Eating Disorders During the Holidays

By: Maryellen Van Atter

Eating disorders are psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. There are different kinds of eating disorders, but two prevalent ones are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa restrict their food intake with the goal of reducing their weight, and have an intense fear of gaining weight. Individuals with Bulimia Nervosa engage in binge-eating sessions followed by self-induced vomiting, and experience a lack of control over their behaviors and a fear of weight gain. These disorders are very serious and can lead to physical health problems, such as poor circulation and muscle weakness. Eating disorders are also associated with other psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Eating disorders can be especially difficult during the holiday season. For many, the holiday season puts an additional emphasis on food. Holidays gatherings involve a plethora of food, and this can be extremely difficult for those with eating disorders. The emphasis of food can amplify their concerns and increase their symptom experience, worsening their mental health. This may lead to isolation or feelings of anxiety and guilt. While holidays should be about valuing the positive relationships in your life, this meaning can be lost when there is a focus on food.

There are many treatments that can help those with Anorexia and Bulimia manage their symptoms and establish healthy eating habits. One such treatment is psychotherapy, or talk therapy. There are many variations of this therapy which are successful at treating eating disorders. One is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is aimed at changing distorted thought patterns to result in healthy behavior. Another is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), where patients identify a value or goal and then commit to doing the actions which make that goal possible. When eating disorders are accompanied by symptoms of depression or anxiety, psychiatric medication may be prescribed to assist in the management of those symptoms.

Additionally, there are steps that one can take to prevent the relapse or worsening of disordered eating during the holiday season. If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, try to shift the focus during the holidays from food to activities, such as decorating, caroling, or playing games. This can ease the negative emotions of those suffering from eating disorders and help them feel more comfortable. It is also important to remind loved ones that it is okay to seek extra help during this difficult season.

If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact us in Paramus, NJ at 201-368-3700 or in Manhattan, NY at 212-996-3939 to arrange an appointment. For more information about our services, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Sources:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia

https://centerforchange.com/coping-loved-ones-eating-disorder-holidays/

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/types-treatment

https://www.sedig.org/physical-complications

 

Vape and E-Cigarette Addiction

By: Maryellen Van Atter

    

E-cigarette devices, such as the Juul, are more prevalent than ever. These devices were originally created to help established smokers stop smoking traditional cigarettes. However, because of their ease of use, portability, and sweet taste/smell, they have become popular with a generation of teens who have never smoked traditional cigarettes. This is concerning because of the plethora of health concerns surrounding the devices. They still contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine is shown to raise blood pressure and spike adrenaline and heartrate, which can lead to increased risk of heart attack. Vaping has been linked to severe respiratory illnesses, and it may be related to pulmonary disease. It can worsen asthma, cause nausea, and irritate the mouth and throat.

While these physical health effects are often discussed, there is less discussion about the mental effects of nicotine addiction. Those who smoke have a lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder which is more than double the prevalence in those who do not smoke. Some research has gone even farther and said that smoking may change neurotransmitter activity in the brain, leading to increased risk of depression. Despite this, the devices are still popular. While it is possible to vape something that does not contain nicotine, it is uncommon and teens often are not entirely aware of what is in what they are inhaling.

The percentage of teens that vape is increasing. Studies have found that 42.5% of high school seniors report vaping in their lifetime; this is dangerous behavior. However, it is important to remember that blame is unhelpful in helping a teen to kick their vaping habit. Similarly, reminding a teen about the risk of cancer and family addiction histories is not an effective way to get them to quit. Teens will respond best to calm conversations and discussions about how their vaping may be affecting them and the things that they consider important, such as school, extracurriculars, and sleep. Helping someone stop smoking is no easy job and it is not something that has to be done alone.

Addiction is a serious mental health concern and the sooner addiction can be treated, the better. There are both psychological and physical symptoms associated with addiction. There are many effective, FDA approved treatments for smoking cessation. These treatments include hypnotherapy, which uses guided relaxation and focused attention to change behaviors, cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to discover the root of behaviors and works to change attitudes surrounding the behavior, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, and motivational interviewing, which aims to illuminate differences between a patient’s goals and their behaviors. There is no shame in seeking out therapy to assist in quitting smoking or helping a loved one quit smoking, and it is best to seek help as soon as the problem is recognized. The longer one waits, the more established addictive behaviors become.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with a vaping addiction, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact us in Paramus, NJ at 201-368-3700 or in Manhattan, NY at 212-996-3939 to arrange an appointment. For more information about our services, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

Sources:

https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/print/17921-number-of-teens-vaping-hits-record-high-survey-shows

https://www.psycom.net/mental-health-wellbeing/juuling-teenagers-vaping/

https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/teen-vaping/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/what-are-treatments-tobacco-dependence

https://www.medscape.com/answers/287555-158503/what-is-the-association-between-nicotine-addiction-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/lib/can-smoking-cause-depression/

 

Postpartum Depression

By: Maryellen Van Atter

          Postpartum depression is the experience of depressive symptoms (such as fatigue, changes in eating habits, and a loss of interest in activities once found enjoyable) after giving birth. Though commonly known as postpartum depression, it is now often referred to by the new name of peripartum depression. This name change indicates that the depression can onset during pregnancy or after childbirth. In addition to symptoms of depression, parents may also suffer from feelings that they are a bad parent, fear of harming the child, or a lack of interest in the child. It is also important to note that both men and women can suffer from peripartum depression; fathers may struggle with the changes that come along with a new child, and the symptoms of peripartum depression are not contingent on giving physical birth to a child. It is estimated that 4% of fathers experience peripartum depression in the first year after their child’s birth and that one in seven women will experience peripartum depression.

            Peripartum depression is different from the ‘baby blues’. Many new mothers will feel despondent, anxious, or restless in the first week or two after giving birth; this is due to the variety of biological, financial, and emotional changes which occur after having a child. This is called the baby blues. However, these feelings will not interfere with daily activities and will pass within ten days. If these symptoms persist, or if they do interfere with daily activities and functioning, it is likely that the problem is something more serious such as peripartum depression. It’s important to seek treatment for these symptoms as soon as you’re aware of them. Many parents feel a stigma against reporting these feelings, but this should not be the case: experiencing peripartum depression does not mean that you are a bad parent or that you do not love your child. It is a psychological condition which many people experience and it can be resolved with proper treatment.

Peripartum depression can be treated through therapy and through medication. Common treatments include psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy), cognitive behavioral therapy, and antidepressant medication. Medication should always be managed by a professional, especially if being administered to a mother who may be breastfeeding. These treatments have been proven effective in many studies and are able to help with symptoms of peripartum, or postpartum, depression.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with peripartum depression, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact us in Paramus, NJ at 201-368-3700 or in Manhattan, NY at 212-996-3939 to arrange an appointment. For more information about our services, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

 

Sources:

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/0515/p852.html

https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.post-partum.html

https://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/news/20190320/fda-approves-first-drug-for-postpartum-depression#2

https://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/understanding-postpartum-depression-treatment#3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3039003/

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/postpartum-depression/what-is-postpartum-depression

Obesity and Mental Health

           By: Maryellen Van Atter

      Obesity has become a global epidemic. It is a health problem which occurs when one has an abnormal percentage of body fat in relation to their height. Though obesity is often seen negatively, it is important to recognize that it is often not a self-inflicted condition which can result from a variety of factors including genetics, behavior, and environment.

Obesity can cause changes in your mental health. Some common psychological disorders which may be brought on by obesity include depression, eating disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, and distorted body image. Some studies have found striking results, such as that those who are severely obese are 3-4 times more likely to suffer with depression. Despite these serious concerns, it may be difficult for those suffering from obesity to seek out mental health care because of the stigmatization of obesity.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a therapy which changes client attitudes and behaviors by focusing on thoughts, beliefs, and way of thinking. This therapy is one of the most effective and well-known forms of therapy, and is effective in treating many mental health conditions including those associated with obesity. Additionally, family-based therapies have been shown to help treat obesity and assist clients, especially children with obesity. One of the goals is to develop healthy habits. Having a clear mind and good mental health is an important part of coping with obesity and changing your physical health.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with the emotional effects of obesity, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact us in Paramus, NJ at 201-368-3700 or in Manhattan, NY at 212-996-3939 to arrange an appointment. For more information about our services, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3233636/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3388583/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065663/

https://psychcentral.com/lib/obhttp://www.jlgh.org/Past-Issues/Volume-4—Issue-4/Behavioral-and-Psychological-Factors-in-Obesity.aspxesity-and-mental-health

Caregiver Depression

Caregiver Depression

By: Maryellen Van Atter

Caring for another individual is no easy feat; just as parenting requires preparation, so does caring for a family member with an illness or disability. A seldom discussed topic is ‘caregiver syndrome’, also known as caregiver depression or caregiver burnout. It is estimated that 20% of family caregivers suffer with depression – in the general population, it is reported that 7.1% of all individuals suffer from depression. This means that caregivers experience depression at a rate more than double the average person. Despite the prevalence of this condition, it is rarely talked about and sometimes viewed as something shameful. This should not be: caregiving is a difficult job and the first step to feeling better is acknowledging that it’s okay to feel the way you do. Just as there is no ‘perfect’ way to parent, there is no ‘perfect’ or ‘right’ way to be a caregiver.

Everyone experiences depression differently, but a few common signs are a loss of interest in things that you once found enjoyable, a change in sleeping patterns, and feeling irritable, hopeless, or helpless. These symptoms can persist even if you have placed a loved one in a care facility. Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective at managing caregiver depression and helping caregivers to feel more satisfied with their lives. Additionally, antidepressant medications can provide symptom relief; combined with psychotherapy, this can allow caregivers to explore their feelings and manage their caregiving responsibilities.

        If you or someone you know is struggling with caregiving responsibilities, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can help. Please contact us in Paramus, NJ at 201-368-3700 or in Manhattan, NY at 212-996-3939 to arrange an appointment. For more information about our services, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

 

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-depression-silent-health-crisis

 

Bipolar Disorder vs. Borderline Personality Disorder

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Bipolar Disorder vs. Borderline Personality Disorder

by Sam Matthews

Even though most people are aware that Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are two different disorders, their differential diagnosis is often difficult due to many phenotypic overlaps between the two. Bipolar disorder often presents with three key features: mania, hypomania, and depression. It is one of the 10 leading causes of disability in the United States with a prevalence of 2.1% in the population. Bipolar disorder’s onset is usually during late adolescence or early adulthood, with cyclothymic temperament being the most common prodromal symptom. Borderline Personality Disorder, on the other hand, is categorized by impulsivity, instability in personal relationships, self-image, and affect. People with this specific personality disorder are often in problematic or chaotic relationships and become very suspicious, or even paranoid when faced with a stressful situation. This disorder can also present with depersonalization or dissociative symptoms, as well as suicide, or non-suicidal self-injury, which often leads to multiple hospitalizations during their lifetime. Their coping skills seem to be poorly developed and maladaptive, leading to even more problems in their daily life and relationships. About 15% of people living in the United States have been diagnosed with at least one personality disorder, however only 6% have one in Cluster B, which includes antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic personality disorder.

When comparing the two disorders, it is imperative to make the distinctions as clear as possible. First, we can compare the suicide rates. For bipolar disorder, there is a 10% to 20% mortality rate from suicide, while there is an 8% to 10% mortality rate from suicide for those suffering from borderline personality disorder. Furthermore, bipolar disorder has an episodic course, meaning the symptoms come in waves, with different episodes of the disorder taking place over time. It is also categorized by gradual changes in mood (days to weeks). This differs from borderline personality disorder where the mood changes are often abrupt (hours). It is very common to see non-suicidal self-injuries in patients with borderline personality disorder, but uncommon in those with bipolar disorder, which could be why the suicide rate for those with bipolar disorder is double that of those with BPD. This is because those with borderline personality disorder have poor coping skills, and often want attention or just want to “feel something”, not actually die, due to their distorted way of thinking. Psychotic symptoms can be found in both disorders, however they are only present in bipolar disorder alongside the presence of mood symptoms, and only present in BPD during stressful situations. Another distinction between the two disorders is the way in which one develops it. Bipolar disorder has a genetic aspect, while BPD is usually caused by a significant history of trauma. Overall, these two disorders can often be confused due to the most obvious symptom: changes in mood, which is present in both, but it is important to look at both symptom profiles very closely when making a final diagnosis, in order to ensure that the course of treatment for the patient will be most beneficial and the greatest probability of a good outcome.

Sources:

https://www.medicaldaily.com/bipolar-vs-borderline-personality-disorder-differences-between-two-and-how-avoid-335314

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

by Sam Matthews

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops after one experience either an isolated traumatic event, or recurring traumatic events. Around 8 million people in the United States are living with PTSD, yet about 70% of US adults have reported they have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. This discrepancy is due to the fact that being exposed to a traumatic event does not in any way mean that you are going to develop PTSD. Factors that contribute to the likelihood of someone developing post-traumatic stress disorder include: a preexisting mental or physical health condition, dissociation during trauma, type of trauma, gender (women are 2x as likely to develop PTSD), age, marital status, support systems, and experience of additional stressors after the trauma. One type of PTSD is classified as dissociative, which includes the presence of persistent depersonalization or derealization symptoms. Depersonalization is like dissociation, where one experiences something as if they are an observer. Derealization on the other hand refers to feeling as if the things around you are not real, and you are disconnected from the world around you. PTSD can also have a delayed onset aspect, which means that one could develop PTSD years after the traumatic event has occurred.

PTSD has four main symptom groups which are as follows:

  1. Intrusive Symptoms
    1. Frequent thoughts or memories of the event
    2. Recurrent nightmares
    3. Flashbacks
    4. Strong feelings of distress
    5. Increased heart rate or sweating when reminded of the event
  2. Avoidance
    1. Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the event
    2. Actively avoiding places or people that remind you of the trauma
    3. Keeping yourself too busy to have time to think about the traumatic event
  3. Hyperarousal
    1. Difficulty falling asleep
    2. Irritability
    3. Outbursts of anger
    4. Difficulty concentrating
    5. Hyperactive startle response
  4. Negative Thoughts and Beliefs
    1. Difficulty remembering important aspects of the trauma
    2. Loss of interest in important and positive activities
    3. Feeling distant from others
    4. Inability to have positive feelings
    5. Feeling as though your life may be cut short

For information regarding the treatment of PTSD, please refer to the article titled, PTSD Treatment.

Sources:

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#1

PTSD Treatment

Image result for PTSD treatment

PTSD Treatment

by Sam Matthews

When treating PTSD, there are a few different evidence based therapies that can be used, including psychotherapy and medications. This article will focus on those that are classified as cognitive behavioral therapies.

  1. Trauma-focused CBT
    1. Challenging and changing automatic unhelpful, inaccurate thoughts (cognitive distortions)
    2. Gradual and safe exposure to trauma
  2. Cognitive Processing Therapy
    1. Challenging and changing upsetting thoughts that perpetuate the trauma
    2. Includes writing a detailed account of the trauma and reading it in front of the therapist and at home
    3. Therapist helps you challenge problematic beliefs around safety, trust, control, and intimacy
  3. Cognitive Therapy
    1. Challenges and reframes pessimistic thoughts and negative interpretations of the event
    2. Work through the trauma and suppressed thoughts
  4. Prolonged Exposure
    1. Gradual and safe exposure to the trauma by discussing the details of what happened
    2. Recording of your recount so you can listen to it later
    3. Involves facing situations, activities, or places that remind you of the trauma
    4. Done slowly and systematically
    5. Breathing techniques learned to alleviate anxiety
  5. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
    1. Imagining the trauma while the therapist asks you to track their fingers as they move them back and forth in your field of vision
    2. Allows you to pull everything out of your memory in a controlled manner and then back in the way non-traumatic memories are stored
    3. Does not require you to describe the trauma in detail, spend an extended time on exposure, challenge specific beliefs, or complete assignments outside of therapy sessions
  6. Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy
    1. Combines CBT with psychodynamic psychotherapy
    2. Discuss the traumatic event
    3. Teach various relaxation techniques to decrease anxiety
    4. Therapist helps to explore how the trauma has affected how you see yourself and the world
    5. Encouraged to bring someone who supports you to your sessions
  7. Narrative Exposure Therapy
    1. Create a chronological narrative of your life
    2. Helps to recreate an account of the trauma in a way that recaptures your self-respect
    3. You receive a documented biography written by your therapist at the end of treatment
    4. Typically done in small groups

For more information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, please refer to the article titled, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Sources:

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-are-treatments-for-posttraumatic-stress-disorder#1

 

Anxiety and Politics

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by: Sam Matthews

The political climate in today’s day and age could certainly cause fear and anxiety for anyone in America. It is important to note that both fear and anxiety activate one’s attachment system. Your attachment system has evolved in order to allow you to develop strong relationships with your parents and peers, not engage in modern day political battles. This is because the system cannot differentiate between actual physical threats and imagined ones, causing it to be triggered when thinking about politics. We most commonly think about attachment figures being real people who we come into physical contact with, but a political figure or institution can easily become a symbolic attachment figure. This political figure can psychologically come to represent something that can protect you from threats and decrease your anxiety. When attachment styles are activated, they can bring out the worst in the part of the population that is insecurely attached, which in America is 45%. This situation has the potential to damage relationships, and could even bring on even more destructive behaviors. As mentioned, these problems trigger the attachment systems, causing the conflict to become more than just a superficial argument about politics, but an emotional issue, which cannot be solved through rational arguments and debates. It is normal to have anxiety about what is to become of the country you reside in, but the best recommendation one could give is to take a step back and all time to pass, and yourself to explore.

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-freedom-change/201811/attachment-theory-elections-and-the-politics-fear

https://www.sharp.com/health-news/how-stress-over-politics-affects-your-health.cfm

Drug Abuse: Preventing Teen Drug Abuse

By: Toni Wright

Many teens are curious and experiment with drugs, whether due to peer pressure, stress at home, or just curiosity. According to Drugrehab.com in 2016 about 1.9 million youths ages 12 to 17 used an illicit drug in the past month. In addition to that, in 2016 1.4 million teens needed treatment for an illicit drug abuse problem. What many young teens don’t know in hindsight, or thoroughly think about, is that trying those drugs can have lasting long term effects that can change their lives forever.

Warning Signs:

  1. Changes in choice of dress
  2. Loss of interest in what they enjoyed (hobbies or activities)
  3. Decline in academic performance (failing classes, poor grades, skipping class, etc.)
  4. Recurring arguments, unexpected mood changes, and unspecified violent actions.

Family Influence

Parents, prevention can start within the household:

  1. Ask your teens perspective on drugs – Don’t lecture. Actively listen to your teens views on drugs. Reassure them that they can be open and honest with you.
  2. Discuss the negative impact drugs use can have – Emphasize how drugs can impact the things your teen cares about. For instance, health, appearance, school performance, etc.
  3. Go over ways to not give into peer pressure – Come up with different ways your teen can say “no” to drugs.

Overall, parents, you play a crucial role in your teen’s life. Provide support for your teen. Having a solid foundation between you and your teen may make them less likely to use drugs.

If you or a teen you know abuses drugs, 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:

https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-prevention/teenage-addiction

https://www.drugrehab.com/teens/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teen-drug-abuse/art-20045921

Image Source:

https://www.palmerlakerecovery.com/blog/signs-of-drug-abuse-in-teenagers/

A Substance Abuse Guide for Parents