How to Tell if Your Child has Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Almost every child displays defiant behavior from time to time, but there are some children who display it more often and to a higher degree. It’s possible that these children have a condition called oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD for short.

How does typical defiant behavior differ from ODD? What do both look like so you know what you may be dealing with?

A young child who tiptoes downstairs in the middle of the night to raid their Halloween candy stash, even though they have been told they can ONLY eat 2 pieces of candy per day, is exhibiting normal defiant behavior. Have you tasted candy? It’s awesome!

A child with ODD would most likely act out as soon as they were told they could only have 2 pieces of candy. They might become enraged in the moment. And, because a vindictive streak is a symptom of ODD, they may lash out on the spot and try and “punish” their parents by breaking something, yelling, throwing a tantrum, or a combination of these behaviors.

And, this kind of behavior would happen more often than not, typically any time the child was told “no.”

Doctors typically diagnose children with ODD based on a few behavioral clusters:

Anger or Chronic Irritability

Children with ODD often lose their temper and can easily become annoyed by others. Some are perpetually angry (for no apparent reason) and can be quite resentful toward friends and family members.

Argumentative and Defiant Behavior

Children and young adults with ODD often argue with their parents and other authority figures. This can result in many trips to the principal’s office, parent teacher conferences, and even suspension.

Those with ODD may also intentionally annoy others, taking pleasure from it, and blame others for their mistakes and misbehavior.


Not only do children with ODD feel they are being intentionally wrong or annoyed by others, they, in return, can be quite spiteful and vindictive, seeking revenge against their supposed perpetrator.

If your child has shown this vindictive behavior at least twice in the past six months, they may have ODD.


As you can see from the list above, the ODD includes both emotional and behavioral symptoms. To be diagnosed with this condition, children and teens are required to exhibit four or more symptoms for at least six months to meet diagnostic criteria for ODD.

In certain cases, children with ODD can also be diagnosed with conduct disorder, a more extreme form of ODD, as a coexisting condition. They may also be diagnosed with other co-exiting conditions such as anxiety, depression, and most commonly, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

It’s important to mention that ODD does not develop overnight, but rather over a period of time. If your child displays ‘only’ one or two symptoms from the above list, and even if these behaviors are not that frequent, you will still need to learn how to keep the situation from escalating. When it comes to parenting defiant children, the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” could not be more relevant. A child or teen with any level of defiance can create big problems for him or herself, friends, and family.

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.

Why Anger is Different from Other Emotions

Of all the emotions, anger is perhaps the one that most people have the hardest time dealing with. That’s most likely because anger is not like the other emotions. It is unique. In fact, a 2017 survey by the Mental Health Foundation of 2000 people found that 28% are sometimes worried about the level of anger that they feel.

While feeling anger can have negative consequences, anger, in general, can move us toward a happier and healthier life.

Here are 5 ways anger is not like other emotions.

  1. It’s Motivating

Anger gives us energy. And while other emotions tend to make us withdraw from others and life, anger causes us to want to engage. Anger is the motivator that gets us to interact with other people, perhaps those we feel are negatively impacting our life. Anger is what often catapults us into social situations and events that are necessary to bring about change.

Anger is one activating emotion.

  1. Anger is Complicated

Anger is not a singular experience, but rather a grouping of feelings. When we become angry, it is because we first feel something else: marginalized, hurt, disrespected, vulnerable, or neglected. In this way, anger is much more complicated than other emotions.

  1. It Yearns to be Expressed 

Other emotions can simply be felt silently, but not anger. It wants to be famous, a star, something that everyone knows about. Anger insists that it be expressed out loud. Unfortunately, most people misdirect their anger, erupting at the wrong times and at the wrong people.

  1. It Can Be Turned Inward or Outward

While we are directing that anger outwardly, and sometimes toward the wrong people, we can just as easily direct it inward toward ourselves. We generally don’t even realize we are doing it until we have done emotional damage.

  1. Anger is Hazardous to Your Health

While feeling sad is uncomfortable, being angry is downright bad for your health. Research has discovered that individuals prone to anger are more at risk for heart attacks and cancer.

While anger can be destructive to relationships and our health, it can also energize us and lead to positive life changes, if harnessed properly. The keys to using anger in a healthy way are to become aware of it when you feel it, recognize the real cause of it and commit to interpreting its message so you can make any necessary changes.

If you are having trouble dealing with feelings of anger 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.

Have You Suddenly Lost Your Confidence? Try These Tips to Regain Your Swagger!

A lot of people talk about coping with low self-esteem, but less is said about self-esteem that comes and goes. The truth is, when it comes to self-esteem, most people fit in the middle of the spectrum, feeling fairly self-confident one minute and then anxious the next.

If you can identify with swings in your confidence, here are some ways to cope:

Understand Emotions Are Your Friend

Though it’s not always easy dealing with uncomfortable emotions, understand that they are part of our evolved warning system. We all have emotions for a reason, and they can be used as helpful guides in our lives, reminding us how we feel about things. Sometimes, however, this system can break down (as in the case of depression and panic attacks), but generally speaking, our emotions are there to help us.

Sometimes a Loss of Confidence is Justified

Sometimes when we have a sudden loss of confidence, it is completely justified. For example, you may have started a new job and don’t know all the ropes or players on your team. One day you pitch an idea to your new boss and colleagues. Most of them react favorably, but one or two people have a negative reaction. That negative response is likely to rock you disproportionately because you feel you have a lot to prove and want to keep your job.

Our psyche has been designed to react to any kind of uncertainty or mixed signals with anxiety. If it weren’t for our ability to find and react to possible dangers, human beings would have gone extinct a long time ago.

The moral of the story is, don’t make your loss of confidence even worse by chastising yourself for feeling less confident. In many situations, it is a common reaction.

A Loss of Confidence Can Help You Make Better Choices

Often when we feel a sudden loss of confidence, it is a signal that we need to make better choices. Our intuition is trying to get our attention and let us know, “Pssst, you’re not doing it quite right,” or “This wasn’t what you had in mind.”

Instead of panicking about your lack of confidence, listen to it to hearwhat it’s trying to tell you.

Some common things it might be trying to say are:

  • Finish what you started
  • Test your strategies to see if they are really working
  • Ask for feedback

Typically, our self-confidence comes back as quickly as it left us. But for some, this might not always be the case. Some people struggle day to day with low confidence because they have underlying low self-esteem. These individuals would greatly benefit from working with a therapist to uncover where these feelings stem from, and how to manage them in the future.

If you or someone you know lacks self-confidence because of a low self-esteem and would like to explore treatment options, please contact me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

5 Ways to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem has become an epidemic in this country, and one that negatively impacts our quality of life. Feelings of unworthiness can begin at a young age and, if neglected, can potentially lead to depression and anxiety.

Because low self-esteem can be so damaging, finding ways to feel better about ourselves and our abilities is vital to our well-being. Here are 5 ways to increase your self-esteem:

  1. Quiet That Inner Critic

Negative self-talk is a common issue for people with low self-esteem. If you’re one of those people whose inner critic is constantly beating them up, it’s important you quiet that voice. Try to replace any negative comments with positive ones. Stop focusing on your weaknesses and instead focus on your strengths and abilities.

  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

We are all so unique. Sadly, instead of celebrating what makes us individuals, many of us spend time comparing ourselves to others. And, should we find we don’t quite measure up to others’ standards, we feel inadequate. Stop comparing yourself to others and instead concentrate on being the best version of you that you can be.

  1. Give Up the Quest to be Perfect

Being human means being imperfect. We all have flaws, we are all works in progress. And that’s okay. Striving to be something that simply doesn’t exist is futile and exhausting. And before you say that so many celebrities are perfectly beautiful and lead perfect lives, guess again. Hollywood’s A-listers are typically photoshopped and many have been treated for depression and addiction. They are human and struggling like anyone else.

Stop trying to be perfect and instead set attainable goals for yourself.

  1. Start Loving Your Body

Many people struggle with body image issues. Much of it is because of the photoshopping I just mentioned. It’s hard to love your body when you are expected to look like the people that grace the covers of magazines.

Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, on how much you weigh or how big your muscles are, focus on being healthy. Be grateful for your health and make healthy choices so you can always feel good and vibrant.

  1. Cut Back on Social Media

Social media has its good points, but it can also set unrealistic expectations regarding relationships and lifestyles. It’s important to remember that online, people tend to only post images that make their lives seem awesome. But that’s not always an accurate presentation. Spending too much time looking at other people leading fun lives can lead us to spending less time enjoying our own.

If self-esteem issues have become a serious problem in your life, leading to anxiety and depression, consider working with a therapist who can help you work through your memories and emotions.

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.

How to Tell if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

people seem to be born with nerves on the outside of their skin. These people
tend to be more sensitive than their parents, brothers and sisters, or the kids
in their class. They can’t get through a movie (even a comedy!) or a TV
commercial without shedding a few tears. The slightest bit of criticism causes
them real pain, and they are empathic to anyone around them.

are these people are told by everyone, “You’re too sensitive!” Well the truth
is, some people are more sensitive
than others. They are not only sensitive to emotions, but also to energy, sound,
light, and other physical stimulus. These people are, literally, called Highly
Sensitive People, or HSP for short.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

the following characteristics ring true for you?

very emotional

positive or negative, you experience emotions intensely, react strongly to
them, and cry easily.

very compassionate and generous

have always been a natural caretaker, seeking to offer comfort and help to
those who suffer. You also go out of your way to avoid offending anyone or
hurting their feelings.

sensitive to criticism

doesn’t feel constructive so much as it feels personal and painful. You are not
able to let it roll off your shoulders as others do, and therefore allow
criticism to keep you safe in your comfort zone.

feel different from everyone else and sometimes alone

always known, or had it pointed out to you, that you were somehow different
from everyone else. Because other people have told you that you need to
“toughen up,” you see your sensitivity as a weakness and often feel alone.

sensitive to external stimuli

no one else around you seems to notice that the buzz of the overhead lights is
driving you nuts! As is the sound of your coworkers chewing, the rough fabric
of your shirt and the smell of the extravagant flower arrangement.

overthink and worry

notice every detail and overthink what should be a simple decision, like where
to go for lunch. You also get stuck in the rehashing and what-if rut.


walk into a room and instantly get a “feel” for it. You know how people are
feeling. This is fine when the energy is positive, but when it’s negative…
watch out!

often tired and overwhelmed

you deal with the emotions of yours and others, as well as so much stimulation
all day-every day, you easily become overwhelmed by all of it and feel as
though you need to sleep more.

What You Can Do

life as an HSP is not easy, but there are some things you can do:

your sensitivity as a positive, not a negative

yourself there is nothing wrong with you and you are not alone

negative people, places and situations

boundaries with people who take advantage of your compassion

to relax through exercise and meditation

yourself the same sympathy and kindness as you do others

at any time you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious because of your
sensitivity, it’s important that you seek the guidance of a therapist who can
help you manage your emotions.

you or a loved one are an HSP and would like to seek treatment options, please
get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be
able to help.

3 Great Phone Apps to Help Improve Self Esteem

People who struggle with low self-esteem often hold themselves back from making intimate connections with others and reaching their most desired goals. Luckily, technology is making it easier for these people to give their self-esteem a boost.

Here are 3 great phone apps that can help you improve your self-esteem:

Simply Being

A positive self-image is the result of a positive mindset – and that can be the result of daily meditation. Simply Being is a guided meditation app. Users can intensify the experience by adding their own choice of music or selecting from a list of soothing nature sounds. The app is available on iPhone, iPad, Windows, Android, and Blackberry.

Confidence Coach

Here’s an app that was actually developed by two British Clinical Psychologists. Confidence Coach takes a psychological approach known as Cognitive-Behavior Therapy or CBT for short.

With over 25 years of experience between them, these clinicians combine numerous techniques that, when used, can help change thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Users can monitor their behavior by tracking their strengths in the “Positive Quality Diary” and making use of the “Confidence Commitments” features. These remind users of their daily to-dos for boosting self-esteem.


Coming at self-esteem from a different angle, Happier focuses on inspiring individuals to gain self-esteem by “mindfully curating what makes you happy.” The app illustrates the many simple ways happiness can be instilled in one’s life. Users could spend a few moments with their pet or volunteer at their local soup kitchen. The idea is that by feeling grateful we can feel more positivity about ourselves and our lives.

Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help

A low self-esteem shows up in our lives as a wall; a wall that keeps us from reaching our full potential and fulfillment. To live an authentic life, these walls need to come down. Cognitive Diary  aims to do this by teaching users to establish certain triggers and thought patterns that lead to a negative state of mind. Once these triggers are identified, it becomes easier to stay one or more steps ahead.

Like “Confidence Coach,” Cognitive Diary is based on tools of cognitive behavioral therapy and was developed by a licensed and practicing psychotherapist.

There’s no denying that personal development takes time and commitment, but luckily various applications are helping people reach their full potential.

If you’ve tried some of these apps, or, deep down, believe you need more help in boosting your self-esteem, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Why Aging and Depression Often Go Hand-in-Hand

say that with age comes wisdom, and for some, that may be true. But with age also
comes some very big challenges. In addition to dealing with the onset of
disease and physical disabilities, older people must face loss: the loss of a spouse,
loss of friends, loss of siblings, and even the loss of memories.

“Getting old is not for sissies.” – Bette

you consider all of this loss, it’s not surprising that aging and depression
often go hand-in-hand. While feeling sadness over these losses is a normal part
of life, some people experience profound depression.

if earlier in your life you never really experienced depression, how do you
know the difference between it and sadness? Here are some signs of depression:

sleeping (either falling asleep, staying asleep or both)

change in appetite

mood swings (such as irritability and anger)

of hopelessness



some time in our lives, most of us have experienced one or two of these
symptoms. But when you experience more than one or two at a time, and these
feelings linger and deepen, that is a clear indicator of depression.

Beating Depression Will
Require Trust

someone who has faced so much loss becomes depressed, what can they do to feel
better? The answer to that question is to seek the help of a therapist who can
help you navigate your emotions, offer tools for mood management and even
prescribe medications if they feel it will help.

there lies the conundrum.

suffering from depression often feel helpless, that is to say, they feel they
are beyond being helped. When a
person feels that no one and nothing can help them, they will not seek help and
refuse it when it is offered. In fact, some depressed people even become
angered when loved ones try to help.

is when trust becomes a vital component to getting well. Older people have
spent a lifetime forming relationships with family and friends. They know the
connection and love is genuine. Therefor they must trust that when a loved one comes to them and says, “I love you and
I’m concerned. I think you’re depressed and you need some help…” they recognize
they are coming from a loving place and trust they want what’s best for them.

you yourself have tried to help an older loved one but they refuse to listen,
consider having someone else they might trust even more speak with them. This
could be an old colleague, their doctor, or your local pastor. And sometimes
you may just have to get a group together and have an intervention.

you or a loved one is suffering from depression, you can feel better. You can
remember that life is worth living, even while feeling so much pain and sorrow.
If you would like to explore treatment options, please contact me. I would be
happy to speak with you about how I may help.

4 Things You Need to Know About Adolescent Anxiety

Anxiety is like fire: It can keep us safe and warm, or completely devastate our property and our lives. It’s good to be a little anxious at times. When walking down a deserted street at night, anxiety keeps us on alert and ready to fight or take flight should a dangerous situation arise.

But for many people, especially adolescents, anxiety can become the norm instead of the exception. Just walking into a classroom or being with a group of people they don’t know can become crisis situations. And, the more they experience these scary events, the more anxiety becomes a chronic condition.

Here are 4 things parents and teachers should know about adolescent anxiety.

1. Anxiety Refers to Physical Symptoms Associated with Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts such as, “No one will like me,” or “Everyone is going to think I’m stupid” come first. These thoughts are then followed by physical symptoms such as a stomach ache, diarrhea, or shaking and shallow breathing. Young people need to learn how to not only shift their thinking (“This will feel awkward but I’ll be okay”) but also cope with the physical stress (take slow, deep breaths). This will help kids know without a doubt they can handle uncomfortable feelings instead of avoiding them.

2. Dealing with Anxiety Requires Problem Solving Skills

Life is full of uncertainties and gray areas. Parents of very young children help them navigate through these situations. But adolescents must be equipped with problem solving skills so they may tolerate uncertainty instead of avoiding it, as avoidance only makes things worse and gives anxiety more power.

3. The Adolescent Mind is More Sensitive to Environmental Stress 

The adolescent mind is a jumble of chemical changes that can make any situation seem like time spent in a fun house. These hormonal changes make adolescence a particularly challenging time to cope with anxiety.

4. Anxiety is a Vicious Cycle

When young people are anxious, it’s easy for the adults around them to become anxious as a response. But, the more anxious parents and teachers are, the more controlling and inflexible they may become.

As adults, it’s important we manage our own anxiety around our kids and students so we can manage the overall situation much more effectively.

If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, therapy can help. If you’re 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 Foods & Beverages That Can Cause More Anxiety

Most people know that a healthy diet is important in managing weight and aging well. But what many people don’t realize is that the foods we eat can significantly alter our mood.

While eating foods rich in protein, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help fight depression and other mood disorders, eating the wrong kinds of food can cause depression and anxiety and even worsen symptoms.

If you have panic attacks or suffer from a mood disorder, it’s important that you can identify which foods may trigger or exacerbate symptoms. As a general rule, the following 5 foods should be avoided if you suffer from anxiety.

1. Coffee

Have you ever had one too many cups of coffee and a little while later had the jitters? Coffee can worsen existing anxiety and even cause it in people who don’t normally suffer from it. Caffeine increases cortisol levels (one of our “fight or flight” hormones), which in turn makes you feel stressed even when there is no external stressor.

According to research, lower intakes of coffee (less than 6 cups per day) has been linked to less depressive symptoms.

2. Alcohol

It has been said that one or two glasses a day of alcohol such as wine is good for your heart. While this may be true for those that don’t suffer from anxiety, those that do should steer clear of alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has stated that alcohol may worsen mood and contribute to anxiety.

3. Sugar

Often people reach for sugary foods like cookies and candy when dealing with a mood disorder. While it may seem these sweat treats are soothing in the moment, sugar actually makes your negatively feelings worse. A diet high in sugar causes spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, which can wreak havoc on your moods and cause you to have panic attacks. Though delicious, avoid sugary foods as much as possible.

4. Trans Fat

It turns out trans fats found in foods like French fries and packaged snacks are not only bad for your health but for your mood as well. In fact, studies have found that foods containing trans fats, also called hydrogenated fats, can increase your risk of depression.

study, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, examined the brains of rats and found that prolonged consumption of trans fat led to more anxiety-like symptoms.

5. Gluten

You don’t have to have Celiac’s Disease to be bothered by gluten. Many people don’t realize they have an intolerance to gluten that often shows up in the form of anxiety and panic attacks. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that those with gluten sensitivities are more prone to feeling anxious after eating wheat.

While cleaning up your diet can help you deal with your anxiety, sometimes diet alone is not enough. Therapy can help you to identify the root cause of your anxiety and cope with it.

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.

3 Things People get Wrong About OCD

According to the International OCD Foundation, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is “a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings.”

While the definition seems straightforward, a surprising number of people have misconceptions about the disorder. Here are 3 of the most common things people get wrong about OCD:

1. OCD is Common

Though the term “OCD” has become very common, the actual disorder is not. In fact, OCD affects only 1% of adults in the United States. The misconception lies in the fact that so many people claim to or believe they have the disorder.

How many times have you heard a friend or coworker say, “Oh my God, I am so OCD when it comes to xyz?” Odds are they are not. What they mean to say is they are “very particular when it comes to xyz.”

2. OCD is Reasonable

If OCD were reasonable, it would not be a debilitating issue for the percentage of the population it affects. It is reasonable to want to wash your hands, and wash them really well, after touching something dirty. Wanting clean hands is reasonable.

It is reasonable to want things on your desk arranged how you like them. And if someone accidentally knocks into your desk and disperses your cup of pens and pencils, it is perfectly reasonable to rearrange them to get them “just so.”

People who have OCD have triggers that are totally unreasonable.

Reasonable trigger: Washing your hands diligently because you just touched something slimy and unidentifiable in the office lunchroom.

OCD trigger: Spending an hour or more during the day ensuring your vintage magazine collection is arranged by color because if just one of them is out of order, you’re unable to move forward with your day to day life.

OCD triggers are extremely powerful and emotional. Individuals inflicted with the disorder develop rituals to make certain that other rituals have been carried out completely. This is why someone must insist they wash their hands 50 times. The washing ritual typically has nothing to do with having clean hands but rather is an effort to avoid tragedy and chaos.

Washing your hands because you want them clean is reasonable, but OCD triggers are not.

3. People Can “Get Over” OCD with a Little Willpower

Resisting OCD impulses is vastly different than resisting eating an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting. Just as it takes coping skills (and not just willpower) to deal with substance addictions on a daily basis, it will take the same to live with but not submit to the intrusive thoughts of OCD.

A therapist can help those afflicted with the disorder deal with their obsessions in healthy ways so they don’t spend hours each day completing unreasonable rituals.

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.