Lisa Schlesinger has been a therapist for 20 years. Her extensive training in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic treatments help adult patients achieve life altering and permanent change.
Adulthood signifies the culmination of our dreams and effort to form relationships, families and a successful professional life. But often we arrive at the doorstep of adulthood unprepared for its challenges, the stressors and the unexpected events and losses that are inherent in being human. Our culture places so much emphasis on striving to create a successful adult life but this leaves little space to evaluate our feelings and thoughts surrounding these pressures and our choices. Often times people are left with a sense of disappointment, regret, and a feeling like they are trapped by their choices or simply overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted by a life that feels like running on a treadmill.
These unaddressed feelings over time can lead to Depression and Anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. Creating a space through adult therapy to understand your mind can provide relief from these symptoms. Therapy provides an opportunity for someone to concentrate and focus on your mind. If you are or have experienced any of the following therapy can help you.
- Relationship failures
- Divorce and separation
- Death and Mourning
- Losing parents
- Career dissatisfaction
- Feelings of being stuck
- Identity Issues
- Self-Esteem Issues
- Sexual dysfunctions
- Overwhelming Stress
- Violence in the household
- Addiction and Dependency
- Postpartum Depression
This is not an exhaustive list but simply examples of the kind of feelings and life experiences that can be helped with therapy.
Adults typically seek out help when symptoms overwhelm and impede their functioning or when they are experiencing unresolved difficulties and frustration in their personal relationships. Whether you seek out therapy for these reasons or simply based on a generalized feeling that something isn’t right, I can help you understand yourself and translate your feelings and thoughts into words. This gained understanding makes room for transformation and relief from suffering.
Do you experience fear, stress, or worry that interfere with your ability to simply live or to function? Some anxiety is a natural reaction to stressful events in our lives. Anxiety can be healthy and can help you meet life’s challenges. However, for some people stress and anxiety can be debilitating, causing a disruption to normal functioning and living.
This kind of anxiety is what I call natural anxiety. For instance, if you need to go into surgery you would feel anxious about what may go wrong and about putting your life into someone else’s control. You may feel jittery and your mind may think of all the things that may go wrong. Another example of routine anxiety would be anxiety before getting ready to take off on a plane. It would be natural to worry about the probability of everything going well.
Anxiety can be a way for your body to signal your mind that something feels dangerous. This signal is a really important phenomenon because, when we are in fact in danger, we can prepare. However, the signal is maladaptive in cases where stress and anxiety interfere with your life.
Stress or anxiety that interferes with your life
Do you experience stress or anxiety appearing as physical symptoms? People can get confused by anxiety and feel that they are experiencing something life threatening.
The symptoms are:
- shortness of breath
- racing heart
- unable to think
- frozen mind
- digestive issues
- throat closure
- swallowing difficulty
Phobias can be a type of anxiety that is very limiting. When a person’s life is debilitated or stopped by a phobia, they experience a form of anxiety that actually halts movement. Examples of phobias: unable to cross a bridge, afraid to leave your house, afraid of being alone, and afraid of dogs or other animals
There is another kind of anxiety called generalized anxiety. In Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a person is often anxious about many things and finds it hard to control this anxiety. For some people, generalized anxiety keeps people from doing everyday tasks and from being completely present.
Panic disorder is a more serious and acute kind of anxiety. It is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring panic attacks. These attacks can last all day and are extremely debilitating.The fight or flight response is experienced as a more chronic feeling. Panic Disorder Symptoms can be a sudden and overpowering feeling of terror and fear
Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods of time. When you have been feeling this way for a while sadness can easily turn to depression. There are many kinds of depression, with different levels of severity. Some people believe that depression can be inherited genetically while others believe that experiences in life can cause depression.
Symptoms of depression
- A constant feeling of sadness, anxiety and emptiness
- A general feeling of pessimism sets in (the glass is always half empty)
- The person feels hopeless
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Losing interest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed
- Losing interest in sex
- Levels of energy feel lower, fatigue sets in
- Trouble with concentration and remembering details as well as making decisions
- Sleep patterns are disturbed – you may sleep too much or too little
- Eating habits may change – you may either eat too much or have no appetite
- Suicidal thoughts may occur
- You may have aches and pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems.
Major depression is where the person suffers from a combination of symptoms that undermine their ability to sleep, study, work, eat, and enjoy activities that they use to enjoy. Major depression can be very disabling and really impact the way a person functions in their everyday lives.
Mild chronic depression
Dysthymia or mild chronic depression is a long-standing mild form of depression. This can last years and is not as severe as major depression. This form does not disable the person but they usually find it hard to feel well.
Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression where a person is affected by the darkness in the winter months as well as the change of the seasons. There are some people with this disorder that experience depression in the summer.
Postpartum depression is not to be confused by having the “baby blues”. Women who experience a major depression after giving birth and within the first year of the baby’s life are considered to have postpartum depression.
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. People tend to experience extreme highs and extreme lows.
Hypomania is a symptom of the disorder defined by a general sense of euphoria and an elevated mood. People are generally more energetic and creative and feel “on top of their game”. This is the upside for the people who are hypomanic. In my experience people also feel irritability associated with the exuberance,and feel like a revved up engine , which for some can be quite uncomfortable. They feel the rest of the world isn’t able to catch up to the speed at which they are experiencing life. There is a general disconnect.
Depressive state is the flip side of the hypomania. The symptoms often look similar to depression with disturbances in appetite, sleep, functioning, and generally enjoying one’s life.
Pressured speech or speediness is also one of the signs of this disorder. In my experience this pressured speech is accompanied by a lack of awareness other people’s experience around them. A racing mind likely goes hand in hand with pressured speech.
Substance abuse is a common problem associated with bipolar disorder due to the discomfort of either being in the depressive or the hypomanic state of mind. It takes the form of self medicating.
In addition, people with bipolar have trouble with their professions as well as their home life. It’s my experience that it has to do with the chaos occurring in the mind,meaning that their external world matches their internal world.
Another common type of behavior associated with bipolar disorder is impulsivity or erratic types of behavior. In the manic phase there is a propensity to be grandiose and do things that they wouldn’t normally do, like having affairs or spending money that they don’t have.
In my clinical experience having a space and frequency of sessions can help to slow down the person’s thinking and help them gain understanding for the nuances of their behavior.
There are three main types of eating disorders:
- Binge eating
Eating disorders are defined by a person having an altered relationship with food in which they use or deprive themselves of food to control, numb, or to alleviate pain. Food no longer is a source of nourishment or a way to sustain life.
In the case of Anorexia Nervosa food is withheld to such a degree that it can become life threatening for some people. This disorder is accompanied by an altered sense of reality when observing their own body image.
Bulimia Nervosa is when the person tends to binge followed by purging or will use diuretics and laxatives as a way to rid themselves of the food that they have ingested. The food is used for reasons other than hunger followed by regret. Vomiting becomes the most simplistic way of ridding the person of the damage.
Binge eating or binging is when the person eats an enormous quantity of food and tends to feel out of control and tends to feel remorse. Despite the repeated experiences with this cycle, the person can not help but overeat.
In my experience, all forms of eating disorders are related and can be understood as addictions. Eating disorders tend to act as symptoms for other mental and psychological issues. Often times people with eating disorders also have mood disorders, substance abuse issues, and relationship issues. Recovery from an eating disorder is difficult yet I have found that with intensive psychotherapy or psychoanalysis patient’s have been successful at getting their eating disorders under control.
What is a loss? Some people think that the only way a person suffers a loss is when a person dies. I think that loss can be comprised of many other kinds of experiences. It can be considered a loss when someone you love leaves the house to go to college or when you get married. Both instances force you into a position of being in transition. For the parent whose child is leaving the house they are left with a lifestyle that is different than it was before the child left. A newlywed is faced with a new life with a new spouse and they have to mourn the single life they once were accustomed too.
Each day that passes means we have lost another day. With every hello or goodbye signifies a loss or a transition. In therapy people come to work on the maladaptive ways that they metabolize their individual loss. Perhaps the person in treatment cannot accept the death of their loved one and will not move on their life. It becomes like an impasse where they almost refuse to move on.
When going through a transition it may be helpful to remember what is consistent in your life. Holding in mind, that all changes are temporary and you will become adjusted to them. Another way to think about change is to realize that you have the strength to make amends to any change that you create. There is nothing that stays the same and that thought can be both reassuring as well as frightening. Ultimately we do have to face loss, because it is an inevitable part of being human. Separations create in each of us a feeling of loss that is one of the issues best dealt with in therapy.
When anger, disappointment, and rage are held in there is nowhere for it go. Often times anger can be inwardly manifested and appear in physical symptoms such as backaches, headaches, and gastrointestinal difficulties to name a few.
You may be also hold your anger until you completely lose your temper (pop goes the balloon) and say and do hurtful things to people you care about.
Another form that repressed anger can take is what I call” stuffing it”. I think that most addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling) result from stuffing feelings. If you are able to talk about and have understanding for your feelings then you would be less likely to need another fix. Some overeaters and alcoholics can be thought of as plugging up feelings of rage and disappointments.
The only way to really be tolerant and understand your anger is to have a safe place to express it. Ultimately when you have a therapist to discover the origins of your feelings you will have more peace of mind.
History of Childhood Abuse and Sexual Trauma
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience an array of overwhelming and intense feelings. You may feel low self-esteem or self-hatred. You may feel guilt, shame, and blame or suffer from nervousness and depression. Often times the residue is long lasting and truly affects every aspect and quality of your life. These are some common adult symptoms of childhood abuse and sexual trauma:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Eating disorders
- Dissociation and distraction
- Mourning or depression
- Self destructive behaviors
- Physical complaints
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Nightmares and fear of the dark
- Chronic shame
- Parenting problems as well as relationship problems
- Suicidal ideation
- Social alienation
- Compulsive socializing and a need to please.
- Intense shame at being a sexual being
- Sexual dysfunction
- Preoccupation with one’s body
Treatment of adult survivors
I think that the most important thing for any adult who has suffered from child abuse is to seek out therapy. It is crucial that survivors have someone knowledgeable to talk to and process what has happened to them.
In psychotherapy and psychoanalysis we work together to understand how the sexual abuse has impacted your mind both consciously and unconsciously. This work is so important because abuse affects your mind by creating fragmentation and my job is to help you become less fragmented and more integrated. The most important aspect of recovery is that you are able to remember, think, feel, and work through it! I believe that when you have a therapist that can go through the process with you, the truth can be understood and accepted.
Self –destruction can be classified by any thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are hurtful to the self. It’s an umbrella term for a variety of self-damaging tendencies in the personality: from doing things that always backfire, to habitual self-harm, to suicidal recklessness.
Clinical reports suggest that many adults who engage in self-destructive behavior have childhood histories of trauma, disrupted attachment, and self-destruction. People feel that there is something fundamentally bad within their life and within their soul. Often times they engage in self-harming behaviors to reduce the emotional pain they are in by putting into action what they already feel about themselves.
Self-destructive behaviors come in all degrees, from mild to severe. Mild behaviors can be thought about in many different ways. People may think about ways to undermine their success. Another kind of mild destruction can be getting into arguments with people whom you may be dependent on or care about. Instead of bringing you closer to your loved one, it creates a gap. Also reverting back on your goals is another type of self-destruction.
More severe self-destructive behaviors can be comprised of eating disorders, addictions, self-harm, unsafe sex, stealing, and plastic surgeries just to name a few. The most severe form of self-injury would be suicide.
As with every negative character feature, the key to handling it is to become aware of it and how it operates in oneself. Psychotherapy helps you understand your individual nuances and what triggers your need to be self-destructive. You are not always aware of what makes you turn to behaviors that hurt you, which is why a therapist can help. In psychotherapy we are looking together at the way your mind works to gain a deeper understanding of the pull toward self-destruction.
Simply put self esteem is what we think of ourselves. It has to do with how we see our personal worth. Every interaction with others and ourselves are affected by the way that we feel about ourselves. Does your self-esteem fluctuate with the comments and actions of other people?
As an infant we are completely dependent on our caretakers. Depending on how attuned to our needs they were relates directly to the way that we feel about ourselves. If you were listened to and your parents were able to help make sense of your thoughts and feelings and put them into words you would have a better sense of self.
Low self-esteem is when you don’t feel you deserve very much. You may feel that something is inherently wrong with you or that you are unlovable. It may be commonplace for you to feel that you don’t deserve general goodness. You may feel that you have very little worth except when you make others feel good. Perhaps you feel influenced by what others think of you. You may feel that you need to be admired or recognized in order to feel you matter.
Perhaps you feel that your sense of self is greatly affected by how others react toward you.
True self esteem comes with working toward acceptance and compassion for yourself. In psychotherapy we work together to gain an understanding for what stands in your way to building a positive self-regard.