Author Archives: Heather Davidson

9 Signs Your Partner is a Narcissist

Narcissistic personality disorder is marked by an individual’s belief they are superior to others, an exaggerated sense of one’s accomplishments and need to be well liked by others. Those traits are usually easy to see. In a relationship however, narcissistic traits can sometimes be hard to identify. Here are a few signs that your partner may be a narcissist:

1. They put you on a pedestal: Don’t flatter yourself…if your partner can’t see your flaws this could be a red flag, especially when the narcissist decides they no longer need you to inflate their ego. When the narcissist is putting you on a pedestal it is really so the narcissist can feel good about themselves…your perfection (which does not exist because it doesn’t exist in anyone) is a mere reflection of their own. Narcissists can be very charming and make others initially feel very good about themselves. However, the narcissist doesn’t actually care about you or your wellbeing. You are merely their to serve their ego, and once they no longer need you for that purpose they will discard you like a piece of trash. This is one reason why narcissists often struggle with committed relationships.

2. They cannot tolerate your flaws: If you are the partner of a narcissist you must remember you are viewed only as a mirror of the narcissist. Once the narcissist begins to see your very normal, human flaws, they cannot tolerate this because they are threatened by what it means about themselves. Some narcissists may focus on physical traits and become threatened if their partner gains weight for instance. For others they are threatened by normal anxieties and insecurities that in any health relationship are revealed as the partnership becomes more close and intimate.

3. They cannot take responsibility for their behavior: In any relationship both partners have a role in the relationship problems. However in a narcissist’s opinion you are the only one responsible for the relationship problems. A common explanation from the narcissist about their behavior is “I only act like that because I’m reacting to my partner’s behavior.” Not only is this not true, but it is the narcissists attempt at absolving him/her of any responsibility for the relationship problems. Look for this in the narcissists other relationships—for instance with their family members, coworkers, neighbors and friends. If you can obviously see them treating others this way, remind yourself you will be no different.

4. You’re always to blame: The narcissist will constantly focus on what their partner is doing wrong and how their partner is hurting them. They are always the victim. They cannot and will not look at their own behavior. Be careful. If you are always to blame and they are the victim, when the relationship ends the narcissist will believe they deserve anything and everything that is at stake (the children, pets, finances, joint assets, etc). Narcissists will often engage in slander and frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to establish themselves as the victim.

5. They never apologize: Or at least you never get a real apology. If you hear apologies like, “I’m sorry…I only act like that because you…” Run! To apologize is to take ownership of one’s behavior, which the narcissist is not capable of—unless they are getting something out of it. Be wary of apologies from a narcissist because there is usually another motive.

6. They need to be the focus of everyone else’s attention:
Whether at home, on facebook, out with friends, etc. the narcissist needs to be center of attention and everyone must like the narcissist. They may volunteer or be involved in other activities but it is simply to inflate their sense of self or to “image build.” The narcissist will also seek out relationships with others who he/she perceives to be important. Surrounding themselves with people deemed to be of a certain stature makes them feel they are equally as important.

7. They magnify their accomplishments: The narcissist will exaggerate their accomplishments. For instance, some may call themselves an “author” when they’ve literally never published anything and merely post rants online. While everyone has hobbies and other pursuits, the narcissist perceives theirs as overly important and highly successful (even though they are often not). Even mild success to a narcissist will make them believe they deserve recognition and deserve to be treated special by others.

8. You’re not allowed to have needs: The only needs that matter in the relationship are the narcissist’s. They believe they are entitled to have everyone attend to their needs while doing nothing for others. If the narcissist agrees to meet an expressed need in the relationship (example: I need you to keep our date nights and not cancel) it is only because they are getting something out of it. Be careful if you get the sense you’re only around to serve your partner. In addition, be careful of “gaslighting”—you may be accused about being unreasonable or even abusive for having needs.

9. They lash out when they don’t get what they want: When the narcissist doesn’t get what they want they lash out in extreme and inappropriate ways—this is often referred to as “narcissistic rage.” These actions could appear as child-like temper-tantrums, threats of abuse, or engaging in repeated frivolous lawsuits. Be wary if you feel as though your partner’s reaction to you or others when they don’t get what they want or are criticized is too extreme or does not fit the situation.

If you believe your partner could be a narcissist, seeking counseling could be helpful, especially in finding a way to safely get out of a relationship with a narcissist.

When Body Image Issues Follow You Into the Bedroom

Discomfort about your body can make you feel not only self-conscious in general, but also not confident in the bedroom. You may find yourself avoiding intimate situations with your partner or avoiding dating entirely. To overcome negative body image, it can be helpful to examine past events that influenced your body image.

Children and teens receive commentary about their body’s and appearances from parents, teachers, siblings, friends, strangers, etc. Sometimes this commentary is positive, “That dress looks great on you,” “I like your new haircut,” “I wish I had arms like yours…” Other times the commentary can be pretty mean, “Better watch what you’re eating,” “You’re legs are so hairy,” “You don’t have the right body type for that sport…” It’s the meaner comments (sometimes not even intentionally mean) that stick with us and can linger with us even as adults.

If you find yourself feeling really negative about a particular part of your body, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What parts of your body do you feel negative or self-conscious about?
  • When did you start to feel negative about your body or certain body parts?
  • What messaged did you receive about these body parts as a child/teen? Write down the specific messages—as well as who made the comments.
  • As a child/teen how did you feel when you heard these comments about your body?
  • How does it feel now to revisit these comments?
  • When were you able to ignore or brush off negative comments?
  • When were the comments most hurtful? Or had the deepest impact?
  • What were the differences between the times you could brush off the comments, versus the times when it was too much?
  • As a child/teen how did you cope with these negative comments? Did you avoid certain people, places and things? Activities? Types of clothes?

After you’ve identified where these negative influences came from, and how they influenced your body image, turn your attention to how these messages may STILL be impacting your life. As an adult you may still avoid, hide, or feel overly aware of certain parts of your body that you received negative comments about. These behaviors obviously impact behaviors in the bedroom—wanting to turn off the lights and not be seen, not wanting to remove a certain piece of clothing, being too in your head to enjoy the moment, only wanting to engage in certain sexual positions, etc. Try the following suggestions if you believe your negative body image is following you into the bedroom:

Check in with your partner: Does your partner know why you’re avoiding, hiding or not present during sex? Share with your partner how the insecurities about your body image are impact your sex life. He/she may already have known or suspected, or perhaps they will be surprised to hear your concerns. You may even learn your partner has their own insecurities.

Ask for positive feedback: Ask your partner to give you more positive feedback about your body and the parts he/she likes about your body. To your surprise they may even be the parts you are self-conscious about. Make sure to return the praise and compliment your partner…everyone has some insecurity about their body!

Get rid of the distorted images: While you can’t get rid of all the distorted images you encounter on a daily basis (for instance passing a billboard), you can choose to not purchase certain magazines or watch certain shows that feature airbrushed and digitally altered images. These images are not real. Do not compare yourself to unachievable and superhuman standards!

Look around: Once you’re turned your attention away from altered images, realistically compare your body to those you see around you. All of us have imperfect bodies! There is natural variation of any body part, and likely you will realize the aspects of your body that you are worried about aren’t radically different from those around you.

Take a risk: Avoidance fuels anxiety. The more you avoid, the more anxious you will become about the activity you are avoiding. Pick an activity you’re avoiding like wearing a certain piece of clothing or lingerie, engaging in a certain sexual position or even keeping some lights on during sex. If you are struggling with choosing an activity, make a list of the activities you are avoiding and select the easiest one. Go with that first.

Focus on the Positives: Instead of obsessing about what you don’t like about your body, focus on what you do like. When a negative thought pops into your head about your body, immediately redirect this line of thinking by saying something positive about your body. If you’re struggling with identifying what you like about your body, ask your partner or friends what they like…just be ready to accept the positive feedback. Others can shower you with positive feedback but ultimately you have to believe it.

Coping with a Miscarriage

One of out three pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. Although miscarriages are common, the loss of a pregnancy can be very distressing to a woman and her partner. The distress can be influenced by the meaning of the pregnancy to the couple, each partner’s personal history, the couples experience with medical providers during the pregnancy, the couples experiences with the fertility process, etc. Below are some common issues for women and their partners when they experience a miscarriage:

Frustration with the Medical Community—Remember your doctors primary concern is your physical health. This may come off as hurtful during such an emotional time. In addition, the medical terminology doctors use when talking about a miscarriage (such as referring to the baby as a “fetus” or “passed tissue”) may come off as confusing and cold. If you feel unsure about what your doctor is saying ask for clarification. If you feel too overwhelmed to ask the doctor for more information, have your partner or another supportive family member or friend ask on your behalf.

Complicated Grief—Advanced ultrasound technology creates an opportunity for early bonding experiences. Many women and their partners find that this can sometimes complicate the grief process. Remind yourself that it is normal to have felt bonded to your baby even if it was very early in your pregnancy. There is a misconception that the duration of the pregnancy is related to the level of grief. However, research shows that level of grief is more closely related to the meaning given to the pregnancy. Also keep in mind that it is also normal for women and their partners to experience this grief differently. Be patient with yourself and your partner. It is normal to take a few steps forward, then a few steps back when grieving. When ready, it may be helpful to share your feelings of grief with your partner, a supportive family member or friend, or a counselor.

Dealing with Feelings of Self-Blame and Guilt—Women and their partners receive more information than ever from their doctors, family, friends and the media about what to expect during pregnancy. While there are benefits to this, women’s behaviors during their pregnancy are now often looked at with much scrutiny, not only by others, but by themselves. After a miscarriage women and/or their partners may feel riddled with guilt over exercising, traveling, having sex, eating certain foods, etc. while they were pregnant. Many of behaviors and activities that women worry caused the miscarriage are safe and healthy to engage in while pregnant. To reduce feelings of blame and guilt get reliable information from your OB/GYN.

Not Knowing How to Cope—After a miscarriage it is common to experience anxiety, depression, anger, confusion or hopelessness after a miscarriage. Furthermore it is also common for the emotions that you and your partner after a miscarriage to be different. Remember that what might be effective for you in coping with the loss may be different for your partner—this is okay. Be patient with each other and understand that it is okay for each of you to cope with the loss differently. If you find yourself still struggling with how to cope with the loss it could be helpful to speak to a counselor.

Sexual Concerns After Bariatric Surgery

Adjusting to life after bariatric surgery can be filled with ups and downs. Many people hope that one of the impacts of the surgery is that they will feel better and look better. And of course some people believe this will translate to more and better sex! Unfortunately it’s usually not that simple. Below are some common sexual concerns I here from clients post-bariatric surgery:

  • “I haven’t thought about that in years…” Sometimes old traumas can get stirred up after bariatric surgery. For people that endured trauma as a child (whether it was bullying by peers, sexual abuse by a family member, the loss of a parent, etc.) food may have been a source of comfort and coping. Also being overweight for some children serves as a way to protect themselves from abuse. So suddenly when you’re are loosing weight after bariatric surgery you may find yourself thinking about old traumas and feeling very triggered. If the trauma is too overwhelming, especially if the trauma impacted your body image or the way you viewed yourself sexually, you may find yourself not wanting to have sex. Sex may become a triggering and you might find yourself feeling unsafe in your body despite being physically healthier due to the weight loss! Seeking counseling to process these old traumas can be especially helpful.
  • “My sex drive is much higher! But my partner doesn’t seem to want to have sex…” Bariatric surgery often helps men’s testosterone reach a normal level, usually increasing libido. Women who have bariatric surgery often notice increased desire and generally better sexual functioning. Keep in mind however, just because you are feeling increased desire does not mean your partner is. If the pattern in your relationship before surgery was to have little sexual contact, this is not going to change overnight. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your partner’s lack of drive is about you! Your partner may have their own sexual dysfunction or low desire that was easily hidden and worked in a relationship that had little sexual contact. Now that you want to have more sex, it could be highlighting your partner’s own sexual issues. Couples often have to renegotiate and rediscover their sexual relationship. Couples therapy and sex therapy can be helpful in this process.
  • “I want to get naked in front of my partner again but…” One part of you might want to jump right back into sex, even flaunt your body for your partner. Another part of you might feel hesitant, self-conscious or even afraid. Both are normal reactions after surgery. Give yourself time to adjust to your new body—and for your partner to adjust to your new body too. Many people become more self-conscious about their bodies if they experience sagging skin, a common side effect of bariatric surgery. Counseling can be helpful in adjusting to your new body, regaining self-confidence and developing a positive body image.
  • “I haven’t really wanted to have sex because I’m feeling more down…” While some people experience increased psychological health after surgery, others notice decreases in psychological health after surgery. Sometimes this is related to unmet expectations about how the surgery would change your life or you may be struggling with keeping up with the lifestyle changes needed to maintain the weight loss. In fact, many studies have shown that those who have undergone bariatric surgery are at higher risk for substance abuse, depression and suicide. If you are not feeling well emotionally, you are generally not going to want to have sex. Depression, anxiety and trauma related disorders can all decrease desire. Seeking counseling to deal with emotional distress you may be experiencing after surgery is recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions about EMDR Therapy

What Does “EMDR” Stand For?
EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.”

What is EMDR?
EMDR is a type of therapy used to treat trauma related disorders and emotional distress caused by upsetting life experiences. EMDR uses standardized protocols with bilateral stimulation to facilitate the adaptive processing of traumatic experiences, allowing psychological healing to naturally occur.

What Kinds of Problems Does EMDR Treat?
EMDR can be used to treat trauma related disorders (like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) caused by childhood abuse and neglect, rape, sexual assault, combat-related trauma, critical incident stress (in first responders), natural disasters, motor vehicle accidents, etc. EMDR has also been effective in treating specific phobias, social anxiety, performance anxiety, chronic pain, generalized anxiety disorder and distress from infertility. EMDR can be applied to many life experiences that cause emotional distress that don’t meet the criteria for PTSD. For instance, EMDR could be useful in processing the discovery of an affair, overcoming the fear of public speaking or dealing with the impact of bullying in childhood.

How is EMDR Different Than “Talk Therapy?”
One thing that is different about EMDR therapy is that the therapist acts more as a guide and does not give much feedback. Instead, EMDR enables clients to quickly come to their own insights without much feedback from the therapist. Clients also do not have to discuss in detail the trauma in order to overcome the event. In general EMDR works much more quickly than other therapies. Also, other than self-care there are not homework assignments in-between sessions.

Does EMDR work?
While there are never any guarantees of treatment outcomes, EMDR is a highly evidenced-based therapy and many studies have demonstrated its effectiveness. As the EMDR Institute website summarizes, “More than thirty positive controlled outcome studies have been conducted on EMDR therapy.  Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.  Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy.  Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years.”

Where Can I Learn More About The Effectiveness of EMDR Therapy?
The following websites provide more information about the research demonstrating EMDR Therapy’s applications and effectiveness:
http://www.emdr.com/research-overview/
http://www.emdria.org/?page=EMDRResearch

How Do I Know If EMDR Therapy Is A Good Treatment Option For Me?
The best way to know if EMDR could be a treatment option for you is to meet with an EMDR certified therapist.

Where Can I Learn More About EMDR?
Websites that offer more information about EMDR include:
http://www.emdr.com/
http://www.emdria.org/
You can also read an interview with the developer of EMDR, Dr Francine Shapiro:
http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/expert-answers-on-e-m-d-r/?_r=0

7 Simple Techniques for Coping with Anxiety

  1. Acknowledge the Anxiety. Ignoring your anxiety might actually make you more anxious, especially if your physical symptoms increase. When you notice your anxiety, simply note the experience. Say something like “I am having some anxiety,” or “I’m feeling worried & am experiencing some dizziness.” These types of statements will help you tune into your physical & emotional experience of the anxiety and will prevent distorted thinking from making the anxiety worse (like saying “If I don’t get out of here I’m going to have a heart attack!”).
  2. Tell Yourself “This Will Pass.” Because anxiety can feel distressing, people sometimes panic about the physical experience of anxiety. This panic can make anxiety symptoms worse. Learn to tell yourself that your anxiety will pass, and its intensity often changes. All emotional experiences have a beginning and an end. Remind yourself of a time when you had anxiety before and that the anxiety stopped.
  3. Stay Away From Sugar & Caffeine. The effects of foods high in sugar and those with caffeine can mimic anxiety symptoms. If you’re already anxious, reaching for a cup or coffee or sugar snack will only magnify your symptoms! In a moment when experiencing anxiety never consume a sugary or caffeine laden food or beverage. If anxiety is a chronic problem for you, consider reducing your sugar and caffeine intake overall.
  4. Bring Yourself Back to the Moment. Anxiety can often cause you to wander down the scary “what-if” road. For instance, “What if I mess up my presentation & loose my job…What if I have a heart attack…What if he/she leaves me because she thinks I’m crazy!” Reign in these exaggerated frightening hypothetical thoughts about the future by staying present. Staying in the moment will also help you to tune into what is happening in your body when experiencing anxiety.
  5. Imagine a Calm, Safe Place. The calm safe place can be imaginary or somewhere real. If you happen to be outside when you’re experiencing anxiety tune into calming stimuli around you. For instance pay attention to the trees, their color, their smell, the animals in the trees, sound of birds chirping, etc. Carry a photo of a calming place with you in your wallet or phone for reference. Imaging a calm safe place will redirect your attention from your anxiety to a relaxing stimuli. Download relaxing music or sounds to your phone (there are many apps for phones are designed to play relaxing sounds).
  6. Focus on Your Breath. You may notice that when you’re anxious your breath changes. Breath rate usually becomes quicker and more shallow, sometimes causing hyperventilation. When anxious try taking slow, deep belly breaths to tap into your body’s natural ability soothe an activated nervous system.
  7. Get Moving. Exercising when feeling anxious can help to discharge extra adrenaline and nervous energy. If you’re in a situation where you are unable to exercise (like at work for instance) even taking a five-minute walk or stretching could be helpful. Exercising on a regular basis is also an excellent way to manage and prevent anxiety. Many people with chronic anxiety notice a significant decrease in their symptoms when they are able to exercise on a regular basis.