Author Archives: Heather Davidson

Were you “Groomed?”: Understanding the Role of Grooming Behavior in Sexual Abuse

Almost every adult survivor of sexual abuse believes they were responsible for their sexual abuse. In addition, the secrecy and shame about these experiences can lead to profound emotional grief and anger, and isolation from others. Often, these feelings are the result of “grooming.” Grooming refers to behaviors that an adult abuser uses to desensitize or prepare a child for sexual abuse. Grooming is a slow process and may occur over a period of years. It is also important to note that an adult abuser usually grooms the victim’s family or those close to him/her as well. Review the stages of grooming below to determine whether this may have been a part of your sexual abuse:

The Introduction: Adult abuser meets child victim. Often abusers have some access to children due to their career or social standing. Examples would include religious leaders like a priest, a teacher, a tutor, a coach, a doctor, etc. The adult abuser has inherent power and status the child victim and their family. Adult abusers are often well respected and well liked members of the community. Parents or other adults mistakenly believe the abuser has a skill or guidance to give to the child and therefore are open to the adult abuser taking a special interest in their child. Abusers often select children that are in some way vulnerable to being able to be taken advantage of.

A Special Relationship is Formed: The abuser takes special interest in the victim, often promising the child and their family some sort of benefit from the relationship. For instance, one victim’s lacrosse coach offered her free one-on-one coaching sessions, and other victim’s SAT tutor offered free lessons. Other common examples are priests offering a child and or their family a special role within the church, or teachers offering to spend extra time and attention afterschool with a particular child. The child is made to feel special by the abuser and may genuinely benefit from what the abuser has to offer. The special relationship may exist for months or even years before any overt inappropriate behavior occurs. The child and adult grow closer in their “special” relationship. Many adult survivors recall feeling that the abuser was as close as a “father,” “older brother,” “cousin,” “aunt” etc. The special relationship may even extend to the entire family, and other family members may receive additional attention and favors. This enables to the abuser to gain the trust of not only the victim, but of anyone that could protect the child victim. If the abuser can win over the family, this only makes it more difficult for the child victim to ever disclose the sexual abuse.

Boundaries Are Blurred: Eventually a boundary will be violated, but first the abuser desensitizes the child victim to inappropriate behaviors. Usually the first boundaries violated are not physical. For instance, the adult abuser may insist on the child telling him/her a secret, or the adult abuser may start disclosing intimate details about their own life. These intimate details may include information about their dating life, a sexual story about themselves or someone else, or even their own struggles with a work conflict or family conflict. Physical touching is likely already occurring but may not be overtly inappropriate. For instance an adult survivor whose abuser was her diving coach described the diving coach often touching her arms and legs to instruct her on a dive. Another adult survivor described her tutor often touching her arm, and even once brushed her hair out of her face. He even began staying after lessons to watch TV with the student and insisted on putting her head in his lap while they lay on the sofa. An adult male who was abused by his catholic priest as a child described the priest often touching him on his shoulder, insisting on hugs and squeezing his arms and making comments on about his muscle development. Another adult survivor explained that her teacher would drive her home from school, but he began stopping at his apartment and inviting her in. He began changing in front of her once they were in the apartment. Some adult survivors recall feeling uncomfortable but unsure how to handle the situation, especially when other adults witnessed the boundary crossings and did nothing (often this is because the family members were groomed too!). Others recall the escalation of behaviors being so subtle that they did not remember feeling alarmed, and only now as an adult survivor are able to recognize the inappropriate pattern unfolding. Both are common experiences.

A Violation Occurs: By the time a clear sexual boundary is crossed, the child victim is so desensitized or feels so powerless and trapped by the relationship, they do not know what to do. The sexual contact may even be wanted by the child victim, but this is a product of the grooming. Because of the slow progression of behaviors leading to the abuse the child victim is unable to see the adult abuser for what they are—the only one responsible for the abuse. By the time sexual contact starts occurring, the child victim is so emotionally close to the abusing adult they do not believe they can end the abuse. The abusing adult often frames the sexual abuse as an extension of their special relationship, making the child victim feel confused.

The Aftermath: The sexual abuse may occur just a few times or it could continue for years, even extending into adulthood. Because of the adult abusers relationship with not only the child victim, but the victim’s family and friends it makes it almost impossible for the child victim to break away from the adult abuser. One adult survivor explained that she confronted her abuser and begged him to stop visiting her family. The adult abuser continued to email both of her parents, continued to make plans with her family, and even continued to set up mentoring appointments to meet with the child victim through her parents. Unfortunately these are common stories. In addition, because adult abusers through the grooming process make the child victim believe they also wanted the sexual contact, these sexual abuse crimes go widely unreported. Furthermore the adult abuser’s social standing and social power make the child victim believe no one would believe them anyway if they were to report the crime.

Grooming can leave adult survivors ridden with self-doubt and blame, overwhelming guilt and confusion, and intense trust issues. Adult survivors of this type of abuse often need to address their grooming experience in order to heal from the sexual abuse. If grooming was a part of your sexual abuse, therapy could be helpful in processing this experience and continuing to heal.

Sexual Abuse and Shame – By: Aimee Wood LCSW

There are many aspects of shame that can develop for a survivor of sexual abuse. Here at the Better Being Mainline, a common false belief for survivors of sexual abuse is: “I am disgusting because what happened to me is disgusting.” Individuals who survive such a violation can begin to take on and internalize what happened to them in a negative way. It is common for survivors to confuse what was done to them with who they are as a person, and who they are sexually. Not only is this type of thinking false, but it’s also extremely emotionally and sexually damaging. Holding on to this belief even in the slightest would perpetuate a negative sexual self. Carrying such thinking would understandably negatively impact one’s comfort and interest in sex.

The abuse is not you. It is not who you are at your core. The abuse is something that happened to you. What happened to you, what someone else did is completely separate from your core self. Meaning, your thoughts, feelings, your love for those around you, your compassion for others is entirely separate. If you were bad because something bad was done to you, then every time something disgusting, bad, or upsetting that happened to you, your core would be defined and impacted by all of those moments, big and small. For example, have you ever found yourself soaking wet from dirty rain water because a car driving by went right through a huge puddle? Have you ever gotten dirty and hands filled with car grease from fixing a flat tire? Or for anyone who has cared for/raised children before, being peed or pooped on is inevitable. Do any of these situations make you who you are? Just like sexual abuse, these are all situations that happened to you. You did not ask for this.

The following are common shame based false beliefs, also known as intrusive thoughts:

– Self blame: “Why didn’t I try to stop it? If I tried, I wouldn’t be here today.”

– “If I was nicer (or fill in the adjective) to the abuser, he/she wouldn’t have hurt me.”

– Why do I still feel like this after all of this time? I should be over it by now.”

– My body responded positively (orgasm, lubrication, erection, etc) So I must have wanted it enjoyed it.

– “Why can’t I just be normal today? No one wants to put up with me now.”

– “I am damaged goods. Who will want me now with all of my baggage?.”

Go to the bank, or to your wallet, and take out a twenty dollar bill. Try your best to find a flat, crisp, and clean bill. Take this bill and do your worst physical damage to it. Crinkle it up into a ball, write on it, pour coffee on it, etc. Do your best and most creative damage to this twenty dollar bill without completely shredding it. Even tear it a little, or stomp on it with the dirtiest pair of your shoes. Once you’ve done everything you can think of while keeping the bill in tact, take the bill and unfold it/flatten in and set it down or hold it out in front of you, and answer yes or no to this one question: After all of that abuse to the twenty dollar bill, how much is it now worth? Does it still hold of it’s worth? It’s still worth twenty dollars, even after all of the grit, grime, misuse of the bill, it is still intact and worth just as much as it always has been.

Only you can determine your worth, and it’s up to you to maintain your worth, regardless of what happens to you. If you are questioning your value and worth right now, wondering if you are damaged and disgusting, this is just your mind responding to the abuse you survived and trying to go through the process of working through the trauma. It’s up to you to remind yourself and your brain that any devaluing thoughts you may be having right now are all false beliefs in response to your trauma. These thoughts are not true, they are not reality. Some people have bruises or broken limbs after an accident. Consider this faulty thinking your “broken limb.” This is a side effect of the trauma you survived. If you continue to remind yourself of that, and continue to separate you from what happened to you, you will be on a better road toward emotional healing and recovery. Carry that beat up, dirty $20 bill around with you for a week, and take it out daily as a reminder.

Self compassion is essential to your healing process. Be as kind to yourself as you would to your good friend sharing something of these negative thoughts and feelings. If you need help challenging some of these intrusive thoughts and to learn to be more compassionate to yourself, it may be time to consider individual therapy. It helps to talk to someone who can help you organize and sort through some of these thoughts and emotions.

Help is available, call today to schedule your first appointment: 610-608-0390

Are you in love with a Narcissist? By: Aimee Wood LCSW

Do you feel completely enamored with your partner? Maybe even lucky to be chosen by this charismatic, witty, and externally confident person? Do you also have days where you have just nothing left, feeling completely picked apart by your partner? Do you feel like the person you’re in love with is behaving like a toddler? Do you sometimes feel like your entire life is revolving around your partner’s happiness 24/7? These are just a few of the many scenarios one experiences when in a relationship with a narcissist.

Narcissistic individuals are great at drawing people in. They are fun, charming, and they can make you feel almost high on attraction and excitement. They are witty, attractive, and can make you feel unique from everyone else. But they are also emotionally exhausting, manipulative, and insecure on an extreme level. What sets a narcissist’s “flaws” apart from any other person’s is they look to the one closest to them to fill their holes, and/or take the blame. For example, if something is wrong in their life, if they made a mistake, or feel shame in any way, get ready because somehow it will become your fault. It’s very difficult for a narcissist to accept any contribution to something negative. If they had a meltdown, or made a mistake, instead of taking responsibility for their part, they are unable to see this and often focus on how someone else (likely you, the loved one) made them do it.

The problem is because it’s easy to become sucked into their world and their false sense of reality, it’s difficult to be able to stop and assess if this is a role and relationship that you can handle. If you feel something isn’t right in your relationship, but you question how much and what is “normal,” read the following list to see if you connect with any of the following scenarios.
Note: The person closest to the narcissist, the person he/she loves the most is the one that gets the brunt of it.

  • Do you get blamed for everything that’s wrong, even when you had nothing to do with it?
  • Do you feel like your partner needs constant validation and attention?
  • Do your needs often get ignored and not met?
  • Do you feel your partner lacks empathy?
  • Do you feel like it’s up to you to make your partner truly happy and whole?
  • Do you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster with your spouse?
  • Do you ever feel these following things more often than not: blamed, emotionally drained, isolated?
  • Do you often have the opposite perspective of a situation than your partner?

So you identify with many, if not all on the above list. Now what?

Boundaries. Boundaries is the most essential step to take if you’re wanting to stop the current patterns between you and your narcissistic partner. There are hundreds of helpful books and articles to help you understand and implement boundaries. Having your own individual therapist can also help you learn about boundaries and learn where they are most needed. Meeting with a therapist who understands narcissism at it’s core can help identify where you contribute to the problem, as well as learn alternative behaviors to give you new and effective coping skills and more independence from your partner.

When focused on the needs, wants, emotions of a narcissist, the caretaker eventually realizes that there is no room for his/her needs, wants, or emotions. The job of caretaker is exhausting, and rather thankless. Nothing will be enough for a narcissist. There’s always a better way to do things, or there’s always more to want. It’s extremely difficult to explore your individuality when you’re drawn into the world of a narcissist.

Narcissists can be very difficult to break away from, and it can be just as difficult to try and change the power dynamic and expectations in the relationship. They are super convincing, manipulative, self-focused, and often they try to use power (whether it’s intelligence, money, resources) to get what they want from you. Whether you’re looking for help in how to end and exit your relationship, or you’re not sure of what you want just yet, it is important that you have your own supports and ways to cope with such a challenging situation.

Help is available, call today to schedule your first appointment: 610-608-0390

Depression: When to Get Help

Feeling sad is a normal and healthy response to many different situations in life. For example it would be well within the range of normal to feel sad in response to the death of a friend or family member, the end of a romantic relationship, an unexpected move, a difficult career transition, etc. Many people struggle with how to know when sadness may actually be depression, or when sadness has turned into depression over time. Depression is conceptualized as a more chronic and pervasive state of sadness. Major Depressive Disorder is the current DSM diagnosis for clinical depression. Review the following signs to determine whether it might be time to seek professional help for your depression:

  • You feel sad almost all of the time: In addition, your sadness does not seem to be in response to a recent event (like the recent death of a family member or friend). Or the event occurred long enough ago that the intensity of your emotions may no longer seem to fit the situation today. For instance if your father died a year ago, of course you will still be sad. However, if you feel just as sad and upset as you did when it first happened, this could be a sign of depression.
  • You are no longer interested in activities you once enjoyed: You find you do not have the motivation or desire to participate in social events, hobbies, sports, your relationship or even your job. You may also notice a loss of sexual desire too.
  • You do not see a future: You feel hopeless about the future or may even have difficulty imagining a future for yourself. You may even feel suicidal. If you do feel suicidal you should seek help immediately by calling 911 or going to your nearest emergency room for an evaluation.
  • You feel exhausted: Depression does take a physical toll on the body. Feeling fatigued and tired is common. Depression can also disrupt your sleep patterns. You may find yourself sleeping too much or too little, or have trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • You feel anxious: Depression and anxiety often present together and may feed off of each other. Pay attention to symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, irritability, nausea, feeling on edge, sweating, shaking, etc.
  • You are noticing changes in your appetite: Some people with depression will each more, while others eat less. This may also cause significant weight gain or weight loss.
  • You hurt (physically): People with clinical depression often report muscle aches and other chronic body pains.
  • Your emotions feel out of control: Some people with depression may feel “flat” meaning they do not feel much of anything at all. Others express their emotions more outwardly and may have outbursts of anger or crying. Despite their very different presentations, both could be signs of depression.

If you recognize some of these signs of depression, consulting with a therapist or counselor would be an appropriate next step. There are many treatments for depression including lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

Medical Problems & Anxiety

At some point in life, most individuals will face a personal medical crisis or must live with a chronic illness. A common concern I see in my practice is an increase in anxiety after a medical event or diagnosis of a chronic illness. Here are a few things to know about medical problems and anxiety:

  • Anxiety about medical concerns is common: Anxiety around health issues is very common. It is normal to feel worried and concerned about your health if you have a medical issue. And while it is normal to have anxiety about your health when faced with true medical problems, it is important that you are able to manage and reduce this anxiety. If your anxiety becomes out of control, this can make your medical problems worse.
  • Monitoring symptoms may increase anxiety: Once someone knows they have a medical issue, they may begin to monitor their physical symptoms more. And while it may be important to monitor symptoms for some medical conditions (like diabetes or asthma for instance), the heightened attention to physical symptoms may increase your anxiety. You may feel like you are always waiting for something bad to happen or that you always have to be on guard to take action if something does happen.
  • Experiencing a physical symptom may trigger anxiety: You may be having a physical symptom related to your medical condition, or you may be having an anxiety symptom. Physical symptoms of anxiety include a racing heart, dizziness, nausea, chest pain, shaking, feeling overheated, sweating, tingling in your arms or legs, an upset stomach, headaches, shortness of breathe, etc. The symptoms of anxiety may be very similar to symptoms of your medical condition or problem. Not knowing if a symptom is anxiety or your medical issue may cause you to feel more anxious. More anxiety means an increase in these symptoms. This pattern can set off a vicious cycle where the physical symptoms of your condition the physical symptoms of your anxiety magnify each other.
  • Anxiety can impact your health: If you’re already dealing with a difficult medical problem or issue, you need to reduce your anxiety as much as possible. Long-term anxiety and stress can have a negative impact on your overall health, including weakening your immune system.

If you are experiencing difficulty managing your anxiety around your medical issues, it may be helpful to seek out counseling. Through therapy you will learn more effective techniques for managing your anxiety and dealing with the psychological aspects of your medical condition.

When Sex is a PTSD Trigger

A “trigger” is an experience that causes a strong physiological and/or emotional reaction because it reminds the person experiencing reaction about a traumatic event. Sexual assault, rape and even some medical trauma may cause sex to become a trigger. In addition many different types of trauma could impact the way a person experiences their body and sex. If you have experienced difficulty with sex since a traumatic event, consider the following suggestions.

  • Consider other life factors: There many be other reasons you may not want to engage in sex with your partner unrelated to the trauma. Make sure to evaluate whether you have always been bothered by or haven’t enjoyed certain sexual activities. Relationship distress and other life stressors such as an illness, death of a parent or friend, a career change, or a move, can impact sexual desire. Make sure you are not attributing all of your sexual symptoms to the trauma when there could be other factors that are influencing your experience of sex.
  • Examine your surroundings: Certain aspects of your environment may be also causing you to feel triggered, or are magnifying the experience of feeling triggered. Everything from the furniture arrangement, time of day, temperature, lighting, etc. could be triggering. Change the setting in order to reduce feeling triggered. Make changes that make create a sense of safety and do not remind you of the trauma.
  • Determine what activities are triggering: Is everything sexual trigger or only certain activities? Is every touch triggering, or only certain types of touch? Do you feel triggered as soon as your partner initiates sex or is it only once a particular sexual act is initiated? If you can figure out what specifically is causing you to feel triggered, you can identify which sexual activities may need to be temporarily on hold while you heal from the trauma. You can also give your partner feedback about what specifically is triggering so they know how to not trigger you.
  • Go with pleasure: Equally as import as identifying your triggers is identifying what activities you still enjoy and find pleasurable. Find something, even if small (like holding hands, or cuddling with clothes on) that feels safe and enjoyable to do with your partner. Engage in these activities when you desire.
  • Make sure you feel in control: Many trauma survivors must feel in control in order to feel safe enough to engage in sex. You may need to change the way you and your partner initiate, the types of activities you engage in during sex, the type of touch, etc. in order to feel safe and in control. Tell your partner the importance of feeling safe and in control and how they can help you to feel this way.
  • Learn your early red flags of dissociation: You should never engage in sex during dissociating. However, once you’re dissociating it may be hard if not impossible to make decisions about sex. In addition, you could be reenacting your trauma by having sex while dissociating. Therefore, you need to learn what the early signs of dissociation are for you. Early signs could be feeling “spaced out,” feeling dizzy, feeling numb, being unsure of where you are, nausea, sweating, shaking, etc. Learn your particular signs so that you can prevent yourself from engaging in sex when triggered or dissociated.
  • Use grounding techniques: “Grounding techniques” help to manage anxiety and trauma like reactions. In addition, make sure your partner knows what these grounding techniques are so that they can prompt you if your anxiety escalates quickly. Grounding techniques can include affirming statements like “I am safe and I am with my partner,” or “I can stop at any point if I feel overwhelmed.” Another technique would be to tune into all five senses and start describing what you are experiencing (i.e. “I am feeling my partner’s back,” “I smell the flowers on the bedside table”). Focusing on the five senses may help you to stay in the moment and prevent dissociation. You can also use diaphragmic breathing and other mindfulness skills to stay in the present.

Healing from a trauma is a long-term process. It is normal to find that you and your partner may need help managing trauma symptoms that are impacting your sex life. Consider seeking counseling for yourself and/or your partner if the trauma symptoms seem overwhelming and you do not feel as though you are healing from the trauma.

Postpartum PTSD

Many clinicians and doctors may confuse the symptoms of Postpartum PTSD with Postpartum Depression. While there may be some overlap in symptoms such as having difficulty bonding with the baby, feeling sad or having a low mood, loosing interest in activities once enjoyed, difficulty sleeping, and withdrawing socially, the importance between these two disorders is significant. In addition, the course of treatment between Postpartum Depression versus Postpartum PTSD is different, and therefore obtaining a correct diagnosis is crucial. If you or your partner had a traumatic birth experience, review the following symptoms to determine if you or your partner may have Postpartum PTSD.

1. You or your partner experienced a traumatic birth in which you believed yourself, your partner or baby experienced actual or was at threat of serious injury or death.

  • The traumatic experience may have happened during the pregnancy, during the birth experience or shortly after the birth.
  • Events that could cause this include having to undergo an emergency C-section, having your baby be whisked away right after delivery due to medical complications, being coerced into unwanted medical interventions such as cutting of the perineum, experiencing a hemorrhage, developing an infection, etc.

2. You or your partner re-experiences the trauma.

  • This may look like a full-blown flashback, intrusive memories of the event, or having nightmares about the event.
  • People, places or things that remind you or your partner of the event may trigger some of these reactions (even the baby may cause you or your partner to feel triggered).
  • The triggers may cause emotional and/or physical reactions.

3. You or your partner avoid people, places or things that represent or remind you or your partner of the trauma.

  • Again, this could look like avoiding people, places or things…but could also be the avoidance of emotions associated with the trauma.
  • Because the avoidance of emotions may be apart of PTSD symptoms, you or your partner may vacillate between feeling flat or numb to feeling irritable or emotionally out of control.
  • Your baby may remind you of the trauma…many mothers experience difficulty bonding because of this and experience a lot of guilt over feeling this way—it is important to know that this is part of PTSD and not because you or your partner is a “bad mother.”

4. You or your partner are experiencing negative changes in your thoughts and mood.

  • This may include negative beliefs about oneself, others and the world.
  • You or your partner may also experience difficulties with your memory related to the trauma.
  • Blame of yourself and others in regards to their role in the trauma may be exaggerated.
  • You or your partner may seem stuck in emotions related to the trauma (fear, horror, anxiety, shame, sadness).
  • You or your partner may feel detached from others and may not want to spend time with others.
  • You or your partner may no longer be interested in activities you once enjoyed prior to the trauma.

5. You or your partner are experiencing an increase in “arousal” symptoms.

  • Arousal in this context means feeling on edge or hypervigilant.
  • It can also include having difficulty falling asleep, having difficulty concentrating and experiencing an exaggerated startle response.
  • Irritability can also be included in this group of symptoms.

If you or your partner are experiencing these symptoms as a result of a traumatic childbirth experience it is important to get appropriate and effective treatment.

10 Signs Your Loved One May Be Struggling with Opiate Addiction

Opiate addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and estimated 2.1 million people in the United States are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin. For more information please visit:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse

Increasingly I have seen clients who have either a romantic partner or a family member who is suffering from opioid abuse. Review the following red flags to determine if someone in your life may be struggling with opioid abuse:

  1. They use old painkiller prescriptions: You may find your loved one using old or expired painkillers from past surgeries or injuries. When you ask about their use, they may become defensive or secretive. They may accuse you of being unsupportive of their illness or pain condition.
  2. You find (or suspect they are hiding) pills: You may find pills that are clearly being hidden. Others just suspect their partner is hiding pills due to the other behavioral signs.
  3. They experience paranoia: You may notice your loved one becoming increasing paranoid about yours or others behavior. Sometimes the paranoia may be subtle. For instance one client reported his wife believing her family was excluding her from events and talking about her. Other times the paranoia may be more obvious. For example another client’s partner believed someone had left him a “bomb” in a shoebox which had clearly been left by neighborhood kids playing a harmless prank.
  4. Changes in sleep patterns: Usually the opiate addict is oversleeping or not getting enough sleep. You may find that your loved one is sleeping more, or falls asleep at inopportune times (at the dinner table, watching TV or even in the middle of a conversation). The term used for this is “nodding off.” If your loved one is withdrawing they may need very little sleep or experience insomnia.
  5. Irritability: You may notice your loved one becoming increasingly more irritable and short of patience.
  6. They experience flu-like symptoms: When will notice flu-like symptoms when your loved one is experiencing withdraw. They may complain of, or you may notice he/she experiencing nausea, headaches, sweating, joint pain, etc.
  7. Low or no sexual desire: Opiates can change hormone levels that influence sexual desire. When using it may be near impossible for the male addict to get or maintain an erection, and for the female addict to experience physical changes associated with arousal.
  8. Changes in lifestyle: Your loved one may stop engaging in activities they once enjoyed such as exercising or spending time with family or friends.
  9. Money or property is missing: You may notice valuables start to disappear. Another sign may be unexplained cash withdraws from bank accounts or large charges on credit cards.
  10. Appearance changes: Your loved one may start caring less about their appearance, looking disheveled or unclean at times. He/she may neglect basic self-care and grooming.

Opiate addiction is extremely powerful and difficult to overcome. While you cannot force your loved one into treatment or sober living, you can seek support for yourself. Counseling can be beneficial for you to set healthy boundaries with your loved one, help you cope with your own emotional reactions regarding the abuse, decrease any enabling or codependent behavior you may be engaging in, and finally to make more difficult decisions about the relationship if your loved one won’t get help (separation, divorce, a period of no contact, etc.).

Women & Infertility

A woman is considered to be infertile if she has not become pregnant after one year of actively trying to become pregnant. Infertility is thought to affect 10% of all women in the United States (www.womenshealt.gov). Infertility can be caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids. Certain STDs can also impact a woman’s ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. Scar tissue from previous surgeries or ectopic pregnancies can also cause infertility in women. Aging also impacts a woman’s ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. After age 30, a woman’s ability to get to pregnant becomes more difficult each year. In addition stress, not being within a healthy weight range, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse and an unhealthy diet can contribute to infertility.

If you have been having sex regularly without birth control and have not become pregnant after one year, you should consult with your OBGYN. The doctor will want to know if you have been ovulating regularly. To do this you can either keep track of your daily morning body temperature, tracking how your cervical mucus appears or using ovulation test kits. Your doctor may order blood tests to detect ovulation or an ultrasound. Depending on the results of these tests your doctor may order a hysterosalpingography, which is an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes. This x-ray can detect some types of scaring or other obstructions that could be causing infertility. Sometimes a laparoscopic surgery is needed to get a better look at what could be causing infertility.

The cause of your infertility will guide the treatment. Some women can successfully become pregnant, and carry to term with the use of hormone drugs. Another option to treat infertility is artificial insemination or assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization. Some women have had success getting pregnant despite their infertility with the use of alternative medicine. Some women use alternative medicine in conjuncture with western medicine. Alternative medicine options include acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, massage, Reiki or homeopathy.

Some women find counseling to be helpful when struggling with infertility. Counseling can be used to:

  • Cope with the stress of infertility and the related treatments
  • Address any emotional barriers that could be contributing to infertility
  • Explore the various fertility treatments and the impacts they may have on you and your partner
  • Identify ways to increase social and emotional supports
  • Help you and your partner decide what is best for your relationship given the specific options presented to you by your treating physician
  • Help couples improve their sexual connection after the stress of infertility treatments

What is “Gaslighting”?

“Gaslighting” is a type of emotional abuse. The term comes from the play (1938) and then later the movie Gaslight (1944) in which a husband slowly begins to convince his wife and others that she is crazy. Gaslighting happens slowly over time leaving the victim feeling confused, anxious, depressed and often isolated. Listed below are 7 red flags that may indicate that you are being gaslighted by your partner:

  1. They lie. Blatantly, and a lot: Gaslighters will lie even when they know that you know they are lying. That is part of their game. They will insist that they are right, leaving you feeling confused and doubting your ability to discern truth from fiction.
  2. They dismiss your concerns: Gaslighters will dismiss any concerns you may present to them. They will often insist that you are “too dramatic” or “crazy.” You will be left feeling invalidated and as if you are not allowed to have any needs in the relationship.
  3. They use children or pets as a pawn to gain control: Gaslighters will often use your children or pets as a way to manipulate you, especially if they know how important the role of parenting (or pet parenting) is to you. They may threaten to take the children or pets away from you, often citing a list of flaws they perceive you have as justification. This leaves you feeling terrified, but also guessing your self-worth.
  4. They tell others you are “crazy:” Gaslighters will attempt to turn those close to you against you, often telling them you are crazy. Sometimes this will be done without your knowledge and you may simply notice neighbors, friends or family members distancing themselves from you. Other times Gaslighters will make false police reports or file legal documents with the court system in an attempt to have you charged with a crime you did not commit based on fabrications. Remember, anyone can file anything with the courts or police. Legally the police and court system must accept the reports or documents. Even if the charges and claims are dismissed against you, the Gaslighter will still use these documents against you. Even if the charges are dismissed, they will then use these documents to share with others and attempt to convince them that you are crazy, and that they are the victim.
  5. They put their baggage on you: They will accuse you of behaviors that they are actually engaging in, “You’re abusive!” “You’re controlling!” “You’re a toxic person!” This puts you on the defensive and distracts you from being able to see the gaslighter’s behavior. The Gaslighter is essentially projecting their issues on to you.
  6. You find yourself looking back: You will find yourself unhappy in the relationship but may be confused as to why (your needs will be dismissed, you are being told you are crazy). You soon begin to look back into your past, including at past relationships and realize you were happier and more confident. Pay attention to evidence from the past that you are not the person the gaslighter is accusing you of being!
  7. You cannot do anything right: No matter what you do, you find it is not good enough for the Gaslighter. Even if you adjust to the Gaslighters requests and expectations you will find yourself falling short. Occasionally the Gaslighter will throw in a compliment or praise simply to keep you confused.

Remember, anyone is susceptible to gaslighting. Gaslighters are master manipulators and abuse their victims slowly over time. If you find yourself experiencing some of these red flags, it may be helpful to go to counseling to determine what you would like to do next.