Article by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by JESHOOTS via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Online therapy has been receiving a lot of attention lately. It refers to therapy conducted remotely via the internet or over the phone. There are a number of applications that allow for sessions to take place via computer, iPad, or smartphone.
Online therapy has some advantages over traditional in-office therapy: It doesn’t require the time and expense of traveling and it allows clients greater flexibility to engage with a therapist in the comfort of one’s home. For those whom transportation is difficult (they don’t drive and either have to depend on or pay someone to drive them to and from therapy sessions), online therapy can be a practical alternative, offering them access to services normally not available or accessible.
Benefits of Video Therapy
Persons with a fear of driving or lack of access to alternative forms of transportation, can engage with a therapist in the privacy and safety of one’s home. This may be especially helpful for those suffering with agoraphobia and/or social phobia or generalized anxiety, as well as others with incapacitating physical or health problems that pose extreme hardship in getting to the therapist’s office.
Persons suffering with severe depression may also be reluctant, fearful, or unwilling to venture outside of their home and can benefit from face-to-face guidance and support with a trained psychotherapist via the internet.
Clients with busy schedules may find online therapy particularly appealing, which increases their access to mental health services.
For those living in remote (rural) areas where mental health services are not readily available or accessible, online therapy offers access to needed mental health services.
The advantages of online therapy and counseling include: it's a good option for remote areas, it offers accessibility for those with physical limitations, it's convenient and affordable, and lastly online therapy makes information more accessible to reach a wider audience.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Article by Matt Gonzales
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by lechenie-narkomanii via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Drug or alcohol addiction impacts lives. It can fracture a person’s relationships, affect his or her academic or job performance, and put the individual’s health at risk. Substance abuse can weaken a person’s immune system or cause seizures, stroke, or brain damage.
Addiction can also lead to the development of mental illness, such as anxiety or depression. Mental diseases affect the way an individual thinks and his or her behavioral patterns. Some mental disorders, such as panic disorder, are rooted in anxiety. Other mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, involve unwanted, intrusive thoughts.
Nearly 44 million U.S. adults experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). About 13.6 million adults in the United States live with a serious mental illness. According to NAMI:
18.1 percent of U.S. adults live with an anxiety disorder
About 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have a substance use disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Conversely, about 20 percent of those with addiction have an anxiety or mood disorder.
Mental disorders can lead to drug or alcohol addiction, as well. Men are more likely than women to develop a co-occurring disorder. People of lower socioeconomic status, military veterans, and individuals with general medical illnesses are also at risk for developing a co-occurring disorder.
People with mental illness often use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. However, substance abuse can worsen symptoms of mental illness and trigger new symptoms. Self-medication can also lead to addiction.
A 2010 study published in the journal Current Drug Safety outlined the consequences of self-medication. Individuals who self-medicate may self-diagnose incorrectly, fail to seek medical help, or take a dangerous amount of the substance.
People self-medicate using drugs or alcohol to numb physical or emotional pain. For example, someone with anxiety may discover that a few drinks and some marijuana take the edge off in social situations.
But the more an individual uses these substances to manage stress, the less able he or she is to cope in healthy ways.
Substance abuse is common among people with social anxiety disorder, a mental illness characterized by an extreme fear of being scrutinized or judged in social or performance situations. Drinking in social situations may reduce anxiety, but it can also result in alcohol abuse.
PTSD and substance abuse also frequently occur together. People with PTSD often use drugs or alcohol to alleviate emotional pain. However, these substances have shown to worsen PTSD symptoms. Many mental health professionals treat PTSD and substance abuse together because symptoms of this mental illness can lead to relapse.
Those with co-occurring disorders should seek treatment immediately. Rehab centers across the United States offer a continuum of care catered to each individual’s needs. People who have completed treatment and are in recovery go on to live healthy lives while maintaining successful careers.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2016, June). Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/substance-abuse
Dayton, T. (2013, July 9). Why We ‘Self-Medicate’ Our Own Depression or Anxiety. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian-dayton/self-medication_b_3236724.html
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Dual Diagnosis. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Dual-Diagnosis
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Taking-Care-of-Your-Body/Drugs,-Alcohol-Smoking
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Mental Health Facts In America. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers/General-MH-Facts-4-12-15.pdf
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. (2015, July 25). Alcoholism, Drug Dependence and Co-Occurring Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/signs-and-symptoms/co-occurring-disorders
Ruiz, M.E. (2010, October). Risks of self-medication practices. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20615179
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, March 8). Mental and Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/disorders
About the Author
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He boasts several years of experience writing for a daily publication, multiple weekly journals, a quarterly magazine and various online platforms. He has a bachelor’s degree in communication, with a Journalism concentration, from East Carolina University. Follow him on Twitter.
Article by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Unsplash via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Our brains are constantly working. Neurons are firing and chemicals are released and absorbed, leading to thoughts, emotions, and actions. Whether we are in a state of motion, standing still or sleeping, our brains accommodate to ever-changing circumstances and states of consciousness. As much as we may try to convince ourselves of the need to slow down the process of brain function, there are elements of biology and conditioning that dictate the flow of energy circulating up the spine into our brain and down to our organs. That is a given.
What is less of a given is the extent to which we can exercise control over our brain and, therefore, bodily organs. The extent to which we are able to exert conscious control over mind and body can be dictated by a number of factors. One factor is how aware we are of what we think and feel. It is through conscious awareness that we can begin to gain some mastery over how we channel our thoughts, emotions, and actions. “Failure to be aware” leads to automatic thoughts, feelings, and actions that may be counterproductive to our goals. While this may seem an obvious conclusion, many people in distress often find themselves “stuck” in the very patterns which perpetuate and even exacerbate the problems from which they seek freedom.
For some in distress, it is more comfortable to accept one’s fate than to examine what influences and motivations keep them from seeking change and joy. Admittedly it is a daunting task to examine that which is hidden from consciousness, and break through the defense mechanisms often used as self-protection.
To engage in a process of self-awareness can begin the process of change. If we continue to ignore or avoid what has been brought to our consciousness, we perpetuate self-sabotage. Some believe that motivation is what is needed and continue to wait for motivation that never comes. The stark reality is that motivation is usually achieved by the mere act of doing. The act of doing, or being, may seem at times like an uphill battle, but once undertaken becomes a process through which motivation is reinforced. In other words, one can sit idly by and think about taking action, or one can learn through repeated attempts (trial and error) until success is achieved. Success is best achieved when fear of failure is challenged through opportunities for learning made possible by taking action. By taking action, assessing what went right and what needs to be modified or corrected, one is on the path to adaptive change. Unfortunately, having gained conscious awareness (or understanding), many people in distress often recoil into typical patterns of thinking and behaviors which further reinforce their negative self-image and disbelief in their ability to gain mastery over their distress. The fortunate few, often with the guidance, support, and encouragement of a well-trained mental health professional, are determined to undertake this next phase of action which flows from their newly-discovered awareness.
It is my wish for each one of you that you take the necessary steps to move from awareness to action, in order to achieve a life of joy, purpose, and direction. Show the courage to change. Reach out and give me a call so we can explore taking this journey together. The rewards are fantastic!
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Article by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Silentpilot via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
As we head into a new year, I am reminded of how many people are out there needlessly suffering with anxiety and depression. I also ask myself why so many people are willing to “settle” when their lives could be so much better; filled with joy, purpose and direction. As I ponder this question, I am reminded of my own experience with anxiety and the years it “stole” from me; how it zapped my energy, denying me simple pleasures of life and forcing me to pass on opportunities that could have enriched my life. I remember an old television commercial from the United Negro College Fund stating how “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” I reflect back on my own negative state of mind and how it colored a distorted lens through which I viewed myself and the world around me. My negative state of being easily led to feelings of frustration, anger, suspicion and, at times, hopelessness and despair. Yes, there were good times, but even the good times were short-lived, as anxiety and its aftermath would once again take hold and bring me back to my reality.
And so, because I struggled with anxiety and feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair, I contemplated the value of my worth which translated into a poor sense of self. Feeling somewhat lost and disconnected led me to feel sorry for myself and so rather than take action to do something to manage and overcome my negative emotional state, I continued to daydream about what my life could be like. I was living without a sense of real joy, purpose, or connection with myself and the world around me. It was hard for me to imagine anything other than how lousy I felt. Although I made my mark on some occasions and went through the motions on other occasions, I continued to feel unfulfilled and ridden with anticipatory and situational anxiety.
Unrealistically high expectations, a need to be perfect, possessing a strong need for approval, and fearing negative evaluation were the by-products of my anticipatory and social / situational anxiety.
Seeing no way out, there were times when I pondered my miserable existence by entertaining thoughts of departing from this Earth. Fortunately, for me, these were only thoughts as I had no plans of acting on them. Realizing that doing myself in was a one-way trip with no return, I continued to hold out some hope that one day I would overcome my anxiety and live with joy, purpose and connection.
Fortunately for me, that day came. I saw an ad in the local newspaper (this was many years ago before there were computers or the internet) advertising a group for persons suffering with anxiety and depression. Of course, as fear was typically my guide, I came up with a number of reasons why I couldn’t attend:
Despite all these excuses, I finally decided that despite my suspicion and ambivalence about how the group could be of help, I would give it a shot and go.
So, I showed up to group about a half-hour earlier in order to ease myself into this potentially terrifying situation. The last thing I wanted to do was walk in and have all eyes upon me. As each new member showed up, I said “hello” and introduced myself in an attempt to desensitize myself from the anxiety of what was yet to come. When all the members filed in, and the group room door was closed, I felt a wave of intense panic overcome me. My immediate thoughts were “What the hell am I doing here?" followed by “What if they notice how nervous I am?” and “What if I feel the need to walk out and leave?” It was a living hell on Earth.
Despite my intense fear and anxiety, I did stay (probably because I was too embarrassed to draw attention to leaving) and somehow muddled through. Sitting in a group filled with fellow anxiety suffers, my thoughts were focused on how “together” many of the members appeared and how out of place I felt. I was going through the motions while frozen with fear. I listened to people share and when it was my turn, I shared very little and was quite general and superficial. In what seemed like an out-of-body experience, I listened to what others had to share while very much preoccupied with my own internal state of mind and physiological state. When the group adjourned for the evening, I felt relief, said goodbye, got into my car, and went home.
On the way home, my anxiety eventually diminished while my evaluative self remained. Despite my success at attending the anxiety group, my anticipatory anxiety persisted as I continued to ponder reasons for not returning to next week’s group. The closer I got to the day of the next group, the stronger these negative feelings were. Despite my excuses and negative frame of mind, I went back to group the following week, followed by the next week and the week following that, and so on. With each meeting, I shared more and came to realize that no one was judging me; I was the only one doing the judging. And...over time, my comfort level with group increased. I came to realize that despite our different life experiences, we all shared the burden of living with anxiety and were all committed to finding freedom through mutual aid and support.
Attending the anxiety group was a turning point in my life. It led me to pursue individual therapy, where I unraveled the mystery behind what was fueling my anxiety and learned healthy strategies for finding joy, purpose and direction. My most important lesson in therapy was learning that despite my worst fears and scenarios, my anxiety would not kill me. I came to realize that the more I tried to hold onto or “control my anxiety,” the more my anxiety controlled me. (This is known as a “paradox,” which involves doing the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do). And so, despite my initial resistance, with support, encouragement, and even prodding by my therapist, I began to allow myself to feel that which I feared most – my anxiety. At first it was scary as hell. My therapist was asking me to do the very thing I was avoiding, facing my anxiety and allowing it to pass through me while continuing to do whatever I was doing. But with repeated practice, my anxiety came to diminish in intensity, as I allowed myself to “face it, feel it, and let it pass through.” Through this process of walking through my anxiety, I came to the realization that fighting my anxiety was futile, and learning to accept (rather than fear) what I was feeling was my answer to gaining freedom from anxiety.
In telling my personal story, my wish is for you to reach out and seek help. If I can do it, so can you. It takes some courage and persistence, but the payoff is tremendous. Since my recovery from anxiety, my life has only gotten better. Yes, like most people, I still feel anxiety from time to time, but it no longer throws me into a panic. I now see my anxiety as a way of letting me know that something is troubling me and use the skills learned in therapy to channel this anxiety for positive change. And… as a licensed clinical social worker / psychotherapist, I’ve taken what I’ve learned (both personally and professionally) into helping others achieve freedom from anxiety and depression.
Take the challenge… step out of your comfort zone, attend a support group and seek professional help for your anxiety and depression.
Irving Schattner, LCSW
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Guest post by Irving Schattner
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by PublicDomainPIctures via Pixabay created using @WordSwagApp
For many people suffering from anxiety or depression, the Holiday season and New Year can be a difficult time. Unrealistic expectations or commitments, family connection or disconnection, social isolation, financial problems, grief and loss, geographic change, and less sunlight can lead to stress, anxiety, sadness, and depression.
Headaches and body aches, over-eating, excessive spending, and insomnia are a few ways in which the inability to cope with the holiday blues can manifest themselves.
During such times, it is important to develop a plan of action to head off or derail the effects of the holiday blues. If untreated, they can last way beyond the holiday season and into the New Year.
For some people, increased social support can be of great benefit. This may include connecting with old friends or family members. Facebook and other social media, as well as the old-fashioned phone call are tried and true methods. The meetup.com site is a great way to connect with people who share your interests. Counseling and support groups are other ways of self-exploration and learning to connect with the world outside of yourself.
For people suffering with season affective disorder (SAD), which is associated with shorter days of sunlight, increased exposure to the outdoors as well as phototherapy 30 minutes daily (25 times as bright as normal lighting), can help increase feelings of well-being.
While for some the holiday season means good, happy times with friends and family, for many people it represents a time of sadness, debilitating self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety, resulting in fatigue, unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and commercial expectation to go out and spend money. Too often they are plagued with unfulfilled goals and focus on what’s not right in their lives. The demand to conform to external expectations of what it means to be in the holiday spirit may contradict one’s actual life experience. This leads to internal conflict, somatic ailments, and psychological and emotional distress.
Risk factors for stress, anxiety, and depression include, but are not limited to: lack of adequate social support, recent or past trauma, life changes, substance abuse, balancing the demands and expectations of family vs. setting appropriate limits or boundaries, house guests whose presence creates increased tension, and insomnia or isolation.
Tips for managing holiday stress
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
As a little girl, I was a worrier. I worried about silly things like spiders in my bed, aliens living next door, whether my friends liked me, and what to wear to school.
As I grew, so did my worries. Boyfriends and jobs, teachers and classes, filled my thoughts, the normal concerns of any young girl. But there were other worries that consumed me, like a brother who ran away, and another who clung to me when parents fought. I worried about our parents, and whether their worries would tear them apart.
I worried myself into teenage anorexia, which became my coping mechanism for dealing with stress. As a teen, I was expected to fit in, eat with my friends, and munch on snacks all day long, which made me eventually give up anorexia, and worry about my weight. Every time I thought about my weight, I exercised, twirled my hair, fidgeted in my chair, and clicked my fingers, my new ways of dealing with anxiety.
I worried so much, I was often sick, sometimes for a month at a time. I missed school, and wondered if I’d get my work done, or even pass my grade. I worried about the flu and colds I often developed, unexplained fevers, and sores that covered the inside of my mouth.
By adulthood, I was a flustered, stressed-out, overthinking mess. Only by now, I was getting better at hiding my worries. I hid them behind too much work and fussing constantly in my home. I disguised my worries in sleepless nights. No one, not my children, parents, or husband, knew the constant brooding in my head. I guess you could say, in some strange way, I had control over my worries. Only I didn’t.
A few years ago, they all came tumbling out. As my husband and I sat in our car, waiting to turn into a tiny fruit stand, another vehicle rammed into us. I don’t remember the crush of metal against metal, or my brain being flung from one side of my skull to another. What I do remember is standing on the side of the road after the accident, and panicking. Heart-thumping, body-shaking, sweat-dripping, panic.
In one brief second, the only control I’d ever had over my worries, was gone, and there was nothing I could do. And to this day, I still have problems controlling my panic.
Recently, a string of events, some unforeseen, some planned, sent me over the proverbial edge. In less than two months, three sets of guests stayed overnight, my husband lost one job and gained another, we went on an out-of-state trip, I was called to jury duty, and I experienced a health scare. To top it off, my children were experiencing their own sets of problems, and though they are adults, I still worried.
I worried about everyone those few months: My guests, whether they were happy, comfortable, and having fun; my husband, his old job, his new job, his salary, his benefits. I worried about my children, and their futures. I even found time to worry about a brother who was moving away.
It wasn’t unusual for me to worry, but now, my worries were different. I no longer knew how to control them. I no longer knew how to hide behind daily activities. Those two months were filled with a shaking body, constant tears, and a temper that flared for no reason. When it was over, I’d fall in bed, confused, and exhausted beyond belief.
Other things had changed in me as well. Worry wasn’t just a part of my life, it consumed me. So much, I’d forget to eat, nap, and exercise. In other words, I’d forget about me.
It wasn’t until I received the envelope from the courthouse that I began to figure it out. I knew what it was before I opened it. With shaking hands, I read the neatly printed words on the page, and began to cry.
“What is it?” asked my husband.
“I have jury duty.”
Thoughts raced through my mind. How could I sit in a stuffy courtroom, next to people I didn’t know? What if I didn’t understand what was being said? What if I got tired or needed to eat?
Instead of thinking it through, I worried about every scenario. “I can’t do it,” I cried.
My husband took me in his arms. “You were called to jury duty a few years ago,” he said. “Your doctor wrote a letter. Call her tomorrow. I’m sure she’ll write another one.”
She did. But until I had that final notice in my hand, the one that said I wasn’t required to show up for jury duty, I was a freaked-out, stressed, worried mess. Unfortunately, I had one more thing to worry about.
The next week, I received a call from a medical specialist I had recently seen. “We found something on your tests. You need a biopsy,” she said.
I hung up the phone, and began to sob. I cried until every muscle ached and my mind reeled with tons of thoughts and emotions. I was convinced life was over, that I’d never celebrate another Christmas, never see another birthday. I was saddened by a family I’d lose, one that I’d no longer be there for, one I wouldn’t see grow and change.
By the time I went to the doctor, I was falling apart. Every crease in my face accentuated, every muscle tensed, every word shook as I spoke. A nurse was brought in to hold my hand during my biopsy.
As I look back now, I am truly embarrassed by the way I acted. It’s true, it was a stressful time. It would have been stressful for anyone. But I wonder if others would have reacted the way I did.
I’ve tried to gain control of my emotions, my worries, my life, but I’m not certain I can. It is a part of who I am, a flaw I am learning to live with. But I know this, I will never quit trying.
If anything good has come from my emotional traumas, it is this: My marriage is stronger, for I no longer hide behind flaws. Each flaw is beautifully displayed, for my husband, and all the world, to see; I am stronger. I am learning every day to accept who I am; and most importantly, I am learning to take care of me.
About the Author
Guest Post by Irving Schattner
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
What is Panic Disorder? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous, seemingly out of the blue attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a reoccurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.”
The fear that is felt during a panic attack can last several minutes and is usually unexpected. Most people are visibly distraught after an attack occurs and fear the re-occurrence of another panic attack. Some are so severe that they can be mistaken for a heart attack, leading one to check into a hospital emergency room in hope of finding a physical explanation. Most typically, the patient is administered an anti-anxiety medication by ER staff and told there is nothing physically wrong–that they are suffering from anxiety or stress. Lacking a physical explanation for their panic, they often feel different from everyone and wonder “Am I going crazy?” Not getting the help or answers they so desperately need leads to shame, guilt, further avoidance and, quite often, the belief that they are doomed to suffer in silence and are beyond help.
The disorder, if left untreated, not only reinforces continued avoidance of the feared situation (for example, in the case where an attack occurred while driving, you may seek alternative routes or stop driving all together). The anticipation of having another attack may generalize into situations previously not associated with the original fear or panic. This disorder may also lead to agoraphobia, which is characterized by severe anxiety in situations where an individual feels trapped by their surroundings. Panic sufferers may also experience anticipatory anxiety and generalized anxiety. This disorder can create significant psychological, emotional, and physical distress, as well as avoidance of opportunities for personal and professional growth, relationships, and happiness.
Treatment for Panic Disorder
Panic disorder (and other anxiety disorders) require specific targeted interventions that are individually tailored to the needs of the client (as no two clients are alike). It is crucial that you receive the guidance, coaching, and expertise of a mental health professional who “specializes” in treating panic (and other anxiety disorders), as traditional “talk therapy” is ineffective.
The following approaches are evidence-based and proven as most effective for the relief of panic (and other disorders). They include:
There’s no need to suffer
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Article by Two Wise Chicks
Post design by Christy Zigweid
Picture by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay made using @wordswagapp
Mental Health Week is drawing to a close and we are very happy. There is a real shift towards people truly understanding that it is OK to not always feel OK... and that asking for support is OK, too.
This change means that people around the world are beginning to not just think - but KNOW - that each of us has feelings, needs and fundamental worth, and that if we are struggling with these things, change is possible.
Shame-free, guilt-free change.
What to do?!
Where to go?!
Because we are learning to claim our right to feel better, many more of us are choosing therapy as part of a life-improvement process. But what seems to perplex a lot of people though is how to choose a therapist.
So, we've pulled together some helpful guidelines if you or a loved one has decided to see a therapist, psychologist or counsellor (there are some important differences).
What are the things I should be looking for in a therapist?
Your first step might be to ask your doctor (GP) for a referral. Most, although not all, therapists and counsellors will make themselves known to the doctors (GPs) in their local area. If you have a good relationship with your doctor they may be able to match you with a suitable person. Bear in mind that your doctor may not ever have met the therapist in question and so a referral from a doctor is not a guarantee of a fit (nothing is really, you can only decided that yourself).
Ask your friends and family if they can recommend someone to you. Psychologists, counsellors and therapists often get personal referrals - especially the good ones ;) - from people who discuss their therapists with their friends. A friend's recommendation is very useful because, well, they're your friend. So they may have an idea of who and what will suit you. Of course, remember that individuals vary, and what worked for you friend may not work for you and vice versa. Think of it as a guide, a good one - but not a guarantee.
Shop around. You might get several referrals! If this is the case then please do feel OK about calling a few and seeing how you feel when you speak to them on the phone. It's a big decision and your comfort is important. Therapists are accustomed to speaking with people who are nervous, so there is no judgement. Check out their profile on LinkedIn, their Twitter, website and so on. Bear in mind that not all therapists have an online presence. If they have a license to practice (psychologist, social worker, etc.) check out the licensing body's website (more on that below).
Interview your therapist. We would recommend speaking to them on the phone first, and many will offer a *free* phone call so you get a chance to connect and get a feel for the fit. We realize this might sound strange, but in essence you are about to employ this person. It is deeply personal work - the same as you might shop around for a new hairstylist, consider a therapist an EVEN MORE important decision. Here are some questions you might want to ask any therapist that you choose to contact:
Therapists are people too. Even with years and years of training and/or experience, a therapist will bring their own personality to their work. If you find that despite a pile of education and experience you do not feel comfortable with your therapist for ANY reason (their sense of humor bothers you, the perfume they wear makes you feel nauseous) - instead of judging yourself or discounting your feelings listen to your own gut. Address minor issues with your therapist if you feel comfortable doing so, but major personality conflicts will just get in the way of making progress in therapy. It's really okay to look for someone that feels like a better fit.
These are the things we have learned to look out for over the years. Past clients have asked us these questions, we have answered most of these (and possibly more) for our clients, and coached the people we care about to ask these questions, too.
Our hope is that they will help you come to as informed a decision as possible so that you can proceed knowing that you are safe. Have we left anything out?Please add your experience, comment or question in the comment section below.
Good luck on your journey toward self-care!
About the Authors
Sally wants to help create a world of compassion for ourselves and others. A world where mistakes are allowed, gender roles don’t exist, sex ed in schools is a real thing and everyone dances – lovely! As a psychologist and psychotherapist in Ireland, she’s worked for nearly twenty years in private practice, with adults and trainee adults of all ages. She blogs on her own website, is a feature writer for super duper parenting websiteVoiceboks.com, does print and radio media work and has been known toTweet. She’s the one running our Twitter page!
When she’s not working, you will find her engrossed in Science Fiction or some dark and Danish TV show, listening to music, watching the sea (while really, really wishing it were warmer), or figuring out how to work Lightroom on her Mac. All while munching on Bombay mix.
She’s happiest when dancing and erm…. her cat has his own Facebook page. We won’t link to that, it’s too embarrassing..
Tanya looks forward to living in a world where people know their worth, respect boundaries, and always have time for tea and chocolate. A magic bubble that protects her from sticky fingers, hormonal girls and dog hair would be awesome as well.
Her education and much of her training is in the areas of psychology and human potential. She worked as a licensed psychologist for over 14 years, with 10 of those years spent building her own successful private practice. In total, she has over 20 years of varied experience working, volunteering for non-profit agencies, and consulting to small business. Most recently she has launched her dream online coaching practice where she gets to work with motivated, amazing women who need help overcoming life’s hurdles. Exciting times!
She has lived in Ireland, Ethiopia (okay, just 6 months), Canada, and currently lives in central Texas with her husband, three girls (including fraternal twins), two dogs and three cats.
When she’s not finding ‘everyday moments’ to write about here or on herown blog, you can find her being walked by her dogs, unearthing unidentifiable food-objects under the couch cushions or baking her famous banana bread.
Tanya runs our Facebook page – and not to be outdone by Sally’s cat, her dog has its own Facebook page too.
Guest post by Jessica Morris
Blog design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by tspdave via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
It is a single thought, triggering feelings of anxiety in my stomach that gravitate upwards towards my brain, and down towards my feet.
It sweeps in, its dark cloak hiding the light of reality, shrouding my mind in confusion that will circle until I distract it, or until it becomes exhausted from repetition. In any case, it will eventually fly away, waiting for the next opportunity to come and consume my mind and body.
My obsessive-compulsive tendencies do not appear like they say in the books. In them, they show pictures of people washing hands and meticulously lining up objects in order of color and size. I have been known to do these things, but they are not the compulsions that threaten to break me.
Photo by geralt via Pixabay
It is the thoughts.
It is the constant cycle as they spin round and round and round and round—like a death march pulling me closer towards an abyss that doesn’t even exist. They create a maze, which, if I am not careful, I begin to believe I am trapped in.
A maze of never-ending thoughts, feelings and uncontrollable behaviors.
I hate my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I do not even like to call it mine; after all, it does not define me. It is but a collection of chemicals and synapses. But in those moments, when I can’t see or think of anything but that which I fear, I start to believe that we are one and the same.
In the seconds the thought begins, it traces its way through my body towards a reaction. I have learnt to recognize it almost immediately. Once it would keep me up—minutes and hours and days spent obsessing over the same incident. Through time, however, I have become accustomed to OCD’s plans and schemes. How it latches onto words and names, faces and memories. How it likes to catch me off guard when I am tired and burnt out, delivering unfounded threats, saying it will topple my years in recovery and the many times I have conquered it.
The moments it strikes are hard to overcome, because it is difficult to prevent your body from reacting to something it is programmed to respond to. It’s like having something wrestle you to the ground, but when you try to fight back, it increases its grip. Only by waiting out the moment does the thought and sensation lose its power.
And ever so slowly, it leaves you alone and the chemicals in your brain make a new, healthier path, allowing you to see that the attacker wasn’t even really there. It was all just thoughts and chemicals, pulling you into a parallel reality. Sending you into panic mode.
I know that I am stronger than these thoughts and compulsions.
As a teenager I would visualize my fears, and they kept me shut inside my bedroom, afraid of myself and the world around me.
I found freedom when I told my parents about these thoughts—about how I was scared they were real, and that I was living a lie.
I found freedom when, with the support of my psychiatric nurse, I took short walks in the daylight, slowly decreasing my irrational fear of being attacked outside of the home.
I found freedom when I realized that I didn’t want to die, even when the thoughts and compulsions told me I did.
The truth is, OCD has robbed me of a lot. Sometimes it still tries to steal precious minutes of my days. But I have realized that who I am today—the strong, resilient woman I have become—would not exist without it.
By facing OCD and anxiety, I have learned that small steps lead to grand adventures, and short walks outside bolster courage within me to explore new lands.
By struggling with OCD and anxiety, I have learned to have empathy and compassion towards people who are different to me, because I have questioned my own identity too.
By questioning OCD and anxiety, I have redefined and re-evaluated what I believe, and why I want to be alive.
And by overcoming OCD and anxiety, I have learnt that this all-encompassing illness does not define me. I am not the thoughts it places in my head, or the panic that sets in about something I am in control of. I am not the insomnia, or the chemicals and hormones racing around my body, triggered by a lingering doubt in my mind.
I am so much more than this.
I am brave and bold, fearless and courageous. Yet I would not possess these in such great quantities if I did not battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I have hope that one day the OCD will pass forever. That the triggers of this season will cease, as did those of past years. That the fears they bring will be overcome with love and patience and trust. That I will become so confident and certain of my own worth and identity that the moment a thought attempts to trigger a compulsion it will be blocked by my own self-love.
Until then, I ride it out. I take the moments OCD strikes as an indicator that I need rest, and I revel in the victory awaiting me on the other side of it.
I redefine OCD as an illness, not an identity—a moment, rather than a lifetime. I am not my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but because of it I have become me. And that is why I will overcome it, every single time.
This excerpt comes from Jessica’s memoir, When Hope Speaks available now from jessicamorris.net.
About the Author
Guest Post by Tim Stoddart
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by markus53 via Pixabay - made using @WordSwagApp
In general, anxiety is part of the human experience. It’s a natural reaction to stress. It might show up as sweaty palms before an interview, chaotic thoughts clashing in your head before making a big decision, or a general sense of unease in daily situations like meeting new people. Anxiety spans across a broad spectrum.
One of the most common mental illnesses affecting U.S. adults--about 40 million—are anxiety disorders. When anxiety levels become difficult to control and negatively affect day-to-day living, it can be deemed an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can lead to a host of physical problems, as well as life problems: anxious habits, substance abuse, difficulty with relationships, problems at work.
No matter how it shows up in your life, anxiety can be troublesome. An anxious response can range from uncomfortable to inconvenient to overwhelming. Even in situations of “minor” stress, our brains behave differently and we don’t always think clearly.
Your Brain on Anxiety
Our brains can also trigger an anxious response from something internal—a quiet thought or worry—and experience the same fear, dread, or apprehension. Our bodies still react, and our thought patterns can become clouded by emotions.
Anxiety is a powerful force in your brain. But how you react to it can make a huge difference in the power it has over you. Don’t think of anxiety as all bad! That energy in us can also help us to be more productive, pay attention to detail, and creative. It’s not about beating anxiety, but outsmarting it in your everyday life.
Being told to “just breathe” can be really frustrating in the heat of anxiety, but it’s actually great advice. In a research study, scientists found that certain emotions change our breathing pattern. Similarly, by taking control of our breathing, we can change the way that we feel.
When we’re anxious or stressed, our heart beat elevates and our breathing becomes fast and shallow. If we continue this breathing pattern, we prolong the emotional response. According to the study, the best medicine for anxiety is “deep, slow breathing into the belly.”
Does your mind ever start racing, but you need to get focused again? Grounding techniques are a practice in mindfulness that you can use every day. When the thoughts start picking up speed, ground yourself by focusing on something concrete.
Focus your attention on sensory details around you and stay in that moment. Wiggle your fingers and watch their movements. Tap your feet in a rhythm. Focus on those sensations and the control that you have over your body. Look up at the sky, hone in on the movement of the clouds. Describe the colors and shapes of the leaves—aloud or in your head. Whatever you can do to put yourself in the present and relax, do it.
We spend so much time worrying about the past and the future, but things slow down when we can put ourselves in the present. In general, you can practice mindfulness at any time—while you’re eating, in the shower, on a walk, or listening to music. It can help in any intense emotional state.
It’s easy to lose touch with Mother Nature amidst our busy lives. But, time spent outside is important—it’s a break from our everyday stresses, it can help us to relax and breathe easier, and it’s the ultimate place to get serene and practice mindfulness. Even if it’s just for a short stroll, by stepping outside to appreciate the tangible beauty in our world, we can bring ourselves back to center.
A great activity to practice outdoors is meditation. When we’re tangled up in anxiety, it might seem impossible to sit still, be quiet, and meditate. Like any skill, meditation gets easier with practice.
Think of meditation as personal therapy time—a space to untangle your intense emotions. First, control your breathing and let your emotions settle. Then, quiet your mind. What are you feeling? Are you bothered, angry, fearful, stressed? Taking the time to meditate reminds you that—here, in this moment—you are safe and you are okay.
You can meditate at home, outdoors, or even in a quiet place on your work break. Meditation isn’t limited to sitting cross-legged in the lotus position. You can sit in a chair, lie down, or take a walk. Some people enjoy guided meditation recordings, calming music, or nature sounds, while others prefer quiet. And it doesn’t have to last an hour—try 15 minutes, 5 minutes, or even just 1 minute.
Reason with Yourself
If we can slow down our thoughts, we have a chance to challenge some of our thinking. When you’re feeling nervous, afraid, or overwhelmed, talk to yourself like you would a friend.
What’s going on? What’s inspiring your fear or apprehension? Are your fears posing an imminent threat, are they far-off in the future, or are you stuck on the worst-case-scenario? What can you control, and what’s out of your control?
Take action when you can, but so much in life is out of our control. Ease the panic by identifying what you can do and what you must let go. You can use internal self-talk to get real with yourself; try talking aloud, or writing those thoughts into a journal to make more sense of them. Reasoning with yourself may not “fix” the problem, but you parse through the intense feelings and see things more realistically.
Be Kind to Yourself
Many people, like myself, get frustrated with their anxiety. We perceive ourselves negatively when anxiety has a hold on us. Instead, make an effort to be a patient and accepting friend to yourself. Allow your feelings to exist without judgment. Bolster yourself against negative thoughts, rather than putting yourself down even more.
One of the best ways to practice this is through positive affirmations—statements or mantras that you use to bring positive thinking into your life. You can say them in your head, aloud, or write them down and post them somewhere you can see them. The idea is to practice them daily and change the color of your thoughts. No need to be insincere—use statements you believe in, that will actually help you.
I am safe. Life is good. It’s a beautiful world.
Let it Out
Last but not least, we all need an outlet for our feelings. With any emotion, it manifests in our body as energy—and you can feel that pent up energy and tension with anxiety. Find a way to let it out.
For many of us, this means having a trusted friend you can talk to or call in tough moments, or scheduling time to meet with a therapist. Talking it out is a way to release those feelings and reason with yourself and someone else in the process.
There are also healthy routes of self-expression worth trying. Journaling is extremely effective for many people, helping them to interpret and understand their thoughts. But, writing isn’t the only way—paint, draw, collage, sing, dance, cook a meal. The idea is to find a way to express whatever chaos goes on in your brain so you can lessen the negative impact it has on you.
Anxiety is Smart but You're Smarter
About the Author
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