Therapy That Works...

How To Spot Teens Who Cut And Burn Video - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adult Child Anxiety! - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Adult Child Anxiety!: Why Parents of Twentysomethings Can’t Calm Down

Even though your children are grown, do you still worry about them? Trust me, you’re not alone. You will always be your child’s parent, and that means you will always worry about them. New research says that if you think your child has a problem, it will make you unhappy.

But this is only for parents with adult children who are really in trouble, right?

Nope. The study found that having even one child who has a physical, emotional, lifestyle, emotional, or behavioral problem can have a negative effect on the parent. It didn’t matter if the other kids were successful – just one child with one kind of problem was enough to tip the scale.

Parents, here’s what you can do to pick up your mood and stop worrying so much – become emotionally fit:

Courage Under Fire: You must learn to remain calm under fire. Resilient people have an awesome ability to control their emotions even when things get stressful. Try taking a walk, count to ten, or distract yourself before you react to upsetting events.

Count Your Blessings: Focus on the positives in your child and remember that positive emotions literally undo negative emotions.

Say "Thank You" Often: Expressing gratitude to others is a huge step in becoming emotionally fit. Too often we take for granted the enormous blessings that surround us. Give thanks that you have a healthy child who is working to change their lives!

Acts of Kindness: Giving to others is a huge boost for emotionally fit people. Try volunteering around the community or do things for your children without asking for anything in return.

Make a Friend: Make a friend and see them often. Friends are the cheapest medicine, bar none! People with many friends have the lowest mortality rates, lower risk of disease, and a much higher satisfaction with their lives.


“Adult Kids’ Problems Still Affect Parents’ Mental Health” by Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY,

Swine Flu Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Anxiety

April 30, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

As the global epidemic rages, North Texans are bracing for the onslaught of this deadly virus. While many of us are naturally anxious, it is important to know when normal anxiety crosses the line.

Swine flu makes us nervous for a variety of reasons. Swine flu is the ultimate enemy. It has infiltrated our country in a matter of days, is highly contagious and is potentially lethal. In the face of such news, it is easy to overreact as we see our mobilized public health officials issuing warnings, closing schools and calling us to new levels of caution.

That being said, as with any adversity, large or small, remaining focused on the positive and in a problem-solving mode are essential skills. The public must remain calm, realistic and maintain a proper perspective of what this disease is and what it is not. When you repeatedly dwell on scary news without remembering the steps to protecting yourself, it is natural to spin into a terrifying sequence.

Swine flue anxiety affects us in a variety of ways.

  • Psychological Immunity: if you are a worrier, your psychological immune system may already be depleted. Many of us have been worrying about the economy for months so a health scare is not something we need to bother with. At this point, many of us are mentally exhausted.
  • Vulnerability to Anxiety: Some people’s brains are built to generate anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety, you are more likely to dwell on this health crisis in a self defeating way. Remember that your brain does not differentiate between real events and fantasized events and will generate the constant warnings to keep you safe. That adrenaline and cortisol for fighting and fleeing will “amp up” your system continuously.
  • Proximity to Danger: If you have experienced a traumatic situation with a virulent disease or a catastrophic event, you may be more anxious about this one.

Emotionally effective people know how to think and feel based upon objective reality. They are good at matching their reaction to the situation. If you are becoming less emotionally effective about swine flu, these are the symptoms you will see:

  • Loss of Critical Thinking: Failing to keep the situation in perspective means that you are losing objectivity and are failing to maintain perspective about what you can do to protect yourself. You may be thinking in an illogical manner or overestimating your risk.
  • Overarching Anxiety: If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, you have lost perspective. You should be concerned but not overwhelmed.
  • Lack of Proactive Healthy Behaviors: If it is only danger that dominates your mind, then you are not employing intelligent self-protective steps to guard your health. Sleep, eating and exercise all fall by the wayside when we are too anxious.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, use these strategies:

  • Get the Facts: Gather the latest information from the media that will help you to accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable precautions.
  • Keep Your Network Going: Talk to other people about what they are hearing and seeing. Such conversations foster a sense of normality and provide great outlets for sharing feelings and releasing tension.
  • Practice Resilience: Differentiate between viewing yourself as effective and strong versus viewing yourself as vulnerable and in danger.
  • Maintain a Hopeful Outlook: Your mental health is one of the keys to staying healthy. Stress leads to an alarm reaction, mobilization and exhaustion. Ironically, by stressing about the disease, you make yourself more vulnerable to it. Distract yourself and break up the negative thinking.

Spiraling Down With Economic Woes - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spiraling Down With Economic Woes

March 19, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

According to the largest and most comprehensive study on American mental health and the economy, our stress continues to soar as our wallets are tightening. The Gallup-Healthways poll of over 355,000 Americans reports that our moods dropped considerably at the end of 2008 and continue to struggle as the recession now stretches into fifteen months.

This study tells us several things about what is going on with the American mood and money:

Emotional Blues Tied to Economic Blues: We are all basically worn out by all the continuing bad news. We have become ultra-sensitive and over-reactive as the recession drags out. As a result, our emotional well-being has been on a continuous roller coaster as the economy has shifted up and down.

Contagious Panic: We continue to drag one another down. Fourteen million more people worried about money at the end of 2008 than at the beginning. This poll demonstrates how money stress, panic and anxiety are contagious. If you lose your job, I’m going to begin worrying about mine, whether it is warranted or not. We are “herd creatures” and we influence one another more than we know.

Everyone is Affected: No one has been immune from this recession, making our moods even gloomier since the ill effects are so pervasive. Even the affluent have restricted their spending which is affecting everyone since their spending affects the economy disproportionately. According to the March 16, 2009 Gallup Poll, upper income spending fell by 38% since September 2008. The rest of us restricted our spending by 40%.

Money is closely tied to our mood since it provides choices and money provides control. It is an antidote to stress since it decreases helplessness and increases options and optimism. When money constricts, our mood constricts with it, and we spiral into frustration and irritability.

Unfortunately, that spiral becomes self-perpetuating and assumes a life of its own. People get caught in a “mind lock” of catastrophic thinking. Worst of all, they no longer pay attention to what they can do to improve their situation. Options appear and we ignore them.

Here is some good news about the American mindset:

Love is in the Air: We seem to be loving one another more! In November, the dating web site reported its largest membership growth since shortly after 9/11. The other dating web sites are up about 20%. Apparently, while we may spend less at the mall, we are spending more money on our love lives. This trend is actually quite adaptive since relationships build life satisfaction. Focusing on our relationships also distracts us from an unpredictable economy. Again, socially connected people have lower levels of depression, better immunity, more money and live longer.

Consumer Mood Improved: The March 17th Gallup poll indicated an improvement in consumer mood by 13 points over the previous week. The continuing spiraling down may be abated for the time being. However, it is important that we now begin spending more to get the economy rolling again.

Here is my final advice:

Relationships Don’t Fix Everything: Do not fly into a new relationship when you are panicked about your money. A new boyfriend cannot pay your credit card bill (hopefully not) so stay smart and keep working at your job. Keep your perspective accuracy when you are assessing how worthwhile a new relationship might be.

Panicked Minds Do Not Create Money: Our economy will never recover if we all remain frozen. Please begin spending sensibly again. Please discipline your mind to be more optimistic. People who still pull a paycheck need to start spending more of that paycheck to create jobs for the rest of us. Envision the economy as growing around you mightily and don’t dwell on bad economic news. If we all remain negative, the economy will slow down even more.

Redirect Negativity Away From You: Surround yourself with happy people and put the grumpy ones on “mute.” Mood is contagious and make sure you do not resonate to the difficult people around you. Remain focused on the positives and deflect negative comments and actions away from you. Remember that their bad mood is their problem, not yours.

Overcoming Economic Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Overcoming Economic Anxiety in 2009

February 19, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

A new Associated Press-GfK poll reveals that the American public is becoming increasingly concerned about the tanking economy. Nearly half of those surveyed fear losing their jobs -- almost double the percentage at this time last year.

In addition, the latest Gallup Poll indicates that anxious Americans are spending forty percent less than they did a year ago. With daily reports of auto bailouts, layoffs and downsizing, Americans have reached a new level of anxiety and financial stress.

Here are a few tips on getting through these tough times:

The Unexpected Economic Downturn: The current economic crisis was upon us before most of us realized that things were this serious. We fell from relative prosperity to economic peril. This change was jarring. The public fell into a dreadful cycle of panic, restricted spending and pessimism.

Inescapable Headlines: Everywhere we turn, there is negative financial news. We are “marinating” in worry and negativity.

No Control Over the Economy: Our lack of control in correcting this problem is profound. None of the suggested solutions are immediate or perfect. The prolonged crisis is exacting its toll due to unrelenting uncertainty, no quick fix and no clear idea about what would help make it better.

No Predictability: Predictable adversity is less stressful than unpredictable adversity. We can’t predict when the recovery will occur. If you knew the current economic stress would end in 93 days, you would feel far less anxiety. With no end in sight, the resulting uncertainty increases our anxiety.

We keep getting news that things are getting worse.

One week, Congress passes a stimulus bill and the next week, the auto giants are laying off thousands of people. Such dire news creates images of catastrophe and suffering. If you don’t know when the economy will improve or even if it will improve, your anxiety spirals upward. If you clearly saw that things were getting better, your anxiety would decrease substantially. Unfortunately, we overlook any positive signs in the economy.

Emotional contagion is a real phenomenon.

It refers to our tendency to pick up the emotions of those around us, both positive and negative. Our brains are wired to detect fearful expressions from others, and some studies even argue that we can smell fear. People who are anxious are more susceptible to becoming “infected” with the intense reactions of others. The anxiety ripples through the group, leading to ‘wild-fire’ panic and irrational thinking. This economy is a real life example of this phenomenon.

Tips on Dealing with Economic Adversity:

This economic recession may be with us for a while, and the public needs to implement long-term stress remedies that really do work. If you cloud your mind with constant worry, your ability to problem-solve when it counts is compromised.

Stop Catastrophizing: Intrusive ‘doom and gloom’ thoughts are incredibly draining. Monitor your thought patterns, stop the negative thoughts with distraction and/or recreation, and get more rest. Anxiety flourishes in a tired mind and body.

Fight Against Your Own Negativity: Learn to argue against negative, unrealistic beliefs. How realistic are you being when you descend into gloom? Aren’t there options you are overlooking that could lead to a better outcome?

Put Your Situation in Perspective: You live in the most affluent country in the world with the most democratic philosophies. Even if you are struggling with financial stress and career uncertainties, you are still better off than 95% of the rest of the world. This country has survived far worse times, and we will definitely overcome this stressful economic period as well.

Laugh Long and Loudly: “Just twenty seconds of laughter is the cardiovascular equivalent of three minutes of strenuous rowing.” Laughter is good for your breathing, for your cardiovascular system and for your soul. Surround yourself with friends who enjoy life and the blessings at hand.


"Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers" by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.

"Cognitive Therapy" by Judith Beck, Ph.D.

"Lighten Up" by Metcalf and Felible

Parenting In Tough Economic Times - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parenting Tools In Tough Economic Times

February 12, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

As Congress approves yet another stimulus package, North Texans continue to experience more layoffs, downsizing and financial shortfalls. And as we all know, as families struggle to stay afloat financially, tempers can flare and kids can suffer.

What are the top challenges for parents during these difficult economic times?

Your Own Fear: Parents are facing their own sense of powerlessness and loss of control in this economy. Even if your job is not in jeopardy, you are bound to know some one who faces a potential financial hurdle. As the recession continues, people are going to have increasing difficulty calming down and retaining perspective.

Avoid Becoming the Super-Parent: Parents often try to overcompensate for their fear by becoming super-parents and hiding all negativity from the kids. As a result, they tend to dismiss their child’s pain. This avoidance prevents the child from learning how to handle adversity effectively. This dismissive style is disingenuous especially with kids since they generally sense what you feel anyway.

Remind yourself that your child most likely knows that something is wrong especially if one of the parents has lost a job or money has become especially tight. The older the child, the greater the awareness but even very young children can sense tension in their parents. A child’s worry flourishes in an atmosphere of uncertainty and he begins to feel helpless. His uncertainty combined with a difficult outcome imposes definite health risks including infections, agitation, and aggression toward others.

Anger and frustration are a part of life but remember that is okay to express displeasure with your child if he misbehaves. Avoid sarcasm, ridicule, and contempt and maintain an evenhanded approach even if you are angry.

By appropriately expressing your anger, you are teaching your child two things:

1.) Angry Emotions are a part of a close relationship and these emotions such as anger and frustration can be handled appropriately.

2.) Kids need limits and they need to know that you care enough to be involved. The child is reassured that you are in control of the family and they will feel safer as a result.

Emotional neglect is the biggest risk factor.

Worried parents may be present in body, but not in mind -- unintentional emotional neglect can occur without parents realizing it. According to research, people who are prone to depression are at least twice as likely to have mental problems in the face of economic stressors. Emotional neglect is difficult to measure since there are no bruises or cuts. How can you definitively prove that a child is not being loved enough? But in certain extreme cases, neglect can be more harmful than outright acts of cruelty such as child physical and sexual abuse. We do know that the trauma of neglect can predispose a child to a host of emotional problems as he grows up.

As families go through tough times, these behaviors may occur:

Tensions Flare: Families often enter a complex, downward spiral as finances tighten and spirits fall. Increased irritability, anxiety and outright rage become more frequent as the parents become more helpless.

Parents Become Emotionally Absent: Mothers become less patient and fathers become more withdrawn. Marital spats and bickering over money and daily living become commonplace and a tense silence often invades a once happy home.

Lost Children: Kids begin to react negatively outside of the home. Socially, academically and psychologically, they begin to struggle and are marginalized to a lower social and academic achievement level. The lack of parental support leads to chronic academic underachievement. They are ill prepared to enter a competitive job market.

Financial adversity offers a mother lode of teachable moments.

In fact, the baby boomers have been remiss in not allowing their kids to experience enough negative events and consequences. We have spent too much effort sheltering our kids from the inevitable adversities of life. Now we have a twentysomething generation that is struggling with a sense of entitlement and confusion and lacking the necessary skills to deal with failure successfully. Adversity teaches coping skills as parents model effective reactions and then teach their kids how to deal directly with challenge. Such strategies literally inoculate your children against severe depression, which strikes a full decade earlier than it did a generation ago.

The secrets to keeping families strong during these tough economic times?

Family Team: When parents put family first and continue to communicate with the kids, everyone does better. Do not let the adversity define your parenting strategy. By fortifying your kids with activities, games and long talks, you are preventing a feeling of isolation and helplessness to grow. There is no substitute for the time you invest in a child.

Avoid Dismissive Parenting: Many parents are concerned that negative emotions are unhealthy for their child. Some parents see their child’s distress as an impossible demand and they insist that the child “not feel unhappy.” Instead, they react with humor and reassurance without really hearing what the child is saying. Listen to your child and then help him deal with the anxiety.

Loss of Parent’s Focus: Children are much less affected by the loss of possessions than they are by the loss of a parent’s focus. Don’t worry that your child lacks the latest fashions or toys. He needs your emotional presence more than a video game.

Community Counts: Increase your attendance in religious, school and civic activities when times are tough. Being with other people reassures your child that the community is stable, predictable and supportive. Familiar faces of loving, concerned adults are the antidote to a family’s tough times.

Resources for Readers:

"Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by Dr. John Gottman

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

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