Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Finding Happiness: 4 Affective Profiles To Help You Discover Strategies That Will Work For You

happiness-2SOURCE CREDIT: PsychCentral News : Research Finds Proven Strategies to Up Happiness, Life Satisfaction By  Senior News Editor : Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 11, 2013

READ THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE HERE FOR MORE DETAIL

Researchers have created four affective profiles that may help individuals improve the quality of their lives.

The profiles came from a research study of the self-reports of 1,400 US residents regarding positive and negative emotions.

Investigators believe the affective profiles can be used to discern differences in happiness, depression, life satisfaction and happiness-increasing strategies.

A central finding is that the promotion of positive emotions can positively influence a depressive-to-happy state — defined as increasing levels of happiness and decreasing levels of depression — as well as increase life satisfaction.

The study, published in the open access peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ, targets some of the important aspects of mental health that represent positive measures of well-being.

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Brilliant Book! Click Image To Read Reviews and For More Detail

Happiness, for example, can be usefully understood as the opposite of depression, say the authors. Life satisfaction, another positive measure of well-being, refers instead to a comparison process in which individuals assess the quality of their lives on the basis of their own self-imposed standards.

Researchers posit that as people adopt strategies to increase their overall well-being, it is important to know which ones are capable of having a positive influence.

“We examined 8 ‘happiness-increasing’ strategies which were first identified by Tkach & Lyubomirsky in 2006″, said Danilo Garcia from the University of Gothenburg and the researcher leading the investigation.

“These were Social Affiliation (for example, “Support and encourage friends”), Partying and Clubbing (for example, “Drink alcohol”), Mental Control (for example, “Try not to think about being unhappy”), and Instrumental Goal Pursuit (for example, “Study”).

Additional strategies include: Passive Leisure (for example, “Surf the internet”), Active Leisure (for example, “Exercise”), Religion (for example, “Seek support from faith”) and Direct Attempts (for example, “Act happy and smile”).”

The researchers found that individuals with different affective profiles did indeed differ in the positive measures of well-being and all 8 strategies being studied.

For example, individuals classified as self-fulfilling — high positive emotions and low negative emotions — were the ones who showed lower levels of depression, tended to be happier, and were more satisfied with their lives.

Researchers found that specific happiness-increasing strategies were related to self-directed actions aimed at personal development or personally chosen goals. For example, autonomy, responsibility, self-acceptance, intern locus of control, and self-control.

Communal, or social affiliations, and spiritual values were positively related to a ‘self-fulfilling’ profile.

“This was the most surprising finding, because it supports suggestions about how self-awareness based on the self, our relation to others, and our place on earth might lead to greater happiness and mental harmony within the individual” said Garcia.

Source: Peerj

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September 15, 2013 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, happiness, Health Psychology, Identity, Mindfulness, mood, Positive Psychology, research, Resources | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Procrastinate Much? Focus On Starting Not Finishing

procrastinationSOURCE CREDIT: Author DONALD LATUMAHINA Lifeoptimizer.org
How to Achieve Goals Through Persistent Starting

Have you ever feel overwhelmed while trying to achieve a goal? I have, and I guess you have too. That’s why it’s important that you have a good strategy. Otherwise you might not achieve your goals, or will only achieve them through unnecessary stress and frustration.

One good strategy I found is persistent starting in The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. Here is what the book says about it:

“…essentially, all large tasks are completed in a series of starts… Keep on starting, and finishing will take care of itself.”

In essence, persistent starting means that you shouldn’t fill your mind with how big a project is. That will only make you feel overwhelmed. Instead, just focus on starting on it every day. By doing that, you will eventually finish the project and achieve your goal.

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Why Persistent Starting Is Powerful

There are three reasons why persistent starting is powerful:

1. It helps you reduce stress. Instead of filling your mind with how big a project is, you fill it with the simple task that you need to do today. That makes the burden much lighter.

2. It helps you overcome procrastination. One big reason why we procrastinate is that we feel overwhelmed by what we face. As a result, we hesitate to take action. This principle makes the task feel manageable.

3. It allows you to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. By just continually starting, you will eventually achieve a big goal. The whole journey might seem daunting, but by going through it one step at a time, you will eventually reach your destination.

A simple example in my life is when I tried to finish reading the Bible. It seemed like a huge task. If I focused on how hard it would be, it’s unlikely that I would ever finish it. But I focused instead on reading four chapters a day without thinking about how far I still had to go. With this attitude, I eventually finished reading it within a year.

How to Apply Persistent Starting

Here are four steps to apply persistent starting:

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1. Know your destination.

First of all, you need to know where you are going. If you don’t, you will only wander aimlessly. So set a clear goal. What is it that you are trying to achieve? How will success look?

2. Plan the route.

Now that you know your destination, you need to plan how to get there. A good way to do that is to set some milestones. These milestones serve two purposes:

They help you stay on track. You will know if you deviate from the right path.
They give you small victories along the way. Having a sense of accomplishment is important to stay motivated. By having milestones, you can get it along the way, not just at the end.
3. Keep doing the next simple task.

After planning the route, you should figure out the next simple task to do. What can you do today that will move you toward your destination? After you find it, then allocate time to do it.

4. Adjust your course as necessary.

You need to be careful not to go off course. So regularly check where you are (for example, by comparing your position with your next milestone) and adjust your course as necessary.

***

Persistent starting is a simple strategy, but it can help you achieve your goals with minimum stress and frustration. It works for me, and I hope it will work for you too.

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September 13, 2013 Posted by | anxiety, Books, brain, Cognition, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, research, Resilience, stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just Moody Or More? Are Your Child’s Moods Normal?

imagesSource Credit:
Are your child’s moods normal? Lisa Meyers McClintick, USA TODAY Guide to Kids’ Health, USATODAY 8 Sept. 2013

Any parent knows: An evening can go to heck in a matter of minutes.

Our 9-year-old daughter pipes up suddenly that she needs a pink dress to play Sleeping Beauty in class the next morning. It has to be pink. It has to be pretty. And she needs it now!

Any sort of reasoning—like the suggestion to wear a wedding-worthy yellow dress—won’t work. Frustrations explode into shouting, timeouts and all-too-familiar rants of “this family sucks,” followed by heartbreaking rounds of “I hate myself!”

The next morning, when nerves calm, the yellow dress is perfectly fine and our daughter cheerfully chatters about Belle’s ball gown in Beauty and the Beast.

The difference? The anxiety attack is over.

Sneaky and insidious, anxiety seizes our daughter like a riptide pulling her out to sea. Her negative thoughts build like a tsunami, and it’s useless to swim against them with problem-solving logic.

Like a real riptide, the only escape seems to be diagonally. A surprise dose of humor—tough to summon in the midst of a blowup—can spring her free. As one therapist explained, “You can’t process anger and humor at the same time.”

It’s taken years of keen observation and research, plus the support of educators and psychologists to help our kids, ages 9 to 13, cope with mental health issues that also include Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and depression.

Recognizing that something isn’t right and pursuing help isn’t an easy journey. But it’s necessary. In the same way you’d pursue cures and solutions to manage chronic physical conditions like cancer and diabetes for your child, you have to advocate for your child’s emotional well-being. It requires being proactive, persistent and patient.

“If you can intervene early and get proper treatment, the prognosis is so much better,” says Teri Brister, who directs the basic education program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

KNOW THE SIGNS

“One of the most difficult-to-recognize issues is anxiety,” says John Duby, director of Akron Children’s Hospitals Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. “(Children) won’t say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m worried.’ You have to be tuned in.”

All-consuming worries—about parents’ safety, bullies or natural disasters, for instance—can look like a lack of focus at first. Some kids ask frequent questions about “what’s next” for meals or activities. Changes to the daily routine (a substitute teacher or a visit to a new doctor) can trigger headaches, stomachaches or a sleepless night.

At its most extreme, anxiety induces panic attacks. Kids break into sweats, have trouble breathing and feel their heart racing.

Depression may cause similar symptoms to anxiety with headaches, stomachaches, not being able to sleep or sleeping more than usual. “They may withdraw socially,” says Duby. Kids may head to their room after school and not emerge until morning. Some kids are constantly irritable and angry.

“We often think depression doesn’t happen in children, but it does,” he says.

GET HELP

Step 1: Trust your instincts

If you’re worried about your child’s mood, trust your instincts as a parent, recommends Brister.

The red flags of mental health disorders tend to pop up during school years when children have to navigate academic expectations, make friends and increase responsibilities at home.

“You have to look for (behavior) patterns,” says Brister. These can include impulsive acts, hyperactivity, outbursts, an inability to follow directions or recurring ailments that may impair how the child performs in class, extracurricular activities or simply sitting through dinner with the family.

Most concerned parents start with a visit to the pediatrician. (PETER’S EDIT For Australian parents your family GP is a good place to start) The family physician can help you analyze symptoms and understand whether there might be an underlying condition such as food allergies or a chronic lack of sleep.

Step 2: Seek professional help

(PETER’S EDIT: In Australia a referral from a GP to a psychologist via a mental health care plan or ATAPS will ensure an informed, appropriate and timely assessment.  If the issue is developmental, a referral to a paediatrician may be preferred or if your GP has a serious concern a referral to a child psychiatrist may be made. Wait times for each option should be relatively short in the private sector.) 

When our son was 5, we sought testing for ADHD with a referral from our pediatrician. Unfortunately, we couldn’t even get on a waiting list for a psychology appointment. We were told the list had backed up to a two-year wait, so it was eliminated. We had to call weekly and hope for an opening.

When our daughter needed help as her anxiety escalated, it took a school district triage nurse to get us an appointment with a psychiatric nurse.

This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario for parents. You need to use all the leverage you have to access experts in the school system or mental health clinics to help with your situation. Stay persistent and be pleasant rather than pushy.

And when you do get an appointment, make the most of it by consistently tracking the concerns you have about your child’s behavior and putting them in writing for the physician to read. Have a list of questions ready, and always ask about additional resources you can tap into, from support groups to books.

Mental health practitioners will also be gathering resources and information about your child from report cards, checklists and questionnaires. These can help pinpoint whether a child has anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, is on the autism spectrum or may have a combination of these. “It allows us to have a more objective view,” says Duby.

Step 3: Find your normal

Once there is a diagnosis, families can decide how to move forward. That might mean trying medications, working with a psychologist or setting up an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school.

Additional services that may help include occupational therapy, which can identify specific movements, such as swinging, spinning or brushing outer limbs with a soft brush that may help your child’s brain process and integrate sensory information.

These tools and approaches can help families be proactive about preventing and managing mental meltdowns. It’s also essential to help children feel a sense of belonging at school and in community groups. Families need to build up their children’s strengths so they have the self-esteem and confidence to move forward, says Duby.

And parents should stay on top of the situation, watching for changes in behavior and mood, especially as children get older, says Brister.

Hormones may help or worsen conditions, which makes it important to have a diagnosis and support network before the teen years hit.

“I can’t emphasize enough how essential it is to recognize symptoms early and treat them,” she says.

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Click Image to read reviews and for more info about this terrific workbook

SIGNS OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Signs in children may differ from the symptoms we commonly associate with adults who have the disorders. Depression in kids may look like irritability, anger and self-criticism, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It could be as subtle as her making less eye contact with you than in the past.

School performance is another important indicator. Grades can drop off dramatically; students may also visit the school nurse more frequently with vague complaints of illness.

Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder may experience fear, nervousness and shyness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They may worry excessively about things like grades and relationships with family and friends. They may strive for perfection and seek constant approval.

HOW TO CALM IT DOWN

Whether a child has mental health struggles or not, emotions inevitably boil over—especially as preteen dramas escalate. Here are ways to help de-escalate the situation and restore calm to your family life.

• Keep your body language non-threatening and stay as even-keeled as possible. Don’t get in the child’s face or use a raised voice.

• Teach kids how to breathe slowly through the nose, then exhale gently through the mouth as if cooling a hot bowl of soup.

• Create an “away space,” a place to cool down and take a break. Consider a quiet nook in a bedroom, a spot on the stairs for kids who don’t like separation or a backyard corner for those who find comfort in nature.

• Let kids know they can’t hit others, but it’s OK to punch a pillow or punching bag or to squeeze putty or a squishy toy.

• Figure out what’s physically comforting—feeling the softness of a blanket or stuffed animal, nuzzling the fur of a family pet or piling under heavy blankets.

• Listen to favorite tunes on a music player.

• Provide a journal for writing out frustrations or doodling when the words won’t come.

• When emotions simmer down, sit side by side to talk through how the situation could have been handled differently and work on solutions together.

ONLINE RESOURCES

(PETER’S EDIT:  AUSTRALIA:

HeadSpace: headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under the Youth Mental Health Initiative Program. A great resource for parents and teens.

BeyondBlue : Resources for young people section )

OTHER:

HealthyChildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics has a section dedicated to “Emotional Problems.” Parents can tap into great information on how to help their child. Audio segments recorded by experts in the field can be used as a launching point for family discussions.

TheBalancedMindFoundation.org, founded by the mother of a daughter with bipolar disorder, provides help for families. Online, private support groups offer 24/7-support and online forums are a way for parents to connect.

WorryWiseKids.org, a service of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety, has a wealth of information about the different types of anxiety disorders children can have, how to understand them and how to seek treatment for them.

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September 11, 2013 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Child Behavior, Children, depression, diagnosis, Education, happiness, mood, Parenting, research, Resilience, Resources, self harm, Suicide, Teens, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Symptoms or Circuits? The Future of Diagnosis

20130906-223144.jpg

Source Credit: PSYPOST

We live in the most exciting and unsettling period in the history of psychiatry since Freud started talking about sex in public.

On the one hand, the American Psychiatric Association has introduced the fifth iteration of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, DSM-V, representing the current best effort of the brightest clinical minds in psychiatry to categorize the enormously complex pattern of human emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. On the other hand, in new and profound ways, neuroscience and genetics research in psychiatry are yielding insights that challenge the traditional diagnostic schema that have long been at the core of the field.

“Our current diagnostic system, DSM-V represents a very reasonable attempt to classify patients by their symptoms. Symptoms are an extremely important part of all medical diagnoses, but imagine how limited we would be if we categorized all forms of pneumonia as ‘coughing disease,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

A paper by Sabin Khadka and colleagues that appears in the September 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry advances the discussion of one of these roiling psychiatric diagnostic dilemmas.

One of the core hypotheses is that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are distinct scientific entities. Emil Kraepelin, credited by many as the father of modern scientific psychiatry, was the first to draw a distinction between dementia praecox (schizophrenia) and manic depression (bipolar disorder) in the late 19th century based on the behavioral profiles of these syndromes. Yet, patients within each diagnosis can have a wide variation of symptoms, some symptoms appear to be in common across these diagnoses, and antipsychotic medications used to treat schizophrenia are very commonly prescribed to patients with bipolar disorder.

But at the level of brain circuit function, do schizophrenia and bipolar differ primarily by degree or are there clear categorical differences? To answer this question, researchers from a large collaborative project called BSNIP looked at a large sample of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, their healthy relatives, and healthy people without a family history of psychiatric disorder.

They used a specialized analysis technique to evaluate the data from their multi-site study, which revealed abnormalities within seven different brain networks. Generally speaking, they found that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder showed similar disturbances in cortical circuit function. When differences emerged between these two disorders, it was usually because schizophrenia appeared to be a more severe disease. In other words, individuals with schizophrenia had abnormalities that were larger or affected more brain regions. Their healthy relatives showed subtle alterations that fell between the healthy comparison group and the patient groups.

The authors highlight the possibility that there is a continuous spectrum of circuit dysfunction, spanning from individuals without any familial association with schizophrenia or bipolar to patients carrying these diagnoses. “These findings might serve as useful biological markers of psychotic illnesses in general,” said Khadka.

Krystal agreed, adding, “It is evident that neither our genomes nor our brains have read DSM-V in that there are links across disorders that we had not previously imagined. These links suggest that new ways of organizing patients will emerge once we understand both the genetics and neural circuitry of psychiatric disorders sufficiently.”

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September 6, 2013 Posted by | brain, depression, diagnosis, Schizophrenia, Technology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Depression: Young People Respond Well To Computer Based Intervention

Source: BMJ

Read The Original Research Article Here

A computerized self help intervention may help adolescents who suffer from depression. The specialized computer therapy acts much the same way as they do from one-to-one therapy with a clinician, according to a study published on BMJ.

Depression is common in adolescents, but many are reluctant to seek professional help. So researchers from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, set out to assess whether a new innovative computerized cognitive behavioral therapy intervention called SPARX could reduce depressive symptoms as much as usual care can.

SPARX is an interactive 3D fantasy game where a single user undertakes a series of challenges to restore balance in a virtual world dominated by GNATs (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts). It contains seven modules designed to be completed over a four to seven week period. Usual care mostly involved face-to-face counseling by trained clinicians.

The research team carried out a randomized controlled trial in 24 primary healthcare sites across New Zealand. All 187 adolescents were between the ages of 12 and 19, were seeking help for mild to moderate depression and were deemed in need of treatment by primary healthcare clinicians. One group underwent face-to-face treatment as usual and the other took part in SPARX.

Participants were followed up for three months and results were based on several widely used mental health and quality of life scales.

Results showed that SPARX was as effective as usual care in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety by at least a third. In addition significantly more people recovered completely in the SPARX group (31/69 (44%) of those who completed at least four homework modules in the SPARX group compared with 19/83 (26%) in usual care).

When questioned on satisfaction, 76/80 (95%) of SPARX users who replied said they believed it would appeal to other teenagers with 64/80 (81%) recommending it to friends. Satisfaction was, however, equally high in the group that had treatment as usual.

The authors conclude that SPARX is an “effective resource for help seeking adolescents with depression at primary healthcare sites. Use of the program resulted in a clinically significant reduction in depression, anxiety, and hopelessness and an improvement in quality of life.” They suggest that it is a potential alternative to usual care and could be used to address unmet demand for treatment. It may also be a cheaper alternative to usual care and be potentially more easily accessible to young people with depression in primary healthcare settings.

Read The Original Research Article Here

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April 21, 2012 Posted by | Adolescence, Bullying, Child Behavior, depression, mood, research, Technology, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Contentment: Is Spare Time > Spare Stuff?

What is more desirable: too little or too much spare time on your hands? To be happy, somewhere in the middle, according to Chris Manolis and James Roberts from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH and Baylor University in Waco, TX. Their work shows that materialistic young people with compulsive buying issues need just the right amount of spare time to feel happier. The study is published online in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

We now live in a society where time is of the essence. The perception of a shortage of time, or time pressure, is linked to lower levels of happiness. At the same time, our consumer culture, characterized by materialism and compulsive buying, also has an effect on people’s happiness: the desire for materialistic possessions leads to lower life satisfaction.

Given the importance of time in contemporary life, Manolis and Roberts investigate, for the first time, the effect of perceived time affluence (the amount of spare time one perceives he or she has) on the consequences of materialistic values and compulsive buying for adolescent well-being.

A total of 1,329 adolescents from a public high school in a large metropolitan area of the Midwestern United States took part in the study. The researchers measured how much spare time the young people thought they had; the extent to which they held materialistic values and had compulsive buying tendencies; and their subjective well-being, or self-rated happiness.

Manolis and Roberts’ findings confirm that both materialism and compulsive buying have a negative impact on teenagers’ happiness. The more materialistic they are and the more they engage in compulsive buying, the lower their happiness levels.

In addition, time affluence moderates the negative consequences of both materialism and compulsive buying in this group. Specifically, moderate time affluence i.e. being neither too busy, nor having too much spare time, is linked to higher levels of happiness in materialistic teenagers and those who are compulsive buyers.

Those who suffer from time pressures and think materialistically and/or purchase compulsively feel less happy compared with their adolescent counterparts. Equally, having too much free time on their hands exacerbates the negative effects of material values and compulsive buying on adolescent happiness. The authors conclude: “Living with a sensible, balanced amount of free time promotes well-being not only directly, but also by helping to alleviate some of the negative side effects associated with living in our consumer-orientated society.”

Manolis C & Roberts JA (2011). Subjective well-being among adolescent consumers: the effects of materialism, compulsive buying, and time affluence. Applied Research in Quality of Life. DOI 10.1007/s11482-011-9155-5

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October 23, 2011 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Age & Ageing, depression, Exercise, Health Psychology, Identity, mood, Positive Psychology, research, Resilience, stress | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shyness, Loneliness And Facebook:Is It Easier To Be Friends In Cyberspace?

Read The Original Study In Full Here

Source: psypost.org

Do shy individuals prefer socializing on the internet? And if so, do they become less shy while on the internet and have more friends?

In 2009, the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior published an article that investigated this issue. Specifically, the researchers investigated the relationship between shyness and Facebook use.

The study was conducted by Emily S. Orr and her colleagues from the University of Windsor.

To examine this relationship, 103 undergraduate students from a university in Ontario completed an online questionnaire that assessed self-reported shyness, time spent on Facebook, number of Facebook friends, and attitudes towards Facebook.

The results of this questionnaire indicated that shy individuals tended to have fewer Facebook friends and reported spending more time on Facebook. They were also more likely to have a more favorable attitude towards Facebook than those who were less shy.

Orr and her colleagues believe that the relative anonymity provided by Facebook may explain the increased use of and favorable attitude towards Facebook.

Shy individuals may find Facebook appealing because of “the anonymity afforded by online communication, specifically, the removal of many of the verbal and nonverbal cues associated with face-to-face interactions,” as Orr and her colleagues explain.

Those who find face-to-face communication uncomfortable may use Facebook as a way to remain connected to the social world while avoiding physical social interaction.

“These findings suggest that although shy individuals do not have as many contacts on their Facebook profiles, they still regard this tool as an appealing method of communication and spend more time on Facebook than do nonshy individuals.”

Reference:

Orr, E.S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M.G., Arsenault, J.M. & Orr, R.R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology and Behavior, Vol 12, No 3: 337-340.

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June 30, 2011 Posted by | anxiety, Bullying, Cognition, depression, Identity, Internet, research, Resilience | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t Say “Don’t Panic”: How To Help Someone With A Panic Disorder

Credit: From , former About.com Guide

The Experience of Recurring Panic Attacks

To understand panic disorder with agoraphobia, we must first talk about panic attacks. Sudden and recurring panic attacks are the hallmark symptoms of panic disorder. If you have never had recurring panic attacks, it may be hard to understand the difficulties your friend or loved one is going through. During a panic attack, the body’s alarm system is triggered without the presence of actual danger. The exact cause of why this happens is not known, but it is believed that there is a genetic and/or biological component.

Sufferers often use the terms fear, terror and horror to describe the frightening symptoms of a full-blown panic attack. But even these frightening words can’t convey the magnitude of the consuming nature of panic disorder. The fear becomes so intense that the thought of having another panic attack is never far from conscious thought. Incessant worry and feelings of overwhelming anxiety may become part of your loved one’s daily existence.

These Intense Symptoms Must Mean Something…Something Terrible

At the onset of panic disorder, your loved one may be quite certain they are suffering from a heart condition or other life-threatening illness. This may mean trips to the nearest emergency room and intensive testing to rule out physical disease. But, even when he or she is assured that these symptoms are not life-threatening, it does little to put his or her mind at ease. The feelings experienced during panic attacks are so overwhelming and uncontrollable, sufferers are convinced they are going to die or are going crazy.

A New Way of Life Emerges: Fear and Avoidance

So frightening are the symptoms of panic disorder, that your loved one may go to any and all lengths to avoid another attack from occurring. This may include many avoidant types of behavior and the development of agoraphobia. But, despite the efforts to avoid another panic episode, the attacks continue without rhyme or reason. There is no place to escape, and the sufferer becomes a prisoner of an insidious and illogical fear. Without appropriate treatment, your loved one may become so disabled that he or she is unable to leave his or her home at all.

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Self Image Is Redefined

At times, we’ve all experienced nervousness, anxiousness, fear and, perhaps, even terror or horror. But in the midst of a catastrophic event, we understand these symptoms. Once the event is over, so, too, are the symptoms. But, imagine reliving these symptoms over and over again, without any warning or explanation.

This type of fear is life-changing. As abilities become inabilities, things once taken for granted, like going to into a store, become anxiety-filled events. Some enjoyable activities, like going to concerts or movies, may be avoided altogether. It is not uncommon for sufferers to experience a sense of shame, weakness and embarrassment as their self-image is redefined by fear.

Panic disorder is not just being nervous or anxious. Panic disorder is not just about the fear, terror and horror experienced during a full-blown panic attack because it does not end when the panic subsides. It is a disorder that is quick to invade and can alter one’s very essence, redefine one’s abilities and take over every aspect of one’s life.

Your Role As A Support Person

As a support person, you can play an important role in your loved one’s recovery process. Understanding what panic disorder is, and what it is not, will help you on this journey. Author Ken Strong provides a lot of information for supporting a person with panic disorder in his book, Anxiety:The Caregivers, Third Edition.

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September 10, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, brain, Cognition, depression, research, stress | , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Down By The River: 5 Minutes Of “Green Exercise” Boosts Your Mood

Just five minutes of exercise a day in the great outdoors can improve mental health, according to a new study, and policymakers should encourage more people to spend time in parks and gardens.

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Researchers from the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of a “green activity” such as walking, gardening, cycling or farming can boost mood and self esteem.

“We believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with green exercise,” Barton said in a statement about the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Many studies have shown that outdoor exercise can reduce the risk of mental illness and improve a sense of well-being, but Jules Pretty and Jo Barton, who led this study, said that until now no one knew how much time needed to be spent on green exercise for the benefits to show.

Barton and Pretty looked at data from 1,252 people of different ages, genders and mental health status taken from 10 existing studies in Britain.

They analyzed activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming.

They found that the greatest health changes occurred in the young and the mentally ill, although people of all ages and social groups benefited. The largest positive effect on self-esteem came from a five-minute dose of “green exercise.”

All natural environments were beneficial, including parks in towns or cities, they said, but green areas with water appeared to have a more positive effect.

Read The Original Article (PDF)

Source: msnbc

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May 9, 2010 Posted by | depression, Exercise, Health Psychology, Mindfulness, Positive Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mothers’ Day: Coping With Grief & Loss

Credit: Kelly Brewington, The Baltimore Sun

It had been nearly 40 years since Linn Holt lost her mother, but some days, the pain was as unbearable as the day she died. Family gatherings were heartbreaking, Mother’s Days were miserable. And on every anniversary of her mother’s death, Holt would stay home in bed, hibernating from the world, swelling with grief.

It wasn’t normal, she thought. She needed help.

Three years ago, Holt attended a seminar on Mother’s Day weekend for people struggling with the loss of their mothers. She realized she wasn’t alone.

For more than a decade, the workshop at the Stella Maris Center for Grief and Loss in Timonium has been helping people confront and cope with the loss of their mothers during a trying time of year. From faith services honoring mothers to the endless loop of TV ads pushing “that special gift for Mom,” it’s a day most people can’t avoid if they tried.

Instead of trying to escape it, workshops like the one at Stella Maris encourage people to embrace the day as a way to honor and celebrate their mothers’ memories.

“We hope they can begin to face Mother’s Day head on and find that it can be joyful; it can be a day to honor with love,” said Doreen Horan, manager of bereavement services at Stella Maris, who has led the workshop for six years.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first Mother’s Day since a mother died or the 40th; there is no expiration date on grief, say grief counselors.

“People tend to think you get through all the first anniversaries and you’re healed,” said Robin Stocksdale, bereavement services manager at Gilchrist Hospice Care. “But anything can kick up those memories and those feelings. It does tend to get a little easier with time, but you don’t get over it. You learn to get through it.”

Holt, 58, of Baltimore, was 15 when her mother died of Hodgkin’s disease. As the only daughter left at home, Holt inherited the cooking, cleaning and responsibilities of caring for the household. Her father shut down emotionally, and her brother was just 7 years old. Holt had to stay strong and keep everyone together, she said.

“My whole world came to a crushing end,” she said. “And I couldn’t talk about it. It was done, it was over, and I was expected to move on.”

At her first workshop three years ago, Holt was asked to do things that were foreign to her: write in a journal about her feelings; listen to classical music; and use colored pencils to draw recollections of her mother.

“I thought, ‘What, are you crazy? I don’t just sit down and write. What do you want me to say?’ ” she said. “But I tried it. I realized I had a lot of anger and frustration. And I left feeling that it’s OK to feel this way. It’s OK to be 56 years old and ticked off that your mother isn’t here.”

During Horan’s workshop, participants spend half the time writing in journals and drawing, and the rest listening to classical music designed to evoke warm memories. Attendees can share their reflections, but they don’t have to.

“The point is for us to realize that life will not go on in the same way without our mothers — if it did, it would conclude their lives meant nothing and had no contribution,” she said. “It’s for us to talk about that, process that and move forward.”

Channeling hurt feelings into something positive is key to coping with grief, said Penny Graf, a social worker at the cancer institute at St. Joseph Medical Center. People should try to honor their mothers on Mother’s Day, either with an activity that their mother would have enjoyed or by spending time with family.

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Even so, there’s no quick way to “get over it” said Stocksdale. Sharing feelings with someone who will listen is a start, she said.

Holt thinks that has helped her enormously. After therapy and two years of Mother’s Day workshops, she’s looking forward to helping others during this year’s event.

“I have learned to look at the things my mother taught me in the short years I was blessed to have her in my life and not the loss of not having her,” she said. When she’s down, Holt listens to music, writes in her journal or pulls out a photo of her mother.

“These are things I learned to do that have helped,” she said. “Maybe I can pass this on to somebody who is going through this for the first time.”

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May 7, 2010 Posted by | Age & Ageing, depression, mood, Seniors | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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