Why you should find a therapist TODAY!

Why you should find a therapist TODAY!

Millions of Americans can benefit from seeing a therapist, but for one reason or another they don’t. Those who finally do decide to find a therapist usually wait until things get really bad. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are over 43 millions adults (18% of the population!) suffering from mental illness. That is 1 in every 5 people.

The sad part about this is that the statistics for teens and kids suffering from mental illness don’t fall far from the numbers for adults. One in every 5 teens also suffers from mental illness.

As a mother, as a psychotherapist, and as a human being, reading these statistics brings tears to my eyes. I felt compelled to write about this because I wanted those of you who are suffering quietly to know that there are many incredible professionals out there who can help and support you. If you’re thinking, “Well, therapy is expensive,” you aren’t wrong. Yes, it can be, but there are also many places where you can get support for a very low fee. Also, I will let you in on a small secret that few know: Many therapists are willing to be flexible. If money is the only thing stopping you from seeing someone, I urge you to not let that deter you.

Mental health illnesses affect us all because even if you yourself aren’t suffering, you inevitable know someone who is. So it’s important to educate ourselves about the mental illnesses that are affecting millions of people and be aware of risk factors and signs. There are always ways for you to get involved either by helping someone you know who is need of a therapist or learning about ways that you can help with the promotion of wellness and the prevention of mental illness. You might not suffer from mental illness today, but you must know at least one person who does and can use some support. Am I right?

Mental Health Facts in America

If you relate to any of the below signs or notice that they apply to someone you know, it’s time to find a therapist.

# 1 You Feel Alone or Isolated

If you are feeling alone or isolated and this is something that is out of the norm for you, then I suggest that you find a therapist. Many people feel isolated and don’t know what to do about it. Sometimes these feelings are precipitated by a traumatic event. Other times, you have no idea why you suddenly started having these feelings. After my miscarriages, I felt sad and all I wanted to do was isolate myself and not see anyone. Of course, dealing with something like a miscarriage is going to make you feel sad, but at the time, I didn’t realize that there were other more healthy ways to cope with my feelings — besides shutting everyone out. I remember feeling so alone and refused to let anyone try to help me. I actually thought about asking a friend to help me find a therapist, but I was too sad to do anything about it. Looking back, I wish that I reached out to a professional for help because it would have reduced the time that I isolated myself from the world. It was such a lonely time for me.

Whether you know the cause of your lonely feelings or this is something that is new to you, I want you to know that you don’t have to continue to suffer quietly..

#2 You Are Having Negative Thoughts

While negative thoughts can be productive at times, they might also lead us to act in destructive ways and leave us feelings down. You might not be aware, but your negative thoughts affect the way that you are feeling, which in turn affects your behavior. First, it might be helpful to define what healthy thinking is. Healthy thinking will allow you to know the difference between what is helpful to you and what is not. With healthy thinking, you are able to problem solve. Positive thinking is a different way of looking at healthy thinking where your thoughts can keep you happy, but at times this is unrealistic. It is important to have both negative and positive thinking but if you find yourself thinking negatively for long periods of times and you are not able to shift your thoughts into positive more productive thoughts, that’s when it becomes problematic. From years of working with clients who struggle with negative thinking and helping them redirect their thoughts, I found that when people stop the negativity, they are able to better care for themselves and handle life challenges. People also feel much better emotionally and physically.

The good news about both healthy thinking or positive thinking is that with practice, you can learn to think in a more constructive way that will encourage you instead of constantly battling negative thoughts that leave you feeling discouraged all the time. According to Psychology Today, humans have as many as 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day and the nature of those thoughts will eventually make up your outlook on life. They found that it is important to have both positive and negative thoughts, and that using them properly is of utmost importance. Working with a professional to reduce your negative thoughts will allow you to better care for yourself and handle life challenges in a better more effective way.

# 3 You’re Going Through Some Big Life Changes and Need Support

Life changes, whether big or small, affect different people in different ways. Sometimes when you are going through major life changes you think that you are the only one who is going through such events. But the truth is, many other people are most likely going through similar changes, and even just knowing this fact can help and support you in different ways. While some people feel that they continue functioning well after big life events, others might need more guidance and support. Big life changes can include events like marriage, giving birth, or the death of a loved one. I found that people often don’t know what to do and what to say when they need help.

After I moved to the United States from Israel at the age of 20, I had to adjust to a whole other culture and language, and I was also struggling with eating disorder. This major life event in my life actually excelerated my eating disorder and caused me a great deal of distress. I am not sure if at the time I knew that I needed professional support or how to find a therapist in my area, but looking back I wish I reached out for support from either a friend or a professional.  I hope that if you are reading this and feel that you or someone you love who is going through some life changes and needs some professional support, you will know that there are professionals out there who can help and support you through this process. You are not alone.

Anxious Teenage Student Sitting Examination In School Hall

# 4 You Feel Anxious or Depressed

The most common psychological disorder in the US is Anxiety Disorder, with over 40 million adults over 18 suffering. I am not going to bore you with the different psychological disorders, but I do think it’s noteworthy that there are 12 anxiety disorder that share features of excessive fear and anxiety and behaviors that are related. The five most common anxiety related disorders that are also associated with immense healthcare costs are panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder.

Let’s focus on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) because it is the simplest form of anxiety to understand and I can make my point using this example. In order for anyone to be diagnosed with GAD they need to have excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or activities. You might wonder what distinguishes GAD from non pathological anxiety. The simplest answer to this is to ask yourself whether the anxiety interferes with your everyday life and prevents you from doing what you are suppose to do — like working, socializing, eating, etc. If you wanted to know the exact criteria that a therapist will use to diagnose you with GAD, you you will have to have the following:

  1. Excess of anxiety and worry for more days than not for at least six months

      2. Difficulty controlling the worry

      3. The anxiety or worry are associated with at least three of the following symptoms:

              -Restlessness

              -Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

              -Being Easily fatigued

              -Irritability

             -Muscle tension

            -Sleep disturbances

     4. Important areas of functioning such as social and occupational are affected by the anxiety or worry in a clinically significant way.

     5. The anxiety is not attributed to medical issues or substance use.

     6. The disturbance is not better explained by another disorder.

If you find this a bit confusing, then don’t worry as once you meet with a mental health professional they will help you with the diagnosis. I am only giving you a bit of information so you can have a sense of how a disorder is diagnosed. If you want to know how to find a therapist for your depression or anxiety don’t hesitate to ask someone for advice.

# 5 You Feel Out of Control

From time to time we all feel like we lose control of our thoughts and actions, but then we can bring ourselves back to a place where we feel like we have power over what we are doing. When you can’t return to this place of control, that’s when it becomes a serious issue. Losing control of your thoughts and actions can be expressed in many ways, and it can be quite dangerous. Lots of things can trigger these feelings and it’s important to understand why we feel like we do. This is where a therapist can really help you. Feeling like you don’t have control over your mind is a scary feeling and often one we can’t really describe but if you feel like you can’t move forward, you need to reach out for help.

I hope that reading this has inspired you to think critically about whether you could benefit from a therapist. I suggest reaching out and at least exploring the options that are available to you. Reaching out doesn’t always mean that you will find a psychologist the same day, but at least you are taking a step towards a happier, more fulfilling life for you or your loved one.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

What Exactly Is OCD and How Do I Know If Someone Has It?

What Exactly Is OCD and How Do I Know If Someone Has It?

How often have you heard the phrase, “That person is so OCD”? Or how many times have you labeled someone as OCD, or even thought of yourself as being “OCD” in certain aspects of your life? I know that even as a therapist, I’ve found myself referring to other people who have certain behaviors that appear extremely particular as “OCD.” The truth is, though, society has latched on to this title to describe a large spectrum of actions, without really understanding what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder really is. What most people don’t know is that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health disorder, which means an individual must present with very specific criteria in order to fall under that description. Because we all know people who seem “obsessive” about one thing or another, sometimes it’s hard to know when you should worry and what you should do. So I want to start by defining what OCD is and how one goes about being diagnosed.

As a warning, this post is rather technical, but I hope it helps give a better overview and understanding of OCD. You’ll see there are a lot of different forms of OCD, but you’ll also see that there are a lot of behaviors that might present as OCD but actually don’t merit that diagnosis. If after reading this, you are worried about yourself or someone you know, my best advice is to consult a therapist. This isn’t something you should try to solve on your own!

The Basics: What Is OCD?

First, it’s important to note that in order for someone to be diagnosed they need to have the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. Now we need to define obsessions and compulsions. According to the DSM 5 (the bible of psychiatry), obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted and that in most individuals caused marked anxiety or distress. The person must also be attempting to ignore or suppress thoughts, urges or images, or neutralize them with some other thoughts or action. Compulsions are defined by repetitive behaviors, like handwashing, checking several times or mental acts such as praying or counting. The individual needs to be performing these behaviors in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly. Second, the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize and in many occasions, they are excessive.

The obsession compulsions must be time consuming and take more than one hour per day as well as cause clinically significant distress or impairment socially, occupationally or in another important area of functioning to the individual. It is important to be aware that sometimes obsessive compulsive symptoms can be attributed to other causes, such as to substance abuse or medication or another medical condition, so it is important to be aware of that. Finally, the obsessive compulsive disorder cannot also be explained by another mental disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or body dysmorphic disorder, and so before making the diagnosis that someone is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you need to rule out other related disorders that are similar in nature.

school supplies stacked obsessive compulsive disorder

What is considered obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Under the OCD umbrella, there are nine different disorders that are included. The first one is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, with the above criteria mentioned. The second one is Hoarding Disorder, which most of us are familiar with (particularly if you’ve seen the show Hoarders). Another disorder is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, where the individual is obsessed with one or more body parts, which causes repetitive behaviors such as checking oneself in the mirror often, grooming oneself excessively, picking skin or mental acts like comparing oneself to other individuals in response to the apparent concern. In order to reach the distinction of a disorder, that preoccupation with whatever body part must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social circles or other area of functioning and it cannot be explained by another disorder such as an eating disorder.

If you have school-age kids, then you probably have noticed someone in the school who is missing parts of their hair. This is known as trichotillomania, which is also considered an OCD. In order to be diagnosed with trichotillomania or “hair pulling disorder,” the individual must have the following criteria: recurring pulling out of hair; the individual tried to decrease this behavior on several occasions; also,  just as with most of these disorders, that behavior must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in several areas of functioning; finally, the hair pulling or hair loss cannot be attributed to another medical condition and cannot be explained by symptoms of another mental disorders.

Another disorder that I think is extremely important to discuss because people are not as familiar with it is Excoriation — which is basically skin picking disorder. I’ve noticed many kids and individuals who are struggling with skin picking disorder and a lot of therapists don’t specifically ask about it. Excoriation involves recurring skin picking, which results in skin lesions; the individual tried to stop and decrease that behavior and couldn’t; the skin picking causes significant distress or impairment and, as in all these orders, it cannot be better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder or attributed to the physiological effects of substance abuse.

There are also substance and medication induced obsessive compulsive and related disorders, but I’m not going to get too much into those in this blog. However, there are also obsessive compulsive and related disorders that are due to another medical condition, which I think are worth noting — especially if you are a parent of young children and you notice certain behaviors. I recently had a mom call me in great distress because she believed her 9-year-old daughter was exhibiting signs of OCD. After talking with her pediatrician, she was told that the OCD behaviors could’ve been precipitated by a pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder that is associated with strep throat. This is more commonly known as pandas. I don’t write this to scare you, but it is worth noting that when strep is left untreated it can cause severe autoimmune disorders that can also result in cognitive and physical problems down the line.

Lastly, know that OCD can be treated. If you are a parent, you should be on the lookout for the symptoms mentioned in this blog post, but also understand that the symptoms need to persist and be severe. There are lots of options depending on the exact diagnosis, and there are so many resources that can help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek treatment. Knowledge is the most powerful tool you can arm yourself with if you are trying to help your child.

A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

If you missed last week’s post, be sure to read the first part of this article by clicking here.

ADHD Organizational Skills From Psychologist Ann Marie

Organization is key for all families, but can be particularly challenging for families with ADHD children. They may have every intention of bringing their homework to school or keeping track of their backpack, but problems with focus can make even small organization tasks difficult. Here are some small ways families can improve organization:

Folders

Pick brightly-colored folders to identify outgoing homework and incoming assignments. It may help to keep a special folder in the child’s backpack so that they simply put the homework into it immediately after completion (rather than putting it in a folder and then remembering to put the folder in their backpack).

Homework Station

Create a homework station at home that your child does their work at each day in a location that is away from distractions such as the TV or younger siblings. Set a rule that the area is free of clutter and contains only the items needed to finish homework tasks. This may change per assignment, but return the homework station to its original condition each night so the area is clear for the next day.

Communication

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Parents should keep in close contact with teachers and notify them of the organizational tools that are used at home, such as color-coded folders. While it’s imperative to communicate closely with teachers in subjects a child struggles in, it’s also important to speak frequently to teachers in coursework where the child excels. This not only allows the child to have pride that their caregiver notices their successes, but those particular teachers may have innovative ways of helping the child attend successfully to the schoolwork or organize themselves!

Inventory List

Sports and other activities can present organizational chaos when children have to remember uniforms, equipment, and other items. Consider creating an inventory list that the child can check when putting items into their bag. A laminated sheet can be used, so that the child can check off each item with a dry erase marker as they put it in their bag (younger children can look at picture cues rather than words). For older children who have smartphones, the list can be made on an app such as Keep.

Alarms

External alarms can help with time management for ADHD children. An egg timer can be used for younger children to remind them when it’s time to clean up, or to remind them to check their work. For teens, alarms can be helpful in reminding them of due dates, changes in daily routine, sports events, etc.

Apps

Consider using apps or systems for older children that are all connected. For example, Google profiles can significantly increase organization and task completion as the different features can be combined and tracked in conjunction with google alarms and reminders. Tasks can be added to a google calendar that has a link to a document (e.g. book report) right on the calendar reminder. The Google documents or calendar can be opened on a computer, a phone, or a tablet so that no matter where the child is they can complete their work or check their reminders (even if they forgot their phone at home). The task can be shared with the caregiver’s own Google calendar as well.

Phone Usage

Smartphones can be a lifesaver for teens with ADHD, and can help them stay more connected with their parents. However, they can also create more distraction due to endless apps, texts, notifications from social media, links within links when researching topics, and fun distractions such as silly videos or memes. Limit phone use during homework time and ensure that children are not looking at any screens at least one hour before bedtime, as the light coming from the screens can affect the body’s ability to recognize sleep cues.

Scheduling

Be strategic about organizing the child’s schedule so that they have time to de-stress, and also are not too stimulated before bedtime. Build in time for fun! ADHD children may need to complete homework in small chunks of time, and may need to take frequent breaks. Sometimes physical activity can be helpful during these breaks to expend energy, allowing the child to return to sitting calmly for a few more minutes while completing a homework task. Parents should be careful to balance this time for each child, as some need to have a quick dance party while others may become overly silly and active with even the smallest activity (those children may benefit more from stretching or doing a quick yoga pose rather than jumping jacks). Letting your child dissolve into giggles is ok once in a while, though, because everyone needs some spontaneous fun. It just might not be on the night that a book report and science project are both due!

Success

Celebrate your child’s successes, and celebrate them often! Children with ADHD are used to constant redirection from adults. They may begin to feel that they are only noticed for the things they struggle with. Building your child’s self-esteem and noticing the ways in which they have improved or been creative can go a long way in preventing depressive symptoms, which are fairly common in children with an ADHD diagnosis due to struggles with attending to social interactions and having to work harder to maintain academic performance.

boy holding fidget spinner

Unstructured Time

Allowing children with ADHD some time that is unstructured, unmedicated, and unpressured can be liberating. Some children need structure and benefit from medication at all times, so talk to your child’s providers to see if this is a reasonable option for your child. If your providers agree, many families choose to have unstructured time on the weekends or during school breaks. It can provide time for the child to be themselves, which can build self-esteem, and can also highlight for them the ways in which their brain cues them differently in different settings or structures (self-awareness is necessary when students go to college and no longer have a parent creating the structure). It also allows caregivers to notice the unique type of creativity that their child with ADHD possesses, a gift that has allowed for some innovative solutions in science, amazing artwork, and unique inventions throughout history!

Thanks, Ann Marie!

So, there you have it: some super useful tips that you can start incorporating into your daily routines now. We hope they’re as useful for you as they were for us!

We don’t know about you, but a lot of these organization tips are helpful to those of us without ADHD children, as well. Setting up structures that will help our child (and us!) stay on task is something that certainly takes work, but always seems to pay off in the end, as long as we stick with it. (That’s always the hard part, isn’t it?!)

Do you have any tips for organization with kids who have ADHD? What works for you? Let us know in the comments!