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Mechanisms that Cause Memory Loss in Those With Panic Attacks

Mechanisms that Cause Memory Loss in Those With Panic Attacks

Experiencing a panic attack can be an intensely overwhelming and distressing event. While panic attacks are psychological events that can often be addressed with therapy, the effect they have on the body can not only feel very physical, but actually have physiological and psychological consequences beyond the attack itself.

One example is memory loss. Though severe memory loss is rare, partial memory loss is a common issue for those with panic attacks, from basic forgetfulness to missing or inaccessible memories.

What Causes Memory Loss?

There are actually several mechanisms for memory loss in those that struggle with panic attacks, increasing the risk in those that struggle with them. These include the following.

Acute Stress Response and Memory Function

The body’s acute stress response, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response, plays a significant role in the onset of a panic attack. This response involves a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones, such as cortisol, which prepare the body to face an immediate threat. While this response is essential for survival, it can adversely affect brain regions involved in memory processing, such as the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

  • Hippocampal Function – The hippocampus is crucial for forming new memories and retrieving existing ones. High levels of cortisol, released during a panic attack, can impair hippocampal function, leading to difficulties in forming new memories and retrieving existing ones.
  • Prefrontal Cortex Function – The prefrontal cortex is involved in working memory and executive functions. During a panic attack, the overwhelming stress can disrupt the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, leading to issues with attention, decision-making, and memory retrieval.

In theory, those that experience more severe or more frequent panic attacks could also be more at risk for these issues.

Emotional Overload and Memory Encoding

Panic attacks are characterized by intense emotional experiences, including fear, anxiety, and a sense of impending doom. The emotional overload can interfere with the process of memory encoding, which is the initial step in creating new memories.

  • Attentional Narrowing – During a panic attack, the individual’s focus narrows to the source of threat or discomfort, leading to a phenomenon known as attentional narrowing. This focus shift can result in a lack of attention to other details and experiences, making it difficult to encode these into memory.
  • Emotional Hijacking – The amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing, becomes hyperactive during a panic attack. This hyperactivity can “hijack” cognitive resources needed for memory encoding, leading to gaps in memory for events occurring during or around the time of the attack.

When someone struggles with a panic attack, their thoughts, feelings, and more are all focused on the experience of the panic attack and its aftermath. While some people may still be able to function and pay some attention to the world around them, that attention may not be enough to encode into memory.

Sleep Disruption and Memory Consolidation

Quality sleep is vital for memory consolidation, the process by which short-term memories are stabilized into long-term storage. Panic attacks, especially those occurring at night, can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insufficient REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, where significant memory consolidation occurs.

  • Sleep Architecture Changes – Panic attacks can alter the architecture of sleep, reducing the duration and quality of REM sleep. This disruption can impair the consolidation of memories formed during the day, leading to difficulties in recalling these memories later.
  • Anxiety and Rumination – The anxiety and rumination that often follow a panic attack can further interfere with sleep quality, compounding the effects on memory consolidation. The cyclical nature of anxiety, sleep disruption, and memory impairment can create a challenging pattern to break.

The mechanisms contributing to memory loss in individuals experiencing panic attacks are multifaceted, involving acute stress responses, emotional overload, and sleep disruption. These factors can impair memory encoding, consolidation, and retrieval, leading to gaps in memory and difficulties in recalling events related to or occurring during a panic attack.

However, it should be noted that memory loss of any kind could also be due to other factors. It is important to always seek out advice from specialists to determine the cause of any memory loss, and what the best approach is to address it. For help with anxiety and panic attacks, please reach out to Flourish Psychology, today.

Seasonal Depression in NYC – How Our Darkness and Cold Create a Mood

Seasonal Depression in NYC – How Our Darkness and Cold Create a Mood

Every year, right around this time, thousands of people in NYC struggle with depression that did not have depression only a few months ago. Sometimes, this depression is caused by recent life experiences. But other times, it’s caused by a condition known as “seasonal affective disorder,” often referred to in shorthand as “Seasonal Depression.”

Seasonal depression is caused by two distinct factors that often work together:

  • Low Light Exposure – Light is one of the ways our brain “wakes up” and positively processes the world. It needs light in order to create good feeling neurotransmitters and hormones.
  • Stresses and Traumas – The holiday season is a time when there are family stresses, personal traumas, and more that can make it more difficult to cope.

Seasonal depression can affect anyone, anywhere, during the colder winter months. But it is especially a challenge here in New York City, and it’s important for those in the region to understand why so that they can identify the issues as they arise and make the necessary steps to address them.

How Could NYC Be at Greater Risk of Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal affective disorder is primarily caused by a lack of access to sunlight. Though this is not the only cause – nor the only one that affects people in New York City, which we’ll get to in a moment – it is one that specifically affects people here more so than some other areas of the country.

  • Skyscrapers – Winter means that the days grow shorter, which means there is less light after 4pm. Most of us are working during the only sunny hours. But what can make that worse is that whatever light there is can sometimes be blocked by the large buildings and skyscrapers in New York. It means that we aren’t even seeing as much light as other people are during the day.
  • Cold – NYC gets extremely cold. Cold keeps people indoors, which in turn means less light exposure. Cold is not unique to this region, but there are certainly some areas of the country – especially down south and in California – that experience more warmth than we do which makes it a bit easier to be outside.
  • Lack of Green Areas – Even if someone wanted to be outside in the colder weather, it’s harder here, because there aren’t many green areas to explore. Outside of Central Park, most of the activities in New York City take place indoors, which means that many are already receiving less light simply because of the activities available.

Winter is also rainy season, which can sometimes mean more clouds and even less lighting. Winter, throughout the entire country, means that there is less light and thus an increased risk of seasonal affective disorder, but here in NYC, that risk is even greater.

Other Uniquely New York City Factors for Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression’s link to light is the primary reason we are at greater risk for issues here in New York City. But it is not the only reason. There are other factors that are more common in New York than other places, including:

  • Financial Stress – NYC is expensive. Many people, even those with good incomes, are doing their best to get by. Gift buying and hosting cost money, increasing the likelihood of financial stress.
  • Shopping – As you look for gifts, you may also notice that – in our heavily populated city – shopping is harder. There are more people to push through. Introverts that may struggle in groups can find this season very difficult.
  • Limited Stress Relief Time – We all know how busy and active NYC is, more so than other cities in the United States. Because the holidays can be a stressful time, many of us need to find time to unwind. But here in New York, it can be hard to find that time, which means you have fewer opportunities to refresh.

These are only some of the reasons that seasonal affective disorder can be more difficult in NYC.

Treatment for Seasonal Depression in NYC from Flourish Psychology

Flourish Psychology is committed to helping those with seasonal depression – and those that are struggling to manage their day to day life – find relief and value in themselves. We are a boutique private practice that offers several distinctive treatments for season depression through therapy and other mental health approaches. If you would like to learn more, or you feel like you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, contact Flourish Psychology, today.

Examples of Situations Where Seasonal Depression is NOT Caused by Light or Cold

Examples of Situations Where Seasonal Depression is NOT Caused by Light or Cold

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.

Panic Attack Checklist to Help Relieve Symptoms

Panic Attack Checklist to Help Relieve Symptoms

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.

Chronic Pain’s Relationship with Our Mental Health

Chronic Pain’s Relationship with Our Mental Health

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.

Do Celebrities Get Different Therapy Than Everyone Else?

Do Celebrities Get Different Therapy Than Everyone Else?

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.

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