Is Caring For Aging Parents Making You Anxious?

I’ve just been talking to colleagues here in Marin County about helping to educate our community about anxiety, a problem that affects so many.  Here is some information we’ve gathered to put on our local Psychological Association site to help everyone get a better understanding about anxiety.

counseling_136_132Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association, is  an emotion that creates feelings of tension, worry, and increased blood pressure.

Does this sound familiar?  Many adult children caring for aging loved ones feel that tension and worry.  They may also have penetrating, recurring thoughts. These recurring thoughts and worries can arise from day to day activities or specific events. Anxiety can physically manifest itself in symptoms like sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and trembling.

When these symptoms are extreme, a person might feel that she is suffering from a heart attack. Psychologists might call the more pronounced forms of anxiety a disorder that needs care and treatment. Those suffering from the more severe form of anxiety may find it challenging to accomplish even the simplest of tasks for fear that something bad may happen to them or the possibility that something might go wrong. They have trouble staying in the moment or living for now.   They  focus on the “what if” scenarios. They complain that they can’t turn off racing thoughts through the mind that evoke a sense of panic. Besides the negative emotional toll on the mind that anxiety can take, the physical residual effects are detrimental as well.  Symptoms might include weight loss, weight gain, hair loss, and stomach discomfort, back or other pain.
Excessive, irrational fear and dread are hallmarks of a problem that can benefit greatly from treatment.  The good news is that there are many good treatment options for anxiety. One treatment option that clinical psychologists offer is called cognitive behavioral therapy. This technique helps a person change the connection between specific thoughts and their irrational fear and dread. The ability to self-monitor one’s own  thoughts can help the person gain control over their emotions. This directly aids in stopping the perpetuation of anxiety or depressive feelings.

In addition, psychologists help people learn breathing and relaxation techniques that can be used to eliminate, manage and assuage anxiety. In some cases especially when anxiety has been present in a patient’s life for many years, medications maybe the best way to provide rapid relieve of emotional symptoms.  Newer anti-depressive mediations called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) are often used as a first line of defense in the treatment of anxiety disorders. People often report experiencing less anxiety and improved mood from taking these medications within two to four weeks.

It is critical to understand that medications do not cure anxiety or anxiety depressive disorders.  Professional treatment (“psychotherapy”) is needed to develop new coping methods, along with a deeper understanding of the complex workings of one’s mind. Once a person learns the techniques, successful alternative action strategies can assure and sustain ongoing changes for the better.

The heavy pressures of caring for aging parents in declining health, the rising demands on one’s time and the sadness of seeing a parent get worse over time can make anyone anxious. If the symptoms you are feeling are getting in the way of doing what you need to do in your life, don’t wait to get professional help. The problem is likely to only get worse over time.

Anxiety is often irrational and cannot be treated logically. Many people do not truly understand anxiety disorder, and think they can just will themselves to be cured. Or maybe the anxiety symptoms will just magically go away if they try to no longer think about them. Most people can’t cure themselves. There is no need to suffer when help from a professional can relieve the emotional pain.  If these symptoms sound like what you are feeling, reach out.  You can find a professional to help you through your local Mental Health Association or your insurance provider.  Low cost services are available in many counties for those who do not have insurance or who are low income.

If your aging parent worries are getting you down and you need advice and support, contact me at drmikol@gmail.com

My Greatest Joy Is To Help People Help Themselves. Making Asking For Help A Little Easier!

My life has been dedicated to helping people lighten their emotional burdens and greatly improve the quality of their lives.

I will be presenting many new ideas on how to improve your mental wellness.

Keep  tuning in.

Dr Mikol Davis

Why is it so difficult to get professional help?

Have you ever found yourself feeling the blues and no matter what you try  you just can’t feel right?  So what can you do to cure the blues?

Well, how about the TV commercials that promise to fix those blues with a magic new pill? If you are a man then you are very unlikely to seek any form of professional help. Instead you will just try to tough it out, hoping that tomorrow will bring a better day. Yet for many of us, that better day does not seem to ever arrive. So then what can you do?

Well most of us will eventually go see our family doctor and believe that maybe there is something physically wrong that the good doctor has a pill to fix us right up.  The doctor gives us  checkup, asssures that there’s nothing physically wrong and suggests that you might want to see a psychologist.  The doctor might refer you to someone, or might not.

So, you finally get around to the decision that the blues aren’t getting any better, you’re sick of feeling bad, and you make that leap to start looking for help.  How does anyone know where to start?  Most people who have insurance call their carrier to see if mental health help is covered and get a list of providers.  At that point, they don’t know what to, what to ask, or how to pick someone.  When you’ve got the blues, it’s already hard to make decisions, let alone this one!

As a provider of 37 years worth of mental health help for people of all ages, I suggest the following, should you find yourself in need of some help.

1.  Figure out if you’d prefer a man or a woman.  For some, it doesn’t matter.  For others, they’re definitely more comfortable with one or the other and starting to look for a therapist of your preferred gender (or LGBT) is  a place to start.

2.  Find someone who is close in age to you, or older.  Therapists who are of similar age to yourself may share some of your life experiences and understand you better.  A very young therapist if you’re middle aged, for example, might not relate well to your descriptions of what you are going through in the context of where you are in your life.

3.  Look for a goal oriented therapist.  Too many therapists are happy to take your money, and be listeners, but the purpose of therapy can get lost.  You’ve got to define why you’re there and what you hope to get out of the experience.  Defining this for yourself is a first step.  Therapy is not an exercise in just talking.  The idea is to help you understand yourself better and make changes.  The therapist who is right for you will be one who has the skill to lead and guide, rather than simply passively listen.  You can buy a mannequin if you want a passive thing to appear to listen and nothing more. Get your money’s worth from your therapist!  If there are no hard questions and no suggestions, you’re in the wrong place.

If you are in distress, spend some time working on finding the right person to help you get to a better feeling place and change the way you manage those emotions.  Therapy can be a lifesaver.  Yes, it’s work even finding a therapist, but it’s well worth the effort.