Anxiety Treatment: When The Mind Feels In Danger

Anxiety has a mind of its own. The feeling creeps up on us, suddenly giving us the impression that we are unsafe or in some kind of danger. Feeling anxious is so difficult to bear, that we look for an immediate way to relieve it. The sensations of anxiety can range from momentary disturbance to a more generalized daily disturbance. Whatever form, from mild to panic, the feeling of being out of control and not understanding what is happening to us can be very frightening. In fact, many people wind up in the emergency room of their local hospital thinking they are having a heart attack, when they are having an anxiety attack.

Anxiety is contained by our bodies. The sensations can cause such an intense physical response, such as heart palpitations or sweaty palms, that we become confused. These symptoms might be thought to mimic a heart attack. The sudden adrenalin, similar to “fight or flight”, can also occur when the mind feels in danger, as a response to feeling psychologically threatened. This can be in or out of our awareness.

When it comes to mental health, anxiety rarely exists by itself without explanation, even when the cause may be out of our awareness. Since anxiety is a physiological reaction to a stressor, it is important to identify the source of one’s conflict. If you do not know, and your anxiety cannot be explained by ruling out other causes, then it is time to discuss the problem with a trained professional. Even when we are aware of what is causing this feeling, it does not necessarily mean that you will be able to reduce or minimize it on your own. At times, medication may be helpful, but always in conjunction with seeking psychotherapy. If our psychological “thermostat” is broken, then consulting with a professional helps to regulate mood to sustain stability.

I am trained to help you identify underlying factors that may be contributing to you feeling anxious, particularly those that are out of your awareness. Please call me to make an appointment.

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy gives couples a chance to discuss their thoughts and feelings in new and more effective ways that often are not accomplished at home. I work with couples actively to improve their communication, thereby increasing intimacy and fostering care and compromise. Within a safe environment, I both teach and model communication skills without blame or judgment. Each member of the couple is to understand both themselves and their partner more deeply in an effort to reduce conflict within the relationship and increase satisfaction.

Couples often react to one another, without taking the time to clarify with their partner. They assume their partner can read their mind. Issues that tear couples apart can range from secrets to money to control and/or betrayal. Relationships do not work on attraction alone. When children are involved, or part of the problem, the couple must learn in parenthood to present a united front. More couples are broken because each parent sets a different rule or standard without discussing together what they believe is right for their children. Often times this involves a discussion of each partner’s background and what was demonstrated to them by their parents. Since most parents learn to parent from the way they were raised, they carry on dysfunctional patterns in their own marriages with their spouses. A review of each partner’s values must be considered in order to create more honesty in the relationship. Couples must make a commitment to the therapy process and attend regular sessions in order to forge future success towards a common, collaborative goal.

Are you doing the same things over and over again expecting different results?

Loss & Grief Counseling

Grief is universal. At some point in our lives, each one of us will experience grief.  We often think of grief as painful feelings that follow the death of someone close to us, yet grief often accompanies other significant losses-divorce, the loss of a job, a home, friends, a pet, our health, a diagnosis of infertility or even cancer.  Grief can create a devastating feeling of loss.  There is no “right” way to grieve. Everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. Every culture also has their own way of grieving. The healing process is unique to each individual.

What makes grief complicated is when someone has had prior losses and particularly if those losses are unresolved.  The loss then tends to be compounded. The prior loss “melts” into the current loss and one has a traumatic grief reaction.  What matters is the meaning we have given to what we have lost. This takes some sorting out and that is where psychotherapy comes in. Some people feel they have lost a part of themselves after losing someone they were very close to. The deeper the connection with someone that we have lost, the more deeply we feel the loss and the harder it is to bear. We make emotional investments in people and in our experiences. We come to depend on these attachments. They may have given us a sense of security. They may have given us a sense of belonging. Loving someone or even a pet, for example, has brought us invaluable joy. Being cut off from something we have loved, that has brought so much meaning into our lives, is indescribably painful. Each person must find his or her own words to give the loss its meaning.

Grief throws us off balance and disrupts our everyday equilibrium. The grieving process is truly a dance that I would describe as one foot forward and two steps back. It is a series of steps. It has an ebb and flow that works with time. It is a relinquishment of what was, and an honoring of someone or something that we must take in and make something new from. Saying goodbye can be overwhelming and frightening. If forging ahead feels too difficult to do alone, then talking with a professional may feel very comforting.

Move beyond the pain caused by loss

Bereavement Therapy

Whether someone you know has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or you have had sudden and unexpected news of someone’s death, this is shocking. The topic of death and dying makes many people very uncomfortable and avoidant. It can be so “taboo”, that even emergency room and trauma physicians are uncomfortable talking with families about a loved one’s death. Having worked in a trauma medical center for many years, I know just how frightening and devastating it can be for people to have to cope with the threat of losing someone close to them. It doesn’t seem to matter whether a loved one has been taken from us suddenly, or whether we have had time to prepare ourselves for letting go of someone; the loss or anticipated loss leaves family members feeling confused and frightened. Often there is panic and overwhelming anxiety, and the uncertainty that loved ones have to sit with creates tremendous tension within and amongst family members. If the family is called upon to make difficult medical decisions for a loved one who cannot speak for themselves, this creates agitation and easily stirs up feelings from the past, including unresolved resentments. Death pulls up from within us the deepest of conflicts that we will ever have to bear.

When a family member has become a care giver for a loved one who is dying, there is a great expense of emotional energy. The experience can be very emotionally draining if someone does not take care of themselves in this process. Care givers can become so consumed that it changes their life entirely. After the death of a loved one who has been ill a long time, the care itself that has “anchored” someone through the illness is gone, and there may be difficulty finding one’s life again.

Family members are also very uncomfortable about talking to their loved one(s) about dying and often avoid any discussion with the dying person. These are painful and personal experiences, both for those that are dying and the loved ones who are caring for them. Death affects each person that is involved in multiple ways, including psychologically, physically, spiritually and financially.

Death and dying brings painful grief. If you are touched by a “heaviness of heart” and deeply troubled by the finality of death, you are not alone. Seeking psychotherapy helps to attach thoughts to the feeling of sorrow, ultimately accepting the unacceptable.

Depression Therapy

Depression is the feeling that we are carrying a heavy weight that is too burdensome. It is a feeling of being “lost”. We are separate from the world and the world is much bigger than we are. There is a feeling of aloneness. The world is carrying on without us and we are being left behind. You may feel a “lifelessness” or a persistent sadness or what most people describe as “feeling down”.  Feeling disappointed by our relationships or our everyday experiences, some people have felt this way ever since they can remember, and others have some precipitant which occurs that brings these feelings on. Depression is so common and felt by so many at some period of a person’s life that it has become a national public health problem. Over 21 million people every year suffer from and are treated for depression.

Depression is different from grief.  Both actually involve loss. Sometimes grief can cause a depression, triggering prior losses in someone’s life.  Both often times have look-a-like symptoms.  Yet depression is a longer standing feeling of emptiness-that there is a “void”-something is “missing” in one’s life.  Most people think depression exists outside of themselves and if they change something on the outside then their depression will go away. Often times this may work for awhile, but depression is a feeling that lingers on and tends to re-surface after the temporary change has been made. I see depression as a feeling that is about who and what we are on the inside. It is within us and it has to do with how we feel about ourselves. Are we critical of ourselves all the time? Can we ever do enough to measure up? Does life seem very black or white? Why are we never satisfied? Are you “soul-searching”?  These kinds of questions are different from grief. They require us to put on a different set of eyeglasses to see.

During the course of our life cycle, we pass through different stages. The way we feel about ourselves usually originates from the earliest of experiences and the most important being with those who we have attachments with. When our early beginnings get off to a not-so-great start, we often are impacted later in adulthood. Chances are that if you experienced trauma, or felt neglected and/or suffered abuse, there is likelihood you are more prone to depression. Certainly losing a parent at a young age or even a sibling can be traumatic. Yet, even when we feel we have had a good family experience, there may be strong feelings generated by those important bonds that interfere with our everyday relationships and satisfaction with life.

I will help you overcome the internal obstacles that lead to difficulties in your mood, behavior, self-esteem and relationships.” ~ Dr. Beth Siegel

Co-Dependency Treatment: Needing an Identity of One’s Own

Just about everybody knows someone who is struggling with the abuse of a substance. Alcoholism in particular is so widespread in our society that in the last fifteen years there are more treatment centers than ever before providing assistance to those who have lost control over their drinking. What about family members? Alcoholism is a relationship buster. It breaks down families and damages children. It leaves spouses feeling helpless, confused and frightened. Family members know there is a problem. Everybody walks on egg shells. Talking to a loved one doesn’t help and sometimes makes it worse. Living with addiction makes life unpredictable every day. There are fights and arguments and chaos, and then there is peace-until there isn’t again and the cycle starts over. I work with adult children of alcoholics. I work with recovering alcoholics who are touched by someone’s active drinking and the roles are reversed. I work with spouses who know little about addiction. I work with mothers who are trying to protect their children. I work with adult children who have married into addiction, unknowingly, repeating the patterns of their past. Addiction is so prevalent that approximately half of all American families have been or are impacted by alcoholism.

If you are someone who lives with addiction, you worry a lot. You have become very vigilant of someone else’s drinking to the point of unhealthy pre-occupation. You ask more questions than you have answers to. You are embarrassed and feel the need to hide information about a loved one from your own friends. You feel isolated. You frequently ask your loved one to cut down or get help. You tend to feel alone and burdened by all this.

Family members who struggle in this way find that they lose themselves and their self-respect. They feel trapped. Often there is so much over involvement that a family member builds tremendous resentment. If you see yourself in these scenarios, it is important to get help for yourself so that your perceptions of what is or isn’t going on don’t become distorted by your intense emotions.