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Family Guidance Blog

Teen Stress: Self-Reported Stress is Higher

A large number of today’s teens feel that their school days are filled with stress on a day to day basis. An online survey of 1,000 plus adolescents and close to 2,000 adults conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) finds that many teens feel highly stressed and don’t have healthy coping skills.

School Year Equals Stress
The surveyed teens reported higher stress levels throughout the school year compared to summer monthsStress 2 in numbers that seemed to mimic stress levels reported by working adults. For instance, close to 30 percent of teens reported feeling extremely stressed during the months of school and over 30 percent anticipated greater stress this school year compared to last.

Adult-Teen Stress Similar
On a scale of one to 10, adolescents reported an average 5.8 stress level while in school and a 4.6 level of stress just in the last month. Respondents over age 18 averaged 5.1 during the last 30 days. The young people said that stress kept them from meeting home (40 percent) or school (21 percent) responsibilities and that stress-related headaches (32 percent) and sleep problems (26 percent) were also an issue.

How They Cope
So, what do these teens do to cope with their stress? Not enough of them employ healthy coping skills. Only 37 percent said they exercised to lower stress. The greater number (46 percent) said that they played video games to escape stress while 43 percent went online. Here again, the young people may be mirroring what they see with adults. Among people over 18 years, only 37 percent said they exercised regularly to bring down stress levels while over 60 percent reported going online, playing video games or watching television to handle stress.

Whether you are a stressed adult or the parent of a stressed-out teen, Family Guidance Center is here to help. Our counselors can help you or your teen develop positive strategies for dealing with stress. Don’t keep stressing – call us instead.

The Relentless Cycle of Stress and Depression

Stress 1There are many things in life which can cause stress. Some stressors are relatively small or short-lived: a test at school, a visit from your in-laws, a project deadline at work. A little bit of stress can actually be good for you. The human body was designed to respond to sudden stress. Under pressure, you may find that you can be more productive, more energetic or even more creative than normal. Small doses of stress are healthy – other kinds of stress are not.

If the stress persists or if the stressor is significant (the death of a loved one, the loss of a job) then the sustained stress response is unhealthy and can trigger an episode of serious depression. This is especially true for people who may be susceptible to depression for other reasons. Ongoing stress means that stress hormones and imbalances in other key body chemicals may lead to problems with eating, sleeping, decision-making, libido and mood. And those problems can then create further stress.

The link between depression and stress is a vicious circle. Stress tends to lower your energy and dampen your mood. Those things, in turn, usually negatively impact a person’s interest in taking part in activities like exercise and socializing that can help with symptoms of depression. Thus, the stress leads to behaviors which trigger depression and depression then becomes a further source of stress. Often it takes someone on the outside to intervene and break the cycle.

At Family Guidance we know all about the connection between stress and depression. Our staff can tell if you are experiencing a normal bout of low mood because of a negative life situation or whether your stress has led to depression. We also know how to help you break the circle and break free of stress and depression. If you’ve been feeling tired, listless and unhappy for more than two weeks, give us a call today.

PTSD – How You Can Help Someone in Need

PTSD 1Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder (ASD) can be brought on by a number of different events. Victims of violent crime such as rape or robbery, those who have served time in war, and even women who have undergone traumatic childbirth experiences can develop such disorders. While individuals with ASD will only exhibit symptoms within the first 30 days after the event, those living with PTSD may experience symptoms that persist indefinitely.

PTSD can make it difficult to accomplish daily routines. Tasks such as attending work, going to school, or managing finances may create significant anxiety or difficulty for someone with the disorder. Individuals with PTSD may suddenly seem detached from loved ones and uninterested in things that were once important to them.

Fortunately, PTSD is treatable and many of those who seek treatment experience a high rate of success in adjusting back to a normal life. Many times we feel as though we have to fix things when a loved one exhibits problematic symptoms. But an article presented by the Mayo Clinic suggests that there are more effective ways to be of support.

It’s important to let your loved ones know that their feelings are important to you and that you are willing to listen when they are ready to share. However, they must first be open to discussion so the best course of action is to just be reassuring and not pushy.

When they do express a readiness to communicate, pick a time and place where you can quietly sit down and talk. Don’t interrupt or interject your own feelings on the matter. It’s best to simply listen. If the conversation becomes overwhelming at any point, it’s ok to initiate a break or resume the conversation at a later date. Take all talk of suicide seriously and never leave a person in this state alone or with any items that might be used for harm.

Learn the facts about ASD and PTSD – those who are informed are better prepared to help those in need. Family Guidance Center is a great resource for help and has mental health professionals available to help walk your loved one through the process of recovery.

Know the Warning Signs: When to Seek Professional Help

Mental Health 5For many people, it’s hard to admit the need for help. But throughout the course of life, everyone at some point could use some help. Certainly not every problem warrants professional help. How then do you differentiate between issues that could be improved from mental health treatment and those which could subside on their own?

An article found at Psychology Today provides some insight into when to seek the help of a mental health professional. Here are a few signs that may indicate a need for assistance:

Experiencing trauma In the midst of a traumatic situation, the body’s fight or flight response takes over and helps us self-preserve. It isn’t until after-the-fact that the presence and symptoms of trauma are noticeable, in many cases. If your history includes neglect, abuse, witnessing a horrific event, or if you were a victim of an incident yourself, there is healing in recognizing the presence and impact of trauma with a professional and moving toward healthy coping strategies.

Coping with personal loss Situations like losing a loved one or going through a divorce can literally take the life and energy out of a person. Even losing a job can severely impact personal self-esteem and the will to move forward. Grief from these types of situations can continue for extended periods of time and impact other relationships as well.

Using drugs or alcohol to avoid dealing with problems Relying on drugs or alcohol only serves to make problematic situations worse. If you have trouble giving up substance use despite a desire to do so, or continue to use substances even though doing so yields negative consequences, this could be a sign of an addictive or compulsive disorder that merits further attention.

Warning signs usually start with a person feeling unlike themselves. Perpetual sadness, anger or despair, or continued problems eating or sleeping, should not be ignored. Other signs warranting expert help include loss of interest in things that were once important, a withdrawal from loved ones, or suicidal thoughts. Family Guidance Center is a source of professional help and support and offers services to all income levels. Most mental health problems can be greatly improved with proper diagnosis and treatment. Contact the Family Guidance Center for more information about first steps toward getting help from an experienced mental health professional.

Stress Drives College Females to Abuse Alcohol, Develop Disordered Eating Patterns

Mental Health 6People can find themselves living in dependence or addictior for many reasons.  Women in particular may over-consume food, for example, to compensate for areas in their life where they feel a loss of control. New research shows that certain environmental factors may put young women at higher risk of abuse.

An article outlined by Good Therapy online details a study conducted by Anna M. Bardone-Cone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Associate Professor of Psychology sought to determine what risk factors may contribute to female college students using alcohol and food in an unhealthy way.

Bardone-Cone asserts that college-aged women are under a lot of stress to attain an ideal that often does not exist. Pressure to succeed academically, be popular, pretty, fit, accepted, and loved all weigh heavily on the minds of young women. To test how this pursuit of excellence impacted women’s decisions to over consume, Bardone-Cone took a closer look at the lives of over 400 campus females. She examined how issues such as body image, pressure to get good grades, and interpersonal relationships affected the drive for perfection and urge to binge when these women didn’t feel good about themselves.

The results of the study uncovered that college females shown to have high academic stress and a drive for social perfection were more likely to eat for emotional reasons. Instead of satisfying hunger, food became a source of comfort and way for these women to avoid confronting their deeper issues of feeling inadequate. Results also showed a connection between body image, pressure to succeed academically, and interpersonal relationships on using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

While the negative impacts of such stressors may seem minimal at first, if allowed to persist, they can increase the risk of  serious  diseases like bulimia or alcoholism. Family Guidance Center has a team of mental health professionals who can help you understand and manage mental health symptoms related to chronic stress, such as anxiety disorders or depression.

Alcohol addiction is a disease, like many other diseases, and professional help is needed to identify triggers and help individuals manage symptoms for recovery and quality of life. Assessments are available daily on a walk-in basis at Family Guidance Center, and can be the first step for a return to quality of life.