Are You Married to a Narcissist?

When you met your spouse, did it seem like love at first sight? Was there a familiarity to them and a feeling that you were somehow drawn to them? Soon after you said “I do,” did they begin to change? Were they giving you less attention and making everything about them? Did they show fits of rage or suddenly start giving you the silent treatment?

If any (or most) of this sounds familiar, there’s a very good chance you married a narcissist. Still not sure? Here are some common warning signs:

Unreasonable Expectations

For narcissists, it’s all about THEM. This means your spouse may expect you to meet their needs 24/7 while your own are placed on the back burner. If you find you give and they take ALL of the time, you may be married to a narcissist.

Jealousy

They talk a good game, but narcissists actually have low self-esteem. This also makes it very easy for them to become jealous – VERY jealous. And not just about anyone interested in your romantically, but ANYONE who can take focus off of them, including children, pets and other friends and family members. This jealousy will trigger intense rage.

Projection

Narcissists all have the same power play and that is to project their own behaviors onto others. You see politicians do this all of the time. Your spouse may say that you are needy or have anger issues, and in your head, you are thinking, “Wow, you are so describing YOU right now.” Yes, they are – they are projecting.

No (or Fake) Apologies

Narcissists have no empathy. That is, they truly don’t have the ability to look at something from another person’s perspective. You may be hurting or having a bad day, but your spouse seems completely uninterested. They ARE uninterested.

No empathy also makes it hard for them to take any responsibility for their behaviors and actions. But they have enough awareness to know they should at least make it LOOK as if they care, so they will throw you a hollow apology every so often.

Narcissistic abuse is very real, and if you have been the victim, you most likely feel exhausted and shell-shocked, lacking confidence and self-worth. If you would like to talk to someone about this, please be in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you heal from the abuse you’ve endured.

Do You Have C-PTSD?

You have most likely heard the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – also known as PTSD. It is used to describe the mental and emotional anguish suffered by those who have experienced sudden trauma. PTSD is often experienced by soldiers as well as those who have been victims of rape and other crimes, and even victims of house fires and car accidents.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) describes a condition that very much presents like PTSD, the difference being the sufferer experienced prolonged periods of abuse or neglect. This could happen as a result of childhood neglect or the abuse suffered at the hands of a narcissistic partner.

Diagnosing C-PTSD

Diagnosing C-PTSD is tricky because the symptoms are usually not very unique. That is to say, someone who is suffering from C-PTSD may be experiencing anxiety and lethargy, but these symptoms match other mental health issues.

But it is very important to accurately diagnose C-PTSD because of the necessary treatment measures. The main difference between C-PTSD and other mental health issues  say, bipolar disorder  is that C-PTSD is a result of things that were done TO an individual, and not an intrinsic problem. In other words, someone suffers from C-PTSD because of abuse and neglect at the hands of another and not because of genetically determined brain chemistry.

To help correctly identify C-PTSD, a therapist must uncover an accurate history to understand if:

  • The individual has experienced multiple prolonged traumas that have lasted for months (or even years)
  • The traumas were caused by someone the individual had a deep interpersonal relationship with and/or someone who was part of their primary care network (most commonly a parent or caregiver)
  • These traumas were experienced as permanent features of life, with the individual unable to see any end in sight
  • The individual had no control or power over the person traumatizing them

Symptoms of C-PTSD

As I just mentioned, the outward symptoms of C-PTSD may match other mental health disorders. Those symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares in which the trauma is relived.
  • Avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the trauma.
  • Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma.
  • Hyperarousal. This is a state of high alert and one they often lived in.
  • A belief that the world is a dangerous place.
  • A loss of trust in self or others.
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
  • Being startled by loud noises.

Treatment for C-PTSD

There are a few different treatment options for people suffering from C-PTSD:

Psychotherapy

Therapy can take place on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. The focus will be on addressing feelings, improving connections with others, and dealing with anxiety and flashbacks. Many therapists have had success using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helping people cope with the symptoms of C-PTSD.

EMDR

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is a process that uses eye movement to help a person desensitize their reactions to a specific traumatic event. The result is the person can eventually recall the memory but have no emotional reaction to it.

Medication

Some individuals may need to be on medications for a while to reduce their anxiety. A therapist can work with you to determine if this is the best course of action.

 

If you believe you are suffering from C-PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

5 Signs of Childhood Emotional Neglect

For many, childhood is a time of wonder and adventure; a time when all needs are met and comfort is merely a whimper away.

And yet for others, childhood never feels quite safe or secure. For these people, emotional neglect was something that colored their early years and affects them as adults.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is the result of parents not responding enough to the emotional needs of their children. While it is an invisible form of suffering, as opposed to bruises and broken bones, it has lasting ramifications. And adults that have suffered from CEN have no idea that their current world is being created from a place of lack.

What Makes CEN Invisible?

There are a couple of specifics that make CEN invisible to the victim:

  • It can happen in otherwise loving families that have no material needs.
  • A parent’s failure to respond to your emotional needs is not something that happens to you as a child. It is something that doesn’t happen to you, and therefore, your brain has nothing to record as “proof.”

These adults find themselves creating lives that don’t quite feel right. They may investigate their childhoods, looking for clues, but usually come up with nothing, which can add to their sense of stress and anxiety.

In the end, they feel that something must be innately wrong with them. They take the blame, assuming that they are simply flawed and different from other people who seem to have their acts together.

If you identify with this feeling, here are 5 signs you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect:

1. Fear of Being Dependent on Others

Independence is a good quality to have. But having a deep-seated fear about depending on anyone for anything, never asking for help or support, is not healthy.

2. You Don’t Really Know Yourself

When you meet new people and have to tell them about yourself, do you find it difficult? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? What you like and don’t like? Victims of CEN tend to not know themselves as well as they should.

3. You’re a People Pleaser

You spend a lot of time trying to meet other people’s needs and pay little attention to your own. You’re hard on yourself but soft with others.

4. You Feel Empty

This can feel different to different people. Maybe you feel an empty sensation in your gut, throat or chest. For some it comes and goes, for others, this feeling is there 24/7 – 365.

5. You Have Trouble Feeling Your Emotions

When your emotions were ignored as a child, you never learned how to feel them and express them in healthy ways. As an adult, do you find it hard to identify the feelings you feel, let alone express them to others?

 

If you’ve just had an A-ha moment and think you may have suffered CEN and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. There is hope and you CAN heal from the invisible wounds and start creating the life you were meant to live.

3 Steps to Self-Compassion

“God, you can be so stupid sometimes.”

“Why would he be attracted to YOU?”

“You’re just going to screw this up.”

These are things you would probably never say to another human being unless you’re a real jerk. But how many of us have that inner critic that says these kinds of things all the time.

Most of us treat ourselves far more harshly than we would anyone else. And that’s a shame. In my experience, so much of the depression and anxiety my clients feel stems from a dysfunctional relationship they have with themselves.

But every day is a chance for you to develop a loving relationship with yourself. And the best way to do that is to practice self-compassion.

If that concept seems foreign to you or you are even uncomfortable with the idea of showing yourself compassion, then please keep reading to learn some simple but profound ways you can begin to practice self-compassion as a way to connect lovingly with yourself.

1. Become More Mindful of Your Feelings

Self-compassion is the pathway to emotional healing. But to begin, you must become more aware of your own emotions, especially as they relate to yourself.

Try to be more aware of when you are emotionally struggling with something. Perhaps you are feeling confused, desperate, or inadequate. Ordinarily, in these moments your inner critic may strike. But now, try and offer yourself kindness instead.

You may say something to yourself life, “I know you’re disappointed. And I also know you did your best. And I am so proud of you.”

If you are at a loss for the right words in these moments, simply talk to yourself as you would a friend, or better yet, a small child.

2. Monitor Yourself

Until you become used to being compassionate toward yourself, you’ll want to monitor the language you use. You are most likely so used to criticizing yourself that it will be far too easy for the wrong choice of words to come out. That’s okay. In these moments you certainly don’t want to scold yourself. Just be aware and make a compassionate correction.

3. Get Physical

There’s a phrase that says, “get out of your head and drop into your body.” This is a perfect way to begin the ritual of self-compassion.

Begin to use kind physical gestures with yourself. This could be gently stroking your cheeks and temples when you’re stressed, holding your hand over your heart when you’re sad, or holding your own hand when you feel lonely. Any physical gesture, so long as it’s loving, will help you show yourself true love and kindness in those moments.

For some people who have very low self-esteem, showing themselves compassion may prove to be incredibly difficult. In these cases, it’s a good idea to speak with a therapist who can help them uncover where the feelings stem from and how they can change their thoughts and behavior.

If you are interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to see how I may be able to help.

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a major depressive disorder that occurs during the same season each year. Also known as the “winter blues,” SAD typically comes on in the fall and winter, when the light is diminished.

SAD is believed to affect nearly 10 million Americans and is four times more common in women than men. Many people experience symptoms that are severe enough to affect their quality of life.

Though not everyone will experience the same symptoms, here are some of the most common:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • A change in appetite and developing a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A drop in energy level
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Thoughts of suicide

Treatments

If you suffer from SAD, here are some ways you can alleviate your symptoms:

Light Boxes

By far the greatest relief, according to research, comes from the use of lightboxes. Lightboxes emit high-intensity light between 2,500 to 10,000 lux. Compare this to a normal light fixture that emits only 250 to 500 lux.

Lightboxes closely mimic the sun’s natural rays, helping our brains produce the right amount of neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may only need to use the lightbox for 30 minutes once a day. For more severe symptoms, people have found relief by using the box for long periods of time and can often feel true relief in as little as two weeks.

Some insurance providers will cover the cost of lightboxes, but not all do, so be sure to speak with your provider.

Exercise

While it may feel counterintuitive, if not downright impossible, to get up and get moving when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Exercise not only reduces stress and tension, but it releases those feel-good endorphins. Studies have also found that one hour of aerobic exercise outdoors (even if the sky is overcast) has the same positive effect on mood as 2.5 hours of using a lightbox.

Eat Well

It’s common to turn to junk food when you’re feeling the winter blues. High-sugar foods tend to give us a temporary boost in energy levels and mood. But then we come crashing down and feel even worse. A better choice is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, opting for complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and whole grains.

Speak with a Therapist

If your symptoms are very severe, and if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself, then it is important to speak with a therapist who can help you navigate your depression and offer coping tools.

If you or a loved one are currently suffering from SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic and otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other person’s. These people most likely grew up in households that were unsafe and unstable, and where there was a constant invasion of personal boundaries.

If you can relate, chances are you have a hard time creating healthy boundaries to create the life experience you wish to have. Here are some ways you can begin to do so:

Identify Your Limits

You can’t set boundaries unless you discover where it is you personally stand. You’ll need to take a bit of time to recognize what you can and cannot tolerate. What makes you happy and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? Only until you have made these discoveries can you move on to the next steps.

Don’t Be Shy

People who have similar communication styles are easy to engage with. These people will quickly understand what your new barriers are. But people who have a different cultural background or personality may not easily understand your boundaries. With these people, it’s important to be very clear and direct.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

People who have a hard time setting boundaries don’t often allow themselves to acknowledge their own feelings because they’re usually too busy worrying about everyone else’s.

You’ll need to start recognizing how people make you feel in order to know whether your new boundaries are being crossed or not. When you’re with someone, make mental notes, or even jot down in a journal how that interaction made you feel.

If, after spending time with someone, you feel anger or resentment, this is a sign that the person may be overstepping your boundaries. Reiterate to this person what your boundaries are. If they continue to disrespect you and them, you will want to cut yourself away from further interactions.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Put yourself and your needs first. This may feel strange and even somehow wrong if you’ve spent your entire life taking care of others. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and get what you need to feel happy and well.

Speak with Someone

If you’ve spent an entire life with a sense of low self-worth, you may find setting boundaries quite difficult. In this case, it’s important to speak with a therapist that can help you discover where these feelings are coming from and how to change your thought patterns and behavior.

If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you on your journey toward self-care.

How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

How to Spot Passive-Aggressive Behavior

There was a time when the phrase passive-aggressive was rarely uttered among non-psychologists. But it’s a phrase that is mentioned often these days.

The problem is, passive-aggressive behavior is almost so common, that it’s hard for people to pinpoint what that behavior looks like exactly.

Do you know any passive-aggressive people? Chances are you do. But do you know the real behaviors to spot? If not, keep reading to find out.

They Won’t Say No

Passive-aggressive people love playing the part of the victim and martyr. Therefore they’ll never just come out and say “no” to something. Instead, they’ll go along with others’ plans and needs, and then sigh, shake their head and roll their eyes because they didn’t get their own way. Do you know anyone like this?

They are Chronic Complainers

Every other sentence out of their mouth seems to be some form of complaint. They are usually low-grade complaints as again, they try to consistently mask their real feelings. It’s always a guessing game with these people.

Backhanded Compliments

“That dress looks so much better on you than the last one that made your hips look big.” Suppressed resentment is their currency and it tends to come out with backhanded compliments.

They Sabotage Other’s Efforts

Do you have a coworker who resents that they weren’t assigned to head your project? Do they show up to work late? Work at a snail’s pace? Take long breaks? When passive-aggressive people don’t get their way, they will throw their brand of a tantrum so everyone suffers.

They Love Getting a Reaction Out of Others

If pushing buttons were an Olympic event, the passive-aggressive person would bring home the gold, silver AND bronze medals. Once they know what annoys you, they can’t help but push, push, push.

They “Accidentally” Withhold Information

Have you ever had a roommate, colleague or romantic partner take a call that you had been waiting for and then “accidentally” forgot to give you the message? Whoopsie! This is to teach you a lesson: don’t ever ask me to do anything for you again.

They Appear to be Brilliantly Absent-Minded

Have you ever known someone who seemed brilliant in so many instances, and yet, in a second, they become the Absent-Minded Professor? They suddenly forgot where they placed the very important documents you need for the board meeting? Or where they put your purse (why did they even touch or move your purse??!!). Again, these are instances of someone who has deep-seated anger and resentment, but who can’t just come forth and confront you in a mature and direct manner.

Dealing with passive-aggressive people is never fun. But if you know what signs to look for, you can steer clear as much as possible!

Why Setting a Strong Female Role Model is Important for Your Daughter

Every Halloween, little girls all over the country choose costumes that reflect what they want to be when they grow up. And each year we see many girls choosing to dress as princesses and fairies, kitty cats and maybe the odd super hero. Rarely do we see young girls dressing as executives, scientists, or world leaders.

It can seem benign enough, but it does beg the question: are young girls still under the impression their choices in life are limited? And what can parents, particularly mothers, do to set a good example?

The Importance of Role Models

If you are a runner, you probably know that for most of human history no one was able to run the 4-minute mile. In 1940, someone actually got to 4:01, and for nine years that is where the record stayed, with not one runner in the entire world being able to break it.

It seemed to everyone that the human body, no matter how fit and trained, would never be able to break that record. But then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.

And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, someone else ran a mile under 4 minutes, and then more runners did it, and then even more. Now it’s common practice for runners to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.

Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are some ways mothers can set a strong female role model for their daughters:

Body Image

It’s important for mothers to encourage their daughters to be healthy and strong, but not to obsess over beauty. It’s not enough to talk the talk, moms have got to take care of their bodies and health and accept themselves as they are.

Boundaries

Unless they are shown otherwise, young girls may grow up assuming they must constantly please others and never say no. Moms, it’s important to show your daughters that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary.

Confidence

Confidence comes from a mindset that failure and mistakes are merely chances to learn. It also comes from knowing strengths and abilities as well as limitations. In other words, confidence is a byproduct of knowing and accepting our true selves.

 

Are you having a hard time being the role model you’d like to be? Maybe you’re a stressed-out single parent who could use some coping strategies. If you’d like to speak with someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201205/female-role-models-the-absent-conversation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201205/i-could-do-why-role-models-matter

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beauty-sick/201705/gift-mothers-daughters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201402/9-ways-be-the-best-role-model-you-can-be

https://www.nomeatathlete.com/4-minute-mile-certainty/

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Your Loved Ones

Over the past several years, there have been numerous traumatic events all across the country. From incidents of mass violence to devastating natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of Americans have experienced or witnessed a disastrous or life-threatening event. In addition to tragedies such as these, anyone who has experienced a shocking or dangerous incident (such as a car accident or a robbery) is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a serious mental disorder that requires medical treatment. PTSD can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s life, from their marriage and family, to their friendships and career. If you’re concerned that a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for.

Reliving the Trauma

Someone with PTSD will have repeated, involuntary re-experiences of the event. They may experience bad dreams or flashbacks. They’re also vulnerable to certain triggers that remind them of what happened, such as sounds or smells.

Angry Outbursts

Someone silently suffering from trauma may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. Feeling irritable, the sufferer may be prone to outbursts of anger that they can’t control. If you’ve noticed your loved one frequently losing control and lashing out in anger, this is a sign that they’re suffering emotionally and require treatment.

Withdrawal

People suffering from PTSD will avoid people and situations that are reminders of the situation. As the victim continues to isolate themselves, how their friends and family react to their withdrawal will likely further isolate them, causing additional emotional distress.

Substance Abuse

It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to self-medicate. Seeking an escape from high levels of stress and difficult emotions, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. The painful trademark of substance abuse is the growing need for more of the drug to produce the same high. If left untreated, as substance abuse grows, the abuse will turn to addiction and eventually dependence. This can have devastating effects on every facet of a person’s life.

 

If you’re concerned that a loved one is experiencing symptoms of trauma, the most important think you can do is encourage them to seek professional diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. You can help by contacting offices and vetting therapists on their behalf, and volunteer to take them to an appointment. Assure them of your love and support throughout the process.

For additional guidance and recommendations from a licensed professional, call my office today.