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Category: Mental Health Disorders

Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

A panic disorder can be a disability. If your symptoms are severe, they can significantly reduce your quality of life and make it difficult to engage in everyday activities. Fortunately, panic disorders can be treated with a combination of medications, therapy, and holistic approaches.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health provides evidence-based, outpatient mental health treatment in Atlanta, Georgia. Visit our admissions page today to begin treatment with us.

What Is Panic Disorder? (Signs + Symptoms)

A panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that causes episodes known as panic attacks.

Therefore, the primary symptom of a panic disorder is a panic attack. Panic attacks are unexpected episodes of intense fear with physical symptoms. Oftentimes, you feel like you are having a heart attack.

Some people have one panic attack triggered by some external event or internal feelings—and then never have another. This wouldn’t qualify as a panic disorder. However, if you have recurrent panic attacks without a clear trigger, then you most likely have a panic disorder.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

The following are the signs and symptoms of panic attacks:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Chest discomfort
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Nausea
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands, feet, and arms
  • Feeling like you are removed from your environment (derealization)
  • Feeling detached from your own thoughts and feelings (depersonalization)

[Recommended: “Signs and Symptoms of a Silent Panic Attack]

In addition, when you have a panic disorder, you are overwhelmed by the fear of having another panic attack. This can limit your ability to live a full life, as you worry about where a panic attack could occur. For instance, you might not get a driver’s license for fear of having an attack while driving.

4.7% of US Adults Have a Panic Disorder in Their Lifetime

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives.”

However, this statistic doesn’t mean that a person will have panic attacks for their entire lives. Panic disorders are treatable and aren’t usually a persistent, lifelong issue. Still, for some, a panic disorder can be debilitating—impacting their ability to work, form relationships, and, in extreme cases, even leave their homes.

When Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

A panic disorder is a disability when your symptoms significantly limit one or more major life areas.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into US law in 1990. The ADA is a federal civil rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. It also guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as everyone else.

According to the ADA, a person with a disability:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that limits their ability to function in one or more major life activities
  • has a psychiatric or medical history or record of this impairment
  • is perceived by others as having a limiting or visible impairment

Furthermore, the ADA defines major life activities as “the kind of activities that you do every day, including your body’s own internal processes.” For example:

  • Thinking or concentrating
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling
  • Eating, speaking, sleeping, walking, or breathing
  • Performing tasks like working, reading, communicating, and learning
  • Major bodily functions (ex. circulation, reproduction)

Therefore, if panic attacks limit the above-mentioned life activities, you have a history of a panic disorder, and they occur often enough for others to notice, you could have a disability.

Even if your panic disorder is a disability, there are treatment options that can help you.

How Are Panic Disorders Treated?

Panic disorders are treated with a combination of psychiatric medication and psychotherapy.

Even if your panic disorder qualifies as a disability, treatment can reduce the severity of your symptoms. Over time, you may even resume formerly impaired major life activities. Thus, mental health treatment programs—whether your symptoms are mild or severe—will significantly improve your quality of life.

Which Medications Help With Panic Disorder?

Each person responds differently to psychiatric medications. So, you may need to try different types before you find the best medication for you.

The following medications can help with panic disorders:

  • Antidepressants
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines

Some medications are fast-acting and work to reduce symptoms during a panic attack. Others reduce anxiety and activity in the central nervous system (CNS) to prevent panic attacks from occurring.

Regardless of which medication works for you, medications alone won’t be enough. Instead, medications reduce symptoms so that you can fully participate in psychotherapy.

How Can Psychotherapy Help My Panic Disorder?

Psychotherapy can teach you more about the underlying causes of your panic disorder. It can also teach you healthy ways to reduce stress and anxiety. As a result, you can manage your symptoms so they don’t seem so out of control.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy for panic and anxiety disorders.

During CBT, you’ll learn how negative thought patterns and beliefs can influence your behaviors. After all, one of the worst parts of panic disorders is the fear of having a panic attack. Oftentimes, the fear of another attack holds you back more than the attack itself.

Furthermore, your therapist can recommend holistic approaches, like mindfulness, yoga, or exercise to reduce stress. With comprehensive treatment, including medications, therapy, and holistic approaches, you can overcome your panic disorder and reduce the likelihood of disabling symptoms.

Get Treatment for Your Panic Disorder Today

When left untreated, a panic disorder can become a disability. It can significantly reduce your ability to function in major life areas and lower your overall quality of life. However, panic disorders are treatable—and North Atlanta Behavioral Health has solutions for you.

Contact us today to begin panic disorder treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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What is Cyclothymic Disorder? (Cyclothymic Disorder vs Bipolar)

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.” Furthermore, there are different types of bipolar disorders: cyclothymic disorder, bipolar I, and bipolar II. The differences between cyclothymic disorder vs. bipolar I and II make it more challenging to identify.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers treatment for all types of bipolar disorder as well as several other mental health disorders. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

What Is Cyclothymic Disorder?

Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia) is a rare form of bipolar disorder with mixed episodes of hypomania and depression.

Although cyclothymia is a type of bipolar disorder, it is much milder than other types of the disorder. It’s characterized by noticeable up-and-down shifts from your baseline mood.

Everyone has ups and downs in life. Stress and challenging life events can trigger periods of low energy that differ from your baseline mood. Conversely, positive life changes can boost your mood for a period of time.

However, if you have cyclothymic disorder, your mood will shift seemingly out of nowhere. And you’ll only experience a stable, baseline mood for a short time between cycles of low and high moods. These frequent shifts in mood can create significant challenges in your life.

What Are the Symptoms of Cyclothymia?

Symptoms of cyclothymia include hypomanic and depressive symptoms.

People with cyclothymic disorder experience changes in mood that deviate up and down from their baseline. Hypomania occurs during the “ups” whereas depression characterizes the “downs.” Furthermore, you’ll have brief periods of your baseline mood between these episodes.

Hypomanic Symptoms

Hypomanic symptoms of cyclothymia include the following:

  • Exaggerated feeling of happiness
  • Euphoria
  • Restlessness
  • Needing less sleep than usual
  • Impulsive and reckless behaviors
  • Elevated self-esteem
  • Agitation and aggression
  • More talkative than usual
  • Increased motivation and energy

Depressive Symptoms

Depressive symptoms of cyclothymia include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Low levels of energy
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Irritability
  • Changes in weight
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Cyclothymic Disorder Vs. Bipolar I & II (What Are the Differences?)

There are significant differences between cyclothymic disorder vs. bipolar I and II.

The main differences between cyclothymia and bipolar I & II are the severity of symptoms and the cycles of shifting moods. Mood shifts among those with bipolar I or bipolar II last for days or even weeks.

However, among those with cyclothymia, changes in mood are much more rapid—sometimes going from low to high within a single day.

In addition, mood swings from cyclothymic disorder vs bipolar I and II occur more often. In fact, with cyclothymia, you’ll likely have more days with symptoms than without.

Furthermore, because cyclothymia is milder than other types of bipolar disorder, many people don’t get treatment for their symptoms. Oftentimes, people with this disorder are considered “moody” by others.

By contrast, symptoms of bipolar I and II can be severe, leading to significant mood swings, insomnia, hallucinations, delusions, and suicidality.

In summation, cyclothymic disorder causes subtle but noticeable shifts in mood, resulting in rapid cycles that occur frequently. Conversely, bipolar I & bipolar II disorders cause longer-lasting mood changes with more severe symptoms. However, unlike cyclothymia, people with bipolar I and II have more days at their baseline mood than not.

Dual-Diagnosis Disorders: Cyclothymia & Addiction

Having cyclothymia—or any mental health disorder—puts you at a higher risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD).

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.” Mental health disorders and addiction have similar causes and risk factors, which is why these disorders tend to overlap. However, it can be difficult to tell which disorder occurred first.

A person with cyclothymia, for instance, might abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate for their mood shifts. On the other hand, long-term substance abuse can alter the way your brain functions—leading to mental health disorders.

If you have cyclothymia with a co-occurring addiction, you need dual-diagnosis treatment to address both disorders at the same time.

How Is Cyclothymic Disorder Treated?

Cyclothymic disorder is treated with psychotherapy, medication, and holistic approaches.

The most effective way to treat cyclothymic disorder is with a comprehensive treatment plan addressing multiple areas of health and well-being. That is why North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers a range of services and outpatient levels of care to meet your treatment needs.

Treatment plans for cyclothymia include the following:

  • Psychotherapy: Individual, group, and family therapy are all effective ways of treating cyclothymic disorder. During therapy, you’ll learn healthy ways to cope with stressors and symptoms.
  • Medications: Psychiatric prescription drugs help to stabilize your mood when you have cyclothymia. Typically, mood stabilizers work better than antidepressants, even for depressive symptoms of cyclothymia.
  • Holistic Approaches: It’s critical to find multiple pathways through holistic approaches to health and well-being. This is because cyclothymia affects your physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well as your mental health.

Cyclothymic Disorder and Bipolar Treatment in Atlanta, GA

Treatment programs for cyclothymic disorder vs bipolar I and II are similar and include comprehensive approaches. If you have cyclothymia or other types of bipolar disorder, we can help you achieve mental health and well-being. North Atlanta Behavioral Health provides outpatient mental health treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

Contact us today to begin treatment for cyclothymia and bipolar disorder.

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What is the Difference Between Bipolar 1 and 2?

The main difference between bipolar 1 and 2 is the severity and duration of manic symptoms. Both disorders can negatively impact your quality of life when left untreated. However, understanding the differences can help you get effective treatment for your symptoms.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), 2.8% of US adults have bipolar disorder. North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers outpatient mental health treatment for bipolar and other mental health disorders. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

The Differences Between Bipolar 1 and 2 (Symptoms + Duration)

Bipolar 1 and 2 differ primarily in the severity as well as the duration of manic symptoms.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by phases of manic and depressive symptoms:

  • Manic symptoms make you feel energized, alert, self-important, and impulsive.
  • Depressive symptoms make you feel sluggish, tired, hopeless, and irritable.

Whether you have bipolar 1 or 2—or a rare, third type called “cyclothymic disorder“—depends on how manic vs depressive cycles present themselves. However, when diagnosing bipolar 1 versus bipolar 2, a psychiatrist will consider the way you experience mania.

Manic Symptoms

Manic symptoms of both bipolar 1 and 2 include the following:

  • Abnormally upbeat and elated
  • High levels of energy
  • Increased activity
  • Inflated sense of self-importance
  • Exaggerated self-confidence
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rapid or pressured speech
  • Easily distracted
  • Impulsive and poor decision-making
  • Decreased need for sleep

With bipolar 1 disorder, you’ll have more severe symptoms of mania. But, if you have bipolar 2, you’ll have a less severe form of mania called “hypomania.”

Hypomania vs Mania (What Is the Difference?)

Hypomania is the type of mania experienced by those with bipolar 2 disorder.

It is less severe than the manic cycle of bipolar 1 disorder. Therefore, if you have bipolar 2, you’ll have hypomania instead of full mania.

While hypomania results in a noticeable change in mood and energy, your behaviors won’t be as out of control. In other words, you and those around you will notice a change, but it won’t disrupt your relationships, job, or schooling. And you won’t engage in reckless behavior leading to negative long-term consequences.

However, manic symptoms from bipolar 1 can lead to significant problems in life. You could even struggle with psychosis—or a loss of touch with reality. Many people with bipolar 1 have delusions of grandeur while some have hallucinations during their manic phase.

Duration of Symptoms

Another defining characteristic of bipolar 1 and 2 is the duration of symptoms.

The manic symptoms of bipolar 1 disorder last at least one week for a diagnosis. However, hypomanic symptoms of bipolar 2 disorder last at least 4 days for a diagnosis.

Furthermore, a manic or hypomanic phase can last several weeks or even months.

Depressive Symptoms

Depressive symptoms also appear differently among those with bipolar 1 and 2.

If you have bipolar 1 disorder, you might not even have a depressive phase. Instead, your mood typically shifts from manic to hypomanic states. Still, some people with bipolar 1 do have depressive symptoms, but it is not a requirement for a diagnosis.

On the other hand, if you have bipolar 2 disorder, you’ll have phases of depression between hypomanic episodes. Depressive symptoms during bipolar 2 disorder are similar to those of major depressive disorder (MDD). In addition, at least one depressive episode mixed with at least one hypomanic episode is a requirement for getting a bipolar 2 diagnosis.

Impact of Symptoms on Everyday Life

The differences between bipolar 1 and 2 also relate to how your symptoms impact your everyday life.

The manic symptoms of bipolar 1 disorder can lead to severe dysfunction in your everyday life. You could engage in impulsive and reckless behaviors that cause long-term harm. For example, you might shop excessively—spending all of your savings and cash on hand or racking up massive amounts of credit card debt within a few days.

In addition, manic symptoms can lead to psychosis—meaning that you lose touch with reality. This can lead to erratic behavior and a 1013 involuntary admission to a psychiatric unit.

However, bipolar 2 disorder can also impact your daily life. While hypomanic states aren’t as disruptive and most people function well throughout them, the depressive states of bipolar 2 disorder can be debilitating. For instance, your performance at work and interest in relationships with loved ones can diminish.

Depressive symptoms can also be life-threatening. Suicidal thoughts and actions can occur during a depressive phase of bipolar 2 disorder.

How Are Bipolar 1 and 2 Treated?

While each person’s treatment plan will differ, both types of bipolar disorders are treated with a combination of medications, therapy, and holistic approaches.

Psychiatric medications called mood stabilizers help with manic and hypomanic states characteristic of both disorders. These medications help keep your mood even so you can engage in treatment and function in daily life.

Furthermore, antipsychotic medications reduce psychosis and can also act as mood stabilizers for those with bipolar 1 disorder.

With bipolar 2 disorder, however, you might also need an antidepressant for depressive cycles. Still, mood stabilizers alone might work to even out both hypomanic and depressive phases. However, medications work differently for everyone, so it’s best to talk to your psychiatrist about adding an antidepressant if your depressive states are severe.

Therapy—whether as an individual, in a group, or with your family—is critical to treating bipolar 1 and 2. Oftentimes, medications only help so much. Therefore, you still need to address the psychological symptoms that occur along with bipolar disorders.

Lastly, holistic therapies can add additional coping skills to treat bipolar 1 and 2. These approaches can include red light therapy, yoga, mindfulness, and nutritional counseling.

Bipolar 1 and 2 Treatment in Atlanta, GA

Bipolar disorders differ among three types—bipolar 1, bipolar 2, and cyclothymic disorder. However, bipolar 1 and 2 are the most common and severe types. At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer outpatient treatment programs for all types of bipolar disorders.

Contact us today to begin bipolar disorder treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Signs and Symptoms of a Silent Panic Attack

Silent panic attacks can occur without warning and cause significant distress at the moment they occur. Not only that, but many people go to great lengths to avoid having a panic attack in public. As a result, they avoid living their life the way they want to—contributing to diminished mental health and lower quality of life.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help you overcome panic attacks and other mental health symptoms. Visit our admissions page today to learn more.

Silent Panic Attacks: Signs and Symptoms

Silent panic attacks are panic attacks without the typical physical symptoms.

When you have a silent panic attack, you experience the overwhelming fear and anxiety that characterizes panic. However, you don’t display outward physical symptoms like breathing difficulty, tremors, or sweating. Silent panic attacks, therefore, have less apparent symptoms and could go unrecognized as a result.

The signs and symptoms of silent panic attacks include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Racing heart rate
  • Tingling in the limbs
  • Feeling weak
  • Intrusive or racing thoughts
  • Headache
  • Throat closing up
  • Changes in vision (light sensitivity, blurry)
  • Feeling detached or “derealization”

Thus, symptoms of a silent panic attack are subtle and not as readily apparent to others. These symptoms can even be difficult to describe to other people. For instance, derealization means you feel detached from your environment or body—and other people wouldn’t notice this symptom.

What Causes Silent Panic Attacks?

The causes of silent panic attacks aren’t well known. However, some factors could make you more susceptible, including:

  • Family history of panic attacks, anxiety, or other mental health disorders
  • Imbalance of brain chemicals that control your response to fear
  • History of trauma
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
  • Chronic stress
  • Negative thinking and perfectionism
  • Significant life changes (moving, loss of a loved one, childbirth)

Overall, underlying factors like these could lead to the development of any mental health disorder when you don’t have support and healthy coping skills. Oftentimes, mental health disorders result from maladaptive coping strategies (or no coping strategies) for stressors.

In other words, when you don’t have a healthy way to cope with stress, you are more vulnerable to developing disorders, like panic attacks and anxiety.

Silent vs. Regular Panic Attacks: What’s the Difference?

As stated above, the primary difference between silent and regular panic attacks is in the presentation of symptoms.

People with silent panic attacks have primarily internal and psychological symptoms. This means that other people won’t notice your symptoms. However, you will experience significant distress from them—and they will be quite noticeable to you.

But, with a regular panic attack, you might have symptoms such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Troubled or labored breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Tightness in the chest

Panic attacks sometimes occur as a symptom of an underlying anxiety disorder. Other times, panic attacks manifest into a type of anxiety disorder called a panic disorder.

What is a Panic Disorder?

A panic disorder is defined by frequent panic attacks (silent or regular) as well as an overwhelming fear of having an attack.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “[a]bout 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women than in men.”

Therefore, the challenge with a panic disorder is two-fold. On one hand, you experience debilitating panic attacks, which can come up at any time and often without any warning. On the other hand, you also fear having a panic attack, which might negatively impact your life as well.

Oftentimes, it’s the fear of having an attack that creates the most problems.

You might avoid situations where a panic attack would be embarrassing or dangerous. As a result, you might avoid socializing, going to a store, driving a car, or interviewing for a job.

Fortunately, there are solutions to managing panic attacks and treating panic disorders.

How Are Panic Disorders Treated?

Panic disorder treatment focuses on two things: (1) relief at the moment and (2) prevention of future attacks.

1. Relief for a Panic Attack When It Happens

What does “relief at the moment” mean with a panic attack? Well, this means being prepared for a panic attack so that you can cope with it more easily. In other words, if you can’t prevent the attack, you can learn to manage it when it occurs.

Some ways to deal with a panic attack when it happens include:

  • Focusing on something external, such as music, sights, smells, or sounds
  • Deep breathing to control your heart rate and shortness of breath
  • Getting to a safe space with less stimulation and people
  • Remember that this will pass

These tips can also reduce the unpleasant aftereffects—commonly called a panic attack hangover. In addition, your psychiatrist might prescribe fast-acting anti-anxiety medications to help you calm down quickly during a panic attack.

2. Preventing Panic Attacks

What about prevention? After all, if you have a panic disorder, you’d rather never have another panic attack again.

First off, remember that the better prepared you are for a panic attack, the less fear and anxiety you will feel about them. This will offer some relief, so think of preparation as an act of prevention—just being ready for an attack could reduce your anxiety and panic symptoms.

Still, there are treatment options that help to prevent panic attacks, including:

  • Psychiatry: Psychiatric medications can help to prevent panic attacks by alleviating the anxious thoughts and feelings that lead to them.
  • Psychotherapy: Individual and group therapy can help you cope with the psychological symptoms that accompany and cause panic attacks.
  • Holistic approaches: Panic disorders affect all aspects of your health and well-being. Addressing your physical and spiritual wellness with holistic therapy can help you manage your disorder.

Get Help for Panic Disorders Today

Silent panic attacks could be a sign of a panic disorder. If you experience overwhelming dread and panic frequently, our outpatient mental health treatment programs can help you. At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer treatment for panic disorders as well as related anxiety disorders.

Contact us today to start panic disorder treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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What is High-Functioning Anxiety? Signs and Symptoms

Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 “Over 15% of adults experienced symptoms of anxiety that were either mild, moderate, or severe in the past 2 weeks.” However, some people have high-functioning anxiety—meaning they have anxiety and don’t even know it.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help you free yourself from the constraints of your anxiety. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

9 Signs and Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety

High-functioning anxiety is a type of persistent worry or fear that doesn’t interfere with your ability to function in daily life. So, you can maintain a job, complete tasks and chores, and even appear as a highly accomplished person to others. Still, under the surface, you feel like something is off.

The following are signs and symptoms of high-functioning anxiety:

1. Overachieving

To others, you appear like you’ve got everything together. In fact, you are likely successful in your field or do extremely well in school. However, the truth is that your anxiety motivates much of your outward overachieving behaviors.

There is a big difference between excelling and overachieving. Essentially, overachievers set impossibly high standards for themselves. Then, they harshly criticize themselves if they don’t meet these standards.

Excelling in your hobbies, passions, profession, school, or other interests isn’t a sign of high-functioning anxiety. But if your accomplishments never seem good enough or you equate any minor mistake with a total failure, you might have an underlying anxiety disorder.

2. Overanalyzing

Overanalyzing or overthinking means you obsess over every possible outcome from past events or when planning for the future. While critical thinking and learning from the past can be healthy, pouring over every detail can get in the way of moving forward.

You might struggle to let things go or plan for the future. Because of this, you get stuck in indecision or ruminate past events. Oftentimes, this is driven by excessive worry and anxiety.

Furthermore, overanalyzing a task or event can lead to procrastination.

3. Avoidance

Avoidance is a maladaptive way of coping with anxiety. This means you avoid any situation, person, place, or thing that triggers your anxiety. Moreover, you often avoid opportunities that would ultimately enhance your life.

While everyone has phobias and avoids certain things, maladaptive avoidance limits your ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

4. Need for Control

Oftentimes, a person with anxiety thinks that if everything goes a certain way, then their anxiety won’t come up. Unfortunately, you can’t control every possible outcome. And several factors will happen outside of your control—despite any preparation.

Letting go of the need for control is an important skill for people with high-functioning anxiety.

5. Fear of Disappointing Others

The fear of disappointing others leads to other issues, such as negative self-talk and perfectionism. It’s important to find a balance between meeting other people’s expectations and doing the best that you can. After all, you can’t control how others respond to you—even when you do your best.

6. Self-Doubt

Self-doubt often paralyzes people with high-functioning anxiety as well as a similar issue called high-functioning depression. It can also get in the way of celebrating your successes and accomplishments. This may even lead to what’s called “imposter syndrome”—where you fear that everyone else will “find out” that you aren’t as competent as you appear.

7. Racing Thoughts

Racing thoughts are a common symptom of anxiety. It might seem like the noise in your head never goes away. You’re always thinking and can’t prioritize one thought over another.

8. Unable to Relax

You might also struggle to relax. This could be the result of other symptoms—especially racing thoughts. When you have a minute to settle down, your mind doesn’t stop.

Oftentimes, when you do take a break, you feel unproductive or that you must be doing something else. And, when you have nothing to focus on, you start overthinking or ruminating.

9. Physical Symptoms (With No Medical Explanation)

Anxiety doesn’t only affect your mental health. You can have physical symptoms resulting from underlying anxiety. These symptoms occur with no medical explanation.

Physical symptoms of high-functioning anxiety include the following:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headache and migraine
  • Excessive sweating
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Sleep disturbances

What Causes High-Functioning Anxiety?

There are several possible causes of high-functioning anxiety, including:

  • Genetics: You might be born with a predisposition for anxiety. Thus, your parents or other close relatives could also have anxiety disorders.
  • Home environment: Is your home life chaotic? How about during childhood? If you’re dealing with significant stress at home, you could develop an anxiety disorder.
  • Childhood trauma: Early traumatic experiences can have a profound effect on your adulthood. You might have learned maladaptive coping skills, such as avoidance behaviors. In addition, you could have become an overachiever to please neglectful or abusive parents.
  • Stressful workplace: Do you often take work home with you or feel a lot of pressure at work? This kind of stress can lead to anxiety because you’re rarely ever able to relax.
  • Brain chemistry: Anxiety and other mental health disorders could be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Certain chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, help you feel good, calm, accomplished, and focused. On the other hand, an overabundance of stress hormones like cortisol contributes to excessive stress and anxiety.

What Can I Do to Manage My Anxiety?

Once you are aware of your anxiety you can take steps to manage it. Managing anxiety and reducing stress often go hand-in-hand. So, if you focus on stress reduction techniques, your anxiety should also go down.

Tips to manage anxiety and reduce stress include the following:

  • Daily relaxation: Schedule a few minutes per day to relax. You might listen to music, meditate, or engage in deep breathing.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others: Comparing yourself and your life to others can drive your anxiety. Take a break from social media, as this might expose you to unrealistic comparisons.
  • Celebrate Your Accomplishments: If you have high-functioning anxiety, you probably think a lot about your mistakes or failures. Celebrating your successes and accomplishments can help you develop a realistic self-image.
  • Talk About It: Sharing your inner experiences with others can help you manage your anxiety. When you hold things in, they can spiral out of control. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your fears and anxieties.
  • Move Your Body: Exercise, a walk around the block, stretching, dancing—whatever gets you moving—can help you manage anxiety. Movement helps to relieve stress and stored energy in the body.

The above-mentioned tips can help you manage anxiety. However, if your high-functioning anxiety is out of control, you could have an anxiety disorder. For this, you need professional treatment to address a mental health disorder.

Professional treatment for anxiety includes the following:

  • Medications: A psychiatrist can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressants to restore chemical imbalances that might cause anxiety.
  • Psychotherapy: During individual or group therapy, you can learn to change the way you think and perceive the world around you. You can also learn new ways to cope with stress.
  • Peer support: Anxiety can often make you feel all alone in your struggles and thoughts. Peer support groups help you realize you aren’t alone and provide a safe place to share with others.
  • Holistic approaches: Anxiety disorders affect every aspect of your health. Holistic approaches, like yoga, meditation, and red light therapy, can help you regain a sense of well-being.

Get High-Functioning Anxiety Under Control Today

High-functioning anxiety can be difficult to identify. However, awareness of an underlying issue is the first step to healing. At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer outpatient mental health treatment programs for anxiety and other disorders.

Contact us today to get your anxiety under control.

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Effects of Depression on the Brain

The effects of depression on the brain can prolong your treatment. However, with consistent and long-term treatment, you can heal your brain from these effects.

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we can help you heal from the negative effects of depression with our compassionate care and progressive stages of outpatient treatment.

4 Ways the Brain Changes During Depression (And the Effects)

There are essentially four ways that depression can change your brain: (1) releasing stress hormones, (2) causing brain inflammation, (3) altering the prefrontal cortex, and (4) reducing oxygen to the brain.

#1. Release of Stress Hormones

When you have depression, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol than usual. Cortisol changes the way your body responds to stressful events and threats. A few ways cortisol affects you are by releasing sugar into the bloodstream, increasing blood flow to muscles, and increasing your level of wakefulness.

Stress and depression—and elevated levels of cortisol—go hand-in-hand. This occurs for a few reasons:

First, depression is usually triggered by a stressful event. Significant life events, like the death of a loved one, getting injured, losing your job, or going through a breakup, coincide with acute stress—and the release of cortisol. When you don’t cope well with these stressors, you can develop depression.

Next, chronic issues in your life cause more stress. For example, having a chronic illness—including depression—causes increased stress and, thus, elevated levels of cortisol.

Lastly, traumatic experiences also trigger depression. Things like childhood neglect, car wrecks, witnessing violence, physical and sexual abuse, and experiencing combat while in the military, can be traumatic. People with trauma tend to be on high alert nearly all the time because of the high levels of cortisol in their system.

What Are the Effects of Stress Hormones on the Brain?

While the stress hormone cortisol regulates bodily functions and energizes you to deal with stressful situations, too much of it can cause damage. Cortisol can cause certain parts of your brain—the thalamus, hippocampus, and frontal cortex—to shrink. Therefore, your functioning in these brain areas of diminishes when you are depressed.

In addition, elevated cortisol levels can cause the amygdala to enlarge. Because the amygdala helps to regulate emotion, this enlargement can lead to mood swings and irritability. Both of these are symptoms of depression as well as bipolar disorder.

Cortisol also affects other brain chemicals, which could cause or exacerbate depression. According to the Journal of Clinical Medicine, “A chronic excess of cortisol in the brain may also lead to serotonin (5-HT) deficiency…” Since low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, an excess of cortisol decreases your brain’s ability to manage depression.

#2. Inflammation

Inflammation of the brain occurs due to the increased stress you have with a depressive disorder. Increased stress alerts your immune system to respond. As a result, the immune system increases inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.

How Does Inflammation of the Brain Affect You?

Inflammation of the brain affects you because it disrupts the brain’s chemical pathways. This disruption can cause imbalances of certain brain chemicals, thus, causing symptoms of depression. However, it is unclear if brain inflammation causes depression or is caused by depression.

#3. Alters the Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain responsible for long-term planning, decision-making, working memory, and personality expression. Since depression and increased stress shrink the prefrontal cortex, functioning in this region of the brain is diminished.

How Do the Prefrontal Cortex and Depression Relate?

Decreased functioning of the prefrontal cortex causes problems associated with depressive thinking. For one thing, this can cause depressive symptoms like poor concentration and focus. It can also slow down your ability to process information.

Because the prefrontal cortex controls long-term planning, your outlook can turn pessimistic. If you can’t think long-term, then it is difficult to imagine a future ahead of you. As a result, you might think about death more often, feel hopeless, or even have suicidal thoughts.

#4. Reduced Oxygen in the Brain

Depression can cause changes in your breathing patterns. Typically, people with depression have shallow and slowed breathing. This can reduce oxygen levels in the brain.

How Do Low Oxygen Levels Affect the Brain?

Low levels of oxygen can contribute to inflammation and damage to brain cells. Thus, you could have impaired functioning as a result.

How Can I Recover From the Effects of Depression on the Brain?

You can recover from the negative effects of depression on the brain. Comprehensive mental health treatment provides you with the tools and therapy to not only treat depression but heal your brain in the process.

How Do Medications Help Depression?

Psychiatric medications can restore chemical imbalances that cause depression. Since increased stress can cause lower levels of serotonin, most antidepressants help to increase serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for feelings of well-being while helping to regulate your mood and sleep cycle—thus, alleviating symptoms of depression.

Can Therapy Heal the Brain?

Therapy—like one-on-one counseling or group therapy—can also heal the brain from the effects of depression. Important chemical pathways in your brain—called neural pathways—are disrupted or damaged when you are depressed. However, the brain can heal just like any other part of your body.

Essentially, therapy helps you develop healthy thought patterns and responses to emotion. These ways of thinking occur on neural pathways which are weakened during depressive episodes. By developing and practicing healthy ways of thinking and responding to emotions during therapy, you strengthen these weakened neural pathways.

How Does Holistic Therapy Help Depression?

Holistic therapy helps depression by considering the whole person in treatment—body, soul, and mind. Some holistic approaches include yoga, exercise, and breathwork. These approaches help your brain heal in a few ways.

First of all, physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen levels in your brain. Next, when you exercise or stretch, your brain releases chemicals called endorphins which increase feelings of wellness and reduce stress. Lastly, controlled breathing—important to any physical activity—improves oxygen levels while reducing stress.

Recover From Depression Today

You can recovery from the effects of depression on the brain. Our outpatient mental health treatment programs in Atlanta, Georgia, offer comprehensive care for depression and other disorders.

Contact North Atlanta Behavioral Health today to begin depression treatment.

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6 Types of Depressive Disorders

Depression is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.7% of adults had regular feelings of depression in 2022. One reason depression is so common is that there are different types of depressive disorders with a range of symptoms and severity.

What Are the 6 Most Common Types of Depressive Disorders?

Not everyone with depression experiences it the same way. Depressive symptoms vary in severity and presentation as well as the causes of your depression. In other words, different causes of depression lead to different types of depressive disorders.

The following are the six most common types of depression:

#1. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

According to an article in JAMA Psychiatry, 20.6% of US adults will experience major depressive disorder (MDD) at some point in their lives. Thus, MDD—also called clinical depression or major depression—is the most common type of depression.

Symptoms of MDD include:

  • Difficulty sleeping and fatigue
  • Change in appetite (resulting in weight changes)
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Thoughts of death and dying
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations or actions

Major depression impacts your ability to function in everyday life. For instance, you might stop going to work because you can’t get out of bed. Or, you could have significant relationship problems because you withdraw from spending time with others.

#2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Persistent depressive disorder—sometimes called dysthymia—isn’t as debilitating as major depression. Because of this, many people with persistent depression don’t seek treatment. However, persistent depression can still have a major impact on your overall quality of life.

Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder include the following:

  • Feeling unhappy or dissatisfied
  • Under- or over-eating
  • Insomnia (or the opposite: sleeping too much)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Feeling tired most of the time

Although your symptoms are usually mild, you could have episodes of major depression—especially when you don’t get treatment. For a diagnosis of persistent depression, your symptoms must last for two or more years. Persistent depression is commonly associated with silent depression or high-functioning depression.

#3. Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression affects women after they give birth. According to, “Approximately 1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression after giving birth, with some studies reporting 1 in 7 women.”

Furthermore, symptoms usually last about 3-6 months, and 80% of women with postpartum depression make a full recovery. The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to major depressive disorder.

Having a new baby causes a lot of changes in your life. You could feel a loss of control and independence or be overwhelmed with newfound responsibility. In addition, you might struggle to sleep while caring for a newborn or have a sudden change in hormones after birth. All of these factors contribute to developing postpartum depression.

#4. Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)

Bipolar disorder, once called manic depression, is another type of mood disorder characterized by cycles of depression and mania. Due to the cycles of depression, bipolar disorder is often considered a type of depressive disorder.

During the depressive cycle of bipolar disorder, your symptoms will be similar to those of major depression. However, during the manic cycle, you will have an increase in energy, euphoria, insomnia, racing thoughts, and rapid speech. Sometimes, people during the manic phase have psychotic symptoms of hallucinations or delusions.

#5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically affects people during the fall or winter. Some causes of SAD could be a lack of sunlight, being less active during colder weather, and shorter days. Thus, this type of depression is more common in northern regions of the United States.

Symptoms of SAD are similar to major depression, but they are triggered by the onset of fall or winter. Thus, most people with SAD feel better as the spring season begins. Unique treatments like red light therapy can help with SAD.

#6. Depression With Psychotic Features

Another type of depression is depression with psychotic features, sometimes called simply psychotic depression. Psychotic depression is rare, however, it can be very debilitating. This is because, in addition to the symptoms of MDD, you experience hallucinations and delusions.

  • Hallucinations are seeing, feeling, or hearing things that aren’t real. Common examples include hearing voices, feeling bugs crawling on your skin, or seeing people who aren’t there.
  • Delusions are thoughts and beliefs with no basis in reality. Examples include thoughts of being pursued by the government or believing oneself to possess magical powers.

Due to the psychotic features—i.e., losing touch with reality—this type of depression can be distressing for family members and loved ones to witness.

How Can Treatment Help Me With My Depression?

Mental health treatment can help you with your depression in several ways.

For one thing, treatment can help to reduce your symptoms of depression. Psychotherapy and psychiatry are the first lines of treatment for depression. Psychiatric medications called anti-depressants restore chemical imbalances believed to cause depression.

In addition, antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers can help with psychotic depression and bipolar disorder, respectively.

Treatment can also help you with your depression by learning more about the causes of your symptoms. Oftentimes, significant life events and stress trigger depressive symptoms, which can lead to depressive disorders when left unaddressed. During therapy, you can learn more about the causes of depression as well as coping skills to help you manage symptoms.

Lastly, it’s no secret that a healthy lifestyle can also reduce depressive symptoms. That is why mental health treatment programs also focus on holistic approaches. These approaches treat the whole person—including your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health.

Get Help For Your Depression Today

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders among US adults. North Atlanta Behavioral Health has solutions for all types of depressive disorders. Our comprehensive treatment programs can help you overcome your symptoms to free yourself of depression.

Contact us to get help for your depressive symptoms today.

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Is Silent Depression Real? Here’s What You Need to Know

Depression is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US, affecting millions of adults each year. But can you have depression and not even know it? If you notice a negative change in your overall mood, energy levels, and attitude, you might have silent depression.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help you or your loved one struggling with depression. We offer outpatient mental health programs that use evidence-based therapies and client-centered approaches for the best outcomes in treating depression.

Can Someone Be Depressed Without Knowing It?

Yes, you can be depressed without knowing it. Depressive symptoms can be subtle. Your symptoms might be at a low level for years (sometimes called “high-functioning depression“). Furthermore, your symptoms can come on—and worsen—gradually.

In fact, your symptoms can worsen so gradually that you don’t even notice it. Instead, your loved ones might be the first to see the changes in your mood and demeanor. When you suffer from depression and are unaware of it, this is known as silent depression.

What is Silent Depression?

Silent depression is when you have depressive symptoms, but either aren’t aware of it or aren’t acknowledging it. Thus, you struggle silently with your symptoms, either keeping them to yourself, denying them, minimizing symptoms, or lacking any awareness of the issue at all.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.7% of US adults age 18 and older have regular feelings of depression. But this only counts the people aware of their depression. Therefore, it is important to know the signs of silent depression.

10 Signs of Silent Depression

Silent depression can sneak up on you. But, if you know what to look for, you can recognize depression before it gets out of control.

The following are ten signs of silent depression:

#1. Lack of Energy

Everyone has good days and bad days. However, if you consistently feel drained at the end of every day or fatigued most of the time, you could be depressed.

#2. Sleeping Problems

Sleeping problems go hand in hand with a lack of energy. People with depression often struggle to fall asleep due to ruminating thoughts of guilt, shame, or anxiety. Because of this, you might stay in bed longer than usual to catch up on your rest.

#3. Change in Appetite

A change in appetite without a physical cause could be a sign of psychological distress. Stress, anxiety, guilt, and shame—feelings that accompany depression—can suppress your appetite. On the other hand, you might overeat as an unhealthy coping mechanism for underlying depression.

#4. Isolating and Social Withdrawal

Do you find yourself saying “no” to social activities more frequently? Are you spending more time alone than usual? Oftentimes, people with depression withdraw from friends and family due to low energy or feeling unworthy. Thus, if you find yourself spending more and more time alone, you could be feeling depressed.

#5. Drug and Alcohol Abuse

One of the most common causes of drug and alcohol abuse is an underlying mental health issue. If you are drinking or using drugs to elevate your mood or to cope with negative emotions, you most likely have an underlying mental health issue like depression.

#6. Loss of Interest in Hobbies

Depression isn’t just about feeling sad. Instead, it’s a lack of feeling anything—especially pleasure, joy, and satisfaction. You might not be as engaged in hobbies or other pleasurable activities anymore if you are depressed.

#7. Overworking

When you have silent depression, you could be in denial of your feelings. Or, you might fear facing what’s troubling you. As a result, you could be distracting yourself by spending more time at work, bringing work home with you, or using work as an excuse for your low mood and irritability.

#8. Low Self-Esteem

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you don’t feel good about anything. More often than not, low self-esteem accompanies depression.

#9. Negative Thoughts and Attitude

Do you find that your thoughts constantly drift to the worst-case scenario? Are you expressing a pessimistic attitude to friends, family, and co-workers? Depression can alter your outlook on life toward pessimism and negativity.

#10. Mood Swings

If you have depression, you could have mood swings from low to high. Or you might be easily triggered by stressors and appear irritable to others. Silent depression could also be a sign of other mood disorders, like bipolar disorder.

How is Depression Treated?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression. Depression is treated with a combination of psychiatric medications, psychotherapy, and holistic approaches, like exercise, mindfulness, and nutrition. That way, you can find your own pathway to recovery from depression.

If you have signs of suffering from silent depression, talk to your healthcare provider today to begin treatment.

Get Help for Depression Today

Depression is among the most common mental health disorders in the US. Some people suffer and don’t even realize what they are going through—or that things can get better. But, depression is treatable, and there is hope for you or your loved one struggling with silent depression symptoms.

Contact North Atlanta Behavioral Health today to get help for depression today.

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11 Signs of High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression is often left untreated and undiagnosed. When your life appears fine on the outside, it can be hard to accept that you feel unhappy and unfulfilled beneath the surface. In turn, this can lead to guilt or shame—and even worsening depressive symptoms.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers outpatient solutions to treat depression—including higher-functioning forms of this common mental health disorder.

11 of the Most Common Signs of High-Functioning Depression

High-functioning depression can be hard to spot. For one thing, you probably appear fine to family and friends. In addition, things in your life are probably going pretty well, so you could deny that you feel depressed on the inside.

Here are some of the top signs that you could have high-functioning depression:

#1. You feel a little down most of the time. Anytime that you do feel a glimmer of happiness, it doesn’t last long. Overall, you almost always have a low mood that you cannot seem to shake.

#2. You are tired most of the time. While you do the things that you are supposed to do—like go to work, do household chores, spend time with your kids, etc.—it all feels like a huge effort.

#3. You might appear lazy to others or think of yourself as lazy. In truth, all your energy is spent just getting through the day and keeping up the appearance of being happy.

#4. You feel bad about yourself. People with high-functioning depression often feel unworthy of happiness and fulfillment.

#5. You feel like an imposter. Since your life generally looks good from the outside, feeling unhappy on the inside feels like you aren’t authentic and are faking it through life.

#6. You’re a harsh self-critic. It might even be hard for you to receive a compliment from others. Oftentimes, you downplay your achievements.

#7. You lose or gain weight without intending to do so. Changes in appetite are a common sign of depression. This can result in either a loss of appetite or overeating as a maladaptive coping mechanism.

#8. You cry without any clear reason. Everyone feels sad from time to time due to certain life events, like grieving over a loved one or going through a breakup. However, if you find yourself overwhelmed and crying for no reason, you might have high-functioning depression.

#9. You perform well at work, school, or other activities—but it is difficult for you to focus. Depression can cause you to struggle with your ability to concentrate and make decisions.

#10. You force yourself to socialize. Most things for you—even fun activities—can feel taxing. Oftentimes, you would rather withdraw from others and be alone.

#11. You have other issues that crop up. For instance, you might abuse drugs or alcohol to improve your mood. You could also have chronic pain and headaches or problems in relationships.

Essentially, your inner life doesn’t line up with your outer life. You have a lot of good things going for you, yet you struggle to feel happy. And unlike severe depression, you are able to do all the things that you need to do.

This is the biggest problem with having high-functioning depression. Your depressive symptoms are so mild that they can be ignored for long enough to get through the day. But even mild depression can worsen over time when left untreated.

What is Mild Depression?

Depressive symptoms occur on a spectrum from mild to severe. If you have high-functioning depression, this means that your symptoms are relatively mild. Mild depression is also called persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia.

According to StatPearls, about 3% of the US population has persistent depressive disorder. Furthermore, this form of mild depression can occur along with episodes of major depressive disorder.

Thus, with high-functioning depression, you could function well for long periods of time and then crash into a more severe depressive episode. So, you might go back and forth between high- and low-functioning depression. However, your baseline mood is still somewhat low—characteristic of mild depression.

How is High-Functioning Depression Treated?

The treatment options for depression are similar whether your symptoms are mild or severe. The first step is talking to a healthcare professional about your symptoms. You can talk to your primary care physician first since they can rule out any medical reasons for your symptoms.

If you get a diagnosis of mild depression, your treatment options may include the following:

  • Psychiatric medications. Psychiatrists can prescribe anti-depressants to treat mild symptoms of depression. These medications restore balance to brain chemicals responsible for your symptoms.
  • Psychotherapy. Talking to a mental health professional about your depression can help you find healthy ways to cope with symptoms. You can also attend group therapy to gain further insight from others with similar disorders.
  • Support groups. While support groups are not run by professionals, they can offer additional coping skills and support. Many people benefit from sharing and hearing others share their experiences. This can help you feel less alone in your struggle with depression.
  • Holistic approaches. Depression affects all aspects of your health and well-being. By taking your whole-self into consideration—mind, body, and soul—you can find new avenues for treatment. Some common holistic approaches include yoga, mindfulness, breathwork, and exercise.

Heal from High-Functioning Depression Today

Mild depression can make you feel hopeless and even undeserving of treatment. But there is hope for healing from every type of depression—including high-functioning depression. North Atlanta Behavioral Health offers treatment options that can help you find long-lasting joy and fulfillment in life.

Contact us today to start a life free of mild depression.

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What is Secondary Trauma?: Signs and Symptoms

Traumatic experiences can leave long-lasting mental health issues. Sharing your story and experiences with others can help you heal. However, if you are helping someone deal with their trauma, you need to be aware of having similar symptoms called secondary trauma.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects not only the person with the disorder, but it can also impact those around them, including caregivers and family members. North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help those with PTSD as well as those who develop secondary trauma.

What is Secondary Trauma?

Secondary trauma, also called compassion fatigue, affects people who help others with their traumatic experiences. People in helping professions, like EMTs, social workers, doctors, nurses, and psychotherapists, sometimes develop symptoms that mirror post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Secondary trauma is the result of hearing about another person’s traumatic experiences. You can also develop secondary trauma from witnessing how these experiences affect another person’s mental health and well-being. As a result, your own mental health suffers, and you could experience burnout if you work in a helping profession or have a loved one who struggles.

How Does Secondary Trauma Differ From Primary Trauma?

Secondary trauma differs from primary trauma because you don’t directly experience the traumatic event. Instead, you hear another person’s story of trauma, which, in turn, affects the way you feel about other people and the world at large. Oftentimes, compassion fatigue results from repeated exposure to the stories and lives of those with PTSD. That is why it is common among those in the helping professions.

Examples of traumatic events that can lead to primary trauma include the following:

  • Near-death experiences, like car crashes or surviving a natural disaster
  • Combat during military service
  • Living in a dangerous neighborhood or war-torn country
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Witnessing acts of violence or horrific accidents

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), approximately “one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.” An important aspect of the healing process is to share the trauma story with others—especially peers and professionals. However, after hearing many people’s stories, professionals must be aware of how these stories could impact their own mental health.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of secondary trauma will help you maintain your own mental well-being so that you can continue to help others.

The Signs and Symptoms of Secondary Trauma

As previously mentioned, the signs and symptoms of secondary trauma or compassion fatigue mimic those of PTSD. This is because, like PTSD, compassion fatigue impacts the way you feel about other people and the world.

For instance, hearing traumatic stories every day could make you feel that the world is unjust. In other words, your perspective can shift from a positive outlook to a negative one. In turn, you might feel hopeless about the harmful events that can happen to other people.

Signs and symptoms of secondary trauma or compassion fatigue include the following:
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Apathy or a lack of concern for others
  • Rigid thinking and perfectionism
  • Guilt and anger
  • Sadness
  • Feeling numb
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Hypervigilance and irritability
  • Being easily startled
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol to cope

While these symptoms can be distressing, recognizing them is the first step to getting better. However, if you ignore compassion fatigue, you could develop mental health issues yourself. This can negatively impact your ability to help others who struggle with PTSD.

Can Secondary Trauma Cause a Mental Health Disorder?

Secondary trauma could result in developing mental health issues. For one thing, a common cause of any mental health disorder is an inability to cope with stress. So, if compassion fatigue increases the amount of stress in your life—and you don’t address it—this could lead to a mental health disorder.

If you experience compassion fatigue, you could develop anxiety, depression, or even PTSD yourself. In addition, if you abuse substances to cope with compassion fatigue, you can develop an addiction on top of a mental health disorder. For these reasons, it is vital to seek treatment for secondary trauma.

How is Secondary Trauma Treated?

One important aspect of treating secondary trauma involves lifestyle changes that help you cope with your symptoms and protect yourself from the effects of compassion fatigue. For example, if you work in a high-stress environment like an ER or fire department, you must find a balance between your work and personal life. This means finding meaningful activities and healthy relationships to focus on during your time off of work.

Additionally, it helps to find coping skills for on-the-job stress. This can include some of the following:

  • Peer support groups with others in the helping professions
  • Relaxation techniques like meditation or mindful breathing
  • Learning to take a break or get help from a co-worker when overwhelmed
  • Setting limits with your job to maintain a healthy work/life balance
  • Recognizing times when you experience success on the job

Despite engaging in self-care activities like those listed above, you might still feel overwhelmed and distressed. In that case, professional mental health treatment programs can help you manage symptoms of compassion fatigue.

Treatment for secondary trauma can be similar to PTSD treatment and include the following:

  • Psychiatry services to treat symptoms with medications
  • Brainspotting, a specialized form of therapy for treating trauma
  • Holistic approaches that help you focus on all aspects of your health and well-being
  • Group and individual therapy sessions can help you develop coping skills for stress and trauma

Secondary trauma can be distressing for those in the helping professions or for the loved ones of those with PTSD. However, self-care and trauma treatment programs can help you build the skills that you need to regain a healthy sense of mental well-being.

Get Help for Secondary Trauma Today

Secondary trauma can mimic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That is why it’s important for family members and professionals exposed to stories of trauma from others to maintain their own mental well-being. Otherwise, they could get compassion fatigue and feel burnout from trying to help those they care about.

North Atlanta Behavioral Health is here to help those with compassion fatigue and secondary trauma. Contact us today to begin treatment.

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