Understanding PTSD: Diagnosis and Symptoms

PTSD or Post-traumatic stress disorder can be triggered when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as an accident, assault, natural disaster, or combat. This mental health disorder affects 3.6% of the U.S. adult population, with about 37% of those diagnosed being classified as having severe symptoms, and often co-occurs with other disorders such as substance use disorder, anxiety, and depression.  

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Eating Disorders and the Road to Recovery

Eating disorders are serious mental and physical illnesses that affect an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in America. As with other mental illnesses, eating disorders are not a choice. There are many contributing factors such as genetics, social pressures, negative body image, low self-esteem, and other contributing factors such as stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, sexual abuse, substance use, stressful life changes, or weight-oriented careers such as gymnastics, running, or modeling. A key to helping those in need to take the first step to recovery is to educate yourself.  

What are the types of eating disorders?

While there are many types of eating disorders, these three are the most common – anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.  Let’s take a closer look at each one. 

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Off-Campus Gap Experience

Mind the Gap Between High School and Independent Living

Gap years are continuing to be a growing phenomenon. According to the 2015 Gap Year Association National Alumni Survey report, 92% of gappers surveyed were motivated to take a gap year to “gain life experiences and experience personal growth.” After completing their gap year of choice, “this survey found an association between job satisfaction and civic engagement, and taking a Gap Year, participating in a Gap Year may have implications beyond immediate personal and college/academic outcomes.” Adding a touch of therapeutic support can make all the difference in a young adult’s life, and the success that Yellowbrick has witnessed over 15 years with this population is extraordinary.

Yellowbrick’s rationale for developing an innovative Gap Experience (Off-Campus) is to offer an additional option for emerging young adults and their families when they ask themselves, “Are we ready for what’s next?” These questions have been all the more intensified by requisite restrictions and changes to the post-high school platform due to Covid.
Yellowbrick’s Off-Campus will offer a transitional period that addresses a full spectrum of concerns for emerging young adults and their parents:

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Sexual Assault Guide

What is Considered Sexual Assault? A Guide on Sexual Assault.

Published with permission from Florin/Roebig Trial Attorneys
Published: December 16, 2019 Last Modified: July 22, 2020

If you’re searching for advice on what to do after a sexual assault, consider this step-by-step guide for a detailed overview of what to do immediately following the incident, your rights, sexual assault laws in your state, and how to seek help with filing a sexual assault claim.

Trigger Warning: If you have been sexually assaulted, this guide may contain information that is painful or difficult to read.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it can be hard to know what to do, whether the incident happened a few hours ago or a few years ago. You may be feeling a myriad of emotions, from shame to anger, or even guilt. You may need medical care, but feel too upset or humiliated to seek it. And you may want to seek legal help, but be unsure where to turn for support after such a traumatic experience.

Immediately following a sexual assault, your safety should be the number one priority. Beyond seeking immediate stability, it’s important that you know your legal rights in case you want to file a sexual assault claim now or in the future.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that healing and recovery should be your greatest goal following a sexual assault, but legal recourse may be available, too. Whether you seek damages for physical, emotional, or psychological harm, a sexual assault claim may help with the recovery process.

What Is Considered Sexual Assault?

With so much stigma surrounding sexual assault, it’s necessary to first have an understanding of the definition of sexual assault. This type of assault unfortunately takes many forms. When considering a sexual assault, it’s important to remember that the incident is never the victim’s fault and that if force or coercion was used and the actions were nonconsensual –  not wanted or agreed to (having a person’s consent), an assault occurred.

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The Mental Health Impact of Gap Year

The Mental Health Impact of a Gap Year

By Jesse Viner, M.D.

Taking a gap year — a year off between high school and college — isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that has certainly gained more attention recently due to Malia Obama’s decision to take one before starting Harvard University.

When talking about gap years, it’s important to note that we’re not talking about 18-year-olds who decide to lounge around and play video games for a year. A true gap year involves an experiential learning activity, like traveling, volunteering, mastering another language, interning or working. Learning through action and experience is a crucial mode of personal growth for emerging young adults.

The expense involved varies significantly based on the chosen activity. For instance, sending a student abroad can be an expensive option for many families, but paid internships and jobs can make a gap year feasible for all income brackets.

Beside the obvious benefit of giving students a break after the stress of high school, gap years can be a real asset when it comes to mental health. Around one-third of college-aged American students reported experiencing depression in the year prior to the 2013 National College Health Assessment Survey and almost half experienced overwhelming anxiety. Gap years can give students the tools they need to start off college prepared for the challenges ahead. Among the specific benefits:

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teenagers protesting

Social Unrest and Parenting Teenagers

By Michael Losoff, PhD
Staff Psychologist
Director of Adolescent Services

We are all struggling to absorb the intense and frightening social unrest that has erupted following the brutal killing of George Floyd, exposing again painful and deeply unsettling inequalities and injustices that bubble below the surface of our civil life. There are two elements of this circumstance to which we as parents can attune in understanding our teenagers’ responses and helping them navigate the turbulent waters. The first is recognizing that rebellion and fighting unfairness lie at the core of teen emotional life. The second is finding a way to provide guidance and assistance, even as we ourselves may feel uncertain and anxious.

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Parents and Teenagers

Navigating quarantine with your teenager

By Bryn Jessup, PhD
Director, Family Services & Systems,

In Illinois, the governor’s stay-at-home order has meant that you and your teenager are probably spending more time at home than you used to, maybe more than you even thought possible. Your teenager has become better acquainted than ever with their phone, their screens and their game systems … with social media and all the usual platforms for communicating with friends and others … and, for better and for worse, with the other members of their own family. Especially with you!

All this togetherness gets complicated and even crazy-making at times. Understanding better what our teenagers are going through can point the way to helping them manage their stress levels and protect your own sanity in the process.

  • Compared with their younger selves, most teenagers want to spend more time with peers, doing more kinds of self-directed activities with friends, and cultivating interests and activities that set them apart from other members of their family.

Extensive research in adolescent development reveals it to be a time of significant brain development particularly in those areas of the brain responsible for directed action and decision-making, including the prefrontal cortex (Giedd, 2015; Siegel, 2014). At the same time, there is a strong developmental push to establish greater independence and autonomy in the context of family relationships, especially with parents (Arnett, 2009). Add to these developments the activation of teenage endocrine systems that in turn heighten emotional experience and reactivity. Research confirms what you may know as parents: older teenagers actually experience emotions more intensely than do children and adults (Sapolsky, 2017). Taken together, these developmental trends mean that most teenagers are strongly disposed to make decisions and take action in the service of keenly felt needs for greater independence, separation and autonomy.

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Negativity Makes You Sick

Can Negativity Make You Sick?

All the worry and fear about the coronavirus may make you wonder if a positive or negative outlook can have a significant effect on your health. The answer is positively yes. Three decades of scientific research shows that a positive outlook can help you stay healthier, recover more quickly if you do get sick, and live longer, than a negative perspective. An optimistic, hopeful attitude, even against the odds, is correlated with lower mortality, improved immune function, and recovery from serious illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune disease, and type 2 diabetes (see reviews by Humphrey, 2004; Rasmussen, Scheier, and Greenhouse, 2009; Wilson, Woody and Kiecolt-Glaser, 2018).

Decades of empirical research in the field of Positive Psychology (Seligman, 2011) shows convincingly that a hopeful, positive outlook can prevent the onset of serious illness in those at risk and improve the chances of recovery and survival for those who already have a serious,life-threatening disease (Steptoe, 2019). The converse is also true. Stress, depression,pessimism and a negative outlook are associated with increased inflammation, poorer response to vaccines, risk of a wide spectrum of diseases, poorer chances of recovery,and greater mortality (Wilson, Woody and Kiecolt-Glaser, 2018).

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Paradigm Shift and Youth

By Michael Losoff, PhD
Staff Psychologist, Director of Adolescent Services 

A book that has had a vivid impact on me, even though I first encountered it in the 1980’s, is Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it, he talks about moments in history when the view of the world changes in a deep and fundamental way. He talks about these moments as representing a paradigm shift—a fundamental change in approach and in our underlying assumptions. We are living through such a shift right now – the way we see and understand and approach the world will never be the same. Our very reality is in the process of change. Our lives are upended.

Who can help us live in a space of such great uncertainty, when we look at the world with which we are familiar one moment and then blink, only to see a fundamentally different world? Who will walk alongside us (at a distance of six feet!) through such a turbulent time? Who will model for us how to be flexible?

Young people.

Wait, seriously, young people?

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Online Learning At Home

Online as Effective as Classroom Learning

Tracey Reaves, M.A.
Coordinator of Adolescent Education and Clinical Services

Are you afraid that school closures from COVID-19 are going to harm you or your child academically? You don’t need to worry.  Research shows that online high school and college classes are at least as effective as classroom-based learning. In fact, web-based instruction can be even better at engaging students in active, not passive, learning.  David Pritchard of MIT concludes, “The amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course.” 

David Pritchard was the lead author on a 2014 international study conducted by MIT, Harvard and China’s Tsinghua University, in the “International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.” They found that online learning is effective for every student regardless of each individual’s amount of class preparation, skill, and engagement level. Pritchard summarized the findings, “(online) classes really can teach at least as effectively as traditional classroom courses…regardless of how much preparation and knowledge students start out with.” Students are engaging and interacting in productive ways. Including video conferencing programs can break classes into small groups just as easily, if not better, than in the traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms.

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