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School Refusal Causes (Social & Anxiety-Related Factors)

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With the summer quickly fading to black and the academic year looming largely, we will soon be entering the season of school refusal. When I use the term “school refusal,” I’m not talking about that once-in-a-blue-moon occasion when a child forgets about an important test or project and decides it’s easier to feign illness than face the music. That’s pretty typical for nearly all kids, and it doesn’t necessarily establish a pattern of problematic behavior. What I’m talking about is school refusal that is pattern-based, recurrent, and results in academic or social impairment. For assessment or treatment of school refusal, feel free to contact me at my private practice, which services Palm Beach (Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach), Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. What causes school refusal? Why do kids refuse to go to...

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Panic Attack Causes: Fight-or-Flight & the Sympathetic Nervous System

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Panic attacks feel awful. However, despite the unpleasantness of panic attacks, we’re actually lucky to have the neural circuitry that drives them. Although it might not feel like it, panic is caused by one of your body’s most important self-protective mechanisms. What causes panic attacks? When we are safe, our bodies are designed to conserve resources in order to promote long-term survival. If all is going well, there is simply no need to squander a precious commodity like energy. However, whenever we are in danger and there is the potential for death or serious harm, our bodies will utilize whatever resources are necessary to guarantee that we live to see another day. Think about a time you unexpectedly encountered a physical threat in your environment. Maybe you were peacefully gardening when you happened upon a snake. Maybe you were...

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One Panic Treatment Basic that Even Your Therapist Might not Know

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If you have panic disorder or suffer from panic attacks or agoraphobia, chances are you might be inadvertently doing one simple thing that is making your panic attacks and anxiety worse. You might have even learned this strategy from your therapist.  Although beneficial in many different contexts, when used inappropriately, this technique has the potential to dramatically increase symptoms of anxiety and panic. The technique in question? Deep breathing. What is deep breathing? Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a core coping skill taught by many excellent therapists of diverse theoretical orientations. It is a technique that has a long and revered history in the field of psychology due to its anxiety-reducing (anxiolytic) effects. Used alone or when combined with other strategies, such as visual imagery or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), deep breathing can be a potent aid to...

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Test Anxiety Treatment & Diagnostic Considerations

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When considering treatment for test-taking anxiety, make sure that you have a comprehensive diagnostic assessment to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.  Not all cases of test anxiety are alike, and sometimes symptoms of test anxiety actually reflect a separate, underlying condition.  If you’re located in South Florida (Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, & Miami), I would be happy to meet with you to conduct an assessment of your symptoms and provide treatment (if appropriate). Regardless of where you live, here is a short list of factors to consider when getting help for your symptoms: Test Anxiety Diagnosis & Treatment Strategies 1. Don’t assume that just because you have test anxiety that the problem is only test anxiety. Test performance issues may also have an independent panic component. If...

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Although it might feel like you’re dying, you’re not. That’s just what the panic wants you to think.

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Disclaimer: Because panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of several serious medical conditions, it’s important that you talk with your doctor before beginning any panic treatment program.  Never begin panic treatment without first obtaining medical clearance from your physician. Panic attacks feel horrible. If you are one of the 5% of Americans suffering from recurrent panic attacks due to panic disorder, you are likely well-acquainted with the nasty constellation of physical sensations that occur during a full-blown panic attack.  Panic attack symptoms are frightening and often include accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling, choking or smothering sensations, chest pain, nausea or GI problems, dizziness, lightheadedness, feelings of unreality or detachment from one’s body, numbness or tingling sensations, chills, and hot flashes (Barlowe & Craske, 2006).  These symptoms reflect activation of the body’s fight-or-flight system, which has been implicated in panic. Physical symptoms frequently co-occur...

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