National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® is January 22-28, 2018

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) is an annual observance focused on helping teens understand drug and alcohol use based on facts rather than myths. It is common for teens to have opinions about substance abuse that are influenced by social media, movies, TV, music and friends — sources that may or may not be truly knowledgeable.

To give teens a more factual perspective on this issue, scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) created this observance in 2010. In 2016, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism became a partner.  

Informational Events and Powerful Partnerships

It comes as a surprise to many parents and others who interact with teens that despite how “worldly” and experienced they may seem, they often don’t fully grasp the negative impact that drug and alcohol use and abuse can have on them and those around them. That’s why NDAFW is about sharing information and educating teens. Locally planned school and community events encourage teens to get the scientific facts they need to make smart decisions.

To help spread the word on NDAFW, organizers partner with other government agencies, media organizations and leading organizations around the country. This collaboration makes the observance more impactful and better able to achieve the stated goal: “Shatter the Myths.”

Addiction is a Treatable Illness

One of the most damaging myths that NDAFW seeks to dispel the idea that drug addiction is a choice or a character flaw. The scientific fact is that while a teen may choose to start using drugs or alcohol, once addiction has taken hold, it is no longer a matter of choice. At that point, what is driving the teen’s behavior is a diagnosable illness. Thankfully, they can beat addiction through counseling and substance abuse treatment.

However, it generally takes significant time and effort to recover from addiction. This is because addiction actually creates changes in the brain. The normal “reward” system that humans have, where the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in response to certain positive behaviors, is effectively rewired by the substance. The chemical creates a shortcut to the brain’s pleasure centers along with other changes that ultimately make it very hard to kick an addiction. Consequently, a teen’s belief that they can give up drugs or alcohol whenever they choose to is fundamentally flawed.

Further – from a well-being perspective – numerous studies indicate that psychoactive substances can alter or damage brain development in teens. The substances can affect neurotransmitters, or messengers to the brain, and damage developing functions in a way that can stay with a person throughout his or her lifetime. For some teens, this type of scientific information can be what really compels them to the utmost in healthful lifestyles.  

The More We Learn

Thanks to the efforts of researchers, each year we know more about how addictions develop, what makes certain people more susceptible and how to make substance abuse treatment more effective. And thanks to NDAFW, each year that information is shared in order to better equip teens with the facts that bust the myths. There is much more work to be done, but it is encouraging that the programs that have been put in place in recent years are having a positive impact.  

We Help Teens and Families Beat Addiction

At Community Reach Center, we understand the challenges of beating drug and alcohol dependence and have excellent evidenced-based treatment programs. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Postpartum Depression and Suicide in New Mothers

Although being a new mother can be a wonderful experience, it can also be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. In some cases, the stresses associated with motherhood, and other factors, can cause a woman to experience what is known as postpartum depression (PPD). Also called postnatal depression, this is a serious mental health condition that can lead a mother to attempt or complete suicide. Consequently, it’s important that mothers and those around them understand what PPD is, and if they observe signs of it, seek help, including suicide prevention assistance if necessary.

Causes of Postpartum Depression

There is no one cause of PPD. Experts believe it results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. New mothers tend to experience a number of physical challenges ranging from pain and discomfort produced by the birthing process to dealing with intense sleep deprivation. The result tends to be exhaustion, which can be a contributor to PPD. Hormones are believed to play a role in the condition as well. Following childbirth, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly. This results in chemical changes in the brain that can produce mood swings.

While PPD is not fully understood, there are identified risk factors, including:

  • Symptoms of depression in the past, whether associated with childbirth or not
  • Depression or mental illness in other family members
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Troubling life events during pregnancy or soon after giving birth (e.g., domestic violence, personal illness, death of a loved one, relocation, job loss)
  • Difficult or premature delivery
  • Health problems with the baby
  • Lack of assistance and/or emotional support in caring for the baby
  • Uncertainty about being a parent (whether the pregnancy was planned or not)
  • But, one thing is clear: PPD does not result from anything a woman does or fails to do.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression should not be confused with the “baby blues,” which affect up to 80 percent of new mothers and leave them feeling tired and sad. Baby blues involve mild symptoms and resolve in a week or two. PPD is a serious mental illness that the National Institute of Mental Health describes as having these symptoms:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty or overwhelmed
  • Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Worrying or feeling overly anxious
  • Feeling moody, irritable or restless
  • Oversleeping or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems and muscle pain
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
  • Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking about harming herself or her baby
  • PPD typically develops between a week and a month after delivery, and only a healthcare professional can diagnose it. So, it is important that new mothers or their loved ones seek help if the condition is suspected. And, as with any form of depression, it is critical that family members and healthcare providers take suicide prevention steps if needed.

Treating PPD

Postpartum depression can be treated with different forms of counseling (also called talk therapy) including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). It can also be addressed with antidepressant medication. And, the two types of treatment can be used together. A woman’s healthcare provider determines the proper approach based on her individual situation.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

Too often women feel pressured by the expectation that motherhood will be a “joyous” experience and consequently don’t feel comfortable taking action when symptoms of postpartum depression appear. The fact is, PPD is common and very treatable. If you or someone you know is experiencing it, seek help promptly. And if you feel the urge to harm yourself or your baby, call 911 or a suicide prevention hotline like the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK(8255) immediately. You will receive caring, compassionate support and assistance. If you have a non-urgent desire to talk with someone about how you are feeling after childbirth, contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

A Proven Strategy for Staying Grounded: Journaling to Minimize Anxiety

On any given day, you likely experience success but also make some mistakes. That’s part of being human. However, it’s easy to focus on places where you did something incorrectly and let that have a lasting effect on your outlook, which can promote or amplify unhappiness and anxiety. Thankfully, there are a number of techniques that can be used to override our natural tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing how and why we have fallen short of our expectations.

Documenting Your Day to Maintain a Realistic Perspective

Taking a few minutes each day to make a written record of the things that have gone well and those that have not can help you be more balanced in your evaluation of yourself. Specifically, journaling can help you:

  • Understand yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you experience tension and anxiety? Stopping to think about that on a daily basis can ensure you have a firm grasp on what is driving your feelings and your behavior so that you can make changes if needed.
  • Lower your stress level. Describing what is stressing you doesn’t immediately fix the problem, but it does help you release your feelings, which can allow you to be more relaxed and more focused on the “here and now.”
  • Explore solutions to interpersonal problems. The emotions that arise when you are in the presence of someone with whom you are having relationship challenges can make it difficult to see how the problem can be resolved. Writing about what you are feeling and also what the other person might be feeling (and why) can help you perceive a better path forward.
  • See how an issue has evolved. Looking back at past journal entries can allow you to realize that an issue that caused you great stress months ago is less stressful (or completely gone) today. If the reverse is true, reviewing the “paper trail” for an issue can provide insight on a better approach to resolving it.
  • Use the other side of your brain. Writing is an activity that can help you switch from the left-brained (analytical) approach to problem solving that we tend to use to right-brained (creative and intuitive) thinking.

To get started with a journaling practice, simply set aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to create an entry about what you have been thinking, feeling and experiencing. You can jot down random, unrelated thoughts or create an entry on a particular theme (love, anger, frustration etc.). And, it’s best to write quickly, with no concern about spelling and grammar so your internal “censor” doesn’t have time to make you question what you’ve put down.

Staying Centered is the Key to Emotional Wellbeing

Coming to the realization that your efforts on any particular day are, on balance, rarely at one end of the succeed/fail spectrum but more often somewhere in the middle can keep you from focusing too much on your mistakes. Putting your thoughts on paper is a great way to achieve that realization. Another effective way to address your anxiety is to talk with a counselor. Contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Strategies for Managing Anxiety Caused by Holiday Spending

It’s the most wonderful time of year, or is it? The pressure around the holidays to spend money on gifts, host get-togethers or carry out other perceived obligations can cause or exacerbate anxiety. But, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize stress and maximize enjoyment of the season.

Tips for Keeping Your Seasonal Stress Level Low

Rather than resigning yourself to the “inevitable” holiday overspending and accompanying stress and anxiety, use some or all of these strategies to take charge of your actions and your outlook:

  • Focus on your physical health first. What does your health have to do with your finances? The holidays are busy times packed with events that often include delicious but unhealthy dishes. We tend to consume much more sugar and alcohol at this time of year. What’s more, your packed agenda may mean you choose to skip your workout occasionally or entirely until after the first of the year. As a result, your body isn’t as well-fueled or fit. And when our energy level drops, it’s easy for our stress level to rise. Be sure to eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep during the holidays.
  • Set a budget for every person on your gift list. Heading to the store or getting online with no parameters around what you’ll spend on a particular person is a recipe for overspending. Choose an amount in advance and stick to it. If you have a chance to go window shopping with your loved ones, this can be a good way to get gift ideas and discuss how much you are willing to spend, which helps to manage expectations. Window shopping is a little bit of an old-fashioned activity in our digital world, but the keep-moving combination of walking, talking, looking, chatting and laughing can be a stress reducer. Go soon, before the pressure builds.  
  • Do your research. Before making a purchase, do some checking to see if it can be found at another store for less, if there is a coupon that will reduce the price, etc. Not only will you save money, the feeling of being more in control of how much you spend is empowering. Shopping online provides a convenient way to compare products and read reviews. Having items delivered to your home can reduce the stress of holiday traffic as well.
  • Remind yourself frequently of the reason you are celebrating. Gift giving (and receiving) is fun, but the real joy of the season comes from our interactions with friends, family and even strangers on the street. You know this, and your gift recipients know it as well. Be confident in giving gifts of whatever amount you feel comfortable with.
  • Plan a one-day shopping blitz. For many people, repeated trips to the mall elevate their stress level. Always shop from a list, and if you can, plan a day when you can go from top to bottom in one outing.
  • Pay with cash. Whenever you can pay for holiday expenses with cash. Large credit card bills that come due in January are an unwelcome second serving of holiday stress and anxiety.
  • Don’t procrastinate. If shopping causes you stress, it’s easy to find reasons to put it off. Unfortunately, that delay tends to lead to even greater stress as your gift-giving deadline approaches. Make your list, do your shopping, and then sit back and truly enjoy the season.

One More Stress-Reduction Strategy

By using the tips above, you can better manage your holiday-induced financial anxiety. However, if you need to talk with someone about your mental and emotional health at the holidays or anytime, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Utilizing our services is another strategy for helping to make the holidays merrier. Contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Tips for Talking with a Loved One About Depression, Anxiety or other Mental Illness

Starting a conversation with a loved one who you believe needs treatment for a health condition can be challenging. When that condition involves mental health illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, it can be especially difficult. While people generally wouldn’t object if you encourage them to better manage an illness like diabetes, their reaction may be different if you try to talk with them about mental illness.

In the Mental Health First Aid program,  we encourage people to be gentle and patient when talking with a loved one. Often it takes time for a person to realize to seek help and make some changes that will be better for them and those around them in the long run. If you give them some time to process your conversation before talking with them again, it’s much more likely that they will be receptive to the idea.

How to Break the Ice

One of the most effective ways to start a conversation with a family member or friend about mental health treatment for conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and others is to ask questions. Here are some examples:

  • I’m concerned about you. Can we talk about what you are going through? And if you prefer not to talk with me, who would you be most comfortable talking with?
  • I want you to know that I care about you and will always listen if there are life challenges you are struggling with and want to discuss. Are there things you want to talk about now?
  • Can I help start a conversation with your friend/parents/significant other etc. about what you’re going through right now?
  • I’m asking because I care about you, and, have you thought about harming yourself? (which is a question to ask if you suspect a person is considering suicide.)
  • For most problems that we face, there are people, often called peers, who have gone through the same thing. Can I help you find someone who can share their experience with mental illness?

Of course, listening attentively as the person answers your question is critical, as is following through if they take you up on your offer to help connect them with mental health resources.

Key Considerations as the Conversation Takes Place

There are a number of things to keep in mind about talking with a person who you suspect may need mental health treatment. For example, it’s helpful to do some research in advance regarding how and where they can get treatment in case they ask. Also, you should initiate the conversation at a time and place that the person feels that they can open up to you.

As you talk with them, be sure to discuss the issue in a way that is age appropriate. Throughout the conversation, you should look for cues that may indicate they are struggling to understand you. If so, slow down or repeat things as needed. And, you should have a plan for what you will do if they volunteer that they have had suicidal thoughts, including transporting them to an emergency room or other appropriate care provider or calling 911 if you feel that a harmful action is imminent.

You are Doing the Right Thing

If you feel that someone is suffering from depression, anxiety or any form of mental illness, your willingness to talk with them about it may be just the encouragement they need to seek help. Don’t hesitate to start the conversation. To learn more about our services, contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

October is Health Literacy Month

In order to properly manage our physical and mental health, it is critical that we are able to communicate effectively about related issues. For example, it’s important that you and your doctor understand that you are talking about the same condition when one of you uses the term “anxiety” and the other says “stressed out.” That is the idea behind Health Literacy Month. Founded in 1999 by Helen Osborne, who is an occupational therapist, educator and author. This annual, worldwide event raises awareness about the importance of being knowledgeable in the language of health and wellness.

Health Literacy Month is often recognized with educational programs for students, wellness programs for patients, workshops for professionals and other events put on by government agencies, colleges, community service groups, health literacy coalitions and healthcare organizations. “Be a Health Literacy Hero” is the theme for Health Literacy Month. It’s meant to recognize and celebrate the efforts of people who are furthering the cause of health communication. This involves both identifying problems in this area and taking steps to resolve them. If you know a Health Literacy Hero, we encourage you to thank them for their efforts.

Five Key Health Terms

There are, of course, hundreds of physical and mental health terms that everyone should be aware of. But, in honor of Health Literacy Month, here are five examples:

1) Resting heart rate - This is how many times per minute your heart beats when you are at rest. The healthier your heart is, the more efficiently it moves blood through your body and the fewer times per minute it has to beat. A healthy resting heart rate for adults is 68 - 80 beats per minute.

2) Anxiety disorder - Anxiety is the feeling of excessive nervousness or worry, often described as feeling “stressed out.” While anxiety is a normal part of life, repeated bouts of intense worry may be an indicator of an anxiety disorder.

3) Blood pressure - This is the force with which your heart moves blood through your body. When your blood pressure is too high, it can cause damage to your blood vessels and other problems. If your blood pressure is too low, you may lose consciousness. A healthy blood pressure for adults is 120/80 mmHg, the two numbers representing the pressure as your heart beats and relaxes respectively.

4) Major depressive disorder - Also known as depression, this condition is marked by ongoing feelings of severe sadness and despondency. It can lead to many emotional and physical problems.

5) Psychotherapy - Also referred to as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy involves a trained mental health professional helping a patient resolve mental and emotional issues through communication, as opposed to using medication.

Knowledge is Power

Whether you are anxious and stressed out, depressed, in need of marriage counseling or suffering from insomnia, the more you know about your condition and the more clearly you are able to express yourself to your caregiver, the more efficient and effective your treatment will be. If you are in need of our services, contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

6 Tips for Letting Go of Regrets in Marriage Counseling

Couples who receive marriage counseling learn many skills for making their marriage stronger and more resilient. One of those skills is the ability to keep looking and moving forward in your relationship rather than focusing on the past. For some people, taking that approach means learning to let go of regrets. We’ve all said or done things we wish we hadn’t or encountered life events that didn’t turn out as we had hoped, however spending mental and emotional energy continually rehashing the past is unproductive.

Getting a Fresh Start

Being consumed with regret makes it hard to achieve the healing you are looking for in marriage counseling. Here are some strategies you can use to drop that baggage and move forward without it:

  1. Take steps to right your wrongs. It’s not always possible to “fix” something you’ve done that affected your spouse, but acknowledging it and offering a sincere apology is a positive step that can help you and your partner start moving forward.
  2. Keep in mind what you’ve learned. Just about everywhere you find regret you’ll find some wisdom as well. Rather than focusing on what was lost, reflect on what you learned and how it will make you a wiser person going forward.
  3. Get back in sync with your values. We often regret actions that we feel are “out of character” for us. Taking some time to remind yourself who you are and how you want to behave, and re-committing to living by your principles can help you let go of your embarrassment and disappointment in yourself.
  4. Broaden your perspective. Focusing on a single isolated incident can cause it to appear larger than it truly was. You may regret shouting at your spouse—and it’s certainly not a behavior you want to repeat—but when held up to all the times you’ve told them you love them, the incident may not be as damaging as you thought.
  5. Practice patience. No matter what strategy or strategies you use to let go of regrets, the passage of time is an important component. Regret is a strong emotion. Recognize that even when you stop reinforcing it, some time will have to elapse before it fades away.

 An Optimistic Outlook

Marriage counseling is a journey and the regrets that many people carry with them are very heavy. Take steps to let go of yours and you’ll find it much easier to heal your heart and your relationship. To learn about our marriage counseling services, contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

While suicide may seem like the act of a person who simply no longer cares about life and doesn’t want to be helped, the truth is quite the opposite. People who attempt or complete suicide tend to care very deeply and desperately want to be helped.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a time of education and awareness, and an important reminder that we can support our loved ones by watching for signs that they are feeling suicidal and take action if we see them.

Understanding the Signs

In some cases, people kill themselves without conveying any observable indicators that they are planning to do so. However, in most cases, there are signs that someone is at risk of suicide. They include:

  • Lack of hope. Expressing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about life circumstances.
  • Talking about suicide. Talking or writing about self-harm or suicide—especially if it is frequent. 
  • Self-hatred. Expressing feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness.
  • Withdrawal. Pulling away from family and friends, and isolating themselves.
  • Seeking the means of suicide. Looking to obtain a weapon, drugs or other things that could be used to kill themselves.
  • Reckless behavior. Abusing drugs or alcohol, driving carelessly, taking unnecessary risks.
  • Preparing for the end. Actions like selling or giving away personal possessions and making out a will.
  • Saying goodbye. An increase in calls or visits to loved ones, and parting as if they won’t be seen again.
  • A sudden sense of calm. Unexpectedly being “at peace” when they had previously been anxious or depressed.

If you observe one or more of these behaviors, it should be cause for concern.

If You Are Worried, Speak Up

Talking with a person who you think may be suicidal can be difficult. However, it’s best to express your genuine concern. Here are some keys to having that conversation:

  • Be sympathetic. It’s easy to react in fear or anger when you think a loved one is suicidal, but it’s important to express yourself in a way that is as understanding and helpful as possible.
  • Ask the question. Ask the person directly if they are planning to kill themselves.  Not, “Are you thinking of hurting yourself” or any other non-specific question.
  • Listen more than talk. Allow the person to express whatever it is they’re feeling. Wait through pauses to allow them time to collect their thoughts.
  • Avoid the urge to “solve” the problem on the spot. Issues that lead to a person feeling suicidal are rarely the kind of thing that can be resolved quickly.
  • Offer hope. Depression, anxiety and other conditions that may lead to suicidal thoughts are treatable.
  • Provide consistent support. Knowing that they can count on you to help them as best you can will be a source of comfort to someone who is considering suicide.

Patience and understanding are key to helping a person who is considering suicide. However, if you feel a suicide attempt is imminent, take action. If the person will allow you to transport them to a hospital or mental health center, do so immediately. If they refuse, call 911, do your best to prevent access to any means of suicide, and stay with the person until help arrives.

Be Informed and Be Available
The best things you can do for a loved one you think may be considering suicide are to learn about the issue and let them know you are there for them. Contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton. And for immediate assistance for you or someone you know, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK(8255)

Tips for Overcoming Isolation Which Can Increase the Risk of Suicide


One of the behaviors of people with depression is that as the condition intensifies, they tend to isolate themselves. It can be difficult to be around people who are enjoying life when the ability to do so has been lost. While the desire to isolate is understandable, shunning contact with family, friends and the world, in general, can make a person more at risk for committing suicide.

This is especially true for seniors. Those who cut ties with loved ones are more prone to self-harm either through suicidal actions or inaction—such as discontinuing medication, foregoing food or hydration, etc. Loved ones should be especially proactive when a senior show signs of isolating. (Learn about our Senior Reach program.)

Ways to Overcome the Urge to Isolate

If you are depressed and find yourself wanting to pull away from the people who care about you, try these strategies:

Acknowledge that you are hurting. In our culture, there is a bias toward hiding our pain. Consequently, people with depression often want to spend more time alone where they can suffer without being noticed. When you are honest with yourself and your loved ones about your pain, it becomes easier to spend time with others since you are no longer hiding your condition.

Be kind to yourself. If admitting that you are in pain is the first step to overcoming an urge to isolate, the next is to go further and remind yourself that you are justified in feeling the way you do. Depression is an illness, not a choice. Give yourself credit for enduring all you have so far and resolve to stay connected with others.

Have reasonable expectations of yourself. People with depression sometimes set unachievable timelines for their recovery. “I need to be well enough to attend Sarah’s wedding.” Failing to meet these self-imposed deadlines is stressful, and that stress can make a person more likely to isolate and more prone to suicide. Consider gaining help from a clinician because they are skilled at identifying small achievable goals to make progress step by step.

Reach out to loved ones. In the same way that isolating is a decision, so is reaching out. It may be hard to do, but taking down the “Do Not Disturb” sign you’ve put up through your actions and asking to get together with the people who care about you can be a significant step in the right direction. 

Stick with these strategies. To be effective, all these strategies require persistence. For example, simply reaching out to a family member one time is not likely to send the message that you want and need ongoing connection. However, if you continue to show your interest in spending time with them, they’ll understand and start initiating the interactions.

The Power of Connection

If you have started to isolate but want to reverse that trend, it may be easiest to open up to a caring, compassionate person outside of your circle of family and friends first. And while these self-help strategies are helpful, a recent survey cited in our Mental Health First Aid manual notes that the top three measures rated most effective to address depression – antidepressant medications, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and interpersonal psychotherapy – require professional help. Do not hesitate to contact us for professional help or with any other questions if you or a loved one is grappling with these types of issues. Contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn about our services. We have centers in the north Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Summer Travel Tip: Managing Nocturnal Panic Attacks and Insomnia

Summer trips can be a fun way to see other parts of the country and create lasting memories. However, for those who suffer from anxiety disorder, being away from home and familiar routines can cause a worsening of symptoms that lead to other issues. In particular, heightened anxiety can lead to nocturnal panic attacks and insomnia. Thankfully, these issues can be addressed and increase the odds of getting the restful night’s sleep you need.

Nighttime Panic: More Common than You Might Think

People tend to think of panic attacks as episodes that occur exclusively during the day. However, nocturnal panic attacks are not uncommon. When they strike, it can be especially disorienting as you are half asleep and trying to understand what’s going on. They may result in you feeling especially vulnerable in darkness and because your family is sleeping and not available to comfort and reassure you.

Needless to say, a nighttime panic attack disturbs your sleep.This can be true both as the attack is underway and on subsequent nights if you get into bed fearing another attack may occur. This can result in recurring insomnia.

How to Manage a Nocturnal Panic Attack

Ideally, you should minimize the chances of a nocturnal panic attack while traveling by addressing your daytime anxiety. This may include things like having a detailed daily agenda, planning plenty of downtime between events, taking some of the comforts of home with you such as favorite snacks, etc. However, if you nevertheless experience a nighttime panic attack, there are things you can do to minimize the impact it has on you and on your chances of developing ongoing insomnia.

  • Wait a few minutes to see if you are able to fall back asleep relatively quickly. However, don’t wait too long, as frustration will only make matters worse.
  • If a rapid return to sleep is not an option, get out of bed and fully wake yourself.
  • Some people benefit from distraction techniques like reading a book or watching TV until they become sleepy.
  • For others, the best approach is to address the attack directly by accepting and observing it. In that case, it can be helpful to describe the attack and thoughts associated with it in a journal entry.
  • Use relaxation technique like meditation to create a calm state.
  • Don’t return to bed until you feel ready to sleep.

After a Nocturnal Panic Attack

If you experience a nighttime panic attack, you may feel compelled to take action the next day to ensure it doesn’t happen again, such as wearing yourself out through exercise or consuming alcohol or medication close to bedtime. However, keeping these plans at the forefront of your mind can raise your anxiety level and actually increase your chances of another attack. To whatever degree you can, it’s better to adopt a wait-and-see attitude and repeatedly remind yourself that if another attack occurs, the worst thing that happens is you lose some sleep — and that will actually make it easier to sleep the following night. The key is to resist the natural inclination to fear another nocturnal attack and to avoid putting too much effort into preventing it.

If you have questions about anxiety, nocturnal panic attacks, or insomnia, especially as you prepare for a summer trip, don’t hesitate to contact us online at or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn about our services. We have centers in the Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.