No relationship is perfect, but sometimes what appears to be just a small communication issue might be hiding something deeper. Codependency and trauma are two issues that can wreak havoc in both romantic and familial relationships. People with codependent personality disorders and individuals who have experienced trauma can often have unhealthy coping mechanisms that may leave them feeling anxious, hopeless, or depressed.
If you’re in a relationship where you feel like you’re giving much more than receiving, fear conflict or rejection from your partner, or have difficulty expressing your feelings, wants, and needs, you could be traumatized or have a codependent personality disorder.
What is Codependency?
Codependency, simply put, is a type of dysfunctional relationship where one individual consistently puts the needs of others before their own. Codependent individuals tend to be passive “people pleasers,” and they will go to extreme measures to try to avoid conflict, abandonment, and rejection from others. Other symptoms of codependent personality disorder can include:
Those with codependent personality disorder can ignore their own needs for so long that they become chronically fatigued. Along with feeling exhausted, they may begin to feel hopeless, helpless, or even incompetent. They may try to “help” someone they care about in unhealthy ways, such as enabling. Enabling is a behavior that codependent people may use in an attempt to relieve potential tension in a relationship. Enabling includes making excuses for a person’s repeated actions, ignoring or belittling problematic behaviors, bailing someone out multiple times, or covering up a person’s illegal or dangerous activities.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is described as an emotional or psychological response to a stressful or disturbing event. Because trauma is subjective, it covers a broad range of different events. For example, a person could be traumatized from childhood emotional neglect, while someone else can experience trauma after escaping from natural disasters such as hurricanes. Due to the many types of traumatic experiences someone could have endured, psychologists have categorized trauma into three main categories in order to help victims:
Trauma can happen at any point in someone’s life, and each person reacts to a traumatic event differently. However, regardless of the type of trauma endured, trauma victims often share many of the same symptoms. These can include:
Differences Between Trauma and Codependency
Trauma and codependency share several of the same symptoms, but the reason behind the symptoms are entirely different. People who have experienced trauma may feel anxious or deeply depressed because they were hurt, witnessed a horrific event, or lost a loved one. On the other hand, those who struggle with codependency could feel anxious and depressed due to fear of being unliked or abandoned and constantly taking care of other people.
Pete Walker, M.A., discovered in his years of study that trauma victims and codependent individuals have different responses to the “four F’s,” which stand for fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. He notes that when confronted with stressful situations, trauma victims tend to “freeze,” or dissociate to distance themselves from the problem. Those with codependent personality disorder instead “fawns,” or tries to become as useful or helpful as possible in order to try and escape pain or punishment.
Coping with Trauma and Codependency
Candace Plattor, M.A., says the important first step is to start working towards a “healthy balance” of assertiveness. Saying “no” when you don’t want to do something and being ready to face potentially negative reactions from others can slowly ease you out of people-pleasing behaviors.
Coping with trauma and codependent behaviors can be difficult to handle on your own, but there is help and hope. At Oakville Wellness Center, there are trained therapists available to help you manage your symptoms and begin your recovery. Here, therapists are often covered by insurance, and there are evening and weekend appointments available. If you’re ready to take the next step towards healing from trauma or codependency, you can book your appointment online today.
Some people believe that establishing boundaries means keeping people at a distance or pushing others away, but this isn’t the case. Dr. Dana Gionta says that establishing healthy boundaries means knowing your emotional, physical, and mental limits. When those limits are crossed, you may become uncomfortable or even resentful towards others.
Unhealthy boundaries can occur with anyone in your life, including your romantic partner, friends, and family members. Learning about the common signs of unhealthy boundaries can help you recognize relationships in your own life that may need healthy boundaries established.
Boundaries in Romantic Relationships
Boundaries can sometimes be hard to discern in romantic relationship because partners are inclined to share not only tangible items with each other, but also secrets, fears, and other personal emotions. Counselor Gary Gilles says that healthy boundaries should distinguish the responsibilities of both partners. He states that each person is responsible for:
Healthy boundaries foster better communication and responsibility for both you and your partner. But sometimes emotions can cloud your judgment and lead to unhealthy boundaries. Some common boundary infractions in relationships can include:
Boundaries in Friendships
Since each one of your friendships differ, your boundaries will likely vary as well. People will naturally let their closest friends know more about them, but be more guarded when it comes to new friends. Healthy boundaries between friends should include:
Have you ever had a friend who never showed up on time, or a friend that talked about you behind your back? These are common boundary violations that can occur in both old and new friendships. Other unhealthy boundaries can include:
Boundaries With Parents
As you grow older, boundaries between you and your parents are going to change. Whether you’re just about to move out of your parent’s house or if you’ve been living independently for years, stay tuned to signs of unhealthy boundaries such as:
How to Begin Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Standing up for yourself and talking to others about your limits is a challenging process. If talking about all of your boundaries sounds too overwhelming, that’s OK. Dr. Gionta recommends starting to practice being assertive in small ways first. You could begin by telling a friend “no” if you don’t want to do something. Below are some more steps you can take in establishing healthy boundaries.
It can also be helpful to seek support if you feel defeated by unhealthy boundaries. You can start by taking this relationship assessment created by Oakville Wellness Center to gauge your relationship health. If your results concern you, or if you just need support, Oakville Wellness Center has well-qualified therapists to help you develop the skills and confidence needed to start establishing healthy boundaries.
Over 3 million Americans today stutter, but exactly what causes stuttering remains largely unknown. Right now, researchers agree on just four main factors that may heighten the possibility of someone developing a stutter:
Stuttering in Children
Stuttering is relatively common for young children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old who are learning how to talk. For most children, the stutter will go away on its own once speaking becomes easier. However, some signs that may warrant an appointment with a doctor or speech-language pathologist include:
Neurogenic stuttering differs from developmental or neurophysiological stuttering because this type of stuttering only occurs after someone suffers an injury or disease in their central nervous system. These injuries and illnesses can include:
People at any age can develop a neurogenic stutter following one of these ailments, but it’s been shown that elderly people are most at risk.
Symptoms and Difficulties of Stuttering
Regardless of how someone develops a stutter, the symptoms remain the same. Stuttering is classified as a speech disorder that impacts the fluidity of someone’s speaking. It disrupts a normal rate of speech and it can be characterized by repeating words, sounds, or syllables. Common symptoms of stuttering include:
Struggling with a Stutter?
Adults who have been struggling for years with a stutter may find speech therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy useful. It is unlikely that the stutter will ever completely disappear, but they can learn how to reduce stress, practice relaxation techniques, reduce the frequency of their stutter, and much more. Adults who stutter can also benefit from talking to a therapist about any psychological problems that may have been brought on by the stutter. Easing anxiety, loneliness, or feelings of anger can help ease the physical effects of stuttering as well.
Motivation is the thing that gets us up in the morning and keeps us going all day. At least, that’s the idea. The truth is that motivation can often be fleeting, and it’s very common for people to have trouble finding that spark to seize the day. There’s no simple cure for a lack of motivation because it can arise for a multitude of reasons. Factors ranging from your social life and family issues to your personal health can all have a significant impact on how you function from day to day.
Thus, the path to finding more motivation in your daily life is a personal one. Whatever your own struggles may be, we encourage you to consider these suggestions to see if any of them work for you. Some may be more helpful than others, and some may not help much at all. That being said, you may find that the simple act of searching for more motivation will help by itself, opening you up to new ways of looking at yourself and your world.
Clean Your Room
This piece of advice may sound like a chore, but it actually comes from psychologist Ralph Ryback of Psychology Today -- and a number of other important psychologists and researchers agree. Disorganization can loom over you and feel like an impending task (or a past failure of cleanliness) which can lead to a defeated attitude on a subconscious level. Other studies have even shown that people who have cleaner houses tend to be healthier: a finding that supports the notion that making one positive change in your life (such as tidying up) can inspire you to make a succession of additional positive changes.
Sometimes, the cumulative stress of our daily lives just becomes too much. If you find yourself just wanting to get away from it all, consider including exercise into your daily or weekly routine. In John Ratey’s book, Spark, the psychiatrist delves into the various benefits that exercise has on the brain. By elevating your heart rate for thirty minutes just three times a week, studies have shown drastic improvements in overall energy, social skills and focus. Additionally, there is significant evidence that shows how exercise helps to fight depression and anxiety, conditions that are all too common these days.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an “exercise person”, it can be relatively easy to implement a more active lifestyle. For example, going for a walk each day may make a significant difference in your motivation. Just like with cleaning your room, getting a workout in before starting your day can give you a sense of accomplishment to build off of.
You may think that successful people are just naturally motivated. In fact, this is usually not the case. The difference is that many highly-motivated people have just learned how to best channel energy to their benefit. This is something that you too, with a little practice, can accomplish.
The biggest trick to staying motivated is not to rely on it. Motivation comes and goes just like happiness and sadness; it’s only natural. Accepting that fact is the first step to learning how to overcome it. Instead of relying on motivation, rely on discipline. By setting clear and attainable goals for yourself, you can fight a lack of motivation with sheer willpower and determination.
One way to do this is by using SMART goals. Originally invented as an ultra-effective way to set goals, it is now relied on by countless people in order to gauge aspirations and accomplish tasks. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By setting a goal while following these guidelines, you can ensure that you have the best chance at achieving it.
At Oakville Wellness Center, our expert therapists will always be there to help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information or an appointment.
Relaxation is an important part of human life. Everyone loves to take breaks and recuperate from time to time, and relaxation is shown to reduce stress and have several health benefits. Approximately 77% of adults regularly experience physical symptoms as a result of stress. These symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, chest pain, and more, and they can lead to serious conditions like cardiovascular diseases and mental health problems. Making time for relaxation can help manage this stress and prevent it from manifesting physically. Techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and rest help produce a relaxation response in the body which can decrease stress and stress-related conditions.
However, as helpful as relaxation can be, the age-old adage “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” applies to relaxation as well. When people achieve relaxation in the wrong ways or over-prioritize it in their lives, there can be unhealthy consequences just as dangerous as having too much stress. Here are some signs that your relaxation techniques might be more problematic than they are beneficial:
You Achieve Relaxation in Harmful Ways
There are both positive and negative ways to achieve relaxation. If you use negative ways to reach a state of relaxation, you are going to increase your stress levels and cause more damage than good. Abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances might feel helpful in the moment, but these coping mechanisms are unhealthy and can have significant health risks. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can cause physical and emotional problems that can lead to severe bodily damage and even death. You should avoid using substances to try and reduce stress.
Other negative ways people use to try and manage stress include unhealthy or excessive habits. Overeating and binge-eating can be disastrous for your health, which will lead to increased stress and health problems like obesity and heart-disease. Seek help if your stress-managing eating habits have become out of control. Over using entertainment and binge-watching television has been linked with depression and loneliness. While it might be helpful to set aside time to watch television, play video games, or use other electronics to take a break, when you spend hours upon hours doing these activities, you put your health at risk. Poor coping habits like impulsive purchasing can devastate people financially and mentally, and it can also ruin marriages and other relationships. Make sure to avoid these habits when you are trying to deal with the stressors in your life.
Emotionally or physically cheating on a significant other is a surefire way to poison a relationship. Destroying your health and the relationships you have with people you care about is never a good way to manage the problems you are facing in life. If you are participating in any of these activities in order to feel relaxed, your relaxation is harmful, not helpful.
You Over-Prioritize Relaxation
While relaxation can have wonderful benefits for people who make time for it regularly, it can be problematic for people who dedicate too much time to it. If you are relaxing when you should be working or you are slacking off instead of taking care of your responsibilities, you are relaxing in a harmful way. Like anything else in life, relaxation needs to be balanced among your other duties. If you are sleeping or participating in other stress-relief activities when it is time to for you to go to work or take care of your children, then you are not achieving a healthy balance. In fact, sleeping too much can ruin your sleep schedule and cause insomnia. Carve out time for relaxation, but make sure that you have time to take care of your other duties as well. Make sure to relax in moderation.
You Use Relaxation to Avoid Conflict
If you are in a partnership or friendship where there are unhealthy problems that need to be handled, you should not seek relaxation in order to escape or cope with the conflict in those relationships. Do not be so relaxed that you are afraid to confront someone. Avoid using relaxation as a form of escapism in order to prevent yourself from having potentially hard conversations with others. Practice good communication and address issues in your relationships when necessary. Communication is a healthy way to begin to address conflict, and everyone involved will be better for it.
Your Relaxation Promotes Isolation
While it is definitely important to carve out time for yourself and have alone time, be wary if your relaxation techniques only involve isolation. It is important to be around others and to communicate to your friends and family when you are feeling overly-stressed or you are having a difficult time coping with problems in your life. Actively avoiding others is not a beneficial way to relax and it can cause you to feel lonely and depressed.
For more information or for help finding positive relaxation and coping techniques, visit Oakville Wellness Center.
Giving compliments to others is a great way to build relationships and strengthen bonds between friends. People tend to enjoy receiving compliments because kind words and positive feedback are encouraging and motivating, and they boost self-esteem. In addition to making a person feel good about themselves, flattering words also have numerous health benefits for the recipient. People who receive positive words frequently are shown to higher levels of productivity and decreased levels of stress, and they experience the same emotional payoff as they would have if they received a tangible reward instead. Researcher Norihiro Sadata, one of the creators of a study about the benefits of receiving compliments, says that getting a compliment is “as much as a social reward as being rewarded money.” With the evidence of how money is a key motivator, it is no surprise that people who receive praise have high levels of performance.
Although the recipient of kind words seems to benefit the most from compliments, giving compliments can be equally rewarding. However, while everyone loves to receive accolades, praising others does not always come easily. Sometimes giving compliments can be intimidating because people are not sure how their words will be received, or they are afraid they will come off as disingenuous. It can also be difficult for someone who has social anxiety or someone who is nervous around others to approach someone and commend them. If you struggle with any of these insecurities, giving a compliment might be a challenge, but with practice, you can become skilled in this area and reap the benefits of boosting others up with kindness. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work on becoming more confident when giving compliments.
Avoid giving compliments randomly or without meaning. Compliments come across better when they are sincere and the recipient knows you truly mean what you are saying. Always make sure that you are being moderate with your praise. You do not have to be over-the-top with your compliments to be genuine. Inflated praise will make your comments seem insincere and might make the recipient uncomfortable. Take the time to truly acknowledge someone’s strengths and approach them with genuine kind words. A genuine compliment will go a long way because it will be more significant to the recipient.
Make sure your motives for giving the compliment are pure so that you do not give backhanded compliments or seem like you are giving praise for your own benefit. Empty flattery and kissing-up are not helpful for you are the person you are complimenting. Make sure you are not offering your words in order to receive a compliment in return. When you offer words of admiration, you should be doing it solely for the benefit of the other person.
Regardless of how sincere your intention is, a general compliment will not be as significant as one that recognizes something specific. Instead of praising someone for doing good work, praise them for the specific action or project they completed that demonstrated their good work and include examples. Saying, “Your presentation was great” is not as meaningful as saying, “The information you shared in your presentation today was insightful and well-organized, and I learned some helpful new skills I will be sure to implement.” Try and focus on character traits and behaviors rather than physical attributes, and be as specific as possible when highlighting these characteristics.
There is nothing more sincerely flattering than knowing someone sees you and that they can specifically pinpoint something they appreciate about you. Take the time to pay attention to those around you so that you can notice their personal strengths. As you focus on others and their positive qualities, genuine compliments will come to you more naturally. Make it a priority to be present when you are spending time with others and actively look for opportunities to offer praise.
Many people are afraid to praise others because, in their mind, they see compliment giving as ambitious, grandiose gesture. Giving a compliment does not have to be complicated or overly formal. When you see an opportunity to offer someone a genuine compliment, simply walk over to them and casually give them your positive remarks. Notice and offer admiration for small actions. If someone has a new haircut that looks good on them, let them know. You do not have to wait for someone to do something major or for them to have some sort of big accomplishment in order to recognize them. It will be less intimidating to give compliments when you see them as quick, casual remarks rather than grand gestures.
Be Open to Receiving Compliments
If you are not able to receive compliments well, you might struggle to give them to others. Learn how to take a compliment in stride. When someone praises your work or offers you a positive remark, smile and say thank you. Resist the urge to diminish their compliment by denying or negating their kind words. Do not automatically return a compliment unless it is sincere. When you receive a compliment that is truly flattering, consider the way they gave their compliment to you and allow that experience to influence how you give compliments to others.
For help communicating and building positive relationships with others, contact Oakville Wellness Center and visit their blog.
Sadness and depression are two terms that are oftentimes used interchangeably. And while it’s true that sadness and depression are in some ways related, there are important distinctions that you should be aware of if you think you may be suffering from depression. Some sixteen million people in the US alone have been affected by this condition -- so awareness certainly does matter.
Sadness and depression share a lot of qualities (most notably a sad mood). However, there are a few areas where they have obvious differences. Asking yourself the following questions can help you discern a sad mood from possible depression -- and empower you to make the decisions you need in order to feel better.
Can you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
One thing that characterizes depression over regular sadness is that those stuck in the depths of depression often feel a sense of unsettling permanence. To them, it seems that things will never change and that there’s no possible event or action that will help in any way. A typical period of sadness, however, is often accompanied by the knowledge that the sadness will end (think of someone who’s sad because they lost their job, but understands that they’ll soon find a new one).
Are you able to distract yourself?
Can your friends still take you out to get your mind off things? Does a random encounter with a golden retriever puppy still bring you a moment’s respite from your negative feelings? If so then true depression is less likely. Those who suffer from depression are often unable to find joy in their favourite things, and no activity is able to distract them from how they feel.
Are you experiencing physical symptoms?
Depression hits more than just a person’s mental wellbeing. Very often a host of physical issues come along with it. Left untreated, depression can take a significant physical toll on a person’s body. If you’re experiencing any combination of physical symptoms along with a depressed mood, then it is likely evidence that you’re going through more than a normal bought of sadness.
These are just a few of the most common physical symptoms that come with depression. The National Institute on Mental Health keeps a more complete list, which you may find informative.
Can you still see the good in yourself?
Regular sadness doesn’t usually lead to self-loathing. Sometimes a person may be feeling sad and guilty about a bad thing that they did, but the feelings are unlikely to be permanent or all-consuming. You may feel like a jerk for that fight you started with your spouse, but at no point would your guilt over that make you feel like even your own parents have no reason to love you.
Depression, on the other hand, does exactly that. It can convince a person that they have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and that no one in their lives truly enjoys having them around. An intense self-loathing can be a very serious sign that not only are you depressed, but you need help fast.
Sometimes it can help to lay all your symptoms out at once, and see them all together to get a good idea of the scope of your situation. Depression screenings offered by hospitals or online resources are a good way of doing this. These are not a replacement for a medical diagnosis, but they can give you an idea of whether or not you should be seeking professional help.
There’s a wide array of options to treat depression. Sometimes changes in daily routine can be helpful. Other times, a psychotherapist or psychiatrist might need to come on board. Many people are reluctant to begin treatment for depression, but it is truly more effective the earlier you start. And remember that most treatments, including medication, do not need to continue for the rest of your life. Recovery time is different for everyone but most people can get better from depression, and get back to living their lives.
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The act of giving birth is one of the most celebrated in human society. We all know parents who gush about this phenomenal experience and detail the elation they felt in the hours and days following. Popular culture and film are also awash with moving scenes of childhood as couples transition to parenthood against a backdrop of sentimental music and family joy.
What is less often depicted is that once the post-partum dust has settled, the early stages of parenthood can be truly difficult.
Whilst many women suffer the “baby blues” and may be anxious or tearful for short periods of time (usually around one to two weeks) following birth, this can sometimes develop into something more serious.
If symptoms last much longer, or start later into motherhood, postnatal depression is a possibility. Postnatal depression (sometimes also referred to as postpartum depression) is a mood disorder associated with childbirth. It is estimated that approximately 13% of women experience postnatal depression.
Symptoms that you or a loved one may be suffering from postnatal depression include:
What causes postnatal depression?
Unfortunately the answer to this isn’t entirely clear but it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors.
On a physiological level, pregnancy and birth bring with it a whole host of hormonal changes, which may lead to changes in mood. Hormones affect some women to a greater extent than others.
Parents who have suffered from depression prior to childbirth, are much more likely to develop postnatal depression. A family history of mental illness is also a risk factor.
That said, a history of depression does not automatically mean that you will go on to develop depression postpartum. It may be helpful to be aware that you are at risk, so that you can look out for the signs mentioned above.
Aside from this, there are factors relating to the birth process itself that may trigger postnatal depression. These include:
Your home-life may also be influential. Unsuitable housing or money issues may naturally make the transition to parenthood more stressful. Worries relating to work can also hamper your ability to relax and settle into the changes you face.
A strong support network and supportive partner may provide a protective effect against postnatal depression. It is not helpful to spend too much time alone without adult company so if you are feeling isolated it may be helpful to reach out to other parents in the community.
Can men experience postnatal depression?
Although men may not experience the hormonal storm of pregnancy, they may still be subject to its emotional effects. A recent study conducted in Sweden found that 28% of men demonstrated mild levels of depression. Women are routinely screened for postnatal depression while paternal mental health is often overlooked.
The research team added a series of questions to the most commonly used postnatal depression screen, in order to capture the unique symptoms that may be displayed by men. These included working longer hours, irritability and excessive alcohol consumption.
It is not entirely clear whether depression in fathers is a newer phenomenon, or just something which we have only recently begun to explore and detect. Many new fathers face challenges such as trying to balance their work life with their family life as well as decreased sleep and changes in their relationship.
Naturally, depression makes it harder for a new father to invest time in the newborn. Fathers experiencing difficulties should consider that they may have paternal postnatal depression.
How can postnatal depression be treated?
The first step is to speak to your general practitioner. With prevalence rates estimated to lie at about 13%, it is much more common than you think, and health services are trained to recognise the signs and give you the support that you need.
Self-care: It is also crucial at this stage to be kind to yourself. Take care of your primary needs such as getting enough sleep, eating well and doing things that you enjoy. It may feel like you do not have time for this with a young child on your hands, but don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
Talk therapy: As with many psychological difficulties and types of depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful. Most experienced therapists will be able to provide a course of CBT and tailor it to the specific difficulties you may be having. Many new parents struggle to live up to the ideal of “perfect parent” and may not have anticipated the difficulties associated with parenthood. CBT can help new parents find a way to think about the difficulties they face and learn better coping mechanisms.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants may also be useful, particularly if the depression is more severe. Some women worry about taking antidepressants whilst breastfeeding but your doctor will be able to provide you with ones that are safe.
One of the worst things about postnatal depression can be feeling alone or unusual in the feelings you are having. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it can help to reach out to national organisations. These can not only provide information and advice but also networks of other parents to talk to.
Cox, J. L., Holden, J. M., & Sagovsky, R. (1987). Detection of postnatal depression. Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The British journal of psychiatry, 150(6), 782-786.
NHS, Unknown. “Postnatal Depression.” NHS Choices, NHS, 11 Feb. 2016, www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/treatment/.
Psouni, E., Agebjörn, J., & Linder, H. (2017). Symptoms of depression in Swedish fathers in the postnatal period and development of a screening tool. Scandinavian journal of psychology.