World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2017-02-23T11:30:49Z Gabe Howard <![CDATA[PODCAST: Understanding Depression – What It Is and What It Isn’t]]> 2017-02-22T15:59:30Z 2017-02-23T11:30:49Z   In this episode of the Psych Central Show, hosts Gabe and Vincent discuss depression and why so many people don’t understand this insidious disease. They speak of their own versions of depression (bipolar depression and persistent depressive disorder) and why terminology matters. Despite hundreds of millions of […]]]>


In this episode of the Psych Central Show, hosts Gabe and Vincent discuss depression and why so many people don’t understand this insidious disease. They speak of their own versions of depression (bipolar depression and persistent depressive disorder) and why terminology matters. Despite hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffering from depression, the average person still thinks of depression as nothing more than “sadness.” Listen and find out why this is exceedingly inadequate to explain depression.


 Listen as Our Hosts Discuss Depression – What It Is and What It Isn’t

“In my opinion, the biggest problem with the word ‘depression,’ used in a medical sense is that we do have the word in an everyday definition, as well.” ~ Vincent M. Wales



About The Psych Central Show Podcast

The Psych Central Show is an interesting, in-depth weekly podcast that looks into all things mental health and psychology. Hosted by Gabe Howard and featuring Vincent M. Wales.

The Psych Central Show Podcast iTunes
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Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, award-winning writer, and mental health advocate who lives with bipolar 1 and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on what it means to live with mental illness.

Gabe writes the Don’t Call Me Crazy Blog for as well as is an associate editor. He also writes and Video Blogs for Bipolar Magazine Online. He’s been a keynote speaker for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), MHA (Mental Health America), OSU (Ohio State University), along with many other venues. To work with Gabe please contact him via his website at or e-mail


Vincent M. Wales
is the author of several award-winning speculative fiction novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. He lives with persistent depressive disorder and is a trained suicide prevention crisis counselor with additional counseling background. A Pennsylvania native, he obtained his BA in English writing from Penn State. While a resident of Utah, he founded the Freethought Society of Northern Utah. He now lives in Sacramento, California. Visit his websites at and



Previous Episodes can also be found at

Subscribe to The Psych Central Show on iTunes and Google Play.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Are Emotional Support Animals Effective Treatments for Anxiety?]]> 2017-02-17T21:14:23Z 2017-02-22T21:30:03Z overbearing_pets_BSP

Breathe, relax or meditate, but don’t count on your pet to reduce anxiety.

I was on a recent teletherapy call with an anxious young college student. Let’s call him Robbie. Halfway in he told me he thought he needed an ESA.

“ESA?” I thought. “Is that one of those texting anagrams I should know, like FOMO or YOLO?”

11 Things Anxious People Are Tired Of Being Anxious About

Before I had a chance to ask, Robbie said that having his long-time companion, his adored tabby, in his dorm room would make his anxiety manageable.

It came to me in a flash: Emotional Support Animal. I’d read about these.

A quick Google search after the call revealed that people are contacting teletherapy services, like the one I took Robbie’s call on, to obtain virtually (pun intended) immediate certification to have their ESAs in dorms, pet-unfriendly apartments, and on airplanes.

Happily, I’d punted and suggested that, since he said the college counseling office at his school was “certifying” people to have ESAs, he ought to contact them if he thought it would be helpful.

I say happily because I didn’t know step-one about what makes a pet certification-eligible. I never heard from him again which told me that his stated intention for teletherapy, to reduce his anxiety, was merely a ploy to get said certification.

I was relieved to be off the hook even before I read a recent scholarly article cautioning psychologists about providing such certifications.

The piece revealed that we assume being in the presence of animals has a therapeutic effect on people, “an assumption that does not appear to have substantial foundation in science.”

The media was also blamed for incorrectly leading people “to believe that ESAs are effective for mitigating mental health problems.”

Witness this headline that recently caught my eye, “How therapy chickens are helping people with anxiety.” Really?

Just to be perfectly clear, I am NOT talking about Service Animals, regulated by the Federal government, which are animals (not pets) individually trained to perform tasks for disabled people.

Let me also clarify that there is a difference between the benefits of having a pet, and saying that a pet has a therapeutic effect on a psychiatric disorder like anxiety.

Pet owners, in one series of studies, were found to be healthier on a number of psychological dimensions and measures of well-being, like self-esteem, and they were less lonely and introverted.

But this does not mean that having a pet will significantly reduce serious anxiety or depression.

That same series of studies revealed that 25 percent of married or cohabitating pet-owners say their pet is “a better listener than their spouse.” This concerns me, as does the comment I read in one article about ESAs: “Do I have to go to therapy to get a paper to keep an ESA?”

In other words, why talk to your spouse about problems or try therapy for your anxiety when you can just drag your pet around with you and talk to it?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kitties. They bring me joy, comfort and provide me with great company. I also love my partner, but I think he’s a much better listener than either of my cats.

Notwithstanding the recent study finding that dogs understand language, I know my partner is a better listener because he’s human. Not only does he comprehend everything I’m saying, he can respond in kind.

9 Life Lessons I Learned from The Cat I Loved (Who Left Me)

I also love my clients, some of whom have pets. But I don’t think any find their pet a substitute for psychotherapy.

As I explained to Robbie, there were a number of things he might try to do to reduce his anxiety. Each of my suggestions was much more likely to significantly impact his anxiety than dragging his tabby to his dorm.

Instead of trying to find a mental health professional to confirm your need for an ESA, or paying one of those registries to certify your pet, put your energy to better use with effective strategies like these:

  • Anxiety reduction (breathing, questioning problematic thoughts, positive self-talk).
  • Stress reduction (meditation, music, getting in motion, gratitude).
  • The relaxation response attained through a series of steps to relax the body and mind.
  • Holding yourself accountable for using breathing, stress reduction or relaxation techniques regularly.
  • Identifying issues in your life that might be contributing to your anxiety and spending time figuring out how to address said issues.
  • Taking a hard look at your diet, sleep and exercise and working on needed adjustments.
  • Considering whether you need a psychotherapist to assist you in customizing techniques that work for you and holding you accountable for practicing those techniques.
  • Considering whether medication is appropriate to help you reduce anxiety.

I hate the fact that Robbie probably left our teletherapy session feeling like he didn’t get what he needed. But I hope I planted the seeds that relaxation, exercise, sleep, a good diet and some time management skills might be more helpful to him at school, in the long run, than his beloved tabby.

This guest article originally appeared on 7 Ways To Support Your Partner After A MAJOR Loss.

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW <![CDATA[Lower the Bar, Save Your Marriage]]> 2017-02-17T21:12:40Z 2017-02-22T16:45:16Z Declining bar chart drawn on a green chalkboardMany people marry and soon find that their spouse is annoying — not constantly of course, but more than they expected. Fairy tales and romantic novels suggest that a good marriage is an effortless, happily ever after experience, with the emphasis on effortless.

Rabbi Yosef Richards offers this tongue-in-cheek, but really truer to life view of marriage: “People are annoying. So find the person who annoys you the least and marry that one.”

A good marriage provides companionship, comfort, security, sex, and for most of us, a sense of completion. We feel more whole and more at home with our spouse.

But don’t let fairytales and romantic movies and novels confuse you. Unrealistic expectations cause us to feel shortchanged. By keeping yours realistic, you’re much more likely to appreciate your partner’s good qualities and value your marriage.

The chart below shows how to change some common unrealistic expectations for marriage into relationship enhancing ones.   

                             What Do You Expect From Marriage?


It will be easy to transition from single to married. Getting married is a big change. It takes time to adjust to your new roles and to each other.
I’ll never be lonely again. One person cannot satisfy all your needs for companionship. Maintain friendships with others.
I won’t be bored anymore. You are responsible for keeping yourself entertained and interesting. It’s not his job.
We’ll never argue. Conflicts occur in close relationships. You can learn to manage them well.
He’ll change after we’re married, in the ways I want him to. “What you see is what you get.” Don’t expect him to change basic character traits or habits.
He’ll know how I feel and what I want; I shouldn’t need to tell him. He can’t read your mind. If you want him to know something, you should to tell him.
Marriage is a 50-50 proposition. It’s better to give and receive graciously than to get all even-steven about what’s “fair.”  
He’ll do chores the way I want them done. His standards and ways are likely to be different from yours. Best to accept this.
Sex will always be great. Sex should often be great but not every single time. Good communication helps here too.


If you hold some of the expectations on the left side of the chart, you’re in good company. Such beliefs are widespread. In my therapy practice I see the damage they create in marriages. I also see the transformation that occurs when spouses lowers their expectations bar and become more accepting of each other.  

The mindreading expectation is an example of a particularly harmful one because it often results in misunderstandings and hurt feelings. A spouse thinks, “Why doesn’t he do what I want (or get how I feel)? I shouldn’t have to tell him; he should know!”

The expectation for your spouse to read your mind can cause lasting harm to a relationship. A wife who’s disappointed with her husband for not sensing her needs may act out her feelings. She might give him the silent treatment or withhold sex. A husband who’s angry at his wife for not knowing what he wants might withdraw and sulk. Grudges build and the relationship gets compromised over time.

What if the wife in this example realizes that it’s unlikely to expect her husband to read her mind? She now tells herself, “If I want him to know what I feel, think, or need, I have to tell him.” And then she does express herself clearly and kindly.  

By stating our feelings, wants, and needs directly and respectfully to our partner, we enhance understanding and strengthen our connection. Step by step instructions for how to use seven positive communication skills are included in Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.

By changing naïve expectations about marriage into a more realistic ones, we become more accepting of our mate and foster a happier, more fulfilling marriage.

Therese J. Borchard <![CDATA[How to Design a Self-Care Prescription for Depression]]> 2017-02-04T20:21:04Z 2017-02-22T11:30:44Z Myself Time ConceptAs a clinical psychologist, Mary Pipher, PhD, designed “healing packages” for her patients: activities, resources, and comforts to help them recover from trauma. Then, after Dr. Pipher’s book Reviving Ophelia became a runaway best-seller, she herself suffered from an episode of major depression and designed a healing package of her own.

“The essence of my personal healing package,” she describes in her book Seeking Peace, “was to keep my life as simple and quiet as possible and to allow myself sensual and small pleasures.” She created a mini-retreat center in her home and modified the ancient ways of calming troubled nerves to fit her lifestyle. Pipher’s healing package looked like this:

She accessed the healing power of water by walking at Holmes Lake Dam, swimming at the university’s indoor pool, and reading The New Yorker magazine in the bathtub every morning.

She cooked familiar foods, dishes that reminded her of home: jaternice, sweetbreads, and perch; and cornbread and pinto beans with ham hocks.

She unpacked her childhood teacup collection and displayed it near her computer desk to remind her of happy times and of people who loved her.

She reconnected with the natural world by walking many miles every week on the frozen prairie, watching the yellow aconites blossom in February and the daffodils and jonquils in March, following the cycles of the moon, and witnessing sunrises and sunsets.

She read biographies of heroes like Abe Lincoln, and read the poetry of Billy Collins, Robert Frost, Mary Oliver, and Ted Kooser.

She found role models for coping with adversity.

She limited her encounters with people and gave herself permission to skip holiday gatherings and postpone social obligations. She erased calendar engagements until she had three months of “white space” in her future.

She embraced her body through yoga and massage. She started to pay attention to tension in her neck and other cues from her body and let those signals teach her about herself.

She meditated every day.

These activities were exactly what she needed to emerge from the other side of depression. She writes:

After taking care of my body for several months, it began to take good care of me. My blood pressure improved and my heart problems disappeared. After a few months of my simple, relatively stress-free life and my healing package of activities, I felt my depression lifting. I enjoyed the return of positive emotions: contentment, joy, calmness and new sparks of curiosity and energy. I again felt a great tenderness toward others.

Psychiatrist James Gordon, MD, discusses similar healing packages in his best-selling book Unstuck. At the end of his first meetings with all of his patients, he will write out a “prescription of self-care,” which includes instructions on changing diet, advice about specific recommended meditations or exercises, and a list of supplements and herbs. “Among my recommendations, there are always actions, techniques, approaches, and attitudes that each person has told me — which she already knows — are helpful,” he explains.

At the end of his introduction, he suggests each reader take some time to write out his or her own prescription. He supplies a form and everything. Mine looked like this:

Therese_SelfCare Table Final for Use

Each person’s healing package is unique. For example, many of my friends have benefited from more meditation and mindfulness exercises, psychotherapy sessions, and therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) that help unclog the brain of painful memories. I do better with more physical exercise and nutritional changes. While mindfulness and meditation have certainly helped me become aware of my rumination patterns, the most profound changes in my own recovery in the last two years have come from the bags of dark, green leafy vegetables that I drink and eat every day, and Bikram yoga, an intense sequence of 26 postures with two breathing exercises. My mind seems to sort itself out when my body is engaged, but many people do better by dedicating their time to cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation.

It’s empowering to know that we don’t need a doctor or any mental health professional to design a healing package for us. We are perfectly capable of writing this prescription ourselves. Sometimes (not always), all it takes are a few simple tweaks to our lifestyle over a period of time to pull us out of a crippling depression or unrelenting anxiety.

Write your own self-care prescription today!

Join Project Hope & Beyond, a depression community.

Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Can Women Fight Addiction with Birth Control?]]> 2017-02-12T21:06:16Z 2017-02-21T21:41:24Z Serious Business Woman Ready To Fight

A new study suggests hormones can make women more susceptible to addiction, so could the birth control pill help with recovery?

Hormonal fluctuations can wreak havoc on a woman’s body. From PMS to menopause, the ups and downs can trigger weight gain, depression, and exhaustion, among other inconveniences that affect how women work, play, and communicate. Now, a new study suggests hormones might also make women more susceptible to addiction, specifically cocaine, and that birth control could be the key to helping some women kick the habit.

The study, which was conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in the journal Nature Communications, found that estrogen intensifies the brain’s dopamine reward pathway and demonstrated that cocaine has its most potent effects during the estrous/menstrual cycle, when release of estrogen is at its highest.

“When we started our research, we started with a small pilot study using both male and female animals [mice] to see if they were the same [attributed the same levels of pleasure from exposure to cocaine]. We actually thought they might be, but what we found is that females were really, really strong and were rewarded more by the drug,” says Dr. Erin Calipari, PhD, co-first author on the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine.

She says her team was surprised by the early findings. When the mice were put into an environment linked to drugs, especially females at the height of their estrous cycle, it stimulated a dopamine reward signal even without cocaine use. The female mice spent more time on the side of their cages where the cocaine had previously been administered. “We wondered if it was something inherent to the different sexes, and what we discovered was that it seemed to be regulated by hormones. It was an interesting discovery.”

For the full article and to find out more about how hormones negatively and positively affect women and addiction, check out the original feature article Could Birth Control Help Women Beat Addiction? over at The Fix.

Scott Jeffrey <![CDATA[Why You Should Let Your Passion Die]]> 2017-02-22T04:06:01Z 2017-02-21T16:45:52Z dried roses with background closeupI began my journey in personal development at age 18. I became obsessed with Tony Robbins’ seminars and audio programs. He ended each one by saying, “Live with passion.”

Many of us seek passion in our relationships, work, and life itself. Being passionate is a sign of “good living.”

The long-term effects of passion-seeking, however, aren’t impressive. Seeking passion in a relationship leads to divorce. Passion in work leads to burnout. And pursuing passion in life leads to a general sense of meaninglessness.

Why? Passion isn’t sustainable. And, as we’ll see, the root of our drive for passion is a mental imbalance.

Passion is close to excitement. We might, for example, expect to be excited about our work. While we often get excited when we start a new job or a new business venture, these emotions don’t last.

The same goes for relationships: we are passionate and excited about our partner in the early stages, but those emotions are short-lived. Depression often follows.

Programming for Passion

A belief running in our internal operating system tells us we’re supposed to live with passion and be excited about life.

This program isn’t running in everyone. Certain cultures have it more than others. Its most pervasive in our American culture obsessed with self-improvement.

Our parents install this program when we’re infants. They get us excited about eating certain foods or receiving presents on birthdays and holidays. Parents assume that when their children are excited, they’re doing a good job as parents.

If you believe you’re supposed to feel passion and excitement about your work and relationships, you will be unhappy when these emotions dwindle. You’ll think something’s wrong with you and your choices. You may try to rekindle your passion. It might even work temporarily, but then it’s gone again.

The problem, however, isn’t the loss of passion and excitement. The issue is we believe these emotions are desirable.

Peering Behind Passion and Excitement

The core reason we seek passion and excitement is fear. This fear lies beyond our awareness; we are unconscious of it. However, it influences our behavior, actions, and decisions.

Let’s examine this fear. By bringing this fear to our awareness, it no longer rules our behavior. The fear behind passion has three expressions:

Fear of Boredom

Our brains seem to crave stimulation. Thanks to technology we’re accustomed to a constant stream of stimulation. Instead of appeasing our desires, however stimulation increases our appetite for them. Without constant stimulation, we’re bored. And we have an aversion to boredom.

Fear of Laziness

We’re terrified of our lazy part. We know how easy it is to lose our motivation. If we don’t have passion or excitement, we fear our lazy part will dominate us. Then, we will lose our drive to work and be productive members of society.

Fear of Meaninglessness

This existential fear is deeply rooted. Some people can connect to this fear; others cannot. But because we fear that our lives have no meaning, a lack of passion and excitement can trigger a sense of inner angst and despair. We do anything to avoid these feelings.

These three fears drive us to seek passion and excitement — even happiness. Ultimately, if we’re honest, this drive brings us the opposite of what we’re looking for: anxiety and depression.

Overcoming the Drive for Passion

If passion isn’t the answer, what’s the alternative?

First, we need to accept these fears.

Is boredom so horrible? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be bored and dispassionate? If you go through the initial discomfort, you’ll discover a sense of peace and contentment few people experience.

We avoid laziness, too. Do you ever allow yourself to be lazy with no shame or guilt? If you’re committed to self-improvement, it’s not an easy task. Parents, teachers, and the entire self-improvement industry have shamed our lazy part. But it’s just a part of us. If you welcome laziness, it will let go.

Our fear of meaninglessness is rooted in a reality that existential philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche articulated over a century ago. To summarize: there is no grand universal meaning. You create your meaning. We all make it up. Meaninglessness is only a problem if you perceive it to be one. For further guidance, read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: February 21, 2017]]> 2017-02-20T20:39:04Z 2017-02-21T11:30:20Z At one point, every one will face it. Some will have to endure more than others. Some will suffer from it. Others will suffer through it. It doesn’t take grand acts of heroism and courage to survive. It simply requires getting through this moment and […]]]>

At one point, every one will face it. Some will have to endure more than others. Some will suffer from it. Others will suffer through it.

It doesn’t take grand acts of heroism and courage to survive. It simply requires getting through this moment and then this moment.

In Love Warrior, author Glennon Doyle Melton created this to help her overcome difficulty.

“What I Know: 1. What you don’t know, you’re not supposed to know yet. 2. More will be revealed. 3 Crisis means to sift. Let it all fall away and you’ll be left with what matters. 4.What matters most cannot be taken away. 5. Just do the next right thing one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.”

If you’re struggling with the unknown right now, her words, a meditation exercise, help for those with ADHD and tips on warding away negative thinking may be the balm you need.

The Dangerous Lure of Narcissism
(The Exhausted Woman) – The charming, larger than life, and colorful character gains the attention of others including the media. Does this description of a narcissist sound familiar?

5 Tips To Overcoming The Plague Of Negative Thinking
(Mental Health Humor) – What does negative thinking have to do with the plague? Chato shares how to heal, treat and recover from its ability to hurt and spread.

Why People With ADHD Underestimate Their Symptoms
(ADHD Millennial) – Here’s why you’re immune to your ADHD symptoms and what you need to do to prevent it from impeding your life.

Healing Codependent Shame
(Happily Imperfect) – Try this meditation to help heal shame.

6 Subtle Characteristics of The Pathological Liar
(Caregivers, Family & Friends) – Think you can spot a liar? This may surprise you.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Experiences Beyond the Classic 5 Stages of Grief]]> 2017-02-12T21:05:05Z 2017-02-20T21:30:44Z Depression_Signs_BSP.jpg

Human beings are complex, each with a unique experience of grief to be honored.

The human experience of loss is commonly shared, no matter who you are or what status you have in the world.

11 Thoughts EVERYONE Has During The Stages Of Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, identified five stages of the ensuing grief that follows a major loss and death. These stages are known as:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

This brief list of the classic stages makes it relatively simple for anyone to understand the dynamics of grief, whether it be her own or somebody else’s. And this simplicity is good when we struggle with a wide range of emotional states that we don’t have the energy to process or explain.

Though it’s helpful to have a simple framework to understand the process of grief, human beings are complex, and the grief each of us feels is likely to be accompanied by other stages.

It’s normal and likely that you’ll experience something beyond the classic five stages of grief. When you realize this during a time of loss, it’s important to honor your individual experience and be compassionate to yourself.

These additional stages of grief are just 6 of many more stages that people don’t often talk about:

1. Confusion

In the classic stages of grief, anger and depression can cause emotional flooding, which circumvents the thinking ability of the brain.

Confusion is one of the symptoms of this, and you might experience anything from forgetting where you put your keys to the inability to make what are usually simple decisions, like deciding what to have for dinner.

On a bigger scale, existential confusion occurs when you have no clue how to adapt to living without the person or thing you just lost.

2. Fear

This is the counterpart of the classic grief stage of anger. More often than we realize, fear precedes then becomes expressed as anger. We grieve not only what has been lost but we fear the loss of the familiar and the uncertainty of what life will be like from here on out.

3. Illness

Our physical bodies do not exist apart from our emotions, so sustained emotional states can manifest as bodily symptoms. For instance, the classic grief stage of depression is often accompanied by fatigue.

Additionally, you might find yourself more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu, plus your appetite might disappear for a while. The key is to be extra aware of your body’s need for loving self-care and attend to it.

The Death Of My Alcoholic Father Made Me A Better Mom

4. Seclusion

This is related to the classic grief stages of denial and isolation and of depression. As such, seclusion might be regarded as a symptom of these stages. It manifests as a complete withdrawal from being in the company of others.

It’s also an unfortunate byproduct of our disconnected society, in which a person might feel she is being a burden by calling on someone for help.

If you know of someone going through grief, one of the most compassionate things you can do is call to check in and offer your presence in a non-pushy way. At the very least, the person will find comfort in knowing somebody is available even if she doesn’t take you up on the offer.

5. Seeking Replacement

In the classic grief stage of bargaining, a person might wonder what she could have done differently to mitigate the pain of a loss or even to have prevented a loss altogether.

Seeking replacement goes further than bargaining, whereby a person attains something in an attempt to fill the hole of a loss. Buying a new car or going on an elaborate vacation immediately after a loss are examples.

Seeking replacement also occurs when someone loses a beloved pet then adopts a new pet the very next day. Of course, life goes on so this behavior is understandable.

However, to seek a replacement in short order denies feeling one’s grief fully, and those feelings are likely to come flowing back with great force even years later.

If you experience a powerful tendency to seek replacement quickly in the wake of a loss, slow down to ride the wave of your emotion. It might feel unbearable but it will subside in time.

6. Doubt

When someone experiences a profound loss, everything she was ever sure of feels like it’s been shattered to pieces.

For the most confident among us, we come to doubt our fortitude. For the most spiritual of us, we doubt our faith. The paradox — and the comfort — is that enduring the gut-wrenching of doubt builds even greater fortitude and faith to take us through the darkest depths of our grief.

This guest article originally appeared on 6 Unexpected Stages Of Grief We ALL Experience When Someone Dies.

Maria Bogdanos <![CDATA[How to Dialogue through Successful Conflict Resolution]]> 2017-02-12T21:00:23Z 2017-02-20T16:45:46Z Conflict And Resolution WordsRelationships are hard work and in order to create healthy communication patterns, one must learn to have successful conflict resolutions. Many times you might find yourself at a communication impasse and feel increasing frustration.  It’s common to feel as though there isn’t a way around it and just to escape the conflict or to react negatively to it… but there is a better way.

Inter-personal conflicts are normal occurrences in relationships, work situations and anywhere you find someone disagreeing with your thinking! It can be overcome with good strategic skills and methodical responses, which we will explore here.

The first few things to look at when analyzing conflict is whether the conflict occurs often on the same subject, with the same person or at a particular time of the day which is possibly more stressful. The solution in these cases may be as easy as discussing deeper things at calmer times, or letting go of certain topics that are unimportant to the other person and sharing them with others who find them important.

Sometimes you may be having a conflict with someone who no longer values the same things you do, you find there is less and less in common, or there never seems to be a “middle ground” of agreement. In this case you need to decide if the friendship has mutual benefit and is worth salvaging. It takes too much energy to keep something viable on one side without mutuality, especially if you find as though you are the one to make concessions or accommodations to keep them happy. These are good indicators that this person is not a good intellectual match for you.

Secondly, remember that you are only responsible for your side of a dialogue and how you respond and engage with it. In any conflict, it’s all about sequential escalation. If one person approaches the other with a healthy question or statement but the next statement from the other person is an unhealthy one (involving any form of verbal abuse), then the dialogue should not continue but the abuse should be pointed out and disengage until that person can communicate in a healthy way. Do not enter into a dialogue if this first condition isn’t in place.  

Thirdly, when you are in a conflict, focus on what you are thinking and be aware of yourself. Do you listen well, ask questions, or have empathy? What your current habits? Do you get defensive, escape or detach from really listening? Intentionally slow down, think before you speak and listen more deeply to what and why something is being shared. Overcoming roadblocks to communication patterns is a learned skill and very much worth the effort because it will ease the stress on conflicts because you’ll learn to be less reactive and more engaged in a solution.

When you are in a conflict, it’s good to remember to stay open and curious so that you gain clarity. This will keep you from getting defensive or reactive. Ask questions to uncover more of what the person is trying to convey. What are they feeling? What solutions have they come up with?  How can you help? Having fluid thinking as opposed to fixed will allow you to listen well.  There may have been other conflicts that trigger a fixed response in you, but remain open to listening to what this current one is about.  

Lastly, remember that our brains change and grow over time (neuroplasticity) and these new ways of thinking create new patterns in our brain. You are re-wiring your brain to think differently the more you practice healthy dialogues when you encounter conflicts. You may have learned to respond in a certain way to conflicts, but that doesn’t mean that these habits can’t be un-learned. With practice, you learn to listen better, make more methodical decisions in what you say, grow more empathy, ask better questions, and come to solutions to the problem that the conflict is trying to uncover. You also learn to remain calm and engaged instead of frustrated and enraged. Again, being a student of yourself with each new conflict and seeing what exactly needs to be understood, then following the conversation in healthy dialogue until there is a mutual solution. You will find success!

Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC <![CDATA[5 Pieces of Advice to My Quarter-Century Self]]> 2017-02-12T21:04:14Z 2017-02-20T11:30:36Z Pretty brunette binging in secret in a coffee shopTurning 25-years old can be a difficult time in a young person’s life. After graduating high school and possibly now college, they find themselves in their first career job, trying to meet new people for friendships and love, and for the first time in their life they might be solely responsible for their bills and finances.

After having school be the end goal for so many years, it’s weird to go to the same job day in and day out without a final destination in mind. Friendships and communities aren’t as easy to come by as they were in the dorms or classrooms. And finally being out in the “real world” isn’t as great as some hoped it would be.

All of these changes may lead some individuals to experience a quarter-life crisis. Here is some advice for those young people going through this new and challenging time.

  1. It’s okay if you don’t love your first job.
    You probably won’t land your dream job right out of school. Getting experience, learning your industry and having a good work ethic will all pay off, no matter where you start. We all have to begin somewhere to get experiences on our resume and our foot in the door. Be a hard worker and know that you won’t be stuck here forever.
  2. It’s okay to leave your first job.
    If the management is horrible or the company is poorly run, it’s okay to cut your losses and find a new job. Although, you should find a new job before you officially resign from the old one. When you are young, you can take more risks with your job and move around a bit. However, don’t job hop, but after one to two years at the same place, it’s okay to start looking elsewhere.
  3. Start a 401K.
    Even if you are eating noodles every night, you should contribute to your company’s 401K if they offer one. If your company matches, try to put in the amount they will match up to so you aren’t losing out on free money. There are huge benefits to starting early and your older self will thank you later for the years of compounding that makes savings grow.
  4. Don’t stress over finding “the one.”
    It might seem like everyone around you is getting engaged or married at this age, but remember that you are still pretty young. If you aren’t in a serious relationship by age 25 you haven’t missed your chance at love. Get out, meet new people, have a life of your own and most likely Mr. or Mrs. Right will come along soon enough.
  5. Now is the time to travel. 
    Plan a trip with friends to Europe or go on that mission trip with your church to Honduras. If you think you don’t have time now, it will only get harder as you age and have more responsibilities. If you don’t have kids, now is definitely the time to pack your bags and go!

Know that at age 25 you don’t need to have it all figured out. Most 60-year olds still don’t. So give yourself some grace and patience in these early years and just learn as you go. It takes most of us some time to figure out what we really want in life. The best part at your age is that you still have a lifetime ahead of you to discover it.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[5 Things I Wish Had Known When I Started Dating an Addict]]> 2017-02-09T20:28:33Z 2017-02-19T21:30:47Z Divorce,fight,problems - Young couple angry at each other sittin

“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.” – Kimberly Jones

I was finally in a solid place when I met my now-ex-boyfriend earlier this year. I had created some healthy habits for myself and was fully recovered from the eating disorder that had ruled my life for eight years prior.

Things had turned around completely for me, as now I was getting my first novel published and had a flourishing greeting card line.

When I first met my ex, who I’ll call Alex, it was love at first sight. I was completely infatuated with this talented individual from Seattle who made beautiful paintings and music. The art he made truly resonated with my soul, and he could say the same thing about my writing.

Needless to say, it felt like a match made in heaven. So after our courtship, I was more than willing to move up to Seattle from Los Angeles and live with him.

I was heartbroken when four months into living together, he revealed he was addicted to meth. He admitted that he’d been addicted the past two and half years and had been using every day up to five times.

I was blindsided, stunned, and overwhelmed with a twister of emotions. How could I have not known? I scolded myself. He was always hyper and created much more art in such a short time frame than I’d ever seen any other human do.

Well, they say hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t know he was on meth because I didn’t know what signs to look for, and I’d personally never tried meth myself.

When Alex admitted this to me, I cried in fear, certain that our lives would change for the worst. I knew this betrayal of trust would be difficult for me to recover from, as I became vigilant at his capacity for dishonesty.

I also worried that he wouldn’t love me the same after he quit meth and that the only reason that he’d fallen in love with me so easily was because he was high! But I had already invested so much in this relationship, moving states and all. I wasn’t ready to just throw what we had away.

It was ironic because I remembered feeling so happy that I had met him when I was in a “good place” in my life, but all of that seemed so distant now. We can all morph into the worst versions of ourselves when we become clenched in fear.

When Alex was in the process of attempting to quit, it became difficult to detach myself from the turmoil he’d ooze every evening.

Like clockwork, every night around nine, he’d get this vacant look in his eyes and begin to pace around. It was like a dark cloud had come over him and I wasn’t even there anymore. I began to feel that I wasn’t enough for him.

The love I had for him and the idea of us kept me in that relationship for several months after the revelation about his addiction, and I eventually realized why Alex had admitted his meth use to me. He thought he could rely on me to be the “strong one” in the relationship, since I was sober, but in actuality, I was just as fragile as he was.

And I felt too awkward setting boundaries for this recovering addict, afraid he’d feel infantilized or patronized every time I questioned him about his drug use or nagged him to stop. I felt like I lost myself again, when just months before I was so certain about my identity.

Alex continued to relapse for the next six months, never staying sober for more than a few weeks at a time, and I began to feel extremely helpless.

Those fits of restlessness and angst that overwhelmed him every night felt too close to home, and just like him, I had yet to master how to tolerate those uncomfortable feelings.

Some evenings I found strength in myself and was able to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions he was experiencing without reacting. Other nights, we’d get into fights when he’d want to go on a “drive” (buy meth).

This lovely relationship we once had devolved to one of raw, dark emotions that neither of us really knew how to get a grip on. And worst, we both relied on the other person to get it together!

Eventually, despite the fact that I loved this man with all my heart, I knew I had to set myself free from this relationship. I had enough insight to know that even though I’d recovered from my eating disorder, I still wasn’t strong enough to resist getting pulled into his troubled psyche. I needed to pull back to create my own peace again, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to get it from this guy.

It’s been about a couple of months since we’ve been officially broken up and I’ve moved back to Los Angeles to live with my family.

Many days I have guilt and regrets for leaving and not being able to help him out of his addiction. It was like all of the meaningful talks we had, trips to the psychiatrist, and meditative walks in nature were for nothing. In all honesty, I felt pretty useless to his recovery.

In retrospect, I know I would have done things differently if I knew the things I know now. Here’s what I wish I would have done as soon as I found out I was dating an addict:

1. Encourage Him to Get Help

When he first revealed he was addicted to meth, I could have been honest and told him I had no clue what to do and somehow convey the depths of helplessness I felt. Then I would have pointed him to professional support sooner and wouldn’t have taken his relapses so personally, as if I was at fault because I was solely responsible for helping him.

2. Get Support for Myself

I should have attended Al-Anon meetings and attempted to have my own support group in Seattle instead of letting anxiety take such a strong hold over me and then isolating myself from meeting new people. Supporting an addict can be draining, and no one should have to carry that alone.

3. Take Good Care of Myself

I should have made time every day to reconnect with myself in some way, whether it be meditation, exercise, or prayer. I should have taken time every day to reflect on my own journey and the progress I’d made instead of becoming so fixated on helping him with his.

Relationships often become unbalanced when one person is an addict, but both people need time and space to focus on themselves and their needs.

4. Set Clear Boundaries

I wish I had clearer boundaries for myself going in so that I didn’t stay as long as I did and watch the love we had sour. For instance, it would have been more helpful if I told myself that if I saw him using while we were together, I would have distanced myself from him.

I could have communicated this to him, as well, by saying something like “I’m all for your recovery and supporting you through your journey. But using drugs while being together is unacceptable to me, and if I find out you are using, I will have to distance myself from you for my sake.”

Setting boundaries earlier on may have prevented my unintentional enabling, which created behaviors in him that I later resented.

5. Prioritize My Own Happiness

I shouldn’t have let guilt keep me in a relationship that was making me unhappy. Like many others, I felt pretty paralyzed by fear of hurting the other person. I wished I had more strength to leave this person I was in love with because he was self destructing and refusing to really help himself.

As one can surmise, these are all lessons and wisdom you gain after an experience like this, not before, but perhaps they will be helpful to someone who’s right now standing where I once stood.

Now I am taking time to find peace in myself every day so that I am better equipped to handle another person’s baggage (because we all have it) the next time I attempt to date.

This article courtesy of Tiny Buddha.

Suzanne Kane <![CDATA[5 Tips on Getting Along with Others to Get Ahead]]> 2017-02-09T20:07:52Z 2017-02-19T16:45:09Z

“Getting along with others is the essence of getting ahead, success being linked with cooperation.” – William Faulkner

Colorful Arrow Of Arrows Moving Up Lead By Red Arrow LeadingThere are many books, blogs and quotes on how to achieve success, many of which are completely genuine and offer wise tips. It can, however, be a bit overwhelming to try to sift through all the pages to find the one gem you need when you need it. Could it be that there’s something more basic to getting ahead? How about getting along with others? That’s essential to anyone’s desire to be successful, right?

For those who have a tough time putting their game face on, here are some tips on how to get along with others to get ahead:

If you don’t feel real, try faking it to start.

This doesn’t mean you outright lie to others, but plaster a smile on your face and force yourself to say something that can be heard by others as nice. “Have a great day” may sound tired and cliché, but it’s still a good, safe comment anyone can make. Just hearing those words may perk up someone who needs a little acknowledgement, and that’s always a good thing. Besides, don’t you feel a little lift when a cashier, your neighbor, the mailman or a stranger take the time to say something kind to you? It might be tough to force yourself to do this, but you’ll find it pays handsome dividends, and in more ways than you realize.

Keep a list of your good one-liners.

Think everyone else besides you is gifted with the talent to converse easily? They’re not. Many are shy, preferring to stay in the background rather than put themselves out there by initiating conversation. That’s where innocuous one-liners come in handy. Instead of always trying to reinvent the wheel, why not keep a list of the comments you’ve used when meeting others, leaving the office or a get-together, in passing at the market and other places? If they worked before to allow you to gently enter a conversation or gracefully exit, they’re worth saving and trotting out the next time you’re at a loss for words and really feel like you should be saying something nice.

Think of the other party doing something funny.

There’s an old saying that essentially says everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. Rich or poor, old or young, no matter who you are, this saying probably applies. If you are having a hard time getting along with someone — a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend — maybe trying to imagine that person doing something funny will break the ice. It will at least lift the corners of your mouth and that may be all it takes to get you going toward interacting on a more genuine level. Watch your facial expressions, however. You don’t want the other person looking at you laughing hilariously and looking in their direction for no discernible reason and wondering if there’s something wrong with you. Keep your thoughts to yourself. This is advice to help you see others as human, just like you. Humor softens the edges and makes the situation more approachable.

See how much you have in common.

While you might think that you are miles apart from having anything in common with someone you know you need to establish a working relationship with, try thinking of what you do have alike. For example, you both work at the same company, live in the same town, like espresso from the local coffee shop, wear blue a lot, and so on. Finding commonalities is a basic way to begin to bridge a divide that may exist and pave the way for cooperating on projects and tasks.


If you’ve been a curmudgeon for a long time, you can’t be expected to nail this overnight. It helps to practice before a mirror or with someone you trust, such as a family member, loved one or friend. Try basic one-liners and general but kind statements to see how you do. Keep in mind your body language as well. Loosen up, take deep breaths so the oxygen is flowing and you’re not constricted and tense. This will benefit the words that come out of your mouth and help them feel more natural.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[Clearing Emotional Clutter from Your Relationship]]> 2017-02-08T20:39:19Z 2017-02-19T11:30:08Z couple_BSP

No, it has nothing to do with Scientology.

Have you ever heard of clearing exercises? They are the single greatest ways for couples to reconnect, communicate, work through arguments, and tap into a sense of clarity and ease in their relationship.

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Throughout the course of a relationship, many unspoken things can accumulate and begin to turn into emotional and energetic clutter that starts to muddy the connection in the relationship. Clearing is a process that brings forth the heavy residue and clears it out in a simple, efficient, and durable way.

I have witnessed years of tension melt out of a couple in a matter of minutes via clearing exercises.

So much of the miscommunication that occurs in partnership is a result of people not truly hearing their partner. Especially during arguments, it is very common for people to not listen to their partner but merely wait for their turn to verbalize the rehearsed thoughts that they have tumbling around in their mind. In its essence, clearing is an exercise about slowing down and engaging in deep listening.

So, how can you get this magic into your arsenal? Let’s get into it.

The structure is simple: You and your partner sit opposite each other, while making eye contact, and you take turns finishing specific sentence stems, while the receiving partner simply listens.

The basic format of clearing is the following:

  1. Something I want you to know is…
  2. Something I see in you that I see in myself is…
  3. Something I like about you is…

There are certain alterations you can make depending on the situation, but this is the core format for a reason.

The first section (Something I want you to know is…) is a general clearing. You allow yourself to reveal your thoughts to your partner, no matter how scary they may seem in your head.

The second section (Something I see in you that I see in myself is…) is about owning your projections. It’s one thing to reactively shout at your partner “You’re so stubborn!” and a whole other thing entirely to calmly clear with them by saying, “Something that I see in you that I see in myself is stubbornness.”

By owning the projection fully and seeing it as a thing that you and your partner both have a capacity for, it reduces a lot of the energetic charge around it (when done authentically).

The final section (Something I like about you is…) is about connecting and reestablishing rapport. Don’t spend too much time in this section unless you and your partner are really in the middle of a nasty fight.

Clearing isn’t about racing towards pleasantries or engaging in spiritual bypassing, it’s about saying what is true. Even if that truth sometimes hurts a little bit.

So how this would go structurally is that partner ‘A’ would have their turn to go through steps 1, 2, and 3 fully, while partner B received. I would also recommend that Partner B says thank you after each completed statement from partner A (‘thank you’ signifying having heard them, not necessarily agreeing with their statements).

So, putting it all together, it would look something like this.

Partner A: Something I want you to know is that I’m still hurting about the time that you flirted with that person in front of me, and there’s a part of me that feels unsafe with you.

Partner B: Thank you.

Partner A: Something I want you to know is that my sex drive has been lower lately because of the work stress that I’m currently going through, and I frequently judge myself harshly and make myself wrong for it.

Partner B: Thank you.

Continue on for 3-10 minutes, or until you feel complete. Then you move on to…

Partner A: Something I see in you that I see in myself is a tendency to be dismissive of people based on their differences.

Partner B: Thank you.

Partner A: Something I see in you that I see in myself is a fierce streak of stubbornness.

Partner B: Thank you.

Continue on for 3-10 minutes, or until you feel complete. Then you move on to…

Partner A: Something I like about you is your willingness to do clearing exercises with me, and that you’re always willing to lean into the tough stuff in our relationship.

Partner B: Thank you.

Partner A: Something I like about you is how you wiggle yourself over to me in the mornings when you first wake up.

Partner B: Thank you.

Continue on for 3-10 minutes, or until you feel complete. Then, both of you take 1-3 deep breaths each (ideally in sync with each other), and then partner B takes over and partner A listens.

A clearing process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and the emotional freedom that results from it can be astounding.

While the core structure is sound, there may be times where you want something a bit more targeted to what you’re going through. The structure in terms of timing/listening/one-at-a-time-ness should always remain a constant, but the words are allowed to change based on the scenario.

Here are some examples of other types of clearings you may want to engage in.

When diffusing fights:

  • Something I’m angry about you with is…
  • Something I’m afraid to tell you is…
  • Something I’m upset with you about is…

When wanting to boost connection:

  • Something I’m excited about with you is…
  • Something I admire in you is…
  • Something I appreciate about you is…
  • Something I’m looking forward to in our relationship is…

Choose your favorite/the most appropriate stem, and use it as step #2 between the usual steps #1 and #3 in the basic formula.

While clearing sessions are potent and valuable, the point of an intimate relationship isn’t to be constantly processing each other.

If you feel the benefits from your first clearing session and feel a yearning to do this on a daily basis, it’s generally better if you resist it. I find that clearing sessions have more value when you do them intermittently.

I would recommend doing them on a semi-regular basis (2 to 5 times per month) and also doing them on an as-needed basis (i.e., when an argument comes up and you want to slow down and really dig into the truth of what is happening between the two of you).

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Partner A:

  • Something I want you to know is…
  • Something I see in you that I see in myself is…
  • Something I like about you is…

Partner B:

  • Something I want you to know is…
  • Something I see in you that I see in myself is…
  • Something I like about you is…

Sit, make eye contact, listen, thank them, breathe deeply, and your relationship will benefit faster than you ever thought possible. Common side effects include increased feelings of well-being and relationship harmony and boosted libido and desire to maul your partner.

This guest article originally appeared on Clearing: The Single GREATEST Connection Exercise For Couples.

Psych Central Staff http:// <![CDATA[How a Healthy Food Obsession Became an Eating Disorder]]> 2017-02-08T20:29:39Z 2017-02-18T21:30:18Z Metaphor for anorexia or bulimia eating disorder, apple in front

Starving myself was never my initial goal, although I have done a good job of doing just that.

If ever there was a time to be honest, it is now. For the past 2 years of my life, I have spent every waking minute thinking about food.

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Organic? Raw? Healthy? Superfood? Calories? Sugar content? Benefits? What will happen when I eat this? I have persecuted myself at the end of this sharp-bladed question for so long, tormented yet relishing in the enjoyment of trying to find the answer. My very own modern muse. Starving myself was never my initial goal, although I have done a good job of doing just that.

It began with a notion: health. Eating to feel better, fitter, healthy. I was 17, had just been cruelly dumped with “INSECURE” stitched into the skin of my forehead and overwhelming nausea at the sight of myself.

In the strive for wellness, I made myself very sick.

What started out as a well-intentioned overhaul of my diet quickly became a widespread banning of whole food groups for fear of their negative effects on my body and appearance. These effects, although real and frightening at the time, were entirely fabricated thoughts, used to justify the unhealthy behaviors I was participating in.

Soon, my food obsession became less about the food itself and more about the feeling of control gained from restricting what I put in my mouth. I was always the type of person to strive for perfection, from exam marks to the tidiness of my bedroom to my appearance, and I saw my diet as just another thing I could potentially perfect.

On a day I felt ugly or overwhelmed or unworthy, I could sit down to my dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, carb-free, meat-free portion-controlled meal and feel like I had accomplished something. What is left in the world of food after all that freeness you ask? Vegetables. I wasn’t very free at all.

The false belief that I was helping my body, filling it with “goodness” and cutting out the crap, was used to rationalize my unhealthy practices, inducing a sense of fulfillment in me that you might expect to get from a hobby you really like doing.

I didn’t like myself, or the way I looked. I didn’t feel good enough, ever. I needed to feel in control, ASAP.

Restricting and controlling my diet gave me an answer to all of this. I believed it would make me look better and feel better. It brought me purpose.

Problems came when I was not able to exercise this control over what I was eating, or rather was not able to do this without raising the eyebrows of friends and family. When I found myself in social settings where I had to eat things I couldn’t stomach — “fear foods,” as I called them — I would later spend hours riddled with shame and guilt over the foods I had consumed, sometimes throwing up to make myself feel clean again.

Where previously I was able to rationalize a plate of pasta, I had lost all sense of what was truly a healthy and balanced meal. At this point, no food really felt safe to eat.

Moving home as college broke for summer, I wondered how I would be able to conceal my stricter-than-ever eating routine from my parents. They had witnessed my obsession with healthy eating before, but never to this extreme.

Over the summer, I centered all plans around what I would be able to eat. Plans were only followed through if I was certain I would be able to adhere to my healthy diet plan. More often than not, plans were made only to be broken as the fear of possibly having to eat something I didn’t want became overwhelming.

I grew weaker and weaker, only allowing vegetables, fish, and selected nuts to be eaten. I lay awake most nights unable to sleep, listening to the groan of my unsatisfied stomach, feeling satisfied with myself.

An eating disorder never crossed my mind, in the same way sugar never crossed my mouth. I was still eating. I pitied the girls behind the “thinspiration” pages of Tumblr. “If they just ate like I do, they would be thin.” I didn’t realize they most likely did eat like me, and I was slowly becoming one of them.

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That was until one Saturday evening. I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in two years, I saw the truth. I was painfully thin, sickly looking. Everything I owned hung off me; I was a walking personified clothes hanger.

I was unhappy, hungry and exhausted. I was beginning to see flaws in my supreme, all-healing diet. If eating this way was meant to make me feel and look better, why did I feel like a pile of sh*t and look like a bag of bones?

Confessing to this demon came hard; everything else has came easier. Soon, I’ll be starting my outpatient treatment where I hope, along with the support of my family and friends, I can recover and begin to rebuild my relationship with food.

To live and act a certain way for years can be impermeable to change. This wasn’t a habit — it had become a part of who I was and still am to this day. Freeing myself from this disease that has taken, distorted, weakened every part of me is a long process but I accept the challenge.

I have been saved from myself, but many other people still face the initial battle of recognizing their own truth. I feel lucky to have such amazing people around me who have not judged or shamed me, but not everyone going through the same issue will be as blessed.

Eating disorders need to be given more responsible attention and explored deeply rather than superficially debated. Their limited portrayal in the media is largely stereotypical and highly inaccurate for many cases, using the disease as a source of drama and entertainment in TV shows.

This is an issue which needs to be brought above water and aired to shed the secrecy and shame experienced by those who suffer and to provide them with a means to sound their own alarm.

Our society’s obsession with image and the depthless sense of self-worth it can bring is a vehicle for self-destruction amongst young people, and fuels the rising prevalence of eating disorders today. No amount of Dove commercials telling women to love their own bodies can ring out the deafening sound of the beauty industry and their set ideals.

The role of clean eating/elimination diets and our new-found preoccupation with striving for “wellness” through restriction of foods must also not be overlooked when searching for answers in the game of blame. Clean eating, an equally-damaging obsession that’s now a cultural norm, is sold to society as essential for achieving full health, when in reality, it’s aggressively fueling eating disorders in today’s modern world. As a young woman, this mix of insecurity and unattainable perfectionism, whether that be diet or beauty related, is the breeding ground for toxic thoughts and behaviors.

I write this not from a position of recovery and health, but from a place of struggle and empathy. If this incites a feeling of strength or a drive to seek help in someone like myself, then sharing this very personal story will have been worthwhile.

I promise you, people will understand and people can help you. Telling someone how I felt stripped the secrecy, the fulfillment, the rationality away from my behavior and allowed me to be truthful about myself for the first time. I feel free.

This guest article originally appeared on How My Healthy Food Obsession Became A Full-Blown Eating Disorder.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. <![CDATA[6 Ways to Recover Your Mental Health]]> 2017-02-19T19:24:27Z 2017-02-18T16:45:37Z sunny-luck-ipad-businessIf you are emerging from a period of mental distress, the most important thing to remember is that you are the key person on the treatment team.

Although other people can give you advice, encouragement, recommendations and even love, the ultimate person in charge of helping you get better is you. There are practical, doable, affordable steps you can take to work on your recovery. By regularly following these steps, you can regain stability and get on with life.

1) Remind yourself that you are not alone

At some point in their lives, fully 20% of Americans report that they have symptoms of mental illness. That’s one-in-five people! Sometimes life hands out more stress than a person can bear. Sometimes a person’s coping skills aren’t up to the task of coping. And sometimes mental health issues seem to descend out of the blue. Whatever the case, mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. Yes, there may be some people in your life who won’t understand or who will blame you, or who will say things that are insensitive or unhelpful. But most people will only want to help.

2) Pay attention to your body as well as your mind

What looks like mental illness isn’t always in a person’s head. If you are feeling uncomfortable in your own skin; if you are feeling emotionally fragile; if you are experiencing or re-experiencing symptoms of what you know to be mental illness – see your medical doctor first. Thyroid disorders, heart problems, even vitamin deficiencies can create symptoms that resemble mental illness. Make sure you are physically healthy before you decide you have a psychological problem. If you find out you are medically fine but you still feel distressed, then it’s time to talk to a mental health professional.

3) Take care of your body — even when (especially when) you don’t feel like it

Some people say they will take care of themselves once they feel better. It really doesn’t work that way. You will begin to feel better if you pay attention to self-care. Your mind needs a healthy body if you are to recover. Eat regular healthy meals. Limit caffeine and sugar. If you don’t feel like cooking, order take-out or stock up on frozen dinners that just require a zap in the microwave. Get enough sleep (which often means staying off screens after dinner time). Go for walks or exercise in another way that appeals to you. Take a shower and get dressed in clean clothes every day even if it feels like a lot of useless effort. If you treat yourself as if you are someone worth treating well, you will start to believe it.

4)  If your doctor prescribes medication, take it as prescribed

Make sure you understand what the doctor thinks your medicine will do for you as well as the possible side-effects.

Don’t improvise. Take only the medicine you have been given, at the right dosage, at the prescribed times. Pay attention to whether you should take your medicine on an empty stomach or with food. Ask your doctor if there are foods or over-the-counter medications or supplements you should avoid. And, by all means, stay away from alcohol and recreational drugs!

If your medicine makes you uncomfortable in any way, talk to your doctor about it. Don’t just quit. Many psychiatric drugs need to be curtailed gradually, not abruptly, if you are to stay safe. Your doctor may recommend a change in dosage or a change in medication.

5) Go to therapy

The treatment of choice for most disorders is a combination of medication (at least for awhile) and talk therapy. A therapist will provide you support and encouragement. Regular participation in your therapy will help you figure out how to better help yourself — but only if you take it seriously. A therapist is not a mindreader. A therapist only has what you tell him or her to work with. For therapy to be effective, you need to dig in and share your thoughts and feelings and to be willing to think carefully about ideas and suggestions your therapist makes.

If you don’t think the therapy is helping you or you don’t like your therapist’s approach, don’t just quit. Talk about it. These are the discussions that often lead to the most important new information about what is happening or how best to help.

6) Reach out to others

Isolating (not talking to or spending time with others) may be tempting but it won’t help you. People do need people. Call a supportive friend or family member just to talk now and then. Join an online forum or support group. If you can’t find someone to talk to when you need to, call a warm-line or hotline. Once you are feeling even a little up to it, get involved in a charity or cause. Doing things with others for others is the best way to build your own self-esteem.

Recovery from mental illness sometimes does happen like magic, with symptoms disappearing as mysteriously as they arrived. But that’s really, really rare. Most of the time, recovery takes active treatment. But your professional helpers can only do so much. They need you to be an interested and active member of the team. By committing yourself to self-help as well as other-help, you can regain your stability — and your happiness — much more quickly.