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Health and Stress-Related Disorders

Whether it’s relocating to a new city, losing a job, becoming new parents, dealing with “empty nest syndrome,” or facing a serious diagnosis, stress can be overwhelming. It can feel impossible to shake and can make daily tasks seem insurmountable. This kind of stress can impact our mental and physical well being in very serious ways.

If not managed properly, stress can interfere with all areas of one’s life. It can lead to symptoms ranging from anxiety and irritability to addictions and interpersonal problems. Physically, stress is linked to headaches/migraines, cardiovascular issues, sleep problems, gastrointestinal problems, aches and pains, fatigue, low sex drive, and frequent colds and infections. In fact, a recent study revealed that nearly two-thirds of all physical complaints that patients bring to their internists are actually manifestations of stress-related, psychological issues that should be referred to a psychologist. Ultimately, stress can interfere with one’s ability to heal, manage, or recover from other medical conditions and illnesses, from diabetes to cancer.

Dr. Clarke has helped hundreds of clients manage their stress productively, overcome major illnesses, and achieve a healthier quality of life using innovative techniques catered to each individual client.


Anxiety-Related Disorders

Sometimes you’ll hear someone who’s feeling nervous, jokingly say, “I feel like I’m having a panic attack.”

But for the millions of people who genuinely suffer from anxiety-related disorders, panic attacks are no laughing matter. Anxiety disorders are very real and extremely uncomfortable for those who live with them. Left untreated, they have the potential to significantly interfere with one’s quality of life.

Anxiety disorders are marked by relentless worry and fear and can include many physical symptoms including shaking, heart palpitations, headaches, exhaustion, and/or sleeplessness. For many, they first appear in childhood. For others, they emerge following a stressful event. Most often, they are the result of an inherited proclivity toward anxiety coupled with environmental or situational stress.

Many disorders fall under the “Anxiety” umbrella. These include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Phobias, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Separation Anxiety, and Social Anxiety. Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all typically involve feelings of excessive, irrational fear and dread.

Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults ages 18 years and older. Women are 60% more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder over their lifetime. A recent study reported that about 8 percent of teens ages 13–18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6.

Dr. Clarke treats her clients that suffer from anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation and desensitization, and other techniques catered to each individual’s presenting issues.


Depression

Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived lasting only a couple of days. With clinical depression, however, these feelings persist for a longer period of time and significantly interfere with daily life, causing pain for both the affected individuals and those who care about them.

Depression is a common but serious illness caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or depressed mood
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies (e.g., sex, exercise, travel)
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakening, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems.

 

There are several forms of depressive disorders, including Major Depression, marked by severe symptoms lasting at least two weeks that interfere with one’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. Dysthymic Disorder is characterized by a depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. Postpartum depression, sometimes described as the “baby blues,” affects 10 to 15 percent of women after giving birth. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), another common form of depression, is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight.

Dr. Clarke uses a variety of techniques to treat depression including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns. Doing so helps change the client’s perceptions so that they may interpret their environment and interactions with others in a positive and realistic way. It helps the client to recognize triggers that may be contributing to their depression and helps them change behaviors that may be making the depression worse.

Bipolar Disorder

Everyone goes through mood swings, or ups and downs, from time to time. But the mood episodes experienced by people diagnosed with bipolar disorder are different.

Bipolar disorder is a severe disorder characterized by cycling mood changes—from extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression). An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression, known as a mixed state. Bipolar disorder can lead to damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide attempts.

Bipolar disorder often develops in a person’s late teens or early adult years. In at least half of all cases, the onset is before age 25, although some people have their first symptoms during childhood.

The good news is that bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. Even those with the most severe forms of the illness can benefit from proper treatment. For example, patients are helped to gain better control of their mood swings and related symptoms. Patients and their family members are also provided support, education, and guidance. Some of the many psychotherapy treatments Dr. Clarke uses to facilitate healing include cognitive behavioral therapy, relationship therapy, psychoeducation and, if necessary, referrals for medication.

Sleep Disturbances

Anyone who struggles to fall or stay asleep can tell you…exhaustion and frustration take over and impact every aspect of daily life. Sleep is a basic human need, and without it, physical and mental health, work, family, recreation, moods, and attitudes are compromised. Lack of sleep can be extremely dangerous, leading to falls, car accidents, and other serious injuries.

Sleep disorders are extremely common, affecting virtually everyone at some point in their lives. In fact, studies show that nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults regularly struggle with insomnia at least one night per week. Children and adolescents are also commonly affected.

Common symptoms of insomnia include difficulty getting to sleep or getting back to sleep after waking during the night, waking up frequently during the night, or waking early before it is time to get up. Insomnia is often a symptom of another problem, such as depression, stress, or an underlying health condition. It can also be caused by lifestyle choices, such as medication, lack of exercise, caffeine intake, or other diet/nutritional problems.

If not properly treated, sleep disorders can severely compromise one’s overall health. Dr. Clarke works with her clients to quickly discover the root of the sleep problem (whether it is psychological, physical, or a combination of the two). She then helps the client overcome their sleep problems with sleep-management techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, breathing exercises, desensitization, behavior therapy, deep relaxation exercises, visualization, and lifestyle changes.

Relationship Therapy

Sometimes people close to one another are in synch, but sometimes they are not. Most couples and families go through rough patches. When our relationships are really not working for an extended period of time, it can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless.

Many people avoid confronting their relationship issues and resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Relationship problems can affect one’s self-esteem and physical health or lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or anger. Relationship problems can also adversely affect family members, such as children, who may repeatedly witness conflict between their parents. Chronic relationship conflict or stress can contribute to emotional disorders, like depression or anxiety, for one or both partners.

Some families elect to give up before they’ve given it their all. The good news is that with proper treatment by a skilled therapist, many relationships can be salvaged, improved, and ultimately healed.

Dr. Clarke has helped hundreds of couples and families reconnect and bond, and has turned many relationships from “futile” to “stronger than ever before.” Dr. Clarke works closely with each individual, couple, and family to identify ongoing relationship dynamics that clients are often unaware of. She then intervenes to educate the couple about the problematic dynamics so they can make the behavioral changes necessary to repair emotional wounds and build communication skills that are an integral part of a healthy, lasting and fulfilling relationship. This process often requires one-on-one therapy to address each person’s individual issues. As part of her unique approach to therapy, she also models healthy relationship skills with each client to help the individual integrate appropriate behaviors into their marriage and all other relationships.

In addition to Marriage and Couples Counseling, Dr. Clarke specializes in other Family Therapies. These include: Teen Therapy, Divorce/Post-Divorce Issues, Blended Families, Dating Issues, Premarital Counseling, and LGBT-related issues, such as supporting an adolescent or a member of a heterosexual couple to “come out.”

Gerontology, End-of-Life Issues, Grief

Gerontology is a field that includes the social, physical, and psychological aspects of adults ages 55 and older.

Dr. Clarke works with clients to help them cope and thrive during the myriad of challenges and changes that occur in later life. These can include illness, loss, grief, financial concerns, physical and emotional pain, as well as feelings of fear, anger, depression and anxiety that accompany health/stress-related problems. Dr. Clarke believes it is critical to treat the emotional aspects of aging, since conditions such as depression and grief often interfere with the patient’s ability to take care of their physical health.

Dr. Clarke understands that our later years can be the most stressful in the lifecycle. However, she utilizes a variety of techniques to help her clients manage and overcome their stress so that they can become stronger and feel positive about their lives. Dr. Clarke is very compassionate and aware of the magnitude of issues that occur at this time of life. Her focus is on the positive aspects of living, using empathy and caring to inspire individuals to approach their later years with gratitude and joy. Many of her clients report feelings of fulfillment beyond what they had ever experienced in their younger years.

Addictive Behaviors

Typically, when we hear the term “addiction,” we think of physical addiction: a habit someone started and struggles to give up because of an overwhelming need or craving. Though we tend to associate addictions with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, the truth is, people can and do become addicted to countless other things as well, such as gambling, sex, exercise, shopping, work, food, cleaning…even each other. The list goes on and on.

Dr. Clarke has successfully helped hundreds of clients battling various addictions. She develops an intricate, individualized treatment plan for each client taking all presenting physical and emotional variables into account. With her unique therapy techniques and years of expertise, Dr. Clarke helps clients identify and confront the underlying psychological issues and triggers that led to the addictive behavior (such as self-esteem issues or early childhood experiences), modify their attitudes and behaviors related to the addiction, understand and improve impulse control, and increase healthy life skills. When necessary, she makes referrals to outpatient treatment centers and/or support groups, and works closely with the patient and the patient’s medical team, sponsor, and family members, providing support during each step of the individual’s recovery.

Eating Disorders

Never before have people been so overwhelmed with information about food. And never before have we been more inundated with visuals about appearance and ideal body image. It is no wonder, then, that so many of us are confused…even obsessed with… the mixed messages. It’s also no wonder that so many of us have developed unhealthy, often dangerous, eating patterns.

Eating disorders, from anorexia nervosa, to bulimia (eating and purging), to compulsive overeating, like all other addictions are manifestations of underlying emotional issues, such as a lack of self-esteem, lack of control, and troubled interpersonal relationships.

Eating disorders can devastate the body and, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems, including anemia, osteoporosis, damage to the heart and brain, and even death. Research has found that individuals with anorexia have a mortality rate 18 times higher than those who don’t have this disorder. Eating disorders are also associated with other emotional issues including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

Psychologists play a vital role in the successful treatment of eating disorders. Dr. Clarke is a member of the Alliance for Eating Disorders and has extensive experience treating individuals of all ages with this syndrome and its associated health issues. Using a variety of therapy techniques such as behavioral modification, Dr. Clarke teaches clients to listen to and love their bodies so that they regain their health, self-esteem, and learn to enjoy life again.

In recent years, men are presenting with eating disorders almost as frequently as women. Dr. Clarke treats all clients with empathy and respect, and understands the unique sensitivities men face in seeking help for these issues.

Dr. Clarke also treats patients with obesity. There are times when natural weight loss techniques are not sufficient and a patient’s health risks necessitate surgical intervention. Dr. Clarke is trained to provide assessments for bariatric surgery. She works closely with the patient and the patient’s physician, providing ongoing support both before and after the procedure.

Sexual Dysfunctions

A subject once considered embarrassing and taboo is now being addressed and treated more often than ever as a result of clients’ willingness and courage to seek therapy.

Sexual dysfunction can encompass a variety of problems including erectile dysfunction, inability to reach orgasm, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, an aversion to sexual activity, or difficulties with sexual arousal.

Sexual dysfunction can be rooted in emotional and/or physical difficulties. For decades, Dr. Clarke has worked with clients of all ages to help target the underlying issues so that they can learn to enjoy intimacy with their partners. With Dr. Clarke’s expertise and support, these disorders are successfully and often very quickly treated.

Dr. Clarke also treats clients with sexual dysfunction related to health issues and aging. She has helped many patients find creative ways to enjoy a satisfying sex life despite health issues that interfere with sexual functioning.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) prior to their menstrual periods. PMS typically involves mood changes and a variety of physical symptoms including cramps, migraines, and lower back pain.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition in which a woman has severe depressive symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation. The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but are generally more severe and debilitating.

Symptoms may include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, possible suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, uncontrollable crying, anger, feeling out of control, food cravings, and problems sleeping. Symptoms occur during the week just before menstrual bleeding and usually improve within a few days after the period starts. Many women with PMDD also suffer from anxiety-related disorders, severe depression, or seasonal affective disorder.

Dr. Clarke designs a personalized treatment plan to help patients cope with and overcome the symptoms of PMDD. Treatment may include psychoeducation, cognitive behavioral therapy, stress-management techniques and behavioral/lifestyle modifications.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is characterized by preoccupation or obsession with one’s physical appearance. People who suffer from BDD believe that their perceived flaws are real, no matter how much someone tries to convince them otherwise. Concern over the perceived flaw can dominate their lives, causing them to avoid social situations or even miss important commitments such as school or work.

Those who suffer from BDD often spend countless hours examining themselves in the mirror, or conversely, avoid mirrors altogether. Other signs and symptoms of this disorder include excessive grooming, such as hair plucking or skin picking, excessive exercise, dressing in oversized clothing to hide the perceived flaws, frequent cosmetic procedures, and reluctance to appear in pictures.

Using a variety of techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy, Dr. Clarke helps individuals with body dysmorphic disorder identify the underlying issues, such as self-esteem, family dynamics, and negative thought patterns. Once these problems are addressed and worked through, the client is able to manage and overcome BDD and ultimately live a satisfying and full life.

Pain Management, Accident/Injury-Related Trauma

Chronic pain can be debilitating and interfere with every aspect of one’s life, leading to depression, addictive behaviors, and other emotional disorders.

For years, Dr. Clarke has helped patients successfully manage and overcome pain due to illness, aging, accidents, sports injuries, or surgery. Dr. Clarke uses a variety of innovative and natural techniques to help her clients manage pain, including cognitive restructuring, visualization, desensitization, mindfulness therapy, deep relaxation, breathing exercises, distraction techniques, and meditation. Often these techniques are utilized when a patient does not wish to take pain medication, cannot tolerate its side effects, or has developed a dependency on pain medication.

Many of her patients battle with addiction to pain medications. At such times, Dr. Clarke works closely with the patient and the patient’s medical team to help the patient overcome the addictive behaviors.

Physical pain aside, those who have suffered as a result of an accident, injury or debilitating illness, also have to cope with a variety of difficult emotions, such as anger and fear. Experiencing pain for extended periods of time often leads to depression. Dr. Clarke offers tremendous support to her patients suffering the emotional effects of pain and trauma. Her combination of in-session therapy, expertise in pain management, and “homework” outside of the therapy room, teaches clients to cope with their physical and emotional wounds and find a renewed joy of life.

Anger Management

Anger is a natural feeling. Unfortunately, many people do not know how to release this powerful emotion in a safe and productive way.

With Dr. Clarke’s guidance, clients who struggle with anger issues learn how to appropriately address conflicts, avoid physical altercations, and handle their feelings in a more balanced, thoughtful way. In addition, clients learn to recognize their triggers as they occur and then diffuse them in a healthy manner. Dr. Clarke uses very specialized and innovative techniques and, with time and practice, clients master these techniques which allows them to stay calm and in greater control.

Abuse/Domestic Violence

Clients who are, or have been, victimized by physical, verbal, or emotional abuse need help. When living with abuse, clients experience humiliation, criticism, accusations, and threats, very often on a daily basis. Emotional wounds often run deeper than the physical ones, and can lead to personality and behavioral disorders, guilt, low self-esteem, and a repetitive cycle of engaging in destructive relationships.

For decades, Dr. Clarke has been working with clients to help them gain control of their lives. Using a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and mindfulness therapies, she teaches self-awareness techniques that promote self-esteem and healing, paving the way to a healthier relationship with self and others.

Educational and Learning Disorders

Many students of every age learn differently from the mainstream. Learning differences, emotional challenges, and/or a whole range of disabilities often come into play.

To help, Dr. Clarke specializes in educational therapy: intense interventions designed to remediate learning and facilitate studying. To accomplish this, she first discovers how students most effectively process information (is it by seeing, hearing, or doing?) and then, she helps them manage and overcome the specific presenting issues, including any underlying emotional issues that might interfere with a student’s learning or academic success.

Educational Therapy is used to treat issues ranging from dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reading/writing difficulties, Asperger’s syndrome, poor organization/study skills, school and test anxiety, and more.

Managing Illness and Chronic Disease

Chronic illness of any kind is tough enough, and is usually accompanied by physical pain. It is almost always aggravated by mental and emotional challenges. How does one adapt to a lingering or permanent health condition? How can one stay positive knowing there will be unpredictability, pain, loss of functioning, financial hardship, and other obstacles in their future?

Dr. Clarke has the experience, education, and empathy to help clients lead fulfilling lives regardless of their physical limitations. With her assistance, clients not only learn how to move forward with their lives, but to move forward optimistically. She helps make sure that those who suffer from chronic disease do not compound their condition with stress or anxiety. Using her heart-centered approach to therapy and other techniques, including psychoeducation, visualization, and relaxation, Dr. Clarke helps each patient manage or overcome the illness, learn to live a healthy and fulfilling life, and enjoy a positive and optimistic outlook – a critical aspect of healing.