The Unique Challenges of Mental Health in the Bay Area: How Our Therapists Can Help

Living in the Bay Area, with its unique blend of cultural diversity, technological innovation, and economic disparities, presents distinct mental health challenges. From the high-pressure tech industry to the complexities of urban living, residents face various stressors that can impact their mental well-being. This is where Bay Area therapists, especially those at the SF Stress and Anxiety Center, become vital in providing crucial support.

At SF Stress and Anxiety Center, specialized mental health professionals understand the unique challenges of mental health in the Bay Area. They offer a range of services, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a proven approach for addressing conditions like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. CBT, through structured therapy sessions, empowers individuals to problem-solve and develop coping strategies in a rapidly changing environment.

Finding a therapist in the Bay Area, particularly one who resonates with your specific needs, is crucial. SF Stress and Anxiety Center, along with other health centers, often provides a sliding scale to ensure therapy is accessible to all. Whether it’s family therapy, individual counseling, or group support you need, there are licensed professionals dedicated to your mental health.

Therapists in the Bay Area understand the complexities of mental illness against the backdrop of a diverse urban setting like San Francisco. They offer a safe space where clients can feel understood and supported. While therapists typically do not prescribe medication, the holistic approach at SF Stress and Anxiety Center ensures collaboration with a wide network of healthcare professionals, including social workers and psychiatrists, for comprehensive care.

For many Bay Area residents, dealing with mental health conditions means navigating insurance plans and understanding coverage for therapy sessions. SF Stress and Anxiety Center assists clients in this process, ensuring they make the most out of their benefits and receive the necessary number of sessions for effective treatment.

In conclusion, the unique challenges of mental health in the Bay Area require a nuanced approach to therapy. SF Stress and Anxiety Center stands out as a beacon of support, offering tailored therapy solutions to residents. 

If you or someone you know is grappling with mental health issues in the Bay Area, reaching out to local therapists, like SF Stress and Anxiety Center, can be the first step towards better mental health and well-being.

Navigating Family Relationships When a Loved One Has Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental health disorder that affects how a person sees themselves and others. Their unstable sense of self, intense fear of abandonment, erratic mood swings, impulsive behaviors, and unpredictable, intense emotional reactions can make it difficult for them to maintain healthy relationships, even (or maybe especially) with the people that matter most to them. People with BPD suffer from emotional dysregulation that makes it difficult for them to manage their own extreme emotional responses, and they may turn to unhealthy behaviors like violence, self-harm, or substance abuse to attempt to cope with emotional pain.

In the context of family relationships, the struggles of somebody with BPD have a negative impact on everybody in the family. Often family members describe their experience with a child or parent with BPD as feeling like they’re walking on eggshells, unsure of when they will unwittingly provoke an outburst, or a rollercoaster, in which moments of happiness and hope for improvement are rapidly replaced with anxiety and fear as their loved one lapses into destructive behavior again.

 

Borderline Personality Family Dynamics

When one family member has BPD, the overall experience is one of instability. One moment they may be loving, the next, lashing out. A child may be skipping school, or their self-destructive behavior may escalate to a suicide attempt. A parent with BPD may be overly attached and controlling or demonstrate affection inconsistently. Ongoing unpredictability skews how the family interacts with one another.

Stress and worry are constant, as family members fear for their loved one’s well-being. Guilt is another common feeling—parents may feel responsible for their child’s mental health and behavior, or children may feel that they somehow caused a parent’s mental illness. They may also feel exhausted or helpless when previous attempts to set healthy boundaries or provide support haven’t worked.

To complicate the issue, a family history of BPD or early disruption of family life are both risk factors for developing BPD. If you have BPD, you may not be the only one in your family struggling with their mental health, and parents may have unconsciously passed on patterns of toxic family relations. Improving family relationships often requires getting help for everyone, not just the family member with borderline personality disorder.

 

Starting with Self-Care

Therapy is the main form of treatment for BPD, helping you understand the disorder, improve your response to someone with BPD, learn to manage uncomfortable emotions and your response to their impulsiveness, as well as,  improve your relationships. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a form of treatment developed by clinical psychologist Marsha Linehan, is considered one of the most effective types of therapy for BPD and those who are in the circle of someone with BPD.

DBT focuses on improving life skills through:

  • Distress tolerance: Learning how to tolerate negative emotions so that you don’t react impulsively or self-destructively.
  • Emotional regulation: Learning to recognize and handle emotions to improve control over thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.
  • Mindfulness: Learning to be focused on the present as well as nonjudgmental of yourself and others.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Learning skills to better handle relationships, such as how to communicate more effectively, how to advocate for yourself and set healthy boundaries, how to build relationships, and how to end relationships that aren’t healthy.

By cultivating acceptance and balance, patients are able to validate the emotions they’re experiencing while addressing and changing problematic behaviors.

Therapy can help you understand your triggers and put effective coping mechanisms in place before you need them. This might mean things as simple as stopping to use a breathing exercise or listen to music to ground yourself before negative emotions spiral out of control. It may mean knowing when to step away from a situation and giving yourself time to collect your thoughts and calm down. With these kinds of tools, you’ll be better equipped to work on your relationships with your family in a healthy, productive way.

 

Developing Better Relationships

When a family has been coping with borderline personality disorder, it’s likely that the person with BPD isn’t the only one who will need to learn healthier ways to interact. Family therapy can be extremely helpful in preventing parents and kids from slipping back into patterns that may be unintentionally triggering or enabling negative behaviors. The guidance of a mental health professional can also help a family learn how to better support your recovery, enabling them to replace feelings of helplessness and frustration with the rewarding sense of being able to help you make progress toward your goals. Families may also want to join a support group to connect with others who share their experience.

 

Finding Help

If BPD has upended your family, positive change is possible. Therapy can be instrumental in helping give you and your loved ones the tools to build the healthy relationships you want. To get connected with a therapist who can help with either online or in-person sessions, contact the SF Stress & Anxiety Center here. We’ll schedule a free initial phone consultation with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to match you with the right therapist for your needs.

 

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Managing Stress and Anxiety When You Have ADHD

For somebody who has been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), stress and anxiety may be constant unwanted “bonus” problems that seem difficult, if not impossible, to separate from the disorder itself. While the symptoms of ADHD can look different in adults and children, the inattention, impulsivity, and restlessness/hyperactivity that characterize it tend to make even simple tasks at home, school, or work harder to complete. Daily life can become an ongoing source of uncertainty, worry, and stress—in fact, anxiety disorders are one of the most frequent comorbid diagnoses among adults with ADHD.

Of course, the relationship between ADHD and anxiety isn’t necessarily that simple. It can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem to figure out whether ADHD is the cause of anxiety or if they are issues that exist side by side. Either way, learning to cope with stress and anxiety when you have ADHD can help make treatment for both conditions more effective.

 

ADHD vs. Anxiety

ADHD and anxiety can have similar symptoms, especially ADHD-inattentive type (what was once known as ADD or attention deficit disorder). For example, being unable to focus or having trouble concentrating, experiencing sleep problems, or being restless or irritable can be symptoms of either anxiety or ADHD. The key difference is what underlies the symptoms. For someone suffering primarily from anxiety, distraction is caused by overwhelming fearful thoughts that make it difficult to concentrate, while someone with ADHD is easily distracted even in situations when they’re calm.

Unfortunately, determining the source of troubling symptoms might not be that straightforward, because people with ADHD are also likely to feel anxious about problems brought on by their struggles with their mental health condition. ADHD can negatively affect nearly every aspect of daily life, and someone coping with it can be highly aware of how they’re failing to live up to their own expectations but still have trouble changing their behavior. Missing important deadlines or meetings at work; being unable to prioritize important tasks; missing instructions because you couldn’t focus on a conversation; feeling guilty because an impulsive outburst offended someone you care about—these common situations that can arise from ADHD also produce anxiety.

The overlap in ADHD and anxiety symptoms can be the source of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. It’s important for a mental health professional to carefully screen symptoms to rule out an anxiety disorder when diagnosing ADHD, and vice versa. Having an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward effective treatment.

 

Can ADHD Get Worse with Stress?

If you’ve been under stress and thought it made your ADHD even harder to deal with, you’re not imagining it. Your body’s physical response to stressors exacerbates classic symptoms of ADHD. Stress hormones are designed to activate a fight-or-flight response that, among other things, routes blood away from the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs executive function and which is already affected by ADHD. The stress response weakens working memory, mental flexibility, impulse control, coping skills, and the ability to sustain concentration. Worse, chronic stress can cause biochemical changes to the brain that make it harder for it to function correctly. It’s entirely possible to end up in a vicious cycle where stress exacerbates ADHD, leading to more stress. However, it is possible to break that pattern with the proper assessment and treatment.

 

Getting the Help You Need for ADHD, Anxiety, and Stress

The best treatment for ADHD and anxiety may vary somewhat by individual, especially if the anxiety they’re experiencing is primarily due to their ADHD. You’ll get better results if you know exactly what you’re dealing with, so if you don’t have a confirmed diagnosis already or think it might not be accurate, we encourage you to seek out assessment and testing to get a clearer picture.

In general, ADHD is treated with a combination of medication (either stimulant or nonstimulant), therapy, and behavioral tools. A comprehensive approach is essential for success—therapy is not a substitute for medication, and medication can’t replace therapy. Medications help balance levels of important neurotransmitters to improve the symptoms of ADHD. Therapy can assist in identifying negative thoughts and behavior patterns and help patients change them so they’re better able to function and manage their ADHD symptoms. Dealing with ADHD head-on, coming to understand that daily difficulties with it are not character flaws but the effect of a disorder with a neurological basis, and learning better coping strategies can all go a long way toward relieving ADHD-related anxiety as well as improving the overall diagnosis.

 

In addition, lifestyle changes can help you better deal with stress and anxiety when you have ADHD. Setting a regular schedule that incorporates breaks and exercise helps, as does maintaining a healthy diet, reducing the use of alcohol and/or caffeine, and quitting smoking. Learning relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises can help provide tools to mitigate feelings of stress before they become overwhelming. These changes will work best when you can be consistent; consider phasing them in gradually so they become habits that are easy to follow rather than an abrupt shift.

 

If you’re struggling with ADHD and anxiety, or suspect you might be, the SF Stress & Anxiety Center can help. Our experienced therapists use evidence-based methods to help you overcome the challenges you face and learn strategies that allow you to improve your quality of life. For your convenience, we offer both in-person and online sessions. Schedule your free initial phone consultation with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to be matched with the right therapist for you.

Get Help When You Need It: Depression Is Not a Moral Failure

By Douglas Newton, LMFT

Over the past several years, stigma around seeking help for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues has decreased.  And yet.  Partly because of the way depression leads many to self-criticize, many often think that depression is a stain, a black mark against their character, something wrong with them.  

It is time to disentangle depression from this idea of moral failure.  It is time to stop imagining that depression is synonymous with a person’s character.  

 

What are the general symptoms of depression?

If you experience depression, you have symptoms that occur with that experience.  These can include sadness, stress, anxiety, sleep issues, negative self-talk, low motivation, feelings of hopelessness and failure to take pleasure in everyday activities, or anhedonia.  For severe depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts can also occur.  

These symptoms help clinicians like me understand your experience.  No one chooses to experience depression.  And confusion around where it comes from can lead to self-criticism, self-blame, shame and isolation.  These factors can make depression worse, and shut someone down emotionally, which can exacerbate depression.

Thankfully there are many approaches to help people who experience depression find relief.  

 

What will people think of me if they know I am depressed?  What are some stigmas of depression?

Many public figures, most recently Senator John Fetterman, have decided to disclose that they are dealing with depression.  According to this article in the New York Times (gift article that doesn’t require subscription), “Social scientists say there is demonstrable evidence that the public is growing more accepting of people with depression.”  Relatedly, more people recognize the usefulness of seeking help when they experience anxiety, depression or other issues.  

 

What if depression is just who I am? 

When you are experiencing depression, it can feel like your entire experience.  It can eclipse your sense of self, or even come to feel like your identity.  Disentangling your self-concept from depression is one fundamental step in therapy to help recognize depression as mental illness rather than identity.  Therapy helps you distinguish between depression and your identity.

 

You are not alone

Millions of people experience depression, with onset resulting from a wide range of interrelated factors.  People from all walks of life experience depression and many of them find a fresh approach to their lives through therapy.  While your experience with depression is unique to you, the symptoms are not, and there are many ways to help.  

It takes courage and humility to recognize you need help and then make the call. Therapy is private, confidential, informed and professional, creating a safe place to address and treat your depression 

 

SF Stress therapists have deep experience treating depression

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are among the effective, evidence-based treatments therapists use.  Research shows that therapy helps people diminish the severity and frequency of their symptoms related to depression.  

Getting help to treat your depression is an act of self respect.  It is a decision to take care of yourself, and an assertion that you matter.  For many people with depression, seeking help can be undermined by depression itself.  Making that call can help.  

 

Further Reading:

National Institutes of Mental Health on Depression

American Psychiatric Association on Depression

World Health Organization on Depression

 

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Breathe Your Way Through Stress and Anxiety

What is the simplest, most effective way to address stress?  What can you do to slow your heart and feel more centered when things are challenging?  Deep breathing, and Square Breathing in particular, can help you recover, find your center and lower the impact of stress and anxiety.  

 

You take your lungs wherever you go

Because we are always breathing, bringing attention to this fundamental process can seem simple, even simplistic.  Fortunately, square breathing is one of the easiest and most effective stress reduction techniques we have.  

What’s the easiest way to lower your heart rate?

Just arrived at work and need to reset your focus?  Get centered with 5 rounds of square breathing.  Feeling a little socially anxious at the wedding reception?  Take a moment to step outside and do some breathing, then hit the dance floor.  Need a moment to decompress from work before attending to your home life?  Take a moment to yourself to re-establish your focus before you walk in the door.  

How do you breathe to relieve stress?

Sit down if a seat is available, and keep your back straight, while also relaxing your shoulders.  Relax your abdominal muscles to allow your lungs to expand into your diaphragm.  Inhale for 4 to 5 seconds, while counting.  Choose a number of seconds that fills your lungs to a deep breath without pushing too hard against that natural limit.  Hold your breath for that same count.  Exhale for the same amount of time.  Then stay at the bottom of your exhalation for 4 or 5 seconds, whichever feels right to you, before you repeat the cycle.  

 

Benefits of Deep Breathing 

Deep breathing calms down the Fight, Flight or Freeze response. A slow exhalation engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is involved in relaxation.  It turns down your brain’s alarm center. This leads to a reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone.  Your shoulders tend to drop.  You can feel yourself correct your posture a little and expand your chest cavity to accommodate a deeper breath.  The awareness from breathing can make you feel more restful, calm and aware.  According to psychologist and author Rick Hanson, focusing on the breath can be profoundly centering.  

According to the New York Times’ Alisha Haridasani Gupta, just breathe, “When you slow your breathing down, ‘the parasympathetic system — what we call the ‘rest and digest’ system — hopefully takes over and helps calm you down,’ she said.”  Because stress and anxiety are deeply woven into the physiological stress response, square breathing can be key to resetting your mood, your perspective, and your awareness.  

 

Further Reading:

Harvard Medical School Relaxation Techniques  

Deep Breathing to Relieve Acute Stress

NHS Breathing Exercises for Stress  

University of Michigan One Minute Strategies to Relieve Stress

 

If you’re seeking further guidance and support in managing stress and anxiety, SF Stress & Anxiety Center is here to help. Our experienced professionals can provide personalized techniques and coping strategies for long-lasting relief. Schedule a consultation today to take control of your well-being.

 

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Understanding the Link Between Stress, Anxiety, and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are serious conditions that not only have a profoundly negative effect on physical and mental health, but are also difficult to treat. These problems often start in adolescence and in early adulthood, although they can occur at any age. The disordered eating behaviors that result can affect the body’s ability to get adequate nutrition and cause physical damage, with potentially serious long-term health consequences. While the exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, certain risk factors that can contribute to their development are well understood, including stress and anxiety. Understanding how these factors can trigger, influence, and exacerbate eating disorders is essential for effectively treating them. 

 

Can Anxiety Cause an Eating Disorder?

Stress and anxiety are a part of life, as much as we might wish otherwise. Sometimes stress can be helpful, such as when it motivates us to get an important project done before a deadline or study harder before a big test. However, when anxiety becomes unmanageable, persistent and overwhelming worry can make it impossible to function on a day-to-day basis or to maintain healthy relationships. While anxiety disorders may occur on their own, they can also occur with other mental illnesses such as depression.

Anxiety disorders are common among those also struggling with an eating disorder. According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, 47.9% of those with anorexia nervosa, 80.6% of those with bulimia nervosa, and 65.1% of those with binge-eating disorder were also diagnosed with some form of anxiety disorder. The most common types of anxiety disorders associated with eating disorders are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety and eating disorders can interact in complex ways, which makes it essential not to overlook the role the former plays when treating the latter.

It’s easy to see how anxiety or a stressful life change—such as going away to college, family issues, a new job or promotion, or moving—could push someone already at risk into developing an eating disorder. A family history of eating disorders, having been teased or bullied about weight, past trauma, and/or frequent dieting are all factors that are known to increase the risk of an eating disorder, and adding stress to the mix may be the catalyst that provokes problematic eating behaviors. However, the relationship is more complicated than that. 

 

Understanding the Connection between Anxiety and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are progressive—they often start intentionally as a way to feel a sense of control. Once a habit forms, though, it is easy to lose control over disordered eating behaviors and exercise habits. People with eating disorders become compelled to continue their destructive behaviors, which tend to worsen over time. In turn, the consequences of those behaviors can amplify the stress and anxiety they were initially meant to help relieve.

For example, someone with anorexia may begin severely restricting their food intake, repeatedly measuring their weight, or undertaking an extreme exercise regimen as a way of trying to cope with anxiety and a distorted body image. They may also develop ritualistic behaviors such as cutting food into tiny bites or weighing everything they eat. However, having to hide these behaviors from concerned family, friends, or colleagues can become a new source of stress and anxiety. In addition, malnutrition can also make anxiety worse.

Anxiety, stress, and bingeing can create a different dynamic that nevertheless serves to amplify the negative feelings that provoke disordered eating. Instead of avoiding food, people with bulimia or binge-eating disorder have episodes in which they consume large amounts of food in a short period of time. Negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, guilt, or hopelessness are often identified as triggers for a binge, which might begin with eating comfort foods to self-soothe but balloon into uncontrolled eating. Because this releases brain chemicals like serotonin, it works in the short term. In bulimia, that binge is followed by a purge (such as vomiting or laxative abuse) in response to the uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms of the binge. The immediate feeling of relief, for both those with bulimia and people with binge-eating disorder, is quickly replaced by feelings of guilt and shame.

As with anorexia, binge-eating (whether it is followed by purging or not) is accompanied by secrecy and anxiety. Those suffering from these disorders tend to hide food, eat alone, and otherwise go to great lengths to hide their binges. Embarrassment over their lack of control over their behaviors may also amplify the negative emotions that are more likely to spark binge episodes. Physical consequences such as gastrointestinal problems or weight gain may become an additional source of stress and anxiety as well. 

 

Treating Eating Disorders and Anxiety

While someone might not develop an eating disorder from anxiety alone, when an anxiety disorder is also present, it is necessary to treat both conditions simultaneously. Otherwise, symptoms of anxiety can worsen disordered eating or cause discouraging relapses during treatment. Learning how to reduce anxiety and develop healthier coping mechanisms can help break the cycle of self-destructive behavior.

At the SF Stress & Anxiety Center, our therapists specialize in treating anxiety, using evidence-based methods to produce lasting relief. If anxiety has you feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or hopeless, we can help. To keep treatment accessible and convenient, we offer both in-person and online therapy. Schedule your free initial phone consultation with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to be matched with the right therapist for you.

 

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How to Help Adult Anxiety

Feeling nervous or anxious at times is normal, especially if you’re going through a stressful period at work or home. However, there’s a vast difference between typical moments of nervousness in response to pressure and an anxiety disorder—intense, persistent, excessive worry and fear that interferes with your ability to function at work, at home, or in social situations. Adult anxiety is far from rare—according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced an anxiety disorder in the last year, and 31.1% of adults have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. While it’s all too likely that you or someone you care about will be affected, adult anxiety can be effectively treated.

It isn’t fully understood what causes anxiety disorders, although most experts believe that multiple factors play a role. Genetic predisposition, your personality type, traumatic experiences, and prolonged or extreme stress can all interact to bring on anxiety that is difficult to control and out of proportion to the stressors you face. For example, if you’ve felt more anxious since the pandemic, you’re not alone. A recent study shows that one in three adults worldwide was living with an anxiety disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic due to uncertainty, disruptions in daily routines and health concerns for themselves or loved ones. Understanding what adult anxiety can look like and how best to respond can help keep anxiety from limiting the possibilities of your life. 

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

People suffering from anxiety disorders may experience a range of physical symptoms, as well as anxious thoughts and behaviors. Possible physical signs include a racing heart or heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, shakiness, edginess or restlessness, dizziness, lightheadedness, insomnia, and/or becoming fatigued easily. Characteristic thought patterns can include a sense of impending danger or doom, racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate on anything except the present worry, a constant belief that the worst will happen, and persistent worry that is difficult to control. This physical and mental discomfort leads to common anxiety behaviors such as avoiding feared situations and social withdrawal.

People suffering from anxiety may be reluctant to socialize, afraid to talk on the phone, fearful of going out, and scared to interact in even simple ways with other people, such as speaking to a cashier at a store. When these symptoms of adult anxiety persist and/or get worse over time, interfering with your work, your relationships, or ordinary daily activities, you shouldn’t wait to seek help in the hope that they’ll go away on their own. 

 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The type of anxiety disorder someone experiences may be differentiated by the situation that triggers their anxiety and their symptoms. Some types are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Persistent, excessive worrying about everyday issues over a period of months or years, producing a sense of fear or dread that interferes with daily life.
  • Panic disorder: Regular attacks of sudden fear producing intense physical symptoms in the absence of any real danger or apparent cause.
  • Social anxiety: Intense and ongoing fear of being watched or negatively judged by other people. Some sufferers may experience fear or anxiety in all social settings, while others have difficulty only in certain situations, such as eating in front of others or performing or speaking publicly (performance anxiety).
  • Separation anxiety: Extreme fear or distress at being separated or the thought of being separated from a loved one. While some separation anxiety is a normal stage of development for very young children, as an adult disorder it can prevent normal functioning at work or home when the sufferer is away from their spouse, child, or other loved one.

Of course, not every case of anxiety fits neatly into a single category. Anxiety may also occur alongside other mental health disorders, such as depression or substance abuse. While this may complicate a diagnosis, it doesn’t mean that anxiety can’t be treated. 

 

Adult Anxiety Treatment

It’s common for people to believe they can’t control anxiety or their tendency to have panic attacks and that it’s just a problem they’ll have to learn to live with. In fact, that isn’t the case at all—many people are able to move past the symptoms of anxiety disorders and learn to improve their quality of life. If your attempts to manage anxiety on your own aren’t working, it is possible to get effective help.

One of the first steps should be to consult your primary care physician for a physical evaluation. Sometimes symptoms of anxiety can be related to an underlying health condition or medication you’re taking, so it’s best to rule that out as a possible cause or contributing factor. Properly treating any such medical condition may help alleviate anxiety.

If anxiety doesn’t spring from a physical cause, consulting a mental health professional should be your next move. Psychotherapy helps people with anxiety disorders identify the causes of their worries and fears and develop healthier coping mechanisms and skills to overcome anxiety. Two types of psychotherapy that can be effective for people with anxiety disorders are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of short-term therapy pairs cognitive and behavioral approaches to recognize our existing patterns of thought and behavior and examine how they can hold us back. Patients then learn how to change those thought patterns and habits. CBT sets specific goals that are meaningful for each patient and teaches them skills to take action to achieve them.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a modified form of CBT developed to help people develop mindfulness, tolerate distress, regulate their emotions, and improve their interpersonal effectiveness. It can include group therapy for behavioral skills as well as individual therapy sessions. DBT validates a patient’s experience while gently challenging them to make positive change.  

Lifestyle changes can also have a positive impact on getting anxiety under control when paired with psychotherapy. Regular exercise, getting adequate sleep, healthy eating, avoiding alcohol or recreational drugs, and cutting back on stimulants like caffeine can all be beneficial. In addition, relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises can help keep stress at manageable levels. Your therapist can help plan a mix of treatments for anxiety best tailored to your unique situation and needs.

 

Reclaiming Your Life from Anxiety

When anxiety takes hold, it can gradually take over your life, isolating and limiting you. At the SF Stress & Anxiety Center, our therapists can help you overcome your anxiety and develop psychological resilience so you can thrive in your professional and personal life. We offer both in-person and online therapy sessions to keep treatment accessible. 

To get started, schedule a free introductory phone call with one of our compassionate Care Coordinators to be matched with the right specialist.

 

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Dating Someone with Anxiety: What You Need to Know

Although everyone experiences anxiety at times, some people suffer from more debilitating or heightened forms that can impact their lives on a daily basis. In turn, this can require more understanding and compassion from their significant other. The truth is, dating someone with anxiety can present additional challenges, stresses, and strains to a relationship. For example, when cohabitating, an anxious partner’s difficulty sleeping can negatively impact the sleep quality of both partners. It may also be necessary to adjust to an anxious partner’s difficulty concentrating, nervousness, or restlessness.

While someone with anxiety might need extra patience, empathy, and support from their partner, that doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed; it just requires a lot more communication, which is crucial as a couple anyway. 

If you’re dating someone with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, but don’t know exactly how to help them, don’t worry. Here are some great tips on dating someone with anxiety, from ways to support your partner to an understanding of how anxiety can affect your relationship.

 

How to Support Your Partner With Anxiety

Ask them what they need.

Being in a relationship with someone who suffers from anxiety requires more communication on your part. Whenever a partner’s anxiety level is high, it’s important to be mindful of what they may need and ask what they require at the moment. For example, if they want to be held or if touch feels too overstimulating at the moment, you can just ask them what they need.

However, if they cannot articulate what they need in the moment, try a few low-key approaches such as playing some soft music; playing with pets; or focusing on any calming, pleasant physical sensation they need. Use a meditation app with them and offer to meditate with them for a few minutes or do something artistic and creative together. Games that require a lot of concentration and attention can also be helpful since they divert attention from anxiety. Puzzles or simple video games like Tetris or solitaire can be good at distracting them.

Don’t tell them to calm down or relax.

Even though you might think telling your partner to “relax” is helpful, you might actually be adding to their anxiety. When your partner is suffering from high anxiety, it is most likely that they are already fighting within themselves about how to deal with it, and other people saying this can sound more like a directive than comforting. 

Consider calming activities like meditation or a bath instead. Although it may be hard not to tell your partner what to do, trust that when they need you, they’ll tell you. Don’t take it personally if they need some quiet time or some alone time. Respecting them will improve your relationship.

Learn more about their type of anxiety.

In order to be able to help your partner as effectively as possible, you should learn as much as you can about their type of anxiety. This can include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, separation anxiety, and/or panic attacks. While you may not be able to know exactly how your partner feels, making an effort to learn will benefit both of you.

In order to do this, you can read articles or books on the topic, follow social media accounts, or ask your partner directly what living with anxiety is like for them. As you become more familiar with their condition, you will be able to support them a lot better.

Don’t dismiss their emotions.

You may not fully comprehend what your partner is going through when it comes to anxiety, but that doesn’t mean their feelings are invalid. Whenever you dismiss someone by saying, “You’re overreacting” or “It’s not a big deal,” you can be gaslighting them, making them believe what they’re experiencing isn’t real.

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t let them run wild with their emotions, as this may cause them to spiral out of control. You do, however, want to create a safe space so your partner can navigate their anxiety-which can be difficult if you ignore or dismiss it. Studies show that we seek partners who see us the way we see ourselves in relationships and that this helps the relationship succeed. In a relationship, we want to feel comfortable to be ourselves instead of pretending to be someone we are not.

Be aware of the subtle signs of anxiety, too.

You might be able to spot some of the most common anxiety signs (for example, excessive worrying, restlessness, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep) easier, but it’s also important to know about less common ones, so you don’t end up supporting behaviors that hurt your partner the most. For instance, perfectionism is often a sign of an anxiety disorder. This may be when our partner can never relax, never stops trying, or needs constant feedback that things are right. They might be feeling more anxiety than they let on. Those with anxiety might seek frequent assurance that they are doing things’ right’. They might be concealing anxiety if they never seem to get enough reassurance or validation.

 

How Anxiety Affects Relationships

They might have set ways of doing things.

If your partner has anxiety, they may have certain ways of approaching tasks that feel familiar and safe to them. Perfectionism, rigidity, and the desire to control things that do not need to be controlled are some traits they may exhibit. It’s important to understand that they’re usually harder on themselves than they are on anyone else.

One of the ways you can help is by setting boundaries about their need to control things. Discuss their feelings with them, so they feel understood, but also let them know how it affects you. For instance, if you and your partner disagree about how to clean the house because their standards are much stricter than yours, focus on a “good enough” standard and let them know that anything beyond that is on them. Additionally, if you don’t get enough relaxation time, carve out some for yourself that is non-negotiable.

They may have fears about the relationship.

For example, someone may worry about whether their partner will leave them or whether they are truly loved and cared for by them. In many cases, these concerns are unfounded and contradictory to objective reality.

To help cope with this fear, your partner may choose to become extra close, so much so that you may feel smothered. Ironically, this may lead you to create some separation or breathing room, which only confirms the anxious partner’s fears of abandonment. By understanding this, you can navigate the situation with clarity and have an honest discussion.

 

How to Set Boundaries

While you may love your partner, it’s completely natural to need to set boundaries with them on certain behaviors; what might be considered a healthy coping mechanism for them might impact you in a negative way. Talk with your partner about the specific behaviors that bother you, listen to their perspective, and encourage them to talk about their experience.

Once you find common ground with your loved one, encourage them to seek help from a therapist and continue to set boundaries when their behavior becomes an issue. Be mindful that setting boundaries doesn’t mean you should insult, dismiss, or criticize your partner. The best thing to do is empathize with them and let them know that there might be ways to improve their situation. Don’t take full responsibility for handling their anxiety yourself; don’t put more effort into it than they’re willing to, or you’ll burn yourself out.

At the end of the day, being in a relationship with someone who has anxiety can be a really nurturing and healthy experience. By being supportive, thoughtful, and empathetic about your partner’s anxiety, you’ll be able to build a foundation that will work for the both of you. If you are experiencing anxiety or dating someone who does and need help coping, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss how we can best support your needs.

 

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Tips for Mental Health That Therapists Use for Themselves

Working out and eating a healthy diet are two ways we care for our physical health. However, the strategies are less defined when it comes to mental health.

Nevertheless, we understand how important it is to take care of our mental health. Studies show that most people value their physical health just as much as their mental health. Yet, more than half of people say they spend more time working on their physical health than mental health.

Therapists know first-hand how important it is to care for your mental health. They see plenty of people experience problems because they’ve neglected their mental health for years. If you don’t prioritize your mental health, you will feel the difference. Mental health should be a priority for three reasons: 

 

  • Preventing mental health problems is easier than treating them. By taking care of yourself now, you may be able to prevent mental health problems in the future. By paying close attention to your mental health, you’ll be able to intervene earlier when problems arise. 

 

  • Physical and mental health are intertwined. Poor mental health may increase your risk for physical health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. So even if you care more about your physical health, neglecting your mental health may backfire. 

 

  • Your mental health affects your quality of life, too. Being in good physical shape is important, but psychological wellbeing is equally important. Mental health problems can impact your social life, your ability to complete your work, and your relationships. 

 

Here are five exercises you can do to improve your mental health:

  1. Plan something fun every week

In therapy, we often discuss “pleasant activity scheduling.” In essence, it means scheduling an activity that you enjoy. It could be as simple as choosing a time to watch a movie at home. Regardless of whether you live alone, schedule it on your calendar. The key is to schedule it in the future, so you have something to look forward to. 

You get a second boost in your mood when you do that fun thing and a third boost after it’s over because you’ve created a positive memory. It is a good idea to schedule at least one fun activity a week.

  1. Practice relaxation strategies

Knowing how to relax your mind and body is essential. Passively watching TV might not cut it either. Even though you’re watching TV, your muscles might still be tense, and your mind might never completely relax. Additionally, watching TV while scrolling through social media can keep you on edge and alert.

For real stress reduction, you might want to learn yoga or meditation practices. Additionally, you can learn and practice breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. Try to incorporate regular stress relief into your schedule regardless of what you do.

  1. Establish a gratitude practice

The benefits of experiencing and expressing gratitude are numerous. In several studies, gratitude has been shown to be directly related to your overall wellbeing. People who are grateful tend to have fewer mental health problems, higher levels of happiness, and long-term positive psychological wellbeing.

While writing a letter of gratitude to someone is one way to experience these positive effects, you don’t necessarily even need to share your grateful feelings with anyone. You can also increase your mental strength by writing in a private journal.

  1. Foster your relationships

A key factor in good mental health is social support. Relationships play a crucial role in your life, so it’s important to invest time in them. Spend quality time with your loved ones, whether that’s a date night with your partner or a weekly dinner with your friends.

  1. Perform acts of kindness

Acts of kindness shouldn’t necessarily be about your personal gain, but by doing kind things for others, you do gain a lot. Whenever you are kind to someone, your brain releases feel-good hormones, such as endorphins and oxytocin. In addition to boosting your own mood, you will also boost the mood of the person you are giving to. 

Each day, choose a different person to show kindness to and perform one act of kindness. Or, you might volunteer once a week with a specific organization. 

 

Incorporating mental strength strategies into your daily routine

Identify strategies for building mental strength that you enjoy. This will increase your chances of sticking to them. Don’t force yourself to meditate if you hate it. Instead, look for another exercise you might like better. There’s plenty to choose from, and investing more time in your mental health is key to reaching your greatest potential.

 

How Therapy Can Benefit Your Mental Health

About 75% of people receiving therapy experience symptom relief and are able to function more effectively. Other benefits include:

  • Better daily habits to support a healthy lifestyle
  • Fewer negative thoughts
  • Greater focus and more satisfaction at work
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Stronger relationships with others

Ultimately, you’ll learn not only how to solve the problem that brought you into treatment but you’ll also gain new skills to help you cope with whatever challenges arise in the future. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

 

SF Stress & Anxiety Center Free Consultation

Inner Child Work: What It Is & How It Can Benefit You

‘Working with your inner child’ might sound a bit out there. But it is actually a psychotherapeutic concept that originated with Jung, and many therapists use it to help their clients.

The “inner child” is part of your subconscious that has been picking up messages long before your mind was able to understand them (mentally and emotionally). In addition to holding memories and beliefs from the past, it also holds hopes and dreams for the future. Healing and connecting with our inner child can be a powerful and important way to support our emotional and psychological well-being. 

 

Why is Inner Child Work Important?

Inner child work focuses on addressing our unmet needs by reparenting ourselves. This kind of self-discovery helps us understand our behaviors, triggers, wants, and needs. When we begin inner child healing work, we tap into a part of ourselves that is vulnerable and impressionable.

Yes, it can seem odd to be ‘talking’ to the ‘child within,’ but the benefits are impressive. They include: 

  • accessing repressed memories that are holding you back. 
  • being able to feel again after years of being numb. 
  • gaining personal power and the ability to set boundaries. 
  • learning how to take better care of yourself. 
  • feeling self-compassion and liking yourself more. 
  • being able to enjoy life and have fun again.
  • gaining self-confidence.

It is our inner child who remembers the joy, innocence, freedom, and playfulness of childhood. It also holds our hurts, traumas, and emotional wounds. The more we connect with and heal our inner child, the more compassionate and understanding our relationship with ourselves can become. To help you tap into and heal your inner child, here are a few simple exercises.

 

Acknowledge your inner child

Acknowledging that you have an inner child is the first step toward connecting with it. We may think of this part of us as a child, or we may not. There may be a vivid image in your head of your inner child, or there may be none at all. There may be a strong sense that you know who this part is, or there may be no clue. Developing a relationship with your inner child takes time, and you should check in with yourself regularly to see how it’s going. If you are not sure if you have an inner child, here are some questions you can ask yourself to check in with this part of you. 

  • What words would you use to describe yourself as a child? 
  • What emotions do you remember feeling as a child? 
  • What do you remember enjoying as a child?
  • What do you remember wishing for as a child?

 

Create a safe space for your Inner child

Having acknowledged the existence of your inner child and an idea of what this part of you looks like, create a safe space for it. Taking some time to breathe and observing yourself can help you sense your inner child’s presence. If you sense your child, you can visualize yourself placing your child in a safe, secure place. In your arms, in the space around you, wherever feels safe to you, you can place this child. You can also imagine yourself in a safe, secure space.

 

Write a letter to your inner child

Once you have created a safe space for your inner child, you can write a letter to yourself. It can be a wonderful way to develop a relationship with this part of yourself. You could write about anything you wish to communicate to your child. You can write with your adult self and your child self both in your mind, or you can choose to write with one or the other. There is no right or wrong way to write this letter. No matter how much or how little you write, you can do it in whatever way feels right to you. 

 

Self-Love and Self-Compassion

The final step to bringing all of these things together is to establish a loving and compassionate relationship with your adult self. You can offer your inner child all the love and compassion you need from this point. It is possible for you to provide your inner child with support, kindness, and guidance. Imagine giving your inner child everything you wish you had received as a child. Whether that is positive experiences, skills, or knowledge. 

 

Conclusion

Healing your inner child can be an incredibly powerful and transformative process. It can help you to heal past wounds, find more self-compassion, and create a more compassionate and understanding relationship with your inner self. The process of connecting with and healing yourself can be as individual as you are. There is no right way to go about this, and it can take as long as it needs to take. There is no time limit for healing, and you do not have to do all of these exercises at once if you don’t feel ready. You can work on connecting with and healing yourself anyway that feels right for you.

 

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