All Posts Tagged: anxiety

Is Medical Marijuana Use Linked to an Increase Anxiety and Depression?

As of this blog post, 30 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have all approved the broad use of medical marijuana. In addition, several other states allow limited medical use and 8 states (plus the District of Columbia) allow recreational use of pot. Even though the use of marijuana is becoming more acceptable, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies pot and weed (marijuana) as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is likely to be abused and it completely lacks medical value. Because of this classification, there hasn’t been much research into the efficacy of the drug for medical conditions. In particular, we lack long-term studies that would tell us whether it is safe and/or effective when used over a long period of time.

What we do know is that, in our clinical practice – and in those of colleagues in other practices – we have seen an increase in the number of incidents of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even psychotic reactions since marijuana use has become more mainstream.

Did you know that:

  • THC, the primary chemical in marijuana, is believed to stimulate areas of the brain responsible for feelings of fear.
  • A 2015 study found that university-aged young adults are more likely to have a higher risk of developing depression from heavy marijuana use.
  • Numerous research studies show that marijuana is an addictive substance. The more you use it, the more you need to use in order to get the same “high.”
  • Frequent or heavy use in adolescence can be a predictor of depression or anxiety later on in life – especially for girls.
  • According to available scientific literature, people who use weed have higher levels of depression and depressive symptoms than those who do not use cannabis.
  • Scientific evidence suggests cannabis use can trigger the onset of schizophrenia and other psychoses in those already at risk of developing it.
  • Even if using cannabis seems to alleviate symptoms in the short-term for some users, it can lead to delay in getting appropriate treatment.

Recreational Marijuana vs. Medical Marijuana

Whether it’s used recreationally or medicinally, both forms of pot are the same product. The medical version contains cannabinoids just like recreational marijuana. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals found in the medical form.

Although medical marijuana is used for many conditions (among them: multiple sclerosis (MS), seizure disorders, cancer and glaucoma), its effectiveness hasn’t been proven. “The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity[tight or stiff muscles] from MS,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, a substance abuse specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Mental Illness and Psychoactive Substances

As we’ve said, right now there aren’t many studies out there on the relationship between marijuana use and mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. However, there was a study done in 2017 which examined marijuana use in conjunction with the depression and anxiety symptoms in 307 psychiatry outpatients who had depression (Bahorik et al., 2017). The results of this study showed that “marijuana use worsened depression and anxiety symptoms; marijuana use led to poorer mental health functioning.” In addition, the research found that medical marijuana was associated with inferior physical health functioning.

A big part of the problem with using marijuana either medically or recreationally is that there is no way to regulate the amount of THC you’re getting in the product, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t oversee it. This means that both the ingredients and the strength of them can vary quite a lot. “We did a study last year [in 2016] in which we purchased labeled edible products, like brownies and lollipops, in California and Washington. Then we sent them to the lab,” Bonn-Miller says. “Few of the products contained anywhere near what they said they did. That’s a problem.”

Another area of concern is that, as we know from regulated psychiatric medications, one dose may affect you differently than it affects your sibling or a friend. People are unique – each person’s reaction to a medication will vary, which is why psychiatric medications are monitored by the prescribing doctor so that the dosage can be adjusted for your specific needs.

Be Careful with Marijuana Use

In summary, if you choose to use marijuana either recreationally or medically, be careful. Talk to the physician who authorized it, or speak with a mental health professional if you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of depression or anxiety, or if you have panic attacks that begin or worsen while you are using marijuana. Additionally, be sure your doctor knows your psychiatric history before they authorize medical marijuana for you, especially if you have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, experience panic attacks or have bipolar disorder or psychosis.

Do You Have Questions?

We can answer your questions about marijuana use and how it affects anxiety, depression, or other conditions. The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are here to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

Reference:  Bahorik, Amber L.; Leibowitz, Amy; Sterling, Stacy A.; Travis, Adam; Weisner, Constance; Satre, Derek D. (2017). Patterns of marijuana use among psychiatry patients with depression and its impact on recovery. Journal of Affective Disorders, 213, 168-171).

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Treatment for School Refusal and Separation Anxiety

The summer is waning – it’s almost time for autumn to roll around again, which means school will be starting soon. While most children look forward to this time so they can see their friends and enjoy various school activities, this can be a period of major anxiety for some school-aged children. These kids are extremely unwilling to leave home or be away from major attachment figures such as parents, grandparents, or older siblings. The beginning of the new school year is often seen as a threat to them, resulting in elevated anxiety levels and possible school-related disorders, such as separation anxiety disorder and school refusal.

In some cases the separation anxiety and school refusal follow an infection or illness or can come after an emotional trauma such as a move to another neighborhood or the death of a loved one. The anxiety generally occurs after the child has spent an extended time with their parent or loved one, perhaps over summer break or a long vacation.

Anxiety Definition

A teen or child is said to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder if they show excessive anxiety related to the separation from a parent or caregiver or from their home, or if they exhibit an inappropriate anxiety about this separation as related to their age or stage of development. School refusal and separation anxiety are not the same: school refusal is not an “actual” diagnosis, instead it is a result of the child or teen having a separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or social phobia, among other diagnoses.

Separation Anxiety Physical Symptoms

Children with separation anxiety have symptoms which can include:

  • Excessive worry about potential harm befalling oneself or one’s caregiver
  • Demonstrating clingy behavior
  • Avoiding activities that may result in separation from parents
  • Fearing to be alone in a room or needing to see a parent at all times
  • Difficulty going to sleep, fear of the dark, and/or nightmares
  • Trembling
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches and/or nausea
  • Vomiting

A child who exhibits three or more of these symptoms for more than four weeks is likely to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder.

Treatment for School Refusal and Separation Anxiety

When treating a child with separation anxiety and school refusal, therapists try to help the child learn to identify and change their anxious thoughts. They teach coping mechanisms that will help the child respond less fearfully to the situations that produce their anxiety. This can be done through role-playing or by modeling the appropriate behavior for the child to see. Medication is sometimes appropriate in severe cases of separation anxiety. Additionally, the therapist encourages child to use positive self-talk and parents help with this therapy by actively reinforcing positive behaviors and rewarding their child’s successes.

Have Questions? Need Help?

To get more information and help for child anxiety, separation anxiety and school refusal, please contact The Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology, & Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-223-6568.

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Summer Camp Separation Anxiety – Tips for Reducing Child Anxiety

For many people, memories of going away to summer camp are some of the fondest they will ever have. Camp provides the opportunity to make new friends and share new adventures. When your child is going off to camp for the first time, however, fear of separation can make the experience seem dreadful for both parent and child, especially in the case of sleep-away camps.

Paying close attention to your child’s concerns is the first step in alleviating their anxiety. A child’s summer camp separation anxiety can display itself in a number of ways, including:

  • Unrealistic fear that someone close to them will be harmed while they are away
  • Reluctance to attend the camp
  • Persistent avoidance of being left alone
  • Nightmares involving themes of separation
  • Physical complaints when separated
  • Excessive distress when separation is anticipated

Repeated physical complaints can also be a sign of summer camp separation anxiety. These symptoms could be any of the following:

  • Stomach problems
  • Headaches
  • Cold or clammy hands
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint
  • Being hot or cold

Fortunately, there are plenty of tips to help parents reduce their child’s separation anxiety. Parents are encouraged to:

  • Remind their child that everyone gets nervous when they go away to camp, especially if it’s their first time
  • Show confidence that they’ll enjoy their time away
  • Remind them about other new experiences they’ve overcome in the past
  • Find out how the camp deals with homesickness so you can be prepared
  • Provide your child with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes, pen, and paper so they can write home whenever they want
  • Provide lots of attention in the days preceding the separation
  • Make goodbyes short and to the point. Dragging them out can make both parties nervous and delay the possibility of moving past the anxiety.

In most cases, the above steps will go a long way in eliminating or reducing separation anxiety that arises before a sleep-away summer camp. In some situations, however, the anxiety may persist despite all efforts. In this instance, parents are encouraged to seek professional help, especially if the child’s symptoms have begun to interfere with their school performance or friends. For more information on summer camp separation anxiety, contact child anxiety therapist Dr. Andrew Rosen at 561-223-6568 today.

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