Emotions

/Emotions

Overcoming Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. But some people experience anxiety too much of the time, often for no real reason.

Anxiety invades their lives with distressing images, painful feelings, or thoughts of impending doom.  Most are fully aware of the unpleasant feelings resulting from their anxieties, but often the anxieties themselves are subconscious. Yet these anxieties could become recognizable if they could learn to stop and reflect on them when they experience these feelings.

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Couples Troubles

Many couples enjoy the change of pace that summer brings. Vacations, musical festivals, cottage getaways with family and lots of outdoor BBQs are occasions to enjoy life and create happy memories. But these can also be times when relationship troubles are camouflaged, then dealt with later.

Is this you? Sad but true, a time to away, meant to grow as a couple, can also be a time of deepening relationship distress. Couples Therapy is an effective way of overcoming a communications impasse.

A recent report on BBC.com states that people between the age of 16 and 44 are having less sex than ever before. Is there something about life today? Are there new ways to hide problems?

Some modern indications of unhealthy couples behaviors include:blog-fighting-loving

  • Excessive smartphone/tablet use/social sites
    • Often in the presence of their partners
  • Excessive organized family activities
    • E.g. not enough free time for individual interests
  • Excessive amounts of time viewing adult web sites (Pornography)

These are ways to fill time and maintain distance when unspoken issues lie beneath a superficial calm. Couples unconsciously collude to maintain the status quo of parallel lives – like railroad tracks going in the same direction but never intersecting.

The issues below are still the ones most often involved in couples’ communication breakdowns:

  • Money
  • Sex
  • Parenting
  • In-laws

These issues are caused and often complicated by values that you and your partner may not always share. Values are personal perceptions about the right way to live your life.  For example, you may believe that it’s better to enjoy life while you have the freedom and resources to do so. Your partner may argue that it’s more important to save money for a nest egg as the priority. Issues become more entrenched when they conceal emotional issues such as insecurities about money or phobias that lead to recurring impasses of communication.

Despite the summer distractions, if you and your partner are stuck in a communication breakdown, it is a good idea to consult a psychologist trained in couples therapy to help you accomplish your goals together.

 

Dr Eva Fisher is a registered psychologist trained in Ottawa, Canada with training in couples and family issues.

Headaches and Medically Unexplained Symptoms

Headaches and Pain

Dr. Eva Fisher D. Ed., C. Psych

It’s upsetting to go to your family doctor for help with headaches, or any pain, and to be told that there is no obvious cause or medical reason for them. You might consider seeing another doctor, only to hear similar conclusions.  Since the headache (or pain) feels real, why can’t doctors find a “real” cause or fix for it?

The fact is that psychological pain can feel just as real as physiological pain, only the cause cannot be found by standard medical testing such as X-ray/MRI or other imaging technologies. It can be additionally frustrating that in many cases, pain medications help little, if at all.

If you are  provided with a referral to a psychologist with training in psychotherapy for medically unexplained symptoms, you may have found new hope for a solution.

A new field of treatment, called Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, or ISTDP, is re-visiting the relationship between emotion suppression and pain. Psychiatrists working in this area have determined that psychological or emotional issues may indeed be implicated in symptoms of headaches, as well as back pain and digestive disorders.

If you or someone you know suffers from unexplained medical symptoms, it may be helpful to schedule an appointment with a psychologist with training in ISTDP.

Dr Eva Fisher is a clinical psychologist with ISTDP training, in private practice located at 436 Gilmour St., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Sexual Arousal and Desire

Sexual arousal and desire in long-term relationships are always hot topics.  Everyone has different needs, wants, likes, annoyances and patterns which can be fragile and hard to talk about or even understand. Individuals in couples have to deal with not only their own complicated sexuality, but also with that of their partners and synchronizing the two.

Sex is something which is incredibly important to many relationships, however, the more fundamental aspect is desiring and being desired.

What happens when you are strongly attracted to someone, fall in love and decide to move in together?

You have great sex, you talk and laugh together, and you’re happy doing anything together. You have a feeling of being complete, that you complement each other perfectly. When you’re apart, you long to be together and when you are together again, you do all kinds of things you never thought you’d ever do.   You experience yourself differently – like trying new foods, new activities and new ways of behaving.

In his book, The Erotic Mind, Dr. Jack Morin describes the building blocks of eroticism. These include longings when you’re apart, excitement and taking risks, new discoveries, and idealizing your lover.

Falling into the familiar

Over time, though, your closeness settles into familiar routines. The realities of everyday life like taking out the trash, laundry or child-care can’t be ignored.  Where there once was an illusion of closeness, the reality that was always there appears –that you are separate but together, with different ideas, habits, and ways of seeing the world.

Routine can be good but isn’t necessarily the sexiest thing and, as Lori Gottlieb wrote in a recent New York Times article, “marriage is hardly known for being an aphrodisiac.”

The article touches on how more equal marriages may even lead a less sex-filled marriage because new power roles in relationships, while quite positive in logical, daily-life, don’t work for some people in the bedroom.

Although it is somewhat paradoxical, Esther Perel a couples therapist who wrote a book called “Mating in Captivity,” said, “most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.”

And where eroticism, if not diminished, has disappeared.

This predictable path always comes as a surprise to the couples who come to my office for help with lost sexual desire. The partner most upset by this outcome – usually the one with the higher desire – may have realized that they are powerless to make their partner want to have sex, while the lower desire partner complains that the higher desire partner only wants them for sex.

A recent study reported in The APA Monitor, found that couples where one partner has “avoidance-motivated goals”  such as a woman accepting her boyfriend’s desire for sex  to avoid conflict or disappointing him, or a tired man responds with sex because he feels guilty refusing, tend to have lower sexual and relationship satisfaction.  Surprisingly, both the reluctant partner and the initiating partner reported sexual dissatisfaction in these encounters.

Wanting sex, and wanting a person, can create vastly different experiences when it comes to sexual arousal and desire.  Both partners feel different when they feel personally wanted – for who they are – and not just for sex.

Let’s go back to Dr. Morin’s cornerstones of eroticism.

They all encompass the single idea – the feeling that you are with the most wonderful, special person who also makes you feel special and unique. Great sex is the bonus that goes with these feelings – you want to be with that person, and and when you’re having sex together, both of you feel it.

Looking to self-help books that suggest sexual toys, costumes, lingerie, date nights, won’t resolve the gridlock between couples who want to feel wanted.

Sexual arousal and desire problems are primarily feelings of wanting and feeling wanted.

If you are having problems with sexual arousal and desire, speak to a psychologist with training in this area. Your couple is worth it.


Patients in this story are a fictional composite of people who have sought help for this issue. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisherFacebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych
All rights reserved. Copyright protected.

Cutting Remarks

It takes a lifetime to learn how to handle disappointment, and being a teenager doesn’t help much when things get rough. I was wondering what would cause a beautiful, smart 15 year old like Briana to get a pack of her dad’s razors and some disinfecting lotion from the medicine cabinet and deliberately carve small evenly spaced slices up and down her arms and legs.

It didn’t help when her mom walked into her room and freaked out either. She couldn’t know that her mom would bring her to see me, and that she’d land up having to talk about what happened which was why she was sitting in my office. She couldn’t tuck herself any more tightly into the corner of the sofa without disappearing completely, trying to avoid my eyes and smoothing the long sleeves of her shirt.

And looking at the floor, she whispered that all she wanted was to escape from the bad feelings when her friends at school had turned against her.

In 1921, Freud proposed the pleasure principle is the instinctual pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Maturity is learning to endure the pain of frustrated desires when reality requires it.

Self-Cutting

While many people abuse their bodies while indulging in smoking, drinking or recreational drugs, they can shrug it off the next day by remembering the fun and good times that went with their over-indulgence. With self-cutting, the pleasure principle – meaning, the avoidance of one kind of pain as a way of by-passing emotional pain however, results in bodily scarring and disfiguring while offering emotional relief.

Self-cutting is when the injury is intentional, as when as person makes small cuts with a sharp object that draw blood on the wrists, arms, legs, sexual organs or bellies. Unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects are infected wounds, scars, accidentally cutting too deep or uncontrollable urges that get in the way of daily activities.

Research shows that 90 per cent of people who engage in self harm begin during their teen and pre-adolescent years, however onset can occur at any age, including in elderly people.

In a survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately 13 per cent of adolescents said the engaged in self-harm activities. However, since this habit tends to be secretive, it is difficult to determine the exact percentage.

There is no single pattern or profile for self-injures, however the Canadian Mental Health Association shows that most are from the middle to upper-class, intelligent but suffer from low self-esteem. Almost all say they were discouraged from expressing emotions, especially anger and sadness.

Why do people self-cut?

There are many different reasons that people engage in self-cutting behaviour, but the primary reason is that it provides temporary relief to feelings of frustration, suffering and emotional pain. The flow chart below, shows two common patterns of why people injure themselves.

cuttingchart

Studies show that incidences of self-cutting are increasing. This may be due to cultural trends, where young people are told it is a normal way to express feelings of frustration, numbness or sadness. However, it is not new, in the 19th century some women in Europe became known as “needle girls” because they would cut themselves with sewing needles. Today, for example, there are many websites that give advice on how to go about cutting oneself. In order to fit in to a subculture, teens may try cutting themselves only to find that it is an addictive behaviour that can spiral out of control.

Contrary to the belief of some, self-cutting is not necessarily a ‘cry for help’ nor is it attempts at suicide. Cutting tends to become an impulsive, secret habit where the pain provides an illogical sense of temporary calm. Many self-cutters are ashamed of this habit and try to hide their scars.

Self-cutting is not a mental disorder but is usually a symptom of underlying emotional problems. There is a whole gambit of psychological problems that can be associated with it, anything from depression to borderline personality disorder to bipolar disorder.

If you or someone you know is self-cutting,  speaking to an experienced psychologist could help.


Patients in this story are a fictional composite of people who have sought help for this issue. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisherFacebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych
All rights reserved. Copyright protected.

The anatomy of an upset

Eugene was having a bad day.  On the way to work, some idiot cut him off, then another stupid person slipped ahead into a prime parking spot, making him late for work, which he hated. 

If you could be a fly on the wall of Eugene’s mind, you might hear these thoughts buzzing through his head. His face showed that he was upset, but when I asked him if he was stressed about anything, he looked surprised.  There was nothing unusual about this morning, compared to an average day in his life.

We retraced the components of that morning’s events, beginning with the upset toward the driver who had cut him off.  The thought that the driver was an idiot triggered the feeling of rage and more angry thoughts.
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Wealth Addiction

We all know about drug, tobacco and alcohol addictions, but addictions can latch onto almost any behaviour. Even activities that seem healthy like eating, exercising and working can transform into addictions.

While you can define addiction in different ways, one of the best definitions is “the continued repetition of behavior despite adverse consequences (Bettinardi-Angres, 2008).”

A recent article in the New York Times about an ex-Wall Street employee talking about his wealth addiction got me thinking about the subject. In the article the writer talked about how he was upset with his $3.6 million bonus because it wasn’t enough.

“Ever see what a drug addict is like when he’s used up his junk? He’ll do anything — walk 20 miles in the snow, rob a grandma — to get a fix. Wall Street was like that,” he wrote. “In the months before bonuses were handed out, the trading floor started to feel like a neighborhood in “The Wire” when the heroin runs out.”
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Teenage Depression

Under the stereotype of teenage angst, teenagers often claim to be misunderstood, but parents should be careful not to misinterpret signs of teenage depression as a bad mood that will pass with time.

Untreated depression can have severe negative consequences on a person’s life, so take time to investigate any serious and significant mood changes.

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