Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April is Autism Awareness Month


April is Autism Awareness Month. 
Every day, the millions people living with autism and their families face unique and daunting challenges that many of us will never fully appreciate. During National Autism Awareness Month, we renew our commitment to better understand autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and improve the lives of individuals living with it.
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with ASD. This latest estimate makes it clear that autism affects the lives of millions of Americans – our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members.
ASD is a developmental disability characterized, in varying degrees, by persistent difficulties in social communication and restrictive and repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities. We know that early screening and intervention at younger ages helps children get the most effective treatments earlier in life.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Is It Teen Angst or Is It Depression?




Depression is the most common mental illness among adolescents. Research tells us that 11% of teenagers have a diagnosable depressive disorder, but that only 1 in 5 teenagers get the help they need. So, how do parents know if their child is just going through teenage angst or dealing with a serious mental illness? 

While moodiness, irritability and isolation are often hallmarks of teenage growing pains, it can be hard to realize where the line begins for mood disorders. The rule of thumb when dealing with depression is to examine three areas in a teen’s life to gauge what’s truly going on.  

Symptoms of Depression in Teenagers
Some of the following can be considered behaviors of a teen moving through the angst of adolescence, other symptoms are indicative of a more serious issue going on.  The first thing is for parents to become familiar with these symptoms.
Anger, hostility, outbursts
Argumentativeness
Changes in eating and sleeping – either too much or too little
Difficulty concentrating
Fatigue or lack of energy
Feelings of guilt or underserving of love
Giving things away
Grooming issues
Helplessness
Hopelessness
Irritability
Isolation
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Loss of interest in school work and/or activities
Low self-esteem
Minimizing or masking symptoms
Missing school
Negative thinking
Not enjoying things that used to bring happiness
Physical aches and pains
Poor grades
Reliance on alcohol or drugs to self-medicate
Retreating kinds of behaviors
Restlessness
Risk-taking behavior
Sadness
Self-harming behaviors
Sensitive to criticism
Spending a lot of time alone
Thoughts of death or suicide
Withdrawal from friends and family

Areas of Concern

The next thing parents need to do is look at several aspects in their child’s life. The following three areas are what clinicians look at when diagnosing. They involve the Intensity of feelings and behaviors; the Duration of these experiences and finally the Domains in which they take place.
  1. Intensity: This involves the kind of thoughts and feelings a teenager is experiencing. Do they come and go – meaning they’re here one day and gone the next?  Are they mild, but chronic in their presentation? Are they moderate, interfering with school, home and social experiences? Are they so disruptive that you teen can’t get out of bed, is self-harming or suicidal thinking is being expressed? Measuring the intensity will help determine if the issues are a passing mood or symptoms of a mood disorder.
  2. Duration. This looks at the timeline of experiences. Does the moodiness present suddenly and is gone moments later? Is it followed by many good days in a row? Or is it more chronic, presenting for longer periods of time without any breaks? If the duration of symptoms is two weeks or longer, there is likely a depressive disorder operating. 
  3. Domains. Teen angst tends to get the best of us parents and teachers, but adolescents can reel it in with their friends or with others. Psychological disorders, however, are often pervasive, meaning they tend to present in nearly all situations and circumstances and are not controlled by will. So, a depressed teenager will likely have difficulties functioning in school, at home, with peers, in social events as well as with their own sense of self.  
What to Do Next 

If you think your child is struggling with more than the angst of the teen years, take your concerns immediately to your pediatrician or a mental health professional. Early diagnosis and treatment of depression lead to higher rates of recovery.  


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

12 Tips to Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome


Valentine’s Day is not always a candy coated day of love and romance. For many who've lost a loved one, suffered a break up or are on the brink of separation or divorce, this day is anything but sweet. 

Learning about Broken Heart Syndrome can help you heal from your love trauma and make it through emotional calendar events like this.

Facts about Broken Heart Syndrome

Profound emotional sadness doesn't just weigh heavy on your mind. It significantly impacts your body. The depths of being heart-broken lowers your immune system, increases blood pressure and heart rate and causes significant muscle weakness, just to name a few. Stress from heartbreak grief can flood the body with hormones, specifically Cortisol, which causes that heavy-achy-feeling you get in your chest area. The heartache that comes from lost love can increase the likelihood of a heart attack. In fact, a recent study showed that a person who has a tendency to be depressed and has recently suffered a love trauma was 5 times more likely to die than a person with depression alone or a heart condition alone.

The actual medical term for this deeply emotional mind/body experience is called Stress Cardiomyopathy also known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. The colloquial term: "A broken heart." And women are ten times more likely to suffer from Broken Heart Syndrome than men.

12 Tips for preventing “Broken Heart Syndrome”

  1. Take control. Prepare yourself for the holiday crush that comes from television, radio, online and in print. Limit your exposure to such things if the overblown seasonal attention becomes too much.
  2. Realize that you’re not alone in feeling lonely, letdown or unhappy during this time. Many are quietly suffering just like you.
  3. Don't hold in your emotional pain. Studies show that expressing emotions greatly reduces the body's stress response.
  4. Don't put a time limit on your grief. And don't let others set one for you either. Your healing time for this love trauma is uniquely yours.
  5. Make sure you tend to your physical needs. Softness, warmth and touch can be healing. Feed your other senses too – music, scents, beauty - don’t forget to taste the world.
  6. Don't ignore chronic aches or pains. Check in with your physician to make sure that you’re medically fit.
  7. Make sure you eat well, choosing healthy foods to keep you nourished during difficult times.
  8. Keep a routine sleep schedule. If you require medication to help you with sleeping, or to regulate moods or for cardiac management, don't feel ashamed. You're going through a significantly stressful time.
  9. A broken heart leaves many people feeling stunned and stuck. Move. Get out of bed. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Feel the sun on your face.
  10. If you feel fragile, limit your exposure to emotionally driven holiday events. That doesn't mean you should avoid people completely. Decide what social connections will give you support, and which ones may be too taxing.
  11. Don't forget your spiritual side. Prayer, even meditation, has been shown to comfort a broken heart.
  12. Above all, remember: A broken heart doesn’t make you unlovable. At this moment in time, you are healing. But remind yourself to be open when love presents itself again. 


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

5 Antidepressant Medication Myths

1. Antidepressants are “addictive”.

False. Antidepressants are not addictive in the way that most people would use the word. You don’t “crave” your antidepressant. However, the medicine that gets introduced to your central nervous system becomes something your body recognizes each day. So stopping medication without the guidance from a professional can cause your body to react to the loss of these neurotransmitters. This experience, called discontinuation syndrome, can be avoided completely when proper dosage-stopping is monitored.


2. Antidepressants are “happy pills.”


False. Antidepressants are not "uppers." Unlike drugs like speed or ecstasy which improve the mood of many, antidepressants only improve the mood of children or adults with a mood disorder. So, if someone who isn't depressed takes antidepressants, the only change they'll notice will be possible side effects...which, really, are not very happy inducing.


3. Antidepressants are a "quick fix" and don't really cure depression.

False. One thing antidepressants surely aren’t is quick. Most take a minimum of four to six weeks to work. And they are not meant to "fix" your depression, per se. Most people with depression need to address psychological, social and environmental issues that contribute to their depression. Treatment for depression is a two-step process: 1) Antidepressants change brain chemistry 2) As mood improves, healthier lifestyle choices and problem solving occurs.


4. Antidepressants will change your personality.


False. Antidepressants normalize the mood ranges of children and adults who have a mood disorder. Who you are doesn’t change, so your personality stays intact.


5. Once you start taking antidepressants, you're on them for the rest of your life.


False. For the majority of people, this is not true. Many who take antidepressant medication will stop their prescription when remission from depression occurs. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

January is National Mentoring Month




National Mentoring Month focuses attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us—individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits—can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes for our young people.


There are few relationships in life that are more influential than those between a mentor and a young person. I know this from both sides of the coin. I've had many mentors in my life growing up. A person who took a unique interest in me, fostered my growth and guided me onward.

I've also been a mentor to young children and young adults. The experience has been so rewarding and meaningful to me. In fact, research shows that mentoring is an extraordinary experience for all involved.

Be mentor.

Change a life.

And transform your own.