Trichotillomania: A Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior

By: Lauren Zoneraich

Trichotillomania, also known hair-pulling disorder, is a chronic psychological condition in which one feels the urge to pull out pieces of hair from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body areas.  Hair pulling can be an intentional or an unconscious behavior. Some people purposely pull their hair because it produces a pleasurable feeling. Hair pulling relieves stress, anxiety, sadness, and tension for people with trichotillomania. A motivation for pulling hair may simply be to relieve the urge to pull hair. Others may unconsciously pull their hair when they are relaxed or distracted. Hair-pulling causes the formation of bald spots and the thinning of hair, which induces anxiety and distress in people with trichotillomania. People with trichotillomania may feel ashamed and embarrassed about their appearance, which may lead to low self-esteem and the avoidance of certain social activities in which they must expose their head.

About 2% of people experience trichotillomania in their lifetime. Trichotillomania is categorized under “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.” Symptoms and signs of trichotillomania include:

  • Repeatedly pulling out hair
  • Tension before pulling or when resisting the urge to pull
  • Pleasure or relief after pulling out hair
  • Hair loss, hair thinning, balding
  • Rituals for hair-pulling, such as a preferred spot to pull from
  • Biting, chewing, or eating pulled out hair
  • Inability to stop pulling out hair
  • Social distress related to hair-pulling

A possible pharmacological treatment for trichotillomania is N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an amino acid which targets glutamate levels in the nucleus accumbens, which is the reward center of the brain. The nucleus accumbens also houses neural circuits involved in aversion. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means that it activates these pathways in nucleus accumbens. Altering glutamate levels may alter the strength of reward responses to certain behaviors, which may allow patients to decrease unwanted behaviors. In a study, researchers found that 56% of subjects reported improvement to their trichotillomania after 9 weeks of taking NAC. NAC can be bought at nutrition and health stores. This was a relatively small study, so more research must be done to determine the clinical effectiveness of NAC.

If you or someone you know is struggling with trichotillomania or skin-picking, 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.bfrb.org/learn-about-bfrbs/treatment/self-help/123-n-acetylcysteine-for-trichotillomania-skin-picking-and-nail-biting

https://www.bfrb.org/learn-about-bfrbs/trichotillomania

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trichotillomania/symptoms-causes/syc-20355188

Image Source:

https://youngwomenshealth.org/2019/02/06/trichotillomania-hair-pulling/

Mental Health during Pride Month

By Charlotte Arehart

With June finally starting, this means that it is officially Pride Month! Pride Month is celebrated in June in the USA and many other countries. During Pride Month, we celebrate and recognize the impact that  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer LGBTQ+ individuals have on their communities. We celebrate their history, whether it be locally, nationally, or internationally. Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community regarding mental health. There are a plethora of statistics about LGBTQ+ individuals and mental health, including the fact that members of the community are less likely to seek treatment for mental health, substance abuse, and eating disorders. This is largely due to fear of being discriminated against because of their sexuality. Pride Month is the perfect opportunity to prioritize and learn more about mental health for LGBTQ+ individuals.

There are many barriers that LGBTQ+ individuals face when it comes to finding mental health treatment. Many mental health centers lack culturally-competent or diverse staff and/or treatment. It was not very long ago that homosexuality and bisexuality were themselves considered mental illnesses. This was thought to be true until the 1960’s. Gay men and lesbian women were frequently forced to undergo “treatment” for their sexuality against their will, such as aversion, conversion, and even shock therapies. Also damaging to mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals are at a higher risk for bullying, and sometimes even hateful violent crimes. The best way to help the LGBTQ+ community regarding mental health efforts is to support the community not only through words but through actions. By reducing the stigma around mental health and making LGBTQ+ individuals feel as comfortable as possible, hopefully we can make mental health treatment more accessible for everyone. Luckily, the vast majority of mental health professionals today are accepting and positive towards the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone deserves to have efficient, effective, and professional mental health no matter how they identify as individuals.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, 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:

Image Source: https://lgbt-speakers.com/news/top-10-lists/10-lgbt-speakers-for-pride-month-2021

Self-Diagnosing and Social Media

By Charlotte Arehart

For many people, it has become a habit to turn to the internet with any questions that one might have. While it is great to have the answers to the world at our fingertips, we have to keep in mind that just because we find an answer on the internet does not mean it is the correct one. Googling the answers to everything can be particularly harmful when it comes to physical and mental health. Searching up a simple symptom such as a stomach ache may lead to answers that suggest the individual has appendicitis, when in reality they may only be having indigestion. With the internet becoming more powerful than ever, more people have been self-diagnosing themselves with physical and mental health issues without seeking help from a professional.

Social media has played a huge role in the increase of people self-diagnosing. Many influential social media users with a large platform use their platform to speak and educate viewers about mental illnesses. While this is great in terms of normalizing and reducing the stigma around mental health issues, it becomes harmful when viewers use this information to self-diagnose. I personally have seen many videos on platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok where the creator lists several widely general and common “symptoms,” such as sleeping in too much or having a short attention span, and then they follow up with something along the lines of “if you are experiencing these symptoms, you may have ADHD!” In the comments section, I see floods viewers who are now concerned that they may have a mental disorder simply because they experience a few of the general symptoms listed. It seems that these videos create a lot of stress in people who do not actually need to be worried, since the symptoms listed are often so generalized. However, I do think that it is very beneficial for those who are struggling with mental health issues to receive support and a sense of community through social media. It can be very comforting to know that you are not alone going through something. If creators wish to speak about mental health issues on social media, it should be done in a very careful way. Addressing mental health on social media does present a wide variety of benefits, however it becomes an issue when people are self-diagnosing and becoming worried without speaking with a professional.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, 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://etactics.com/blog/problems-with-self-diagnosis

Image Source: https://dailytitan.com/opinion/column-self-diagnosing-mental-health-disorders-is-hazardous/article_d953ca7f-0eae-57d2-81fb-d0d339734788.html

Post Pandemic Social Anxiety

By Katie Weinstein ­­­­­­­­

Whether it is anxiety about rusty social skills or interacting with unvaccinated people, adjusting back to normalcy will be a challenge for everyone, so it is essential to find ways to cope with returning back to normal. 

One thing to keep in mind is that it is normal to have social anxiety about the adjustments that are to come. Everyone has been out of practice of picking up on social cues through Zoom. Like any skill, it might seem overwhelming to relearn at first, but with practice, people can regain their social skills. 

One way to help adjust and prevent post pandemic social anxiety is to gradually build up the amount of social interactions you are having and to slowly increase your group size. It is important to stretch a little out of your comfort zone by saying yes to some plans to get back into regularly seeing people, but it is also important to stand up for yourself and not participate in events that make you outwardly uncomfortable. Another thing that you can do to cope with post-pandemic social anxiety is reward yourself for going a little out of your comfort zone with things that you enjoy like ice cream or watching a movie. You can also try dressing up to go out. While lounging out in sweats is sometimes the most comfortable option, dressing up a little can make you feel like your best self and help you incentivize you to go out. It is also important to acknowledge when you need help and when to see someone to help cope with social anxiety.

Sources

If you or someone you know is struggling with social anxiety, 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/

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/after-a-year-of-isolation-social-interaction-may-cause-anxiety#Why-you-may-feel-anxious-about-returning-to-normal

https://www.verywellmind.com/social-anxiety-disorder-tips-302420

The Importance of Mental Health

By Charlotte Arehart

When thinking about their health, most people only consider the physical state of their bodies. However, it is important that we take our mental health into consideration as well. Not only are these two aspects equally important, but they are actually very closely related. People who have poor mental health are at greater risk of having poor physical health. For example, people who experience depression are at a 50% increased risk of dying from cancer and a 67% increase for heart disease. Stress and anxiety also have a huge impact on the body, affecting the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, as well as the gastrointestinal system.

Since mental health is so important, why do people usually disregard it? Many people are afraid of the stigma that surrounds mental health. Since you cannot always “see” mental health problems, some people view them as “not real.” Many people fear that others will look at them differently if they seek mental help. They do not want to be seen as emotionally weak. People are especially worried that seeking mental help with affect their careers, however this is not true. In fact, taking proactive steps to help mental health will reduce possible repercussions for the future. It is better to address the issue sooner rather than later, since unchecked mental health symptoms usually worsen over time. If you are experiencing mental health troubles, by no means are you alone. Many mental health issues are actually more prevalent than one would expect. By realizing that there are tons people who are experiencing something similar to them, people may feel better about reaching out for mental health.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, 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.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health

https://www.pdhealth.mil/news/blog/reducing-self-stigma-mental-health-important-physical-health

Image Source: https://www.hrcsb.org/may-mental-health-awareness-month/

Body Image: The Negative Effects of Zoom

By: Lauren Zoneraich

Due to the transfer of meetings, classes, and other events from in-person to Zoom, people are experiencing an increase in self-consciousness from looking at their faces on a screen. In normal interactions, we do not need to confront our own image, but on Zoom we constantly face it. During Zoom meetings, it may be difficult to avoid focusing on how we look when we listen, talk, and emote. Continually staring at our own image can bring our insecurities to the forefront of our minds. In fact, our perception of our image may become distorted the longer we look at ourselves.

Zoom meetings may be especially difficult for people who already struggle with body dissatisfaction, or its more severe form, body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphic disorder is a preoccupation with one’s appearance, especially minor aspects of appearance which one perceives as a defect or flaw. People with body dysmorphia may have low self-esteem and believe that the perceived defect in their appearance makes them ugly or deformed. The preoccupation with the perceived flaw may cause anxiety in social situations. People with body dysmorphia may frequently check their image or groom themselves as a means to “fix” their perceived flaws. Features on technology, such as the “selfie camera” on the iPhone, serve as mirrors that enable people to repetitively perform these checking behaviors. The selfie camera also promotes preoccupation with one’s appearance. The Zoom screen is a permanent, overstimulating mirror.

A survey of a class at Cornell University revealed that the main reason students do not keep their cameras on during Zoom classes is due to insecurities about how they look. Zoom has implemented some features to combat these body image issues. Users can choose to “Hide Self View” so that they cannot see their own image on the Zoom call. Still, although they cannot see themselves, people may still worry about how others see them. If one is constantly staring at oneself or worrying about how one looks, one may not be able to focus on the content of the meeting.  Mind-wandering may decrease the level of happiness one feels while participating in a certain activity. Thus, eliminating distractions may make classes and meetings more enjoyable for participants.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or body dysmorphia, 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://cornellsun.com/2021/05/03/zoom-classes-heighten-self-consciousness-introducing-new-classroom-distraction/

https://www.vogue.com/article/body-dysmorphia-zoom-face

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353938#:~:text=Body%20dysmorphic%20disorder%20is%20a,may%20avoid%20many%20social%20situations.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_mind_wandering_make_you_unhappy

Image Source:

https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-prevent-zoom-bombing

Social Media and Attention Span

By Katie Weinstein

People have spent increasingly more time on social media throughout the years which has led to shorter and shorter attention spans. This is because of click bait material and multitasking.

Social media is designed to grab people’s attention and get people to their next click so that people stay online for longer. Instead of publishing detailed, meaningful articles, people are now publishing more sensational, controversial pieces to get people to click. Because the material is very loud and polarizing, people have an urge to switch to new material, so new information is constantly competing for attention, reducing our attention span. This can be addictive in nature and teaches people to focus on engaging material for a short period of time and stay on social media for a long period of time. 

Additionally, social media is something that is commonly used while completing another task. When a person is multitasking, attention span is reduced. The effects are especially detrimental for younger people who are more susceptible to developing bad habits. The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds and is now 8 seconds, which is 1 second shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! This is because it takes greater cognitive effort to switch between tasks than it does to maintain the same level of concentration on one task. Research has also shown that episodic memory can be significantly reduced when multitasking. 

Some ways to prevent declining attention spans are:

  • Implementing a “no phone at dinner” rule
  • Complete one task at a time 
  • Put your phone away while working 

If you or someone you know is struggling with attention span, 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.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culture-shrink/201812/is-social-media-destroying-our-attention-spans

http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202101/22/WS600a2710a31024ad0baa4577.html#:~:text=The%20explosion%20of%20social%20media,just%208%20seconds%20in%202013.

https://muckrack.com/blog/2020/07/14/how-declining-attention-spans-impact-your-social-media

Eating Disorders: Prevalence in College Students

Anyone can develop an eating disorder, no matter their gender, sexuality, age, or economic status. However, recent studies have shown a surge in occurrences of eating disorders among college students for both men and women. A 2011 study showed that occurrences of eating disorders specifically on college campuses increased from 7.9% to 25% in men, and 23.4% to 32.6% in women over the course of a 13 year period. While there are approximately 30 million people who struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life, why is it so prevalent among college students?

When entering college, young adults are suddenly being faced with multiple issues that they have never had to face before. They have a new schedule, intense workloads, stress about making friends and getting good grades, as well as a new sense of freedom that they have probably never had until that moment. College life for most students is typically drastically less structured than life at home. In addition to these factors, most public media pushes a thin or slim ideal body type. Typical eating habits of college students also make it difficult for someone with an eating disorder to eat normally. Poor cafeteria food or access to lots of junk food makes it hard for students to maintain normal eating habits. Often times, the new stressors of college will re-surface pre-existing mental illnesses, or even cause new ones to emerge. When all of these factors combine with anxiety and self-esteem issues, it is highly likely that an individual will develop an unhealthy obsession with eating and body weight in an attempt to feel control in a stressful environment.

When someone is diagnosed with an eating disorder, it is important that their family and loved ones support them during this time. Eating disorders are dangerous and deadly; but there are ways to recover. There are specialized treatment centers for eating disorders, as well as the hotline at the National Eating Disorders Association (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline). If someone is developing an eating disorder, it is very beneficial for them to seek therapy as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, 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.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10640266.2011.584805

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/eating-disorders-on-college-campuses-are-on-the-rise#Eating-disorders-on-the-rise

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

Image Source: https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/health-science/coronavirus/2020/12/17/387599/for-those-with-eating-disorders-holidays-in-a-pandemic-can-create-extra-anxiety/

Anxiety: Drinking Large Quantities of Alcohol Can Increase Anxiety

By: Lauren Zoneraich

Binge-drinking dominates many young social scenes, especially those of high school students, college students, and young adults. Besides harming the liver, binge-drinking has negative effects on one’s mental state. What seems like a harmless night of fun can cause increased feelings of anxiety the next day, especially for individuals who already struggle with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is an emotional state defined by feelings of unease, stress, and nervousness. Anxiety is also characterized by worried thoughts and changes in physiological states, such as increased heart rate. People with anxiety disorders experience anxiety regularly for prolonged periods or short, intense periods. These periods are characterized by repetitive, obsessive, or intrusive thoughts; panic attacks; and physiological symptoms such as sweating and increased blood pressure. Heavy drinking can induce feelings of anxiety and heighten pre-existing anxiety, especially the next day when the effects of alcohol have worn off.

Alcohol is a depressant and a sedative. It alters the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin. When the body metabolizes alcohol, the brain’s neurotransmitter levels readjust, and this change may cause one to feel anxious. Also, the physical symptoms of a hangover, such as headache, dehydration, and dizziness, may increase anxiety. Mental and emotional states are linked to physical states, so if one is not feeling well physically, one’s mental state may also worsen. Additionally, people with social anxiety may feel anxious about their actions or words from the night before, as alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions. They may worry that they said something they would not have said in a sober state, which can cause anxiety.

If you find that heavy drinking causes you to feel anxious or increases your anxiety, it may be best to adjust your drinking behavior.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or alcohol abuse, 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.apa.org/topics/anxiety

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-anxiety

https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-anxiety#consequences

Image Source:

https://www.cnet.com/a/img/Jh55LlQZsT04K-qgcvoBsQes-ZU=/1200×675/2020/07/21/6094c226-5b00-49c8-a802-e0f36614255d/gettyimages-1193256860.jpg

Low Self-Esteem: Dating Apps Can Decrease One’s Self-Confidence

By: Lauren Zoneraich

With the advent and prolonged continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, many young adults have turned to dating apps as a way to connect with potential romantic partners, speak to new people, and entertain themselves. The most popular dating apps among young adults are Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and Grindr, which are visually-based dating apps. Instead of text-heavy profiles, like those seen on Match.com, users swiftly accept or reject others based on their profile photographs, which dominate the page display. How does the visually-based nature of dating apps affect the self-esteem of dating app users?

One’s physical appearance and self-esteem are strongly linked. Self-esteem is defined as the self-evaluation a person holds regarding their worth, success, and capabilities. In a survey-based study of young adults, researchers determined that the visual nature of Tinder could raise or lower the self-esteem of users. Users who matched with a lot of attractive users and received many messages experienced an ego boost. Contrarily, many participants reported that the visual nature of the Tinder made them feel more self-conscious about their appearance. Users felt a decrease in self-esteem when they did not match with a lot of people or when they only received messages from unattractive matches. Many participants reported “swiping left on” (rejecting) users who they anticipated would not “swipe right on” (accept) them, or swiping left on users they liked to avoid the possibility of being rejected and experiencing a decrease in self-confidence. These reports highlight how Tinder can trigger negative assessments of the self even before a user is rejected, and of course, decrease a user’s self-confidence after rejection.

Online dating apps are not meant for everyone. If you find that apps such as Tinder are lowering your self-esteem, it may be best to delete these apps and meet partners through other avenues.

If you or someone you know is struggling with low self-esteem, 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:
Kallis, R. (2021). Creating a future relationship or destroying my self-esteem? An exploratory study on dating app experiences and well-being. Journal of Communication Technology, 4(1), 78-100. https://doi.org/10.51548/joctec-2021-005

Image Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2016/1/11/10749670/tinder-secretly-ranks-users-desirability