Category: Boca Raton Psychiatrist

Six Benefits of Practicing More Self-Compassion

It can be very tempting at times to fall into a spiral of self-doubt, especially when we find ourselves faced with making a number of important decisions. As we transition from adolescence to adulthood, this number greatly increases, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed with the demands and expectations of our day-to-day lives. Because of this, it can be easy to learn to second-guess every choice we make, which can result in  being more likely to  underestimate our own intelligence and capability, and even worse, lower our overall sense of self-esteem. While many of us are readily compassionate and understanding to our friends and loved ones, sometimes we forget to turn this compassion inwards to ourselves as well. Being too tough on ourselves can actually hinder our performance and keep us from achieving the most out of life. A little self-compassion goes a long way. In fact, here are 6 benefits of treating oneself with the same kindness we might show unto others.

1. Boosts Happiness

First and foremost, self-compassion can boost our overall happiness. This is because self-compassion is associated with better moods and positive characteristics. More specifically, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality links self-compassion with one’s overall happiness, optimism, personal initiative, wisdom, and greater appreciation towards oneself and one’s body.

2. Increases Motivation

Self-compassion can make us want to take initiative. After all, we are more likely to make good choices and act positively if we feel good about ourselves and receive positive reinforcement rather than if we adopt a more negative perspective. A 2011 study conducted by the University of California showed that participants spent more time studying for a test after a previous failure if they demonstrated self-compassion. Moreover, said participants also reported feeling a greater motivation to change their weaknesses when they practiced self-acceptance than those who did not. In other words, we respond better to feeling better than feeling worse. Sounds obvious, right? Practicing self-compassion can motivate us to achieve the goals we set rather than if we hold ourselves back out of fear of failure.

3. Makes Us More Resilient to Adversity

More than just motivating us to take risks and do better, self-kindness and compassion can also help us get through the tougher times in our lives. Challenges are a necessary stepping-stone to success, but some challenges prove to be more difficult than others and some obstacles are more difficult to traverse. In these instances, treating ourselves negatively would be the equivalent of wearing lead shoes whilst trying to climb a wall – making the task far more difficult for ourselves than the wall is alone. Self-compassion is a key component to overcoming adversity in our lives. Another 2011 study published in Psychological Science, shows that people who report higher levels of self-compassion have also shown to have improved emotional recovery following events such as marital separation and divorce. We all need support through difficult times in our lives, however a crucial measure of that support must come from ourselves in addition to expecting it from others.

4. Improves Body Image

When we learn to be compassionate with ourselves, we are essentially learning to love ourselves. This love is not just mental, but physical as well. Multiple studies have linked higher self-compassion to healthier body image and decreased body shame. In fact, a 2012 study published in the journal Body Image, found that those who frequently practiced self-compassion tended to be less preoccupied with their body image, have fewer concerns about their weight, and show a greater appreciation overall towards their bodies than those who did not demonstrate the same kindness.

5. Reduces Psychological Distress

As previously mentioned, practicing self-compassion benefits us both mentally and physically. Recent studies have shown that self-compassion can actually decrease mental health problems. In another study published in 2012 in Clinical Psychology Review, it was revealed that self-compassion reduces psychological distress such as anxiety and depression, and reduces some of the harmful effects of stress. When we tell ourselves that we can accomplish things, it is more likely that we will, and when we tell ourselves the we love ourselves no matter what, then we can more easily overcome negative psychological experiences like anxiety, depression, and related disorders.

6. Enhances Self Worth

Most of us may think that in order to maintain high self esteem we must rely on external circumstances and social comparisons to make us feel valued. However, self-compassion can help enhance our self-esteem and our feelings of self-worth, enabling us to maintain our own self esteem from within. A study released in 2009 in the Journal of Personality reported that self-compassion allows us to feel good even after experiencing failures, perceived inadequacy, imperfections, and personal set-backs.

Start Practicing Self-Compassion

So why practice self-compassion? The reasons are obvious. We will need plenty of support in our lives through our various trials and tribulations, however, that support needs to come from within and not just be dependent on others. After all, there’s no shame in being our own best friends, because we deserve just as much love as we’d give to anyone else.

New Algorithm Can Diagnose Schizophrenia with Accuracy

According to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America, or SARDAA, it is estimated that approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with schizophrenia. This disorder is at least partially genetic, and three-quarters of people with schizophrenia develop the illness somewhere around 16 and 25 years of age. SARDAA notes that there are also 5 key characteristics of psychotic disorders like Schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, “Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions.” These include what NIMH calls the “flat affect” which is defined as being when a person’s face does not move when they speak or when they speak in a dull or monotonous voice. Other symptoms include when an individual is experiencing a lack of pleasure in their day-to-day lives, or they demonstrate an inability to begin or sustain planned activities, or some individuals may speak very little, even when forced to interact.

Can Computers Predict Schizophrenia?

The variety of symptoms which can sometimes be misidentified as other disorders make certain illnesses like Schizophrenia challenging to properly diagnose and even harder to predict in certain individuals who may actually be more predisposed to developing them. However, a recent discovery of an algorithm may actually make this process not only easier and more efficient, but also much more accurate. Mental health professionals have long noticed the disjointedness which may occur in the speech and speech patterns of individuals with Schizophrenia, usually manifested when one thought being expressed is not well connected to the next. Thus, analyzing speech through psychopathology isn’t a new area of study. In the 1990’s, many guidelines were developed to help doctors predict psychosis from listening to the patient’s dialogue. Many doctors can do so with remarkable accuracy, around 80%. But with computers, the accuracy can be as high as 100. According to a new study published in Nature, computer algorithms were able to perfectly predict which at-risk youth would go on to develop Schizophrenia over a 2.5 year period.

This was achieved by analyzing the spoken dialogues of the study’s subjects. From this data, the algorithms measured the coherent flow from one sentence to the next. If a single, jarring disruption was present, it was a sign that a psychosis would follow. One of the study authors, Guillermo Cecchi, explains: “When people speak, they can speak in short, simple sentences. Or they can speak in longer, more complex sentences, that have clauses added that further elaborate and describe the main idea…The measures of complexity and coherence are separate and are not correlated with one another. However, simple syntax and semantic incoherence do tend to aggregate together in schizophrenia.” Disruptions in sentence structure during speech can be an early indication of disorders like Schizophrenia which can impede coherency of thoughts and their expression through language.

The Advantage of Algorithms in Predicting Mental Illness

Why do these algorithms have an advantage over human analysis? Probably because computers don’t tend to lose focus. Whereas a doctor might momentarily lose their deep focus when jotting down notes on their patient, thus missing one of the more subtle episodes of speech disruptions, computers don’t have this difficulty. Computers have the advantage of being able to efficiently multitask without really having to compromise their focus on one task over another, thus they can analyze and record data concurrently and with more efficiency than humans.

The Future of Psychopathology

The first study conducted using these algorithms was admittedly small. Thus, one would expect that a larger sample would reduce the efficiency because the algorithms wouldn’t be able to maintain a perfect record when deployed on a wider scale. However, results of this study are still promising. This is because this research reveals that disruptions in speech patterns indicative of schizophrenia can be computed, thus making algorithms effective at advanced diagnosis of disorders like schizophrenia. Moreover, the high accuracy potential of such algorithms can potentially be used as an intervention allowing individuals to receive treatment and guidance before falling into a psychotic episode. Such diagnostic tools can help successfully combat the estimated 50% of people who are eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and receive no treatment. Further research is needed to determine the exact effect such algorithms may have on the patients with schizophrenia and related disorders, but these early results point to a promising new direction of diagnosis and treatment.

picture of boss standing over a scared employee working at a desk

Are You Being Bullied at Work?

Generally, we think about bullies as school children on playgrounds, in hallways, and walking home at the end of the day.  The unfortunate reality is that bullies do not always stop being bullies when they have grown into adulthood.  Bullies can be found at any age in almost any setting.  The workplace is the perfect environment for breeding a culture that accepts bullying.  According to the Washington State Bureau of Labor and Industries, workplace bullying is defined as “repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or groups) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s).”

Examples of Bullying in the Workplace

Sometimes bullying in the workplace is noticeable and obvious.  Things like abusive language, teasing, belittling, overt violent or sexual intimidation, threats, intentionally presenting you or someone else with offensive materials or comments, or spreading hateful gossip about you or another employee are all considered workplace bullying.  There are also some more furtive ways that bullying can take place at work.  Bullying can be giving an excessive amount of work to a co-worker or an outranked employee and demanding that he or she complete it immediately.  It can also be denying access to the appropriate resources for the proper completion of a task, intentionally isolating you or another worker, writing inaccurate or unfair work assessments, displacing personal belongings, or giving you or a co-worker an impossible task or an impossible deadline knowing that failure is the only option.

In order to determine if you are being bullied, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety recommends that you use the ‘reasonable person’ test. If you think that you may be being bullied, ask yourself if any other reasonable person would think that the behaviors you are enduring and the experiences that you are having are acceptable.  Are any criticisms that you are receiving reasonable, justified, and constructive?  Is your work meeting an acceptable standard?  Are you meeting the appropriate expectations?  If a reasonable person would not accept these behaviors, you may be getting bullied.  Bullies are trying to hurt you so they will not be likely to offer you any kind of support.

What Can You Do About Workplace Bullying?

There is no hard and fast rule about what should be done to curb workplace bullying.  Really, putting a stop to the abuse will depend on the willingness of your superiors and the company for which you work to listen to your concerns and to help you sort out a difficult situation.  The first step to take is usually keeping an account of the incidences of bullying that you experience.  You are building your case against the bully.  This is the evidence that you will use to confirm your claims.  Keep track of the dates, times, and specifics of the events including anyone else who was present so that they may be able to confirm your story.

Once you have a number of documented episodes, then you may be able ask the bully to stop his or her abusive behaviors.  You may want to have someone you trust present when you start this conversation so that the bully cannot claim that you said anything that you did not say or behaved in any kind of unseemly manner.  At this point, do not get into a debate with the bully.  State your piece, define the behavior that you find objectionable, and leave it at that.  Before approaching the bully directly, you may need to have a talk with your supervisor.  If the bully is your supervisor, you should move up the chain of management.  Continue on until you find someone who is going to listen to your claims and take them seriously.

You may feel like getting even with the bully and settling the score is your best option, but anything that you do in retaliation can weaken your case.  To management, it may start to look like a case of two employees who cannot get along rather than a true case of workplace bullying.  If the bullying gets to a point where you are in fear for your personal safety, you may need to talk to the police.  While technically, workplace bullying is unlikely to be a true crime, if you are being bullied because of your race, sex, religion, country of origin, or disability, you may be able to take action against a violation of your civil rights.

Coping with Disaster

After experiencing or witnessing a disaster, it is perfectly normal to feel anxious or stressed out.  After a traumatic incident, your feelings of stress or anxiousness are probably quicker to surface than they were before.  While these are normal reactions, the reactions themselves can lead to further anxiety or stress as you wonder if you are ever going to feel like yourself again or if you can eventually get back to the life you had before the disaster occurred.

Common Reactions To Witnessing A Disaster

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some of the normal reactions to have following a traumatic incident or a disaster include:

  • Emotional numbness or extreme emotional reactions
  • Crying easily
  • Feeling tense, nervous, and anxious
  • Excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol
  • Difficulty focusing or trouble with your memory
  • Isolating yourself from social situations
  • Fatigue and insomnia

Signs That You Should Seek Help For Coping With Disaster

Although it may be completely normal to have feelings of stress and anxiety at a time of or following disaster or trauma, it also may get to a point when you need to seek some additional assistance for coping with them.  Some people experience some of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder when coping with disaster.  This is not something that will go away on its own so professional help may be needed to overcome some of the obstacles.  There are some signs that you may need to seek help from outside sources.

  1. You find that you are exhibiting symptoms of mental illness such as hallucinations, a heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, or touch, unreasonable fear or suspiciousness of others, dramatic appetite or sleep changes, or a feeling of being disconnected from yourself.
  2. You begin to abuse drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with your overwhelming feelings about the event.
  3. Your concerned for the safety of those around you or in your care and for your own well-being or you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others.
  4. You cannot get back into a normal routine. You are unable to begin to function normally and work toward finding a safe space.
  5. You have feelings of extreme sadness or depression that continue without interruption for more than two weeks.

Things You Can Do On Your Own

If you do not believe that you need to or are ready to look for professional help, there are some things that you can do to try to set your life back to right and help yourself feel a bit better.

  • If this traumatic event or disaster is something that will be covered by many news sources, stop watching. If you find that you are anxiously awaiting every news cast or you are constantly searching the internet for more information, you are simply feeding into your feelings of anxiety and stress.  Step away from the media and focus on you and your family.
  • Take care of yourself and your loved ones. It may be difficult, but try to cook and eat food that is good for you even though what you may be craving is comfort food.  Try to get some exercise and get a good night’s sleep so that your brain has time to refresh itself and your thinking will stay clear.
  • Try to get back to a routine as quickly as possible. It may not be the routine you had before, but anything will help you feel like you are “normal” again.  Go to work, take your children to dance classes, and talk about projects and homework.  Getting back into a routine will speed up your recovery and help you feel better.
  • Do not let your feelings fester inside of you. If other people know what you have been through, they may be better equipped to help you.  Talk to your friends or your family.  Talk to other members of your community about how you are feeling and how they are feeling.  You may be able to find ways of coping together that will make things easier for all involved.
  • Do not dwell on the negatives about your situation. Getting caught up in all of the bad things is not going to be helpful to you or your loved ones.  It is normal to feel overwhelmed in the face of a disaster or a traumatic event, but if you take stock in the things that are good about your life and you remember that there are good things yet to come, you will be better off in the long run.

Coping With Job Loss

Even though there are signs of growth and improvement everywhere, companies are still downsizing or at least not growing. With the U.S. job market so competitive, many people are continuing to be unemployed. Millions of Americans have become part of a growing demographic of people who are experiencing long-term unemployment.

Many of us think to ourselves, “that could never happen to me.” But what if it does? What would happen if you find that the company you are working for had to close? What would you do if your position was eliminated? How would it affect your relationship if you lost your job? Just thinking about this kind of loss can stress you out. Job loss is about more than just a loss of money. It can upset the balance of your relationships. It can change the dynamic of your household, and it can change the way that you view yourself. All of these things are likely to cause stress, depression, and anxiety for you and for your other family members.

Losing A Job is A Big Deal

When coping with job loss, it is important that you acknowledge that it is truly a loss. You may need to handle it in the same way that you would handle grief at the loss of a loved one. You are likely to experience many of the stages of grief that include denial, anger, and guilt. These are natural processes. Once you acknowledge what is happening to you, you will be better able to deal with your changing emotions. It can be helpful to talk to your spouse or partner, or to a trusted friend. Sharing your feelings and your journey might make the whole process easier.

Find New Ways to Save Money

You might take this opportunity to find out ways that you can tighten your belt besides giving up your morning latte or your large cable package. Almost everyone has a period of financial leanness in their lives. Talk to the people closest to you to come up with some different kinds of ways to save money while you look for work. You will hear lots of people tell you that they had garage sales or turned to Craigslist for the selling of anything extra. You can cut down on your food spending by creating meals from the foods you already have or by making enough food for two meals and freezing one. People love to talk about how they saved money, and every new idea will be a boost to your finances.

Take Advantage of Time Between Jobs

Take some of this down time to focus on some of the things that you were not able to focus on before. Spend time with your family. Do things together at home like watching movies, cooking dinner, or cleaning up. Do things around the house that you talked about in the past but never really had the opportunity or the motivation to do. Learn something new that may make you more marketable to your future employer. The internet is full of learning resources that are at your disposal.

Pay Close Attention to Your Emotional Health

Also, take good care of your emotional health. Feel the things that you are feeling without denying them. You are allowed to feel angry about losing your job. You are allowed to feel depressed about not going to work and not being the breadwinner. Depression after a job loss is perfectly normal. But sometimes you can get stuck in your emotions. You can find that you are stuck being depressed or guilty or angry for a long time. This is unhealthy. You may need to seek some kind of professional help in order to improve your emotional well-being. Take note of how you are feeling and if you are feeling stuck in one place for too long. Notice if your family and friends are telling you that you need to get some help and follow their instructions.

You will get through this time of trial. Despair is not the answer. Your life may need to change in order to get through this, but you will find a solution if you rely on the options and the help that you can receive from all different sources. Many people have found that they grow quite a bit during a crisis. Weathering the bad times can make you a better person. So keep up the hope that things will improve, and look to the future where things are better.

Five Common Misconceptions About Postpartum Depression

After giving birth, there are many women who experience postpartum depression.  In fact, postpartum depression is one of the most common complications that occur after childbirth.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, postpartum depression effects 10 to 15 percent of new mothers, and it is one of the least understood forms of depression.  Many women who suffer from postpartum depression are viewed as weak or selfish.  The families of the women who suffer from this condition can be demeaning and not supportive.  Sometimes even doctors dismiss increasing symptoms telling women that they just need to perk up.  Because of the stigma involved, many women do not get the treatments that they so desperately need.  They often do not know that postpartum depression is treatable and can be temporary if the right help is received.

There are many myths about postpartum depression that keep new mothers in the dark about their own potential condition and keep the public misinformed. Let’s take a look at five of the most common misconceptions about this mental health concern.

Myth #1 – Postpartum depression occurs right after a woman has given birth.

A woman is likely to start showing symptoms of postpartum depression within the first year after giving birth.  Most women will dismiss the symptoms if they occur any time after the third or fourth month after they have given birth.  Women often do not seek help or wait until it has been several months before asking for help.  These women are usually surprised when they are told that they are suffering from postpartum depression.

Myth #2 – Postpartum depression will go away on its own.

Not true.  Postpartum depression, like other kinds of depression, needs the right kind of treatment.  It cannot and will not be overcome by ignoring it or forcing yourself to rise up and overcome it.  A sufferer cannot simply snap out of it. While postpartum depression is highly treatable, again, the stigma is so great that often women do not seek treatment.  They are often judged by their friends and families.  They often internally feel like they are in some way substandard or feel guilty for their own feelings.  Getting professional help is really the best way to treat postpartum depression effectively.

Myth #3 – Women who suffer from postpartum depression do nothing but sit around being sad and crying.

Postpartum depression manifests itself differently in every woman.  While it is true that some women cry a lot and are sad much of the time, not every postpartum case exhibits these symptoms.  Some women talk about feeling numb or detached. Others are more angry or irritable.  Some have heightened anxiety surrounding the safety of their children.  Most sufferers of postpartum depression suffer without letting on that anything is wrong.  They still take care of their families, go to work, and do all of the things that they are meant to be doing, but they are still suffering inside.

Myth #4  Moms who suffer from postpartum depression will hurt their children.

Postpartum depression is often confused with postpartum psychosis.  The statistics on mothers harming their children are as radically different between these disorders as the disorders are themselves.  There is a 10 percent chance that mothers with postpartum psychosis will harm their children.  1 in 1000 mothers could suffer from postpartum psychosis.  Mothers with postpartum depression are more likely to overcompensate for their disorder and take extra care with their children rather than neglect them.  Our culture is such that when serious harm comes to a child, the media immediately equates the problem to postpartum depression when it is very unlikely to be the case.

Myth #5  Suffering from postpartum depression is the fault of the sufferer.

Women who suffer from postpartum depression are very likely to blame themselves.  They feel guilty or shameful about the disorder and do everything they can to hide it.  But it is not their fault.  There are several biological factors that make a woman more likely to end up with postpartum depression.  Hormones are certainly a factor.  After the birth of a child, it takes quite a while for the hormones in a woman’s body to regulate themselves.  A family history of postpartum depression can also make a woman more likely to exhibit postpartum symptoms.  A personal history of abuse or trauma can also make a woman more likely to display symptoms of postpartum depression.  Whatever the reason, biology is usually to blame for this kind of disorder, and it should be treated as such.

Five Signs Your Child Will Benefit from Seeing a Boca Raton Psychiatrist

Just like adults, many kids and teenagers struggle with mental illness. In fact, according to the CDC, 20 percent of children and teens struggle with a mental illness. If you think your child or teenager is struggling with a mental illness, our Boca Raton psychiatrist is here to help.

When a Boca Raton Psychiatrist Can Help

But how can you tell if your child has a mental illness? Many parents fail to recognize the signs of mental illness in their children, because they don’t know what mental illness symptoms look like. It can also be difficult to differentiate between mental illness symptoms and normal childhood behavior or misbehavior. That’s why our Boca Raton psychiatrist has put together this helpful list of mental illness symptoms in teens and children. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, seek professional help as soon as possible.

1) Changes in Mood or Mood Swings

Mood swings or changes in mood may be a sign that your child needs to see a psychologist, but it can be hard to tell, especially in teens. If your child seems excessively sad or elated and hyperactive for an extended period of time, or develops mood swings or mood changes that are out of character for him or her, it could be a sign that your child needs mental health treatment.

Just like adults, children and teens react emotionally to events that occur in their life. If mood problems persist or if they cause problems in the family or at school, your child needs help.

2) Intense Worry or Fear

You might not think children have a lot to be anxious about, but mental illnesses aren’t logical – that’s why they’re called mental illnesses. Children can develop anxiety disorders including PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobias. Young children may express fear and worry as a refusal to perform activities normal for children, such as going to school, going to sleep or attending a birthday party. If your child seems excessively worried or anxious, especially if he or she demonstrates physical symptoms of fear like a rapid heart rate, fast breathing or sweaty palms, for no reason, bring him or her to see our Boca Raton psychiatrist.

3) Disordered Eating Behaviors

Children as young as eight years old can develop eating disorders. These disorders are about feeling out of control of one’s environment or life, and not really about weight or appearance. If left untreated, however, eating disorders can kill; they are the deadliest of all mental illnesses.

If your child seems excessively picky about what he or she eats, hides food or pretends to eat, loses an excessive amount of weight, refuses to eat in front of others or expresses concerns about being fat, he or she might have an eating disorder. However, binge eating disorder is the most common, and it does not cause excessive weight loss; it can cause rapid weight gain as sufferers consume more than 10,000 calories in one sitting. If you think your child might have an eating disorder, our Boca Raton psychiatrist can evaluate his or her condition and recommend a treatment plan. Eating disorder treatment for young children is often very successful, since parents can take complete control of the child’s diet.

4) Other Behavioral Changes

Children suffering from mental illness may begin acting out, they may struggle academically or they may lose friends. A child or teen who is struggling with mental illness may suddenly seem to become a different person. He or she may begin eating or sleeping much more or much less and may let his or her personal hygiene go. A child struggling with mental illness may begin engaging in self-destructive or self-harming behaviors, including self-mutilation, taking drugs or talking about or attempting suicide. If your child or teen is no longer acting like the person you know him or her to be, seek the help of our Boca Raton psychiatrist.

5) Unexplained Physical Symptoms

Mental illnesses can cause unexplained physical symptoms including stomachaches, headaches, body pain, and decreased or increased energy levels. If your child is complaining of physical symptoms for which no physical cause can be found, it could be time to call our Boca Raton psychiatrist for help.

If you think your child or teenager is suffering from mental illness symptoms, call our Boca Raton psychiatrist today at 1-800-378-9354.

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