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Anxiety Depression Holidays

Helping Your Teen Navigate Holiday Depression and Anxiety

While we usually consider the holiday season a time for joy and cheer, that feeling is not universal. Among people with mental health issues, over half (64 percent) report that the holiday season negatively impacts their condition, with 40 percent reporting that they feel somewhat worse and nearly a quarter (24 percent) reporting feeling much worse. One respondent in a survey for the National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that the “holiday season beams a spotlight on everything difficult about living with depression.”

While millions of Americans are doing their best to find the right time and space to spend with their family, the looming threat and ongoing destruction caused by COVID-19 further weighs on people’s hearts, raising anxieties about seeing friends and loved ones, and reopening fresh wounds caused by the loss of family members. There’s also seasonal/holiday depression, which affects up to 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) and worsens depression during the winter months.

If you feel that your family, and especially your teen, are taking things quite hard during this year’s holiday season, then know that you are not alone. Millions of Americans are in mourning this year. The financial impact of a pandemic only further heightens anxieties around finances and finding work, not to mention the pain of missing family during one of the most important social occasions of the year. Understanding how the holidays might affect your teen and make them feel can help you identify the best way to help them.

Understanding the Highs and Lows of Holiday Depression

Seasonal/holiday depression, also referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a mental health condition that affects about 3 percent of the general population. Between 10 and 20 percent of people are affected by MDD, and nearly 25 percent of people are affected by bipolar disorder. Seasonal/holiday depression is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of depression, especially during the winter months, usually tied to a combination of factors including:

    • Everyday holiday stressors around family.
    • The pressure to be social.
    • Financial stress.
    • Drastically lowered levels of daylight, which can affect the brain and induce a negative mood.

Only about 10 percent of people with seasonal/holiday depression experience symptoms during the spring and summer months, rather than the fall and winter months. Seasonal/holiday depression should not be confused with the winter blues, a separate phenomenon involving a mild dip in mood during the holidays. People with seasonal/holiday depression experience more severe symptoms, including:

    • A marked decrease in self-esteem.
    • Noticeable signs of hypersomnia (excessive sleep).
    • Intense cravings.
    • Rapid weight gain.

While the causes are not entirely laid out, research indicates that the holiday season’s stressors may be exacerbated in some people by disrupted body clocks (circadian rhythm issues) and a lack of sunlight leading to lower production and release of important mood controlling neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

If your teen’s mood dips severely over the holidays, then know that their low mood and irritability might not just be in response to recent events but also the winter months’ general effect. Certain protective factors and condition-specific treatments (like light therapy, utilizing artificial UV light) may help them cope better. Unlike the winter blues, seasonal/holiday depression must be diagnosed and treated by a professional.

An Especially Difficult Year

Regardless of whether your teen’s mood is significantly impacted by holiday stressors and a different day-and-night cycle, no one would argue against the fact that this year is filled with extraordinary circumstances. We could all stand to have a little more support during this challenging year.

While some of us might be keen to see it end and are eagerly looking forward to celebrating the coming of a new year and new opportunities, others reflect on the past 12 months’ events with sorrow and pain. Your teen might be reminded of a close friend or relative’s death whenever they feel the “holiday spirit,” or they think your stress from months and months of anxiety and back-to-back bad news, and it is wearing on them as well.

It takes time to recover from loss and pain, in any shape or form. But if the holidays serve up a final stinger rather than a soothing balsam, acting together could help you and your teen find some peace and make the best of things. Here are a few tips for seeking emotional stability and overcoming low moods during these next few months.

Establishing and Maintaining a Healthy Routine

The holidays can feel massively disrupting for many, especially for teens who rely on a steady routine to keep their feet on the ground and manage feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Maintaining a healthy routine even throughout the holidays might feel like it is not doing a special occasion any justice, but it may help your teen feel stable. Elements of a healthy routine might include:

    • An hour or two of exercise.
    • Limited screen time.
    • Working on a project individually or together (like fixing up an old car, learning to cook new meals, finishing a book, or practicing an instrument).
    • Continuing to work or study (or find an equivalent activity).

Having Things to Look Forward To

For many teens who are feeling down during the holidays, these next few weeks might serve mainly as a reminder of what could have been or of the sorrowful events that had come to pass in weeks prior. Having something to look forward to can help serve as a reminder to move on or focus and be grateful for future opportunities. The next date with a friend, a new graduation day, the first day of a new life at school, or even just the new year and what it might bring. Holding onto the hope of something better is essential.

Making a Difference Over the Holidays

The holidays aren’t just a time for gift-receiving – they’re also a time for gift-giving, and sometimes, that gift doesn’t need to be a new phone or a fancy necklace. If your teen is feeling down, helping those in need during the winter months (and during a pandemic) can help them reap the benefits of kindness and gratitude. There are many ways to help, from donating unwanted old clothes to volunteering at kitchens and handing out supplies. See what is being organized in your local neighborhood and pitch in with your teen any way you can.

Warning Signs and Getting Help

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help your teen is getting them the help they need. Suppose your teen has been making frequent references to self-harm and suicide, has changed drastically in terms of personality and interests, has become entirely recluse and intensely irritable, and is generally unresponsive to all attempts to help reincorporate them into family life. In that case, it might be best to call a professional and ask for help. Convincing your teen to come to see a specialist might be difficult, but they may also be waiting for you to take notice and offer serious help as their thoughts and behavior spiral towards depression.

Categories
Adolescence Anxiety Mental Health Stress

Living With Anxiety

Life can be challenging enough without being affected by something that throws off your emotions, disrupts time with friends and everything about your internal universe. Living with anxiety is one of those conditions that affects nearly 18% of the population; that’s a large percentage that deals with acute stress from anxiety on a daily basis. It may not seem that serious to people who never experienced it before, but for those of us that have it, anxiety can change everything.

Understanding Anxiety

Think about that 18%, and think about who is a part of that number—your friends, daughters, sons, mothers, brothers, wives, boyfriends, sisters, etc. To understand what people living with this disorder go through it’s a good idea to know what anxiety is, so that when they experience an event you can be there for support. Anxiety is a stress-related disorder that is considered a mental health condition caused by intense feelings of worry and fear about a variety of things like health related concerns, social situations and more.

One small thing like a pain in your left arm, to someone with acute anxiety, can feel like a heart attack when it’s just a nerve. These little things escalate quickly because our minds, and in that moment, it’s all real. Can you imagine feeling like that all of the time? People that live with anxiety, often don’t have any idea when an event will happen or what the intensity of the event will be. So you can imagine how difficult it is to prepare for, constantly in a state of worry about a future anxiety or panic attack.

We say the event because they are considered disrupting to our daily activities and can make it difficult to engage in anything else other than what’s happening in our heads. Some people will experience similar symptoms that tell them an episode is coming that allows them to be prepared for the experience; others have no idea or are not entirely sure what they’re experiencing until it’s happened enough times to see a physician and be correctly diagnosed.

Common symptoms of an anxiety attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Numbness
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Clammy palms and sweating
  • Irritation
  • Restlessness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Nausea

Anxiety is Managed, Not Cured

The problem with anxiety is that the feeling of nervousness and paranoia cannot be avoided, you just learn to work through them or manage them differently. Unfortunately, those with anxiety have to experience an attack multiple times before they understand something is wrong. Medications have been used to tone down symptoms or calm the mind, but counseling is the best method and to figure out what works best for you when you experience an attack. There is no cure, but it’s manageable.

Famous People Suffering from Anxiety

Whether you realize it or not, many famous people suffer from anxiety every day. These celebrities deal with bouts of nervous feelings and fear as they’re performing, presenting or walking around the city. Some of the names you may be familiar with are Emma Stone, Kristen Stewart, Adele, John Mayer, Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron! These people are A-lister’s and are in the public eye every day, no matter what they’re doing. It is possible to live with anxiety and do amazing things, but it takes strength and mindfulness to know yourself and how you react. Be inspired to share your story!

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, our clients come to us with a variety of preexisting conditions in addition to their addiction, and we’re here for them every step of the way. Call Visions today to learn more about our addiction recovery and dual diagnosis programs at (866)889-3665.

Categories
Addiction ADHD Adolescence Anxiety Bipolar Disorder Depression Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Personality Disorder Recovery Social Anxiety Stress

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental illness is a frequent partner of substance abuse and addiction, although the cause-and-effect between the two isn’t always clear. However, the issue is a prevalent one that needs to be considered anytime treatment is sought for substance abuse, because diagnosing both correctly is a key component to a healthy recovery process. There are a number of different types of mental illnesses that are often seen in combination with substance abuse and addiction.

Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses associated with substance abuse. In some cases, substances may be used to mask the symptoms of depression. Other times, substance abuse may bring on the depression symptoms or make them worse. Symptoms of depression might include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or guilt
  • Loss of interest in or ability to enjoy activities
  • Diminished energy levels and fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Changes to sleep or appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are also a frequent problem for those struggling with substance abuse. There are different types of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety and panic attacks. Substances may be used to lessen the symptoms at first, which often only serves to make the symptoms more intense over time. Symptoms of these conditions might include:

  • Feelings of restlessness or nervousness
  • Excessive and ongoing worry and tension
  • Irritability and fearfulness
  • Sweaty palms, racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Headaches, dizziness or nausea

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a disorder often diagnosed in adolescents and frequently associated with substance abuse. This disorder is characterized by three basic components:

  • Hyperactivity – difficulty sitting still, excessive talking, always seems to be “on the go”
  • Inattention – disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, distraction
  • Impulsivity – impatience, blurting out answers, guessing instead of solving problems

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental disorder characterized by extreme swings of mood and energy levels. During the manic phase, the individual exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Excessive irritability
  • Bursts of energy, requiring little sleep
  • Distracted easily
  • Engage in impulsive, high-risk behaviors

Manic phases are typically followed by depressed states, which may include the following symptoms:

  • Extended periods of sadness or hopelessness
  • Low energy, excessive fatigue
  • Significant changes to appetite and sleep patterns
  • Thoughts and ideations of suicide

When mental illness accompanies a substance abuse disorder, it is imperative to address both disorders simultaneously to give the patient the best odds for a successful recovery. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we are experienced in treating both of these conditions at the same time, a situation known as dual diagnosis. Our team of healthcare professionals is equipped to work through both disorders and give our patients the best odds of successful sobriety and improved mental health. To learn more about dual diagnosis or our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Social Anxiety Stress

More College Students Struggle with Mental Illness


The number of college students seeking help for mental illness is on the rise, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. As campuses scramble to provide sufficient services for these students, some students are seeing increases in tuition rates to cover the cost. Despite the spending increases, many schools are still lacking the number of support staff needed based on the size of the campus to handle the students in need. More concerning is the fact that one-third of all schools do not have a psychiatrist on staff at all.

Reports of mental illness on college campuses has been increasing over the last two decades. “The American Freshman” 2014 survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that in 1994, nine percent of college students were taking a prescription drug for a mental illness. By 2014, that number had increased to 26 percent. Nearly 10 percent of freshmen in 2014 said they felt depressed “frequently,” compared to 6.1 percent in 2009.

Type of Mental Illnesses

The two most common types of mental illnesses seen among college students are anxiety and depression. According to a 2013 report from the American Psychological Association, 41.6 percent of students seeking support for their mental disorder had symptoms of anxiety, while 36.4 percent reported symptoms of depression. Relationship issues, which are commonly associated with the college years, made up 35.8 percent of concerns.

A 2011 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey found that nearly 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed they were unable to function.” Of that number, 6.6 percent admitted to seriously contemplating suicide at least once during the past year. The American Psychiatric Association found that half of all college students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety during the same time frame.

Mental Illness and Addiction

Addressing mental illness on college campuses is a significant concern, considering many students dealing with mental disorders may also struggle with substance abuse or addiction. According to the Center for College Health and Safety, 20 percent of students that use drugs or alcohol are also likely to experience depression at the same time. Students that use substances are also four times more likely to have a diagnosis of a disruptive behavior disorder. The statistics suggest that addressing mental illness could also have a positive impact on substance use on some campuses.

Substance abuse and addiction are serious problems that are often accompanied by mental illness. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we specialize in treating the combination of addiction and mental illness, known as a co-occurring disorder. We can help individuals address both of these issues simultaneously to improve their odds of sobriety and a higher quality of life overall. To learn more about our programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health Recovery

Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Rule Your Life

Did you know that 8% of teens between the ages of 13–18 have an anxiety disorder? And did you also know that of these teens, only 18% of them receive mental-health care?

 

Some anxiety is a function of being a human being. It’s not unusual for anxiety to present itself in predictable situations (going on a job interview, starting a new school, speaking up for ourselves), but for most, it fades as soon as the initial fear passes. Anxiety is our nervous system’s way of telling us we are overwhelmed and need to pause. Anxiety is also our sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response in action; the anxiety is the red flag letting us know we are emotionally under fire. If you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, chances are your parasympathetic nervous system will automatically engage, arresting the fight or flight response and engaging its remarkable rest-and-digest function. However, for someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, the sympathetic nervous system gets stuck in the “on” position, forcing it to stay in its fight-or-flight response longer than is emotionally sustainable.  The parasympathetic nervous system, aka, the rest-and-digest function of our bodies, gets shoved to the side and is unable to do its job.

How is anxiety usually treated?

 

Medication is one option typically given to anxiety sufferers. It is not a cure, but rather a means of managing the symptoms.  Often patients are given:

 

Antidepressants

  • SSRIs, Tricyclics, MAOIs, anti-anxiety medications
  • Anti-anxiety drugs:
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Beta-blockers – which treat the physical symptoms of anxiety

 

Clinicians, on the other hand, use therapeutic modalities like:

 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Exposure Based Behavioral Therapy
  • EMDR
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

 

In addition to treatment, you can also try any one of all of these tools to help manage anxiety:

 

1: Mindful breathing: Practice exhaling on a longer count than your inhale. This is a wonderful tool to use to bring the heart rate down, provide oxygen to the blood and to the lungs, and also engage the parasympathetic nervous system.

 

2: Visualization: Close your eyes and visualize a place that elicits a state of calm. It could be the beach, the mountains, a forest, being in the ocean, or doing something else that you love. This is a way of accessing one of your resources—something that calms you and engages your body’s nervous system.

 

3: Get active: Studies show that exercising every day will increase relaxation, reduce stress, and make you happier. Go endorphins! So, go to the gym, go for a run, do a strong yoga class, do some jumping jacks, skateboard, or roller skate.

 

4: Create a gratitude journal or a gratitude list.  Write down 5 things you are grateful for and challenge yourself to write this list every single day. There’s been a recent Facebook chain going around, asking people to post three things a day for seven days that they’re grateful for and then tag three more people each day to do the same. It’s been a neat phenomenon to watch people share their gratitude.

 

5:  Focus on a meaningful, goal orienting activity: playing a game with a friend, building something, creating art, or singing.

 

6: Accept that you are anxious. Accepting how you feel doesn’t mean you like it or are choosing to be anxious; it means accepting how things are in the present moment. If we obsess about how anxious we feel, our anxiety will increase. Ajhan Sumedo, a Buddhist monk, says, “Right now, it’s like this.” This phrase encourages acceptance and allows us to stay in the present. When we are anxious, we are stuck in the future.

 

Ignoring our anxiety or self-medicating to relieve our suffering, leaves us vulnerable to persistent dysregulation and despair. When we address anxiety and face it head on, we cultivate the development of self-regulatory techniques. With ample clinical support (when needed), the establishment and consistent use of self-regulatory tools, and a broad support system in place, things can and will get better.

Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Prevention

The Dangers of DMT and Psychedelic Experimentation

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the tryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT.  This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain.  Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.

 

Adolescents are naturally curious creatures. They want to know about the world that they live in and they want to understand why it is the way it is. Developmentally this leads to a natural curiosity about the nature of the world and spiritual matters. During the 1960s, well-respected researchers looked into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, including depression. The ’60s generation took this as a cue to experiment with their minds. What we have learned since then is such experimentation is potentially dangerous and harmful, especially for those with a latent tendency toward depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness.

 

Psychedelic drugs have a distinct effect on brain chemistry. Some of them have chemical structures similar to natural neurotransmitters and almost all of them are classified as alkaloid. Historically, psychedelic drugs have been used by ancient cultures for spiritual practice and ceremony. And science has used psychedelic drugs for research.

 

However, psychedelics are significantly abused.

 

One of the most dangerous components of psychedelic drugs is the potential negative effect on people already vulnerable to mental illness. The user is, in effect, playing with his or her brain chemistry without direct knowledge of any short- or long-term effects these drugs may have. And someone who has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness can adversely affect his or her mental health with the use of psychedelic drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Drugs like DMT, though old, are no different. DMT works fast, it has an intense effect that lasts for 15 minutes but purportedly feels like several hours. This can be an overwhelming experience, especially in cases of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness.

 

The bottom like is this: Experimenting with your mind is dangerous. Curious or not, this type of psychological misadventure is not worth the risk and the potential fallout.

 

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health Recovery

Does Your Teen Suffer From Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal function of stress. It is the nervous system’s way of telling you it’s on overload and needs a break.  Scientists have discovered that the amygdala and hippocampus play a significant part in most anxiety disorders. The amydgala is the part of the brain that alerts the rest of the brain and lets it know a threat is present; this will trigger a fear or anxiety response. The job of the hippocampus is to convert threatening events into memories. Interestingly, research is showing that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in people who have suffered from child abuse or served in the military.

 

Further research will begin to provide clarifying information regarding not only the size of the hippocampus in PTSD sufferers, but also the cause of fragmented memories, deficits in explicit memories, and flashbacks.  Understanding the functionality of the brain will help scientists form more salient ways in which to provide medical relief for anxiety sufferers.

 

Fact: 8 percent of teens ages 13–18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6. However, of these teens, only 18 percent received mental health care.

 

How is anxiety usually treated?

Medication is one option typically given to anxiety sufferers. It is a cure, but rather a means of managing the symptoms.  Often patients are given:

  • >Antidepressants
    • SSRIs, Tricyclics, MAOIs, anti-anxiety medications
  • Anti-anxiety drugs:
    • Benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers – which treat the physical symptoms of anxiety

In addition to medication or sometimes in lieu of, therapists may use modalities like:

You can also try one or all of these 8 tools for managing anxiety:

1. Deep breathing exercises: Deep diaphragmic breath helps activate the body’s relaxation response.  Practice exhaling on a longer count than your inhale. This is a wonderful tool to use to bring the heart rate down, provide oxygen to the blood and to the lungs.

 

2. Use calming visualization: Close your eyes and visualize a place that elicits a state of calm. It could be the beach, the mountains, a forest, being in the ocean, or doing something else that you love. This is a way of accessing one of your resources—something that calms you and engages your body’s nervous system.

3. Do something physical: go to the gym, go for a run, do a strong yoga class, do some jumping jacks, skateboard, or roller skate. In other words, get your endorphins going.

4. Play a musical instrument. For example, one of our teens plays the bass when he’s anxious.  Perhaps you play the guitar, or the accordion. Get down and make some music!

5. Connect with a friend so you are not alone. Maybe watch a funny movie together or blast some music and have a silly dance party.

6. Create a gratitude journal.  Write down 5 things you are grateful for and challenge yourself to write this list every day .

7. Focus on a meaningful, goal orienting activity: playing a game with a friend, building something, creating art, or singing.

8. Accept that you are anxious – it is a feeling. It doesn’t mean you like it or want it to be there, it means you are accepting where you are in that moment. The more you talk about how anxious you are, the more anxious you will feel. Accepting where you are allows you to stay in the present–when we are anxious, we are stuck in the future.

 

Anxiety can be accepted and worked with or it can be ignored. Ignoring it leaves you vulnerable to persistent dysregulation and misery. Addressing anxiety and facing it head on allows you to develop self-regulatory techniques. The latter will facilitate emotional regulation and the ability to approach triggers and difficulties more skillfully.

Categories
Anxiety Parenting Recovery Self-Care Stress

Is Your Teen Stressed About Graduation?

It’s time for Graduation!

During graduation time, it’s not uncommon for many teens to fall under great pressure from parents and teachers to exceed in academia or to get accepted into the ideal university. Stress tends to be high at the end of the year, no matter how you spin it. Often times, stress is somaticized (converted into physical symptoms) and it shows up in the form of : stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating more or eating less, and even mood swings.

 

Unfortunately, some kids turn to drugs and alcohol to attempt to quell the anxiety and physical manifestations of their stress, while others may sink into depression. Under stress, our nervous systems go on the fritz, thrusting the body toward a fight/flight/freeze response. If there is no healthy outlet to discharge that stress, it manifests physically.

 

At the end of the year, when graduation looms, there’s a very real potential for an increase alcohol and drug use, anxiety, and depression. We know that adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. But facts aside, what can we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals do about it? Can you commit to this:

  • Create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us.
  • Create a  safe, open environment to facilitate healthy dialogue.
  • Be present for your kids, emotionally and physically.
  • Take care of your own needs and make sure your history is not spilling onto your kids’ present.

For teens already in recovery, managing that end-of-year stress around graduation is crucial:

  • Use your resources and ask for help from parents, teachers, your sponsor, mentor, or another safe adult.
  • Create prioritized lists, checking things off as you go.
  • Create a schedule.
  • Make time for self-care. Healthy physical activity is great for getting the endorphins going, a bubble bath is self-soothing, yoga or meditation will help you get grounded and settle in.
  • Take breaks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take short 10-minute breaks every half hour and stretch, get up, walk around. You’ll notice an increase in your productivity.
  • Hang a picture of something or someone that inspires you near your workspace.

Try and remember that graduation is something to celebrate. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and something you’ve been working toward since childhood. All of the scraped knees, tears, trophies, reports, dissections and memorization got you to this place. Celebrate it healthfully!

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety: It’s Not Just Shyness

Social anxiety/social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a significant fear

of social interactions and interactions with other people which bring about feelings of “self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation, and criticism”1 by those they interact with. In other words, “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.”2  What social anxiety is NOT is simple shyness, but rather a more deeply internalized anxiety disorder. Recently, the National Institute of Health analyzed data gleaned from a study done by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A S), which surveyed more than 10,000 adolescents (ages 13-18). The survey involved a structured, diagnostic interview, assessing a “broad range of mental health disorders.” Those who met all eight “lifetime DSM-IV criteria for social phobia, including one or more social fears, were classified as having social phobia, regardless of shyness.”3

Results of this survey are interesting:

  • Overall, 43% of males and 51% of females rated themselves as shy, but only 12% of these youth met criteria for social phobia.
  • 5% of  youth who did not rate themselves as shy met social phobia criteria.
  • Prevalence of social phobia increased with age:
    • 6.3% of 13- 14-year-olds
    • 9.6% of 15- 16-year-olds
    • 10.4% of 17- 18-year-olds

Compared to shy adolescents, those with social phobia/social anxiety were more likely to suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or addiction. Also notable were definitive issues with school, work, family relationships, and social interactions. Additionally, the statistics show “only 23% of adolescents with social phobia sought professional treatment for anxiety, and just 12% received psychiatric medication.” More than anything, what these results challenge is the perceived perception that social anxiety/social phobia is the “‘medicalization’ of a normal human emotion.”

To outsiders, someone stricken with social anxiety may seem particularly shy, quiet, or reserved, but to the individual suffering, the internal pull of panic-ridden thoughts is often unbearable. What’s interesting, however, is that when alone, one suffering from social anxiety is usually okay. A key factor in the behavior being more than “just shyness” is when the mere thought or suggestion of any social interaction coming into play brings about the emergence of internal panic. Those that suffer may experience “significant emotional distress”4 in these types of situations:

  • Being introduced to other people
  • Being teased or criticized
  • Being the center of attention
  • Being watched while doing something
  • Meeting people in authority (“important people”)
  • Most social encounters, particularly with strangers
  • Making “small talk” at parties
  • Going around the room in a circle and having to say something

Our friends and family members suffering silently need our support. It’s time we gave this disorder the attention it deserves so those suffering can find some solace and relief. It’s one more thing that requires us to remove the stigma so healing can begin.

1, 3: National Survey Dispels Notion That Social Anxiety is the Same as Shyness

2: Social Anxiety Disorder – ADAA

4: Social Anxiety Fact Sheet

Categories
Anxiety Depression Mental Health Self-Harm Stress Suicide

New study: Self-harm in Teens

Image via Wikipedia

Even as someone in recovery from self-harming behavior, the statistics regarding who and how many continue to self-harm still hits home. A recent study by Dr. Paul Moran at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, found that “1 in 12 young people self-harm as adolescents, with the balance skewed toward girls.” Moran’s study followed a group of “young people from Victoria, Australia, from adolescence (14-15 years old) to young adulthood (28-29 years old) between 1992 and 2008.” According to the study, out of the 1802 participants responding to the adolescent phase, 149 (8%) reported self-harm. More girls (10%) than boys (6%) reported self-harm, which translates to a 60% increased risk of self-harm for girls compared to boys.1 Self-cutting/burning was the most common type of self-harming behavior seen in adolescents, but other forms of self-harm include self-battery, poisoning and overdose. Additional findings in Dr. Moran’s study show that self-harm was also associated with “antisocial behavior, high-risk alcohol use, cannabis use, and cigarette smoking,” but that “most adolescent self-harming behavior resolves itself spontaneously.”

Self-harming behaviors are often symptomatic of anxiety and depression, acting as a salve to those otherwise unable to feel or process their feelings in a more skillful way. It is, in many ways, an effort by the one self-harming to regulate their mood and can also act as a kind of emotional steam valve for difficult emotions or even as a means of self–punishment. Regardless, self-harming behaviors indicate mental-health issues that do need to be addressed. No one self-harms out of pride or because they’re happy about something. The truth is, there is a lot of shame associated with self-injurious behaviors.

Still, there continues to be a high risk for suicide completion in those who have a history of self-harming, particularly those who continue to do it into adulthood. When addressing this, we must remember that it’s not usually a self-aggrandizing act, but rather something one does in a poor attempt to feel better, or to simply feel something. The rate of suicide rates are sobering: according to this significant report from the World Health Organization, almost a million people die from suicide each year, giving a mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent worldwide. And according to the CDC, “suicide rates are among the 10 leading causes of death in the US.”2

More often than not, you won’t see signs of self-harm, because typically, injuries are inflicted in places easily hidden by sleeves or other articles of clothing. Still, if you’re worried about your child, make an effort to show concern and get them some help. Keep in mind, if your parenting style has been of the lecturing or authoritarian type, or the particularly reactive type, this may be a good time to use a different tactic. Someone who’s suffering in this way will only shut down when faced with an impending firm, albeit worried, lecture. If your child shows signs of stress, anxiety, or begins isolating more than usual, it’s likely that trouble may be brewing. Worrying aside, your kids need to know you are there for them, no matter what.

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1: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2011/11November/Studyfinds1in12teenagersself-harmbutmoststopbytheirtwenties.aspx

2: https://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=04ea1254-bd31-1fa3-c549d77e6ca6aa37

For more information, see:

Medscape

Canadian Medical Association

National Institute of Health