Disorders

5 Myths About What Therapy Should Be Like — and the Actual Facts

Today, thanks to the internet, there’s a lot more information about therapy and how it works. But that still doesn’t stop some myths from being perpetuated. And perpetuated. These myths might come from television and movies. They might come from friends or colleagues or even strangers. They might come from our own assumptions as we try to fill in the blanks. Below are five common myths, which you may or may not have (mis)interpreted as truths, along with the actual facts.

We think a therapist is just like a friend.
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Brain and Behavior

The Healing Power of Hugs

One day several years ago, I spontaneously hugged a patient of mine, Gretchen. It was during a moment in which her despair and distress were so intense that it seemed cruel on a human level not to reach out my arms to her, in the event that she might derive some relief or comfort from an embrace. She hugged me for dear life.

Months later, Gretchen reported to me that the hug had changed her. “The motherly embrace you gave me that day,” she said, “lifted the depression I have had all my life.”

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Binge Eating

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Weight Management

Countless people feel unhappy with their bodies. Some have eating disorders, and many others deal with issues surrounding weight management. They may have tried the standard self-help techniques, from exercise and dieting to grueling weight loss programs, without success.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective and widely used therapeutic approach that can be applied to issues including self-esteem, body image, and weight management.

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ADHD and ADD

The Connection Between ADHD and Anxiety

Genetic research suggests that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety disorders may share similar genetic makeup. Approximately 30 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD have also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and that number may be as high as 50 percent in adults.

Adult ADHD that coexists with an anxiety disorder may significantly impair the ability to function in one’s daily life. Anxiety tends to exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD, as it often takes one out of the present moment. By attending to something in the past or anticipating a potential threat in the future, anxiety makes it difficult to organize information in a productive manner and can lead to a lack of environmental awareness.

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Anger

How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Us

The statistics are alarming. From 2009 to 2014, the number of girls between the ages of 10 and 17 hospitalized for intentionally cutting or poisoning themselves has more than doubled. This isn't the first time I'm reading about this. But it's certainly time to talk about it.

In my work with inherited family trauma, when I see a child who injures herself, I've learned to probe into the family history. The self-injurer could well be reliving aspects of a trauma she inherited from her parents or grandparents, though this is not always the case. Self-injurious behaviors can arise for other reasons as well.

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Inspiration & Hope

Video: If Therapy Doesn’t Work, Try Again

Going to see a therapist is a little different than going to see a dentist. And not just because a responsible therapist will never dose you with laughing gas.
When you get a tooth pulled, it's generally a one-off thing. You wouldn't shop around at different dentists to see who does the best job pulling out your tooth. If your first dentist botches the job and only gets the tooth pulled out partway, you wouldn't simply head on down the street to the next dentist to try again.
But therapy is more complicated. Getting your psychological "teeth" pulled is more of a drawn-out, imperfect, subtle process. And therapists are professionals, but they're also humans.
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General

Your Mental Health is Just as Vital as Your Physical Health

On Psych Central’s homepage, you’ve likely seen the tagline: “Your mental health is as important as your physical health.” But what does mental health really mean? What does it entail? And why is it so pivotal -- so much so that it’s on par with our physical health?

These are the questions I posed to clinicians. Because, in our society, there’s a strong emphasis on taking care of our bodies -- eat nutrient-rich foods, exercise -- and yet not so much on taking care of our mental health. Sure, we see articles with self-help tips. But I’m not sure that many of us really consider our mental health day to day. I’m not sure that we give it the same attention and energy, if any.
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Brain and Behavior

Treatment’s Toughest Assignment

“Just this one Netflix episode. I mean, it is Game of Thrones.”

Or “I can spend another five minutes surfing ESPN.com.”

We stall before delving into an unpleasant task. We search for discounted shoes, binge watch reality TV, and devour Ben & Jerry on dreary Tuesday nights. On Thursday nights, we devote two hours to adorable puppy cams and addictive Friends reruns. And don’t ask about Wednesday nights -- after a draining day at work, we slam the apartment door and collapse on the couch.

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Anger

Past Tense

I stop: a droll smile and infectious cackle singe my synapses. I feel good. Like endorphins-are-murmuring good.

Maybe it is a sun-baked trip to the beach, the well-received Psych Central articles, or heartfelt conversations with my aunts and uncles. Or maybe it is learning to accept past failures for what they are: character lessons, not character flaws. The past can be a vengeful lover; she will terrorize you if you allow her to.

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Brain and Behavior

Making Stress Work for You

Stress gets a lot of negative press, and for good reason. Chronic stress is linked to a host of health and emotional problems. Yet stress comes in a variety of forms. Despite what the news headlines say, some types of stress are actually good for you. Consider the acute stress events of exercise and learning to ride a bike. Done properly, these events invoke a desired adaptation in mind and body.

In fact, research shows that moderate levels of short-term stress stimulate genesis of new brain cells. So keep up that exercise routine and those daily challenging crossword puzzles. Just remember that the stress should be acute, not chronic, and moderate, not excessive. Furthermore, it is not only the amount of stress you experience, but your perception of it that determines its lasting effects.

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Anxiety and Panic

Calling All Perfectionists

In my obsession with perfection, I forgot a valuable life lesson: pretty good can be perfection too.

Adventurous and fun-loving and driven and studious, I have sought it all. The dreamy vacation, the fulfilling career, the steamy romance. But the mind has always craved more.

Growing up, I would spend hours poring over an essay. I rehearsed clever rejoinders before dates. I would analyze events from 2002. I am laughing and cringing at these memories.

I was comfortable in my skin as long as I met my own exacting standards.
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Anxiety and Panic

A Husband’s Guide to Understanding Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Approximately 20 percent of all postpartum women experience a perinatal mood disorder such as postpartum depression (PPD) or anxiety. These are medical conditions which can be successfully treated. Knowing the risk factors and understanding the signs and symptoms are important for a spouse in order to get his wife the appropriate care and help.

Any new mom can develop a perinatal mood disorder; however, there are some risk factors to be aware of:

Personal or family history of depression or anxiety
History of severe PMS or PMDD
Chronic pain or illness
Fertility treatments
Miscarriage
Traumatic or stressful pregnancy or birthing experience
Abrupt discontinuation of breastfeeding
Substance abuse

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