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Showing posts from 2015

Chronic Illness and Suicide (repost)

As part of World Suicide Prevention Day, we wanted to repost our entry from May 2013 on chronic illness and suicide. This is a tough topic to talk about but one that needs more attention since it is 100% preventable and the 10th leading cause of death for people in the United States. Our hope is that by talking about it, we can be a resource to those who are struggling. Only half of people struggling with major depression reach out for help, but treatment is 80-90% effective! Please share with your friends and loved ones and encourage them to get help. 

Chronic illness is complicated. When one is newly diagnosed, there is a challenge of learning how to explain your illness to others, and learn who to let in on your journey of ups and downs. Here are some of the common reactions we get when we see clients who are newly diagnosed with an illness, trying to navigate a world of stigma and shame. "Why would anyone want to hear about my illness? And what's the point of talking about…

Fear and Phobia Reduction

Fear and phobias are experienced daily. Several studies have shown that the most common fears are arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) and acrophobia (fear of heights). While many of us can relate to these top fears, there are hundreds more. Phobias such as aerophobia (fear of flying), astraphobia (fear of thunder/lightening) and agoraphobia (fear of open or crowded spaces) are only a few that people experience based on circumstances. For instance, its does not rain every day and most individuals do not fly daily. Reviewing techniques to reduce fear’s impact, I found a few mnemonics (memory aids) that may be helpful.
The F-E-A-R System used by Dr. Pamela Garcy stands for Focus, Expose, Approach and Rehearse. This acronym first addresses when you experience a state of fear, an individual in distress needs to Focus rather than freak out. Mindfulness skills such as meditation, body scanning and mindful movement allow people to stay in the present. Here-and-now t…

Having Kids with Chronic Illness

Well hello there.  It's been a while since I contributed to our blog.  I went and had another baby last October and let's just say baby brain is really a thing.  While I've been back at work since mid-January, I've really only recently gotten back to what I'd call full mental capacity where I can muster any type of writing creativity.  That's a good 7 months of what I can only refer to is this mild brain fog, where you're able to do what you need to do but adding in anything beyond the core functions of your life, yeah, well, forget that nonsense.


A few weeks ago Steph wrote a post about parents of kids with Chronic illness.  If you haven't read it, you should go check it out.

So today I want to write a few things on having kids when you have a chronic illness.  This comes up with my clients pretty often, whether it's deciding to even have kids to coping once they're around.   But most of what I'll write is more from my personal experience.

Support Groups: Finding the Right One

At one point in everyone’s life, there comes a time where having a little extra support would be beneficial. But where do you go for this help? Who do you contact? How do you search for groups in your area with specific interests? I thought it would be useful to provide some insight to what support groups provide, types of groups that exists, how these groups work and how to find local ones in your area. 
Support groups are designed for people who experience stressful life changes. These changes could be impacted by medical or mental health changes, relational or occupational shifts and even personal desires for behavior modification. Within a support group you are encouraged to make connections with other members of your group to help alleviate negative emotions brought on by these stressful life changes. Sometimes your friends and family members will not understand your stressful event. Engaging with individuals who face similar issues provides an opportunity for people to share thei…

To all the mom of kids with chronic illnesses

Photo Credit I wanted to send out a belated Mother's Day shout-out to all the mothers who support a child with chronic illness. In our practice, we see many different types of clients, many of whom have a physical illness. This can be something acute, temporary, chronic, or terminal. For parents who have to watch their child face an illness, it can be a very trying and scary journey. The entire family unit is affected, and it is important that there is communication and support for each member of the family. Often times the parents will need to have their own therapist so they can manage the stresses that come along with advocating and supporting their child who is suffering.
Photo Credit I came across an encouraging article recently that I wanted to share all the parents who walk this tough road of chronic illness with their children. No parent thinks they willy be watching their child decline physically before them. This is when support is so crucial, and there is a natural griev…

Stress: What it Does to Your Body

As we continue to explore anxiety and the impact stress, I thought this would be an ideal time to discuss some of the physical symptoms that stress can have on your body. Simply put: stress leads to distress – so much so that 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Distress of your body manifests itself in various ways for each person. For some, it can resemble a headache or migraine, it can upset your digestive tract, increase your blood pressure, reduce sleep and even cause chest pain. Some research has suggested when your body is in distress, it may exacerbate (bring on or worsen) certain illnesses and diseases. Additionally, when people try and use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs (including prescriptions) to relieve stress, the long-term effect may be more harmful than helpful for your body.  
Looking at some basic statistics, 44% of Americans have reported feeling more stressed than they did five years ago; three out of four doctor visits are for stress-rel…

Mental Health Round-up

Recently, I've been noticing a lot of articles about mental health online. May is only a few weeks away, and it will be National Mental Health Awareness Month. Here's a round-up of some recent articles I enjoyed and wanted to share about this topic.

Source: Defender Network
Why the World Needs the Mentally Different
This is a blog written by Glennon Doyle Melton, an author and speaker with a history of mental health illness herself. I admire her honesty and humor, and in this post she has a wonderful perspective on what those who are "mentally different" bring to the table. She says, "What we who are mentally different need is respect. We know we need help managing our mental differences, but what we ask for is a shift in your approach to helping us. Instead of coming at us with the desire to change us because we are inconvenient to the world- come at us with the desire to help us because we are important to the world. We want you to see that with a little help, w…

Coping with Anxiety

It’s just past midnight and you find yourself wide awake at night; restless, worried and looking at the clock. There’s a long list of chores to be done at home, but you still need to pick up dinner, get the kids to practice and return a phone call. Your boss informs you several people have called in sick today and now you have the responsibility of three people. – The majority of us have all been there; experiencing the symptoms of anxiety in our own way. But how do you cope with anxiety when it creeps up on you unexpectedly?
Because anxiety develops and presents itself in various ways for everyone, being mindful of its symptoms is the first step to combating anxiety and feelings of stress. Symptoms include excessive worry, sleep problems, irrational fears, muscle tension, chronic indigestion, self-consciousness, panic, flashbacks, compulsive behaviors, excessive sweating and increased heart rate. When you find yourself trying to manage any level of anxiety, it is a good idea to remi…

Cognitive Distortion of the Month: Dichotomous Thinking

Greetings.  It's been a while since I wrote a blog entry as I had a baby last October and it's kind of amazing how real baby-brain is, which makes writing feel exponentially harder.  Especially when they don't sleep very well.  He's 5 months old now and is being gracious enough to let me sleep in 3-4 hour increments.  So I have that going for me.
Steph kicked off our 2015 blog series on Cognitive Distortions, or as some say "thinking traps" with a nice piece on using a Negative Filter when evaluating our life.  If you haven't read it, go check it out.
For March, the topic is Dichotomous Thinking.  As it implies, dichotomous thinking is only seeing a situation from two potential angles.  It's all or nothing.  Good or bad.  Black or White.  There's not much room for any grey area.  But, if we take a step back we see that life is full of grey areas and it's actually less likely that we're operating in one of the extremes.  So why do we go the…

Understanding Anger – Part 2

As we know, anger is a powerful emotion that can endanger your work, relationships and even your health. Managing anger effectively is important not only for self-care, but also within personal relationships. While experiencing anger is normal, coping strategies to reduce internal frustration can look very different for everyone. Looking to the experts in anger management, the following strategies are found to be the most effective when attempting to reduce internal frustration and anger directed outward.  


First, think before you act. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and to say exactly what’s on your mind. It takes far more practice and skill to take a moment and pause before speaking. Giving yourself and others around you time to gather thoughts can help deescalate frustrating situations. Once you are able to remain calm, it is important to express your frustrationin a nonconfrontational manner. Being assertive without offending others can be challenging in itself. Expressing…

Understanding Anger - Part I

Emotions are powerful responses that are unavoidable. As unique individuals, we express our emotions in various ways depending on the situation and people around us. You may have a friend or know someone who is always happy and cheerful or someone who is cranky and moody. But what about anger? Do you know someone who expresses anger frequently? Perhaps you find yourself feeling angry more often. Understanding your emotions is the first step to knowing how to appropriately express these feelings.
What is Anger? According to Dr. Charles Spielberger, anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” Exploring the nature of anger, irritability and agitation are accompanied by both physiological and biological changes. For instance, when you experience frustration or agitation, your blood pressure and heart rate increase, energy hormones increase, as well as adrenaline and noradrenaline. – Family fighting during holidays, a delayed flight,…

Cognitive Distortion of the month: Negative Filter

In 2014, Dr. Taft and I took turns writing monthly entries on rare diseases, in order to bring more awareness to the psychosocial aspects of living with chronic illness. In 2015, we are going to do a monthly blog entry on various cognitive distortions (although we are off to a late start!). For February, I am writing about the distortion called "negative filter". But first, let's discuss what a cognitive distortion is. It is simply an unhelpful thought pattern that is very common but lead people to feeling stuck in depression or anxiety. Since we are big believers in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) here at Oak Park Behavioral Medicine, we wanted to spend some time looking into the various patterns that trip people up. CBT is a theory that looks at three aspects of a person: thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Photo Credit A negative filter is when a person views information through a negative lens. The positive aspects of life are disregarded, and the negative aspects a…

What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?

Continuing on the topic of relationships, I thought it would be great opportunity to review several journal articles and get the “expert opinions” on what healthy relationships look like. While many articles featured their own spin and interpretation of positive responses in relationships, many concepts remained the same. Let’s explore these traits!
According to many marriage and family therapists,emotional responsibilityis highly valued for a successful relationship. If someone is unable to take responsibility for their own feelings, pressure is placed on their partner to create personal happiness, wellness and security. The problem with making your partner responsible for your emotions is the likelihood you will experience disappointment. When your partner fails to meet your expectations emotionally, people feel “emotionally abandoned.” Take ownership and responsibility of your feelings and do not ignore your feelings. Another trait for healthy relationships involves empathy and comp…