for May, 2016

Social Anxiety- More Than Just Being Shy

Posted on May 27, 2016 in Uncategorized -

By Rhonda Stanton, Psychologist

“I can’t do this… why did I agree to do come to this party… I look fat in this dress… my mind has gone blank… they will think I’m an idiot… I can feel my cheeks burning… I feel sick…”.

For many of us, being asked to deliver a speech or meeting new people for the first time is likely to cause anxiety. It is normal to feel a bit nervous or uneasy in situations where we are likely to be scrutinized by others. However, social anxiety is a condition where people experience an intense and irrational fear of social interaction that is excessive and beyond simple nervousness.

Social anxiety usually begins in adolescence and can be attributed to being introverted or shy. However, social anxiety is much more than this. Some characteristics include:

  • Having a persistent fear of one or more social situations where the person is exposed to unfamiliar people, or potential scrutiny by others
  • Feared situations are endured with significant distress or avoided altogether
  • The person realizes that the fear is irrational
  • It interferes significantly with daily life

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Blushing
  • Stammering
  • Perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Shallow and fast breathing
  • Tense muscles

As a consequence of the thoughts, emotions and bodily symptoms, people may begin to change their behaviours such as avoiding social situations or increasing alcohol consumption to numb symptoms. A vicious cycle begins. The good news is that social anxiety responds well to treatment. If you think you may have social anxiety, ask your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan and referral to a psychologist.

Rhonda works from Psychology Consultants Morningside on Monday, Friday and Saturday. To read more about her click here. 

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Silence: Offer your brain a daily dose

Posted on May 25, 2016 in Uncategorized -

By Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist

The world is becoming increasingly loud and cluttered. The noise around us can help to accentuate the noise within us. As a result, people often find themselves looking for silence inside and out. And the science is starting to show that silence is much more important to the brain than we might think.

Silence has important benefits for the brain and the mind.

A recent study by Kirste et al (2013) found that mice who were exposed to two hours of silence per day developed new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory, learning and emotion. Silence, quite literally, allows our brains to grow.

Even from a practical level, silence helps us restore cognitive functions that have been impaired by too much noise. Hygge et al (2002) found that attention, focus, and problem solving, strongly affected by too much noise, can all be restored by offering ourselves periods of silence.

When the brain is “resting”, as in times of silence, it is much more able to engage in self-reflection, which is a psychological task of reflecting on one’s own personality, values and characteristics. Moran (2016) explores the processes behind self-reflection. Silence allows us to think about profound things in an imaginative way.

Noise has been found to cause stress and tension in humans, even at levels that does not cause hearing loss. Silence, on the other hand, can prove to be relaxing, sometimes even more relaxing that listening to “relaxing music”.

Silence: A powerful tool to help cultivate compassion?

If silence can (1) help our attention and focus, (2) create a state of calm and relaxation, and (3) allow us to move into a mode of self-reflection, then perhaps silence is an additional component to providing the focused inward attention necessary to develop the values and abilities to care for one another, and prevent or relieve the suffering of others. Thus, perhaps silence can be a powerful tool to cultivate compassion.

For more information on Dr Steindl and the team of Psychologists at our Morningside and Newmarket practice; visit

Hygge, S., Evans, G.W., Bullinger, M.A. (2002). Prospective study of some effects of aircraft noise on cognitive performance in schoolchildren. Psychological Science, 13(5), 469-474.

Kirste, I., Nicola, Z., Kronenberg, G., Walker, T.L., Liu, Robert C., Kempermann, G. (2013). Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain Structure and Function, 220(2), 1221-1228.

Moran, J.M. (2016). Cognitive neuroscience of self-reflection. In J.R. Absher & J. Cl

outier (Eds.), Neuroimaging personality, social cognition, and character. (pp. 205-219). San Diego, CA, US: Elsevier Academic Press

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Contemplative Aerobics – How Mindfulness Reduces Stress Levels

Posted on May 19, 2016 in Uncategorized -

by Rhonda Stanton, Psychologist

Many of us are familiar with the benefits of aerobics for the body but what about aerobics for our minds?

It turns out that there is such a concept and it is called mindfulness.

Humans have the capacity to reflect on the past and think about the future. While this is a useful skill, it takes us out of the present moment. This can result in increased stress levels. For some people, too much rumination spirals into anxiety or depression.

Mindfulness has been defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the moment and non-judgmentally” (Jon Kabat Zinn).

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.

It is important to note that mindfulness is not the same as relaxation, although often relaxation is a beneficial side effect. Just as there are many different sports or types of music, there are many types of meditation – there is no one size fits all. Whether you choose yoga or a meditation based approach, there are numerous benefits of mindfulness practice.

Neural plasticity is a new concept that simply means that the brain changes in response to experience. By learning to bring your attention back to the present moment, it has been shown that in as little as eight weeks of daily meditation practice, changes can be observed via fMRI studies (Farb et al, 2010).

Benefits include:

  • Improved self awareness
  • Learning to deal with difficult emotions
  • Reduced rumination
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved focus
  • Improved cognitive flexibility

If you think you may benefit from mindfulness based therapy, ask your GP if you would be eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan and referral to a psychologist. A MHCP enables you to access a Medicare rebate for psychological treatment. Alternatively, you can make an appointment directly with Rhonda Stanton or the team at Psychology Consultants as a private client with no referral required.





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Mum’s the Word

Posted on May 4, 2016 in Uncategorized -

Kathryn Smith- Clinical Psychologist

With Mother’s Day fast approaching it can be a timely reminder to speak about a topic which is not often spoken about. We are bombarded with ads on TV depicting how wonderful motherhood is, and whilst it is for many, for some it is a daily struggle.

Recently I was asked to speak at a Perinatal Mental Health Forum. The main topic of focus was Postnatal Depression and how can we help these women deal with this problem and why are they continuing to fall between the cracks?

It is estimated that 1 in 7 women will experience post-natal depression and 1 in 10 men will also experience this.  This is not the same as the “Baby Blues” typically experienced within the first week following birth but quickly resolving. This consists of depressed mood, loss of appetite, exhaustion, poor sleep, often poor attachment to the baby and sometime suicidal and homicidal ideas. Tragically, some of these ideas are acted on if the symptoms are so severe and the parent cannot see any other way out.

Most that experience post-natal depression, often feel guilty for having these symptoms and are too scared to reach out due to the fear of perhaps losing their baby. They also feel like such a failure as “everyone else” seems to be coping and they are constantly reminded of this at Mother’s groups and Facebook posts. They are not filled with a sense of wonderment that is portrayed in the media and feel everyday as a constant struggle with no enjoyment.

Prevention of this is often better than a cure. A topic of discussion at the forum was how do we assist couples with transitioning into parenthood and really prepare them for the relentless demands a new baby will bring? Also when they are beginning to struggle how do they reach out and who do they talk to?

For any parent that is relating to this, it is important to realise that you are not alone and this is not because you are inadequate. It is important to begin a conversation with someone about how you have actually been feeling and to be brutally honest. This can be with another family member, friend or even your GP. It is important to ask for help, even if they are not the person to do it. There are also some organisations that have phone support and resources, they can also direct you to an appropriate service provider. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) is one such organisations that offers such support. If depression is left too late, it can have dire consequences on a relationship and the family functioning.

If we begin to speak about Perinatal Depression more, and reach out more, we may be successful in building more programs and gathering more support for this often untreated and debilitating condition. Instead of “Mum’s the Word’, let’s spread the word and make this everyone’s business.

For more information on PANDA visit

Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith works at Brisbane based practice, Psychology Consultants, her bio can be viewed at


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