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What’s What Wednesday: Self-Regulation

What’s What Wednesday: Self-Regulation

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is focusing on helping parents understand how to guide their young children through Self-Regulation. Help your child develop self-regulation through talking about feelings and role-modeling.

Self-Regulation is the ability to understand your own behavior and have the ability to manage your reactions to feelings and things happening around you.

Some examples of this would include being able to:

  • Control impulses
  • Focuses on a task
  • Learn behavior that helps you get along with other people

Self-Regulation is important because it will allow your child to develop socially and personally. As your child gets older, self-regulation will help them learn at school, become more independent, manage stress, make friends and behave in socially accepted ways.

The best way to help your child learn is by providing support and guidance when they need it.

  • Help your child find appropriate ways to deal with strong emotions. Say things like “It okay, I can help you if you like” and “Let’s relax”.
  • When your child experiences a strong feeling encourage them to try to name what they are feeling and what may have caused it. Talking about these emotions may help in preparing for future experiences.
  • Try to guide your child through alternatives to their behavior. For example, “Did you slam the door because you were overwhelmed? What else could you have done to get the anger out?”

Consider seeking a professional if you are worried about your child’s behavior or if you are having trouble guiding them as they get older.

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Social Anxiety: What does that look like in Children?



This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is hoping to educate parents on what social anxiety looks like in children. One common question is: What is social anxiety?

Social Anxiety is an intense fear of social situations in which the child may be made fun of or judged. Social Anxiety can cause children to experience strong feelings of worry which can be triggered by different things including speaking in large crowds, reading out loud, and talking to new people. Children with social anxiety may have a difficult time engaging in social situations such as family events, school, sports teams, and even play dates.

Social Anxiety can emerge from a history of shyness but can also arise from experiences such as bullying. The following are common symptoms of Social Anxiety:

  • Dreading social events
  • Fear, anxiety, and avoidance that lasts for 6 months or longer
  • Tantrums, crying, freezing up, failing to speak in social situations
  • Excessive clinging to familiar people
  • Racing heart, shaky voice, nausea, trembling
  • Blaming others for social “failures”

One important thing we can do as parents is teach our children relaxation strategies to allow the rapid heart rate to slowly decrease. Some skills are taking deep breaths and muscle relaxation (squeezing their hands and releasing, tightening their toes and releasing; this technique is also called Progressive Muscle Relaxation). Anxious children tend to have tense muscles when they are under stress, so these are designed to help them relax their bodies and cognitive re-framing. Cognitive re-framing is transforming specific negative events or thoughts into more positive ones. Key goals of Cognitive Re-framing include describing your situation as clear as possible,  empowerment to understand what you are capable of coping with, and brainstorming alternative views of situations you are in.

Negative thoughts also have a role in reinforcing anxious thoughts. Teaching your kids to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts is key. Children tend to have beliefs such as:

  • Overreacting: Crying and wailing when someone touches their hair
  • Personalizing: Getting upset because a classmate did not want to play with them this instant and now thinks they dislike them
  • Assuming the worst-case scenario: Thinking they are going to throw up in front of everyone
  • Worrying and thinking others will see them in a bad light: Worrying and thinking peers will think they are not good enough

Finally, if you feel as if social anxiety is increasingly making it difficult for your child to attend school or socializing with peers, it may be time to seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

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Healthy Sleep Habits

dad and son sleeping

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is focusing on giving tips for the entire family on sleeping habits. Routines are what most of us follow which then allows us to do well and know what to expect in the day to day. We know getting home and putting the little ones to bed is not always easy, even us as parents have difficulty getting to bed due to workload or chores around the house. We know having a set schedule is difficult but attempting to implement some of the following tips can help the entire family with their overall mood.


Here are a few tips on how you can prepare your family for a better and more restful sleep pattern:

  • Keep your room at a cool temperature
  • Limit exposure to light; turn off electronics 1 hour prior to going to bed
  • Make a consistent schedule: Get up at the same time everyday AND go to bed at the same time (This will be a work in progress).
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Avoid eating large meals before bedtime; your digestive system will bother you making you unable to sleep.
  • Reduce fluid intake before bed or make sure to use the restroom before laying down.
  • Try to establish at least one hour of exercise or play time outdoors to create some fatigue to be better suited to go to bed.

These habits are a cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most effective long-term treatment for people with chronic insomnia. If sleeping sleep problems persist, reach out to your doctor.

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What’s What Wednesday: Secrets to a Happy Child

Smiling Child

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is concentrating on sharing tips on how to raise a happy child. Having our children be happy may be one of the most important goals we have as parents.  

Murray, Ph.D., author of Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depression-Proofing Young Children—for Life (McGraw-Hill). “There may be a genetic propensity for depression, but our genes are malleable and can be switched on or off depending on the environment,” he says. “The research clearly shows that happy, optimistic children are the product of happy, optimistic homes, regardless of genetic makeup.” 

What can you do to promote happiness in your child? Below are a few examples of what you can do to strengthen your child’s capacity to experience joy.

Foster Connections 

It is important that you help your child feel connected to you, other family members, friends and even pets. “Connectedness” — a feeling of being understood, love and wanted is one of the biggest protectors against emotional distress, risky behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Having a support group has shown to prevent many unwanted occurrences. 


Don’t Try to Make Your Child Happy 

You may be wondering “ I thought I am trying to make my child happy”, but the best thing you can do for child is to stop trying to make them happy in the short term and instead try to for the long term. Try to step back and allow your child to develop his or her own coping skills and the resilience he or she will need to bounce back from life’s setbacks. As parents we normally feel responsible to give our child what they want, when they want however life does not work like that. Balance is important to work towards. 


Nurture Your Happiness 

Children are like sponges; they learn from us and in the same way their moods may be affected. Happy parents are likely to have happy kids, while children with depressed parents suffer twice the average rate of depression. Take care of your own happiness and your child will feel the difference. “If parents have a really good, committed relationship” Murray says, “the child’s happiness often naturally follows.” 


Praise the Right Stuff 

Murray says, “Praise the effort rather than the result.” Praise things such as creativity, hard work, and persistence more than the achievement itself. Praising your child for things that can be controlled is importantand we recommend to not praise your child on things that are out of their control and potentially fleeting. Some examples of that would be saying they are pretty, athletic or being smart— there may come a time when they cannot keep up that standard and can cause feelings of low self-esteem. 



Finally remember that studies consistently link feelings of gratitude to emotional well-being. One thing you can do each day is to name and have your child name something they are thankful for. This could potentially lead to “lasting happiness and foster all kinds of positive emotions.” 

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Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and Sunshine State Counseling Center would like to assist in spreading awareness. This month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. Below we will provide you with six different ways that we can take action to spread awareness, promote healing, and to give hope.  

  1. #BeThe1TO: Using the hashtag of #BeThe1To is a message which helps spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide.
  2. Ask: Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.
  3. Keep Them Safe: Studies show that when lethal means less available or deadly, frequently suicide rates overall decline.
  4. Be There: Individuals are less likely to feel depressed and suicidal and more hopeful when they have someone who listens without judgement.
  5. Help Them Stay Connected: Helping someone create a network of resources and finding individuals for support and safety can reduce feelings of hopelessness. 
  6. Follow Up: Ongoing contact can be an important part of suicide prevention. Continuing periodic contact is beneficial to show support and care. 

Every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. By talking openly about suicide, we can work towards removing the stigma that can prevent sufferers from seeking the treatment that could save their lives. If you or someone you know might be at risk for suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 



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Organizing Your Child


This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is focusing on organizational tips for parents and children, now that school is back in session.  Things can seem or even get messier than usual with the start of a new school year. Parents tend to get frustrated with their child for having a messy desk or missing deadlines at school. With changes including teachers, schools, and classes, your child might feel overwhelmed and setting up an organization system can be beneficial.  The following tips can be used at home or at school:

Here are three ideas to try at home:

  • Enforce time concepts: help your child stay on task and stay organized. A child who masters the concept of time and sequence is better able to get organized and complete tasks.
  • Make a Calendar: Calendars serve as a visual record of activities your child must complete. Having your child write down and cross off activities helps them develop a sense of accountability.
  • Create a filing system: providing a place for everything helps your child not have to go back and forth unsure of where things are. Color coding things based on subject can help things all stay together in one place.

Here are three ideas to try in the Classroom:

  •  Give assignments in writing: Ask your child to write down assignments or have teacher give printed instructions. Having a visual reminder is often useful for the memory of child.
  • Design a folder system that works: Have child work with you to create reminders and add color tabs to point to important dates. Keep trying and experimenting until you find a system that works for your child.
  • Provide additional supplies: If possible, give your child two sets of supplies—one for home and one for school. This way, there is less of a chance your child will forget things and will not have to remember to bring items back and forth to school.

Remember, it is trial and error with children. Remain patient and do not forget to praise your child for even what may seem like small accomplishments.

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What’s What Wednesday What Not to Say to Your Kids

Silhouette of a parent pointing their finger at their child.

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is focusing on the communication used between parent and child. It is not uncommon for parents to get frustrated with their child, and therefore, can lead to words being spoken without thinking first. The following phrases or situations are some examples as to what we should avoid saying to children and why this can be significant to a child’s mental health.

“Hurry up, or I’ll leave you here”

Although this might be a common thought a parent has when trying to get well…anywhere with children, it is a phrase that can add to a child’s pre-existing fear of getting lost or feelings of abandonment. It is also important to remember that children do not have the same understanding and concept of time as adults do. Instead, focus on what it is that is causing them to lollygag around and help them get going without putting fear into words. Instead try: I know how badly you want to play longer at the park. But right now we have to go home to eat dinner.”

“You never do what I ask you to do”

This is a phrase that unfortunately seems to be used time and time again. However, this is one that can cause a child to feel that they cannot do anything right. If this is used consistently with a child, they may begin to wonder why they should listen at all. Instead, try being specific with them so they can better understand what, how, and why you need them to do something. Instead try: “The only thing left now is to drive the trucks up to their place on the shelf. Want to show me how you do that?”

“I wish you were more like your brother/sister”

No person, let alone a child, likes to be compared to someone else. This can potentially not only cause sibling rivalry, but can also lead to your child feeling inadequate or not worthy of accomplishment because they will never be as good as their sibling/s. It is important to love your child for who they are and embrace each child’s strengths and abilities rather than comparing them. Instead try: “I appreciate that you brushed your teeth with only one reminder.”

Avoid speaking about the other parent

A child should never be caught in the middle of parents’ arguments, disagreements, or witness hearing negative talk about the other parent. This can not only set a bad example for your child, but it can also cause your child to feel they have to choose sides or feel pressured to also speak negatively of the other parent. It is best to speak kindly about your partner in front of the child to avoid these feelings of pressure and differences.

No parent is perfect, and therefore, finding the right words in the moment can sometimes be a challenge. All parents get frustrated with their child from time to time and some of the above statements may be said. If that is the case, remember to apologize immediately and let your child know that you did not mean what you said and that you love them. Children need parents that encourage them rather than being spoken to with hurftful words that ultimately could affect their mental health and self-esteem.



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Coping with Stress during the Holidays – What’s What Wednesday

Coping with Stress during the Holidays

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is discussing the topic of emotional stress that the holidays can often bring. For many people, holidays are filled with happy and joyous emotions, however, others can be left feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or tense. While stress is necessary for our survival and zest in life, too much of it can have a negative impact on both our mental and physical health.

Here are some tips to help cope with holiday stress:

Understand that some things are out of our control: This can be a tough one for many of us! It is important that we realize that we cannot control the weather, the traffic, or actions of our family members. Instead of fighting against what is out of our control, we can give ourselves permission to let go of the struggle and move forward. This can ultimately lead to less stress and a happier

Set Priorities:

Although the holidays are surrounded with fun plans and activities, it is important to pinpoint the ones that offer the most positive impact and eliminate the ones that only add unnecessary stress. For example, in the past, you may have been in charge of the baking, participated in caroling, visited relatives, and sent a family newsletter. Maybe this year try not to put all the
pressure on yourself. Don’t be afraid to say no to the multiple locations you are requested to visit. If your immediate family is the priority, then stick to that. Picking a few important activities or traditions can lighten the load and remove some of the overwhelming stress that multiple activities can cause.


If you are someone that could never fathom the idea of skipping some of your holiday traditions or activities, maybe try to simplify them instead. For example, if you must send a family newsletter, try only sending to your closest friends and family rather than sending to every single friend, neighbor, coworker, etc. Or another option is cutting back on the baking. If you must bake, try having others help in the kitchen or even pick up some of the sides from the grocery store. Hopefully, your friends and/or family is willing to help or is understanding if not everything can be

With some planning, positive thinking, and self-care, the holidays can be less stressful and much more
enjoyable. Learning to plan ahead, recognize holiday triggers, and keeping realistic expectations for yourself
and/or family members can give you the peace and joy during the holiday season that so many of us often lose
sight of.

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The Benefits of Sandtray in Therapy – What’s What Wednesday

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is discussing the benefits of Sandtray in Therapy. Sandtray is an expressive tool that allows for direct demonstration and expression of one’s own emotional and mental experiences without having to use verbalization. This tool in psychotherapy involves the processing of intra- and interpersonal issues with sandtray materials as a nonverbal medium of communication.

Why use Sandtray in Therapy?

Creative expression: Sandtray in therapy allows for the expression of nonverbalized emotional issues, while given the opportunity to explore new possibilities, which may not be possible through verbal expression. The use of the sandtray in therapy assists in providing an environment full of self-exploration and self-expression that incorporates symbols that allow one to channel expression beyond the use of words.

Boundaries and limits: Sandtray in therapy naturally provides a safe and controlled environment. The sandtray is a safe and protected space, while the symbols (objects) hold a focus for a symbolizing function. Due to the absence of interpretation and minimal verbal comments from the therapist, there can be a decrease in feelings of fear and engage fully in expression to work with their implicitly held experiences.

Sensory and symbolic therapeutic method: Because the sandtray is a symbolic means of expression, the objects involved represent all aspects of life, humans, animals, mythology, fantasy, nature, and more. The only skill needed is the ability to move the objects and allow the imagination to speak and share its story.

Sandtray in therapy has provided a way of understanding oneself and their story. We are reminded that we to respect the emotional adaptations as well as the sensory adaptations. Sandtray offers a medium for expression free from evaluation and fear. Sandtray in therapy has opened the doors for us to understand people more fully and improve our intervention planning

Sandtray therapy makes the internal external so it can be weaved into the narrative of life – Amy Flaherty

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The Benefits of Pets on Human Health – What’s What Wednesday

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center would like to discuss the several benefits that pets have on human health. It may be of no surprise to the animal-loving individuals out there that pets provide a type of companionship that is different than any other type of relationship we might have. Pets are found to not only decrease stress and increase relaxation, but they can also improve mental, emotional, and physical health. The better we understand the human-animal bond, the more we can use it to improve the overall health of humans.

Here are three areas where humans can benefit from a pet:

Impact on Mental Health: Studies have revealed that individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and PTSD report feeling an ontological security when taking in a pet. This means that there is a feeling of stability, continuity, and a meaning given to one’s life when it is shared with a pet. Several studies have shown that pets provide an invaluable support system for people with mental health conditions.

Impact on Physical Health: Studies have shown that pets can improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Not only do adults have the ability to benefit from pets, but children have also been studied as well. One study was done with children aged 3-6 and took place during two separate routine doctor appointments. When a pet was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral stress versus the measures taken when a pet was not in the room.

Impact on Social Well-Being: Pets not only decrease loneliness and depression, but they can also promote socialization. It is not uncommon for a dog to lead us into striking up a conversation with a stranger. Taking your cat to the veterinarian encourages nurturing. Feeding the birds or watching a pet fish swim in the tank are all ways that offer the potential of slowing down the hectic pace of life. Pets overall encourage friendlier exchanges, enhance opportunities of interaction, and promote mindfulness.

Any pet that offers comfort and support can be looked at as a great benefit to one’s health. Regardless of the species, a pet can allow us to learn empathy, feel comfort and support, and help us live in the present moment which we so often forget how to do.

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The Benefits of Yoga – What’s What Wednesday


This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is recognizing the benefits of yoga and what it can do for mental health. Practicing yoga not only incorporates breathing exercises, poses and meditation designed to promote relaxation and stress reduction, but it also brings the mind and body together in a way that benefits both mental and physical health. We will discuss a few evidence-based benefits of yoga that may enhance your overall health, while increasing strength, flexibility, and mindfulness.

Here are 3 Evidence-based benefits of Yoga:

Decreases Stress: Studies have shown that yoga decreases the secretion of cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone. Yoga encourages slow breathing and focuses on shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (flight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. This creates a calming effect, lowers blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and organs, and therefore, decreases the body’s stress.

Relieves Anxiety: Some people find that practicing yoga is a great way to cope with feelings of anxiety. One study has shown that individuals who suffered from anxiety disorders that participated in yoga twice a week had significantly lower levels of anxiety than the control group that did not participate in yoga. Another study followed 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After 10 weeks of practicing yoga once a week, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD. These findings help emphasize the importance of finding the “present moment” and allowing yourself to find a sense of peace.

Helps Fight Depression: Studies have shown that the practice of yoga can also have an anti-depressant effect. This may be true due to the fact that yoga is able to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that influences levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter often associated with depression. One study took participants from an alcohol-dependence program.  After two weeks of yoga practice that focused on rhythmic breathing, all participants showed fewer symptoms of depression and had lower levels of ACTH, the hormone responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol.

Yoga is one form of exercise that fits people of all ages and fitness levels. Regardless of the type of yoga you prefer, each one offers a holistic approach to mind-body connection and strength. Yoga offers lasting benefits and cultivates a sense of inner peace and calmness, boosting your physical, emotional, and mental health.

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Mental Illness Awareness Week

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is recognizing Mental Illness Awareness Week. Although mental health is a topic we should discuss year round, this week allows us to highlight the importance of mental health awareness and dedicate this time to educate the public on fighting stigma and providing support. Millions of individuals face the reality of living with a mental health condition, and yet, the stigma attached to mental illness creates an environment of shame, fear, and silence which prevents many individuals from seeking help and treatment. In some cases, this costs individuals their lives.

Here are 4 reasons why Mental Illness Awareness week matters:

  1. The amount of people impacted by mental illness.

The National Institute for Mental Health did a study in 2015 finding that 1 in 5 (43.8 million) American adults suffer from mental illness in any given year. Adolescents are also impacted by mental illness, with 21.4% experiencing a severe mental illness at some point in their lifetime.

  1. Awareness must be made.

When we talk mental illness, it lets other people know that they are not alone. Having this discussion also informs society on the severity of the issue. It can be beneficial to understand the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment of mental illness.

  1. We must eliminate stigma.

Stigma is 100% preventable! The shame, fear, and guilt that is placed on the topic of mental illness can cause people to feel even more isolated than what they already do. We do not want mental illness to define anyone or have people feeling alone. Eliminating the stigma can do just this!

  1. The importance of treatment.

Seeking treatment can be the first step in the right direction and can overall improve the quality of your life. Understanding what mental illness is and why seeking treatment is a crucial part to the recovery process can allow someone to seek help sooner. Individuals suffering from mental illness can also develop other chronic medical conditions depending on the severity of the mental illness.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help. For more information, please call Sunshine State Counseling Center at 239-495-7722.

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What is Postpartum Depression? What’s What Wednesday

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of mood disorder that women can develop after having a baby. Extreme sadness, anxiety, tiredness and depression are some of the symptoms that make it extremely challenging for a new mother to care for her baby and herself. Although there is no single cause for PPD, this condition likely results from both physical and emotional factors. PPD is the most common complication for mothers who have just had a baby, with 1 in 7 women diagnosed after giving birth. PPD typically develops 1-3 weeks after giving birth and is a serious condition that must be addressed and given proper treatment.

Although postpartum is naturally a scary time for any mother, it is important for moms to know that they are not alone. PPD is not your fault and this condition does not make you a bad person or bad mother. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of PPD can help mothers to potentially seek help sooner rather than later, and ultimately will create a healthier environment for herself and her baby. If you or someone you know is showing five or more of the below signs and just recently had a baby, it is possible that PPD may be present:

Changes in feelings: Feeling constantly depressed, having severe mood swings, feeling panicky or scared, and/or feelings of shame or guilt.

Changes in everyday life: Having little interest in normal activities, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling tired all the time, and/or eating a lot more or a lot less than normal.

Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby: Having trouble bonding with your baby or
thinking about hurting yourself and/or your baby.

Although many women experience the baby blues, which have similar symptoms as the PPD symptoms listed above, it is important to understand the longevity of your symptoms and how severe they are. The baby blues often go away within a few days, while PPD symptoms last much longer and are much more severe. Please remember that you are not alone. Do not be afraid to ask for help from a partner, friend, or another caregiver.

If you are a mom and experiencing signs of postpartum depression, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help. For more information, please call Sunshine State Counseling Center at 239-495-7722.

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A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Teen Years – What’s What Wednesday

Why is it that parents dread the topic of teenagers? The truth is this: the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically, but emotionally and intellectually as well, causing confusion and frustration for many families. It is no secret that parents are biologically driven to protect their children, thus, sometimes getting in the way of the teen and their desire to “grow up” and “separate” to gain their independence. This is often the time period when parents begin to feel stress and conflict with their teen for a variety of reasons.  It is vital that parents take this time to understand their teen and the very real changes that they are undergoing. It may also be of great help to both you and your teen if you attempt to understand the ever-changing and challenging world they are living in, while also taking a look at yourself as well during this process. Here are some tips on how to approach this:

Let it go: Your child has to grow up at some point in life and adolescence is there for that very reason. It is normal for teens to pull away from you. Because parents are biologically driven to protect their child(ren), it can be extremely challenging to let go and allow them to achieve independence. Some questions you can ask yourself are: “Am I a controlling parent?”, “Do I listen to my child?”, “Do I allow my teen’s opinions to differ from my own?” Remember, while you are driven to protect your child, your teen is biologically programmed to separate during this time. The best thing you can do here is to embrace the fact that your teen is entering into a new stage of life.

Inform your teen: Experimentation and risky behaviors are often presented during the teen years. Many parents tend to ignore or avoid the subjects of sex, drugs, and alcohol; consequently, making it worse for their teen down the road. Discussing these tough topics prior to your teen’s exposure will make your child more likely to act responsibly when presented to these types of scenarios. It is okay to share your family values and what you believe to be right versus wrong.

Know the warning signs: Change is normal during the teen years; however, drastic or long-lasting behavior or personality changes may be a signal for trouble. Some warning signs include but are not limited to: extreme weight gain or loss, signs of alcohol or drug use, skipping school, sudden changes in friends, and/or run-ins with the law. Inappropriate behavior that lasts longer than 6 weeks may be a sign that your teen needs to seek professional help.

As most parents are aware, the teen years are filled with both highs and lows. Take the time to understand your teen, ask questions, and know that your teen still needs you even if they think or say otherwise. They will slowly develop into becoming responsible and independent young adults as you navigate through these challenging, yet exciting times.

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Stop Human Trafficking – What’s What Wednesday

Most people have heard of human trafficking, but many have no idea what it looks like and where it happens. Human trafficking is defined as modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Human Trafficking is the second largest money-making industry in the country, second only to the drug trade. This modern-day slavery affects more than 20.9 million people around the world today. Although there is no age limit on a victim of trafficking, the most vulnerable population of trafficked victims in the U.S. are ages 12 to 14 years old. The typical age of a trafficking victim sold into prostitution for the first time in the state of Florida is only 9 years old. Florida is ranked third in the nation for trafficking, following closely behind California and Texas. Florida has been identified as a top hub for trafficking activity, and therefore, has some of the highest incidences of human trafficking in the country.
Although there are several forms of recruitment that traffickers will use to attract American youth, one of the most popular forms in the United States is false employment offers. This includes but is not limited to modeling, waitressing, and house cleaning. Social media plays a major role in facilitating the process of recruitment and allows traffickers an easy access point in reaching youth across the country. Another recruitment method involves seduction. Many traffickers will take extreme measures, such as marriage, pregnancy, or long-term courtship to trick the victim into thinking they are loved however, it is not long before the victims are thrown into the trade and sold for sex and/or labor.

Human trafficking is a growing problem world-wide. It is extremely important to understand what this crime is and where it is happening. The dark truth is that it is happening right here, and many times, right in front of our face. The first step in combating this world-wide crime is to understand what contributes to the exploitation of children and teens. This includes understanding the individual factors, family factors, peer factors, and environmental factors. Human trafficking affects all sectors of our community and victims can be found in plain sight if we learn to identify the signs and factors that make children and teens more vulnerable to this type of victimization.

To read the full blog on the details on factors that contribute to human trafficking, please visit: http://sscc.center/whats-what-wednesday/

To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
If you or someone you know have been a victim of human trafficking, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help. For more information, please call Sunshine State Counseling Center at 239-495-7722.

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World Sucide Prevention Day – What’s What Wednesday

This month we recognize September 10, 2018 as World Suicide Prevention Day. This day not only reminds us that it only takes a minute to possibly change the course of an individual’s life, but also that it is important for us to be advocates for suicide prevention and stay informed on the available resources our community has to offer.

When we talk about changing the course of someone’s life, this could be a family member, friend, colleague, or even a stranger.  Taking one minute to ask someone how they are doing or starting the conversation with a person that may seem “off” is the first step you can take in showing concern and offering your compassion. Although many people worry that intervening may worsen the situation, evidence suggests that offering support and a listening ear actually reduces distress rather than exacerbating it. Another main concern is that individuals fear the “suicide conversation” because they are unsure of what to say to someone who is suicidal. What we must understand is that there is no specific advice that these individuals are looking for. They simply need someone to listen. Showing empathy, displaying compassion, and knowing what resources are available can help you help someone save their life.

Some common warning signs of suicide include: Hopelessness, Depression, Rage, Uncontrolled Anger, Acting Reckless, Increased Alcohol and Drug Use, and/or Feeling Trapped. If you recognize a person displaying these signs, here are some helpful tips:

– Approach the person
– Listen and ask questions
– Take every suicidal threat seriously
– Seek help

To read the full blog and additional details on the above tips for suicide prevention, please visit: http://sscc.center/whats-what-wednesday/

If you or someone you know are showing warning signs of suicide, a licensed mental health professional may be able to help. For more information, please call Sunshine State Counseling Center at 239-495-7722.

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What’s What Wednesday: The Power Behind Positive Thinking


The benefits of “positive thinking” go far beyond the fluffy term itself. Most of us may find ourselves wondering if this way of thinking truly works. Is there even science behind this? The answer is, yes! Positive thinking not only allows us to feel good about ourselves, but science has proven that our thoughts have the ability to shape our brain and the way it works. Thinking positive goes as far as allowing individuals to reshape their brains by activating certain portions that were once considered non-functional. Training the brain to have constant, repetitive positive thinking can have lasting effects and promote a happier and healthier lifestyle.

The big question many need answered is what we can do to promote this lifestyle change for ourselves. Being constantly positive isn’t always the easiest task to accomplish, especially if you are having a bad day or simply worried about an upcoming exam.

Regardless, you have the power within yourself to overcome the intrusive, negative thoughts these instances often present.

Here are some helpful tips when dealing with some of the most common negative thoughts:

Worrying: Worrying can occur when you continuously think about a problem, situation, event, etc. The thoughts are constant and can lead to anxiety, stress, obsession, and loss of sleep. The solution in this case is simple…focus your mind on something different and re-direct your thoughts. Challenge your mind to think of the best rather than the worst. You can immediately feel the effects of positive thinking once you change your mind to focus on the best possible outcome rather than the worst possible outcome.

Fear: Fear is a natural human instinct and may be good in some instances. However, when fear gets in the way of stopping you from achieving your goals, this is when it becomes an issue. At this point, negative thoughts are dominating over the positive thoughts. The solution here is once again re-directing the thoughts that are causing fear. Start thinking about how things will work out rather than fearing that they won’t. Begin to take positive action to achieve positive results. You are good enough!

Mental Illness: Mental illness refers to a variety of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, phobias, and more. These conditions can be physically and emotionally trying and even interfere with your daily life. The problem is that some people may need some additional support when seeking to live a positive thinking lifestyle when dealing with these destructive thoughts and feelings. The solution in this case is that you must know you are not alone and it is okay to reach out for help. There are professionals that are trained to work specifically with individuals who experience these conditions. Speaking with a trained professional can allow someone to uncover and change these destructive thoughts and turn them into a positive thinking pattern which can ultimately lead to a healthier life.

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What’s What Wednesday: Being actively Involved in your treatment

Sunshine State Counseling Center clinicians have found it important to inform parents, caregivers, and legal guardians’ information on how to be actively involved in the treatment being received for themselves as an individual, family, couple, group, for your child or a child you are the legal guardian. It is very important that you have the opportunity to ask questions, be actively involved, and give input into the treatments and supports being recommended.

When you, the family, couple, your child or a child you are the legal guardian are in therapy, it is important to provide valuable information including but not limited to medical and mental health history, traumatic events, education, family history, and current behaviors to assist with developing a plan for treatment. At any point during treatment, you can ask questions and get updates on the progression of the treatment plan. It will be important to implement the strategies learned in the office at home, school, work, and all areas needed to assist and support in reaching treatment goals as well as to minimize information being forgotten after the session ends.

Here are five additional ways to be active in treatment: 

  1. Take care of yourself and your mental health; use relaxation and calming techniques.
  2. Be patient, the therapeutic process takes time. 
  3. Foster positive relationships.
  4. Ask questions.
  5. Provide a stable and consistent environment with clear boundaries; setting limits as needed.

Here are Sunshine State Counseling Center we are committed to helping you and your child getting the support you deserve. If you want more information, please give us a call at 239 495 7722.


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What’s What Wednesday – Stress Awareness Month



This week Sunshine State Counseling Center is discussing Stress Awareness Month. Stress Awareness Month promotes the awareness of stress in our everyday lives but also in a work place setting. This includes highlighting the causes of stress, the negative effects stress can have on the mind and body, and how to relieve stress. Most people experience stress at some point in their lives, but constant or extreme stress is bad for both the mind and body. When you have constant stress in your life the symptoms can be mental and physical. Stress can be caused by a sudden traumatic event or even just the expectations of daily life.

Some of the negative side effects stress can have on us are:

  • Headaches
  • Chest Pain
  • Irritability or anger
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Stomach issues

We have accumulated four ways to reduce stress:

  1. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.
  2. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
  3. Do things for yourself: Take a warm bath, read your favorite book, or watch your favorite movie.
  4. Write it out: While writing down what you are stressed about is one approach, another is writing down what you are grateful for. Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.

Stress will never completely go away. There will always be stressful situation on our lives but we can learn how to manage the stress we feel and be proactive with the stress we feel. At Sunshine State Counseling Center, we can help you work to cope with the stress you feel. If you or someone you know needs help managing their stress give us a call at (239)495-7722

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What’s What Wednesday – Couples Therapy

At Sunshine State Counseling Center, we use two different treatment modalities for couple’s therapy: Emotionally Focused Therapy and The Gottman Method.

Emotionally Focused Therapy is an intervention that looks to improve the couple’s relationship by addressing concerns in the intimate relationships of adults. This approach allows both parties to develop a better understanding of their own emotional responses and their partner’s emotional responses. There are three outlined stages when using emotionally focused therapy:

  1. Stage One: Cycle De-escalation. In this stage, the couple will identify concerns and negative patterns in the couple’s relationship.
  2. Stage Two: Changing Interaction Patterns. The couple will express their emotions and allow the individuals to express compassion and understanding of their partner’s needs.
  3. Step Three: Consolidation and integration. During this stage, the therapist coaches the couple with the use of a new communication style to talk about previous problems and develop new solutions

The Gottman method takes on an assessment of the relationship approach. The Gottman Method is designed to strengthen the couple’s relationship in three areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning. The Gottman Method uses nine components to a healthy relationship:

  • Build Road Maps (knowing the other person’s world)
  • Share fondness and admiration
  • Turn towards instead of away
  • The positive perspective
  • Manage conflict (Accept partners influence, dialogue about problems, practice self-soothing)
  • Make life dreams come true
  • Create shared meaning

If you and your partner are looking for support, to assist with communication, pre-marital counseling, or co-parenting techniques, please us a call at (239)495-7722.

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What’s What Wednesday: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was pioneered by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960’s. CBT is a modality of therapy widely used in the mental health field and one of the therapeutic modalities we use here at Sunshine State Counseling Center with our clients. CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem solving. The goal of CBT is to change patterns of thinking or behaviors that are behind people’s difficulties, to allow changes of the way they feel.


Here are some examples of what CBT is used for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger Management
  • Stress
  • Bulimia
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder


Some reasons why CBT is so effective is because there are different parts within the therapeutic process. First CBT is goal-oriented so there are a limited number of challenges you are focusing on. While using CBT the client and therapist focus on the problem and with the help of the therapist, you may begin to feel a shift in the way you perceive the situation.

At Sunshine State Counseling Center, we want to help you with any challenges you are facing. If you feel like you or a loved one could benefit from the use of CBT give us a call at (239) 495-7722.

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What’s What Wednesday – National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week nationwide. The goal of National Eating Disorder Awareness week is to get the conversation going about eating disorders as they affect many people. 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that have untold negative impacts on their lives. It is because of these stigmas and old stereotypes; many people do not get the support they deserve.

This year, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, are asking the question ‘Why Wait?’

On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That is almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.

The sooner someone gets the treatment needed, the more likely there is a full and fast recovery. As well as campaigning to improve the services available, we recognize that we must raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and encourage and empower people to take action now – no matter how long their symptoms have been present.

Sunshine State Counseling Center has researched signs and symptoms from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). An individual with an eating disorder, generally, will not have all of these signs and symptoms at once, and warning signs and symptoms vary across eating disorders, so this is not intended as a checklist. Rather, it is intended as a general overview of the types of behaviors that may indicate an eating disorder.

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Dresses in layers to hide weight loss or stay warm
  • Is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refuses to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Makes frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss
  • Complains of constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, lethargy, and/or excess energy
  • Denies feeling hungry
  • Develops food rituals (e.g., eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
  • Cooks meals for others without eating
  • Consistently makes excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
  • Expresses a need to “burn off” calories taken in
  • Maintains an excessive, rigid exercise regimen – despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
  • Withdraws from usual friends and activities and becomes more isolated, withdrawn, and secretive
  • Seems concerned about eating in public
  • Has limited social spontaneity
  • Resists or is unable to maintain a body weight appropriate for their age, height, and build
  • Has intense fear of weight gain or being “fat,” even though underweight
  • Has disturbed experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight
  • Post puberty female loses menstrual period
  • Feels ineffective
  • Has strong need for control
  • Shows inflexible thinking
  • Has overly restrained initiative and emotional expression

If you have any concerns about yourself or a loved one, please seek additional medical help.

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What’s What Wednesday – Tragedy in Parkland

Sunshine State Counseling Center and the Broward County Crime Commission are deeply saddened about the horrific tragedy that occurred at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, 14 February 2018. Our condolences are with the families of the victims, as well as those who have suffered injuries.

Collier County Public School District provided resources that may help in talking with children and helping them cope with this news. Below is a list of tips from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) about what parents can do in times like this:

  1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings.Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help putthem into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
  2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient.Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily.
  3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
  4. Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them.

    Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.

    Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.

  5. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  6. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  7. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
  8. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health.Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

If you think your child needs counseling support in dealing with this tragedy or if you have further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s school counselor or school principal.

Sheriff Rambosk and I feel the public can help keep schools safe by reporting any suspicious or unusual activity to law enforcement. Anyone with information should call 239-252-9300 or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477.

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What’s What Wednesday – Goals for 2018

With the New Year already under way, you may have made goals or turned over a new leaf for your lifestyle. Many of us know that the new year being new resolutions, yet we do not always keep those resolutions. Here are some ways to hold yourself accountable to the goals you created:

  1. Set SMART Goals; SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound)
    Goals are goals you have to really process and think about setting. You must look at all the parts of the goal that you want to accomplish and make sure they fall in line with the acronym of SMART.
  2. Write the goal down. When writing your goals down, your goals seem to be something you can achieve. When writing your goals down, you can leave them in places like your bathroom mirror for a daily reminder, or in your wallet. This also gives you the opportunity to state that you ‘Will’ do, not what you ‘may’ do. This will shape your mindset to be positive and not doubt yourself or your goal.
  3. Hold yourself accountable or find encouragement in your support systems to help hold you accountable to achieve your goals. Making sure these goals you have set for yourself stay with you, and although you may falter, you get bounce back and work to consistently achieve your goals.

Here at Sunshine State Counseling Center we can also help you work on your goals and how to achieve them. Feel free to contact us at 239-495-7722.

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What’s What Wednesday – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The month of December celebrates National Human Rights Month. This month is dedicated to standing up for equality, justice and human dignity, and is celebrated worldwide. This major accomplishment has only been celebrated for 70 years. This day reflects on the rights we have as humans, which are not dependent on race, religion, sex, political affiliation, origin, or status. National Human Rights Month wants to celebrate the rights we have and strives to create an understanding that although we may be different we all have the same rights as humans.

Here are somethings that you can do to celebrate Human Rights Month:

  1. Use the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights on all social media platforms. It can be a picture of yourself, or an action you are doing that celebrates your rights.
  2. Volunteer at an agency that promotes the wellbeing of others. For example, you can volunteer to be a Guardian ad Litem to advocate for children or the SWFL Regional Human Trafficking Coalition to help fight against slavery.
  3. You can contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which is a state agency that enforces the state’s civil rights laws. It is against Florida law to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or familial status. If you see something or something is done to you that goes against the above stated Florida law you can file a complaint which will be investigated and resolved.

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What’s What Wednesday – Self Care Tips

Self-Care is very important in everyone, and is a great outlet for stress management. When thinking about self-care techniques everyone has something different, they prefer. This week Sunshine State Counseling Center would like to provide you with three techniques and suggestions to apply to your everyday life:

  1. Eating healthier foods. When thinking of self-care, we tend to think about of what we can do physically, but eating healthy is just as important. Be sure to eat brain-fueling foods like eggs, tree nuts, fish, along with vegetables. A nutritious snack can help with your performance and your overall mood.
  2. Set a schedule for yourself. Not only is it important to see what you have planned daily, but it is also a reminder to accomplish your goals you set for yourself that day or that week. Sleep schedules are also important, having a concrete bedtime will help with your overall health as well as set a daily time to wake up to allow your body to get used to a set schedule.
  3. Learn to say no when you do not want to participate in something (an activity, dinner, gathering, etc.) or you already have a lot going on. When looking at your planned-out day, determine if there are things that do not bring you joy, try to let go of that activity and fill it with something that benefits you and your personal goals.

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What’s What Wednesday: Homelessness And Hunger

This week Sunshine State Counseling Center would like to discuss the impact of homelessness and hunger in our Lee County community. Florida has the third largest homeless population in the United States of America. In South West Florida homelessness and hunger are current problems, affecting more than 35% of our community. One way to bring awareness to these issues are through organizations and agencies that are working hard to assist those in need. This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. The goal of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week is to make a difference and share compassion to those who are experiencing these challenges, all while trying to make sure these issues deplete throughout not just the United States, but worldwide.

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What’s What Wednesday: Five Tips to reduce Back to School Stress



back to school pic

Back to school season has finally started ! After two long months of summer; parents, children and the rest of the school staff are getting ready for school excitement. We know how difficult it is for everyone to go back to the same routines, parents walking their children and getting them ready for the day, making sure they have all their supplies, and most importantly a nutritious lunch. Getting back to school is also a very difficult task for children, not only does it involve a lot of changes in their sleeping schedules but also their daily summer routines.  Here are some tips to help you ease back into the back to school hassle.

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What’s What Wednesday: Keep Your Summer on Track

Child drawing a smiling sun on a sandy beach, with beach towel, starfish and flip flops (studio shot - warm color and directional light are intentional).

While summer vacation is well under way your child may be thrilled to enjoy the much anticipated lazy days and sleeping in, the prospect of summer break is not always quite that unalloyed pleasure for parents.

While all kids do better with structure and routine, those with mental health issues including anxiety, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders are especially dependent on the predictable “safe zone” that school provides. Without it, they are more prone to anxiety, oppositional behavior, and tantrums. For the parents who care for them, “summer vacation” can be anything but.

This month Sunshine State Counseling Center is providing you with some tips from the Child Mind Institute to help keep your child on track so summer can be as rewarding as possible for everyone in the family:

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What’s What Wednesday: How Does PTSD May Affect Your Daily Life?


How does PTSD may affect your daily life?

After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, the individual may develop a group of symptoms that may impair their social and occupational functioning. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual V, people with PTSD may experience all or some of the following symptoms:

Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hyper-vigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation

Psychological: flashbacks, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust, avoidance of people, places, sounds, objects, conversations or anything that could remind them of the traumatic event.

Mood: inability to feel pleasure, guilt, loneliness, depression.

Sleep: insomnia and/or nightmares

Also common: emotional detachment and unwanted thoughts.

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