Ask the Therapist Ask our resident Psych Central therapists.2016-02-11T19:45:46Z http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/feed/atom/ Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Afraid I Might Have Non-Verbal Learning Disability or High Functioning Asperger’s]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=37390 2016-02-03T17:42:18Z 2016-02-11T19:45:46Z

I never developed social skills growing up. I cannot and have never been able to maintain eye contact. I’ve never been able to understand the unwritten ‘social rules’ that other people just seem to know. I had never once that about body language or how to tell if someone liked me or didn’t like me at all and was just being nice. I’m always unsure how to behave in different social situations, and worry about getting things wrong.

The thing of it is I’ve read hundreds, and when I say hundreds I mean hundreds, of articles about how to behave in social situations and advice and what to do and what not to do but then when I start talking to someone I just seem to lose most of it. I feel like it’s like that part of my brain just doesn’t work like a normal person’s. It wasn’t until college that I even became of aware of other people’s posture or walking style, or thought about how to read others and interpret myself. I had just never thought of it.

I find it hard to understand or interpret other people’s thoughts, feelings or actions – and therefore to understand their intentions or to predict what they’re going to do next.

One hard thing for me is verbal self-expression. It’s always been very difficult — and almost physically painful — for me to talk about my feelings. I just can’t ever find the right words and communicate it clearly.

Some of my doctors have also said it’s possible that I have high functioning Asperger’s. I spent a lot of time when I was young alone playing by myself and in high school I would spend a most of free time playing video games and watching movies in my room alone in my own little world. Relationships and friendships were very hard for me.

Another thing, I really like learning about certain topics and become really interested in them and could tell you every detail about certain things.

I am over-sensitive to different stimuli, to bright lights, loud noises, some smells, particular food textures or the feeling of certain materials. Cotton balls make me feel funny and having dry hands drives me nuts and certain food textures. I just can’t stand like soggy foods I just can’t eat. The sound of a fork scratching on a plate hurts my teeth.

A: Thank you for taking the time to identify your situation. I think the next right thing would be to move from opinions to testing. For this you need a trained psychologist who can give you a battery of tests to help determine exactly what is going on. A very thorough evaluation can help pinpoint relative strengths and weaknesses — and can often take the guesswork out of the process. This can be helpful in determining what the next steps will be.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Is This DID?]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39634 2016-02-03T17:39:33Z 2016-02-11T12:35:36Z

From New Zealand: I’m a 12 year old girl and i have been traumatized throughout my childhood up until i was about 8 years old. I’ve been going to counselling since i was 10 and everybody i see (including my own family) have told me that i have been traumatized even though i don’t feel traumatized at all.

I cant even remember the amount of times ive tried to tell my family that i don’t feel any attachment what-so-ever to my father (who neglected me and was an alcoholic, police getting involved didn’t help either…) but they keep telling me it’s all in my subconscious. I barely remember my childhood which doesn’t help, and recently ive been diagnosed with PTSD because sometimes i’ll randomly go into this state of aggression or depression, burst into tears in public, be spaced out and do weird stuff without remembering any of it.

I also developed imaginary friends around about this time last year, but i’ve been going to imaginary worlds since as early as i can remember. The psychiatrists thought this was odd that i only developed them now, and they don’t know why i hallucinate (because apparently i hallucinate too) but i have 2 particular imaginary friends that are special because they don’t live outside of me, they live ‘in my head’. They don’t have bodies and i can’t interact with them, they just talk to me through my mind and sometimes are the cause of my ‘episodes’ i think.

One of them is a 16 year old boy called Adrian and another is a 15 year old girl called Jane. Adrian talks to me more, but he hardly ever makes me have an episode because in those episodes i get violent (which isn’t often) so he’s basically my ‘insanity switch’, as i call him. Jane creeps me out because i will be controlled by her without even realizing it. Her personality isn’t as stand-outish as adrians so it’s hard for me to realize that i’ve been her. And i don’t remember what i’m doing, so i’ll find myself lying on the side of the road with a cop car beside me, and next thing you know i’m crying and hugging my mum because i have no idea what i’ve done wrong. One minute i want to kill my mum, the next minute i want to kill myself, the next i want to know why i can’t remember half of my life. This is Adrian, Jane, and me fighting over my body, and i’m sick of it. Is this DID?

A: I’m so very sorry that you’ve been through so much and that you continue to be in major distress. It may be that you don’t feel traumatized because you are psychologically protecting yourself from having the feelings. That’s what the people who are helping you mean when they tell you that your memories (and probably the feelings that went with them) are in your subconscious. Your visits to imaginary worlds and your imaginary friends are likely another way your system is protecting you.

Although losing time as you do and feeling like there are others in your head who talk to you or who make you do things are symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I don’t have enough information to make a diagnosis. I trust that the mental health professionals who know you well can answer your question. Even more importantly, they can help you recover from trauma and become the girl you are meant to be.

I’m glad you are in treatment. You know that your “episodes” and your impulses to kill your mum or yourself aren’t normal. You know you need help to feel in charge of yourself. Your letter shows me that you are intelligent, curious and sensitive. Those are important ingredients for success in treatment.

I urge you to be an active member of your treatment team. Your therapists depend on you to be as honest as you can with them and to share all of your thoughts and feelings — even when they don’t make much sense to you; especially when they don’t make sense to you. Therapists can’t read your mind or your heart so your reports are a key part of your treatment. With time and work, you and your team can get you back on track to be a normal teen with just normal teen prolems.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[I’m Very Nervous I Have Schizophrenia]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39616 2016-02-03T17:06:39Z 2016-02-10T23:45:00Z

Hi, I’m a freshman in high school and for a while — at around 6 or 7 years old I’ve been seeing and hearing strange things, such as gory things in my closet or hearing whispers. I think I might have schizophrenia and I haven’t told anyone, I don’t know if I should or if I can. But I guess I wanted someone who doesn’t know me ‘s advice on this one — Should I tell my parents or, I just don’t really know what to do at all I’m really confused. I’ve learned to kinda cope with it though, telling myself its not real and stuff, But yeah I would really like someone’s opinion on what I should do…

A. Before I could know if you have schizophrenia or any other disorder, there’s more information that I would need to gather. For example, how often do you experience these symptoms? Have they worsened since you first began to experience them? How much do they interfere with your life? Do they prohibit your ability to function? Do they prohibit you from going to school? Are they affecting your sleep? Are the things you hear familiar to you? What things do you see and are they the same as when you were a young child? The answers to those questions would help me to know what might be wrong.

Generally speaking, any time you’re experiencing concerning symptoms you should consult a professional. Ask your parents for their assistance. Once you’ve had an evaluation, the counselor will know what might be wrong and more importantly, how to treat it.

It was wise of you to write to us at Psych Central. Your next steps should involve speaking to your parents, asking for their assistance and meeting with a counselor. I hope this helps you to know how to proceed. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[16 and Unsure of Mental State]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39622 2016-02-03T17:02:32Z 2016-02-10T17:35:04Z

From Romania: I’m 16 and i live in romania. I’m not sure if i am depressed or bipolar. People have noticed i have mood swings often. I can go from happy to sad or frustrated for no reason. Essential to know is that I had a tough childhood not that bad but pretty abusive and i was a little bit anti social mainly because i was bullied. In other words, my life had fallen apart,

I felt emotionally unstable like the smallest criticism could affect me and I have always been nervous, anxious and scared of crowds or uncomfortable around people. The trigger might be my family because they are strict cold people or idk just myself. All i need to know is if im mentally stable because its really bothering me how i feel. Thanks

A: It’s not at all unusual for a 16 year old girl to have mood swings. Actually, it would be unusual if you didn’t. Your body is changing into its adult self and the hormones that are involved often cause girls to be hypersensitive and emotional.

But you also state that you have been bullied and abused. That kind of history often leaves a teen feeling anxious and uncomfortable around others. Having been mistreated, there is a part of you that is on alert for possibly being mistreated again. It may be hard to trust others or to relax among people you don’t know.

I suggest you take care of yourself in two ways: First, see your doctor or endocrinologist to make sure you are physically okay. Second, I strongly urge you to get some counseling to deal with the after-effects of being bullied. You deserve to get the help you need to be able to determine who is trustworthy and to be confident in the social world.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Victim of a Sociopath]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39459 2016-02-03T17:02:39Z 2016-02-10T12:21:23Z

I have broken up with my ex girlfriend who I consider to be a sociopath through research I’ve done on the subject after she left. I found she has a criminal record and I’m talking to police about her illegal activity while we were together, both against me and others. The problem I’m having is I don’t feel the authorities are taking the matters seriously and I think it’s because I’m a male and claiming to be a victim of her mental and verbal abuse. Is this common? Am I looking at an uphill battle and should I approach the police a certain way (other than being totally honest) to get my story heard?

A: Law and psychology overlap, but there is a world of difference in how behavior is looked at, understood, and managed. The question you are asking is a legal one rather than psychological. My best advice is to talk to a criminal attorney about the best way to proceed. This way you can find out what your rights are and what needs to be done.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Can’t Stop Taking All These Pills]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39614 2016-02-01T20:42:11Z 2016-02-09T19:45:58Z

I am 15 and i’m a very heavy prescripted pill user. Pills not prescribed to me. I’ve snorted a lot of tramadol. I’ve also experimented with antidepressants. Like fluoxotine, and bupropion. And many other drugs.Antidepressants are the main ones I abuse though. And I hate what these things have done to me. They make me feel ill and crappy. At one point of time I downed 20 pills of fluoxotine (fl-20). That was a couple months ago. But I still have pshysical damage from them. Since then My coordination is off and my vision always doubles and fogs out. My legs and hands always tremble and twitch. Not only that. All these pills have caused me too drift very far from others. I stopped hanging and talking with my friends causing them too leave. Now I have no one. All I’ve been doing since my abuse started 7 months ago is isolate myself in my room. Mainly The only time I leave is too get food or go to school. And The minute I walk in school I just feel so bad about my self. Seeing everyone laughing with their friends in the halls, then there’s just me alone all day everyday staring down at my feet. Only time I talk is when a teacher talks to me. Other then that I don’t saying anything all day. I’ve become so deprived from human communication I’ve made friends with the voices in my head and talk to them more then I talk to others. And There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about taking pills. I hate what these things have done too my mental and physical health. But I just can’t stop taking them. But Its like These voices in my head that I call my “friends” won’t stop until i use again….I go to a psychiatric but when they ask me if I ever have the urge to use again or if i abused again I lie because my mom is in the room with. And then one time I did answer honestly, when we left the office. My Mom said “it’s like you wanna be a addict.” Those words hurt me deeply and messed me up.So I feel I can’t get the help I want. Without her making me feel bad about myself….

A. You might be physically or psychologically addicted to the pills. Opiates, in particular, are highly addictive. That might be why you feel like you can’t stop.

You could’ve died when you took 20 pills all at once. It caused significant damage from which you are still recovering. Fortunately, you’re alive and have the opportunity to ask for help. I strongly urge you to do so.

It’s imperative that you be honest about your drug use, even if it makes you feel bad to do so. If you don’t want to die, then you must ask for help. Yes, it will be difficult. When you mother learns about your drug use, she might be disappointed, but imagine her devastation if you were to die. There would be no opportunities to heal hurt feelings if you were to die.

Utilize the assistance that you have at your disposal. I sincerely hope that you will. Please take care.

Dr. Kristna Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Is There Hope for a Better Future in My Relationship?]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39626 2016-02-01T20:40:28Z 2016-02-09T12:35:52Z

From the U.S.: After 5 years of unhappiness, is there hope for a better future in my relationship?

My boyfriend and I have been together for 5 years now. The first day we met, he and I had the opportunity to interact a lot and instantly sparked a deep connection with one another. That same night he stayed over and we kissed. The next two days were a repetition of the first day. On the third night, my mother finally caught us and I was kicked out of my house. I left with him and we went from being strangers to being like a married couple.

It was very hard for us. He was also kicked out of his home and we were staying at cheap hotels and friend’s houses. I quit my job and dropped out of school because it was hard to do anything without a stable home. There were times when we had nowhere else to go, but sleep in the car outside a Walmart parking lot.

Our honeymoon stage, as they call it, probably only lasted one month. After that it was a downward spiral. We were constantly arguing about money, food, our family, and the famous “you’re doing it wrong — do it this way” argument. After 6 months, we moved across the country only to live the same thing and that’s when the violence started. One afternoon, after a serious argument, he got into his truck and threatened to leave me. He told me to let him leave or else.. He had promised me once that he would never hit me so I didn’t think he’d do it…but he did.

Ever since then, when we have serious fights, he loses control and hurts me. I haven’t had the courage to leave him and there’s really nothing stopping me now. I don’t live with him, I don’t depend on him, and we don’t have children. Despite that, we both haven’t been able to let go because of the deep connection that we still have and that has been damaged so badly. He always apologizes and says he has to live with himself after what he’s done me.

He’s thought about leaving many times to avoid us having this problematic relationship, but I still feel like we haven’t tried everything in our power to change this situation. I just want to know if there’s anyone who has gone through this and been able to make it work? Is there hope for a better future together?

A: The simple answer is “probably not”. You are in a very typical cycle of abuse. If you could solve it, you and your boyfriend would have done so long ago. Your relationship didn’t have a good foundation to start with and it hasn’t stabilized despite being together for over 5 years! It’s of great concern to me that in that amount of time you haven’t been able to find jobs and support each other enough to make a home of some kind.

I encourage you to contact your mother and see if you can heal that relationship. Will she give you a chance to leave this guy, come home, get back into school and start making something of your life? If that’s really impossible (and you won’t know unless you talk to her), please contact one of the seven women’s shelters in your city. Such shelters offer counseling, housing, job training and advice for extricating yourself from an abusive relationship and getting on your feet.

Don’t wait. It isn’t going to get better unless you do something different from what you’ve already done. At least talk to the shelter’s staff and see what your options are.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Emotional/Verbal Abuse…and His Mother Makes it Worse!]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39604 2016-02-01T20:37:34Z 2016-02-08T19:45:19Z

My husband suffers from depression which manifests as anger, and he is emotionally/verbally abusive. I am trying to help him work through everything, but his mother is making it harder. When I talk to her about our problems, she says stuff like “Well, he just has a short temper like his father,” or “Well, he wouldn’t ever talk to me that way.” Also, his parents are the main reason for his mental instability. It’s a long story, but he had a very rough childhood because of his parents’ choices. She acts like mom-of-the-year, while I am stuck trying to work through my husband’s and my problems without losing my sanity. How can I make her understand that a) she’s not helping, b) her son really DOES have a problem (beyond his depression), and c) that it’s serious, and not something to brush off? When I talk to her about my husband and my arguments, her first instinct is always to ask, “Should I call him?” No, that won’t help. Why would it? Its frustrating that she passive-aggressively blames me for his/our problems. Its frustrating that she thinks she can help him when I can’t. I’ve been with my husband for 5 years, going on 6 (married for almost 2). She doesn’t see the real side of him. Which brings up another question I’ve been struggling with – Why does he only verbally abuse me, and not his mother or anyone else in his family? Why do I get all of the anger and abuse, when I’m the one trying the hardest to help him and the one with the deepest connection to him? He tells me all the time it’s his mother’s fault for his problems and how she makes things worse, but of course he would never tell her that. So she gets to continue thinking she has nothing to do with his problems because it’s only me who he treats this way. I will also add that we have all been to see a therapist. My husband and I have gone together, but I don’t feel like he’s taking the treatments seriously yet, and his mother and brother went once together. His mother and brother spent their entire session talking about my husband and his problems…not their own problems or how is family has and is contributing to his problems.

A: Thank you for sending us your question. From the sound of it the effort you are putting into your mother-in-law just isn’t worth it. She hasn’t been responsive and it comes back through your husband to hurt you. Stop trying to get her to change.

Let me take some phrases from your email and show them to you:

  • When I talk to her about our problems…
  • How can I make her understand…
  • When I talk to her about my husband..
  • Why does he only verbally abuse me…

You are caught in a triangle trying to repair the relationship between your husband and your mother-in-law. Get out of the triangle and stop engaging with her. Don’t talk to her about your marital problems, don’t try to make her understand, and don’t talk about your husband with her. These efforts haven’t worked and have made things worse. The effort now has to be between you and your husband while letting him deal (or not deal) with his relationship with his mother and brother. Get yourself out of the middle.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Sound of Sirens In Head, Anxiety Very Scared]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39611 2016-02-01T20:32:11Z 2016-02-08T12:35:09Z

Hello, I am 22 years old, I suffer from bad anxiety and I’ve been terrified of developing schizophrenia all of my life, I went through a period of my life a few years ago where I had awful anxiety, and I would hear what sounded like police sirens inside my head from time to time, eventually when my anxiety lessened, the noise went away.

Now after the past 6 months my anxiety has come back full force, at first I started having intrusive thoughts that caused me great anxiety, after that one night while going to sleep, I had a hypnagogic hallucination before falling asleep, when that happened i started getting scared I was going to become schizophrenic, and started to obsess over it, started googling all my symptoms. I started getting scared I would start to hear voices or become delusional, every sound I’d hear I would have to check that the sound was real, which it always was. I’d sometimes hear the police sirens I use to hear when I was younger, but it would go away if I didn’t pay attention to it.

The past week I’ve felt a lot of fatigue and weakness in my body that comes and goes, I assumed I was getting a cold… but for some reason the feeling comes and goes every other few days.

anyway.. yesterday I was feeling a lot of fatigue and very weak again, and suddenly started to hear the police sirens, but this time it has been constant, and no matter what I do the sound continues and wont seem to go away, and when it does go away, right when I think about it, it comes back. I don’t have a fever, i have been having some ear pain and throat pain also. I’m scared that this is some sort of schizophrenia/psychosis, the sirens sound like they are in my head. I’ve also had tinnitus all of my life, but I’m not sure if this can be considered tinnitus or not. I’m filled with anxiety and fear that I’m going to lose my mind, I have a therapist appointment coming Friday but my therapist specializes in anxiety and OCD, and I feel like I may have something worse.

I’m not looking for a diagnosis, but I’m looking for some guidance. I don’t know what type of appointment to make, could this possibly be something physical going on, or could this be psychological? Where should I start? Should I go to a psychiatrist, or start with a ENT?

A. Your upcoming meeting with a specialist in anxiety sounds like the very best idea. As you noted, you have had anxiety all of your life. It’s apparently never effectively been dealt with. Even though it lessened for a time, it never fully went away.

If I were your therapist, I would inquire about your life circumstances during the time in which your anxiety decreased and about your life circumstances now that your anxiety has increased. That information might help me to better understand what is causing your anxiety.

Your concern about developing schizophrenia is not uncommon among people who have health-specific anxieties. Schizophrenia tends to be the mental health disorder they fear the most. Some people perceive it as being the worst or the most frightening of all mental health disorders.

Regarding the hypnagogic hallucination, those are relatively common on the verge of sleep. It may be a normal experience or it could indicate a potential sleep disorder. You should report this symptom to your therapist upon your first meeting. He or she could provide you with a referral for a medical evaluation, if deemed appropriate.

Based upon the information you have provided, it seems unlikely that you have schizophrenia. Only a mental health professional, who interviewed you in person, could know that with certainty but your symptoms seem more characteristic of anxiety than they do of schizophrenia.

It’s encouraging that you are planning to undergo treatment. Your symptoms are highly treatable. With the right assistance, perhaps the right medication and a commitment to treatment, you should expect positive results. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Sexual Feelings Interfere with Studying]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=38726 2016-02-01T20:29:53Z 2016-02-07T19:45:46Z

From India: i am preparing for a difficult exam. my future depends on the exam. i am thinking always to score well. but some sexual thoughts are disturbing me. i am always tries to focus on studies. for 2 or 3 days i am on the track after i disturbed.
again i retrieved and i start studies after 2 days again i disturbed. this is happening to me like a recursive system. i observed that my brain not capturing with high speed like before. my parents are expecting something better result from me. due to this problem i am going to depression. please solve my problem as early as possible with best suggestion.
thank you sir.

A: I wish I could solve your problem with a letter ,but all I can do is give you a few ideas to think about.

You didn’t give me much information to go on, but I’m wondering if the sexual thoughts not only provide a distraction but may also be a way to relax. Masturbation is a very effective anti-anxiety technique. However, it is not long-acting, even though it can be very habit-forming.

I think you should address your anxieties about your studies — and your future — directly. Are you invested in the future you have planned or have your parents chosen a career for you that you don’t really want to do? Are you worried about letting your parents down? Are you concerned that you won’t be successful if you actually do launch into the career?

Answers to these kinds of questions may help you figure out what you are avoiding with the sexual thoughts and even the depression.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Holly Counts, Psy.D. <![CDATA[I Believe I Have OCD]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39651 2016-02-01T20:27:23Z 2016-02-07T12:35:55Z

I have been having issues of being conscious of my own breathing for 2 years. It started off with lips going tingly then my arms would go numb. my chest started hurting it felt like I was getting choked and my face would turn red and I couldn’t get s breath. I notice after a year and a half I was controlling my breathing. The hospital I went to gave me a chest x ray and it was fine. I also have asthma so I got a inhailor but that don’t work either. Also I take so many deep breaths my stomach will swell and hurt. I have to undergo iv sedation the twilight for a full mouth extraction. Will I be ok since I’m not in control will my body breath on its own or will I freak out since I control my breathing? Will I be ok because the numbing makes me feel like I can breathe. What should I do? (age 23, from US)

A: First, it’s important to understand that we can consciously affect our breathing, but we don’t “control it.” Luckily, it’s something our autonomic nervous system takes care of for us. You will continue breathing if you are sedated, asleep, unconscious, anxious, etc. It truly is automatic — just like your heart beats without you having to think about it.

The problems you are listing could be anxiety related, but I wouldn’t rule out medical causes. Also, it may be a combination of both. Many people with asthma have anxiety, and it’s understandable, anyone would feel anxious if you feel like you can’t breathe. I would suggest seeing both a respiratory specialist as well as a mental health therapist who works with anxiety disorders. You can learn many useful ways to cope with both conditions and find more peace in your daily living, but a therapist might also be able to help prepare you for the dental procedure. Good luck!

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Is My Daughter Using Her GAD to Manipulate Us?]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39602 2016-02-01T20:25:33Z 2016-02-06T23:45:18Z

My daughter has been diagnosed with GAD. Sometimes I struggle with believing what is going on with her as she can be very manipulative. She claims to have anxiety and panic attacks, yet I can see online she brags about a tattoo she has secretly gotten and pretending to drink at family functions (when I know she has not). She also refuses to do any chores around the house, yet expects us to buy her things and go get her fast food. Is this just typical normal teen drama? I sometimes feel she is exaggerating her symptoms to get her way, and she is very intelligent. If yes, how do I manage this while still making sure we manage her GAD?

A: The key is to set boundaries and help her cope with the difficulty this will cause her. Setting limits — saying no — while facilitating her finding ways to deal with the frustration will help her develop resilience. These skills, rather than avoidance of anxiety, tend to be healthier ways to manage in the long run. In this way you don’t have to tip-toe around her anxiety, while doing the thing that will help her cope downstream.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Husband’s Love Child Is Hateful to Family]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=38734 2016-02-01T20:23:09Z 2016-02-06T17:35:46Z

From the U.S.: My husband had an affair with my brother’s first wife 29 years ago. I forgave both, and we stayed together and had two children, both boys now 26 and 24. A child was produced from that affair, not disclosed until my children were 8 and 10. My brother was unaware for many years after that and paternity was never established. That child is now 28.

At the age of 15 her step father, in a fit of rage, told her that she wasn’t my brother’s daughter. She apparently had tried to commit suicide and they, her mother and step father, decided they should send her to us. I welcomed her openly, as I never thought that any of this was her fault. But she would not accept parental guidance and the rules of our home and went back to stay with her mom.

After this, she had minimal contact with my husband, any dialogue would end in her cussing, ranting, and saying hateful things to him, usually ending in “I hope you die” or something of that nature. Each time, he would extend his hand, she would bite it viciously. At one point, she asked me for my social security number, saying that her school needed it. Her mother had used each of her kids SSN’s and ruined their credit before they were adults and also had stolen my brother’s identity after 15 years being divorced from her. I knew better than to give it to her, so I didn’t.

Fast forward to today. My children are aware of what happened, and they were old enough to know what is going on. But this now grown woman verbally lashed out recently on social media and my name was tagged showing this to all of my friends. I have great remorse for how things turned out for her, but feel, and felt, powerless to change her circumstance. Her mother would never tell my brother until it was too late for us to do anything, and it seems that we are the ones that she hates the most. I have tried many times, but honestly now feel that I have to cut her out of my life completely, because bringing all this hate up over and over just opens the old wounds of betrayal that I suffered all those years ago. Am I right or how should I handle this appropriately?

A: This scenario is too complicated to respond to adequately in an advice column. This young woman seems to need a scape-goat but you couldn’t provide enough information in our format for me to understand why. For example: You didn’t mention your brother’s role in his daughter’s life. I also have no information about your and your husband’s relationship with her mother and what her mother may have been telling her about the rest of her family.

It is to your credit that you were able to forgive and to not assign blame to a child who was the outcome of the affair. You’ve done what you can on your own from your position in the family. But you are only one member of the family system that is still struggling with the reverberations of something that happened almost 30 years ago.

If you came to my office with this problem, I’d consider this a family therapy case; not one that could be sufficiently helped by seeing any one member of the family. I’d want to meet with the young woman and her two biological parents as well as with you and the step dad.

I therefore suggest that you consider talking with a licensed family therapist. Cut offs often have toxic effects in a family, but clearly you all can’t go on as you have been doing. You need to talk with someone who can provide guidance after coming to an understanding of the whole picture.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[I’ve Been Raised Like Rapunzel: Grounded Since Birth]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39577 2016-01-29T23:08:56Z 2016-02-06T12:25:32Z

My overprotective dad doesn’t allow me to go outside my home alone, never did in all these 18 years (my age). I’m dropped to school and back home by my dad in his car. Other than school, I’m taken out very rarely.

Since about a year and a half, I don’t have school because I asked for an arrangement where I just have to go to school one week at the end of the year to give exams and that’ll be equivalent to clearing 11th and 12th grade at once. Now I’m at home for weeks at a stretch.

Since about 12 years, my dad also physically (beats/slaps) and emotionally abuses my stepmom. As a child I wasn’t very affected but now I’m growing very intolerant. Staying at home more than earlier increases exposure to this. I wasn’t abused, just physically punished up to age 14.

Moving out is the simplest solution to avoid all this. I believe I can manipulate my dad into allowing me to do this, even though he doesn’t allow me to get out of the home.

What damage will it have on my brain development if I can’t move out? What if there is no exposure to abuse (just the effects of not getting out)?

A. I’m not familiar with any research regarding brain impairment among people who live with their parents. To know with certainty, you would have to consult a neurologist or a brain science researcher. There is research regarding brain impairment/damage among people who have been abused as children, but I don’t think that is what you are asking.

At 18 years old, you are an adult. You should have more freedom than you do. If you feel as though you’re ready to move out, then you should. If you’re not ready, then stay until you are ready, but in the meantime you should be attempting to become more independent. Independence is important for your psychological and emotional development. You should be developing your own identity apart from your parents.

I’m also wondering about college. Are you planning to attend? That might be your opportunity to gain some independence from your parents.

Ideally, therapy would benefit you greatly. Family therapy could also be useful, if your family would be willing to participate. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Husband Asking about Past Now — 15 Years Later]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=39530 2016-01-27T20:31:33Z 2016-02-05T19:45:27Z

After 15 years together, my husband is now asking me about my previous relationships. Why? When we began dating, we said the past is the past. Now he keeps asking questions about my past. About 2 months ago I found out he was texting a coworker — does this have something to do with it?

A: Your intuition sounds right. It seems like he is looking for a reason to justify his texting. Don’t let this unravel. It is time to get into couple therapy. The “find help” tab at the top of the page will help you find people who are qualified. You may also find qualified couple therapists here.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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