By: Sidney Hays, MSW, LISW, DARTT,

Lindner Center of HOPE Professional Associates, Outpatient Therapist

From wild parties in the massive frat houses to stories finding your soulmate in movies and television, many enter college with bright eyes and big dreams. There are expectations of melting into a friend group, dating, gaining experience, and finding your passion as soon as you get to college. All of this, stepping-stones to graduating with the dream job lined up, a group of best friends you’ll vacation with every summer, and that special someone you just might spend the rest of your life with. You’ve heard about the glory days and the football games and the spring break trips. But, what happens when you get to college and the classes are hard, friendships are complicated, partying comes with consequences, and heartbreak hits you?

Many young adults enter college with high hopes and expectations that seem reasonable Unfortunately, the movies and glory day memories from loved ones miss crucial struggles and obligations that come with college. This often leaves college students feeling like they’re “missing something” or failing, which contributes to poor mental health in an environment already rife with challenges. The struggles of large class sizes, living with strangers, easier access to drugs and alcohol, financial stress, being away from home, and lack of structure tend to tax the delicate wellbeing of young adults who have not been adequately equipped with needed skills and whose brains are not fully developed.

Most 18-year-olds step onto a college campus and it’s the first time they will be spending the majority of their time living away from home. Suddenly they are responsible for most every aspect of their life, with minimal adult supervision. Out from the safety net of coming home to parents and the guidance of coaches and teachers, college freshmen spend the majority of their time exclusively with others their same age, facing the same struggles. They navigate friendships, romantic relationships, and living with strangers as best they can, often struggling with codependency, lack of boundaries, and the pervasive anonymity and distance offered by the internet. This group tends to struggle with interpersonal skills and ability to regulate their own emotions, with little guidance on effective skills to use. Many find themselves feeling lonely and in cycles of unhealthy or unfulfilling relationships.

Accountability is a new concept for many college students. The looser structure of college settings requires more self-determination and discipline than high school. College is a place where students are generally free to make most of their decisions. While this can be liberating and a time of beautiful self-discovery, it can also lead to poor attendance, study habits, and moderation of substances and sleep. The negative physical, academic, and emotional effects of these choices tend to pile up, which is why so many college students begin to struggle with anxiety and depression.

What to tell a college student who isn’t having the best time of their life:

Know that you are not alone.

Mayo Health Clinic reported in July 22 that up to 44% of college students reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. The stressors faced by college students are underplayed and the good times overly glorified. It often takes time to make friends and friend groups naturally change; that’s okay. People are trying to understand what they want to do with the rest of their lives, becoming independent adults, and learning about the world. This will likely lead to many shifts in relationships as well.

Manage expectations.

You are in school to get a degree, learn about yourself, create relationships, and prepare yourself for the workforce. You may not find a group of friends during welcome week or even freshman year. The romantic relationships may not work out. You may not graduate with your dream job lined up. This is a step towards your goals and can still be part of a life worth living, even if you don’t get exactly what you want by graduation.

Get support and develop lasting relationship skills.

College is a great time to connect with a therapist to process the changes and have a support to help you identify your goals and live within your values. Learning skills to set boundaries, prioritize your time, communicate effectively, and regulate your emotions will make a world of difference in college and will carry on through your life.

A great option for learning these skills is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is a treatment that helps participants learn and practice skills to regulate emotions, tolerate distress, and effectively navigate interpersonal relationships.

If you are interested in learning more, for yourself or someone else, about DBT or individual therapy to help navigate this beautiful and challenging season, contact the Lindner Center of HOPE.

Lindner Center of HOPE’s Premiere Assessment Residential Programs have a private entrance to welcome patients and families. Both programs operate as private-pay programs.

If you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness or addiction, contact us for information on our residential treatment programs for mental health in adults.

One in four individuals are living with a mental illness, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings1 conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is a leading health problem in the United States, with approximately 61.5 million adults, or one in four, experiencing a mental illness in a given year.

Among adolescents, the same study found an estimated 20 percent of teens ages 13 to 18, and 13 percent of youth ages 8 to 15, experience a severe mental disorder in a given year.

Another major public health problem, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is drug and alcohol abuse. The Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap (CATG) initiative2, created by the Open Society Institute, reports that 23.5 million Americans, or one in every 10 individuals over the age of 12, are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

The statistics bring to the forefront the importance of residential mental health facilities focused on comprehensive assessment and intensive treatment in a residential setting, as one effective tool in treating mental health conditions and addiction, including non-substance addictions like gambling.

But for most people, recognizing a mental illness or an addiction, finding the best help to treat it, and knowing what to expect from a residential treatment center can be an uncertain road without the proper guidance.

Click here for more information.

Anyone born between 1946 and 1964 is a part of the Baby Boomer Generation. This generation is often defined as people born during the post–World War II baby boom, consisting of approximately of 76 million Americans. During the 1950s, 8% of the population was over the age of 65. By 2019, this number grew to 16.5%. By 2050, 22% of the US population will be over the age of 65 (over 1 out of 5). There will be 3.7 million centurions in the United States by 2050. So what does this have to do with substance use? Here are the facts: Most baby boomers in their younger years, smoked more marijuana and did more illicit drugs than any other generation. Many baby boomers indulged in early substance use, but as they reach middle age and retirement, many have continued to abuse alcohol and drugs, are getting arrested for drug offenses, and dying from drug overdoses.

Many older adults, now approaching retirement, were exposed to older peers and the events of the times, who were proud participants in a counter-culture movement. This anti-war, anti-establishment, and pro-experimentation with drugs, appeared to contribute to a more accepting view of the use of substances. The class of 1979 reported the highest level of drug use (over 50%), of any high school graduating class, before or since. For many Boomers, the use of alcohol, cannabis and other substances has continued through the years. With the aging of any generation, there are changes in health and one’s environment. With Boomer kids no longer around the house, the Boomer begins to lean more on old behaviors of the past, as a means of coping with physical, emotional, and mental concerns. With these concerns, come higher risk, and the possible onset of addiction.

Aging Boomers have a higher rate of accidental overdose than 18-45 year-olds. More members of this generation are dying from accidental overdoses than car accidents, the influenza or pneumonia. While the misuse of prescription medication is a major concern, 36% of Boomer admissions to drug treatment centers are for heroin abuse, 22% for crack cocaine, 12% for opioid painkillers, and 10% for methamphetamines. Over 10% of 50 to 64 year-olds are using illicit drugs. Despite these drugs, alcohol continues to be the most abused substance. For older adults, the proliferation for drug and alcohol use is based on their formative years. With continued use of substances, or rediscovering mind-altering substances, older adult bodies will be unable to handle or metabolize alcohol or drugs as he or she once did. Research studies indicate that if an older adult continues with this behavior, he or she will become one of the 5.7 million Americans over the age of 50, who will require substance abuse treatment.

Another significant factor, contributing to this boom with Boomers, is the massive focus on chronic pain in the U.S. and the subsequent spike in opioid prescriptions. Americans take more prescription painkillers than any other country. The U.S. contains about 4.4% of the world’s population, but is responsible for consuming over 80% of the world’s opioid use. Women of all ages, especially older women are drinking alcohol more often and using more drugs than ever before. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the rate of binge drinking among older women has increased from 6.3% to 9.1%. Rates of female Boomers abusing alcohol and developing dependency have doubled.

As any generation becomes older, the realities of aging begin to settle in. The combination of loneliness, isolation, chronic health conditions, depression and excess free-time may be leading older adults to abuse drugs and alcohol at higher rates. The total number is expected to reach 15 million by 2030. A Duke University study surveyed 11,000 people over the age of 50, and found a correlation between being separated, divorced or widowed and binge drinking.

What about mental health? One in four adults currently struggles with mental illness. Older adults are more likely to have experienced the traumatic loss of a partner, a close friend, and/or a family member. Loss can also come in the form of retirement, and how the very identity of what defined a person for so many years is now gone. The daily existence of boredom and a lack of structure become problematic. When these factors combine with the likelihood that many older adults use alcohol and experimented with drugs as teenagers and young adults, the result is a population vulnerable substance abuse.

There is help.

If you feel that you are struggling with mental health issues and/or substance use, there is help. The majority of individuals with a substance use issue, 84%, also have a co-occurring mental health issue. For many, sobriety is not enough. An individual may need to see a therapist to resolved past issues, find healthier ways of coping, examine their distorted thinking which perpetuating the unhealthy behavior. Most importantly, substance abuse is not about an issue of character, morality, weakness or bad behavior. Mental health and wellness is deserved for all, especially with My Generation (cue music – The Who).

By: Chris Tuell, EdD, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS
Lindner Center of HOPE, Clinical Director of Addiction Services

Anna I. Guerdjikova, PhD, LISW, CCRC
Director of Administrative Services, Harold C. Schott Foundation Eating Disorders Program
Lindner Center of HOPE

 

 

 

 

Emotion regulation refers to the process of generating and maintaining an emotion, as well as the ability to modulate its’ intensity and frequency in order to achieve socioemotional competence and sustain mental health. In modern society, from early age, we learn inhibition to downregulate our emotions (for example, to not cry in public or to not say anything when angry) which often results in emotional restraint. True emotional regulation is reached through focused monitoring, evaluating, and modifying of our emotional reactions and depends on the person’s age, temperamental characteristics and environmental circumstances. Some examples of successfully practicing emotional regulation include being able to calm self-down after something exciting or upsetting happens, sustaining focus on repetitive tasks, refocusing attention on a new task and controlling impulsive behaviors. The skill to emotionally regulate depends significantly on the persons’ age and brain maturity and thus understanding that some of the time the individual is not difficult or spoiled, but developmentally or circumstantially unable to control their emotions can help build empathy and strengthen family systems and relationships.

DOs in Emotional regulation

  • Do create safe space for all emotions- the good, the bad and the ugly. Being happy should be equally accepted in the family as being angry or sad.
  • Do model emotional regulation for your children and peers every time you can. Work on naming your emotion (ex.” I am very upset with you now..”), the reasons for it/ the trigger, if you know it (..”because you hit your sister..”) and the solution you have (..”so I will take a moment to regroup and then we will talk about how I am feeling and what helps me go through it”)
  • Do practice awareness of your reaction to the emotional dysregulation in others. The goal it to learn to respond to their outburst (observe, acknowledge, empathize and work through it) rather than react (yell back or slam the door and leave).
  • Do prepare and reflect. When a challenging situation lays ahead, take the time to prepare yourself and the child for it and afterwards reflect on how preparation and having a rescue plan had helped to minimize emotional outbursts.

DON’Ts in Emotional regulation

  • Don’t expect emotional regulation if the person is hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely or in other way physically unsettled. Emotions are felt in the body and learning how the body reacts to them is a crucial step in recognizing and further regulating them.
  • Don’t ignore or minimize kids’ emotions. They might see overly dramatic, or unnecessary, or inconvenient (airport tantrums, anyone?) but for the child they are real and often intense. Work on acceptance that even if we don’t get it, it is real for them and our job is to validate their struggle/excitement and teach them how to better self-regulate.
  • Don’t pretend you “feel it for them” if you do not. It is ok to state that “I don’t know what you are going through but I am here for you and I am willing to help you out in any way I can”.
  • Don’t try to “fix it” or make it go away or focus on it for too long. Emotions are fleeting, they can feel very intense when they occur, but most of them resolve or lose their overpowering force if the person “stays with it” (recognizes it, tolerates the distress for negative emotions and responds, rather than reacts) for long enough. Learning this skill early on can be truly helpful in adulthood

Practical skills to help with emotional regulation

Mindfulness techniques. There are many ways to focus on the “now” to help tame an emotional outburst. A simple example is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise. It can distract from the anxiety trigger, focus the person on the present moment, and help them relax in their body. Ask the person to : name 5 things they can SEE in the room (have them list them out loud) ; name 4 things they can FEEL (sock on my feet, knots in my belly) ; name 3 things they can HEAR (my voice, radio); name 2 things they can SMELL right now (my coffee) ; name 1 thing they can TASTE (if not in the moment, what did they taste last night) . This can be shortened to 4-3-2-1 or even 3-2-1, depending on the circumstances.

Relaxation techniques– teach yourself and your young ones deep breathing. Yoga Dragon breath and the Camel pose can be a fun quick way to release tension.  Explode like a volcano/ Balloon technique can be practiced anywhere and most children under 10 years of age find is helpful (pretend you explode like a volcano/popped balloon- you can jump up and model the eruption with your hands and make a lot of loud dramatic volcano sounds). Using movement, music and sensory activities can help further relax and refocus one’s brain.

Diligent self-care – emotional regulation is impossible in a body with unmet basic needs, namely being tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely or sick. Daily self-care, particularly getting enough rest depending on the person’s age, should be encouraged and taught by parents, especially to teens and young adults who have more autonomy and can make the connection between being overly tired and overly emotional and further

For many families, the start of the school year means the start of activities, socialization, and helpful structure. For others, it signals the start of anxiety – anxiety about grades, socializing, separation from loved ones, and the like. Anxiety is very common in childhood and adolescence and often does not require mental health intervention.

Common childhood fears include:

  • loud noises
  • costume characters
  • the dark
  • separation from parents
  • social anxiety

However, some children may develop clinical levels of anxiety, warranting attention from a mental health provider. It is estimated that 9% of youth ages 3-17 have had an anxiety disorder. The prevalence rises as children move into adolescence.

If mild anxiety is normal and expected, how do you know when it is a problem?

It might be a problem if anxiety is…

…getting in the way of school.

…getting in the way of friendships or personal goals.

…negatively impacting their mood.

…causing significant strain on the family.

So, what can I do as a parent?

It can be highly distressing to witness a child suffering. Parents may also find it frustrating if their child cannot or will not engage in developmentally appropriate activities due to anxiety (e.g., go to school, complete chores, sit at the dinner table). This can make it hard to know what to do to help

First, identify whether the fear is based on a true threat. Use your judgment here, but if there is clearly a threat or the anxiety is in proportion to the situation, validate and support your child. And just because a fear is valid, it is not always solvable or preventable. Encourage your child to tolerate the anxiety and convey your confidence in their ability to cope.

For anxiety that seems out of proportion to the actual threat, it can be helpful to educate your child. Many young children are still learning about what is dangerous and what isn’t. However, if your child comes to you repeatedly to get reminded or reassured that they are okay, this may no longer be helpful.

Encourage approach coping. Research tells us that overtime, with repeated exposure to feared situations, anxiety will reduce. Avoidance can reinforce anxiety in the long run. Try encouraging your child to engage in activities that they are avoiding. Don’t allow them to avoid doing what is expected in your house or given their developmental level.

This may involve facing your own distress. When you see your child in distress repeatedly, it is normal to become overprotective. You may start anticipating what they fearand protect them. Parents do this because seeing your child in distress is HARD, and it can feel cruel to maintain expectations (e.g., child to sleep alone in their own bedroom) when they are visibly upset.

Just remember that overprotectiveness is NOT helpful because:

  • it can promote avoidance
  • it reinforces the belief that the world is dangerous
  • it reinforces the belief that your child is not capable of managing distress

Positive reinforcement. Acknowledge how difficult it is to be brave and praise your child when they go outside of their comfort zone. Implementing tangible rewards can also be helpful in motivating children to face their fears.

Differential attention. Sometimes, families can get into a pattern where the anxious child gets more attention when fearful. This can inadvertently reinforce anxiety and dependency. By providing relatively more attention when children are engaging in brave or expected behavior, you can help to reverse this pattern.

Modeling. Children learn by watching you, so keep an eye on what you are teaching them through your actions. When you can, demonstrate bravery and willingness to mess up.

Scaffolding. Scaffolding can be a very useful technique when the behavior change needed is too challenging to be expected all at once. It involves providing enough support for your child to engage in a desired behavior (e.g., school) and then slowly reducing that support overtime.

If you think your child may have an anxiety disorder, talk to your pediatrician or a mental health provider. And if you need extra help, seek advice from a professional. Many providers also offer tailored education and parenting support.

 

Lindsey Collins, Lindner Center of Hope new studio portraits. UC/ Joseph Fuqua IIBy: Lindsey Collins Conover, PhD
Lindner Center of HOPE, Staff Psychologist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Laurie Little, PsyD 

Lindner Center of HOPE, Staff Psychologist

Plants that have psychedelic properties have been used across all continents for centuries to aid in rituals, recreation and in healing. Over time, researchers have found that psychedelic medicines can also be profoundly effective in treating mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and in ameliorating the effects of trauma.

Although a psychedelic medicine can be derived from a plant or created in a lab, the user will experience what can be described Laurie Little, PsyD as non-ordinary or altered states of consciousness. These states may include hallucinations, unusual perceptual or sensory experiences or an altered sense of space and time. Many users of psychedelic medicines also report profound experiences of inner peace, compassion towards themselves and others and deeply meaningful spiritual realizations. When combined with psychotherapy, psychedelic medicines have the potential to heal in ways often not seen with traditional therapies.

The psychedelic medicines that are most often being studied with mental health conditions are psilocybin (derived from mushrooms), LSD, Ketamine, Ayahuasca and MDMA. There have been numerous studies showing the effectiveness of psychedelic medicines on treatment resistant depression, end of life anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, eating disorders and substance use disorders.

One of the most rigorously studied medicine is MDMA for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In studies conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), 88% of participants with severe PTSD experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms and 67% no longer met criteria for PTSD only two months after their treatment.

The question remains, why is the treatment so effective? What is it about the combination of psychedelic medicine and psychotherapy that is so profoundly healing?

One possible theory is that psychedelic medicines offer the user an opportunity to look at difficult or traumatic experiences through a new lens that they have never had before. A psychedelic experience can potentially slow down the experience of time, engender feelings of safety and compassion, provide profound experiences of meaning and purpose and foster or deepen a connection to a higher power. Many of these experiences when applied to processing an old wound or trauma can have a profoundly healing impact.

Case Vignette:

John Doe is a veteran who has seen horrors that most of us cannot imagine. He has spent the better part of his adult years struggling with recurring nightmares, intrusive thoughts and strong feelings of survivor guilt and shame. He lives alone, avoids most people when he can and spends most of his time ruminating about what he should have done differently in his life.

At the behest of his family, John has tried traditional psychotherapy, but has gotten so overwhelmed by symptoms of panic and flashbacks, that he quits. It is too painful to talk about and he assumes it won’t help.

However, when John was given the opportunity to participate in an MDMA assisted therapy session, he was intrigued. He had been hearing more and more about how psychedelics could help with trauma but was afraid to feel hopeful. He had been resigned to feeling this way for so long. He agreed to give it a try.

While taking MDMA, John felt an alert state of consciousness, yet he felt calm and safe in a way that he had not felt for years. He felt at peace and relaxed. When he was gently guided to recall aspects of his past, he did not resist or feel panic like he had before. He was able to recall the events with a certain kind of distance. He could understand now that he was just doing what he could to survive. He could see now for the first time in his life that his so called “enemies” were also doing what they could to survive. He began to realize how true that was for all of the world. After that initial session of MDMA assisted therapy, John was then able to engage in traditional therapy in a way he never could before.

Although many researchers and therapists are aware of how profoundly helpful these medicines can be, there is still a great deal of stigma associated with these medicines. Because these medicines are still illegal in the United States, desperate patients are either travelling to other countries or are finding therapists who are privately using these medicines through “word of mouth”.

The Food and Drug Administration gave approval for certain psychedelic medicines to be researched, as long as they were held to the same standards as other pharmaceutical medications. This has led to a resurgence of new studies showing the safety and efficacy of psychedelic medicines for a multitude of mental health conditions. It is projected that several psychedelic medicines (including psilocybin and MDMA) will become legal and available for therapeutic use within the next one to two years.

Kristy L. Hardwick, EdD, LPCC-S Lindner Center of HOPE, Outpatient Therapist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun is shining; the days are longer. Summer is approaching. For some, summer is a break from study or work. For others, it may be an opportunity to take a week of vacation to relax and rejuvenate. Whether it is a two-to-three-month break, or simply more time in the evening to enjoy the sunshine, it is a time for which most look forward. It is often a time of joy, laughter, and reprieve. Summer is associated with rest and play, all of which can promote positive well-being. And I embrace all of it.

However, I am also keenly aware of the various tragedies we have collectively experienced over the recent months. With the “last day of school” and the “first vacation of the summer” pictures also come news of mass shootings, war, and other difficult events. There is exposure to pain and suffering on multiple levels, whether indirectly or directly.

Thus, I get the sense “the sun is shining, but it is also dark!” I find it necessary to acknowledge the current conflicting duality of our reality and the distress which many are experiencing, while sharing a few reminders to help us navigate through.

First, during times like this, it is crucial to recognize it is normal to have a plethora of intense thoughts and feelings, as well as an urge to act. It is also expected there will be differing viewpoints and ways these events affect individuals based on a variety of factors.

Second, it is important to highlight there are times when words are insufficient to convey the depth and intensity of feelings or to comfort adequately. Perhaps we don’t know anyone personally who has been directly affected by one of the current tragedies. Yet, we have been impacted. We may find ourselves juggling varying thoughts and feelings and struggling to put these into words. I would invite us to lean into what we are experiencing in our bodies. Accept there may not be “right words.” However, we can give space for our thoughts and feelings, accepting them as we experience them.  Sitting in silence might be necessary. It might also be helpful to focus on possible actions. For example, if we are feeling helpless, we might brainstorm a way we can make a difference or identify an area where we do have control. We can also find ways to show care, concern, support, and express meaningful presence with others amid the current tragedies.

Perhaps we do know someone who has been directly affected by one of the various tragedies or observe others being more deeply impacted by our current shared experiences. Again, we may not know the “right words” to say to those who have suffered directly from a tragedy or are in more distress. That is okay. There is a reason why words fall short; it is because ultimately, they often do. Thus, instead of getting caught up in “saying the right words,” we can focus on embracing being a meaningful presence. We offer authentic support through honest connection. Even saying, “I don’t know what to say; however, I am here for you,” or “I don’t understand or know the solution, but I am here to listen.” Offering just to be with someone is powerful.

Next, we may experience discomfort when we feel “caught in the middle” of opposing circumstances or even opposing feelings. On the one hand, it is summer. We have plans to relax, find joy, rejuvenate. Yet, we find ourselves surrounded by various tragedies. The degree of impact may vary. We are both impacted and aware of the suffering; yet also are navigating daily lives. We are both excited about summer plans, but also angry and sad about world events. Or we may be struggling with different stressors or difficult life circumstances, but also must continue to function. In these situations, it can be powerful to embrace “both/and.” Often we are influenced to exist in an “either/or” mindset. Either we are happy, or we are sad. Either we are fulfilled, or we are discontent. Yet this negates the complexity of both the outer world, and our inner worlds. Joy and pain can coexist; celebration and grief may show up hand in hand. Vacations are happening in the middle of world conflict. We are both celebrating our young adults graduating college and mourning for those killed in a mass shooting. Embrace and hold space for “both/and.” Multiple, often conflicting, thoughts and feelings can be true at the same time. It is necessary to accept all of them.

Lastly, we can utilize healthy coping skills to navigate these “distressing-at-a-loss-for-words-embracing-both-and” times. Consider strategies which have been helpful in the past, as well as those we may not have utilized previously.

Find ways to express our thoughts and feelings, giving ourselves permission to hold several thoughts and feelings simultaneously, while also releasing them. (Allow time for “both/and.”) Resist the urge to hold them in. Even if we have moments of “no words,” we must find ways to release them in nonverbal ways and then be willing to let words flow when they do come, without judgment. Releasing feelings is an important skill to practice.

Get moving, be active. We cannot separate the various parts of our bodies; they are all interconnected. Moving is good for all areas of our health, increasing endorphins. Research also supports various activities such as yoga, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing stress and muscle tension. We can engage in physical activities we love, whether it be swimming, kayaking, or biking.

Be creative. Engaging in novel and creative activities increases dopamine. Make art; write, create music. Simply listening to music has been found to decrease anxiety and stress. (We can even combine the coping skill of releasing and expressing feelings with this one!)

Seek social support. Make connections. We increase the oxytocin (the “love hormone”) in our brains by spending time with family, friends, and pets. We are inherently built to be in relationship with others.

Stick to routine; take the vacations we have planned. Routine helps us stay motivated and organized.

Maintain healthy habits. Sleep/rest. Eat well, hydrate.

Limit social media/news exposure when current events become too distressing.

Seek ways to advocate and get involved in organizations created to assist survivors of events or those which support issues we find important.

And lastly, let us not hesitate in seeking professional help if levels of distress increase, we are unable to function or fulfil roles, unhealthy coping has increased (drug/alcohol use), there is difficulty sleeping or change in appetite, and if experiencing severe hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. We are here to help when the sun is shining but it is also dark.

By: Jennifer B. Wilcox, PsyD
Staff Psychologist, OCD and Anxiety Disorders Program

 

 

 

 

What is compulsive hoarding?

Hoarding Disorder is a psychiatric illness and is considered to be a subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition (DSM-5) defines Hoarding Disorder (HD) as:

Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and to the distress associated with discarding them.

The difficulty of discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromises their intended use.

The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).

The hoarding is not attributable to another medical condition and is not better explained by another mental disorder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How is compulsive hoarding different from normal clutter or collections?

It is not uncommon for people to acquire a few extra possessions from time to time, resulting in occasional clutter. However, while normal clutter or collecting doesn’t usually interfere with a person’s daily functioning, compulsive hoarding often does. Compulsive hoarding also differs from normal clutter or collecting as it tends to become unmanageable, overwhelming, and causes significant distress or family discord. Though collections usually bring people joy and fill them with pride, hoarding often comes with shame and embarrassment.

Why do people hoard things?

Compulsive hoarding is thought to result from a combination of factors including genetics, environmental factors, life experiences, and learned behaviors. The reason one person hoards may not be the same as the reason someone else hoards. Some people who hoard are compulsive shoppers and acquire more things than they need or have room to accommodate. Others may have difficulty categorizing or making decisions about what to do with particular items. Sometimes they can’t remember what they own or where it is, leading to the purchase of duplicate items. Other times people hold on to possessions for emotional or sentimental reasons or get anxious when they discard things. Some people believe that the hoarded items may be useful someday and keep the items despite not needing them currently. The level of insight a person has about their struggles in these areas can vary widely from completely absent insight to good insight.

What types of things do people hoard?

The types of items a person hoards vary based on factors such as the reason they are hoarding and how severe their hoarding issues have become. Some commonly hoarded items include books, newspapers, magazines, boxes, bottles, clothes, food, items purchased in bulk, collectibles or vintage items, furniture, animals, or digital media.

How many people suffer from Hoarding Disorder and who does it affect?

While the exact prevalence of people who suffer from Hoarding Disorder is not certain, it is estimated that it affects approximately 2.5% of the general population. Studies have shown that prevalence rates in men and women are nearly equal and appear to be consistent across developed countries. Most studies report onset between 15 and 19 years of age and show a chronic course over the lifespan.

What is the treatment for Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding Disorder is treated using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that allows someone to work with a therapist to shift their thinking patterns and change their behavioral patterns to healthier ones. Randomized controlled trials have shown this to be an effective treatment for hoarding. While the data on the efficacy of medication for Hoarding Disorder is limited, there is some evidence to support the use of medication in the treatment of this disorder. For those hoarders who have limited insight, a Motivational Interviewing (MI) approach can help to foster their motivation and confidence. Finally, working on skills that improve the hoarder’s ability to maintain attention and focus, categorize items, and decision-making can be beneficial in treating Hoarding Disorder.

What can I do to help a loved one who seems to have issues with compulsive hoarding?

It is generally not recommended for family and friends to discard hoarded items without the hoarder’s permission. This can be extremely distressing for a compulsive hoarder and tends to make them upset, anxious, or angry. Instead, it is recommended that friends and family talk to their loved ones about their concerns and help them to seek professional treatment. Additional resources are available at the International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF) and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Resources:

American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. American Psychiatric Association Publishing, Arlington, VA.

Treatment of Hoarding Disorder

https://instituteofliving.org/programs-services/anxiety-disorders-center/what-we-treat-at-the-adc/compulsive-hoarding

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/hoarding-disorder/what-is-hoarding-disorder

Postlethwaite, A., Kellett, S., Mataix-Cols, D., 2019. Prevalence of Hoarding Disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders 256, 309-316.

by: Ronald Freudenberg, Jr., MA, LPCC-S
Outpatient Therapist, Lindner Center of HOPE

Anxiety can take many forms.  Anxiety is also one of the most common reasons one might seek out mental health treatment.  In this blog, we will explore some of the most frequently occurring anxiety disorders, as well as panic attacks, which can be part of a Panic Disorder (but do not have to be, as will be discussed later).  We will also look at effective strategies for preventing, treating, and managing anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety.

Regardless of how anxiety may present for one person, the various anxiety disorders all have at least one thing in common…fear.  Whether it is described as worry, nervousness, feeling “on edge,” or something else, the basic emotion of anxiety is fear.  We all experience some anxiety sometimes, and in fact, you may have heard that a little bit of anxiety can be a good thing from time to time.  It serves a protective purpose when it tells us to avoid people, things, or situations which could be dangerous.  Anxiety can also help us by keeping us on our toes and motivating us to perform well under pressure, such as when pulling an all-nighter before an exam, giving a big presentation at work, or playing in the championship game.  Yet, as with any negative emotion, anxiety can become problematic when it becomes too frequent, too intense, lasts for too long, or interferes with our lives and our ability to function well, as can happen in the context of the following types of anxiety disorders.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Adjustment Disorder

Sometimes, one may feel excessively stressed or anxious about a certain thing or things in one’s life.  People often describe this as “situational”, and the clinical term is an Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety.  (It can also present with depression, or other emotional/behavioral responses.)  An example might be if one would experience something stressful like the loss of a job.  Of course, most people would likely feel some anxiety about this.  However, an adjustment disorder is thought of as when one’s response is out of proportion with what may be typically expected.  With this type of anxiety, once the stressor has resolved, so will the anxiety.  So, when that same individual lands a new job, he/she/they will feel better, simply put.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is very much like it sounds.  This is when a person feels generally anxious, worried, and nervous much of the time (more than half of their days) about any number of different subjects.  In order to meet criteria for the diagnosis, one must experience this type of anxiety for at least six months, find it difficult to control the worry, and present with at least some of the following additional symptoms: restlessness, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep difficulties, and/or trouble concentrating.  Although every person is unique, classically, a person with GAD may tend toward long-term anxiousness, worry excessively about many things (such as finances, family, work, health, world events, etc.), and lay awake in bed at night doing so.

Phobias

Specific Phobias are another type of anxiety disorder in which a person experiences strong fear and anxiety about a specific thing (object or situation), and actively avoids that thing or endures exposure to it with intense discomfort.  In this writer’s experience it is relatively rare for this to be a person’s main reason for seeking treatment, at least in outpatient settings.  Perhaps that may be because many anxiety-provoking subjects can be pretty easy to avoid.  (When was the last time you unexpectedly came across a snake?)

Social Anxiety Disorder

An exception to anxiety that is easily avoided, is Social Phobia, also known as Social Anxiety Disorder.  Social Phobia exists when the source of a person’s fear is social or performance situations in which one may feel subject to scrutiny or judgment by others.  Social anxiety may arise when one feels uncomfortable mingling with new people at a party, walking through halls of (seemingly) glaring eyes at school, or giving a speech.  From an evolutionary perspective, if anxiety helps us to avoid dangerous things which threaten our survival, being ostracized from one’s tribe and forced to try to survive alone in the wilderness is near the top of that list.  With this in mind, it is little wonder that public speaking is often cited as people’s number one fear.

 

 

 

 

 

Panic Attacks

Finally, let us explore the issue of panic.  So, what is a panic attack? Panic Attacks, according to the DSM-5, occur when a person experiences an “abrupt surge” of anxiety which reaches a peak within minutes and includes (at least four of) the following symptoms.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

  • Racing/pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Numbness/tingling
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment from one’s self
  • Fear of losing control, “going crazy,” or dying

When one develops a fear of having additional panic attacks and exhibits maladaptive behaviors designed to avoid or limit the likelihood of them, this is called a Panic Disorder.  Further, if one’s fear and avoidance includes public situations away from home, open or enclosed crowded spaces from which it would be difficult to escape should panic-like symptoms arise, that is called Agoraphobia (which may, but does not have to, co-occur with Panic Disorder).  Also, according to the most recent edition of the DSM, panic attacks are now thought to be a feature which may occur in the context of a spectrum of other mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and some medical conditions.

Treatment of Anxiety, including Treatment for Panic Attacks

When it comes to treatment of anxiety, it is unrealistic for one to expect to live out the rest of their days, anxiety-free.  One can no more be “cured” from anxiety, than from happiness, sadness, or anger.  These are basic human emotions, and there are reasons why we have them.  However, the good news is that anxiety symptoms, whether mild or debilitating, can be effectively prevented, treated and managed, usually by a multi-faceted approach.

How to Manage Anxiety, including Managing Panic Attacks

Medications can often be a very helpful part of a person’s treatment plan.  Antidepressants, such as SSRIs, and some SNRIs, are commonly used to treat ongoing symptoms of anxiety, while benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, or Ativan) are sometimes used on a shorter-term or as-needed basis to alleviate acute anxiety or panic.  (Caution is usually advised with the latter due to their addictive potential.)  Some antihistamines, beta-blockers, and anticonvulsants have been shown to be helpful for anxiety as well.

Various forms of talk therapy can be beneficial by providing a safe, supportive experience in which a person can process fears and learn to implement rational coping thoughts to overcome them.  Therapy can also assist one to form new behaviors to mitigate symptoms of anxiety.  Regardless of the specific therapy used, a common element is learning to approach, rather than avoid, that which causes one’s anxiety.  Anxiety and fear lead to avoidance by definition, while summoning the courage to face and overcome our fears cuts them down to size (this is commonly referred to as “exposure”).  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT, as well as Radically Open DBT), and mindfulness-based psychotherapies are common effective treatment approaches.  Mindfulness can help one learn to be in and accept the present, increasing one’s capacity to tolerate feelings of discomfort while reducing anxious thoughts about the future.

Treating and Managing Panic Attacks

In the case of panic attacks, it is advised to first rule-out any medical causes of the symptoms which can mimic other medical issues, specifically heart disease.  If another person is present during a panic attack, they provide support and reassurance, helping the person to talk through it or asking what they need that may be helpful.  In addition to medication, there are other helpful strategies for panic symptoms.

Strategies for Managing Symptoms of Panic Attacks

  • breathing or relaxation exercises
  • physical exercise
  • mindfulness/grounding exercises (such as a sensory check-in)

Coping Skills for Anxiety, including Panic Attacks

Therapy can also help a person develop effective coping skills for preventing and managing anxiety.  These may vary depending on personal preferences, but can include increasing social supports, problem-solving for stressors, journaling, exploring spirituality, exercise/movement, etc.  Practicing healthy self-care habits (such as getting regular exercise and restful sleep, managing health conditions, and minimizing/avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other drugs) and generally trying to live a balanced lifestyle can simultaneously help to reduce the stress one may experience in life, while increasing one’s ability to effectively cope with anxiety.

Summary:  Anxiety is a common human experience, but persistent and debilitating anxiety, is often what causes people to seek treatment. There are a variety of types of anxiety. Panic or Panic Attacks are among the types of anxiety. Learn what are panic attacks, symptoms and causes and treatments for panic attacks and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about panic attacks and anxiety.

The Difference Between CBT and DBT (Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral Therapies)

Stacey L. Spencer, Ed.D.
Clinical Neuropsychologist, Lindner Center of HOPE
EMDR Trained therapist
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience

 

There are many, many possible types of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is an optimal treatment method for mental illnesses.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are among the most common psychotherapies.

CBT vs DBT

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

One that has been in the public sector for decades, and that you’ve likely heard of, is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If you’ve ever gone to therapy, it’s very likely that the therapist you saw practiced CBT. This therapy, also called talk therapy, helps people better understand how thoughts influence our feelings. The goal of CBT is to talk through problems and help frame thoughts differently. CBT is typically time-limited and there are specific goals and homework provided. You might start out with a situation that troubles you, or one you may find troubling. With the guidance of the therapist, you identify the thoughts around the situation and work on finding alternatives and ultimately changing the behaviors in order to feel better. So, it’s thought-feeling-action-focused. Some mental flexibility is involved given that most of these thoughts are automatic and can become engrained.

Cognitive Distortions are often discussed in CBT.  CBT helps us to break up negative thought patterns or “thought traps” that can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and cause us to avoid. A technique to help one move away from this type of thinking and often employed in CBT is “cognitive shifting”. With the help of awareness in what a person focuses on (in this case, often the negative cognition/thought/belief) the idea is that this helps us learn to shift our focus to something more helpful or innovative. There are many Cognitive Distortions under this umbrella. Examples of catastrophizing could be magnifying or minimizing. I read a good description once of this being a “billowing cloud of everything can go wrong” and believing it inevitably will.  Or in Minimizing when we downplay our successes.

A CBT-oriented therapist might give someone who tends to catastrophize events in their lives, leading to anxiety, for instance, a worksheet and walk through the process with them. This is hypothesized to have evolved as a way to help us survive during the immediate crisis. Now that we have developed higher-level reasoning skills, this can turn against us, as these negative thoughts can turn sticky.

One way to start is to help the client identify what they are currently most worried/anxious about. The client might start by specifying what they imagine will occur without using “what if” statements. Instead, the focus is on the client’s own predictions, e.g., “ I will fail the exam and get kicked out of school.” You ask the client to rate how much they believe this to be true from 0-100%. Next, the client is asked to take a step back and consider the likelihood of the catastrophe to occur. By helping the client to take a step back and assess the fear from a different perspective and re-interpret their concerns, this is called “reframing”.

Working on ways to cope with and manage these fears/anxieties by not diving into them is a strategy that CBT therapists employ. It takes practice and yet studies have shown that finding more balanced ways of managing these types of thoughts can lead to better mental and physical health outcomes. By helping the client to explore the underlying thoughts, emotions and beliefs and problematic thinking, they can work towards a more balanced view of themselves. The hope is that by helping the client change their perception to support more positive thinking, they will reduce distress and suffering and lead a more fulfilling life.

To recap, CBT features the following:

  • Treats emotional response
  • Is time-limited
  • Works best with solid therapist-patient relationship
  • Relies on the application of logic and reason
  • Employs structure to guide tailored treatment

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) comes from dialectical theory and is actually a type of CBT.  DBT posits balance; not leaning too hard in one direction or another. This modality was originally created by Dr. Marsha Linehan in her work with people with chronic life-interfering behaviors, like self-harm and chronic suicidal thoughts. It has expanded to help with many other issues. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy techniques utilize individual therapy, group skills class and coaching. Groups emphasize learning specific DBT coping skills and there is homework given in-between to reinforce what was learned. Four pillars of DBT include:

Mindfulness

Emotion Regulation

Distress Tolerance

Interpersonal Effectiveness

DBT mindfulness involves living with intentional awareness of the present moment. This includes not trying to push away or reject the moment but to notice it and not attach ourselves to it. As Dr. Linehan describes, this is by “Attending to the experience of each new moment, rather than ignoring the present by clinging to the past or grabbing for the future.” This takes practice and patience and can take many forms. Some examples of mindfulness include meditation in the form of noticing by either opening or focusing the mind. Contemplative prayer (in any spiritual form) is another mindfulness practice along with mindful movement such as yoga, martial arts, hiking, tai chi.

Emotion Regulation involves understanding and naming one’s emotions. By helping to learn to identify emotions, one can hope to gain an understanding of what they do for us. Goals of this are to decrease the frequency of unwanted emotions, the vulnerability to them and decrease emotional suffering.

Distress Tolerance are skills for when involved in a crisis situation and the goal is to not make the crisis worse. By utilizing skills of Radical Acceptance, one can achieve freedom from suffering and being “stuck”. This can help by reducing acting on intense emotions and tolerating painful events. These are only utilized in a crisis situation, where the event or experience is highly stressful and short-term.

Lastly, Interpersonal Effectiveness skills are to help assist with either strengthening current relationships or end destructive ones, to learn to say yes/no effectively, resolve conflicts before they get overwhelming and create and maintain balance in relationships.

The Difference Between CBT vs DBT in Treating Certain Illnesses

Not all mental illnesses respond to treatment in the same way.  The difference between CBT and DBT must be taken into consideration when determining the optimal treatment method for an individual. CBT has been shown to be effective when treating depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. DBT was created to help people who might be easily dysregulated and tend benefit from learning ways to self-soothe, communicate more effectively with others and find ways to reduce significant distress.

The Difference Between CBT and DBT Treatment Methods

The difference between CBT and DBT are defined. CBT focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how they influence each other. DBT emphasizes regulating emotions, being mindful and tolerating the uncomfortable. CBT guides patients to recognize troubling thoughts and redirect them, while DBT helps patients accept themselves, feel safe and manage emotions to avoid harmful behaviors.

When comparing CBT vs DBT, both therapies have aspects of how our thinking influences our emotions and behaviors but are different in their approaches and structure of the therapeutic process. Both modalities are evidenced-based, that is, much research has gone into showing whether they are effective.  When choosing a therapist, as important as it is to find someone in-network or with openings, it’s equally so to know what treatments are most effective for the reasons you’re seeking therapy in the first place. Therefore, asking about CBT vs DBT and which one might work best for you, would be an important next step in this process.  This is the best way to determine if CBT vs DBT are right for you.

Knowing your diagnosis is key to determining what therapy will be most effective for you. However, many people have more than one diagnosis, and sometimes people use a blend of therapy elements to best manage symptoms.

It can be confusing to know what techniques will best help you. CBT and DBT are some of the more common therapy practices, and have been shown to help individuals suffering from a number of mental illnesses.

Choosing to take care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health and finding providers that utilize evidence-based practices will provide you with the best outcomes possible.

For more information about DBT skills group at Lindner Center of HOPE.