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Friday
May032019

Ask Dr. Barb: Anxiety treatment requires understanding its cause

Dr. Barbara RosenbergDear Dr. Barb, My wife tells me that a friend is taking medication for anxiety, and she wants to talk to our doctor about whether she needs to be on a similar program. I recently saw that there is even anxiety medicine for pets. I never knew that anxiety is a condition that requires medication. I always thought it was an emotional state that related to a certain situation that would eventually pass. My thoughts have been that feeling anxious is something that we all experience from time to time and learn to cope with. When did this change so that anxiety is now something that requires medication?

Dear Reader, Anxiety is an emotional state in which one feels tense, apprehensive or uneasy in anticipation of something — even something unknown. Nearly everyone deals with anxiety from time to time. Stressful events like public speaking, job interviews or difficult life circumstances such as divorce, job loss or family illness can cause one to feel anxious or nervous.

In general, anxiety is caused by a combination of psychological, social and physiological factors. As an example, some individuals are prone to be anxious based on their genetic predispositions.

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Monday
Dec312018

Ask Dr. Barb: Layoff hurts, but begins a new phase in life 

Dear Dr. Barb: I’m a 59-year-old who was laid off from a job with highly specialized skills. I’ve been in this field for more than 30 years, so I haven’t had to job hunt for a long time. I now find that I’m completely out of touch. I’ve never taken part in social media, but it seems to be required for every job I see listed. I’ve learned that “robots” now read resumes and rate them based on “keywords.” At every job-hunting seminar I’ve attended, the advice is to “hide” my age. I have many friends and colleagues who are in the same boat. We’re too young to retire, but apparently too old to get hired.

I have persistent bad dreams, clenched jaw pain, feelings of isolation, bitterness, anxiety, worthlessness, fear of going broke, and depression. I used to wake up at 7 a.m.; now I wake up between 4:30 and 5. Do you have any ideas I can apply in my day-to-day life to improve my outlook?

Dear Reader: You should be encouraged that you realize you are not alone in your predicament. It isn’t easy to accept the sad reality that older workers often can be the first to be let go and the last to be rehired. Furthermore, it is understandable that you are becoming more sad and anxious about your dilemma. Already your sense of worthlessness, bitterness and isolation is negatively affecting your physical and mental health. Your feelings do matter and you have every right to feel worried and angry, but there is a healthier way to cope with the situation.

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Monday
Nov052018

Ask Dr. Barb: Change in perspective can stop road rage 

Dear Dr. Barb:

My husband suggested that I write to you about what he considers an extreme problem with road rage. I admit I am constantly blowing my horn at idiot drivers, and there are a lot of them these days. I see people using both hands to send texts while they should have them on the wheel with their eyes on the road. I often complain and curse when in heavy traffic, and get very angry when people cut me off. I confess I’ve followed people to yell out the window at them for stupid driving that almost causes an accident. I know this anger raises my blood pressure and probably affects my health. My husband is concerned I will one day pull up on the wrong person and get hurt. Am I supposed to just let these things happen and stay calm? I would find that hard to do; however, I would appreciate any advice.

Dear Reader:

It is good to hear that you are able to listen to your husband’s concerns about road rage, which is an aggressive form of driving be havior. Examples, as you mentioned, include constant horn blasting, tailgating and cursing at those you consider to be “idiot drivers.” Road rage often is caused by low tolerance for frustration, feelings of intense irritability and poor impulse control. It can result in extreme emotional distress.

 

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Monday
Sep032018

Ask Dr. Barb: What sister is hiding behind all her stuff  

Dear Dr. Barb:

I am concerned about my sister. She lives alone and her house is so full of things that I wonder how she gets around. She wasn’t always that way, but she has had some life disappointments that seemed to change her. Could all the clutter be a sign of depression? Knowing my sister, if I mention it, she will get angry and suggest that I mind my own business. Is there a way I can approach her about this without her getting too upset? I’ve thought of visiting her more often and casually asking if she’d like me to cook dinner for us, and then I’d start to help by cleaning up the kitchen. What do you think?

Dear Reader:

You are on the right track in thinking that the clutter in your sister’s house may be a sign of depression. She has experienced disappointments in her life, perhaps losses pertaining to relationships, finances, status or self-esteem. Individuals who struggle with these kinds of adversities can lose their ability to move forward with their lives as they see the future in a very negative way. They typically lack self-confidence in their ability to make necessary changes and, due to becoming highly anxious when faced with daily decisions, things keep getting put off. 

Sometimes, when individuals become depressed this way, they have great difficulty letting go of possessions.

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Tuesday
Jun122018

Ask Dr. Barb: Celebrity suicides highlight need for mental health awareness

Dear Dr. Barb:

I work with sensitive, creative young people for whom Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain would have been among role models. When successful, high-profile people commit suicide, it makes it harder to coach those who must survive all the failures and disappointments that typically come before a breakthrough. And what does one say to those who wonder about getting through significant life challenges in the face of role models for whom success was apparently not enough? 

Dear Reader:

Needless to say, the suicides of exceptionally creative and talented celebrities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are shocking and very sad to us all. These tragic, self-inflicted deaths raise many good questions such as yours. Often the most frequent question asked about celebrity suicide is why an individual, having achieved so much fame, admiration and success in a career, would suddenly end his or her life.                                

Of course, one can never know the inner struggles that everyday people, let alone a celebrity, might be hiding from the spotlight.  However, according to Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York, suicide does not just happen out of the blue. There are warning signs in spite of these sudden deaths, and about 90 percent of all those who commit suicide have a pre-existing psychiatric condition.  Reportedly, Kate Spade was fighting depression and anxiety for five years and, for many with this kind of illness, life can be an agonizing, daily struggle. Bourdain, who had a history of substance addictions including heroin, cocaine and alcohol, has been quoted as having previously contemplated suicide.  

Depression and anxiety can result from many different situations.

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