COVID-19 and Suicide

By: Isabelle Siegel

The COVID-19 epidemic quickly became an international crisis, impacting each and every one of us to varying degrees. Even for those of us who do not personally know someone affected with COVID-19, the mental health toll that the virus is taking is pervasive. In fact, calls to one national mental health hotline have increased by 1000% in April alone. 

One unfortunate secondary consequence of COVID-19 and its effects on public mental health is increased suicide risk: It is predicted that the suicide rate will drastically increase in the coming months. This is likely the result of the anxiety surrounding COVID-19, coupled with resulting economic stress and social distancing.

National Anxiety

The threat of COVID-19 serves as an immense stressor, having the potential to increase the rates of onset of mental health conditions and/or to exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. According to the Washington Post, nearly half of Americans cited COVID-19 as being harmful to their mental health.

Economic Stress

COVID-19 has brought about an unprecedented economic crisis, with unemployment rates skyrocketing. Previous research has documented that suicide rates tend to increase by 1.6% for each percentage point increase in the unemployment rate. This means that with current unemployment rates estimated at around 15%, we may see a 24% increase in suicide rates.

Social Distancing

Increased suicide rates may also be an unintended consequence of social distancing measures. Ironically, what is keeping us physically safe and healthy may be putting our mental health at risk. Humans require connection to survive, especially in times of duress. In times of forced isolation, it is only natural that the risk of suicide will increase. Social distancing measures are also limiting access to community and religious support systems, as well as to mental health care—all of which have been demonstrated to lower suicide risk. 

How can suicide risk be addressed in the era of COVID-19?

Despite the stress associated with the COVID-19 crisis, measures can still be taken to lower suicide risk through awareness of risk factors, increased access to teletherapy, and maintaining social connections (via Zoom, FaceTime, etc.).

If you or a loved one appears to be at risk for anxiety, depression, or suicide, 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/

Addiction: Must be Love on the Brain.

Addiction: Must be Love on the Brain.

By: Keely Fell

Heartbreak notably causes a great deal of emotional pain, but have you ever wondered what it does to the chemistry in your brain? Experiencing heartbreak can cause pains in the chest, gut and even in our throat. Such sensations can leave one feeling broken. The brain has quite a way of reacting to the experience of a broken heart, and understanding the feelings caused by brain reactions is essential to overcoming heartbreak.

One of the most interesting brain reactions to heartbreak is the experience of withdrawal symptoms in the absence of love. Often times when experienced, the brain mechanisms that are activated are the same as if someone is withdrawing from drugs like nicotine, cocaine, etc. So you could make the connection that love is addicting, thus creating a chemical reaction when you fall in love that is similar to a “high”.

Functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have been performed showing how these mechanisms are being activated in the brain. A study conducted by Art Aron, Lucy Brown, and Helen Fisher found that the area of the brain associated with the rewards system, known as the caudate nucleus, lights up on scans when in love. This shows that love might be more than just an emotion and more of  a response searching for the reward of affection. People who use drugs such as nicotine and cocaine see similar brain activity across fMRI scans. In both cases, the brain is experiencing a spike in the release of dopamine through the caudate nucleus. It was also observed that when an fMRI scan was performed on people experiencing the first stages of a break up, the caudate nucleus was still in “motivation mode”, meaning that the individual was still searching for that “fix” of love.

Understanding that these feelings and symptoms are deeper rooted than just simply feeling sad over a broken heart, can help us through the healing process. Over time the brains need to fulfill the “fix” will subside and will move onto the next big thing.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, 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://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/this_is_your_brain_on_heartbreak  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201801/3-surprising-ways-heartbreak-impacts-your-brain

Image Source:                                                                                    https://www.123rf.com/photo_52211182_stock-vector-cartoon-heart-and-mind-characters.html

Sleep Difficulties? Here are 5 questions that will Help You Figure Out Why.

By Sally Santos

We all have gone through this. We have had a long day and we can’t wait to get in to bed to rest. But the moment you rest your head on the pillow you find yourself wide awake and staring at the ceiling. So then you ask yourself “why can’t I fall asleep?” Consider these 5 questions:

Do you take your phone to bed?

  • We spend all day with our phones tending to every notification that we receive. That can become a habit. So when you bring your phone to bed and you see your phones light up you are going to want to see what it is. So every night before you go to bed try to keep your phone away from your bed or at least set it on Do Not Disturb Mode. This ensures that your phone won’t ring for every notification

How much caffeine are you drinking?

  • If you are someone who consumes a lot of caffeine during the day and find yourself not being able to sleep at night consider consuming less caffeine or stop completely.

What do you do during the evening?

  • Avoid having a late meal. If you eat right before you go to bed that might keep you awake because your body is working on digesting your food.
  • If you are someone who works out try working out earlier because after you work out you may have increased energy and that may prevent you from sleeping at night.
  • If possible try avoiding difficult conversations before bed.

How are you using your bed?

  • If you are someone who works or studies in bed, you may be confusing your body. Instead of your body associating your bed as a place for rest it is associating it as a place of work.

Is there something specific that you are worried about?

  • Maybe you are going through a stressful situation and the thought of it is keeping you up at night. Try learning a relaxation method such as breathing gently or meditation.
  • If the situation is serious seek professional help you problem-solve the situation. You might be helped by relaxation techniques, hypnosis or sleep medication.

Source:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201901/how-calm-your-racing-mind-so-you-can-sleep

Image:

https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/no-sleep

If you or someone you know is having sleep issues, speak with one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists. Contact us at our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 respectively to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.