How to Help an Aging Parent with Depression

As our parents age, we want to treasure them for as long as we can, so we look for ways to help them stay healthy and active. But many older people suffer from depression, a condition that is not always easy to battle.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 or older. Some have experienced episodes of depression throughout their life, while others may experience the first onset later in life, even well into their 80s and 90s.

What Causes Depression in Older People?

As mentioned, preexisting depression often leads to episodes later in life, particularly if the person has never been officially diagnosed or treated. Individuals with a history of anxiety often become more fearful as they age as well. As a result, they often isolate themselves, rarely participating in social activities, which, in turn, leads to depression.

Some older people have difficulty reviewing their lives. They may not feel proud of the life they’ve led and may get stuck dwelling on the more negative aspects. Perhaps they feel they did not accomplish enough, or they harbor resentment toward an old friend.

And of course, older people have to not only deal with declining abilities but also the loss of loved ones. A unique reality of aging is that your friends start to die, one by one. It is not uncommon for older people to go to several funerals in a single year.

How You Can Help

The very best thing you can do for your parent who you think may be suffering from depression is to offer your love and support. Let them know that you are there for them and happy to help with whatever they may need.

Having said this, it is equally important that you respect their needs for independence. Don’t try to take control of their life and act as if you know what’s best.

Also, consider visiting a therapist who can help your parent work through any unresolved issues and offer management strategies. A professional mental health professional can assess your parent to see if they are a good candidate for medication. Sometimes medication can help, other times, it can impair cognitive function. A therapist will know the right approach to take.

If you or someone you know has been watching their aging parent become more and more depressed, please get in touch with me. Let’s discuss treatment options and see how I may be able to help.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is a set of standardized protocols that incorporate elements from many different treatment approaches. It has been researched extensively and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.

What Issues Can EMDR Treat?

EMDR is used to treat a variety of mental health issues including:

  • – Panic attacks
  • – Complicated grief
  • – Dissociative disorders
  • – Disturbing memories
  • – Phobias
  • – Pain disorders
  • – Performance anxiety
  • – Stress reduction
  • – Addictions
  • – Sexual and/or Physical abuse
  • – Body dysmorphic disorders
  • – Personality Disorders

How Exactly Does EMDR Work?

It appears that EMDR has a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. This is very beneficial to someone who has experienced a trauma, as their brain cannot process information as it normally does.

To these people, a moment in time becomes “stuck” in their minds, and they experience the trauma, the sounds, smells and images over and over again. This, in turn, effects how they see the world around them and relate to other people.

After a successful EMDR session, the brain can once again process information normally, and the person no longer relives the trauma. While they still remember that the event happened, they are not physically, mentally or emotionally upset by it.

What is perhaps most interesting about EMDR is that it appears to be very similar to what occurs naturally during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. For this reason, EMDR can be considered a physiologically based therapy that helps individuals deal with distressing events in a new and less disturbing way.

What are EMDR Sessions Like?

EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that incorporates eight phases of treatment. How long it takes an individual to experience benefits of this therapy depends on their personal history.

Treatment typically targets three different areas: past memories, present disturbance, and future actions. The goal of this treatment is to process information and experiences differently. Each session aims to leave the patient with healthy emotions, understanding, and fresh perspectives that will ultimately lead to healthy and useful future behaviors and interactions.

How Long Does it Take EMDR to Work?

It is often helpful to have one or two sessions with the individual to fully understand the nature of their problem to determine if EMDR therapy will be an appropriate treatment. During these sessions, the therapist will answer any questions the prospective patient may have about EMDR. Once the therapist and individual agree EMDR is the right way to go, actual therapy may begin.

Sessions typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. How many sessions will be required will be based on the type of problem, personal circumstances and the degree of the trauma. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.

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

Recharge Your Life by Putting Yourself First

Most children are brought up to be kind and respectful of other people. They are taught to consider others’ feelings and help those in need. But when it comes to taking care of themselves, many people lack the ability to put their own needs first.

To some, the concept of self-care is as foreign as the language and customs of far away lands. The idea of putting their own needs first feels somehow wrong, or even selfish.

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn to treat yourself as you do others; to put yourself first in a healthy, energizing way. Here are some ways you can rewire your brain so it becomes increasingly easier to put yourself first, thereby recharging your life.

Learn to Say No

Being a caring and compassionate person is wonderful, but sacrificing yourself by saying “yes” all the time to other people’s needs will deplete your energy. Learning to set boundaries and say no is not only your right, it’s your responsibility. Try to start saying no more often, free of guilt.

Ask for Help

When you’ve taken on the role of helping others, it can feel uncomfortable asking for help when you need it. After all, you’re the one people go to when in need how can you possibly allow yourself to be in a position where help is required?

The thing to remember is, all of these people who come to you for help feel no shame or discomfort in asking for it. They need help, they ask for it, they get it. Try to do the same. As soon as you release the pressure you’ve put on yourself to handle everything alone, you will feel a tremendous weight lifted.

Get to Know Yourself!

Do you know what makes you tick? What do you like and dislike? People who are wired to neglect their own needs don’t typically know themselves very well. Knowing oneself is seen as a luxury they can’t afford.

Self-love and self-care require you get to know your SELF. Take some time to discover what you enjoy. Once you find what it is that pleases you, commit to doing it more often. Having more pleasure in your life will make you a happier person.

Taking these actions will have a tremendous impact on your life. As you get better and better at putting your needs first, you will feel happier and more empowered. You will know, deep down, that your own needs matter and you are worth the effort.

Some people have a tremendously hard time with these exercises because they have a very low self-esteem. And the longer you have lived with a low self-esteem, the harder it is to make positive changes.

In these instances, seeking the guidance of a trained therapist can be incredibly beneficial. He or she can help you work through any childhood trauma and provide tools to manage any anxiety or depression that often accompanies a low self-esteem.

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.

Overcoming Addiction: How Loved Ones Can Help

For decades, individuals suffering from addiction have traveled the same route toward recovery with some measure of success. That route entailed combining a recovery program, such as AA, with therapy.

The problem with this traditional route is that therapists and program leaders had only marginal potential for influencing patients outside the office or treatment center. Once outside these walls, patients are free to walk away from any plan or situation they feel restrictive and uncomfortable.

For this reason, it has increasingly become the norm to include family and friends into the treatment plan. This invaluable network of loved ones can work together and spur the patient into action. Brought to act in concert, loved ones can serve as a sort of therapeutic device.

Here are some ways that a supportive network of loved ones can help in the treatment of addiction.

Social Cohesiveness

Social cohesiveness is the glue that keeps a group of people together. Whether that group is a society, a sports team or a business organization, the psychological and emotional well-being of all members of that group is directly proportional to the feelings of cohesiveness shared by all.

When the relationship between cohesiveness and emotional being is harnessed within a social network of loved ones and the patient forms a bond and closeness with this network, the group can encourage the patient to meet their expectations through abstinence.

An Inability Toward Denial

Addicts are known for self-destructive behavior. The only way they can live day-to-day in such a destructive manner is to develop patterns of denial. For instance, their job is on the line NOT because of their addiction, but because their boss has always had it out for them.

Obviously, these denial patterns are in direct contrast to the realistic, common sense views held by members of the support network. In order to feel accepted into this group, the addict must resolve this conflict and adopt the viewpoint of loved ones. Of course, this doesn’t happen easily or overnight. Usually an addict will become defensive and even withdrawn. But through the continued support of loved ones, over time the addict can change their own perceptions.

Coercion

Coercion typically carries a negative connotation, but in this instance, coercion can help an addict change their behavior. Any group or society has the power to “force” reluctant members to comply with its norms of behavior. This is done through social pressures.

Within a group of loved ones, actions such as the withdrawal of affection, the expression of group disapproval or the disruption of social interactions desirable to the addict can be very coercive. Interestingly enough, the steps do not even have to be taken. Just the threat of them is often more than enough to encourage the addict’s compliance.

When acted in concert and guided by a trained mental health professional, loved ones can play a crucial role in the recovery of an addict.

If you are a loved of an addict and are interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help your family.

4 Ways Relationships Shift When Facing Grief

Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the biggest challenge a person faces. Grieving can feel overwhelming and consume every facet of your life. It is during this time that you need the comfort of others the most, and yet social connections often feel strained as your relationships and social network seem to be flipped upside-down.

Here are four ways relationships can shift when you are trying to navigate the loss of a loved one:

  1. 1. Your Support System May Surprise You

You may be surprised who steps up in your greatest hour of need. Some of your closest loved ones, those who have been by your side through dating and childbirth and other life dilemmas, may not be able to be there for you during your bereavement. It is often people you’d least expect who show up to hold your hand while you grieve. An old friend you’ve lost touch with, a co-worker you’ve hardly spoken to but who understands the complexities of living with death… these are sometimes the people who help the hurt go away.

  1. 2. You Will Feel Angry – And That’s Okay

You will try and understand why your closest friends and relatives seem to have abandoned you during one of the most painful times in your life. But understanding won’t make the pain of it go away.

Yes, it’s important to realize that not everyone can cope with death and loss, including the people closest to you. It’s also important to recognize that feeling this additional pain, and even anger and resentment about feeling abandoned, is totally normal and okay.

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  1. 3. People Will Avoid You

Losing loved ones is something all of us will go through, but some people cannot handle this reality. Just the thought of a loved one dying is more than many people can bear. Seeing your pain and sitting with you in your time of darkness will force others to look this stark reality in the face. Many people simply can’t do it. If you find that friends and relatives seem to be avoiding you, understand it is most likely because they cannot handle their own fears of loss.

  1. 4. You Will Have Something in Common with Others

For most people, it’s hard to understand certain things until they experience it themselves: Having children, running a marathon, getting divorced. Losing a loved one is certainly on this list as well. While your current group of loved ones will try to empathize with you, the reality is that you now belong to a special club and those who you feel close to and understood by may change.

This does not mean you will no longer feel close to those you did before the loss, but it means you have now changed and how you perceive the world and others has changed as well.

Relationships are hard, and they can be more difficult during periods of loss and grief. It’s important that you are gentle with yourself during this time and seek help. Consider joining a support group. Being around those who share your pain firsthand can be a comfort during this time.

You may also want the guidance of a therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to work through your grief.

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.

6 Signs of Depression in Teens

Ask any parent what their main job is and they will tell you it’s protecting their children and keeping them safe. New parents spend hours, if not days, baby-proofing the house. They research the best car seats and bike helmets and figure out ways to ensure their kids are safe online.

But, no matter how hard parents work to keep their kids safe, it is very difficult to protect children against mental health issues such as depression. According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), depression affects roughly 11% of adolescents by age 18.

If you are unsure as to whether your own child may be suffering from depression, here are 6 signs to look for:

  1. 1. More Than Just Mood Swings

Thanks to raging hormones, it is quite normal for teenagers to experience mood swings. But those suffering from depression will show wilder and more frequent swings into and out of anger, sadness and irritability.

  1. 2. Academic Problems

A drop in grades and notes from teachers can be a big signal that something is going on. Is your teen getting to school late and/or cutting classes? Are they not showing up at all? Never ignore academic problems.

  1. 3. Changes in Social Behavior

Is your child spending less time with their friends? Do they have new friendships that you question? Or are they spending more and more time isolated? Changes in social behavior are often the first signal kids are in trouble.

  1. 4. A Loss of Interest in Their Favorite Activities

Did your teen use to love playing basketball or spend hours drawing? Have they suddenly lost interest in these activities? If your child no longer shows interest in favorite hobbies and activities, this is an indicator that something is wrong.

  1. 5. A Lack of Motivation

Granted, teenagers are not known for being highly-motivated individuals, but those suffering from depression will show a marked decline in motivation.

  1. 6. A Family History of Depression

If you or someone else in your family suffer from depression, there is a very good chance your teen may also suffer from it.

If you have noticed one or more of these signs, it’s important to seek help from a mental health therapist. While you may want to, you can’t love depression away. It needs strategic attention and a plan for management.

A therapist will be able to assess your teen for depression and provide coping skills and tools for dealing with symptoms. If you or a loved one are concerned for a teen’s safety and would like to explore treatment options, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Setting Goals for Self-Esteem

Many people set goals to get in better physical shape. They want tighter buns, six pack abs and arms that never jiggle. But how many people decide to work on their inner selves?

No matter what we look like on the outside, it’s who we are on the inside that really dictates our lives. Self-esteem reflects the relationship we have with ourselves. The better this relationship is, the better our other relationships can be.

Most of us could use a good self-esteem boost. What’s the best way to do that? Through goal setting.

But these goals can’t be just any ol’ goals. To really set ourselves up for success, we need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Smart stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

What does this look like in real life?

Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t gotten around to? Perhaps you started a project a while ago but have yet to complete it. Deep down this lack of completion has caused your self-esteem to take a hit.

Let’s say you’ve been wanting (and very much needing) to clean out the garage. You’ve probably said to yourself, “I’ve really got to go through the garage and throw a bunch of stuff out.”

That’s an okay start, but as goals go, it’s pretty vague. Let’s use S.M.A.R.T. goals to get the job done.

Here’s a Specific goal: “I am going to clean out and reorganize the garage.”

That’s good. Now how do we make that Measurable? Let’s add some words that will help us know when and if we complete our goal. “I am going to clean out and reorganize the garage so both cars and all of our bikes fit.”

You’ll also want to be able to measure your progress toward your goal to be certain you are staying on track. So, you could decide to spend two hours each Saturday and Sunday for the next 4 weeks. If you do that, you will know you’re on the right path to achieving your goal. If you don’t meet these milestones, you’ll know you’ve gotten off-track.

Now let’s talk about whether or not your goal is Achievable. Well, other human beings have cleaned out and organized their garage, so you know it’s possible. You have the desire and you’ve carved out an appropriate amount of time to complete the job. Yep, this seems like a very achievable goal!

Instead of cleaning out the garage you already have, your goal could have been to build a new garage by yourself all in one weekend, but no, that would not have been an achievable goal.

You know your goal is achievable, but is the schedule you’ve set for yourself Realistic? Do you actually have 4 hours on the weekend to devote to this project, or with your work and family time, is half an hour more realistic? While it’s understandable you want to get the job done as fast as possible, you also don’t want to set yourself up for failure. So be sure your schedule is realistic.

And lastly, you’ll need to set a Time-bound deadline for the attainment of your goal. Will this task be completed in 4 weeks? Will it take two months? Choose a deadline that’s reasonable and motivating at the same time. It’s a balance between being practical and pushing yourself slightly. A date too far in the future could kill your motivation.

Let’s recap. We started with the vague goal of “I’ve really got to go through the garage and throw a bunch of stuff out” and ended up with “I am going to spend four hours every weekend for the next four weeks cleaning out and reorganizing the garage so that both cars and all of our bikes fit.” Now you have a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goal with built-in milestones to get you there. But more importantly, you’ve made a promise to yourself, and keeping this promise is what will enhance your self-esteem.

Of course, sometimes it takes a little more work than reaching a goal to lift our self-esteem. There are experiences in our lives that can truly devastate our sense of self-worth, and often we need the guidance of a therapist to help us recover our sense of identity and self-esteem.

If you or a loved one have struggled with self-esteem issues and are 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 Reasons Why Parents Don’t Discuss Child Sexual Abuse

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18, and 44% of rape victims are under age 18. Sadly, but not surprisingly, victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide according to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Recognizing the real threat of sexual abuse against children is only half the battle. Talking to children about it is necessary to keep them safe. Unfortunately, many parents, particularly those of little children, have a hard time speaking to their kids about sexual abuse.

Here are some of the top reasons parents don’t discuss sexual abuse with their children:

  1. 1. Child Sexual Abuse Doesn’t Happen in My Community

Wrong. Child sexual abuse happens everywhere, from big cities to small farming communities and everywhere in between. No matter your location, religion, race, or yearly income, your life can be affected by it.

  1. 2. Our Children Know Better Than to Talk to Strangers

Sadly, 93% of all child sexual abuse happens at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts. Parents who teach only stranger danger are doing a disservice to their child.

  1. 3. My Child is Too Young to Handle This Discussion

You may be surprised to learn that the appropriate age to begin discussing the topic of child sexual abuse prevention is when a child is three years old. You can teach your young child about appropriate and inappropriate touch by saying something like, “Did you know that the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit are private and are for no-one else to see or touch?” Be sure to include any exceptions to this rule for potty training, hygiene and doctors’ visits. Also, explain that if someone does give them the “bad kind of touch,” that they are to tell Mommy or Daddy or their teacher.

  1. 4. I Don’t Want to Frighten My Child

You most likely don’t refrain from teaching your child about traffic safety for fear that your child will be scared to cross the street. Teaching body safety is equally important and, if done properly, can empower children.

  1. 5. My Child Would Come to Me if Something Ever Happened

Most children don’t immediately tell their parents. Typically, the perpetrator convinces them that the act is “their little secret” or that their parents will be angry with them. Be sure to tell your children that you would never ever be angry at them and they should come to you immediately if they ever became a victim of sexual abuse.

Children who have been the victim of sexual assault will require love and support. Parents of victims should consider seeking the guidance of a trained therapist who can help the child communicate facts and handle feelings.

If you or someone you know is a parent of a child who has been sexually abused and 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.

What Happy People Do Differently

Do a search right now on Amazon books on the topic of “Happiness” and you will be returned page after page of titles, all claiming to have the secret to finding it. Why our obsession with happiness? Maybe the better questions is, why does happiness seem to elude so many people?

At one time, humans were too busy running from Sabre-Tooth Tigers and searching for food to be concerned with whether or not they were happy. But, thanks to drive-thru windows, penicillin and financial security, modern man has extended his mortality and now has the time to focus on self-growth.

An expanding body of research has also suggested that happiness doesn’t just feel good, it is linked to other benefits such as better immune-system function and higher earnings. No wonder so many of us pine for it.

But what is happiness exactly? We feel happy when we are with the people we love. We feel happy when we’re watching a funny movie or eating our favorite pasta dish. But happiness seems more than just an emotion because emotions are fleeting and transient.

So, what is it then?

Happiness is a state of mind, and as such, can be intentional and strategic. This is good news because it means we can intentionally make choices that lead to a positive state of mind – AKA happiness. We can look to the people who seem naturally happy and copy what they do.

And here’s what they do:

They Understand Growth is Painful

Many people play life safe. They eat at the same restaurants, vacation at the same place every year and spend time with the same people. But sustained happiness is not about being safe and settled. It’s about discovery and growth, which require life lived outside of your comfort zone.

They Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff and they are not perfectionists. Rather, they possess a devil-may-care attitude about their performance. A review of research literature found that the happiest people, those who scored a 9 or 10 out of 10 on measures of life satisfaction, typically didn’t perform as well as moderately happy people in accomplishments such as grades, class attendance or work salaries.

This is not to say that we should all stop trying our best. But it does suggest that it’s okay to sacrifice some degree of achievement if it means we don’t have to sweat the small stuff and worry ourselves into glumness.

They Feel Their Feelings

You would think that really happy people are happy all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Psychologically healthy people are those that understand the importance of letting some things roll off their backs as well as feeling their genuine emotions. Happy people don’t deny their distasteful or uncomfortable emotions, they don’t sweep them under the rug. They instead use their negative emotions as signals so they can make different choices in the future.

For instance, a happy person might feel jealous because a coworker got a promotion and they didn’t. These people don’t wallow in the feeling of jealousy. They see this emotion as a signal that they could have done something differently to achieve a more desirable outcome.

If you don’t think you are as happy as you should be, try to take more risks, don’t sweat the small stuff and feel out your feelings while looking for ways to make better choices.

If you’ve always been someone who shies away from their emotions, it may be difficult to feel out your feelings. A therapist can help you get acquainted with your emotional life and offer tools so you can navigate your emotions in the future.

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.