Neurofeedback

Leah Flanzman

There has recently been a great deal of discussion on a psychological treatment called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback assists people in consciously controlling their brain waves by attaching subjects to an EEG machine that extracts various brain-activity components and feeds them back to the patient.  The most common protocols used in neurofeedback training are alpha, beta, theta, and alpha/theta protocols.  The way that you select the placement of electrodes on a patients head depends on their specific brain functions and specific symptoms.  The goal is to allow the subject to assess their progress and adjust their brain waves accordingly to achieve optimal performance.  However, the effectiveness and practicality of the treatment is under debate.

According to the Basic and Clinical Neuroscience journal, many studies conducted on neurofeedback therapy reveal methodological limitations that question its effectiveness. For example, with the alpha treatment protocols, it remains unknown exactly how many treatment sessions are necessary before patients can consciously possess the ability to control their alpha waves.  Once an optimal performance is achieved, it’s difficult to study the long-term effects of these treatments, in other words how long the effects last without feedback.

The pros of neurofeedback are that it’s a safe and non-invasive procedure that has been proven effective in treating certain disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, drug addictions, and learning disabilities. Despite this, more scientific evidence of its effectiveness must be conducted before we can consider it a valid treatment.  It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s a very expensive procedure that is not covered by many insurance companies, and is very time consuming to complete.

If you or someone you know thinks they have ADHD, anxiety, depression, or drug addictions, or learning disabilities, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com for more information.

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Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

 

Marijuana Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

Sam Kwok

Despite the growing use of medical marijuana, under the federal jurisdiction, it is still classified as a schedule 1 drug. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana; however, each state has its own legislature that creates lists of preapproved conditions that may be treated with marijuana. Though, when comparing these lists, one may notice that the severity of the conditions ranges drastically. For example, California, a state known to have very loose marijuana regulation laws, has a list that include more common conditions such as anorexia, anxiety, depression, migraines, or just “any debilitating illness …deemed appropriate by the physician.” New Jersey, which is considered a moderate state when examining marijuana regulations, has a list that excludes anxiety and depression, but includes more severe illnesses including terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, and terminal disease where the physician has determined there is less than a year of life left. Despite the differences in severity, under the US law, medical marijuana patients, dispensaries, and government officials that do not enforce the federal laws are all criminals to some extent.

In the early 70’s Nixon began his famous “War on Drugs” campaign, which intended to keep the American public safe from hard drugs. One of these drugs, was marijuana. Almost 50 years later, the same laws are still upheld and little research has been done to update the data. Technology and scientific procedures have updates, so research and laws should be updated as well.

From the little data we do have, we know that CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana has medicinal effects. It is linked to the healthy release (unlike opiates) of dopamine and serotonin which are the “happiness” chemicals in our brain. This may be the reason why in some states, marijuana is used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy have shown to have dramatic improvements with the introduction of CBD. The number of seizures that a child has may decrease drastically when treated with CBD oil. Marijuana is also known to help people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It may not only help patients to regain their appetite through the reduction of nausea, but can also help reduce pain and reduce the body’s urge to regurgitate. Despite the potential of medical marijuana, further research is still barred by the government. Some suggest that the easiest way to completely legalize marijuana is if states vote to create a 28th amendment which would legalize marijuana, but that would still require ¾ of all states to vote in favor. Currently, 30 states have some laws which allow for marijuana to some extent (includes medical and recreational), but 8 more still need to reform for the possibility of a 28th amendment. The nation’s capital, Washington DC has already decriminalized the drug as well. With the current administration, marijuana will not be legalized federally. But with more and more people becoming aware of such issues, even the government will not be able to stop people from getting the medicine they need. It is clear in which direction the US is heading towards in this debate and it is only a matter of time until medical marijuana is legalized in all 50 states.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity

By: Leah Flanzman

The human brain has the power to grow, mold, and adapt to the course of your life in order to best cater to your overall happiness and well-being. This concept is known as neuroplasticity, and occurs when the brain alters its physical structure and changes its circuits so we can better imagine, remember, feel, experience pain, dream, and learn.  Neuroplasticity is similar to the popular expression “it’s like riding a bike.”  Once you acquire a skill, your neurons kick into gear and remember their specific pathways so that each time this skill is performed, they are pre-programmed on what to do.  These pathways strengthen over time as new synapses form maximizing these skills.

Neuroplasticity can be a valuable tool for rewiring how your mind thinks and reacts to certain situations. It can foster increased happiness by retraining your brain to strengthen pathways that promote happiness as an alternative to worry or stress in light of certain situations.  The activities that you choose to do can alter the structure of your brain.  For example, if you are stuck in a funk, doing something positively stimulating for the brain will train it to associate the negative feelings with happier ones.  Your moldable brain will remember the pathways it took to achieve happiness and the next time you experience sadness, it will automatically kick into positivity gear.   Additionally, you can trick your brain into happiness pathways by imagining yourself in your desired mood.  Your brain lacks the capability to distinguish between imagination and reality so if you visualize a desired image of happiness long enough, your brain will believe it to be true and trigger the emotion.

When your brain fills up with neural connections that are relevant to your life, the ones that are unnecessary will begin to deteriorate. Your clever mind can form creative ways to suppress depressive thoughts and shine light on positive thoughts so your unproductive nature fades into the background.  Options that can help you in your quest to mold your brain towards greater happiness include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
  • Visualization
  • Relaxation
  • Hypnosis
  • Nurturance
  • Stimulation

If you or someone you know thinks they could benefit from therapy that aids in restructuring their brain to think positively, 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/.

 

Prescription Drugs and Side Effects

Prescription Drugs and their Side Effects

Emily Ramos

The truth of the matter is that many prescription drugs contain side effects. It is hard to predict whether or not an individual will experience side effects, it depends on how their body reacts to the drug. The good thing is that there are steps an individual can take to reduce the risks. If the side effects persist you can speak with your doctor who can prescribe a lower dosage or a different medication. DO NOT stop taking medication if you experience a side effect, always speak with your doctor. They might have to wean you off of the drug instead of stopping all together. Here’s how you can learn about possible side effects and how to avoid them:

  • Before getting prescribed medicine, ask your doctor about possible side effects that may occur. For example, if nausea is a side effect your doctor may recommend that you eat or drink before taking the medication.
  • Once you start taking medication take note of any symptoms that arise and tell your doctor about them. This will give your doctor a better understanding.
  • Other ways to prevent side effects are to make appropriate lifestyle changes. For example: if a medication causes you to gain weight you will have to pay more attention to your nutrition and incorporate exercise plans.

It may take a few trial and errors before your doctor is able to find a medication that works best for you. That is why it is crucial to be honest with your doctor before and after he or she prescribes medication.

If you or a person you know is struggling with medication, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Sam Kwok

As the most commonly used illicit drug, marijuana has recently blossomed into an estimated $11 billion-dollar industry. Recently there has been a national shift towards the legalization of the drug, which has caused debates from both ends of the spectrum. But how does marijuana work?

Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short.  THC is produced by the cannabis plant and its molecular formula is C21H30O2. Anandamide, a naturally existing molecule in the brain, has the molecular formula C22H27NO2 meaning that the relative molecular weight and size of THC and anandamide are similar. Moreover, the 2 molecules have a similar structural layout which allows THC to imitate anandamide’s effects on the brain.

Anandamide is part of the endocannabinoid (EC) system in the body which helps neurons regulate the release of neurotransmitters- the brains way of sending and retrieving messages. Generally, cannabinoids affect the brain by slowing down the transmission of neurotransmitters. When marijuana is smoked, a large amount of THC enters the lungs and into the bloodstream where it can flow into the brain. THC then bonds to the same receptors anandamide normally would to slow down the activity of certain enzymes which reduces the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because anandamide does not naturally occur is large quantities, smoking THC overwhelms the brain, and it is this reaction that gives users that “high” feeling.

The other main chemical compound in marijuana is cannabidiol- known as CBD. CBD has been popularized due to its medicinal effects and much of the medical marijuana platform is built upon the usage it. Some laws allow, medical usage of CBD concentrates, but still consider THC as a schedule I drug. Though its molecular formula is identical to THC, it lacks key functional groups and effects the brain differently. This is why CBD has no psychoactive effects. CBD actually inhibits an enzyme used to activate receptors lowering the psychoactive effects of THC. While THC directly effects the brain by bonding to a receptor, CBD indirectly affects the brain by activating adenosine receptors. These receptors have been linked to having anti-anxiety effects and are known to also release dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is linked to pleasant feelings. CBD also activates serotonin receptors which are linked to benefiting sleep, appetite, anxiety, and depression issues.

Since marijuana is still illegal federally, there has been little research on long term effects on the brain. Several studies have shown that marijuana use during a child’s developing age may have irreversible damaging effects to the brain. Marijuana has also been known to have harmful effects when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol. Users of the drug have also been known to have a higher chance of becoming to addicted to other drugs as marijuana is a gateway drug. However, majority of the research are inconclusive and more research must be done to make definitive conclusions.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

The Power of Optimism

Isabelle Kreydin

When you go through a traumatic experience, the time it takes to recover is immeasurable and flooded with uncertainty. It could be anything between a breakup, abuse, a car accident, a loved one’s death, or even your entire childhood. When you acquire a mental illness, or know someone who has, it truly does affect every aspect of your life. Even stress, can alter brain chemistry and one’s way of life. But brokenness is not beautiful because of the way you are, but the way you will be when you are finally free.

You might feel alone. But you are alone because you feel as though are burdening others with your pain, and now are trying to reassemble yourself on your own and trying to fight the mental illnesses from becoming you. You’re trying but right now you are physically and mentally exhausted. It’s a tiring work of progress, but the only way out of the tunnel is through, and we know better than to turn around or take steps backwards.

It is easy for the brain to resort to the cloud that a trauma or illness might have installed in you, falling into despair or numbness, and there is truly nothing worse. Isolation is not the key, though it is most commonly a side effect of any of these negative experiences. Despite contrary belief, this leads you to an opportunity to get help. To find help within friends, family, and professionals. They can only help you understand that although you may not always be able to feel it, there is so much love and beauty to this world. There will ALWAYS be people there for your support. If you don’t feel this way, go out and make new friends, talk to your therapist, reach out to adults you may trust, or even kind strangers. The world has more love to offer than it seems.

Optimism is tough. You can be fighting for your body and thoughts to be positive, and have an outlook on life that shows light. However, your brain and body may be inflicting darkness, or feelings of nothingness, completely out of your control.

Optimism is also a savior. The more you put this fight into your brain, the more you convince yourself that you are going to make it, that everything will be okay, the more likely it is for your body to start behaving this way. Get up and force yourself to make plans, to do anything you once enjoyed or might find joy in.

The world may be falling a part in many aspects, and so are some humans that occupy it. However, everybody is still on this earth giving their full efforts to find the ultimate goal, happiness. It should not be overthought; it should not become the only purpose one strives for. It should be a feeling that comes through every day activities, thoughts, conversations. Positivity can help motivate the brain to feel that happiness, to appreciate the times it is felt, to hope for more positive outcomes and experiences. These can come from setting goals, making friends, loving, giving, being active, showing compassion, pursuing passions, treating oneself, or even physically seeing the beauty this world has to offer.
Life is too short to not love with everything you are. Giving with little return is tough, but you are tougher and have years to be given what you give.

Together, with optimism, have those around you help you rewrite your story and your future, and remember that it is okay to not be okay. There are billions that have struggled, there are millions that are fighting to overcome, and there are millions that have overcome and become a light and inspiration to us all.

You are never alone, and it will be worth it when you reach the end of that tunnel or even when you begin to see the light.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia: Symptoms

By: Cassie Sieradzky

Schizophrenia is a chronic and often debilitating mental disorder. Schizophrenia affects all aspects of functioning and consequently, sufferers may appear to have lost touch with reality. Symptoms of schizophrenia usually begin between ages 16 and 30. The symptoms fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

The positive symptoms of schizophrenia consist of behaviors that are not usually seen in individuals without schizophrenia. Individuals displaying positive symptoms appear to lose touch with reality. These may include, hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (being controlled by aliens), thought disorders (incoherent speech), and movement disorders (agitated body movements) are classified as positive symptoms.

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia are classified as deviations to normal emotions and behaviors. Flat affect, reduced expression of emotions, are commonly seen in individuals with schizophrenia. Someone who displays flat affect may speak in a monotone manner and show little facial expression. Some other examples of negative symptoms include loss of pleasure in activities and reduced speaking or communication.

The cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include disruptions in executive functioning (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions), trouble focusing, and deficits with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).

Antipsychotic medications can be very beneficial in the treatment of schizophrenia. Additionally, psychotherapy is helpful in order to foster coping skills to address the everyday challenges of their diagnosis. Studies show that individuals who participate in psychotherapy are less likely to have relapses or be hospitalized.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from schizophrenia, 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/

 

Schizophrenia. (2016, February). Retrieved April 30, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml

 

 

 

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/

 

Postpartum Depression: Psychosocial Risk Factors

Postpartum Depression: Psychosocial Risk Factors

Written by: Jinal Kapadia

Postpartum depression, is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression generally experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that can make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others. (Nimh.nih.gov, 2018)

There are multiple risk factors that make some women more susceptible to postpartum depression than others. A first-time mother is at a higher risk for depression. Fatigue, which can be caused by the actual process of giving birth, the energy spent on caring for the baby, and tending to other responsibilities can also lead to depression. Women who are single mothers with less social support are also more susceptible. A woman’s feelings towards her pregnancy, such as negativity or ambivalence, increases her chances for depression. (Psychology Today, 2018)

Another risk factor is a woman’s past, such as the loss of her mother or a poor mother-daughter relationship. This can cause a woman to feel unsure about her newly developing relationship with her baby. Women who have babies by cesarean birth take longer to recover and are, therefore, more likely to be stressed, have lower self-esteem, and feel more depressed. Women who have premature babies often become depressed because the early birth results in unexpected changes in routine and is an added stressor. Lastly, a baby with a birth defect or other challenges (e.g. infantile colic) can make adjustment even more difficult for parents. (Psychology Today, 2018)

If you or someone you know has postpartum depression or seems to have the symptoms of postpartum depression, and needs help, 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/.

Sources:

Psychology Today. (2018). Postpartum Disorder | Psychology Today. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/postpartum-disorder [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018].

Nimh.nih.gov. (2018). Postpartum Depression Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml [Accessed 12 Apr. 2018].