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.

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!

10 Signs You Might Be a “Highly Sensitive Person”

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. In fact, scientists now believe there is a gene behind this trait.

But what does it mean to be highly sensitive? The HSP is generally defined as someone with “acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.”

The bad news is, being highly sensitive can make many “normal” life situations feel awkward and downright uncomfortable. But fear not, there are some benefits to being highly sensitive, and I’ll share those a little later in this post.

Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person

If you are curious whether you may be part of the population that is highly sensitive, here are 10 signs to look for:

  1. You are quick to feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.
  2. You may feel physical symptoms in relation to these emotions, such as headaches and muscle tension.
  3. You become overwhelmed with physical stimuli such as sound, light and smells.
  4. You have never felt comfortable around crowds. The energy of the crowd easily overwhelms you.
  5. You become very emotional over the injustices of the world. (you cry or become angry at the thought of children or animals being harmed, as an example)
  6. You often worry what others think of you.
  7. You take things personally.
  8. You have a hard time letting things go and receiving critical feedback.
  9. You avoid most social situations and prefer to stay home alone.
  10. You startle easily to loud noises.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned earlier, while being a HSP can cause you to feel awkward or overwhelmed at times, there are some definite perks to being highly sensitive. For starters, you are someone who can enjoy subtle sensory detail that a majority of the population misses. You get pleasure from noticing the end of day light play. You’ll notice subtle shades of color and texture and feel immense pleasure at the complexities of Indian cuisine.

You’re also someone others like being around because you are aware of others’ feelings, needs and emotions. Because of this natural empathy, HSPs make great teachers, managers and leaders.

HSPs are also incredibly creative. Many artists, musicians and famous actors are highly sensitive people who have gifted the world with their talent and insight into what it means to be human.

As you can see, if you can manage the negative aspects of being a highly sensitive person, you can reap some pretty great rewards.

If you or someone you love suspects they are a HSP and would like to explore treatment options to manage those negative aspects, please get in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.

5 Steps to Better Emotional Health

When it comes to our overall well-being, taking care of our emotional health is as important as taking care of our physical health. After all, when we aren’t healthy emotionally, our bodies react by raising our blood pressure, creating ulcers, and impeding our immune system from doing its job.

Here are 5 ways you can improve your emotional health starting today:

  1. Get Your Body Moving

Any form of exercise can have a significant and positive impact on your mood. Not only does exercise help your body burn through stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, it also releases feel good chemicals called endorphins, which help fight pain and make you happy. On top of this, you simply have a better self-esteem when you commit to exercising regularly.

  1. Build a Support Network

It’s very important to have a group of family and friends that you trust to share your problems with. We all need someone to lean on every once in a while who will listen and make us feel less alone.

If you’re currently feeling isolated, reach out to some old friends while making new ones. Consider volunteering or using a social gathering website like MeetUp.com to find people who share your passions and interests.

  1. Have More Sex

Physical intimacy within a committed relationship leads to numerous emotional benefits. You feel loved and secure because of a deep connection. You also feel good about yourself, and a healthy self-esteem is important to our overall well-being.

If you find you and your partner simply don’t have the time, make the time. Create a schedule and stick to it. It could be once a week, three times a week or even twice a month, whatever works.

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet

During stressful times, many of us make unhealthy food choices. After all, comfort foods, which are often laden with fat and processed carbohydrates, are supposed to make us feel better, right? Wrong.

Eating food high in sugars or drinking alcohol can negatively affect our emotional health. Sugar and other chemicals found in the foods we eat and beverages we drink alter our brain chemistry, often leading to feelings of anger, sadness, and even hopelessness.

It’s important to eat a healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meat, and whole grains. Restrict your consumption of processed foods.

  1. Work with a Therapist

Sometimes, whatever is affecting your emotions may feel too big for you to handle alone. During times like these it’s important to seek guidance from a therapist who can help you understand your behaviors and reactions to events, as well as offer tools to help you cope and manage.

If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with a temporary emotional slump or full-blown depression, contact a mental health professional as soon as possible.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Signs You Aren’t Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is complex. Anyone can tell you to do it, but only you can bestow the gift of self-care onto yourself. But before you can begin bestowing, you’ve got to first recognize that you are worthy of caring for yourself as you do others.

How do you do this? By noticing the ways in which you are currently not taking very good care of yourself.

Here are 5 signs you aren’t practicing self-care. If any seem familiar, it is time to make more time for yourself:

1. You Get Sick More Often

When we don’t take proper care of ourselves, our health takes a big hit. Lack of proper sleep and nutrition can lead to a taxed immune system, which in turn makes you vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

2. Increased Moodiness

What happens when a child does not get the care and attention they deserve? They begin to act out in order to get any attention. In much the same way, a lack of self-care and feeling of unimportance can lead to increased irritability. Leaving this unchecked can result in personal and professional relationships being negatively affected.

3. Unpleasant Physical Symptoms

What can start out as unpleasant (and even scary) physical symptoms, can be a sign of poor self-care. Symptoms may include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, headaches, and fainting spells. All of these symptoms should be checked out by your healthcare provider immediately.

4. A Feeling of Isolation

When you feel you don’t deserve to care for yourself, you naturally feel unworthy of enjoying other aspects of life, like socializing and a true connection to friends and family. This can lead to a detachment of others and a sense of isolation.

5. Depression

Feelings of worthlessness can snowball into feelings of hopelessness and depression. If you have noticed yourself slipping farther and farther into a depression, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you recognize where the darkness has come from, and how to break through back into the light.

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, or would simply like some help practicing self-care, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Treat Yourself: The Importance of Putting Yourself First & Self Care

If I asked whether you were the victim of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), would you know how to answer? Probably not. CEN is often misunderstood and therefor, misdiagnosed.

Childhood emotional neglect means an individual was not provided the emotional support from parents and other adults that is required to grow up to be a confident person with a healthy self-esteem. Though a parent may never physically harm the child and provide them with food, healthcare, clothing and shelter, they may still emotionally neglect their child causing psychological harm.

Symptoms of CEN

In her book “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”, Dr. Jonice Webb outlined some of the most commonsymptoms of CEN:

  • Feeling numb or cut off from your own feelings
  • Feeling like something has always been missing
  • Feeling hollow
  • Having a low self-esteem
  • Feeling the need to be perfect
  • Being overly-sensitive
  • Lack of self-care while taking care of everyone else

That last symptom is a biggie. Have you found that for most of your life, your needs always came second (if not third or fourth?). If yes, it’s time to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can begin to treat yourself better:

Take Baby Steps

You’ve spent years believing your needs didn’t matter, don’t expect that putting yourself first will come easy to you. It won’t. It will feel awkward and downright wrong to put yourself first. The important thing is that you take baby steps each day to show yourself you matter.

Ask Yourself What You Need

If you’ve experienced CEN, you’re most likely unaware you even haveneeds, so you probably won’t be able to identify them right away. Take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself what you need and be sure to listen!

Stay Healthy

You have a big and exciting journey ahead of you, one in which you will be exploring your inner world and getting to finally know yourself. This is going to require strength and energy. Be sure to avoid processed foods and opt instead for whole foods focusing on fruits and veggies.

Also, be sure to get plenty of exercise and enough rest. Adults generally require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so don’t cheat your body. And avoid using the TV, computer, or your smartphone before bed.

Learn to Say No

Guess what? If you want to put yourself first more often, you’re going to sometimes have to say “no” to other people. Don’t feel guilty about doing this. Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not only your right to say no to others sometimes, it’s your personal responsibility.

Get Support

As wonderful as your self-discovery journey will be, it will be fraught with bumps in the road. It’s important that you have someone who will support your efforts without judgements or criticism.

Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to manage stress in the future. A therapist will help you prioritize your needs moving forward and recognize your emotions and needs matter.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you on your journey.

Get Some Sleep! 5 Tips for Busting Through Your Insomnia

If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, the chronic inability to get sufficient sleep, is a common problem affecting millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 study, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

With a lack of sleep at the root of serious medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are five things you can do to change your routine and start getting to, and staying, asleep.

1. Just Two Things in Bed
Make sure that your bed is used only for two things: sex and sleep. By using your bed almost exclusively for sleep, your body will associate your bed with rest and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise (the recommended thirty minutes a day, five days a week) will help you promote healthy sleep habits. Your post-exercise temperature may promote falling asleep, and exercise in general will help eliminate insomnia by decreasing arousal and anxiety.

3. Naps, Caffeine, & Alcohol
Short naps are helpful for some, but for others it impacts their ability to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, avoid naps during the day. Caffeine, a known stimulant, may keep you up longer than you’re aware. You may need to avoid caffeine entirely if it prevents you from falling asleep. And, while alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt your sleep; so if you have trouble staying asleep, avoid alcohol.

4. No Screens Before Bedtime
Screen time, such as computers, smart phones and television, prevent you from falling asleep due to cognitive stimulation. Too much light at bedtime affects your melatonin production, giving your body the impression that its staying awake, not ready for sleep. Help your body get ready for sleep by eliminating screen time at least two hours before bed.

5. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a regular nighttime routine will help your body get into the habit of winding down and relaxing as it prepares for sleep. Create a nighttime routine an hour or two before bed. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and read a book every night before bed. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

Changing old habits and establishing a new routine is never easy. But as you make changes and sustain new practices, it will get easier. Before long you’ll have a new set of healthy habits, and you can finally settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Are you struggling with insomnia and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.