Teenagers often have worries and intrusive thoughts that can lead to ongoing anxiety. One of the most common types is Generalized Anxiety. The DSM-V explains Generalized Anxiety Disorder as, “excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities such as work or school performance.” Anxiety can have physical and emotional effects that can feel like an endless burden. As adult mentors, educators, and caregivers, here are tips for how to help a teenager with anxiety.
How to Help a Teenager With Anxiety
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 31, 2022 anger, anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, help for anxiety, mental health, social anxiety, teen anxiety, therapy for anxiety, treatment for anxiety, treatment for anxiety disorder0 comments
Sept 26: Intro to Group: Ice Breaker Activity, Review Rules and expectations
The anxious brain is conflicted as the mind can race, but inversely “blank out.” The frustration of not having a clear mind can lead to poor performance in school. Teens can start to lose concentration after school during homework or at work. Validate some of their worried thoughts by using logical thinking such as separating facts from fiction. Encourage creative outlets after mentally draining tasks. Teens can use journaling and stream of consciousness type writing to free these intrusive thoughts. Make sure there is a safe place for creativity as expression can be personal. Respect the privacy of your teen, but encourage them to share if comfortable.
Anger & Tension
Anger and irritability can unfortunately arrive during anxiety as a result of frustration. As we feel tense with worry, our bodies follow suit. Find what works best for your teen in the realm of movement. Sports are an obvious go-to, but yoga, tai chi and even light stretching can help. Giving your teen a time and space to calm down when angry will benefit you both. Talking about the anger when clear headed will improve your connection.
Sleep & Rest
Since one purpose of anxiety is to keep the brain and body on alert, there is a restless component that comes with anxiety. Frequently one can feel hypervigilant, especially when racing thoughts are added.
As a result, teens with anxiety may feel more tired and lethargic. Sleep becomes more crucial as anxiousness is prone to poor sleep patterns. Teenagers also need more sleep than their adult counterparts. Make early mornings less stressful by sticking to a more relaxing “down time” routine before bed. Find what type of nightly routine and sleep schedule works best. Remember that rest isn’t always sleep; meditation and taking breaks when acceptable can refresh the mind. A “mental health day” off school or work when appropriate can rejuvenate the soul.
One of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a sense of safety. The recent pandemic drastically affected schooling and activities. As a result, teens have had to learn to adapt to change and deal with disappointment. Teens especially crave the consistency of routine. Knowing what to anticipate in advance can help calm the anxious brain. Try to be realistic with expectations and set rules together. If you are uncertain of plans, be honest with your teen and come up with alternatives so that they know what to expect.
Using the 5 senses can be grounding to calm the nerves. For example, making a favorite meal together is comforting and incorporates all senses. Carrying a rollerball scent to smell, a fidget spinner to touch or sour candy to taste can be quick remedies when anxiety starts. Small changes of surroundings can also be refreshing, such as letting your teen rearrange and redecorate their room. There has been a resurgence in sensory items among teenagers. Being playful and letting teens enjoy video games and toys from their younger years also creates a sense of comfort.
There are many disorders that accompany anxious feelings such as Major Depressive Disorder, ADHD, and OCD. Anxiety can also be a result of traumatic events or major life changes.
Social anxiety (social phobia) is common among teens. Based on data from The National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), an estimated 9.1% of adolescents have social anxiety disorder, with an estimated 1.3% causing severe impairment.
Therapy for teens with a licensed professional counselor gives space to divulge these complicated thoughts and emotions. Group Therapy for Teenagers is a unique opportunity to gain skills and new behaviors with the benefit of an expert-led experience while being accelerated through the lens of social learning that can only come from peer support. Group formats have been used to successfully manage a variety of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Remember to practice your own self care when anxious as we are a great influence in their lives. When children see us coping better, they experience positive results firsthand. Normalizing honest conversations about emotions will show teens how to develop into healthy adults.
Group Therapy for Teenagers: Teen Art Group
This in-person Group Therapy for Teenagers runs from September 26-November 14 at 6PM on Mondays. It takes place at our Monroeville location. The group will be led by Licensed Professional Counselor Rachel Taylor, author of this article.
Teen Group Therapy: Teen Art Group will help teens learn Social Skills, Depression Coping Skills, Anxiety Strategies, and How to Handle Anger all within the context of making art.
Sept 26: Intro to Group: Ice Breaker Activity, Review Rules and expectations
Oct 3: Social Skills: Healthy relationships and make bracelets for friends
Oct 10: Depression Coping Skills: Jeopardy game
Oct 17: Anxiety Strategies/Discuss Group Topic choice
Oct 24: *Group topic Choice and craft*
Oct 31: Halloween!-Mask Craft and discuss different “sides” of self
Nov 7: Anger: role plays
Nov 14: Closure *Apples to Apples type game to review Group Skills *discuss future groups
Written by Rachel Taylor, LPC. Rachel is accepting patients at our Monroeville location as well as online. She is leading Group Therapy for Teenagers: Teen Art Group.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.)
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality ([1st ed.].). New York: Harper.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/social-anxiety-disorder
Questions to Ask a Dietitian
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 18, 2022 dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, healthy eating, healthy food, keto diet, ketogenic diet, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
When it comes to healthy eating, we all have questions to ask a dietitian—conflicting information is everywhere. Our Registered Dietitian answers some common questions about diet and nutrition.
Q: Is vegetarian (or keto, or…) the best way to eat?
A: There’s not one best way to eat. We are all unique, and some individuals may have various medical conditions that play a role in the way we fuel our bodies and the food choices we make. The best plan for you is that one that meets your medical and nutritional needs. And one that is enjoyable, accessible, and something you are able to stick with for the long term. By meeting with a registered dietitian, they can help you navigate and understand the best possible plan for you.
Q: How many glasses of water should I consume daily?
A: Staying hydrated is very important for many reasons related to our bodily functions, such as maintaining a normal body temperature and removing waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. So it is essential to make sure we are consuming enough water throughout the day. Consider your thirst sensation as being the best indicator that you need to drink. Make sure to keep beverages visible so you remember to take a sip throughout the day. Although there is not a static number of ounces for everyone, aim to consume water with each meal and snack.
Q: Is food labeled “organic” more nutritious?
A: There are a plethora of marketing claims on products all throughout the grocery stores and markets. When a product or food is labeled as “organic”, this is referring to the method of farming, not the nutritional value of the product. An organic logo does not reflect the nutritional contents of the food, such as calories, fat, salt, or sugar. Nutritious foods, whether conventionally or organically grown, are those that provide a good source of fiber, protein, and are low in salt and saturated fat.
Q: Should I avoid fruit because it has too much sugar?
A: The number one source of added sugar for Americans in their diet is from sweetened beverages, such as soda and energy drinks. Fruit provides about 1% of the added sugars individuals consume. Of note, health advice to limit “added sugar” does not apply to the natural sugar in fruit. Even if Americans consumed the recommended daily amount of 1-2 cups per day, it wouldn’t come close to the volume of sugar from ultra-processed foods and beverages. Bottomline, keep enjoying fruit, especially those with skins and seeds, as these are great sources of fiber.
Written by: Registered Dietitian Kali Alrutz
Get Started With Nutrition Counseling
To get started with 1 on 1 Nutrition Counseling with our Registered Dietitian, call us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below.
How to Get Over a Breakup? Tips from Relationship Therapists
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 8, 2022 breakups, coping with loss, divorce, healthy mourning, heartbreak, how to get over a breakup, loneliness, loss counseling, relationship, self care, self care during grief, single0 comments
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve experienced a breakup. Breakups can be difficult depending on how long they’ve lasted and/or how much we’ve emotionally invested in the person. We can expect a period of grieving the loss, even if we know it should have ended. We need to take some time to process what happened that caused the relationship to end and learn from that experience. Here are therapist-recommended tips on how to get over a breakup:
- Process what you’re walking away with rather than walking away without. This can look like thinking through, “What did I gain from this relationship?”, “What did I learn about myself?”, “What do I need to take note of for any potential relationships in the future?” Some possible answers to these questions may be: “I gained a lot more self confidence and the ability to be more self-sufficient.” “In the future, I want to make it clear how important time with my family is.” This can be a great journaling exercise.
- This is a time for good self-care: proper nutrition, regular exercise, and healthy sleep patterns. Invest in activities that are meaningful and where you can express your gifts and talents in ways that are fulfilling. You will have more time to invest in others, so engaging in volunteer roles where you are serving and helping others can add meaning and increase the quality of your life.
- Be mindful of how you are processing the loss. If you feel inadequate, unlovable, not significant, etc., as a result of the break-up, it might be helpful to process these beliefs with a therapist so you don’t end up with a distorted and negative view of yourself. If you sink into long periods of depression, anxiety, or grief, you may also want to process this with a therapist to be able to work through these feelings and return to a more positive view of life.
- Take a break from social media and spend more quality time with your most supportive friends. As humans, we require healthy attachments to others. Surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones (support system) can help soothe the attachment trauma. Also, allow yourself to grieve!! This is a loss and it is okay to feel it.
- Accept that feelings of sadness and loneliness are a normal part of any life change and they are not a signal that you should ‘be with’ the person who you are experiencing the break up with. Many people confuse sadness for a reason to continue on in that relationship. Remember, even people who struggle with substance abuse disorder crave their desired substance for a period of time after ‘quitting.’ Not everything we desire aligns with our higher goals and well being!
While it may not happen as quickly as you’d like, people have a resounding ability to heal from loss, regain autonomy and grow stronger. If you feel stuck or like it may be taking you longer than what feels appropriate, it may be helpful to reach out to a therapist for additional support.
Cover photo by Alex Green
Therapist Recommendations for How to Deal with Loneliness
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 20, 2022 cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive distortions, how to deal with loneliness, loneliness, reframing cognitive distortions0 comments
* a phrase coined by psychologist Jennifer Abel.
Loneliness, typically defined as the discrepancy between a person’s desired and actual social relationships, affects more than half of U.S. adults (58%). Additionally, Americans with mental health issues are more than twice as likely to be lonely than those with strong mental health.
Lonely individuals approach social encounters with a hypervigilance for social threats; they preferentially attend to negative social information; they remember more of the negative aspects of social events; they hold more negative social expectations; and they are more likely to behave in ways that confirm their negative expectations.
Research suggests that loneliness is not a fixed trait and can be improved or worsened by social interactions. Therefore, opportunities for social connectedness have the potential to improve the quality of social interactions and keep loneliness at bay.
How do we create these opportunities for social connection? What can we do about heightened sensitivity to social threats? Here’s our therapist recommendations for how to deal with loneliness.
- Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to identify the automatic negative thoughts you have around rejection and how other people perceive you. Then think of alternative or “better but believable” thoughts* that can help you have more neutral feelings.
- Look for and engage in everyday points of connection, even small ones, if it’s safe to do so. For example, wave to the neighbor down the street taking their daily walk, or engage in the impromptu casual conversation the person in front of you in line at the grocery store may start as you wait, usually about how you both always choose the longest line, etc. Those points of connection help you identify with others and underscore that while you may feel isolated, often you share a common experience with others.
- Are you feeling lonely with people you know? Maybe it’s time to hit “pause” with your current friends and build new relationships.. Look to see who has “friend potential.” If people are asking you to hang out and it seems intriguing, take a chance.
- Identify something you would enjoy or do enjoy or feel committed to and seek out a volunteer opportunity. You don’t even have to commit tons of time- it can be a one time step to start to see if you like it, and you`ll still garner the benefits of connection and being of service. Like animals? Seek out a volunteer opportunity at a local animal shelter during a pet supply drive or adoption day. If environmental concerns are more your thing, participate in a local clean up day and bond with your clean up crew as you compete to see which crew can stash the most trash! The options are as unique as you are! Who knows, you may even get to meet folks who share similar interests, which is an added bonus.
- Be the first to reach out to others. Many people remain lonely because they wait for others to engage with them or take the lead in setting up social interactions. Social people continually take the lead in calling, texting and making plans.
- Many people approach their social interactions in terms of what they get from them. They think, “What will this person do for me?” “How can *I* feel better from this social interaction?” This backfires. Instead, approach social interactions with the mindset of, “What can I give this person?” “How can I make them feel better?” Ultimately, people like being around people who make them feel good. If you focus on making the other person feel good rather than yourself, you stand a better chance of making a strong connection with the person.
* a phrase coined by psychologist Jennifer Abel.
Is Social Media Bad for Mental Health? You Might Be Surprised
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 14, 2022 cell phone addiction, cell phone anxiety, mental health, social media, social media addiction, social media usage, social media use0 comments
With as much critical and cautionary information that says social media is bad for mental heath, social media and online content has become an integral part of many social, commercial and human interactions. In behavioral psychology, we know that the more we pathologize and make taboo any given behavior or construct by prohibiting it, the less we are able to provide harm reduction strategies and even to help others to adopt ways of using social media which are socially and psychologically enhancing.
The average American user of social media spends 2 hours and 4 minutes per day interacting with social platforms, with that in mind, it is safe to say that social media is here to stay. Here are therapist recommendations for how to use social media in a way that supports wellbeing.
Beware of ‘All or ‘Nothing’ Thinking
Let go of the notion that it is all bad. All or nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion which imagines that by fully using social media platforms, you are engaging in something unhealthy or bad. The truth is, whether it is Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook, most people who use social media are not addicted or spending endless hours of their day engaging with this platform. According to American Society of Addiction Medicine, Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. Many people are using social media in their spare time to learn, interact, and engage with others and their content.
30 Minutes is a Good Aspirational Goal
Social media use varies by country and by generation with more social media use consumed by younger generations. Users in the Philipines rank the top of social media use with 3 hours and 43 minutes of use per day and Americans at about 2 hours and 4 minutes per day. Mental health researchers have long cited that too much social media consumption also is correlated to poorer mental health outcomes. But let us realize that there is a ‘sweet spot’ using social media for 30 minutes per day is a sign of healthy amount consumption. Whether you are checking out travel Tik Toks, Recipes, or Fit life or Mom life, there is a lot to see and even learn on the web when done with a well balanced perspective!
Social Media is a Complement to a Social Life
There are many ways that social interactions and friendships can be accelerated, formed, and solidified on social media. Connecting with people from your past, sending a friend request to a friend of a friend who seemed nice, sharing an invitation, are all easy on social media. While provoking new friendships and sharing a pic or a memory to solidify current relationships are all great, social media connections are a complement not a replacement for in person meetings, calls, and time spent connecting with people you can about.
Looking Back on Memories
Remember all of the content, pictures and stories that you share today will be your memories in the future. Make beautiful memories that will allow you to smile and appreciate a moment of nostalgia looking back on them. Pictures and videos do well to be stored on social media in addition to other physical and digital forms. Some people talk about the dangers of sharing pictures without remembering all that can be very beautiful about using social media as it is intended to be used.
The take home point is that social media is a complement to a well balanced life that should be appreciated for its benefits and used reasonably. The next time you feel the need to judge or criticize someone else’s use of social media use, maybe you could spend some time thinking about your own use and what your use says about you. With all things, when you are dug in on a specific topic, there is usually a reason why, and that reason is usually not a healthy one. With most things, moderation and an attitude of appreciation wins. As always, may the memories you create be happy, healthy and full of meaning.
What to Say to Someone With Depression
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 15, 2022 communication, counseling for depression, depression, depression counseling, depression therapy, friendship, major depressive disorder0 comments
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2020 so it’s likely someone you know or love has been affected. Knowing what to say to someone with depression isn’t always easy. However, social support can remind your loved one that they are not alone.
Research has shown that strong social support is an important factor in decreasing functional impairment in patients with depression and in increasing the likelihood of recovery. If your friend isn’t ready to talk, continue to offer your support by checking in regularly, either in person, on the phone, or by text.
So, what should you say to someone who has depression? Here are 8 suggestions.
What to Say to a Depressed Friend
- “I know you don’t see a light right now, but it’s there.”
- “I am here for you, tell me how you are feeling.”
- “I see that you have taken steps every single day to conquer your depression.”
- “You are resilient and you have people who love and care for you, including me.”
- “What can I pick you up from the grocery store?”
- “Would you like to join me on a short walk? If you’re not feeling up for it today, that’s okay.”
- “You don’t have to figure it all out today. We’re in this together.”
- “I can look for a counselor for you. Would that help?”
If you or someone you know would like Depression Therapy, please contact us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below.
10 Things Your Therapist Wants You to Know
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 2, 2022 adult therapy, anxiety, CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive distortions, coping skills, counseling, depression, Emotional Health, emotional intelligence, emotional iq, exercise for gratitude, goals, gratitude, mental health, personal growth, therapists0 comments
Our therapists are here to offer mental wellness support with specific interventions to treat all major mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, grief and trauma as well as relationship issues or any life stressors that you are dealing with. We teach you new coping skills for a variety of relational, emotional, and psychological issues so that you can enjoy your life.
While each counselor has their own specialties and approaches to therapy, there are several key things that most therapists want you to know.
Read on for 10 things your therapist wants you to know.
- Talking to a friend is not a replacement for therapy—therapy is strategic, focused, and an application of scientific methods to heal. Friends can offer support and connection but can’t replace therapy.
- Therapy is a safe place where you can be yourself without feeling judged. We won’t judge your story.
- Healing doesn’t happen from attending a weekly appointment. You heal by applying the skills, solutions and methods that you discuss in therapy during all of the hours in between sessions.
- It is ok to tell us anything and everything you are experiencing or have experienced: feelings, thoughts, intentions, behaviors etc. You’d be surprised that what you are sharing is something we have most likely heard many times before and it is not shocking.
- We’re not irritated by reviewing the same information over and over. Change takes time and practice.
- Setbacks are just learning opportunities — we won’t be disappointed in you.
- It may get worse before it gets better. Talking about tough emotions, situations and past traumatic experiences may be painful at first but is necessary in order to process them and change.
- The opposite of depression isn’t happiness. Often times folks who experience clinical depression make an assumption that they continue to be depressed or are not getting better even after symptoms decrease because they are “not happy” (with life/career/partner). The marker they use to determine depression is happiness vs unhappiness. When people learn that happiness takes work, it can be freeing for them and they have an easier time accepting their progress.
- Therapy can be challenging. It is not easy. But first work on developing a therapeutic relationship with your therapist. Once you have a solid foundation, you are able to work through so much. Be patient with the process.
- We won’t say hello in public unless you do first.
It is an honor and privilege to be a part of this life journey with each and every client we see.
Interested in Starting Therapy?
If you are ready to start therapy, you can call us a 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below.
5 Cooling Herbs to Beat the Summer Heat
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 26, 2022 clinical herbalist, clinical herbalist pittsburgh, herbalism, herbalist pittsburgh, holistic health, holistic medicine, integrative health, integrative medicine, integrative mental health, self care, Uncategorized0 comments
There are many herbs that can help us cool off on hot and humid days – whether by cooling and relaxing our tissues, helping open our pores to release heat, or by bringing extra moisture into our bodies. Here’s a list of 5 Cooling Herbs to beat the heat this summer and how to prepare them at home.
- Hibiscus has bright and luscious flowers that are enjoyed as a cooling beverage throughout the world. The taste is tangy, sour, and slightly astringent. I highly recommend trying this one iced and sweetened with a bit of honey!Also – If you happen to have Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus, a common landscaping bush) growing in your yard – good news! This is a variety of hibiscus and the flowers can also be enjoyed as tea. Just make sure your plants are not sprayed with chemical pesticides! Iced Hibiscus Tea: Add ¼ C hibiscus flowers to a quart jar and fill with boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes, add honey to sweeten, and chill in the refrigerator.
- Marshmallow Root: A cousin to hibiscus and yes, the namesake of the fluffy white confections that we enjoy in s’mores, Marshmallow is a wonderful herb to cool and moisten overly hot and dry tissues. Marshmallow contains “mucilage”, a lubricating compound that soothes and cools our the tissues of our body, particularly our respiratory, digestive, and urinary tract systems. This beverage is best prepared with cool or room temperature water and has an earthy and sweet taste. Marshmallow Infusion: Use ¼ C sifted marshmallow roots to a quart jar of cool or room temperature water. Let steep for 4 hours (or overnight), strain, and add ice and a bit of maple syrup.
- Rose: Did you know that roses are also medicinal and a lovely, cooling herb? Both the rose petals and the rose hips (the “fruit” of the rose) are edible and full of vitamin C. The petals are floral, sweet, and slightly astringent, and the rosehips are more tangy and sour. I love adding a small handful of rose petals to my water bottle in the summer time for a nice gentle and uplifting floral flavor. My other favorite preparation is a rose petal simple syrup (described below). If you have roses growing in your yard, you can use them as long as you don’t spray chemical pesticides or herbicides. Do not use commercially grown roses that you buy in the store as these almost always contain harmful chemical residues! Rose Petal Simple Syrup: Combine 1 C of rose petals, 1 C of sugar, and 2 C of water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 1 – 4 hours. Strain and store in the refrigerator! Add rose syrup to cocktails or sparkling water.
- Lemon Balm, one of the most bright, sweet, and sunny tasting herbs around, is from the mint family. This beautiful and aromatic herb uplifts the spirit and calms a restless heart. The physical effects are gentle and cooling, slightly sour and bitter. Lemon balm can be brewed as a regular tea infusion, or made into a “Sun Tea”. Lemon Balm Sun Tea: Pack a quart jar full of fresh lemon balm, or use ½ – 1 C of dried lemon balm. Fill with water, cover and place out in the sun all day long. After you strain, this tea can be chilled in the refrigerator and stored for 2 – 3 days.
- Raspberry leaf is high in vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, making it like a natural gatorade. It’s a well known ally for people that menstruate and pregnant folks, due to the high levels of iron and calcium and its action as a uterine tonic. The leaves are not quite as sweet and tart as the raspberry fruit, but they still contain a subtle tanginess that can be quite enjoyable! Raspberry iced tea: Pour 2 C boiling water over 1 tbsp of dried raspberry leave. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes, strain, add honey and chill in the refrigerator. To obtain more minerals and vitamins, infuse and steep overnight!
Ready to try them at home? If you’re local to Pittsburgh you can find many of these herbs at the East End Food Coop or at Cutting Root Apothecary. You can also order online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Written by: Clinical Herbalist Annie Fox Derek.
If you’re interested in working with Annie you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or contact us here.
Therapist Recommendations For Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 12, 2022 borderline personality disorder, BPD, BPD Relationships0 comments
There has been a lot of recent media attention surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder—Pete Davidson has been open about his diagnosis and more recently Amber Heard was evaluated to have Borderline Personality Disorder by a forensic psychologist who was hired by Johnny Depp’s legal team. I am hoping that I can show you the positive side of Borderline Personality Disorder and offer recommendations on loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and making your BPD relationships brighter and healthier.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can have features that include fear of abandonment, patterns of unstable relationships, rapid changes in self-image, and risky behavior.
With the pervasive nature of these mental health symptoms, treatment is essential, which includes a solid support network.
If you are a friend, family member, or partner of someone with BPD, you are probably well aware of the relationship challenges. Also, keep in mind those with BPD can (often unbeknownst to themselves) create the issues that cause abandonment, which they may fear the most.
Aside from these challenges, having a loved one with BPD can be enriching and rewarding. I can easily cite the positive aspects. I’ve frequently been motivated by the inspiring love for their passions. Their enthusiasm for life can be very contagious. They can offer dark humor and quick wit when you need to be cheered up from your own negative emotions.
In my experiences with clients and loved ones with BPD, I wanted to share some insight. I’ve learned that patience and empathy are the foundation for mutual growth.
I hope to offer some recommendations that can make BPD relationships brighter and healthier:
- First and most importantly, realize there are limits and boundaries to every relationship. Give and take isn’t always 50/50, but the relationship does not stay healthy if one’s time and energy is on a pattern of depletion.
- Clear communication of wants and needs are essential. Make sure you have your desires established early into the relationship, while also respecting those of your partner.
- Individual treatment. For your loved one, appropriate therapy is ideal. This clinician should be experienced in personality disorders. Even more importantly, this clinician should focus on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a therapy specifically devised for Borderline individuals that focuses on healthier coping and inward reflection. To manage your emotions properly, consider therapy for yourself.
- Research and learning. Receiving this diagnosis can be overwhelming for the patient as well as their support network. Finding out a loved one has a BPD diagnosis can bring up an array of questions. Make sure you educate yourself using reputable resources.
- Self-care. Both you and your loved one need care and balance; it is highly important to carve time for yourself. Your health is just as crucial as those around you.
- Support in any relationship is crucial, but even more so to those living with BPD. Look into joining a “Friends and Family” DBT support group online.
- Be Aware of Love Languages. Part of BPD in relationships is fear of abandonment, and small gestures can go a long way. Find your love languages and keep these in mind when you want to express appreciation.
- Words of Affirmation: Telling the person they are loved or giving sincere compliments even via text.
- Gifts: Thoughtful doesn’t have to mean expensive; think about their special interests or even delivering them a treat.
- Quality Time: One-on-one, no phones/no distractions. Be present with each other.
- Acts of Service: Schedule time to work on tasks they find overwhelming, even if you find it mundane.
- Physical Touch: Even close proximity can express to your BPD loved one that you are near and dear.
The emotional connections we have in life take thoughtful cultivation. There is work required in every relationship, but elevated patience and effort are needed when it comes to those with personality disorders. I encourage you to have open conversations with loved ones with any and all mental health needs so that you can discover more joy.
Written by Rachel Taylor, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NBCC) with Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Pruthi, S. Borderline Personality Disorder. (2022, May) The Mayo Clinic.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Boundaries in Relationships
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 7, 2022 borderline personality disorder, boundaries, communication, conflict resolution, conversations for couples, couples communication, educational, emotional intelligence, how to say no, personal growth, relationship, relationship conflict, relationship resolutions, self care, stress management0 comments
You may have heard that boundaries in relationships are good and worthwhile. Understandably you might have some questions about boundaries such as what are they? How do I set a boundary? How do I communicate a boundary? How do I enforce a boundary? Is there any flexibility to boundaries? I will answer all of these questions for you because as a licensed marriage and family therapist I am professionally and personally invested in people having the healthiest relationships they can for as long as it makes sense.
I would like to start with some warnings at the outset: boundaries are difficult, people often react negatively to them, and relationships can get worse before getting better when you challenge a person even if it is for the best. Here’s the thing: despite how it might feel, setting boundaries in a relationship shows that you care deeply about the relationship because it’s a difficult thing to do. People generally don’t expend the energy to do such challenging relationship work with persons they have no intention of maintaining a relationship with. A boundary communicates that you want to keep the person in your life and gives them clear guidance on how that can happen.
Boundaries vs. Rules
First, it is important to specify what a boundary is and what it isn’t. A boundary is about you and what you will/will not or can/can not do. When you try to make a boundary about someone else and what they will/will not or can/cannot do, that is a rule and is actually a disempowering position. You do not have control over others, but you do have control over yourself. For example, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, you can’t say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner” is a rule that is hard to enforce because Uncle so-and-so can choose to ignore that rule and say racist things anyway. Now what? Repeat yourself? Get into a verbal altercation over Thanksgiving dinner? Not ideal, right? However, if instead you say, “Hey, Uncle so-and-so, if you continue to say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner I will leave” Uncle so-and-so can choose to violate your request but there are now consequences that you control for that choice.
4 Steps To Set Boundaries in Relationships
- Identify how you want to interact in this relationship and/or how you don’t want to interact in this relationship. This is the boundary you are setting.
- Communicate the boundary to the person the boundary applies to directly. By the way, it’s not enough to simply say it. Effective communication and therefore effective boundary-setting involves confirming that the person received the appropriate message. This is as simple as asking, “What is it you just heard me say?” The person should be able to accurately summarize what your boundary is. If they cannot, either you are not communicating accurately and effectively or they are struggling to hear you. Repeat or re-form what your boundary is until what you’re saying and what they reflect back match.
- Attach a consequence to the violation of this boundary. A boundary with no consequence is toothless. It’s important to emphasize here that this can be read as a threat or ultimatum but it’s not. An ultimatum is a demand followed by retaliation usually of a similar caliber (think “taste of their own medicine”) but a consequence is merely the effect of an action. There are natural consequences to a person’s choices. To refer back to the Uncle so-and-so example, it is a natural consequence for you to remove his access to you if he can’t respect your boundary. This should also be communicated effectively and reflected back to you accurately.
- Build in a warning system. The violation of a boundary isn’t always intentional or malicious. When it is not their own boundary it is easy for a person to forget, especially over time. I think most people and most boundaries deserve at least one warning stated thusly, “Hey, remember when I told you that if you say racist things at Thanksgiving dinner that I will leave? Well, the next time this happens that will be the consequence.” You can absolutely choose not to build in a warning system but I like to work under the assumption that your relationships are valuable enough to you to give them a chance. I reserve two warnings for children and exceptionally difficult boundaries. Three strikes should almost never be considered acceptable. Even with two warnings you run the risk of setting a precedent that a person may violate your boundary only this many times, and they could take advantage of that.
Now for the hardest part: following through. I cannot emphasize this enough: it is extremely important that you do follow through on your boundary and its attached consequences or you run the risk of doing further damage to your relationships by showing you can’t be relied on or your word is meaningless.
You might be saying to yourself, “Okay, this is all well and good but what if I’m dealing with a hostile person who will take this the wrong way?” Well, that’s not something you can control. That is not where your power lies. Your power lies in the fact that you have the ability to set and enforce a boundary. How they react is in their control. However, you can increase your success in communicating around boundaries by leading with the relationship. Something like, “Hey, I have something I need to talk to you about and I want you to know that I value our relationship. That is the reason I’m bringing this up.” You can even bookend your boundary communication with an echo of this statement just to keep the sentiment fresh in their minds and minimize their reactivity.
Finally, I’d like to address flexibility with boundaries. Boundaries should not necessarily be firm and unwavering. People and circumstances change, and so it stands to reason that boundaries can, too. Again, communication here is key. Perhaps before you are done communicating about your boundary you establish that you’re going to try things this way for a certain period of time after which the intention is to reconvene and have a discussion about how that went and whether or not this boundary needs to change. You could also just check in after a certain period of time in the same way whether you established this in the original boundary communication or not. I do not recommend altering a boundary on a whim. This is a serious matter. You take your relationships and your boundaries seriously. Any changes should be communicated.
I wish you the best of luck in your relationships and boundaries!
Written by Amanda Taylor (they/their), an out and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and licensed marriage and family therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.