Recognizing Trauma vs. PTSD: A Quick Primer on Symptoms

traumatic stress vs. PTSD image

Imagine you have just had a car accident on the way home from work. Would you consider this a traumatic experience? What about if you left a country with oppressive government to find asylum in a safer country? Would you consider that traumatic?

There are different kinds of trauma you may experience. In the past, trauma meant experiencing events such as torture or abuse. But mental health professionals have come to see trauma as being more varied. How will you know if you or someone you love is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic stress? Clarification begins first with the definition of trauma.

The International Society for Trauma Stress Studies defines trauma as a set of mild to severe reactions to, “shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity.” Continue reading Recognizing Trauma vs. PTSD: A Quick Primer on Symptoms

Children’s Mental Health: When To Worry, How To Take Action

sad boy arms folded

Approximately one in five children experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lives.

I once worked with a young man (whom I will refer to here as James) who was in his early 20s and had been plagued by difficulties at both work and his personal life. About two years prior to our first meeting, he left school due to his inability to keep up with the schoolwork and the stress that it caused him. James told me he always felt as if he were playing “catch up.”

Throughout our time together in therapy James came to recognize he had been living with untreated ADHD. He spent years internalizing negative messages from his teachers and family members about his behavior and difficulty concentrating. They labeled him as “bad,” and he believed it. Continue reading Children’s Mental Health: When To Worry, How To Take Action

5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

kerry washington red carpet

About 20 people are victims of domestic violence every minute in the United States. Domestic violence is an enormous issue, and we need powerful voices to address it.

We wanted to salute those in the spotlight who have spoken about their personal experiences with domestic and intimate partner violence. Because survivors often suffer in silence, we hope these public voices offer inspiration and courage to those who might need support.

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall, a host for NBC’s “Today” show, has been an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse for many years. Hall’s sister died as a result of her abusive relationship. This was the catalyst for Hall’s advocacy. Her sister’s death is still unsolved.

Hall has been open about her struggles with guilt about her sister Renate’s death. Her feelings echo those of family members across the world who have struggled with having a loved one in an abusive relationship. She started the Tamron Renate Hall Fund with her sons to help survivors of domestic abuse. Continue reading 5 Celebrity Women Who Spoke Out About Domestic Violence

How Caregivers Can Avoid Burnout and Stay Mentally Healthy

daughter taking care of sick mother

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” – Dalai Lama

I once worked with a client named Patrick who came to therapy feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what he had recently been experiencing. As a young professional he was trying to balance all the facets of his life. He was dating and trying to maintain a healthy social life. Patrick was also struggling with caring for his aging mother who had several medical and emotional issues to sort through.

As many therapists will tell you, caring for others is one of the greatest experiences we can have as humans. There is research that caring for others and demonstrating compassion outwardly, such as volunteering, may help us feel better within ourselves both physically and mentally.

Nonetheless, we also know caring for others can sometimes be a daunting and even thankless experience. Many of us who find ourselves caring for others often lose our balance. We even begin to view our self-care as being selfish. We may say to ourselves, “I can’t take this time off. What will happen when I’m gone?” Continue reading How Caregivers Can Avoid Burnout and Stay Mentally Healthy

Why Happiness is Overrated, According to a Therapist

green color pencil drawing smile on figures

Often times people come into therapy hoping to finally tackle issues like anxiety or depression. Clients have come into my office wishing for me to share my keys to “happiness.” Sometimes they are disappointed to find I actually don’t think happiness is a reasonable goal.

There is a lot of information, particularly in the positive psychology movement, about finding the keys to happiness. You can use affirmations and daily validations to help lift your mood. You can organize your life and change your behavior, all in an effort to secure this feeling of happiness.

There’s a lot of validity to those suggestions. Nonetheless, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to search for “happiness” to begin with. Continue reading Why Happiness is Overrated, According to a Therapist

Finding Inner Peace with Mindfulness and the 5 Senses

woman tea meditation

Mindfulness is the power of living in the moment, embracing your current circumstances without judgement or pretense. To be mindful is to be a conscious observer.

Mindfulness is a big trend, not only in popular culture, but in contemporary therapy. Many counselors tout this westernized version of traditional Eastern practices as a way to promote relaxation and reduce stress in clients. It’s become a popular training topic for clinicians because there is evidence that it helps reduce anxiety and depression.

As a therapist, I often incorporate mindfulness-based cognitive strategies in my work to help clients deal with stressful jobs and lives. In my practice I’ve found it to be especially effective at battling anxiety and perfectionism. It can be a challenge, however, to incorporate mindfulness in your daily routine if you’re not used to slowing down and paying conscious attention. Continue reading Finding Inner Peace with Mindfulness and the 5 Senses

What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Theory Teaches Us About Social Anxiety

big bang theory cast

Roughly 15 million American adults live with social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social anxiety has grown in mainstream conversations about mental health over the years, but what does it look like to actually live with the disorder? There’s a great example viewable in one of television’s biggest sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Rajesh Koothrappali (Raj) from “The Big Bang Theory” represents a solid case of social anxiety disorder. In earlier seasons of the show, Koothrappali’s social anxiety cripples him by rendering him speechless around women who aren’t members of his family. When he’s alone with his friends, he has no problem expressing himself. But when faced with the prospect of speaking with a woman he deems attractive, Raj often uses alcohol as a social lubricant.

Many viewers, including myself, find this character trait charming in those earlier seasons. As a therapist I understand this kind of representation can minimize the lives of those who deal with social anxiety in real life. Nonetheless, my impression is that the writers of the show handle Raj’s disorder with both compassion and humor. This leads me to believe that both the actor and those in the writers’ room understand what it’s like to experience social anxiety. Continue reading What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Theory Teaches Us About Social Anxiety

When to Say, “I Love You,” According to a Therapist

gay men holding hands

Relationship problems are one of the main reasons people seek out therapy. And there is no time in our lives more complicated than the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. Our goal is usually aimed at doing everything we can to maintain the relationship.

We spend a lot of energy trying not to scare the other person away, right? In the early stages of a relationship, we often find ourselves walking on eggshells. Sometimes we hide our true opinions and feelings in an effort to keep the peace. This can leave us confused about when we should say, “I love you”.

What if this scares your new boo away? What if you come off as “needy” or “desperate”? What if they don’t say it back?! Continue reading When to Say, “I Love You,” According to a Therapist

What Are People In Therapy Saying About Life Post-Trump Victory?

democratic republican emojis

As a therapist, I experienced a variety of client reactions following the election results on November 8. Some clients were happy with the results. Others were fraught with intense anxiety and fear over what the next four years would be like for the United States.

Some of the country experienced shock at the election results. A theme I keep hearing from clients is the realization of such stark differences in viewpoints across the country.

For many those viewpoints are different than those in their immediate surroundings. These viewpoints are different than those people have seen in their social media feeds.

Everyone is in shock. The impact, however, is revealing itself in different ways. Continue reading What Are People In Therapy Saying About Life Post-Trump Victory?

4 Mental Health Resolutions: Try Something Different This New Year

woman hopping 2017 new year

Now that the new year has started, many of us are deciding on some of the classic New Year’s resolutions: weight loss, eating healthier, getting in shape, etc. These can be great goals.

They only focus on physical health, though. What about mental health? Continue reading 4 Mental Health Resolutions: Try Something Different This New Year