Therapy That Works...

PSYCHOPATHS – Psychopathy In Gone Girl (Spoilers!) - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 14, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the psychopathic character in Gone Girl and highlights some psychopath red flags to watch out for - click here.

Last chance before any "Gone Girl" spoilers!

Rosamund Pike’s character, Amy Dunne, in the movie Gone Girl is another reminder that psychopaths walk among us in everyday settings. Harvard and Yale educated, Amy Dunne strikes a vivid chord as she details the heart stopping, passionate relationship with Ben Affleck’s character, Nick. We see them falling in love only to fall apart a few years into their diary chronicled marriage.

The relationship takes a dark turn as the couple loses jobs, income, and romantic momentum as they relocate from glamorous downtown New York City to the suburbs in Missouri. Despite the noble purpose of caring for Nick’s dying mother and the setting of a beautiful mansion, the couple descends into heartbreak, infidelity, and ultimately betrayal. Amy narrates her suspicions, her disdain, and eventually her accusation of murder toward the man who is now a shadow of the husband she once loved and adored.

However, the true story is quickly revealed.

Amy is a psychopath who has been meticulously plotting revenge against her husband for months. Little by little, she has assembled the pieces for a slam-dunk conviction for first-degree murder. Amy isn’t going to settle for life in prison either; her goal is his eventual execution for her very staged death.

As a psychologist, I found Amy’s biased version of events quite familiar since psychopaths are experts at presenting a convincing and stylized view of reality. It is as if they live in a parallel world from which they select only the facts that will favor their version of reality. They are masters at drawing us into a highly rearranged presentation of facts and events that make us question our own sanity. Good is bad, up is down, and black is white. It is incredibly easy to get lost in the labyrinth of lies and deceit.

The worst part is the eventual sacrifice of the welfare of those around them in the blink of an eye.

Without empathy, without regard for others, and (most importantly) without conscience, the psychopath seeks only an outcome that is singularly triumphant for them. Your complete and utter destruction is just collateral damage. They are psychological predators of the highest order and they are increasingly common in the business world, the professional fields, and even your neighborhood.

For more information, make sure to watch my upcoming Psychopath series featuring ten types of psychopaths and critical signs you can watch out for.

Sources:

"Psychopathy" by Theodore Millon PhD DSc, Erik Simonsen MD, Roger D. Davis PhD, Morten Birket-Smith MD

"The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout

"The Psychopath Test" by Jon Ronson

Marriage & Divorce – How Stonewalling Can Wreck Your Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses how withdrawing from marital conflict can unintentionally wreck your marriage - click here.

The attack and defend model of marital conflict can lead to a sense of helplessness and emotional fatigue.

For example, if one partner remains committed to working through the problem while the other partner withdraws, the marriage may become damaged over time. Dr. John Gottman observed that stonewalling, or complete withdrawal from a conversation, is often the end point of a negative conflict cycle that includes criticism, contempt, and defensiveness.

Unfortunately, women are much more likely to criticize their partner and men exhibit around 85% of stonewalling behavior. When men shut down in the middle of a heated argument, they are often doing so because they are emotionally overloaded or feeling an extreme sense of helplessness. They often decide to take a break to calm down before responding.

Withdrawing during conflict is particularly difficult and potentially hurtful to women.

Oftentimes, the withdrawal is experienced as abandoning and disrespectful. Exclusion from a conversation is an Achilles heel for women and they often experience it as an intentional disconnection of the emotional bond.

However, women who stonewall are more likely to consider divorce.

So if she stops talking to you, you may want to watch your back. There may be something seriously wrong in the relationship.

Source:

The Work of Dr. John Gottman

Marriage & Divorce - How You Fight Day To Day - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how normal everyday disagreements may actually be healthy for your marriage - click here.

For years, we’ve heard that marriages succeed or fail based on if you fight with your spouse.

However, new research has found that how you fight may have a more direct impact on whether you stay married or not.

Years ago, marriage expert Dr. John Gottman discovered that consistently high levels of negative communication could predict who separated and who stayed together. Conversations regularly featuring Dr. Gottman’s Four Horsemen of Marriage criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling from a partner tended to erode even the best of bonds.

If one partner routinely fired on the other or regularly defended themselves against repeated emotional assaults, they would eventually just give up. They simply couldn’t continue on with the day-to-day negativity. The bottom line is that with routine negative communication, good feelings tend to evaporate and are replaced by resentment and hostility.

Source:

The Work of Dr. John Gottman

Marriage & Divorce – How Life Before the Wedding Can Impact Your Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Monday, October 06, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how factors from before your wedding may shape and change your future marriage - click here.

Most of us think that when we walk down the aisle, it’s the first step in a brand new life.

However, new research from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia has found a link between premarital behavior and marital satisfaction from ages 18 through 34. Here are some interesting facts from the study:

The Grass Is Always Greener

If you have had a high number of romantic partners and relationships over the years, you may have higher expectations of your current marriage. We can end up unfairly comparing our spouse to previous romantic partners, which can lead to high levels of marital dissatisfaction and even outright conflict. Another side effect of a long relationship history is that we can become pros at breaking up. Repeatedly walking away from dating relationships instead of trying to work things out can be a rehearsal for a future marital break up.

Sliding Versus Deciding

The researchers observed that some couples tended to slide into major, life altering decisions such as getting married or having a child together. They make major decisions based on shallow criteria such as the length of the relationship or their or their partner’s age rather than on the strength and long term viability of the relationship. Those of us who intentionally enter romantic relationships and proactively nurture and grow the romantic bond tend to do better in marriage.

It Takes A Village

Weddings are the ultimate ritual of connection and commitment. According to this study, having a large wedding is linked to having a sturdier marriage. The psychologists were careful to point out that how much money was spent on the ceremony was not important. Instead, they argued that having a strong community and social network that supports each of you and your union is a wonderful foundation for a happy and successful marriage.

Source:

Galena Rhoades & Scott Stanley, “Bigger Weddings, fewer partners, less ‘sliding’ linked to better marriages.” The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, Science Daily, 19 August 2014.

Facebook Fridays – Rizwan (08/01/14) - By Chris Gearing

Friday, August 01, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia answer a question from Rizwan on Facebook about Generalized Anxiety Disorder and how it's different from clinical depression - click here.

Rizwan from Facebook wrote in:

“I know a lady in my circle. She is regularly very worried because of some family issues. She doesn’t sleep well and also feels low these days. Her appetite is less than normal now for her. Is she suffering from GAD?”

Thanks for your question on Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Rizwan. To better understand this disorder, here are some important facts to keep in mind:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is known as the “worrier” diagnosis.

People with GAD tend to ruminate on anxious or negative thoughts, which propel them into a seemingly endless cycle of anxiety. The more they worry, the more the habit is reinforced.

Over 40 million Americans suffer from GAD. That’s 18% of the population! In fact according to many sources, anxiety is the number one diagnosis in the US. However, most sufferers don’t get help for it and continue to hurt when there are proven remedies for this condition.

Here are a few of the most common symptoms for GAD:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry
  • Difficulty controlling worried thoughts
  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind goes blank regularly
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia or restless sleep

Clinical Depression commonly co-occurs with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it is another one of the most common mental health diagnoses in America.

In fact, forty two percent of GAD patients also have clinical depression. The combination of the two conditions can propel us into an endless loop of catastrophic thinking that convinces us we are helpless and hopeless. The depressed and anxious brain tends to avoid objectively evaluating the evidence and instead jumps to catastrophic conclusions. Relapsing into depression is tragically common and is more likely when the previous episode was severe and incapacitating.

Common symptoms of Clinical Depression include:

  • Depressed thoughts and mood
  • Low energy, fatigue, and sudden loss of energy
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in the usual activities
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of overlap between the symptoms of anxiety and depression and it is often very difficult to differentiate between the two.

Most depressed people have anxiety and vice versa. For example, many people who are depressed tend to worry, sleep and eat erratically, and feel low and empty much of the time. Anxious people may also worry, sleep and eat erratically, and feel blue some of the time. It is my opinion that while anxiety and depression often co-occur, one of the conditions precedes the other and is usually more dominant.

However, it is extremely important to differentiate between the two diagnoses since therapy approaches and medication heavily rely on an accurate diagnosis. Different psychotherapies and medicines are used to specifically treat each condition.

If you are worried about your friend having one of these problems Rizwan, please seek the help of a clinical psychologist or mental health professional who can use a combination of interviews and psychological testing to provide the correct diagnosis for effective treatment.

Sources:

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV - RT

Clinical Depression - Can Sadness Become Depression? - By Chris Gearing

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how normal sadness can evolve into full clinical depression and some of the signs to watch out for - click here.

How would a normal amount of sadness ever evolve into depression?

We know that many people who are prone to depression have what psychologists call negative explanatory views. Every time you experience an event in your life, your brain investigates, explains, and remembers it for the future. Negative explanatory views exist when the brain can only see the negative side of an event.

The research of author, professor, and former American Psychological Association President, Dr. Martin Seligman, has identified three distinct ways the brain can transform sadness into depression:

Permanent

When we are slipping into depression, we slowly transform a temporary setback into a permanent problem. Depression can seem insurmountable since the obstacle or issue is now seen as a permanent part of life.

Pervasive

To make matters worse, the depressed brain tends to make a mountain out of a molehill. It expands the reach and scope of a problem in one area of our life to all areas of our life. For instance, a setback at work also means that I’m now a horrible spouse and a terrible parent.

Personal

A depressed mind concludes that the negative outcome is entirely my fault. The blame isn’t shared, and it wasn’t just bad luck. The problem becomes very personal and can lead to a sense of helplessness. We are convinced that the obstacles in our lives are entirely our fault, and we tend to retreat to a life that is narrowed and more controllable.

Once you have experienced depression, you are twice as likely to fall back into depression in the future. Learning therapeutic systems like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical-Behavior Therapy can dramatically lower your chances of experiencing depression again.

If you are worried that someone you know may be experiencing depression, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

The work of Dr. Martin Seligman

Clinical Depression - The Differences Between Sadness and Depression - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the differences between normal sadness and clinical depression - click here.

Everyone feels sad sometimes. A bad breakup with a partner, a problem with a child, or a setback at work can all make us feel sadness. But where is the line between normal sadness and clinical depression?

The central characteristic of sadness is a feeling of loss and a sense of regret for recent choices or events.

Sadness can feel all encompassing and dominate our thoughts for a little while, but it will usually run its course in a short amount of time.

Here are some symptoms of common sadness:

  • A feeling of permanent loss
  • Mild to moderate negative feelings such as regret, disappointment, or helplessness
  • Emotional intensity is moderate and does not impair functioning or daily behaviors
  • Usually resolves within a few days or even hours

Clinical depression is far more impactful on daily functioning than a simple case of the blues.

It is a physiological and psychological illness that can consume your life and compromise your mind. Once depression gets a foothold, it can literally rewire the neurological pathways in your brain and, for instance, create a direct link between normal sadness and negative thinking cycles.

According to research, this connection can cause normal sadness to trigger significant negative thoughts that could revive the full-blown clinical depression once again. To make matters worse - if you have faced depression in the past, you are twice as likely to experience clinical depression in the future.

Here are some symptoms of clinical depression:

  • Regularly feeling extremely down or “empty”
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty without explanation
  • Loss of energy or interest in favorite activities
  • Feeling very tired without cause
  • Unable to concentrate or remember details
  • Unable to fall sleep or dramatically oversleeping
  • Significant shifts in eating behavior, such as overeating or having no appetite
  • Vivid thoughts of suicide or even suicide attempts

If you are worried that someone you know may be experiencing clinical depression, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

The National Institute of mental Health

“The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness” by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Weight Loss - Resisting Self-Sabotaging Thoughts About Eating - By Chris Gearing

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common self-sabotaging thoughts about eating and how you can stay on track to your weight loss goals - click here.

Over the years, I’ve become convinced that the chief reason diets fail is that we don’t really understand the psychology of dieting.

We are usually competent at a million other things—our work, our marriage, parenting our kids. But the task of really taking care of our bodies and regulating our food is often left for another day. Now here are some important things that you can do to dispute your negative thinking about dieting:

Plan, Plan, Plan

In Dr. Judith Beck’s best selling book, she reminds us that planning for dieting is essential. We know that a clearly defined path bolsters successful change. Without a dedicated food plan, exercise regimen, and proper psychological tools, dieting will be much more difficult.

Disputing Hopelessness

Dr. Beck’s brilliant method of response cards can help you dispute the negative thoughts that float through your mind and undermine your resolve. With each negative thought, write a positive reply that reinforces reality. For example, if you say to yourself that dieting is hopeless, reply that you’ve done harder things before and there is always a choice in what you eat.

Meditating For Success

Dr. Beck recommends using the skills of mindfulness to calm your mind and prevent overeating. Try taking slow, deep breaths for ten minutes while you allow your body and thoughts to slow in pace and intensity. Taking the time to calm your mind will help you establish full control over your food choices.

Savor The Moment

Dr. Beck also recommends using mindfulness techniques when you are eating. Slowly and carefully chew each bite while sitting. Allow your body to consume the food without stress or hurry. Taste each bite completely and focus on how full you are feeling. Redefine your concept of feeling full and when to stop eating.

Self Congratulate

Once you begin to lose weight, make sure to acknowledge your accomplishment. Most of us forget that positive self talk is the fuel to keep us going. Taking a moment to congratulate yourself will help you hit the next weight loss goal!

For the best and most comprehensive guide to successful dieting using the power of cognitive techniques, read Dr. Judith Beck’s books on the Beck Diet Solution.

If you know someone who is struggling with the emotional and psychological aspects of weight loss, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Beck Diet Solution" Series by Dr. Judith Beck

Weight Loss - Identifying Overeating Triggers - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how you can identify triggers that may cause you to overeat even when you're dieting - click here.

In order to control your eating effectively, you have to identify your own triggers to overeating.

Here are some of the most common overeating triggers:

Environmental Triggers such as being near food or seeing food online or on a TV show.

Mental Triggers like thoughts about a meal or a particular type of food.

Emotional Triggers such as when we use food as a coping tool to manage our stress, anxiety, or depression. However, food can also be used to express happiness, excitement, or even for a celebration.

Social Triggers are one of the main ways that many of us struggle. We love to eat out with friends and family, and its hard to turn down family cooking too.

Another important step is to identify your self-sabotaging thoughts:

Denial: We deny how important it is for us to regulate our food.

Hunger: The discomfort of deprivation can be difficult to withstand.

Feeling Full: Some of us insist that we feel full at the end of a meal rather than learning that tolerating some slight hunger is normal and acceptable.

Emotional Eating: The most common sabotaging thought and the most difficult to regulate since it can be so entrenched.

Shame and Self-Loathing: Often these thoughts can lead us into despair, which can lead us to excessive eating.

Entitlement: Witnessing the eating habits of others who can eat without worry and not gain weight is difficult. We often feel angry and resentful that our bodies are not similarly wired.

If you know someone who is struggling with the emotional and psychological aspects of weight loss, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Beck Diet Solution" Series by Dr. Judith Beck

Weight Loss – Is Emotional Overeating Sabotaging Your Weight Loss? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, July 14, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how emotional overeating may be holding you back from losing weight - click here.

One third of Americans meet the medical definition of obesity and many others carry excess pounds that their doctors wish they would shed.

As intelligent and resilient as most of us are, it is confusing why we struggle so much with food. Here are some key factors that can derail you from weight management success:

Begins In The Mind

All weight loss begins in the mind. Without understanding your relationship between your emotions and food, you cannot change the habits that interfere with your ability to lose weight. All overeating begins the same way: a trigger leads to a thought, the thought creates an emotion, and the emotion leads to a choice to eat.

Releasing Tension

Many of us eat to soothe internal tension or anxiety. Your raging emotions tell you that eating will calm you down. Once the decision is made to eat, you feel a little better. What many of us miss is that we can also reduce our tension by deciding not to eat. The active decision to not eat can provide the same tension release as choosing to eat.

There Is No “Try”

Most of us take our self-sabotaging thoughts about food at face value. We try to not eat popcorn at the movies or we promise to not have another cookie at the party. But then we read an upsetting text or see an ex-girlfriend. The uptick in emotion can cause us to lose self-control in the moment.

If you know someone who is struggling with the emotional and psychological aspects of weight loss, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Beck Diet Solution" Series by Dr. Judith Beck


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