How PTSD Can Affect Your Relationships

Image credit: Psych Scene Hub

To start, PTSD stands for Post-traumatic stress disorder and can develop after traumatic experiences such as assault or military combat. People who have PTSD may relive the traumatic experience, have intense anxiety, avoid things that remind them of the experience, and experience overwhelming emotions that may affect the way they relate to other people. Deteriorating relationships can harm a person’s recovery from PTSD. It can also change the way that their loved ones interact with them. This can add extra challenges like:

  • experiencing a loss of emotional regulation
  • losing interest in family activities
  • having no interest in sexual activity
  • feeling an increased dependency on a partner
  • experiencing excess anger, may come out as being distant, critical, or abusive
  • have a reduced ability to problem solve in instances they experiences anxiety or feels overwhelmed even in small conflicts
  • making the partner without PTSD feel like they have to be a caregiver
  • reducing the support that couples get from family members who do not understand the trauma or appreciate the severity of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD
Here are a couple of warning signs to look out for:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts.
  • Intentionally avoiding things that remind them of the traumatic event.
  • Easily startled.
  • Unusual angry outbursts.
  • Seem anxious or depressed, especially in ways that directly relate to the trauma. For instance, a survivor of sexual assault might be more anxious or depressed about sexual activity in the relationship.
  • Have a distorted sense of reality about the traumatic event and may feel guilty or ashamed.
  • Lose interest in activities they once enjoyed doing.
  • Struggle to remember parts of the traumatic event.

How to help a loved one with PTSD
Firstly, recognize the fact that PTSD is not a choice or something that another person can cure. Supporting a loved one may give them the confidence to pursue recovery, and reassurance can remind them that someone loves them and will be there for them. You can also help by:

  • Don’t blame them for their symptoms, minimize the severity of their trauma, or telling them to “snap out of it”
  • Encourage them to seek treatment and offer to help them do so
  • If your loved one has thoughts of suicide, find a therapist to work with to develop a suicide prevention plan. Remove any and all weapons from the house
  • Encourage them to talk about how they feel if they want, but try not to force them to do this
  • Do not tell them how they should fell or give unsolicited advice
  • Regocgnize the effect of PTSD on the relationship, but do not blame all of the problems on PTSD
  • Identify their triggers and work to minimize the exposure to them. For instance, if loud noises or voices are a trigger, avoid leaving the television on
  • Have a talk about ways to minimize the effect of PTSD on the relationship. For example, some people may fear abandonment, so making threats to leave may intensify the symptoms and make the conflict worse
  • Be sensitive and empathetic to their emotions and how they are feeling. Offer them comfort and warmth, especially during flashbacks or times of intense anxiety
  • Know that it is ok to walk away. Romantic partners and other loved ones are not trained therapists and are not equipped to deal with the issues that may come with PTSD. It is important for a partner to protect their own emotions in situations that may feel overwhelming or difficult.

Some people who have PTSD may become abusive, but most research that has been done has focused on combat veterans and is not the case for everyone in a particular group. People who are being abused should seek safety immediately. This includes leaving the relationship. Couples counseling may help with relationship conflict, but most counselors advise against counseling when domestic violence is involved. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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What To Know About Telehealth Appointments

With the recent closing down of public buildings and institutions, restaurants, gyms, museums, and more to slow down the spread of COVID-19 it has increased some people to feel isolated and anxiety stemming from the situation we are currently in. Telehealth can offer several benefits like convenience and better accessibility. Telemedicine uses technology during your appointment times instead of an in-person appointment to provide a range of healthcare services, including:

  • Psychiatric evaluations and diagnoses
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Client education
  • Medication Management

Psychiatrists can interact directly with clients via telephone or video conferencing by using telepsychiatry. It can be a good option for many people who do not necessarily like being in public, people in rural and isolated areas, unable to travel, or have the time for traditional in-person psychiatric services. It can also be a useful method of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and schizophrenia.

Who can provide teletherapy?
Therapists that hold a license in the state where they treat the client can provide teletherapy. For instance:

  • Licensed professional counselors
  • Licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • Licensed psychologists
  • Licensed psychiatrists

The recent COVID-19 health crisis showed that being able to have access to medical care at home can slow the spread of illness and protect others that are more vulnerable. Telehealth allows people to get mental health treatment at home and not have to risk the spread of infection during epidemics and pandemics. In-person therapy sessions do not require physical contact and make it possible to replicate most therapies virtually with video chat and telephone. Video sessions would require you to log on from a private network, keep your computer locked to prevent others from viewing the session, and to access the session on an encrypted therapy platform to protect your privacy.



How To Cope With OCD During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience constant or recurring thoughts that can cause anxiety and may try to cope with those thoughts through compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels that they must perform. With what is going on right now in the world with COVID-19, some aspects of the virus can trigger anxiety and OCD behaviors like frequent handwashing and constantly checking the news. Here are some ways to take precautions and other coping techniques for OCD tendencies during the pandemic.

Contamination is one of the most common fears among those with OCD. It can be difficult for someone to cope with under normal circumstances, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can become even more of a challenge.

The real possibility of illness for people with OCD can cause them to take extreme measures to keep themselves and their families safe, like repetitive handwashing, cleaning, or being afraid to even leave their homes.

Harming Others
The worry of possibly harming others, either by accident or on purpose, is a common fear of OCD. During the pandemic, people with OCD may worry that they will transmit the virus to another person, and may go to extremes to try avoid doing so.

Researchers consider hoarding as a separate disorder from OCD, but many people with OCD also struggle with hoarding. People who hoarder usually collect things that are not useful, however during a pandemic, they may hoard things like medications, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and toilet paper.

OCD Triggers During A Pandemic
There are many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic that may trigger OCD-related fears and behaviors like:

  • The advice to wash hands more often
  • The emphasis on proper handwashing techniques
  • The need to clean hands every time a person returns home
  • The advice to only leave the home for food and necessities

Those triggers can contribute to behaviors like:

  • Widespread panic-shopping that can trigger hoarding (which we have seen with the toilet paper and cleaning supplies shortage)
  • Frequent reminding family members to wash their hands
  • Searching for information on how long the virus stays active on certain surfaces
  • Normalizing frequent washing and/or bathing

Sensible Precautions to Take
Most people with anxiety feel pressure to follow rules to the T, and as a result of this, someone with OCD may find it difficult to tell the difference between sensible precautions against COVID-19 and excessive or perfectionistic behavior. Many therapists suggest that those with OCD have a safety plan in place for themselves based on official public health guidelines. By following that plan, people with OCD will know if they are taking reasonable steps.

Therapists also encourage people to think about their cleaning and hygiene habits. If they did not go outside and no one came into their home, then they do not need to disinfect anything. However, disinfecting commonly used surfaces once a day is a reasonable plan.

When washing your hands try limiting your handwashing to 20 seconds each time and only wash them:

  • After going outside
  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

If you have OCD and find yourself adding extra steps to your plan and find it difficult to stop, you may consider seeking support.

Limit News and Social Media
Many news outlets offer free live streaming during the COVID-19 pandemic and publish news updated frequently. The American Psychological Association (APA) advise that people that notice they are checking the news more than usual set a limit on how many time a day you check the news updates or watch the live streams.

Seek Online Support and Teletherapy
To limit the virus from spreading, many therapists have stopped offering in-person sessions and allow access for people to have teletherapy online or over the phone. Online support groups, such as the International OCD Foundation’s My OCD Community, may also help others cope with OCD during a pandemic.

When To Seek Help
Pandemics do not have biological or medical implications. They also impact many people psychologically and socially, including people with mental health conditions. During a pandemic, those with preexisting mental health conditions are at higher risk of experiencing a relapse, stopping their medication, not engaging in self-care, or having suicidal thoughts. If you or a person you know with OCD is struggling with their symptoms during this pandemic encourage them to call us or:

  • Their doctor or therapist
  • A mental health helpline (Suicide Prevention Lifeline has talk and text options)
  • Their local public health center

Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgement
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number, or you can text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or any other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 1-800-273-8255, people who are hard of hearing can call 1-800-799-4889.

Here is another helpful suicide prevention link:


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Signs Of Emotional Abuse And How To Help


Emotional and mental abuse are serious issues that can be noticed by some signs, whereas other forms of abuse can be more challenging to see or understand. From the outside looking in, they can be obvious, but to a person that is in the situation may miss or be unaware of the abuse. Let’s break down what emotional and mental abuse is. Emotional and psychological abuse is when a person controls, isolates, or scares someone else to control the relationship/situation. The form of abuse can be in statements, threats, or actions that are a pattern or regularity to the behavior. Learning these signs can help people identify if they are in an abusive situation/relationship and seek out the help that they may need. Some people may feel like they can deal with the abuse or try to justify it by saying that it is “not as bad” as physical abuse. Still, emotional abuse has its long term effects on mental abuse and could be a sign that physical abuse will follow.

Where can it happen
Abusive people usually abuse those who are close to them. For example, a partner, a business partner or close team member, a parent, a caretaker, or even a close friend they rely on. The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse states that emotional and mental abuse can be subtle. The victim may not even notice that they are being manipulated. Emotional abuse can be in many different forms, depending on what the abusive person is attempting to do. 

Controlling behavior can be a red flag in any relationship and can include:

  • Making demands or orders and expecting them to be done
  • Making all decisions, even canceling another’s plans without asking
  • Continually monitoring another person’s whereabouts
  • Insisting on regular calls, text, or pictures detailing where the person is, and even showing up to those places to make sure they are not lying
  • Requiring immediate responses from calls or texts
  • Exerting financial control over the other person, such as keeping all accounts in their name or only giving the other person a allowance
  • Spying by going through the other person’s phone, checking their internet search history, or looking through their messages with others
  • Having a rule in place demanding the person’s passwords for access to their social medias, phone, and email at any time
  • Treating the other person like a child by telling them what to eat, what to wear, or where they can go
  • Yelling, frequently using it as a scare tactic and can be a way for an abusive person to let the other person who is in control
  • Using the other persons fears and manipulate their fears to control them
  • Withholding affection as a punishment. Abusers may withhold affection or make the other person feel they are undeserving of love
  • Giving excessive gifts with the implication that the gifts may disappear at any time or to remind the victim of what they could lose if they leave the relationship

Abusive people might try to make the other person feel shame for their shortcomings or feel like they are much worse for the shortcomings. There are multiple forms this may show including:

  • Lectures: The abusive person may give lectures about the other person’s behavior in such a way that it makes them feel inferior.
  • Outbursts: This involves aspects of control as well. Not doing what the abusive person wants can result in an outburst of angry behavior from them in order to both take control and make the other person feel shame for “not listening”.
  • Lies: Abusive people may blatantly lie, giving them false opinions from their friends about their “bad” behavior.
  • Walkouts: Abusive people may leave a situation rather than resolve it in the middle of a disagreement at home. For example, making remarks on how the other person is “crazy” and put all the blame on the other person to make them feel ashamed.
  • Trivializing: If the other person wishes to talk about their issues, the abusive person may criticize them for even having issues or telling them that they are making a big deal for no reason.

Blame usually stems from the abusive person’s sense of insecurity by blaming others, and they do not have to recognize their shortcomings. This can be shown in many ways, such as:

  • Jealousy: Jealousy can be an abusive tactic. The abusive person may regularly confront the others for talking to or “flirting with” other people. The abuser may accuse the other person of cheating on them regularly.
  • Playing the victim: The abusive person may try to turn the tables on the other person by blaming them for the issues that the abuser has not yet dealt with and even accuse them of being the abusive one in the relationship.
  • Egging the person on: The abusive person typically knows how to get under the other person’s skin to make them angry. They may irritate them until the other person becomes upset, blaming them for even getting upset.

Most of the time the abuser’s actions or words serve no purpose other than to humiliate the other person. This behavior can look like:

  • Blatant name calling: The abuser may blatantly call the other stupid or “an idiot”, or other hurtful names and if confronted they may try to pass it off as sarcasm.
  • Joking or Sarcasm: Sometimes abusive people disguise their derogatory remarks as sarcasm. If the other person gets offended, the abuser may make fun of them for “lacking a sense of humor”.
  • Harmful Nicknames: Nicknames or pet names may be normal in relationships, but a name that is hurtful is unacceptable.
  • Public Displays: Abusive people may openly pick fights and make fun of the other person in public and blame the other person for becoming angry.
  • Patronizing: This can include talking down to another person for trying to learn something new or make the other person feel like they are not “on their level”.
  • Insults on Appearance: An abusive person may insult the other’s appearance around other people.
  • Cheating: The abuser may cheat on their partners in order to hurt or humiliate them or to show that they are “highly desirable”.

Abusive people seem to make situations chaotic for no good reasons than to keep the other person in check. This kind of behavior can look like:

  • Drastic mood swings like being very affectionate to full of rage and breaking things
  • Emotional Outbursts
  • Starting arguments for no reason
  • Self-contradiction such as kaming statements that contradicts the one they just said
  • Gaslighting such as denying facts or making the other feel like they do not remember the situation correctly
  • Acting two faced such as being charming in public but the complete opposite the minute they get home

Abusive people act in many ways in order to make the other person feel isolated from others including:

  • Telling another person they cannot spend time with friends or family
  • Hiding the person’s car keys
  • Stealing, hiding, or even destroying the other person’s cell phone or computer
  • Making fun or belittling the person’s friends or family resulting the other person to feel bad for spending time with them
  • Taking up all of the person’s free time
  • Locking the person in a room or the house

What can you do to help?
It would help if you encouraged anyone you know that feels they are in immediate danger of physical harm to call 911. If anyone is seeing signs of emotional abuse but is not in immediate danger, encourage them to seek out help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers anonymous support by phone, text, or even online chat. The hotline is available 24/7 and can help people find shelter as well as other services. If a person is feeling uncomfortable reaching out to get assistance, they can reach out to a family member or a trusted friend that could help them feel supported and less isolated. Taking steps away from an emotionally abusive situation is essential for the other person to take back control over their own life. This can include:

  • Setting boundaries with the abusive person and standing up to them in any degree necessary in order to get the abuse to stop. In some cases it could include ending the relationship or cutting ties with a partner and never speaking to them again.
  • Changing priorities: abusive people manipulate the other person’s sense of sympathy to the point they are neglecting themselves while taking care of the abuser and putting an end to this habit is important in order to put their own priorities first.
  • Get professional help: Seeking professional help like therapy and support groups can help strengthen the person’s resolve and believe that they are not alone in recovering from the abuse.
  • Exit plan: Anyone who feels that they are in an emotionally abusive situation should have a plan for getting out of the situation when the time comes and working with those that love and support them can help their plan feel stronger and get the person to take action when the time is right.

Therapy On A Budget

Mental health is different from having a cold or the flu, which means it can take some time to heal. Some studies have shown that it can take 5-10 sessions, and people will see their counselors weekly. Therapy is a commitment, and depending on your insurance coverage, it can be expensive. Unfortunately, having health insurance does not guarantee that you will not have to pay upfront for therapy. Plans with high deductibles will not cover the medical costs until deductibles have been met. Until then, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for your appointments. 

Most therapists charge between $75-$150 per session, depending on the area you live in. In expensive cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, it can cost up to $200 per session. Here are a couple of cost-effective services available to help you get started.

  • Sliding Scale Therapists

Sliding Scale Therapists can include psychotherapists, psychologists, and social workers who will adjust their hourly fee to help make therapy more affordable for the client. These types of therapists are a good option if you have to pay out-of-pocket for counseling or if your insurance provider does not offer referrals to specialists. All mental health providers are trained to help treat anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorders, but not all of them specialize in addressing issues like postpartum depression, complicated grief, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You could use Psychology Today and to search for sliding scale therapists who practice in your area. Most of these therapists’ rates are determined by the provider and can range from $75-$160 per session. You can look for mental health professionals on a searchable database that is a more affordable option. Most of them charge between $30-$80 per session on Open Path Psychotherapy Collective

  • Free Or Low-Income Mental Health Services

For those that do not have health insurance and can not afford to pay out-of-pocket for mental healthcare, low-fee, or free community mental health clinics can be a good option. They are staffed by psychotherapists and psychologists but are often able to expand their services by the use of student psychologists, student mental health counselors, and student social workers that are supervised by licensed professionals. Their services are typically at no cost or at a highly reduced rate, and they offer services like individual and family counseling, medication management, and drug addiction counseling. You can find a clinic in your local area by contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine or visit

  • Therapy Apps

Apps like Talkspace and Betterhelp let you connect with therapists online or by text. Busy business and healthcare professionals, new moms, and students usually find teletherapy appealing because they can talk to a therapist from anywhere. Before signing up for online therapy, you will complete a mental health questionnaire, and based on the results, you get matched with a psychotherapist. Similar to in-person treatment, fees for online therapy will vary. Talkspace fees can be as low as $49 per week, while Betterhelp charges between $35-$80 per week. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that online therapy may be as helpful as in-person sessions, but this type of care isn’t for everyone. They caution those with more serious mental health concerns like schizophrenia, PTSD, and substance use disorder often need more care and attention then remote treatments. There are also mental health apps like Calm, Headspace, and Expectful that can help teach you daily habits of meditation, relaxation, and breathing exercises, which can help reduce stress. 

  • Local Support Groups

Those who are experiencing eating disorders, postpartum depression, alcohol and substance use disorders, and coping with grief or loss can benefit from attending a local support group. Support groups can connect you with others who are going through similar experiences and allows you to ask others for their opinions. It can also be healing to hear others share their stories to show you that you are not alone. This can be especially useful for those coping with illnesses like cancer or supporting loved ones with chronic health conditions or mental illness. Open-ended groups like new mom support circles can allow you to share at any time during the session. Structured groups, especially those that teach people a set of life skills like mindfulness, may follow a curriculum each week. Mental Health America has a list of different types of specialized support groups on their webpage. You can also get a list from hospital social workers for support groups in your community. Costs for support groups will vary, but groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are free of charge.

  • Crisis And Suicide Prevention Hotlines

Mental Health emergencies include suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, and domestic violence and require immediate psychiatric care and attention. There are hotlines are staffed by trained volunteers and professionals who provide emotional support and can connect you with resources that you need. If you think someone is in immediate risk of self-harm or hurting someone else please call 911 or your local emergency number, stay with the person until help arrives, remove any weapons, medication, or other things that may cause harm, and listen but do not judge, argue, threaten, or yell. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. 

Things to know about EMDR Therapy

EMDR stands for Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It is a technique that some psychotherapists use to treat people experiencing psychological distress and is recommended for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

EMDR was developed in the late 1980s by an American psychologist named Francine Shapiro. Practitioners initially used this technique to treat people with traumatic memories, but it is now used to help treat a variety of issues, including:

  • Phobias
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression

During a standard EMDR treatment session, the client’s will recall traumatic experiences while moving their eyes back and forth while the therapist directs the eye movement. The main focus is to allow people to process and integrate their traumatic memories into their standard memories to remember times of distress while being distracted, which in turn can be less upsetting. The aim of the process is that over time, the exposure to those memories should reduce their effects. EMDR is similar in some respects to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is another type of PTSD treatment that involves remembering or discussing traumatic events and identifying and altering those thoughts. 

How it works
The theory behind EMDR is that traumatic memories can make changes in the brain and can stop the brain from processing information properly, which causes anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Experts believe that remembering traumatic experiences while doing rapid eye movements can allow the brain to process those memories correctly and integrate them into the person’s life in a healthy way. EMDR therapy consists of eight phases.

Phase 1: Client history and treatment planning
The therapist will evaluate the client’s case and their ability to tolerate the exposure to their distressing memories. They will also formulate a treatment plan based on the client’s symptoms and behaviors that are needing modifying.

Phase 2: Preparation
The therapist will lay the groundwork for the treatment by establishing a therapeutic relationship with the client and educating them on the process of EMDR. They will teach the client self-control techniques that are used to cope with distressing memories that arise.

Phase 3: Assessment
This phase will consist of the therapist identifying the traumatic memories that the client needs to address. The client will choose an image to represent each memory and noting the negative beliefs and physical sensations for each of those memories. They will then identify a positive thought to replace negative beliefs.

Phase 4: Desensitization
Desensitization involves reducing the client’s disturbing reactions to traumatic memories, including physical sensations they have when thinking about it. This could include rapid heart rate, sweating, or stomach problems. The therapist will facilitate desensitization by directing the client’s eye movement while they focus on traumatic events.

Phase 5: Installation
This stage focuses on installing positive thoughts that the client identified in phase 3.

Phase 6: Body Scan
Body scanning is a meditative technique in which a person scans their body from head to toe to notice physical sensations that are occurring. The therapist will target those physical sensations for further processing.

Phase 7: Closure
At the end of each session, the therapist will stabilize the client by using the self-control techniques that were discussed in phase 2. The therapist will then explain what the client can expect between sessions and will ask the client to keep a record of any negative experiences that occur so they can be targeted at the next meeting.

Phase 8: Reevaluation
The final stage will consist of a review regarding the effectiveness of the treatment so far. The therapist and client will identify any additional traumatic effects that need to be targeted.

Benefits of EMDR
Most research done on EMDR, they look at the benefits for people with PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms. Studies also suggested that EMDR may also treat symptoms that accompany traumatic experiences like self-harm, stress, and anger. Some people will choose to have other treatment options alongside EMDR therapy. Other issues EMDR may be beneficial to treat, and practitioners have used it to address issues including:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Chronic Pain and Phantom Pain
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Panic Attacks
  • Psychotic Symptoms
  • Self-Esteem Issues
  • Stress-Induced Flare-Ups of Skin Problems
  • Psychotic Symptoms
  • Chronic Pain

In some studies that have been done, as many as 90% of trauma survivors appeared to have no PTSD symptoms after three sessions, and some showed positive outcomes for the majority of participants after 6-12 sessions. It has also been indicated that EMDR may be useful for other mental health issues such as psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues. As with any treatment, EMDR can cause side effects such as an increase in distressing memories, heightened emotions, or physical sensations during sessions, lightheadedness, and vivid dreams, but will typically resolve as treatment continues. Any side effects should be reported to the therapist performing the EMDR session. 

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What Is Survivors Guilt?

Survivor’s guilt is when someone has feelings of guilt because they survived a life-threatening event, but others did not. It is common to react this way to a traumatic event and is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also occur in relation to a loss of life. They may question why they were able to escape death while others lost their lives and wonder whether there was something they could have done to prevent the traumatic event or save a life. Survivor’s guilt used to be its own diagnosis, but mental health professionals now consider it to be a significant symptom of PTSD. People who may suffer from survivors guilt may include:

  • War Veterans
  • First Responders
  • Holocaust Survivors
  • 9/11 Survivors
  • Cancer Survivors
  • Transplant Recipients
  • Crash Survivors
  • Natural Disaster Survivors
  • Witnesses to a traumatic event
  • Family members of those who have developed a fatal hereditary condition
  • People who have lost a family member to suicide
  • Parents who outlive their child

Common symptoms
People who survive traumatic events may experience one or more of the following:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Obsessive thoughts about the event
  • Irritability and Anger
  • Feelings of helplessness and disconnection
  • Fear and Confusion
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Problems Sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or Stomachaches
  • Social Isolation
  • Thoughts of Suicide
  • Perceive the world as unfair and unsafe

Not everyone who experiences traumatic events will develop survivor’s guilt. Some factors can increase the risk and the severity of PTSD symptoms, including survivor’s guilt.

  • A history of trauma (childhood abuse)
  • Having other mental health issues (such as anxiety or depression)
  • A family history of psychiatric problems
  • Lack of support from friends or family
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Their belief that they can predict or prevent an outcome
  • Their role in causing negative outcomes
  • Wrongdoing on their part

Some people with survivor’s guilt and other PTSD symptoms can recover without treatment within the first year following the traumatic event. However, one-third of them will continue to have PTSD symptoms for three years or longer. Here are some tips for coping with survivor’s guilt.

Accept and allow the feelings

Even though survivor’s guilt is not always rational, it is a common response to trauma. Accepting and allowing the feelings that surface, taking time to process the guilt, grief, fear, and loss that accompany the event can all help. If the feelings are overwhelming or do not begin to get more manageable over time, it is essential to seek out help.

Connect with others
Sharing your feelings with family and/or friends is a way to connect. If your loved ones do not understand your feelings, look for a support group. Face-to-face support groups and online communities can allow survivors to connect, express themselves, and ask questions.

Use Mindfulness Techniques
Mindfulness can be beneficial for those who have experienced trauma, especially during a flashback or during intense and painful emotions. Grounding techniques, such as having them focus on breathing, feeling nearby fabrics, and noticing inside and outside sounds, can help them become mindful.

Practice Self-Care
Loss and potential loss of life is frightening and overwhelming. Survivors can benefit from doing one or more of these activities such as:

  • Taking baths
  • Reading
  • Resting
  • Meditating
  • Journaling
  • Creating art
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Trying aromatherapy

It is also important for you to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.

Do something good for others
People who survive a traumatic event may feel better if they try to help others. They can do this by educating people about their experience, volunteering at a local charity, donating blood, making a charitable donation, lending support to others, or sending a care package to someone.

If you or your loved one continues to experience intense guilt, flashbacks, disturbing dreams, and other symptoms of PTSD, you should consider getting professional help by talking to a doctor or psychotherapist who specialized in trauma. Therapy is the primary treatment type for PTSD, but some more severe cases may also require medication. Traumatic events can increase the risk of suicide. If you or your loved one have thoughts of death, suicide, or have attempted suicide, you should seek immediate attention.

Can A Smile Really Make A Difference?

There’s a good reason why some people will tell you to turn that frown upside down, even though that is not always what we want to hear. Studies have shown that just the act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system, and could even prolong your life. You might be thinking, happiness is what makes us smile, not the other way around, but as Dr. Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine explained, a smile causes a chemical reaction in the brain and releases hormones including dopamine and serotonin. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness, and serotonin is associated with reduced stress.” Low levels of both of them are associated with depression.

So actually, smiling can trick your brain into believing your happy, which can bring on actual feelings of happiness. Dr. Murray Frossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist, states that studies have shown “over and over” again that depression can weaken your immune system, and happiness can have the opposite effect, boosting your body’s resistance. An interesting study performed by a group at the University of Cerdiff in Wales found that people who had botox injections so they could not frown were happier on average than those who frown. A study done at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lowers heart rate in tense situations.

Smiling is contagious, much like yawning. It is because we have mirror neurons when we see actions according to Dr. Eva Ritzo, a psychiatrist and the co-author of “The Beauty Prescription: The Complete Formula for Looking and Feeling Beautiful.” Some people have started smiling when they can feel like they are beginning to feel stressed out, smiling does help. For instance, when they are in traffic while driving, they are uncomfortable due to a headache, during a workout, at themselves in a mirror, and when they are tired saying it makes them feel calmer. Of course, smiling does not always do the trick, and it should never take the place of other forms of therapy that may be necessary depending on the situation, but it is worth the try.

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Welcome Natalie!

We would like to welcome Natalie Valle to the team! Natalie is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and specializes in providing therapy in trauma, depression, anxiety, EMDR trained, play therapy, life transitions, couples, family, individual, groups, and more. Check out her profile on our website at or call us at 316-636-2888 to schedule an appointment.

Depression In Children

Is depression in children common?
Depression in children occurs in 1-2% of children before they reach puberty, including preschoolers, even though it is much less common. This usually only occurs when there is a strong family history of depression. After puberty, the rate for depression increases to about 3-8% and is often a higher rate in girls than boys. One in five teens has experienced a depressive disorder by the time they reach adulthood.

What can depression look like in children?
Depressive symptoms such as not having fun, difficulty concentrating, guilt, problems sleeping, and appetite are usually similar in children and adolescents. In pre-pubertal children, depression will often show in families with high adversity, and they will often have issues with conduct disorder. Children who suffer from depression have problems later in adulthood with criminality, substance abuse, and suicide. Depression in adolescence looks similar to adulthood, which in fact, can resurface sometime in their adult life. Adolescence who struggle with depression might often engage in risky behaviors, alcohol and drug use, non-suicidal self-harm, suicidal behavior, and having unprotected sex. According to Psychology Today, in the brain of depressed children and adolescents, researchers have found that they show less effective cognitive control of their emotions, higher emotional reactivity in response to emotional stimuli (like scary faces), and diminished response to rewarding situations.

Symptoms children could exhibit if they are suffering from depression are as follows:

  • Sleep Disturbance (Difficulty falling or staying asleep)
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Depressed or Irritable Mood
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Changes in grades or behavior at school
  • Frequent anger outbursts
  • Mood Swings
  • Feeling Worthless
  • Social Isolation
  • Feeling Restless
  • Loss of Energy
  • Psychosomatic complaints like frequent headaches or stomachaches or generally not feeling well
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Thoughts of Suicide or Suicide Plans

If untreated, they are more at risk for developing chronic depression later in life, if not sooner. The two most common forms of treatments are medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is essential in treating children who suffer from depression, and there are two commonly used forms of psychotherapy:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps to identify and problem-solve around behaviors. This method is usually preferred for children who are facing a number of behavioral problems as well as depression but could not be as effective if they have a parent with depression or a history of child abuse.

Interpersonal Therapy looks at the child in the context of their social relationships. This method is used to help children with a lot of parent discord or other interpersonal problems.

It is essential to continue treatment even after the child is well, or there is a risk of relapse. Psychology Today says that usually, therapists will suggest that treatment should continue for around 6-12 months to prevent a recurrence of depression.

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List of common symptoms shown in children with depression: