more or less on our own. During such times, there are three ways that we can help reduce our symptoms of anxiety, which therapists frequently recommend:

1. Be Mindful

When struggling with panic attacks or other symptoms of anxiety therapists will frequently advise their patients to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches us to ground ourselves in the present moment and our experiences therein, rather than getting stuck in the chaotic whirlwinds that are taking place in our heads. In other words, to be mindful is to be self-aware of oneself and what one is feeling. We might think to ourselves: “ok, what I’m feeling right now is anxiety, I’ve felt this before. I will allow my body to experience these reactions but I know what they are and why I’m feeling them, therefore I can get through this.”

Sometimes, the key to resolving a moment of panic is to not fight it. To fight the body’s natural impulse is to oftentimes validate the reason for feeling anxious. For example, if we’re panicking about being near a certain place, it is better to acknowledge what we are experiencing and why rather than trying to shut down by saying “no! Don’t feel this! This is bad!” Why? Because doing this can sometimes add to our existing feelings of panic by creating a new anxiety surrounding the feeling itself. By being self-aware and allowing the feeling to pass, we can allow ourselves to move beyond the panic more easily rather than adding to it.

2. Don’t Run

Perhaps we’ve heard at some point or another that it’s good to face our fears. More often than not, this is easier said than done. But there is truth to this statement. Building on our previous point, by avoiding a situation that induces panic, we might actually be contributing to the anxiety itself. By avoiding our fears, we actually make them stronger by validating that there is, in fact, something to be afraid of. Because of this, it’s important for us to remember to face our anxieties and allow ourselves to move past those feelings that come with it. This is how we overcome our anxiety and grow, not by avoiding it in the first place.

3. Take Deep Breaths

The third and final technique for reducing symptoms of anxiety is a bit of a cliche but that’s only because it’s truly effective. Take deep, mindful breaths. More than just breathing, focus on the sensation of each inhale and exhale; the feeling of your lungs expanding and contracting, pressing against your diaphragm. Why do this? Because it can allow us to surpass feelings of panic rather than be bombarded by them. Focusing  on breathing or another tangible, calming, physical experience, can reduce our muscle tension and overall feeling of anxiousness, which can contribute to the severity of panic attacks. Visualization can also help, wherein one places themselves in a situation or place that causes them to feel peaceful rather than anxious.

Regardless of what technique is used, anxiety can be overcome. Going to therapy can help us fortify ourselves against our anxiety by teaching us coping methods such as these that we can use when symptoms arise so that we can address those feelings of discomfort rather than confront them. Through careful treatment, anxiety sufferers can hope to reach a point where their anxiety no longer prevents them from leading a fulfilling and happy life. In essence, there are answers available to those who seek them.

To schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, call 561-338-7725

red haired woman sitting on a smile couch, wearing headphones doing music therapy

Therapy with a Different Kind of Notes

Years ago, therapy was only thought of to be a space where a person and a therapist would meet and talk things through. While talk therapy still exists and can be extremely effective, our perspectives on what exactly therapy is and can be has greatly broadened over the years.

These days there are a number of new therapeutic treatment options being developed to address a wide variety of mental health concerns. With the growing popularity of alternative treatment options, more creative approaches to therapy are increasing in popularity. This is likely because many of these alternative therapies use subliminal elements to address the client’s inner needs and feelings without confronting them directly and, consequently, meeting a barrier of instinctive resistance. In other words, therapies like art therapy and play therapy allow the therapist to communicate with their clients in such a way that they can get to the root of their problems by reframing them. In this way, these concerns might become easier or perhaps more comfortable to address for the client.

Music Therapy: What is It?

Another form of therapy, however, has recently been gaining popularity amongst mental health professionals. Although lesser known than more conventional methods like traditional talk therapy, music therapy is being shown to be an effective form of therapeutic treatment for many individuals. But first, what is music therapy? Not many people know what exactly goes on during a typical session, which might make them hesitant to try it out in the first place. According to board-certified music therapist Dr. Dean Olsher, what music therapy actually is is a “ a rich and varied set of traditions co-existing under one big tent.”

But what does this mean? When congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords suffered a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head, it rendered her nearly incapable of speaking. She was only able to regain this ability when neurological music therapists used singing to help her learn to speak again. The application of music into therapy is many and varied, taking on different forms to suit the individual client’s needs. Music therapy has also been shown to be able to reach ndividuals with dementia. In these instances, the patients might be able to make music of their own, or simply listen and respond.

In psychotherapy, which once developed as an alternative to Sigmund Freud’s the “talking cure,” practitioners tend to align themselves with any number of orientations. These include psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Like psychotherapy, music therapy can take on many different forms. Olsher describes: “Therapy happens in any number of ways, including improvisation, writing new lyrics to existing songs, you name it.” The versatility of music therapy is, in part, what makes it so effective. It can be customized to fit the client’s specific needs through music. Music, in and of itself, is an emotional and thoughtful medium. We might feel affected by certain songs or sounds, while others might resonate with us in ways that we might not have really been able to express otherwise. This ability to transcend linguistic barriers is, in part, what makes music such an effective medium for therapeutic treatment. Music can help give a voice to the voiceless in a similar way that art or images can, in many cases, speak more than words alone can.

How Music Therapy Works

Music therapy is specially designed to meet the needs of the individual. In some sessions of music therapy, the client might simply listen to music prescribed by the therapy. Conversely, in others, the client might be encouraged to sing, write a song, or play an instrument. In this way,  music therapy can be somewhat similar to occupational therapy – a form of therapy in which the client seeks recovery from a physical or mental health illness through the performance of activities that will be useful in their daily lives.

However, it might be incorrect to characterize either of these forms of treatment as either active, or passive, says Olsher, since it’s not quite that simple. He explains that “even ‘passive’ music therapy is actually active, because the music therapist is inviting the client to listen actively and to respond in some way or to reflect on how and which aspects of a particular piece of music/song is/are relevant or meaningful to that individual’s experience. An example of this is Guided Imagery and Music (GIM for short) in which the client images to specifically programmed music, with the music therapist serving as a guide of sorts. Afterward they process the material that emerges as a part of the listening, sometimes using active music-making to do so.”

It is also worth noting that music therapy differs from other activity-based therapies, including the aforementioned occupational therapy, because it is more specialized. Music therapists use their knowledge about how music affects the brain and employs musical elements in various different ways to meet the client’s needs. For example, an occupational therapist may incorporate music into their sessions, but their focus and expertise is not specifically in the area of musical intervention. Music therapists are more likely to invite clients to engage in and reflect on the interpersonal process of music. Moreover, they’re interested in supporting the emotional and relational growth of a person or group. These are not the focus of occupational therapy.

Music Therapy is an Option Worth Trying

Music therapy is one of many options available to individuals who need help coping with mental and emotional distress. It has been shown in many instances to help overcome linguistic barriers and help heal individuals after traumatic incidents. While lesser known than more conventional methods of therapy such as psychotherapy and talk therapy, it can nevertheless be highly effective in individuals who respond more strongly to music than words alone. As such, music therapy may be worth considering if you feel as though you might benefit from this form of interactive treatment.

Three Tips for Making Difficult Decisions

Everyone finds themselves having to make tough decisions from time to time. Such choices are a natural part of life and often mean that we are transitioning into a new stage of ours. The biggest challenge with making difficult decisions isn’t the choice itself, it’s worrying whether or not we’re making the right choice: the choice that will be of the greatest benefit to ourselves and potentially to others. While we can’t really guarantee the outcome of our decisions any more than we can predict the future, we can take into consideration how exactly we make decisions and in what ways we can improve that process to our greatest benefit. Read more

a man in fear

Four Rare Phobias You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Fear is a common and essential human emotion. Without fear we would act recklessly and end up endangering ourselves and even risking our lives. Fear allows us to be cautious, to think before acting, and to avoid certain people and situations which may compromise our health and wellbeing. However, experienced in excess, fear can become limiting and restrictive, impeding our quality of life by holding us back from new experiences or making us wary of things unnecessarily. When fear is experienced in irrational excess, objects of that fear are known as phobias. Properly defined, phobias are irrational and extreme fears. For example, many of us may not particularly enjoy the circus or find humor in clowns, but those of us who may be classified as coulrophobic have an extreme fear of clowns which can lead to strong adverse reactions upon seeing a clown or hearing the word mention. This might include triggering a panic attack. This is characterized by trembling or shaking, increased heart rate, sweating, and shortness of breath, to name a few more obvious symptoms.

While many of us may be familiar with certain popular phobias such as claustrophobia, or fear of closed, confining spaces, or arachnophobia, fear of spiders, there are actually a myriad of existing phobias that many people suffer from all over the world. In this article, we shall discuss 4 lesser known phobias and what they actually mean as well as possible triggers to look out for should you or someone you know struggle with any one or more in particular.

Four Rare Phobias You May Have Never Heard Of

1. Ailurophobia

Ailurophobia translates to fear of cats. This phobia is characterized not necessarily by a hatred or loathing of felines, but rather by a response to cats that is similar to how many people might react to seeing a rat, spider, or snake in their path. Triggers for this phobia include any situation in which an individual may see, hear, or feel a cat, or if they imagine a situation in which they do. Like many phobias, ailurophobia varies in severity on an individual basis, but in many cases it is perfectly treatable. Treatment is normally conducted by a psychiatrist or therapist who works with the patient to understand their phobia, its origins, and slowly work with them to lessen the intensity of their phobia so that they might be able live more happily without having to worry of whether or not they might encounter the popular household pet.

2. Bibliophobia

Bibliophobia is the irrational fear of books. More than just a dislike of the tangible object, those with bibliophobia tend to fear what books represent or the effects that they can have on people. After all, knowledge is very influential, and it is this very influence that a bibliophile may fear. However, some bibliophiles are less afraid of the function of books and instead fear the very act of reading, particularly if aloud. Bibliophobia may arise if an individual has an existing reading disability in which case they are predisposed to becoming nervous when confronted with having to read, especially in front of others. Although, is is not necessarily always the case. The roots of bibliophobia are varied, but the focus on books and reading remains. Bibliophobia, like most phobias, is incredibly life limiting, and thus it is recommended that individuals with bibliophobia seek treatment immediately. A therapist treating someone with bibliophobia is likely to encourage their patient to adopt a different perspective about reading and even work with them to get them to grow comfortable with the act of reading according to their own pace. In any case, treatment can be a pivotal means of healthy and normal life function for the bibliophobe in a word surrounded by the importance of books and literature.

3. Leukophobia

This phobia is one of the rarer phobias that exist. Leukophobia is fear of the color white, which, although seemingly straightforward in terms of object of fear, is actually more complex once examined more closely. Those who are Leukophobic are most likely not just afraid of the color white but afraid of the connotations of that color and what it might represent to them. For example, an individual who experienced a traumatic incident with snow or an accident may associate this experience with anything that is colored white and, consequently, transfer their fear of that incident onto the color which they feel represent it. Leukophobia can be obsessive, with individuals suffering from this phobia going out of their way to make sure their homes and wardrobe contain as little to no white as possible to avoid triggering their phobia or agitation. Some individuals with leukophobia, however, appear to have no obvious traumatic basis for their fear and simply dislike the color. In any case, the best way to treat leukophobia is to discover the real cause of the phobia and address that. In doing so, individuals suffering from leukophobia may be able to overcome their irrational fear and live life as a normally functioning person unlimited by their chromatic phobia.

4. Sesquipedalophobia (Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia)

The irony here is incredibly strong. Sesquipedalophobia, alternatively known as Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, is perhaps more easily referred to as the irrational fear of long words. The exact cause or causes of this phobia are unknown, but some suspect that it may be rooted in a lack of education as that may make larger words more difficult to read or pronounce, leading to potential experiences of embarrassment and/or humiliation. However, these claims require closer examination before they can be determined to be true or not. In any case, individuals with this phobia may be triggered by any instance in which they are confronted by long, complex, or difficult to pronounce words. That being said, this phobia, as well as each of the others, can be treated through therapy and self-reflection to determine the true source of the phobia and how the patient might be able to gradually overcome their aversion to long words.

close up picture of anxious woman holding clenched hands to her mouth with black backdrop

Five Techniques to Manage Anxious Thinking

Many of us experience worrisome or anxious thoughts from time to time. Worry is a natural emotion which reminds us to be cautious when making decisions and embarking on new experiences. Worry can also be a sign of consideration or concern, like when we worry over a loved one. Additionally, worry can help us be productive. For example, a student who worries about their grades may be more motivated to study, or a person who worries about their health may monitor their eating habits and exercise often. However, like any potentially overwhelming emotion, worry is best experienced in moderation. Excessive worry goes beyond cautiousness and begins to cross over into anxiety. Anxiety, as defined by the American Psychological Association, or APA, is “ an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Those who have anxiety disorders usually experience recurring, intrusive thoughts or concerns. This can lead to avoiding certain situations out of worry, even if that avoidance is ultimately detrimental to their quality of life. Excessive worry can also make us less productive and even interfere with our sleeping patterns, making us more tired and irritable.

If you happen to be experiencing anxiety or worrying too much to the point where it takes away from your enjoyment of your day-to-day life, there are a number of ways to calm your worries and relax both your body and mind.

5 Methods to Quell Anxious Thoughts

1. Acknowledge Your Fear

Initially when we are confronted with a distressing thought or one that makes us uncomfortable, it might be tempting to just ignore it. However, ignoring problems seldom ever helps, in fact, it could actually make those problems worse. Instead, it’s better to acknowledge why you feel anxious and accept it. That will allow you to be able to move on.

2. Engage in Problem-Solving

An important step in dealing with anxious thoughts is learning to separate the things we can control from the things we can’t. Rather than expending our energies on trying to fix the things we can’t control, our efforts would be better focused on trying to fix the things we can. For example, if you’re worried about looking unprofessional at a job interview, take time to dress properly, or if you’re worried about debt, create budgets. There are solutions we can take to many problems, and it’s important to remember to turn anxious or worrisome thoughts into productive behavior whenever possible.

3. Reframe Unrealistic Thoughts

It’s not uncommon for anxiety to lead us to think of the worst possible outcomes. However, these catastrophic predictions are seldom reflective of reality. One bad grade will not ruin one’s future, nor will one small mistake lead to the loss of one’s possessions and loved ones. Instead, it’s better to replace our exaggerated, negative thoughts with more realistic ideas. In the event of having to give a speech, rather than thinking “I’m going to mess up and look stupid”, instead think “I have important things to communicate and if I mess up a few words it won’t be a big deal.” Such thinking puts anxious thoughts in better perspective so that they have less power to overwhelm us.

4. Practice Mindfulness

We can’t live in the past nor can we predict the future. Therefore we should practice living in the present. Practicing mindfulness can allow us to become more in tune with our surroundings. By doing this, we can reduce anxious thoughts as well as reduce feelings of stress and tension in our bodies.

5. Calm Your Body

Building on the previous strategy, it’s important to remember that our bodies and minds are intricately connected, so a calm body can help maintain a calm mind. Anxiety can often bring with it unwelcomed physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, and upset stomach. When we experience anxiety we may have trouble sleeping or have difficulty sitting still. Unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle, as these symptoms can then fuel our anxious feelings and upsetting thoughts, making our anxiety seem worse. There are several ways we can try to calm our bodies and, in turn, calm our minds. Good methods of redirecting our energies include practicing deep breathing, or even simply exercising by going for a jog or performing some yoga. A healthy body is key to a healthy and balanced mind.

Practicing these strategies can help us overcome worry and anxious thoughts to allow ourselves to remain happy and productive, unhindered by our troubled minds.

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