The Truth About Hypochondria

Have you ever known someone who was overly obsessed with their health and wellbeing? They continually went to the doctor for phantom illnesses? It is easy to categorize this type of person as a liar or someone who just wants attention, but more often than not they are legitimately suffering from hypochondria.

Hypochondria is a mental illness where someone will become obsessed with the idea that they have a severe health condition that is undiagnosed. This obsession leads to extreme anxiety about their health and the state of their body. A simple cold or even a sneeze can send this person into a frenzy. They often think that it is indicative of a much more serious bodily condition.

Hypochondria usually coincides with another disorder such as panic disorder, anxiety, OCD or depression. Sometimes this stems from a loss this person had of a loved one to a severe health condition, or it could be the result of them living through their own major illness or health condition. While many may think of this as just a quirky or obsessive character trait, it is a serious mental health behavior. It is unhelpful to assume this person is just grasping at attention instead of trying to help them get the treatment they need.

The symptoms of hypochondria are varied but follow a similar strain. Those struggling with hypochondria will be checking themselves for various illnesses and thinking of small ailments, such as a cough or a runny nose, as telling of a much more serious issue. They will often visit the doctor frequently or on the adverse, avoid the doctor altogether because they are nervous that they will actually learn about an ailment that they have.

 

While obsessing about their health, often hypochondriacs will check online about their health and possible symptoms to try to self-diagnose. The internet makes this condition even more dangerous. The anxiety that is birthed out of a hypochondriacs behavior will generally lead to actual physical issues, such as upset stomachs, as well.

Many who are struggling with hypochondria can often benefit from self-help treatment such as avoiding the internet or looking up potential symptoms, practicing stress-relieving techniques and even engaging actively in a hobby that they enjoy. For more severe conditions, it is essential to talk with a therapist about professional treatment such as medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

What is Bipolar with Mood-Incongruent Psychosis?

Psychosis is at its core being unable to recognize what parts of the world around you are real and what is fake. Generally, psychosis is characterized by a gradual but eventual break from reality. While most commonly associated with schizophrenia, this type of behavior can also be found in people who struggle with bipolar disorder. Those with bipolar may suffer from the hallucinations or delusions that come from psychosis during either their manic or depressive phases, although it is more common during the manic stage.

It is not 100% known why those with bipolar disorder may have psychosis as well, but it could be related to a genetic trait, brain structure or a chemical imbalance. The symptoms of the psychosis can start with things like diminished performance in school or work, building lack of personal hygiene, more and more difficulty communicating or concentrating.

These symptoms can build into more serious ones such as limiting social contact, constant suspicion of those around them, lack of emotion, and anxiety. These symptoms all cumulate into hallucinations, delusions, incoherent thoughts or speech and a general lack of awareness. You may notice that this person uses rapid speech and often has unconnected and irrational thoughts. They lose track of their thoughts quickly and often will abruptly change subjects without notice.

Hallucinations are at their core, things that someone experience through any or all of their senses but is wholly unnoticeable by those around them. A delusion, however, is an unshakeable belief that they will hold about something that is untrue. These can be positive and great things they believe about themselves, such as they have these fantastic superpowers, or they can be more paranoid delusions such as someone is always following them or out to get them.

Mood-incongruent psychosis is when the hallucinations or delusions that a person is experiencing are not related to their current feelings or beliefs. These behaviors will seem entirely out of place and tend to be more severe than the ones that come along with mood-congruent psychosis.

Those suffering from bipolar with mood-incongruent psychosis will often be prescribed different types of medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. Therapy will often consist of psychotherapy or electroconvulsive therapy.

Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.

 

Herrick Lipton – CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center

 

Herrick Lipton has always believed that behavioral health is incredibly important and should always be the focus of healthcare in communities. Empowering the individuals who struggle with behavioral issues, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities has always been Herrick’s passion because providing stability for those that have behavior health issues will ensure that they are able to live longer, healthier lives overall.

Herrick Lipton started at the New Horizons Counseling Center when he was just a teenager. He took on an administrative role initially because he felt compelled to contribute to the organization and be an advocate for those who struggle with mental illness. While in this role, he felt it necessary to reach out to members of the community and listen to their needs to help the New Horizons Counseling Center develop their mission and be able to help as many people as possible. Herrick soon took on more responsibilities such as financial director in addition to his other duties. After decades of serving as the administrative and financial director at New Horizon Counseling Center, Herrick Lipton became its Chief Executive Officer in 2013.

One of the first actions he took as CEO was to build a location in the New York City area that would be accessible to many people who would benefit from the services NHCC provides. Herrick Lipton worked with New York City government officials to build a welcoming space in Howard Beach that would not only be a suitable location, it would also be a storefront style building that would allow those that need help to be greeted without stigma or fear of judgement.

Throughout the years, Herrick has never lost sight of the programs that need to be started or the ones that should be rethought, restructured, and redesigned to better suit those that need them. The New Horizons Counseling Center covers a wide variety of different services for those with developmental disabilities, alcohol and substance abuse problems, mental illness of all ages, Alzheimer’s disease, and elder care. It’s important to Herrick and the rest of the staff at NHCC that each issue has its own program and every individual that walks through the doors will receive the best care possible.

In his current role as CEO, Herrick Lipton is in charge of operations of New Horizons Counseling Center, and the years since he took on this position the organizations has seen unprecedented growth in the often neglected industry of behavioral healthcare. This growth includes a 125% increase in clinical services offered by the center and an overhaul of existing business models for maximum efficiency and outreach. New Horizons Counseling Center was founded in response to massive cuts in social services for mentally ill people, and Herrick Lipton and NHCC staff continue to fight back against the lack of representation, resources, and ultimate rehabilitation that people deserve.

Herrick Lipton has created numerous new programs to make NHCC the most reliable and supportive resource for clients. He diversified the center to include a specialized suicide prevention program, the need for which is not only due to behavioral issues and substance abuse, but to the disappointing stigma that prevents people from reaching out for help at an early stage. He also founded and outlined NHCC’s Day Habilitation Without Walls for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. This program is emblematic of NHCC’s motto, “empowering individuals, strengthening communities,” because it focuses on teaching basic vocational and employment skill sets to people with developmental disabilities– and then helping them utilize these skills as active members of their local communities.

Although he’s made many strides in behavioral health and wellness, the largest and fastest-growing expansion project which Herrick Lipton has directed is NHCC’s care coordination and management program. This program provides the comprehensive and personalized guidance that people need to maintain their health not only day-to-day, but long term. The program’s “life coaches” offer support and insight for every aspect of life, from finding housing options for homeless clients to monitoring regular checkups to researching the most affordable local pharmacies.

The Current State of Mental Health Care on US College Campuses

Between 2009 and 2017, the number of college students needing mental health services increased by 30 percent while student enrollment increased by just 6 percent. This vast increase in the number of students needing mental health counseling has so overwhelmed university health services that students face long wait times just to talk to a therapist. Not surprisingly, many students drop out of universities because of mental health struggles.

 

Students clearly need help. The pressures of college life are harming their health. Bright students with great potential may feel they have no choice but to quit. No degree, job, or career path is worth going through stress and anxiety that causes students to become depressed, suffer crippling anxiety, and engage in harmful behaviors like self-harm. But students need degrees in order to pursue the opportunities that will lead to a fulfilling life later.

 

Stress-related illness underpins a large part of the problem. This can be seen from statistics that show student visits to mental health centers increases as the term goes on, often doubling a midterms approach, as shown in Time Magazine.

 

Many students find the challenges of university life are too much. Between heavy course loads, social and peer pressures, extracurricular activities, fear of disappointing parents, and financial struggles and student debt, college students carry a heavy burden of worry and sometimes difficult, if not impossible, expectations. These expectations may be self-imposed or external, but either way, they can lead to physical and mental breakdown when students run themselves ragged day in and day out to meet them. College, after all, is supposed to be a time of self-discovery. It’s supposed to be fun and provide students with new found freedom.

 

Anxiety and high expectations have always been part of the university world. The current epidemic of negative effects may stem from an increasingly competitive society and the expectations that every student needs a high degree that lands them a prestigious job. Pressure like that is tough for anyone to take. Throwing an 18-year-old into such an environment seems to ask for trouble.

 

Universities across the country are taking note. As noted in Time Magazine, institutions like the University of Pennsylvania are increasing funding for mental health services. Off-campus, private mental health providers are creating programs aimed at helping students cope with the pressures of college life.

 

The epidemic of stress-related anxiety and depression clearly indicates these measures are needed. Parents, too, should be aware of how stress and pressure are affecting their children. Having goals and ambitions is important but should never come at the expense of health.

 

Managing Workplace Anxiety

herrick lipton - anxiety

 

There’s no denying work can be stressful. For those of us who suffer from an anxiety disorder, each day can be a struggle to get out of bed, get dressed, and get to work on time. Those who are unsure of their talents and abilities may voluntarily miss out on opportunities that would put them ahead in their companies because they don’t know if they’d be able to fulfill the needs of the position. Public speaking and traveling can be difficult for most people to adjust to, but missing opportunities willingly can also exacerbate symptoms of anxiety disorders.

 

In order to mitigate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and manage anxiety in the workplace, it’s a good idea to be proactive every day so you can live a happy and healthy work life. It’s also important to realize that feeling anxious is a perfectly normal response to stress, but if it becomes overwhelming, that’s when you need to actively take steps to make positive changes for your overall wellbeing.

 

Be Self-Aware

Being self-aware means checking in on your own physical and emotional responses when feelings of anxiety arise. Be mindful of what exactly is causing your stress and try to see how you can make changes. Are you overwhelmed by unrealistic deadlines? Do you dread everyday responsibilities? Figure out whether or not you need to reorganize or if you’re procrastinating on projects. Don’t try and disregard your feelings because they won’t go away, in fact, they’ll probably intensify. Instead, try to pinpoint exactly what is causing the excessive stress.

 

Make time for yourself

When our plates are full and we feel like we have no time for ourselves, that’s when we especially need to carve out our day and make extra time. When we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, we’re less likely to exercise, but our bodies need it most at that time. Try hard to care for your mind and body by eating the right foods, getting enough sleep each night, and squeezing in some workout time.

 

Reach out to friends and family

Loved ones can be a source of guidance, wisdom, and support. More than likely, you have someone in your circle who is experiencing feelings of anxiety and a loss of control. If not, someone is going to have gone through it at some point in their past. Even if you don’t want to discuss this with friends and family, just knowing they are there for you can be a positive re-enforcement.

 

Seek help from a professional

There is no shame in asking for help if you aren’t managing your anxiety alone. If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, it’s best to seek out help in order to manage it effectively. A clinical psychologist will help you figure out not only where your stress is coming from, but how to deal with it so you can live a life that is not controlled by anxiety, but by yourself.

Spread the Positivity Virus

herrick lipton - positivity

 

Peer pressure is something adults tell children to watch out for. They are afraid because children are thought to be impressionable. Little do they know, the attitudes of their friends can affect them in similar ways. Your colleagues may not try to get you to engage in illegal behavior, but surrounding yourself with negative people may lead to negative feelings, and the same can be said with positivity. But why does this happen?

The culprit may be social cues. Most humans have the ability to sense a mood shift, based off of nonverbal cues. These can include posture, facial expression, and movement. Someone who is frowning is sad. Someone who can’t stop tapping their fingers is jittery. Someone with their arms crossed is closed off. There are hundreds of social cues humans subconsciously recognize.

Social cues are said to make up 55% of all communication. Before we learn our first words, we observe our family’s behavior and categorize behaviors by their intended effect. This means we can recognize the mood in any given situation without directly asking about it even before we begin school.

Obviously, social cues are a key to this puzzle, but how exactly do they fit in?

When someone does not adhere to social norms, they stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes, there is an event which calls for celebration or one that calls for grief. However, sometimes a group’s mood can be a byproduct of one or two people’s attitude.

Daniel Goleman says that leaders influence their teams’ moods. A manager who angrily points out all of your mistakes can make you feel angry in return. A respectful boss will inspire respect from their employees. In your social group, there is almost always one particularly vocal friend (whether they are happy, sad, or any other emotion), who acts as the leader of the group. Everyone else tends to model their behavior around this centralized person.

There are circumstances where it is appropriate to experience negative emotions, but living a happy life is important to your mental health. Spending all of your time with negative people will ultimately lead you to feel more negative. Experiencing the world with positive people will allow you to enjoy more in life and lead to a deeper appreciation of all life has to offer.

Positivity can be spread as easily as a disease. Every positive word or action transfers this positivity to the next person. Surrounding yourself with positive people is the best and easiest way to live a fulfilling life.

So what are you waiting for? Go out into the world and find new people to share your positivity with. After all, your positivity is just as contagious and can make ripples in the world.

Best Apps for Meditation and Mental Health

Best Apps to help you relax title (1)

Some of the latest apps are specifically designed to help people manage their mental health. Some of these apps offer great advice and management techniques and even include meditation and other mind-body exercise tips that can help people achieve greater mental clarity. Here are a few of the best apps for meditation and mental health.

Headspace

Anyone who is new to the art of meditation and wants to learn the most effective techniques will greatly benefit from this app. Through a series of 10-minute daily exercises, users are able to establish habits that help them incorporate meditation into their everyday lives. The app’s settings include reminders and allow people to choose meditation exercises that focus on themes like performance and overall health.

MindShift

Although this app is designed especially for teens and other young people, anyone can benefit from the features available that help manage anxiety. This app teaches the user how to face anxiety head-on, making it easier to conquer certain obstacles. Tools cover topics such as social anxiety, panic, worry, and tips on how to deal with conflict. Users learn ways to ride out intense emotions and how to overcome anxiety that holds them back in life.

Relax Melodies

Since getting enough sleep is crucial for good mental health, this app is particularly beneficial for anyone who struggles with insomnia. The app includes many different music selections that can elicit feelings of relaxation and tranquility and make it easier to fall asleep faster. Additional calming sounds are included, which can be useful for activities like meditation and yoga.

PTSD Coach

Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect people from all walks of life, and this program helps users screen and track many of the symptoms. Reliable information and treatments are also included in order to make it easier to handle stress symptoms. More than 100,000 people, many of whom are military personnel, have downloaded this app and found its features to be highly useful.

Simply Being

Developed by Meditation Oasis, this app is another example of a great program for meditation. A soothing voice guide takes users through a series of meditation sessions that range from five minutes to a half an hour in duration. The app also includes music and has helped many people reduce their stress levels and improve their sleep.

DBSA Wellness Tracker

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers this app to enable people to keep track of their overall moods. Users can also learn more about mood disorder symptoms and medications along with their side effects. A monthly report is provided to notify everyone of their monthly mental health trends, and this information can be given to mental health specialists to devise more effective treatment plans.

 

While these apps are not substitutes for professional counseling, these are great tools to have to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and take control of your stress, sleep schedule, and overall mental health.

To view this information in presentation formant, visit my Slideshare.

Virtual Reality and Mental Health

Virtual RealityWith the recent rise of augmented reality, it is only a matter of time before virtual reality becomes a regular part of daily life. It is already, for example, becoming common in behavioral health. Virtual reality is currently being utilized for treatment of several different phobias. This type of treatment is called VReality Therapy, and it is already making strides in helping people get over once-crippling fears.

The premise of VReality Therapy is exposure. Clients put on virtual reality goggles that are manipulated by a trained therapist. They are slowly exposed to their phobias in the midst of performing relaxation techniques. Meanwhile, the therapist is also recording physiological responses of the patients so patients can keep a log of their progress. This is an ongoing therapy process, meaning that several sessions are necessary, however it has been proven to reduce fear of phobias, and even to remove it entirely.

Virtual reality is effective, as writes one patient who was treated for his phobia of blood with VReality Therapy. His phobia was a real issue due to the fact that he has diabetes, and therefore must take regular blood tests. His experience was with using a Samsung Gear VR Headset in the office of a trusted therapist. The program put him a virtual doctor’s office waiting room, then, after a while, into a virtual doctor’s office, where he was prepped by a nurse. His therapist talked him through relaxation techniques as his anxiety levels rose closer to the drawing of blood. When the blood was drawn in the virtual world, the author reports being able to feel it. The experience was jarring, but the author was able to get through ten minutes of having his blood virtually drawn, thanks to the guidance from his therapist.

A fear of blood is not the only thing being treated by these virtual reality goggles and therapists, however. There are also simulations to combat fears such as that of flying, heights, needles, animals, small spaces, driving, and public speaking. VReality Therapy can also be used as a resource to help treat generalized anxiety disorder. Patients can be eased into triggering situations in an environment they know is controlled by a trusted professional. This makes them more willing to work on facing their fears, and does not put them in harm’s way in the process.

Virtual reality has broad implications for for the world of behavioral health. Not only can it be used to treat things like phobias and anxiety, it may also be a great resource for those with depression and other mental illnesses. I cannot wait to see where VReality Therapy will lead!

For more information and behavioral health news, visit the New Horizon Counseling Center website.

Startups that Transform Behavioral Health

StartupHealth technology has become an exceedingly lucrative niche as of late. More and more technology companies are inventing ways to make healthcare easier and more accessible. This influx of startup companies focused on health technology, however, has recently shifted focus. Instead of starting businesses based on general physical health, there is now a large number of companies making technology focused on behavioral health. Unfortunately, Behavioral Healthcare in the United States has suffered as of late. It faces several internal and external issues that prevent behavioral health from becoming a medical priority. New startup companies are hoping to help. Below are two that look quite promising.

Quartet Health

A persistent issue in behavioral health today is the low level of access that behavioral health patients have to trained professionals. Quarter Health has created a comprehensive platform that includes patients, doctors, and insurers. Primary Care Physicians are able to refer patients to behavioral health professionals that work with the patient’s insurance through this platform, as well as to be updated on the progress of each patient. Behavioral Health professionals are able to communicate with the PCPs of their patients, as well as to accept or deny patient referrals with no risk. Additionally, they can use the platform’s billing and scheduling tools for their practice.

This platform is also used by insurers and employers in a number of ways. For one, it has tools that help determine whether or not someone is suffering from an undiagnosed behavioral health disorder. It also can help spread understanding of such disorders and the effects they have on behavior and performance. Patients are also given perks in this platform. They can take part in online treatment programs, communicate with health providers on a secure connection, and even talk to others suffering from the same conditions.

Akili Interactive

Akili is a different type of digital health company in that it works to build quality platforms with video-game-like qualities that can be remotely used by patients and physicians alike. These platforms will be used in a variety of ways, including to assess neural functioning in patients, as well as provide an interactive situation in which interventions can be put in place.

The platforms that Akili is developing fall into certain categories. The first is the group meant to improve neural functioning and cognitive systems. Another is cognitive measurement, which includes products that frequently assess the neural functioning of each patient.

For more information and behavioral health news, visit the New Horizon Counseling Center website.

Pokemon Go and Mental Health

PokemonThe newest craze to hit the digital sphere panders to the nostalgia of many. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that exists on an application on your phone. Its premise is ingenious – those with the app can walk around to ‘catch’ Pokemon in real-life places. All they have to do is point their phone camera at where the Pokemon is supposed to be, and it shows up on their screen, surrounded by the real world. Players use their touchscreens to throw Pokeballs and collect these critters. One of the great many features of the game is that it is built on a premise of walking. In order to run into Pokemon, hatch eggs, and find Pokemon gyms, players must get outside and wander around different neighborhoods. Soon after the game was released, many of those who downloaded it began to report an improvement in their mental health, catalyzed by Pokemon Go.

People have taken to platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr to express how the game has made strides in easing symptoms of depression and anxiety. They have reported that it has given them the motivation to get outside on days during which they feel like doing nothing at all. Additionally, Pokemon Go has been proven to be a great way to interact with strangers. Those with mental health issues find themselves not only walking around outside, but also socializing, which is important when dealing with mental illness.

Experts say that the game is also beneficial for mental health in that it allows people to take a break without indulging in common negative forms of escape. For example, many people, after a long workday, tend to go home or to a bar and have a drink to relax. This can lead to a reliance on alcohol when encountering everyday stressors. Pokemon Go has given its players a way to get their mind off of stressors that simply involves getting some exercise. Instead of having a drink, users are prowling the streets for rare Pokemon and getting a much-needed dose of sunshine.

Success stories are still pouring in on social platforms. One user reported that the game gave her a reason to spend the week outside interacting with friends, which, to her, was ‘unreal.’  Another stated that the game worked better for him than any therapy or medication that had been prescribed. A third tweeted that Pokemon Go actually made him want to go outside and interact with people, after having not had that urge for years. These are only a few example of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of accounts of the game helping a player ease their psychological struggle, even if only for a little bit.

Pokemon Go has unintentionally become a therapeutic app for so many people, and it is just getting started. This really speaks to the power of technology in helping people deal with the negative symptoms of mental illness. I am excited to see what other augmented reality games appear in the future, and the effect they will have on mental health.