by Jessica Kraft, MSN, PMHNP-BC

 

 

 

 

Anxiety and mood disorders are amongst the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the United States. While many find successful treatment through various psychotherapies or medications targeted at managing anxiety and depression, no medication will magically take away all anxiety or life stressors and it is not uncommon to experience breakthrough anxiety or symptoms of depression even while under the care of mental health professionals.  In today’s hectic world it can be challenging to juggle daily responsibilities and find ways and time to take a step back and practice mindfulness or focus on self-care. This article explores different mindfulness activities and alternative therapies, some of the benefits they illustrate, and how to include them in our day-to-day routines.

Meditation: Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and is considered one of the oldest spiritual practices in ancient India and China. While it can be challenging to find an agreed upon definition for meditation, in general it is agreed upon that meditation is a practice and form of mental training with the goal of calming the mind (Wang et al., 2022). Meditation can look different to different people and can be practiced in as little as a few minutes every day.

Yoga: Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice with roots in Indian culture and is an alternative therapy often combined with meditation that focuses on breathwork and the adoption of physical postures.  There are multiple style of yoga that differ in intensity and length of time, but multiple individual studies and systematic reviews have concluded that yoga can benefit those struggling with depression with symptom reduction seen with 60-minute sessions per week (Saeed et al., 2019).

Exercise: There are numerous studies and clinical trials showing the benefits of exercise related to mental health, particularly for those who struggle with anxiety and depression. A meta-review examining the relationship between anxiety disorders and physical activity (especially aerobic and resistance exercises) with over 69,000 participants showed that on average participants reported significantly reduced anxiety over a 3-year period when engaging in physical activity on a regular basis. Analysis examining sedentary behavior showed an increased risk of depression over time compared to those who engaged in more physical lifestyle activities (Firth et al., 2020). While there can be limitations in studies related to exercise types, additional therapies, and other variables there is one thing that remains consistent: no trials have shown that physical activity worsens anxiety or depression (Saeed et al., 2019).

While mindfulness activities and alternative therapies sound great on paper, they can be challenging to practice regularly. Below are some tips for squeezing in mindfulness activities into a hectic schedule:

  • Utilizing meditation apps. Most popular meditation apps (Calm, Headspace, Healthy Minds Program) have lengthy daily meditations, but they also include quick 1-3 minute meditations/deep breathing exercises that can easily be practiced before going to bed, before starting the work day, or to take a time out when feeling overwhelmed
  • Find exercise you enjoy doing. Motivation to exercise can be challenging enough, but when it is for an activity you don’t even enjoy this can be even more challenging. Find an activity or sport that you actually enjoy or look forward to doing and this will help with consistency, especially if you are able to engage in the activity with friends or family and turn it into a social or group event
  • Make slow, incremental changes to routine. It’s not uncommon to make a self-care plan including things like exercising daily, meditating daily, and making dietary changes. When we try to make multiple changes like this overnight it is easy to get discouraged if we miss a day and sometimes, we don’t even get back to it. Focusing on one change at a time and incorporating it into your routine more slowly helps with habit changing
  • In short, set yourself up for success with the four laws of behavior change. 1) make it obvious – if you want to go to the gym after work every day pack your bag the night before, 2) make it attractive – get yourself a new pair of shoes or a new workout outfit, 3) make it easy – start with a few minutes per day, and 4) make it satisfying – set up incentives to motivate yourself and keep it going (Clear, 2022)

Sources:

Clear, J. (2022). Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones: Tiny Changes, remarkable results. Cornerstone Press.

Firth, J., Solmi, M., Wootton, R.E., Vancampfort, D., Schuch, F.B., Hoare, E., Gilbody, S., Torous, J., Teasdale, S.B., Jackson, S.E., Smith, L., Eaton, M., Jacka, F.N., Veronese, N., Marx, W., Ashdown-Franks, G., Siskind, D., Sarris, J., Rosenbaum, S., Carvalho, A.F. and Stubbs, B. (2020), A meta-review of “lifestyle psychiatry”: the role of exercise, smoking, diet and sleep in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. World Psychiatry, 19: 360-380. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20773

Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019 May 15;99(10):620-627. PMID: 31083878.

Wang, Zanyi1,; Rawat, Vikas1; Yu, Xinli2; Panda, Ramesh Chandra3. Meditation and its practice in Vedic scriptures and early Taoism scriptures. Yoga Mimamsa 54(1):p 41-46, Jan–Jun 2022. | DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_48_22 (https://journals.lww.com/yomi/fulltext/2022/54010/Meditation_and_its_practice_in_Vedic_scriptures.8.aspx)

By: Elisabeth Renner LPCC-S, Lindner Center of HOPE Outpatient Therapist

 

 

 

In the journey of mental health and personal growth, two concepts stand out as essential: authenticity and vulnerability. These are not just buzzwords; they represent profound paths to healing and self-discovery. Drawing insights from the writings of physician and author Gabor Maté, let’s delve into the transformative power of authenticity and vulnerability.

Authenticity is the courage to be true to oneself, to honor one’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences without pretense. Authenticity begins with self-awareness and acceptance. It requires a deep dive into our inner world, acknowledging our strengths, weaknesses, fears, and desires. Authenticity invites us to embrace our imperfections and vulnerabilities, recognizing them as integral parts of our humanity.

 

Vulnerability is often misconstrued as weakness, when in fact, it is a profound strength. It is the willingness to expose our true selves, to open up and genuinely connect with others. Gabor Maté asserts that vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy and healing. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we invite empathy, understanding, and support into our lives. It is through vulnerability that we break down walls of isolation and shame, forging authentic connections with others.

In our society, authenticity and vulnerability are often suppressed by societal norms and expectations. We are conditioned to wear masks, to hide our true selves. True liberation comes from shedding these masks, from embracing our authenticity and vulnerability unabashedly.

Practicing authenticity and vulnerability requires courage and resilience. It means stepping into discomfort, confronting our inner demons, and facing the judgment of others. Maté illuminates, it is only through embracing our shadows that we can bask in the light of self-acceptance and inner peace.

How can we cultivate authenticity and vulnerability in our lives? It begins with self-reflection and introspection. Take time to explore your inner landscape, to identify your values, passions, and fears. Embrace your vulnerabilities as valuable aspects of your humanity, rather than weaknesses to be hidden. Practice self-compassion, treating yourself with kindness and understanding as you navigate the ups and downs of life. Cultivate authentic connections with others by sharing your truth openly and honestly. Engage in deep, meaningful conversations that go beyond surface-level interactions. Create spaces where vulnerability is welcomed and celebrated, where individuals can show up as their authentic selves without fear of judgment.

In conclusion, authenticity and vulnerability are not just ideals to strive for; they are essential ingredients for mental and emotional well-being. The path to healing and self-discovery begins with embracing our authenticity and vulnerability wholeheartedly. Dare to be authentic, to be vulnerable, and to embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth with courage and grace

Drug and alcohol detoxification, commonly referred to as detox, is the process by which an individual’s body clears itself of substances such as drugs and alcohol. It involves the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from the body, typically under the supervision of medical professionals. The primary goal of detoxification is to manage the acute and potentially dangerous effects of withdrawal that occur when a person stops using substances to which they have become dependent.

Detoxification can occur in various settings, including medical facilities, detox centers, or even at home under medical supervision, depending on the severity of the addiction and the individual’s overall health status. The process may involve medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, as well as supportive care to address any medical or psychological complications that may arise during withdrawal.

It’s important to note that detoxification is just the first step in the journey to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. While detox addresses the physical aspects of addiction by removing the substances from the body, it does not address the underlying psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues that contribute to addiction. For example, according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration), 83% of individuals with a substance abuse issue, also have a co-occurring mental health issue (i.e., depression, anxiety, trauma). Therefore, detox is typically followed by ongoing treatment and support, such as counseling, therapy, and participation in support groups, to address these deeper issues and help individuals maintain long-term sobriety.

Certain substances are associated with more severe withdrawal symptoms and potential complications during detoxification. Here are a few examples:

Alcohol withdrawal can be particularly dangerous and even life-threatening in severe cases. Symptoms may include tremors, hallucinations, seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), and in extreme cases, cardiovascular collapse. Medically supervised detox is often necessary for individuals with alcohol dependence to manage these symptoms safely.

Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, are central nervous system depressants that can lead to physical dependence with prolonged use. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe and potentially life-threatening, with symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and in rare cases, delirium, or psychosis. Medically supervised tapering is usually recommended to minimize the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. Always consult your prescriber prior to making any medication changes.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers like oxycodone and illicit drugs like heroin, can cause significant physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms from opioids can be highly uncomfortable and include flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, anxiety, and insomnia. While opioid withdrawal is typically not life-threatening, it can be challenging to manage without medical assistance, and medications such as methadone or buprenorphine may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms and support recovery.

Barbiturates, though less commonly prescribed today, are another class of central nervous system depressants that can lead to physical dependence. Withdrawal from barbiturates can be similar to benzodiazepine withdrawal and may include symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and in severe cases, delirium, or cardiovascular collapse. Medically supervised detox is necessary to manage withdrawal safely.

In addition, the advancement in technology, has resulted in the rise of behavioral or process addictions (i.e., gambling, social media, gaming, compulsive buying). These new forms of addiction can emulate drugs and alcohol withdrawal and increased tolerance symptoms as well. Individuals who become addicted to these behaviors can exhibit depression, anxiety, irritability, and agitation when discontinuing the behavior.

It’s important to emphasize that detoxification from any substance should be approached with caution and under the guidance of medical professionals, as withdrawal can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous, especially in cases of severe dependence. Seeking professional help from healthcare providers or addiction specialists is crucial for ensuring a safe and successful detoxification process.

In the journey of detoxification from alcohol and drugs, remember: the path to recovery may be challenging, but the destination of freedom and a healthier, happier life is worth every step. Embrace the support around you, stay resilient in the face of obstacles, and know that every day sober is a victory worth celebrating. Your courage to embark on this journey is the first step towards a brighter tomorrow.

By: Chris Tuell, Ed.D., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS
Clinical Director of Addiction Services

 

 

 

 

An Untapped Resource in the Treatment Journey

 According to a February 2024 article in the Journal of American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the prevalence of mental health conditions in adolescents has been increasing worldwide, outpacing the availability of effective mental health care. More adolescents require acute inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, but do not have resources for sub-acute care after discharge. Step-down programs, often known as partial hospitalization or day treatment programs, are helpful in decreasing re-admissions but are often underutilized. These programs can also serve as a step-up from outpatient care if severity is escalating. Partial hospitalization is designed to offer this intermediate level of care between inpatient and outpatient services.

Given that adolescence is a dynamic stage of life full of transitions and a common time for symptoms of mental illness to first present, teens may have difficulty managing home, school, and social activities without therapeutic intervention. Adolescent partial hospitalization offers day treatment during weekdays, so evenings and weekends can be used for patients to test skills learned during treatment hours.

Though partial hospitalization programs primarily occur in group settings, programs should be designed in a way that meet the unique needs of each patient participating in the program.  Ideally, programing includes elements such as psychoeducation, individualized treatment planning and goal setting, a variety of psychotherapeutic experiences, psychiatric evaluation, educational support, and family involvement.

The most effective adolescent partial hospitalization programs are staffed by multidisciplinary treatment teams including a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse practitioner, mental health specialist, specialized therapists, licensed social worker, psychiatric registered nurse, licensed teacher, and a dietitian.

Patients and families participating in adolescent partial hospitalization should benefit from tangible insights and skills that will foster resilience, improve communication, bolster coping skills and functioning. These tools are intended to help better navigate daily life and maximize a teen’s chances for success.

 

Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, Ohio offers an adolescent partial hospitalization program for mental health. Learn more about the program at:  https://lindnercenterofhope.org/adolescent-partial-hospitalization-program/.

Elisha Eveleigh Clipson, Ph.D.
Child Psychologist, Lindner Center of HOPE
Assistant Professor – Clinical, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience

 

 

Parents bring their children for psychological testing to answer the same question: How do I best help my child navigate through life? Increased autism awareness has led to a greater sense of identity and connectedness among many members of the autism community. There have been opportunities to highlight the strengths of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. With increased autism awareness, more parents notice symptoms and wonder if the diagnosis applies to their child.

I spend much of my professional time determining whether a child meets the criteria for autism. Part of the process is ruling out other explanations, and possibly ruling out autism. Sometimes families are upset when their child does not meet the criteria for autism.

Recently, a teen without ASD symptoms reported she was upset I did not “give her the diagnosis of autism” because she knew she had it. I deeply wanted this teen to better understand her experience, but she was not sufficiently trained to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Psychologists aim for accurate diagnosis. This informs the answer to the question of how to best help a child navigate through life. It is worth educating parents on what other issues have overlapping symptoms with autism.

When it is Autism

Individuals with ASD have differences in social communication and social interaction. Part two of the diagnosis has to do with restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

On the communication side, we see significant difficulty in the following areas:

  1. Social-emotional reciprocity.
    1. This may include trouble with back-and-forth conversations or failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Nonverbal communication used for social interaction.
    1. For example, trouble understanding or using nonverbal gestures, lack of facial expressions or avoiding eye contact.
  3. Developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.
    1. For instance, trouble sharing in imaginative play, making friends or a seeming absence of interest in peers.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior might include:

  1. Repetitive motor movements or speech. Classic examples include repetitive phrases and unusually repetitive lining up of toys.
  2. Some children with autism have inflexible routines, unusual greeting rituals, or distress with small changes.
  3. The experience of abnormally restricted, fixated interests or preoccupations may be present.
  4. Many children with autism have differences in sensitivity to sensory input. This may include indifference to pain, excessive smelling of objects or visual fascination with the movement of an object.

 

What else could it be?

Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder

This involves persistent trouble with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication. Symptoms include difficulty with:

  • Greeting others and sharing information.
  • Changing communication to match the context, e.g. communicating differently with a teacher than a peer.
  • Knowing how to use nonverbal signals to regulate social interactions.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Children with ADHD experience more sensory processing issues than other children. They may be more sensitive to sounds or smell.
  • They may have difficulty taking turns or picking up on social cues.
  • May become distracted and disengage in the middle of a conversation.
  • Some children with ADHD can become, “hyper-focused” on an interesting task.

Anxiety Disorders and OCD

  • Individuals with anxiety disorders may avoid social situations.
  • Anxiety can make a person feel less comfortable with eye contact.
  • Some children refuse to talk outside of the home.
  • Rigid patterns of behavior and thinking are possible.

Sensory processing difficulty

Individuals with a range of developmental and psychological experiences have sensory processing difficulty. This is more commonly experienced with mood disorders, anxiety or ADHD. It is also more prevalent in children with Intellectual Disability or Global Developmental Delay.

Behavioral concerns

  • Not all children with autism have behavior problems. In fact, many do not.
  • Children with behavioral concerns may have trouble understanding and regulating their emotions.
  • Some children with speech and communication delays exhibit behavior problems when unable to express themselves.

Depression

  • The range of facial expression or tone of voice may be more neutral.
  • A person may become socially withdrawn.

“Overcontrolled” personal traits

Some of my colleagues at LCOH provide Radically Open DBT. This is for people who experience a spectrum of problems that result in being “overcontrolled.”

  • May exhibit less emotional expression, saying, “I’m fine” when they are not.
  • Show a limited range of facial expressions.
  • Their lives may be rigid, and rule governed.
  • May seem aloof or distant in relationships. For instance, they might avoid sharing personal information.

 

Having Autism does not exclude a person from also experiencing the conditions described above. Yet, meeting the criteria for one or more of these conditions does not mean a person has autism. Providing an accurate diagnosis honors the experience of people with ASD and other conditions. It empowers families to best support their children throughout the lifespan.

 

 

 

By Jennifer B. Wilcox Berman, PsyD, Lindner Center of HOPE

 

OCD and OCPD are often mistaken for one another or used interchangeably. Although there is some overlap between the two disorders, it’s important to distinguish between them because they are quite different in many ways. It is important to note that although there are differences, some people may have symptoms of both OCD and OCPD. The two disorders are differentiated below.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a debilitating psychiatric disorder that presents in many forms. OCD is comprised of obsessions, which are persistent and unwanted intrusive thoughts, images, or urges. To reduce or eliminate this distress or discomfort, OCD sufferers begin to engage in compulsive behavior, which is ritualized behavior or mental acts, that serve to reduce their discomfort and anxiety. It should be noted that not all compulsions are outwardly observable and may include avoidance of triggers or engaging in mental compulsions. Unfortunately, engaging in compulsions or avoidance of triggers reinforces obsessive thinking. Therefore, the goal of treatment is to reduce compulsions while learning how to tolerate the distress that comes from intrusive thoughts. Some subtypes of OCD include fears related to contamination, scrupulosity (religious-based fears)/morality, fear of harming others (aggressive or sexual), ordering and arranging, repeating, and checking. There are several other subtypes of OCD not noted here. In OCD, these intrusive thoughts are considered ego-dystonic, meaning they are inconsistent with someone’s self-image, beliefs, and values. Therefore, these obsessions cause significant distress, anxiety, and worry and can greatly interfere with one’s life. People with OCD tend to seek help when these thoughts and behaviors cause problems in their life.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition), Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is “a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control.” Due to this, people with OCPD struggle with flexibility, openness to new ideas, and are often inefficient at completing tasks due to perfectionism. Their rigidity and inflexibility can lead to preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, and schedules. They can hold themselves to perfectionistic standards that interfere with their ability to complete tasks. They are often overly devoted to work and productivity at the expense of leisure activities and interpersonal relationships, leading to a poor work-life balance. People with OCPD can be overly conscientious, very scrupulous, and are often inflexible about matters of ethics, morality, and personal values. Some people with OCPD tend to be miserly, may hoard money for the future, and may have difficulty discarding worn-out or useless items. They may appear to be stubborn or rigid, and may struggle to delegate tasks or work with others because they don’t believe others will do things to their high standards. OCPD is considered ego-syntonic, meaning that it is consistent with someone’s self-image, beliefs, and values. People with OCPD tend to feel validated in their patterns of rigidity and perfectionistic rules and schedules. Therefore, people with OCPD are less likely to seek treatment, unless their behavior begins to negatively impact those around them.

While Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is considered the “gold standard” treatment for OCD, there is no such definitive standard intervention for OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT). Cognitive-Behavior Therapy varies from other types of talk therapy in that it is focused on changing thinking patterns and behaviors. It tends to be directed at the present, rather than the past and is goal-oriented and solution-focused. ERP aims to change behavioral patterns, allowing someone to confront their fears and therefore, reduce their OCD symptoms. Exposure refers to the direct confrontation of one’s fear through voluntarily taking steps towards their fears and triggers. Response Prevention refers to someone voluntarily agreeing to reduce their usual rituals and compulsions. It is very important for someone who is working on doing exposures to simultaneously refrain from engaging in compulsions. Without reducing or refraining from the related compulsions, the person cannot learn that they can tolerate the exposure or that the compulsion is unnecessary.

Treatment for OCPD tends to focus on the identification of rigid rules and lifestyle and how these things may be negatively impacting one’s life. Therapeutic intervention includes working on flexibility, willingness to make changes, and focusing on one’s values as motivation for change.

For those suffering from symptoms of OCD or OCPD, therapeutic intervention can be helpful. It is important to seek a specialized provider that can accurately diagnose and treat these disorders.

 

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

Grant, J. E., Pinto, A., & Chamberlain, S. R., (Eds.) (2020). Obsessive compulsive personality disorder.    American Psychiatric Association Publishing.

Hyman, B. M., & Pedrick, C. (2010). The OCD workbook: Your guide to breaking free from obsessive-compulsive disorder (3rd ed.). New Harbinger.

Kaila Busken, Lindner Center of HOPE, Licensed Independent Social Worker

One moment you are bursting at the seams with overwhelming joy. Every fiber of your being is filled with love for this tiny human being in your arms. Looking in your baby’s eyes, you feel like you have found your life’s purpose. And still, motherhood is really hard. New motherhood is sitting in the messy middle of seemingly opposite feelings. You can feel a mixed bag of emotions: sad and happy, overwhelmed, and peaceful, grief and joy, lost and found.

The transition to motherhood and its ambivalence has its own name: matrescence (pronounced like adolescence). The term was first developed by medical anthropologist Dana Raphael in 1973. This term is used to describe the bio-psycho-social- spiritual change that occurs when a woman makes the transition to motherhood. Like in adolescence, matrescence is a physical, hormonal, and emotional change all happening at the same time. Matrescence recognizes the large shift in identity that occurs when a woman becomes a mother and helps to normalize what it feels like to be in the middle of a whirlwind of emotions. Motherhood is a magical metamorphosis, because once you have a baby, nothing will ever be the same. And that is both beautiful and sad.

Around 15-20% of women who birth a child will experience postpartum mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. But matrescence is a normal part of motherhood and it is normal to feel ambivalence in this season of life.

Here are some helpful tips for coping in this new season of life:

1. Let go of expectations.
From the time a woman decides she is going to have children she hears an influx of information about what it means to be a mom and how to care for her baby. One of the biggest things a mom may hear is “you don’t have time for yourself anymore.” An important thing to remember is that you are a person worth caring for. You deserve to eat. You deserve a hot shower. You deserve to hydrate yourself. And you deserve love. You may even have a “Pinterest” perfect image in your head of what motherhood would be like. You may have pictured a blissful bubble in which you only feel complete happiness, but it is important to allow yourself to embrace the messiness and imperfection that is motherhood.

2.  Build your support system.
Just as a baby was born, you as a mother were born too. It is okay to ask for help and it is important to find a group of people who will help care for you. Look for people who will help support you emotionally while you adapt to your new role. Also look for people who will provide practical support like doing that pile of dirty dishes in your sink or the endless pile of laundry that babies create. Babies are tiny but they certainly require a village.

3.  Practice self-compassion.
Being a new mother is difficult. Suddenly this new little life is depending on you day and night and it can be exhausting.  It can be easy in this new vulnerable state to be harsh and self-critical. During this time, it is especially important to practice self-compassion and remind ourselves of our own worth. It can be easy to believe that you are a “bad” mother and that you are not providing what your baby needs. An important self-compassionate reminder is that “you are the best mother for your baby”. The goal is not for you to be a perfect mother but rather to be a “good enough” mother and embrace all the imperfection that comes with raising a baby. Perfection in motherhood is not possible and practicing self-compassion can help in remaining resilient in the face of this new role.

4.  Embrace the ambivalence.
Motherhood is embracing so much of the messy middle between seemingly opposing emotions. It can be uncomfortable to be in this place, where you want to spend every moment with your precious newborn and to crave the independence and space you had prior to having a baby. Motherhood is about the “both/and”, knowing that good and bad can exist in the same place. It is possible for you to embrace them both at the same time. You can love your baby with every fiber of your being and miss a time when you were able to sleep through the night or drink a hot cup of coffee.

5.  Allow yourself to grieve.
It is okay to grieve in this new phase of life. We tend to believe that grief is only reserved for death, but we can grieve many things in this new phase of motherhood. You may grieve your old life, previous relationship dynamics, your body and how it may have worked before, your time, your envisioned birth plan, your envisioned feeding plan, or your expectation of what you thought motherhood would be like. Allowing yourself to feel the sadness in some of these losses will help you to move on and embrace your new role as a mother.

BY: Anna Guerdjikova, PhD, LISW, CCRC, Lindner Center of HOPE, Director of Administrative Services, Harold C. Schott Foundation Eating Disorders Program University of Cincinnati, Department of Psychiatry, Research Assistant Professor

 

An estimated 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion annually on weight loss products. WebMD lists over 100 different diets, starting with the African Mango diet, moving on to the South Beach and Mediterranean diets and ending up with the Zone. Most diets, regardless of their particular nature, result in short-term weight loss that is not sustainable. Weight cycling or recurrent weight loss through dieting and subsequent weight gain (yo-yo effect) can be harmful for mental and physical health for both healthy weight and overweight individuals. Furthermore, weight fluctuations have been related to increased risk of development of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

What is Dieting

The word “diet” originates from the Greek word “diaita”, literally meaning “manner of living”. In the contemporary language, dieting is synonymous with a quick fix solution for an overwhelming obesity epidemic. Dieting implies restriction, limitation of pleasurable foods and drinks, and despite of having no benefits, the omnipresent dieting mentality remains to be the norm.

Most diets fail most of the time. Repeated diet failure is a negative predictor for successful long term weight loss. Chronic dieters consistently report guilt and self-blame, irritability, anxiety and depression, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Their self-esteem is decreased by continuous feelings of failure related to “messing my diet up again”, leading to feelings of lack of control over one’s food choices and further … life in general. Dieting can be particularly problematic in adolescents and it remains a major precursor to disordered eating, with moderate dieters being five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who do not diet at all.

Diets imply restriction. Psychologically, dietary restraint can lead to greater reactivity to food cues, increased cravings and disinhibition, and overeating and binge eating. Biologically, dieting can lead to unhealthy changes in body composition, hormonal changes, reduced bone density, menstrual disturbances, and lower resting energy expenditure.

The Potential Harmful Effects of Dieting

Aggressive dieting lowers the base metabolic rate, meaning one burns less energy when resting, resulting in significantly lower daily needs in order to sustain achieved weight after the diet is over. Returning to normalized eating habits at this lower base metabolic rate results in commonly seen post dieting weight gain. Biologically, dieting is perceived as harmful and physiology readjusts trying to get back to initial weight even after years since the initial rapid weight loss. Recent data examining 14 participants in the “Biggest Loser” contest showed they lost on average 128 pounds and their baseline resting metabolic rates dropped from 2,607 +/-649 kilocalories/ day to 1,996 +/- 358 kcal/day at the end of the 30 weeks contest. Those that lost the most weight saw the biggest drops in their metabolic rate. Six years after the show, only one of the 14 contestants weighed less than they did after the competition; five contestants regained almost all of or more than the weight they lost, but despite the weight gain, their metabolic rates stayed low, with a mean of 1,903 +/- 466 kcal/day. Proportional to their individual weights the contestants were burning a mean of ~500 fewer kilocalories a day than would be expected of people their sizes leading to steady weight gain over the years. Metabolic adaptation related to rapid weight loss thus persisted over time suggesting a proportional, but incomplete, response to contemporaneous efforts to reduce body weight from its defined “set point”.

Dieting emphasizes food as “good” or “bad”, as a reward or punishment, and increases food obsessions. It does not teach healthy eating habits and rarely focuses on the nutritional value of foods and the benefit of regulated eating. Unsatisfied hunger increases mood swings and risk of overeating. Restricting food, despite drinking enough fluids, can leads to dehydration and further complications, like constipation. Dieting and chronic hunger tend to exacerbate dysfunctional behaviors like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.

Complex entities like health and wellness cannot be reduced to the one isolated number of what we weigh or to what body mass index (BMI) is. Purpose and worth cannot be measured in weight. Dieting mentality tempts us into “If I am thin- I will be happy” or “If I am not thin-I am a failure” way of thinking but only provides a short term fictitious solution with long term harmful physical and mental consequences. Focusing on sustainable long term strategies for implementing regulated eating habits with a variety of food choices without unnecessary restrictions will make a comprehensive diet and maintaining healthy weight a true part of our “manner of living”.

 

Reference: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 May ;Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition.; Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, Kerns JC, Knuth ND, Brychta R, Chen KY, Skarulis MC, Walter M, Walter PJ, Hall KD.

Danielle Johnson, MD, FAPA
Lindner Center of HOPE/Chief Medical Officer
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Medications are undoubtedly an important tool in the treatment of mental illnesses. Expert application of psychopharmacology is a game changer in improving symptoms of mental illness and helping individuals achieve a manageable baseline. Complex co-morbidities and severe mental illness make prescribing even more complex.

Psychiatric medications can stabilize symptoms and prevent relapse. They work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin is involved in mood, appetite, sensory perception, and pain pathways. Norepinephrine is part of the fight-or-flight response and regulates blood pressure and calmness. Dopamine produces feelings of pleasure when released by the brain reward system.

One in ten Americans takes an antidepressant, including almost one in four women in their 40s and 50s. Women are twice as likely to develop depression as men.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Side Effects

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase levels of serotonin. Fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro) treat depression, anxiety disorders, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, eating disorders, and hot flashes. Potential side effects include jitteriness, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, sedation, headaches, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.

Zoloft Side Effects in Women

Zoloft, also known by its generic name sertraline, is an antidepressant medication that can cause a range of side effects in women. Some of the common side effects of Zoloft include nausea, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, dry mouth, drowsiness, and difficulty sleeping. Women may also experience sexual side effects such as decreased libido, difficulty reaching orgasm, and erectile dysfunction. In some cases, Zoloft may cause weight gain or weight loss, and it can also affect blood pressure and heart rate. Rare but serious side effects of Zoloft in women may include seizures, serotonin syndrome, and suicidal thoughts or behavior.

Prozac Side Effects in Women

Prozac, also known by its generic name fluoxetine, is an antidepressant medication that can cause a range of side effects in women. Some of the common side effects of Prozac include nausea, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, dry mouth, drowsiness, and difficulty sleeping. Women may also experience sexual side effects such as decreased libido and difficulty reaching orgasm. Prozac may also cause weight gain or weight loss, and it can affect blood pressure and heart rate. Rare but serious side effects of Prozac in women may include serotonin syndrome, suicidal thoughts or behavior, and seizures.

Lexapro Side Effects in Women

Lexapro, also known by its generic name escitalopram, is an antidepressant medication that can cause a range of side effects in women. Some of the common side effects of Lexapro include nausea, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, dry mouth, drowsiness, and difficulty sleeping. Women may also experience sexual side effects such as decreased libido and difficulty reaching orgasm. Lexapro may also cause weight gain or weight loss, and it can affect blood pressure and heart rate. Rare but serious side effects of Lexapro in women may include serotonin syndrome, suicidal thoughts or behavior, and seizures.

Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) Side Effects

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) are used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, diabetic neuropathy, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia. Potential side effects include nausea, dry mouth, sweating, headache, decreased appetite, insomnia, increased blood pressure, and sexual dysfunction.

Tricyclic Antidepressants Side Effects

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) also increase serotonin and norepinephrine. Amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), nortriptyline (Pamelor), doxepin (Sinequan), trimipramine (Surmontil), protriptyline (Vivactil), and imipramine (Tofranil) are used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and insomnia. Possible side effects include sedation, forgetfulness, dry mouth, dry skin, constipation, blurred vision, difficulty urinating, dizziness, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, increased seizure risk, and cardiac complications.

Other Antidepressants Side Effects

Wellbutrin Side Effects in Women

Bupropion (Wellbutrin) increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. It treats depression, seasonal affective disorder, ADHD, and can be used for smoking cessation. It can also augment other antidepressants. Potential side effects include anxiety, dry mouth, insomnia, and tremor. It can lower the seizure threshold. There are minimal to no sexual side effects or weight gain.

Trazodone (Desyrel, Oleptro) affects serotonin and mirtazapine (Remeron) affects serotonin and norepinephrine. They are both used for depression and sleep. Mirtazapine has minimal sexual side effects.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) increase serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Emsam), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and moclobemide are associated with more serious side effects than other antidepressants. There are dietary restrictions and numerous drug interactions. MAOIs are often used after other antidepressant classes have been tried. Other antidepressants need to be discontinued for a period of time prior to starting an MAOI.

Newer antidepressants include Viibryd (vilazodone) which affects serotonin, Fetzima (levomilnacipran) which affects serotonin and norepinephrine, and Brintellix (vortioxetine) which affects serotonin. Brintellix and Viibryd have mechanisms of action that make them unique from SSRIs. Viibryd is less likely to cause sexual side effects.

Excess serotonin can accumulate when antidepressants are used with other medications that effect serotonin (other antidepressants, triptans for migraines, certain muscle relaxers, certain pain medications, certain antinausea medications, dextromethorphan, St. John’s Wort, tryptophan, stimulants, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, etc.) Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include anxiety, agitation, restlessness, easy startling, delirium, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased temperature, profuse sweating, shivering, vomiting, diarrhea, tremor, and muscle rigidity or twitching. Life threatening symptoms include high fever, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and unconsciousness.

Estrogen Levels With Antidepressants in Females

Varying estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause, and menopause raise issues with antidepressants and depression that are unique to women. Estrogen increases serotonin, so a decrease in estrogen at certain times in a woman’s reproductive life cycle can reduce serotonin levels and lead to symptoms of depression. Hormonal contraception and hormone replacement therapy can reduce or increase depressive symptoms; an increase in symptoms may be more likely in women who already had major depressive disorder. During pregnancy, antidepressants have a potential risk to the developing baby but there are also risks of untreated depression on the baby’s development. With breastfeeding, some antidepressants pass minimally into breast milk and may not affect the baby. The benefits of breastfeeding may outweigh the risks of taking these medications.   Antidepressant sexual side effects in women are vaginal dryness, decreased genital sensations, decreased libido, and difficulty achieving orgasm. Women should communicate with their psychiatrist and/or OB/GYN to discuss the risks and benefits of medication use vs. untreated illness during pregnancy and breastfeeding; the use of hormonal treatments to regulate symptoms associated with menses and menopause; and the treatment of sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants.

It has been observed that some antidepressants can affect estrogen levels in women. The exact mechanisms behind these effects are not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the interactions between the medication and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, which is responsible for regulating estrogen production. It is important for women to discuss any potential effects of antidepressants on estrogen levels with their healthcare provider, especially if they have a history of hormonal imbalances or are taking hormonal therapies.

It is important for women to discuss any potential side effects with their healthcare provider before starting any depression medication.

Lindner Center of HOPE’s Approach

Lindner Center of HOPE’s residential services employ full-time psychiatrists with expertise in psychopharmacology. These prescribing physicians are designated members of each residential client’s treatment team. Medication management within Lindner Center of HOPE’s residential programs is also supported by 24/7 psychiatry and nursing staff, onsite pharmacy and an innovative Research Institute.

In some cases, patients over the course of treatment for mental illnesses accumulate many prescriptions. In cases like this, Lindner Center of HOPE’s residential units can offer a safe environment for medication assessment and adjustment. While the client participates in appropriate evaluation and treatment, their psychiatrist can also work with them on reaching rational polypharmacy — in other words, medication optimization.

For patients with more severe, treatment-resistant mental illness, Lindner Center’s psychiatrists can implement the most complicated, and often hard to use, treatments, in a safe environment, while under their observation.

If medication adjustments result in decompensation on the residential units, a patient can be temporarily stepped up to an acute inpatient unit on the same campus.

Heather Melena, APRN, PMHNP-BC,

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Lindner Center of HOPE

 

 

 

 

 

Living with a chronic illness can be difficult to manage not only physically but also emotionally and mentally as well. The challenges that can come with chronic illness include learning to cope with the symptoms of that diagnosis, figuring out ways to alleviate your symptoms, doctor’s appointments and strain to financial responsibilities and interpersonal relationships. On top of trying to figure out new ways to handle everything that comes with chronic illness, the emotional and mental strain can feel overwhelming and paralyzing.  Psychological distress has been shown to increase with chronic disease and its accompanying treatment protocols as well as the many other areas affected in one’s life. It has also been well documented that continued stress and/or distress can lead to poor health outcomes and mental illness (Sheth et al, 2023). Thus, finding ways to find acceptance, cope with the feelings of powerlessness, and learning to live within the limitations caused by one’s chronic illness is imperative to finding relief from the mental and emotional turmoil brought on by physiological changes of illness.

Seeking help from a mental health provider (with or without the use of medications), engaging in individual and group therapy, attending support groups are all ways to tackle the mental and emotional aspects of chronic illness. Studies have shown that engaging in acceptance and commitment therapy as well as learning mindfulness techniques can reduce pain intensity, depression, and anxiety with increased self-management and physical wellbeing for those living with chronic health conditions (Wallace-Boyd et al, 2023). Learning strategies such as active coping skills, planning, positive reframing, and emotional support will all be of value to learning to live with the changes experienced by persistent illness. In practice, discussion is had about learning how to live within these new limitations, being patient and kind to oneself, setting realistic expectations, and acknowledging that the way you feel physically may change from day to day- which can be extremely beneficial for someone experiencing chronic illness. Powerlessness is a tough emotional and mental barrier when struggling day to day, where much uncertainty feels uncomfortable. By practicing acceptance and self-love, we can learn to live in the present and move away from dwelling on what our bodies were once capable of or fearing what the future may hold.

The American Psychological Association (2023) defines self-efficacy as an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to engage in behaviors to achieve personal goals. This is reflected in the confidence one has to exert control over their own motivation, behavior, and social environment. Studies have shown that greater self-efficacy can increase one’s control (or belief of) over health outcomes (Sheth et al, 2023).  By learning more positive coping mechanisms and increasing self-efficacy, one can gain confidence in their ability to self-manage their illness and improve their quality of life.

While it may be a difficult task, especially for those that struggle with chronic health problems, engaging in physical activity three to five days a week can be extremely beneficial. There has been endless research on the benefits of physical activity including higher quality of life, lower mortality, reduction of pain, and improved mental health. It has been shown that physical activity can positively impact the overall relationship between inflammation and mental health symptoms, thus reducing inflammation will likely improve depression and anxiety symptoms (Sheth et al, 2023). Physical activity can also improve energy, mental clarity, cognitive ability, and reduce stress and anxiety. It has been shown to improve mood, sleep, and circulation (Sheth et al, 2023).. With that being said, be patient with yourself and listen to your body- if physical activity isn’t what your body needs- rest or try low-intensity activities such as yoga or swimming.

Self-care is something we hear about all the time now- but what does that look like in practice? Self-care is the action or behaviors we incorporate into our daily lives that help not only our physical health but overall mental wellness. Incorporating self-care into our daily lives will not only improve our mood, reduce the toll stress can have on our bodies (ie inflammation, fatigue, sadness), but improve our outlook on the constantly changing physical symptoms of chronic illness. Self-care should be personalized to your needs. In practice we often discuss what someone’s “life worth living” looks like and how to achieve this. Incorporating daily self-care is a step towards learning to live within the new limitation set by illness and reframing our thought processes to think more positively which will enable us to continue moving forward despite our body’s shortcomings. Self-care includes:

  • Seeking out professional help: Whether a therapist, mental health provider, nutritionist, personal trainer- all of which can help you navigate treating the many facets of chronic illness, including depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Finding support: Joining a group of people or talking with others who suffer with similar conditions can be cathartic, oftentimes lowering distress levels, and offering ways to coping with the diagnosis.
  • Stress Reduction: Identifying sources of stress, finding ways to cut stress out of your life, and ways to better manage stress.
  • Physical activity
  • Eating well:  looking for ways to add foods to your diet that will be beneficial in reducing inflammation, improving immune function, and overall wellbeing. Learning moderation in the foods we eat rather than trying “crash” diets. When we eat foods aimed at healing our bodies, we find that our mood and mental health can improve.
  • Sleep: Adequate and restorative sleep is so important for everyone. Our bodies are in a reparative phase while sleeping- which is needed to heal! Try incorporating good sleep hygiene practices including going to bed around the same time each night, avoiding screens prior to sleep, meditation before bed.
  • Hobbies: Find things that make you feel fulfilled, and make you feel joy/bring joy to your life- whether they are the same hobbies or activities prior to your diagnosis- it is important to do things that make you feel good!

(Mended Hearts, 2023)

References

American Psychological Association (2023). Teaching tip sheet: Self-efficacy. https://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/education/self-efficacy

Ciotti, S. (2023). “I Get It, I’m Sick Too”: An Autoethnographic Study of One Researcher/Practitioner/Patient With Chronic Illness. Qualitative Health Research33(14), 1305–1321. https://doi-org.northernkentuckyuniversity.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/10497323231201027

MedlinePlus (2022). Living with a chronic illness- dealing with feelings. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/copingwithchronicillness.html

MendedHearts(2023). Chronic illness and mental health blog. https://mendedhearts.org/chronic-illness-and-mental-health-9-tips-for-self-care/

Sheth, M. S., Castle, D. J., Wang, W., Lee, A., Jenkins, Z. M., & Hawke, L. D. (2023). Changes to coping and its relationship to improved wellbeing in the optimal health program for chronic disease. SSM Mental Health3. https://doi-org.northernkentuckyuniversity.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.ssmmh.2023.100190

Wallace-Boyd, K., Boggiss, A. L., Ellett, S., Booth, R., Slykerman, R., & Serlachius, A. S. (2023). ACT2COPE: A pilot randomised trial of a brief online acceptance and commitment therapy intervention for people living with chronic health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cogent Psychology10(1). https://doi-org.northernkentuckyuniversity.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/23311908.2023.2208916