health Articles

Insurance “Help” Lines: Talk About Anxiety Attacks!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

One of the best things about writing a blog is that you get an occasional opportunity to complain. Today I am going to complain about insurance company “help” lines. Help is definitely the wrong word. More like unhelpful lines, or anxiety attack lines.

First, it seems like many of these companies really don’t want you to call them. They make sure that the wait is long. Like, really long.

My favorite trick is calling multiple phone numbers, being put on hold for 15 minutes for each number, and then finally being told that I have not reached the right department. That’s in spite of the fact that I was using the phone numbers provided on the back of people’s insurance card or a number given to me by one of the multiple people who agreed to speak to me after 500 loops of “we value your call.”


Just Because You Feel Something, Doesn’t Make it So!

Friday, May 18th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about believing what you think. The point of the blog was that people have thoughts all of the time that aren’t really true. For example, people who fear public speaking might think that if they speak in front of a group of people their voices might shake and people will think they are fools.

Today, I want to discuss feelings. This subject is a bit more complex because you’ve probably been told that all feelings are okay. And that people feel what they feel. Sometimes, that’s true. But feelings can also get in the way of people’s happiness.

Let’s start with the feeling of anger. Anger is an emotion that helps people stay safe. Parents’ get angry when someone threatens their children. Anger increases attention to threats. However, when people get angry too often or over small things, anger can become quite destructive.


Health Anxiety

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

About ten days ago, Laura and I came down with the plague. Well, OK, not the plague. More like the flu actually. We experienced energy draining fatigue, headaches, fever, chills, a constant cough and even back pain. We spent close to two days in bed and have just now overcome our symptoms with the sole exception of a lingering, but dissipating cough.

Of course we wondered if we could have done something to prevent this malady from occurring. When we saw our doctor, he suggested that we might have gotten our flu shots too early this year (apparently, they reformulate the shots as the year goes on). Of course, he said we had no way of knowing that and, no, he wasn’t recommending that we start getting two flu shots a year.

Maybe we didn’t wash our hands often enough. Or maybe we weren’t sufficiently attentive to getting enough sleep every night. Or maybe we spent too much time around crowds at the mall. Maybe…YIKES! Stop it!


Remembering Anxiety

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Did you remember to pay your bills on time? How about making that appointment with the dentist? Do you need more gas in the car this week or will it wait until the weekend? Is that parent teacher appointment next week or the next? Did you make up that list of questions for the teacher? How will you ever find time to look up a new recipe and get to the store before your friends are coming over for dinner?

If you have a life full of responsibilities, like many people you feel stressed out at times. There are many details that adults have to juggle. Chronic stress can lead to disorders such as anxiety or depression. But stress can also interfere with optimal brain function, especially memory. These lapses of memory caused by stress actually increase stress by making people forget to do some daily responsibilities.

For example, most people misplace objects from time to time. They put something down (such as keys) thoughtlessly and a few hours later have no recollection on where they put them. Then their minds start spinning unhelpful thoughts such as, “I must be really stupid,” or “I wonder if I am becoming demented?,” or “What’s wrong with my brain?”


Media Exploitation of Everyone’s OCD Concerns

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Sign to Toilet

Toilet Sign - image from Shutterstock

“Study Confirms Your Worst Fears About Public Potties!” This headline bounced all around the Internet recently. Similarly, we often see television reporters swoop in like a swat team on hotels to check the cleanliness of their rooms. Invariably, they find hotel rooms teaming with bacteria. Other reporters have analyzed escalator railings and obtained similar, alarming findings.

We saw a report a few years ago that detailed the dangers of buying used, refurbished mattresses due to bed bugs, fecal matter, and various body fluids that still inhabited such mattresses even after the refurbishing process.


World Mental Health Day: A Patient Bill of Rights for Psychotropic Medications

Monday, October 10th, 2011

a pile of pillsA colleague of mine (Dr. David Antonuccio) recently co-authored an article that he believes will be received with enthusiasm similar to that sparked by an army of fire ants at a picnic. In other words, he expects a lot of opposition and push back. But what would a serious academic like Dr. Antonuccio write that could evoke such a response?


Seattle, Coffee and Mood

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

coffee cupsWe just returned from Seattle where just about every corner has a coffee shop. I read that Seattle has 226 cloudy days a year. I’m pretty sure that the gray skies of Seattle require lots of perking up, thus lots of caffeine. Our hotel room had unusually excellent coffee and a French press. It was so good that of course, we had to find the same brand of coffee for ourselves and bring some home. It probably won’t taste as good in New Mexico, with 310 sunny days a year, as it did in Seattle.

However, with coffee on my mind, it was interesting to read the results of a recent study described today in the New York Times. This involves more than 50,000 nurses who were asked to provide detailed tracking of diet, exercise, physical health, and mental health. Among many of the variables being monitored, the amount of caffeine consumed and mood were tracked.


4 Ways to Calm Down using Water and Ice

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

glass of waterWe all get upset from time to time. And sometimes, we let things roll off our backs. Other times, especially when we’re overtired, stressed, or vulnerable – it’s not so easy. Here are three examples.

Maybe you’re feeling a bit stressed and someone says, “Those are interesting shoes.”

Pretty benign comment right, but the shoes you are wearing are sort of weird and you’re feeling a bit off. So whether or not the comment was meant to be positive or neutral, suddenly you’re filled with feelings about your now ugly shoes. You might spend the rest of the day trying to hide your feet from others and you’re distracted with thoughts about what sorts of shoes would be “less interesting.”


Seven Signs Your Kid Needs Professional Help

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Earlier this week, we wrote about seven signs that someone might need professional help. Parents often ask the same questions about their kids. They don’t want to send their kids to be evaluated if there’s nothing to worry about; after all, consulting a mental health professional costs time and money, and could cause a little anxiety in the process. By the way, we usually suggest a quick check in with the pediatrician first because signs of what appear to be behavioral, emotional, or learning issues can be caused by physical problems and medical providers often know who to go to for mental health help.

Since the signs differ a little for kids versus adults, here’s a list of seven signs that tell you if your child needs further assessment:


Seven Signs That You Need to See a Mental Health Professional

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

purple faceEveryone has bad days. And many have bad weeks. But when feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious stretches out over a period of several weeks and begins to interfere with daily life, then mental health professionals may need to be involved. Here are some signs that you or someone you care about need evaluation and possibly treatment:

1. Suicidal thoughts or plans. If you start thinking that life is not worth living, help is available. You can call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or a local mental health center. If you are aware of someone else who has thoughts of suicide, the hotline can advise you of what action you should take.


Anxiety & OCD Exposed



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Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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