Category Archives: Mental Health

middle aged man holding face mourning

Men and Grief: The Importance of Mourning Loss

By James Snow, LMHC, CAP, Clinical Director of Lucida

There was serious friction between me and my dad while growing up because I was the rebellious one in the family. But in the last five years of his life, we forged a new bond. When he retired, he agreed to move from Pennsylvania to Florida, to be closer to me. We planned to do the father and son stuff we’d missed during my younger years―sailing, snorkeling and just spending time together.

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serious teen in hoodie staring off into distance

Nikolas Cruz: The Warning Signs

Potentially dangerous behavioral traits are often noticed and even reported, sadly to no avail. In other instances, people notice something is awry; but for some reason, dismiss this behavior and fail to notify anyone about their suspicions.To some extent, both of these scenarios played out in the case of 19-year-old Nicolas Cruz.

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girl standing sad and alone amongst group of girls talking together

Social Anxiety Disorders: List of Short and Long Term Anxiety Disorders

Janice was asked to offer a reading at her friend’s wedding. She wanted to say yes, but she was so self-conscious in everyday social situations she feared a major social occasion like a wedding would be too difficult to manage.

The bride was very disappointed and a little angry, but she had no idea her friend was living in a world of social anxiety disorders that led her to feel extreme fear about being judged by others.

Janice had hidden the extent of her problem from friends but it had gotten worse in the past six months. Talking to new people at work was more challenging and anytime her boss assigned her a task that involved performing an action in front of others, such as handing out copies of a report, it terrified her. She had a persistent fear that her every movement was being watched and judged by others.

After finally consulting a therapist, Janice was able to understand more about social anxiety disorders. Sometimes referred to as social phobia, social anxiety can be a crippling mental health disorder.

The DSM-5 describes social anxiety disorder as “A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be embarrassing and humiliating.”

Signs of Social Anxiety Disorders

It may be time to get evaluated for social anxiety disorders if you have some of the following symptoms:

  • Self-consciousness and embarrassment or awkwardness in front of others
  • Nausea, blushing, sweating, trembling or rapid heartbeat in social settings
  • Inability to think of things to say (i.e., mind going blank)
  • Intense fear of judgment from others
  • Intense fear when having to deal with or meet new people
  • Avoiding social situations

How to Treat Social Anxiety Disorders

Psychotherapy is often the first line of defense to help with social anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy, known as CBT, has proved useful for treating anxiety disorders. It can help change the way you think, behave and react to certain situations. It’s also found effective in group settings.

Common Anxiety Disorders

Social anxiety disorder is one of several anxiety disorders that can be long-term and impact your daily life. Here are the most common:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Feeling a certain amount of anxiety or anxiousness is normal and can happen in even mundane experiences, such as having to jam on the breaks to miss a speeding car or if you are running late to a job interview. Happy occasions like planning a wedding can create anxiety as well, but that is a short-term or situational condition.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a more persistent, long-term condition that involves:

  • Feeling on edge
  • Overwhelmed with worry
  • Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety attacks

Panic Disorder

This is a condition that lurks as an underlying state of anxiety and can quickly and unexpectedly lead to recurrent panic attacks. Panic attacks are overwhelming moments of fear that includes physical sensations that can be very frightening, including:

  • Heart palpitations, pounding heart or rising heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations
  • Sweating or trembling
  • Feeling totally out of control
  • Fear about when the next panic attack will happen
  • Fear of places where panic attacks have happened in the past
  • A sense of impending doom

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This is often associated with members of the Armed Forces who’ve been in active combat, but it can affect anybody who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It can also impact people who have witnessed or heard of a loved being injured or hurt. It’s reported that 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD. The symptoms include:

    • Irritability and angry outbursts
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Startling easily
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Hypervigilance or always being on alert
    • Nightmares

Phobia

A phobia involves an irrational and excessive fear of a specific object, activity or situation. You may be aware that your fear is blown out of proportion but feel unable to control it. Distress can lead you to avoid anything that can trigger it. A deep fear of going into the ocean due to extreme worry over drowning ― or sharks ― can mean you’ll never set foot on a beach or in a sunny place. Or, it could be a specific phobia, such as agoraphobia; you may be deathly afraid of crowds, being in closed spaces, using public transportation or being alone outside of the home, so you never allow yourself out in the world.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This involves intrusive thoughts that create anxiety and extreme discomfort. You may have disturbing images that you cannot get out of your mind. This condition also is known for urges and compulsions that cause people to engage in repetitive behaviors; for example, excessive hand washing and checking for locked doors continuously.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

This takes root in the earliest months of life when an infant has issues attaching to a primary caregiver because that person is distant, dismissive, unavailable or leaves them alone too much. The infant becomes clingy for fear their caregiver won’t come back. As the child grows, they become persistently anxious and worried about intimate relationships and fear being away from the person or people they love. A baby may become agitated if the person leaves the room; as an adult, it might manifest as anxiety when the person doesn’t get an expected text message or call from the person they love.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

The first step is recognizing when you are dealing with social anxiety disorders or other anxiety disorders and seeking proper mental health care. Psychotherapy tailored to the specific disorder is a key approach to healing.

Resources:

“What Are Anxiety Disorders” – American Psychiatric Association
https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders

“Social Anxiety Is More than Just Shyness” – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness/index.shtml

“Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)” – Mayo Clinic
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353561

“Anxiety Disorders” – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

“Types of Anxiety Disorders” – Mental Health America (MHA)
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/anxiety-disorders

“Surviving Anxiety” – The Atlantcic
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/01/surviving_anxiety/355741/

“Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” – U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/symptoms_of_ptsd.asp

man in business suit laying down and relaxing

5 Ways For Men to Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance & Avoid Burnout

Although men are slowly becoming more receptive to the idea of seeking help for mental health problems (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression and trauma), they still tend to try and handle things on their own. Even when they feel overwhelmed by pressures at home and work, they often think they should keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. The tendency to stay strong and appear to have everything under control while struggling internally is not good for men’s mental health.

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sad male coworker with other coworkers talking behind his back

How Avoidant Personality Disorder Affects You at Work

Individuals with avoidant personality disorder struggle with a number of persistent symptoms that get in the way of having social relationships. In the United States, anywhere from 1% to 5.2% of the adult population suffers from avoidant personality disorder. However, many of these individuals continue to fight every day to have meaningful experiences, especially at work.

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stressed man

Why We Need a Program for Men’s Mental Health

By James Snow, LMHC, CAP, Clinical Director of Lucida

What are you, a big baby? Stop crying!

Suck it up, man! Pull yourself together.

Don’t ever let them see you sweat or show your weak side.

Men are given messages from the time they are children that insist they must be strong, capable, in charge and never show emotional distress. They do not have permission to be depressed, upset or emotionally lost. Even though progress has been made and there is more research about men and depression, the antiquated gender stereotype is alive and men continue to buy into the belief that they must pull themselves up by the bootstraps and suffer in silence. This has a tremendous impact on men’s mental health and can lead to depression and unresolved trauma and PTSD, not to mention the impact these issues have on the family, particularly the children. These stereotypes are passed from generation to generation and reinforced through our culture.

Because of the stigma of male depression, men act out their feelings in other ways ― mostly through anger, rage and aggression. The pain has to come out in some way and those emotions and accompanying behavior are acceptable for males. It’s OK to be a tough guy, to yell or even throw a punch. But men are still struggling with the concept of being truly vulnerable. Many do not have a clue about how much emotional pain they have shoved down and how they have denied their feelings.

Since men do not typically articulate their inner pain, people around them may assume that men do not experience emotional turmoil. They don’t think of the men in their lives as the ones who are suffering emotionally. But they are. For men, pain is isolating, leading them down a path of hopeless desperation. The result is unhealthy and destructive attempts to mitigate emotional pain, including substance abuse and violent and dramatic suicide attempts.

Generally, men are the last ones to reach out for help. As a result, their emotional needs are minimized and they are an undertreated population for mood disorders and trauma.

When Help Is Needed

There are certain signs that indicate anxiety in men, as well as depression and other mood disorders, including:

  • Changes in mood, energy level or sleeping habits
  • Appetite changes, including eating too much or not enough
  • An ongoing feeling of being on edge, restless or unable to focus
  • Aggressive behavior and having a short fuse
  • Overwhelming stress or worry
  • Feeling emotionally numb and detached
  • Substance abuse and other destructive behaviors
  • Loss of the ability to experience positive feelings and joy
  • Suicidal thinking, talk or attempts

Getting Beyond Fix, Rescue, Protect and Control

Men are not perceived as being verbally prolific. It’s a cultural stereotype but there is truth to it because they are taught to fix, rescue, protect and control. It’s been the ongoing communication dynamic between men and women and it is the way men traditionally approach a crisis. Ironically, it is the opposite of what most women are seeking, which is someone to listen and understand.

A mental health crisis requires a different approach. It requires a safe, nonjudgmental environment where men can thrive in community with one another. The first elements addressed are often foreign concepts for men:

  • You’re a fully feeling being.
  • You’re built to be an emotional person and you don’t have to be ashamed of feelings.
  • You’re here to redefine what being vulnerable is and to come to see that it is actually an outward demonstration of strength ― not weakness.

Stopping Unnecessary Suffering

Six million men in the United States experience depression. Many men have been very unhappy for a very long time. They have hidden and swallowed their unhappiness. And when the pain gets so bad that things fall apart in relationships, family and at work, many men internalize it as: I’ve completely failed. I’ve failed as a man. I’ve failed as a husband. I’ve failed as a father.

There is a lot of blaming and shaming in this culture, which sometimes gets in the way of men recognizing that having a mental illness is not their fault and that it is a problem they cannot fix on their own. In men’s mental health treatment, we provide a safe space for:

  • Discussing important issues and sharing openly without judgment
  • Learning new coping and problem-solving skills to replace destructive behaviors
  • Improving communication skills and enhancing relationships
  • Building a network with other men in similar situations
  • Healing from trauma, anxiety and mood disorders

Just opening the door to dialogue is a way of alleviating some of the unnecessary suffering.  Most importantly, the message to impart to men is: You’re not a failure. And it is OK to reach out for help. The result of treatment is truly transformative: improved relationships through authenticity and emotional intimacy without the fear of judgment. What a remarkable legacy for a man to leave for his family and children.