Author Archives: Lori Edelman

Neuropsychology and Migraines

I wanted to say a few words about migraines and migraine disorder. Some of my clients and personal connections suffer from this pain. They are not just a headache. They can be a torment for many. Not only are migraines physically painful, they often affect appetite, light and sound sensitivity, mood, balance and coordination, because dizziness and vertigo can happen, fatigue , and anxiety. Causes for migraines can include stress, fluctuations in barometric pressure, hormonal shifts, allergens, dehydration, genetics, and sometimes no reason whatsoever, which is the hardest.

It is well documented that our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs have an enormous impact on our physical well-being. In other words – the mindbody connection is much more powerful than we could have imagined. According to the latest studies, letting go of mental distress can lower your blood pressure, writing about traumatic events can alleviate physical symptoms of chronic pain, and your personal beliefs about stress have a direct impact on your physical health.

Migraines are no exception to this phenomenon. There is clinical evidence that the degree of migraine disability is correlated with our attitudes and feelings about the migraines themselves. Feelings of fear and avoidance play a huge role as well, leading to increased migraine frequency and decreased quality of life for many migraine sufferers. All the while, attempts to find long-term relief through medication can lead to medication overuse.

Regardless of the impact that our emotions have on migraines, this is not a “chosen affliction” – it’s a direct result of the way the brain has wired itself over time. Initial attacks may result from any combination of environmental and genetic factors that cause the nervous system to become particularly sensitive to certain stimuli.

There is substantial evidence that individuals who experience adverse childhood events (such as neglect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse) are significantly more likely to develop migraine later in life. This suggests, at minimum, that our genes and nervous systems are stamping in a painful wiring pattern at a very young age. Over time, these patterns become ingrained in the nervous system as migraine attacks slowly rewire the brain to perpetuate this feeling of pain.

The good news? This neurological sensitization to pain can be undone, in whole or in part, through education and exercises that help the brain to let go of past stressors and learn new, less painful neurological patterns. Treatment harnesses the benefits of multiple mind-body approaches that have been proven to reduce migraine frequency and intensity – like meditation, CBT, and mindfulness-based stress reduction
Relief usually requires a multimodal approach.

See also –  Pain Share: On Helping Friends and Family With Chronic Pain Conditions.

Brain/Mind: Forever Lovers

I write for several mental health and psychology journals and blogs. Every month, I field questions that may be relevant to several people and their interests. Recently, I was asked to differentiate between sympathy, empathy, and compassion, and their significance. While there is overlap, the empirical data and clinical experience indicate differences among these concepts.

In addition, I have been exploring the concept of Empath, which is somewhat different, and does not yet have sufficient research. As you know, I believe in the combination of clinical, empirical, cultural competence, and lived experience, so it’s an intriguing area for further study.
*Empathy means that you feel what a person is feeling.
*Sympathy means you can understand what the person is feeling.
*Compassion is the willingness to relieve the suffering of another. It is an active process of wanting to help others.

When you are viscerally feeling what another person feels, you are experiencing empathy. Thanks to your brain’s “mirror neurons,” a concept still under neural investigation, empathy may arise when you witness someone in pain. For example, if you saw someone in distress, you may feel awful. This has even been witnessed in infancy, such as babies and toddlers who may start crying if they see or hear another child in tears.
Several interesting developmental psychology studies in Finland and Denmark have shown that empathy can be taught from an early age, as an active skill and strategy, so ‘baby, you were born with it,’ is not necessarily the only scenario. Just think about the possibilities of teaching empathy as an active life strategy and the possibilities for what that would mean across the world.
For more info: Why We Should Teach Empathy

It can be tricky to differentiate sympathy and empathy. The main difference? When you are sympathetic, you are not experiencing another’s feeling. Instead, you are able to understand the content of what the person is feeling. For example, if someone’s loved one has passed away, you may not be able to feel that person’s experience. However, you can understand that your friend is sad. This includes societal norms of grief and loss.

Compassion kicks empathy and sympathy to the level of activity. When you are compassionate, you feel the pain of another (i.e., empathy) or you recognize that the person is in pain (i.e., sympathy), and then you do what you can to to alleviate the person’s suffering. It is the basis of volunteering, community service, mentoring, and helping others.
At its Latin roots, compassion means “to suffer with.” When you’re compassionate, you’re not running away from suffering, you’re not feeling overwhelmed by suffering, and you’re not pretending the suffering doesn’t exist. When you are practicing compassion, you can stay present with suffering, actively.

Dr. Thupten Jinpa, was the Dalai Lama’s principal English translator and author of the training known as Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT).  Jinpa posits that compassion, trained in neural science, is a four-step process:
-Awareness of suffering
-Sympathetic concern related to being emotionally moved by suffering
-Wishing to see the relief of that suffering
-Responsiveness or readiness to help relieve that suffering through behavioral activity and reaching out.
For more info: Compassion Institute

I posit one additional concept, that does not yet have sufficient Cognitive/Neural research data. I call it the mind meld, or empath. It’s being with someone in the mindful moment or experience, and has been anecdotally described in indigenous cultures and spiritual practice. Think of Diana, from Star Trek; or the conduit described by the Iroquois, and dogs who stare into your eyes, which they do not do with any other species, except their beloved humans.

Also read:
The Neuropsychology of Dog Love

When I began my neuroscience studies, the epitome of writing and research was represented by neurologist, Dr. Eric Kandel. Many chapters in his landmark textbook ended with: this is all we know, and how much we still need to learn about brain functioning. Still true.I enjoy your neuropsychology questions and comments. And I love that people are interested in the brain/mind connection. They are forever spouses.

More info:
Mental Health and Empathy
The Science of Compassion
The Neuropsychology of Self Compassion

ADHD and social injustice

A common theme these past few weeks with clients has been a tendency to hyperfocus on social media, especially Twitter. Therapeutically, cutting back on social media as a mental health goal is a good idea, and sometimes taking full breaks. Some of my clients feel guilty if they are not watching/scrolling, and I call this phenomenon bearing witness. Protecting your mental energy, gives you energy.

While individuals with attention and concentration vulnerabilities, including anxiety disorders, ADHD, and autism spectrum have been perceived as ‘tuning out,’ the opposite is actually true, based on the neuropsychology research. Instead, they tend to be overly sensitive to disturbing imagery and social injustice.

Please check out the article in ADDITUDE: Whay Am I So Sensitive? Why ADHD Brains Can’t Just Ignore Unfairness.
Also read: On Hyperfocus.

On intrusive thoughts

A landmark study by psychologist Daniel Wegner found that research participants ironically experienced a surge of intrusive thoughts, known as a rebound effect, when asked not to think about a white bear. They had a significantly higher level of thoughts about white bears when instructed NOT to think about them.Another study in cognitive science, conducted by Drs. Bonanno and Siddique (see ‘at play in the fields of consciousness’, 1999, Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers) found that a sub-group of people could effectively suppress thoughts, even following grief and loss, such as the death of a spouse. Known as dispositional repression, some people demonstrated a knack of not being inundated with intrusive imagery and thoughts. Intervening variables included the ability to distract oneself and receptivity to social support and interaction.

Both of these studies have important implications for people who suffer from intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts and images that can cause anxiety and distress. A global study found that up to 95% of people have intrusive thoughts, from the innocuous “did I remember to lock my door?” to more disturbing thoughts, such as “what if I run somebody over at a stoplight?”

Unlike regular thoughts, intrusive thoughts can be repetitive, uncomfortable, and are often difficult to control.
Clinical psychology research, including the studies mentioned above, indicate that not thinking about something requires first thinking about it. The harder we try to stop thinking about something, we may actually have a surge of thoughts about the undesired topic. Active attempts at thought suppression can have the opposite effect.

Recent research:
A 2020 study on patients with clinically intrusive thoughts (OCD) indicated they may place less trust in their past experiences, leading to greater uncertainty, indecisiveness and doubt. The findings showed that participants with higher levels of intrusive thoughts were less trusting of past experiences. They were constantly questioning themselves. As such, their environment felt consistently unpredictable.

So, what works to reduce intrusive thinking?
* Mindfulness
Research shows that mindfulness exercises can improve attention control, reduce anxiety and reduce intrusive thoughts. There are several variations of mindfulness (or mindfulness meditation). People can learn to reduce the significance of their intrusive thoughts by observing them without judgment. The simplest form of mindfulness is focused on paying attention to the present moment; sometimes by focusing on breath or a specific object.
*ACT-based psychotherapy
Another option, called acceptance mindfulness (ACT therapy) encourages you to look inward, noticing and acknowledging your thoughts and emotions, while choosing ACTION based on personal values (for example, if hurting someone is an intrusive thought, acknowledging that your personal values are not commensurate with that thought can help reduce discomfort and anxiety). 
*Distraction and social support
Having someone to talk to on a regular basis (reality check), whether a friend, mental health professional, clergy/spiritual guide, or trusted family member, can reduce the discomfort of having intrusive thoughts. 
* Managing stress levels
Experiencing a high level of stress can cause intrusive thoughts. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the genetic factors that cause sleep problems when some people are stressed are the same that can make people with intrusive, ruminative thoughts have a higher rate of insomnia. It’s not a coincidence that many people have intrusive thoughts at night, when they are presumably done with their busy day. This is one of the reasons why some of the most successful methods for battling anxiety and intrusive thinking involve curbing stress and working on effective sleep protocols.
*Therapy, with a focus on cognitive behavioral strategies
In addition to self-statements and personal mantras, I sometimes have clients make a checklist. Did I remember to feed the cat, turn off the stove, lock the door, take my medication? A visual reminder can be helpful.
* Reducing repetitive stimuli
If you are prone to intrusive thoughts, turning off your feed, or even taking a break from Twitter or other social media might be helpful. Social media facilitates intrusive thinking by sheer repetition.

Also see:
How to Reduce Anxiety on the Go: Strategies that Work
Mantras as Self Statements
Bonanno and Siddique, from the American Psychological Association:

How to reduce anxiety on the go: strategies that work

An important question I am often asked is how to reduce anxiety away from home and without a scheduled therapy session. I have always held the stance that psychotherapy (and treatment), in general, is a few hours per month at most. In between, there is a lot of living that happens. It all matters.

Having skills and strategies that work, and are individualized, is incredibly important. I ask patients what feels best (and it may vary even for each person) when they feel a wave of anxiety in the moment, day, or even longer. Contrary to ‘follow a manual’ therapy, everything does not work for everyone.

Here are some things that might seem deceptively simple, but can be adapted for using during moments of severe anxiety, during travel, airports, classroom, campus, work, meetings, deadlines, and social gatherings.

*Listen to your body. What does it want to do when it’s distressed? I have clients who want to walk around, they need to pace. Others need to get out, go outside. Curling up in a fetal position, ‘child’s pose’ in yoga, is also soothing for many folks. Some people want to call a trusted friend, I call this having an anxiety coach. On the other hand, people might need to be in a quiet space with no conversation, and to be left alone. For people who prefer a sense of being grounded, lying on the floor, carpet, grass, earth can be very soothing.

*Escape hatches. I am rightly asked, how am I supposed to do that stuff in the middle of a long and stressful meeting or other setting? There are strategies that can be used as an ‘escape hatch’ during the requirements of your day. The important thing is to practice them and think about them and what works and what doesn’t beforehand.

*Practice. In mental health, we frequently hear, ‘I had an OK week, nothing bad happened.’ That’s great. That IS the actual best time to maybe think about and learn some strategies in the session. No one has ever learned anything that ‘sticks’ with cortisol and adrenaline coursing through their body, during the very moment of severe anxiety or panic. Learning in between, that’s where you get to practice the best.

*Music is evocative. Put together a specific playlist that is only to be used for moments of anxiety management. I have people do specific playlists for coping with anxiety/stress, focus and attention, relaxation and unwind, feeling powerful, and exercise, among others. The trick is to only use the playlist for those moments, not in general. Our brain creates pathways with specific associations. Just think of how you might crave a childhood favorite food when you’re feeling the need for comfort. When that coping and stress playlist comes on, your brain (eventually) remembers,’this is to help me calm and soothe myself’.

* Placement. Not possible in all settings, but have a small prayer rug or yoga mat with you. Again, it’s the association. This small (physical) space is where you go to breathe for calmness (see diagrams, below), practice meditation or pranayama (controlled breath work), or pray, whatever form that takes.

* Journal. Try to write down any thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas. A robust body of clinical research shows that getting feelings out of your head by doing this is remarkably helpful in reducing anxiety or depression in the moment. One of the things I come, across with clients is the self critic, what if I don’t know what to say, what if I don’t know what to write, what if it sounds stupid? The technique that I suggest:

First, no one needs to see what you’re writing. It’s for you, and only the other people that you may or may not want to share it with. Write your truth: ‘I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s happening. I am confused. I feel stupid.’ It clears your head and creates the foundation for thinking more reflectively. Speaking your truth, as closely as possible, is genuineness, and it’s a superpower when it comes to alleviating anxiety.

Anxiety can see through fancy maneuvers, denial, and numbing behaviors. It is ancient and has seen it all.

Not everything works for everyone. But finding out what helps matters.
For more info please read: Anxiety Toolkit.

On anticipation as habit: dopamine and desire

Intermittent reinforcement is a schedule of rewards for certain behaviors or responses but without any predictable pattern. In other words, the reward comes periodically, not every time it’s performed.

It’s the slot machines, where you sometimes win but you keep pushing the levers because this might be the moment, it’s the social media where you keep checking to see if somebody liked your post, it’s scanning all day for text messages and notifications, it’s the relationships where sometimes somebody is nice to you, but not all the time, it is the shopping app that says you liked this, so maybe you would also like this; it is the personal visual stimuli recommendation that pops up on your screen because you previously watched something; it’s the unpredictability of a parent who at times showers you with attention and sometimes completely ignores you, it’s the hard to get reward.

Many people think that the neurotransmitter of pleasure is released when the brain receives the reward, but dopamine is actually released in anticipation of a reward. It is the excitement of craving and desire. A recent study found that people have higher dopamine levels when they shop online and they are waiting for their item to arrive, rather than buying it immediately in a mall.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist at Stanford, studied monkeys in conditions where they humanely received coveted food rewards by pressing a button. After 10 presses, the treat appeared. There was a surge of dopamine while pressing the magic button. It’s the dopamine that keeps the monkey pressing the bar until the treat arrives. Dopamine significantly diminished once the monkey participants realized that the 10 presses was all they consistently had to do. Immediate gratification is, well, immediate. And then over.

In a second experiment, the monkeys received the food treat only 50 percent of the time, randomly, after they pressed the bar. What happened to the dopamine in that situation? Twice as much dopamine was released when there was only a 50/50 chance of getting the food treat.

Our brains are wired for dopamine. It’s part of us. But the constant craving for dopamine can lead to repetitive behaviors and ultimately deplete the very receptors evolved to receive dopamine. Understanding our anticipatory nature and desire for pleasure is important to address behaviors that can become unhealthy or even addictive. The chase becomes the pull. There are strategies to reduce this cycle.

Check out Dr. Sapolsky’s book which is very interesting and highly readable, on our propensity for good and bad behaviors, which are not unrelated.

On Vulnerable Communication: Timing and Dosage

From the couples and family therapy files at Embolden Psychology

The amygdala (my nickname for this area of the brain is Amy) is the part of the brain that is activated during feelings of fear, anxiety, threat, and aggression. By putting feelings into words — a process known as “affect labeling” – we can help diminish Amy’s response when we encounter things that are distressing. Verbal expression is generally controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain, including the temporal and parietal lobes. In addition, the frontal lobe helps with decision-making and problem-solving. It also tells you what not to say: impulse control. This ‘party of four’ – Amy, as well as the parietal, temporal, and frontal lobes, are all part of the ability and vulnerability to share personal problems with others.

Underneath it all is an actual desire and commitment that you want to communicate without harm to self or your loved one(s). Related, read Healing in Relationships: Imago Therapy for Communication. 

The ability to express feelings to a trusted other entails employing relational / interpersonal / social skills, verbal skills, and the most mundane and important strategy of all: practice. While some people may have seemingly kissed the Blarney Stone, for most, communication requires effort and practice.

Important factors include timing and dosage. When you get a medication prescription, it tells you when to take (or give) it and how much to ingest. Vulnerable communication is much the same.

*Physical state. If you are not a ‘night person’, and you’re exhausted, that’s probably not the best time to engage in a conversation. Similarly, many people cannot converse or listen well early in the morning.

*Mental state. If you are someone who can become angry or impulsive at times of duress or stress,walking away can be very helpful before speaking.  Most people do not speak very well when Amy is the major person in the room.

*Location location location. No one can listen well if they feel cornered. I always suggest to parents not to confront children or teens in their bedroom or in the car. Some of my adolescent clients have told me they felt like jumping out of the car because they had nowhere to go and their parent was ‘talking at them’.

This is equally true for adults. Some couples may continue an argument for hours, even physically following each other while one person tries to ‘get away’. Some believe that you have to talk it all out as soon as possible, but if your partner does not have the propensity or ability to do the same, it can actually create harm. Taking a time out, no matter your age, when feeling stirred up, is a good idea. Set a time to talk later. That doesn’t mean that you are sweeping things under the rug. It means that you are acknowledging the respect of speaking at a time where everybody is in a better headspace.

*Emotional learning skills / EQ. Not everyone knows how to verbally express their emotions. This is an important point for compassion for self and others, as well as a commitment to learning how to communicate. If you had no role models to show you how to discuss emotional experience and feelings, how are you supposed to know? The good news is that it can be learned and practiced like all other learning.  Related, read: What is Affect Phobia?

*Ask for consent. Reciprocal communication requires permission. Is this a good time to talk? May I set up a time to discuss something?

*Pick your people. Have a trusted friend who will support you. If you need a lot of talk time, try spreading your conversations out to multiple people. One person can get worn out, and having a broad social support system lets you distribute that load. In a healthy relationship, I always say that things are 49–51. There is no 50/50. But no one should have to carry the bulk of the emotional labor habitually.

*Talk with an end point. Absolutely no one I have met can talk for hours, especially with intensity. When you have a discussion that’s going to be affect-laden, limit it to a pre-agreed-upon time and duration. I have couples practice this in my office with actually having a physical object, such as a small ball or baton to pass back-and-forth. Listening to intently is not a skill that most people have without practice. In fact, research indicates that most people know what you’re going to say before the other person is even finished talking.

*Do not co-ruminate.  Contrary to the old adage, misery does NOT love company. Having a group of friends who are consistently negative, coworker who complain regularly, or online chats that are focused on how terrible your child/partner/spouse is have shown no significant effects on the ability to share vulnerable feelings, reduce distress, or experience relief.

*Writing helps. A number of studies from the department of psychology at Southern Methodist University have shown that writing out your feelings can be as effective as expressing them verbally. You don’t even have to share what you write. But being able to ‘get out of your head’ from what you’re experiencing, perhaps even a repetitive or intrusive thoughts, is helpful. Writing also creates a sense of continuity in thought. See also Restorative Writing on Mental Health.

*Seek professional help. Being able to have a place to vent where you feel safe and not judged is the essence of therapy. I always say to my clients, I may see you for three hours a month. In between, there’s a lot of living that happens. If possible, write it down.  Those three or four hours each month can give you a space to present and process those feelings, and not have them used against you. In a journal or your phone Notes App, jot down your thoughts, if you’re not sure that you will remember what you want to say in the therapy session.

*Practice a range of verbal expression. Talk to people you care about regarding both positive and negative feelings and experiences. Speaking about the positive as well as the negative is like a bank account. You won’t go into emotional overdraft if you do both. Interestingly, the simple act of texting during the day, even a check-in, has shown interpersonal positive effects. Read:

*Not everyone benefits from talking it out. This might seem contradictory to the ‘traditional’ verbal expression model of psychotherapy. In their clinical psychology research, Drs. Siddique and Bonanno found that dispositional repression was at times related to good mental health. This was even true of individuals who had suffered early conjugal bereavement and other traumas. This sub-group appeared to receive more social support, and returned to their regular routine faster than people who expressed feelings of bereavement and loss. Individual differences matter when it comes to self expression.

Not everyone benefits from endless analysis of feelings, a hard truth in clinical psychology.
From the American Psychological Association online library:
On emotional dissociation and self deception: at play in the fields of consciousness. Bonanno, G. and Siddique, H., Lawrence Erlbaum, New York, NY, 1999.

Personal mantras and mental health

Mantras are ancient, energizing sounds that help uplift mood and the stress or suffering (Dukkha) of the everyday. ‘Mana’ in Hindi translates to mind; a mantra is what takes you ‘beyond the current mind’.

They are traditionally repeated, chanted, or listened to with mindful repetition. Like self-statements in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), they help to manage stuck mind: feelings of dread, anxiety, worry, intrusive thoughts.

In my Mindfulness-based therapy practice, I encourage people to find what is meaningful to them. What is your mantra that really speaks to you and your struggles?

Put it on your mirror, your phone, post-its, in your backpack, journal, desk, fridge. Repeat.

Mine is : No One To Be.
For more on mental health and mantras: Mantras as Self-Statements

12 Facts About Depression and South Asian Mental Health

South Asia is a broad region that includes close to 2 billion people. Encompassing India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives, South Asia is huge.

South Asia is a suicide-dense area but with only a handful of peer-reviewed studies assessing the relationship between depression and suicidal behavior.

South Asia represents approximately one-quarter (over 23%) of the global population. Depression affects close to 90 million people in South Asia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost one-third of people suffering from clinical depression worldwide live in South Asia, making the region home to a large majority of the world’s depressed.

Suicide is a global public health issue (World Health Organization, 2021). WHO estimated that suicide isthe fourth-leading cause of death worldwide among 15–30- year-olds. It is the result of a complex interaction between several risk factors which may include biological, personal, social, psychological, cultural, and environmental factors, but psychiatric disorders are one of the most crucial risk factors (WHO, 2014; Arafat and Kabir, 2017). Depression numbers are probably underreported in South Asian communities because of years of stigma about mental disorders.

About 90% of people who die by suicide experience some form of psychiatric illness. Among psychiatric disorders, clinical depression is the most common risk factor for suicides.

Mental illness is taboo in many South Asian communities. Discussing mental health in South Asia has yet to be socially normalized. South Asian religious and cultural influences often do not consider mental health a medical issue, referring to it as shameful and even a “superstitious belief.”

A 2010 study by the mental health campaign Time to Change (www. found that South Asians rarely discuss mental health because of the risk the subject poses to their reputation, family, and status.

South Asian languages do not have a word for depression. There is dukkha (universal suffering); pagal (derogatory word, crazy); and shikasta (broken). Many South Asians are unable to express the specific condition of depression in their language. As a result, they often downplay it as part of “life’s ups and downs.” This language limitation and difficulty describing symptoms also makes diagnoses and treatment difficult.

Depression is a major contributor to other global health problems. Medical experts have found a correlation between the symptoms of depression and the perpetuation of chronic illness, such as cardiovascular disease. Depression exacerbates other health conditions.

Postpartum depression in South Asian women is often undiagnosed and unrecognized. The gender of the baby, domestic violence, secrecy, and poverty are all factors that put new mothers at a higher risk for postpartum depression. The stigma surrounding mental health prevents new mothers from receiving mental health care or support during after pregnancy.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia are three countries who have recently emphasized mental health as a “top priority” in public health. In 2021, WHO lauded their work and the important step it takes towards normalizing and treating depression and mental illness, as illness.

Non-government organizations (NGOs) have had a positive impact on mental health care. In countries where the government is not willing or able to make mental health a priority, NGOs are providing crucial support to people suffering from mental health issues. NGOs in South Asia have expanded their community-based programs and are providing specialized mental health services. For example, in the Maldives, a number of NGOs are offering rehabilitation, life-skills training, educationsl information, and resilience-building to citizens. These efforts have begun to increase the access South Asians have to mental health care with decreased stigma.

Mental disorders are bad for work and family life. People with major depression struggle to take care of their family, complete self-care tasks, pay bills, and be productive in the work place. Although poverty rates in South Asia are declining, the region accounted for nearly half of the world’s “multidimensionally poor” in 2017. Providing mental health care to South Asians may be a major step in helping to eradicate poverty within the region.

According to the World Bank, strong mental health is a contributing factor to not only the wealth of nations but to increased quality of living and productivity for families and individuals.

Read more about this:  South Asian Mental Health

***Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger or go to the nearest emergency room.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Call or text 988; Llame al 988 (para ayuda en español)
Use Lifeline Chat on the web.
The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
New: If you are worried about a friend’s social media updates, you can contact safety teams at the social media company. They will reach out to connect the person with the help they need.

Talking about Trauma

Should you talk to your parent about your trauma?
Talking to your parents about your trauma can be a difficult decision. You may be hesitant to tell them because you’re not sure how they will react or if they will be able to help. Your parents are not entitled to know about your past trauma – however, you may gain additional support or closeness from telling them. Here are a few things to consider before making a decision.

How do you hope they will react?
What reaction are you hoping your parent(s) will have when learning about your childhood trauma? And how likely is that reaction based on what you know about your parents? Consider your parents’ emotional maturity, cultural/family traditions, and how they’ve previously reacted to challenging information.

What are you hoping to gain?
Think about why you want to talk to your parents. Are you looking for support and understanding? Are you hoping they can help you process the trauma and find healing? Do you want them to understand this part of your past? Are you asking them to distance themselves from your abuser? Consider what you’re hoping to gain and how likely you are to get that from your parents.

What do you stand to lose?
Safety should always be your number one priority. If you still live with your parents or rely on them for financial support, telling them about your childhood trauma might lead them to remove that support. Before taking action, weigh the risks and benefits of sharing your story. It’s okay for you to prioritize safety and security over transparency with your parents.

How to tell your parents about your trauma
Once you’ve decided to tell your parents about your childhood trauma, you may wonder how to have this conversation. If your parents don’t know that you experienced a traumatic event or events as a child, this news might come as a surprise to them.

Consider these tips as you get ready to broach the topic with them.
Make sure you’re really ready
The last thing you want is to have a rushed, impulsive, or emotional conversation with your parents. Make sure you’re emotionally ready to have the conversation and that you’ve given yourself enough time to prepare. If you’re currently working with a therapist, making a game plan together may be helpful before you decide to talk to your parents.

Choose the right time and place
There’s never a perfect time to have a difficult conversation like this, but try to pick a time and place where you and your parents can be relaxed and uninterrupted. This is not a conversation that should happen in the heat of the moment. Choose a time when you’re unlikely to be interrupted or have distractions take over. remember that this is not a one time conversation. You can initiate the conversation and then give everyone, including you, the space and time to reflect and process.

Call in support
A close friend, partner, trusted relative, and even a therapist can all be great support systems to have with you when you tell your parents about your childhood trauma. They can provide emotional support or physical support during what may be a difficult conversation. A therapist may also be able to step in if the conversation goes awry.

Stay with connection (if you have a safe relationship with the parent)
Tell your parents that you want to share this with them because you care about your relationship. Tell them what you’re hoping to gain from the conversation. For example, you might share that you want them to understand you better and support you, not pity you or try to fix things for you.

Be prepared for uncomfortable emotions
Your parents may have strong emotions when receiving this news. Anger, sadness, frustration, self-blame, and anxiety are all normal reactions to learning that their child experienced a traumatic event. Your parents are entitled to their emotions. You are not responsible for your parents’ emotions, and you should not feel guilty or obligated by their reaction.

Stick to your boundaries
Having strict boundaries on what you feel comfortable sharing with your parents is okay. Telling them that you experienced trauma as a child doesn’t mean you have to share every detail of that experience. If your parents ask you questions you’re uncomfortable answering, it’s okay to say that some aspects of this topic are off-limits.

Sample language to use when telling your parents about past trauma (please feel free to edit in your own words.)

I think it’s important for you to know about the things that have happened to me in my past. It’s affected me in ways you might not expect, and I think it’s important for you to understand why I’m the way I am.

I was sexually abused as a child. It was a traumatic experience that has stayed with me for my entire life. It’s something that I’ve struggled with a lot, and it’s something that I deal with on a regular basis.

I want you to know this because I want you to understand me. I don’t want you to see me as a victim because that’s not who I am. I’m a strong person, and I’ve overcome a lot in my life. But this experience has impacted the way I move about the world. The reason I’m telling you now is because I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I think it’s been affecting my life in a lot of ways. I’m really hoping that talking to you about it will help me to start to heal.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.