By Suma Hiremath
You’ve loved your little angel since you first laid eyes on them. Everything about them evokes a warm, loving feeling. Their smile, their smell, their laughs, and all their other big “firsts.” There’s nothing quite like a brand new baby. You’ve waited for this, perhaps planned for this, and cleaned meticulously (nesting phase, am I right?). Even formerly squeamish new parents report that their new little darlings’ bodily functions hardly phase them. It’s all love and smooth sailing...until it’s not.
Parenthood comes with a lengthy laundry list of responsibilities. The focus is no longer on you. Previously, you were responsible for your own life. You cared for yourself and maybe a partner. You cooked for yourself...or didn’t, if you didn’t feel like it. Take out was always a go to option. You went on dates and engaged in fun activities at your leisure. The time and possibilities seemed endless.
As a parent, your existence in the universe seems to shift. This is an adjustment for many new parents and can even prove grueling for more seasoned parents, as your child grows, reaches new developmental stages, and new challenges arise. Society socializes parents to “grin and bear it.” Particularly with new mothers, the expectation is that they love endlessly, are forever patient, and self-sacrificing. Unfortunately, this narrative can prove quite harmful at times, particularly when considering parental self-care.
The idea of struggling with parenthood is particularly relevant in the current global climate. With the emergence of COVID-19, many parents, who formerly sought reprieve through daycare, family help, school, or extra curricular activities, are now sequestered at home with their children. Additionally there are none of the usual outlets for parental self-care that may have been available pre-pandemic.
So what’s to be done when you’re stuck at home; the apple of your eye is driving you up a wall; and, there seems to be no end in sight? Being open and honest about your feelings regarding parenthood is simple and a much needed way to subtly implement self-care. Talking to your family, friends, and other parents can help normalize the notion that not all sentiments about parenthood are positive. You should also allow yourself space to feel however you feel, even if it is frustrated, tired, or burnt out, in the moment.
Largely, a societal shift in thinking about parenting and parenting responsibilities, as well as an ongoing focus on bolstering parental support is much needed. Although many states have issued stay at home orders during the COVID-19 outbreak, regular therapy sessions (most are offered via telehealth) can be a great way to process and discuss feelings in a safe, unbiased space. There are also an abundance of parental support groups readily available, most even offered virtually. When and if possible, share parental responsibilities, either with a partner, friends, or family members. Getting outside for at least 30 min a day and consciously choosing healthy foods and lifestyle choices can also help. In order to stay afloat and foster the best possible growth children, it is crucial to “fill your cup first.”
By: Oumaima Mansouri
According to Faces of Abnormal Psychology Interactive website, 2% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and about 4% will experience the disorder at some point in their lives. Obsessive compulsive disorder can begin at any time from preschool to adulthood. Symptoms of the disorder begin gradually, often during adolescence or early adulthood. In children, the compulsive actions often appear first and the obsessive thoughts develop later. Children may express obsessive compulsive symptoms, however, they typically have poor insight and seldom perceive that their compulsive behaviors are excessive. In adults, about one third diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder report having symptoms during their childhood. Unfortunately, in most cases it went unrecognized.
Diagnosing an individual with obsessive compulsive disorder can be difficult. Research shows that it takes the average person seventeen years from the onset of obsessive compulsive disorder to begin receiving appropriate treatment. This delay can be accounted for by individuals attempting to hide their symptoms, as well as many healthcare providers being unfamiliar with the clinical disorder. Obsessive compulsive symptoms cause distress, take up a lot of time, and may significantly impact the person’s work, social life, and/or relationships. Many adults with OCD have a good insight into their problem and are able to recognize that their obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions are irrational. However, there are certain individuals that lack insight into their disorder.
In children obsessions and compulsions symptoms can often appear related. For example, a child with an obsessive fear of intruders may check the door locks repeatedly. A child with an obsessive fear of disease may wash their hands excessively. She/he/they may fear that harm will come to their family unless they engage in a particular habit or pattern such as, avoiding using certain numbers or retracing their steps. Parents may not be aware of the full extent of a child’s symptoms because many of them occur in the child's mind and others are hidden. A parent may notice that their child avoids certain things, seems distracted, inattentive, or irritable, repeatedly seeks reassurance, or has difficulties tolerating uncertainty. A trained cognitive behavioral therapist can help the child and the family assess if these symptoms are caused by OCD.
During the assessment process, it is important to obtain the family history of any mental illness, particularly OCD from the client. If they had obsessive thoughts as a child, their current compulsive behaviors and obsessive thoughts and symptoms, and how the disorder affects their daily functioning. Assessment can help therapists plan interventions, identify risk factors, and most importantly highlight a client’s strengths. Instead of looking at the assessment as a way of gathering information to find or identify issues, one can focus on gathering information to identify resources that can be put in place for the client in order to reinforce solutions.
There are many effective treatment options for individuals that suffer from OCD. Some of the more popular treatments include Psychoeducation, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and medications (antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications). CBT can help the person recognize their obsessive actions and help them challenge and cope with their obsessive thoughts. Stress can cause obsessive compulsive disorder to become more exaggerated or exacerbate symptoms. Practicing mindfulness techniques in addition to the above treatments has also shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress levels. Mindfulness can also help an individual with OCD become more aware of their triggers.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a chronic condition. Symptoms can be managed, but they may reappear in the same or a different form several years later. Therapy can aid individuals recognize, respond to new or existing OCD symptoms, and cope with their obsessive thoughts particularly during stressful times.
Faces of Abnormal Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from
By: Suma Hiremath, Clinician
It’s a commonly heard phrase when conversing with a friend, at work, or even in a therapy session…“not that this is anything like what you are going through” or “I know others have it worse, but...” We are living in an extraordinary time, where societal limits are being tested daily and everything feels surreal. Mental health difficulties, social isolation, and increasingly apparent income and socioeconomic disparity have surged.
Positivity isn’t all bad…recognizing and understanding privilege and being able to put struggles into perspective can help foster positive thinking and promote gratitude. This can help to promote a more positive worldview and encourage the development of positive patterns of thinking. The brain is a muscle and can be, “worked out” much like any other muscle in the body. It is because of this that negative patterns of thought and maladaptive behaviors can be pervasive and take a considerable amount of time to unlearn. However, when it comes to processing our own struggles, emotional qualifiers can often do more harm than good.
Think about the last time you had a conversation with someone, you disclosed that you were struggling with something, and were gas lighted or dismissed. Maybe the individual said something along the lines of, “back in my day, our struggles were tenfold.” Or, “people elsewhere have it much worse.” How did this make you feel? Likely invalidated or embarrassed? There also seems to be a social trend of romanticizing struggling and shaming people for empathy, sensitivity, and expression of emotion. For example, there were recent debates regarding student loan forgiveness and how alleviating the debt of millions of students would somehow be unfair to those who had already paid their loans off.
Although not all adversity is equal, it is important to not constantly compare your negative experiences to others’ negative experiences. It is important to allow yourself emotional space, particularly with negative emotions. This is a crucial step in being able to effectively process adversity in a healthy and productive way. In other words, although it is ok to feel grateful that you are still employed and able to provide for your family, it is also ok to feel lonely, isolated, or trapped in your home. Although it is ok to recognize your privilege in having a healthy family and children, it is also ok to feel overextended and in dire need of a break. No single struggle invalidates another, particularly in these unprecedented times. Make your emotional and mental health a priority and begin by allowing yourself grace and validation for your struggles, whatever they may be.