college student studying

Anxiety Rises Among College Students During The Pandemic

Another year of college is in full swing across the country.  In an effort to control the spread of Covid-19 among their students, some schools have gone to strictly virtual learning. Others, however, are combining this option with in-person classes, which creates a higher chance of exposure to the virus. In addition, many campuses are dealing with students who flaunt social distancing guidelines and gather for parties, which spreads it even more. While many young people were eager to get back to college after being fairly isolated during the summer, we are finding that these seemingly reckless situations are negatively impacting the mental health of many students.

Earlier this year, the American College Health Association collected information for their Spring, 2020, National College Health Assessment. At that time, an average of 49.6 percent of the 50, 307 respondents reported moderate levels of stress. Another 24.9 percent said they were experiencing high levels of stress – and that survey only included schools who had begun their data collection prior to March 16, 2020, when many states began shutting down. Today, those numbers are much higher.

In fact, the results of a study done at nine public research universities across the U. S. and led in part by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), shows the incidence of major depressive disorder among college students has more than doubled since Spring, 2019.

Anxiety Symptoms

If your college student is suffering from anxiety, they will likely show some emotional or physical symptoms. Keep in mind that they may not have all these symptoms – they may only have a couple of them. It’s important to talk to your child if they are experiencing some of these concerns.

  • Problems concentrating on coursework (or in general)
  • Distress about their own health or the health of loved ones
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Trouble sleeping
  • An increase in the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • A worsening of mental health conditions they may already have

There are also physical symptoms of anxiety that may include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • An increase in migraines
  • A rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Self-Care For Your College Student’s Mental Health

Sometimes taking a little extra time for self-care can help to reduce the mental health aspect of college life during the pandemic. We recommend your student try the following:

  • First, remember that the pandemic is temporary. At some point we’ll have a vaccine, the pandemic will ease, and life will become more normal.
  • In the meantime, it is good to stay connected with family and friends. Your teen can either do this in person (while safely social distancing) or they can keep in touch through a video application, such as Zoom or Facetime.
  • Know that it is okay to feel scared or angry, sad, homesick or anxious. But they should tell someone if they are feeling this way – especially if it has gone on for more than two weeks or if they seem to be feeling worse.
  • Limit online and social media time to avoid being sucked into the gloomy headlines that are so prevalent right now.
  • Set daily goals for completing assignments and tasks.
  • Maintain a routine – as much as possible, they should try to eat at regular mealtimes, get up or go to sleep on a schedule, do coursework on a schedule, etc.
  • Make time every day to do something enjoyable. It can be as simple as carving out time to meditate or do yoga, read a book for fun, or write in a journal.
  • Set aside time to get outside – fresh air, a change of scenery, and endorphin-releasing exercise can all help to rejuvenate the mind.
  • Look into a campus support group, which will help them feel less alone.

If these self-care measures aren’t enough to help your student with their distress, suggest that they reach out to their campus’ psychological services. The campus  counseling center likely can help through phone, telehealth or video platforms, eliminating the need for your child to visit the center in-person.

We Care

If your college student is struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic, oftentimes it can help to talk with a children’s therapist. We are here with both virtual / online and in-person treatment options.

For more information about how our child psychologists can help your college student deal with anxiety about college life during the pandemic, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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child wearing face mask in empty classroom

Separation Anxiety: Going Back To School During The Pandemic

As the 2020 – 2021 school year begins, children who normally go through separation anxiety may be even more anxious about going back into the classroom during the pandemic. After all, the beginning of a new school year can be threatening during normal times, but returning into a situation where the coronavirus is likely to be present has raised anxiety levels in many kids and parents.

For parents who live in school districts that offer a choice between virtual or in-person learning, how do you make a decision about which is best for your child? Being safe at home means that kids who have special needs or who learn better in person will lose out on many learning opportunities. Children who are fearful of being in a classroom, however, will struggle more if they have to go back into the school.

All this stress can bring up school refusal in kids, not to mention heightened school anxiety in parents.

Separation Anxiety And Classroom Learning During Covid-19

Sometimes separation anxiety and school refusal begin for a child who has gone through an illness or an emotional trauma, such as moving from one neighborhood to another. In the case of the pandemic, however, illness and death is all we hear about on the news, so a child who may already be inclined to separation anxiety will only worry more.

Parents hardly fare better – in many cases they are having to choose whether to stay home with kids who will be learning virtually (thus, risking their jobs) or sending their child into a possibly contagious environment. Either way, the decision is highly distressing.

Separation Anxiety Definition

If an anxious child shows excessive concern about a separation from a parent or caregiver, or from their home, they might have developed a separation anxiety disorder. In addition, separation anxiety may be present if they show fear about the situation that is inappropriate to their age or stage of development.

Parents who are extreme worriers may show similar symptoms, which could indicate their own anxiety disorder. This is particularly true if they have been overly anxious about the safety of their child during the pandemic.

Emotional and Physical Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

Children (and parents) who have separation anxiety may show the following symptoms including:

  • Constantly imagining worst-case scenarios
  • Difficulty going to sleep, fear of the dark, and/or nightmares
  • Avoiding activities that result in separation from the parent or child
  • Excessive worry about potential harm or illness happening to them
  • Children may be clingy, may fear being alone in a room, or may need to see a parent at all times
  • Adults may feel anxious about the child’s safety if they aren’t within sight
  • Trembling
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches and/or nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Needing frequent trips to the toilet

If a child or a parent exhibits three or more of these symptoms for more than four weeks, they are likely suffering from a separation anxiety disorder.

Separation Anxiety Treatment

While you can’t control the things that happen around you, you can learn how to control your responses and actions. When treating someone for separation anxiety, therapists try to help them learn to identify and change their anxious thoughts. Then, they teach coping methods to help the person react less fearfully to the situations that trigger their anxiety.

Remember – it is natural to worry, but we can learn to keep our fears from spiraling out of control by “naming” and identifying our thoughts. For instance, if  your child starts to imagine getting sick in school, and then pictures getting so sick they end up in the hospital, have them practice labeling these thoughts as something less threatening (ie:”That’s just a Bugs Bunny thought hopping around!”). This can often help remind the child that they are just thoughts and we are in charge of how we react to them.

Sometimes, however, self talk still can’t calm the fear and an anxiety disorder can begin. If you suspect that your child is developing an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. The longer the anxiety continues, the harder it can be to treat.

Connect with a Child Psychologist at our Children’s Center

For more information about our services to treat mental disorders in children,  contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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kids at summer camp

More Pandemic Grief: No Summer Camp, Plus School At Home

We’ve hit midsummer and kids across the country have had to deal with the disappointment of canceled summer camps this year. Now, many school districts are making parents choose between virtual learning this fall or sending their children to school during a pandemic. Some school districts are going entirely virtual. Having to face more upheaval in a year of unprecedented changes has brought up grief and anxiety for both kids and parents. Yet, despite this turmoil, there are some good things that have come from the pandemic.

The Good – Some Pandemic Silver Linings

One of the most significant changes are the family ties that formed or remodeled after our hectic lives were halted. Parents and kids are spending more time together as a family because extracurricular activities aren’t taking precedence. Plus parents who are working from home have extra time to interact with their children since they don’t have to commute.

Just being able to play like children has been good for kids. Often their lives are structured from the time they awaken until they fall into bed at night, so being able to simply play has been good for developing their imagination, exploring their world, and just being a kid.

The Bad – Pandemic Grief And Anxiety

For many kids, having no summer camp has been very distressing. It’s something they look forward to –often, they have friends there that they don’t see for the rest of the year because they live in a different state. For teens who were anticipating becoming camp counselors or who were attending their final year of camp, not being able to go is beyond frustrating.

Furthermore, children haven’t seen most of their school friends in person for several months and are now being told they likely won’t see them this fall, either. In addition, when it comes to learning, many kids do better in a classroom environment where they can see examples and question the teacher directly, so it’s upsetting for them to know they will be stuck at home and struggling with virtual learning.

Parents faced similar emotions at the canceling of camp and the prospect of having their children home for at least some of the fall school semester. Along with having to figure out how to keep kids meaningfully entertained, they’re grieving the loss of their own couple’s trips and trying to navigate another semester of being involuntary teachers.

PTSD And Anxiety In Children During COVID-19

Just as with adults, the stress of life during coronavirus has dramatically altered children’s day-to-day world.

Natural disasters like a pandemic can have long term effects on kid’s emotional and mental health. In studies of children’s mental health after Hurricane Katrina, researcher Carolyn Kousky, reported that, “researchers found high rates of PTSD symptoms as well as other negative mental health impacts and behaviors, such as aggression in adolescent.” Furthermore, a 2013 study found that kids who had gone through a quarantine for disease control scored four times higher on a post-traumatic stress test than children who hadn’t been quarantined.

You can see why it is vital for parents and adult family members to help kids make sense of the pandemic, especially in an accurate way that minimizes their fears.

  • Be available to talk if they have questions (and be sure they know they can come to you).
  • Speak to your children in a calm voice. Try to be reassuring about their fears. Remember that kids can and do pick up on cues in your tone and body language.
  • Validate their feelings of loss and try to show empathy.
  • Try to reduce or limit news broadcasts and screen time so your child (or you!) doesn’t become overwhelmed by news coverage of the pandemic.
  • Try not to condemn or ridicule someone you know to your kids if they have been sick with the virus.
  • Remind kids that rumors run wild on social media. Many stories are inaccurate.

To avoid any long term consequences, it’s essential that parents take steps to address and reduce any COVID-19 anxiety their children may have. KidsHealth.org provides great resources for keeping kids busy during the pandemic and has some helpful ideas for addressing the topic with your child.

Helping Children With Anxiety

For more information about how our mental health professionals and child psychologists can help your child deal with anxiety about the pandemic, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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Psychological evaluations

Psychological Evalutations

The Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Psychology and Related Services is pleased to again offer psychological evaluations to the community. To best serve the need of our clients we will be offering both in person appointments or remote video conferencing to get a better understanding of your child, their strengths and weaknesses, and what accommodations and interventions they would benefit from.

We are able provide our typical in person evaluations with procedures and materials to ensure safety during COVID-19 concerns. Additionally, while the evaluation process is typically a hands-on experience and the assessment tools require face-to-face interactions, we have also made adaptations to provide remote evaluations via video appointments.

As part of the evaluations we are conducting now, we will take the following steps:

  • Meet with parents via video conferencing and collect information so we can learn about your child’s emotional, behavioral, and social functioning.
  • Meet with the child via video conferencing to assess if they would be a good fit for a remote evaluation. If so, we will proceed with evaluating cognitive and academic abilities and social and emotional functioning via video conferencing. We will also be able to assess aspects of attention, impulsivity, language, and memory. We may decide that additional in person testing will be helpful.
  • Collect information from your child’s teacher through teacher rating forms and interviews.
  • Collect information from your child’s medical and school records if needed.

This information will help us gain a better understanding of your child and their unique needs and will allow us to provide consultation and recommendations to support your child both at the home and at school environments.

Additionally, we can provide psychological evaluations to help with diagnosis of mental health concerns and to assist with treatment planning.

Schedule a psychological evaluation for your child.

For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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COVID paradox

The COVID Paradox

Never before in modern memory has the human race been faced with such a stressful and anxiety provoking foe. The novel coronavirus or COVI-19 has resulted in untold emotional unrest and fear among all nations and peoples of our world. There has been a lot of talk about the “invisible enemy,” an RNA based complex protein that looks like a World War 2 anti-ship mine with spikes sticking out of its surface. We are informed daily by the media that young and old victims of this virus are ending up on ventilators for weeks at a time if they survive. To “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming our hospitals we have had to become socially isolated, settle in place in our residences, wear masks when going out and remembering to wash our hands and not touch our faces. And after three months of dealing with this enemy of grown ups we are now being informed that children who we believed were not at risk of being made seriously ill have suffered as cases of a strange multi system inflammatory syndrome much like Kawasaki disease began to appear at hospitals.

The reality of this plague is bad enough to fathom by any rational person. The facts we are presented with certainly evoke fear and apprehension. Our frontline healthcare providers who are by their profession somewhat desensitized to run-of-the-mill suffering as they treat patients with terminal illness, heart attacks, metastatic cancer or debilitating strokes, find themselves traumatized by the COVID crisis.

So what is generating this degree of emotional suffering? Much of it comes from the unseen enemy, this virus that is only visible under special microscopes. Some of it comes from the fact that its genetic structure is novel. No human being had been exposed to it prior to its appearance in Wuhan so our immune systems had no defense against its onslaught. It is extraordinarily infectious so that an infected person will infect several people in close proximity over time.

What is the paradox that I am referring to? Actually, there is more than one paradox. The first one involves the media explosion that began last century and has exponentially continued this century. We appreciate all the benefits from being plugged in 24/7 to social media, internet messaging and an abundance of television news all day long. The digital revolution that amazed us has also proved to be harmful to our emotional well being. Multimedia exposure during the COVID pandemic has been like watching a horror movie that never ends! What we valued and embraced has turned out to be a traumatizing process. If you check the Centers for Disease Control website for data on the influenza outbreak for the 2018-2019 season you will find that 35.5 million Americans came down with the flu, 490,000 hospitalizations resulted, and there were 34,200 deaths. Imagine if the media tracked the annual flu season like they have tracked the COVID pandemic. Every flu season would be emotionally traumatizing. We certainly don’t go into lockdown every year for the flu nor do we social distance. We do have a flu shot available, but data on its effectiveness suggests a 45% effectiveness this past season. Our advantage with influenza is that over time, all of us have had some level of exposure to this family of viruses imparting a degree of “herd immunity.”

This brings us to the core paradox. If we stay locked down and isolated indefinitely there will be no herd immunity developing. The concept of herd immunity means that if enough of our population is exposed and develops immunity to this virus, ongoing spread becomes very difficult. For example, smallpox, chicken pox, measles and mumps had been the scourge of society until the administration of vaccines essentially created a herd immunity.

We will eventually have an effective vaccine for COVID-19 but it will be some time before we will be able to provide mass inoculation. If there had been no COVID-19 social isolation our healthcare system would be over run, resulting in a tsunami of fatalities.

So the course that is being taken is to gradually open up our lockdown while we carefully prepare for future waves of illness. Be reassured that there will come a day in the not too distant future that this horrible virus will be no greater a threat than the annual flu. That time will come.

Connect With A Child Psychologist At Our Children’s Center

If your child is experiencing anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, our child psychologists are available for online services. For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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teen wearing fack mask

Is The COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health?

Schools have been closed for the last couple of months since the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across the country. Stories about the virus’ effects and death rates abound on the news and on social media. Usually, we wouldn’t expect children to be too affected by broadcasts about a new disease unless someone close to them gets sick. In this case, however, their lives have been upended by school closings, parents working from home (or losing their jobs), the requirement to shelter in place and wear masks, and the inability to gather with friends or go to familiar venues.

Children are also likely tapping into their parent’s own fears and concerns. In turn, they may worry that they, their friends, or their family will catch COVID-19. We can estimate how this affects American kids by reading through the studies that were done on children in China, where the outbreak began.

In an article on Psychology Today, Jamie D. Aten, Ph.D., founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, reports that, “due to uncertainties surrounding the outbreak and ongoing scientific research, it’s estimated that 220 million Chinese children are at a risk of facing mental health issues due to potential prolonged school closure and home containment.”

If this is true for the children in China, why would it be any different here for kids in the United States?

Why Kids Need Mental And Emotional Support During COVID-19

The stress and apprehension surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has altered children’s day-to-day world in a huge way. We know that natural disasters such as this can have a long term effect on kids, just as they can for adults.

As an example, one researcher, Carolyn Kousky, noted that in studies of children’s mental health after Hurricane Katrina, “researchers found high rates of PTSD symptoms as well as other negative mental health impacts and behaviors, such as aggression in adolescent.”

For older children, the added disappointments that have come along with the safer-at-home orders – such as the cancellation of graduations and proms, no school athletic games or activities, and isolation from friends – is sure to have emotional consequences, too.

In fact, it was reported in a 2013 study that researchers found that kids who had gone through a quarantine for disease control scored four times higher on a post-traumatic stress test than children who had not had that same experience.

How To Help Your Child Through Pandemic Anxiety

It’s important for parents and adult family members to help kids make sense of the pandemic, especially in an accurate way that minimizes their fears.

  • Let your child know that you are available to talk if they have questions.
  • When talking to your children, do so in a calm voice. Try to be reassuring and also remember that kids will pick up on cues in your body language and tone.
  • Consider reducing or limiting news broadcasts and screen time so your child doesn’t become overwhelmed by news coverage of the pandemic.
  • Remember that this pandemic can affect anyone, so try not to condemn or ridicule someone you know who may have contracted the virus.
  • Remind kids that rumors run rampant on social media and that many stories are inaccurate.

Teach your children how to stay safe during the pandemic (and afterward):

  • They should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (have them sing the birthday song twice as an easy way to count the time). They especially need to do this after sneezing, blowing their nose, or using the bathroom, and before eating or handling food. Hand sanitizer is a great option if soap and water are not available (supervise young children if they are using hand sanitizer).
  • If your child needs to sneeze or cough, they should do it into their elbow or a tissue (then throw the tissue in the trash).
  • Stay away from those who are sick or are sneezing or coughing.
  • Keep things that they touch clean. Wipe down frequently used objects such as doorknobs, light switches, the television remote, their phone or tablet frequently with a disinfectant to avoid spreading germs.

It’s important for parents to take steps to address and reduce any COVID-19 anxiety their children may have, so they can avoid any long term consequences. KidsHealth.org provides some great resources for keeping kids busy during the pandemic and offers some helpful hints for addressing the topic with your child.

Connect With A Child Psychologist At Our Children’s Center

If your child is experiencing anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, our child psychologists are available for online services. For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.

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Coping With COVID-19

The virus pandemic has certainly had an impact on all of us. Not being able to meet with my patients in person has required a major clinical adjustment. Thankfully, telemedicine has provided me with the ability to provide necessary ongoing treatment. But I also know firsthand how difficult and taxing social isolation and sheltering in place can be.

What has made this viral illness so stressful? After all, we have been dealing with annual episodes of influenza for decades. We also successfully made it through the fears of the bird flu, SARS, and swine flu. What makes Covid 19 so special and so scary? Covid 19 is called a novel virus because it is a protein that is totally new to the world’s human population’s immune systems. Our immune systems therefore do not have the capacity to adequately fight off this infection. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially at risk. But 20 to 65 year olds are not immune from infection and risk severe illness if they are not cautious and follow CDC guidelines.

We can all agree that there are reasons to be fearful of this unique virus. We would all agree that sheltering in place and social isolation plays a role in our unease and insecurity. The inability to see loved ones and friends certainly takes a toll. Job loss and the subsequent financial stressors contributes as well. Lack of definitive treatment or a protective vaccine adds to our worries. But the level of emotional unrest seems to be much greater than what these issues would suggest. So what accounts for our level of apprehension?

It is my belief that our emotional upset and fearfulness is being fueled by an incessant level of media exposure, a 24/7 bombardment of our senses by vivid and at times sensationalistic accounts of the impact of this illness on our society. The negativity is inescapable. The drama can be horrifying. I do believe that we are being psychologically traumatized by the effects of this multi-sensory media explosion. Modern theories of post traumatic stress disorder have now implicated the impact of day to day low level traumatic experiences. We certainly deserve to be kept up to date, but non-stop communication of human suffering at this level can be seriously problematic.

So what can we do to minimize the stressors of these times? The answers are rather straight forward and simple. When the world around you seems out of control, frightening and foreign it is important to pay attention to our own personal world and life space. You may not be able to change what is outside of you but you certainly can have the ability to influence your own world. These are some basic guidelines to follow:

  1. Add consistency, structure and predictability to your day to day life.
  2. Go to bed at the same time every night and awaken at the same time the next day.
  3. Schedule exercise, studying, work (if you are lucky enough to still be working), meals, fun etc. at set times.
  4. Get outside while following CDC guidelines on a regular basis, even if it means sitting on a balcony or patio for extended periods.
  5. Do not allow yourself to isolate. Maintain social contacts through phone calls, video chats, emails, etc. Socialize with a friend or family member while maintaining the appropriate safe distance.
  6. Limit your news media exposure. Get the data you need to be adequately informed but don’t give in to the tendency to be a news voyeur. Sensationalistic news coverage can be addicting. Be careful and avoid over exposure.
  7. Attend to your basic activities of daily living that include your appearance and hygiene, maintaining healthy nutrition and caring for your living space.
  8. And most importantly, recognize that this period of difficulty and sacrifice will come to an end.

There will be life after Coronavirus. At some point in the near future, this virus will be treated no differently than the annual influenza virus. The same way that pharmaceutical companies formulate the year’s flu vaccine by taking into account the types of flu viruses prevalent that year, it will also include the coronavirus as part of the vaccine recipe.

The real challenge for the future will consist of what we can learn from this experience. How can we be better prepared? How can we improve our healthcare system and its inequities? How can we maintain the improvement in our environment that has resulted from reduced pollution, crowding overuse of natural resources? How can we return to person to person human contact and minimize communication through digital media only? How can the media learn to balance coverage with more hope and support? I wish that I had the answers. We shall have to wait and see.

For more information or to schedule an appointment call us at (561) 223-6568 or contact us here.

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Telehealth

A Message About Telehealth Amidst COVID-19

We hope that you, your children and families are doing well in the midst of this unprecedented time. After carefully considering the CDC guidelines, we at The Children’s Center have decided that we will no longer be conducting therapy in our office at this time.

In good news, we have the capability to conduct appointments either over the phone or via Telehealth. We are happy to keep all appointments during this time. If you already have a scheduled appointment but you would prefer to postpone your to a later date or an alternate time, we are happy to do that as well.

We greatly appreciate your understanding during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment at (561) 223-6568.

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