World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999.2015-11-27T16:45:59Z Lauren Carrane <![CDATA[7 Tips for When Your Young Adult Children Move Back Home]]> 2015-11-20T23:20:34Z 2015-11-27T16:45:59Z Are you the parent of a young adult who has recently moved back home? If so, you’re not alone. Turns out, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center, one in four young adults ages 18 to 34 are now living with their parents.

The reasons young adults are moving home in record numbers is part economics — massive student loan debt and outrageous rents in many major cities. But Jeffrey Griffith, Education and Career Specialist at Yellowbrick — a psychiatric facility based in Evanston, Ill., that focuses on treating those ages 17-30 — says it’s also partly a result of closer relationships that this generation of parents have developed with their children.

“Millennials are much closer to their parents than previous generations were, and that’s a good thing,” Griffith said. “They’re more open to accepting help and parents seem more receptive to helping.”

And although having your children move home with you may seem like a great idea financially, it also can come with significant challenges. Not only can tensions develop between parents and kids over rules and boundaries, but if not handled correctly, children also can regress and have less motivation to get out on their own.

If you’re thinking about letting your young adult child move back in with you, we asked Griffith and Dr. Bryn Jessup, Director of Family Services at Yellowbrick, for their tips to help make it successful for both of you:

  1. Don’t freak out.
    If your young adult child is moving back home, don’t assume he will be a loser the rest of his life. “A kid returning home is not a fatal catastrophe,” Jessup said.

    Jessup said there is a myth that kids who return home are lazy and don’t want to grow up, but in fact, it’s normal for young adults to have some ambivalence about taking on lots of adult responsibilities. After all, who among us really wants to go to work, pay bills and get our oil changed? Just because kids are reluctant to jump into the adult world doesn’t mean they won’t. The good news, he said, is that by age 30 nearly all young adults are financially independent.

  2. Negotiate boundaries and expectations.
    If you’re planning to let your young adult children move back home with you, one of the first things you have to do is have a conversation about what is and isn’t OK in your house. For example, you may want to lay out what chores your child is responsible for and whether substance use is allowed in your home. “Parents should make their expectations explicit. Don’t play it by ear,” Jessup said.

    And, Jessup said, remember to let your child have a say in what they want, too. “These conversations need to be collaborative. You need to keep the communication channel open, not shut it down,” he said.

  3. Give them freedom.
    When your kids move back home after college, they’re going to be used to having more freedom than they did as teenagers. They may bristle if you try to clamp down too hard. For example, you might need to let go of having a curfew or having regular family meals. And remember, you can only control so much.

    “What the child does outside of the house and outside of the family is their own business unless it interferes with the family,” Jessup said.

  4. Have them contribute.
    Although you’re allowing your child to move home to help with his or her finances, adult children should be required to contribute something to their living expenses. It will help them learn the value of budgeting and develop healthy financial habits and self-esteem. “Even if unemployed, parents should create an allowance from which the young person pays their share of the bills,” Jessup said.

    Griffith said young adults should be willing to take a part-time job while they continue to look for full-time work. “It’s important that young adults get some kind of job and are required to pay for some of their bills,” he says. “When people have to work, it really gives them perspective.”

  5. Set up a timetable.
    Griffith said parents should be clear about how long they are willing to support their young adult. He says by telling your child that you expect her to be able to support herself within six months or a year, you actually will ease tensions between both of you.
  6. Don’t micromanage.
    Another mistake parents make is asking too many questions and becoming overly concerned with what their children are doing every minute of the day. “Stepping away from the microscope is not only a benefit to the kid, it’s also a benefit to the parent,” Jessup said.Griffith agreed. “People start to feel more entitled to details when they’re financially involved,” he says. “You need to step back and let them succeed and fail on their own.”
  7. Watch out for depression.
    Unfortunately, although moving back home may be financially necessary, many young adults may feel guilty about accepting their parents’ help. They may become increasingly depressed and doubt their own self-worth. While some of these feelings may be common, watch to see if your child becomes increasingly angry, withdrawn or despondent. If so, you may need to encourage them to seek counseling.

Adult children with parents photo available from Shutterstock

Evonne Weinhaus, LCSW, LPC <![CDATA[Getting the Most out of Imago Couples Therapy: Reframe, Remember, Resolve]]> 2015-11-18T18:51:12Z 2015-11-26T22:55:59Z Couples therapy is a time for learning and growing as a couple. It’s a time to take a moment to sit down in this fast-paced world and really listen to what your partner is saying. Whether you’ve been going to couples therapy for years or are about to have your first appointment, these tips can help you make the most of marriage counseling.

Reframe your belief about couples therapy.

It is not a sentence for bad behavior. It is an opportunity for educational growth. It helps you to become more conscious and learn about yourself, your partner and what is really going on in your relationship.

Have you ever thought about what is really happening when you fall in and out of love? When you first fall in love, all is right with the world. Your mate appears funny, sexy, and happy. He or she seems to complete you. He’s a thinker; you’re a doer. She plans; you‘re spontaneous. Opposites attract, right?

Then something goes haywire. It could take months or years. Suddenly your partner is different than you thought. What initially attracted you begins to grate on you. The power struggles begin. Fighting replaces communicating and connecting.

Guess what? That’s actually supposed to happen. In Imago Couples Therapy, you will learn to reframe conflict. Conflict in a marriage is something natural and normal and is actually a good thing. It is when the honeymoon is over that the real marriage begins.

Imago Couples Therapy starts with a simple but profound belief: Everyone unconsciously picks their perfect mate — their Imago mate. At this point, that may be hard to believe. You marry someone who is an Imago match, that is, someone who matches up with the composite image of your primary caretakers (generally being your parents).

In doing so, you seek what you lack in your partner. You are disorganized, so you are attracted to a neat freak. Or you are shy, so you are attracted to someone outgoing. But then you begin to criticize your partner for being too organized or too boisterous, calling them loud and obnoxious. You eventually try to squash the very traits you were looking for in the first place.

The purpose of marriage counseling is to provide you with an updated education in growing as individuals and partners.

Recognize the part you play.

Before your first couples therapy appointment, ask yourself: What can I do differently than I have done previously? It may be something that seems deceptively simple. For example, listen more and talk less. Or speak up instead of keeping the peace at all costs.You have no control over how your partner responds or if your partner changes. You do control your ability to recognize the part you play.

Let’s listen in on a typical couples therapy session. You will see how a partner started learning from the inside out. She began to recognize the part she played instead of only directing her anger outward.

Partner: You used to be funny, light-hearted and interested in me when we were dating. Now, I just feel angry toward you. You are the exact opposite of how you were when we were dating.

(Is this true? Truthfully, I don’t know. My guess is the client is also angry with herself, and this anger is being played out in their relationship. Here is a concrete example of how the client can truly recognize the part she plays in the relationship conflict by naming it and claiming it.)

Partner: I know I have really been angry toward you (name it). I realize I am so angry at myself. I wish I didn’t act so impulsively. I have to own that and not just blame you for our situation (claim it).

Name it, claim it is a simple and effective place to begin to recognize your part of the problem. Your partner probably will be able to look at their part of the problem when you begin to point your finger inward instead of outward. What happens when this kind of dialogue begins? Connections with yourself and with your partner in a safe atmosphere that offers respect, truth and empathy.

Resolve to move out of your comfort zone.

So far we have talked about two Rs: Reframing your view about couples therapy and recognizing the part you play. Now let’s move on to the third R: Resolve to move out of your comfort zone.

Do something out of the ordinary for you. In Imago Couples Therapy, we talk about two different processes: stretching and growing.

Let’s start with stretching. When you are listening to your partner, it is really easy to start defending yourself. Instead, we suggest the listener has the opportunity to “stretch” and add to their usual repertoire of responses. For example, the listener would only reflect back what he or she is hearing.

Try to think of it this way: You have the opportunity to “stretch” and make a connection instead of a correction. You want to keep your eye on the long-range goal.

The second process, growing, is reserved for the person who is doing the talking. It is easy to point the finger at your partner. The secret is to remember the R: Recognize the part you play and speak in terms of your own behavior. Don’t shortchange yourself by putting the focus on your partner. The power of healing lies within you. You have the opportunity to clarify and deepen what is really going on inside of you.

The result? That is the bonus R. You will have taken a major step in developing a conscious relationship. You will learn to see your partner not as an extension of you or as you wish he or she would be, but as a unique individual with his or her own ideas or dreams that no longer collide with your own. In giving your partner what they need versus just what you need, you will learn a true and lasting love.

Couples therapy photo available from Shutterstock

Paula Durlofsky, PhD <![CDATA[Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship]]> 2015-11-18T19:01:26Z 2015-11-26T16:45:12Z Unlike physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse can be much harder to pinpoint and recognize. Emotional abuse often is inconsistent in amount and duration and happens in multiple forms. At its core, emotional abuse plays into deep-seated fears of rejection, abandonment, unworthiness, shame and loveability.

Projection and gaslighting are two major tactics used in emotional abuse. Projection is the act of placing unacceptable feelings or unacceptable wants or desires onto another person. For example, a person who feels inferior constantly accuses others of being stupid or incompetent.

The goal of projection is to shift responsibility and blame from ourselves onto someone else. Victims of emotional abuse are unaware that someone else’s feelings are being projected onto them, so they interpret “projected feelings” as belonging to them.

Gaslighting aims to create a great amount of confusion and self-doubt in the victim. The term is based on the stage play and movie “Gaslight,” in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights in their home, and then denying the lights were dimmed when his wife points out this fact. It is a form of emotional abuse because it causes victims to question their own feelings, memory, instincts and sense of reality.

Projection and gaslighting are crucial reasons for why victims do not recognize emotional abuse when it is happening. Ultimately, projection and gaslighting create a deep sense of confusion, self¬doubt, incompetency and fear. They make it difficult for victims to think clearly enough to take protective actions for themselves.

It is important to note that people who were emotionally abused as children are at greater risk for being victims of emotional abuse as adults. If you or a loved one is a victim of emotional abuse, it is important to seek help from a professional. There is hope for a better future.

Below are some signs of emotional abuse:

  • Stonewalling.
    Not all emotional abuse is verbal and involves shouting or criticism. Stonewalling is cutting off all communication by giving someone the “silent treatment” until they do what you want them to do. Refusing to see the other person’s perspective by minimization or disengagement is another form of stonewalling.
  • Emotional withholding.
    Emotional withholding happens when love and affection are withheld in order to communicate anger. Emotional withholding creates a great deal of anxiety in the victim because it plays into our fears of rejection, abandonment and worthiness of love.
  • Twisting.
    Twisting occurs when the victim confronts the abuser. The abuser deflects attention from themselves by twisting facts around in order to place blame or responsibility onto the victim. They then demand an apology to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
  • Irrational and intense rage.
    Bouts of intense rage and fury without obvious or rational cause creates a great amount of fear and uncertainty in the victim. Intense rage episodes are shocking and startling, forcing the victim into silence and compliance.
  • Trivializing accomplishments.
    Emotional abusers need to feel dominant and superior in order to cope with their deep-seated feelings of inferiority, shame and envy. Tactics of trivializing others’ accomplishments include mockery, belittling goals, ignoring accomplishments, and finding ways to sabotage another from achieving his or her accomplishments.

Couple arguing photo available from Shutterstock

Kira Asatryan <![CDATA[Surprising Differences between Lonely Women and Lonely Men]]> 2015-11-18T18:37:45Z 2015-11-26T11:45:12Z It’s certainly true that men and women handle negative emotional states differently. When things aren’t going well in a woman’s life, she tends to interpret it as depression. When a man doesn’t feel good about himself, he tends to express it as anger.

But men and women have loneliness in common. Do they handle it differently? Who’s more prone to it? Who’s better at overcoming it? Let’s find out.

According to much research, women across all ages and stages of life report higher levels of loneliness than men do. Except, that is, in one particular group: single people. While married women inch out married men for the lonelier group, single men vastly outweigh single women as the lonelier bunch.

While the reason for this is undetermined, there’s a straightforward speculation for why this might be true. Women tend to be more socially minded in general and may therefore maintain more close friendships outside of a primary romantic relationship than men do.

Of course, there’s a flip side to the socially conscious side of women. Because they focus on relationships more than men do, if those relationships become unsatisfying, they may indeed be more apt to become lonely.

Many studies indicate that women are lonelier than men in general (barring the exception of single men discussed above). But one study conducted by Shelley Borys at the University of Waterloo found that women may not necessarily feel lonelier — they may just be more comfortable admitting they’re lonely.

As Borys puts it, “…women are more apt to acknowledge their loneliness than men because the negative consequences of admitting loneliness are less for women.”

This conclusion is supported by another study that aimed not to understand loneliness, but masculinity. In it, researchers found that men indeed were more reluctant to admit feelings of loneliness. And interestingly, the more “masculine” a man perceived himself to be, the more reluctant he was to acknowledge any social deficit of any kind.

While it’s not clear which gender has better coping mechanisms when it comes to loneliness, it is clear that each gender has a distinctive coping style. Men tend to focus on attaining a group of acquaintances to combat loneliness, while women tend to focus on one-on-one relationships.

One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that men generally felt less lonely when their friend groups were more “dense,” whereas women showed little correlation between loneliness levels and friend group density.

As the authors put it, “It is suggested that men may use more group-oriented criteria in evaluating loneliness, whereas women focus more on the qualities of [one-on-one] relationships.”

Given these accumulated facts, we can speculate a possible model for how men and women experience loneliness differently:

Women tend to value close one-on-one relationships. But because these types of relationships take more time and energy to maintain than acquaintances, women have fewer relationships that stave off loneliness.

If and when these close relationships end, women may be primed to feel great loneliness. For social and cultural reasons, they are also relatively likely to admit that they’re lonely.

On the other hand, men tend to thrive with lots of acquaintances. Men feel least lonely when they have a dense network of friend, family, and romantic connections.

But if this network thins out, men — especially single men — become very prone to loneliness. This loneliness often goes unacknowledged. And the manlier the man, the less likely he is to address his loneliness.

Based on the book Stop Being Lonely © Copyright Kira Asatryan. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.

Lonely guy photo available from Shutterstock

Wayne Osborne, MD <![CDATA[Coming to Terms with a Chronic Illness]]> 2015-11-16T23:21:41Z 2015-11-25T22:55:18Z It can be difficult to deal with a diagnosis of a chronic illness. News of a long-term or lifelong condition can take its toll on both your physical and mental health. It can also affect your relationships, home, career and finances.

Each person diagnosed with a chronic illness likely will react differently. There will be challenging times ahead, but adopting certain strategies and knowing that you are not alone can help you cope in the best way possible.

Your reaction to your diagnosis often can take you through a roller coaster of emotions, such as denial, anger, distress, sadness, guilt, and shame. These feelings are normal and will pass.

Those who experience anger may find that they direct it at their closest friends and family, putting a strain on those relationships. It may be helpful to see a therapist. They are trained to listen nonjudgmentally and offer impartial advice.

If you find it too difficult to talk, then write. Keeping a diary or writing letters that you might not necessarily send can help you to vent and see the source of your frustrations more clearly.

Although experiencing a range of emotions is normal, you should watch out for signs of depression. It is thought that around a third of those diagnosed with a long-term medical condition develop depression symptoms. If at any stage you begin to feel overwhelmed, seek help immediately.

Keep your loved ones informed by involving them in your appointments and meetings, if possible. This will help them gain a better understanding of how your illness affects you.

People with chronic illnesses now live longer and take a more active role in their disease management. It is widely agreed across the health sector that self-management is the way forward and it will enhance chronic illness outcomes.

Taking an active approach to the management of your illness can provide confidence when it comes to decisions about changes in treatment. Patients who feel capable should remain as informed as possible about their condition. This is said to help limit health deterioration.

Keep an updated list of questions to take with you to each of your specialist appointments. This way you can be sure that each of your questions will be answered at your next meeting.

Try to maintain your daily routine, including working, socializing and exercising. Maintaining a level of normality may prove beneficial for your physical and psychological health.

However, your diagnosis may lead to some unavoidable life changes. These can range from a change in your mobility to adapting your job role so that it suits your health. You may be offered support from a counselor to help you come to terms with these changes. Your employer should support you through any alterations that are required to enable you to do your job. There are laws in place to protect chronically ill workers.

Your home may need to be altered to better suit your needs. An occupational health therapist may be assigned to you to look into the specifics and make suggestions.

Your hospital, community social worker or welfare rights advisor may be able to provide advice regarding the financial aspects.

If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, then you should continue with sports and other activities for as long as you feel comfortable. Physical exercise can provide you with a whole host of potential benefits.

Your diagnosis may mean that you are required regularly to take medications. This in itself can be demoralizing. It can take a while for your body to physically adjust to the presence of medications, but it can also take time from a psychological standpoint.

You have been prescribed medications in order to treat or manage your condition. You are taking them for a very good reason and should not feel bad about relying on them.

It is important to routinely report any side effects you encounter. In some cases changes can be made to dosages or the type of medicine to help you cope better. If you have doubts or questions regarding your medications, you should direct them to your doctor.

There are numerous support networks available for people living with chronic illnesses. Not everyone living with a long-term medical condition will want to seek the support of a community; however, many people do find it to be cathartic.

Charities, online forums and local meeting groups give the opportunity to open up about your experience or to learn about others’.

You should not be afraid to ask for help. If you feel that you are not coping physically or mentally then you should speak to your doctor or specialist.


Goldberg, J. (February 8, 2014). WebMD. Coping With Chronic Illnesses and Depression. Retrieved from:

The European Network on Patient Empowerment (April 10, 2012). Patient Empowerment – Living with Chronic Disease. Retrieved from:

Goodwin, N., Curry, N., Naylor, C., Ross, S., Duldig, W. (July 20, 2012). Managing People With Long-term Conditions: An Inquiry into the Quality of General Practice in England. Retrieved from:

Patient on oxygen photo available from Shutterstock

Clarissa Hughes, PhD <![CDATA[Silence is Golden]]> 2015-11-16T20:44:46Z 2015-11-25T16:45:10Z The old song by Simon and Garfunkel was so right: silence really is golden, but maybe in more ways than we realize. In our urban, busy world we don’t get enough outer silence. There’s always the sound of traffic, TVs, other people in their apartments and the general buzz of the city as we go about our daily business. These days we have to hunt out the quiet spaces, but they are there as I discovered just the other day.

I’m selling my apartment, so we have the bi-weekly ritual of having to go out with the dog for 45 minutes during house viewing and find somewhere to be. As my dog is a bit old and grumpy (he’s 85 in human years), we try to seek out places that avoid other dogs and small children, which is hard in a café-obsessed beachside suburb of Sydney. As we took a walk up the road we discovered a small nature reserve that had been recently restored. Pristine bush tucked away in the city, green, tranquil and no sound, that’s bliss.

But most times nowadays we have to either travel out of town or wake up early to catch the stillness we all need. I enjoy getting up and meditating at 5 a.m. before the streets around me get busy. But whatever you do, try finding some “outer” silence. Increasingly, scientists are showing that noise pollution can slowly erode quality of life and actually be harmful to our health, with some studies suggesting a link between noise and heart health. Medical evidence is increasingly suggesting that there are significant benefits of being in silence, including that silence:

  • boosts your immune system.
  • lowers blood pressure.
  • reduces stress hormones such as cortisol.
  • helps hormone regulation.
  • keeps your brain healthy.

But there is another silence we can access if we cultivate it. Inner silence comes when we meditate. It’s a deep, quiet, calm space that resides in each of us.

If we take the time through meditation we can engage with it, use it to help ground us and release our stress. In the inner silence we can just be in the present moment, accepting everything just as it is and connect more deeply with ourselves. It’s a time when we can experience that we are greater than our ego and put aside our overactive monkey mind. This makes this time an opportunity for rejuvenation, self-compassion, and connection. The sense of connection brings more compassion toward others.

So in your busy, noisy day try to carve out some time for silence, both outer and inner. This will help you to reconnect, refresh and renew your sense of well-being. See if you can hunt down those quiet, secret spaces in your local neighborhood and spend some time there. And for your inner silence try vispassana meditation or some qigong practice. Whatever form of silence you choose, know that it truly is golden for your well-being.

Meditation photo available from Shutterstock

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[Setting Boundaries Around the Holidays]]> 2015-11-19T22:50:59Z 2015-11-25T11:45:10Z Holiday Survival When Anxious or DepressedThe holidays are a good time to set boundaries. That’s because there are a lot more demands coming from all directions, said Meredith Janson, MA, LPC, a relationship expert and therapist in private practice in Washington, D.C. This might include everything from buying gifts and sending cards to traveling and attending get-togethers to hosting people — just to name a few.

By setting boundaries, you’re able to focus on the real meaning of the holidays: gratitude, spiritual traditions and family togetherness, Janson said.

A boundary is simply a “dividing line,” she said. “In psychological terms, it’s a catch-phrase meaning setting limits or asserting your thoughts, feelings, and needs even when these are in opposition to the person with whom you’re interacting.”

Below, Janson shared five tips for setting boundaries during the holidays (which include setting boundaries with yourself).

Become more self-aware.

Setting boundaries starts with self-awareness. This requires checking in with yourself every day, said Janson, who specializes in working with couples and families. It requires “having a clear sense of whether you want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the invitations, requests or even unspoken expectations coming from other people in your life.”

According to Janson, it’s important to know your thoughts, feelings and desires; what inspires you; what brings you joy; the significant people in your life; your biggest priorities; and how you want to spend your time.

“Without this internal compass, you’re like a boat in a river, getting pulled along by the current, without a clear sense of your own direction.”

Janson suggested having a journal for recording your body sensations, thoughts and feelings. During the holiday season, carve out 5 minutes each day to tune into yourself. For instance, she said, you might sit in a quiet spot, play calming music and write down your responses to these questions: “What am I feeling in my body right now? Any physical complaints or sensations that I’m aware of? What thoughts are running through my mind? What emotions am I feeling?”

Honor your needs.

For many people the holidays are a difficult time because they’re a painful reminder of a loved one’s absence (and it doesn’t matter how many years it’s been since they’ve passed away). If you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed, let yourself feel these feelings, Janson said. Honor your need to be with others, to be alone or to skip the holiday season altogether.

For instance, one of Janson’s clients lost her mother over the summer. During the holidays, she declined every party invitation and instead spent Christmas day watching movies at home. She decided to boycott Christmas that year, Janson said.

“…I actually think this can be a better coping strategy than painting a smile on your face and going to parties at a time when you’re hurting inside.” Plus by acknowledging your feelings, “you’re more likely to heal than if you ignore the feelings and ‘push through’ at this time of year.”

Set boundaries with yourself.

If you have too many things going on, look for ways to simplify this year, such as paring down invitations, cooking and shopping, Janson said. “The less you commit to doing, the more you will actually enjoy.”

This also means tuning out external messages. “You can’t help but be influenced by all the marketing ads of families surrounded with tons of presents, wearing new coordinating pajamas, eating lavish feasts.” Even parents can go overboard with making Pinterest-worthy gifts for students and teachers, she said.

Again, the fewer things on your plate, the less you’ll be running around and feeling frantic, she said. And the more time you can spend relaxing with your loved ones and savoring the spirit of the holiday season.

Be calm and clear when setting boundaries.

For instance, another client of Janson’s is bringing her serous boyfriend home for the holidays for the first time. During a telephone conversation, her mom started being critical toward her boyfriend.

Janson’s client said: “Mom, if you want to engage in this kind of conversation, you’ll have to do so without me. I’m not talking about this with you.” Her mom honored this request, and they talked about other topics.

If a loved one is making remarks about your eating, you might simply say: “I’d prefer you not comment on my eating habits.”

Sometimes, it helps to remove yourself from the situation altogether. For instance, you might take a walk in the neighborhood, Janson said.

(For more on navigating family issues during the holidays, check out this post.)

Set boundaries around travel and gatherings.

If you feel overwhelmed, know that your plans can always be tweaked, and everything is an option. For instance, if your family lives far away, and you have small kids, ask your parents to visit instead of enduring a long plane ride, Janson said. Or if you’re definitely traveling, instead of stopping by everyone’s homes, suggest doing a potluck. This way “everyone travels to see you in one location.”

What is currently stressing you out about your travel plans or about attending gatherings? Consider what changes you can make to help you reduce your stress and enjoy the holidays.

Because the holidays can be whatever you want them to be.

Sarah Newman, MA <![CDATA[Trauma Survivors Aren’t Disgusting]]> 2015-11-16T20:37:15Z 2015-11-24T22:55:15Z Something I hear all too often from other abuse survivors is that they feel disgusting. Having been sexually abused makes us feel repulsive. People of all ages from every stage of healing have encountered this feeling at some point, and it may very well come up again and again.

My disgust kept me from uttering the truth for most of my life. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was sexually abused. It seemed like if I told the truth the people around me would cease to love me. They would think I was contaminated with something dark and corrupt. It would spread to their families and then they’d also have no hope for a normal, healthy life. I wondered, “Who would want to know someone with such a disgusting secret?”

The prospect of joining a group for trauma therapy filled me with fear. I thought they’d all know I was repulsive, although I didn’t feel that way about them. I even had a friend who was abused when she was a child. It never made me judge her. In fact, I thought she was incredibly strong. But somehow that didn’t apply to me.

I carried the guilt, shame, and disgust that seemed appropriate for the level of monstrosity of the crimes perpetrated against me as a child. But I wasn’t the perpetrator. Perhaps that’s the thing so many survivors are failing to see.

Survivors have told me they feel that they “deceived” friends or loved ones by not telling them their abuse history. Much like a person failing to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners, it’s as if they feel like they will infect others with their trauma.

There is nothing inside trauma survivors that is poisonous, perverse, or inherently flawed. We’re not damaged goods. Showing someone your trauma isn’t the same thing as taking off a mask to reveal a monster. You’re not the monster. You’re not the criminal. You don’t have to carry the shame that belongs to your abuser.

If it’s permission you want, I give it to you. You have permission not to feel disgusting. You are not tarnished by events that happened when you were an innocent child. You deserved better. You deserved a clean slate just like everyone else starting out in life.

Abuse is never the victim’s fault. I know this and say it repeatedly, but if I truly embraced that fact I would never feel disgusted again. Sometimes it’s so obvious that I didn’t grow up like other kids, and I begin to feel defective and infectious again. The following is an excerpt from the poem by Mary Oliver entitled “Wild Geese” that always gives me comfort:

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”

Once you stop judging yourself for what happened to you, you can continue on the path to healing. Right now, the child inside needs a safe, supportive place. It deserves acceptance, not judgment. Be gentle with yourself.

Abuse victim photo available from Shutterstock

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D <![CDATA[Patience Required]]> 2015-11-16T20:36:08Z 2015-11-24T16:45:43Z Several years ago, when ordering a fish sandwich in a fast food joint, I was told it would take a while. “How long?” I inquired. “About a minute.”

A minute. I have to wait a whole minute! I don’t know if I can handle that!

Nowadays, requests for patience have shrunk to “wait a second!” And quite often, the answer is, “No, that’s too long!”

Think I’m kidding? How many times have you surfed the Web, clicking on another site if the download didn’t happen immediately? How many times have you skimmed your emails, deciding what to delete in less than a second?

So, what’s the big deal? This is the digital age. Things move along quickly or not at all.

The big deal is that the inability to wait doesn’t stop with the digital world. It effortlessly flows over to the non-digital world, creating a lack of patience with others, with situations and with your own ability to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Patience. It’s a great trait to possess. Without it, you’ll frequently find yourself feeling frustrated, infuriated and may even go ballistic. After all, life doesn’t always conform to your expectations. Neither do other people. Maddeningly, they keep behaving in ways that are completely irrational, stupid and self-absorbed.

Even your own brain doesn’t always conform to your expectations. Why can’t you figure this problem out more quickly? Why can’t you play this game more skillfully? Why can’t you control your emotions and behavior whenever you want? The other day you said something so stupid. You just don’t know what you were thinking!

Patience. It’s a great trait to possess. For with it, you’ll feel more compassion, both for yourself and for others. Since you know that life does not always conform to your expectations, you’re able to tolerate, (or even better, accept) when life throws you a curveball.

It could be a run-of-the-mill curveball. You find yourself in the midst of a major traffic jam. Rather than raging, you check your GPS for an alternative route. Alas, there is none. You then take a few deep breaths, resign yourself to being late, then settle in and listen to your favorite music. By doing so, you are showing compassion for yourself (no blame and shame accusations), and the situation (these things happen).

It could be a somber and serious curveball. Your teen has just been arrested for DUI. You have given her lecture after lecture about the dangers of drinking and driving. She has rolled her eyes, responding with, “Yes, Mom, I know.” How can you possibly be patient after this breach of trust? You want to smack her and scream, “How could you?” And yet, it is best for you and for the situation to be patient with what has just happened. For patience means compassion. You want to show compassion to yourself (your fears and disappointment). You want to show compassion to the better part of your daughter (not her actions). You want to feel grateful that no one has been killed.

Yes, patience is an admirable trait to possess, especially in our agitated, antsy, champing-at-the-bit society in which waiting a full second is often experienced as way too long.


Chick photo available from Shutterstock

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: November 24, 2015]]> 2015-11-24T12:26:08Z 2015-11-24T12:26:08Z Alone_BSP

Do you tend to isolate yourself from others when you’re depressed? Find yourself searching for ways to thrive rather than survive? Lean on myths about love that actually ruin your relationships?

Then our Psych Central bloggers have the answers for you today.

Do You Isolate During Depression?
(Embracing Balance) — Some of us, for varying reasons, turn to isolation when depression hits. Find out why this might not be the best coping method, and check out some potentially more effective self-help tips for dealing with depression.

3 Tips to Begin Living Life to the Fullest
(Character Strengths) — Learn how to use your strengths to stop coasting through life and start flourishing.

My Sister’s Story: Putting the Lime Light on Lyme Disease
(Mental Health Humor) — Sometimes, we just assume that because we live with a disease, others should be focused on it or understand it.

The 4 Myths That Ruin Romantic Relationships
(Healthy Romantic Relationships) — You might be surprised to find the popular saying that you can’t love others until you learn to love yourself isn’t necessarily true.

Music Is an ADHD Boredom Killer
(ADHD Millennial) — Do you want an ADHD treatment that will “reliably deliver intense feelings of peace, well-being and happiness”? Maybe it’s time to turn to music.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Teen Depression and Suicide: The Tough Lessons I Learned]]> 2015-11-16T19:42:47Z 2015-11-23T22:55:01Z depressed-girl-friend

There are important warning signs — knowing them could save someone close to you.

It started out like any other Friday Fall morning. The foliage was slowly turning to stunning yellows, reds and oranges. Workers and students alike were heading off to their respective responsibilities, likely looking forward to the weekend.

And then the devastating and shocking news started to circulate amongst our friends, loved ones and community.

A 15-year-old 10th grader had taken her life.

5 Fool-Proof Ways to Fight Depression

We asked ourselves how could an extremely bright, articulate, hard working, sensitive, kind, popular and well liked kid do this? We have since learned that she was struggling with depression and using illicit drugs.

Living Two Lives

In a sense, she was living a double life, one that we saw and one that she kept hidden.

We saw the light, the gifts, the presence she had. We did not see the depth of her pain. Perhaps some of her friends saw it — we’re not sure.

The family whose daughter took her life is trying to make sense of the senseless. We, in their community, are trying to fathom the unfathomable. We are trying to heal.

We are trying to reconcile this tragedy as something as real as can be while feeling like we are in a surreal dream.

As we do this, and grieve, and hope, and wonder, and fear, some conclusions that we come to include that we must keep our children close to us, we must help them understand that the world is a challenging place and that life is full of struggles. We must help them to learn how to handle these struggles amidst adolescence, arguably one of the most difficult phases of a person’s life.

Seeing the Signs of Depression

We must also recognize the signs of depression.

Yes, some signs of depression may be characterized as “normal” teen moods and behavior. Nevertheless, if you have concerns about your child, trust your instinct. Keep asking your kids how they are, where they are and were, what they are doing. Even when your kid rebuffs you, which she likely will, keep asking. Listen when they want to tell you something even if it does not make sense to you. Know that they are living in a world different from ours — a teen culture with peer pressure, cliques, pressures to get good grades and perhaps thinking about college.

How to Deal With Depression: 4 Simple Solutions

Empathize With These Pressures

Raising kids does not come with a manual. If you are unsure, which we all feel at times, talk with your partner, reach out to friends and contact a counselor to help your child and your family as a whole.

I knew the teen who took her life since she was born. I have been friends with her parents for 30 years. Even after 30 years of counseling and helping people cope with all sorts of unspeakable pain, I have never seen nor heard such pain as I have seen in her parents. Nor have I ever experienced such deep pain myself. It is for these reasons that I have written this article.

Beyond the family teachers, school administrators, clergy, peers, parents and the community as a whole have all been deeply affected by this tragedy. We all need to heal.

There Is Something You Can Do

In your own family, and in your own community, look for these common signs of depression:

  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Loss of motivation.
  • Lack of attention to grooming, showering and other activities of daily living.
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
  • Hopelessness, including an attitude of “why bother, it doesn’t matter anyway.”
  • Isolation from friends, family, social activities, or their phone and computer.
  • Loss of energy with accompanying listlessness and fatigue.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions.
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings.

Pay close attention if you see these warning signs of suicide:

  • A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy. Always talking or thinking about death.
  • Having a “death wish” — tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights.
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about.
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will.
  • Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out.”
  • Talking or texting about suicide and/or posting things online about suicide.
  • Uncharacteristically visiting or calling people one cares about.
  • Thoughts of suicide and/or a past history of suicide attempts.

Know that anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

This guest article originally appeared on The Tough Lessons I Learned From A Tragic Teen Suicide Close To Home.

Gabe Howard <![CDATA[Free Webinar: Building Stress Resilience for Traumatic Events and Everyday Challenges]]> 2015-11-23T21:21:17Z 2015-11-23T21:21:17Z Join Psych Central host Zoë Kessler for a conversation with Dr. Suzanne Phillips on Monday November 30 at 7pm EST. Resilience has been defined as the ability to deal with adversity. Resilience has often been considered in terms of the ability to use enduring personal […]]]>

Join Psych Central host Zoë Kessler for a conversation with Dr. Suzanne Phillips on Monday November 30 at 7pm EST.

Resilience has been defined as the ability to deal with adversity. Resilience has often been considered in terms of the ability to use enduring personal traits like physical strength, intelligence, social connection, creativity, spirituality etc. as a way to cope and bounce back after a traumatic event. Psychological and neurobiological research now tells us that we can build and expand our resilience.

In this webinar, Dr. Suzanne Phillips will offer tools and tips to help you build a repertoire of stress resilience strategies. She will draw upon research and experience to discuss and exemplify strategies like:

  • using realistic optimism and forward focus to build stress-free default positions in the brain
  • the importance and practical use of mindfulness to cope with stress and restore self-mastery
  • narrating healing (stories, tattoos, poetry) to transform traumatic loss
  • re-setting body rhythms (sleep, exercise, and the brain on music)
  • making social connections (the power of touch in regulating anxiety and stress)
  • bonding with pets as a powerful source of benefits
  • recognizing the importance of laughter in coping and connecting
  • drawing upon positive spirituality to reduce despair, fight isolation and foster hope.
  • Dr. Phillips reminds us that we cannot change the past or control the future, but we can take on life with more resilience, moving through difficulties with more calm, more competence, and more enjoyment in spite of them.

Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips is a licensed psychologist, psychoanalyst, and Adjunct Full Professor of Clinical Psychology at LIU Post, N.Y. She’s authored many publications including Healing Together: A Couple’s Guide to Coping with Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress and Public Mental Health Service Delivery Protocols: Group Interventions for Disaster Preparedness and Response. She has provided services and training nationally and internationally on trauma and disaster.

Dr. Phillips’ PsychCentral blog is “Healing Together for Couples.”

Please join us for this live 45-minute teaching followed by a Q & A session. Presented by Psych Central with host Zoë Kessler.

Webinar Date: Monday, November 30, 2015 from 7:00 – 8:00 pm ET. There is no charge for the webinar.


Space is limited,
so signup today!


Space is limited so please register early. Thank you.



Edited by: Gabe Howard


Sylvia Huang <![CDATA[5 Easy Ways to Practice Gratitude Throughout the Day]]> 2015-11-16T17:46:23Z 2015-11-23T16:45:56Z The benefits of practicing gratitude are innumerable. It helps release toxic emotions such as frustration, envy, regret and resentment while increasing sensitivity and empathy toward others. Being grateful also improves self-esteem and personal relationships by reducing social comparisons and supporting prosocial behavior.

While it’s common knowledge that cultivating gratitude is good for us, it’s not common practice for many of us. Here are five ways to change that.

  1. Give thanks immediately upon waking.
    Every morning before jumping out of bed into the new day, pause for a few moments and give thanks for the following: the opportunity to live and experience another new day; the people in your life whom you love and who love you; the good night’s rest you just had; the work you get to go to later; the clothes that keep you warm, and the commute money you have so you don’t have to walk to work.
  2. Give thanks before every meal.
    As you sit before your meal, make a quick mental note to feel thankful for the food that fuels your body and ultimately aids in the realization of your goals and dreams. Also give thanks to the meals for nourishing you and for giving you a breather to savor life in the midst of a crazy workday. If you happen to be with company, give thanks for the friendship, companionship and love you receive from the person you’re with.
  3. Give thanks when moving or exercising.
    We often take for granted our good health and the freedom that comes with it. Whenever you’re walking, running or exercising, take the occasion to give thanks for having the ability to move as you wish and to stay fit. Especially when you’re in the midst of a tough workout routine, repeat in your heart, “I’m so grateful for my hands, legs, beating heart and good health.” This mantra never fails to keep me going till the end of the session and I hope it’ll work for you too.
  4. Give thanks while showering or getting ready for bed.
    At the end of each day, wrap up the day by doing the following gratitude practice in your shower or when getting ready for bed: Give thanks for the day that has been completed. Focus on the parts of the day that went well. Next, give thanks for having a home to return to, a hot shower to keep you feeling fresh and clean, and a warm bed to sleep in later.
  5. Give thanks each time something wonderful happens or when a problem is solved.
    Whenever something good happens or when you overcome a challenge or avert a crisis, take a moment to express your appreciation to the universe. It’s important to acknowledge the victory and the hard work that went into it and to soak in the relief before getting back into the humdrum of our daily lives. More often than not, it isn’t that good things don’t happen to us, it’s just that we don’t pay enough attention to them.

Thank you in the sand photo available from Shutterstock

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. <![CDATA[Using Lists to Get Organized and Actually De-stress During the Holidays]]> 2015-11-23T15:58:50Z 2015-11-23T11:45:17Z Every year the holidays seem to sneak up on us, don’t they? Come December many of us are surprised – and overwhelmed – by the extra responsibilities, extra tasks and extra events. We start to panic and wonder how the heck everything is going to get done. And all this stress only takes away from the meaning and beauty of the holidays.

The reality is that a lot of our stress is self-afflicted, said Paula Rizzo, a senior health producer and author of the book Listful Thinking: Using Lists to Be More Productive, Successful and Less Stressed. That’s because many of us wait until the last minute to take care of holiday-related tasks. Rizzo can relate. “I’m a huge procrastinator,” she said. But people wouldn’t know it, because she works hard at overriding her procrastinating ways.

For the holidays, Rizzo stressed the importance of preparation. This is where lists can help. For starters, simply jotting tasks down on paper and getting them out of your mind reduces stress, she said. That’s because you don’t have to remember to remember what you need to do. You also might find that when you make your list, you actually don’t have that many tasks to tackle, she said.

Rizzo, who pens the blog, shared the below tips for creating lists during the holidays.

Make your list manageable. Just like you wouldn’t put “write a book on your list,” don’t include tasks that take multiple steps, Rizzo said. That is, break down big tasks into bite-sized tasks.

For instance, if you’re sending holiday cards, you’d jot down: 1) identify the individuals receiving cards; 2) buy the cards; 3) print out address labels; 4) write out the cards; and 5) mail them.

Completing each step also is motivating and keeps you moving forward. It’s like a small win, she said.

Batch tasks. That is, perform similar tasks at the same time. As Rizzo said, “you wouldn’t do laundry one sock at a time.” For instance, carve out 30 to 45 minutes to buy all your gifts on Amazon. Spend one hour wrapping gifts as fast as you can, she said. (You can even set a timer.)

Create a timeline. As a TV producer, Rizzo thinks about the beginning, middle and end of each segment. We can do the same thing when we’re hosting a holiday party. That is, run through your entire event. Map it out. Then work backwards to create a timeline of everything you need to do to prepare for it. (Again, be sure to break down tasks into small steps.)

For instance, you might decide right now what you’ll be eating; go grocery shopping a week before the event; and cook the food and set the table the day before.

Planning ahead helps you enjoy yourself, instead of frantically shopping the night before and putting out fires the day of your party.

Outsource. “We think we have to do everything. But just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it,” Rizzo said. In Listful Thinking Rizzo includes tips for making the most of outsourcing. For instance, she suggests creating a list of everything you can delegate, making sure to be very specific. If you’re creating a checklist for someone else, be crystal clear about what each task entails.

If you’re hiring out, Rizzo recommended checking out, a site that helps you cross off all sorts of tasks from your to-do list — from cleaning to shopping to assembling furniture. Another company makes shipping easy. Couriers will come to your house, take your items, package them and mail them out. (Unfortunately, many of the services aren’t available in every city just yet.)

Shop early. Very early. This tip is for next year when you can plan months ahead. Rizzo starts her holiday shopping in August and tries to be done by Thanksgiving. She keeps a separate folder in Evernote where she adds ideas throughout the year. Maybe a friend mentions that she needs a new iPad cover or her favorite color is blue. Maybe Rizzo spots good upcoming sales on a website or sees great gift ideas in a magazine. In this blog post Rizzo lays out her month-by-month guide for holiday shopping.

Ultimately, getting organized and planning ahead are vital because they help us focus on what really matters during the holiday season — whatever that might be for you.


You’ll find more tips from Rizzo on creating lists in this piece on Psych Central.

Making a list photo available from Shutterstock

Anjali Talcherkar, MA <![CDATA[Mental Health in America: A Shakespearean Tragedy]]> 2015-11-16T17:37:38Z 2015-11-22T22:55:25Z According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 16 million adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2012. Major Depressive Disorder is defined as “Depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least two weeks and symptoms that cause clinically significant impairment in social, work, or other important areas of functioning almost every day.”

Along with diagnostic criteria for depression, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V is also notorious for a whole doctrine of pathologies under which the field of psychiatry preaches its creed; a grim gospel for any ardent disciple to follow. Social factors, environmental triggers, and increased stress in modern life all influence mental health, including the onset of depression. With healthcare expenditures approaching $3 trillion, our disorders and diseases are helping to keep the U.S. economy rolling.

How Western medicine, especially in the United States, currently approaches mental health care is deserving of public scrutiny. As this article puts it, “Overall, nowhere across the human health spectrum is Western medicine more unknowledgeable than in the realm of mental health.”

Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine, was himself reluctant to administer drugs and engage in specialized treatment that might prove to be wrongly chosen. So how has Hippocratic medicine, once humble and passive, now become Hippo-critical medicine? Call me an allopathic apprehensive but my personal experience swimming (or sinking) in the swamps of SSRI-dominated waters leads me to question the ethics of Western medicine.

For two years I argued with my psychiatrist to help me wean off of antidepressants, which I felt were worsening my condition. Instead of hearing my plea, I was given another diagnosis: paranoia. At least it was a “contributing factor” lessening the blow. My trusted professional, an Ivy League-educated physician, went from advocate to adversary in one pen stroke.

Et tu Brute?

The tragedy of our current mental health system is that we have handed over our greatest asset — our health — to uninformed authority figures. The “ill patient” is treated by the “healthy practitioner,” placing all the power in the practitioner’s lap, along with the patient’s hopes that the trusted expert will support the patient’s healing. In my case, this was no small feat, considering the 15-year battle with drug addiction that surely contributed to my gloomy mental outlook.

Through sheer determination and a bit of rebellion, I took matters into my own hands and began researching alternative methods. The years of fear-constructed pathological labels were powerfully ingrained in my psyche but my newfound success with alternative medicine, including yoga, meditation, and vegetarianism, was evident, allowing me to abandon the use of medication entirely. Indeed, the proof was in the non-psychotropic pudding.

More than ever, clinicians and practitioners are witnessing the limitations of psychotropic medications in the treatment of mental health and are embracing alternative methods. One clinical review showed that many widely prescribed medications have been known to have adverse side effects, which are then extinguished by more medication, resulting in the reliance upon a psychotropic cocktail of multiple drugs to maintain homeostasis.

In Toxic Psychiatry, Harvard-trained psychiatrist Peter Breggin, M.D., writes, “We have seen that during the first two decades (1954 to 1973) of wide-spread neuroleptic use, psychiatry in general failed to notice that half or more of chronic state hospital patients were trembling, twitching, and displaying other bizarre drug-induced symptoms… while psychiatry continues to find it convenient to ignore the tragedy of destroying the brains and minds of the very people it is supposed to be helping.”

Whereas the contemporary Western view has been on symptom resolution and acute care, the new paradigm of Integrative Mental Health (IMH) relies on a more compassionate approach to wellness. There is an apparent shift in how practitioners and patients understand and relate to mental health treatment. According to Lake, Helgason, & Sarris, “The more ‘inclusive’ paradigm of IMH may more adequately address each patient’s unique needs, including physical and psychological well-being, social relationships, and spiritual values.” It only seems logical that as we discover advances in the different facets of human existence and the psyche, we apply those findings to mental health treatment, similar to how advances in industrial science lead to upgrades in technology.

One significant shift in this arena is the merging of contemporary allopathic medicine with complementary and alternative medicine in mental health treatment. Lake, Helgason, & Sarris note, “We believe that an integrative paradigm that reconciles non-allopathic systems of medicine with contemporary biomedicine will result in significant improvements in mental health care.” Finally, the authors emphasize, “The integrative practitioner of the 21st century will rely on their clinical skills in combination with conventional psychological and biological assessment findings, together with information describing the patient’s unique biological and energetic state to plan individualized multilevel treatment strategies.”

Today, if the DSM-5 were a character in a Shakespearean play, she would undoubtedly be Lady Macbeth — “Thou’rt mad to say it.”

Tragedy mask photo available from Shutterstock