Therapy That Works...

Growing Kids Strong - Are We In The Middle Of A Childhood Depression Epidemic? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, August 02, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss some of the statistics of childhood depression and why the problem is getting worse with each generation - click here.

One out of every four children will experience severe anxiety before they graduate high school.

One out of every ten teenagers will experience an episode of major depression by the time they go to college.

In addition, about half of teens diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and the average age of onset for an anxiety disorder is now six years old. However even with all of these terrifying statistics, only eighteen percent of anxious or depressed teens ever see a professional psychotherapist.

Psychologists and government officials have been warning for years that childhood depression and anxiety are reaching epidemic levels, and the numbers are not encouraging. However, very few parents are seeking out professional treatment for their children.

Here are some important points to keep in mind about child and adolescent depression:

Lifetime Effects:

Depression can be a lifelong struggle. Severe depression reoccurs in about half of those who have had it once in their lifetime. Once your child experiences a depressive episode, they will battle more frequent and severe depression for the rest of their life.

Rise In Suicide:

In 2012, American teenagers were polled on mental health issues. Sixteen percent of teens reported seriously considering suicide, thirteen percent created a plan to commit suicide, and eight percent had attempted suicide and failed. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, and it is responsible for thousand of deaths every year.

Generational Snowball:

Researchers have been interviewing previous generations for years to investigate their rates of depression throughout their lives. They asked if they had ever experienced at least two weeks of depression or anxiety symptoms during their lifetime. For those who were born before World War I, only one percent experienced an episode of depression. For those who were born in the mid 1920’s and faced the Great Depression and World War II early in their lives, only four percent ever experienced an episode of depression. For those who were born in the 1950’s and grew up in the political and social turmoil of the 1960’s, seven percent had experienced depression by the time they were 30. Currently, ten percent of children and adolescents experience a major depression before they graduate high school. The rates of depression are growing with each generation, and our young children are experiencing more depression than ever.

Childhood rates of clinical depression and anxiety have grown exponentially over the past century and can have devastating lifelong effects. If you are worried about a child or teen you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (

The National Institute of Mental Health (

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (

Anxiety - How We Treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how she usually treats Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at Gearing Up - click here.

Around 80% of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, cases see no improvement without professional treatment.

Most people require specialized treatment for OCD or they remain trapped in the cycle of intrusive thoughts and behavioral compulsions they believe will prevent disaster. They develop an addiction to the OCD thought-behavior cycle since the link between anxiety, action, and momentary relief is so concrete.

Research has found that most people have over 500 obsessive, intrusive thoughts per day.

However, the OCD cycle begins when the thoughts and behaviors begin to be used to intentionally soothe anxiety. At some point, the mind establishes a link between the obsessive thought, the compulsive behavior, and the magical ability to relieve stress. We begin to use it in our coping tool kit to deal with everyday stress, and it can eventually crowd out our other coping strategies since it feels so effective.

Here are some of the therapeutic approaches we use to treat OCD at Gearing Up:

Mindfulness Training:

Using the techniques of mindfulness, you can retrain your brain to calm down in seconds while still remaining present in what is happening around you. Research has found that regular mindfulness practice can literally reorganize and physically rewire the pathways in the brain to change how we think. We are able to focus on our problems as temporary, solvable issues. When we regain control of our thoughts and anxiety, we can solve problems calmly and effectively without the use of any compulsive behaviors for relief.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

Since the OCD cycle takes root with obsessive thoughts, we have to change how you think. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, can teach you how to correct inaccurate thoughts and dispute negative beliefs. You’ll be able to tame your overwhelming emotions and dodge the thinking traps that can sabotage your thinking. CBT helps put you back in control of your thoughts and actions to break the OCD cycle once and for all.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America (

"Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition" by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Anxiety - Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Monday, July 08, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder and when to seek professional help - click here.

Social Anxiety is the fourth most common mental health diagnosis in the United States.

It is a very common, often misunderstood psychological issue that affects up to 12% of the U.S. population or 15 million Americans. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

Gender Bias:

Women develop Social Anxiety at twice the rate of men. However, women are less likely than men to report Social Anxiety as an ongoing issue.

Defined By Shyness:

Social Anxiety tends to develop in childhood or adolescence and the most common age of appearance is between 11 and 16 years old. If it goes unaddressed, it can become a defining part of many important stages of life including high school, college, and early work experience. It can rob your child of wonderful social opportunities and limit their ability to experience the world.

Contradictory Experiences:

Surprisingly, those who are socially anxious often have excellent social skills when they are one-on-one. In a group, they may present as somewhat shy or reserved, but they are actually extremely socially capable and have a lot of skills interpersonally. They continue to search for evidence every moment of every day that they are somehow compromised socially.

Family Tree:

You are ten times more likely to develop Social Anxiety if you have a relative who also has a form of Social Anxiety. The early life family system reinforces social withdrawal as normal and not a serious mental health issue. Over the years, they become convinced that they lack the social skills to reach out and develop connections to those around them.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of Social Anxiety:

  • A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations
  • Fear of exposure to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny
  • Regularly worrying that they will humiliate or embarrass themselves
  • Fear of exposure to social situations
  • Panic attacks that are confined only to social situations
  • Avoidance or endurance of social or performance situations
  • Intense anxiety or distress during social or performance situations
  • Anxious anticipation of social or performance situations
  • Significantly changing their routines to avoid social activities or relationships

Social Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have Social Anxiety, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition” by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Belzer et al. 2005

Chapman, Mannuzza and Fryer, 1995

Fiuieira and Jacques, 2002

Grant et al. 2005

Merikangas, Lieb, Wittchen and Avenevoli, 2003

Rapee, 1995

Anxiety - What Is Social Anxiety? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, July 05, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what social anxiety is, some of the signs of social anxiety, and when to seek professional help - click here.

Have you ever been struck with fear when you walked into a crowded room?

Do you begin to feel overwhelmed with panic and anxiety right before a party or public presentation? You may be suffering from social anxiety if you regularly experience significant dread before or during social situations due to a fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. Social anxiety is a very common, often misunderstood psychological issue that affects up to 12% of the U.S. population or 15 million Americans.

Social Anxiety is the fourth most common mental health diagnosis in the United States.

Sufferers tend to narrow their lives in an effort to preserve any sense of safety and predictability. Over time, the social anxiety usually becomes more entrenched and more profound. They shape their lives to avoid any anxiety-producing social situation and to avoid any social settings that may make them feel vulnerable and nervous.

In fact, they often avoid professional treatment due to the overwhelming anxiety.

They usually only begin treatment once there has been an event in their lives that forces them to face the problem. Typical examples include professional responsibilities that require public performance or even family responsibilities like being a leader in their child’s PTA or other activities. For them, romantic relationships are a true struggle and they often avoid dating of any kind.

Instead of addressing the problem head on, most sufferers build a new life that helps them avoid social situations that trigger their anxiety.

They may begin to accept the loss of friends and family since their anxiety is too overwhelming to be involved. In the end, they truly collapse their lives around them until they are safe, secure, but ultimately alone.

Social Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have Social Anxiety, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition” by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Belzer et al. 2005

Chapman, Mannuzza and Fryer, 1995

Fiuieira and Jacques, 2002

Grant et al. 2005

Merikangas, Lieb, Wittchen and Avenevoli, 2003

Rapee, 1995

Resilience - The Three C's of Psychological Resilience - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 28, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the three C's of psychological resilience - click here.

Why do some people sail through adversity while other people fall apart at the drop of a hat?

Why do some of us remain happy despite repeated setbacks and losses? Several decades ago, psychologists began to research these questions hoping to not only define the personality characteristics behind psychological resilience but to teach others how to easily weather the ups and downs of life.

Their research concluded that psychological resilience could be summarized in three central attitudes, or “the three C’s”:


We establish our belief in ourselves and in our purpose by remaining steadfastly committed to a cause, to a philosophy, or to a larger identity. Working for a greater purpose in our lives, whether it’s rocking your baby to sleep or working on the cure for cancer, can create a sense of stability and purpose that helps in healing anxiety.


Anxious people try to control everything and everyone in their lives. If they cannot control you, they may try to dump you instead. Resilient people are assertive but leave room for you to be your own person. They focus on what they can control and disregard what they cannot change. They don’t sweat the small stuff, and they stay anchored in the moment and less reactive to life’s frustrations.


Resilient people view change as an opportunity instead of a burden. While change can leave a lot of uncertainty and room for anxiety, they look for ways to turn it to their advantage. They choose to engage life with joy and creativity. In the end, this belief system fortifies their hope and optimism that the best is yet to come.


"Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You" by Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D.

"The Hardy Executive: Health Under Stress" by Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D. and Suzanne Kobasa, Ph.D.

OCD - Living With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what it's like living with OCD and some signs that you may have OCD - click here.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD affects about 2 percent of the American population every single day.

Sufferers are flooded with intrusive, recurrent thoughts that appear spontaneously and are highly upsetting or disturbing. Obsessions are usually paired with a compulsion or required behavior that soothes their anxious mind.

So, what is it like to live with OCD?

Camouflage of Normal:

Many OCD rituals are subtle and can often be hidden from others. Other people often see them as somewhat normal or a part of the person’s need to be perfect. However, compulsions cross the line when they become repetitive and are used intentionally to soothe anxiety. For instance, washing your hands before and after a meal may be normal, but an OCD sufferer may wash their hands 10 times in a row because they didn’t properly check one of the locks on the front door.

Acting For Relief:

Most of us complete tasks to accomplish a goal. We wash the dishes every night so we have clean dishes for tomorrow, and we make sure that the oven is turned off to avoid any nasty surprises while we are sleeping. OCD sufferers don’t necessarily engage in behaviors to accomplish something. They are often acting to relieve their anxiety or fear of what will happen next. These fears are often unrelated to the task or they are an extreme case of what might happen. For instance, they may say a particular prayer every time they turn off a lamp so that the devil doesn’t appear in the dark room.

Higher Burdens:

As obsessions and compulsions become more entrenched over time, they become harsher and more demanding masters. They may have to engage in compulsions more regularly or increase the scale of their compulsive acts to meet the new requirements for relief. For instance, they may have once calmed themselves by slowly counting to ten, but now they must count to 187 before they feel relief.

Reinforcing Cycle:

Many OCD sufferers have more than one type of obsessive thought or compulsive behavior. They may have to wash their hands five times in a row to avoid a terminal illness, but they also have to recite a poem every two hours to make sure a meteor doesn’t fall on their mother’s house. As they add more and more tasks to soothe their troubled minds, they are often physically exhausted and more vulnerable to new anxious thoughts. The cycle starts over again once those anxious thoughts create new obsessions and new compulsions to relieve the anxiety.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

At some point in the OCD cycle, they may begin to believe that their compulsive behaviors really do work. They believe that their actions are the only thing standing between them and disaster. Since they become far too agitated and anxious if they are denied the ability to perform their compulsive behaviors, they never find out what would happen if they didn’t follow through on their compulsions. As long as they keep up with their tasks, they can be sure that everything and everyone will be OK. Why should they tempt fate by not completing one of their tasks?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have OCD, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


"Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts" by Christine Purdon, Ph.D. and David Clark, Ph.D.

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn, 2012

CBT - What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, June 24, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is and why it is one of the most effective types of psychotherapy - click here.

Our emotions can be overwhelming.

Everything’s fine one moment, and the next you can be flooded with a tempest of swirling thoughts and smothering feelings. Most people in a psychologist’s office come to their first appointment tortured by emotions and thoughts that seem to be taking over their lives. Their emotions define their daily activities and they can’t seem to regain control. They regularly experience thoughts that seem catastrophic and discouraging. They don’t understand how to fix the problem of chronically feeling anxious and depressed, and they often resort to self-sabotaging coping skills like oversleeping, overeating, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, or altogether hiding from the world. Life is narrowed, pacified, and safe, but nothing is ever solved.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the psychological treatment model that has the highest success rate of all psychotherapies according to research.

This approach presents a totally different method of dealing with troublesome emotions than most of us use. Rather than allowing feelings to direct our lives and steal our happiness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT recognizes the close relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Here are a few ways this therapeutic approach works:

Correcting Inaccurate Thoughts:

Actions and feelings begin with your thoughts, and if those thoughts are based on inaccurate beliefs, they can lead you into a dark place. Negative personal schemas, or sets of beliefs, can seem accurate when they occur. But like light refracted through a dirty, inaccurate lens, they are often slanted toward the negative and are completely misleading. Through CBT, we can clean the lens and make your thoughts more optimistic, effective, and accurate.

Taming Your Emotions:

Again, thoughts lead to feelings and your feelings determine your behaviors. When your negative, inaccurate thoughts are in the driver’s seat, you are bound to end up off course. Your emotions are treated like facts and are often used to determine what to do next. They are not questioned and they are not denied. We endow them with credibility that is undeserved. Psychologists call this Emotional Reasoning. CBT works to reestablish the critical relationship between thoughts, facts, and emotions in decision making to help you make the best choice in the future.

Dodging Thinking Traps:

Many people do not realize that their thoughts distinctly trend toward the negative. Many of us make unfair comparisons of ourselves to others or we overgeneralize a challenge as defining our past, present, and future. CBT teaches you some of the most common types of thinking traps, and it helps you develop a new way of thinking about and overcoming adversity.

Fighting Back:

One of the main strategies of CBT is disputing your negative thoughts and correcting your thinking if it gets off course. CBT teaches you how to make your mind work for you instead of against you. By arguing against inaccurate thoughts and emotions, you will find your mind to be clearer, calmer, and more optimistic.

The Allure of Bad Boys - By Chris Gearing

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe why bad boys are so tempting and how to know if you're bad boy has a heart of gold - click here.

It’s a question as old as time. Why are bad boys so irresistible?

This kind of situation can be a parent’s worst nightmare – even if they don’t own a motorcycle. So, why are bad boys so attractive?

Viewed from afar, these guys can seem very attractive. They are often glamorous, soulful, artistic, romantic, and they ooze self-confidence. He’s spontaneous, lives for today, and is full of adventure. Unfortunately, most bad boys see you or your child as the next target. They are often hoping to use you today and be gone tomorrow.

But it’s not all bad. There are some good men in bad boy packages. Think of Johnny Cash, Brad Pitt, Jay-Z, or David Beckham. They were wild when they were younger, but they became dedicated husbands and fathers down the road.

Here are some signs that you may have landed a keeper in a leather jacket:

Live By A Code:

If your bad boy is controlling or regularly cheats, he’s a poor bet for a sudden reform. However, if he is conscientious, values family and other people around him, and genuinely cherishes you or your child, you might give him some time. He may just be growing up.

Longer To Mature:

Recent research found that the male brain doesn’t fully mature until men are forty-three years old. That’s eleven years more than their female counterparts! Again, try to cut him some slack. See if he is willing to meet you in the middle and act like an adult.

Watch For Warnings:

Always be aware of the warning signs that it may be time to leave. Men who use intimidation or violence to get what they want usually end up turning on you at some point. When they start trying to frame the world as “us against them,” that’s a red flag that they may want you to be dependent on them. Also, don’t let them radically change your life. If it’s meant to be, they love you for who you are today and they don’t need you to change.


"The Primal Teen" by Barbara Strauch

Anxiety - Common Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorders and how you can tell if you have it - click here.

Three percent of Americans have a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder or “G.A.D.”.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a wide and pervasive state of anxiety that anything and everything will go wrong. Sufferers regularly feel extreme amounts of anxiety and worry, and they are often hit with mental and physical symptoms every single day. Instead of being worried about a specific situation or issue, like social anxiety or specific phobias, they worry about everything and everyone in their lives. Many people with Generalized Anxiety try to normalize their thoughts by saying that they are just “worriers” or “planners,” but the truth is that they are using worry in an attempt to calm themselves down.

Here are some important points about Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Mind-Body Connection:

Generalized Anxiety usually comes with a collection of physical symptoms in addition to the mental health issues. Sufferers usually experience restlessness, irritability, muscular tension or cramping, overwhelming fatigue, and insomnia.

Slow Build:

Generalized Anxiety does not happen overnight. It builds slowly over the years and seizes control of your mind usually in your late twenties or early thirties. In fact, most cases begin in early childhood and some studies have found that sufferers wait an average of 25 years before seeking professional help.

Necessary Certainty:

One of the underlying beliefs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that uncertainty only leads to negative outcomes. They feel that if they are not constantly worrying, they are irresponsible and they are probably sabotaging themselves. One of the red flags for Generalized Anxiety Disorder is when someone is constantly planning their future. They cannot tolerate any uncertainty, so they have to plan every detail of their lives.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have G.A.D., please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (

The Importance of Parents In "Man of Steel" - By Chris Gearing

Monday, June 17, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss why Superman's parents were so important in "Man of Steel" and why parents are important for all of us - click here.

Our parents are central to how we think, feel, and act as a child and what kind of person we become as adults.

In the new summer blockbuster “Man of Steel,” Superman’s two sets of parents take center stage. His parents on Krypton give him a sense of protecting those around him, fighting for good, and believing in ideas that are bigger than one man. His parents on Earth teach him right from wrong, how fear can make good men do bad things, and what it means to be human. Both sets of parents have a strong influence on Superman and the choices he makes in the events of “Man of Steel.”

Parents teach us the way of the world and can make the difference between a life of struggle and hardship or a life of success and happiness. Research has revealed how different types of parents affect their children and their development. Here are some of the more common types of parents and their potential impact on their children:

Super-Achieving Parents:

This style of parenting emphasizes appearance and achievement. Kids grow up knowing that they must look good, perform well, and win. Money, position, and power are all heavily emphasized. These parents imbue their kids with a strong work ethic, ambition, and the children often make excellent entrepreneurs and leaders. The down side is that kids often feel disconnected and misunderstood by a parent who wants them to “run with the bulls,” at the expense of the finer points of relating and living. These kids have difficulty establishing separate identities from their overbearing parents and often prefer to live a life that values the welfare of others.

Time-Bomb Parents:

This style is based on fear, intimidation, and emotional instability. Without hesitation, the parent will lash out toward others and these outbursts are terrifying for kids of all ages. Threats of neglect, abandonment, and emotional and physical violence are common. Keeping the peace and managing the parent is all that matters to the child, and these kids often develop into masterfully perceptive people since they had to manage their parent so carefully. These children are hypersensitive to the emotions and needs of others, and they have to develop their own ability to protect their interests with others who try to take advantage of them.

Passive Parents:

This kind of parent showed love through their actions, not through relating or through verbal statements. They were stable, consistent, hard working, calm, and emotionally reserved. This parent would never engage in unkind behavior, and they often surrender their power to the other parent and become a peripheral member of the family. Emotional distance is the hallmark of this type of parent. Children of this type of parent doubt their ability to communicate emotionally and to have deep relationships. Like their parent, they understand the importance of commitment and hard work, and they are generally stable, temperate, and reliable. However, learning to understand and manage their emotions can be a lifelong challenge.

Absent Parents:

The absent parent is "missing in action" and has abdicated their role and interest in their children. Parental rejection is horrific for the child’s sense of worth. These kids often harbor life long pain and resentment. Even when a marriage ends in divorce, a child wants their parent to fight for them. If they walk away without a fight - no matter what the rationalization may be - the child is deeply impacted. The upside is that these kids learn the value of loyalty, support, and commitment to others and can become extremely committed to social welfare and justice. Careful to not create dissension, they may be overly accommodating with others in negotiations and in their personal relationships. Slow to trust, they often develop very intense, lifelong relationships with a small, elite inner circle. Some of our greatest presidents and world leaders have experienced this kind of parent and have transformed adversity into a triumphant life of contribution.

Compassionate-Mentor Parents:

Think Jonathan Kent or Jor-El in “Man of Steel” and you have a pretty good idea of the gifts of the compassionate-mentor parent. Although this is the mom or dad we all want to have, few of us are ever gifted with this kind of parent. This kind of parent is astute in reading others, committed to values greater than themselves, and they hold themselves and their children to ethical, loving standards. They spend time with their children, nurture them with attention and understanding, and they are, above all else, emotionally connected. They empower their children to pursue their dreams, triumph over setbacks, and to envision their success. Children feel safe, understood, and adored. These children are fully capable of healthy, balanced, and compassionate lives and often engage in a life of contribution to society. They are excellent partners and parents since they learned from a young age to value themselves, to handle their emotions responsibly, and to engage in life fully.

Many parents are a blend of these different typologies, and they often evolve from one parenting style to another as they grow and mature over the life cycle. Hopefully, we can all embrace the best parts of our parents and prepare our own children for their own happy and successful lives.


“The Father Factor: How Your Father's Legacy Impacts Your Career” by Stephan B. Poulter

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