Dealing with U.S. Post Election Stress and the Benefits of Disconnecting from Social Media [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Sanam_Hafeez_Post_Election_StressGuest: Dr. Sanam Hafeez
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse.

Segment overview: In this segment, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD. discusses why taking a break from social media is a good thing and how a nation divided can deal with Post Election Stress.

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Our guest in studio is Dr. Sanam Hafeez, she’s a New York based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the very prestigious Columbia University Teachers College and the Founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultations Psychological Services and she’s here today as a returning guest to talk with us about dealing with some of this post-election stress and how social media is definitely fueling the fire when it comes to some of the anxiety associated with the election and some of the other things that are going on nationally and globally. Welcome to the program Dr. Hafeez.

Dr. Sanam Hafeez: Thank you.

N: Thank you. Well, the election is over, our president-elect here in the United States is about to have his inauguration ceremony. Do you think that we can breathe now or are we still in the throes of this huge anxiety laden election?

H: We discussed PTSD in another segment and this is what sort of differentiates PTSD from something we used to call Acute Stress Disorder which basically was the length of time they experience the symptoms for. And so I can tell you that those symptoms, for most of us, of the election that we weren’t happy with – the people who weren’t happy with the results, feel less excited within two or three weeks. You what? Those people who aren’t thrilled about it. At the most part, the intense anxiety, the grief, the crying, the will to deal with depression and anxiety has something to do with the side effects which is then what sets it apart from PTSD… But now, what happens is that, as opposed to something traumatic thing that happened and now you just have to detach it, for those people this a full year journey. So every time something happens, you almost re-live it. Now that we’re building back up to the inauguration, there is a sort of rebirth of those emotions and the media obviously is thriving on this. So when you go online, or when you turn on the TV, there’s all these information, there’s all these news and you feel vindicated or it makes you feel “Aha, see, I knew it!” or whatever this may be and it really starts this all over again. PTSD or whatever you want to call it, it’s kind of going through these ups and downs, it’s on a curve really.

N: From a collective standpoint, let’s talk about this collective PTSD. In your practice, if you’re dealing with someone who’s had a traumatic experience, or they’re going through a bad break-up, or something has happened on social media – maybe bullying or something like that. Normally, they’re not the only one who’s affected. Their family member may be affected, a spouse may be affected. Do you offer advice on how to help the family members of the person that’s affected or do you just bring everyone in? Because we can’t bring everyone in collectively especially when it comes to the stress of something like an election.

H: Right. I try to have a top down approach, so the person who’s directly impacted by something is the first one you address. Let’s say there’s a child involved who has lost a parent, you deal with the child first. Not to say that the remaining or surviving parent isn’t suffering. That parent needs help because if that child’s going to get better, the one parent he/she has needs to get better, right? But the first person, it’s almost like when you’re in a plane, women and children first – that sort of thing. You do work … and after things start to get better, then we can incorporate other aspects of their life, whether a spouse, or girlfriend, boyfriend, a child, a sibling, a parent and again it depends because that support system has going to be critical in helping this person really recover. And the same goes to PTSD or any kind of traumatic events.

N: Do you find that there’s sometimes a challenge disconnecting from social media or media in general because you have a person who has a sense that they don’t have their own opinion anymore? Everything that they think is given to them from someone else, yet somewhere in there, there’s their own opinion that’s kind of knowing at the back of their head, but they feel obligated to jump on the bandwagon.

H: I absolutely feel that way. Especially that the younger people, I think that people don’t really have the luxury of making up their mind anymore. Before you have a chance to really settle on one side or decide how you feel about a topic or an issue, conflicting information is literally around the corner. It’ll come out before you can even have time to digest the first piece of it. So unless you feel very, very strongly and you’ve always been this very left wing person, or you’re a very conservative, and you’re very staunch, and very rooted in your belief system. Younger people who are supposed to be deciding who they are as people. This constant stream of information is unsettling because it doesn’t give you a chance to feel you absorbed and processed it before you have to deal with the new information. And so what happens with that is people can’t really decide or really analyze the information and say, ‘How do I feel about it? How does this fit in with my value system?’

N: Do you find that you’re seeing patients that are experiencing physical aspects of these anxiety? The mind does control the body so you’ve got this anxiety from whatever situation and it’s manifesting in a physical way.

H: That’s a very common thing and it’s not just the matter of ‘Oh well, you get anxious and then that’s why you have all these physical complaints.’ There is a real neurological connection between anxiety or the neural pathways … and some things that happen on our body. The people who get an upset stomach when they are upset, when they are anxious, or when they are worried, that’s the real thing. It seems that these neural pathways impact the GI tract and over time, if left unchecked the anxiety that those things can become a chronic symptom. IBS for instance, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, even Crohn’s Disease is very highly impacted by stress which triggers the stress and we get flares. So an average, easy, laid-back, happy-go-lucky kind of guy they’re going to be able to face that and say “Oh well, what can we do about it? That’s the world we live in’ … A person who’s prone to anxiety will see any of that news and react to it in a poor fashion because that’s just the way they’re wired. You have to take the environment into account. If you’re just an anxiously predisposed person, then you really have to take these new stories or whatever is out there in small doses because you need to understand that your body and your mind is too invested and can actually be impacted by it. There’s a person who can let those roll off, but if you’re not then take those safety measures to protect yourself.

N: How significant is the source of, for lack of a better term, bad news or news that causes anxiety or situation? I guess if a person is coming to you and they have anxiety because they’ve been reading the paper or because they talked to a friend as opposed to trolling the internet for hours a day. Is the information the key or is how the information is presented the key to stress and anxiety?

H: I think that’s also a huge part of it. I think some of the more trusted news sources have a matter-of-fact way of presenting the news in a different degree. They won’t make it catastrophic, they won’t make it, ‘is it is what it is.’ And even newspapers will have these bold catchy headlines, which if someone sees and let’s say, they’re on their way to work and they just see them on the newsstand and their heartbeat has risen because they’re like, ‘Oh my God! Is that true?’ and there’s no way to consider that things that are on the internet which is probably even worse because the internet catastrophizes some news information. So when there’s a huge … deal with the news as where we get it from. The source really has to be a sound trusted source and I think I’ve said this early on in other segments that there was a study about how people very rarely click the on the link to an article or look at the source of an article and say, ‘Well that’s just for an alternative agenda, an ulterior motive.’ Is this source from a lobbyist, is this source a real person, and is there an advertisement rather than a real piece of information or news? I think we really, even if they’re going to be on the social media, websites or on the internet, we have really to be really conscious and do a fact check. Most people don’t fact check. CNN does this fact checking thing or these websites or these news shows – the do a fact check. But a person doesn’t do the extra legwork, ‘let me find out how true it is’. It’s not because they don’t care, because they don’t have the time. That’s the piece that sticks with them.

N: And where can our listeners go and get information about Comprehensive Consultations Psychological Services?

H: They can go to my website at www.comprehendthemind.com. Everything’s on there and my link with the Twitter which is @ComprehendMind, Instagram @drsanamhafeez, and Facebook Sanam Hafeez and Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services.

N: Well I thank you for coming in today doctor.

H: Thank you so much for having me on.

N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard, in studio with Dr. Sanam Hafeez, New York based licensed clinical psychologist and Founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultations Psychological Services in New York City. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm, and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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