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What are Emotions, Feelings, and Facts?

 Feelings vs FactsWhen we experience strong, negative emotions and feelings, it is difficult, if not impossible to remain objective. Our mind can become overwhelmed with persistent, negative thoughts that distort our perception of what is real and what is not.

When this happens, our feelings become fact to us.

But feelings are not facts.

This is not to say that our emotions and feelings are not real, in and of themselves. They are quite normal and natural. But that doesn’t always mean they are serving us well.

The Difference Between Emotions and Feelings

Some of the problem in dealing with our emotions and feelings stems from the fact that we equate the two. This is because they are interrelated, so much so that it is often difficult to distinguish what we are experiencing: an emotional reaction, or a feeling.

It might be helpful to examine the two experiences as they are currently defined in the field of psychology.

What are Emotions?

Emotions are instinctual, physical sensations triggered by the amygdala (our reptilian brain) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex VPC (the area linking our hippocampus and frontal cortex). 

Our amygdala is designed to scan our environment for potential threats, to protect us. It triggers base emotions in our body to prepare us to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. We experience these physical sensations as fear, anger, sadness, or happiness.

These are largely physical, though there is of course an element of ‘mental’ activity, since these emotions are triggered by part of the brain, but we are rarely aware of the process.

Our emotions seem to pop up out of nowhere, unannounced. But they don’t actually come from nowhere; they are subconscious reactions to our environment, or our perceived environment. This means that our thoughts can trigger the amygdala to react, even if there is no actual threat. 

The amygdala cannot recognize the difference between an actual danger and a danger created by our feelings.

What Exactly are Feelings?

Feelings are interpretations of our emotions. We experience an emotion, then our ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VPC) interprets that emotion to give it meaning. 

The reason we know there’s a difference between emotions and feelings, is that people can respond to the same emotional sensation in very different ways. They interpret them differently.

Let’s imagine a common scenario.

Imagine two people in line to ride a rollercoaster. Person A has never ridden a rollercoaster before and has always had a fear of them. Their amygdala triggers an emotional response in the body (accelerated heart beat, lower blood flow to the extremities). 

Because of their underlying fear, their VPC interprets these physical experiences as fear. Fear is what they are feeling. It is their interpretation of their emotional reaction to the perceived threat of riding a rollercoaster.

Person B has ridden rollercoasters many times, or at least they have no preconceptions about the experience and generally like to take risks and try new things. 

Person B will experience the very same physical sensations as Person A, (accelerated heart beat, lower blood flow to the hands and feet). But Person B interprets these emotions or sensations in a very different way. Instead of feeling fear, they feel excitement. 

The physical sensations associated with fear and excitement are exactly the same. But the feelings of fear and excitement, interpretations of the emotions, are as different as night and day.

Person A might worry something catastrophic will happen on the rollercoaster. If their thoughts are not checked or interrupted, their unfounded fears will become a ‘fact’ in their mind. This false ‘fact’ may prevent them from the thrilling experience of riding a rollercoaster.

Person B sees the facts very differently. They are certain the ride will be exciting.

What are Facts?

Facts are measurements of objective reality. This means they can be corroborated with physical evidence. In the case of our little story, the rollercoaster is a fact. Person A and Person B are facts. They exist in the physical world. We can say that their emotions are fact. Both of them are experiencing, in this case, the same physical sensations. These physical reactions can be measured with scientific instruments. 

Feelings are real, in the sense that we all have them. They have a certain degree of reality, of factual basis. But the content of those feelings may be very far from factual, indeed.

Person A, whose feelings were unchecked, is now convinced something bad will happen. Even though nothing has yet happened, their feelings have become a kind of fact, in their mind. But it isn’t a fact. Their feeling of fear, projected into the future, cannot be measured. It is an interpretation of their emotional reaction to the situation.

If Person A gives into their feelings, they will miss out on an exciting experience. Not the end of the world, of course.

Missing out on riding a rollercoaster might not affect their life in any major way, but if they always give into their feelings of fear, it can adversely affect their life in profound ways. 

They may miss out on loving relationships, career goals, and life-enriching experiences. Their ‘facts,’ which are really only feelings, may stop them from truly living the life they could have. 

How Can We Distinguish Feelings from Facts from Emotions?

In order to interrupt this process of emotion to feeling to false fact, which can then trigger the process all over again, we must first realize that this is what is happening in our mind and body.

Practice Awareness

If you’re reading this, then you are already on the right path. You have gained a degree of awareness of what is happening. That’s good!

The more you become aware of the process, as it happens, the more you can interrupt it when it does. It is like inoculating yourself against false facts in your mind. If you know your feelings aren’t facts, then when you feel them, you can stop yourself, and say, 

“Self, I’m feeling fear. Why is that? What emotion or physical sensations am I actually experiencing?”

Then notice the physical sensations in your body: where they are, what’s happening? Is your heart-rate up? Are your hands and feet colder? Are you experiencing the urge to run, fight back, freeze in place?

Then ask yourself, 

“Is there really a threat here? Is the threat a fact?” 

Flipping Feelings on Their Head

Maybe you’re afraid of flying and you had to get on a plane to go somewhere for work, or to see a family member? You experience the same reaction, and feel it as fear. 

But what if you caught yourself feeling fear, and then flipped it?

Here’s how to do that

Once you’re aware of what’s happening in your body, ask yourself,

“Why am I here?”

“I’m flying to see my mom.”

Then simply tell yourself, 

“I’m excited to go see my mom!” 

You’ve just replaced ‘fear’ with ‘excitement,’ because you gave your amygdala a reason for the physical sensations it generated in your body. 

Try this!

It isn’t easy in the beginning, because you have to consciously focus attention on things that are largely unconscious. It takes practice and time, but it’s well worth the effort. 

Reach Out to a Professional

Of course, some feelings are difficult to overcome on your own. Deep-seated fears and anxieties are hard to overcome. Our professional counselors at RDU Counseling for Change, have the experience and expertise to help you through this process. 

We offer individual, couple, and family therapy. If you live in the Wake County/RDU area, give us a call to set up an appointment. We also have Telehealth options!

Contact us today, and let us help you on the road to better mental health!

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Understanding Your Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn Reactions

Two boys fighting 

Your Brain and Fear

When faced with a potential threat, whether physical, psychological, or emotional, our brain is wired to react. 

Why? 

Because the deepest part of our brain, the amygdala (a.k.a., lizard brain)serves as a protector. Its sole purpose is to scan our environment for negative stimuli, or threats, to warn us to take action.

These reactions can be helpful, if and when the threat is immediate and real. But too often, especially in our modern world, we perceive situations as threatening when they aren’t. The amygdala has no ability to discriminate between real, immediate threats, and perceived threats.

For example, there’s a big difference between leaping out of the way of a speeding car in the street, and being terrified to cross the street forever. An overly active fear response leads to anxiety, and all the negative effects anxiety brings.

What Exactly are the Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn Reactions, and How do You Know You’re Experiencing Them?

 

Girl sitting on a suitcase like she is flying

When the amygdala senses a threat (real or perceived), it races signals to your hypothalamus, which in turn sends them to your autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS then triggers you to react in one or more of four ways, depending on which of the ANS systems are dominant in, at that moment. 

The sympathetic nervous system will trigger you to either fight the threat or flee from it.

The parasympathetic nervous system, if it is dominant, will trigger either a freeze or fawn reaction.

Let’s look at each of the four reactions to see what’s happening in the body and mind when they are triggered. It helps to understand how they feel in the body, because when they are triggered, there’s little we can do to stop them, other than bring awareness to the experience.

Reaction1: Fight

The fight reaction usually manifests itself via a common emotion: anger. Underlying all anger is fear, because anger allows us to act against the threat, to defeat it. It is a mobilizing fear in the direction of the threat.

Reaction 2: Flight 

The amygdala, when faced with a threat it believes we cannot defeat, will sometimes trigger us to run away from the situation: the flight reaction.

The physical symptoms of Fight and Flight

Both fight and flight feel similar in the body. 

You may experience an increase in your breathing and heart rate, and pale or flushed skin. Your hands and feet may become cold as the blood retreats to the major organs to enable you to fight or run. Your muscles tense up. 

Your pupils may dilate so you can take in more light. Your hearing may sharpen as well. Your ability to feel pain may be hampered.

Girl looking like she is freezing Reaction 3: Freeze

There are times when faced with a threat, we simply freeze in place, or hide. 

Why do we do this? Because in some situations it pays to be quiet and still, to let the threat slip past without seeing us. 

If you’re walking through the jungle and see a tiger, freezing might be the best option. Tigers are fast and very strong. It is unlikely you’d survive a fight or flight from a tiger. But you might go unnoticed if you froze in place behind a tree or bush.

In some situations, freezing might give us time to choose the best course of action. 

The physical symptoms of Freeze 

Your heart rate might fall. You will probably find it difficult to move. Some people find it hard to speak. Your hands and feet may be cold, and your breathing restricted. You may feel muscle tension. Your hearing may become sharper.

Psychologists have identified a fourth fear reaction: fawning.

Reaction 4: Fawn

If in the past, the first three reactions failed to protect us from a real threat, we may resort to a fourth option: fawning. 

To fawn is to appease the threatening party, in order to lessen the blow or the attack. 

We may agree with our attacker, play nice, do things to calm them down, or to give in to their demands, in order to protect ourselves from the full brunt of their attack, be that physical, verbal, or psychological. Fawning is at the root of the phenomenon known as People Pleasing.

Fawning is often the result of past trauma. It is common in people who suffer from PTSD due to mental, physical, and sexual abuse or assault. This is especially true in childhood, when fighting, running, or freezing in place were not viable options. It is also common among abused partners, who often feel they cannot escape for financial or emotional reasons.

The physical and psychological symptoms of Fawning

Fawning can trigger many of the same physical symptoms of the other three reactions. \One might also feel acute anxiety and fear, along with sadness, anger, and shock. They may experience denial and disbelief, or numbness and emptiness. They might have trouble sleeping and suffer from nightmares. 

Frequent headaches, body pains, or gastro-intestinal problems are common. As a result, they may lose appetite and experience low energy. Their mental and physical health can suffer, and they often find themselves relying on substances: alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

Some Coping Strategies for Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn

It is nearly impossible to control our natural, fearful reactions to real or perceived threats, but there are things you can do to regain control of your body and mind.

Practice Mindfulness 

It’s always helpful to bring awareness to our emotions.

As soon as you feel a fear reaction coming on, countdown from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… This helps to interrupt the reaction so you can respond, instead.

Then say to yourself, “This is just a reaction to a fear. Is this a real threat? Or do I simply think it is?” 

This simple realization is the key to deflating fear reactions and learning to respond to them. It will be difficult to do, at first, but with practice it really does help.

Find Safety

If you determine that it is a real, immediate threat, try to find a safe place, if you can. If not, reach out for help to a friend, family member, or your doctor or therapist. If you are being attacked, call out to anyone nearby. If you can, point at them and say, “Please help me!”

Breathe

Once you’re in a safe place, take deep, slow breaths and exhale slowly. This will slow down your heart rate and help you get a handle on your fear and anxiety. 

Reframe Your Fear 

In situations where you know the threat isn’t immediate, shift your fear to excitement. 

The physiological experiences of fear are nearly identical to those of excitement. The only difference is the ‘label’ or frame we put on those reactions: “I’m afraid,” or “I’m excited.” 

Instead of saying, “I’m afraid to confront my boss about a raise,” reframe it, “I’m so excited to talk with them about my value to the company!” 

Exercise

Physical activity is good for us in so many ways, even when dealing with fear. 

It:

  • Decreases stress hormones (adrenaline/cortisol)
  • Increases endorphins which make us feel better, mentally and physically
  • Helps to calm the mind
  • Leads to better sleep

 

For more information on Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn reactions, here are some resources:

Fight Flight or Freeze Facts

The Basic Facts for Fight Flight Freeze and Fawn

Responses of Fight Flight or Freeze 

Seek Professional Help

If you find these strategies difficult to implement, or you are still struggling with fear or anxiety, you should reach out to your doctor or therapist. 

If you live in the RDU/Wake County area, reach out to our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change. 

We specialize in individual, couples, and family therapy, and have in person and Telehealth options.

Contact us today and get on the road to better mental health!

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What are the Best Couples Counseling Methods?

Counseling for CouplesAre you and your partner struggling with communication?

Maybe there’s been infidelity?

Do you spend more time arguing than enjoying each other’s company?

Maybe you don’t feel very secure in your relationship?

It’s probably time to try Couples Counseling

Here at RDU Counseling for Change, we have the tools and training to help you through the rough patches. We will work with you and your partner to build a stronger, more loving relationship.

How do we do that?

We offer three different styles of therapies, which our counselors will help you choose and implement.

Here’s a little bit about each, to give you some idea of what to expect.

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) 

EFT is a popular option. It is founded upon the theory that one’s identity is intertwined with their emotions, and that those same emotions can aid the person in making decisions and individual choices.

Lack of awareness of your emotions, and subsequently trying to avoid them can be harmful, because our emotions can help guide us if we pay attention to them.

A healthy life of meaning can be found by understanding our emotions, not running from them.

What should you expect from an EFT session?

To develop a couple of important skills:

  1. Awareness: To gain awareness of your emotions (what they are and how they arise), and to accept them for what they are, instead of suppressing or avoiding them.
  2. Insight: You’ll learn to use your emotions as a guide to decision making, so you can avoid the negative effects they usually bring.

Each session may include work on the following:

  • Emotional awareness work
  • Acceptance and/or moderation of your emotions 
  • Articulating your emotions more clearly. What are you really feeling?
  • Elevated awareness of the many aspects of your emotions.
  • Being able to pinpoint your emotional reactions.

The therapy then focuses on what to do with your new found emotional awareness:

  • How to evaluate if the emotion you’re feeling is useful or not in a particular situation.
  • How to glean useful information from your emotions.
  • What are the triggers or sources of your unhelpful emotions.
  • How to transform emotions that are less than helpful.
  • Work to find alternative coping mechanisms to deal with those situations which trigger negative emotions.
  • Rewrite your internal dialogue so you can challenge negative emotions and thought patterns.

The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method, also known as the Sound Relationship House Theory, deals directly with relationships between people, especially couples.

In this method, the focus is upon the essential building blocks of a good, loving relationship.

You can expect to work on the following:

Constructing ‘Love Maps’

You’ll learn way more about your partner in this step. Their dreams, their fears, what makes them happy, and what makes them tick. What are they thinking when they aren’t talking?

Expressing Fondness and Admiration

The cure for contempt is respect and admiration. In this step, you’ll work with the counselor to strengthen these aspects of your relationship.

Learn to Turn Towards Your Partner, not Away

Instead of retreating in stressful moments, you’ll learn how to spot your partner’s unspoken cries for connection, so you can face your partner and respond to them.

Taking a Positive Perspective

You’ll learn how to employ a positive mindset to solving problems that might arise.

Managing Conflicts

We’ll delve into the difference between problems that can be solved versus naturally recurring problems which must be ‘managed.’ 

Achieving Life Dreams

You’ll learn how to have honest conversations about yours and your partner’s hopes, dreams, values, and beliefs.

Creating Shared Meaning

Gain insight into the key stories, visions, myths, and metaphors you both hold about your relationship.

Building Trust

One of the key components of every relationship is the belief that your partner is there to support your interests and well-being, not just their own. If trust has been damaged, then it must be repaired.

Commitment

In order to make a relationship work, in the long term, there must be a solid commitment to working on it, even when things go wrong. You must both commit to seeing the good in each other, and practice gratitude for one another to do this.

Family Systems Therapy

The third system we employ focuses on the family unit as a whole. Hence it is called Family Systems Therapy

The theory behind this is that the behavior of the individual must be understood within the context of the group.

It is important to understand each person’s place in the family system, which can be two people, or multiple.

What can you expect from family system therapy?

  • Each member (both partners, and possibly other family members) will be able to talk about difficult experiences and emotions in a safe space.
  • You’ll work to understand the other’s perspectives, experiences, and beliefs.
  • Strive to appreciate the other’s needs and wants.
  • Learn to build on the positive relationship strengths you already possess. 
  • Make positive changes to your relationship and your lives in general.

Our Counselors Are Here For You

Whether you have trouble communicating or have experienced a breach of trust, our counselors are here to help. 

We know you want to improve your relationship, but it’s often difficult to see a path forward through your pain. 

Because of this, couples often get stuck in their own perspectives and no longer view their partner favorably. 

We seek to shine a light on each partner’s experience so understanding, empathy, and forgiveness can take place. 

If you live in the RDU/Wake County area, set up an appointment today, so you can get started on your journey to a stronger relationship.

We also offer Telehealth Therapy, family therapy, individual counseling, and other mental health counseling.

Contact us today, and let’s get started!

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Specialization Series: ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderADHD and autism are two of the most common neurological disorders that afflict children. According to a national parent survey conducted in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. This means you have almost certainly heard of this chronic brain condition at least once. Although it is extremely common, many people do not understand what the term “ADHD” actually means or stands for. They just have a hazy idea that it is connected to hyperactivity and impaired concentration.

In this blog of our specialization series, we will discuss ADHD in detail, including what it means, common symptoms, and treatment options.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is an abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a common neurodevelopmental disorder in children that can result in symptoms such as distractibility, hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. It is also common for children with this neurological condition to feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or sad.

ADHD is more common in boys than girls and is typically diagnosed during the early years of schooling when a child exhibits the known symptoms. It also tends to present differently in boys than girls. Often times, girls go undiagnosed until middle or high school since. Though this neurological condition cannot be fully cured or prevented, recognizing its signs early in childhood might help children learn how to manage their symptoms and minimize the impact on their life. 

The symptoms of ADHD often take shape when the child is between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. Unfortunately, parents may not recognize the manifestations of this debilitating mental illness, or they erroneously associate them with disciplinary issues with their children — this is especially true when lack of attention is the primary symptom. As a result, diagnosis is prolonged, which can have severe consequences for the child’s academic and social life.

It is also important to keep in mind that ADHD symptoms are not always consistent. They can change over time. While hyperactivity-impulsivity is the most common symptom in young children, it is not the case for a school-aged child who may struggle with inattention. Other symptoms, such as fidgeting, may develop as a child grows older, but the primary symptoms may persist.

What are the causes of ADHD?

The primary causes of ADHD are unknown at this point, although researchers believe that genetics have a role in determining if a child will be diagnosed with this neurological condition. Other common causes of ADHD include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or craniocerebral trauma
  • Alcohol consumption or smoking during pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature (or preterm) birth 
  • Early exposure to hazardous substances, such as lead

What are the different types of ADHD?

ADHD is classified into three categories:

1. Predominantly Inattentive

Due to difficulty focusing on anything, a child with this presentation of ADHD finds it difficult to complete the assigned task. Such a child may struggle to follow instructions, get easily distracted, forget important details, or stay disorganized.

Some of the most common symptoms of the ‘predominantly inattentive subtype’ include:

  • Difficulty focusing when playing, reading, or even talking with someone
  • A tendency to miss subtleties and make sloppy mistakes in school
  • Not listening carefully due to a lack of attention
  • Difficulty in adhering to the rules
  • Difficulty in following a task’s sequence and completing it in an organized manner
  • Problems with time management and meeting deadlines
  • Being easily distracted by sudden, trivial thoughts
  • Forgetting daily chores 

2. Predominantly Hyperactive 

As the name suggests, a child with this presentation of ADHD is highly active — they fidget and talk a lot. Such a child might struggle to sit quietly for an extended period, for example, when they are doing their homework or even eating dinner. They have a difficult time restraining themselves.

Because they are hyperactive, they may continually run, jump, or climb and feel extremely restless. A hyperactive child is also impulsive and prone to make decisions without much regard for the consequences. The ‘predominantly hyperactive subtype’ is distinguished by behaviors such as speaking at inopportune times, disturbing and interrupting others, and failing to listen to instructions. Furthermore, hyperactive children are unable to delay gratification and are impatient to be rewarded for their efforts right away.

The quintessential habits of a person suffering from this type of ADHD include:

  • Leaving their seats when everyone is expected to be seated
  • Running at inappropriate times
  • Being unable to engage in activities quietly
  • Talking excessively 
  • Having difficulty in waiting for the turn

3. Combined Type

Simply put, combined ADHD is when a child exhibits signs of both the subtypes mentioned above of ADHD: inattention and hyperactivity.

What is the recommended treatment for ADHD?

A licensed psychologist should conduct a psychological evaluation on a child before they receive ADHD treatment and are sent to mental health therapy sessions. Once it has been determined that a child has this neurological disorder, they can receive therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two effective interventions for ADHD. While some ADHD patients use pharmaceutical drugs to improve their attention, some psychosocial interventions also can be effective in dealing with ADHD. 

DBT and CBT help children with ADHD by addressing troubling thoughts and behaviors. During the therapy sessions, the trained counselors teach patients several coping strategies to help them deal with unwelcome ideas and make positive behavioral adjustments. These strategies are intended to help the child become more organized and focused, as well as to help them navigate distractions and eliminate procrastination behaviors.

 

Cognitive Therapy ADHDCBT and DBT Sessions at RDU Counseling For Change

At RDU Counseling for Change, we offer individual, couples, and family therapy sessions for a wide variety of issues. If your child has ADHD, our RDU counselors are there to provide constant support and teach effective coping strategies. We also offer online therapy in Raleigh, NC. Your help is just a call away. Reach out to us today at (919) 713-0260 or write to us at .

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Specialization Series: Grief

Man sitting on bench Grieving over the lose of someoneGrief is a normal reaction to loss. It is an emotional pain you experience when something or someone you care about is taken away from you. Loss can be excruciatingly painful at times. You may feel a spectrum of unpleasant and unexpected feelings, such as shock or anger, as well as denial, remorse, and profound sadness. Grief can also interfere with your physical health, making it more difficult to sleep, eat, or even think clearly. These are typical responses to loss, and the greater the loss, the more severe your grieving.

Living with the loss of something or someone you care about can be extremely difficult. While people often equate grief with the loss of a loved one, any loss can trigger grief, including:   

  • Breakup or divorce
  • Chronic illness or injury
  • Job loss
  • Financial stress
  • Pregnancy loss
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • Illness of a loved one
  • Friendship breakup

Even subtle life changes can cause grief. For example, you may experience grief after leaving your home, graduating from college, or changing your job.

Your loss is personal to you, so never be ashamed or embarrassed about your feelings or assume that it is only appropriate to grieve for certain things. It is natural to grieve the loss of anything that meant a lot to you. Whatever the loss, there are healthy skills you can use to cope with the suffering. These may help you find a way to deal with your loss, find a new sense of meaning and purpose, and eventually move forward with your life.

Understand the Grieving Process

Grieving is a profoundly personal experience, so there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There are a number of factors that influence how you grieve, including your personality and how you confront and deal with stressful situations, life experience, faith, and the significance of the loss to you.

Naturally, the grieving process is slow. Healing takes time — it cannot be rushed or coerced, and there is no "normal" time for grieving. Some people may be able to move on after only a few weeks, but the grieving process may last years for others. Whatever your reason for your grieving, it is important to be patient with yourself and let the process take its natural course.

How to Cope With the Grieving Process?

Woman grievingWhile grieving a significant loss is an unavoidable part of being human, there are strategies to cope with the grief and move on with your life. These include:

  • Acknowledge that you are hurting.
  • Accept that grief can elicit a wide range of unexpected and unpleasant emotions.
  • Accept that this journey will be unique to you.
  • Surround yourself with people who care about you.
  • Take care of yourself physically to support yourself emotionally.
  • Understand that there is a difference between grief and depression.

Related Blog: Specialization Series: Depression

What are the Symptoms of Grief?

While everyone responds differently to loss, there are a few common effects of the grieving process. Remember that everything you experience while grieving is natural — whether it be feeling as though you are in a bad dream, questioning your beliefs, or even believing you are going crazy.

Shock and disbelief, deep sorrow, guilt and shame, fear, and rage are some of the most common emotional manifestations of grief. While we typically think of grief as purely emotional, the process also involves physical symptoms such as heart problems, exhaustion, nausea, lowered immunity, sudden weight loss or gain, muscle aches, and insomnia.

Why Grief Counseling Is Important

Friends and family can be invaluable resources during the grieving process. However, it can be tough to openly and truly grieve with those closest to us — especially when they are going through the same thing. This is where grief counseling can help. It offers grieving people a sympathetic, compassionate, and non-judgmental environment in which they can learn to address their thoughts, emotions, and experiences that arise following the death of a loved one. With a trained counselor who validates and displays empathy for one’s experience, people may be more willing to speak.

A grief counselor can help people work through the grieving process so that they can form new relationships with those they have lost. Grief therapy promotes the healing process, allowing the bereaved to transition from a traumatic phase to a peaceful one.

Contact RDU Counselors To Get Your Life Back on Track

If you are considering grief counseling, please know that you are not alone. Grieving after losing a loved one can be one of the most stressful and challenging experiences of human life. Coping with a significant loss is tough and can leave you feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, sad, and hopeless. It may seem like your life may never be the same again. However, with time, you will be able to ease your pain, start to look forward, and finally come to terms with what happened. Expert RDU counselors can provide you with the help and support you need during this challenging time.

To schedule an appointment for grief counseling with expert counselors in Raleigh, NC, please contact RDU Counseling for Change today. We also offer family therapy as well as mental health counseling for couples and individuals. Learn more about our counseling specializations by clicking here. Our Raleigh therapy and counseling sessions have helped countless people come to terms with a significant loss. To learn more about our online therapy in Raleigh, NC, please contact us by email at or call us at (919) 713-0260.

 

 

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Specialization Series: Adjustment Difficulties

Adjustment DifficultiesA chronic illness diagnosis, relationship breakdown, or relocating to a new city are all major life transitions that can trigger stress and discomfort. These stress-related feelings are usually temporary, and people acclimatize to the changes within a few months. Some people, though, find it difficult to adjust to their new life. Adjustment difficulties refer to a cluster of stress-related feelings that manifest as melancholy, despair, and overwhelm when a person is unable to deal with or adapt to a major life stressor or event. Feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and sadness are often out of proportion to the triggering event.  

Adjustment difficulties can embody many typical symptoms of depression, such as outbursts of emotions, loss of interest in once enjoyable hobbies and activities, and feelings of despair. However, unlike depression, adjustment difficulties result from an external stressor and usually resolve as the person learns to adjust to the new reality. Changes in a person’s life can be so overwhelming that they can have catastrophic consequences if left unchecked.

Related Blog: Types of Depression: Bipolar I and II Disorder 

There are six subtypes of adjustment difficulties, each with a unique set of clinical manifestations. These are:

  • Adjustment difficulties with depressed mood: The major problem is depressive symptoms such as low self-esteem, emotional numbness, and lack of motivation.
  • Adjustment difficulties with anxious mood: Anxiety-related problems, such as excessive worry, overwhelm, and pessimism, are the most common symptoms.
  • Adjustment difficulties with mixed anxiety and depressed mood: The symptoms are a result of a mix of anxiety and depression.
  • Adjustment difficulties with disturbance of conduct: The symptoms are dominated by actions that violate societal standards or the rights of others, such as substance abuse, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts, and attempts to exact revenge on others.
  • Adjustment difficulties mixed disturbance of conduct and emotions: Psychological symptoms and behavioral disruptions are common in these types of adjustment difficulties.
  • Adjustment difficulties unspecified: These types of adjustment difficulties are distinguished by dysfunctional responses to big life events that do not fit the criteria for other adjustment difficulties subtypes.

How long a person with adjustment difficulties is afflicted with symptoms varies from person to person. Some people have symptoms for six months or less before they go away. However, some people have symptoms that last longer than six months and cause significant disturbance in their lives.

Because adjustment difficulties involve stress, many people mistakenly believe that they are less serious than other types of mental health problems. However, adjustment difficulties can affect every aspect of a person’s day-to-day life. Adjustment difficulties can even become a long-term, chronic condition if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

A quick look at the stats

The rate at which adjustment difficulties are diagnosed varies greatly depending on the population tested and the diagnostic procedures used. Several studies have found that the prevalence of adjustment disorder is around 11.5% across a wide range of populations.

Causes and risk factors

Adjustment difficulties affect people of all ages differently. The causes and risk factors for adjustment difficulties are likely a complex interaction of biological, ecological, and physiological risk factors.

The following are examples of some of the most common stressors that might lead to adjustment difficulties:

  • Ending a long-term relationship or marriage
  • Changing or losing a job
  • Losing a loved one
  • Receiving a diagnosis of a chronic illness
  • Being a victim of a crime
  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • Retiring from a career

Some of the most common risk factors for adjustment difficulties are as follows:

  • Other mental health conditions
  • Unsupportive friends and family
  • Tough situations in life
  • Chronic stress
  • Trauma from childhood
  • Physical or sexual violence or abuse
  • Neglective and abusive parenting 
  • Family disruptions as a child
  • Frequent moves during childhood

Signs and symptoms  

20220128 124421RDU Adjustments signs and symptomsThe symptoms of adjustment difficulties vary from person to person and are often so inconsistent that a diagnosis can be challenging. The development of symptoms within a specified period after a major, potentially stressful event is the one permanent fixture of adjustment difficulties.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Crying spells
  • Always looking for a fight
  • Being argumentative
  • Ignoring financial obligations (such as bills or debt)     
  • Socially withdrawing from friends and family
  • Poor academic or professional performance
  • Showing up late to work 
  • Excessive absence from work
  • Vandalizing and intentionally destroying someone else’s property

Physical Symptoms:

  • Losing appetite 
  • Changing sleep patterns

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Problems with critical thinking and decision-making
  • Poor concentration

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Profound sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of social and emotional isolation
  • Loss of hope
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and feeling on edge
  • Emotional overwhelm
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts

Effects 

When left unchecked and untreated, adjustment difficulties can have a significant impact on a person’s life. Children and teenagers, in particular, endure long-term difficulties as a result of adjustment difficulties.

The following are some of the most common effects of chronic adjustment difficulties:

  • Clinical depression (major depressive disorder)
  • Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Self-injury (cutting, self-harm, or self-mutilation)
  • Suicidal ideation

Contact RDU Counselors To Get Your Life Back on Track

If you are considering counseling in Wake County to address and treat your adjustment difficulties, reach out to RDU Counseling for Change. RDU counselors can help you overcome the stressors and help you celebrate your life's joys.

To schedule an appointment for counseling with expert counselors in Raleigh, NC, please get in touch with RDU Counseling for Change today. We also offer family therapy as well as mental health counseling for individuals and couples. Learn more about our counseling specializations by clicking here. Our Raleigh therapy and counseling sessions have helped countless people adjust to their new life. To learn more about our online therapy in Raleigh, NC, please contact us by email at or call us at (919) 713-0260.

 

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Specialization Series: Christian Counseling

People holding hands while reading booksLiving a ‘normal’ life is almost impossible in today’s fast-paced and stressful world — we are constantly tormented by negative thoughts and worries about our loved ones, relationships, profession, or future goals. Such thoughts make us anxious, depressed, and sad. They may even make us feel lonely, as we can find it hard to share these personal troubles with friends and family. 

Sometimes, these concerns worry us to the extent that it is hard for us to sleep normally, eat a nutritious diet, or even be productive at work — the worries adversely impact all the domains of our lives. When left untreated, the supposedly normal worries of life turn into mental disorders that have lasting impacts.

To avoid this, we need mental health counseling from the guidance of expert counselors to keep our calm and maintain sanity in a world that can make us feel insane. Be it for an individual, couple, or family, therapy acts as an outlet for us to vent out bottled-up feelings.

These days, people have found a new way to live a peaceful life in today’s world: Christian counseling. Let us look at what it is and how it will help you enhance your mental well-being.

What is Christian Counseling?

Christian counseling — also called Christian psychology or Biblical counseling — is a therapy approach that utilizes biblical scriptures and doctrines to help people deal with life’s challenges. It is an amalgamation of Christian faith and principles of psychology with an aim to improve mental health. The idea behind Christian counseling is similar to any other counseling — to help those anxious, depressed, sad, or lonely — with the only point of difference being the incorporation of spiritual, Christian teachings in the former.

The primary motive of Christian counseling is to help correct people’s behaviors that do not conform to what the Bible teaches. Christian counselors in Wake County assist people in knowing the will of God for their lives and living up to the standards that God demands. Counselors consider the Bible to guide people, teaching them how to live their lives and behave correctly.

In addition, Christian counseling helps people deal with the common problems related to marriage, parenting, and ungodly behaviors. Again, the correction method incorporates the Bible and its teaching, and the ultimate goal is to make people abide by God’s Word.

How can Christian counseling benefit you?

Without a doubt, Christian counseling is an efficient way to deal with day-to-day challenges that make our life difficult. The counseling sessions offer solutions and light our path towards a godly life full of faith and contentment. 

Here are the benefits you can expect to yield after consistently taking Christian counseling sessions:

A life free from marital problems 

Post-marriage problems are not an uncommon sight. Leaving everything behind and promising to live chastely with a person for the rest of your life requires courage. It is even more difficult, especially in today’s world full of distractions. 

However, living harmoniously with your husband or wife is what God demands from all Christians. And people who are obedient to God and want to lead a holy, Christian life make every effort to follow the Bible. Therefore, many Christian couples resort to Christian counseling when marital problems come their way.

Christian counselors know that divorce is not acceptable in the sight of God, so they try to solve many issues, including infidelity, loss of intimacy, and conflicts — the sole aim is to restore the unity between a couple. So, Christian counseling ensures a satisfactory married life, free from common marriage problems.

Coping strategies to deal with parental challenges

Apart from marriage-related problems, most families also face parenting issues. While being a father or mother is gratifying, it is not always easy — the life of parents is demanding, and they face difficulties in balancing their personal and professional lives.

Related Blog: Specialization Series: Family Counseling 

Raising a child is incredibly challenging if the child has a mental illness, physical ailments, eating disorders, or other developmental concerns. Then, there are also times when children adopt unruly or sinful behaviors and engage in activities that do not suit a Christian life. In such cases, parenting becomes a bigger challenge to the point that it frustrates parents, and they often come to a dead-end, not knowing how to bring their ‘lost’ child back to God. 

Christian counseling is the best route to take in such situations. An expert Christian counselor in Raleigh, NC, will help you identify your child’s needs and teach you the right coping strategies to alleviate parenting pressures and turn your child’s heart to God.

Freedom from bad habits

Many of us fall into the trap of bad habits, like alcoholism, drug consumption, and gambling, with the thought that they would give us the much-needed calm in today’s chaotic life. Little do we realize that the ‘peace’ these habits provide is temporary, and the damage these substances do to our bodies can be lasting. Therefore, staying away from such activities is the right course of action.

If you have been in the bondage of bad habits and escape seems complicated, resorting to Christian counseling can help. But first, you will have to admit that these habits are damaging and need help. Therapy sessions will benefit only once you agree to accept help from Christian counselors.

In the Christian therapy session, you will learn why you adopted these habits — the reasons can be surprising and range from childhood trauma to low self-esteem. The counselors will help you realize you are valuable in the sight of God and rescue you from these habits, improving your relationship with God and boosting your faith.

Christian counseling at RDU Counseling for Change

As Christians, we believe God is our ultimate healer and source of wisdom and comfort. We offer counseling that integrates your faith with modern-day therapeutic techniques for our Christian clients. We also incorporate scripture and prayer at your request. RDU counselors can help you if you struggle with varied challenges and seek escape. At RDU Counseling for Change, we also offer online therapy in Raleigh, NC. Call us today at 919-713-0260 or email at to improve your connection with God!

 

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Specialization Series: Family Counseling

Father and son attending family counselingFamily counseling seeks to resolve the psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues that contribute to family conflicts. A therapist will work with family members to build and maintain a healthy relationship. Please continue reading to learn more about family counseling. 

What Is Family Counseling?

Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t get through to your child, no matter how hard you tried, the punishments you doled out, or the lectures you gave? No matter what you try, it just isn’t working. Do your kids often say, “You just don’t get it. You don’t listen to me.”? Have arguments overtaken the joy you once shared in your home? Then it may be time for family counseling. A therapist can help break down parent’s fears and concerns into language that doesn’t come across critical or demanding. They can also help advocate for a child desperately trying to be understood by their parents. 

Family systems theory underpins many approaches to family counseling. This theory suggests that families act as systems rather than as groups of people independent of one another. According to this theory, changes in one family member influence changes in other family members.

Families in distress who have exhausted all other options for resolving ongoing family problems can benefit from family counseling. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of family counseling.

Related Blog: The Power of Connection, the Pathways and Roadblocks to Building Strong Connections. - RDU Counseling for Change 

Benefits of Family Counseling

The benefits of family counseling vary from one family to the next. They may include the following:

  • Establishing clear boundaries
  • Improving communication between family members
  • Identifying a person's place within a family
  • Strengthening family dynamics and relationships
  • Equipping family members with strength and coping mechanisms
  • Dealing with dysfunctional interactions
  • Enhancing the family's problem-solving skills

According to a 2014 paper published in the Journal of Family Therapy, family counseling can also effectively resolve problems with children such as conduct disorders, drug addiction (substance abuse disorder), and offending behavior. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), family counseling can also help family members struggling with chronic mental health issues and are often anxious, depressed, lonely, and sad.

According to a 2020 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, families may benefit from counseling for the following reasons:

  • Helping family members who have trouble speaking or expressing their emotions
  • Addressing sibling conflicts
  • Addressing inconsistent parenting
  • Addressing problems in marriage
  • Re-establishing a prosperous and healthy relationship after a divorce
  • Adjusting to a significant life change
  • Dealing with a family member's chronic illness or death

Types of Family Counseling

When you find a family therapist, you can expect to be exposed to various counseling options based on your and your family's needs. These include:

Functional family therapy: This therapy is often geared toward families who have a kid or adolescent with complex emotional or behavioral issues. The child and their parents may participate in weekly sessions spanning anywhere between 8 and 30 hours. These sessions will teach families how to deal with their child's improper conduct and improve family dynamics.

Multisystemic therapy: This therapy seeks to tackle any behavioral or emotional issues children or teenagers may be experiencing. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, multisystemic therapy also addresses deeper problems with the child's behavior. It could, for example, aim to improve their interaction with social structures such as schools or neighborhoods.

Transgenerational therapy: A therapist examines interactions between generations, such as those between parents and children, in this type of family therapy. The goal is to figure out how these interactions are causing family conflicts. When issues and behavioral patterns continue through generations, transgenerational therapy can be helpful. A 2016 study published by the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC) suggests that it could also help predict how family problems may develop in the future.

Brief strategic family therapy: The objective of this therapy is to alter the patterns of interaction among family members. It is a brief intervention that focuses on familial issues that lead to troublesome symptoms in adolescents.

Structural therapy: Structural therapy deals with issues that occur as a result of family structure. It seeks to establish a balanced and harmonious family hierarchy with clear boundaries between members. A very exclusive focus on structure rather than specific behaviors of members that cause family problems is what defines structural therapy.

How to Choose the Right Family Therapy?

Before anything, it is crucial to research the best type of therapy and therapist for the family.

Consider the following before choosing a therapist:

  • Asking for recommendations from the family doctor as well as friends 
  • Reviewing the therapist's experience and credentials
  • Consulting with potential therapists to determine whether they are a good fit for the family
  • Avoiding a hasty decision
  • Recognizing that it could take several sessions to find out if they are suitable for the family's needs

Summary

The purpose of family counseling is to address the underlying issues that contribute to family problems. There are various types of family therapy. Different family problems may necessitate different types of counseling.

Family counseling

Contact RDU Counselors To Get Your Family Back on Track

Do you ever wonder, "How did I get here?" Do you often find yourself arguing with your partner? Are you scared that your family may not last much longer if things stay the same? You are not alone, and we can help you. RDU Counseling for Change will help you bring peace and reconciliation to your family. Our expert counselors in Wake County will guide you through our family therapies, including Emotionally Focused Therapies (EFTs) and Family Systems therapies, which will help you work through any family trouble, stress, or conflict. 

The ability to understand and identify the needs of every single family member and align those with the well-being of the family structure is critical to developing and maintaining a strong, happy family. We can help you address all of those needs. We can help you and your family get a clear grasp of internal family dynamics and identify signs of conflict and triggers.

We also offer mental health counseling for couples and individuals suffering from a variety of disorders and concerns. Learn more about our counseling specializations by clicking here

Our Raleigh therapy and counseling sessions have helped countless people strengthen their families. To learn more about our online therapy in Raleigh, NC, please contact us by email at or by phone at (919) 713-0260.

 

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Types of Depression: Postpartum Depression

b2ap3 small Types of DepressionYou have probably come across the word "baby blues"—this is because it is pretty common for new mothers to feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or sad. For the first week or two after childbirth, as many as 80% of mothers experience these feelings. It is completely natural and typically goes away after a few weeks.

Postpartum depression is far more severe and lasts much longer. It affects about 15-20% of new mothers and can induce extreme mood swings, exhaustion, and a sense of despair.

You may feel confused about experiencing sadness following the joyous event of welcoming a new member into your family and may choose not to discuss it with anyone. However, postpartum depression is a serious disorder that you should not take lightly.

Related Blog: Types of Depression: Bipolar I and II Disorder

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Although it is normal to feel cranky or exhausted after giving birth, postpartum depression goes much further than that. If you have postpartum depression, you are probably familiar with some of the following symptoms:

  • Depression or extreme mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulties bonding with your child
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Appetite loss or eating considerably more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or excessive sleeping
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you are not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, remorse, or inadequacy
  • Reduced ability to think clearly, focus, or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Panic attacks and severe anxiety
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Postpartum depression can worsen over time if it is not treated correctly.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Although the specific etiology is unknown, many physical and emotional factors may contribute to postpartum depression.

Physical factors

One of the most significant physical changes after childbirth involves hormones.

When you are pregnant, your estrogen and progesterone levels are higher than usual, but they revert to pre-pregnancy levels within hours of giving birth.

This sudden change can trigger depression.

Some other physical stressors may include:

  • Extremely low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)
  • Sleep deprivation and deficiency
  • Inadequate nutrition and health
  • Underlying health conditions
  • Alcohol and substance misuse

Emotional factors

If you have a history of mood disorders or mood disorders that run in your family, you are more likely to develop postpartum depression.

Emotional factors may include:

  • Recent divorce or a loved one's death
  • You or your child is suffering from severe health issues
  • Social isolation
  • Financial distress
  • Lack of support

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, you should consult with your doctor right away so that treatment may begin. Medication and therapy are the two main treatments for postpartum depression. While both can be used independently, they may be more effective when used together.

Medication

Antidepressants can directly affect your brain chemistry by altering serotonin levels—serotonin is a vital hormone that helps regulate your mood. However, do not expect them to work immediately; it could take weeks or months of treatment before you notice any meaningful difference in your mood.

Some women report side effects from using antidepressants. These include extreme fatigue and exhaustion, loss of libido (reduced sex drive), and dizziness. If such side effects appear to be exacerbating your symptoms, inform your doctor right away. If your estrogen levels are low, your doctor may advise you to start taking hormones.

It is worth noting that while some antidepressants are safe to use when you are breastfeeding, others are not.

Therapy

Is it possible that your friends and family have no idea what you are going through?

Booking a mental health counseling session can be a great way to get extra help dealing with postpartum depression and adjusting to your new postpartum reality in general.

A therapist can provide a judgment-free space in which you can rest and share anything you desire. They will listen to your story and provide solutions to help you get through this challenging phase of your life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one type of psychosocial intervention that therapists may use to address postpartum depression in new mothers. Your therapist may use CBT to help you examine your negative thought patterns and transform them into more realistic expectations and positive self-talk.

Many new mothers run themselves into the ground in terms of behavioral change as they try to take great care of their newborn child. A therapist can teach you new ways to care for yourself—such as relaxation training and mindfulness meditation. Remember that it is critical to take care of yourself so that you can feel healthy and happy to care for your newborn.

What is the Evidence to Support CBT for Postpartum Depression?

CBT is widely regarded as an effective therapy option for various psychiatric disorders, including depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others.

It is also a well-studied therapy for the effective treatment of postpartum depression.

Laura E. Sockol investigated the effectiveness of CBT in both the treatment and prevention of postpartum depression in a 2015 review study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

After reviewing 40 scientific papers, Laura and her team discovered that:

  • CBT can help reduce depressive symptoms during both the prenatal and postnatal periods.
  • Pregnant moms who use CBT had a lower risk of developing postpartum depression.

Overall, prevention and early intervention were more helpful than later intervention, highlighting the need to seek professional help as soon as symptoms appear.

Reach Out to RDU Counseling for Change

If you live in Wake County, improve your quality of life with the support of licensed RDU counselors. Book your online therapy in Raleigh, NC, and speak to a therapist during an in-person or telehealth mental health counseling session. From individuals and couples to family therapy, our expert counselors are offering help to those suffering from postpartum depression.

If you have any questions or want to book your Raleigh therapy session, feel free to contact us at (919) 713 0260.

 

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Specialization Series: Depression

Depression - Man sitting on a chair and leaning on a tableEveryone goes through their share of ups and downs in life, but when you are experiencing hopelessness and despair that you just can’t seem to shake off, you may be suffering from depression.

While sadness is simply an emotional response to the struggles and setbacks we face in life, depression is a more serious condition that heavily affects the way you feel, think, and function in your daily life. At RDU Counseling for Change in Raleigh, we offer detailed treatment plans for depression.

Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a mood disorder that can take a toll on your health and well-being. The signs of depression tend to vary among individuals. The following are some signs of depression:

1.  Hopeless Outlook
Feeling hopeless or helpless is a common sign of depression. This may be coupled with self-loathing, which makes you feel that you are not good enough. When you’re depressed, you are likely to repeatedly think that you are at fault for something or question the purpose of your life.

2.  Changes in Appetite or Weight
Your appetite and weight can keep changing if you are depressed. Some people may end up gaining a lot of weight, while others lose their appetite and quit eating as much as their body requires. Many depressed individuals have reported an unintentional change of more than 5% in their body weight.

3.  Loss of Interest
Depression can suck the pleasure from everyday activities that you used to love. You may find yourself withdrawing from activities that you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, or going out with friends. Depression may also cause a decreased sex drive, and in rare cases, may even lead to impotence.

4.  Uncontrollable Emotions
Your mood may shift quickly. One moment you may have an outburst of anger, and the other minute you may start sobbing uncontrollably. Switching of emotions under depression is not caused by an external factor, but due to internal mood swings.

5.  Thoughts About Death
Depression is a known cause of suicide. People may discuss it, hide their thoughts, or make an initial attempt to end their life. It is important that if you know someone who may be at risk of harming themselves or another person, you may make an emergency call, try to be with them until help arrives, listen to them, and remove any items that may be harmful.

Treatment
Depression can cause immense emotional anguish and even lead to suicide. Around 1 out of 10 people suffering from depression end up taking their own lives. This is why it is imperative to diagnose the condition early on in order to treat it effectively. Here are some successful treatment methods offered by RDU Counseling for Change in Raleigh, NC for depression patients:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This treatment helps you understand your thoughts and behavior, and their impact on your mental health. While it does take past events into account, it is more focused on how you think, feel and act in the present. Opting for CBT enables you to combat negative thoughts and feelings of despair.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT is aimed at inculcating self-acceptance and change. It teaches validation and tolerance, along with specific methods for improving certain behavior patterns. A counselor using DBT induces change through positive reinforcement and reducing negative behaviors.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
This technique makes patients re-brand their thoughts, memories and feelings in an adaptive way. It is an acceptance and mindfulness strategy that encourages people to stay in the present moment and regulate their behaviors more in line with their personal values.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is an interactive psychotherapy method used to treat psychological stress. It helps you recall traumatic experiences while having your attention diverted to diminish the psychological response. This technique is especially useful for people who hesitate to share their experiences. EMDR is also used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients.

Along with these specialized treatments, you can also try natural remedies, such as essential oils like wild ginger and take vitamins, especially B vitamins and vitamin D. If you think you have depression or any other mental illness, reach out to one of our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change in Raleigh, NC.

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Types of Depression: Bipolar I and II Disorder

Bipolar I and II DisorderBipolar disorder is a very common mental disorder, with approximately 2.8% of U.S.adults (about 5 million people) being diagnosed with it. While many people are aware that bipolar disorder is characterized by mood and energy swings, there is much more to this mental disorder than most people are aware of.

Bipolar Disorder: Re-learning the Basics

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a chronic mental disorder that induces dramatic changes in an individual’s mood and energy levels.

An individual suffering from this mental illness may experience periods of elevated mood as well as episodes of depression. This condition is known as “bi-polar” disorder because the individual switches between two opposite emotions—these extreme emotional states are typically experienced over days to weeks and are referred to as mood episodes.

Despite experiencing periods of neutral mood, individuals with bipolar disorder are often either unnaturally happy—this mood episode is known as manic, or they experience depression—characterized by feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, and sad. Individuals who do not have bipolar disorder undergo mood fluctuations as well, but they return to their usual self within a few hours, while those who do have this psychiatric disorder do not.

Those who do not have bipolar disorder also do not exhibit an extreme degree of behavioral changes. Individuals with bipolar disorder, on the other hand, are driven by their impulses—their mood swings can cause them to think and behave impulsively, which can have an adverse impact on their personal and professional lives. For example—during manic episodes, they may experience extreme euphoria and make reckless purchases, quit their job, or even start abusing illicit substances. During a depressive episode, however, they may experience bouts of self-hatred, lethargy, and hopelessness.

Bipolar disorder usually runs in families and can be passed down from a parent to a child. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), if an individual’s parents and siblings have bipolar disorder, they are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop this mental condition. This means that genetics play a significant role in determining the inheritance of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I vs. Bipolar IIBipolar I vs. Bipolar II

Bipolar disorder is typically classified into two groups: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Though both groups are characterized by manic and depressive mood swings, the intensity of these mood swings separates them from each other.

While an individual with bipolar I goes through a full-blown manic episode, someone with bipolar II only has a hypomanic episode, which is far less severe. Furthermore, an individual with bipolar I is much more likely to have a minor depressive episode, while those with bipolar II may experience significant and lasting depressive episodes.

Bipolar I

An individual with bipolar I is likely to experience at least one manic episode in their life, which may be preceded by a depressive or hypomanic episode. There is often a pattern in which the patient experiences depression followed by mania—this cycle of episodes is known as “manic depression.” The manic episode typically lasts at least seven days, while the depressive episode can persist for as long as two weeks.

The mania that an individual may experience is far from a typical spike in energy and motivation levels. Their abnormal high-spiritedness is noticeable to family and friends who have seen them in their normal state. This ecstatic mental state may cause problems for the individual in school, college, work, and relationships, and in some extreme cases, they may even need to be hospitalized.

Typically, the signs of bipolar I manifest in individuals in their teens or early twenties. These signs include:

  • Restlessness
  • Talkativeness
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor concentration
  • Grandiosity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Decreased need for sleep

Bipolar II

An individual with bipolar II experiences at least one hypomanic, or major depressive episode in their lifetime. Although the depressive episode typically lasts about two weeks, the individual does not experience intense manic episodes.

Since individuals with bipolar II go through major depressive episodes, their mental state is often misdiagnosed as depression. Bipolar II is also misunderstood as a milder form of bipolar I, but this is a false notion. And, while manic episodes can be dangerous and lead to hospitalization, depressive episodes in bipolar II are just as serious as they continue for more extended periods.

These major depressive episodes make it difficult for individuals to carry out day-to-day responsibilities. The following are some of the most common symptoms of bipolar II:

  • Loss of interest in almost all activities
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Restlessness or lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of inappropriate guilt
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Seek professional help

Though bipolar disorder is an incurable condition, the severity of its symptoms and manic and depressive episodes can be significantly reduced with the proper treatment.

However, people often disregard psychological assistance because they are unaware of the adverse effects of their emotional distress on their personal and professional relationships.

The problem becomes much more severe as people begin to embrace their bouts of mania, during which they experience previously undiscovered energy and enthusiasm. Most people do not realize that this euphoria is typically followed by an unwanted emotional crash that is highly unpleasant.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to seek Evidence-Based Treatment (EBT)—such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)—in order to lower the impact of bipolar disorder and disempower it from influencing personal decisions.

Related Blog: What is Evidence-Based Treatment?

Reach Out to RDU Counseling for Change

If you are experiencing the lows of depression and the highs or irritability of mania or hypomania, you can seek professional telehealth mental health counseling sessions from RDU counselors in Wake County. Due to the current COVID situation, RDU Counseling for Change is offering online therapy in Raleigh, NC. From individuals and couples, to family therapy, our counselors are offering help to everyone suffering from Bipolar I and II Disorder.

If you have any questions or want to book your Raleigh therapy session, feel free to contact us at (919) 713 0260.

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Persisting Against Fearful Limitations “Looking Fear and Phobia In the Eye”

 Make looking out the window behind a curtain dealing with is phobiaWhat is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “phobia”?

If you said persistent and excessive fear of an object or situation, you are absolutely right. But are “fear” and “phobia” the same? While many people think they are the same, there is actually a big difference between the two words.

While fear is triggered by the perception of danger, a phobia has got very little to do with danger. The latter is an irrational and debilitating fear that you might experience when facing a specific situation, or engaging in a particular activity. In some very extreme cases, the intensity of this unrealistic fear is so high that it virtually paralyzes a person, and makes them feel extremely anxious, depressed, lonely, and sad.

How many types of Phobias are there?

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can be categorized into three primary types, namely Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, and Specific Phobia. Let us explore these in detail below.

Agoraphobia

Are you terrified of the thought of being trapped in a place and not being able to escape? Does this thought constantly haunt you everywhere you go? Does it render you immobile at times? You need to be careful because such thoughts, some so extreme they might even make you reluctant to head out of your home, could mean that you have Agoraphobia.

The term “agora” denotes a market that was located in ancient Greece. The phobia has been named so because markets are tremendously crowded public places. People with Agoraphobia are scared of crowded places and situations that might cause feelings of panic, entrapment, helplessness, or embarrassment. Although Agoraphobia is a common anxiety disorder (about 1.3% of U.S. adults aged 18 or older experience agoraphobia at some time in their lives), this condition can be isolating and impact one’s quality of life if left untreated.

Social Phobia

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder (SAD), is a chronic mental health condition that can make you run away from social interactions. However, SAD should not be confused with shyness, which is simply an unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness. Also, if you are bashful, this does not necessarily mean that you have social phobia because the latter is an extreme fear of social interactions.

People with social phobia are afraid of social relationships. Socializing often induces anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment in those with SAD. You might have social phobia if you are terrified of situations where you may be judged, embarrassed, or humiliated. You may also fear offending someone. All of these unfounded fears will make you avoid social contact altogether, which can hurt your personal and professional relationships.

Specific or “Simple Phobia”

Specific or simple phobia will make you frightened of things that pose no, or very minimal, danger. This phobia can be centered around a particular object, situation, animal, or activity. Specific phobias often develop during childhood but get worse as one grows older.

Some of the most common specific phobias include:

  • Environmental phobias: Fear of heights, storms, water, or of the dark.
  • Animal phobias (zoophobia): Fear of dogs, spiders, lizards, or snakes.
  • Bodily phobias: Fear of blood, vomit, or having injections.
  • Situational phobias: Fear of specific situations, such as flying or going over bridges
  • Sexual phobias (genophobia or erotophobia): Performance anxiety or fear of getting a sexually transmitted disease.

Effects of Phobias on Personality

Phobias are life-limiting. They will hamper your day-to-day life, where simple errands such as going to a grocery store can be stressful. It can also make you run away from meeting your friends, or make it difficult for you to go to work daily. Such a condition can even impair your education, career, and overall quality of life.

Social isolation, which can make you feel anxious, lonely, and depressed, is another common impact of a phobia. Phobias can make you prefer seclusion, and will make you nervous whenever you face social interactions. This will affect your relationship with your friends and family, which might contribute to you becoming reclusive.

Once you realize that you have a phobia, it might make you feel helpless and bereft of general happiness. You may even think that nothing could heal you and no one could console you.

Therapy: The best way to treat Phobia

Here’s good news for you: you need not live in your fear of phobia (also called phobophobia) because there is a treatment. Psychotherapy is known to be one of the effective ways to treat this anxiety related disorder. We are listing two of the most common types of therapies that can help you get rid of your phobia:

1. Exposure Therapy

This is a type of behavior therapy wherein the expert counselor will train you in relaxation techniques that will calm you whenever you face your phobia. Sometimes, another approach is taken, which is called systematic desensitization. In this, the therapist will gradually expose you to anxiety-inducing situations from the least scary to the scariest, to defuse anxiety.

2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on thoughts and beliefs that an individual with a certain phobia is suffering from. Such people have developed thought patterns around phobia that are, interestingly, not based in reality.
CBT helps you identify cognitive distortions, the unrealistic thought patterns that make you focus on the worst-case scenarios, and replaces them with more accurate and realistic thoughts. Whenever you face your phobia, CBT makes you realize that it is just a phobia, and this episode will soon be over.

“But Where to Go for Counseling?”

If you live anywhere in Wake County, turn to us for professional mental health counseling. RDU Counseling for Change is offering online therapy in Raleigh, NC, via telehealth. Be it individual, couples, or family therapy, the Expert counselor, Kelly Harrison, is trained to deal with patients suffering from anxiety and depression. The Raleigh therapy provided by expert RDU counselors will surely help you alleviate this pandemic-induced anxiety.

If you have any questions about our counseling or our team of therapists, feel free to contact us at (919) 713-0260.

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Don’t Live in Fear of Your Phobia

Woman covering her eyes with her hand out of fearHave you ever seen someone freak out over a spider they find in their room? Maybe you make fun of them or tell them to shake it off. But if they have a phobia, it is not so easy to change those automatic fear responses.

According to the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V), a phobia is distinguished by:

 

  • Marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation.
  • Exposure to the phobic stimulus almost invariably provokes an immediate anxiety response, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed panic attack. Note: In children, the anxiety may be expressed by crying, tantrums, freezing, or clinging.
  • The person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable. Note: In children, this feature may be absent.
  • The phobic situation(s) is avoided or else is endured with intense anxiety or distress.
  • The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.

For example, if someone sees that spider, they may scream, shake, cry, and run away. They may even refuse returning to that room until certain assurances are made. Most people with phobias recognize that their fear is illogical, but that doesn’t change their automatic response. It just causes them to feel shame and embarrassment. They also learn to avoid situations that may trigger their phobia. Over time, they may feel hopeless that they will ever overcome it.

How Do You Know?
Many ask how they can determine if they have a specific phobia or are just merely scared of a certain situation. To them, we say: You know. You know when you have an actual phobia because the fear and dread is too extreme, too real, and too intense for you to dismiss it as anything else.

If you are irrationally and extremely afraid of something, so much so that you would avoid it at all costs, and let it affect the quality and ease of your life, you might want to admit that you have a problem. If you think your fear and reaction to your source of fear is exaggerated, unreasonable, and excessive, then you probably have a phobia.

Types of Phobias
According to the DSM V, specific phobias generally fall within five categories:
Fears related to animals (spiders, dogs, insects)
Fears related to the natural environment (heights, thunder, darkness)
Fears related to blood, injury, or medical issues (injections, broken bones, falls)
Fears related to specific situations (flying, riding an elevator, driving)
Other (choking, loud noises, drowning)

If you have an irrational fear response to any of these, you might want to talk to a mental health expert to determine the issue.

Recommended Treatments
Though life can be hard for people with specific phobias, it is possible to dispel their fears and reduce the intensity of, if not eliminate, their phobias. Modern psychology and science have found ways that can help people with phobias live normal and healthy lives.

EMDR
Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment originally intended to alleviate the trauma associated with some memories. This treatment also is found to help people with specific phobias. As the past linkages to the source of trauma are identified and processed, alternative ways of thinking and perceiving the situation are discussed and the patient is desensitized to the external trigger.

CBT
CBT focuses on finding practical ways and practices to deal with your phobia. These are then practiced while the source of the phobia is presented. This helps the client form practical responses to the phobia instead of eliminating the phobia itself.

Exposure therapies
Gradual repeated exposure to the source of fear is used to eventually elicit a different response from the patient. This works over time and helps the patient learn to control their anxiety when faced with the source of their phobia.

Change is hard, but with these therapies, people with acute phobias can live normal lives, unhindered by their phobias. Of course, counseling takes time, but with the right specialists, patients begin to see a difference. Our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change take you through your journey at your own pace and assist you in attaining a better quality of life.

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Specialization Series: Social Anxiety Disorder

 An illustration of someone with social phobiaBeing around people may seem like a trivial matter for some, but for others, it can be nerve-racking. People living with social anxiety disorder can feel paralyzed and out of breath when surrounded by a crowd, so much so that they might start to avoid going to social gatherings. But since socializing is believed to be an intuitive skill, a large percentage of the population doesn't think that it can be such a devastating issue.

If you don't know someone with social anxiety disorder, then you might have seen someone at a gathering but failed to realize their trauma. If you had looked closely, you would have noticed the anxious look on their face or the sadness in their eyes. Knowing the symptoms of social anxiety disorder can help you recognize someone suffering from the condition. If you happen to have this disabling disease, knowing where to look for help can be tremendously beneficial for you.

Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is characterized by having an intense fear of being in social situations because the individual believes they will be judged or humiliated. Living with social anxiety disorder can interfere with a person's daily life. Therefore, seeking professional help for it is crucial. Treatments for social anxiety disorder include psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy
A patient with social phobia can try a bunch of therapies to overcome their anxiety and ease their symptoms. The most commonly prescribed treatments for social anxiety disorder are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), EMDR, DBT, and exposure therapies all of which are practiced at RDU Counseling for Change. Most of the methods used to help someone with social phobia involve exposure to anxiety-inducing situations and then teaching effective coping mechanisms.

But a patient needs to be consistent with the treatment to actually get better; otherwise, they will not improve.

Medication
Psychiatrists or medical doctors often prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in medicinal jargon. Medical experts typically start patients with a social anxiety disorder on a small dose and gradually increase it to reduce the risk of side effects.

Social phobia itself is immensely distressing, but having it can also cause a person to feel depressed and lonely. It is not that these individuals do not like being around people; it is that they are terrified they are being judged by others or will embarrass themselves. After all, we need to be accepted in relationships.

If you think you need help with your social phobia or any other psychological issue, reach out to our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change in Wake County. We specialize in individual, couples, and family therapy, so feel free to contact us regardless of what you need help with. For more information, talk to our staff today.

 

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RDU Counseling for Change Specialization Series: Panic Disorder

An anxious woman biting her nailsPeople suffering from mental health disorders often feel lonely and misunderstood as healthy individuals cannot ever truly realize how debilitating living with a psychological ailment can be. The bombardment of intrusive thoughts, the onslaught of all-consuming emotions, the ever-present anxiety, and a depressed outlook-these are only a few of the many symptoms that may afflict someone with a mental illness. Dealing with some of these symptoms can feel like an uphill battle; but some disorders, like panic disorder, can be crippling when stress levels can go through the roof.

Understanding Panic Disorders
A panic attack is characterized by an individual experiencing physiological symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, and headaches. These symptoms can be so frightening that one often feels as if they are having a heart attack. This is often followed by a necessity to avoid whatever is perceived to be the cause of a panic attack. For example, if someone was in a car accident, they may begin experiencing panic attacks while driving. The underlying cause of this is the trauma, but instead many will attempt to minimize the panic attacks. They may take alternate routes that they perceive as safer or avoid letting others drive them.

Treating Panic Disorders
Avoiding the perceived threat seems to be an understandable thing to do. After all, you would not walk across the street when traffic is zooming by. That would be dangerous. With panic disorders, the threat seems just as dangerous. But avoidance is not the best course of action. When clients continue to avoid the perceived threat, their panic attacks actually tend to worsen in intensity and frequency. Take the example above, for example. Avoiding driving past the scene of the accident does not help one face their fears or see that it was a threat when it happened but not any longer.

There are many traditional and alternative methods of treating panic disorders, RDU Counseling for Change uses EDMR therapy and CBT to ease symptoms of panic attacks. Such exposure therapies provide a compassionate environment for patients where they share all their fear.

If you have a panic disorder or struggle with any other kind of mental illness, and need individual, couple, or family therapy for it, reach out to one of our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change.

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What is PTSD and How to Treat It

A stressed out woman holding her headPost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects one in 11 people throughout their lifetime. Those who have endured a traumatic experience may develop PTSD and feel anxious, scared, and on edge even when they are not in any immediate danger.

Feeling jittery and shocked after a fearful incident is natural. However, if the unsettling feelings stay for more than a month and are not caused by substance abuse or any other mental illness, then the person may be suffering from PTSD.

People with PTSD must have the following symptoms in order to receive the diagnosis.

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

Re-Experiencing Symptoms
While some may remember a trauma, those with PTSD actually feel like they are back in their experience. It can be extremely frightening to continually repeat the trauma over and over. These symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Frightening thoughts

These events can have an impact on a person’s daily life, inhibiting their ability to focus on work and interact in their relationships.

Avoidance Symptoms
Because of the frightening nature of re-experiencing symptoms, those with PTSD typically engage in numbing or avoidance behaviors. These include:

  • Avoiding places or people that could remind one of the incident.
  • Consciously trying to avoid feelings and thoughts related to the event.

Arousal or Reactivity Symptoms
Not only do those who have experienced trauma try to avoid reminders, they also have a marked reactivity to these reminders. They may feel the necessity to be hypervigilant and on guard to protect themselves from future trauma. These symptoms include:

  • Being jumpy all the time
  • Getting startled easily
  • Having trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Having frequent angry outbursts

Cognition and Mood Symptoms
It is to be expected then with these previous symptoms, that one’s mood and thoughts would be impacted. Often those who have endured trauma blame themselves for the event or consider themselves powerless. These symptoms may also include:

  • Difficulty remembering facts related to the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Feeling guilt
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

Sometimes a person can develop PTSD symptoms without going through a stressful experience themselves. The untimely death of a loved one or seeing a loved one in pain also can lead some people to develop PTSD.

Comorbidities along with PTSD are depression and anxiety. It is important to recognize that many with PTSD can feel lonely; some sufferers may even consider suicide as an option to end their misery. However, with medication and counseling, one can overcome the symptoms and unsettling feelings of PTSD.

In some cases, a patient might not even need medication and recover with regular EMDR sessions with an expert counselor. Change is hard, and overcoming a mental illness can be one of the biggest changes people have to go through in life. But with consistent efforts, results can be achieved.

If you are looking for an expert counselor for individuals, couples, and family therapy in Wake County, reach out to Kelly Harrison at the RDU Counseling for Change, Raleigh location.

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Our Team of Professionals

  • Kelly Harrison

    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
  • Kelley Baughman

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA)
  • Whitney Chambers

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA)
  • Christy Douglas

    MA, LCMHC
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Hugo Izzo

    LCMHC
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Bryon Lawrence

    LCMHC
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Breanna Linn

    LCMHCA
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate
  • Sallie Ratcliffe

    LCMHCA
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate