Psychological trauma is an experience that overwhelms our abilities to cope. Trauma, by definition, affects our bodies and our brains. Common reactions to trauma can include both emotional and cognitive problems such as: trouble thinking clearly, feeling chronically unsafe, experiencing feelings of numbness or detachment, and feeling highly reactive or on edge.
Because trauma affects us emotionally and cognitively, it can cause major disruptions in our relationships, our jobs and our sense of self. Recent research shows that trauma is related to dysregulation in key areas of the brain. (Click here for some of Dr. DiGangi's research.) Fortunately, there are excellent, evidence-based treatments for trauma-related conditions, such as PTSD. It is always vital to remember that help and hope are possible.
Anxiety can take many forms. For example, some people report they feel like they are “going to lose control” or that they’re “going crazy.” Others report they can’t get certain thoughts out of their head no matter how hard they try, and others struggle with difficult bodily sensations such as sweating, heart palpitations and dizziness.
In many cases, anxiety can take a heavy toll on our lives, our jobs and our relationships. This is because, when the brain is in an anxious state, we feel like it’s never safe to slow down or relax.
The most important thing to remember is that there are strong scientific treatments that provide significant relief from anxiety. Dr. DiGangi works with patients to: 1) provide critical education about how anxiety affects our brain and our behavior and, most importantly, 2) deliver evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders.
Here is a list of common anxiety disorders that Dr. DiGangi treats:
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobia
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
A neuropsychological evaluation is an extensive assessment that measures how cognitive and emotional processes affect your functioning. A good metaphor is to think of an evaluation as a series of snapshots. Through a variety of tests and questionnaires, "pictures" are taken, providing information about how your brain is working.
A neuropsychological evaluation provides insight into cognitive domains such as:
- Processing Speed
- Decision Making
- Problem Solving
A thorough neuropsychological evaluation also provides insight into how other factors such as mood, anxiety, sleep, chronic stressors are interacting with your cognitive abilities to affect your overall functioning.
If you put your hand on a hot stove and scald it, how many times do you have to repeat this behavior before you never do it again?
With this type of pain, your brain says, “Hey! That was so painful, let’s ensure we never have this experience again.” In fact, there’s a term for it; it’s called one-trial learning.
Now, how many times do you have to feel anxious, or stressed, or angry, or lonely, or inadequate--and the list goes on, before you never have these painful experiences again? The answer, of course, is far from zero. These experiences of emotional anguish are deeply painful and yet many of us will spend our entire lives stuck in the same situations that make us tired, angry and afraid. To understand why these cycles of behavior are so hard to break, it’s imperative to focus on our behavior and our brains.
What sets treatment with Dr. DiGangi apart is that she brings clinical and scientific expertise into your care. She's warm, funny and direct. The first order of business is getting to know you; she often talks about “tuning her ear to your life." Treatment should be compassionate, but treatment should also be action-oriented, focused and measurable. Dr. DiGangi works with you to develop a co-created vision and plan.
Perhaps nothing is as complex as adult romantic relationships. We go into these relationships to be understood and to be known—and, often, we end up isolated and despairing. Frequently, problems in relationships are defined as power struggles. This is an inadequate explanation of problems in romantic relationships. Much more essentially, we use our intimate relationships to regulate ourselves. Our partners affect our bodies, our behavior and our brains.
On the most fundamental level, our intimate partners can regulate our biology. This is exactly what happens when our partners calm us, soothe us and make us feel safe. The converse is also true. Our intimate relationships have the ability to cause biological dysregulation—and this is exactly what happens when we feel agitated, triggered, panicked and attacked. One of the best ways to think about intimate relationships is through the lens of interpersonal neurobiology. By thinking about how 2 brains form 1 relationship, partners can gain great insight into what strategies can work to repair this vital intimate connection.
Dr. DiGangi writes about intimate relationships. For more on her work, click here.
Are you looking for a generalist or a specialist?
Because mental health issues can be highly complex, it is important to select an expert that specializes in the specific areas that affect your health and your life. Dr. DiGangi is a neuropsychologist, which means she has specialized training in the relationship between your brain and your behavior. For many years, she has treated patients. In addition to her work with patients, she has worked in the country's top labs, conducting research on the brain and mental health. This means she brings clinical and scientific expertise to your treatment, ensuring you receive the most scientifically-supported services that address your total health.
Dr. DiGangi’s Work as a Clinical Scientist
Dr. DiGangi has expertise in the effects of chronic stress on our brain and our behavior. She has treated trauma in civilian, community and military contexts. For more than 20 years, she has worked with traumatized and underserved communities around the globe. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., she worked in international human rights, where she designed aid programs in places like Iraq, Nigeria and Kenya. Her research aims to elucidate the relationship between trauma, psychopathology and the brain. She received her Ph.D. from DePaul University and completed residency at the Boston Consortium where she was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School and a Teaching Fellow at Boston University School of Medicine. In this capacity, she treated patients at VA Boston and the National Center for PTSD. She completed a two-year fellowship at the University of Illinois Chicago and VA Jesse Brown, where she studied the brain-trauma-behavior relationship.
Dr. DiGangi has offices in Hinsdale and Chicago, IL. She also offers teletherapy for those that would prefer to do treatment from the comfort of their own space. Telehealth is HIPAA-compliant video technology that allows you to meet with Dr. DiGangi anywhere. It’s very easy: no program or download is required—you simply sign-in. It's the same care but from the comfort of your home or work space. This is available to particular clients with particular needs and Dr. DiGangi is happy to discuss the option.
Dr. DiGangi is an out-of-network provider. However, patients can receive partial reimbursement through their insurance. We help you navigate this process. We also accept Health Savings and Flex Spending Accounts (HSA/FSAs). Dr. DiGangi has made a decision not to be on insurance panels. This enables her to provide the best care. Insurance companies record formal diagnoses and often restrict the number of sessions and length of treatment, which does not always align with what is in the best interest of the patient. Dr. DiGangi is very intentional and action-oriented about your life and your needs and designs a treatment program that is uniquely designed for you. Dr. DiGangi focuses specifically on your unique needs.