All blog posts are written by ADAA's professional members and are listed chronologically by date (with the most recent listed first). Each blog post is also comment enabled. We invite you to share your thoughts about the blog post to further the conversation.
by Debra Kissen, PhD
OCD is the fear network of the brain sending a signal that something is wrong and needs to be done about it IMMEDIATELY. OCD only reports on feared consequences that are important to a person. For example, if somebody does not fear spilling water on the floor, OCD will not send the intrusive thought, “Oh no you spilled water. You must clean it up IMMEDIATELY”. On the other hand if someone does care about the safety of her family, OCD might say, “Oh no you left the stove on. You must go back and check IMMEDIATELY or the most important people in your life will die and it will be all your fault.” Similarly, if you care deeply about your family's well-being or your students safety, OCD may inject itself into your awareness with the thought “Oh no. What if I lose control and harm my children or students.”
by Patricia Thornton, PhD
Whether my patients have OCD, social anxiety, a phobia, panic, or are just generally anxious about life, they come into treatment wanting to be free of the uncomfortable feelings associated with anxiety. To rid themselves of their anxiety they have tried meditation, relaxation, yoga, different psychotherapies and medication, but overall they don’t feel a whole lot better. They ask me, “Why am I so anxious?” and “How do I get rid of this anxiety?” And I respond: “You need to allow yourself to be anxious and you don’t need to know why you are anxious.” I know it sounds counterintuitive. But when you actually move toward your anxiety and just allow yourself to experience it, without trying to flee the situation or reason your way out of it, those yucky anxiety feelings and bodily sensations tend to dissipate.
by Jennifer Shannon, LMFT
Many Americans are experiencing a higher level of worrying since the presidential election. Our country is in midst of a big transition and the stakes are high. We don’t know what will happen and uncertainty is worrisome for many. As an anxiety disorder therapist, I’ve worked with many people who worry. Can I apply what works with chronic worriers to political anxiety? Whatever the cause of your worry or level of intensity, the same part of our brains sets worry in motion. The limbic emotional brain perceives threats and alerts us to them. Because it is primitive, instinctual, and totally focused on survival, I call it the monkey mind.
Suicide is one of the most devastating public health problems faced by society today. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015). Over 44,000 Americans take their own lives each year, which works out to about 120 suicides each day, just in the U.S. (CDC, 2015). This means that we are each more likely to die by our own hand than someone else’s (World Health Organization [WHO], 2012). For every suicide death, there are also another 10 to 25 non-fatal suicide attempts (CDC, 2015; Crosby, Gfroerer, Han, Ortega, & Parks, 2011). These statistics are alarming.
Psychiatrists have been using videoconferencing for psychiatric consultations for almost sixty years. Now with the advent of web and cloud based systems, mobile computing, the impact of commercial telemedicine service companies, and a growing body of evidence and research, more and more patients are being treated online. This occurs in primary care clinics, at work and at home – and by an increasingly large number of mental health therapists from all disciplines. Patients can be treated securely and in high definition on a laptop or tablet at minimal cost using video systems that are increasingly ubiquitous and easily accessible.
As my OCD patients get better with treatment, they are relieved that their obsessions are less frequent and less intense and they have more control over performing rituals. This they expect. But what can be unexpected is the feeling of mourning as symptoms dissipate. Often my patients have lived most of their lives struggling with upsetting obsessions and engaging in rituals that can consume hours of time. Their lives have been severely compromised by the disorder. They certainly don’t like having OCD, but it’s familiar to them. Some comments from my patients include: “I’m just used to it”. “It’s like a shadow...always there.” “What will my life look like without OCD?” “What do I think about if I don’t have these obsessions so constantly?”
With more than 18 million annual website visitors seeking information and resources on anxiety, depression, and related disorders, ADAA’s website has become a critical platform for help and support. Many visit our site to search our Find A Therapist database (unique in that it only lists therapists who have expertise in anxiety, depression and related disorders) for individual clinicians and practices in their geographic area.
Anxious teens are vulnerable to experiencing a panic attack, which is a frightening experience, especially since it can occur out of the blue. A panic attack is a sudden and sharp rise in anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as racing heart, dizziness, numbness and shortness of breath. The physical symptoms are an adaptive response to the perception of being in acute danger. However, they can unfortunately arise under everyday stress, such as when a teen has to take a daunting test. What can you do to help your anxious teen cope with a panic attack?
Naturally, when individuals seek treatment for anxiety, their primary goal is to “stop…worrying/panicking/obsessing/etc.” This is understandable because the symptoms have caused turmoil in their lives!
Many of my patients took an extended holiday over the Christmas/New Year's break. When they returned to treatment in midJanuary most of them reported that their OCD symptoms had worsened. Obsessions returned that had been dormant. New obsessions and compulsions emerged and sometimes they didn’t realize this was OCD because the content of the OCD was unfamiliar. Compulsions they had been successful resisting in the past were much harder to resist. If you have OCD, it’s helpful to understand what may happen when you go on vacation.
The ADAA Board and leadership recognizes that this past year has been a tumultuous and, for many in our country, a very stressful and distressing one. Numerous instances of hate speech and angry sound bites have left many in our country, particularly minority groups, feeling extremely anxious, depressed and uncertain about the future.
by Tahirah Abdullah and Jess Graham
Within the Black community, we generally acknowledge and discuss experiences of racism and the detrimental impact of racism on equitable access to resources (including education, housing, health care, etc.). We less frequently discuss the detrimental impact racism often has on our mental health.
When I first started working in the health field 30 years ago, I never thought much about clinical trials. Clinical trials didn’t really come up in conversations at work or with my family. This all changed when I joined the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you or someone you love suffers from depression, or an anxiety disorder, you might have come across an organization called the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) while searching for answers. Perhaps that search is what led you to this very page, and now, you’re wondering where to go from here. ADAA provides information and services, both for professionals and consumers, but if you’re just visiting this site for the first time, this all might be a bit overwhelming.
We are in the home stretch of a prolonged, caustic, and shocking presidential campaign season. No matter which way you lean, few will argue that the 2016 election will go down in history as unprecedented, in that both candidates seem have a surplus of skeletons in their closets and a penchant for throwing surprise curveballs.
Latch on to triggers that set you off.
Figure out what frightens you and examine how your anxiety reaction is triggered. Your goal is to identify your particular triggers, so you can manage your fear when anxiety levels are low. Learning what sets you off makes it easier to turn it off.
If you have a fear of vomiting, just reading the title of this article might make you a bit queasy. The mere mention of the "V word" might send you into a state of anxiety. If you can relate, I encourage you to press on despite your worry, so you can take the first steps to overcoming it.
More than 40 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety. Sadly, only one-third recognize what may be happening and talk to their doctor; only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40 percent of whites. And of these who do seek help, many African Americans face an additional obstacle.
by Shane G. Owens, PhD, ABPP
College is typically a challenging experience with some expected highs and lows. For some it is also the time during which common mental health problems start. Because of this, you have to talk to your kid about mental health before school starts.
by Beth Salcedo, MD
The decision to take antidepressant medication during pregnancy is one of the most difficult decisions an expectant mother will ever make. Of the many factors to consider, the safety of the fetus and the health and well-being of the mother must be taken into account. A study published in the December 2015 issue of JAMA Pediatrics is sure to make this decision harder for some women: It suggests an association between antidepressants and a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the offspring. This is not the first time this has been suggested, and it will not be the last. The fact is that it is unethical to conduct a randomized controlled trial in a pregnant woman, which is necessary to establish causation. And association is not causation; we need much more information to establish that antidepressants during pregnancy have any responsibility at all for a diagnosis of autism.
by Reid Wilson, PhD and Marc Pollack, MD
Panic attacks and heart attacks can feel frighteningly similar: shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, vertigo, feelings of unreality, numbness of hands and feet, sweating, fainting, and trembling. Some people describe this experience as feeling as if they’re losing control or going to die.
A panic attack occurs spontaneously or a stressful event can trigger it, but it poses no immediate danger. A heart attack is dangerous, and it requires prompt medical attention. In women, though, heart disease symptoms are sometimes mistaken for a panic attack.
Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Like all anxiety disorders, this one is treatable.
If someone you know is thinking about suicide…