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Mental Health

Quaranteenager’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Fears

Anxiety is a very useful human function. It is useful, that is, if the tools for overcoming anxiety are being used in the way that nature intended. The feeling of anxiety is actually the human flight-or-fight response to a dangerous situation. This survival response helps us to run quickly away from a predator, or to stand our ground and call upon superhuman strength to ward off an attacker. It is the body’s way of getting us geared up for action.

The problem with anxiety arises when our readiness for survival action is cued up, but there is no actual imminent danger. These leaves all of those pent-up levels of fight-or-flight hormone with no opportunity to be expended. Our bodies are not designed to be in a constant state of such alertness. Thus, when there is actually no physical danger, the result of staying so keyed up can mean development of a mental disorder.

Sources of Stress, Anxiety and Fears

There are always things that people can find to be anxious about. For teenagers, those common anxieties often include worries about school grades, worries about peer relationships, and worries about making a college or career choice after graduation. During this COVID-19 pandemic, these types of worries have intensified.

The ability to successfully complete school, at all, may be uncertain. Relationships have almost exclusively been moved to digital formats, which can make it harder to communicate in a way that produces desired results. College and career plans are up in the air, as society waits on how to operate in the months and years ahead.

Added to all of this is the worry that friends and family may become infected by the virus. Something that all of these anxieties have in common is that they are focused on an event that may – or may not – happen in the future. For example:

    • You may have trouble completing school, or you may end up passing your classes with high scores.
    • Your relationships may suffer during social distancing, but you may also find that your friends like your digital interactions.
    • You may not be able to enter college or start that job you were planning for, or you may end up having an ideal job fall into your lap.
    • You and your family may or may not become ill from the virus.

Anxiety is a biological-based attempt at fortune telling. True to the flight-or-fight response, anxiety is preparing us for a perceived danger which it thinks might be about to occur. This danger may be real, or it may be a figment of our imagination.

Once something has actually happened – or not happened – anxiety disappears. The prediction of danger is no longer necessary in the face of factual occurrence, and anxiety fades to the background once the event has come to pass.

Tips for Overcoming Anxiety

Instead of waiting for events to actually play out, you can get a head start on overcoming anxiety by using some simple coping techniques. These techniques involve taking control of your thought process and letting your body know that it is fine to just chill out. Calming your fight-or-fight response in this way can actually help you to make better decisions toward creating a better future scenario than the one that is feared.

Shift Unhealthy Thinking Patterns

Since anxiety is rooted in worries about the future, thinking more about the actual present can be the remedy. When anxiety strikes, try taking a few minutes to consider the details of your current situation. If you are here reading this, chances are you’re not in any immediate danger of losing anything essential.

You are still enrolled in school, and your friends have not ghosted you. You are not currently hospitalized with the virus. Focusing on the reality of your experience in the moment can help to quiet the “what if” scenarios that an anxious mind can surface.

Talk It Out (With Yourself)

While there are jokes made about people who talk to themselves, the fact is that we all do it, all the time. The conversations that we have with ourselves within our brains is how we make decisions about navigating the world. The mental voice of anxiety can be loud, persistent and obnoxious. Taking charge of that nagging voice through asserting your own rational voice can help.

Try giving your anxiety a silly name. Then, as a controlled and mature adult, talk back to your anxiety as though it is a whiny, bratty child. As the mature voice, you know that this current situation won’t last forever, and that there are as many opportunities for good things to happen in the future as there are bad.

Indulge in Some Old-Fashioned Fun

Sometimes, your only chance for overcoming anxiety is to quiet your mind for awhile. When your mental health testing and self-talk therapies aren’t doing the trick, you can drown out fears and worries with a little indulgence in distraction by:

    • Playing your favorite video game.
    • Watching your favorite on-demand show.
    • Going outside for some exercise.
    • Focusing on some other activity that brings you pleasure.

While this won’t fix the problem of anxiety permanently, it will give you a mental break. Giving ourselves mental breaks are a good way to come back with renewed determination to subdue the anxiety monster.

Practice Relaxation Strategies

Because anxiety is connected to our physical response to danger, it can also be tackled from the outside. Using techniques to relax your muscle tension and heart rate, increased by your flight-or-fight response, can actually trick your mind into calming down. Try to help your body relax by taking a hot bath or shower, practicing some yoga and meditation, or listening to music.

If You Need Help, Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

If your best efforts at getting a handle on overcoming anxiety aren’t working, help is always available. Mental health providers are increasingly offering telehealth services. Finding a professional to talk with about overcoming anxiety can lead to the development of new skills and perspectives, and can help you to keep your cool during these challenging times.

Categories
Mental Health

Telemental Health: Bridging the Gap Between Care, Coronavirus

We are living in unprecedented times. A deadly pandemic has surfaced, the likes of which have not been experienced since the early 1900’s. The impact of this current pandemic has the potential to be even more devastating than the last, as the world is much more interconnected and interdependent than before.

On the other hand, the potential for people to receive applicable treatment for both the physical and psychological impact of this pandemic is in a much better place than in decades past. Thanks to the technological progress which has been made over the past several years, people are often no further from a phone call or video conference away from being able to consult with professionals regarding their concerns.

What Is Telemental Health?

Telehealth refers to any type of health service which is delivered via a medium other than face-to-face contact. It can include telephone calls, texts, video conference, and online interaction. Telemental health refers specifically to the ability to deliver and receive mental health support from a distance. It encompasses other, more familiar, terms such as telepsychiatry, telepsychology, and teletherapy.

Proponents for the widespread availability of telemental health services have long pointed to statistics which indicate that certain portions of the population are lacking in mental health support due to lack of access to physical mental health locations. Individuals who live in rural areas, those who suffer from mobility difficulties, and those who lack transportation and time are often unable to make the journey from their locations to a facility which provides quality mental health care.

The progress toward providing telemental health services has met with some resistance from regulating agencies. These types of agencies were constructed along with the growing popularity of mental health treatment from the mid 1900’s, and were charged with overseeing the requirements of mental health care providers to include best care practices for their patrons. Changes in these regulations have not quite kept pace with the growth of technology, leaving access to quality telehealth services in a gray area.

How Mental Health Care Rules Are Evolving for Coronavirus

With the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing guidelines arriving suddenly on the scene, regulators were compelled to take a closer look at the convenience of receiving therapy from a remote location. Data indicating that telemental health is similarly effective in treating a multitude of disorders was placed in the forefront, and privacy rights of patients and clients receiving remote care were scrutinized.

Similarly, insurance companies began to be pressured toward accepting claims for mental health services provided through such avenues. The result is a temporary lifting of former restrictions so that providers can deliver much needed therapy to those who are suffering from mental health symptoms while simultaneously heeding the call to avoid excessive social contact. There are many providers who hold out the hope that these current progressions in acceptance of telehealth as a viable treatment option will remain far into the future.

Telemental Health Services and Support

Telemental health services rely on the effectiveness of talk therapy toward treating mental health concerns and disorders. Talk therapy has been the go-to treatment since its early application by psychotherapy pioneers such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. It has been demonstrated as being effective with disorders ranging from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, and personality disorders.

When it comes to deciding upon the right type of telemental health treatment for you, some insight into how you best learn and communicate can be helpful. If you are a visual person, support provided through video conference may be what provides you with the best outcome. An auditory person will tend to benefit most from sessions provided over phone. Someone who gains more from reading and writing is likely to find therapy bulletin boards and interactive journals useful.

Anxiety Treatment

Anxiety is already the most common disorder experienced in the country. With the stress of COVID-19 in play, there are even more reasons to feel anxious. Our health, finances, and future  plans are all at risk. Receiving telemental health support during this time can help you to examine your core values, reframe your fearful thoughts, and develop coping mechanisms to use when the anxiety levels are high.

Depression Treatment

Experiences of depression run a close second when it comes to prevalence of mental health disorder in America. While anxiety tends to focus on fear of the future, depression tends to focus on current and past situations. Many people are feeling the weight of our current crisis, yet are unable to engage in activities which might otherwise work to alleviate and distract from depressive thoughts and feelings.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

A hallmark of bipolar disorder is that a person’s mood shifts from highs to lows. While largely thought to be due to a chemical fluctuation in the brain, moods can definitely be negatively and positively affected by situations and mindset. Talk therapy can assist in helping a person with bipolar disorder to learn to recognize the impending mood shifts, and mitigate the drastic responses and behaviors which often result.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Mental health disorders and tendency toward substance abuse are highly correlated. Mental health disorders can prompt a person to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, and substance abuse can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. With so many people stuck at home, and with idle time on their hands, even old habits of abusing drugs and alcohol may creep back in. Talking with a therapist can help to weigh the pros and cons of giving into the temptation to use substances, and can assist you in finding more healthy ways to cope with the stress and boredom.

Personality Disorders Treatment

Personality disorders are those which tend to influence a person’s entire approach and evaluation of life. One of the most diagnosed personality disorders is that of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Talk therapies have been shown to be extremely successful for those struggling with this disorder, as such therapy is focused on providing the client with new ideas and techniques for navigating life situations.

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
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
Feelings Holidays Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care Stress Wellness

Compassion and Kindness Over Holiday Hustling

We are neck deep in last-minute holiday madness! Traffic is catawampus, and the stores

are loud and overly crowded. I am noticing and experiencing a real hustle and bustle to get things done for the upcoming Christmas holiday, but for many of us, holidays can represent added stress and perhaps anxiety.

 

How about flipping the holiday coin, so to speak, and leaning into the recovery work you’ve been doing around stress and anxiety? Try taking a look at this holiday as an opportune time to work with your discomfort and begin to hold some internal space for it. You may begin to notice some of the other amazing things that occur during this time of year: joy, friendship, abundance, and generosity, community and togetherness.

 

Here are some thoughts on how to do this while also taking care of yourself at the same time:

 

Self-care: You need to care for yourself first before you can care for others. You can’t do anything effectively if you are pulling from an empty well. So, what does that self-care look like for you?

 

Be of service: Do one random act of kindness every day (more if you are inspired).

 

1. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.

 

2. Buy a homeless person a meal.

 

3. Help someone with their groceries at the market.

 

4. Volunteer at an animal shelter.

 

5. Offer to help an elderly neighbor or with their groceries.

 

6. Take a commitment at a meeting. The greeter commitment is a favorite because you get to meet new people.

 

Be kind (to yourself and to others), even when you don’t want to.

 

Practice compassion. “Sympathetic concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others.” There’s a difference between pity and concern: Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone. It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.

 

These small acts of kindness and service during the holidays may actually decrease our focus on stress and anxiety created around the holiday itself. Acts of kindness and compassion facilitate connection with others and allow us to let go of some of that stress and anxiety we are holding onto. Connected action allows us to reconnect with the roots of what the holiday is really about: community, love, and togetherness.  Ironically, all that running around to get last-minute items actually makes us disconnected.

 

So, I leave you with this: a video of two 16-year-olds engaging in random acts of kindness. They dress up as superheroes, wearing tights and capes, and running around paying for people’s food, giving tips to waitresses without even ordering, helping people out when they see they’re struggling to pay for something, and feeding a homeless guy. What can you do this holiday season to practice random acts of kindness? You don’t need a cape and tights, just some willingness to be kind.

 

 

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 Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Destigmatizing OCD

 

Image via Wikipedia

OCD is a form of anxiety occurring when the brain has difficulty dealing with worries and concerns. As a result, someone with OCD will constantly worry and obsess over things that may seem banal to a non-sufferer. For some kids, their worries are focused on cleanliness or germs, resulting in repetitive hand-washing rituals. For others, it could be repeatedly straightening out an area, trying to achieve perfection. These obsessive and repetitive behaviors are done ritualistically or compulsively in order to quell the pervasive anxiety induced as a result of obsessive thought patterns. Often, an OCD sufferer will focus on things being in “order” or “just right,” also as a means to reduce the lingering, scary thoughts infiltrating their minds.  While some kids may recognize they don’t need to act on these behaviors, the disorder itself propels then to do it anyway. It’s not their fault. Interestingly, acting on the repetitive thought patterns does minimally reduce the anxiety, albeit temporarily.

I want to point out that worrying is also a natural part of childhood, so is having small rituals (like wearing your lucky t-shirt before a game), being super organized, double-checking to make sure the door’s locked, et cetera. Kids and teens naturally worry about things, be it school, whether they’re liked, whether they “look cool” for school or to impress that guy or girl, or whether their parents are ever going to get along. With OCD, these rituals become extreme. So, if you notice repetitive, ritualistic, and compulsive behaviors becoming more extreme and negatively impacting one’s day-to-day life, then it’s appropriate to take a closer look at the cause and take action.

That means seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist who will ask questions about obsessions or compulsions. Some of these questions may include:

  • Do you have worries, thoughts, images, feelings, or ideas that bother or upset or scare you?
  • Do you feel you have to check, repeat, ask, or do things over and over again?
  • Do you feel you have to do things a certain number of times, or in a certain pattern?

Once the diagnosis is made, then treatment can begin. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a preferred treatment for OCD. A CBT therapist will work with a child or adolescent with OCD and help them learn that they are in charge, not the OCD. Often the CBT will integrate Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) as part of the treatment. With ERP, the strategy is to gradually expose the sufferer to their trigger (fears) so they can develop skills and learn not to respond to them with such urgency. The process allows the OCD sufferer to begin to recognize that their fear is just that: a fear, not a reality; it also helps the brain “reset” the very mechanisms that trigger the obsessive behavior. It’s important to remember that treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder takes patience, time, diligence and hard work.

Remember, there is no shame in asking for help or in getting treatment. Having OCD doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or broken in some way. There is a solution.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery

Fight or Flight: When the Anxiety Wheel Spins

Image by jpmatth via Flickr
Why are our kids so stressed out? Is it the pressures of school and peer relations or is there something else going on? Sure, stress is a naturally occurring phenomena that can help and/or hinder someone, depending upon the situation. There are surely instances where the slight adrenaline rush of stress can actually prove beneficial, but when it’s constant and unyielding, stress can be overwhelming. The body’s natural fight or flight response occurs when stress is introduced, allowing us to ready ourselves for “battle,” so to speak. That “battle” can be an exam at school or even a mild confrontation on the school yard, but it’s usually temporary. “Fight or flight” is a term used to describe the body’s natural physiological response to stress. The Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah has a wonderful example (see it here) showing the physiological changes that occur!

The qualities of the fight or flight response include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Faster intakes of breath
  • Enlarged pupils
  • The digestive system slows
As I noted, these particular physical changes occur naturally when the fight or flight response is triggered. In small doses, it’s appropriate and helpful, but as with anything, remaining in the a state of fight or flight for a long period of time can create untenable stress as the body and mind begin to work against itself. You know unpleasant but often typically temporary feeling of having “butterflies in the belly”? Well, imagine it lingering for a long time: It would become more and more difficult to ignore.

Some kids, and perhaps these are the one’s enduring sustained periods of stress, the fight or flight phenomenon happens without warning, and without a clearly identified trigger fueling the body’s response. For these kids, the sense of deep worry and impending doom are a prevalent and may often seem unwarranted. This is anxiety, and with it comes:
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Dread
  • Worry
Anxiety can have a genetic component, for example, mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, et cetera, may suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can also occur after an extremely stressful event: childhood trauma, divorce, loss, a car accident. Some kids are clearly more sensitive than others and may very well react intensely to something another child can walk away from. Rather than shaming them about their reactivity, we need to offer them solace. These kids need as much support as possible, not only from parents, but from clinicians trained to help sufferers manage their anxiety. It takes time, dedication and hard work, but in time, one will have many healthy tools to choose from, hopefully avoiding the dead-end path to addiction. 
Articles used as reference and for more information:
Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) PTSD Recovery Therapy Treatment

MDMA: Is This Psychotropic Drug Helpful, Harmful, or Both?

Image via Wikipedia

Last time I wrote about ecstasy, it was about the rise in ER visits and the inherent dangers of using a drug that inevitably depletes one’s levels of serotonin and has the potentiality of long-term brain damage. So, when I came across an article talking about using MDMA (ecstasy) to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), my curiosity was sparked. Psychedelic drugs have been used to treat mental illness before, and with some success: In the 50s and 60s, psychology was in a Freudian phase, viewing psychological issues as conflicts between the conscious and unconscious minds. At that time, psychedelics were used to allow patients to face their unconscious minds while awake, which purportedly eliminated the variables of memory retrieval. Still, these methods of treatment weren’t without controversy.  With the influx of street use, and folks like Timothy Leary telling people to “”Turn on, tune in and drop out,” the use of psychedelia to treat mental illness was met with great discernment and fell to the wayside.

Currently, interest in using MDMA and other psychedelics to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and PTSD is gaining traction. MAPS is doing extended research on this subject, and states that MDMA isn’t the street drug we call ecstasy, noting that while ecstasy contains MDMA, it also may contain ketamine, caffeine, BZP, and other narcotics and stimulants. According the MAPS site they are “undertakinga 10-year, $10 million plan to make MDMA into an FDA-approved prescription medicine.” They are also “currently the only organization in the world funding clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. For-profit pharmaceutical companies are not interested in developing MDMA into a medicine because the patent for MDMA has expired. Companies also cannot profit from MDMA because it is only administered a limited number of times, unlike most medications for mental illnesses which are taken on a daily basis.”

The use of this drug has leaned so far from its psychotherapeutic roots, proving to be one of the most popular, highly sought-after street drugs around. Because of this, the useful aspect of this drug may easily be overlooked, forcing us to question how we can take something that has morphed into a social enigma and call it useful. I’m curious, will sufficient research place this drug at the discerning hands of medical professionals once again? And how do we, as a recovery community accept this when we have kids coming in suffering from the long-term, negative effects caused by this very drug?

Related articles:

MDMA May Help Relieve Posttraumatic Stress Disorder(time.com)

Ecstasy As Treatment for PTSD from Sexual Trauma and War? New Research Shows Very Promising Results (alternet.org)

Clinical Study of MDMA Confirms Benefits Noted by Therapists Before It Was Banned (reason.com)

Neuroscience for Kids

Ecstasy Associated With Chronic Change in Brain Function