Mood swings are a common experience for many people. However, when these shifts in mood become extreme and disrupt daily life, making it hard to do everyday tasks, it may be a sign of a more serious condition called bipolar disorder. Distinguishing between common mood swings and bipolar disorder is important for understanding the condition and providing the appropriate support.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 18, 2023 bipolar, bipolar disorder, Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, medication management, mental illness, mood swing, psychiatric assessment, psychiatric services0 comments
What Are Mood Swings?
Mood swings are defined as “a sudden or intense change in emotional state” (Leonard, 2020). They are a typical part of the human experience and can be effected by various factors such as stress, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, or relational conflicts. Mood swings may involve fairly quick shifts in mood, such as happiness to sadness, or irritability to calmness. These shifts are usually brief and do not drastically impact daily functioning or impair relationships with others.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
On the other hand, bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition illustrated by clear episodes of more drastic mood swings that vary in intensity and duration. It involves extreme shifts between two opposites: manic episodes and depressive episodes. During manic episodes, people may experience elevated mood, boosts in energy, impulsivity, and grandiose thoughts, such as heightened self-esteem. In depressive episodes, people can feel overwhelming sadness, loss of interest in activities, increased fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. These episodes can last for weeks or even months and significantly interfere with daily life, work, and relationships.
Differentiating Between Mood Swings and Bipolar Disorder
Several major factors help distinguish everyday mood swings from bipolar disorder. First, consider the duration and intensity of mood shifts. While mood swings are short-lived and relatively mild, bipolar disorder episodes are more severe and persistent. Second, look at how the mood swings impact one’s daily functioning. Mood swings usually do not affect one’s ability to carry out their responsibilities, while bipolar disorder can have a great impact on one’s personal and professional life. Finally, the frequency of mood shifts are important to consider. Bipolar disorder episodes occur in distinct cycles, while mood swings are not as predictable.
If you or someone you know experiences mood swings that resemble the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is important to seek professional help, as a psychiatric evaluation may be necessary for a diagnosis. Some treatment recommendations for bipolar disorder may include medication, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), psychoeducation, and family therapy. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and taking the steps to get help and support, can significantly improve the quality of life for those who have the condition. Understanding the key differences between mood swings and bipolar disorder can help individuals seek appropriate treatment and support they may need.
Written by Counseling Intern Téa Del Rio.
Interested in a Psychiatric Assessment for Bipolar Disorder or Counseling?
If you’re seeking a psychiatric assessment for bipolar disorder, personalized medication management, or counseling services, we’re here to help. Reach out to us today at 412-856-WELL or simply fill out the form below to take the first step towards your well-being. Our team is ready to support you on your journey.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
Leonard, J. (2020). What causes mood swings in males and females. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mood-swings
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 3, 2023 depression, dysthymia, dysthymic disorder, PDD, persistent depressive disorder0 comments
Have you found yourself trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of energy? If so, you may be experiencing persistent depressive disorder (PDD). While PDD can make life feel unbearable, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t have to be the norm. In fact, PDD is highly treatable, and with the right approach, individuals can regain control of their lives and rediscover the joy they thought was lost. In this article, we will explore the nature of PDD, its symptoms, and effective treatment options that can pave the way towards a brighter future.
Understanding Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
Formerly known as chronic major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder, PDD is characterized by a persistent low mood that lasts for an extended period, often exceeding two years in adults (or one year in children). It is essential to dispel the misconception that PDD is an unchangeable aspect of one’s personality. In the DSM-V, PDD is no longer treated as a personality disorder but rather as a condition that can be effectively treated.
Recognizing the symptoms of PDD is crucial in seeking appropriate help. Symptoms can vary in frequency and severity, impacting daily functioning. Common signs of PDD include:
- Depressed mood: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, or thoughts of self-harm.
- Behavioral problems, somatic complaints, or irritability in children.
- Significant changes in appetite, weight, sleep patterns, or energy levels.
- Plummeting self-esteem or lack of motivation.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
If you notice these symptoms persisting for an extended period, exceeding two years in adults (or one year in children), and symptom-free periods are rare or short-lived, it may be indicative of PDD. Consulting a mental health professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.
Fortunately, PDD is highly treatable, and a combination of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology is often recommended. Here are the main treatment options:
- Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the leading approach for treating depression. CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their depressive symptoms. Another effective therapy is interpersonal psychotherapy, which focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and reducing interpersonal conflicts.
- Medication: Antidepressant medication is commonly prescribed alongside therapy to stabilize mood and improve cognitive functioning. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to find the right medication and dosage that suits your specific needs.
- Psychoeducation and Coping Strategies: Equipping individuals with knowledge about their diagnosis and providing them with coping strategies can significantly enhance their ability to manage and treat their symptoms effectively. Psychoeducation also helps reduce stigma and fosters self-empowerment.
While a singular cause of PDD has not been identified, several factors contribute to its development. These factors may include changes in brain structure, neurotransmitter imbalances, significant life stressors, transitions, cultural adversity, genetics, and gender. It’s crucial to rule out other conditions like hypothyroidism, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse, which may mimic PDD symptoms.
Persistent depressive disorder doesn’t have to define your life. By recognizing the symptoms, seeking professional help, and following a comprehensive treatment plan that combines therapy, medication, and self-care strategies, individuals with PDD can regain control over their lives and find hope for a brighter future. Remember, you are not alone, and with the right support, you can overcome
Interested in Treating Your Persistent Depressive Disorder?
If you are ready to take the first step towards assessing and treating your persistent depressive disorder, we’re here to help. Contact us today by calling 412-322-2129 to schedule an appointment with our experienced team. Alternatively, you can fill out the form below, and we will reach out to you shortly.
Don’t let PDD hold you back any longer. Take control of your mental health and embark on a journey towards healing and renewed hope.
American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed., text rev.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787
Kress, V. E., & Paylo, M. J. (2019). Treating those with mental disorders: A comprehensive approach to case conceptualization and treatment. Pearson.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 22, 2023 borderline personality disorder, BPD Relationships0 comments
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterized by emotional instability, which can lead to unpredictable moods, behaviors, and relationships. People with BPD often experience difficulties in maintaining stable interpersonal connections, have a distorted self-image, and exhibit impulsive tendencies. A question frequently asked is, “Is borderline personality disorder genetic?”
Research has explored the genetic components of BPD, particularly through twin studies. These studies have indicated that genetics account for approximately 42% of the variation in BPD, while other factors such as environmental influences contribute to the remaining 58% (Salters-Pedneault, 2020). Close relatives, such as parents, children, or siblings, who have BPD may increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing the disorder.
However, it is important to note that these studies cannot definitively determine the exact contribution of genetics to the development of BPD. This is due to the fact that first-degree relatives not only share genetic makeup but also encounter similar environmental factors. For instance, siblings may experience similar parenting styles, peer influences, and cultural backgrounds.
BPD Physiological Factors
In order to gain insights into BPD, researchers have conducted MRI scans to examine the brains of individuals with the disorder. The findings of these studies suggest that three specific brain regions—the amygdala, hippocampus, and orbitofrontal cortex—are often affected in people with BPD.
- The amygdala plays a crucial role in regulating emotions, particularly those associated with stress, such as anxiety, fear, and aggression.
- The hippocampus contributes to behavior regulation and self-control.
- The orbitofrontal cortex is involved in decision-making and planning.
Brain development is influenced by both genetic factors and environmental conditions. Consequently, atypical activity levels in these three brain regions among individuals with BPD may contribute to symptoms like impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, and unstable relationships.
BPD Environmental Factors
Various environmental factors have been identified as common among individuals with BPD. These factors include:
- Experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Prolonged exposure to fear or distress during childhood
- Neglect by one or both parents
- Growing up with a family member who had a severe mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or substance abuse disorder
It is important to emphasize that there is no single cause of borderline personality disorder. Instead, a combination of genetic and environmental factors likely contributes to its development.
Borderline Personality Disorder Treatments
Treatment options for borderline personality disorder (BPD) primarily involve psychotherapy, as it has shown to be the most effective approach. Here are some common treatment modalities:
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This therapy focuses on providing skills to individuals with BPD to regulate emotions, tolerate distress, improve interpersonal relationships, and enhance mindfulness. DBT often includes individual therapy sessions as well as a DBT Skills Group, where individuals learn and practice specific skills in a group setting.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with BPD. It aims to improve coping skills, problem-solving abilities, and self-esteem.
- Medication: While medication does not treat BPD directly, it may be prescribed to manage co-occurring symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or mood swings. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics may be prescribed based on individual needs.
It’s important to note that treatment plans may vary for each person, and a combination of therapies might be recommended. Collaborating with mental health professionals can help determine the most suitable treatment approach for managing BPD symptoms effectively.
In conclusion, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Twin studies indicate that genetics account for approximately 42% of the variation in BPD, while environmental influences contribute to the remaining 58%. Physiologically, MRI scans have shown abnormalities in the amygdala, hippocampus, and orbitofrontal cortex of individuals with BPD, contributing to emotional dysregulation and impulsivity. Environmental factors such as childhood abuse, neglect, and distress also play a significant role. Treatment options primarily involve psychotherapy, helping individuals gain insight into their thoughts and emotions, regulate moods, and process past trauma. Understanding the interplay between genetics and the environment can lead to more effective interventions and support for individuals with BPD, promoting improved mental health and well-being.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 12, 2023 depression, depression counseling, depression therapy, major depressive disorder, managing depression, mental health, mental illness, stress management0 comments
If you are managing depression and finding it challenging to handle your responsibilities, know that you are not alone. Major depressive disorder (MDD) can have a significant impact, but with recovery and symptom reduction, there is hope. Here are some tips that may assist you in managing depression while fulfilling your obligations:
- Seek professional help: Never suffer alone, It is important to seek professional help from a mental health therapist or psychiatric provider who can help you manage your depression and provide you with tools to cope with your responsibilities.
- Prioritize your tasks: Make a list of your responsibilities and prioritize them based on their importance. Focus on completing the most important tasks first and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Ask for help from your support system: Some of the symptoms of depression may make it hard to feel the motivation to ask for help. Remember that is the depressive thought pattern talking. Your support system wants to help you! They may be able to assist you with some of your responsibilities as well as provide you with emotional support.
- Set SMART goals: Set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Setting small, achievable goals can help you feel a sense of accomplishment and boost your mood.
- Use positive self-talk: Remember negative thinking patterns are a part of depression. Reframe those cognitive distortions and use positive self-talk to motivate yourself and combat negative thoughts. Instead of focusing on what you haven’t accomplished, focus on what you have accomplished and what you can do in the future.
- Create a routine: Establishing a daily routine can help create a sense of structure and stability, which can be helpful in managing depression.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally is important for managing depression. This can include things like eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
- Exercise to boost your mood: While getting up and moving around might be the last thing you feel like doing if you are suffering from depression, it will have a rapid impact on your energy. Try this YouTube video created by one of our therapists: 3 Minute Exercises for Depression For When It’s Hard to Get Out of Bed.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you manage negative thoughts and emotions. Breathing exercises like the breath of fire can add energy to your body.
- Challenge negative thoughts: Depression can cause negative thoughts and self-talk. It’s important to challenge these thoughts and replace them with more positive and realistic ones.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs: While Depression may make a quick fix like drugs and alcohol seem more appealing, substances will worsen depression symptoms and make it more difficult to manage the disorder.
- Get outside: Spending time in nature and getting fresh air and sunlight can help improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
- Consider medication: Antidepressant medication can be helpful in managing depression symptoms. Talk to a psychiatric provider who can support your need for medication management and help you to determine whether medication might be right for you.
- Be patient and kind to yourself: Managing depression takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. Remember to be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Remember that managing depression and responsibilities can be challenging, but with the right tools and support, it is possible to lead a fulfilling life.
In conclusion, managing depression while fulfilling your responsibilities can be a challenging journey, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Major depressive disorder (MDD) may have a significant impact, but there is hope for recovery and symptom reduction. By implementing the tips provided you can navigate this path with resilience and strength. Remember, managing depression takes time and effort, so celebrate every small victory along the way. With the right tools, support, and self-compassion, it is possible to lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges of depression. You have the power to find balance and reclaim your well-being.
Looking for Help for Managing Depression?
If you are looking for depression counseling or medication management services, please fill out the form below or give us a call at 412-322-2129. We’re here to help!
Written by Stephanie Wijkstrom, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and Founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh. Stephanie is passionate about offering clinical development and professional training to her team of 85 licensed counselors and behavioral health care professionals. Stephanie’s clinical specialty lies in preventative mental health care and integrative wellness strategies.
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Learning about mental health and why it is important to take care of breeds promise for a happy, healthy community. Beginning in America in 1949, this outreach program has grown to include over 150 countries. Today, in 2021, its’ purpose of raising awareness and educating the public about mental health is more important now than ever before due to the effects Covid-19 has had on the world.
Even before the pandemic, mental illness was a global public health crisis. One in five people were affected by a mental health condition and many did not seek treatment because they were scared or uninsured. Now, those numbers have grown and, to date, are unable to be calculated. Health authorities just know they are increasing, and mental health is becoming a growing problem.
What, exactly, is mental health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is:
“… a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Many times, suffering with mental health is mild and can be completely overlooked. Sometimes it can be hard to identify a mental disorder especially in oneself, and sometimes it can be accepted as being normal when it should not be. Mental health professionals can formally diagnose and treat disorders when they have a patient, but most people do not understand they need treatment or are afraid of the stigma. This is where raising awareness comes in. It is important to understand what is positive and normal within the realm of mental health and what is not and act accordingly. A life may depend on it.
Mental health affects thoughts, feelings, and actions. Examples of mental disorders include anxiety, depression, eating disorder, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychotic disorder. Mental health problems affect individuals, their families and loved ones, as well as their communities. Mental illnesses also affects that persons’ income, employment, education, homelessness, community participation, and life expectancy.
It is common for many people to suffer with mental health to one degree or another. Some cases are severe, and others are mild. Either way, mental health can be improved. When someone wants help, but declines seeking it, their struggle may seem real, but it is unnecessary. Speaking with a therapist can help and studies show that people with mental health issues can be treated, get better, and even recover completely.
Receiving care can be costly, though, so recently President Joe Biden’s administration released large amounts of aid for a system of care for the mental health needs of adults and children. With suicide rates unusually high among black youth and LGBTQI+ demographics during Covid, he stated: ”I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, healthcare providers, and research institutions to raise mental health awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives.”
Treatments like counseling and therapy, services, and community support is available more now than ever before and these approaches do work. Living a normal life is within reach. You just need to start the journey to recovery. Seek help. We are here for you.
There is hope.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 14, 2021 child counseling, child therapy, family counseling, family counseling during corona virus, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Whether you’re a parent or caregiver, weathering the pandemic with children has probably felt like a pressure cooker at times. Boredom, turmoil, and anxiety arise when faced with remote school days or filling long afternoons sans extracurriculars.
Kids look to the adults in their lives to help them cope with this complex, global situation. How can we make strong mental health choices to protect them?
Start By Helping Yourself
It’s difficult to support others when you feel unsupported. Take some moments at the beginning of each day to center yourself. You could wake up a little early to do a 20-minute yoga class. Perhaps digest the headlines over a quiet cup of coffee. Even stopping to breathe deeply for one minute can make a difference.
Now that you are calm, transmit that to your children. Start with basic facts about COVID-19. Dispel any scary rumors that may be circulating. Especially be aware of internet and TV messages. Assure them that, although we do need to take it seriously, adults are working to keep everyone as safe as possible.
When your child has a question about the coronavirus or lockdown life, take the time to listen. Give them space to air out their concerns. It may help to provide multiple modes of expression, like drawing, playing, and talking.
Measures of Control
We all like to feel some control of our lives, however small. The same goes for young people. Fortunately, the safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 translate into simple activities. Guide kids to wash their hands, wear a mask in public, and stay at least 6 feet away from anyone outside their pod.
Lighten the mood when you can. Hand-washing can be made into a fun game with songs. Mask crafts add color and art to something obligatory.
Social distancing may especially distress kids who miss their friends. Take some extra time to emphasize why it’s important to keep distance. Explain that the infection spreads when people are in close contact with each other. Assure them that it’s temporary, and they will see their friends again. Meanwhile, engage in remote or outdoor socializing when possible.
Middle schoolers and high schoolers may benefit from graphics that demonstrate how “flattening the curve” works. This helps them understand the bigger picture and empower them to be part of the solution.
Come Up With Fun Distractions
On the bright side of lockdown, we have so many opportunities to spend quality time with our kids. When we’re safe at home, there’s no need to ruminate on pandemic worries. Have a family meeting where everyone lists a hobby or interest they want to grow during quarantine: puzzles, art, reading, writing, music, gymnastics, bird-watching… Maybe you all make a pact to work on doing the splits by the end of quarantine. Maybe you remodel a room and turn it into an art studio or sublime reading nook.
Most of us have some kind of dream home project that’s been sitting on the shelf. Time to get into it! The antidote to worry is action.
We Can Pull Through This
If the stress of the pandemic seems to be wearing on you and your children, make the wise choice: seek counseling. Zoom makes family therapy readily available, and it’s just as effective.
It’s true that we’re all in this together – if your family feels overwhelmed, you don’t have to tough it out alone.
6 Simple and Effective Techniques to Curb Your Self-Defeating Perfectionism in 2021
The pursuit of perfection is the road to unhappiness.
Has anyone ever told you that you were a perfectionist? Perfectionism is a barrier to sound mental health and stands in the way of you developing sound wellness and wellbeing. But, have you ever tried to stop your perfectionism? People are quick to give off-the-cuff advice about things you should or shouldn’t do. Maybe they say, “Stop this”, or “Do that”, but it is rare that they follow their advice up with practical steps on how to change the habits they point out. In David Burn’s powerful and life changing book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, he spends a chapter outlining 15 practical techniques to overcome perfectionism. Our mental health counselors have chosen the top 6 of his simple and effective techniques that will help you to overcome perfectionism in 2021!
- Make a list of the Pros & Cons of being a perfectionist.
If you take some time to think about it, you might realize that your perfectionism isn’t really helping you. Have you ever stopped to wonder if your perfectionism does more harm than good? Perhaps you feel like it gives you an “edge,” but have you thought about the downsides? And what if you could perform just as well, or even better without it? Maybe it’s not that you’re successful because of your perfectionism, but rather that you are successful despite your perfectionism. The first simple tip is to take some time right now to write down a pros and cons list of being a perfectionist. You can do this on your phone, or on a piece of paper. Do the pros outweigh the cons? You may find that the advantages are pretty slim! If the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages, why don’t you give the advantages a second look and test them out.
The Pleasure of Perfection Experiment.
Try altering your standards in various activities so you can see how your performance reacts to high standards, middle standards, and low standards. You might be shocked to realize that by lowering your standards of perfection you will feel better about what you do and do it more effectively! Use the following experiment to test out the advantages of your perfectionism:
Believed advantage from your list of Pros: “My perfectionism makes me more effective.”
- Choose an Activity for example cleaning, reading, writing a report for work, cooking a meal for a loved one, or anything else in which you think striving for perfection makes you more effective.
- When you start that activity instead of trying to be 100% perfect, set the goal for 80% perfection, 60% perfection, or even 40% perfection.
- After completing the activity with a less then 100% perfection standard see how much you enjoy the activity and how well you completed that activity compared to before.
Now ask yourself, “Was I less effective? How much did I enjoy that activity?” You can try this with any task, and any standard of perfection. Give it a try and see what happens!
- Developing a Process Orientation
Another approach to curb your habit of perfectionism is to learn to adopt a processes orientation. Focusing simply on outcomes is a recipe for all-or-nothing thinking. When David Burns was a young therapist he held the belief that he had to do outstanding work with each client each session. When his patients benefited from a session he was on top of the world, but when a client responded poorly on the other hand, he’d feel miserable all day and tell himself he was a failure. Bringing this problem to his colleague Dr. Aaron Beck, he was told. “Imagine that you had a job driving a car to City Hall every day. Some days you hit mostly green lights and made great time. Other days you’d hit lots of red lights, and traffic jams and the drive would be much longer. Your driving skill would be the same each day, so why not feel equally satisfied with the job you did?” The Dr. Burns learned that instead of focusing on outcomes, he could focus on good, consistent effort at each session, regardless of how the patient responded. This process outlook guaranteed he could experience 100% success with the effort he put forth each day.
Emphasizing the process you are engaging in, rather than the outcome, provides a greater opportunity for learning and mastery. Appreciating your engagement, learning, and the effort you put forth on activities, protects you from your perfectionistic evaluation. It allows you to be more present in the moment, and to develop a sense of mastery. Try to focus on learning, development, and effort in activities you do, rather than a success or failure perspective. Ask yourself, what are some ways that you can focus on developing a process orientation in your life.
- Overcome perfectionism by setting strict time limits on all your activities for one week.
Place a time limit on how long you plan to engage in each of your daily activities for a week. This will help you focus on the flow of life and allow you to enjoy your time more fully rather then getting wrapped up in perfecting everything you do. If you want to be happy, set modest goals! Schedule your time in the morning and decide the amount of time you will budget on each activity. When the time is up, quit that activity whether or not you have completed it, and move on to the next project. Most people have a tendency to overestimate how much they are able to get done in a day. Your perfectionism likely becomes procrastination because you insist on doing everything so thoroughly. This means taking far longer than necessary to complete daily and weekly tasks. The result is an ever-growing to-do list that is never completed. At the end of the day you probably beat yourself up for not getting “enough” done. This is completely avoidable by more effective planning and placing time limits on activities. Instead of trying to completely organize your closet, set a time limit of 20-minutes each week. This way, you create a frequent habit, rather than a weekend cleaning frenzy! Planning your activities based on specific amounts of time promotes the development of healthy, sustainable habits, and helps you to move past your self-defeating perfectionism.
- Learn how to make mistakes.
Are you afraid of making mistakes? This may be holding you back from taking healthy risks! We can easily forget that mistakes are not all bad! This leads to trying to do everything perfectly. Mistakes give us an opportunity to learn, grow, and relate to each other. A powerful method for overcoming perfectionism is learning how to make mistakes. One helpful approach is to write an essay describing why it is both irrational and self-defeating to try to be perfect and to fear making mistakes. Writing a personal essay for yourself exploring why it is okay to make mistakes can help you to be more confident in your journey to give up perfectionism. Remember the world won’t come to an end because of a mistake you make! Writing a letter can be a tangible reminder that mistakes are okay, and that they allow us to learn and grow!
- Focus on your success’s not your failures.
Do you have a habit of only focusing on the ways you fall short? If you are a perfectionist, you probably have a tendency to focus only on the things you have not done perfectly, or that are incomplete. You end up ignoring and forgetting all the things you have done right. This can create an unhelpful and overly negative view of yourself and the world. It doesn’t make any rational sense to just focus on the things you have on your to do list, and completely forget all of the things you have already completed! Here is a very simple, but very effective technique to help you foster an attitude of appreciation and recognition for your accomplishments and successes both big and small.
Try this simple exercise to reverse this habit!
- Keep a piece of paper next to your bed.
- Before you go to sleep at night, go through your day and count all of the things you did right. Make sure to count all of them, nothing is too small!
- Write down that number of things you did right, or that you completed on your paper each day for two weeks and allow yourself to notice all the things you are doing right!
- Keep a weekly count of all the positive things you’ve done, and tasks completed.
This exercise will help you focus on the positives and have a more balanced perspective. Remember to count literally everything you do right! This might seem too simplistic, but just because it is simple, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. What do you have to lose?! Give it a try and see how you feel after two weeks.
- Use logic.
My personal favorite tool to use is this logical equation:
Premise One: All Human beings make mistakes.
Premise Two: I am a human being.
Conclusion: I make mistakes because I am a human.
If all humans make mistakes, and I am a human, then it follows that I will make mistakes because of my humanity. Logically you will and even should make mistakes. It’s in your nature! Next time you make a mistake, instead of beating yourself up, say to yourself, “I made that mistake because I am human,” or “That mistake just proves that I am human like everyone else,” or “Making a mistake doesn’t mean that I am a failure, it just means that I am a human.” Mistakes are a part of who we are; they are an essential part of our development.
You can take it one step further and ask yourself, “What can I learn from my mistake?” Write down one of the mistakes you have made and then list all the things you have learned from that mistake. Learning to appreciate mistakes helps us to realize that being perfect is not part of the human condition but learning and growing certainly is! In the words of David Burns, “If you were perfect, there’d be nothing to learn, no way to improve, and life would be completely void of challenge and the satisfaction that comes from mastering something that takes effort.”
The Pursuit of Perfection is the road to Unhappiness.
If you maintain a standard for evaluating your performance that you cannot ever meet you are going to make yourself miserable! If the standard of perfection doesn’t fit reality, why not give it up!? Perfectionism is founded on all-or-nothing thinking. Most of the time, it just steals our joy and satisfaction. If you look around you, how many things can really fit into an all-or-nothing mold? Is your room a complete mess, or are some (maybe even many) things out of place? Do you know anyone who is perfectly calm and confident all the time? All-or-nothing thinking doesn’t really fit life very often, and neither does perfection. Most importantly, you don’t need to be perfect to be happy. If you don’t believe me try this thought experiment, take a moment to imagine a time in your life when you were really happy. Close your eyes, and picture that moment in vivid detail. Now ask yourself, “What was perfect about that time or experience?” In all likelihood, nothing was completely perfect, but it didn’t stop you from being happy! You don’t need to be perfect. Just be you. This year, instead of seeking perfection, use these tips and techniques to focus on thriving as your own unique self.
This Post was adapted from Dr. David Burns book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
Burns, D. D. (2017). Dare to Be Average: Ways to Overcome Perfectionism. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy(pp. 345-375). Blackstone Audio, Incorporated.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 3, 2020 black therapist pittsburgh, microagressions, racism in america, systemic racism, therapy for racism pittsburgh0 comments
Dealing with Microaggressions as a Black Man
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland…these are just a few of the names that come to mind as I write this. These are the names of victims of police brutality and racial injustice. These were unwilling martyrs who fell prey to overt, unabashed, and unadulterated racism. This is a problem, but there is another issue that plagues people of color every day. An unseen layer of racial inequality that exists under our noses: microaggressions.
What is a microaggression, you ask? A microaggression is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.” So when a stranger tells me that they don’t see color, or when someone raves that I am “surprisingly articulate” for a black man, they are using microaggressions, perhaps unknowingly. However minorities also use microaggressions. Phrases like “you sound white,” or being called an ‘oreo’ by peers (black on the outside, white on the inside) have been some of the microaggressions I have experienced from fellow people of color.
I can only speak from my personal experience, and I do not represent all people of color. However I know that when I encounter microaggressions, whether intentional or not, I find myself in a bind. Do I call it out, and risk being “that guy,” or do I brush it off, because at least it’s not as bad as what the victims above suffered? The events of the past week have shown me that silence in the face of microaggressions, only leads to further silence from possible allies when overt racism and racially motivated aggression takes place.
So what is the role of the black man or the person of color when facing microaggressions?
- Call it out for what it is. People may balk at this and respond with phrases such as “I’m not racist,” or “I have black friends,” but the truth remains, microaggressions are a result of racist history, and they are subtle ways of perpetuating negative stereotypes about black people and other minorities.
- Educate those within your circle. It surprises me that in the age of the internet, some people still are not aware of what may constitute a microaggression.
- Better yet, encourage those who are not sure to educate themselves. There are plenty of (free) resources out there for our friends and neighbors to learn and become better allies.
- Take care of yourself. One thing that has been made clear with all of the demonstrations lately, is that collectively, black people are tired. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to navigate microaggressions, and process the overt racism that takes place in our country every day.
- Talk to someone. We cannot keep this stress bottled up. It helps to speak with a therapist or a trusted friend in order to process what we go through when we encounter microaggressions.
On a final note for everyone reading this, whether you experience microaggressions or not, do not stop talking about this. Talk to family, friends, neighbors, clergy, therapists. Talk, take action, and please take care of yourselves.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 28, 2019 gratitude, gratitude challenge, reframing cognitive distortions, thanksgiving0 comments
The Real Gratitude Challenge
It’s Thanksgiving and everyone wants to talk about turkey and gratitude. Newsfeeds and flyers encourage us to take the ‘gratitude challenge’ by sharing how happy we are for our kids, our marriage, families, our job, our house. Nowonder, according to the National Institute of Health, gratitude can help us increase our life satisfaction and mental health! Oh, how nice that is! Things really are so well and good through the lens of this gratitude, but isn’t it almost too easy when we simply share what is great? I want to talk about a different kind of gratitude, the dark side of gratitude if you will, this is what I call a gratitude challenge. It is not the shiny happiness and gloating we feel when everything works out just the way we want it, but instead, this gratitude challenge, is the kind of gratitude that we can choose to cultivate when we are sitting on a big tall mountain of suck. In this vast beautiful adventure of life, reality more often than not smacks us in the face, universal are the experiences of hurt, loss, and grief. Yet, even more important than making a mental note of gratitude for all of the ways that we are blessed, our mindset truly evolves when we deliberately choose to frame our losses in one beset by gratitude.
Of course on the day that you get the job, and then again when you land the promotion, you are elated, but can you be grateful for those years of success and comradery even when you get the news that company is downsizing and you are handed your severance? Of course, you are beaming at the altar on the day that you say “I do” to the love of your life, but can you still find gratitude when you are headed to marriage counseling because you’re in conflict and bickering about who is doing more cleaning around hte house? Of course, you will be joyful on the day when you learn that you have finally conceived the child you have been yearning for but can you still be grateful that it has happened when their little heart stops beating in utero? Of course, you are thrilled when you finish the marathon in 2nd place, but what can you choose to be grateful for when you have knee replacement surgery from all of that running?
Choosing gratitude amidst the sucky moments of life doesn’t mean that we pretend it’s all ok. Instead, we do not try to block the hurt of our losses, we feel the devastation and despair deeply because let’s be honest here, we have no choice! Some things in life will rip the wind right out of our lungs and bring such agonizing hurt that we will fall to our knees in the pain of it. Yet, the difference is that we choose to live in the memory of the joy that they brought us, we choose to be grateful that the wonders in life have happened no-matter how long or short they stay with us. Cognitive behavioral therapy instructs us to reframe the despair of our cognitive distortions, we do not allow misery or grief to frame the pictures of our memories or the loss in our life. The gratitude challenge is to be penetrated by the suffering of a life well lived but then to hunt like a little scavenger for every little bit of joy, peace, and hope that our experiences have shown to us. Some days that might mean that we are grateful to know that they pain won’t last forever and allow ourselves to contemplate the gratitude for that. When you get here and can nurture this sort of perspective, you take a little bit of power and direction back to your life. On Thanksgiving and every day, the decision to live a life peppered in gratitude is yours. So go ahead, take the challenge, how grateful can you be, what about your pile of suck can you be grateful for?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 11, 2019 panic disorder, signs of panic attack0 comments
According to the Amercian Psychological Association, 1 out of 75 people will experience a panic attack at some point in their life. Yet the term is used very commonly in pop culture. There are major differences between a panic attack and anxiety or stress. The most common signs of a panic attack are a racing heart, sweating, pupil dilation, chest pain, dizziness or faintness, tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers, a feeling of dread, feeling like you’re dying, difficulty breathing, and feeling a loss of control. Of course everyone experiences these symptoms differently, it is common for a person experiencing a panic attack to go to the hospital thinking that they are having a heart attack or other cardiac event.
According to the Association for Depression and Anxiety, triggers for a panic attack are varied but often a panic attack has no known trigger or precipitating event which makes it even more confusing for the person experiencing the panic attack. A person can have one single panic attack without having a panic disorder or anxiety disorder. Other times, the panic disorder which is hallmarked by frequent panic attacks and particularly a pattern of avoiding situations to prevent the possibility of a future panic attack, this could be an indicator that the panic attack is evolving into a mental health disorder. Stress, medication withdrawal, caffeine, loss/grief, major life events like a wedding or divorce can also be triggers for a panic attack. There is also an important relationship between mitro-valve prolapse and panic attacks and anxiety disorders, those with mitro valve prolapse do experience higher than normal rates of panic disorder.
If a person is experiencing a full panic attack it may be difficult to resist the urge to run to the hospital, if a person who is sure that it is a panic attack, they can label the sensation as panic, and remember that it lasts for 10 minutes to 30 minutes. A person with panic disorder should be working with a mental health counselor on developing a plan for when their panic attack comes on, some people write that plan down and carry it with them everywhere to remind themselves of how to work through their crises management steps. Some people do deep breathing, take a walk, use grounding techniques, trace the outline of the room with their eyes, stretch, yet a mental health counselor is the best person to help a person come up with an individualized plan based on their strengths, needs, and overall context.
A panic attack is very different from anxiety or stress, although the term panic attack has made its way into popular language most of what people call a panic attack is really stress, worry, or panics little sister- anxiety. A full panic attack can sometimes be described as life changing because it has startling intensity. Anxiety is a state of worry or fear that can generally be managed or serve as pesky background noise in the sound reel of our minds. Panic is all consuming with spikes of heart rate and a feeling of total loss of control. If you are experiencing more than one panic attack, you should seek medical and mental health support immediately to rule out underlying conditions and prevent the panic attack from evolving into a full panic disorder.
This is not intended to treat or diagnose a mental health disorder, if you suspect that you are suffering from a mental health disorder seek a medical or mental health professional.