Prolonged Grief Disorder

Prolonged Grief Disorder

Loss of a loved one and grieving their absence is a universal, yet deeply personal experience. For adults, the death of a partner, parent, child, sibling, or friend can be devastating. For a child, death of a parent, sibling, grandparent or a beloved pet may leave an indelible mark - and cast all the today's and tomorrow's in unrelenting heartache. After a death, many experiences unfold. First is grief, a personal response to the loss. As the emotional and physical experience of loss is expressed, mourning occurs. And finally, bereavement is the period of time where grief and mourning are deeply experienced - and adaptation to life after loss begins. Taking time to grieve and mourn is a widely accepted way to move through a death. But for some, the experience is marked by enormous emotional and physical pain. Instead, the bereaved child or adult is overwhelmed by a profound,... Read more

How Can Autism Affect Your Sleep?

If you or your child are autistic, you likely know that autism can affect sleep. Good sleep can be as elusive as it is essential, and countless people experience insomnia at some point in their lives. But for autistic people and their families, restorative sleep can seem a little farther out of reach. Considering its impact on critical areas such as emotional processing, learning abilities, and social interactions, improving sleep is a priority. This is true for everyone, but particularly for autistic people, whose strengths exist outside the social arena. Even though disrupted sleep is often part of autism, it’s possible to improve the situation and wake up well-rested. Sleep differences in autism present before 2 years of age and are one of the first indicators of this neurotype. By comparison, only about half of typically developing children and adolescents experience disrupted sleep. Genetic and neurological differences combined with environment... Read more

What Is Attachment Trauma?

Attachment trauma comes from a rupture in the bonding process between a child and their primary caregiver. Its effects can last well into adulthood. If you struggle with relationships, there’s a dominant cultural narrative that assumes there is something wrong with you. But science offers us a more expansive view: Our relationship challenges may be rooted in what’s known as attachment trauma. Attachment trauma is “a consistent disruption of physical and emotional safety in the family system. It is not what happens to you, but what happens inside you,” says Heather Monroe, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Nashville, Tennessee, who specializes in treating relational trauma. A child’s early life experiences shape their adult life, and the relationship with their primary caregiver is among the most important for their development. If a child doesn’t have their early relational needs met, this can show up later in life in their... Read more

Health and Wellness: How stress leads to pain

People are dealing with more stress than ever right now and it’s impacting people in different ways. Many folks I speak with have been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions — and their bodies are reflecting that. Stress impacts everything from your gut, to your immune system, to your mental health, to your musculoskeletal system. When it comes to musculoskeletal pain - common areas in your body that easily get impacted include your shoulders, jaw, head, and lower back. Stress is your human response to physical, emotional, or mental changes in your body or living environment. According to internal medicine physician Richard Lang, MD, PhD from the Cleveland Clinic: “Stress doesn’t necessarily cause certain conditions, but it can make the symptoms of those conditions worse.” And it’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle - whereas your physical symptoms worsen - your stress increases - and so on and so on.... Read more

COVID-19 Impact: Spotlight on Older Children, Adolescents

As a society, we can certainly acknowledge the serious impacts that COVID-19, quarantine and social distancing has had on all of us. However, in my psychology practice, I have been particularly concerned with the rise of mental health issues in older children and adolescents. This age range thrives from being with peers, connecting through social outlets and feeling validated by their social interactions. With the long period of school closures and changes in schedules and social opportunities, adolescents in particular have faced significant challenges, including virtual learning, a significant duration of more limited face-to-face peer interactions, a significant rise in depression, suicidality, drug use and uncertainty about their future. In terms of development, adolescence is a pivotal period when relationships begin to reorganize. Older children and teenagers desire to have more independence and emotional distance from their parents. They shift their focus to peer interactions, and broadening and deepening their... Read more

Heartbroken? There’s a scientific reason why breaking up feels so rotten

When her husband left her after more than 25 years together, science writer Florence Williams says her body felt like it had been plugged into a faulty electrical socket. "I can almost describe it like a brain injury," she says. "I wasn't sleeping at all. I felt really agitated." Williams wanted to understand her physical reaction to the breakup, and so she began speaking to scientists in the U.S. and England about the connection between emotional and physical pain. Her new book, Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey, investigates the ways in which extreme emotional pain can impact the heart, the digestive and immune systems and more. Williams notes that falling in love actually stimulates the parts of the brain responsible for producing stress hormones — perhaps as a way to prepare for heartbreak. The brain creates these stress hormones, she says, "so that when our partner leaves or sort... Read more

All About Trauma: What It Is, Short- and Long-Term Effects, How to Cope With It, and When to Get Help

Although she didn’t witness the event herself, Heidi Horsley, PsyD, found herself replaying the last moments of her brother’s life again and again in her mind. He died in a car accident after hydroplaning during a rainstorm. “That narrative kept going over and over, and I couldn’t get the loop out of my head,” she says. With each replay, she recalls, she ruminated on whether her brother suffered before his death — and she became increasingly worried someone else was going to die. “The safe predictable world you once knew is gone. When my brother died, I didn’t feel like my parents could protect us. I felt my brother died, so I could die.” Dr. Horsley’s younger brother died when she was 20 years old. Her experience as a young adult eventually prompted Horsley to become a therapist who specializes in grief and trauma. Now an adjunct professor at Columbia... Read more

What Is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is the study of how humans grow, change, and adapt across the course of their lives. Developmental psychologists research the stages of physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development from the prenatal stage to infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Learn more about developmental psychology, including the definition, types, life stages, and how to seek treatment when necessary. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), developmental psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on how human beings grow, change, adapt, and mature across various life stages.1 In each of the life stages of developmental psychology, people generally meet certain physical, emotional, and social milestones.2 These are the major life stages, according to developmental psychologists: Prenatal development: Developmental psychologists are interested in diagnoses, such as Down syndrome, that might be noticed during the prenatal (before birth) stage. They also investigate how maternal behaviors (behaviors of the pregnant parent), such as... Read more

Seeking Therapy in the South Asian Community

Family members sometimes have trouble supporting or fully understanding how debilitating mental health challenges can be. In some South Asian communities, an individual's lack of motivation may be viewed as mere laziness, and sad feelings as self-indulgent. A common cultural factor is the high value placed on inner strength and forbearance in many South Asian cultures. In the South Asian community, "guilt culture" can help maintain a collectivist framework. These were the words one of my young clients, Simran (note: all names have been changed to protect individuals’ identities), heard from her family when she told them she was seeking therapy. Albeit with good intentions, South Asian families often view the decision to seek therapy as a reflection of their failure to address their loved one’s problems at home. “You are, Ma,” Simran responded, “but I've been feeling down and I need an outlet for my feelings.” Her mother’s reaction... Read more

Youth Depression: How Can We Support our Kids?

“‘All of a sudden I don’t feel like the norm. I feel cold, not warm. My brain’s like a storm’… Lilly the dog wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do. She hated seeing Benny the bunny so blue.” — Bunny & Doggo: Friends Fight Depression, written by Matt Christensen and illustrated by Leilani “Ducky” Banayos Benny, like a growing number of us, feels scared and uncertain, “stuck in the muck of [a] depressing black cloud.” Depression and anxiety have doubled among young people during the pandemic. Literature suggests that 25% of children – 1 in 4 – are experiencing significant depressive symptoms. “Since the pandemic started two years ago, there has been almost twice as many kids being treated for depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Emily Mudd, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist with Cleveland Clinic’s Children’s and mother of two. “From a neurochemical standpoint, depression and anxiety are closely related.... Read more

Child Sleep Problems Affect Mothers and Fathers Differently

After the birth of children, fragmentation of parental night sleep and fatigue due to the nightly demands of the infant are common.1 Indeed, there is evidence that mothers’ and fathers’ fatigue increase immediately following the birth of their child.1,2 Resulting in insufficient, non-restful sleep, this poses a stress factor for parental health, daily well-being, and functioning.3 In contrast, good children’s sleep quality predicted good maternal sleep.4 Most often, this is a temporary problem and infants develop the competence to fall asleep independently in the evening and go back to sleep after night waking during the first year of life.5,6 However, about 20–30% of the infants and young children are affected by sleep problems during the entire first 3 years of childhood and need support by a caregiver to fall asleep.7–10 Consequently, many parents are concerned with difficulties pertaining to their own sleep as well as handling their children’s sleep problems.... Read more

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the mental health of children and youth

According to the report, during the pandemic, children, adolescents, and young adults face unprecedented challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed their world, including how they attend school, interact with friends, and receive health care. They missed the first days of school, months, or even years of in-person schooling, graduation ceremonies, sports competitions, playdates, and time with relatives. They and their family may have lost access to mental health care, social services, income, food, or housing. They may have had COVID-19 themselves, suffered from long COVID symptoms, or lost a loved one to the disease – it’s estimated that as of June 2021, more than 140,000 children in the US had lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, have increased. Recent research covering 80,000 youth globally found that... Read more

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