This is PathwaysVoice, our blog of interesting comments, observations, news, and helpful insights into the world we see around us. It is our effort to support, care, guide, and motivate each of us on our individual paths.
Society has taken several drastic turns in the past two decades, presenting positive change and advancements as well as new stressors that can have detrimental effects on today’s teenagers. There have been areas of immense progress in the last 20 years with the birth of the internet, the introduction of smartphones, and the popularization of social media. These accomplishments achieved by humankind have made knowledge not only increasingly available but has put information in our hands faster and more efficiently than ever. Teenagers have so many resources available to them today, including alternative ways of gaining knowledge and expanding their learning, as well as a multitude of options to start businesses and generate their own income as they grow into adulthood. These opportunities were not available, nor even anticipated, in their parents’ generation. However, along with today’s advances and opportunities have come greater responsibility, pressure, competition, and inevitably, greater stress for teens. Adults are emotionally, cognitively, and even physically better equipped to manage stress and even among adults, chronic stress remains a great threat to overall wellbeing and quality of life. Teenagers nowadays are often confronted with adult issues, responsibilities, and stressors during a stage of development where they should be learning to cope with age-appropriate situations, not an overwhelming amount of duty and responsibility. Unhealthy stress develops when life circumstances are greater than what the teen has the ability, and especially the maturity, to handle. Pressure to Achieve Teenagers today feel greater pressure to pursue higher academic achievement. Beginning at an early age, many teens are told by parents and/or teachers that if they want to “make it” in life, they must obtain an education beyond high school. Thirty years ago, earning a four-year college degree was not only considered an admirable personal and professional accomplishment, but it was also sufficient to earn a good living, even with only one primary income in the household. Things have changed dramatically to the point that nowadays, as a result of greater economic inequality and higher cost of living, not only are two incomes often necessary in a household to maintain middle-class status, but more advanced degrees are often required in order to earn a decent living. The parents and teachers of today’s teens have lived (and struggled) through this social and economic shift in recent decades, therefore, a strong message is sent to teens: They must achieve higher education or risk living in poverty. Greater Responsibility As a result of greater pressure to achieve, teenagers must endure the stress of greater academic responsibilities. Since many teens are seeking higher education and more teens are attending college after graduating from high school, colleges and universities have increased their admissions standards, making getting into college more competitive than ever before. It is not uncommon for universities to require or at least give greater preference to students with A-average GPAs, 1,000 plus hours of community service, and participation in several clubs and extracurricular activities. The bar is set much higher and young people are often warned by their parents’ generation that if they don’t get into college, they will be “stuck” earning minimum wage. A few decades ago, many high school graduates opted to take a break from school and go to work in order to gain experience and “find themselves” in order...read more
On the first day of school, my 6 year old son decided that he just wasn’t going this year. Sure, he came up with a plethora of reasons: he felt sick, he was tired, he would go another day, school bores him, and so forth. Now, in a past decade, before his mother became a therapist, I might have bribed him, pleaded with him, and finally threatened his very existence. However, having a mother that is a counselor is wonderful if, for nothing more, I understood. I was looking at anxiety straight in the face behind the biggest watery blue eyes I had ever seen. My heart ached for him, and, well, I got it. Anxiety can mean many things: Stress, fear, tension, worry, panic, or phobia. There are numerous symptoms that fall under the many descriptions of anxiety and more often than not, no two anxiety cases are alike. Anxiety can affect individuals of all ages and from all backgrounds, with onset of symptoms occurring at any time from early childhood, older adulthood, or any time in between. At Pathways Counseling Services, a Scottsdale counseling office, we treat adults and children of all ages struggling with various anxiety disorders. Our anxiety counseling services are the most advanced. We tailor your anxiety treatment to your specific concerns, needs, and level of comfort. Our counselors understand that coping with anxiety can be a scary and stressful experience and we will be here to serve as your guide and support throughout your journey towards recovery and renewed health. Below we will provide you with some information about how you can identify anxiety and the accompanying symptoms and some of the treatment options available because, yes, there are treatments that can help you cope with anxiety or alleviate your symptoms altogether. We want you to get back to being you and we look forward to helping you through this process. What does anxiety look and feel like? Anxiety symptoms include thoughts, emotions, feelings, and even physical sensations that you can feel all over your body. The “mental” or “thought-related” symptoms of anxiety include worrying (about one thing or many things), fears (that make you avoid people, places, things, or situations), or scary thoughts (feeling as if bad things will happen to you). The “physical” symptoms of anxiety include rapid heartbeat, sweating, stomachaches, getting startled easily, headaches, tingling of the fingers or hands, numbness, dizziness, feeling choked up or having difficulty speaking, trembling/shaking, nausea, and weakness in the arms or legs. The list is long because everyone experiences the physical sensations caused by anxiety in different ways, but anxiety is very much an experience that can affect the physical body. Think of it as a way that your body let’s you know that something’s not right and you need to ask for help, take a break, and take care of yourself. Anxiety symptoms can last all day or for days at a time, or they can occur intensely for short periods of time, such as when a person has a panic attack. Whether symptoms are mental, physical, or both, anxiety can be debilitating and affect a person’s ability to work, socialize, take care of themselves and their home, go to school, and overall prevent a person from enjoying their life. It can also...read more
A large portion of the human world believes in love, while the other part considers it nothing more than a myth. The degree of truth in this statement is unknown. But we do know for sure that every relationship has its ups and downs. No matter how perfect a couple seems, even if they are married, they do have their downs too. The celebrity couples that appear to have a love life that seems too good to be true for everyone else usually is. It’s a fact that these down times make a relationship stronger…if we can survive them. However, the process of not letting these bad moments ruin your relationship is difficult to do. In order to get the best out of these moments of disagreement, betrayal, lack of communication, infidelity or other common problems we suggest that you see a marriage counselor as soon as possible. It’s imperative to take positive steps towards a better relationship before the relationship is severely damaged. Often, by the time people feel the need to see a counselor, the relationship has reached a hurting state. Here is our little guide to help you with your process of marriage or couples counseling. When to go to a counselor The most vital part of marriage counseling or couples counseling is to go at the right time. Don’t start your counseling search after your relationship has gone past the stage of getting repaired. Yes, it’s best to try and solve relationship issues on your own but sometimes the matter can get out of hand and cause negativity between two people. Things like infidelity can seriously harm the trust and ultimately the bond in a relationship. Try to get the damage fixed as soon as possible. Even if there is no major issue as such, family counseling and marriage counseling will help you achieve a healthier relationship which benefits both the people in the relationship. Which counselor to choose The person you choose is going to play a very major role in the process. Of course, the therapy won’t be of any use unless both the partners are comfortable with their choice of counselor. Similarly, you need to open up about a very private part of your life. This won’t be possible unless you actually like the person and trust them with their work. Opt for someone that both the partners are happy with. Along with that, do not tie yourself to a long term commitment with the counselor. Some family counselors make you sign an agreement for attending a certain number of sessions. It’s better to have the sense of freedom so that you can quit whenever you feel like the counselor doesn’t suit your needs. Get comfortable with your counselor before the sessions start. Get to know about your counselor. Their name, educational background, experience, and other basic information that’ll make you comfortable enough to open up to them. In case your counselor refuses to answer you, reconsider your choice. How can you trust someone to know about your entire love life if they won’t tell you the most basic information about their work. Your counselor needs to be someone who will genuinely help you solve your problems. We are a Scottsdale counseling office and our therapists specialize in marriage counseling and family...read more
How to process, talk with children, and help others. By: Elyssa Barbash Ph.D. We are appalled and heartbroken by the horrific mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas this week. To think how many concert-goers were there, just living their life and innocently having fun in a place known to be relaxing and enjoyable, only to be changed forever by the actions of a sole shooter, is incomprehensible. For many of us, it’s hard to find the right words to describe how we are feeling, so instead, we turn to logic, and we find ourselves wanting to find an answer for why this tragedy happened. Still, many are in disbelief; not understanding how something like this can happen (at all, and perhaps even more, again). Situations like this are hard to comprehend and understand. And as much as we try, there’s a good chance that we will never totally understand the why, especially when there is very little way to make sense of the senseless. Despite the fact that what happened in Vegas is now the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, this tragic event is only amplified by the number of traumatic events that have preceded it. In the wake of the numerous worldwide traumatic events and mass shootings, it is important that you take care of yourself and your family. This article is written to provide information on how to cope during this difficult time. How to psychologically process During this time, it is incredibly helpful not to avoid how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Find others who you can openly speak with, and discuss what is on your mind. Share your fears, your heartache, anger, disgust, etc. Whatever it is, share it. Repressing your innermost thoughts and emotions does not make them disappear, but instead, they are likely to intensify. If you have been personally impacted by the shooting, whether you were present at the concert or know someone who was, it is imperative that you allow yourself the time and emotional space to process what has happened. For many in Florida, the Vegas shooting hits too close to home after the Pulse nightclub shooting that took place in 2016. The key to psychologically processing what has happened is to think about it, talk about it, journal about it, etc. Don’t avoid it. How to help others You are not alone in your thoughts and feelings about what has happened, and just as you need support, those around you likely do, as well. If you know someone who was present during the attack or someone whose loved one perhaps passed away or was injured, it is incredibly important to know how to help them through this difficult time. The best thing you can do is to simply listen and be supportive. Don’t minimize their feelings, reactions, or pain. Everything you or they are going through after a tragedy such as this is both completely normal and healthy (and must occur if effective healing is to happen). Being a good friend or family member means being available and listening with empathy. Likewise, perhaps you know someone who has been in a similar situation, and the Vegas shooting is a strong trigger for them. The Vegas shooting is only likely to bring up disturbing memories, images, nightmares, anger, emotional pain, etc. If this is you, it is important to acknowledge your...read more
Susan Heitler Ph.D.Resolution, Not Conflict Nervousness can feel awful. What are the up and downsides of treatment options? To understand why pills for treatment of anxiety can be problematic, look first to the growing understanding of the downsides of pills for physical pain. Physician Russell Portenoy, a prominent New York pain specialist, twenty years ago spearheaded the movement that encouraged doctors to prescribe more painkiller medications to suffering patients, a movement that helped many but at the same time minimized the dangers of addiction. Now Dr. Portenoy has come full circle. He has become a leader in warning physicians and the general public of the addictive potential of painkillers, particularly when used for on-going long-term problems as opposed to for brief acute pain such as from a surgery. Many doctors similarly have begun to rethink the frequency with which they prescribe drugs to quell physical pain. The Wall Street Journal (12-15-2012) reports that 16,500 people die of overdoses annually from these medications, more than from all illegal drugs combined. What about taking pills for easing anxiety, a particularly common form emotional pain? Many physicians prescribe anti-anxiety medications to decrease feelings of worry, stress, stomach butterflies, and other anxiety manifestations. For patients who are suffering with extreme and chronic anxiety, the medication is a godsend. They can relax and live normal lives. That strategy though, like use of physical painkillers, risks addiction. Many anti-anxiety drugs, like physical pain reducers, are highly addictive substances. So while using them briefly to calm short-term major anxiety may be worthwhile, wariness is appropriate. Benzodiazepine medications, with familiar names such as Halcion, Klonopin, Librium, Resteril, Valium and Xanax, are among the most widely prescribed pharmaceuticals in America, and also the deadliest. Like opioids, benzodiazepine drugs are highly addictive if used for more than a brief period of time and on a regular, as opposed to occasional basis. Instead of risking addiction and potential overdose from benzodiazepines, doctors and nurse practitioners are increasingly prescribing antidepressant drugs for anxiety relief as some of these have sedative (relaxing) side effects. These SSRI medications have another downside however. They make you drug dependent, which is the same as addicted but without feelings of craving. Ceasing the use of these medications once you have been on them for some time can engender sick feelings and/or trigger an intense withdrawal-induced depression. Anxiety Treatment Re-Thinking TV pharmaceutical ads would have us believe that anxiety, an unpleasant sensation for sure, is a chemical phenomenon that needs to be subdued, soothed, or in some other way eliminated. Their recommended route to calm is to take a pill. A similar re-thinking as what has happened with opioids for physical pain may be needed for this widespread prescribing by doctors of drugs to quell the emotional pain of anxiety. Is there any way that is anxiety good for you? The good news is that anxiety, like physical pain, is almost always a valuable signal. It tells you that troubling is brewing. Like a blinking yellow traffic light, anxious feelings signal “Pay Attention. There’s a problem here that merits addressing!” Because anxiety warns you that there is a problem that needs to be solved, a best first response to anxiety is to get to work gathering information about the problem and mapping an effective plan of action for dealing with it. Already then the anxiety is likely to begin to lift. Anxiety in this regard...read more