As we see it, life is dynamic and rarely if ever stagnant. In other words, life is always changing. From the moment you are born you are exposed to your environment. As a result you experience, interpret, feel, think, and form beliefs for the rest of your life. All of which has difference in import and duration. It seems almost inevitable that at one time or another you, your friends, family, coworkers, classmates, etc. will experience pain, fear or fear of pain due to the fact that life can be difficult, hard, stressful, anxiety provoking, sad, depressing, traumatic and tragic. How that is seen in your day-to-day life is vast and varies from person to person.
When in trouble if we have people in our lives close to us we turn to them for advice or counsel. This can be a great source of support and care. But, not all of us have this. For a multitude of reasons, maybe we are not close to friends or family, we are estranged, don’t trust, or don’t want to talk to them because we think they might not understand, or alternatively might not be helpful and worse might contribute more harm. You might find yourself in a “rock in a hard place”, where you might want things to be different and or feel different and are not sure of the proper course of action. In this event, sometimes having someone that is unrelated, uninvolved and objective to help with considering what choices you have and perhaps which choices make the most sense.
As licensed psychotherapists we are trained to work with people, some things bad and some things good. We offer individualized treatment based on the things that are uniquely part of you; past, present, and where you want to go. We attempt to form a relationship, one that is trusting, kind and understanding where we attempt to be looking for your best interest no matter what. In this way, we can be a great resource for people finding what the want, take care of how they feel, and figure out what’s next.
When people do decide to come to psychotherapy they might experience as, described above, symptoms of discomfort. Primarily in this country when we think of mental health we turn to diagnosing. Clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The manual lists all types of manifested symptoms the American Psychiatric Association determined to be harmful, bad, or abnormal and lays out each one with a set of criteria and duration. You might have heard of some of them as they are commonly used on TV, heard of from friends, families or acquaintances describe themselves as having depression, anxiety, panic, PTSD, addictions, ADHD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, marital trouble, difficulties with their children, etc. All of which we see on a hour-to-hour basis. For those of you who haven’t heard of these disorders or are confused by what is said online about each I’ll describe them in more detail. Additionally, I’ll try my best to describe them in a way that doesn’t sound too much like clinical jargon.
One of the most commonly seen discomforts in our office is depression. You might have seen or felt this yourself. It is one of the oldest observable diagnoses. The Greeks described similar symptoms, although they thought the symptoms derived from fluid imbalances. Hippocrates described the condition of melancholia being the concern of feeling despondent (sad to excess) for extended period of time. Today it is expressed for having a low mood, sad, not wanting to do things for fun, not finding joy in things they might have once had fun with, not eating well or sleeping well, weight gain or loss, tired most of the day with no energy, not thinking clearly or feeling fuzzy or not concentrating, and in more severe cases feeling like ending one’s life, planning to end ones life, and or attempting to end one’s life. This is not to say that it is not ok to have these feelings or that it is abnormal to have these feelings. In our experience, it is pretty common. However, it might not be good for your health to feel this way for too long. And of course some events are sad, tragic, seemingly non-changing or we feel stuck and then we feel depressed. It makes sense. But, it can be taken care of.
Anxiety is often described with physical sensations or feelings. Like when I am around people I feel a tightening in my chest or a mass in my throat. Sometimes feeling anxious makes sense. It can be a natural sensation like if a tiger is chasing you, or you were mugged. Makes sense that you might have some anxieties about where you are or what you’re doing. It becomes problematic if it is impacting you from doing what you want to do, uncomfortable (panic, sweating, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, chills, fear of dying, etc.) happening at times when at this surface are not traceably connected and impacting your functionality (relationships, work, etc.). Commonly anxiety is related to “what if?” Being consumed by potentially good, bad, right and or wrong can be consuming, distracting, irritating and painful. Therapy we discuss this often as the future is riddled with the unknown since none of us have a crystal ball or any glimpse into what the future my hold.
Posttraumatic stress disorder has also been observed for many years although not always by the same name. Most of the research stems from war. Soldiers returning home were observed to be not as they were when the left. It has been called a range of different things before landing the most recent title of PTSD; nostalgia, soldier’s disease, railway brain or spine, and shell shock. More recently we are seeing that almost everyone is susceptible to having PTSD as it seems to be expressed when someone experiences something traumatic, which can range a wide variety of events and extremeness. What I mean is two people in the same traumatic event might take the experience entirely different. For instance, we could be in a car together and we get in accident. For me it could be devastating and you it could be Tuesday.
Relationships can be a signifier of how people see the world and operate in it. If we break down the word relationship it is meant to describe how we relate or if we understand. Relationships are formed between ourselves, adults, kids, parents, strangers, teachers, the sandwich shop guy, etc. Our first being as an infant, shapes much of how we interact with the world around us. It is where we learn to trust, kindness, fear, pain, nurturing and care. Some are hurt during these shaping years where our brains and physicality are vulnerable. This can lead to catastrophic problems that plague many people. For many people these experiences can remain subdued and hidden until they are exposed and cause great issues for people when dealing with friends, family, coworkers, etc. As children we are primarily dependent on those charged with caring for us as models as to how to relate to the ourselves in relation to the rest of the world. When we get older the most important relationship we form is with ourselves. If we work to protect, care, and mitigate future injury. For many reasons people develop ways, known and unaware, to cope with how they relate to themselves, injury, and others all of which are not all good and not all bad. Some people work hard to avoid and feel something different. This could be in the form of an addiction, which can vary in degree and severity, self-harm or abuse. Others form patterns of distrust, lack of attachment to relationships, paranoia, self image issues, over eating or lack there of, avoidance, preoccupation, perfectionism, etc. which are sometimes defined as personality disorders. All of which is very treatable, but does require work. Like if one day it was this, tomorrow it is that. Can’t do the same things, and expect different results. So psychotherapy can be that opportunity for people to form a new type of relationship where both parties work towards being kind, and understanding no matter what.