Addiction

By: Dianna Gomez

It is more often than not assumed that a person addicted to a substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol, is someone with shallow morals, little motivation, and that if he or she really wanted to, they could simply stop using at any moment. These assumptions show how extremely misunderstood addiction is by our general public, as well as how infrequently this topic is discussed among us. Addiction is a chronic disease that affects a person’s brain chemistry, thoughts, and behaviors. An individual can initially fall into addiction through voluntarily substance use or through necessary use of prescription medication prescribed by a doctor (ex: pain medication for after a surgery). When addiction first begins, the substance affects the reward circuits in the brain which causes feelings of complete euphoria. If a person continues to use the substance, the brain adjusts itself and develops a “tolerance” for it, which causes the individual to not feel the effects of the drug as intensely as they did the first time the drug was taken. This requires the person to have to use a larger quantity of the substance in order to reach the same level of “high” they did before. There are many different ways an individual can naturally be more vulnerable to addiction throughout their lifetime. Two of these main ways include biology and environment.

Biology: the genetics a person is born with can affect up to 50% of their risk for becoming addicted to a substance. This includes factors such as gender, ethnicity, and an individual’s family mental health history.

Environment: the conditions in which an individual is brought up in such as their economic status, family/friends, and quality of life in general also plays a huge role in their vulnerability for addiction. Peer pressure, lack of parental guidance, traumatic experiences with abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) are a few examples of common environmental influences.

If either you or anybody you know suffers from substance abuse or addiction, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

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Tourette Syndrome

By: Dianna Gomez

Tourette Syndrome is a type of tic disorder. A tic can be classified as an involuntary, repetitive movement or vocalization. Those diagnosed with this disorder will either suffer from vocal/phonic tics or motor tics. In general, vocal/phonic tics produce a sound. Examples of vocal/phonic tics include things such as sniffing, throat clearing, grunting, and shouting. Examples of more complex vocal/phonic tics include full words or phrases. These words or phrases are always out of context and may or may not be recognizable. In 10-15% of cases, words blurted out may be inappropriate such as curse words, ethnic slurs, or other words or phrases that are not viewed as socially acceptable.

Motor tics, generally, are movements. Examples of motor tics include eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, head jerking/bobbing, facial grimacing, etc. More complex motor tics include movements that involve multiple muscle groups at once. Examples of these movements are things such as hopping, jumping, twirling, etc.

While the exact cause of Tourette Syndrome is unknown, it has been confirmed that it is hereditary so genetics may play a role. There are, however, some treatment options that are available to help ease the symptoms. Medications for tics include Haloperidol, Pimozide, and Aripiprazole. Speech therapy is also another form of treatment for those with tics. Lastly, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is another method of treatment for tics. DBS is a relatively new procedure that utilizes an implantable electrode to alter the activity of brain circuitry.

If you or someone you know is suffering from Tourette Syndrome, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By: Dianna Gomez

In order to better understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or “OCD,” you must first understand the difference between an obsession and a compulsion. Obsessions are repeated thoughts or urges that cause an individual anxiety in their day to day lives. Compulsions are repetitve actions that a person feels the need to take due to their obsessive thoughts. Some common examples of obsessions are: feeling the need to have things perfectly symmetrical/in order or having an excessive fear of germs. Some examples of compulsions are: excessive cleaning or handwashing, repeatedly checking to make sure that the oven is turned off, repeatedly switching lights on and off to make sure they are completely off before leaving the room, etc. OCD is an uncontrollable, long-lasting disorder that affects children, adolescents, and adults all around the world. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the most common age to be diagnosed with this disorder is 19, however, it is possible to be diagnosed earlier or later in life as well. Boys tend to have an earlier age of onset than girls when it comes to OCD. Genetically speaking, a person is at higher risk for developing the disorder if a close relative such as a parent or sibling has it too. Despite this, it doesn’t necessarily guarentee a diagnosis. In terms of brain structure, the two sections of the brain known to play the most prominent role in the development of OCD are the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of the brain such as the hypothalamus, thalamus, or cerebellum, in addition to several others. The direct connection between the disorder and these parts of the brain is not fully understood yet. There are some ways that a person with OCD can manage their symptoms to obtain a better, easier way of life. Treatment options include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

Psychopath vs. Sociopath

 By: Dianna Gomez

“You’re a psychopath!!”

How often do we ourselves use this term or hear others throw this term around? Some people may use this phrase when referring to a crazy ex-boyfriend, strict parent, or annoying sibling, when in reality; most people don’t truly understand its meaning. You may be asking yourself, so what is a psychopath? How can I know whether I am really encountering one or not? There are certain characteristics that have been found to be shared between people who are actually psychopathic or have psychopathic qualities. These characteristics include but are not limited to:

  • Pathological lying
  • Manipulation
  • Total lack of remorse and/or empathy for others
  • Superficially charming
  • Lack of feelings of guilt
  • Grandiose sense-of-self
  • Failure to accept responsibility
  • Impulsivity
  • Need for stimulation
  • Poor behavioral controls
  • Parasitic lifestyle/willingness to feed off others to sustain their own lifestyle

Now you may be asking yourself, what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? A sociopath is a person diagnosed with “Anti-Social Personality Disorder.” People with this diagnosis are generally very manipulative and violating of the rights of others, among other things. Sociopathy can be thought of as a less severe form of psychopathy. If a person is a psychopath then they are also a sociopath, but if a person is a sociopath they don’t necessarily need to be a psychopath. Sociopaths and psychopaths share the same basic characteristics, just at different levels of intensity.

If this personality description sounds like you or someone you know, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Body Image: Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment

By Samantha Glosser

Body dysmorphic disorder, sometimes referred to as body dysmorphia or BDD, is a mental disorder characterized by preoccupation with imagined or markedly exaggerated imperfections or defects in one’s physical appearance. Those suffering from body dysmorphic disorder spend a significant amount of time every day obsessing over their appearance and engaging in repetitive compulsive behaviors in an attempt to avoid anxiety, distress, and hide their imperfections. Signs and symptoms include constantly checking one’s appearance, excessive grooming, over-exercising, picking skin, pulling hair, using makeup or clothing to camouflage one’s appearance, or even getting plastic surgery. Body dysmorphic disorder leads to significant impairment in daily functioning and quality of life. However, there are treatment options available.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is short-term, goal-oriented therapy. In body dysmorphic disorder, CBT is used to decrease compulsive behaviors and the negative thoughts about one’s appearance. This is achieved through techniques such as cognitive restructuring and mind reading. Cognitive restructuring teaches the patient to challenge irrational thoughts about their bodies and replace them with more realistic and adaptive thoughts. In addition to their own negative thoughts, individuals diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder also believe others hold the same negative thoughts about them. Mind reading allows patients to understand that other people do not share these thoughts about them and provides realistic alternatives. For example, that person staring at them at the mall was probably admiring their outfit. Another frequently used technique is exposure therapy. This requires patients to create a hierarchy of anxiety-provoking situations which they are then exposed to in order to overcome anxiety and distress.

Psychiatric medications. Research has also shown that antidepressant medications are an effective treatment for body dysmorphic disorder, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). SSRI’s that are commonly used for the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder include Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, among others. SSRI’s help to reduce obsessional thinking, compulsive behaviors, and depression, a common comorbid disorder among individuals diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, or other problems associated with negative body image, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

 

Source: Tartakovsky, M. (2016, July 17). Demystifying treatment for body dysmorphic disorder. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/demystifying-treatment-for-body-dysmorphic-disorder/

Insomnia

By: Dianna Gomez

Insomnia is a condition that makes it very difficult for a person to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Insomnia can be caused by medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, or for psychological reasons such as anxiety, depression or intrusive thoughts. In addition to these possibilities, the type of lifestyle an individual chooses to live can also be responsible for creating symptoms of insomnia. There are a few things that people who experience insomnia tend to do that may be worsening their symptoms without them even knowing. Some examples of these lifestyle habits include:

  1. Taking Mid-Day Naps
  • Whether it is short or long, sleeping in the middle of the day can increase a person’s chances of having difficulty sleeping through the night. If you can, try to avoid taking naps all together.
  1. Sleeping In Late
  • When a person is lacking sleep, it isn’t uncommon for them to attempt to fix the problem by sleeping in later the next morning to make up for their “lost hours.” However, by doing so, you are confusing your body clock which then makes it difficult to fall asleep at a regular time again the following night. This can quickly create a vicious cycle that is even harder to break.
  1. Taking Your Work Home With You
  • Regardless of what your occupation is, almost everybody has hectic daily schedules. When people are feeling behind on their work, they often decide to put in a little “over-time” by bringing their work home with them. By doing this, you make the process of “winding down” at night harder as your mind is kept wide awake and pre-occupied when it shouldn’t be.
  1. Using Electronics
  • Especially in today’s generation, it is extremely common for people to use their phones or laptops while lying in bed right before they intend to fall sleep. The problem with this, however, is that bright screens like those on our electronics actually stimulate the brain more and cause you to stay awake. This then makes it more difficult to fall asleep for the night.
  1. Working Irregular Hours
  • If you have a job that has you on various different “shifts,” sleeping may become a problem for you. If a person doesn’t stay on a regimented time schedule, their body clock cannot decipher when it should be waking up to take on a new day or winding down to get ready for bed.

 

If you have already tried reversing these lifestyle habits and still regularly experience symptoms of insomnia, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

 

Panic Attacks and Anxiety

By: Dianna Gomez

Panic. Worry. Fear. Helplessness. What is wrong with me? Why am I feeling like this? Why is my heart beating out of my chest? Am I dying? Why can’t I make it stop?!

For some of us, these emotions are all too familiar. Anxiety can be a scary thing, especially when you’re not totally up-to-date on what exactly it is. What are you to do when you feel like your whole world is crashing down around you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it? Well, have no fear because I have a few helpful tips to share!

 

Here are 5 things that you can do to calm yourself down when suffering from an anxiety attack:

  • Take Deep Breathes

Inhale. Exhale. Tell yourself that although it may not feel like it right now, everything will be okay.

  •  Talk Yourself Down

Repeat a calming/kind phrase to yourself OUT LOUD. Remind yourself that you are safe, loved, and never alone.

  • Seek Help

Sometimes we tend to insist that we can get through tough times all on our own, but there is no shame in asking for help. Whether it be a neutral professional, a loved one or someone you trust, find someone with whom you can talk out your troubles.

  • Use Music and Visuals

Never underestimate the power of calming music and visuals. Whether it be classical music, peaceful nature videos/sounds, or your favorite John Mayer song – let the music play and your worries float away!

  • Put Your Anxiety on Ice

Create sensory stimulation by gently sticking both of your hands into a bowl of very cold water with ice. The more ice the better.

 

If either you or anybody you know suffers from anxiety, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can help you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at https://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

 

 

 

OCD: Supporting a Loved one with OCD

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

It can be devastating to see a loved one suffer through a mental illness. This holds very true for loved ones of individuals afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. OCD is a ruthless anxiety disorder that traps people in repetitive thoughts or rituals. The disorder is characterized by irrational thoughts, or “obsessions,” that people have, which are addressed through “compulsions,” or behaviors to appease the thoughts. Obsessions and compulsions can range from concern over hygiene or safety, resulting in recurrent handwashing or checking locks on doors, or clarifying meanings with other people, which result in repeating words and phrases. An attempt to resist the compulsion leads to extreme feelings of anxiety, which are extremely unpleasant.

Individuals with OCD are constantly fighting their minds every single day, and fighting the urge to give in to the compulsions while also experiencing anxiety. As a family member or loved one of the effected individual, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to best be supportive and help the significant other overcome their OCD. Here are a list of tips to support a loved one struggling with OCD:

  1. Do not accommodate the OCD. A large part of this illness involves the individual asking for reassurance or wanting to continuously repeat an action or phrase until the OCD is “satisfied.” While it may seem like giving them the reassurance is the nice thing to do, this actually worsens the condition. Reassurance may remove anxiety for a short amount of time, but allows the OCD to continue to take over and keeps the individual under the control of OCD.
  2. Uncertainty is key. When presented with the previous situation about being asked reassurance, the best thing to do is leave the individual with uncertainty. This will result in them feeling anxiety, which may be hard to see, but is crucial in their resisting the compulsions and in the long run overcoming the OCD. When asked for reassurance, simply do not respond, or say “this could be true, but I don’t know for sure.” Uncertainty = anxiety = healing.
  3. Be compassionate. While you should be firm in not giving reassurances, be compassionate, empathetic, and understanding of your loved one. OCD is tiring, and the individual does not want to be asking you for reassurances or fighting with their mind. Be caring and loving to them.
  4. Educate yourself! The more you can learn about OCD, how it works, and its symptoms, the more effective you can be in helping your loved one and in tackling the illness together.
  5. Maintain your own life. It can be a natural thought to want to take time from work or school to help a loved one with OCD and to be around them. Do NOT do this – it is important to take care of yourself, have your own life and space, and not cater everything around the OCD. Your loved one will feel guilty if you are giving up things to take care of them, and you will soon tire out and not be effective in helping. OCD can be a trying disease to overcome, but with the correct treatments and proper support, it can be overcome. By knowing the best ways to be supportive of your loved ones, you can facilitate the process of their working towards a life free of OCD.

If you or someone you know is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Hoarding Disorder: The Psychology of Hoarding

By: Heather Kaplan

Hoarding is defined as the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. This behavior brings about detrimental emotional, physical, social, financial and legal effects for the hoarder and their loved ones. Commonly hoarded items may be newspapers, magazines, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, photographs, food and clothing – items of little value to most but have extreme value to the hoarder. Even the mere thought of throwing these items away causes a hoarder extreme anxiety and distress. Hoarding ranges from mild to severe – often the hoarding can become so extreme that the home of the hoarder becomes almost inhabitable which results in increased risk of getting evicted.

There are various reasons why hoarders exhibit the behavior they do. People hoard because they believe that an item will become useful or valuable in the future. They also may feel that the item has sentimental value or is too big of a bargain to throw away. Hoarders try to justify reasoning for keeping each possession that they own. It is still unclear what causes the disorder; genetics, brain functioning and stressful life events are being studied as possible causes. Studies show that there is hyperactivity in the area of a hoarder’s brain that involves decision-making, which explains the stress associated with discarding their possessions.

Those who suffer from hoarding disorder experience a diminished quality of life. As stated before, a lack of functional living space is common amog hoarders. These living conditions can be so severe that they put the health of the person at risk. Hoarders also often live with broken appliances and without heat or other necessary comforts. They cope with these issues because of the shame they would feel if a person was the enter their home. Hoarding also causes anger, resentment and depression among family members and can affect the social development of children. Unlivable conditions may lead to separation or divorce, eviction and loss of child custody if applicable.

It is important to distinguish the difference between hoarding and collecting. Collectors have a sense of pride about their possessions and experience joy in displaying and talking about them. Their collections are often well-organized and well-budgeted. A hoarder collects a multitude of items and organizes them in a cluttered way. They are ashamed of their accumulations and do not feel a sense of pride when showing their belongings to others.

If you or a loved one suspects a hoarding disorder, the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social works and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy are here to help. Contact our Paramus, NJ and Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment.

Sources:

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/hoarding-basics

https:/www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20356056

Gambling Addiction

By: Heather Kaplan

Gambling is defined as playing games for a chance to either win or lose money. One who is a compulsive gambler is someone who is unable to resist their impulses to gamble. This leads to severe disturbances in their personal and social lives. The urge to gamble becomes so great that this tension can only be relieved by more gambling. One who exhibit such behavior can be classified to have a gambling addiction. Unfortunately, many gambling addicts are not aware that they have a problem. They only begin to realize the severity of the issue when they hit ‘rock bottom’.

There are various symptoms that indicate that someone is a compulsive gambler. One who has a gambling addiction usually progresses form occasional to habitual gambling. He begins to risk more and more money, which can lead to both financial and personal instability. Someone is said to have a gambling addiction if four (or more) of the following have been demonstrated in the last twelve months:

1. Needing to gamble progressively larger amounts of money to feel the same (or more) excitement

2. Having made many unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit gambling

3. Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut back or quit gambling

4. Preoccupation or excessive thoughts (planning next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get more money to gamble with)

5. If the person is using gambling to escape problems of distress, sadness or anxiety

6. Gambling larger amounts to try to recoup previous losses

7. Lying about the amount of time and money spent gambling

8. Relying on others to borrow money due to significant gambling losses

Gambling addiction is a significant problem in the United States, impacting 1-3% of adults, men more often than women. Various complications can arise from having a gambling addiction. Those with such gambling behavior often have problems with alcohol and other substances. These people also tend to have financial, social, and legal problems. Those with gambling addictions are also at higher risk for considering or attempting suicide.

If you or a loved one is exhibiting any of the eight behaviors listed above, you may be at risk for developing a gambling addiction. The licensed psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy are here to help. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201)-368-3700 or (212)-722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/