Anxiety Answers

Why do I feel so alone

Hi April,  Being physically distanced from our family can be extremely difficult.  Loneliness can start to creep in when we find ourselves in a situation similar to the one you are finding yourself in. Loneliness is not synonymous with being alone however. Indeed we can feel lonely when we are alone, however it is possible to not feel lonely even when we only have our own company to enjoy.   One of the techniques that can help with these feelings as well as when we feel anxious or depressed is to look at the thoughts that we are having and evaluate whether these thoughts reflect the facts of the situation or are based more in our feelings. Let me explain a bit more about what I mean.  When we interact with our environment we have thoughts that are automatically generated by our brain in reaction to this interaction. These thoughts in turn affect the way we feel and the combination of our thoughts and feelings prompt our behavior.    Sometimes the automatic thoughts that we experience are what we refer to as "irrational thoughts" or "cognitive distortions". Every single one of us on the planet engages in this type of thinking. What's important is being able to recognize when we encounter these thoughts and then to question them.  I'll give you a concrete example that may help. Suppose I'm walking down the street and see a friend of mine. I say hello to my friend who doesn't respond. My automatic thought is "what a jerk. I can't believe they ignored me like that. My feelings are hurt and anger. My behavior is the next time that I see my friend I shout at them "What's your problem you jerk? Aren't I important to you anymore?" Now let's re-look at the situation with an evaluation of the thought. The automatic thought is still the same "what a jerk, I can't beleive they ignored me like that". But then I stop and realize that I actually don't have all the facts of the situation. Perhaps my friend had ear buds in. Perhaps they were looking down at their phone. Perhaps they had a bad day at work and were mulling this over as they were walking. My thought now changes to "wow, I hope everything is ok as that behavior was out of character". The feelings are now curiosity and concern. The behavior now changes so that the next time I see my friend I approach them gently and ask if everything is ok.  The originating situation (my friend not saying hi back to me) did not change at all. What did change was my thought which was the catalyst for the rest of the "interaction chain" if you will elading to a completely different outcome. This is the basic principle of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which looks at how we can work on our thoughts to embrace healthier thinking patterns and by extension different outcomes.   You may be wondering what all of this has to do with anxiety and depression. CBT is used to help question the thoughts that are underlying our anxiety and depression. Remember how I mentioned at the beginning of my message that we can be alone but not lonely? Looking at our thought process can help us to get to that point as well.  A therapist such as myself would be able to teach you the workings of CBT so that you could apply the techniques to your life and the situations that you are confronted with. These techniques give you a a chance to evaluate the automatic thoughts and restructure them in ways that would lessen the anxiety and depression. Hope this helps shed some light on your question!  
Answered on 10/18/2021

What are tools to help with codependency and anxiety based on social situations

Hey Jay. Thanks for reaching out. I am happy you reached out to learn healthy techniques you could use now to prepare for your sister moving out. Before I go into identifying the techniques used to reduce your perceived codependency, it is so important we address core reasons why you may have become codependent on your sister. There a many reasons you may have become codependent and fearful of living alone which include: having difficulty adjusting to change, difficulty trusting yourself when you are alone, fear of being alone, difficulty feeling out of control, difficulty coping with loss, fear of making decisions on your own, childhood neglect and abandonment, low self-esteem, and/or the need to feel secure with others. I am certain there are many more core reasons for your perceived codependency, I simply wanted to highlight some of them. Codependency is something that can change in time which is why I am glad you are reaching out before your sister leaves. Another question I would encourage you to answer is what changed between the time your sister moved in with you til now that causes you to fear living alone. What level of comfort did your sister bring to the home? was there a traumatic incident that took place? Assess deeper why you feel the way you do. One intricate tool that will be most helpful for you as you prepare for your sister leaving is to seek therapy. Therapy will allow you to identify your internal feelings and talk about them aloud in a manner that will help you process them better. Another helpful tool would be to possibly stay in a hotel one night (pending your comfort level and financial status) and identify how it makes you feel. Something else that may be helpful would be to purchase a book on codependency and read it to identify patterns of codependency. I am a firm believer that when you identify the core of your perceived codependency, you will become proactive in reducing the symptoms. Also, don't be afraid to talk about your feelings to others. Codependency is common with family and it happens very often. You are able to overcome this. Don't be afraid to explore your thoughts/feelings. 
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I loose attachment to people and their emotions over mine?

Hi- Thank you so much for your question and for sharing your concern. Empathy for others is powerful and a strength of yours as opposed to a flaw. You are a person who feels deeply for others and their experience. I have no doubt that the people in your life value you for who you are and are grateful for your ability to be empathetic. You can be both an empathetic person and get your needs met. We can work on ways for you to acknowledge your feelings and be there for others too.  What would you say you feel most guilty about? Is is disappointing others? Not having the same opinion as others? Feeling like you can't do it all? Guilt can add to your stress level and can be overwhelming. Some of the work that we can do together is identifying where you think your guilt is coming from and create ways for you to hold your feelings and others feelings as both being important.  Anxiety can be debilitating and so can you describe how anxiety feels in your body? What does it look like for you? Are you more anxious around certain people? Situations? Times of the day? Triggers? What helps you reduce anxious times in your life? Does journaling, taking a walk, watching a favorite tv show, etc help you? What brings you joy? Sometimes what works for you might not be helpful for the next person so one of my goals is for you to find what works for you. Sometimes giving yourself 10 minutes a day to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee can be a wonderful time in your day that is joyful.  You mention that you feel like you have lost yourself mentally.  Can you tell me more about the lost feeling? Do you feel like you don't have a path to follow? Do you feel like your feelings don't matter? Whatever your feelings are, they are valid and real for you. No one can tell you how you feel. You get to feel however you want, even if it is anger or resentment ( so called negative feelings).  I hope that you find health and healing and that you discover that your feelings are important to you and for you. Take care of yourself 
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I pin point where my anxiety is coming from?

Hey Noddy,    I hope you are doing well, I know how overwhelming it can be when we do not know the root cause of our anxiety. In general, one of the best ways to handle uncertainty is to focus on what you do have control over. Make sure you feel in control of other parts of your life - little things like keeping your bedroom clean and meal planning/prepping can help you feel significantly less overwhelmed. It is normal to feel afraid right now but pay attention to if it starts to turn into panic. While fear, anxiety, and panic can all look similar, fear is a more immediate response to a direct threat. Anxiety and panic are less concrete – you may have a harder time identifying your specific reason for uneasiness in that moment or be feeling fear almost constantly.  Additionally, to stop obsessive thinking in its tracks, it’s important to identify these thoughts in the first place. Seems simple, but it’s a little trickier than it sounds. We have to recognize our patterns before we can change them. Often when we are stuck in a cognitive loop, we engage in a well-established habit. It’s similar to biting nails or checking social media every few minutes — it happens unconsciously. The next time you catch yourself ruminating, think: ‘Stop!’ or you can create a safe word that you can repeatedly say when your thoughts begin to feel overwhelming. Once they’re out of your mind, try to identify the underlying cause of the thoughts to gain some perspective. If it’s a worry about not getting a text response from a friend, or a potential mistake made at school/work search for the root issue. Once you get stuck in a ruminating thought cycle, it can be hard to get out of it. If you do enter a cycle of such thoughts, it’s important to stop them as quickly as possible to prevent them from becoming more intense. As when a ball is rolling downhill, it’s easier to stop the ruminating thoughts when they first start rolling and have less speed than when they’ve gathered speed over time. So, what can you do to stop these obsessive thoughts from running through your mind? Here are seven tips to try when you begin to experience the same thought, or set of thoughts, swirling around your head: 1. Distract yourself. When you realize you’re starting to ruminate, finding a distraction can break your thought cycle. Look around you, quickly choose something else to do, and don’t give it a second thought. Consider: calling a friend or family member, doing chores around your house, watching a movie, drawing a picture, reading a book or walking around your neighborhood 2. Plan to take action. Instead of repeating the same negative thought over and over again, take that thought and make a plan to take action to address it. In your head, outline each step you need to take to address the problem, or write it down on a piece of paper. Be as specific as possible and also realistic with your expectations. Doing this will disrupt your rumination. It will also help you move forward in the attempt to get a negative thought out of your head once and for all 3. Take action - Once you’ve outlined a plan of action to address your ruminating thoughts, take one small step to address the issue. Refer to the plan you made to solve the problem you’ve been obsessing over. Move forward with each step slowly and incrementally until your mind is put at ease. 4. Like I said earlier, question your thoughts - We often ruminate when we think we’ve made a major mistake or when something traumatic has happened to us that we feel responsible for. If you start ruminating on a troubling thought, try putting your repetitive thought in perspective. Thinking more about how your troubling thought might not be accurate may help you stop ruminating because you realize the thought makes little sense. 5. Readjust your life’s goals - Trying to attain perfectionism or unrealistic goal setting can lead to rumination. If you set goals that are unrealistic, you may start to focus on why and how you haven’t reached a goal, or what you should have done to reach it. Setting more realistic goals that you’re capable of achieving can reduce the risks of overthinking your own actions. 6. Work on enhancing your self-esteem - Many people who ruminate typically have difficulties with self-esteem. Think of your existing strengths can add to a sense of mastery, which can enhance self-esteem. 7. Try meditation- guided meditation can be super helpful! This can reduce rumination because it involves clearing your mind to arrive at an emotionally calm state. When you find yourself with a repeating loop of thoughts in your mind, seek out a quiet space. Sit down, breathe deeply, and focus on nothing but breathing. If you’re a long-time ruminator who wants to bring an end to your repetitive negative thoughts, here are some simple changes you can make to your life that can help do just that: Be proactive in trying to solve your problems. First identify problems in your life and then start taking actions to solve your problems, one step at a time. Set your own expectations. Negative ruminating thoughts can creep in when we question our self-worth. Praise yourself for your successes and forgive yourself for your mistakes. Constantly work on building your self-esteem by taking care of yourself and doing things you enjoy and excel at. Create a support system. Having friends and family members, and maybe even a therapist, any of whom you can call on for help when something goes wrong or when you’re having a bad day, is so important. These special people may distract you from your ruminating thoughts and are also likely to boost your self-esteem.   I hope this helps!    Best Regards,  Tahreer Ahmad, LPC 
(LPC, NCC, THTC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How to help social anxiety

Thank you for reaching out with this question, it can be really hard to put these feelings into words and even harder to reach out for help. There are a few different things that came to my mind when I read your question and I am going to go through a few of them and see if anything makes sense to you. If it does that is great and you may want to take those feelings to a therapist for further help. If they do not hit any home points I would still recommend a therapist but it would be a good starting place because you will have a few things that you know are not the issue and wouldn't have to start from point zero. With all that being said let's jump right into things.    One of my first thoughts that came up when I read your post is that this anxiety is actually your brain trying to readjust to school after a very weird year of Covid education. If you had to go to online classes or isolate for Covid your brain adjusted to that and accepted it as the new pattern for life. Now that you are able to be back on campus and in person your brain is struggling to catch up. A lot of people are encountering this in different ways right now as the world starts to open up more and we are engaging in social situations that we were told were dangerous for the last year. That is a lot for our brains to process and immediately change. If this hits home and you are reading it going oh wow that makes so much sense my recommendation would be to be very gentle with yourself as you ease back into social situations and take the time to let your brain know that they are safe and that it isn't dangerous.    The other thought that came to me when I read your questions is that this anxiety could be brought on by being in your third year of school and getting a little bit closer to the end of college. Sometimes when our brains know that there are big changes coming up or we will have to make big decisions they can have a few moments of "freaking out" about things. There may be more difficult classes in your major to take now or internships to consider and that can all start to feel like a lot. For some people when things feel overwhelming their reaction is to shut down and isolate. There is also a chance that it is a combination of these issues. I would highly recommend linking up with a therapist to talk about these issues in-depth to find some real relief from your anxiety. It is very tempting to see anxiety as our enemy and something to fight but in most cases anxiety is produced when our brains feel like there is a real danger or problem that they need to protect us from. The issue is that our brains don't always do the best job of discerning what is real vs imaginary danger and sometimes need a little bit of help.    I hope some of this helps and please feel free to reach out for a session if you have any further questions or thoughts.  
Answered on 10/18/2021

Do u think I really need help

Hi C,   Thank you for reaching out during this time, I am glad you had the courage to do so and wanted to advocate for yourself and your needs.  It is important to be able to do that since not everyone feels comfortable doing so.   Please know you are not the only one who has struggled since the pandemic has started.  I am glad you reached out and have decided to try medication.  That can certainly help.  Different medications will help with different things.  I am not sure if you decided to see your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist, both are great in terms of a team approach.  The difference is that psychiatrists are trained in the brain and how it works and how the different medications can be used and can impact the brain, the brain chemistry, thought process and other things.     There are also on line support groups that you can use to help you with your anxiety.  Depending on your area, there may be in person support groups that would be helpful to you.  Face to face contact may be beneficial to you during this time.   I had two other thoughts for you as well.  They are both therapeutic techniques and approaches.  One is called Cogntive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the other is called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).   The basis for CBT is called a behavior chain. What that means is that we all have thoughts and those thoughts lead to our feelings or our emotions and the combination of the two lead to our actions or behaviors. When I talk about thoughts I am talking about the sentences or the statements that we say to ourselves—it does not make any of us “crazy.” It is something we all do.  We have approximately 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day so it can be difficult to identify every single thought we have as an individual.  I am going to challenge you to identify you thoughts that lead to your anxiety.     There is also something called cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are unhealthy thought patterns. There are approximately ten to fifteen of them. Throughout our life can experience all of them however we typically and usually default to using between one to three of them. I am going to encourage you to look up cognitive distortions. It sounds like you are most commonly using the one called jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst. What happens is exactly what you have described.   We imagine scenarios in our head that have not happened yet and then those scenarios or thoughts lead to emotions. Those emotions can be anxious, depressed, jealous, panicky or anything that I like to call uncomfortable. The combination of the scenarios and those uncomfortable emotions can then lead someone to engage in an unhealthy pattern such as isolating, dwelling or ruminating, or anything else that is unproductive and can lead to a cycle that does not seem to stop. There are a of couple things that you could do to stop those scenarios.   Some people I have worked with in the past have imagined a big stop sign in their head, a yield sign, or a speedbump, or anything that may remind them to stop thinking about things that have not yet happened. Something else that you can do is also look at the facts and the facts of what has actually happened and taken place to remind yourself that these imagined scenarios are just that—something that has been imagined.   What happens is when we have a thought we connect the neurons in our brain and we dig a pathway.  When we focus on those thoughts, we inadvertently dig the path deeper and then have the thought without realizing it and then the pathway becomes even deeper and can become a vicious cycle.  Changing those thoughts (and it will take time, patience and energy) will help you connect new neurons and dig new pathways.   Another thing that I would like to mention to you is something called the circle of control. If you were to draw a circle and put all the things that were in your control in your life inside the circle and all of the things that were outside of your life outside of the circle your thoughts would be inside the circle. At times it can take hard work, effort, and lots of energy, however your thoughts are within your control.   I am also going to encourage you to look at what good comes from imagining these scenarios that have not occurred. It sounds like nothing beneficial comes to play other than your mood going downhill and your anxiety increasing. Ask yourself what is the benefit of continuing to think or dwell about these imagine scenarios.   I hope you find this information helpful and I wish you the best in your journey moving forward.   Best, Erica
(LISW-CP, LCSW-C, LCSW)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Performance Anxiety

Hello Rod, and thank you for taking the time to reach out for help with regards to anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and overall distress you are experiencing as identified by the words you wrote in your question. I am truly sorry to hear that you are experiencing these issues. I can feel the confusion and discontentment in your question, and I would wonder what happened around the time these issues began for you and that hopefully, in identifying some factors that may have caused this diversion from your previous trajectory in life, you may be able to return to your previous level of functioning.   With that being, said, Self-confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment. Self-confidence is important to your health and psychological well-being. Having a healthy level of self-confidence can help you become successful in your personal and professional life. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to boost your self-confidence. Whether you lack confidence in one specific area or you struggle to feel confident about anything, these strategies can help. The following a only a few of the many techniques that can be used to help improve one's self-confidence, and I have seen them work with the clients whom I have worked with over my years as a licensed mental health counselor. 1) Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: Whether you compare how you look to your friends on social media or you compare your salary to your friend’s income, comparisons aren’t healthy. In fact, a 2018 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found a direct link between envy and the way you feel about yourself. Researchers found that people who compared themselves to others, experienced envy. And the more envy they experienced, the worse they felt about themselves. It can be a vicious cycle. Pay attention to times when you compare your wealth, possessions, skills, achievements, and attributes. Thinking that other people are better or have more will erode your confidence in yourself. When you notice you are drawing comparisons, remind yourself that doing so isn’t helpful. Everyone is running their own race and life isn’t a competition. 2) Take Care of Your Body: It’s hard to feel good about yourself if you’re abusing your body. Skimping on sleep, eating an unhealthy diet, and refraining from exercise will take a toll on your well-being. Studies consistently show physical activity boosts confidence. A 2016 study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that regular physical activity improved participants’ body image. And when their body image improved, they felt more confident. Make self-care a priority. When you’re feeling at your best physically, you’ll naturally feel more confident about yourself. 3) Practice Self-Compassion: Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness when you make a mistake, fail, or experience a setback. Speaking to yourself harshly, won’t motivate you to do better. In fact, studies show it tends to have the opposite effect. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Personality found that self-compassion contributes to more consistent confidence. Thinking, “Everyone messes up sometimes,” as opposed to, “I’m so stupid. I ruined everything,” can help you feel good even if when you don’t perform as well as you hoped. Rather than beat yourself up or call yourself names, try speaking to yourself like you’d talk to a trusted friend. Cut yourself some slack, laugh at yourself, and remind yourself that no one is perfect. 4) Embrace Self-Doubt: Sometimes, people put off doing things—like inviting someone on a date or applying for a promotion—until they feel more confident. But sometimes, the best way to gain confidence is by doing. Practice facing some of your fears that stem from a lack of self-confidence. If you’re afraid you’ll embarrass yourself or you think that you’re going to mess up, try it anyway. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare or practice, of course. If you have a big speech coming up, practice in front of your friends and family so you’ll gain some confidence. But don’t wait until you feel 100% confident before you proceed. You might never get there. Embracing a little self-doubt might actually help you perform better. A 2010 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that athletes who embraced their self-doubt outperformed athletes who were 100% confident in themselves. 5) Perform Behavioral Experiments: When your brain tells you that you have no business speaking up in a meeting or that you are too out of shape to work out, remind yourself that your thoughts aren’t always accurate. And sometimes, the best way to deal with negative self-talk is by challenging those statements. Try doing things that your brain tells you that you can’t. Tell yourself it’s just an experiment and see what happens. You might learn that being a little anxious or making a few mistakes isn’t as bad as you thought. And each time you move forward you can gain more confidence in yourself. 6) Be nice to yourself: That little voice that tells you you’re killin’ it (or not) is way more powerful than you might think. Make an effort to be kind to yourself and, if you do slip up, try to challenge any negative thoughts. A good rule of thumb is to speak to yourself in the same way that you’d speak to your mates. This can be really hard at first, but practice makes perfect. If you want a few pointers, check out our tips for talking yourself up. Try writing down three things that you like about yourself daily. 7) Focus on what you can change: It’s easy to get hung up on all the things that are out of your control, but it won’t achieve much. Instead, try to focus your energy on identifying the things that are within your control and seeing what you can do about them. Read more about how you can accept things that are out of your control. Try writing down one thing that you're not happy with, and three ways you could change it. and 8) Surround yourself with a supportive squad: Find people who make you feel good about yourself and avoid those who tend to trigger your negative thinking. There is a lot written about positive affirmations as well, and certainly looking them up, writing them down, and saying them to yourself in a mirror has been proven to be quite effective for many people.    As for the performance and social anxiety, people often take a variety of steps and lifestyle changes to manage their symptoms. If you are working to overcome your performace anxiety, check out these tips for conquering it below.   1. Challenge And Counter Your Negative Thoughts   People with social anxiety tend to suffer from negative and intrusive thoughts. They may fear that a certain social situation could make them look stupid or that they will embarrass themselves in front of a large group of people. Challenging or countering these thoughts is an effective method for managing your social anxiety. Many patients with social anxiety also fall into the trap of engaging in unhelpful thinking styles. They might catastrophize an event or personalize someone’s behavior toward them. To start disengaging from these thoughts, patients with social anxiety must identify any underlying negative thoughts they may be holding. They should then analyze and challenge these thoughts. By logically evaluating their thoughts and emotions, patients with social anxiety can stop these negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic, positive ones.   2. Keep Your Focus On Others Instead Of Yourself   People with social anxiety tend to get caught up in their own discomfort and nerves. As a result, those with social anxiety often struggle to focus on people around them instead of themselves. When they focus too much on their fear and apprehension, patients with social anxiety can accidentally induce extra anxiety and stress on themselves. Don’t do this! Instead, try to focus your attention on those around you. Start a new conversation with someone else or engage in a current conversation to take your mind off your current anxieties. Try to focus on what the other person is saying rather than tune into those negative thoughts nagging you. Social anxiety can be a bear to deal with, but remember that it isn’t as noticeable as you think. Just try to focus on the present moment as best as you can. As you continue to practice this, your social anxiety should eventually become easier to manage.   3. Make A Greater Effort To Become More Social   Challenge your social anxiety by seeking out new relationships and finding supportive social environments to join. Something as simple as saying “hello” to your co-workers or asking them what they did over the weekend can help you manage your social anxiety. As your efforts at alleviating your social anxiety become easier, make sure you continue to cultivate your new relationships. Some patients who struggle with social anxiety also take social skills class or volunteer with small groups of people.   4. Limit Unhealthy Foods And Habits   Your diet could have a significant impact on your mental health as well as your ability to manage your social anxiety. Avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine from coffee or soda, as it can increase your symptoms of anxiety. Try to drink only in moderation and avoid smoking. Both alcohol and nicotine can worse your social anxiety and its accompanying symptoms.   5. Try Alternative Treatments Such As Meditation And Yoga   Meditation and yoga can also be incredibly helpful for people with social anxiety. Try pairing these practices with at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to help manage your social/performance anxiety.    Patients can choose from a wide variety of treatments for their social anxiety disorder. Prescription medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs); Psychoanalysis; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — including exposure, cognitive restructuring, and social skills training. Most of the time, your primary care physician will recommend a specific treatment for your social anxiety disorder. If you desire convenience and ease when it comes to your social anxiety treatment, you might enjoy online mental health counseling. Online therapy works well for people with busy schedules or who are unable to find a physician nearby that can help them.   I hope you find these interventions helpful and should you wish to speak further on these matters, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I wish you all the best in your journey of personal growth!   
(LMHC, MCAP, TIRF)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I overcome a sense of doom and pointlessness to everyday life so I can show up for my famil?

Dear Mummaofdoom,   Thank you very much for your message.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backwards. However the reality is that the night is always darkest before the dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is because you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as a human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyways.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I think I’m in the autistic spectrum. How Can I get a diagnosis?

Dear Andy,   Thank you for your message and sharing with me how you've been interacting with yourself, especially on how you've been handling unpleasant feelings and emotions that might have to do with spectrum disorder. As you said this has also affected your life significantly. Perhaps by addressing how to handle unpleasant emotions in a healthier manner, we can dive into addressing the issues in your life as well?   Unfortunately I am not able to offer you a proper diagnosis here but I would recommend that you seek to be evaluated at a local provider.   Often the experience we've had about anxiety (or any strong emotion such as stress / depression) was so terrible (even physically) that our body sort of become traumatized to it. We naturally become nervous about these unpleasant feelings because we don't like these sensations and experiences. As a result we would do everything we can to avoid / fight these anxious feelings, often using numbing techniques such as using substances or distracting ourselves. Yet only to find that the anxiety gets stronger over time because we have never been able to make peace with it.   Therefore rather than trying to "change" / "fight" / "get rid of" these unpleasant sensations, perhaps the best thing that we can do is to make room for these feelings and even sensations, while staying on track to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment. Floating without judging / blaming ourselves through the anxiety experience, while focusing on making room for anxiety can be helpful.   Here is a short video put up by the author of the book "The Happiness Trap" which does a good job explaining this concept:   Please take some time to watch this and share your thoughts later :) I also highly recommend picking that book as well to supplement this therapy process.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI    We as human beings do not like sufferings, therefore often times we would be doing our best to fight it. However just like the analogy of swimming vs floating that we have talked about before, the more we fight it, the faster we sink. While if we can learn to float with these waves, we will realize that we won't sink.   Radical acceptance / Expansion is about accepting of life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life and all that life brings (including all sorts of emotions such as joy, sadness, peace and pain), just as it is without forcing our ways into our lives.   Why do we want to accept life as it is? Because with anything that we do in life that brings us meaning and fulfillment, it always accompany a wide range of emotions, we can't possibly just choose the ones that we like and fight / avoid those that we don't like. Learning to experience all emotions as they are, is a sign that we are living our lives to the fullest.   To do so we must learn to accept (and make room for) any unpleasant sensations, feelings or thoughts that we experience.   We don't want to fight it because the more we fight, the stronger they will come back.   We don't want to avoid it either because the more we avoid, the more we'll be afraid of it.   So the key here is to make room for these sensations, feelings and thoughts, while continue to do what brings us meaning and fulfillment in life.    Learning to "co-exist" with these feelings will naturally reduce the intensity of them.   Floating, is a form of learning to accept these feelings and make room for it.   Let me give you some practical guidelines on what I mean by accepting these feelings and make room for it.   You can look up "expansion technique" under Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for more information as well.   How to accept our emotions (and make room for them):   1. OBSERVE. Bring awareness to the feelings in your body.   2. BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe into and around them.   3. EXPAND. Make room for these feelings. Create some space for them.   4. ALLOW. Allow them to be there. Make peace with them   Some people find it helpful to silently say to themselves, 'I don't like this feeling, but I have room for it,' or 'It's unpleasant, but I can accept it.'   • When you're feeling an unpleasant emotion, the first step is to take a few slow, deep breaths, and quickly scan your body from head to toe.   • You will probably notice several uncomfortable sensations. Look for the strongest sensation - the one that bothers you the most. For example, it may be a lump in your throat, or a knot in your stomach, or an ache in your chest.   • Focus your attention on that sensation. Observe it curiously, as if you are a friendly scientist, discovering some interesting new phenomenon.   • Observe the sensation carefully. Notice where it starts and where it ends. Learn as much about it as you can. If you had to draw a line around the sensation, what would the outline look like? Is it on the surface of the body, or inside you, or both? How far inside you does it go? Where is the sensation most intense? Where is it weakest? How is it different in the center than around the edges? Is there any pulsation, or vibration within it? Is it light or heavy? Moving or still? What is its temperature?   • Take a few more deep breaths, and let go of the struggle with that sensation. Breathe into it. Imagine your breath flowing in and around it.   • Make room for it. Loosen up around it. Allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it. Simply let it be.   • The idea is to observe the sensation - not to think about it. So when your mind starts commenting on what's happening, just say 'Thanks, mind!' and come back to observing.   • You may find this difficult. You may feel a strong urge to fight with it or push it away. If so, just acknowledge this urge, without giving in to it. (Acknowledging is rather like nodding your head in recognition, as if to say 'There you are. I see you.') Once you've acknowledged that urge, bring your attention back to the sensation itself.   • Don't try to get rid of the sensation or alter it. If it changes by itself, that's okay. If it doesn't change, that's okay too. Changing or getting rid of it is not the goal.   • You may need to focus on this sensation for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, until you completely give up the struggle with it. Be patient. Take as long as you need. You're learning a valuable skill.   • Once you've done this, scan your body again, and see if there's another strong sensation that's bothering you. If so, repeat the procedure with that one.   • You can do this with as many different sensations as you want to. Keep going until you have a sense of no longer struggling with your feelings.   • As you do this exercise one of two things will happen: either your feelings will change - or they won't. It doesn't matter either way. This exercise is not about changing your feelings. It's about accepting them.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How to stop worrying and get rid of anxiety + depression without antidepressants?

  Hello Milka, Thank you for reaching out on this platform today with your question: How to stop worrying and get rid of anxiety + depression without antidepressants? It would not be fair of me to suggest you attempt to come off your antidepressant medications without advising you contact your medical provider and talk directly with him/her and to discuss your concerns about the side affects you consider may be coming from your medications. I will share some information on what you can do to see if you can reduce some of your symptoms of both your anxiety and depression.  Reducing your anxiety can have a positive boost on your mood!   Some of these interventions are also used to reduce the negative effects of depression alone too. My other suggestion for you is to consider reaching out to a professional mental health counsellor to help support and guide you through some effective techniques to manage the negative effects of your anxiety and depression.   This may assist you with your memory loss because if that is not a side effect of the medications you are currently taking it could be that you are feeling overwhelmed with the added stress of job seeking. How much worrying is too much? Worries, doubts, and anxieties are a normal part of life. It’s natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But “normal” worry becomes excessive when it’s persistent and uncontrollable. You worry every day about “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, you can’t get anxious thoughts out of your head, and it interferes with your daily life.   Constant worrying, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work or school. You may take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Chronic worrying can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a common anxiety disorder that involves tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of unease that colors your whole life.   If you’re plagued by exaggerated worry and tension, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.   Why is it so hard to stop worrying? Constant worrying can take a heavy toll. It can keep you up at night and make you tense and edgy during the day. And even though you hate feeling like a nervous wreck, it can still be so difficult to stop. For most chronic worriers, the anxious thoughts are fueled by the beliefs—both negative and positive—that you hold about worrying:   Negative beliefs about worry. You may believe that your constant worrying is harmful, that it’s going to drive you crazy or affect your physical health. Or you may worry that you’re going to lose all control over your worrying—that it will take over and never stop. While negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, adds to your anxiety and keeps worry going, positive beliefs about worrying can be just as damaging.   Positive beliefs about worry. You may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prevents problems, prepares you for the worst, or leads to solutions. Maybe you tell yourself that if you keep worrying about a problem long enough, you’ll eventually be able to figure it out? Or perhaps you’re convinced that worrying is a responsible thing to do or the only way to ensure you don’t overlook something.   It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.   How to stop worrying: Create a daily “worry” period It’s tough to be productive in your daily activities when anxiety and worry are dominating your thoughts and distracting you from work, school, or your home life. This is where the strategy of postponing worrying can help. Rather than trying to stop or get rid of an anxious thought, give yourself permission to have it, but put off dwelling on it until later.   1. Create a “worry period.” Choose a set time and place for worrying. It should be the same every day (e.g., in the living room from 5:00 to 5:20 p.m.) and early enough that it won’t make you anxious right before bedtime. During your worry period, you’re allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.   2. Write down your worries. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, make a brief note of it and then continue about your day. Remind yourself that you’ll have time to think about it later, so there’s no need to worry about it right now. Also, writing down your thoughts—on a pad or on your phone or computer—is much harder work than simply thinking them, so your worries are more likely to lose their power.   3. Go over your “worry list” during the worry period. If the thoughts, you wrote down are still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about them, but only for the time you’ve specified for your worry period. As you examine your worries in this way, you’ll often find it easier to develop a more balanced perspective. And if your worries don’t seem important anymore, simply cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day.   Challenge anxious thoughts If you suffer from chronic anxiety and worry, chances are you look at the world in ways that make it seem more threatening than it really is. For example, you may overestimate the possibility that things will turn out badly, jump immediately to worst-case scenarios, or treat every anxious thought as if it were fact. You may also discredit your own ability to handle life’s problems, assuming you’ll fall apart at the first sign of trouble. These types of thoughts, known as cognitive distortions, include:   All-or-nothing thinking, looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground. “If everything is not perfect, I’m a total failure.”   Overgeneralization from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. “I didn’t get hired for the job. I’ll never get any job.” Focusing on the negatives while filtering out the positives. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right. “I got the last question on the test wrong. I’m an idiot.”   Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count. “I did well on the presentation, but that was just dumb luck.”   Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader: “I can tell she secretly hates me.” Or a fortune teller: “I just know something terrible is going to happen.”   Expecting the worst-case scenario to happen. “The pilot said we’re in for some turbulence. The plane’s going to crash!”   Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. “I feel like such a fool. Everyone must be laughing at me.”   Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules. “I should never have tried starting a conversation with her. I’m such a moron.”   Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. “I’m a failure; I’m boring; I deserve to be alone.”   Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control. “It’s my fault my son got in an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.”   How to challenge these thoughts.  During your worry period, challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself: What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true? Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation? What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?  Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me? What would I say to a friend who had this worry?   Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries Research shows that while you’re worrying, you temporarily feel less anxious. Running over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you feel like you’re getting something accomplished. But worrying and problem solving are two very different things. Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with concrete steps for dealing with it, and then putting the plan into action. Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time you spend dwelling on worst-case scenarios, you’re no more prepared to deal with them should they happen.   Is your worry solvable? Productive, solvable worries are those you can act on right away. For example, if you’re worried about your bills; you could call your creditors to see about flexible payment options. Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. “What if I get cancer someday?” or “What if my kid gets into an accident?”   If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect solution. Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After you’ve evaluated your options, make a plan of action. Once you have a plan and start doing something about the problem, you’ll feel much less anxious.  If the worry is not solvable, accept the uncertainty. If you’re a chronic worrier, most of your anxious thoughts probably fall in this camp. Worrying is often a way we try to predict what the future has in store-a way to prevent unpleasant surprises and control the outcome. The problem is it doesn’t work. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. Focusing on worst-case scenarios will only keep you from enjoying the good things, you have in the present. To stop worrying, tackle your need for certainty and immediate answers. Do you tend to predict bad things will happen just because they are uncertain? What is the likelihood they will? Given the likelihood is very low, is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen. Ask your friends and family how they cope with uncertainty in specific situations. Could you do the same? Tune into your emotions. Worrying about uncertainty is often a way to avoid unpleasant emotions. But by tuning into your emotions, you can start to accept your feelings, even those that are uncomfortable or don’t make sense.   Interrupt the worry cycle If you worry excessively, it can seem like negative thoughts are running through your head on endless repeat. You may feel like you’re spiraling out of control, going crazy, or about to burn out under the weight of all this anxiety. But there are steps you can take right now to interrupt all those anxious thoughts and give yourself a time out from relentless worrying. Get up and get moving. Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment because it releases endorphins which relieve tension and stress, boost energy, and enhance your sense of well-being. Even more importantly, by really focusing on how your body feels as you move, you can interrupt the constant flow of worries running through your head. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, run, or dance, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the sun or wind on your skin. Take a yoga or tai chi class. By focusing your mind on your movements and breathing, practicing yoga or tai chi keeps your attention on the present, helping to clear your mind and lead to a relaxed state. Meditate. Meditation works by switching your focus from worrying about the future or dwelling on the past to what’s happening right now. By being fully engaged in the present moment, you can interrupt the endless loop of negative thoughts and worries. And you don’t need to sit cross-legged, light candles or incense, or chant. Simply find a quiet, comfortable place and choose one of the many free or inexpensive smartphone apps that can guide you through the meditation process.   Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This can help you break the endless loop of worrying by focusing your mind on your body instead of your thoughts. By alternately tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body, you release muscle tension in your body. And as your body relaxes, your mind will follow.   Try deep breathing. When you worry, you become anxious and breathe faster, often leading to further anxiety. But by practicing deep breathing exercises, you can calm your mind and quiet negative thoughts. Relaxation techniques can change the brain While the above relaxation techniques can provide some immediate respite from worry and anxiety, practicing them regularly can also change your brain. Research has shown that regular meditation, for example, can boost activity on the left side of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for feelings of serenity and joy. The more you practice, the greater the anxiety relief you’ll experience and the more control you’ll start to feel over your anxious thoughts and worries.   Talk about your worries It may seem like a simplistic solution but talking face to face with a trusted friend or family member—someone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distracted—is one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and diffuse anxiety. When your worries start spiraling, talking them over can make them seem far less threatening. Keeping worries to yourself only causes them to build up until they seem overwhelming. But saying them out loud can often help you to make sense of what you’re feeling and put things in perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalizing them can expose them for what they are—needless worries. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.   Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. We’re not meant to live in isolation. But a strong support system doesn’t necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Don’t underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you. And if you don’t feel that you have anyone to confide in, it’s never too late to build new friendships. Know who to avoid when you’re feeling anxious. Your anxious take on life may be something you learned when you were growing up. If your mother is a chronic worrier, she is not the best person to call when you’re feeling anxious—no matter how close you are. When considering who to turn to, ask yourself whether you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem.  Practice mindfulness Worrying is usually focused on the future—on what might happen and what you’ll do about it—or on the past, rehashing the things you’ve said or done. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries by bringing your attention back to the present. This strategy is based on observing your worries and then letting them go, helping you identify where your thinking is causing problems and getting in touch with your emotions.   Acknowledge and observe your worries. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsider’s perspective, without reacting or judging.  Let your worries go. Notice that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. It’s only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.  Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.   Repeat daily. Using mindfulness to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes time and regular practice to reap the benefits. At first, you’ll probably find that your mind keeps wandering back to your worries. Try not to get frustrated. Each time you draw your focus back to the present, you’re reinforcing a new mental habit that will help you break free of the negative worry cycle.   Basic mindfulness meditation Find a quiet place Sit on a comfortable chair or cushion, with your back straight, and your hands resting on the tops of your upper legs.   Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.   Breathe out through your mouth. Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.   I hope you can try some of these ideas and tips to see if these help you.   If you find you are still struggling, please consider seeking some professional support and guidance from a therapist as it is generally seen that a combination of medications and therapy is the best solution in managing such conditions.   Contact your medical provider for clarification about some of your symptoms.  If it is not the medications it could be because you are feeling overwhelmed with your job seeking ventures.   There is hope, recovery is possible! I wish you much luck with you managing your symptoms of your anxiety and depression in the best possible way that works well for you Milka.   Kind Regards, Gaynor 
(MA, LCSW)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Is it avoidant personality disorder?

Paste your content here. Why hello there! There is so much to unpack in your question. My response is going to lead to many more questions so brace yourself! :-) I think in our culture, we have a habit of self-diagnosing ourselves with mental health disorders - and all of our loved ones and hated ones too! Could you 'have' avoidant personality disorder? Certainly - from what you describe. Could you have social anxiety, or be a natural intervert, or 'relearning' how to be in the world after a 10 year pornography/sex addiction? Absolutely! Could it be something else? Of course! For an actual diagnosis, I suggest forming a relationship with a licensed therapist and work with a person who is able to answer all the other questions that are pertinent in this situation. Here are some questions that are coming to mind for me. - How old are you? Did you grow up in the age where of your social interaction was learned online? Could that be contributing to social anxiety in 'real life' situations?   - What are you afraid of in social situations? Are you a person of color or another minority group? Are there complex societal reasons to be a afraid? What triggers your fear?    - Are you a highly sensitive person and have strong reactions and responses to triggers like being rejected?   - What does your avoidance pattern look like? If you were to draw a map or an outline can you pinpoint the same triggers every time? What do they have in common? You are saying that it's the same whether it's a platonic or a romantic relationship - so that does not appear to be a trigger. Are there other triggers?   - What is the benefit of isolating yourself? Why do no not feel fear or anxiety when you are alone but you do with other people?   - Are you in a program of Recovery for your sex/porn addiction? If not, would you benefit from starting one and conversing with other folks who embarked upon the same behavior as you for the same reasons - anxiety and fear?   - What's up with your family estrangment? What is the connection to the abuse and neglect you experienced with the behavior of avoiding relationships?   My suggestion to you is to find a trusted person to begin exploring these questions. If you don't want to 'do therapy' (which I highly recommend - and not just because I'm a therapist), then do you have a spiritual advisor with whom you could talk through these questions? Or a mentor? Or again, a sponsor or support person in a Recovery? You may greatly benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Look it up. You'll like it. The fact that you are ready to explore it is AMAZING!  Best, Kathy Link, LCSW  
(MSSW, LCSW, LCAS)
Answered on 10/18/2021

I suffer from social anxiety. I find it very hard to go out alone.

Silham,   I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with these uncomfortable symptoms. It sounds like you could possibly be experiencing a panic or anxiety disorder which couldbe assessed and diagnosed by a mental health professional.    While the racing heart and shortness of breath can be especially uncomfortable and alarming it is actually your body's normal response to percieved danger so that if you needed to be able to run away or fight a threat that you would be able to do that. However, if these symptoms have never been diagnosed or are different in anyway from what you are used to you should reach out to your primary care physican to rule out physical causes.   If it is indeed a panic or anxiety disorder there are many course of treatment, some find medications such as SSRI's to help keep the baseline anxiety levels down, some find as needed medications to be helpful in treating an acute panic or anxiety attack, however, talk therapy or cognitive behaviors therapies along with medication are the gold standard for treating these types of disorders/symptoms. Many times there issome unhelpful thinking that can occur along with these types of symptoms and being able to challenge those can be really helpful. Also, if there are other life stressors that triggered these responses having a safe place to talk these out, and dissect what is going on can be expecially helpful in reducnig symptoms intensity and frequency.   If you are wanitng to explore the medication side of treating these disorders you can ask your Primary Care Provider if they feel comfortable helping you find a medication that may be helpful, if your PCP is not comfortable doing this you may need to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. However, it sounds like some therapy could be really beneficial in helping you sort this out as well. If you not ready to make the leap to therapy yet there are a lot good self help workbooks for anxiety and panic.   If you are experiencing any suicidal thoughts or behaviors you can contact your local crisis center or the Lifeline to get some more immediate help.    Best,   Lorraine
(MS, LCPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can you help me

Hi Sips,  Having a dream that seems out of our grasp is a tough place to find ourselves in. So much that we encounter in our everyday life can feel like is out of our control. Where we live, the people we know, how much money we have, and even the opportunities we have can all seem like they are external and we are just along for the ride. The truth is while certain things may indeed be out of our control, we actually have more control than we may realize.   Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that how we think determines how we feel and behave. Something happens. We have thoughts about whatever it was that just happened. We experience emotions based on these thoughts. We then respond to our thoughts and feelings with behaviors.    Here's an example. I see a friend of mine walking down the street and say hello. My friend does not say hello back. My thought: "What a jerk! I can't believe they ignored me like that, given how long we've been friends". My emotions: hurt and anger. My behavior: the next time I see my friend I shout at them "What's your problem? Don't you like me anymore?"   You may have noticed that my thoughts were not very rational in this example. My friend may have been looking down at their phone. My friend may have had a bad day at work and was thinking so much about it that they didn't even notice that I was there. The truth is that there are many reasons that my friend may have not noticed me. As humans, we engage in irrational thoughts or cognitive distortions all the time. Whether our thoughts are rational or not, they still affect our behavior.    Consider the same situation using a different thought process. Revised thought: "Wow, my friend is usually very friendly. This is not like them. I hope everything is ok" Revised emotion: Concern and care. Revised behavior: The next time I see my friend I ask "Hey is everything ok? I saw you the other day and said hi but I'm not sure you saw me"   You may be wondering what all of this has to do with your situation and what you are currently going through with anxiety and depression. CBT teaches you how to identify your own patterns, of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Using this model helps to see how our thoughts shape how we feel and how they impact our lives in significant ways   Once we become aware of our irrational thoughts CBT teaches us how to change these thoughts. Thoughts that lead to depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, etc. will be replaced with new healthy alternatives. The really cool thing about CBT is that we can apply this model to every situation in our life and see the benefits of using the various techniques to help change our thinking process. CBT and its techniques are something that a trained Therapist such as myself would be more than happy to work with you with. Hope this answer provides some clarity to your question  
Answered on 10/18/2021

what am i supposed to do if i feel this overwhelming weight in my chest at all times?

What am I supposed to do if I feel this overwhelming weight in my chest at all times? I read where you recently shared that you saw a very troubling thing from your window into your neighbor's home and ever since then you have been feeling really anxious and worried at all times. You also shared that before this you had anxiety problems, specifically social anxiety but now it is so much worse and you cannot even look into your own backyard without getting worried. You shared that you do not know what to do, you shared that you do not have enough money to try and see someone for professional help and your parents usually do not quite understand mental health issues enough to think it is a problem. You questioned what are you supposed to do if you feel this overwhelming weight in your chest at all times. Based on your question, I would highly suggest that you first start with seeking mental health therapy from a licensed professional counselor and or licensed professional therapist to discuss your thoughts and feeling in regards to what specifically happened in at your neighbor’s home that causes you to continue to struggle with increase anxiety that continues to cause you problems as thoughts trigger your current increase in anxiety at this time. A licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health professional therapist can be very beneficial in supporting you with discussing and processing what happened at your neighbor’s home that caused you to some significant trauma at the time. Traumatic experiences can cause psychological trauma which can cause damage to an individual's mind as a result of one or more distressing event. The distressing event can cause overwhelming amounts of stress that can surpass the individual's ability to cope or understand their emotions which can lead to serious long term negative consequences. With the help of a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health therapist, you can receive adequate help in regards to your licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health therapist providing you with effective and or appropriate skills and techniques to learn how to develop and implement effective skills and strategies for you to effectively deal with the traumatic experience that you experienced as a an adult that continues to cause problems and or concerns for you at this time. Behavior interventions, Psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have all been beneficial in helping people to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions in regards to a traumatic experience that you experienced as an adult hat continues to affect your lifestyle and relationships on a daily basis at this time. In an effort to feel more appreciated at work, you can try to commit to changing the way you think. It will take a lot of practice, dedication and determination to work on decreasing triggers of your current trauma. However, trying to do this will help you feel better and it can lead to your feeling much better and becoming more productive. You can recognize when it is happening and when you find it happening you can choose to think about something more productive. You can also look for solutions by committing to learning from your mistakes and solving your problems so you can productively move forward, set aside time to think when you notice that you are beginning to feel triggered by your recent trauma, distract yourself with a self-care activity and you can practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key to living in the "here and now." When you become mindful, you will be completely present in the moment. It can be like a form of meditation that takes a lot of practice, but over time and with consistency, it can be very beneficial in decreasing your thoughts and feelings regarding your recent traumatic experience at your neighbor’s home. Overall, I highly recommend that you seek help from a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health therapist to properly discuss your thoughts, feelings and emotions in regards to your past traumatic experience as an adult that continues to interfere with your current lifestyle and social relationships as an adult due to you experiencing some frustrating triggers about your recent traumatic experience at your neighbor’s home. Mental health is not a one size fits all, so it is important to get personalized treatment for your specific and current mental and emotional needs at this time. In regards to your financial situation, I highly recommend that you contact the Betterhelp team to discuss what specific payment options and payment plans are available for you to access counseling services at this time. Betterhelp does offer financial aid and various other options for individuals who are seeking counseling for their personal and or emotional well-being through the use of affordable therapy sessions. The Betterhelp Platform is designed to be able to assist you better if you contact them directly. Contacting Betterhelp directly is the best way for them to verify your identity and securely help you with your specific account information and needs. When it comes to questions, issues or concerns in regards to the cost of using the Betterhelp platform please contact the Betterhelp team. You can reach out to the Betterhelp team for issues including but not limited to the following: billing issues, account questions and or concerns, and or subscription questions and or concerns. The Betterhelp members are there to help answer your questions, concerns and or issues, so if you have a question in regards to what the cost would be to begin using the Bettehelp platform you can contact the Beterhelp team members directly to gain accurate information in regards to what payment options are available for you if you decide to join the Betterhelp platform in regards to possibly talking to a professional counselor and or professional therapist. Please feel free to reach out to the Member Success Team directly by emailing contact@betterhelp.com to discuss what payment options are available for you to use the Betterhelp platform for you counseling needs at this time. Best regards to you!  
(EdS, LPC-S, NCC, BC-TMH)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How to stop stuttering as an adult?

Dear Trinigirl. Stress, fatigue, and pressure are triggers for stuttering. Trying to manage such situations, you could be able to reduce stuttering. Here are some techniques that could be useful to manage the factors behind causing stuttering. I would highly recommend talking to a professional who could help you with managing the daily stressors in your life. Anxiety is a helpful emotion that protects us from danger and motivates us with ambition. Anxiety becomes a danger when it becomes frequent and when it lingers to take time in our daily life. Anxiety becomes a danger when it starts hindering us from completing our daily routines, or when it interferes with our daily routines. Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by repeating sounds, syllables, or words, or more prolong sounds. It also could manifest in interruption of the normal flow of speech. If stuttering persists throughout adulthood, stress and anxiety bring it alive. Managing stress and anxiety helps to manage to stutter. Here are some techniques to manage to stutter: 1)     Speaking slowly can reduce stress and the symptoms of stuttering. Try to practice reading at a slow pace, and aloud.   2)     Adding a brief pause between phrases and sentences to help slow down speech. Practice talking and recording your speech to become comfortable with the pauses in between the phrases. 3)     Avoid triggers words that make you feel uncomfortable. People who stutter may wish to avoid specific words that tend to cause them to stutter. In this case, it might be helpful to make a list of these words and find alternatives to use. 4)     Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness could reduce anxiety. 5)     Working on emotional acceptance through trusting yourself. 6)     Speech therapy: speech therapy can help in the above-listed interventions as a speech therapist could help to identify the trigger words, the slow in speech, the stuttering and help to treat such. 7)     Psychotherapy: to help to identify the stressors to be able to develop an awareness of the risk factors to resort to the learned techniques that help reduce stress and anxiety. 8)     Surround yourself with protective factors: people you trust, friends, support groups. Dr. Aboulhosn, LMHC, LMFT, CCSS  
(PHD, LMFT, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How can I focus on myself, build a constructive routine and move on?

Hello there; thank you for reaching out, and I am sorry to hear that you are struggling. Breakups can definitely knock the wind out of you. In addition to that, a breakup becomes a pivotal time where you find yourself reflecting on your relationship, yourself, and perhaps your purpose in life. It is also an experience that makes you vulnerable, becomes a bit more self-critical towards yourself, and reinforces any negative beliefs about yourself. It seems like you have been practicing gratitude, but sometimes it is easy to feel discouraged and unmotivated when something you feel is missing in your life. The first thing to do is ask yourself what would make you feel more comfortable? Where would you begin, and what in your life do you feel needs to change to be more comfortable within yourself? This would be the first place you begin, and you start with a small change. When you set goals too big, they become more overwhelming, and it is easy to procrastinate and lack the ability to follow through with tasks. When you are overwhelmed, it can impact your feelings, and your feelings impact your moods. Your emotions are signals within your body that tell you what is happening. So, when something good happens, you feel good, and when something bad happens, you feel bad. Your emotions are like the notifications on your phone that keep you update on what is going on. Emotions help you survive and feel safe when you feel threatened, remember people and experiences, cope with situations in your daily life, communicate with others, avoid pain and seek pleasure.Without acknowledging your emotions, your moods can become dysregulated, and this also activates your inner critic. That inner voice is what has you questioning yourself, your life decisions, and how you feel about yourself, and if you recognize that your inner voice is mostly negative, then try to be a bit more neutral by improving your self-talk. An example of self-talk might be, “I may not be amused with where my life is now, but I am learning and making necessary changes to better my life.” This is also what is called a coping statement which helps soothe your moods and manage emotional distress. Start there. Ask yourself what thoughts and emotions are making you uncomfortable, and explore that a bit more. What are your expectations for yourself, and are these expectations reasonable? Try not to compare yourself to other people or even an ideal expectation for yourself, especially if you become more and more critical in your mind about these beliefs and expectations. Practice being mindful, which means being present today and making decisions today that will help make you feel content. Ask yourself if you are taking actionable steps to better yourself. Change requires action (behavioral activation), which means small steps will help you move towards the change you want for yourself. It may not be easy, but definitely a step toward progress. These are just starting tips to help you move out of these self-destructive thinking patterns, but set up actionable goals to help you feel more comfortable with yourself. Therapy can also help you explore this a bit deeper with more strategies that will guide you towards the change and feeling you need to feel better in life. Thank you for reaching out, and I do wish you the best of luck!
(MA, LMHC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Tips on starting over

Rollo,    Panic attacks are so scary. They are the brain's response to a perceived threat, however, unfortunately, sometimes the brain is not always good at picking out real threats versus false alarms. Other times we may talk our brains into triggering the fight, or flight response by engaging in unhelpful thinking about a person, place, or situation. Sometimes, after we have experienced a panic attack we may have more for several reasons, one the main stress that induced the 1st has not been addressed and is continuing to trigger the panic attacks, or two sometimes we are so afraid of having another that it becomes a cycle of sorts and we can induce other panic attacks due to the fear.   Avoiding triggers or reminders of the panic attack can be a common reaction (no one likes to feel panicked or anxious) but in the long run, avoidance can make the issues even bigger sometimes because we aren't allowing ourselves to recreate the experience and validate that even though the anxiety is uncomfortable that we are not experiencing a life-threatening event.   They are annoying and exhausting and many people find breathing or grounding exercises (such as the 5 senses grounding exercise) to be helpful. You can reduce the baseline level of anxious feelings by making sure you are getting physical activity (many find yoga especially helpful), mindful breathing, and meditation.    If you are doing these types of things and they are not reducing the intensity and frequency of your panic episodes, or you feel that they are starting to become a barrier in being able to live and enjoy things the way you used to you may want to consider reaching out and working with a therapist to find a plan to deal with the anxieties that are tailored to you and your needs.   Catherine Pittman has written a really good self-help book on managing anxiety as well called "Rewiring Your Anxious Brain". Make plenty of time for self-care and to engage in things that you enjoy.   I hope that this helps some.   Best wishes,   Lorraine
(MS, LCPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

How do I know if I have depression?

First, let me tell you that you are ok. There is nothing wrong. It is simply that something that matters a lot to you is trying to express itself to you. It is trying to come to your consciousness. It matters! I'll get back to this. I am going to explain depression now.   There are different signs for depression. For instance lack of interest in almost anything, not wanting to get out of bed, or having a hard time going to bed at night, disinterest in taking care of self, reduced motivation, passion, or pleasure in life.... Those are all symptoms. My view of it is that there is a disconnect from an essential part of self. For instance Brian Weiss, psychiatrist, tells the story of a gentleman who was deeply depressed. As they worked together, it came out that in his childhood this man was interested in comic books with aliens, but his dad discouraged it telling him it was not practical. As an adult he ended up in a profession that he did not like. When they explored his childhood interest in aliens, they discovered that it was an early interest in space and the patient  recognized he had a deep interest in astrophysics. His depression was gone. He went to school to study physics. His father's discouragement of reading comic books with aliens had stopped this man's exploration of what interested him. I had a friend who was depressed for 30 years, in therapy for 30 years without any progress, and taking 3 doses of an anti-depressant every night. She first told me she did not have a sense of self and she therefore lived a life from a place of duty. She was an artist but was disconnected from her art. Working together, she ended up remembering a memory she had completely forgotten. She was 3 years old, she had shown a painting she made to her father and he dismissed it. She realized from that memory where her lack of connection to her inner artist came from. Immediately, she started to have a sense of self again. She made decisions from what she knew she wanted, instead of from a place of duty. She was sharing with others she was happy for the first time in her life. She was allowed to reduce her anti-depressant meds from 3 to only 1 dose a night. Disclaimer: Always do this with your psychiatrist! You often hear that depression is due to a chemical imbalance. That is not accurate. The research shows that 3 neurotransmitters are lower than normal in people who experience acute depression. But no research has shown that this chemical imbalance comes before the experience of depression. No causality has been shown. From the examples above, since the depression was reversed by simply becoming aware of the buried passions, it is the disconnection from our passions that causes both the chemical imbalance and the depression. My suggestion to you is to stop thinking something is wrong with you. Something deep is happening within you that makes you cry so much. What I would do is try to understand what wants to be expressed from deep within you. You can write to try and get access to it, or do art work, or talk about it with a good listener, or in therapy. You can learn to work with your throat. For instance, if you like singing, let yourself sing. That can unblock expression. Or take walks in nature. Observe nature. Be curious about nature and about yourself. Get to know yourself, love who you are, something important wants your attention and it is coming through your current experience! Welcome to yourself!
(MSMHC, LPC)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Can I really overcome retroactive jealous ocd?

The short answer is yes, of course, you can overcome retroactive jealousy. The more complicated answer is that it will take time, effort, and reflection on your part. Relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (ROCD) is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder, which is a broad category of treatable disorders. Untreated anxiety disorders such as OCD can impact relationships with others and take a toll on the individual decreasing one's quality of life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a recommended therapeutic modality when working with a therapist for an anxiety disorder. Most mental health clinicians have the education and training to treat anxiety disorders but some specialize in working with anxiety disorders. Often there is a lot of fear and insecurity underneath the manifestation of any obsessive-compulsive behavior. This will need to be explored with a trusted professional who can help you uncover what may be driving some of the jealousy and feelings of insecurity that are negatively affecting the ability to feel safe in one's current relationship with another. Trauma and childhood abuse can be contributing factors that can impact the emotional and psychological health of adult relationships. Reconciling with the idea that people have had past lives before a current relationship and that there is nothing that anyone can do to change what has already happened in the past. The jealousy and rage that can emerge when one considers one's partner's past may be an indicator of an abusive and controlling nature in you. Abuse and control are serious issues that impact relationships in various and hurtful ways for both parties. Professional help is recommended. Love and loving someone is very strong emotions that can escalate feelings of need and fear of loss. These feelings can sweep over everything and drive one into actions that are overbearing and extreme. It can be very confusing for both because, on one hand, a person may feel that because my partner loves me so much he or she is a sense has a right to feel jealous yet in actuality love that is mixed with extreme expressions of jealousy are often controlling relationships that indicate emotional immaturity and insecurity. Yes, you can overcome retroactive jealousy, but you will have to work very hard and be willing to look deep within yourself as a person to gain insight as to why you might be feeling insecure in your current relationship. Trauma treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) may be an option for helping with irrational thoughts and lessening the impact of images that are difficult to stop thinking about. I sincerely hope that you can learn from this, grow as a university student, and relax into accepting what you cannot control. This will allow you to offer more compassion toward yourself and others and enjoy the present situation without obsessing over what was or what will or will not happen. Based on what you wrote, I imagine that this is impacting your concentration and ability to focus on your studies and other responsibilities as well as how you are being in the relationship with the person you love. You do not want to smother her or you could push her away. Everything will work out the way that it is meant to work out if you could step back a little, let go, and breathe - yes, literally breathe. Practice some deep breathing and mindfulness-based approaches such as meditation and yoga for example as ways to reduce the anxiety that you are feeling around this issue. As you become more confident about who you are as an adult whether you are in this current relationship or not you will begin to overcome some of the barriers within yourself that may very well be fueling your anxiety. I think it would be important for you to work with a therapist to explore any underlying issues from your past and from your childhood or adolescent years that could be contributing to worry, fear, and insecurity on your part. When one begins to gain insight as to what might be triggering feelings of jealousy, anger, fear, or any other negative emotion for example one can grow in ways that will be beneficial overall. I wish you well as you take this big first step toward understanding yourself better! It takes motivation, commitment, and courage to ask hard questions and to ask for help. Take care of yourself and treat your partner whom you say you love with respect and kindness and that will go a long way in building a strong relationship. Learn to trust the people whom you can trust as long as they have given you no reason to distrust them. Work on calming your own jealousy feelings with positive self-talk and rational, reasonable, and logical thoughts. Stay in the present. There is no reason to dredge up what anyone has done in the past. The past is the past. Learn from it. When we tell others about who we are and we tell our stories from the past to others because we want them to know us better we are continually learning and making meaning of our experiences, but remember that we are living in today and the opportunity for change and growth are in today not yesterday. Tell yourself that you will not obsess over the past actions of your partner before the two of you were together. Use self-talk to tell yourself that this is not helpful. Tell yourself that if you continue to behave this way you will only drive the person you love away. Take a breath, enjoy the feeling of loving someone in a healthy manner, and relish being young (I am assuming) and in love. At any age or stage of life love is a sweet gift so do not spoil or tarnish the love you feel with jealousy feelings and controlling or manipulative behavior. Get the help you need so that you can live your best life. Study hard!
(NCC, LPC-MHSP)
Answered on 10/18/2021

Can chronic anxiety become more manageable to where i won’t feel it everyday?

First of all, daily anxiety can be debilitating and I hear how concerned you are. It becomes even more frustrating when medical professionals seem to dismiss your concern and worry. The answer to your question is an absolute yes, it is not only possible to reduce these symptoms, but it is also possible to end them. Therapy and medication can be effective to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and panic. Medication needs to be discussed with a medical provider and therapy can be addressed with a mental health professional. As a mental health professional, I can speak to therapy. I believe a person can learn techniques to assist them in reducing feelings of chronic and severe anxiety. It takes a desire and a willingness to practice new ways to cope. This can be done without medication and can be done in conjunction with medication. The first step while working with a therapist is to explore where the feelings start in the body which will lead to an ability to be able to recognize them early. Then the healing can begin and we can learn how to reduce the symptoms. This way, coping strategies can be learned and practiced to reduce the effects of anxiety and panic. The more we can practice these strategies the more we will be able to work to learn the source. The next step is to begin the exploration process which will reveal the reasons for the anxiety and panic. It sounds like these symptoms seem to have come out of nowhere. Since these are new symptoms you have been experiencing over the past two weeks, there most likely was a trigger that brought them to the surface. The trigger can be discovered through exploration and therapy. Many times these symptoms are related to past trauma and/or stressors we may not even be aware of so exploring the past can help. There are therapies that can allow this process to take place. I have been able to assist many clients to reduce these symptoms and they are not experienced daily any longer and eventually are rarely to never experienced again. It is a process, but one we can take together.
Answered on 10/18/2021