Lately, anxiety has been a major focus in the field of mental health. The media is highlighting increased levels of anxiety in our children and in ourselves. Anxiety is seen in our schools, place of employment, in our homes, and many other places. So why the increase in this emotion? Recent research has found a correlation between increased anxiety and social media, screen time, and rising levels of responsibility in our daily lives. Furthermore, researchers are finding increased correlations between clinically significant levels of anxiety and decreased academic achievement, lower numbers in academic graduation, and a decrease in meeting daily expectations of employers and home responsibilities.
With such an alarming rate in rising anxiety levels, what can you do to protect yourself or your child from what seems to be a trending epidemic? There are many different forms of treatment for anxiety; some effective, others, not so much. Before scanning every search engine for the best treatment (if that was your first response you probably have anxiety), take a moment to identify the emotion(s) you are experiencing.
Identify the symptoms of anxiety.
Many people experience anxiety everyday of their lives and don’t realize it. Anxiety can be mistaken for depression, fear, nervousness, or other intense emotions. It is not uncommon for anxiety to be part of a com-morbid (dual) diagnosis, or to be misdiagnosed for another disorder. A Salt City Mental Health clinician can provide specialized expertise to help you identify your anxiety and determine if it meets criteria for a diagnosable disorder.
If you are unsure you need to meet with a therapist but feel like something is off with yourself or your child, here is a list of symptoms that may help you identify any anxiety that you are experiencing.
Many of these symptoms can be experienced daily and almost always have underlying triggers. A good way to identify symptoms of anxiety is by practicing a Mindfulness skill known as Observe, Describe, Participate. Here’s how it works. Observe the emotion in your body by noticing the physical sensations you are experiencing. Allow your thoughts to come and try not to judge them. Describe you experience. Tell yourself, out loud, what you are experiencing and how it feels. Participate in the moment by allowing yourself to experience any emotion that comes. Try to remove any judgement and be very objective.
Identify what is triggering your anxiety.
Now that you know how to identify the physical symptoms of anxiety, it is a good idea to understand what causes the emotion. As mentioned earlier, anxiety can be triggered in a variety of ways. This does not mean you should throw out the Xbox or quit your job, but it does mean that mindfully approaching your day can help with identifying triggers. Take time each day to track what is happening when you feel symptoms of anxiety. Write down the time, location, situation, and level of anxiety on a 1-10 scale. As you begin to track the moments you feel anxiety, it is likely that you will begin to notice patterns. Knowing what triggers your anxiety can help you prepare to meet the perceived threat head on.
Don’t ignore your anxiety, it only gets worse.
With heightened levels of anxiety, it is not uncommon for your brain to send a signal communicating false threat, tricking you into believing you are in danger. It is not unusual for an individual to neutralize their anxiety by engaging in a behavior that makes them feel safe or by avoiding the situation altogether. Ignoring your anxiety is ineffective in the long-term. Although this may feel better than facing it, you are training your brain that what you are anxious about is truly threatening and must be avoided. The temporary gain you receive from avoidance is far outweighed by the suffering you will likely experience in the future. Neutralizing the threat can be even more damaging for an individual suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Dustin Hall, LCSW is a therapist for anxiety in Bountiful, Utah. Dustin has specialized in the treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders for several years and can help you manage your emotions in an effective way. Don’t let anxiety control you. Find the courage to schedule an appointment with an anxiety specialist and let Salt City Mental Health guide you to relief. Visit our website at https://www.saltcitymentalhealth.com/anxiety.html for more details.
In our family we do kind. We do hugs. We do trust. We do second chances. We do loud (really well!) We do love. We also do mental illness-with it’s accompanying therapy appointments, teacher meetings, medication, and near constant uncertainty of how to navigate a world whose opinions shouldn’t matter, but do anyway. With an alphabet soup of collected diagnosis that looks something like this…MDD-OCDGAD-SPCD-SPS-DMDD-SPDADHD-PTSD, you might be tempted to call us a hot mess. We, however, prefer the term “neurodiverse.” My particular portion of the alphabet is MDD-Major Depressive Disorder, and OCD-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These are not my favorite genetic gifts. The blue eyes, I was good with. The long fingers for playing the piano? Great! But those first two? They have pushed me to the brink, and threatened to send me over it more times than I can count.
What I’ve learned that I CAN count on is that I am not alone in suffering. It is part of being human. No one gets to escape, and there is no “get out of suffering free card.” (Trust me, I’ve looked!) I learn of the suffering of others each day in news articles, and in the confidences shared by friends and family. You see it in memes and printable quotes. How often have we heard to “be kind; because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle?” We all experience it.
My own experience has taught me that as a society we split suffering into two camps: physical and mental. Physical suffering is generally accepted as something that happens to you, and is not in your control. Mental and emotional suffering are considered things that are you, and that you somehow choose or have control of. We see evidence of this in the way we speak of different conditions. We might say someone has cancer or diabetes, or a broken leg. But in our dialogue about mental and emotional well-being we say someone is mad, or sad, or, with mental illness, the person is depressed, schizophrenic, or OCD, etc.
The reality (at least my version of it) is that our brain is part of our physical body. It is subject to disease, overuse, stress, diet, thought patterns, etc. It has the power to create emotions, which our mind is left to interpret, thus creating our perceptions of the world around us. In the case of mental illness it can even produce false information and emotions that can quickly create great distress and confusion. You don’t have to have experience with mental illness to understand this. Simply think of the last dream or nightmare you experienced. The reality was that your body was safely tucked into bed. Your brain created an alternate reality of images, thoughts, sounds, and emotions that felt all too real until you were able to wake and reassess your reality.
Currently we live in a culture that is uncomfortable with the idea that mental and emotional distress even exist. It can be frightening to acknowledge that the brain can “break” with the further implication that our will, feelings, and thoughts can go rogue and not remain within our control. So discussions don’t happen. We pretend that we are immune by hiding emotions and always responding “good!” when asked how we are. The expression of challenging feelings are relegated to the therapist office, and sufferers are left to go it alone at all other times. The emphasis on getting through your challenges yourself can be seen in the number of self-care articles available online and in magazines and the sheer number of “self-help” books available on Amazon.com (70,000!)
70,000 self-help books. And still, according to the CDC, 44,193 Americans committed suicide in 2017.
Clearly our DIY approach to mental and emotional suffering is insufficient. While good and important, self-care is not always enough. I’ve considered this throughout the past year as I’ve fought to regain a sense of well-being after a relapse of depression and OCD left me struggling to accomplish even the most basic of daily tasks. My challenge was that I needed support, but felt unable to express the severity of what I was experiencing, was unsure who I could trust with this information, and had difficulty verbalizing my needs so that others could help. Likewise, because family and friends could not visibly see the level of distress I was experiencing, they did not know when or what help was needed.
I created the following framework to help bridge that gap. I’m hoping that it can be a useful tool for others to use to monitor the wellbeing of themselves and loved ones, and to especially create awareness when challenging times do arise-whether from illness, distress, or life itself.
1. Talk with a handful of family and friends that you would want to give support to, and would feel comfortable receiving support from. Create a group text or some other form of contacting one another. Consider using a simple code or scale to share how each person is doing. I’ve been using a 1-10 scale based off of this one found at https://thegracefulpatient.wordpress.com/2017/12/15/a-simple-mental-health-painscale/ You could text only when significant challenges arise, or, preferably, you could do a daily or weekly check-in with one another which would allow you to recognize when someone may be in need of support, before they reach a level of crisis.
2. If the individual shares that their distress is related to a specific condition, spend 20 minutes on Google learning about the condition, and how to provide specific support for the person who is experiencing it. Just type in “how to support someone who…” This could be anything from a clinical diagnosis to any other life stressors such as a lost job, death, big exam, move, new baby, child with a disability, loneliness, etc. www.themighty.com and www.understood.com are both great resources for understanding 100’s of different experiences.
3. When someone is in need of support, consider providing help if you are in a position to do so. Begin by insuring that the individual is safe, taking any medications needed, and seeing the proper professionals for treatment (if required.) To determine what additional support would be appreciated, simply ask “what’s hard?” Once you know what’s hard, you can assess what you can do to alleviate some of the burden.
4. Provide validation and empathy of your loved one’s experience. Here is a great short animation from Brene Brown on the difference between empathy and sympathy. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Brene+Brown+Empathy+Animation&&view=d aetail&mid=40548622B1834D85D1D440548622B1834D85D1D4&&FORM=VRDGAR
5. Sometimes support is needed for a day. Other times, as with chronic conditions, it may be needed for longer periods of time. Check in as often as necessary to gauge where your loved one is at, and the level of care they might need. Continue checking in until they can give you an “all clear.”
6. Be aware of your own needs, you cannot give more than you have. Set boundaries on what you can do, and know that any level of support, acknowledgement, and empathy contributes to the well-being of your loved one.
Throughout my own journey of recovery, I have become interested in Kintsugi--the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver. The art provides the symbolic imagery of a philosophy that treats breaks and repairs not as signs of destruction, but as a beautiful history of the object. As we go through life, let us care for and support one another, fill in the cracks when needed, and allow there to be beauty in our collected imperfection.
I was talking to an acquaintance the other day and she asked me if there was anything that should not be discussed with a therapist. I chuckled to myself, because I have heard a few things in my career, and asked a question back. I asked, “Is there anything you would not tell your doctor if you were going for a checkup, or would you want the doc to know everything?”. She thought for a moment and replied, “I would want my doctor to know everything because it’s my health”. I then asked why everything involving physical health was ok to talk about, but mental health was not. This individual smiled, and our conversation continued.
After asking her question, she proceeded to tell me that she and her husband’s sex life was lacking but he was unwilling to talk about it with anyone other than her; citing that the topic was “private” and should not be discussed outside of their marriage. I took the same approach of discussing physical health and asked if her husband would talk to his doctor if he had erectile dysfunction. She thought this to be a no brainer and told me he would because it was physical issue. I asked if her husband’s ability to perform enhanced their relationship. Again, she smiled and said yes. So, if talking about private matters can enhance you or your relationship, why not discuss them?
From this example, my goal was to protect their relationship. A sexual dysfunction could potentially damage the relationship; therefore, the husband would want to share personal information with his doctor to rectify the situation. From my perspective, sharing information about your sex life (or any topic for that matter) with a mental health therapist is no different than sharing important information with a medical doctor. The therapist is there to help the couple enhance their physical enjoyment and emotional intimacy. Sharing sexual concerns with a trained professional is much like sharing performance concerns with a urologist. The goal is to fix a problem. By sharing information that may feel taboo, your therapist can give you skills to help fix the issue.
No matter what you are facing, take action to improve yourself or your relationship(s). Dustin Hall, LCSW, therapist in Bountiful, Utah, can help. Contact Salt City Mental Health today to start enhancing your happiness and the happiness of the ones you love. Click the link to schedule online with a therapist.
How often do you consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist only to talk yourself out of getting help? It can be hard to pinpoint the perfect time to see a counselor. In hindsight, you may look back and say, “that would have been a good time to visit with our therapist”, but it can be difficult to recognize those moments when they are happening. Here are a few signs that may point to a good time for scheduling an appointment with a Salt City Mental Health counselor in Bountiful, Utah.
When life’s problems interfere with your daily living.
If you find that problems you are dealing with are interfering on a regular basis, or consuming a large portion of your day, then it is likely that you could benefit from seeing a therapist. An example of this would be someone who suffers from anxiety and worries that their business will fail. Yes, this is a common concern for any business owner, but if your anxiety is preventing you from checking email because you may open something that negatively impacts the business, your anxiety is interfering with your daily living. Another example would be an inability to take proper care of children, or go to work, because it is too difficult to get out of bed and face the world. This lack of energy and motivation to do basic tasks could be the result of depression and is unlikely to go away on its own.
Know the difference between average and clinically significant anxiety.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety. Anxiety is not a bad thing, it protects you. Unfortunately, anxiety can negatively impact anyone at any point, even if it is uncommon for you to experience anxiety. How do you know if you are experiencing average or clinically significant anxiety? Here are 3 simple questions to ask yourself. 1. How high is my anxiety? For this question, think of the pain scale and substitute anxiety for pain. In the therapy world, this scale is called the Subjective Units of Distress (SUD) scale. Average anxiety scores a 3 or below on the SUD scale and should dissipate quickly. 2. What happens if I don’t do what my anxiety tells me to do? The more your distress increases with this question, the more likely it is you have a problem with anxiety. 3. How rigid is my behavior when I have anxiety? If you find that your anxiety is making most of your decisions, or you must behave in a specific way, you may have clinically significant anxiety. A Salt City Mental Health therapist in Bountiful, Utah can teach you skills to help alleviate the pain caused by heightened anxiety.
Recognize how your behavior is affecting your family and/or friends.
When you are stressed, your friends and family can often tell. It is not uncommon for you to be unaware of how much of an impact your emotions have on your spouse, kids, co-workers, and others who are close to you. A Salt City Mental Health therapist in Bountiful, Utah can help you learn mindfulness skills to assist in being present and creating an awareness of how your emotions are affecting you and your environment. If you find that your emotions are consistently having a negative impact on those you care about, or people are constantly asking if you are doing ok, it is a good time to consider seeing a therapist.
Trust your instincts of you just feel “off” but don’t know why.
This is often one of the best times to see a mental health professional. Talking yourself out of seeking help because you don’t know what you will say, or your therapist may think you have no “real” problems can compound the issue. A trained Salt City Mental Health therapist in Bountiful, Utah can help you identify what is causing the distress and teach you the appropriate skills to manage it. Trust yourself when you feel something is wrong. Acting early can save you time and suffering.
You do not have to have extreme circumstances to see a therapist. Anyone can benefit from processing their daily stressors with counselor. If you are in need of talking with someone who can assist in easing your daily stressors, contact a Salt City