Family Psychiatry
Counseling & Wellness

A comprehensive, integrative psychiatric and wellness clinic serving the mental, physical, emotional and preventative health needs of all members of the family. Find better, one step at a time.

Holistic Psychiatry for your Mind, Body & Soul
At Family Psychiatry Counseling & Wellness, we specialize in performing comprehensive psychiatric and psychological evaluations to establish accurate diagnoses and prepare individualized treatment plans. We combine advanced conventional methods with safe alternative treatment approaches to bring about lasting relief and improved quality of life.

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Health Resources


Managing COVID-19 Stress at Home

Coping and Living with COVID-19 Related Stress

Stress can be caused by everyday worries, problems at work, or quarrels with relatives. More serious life circumstances, such as a doctor's disappointing diagnosis, war, a pandemic, or the death of a loved one, lead to chronic stress. Stress affects a person's emotions, mood, and behavior. No less important, and often more serious, is its effect on the human body. In December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases were reported in Wuhan, China, and a novel coronavirus was eventually identified. Within months, coronavirus cases had cropped up in every corner of the world. The rapid emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing societal shutdowns brought with them a wave of uncertainty and stress. On short notice, people around the world had to rethink daily life including school closures, employment insecurity, changes in work schedules and locations, and overall changes in social conduct. The continued exposure to stress arising from the crisis is likely to have serious long‐term health effects in the form of increased risk of physical and mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and mood disorders. (Cohen, Janicki‐Deverts, & Miller, 2007; Kuo et al., 2019; Wu, Chan, & Ma, 2005.) While the CDC has recommended individuals to stay safe at home, they have also emphasized the need for individuals to manage stress and protect their mental health during this extremely ambiguous time. However, several months in, people are beginning to wonder how they can cope in the long term: What can we do at home to relieve stress? What can we do to stay sane? Below are a few tips to help you manage stress at home:

  1. Exercise: Exercising has some direct stress-busting benefits. Exercise in the form of swimming, weightlifting, running, or even going for a relaxing walk in your neighborhood results in relieving stress. Physical activity helps the brain release feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins. This directly helps improve your mood and can automatically help lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise is meditation in motion; while you focus on pushing through and finishing your last set or working to get in that last rep, the focus on a specific task results in more energy and optimism.

  2. Nutrition: Sometimes the answer lies in simply what you put in your body. "Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body," said Matthew J. Kuchan, Ph.D., a senior researcher at Abbott, a medical device and healthcare company. It can be hard to meal prep for the week, and in most cases, when you’re living a busy and stressful lifestyle, meal prepping is almost impossible. For better or worse, many of us are stuck at home, which has forced us to eat out less and prepare meals at home. Sticking to a healthier lifestyle is easier when preparing meals at home. Having said that, what is considered healthy? What should you eat to relieve stress levels? These are questions we hear all the time. The answer lies in how stress affects our bodies. Stress negatively affects our blood flow and blood pressure. Therefore, eating foods that help lower our blood pressure levels also helps reduce stress levels. Including foods that are high in omega-3s such as blueberries, dark chocolate, fish (salmon and tuna), nuts and seeds, spinach, yogurt, and more help improve blood levels that directly help in reducing stress.

  3. Having routine and structure: Dr. Steve Orma, a CBT clinical psychologist who specializes in treating insomnia, anxiety, and stress suggests that having a routine can significantly help reduce stress. Doing so helps our bodies form healthy habits, such as waking up early and avoiding fluctuating changes in our circadian rhythm. The current pandemic has confined us all in ways we never imagined; hence, setting a routine for yourself and creating a schedule for chores, work, meetings, exercise, etc. can foster feelings of accomplishment and progression that we all need.

  4. Social distancing does not mean social isolation: In the new age of coronavirus, it is time to strengthen our interpersonal relationships, instead of diving deep into the social isolation hole. These sudden changes, nursing scholar Yu-Ping Chang says, go against the fundamental principle of being human, “that at our core we crave to be social beings.” The abrupt shift from “normal life” to the age of social distancing can be detrimental to our mental health. Therefore, taking the time and using it positively can help us stay more optimistic under the current circumstances. A few things we can do to stay healthy both mentally and physically include checking in with a family member or friend and setting a time to chat with them for some time, set a routine to work on daily tasks and productivity goals to gain a sense of accomplishment, maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle by going for a run or a walk in your neighborhood, and spending extra time working on your culinary skills by cooking healthy and delicious meals.

Incorporating the above-mentioned ways to manage stress at home can help alleviate stress being caused during these uncertain times. However, if you’ve done all the above and can’t seem to mitigate your stress, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional to reduce significant long-term mental health impairment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need treatment? I can usually handle my problems on my own.

Everyone goes through challenging situations in life. Psychiatric treatment and counseling is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand. Integrative treatment provides relief from distressing symptoms, a sense of emotional and physical well being, and improvements in quality of life, as well as the long-lasting benefits of providing you with the tools to overcome whatever challenges you face.

Is there a diagnostic test to confirm what I have?

Fortunately, with advances in medicine in the last two decades, we have many useful tests at our disposal, like neurotransmitter testing, testing for hormone imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic dysfunction, genetics and heavy metal toxicities by using blood, saliva and urine analysis. These tests can help us determine the levels and ratios of brain chemicals, cortisol, thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone, as well as detect vitamin deficiencies, anemia, blood sugar problems, and other health issues. This information is extremely useful for measuring symptom intensity as well as guiding treatment with natural supplements and medications.

How can integrative psychiatry/psychotherapy help me?

We provide support, teach problem-solving skills, create self awareness and encourage effective coping strategies. Counseling can help you attain a better understanding of yourself, your challenges, your goals and your values.

For example, learning organizational skills if you have ADHD can help you perform better at work or school. Learning better ways of coping with stress and anxiety can give you the confidence to solve your problems effectively instead of avoiding them. Managing anger, grief, and depression appropriately can allow you to live a happier life. Improving your communication and listening skills can help you improve your relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

Are natural supplements and/or medications right for me?

Integrative psychiatric treatment combines conventional medical treatment strategies with holistic (treat person as a whole) or alternative/preventative treatment approaches to bring about a robust and lasting improvement in every aspect of individual's emotional, psychological, and physical health. Our goal is to optimize brain function, relieve suffering and prevent complications both in the short-term and in the long run.

Are supplements and therapy a substitute for medications?

In many instances, a combination of medications, supplementation with targeted nutrition, psychotherapy, life style coaching, relaxation techniques, and other methods can bring about maximum improvement. As your providers, we can help you determine the best blend of treatment methods for your particular situation.

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An Introduction to Natural Remedies

Introduction

Studies have shown that daily supplements of vital nutrients often effectively reduce patients' symptoms. Supplements that contain amino acid peptides are converted to neurotransmitters that alleviate depression, anxiety, OCD, mood swings, insomnia, and fatigue.

Many antidepressants, anti-anxiety and mood stabilizers, and other prescription drugs can cause severe side effects, which usually discourage patients from taking their medications. Such unwilling patients, if left untreated due to lack of other treatment choices, are at a higher risk for complications.

One way to avoid medication-related side effects is to offer alternative or complementary nutritional treatments. Although further research needs to be done to determine the best recommended doses, we recommend doses of dietary supplements based on effectiveness studies and then adjust the doses based on the results obtained.

Applications of Nutritional Therapies

Many psychiatric and prescription drugs cause unwanted side effects like weight gain, sedation, sexual side effects, dizziness, tremors, and others. Sometimes side effects can be so severe and unpleasant that many patients are forced to stop taking them. Therefore, it is imperative that we provide our patients with complementary nutritional therapies.

The most common nutritional deficiencies seen in mental disorder patients are of DHA/EPA fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which the body converts into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), B vitamins, minerals, and amino peptides that are precursors to neurotransmitters. Replenishing these nutrients in adequate amounts reduces the intensity of symptoms. Below are a few common applications.

Major Depression

Depression has been known to be associated with deficiencies in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and GABA. As reported in several studies, tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine, and methionine are often helpful in treating many mood disorders. Replenishing these nutrients may lead to tranquility, sleep, and improved mood.

Replenishing dopamine and norepinephrine nutritionally can lead to alertness and arousal. Methionine combines with ATP to produce S-adenosylmethionine which facilitates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) & docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have shown to elicit antidepressant effects, possibly due to conversion into prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and other chemicals the brain needs.

In addition, deficiencies in certain essential nutrients and minerals - methyltetrahydrofolate, pyridoxine, pentothenic acids, niacinamide, thaimnine and magnesium - have been linked to depression.

Bipolar Disorder

Some biochemical abnormalities in people with bipolar disorder include oversensitivity to acetylcholine, excess vanadium, B vitamin deficiencies, a taurine deficiency, anemia, EPA/DHA fatty acid deficiencies, and vitamin C deficiency.

Vitamin C has been shown to protect the body from the damage caused by excess vanadium.

Taurine is made from cysteine that is known to elicit a calming effect. A deficiency may increase intensity of manic episodes. The combination of essential vitamin supplements with the body's natural supply of lithium reduces depressive and manic symptoms of patients suffering from bipolar disorder.

Another well-known factor for mental disorders is that cells within the brain require fatty acid oils in order to be able to transmit signals that enable proper thinking, moods, and emotions. Numerous studies have shown that adequate doses of EPA added to one's daily intake decreases manic/depressive symptoms better than placebo.

Prescription lithium in the form of lithium carbonate is responsible for most of lithium's adverse side effects. Some of the more common side effects include a dulled personality, reduced emotions, memory loss, tremors, or weight gain. A dietary form of lithium is preferred because the orotate ion crosses the blood-brain barrier more easily than lithium carbonate. Therefore, the orotate form of lithium salt can be used in much lower doses (e.g. 5 mg) with remarkable results and no side effects.

Studies involving clinical trials have also shown that the amino acid-derivative, taurine, as an alternative to lithium, blocks the effects of excess acetylcholine that may contributes to bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia

Disturbances in amino acid metabolism have been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Specifically, an impaired synthesis of serotonin in the central nervous system has been found in schizophrenic patients. High doses (30 g) of glycine have been shown to reduce the more subtle symptoms of schizophrenia, such as social withdrawal, emotional flatness, and apathy, which do not respond to most of the existing medications.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Nutrients which increase serotonin levels will reduce the symptoms of OCD. Using amino acid precursors to serotonin and tryptophan supplements (which are better than 5-Hydroxytryptophan) will increase serotonin levels and alleviate OCD symptoms.

Conclusion

Proper medical diagnosis and a clear description of all possible treatment options should always be the first plan of action when treating mental disorders. However, the final decision on whether or not to try nutritional supplements as a treatment must be based on the patient preferences.

As with any form of treatment, nutritional therapy should be supervised and doses should be adjusted as necessary to achieve optimal results.

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(805) 341-3416
familypsychiatry101@gmail.com
Monday - Friday, 9:00am - 6:00pm

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31194 La Baya Drive
Suite 202
Westlake Village, CA 91362

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30851 Agoura Road
Suite 304
Agoura Hills, CA 91301

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© 2020 Family Psychiatry Counseling and Wellness.