The Candid Counselor

Helping individuals overcome anxiety, depression, and life's issues

Dr. Julia Becker

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Licensed Psychologist
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Serving the greater Waco, TX area, including Woodway, Hewitt, Lorena, Bellmead, Robinson, and China Spring.

Am I Bipolar?

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, April 17, 2011 0 comments

Catherine Zeta-Jones recently put the spotlight on bipolar disorder after seeking treatment for this diagnosis. Bipolar disorder is often misunderstood by the general public.

What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder used to be called manic-depressive disorder because individuals with this condition experienced episodes of depression and episodes of mania. A depressive episode involves several symptoms of depression, such as depressed mood, withdrawal, loss of interest, impaired concentration, and other symptoms. While it is normal to feel sadness from time to time, depressed individuals experience depression to a degree that is distinctly different than normal sadness. A manic episode is characterized by mood that is unusually happy or irritable, as well as other symptoms, such as impulsivity, racing thoughts, high energy, and pressured speech.

The diagnosis of manic-depressive disorder was later shortened to bipolar disorder to reflect that mood states appeared to be on opposite ends of a pole. There are different types of bipolar disorder and various degrees of severity among people with bipolar disorder.

People with depression often experience irritable mood and mood swings. They may appear to be in a good mood one moment, and then burst into tears the next moment. This can be confusing for friends and family, as well as for the person experiencing these mood shifts. Sometimes friends and family members may be quick to suggest bipolar disorder as an explanation for these mood changes, but that is only one possible explanation. There are other reasons why someone may experience mood swings. Such reasons include:

  • Improper nutrition or extreme dieting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • A medical condition affecting mood, such as a thyroid disorder.

A medical professional such as a psychologist can determine whether an individual has bipolar disorder, and can work with the individual to figure out other reasons for the mood swings.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Stressed Out College Students

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, April 10, 2011 0 comments

College is a time of major change, and often a time of major stress. College students deal with a number of stressors, including academics, choosing a major, separating from parents, and making new friends.

Many students report feeling the most stressed about academics. However, students reporting academic stress often have significant stress in other areas of life as well. When students are experiencing a lot of general stress, they often experience impaired concentration, lower energy levels, and decreased motivation. These changes often lead to impaired academic performance. As academic performance worsens, students become even more stressed, which can lead to further decreases in concentration, energy, and motivation. This is a cycle that can repeat over the course of a semester as students’ grades continue to go down while stress levels continue to rise. Breaking this cycle sometimes requires professional help from a counselor.

How to cope with academic stress:

  • Determine if you are experiencing stress in other areas of life, as this stress may be affecting academic performance.
  • If you are experiencing stress in other areas of life, work on finding methods to reduce this stress, or consider getting help from a counselor.
  • Think about when this stress developed. Try to determine if there were changes you made that led to increased stress.
  • Recognize the role of procrastination in increasing your stress level. Decrease procrastination by:
    • Having a friend keep you accountable
    • Setting small goals and celebrating your accomplishment of these goals
    • Minimizing distractions in the environment, such as Facebook, computer games, and friends coming and going in your apartment or dorm. Consider going to the library to study.
  • Recognize negative thoughts that lead to increased stress, and work on replacing those with positive thoughts.
  • Take time to relax daily. Yoga, deep breathing, medication, and muscle relaxation are all proven ways to reduce feelings of stress. Taking at least 15 minutes a day to relax is a worthwhile investment that will pay off in reduced stress levels.
  • Surround yourself by friends who support and encourage you. Social support has been proven to be a buffer against stress.
  • Consider getting professional help from a psychologist if stress becomes unmanageable.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.

Severe Anxiety and Depression in College Students

Posted by Dr. Becker Sunday, April 3, 2011 0 comments

A 2010 survey of college counseling centers shows that there is an increase in college students with severe psychological problems, especially anxiety and depression. This information was obtained from an annual report by the Association for University and Counseling Center Directors. This trend is not surprising, considering that college students experience a number of life stressors and internal struggles, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

In addition to experiencing anxiety and depression, many college students feel the burden of guilt and shame for having these mental health problems. Some students feel that they should be happy because they have many advantages, such as friends, family support, and an education. These student often struggle to understand why they develop depression, and may blame themselves. Students who feel guilt or shame often withdraw from friends and family so that others will not discover their depression or anxiety. They may also work hard to present a cheerful attitude around others. This behavior is exhausting, and often increases symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Students often come to college with high expectations for their academic success, friendships, and social life. Many students have heard that college will be the “best years of your life.” When reality does not match up with expectations, students can develop anxiety or depression.

College is a time of great change. Moving away from one’s family, choosing a major and career path, leaving old friends behind, making new friends, living with roommates, and coping with adult responsibilities are just a few of the major changes that college students face. Difficulty coping with these changes can result in anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder. Additionally, students begin to develop their sense of identity and independence around age 18. Struggles with this can also intensify anxiety and depression.

College counseling centers are a great resource for students struggling with anxiety, depression, difficulties with adjustment, or other concerns. Counseling centers offer individual therapy for students as well as group therapy. Because counseling centers are struggling to keep up with the growing needs of students, many centers also refer students to psychologists off campus.

Please visit Becker Counseling and Psychological Services for more information.