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Parenting

How Do You Know if You Have High or Low Self-Esteem?

The phrase "self-esteem" is thrown around frequently when discussing mental health. In the 70s, programs in public school systems encouraged children to think better of themselves. They thought having higher esteem would bolster confidence and fight off depression if it was nurtured from an early age. With less negativity surrounding oneself, a child would be able to succeed not only in education, but in life.


The definition of self-esteem is slippery. Some equate self esteem with narcissism or an ability to push one's way to the top. Self-esteem, unlike true narcissism, includes a healthy amount of empathy. In the simplest of terms, self-esteem is how one person reflects on their own self-worth. This worth may include external success such as career, education, or finances, as well as internal worth, such as emotional states of mind and values. Do they see themselves as kind or anxious? Do they feel ashamed? These are just some of the complex feelings people may have about their own identity and self worth.
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Children and Teens

Everything I Was Too Afraid to Be: On Fatherhood and Mental Health

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a fellow mental health advocate in person. Gabriel Nathan (Gabe – just like me) is the Editor-in-Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries and a man who lives with depression, anxiety, and obsessive thoughts. We talked about a great many things, but the topic that fascinated me the most is that he is the father of twins.

“How on earth can you manage mental illness AND a child -- let alone two?” was my first thought.

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Agitation

Just Right: OCD and Kids

Landon was a bright intelligent child. He had excelled academically and also enjoyed sports. However, OCD appeared to be getting in the way of his life. There were times when he could not get out of bed because the thought of having to get dressed overwhelmed him. His socks needed to feel just right as well as his shirt and pants. He would repeat the behaviors until he felt just right about it. He seemed to be late to school every day.

Things in his room had to be just so. He would be angry and become aggressive when he noticed someone had been in his room. New belongings were challenging as well. When his parents bought him new items such as a backpack, shoes, or clothes, he refused to use or wear them. He quit violin lessons because playing the wrong notes distressed him. His parents felt helpless and lost.
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Caregivers

OCD & Exhaustion

When my son Dan’s obsessive-compulsive disorder was severe, he was always exhausted. At first, I attributed his lack of energy to the fact that he rarely slept well. But it soon became obvious, even when sleeping was not an issue, that he always felt tired.

Why?

I think there are many reasons why those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are often exhausted. Living with nonstop anxiety can be draining. Many people with OCD are also depressed, and depression and lack of energy often go hand in hand. Additionally, some medications used to treat OCD are known to cause fatigue.
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Caregivers

OCD and Shopping Anxiety

By the time my son Dan entered a residential treatment center for OCD, he was barely functioning. Using exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy he tackled his hierarchy (a list of anxiety-provoking situations created by the person with OCD), and slowly but surely regained his life.

During his stay, one of his exposures was to go on shopping trips and make purchases. All types of shopping proved difficult for him -- buying groceries and necessities, clothing, etc. But the more expensive purchases, particularly if they were for himself, seemed to be the most stressful.

But he did it. And he felt the overwhelming anxiety. And he refrained from doing compulsions. Over and over again until shopping was no longer an issue for him.
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Children and Teens

Should I Talk to My Child about Suicide?

Of all the conversations parents are uncomfortable having with their children, perhaps none is as daunting as talking about suicide.

Unfortunately, this is a topic that has to be tackled sooner rather than later given that suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10-14 and the second leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, according to the 
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Anxiety and Panic

Should You Hide Your Anxiety from Your Children?

Like any good parent I spend a lot of time thinking of everything I did wrong when raising my children. While I say this tongue-in-cheek, I do think it is something lots of parents do, to various degrees. None of us is perfect, and given another chance, many of us would do at least some things differently.

At the top of my list is the fact that I would be more open about my own anxiety in different situations.
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Anxiety and Panic

Stroller Wars: Parenthood Isn’t for Everyone

“Just wait until you have your own kids; you will see,” a friend’s mother claims. “Kids are such a joy.”

Within ten minutes, I experienced that joy firsthand. As my college buddy and I attempted to fritter away a lazy Saturday, his kid was having a bigger meltdown than Chernobyl. First, she hurled a toy at her young brother. And when that flying projectile didn’t connect, she opted for a solid right hook. That connected -- and induced a shrieking cry heard 'round Seattle.

“Maybe, it is time for Uncle Matt to exit stage right,” I laughed -- exchanging merciful, pitying looks with my college buddy.
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Children and Teens

5 Ways to Make Happy Family Memories

The Importance of Making Positive Family Memories

Yesterday was one of those perfect late summer days at the local state park and beach. The sun was bright. The water was cool. Families from surrounding towns had come and set up their “camps” for the day. A beach umbrella or pop up canopy or just a spread out towel or two marked their spots. The air was permeated with smells of sunscreen and charcoal.
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Addiction

Mother’s Memoir of Son’s Opioid Addiction Offers Hope

Lisa Hillman never meant to become a poster child for parents coping with a child’s drug problem. She was an accomplished health care administrator, a fundraising executive married to former Annapolis Mayor Richard Hillman, and the mother of two.

Few people knew about the nightmare that was unfolding at home starting with a phone call from her son’s high school teacher the start of his senior year, alerting her to his possible marijuana use. Jacob’s addiction unraveled from there, resulting in a dependence on opiates that threw his life into reverse: preventing him from returning to the University of Maryland; presenting troubles with the law; and deteriorating most of his relationships, including his once-tight bond with his mom.
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Addiction

To Everything There Is a Season: Can Time of Year Impact Our Perspective on Death?

Recently I was speaking with a couple whose adult son died two months ago of a drug overdose. These parents adored him and knew he was dealing with emotional challenges. They did what they could to let him know he was loved and they were with him come what may. They attempted to get him help. He was surrounded by a multi-generational family who thought the world of him.

As we processed their experience and they openly shared their grief, they said something that in all my years as a therapist, I had not considered. They both acknowledged that as we approached the threshold between summer and autumn, they were experiencing a heightened sense of loss.
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