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Category: Mental Health

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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Does FMLA Cover Mental Health?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a pivotal piece of legislation that supports millions of American workers in balancing their demanding work lives with serious health conditions that necessitate time off. Understanding if FMLA does cover mental health is crucial, especially as we collectively navigate through an era where mental health awareness is more significant than ever.

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we recognize the importance of this understanding and aim to provide clarity on how FMLA covers mental health, along with highlighting the treatment options available at our facility.

Understanding FMLA

The FMLA was enacted in 1993 to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. Eligible employees can take up to 12 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period for reasons including the birth and care of a newborn child, adoption, personal or family illness, or family military leave.

FMLA Eligibility

To be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must:

  • Work for a covered employer (private-sector employers with 50 or more employees, public agencies, and public or private elementary or secondary schools, regardless of the number of employees),
  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months,
  • Have at least 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months before the leave, and
  • Work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

FMLA Coverage for Mental Health

The FMLA stipulates that medical leave can be used for a “serious health condition” that makes the employee unable to perform their job. This definition includes various physical conditions as well as mental health conditions. Thus, if a mental health condition is serious enough that it interferes with an individual’s ability to perform their work, it may qualify for FMLA leave. This can include conditions such as severe depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Documentation and Certification

To take FMLA leave for mental health, an employee must provide certification from a healthcare provider that they have a serious health condition. This documentation must include:

  • The date the condition began,
  • The probable duration of the condition,
  • Relevant medical facts,
  • A statement that the employee cannot perform their job functions.

It is important for employees to communicate with their HR department and provide the necessary documentation to ensure a smooth process for taking FMLA leave.

Should I Utilize FMLA for Mental Health Treatment?

Deciding whether to utilize FMLA for mental health treatment is a deeply personal choice that requires careful consideration of various factors. If you are struggling with a mental health condition that significantly impacts your ability to perform your job duties, FMLA can provide the necessary time off for treatment without risking your employment. It’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider to assess the severity of your condition and determine if FMLA leave to cover mental health treatment is appropriate.

Additionally, discussing your options with your HR department can help clarify the process and ensure a smooth transition. Remember, prioritizing your mental health is vital, and FMLA can be a valuable resource in accessing the care you need.

Mental Health Treatment Options at North Atlanta Behavioral Health

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer a comprehensive range of mental health services tailored to meet the needs of our community. Our treatment options are designed to provide support for individuals experiencing mental health conditions that may qualify for FMLA leave. 

Our services include:

  • Individual Therapy: One-on-one sessions with a therapist to address issues such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
  • Group Therapy: Supportive group settings where individuals can share experiences and strategies for managing mental health.
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen relationships within families by engaging all members in collaborative therapy sessions.
  • Medication Management: Assessment and management of medication to treat mental health conditions, overseen by psychiatric professionals.
  • Brainspotting: Brainspotting is a therapeutic technique targeting specific eye positions associated with emotional activation to process trauma and anxiety.
  • Red Light Therapy: Red light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to promote cellular repair, reduce inflammation, and alleviate conditions such as depression, chronic pain, and skin disorders.
  • Holistic Therapy: Holistic therapy addresses the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit through various techniques like mindfulness, yoga, and nutrition counseling to promote overall health and well-being.

Levels of Care 

We offer several levels of mental healthcare, each custom-tailored to the unique needs of each individual we treat. 

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Our PHP provides a structured treatment program during the day while allowing patients to return home in the evenings. This program offers intensive therapy, medication management, life skills training, and relapse prevention strategies to support individuals in their recovery journey.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Our IOP is designed for individuals who require more support than traditional outpatient therapy but do not need the level of care provided in inpatient or PHP settings. This program offers flexible scheduling, allowing patients to attend therapy sessions while maintaining their daily responsibilities.
  • Outpatient Services: Our outpatient services provide ongoing support for individuals transitioning from higher levels of care or those seeking less intensive treatment options. Services include individual therapy, medication management, and support groups tailored to meet each patient’s specific needs and goals.

Contact Us to Learn More 

The FMLA does cover mental health, allowing individuals to take time off to manage serious mental health conditions without fear of losing their jobs. At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we understand the importance of accessing effective treatment and are committed to providing a range of services to support our community.

Whether you are considering taking FMLA leave for a mental health condition or seeking treatment options, we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more.

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Panic Attack Hangover: The After Effects of a Panic Attack

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know how exhausting it can be. Panic attacks trigger a series of intense physical and emotional reactions in a short amount of time. The after effects, commonly called a panic attack hangover, leave you feeling drained and run down.

Panic attacks are a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety, along with depression, is one of the most common types of mental health disorders in the US. In February 2023, 32.3% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to KFF.

The good news is that you can find evidence-based treatment for anxiety. While anxiety feels overwhelming, you can learn to cope with your symptoms and reduce your chances of having panic attacks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

A panic attack sets off your body’s flight or fight response. This response system helps you when you are threatened or are in imminent danger. Essentially, the flight or fight response releases hormones that help you either escape or combat danger.

But, with a panic attack, there is no imminent threat. So, your body builds energy, yet you have no outlet for it—nothing to fight or run away from. As a result, this energy expends itself within your body and can cause a panic attack.

The following are common symptoms of a panic attack:

  • Pounding and racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Chest tightness
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling weak

These symptoms are intense and usually peak within about 10 minutes. After about 20-30 minutes, most of these symptoms go away. Afterward, you will feel the after effects.

[Recommended: “Is Panic Disorder a Disability?” + “Signs and Symptoms of a Silent Panic Attack“]

What Are the After Effects of a Panic Attack?

The after effects of a panic attack, or a panic attack hangover, can occur for several hours or even days after a panic attack. After an intense surge of physical reactions within a short period of time, most people feel drained.

The effects of a panic attack hangover include the following:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Body pains
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge or uneasy
  • Muscle soreness
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Chest pain

In addition, some symptoms of a panic attack hangover can include lingering symptoms of the panic attack itself—but less intense. And, you could also feel somewhat down or vulnerable after a panic attack. Some people feel ashamed or embarrassed about their panic attacks, which can lead to emotional and mental health symptoms.

What Causes a Panic Attack Hangover?

A panic attack hangover is a result of your adrenaline levels returning to normal. During a panic attack, adrenaline levels spike, increasing your alertness, energy, and blood flow to your muscles. This intense burst of energy and alertness leaves you feeling fatigued and emotionally drained.

In other words, your body expends a tremendous amount of energy within a short amount of time during a panic attack. As a result, you feel these effects as a panic attack hangover.

How to Recover From a Panic Attack Hangover

You can recover from a panic attack to lessen the severity of the after effects. The following holistic tips can help you recover from a panic attack hangover:

  • Light exercise and movement: A panic attack can leave you feeling fatigued, however, moving your body can help with the after effects. Exercise improves blood flow and releases endorphins that help you stabilize your mood after a panic attack. You can do something with low intensity, like stretching, yoga, or going for a walk.
  • Get some rest: If you can take a short nap, this can also restore some of your energy. However, try not to nap too long or you may disrupt your sleep cycle. This can make things worse if you don’t get restful sleep at night.
  • Eat a healthy snack: Eating something healthy like nuts or fruit can restore glucose levels in your blood. In turn, this can give you energy and reduce symptoms like headache and fatigue.
  • Go someplace else to recover: Oftentimes, an overwhelming environment can trigger a panic attack. So, to recover, go to a restful and secluded place. That way, you can recover and reduce your chances of triggering another panic attack.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness exercises can help you redirect your focus. You can try deep breathing, listening to music, taking a walk in nature, or body scanning. The important thing is to focus on something in your environment to take your mind off your panic triggers.
  • Call a loved one: Talking to someone you can trust about what happened can help you recover from a panic attack hangover. This can help you vent and process your feelings. You might also figure out what triggered your panic attack by talking things through.

Panic attacks are distressing and can make you feel like something horrible is happening to you. However, these are often the result of a specific trigger or a buildup of unresolved anxiety. So, if you struggle with panic attacks, finding a mental health treatment program can help you learn healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety.

Get Help for Panic Attacks and Anxiety Disorders Today

At North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we understand that panic attacks can be draining and overwhelming. Afterward, the panic attack hangover can leave you feeling weak, fatigued, and even ashamed. However, anxiety disorders that cause panic attacks can be treated, and many people make a full recovery from their disorders.

Contact us today to begin treatment for anxiety and panic attacks.

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Can I Go To The Urgent Care for Anxiety and Depression?

While mental health issues are common, many are often left misunderstood and stigmatized, leaving the access to treatment unfound and unaccessible. As of March 2023, concerns around mental health and substance use disorder were at an all time high. According to a survey taken by KFF/CNN, 90% of U.S. adults are currently facing a mental health crisis. From the COVID-19 pandemic, lingering effects still have created disruption in lives that include social isolation, job loss, financial instability, and illness and grief.

As awareness surrounding these issues grow, so does the quest for accessible treatment options. This brings us to an important question: can individuals seeking help for anxiety and depression turn to urgent care centers? This article explores the role of urgent care in addressing mental health concerns, particularly anxiety and depression.

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, look no further. North Atlanta Behavioral Health, we offer premier mental health treatment in Georgia for those suffering from dual diagnosis disorders. Call us now at 770-230-5699 or verify your insurance now.

The Rise of Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health disorders globally. According to the World Health Organization, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in many countries. These conditions can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, affecting their work, relationships, and overall well-being.

Can I Go To Urgent Care for Anxiety and Depression?

Urgent care centers are known for providing immediate medical attention for non-life-threatening conditions. They are a convenient option for physical health issues requiring prompt attention but are not severe enough for an emergency room visit. However, the scope of services in urgent care centers has been expanding, and some are now equipped to handle certain mental health issues, including mild to moderate cases of anxiety and depression.

When to Go To Urgent Care for Anxiety and Depression

  • Mild to Moderate Symptoms: Urgent care may be appropriate for individuals experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety or depression that are not life-threatening but still require prompt attention.

    Some of those can be feeling extremely anxious, sad, or irritable for more than a few weeks, thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, trouble concentrating or making decisions, or difficulty sleeping and changes in appetite.
  • After-Hours Care: For those who experience a sudden onset of symptoms outside of regular healthcare provider hours, urgent care can be a useful resource.
  • Lack of Access to Mental Health Professionals: In areas where access to mental health care is limited, urgent care centers can provide an interim solution.
  • Medication Management: Some urgent care centers can assist with prescription refills or adjustments for ongoing anxiety or depression medications, especially in situations where a primary care provider is unavailable.

Limitations of Urgent Care in Mental Health

While urgent care can offer immediate support, there are limitations to the depth and continuity of care they can provide for mental health issues.

  • Lack of Specialized Mental Health Professionals: Most urgent care centers do not have psychiatrists or psychologists on staff. Care is typically provided by general practitioners who may not have specialized training in mental health.
  • Short-Term Solution: Urgent care is designed for short-term treatment. For ongoing management of anxiety and depression, a long-term relationship with a mental health professional is crucial.
  • Inadequate for Severe Cases: Urgent care is not equipped to handle severe or life-threatening mental health crises, such as suicidal ideation or severe depressive episodes. In these cases, emergency medical services or a specialized mental health facility are more appropriate.

Urgent Care Mental Health Options

Urgent care centers can play a supportive role in the broader mental health care system. They can act as an initial point of contact, offering immediate relief for mild symptoms and guiding patients toward more specialized care. For many, urgent care can be a stepping stone in their mental health journey, bridging the gap between recognizing a problem and accessing specialized treatment. However, when it comes to deciding on an urgent care to go to, you have a few different options:

  • Walk-In Clinic: Some urgent cares have walk-in clinics that are staffed with mental health professionals. Here, you may receive an initial evaluation, medications and referrals to local mental health resources. Walk-in clinics can help, but should not be utilized as a long-term solution.
  • Emergency Room: Emergency rooms is the best option for immediate care if you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis such as suicidal thoughts, psychosis, severe depression or a life threatening situation. At the ER, professionals can evaluate your condition and assess the need for inpatient psychiatric care.
  • Telehealth Options: Telehealth can be a decent option for those looking to stay in the comfort of their own home. Telehealth care options can include psychiatric evaluations, medication management and therapy sessions. However, it’s important to know that some telehealth options are not as urgent as in-person care and there may be a wait to see a clinician.

Mental Health Hotlines

There are also hotlines and phone numbers that are available for those in the United States to receive immediate support and help over the phone. Some of these include:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for those struggling with suicidal thoughts.

    800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for those in distress, offering help and resources to anyone who needs it. To get in touch with them, dial 988.

  • National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline (NAMI): NAMI is dedicated to providing lives of Americans affected by mental illness and offers resources and support for those and their families living with mental health conditions

    800-950-NAMI (800-950-6264)
  • Veterans Crisis Line: The Veterans Crisis Line helps provide support for veterans and their families, connecting them with resources and additional support.


What Types of Mental Health Issues Can The Urgent Care Help Me With?

Urgent cares can assist with a range of mental health disorders, especially those that require prompt attention but are not severe enough to necessitate emergency room treatment.

  • Mild to Moderate Anxiety and Depression: Urgent care can provide initial assessment and short-term management for those experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression. This may include prescribing medications or making referrals to mental health professionals for ongoing care.
  • Stress-Related Disorders: Urgent care can be a resource for those experiencing acute stress reactions or adjustment disorders, which often arise from life changes or stressful events.
  • Panic Attacks: For those experiencing sudden panic attacks, urgent care can provide immediate assistance. They can help in managing the acute symptoms and provide guidance on follow-up care.
  • Medication Management: If a patient is already diagnosed with a mental health condition and needs a medication refill or adjustment, especially when their primary care provider or psychiatrist is unavailable, urgent care can assist.
  • Mild Substance Abuse Issues: In some cases, urgent care may provide initial support for mild substance abuse issues, such as prescription medication misuse. However, they typically refer patients to specialized addiction treatment services for comprehensive care.
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorders: Urgent care may provide initial assessment and recommendations for mild cases of insomnia or other sleep disturbances.
  • Behavioral Health Concerns: For behavioral health issues that require immediate attention but do not constitute a severe psychiatric crisis, urgent care can offer initial support and referrals.

The Future of Urgent Care in Mental Health

As the demand for mental health services continues to grow, urgent care facilities are likely to evolve in their capacity to address these needs. There is a growing recognition of the importance of integrating mental health care into all aspects of healthcare, and urgent care centers are no exception. With the advancement of telemedicine and digital health tools, urgent care centers could potentially offer more robust mental health services in the future.

Find Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta Today

While urgent care centers are not a substitute for specialized mental health care, they can be a valuable resource for individuals experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression. They provide accessible, immediate care and can act as a gateway to more comprehensive mental health services.

However, if you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues and are looking for more long-term support, North Atlanta Behavioral Health can help. Our robust clinical setting combined with medication management, therapy and psychiatry can help you create new changes in your life. Call today and we can help you get started!

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