Psychopath, sociopath, narcissist — these are words we sometimes throw around when talking about people who have difficult personalities or have been harmful to us in some way. Many of my clients, for example, have used these terms to describe their exes or people they don’t like. It’s often used in a pejorative sense.
But what does all of that really mean? The differences are more nuanced and complicated than you may think.
To understand these labels better, we need to first discuss what the basis is for understanding a person’s character or personality. A personality is a cluster of traits that makes up a person’s essence or “feel.” It’s how they interact with the world around them. Continue reading What It Really Means to be a Psychopath, Sociopath, or Narcissist
Every June, communities across the world celebrate Pride, also known as “Gay Pride” or “LGBTQ Pride.” For many it’s a celebration of identity, representing freedom of expression and freedom from social oppression. For others Pride represents a time in which they can watch from afar those who have been able to live their lives in an “out and proud” way. For people not in the LGBTQ communities, the month’s events may represent something different.
Pride began as a movement to solidify the rights and existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s — in which Black communities fought for the same legal and civil rights of their white counterparts — spawned its creation.
There are differing stories as to how Pride actually began, yet people commonly think it originated in New York City. Like other activist movements, the modern gay liberation or civil rights movement included violent interactions with police. Most people think of the Stonewall Rebellion (also referred to as riots) as the catalyst for the modern march for civil rights for LGBTQ folks. Continue reading What Does LGBTQ Pride Mean to You?
Daily stress management is one of the key indicators of mental health and wellness. By being proactive in dealing with stress, we can minimize its impact. Regularly engaging in stress reduction techniques emboldens us to stave off feelings of being completely overwhelmed, depressed, or persistently anxious or panicked.
Here are five ways you can start de-stressing your day today:
Journaling is a tried and true practice for therapists. Many of us came up in training programs that required writing to process our own experiences as students and trainees. Journaling is a simple yet powerful tool that allows for internal thoughts, worries, and concerns to become externalized onto a page. This can help you gain greater insight into your feelings, thoughts, and motivations as well as provide an emotional holding space for difficult material.
2. Spend More Time in Nature
Often overlooked, spending time in nature has great therapeutic effects. With the power of Vitamin D (which helps lift mood), spending time in nature can also be a great mindfulness activity. By communing with nature, many people discuss feeling a greater sense of peace and less rumination (which is consistent with worry and anxiety). Sites like parks and beaches are often popular because they tend to convey feelings of bright energy, enjoyable activities, and generally pleasant conditions. Continue reading 5 Therapist-Approved Ways to De-Stress Your Day
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
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
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, 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
“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
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
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
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