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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5220
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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Hi! My name is XXXXX XXXXX have a very Bright almost 21 year

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Hi! My name is XXXXX XXXXX have a very Bright almost 21 year old in her jr. year of college. She was home over christmas break and struggled with Depression and major anxitiy. she did say several times that she was worried about going back to school. University of Alabama and we are in Virginia. she was so anxious about going back because of her depression and panic attacks. My husband asked her before he pushed that pay for spring semester button( 16 thousand dollars)if she was sure about going back to finish her 3rd year. She said yes! Well, no! We are heading up to pick her up and move her home. Don't understand? My Mother died in Aug. Which she witnessed and was VERY Close to her. she says she scared we are going to die now. She also questions reasons she is on this earth. PLEASE HELP! Heart broken for her. p.s she is a VERY strong Happy Person normally. works out, swimmer, triolthion team, and her moto always was, Failer is Not an Option!

Hi Laura! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

First let me say that I can imagine how distressing and frustrating this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring mom and it must be so distressing and somewhat shocking to have your daughter, who you are so used to being a forward looking and motivated young lady be so overwhelmed by anxiety and fears. That you are seeking help is a very good thing.

I would like to bring up something that seems like it has not been dealt with: your daughter may be experiencing post traumatic stress. It's usually thought of as the disorder PTSD. I mentioned PTSD but I don't want you to get frightened at the word "disorder". I doubt that your mother's death (please accept my condolences, by the way) has triggered the PTSD to such an extent that it is in the category of the full disorder.

However, her anxiety symptoms and the withdrawal from functionality seem very consistent with having experienced a trauma that she hasn't been able to process in her life. It has clearly superseded grief. This appears to have been experienced by her as a trauma.

This focus on my part on the trauma she experienced, again, is not meant to do more than give a new view of what's happening to her: that her withdrawal from functionality is a traumatic reaction rather than a structural (biomedical) problem of anxiety disorders. I think that treating the traumatic stress might help her recover her footing and be able to reenter the world and life.

There are no medications that directly treat traumas. And I recommend not focusing the therapy on grief but on the trauma experience. Psychotherapy that is helpful for PTSD is some form of Exposure Therapy. I have found EMDR can be very useful especially for one time traumas. It is a type of therapy specifically for PTSD originally. Here is the International Society's website:

On the web you will find many opinions on EMDR both for and against. I am trained in it and have found it useful. Exposure therapy is also very helpful. I have found that you need to combine these types of therapy with a more introspective, psychodynamic approach. But many EMDR practitioners and therapist working with Exposure Therapy do not take the time to insure the emotional safety of the patient and so that's why she will need someone who is more psychodynamic in approach.

If you don't have a good referral source, here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (you can see a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list working with PTSD and EMDR and also some form of psychodynamic or humanistic therapy in their orientations. And make sure you and she are confident in them as a therapist and they share your values.

I wish you the very best!

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