Civility Matters: How Rude Behavior Spreads Like The Flu

Studies show exposure to rude behaviors makes us more likely to act aggressively…even if we’re not the targeted recipient.
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Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Unique Challenges to Recovery

According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one in six U.S. men have experienced sexual violence, and 17% of those men develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In my years practicing therapy, I’ve found male survivors face unique challenges to recovery, yet hesitate to get the help they need.
The question is why.
For one, we don’t hear much about male sexual assault survivors, although one study found sexual assault history was common among both women and men, reported by 25% of women and 16% of men surveyed. The research participants also faced similar long-term problems, regardless of gender.

This same study found both male and female victims faced increased risk for substance abuse, relationship problems, and suicide attempts. In addition to PTSD symptoms, the aforementioned CDC report also found male and female survivors experience physical problems such as headaches, chronic pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms.
The Gender Gap
In my clinical experience, I’ve seen that males and females each bring distinct concerns to therapy. Unfortunately, there remains a significant gender gap in research on sexual victimization — and that keeps the conversations about sexual violence often limited to female survivors.
Of course, this gap also affects mental health and general medical care. In fact, according to a 2014 study, doctors treating male survivors of sexual assault have far fewer guidelines available to them than physicians treating females do.
Simply put, male survivors have more trouble than female survivors finding knowledgeable providers when they seek help.
Stereotypes and Power
In my work with male survivors, I’ve found abuse brings up challenges to the conditioning we’ve all received about gender identity — specifically, what it means to “be a man.”
Because common male stereotypes value toughness, males must contend with society’s expectations that they remain strong and silent.
Stereotypes suggest men enjoy heterosexual experiences of any kind, so some feel unmasculine if a sexual interaction makes them uncomfortable. For example, boys abused by women sometimes wonder if there’s something wrong with them for reporting it.
On the other hand, the majority of people who commit sexual assault are male. In the case of a male perpetrator and heterosexual victim, survivors may struggle with questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Sexual assault often revolves more around power than gender. Male survivors also face feelings of powerlessness, wondering why they weren’t “man enough” to stop abuse.
Coping Mechanisms and Treatment Barriers
Men who have experienced sexual assault are more likely to engage in risky behaviors or substance abuse to cope with complex feelings. These problems may bring men into treatment, but they mask the underlying issues. When men feel uncomfortable disclosing assault, therapy can be less effective.
Because many male survivors experienced assault at the hands of an authority figure (think coach or youth leader), they having trouble trusting other authorities — even doctors. These men avoid medical care, even though the sexual assault also makes them more likely to have health problems.
Getting Help
Even with these unique challenges, therapy and other medical interventions can reduce the impact of assault history on overall health and well-being. If you decide to get help for yourself or a loved one, consider the following guidelines.
Ask Questions First
When you’re calling new therapists, ask about their experience working with male survivors of sexual assault. If you need a doctor for a physical problem, ask for an appointment to talk about your history and concerns first, even before you go in for a physical exam.
Communicate Your Needs
Let providers know how they can make you more comfortable. You can request they move at a slower pace, explain treatments thoroughly, and ask permission before any new intervention.
Plan for Setbacks
Feelings of powerlessness and other triggers in treatment can send your coping mechanisms flying out the window. Develop a plan with your provider for how you’ll handle distress, perhaps by taking a break to regain composure or briefly changing topics.
Look for Signs of a Good Match
Does the provider respond to your assault story with close attention and a supportive tone? Does the provider explain interventions, answer questions, and seek your input?
The Therapeutic Relationship
Most therapists, myself included, welcome feedback to make you more comfortable through a difficult process. Therapy is hard work, but it’s a collaborative relationship. Being open with your therapist about your feelings in the here and now, within that relationship, brings about the best care.
Although male survivors of sexual assault face distinct challenges receiving the treatment they need, it is possible to find knowledgeable, sensitive providers who can help you face those challenges.
What’s more, coming forward with your experiences not only helps you feel better, but helps the medical community better understand the needs of this too-often silent group.

The post Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Unique Challenges to Recovery appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Unique Challenges to Recovery

According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one in six U.S. men have experienced sexual violence, and 17% of those men develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In my years practicing therapy, I’ve found male survivors face unique challenges to recovery, yet hesitate to get the help they need.
The question is why.
For one, we don’t hear much about male sexual assault survivors, although one study found sexual assault history was common among both women and men, reported by 25% of women and 16% of men surveyed. The research participants also faced similar long-term problems, regardless of gender.

This same study found both male and female victims faced increased risk for substance abuse, relationship problems, and suicide attempts. In addition to PTSD symptoms, the aforementioned CDC report also found male and female survivors experience physical problems such as headaches, chronic pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms.
The Gender Gap
In my clinical experience, I’ve seen that males and females each bring distinct concerns to therapy. Unfortunately, there remains a significant gender gap in research on sexual victimization — and that keeps the conversations about sexual violence often limited to female survivors.
Of course, this gap also affects mental health and general medical care. In fact, according to a 2014 study, doctors treating male survivors of sexual assault have far fewer guidelines available to them than physicians treating females do.
Simply put, male survivors have more trouble than female survivors finding knowledgeable providers when they seek help.
Stereotypes and Power
In my work with male survivors, I’ve found abuse brings up challenges to the conditioning we’ve all received about gender identity — specifically, what it means to “be a man.”
Because common male stereotypes value toughness, males must contend with society’s expectations that they remain strong and silent.
Stereotypes suggest men enjoy heterosexual experiences of any kind, so some feel unmasculine if a sexual interaction makes them uncomfortable. For example, boys abused by women sometimes wonder if there’s something wrong with them for reporting it.
On the other hand, the majority of people who commit sexual assault are male. In the case of a male perpetrator and heterosexual victim, survivors may struggle with questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Sexual assault often revolves more around power than gender. Male survivors also face feelings of powerlessness, wondering why they weren’t “man enough” to stop abuse.
Coping Mechanisms and Treatment Barriers
Men who have experienced sexual assault are more likely to engage in risky behaviors or substance abuse to cope with complex feelings. These problems may bring men into treatment, but they mask the underlying issues. When men feel uncomfortable disclosing assault, therapy can be less effective.
Because many male survivors experienced assault at the hands of an authority figure (think coach or youth leader), they having trouble trusting other authorities — even doctors. These men avoid medical care, even though the sexual assault also makes them more likely to have health problems.
Getting Help
Even with these unique challenges, therapy and other medical interventions can reduce the impact of assault history on overall health and well-being. If you decide to get help for yourself or a loved one, consider the following guidelines.
Ask Questions First
When you’re calling new therapists, ask about their experience working with male survivors of sexual assault. If you need a doctor for a physical problem, ask for an appointment to talk about your history and concerns first, even before you go in for a physical exam.
Communicate Your Needs
Let providers know how they can make you more comfortable. You can request they move at a slower pace, explain treatments thoroughly, and ask permission before any new intervention.
Plan for Setbacks
Feelings of powerlessness and other triggers in treatment can send your coping mechanisms flying out the window. Develop a plan with your provider for how you’ll handle distress, perhaps by taking a break to regain composure or briefly changing topics.
Look for Signs of a Good Match
Does the provider respond to your assault story with close attention and a supportive tone? Does the provider explain interventions, answer questions, and seek your input?
The Therapeutic Relationship
Most therapists, myself included, welcome feedback to make you more comfortable through a difficult process. Therapy is hard work, but it’s a collaborative relationship. Being open with your therapist about your feelings in the here and now, within that relationship, brings about the best care.
Although male survivors of sexual assault face distinct challenges receiving the treatment they need, it is possible to find knowledgeable, sensitive providers who can help you face those challenges.
What’s more, coming forward with your experiences not only helps you feel better, but helps the medical community better understand the needs of this too-often silent group.

The post Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Unique Challenges to Recovery appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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Feeling Awkward? 12 Reassuring Lessons from Science

Author Melissa Dahl wanted to rid herself of awkward feelings. She discovered that she was thinking about cringeworthy experiences in all the wrong ways.
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4 Signs You’re Self-Sabotaging (+ How to Stop)

If you’re familiar with 1999 pop punk hit “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, then you’re familiar with the phenomenon of self-sabotage. If you’re not, allow me to give you a modern rock lesson and an excellent example of a self-sabotaging protagonist…

The first verse goes:
“It’s no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy / ‘Cause every now and then I kick the living s*** out of me /The smoke alarm is going off, and there’s a cigarette still burning…”
The singer has made a habit of putting himself down, falling prey to unhealthy habits which destroy his relationship. He keeps up with these behaviors despite warning signs and negative outcomes.
When we don’t get what we want, it’s easy to put the blame on external forces — but if you look back and reflect on your own behaviors, you may realize you played a part in the downfall of one of your plans. You could even say that you sabotaged it!
Here are some ways you might be self-sabotaging (consciously or unconsciously) everyday, and more importantly, how to stop.
1. You jump ship when a relationship starts to get serious.
There are loads of ways you can try to ruin your own relationship, but usually one underlying cause: you don’t want to get hurt. Right before you get in deep with your partner, you may find yourself picking fights or being extra nitpicky about them. Why? Perhaps because deep down you’d rather end the relationship then and there than proceed to become more vulnerable and get hurt like you have in past romances.
How to Stop:
Remember: While relationships may have similar patterns, no two are exactly the same, and there are several myths out there about relationships that keep us from experiencing them directly. Not every relationship will go down in flames!
It’s crucial to communicate openly and honestly with your partner. Express your feelings and fears. If you feel yourself picking fights or pushing your partner away, be willing to take a step back and examine the root cause of your behaviors on your own terms. Then, it’s up to you to take responsibility, apologize and explain the root of the issue.
2. You procrastinate on important tasks.
What seemed harmless and inevitable in high school is not-so-harmless in adulthood — and it probably has a deeper meaning now. It’s about more than just being lazy (though that can play a part). Usually, you’re avoiding something else, like change or failure. If you’re a perfectionist, you might be procrastinating to avoid making mistakes, for example.
How to Stop:
Take a good look into your psyche. What are you really putting off or avoiding? Think deeper than, “Ugh, I just don’t feel like doing that right now.” For example, if you’re procrastinating applying to a job out of college, maybe you’re actually trying to avoid taking responsibility for your financial independence.
Once you understand what’s holding you back, you can try to challenge those negative beliefs and fears. Take baby steps towards completing tasks and visualize a great end result — but allow yourself to make mistakes along the way. Making mistakes is natural, and nobody’s perfect!
3. You attempt to mask your emotions with excessive alcohol or drugs.
Trust me — I know it’s not fun to feel pain or sadness. With alcohol and drugs readily available all over the place, we often turn to them to lessen the unpleasant feelings or to avoid them at all costs. Getting into the habit of using mind altering substances is dangerous and can lead to addiction — which many people see as self-sabotaging in and of itself.
How to Stop:
Feelings aren’t the enemy! Having feelings is healthy, but running away from them is not. By altering your state of mind to purposefully not think about your problems and the emotional toll they take on you, you’re setting yourself up for a breakdown. Eventually, all the hidden feelings are going to come out and bubble over.
Instead of holding everything in and avoiding your problems, allow yourself to experience emotions — even the negative ones. Find If you feel like your habit has become more of an addiction, seek out the help of a mental health professional.
4. You have “Imposter Syndrome.”
You may not have heard of this phrase, but you’ve probably felt the phenomenon in one way or another. An article in The Harvard Business Review defines it as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”
In layman’s terms, feeling like you aren’t good enough or don’t deserve success in your field — and you’re afraid that other people are going to find out and think the same thing. You might feel like a fake or undeserving of praise, all while avoiding failure at all costs.
How to Stop:
Be your own cheerleader for a minute. Grab a pen and paper and write down your accomplishments, even the really small ones. Fight the negative voice in your head to prove to yourself that you are capable of doing great work. You are worthy of success. It takes time to break negative thought patterns, but with persistence, you can break out of them!
Now, after reading this, you may realize you’ve been self-sabotaging a little more than you thought you were. While self-sabotaging is definitely an unhealthy behavior, you can rest: it’s very common and very normal. Best of all: the behavior can be stopped!
Challenge your way of thinking and your behaviors while remembering to be kind to yourself. Instead of being your own worst enemy, why not be your own best friend?

The post 4 Signs You’re Self-Sabotaging (+ How to Stop) appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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Raised by Anxious Parents? Here’s How it Might Be Affecting Your Mental Health

In my practice, I see many clients who grew up in very anxious families. Parents may have suffered from generalized anxiety, social anxiety, agoraphobia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Often, these parents were never formally diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and it’s only after the fact, during adulthood, that clients are able to recognize and understand how anxious their parents were — and how it has affected their mental health, both during childhood and into adulthood.

It’s extremely difficult on a child to grow up with an anxious parent, and even harder if both parents, and sometimes extended family as well, is anxious. Anxiety is a disorder characterized by constriction — it keeps people from living full and free lives, and often encourages “worst case scenario” thinking. Here are some of the things that parents with anxiety may teach their kids, implicitly and explicitly:

The world is dangerous.
Other people are not to be trusted. (This may also manifest itself as unfounded prejudices—e.g. men/women/people who are a different ethnicity are not to be trusted.)
Unpredictability is something to be feared.
You need to try to control everything so that you don’t get hurt.
It is easiest just to stay home and not interact with anyone.
Don’t take any risks, because it would be worse to fail than not to try.

These implicit lessons, and others, explain why so many individuals who grew up with anxious parents often end up in therapy, trying to work out their own mental health challenges. Imagine trying to approach a romantic interest when you’ve learned from a socially anxious parent that all people are judgmental and self-centered. Imagine trying to join your friends white water rafting when you’ve heard over and over throughout your life that drownings happen every day.  In general, imagine trying to life your life without fear when you have learned from childhood that fear is a totally acceptable default state of being.
Add to the mix that many highly anxious parents do not conceive of themselves as anxious at all, and see their behavior and thoughts as rooted in fact. Often, such people will have a trauma history— e.g. the mother who repeatedly warns her daughter that all men are predators may have been raped as a teenager, or the dad who says that people of another ethnicity are not to be trusted may be a first generation immigrant who was teased by people of this ethnicity.  
In other cases, anxious parents may feel that their anxiety is a positive thing, and desensitize their children to its debilitating effects. They may frame their worst-case-scenario mindset as foresight, or their perfectionism as a motivating engine that keeps them on track and has had a positive impact on their academic or career success. Some OCD or hoarding parents completely deny their behavior, which can be crazy-making for the children.
If you are the anxious child of anxious parents, do your best not to dwell in the past, resenting your parents for their issues or wondering what it would be like to have grown up differently.
Try to focus on your own journey to be more positive and less constricted by fear. Some people try to speak to their parents openly about the links between their upbringing and their current anxiety, but this may not go well. After all, it’s hard to convince someone that they are anxious when they don’t identify as such, which is why it can be upsetting and demoralizing to confront a parent about the anxiety with which they raised you.  
Instead, prioritize your own mental health and begin to work with a therapist on changing the perspective that you were raised with. Keep in mind that it will require some unlearning, and practicing a new way of trying to approach the world. You will be challenging the constrained, negative, and pessimistic style of thinking that you learned at home, and working toward adopting a more expansive and accepting perspective on things.
Despite this difficulty, many people are able to change the assumptions and expectations that they have about the world, and decrease or eliminate their own anxiety.
If this article describes you and your parents, take a risk and seek out a therapist who works with anxiety. You have nothing to lose and a new, free, and healthy worldview to gain.

The post Raised by Anxious Parents? Here’s How it Might Be Affecting Your Mental Health appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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Neural Basis of Why We Fail to Control Unwanted Thoughts

Ever wondered how your brain is able to control those pesky negative thoughts that pop into your mind? Neuroscientists give new insight.
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How To Dissolve Fear, Hurt, and Control

The three ingredients in our mental stew.
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Medication Is Not the End-All Be-All for Distress

Here’s how to get the right help for your anxiety and depression.
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