Neurodiversity refers to neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental conditions, that are natural variations of the human brain. These differences are not disorders or deficits, but rather unique ways of thinking, perceiving, and experiencing the world. Neurodiversity promotes acceptance, understanding, and inclusion of individuals with diverse neurological profiles.
How Neurodiversity Impacts Relationships
Neurodiversity can have a significant impact on relationships, both romantic and non-romantic. Understanding and navigating these impacts is crucial for building strong and healthy connections. Here are some ways neurodiversity can affect relationships:
- Communication Differences: Neurodivergent individuals may have challenges in understanding and expressing emotions, social cues, and nonverbal communication. This can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in effectively communicating needs and feelings.
- Sensory Sensitivities: Many neurodivergent individuals have heightened sensory sensitivities, such as being sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures. These sensitivities can impact shared activities and environments, requiring accommodation and understanding from both partners.
- Executive Functioning: Difficulties with executive functioning, such as organization, time management, and planning, can affect daily routines and responsibilities within a relationship. This may require additional support and strategies to ensure a balanced partnership.
- Emotional Regulation: Neurodivergent individuals may experience challenges in regulating emotions, leading to intense emotional reactions or difficulties in expressing emotions. This can impact conflict resolution and emotional intimacy within the relationship.
What You Can Do
If you or your partner are neurodivergent, there are steps you can take to navigate the challenges and foster a healthy relationship:
1. Education and Awareness: Learn about neurodiversity and the specific neurodivergent condition(s) involved. Understanding each other’s strengths, challenges, and unique perspectives can foster empathy and acceptance.
2. Open Communication: Establish open and honest communication channels. Discuss your needs, preferences, and boundaries with each other. Find effective ways to express emotions and resolve conflicts.
3. Accommodations and Support: Identify and implement accommodations that can support both partners. This may include creating sensory-friendly environments, using visual aids for communication, or utilizing organizational tools for daily routines.
4. Seeking Professional Help: Consider seeking counseling or therapy from professionals experienced in working with neurodiverse relationships. They can provide guidance, strategies, and support tailored to your specific needs.
How Counseling Can Help
Counseling can be a valuable resource for neurodiverse individuals and couples. Here’s how counseling can assist:
- Understanding and Validation: Counseling provides a safe space to explore and understand the impact of neurodiversity on relationships. It offers validation for the challenges faced and helps individuals and couples navigate their unique dynamics.
- Communication Skills: Therapists can teach effective communication strategies, including active listening, empathy, and assertiveness. These skills can enhance understanding and connection within the relationship.
- Conflict Resolution: Counseling can help couples develop healthy conflict resolution techniques that consider the unique needs and communication styles of neurodivergent individuals. This promotes constructive problem-solving and reduces misunderstandings.
- Building Coping Strategies: Therapists can assist in developing coping strategies for managing stress, sensory sensitivities, and emotional regulation. These strategies can improve overall well-being and relationship satisfaction.
Remember, every relationship is unique, and the impact of neurodiversity will vary. It’s essential to approach relationships with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to learn and grow together. With open communication, support, and professional guidance, neurodiverse relationships can thrive and foster deep connections.Learn More
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is a trait that many people possess, and while it can be a positive attribute in some situations, it can also cause depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Perfectionists often set unattainable standards for themselves, leading to chronic procrastination, difficulty completing tasks, or giving up easily. They are highly critical of themselves and beat themselves up over anything that doesn’t meet their standards. Often times a perfectionist fears that if they don’t shoot for perfection, they will become low-achievers and not reach their goals. Sometimes, the fear of failure is so terrifying that they procrastinate because they would rather not do something at all if it can’t be done perfectly.
The Roots of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is often rooted in fear of failure or rejection of some kind, so the fear and anxiety that come with it can be overwhelming. Studies have found that symptoms of anxiety were related to perfectionism and underlying mental health disorders and associated symptoms that include OCD, social anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. Perfectionists also may have chronic avoidance tendencies and procrastination that can often make bad situations worse.
What Perfectionism Looks Like
Perfectionism can manifest in different ways, and there are several signs that someone may be struggling with perfectionism. Here are some common signs of perfectionism based on the search results:
- Having high standards and expectations for oneself and others.
- Being highly critical of oneself and others.
- Feeling a constant need for structure and organization.
- Being an all-or-nothing person, anything less than perfect is seen as a failure.
- Craving approval and validation from others.
- Feeling defensive when receiving feedback or criticism.
- Being a big procrastinator due to fear of not being able to do something perfectly.
- Being full of guilt and shame when things don’t go as planned.
- Having rigid black-or-white thinking patterns.
- Feeling pushed by fear to achieve perfection.
- Having an unrealistic view of what is achievable.
What can you do?
One way to improve perfectionism is to replace self-critical or perfectionistic thoughts with more realistic and helpful statements such as, “good enough, is enough.” It is a good idea to practice these helpful statements regularly. Even if you do not believe them right away, enough repetition will turn positive realistic thoughts into a habit and help crowd out the negative self-talk.
If your perfectionistic tendencies cause you daily distress, it is important to seek help. A therapist or counselor can help you gain new perspectives about yourself and your goals. This may reduce your levels of negative emotion and even help you achieve your goals more efficiently. In therapy, you can learn coping skills and strategies to overcome anxious thoughts and behaviors. You can also identify the root causes of your perfectionism and work to address them.
Bellevue Family Counseling uses tools such as CBT, EFT, EMDR, Lifespan Integration Therapy and other effective tools to address anxiety and perfectionism. Email us if you would like help finding the right counselor for you.Learn More
Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety that causes intense fear and anxiety in social situations. People with social anxiety disorder may feel self-conscious, judged, or scrutinized by others, making it difficult to engage in social activities or even perform daily tasks.
Recognizing Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social anxiety disorder may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Intense fear or anxiety in social situations
- Avoidance of social situations or enduring them with intense fear or anxiety
- Excessive anxiety that’s out of proportion to the situation
- Anxiety or distress that interferes with daily living
- Fear or anxiety that is not better explained by a medical condition, medication, or substance abuse
Coping with Social Anxiety Disorder
While social anxiety disorder generally requires help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, there are some techniques that can help handle situations that are likely to trigger anxiety. These include:
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
- Gradually facing feared social situations
- Challenging negative thoughts and beliefs
- Joining a support group
Counseling for Social Anxiety Disorder
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder. In therapy, individuals learn how to recognize and change negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is particularly effective for social anxiety disorder. CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs, and teaches skills to manage anxiety in social situations.
At Bellevue Family Counseling, other types of therapy to help might include Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Lifespan Integration Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR. Many of our counselors provide these and other tools to help. Email us if you need some help choosing a counselor.Learn More
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by obsessions, which are unwanted and intrusive thoughts. Or, compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that are done specifically to alleviate the anxiety caused by the thoughts. OCD can have a profound effect on a person’s life, including:
- Difficulty performing everyday activities like eating, drinking, shopping, or reading
- Avoidance of anything that might trigger obsessive fears
- Inability to function as a contributing member of society
- Excessive time spent engaging in ritualistic behaviors
- Health issues, such as contact dermatitis from frequent hand-washing
- Feeling exhausted and unable to concentrate due to obsessive thoughts
- Difficulties at school or work
- Troubled relationships
- Overall poor quality of life
- Feeling ashamed or lonely
OCD can also be compounded by depression and other anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, panic disorder, and separation anxiety. Long-term effects of OCD can include depression, constant anxiety, and an increased risk of substance abuse.
It is important to note that OCD is a treatable condition. Psychological therapy, self-help techniques, and medication can help people to recover from OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are a couple of effective treatments for OCD that can help individuals learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also be helpful in reducing symptoms, but it is not a substitute for counseling.
If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, seek help from a mental health professional. With the right treatment, individuals with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and achieve their goals.
Click here to listen to Dr. Baffa’s podcast on OCD Joon Lee on our team specializes in OCD.Learn More
EMDR & Trauma
Trauma in its many forms and intensities can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, from low anxiety to a range of psychological and emotional difficulties. Thankfully there are modern treatments that are both fast and effective. One is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or “EMDR”.
Originally developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, EMDR therapy has become widely considered to be one of the best treatments for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense. It is a form of psychotherapy that helps alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a structured therapy with eight steps that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation, typically eye movements. Unlike other treatments that focus on directly altering the emotions, thoughts, and responses resulting from traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory and is intended to change the way that the memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing, and eliminating the problematic symptoms.
This process is believed to help the brain reprocess the traumatic memory in a more adaptive way, leading to a reduction in the distress associated with the memory.
EMDR can help with:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety/phobia
- Depression: EMDR has been proven to reduce rumination in patients with traumatic grief and may be helpful with depression
- Eating disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Personality disorders
- Grief and loss
Counseling with EMDR
EMDR therapy is done in a safe and controlled environment, leading to a reduction in the distress associated with the memory. Therapy is typically delivered one to two times per week for a total of 6-12 sessions. The focus of therapy involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future.
EMDR therapy is less stressful than other forms of therapy because it focuses on processing and moving past your trauma, rather than changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue. EMDR therapy is effective for children and adults of all ages.Learn More
We have all heard the expressions: “Good Vibes Only”, “Think Positive”, and “Be Happy”. It was refreshing to read the recent blog posted by S. Wall that brought to our attention the toxicity of always seeking positivity.
As a therapist, I have long believed that suffering, loss, and pain are not feelings simply to be medicated or avoided. Instead, we can strive to process and absorb them. Despite the messages we may receive, it is important to experience your painful feelings. Feeling sorrow, fear, and grief at times is not only normal and okay, but necessary to experience, so they can be released. The full spectrum of emotions must be felt; it is virtually impossible to embrace elation without knowing disappointment—a titular paradox that there is no happiness without sadness.
Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when one is open to the fact that life can be inherently challenging, and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. Feeling down at times is not a disorder that needs to be cured.
Modern society tends to emphasize buoyancy and cheerfulness, but we must admit that reality is in part about pain and loss. The good life is not one immune to sadness, but one in which this emotion contributes to our development and growth.
As humans we were born with the ability to feel the whole range of our emotions from elation to despair. Figuring out how to do this in a healthy way is an important part of growing into a mature adult. How do we deal with both melancholy and joy? How do we straddle these in a way that feels genuine and true to ourselves?
Although this journey is not always paved with ease, there is a round map. We can follow a guide to help us identify and walk through these feelings in a way that is both productive and nurturing.
The first step in experiencing painful feelings is to notice what is going on inside of you. Identify what it is you are feeling by naming it and locating where it resides in your body. Ask yourself directly: “Is it disappointment, grief, fear, loneliness, rejection, shame, or another feeling?” Brene Brown, in her most recent book, reminds us that there are 88 human emotions, and the name we give to them dictates how they are interpreted physiologically and mentally. Our bodies react differently if we term our state stress or overwhelmed; being precise in this diction is key. If it is fear you identify, notice what other feelings are underneath that fear. Do you feel lonely or abandoned? Pay attention to what is going on inside your body. Are there areas of tension, pain, or other sensations? These sensations are where the feelings live in your body.
The next step is to find a safe way to express the feelings. Healthy ways to release your feelings are by:
- Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist
- Use self-dialogue that is compassionate
- Recognize your triggers: People, situations, and places often hold strong associations. If you find yourself feeling emotionally blocked when it comes to certain triggers, it may be worth avoiding them when possible.
- Limit your distractions: Cell phones, television, music, or video games hold many people’s attention hostage. Once you turn off the noise, you will be better able to tap into your inner feelings and express them outward.
- Write in the form of journaling or poetry: Regardless of your skills, writing is an effective way to express emotions and communicate with others.
- Practice Acceptance: Try to accept those aspects of your life that are out of your control. Doing so will make you feel better while freeing up your mind to become more emotionally expressive.
- Be Grateful
- Explore a novel interest: Getting out of your comfort zone often leads to greater emotional expression and wellbeing.
Hiding your emotions limits the honesty of your communication. Being in touch with yourself allows you to be in better touch with others. Hold the space for the full spectrum of feelings.
Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D
Edited by Joe DeNoon
As posted at Operation Happy Nurse
When your tween or teen directly expresses the thought or desire to harm them self or commit suicide, of course, it is alarming. It may seem to come out of the blue or be part of growing distress they are experiencing. Either way, when you become aware that your child or teen talks about self-harm or suicide, it is important to take some steps to ensure their safety.
If your child is a tween or a teen take it seriously. If they are younger, certainly don’t dismiss these big feelings however I’ll cover some different steps in another blog post.
How to approach talking
Understandably you may want to minimize their distressing words and help them gain perspective by telling them the situation isn’t so bad. However, instead, manage your own feelings at that moment so you don’t take over the conversation. Press “pause” on your judgment. Your job is to be present, curious and compassionate.
Do they have a plan?
Once your child has shared what they can of their distress. Ask them if they have a plan to act on their suicidal thoughts. Listen very carefully here. A child who is planning on acting will often have quite a detailed story with potential time and place. They will have most likely been running through the scenario in their head for a while so will have worked out the details. For others, they may not have let their thoughts drift over to the action piece but are still caught up in just wanting to be gone.
Can they keep themselves safe?
Ask your child if they feel they can keep themselves safe in the moment? Start to investigate what they need from themselves and from you to help keep themselves safe. Perhaps even make a list of things that will help remind them of what they need to feel safe. Help them minimize triggers to their emotional upset for at least the moment.
Based on the conversation, let them know what you are going to do to help them stay safe. Again, manage your emotions as you may feel punitive towards them as they are causing you so much distress. You are definitively the parent taking the lead in this moment however this must be a non-shaming, collaborative conversation. Let them know that you are going to make sure they are not alone for the next while and brainstorm the options. Remove objects from their easy access that may trigger them to harm themselves.
Talk about self-care. This is a moment to be a strong parent. Get the basics back in line with proper sleep, eating and physically active routines in place. Brainstorm relaxation activities. This could include some distractions like music or screens but make sure there is a broader variety such as journaling, a meditation app, drawing, snuggling the family pet and engaging with safe friends.
When to visit the hospital
If during this conversation it becomes apparent your child won’t work to keep themselves safe, it is time to decide if a visit to the hospital is prudent. You can also suggest a crisis line or even another safe adult to your child if they aren’t feeling very comfortable sharing all of this with you.
It is very easy for teens to be overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions. The struggle to fit in socially, succeed academically, please peers, parents and other adults is quite difficult. The added pressure of fitting in the world with the watchful eye of social media has amplified these pressures.
Teen counseling can support their ability to manage the big emotions and learn skills for navigating all the social, academic and family pressures. Suggesting the idea of getting a counselor they can talk to and trust is also an important support strategy.
by Leah Koenig MA, LMHC. Leah is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Family Therapist, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. Leah specializes in working with children, teens, and parents on creating their best self and best family relationships.Learn More