Category: Mental Health

Bullying

Bullying was once considered a childhood rite of passage. Today, however, bullying is recognized as a serious problem. To help your child handle bullying, learn to recognize it — and understand how to respond.

Bullying is a form of aggression, in which one or more children repeatedly and intentionally intimidate, harass or harm a victim who is perceived as unable to defend him- or herself. Bullying can take many forms. For example:

  • Physical. This type of bullying includes hitting, tripping and kicking, as well as destruction of a child’s property.
  • Verbal. Verbal bullying includes teasing, name-calling, taunting and making inappropriate sexual comments.
  • Psychological or social. This type of bullying involves spreading rumors about a child, embarrassing him or her in public, or excluding him or her from a group.
  • Electronic. Cyberbullying involves using an electronic medium, such as email, websites, a social media platform, text messages, or videos posted on websites or sent through phones, to threaten others.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Being bullied as a child has been linked to:
  • Mental health problems. Children who are bullied are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, low self-esteem, and thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
  • Impaired academic performance. Children who are bullied might be afraid to go to school and are more likely to get poor grades. Targets of bullying are also more likely to receive school detention or suspension, miss, skip or drop out of school.
  • Substance abuse. Children who are bullied are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs.
  • Violence. A very small number of children who are bullied might retaliate with violent measures.If your child is being bullied, he or she might remain quiet out of fear, shame or embarrassment. Warning signs may be vague and may mimic a number of other mental health issues. Be on the lookout for sudden changes in mood or behavior, including:
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, electronics or other personal belongings
  • Abrupt loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Poor school performance or reluctance to go to school
  • Headaches, stomachaches or other physical complaints
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Regular distress after spending time online or on his or her phone without a reasonable explanation
  • Feelings of helplessness or low self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as running away from home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you suspect that your child is being bullied, take the situation seriously:
  • Encourage your child to share his or her concerns. Remain calm, listen in a loving manner and support your child’s feelings. Express understanding and concern. Remind your child that he or she isn’t to blame for being bullied.
  • Learn about the situation. Ask your child to describe how and when the bullying occurs and who is involved. Find out what your child has done to try to stop the bullying, as well as what has or hasn’t worked. Ask what can be done to help him or her feel safe.
  • Teach your child how to respond. Don’t promote retaliation or fighting back against a bully. Instead, your child might try telling the bully to leave him or her alone, walking away to avoid the bully, ignoring the bully, or asking a teacher, coach or other adult for help. Suggest sticking with friends wherever the bullying seems to happen. Likewise, tell your child not to respond to cyberbullying, and to block the bully on the phone and social media.
  • Talk to your child about technology. Make sure you know how your child is using the internet, social media platforms, or his or her phone to interact with others. Create a technology contract that lists your family’s rules for safe and respectful use of electronic devices. This contract should include the agreement that — while you won’t invade your child’s privacy — you reserve the right to look at the content of your child’s devices if you have safety concerns, and you will do so in your child’s presence. List your child’s account usernames and passwords on the contract. Sign the contract and post it in a highly visible place in your home.  If your child is being cyberbullied, don’t automatically take away devices or computer access. Children might be reluctant to report bullying for fear of having their cellphone or internet privileges taken away. Assure your child that you will not remove electronic privileges if he or she shares a problem or concern with you.
  • Boost your child’s self-confidence. Encourage your child to build friendships and get involved in activities that emphasize his or her strengths and talents.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If your child admits being bullied, take action. For example:
  • Record the details. Write down the details — the date, who was involved and what specifically happened. Save screenshots, emails and texts. Record the facts as objectively as possible.
  • Contact appropriate authorities. Seek help from your child’s principal, teacher or the school guidance counselor. Report cyberbullying to web and cellphone service providers or websites. If your child has been physically attacked or otherwise threatened with harm, talk to school officials and call the police.
  • Explain your concerns in a matter-of-fact way. Instead of laying blame, ask for help to solve the bullying problem. Keep notes on these meetings. Keep in contact with school officials. If the bullying continues, be persistent.
  • Ask for a copy of the school’s policy on bullying. Find out how bullying is addressed in the school’s curriculum, as well as how staff members are obligated to respond to known or suspected bullying.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/bullying/art-20044918?p=1. For other resources go to csifdl.org

Schizophrenia

 

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. Research has linked schizophrenia to changes in brain chemistry and structure. Like diabetes, schizophrenia is a complex, long-term medical illness that affects everybody differently. The course of the illness is unique for each person.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

There is no single laboratory or brain imaging test for schizophrenia. Treatment professionals must rule out multiple factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.

Individuals with schizophrenia have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently. However, delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Positive symptoms are also known as “psychotic” symptoms because the person has lost touch with reality in certain ways.

  • Delusions or the belief in things not real or true.
  • Hallucinations are hearing or seeing things that are not real.
  • Disorganized speech expressed as an inability to generate a logical sequence of ideas.

Negative symptoms refer to a reduction of a capacity, such as motivation.

  • Emotional flatness or lack of expressiveness.
  • Inability to start and follow through with activities.
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in life.

Cognitive symptoms pertain to thinking processes.

  • Trouble with prioritizing tasks, memory and organizing thoughts.
  • Anosognosia or “lack of insight” being unaware of having an illness.

What causes schizophrenia?

Research strongly suggests that schizophrenia involves problems with brain chemistry and structure and is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as are many other medical illnesses.

One percent of the world’s population or one in every 100 people will develop the disorder in their lifetime. The most common onset is in the teens and 20s. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed before 12 years of age or after the age of 40.

What treatments are available?

The treatment of schizophrenia requires an all-encompassing approach that includes medication, therapy and psychosocial rehabilitation. Medication is an important aspect of symptom management. Antipsychotic medication often helps to relieve the hallucinations, delusions and, to a lesser extent, the thinking problems people can experience.

Therapy has been shown to be an effective part of a treatment plan. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which engages the person living with schizophrenia in developing proactive coping strategies for persistent symptoms, is particularly effective. Cognitive enhancement therapy works with improving cognition.

Psychosocial rehabilitation helps with the achievement of life goals often involving relationships, work and living. Most often delivered through community mental health services, it employs strategies that help people successfully live in independent housing, pursue education, find jobs and improve social interaction.

Will people with schizophrenia get better?

Long-term research demonstrates that, over time, individuals living with schizophrenia often do better in terms of coping with their symptoms, maximizing their functioning while minimizing their relapses. Recovery is possible for most people, though it is important to remember that some people have more trouble managing their symptoms.

Families who are educated about schizophrenia can offer strong support to their loved one and help reduce the likelihood of relapse. Caring for a loved one with schizophrenia can be challenging and families benefit from education and supportive programs. NAMI’s Family-to-Family education program is taught by families who have first-hand experience and provides education and support.

 

Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). For further information and resources go to www.nami-fdl.org/, or csifdl.org.

Developing Resilience

 

  1. Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  4. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly – even if it seems like a small accomplishment – that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”
  5. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
  8. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
  10. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Source: “The Road to Resilience” (American Psychological Association)

For further information and behavioral health resources, go to csifdl.org.

 

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction constitute major health and safety concerns in the United States, with costs running into the billions of dollars annually for health care, related injuries and loss of life, property destruction, loss of productivity and more. Treatment is proven to be effective, but few who need it have access to and receive care. Families can be devastated and children are at increased risk for their own addiction and mental health problems.

Addiction knows no societal boundary. It affects every ethnic group, both genders, and individuals in every tax bracket.

What is an alcohol problem?

Researchers use the term “alcohol problems” to refer to any type of condition caused by drinking which harms the drinker directly, jeopardizes the drinker’s well-being, or places others at risk. Depending on the circumstances, alcohol problems can result from even moderate drinking, for example when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medicines. Alcohol problems exist on a continuum of severity ranging from occasional binge drinking to alcohol abuse or dependence (alcoholism). The most common alcohol problems include:  Binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence.

 Alcohol addiction symptoms or behaviors include:

  • Feeling that you have to use alcohol regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day.
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using alcohol.
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of alcohol.
  • Spending money on alcohol and/or drinking, even though you can’t afford it.
  • Feeling that you need alcohol to deal with your problems.
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of alcohol.

 

What is drug addiction?       

Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication. When you’re addicted, you may not be able to control your drug use and you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug. You may want to quit, but most people find they can’t do it on their own.

For many people, what starts as casual use leads to drug addiction. Drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment and the law.

Drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include:

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it
  • Doing things to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing
  • Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug
  • Focusing more and more time and energy on getting and using the drug

 

For further information and resources, go to csifdl.org

 

Anxiety Disorders

Definition

Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face several anxiety-related symptoms.

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling the worry
  • Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom.

Panic disorder symptoms include:

  • Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear
  • Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack
  • Intense worries about when the next attack will happen
  • Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past

Social Anxiety Disorder

People with social anxiety disorder (sometimes called “social phobia”) have a marked fear of social or performance situations in which they expect to feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others.

Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them
  • Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
  • Being very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
  • Staying away from places where there are other people
  • Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends
  • Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
  • Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around

Evaluation for an anxiety disorder often begins with a visit to a primary care provider. Some physical health conditions, such as an overactive thyroid or low blood sugar, as well as taking certain medications, can imitate or worsen an anxiety disorder. A thorough mental health evaluation is also helpful, because anxiety disorders often co-exist with other related conditions, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Risk Factors

Researchers are finding that genetic and environmental factors, frequently in interaction with one another, are risk factors for anxiety disorders. Specific factors include:

  • Shyness, or behavioral inhibition, in childhood
  • Being female
  • Having few economic resources
  • Being divorced or widowed
  • Exposure to stressful life events in childhood and adulthood
  • Anxiety disorders in close biological relatives
  • Parental history of mental disorders
  • Elevated afternoon cortisol levels in the saliva (specifically for social anxiety disorder)

Treatments and Therapies

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can help people with anxiety disorders. To be effective, psychotherapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and tailored to his or her needs. A typical “side effect” of psychotherapy is temporary discomfort involved with thinking about confronting feared situations.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help people with anxiety disorders. It teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful situations. CBT can also help people learn and practice social skills, which is vital for treating social anxiety disorder.

Two specific stand-alone components of CBT used to treat social anxiety disorder are cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing unhelpful thoughts underlying anxiety disorders.

Exposure therapy focuses on confronting the fears underlying an anxiety disorder in order to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding. Exposure therapy is used along with relaxation exercises and/or imagery. One study, called a meta-analysis because it pulls together all of the previous studies and calculates the statistical magnitude of the combined effects, found that cognitive therapy was superior to exposure therapy for treating social anxiety disorder.

CBT may be conducted individually or with a group of people who have similar problems. Group therapy is particularly effective for social anxiety disorder. Often “homework” is assigned for participants to complete between sessions.

Self-Help or Support Groups

Some people with anxiety disorders might benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. Internet chat rooms might also be useful, but any advice received over the Internet should be used with caution, as Internet acquaintances have usually never seen each other and false identities are common. Talking with a trusted friend or member of the clergy can also provide support, but it is not necessarily a sufficient alternative to care from an expert clinician.

Stress-Management Techniques

Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. While there is evidence that aerobic exercise has a calming effect, the quality of the studies is not strong enough to support its use as treatment. Since caffeine, certain illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, avoiding them should be considered. Check with your physician or pharmacist before taking any additional medications.

The family can be important in the recovery of a person with an anxiety disorder. Ideally, the family should be supportive but not help perpetuate their loved one’s symptoms.

Medication

Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but often relieves symptoms. Medication can only be prescribed by a medical doctor (such as a psychiatrist or a primary care provider), but a few states allow psychologists to prescribe psychiatric medications.

Medications are sometimes used as the initial treatment of an anxiety disorder, or are used only if there is insufficient response to a course of psychotherapy. In research studies, it is common for patients treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication to have better outcomes than those treated with only one or the other.

 

Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

 

For further information and resources, go to csifdl.org

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men.

In the United States, 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.

Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the violence.

Our ultimate goal is to call attention to and stop sexual violence before it begins.

Understanding Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will or involve a victim who is unable to consent.

Sexual violence also includes

  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Non-contact, unwanted sexual experiences (such as verbal sexual harassment)

Sexual violence can be committed by anyone

  • A current or former intimate partner
  • A family member
  • A person in position of power or trust
  • A friend or acquaintance
  • A stranger, or someone known only by sight

Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems. For example, victims may experience chronic pain, headaches, and sexually transmitted diseases. They are often fearful or anxious and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Working to Prevent Sexual Violence

The CDC uses a 4-step approach to address public health problems such as sexual violence.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Identify risk and protective factors.
  3. Develop and test prevention strategies.
  4. Assure widespread adoption.
  5. The ultimate goal is to stop sexual violence before it begins.

Information provided by the CDC. For further information and resources go to astop.org and csifdl.org.

Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from one day to months. This mental illness causes unusual and dramatic shifts in mood, energy and the ability to think clearly. Cycles of high (manic) and low (depressive) moods may follow an irregular pattern that differs from the typical ups and downs experienced by most people. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can have a negative impact on a person’s life. Damaged relationships or a decline in job or school performance are potential effects, but positive outcomes are possible.

Two main features characterize people who live with bipolar disorder: intensity and oscillation (ups and downs). People living with bipolar disorder often experience two intense emotional states. These two states are known as mania and depression. A manic state can be identified by feelings of extreme irritability and/or euphoria, along with several other symptoms during the same week such as agitation, surges of energy, reduced need for sleep, talkativeness, pleasure-seeking and increased risk-taking behavior. On the other side, when an individual experiences symptoms of depression they feel extremely sad, hopeless and loss of energy. Not everyone’s symptoms are the same and the severity of mania and depression can vary.

More than 10 million Americans have bipolar disorder. Because of its irregular patterns, bipolar disorder is often hard to diagnose. Although the illness can occur at any point in life, more than one-half of all cases begin between ages 15-25. Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally.

What Does Recovery Look Like?

As people become familiar with their illness, they recognize their own unique patterns of behavior. If individuals recognize these signs and seek effective and timely care, they can often prevent relapses. But because bipolar disorder has no cure, treatment must be continuous.

Individuals who live with bipolar disorder also benefit tremendously from taking responsibility for their own recovery. Once the illness is adequately managed, one must monitor potential side effects.

The notion of recovery involves a variety of perspectives. Recovery is a holistic process that includes traditional elements of physical health and aspects that extend beyond medication. Recovery from serious mental illness also includes attaining, and maintaining, physical health as another cornerstone of wellness.

The recovery journey is unique for each individual. There are several definitions of recovery; some grounded in medical and clinical values, some grounded in context of community and successful living. One of the most important principles of recovery is this: recovery is a process, not an event. The uniqueness and individual nature of recovery must be honored. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many challenging ways, the concept that all individuals can move towards wellness is paramount.

Bipolar disorder presents a special challenge because its manic, or hypomania, stages can be seductive. People with bipolar disorder may be afraid to seek treatment because they are afraid that they will feel flat, less capable or less creative. These fears must be weighed against the benefits of getting and staying well. A person may feel good while manic but may make choices that could seriously damage relationships, finances, health, home life or job prospects.

It is very common for people living with bipolar disorder to want to discontinue their medication because of side effects or because it has been a long time since the last episode of illness. However, it should be remembered that the progress one has attained is reliant upon continuing to take medication.

Source: nami.org

 

For further resources and support go to csifdl.org

 

 

 

Trauma

 

What is emotional and psychological trauma?

Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world.

Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.

Causes of emotional or psychological trauma

An event will most likely lead to emotional or psychological trauma if:

  • It happened unexpectedly.
  • You were unprepared for it.
  • You felt powerless to prevent it.
  • It happened repeatedly.
  • Someone was intentionally cruel.
  • It happened in childhood.

Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time events, such as a horrible accident, a natural disaster, or a violent attack. Trauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress, such as living in a crime-ridden neighborhood or struggling with cancer.

Commonly overlooked causes of emotional and psychological trauma

  • Falls or sports injuries
  • Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
  • The sudden death of someone close
  • A car accident
  • The breakup of a significant relationship
  • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
  • The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition

Risk factors that increase your vulnerability to trauma

Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting emotional and psychological damage. Some people rebound quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences. Others are devastated by experiences that, on the surface, appear to be less upsetting.

A number of risk factors make people susceptible to emotional and psychological trauma. People are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if they’re already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses.

People are also more likely to be traumatized by a new situation if they’ve been traumatized before – especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood.

Childhood trauma increases the risk of future trauma

Experiencing trauma in childhood can have a severe and long-lasting effect. Children who have been traumatized see the world as a frightening and dangerous place. When childhood trauma is not resolved, this fundamental sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma.

Childhood trauma results from anything that disrupts a child’s sense of safety and security, including:

  • An unstable or unsafe environment
  • Separation from a parent
  • Serious illness
  • Intrusive medical procedures

Symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma

Following a traumatic event, or repeated trauma, people react in different ways, experiencing a wide range of physical and emotional reactions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond to trauma, so don’t judge your own reactions or those of other people. Your responses are NORMAL reactions to ABNORMAL events.

Emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical symptoms of trauma:

  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Being startled easily
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Muscle tension

These symptoms and feelings typically last from a few days to a few months, gradually fading as you process the trauma. But even when you’re feeling better, you may be troubled from time to time by painful memories or emotions—especially in response to triggers such as an anniversary of the event or an image, sound, or situation that reminds you of the traumatic experience.

When to seek professional help for emotional or psychological trauma

Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a trauma expert.

Seek help for emotional or psychological trauma if you’re:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Trauma therapy treatment approaches

Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. In essence, your nervous system gets stuck in overdrive. Successful trauma treatment must address this imbalance and reestablish your physical sense of safety. The following therapies are commonly used in the treatment of emotional and psychological trauma:

  • Somatic experiencing takes advantage of the body’s unique ability to heal itself. The focus of therapy is on bodily sensations, rather than thoughts and memories about the traumatic event. By concentrating on what’s happening in your body, you gradually get in touch with trauma-related energy and tension. From there, your natural survival instincts take over, safely releasing this pent-up energy through shaking, crying, and other forms of physical release.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation. These back-and-forth eye movements are thought to work by “unfreezing” traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma. While cognitive-behavioral therapy doesn’t treat the physiological effects of trauma, it can be helpful when used in addition to a body-based therapy such as somatic experiencing or EMDR.

Emotional and psychological trauma recovery tips

Recovering from emotional and psychological trauma takes time. Give yourself time to heal and to mourn the losses you’ve experienced. Don’t try to force the healing process. Be patient with the pace of recovery. Finally, be prepared for difficult and volatile emotions. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling without judgment or guilt.

Trauma self-help strategy 1: Don’t isolate

  • Following a trauma, you may want to withdraw from others, but isolation makes things worse. Connecting to others will help you heal, so make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.
  • Ask for support. It’s important to talk about your feelings and ask for the help you need. Turn to a trusted family member, friend, counselor, or clergyman.
  • Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. Do “normal” things with other people, things that have nothing to do with the traumatic experience. If you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.
  • Join a support group for trauma survivors. Being with others who are facing the same problems can help reduce your sense of isolation and hearing how others cope can help inspire you.
  • Volunteer. As well as helping others, volunteering can be a great way to challenge the sense of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Remind yourself of your strengths and reclaim your sense of power by comforting or helping others.

Trauma self-help strategy 2: Stay grounded

In order to stay grounded after a trauma, it helps to have a structured schedule to follow.

  • Stick to a daily routine, with regular times for waking, sleeping, eating, working, and exercise. Make sure to schedule time for relaxing and social activities, too.
  • Break large jobs into smaller, manageable tasks. Take pleasure from the accomplishment of achieving something, even it’s a small thing.
  • Find activities that make you feel better and keep your mind occupied (reading, taking a class, cooking, playing with your kids or pets), so you’re not dedicating all your energy and attention to focusing on the traumatic experience.
  • Allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it. Acknowledge your feelings about the trauma as they arise and accept them. Accepting your feelings is part of the grieving process and is necessary for healing.

Trauma self-help strategy 3: Take care of your health

A healthy body increases your ability to cope with stress from a trauma.

  • Get plenty of sleep. After a traumatic experience, worry or fear may disturb your sleep patterns. A lack of sleep can make your trauma symptoms worse and make it harder to maintain your emotional balance. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs as their use can worsen your trauma symptoms and exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise boosts serotonin, endorphins, and other feel-good brain chemicals. It also boosts self-esteem and helps to improve sleep. For maximum results, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. While you may be drawn to sugary foods for the quick boost they provide, complex carbohydrates are a better choice. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats—such as salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds—can give your mood a boost.
  • Reduce stress. Making time for rest and relaxation will help you bring your life back into balance. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy—favorite hobbies or activities with friends, for example. 

Helping someone deal with emotional and psychological trauma

It can be difficult to know how to help a loved one who’s suffered a traumatic or distressing experience, but your support can be a crucial factor in their recovery.

  • Be patient and understanding. Healing from emotional or psychological trauma takes time. Be patient with the pace of recovery and remember that everyone’s response to trauma is different.  Don’t judge your loved one’s reaction against your own response or anyone else’s.
  • Offer practical support to help your loved one get back into a normal routine. That may mean help with collecting groceries or housework, for example, or simply being available to talk or listen.
  • Don’t pressure your loved one into talking but be available when they want to talk. Some trauma survivors find it difficult to talk about what happened. Don’t force your loved one to open up but let them know you are there to listen whenever they feel ready.
  • Help your loved one to socialize and relax. Encourage them to participate in physical exercise, seek out friends, and pursue hobbies and other activities that bring them pleasure. Take a fitness class together or set a regular lunch date with friends.
  • Don’t take the trauma symptoms personally. Your loved one may become angry, irritable, withdrawn, or emotionally distant. Remember that this is a result of the trauma and may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm

For further information and resources, go to csifdl.org

 

Mental Health New Year’s Resolutions

 

  1. Pay attention to emotional pain. Psychological pain is much like physical pain—if something hurts for more than a few days, you need to do something about it. If you experience rejection, failure, or have a bad mood that lingers too long, don’t ignore it.
  2. Take action when you feel lonely. Chronic loneliness is devastating to your emotional and physical health because it increases your chances of an early death by 14%. Therefore, when you feel lonely, actions like reaching out to family members, connecting with friends or joining a dating website can help. Make a list of people who you’ve been close to in the past (use your phone book, social media friends, and email contacts) and reach out to one of them each day to chat or to make plans. It will feel scary and risky to take those kinds of steps, but that’s what you need to do to break the cycle of disconnection and end your emotional isolation.
  3. Stop your emotional bleeding. Psychological wounds tend to create vicious cycles that get worse with time. Failure can lead to feelings of helplessness that in turn can make you more likely to fail again in the future. To break the negative cycle of failure, find ways to gain control of the situation. Our minds are not as reliable as we tend to think, so ignore misleading feelings from your gut that tell you to give up, and focus on the aspects within your control, such as your preparation, planning, effort and execution.
  4. Protect your self-esteem. Your self-esteem is like an emotional immune system—it can increase your resilience and protect you from stress and anxiety. Good emotional hygiene involves monitoring your self-esteem and boosting it when it’s low. How? Avoid negative self-talk that damages it further—despite how tempting it might be to indulge these kinds of thoughts at times.
  5. 5. Revive your self-worth after a rejection. It’s very common to be self-critical after you get rejected. It’s an unfortunate reaction, since that’s when your self-esteem is already hurting. You’re most likely to call yourself names, list all your faults and shortcomings and generally kick yourself when you’re already down. The most important thing you can do after getting rejected is to treat yourself with the same compassion you would treat a good friend. Make sure your inner voice is kind, understanding and supportive.
  6. Battle negative thinking. When something upsetting happens, it’s natural to brood over it. But replaying the scene over and over in your mind will not give you much insight or closure. The best way to break a brooding cycle is to distract yourself with a task that requires concentration, like a game on your cell phone, a quick run or a crossword puzzle.
  7. Be informed on the impact of common psychological wounds and how to treat them. You know how to treat a cut or a cold, so you should also know how to treat rejection, failure, loneliness, guilt and other common emotional wounds. By becoming mindful about your psychological health and adopting habits of good emotional hygiene, you will not only heal your psychological injuries when you sustain them, but you will elevate your entire quality of life.

Source: Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts

For further information on behavioral health topics and resources, go to csifdl.org.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is related to the changes in the seasons. It typically begins and ends around the same time each year and is related to the amount of natural sunlight. Symptoms start in the fall, especially after Daylight Savings Time ends, and end in the Spring. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects over a half million people every year, and “Winter Blues”, a more mild form of SAD, affects even more.

It is believed that SAD may be an effect of the seasonal light variations in humans. As the light changes, our “biological clocks” shift in a manner that may be out of synch with our daily schedules.

A diagnosis of SAD can be made after experiencing three consecutive winters of the following symptoms if they are followed by a complete remission of symptoms in the spring and summer months:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Social problems
  • Feeling sleepy, lack of motivation
  • Sleep problems

Treatments include light therapy, talk therapy, medications and supplements.

These steps can help you manage your Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Stick to the plan developed with your mental health professional or doctor
  • Take care of yourself by getting rest, exercising, and eating healthy
  • Practice stress management. Learn techniques to manage your stress better by practicing meditation, yoga, talk therapy, or massage therapy.
  • It’s easy to “hibernate” when the weather is cold and snowy but it’s also important to socialize with friends and family. Make an effort to connect with people you enjoy being around
  • Take a trip. If possible, take a vacation during the winter to a sunny, warm location.

Remember, you don’t have to feel this way all winter. There are people and treatments that can help you feel better. If you can get control of your symptoms before they get worse, you may be able to heal off serious changes in mood, appetite, and energy levels. For more information visit www.csifdl.org