We will beat this, It will get better: Guest blog by Jenny Nguyen

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(image: Mercury News, Daphne Sashin -USA)

We are currently living in strange times, where the majority of people are practicing “Social Distancing”. This has become the norm for most people for a couple of weeks or months. Its only a few months of the first year of the new decade, and no one expected coronavirus to have such an impact of everyday life.

Many people out there are worried and anxious about what is happening, you are not alone. We are all in this together and we can beat this virus. My blog is all about me and my anxiety and how I been coping during these difficult times.

Let me start by saying that even before coronavirus, I have suffered from anxiety for most of my life. I am always constantly worried and stressed about what the future holds. It is the uncertainty that makes me so nervous. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed and not talk to anyone. 

It was when something in my life happened, I decided to take matters into my own hands in order to help deal with my anxiety. I decide to self-refer myself and attend CBT classes provided by the NHS. My counsellor has been so helpful in helping me to put things in perspective.  I learnt different ways to help me deal with the anxiety. During the week, I still continue with my CBT lessons, but it is done by telephone.

I really appreciate the work the NHS does. They work so hard to try and help people struggling through hard times and saves people’s lives. 

When I first heard about the coronavirus, it was okay but then when we started to get cases in UK, my anxiety levels started to kick in. I realised that I suffer from health anxiety too, where I would often check online the symptoms and some days, I convince myself that I have coronavirus.

Social media and the news are reporting about coronavirus and this made me more anxious about what the future holds and if I will be able to survive through this time. It started to get really bad after a few days, as cases in the UK kept increasing and we had deaths in the UK. 

Things started to get bad with my mental health as I started to develop symptoms of the virus. One Saturday evening, I started to develop a high fever and started panicking. I had so many thoughts running through my head and ended up calling NHS 111. All they said was ‘it’s a cold’. During that time, I was so scared and my anxiety levels was so high. That evening I found it hard to sleep but I drank a lot of water. The next day I was okay, but decided not to go in to work. It was the right decision to make. 

At work, the decision was made that everyone would work from home until further notice. During the first few days of working at home, it was good because it was great to have freedom of what I wanted to do at home, as we won’t have this much free time again. As time went on, I could feel my anxiety levels increasing and my mind kept wandering to the worst things that could happen to me and my family.

We are in tough times and it is affecting everyone mental health, even if you don’t admit it but this is the time we can work on ourselves and pick up a hobby we enjoy. I suffer from loneliness and I often need others to support me. This is the time you can reconnect with past friends. I recommend reaching out to an old friend and talking to them.

We all go through the same things and know that this bad situation will end very soon. We don’t know when, but we will beat it together.

In order to help with my anxiety levels in this situation, I focus on myself and try to find ways I can help others in this situation. I want to help others who are suffering and find ways to inspire them, that everything will be okay. Having fresh air when you are on lockdown is very important. I have a garden and once in a while I go out for a walk.

We need to protect our mental health. It is okay to be struggling. It’s okay to lose your footing and scramble to stay upright. It’s okay to be screaming on the inside or outside. It’s okay to be scared or anxious or depressed. You are not alone and people are here to support you.

We will get through this together and use this time to do something you always wanted to do. We will beat this! It will get better!

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Jenny Nguyen, in the UK.

How CBT helps Children deal with Anxiety: Guest blog by Leigh Adley, therapist at Set Your Mind Free

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(image: Pinterest)

As we know, children are also vulnerable to anxiety. Unfortunately, many parents believe that this type of mental health problem will only be temporary in nature. For example, they may think that their child’s shyness will disappear as they grow older. However, if this shyness is increasingly interfering with the child’s life as well as their family’s, then obtaining help is of paramount importance. If left untreated, a child’s severe anxiety will in all likelihood deteriorate as they will choose to avoid situations that make them anxious.   

People suffering from anxiety, including children, are often treated with medication, particularly antidepressants. However, there are alternatives available, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help children deal with stress.  

Two decades of research has shown that CBT has been successful in reducing the symptoms of severe anxiety. This therapy also provides children with the tools to identify situations that trigger their anxiety. It also helps them manage the symptoms themselves.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help people manage their way of thinking and feeling. For example, it can help change distorted thoughts and dysfunctional behavior in order to alter an individual’s emotions. For children, therapists will often focus on getting them to unlearn their undesirable behaviour.     

 

Exposure and response prevention

This is the technique most therapists use for children with anxiety. It is a basic idea whereby a child is exposed to the situations that make them anxious. However, this exposure is structured and incremental and takes place in a safe environment. The goal is to make them accustomed to the triggers so their anxiety response is reduced. 

Exposure therapy has little in common with traditional talking therapy. CBT sessions generally involve talking to the patient to explore the root causes of their anxiety, and they then use this knowledge to alter their behaviour. Once they modify or change their response, the fear also disappears.

Exposure therapy is used for various types of anxiety, such as:

 

Treating anxiety as a person

It is helpful to go to a cognitive behavioral therapist as they will enable a child and their parents to think of the anxiety as an entity that is separate from their identity. The child may consider his or her anxiety to be a bully. To treat the anxiety as a person, the patient may give this bully a name, such as ‘Bossy’. Once the anxiety has been given a form, the CBT therapist can then teach the child how to control this ‘bully’. 

Children are also taught to recognize that anxiety can negatively affect their lives. By letting their fears control them, they miss important events such as:    

  • Sleeping in their own bed
  • Visiting their friends’ homes or going to a restaurant
  • Sharing meals with family or friends

It is also essential that the therapist gains the child’s trust so they can encourage them to face their fears.

 

Steps involved in exposure therapy 

The CBT therapist will firstly identify the triggers. The child will then confront a “pyramid of fears”, namely a sequence of incremental challenges. Every test that the child successfully accomplishes will help build their tolerance to the anxiety.

Before taking the challenges, the child will be asked to consider the degree of difficulty when encountering an uncomfortable situation. For example, a child who is afraid of touching dirt will be asked how difficult it would be (on a scale of 1–10) to write the word ‘dirt’. If they say ‘3’, then saying ‘I will touch dirt today’ could be a ‘5’, seeing a cartoon where a character picks up dirt may merit a ‘7’ and seeing an actual person touch dirt may go up to a ‘9’ on their difficulty scale.

By letting the child rate the scale of difficulty for their various fears, they can distinguish between the easy and extreme levels.

The first exposure trigger should come in its mildest form until the child’s anxiousness subsides. Fear is similar to any sensation; it decreases over time and the child will soon gain some control as the anxiety they feel goes away.

Depending on the severity of the child’s anxiety, a CBT session can take place several times a week, lasting several hours. The exposure often takes place in the CBT office, and then once the child feels comfortable, in an outside environment. For example, children with social anxiety may go outside wearing a funny hat. If they are afraid of germs, the exposure may involve:

  • Riding a bus or train
  • Shaking hands with strangers
  • Eating food without washing their hands

Once they have undergone several vulnerable situations and are feeling more confident, they can try some of the exposure sessions on their own. Parents have a vital role to play in this process. They should encourage their child to tolerate their anxious feelings rather than shielding them.

 

Duration of CBT sessions

It can take 8 to 12 sessions for a child to handle mild to moderate levels of anxiety. In addition, medication can help them reduce their stress while enabling them to engage in the CBT sessions.

 

Conclusion

CBT is a good way of helping children deal with their anxiety. CBT utilises various methods to overcome anxiety, and the exposure and response prevention techniques are particularly suitable for children. The child will confront their fears in increments until they can handle the stress on their own.

However, both the child and their parents need to understand that exposure therapy can be difficult. Nevertheless, once their fears diminish, the family can participate in activities that they previously found difficult.  

 

Author’s bio:

This blog was written by Leigh Adley, Hypnotherapist/Psychotherapist at Set Your Mind Free, based in the UK.

How to Deal With Social Anxiety, Social Phobia and Depression: Guest post by CBT Toronto

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(image: the Funny Beaver)

Millions of people around the world suffer from social anxiety, social phobia, and depression. Unfortunately, due to the stigma that is still associated with mental illness around the world, many people try to hide their problems and suffer in silence. Left untreated, social anxiety, social phobia, and depression can lead to isolation, physical health problems, and even suicide. 

Fortunately, there are many treatment modalities available,. This can help sufferers obtain the support and relief that they need and deserve. Here, we will focus on some simple yet effective ways that you, or someone that you love, can alleviate social anxiety, social phobia, and depressive symptoms with tact, integrity, and verve.

 

Risks of Having Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression

Certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to social anxiety disorders or clinical depression, as well as seasonal affective disorder, chronic stress, anger, and generalized anxiety disorder. However, other non-genetic factors may influence whether or not a person develops a social anxiety disorder or depression in their lifetime.

For instance, if you are currently dealing with substance abuse issues, such as excess consumption of alcohol or narcotics, then you may be at an increased risk of developing a social anxiety disorder or chronic depression. Unfortunately, many people will turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb their pain. This puts their bodies at risk of developing a tolerance or resistance to such illicit substances; which can lead those individuals down a path of destruction.

If you are having trouble communicating with others, whether at home or work or are having trouble being productive in your day-to-day life, then you may be suffering from a cognitive impairment or mental health disorder. If you notice that you are not responding to the treatment that your doctor or mental health care professional has prescribed, whether it be cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, or medication. 

If so, please speak to your doctor, as they may need to adjust your treatment or try a new treatment method. Suicidal ideation is also a serious red flag, and if you have suddenly developed severe thoughts of harming yourself, please seek immediate medical attention.  

What Prevents Social Anxiety Disorder Patients From Accessing Mental Health Care?

Many people who suffer from social anxiety ,blame themselves for their issues. As such, they may refuse to seek outside help to address and rectify their health problems. Furthermore, many people who suffer from SAD are actually unaware that such a condition exists, or may not know who to turn to in order to receive the necessary treatment. 

In fact, it can be argued that many doctors, and most of the general public, are unaware of SAD or how to best tackle the matter. As such, there may be very little help available to those who suffer from the disorder; whether it be medical, moral, or emotional.

 

Does Social Phobia Run in Families?

There have been studies conducted indicating that a person’s risk of developing a social phobia disorder may be elevated if someone in their family has or had the same issue. Moreover, the correlation vs causation interplay between psychiatric and serotonin disorders is also something that many medical experts in the field are aware of. 

That is, while most agree that there is a marked connection between SAD, depression, and serotonin, medical experts are uncertain about which comes first in terms of driving said correlation between the disorders.

 

How to Deal With Social Anxiety Disorder

SAD can often be overcome by getting moral support from friends and family. The key is to interact with loved ones in a respectful and supportive environment so that the person can overcome their problem. Also, it should be noted that many people who suffer from chronic depression do not actually understand why they feel the way they do. 

In other words, many of the feelings or behaviours that they exhibit are automatic and deeply ingrained into their thought process and psyche. It is the responsibility of their loved ones to care and support them by sympathizing with their condition and helping them process their emotions in a safe and healthy manner.

In addition, many studies have found that patients with SAD who undergo cognitive behaviour therapy report a significant improvement in their anxious or depressive symptoms. In some cases, patients may be treated with a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and medications. This could include Busperione, Remeron, Paxil, Celexa, Trintalex, or other medicines that are commonly used to help those who suffer from anxiety or depressive disorders.

Also, if your symptoms are relatively minor, then there are techniques that you can implement yourself to obtain near-immediate relief. For instance, if you find yourself in a situation that elevates your stress and anxiety levels, then you can practice deep-breathing exercises before the situation escalates.  

If you suffer from social anxiety, then you should try to slowly cultivate your social connections. Doing so can not only help you eventually overcome your social anxiety but may also help alleviate feelings of depression that often result from social isolation. This is known as exposure therapy and can be helpful.

There are other ways to help deal with anxiety and depression. For instance, studies have found that listening to music that you enjoy releases hormones that help promote relaxation. Exercise has many mental as well as physical health benefits. The release of oxytocin and endorphins can help counteract the release of cortisol and other harmful hormones that can exacerbate anxiety and depression.  A healthy and balanced diet can help rectify certain hormonal balances and nutritional deficiencies that can cause lethargy, depression, irritability, and anxiety in some people.

Most importantly get help from a GP doctor or therapist if things are getting too much. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

This guest post is by CBT Toronto, based in Canada.

If you would like to learn more about social anxiety treatments in Toronto or would like to obtain social anxiety treatments in Toronto, then please visit our website or give us a call at 416-817-8925. We specialize in PTSD, OCD, BDD, depression, couples therapy, and anxiety disorders.

 

A guide to Therapies and finding the right one for you: Guest blog by the Worsley Centre

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(image: Quotir)

If you find yourself at a point in life where you think you might need to seek some professional help, then the decision as to which therapy is right for you can be a daunting one. At its worst, depression and anxiety related disorders can take away our ability to make rational, informed decisions, so how could you possibly know which one is right for you? 

There’s no definitive way of knowing, and even if you start one course of therapy, only to discover it isn’t for you, it’s important to remember it’s not a one-size-fits all decision. If you’re trying to take a long-term approach to taking care of your mental health, then you need to take the time and effort to find the appropriate course of treatment to meet your needs. 

So here’s a basic guide to some of the most common therapies, and how they might be able to help you (although it’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list). 

Counselling 

This might sound like a catch-all term to describe all of the therapies below, but actually counselling is subtly different from other types of therapy. Counselling can often be a useful short term strategy to cope with events in our lives which can, quite understandably, cause mental health stresses. These can include bereavement, miscarriage, sudden redundancy, relationship problems or problems with infertility. Counselling sessions normally last for 6-12 weeks, though they can of course be tailored to every individual person’s needs. 

Psychotherapy 

Psychotherapy is primarily a talking therapy, but may also utilise art, writing, music or drama. Psychotherapy can help with a range of conditions, including anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. This therapy aims to teach you to manage painful emotions and relationships more successfully. 

Psychotherapy basically involves talking with the patient, discussing strategies to solve problems and changing behaviour. 

It’s worth noting that most of the other therapies in this post are forms of psychotherapy. 

Psychodynamic therapy 

This is a form of psychotherapy which focuses less on the patient-therapy relationship. Patients are told to speak freely and openly about any issues that come to mind, whether it be fears, anxieties or desires. It is a more short-term incarnation of psychotherapy. It’s often used to treat people with serious depressive disorders, or who may struggle to forge meaningful relationships in their lives. 

Interpersonal Psychotherapy 

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy treatment. It’s very structured, and includes a lot of homework and continuous assessment. It primarily looks at ways depression can be triggered by changes in relationships to others, such as bereavement, or relocation. 

It will usually start with a 1-3 week assessment of symptoms, as wells as social history and the patient’s relationships. The therapy aims to come up with treatment strategies to deal with problem areas in a patient’s life; over the course of the treatment the emphasis of these problem areas might change, as will the therapist’s strategies. IPT is a relatively young form of psychotherapy treatments. 

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy which puts its focus on problem solving as a way of breaking certain thought patterns and modes of behaviour. It’s very much a therapy which focuses on the here and now, as opposed to trying to look for explanations of present day behaviour in past events. CBT has proven to be effective in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

CBT works on the concept that a person’s perception of a certain situation determines their and feelings, and hopefully break free of unhelpful patterns of behaviour. 

Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy 

This is another form of cognitive therapy which incorporates mindfulness strategies and breathing exercises into courses of treatment. Mindfulness techniques use breathing and meditation to place people in the present moment, and MBCT uses these techniques to encourage patients to deal with overwhelming or stressful situations.  Again, it aims to break unhelpful thought patterns which can lead to recurrent episodes of depression or anxiety. As well as mindfulness, patients are taught to understand the relationship between how you think and how you feel. 

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Therapy 

Neuro-linguistic programming focuses on behaviour modification techniques to help improve a client’s sense of self-awareness, confidence and communication skills. Again, it helps people to understand that the way they operate in the world is in turn affected by how they view of the world. 

It’s often used to treat phobias, help people deal with self-esteem problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and is designed to help patients understand the workings of their own mind. 

Couples and Family Therapy 

The title of this therapy is relatively self-explanatory, but basically it encourages individuals to resolve problems in the context of family units, or as part of a couple. This helps people to better understand their role within a group dynamic, and how their actions affect the other person within a family or couple. 

During the therapy, family members are encouraged to work together to solve a problem which may be directly affecting a family member, with each person encourage to express their thoughts and feelings in an open and supportive forum. Family and couples therapy is geared towards making different family members empathise with one another, understand each other’s point of view, and switch roles where necessary. 

The ultimate goal of family and couples therapy is restore healthy relationships. This branch of therapy essentially believes that family life is like being part of a system, which is only as strong as the individual within it. Family and couple therapy ultimately aims to restore balance to this system. 

These are, arguably, the most well-known and high-profile forms of therapy. As outlined at the beginning of this article, it’s not an exhaustive list; there are many more specific types of therapy which may prove to be the right one for you. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s perfectly normal to try a few of the therapies on this list, as it might take a few referrals before you find the right one for you. 

The Worsley Centre offers counselling and psychotherapy sessions for couples, individuals and groups in the Greater Manchester area. 

https://theworsleycentre.com/ 

 

4 Helpful Treatment Options for those who suffer from PTSD- Guest post by Rachelle Wilber

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that affects people who’ve experienced major trauma events. Common among military service members who’ve fought in combat zones, PTSD can also affect people who’ve lived through other terrifying episodes that have resulted in physical and/or mental harm. If you believe that you suffer from PTSD, you can work with a therapist and try any of these four different treatment methods to overcome the condition.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy works to alter thought patterns that often cause people to relive the traumatic events in their minds. As Mayo Clinic states, the goal of cognitive behavioural therapy is to make you more aware of negative or inaccurate thoughts so that you can adopt a healthier perspective of challenging situations and respond in a better way. Undergoing this therapy may also help prevent relapses that could jeopardise your mental health.

Exposure Therapy

Your therapist may also try exposing you to things that trigger traumatic thoughts as a way to alleviate them. This is done in a safe way, and your mental health care provider will be there to help you process your thoughts and feelings and give you tools to overcome your anguish. You may be shown pictures, see writings or even revisit a place where the traumatic episode occurred. Gradually, these negative thoughts should lose their power and cause you less mental grief the more that you’re exposed to them.

Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Also known as EMDR therapy, this treatment method involves recalling distressing thoughts while a therapist’s fingers move in front of your face. You’ll be asked to follow these finger movements with your eyes while discussing your feelings, however, you generally won’t be required to talk about your thoughts in great detail.

Some therapists use foot or hand tapping or musical notes instead of finger movements in front of the face. This more active approach to therapy is intended to minimise the effects of bad thoughts.

Medication

Medication is sometimes prescribed by mental health professionals to work in conjunction with other types of therapy. Prozac, Zoloft and similar antidepressant medications are formulated to boost serotonin levels in the brain to alleviate negative thoughts and emotions. Your doctor may also prescribe Depakote to stabilize your moods. Prazosin often works well in stopping nightmares.

You don’t have to continue letting PTSD dominate a large part of your life. Seeking professional help and undergoing any of these therapies will likely give you positive results.

 

This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber from San Diego, California

4 Things Holding You Back from Therapy and Why They’re Not True: Guest Post by Time With

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(image: Feminist Current/ Snoopy)

Taking a leap into the unknown always requires bravery. Now think of that ‘unknown’ as yourself. All those dark, niggly or somewhat strange parts of ourselves we keep buried away in the hope that they might just disappear if we keep pushing them away for long enough. Yup, therapy is totally exposing – and frankly, terrifying. So it’s little wonder we find ourselves coming up with a million and one excuses to explain why it’s not for us. Avoidance runs through our veins – it’s human nature. But it also holds us back, and at its very worst, avoidance can stall us from moving forward and reaching our potential.

 

Sometimes it’s worth digging a little deeper to properly explore our reasoning. That way we can be sure we’re not standing in the way of our own progress. Below we’ve listed some of the most common excuses we hear when it comes to therapy (and why we think they’re mostly rubbish!)

 

I don’t know where to start”

It’s true, in the past finding a therapist has been anything but easy. Sifting through directories packed full of conflicting approaches and unfamiliar terms… It’s hardly surprising we’re left scratching our head wondering what any of it means. But fortunately, those days are now firmly in the past. Searching for a therapist online is quick and easy. There’s no need to get carried away in lots of research, now you can just work your way through a few simple questions and be connected directly with the right therapists nearby. If you’re interested in finding a therapist best matched to your needs, TimeWith’s online questionnaire matches you with suitable therapists in minutes.

 

“I can’t afford it”

This is valid- there’s no two-ways about it, therapy isn’t cheap. But in reality, it’s a small price to pay when weighed up alongside its many benefits. Good therapy has the potential to completely transform your life. Whether you want to learn how to relate better in your relationships, manage stress and flourish in your career, or you simply want shed light on recurring behaviours or patterns… Therapy has the potential to do all those things (and more).

 

Also, it’s important to remember that therapy isn’t forever. It’s not about making a lifetime commitment. It’s an investment, and there’s a really wonderful feeling that comes with the decision to invest in your own mental and emotional wellbeing. If money’s an issue, never be afraid to ask your therapist about concessions. Lots of therapists offer what’s known as a sliding scale meaning they can offer a discount according to your financial situation.

 

What can a stranger offer me that my friend’s can’t”

To think of therapy as a friendly heart-to-heart is to misunderstand it completely. There’s no doubt in the value of having a good, solid support system in our friends and family. But your therapist isn’t your friend – in fact, there are very strict rules around that in therapy. Your therapist will always remain neutral allowing them to take a uniquely objective standpoint. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see the broader picture. By extension, friends and family are part of our story. They can be happy or sad for us, but they will always have something at stake in our life. It’s only inevitable that this colours their advice and approach, whether they mean to intentionally or not.

 

Habits, patterns, thoughts… Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re more alike than we think. Whilst our experiences in life will be completely different, the coping mechanisms we adopt to deal with what happens to us in life very often follow similar patterns. Therapists are trained to recognise these signals and guide us towards coming to our own realisations. The best moments in therapy are those a-ha moments – the kind that friends and family struggle to provide us with, no matter how much they love us.

 

What’s going to change”

Everything, potentially. But of course, what you get out of therapy comes down to what you’re prepared to put into it – as with most things in life. Film depictions of therapy have done us a disservice for the most part. Despite appearances, therapy isn’t about rambling on Woody Allen-style about our neuroses. Don’t get us wrong, the talking part’s great! But what therapy’s really good at is finding solutions.

It’s all too easy to bulldoze our way blindly through life living out the same patterns time and time again. Good therapy is about taking accountability for the way we are. But that can only happen when we dig deeper and understand the whys. Far from self-blame, this process actually allows us to forgive ourselves for thoughts or behaviour we haven’t liked. To understand that it was the only way we knew how. But with this new awareness also comes the responsibility to change… There aren’t any excuses anymore.

This is the heart of therapy – we slowly peel back the layers to see ourselves in the clear light of day, no pretences. It might seem scary at first, but in reality, it’s liberating.

TimeWith is a service dedicated to helping people reach the right therapist. Run through a quick online questionnaire and connect with suitable therapists in your area.

Guest post: How nOCD App helps thousands with OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Stephen Smith

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In the summer of 2014, I was tired of struggling with OCD, Obsessive compulsive disorder, so I decided to do something about it and begin my app, nOCD. nOCD, standing for “No OCD”, is an online platform that I believe would have helped me during the worst of my struggles and that currently is already helping thousands of others with OCD today. The platform is designed to help people with OCD during all four phases of treatment: 1) coping with the onset of OCD symptoms, 2) selecting a care team, 3) actively managing OCD treatment, and 4) maintaining OCD treatment progress.

My team and I at nOCD are able to address each phase of treatment using a unique combination of highly vivid content and 21st century technology. For instance, people with OCD can view our content on Instagram or Twitter at @treatmyocd and download nOCD for free on the App Store (m.treatmyocd.com/saveslives).

People with OCD say the app has been a major difference maker. It gives people guidance in the moment of OCD episodes, a structured platform to do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exercises, a community to talk with others (in beta), and real-time data 24/7. Here is more information about how it works:

  1. SOS Guidance: nOCD offers members clinically effective guidance in the moment of any OCD episode, using OCD specific Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. During an episode, members can hit the button “SOS” on their phone, which tells the app to immediately provide Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (Response Prevention). For instance, if the member is obsessing, nOCD will ask questions such as: “Are you experiencing an Obsession or a Compulsion?”,  “What Obsession are you experiencing?”. “What triggered the Obsession?” And “How intense is your anxiety?” Then, based on the answers, nOCD will offer specific Acceptance Based Therapy guidance, to help the member effectively respond to the obsession without doing a compulsion. We believe the SOS feature can empower people with OCD to live their lives fully, knowing help is always in their pocket.

  2. Structured ERP ExercisesnOCD provides members with the tools and organization needed to consistently do planned OCD treatment exercises regularly and effectively, acting like a mental gym. The main challenge with doing these planned mental exercises is that they instigate anxiety. Since the anxiety alone can reduce OCD treatment adherence rates, the app attempts to remove all pain point. It offers members the ability to create loop tapes, scripts, and drawings. It also has built in exercise reminders and educational tips.

  3. Custom Therapy : nOCD customizes the entire treatment process to each member, helping augment therapy with licensed clinicians. Patients can customise their hierarchies, their compulsion prevention messages (acceptance based messages), their ERP schedule, and more.

  4. 24/7 In-App Support Group :Inside the nOCD app, people with OCD can join different support groups and anonymously post to each groups wall. We’ve created a platform where people can support each other through treatment and learn quickly that they are, in fact, not alone.
  5. Real-Time Data Collection: It collects real-time data about every aspect of the patient’s condition and treatment. It also longitudinally displays the data for every patient and clinician to see at any time. nOCD protects each users PHI data to the highest degree possible. For example, it uses a dedicated (encrypted) Ec2 instance on Amazon Web Services, SSL connection, Touch ID login access, LastPass Password security, and new, monthly, VM keys. nOCD is a HIPAA compliant commercial enterprise.

 

Guest Post: The Efficacy of Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy- CBT by Dr Stacey Leibowitz- Levy

We are delighted to have Dr Stacey Leibowitz-Levy, psychologist writing about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for us. As with any therapeutic practice, it is very much individual as to whether it will work for you and CBT will not work for everyone- but has been proven to work for many. Here Dr Leibowitz-Levy explains how it can work online.                        

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Online counselling is a growing field with more and more people turning to the internet to seek out counselling help. Counselling services offered online incorporate the range of therapeutic approaches that have been developed within the field of psychology. Approaches to understanding mental ill health and treatment include therapeutic approaches such as logo therapy, psychodynamic therapy, systemic therapy, psychodynamic therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). How do these therapeutic modalities translate to the online environment? This article will address the compatibility of CBT in particular as an online counselling approach.

CBT is a widely-utilised mode of therapy that focuses on an awareness of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The aim of CBT is to address difficulties through modifying distorted thoughts, unhelpful behaviour and unpleasant emotions. In order to achieve this end, the client works collaboratively with the therapist in building awareness and understanding of his/her condition, and an accompanying skill set for evaluating and changing distorted beliefs (as well as modifying dysfunctional behavior). The therapist develops clear objectives and a treatment plan that requires active participation from the client during sessions, and follows through on homework assignments between sessions.

This form of therapy is characterized by a structured, time limited and outcome focused approach to managing mental health challenges. Often CBT is focused on a specific issue such as anxiety or managing depressive thoughts and, as such, many CBT interventions are available in a protocol format. CBT offers a delineated and clearly defined intervention that is largely directed by a clearly defined process and structure. This is in contrast to many other therapeutic approaches that have less defined parameters and take their cue on a session to session basis from the client.

The format and approach of CBT lends itself to an online format in that the structure and process are not only defined and constrained by the relationship between therapist and client but are also defined by a clearly delineated therapeutic procedure. This procedure offers a framework within which to deliver support which can easily be translated to an online process. CBT follows a set format. It is driven by the imperative of building an understanding of the issues the client is experiencing and imparting a certain skill set to assist the client in managing his/her mental health issues. CBT is thus based on specific content and has a strong psychoeducational aspect, which means that delivery online can be located in tangible and clear cut content and outcomes for the client.

This also allows for versatility in the delivery of CBT online. While face to face time with a therapist may be desirable for some clients, the option of online delivery of psychoeducational as well as skills based elements in other formats also works well. For instance, the psychoeducational aspect could be communicated very effectively through a video delivery. CBT lends itself to the format of online courses where clients are guided through a process of identifying and understanding their particular issues and developing the skills to manage them. Interspersing this with face to face time or the opportunity to clarify or ask questions in a chat or e-mail format makes for a very effective online intervention.

While many of the issues addressed in CBT are personal to the client, the possibility of locating these issues within a more general format is very much part of the CBT approach. There is a set way of getting information from, and accessing and understanding the client’s experience, with the client having to act on this information between sessions. This more “scientific” process also makes for an approach that lends itself to an online format.

The efficacy of CBT as an online intervention is borne out by the number of sites specifically offering online CBT in a variety of formats (for some examples, see here and here). The online availability of this well researched and well-verified approach to managing mental health problems offers increased affordability, accessibility and greater choice for mental health consumers.

Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is a highly-experienced psychologist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in the area of stress and its relation to goals and emotion. Dr. Stacey has wide ranging skills and expertise in the areas of trauma, complex trauma, anxiety, stress and adjustment issues. Stacey enjoys spending time with her husband and children, being outdoors and doing yoga.

Therapy Tales Part One.

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My therapy journey began at just 15 years old- when I went to see the school counsellor for talking therapy due to suffering my first anxious and depressive episode (before I was diagnosed as bipolar).

Since then- 13 years later, I have tried many different kinds of therapies to help heal me from my anxiety disorder and help manage my bipolar disorder. Therapy still has a stigma, which is wrong,- but it is vital to the healing and recovery of mental illness and general healing from stressful life events eg deaths, divorce, moving house, illness.

I have done many forms of therapy, starting off with talking therapies- where you talk to your therapist about whats going on in your life (and sometimes they psychoanalyse in order to help you). I then did 3 lots of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT). This is where you unpack your negative thoughts and assumptions that cause your illness in thought records, where you learn to challenge thoughts and change behaviour. However, for me, CBT was frustrating. I felt like I couldn’t fully apply it and it didn’t click with my brain.

I felt that the anxiety and panic I was dealing with was very much in the subconscious- and so the CBT could not eradicate the emotional, deep response that had formed within me to certain situations. It was then I began to realise the power of exposure therapy- which is essentially, exposing yourself to your feared situation slowly, with support. The more I went out, the more people I saw and the more I did, the anxiety began to lessen. It boosted my self esteem too to know I could overcome my fears. It is something that has to be practised and you have to be kind to yourself too and in the right head space for it to work,.

Of course, therapy works in conjunction with medications and it is also vital to make sure you like your therapist and have a good relationship with them. If you dread seeing them and you aren’t getting much from it, they are likely to be the wrong therapist for you.

I have done many other therapies: art therapy (which I loved and recommend hugely if you enjoy it), meditation and deep breathing (which I still do and which really helps my anxiety) and of course the unique therapy that friends and family bring. There are more therapies out there including ACT and its always worth googling therapies.

Ultimately, don’t be too scared about sharing with a therapist. They are trained professionals, have seen it before and they are there to support you. It is also very much trial and error. Even though CBT wasn’t for me, I found other therapies which have worked.

Just be aware that NHS therapy waiting lists are months long, so if you have the money to get private care, do.

I have worked with both psychologists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists (during a period of group therapy) and of course psychiatrists in order to keep well. It is very much a collaborative effort and now I am much better, I can deal with it with my support network (with my psychiatrist in the background)

I hope you find the right course of therapy for you and know you can heal from whatever stresses you are dealing with.

Guest Post by Richie: Dealing with anxiety, Live Your Now

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(image:weheartit.com)

I was honoured to be asked to write a piece on anxiety for this wonderful blog.  I’m Richie, and I’m a mindfulness coach – one who happens to have had anxiety for as long as I can remember.  The thing is, I didn’t always know I had it.  I’ve been researching positive psychology methods etc for many years, but I wasn’t coping so headed to see a counsellor who referred me for a course of CBT after having pointed out – Sir, you have bad anxiety.

Me?

Yes I’d had panic attacks, people would describe me as quite reactive, amongst other things – and after all these years, to discover it was my “fight or flight” mechanism going into overdrive & attaching to situations in had no business being in, well, I was not impressed to say the least! How did I miss this? I felt initially extremely put out by this, I saw myself as a “fighter” – I got on with things, my panic attacks were just “stage fright” (I was in radio/music performance etc), my OCD a quirk of creativity and all that jazz! Right?

Wrong.

This is when I began to understand more fully the stigma associated to “mental health”. A somewhat wishy-washy term to people not familiar, or plain ignorant of the facts (as I myself was), as it’s often attributed to needing to just “chill out” or, “stop being so depressed” etc. At some point in life, many people will experience bouts of some kind of mental illness – after traumas, disappointments, or for some no seeming reason at all! But then, even the most healthy people can catch a cold.  And that’s the issue. Mental Health is a physical issue, that cannot be seen, and therefore for some is like trying to see oxygen.

My advice is simple on this matter; for brevity.

Acceptance & ownership

Firstly, accept it’s a physical thing, and take ownership and understand the physical things in the mind that are taking place. This helps separate you from the thought that you ARE your anxiety/depression etc. This is simply not the case.

If you catch a cold, you don’t say you ARE your cold. CBT helped me understand the mechanics of it, and have useful approaches, but for me (and we’re all different), I find mindfulness to have been the most helpful because it teaches to not identify as “being” depression/anxiety etc. This begins a process of dissociation of identifying as “being” depressed/anxious, and instead acceptance of what it is, how it functions, learning how it feels, and gradually gaining a level of understanding and feeling of when it’s occurring – and how it can shape/affect our feelings/emotions and therefore behaviours/reactions.

Experiment with techniques

Secondly, experiment with ways that can help you day to day – of course, seek professional help, but there’s also much that you can do independently. Breathing exercises (massively effective!), reminding yourself that the depression/anxiety doesn’t make you who you are, try things like mindfulness which teach us to detach from thought.

I also personally use meditations, guided or technological, hypnosis, even things like “EFT” (emotional freedom technique – or tapping), reading positive books, listening to uplifting music, and actively managing thought processes as and when I can.  Using mindfulness to compliment allows for being more in touch then, with which techniques are being more effective for you in the moment.

Is anxiety still there? Oh yes! But the more I practice these techniques (and you will find what works for you) and indeed, share them with others, the more aware I become of “anxiety”.

Reframing

Lastly; I have also reframed my anxiety, because without that fight or flight mechanism, our species would not likely still be here! So it’s important! It’s evolved in our species to protect us – and there are times that flood of adrenaline etc is critical. We certainly would not wish to be without it, but the chances a tiger is going to jump out and eat us are hopefully not too prevalent in your neighbourhood…

My experiences prompted me to begin @LiveYourNow & @Rmindrs on Twitter where I post daily mindfulness reminders, engage, and encourage others to talk – and hopefully create a few laughs too! (Laughter releases great neuro-chemicals!)

Be forgiving of yourself, understand you’re on a journey, and when you find things that help you, share them with others. The more we speak openly, the less stigma is attached, and the more others who may be suffering in silence may feel comforted and confident to speak out and seek assistance.  I have been witness to that now multiple times, and it’s truly a wonderful thing when we accompany each other, in compassion, on our healing journeys.

Thank you for reading! I hope it brings even just one person comfort/hope.

To your greatest life,

Richie – @LiveYourNow