With seniors graduating high school all across the nation this month, many parents (and kids!) are starting to face the reality of college as that first day on campus gets closer and closer. This nervous yet excited feeling is common and to be expected. But for the parent of a child who suffers from anxiety or depression, the prospect of being away from home for the first time can be terrifying.
As a parent, you’re probably one part excited for your child’s endeavor and 100 parts terrified that they won’t be able to cope with the added pressures of college on top of their mental illness. First, know you are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the #1 concern among college students (41 percent), followed by depression (36 percent) and relationship problems (35 percent). Twenty-four percent of college students take psychotropic medication for their anxiety and depression.
But even for those who are on medication, the concern about keeping up that routine can further worry parents. You likely have been the main advocate for your child up until this point, taking them to the doctor or therapist, refilling their prescriptions, reminding them to take their pills, and dealing with the fallout of bad days as you act as therapist yourself.
Now, you’re understandably worried that your child won’t be as diligent in maintaining his or her routine, what with all the added pressures of school work and complicated social lives. College and its lack of supervision can give students easy access to alcohol and drugs. Plus, it’s easier to fall through the cracks when you’re one little student out of thousands. Even students who have demonstrated a strong ability to function under pressure may really feel the effects of such a new and demanding environment.
Keeping an Open Mind
Of course, this isn’t to scare you away from sending your kid to college! Most kids with mental illness can and should attend college. It will likely do far more good for them than bad. Given the high stakes, though, parents should understand the potential dangers of their child’s safety while away from home for the first time.
About 40 million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, with 75 percent of them experiencing their first anxiety episode by the age of 22.
That loss of control you feel right know is rooted in some reality. Remember, now that your child is 18, he or she is protected by privacy laws that govern the dissemination of medical information. You can no longer pick up the phone and call your child’s guidance counselor or chat with their therapist after a session for advice and specifics.
Your child is covered under the same privacy laws you are, such as those governing health: HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) as well as those governing academic information: FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). These laws can act as roadblocks for monitoring your adult child’s mental, physical and academic well-being. If your child becomes withdrawn or refuses to discuss mental health issues with you, you may understandably feel shut out, with little parental rights left.
There are proactive steps you can take to prepare for this, such as asking your child to sign a release that authorizes healthcare providers and college administrators to share their private medical and academic information with you. Your teen can be put at ease knowing they can specify which details they want shared, such as the fact that they are attending therapy sessions, as well as what they don’t, such as the contents of those sessions.
Know the policies and procedures of your child’s college and corresponding student health centers. Meet with the Dean of Students beforehand as well as therapists working within the on-campus counseling center. Check out the law enforcement office and disability office, too, to get your face out there and let people know you’re a concerned parent. They’ll be more likely to remember you and keep an eye out for potential problems. Provide your contact information in case of emergency.
Scope out local mental health professionals and nearby hospital emergency departments that offer psychological or substance abuse services. Keep talking with your child regularly to keep lines of communication open, offering your support and encouragement. Talk about the balance of privacy and access, and how you both feel about where those lines should be drawn.
College is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding and enlightening times of a person’s life. Take part in that excitement and joy for your child, but keep one eye open for the pronounced dangers that come when college mixes with mental health conditions.
Contact Midwest Psychological Services
To learn more about treatment for anxiety and depression for you or your college student, please contact us at (715) 381-1980 or fill out our online form.Lear More
Marriage is hard. No one ever said it was an easy road. Ironically, it can be very easy to fall into a rut of indifference through the years. The difficult part comes in heaving yourself and your spouse out of that rut to get back on the road. Many couples don’t make it. Others survive and manage to keep going, sometimes happily, sometimes not quite so. And still others embrace the new chance they’ve been given as a couple and fight through the hard times. The best way to do that is through marriage or couples therapy.
That’s because it’s all too easy to get on our own side in marriage. We get tunnel vision, really. And sometimes it takes another person – someone completely on the outside, unbiased to what we’re all about – to truly make us realize what we just can’t see when left to our own devices. It isn’t about the blame game, it isn’t about pointing fingers. It’s about a true collaboration of two people who love each other enough to try.
Communication: The Foundation of a Strong Marriage
Sadly, marriages end many times due to failure to communicate. It’s one of the simplest of bad habits: negativity tends to grow the more it is nurtured. Silence can kill a marriage far more quickly than any big fight can.
Most couples make three main communication mistakes in marriage:
- Yelling at your spouse: When you’re upset, you raise your voice. That anger creates tension, which builds and builds until it is released. Your spouse is an easy target for letting out all your disappointments. You may feel better in the moment but the damage those words can do will haunt you both for a long time. That’s because yelling unleashes lots of strong, negative emotions that will take center stage rather than your spoken message, says PsychCentral. This only serves to set up your partner to become defensive rather than responsive.
- Making it all about competition: Many people feel the need to “win” every argument. They stockpile bullet points to solidify their argument and use those to point blame. By building a case in your mind every time you have an argument, you’re also building a wall between the two of you. You’re exhausting and demoralizing your spouse rather than making it about a productive conclusion.
- Putting the focus on Me Instead of We. Perspective is everything. We tend to focus on how things affect us, when we should be looking to our spouse to see what their viewpoint is as well. In fact, take a step back from the issue itself and figure out ways you can infuse more mutual respect in your everyday interactions. Generosity and considerate behaviors can help nurture a marriage that may be a bit rocky at the moment. Instead of getting trapped into thinking “what’s in it for me,” do something good for the other person without expecting anything in return. Only you can stop the pattern of negativity with something positive.
Contact Midwest Psychological Services
Contact us at (715) 381-1980 if you are experiencing tough times in your marriage or romantic relationship. Midwest Psychological Services has several providers that bring training and experience to the table when it comes to family and couples therapy. Let us help you improve communication to resolve conflicts and finally begin to heal the wounds of unresolved issues.Lear More
We’ve all experienced rage at one time or another. In traffic…dealing with our toddler’s temper tantrum…an unfair call at the ball game. Anger is a normal outlet of emotion. Excessive, uncontrolled anger is not. Sometimes it gets out of control and takes a destructive turn, leading to problems at work, within your family, in your social relationships and indeed in the overall quality of your life.
You may not want to feel angry all the time. In fact, you may feel like you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful force. It’s OK. You can understand anger and in that understanding, learn to control it.
Quite simply, this is an emotional state that can range from minor irritation to intense rage. Just like other emotions, such as happiness and sadness, it comes with certain physiological and biological changes such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Our instinct when feeling anger is to express it outwardly and aggressively. This is, after all, a natural instinct bred in us from our very beginnings – fighting to defend ourselves when attacked is a normal response to a perceived threat.
So, it stands to reason that a certain amount of anger is critical to our survival. However, verbally or physically lashing out at anyone or anything that makes us mad is socially unacceptable, not to mention unsafe and illegal. People typically have three main ways to deal with anger: express, suppress or calm.
Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive but not aggressive manner is certainly the most productive option. However, some people don’t know when to stop, crossing the line to become pushy, demanding, disrespectful and even abusive.
For those who find themselves angry all the time and can’t control it, anger management counseling or therapy could be a helpful option. The goal of anger management is to calm your emotional feelings down and thereby reduce the physiological responses that your anger causes. This is to help you internally (remember the high blood pressure thing?) as well as externally to those around you. While you can’t eliminate the people or things that enrage you, it is possible to change your response.
In addition to counseling, you can try at-home relaxation tools to help calm you down:
- Breathe deeply, from your gut, in and out.
- Slowly repeat a calming word or phrase such as “slow down,” “relax a bit,” or “take it easy now.”
- Picture a relaxing experience or place in your mind.
- Try slow exercises like yoga to relax your muscles.
Contact Midwest Psychological Services
If you feel you need help controlling your anger, please don’t hesitate to call us for an appointment at (715) 381-1980. Our therapists have vast experience in anger management techniques.Lear More
There has been plenty of talk and awareness about eating disorders in girls and women. In fact, as many as 10 in 100 young U.S. women have an eating disorder, stemming from stress, depression, poor nutritional habits, poor body image and food fads, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
However, there’s a hushed murmuring of the other victims of eating disorders: teen boys and young men. This is a damaging stereotype that often silences males from seeking treatment, such as teen counseling. The National Eating Disorders Association says eating disorders will affect 10 million males in this country at some point in their lives. Such eating disorders can range from binge eating and purging to laxative abuse and fasting. The numbers show that these disorders are nearly as common for boys and men as they are for girls and women.
Further compounding the issue is the stigma attached that keeps males quiet about their disorder: a double stigma, in fact, for having a disorder characterized largely as female or gay for trying to get help. On top of that, current assessment tests are designed for females, which can skew results and lead to misconceptions about how eating disorders manifest in males.
The hard facts are there:
- 30 million people of all ages and genders have an eating disorder in the United States.
- One person dies every hour as a result of an eating disorder.
- Eating disorders come with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
- Eating disorders affect all races and ethnic groups.
- Risk factors range from genetics to environmental factors to personality traits.
Trapped under the stigma of a “girl’s disease,” boys suffering from eating disorders like anorexia can face challenges to: #1, even acknowledge there’s a problem and #2, seek the right kind of help. The stigma spoken of above isn’t just in the teen boy’s own mind; sadly, it’s a snap judgement on the part of medical doctors as well. Many families say they have to see five or more doctors before anyone takes them seriously and refers them to the right kind of help.
We may not realize it, due to the overwhelming emphasis in society on the pressures of girls to look good, but teen boys are at the same mercy of those high standards as well. They are lured in by the billboards and the gym ads featuring bulging biceps and glutes. Why do we assume girls are the only ones who are impacted by these images? Can teen boys not fall into the trap of “I want to look like that and will stop at nothing to achieve it”?
The truth is yes, they do. Studies show that with proper and early treatment, 60 percent of eating disorder sufferers can make a full recovery.
Contact Midwest Psychological Services
If you suspect your teenager is suffering from an eating disorder, get help now. Contact Midwest Psychological Services at (715) 381-1980.Lear More
Depression is a term that gets thrown around a lot by many people as an umbrella term to mean they are sad. However, there is a big difference between the two. Sadness is a normative emotional state, while depression is a serious condition that requires treatment, such as counseling and medication. People confuse the two perhaps because we tend to associate depression with its primary symptom of sadness, says Psychology Today, and therefore have a hard time deciphering the difference between these two common psychological states.
Let’s look at the difference between the two.
This is a normal human emotion. We all experience it to some degree on a regular basis, up and down, again and again. One day we may be sad, the next happy. Perhaps we may be sad for several days in a row. This emotion tends to be triggered by a specific event or experience such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even just a bad week at work.
That sadness may go on for a few days or even a few weeks but as we get over the trigger, that sadness recedes like the tide.
By contrast, depression is an abnormal emotional state. This is a form of mental illness that pervades our entire thinking, emotions, behaviors and perceptions in chronic and long-lasting ways. You don’t have to suffer a particular event in order to be depressed. In fact, depression often comes on in the absence of such triggers. Your life may look perfect on the outside. You may seemingly have everything you want. In effect your life looks good on paper. But you still feel horrid inside.
Depression colors every part of our lives. Things you once enjoyed no longer bring you happiness. Things are not as interesting as they used to be. Pursuits that used to seem worthwhile just seem unworthy now. That’s because depression sucks out our energy, stalls our motivation and dampens our ability to feel true pleasure, anticipation, joy, excitement, connection and indeed meaning within our lives.
Depression makes us impatient, quick to temper and frustration. It breaks us down fast and hard, which means it takes much longer to bounce back up.
Symptoms of Depression
In order to be diagnosed with depression, you must display five of the following symptoms for a long duration, usually at least two weeks. Severity of symptoms will also come into play.
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Loss or decrease of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Significant changes in weight or appetite
- Inability to get enough sleep
- Sleeping too much
- Feelings of restlessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating, focusing and making decisions
- Thinking of death or suicide
Contact Midwest Psychological Services
Contact us at (715) 381-1980 if you find yourself saying yes to several of the above bullet points. Our therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are here to help you. Please reach out.Lear More