Phobias such as fear of animals, heights, or the dark are common psychological problems in children:probably more so than other better known problems like conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
But how do parents know when these phobias will become a problem for their child now or in later life?
Parents may consider whether their child’s phobia is interfering with their or the family’s life. If it is, then something should be done about it.
If parents feel their child’s phobia is becoming out of control, it is important to mange it early, to prevent the risk of them becoming anxious adults.
Fear of everyday experiences such as storms, dogs, spiders, water, or the dark are the most common phobias in children. It is natural for us to have an instinctive fear of these as the fear protects us from possible dangers.
When the natural fear is out of proportion to the real threat and children are worried about what might happen is when the fear becomes a phobia.
To help children overcome simple phobias, it is firstly important for parents to react appropriately to their child’s phobic behaviour. Children learn to behave in certain ways from the attention they get for that behaviour. So parents need to give their child attention when they are brave about an irrational fear, and minimise attention when they are complaining or avoiding scary situations.
When teaching children to overcome their phobias, psychologists show children and their parents that phobias and anxiety are made up of three parts: physiological- how their body feels; cognitive- how they think; and behavioural-what they do.
Using simple and fun exercises, children can learn about these three components. They can learn how to identify their breathing and other relaxation techniques.
Psychologists will also work with children to help them become more positive in their thinking. Some questions that children could ask themselves to help them think more positively include:
Most importantly, we also help parents expose their children to the fear which will reduce their phobic reaction.
Gradually exposing your child to the fear is important because their fear will only escalate if they never have to experience the situation.
Using a step by step approach, gradually exposing the child to their fears and rewarding them as they achieve each step, is the best way to deal with phobias.
Throwing them in the deep end will only reinforce to them that their fears are real. Take for example a child’s water phobia. You may break the exposure into several steps and reward them as they achieve each step. Some initial steps could include taking the child to a private pool to play around the pool and maybe have them dangle their feet in the water. A later step might be to stand on the steps and so on.
To read more about our team of Clinical Psychologist and those who specialise in treating children, head to our Brisbane Psychologists page.Read more
1 in 7 young Australians experience a mental health disorder. This alarming statistic is derived from a government report that surveyed the mental health of 6300 Australian families. Rates for depression, self-harm and anxiety are a major cause for concern with almost one in four girls aged between 16-17 years meeting the criteria for clinical depression, based on their own admissions. If mental health was contagious or a physical ailment, this would be deemed an epidemic.
Researchers have identified that sleep deprivation in youth is also on the rise with an estimated 25% of adolescents affected by some form of sleep disturbance. There is a strong correlation between sleep problems and poor mental health; the difficulty can be in determining cause and effect. In either case, technology and its biproducts certainly play a major role in creating sleep disturbance with the increased stimulus causing arousal when the mind and body should be winding down.
Technology and social media get a pretty bad wrap when it comes to its effect on our mental health, but in particular during the turbulent teenage years. With so many reasons to point the finger, it might be time to take a good hard look at the link and how parents can best manage it.
There is no denying that technology has changed us as humans with every generation becoming more tech savvy and some would say tech dependant. Some would argue technology has made us smarter and provides a positive level of human connection, whilst others would claim it has increased stress and rendered parts of our brain redundant. Whatever your stance, technology has undeniably increased the pace of the world and blatantly blurred the lines between work/school and home life. It has changed communication expectations and makes escaping almost impossible.
Managing technology dependence and in particular social media activity is a first-world predicament that many parents face. The need to feel connected and a sense of belonging is paramount during the teenager years and social media and online communication offers this at the click of a finger. However, when it begins to distort your child’s perspective or become an obsession, parents need to trust their intuition by creating healthy boundaries around the use of devices. A teenager’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls decision-making and judgement, does not fully develop until early adulthood, making it difficult to define their own boundaries. Choosing appropriate time slots, like dinner time, where all devices go on charge for a set time, will do wonders for real-time communication whilst allowing the family to be more present. Of course, phone rules must be abided by all household members including parents. You never know, your teen might silently thank you for the down time and the opportunity to talk.
Clinical Psychologist, Danielle Corbett, who works in adolescent psychology, says; “I am seeing many young clients who are in a state of vigilance with difficulties living in the present moment and it is this state of living that causes social and emotional problems such as anxiety and stress”.
“Basically, social media is opposite of mindfulness in our youngsters, and in particular, girls are struggling with feelings of personal inadequacy, and difficulties living in the present” Ms Corbett said.
Mindfulness has been defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the moment and non-judgmentally” (Jon Kabat Zinn). The human brain has great capacity to reflect on the past and think about the future but during this we forget about the present. Children are excellent mimics and will respond to the behaviour of those around them. Creating a more mindful and present home life, whereby you purposely focus on the ‘now’, will reduce stress and anxiety levels and help your child keep things in perspective.
Mindfulness is a practice that has been shown to be effective with clinical disorders including anxiety, depression, chronic pain and substance misuse. It is also an effective strategy to manage stress. Although technology comes with a myriad of negative biproducts, it also offers many positive ones and is not to blame for all mental health cases. Depression is more likely in certain personality types and may also be more likely if you have a family history of the disorder.
The teenage years are difficult ones for parent and child alike and it’s important to trust your parental intuition when assessing your teenager’s behaviour. You may know if something is just “not right” and be able to recognise that its more than just teenager moodiness. If this is the case, or you are unsure, it is crucial to seek professional help from your local GP who will make an assessment and put a mental healthcare plan in place.Read more
Frequent and interfering worry is associated with anxiety but not all people who worry a lot are aware of feeling anxiety in their body. Some people may have habituated to a higher level of daily anxiety, accepting it as their normal.
Worry is different from constructive problem solving. Problem solving is “here and now” action. Worry typically becomes repetitive and looping patterns of thought that don’t resolve to any practical action or outcome. For example, problem solving a bill that might be difficult to pay could look like calling the company and making a payment arrangement. In the same scenario a worry pattern would look like repeated thoughts of “what if I can’t pay it?”, “what will happen if I can’t pay it?” and similar.
Not all situations that provoke worry will be able to be problem solved. Some situations may be completely out of our control or may require time or other events to unfold. Often people get into the worry habit because it paid off for them a few times. Maybe they were prepared for a situation or felt partly protected from disappointment when something went wrong. It might seem counterintuitive but often people will have some positive ideas or beliefs about the value or benefits of worry. Unfortunately worry tends to get worse over time and then people find themselves worrying more and more about minor things. Then they can become worried about how much they are worrying, or feel stressed about how easily they are getting stressed.
The good news is that worry doesn’t have to keep its hold and reduce a person’s quality of life. A psychologist can assist with helping an individual to understand their worry pattern and why it has been persisting in their life. The psychologist can then provide strategies and activities that reduce the worry pattern.
There are also self-help approaches that target worry. Resources for these can be accessed at many reputable mental health websites. The Black Dog Institute has some tip sheets available (see http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au) and the Centre for Clinical Interventions has full modules and workbooks available in their Resources section (see http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au).Read more
According to Beyond Blue, Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life. With this in mind, it is important to understand the different treatment options available to people suffering from anxiety disorders, to keep the disorder in check and under control.
Anxiety can present in many different ways and therefore must be treated in different ways. Not all anxiety disorders look the same or have the same underlying cause. There are three main types of anxiety disorders including, generalised anxiety disorders, social phobias and panic attacks.
Generalised Anxiety Disorders typically present in extreme worriers who seem to have a negative or pessimistic view of the world, always assuming the worst will happen. Although it is normal to worry about life, finances, children and relationships, people with generalised anxiety disorder find it difficult to get through the day, as the worry can be all consuming and sometimes debilitating.
Social Phobia is another form of anxiety where a person’s fear of social situations, prevent them from participating in daily tasks, like going to work, meeting with friends and even doing the groceries.
Panic Disorders are a sudden attack or onset of uncontrollable fear or terror, resulting in physical symptoms like a cold sweat and heart palpitations. Panic attacks occur at any time and the person experiencing the attack may feel an intense sense of fear or impending doom. Panic Disorder is one of the most common presentations with many individuals diagnosed with the disorder also meeting criteria for Agoraphobia. A diagnosis of Agoraphobia is given if (a) the patient reports anxiety about places or situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing or in which help may not be immediately available, and (b) these situations are avoided or endured with marked distress. Patients who present with panic attacks may appear as composed, competent individuals with full and fulfilling lives, however, beneath the surface they are enduring extreme discomfort and are often struggling to keep going.
Anxiety can be caused by a number of things that present as risk factors contributing to the development of an anxiety condition. Such factors include a genetic predisposition, stress and lifestyle, chronic health conditions, substance abuse and mental health conditions just to name a few.
Sometimes anxiety or other mental health problems run in the family therefore giving you a genetic predisposition to it. This is not to say you will definitely have an anxiety condition if your grandmother did but if you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and you know it runs in the family, it would be a good idea to speak to a professional about it. You may also consider your personality type as research shows certain personality types are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Perfectionists, people who like to be in control or those who lack self-esteem sometimes develop anxiety disorders at various stages of their life.
Ongoing stress such as work related stress; marriage or relationship stress or traumatic life events may lead to the development of an anxiety condition. It is important to recognise the stressor and manage the symptoms by talking to friends, family and a professional.
Chronic health like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other major physical illnesses are challenged to face the reality of the disease and often feel anxiety as an effect of the disease. Faced with problems that the disease places on everyday living such as monitoring and self-treatment and the effect it can have on relationships. Poor sleep, lack of self-confidence and low self esteem as a result of the disease, can also contribute to anxiety.
Managing anxiety can be difficult and some anxiety sufferers turn to alcohol or drugs to manage the symptoms. Unfortunately, the immediate effect of the substance that may seem effective, they often lead to long term addiction or substance abuse and may also aggravate the condition.
Everyone is different in how they experience anxiety and what might provoke the onset of anxiety or a panic attack, which is why it is important to recognise your individual signs and symptoms and seek professional help. Ideally a team of health professionals will work together to delivery a holistic mental plan that works for the individual. In terms of psychological treatments for anxiety, talk therapy, has proven effectiveness by equipping the individual with personalised strategies to control symptoms of anxiety.
Also known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) talk therapy often focuses on changing belief and thinking patterns that result in certain behaviours, namely anxiety. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit and like any other bad habit, it can be modified.
So in treating anxiety, our psychologists help people identify when their thought patterns are negative and replace them with more helpful thoughts, resulting in more positive behavioural outcomes.
Part of cognitive behavioural therapy in treating anxiety is monitoring your ‘self talk’ and testing realities of negative talk by evaluating the thoughts that lead to unhelpful fears and beliefs. For example, people who suffer from anxiety may avoid friends or social situations because of negative beliefs. The treatment focuses on questioning the negative thoughts and beliefs (like, my friends find me boring) that lead to the feelings of anxiousness in social situations.
Finally, CBT not only helps you understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns but can also provide you with a range of useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.
If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or noticing these symptoms in someone you love, we have a diverse team of Brisbane psychologists who can help manage your anxiety. Visit the Brisbane Psychologists page to read about our team and their areas of specialisation.Read more
We all know how it feels when you’ve not had enough sleep- tired, cranky, irritable, unproductive and overwrought. Even the simplest task can seem overwhelming and this is largely due to the fact that your brain and cognitive function is not operating at optimal levels.
Although bouts of bad sleep are normal and to be expected in our fast paced society, chronic sleep problems and ongoing insomnia (difficulties with sleep for 3 months or more) should not be ignored. According to the National Sleep Foundation, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression and an increased risk of other co-morbid conditions.
So how do you break this vicious cycle of bad sleep, poor health and its myriad of negative repercussions and say goodbye to a dependence on sleeping tablets? Research suggests that the most effective long-term treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a psychology based treatment that addresses behaviour and thinking around sleep.
Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray have been effectively treating insomnia with CBT through their long-standing group programme, Towards Better Sleep. Unlike sleep medication, CBT is not a quick fix and takes time to work, which is why the programme spans across 6 weeks, focusing on education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.
A group setting has proven an effective setting to treat people with sleep problems, allowing participants to share their experiences and learn from one another in a more cost effective way.
The next Towards Better Sleep programme and the final one for 2019 commences on 10th October from our Morningside office. For more information or to register your interest in the programme, visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or email email@example.comRead more
When we are stressed or dodging one of life’s many curve balls, it’s common to become obsessed with the subject matter and it can be hard to stop thinking about it. Also known as obsessive thinking or rumination, the mental merry-go-round can be difficult to get off, it’s metaphoric dizziness often interrupting sleep and inducing stress. It has also been known to lead to anxiety and depression. Similarly, those experiencing depression or anxiety, commonly ruminate and their experiences may present in what is often described as ‘catastrophic thought’.
Although it’s normal and sometimes even helpful to ‘workshop’ problems or decisions you’ve made, when there is no solution in sight and the thoughts are becoming obsessive and interrupting daily function, you’ve almost certainly tipped the scales to an unhealthy level of rumination.
Obsessive thinking has been known to lead to depression and anxiety as the negative thought increases the brain’s stress response leading to higher levels of cortisol. It also leads to dangerous physical symptoms of stress like high blood pressure and heart problems.
So how do you short-circuit obsessive thoughts?
The first step is to recognise when you are thinking this way and to know where to draw the line of healthy vs unhealthy rumination. This is the most difficult step as people prone to rumination see it as ‘workshopping problems’ rather than brooding badly! If you find yourself reacting irrationally to the present, it might be because your mind is elsewhere, perhaps dwelling on negative thought. Regularly checking in with yourself and understanding your own individual signs will help you recognise the signs of rumination.
Being mindful and present can also help you let go of past decisions and actions that cannot be changed. Practicing yoga can be a positive way to physically commit to mindfulness, as the ancient art focuses on being present and grateful for the now.
Exercise is a known distractor when negative thoughts are overwhelming you. Walking with a friend or socialising can also be helpful in shifting the focus to more positive and enjoyable experiences.
As cognitive behavioural therapy is focused on stopping negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing them with more positive, helpful ones, it’s world renowned as one of the most effective treatments for alleviating cognitive distortions. A Psychologist can help guide you through the process of breaking down these thoughts and perceptions and how these may affect your emotions and behaviour.
If you need help with obsessive thoughts or your general health and wellbeing, Psychology Consultants has a large team of experienced, male and female Clinical Psychologists committed to helping you thrive.Read more
Researchers have identified that sleep deprivation in youth is on the rise with an estimated 25% of adolescents affected by some form of sleep disturbance. Much like babies, during adolescents our biological sleep patterns change meaning we don’t fall asleep until later, making that 6am alarm clock a real killer!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers required between 8-10 hours of sleep a night for their minds and bodies to function at optimal levels but due to lifestyle factors only 15% of teens actually sleep this much.
It’s a well-known fact that teenagers have delayed melatonin secretion at night and then elevated in the morning, meaning their body clocks don’t match their lifestyles with school commitments expecting them to rise early.
So how do we prevent sleep deprivation in our teenagers and help them achieve their best at school and maintain good mental health?
Tips for Sleep in Teens
Allowing your teenager to relax and take time to be in the present, will also help them unwind and prepare for good sleep. Encourage taking 10 minutes during the day to be mindful of daily stress and pressure and try to put it in perspective.
Taking some time to sit, relax, take a walk or do yoga can help unwind and focus on the present. Getting regular exercise but not within a few hours of bedtime also has proven to improve sleep in children, adolescents and adults alike.
Lastly, practice what you preach. Set an example by being present yourself, reducing your own screen time and focusing on healthy lifestyle habits.Read more
It’s a well-known fact that during puberty your child will experience a large surge of hormones, which leads to a variety of intense and unpredictable moods.
A term known as “doom and gloom” is said to be a normal part of teenage development, whereby hormone fluctuation causes them to have low mood, disrupted sleep and low energy levels.
The difficulty for parents is recognising the difference between “doom and gloom” and clinical depression, as many of the symptoms are the same.
It is difficult to separate the symptoms but typically clinical depression will present as a longer lasting low mood (longer than 2 weeks); be more likely if you have a family history of depression; present if your teenager is experiencing very low self esteem and his behaviour is dangerous or riskier than usual.
Depression is also more likely in certain personality types, for example those who seek perfection or have very high standards, or those that do not communicate well and bottle everything up.
It is important to not underestimate your parental intuition when assessing your teenager’s behaviour. You may know if something is just “not right” and be able to recognise that its more than just teenager moodiness. If this is the case, or you are unsure, it is important to seek professional help from your local GP who will make an assessment and put a mental healthcare plan in place. Depression can be caused by many different factors, including heredity, biochemical imbalances in the brain, personal and work-related stress, bereavement, trauma or long term personality traits. Not all people who feel sad are necessarily depressed and the severity and frequency of symptoms will vary from one individual to the next.
How a Psychologist can help?
The teenage years can be a challenging time for parent and child and communication may be broken. A psychologist can assist teens with a range of concerns from mood disorders like anxiety and depression through to social and emotional challenges, equipping them with practical coping strategies for every day life. We have Clinical Psychologists at Newmarket and Morningside who specialise in adolescent counselling, including, Dr Mark Wetton, Miranda Mullins, Dr Stan Steindl (16+) Danielle Corbett, Elizabeth Galt, Cathy Dart and Kylie Layton.
One of the most well-known psychological practices for overcoming irrational thoughts and anxieties is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves challenging irrational thoughts as they enter the mind and shutting them down as to change action and behaviour. Once the thoughts are being cognitively challenged, the next step as a part of CBT is to overcome the specific phobias is by facing them front on. For many people, confronting the fear in real life situations, as stressful as it may be, is the only way out.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is evidenced based form of therapy used by our team of Brisbane Psychologists. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy which focuses mostly on the way people think about things (including their attitudes and beliefs) and the way they behave. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit, and, like any other bad habit, it can be modified. It helps people identify where their thoughts and actions are negative, and then to replace these “bad habits” with more helpful thoughts and responses.
CBT utilises both cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. Cognitive therapy aims to identify and evaluate the unhelpful thoughts (or cognitions) that lead to negative feelings (e.g. depression, anxiety) and behaviours (e.g. avoiding friends). The treatment focuses on questioning thoughts and restructuring these with positive ways to think about difficult situations. Behaviour therapy is goal-oriented and aims to help people change unhealthy or unhelpful behaviours that cause them to suffer or lower their quality and enjoyment of life. For example, people who are depressed often enjoy fewer pleasurable activities and so your psychologist would work with you to identify pleasurable activities and develop a plan to increase your participation in them.
Finally, CBT not only helps you to understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns, but can also provide you with a range of useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.
Exposing people or animals to things repeatedly so that they become so familiar and unstimulating, is what psychologists refer to as ‘Exposure Therapy’. This form of therapy is widely considered the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders and specific phobias. Essentially, the theory is based on facing your fears directly, not only by challenging the thoughts but by carrying out the feared action or immersing yourself in the feared situation to gradually decrease your sensitivity to the fear; in the end make it ‘boring’.
There are several variations of exposure therapy and your psychologist can help you determine which strategy is best suited to you. Exposure therapy can be a stress provoking experience and is best practiced under the guidance of a psychologist who will create a safe environment for you when undergoing this treatment. A gradual approach is often recommended with each confrontation or experience revealing new realities, building confidence and gaining power over those irrational thoughts and fears.
However difficult confronting those fears may be, the long-term benefits, far outweigh the short-term discomfort, setting you free to live life to its fullest. If you are a prisoner to your fears, take action today by seeing a psychologist. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.Read more