psychologist in Chicago

Managing Anxiety Through Biofeedback

Managing Anxiety Through Biofeedback

Everyone has anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can interfere with your quality of life. While perhaps most recognized for behavioral changes, anxiety can also have serious consequences on your mental and physical health. Biofeedback focuses on often hidden indicators of prolonged or inordinate stress an anxiety by regulating Autonomic Nervous System and treating anxiety and stress caused by the ongoing activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System .

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Emotional and Physical Manifestations

It’s the thinking, thinking, thinking, dwelling, dwelling, ruminating, ruminating, and inability to shut the mind off.

“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” ~Jodi Picoult

“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” ~Jodi Picoult

Generalized anxiety disorder is a relatively common anxiety problem, affecting 3-4% of the population that turns daily life into a state of worry, anxiety, and fear. Excessive thinking and dwelling on the "what ifs" characterizes this anxiety disorder. As a result, the person feels there’s no way out of the vicious cycle of anxiety and worry, and becomes depressed about life and the chronic state of anxiety they find themselves in.  Generalized anxiety usually does not cause people to avoid situations, and there isn’t an element of a "panic attack" involved in the prognosis, either.

Emotional Manifestations

Feelings of worry, dread, lack of energy, and a loss of interest in life are common in general anxiety. Many times there is no "trigger" or "cause" for these feelings and the person realizes these feelings are irrational. Nevertheless, the feelings are very real. At this point, there is no "energy" or "zest" in life and no desire to want to do much.

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” ~Anais Nin

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” ~Anais Nin

This emotional fear and worry can be quite strong. If a loved one is ten minutes late, the person with generalized anxiety fears the very worst -- something’s dreadfully wrong (after all, they’re ten minutes late!), there’s been an accident, the paramedics are taking the person to the hospital and his injuries are just too critical to resuscitate him....."Oh, my God!.....WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?" Feelings of fear and anxiety rush in from these thoughts, and the vicious cycle of anxiety and depression runs wild.

Some people with generalized anxiety have fluctuations in mood from hour to hour, whereas others have "good days" and "bad days". Others do better in the morning, and others find it easier at the end of the day. These anxiety feelings and moods feed on themselves, leading the person to continue in the pattern of worry and anxiety -- unless something powerful breaks it up.

“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression,addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” ~Brene Brown

“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression,addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” ~Brene Brown

Physical manifestations 

The physical manifestations of generalized anxiety may include headaches, trembling, twitching, irritability, frustration, and inability to concentrate. Sleep disturbances may also occur. Elements of social anxiety and/or panic may sometimes be present, such as high levels of self-consciousness in some situations, and fear of not being able to escape from enclosed spaces.

It is also common, but not universal, for people with generalized anxiety to experience other problems, such as a quick startle response, a lack of ability to fully relax, and the propensity to be in a state of constant motion. It is difficult for some people with generalized anxiety to settle down enough to have a quiet, reflective time where they can calm down, relax, and feel some peace and tranquility. Strategies to peacefully calm down and relax are one part in overcoming this problem.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fearof the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fearof the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

What Causes General Anxiety?

Normal life stresses aggravate generalized anxiety. The person who typically performs well at work and receives a sense of accomplishment from it, all of a sudden finds that work has become drudgery. If work is perceived as a negative environment, and the person no longer feels fulfilled, then considerable worry takes place over these situations. As a result, the anticipatory anxiety about going to work can become quite strong.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

How It is Treated ?

Generalized anxiety has been shown to respond best to cognitive-behavioral therapy, an active therapy that involves more than just talking to a therapist. In CBT, the person gradually learns to see situations and problems in a different perspective and learns the methods and techniques to use to alleviate and reduce anxiety. Sometimes medication is a helpful adjunct to therapy, but for many people it is not necessary. Research indicates that generalized anxiety is fully treatable and can be successfully overcome over the course of about three to four months if the person is motivated and works toward recovery.

Generalized anxiety must be chipped away from all sides and that is what CBT is designed to do. No one has to live with generalized anxiety disorder.  Treatment for GAD has been shown to be both effective and successful.

Please seek a therapist who understands anxiety and the anxiety disorders. Remember, that just because a person has a degree behind their name, does not mean they understand and can treat an anxiety disorder. Feel free to ask questions of any professional and make sure your therapist understands and knows how to treat generalized anxiety. It is usually a good idea to see a specialist in this area because they have a practice that is geared toward the anxiety disorders.

How to recognize signs of depression?

Depression is cruel and it can affect anyone. The symptoms might begin with some general worries, some guilt and very quickly can slide down a black hole where these thoughts spiral down and take over feeding depression and its severity.

1.     Feeling Hopeless

Major depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you feel about life in general. Having a hopeless or helpless outlook on your life is the most common symptom of depression. Other feelings may be worthlessness, self-hate, or inappropriate guilt.  Common, recurring thoughts of depression may be vocalized as, “It’s all my fault,” “I’m worthless “or “What’s the point?

pexels-photo-568025.jpg

2.     Loss of Interest

Depression can take the pleasure or enjoyment out of the things you love. A loss of interest or withdrawal from activities that you once looked forward to — sports, hobbies, or going out with friends — is yet another telltale sign of major depression. Another area where you may lose interest is sex. Symptoms of major depression include decreased sex drive and impotence.

3.     Fatigue and Sleep Problems

Part of the reason you might stop doing things you enjoy is because you feel very tired. Depression often comes with a lack of energy and an overwhelming feeling of featigue which can be among the most debilitating symptoms of depression. This could lead to excessive sleeping. Depression is also linked with insomnia as one might lead to the other and vice versa. They can also make each other worse. The lack of quality, restful sleep can also lead to anxiety.

4.     Anxiety

If you’ve been feeling down and you just can’t seem to shake it off then it is not just sadness. While depression doesn’t cause anxiety, the two conditions often occur together. Symptoms of anxiety can include:

·        restlessness, nervousness, or feeling tense

·        dread, panic, fatigue

·        rapid breathing

·        feeling on edge

·        increased sweating

·        trembling or muscle twitching

·        trouble focusing

·        foggy thinking clearly

·        obsessing about things you’re worried about

5.     Irritability

Depression can affect irritability.  People suffering from depression may have symptoms of irritability, anger, risky behavior, and/or substance abuse. People are less likely to recognize it is depression causing these symptoms in order to seek treatment for it.

6.     Appetite changes

Weight and appetite can fluctuate for people with depression. This experience may be different for each person. Some people will have an increased appetite and gain weight, while others won’t be hungry and will lose weight. One indication of whether dietary changes are related to depression is if they’re intentional or not. If they’re not, it may mean that they’re caused by depression.

7.     Thinking of death

In 2013, more than 42,000 people died from suicide in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who die by suicide usually show symptoms first. Often people will talk about it or make a first attempt before succeeding in ending their life. If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

·         Call 911 or your local emergency number.

·         Stay with the person until help arrives.

·         Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.

·         Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

If you think someone is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

If you have had some of the previously mentioned symptoms for more than two weeks, you might be suffering from major depression disorder. Recognizing that you’re depressed is essential to getting the right help.

Depression affects millions of people, but there are treatments available, from lifestyle changes to medications. No matter the path of treatment you choose, asking for professional help is the first step to getting back to feeling like yourself again.

 

Donate

How to Heal Yourself and Survive Depression?

How to Heal Yourself and Survive Depression?

Depression drains your energy, creates changes in sleep and eating pattern, and brings feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, making it difficult to see the goodness in self and others, and most importantly has people feeling they don’t belong. You can’t just “snap out of it,” but you can use resources and a wealth of information to gladden the mind even if your depression is stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and be kind to yourself. We hear people say “Be kind to yourself” quite often, yet most people see it as something external such as yoga, massage, grab lunch with a friend etc… While these options are good, self-care has to include self-compassion also known as “working from within.”  Increasing awareness and insight can also help to make healthier choices.

How do you deal with depression?

Dealing with depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed can be hard. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action. I recommend, finding some space to investigate your thoughts. Increase awareness on how you’re talking to yourself? Are you putting yourself down? Are you magnifying situations where you feel stuck and overlooking when life is going well? The work within is much harder than the exercise, chatting with a friend, or going to a yoga class. The thoughts are with you 24/7. If you can alter them for the better, the actions of doing will come easier than forcing them.

Reach out and stay connected

Getting support plays an essential role in overcoming depression. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. At the same time, the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. When you’re depressed, the tendency is to withdraw and isolate so that connecting to even close family members and friends can be tough.

You may feel too exhausted to talk, ashamed at your situation, or guilty for neglecting certain relationships. But this is just the depression talking. Staying connected to other people, including yourself, and taking part in social activities will make a world of difference in your mood and outlook. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help wouldn’t you want to help them too?

desperate-2293377__340.jpg

How to reach out for depression support

Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be a good listener—someone who’ll listen attentively and compassionately without being distracted or judging you.

Make face-time a priority. Phone calls, social media, and texting are great ways to stay in touch, but they don’t replace good old-fashioned in-person quality time. The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can play a big role in relieving depression and keeping it away.

Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.

Research shows you get an even bigger mood boost from providing support to yourself. Be mindful of not holding on trying to control your experience because when we try to, we are not being present of living our lives. Letting go of ruminating thoughts might be a healthy sign of healing from depression.

Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Different From Depression?

Fall season brings some wonderful treats–apples, cider donuts, colorful foliage, football as well as shorter days, longer nights, and the advent of winter. During this time some might crave more carbs, feel fatigue, and sleep more than usual. These symptoms can also mean seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

umbrella-2603983__340.jpg

SAD is both similar to and different from other forms of depression. Many patients experience marked seasonal changes in the winter months. Although SAD symptoms are similar to depression, people experiencing these symptoms respond better and quicker to treatment then the ones suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression, including:

  • Sadness

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Loss of interest in usual activities

  • Withdrawal from social activities

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Extreme fatigue and lack of energy

  • A “leaden” sensation in the limbs

  • Increased need for sleep

  • Craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain.

Symptoms of summer SAD include:

  • Weight loss

  • Agitation and restlessness

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Decreased appetite

What causes seasonal affective disorder?

The exact cause of this condition is not known, but evidence strongly suggests that, for those who are vulnerable to it, SAD is set off by changes in the availability of sunlight. One theory is that with less exposure to sunlight, the internal biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is shifted. Exposure to light may reset the biological clock.

Another theory is that brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin) that transmit information between nerves may be changed in people with SAD. It is believed that exposure to light can correct these imbalances.

Melatonin, a chemical known to affect sleep patterns, may also play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Some have suggested that the lack of sunlight stimulates the production of melatonin in some individuals. This may be a factor in the symptoms of sluggishness and sleepiness. The lack of daylight can suppress Melatonin, a hormone made in the pineal gland that regulates sleep-wake cycles, therefore people may experience more of the symptoms above.

How to treat SAD?

sad-2042536__340.jpg

Exposing oneself to extremely bright light of 10,000 lux for 20 to 30 minutes a day has proven effective in relieving the symptoms of SAD. You want to get a safe, reliable device that has been clinically tested and validated. Though the light is intense, you don’t look directly at it. It is great to read by it while it is on. Research indicates people with SAD respond in days to light therapy, where non-SAD patients need psychotherapy treatment for months and at times in conjunction with antidepressants before they see results.

Additional ways to help decrease SAD are: checking for vitamin D deficiency, eating fewer carbs, managing stress, getting enough exercise, and even considering an SSRI by a psychiatrist and then tapered off as spring approaches. SAD patients can respond well to talk therapy, it helps with understanding of the condition and learning healthy coping skills to manage the symptoms.

How Does Social Anxiety Affect Your Life ?

Social anxiety disorder affects approximately 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder following specific phobia. The average age of onset for social anxiety disorder is during the teenage years. Although individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder commonly report extreme shyness in childhood, it is important to note that this disorder is not simply shyness that has been inappropriately medicated.

girl-3421489__340.jpg

Social anxiety disorder can cause tremendous suffering on the lives of individuals who deal with it. Symptoms may be so extreme that they disrupt daily life and
 can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life, making it difficult to complete school, interview and get a job, and have friendships and romantic relationships. People with social anxiety disorder are also at an increased risk for developing major depressive disorder and alcohol use disorders. 

Despite the availability of effective treatments, fewer than 5% of people of with social anxiety disorder seek treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help. The defining feature of social anxiety is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. People with social anxiety disorder may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious (e.g., blushing, stumbling over words), or being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring. As a result, they often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress. Many people with social anxiety disorder also experience strong physical symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, nausea, and sweating, and may experience full-blown attacks when confronting a feared situation. Although they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder often feel powerless against their anxiety.

Social anxiety disorder can be overcome, although it takes both consistency and persistence.  A successful therapy program for social anxiety disorder must address the dozens of cognitive methods, strategies, and concepts that will allow people's brains (i.e., their brain associations or neural pathways) to literally change.  The brain is continually learning, and irrational thoughts and beliefs can change as a result of this cognitive process.  

A good therapy program will supply the necessary and specific strategies as well as indicate to people how and why they need to practice, work on, and begin to accept rational thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and perceptions.

How to Screen for Social Anxiety?

How to Screen for Social Anxiety?

sea-2915187__340.jpg

If you have noticed some anxiety or think you might suffer from social anxiety, but are on the fence contacting a health care professional you can use the questions below as a guidance to share the results with your provider when you're ready to get some help.

Are you bothered by the following?

An intense and persistent fear of a social situation in which people might judge you

Yes    No

Fear that you will be humiliated by your actions

Yes    No

Fear that people will notice that you are blushing, sweating, trembling, or showing other signs of anxiety

Yes    No

Knowing that your fear is excessive or unreasonable

Does a dreaded situation cause you to...?

Always feel anxious?

Yes    No

Experience a panic attack, during which you suddenly are overcome by intense fear or discomfort, including any of these symptoms:

Yes    No

Pounding heart

Yes    No

Sweating

Yes    No

Trembling or shaking

Yes    No

Chest pain

Yes    No

Nausea or abdominal discomfort

Yes    No

Feelings of unreality or being detached from yourself

Yes    No

Fear of losing control or “going crazy”

Yes    No

Fear of dying

Yes    No

Numbness or tingling sensations

Yes    No

Chills or hot flushes

Yes    No

Go to great lengths to avoid participating?

Yes    No

Social anxiety may also be connected to other diagnoses such as depression. In addition, substance abuse, in particular alcohol is used most of the time as a way to cope with social anxiety. The questions below can help distinguish between social anxiety, depression, and/or substance abuse.

Have you experienced changes in sleeping or eating habits?

Yes    No

More days than not do you feel sad or depressed?

Yes    No

Are you not interested in life?

Yes    No

Do you feel worthless or guilty?

Yes    No

During the last year, have the use of alcohol or drugs been helpful to cope with?

Yes    No

Has your use placed you in a dangerous situation, such as driving a car under the influence?

Yes    No

Have you gotten arrested?

Yes    No

Do you continue despite problems you might have because of the use? 

If you answer yest to most of these questions, it is highly recommended you reach out to a health care provider to get treatment for a more fulfilling life. 

 

Anxiety & Sleep Problems

cant sleep.jpeg

Is Anxiety Interfering With Your Sleep?

 

Over 18% of nation’s population experience anxiety disorders, and the majority of them have sleep –related problems. The lack of sleep can increase not only anxiety but other mood related issues such as depression, anger, irritability, and/or muscle pain. If anxiety or disrupted sleep crops up occasionally, these simple strategies may help you relax your body and mind so you can get the sleep that you need.

Sleep Hygiene

A healthy bedtime routine allows your body and mind to slow down. Take at least half an hour before bed to play quiet music, take a bath, or read a book. Deem the lights one hour before you go to sleep; Avoid electronics an hour or more before your sleep; Spend a few minutes before bed using diaphragmatic breathing to help relax.

Exercise

Regular exercisers fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. In fact, even a single moderate-intensity workout can improve sleep among people with chronic anxiety. Here are some recommendations for the ones who don’t enjoy going to the gym: Stretch often, simple yoga exercises throughout the day will do the trick; Go for a walk; Be active at home by using an indoor trampoline

Steer clear of stressful activities before bed.

Leave the bill paying for earlier in the day, stay away from heated social media exchanges, and skip the evening news.

Put your to-dos on paper.

Instead of letting your brain swirl with all the things that you don’t want to forget to take care of, write them down so your brain can relax and let go.

It’s not always easy to tell if your symptoms are an indication of an anxiety disorder or just the normal amount of worry. Certain situations, especially the ones we don’t like, can cause our anxiety symptoms to spike. Moving, changes in relationships, financial troubles, and speaking in public can all trigger these spikes. If your anxiety has spiked out of control, or has become debilitating to you by interfering with your daily life, it might be time to seek professional help.

no sleep.jpg

What Are Social Anxiety Symptoms?

Social anxiety disorder affects approximately 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder following specific phobia.

people-1492052__340.jpg

The average age of onset for social anxiety disorder is during the teenage years. Some might dread meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store, others might avoid only some of the scenarios above.

Most people with social anxiety do not talk about it and might not understand why they feel fine in certain situations but not in others. Some might feel physical symptoms of anxiety in situations such as giving a speech, playing a sports game, or dancing or playing a musical instrument on stage.

Here are some of the symptoms of social anxiety when performing in front of others:

  • Extreme fear of other people judging them

  • Staying away from places where there are other people they might feel judged by

  • Blush, sweat, tremble, or feel a rapid heart rate

  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice

  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could

  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward

The defining feature of social anxiety disorder is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. Because people with social anxiety disorder may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious, they often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress.

Although they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, they often feel powerless against their anxiety. The first step to effective treatment is to have a diagnosis made, usually by a mental health specialist. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can prevent a person from reaching their full potential.

Making your first appointment when struggling with Anxiety

You may feel anxious about contacting a psychologist. That anxiety is perfectly normal. But having the courage to make a call is the first step in the process to empower yourself and bring a sense of relief to get the help you need.

Once you connect, they’ll lead a brief conversation to get a better sense of what you need and whether they are able to help and when you can make an appointment. Before you take the first available appointment here are some factors you should consider:

  • Know when you're at your best morning, afternoon, or evening, and schedule your appointment accordingly.
  • Consider work schedule and if you have to take time off from work, you might want to schedule your first appointment later in the day so you don't have to go back to work afterward. If you have an upsetting topic to discuss, you may be tired, emotionally spent, puffy-eyed or distracted after your first session.
  • Unless it is a family session, choose a time when you will have child care available.
  • Try to schedule your session at a time when you won't have to rush to your appointment or to your next commitment after the session. 

Hope this helps alleviate the anxiety of taking the first step. Best of luck!