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.


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 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.

Family Therapy and Pokémon Go™

Can Augmented Reality games like Pokémon Go help in family therapy? Possibly. Let’s explore how;

Before, during and after dinner, are one or more family members on their smartphone?  Do you see a smartphone at each place setting?  Are dinner conversations interrupted each time someone’s smartphone rings?

These can be signs of family togetherness problems.  But there are simple alternatives that can be easy to try and even fun.  Here are some suggestions.

Family meetings. Talk about family times and fun times together. This could include routines for doing things together without smartphones, but can also include new kinds of fun involving everyone’s smartphone.  Why not integrate smartphones into a family activity?

Learn to play Pokémon Go together.  Even better, ask your kids to teach your how to play.

Pokémon Go is a mobile game app that pairs GPS with a smartphone camera to create an augmented reality.  Players earn points by “catching” virtual characters in real outdoor environments. Players get to see the characters in their real world environment by looking at the screen and “capturing” the Pokémon character.

Pokémon Go can be used to encourage families to do things outdoors, while sharing fun and laughter of outsmarting the Pokémon characters.  Having a family team can be a great way to strengthen your family unit.

Of course, there are things to watch out for, so some rules could be:

  • Let the family decide where and when to play, in a safe location
  • Choose an identified “Pokémon scout” who makes sure you don’t walk into traffic or stumble over obstacles while looking at the screen
  • Be respectful of others when playing – you may be disturbing them.
  • Set a time limit for playing the game and take time to talk with your children about their favorite parts of the game
  • Give everyone a chance to be the leader – it’s family fun and different family members have different skills

Contact Dr. Eva Fisher and associates today to book your couples/family appointment today!


Copyright©, 2016, Dr. Eva Fisher & Fisher Associates,

photo credit: <a href=”″>Pokemon Swag</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>(license)</a>.

Gender Differences in the Therapy Room

Talking about gender differences is sure to result in strong opinions and feelings, and there are times when arguing about gender differences will even result in a call to a psychologist.

In the early days of living together, Nina and Andrew looked like poster children for New Millennium relationships. Theirs was a relationship of equals – both had professional degrees, earned high salaries and held jobs in upper management. They divided the housework chores equally; that is, until their new baby’s arrival disrupted their carefully structured lives.

They were in my office on a gray Monday morning after a weekend of arguing over issues that began at a dinner party with close friends. When the talk had turned to gender differences, Nina, referring to Andrew in the third person, had commented that his porn surfing was a contradiction of his so-called belief in gender equality; leaving Andrew feeling criticized and humiliated. Trying to save face, he countered with a parody of Nina’s nightly stress headaches that left him sleeping on the couch on many nights

The power politics of gender equality are played out in the lives of modern couples when issues come up about children, money, family loyalties and sex. Nina and Andrew didn’t know that neurobiological gender differences could override their best efforts at stepping back from the brink when arguments needed to be resolved.

Recent neurobiological studies of differences between men and women looked at differences in brain structure when men and women process feelings. Cahill and co-author Lisa Kilpatrick reported differences in the emotion- processing centers of the brain, reporting that although both genders have the same fundamental brain structures, men and women are wired to process incoming information in different ways. In other words, although both have the same basic hardware, men and women have different software that influences them to react differently to the same event.

Same-sex relationships whether men or women, tend to be more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. Gay and lesbian couples have about the same rate of conflict as heterosexual ones, but they are better at defusing arguments and avoiding confrontations. A study cited in the New York times2 found that same sex couples were better at seeing the other person’s point of view, lending support to the finding that different emotion-processing centers in heterosexual couples makes it more difficult to see the other person’s perspective when arguments occur.

Nina and Andrew were responding differently to the arrival of their new baby. Nina became vigilant about the baby’s feeding and sleep schedule while Andrew began planning finances to pay for nannies and private schools. The disruptions in their routine made them both anxious in different ways – Nina cried more easily, and Andrew became irritable more quickly, both of them unaware that their neurological software was leading them to process the same events through different emotional pathways.

Men are socialized (and perhaps neurologically wired) to achieve, to compete, to know how things work, and to fight to protect their family and property, while women are socialized to nurture, to display vulnerability, to attend to their own and others’ feelings while suppressing jealousy and envy, to attract powerful men, and to obtain their own power in indirect ways.

Skilled therapists pay attention to gender differences knowing that women respond better by talking about upsetting events and exploring the processes leading to an unwanted outcome while men are more inclined to identify the problem and brainstorm various ways to resolve it.

Look for a psychologist who is attuned to gender differences when you are ready to explore therapy options for yourself or for you and your partner.

1. Sex-related difference in amygdale activity during emotionally influenced memory storage. Cahill,L., Haier, R., White, N.S., Fallon J., Kilpatrick, L., Lawrence, C.,  Atkin, S.G., Alkin, M.T. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory,  Volume 75, Issue 1, January 2001, Pages 1–9

2. r+0

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 @drevafisher, Facebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych
All rights reserved. Copyright protected.
Photo credit:
via photopin cc

Back to School Parenting 2015

It’s always surprising when, in the middle of summer, big-box stores suddenly display stacks of back-to-school supplies on their shelves.  They remind us that lounging afternoons with friends and enjoying summer BBQs will soon be replaced with back to school preparations.

For parents Back to School 2015 means getting tighter with kids’ bedtimes and routines, and starting to talk about the upcoming changes that will soon be upon us. Now is a good time to star reminding children about their responsibilities, and preparing for some push-back from kids who want to convince you that the end of summer is still a long way off.

Parenting is different today: modern parents believe kids need guidance and rules laid out in small bite-size doses to protect their self-esteem and emotional health.  Today’s kids also feel entirely within their rights to negotiate these rules with you. And as kids get older that’s where you may need help.  Perhaps lots of it, because your own parents didn’t treat you that way. You may find you’ve entered uncharted parenting territory.

Raising emotionally stable children in the new millennium is often difficult and can be exacerbated with the multitude of stresses that working parents face. Between kids’ activities and time deprivations across the board, combined with warp speed changes in technology that affect social norms and all family members, the modern world can be pretty complicated.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional psychologist if this all becomes overly stressful and simply seems too much. You are certainly not alone. A qualified psychologist can assist both parents and kids in understanding their family situation and creating harmonious family relationships.  Any underlying children’s issues can also be uncovered and treated.


In the meantime, here are a few planning suggestions to help with back to school transitions.

  • Make a list of chores to be completed and routines to be established and obtain agreement from all family members regarding them. (But remember, you and your partner are still the uber-bosses.)
  • Divide chores into manageable chunks, for example things to be done 3 or 4 items a week
  • Develop schedules for guidance – such as homework, other activities, and also family fun times.
  • Begin bedtimes 15 minutes earlier each week before the time to return to school and the bedtimes to be observed then.
  • Insert pleasant memories about school friends, activities, teachers into conversations, and discuss how they might look forward to the new school year.
  • Organizing your time and their time using a planning calendar is also showing your kids that a planned family environment works better.

Kids complain, use all sorts of “logic” to get their way, resist, but behind it all they know that rules and structures show that you care about them and love them.

Dr Eva Fisher is a registered psychologist with training in family and parenting issues.

Misplaced Memories

You walk into a room, determined to find something. You start rummaging around, opening some drawers, looking on desktops-only to realize you have no idea what you are actually looking for. You leave the room, shaking your head, maybe amused by your absent mindedness or perhaps a little worried. In a couple minutes, hours or even days, the memory floods back in and you remember exactly what it was you were searching for.

Of course, we’ve all been there- but do situations like this and other lapses in memory increase as you get older? Or, is it more likely that a 20-year old just shakes this off as something funny, whereas it might be cause for concern for a 50 year old?

Scientists say memory loss is perfectly normal. As you get older, you’ll notice parts of your body weakening and that isn’t limited to your biceps. Parts of the brain can also become weaker over time as a natural process of aging; however, virtually everyone deals with memory loss and can be proactive in trying to prevent it.

Here are some of the main memory problems that people of all ages deal with, according to the Harvard Review.

Transience– This is when you lose memories over time in order to make way for new ones. This isn’t necessarily bad as it clears your mind of the memories you don’t often use- kind of like throwing away the single sock you’ve had sitting at the back of a drawer for years. So, if you don’t want to forget something, think about it often.

Absentmindedness- this happens when you weren’t paying close enough attention to the task at hand. Much like the example in the opening paragraph, if your mind didn’t concentrate on something, you become more likely to forget. Absentmindedness causes people to lose things, get lost or be a little clumsy.

Blocking- Ahh, you know what it means, is it, umm something about not remembering words and, you just saw it, not transience, but something  with the letter t- right! Tongue! It’s when you have something on the tip of your tongue that you temporarily can’t recall but still know. Usually it’s due to a competing memory, which may be similar but not the one you were looking for.

Misattribution- You could have sworn your teacher told you about his trip to London but it was actually your friend’s dad. This is when you have partial recollection of an event but get a detail wrong, such as where you got the information from.

Suggestibility- Remember that time you and your friends went to a party where Peter did a black flip and broke the table? No, well not really, kind of, I guess. Even if you don’t really remember something, it is possible for the power of suggestion to create false memories. Scientists are still studying this phenomenon; here is an interesting article on it.

Bias- As hard as you may try to avoid it, memories are always tainted by past and present biases, moods and attitudes. When a memory is encoded your bias influences your memory of the event.

There are ways of preventing memory loss as you age. Harvard Health Publications offer seven ways to keep your mind sharp that you can start doing at any age. They recommend physical exercise, learning new skills, eating nutritious foods, sleeping well, and surrounding yourself with a good social support system.

These recommendations will not only improve your memory, but also help your overall physical and mental health.

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.


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.


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.

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