PTSD in Refugee and Unaccompanied Children:

By: Luz Melendez

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can occur to someone after being exposed to one or more traumatic events. These traumatic events can vary from a natural disaster, war/combat, serious injury, sexual violence, and/or exposure to death threats. After experiencing a trauma there can be an emotional reaction to these events which can include fear, helplessness, and even horror. There may also be distressing memories of the traumatic event which can be recurrent and involuntary. In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms have to last for more than a month and be persistent. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

One population that is less talked about when it comes to PTSD is children, but more specifically refugee or asylum seeking children. The current population of children with PTSD in the U.S. is about 5% and among refugee children in the U.S. it’s about 54%. These children are experiencing hunger, extreme poverty, bombings, abductions, sexual assault, and even witnessing deaths. These stressors can often co-occur making everyday life very difficult for them. The effects of these events are causing developmental regression, clinginess, repetitive play of the trauma/s, anxiety, depression, ACES, and mood changes. One effect that is very important is how the brain is being affected by these traumas. PTSD is developed in two key regions of the brain, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala reacts too strongly while the prefrontal cortex impedes the ability to regulate a threat response. It’s the perfect storm that leads to hyperarousal, hyper vigilance, and sleep deprivation which are big issues when it comes to children. Children’s brains are growing and developing and these traumas are stunting the global developmental growth of these children’s brains.

Often PTSD in refugee or asylum seeking children, if left untreated/undiagnosed, can and will lead to life long-lasting effects. In the situation these children are in, it’s difficult to not only diagnose them but to properly treat them. Many if not all have witnessed one or more of the stressors mentioned above and these children are out in the world not only having their lives completely change but having their mental health deteriorate. Thankfully some host countries who take in refugees, screen them and try to help them adjust to their now new lives and overcome barriers that come with accessing physical and mental health care. This also includes overcoming the stigma that refugees have of seeking mental health care. Like mentioned before only some host countries do this, others are still fixing their processing of refugees.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy can 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/ .

 

Reference:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Changes to the Brain

 By: Katie Connell

                For a long time, scientists believed that changes to brain structure only occurred during infancy and childhood. By the time one became an adult, it was thought that brain structure would remain largely permanent and that no more changes could occur. However, in the 1960’s, scientists discovered that changes to the adult brain were indeed possible. One thing that verified this were brain changes that occurred to patient’s brains that were damaged in injuries and accidents. Damage that occurred in certain parts of one’s brain resulted in healthier parts taking over. With this discovery came insight into other ways that the brain could be changed, specifically in the realm of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great example of a type of psychotherapy that can lead to long lasting changes to the brain. During a process called synaptic pruning, extra neurons (which transmit information) and synaptic connections (which permit neurons to transmit info) are eliminated to increase the efficiency of neural transmissions. One way this happens is by neurons being used more frequently. Those that aren’t used as much get eliminated, which improves the transmission of information. By repeated exposure and engagement in CBT (including thought shifting techniques and cognitive restructuring), neurons become strengthened, meaning less synapses and better transmission of neurons. Through the use of routine CBT, critical neural networks are able to change how we think and feel.

If you or a person you know is seeking CBT or other forms of therapy, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Please contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. 

Source:

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-brain-plasticity-2794886

 

 

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in Children

By: Tamar Asayan

School Phobia is now referred to Separation Anxiety. It can also be known as school refusal or school avoidance because it makes going to school very difficult for children. Separation Anxiety Disorder is when someone has excessive fear or anxiety about leaving their home or an attachment figure. In children, their attachment figure is usually their parents because they see them as a figure of protection and do not want to leave their side. Humans require an attachment to parental figures because they provide love, protection, and care to us. Children attach their deepest fears to their parents because they believe they can make any fear go away.

Children who have separation anxiety have a difficult time sleeping alone, going to school, avoiding play dates, and do anything to stay at home with their parents. They also experience symptoms of dizziness, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and have difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can lead to children not wanting to leave their house even more because the thought of a parent leaving can give symptoms of panic and anxious thoughts.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is more common in children who suffer from parents separating or going through a divorce. Any detachment from a parent is experienced as a life threatening danger to the child. They fear they no longer will be protected and will be left alone by their parents. These feelings of anxiety are relieved when they are safe in the presence of their parents to reassure them that they are not going anywhere. In order for children to overcome their separation anxiety and their fear to attend school it is important to seek help as early as they can.

The best method in treating Separation Anxiety Disorder is by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT); it helps parents and children learn new coping skills when they are separated from each other. It is also important to make your child feel safe and protected in the environment they are living in and develop trust in their parents that they are not going to leave them.

If you are a parent and are concerned about your child having separation anxiety call 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: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inside-out-outside-in/201505/what-is-separation-anxiety 

Image: http://childcarephysicans.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/blide.jpeg

 

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/

Depression: Can it be Effectively Treated in Adolescents without Medication?

By Samantha Glosser

Although antidepressant medications are typically seen as the first course of treatment for adolescents diagnosed with depression, many families do not want their kids to begin taking medication. This could be because of personal values and beliefs or because they cannot afford medication. In addition, almost half of all adolescents who begin treatment with medications eventually discontinue use due to the side effects or because they feel that it is not benefiting them enough. If you decide that medication isn’t right for your child, there are other options that are effective. One clinically proven method used to treat depression in adolescents is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is a short-term, goal-orientated therapy that focuses on changing patterns of thinking and behaviors that contribute to the patient’s issues. For example, your teenager may feel depressed because they are distorting the importance of certain events. This could start as simply getting a D on their final. However, their thoughts soon begin to spiral, and they begin to think that with this D on their transcript they will never be able to get into college or get a good job. CBT works by challenging this maladaptive thought pattern and teaches patients to replace these thoughts and consider alternative viewpoints. Recent studies have shown that CBT can be just as effective in treating depression as antidepressant medications and will lead to increased moods in adolescents. If you and your child have come to the decision that medication is not right for them, cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective treatment plan that just might be the right fit for your needs.

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 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, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Martin, B. (2018, April 04). In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/?li_source=LI&li_medium=popular17.

Wood, J. (2018, January 21). For Teens, CBT in Primary Care Can Be Cost-Effective Versus Meds. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/01/20/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-cost-effective-for-teens-who-decline-antidepressants/131463.html.