Contact Us

CONTACT US

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO INQUIRE ABOUT TREATMENT AT CSAM, PLEASE FILL OUT THE FORM AND A THERAPIST WILL CONTACT YOU TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT.

You may also contact us via phone or email:

Phone: 858-354-4077

Email: info@csamsandiego.com

Name *
Name
Phone *
Phone
OK to leave a detailed message on this phone? *
How did you find CSAM? *

7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
San Diego, CA, 92108

858.354.4077

At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

Blog Awards 1:18.jpg

Blog

Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.

 

Filtering by Tag: prolonged exposure therapy san diego

Mental Health Awareness Month: Fitness #4Mind4Body

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Every year, Mental Health America designates a particular theme for the month to highlight an important aspect of mental health. This year’s theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body, and it focuses on acknowledging the connection between mental and physical wellbeing. #4Mind4Body explores the role of nutrition, exercise, the gut-brain connection, sleep, and stress in our overall wellbeing and examines the ways each of these areas impact our functioning. Below is a summary of the topics covered in the Mental Health Toolkit from Mental Health America.

Diet and Nutrition

brooke-lark-254998-unsplash.jpg

Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is an integral part of health. Diets high in processed, fried, and sugary foods can increase the risk not only for developing physical health problems like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, but are also linked to mental health problems, including increased risk for depression symptoms. A healthy diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is linked with a lower risk for depression and even an improvement in depression symptoms.

Exercise

Regular exercise not only helps control weight, increase strength, and reduce the risk of health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, but it also helps boost endorphins and serotonin, among other important proteins and neurotransmitters that impact mental health. Endorphins serve to mitigate pain in the face of stress and increase pleasure in the body. Serotonin affects appetite, sleep, and mood, and is the target of SSRIs, a class of antidepressant commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. Just thirty minutes of exercise per day can help improve mood and mental health.

jenny-hill-202432-unsplash.jpg

The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut, also known as the “second brain,” communicates directly with the brain via the vagus nerve and via hormones and neurotransmitters. The communication goes both ways, so anxiety, stress, and depression can impact the gut and result in gastrointestinal symptoms, but changes in the gut microbiome can impact the brain and mood, exacerbating or even resulting in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Eating a nutritious diet that includes prebiotics and probiotics is an important part of maintaining a healthy gut and a healthy mind. 

Sleep

Quality of sleep impacts the immune system, metabolism, appetite, the ability to learn and make new memories, and mood. Good sleep for adults means getting between 7-9 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep per night. Problems with getting good quality sleep can increase the risk of developing mental health symptoms, and symptoms of anxiety and depression can negatively impact sleep, creating a negative cycle. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) can help clients reestablish healthy sleep patterns through addressing negative thoughts and worries as well as behavioral patterns that are impacting sleep habits.

Stress

Stress is a normal part of life, and the body is equipped with a fight or flight response designed to help mobilize internal resources to manage stressors. After the stress has passed, the body can return to its regular equilibrium state. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can cause inflammation, impaired immune system functioning, muscle aches, gastrointestinal problems, sexual dysfunction, changes in appetite, and increased risk for heart disease. Too much stress can also impact mental health.

Mental health involves a complex interplay between numerous factors, including but certainly not limited to the areas listed above. Furthermore, though maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise routine, good sleep habits, and utilizing stress management techniques can help prevent or improve existing mental health symptoms, if you are struggling with mental health issues, it can be difficult to attend to these areas.

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress management, depression, chronic illness, or insomnia, seeking professional assistance can be helpful. Evidence based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help to address problematic thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to emotional distress. Therapy offers a warm, supportive, safe environment to explore painful issues. A therapist can also provide support in helping the client to develop good self-care habits, like those mentioned above.

This year’s mental health awareness theme reminds us of the importance of recognizing the multiple avenues through which we can approach mental health, and the variety of tools we have at our disposal to improve overall wellbeing.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, insomnia, or chronic illness, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at info@csamsandiego.com

References

Mental Health America. (2018). 2018 Mental Health Month Toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/sites/default/files/Full_2018_MHM_Toolkit_FINAL.pdf

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

Anxiety is a hot topic these days. It’s all over the news, and apparently it is on the rise. In the age of information and technology, we are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom news alerts, including reminders that on top of everything else, we are plagued with increasing anxiety. Eventually, these reminders can get exhausting and may even contribute to the anxiety that is apparently so prevalent in the first place.

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Of course, there are benefits to all this conversation around anxiety: we have a better understanding of what anxiety is and as a result we may be able to understand and empathize with those who are struggling better. But it’s important to be careful that we don’t pathologize all anxiety, and that we don’t lose sight of the strength that exists in those who truly do have anxiety disorders.

Anxiety: Natural Response to Stress or Disorder?

The way we talk about anxiety today, it is easy to believe that all anxiety is inherently bad and forget that it’s our natural response to threat or danger. We actually need anxiety to survive; it prepares our body to respond appropriately in the face of danger. However, our physiological experience of anxiety developed back when the regular dangers humans faced included running from large, sharp toothed predators. So when we are experiencing the fight-or-flight response before a big exam or presentation, it may not feel particularly adaptive. But despite the discomfort that comes with anxiety, it is natural when it is experienced as the result of a particular situation or problem, when it is proportional to the stressor, and when it only lasts until the situation is resolved (ULifeline, 2016). Anxiety, though often painful, is an important and adaptive part of the human experience.

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Though originally an adaptive response, anxiety does have the potential to be harmful when it manifests as “constant, chronic and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress, disturbs your social life and interferes with classes and work” (Active Minds, 2016). In other words, anxiety is no longer helpful when it begins to appear when there is no actual threat present. When a person experiences anxiety but has no threat to respond to, what happens? They begin avoiding situations that are actually safe. Their mind and body are telling them that safe situations are threatening, which can have a debilitating effect. When anxiety becomes disordered, it arises unexpectedly, is overwhelming, and, rather than catalyzing adaptive behavior in the face of a threat, often fosters avoidance of everyday situations (Here to Help, 2016).

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

So what is the takeaway? Anxiety is uncomfortable, but it helps us respond to threat, uncertainty, trouble, or feelings of unpreparedness (Active Minds, 2016). Anxiety becomes a problem (and possibly a disorder) when it comes seemingly out of nowhere and in the absence of a stressor proportional to the response, and it interferes with functioning in some way.

Recognizing Strengths as well as Struggles

There is no denying that feeling anxious is not pleasant. It can range from uncomfortable to unbearable. For those with anxiety disorders, anxiety is unpleasant on a whole new level; it can be completely overwhelming and paralyzing. It is hard to describe how out of control one can feel in the middle of a panic attack, or how draining it is to go through the day (week, month, or year) flooded with anxiety.

But in the midst of this struggle, it’s important to remember that anxiety doesn’t own you. It may be a part of you, and it may influence your life in various and profound ways. But anxiety does not determine who you are. A diagnosis does not define you. You are not a disorder. You are not weak, powerless, or alone.

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Acknowledging the pain anxiety can bring is so important, but it can also be helpful to recognize that struggling with anxiety may also foster certain strengths. According to Dr. Tracy Foose (2013), trait anxiety is associated with being “highly conscientious, honest, detail oriented, performance driven, socially responsible, [and] self-controlled.” Furthermore, learning to cope with anxiety can push us towards an increased self-awareness and knowledge of ourselves. Because it is so uncomfortable, it can motivate us to grow and change parts of ourselves or our lives that may not be serving us. And once we learn that we can move through the discomfort of anxiety, we often feel stronger and more confident in ourselves knowing that we have the fortitude to move through something so profoundly difficult (Sutherland, 2011).

Finally, if you do feel like anxiety is controlling your life, you don’t have to stay stuck in this space. Not only can anxiety teach you to embrace vulnerability and reach out for support from loved ones, but therapy offers very effective treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can teach valuable coping skills, and can help to change your relationship to anxiety. Nothing will ever take anxiety away completely, but we wouldn’t want that because without anxiety, we wouldn’t survive. But therapy can help us learn that even in the worst throws of anxiety, we will survive, and even thrive.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

References:

Active Minds. (2016). NSOD: Difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder.  Retrieved from: http://www.activeminds.org/component/content/article/512-nsod-difference-between-normal-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Foose, T. (2013, Feb. 19). Positive traits seen in anxiety disorders. SF Gate. Retrieved from: http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Positive-traits-seen-in-anxiety-disorders-4291474.php

Here to Help. (2016). What’s the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder?  Retrieved from: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ask-us/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Sutherland, M. (2011). The Benefits of Anxiety. Retrieved from: https://willowtreecounselling.ca/articles/the-benefits-of-anxiety/

ULifeline. (2016). Anxiety vs. anxiety disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/439-anxiety-vs-anxiety-disorders

Exposure Therapy Basics: What It Is & Why It Works

Jill Stoddard

Written by Lauren Helm, M.A.

 

 

 

“Face your fears.” The wisdom of this adage is built into exposure therapy, an intervention that has been extensively researched and shown to be very effective in treating various anxiety disorders. What is exposure therapy? We break it down here.

 

Anxiety disorders are usually characterized by excessive and debilitating fear or anxiety. The anxiety may become so powerful that it can feel as though it has taken on a life of its own, domineering a person’s relationships, work, and quality of life.  Though fear and anxiety are normal emotional responses to a threat (they motivate us to avoid potentially harmful situations), those with anxiety disorders often experience debilitating anxiety even when a truly dangerous threat is not present.  Despite the absence of something that may cause physical harm, the brain’s fear centers are fully activated, and for someone with anxiety, it strongly feels as though something bad will happen. It is proposed that anxiety disorders in part develop as a result of both classical and operant conditioning, two important psychological concepts that inform and guide exposure therapy.

 

Basically, fear and anxiety are actually reinforced and strengthened when we avoid whatever causes it (whether it be a person, place, thing, thought, memory, emotion, or physical sensation that acts as a trigger). When we avoid or escape something that makes us feel afraid, it’s like our brain sends us a message that says, “Thank goodness I got away from that scary thing! It must have been truly dangerous. I am safe now that I am not longer in contact with the threat. If I get close to it again, I better make sure to get far away again!” A cycle is created. The next time we encounter the feared stimulus (i.e. whatever it is that triggered our anxiety), the more likely we are to experience a heightened fearful or anxious response, and to have stronger urges to avoid or escape.

 

In exposure therapy, the therapist leads her client through a set of experiences intended to elicit the very fear that the person has been avoided. Though this may seem counter-intuitive, it is an extremely effective behavioral approach that helps the client free themselves from the cycle of anxiety and avoidance. Essentially, avoidance is “blocked;” the client begins learning how to face his or her fears, and in doing so, experiences habituation. Habituation is like desensitization. When someone is exposed to something repeatedly, it begins to lose potency. Anxiety and fear naturally drop off, and with repeated exposures, become less intense and long-lasting. Additionally, when avoidance is prevented, the fear/anxiety response is no longer reinforced and strengthened. This leads to an extinguishing of the fear response. In other words, a fearful or anxious response is “extinguished” and fades away over time.


Most people have trepidation about starting exposure therapy. It is admittedly uncomfortable, at least in the short-term. However, the long-term benefits far outweigh the discomfort that may occur along with exposure therapy. Usually, it turns out that we hold beliefs about emotions (especially fear and anxiety) that interfere with our willingness to effectively face our fears.


Common myths about emotion typically include beliefs that:

  • Fear or anxiety will continue to escalate (without a ceiling effect or peaking) indefinitely until the person gets away from whatever is causing them anxiety
  • Fear or anxiety will become so intense that it will cause physical harm or death
  • Fear or anxiety will become so intense that it will cause psychological damage, insanity, a loss of control, etc.


These beliefs often reflect a fear of emotions stemming from a commonly-held belief that emotions are dangerous. In and of themselves, emotions are not dangerous – they are physiological sensations (along with thought & urges). The sensations are designed to motivate us to act. The feelings that come along with emotions may be experienced as overwhelming (especially when we don’t understand them or it feels as though they can do us harm), but they will not hurt you (and it is not physically possible for them to intensify beyond a certain point). Frequently, exposure therapy results in the added benefit of being able to tolerate intense emotions, and learn that it is safe to fully feel your emotions. It’s what you do with your emotions that count – how we ACT can have a beneficial or detrimental effect on our lives and well-being. Therapists help you to learn how to effectively respond to your emotions, so that they don’t restrict your way of life. Your CSAM therapist is well-trained in exposure therapy principles and will explain in more detail why it is not the case that intense, acute emotional experiences cause harm. In fact, one of the principles of exposure therapy is to ensure that individuals are absolutely not caused harm – otherwise that would defeat the point! Exposure therapy is all about learning that despite the anxiety, there is no danger, but rather, safety. Once this is sufficiently experientially learned and processed (not just known intellectually), dramatic change begins to occur.


Don’t worry – your therapist will collaborate with you to figure out the best pace of treatment. Depending on your needs, you may opt to participate in flooding (which essentially means that you face some of your most intense fears right away), or the more commonly used approach, gradual exposure (you work your way up an exposurehierarchy, starting with mild-moderate fears). Both approaches have been found to be equally effective, but differ in the length of time that they may take to complete, and in the likelihood of premature drop-out. Remember, exposure requires repeated practice facing your fears until a re-learning occurs. Sticking with exposure therapy until anxiety has naturally begun to dissipate (or tolerance of anxiety has increased) is essential for success.

Are you interested in using exposure therapy to tackle your fears? Our CSAM therapists are trained in exposure therapy and can help you effectively respond to anxiety using evidence-based methods. If you'd like to speak with a professional at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management for help with anxiety, please click here.

Follow us! Subscribe to the CSAM RSS feed, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@CSAMSanDiego).


References



Barlow, D. H., Craske, M. G., Cerny, J. A., & Klosko, J. S. (1989). Behavioral treatment of panic disorder. Behavior Therapy20(2), 261-282.


Barlow, D. H., Rapee, R. M., & Brown, T. A. (1992). Behavioral treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Behavior Therapy23(4), 551-570.

Feeny, N. C., Hembree, E. A., & Zoellner, L. A. (2004). Myths regarding exposure therapy for PTSD. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice10(1), 85-90.


Foa, E., Hembree, E., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2007). Prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD: Emotional processing of traumatic experiences therapist guide. Oxford University Press.


Hofmann, S. G. (2008). Cognitive processes during fear acquisition and extinction in animals and humans: Implications for exposure therapy of anxiety disorders. Clinical psychology review28(2), 199-210.