Category Archives: Boise Mental Health

Boise Mental Health

The Connection between Trauma and OCD

Image from 411RX.com.

This is the third post in a series about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Is there a connection between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)? I believe there is, and wrote about a study where a Dutch man recovering from a childhood rape was successfully treated for both PTSD and OCD at the same time. 

This study from 2014 draws a strong link between the two disorders:

…[T]he evidence suggesting the impact of trauma on OCD is irrefutable…Recent research has suggested that OCD and PTSD are, in fact, two disorders on the same continuum…Both are characterized by recurrent and intrusive thoughts that are experienced as anxiety/fear inducing.

It seems to act as a see-saw in some people: as their PTSD symptoms fade, OCD symptoms increase, and when OCD symptoms diminish, PTSD symptoms take over. 

Here is the issue: when sufferers of PTSD and OCD are faced with flashbacks or memories of distressing events or behaviors, they may engage in certain ritualistic behaviors, such as:

  • Avoidance. People will do whatever they can to avoid anything that reminds them of past trauma, which can dredge up distressing memories. They may swear off certain experiences, stop contacting certain people, give up books or movies that may trigger memories, or avoid even going to the place where the trauma occurred. 
  • Repeating routine tasks for no logical reason, such as washing your hands over and over.
  • Extreme need for control, order or symmetry. This could be constant cleaning, organizing, etc.
  • Constantly checking surroundings for safety, even if no threat is apparent.

Treating people with OCD is one of my specialties. When I have clients with OCD–whether or not it’s related to PTSD–I use Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) treatment because it typically can treat symptoms for both disorders.

In a nutshell, ERP treatment is when a therapist creates a safe environment for you, then gradually introduces you to the thoughts, images, objects, etc. that make you anxious. They help you then make the choice not to do the compulsive behavior until the feeling passes. Over time, patients will eventually learn to do ERP exercises on their own to manage their symptoms as they arise.

If any of these descriptions remind you of yourself or a loved one, I would like to work with you to learn to manage intrusive thoughts and respond to them differently. 

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

PTSD and Suicide

Image from EverydayHealth.com

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You can read Part 1 here.

On this blog we’ve established how to recognize the signs of PTSD. This can befall mothers after a dangerous birth, a newly diagnosed cancer patient, people who’ve been mugged, car crash survivors, victims of prolonged abuse and neglect. The list goes on and on.

Left untreated, PTSD can lead to further mental illness, such as compulsive tendencies, depression and anxiety. It can instill fear into even the mundane aspects of life, lead to self-harm, and fracture relationships.

But one of the greatest risks of PTSD is suicide.

This problem is starting to gain some national attention, specifically with veterans, EMS, police and fire fighters. Lawmakers in West Virginia are pushing for a bill to offer workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who exhibit signs of PTSD. Veterans in Baxter County, Arkansas are establishing grassroots organizations to combat the high rate of veteran suicide. Our own Idaho Division of Veterans Services offers resources to our local veterans who are struggling with mental illness and thoughts of suicide.

So, what can you do? If you suspect a loved one may be battling thoughts of suicide, remember QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer.

  1. Question. If you hear them make an offhanded comment, such as “You’d be better off if I was gone,” ask them directly if they are considering committing suicide.
  2. Persuade. If they say they are considering harming themselves, persuade them to come up with a plan to put off any actions until they can see a professional.
  3. Refer. Refer them to a professional who can help them begin to process and heal.

If you are considering suicide, remember this: there is hope. There is healing. You have people who love you, and want to help you. If you are reading this and fear you may act on a suicidal impulse, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline right now at 1-800-273-8255. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So many people are hurting and need help. If you are concerned for a loved one or for yourself, please contact me. I want to help you find the joy in life again.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Image from Ultimate-Survival-Training.com.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after living through extreme stress, a terrifying or distressing event, or a prolonged traumatic experience.

What kinds of experiences could lead to PTSD?

  • combat (for military veterans) or violent/life threatening encounters (for police force)
  • a serious car accident
  • sexual assault or prolonged sexual abuse
  • mugging or robbery
  • a traumatic childbirth
  • physical violence or severe neglect
  • witnessing violent deaths
  • natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis
  • a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition
  • an unexpected severe injury or death of a close family member or friend

How do I know if I have PTSD?

Typically, PTSD symptoms come in four categories:

  1. Intrusive memories. This could be flashbacks, which is when your mind re-lives the traumatic event as if it were happening again in real time. Sometimes this means you could have emotional distress or even a physical reaction when you see something that reminds you of the event. You could be having distressing memories that break through your normal day-to-day life, or nightmares about the event.
  2. Avoidance is when you try to avoid thinking about, or talking about the traumatic event. You may even avoid people, places or activities that remind you of it.
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood could come at any time. You may feel hopeless or emotionally numb. You may have trouble remembering parts of the event, or have difficulty expressing positive emotions. You may feel detached from your loved ones or not be interested in your favorite activities anymore.
  4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions can come in many forms, but here are a few:
  • Are you easily frightened or startled?
  • Are you always on guard for danger?
  • Do you engage in self-destructive behavior, such as driving too fast or drinking too much?
  • Do you cut or burn yourself, or pull out your own hair?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping or concentrating?
  • Are you easily irritated or prone to angry outbursts?
  • Do you feel overwhelming guilt or shame over small errors?

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, either for yourself or a loved one, please contact me. Let’s begin the process to heal from the past.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Do I have Major Depression?

Image from Slideshare.net.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have major depression, especially when you’re living with it.   

For some people, depression is a pervasive feeling of sadness or hopelessness. For some, depression means feelings of anger or extreme irritability. People with depression may swing from high levels of activity to lethargy, or they may report not feeling emotion at all.

Then there is depression that may encompass any or all of these symptoms. This is called “Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with mixed features,” and has been most commonly misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder.

Here’s a good explanation from the neuroscience branch of Cambridge University Press:

“For the first time in 20 years, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) updated the psychiatric diagnostic system for mood disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Perhaps one of the most notable changes in the DSM-5 was…a structural bridge between bipolar and major depression disorders, [which] formally recognizes the possibility of a mix of hypomania and depressive symptoms in someone who has never experienced discrete episodes of hypomania or mania.”

If you suspect you may have MDD with mixed features, it is important to be diagnosed and treated by a professional. In fact, an article on the Psychiatric Times website described Major depression with mixed features as “a diagnostic chameleon.”

“Mixed features…are caused by the overlap of depressive and manic symptoms, but it’s hard to understand them by reading separate descriptions of these two states. It would be like trying to imagine green by studying yellow and blue…

“Mixed features can look like anxiety, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, or depression with an agitated edge.”

If you suspect you or someone you love may have MDD with mixed features, it is important to be properly diagnosed to receive the proper medication (such as a mood stabilizer in cases of persistent anxiety or anger). Come and see me and let’s get you on the road to emotional stability.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Sunlight Helps Fight Depression

Image from SmithDebnamLaw.com.

I’ve written about this before: exposure to sunlight can help fight depression. Coupled with mild to moderate exercise, being out in the daylight can help fight carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, social avoidance, even fatigue!

A 2014 study of office workers compared the mental health of those who had windows in their office, and those who didn’t. The workers with access to more natural light during the day reported more positive changes than those who didn’t.

“There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day — particularly in the morning — is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness, and metabolism,” said Phyllis Zee, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist who worked on the study.

Think about this for a minute: by going out into the morning sunlight, you can improve your mood, boost your productivity and concentration, and even help you metabolize more effectively. More exposure to light during the day (and less exposure to light at night) helps your body and mind fall into a natural circadian rhythm (another name for your internal clock, according to the National Sleep Foundation).

So what do you do when sunlight is scarce?

Plan daily walks outside. Remember, as little as eight minutes a day of vigorous exercise can positively affect the rest of your work day. If you go outside during your lunch break, you have the greatest chance of enjoying some good, strong daylight.

Get your vitamin D. A good vitamin D3 supplement is an inexpensive alternative to sunshine. You can also eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as egg yolks, fatty fish (such as salmon or tuna), milk and cheese.

Therapy and medication. If you find it difficult to manage your depression no matter the season, please contact me. In addition to traditional therapy, I also offer one on one “Talk and Walk” sessions on the Greenbelt. Let me help you start off 2019 with better mental and physical health.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Police Arrest Fewer Mentally Ill People with New Program

Image from WSJ.com.

In Gainesville, Florida, officer Shelly Postle teamed up with Makenzie Boyer, a mental health professional to handle calls regarding people with mental health issues.

Postle and Boyer handled 434 calls in eight months, making a co-responder team that halted 92 percent of potential arrests of mentally ill people. Boyer said she and Postle do a general assessment of behavior to check whether the person is a threat to themselves or others, and see if they are on their medications.

“Law enforcement can show up and if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, they only have a couple of options,” Boyer said in a local news article.

Seventy-five percent of those people contacted by the co-responder team were diverted to mental health outpatient treatment, or they agreed to be submitted into inpatient treatment instead of being evaluated after being taken into custody.

The officer and mental health worker then followed up with individuals who frequently contact the public safety system.

Shockingly, by not arresting mentally ill people, the team actually saved the city and county over $200,000 dollars in eight months.

I think this is such a wonderful program. Our officers are such valuable public servants, and with the help of mental health professionals they could have more time and resources to devote to safety in our communities.

Beat the Post-Christmas Blues

Image from Vivanti.ca

The post-Christmas season can be a real emotional low point. Maybe there’s a backlog at work. Maybe your kids’ schedule is thrown off by late nights and holiday excess. Maybe you had a blowup at a family member during Christmas.

Whatever may be dragging you down, here are a few suggestions to lift your mood.

  • High-impact eating. This time of year there are a lot of sweets around for easy snacking. But these are low-impact foods: yes, they’re delicious and high-calorie, but they don’t actually make you feel full or satisfied. If you focus on eating meals that make you feel full and satisfied, you can enjoy those treats in small doses throughout the day (instead of having fudge for breakfast).
  • Exercise. I’ve written about this before: even as little as eight minutes of vigorous exercise can go a long way toward fighting anxiety and depression. Eight minutes a day! Make it something you love to do, and try it out for yourself.
  • Breathe deeply. Try this today: sit down in a quiet room, alone, and set a timer for 10 minutes. Shut your eyes and focus on your breath coming in and going out. Take deep, slow breaths and when the timer goes off, you’re done. This type of mindfulness exercise can help reset your mind and calm you down.
  • Try to forgive yourself and others. When you look back at the previous year, what were your triumphs? Your failures? Give yourself congratulations for the good, and forgive yourself for the bad. (I’ve written more about forgiveness in this post.) You can decide what practices do you want to carry forward, and what things you want to leave behind.

Above all, if you are carrying heavy emotional burdens you can’t seem to shift, contact me. I want to help in any way I can.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

How charitable giving benefits your mental health

Image from EverydayHealth.com

This title from Time Magazine really does say it all: “Being Generous Really Does Make You Happier.”

Researchers from the Unviersity of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 participants that they’d be receiving about $100 in a few weeks. Twenty-five people promised to spend that money on themselves, and twenty-five people committed to spend the money on someone they knew who needed it.

Next, researchers asked all the participants to think about a friend they’d like to give a gift to, and how much money that person would possibly spend. Each participant had an MRI of their brains, especially noting the parts of the brain that deal in social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making.

The people who had agreed to spend their money on other people had more activity in the regions of their brain associated with altruism and happiness, even reporting higher levels of happiness after the experiment ended.

There is other research that points to the connection between generosity and better health. How about this 2005 study where elderly participants who gave and received social support were associated with lower morbidity? Or this 2017 study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute about how the more people give the better they feel?

Simply put, it improves your health to give, whether that means financial donations or with acts of service to people in need. Charitable giving can improve your quality of life by simply changing your outlook to recognize your privileges, and how you can help the less fortunate. The more you give, the more you serve, the more it becomes second nature.

So get out there and serve someone today!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Four Ways to Beat Holiday Stress

Image from Psychology Today

The Christmas season can be overwhelming. Managing traditions, a heavy end-of-year workload, financial stress, even time spent with extended family can contribute to poor mental health. Here are ways you can manage your stress during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: 

Set boundaries. 

This is the most important (and probably the most difficult) part of combating holiday stress. The more you run up against holiday traditions and expectations from friends and family, the more potential there is to disappoint people. And that’s okay! It’s hard, but this is exactly the time you need to take careful inventory of yourself. Ask yourself these questions: 

  1. What are the most important things to me right now?
  2. What do I need to let go of?
  3. Who can I ask for help?

Exercise. 

According to Science Daily, the holidays is exactly the time you should be getting physical activity. Here’s what exercise physiologist Erica Christ has to say about it: 

“When times get crazy, the thing people give up is exercise, and that’s the key thing a person needs….the burst of energy that you get from exercise can help burn the adrenaline off and calm you down.”

Physical activity can stimulate dopamine production in your brain, which can improve your mood. Even if it’s just for half an hour, a little exercise can go a long way. 

Alone time. 

I’ve written about this before: taking time to be alone benefits your mental health during the holidays. Simply making the choice to be alone and do something you like to do can calm you down and even nurture your creative side! 

Self care. 

In an excellent article aimed at helping nurses de-stress during the holidays, Jennifer Lelwica Buttaccio writes: 

As natural-born caregivers, it’s almost standard practice to put other people’s needs before your own. But if you want to beat burnout, it’s essential you incorporate a variety of strategies to help you unwind, relax, and rest each day…If need be, mark it on your calendar, and make these self-care activities non-negotiable.

In short: relax. Breathe deeply. And call me if you need someone to talk to. 

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

 

Singing Through Parkinson’s Disease

A group of Parkinson’s patients singing in a research study for Iowa State University.

Patients with advanced Parkinson’s are singing their way to better mental health, says Elizabeth Stegemöller, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. (Click here to see a video of Stegemöller leading her singing group in 2017.)

Stegemöller saw patients’ moods improve and their stress decrease, and their motor symptoms fell as well.

“Some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and the gait, don’t always readily respond to medication, but with singing they’re improving,” Stegemöller said in ScienceDaily.com.

The data is still new, but Stegemöller says the singing patients showed improvements that were similar to taking medication. Singing is also beneficial in helping Parkinson’s patient improve their respiratory and swallow control.

Stegemöller and her team measured heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels for the singing participants, who also reported any feelings of happiness, sadness, anger and anxiety. The same data was recorded after the one-hour singing session ended.

This is one of the first studies to look at how singing affects heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to ScienceDaily. While reported levels of happiness and anger stayed about the same, patients reported they were feeling less anxious and sad.

Researchers are taking it one step further: analyzing blood samples to measure oxytocin levels, indicators of inflammation and neuroplasticity to see if these factors are also affected by singing.

Isn’t it incredible how our minds can affect our physical health? Chronic health conditions can take such a toll on your emotional health. If you feel like you’re under a cloud, call me. We can sing our way through this together.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.