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Anxiety Disorders and Mood Disorders
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” —CDC
What is mental health?
Mental health is an essential and integral part of your overall health. It includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health is important at every stage of life, because it affects how you think, feel, and act. Good mental health is the foundation for effective functioning and well-being.
You might think that being mentally healthy simply means that you don’t have a mental illness. But you can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, you can be diagnosed with a mental illness and still experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.
Why is mental health important?
Your mental health is what helps you effectively handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. When life’s demands exceed your resources and coping abilities, your mental health may be impacted.
All of us worry, feel sad, get angry, or feel irritable—and that’s normal. But these feelings become a problem when fears, worries, or emotion-driven behaviors are excessive or pervasive, get in the way of day-to-day functioning, and don’t go away on their own.
Whether you are experiencing temporary poor mental health or mental illness, it’s important to get help. Left untreated, mental illness, especially depression, can increase the risk for many types of physical health problems. Using effective tools, I can help you shift your thoughts and actions, leading you to a life powered by your strengths and rooted in your values.
What do I treat?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. More than half of us will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in our lifetime. And 1 in 5 of us will experience a mental illness in a given year.
Among the mental health conditions I treat are:
- Anxiety disorder
- Mood disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Trauma and stress-related disorders
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” —Little Women
What is anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is the most common mental health concern in the U.S. Anxiety disorders happen to nearly 30 percent of adults at some point and can occur at any age. Anxiety, when it doesn’t go away or is intense, can interfere in your daily functioning and continually disrupt moments that could otherwise be times of connection, achievement, and joy. Common types of anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, specific phobia, social anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. Here are a few examples of the symptoms of anxiety disorders:
- If you experience persistent dread or extreme worry and nervousness about health, people, or money in the absence of much reason to worry about these things, you may have the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, especially if the anxiety is difficult to control or interferes in your daily functioning.
- If you experience sudden, intense episodes of anxiety—based on a fear of losing control or an impending catastrophe—that come out of the blue without any obvious trigger, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart racing or feeling as if it is difficult to breathe or think, you may be having symptoms of a panic disorder. Even one instance of panic can lead to avoidance out of fear of having another one.
- If you have an irrational fear of something that brings on intense anxiety when you think about it or are faced with it, even when the thing itself may not be causing any danger to you, it’s possible you are experiencing symptoms of a specific phobia.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ―Henry David Thoreau
What is a mood disorder?
Mood disorders impact 20 percent of U.S. adults at some point during their lives. They affect your emotional state and ability to function. Without treatment, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or irritability can last for weeks, months, or years, and can severely impact your quality of life. In severe cases, it can lead to self-harm or death. Some common types of mood disorders include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorders, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Take a look at some symptoms of mood disorders:
- If, on most days over a couple of weeks, you feel persistently sad or hopeless, experience a decreased interest in activities you usually enjoy or have difficulty concentrating, and notice changes in your sleep or appetite, you may have symptoms of major depression.
- If, for more than a year, you experience a general sense of unhappiness, doubt that things can change for the better, and chronic feelings of sadness, you may have symptoms of persistent depressive disorder.
- If you experience alternating periods of ups and downs that go beyond what would normally be expected, you may have a bipolar disorder.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and long-lasting condition characterized by unwanted, reoccurring thoughts or impulses (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain behaviors (compulsions) over and over.
If you have OCD, you may know that your thoughts and behaviors don’t make logical sense, yet you feel unable to stop them. Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors generally last more than an hour each day and interfere with daily life.
There are several types of OCD; here are common symptoms of OCD you may be experiencing:
- If you are afraid of germs or worry a lot about contamination, and you clean excessively for at least an hour every day or wash your hands repeatedly throughout the day, and you miss out on things you enjoy because of the time spent cleaning, you may have germ or contamination OCD.
- If you are having repeated thoughts or feelings related to things being symmetrical, “just right,” or perfect, and you excessively order or arrange objects (such as items on a shelf), and you don’t enjoy the thoughts or tasks but feel a duty to do them daily, you may have ordering OCD.
What is a trauma- or stressor-related disorder?
Trauma- and stressor-related disorders are defined by exposure to a traumatic or stressful event that causes psychological distress. An intrusive and distressing memory, image, or thought related to the trauma or stressor causes a person to re-experience the event. These disorders include reactive attachment disorder,
disinhibited social engagement disorder, acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and adjustment disorders. Below are examples of how the symptoms of trauma may appear in your life:
- If you have flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, or uncontrollable distressing thoughts triggered by a terrifying event that you experienced or witnessed, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- If you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a death, car accident, or assault—and you’re experiencing intense fear, horror, or helplessness—resulting in a negative mood, trouble sleeping, or urge to avoid memories of the event, you may have acute anxiety disorder.
“In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” —Abraham Maslow
Treatment for Anxiety, Treatment for Mood Disorders, Treatment for OCD, Treatment for Trauma, and more
It’s brave to acknowledge a problem and to talk about it. Our therapy goals will focus on helping you to face what’s holding you back and feel better again. No one strategy works for everyone. Therefore, your plan will be a collaborative process, considering the uniqueness of your situation, who you are when you’re thriving, and your preferences. We may focus on the following:
- Evaluate how your thinking may be leading to or maintaining problems
- Get a clear picture of your motivations
- Utilize your strengths
- Create a values-based plan
- Develop consistent self-care practices
- Examine patterns of behavior, thinking, relating, and emotional functioning
- Build your confidence
- Have patience with yourself and others while you’re healing and changing
- Recognize that feelings aren’t facts
- Move toward rather than avoiding (non-dangerous) fears
- Balance work, relationships, downtime, sleep, fun, learning, movement, and more
- Practice self-compassion
- Face fears and worries directly
- Cultivate realistic and helpful thoughts
- Manage physical responses to situations, thoughts, and emotions
- Challenge stuck points
- Ride waves of harmful urges
- Become empowered
- Use a behavioral plan to take new actions
- Create calm in your mind and body on purpose
I work collaboratively with adults and adolescents dealing with a variety of mental illnesses and mental health problems. We may include primary care doctors, psychiatrists, registered dietitians, recovery programs, school counselors, or others. During an assessment, we will consider what you’ve experienced in the past and what’s happening now, what you’ve already tried, what your support system is like, the severity of symptoms and co-occurring concerns, how you’re functioning in your life, and your preferences, then we will create a plan to help you approach the difficulty until you feel better.
We may utilize components of cognitive-behavioral therapy, transdiagnostic treatment approach, mindfulness-based therapy, compassion-focused therapy, positive psychology, complicated-grief therapy, mentalization-based therapy, cognitive-processing therapy, exposure and response prevention, acceptance and commitment therapy, and more.
If you’re experiencing persistent distress or hopelessness, finding yourself avoiding situations you want to be able to handle, or are having difficulty carrying out the day-to-day tasks of daily living, reach out for help. You may need a safe place to talk about it and an opportunity to develop more effective tools—you don’t have to go through it alone.
“Research has found that racism can affect one’s mental health and is positively associated with depression, anxiety symptoms, and psychological distress, which is why it’s imperative Black women (and all Black and brown people) have access to resources to take care of our mental health… Nina Westbrook cautions against operating on an ‘extremely high level at all times’ because eventually, you’ll reach a breaking point. ‘It’s OK to struggle. It’s OK to have emotions, it’s OK to have breakdowns and cry,’ she said reassuringly.” —Tamara Pridgett, Popsugar
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