Mental Health (2125)
Over one million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. Understandably, this diagnosis often brings anxiety and/or fear. Many people living with cancer right now are facing all the challenges this brings.
Every illness has an emotional component. With cancer, as with all major diseases, a comprehensive plan, including appropriate medical treatment and social and emotional support, is optimal for the best outcome. Psychotherapy is important for helping patients manage and cope with complicated feelings and changes that arise.
Therapy is also helpful for people who’ve survived the disease and now seek to resume a normal lifestyle. Post-cancer adjustment can be difficult for some people.
The idea of serious disease, including pain, may frighten people. A diagnosis as serious as cancer is shocking, and many don’t initially know how to handle the reactions they’re having. People fear medical procedures, disfigurement, pain, and death. They worry what will happen to themselves, their families, their jobs. How will they manage? What will happen? Can they handle what’s coming?
Having a good medical team that you trust is your first priority. But additionally, there may be a range of inner emotional responses, and many social and practical changes will accompany the treatment. Working with a therapist experienced in helping people manage the complicated feelings and adjustments that accompany serious disease and pain can be useful.
People have strong ideas and beliefs about illness, pain, healing, and asking for help and support. These include ideas about being sick in general, having cancer in particular, medical treatments, and what the future holds.
Some of these ideas are based on things they’ve heard or conclusions they’ve drawn (for example, life will be diminished in the future; nobody in their family lived past a certain age; they might have no control over what will happen to them; or they won’t be able to handle the procedures).
There may be stories about friends and family members who’ve had cancer that lead to fear, and, sometimes, there can be a lack of coping skills for handling medical conditions and pain. There is often a need for help from others with emotional support and re-arranging job, childcare, household duties, and more.
Psychotherapy is useful in helping people move through the different stages of diagnosis, treatment, and follow up; to acquire coping skills and social support; to manage complicated emotional and family concerns; and the practical aspects of dealing with a serious disease.
Hypnosis, or integrated imagery, is a gentle, guided meditation. It centers on solving an issue or a problem, an addiction, or simply changing an unwanted behavior. It is a very useful tool to uncover the subconscious reasons why we have certain habits or behaviors. Research shows it to be especially effective in the areas of weight control and smoking cessation.
The first step is to determine your goals, then to uncover the reasons for the unwanted behavior or the negative emotions that are feeding it. Simple “food cravings” can even be assisted when used as a goal in hypnosis. Sometimes the roots of an issue can stem from past life traumas. Even illnesses can stem from past roots. Hypnosis, or integrated imagery, can also be used for past life research in those cases.
Are you someone who avoids conflict? Do you wish everyone could just get along and not get angry? Would you rather do anything than risk an argument? If this sounds like you, it may be useful to look at yourself to see if fearing or avoiding conflict is holding you back in your relationships and life. Conflict is inevitable; it is a part of every relationship.
For those who hate conflict, that might seem like a bad thing, but the key is how the conflict is dealt with. Resolving differences doesn’t have to be loud or scary. Conflict can be productive, helping people to understand each other better and even feel closer.
Do you avoid conflict by trying to smooth things over? Sometimes people withdraw, either by leaving or just leaving emotionally. Avoiding conflict can leave tension in the relationship and can even lead to more conflict. A common way to avoid conflict is accommodating.
When you accommodate, you are taking care of the other person without taking care of yourself. For example, you might go to a Chinese restaurant to keep your partner happy. Sometimes people say they are “easy-going” or “laidback” and really don’t care about different choices or decisions. That may be true, though often they simply may not be aware of what they want or would prefer.
When you don’t deal with something that bothers you, it can negatively affect your self-confidence and self-esteem. The problem with accommodating is that it lets you avoid the conflict but not resolve it.
If you want to improve your ability to deal with conflict, begin by paying attention to how you deal with interpersonal differences. Notice if you feel resentful or unappreciated. Avoiding or accommodating may be automatic habits that you aren’t even aware of.
People avoid conflict for many reasons. Maybe they are afraid, don’t know what they want, or simply don’t know adaptive, assertive ways to deal with conflict.
Therapy is a good option for learning new skills for self-awareness and dealing with others. Group therapy is especially helpful with issues related to conflict and provides a great opportunity to practice new behaviors.
Statistics show that everyone can expect to experience the loss of a loved one once every nine to thirteen years. The resulting sadness may be the most painful of life’s experiences. Because it is painful, however, our eventual adaptation to the loss can bring meaning and integrity to our lives.
Our ability to adapt to loss is an important feature of the course of our lives. Change can instigate growth. Loss can give rise to gain. If we do not grieve the loss, however, it may drain us of energy and interfere with our living fully in the present. If we are not able to mourn at all, we may spend our lives under the spell of old issues and past relationships; living in the past and failing to connect with the experiences of the present.
Grieving is a process of experiencing our reactions to loss. It is similar to mourning. The term bereavement means the state, not the process, of suffering from a loss. Normal grieving is an expected part of the process of recuperating from a loss. The intensity of the process comes as a surprise to most people, and for many, it becomes one of their most significant life experiences. People have their own individual grief responses. No two people will experience the process in the same way.
The first reaction to the loss of a loved one, even when the loss is expected, is usually a sense of disbelief, shock, numbness, and bewilderment. The survivor may experience a period of denial in which the reality of the loss is put out of mind. This reaction provides the person some time to prepare to deal with the inevitable pain.
The feeling of numbness then turns to intense suffering. The person feels empty. There are constant reminders of the one who has been lost. There may be periods of increased energy and anxiety, followed by times of deep sadness, lethargy, and fatigue. The grieving survivor may adopt some mannerisms of the one who has left.
Sadness may be interspersed with times of intense anger. We may reproach ourselves for not doing enough to prevent the death or for having treated the deceased badly in the past. Normal stressors may become triggers that set off periods of deep anger.
All of us grieve in different ways, depending on the circumstances of the death, our own personal characteristics, and the meanings attached to the death by those left behind. Working with a professional therapist may help individuals experiencing intense grief to better process what has happened and to take the necessary actions that will allow them to complete the grieving process and eventually to move on to a whole and meaningful life again.
One of the most important tools in developing and maintaining healthy self-esteem involves monitoring the messages we tell ourselves. All day long, you have messages, called self-talk, going through your head.
For many people, these messages tend to be very negative. Messages may include distorted thinking and irrational beliefs, or they may include comments about our inadequacies and failures.
Stop and think about it. How many times this week have you thought something like, “Ugh. You’re so stupid,” “I’m not capable,” or even something like, “I’m a fat slob?” And how many times have you told yourself something positive?
Our thoughts typically include blatantly negative messages, but, often, they are so subtle that we do not even realize we are thinking so poorly about ourselves. Over time, these negative thoughts chip away at our self-esteem, putting us at risk for depression.
Our thoughts, not actual events, create our moods, determine the way we feel about ourselves, and contribute to how we perform in various endeavors. In other words, the bad things that happen do not really cause us to become upset. We get upset because of the way we think about these events. Similarly, disappointing things sometimes happen because we’ve made ourselves believe they will.
If you find yourself feeling upset about a poor grade, it is not the letter at the top of the paper that is creating your mood, ultimately subconscious thoughts, such as, “I should have done better,” that bring you down.
I caught myself engaging in negative self-talk a few months ago when I backed into another car. My immediate thoughts were, “You are so dumb! You should have looked in the mirror!” I felt terrible. Recognizing the negative self-talk, I was able to change the message and tell myself, “Everybody makes mistakes.” Doing so helped me to feel better and protected my self-esteem from being damaged by personal attacks.
The good news is that negative self-talk can be reversed. It takes effort, much like breaking any bad habit. But when you learn to recognize and change the way you think on a daily basis, you can improve the overall way you feel. To learn more or to receive help in recognizing and shifting your negative self-talk, find a therapist who works from a cognitive-behavioral perspective.
With practice, you can shift your entire way of thinking, improve your self-esteem, and have a more positive outlook.
Psychological testing can offer very valuable clues to getting your son or daughter on the right track this next school year, especially if suspect a disparity of high level of intellectual functioning with academic underperformance or social conflict. While this combination can result in frustration for children and parents in the short-term, if prolonged, long-term consequences may result. Severe academic resistance and/or unrelenting social rejection may be very hard to overcome once the damage is incurred. So--the key is to ACT FAST.
Psychological testing has the ability to identify any underlying roadblocks to efficient cognitive and behavioral functioning. It also helps parents and teachers unlock the natural abilities of a seemingly underperforming or uncooperative child.
Many schools offer some form of testing but generally a child is already experiencing severe academic or social distress before being referred. Also, these tests may not be as detailed or comprehensive as those offered by licensed clinical psychologists.
When getting your child tested, it is most important to undergo a battery of tests, for when their results are combined, a very detailed, comprehensive picture of the individual’s strengths and areas for improvement emerges. One popular psychometric test, the WAIS-IV, quantifies several areas of cognitive functioning and can be very informative--but it is only one piece to the puzzle.
Testing can be broken down into two categories: psycho-educational and neuropsychological. Psycho-educational tests such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children and adolescents (e.g. WISC) measure cognitive functioning such as processing speed, working memory, and problem solving skills. Detecting the presence of a learning disorder or other academic difficulties helps students develop a lesson plan to allow for optimal performance.
Neuropsychological testing is more comprehensive and uncovers how an individual’s specific brain functions (e.g. memory, attention, language) and how it impacts a child’s cognitive and behavioral functioning.
Results of neuropsychological evaluations reveal strengths and weaknesses of the individual’s cognitive or psychological difficulties. Additionally, neuropsychological testing can also evaluate the deleterious effects head trauma such as concussion injury may have on brain functioning. Such testing can unveil causes of cognitive deficiencies and tailor a treatment plan to promote healthy brain functioning and rehabilitation.
Pursuing psychological testing is very important especially for individuals experiencing distress in academic or social settings. It is especially important to have this information prior to the start of the school year so parents and teachers can work with the individual and foster environment allowing for the child to meet their potential.
Parent should interview and find an independent, licensed and experienced psychologist with a good rapport with the child’s age group to enhance obtaining valid, appropriate test results. Not all test providers will resonate with each child.
Hotwiring A Successful School Year
By taking matters into their own hands—and supported by independent, professional reports and recommendations--parents can quickly partner with teachers and others to create a tailored plan for school success. Together with your school age child or teen, you can jump start success and promote confidence this academic year—and beyond.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 3 to 5 percent of school-age children have ADHD. It is not clear what causes ADHD, although there is substantial research indicating genes play a large role. There is also considerable evidence that environmental factors may contribute to the disorder.
There are numerous symptoms indicating possible ADHD but the symptoms fall into three categories; hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattentiveness.
• Hyperactive children appear to be in constant motion and reach out and touch everything. They talk nonstop, fidget, squirm, and have a need to engage in continuous activities.
• Impulsive children speak at inappropriate times, have emotional melt downs, don’t consider consequences, have difficulty waiting their turn, and make choices that have immediate satisfaction, without regard to long-term negative consequences.
• Inattentive children bore easily, have difficulty organizing and completing tasks, forget things, make careless mistakes, become distracted easily, and can’t follow multiple instructions.
ADHD impacts a child’s ability to filter impulses, problem solve, and execute goals. Symptoms are typically apparent early in a child’s life; before the age of seven. However, many times the symptoms are there but are not noticed until later on, particularly with children who are predominantly inattentive. There are numerous conditions that may appear to be ADHD. Sometimes, difficult children are incorrectly labeled with ADHD. On the other hand, there are children who legitimately have ADHD who go undiagnosed. To ensure a correct diagnosis, a child suspected of having ADHD should be carefully examined by a medical doctor and tested by a psychologist to rule out conditions other than ADHD.
A psychiatrist can help determine if medication would be beneficial and a qualified psychotherapist can help a child with ADHD change behavior, develop coping skills and build on his or her strengths.
• Behavior therapy helps children to manage and develop controlling, relaxing, and goal motivated behavior.
• Talk therapy can help children to develop coping skills, and validate and manage thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
• Social skills training provides a method for children to learn social cues about other people’s feelings, sharing with others, when to seek help, and to ask questions before acting out.
• Note-taking and lists helps children to improve comprehension, eliminate distractions, and stay on track.
• Family-based interventions are beneficial in providing wrap around support and processing for the family.
ADHD is not just a problem for children, it is a long-term chronic condition. Research indicates that adults with untreated ADHD have to higher rates of failure to complete school, job loss, alcohol, cigarette and drug addiction, divorce, and driving accidents and tickets. Fortunately, with the right combination of medication, therapy, and educational support, the symptoms of ADHD can be effectively managed.
Nobody gets married with the idea that they will one day be getting a divorce. Divorce isn’t something that anyone looks forward to and it is never an enjoyable step to take. However, the fact is that divorce is one of the hallmarks of modern American society. There is research that indicates half of all marriages in this country eventually end in divorce.
Some common reasons that contribute to the high divorce rate in America are:
• Poor communication
• Lack of conflict resolution skills
• Financial problems
• Failed expectations or unmet needs
• Addictions and substance abuse
• Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
While there are many reasons that may contribute to a couple deciding to divorce, poor communication and an inability to resolve conflict are inevitably a large part of the picture. Research has shown that using a structured communication format can be very helpful for couples to communicate in a more healthy and constructive way.
In a structured communication format, one person is the designated talker, and the other the designated listener. Only one person speaks at a time, and the other person’s job is purely to listen; not just listen, but to listen with the intent to understand the other person’s perspective. Only when the first person is completely done talking does the other one begin to express what they have to say. The roles are then reversed. This is empathic communication.
Setting the stage for good communication to occur is important. It must be the right time and place for both you and your partner. The discussion will be blocked if either you or your partner are upset or distracted. Pick a time to talk when both of you are physically and emotionally available.
Take responsibility for what you are thinking and feeling by using “I” statements when expressing yourself. “I feel unheard” will be far better received and understood by your partner than “you never listen to me.”
When listening to your partner, listen without interruption and use active listening. Reflect back to him or her what you are hearing. Check to see if you have heard and understood correctly. Even if you don’t agree with what your partner is saying, pay attention and listen.
If you find that you have difficulty putting into practice this type of structured format, you may need help from a professional. Seeking the help of a qualified relationship therapist may be very helpful and facilitate you and your partner developing the communication skills that are necessary to keep your relationship flourishing.
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is becoming more common. Thousands of children and adults are diagnosed and treated every year. In 1970, 150,000 children were treated with stimulant drugs for this disorder; now, there are over 2.7 million. There was a 22 percent increase in this diagnosis between 2003 and 2007. Many are starting to ask whether there is another option for these children and adults besides drugs.
Diagnosis: Getting It Right
The first step is to be sure of the diagnosis. Often, people with learning disabilities are assumed to have ADD, when what they really need is treatment for their learning disabilities. Some parents have found it necessary to try independent testing by psychologists who specialize in learning disabilities to get to the root of the problem. Some children suspected of having an attention deficit may in fact be gifted and bored with school. Children with sleep apnea may be too tired to focus in school.
Some doctors are starting to take a more integrative approach to this problem by looking at the whole picture of what is happening in the family, school, and community. Sometimes, something as simple as a change in school will change the behavior. TV watching and sleep habits can greatly affect attention.
Start With the Basics: Diet
Food sensitivities are a trigger for some children, so a diet of whole foods with no corn, soy, dairy, or gluten may be effective. Avoid all artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Foods should be low on the glycemic scale, which increases blood sugar gradually. This is especially important for breakfast. Too many children eat foods that increase their blood sugar quickly, such as many breakfast cereals marketed to children. A better breakfast includes some protein, healthy fats, and fiber, like an egg sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin.
Some studies show good effects from fish oil (essential fatty acids – EPA and DHA), zinc, and iron. There are special tests for iron deficiency beyond checking a blood count. Studies show that supplementing with zinc can actually help to lower the dose of stimulant medications. Magnesium can also be helpful.
Parents can often learn parenting skills to deal with frustrating home situations. A great book is Howard Glasser’s Transforming the Difficult Child: A Nurtured Heart Approach. It is also important to work closely with the school for positive interventions.
Other approaches, including neurobiofeedback, herbs, neurotransmitter testing, and amino acid supplementation, are controversial but can be effective in specific circumstances. Lifestyle changes, including less TV and computer use and more yoga, meditation, exercise, martial arts, and time in nature have significant benefits.
So yes, there are many options besides medication. Given that we have no studies on long-term side effects of medications, it may be a good idea to step back and ask ourselves how so many children can need medication and what the real root problem causing this epidemic might be.
Anxiety is a natural reaction associated with the “fight or flight” response, and a general feeling of nervousness. Anxiety symptoms can arise during inappropriate situations or unwarranted times and present themselves in a variety of ways, such as shortness of breath, increased heart rate, restlessness and feelings of apprehension.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), there are twelve anxiety disorder diagnoses ranging from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to Specific Phobia. Usually, there is an underlying fear or catalyst that is directly correlated with the individual’s excessive reaction or response. For some, this may be a fear of social situations, while for others the fear may be associated with a previously distressing experience. Either way, the cognitive processing of specific situations has been skewed and must be modified with the intent of preventing avoidant behaviors and an isolating lifestyle.
When identifying an appropriate treatment approach for anxiety, it is imperative to accurately diagnose the specific type of anxiety that the individual is experiencing. For parents, it is important to identify the signs and symptoms that categorize anxiety disorders as primary diagnoses rather than secondary diagnoses while differentiating the symptoms from normal child development.
An experienced therapist will be careful to make sure that anxiety is the primary disorder before treating because anxiety can be a secondary symptom of another disorder.
A common example, the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be confused with the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Anxiety can also be identified as a secondary symptom of substance abuse. In these instances, it is imperative to identify all possible factors through a thorough evaluation and assessment.
Within psychotherapy, the most common approach to behavior modification for anxiety disorders is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The cognitive portion of CBT helps people identify the maladaptive thinking patterns while the behavioral portion of CBT addresses the actual responses to these maladaptive thought processes. A common approach to CBT is “exposure therapy.” This practice allows the therapist to slowly “expose” the client to the fear with the intent of gradually building appropriate responses and behaviors. This can be achieved through actual exposure to a particular fear or recalling events in a safe environment. Over time, it has been proven that CBT and exposure therapy decrease the maladaptive responses while increasing the individual’s ability to appropriately cope with fearful thoughts and feelings.
Continued psychotherapy in combination with medication management usually yields a positive outcome for the management of anxiety. However, all child and adolescent psychotherapists as well as parents must factor in the characteristics of natural child development when considering the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.