The Warning Signs of Suicide: How to Tell if Someone is Suicidal


Substance Abuse in Teens: How to Recognize & Prevent it as Parents

How to Recognize & Prevent Teen Substance Abuse as Parents

Has your teenager's behavior changed suddenly? Do their clothes have a familiar smell you remember from your high school days? How do you know if they are using drugs? As a parent, severe substance abuse in teens is often a concern but rarely a reality. Teenagers are apt to experiment with drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. However, any drug misuse can negatively affect your child's health and well-being.

There are steps you can take as parents to help your teen make better choices and get the rehabilitation they need. Goodman Psychologist Associates offers therapy programs for adolescents who use drugs, as well as counseling for parents and families.

The best thing a parent can do is pay attention to their teens and initiate honest conversations. Parents need to know how to spot drug use and what to do if it is suspected. You can do this by understanding teen substance use, recognizing warning signs, and knowing how to get your child assistance.

Suspect your teen might be abusing drugs or alcohol? Take these steps:

  1. Get a general knowledge of drug and alcohol use in teens.
  2. Learn the signs and symptoms of substance abuse.
  3. Talk to your teen using our Dos and Dont's.
  4. Learn how to prevent teen substance abuse.
  5. Get professional help.

What is Teenage Substance Abuse?

Before confronting your teenager, it is essential to understand the terms associated with drug use. Drugs are any substance that alters your physical or mental state. Drugs can be licit (legal) or illicit (illegal). Common drugs among teenage users include:

Licit Drugs

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol

Illicit Drugs

  • LSD
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines

State Law/Misuse Dependent

Recreational drug use is the occasional use of drugs, usually in a social gathering. Casual drug use may lead to addiction, but not always.

Prescription drug misuse happens when anyone uses a prescription drug that isn't theirs or if you use your prescription in ways that are not medically justified.

Drug abuse is an umbrella term meaning licit or illicit drugs are used recreationally or for self-identified necessity or convenience.

Recreational drug use, prescription drug misuse, and drug abuse can lead to Substance Use Disorder (SUD), a disease in which a person becomes addicted to a substance both chemically and psychologically, despite the likely damage it does to the person's life in areas like wellness, relationships, and employment.

How Common is Teen Drug Abuse?

It may come as a surprise, but teen drug abuse is not as prevalent as once believed. According to NIDAH and a study by Monitoring The Future, substance abuse declined after 2021. The study of surveyed teens across America found that drugs were used or tried by 11% of 8th graders, 21.5% of 10th graders, and 32.6% of 12th graders.

Most of the drugs students tried were nicotine, vaping, cannabis, and alcohol. Less than 3% of the teens surveyed tried narcotics (excluding heroin). Other studies have shown that many teens will try alcohol before graduating high school, but recurring substance use is less common. However, no drug or alcohol use by an adolescent should be taken lightly or ignored.

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse in Teens

There are several risk factors that can contribute to drug and alcohol use in teens that range from brain development to economic status. Understanding why an adolescent begins experimenting with drugs is one way to control further risk factors impacting your child.

Why Do Teens Try Drugs and Alcohol?

The teen years are about seeking new freedoms by pushing boundaries and a desire to find their own identity and place in the world. However, the adolescent brain is still developing, which can affect social reasoning and judgment when under emotional duress, increase risky behavior, and decrease impulse control. Our frontal lobes won't mature until we are young adults in our 20s.

Another natural part of our developing brains is our westernized need to take risks and seek thrills. Teenage drug use satisfies these urges when no other, safer outlets exist.

Common Risk Factors for Drug Use

Besides the behaviors and desires of a maturing brain, teens may also try drugs or alcohol for the following reasons:

  • Peer pressure
  • Availability
  • Cultural or social norms
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation
  • Social rejection
  • Stress
  • Economic status
  • Low self-esteem
  • Older friends
  • Curiosity
  • Risk-taking and impulsive behavior triggers

In addition to reasons why a teen might try drugs, there are risk factors that may increase the chance of addiction and substance use disorder, such as:

  • The addictive qualities of the drug used
  • Social alienation
  • Chronic pain
  • Genetics
  • A family history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • A history of trauma or traumatic events
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Co-existing mental disorders like anxiety, depression, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Kids with mental health disorders are at a higher risk for drug abuse, particularly those with ADHD and anxiety. Remember that even mentally healthy teens who like to party are also at risk for drug abuse.

For adults and teens, smoking, drinking, or misusing drugs is a way to calm down and relax. Unfortunately, drugs are also a way to self-medicate co-existing behavioral health problems. The good news is that treatment for ADHD, anxiety, and other mental health diagnoses improves a teen's ability to control impulsive behavior and avoid the need to self-medicate.

Signs and Symptoms of Teenage Drug Use

Teenagers can be a mobile bag of chaos as they try to figure out who they are. These alterations to their appearance or behavior are a normal part of growing up. But, sometimes, too many changes can indicate a serious problem like drug use. If a few of the following signs and symptoms of drug use in teens apply to your kid, it's time to check in with your teen and seek professional counseling.

Personality and Behavior Changes

  • Extreme emotions like hostility, aggression, paranoia, depression
  • Threatening violence on others or self-harm
  • Apathetic and unmotivated
  • Uncooperative or withdrawn
  • Lying, secretive, or excessive excuses
  • Lack of inhibitions or self-control
  • Hyperactive, manic, or very tired; oversleeping
  • Theft, or money, valuables, and prescription drugs are missing

Communication Changes

  • Speech is incoherent or slurred
  • Problems comprehending simple statements
  • Uncommunicative
  • Trouble focusing
  • Rapid-fire speech

Relationships and Social Changes

  • Avoidance of relationships with family, friends, or social circles
  • New friend group or older friends
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Missing for long periods or breaking curfew
  • Skipping school, work, or once-loved activities
  • Getting into trouble at school
  • Grades dropping

Hygiene Changes

  • Clothes or breath smells of smoke or other unusual smell
  • Excessive use of mints or gum
  • Messier than usual appearance
  • Wearing dirty, wrinkled clothes
  • Poor hygiene, stops grooming, bad oral health
  • Wearing inappropriate clothes like long sleeves on a hot day

Physical and Health Changes

  • Lack of coordination, clumsiness, fidgeting
  • Burns or sores on fingers or lips
  • Bloodshot eyes, pinpoint pupils, or dilated pupils
  • Nosebleeds and/or runny nose not caused by allergies or a cold
  • Sores or spots around the mouth
  • Sudden weight changes
  • Hyper perspiration
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Finding any of the following items in your teen's possession: vapes, cigarette lighters, zip lock baggies, square folded envelopes, or tinfoil

The Dangers of Substance Abuse in Teens

Drug and alcohol abuse is dangerous for everyone, but teenagers are especially vulnerable to the effects of addiction. Even trying a substance for the first time can have severe consequences, such as:

  • An increased risk of violence
  • Unwanted sexual activity
  • Pregnancy
  • Impaired driving
  • Overdose
  • Interference with brain development
  • Drug dependence, cravings, and a higher risk of using more addicting substances
  • Mental health disorder development like depression or SUD
  • Underachievement in school
  • A cessation of normal or beloved activities
  • A cycle of intoxication, crashing, and withdrawal that can consume your life
  • Poor judgment
  • Physical disability or disease

How to Talk to Your Teen if You Suspect Drug Use

If you suspect or worry about substance abuse in teens within your family, you need to talk to them. You can use some Do's and Dont's to make your conversation productive.

When talking to your teen about drugs, DO:

  • Find a time in which neither of you will be interrupted. Be sure to turn off the T.V. and set aside phones.
  • Choose a comfortable, friendly, familiar space.
  • Ask a variety of questions about your teen's personal experiences and their opinions.
  • Ensure honesty from all parties involved.
  • Be prepared to answer their questions and divulge your drug or alcohol use.
  • Make it clear to your teen (and yourself) that this is a non-judgment conversation - and mean it.
  • Remember that this is about the behavior, not the teen. Make sure they know you don't see them as a bad person, but they are making decisions you are not comfortable with. 
  • Remind your teen that you do not condone the use of drugs or alcohol, and be clear about your boundaries.
  • Explore ways to resist peer pressure, like rehearsing drug-offer refusals.
  • Remind your teen how drugs and alcohol will impact the things they love, like hobbies, after-school activities, sports, and driving.
  • Discuss the media's role in sending the wrong messages to kids about drug and alcohol use.
  • Emphasize the dangers of substance abuse in teens without using scare tactics.

When talking to your teen about drugs, DON'T:

  • Talk to your teen when you are angry, frustrated, or judgmental. Discussions should be calm conversations, not lectures.
  • Talk to your teen when either of you is not sober.
  • Try to hide your use.
  • Yell or threaten.

What can you do as a parent to prevent substance abuse in your teens?

Unfortunately, feeling guilty is second nature for parents. It's critical to remember that our children don't live in a bubble of parental protection. Parents influence their children, but they don't have total control. Social media, friends, and communities all influence teenagers, too. When a child has the flu, parents are there to help their children get well. Substance abuse in teens is no different. Parents can identify and treat the issue by getting the professional help needed.

Most teens go through anti-drug programs in school, so they are likely getting the information they need. However, parents still need to have open conversations with their teens so they know you are a safe space to talk about drug and alcohol use. Therapists can help parents mitigate these issues with their teens, as well as help alleviate the guilt that parents likely have if their teen starts using drugs.

There are actions parents can take today to try to prevent substance abuse in teens. Besides talking openly and honestly with your teens about the consequences of drug use, the Mayo Clinic suggests:

  • Knowing your teen's whereabouts and activities and whether or not there will be adult supervision.
  • Establishing fair rules and regulations regarding drug and alcohol use.
  • Knowing your teen's friends.
  • Providing your teen with support, encouragement, and praise.
  • Keeping track of the prescription medication in your family's homes, including your teen's grandparents.
  • Setting a good example.
  • Rehearsing ways to say 'no' to peer pressure.

Treatment Options

The majority of teens using substances are not truly addicted but use drugs and alcohol socially with friends. Teens may also use drugs to self-medicate for other issues, so parents should not ignore any substance use. 

Early intervention is critical. Often, therapy with a mental health professional can be enough to help your child make better choices. The therapist can also help determine if your teen may need a focused treatment program or long-term inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation.

Substance abuse in teens affects the whole family. Be sure to get professional help for parents and siblings from therapists who specialize in drug abuse and family dynamics. You can find these experienced therapists at Goodman Psychologists Associates. Unfortunately, teen drug use happens, but you don't have to face this challenge alone. Find a therapist, book an appointment, or call 630-377-3535 today.

 If you are in a crisis, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Do You Want to Learn More?


Achieve Balance Amidst the Chaos with a Meditation Practice

Achieve Balance Amidst the Chaos with a Meditation Practice

Have you ever wished you knew a way to manage stress better? You may have heard of meditation but aren't sure it would work for you or don't know how to start a meditation practice.

The good news is that any of us can learn to meditate quickly and easily. Better still, the benefits of meditation are almost instantaneous and can positively impact our ability to manage stress. If you're seeking calm amidst the chaos of daily life, Goodman Psychologist Associates Clinical Psychologist Karen A. Baker, PsyD, explains why you should consider a meditation practice.

The Benefits of Meditation

Many of us know about meditation's "soft" benefits—we feel calm, centered, and relaxed. We may have tried meditation before and felt some of the positive benefits, or we may have heard a friend talking about how meditation helps them decompress after a tough day.

However, a meditation practice is a little different. To get the full benefits of meditation, you should do it every day or most days—not just listen to an app or YouTube video to calm down on an “as-needed basis.” Research supports regular meditation practice to boost wellness in many ways, including:

The list of meditation benefits goes on and on. Much has been written on the science behind meditation and its connection to our health. Ongoing research continues to uncover new benefits and positive effects on our minds and bodies.

Meditation: The Answer to Today’s Stressful World

We know all too well what is going on in the world today. In fact, thanks to the internet and social media, we know more than ever and much of it feels scary. We are confronted with politics, war, conflict, crime, and disease (just to name a few stressful items) on a daily basis.

We don't have to look far to see that people are stressed, anxious, depressed, and even fearful of what's coming next. And who can blame them? So much of what is happening today is frightening and leaves us with a sense of uncertainty. I know sometimes I feel like it's not the safe and secure world I grew up in anymore...or is it? It may be a matter of perspective—and as we know, perspective is our choice. 

We don’t need to "live" in fear or worry; we can choose to shift our perspective. We can choose what we want to focus on and choose our thoughts. We can focus on things we can control and the positive aspects of our lives, which helps us feel more balanced, centered, and calm. This doesn't mean we ignore what's happening in the world; it just means we can balance it.

One thing that can help achieve this perspective shift and sense of balance is adopting a meditation practice. For example, equanimity that results from a meditation practice allows us to access rational and logical forms of thinking; stress impairs this ability. Meditation practice is the treatment that both functionally and structurally changes the brain.

If you want to feel calmer and more centered amidst the chaos, learn to meditate and set your practice—you will get back to that sense of balance. Isn’t that what we are all yearning for?

How to Start a Meditation Practice

If you're wondering how to start a meditation practice, it can help to explore some of the many online resources. Plenty of books, apps, and even videos can walk you through the basics of meditation.

The key to success is to make your meditation a practice—meaning scheduling it regularly and practicing meditation daily. Many people find it beneficial to practice at the same time each day, such as when you first get up in the morning or during a specific break.

Go slow at first. You don't need to meditate for 20-30 minutes right away. Even a brief, 3–5-minute meditation break can help you get used to the practice and build up your abilities. Research has shown that even short meditation breaks can offer some benefit, although you'll eventually want to work your way up to a more extended practice. The idea is to build a habit that you'll stick with in the long term. Combat stress and feel more balanced by starting meditation today. Even if you don't feel like you have time, it's essential to prioritize your well-being. Stress management is challenging, but we can all learn to prioritize our healthy habits for an improved perspective!

Dr. Karen Baker feels so strongly about meditation and connecting with our true self that she started the Delta Foundation for Spiritual Studies, which teaches meditation training in multiple formats at an affordable price, among other courses, lectures, and events, located in Geneva, IL. If you are interested in learning how to meditate, check out, or explore any other option you choose to learn and practice. Just Meditate!

Businessman afraid

How to Deal with Difficult People

How to Deal with Difficult People

Do you find yourself constantly drained from having to deal with difficult people at work or at home? Are you fed up trying to reason with people who seem as unmovable as a mountain or are always expressing their anger? Did you know you can learn ways to protect yourself, get what you need, and control your own negative emotions? With counseling and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), you can learn how to deal with difficult people. Here are five DBT skills to try the next time you must deal with these challenging situations.

The Telltale Traits of Difficult People

The characteristics of a difficult person can depend on the type of person they are in normal circumstances. Remember, sometimes people have difficult personalities, and sometimes a person is difficult because of circumstances. Perpetually problematic people often have one or more of the following traits:

Aggression: they antagonize, pick fights, are hostile, project emotions, are contrarian, and refuse to compromise or find a solution.

Callousness: they lack empathy, sympathy, and self-awareness.

Arrogance: they are narcissistic and hyperbolic, generally exaggerating their situation and crisis, and are reluctant to see other sides or perspectives of the issue at hand.

Dishonest: they are manipulative, play the victim, are suspicious, forgetful, unclear in communication, and sometimes lie or lie by omission.

In order to understand how to deal with difficult people, you need to know the truth:

  1. You can’t change a person’s behavior.
  2. The only way to deal with difficult people is to change your own behaviors.

A therapist trained in teaching DBT can provide you with techniques to alter your own responses to life’s challenges.

If you think you might be a difficult person, a therapist can help you, too!

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a talk therapy and education program based partially on the techniques of cognitive behavior therapy. DBT focuses on teaching real-world applicable skills while acknowledging that life is complex, emotions can be contradictory, and feelings can fluctuate. Dialectical behavior therapy offers excellent training on how to deal with difficult people because it focuses on social relationships and emotion management.

DBT is divided into four focus areas:

  1. Emotion Regulation
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Distress Tolerance
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness

The skills learned in each of these four components can be applied to encounters with those hard-to-deal-with people.

5 DBT Skills for Dealing with Difficult People

The next time you find yourself in a situation in which dealing with a difficult person is unavoidable, try using these five dialectical behavior skills.

Skill 1: Validation

Almost all humans have a hidden need for wanting to be understood and accepted. This is called “validation.” Validation is a powerful tool for creating empathy, sympathy, and a bond with people. It lets the other person know that you are listening and that you are trying to understand their point of view. It is not validating the unvalidatable or agreeing that what they are saying or doing is accurate.

Validation reduces anger, negative reactions, and pressure to “win” the argument.”  Examples include:

  • Repeating what the other person is saying to validate their emotions: “It sounds like you are mad at me because you believed I lied to you” or, “It sucks that it happened to you.”
  • Admitting your mistakes: “I understand that not taking the garbage out after I told you I would has upset you.”
  • Understanding their core message: “I think what you’re saying is that you want me to finish my to-do list by the end of the day. Is that correct?”

Skill 2: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is more than meditation. It is the act of consciously keeping your mind in the present moment without judgment, which gives you a better chance to control your reactivity and reduce suffering and fear.  Many times, when we deal with difficult people, we allow ourselves to operate on “auto-pilot.” If we are mindful of our feelings and emotions while dealing with an arduous situation, we are more likely to achieve a better outcome.

Here are a few ways to deal with difficult people using mindfulness:

  • Come back to the present moment by focusing on the sights, smells, and sounds around you.
  • Take deep breaths to control physical responses and stay calm.
  • Be aware of rising emotions and let them go by like clouds in the sky.
  • Allow yourself to be silent so you can really listen to the other person.
  • Be conscious of the tone and volume of your voice.
  • Be aware when the situation becomes too much to handle and you need to take a break.

Skill 3: Cope Ahead

DBT teaches emotional regulation, and one of the skills learned is known as “cope ahead.” This skill allows us to prepare for confrontations with difficult people while helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Coping ahead requires us to vividly, fully imagine and rehearse encounters we are likely to have. Here are the steps to using cope ahead skills:

  1. Fully describe the situation. Let’s say you have a difficult coworker who doesn’t do his job and is unpleasant to be around. You are having a meeting with him in two days to discuss his behavior, and you use the cope ahead skill to prepare. Write down or think about all the facts of the situation: how many times he has called in, shown up late, or found checking his phone instead of taking care of customers.
  2. Decide on the skills you will use to deal with this difficult conversation. Maybe you will focus on mindfulness, validation, and active listening. Write out in detail how you will cope with your emotions and urges as well as his emotions and outbursts.
  3. Imagine the scene as vividly as you can. The more you can feel the possible emotions, like anxiety, the more prepared you will be if you encounter them.
  4. Rehearse the encounter. This may seem awkward at first, but write down or imagine how each part of that meeting could go. Rehearse your actions, your reactions to his potential emotions, how to cope with new problems that may arise or worse-case scenarios. Immerse yourself in ‘how to deal with difficult people' skills and feel the emotions that occur.
  5. Rehearse relaxing after the situation. Emotion regulation is important before, during, and after each difficult situation.

Skill 4: G.I.V.E. F.A.S.T.

One of the tools taught in DBT under the interpersonal effectiveness component is G.I.V.E. F.A.S.T. In all the ways we are learning how to deal with difficult people, this skill is the best way to de-escalate intense situations and help you keep your self-respect. G.I.V.E. F.A.S.T. stands for:

G: (Be) Gentle

When having a conversation with a hard-to-handle person, avoid physical and verbal attacks, rising to their level of emotion, judgments and use of the word “should”, threats, and mockery.

I: (Act) Interested

Listen actively and keep your face soft and approachable. Try to see things from their point of view. Don’t interrupt. Try to maintain eye contact and be patient.

V: Validate

As previously discussed, validation is key when dealing with overly emotional and problematic people. Use both words and actions to convey that you understand, or are trying to understand, the other person’s perspective. Their feelings are as valid as your own.

E: Easy Manner

Deescalate by using a little bit of humor. Smile if it seems appropriate. Keep your manner light and easy. Be softer in your tone and words. Try to be diplomatic.

F: (Be) Fair

Be fair to the other person and yourself. It is important to validate your emotions and experiences too. Try to treat both yourself and the difficult person equally by respecting boundaries. It is okay to set limits.

A: (No) Apologies

Don’t apologize for asking for something that you need or for just existing at all. You are allowed to have your own beliefs and opinions and to disagree with others. Remember, don’t validate the invalid.

S: Stick To Your Values

Know your own values and don’t abandon them to placate a difficult person. You have your values and integrity for a reason, and you don’t have to give those up because someone else is becoming a thorn in your side.

T: (Be) Truthful

Dishonesty makes people difficult to deal with, which is why you want to be truthful. Don’t exaggerate or make excuses.

Skill 5: Radical Acceptance

You know the truth: you can’t change the behavior of a difficult person or the facts of a difficult situation. You can, however, practice radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is “...the complete and total acceptance of reality. This means that you accept the reality of a situation in your mind, heart, and body. You stop fighting against the reality and accept it.”

This acceptance of truth does not mean you like the situation or condone the behaviors of others. It simply means, “it is what it is at the moment.”

Here is a possible scenario on how to deal with difficult people using radical acceptance:

  • The situation: Every holiday, my uncle comes to dinner and inevitably brings up unpopular political beliefs and racial comments as loudly as possible.

That is what happens, and it just is, whether you like it or not. Now that you have accepted this inevitability, you can focus on other skills:

  • Coping ahead: Write down the emotions and urges you have when you are around your uncle. Practice how you will react and whether you can avoid him.
  • Validation and G.I.V.E. F.A.S.T.: If he is unavoidable, you can still validate his feelings and your own. “Uncle Doug, I can hear that these issues are very important to you. However, I find it uncomfortable when you express these opinions during dinner.”
  • Mindfulness: Be aware of your body’s clues. Are you present with yourself and the moment? Are you getting tense and angry? Mindfulness will help bring you back to the skills you have learned.

At some point in our lives, we will have to deal with difficult people. We can make these encounters more pleasant, goal-oriented, and safer by using skills learned from dialectical behavior therapy. Contact the mental health professionals at Goodman Psychologist Associates if you want to learn more ways to deal with difficult people or if would like to address other issues. We can help you live life to the fullest!

Explore More Topics from Goodman:

What did I just say...

Being Right or Being Happy: The Consequences of Anger in Your Relationship

The Consequences of Anger in Your Relationship

Anger is a primal emotion that all of us have experienced. While there are positive and negative effects of anger, the feeling itself is neither good nor bad. What matters is how we respond to anger. The consequences of anger can profoundly affect the course of our lives with our partners. When we mismanage our anger, we can damage not only ourselves but also those around us. For people in relationships, it is vital to understand your anger and how to fight fair with your significant other.

Anger And Expectations

Almost every culture on Earth assigns unwritten rules to everyone on the gender spectrum. These "rules," also known as social norms or mores, are what society accepts as expected behavior. For example, a standard social norm is not sitting next to a stranger in a movie theater unless no seats are left. There are social norms about anger, too.

Masculine or "male" anger mores allow for externalizing anger through rage or frustration, and it is expected that men are assertive, independent, or aggressive.

Feminine or "female" anger mores are the opposite. In our society, women are expected to be very emotional when happy, sad, excited, or afraid but are not socially permitted to show anger, so they internalize feelings of rage and frustration.

Generally, everyone on the gender spectrum gets angry with the same frequency and intensity as everyone else. People also don't always deal with anger in the way society expects, either. Masculine-leaning people don't get mad more often; they are just allowed more leeway to express it. And while research shows that feminine-leaning people may stay angry for longer, it is usually because they are encouraged by societal norms to repress it.

These anger behavioral expectations can complicate relationships with friends, families, co-workers, and significant others. When dealing with anger, it is helpful to understand these social norms and review your own expectations, so that compassion starts at the most basic level.

Anger and Your Relationships

There will be anger in every relationship. No one agrees about everything all the time. Couples commonly fight about communication issues, money, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. But some fights come from something deeper that gets projected onto the significant other or ourselves. Outside influences that create stress or anxiety, personal issues, or a cycle of anger from your family of origin can create unhealthy ways to respond to anger or anger mismanagement. The problem isn't anger itself; it is expressing anger appropriately.

Positive Effects of Healthy Anger in a Relationship

The positive effects of healthy expressions of anger in a relationship are:

  • Stronger relationship bonds
  • Opportunities to learn more about your partner
  • Growth and change for the better
  • Increasing the overall happiness of everyone in the relationship

Negative Effects of Unhealthy Anger in a Relationship

The negative consequences of expressing anger inappropriately can:

  • Build resentment
  • Build walls between partners
  • Force couples to drift apart
  • Lead to infidelity, distrust, separation, or divorce
  • Create a bad example for children in the household
  • Perpetuate cycles of anger
  • Create feelings of danger
  • Result in physical abuse and emotional, mental, or sexual abuse

A Note About Abuse: Abuse is never ok. If you are experiencing any abuse in your relationship, seek help immediately. Call the police or reach out to Goodman Psychiatrist Associates at 1-630-377-3535 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

The foundation of any working relationship is trust. When we get angry, we get defensive. We build walls between us and the person(s) we love if we don't stay open, honest, and show vulnerability. Instead of seeing an angry partner as someone who may need help, our defensive stance forces us to engage negatively, and the anger escalates.

Signs of Mismanaged Anger

Mismanaged anger is any anger that repressed, suppressed, or expressed in a negative way or with negative consequences. There are real-world consequences of becoming so full of rage that you lose control. You can lose your relationship, your job, friends, and freedom. You can spot mismanaged anger by watching for some of these signs, that range from subtle to extreme:

  • Making impulsive choices when angry
  • Ending friendships or relationships over minor issues
  • Overwhelming pessimism
  • Hurtful, sarcastic, snarky comments
  • Changes in the way we think or problem solve
  • Disproportionate responses to small issues, over-reacting
  • Physical symptoms or health problems like headaches and stomach issues
  • Passive-aggressive behavior
  • Explosive rage
  • Nitpicking
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Mental health issues like anxiety and depression

Anger De-Escalation

De-escalation is the first step to conflict resolution in every relationship. It stops the fight from getting worse and allows the parties involved time to calm down and reflect. You can de-escalate a situation by doing the following:

  1. Make sure you are safe by respecting personal space and keeping distance between you and your significant other.
  2. Remove yourself from the situation with a time frame by saying, "I need a breather; let's meet in the living room in ten minutes," or "I need to calm down. Can we talk about this before work tomorrow?"
  3. Mitigate your body's physiological responses. Try practiced, controlled breathing to lower your respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure. Visualize calming, happy memories. Clench and unclench muscles throughout your body, starting with your feet and working upwards. Cool your body with a fan or cold water on your face.

Conflict Can Be Healthy: Here’s How to Fight Fair

We know every relationship will have arguments. However, learning to fight fair by expressing anger or frustration appropriately will create positive relationship effects and avoid damaging the relationship and the people involved. Use these tips to express your feelings:

1. Identify The Real Problem

Are you really upset that your partner forgot to replace the empty toilet paper roll, or are problems at work creating stress? Or are you more upset that your partner doesn't seem to listen to you when you continually remind them to do this chore?

2. Learn Your Triggers

Triggers are words or actions that "push your buttons." Common triggers are being interrupted, feeling disrespected, injustice, or reminders of past traumas. Triggers create an immediate emotional response, so learning what your triggers are and how to control them are essential skills for anger management.

3. No Judgements and Use "I" Statements

Listen to your partner without passing judgment. Attempt to understand what they are trying to tell you without becoming defensive. "I" statements represent feelings, not facts, and therefore you aren't accusing the other person of anything, which could make them defensive and less likely to listen. Use "I" statements like "I feel that you aren't respecting my choices" rather than saying "you don't respect my choice.”

4. Pause

The age-old adage "think before you speak" is excellent advice. In the heat of the moment things can be said that are damaging, hurtful, and may never be forgotten. Pausing also helps you be mindful of your own emotions and reactions.

5. Get Help

Anger is one of the most challenging emotions to regulate because it affects ourselves and the people around us. Anger management and couple's counseling provide safe and effective methods to manage our anger and strengthen relationships. Get help immediately if abuse is involved.

Above all else, remember you and your significant other are on the same team. Don't keep score, and try not to feel the need to be right or "win" the fight, because what is most important is that you and your partner feel respected and safe.

Trying to gain control and change anger behavior on your own and failing time and again becomes a shaming and depressing cycle, but there is hope. Contact us to schedule a consultation for anger management, couple's counseling, and family or individual therapy today.

Perry D. Weingart, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist working in the St. Charles and Oak Brook offices. He is a skilled marital and relationship counselor and with a particular interest in anger management.


How to Deal with Fear

What we do with scary information is my point in writing today. Patients frequently express to me that they just do not know what to do with a problem facing them: whether it’s a worry about their job, their marriage, their child, etc. 


Dealing with Emotional Pain

How to Deal with Emotional Pain: 3 Ways to Feel Better Today

Emotional pain can stop us in our tracks. It can feel unbearable—almost physically painful at times—but unlike physical pain, taking a pain reliever and getting rest doesn’t make emotional pain go away. If you’re wondering how to deal with emotional pain, you aren’t alone.

Some emotional pain can stem from a major life change or disruption like a breakup, a divorce, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one. When we can pinpoint the trigger of our emotional pain, it may help us to recognize that it’s part of the natural grieving process. Grief hurts.

Sometimes, though, the emotional pain can feel like it's too much to bear. It may last for months and may start to disrupt our day-to-day activities. When this happens, it's time to reach out for support. Whether the emotional pain comes from a life change or is more nebulous in nature, talking to a professional counselor can get you through. Reach out today to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists so that you can deal with emotional pain in a manageable way.

Why Emotional Pain Happens

Anyone who's experienced the deep emotional pain of a loss or trauma can attest that it hurts. Sometimes that hurt is so intense that it feels physical. In fact, it's not uncommon to experience physical manifestations of emotional pain.

When we're going through an emotional upset, we may have headaches, stomach pains, and digestive issues. Our sleep may be disrupted, and we may find that we're unable to focus on work or our usual activities. As a result, our performance can suffer in our jobs and personal lives.

We may also find that we don’t have much of an appetite, or some people may turn to comfort foods—feeling an almost insatiable desire to eat ice cream, cookies, chips, bread, and other carbs (they trigger "feel-good" serotonin in our brains and help us feel relaxed). Other people may turn to less healthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, or drugs in an attempt to numb and deal with emotional pain.

When we experience emotional pain, we can even experience real, physical symptoms. For example, as discussed in Scientific America's article, What Causes Chest Pains When Feelings Are Hurt?

“According to a 2009 study from the University of Arizona and the University of Maryland, activity in a brain region that regulates emotional reactions called the anterior cingulate cortex helps to explain how an emotional insult can trigger a biological cascade. During a particularly stressful experience, the anterior cingulate cortex may respond by increasing the activity of the vagus nerve—the nerve that starts in the brain stem and connects to the neck, chest, and abdomen. When the vagus nerve is overstimulated, it can cause pain and nausea.”

Those gut-wrenching, heart-achy feelings aren’t in our heads. They’re actual bodily reactions to the emotional discomfort. When we grieve or experience a loss, the physical sensations can be particularly strong and overwhelming.

At the same time, our brains are looking for patterns and reasons for the loss. We may find ourselves going through the stages of grief during a breakup or job loss, just like a death. We might experience "magical thinking” where we believe our thoughts, feelings, or actions might have inadvertently caused something to occur. We may try to rationalize and find a sense of control over the situation. Often, we may look for somewhere to put the blame or think, "If only I'd done something differently."

We may also experience guilt over what happened, or we may find ourselves feeling deeply sad, tired, and listless. It's not uncommon for those experiencing emotional pain to feel overcome with emotion suddenly. One minute we're standing in line at the grocery store listening to a song, and suddenly we're in tears.

During grief, sorrow, and emotional pain, we may also find that we feel anger. We might feel abandoned by our loved ones, unsupported in a situation at work, or enraged at our ex. All these complex emotions can come in waves—one moment we’re fine, and the next moment we’re ready to scream, cry, or both.

Emotional pain is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. It's essential that we feel grief and allow ourselves space to experience the emotions. However, when we don't know how to deal with emotional pain, or it becomes destructive and ever-present in our lives, it may be time to reach out. Whether our pain happens because of a loss or we're not sure what has caused our pain, a professional can provide the supportive space to talk through our problems.

Should we discover that our emotional pain is caused by depression, or if it’s a reaction to circumstances in our life, we can still find relief. While working with a therapist or counselor, it can also be helpful to try these three techniques to alleviate emotional pain.

3 Tips for Dealing with Emotional Pain

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation are helpful practices for addressing many different mental health concerns, including emotional pain and depression. When we're mindful, we bring our brains back "online" and help ourselves reorient to the moment. Instead of ruminating on the past source of our emotional pain (or worrying about the future), we look at the present. Even if these pockets of mindfulness are brief, they can help us find relief and deal with emotional pain.

Meditation and mindfulness are easy to learn. There are helpful apps out there like Headspace and Calm that can guide us through the process. There are also many resources online, including free videos on YouTube that can help you get the hang of mindfulness and meditation.

Practice mindfulness anywhere—at home, at the office, in the classroom. It doesn't require anything extra. To give it a shot, we can try to take several deep breaths, focusing on the air coming into our nose and out of our mouth. As we breathe, we can observe our thoughts and feelings. Rather than getting caught up in a thought, we allow the mind to acknowledge it and let it flow by.

Unlike depression and grief, which can trigger catastrophizing thoughts, mindfulness helps us feel calm and relaxed. We focus on the here and now rather than asking what if.

We can also try a mindful walk outside. During our walk, we can do a mental inventory. First, focus on what we see for one minute. Next, spend a minute focusing on the sounds we hear. For the next minute, focus on a physical sensation—like touching a tree, rubbing our fingers on a leaf, or taking off our shoes and walking through the grass. Then focus on the smells in the air, like the scent of flowers, trees, cars, even someone's cooking as we walk by. Repeat this sensory inventory for the duration of the walk.

2. Get Creative & Cerebral

Another way to deal with emotional pain is to focus on stimulating our brains in other ways. Therapy can often be part of the cerebral or cognitive approach (hence, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). During CBT or talk therapy, we often identify negative thinking patterns and counter them with a more positive perspective.

But in addition to therapy, engaging our brains in other positive pursuits can help us deal with emotional pain in a positive, forward-focused way. When we're learning about a new subject, reading a book, or attempting something new, we use a different part of our brain. We do not forget the subject of our grief (which is often a fear during a loss—we don't want to "get over" someone we love). Instead, we're shifting our brains a little to allow ourselves a rest and to focus on other thoughts.

Journaling can be another technique to help us get our creative juices flowing and start to help us deal with emotional pain. Write out feelings, compose a letter to someone, or look for journal prompts that can help us explore some of the complicated emotions we’re experiencing.

Other outlets such as drawing and coloring, playing music, dancing, or photography can also be excellent ways to work through emotional pain and sadness. While something like dancing may feel challenging (or even impossible) at first, we can channel some of the frustrations and energy into our movement.

Exercise is a great coping tool and can have other benefits for our bodies as well. Again, the thought of going for a jog may seem absolutely out of our range at the moment. But slipping on comfortable shoes and taking a brisk walk around the block, or even doing some jumping jacks in our bedroom can help us start to see positive benefits and boost our mood.

3. Supplement Support

Grief, sorrow, depression, and emotional pain often feel very lonely. We may believe that no one will understand what we're going through; we may feel guilty like we can't offer emotional support back to our friends, or we may feel like we're worthless and people don't want to be around us.

When our brain is experiencing emotional pain, these irrational thoughts can feel very real and insurmountable. But it’s crucial that we find a support system. A therapist or counselor is an important part of the journey, but friends, family, and other people can help too.

We can look through the people in our lives and choose a few key people who might provide a sense of support and empathy. It's important to remind ourselves that we aren't a burden. Part of feeling better is asking for and accepting help to get us through this difficult time. Eventually, we can pay it forward when we're feeling more up to it.

If we can’t readily identify a friend who could support us, consider a family member, a teacher, a coworker, or someone from church or our religious practice. Emotional support can come from many different places, so explore social circles to find a connection.

Even talking to and hugging a pet can be therapeutic and helpful to get us through a difficult time. We can walk the dog or play with a cat and feel less alone. Animals can also remind us to be mindful—after all, they live in the moment, and it can be an excellent example of how we can shift our thinking too.

Most importantly, realize that if you aren’t sure how to deal with emotional pain, you don’t need to go it alone. There are ways to get the support you need to help you move forward to a brighter future. Reach out today to schedule with one of our practitioners. We're ready to listen and help you find ways to feel like yourself again.


The Best Way to Fight With Your Teenager

The Best Way to Fight with Your Teenager

As children and teens and college students are home from school this summer, conflicts and bending and challenging the rules is more apparent. No parent looks forward to fighting with his or her teenage child. But the friction that comes with raising adolescents might be easier to take when we see it as an opening, not an obstacle.

No matter how good your overall family relationship is, fighting with your teens is a constant battle of wills.  How disagreements are handled at home actually shapes both adolescent mental health and the overall quality of the parent-teenager relationship.  Also, the nature of family quarrels can also drive how adolescents manage their relationships with people beyond the house.  So how do we raise teenagers who see disagreements as a challenge to be resolved?

4 Ways Teens Fight Back at Their Parents

Research that suggested teenagers approach disputes in four distinct ways:  Attacking, Withdrawing, Complying and Problem Solving.

Adolescents who favor either of the first two routes — escalating fights or stubbornly refusing to engage in them — are the ones most likely to be or become depressed, anxious or delinquent.  But even those teenagers who take the third route and comply, simply yielding to their parents’ wishes, suffer from high rates of mood disorders. Further, teenagers who cannot resolve arguments at home often have similar troubles in their friendships and love lives.

In contrast, teenagers who use problem solving to address disputes with their parents present a vastly different picture. They tend to enjoy the sturdiest psychological health and the happiest relationships everywhere they go, two outcomes that would top every parent’s wish list.

So, how do we raise teenagers who see disagreements as challenges to be resolved?

Compelling new research suggests that constructive conflict between parent and teenager hinges on the adolescent’s readiness to see beyond his or her own perspective. In other words, good fights happen when teenagers consider arguments from both sides, and bad fights happen when they don’t.

Conveniently, the intellectual ability to consider multiple outlooks blossoms in the teenage years. While younger children lack the neurological capacity to fully understand someone else’s point of view, adolescence sparks rapid development in the parts of the brain associated with abstract reasoning. This leads to dramatic gains in the ability to regard situations from competing viewpoints. There is also evidence that parents can make the most of their teenagers’ evolving neurobiology by being good role models for taking another person’s perspective. Adults who are willing to walk around in their teenagers’ mental shoes tend to raise teenagers who return the favor.

While all this is good information, research findings rarely translate cleanly to the realities of family life. Conflict comes with heat, and we can only contemplate another person’s viewpoint when heads are cool. Imagine an adolescent announcing his plan to spend Saturday night with a former friend known for serious wrongdoing. Any reasonable parent might respond “Absolutely not!” and trigger an eruption, retreat or gloomy submission in a normally developing teenager.

An interaction that ends here is an opportunity lost. But hard starts can be salvaged and first reactions can give way to second ones. The parent in this scenario might soon find a way to say, “I’m sorry that got ugly. I need you to help me understand why you want to spend time with Mike when you don’t even like him that much. And can you put words to why I’m so uncomfortable with the idea of you hanging out with him?”

No parent or teenager can, or needs to, turn every dispute into a thoughtful consideration of opposing outlooks. And some families weather toxic battles that go far beyond the squabbles inherent in raising adolescents. Still, the balance of research suggests that garden-variety disagreements offer the opportunity to help young people better understand themselves and others, building in them the lifelong skill of finding room for civility in the midst of discord.

(Information in this article is attributed to The New York Times “Well Section” March 16, 2016)

Read more:


Why Can’t My Child Make Friends?

Why Can't My Child Make Friends: Common Reasons Kids Have Trouble Making Friends

A pretty 10-year-old girl sat across from me in the office tearfully struggling, “I don’t understand why I don’t have friends. Amanda’s (another girl in her class) teeth stick out like mine, but the kids will play with her, so it isn’t that. I am smart like Brad (another boy in her class) and he has friends, so it isn’t that. I just don’t know?”

Why can’t some children make friends? This can be a difficult question to ask yourself, but if your child rarely gets invited on play dates and spends most of his time alone at home, it can be hard not to wonder—and worry.

For kids of all ages, friendships offer the acceptance, approval and sense of belonging they crave. If your child struggles to connect with other kids and form friendships, it can be a blow to his self-esteem. It can leave him feeling alone and frustrated.

What Can Cause Trouble With Making Friends

If your child has a hard time making friends, it may have nothing to do with his personality. Trouble with forming friendships can be the result of learning and attention issues. Sometimes communication skills or listening comprehension skills are lacking, which can make conversation difficult and sometimes there are a variety of other behaviors that can get in the way of making friends.

ADHD: Kids with ADHD may lack self-control, be overactive, talk too much, talk without thinking or not pay attention to what other people are saying.

Executive functioning issues: Children with executive functioning issues may have trouble sharing, taking turns, controlling emotions and accepting other viewpoints.

Nonverbal learning disabilities (NVLD): Kids with nonverbal learning disabilities may miss social cues like body language, expression and tone of voice. They may not understand humor or sarcasm and may take what others say too literally.

Language disorders: Children with language disorders may not understand the rules of conversation or may have trouble finding the right words. They may avoid talking when around other kids.

Auditory processing disorder (APD): Kids with Auditory Processing Disorder may miss the point of what others are saying, miss words in conversation or have trouble following the directions in games.

Trouble Making Friends: A Common Problem

Not all kids with learning and attention issues struggle to make friends. For some kids, social skills are their strength! But if it’s a trouble spot for your child, he’s not alone. Kids with learning and attention issues often face social challenges. When compared with their peers, studies have shown they’re more likely to be:

  • Poorly accepted by their peers
  • Socially alienated from teachers and classmates
  • Viewed by teachers as lacking social skills
  • Not chosen to play or join in group activities
  • Willing to conform to peer pressure

Kids can feel that they don’t “fit in” at school or at outside activities. They may even feel that way at home with siblings.

It’s a very real issue because many kids with learning and attention issues do stand out sometimes. They may require additional time and attention from teachers, parents and others. They may call negative attention to themselves by asking inappropriate questions, seeming uninterested in other kids’ conversations, and interrupting or moving around a lot at the wrong times. Other kids may react badly or turn away.

How Social Troubles Can Impact Your Child

Your child may be resilient and bounce back from social setbacks. Or he may enjoy spending a lot of time alone. But for many kids, difficulty making friends can have negative effects. It can hurt their self-esteem, wear down their confidence and keep them from trying new activities. They may feel self-conscious, sad, angry, helpless or hopeless.

It can be hard for kids to manage these intense feelings and find ways to cope. Encouraging your child to talk about his feelings can help him feel better about himself. Just knowing he can come to you for support and comfort can make a big difference.

Ways You Can Help

If your child feels his learning and attention issues are making him stand out, there are ways you can help.

  1. Talking to your child’s teacher is a good first step. The teacher may be able to find ways to put your child in positive group experiences or match him up with classmates who are more accepting and share his interests.
  1. At home, you can work on changing the dynamic between your child and his siblings. You can also try to change the way you respond so your child isn’t singled out as much. And you can take steps to make social events like playdates, sleepovers and birthday parties more successful for your child.
  1. If you see that your child is struggling with his emotions, you might want to consider counseling. Counseling can help your child build communication skills, improve social cues and become more resilient. Strengthening those skills may give him the confidence to try new ways to connect with other kids.


Stay in touch with updates

Call Us
630 377 3535

Email Us

2075 Foxfield Rd., Suite 202
St Charles, Illinois

1200 Harger Rd., Ste. 310
Oak Brook, Illinois

©2020 Goodman Psychologist Associates | Site by Andiamo Creative