Understanding Anxiety

By Jaime B., Therapist

What is anxiety exactly? The definition of anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Everyone experiences forms of anxiety in their lives.  Whether it is an upcoming exam, job interview, medical appointment, the birth of a child, traveling in inclement weather, meeting a deadline, or fear of certain things (spiders, snakes, elevators, etc.), any of the above mentioned, and so many more situations can cause us to feel anxiety. With the holidays coming closer upon us, many people feel anxiety this time of year due to planning for the holidays, childcare, taking time off work, traveling, Christmas shopping, cooking, and family gatherings, to name a few.

It’s important to note that everyone feels anxiety to some degree regularly throughout their life — fear and anxiety can be adaptive and helpful emotions that can function to help us notice danger or threat, keep us safe, and help us adapt to the environment.  Anxiety disorders represent states when fear or anxiety becomes severe or extreme, to the extent that it causes an individual significant distress, or impairs their ability to function in important facets of life such as work, school, or relationships.  If anxiety affects your life more adversely than not and causes significant impairment in functioning, you should talk to your health care/mental health care provider about options to assist in decreasing levels of anxiety.

So how do we recognize symptoms of anxiety?  Symptoms can be displayed in different forms.

Psychological symptoms may include:  Feelings of apprehension or dread, Feeling restless or irritable, Feeling tense or jumpy, Anticipating the worst, Constantly watching for signs of danger;

Physical symptoms may include:  Rapid or pounding heartbeat, Shortness of breath, Excessive sweating, Tremors or twitches, Headache, Fatigue or weakness, Insomnia, Nausea or upset stomach, Frequent urination or diarrhea;

It can be tricky to decide when anxiety is typical or linked to a disorder, which is why diagnoses should be made by licensed professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists.  A helpful approach to distinguishing normal anxiety from an anxiety disorder is to identify the cause of the anxiety, and then assess whether the anxiety symptoms are a proportional response to it. Worries, fears, and intrusive thoughts that are extreme, unrealistic, or exaggerated and interfere with normal life and functioning could constitute an anxiety disorder. For instance, being concerned about getting sick and taking steps to avoid germs, like using hand sanitizer and avoiding touching door handles, does not necessarily constitute an anxiety disorder; however, if the concern about sickness makes it difficult to leave the house, then it is possible that the person suffers from an anxiety or anxiety-related disorder.

There are many anxiety-related disorders, and they are divided into three main categories:

  1. Anxiety disorders
  2. Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
  3. Trauma- and stressor-related disorders

If you are struggling with symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is not uncommon to feel alone and misunderstood. Because others do not experience the fear that people with an anxiety disorder have, they may not understand why, for example, being in a crowd of people, not being able to wash your hands after meeting a new person, or driving through the street where you got in a car accident can be really anxiety-provoking for someone with an anxiety disorder. People may comment that “there is no reason to worry about it” or that you “should just let it go.”

Not everyone understands is that someone with an anxiety disorder cannot “just let things go.” This makes the struggle with an anxiety disorder even harder and may prevent one from looking for help. However, it is critical to talk about these anxieties with someone and preferably find a health care professional as soon as you experience these symptoms. Anxiety should be considered as severe as a physical disease.

If you think you might be struggling with an anxiety disorder, you’re not alone:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.
  • Anxiety disorders afflict over 40 million American adults
  • 40% of American adults have experienced an Anxiety Disorder at some point in their life
  • Only 1/3 of adults suffering from anxiety disorders receive treatment
  • Only 1/5 of teenagers suffering from anxiety disorders receive treatment
  • Anxiety disorders are estimated to cost society over $42 billion per year

Prevention and Coping Strategies:  There are many highly effective treatment options available for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. These treatments can be broadly categorized as: 1) Psychotherapy; 2) Medications; and 3) Complementary and Alternative Therapies (i.e., stress management, meditation, yoga).  Patients diagnosed with anxiety can benefit from one or a combination of these various therapies.   Learning Relaxation Strategies, Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga, Exercise, Healthy Diet, and Rest, Awareness and Identifying Triggers, Surrounding yourself with supportive Friendships & Family, and/or contacting a Therapist can be beneficial to coping with anxiety.

Even though not everyone will struggle with a diagnosable anxiety disorder, learning techniques to aid in relief from anxiety and to manage the “normal” anxiety experienced in everyday life can help you live the life you desire.

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Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is a private, non-profit mental health hospital located in Clarksburg, WV. HCHI offers services for youth, adults, and forensic patients, all suffering from mental health problems. For more information about Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit HighlandClarksburgHospital.com or call 304-969-3100. Keep up-to-date with our activities and events by following our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HighlandClarksburgHospital

Mental Health Awareness

By Nora H.
Therapist

Each year billions of people across the world wake up facing the reality of living with a mental illness. In the United States one out of five people are affected by mental illness; however, those individuals who are affected are not always recognizable to the public. In today’s society, mental health is stigmatized. Those who have a mental illness try to hide, feel shame and are embarrassed. Seeking help by going to a physician or a therapist has a stigma attached and diminishes the importance of the condition.

Stigma is toxic to one’s mental health conditions. Stigma creates an environment of shame, fear, and silence, which prevents individuals from seeking treatment.  Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received services in the past year.  Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year. Because of stigma, those individuals living with mental illness can often times rely on self-medicating, which could lead to other health problems including a substance use disorder.  Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5% had a co-occurring mental illness.

However, stigma can be diminished, and treatment should be encouraged. To fight the stigma attached to mental health, society needs to be educated and taught to display compassion, empathy, and understanding. Be the voice and help change mental health stigma. Encourage those living with a mental illness to seek treatment without judgment.

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Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is a private, non-profit mental health hospital located in Clarksburg, WV. HCHI offers services for youth, adults, and forensic patients, all suffering from mental health problems.
In the following weeks in May, we will feature blog posts written by staff and therapists here at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital. Posts will include information about breaking the stigma, warning signs of a mental health condition, improving mental health with exercise, nutrition, and mental health, and the top diagnosed mental illnesses.

For more information about Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit HighlandClarksburgHospital.com or call 304-969-3100. Keep up-to-date with our activities and events by following our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HighlandClarksburgHospital

Back to School Tips for Parents

It’s that time of year again, summer is winding down and its time to go back to school. This can be an emotional time, for parent and child alike. Mental Health America published some great tips for teachers to do to help:

Cover the basics.
Before you dismiss your child’s outburst as a lack of control, ask yourself if there is a simple explanation for what’s going on. Are they hungry or thirsty? Are they too hot or cold? Are they overstimulated? Did they get enough sleep? Are they feeling under the weather (i.e. – colds, allergies, headaches, upset stomachs)?

Pick your battles.
Ask yourself if this specific behavior is doing any harm, or if it’s just annoying—annoying probably isn’t worth arguing over. If you do get into an argument with your child, resist the urge to raise your voice. Be matter-of-fact and stand your ground.

Environment matters.
Do your best to create a home that is low on stress, safe, and supportive. A “Mary Poppins”-type household would be great, but let’s get real. If you and your signicant other get in a fight, keep it away from the kids. Give reasonable timelines for getting chores done. Praise your child for the things they do well and let them know that you love them.

Encourage communication.
Let your child know that they can talk to you about their thoughts, feelings, or stressful situations they’re dealing with. When they do come to you, really listen to what they have to say. You may not agree or understand, but you need to accept that the difficulties they are having are very real to them. Think about things you struggled with when you were their age.

Timing is everything.
In stressful situations, allow your child some space and address issues later when they have regained control over themselves; otherwise, you’re basically pouring gasoline on a fire.

Create calm.
A child in crisis and out of control cannot rely on reason. Your gut reaction may be to panic or go into mama or papa bear mode, but they depend on you to help them regain a sense of calm and stability. Soften your voice and use short, clear directions: “Come with me.” “Sit down.” “Take a deep breath.” “Tell me what’s going on.”

Help them to help themselves.
Check out Helpful vs. Harmful–Ways to Manage Emotions at bit.ly/copingtips, for a breakdown of constructive ways to deal with feelings. It’s great for your child in the long-term, and their teachers will also appreciate strong coping skills. Praise successes and use failures as learning opportunities. Ask questions like, “What can you do the next time you’re in this situation?” or “What made you feel better the last time you felt this way?”

Tackle troubling thoughts.
Sometimes the brain can play tricks on us. We’ve all had something unsettling cross our minds or have assumed someone was mad at us when they weren’t. Break down problem thoughts and bring your child back to reality. For instance, if they think that a friend doesn’t like them anymore, ask them why they think that and if their friend did anything to make them think that way. Or if they are worried that you are going to get hurt in a car accident, remind them that you drive safely to and from work and/or school every day and that your car has airbags to help keep you safe.

Create routines.
Routines give a sense of stability to children and teens, especially those who struggle with anxiety. Keep both bedtime and the morning in mind. The Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours of sleep for children ages 6-13, and 8-10 hours of sleep each night for teens ages 14-17. Make sure that your morning routine includes a healthy, low-sugar breakfast, which keeps young people from getting tired in school and helps improve attention span.

Check your tone.
You may find it tempting to blame problem behaviors on your child hanging out with the “wrong group of friends” – but if you use an accusatory tone, odds are your son or daughter will stop listening. Frame your approach from a place of care and concern, not anger.

Source: MHA Back to School Toolkit

For more information about Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit HighlandClarksburgHospital.com or call 304-969-3100. Keep up-to-date with our activities and events by following our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HighlandClarksburgHospital

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Highland-Clarksburg Hospital (HCHI) is a private, non-profit hospital that is dedicated to providing the best care for persons with mental disorders in West Virginia, parts of Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It has established an integrated system of high-quality behavioral health services, including mental health treatment services for Children, Adolescents’ and Forensic patients. Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Back to School Tips for Teachers

It’s that time of year again, summer is winding down and its time to go back to school. This can be an emotional time for your students. Mental Health America published some great tips for teachers to do to help:

Start Fresh.
Other teachers may see your class roster and warn you about a particular student, but if what they have to say is negative it can taint your perception of that student before you have even met them. If you see a conversation starting to go this way, reframe it in a positive light. Ask what worked best, or what that teacher would have done differently if they got to do it over. It’s up to you to develop your own relationship with that student.

Draw on Past Experiences with Students, but Don’t Rely on them.
The start of the school year brings a fresh crop of children and teenagers with different backgrounds, personalities, and problems. Think about techniques that worked last year for dealing with some of your “difficult” students, but stay open to new approaches.

Put Yourself in the Right Frame of Mind.
Most students who have emotional or behavioral problems what to be successful in school, but have trouble controlling themselves, focusing, and staying still. Avoid deeming them “attention seekers,” or “slackers.” Work on being as patient as possible.

Expect some disorganization and forgetfulness.
Children who are sad, angry, or afraid are probably not too concerned about missing papers or homework assignments. If your workload allows, it might be helpful to email homework assignments to parents to keep kids on task, or provide written directions instead of verbal ones so students can refer back to them. If you are using technology in the classroom, use the reminder or task tools that are available.

Reduce Classroom Stress.
Avoid rigid deadlines – try giving homework assignments that are due in two days instead of the following day. Don’t lower grades for non-academic reasons like messy handwriting, especially with younger children. Think of ways to gamify your lessons from time to time, so they are more engaging for students who struggle to focus.

Find the Good and Praise it.
Children and teens who are struggling with emotional or behavioral problems find school extra hard and often deal with low self-esteem. They may be extra sensitive and much harder on themselves than their peers. Be genuine and generous in your praise and downplay their shortcomings. Assure them that with hard work and practice, they will eventually find difficult assignments easier.

Be Familiar with Options for Accommodations.
For children and teenagers who still have trouble despite after school help or chances to correct their mistakes, IEPs and 504 Plans can help structure the unique assistance they need to succeed. Gently suggest these options to parents when appropriate – they may not even know this kind of extra help is available.

Avoid Embarrassment.
When dealing with a student who is being disruptive, take them aside or out in the hall to explain the problem rather than reprimanding them in front of their classmates. Ensure that they know the problem is with the behavior – not them – and how you expect them to behave moving forward.

Exercise Compassion.
No special accommodation can substitute for patience, kindness, and flexibility. Teachers bring a great deal of compassion to the table to start with, but it can be easy to let it fall to the wayside when you’ve got a classroom full of 30 students, 4 more lesson plans to get through, and can’t seem to get everyone to stay on the same page. No one expects you to be a saint – just try to keep your cool.

Work with Parents.
Parents may see behaviors at home that you don’t see in school and vice versa. Keeping open lines of communication with parents will create consistency in working with students who have emotional or behavioral struggles and minimize misunderstandings. Make a plan that helps you communicate regularly with parents who need more frequent contact than others so that they’re in the loop with what you see in the classroom, and they can fill you in on what’s going on at home.

Make Time to Take Care of Yourself.
Find ways to de-stress on evenings and weekends so you can bring your “a game” to the classroom. You might be the take-a-hot-bath type, or you might be the cross fit type – whatever works best for you.

Source: MHA Back to School Toolkit

For more information about Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit HighlandClarksburgHospital.com or call 304-969-3100. Keep up-to-date with our activities and events by following our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HighlandClarksburgHospital

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Highland-Clarksburg Hospital (HCHI) is a private, non-profit hospital that is dedicated to providing the best care for persons with mental disorders in West Virginia, parts of Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It has established an integrated system of high-quality behavioral health services, including mental health treatment services for Children, Adolescents’ and Forensic patients. Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

By Stefanie Moore
Digital Marketing Coordinator

Exercising and working out is not just beneficial to your overall health, it is also essential to your mental health as well.

I am writing this as running and working out has benefited me a lot, mentally. A stressful day in the office, a stressful week, a lot going on, or just emotions going haywire, going for a run helps me keep that under control.

Exercise improves your mood. A run after a stressful day often makes oneself feel better. Michael Otto, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston University told the American Psychological Association “the link between exercise and mood is pretty strong. Usually, within five minutes after moderate exercise, you get a mood-enhancement effect.”

Research has shown exercise helps long term and helps alleviate depression. The evidence is based on experimental studies, as well as population-based correlation studies.

Researchers have also explored using exercise for treating anxiety.

Currently, researchers do not fully know which types and how much exercise can be useful for treating mental health conditions.

According to NAMI, “Exercise has been researched and validated for treating a variety of mental issues and mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, addictions, grief, relationship problems, dementia and personality disorders. Additionally, exercise alleviates such conditions as bad moods, stress, chronic pain and chronic illnesses.”

NAMI’s 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise include:

1. Heal your mind and body with exercise
2. Improve your self-esteem with exercise
3. Exercise as a family
4. Get motivated
5. Change how you think about exercise
6. Overcome roadblocks
7. Get FITT — Physically and mentally
8. Implement your vision and flourish

Before running, stress would overtake my mind, making me have anxiety. I will admit, I have anxiety over somethings still, but while working on them, and implementing exercise and running into my life, I have been able to handle it better.

I workout to improve my mind, reduce stress, improve my mood, alleviate anxiety, tap into creativity, and inspire others. I often run or workout with my husband. We have even done vacations around races. I also love running with my dog Buffy, if it’s not too hot for her. Yoga has also been very beneficial to me, as one of my yoga instructors have said, it helps you zen.

The HuffPost published 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise, which includes:

1. Reduce Stress
2. Boost Happy Chemicals
3. Improve Self-Confidence
4. Enjoy The Great Outdoors
5. Prevent Cognitive Decline
6. Alleviate Anxiety
7. Boost Brainpower
8. Sharpen Memory
9. Help Control Addiction
10. Increase Relaxations
11. Get More Done
12. Tap Into Creativity
13. Inspire Others.

For what benefit do you focus on gaining from working out?

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Be sure to watch for updates from Highland-Clarksburg Hospital about its 3rd Annual Ugly Sweater Run in December 2018.

This year, Highland-Clarksburg Hospital (HCHI) is encouraging residents of WV to share their story and raise awareness of Mental Health Month with the hashtags #StigmaFreeWV and #MentalHealthMattersWV.

Assets are available on our website at https://highlandclarksburghospital.com/mentalhealth/ which includes profiles photos, cover photos, fact sheets and more. There is also a link to share your story, anonymously if you would like.

Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is a private, non-profit mental health hospital located in Clarksburg, WV. HCHI offers services for youth, adults, and forensic patients, all suffering from mental health problems.
In the following weeks in May, we will feature blog posts written by staff and therapists here at Highland-Clarksburg Hospital. Posts will include information about breaking the stigma, warning signs of a mental health condition, improving mental health with exercise, nutrition, and mental health, and the top diagnosed mental illnesses.

For more information about Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit HighlandClarksburgHospital.com or call 304-969-3100. Keep up-to-date with our activities and events by following our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HighlandClarksburgHospital

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Highland-Clarksburg Hospital (HCHI) is a private, non-profit hospital that is dedicated to providing the best care for persons with mental disorders in West Virginia, parts of Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It has established an integrated system of high-quality behavioral health services, including mental health treatment services for Children, Adolescents’ and Forensic patients. Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Please note, not everyone can workout due to other health conditions, be sure to have a doctor’s approval.