Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), often called “Seasonal Depression,” is a type of depression that occurs almost entirely in the winter months. Although it is a psychological disorder, studies do seem to show that it is linked directly to earlier nightfall and more time spent indoors (away from natural light) during the colder winter season.
This link is so strong that “light therapy,” where a person exposes themselves to artificial light, can reduce the symptoms of seasonal depression. As a psychological disorder, it is still recommended that a person seek out mental health treatment, because the symptoms of depression can linger in their own way, but there is no denying that seasonal depression and winter are strongly interlinked.
However, just because there is a link between the two conditions does not mean that a person’s seasonal affective disorder is entirely related to darkness and cold weather. Many people that struggle with SAD also find that there are other mental health issues occurring during this time that are also playing a role.
Why Might Someone Feel Depression in Winter?
Winter, for many reasons, is a season when people may be more at risk for experiencing depression. Seasonal affective disorder is very likely to play a role, but there are other issues during this time as well that may affect a person’s mental health. For example:
Family trauma is more likely to arise during this time. Thanksgiving, Christmas/Channukah, and New Years are holidays where many people get together with family and friends – sometimes after not seeing them for an entire year. This is a time when those that have unresolved family issues can experience depression as a result.
The holidays are often a very busy time. Many people find themselves overwhelmed by holiday planning, or the cost associated with gift giving, or any of the many other needs that are specifically associated with the holidays. It is not uncommon to find this time very stressful, which would cause depression to occur more often during this time.
College students often have finals, and children have busy schedules with very limited vacation time. We are months away from summer, which can often serve as a reset, so winter months are a time when the stresses of a busy life become more prominent.
Many of us find that our exercise levels decrease in the winter. We spend less time outside and going on walks. We may overeat (possibly due to the holidays) or see our friends less knowing that it is cold and most of our spring to fall activities are closed. These can all lead to issues related to depression.
Some people also find that they feel more alone during the holiday season, when others are spending time with family. These are all potential contributors to depressive symptoms that appear to arise in winter.
Depression, as a condition, also changes how you feel about events, people, and other things in your life. A person with seasonal affective disorder may then be more likely to experience additional depression related to past family traumas (for example) in a way that does not occur during summer. This means that the cause of a person’s winter blues may be multifaceted, and not limited to just winter-related weather.
Seeking a Therapist for Better Mental Health
There are many reasons that a person may experience poor mental health in the winter. Seasonal depression is likely to be the primary cause, but what creates those feelings of depression may be more than just lack of light alone. If you often feel like you struggle in winter, contact Flourish Psychology today for mental health support.
It’s difficult to describe a panic attack to someone that has never experienced one before. While it’s true they’re a form of anxiety, they are also immensely physical. During a panic attack, a person may experience chest pains, weakness, lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat – experiences that are so intense, they become their own fear.
While panic attacks may be anxiety related, it’s the physical symptoms that typically cause the most distress. A person with panic attacks often ends up fearing those very same physical symptoms, which in turn leads to more frequent and more difficult attacks.
Reducing the Severity of Attacks to Reduce the Fear of Panic
Panic attacks and panic disorder require a multifaceted approach to treatment, one that often involves therapy, lifestyle changes, and beyond. But it all starts with finding ways to reduce the severity of the attacks. The reason this is so important is because severe attacks:
Cause more fear, which increases the frequency and severity of the attacks.
Cause you more pain and discomfort, as the panic attacks get stronger.
Cause you to change your life in order to avoid panic attacks.
It’s this process that causes many people to develop other conditions like depression and agoraphobia. It’s also why panic attacks often get worse long before they get better. In fact, the less people fear the panic attack (because it is less severe, and thus more manageable), the more likely they are to take back control over their anxiety and have fewer panic attacks in the future.
So, if you can reduce the severity of the attacks, then you can also make it easier for yourself to take additional steps.
Addressing the anxiety of a panic attack is complicated. It’s why so many people choose to work with an anxiety therapist – someone that they can talk to in order to learn how to reduce and prevent anxiety. But what you can sometimes prevent is the severity of the symptoms. You can do this by:
Breathing Slower – Many of the worst panic attack symptoms come from hyperventilation. When a person breathes too fast and/or too shallow, they breathe out CO2 faster than they can make it. Hyperventilation also creates an irony – it makes you feel like you’re not getting enough air, causing you to breathe faster, yawn, or do other things to take in more air, thus making hyperventilation worse.
Talking it Out – If you have someone in your life near you that you trust, talk through your panic attacks with them. When we have panic attacks, we often go “inside of our own heads.” Talking your symptoms to someone near you while you have them decreases some of the fear, especially if it causes you health anxiety, and also helps take you out of your own mind by sharing those thoughts in public.
Engaging a Distraction – It can be very difficult to distract yourself during a panic attack, but every little bit can help. If you go for a walk, for example, the sights, sounds, and smells can potentially give you some light distractions that can help alleviate some of the symptoms.
We’ve created a bit of a reminder panic attack reminder checklist that you can keep with you to help you through the attacks. You can download and print the attachment here:
Panic attacks and their symptoms can manifest differently for every person, so we want to make it clear that you should discuss your specific symptoms with your therapist and work through the different causes, patterns, and more. You may find that some of the strategies may not work for you, or you need far more intentional interventions with a therapist than these provide.
Nevertheless, we hope that this checklist may be of help. If you’d like to inquire about an anxiety treatment, please contact Flourish Psychology, today.
Pain is a natural and expected part of life. We will all experience pain at some point or another, as our body gets scratches, bruises, aches, pains, along with issues related to health and aging.
Pain, defined as a physical discomfort caused by an event, injury, or illness, normally serves a protective purpose. It is a signal that you should stop doing whatever is currently resulting in that pain and prevent any further harm to your mind or body. That is what pain is meant to communicate.
However, when pain persists over an extended period of time, it may be what’s known as “Chronic Pain.” Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 6 months. Sometimes, that pain is constant, other times it comes and goes, but the pain is persistent in its location(s) and causes. While chronic pain may also be a signal something is wrong, it may also be an issue that cannot be easily addressed – for example, an internal issue related to aging or injury that doctors may or may not be able to treat.
Chronic pain can require consistent medical attention, and while it can continue to cause physical harm, it can also contribute to a significant amount of mental harm as well.
Can Chronic Pain Affect My Mental Health?
All pain is difficult. But chronic pain can start to affect our mental health. The persistent inability to stop the pain can lead to challenges that affect our emotions, our ability to cope with other stresses, and more. The link between chronic pain and mental health is a well-studied one, and there is a lot that we can learn about how chronic pain affects our mental health over time:
Depression and Anxiety – Besides chronic pain creating a constant uncomfortable state, it can also cause a considerable amount of undue stress. This stress can significantly impact your mood, and result in abnormal chemical reactions if that pain is not managed. These hormones and neurochemicals can bring about onset anxiety symptoms or lead to eventual bouts with depression. This can make it that much harder to live with chronic pain in the first place. These sorts of mental health conditions unfortunately can form a cycle with chronic pain, as the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain can reinforce each other over time.
Inability to Concentrate on Responsibilities – When it comes to concentration, even a small injury can make it incredibly difficult to focus on one task at a time. When struggling with severe chronic pain, focusing on individual moments can become next to impossible. The effect chronic pain can have on our attention to our responsibilities is also quite severe. Work, family, friends, and other parts of life become that much harder to manage when we are struggling to concentrate on anything other than the pain that we are in. These experiences can then make it more difficult for us to be productive or connected with those around us, which in turn can lead to some of the other mental conditions that we have already discussed.
Prone to Pain Relief Addictions – The relationship between chronic pain and addiction is also a cause for concern. When you are in constant pain, relief of any form can become a desired option. Addictive painkillers, such as opioids, can be abused when a person relies on them to address chronic pain.
Because of the relationship between chronic pain and mental health, it is often not enough to treat only a person’s chronic pain. Often, a person needs to address their mental and emotional health as well.
Therapy for Chronic Pain-Related Mental Health Issues
Psychotherapy can be effective at treating your mental health, and can complement any chronic pain treatments that you receive from a doctor. If you feel like you might benefit from therapy to address depression, anxiety, and other conditions related to chronic pain, please contact Flourish Psychology, today.
The lifestyle of celebrities may seem glamorous. But, behind the scenes, many celebrities struggle with the same mental troubles that others do. As a therapist that works with many celebrity and high profile clients, the anxiety, depression, and other struggles that celebrities face is often very similar to the rest of the population.
However, their presence in the public spotlight can not only compound issues or create unnatural relationships with mental health, it can also rob them of their ability to communicate their mental struggles or victories with others. This means that many of those in the public eye often struggle to address their mental health, while also finding themselves under intense pressure to continue performing as though they are not struggling.
Are Celebrity Therapy Needs Unique?
Every person of any age goes through struggles at times, and – when they need a bit of extra help – deserves to have someone by their side they can trust to help them through their own mental process of healing. This means that regardless of someone’s reputation or status in our society, confidentiality and discretion should still be offered to them regardless of their issues
Therapy for a celebrity is largely the same as therapy for anyone else. It involves solutions like CBT, DBT, and other approaches that are known to support a person’s mental health and wellbeing. These are extensively researched solutions, and that is why it is so important to make sure that we utilize these approaches.
However, as therapists for high profile clients, we also have to be aware of unique needs that may arise. Celebrities often deal with specific mental health struggles as well. Although they are not completely unique to those who would be considered famous, it is still important to have an understanding of these needs. Some of those struggles include:
Lifestyles of Constant and Intense Activity – The life of a celebrity can be intense. Whether it is running to interviews, projects, traveling, or more projects, celebrities often don’t have time to stop. A big part of counseling a celebrity is making sure that they are taking the time to manage their own mental health despite the expectations that culture is putting on them.
Scrutiny into Their Marriage or Relationship Status – Private romantic relationships rarely exists for celebrities. Who they are dating, who they are married to, and how that relationship is going is often placed under incredible scrutiny by many people who have never met the celebrity in question. This form of a parasocial relationship is one that can damage a legitimate marriage or family, and therapists have to be able to walk a celebrity through that process of emotional management.
Emotional Management of Negative and Critical Comments – Most people spend their lives wondering what other people think about them, while celebrities hear about these opinions every day and are forced to confront their feelings about those comments. It is very easy to learn what your reputation is if you are celebrity, as social media comments are right there at the press of a button. Being able to manage the potential damage that society can do to a celebrity is one of the primary challenges of a celebrity therapist.
Limited Time for Personal Growth – Because of their busy schedules, celebrities often have very little time to focus on themselves despite their personal life seemingly being on display at all times. That is why a celebrity therapist can often have pressure put on them to consistently create effective therapy sessions. Limited time means limited treatment, and many of the issues that celebrities need healing for can take significant time to work through.
Celebrity treatment may be similar to how we would treat anyone else’s mental health needs. But the issues that arise can be unique and different. That is why it is often helpful to work with a therapist that understands these unique needs. Contact Flourish Psychology to learn more. We are licensed in multiple states.
We’d like to believe that who we are now is based only on our personalities and current thoughts/life experiences. But a lot of who we are now – how we think, how we feel, and how we process the world – is based on our childhood. Not just our childhood, in fact, but our childhood traumas, which can shape us in ways that we may never realize.
How Our Childhood Traumas Affects Our Emotions and Feelings as an Adult
Research into childhood trauma shows that those that have experienced traumas in their youth are prone to many different long term emotional and psychological challenges, including:
Increased Risk Of Developing Mental Health Disorders
Not all mental health disorders are related to childhood trauma. But that doesn’t mean there is no effect. Many of those that experienced childhood trauma also show adult mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Difficulty Forming And Maintaining Healthy Relationships
Childhood trauma appears to have an effect on the relationships of others, including attachment styles, how to navigate relationships and marriage, how to respond to conflict, and more.
Higher Likelihood Of Engaging In Self-Destructive Behaviors
Substance abuse, sex addiction, and risk-taking behaviors are all more common in those that experienced childhood trauma. A person that experiences these self-destructive behaviors also may or may not be aware that they are linked to their childhood experiences.
Impaired Emotional Regulation/Coping Skills
We learn how to cope with stress and anxiety when we’re young. So, when we experience childhood trauma, we may not develop the necessary coping skills and emotional regulation techniques that we need to manage how we feel and cope with what life throws our way.
Finally, those that experienced childhood trauma may be more prone to low self-esteem and low feelings of self-worth, affecting their ability to feel comfortable and confident with themselves and others.
Addressing Past Traumas, Today
There is a myth, related to a specific type of therapy from Freud, that psychologists and therapists focus solely on your past, your relationship with your parents, etc. That is not the case. Much of therapy is actually focused on the present, sometimes exclusively. Your mental health isn’t just about your past, and sometimes the way you feel is related to things that are happening now – or for no apparent reason at all.
But that doesn’t mean that the past is not worth exploring. There are many situations where your experiences as a child do affect you as an adult and, when that is the case, it is worth determining how your trauma may be affecting you and what we can do to help you fix it.
For more information about trauma therapy in NYC, contact Flourish Psychology, today.
Within the mental health world, we tend to broaden how we talk about treatments. We refer to treatments using categories, like “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (CBT), when really, there are many specific actions, activities, and treatment styles within these different treatments.
For example, one component of CBT is known as “behavioral activation.” It can be used as part of a treatment for many mental health conditions and is a core component of CBT treatment for depression. We use it often for mold to moderate depression symptoms here at Flourish Psychology in Brooklyn – though it is important to note that it is frequently combined with other components of CBT, along with non-CBT therapies depending on the patient.
What is Behavioral Activation?
Behavioral activation is a term that refers to helping individuals overcome depression by increasing their engagement in rewarding and fulfilling activities. It recognizes that depression often leads to withdrawal, avoidance, and a decrease in pleasurable and meaningful activities, which can further perpetuate the cycle of depression. The goal of behavioral activation is to help individuals gradually increase their activity levels and reconnect with positive experiences.
Techniques in Behavioral Activation
Even within behavioral activation, there are specific techniques that therapists may use and implement. Some of these are structured, and will be a part of every treatment. Others may be mentioned or discussed in therapy based on the feedback and information provided by the patient. These include:
Activity Monitoring – The therapist and individual work together to identify activities that the individual used to enjoy or find fulfilling but has stopped engaging in due to depression. They may keep a record of daily activities, including the type of activity, the duration, and the level of pleasure or mastery experienced during each activity.
Activity Scheduling – Based on the activity monitoring, the therapist and individual collaboratively develop a structured schedule of activities that includes both enjoyable and necessary tasks. The schedule is designed to gradually increase the person’s engagement in pleasurable activities and restore a sense of accomplishment.
Behavioral Experiments – The therapist and individual may design behavioral experiments to test the individual’s beliefs or assumptions about certain activities. For example, if the person believes that they won’t enjoy going for a walk, they might be encouraged to try it out and examine their actual experience. This helps challenge negative expectations and promotes the discovery of new sources of pleasure or mastery.
Breaking Tasks into Smaller Steps – For individuals who find it challenging to initiate or complete tasks due to feeling overwhelmed, the therapist may help them break down activities into smaller, more manageable steps. This makes the tasks seem less daunting and increases the likelihood of engagement.
Graded Task Assignment – Tasks are assigned in a step-by-step manner, gradually increasing in difficulty or complexity. This approach allows individuals to experience a sense of mastery and build confidence as they successfully complete increasingly challenging activities.
Problem-Solving – If barriers or obstacles arise during activity engagement, the therapist assists the individual in problem-solving and finding solutions to overcome those challenges. This fosters adaptive coping skills and resilience.
By gradually increasing engagement in rewarding activities, behavioral activation aims to counteract the negative reinforcement cycle of depression. It helps individuals experience positive emotions, regain a sense of accomplishment, and improve overall mood and functioning.
CBT and Behavioral Activation as Treatment for Depression
Behavioral activation is one of many effective ways to start helping those with depression regain their quality of life and promote a healthier mindset. It is very effective, but like other treatments, it is not typically provided on its own. It is combined with other components of CBT, such as cognitive restructuring, and may also be combined with treatments outside of CBT depending on the individual and the therapist.
Whether you and your therapist choose to pursue behavioral activation, or use a different strategy, it is helpful to recognize that CBT is multifaceted and complex. We, as therapists, may talk about CBT as though it is one strategy performed one way, but within it are many different approaches that can all help those with depression – and other mental health conditions – find relief from their symptoms.
Learn more or get started with CBT for depression by contacting Flourish Psychology in NYC, today.