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Gaslighting has been on the rapid rise since 2013, reaching its peak when it was dubbed the “buzz word” of 2018. However, in recent years gaslighting has taken a more insidious turn, with people beginning to question if they might be gaslighting themselves.

No, you aren’t being too sensitive.

Yes, you are qualified enough to ask for a raise at your job.

No, you can’t “change” your partner’s toxic traits.

Yes, you can do better.

Gaslighting has become somewhat of a buzz word in the psychological, relationship and self-development spaces of 2021. It’s often used to characterise a form of manipulative behaviour, commonly from parents, friends, bosses, intimate partners, or even medical professionals. However, a new phenomenon has more recently be discovered: the ability to gaslight yourself.

Psychologists classify gaslighting as a manipulation tactic, whereby the manipulator undermines and questions the victims integrity, leading them to doubt their own reality and memory of the situation. It has become such a forewarned pattern of behaviour due to the subtlety of its harm. If someone is continually gaslit, with their perception of self-belief repeatedly minimised, the seeds of self-doubt planted by the gaslighter can be internalised – thus transferring the cycle of being gaslit, to gaslighting yourself.

In simple terms – repeated abuse can cause one to become their own abuser.

What does self-gaslighting look like?

Simply, self-gaslighting can look like the suppression and ignorance of your emotions, thoughts, and intuitive feelings – thus rendering them as “dramatic” or “unnecessary”. More specifically, the Moon and Manifest Podcast notes that a tell-tale sign of self-gaslighting is when one repeatedly second-guesses and rationalises away their intuition. We’re all familiar with the strong gut-feelings we have when we are hurt by someone, or we know we are unhappy in some aspect of our lives. But if someone becomes susceptible to self-gaslighting tendencies, this “intuitive knowing”, becomes no longer a guidance system, but a voice consciously ignored in favour of more sabotaging thoughts.

A classic and common example of this is often seen when an individual is hurt by someone but dismisses their feelings of sadness or offence in the vein of – “I’m being too sensitive about this, it’s not a big deal.”

Self-gaslighting can also manifest in the workplace – with persistent and public critiques of performance, exclusion, gossip and belittling of efforts being internalised to create the perception that one isn’t deserving of working there. To prevent this self-gaslighting-induced imposter syndrome from emerging in the workplace, two more obvious scenarios that demonstrate gaslighting in a working environment could be:

  • Your boss doesn’t remember you handing him your report last week, even though you are sure it happened, and you did the work. The gaslighter remains adamant they never got it, which leads you to question whether they are right, and you are misremembering – despite your previous certainty.
  • Your boss tells you it isn’t a big deal if you miss the morning briefing, but when you do, they criticise you for it – leading you to question your commitment to the workplace, and worthiness of obtaining the job.

Whether you are experiencing gaslighting in the workplace or in a relationship, the consequences remain the same, and it often results in this internalised behaviour pattern that means the gaslighter no longer needs to do the heavy lifting – but rather you are doing it yourself.

Self-gaslighting in motherhood

Another scenario where self-gaslighting behaviours can manifest, is within mothers who undermine and question their ability to parent. Although gaslighting relationships between parents and children have been widely researched and reported, the ability for a parent to gaslight themselves, is less covered.

As parenting is already a famously challenging time – mothers who are trapped in patterns of self-inflicted gaslighting can begin to doubt their parenting capabilities and downplay the struggles of raising children under the guise of “other people have it worse”. These self-manipulative behaviours are detrimental to the mental health of whoever is experiencing it, however self-gaslighting in parenthood, if left ignored, can lead to more severe afflictions like parental burnout.

Solutions

There are a myriad of different strategies and processes to try and reverse the entrenchment of gaslighting tendencies in oneself.

Becoming self-aware

The first step to subvert self-gaslighting behaviours, is to become more self-aware. Being self-aware of your surroundings, interactions, thoughts, and feelings can reverse the psychologically distorting effects of self-gaslighting.

Self-awareness is ultimately about being confident in who you are and what you feel – in other words, being assured in your intuition. When one becomes self-aware, they have the ability to recognise the problem – in that they are gaslighting themselves – gain perspective on the origins of problem and begin to understand their feelings objectively.

Affirming your emotions

When one is in the process of understanding their self-sabotaging behaviours, Healthline Australia proposes a process of “affirming emotions” to counteract the aspect of self-gaslighting that tells you your emotions aren’t valid. An example of affirming your emotions when someone gaslights you, can look like this.

  • Gaslighting: “I didn’t mean it like that, you’re exaggerating, you’re crazy”
  • Self-gaslighting: “Maybe I am crazy. I know they love me, and they wouldn’t have meant it like that.”
  • Affirming emotions: “I remember how they worded it and I stand by how it made me feel. They should not have said it.”

CBT

If the clutches of self-gaslighting are too entrenched in you that these self-talk methods aren’t working – psychologists strongly recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which focuses on restructuring the way individuals think and process emotions, hoping to lessen the distortion that self-gaslighting causes. It’s important to note that CBT has been likened to gaslighting when not performed properly, as the psychologists attempts to render clients issues as a product of their mental distortion, can sometimes seem like an “it’s all in your head” approach. However, a psychologist or therapist who is aware of the dangers of gaslighting and self-gaslighting, can utilise CBT as a tool to minimise the self-doubt and re-arrange clients’ thoughts in the correct way – without making them feel as though they are “crazy” or at fault.

You are not alone.

Most importantly, if you have been experiencing self-gaslighting, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Gaslighting and self-gaslighting has become one of the most dangerous behaviour manipulations of the past couple of years, and a phenomenon that has been well researched.

It is imperative that if you think you have been subjected to self-gaslighting, reach out for support – whether that be to a trusted friend, partner or professional – and try to begin by validating your feelings. Everyone deserves to feel confident in themselves, their intuition and their relationships, and with the right approach, self-gaslighting won’t stand in the way of that.

Teenagers are visiting emergency departments for intentional self-harm in record numbers since the pandemic, with some as young as primary-school ages.

The stress and pressures that lockdown has had on children and teenagers have seen reports of self-harm increase by 47% in NSW alone. In the year leading up to July 2021, there were 8489 instances of children and teens up to 17 years old presenting to emergency centers in NSW. This number had increased from 6489 in 2020.

Throughout March, June, July, September and September in NSW, VIC, TAS and the ACT, paramedics responded to 22,400 incidents involving suicide attempts or thoughts. The majority of this number was for young girls ranging from ages 15-19.

Statistics have shown that these numbers were already increasing before the pandemic; however, lockdown seems to have driven the numbers even higher.

The chairman for Lifeline Australia, John Brogden, confirmed that the daily average number of calls nationwide peaked at 3100 per day and has remained at this level since the start of the pandemic. Most of these phone calls are from people of all ages struggling with self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Federal Treasurer Josh Fydenberg called the mental health crisis a ‘shadow pandemic,’ caused partly by the impact of ongoing lockdowns and the research seems to suggest it is impacting young people the hardest.

Schools provide children and teens with face-to-face learning, interaction with peers, extracurricular activities, friendship, and social skills building, and, in most cases, access to mental health and resilience programs. However, with school-aged children already going through a crucial and sensitive time in their development, the added pressure of isolation and stress that is inevitable in lockdown has exacerbated the difficulties they already face.

Living through an unpreceded global event can be stressful for adults, and it is a lot for kids to take in as well. Meanwhile, things like school sports, dances, school performances and graduation ceremonies have seen teenagers lose access to many of the outlets that provide them with stress relief and fun.

Yourtown CEO Tracy Adams says, “The upheaval and stress Australian children and young people are experiencing from the pandemic is a cause for concern. Over the past six months, we have identified that 1,610 contacts to Kids Helpline were from young children aged 5-9 years of age up from 1,588 for the first six months of 2020.”

Adams confirms that Kids Helpline answered 1788 more calls for children and young people than ever in the first half of 2021, compared to the first have of 2020 and that, “Children and young people are increasingly experiencing mental health concerns, including suicidal ideation/behaviour and self-harm”

Self-harm is an issue that has been prevalent for decades and is becoming a predominant coping mechanism for young people.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is the act of injuring oneself by either cutting or burning to achieve a momentary sense of calm or release of tension of emotional pain. Often, people will self-harm to gain a sense of control again or to momentarily be distracted from mental distress by the sensation of physical pain.

While not classified as a mental illness on its own, it is often symptomatic of a range of other mental illnesses or emotional suffering.

The physical signs of self-harm may look like:

  • cutting, burning, biting, or scratching the skin
  • picking at wounds or scabs so they don’t heal
  • pulling out hair, punching or hitting the body
  • taking harmful substances (such as poisons, or over the counter or prescription medications).

Motivations for self-harming could stem from trauma, anxiety, depression or overwhelming feelings of stress and pressure.

Sometimes children who are self-harming may be fascinated with the topic and spend time online reading about other instances of this. They may attempt to cover their bodies or exhibit a desire to hide their skin such as wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts in warm weather.

Other behaviors might look like mood swings or becoming withdrawn socially and could be potentially triggered by a traumatic event or upsetting circumstances like bullying or difficulties in a peer group.

How to help

If your child or teen approaches you and tells you that they have been self-harming somehow, the most important thing you can do is have a compassionate response. According to Melbourne Child Psychology, the most common misconception about self-harm is that it is a form of ‘attention-seeking or ‘acting out.’

However, in most cases, nothing could be further from the truth and chances are your child is experiencing guilt, shame and genuine psychological distress and confusion. The best thing to do is provide support and be their anchor by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know you are here to help them.

It is crucial to fight the urge to have a shocked or angry reaction and say things like ‘why did you do this?’ or ‘you need to stop this – this is such a stupid thing to do!’

Instead, remain calm and let them know you are here to help by asking open-ended questions that encourage them to talk about why they did it or how they were feeling at the time.

Once they are emotionally assured, ask more open-ended questions such as what they used to harm themselves and where they got it. Be sure to ask if it’s ok to assess their injuries and appropriately dress them or bandage them.

Lastly, seek professional help

As a parent, watching your child self-harm can be heartbreaking, and it is ok to feel that you are out of your depth and need to seek professional help or advice. However, it is essential not to make the mistake of thinking that just because you have addressed the issue with your child, it will go away or get better.

Get in touch with a psychologist and communicate to them what the issue is before an appointment, so they know best how to help.

A child psychologist will provide your child with a safe environment to express themselves and learn effective coping mechanisms and strategies.

 

 

 

 

 

Over 45% of parents feel the effects of parental burnout. The crippling exhaustion, overwhelming stress, and the feeling that everything is just a bit too hard, is a shared experience with nearly half of all parents. Here is what you need to know about this common phenomenon – and the steps to take to feel like yourself again.

Many parents have come to realise that having children is exhausting… And even more exhausting when a pandemic, working from home and recurring lockdowns are thrown into the mix. The overwhelming feelings of stress and exhaustion associated with trying to juggle both life itself and the lives of their children too, can sometimes feel like a bit too much to handle. If you, as a parent, felt this too, don’t worry – you are definitely not alone.

It’s important to realise that these feelings are completely valid and parental burnout is more than just general tiredness or irritability. If left unmanaged, the all-consuming sensations of burnout can have significant consequences on not only parents’ mental health, but the sense of equilibrium within the family itself.

The first diagnoses of parental burnout dates back to 1983, but more extensive research was carried out in 2017, by Belgium researchers Dr Isabelle Roskam and Dr Moïra Mikolajczak – who really delved into the prevalence of parental burnout, especially in the 21st century.

They found that since previous studies, society has placed more pressure on families to raise high-performing, healthy and stable children – as well as a shift in gender norms – especially during COVID – which has generated an increase in more working mothers, and less who stay-at-home full time. These subtle changes can make the act of parenting more difficult and stressful and thus, emerges the patterns of parental burnout.

Beyond the initial feelings of exhaustion, parental burnout can also manifest in:

If these symptoms are left untreated for too long, the damage to parents’ mental health, hormones and relationships with both partners and children, can be significant. Research has found that parents who experience parental burnout, are likely to be more coercive or neglectful towards their children – despite the initial burnout often resulting from putting too much time and energy into your children and neglecting your own needs.

Other common factors that can lead to the development of parental burnout are:

For parents experiencing this level of burnout – despite how difficult it may seem – there are several ways that this burnout can be alleviated. Here are some common and scientifically proven ways that parental burnout can be reduced:

  • Establish a routine: by creating a set schedule within the family that allows time for everyone’s respective activities and obligations – as well as carving out time to be together as a family – parents can set boundaries between work and home and lessen the expectation to be doing everything at once.
  • Communicate your feelings: whether it is with a partner or a friend, telling someone how you are feeling is the first step to treating parental burnout. As this condition is often provoked by bottling up stress and exhaustion, the first way to fix this is to let someone know you need support.
  • Go to a support group: support groups for parents are a great way to feel like you’re not alone. By talking to other parents who may be sharing the same struggles, feelings of isolation that may be contributing to the burnout can be alleviated.
  • Exercise: it’s a well-known fact that moving your body releases endorphins and, for many, provides an outlet where you can release pent up stress. This doesn’t have to mean killing your body in the gym six days a week. If you are starting to feel stressed or overwhelmed, even a ten-minute walk or stretch can help release the feel-good hormones to make you feel more relaxed.
  • Consult a therapist: regardless of if you think you don’t need it – everyone can benefit in some way from talking to someone professional about your everyday problems, or perhaps past trauma that has led to burnout. There is no shame in getting help, and if you feel you need to talk to someone, a psychologist may be able to provide the informed guidance that you need.

The chance of developing parental burnout doesn’t go away as your kids grow up. As parents, it is likely that you will always put their needs above your own at points in time. But it is the acknowledgement that you are struggling, communication that you need help, and the seeking out of support that will help you on your journey to feel like yourself again.

 

 

 

 

Anxious Mums author, Dr Jodi Richardson, offers advice for mothers and children experiencing anxiety.

One in four people will experience anxiety within their lifetime, making it the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia. Statistics determine it is twice as common in women, with one in three, compared with one in five men, diagnosed on average.

Having lived and studied anxiety, Dr Jodi Richardson  is an expert in her field, with more than 25 years of practice. In addition to her professional background, it was ultimately her personal experiences and journey in becoming a mother that shaped the work she is passionate about. 

Jodi’s books, Anxious Kids; How Children Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Resilience,  co-written with Michael Grose (2019), and her latest release, Anxious Mums; How Mums Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Strength (2020), offer parents, in particular mothers, advice on how to manage and minimalise anxiety, so they can maximise their potential, elevate their health and maintain their wellbeing.

The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first-hand experiences have inspired her work today, stating, “The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first signs of experiencing anxiety appeared at the early age of four. Her first symptoms began in prep, experiencing an upset stomach each day. Her class of 52 students, managed by two teachers, was stressful enough, on top of her everyday battles. Jodi recalls, “There was a lot of yelling and it wasn’t a very relaxing or peaceful environment, it obviously triggered anxiety in me, I have a genetic predisposition towards it, as it runs in my family.”

Twenty years later, the death of a family member triggered a major clinical depression for Jodi. She began seeking treatment however, it was in finding an amazing psychologist, that helped her to identify she was battling an underlying anxiety disorder. Jodi discloses, “It was recognised that I had undiagnosed anxiety. I didn’t really know that what I had experienced all my life up until that point had been any sort of disorder, that was just my temperament and personality.” 

After many years of seeing her psychologist, Jodi eventually weaned off her medication and managed her anxiety with exercise and meditation. Offering advice on finding the right psychologist Jodi states, “For me it was my third that was the right fit. I really encourage anyone if the psychologist you were referred to doesn’t feel like the right fit, then they’re not and it’s time to go back to your GP. Having the right professional that you’re talking to and having a good relationship with is really important for the therapeutic relationship.”

Jodi highlights the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing, affirming, “The more we can open up and talk about our journeys, the more we encourage other people to do the same and normalise the experience.”

Anxious Mums came into fruition after a mum in the audience of one of Jodi’s speaking engagements emailed Jodi’s publisher stating, “Jodi has to write a book, all mums have to hear what she has to say.”

Everyday efforts new mothers face, consign extra pressure on wellbeing and showcase the need to counteract anxiety before it subordinates everyday lifestyles. While Jodi’s children are now early adolescents, she reflects upon the early stages of new motherhood, “Ultimately when I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

When I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

New mothers experience heightened anxiety as they approach multiple challenges of parenthood; from conceiving, through the journey of pregnancy, birth and perpetually, thereafter. Becoming a mother provided Jodi with insight into new challenges, in particular struggles with breastfeeding and lack of sleep. She shares, “It’s something that we don’t have much control over, particularly as new parents. We just kind of get used to operating on a lot less sleep and it doesn’t serve us well in terms of our mental health, particularly if there have been challenges in the past or a pre-existing disorder.

Research suggests women’s brains process stress differently to men, with testosterone also said to be somewhat protective against anxiety. This, along with different coping mechanisms of women, highlight statistic disparity between gender. For early mothers in particular, it is a time of immense change, as their everyday lives are turned upside down. New schedules, accountability and hormonal changes increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression, which are also commonly triggered in the postpartum period.

Jodi elaborates on important hormonal timeframes that shift women’s mental wellbeing stating, “Anxiety is heightened during times of hormonal changes as well as in the key points in our reproductive lives. Through having children and menopause and alike. It’s more disabling in that it impacts our lives in different ways to men, particularly I think, because we’re usually the main carers. There are stay at home dads, but predominantly that’s what women tend to do.”

Normal anxiety is infrequent and settles down, but when someone suffers a disorder, they can have incessant worry and avoidance. This can include anxiety around not wanting to participate, attend a function, for example, try something new or step up in a work role. Anxiety disorders can be crippling, leaving sufferers feeling as though they are unable to live their best life.

There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

There are many telling physical signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Some indicative signs to look out for include a racing heart, trembling, sick stomach, frequent perspiration and dizziness that accompanies shortness of breath. Jodi says, “If you think that your anxiety might be a problem, that’s absolutely the time to go and make an appointment to see your GP. There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

“Half of all mental illness comes on by around the ages of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children.”

Just as anxiety is common for mothers, it’s also important to observe and be aware of in children. Jodi reveals, “For parents it’s important to know that half of all mental illness comes on by around the age of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children. 75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety.”

“75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety

These pre-covid statistics highlight significant numbers of anxiety in adolescents. However, with the current climate prevalent of immense loss of control, many are facing new heightened emotions and increased numbers of anxiety. Early research coming out of Monash University is showcasing significant growth of adults with depression and anxiety, including statistics of children in the early ages of one to five experiencing symptoms.

Similar research has given light to evidence portraying children mirroring stress responses of their parents. Jodi further explains, “They can pick up the changes in our own heart rate, in our stress response — we are told that as new mums aren’t we, that our babies can pick up on how we are feeling but the science proves that to be true as well.” Parenting is a consequential way in which children receive cognitive biases and behaviours, “Just the tone of our voice, the expressions on our face, the way that we speak, what we say, certainly can be picked up on by kids and mirrored back.”

Noticing these early signs in your children is essential to alleviating anxiety before it progresses, Jodi lists some signs to be aware of, “Avoidance is a hallmark sign of anxiety — I don’t want to go, I don’t want to participate, I don’t want to deliver that oral presentation in class, I don’t want to go to camp and so watching out for that sort of thing. Other signs and symptoms to look out for include big emotions. If your children seem more teary or angry than usual, are feeling worried or avoidant, can’t concentrate, having trouble remembering or difficulty sleeping.” It’s important to be aware and help counteract anxiety when you see it. 

Jodi offers parents, who are struggling coping with their children’s anxiety some advice stating, “It’s an age old question, how much do we push and when do we hold back; I think as parents we are constantly answering that question. We don’t always get it right, but the thing about avoidance is it only makes anxiety worse. So for the child who is anxious about going to school, the more they stay home, the harder it will be to front up on another day. Sometimes, we need to nudge them forward in small steps and that’s a technique called step-laddering. It’s about making a step in that direction.”

Jodi encourages parents to observe their children’s symptoms and to never feel ashamed to go see a GP.  She urges, “Sometimes we get that reassurance from a GP, it might just be developmental, but the sooner kids are getting the help they need, the better, and it’s the same for us as mums.”

There are simple everyday steps we can take to combat anxiety. When someone is anxious a threat has been detected within the brain, this part of the brain is called the amygdala, one of the most powerful strategies for managing this stress detection is regulant meditation. 

Jodi explains, “What meditation does is it brings our attention to the present, so we are paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.” Meditation recognises deliberate breathing with a focus equally on exhalation as inhalation, proven to be calming to the anxious brain, using the relaxation response. 

Commending the importance of the practice and its effect on functioning, Jodi describes, “Meditation is more that sort of seated and formal practice of focusing the breath. What we know this will do over time, is it reduces the size and sensitivity of the amygdala, so it’s less sensitive to threat which reduces long-term anxiety. For the average person, our minds wander around 50 percent of the time, when we can bring our attention back to the present we are much more likely to be able to settle our anxiety, and feel happier as well.”

Another everyday strategy for combatting anxiety is exercise. Jodi shares her experience and routine stating, “Exercise is something I’ve used my whole life to calm my anxiety. Even now, I do cross-fit, karate and walks every week. I think naturally I was managing my health and wellbeing without really understanding why, I just knew that it made me feel good.”

The fight or flight response tied to anxiety powers us up to fight physically to save our lives or to flee. So often, when someone is anxious, they are powered up in this way, but not doing anything about it. Jodi shares, “When we move, it’s the natural end to the fight or flight response. Not only that, when we exercise we release serotonin, which is a feel good neural transmitter, among with gamma aminobutyric acid, a neural transmitter that puts the breaks on our anxiety response helping to calm us down.” 

Jodi’s practice in physiology, working with clients using exercise to help them with their mental and physical health has led her to her understandings, “One of the things I can 100 percent tell you is that it’s best not to wait until you feel motivated — the motivation will come once you get into the routine of it.

Dr Jodi Richardson, anxiety & wellbeing speaker, bestselling author & consultant

I’d just like to say, anxiety isn’t something we need to get rid of to really be able to thrive, to do what we need to do and accomplish what’s important to us. But I really encourage to anyone, that there are lots of ways to dial it back. I think it’s very easy for us to wait until we feel 100 percent to do something, but doing anything meaningful is hard.

So don’t wait until your anxiety is gone because you might be waiting a long time.”

 

 

 

 

Anxious Kids Penguin Books Australia, Author: Michael Grose, Dr Jodi Richardson RRP: $34.99 Anxious Mums Penguin Books Australia , Author: Dr Jodi Richardson  RRP: $34.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000)

Lifeline:  Provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue: Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

Kids Helpline: : Is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 – 25. Call 1800 55 1800

To learn more about Dr Jodi Richardson’s work, watch the full interview below or on our YouTube channel.

 

 

We’re all familiar with PMS.

80% of women experience some form of physical or emotional symptoms just before their period starts. However, around 5-10% of women, experience what is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD – a mood disorder that requires treatment to alleviate symptoms.

For these women, the week before their period marks the onset of symptoms so severe that getting on with daily life is impossible. These tangibly different yet similarly presenting conditions cause PMDD to be often confused for ‘severe PMS’. But, where PMS is uncomfortable or annoying, PMDD is debilitating.

PMDD was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mood Disorders as a depressive disorder’ just six years ago. Since then, the existence of the condition has been gaining awareness amongst women and the medical community. However, that PMDD is not widely spoken about or recognised means that more conversations and research into the condition are needed.  

PMDD often being described as ‘PMS on steroids‘ or ‘severe PMS’ signifies the possibility for accidental ignorance toward the condition.  When women are led to think of their incapacitating symptoms as ‘just PMS’ they may feel that their experience is ‘normal’.  The result of conflating symptoms causes many women wait to seek help until they reach their ‘breaking point’. By this time, women suffering from PMDD describe that their relationships, work and daily life have been significantly impacted.

How it impacts an individual’s life:

Gogglebox Australia’s, Isabelle Silbery, recently penned a deeply personal article recounting her feelings of desperation and frustration prior to being diagnosed with PMDD.

via Instagram: @IsabelleSilberry

Detailing an upsurge in arguments with her family accompanied by bouts of worthlessness, doubt, and despondence toward exciting things in her life – Isabelle called out for greater awareness and education for women regarding their cycles and the boundaries of what should be considered ‘normal.’

It was relentless. I hated myself, I hated my partner, I hated everything.

Isabelle says that her revelatory diagnosis stemmed from her mum, fortunately, catching a radio segment on triple R discussing a newly recognised disorder that bore markedly similar symptoms to her own.

Finding a printout on her pillow, she read about PMDD and was shocked and relieved to find she ‘ticked every box.’  Paranoia, fatigue, sensitivity – experienced only between ovulation and getting her period. Suddenly, Isabelle felt empowered – she wasn’t ‘going mad’ – there were answers.

Upon seeing a new specialist (who told her undoubtedly, she was experiencing PMDD) – Isabelle recalled asking:

Here I [am], 36 years old, having [had] my period for years now and birthed one child. How the hell did it take this long to figure it out?

Her doctor, Dr Lee Mey Wong from the Jean Hailes Clinic for Women’s Health, explained that ‘women who suffer from PMDD have what’s called a vulnerable brain’, meaning they may have suffered some trauma in their formative years. This vulnerability can lead the brain to be acutely sensitive to the by-product of progesterone – a hormone the body makes every cycle. This sensitivity contributes to the onset of symptoms that characterise PMDD.

In the process of learning about herself and her body, Isabelle found there was a lot more about periods, cycle phases and women’s health, in general, that she wasn’t across – prompting her to question: 

Why aren’t we educated around our cycles more as young girls? Being told you get your period and to use a pad or tampon is not enough.  

Isabelle’s message was simple: women are often made to feel crazy when they feel something is wrong. Yet we know ourselves better than anyone, and we’re usually right.  Information is power, and we need to empower ourselves and each other to assert control over our bodies. It is time we all prioritise our health and stop our silent suffering. To do this we have to stop demonising our hormones and periods.

A UK-based journalist, Jenny Haward, also shared her story of figuring out she suffered from PMDD. For her, the early years of getting a period were characterised by some ‘mild bloating’ and an ‘off chance that [she] might shed a few tears over a not-particularly-sad film’ with 48-hours of light bleeding to follow.

But, by her 30s, this had changed. Haward describes that being someone who had never tracked their period, it took her a while to make the connection that what she had begun to termthe dark week’ was linked to her cycle.

‘The dark week’ would bring tingling in her extremities, bloating of her stomach and hands and what she terms the PMDD hangover’ – Non-alcohol related but reminiscent of the hazy, sick feeling you get after a few too many, tinged with The Fear.

Haward describes the week before her period as charged with anxiety that pulsated through her, hyper-fixation on worries and exacerbated by insomnia – leading to fights with friends and terror toward work projects. But, as soon as her period arrived – she’d snap out of it.

Significantly, for Haward and many other women coming forward sharing their story – it took until the day she had to leave work, so ‘overwhelmed with misery and inability to function’ to call a doctor for an emergency appointment.

Haward wanted her story to reach women like herself and tell them: ‘there is help – you’re not making a fuss, or crazy or an awful person, and most importantly, you are not alone.’

PMS or PMDD?:

from Share the Dignity

Lynda Pickett, the Australian Project Coordinator for ‘Vicious Cycle: Making PMDD Visible‘, explains that PMS is an average onset of physical and sometimes mild emotional symptoms and typically doesn’t cause any life disruption.  On the other hand, PMDD is characterised by severe, life-impairing emotional symptoms that last 1-2 weeks before menses onset.

Recognising this difference between PMS and PMDD is crucial to understanding the significance of the disorder. While 1-2 weeks may sound manageable, when you factor in these symptoms occurring every month, every year – you can begin to get a clearer picture of the rollercoaster of emotion and life instability that sufferers face.

Symptoms:

Kin Fertility list the 11 symptoms of PMDD as the following:

  • Mood changes
  • Irritability or anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Bloating and breast soreness

Experiencing five or more of these symptoms in a life-impacting way mean that you may meet the diagnostic criteria for PMDD.

What is it? Why do we need to talk about it?

PMDD Cycle – Buoy

PMDD is a disorder that sits between psychiatry, gynaecology and other mimicking conditions—making getting a diagnosis a lengthy process due to the necessity to rule other possibilities out.

In Australia, the average ‘lag to diagnosiscan take eight years.

This lag is in part due to the experience of having symptoms downplayed by doctors as ‘just PMS’. This dismissal often requires a necessary determination on the part of the individual to challenge what they are being told.  Due to many doctors being unfamiliar with the condition, a referral is often necessary, or the individual has to search for answers themselves.

Lynda Pickett shared significant statistics relating to the number of people affected by PMDD:

Treatment:

Although there is no ‘cure’ for PMDD, there is a range of treatments available to help manage the symptoms.

Several medical therapies are effective, including antidepressants (SSRIs) which surveys show have provided relief to 75% of sufferers.

Oral contraceptives are also routinely prescribed to treat PMDD. Due to the pill’s interference on ovulation and the production of ovarian hormones, the pill can give greater control over the menstrual cycle and therefore reduce the severity of symptoms.

Further, many women report that additional things like reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and taking supplements such as magnesium, calcium and B6 can help. As well as making lifestyle changes in the lead up to their period in particular, such as more exercise, sleep and generally taking it easy, can make a significant difference.

Support:

Joining PMDD support groups can also give sufferers a much-needed sense of community and connection when coming to terms with their diagnosis and managing their symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

Lynda Pickett says she ‘doesn’t know where she’d be without her PMDD Peeps‘, the group name shared by her fellow PMDD community.  The hashtag ‘#PMDDPeeps’ is widely used across Instagram and Twitter to connect sufferers with PMDD.

Facebook groups for individuals with PMDD, partners, post-op groups or child-free women are also widely available. These groups exist to give and receive support from people who are in the same boat.

Other great resources and groups who are bringing people with PMDD together include:

www.viciouscyclepmdd.com = a patient-led project that is focused on raising awareness and raising the standard of care for those living with PMDD.

www.iapmd.org = A global charity that offers peer support, education, research and advocacy.

www.mevpmdd.com = a PMDD symptom app.

When I was pregnant with my first baby, over twelve years ago, strangers would come up to me, pat my baby bump and say, ‘Oh, is it your first? How special!’. They had a misty far-away look in their eyes. No one told me the truth. The truth was that I was about to undergo a monumental change and I wouldn’t ever be the same again.

This transition happens to all mothers — biological, surrogate or adoptive — in a developmental stage is akin to adolescence known as ‘Matrescence’. This process affects biological, social and psychological development and can last for years, or even decades.

The term ‘Matrescence’ was first coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael, PhD, in 1973, but I didn’t hear about it until I chose to specialise in motherhood.

 

This is a problem because most mothers feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of parenting and uncomfortable with the changes it brings to almost every aspect of life. Not only does the female body undergo physical and hormonal changes which can feel like puberty all over again, but becoming a mother impacts relationships with partners and friends and maintaining a social life or even running errands suddenly becomes a lot more challenging.

 

 

Matrescence should not be confused with postnatal depression, but it is a significant emotional shift which many mothers are simply unprepared for. I’m sure all mums remember the endless first weeks of motherhood where you feel completely in love with your newborn and simultaneously completely awed that the world still continues although you’ve just experienced this monumental event.

I vividly remember feeling a huge sense of achievement at getting out the door when my youngest was just six- weeks old.

Timing feeds, nappy changes and making myself look vaguely presentable to be on time for a baby massage session required some next-level planning. The thought of going out for drinks with friends or for a meal with my husband just seemed completely at odds with my new life and how I felt about myself.  I just couldn’t rationalise the pre-baby me with this new post-baby me. Me as a mum. Over the years, the pre-baby me just seemed to dissolve as I assumed the identity of ‘mum’.  Now, I feel like the ‘real’ me is buried.

Mum of three, Sarah, says, ‘I just completely lost my sense of identity when I had children. I never really got any time to myself to just be ‘me’ anyway, so I didn’t really notice it until my kids started school’. Nicola chose to have children later in life and found the balance between her work-life and home-life almost impossible to reconcile,

 

‘I was either house-wife and mum, or corporate executive and those two parts of me felt completely disconnected. I do love both of those roles but I’m more than just that. The ‘real’ me just got lost in the noise’.

The truth is, we all evolve as time goes on. Being a mum will always be part of your identity, but it doesn’t have to be all of it.  Here’s what to do when you feel lost in motherhood:

1. Schedule time for yourself

And I do mean literally schedule in that time. Put it in your calendar like it’s an appointment or a class for your child. The amount of time and what you choose to do is up to you, but I suggest an hour every week where you can completely disconnect from motherhood. Go out of the house. Read a book, enjoy a coffee, go for a run — just do something entirely for yourself. You’ll feel better afterwards, I promise.

2. Set morning and evening routines

You probably have some sort of morning or bedtime routine for your children, but do you have one for yourself?

Small daily rituals can help you feel more in control of your life and help ease the pressure of a busy schedule. It might seem counterintuitive to ask you to introduce more into a packed lifestyle but a little bit of self-care can go a long way.Ideally, get up before the children are awake. Drink water, enjoy a cup of tea, read or meditate and you will find yourself more capable of tackling the morning rush.
In the evening, do something similar to wind down. Meditation and journaling are proven to be good for mental health and they are great tools to connect back in to ‘you’. Bonus points if you can look over your schedule for the following day and prepare.

3. Date night

Becoming parents inevitably changes the relationship you have with your partner. As children grow it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of being teammates rather than romantic partners. Get in touch with why you fell in love and plan a date for the two of you. The rule is, you are not allowed to talk about the kids! It’s harder than you think. Make an effort, get dressed up (if you like) and date each other again. You don’t even have to go out.

4. Do something you loved before becoming a mum

It’s easy to let hobbies go when you have a small person who’s depending on you. Life gets full and busy quickly and we often forget that we get to choose how we spend our free time. One quick way to remind yourself of who you are is to enjoy an activity or experience you loved before you were a mum. Maybe you adored dancing or painting or going to the movies. Find ways to introduce these into your life. It can be as simple as dancing around the lounge room!

5. Chat to your friends about your hopes and dreams

How often do you talk to your friends about your personal goals? Do you even know what they are?

It’s normal to focus on your children and their desires, but if we forget to think about what we want out of life it’s easy to wake up one day and realise that you don’t have a purpose without your children. That’s way too much pressure to put on them and not fair to the woman you are.

Make it a priority to talk to your friends about this. What do they want out of life? How can you support each other?

The trick is to integrate these activities with your identity as a mother. We aren’t trying to belittle or ignore your role since we all know that being a mum is as amazing as it is difficult. Instead, the aim is to reconnect to yourself and to discover who you are now — and remember that will change over time.

Change is normal during this time of transition, but you get to choose how you respond and what you choose to prioritise. When you choose to prioritise yourself, you’re choosing to prioritise your child’s mum. She’s worth it.

It’s normal to experience grief when a child comes out as transgender. Here’s some ways that parents can navigate the process.

Ambiguous loss is the grief parents feel when they lose a transgender child to the process of transitioning. It’s called ‘ambiguous’ because it is not the concrete, tangible loss that follows the physical death of a child. For that reason, ambiguous loss may leave parents with feelings of unresolved grief.

Grief and loss are natural feelings when confronted with a child’s transgender identity because it shatters traditional images of gender. What it means to be a man or woman, girl or boy, informs much of our behaviour. This is especially true in family relationships, where roles are based on a set of pre-determined expectations for how we are supposed to act.

How a parent responds to their child’s transgender identity is critical to whether the transitioning experience is a positive or negative one.

How a parent responds to their child’s transgender identity is critical to whether the transitioning experience is a positive or negative one. It is essential that parents reframe the way they feel about their child’s transitioning, from regret and sadness to excitement about what the future holds.

The process of transitioning often challenges parents’ traditional gender role stereotypes

It’s essential because transgender and gender diverse people experience incredibly high rates of mental health issues. LGBTIQ+ Health Australia’s April 2021 report provides some alarming statistics. Of 14 to 25-year-olds surveyed, 48% had attempted suicide, 79% had self-harmed, 74% were diagnosed with depression and 72% with anxiety. A staggering 90% of transgender people aged 14 to 21 reported high or very high levels of psychological distress.

Given these statistics, it’s clear that for transgender children family support can be the difference between life and death. This is supported by research which shows that gender-affirming behaviour by family members has a hugely positive impact on mental health.

Gender-affirming behaviour by family members has a hugely positive impact on mental health.

Parents act as models to their children, based on socially and culturally constructed gender roles. Before a child is born, parents have started planning the child’s future and, usually, it’s gendered. So, having an emotional response to such a big event as a child telling their parents they’re transgender is normal. It is reasonable for parents to grieve the loss of an imagined future.

Embracing a child’s nominated gender has a hugely positive impact on their mental wellbeing

A 2020 study looked at whether parents had an emotional experience, like mourning, to their child’s transition. It was found that parents’ reactions followed the typical grief response. Not understanding what their child was going through led parents to experience feelings of denial, fear, anger, and powerlessness.

What the study revealed was that parents who best overcame their grief had a support system in place. Involvement in transgender advocacy groups reinforced the fact that, despite being transgender, their child was the same child they’ve always known. Importantly, realising their child was happy with their chosen gender had a positive impact on parental resilience when dealing with the transition process.

Research shows that children who come out as transgender already have a strong sense of their identity … They know who they are because they’ve always felt like that.

Research shows that children who come out as transgender already have a strong sense of their identity, usually from a very early age. They know who they are because they’ve always felt like that. It is important that parents understand that children change their gender to fit their identity, their identity doesn’t change because their gender does.

A child’s identity does not change just because their gender does

While there may be things that parents had planned to do with their child that they can no longer do, they will discover many new and different ways to bond with and love their child such as joining their experimentation with new clothing, helping them choose a new name or pronouns.

It is possible to remain loving and supportive while simultaneously experiencing loss, sadness, fear and confusion. Working through these feelings takes time. Just as a child needs compassion and support to navigate the transitioning process, so do parents.

Here are some ways parents can support themselves and their transgender child:

  1. Don’t give in to fear. Fear can cause parents to push back or reject their child. This fear is underpinned by love, driven by a concern that the world is a harsh place for transgender people. Make sure the child knows they’re loved and supported.
  2. Encourage exploration. Gender exploration is a normal part of a child’s development. Give children the freedom to explore their emotions about gender before they consider a permanent change.
  3. Education is key. Get familiar with the information that is out there about gender expression. There are a lot of online resources available, such as Transcend, QLife, Rainbow Door, queerspace, and Transgender Victoria (TGV).
  4. Create a safe space. Transitioning takes a long time and can be difficult. Encourage the child to openly discuss their feelings so they feel safe and protected as they transition.
  5. Families need to transition, too. Each family member must shift their thinking and understanding. Take the time to process these thoughts and any feelings of loss.
  6. Seek help. Ensure access to a team of medical and mental health experts. Identify allies at school, so the child knows where to go for support if they are bullied or excluded.

Yes, having a trans child means questioning personal views on gender. And, yes, it usually involves a lot of – sometimes uncomfortable – discussions with friends, relatives and complete strangers about the process of transitioning and what it involves. These conversations can evoke strong feelings in others that parents should be prepared for.

While the world might not always be understanding, parents can be.

But, while the world might not always be understanding, parents can be. A child might wear different clothes and go by a different name, but they’re still the person you know and love.

An understanding parent makes a world of difference to a transgender child

It’s important to remember that a parent’s grief and loss is theirs, not their child’s. Accept these feelings for what they are: natural and normal reactions. Parents need to work with their feelings, not against them.

At the same time, parents need to support, comfort, and maintain an open dialogue with their transgender child as they work through the process together. Recognise their child’s bravery and show gratitude. Parent and child will be so much the better for it.

Lockdown sucks.

My heart goes out to anyone who is on the frontline, is struggling for work, is struggling with work and learning from home or who is separated from family. These times are challenging for everyone. I appreciate that I cannot possibly know or completely understand your personal circumstances, but I do appreciate that it can be tough. Really tough. You are being asked to do the impossible.

At my house, my husband is working long hours from home, often starting at 8am and not finishing until after 6pm. Our three children are learning from home and I’m trying to supervise, whilst doing my own work and keeping the house in some semblance of order. My younger two, who are still at primary school, obviously need the most input from me, whilst my eldest is reasonably self-sufficient but gets distracted; I have to check in a lot to make sure she’s on task and that she is remembering to take breaks from her screen. I seem to get one child started on an activity before another child finishes or has a problem with the laptop, or zoom, or spelling, or just loses focus, or is bored or hungry or just wants to see what everyone else is up to. In short, it’s not easy. We’d never ask a teacher to teach three classes at once, would we? And I know a lot of you are in a similar position.

It is true that there’s so much beyond your control and so much uncertainty, however, there is also a lot you can control. A very wise person (my grandma) once told me,

‘You can’t control everything all the time,

but you can always control your response.

There is your power.’

So, with that in mind, let’s look at 10 ways to love lockdown—or at least hate it less. After all, numerous mums lamented their lack of time and overall busy schedules before lockdown and I know many of them would have been delighted to press ‘pause’ on life. Now we are in a somewhat ‘paused’ state, it’s far from perfect, but there are some things we can do to make this time a positive one.

1. Schedule downtime

Plan a walk with a friend, a nap, a meditation session, a bath…whatever makes you feel better. Make an effort to prioritise it. It’s important to care for yourself as you care for your children.

2. Zoom party

Craving a catch up with the girls? We may not be able to meet in person at present, but what’s stopping you from inviting your friends to a virtual cocktail hour this Saturday night?

3. Differentiate the weekends

It can get a bit like Groundhog Day in lockdown. So, make an effort to make your weekends different. Go out as a family and do a long bush walk or bike ride. Have some fun with a family games afternoon, baking session, or even hide and seek (kick it up a notch by playing in the dark with torches). Order takeaway, dessert delivery or a box of Lego — everyone deserves to relax and have fun.

4. Get outside

I promise you’ll feel better. Fresh air is good for your mood and your soul, especially if it’s nice and sunny. Let the kids run and burn some energy. Move your body and breathe in the day. Bonus points if you can sit outside to meditate.

5. Enjoy a good book (or movie)

We all need a little escapism sometimes and whilst we can’t travel at the moment, the whole world awaits inside books. Or if you need something uplifting, consider a book more geared towards personal growth or positivity: Untamed by Glennon Doyle and Phosphorescence by Julia Baird are both great options for this.

6. Change your clothes

I don’t just mean change into clean clothes, I mean change out of your active wear, joggers or loungewear. Wear something that makes you feel great. Even choose to get dressed up for an at home date night. Or if you’re working from home, consider differentiating the day with your outfit by changing into loungewear when you’ve finished work for the day (and not before!).

7. Flexible work

Many employers understand the struggle of managing children at home and trying to work. If it’s getting too much for you, speak to your employer about adjusting your hours. Maybe you could work earlier in the day and then take a break to help with schooling before finishing later on. Or is there an option to reduce your hours temporarily? Or even take a day’s leave here and there.

8. Tag team with a partner

If you live with someone make sure you are sharing the workload. It’s easy to fall into habits and usually that means the mum doing the majority of the childcare and housework. Split it between you wherever you can.

9. Get up early 

It can be tempting to sleep in when you don’t need to rush out the door. But resist the temptation, get up and enjoy some time to yourself before you start the day. This is a time you can control. I love to meditate, journal and squeeze in a quick yoga session before my children are up, but you do what feels good to you. Maybe that’s a walk or run, or a coffee and a book.

10. Let go

Screen-time guilt and impossible schooling expectations aren’t helping you. These are unprecedented times and we need to be realistic about what’s achievable. If not, who suffers? You! And quite probably your children. Just try your best to let it go. This situation is temporary.

Overall, just try to be kind to yourself. You are being asked to do the impossible.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted.

Notice what you’re grateful for. Notice what you can control. It’s perfectly fine to be ok one day and then not the next. Just take it easy.  And remember, ‘You can’t control everything all the time, but you can always control your response. There is your power.’

Attachment styles are how you have learned to love and communicate with others from early childhood, and it could be affecting you more than you know.

Attachment styles in relationships can be the root cause of arguments, abandonment issues, toxic behaviour, a lack of intimacy and poor communication, to name only a handful. They can be the result of the demise of relationships or repetitive bad habits that seem impossible to break. All of this can result in a sense of hopelessness or confusion as to why these negative feelings or situations keep arising.

The basics of attachment theory are that an infant must form a secure bond with a responsive parent from a very early age. If the infant’s physical and emotional needs are met, they will create a ‘secure’ attachment to their caregiver. This sense of security is essential in early development as this will stay with the child into adult life. A secure attachment style provides the security to form healthy relationships, communicate and navigate the world with a sense of confidence.

The kicker is, only 60% of parents provide infants with a genuinely secure attachment style. A lack of secure attachment can lead to difficulty showing vulnerability, asking for help, receiving affection, or trusting a partner.

So, if you’re struggling to open up to your spouse or frustrated with your best friend for asking for help, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s just your insecure inner child.

So, what is your attachment style?

a couple sit cross legged next to one another one the road

There are four major attachment styles. Learning which one is yours may be the key to a healthier you and healthier relationships. People who identify and work with their attachment styles often have an easier time correcting negative behaviours. Your style is either:

1. Secure

As already mentioned, secure attachment styles generally have an easier time trusting and communicating their emotions. Therefore, giving and recieing affection usually isn’t an issue for secure types. As a secure type, chances are the lines of communication are pretty open for you in your relationships, and arguments do not easily arise.

2. Dismissive-avoidant

Perhaps you hate the feeling of relying on others, and when others are dependent on you, you think of them as ‘needy.’ Maybe over dinner your spouse has tried to peacefully resolve an unfinished argument from the week before. Instead of listening, you angrily accuse them of not letting go and shut down the conversation by leaving the table. It could be that you prioritise your career over your friendships, and as a result, you find yourself increasingly alone in life. These are self-preserving behaviours that can become toxic.

3. Anxious-preoccupied

Anxious attachment styles are often plagued with fears of abandonment. For example, you may wonder why your partner is being distant and moody, be convinced they are dissatisfied and worry that they are planning to leave you for something or someone better. These negative thoughts can quickly erupt into an argument. Maybe you are jealous and read your spouse’s text messages when they are asleep and later feel ashamed of your behaviour,

4. Fearful-avoidant

This attachment style is a combination of an anxious and avoidant attachment. For example, you might crave love and affection but feel uncomfortable receiving it. This can sometimes result in high-risk behaviours such as substance abuse and difficulty maintaining relationships.

Maybe you struggle to become close to people and can only maintain relationships under the influence of alcohol. You might self-sabotage by distancing yourself from others and look for affection in places you know you will not find it.

Doing an attachment style quiz might help you develop a sense of which feels more like yourself.

a couple sit next to one another on a couch

Attachment styles in relationships

At some point, you’ve encountered the term ‘law of attraction.’ The idea is that our positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative people into our world. Well, your attachment style may have more to do with this than you think.

If you fall into an anxious-avoidant or fearful-avoidant attachment style, maybe someone secure and dependable feels a little dull. Subconsciously, you can crave the unpredictability and chaos that you are used to receiving. Your caregivers might have been angry, dismissive of you, or made you feel like a burden, and yet, you loved them. Because this is what your internal blueprint of love is, it’s what you seek out in another partner.

For example, suppose you are an anxious person who craves love and fears abandonment. In that case, you may spend months or years waiting on an avoidant person to be committed in your relationship with no change. As a result, avoidant and anxious people frequently end up together. On the other hand, two highly avoidant people might spend time apart throwing themselves into their respective jobs and lack communication.

If unaware of your attachment style, it can be easy to enter relationships and friendships on autopilot and often not identify why the same problems are constantly encountered. It’s possible to repeat the same emotional habits throughout your life subconsciously. For example, anxiety, fear of abandonment, or a general lack of care can contribute to turmoil in friendships and marriages.

a couple sit next to one another outside. One is texting while the other tries to read over their shoulder

You can correct your attachment style

If this is all sounding a little depressing, don’t worry; attachment styles can be corrected. The best way to do this is by mindfully identifying how issues in relationships may be rooted in both party’s attachment styles. This gets to the heart of the problem and increases compassion and awareness for each person’s emotional needs.

The first step is to educate yourself and take an attachment style quiz, then read literature, self-reflect, and speak to a psychologist.

Other helpful tools are;

 1 . Meditation

Practices that increase mindfulness are invaluable in high-stress situations. Set aside time each day to do a mindfulness exercise or some breathwork. In the midst of difficult conversations, using these techniques helps regulate emotions to reflect on the issue properly.

2 . Journaling

Journaling is a great way to reflect on the past, your childhood, and things responsible for your stress, anxiety, or fears.

3. Practice self-care

Practicing self-care and learning to nurture yourself is crucial. Provide yourself with the love and care that may have been absent as a child, and you will be more equipped to provide this for others in your life.

4. Therapy

Lastly and most importantly, health care professionals recommend that you address your attachment style through therapy. Some psychologists specialize in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or trauma therapies. But, again, being open with a healthcare provider or doctor is the best way to find what you need.

Be gentle with yourself and the people that you care for. Often, unresolved trauma or neglect can be the root of obstacles in any relationship. Addressing this and healing can take time, patience and be hard work. Pushing through this to the other side will lead to more harmonious relationships and greater inner happiness.

a women sits on a therapists couch talking while the therapists hands are seen taking notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and are only becoming more common in our society. Melbourne mum of three, Jeanie, speaks on her experience watching her daughter develop an eating disorder at only 15 years old. She offers insight into how to heed the warning signs in your child.

For most, eating is a pleasant and sociable experience. However, this is not the case for one million Australians who suffer from an eating disorder. As a parent, it can be your worst nightmare watching this illness take control of your child’s life. 

This was the unfortunate reality for the loving mother of three, Jeanie, who lives in outer Melbourne along with her husband, where they spend their time going for walks with their two dogs and enjoying their quiet country town. Raising two sons and one daughter, Jeanie’s household was full of laughter and love. However, life became daunting once Jeanie began to experience the deterioration of her daughter, who developed an eating disorder at the early age of 15. 

Jeanie speaks openly about how it felt watching her daughter’s sudden switch in behaviour towards food and life in general. She shares her pain, “You feel like an absolute failure at parenting because this precious child was obviously suffering right in front of you and you just let it happen”.

“You feel like an absolute failure at parenting because this precious child was obviously suffering right in front of you and you just let it happen.”

The most lethal eating disorder, anorexia, is known for having one of the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric disorders, making it the most deadly mental illness. An Arcelus study recorded that there are 5.1 deaths per 1000 people with anorexia each year and it continues to grow. 

Jeanie’s daughter was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in 2016, after expressing concern in regards to her extreme weight loss.

Now more than ever, the after-effects of experiencing a pandemic and dealing with multiple lockdowns in Australia, has had an extreme influence on the number of eating disorders since pre-COVID. The number of new eating disorder cases increased by 34%, rising from a weekly average of 654 in 2020 to 878 in 2021. The Butterfly Foundation, a helpline for those struggling with eating disorders or body image issues, stated they have experienced “High volumes of calls due to the challenges of COVID for many people experiencing eating disorders”.

The unfortunate reality of this mental illness is that you cannot prevent it from taking over your child’s mind. Many parents, including Jeanie, have little control over their child’s eating disorder and how they choose to cope. However, it is possible to pick up on warning signs in the early stages of an eating disorder and provide help for your child before it spirals further. Disordered eating habits can be the first indicator/gateway into an eating disorder. 

Disordered eating vs Eating disorder

According to assistant professor Katie Loth, “Disordered eating is the most significant risk factor for the onset of an eating disorder.” It is important to distinguish the difference between both disordered eating and eating disorders. Those who have disordered eating habits do not always spiral into an eating disorder. However, it is still an extremely dangerous habit and can have similar lasting effects that of an eating disorder. 

“Disordered eating is the most significant risk factor for the onset of an eating disorder.” 

Disordered eating habits have become more normalised in society as people, including young children, find different ways to lose weight in hopes of achieving an unrealistic body standard. Jeanie speaks of warning signs she picked up on from her own experience with her daughter. “She had always been a great eater growing up, it wasn’t until a couple years into high school at her All Girls college when she started to shift.” Jeanie recalls moments where her daughter slowly stopped joining in on a family cheese platter, food she used to enjoy and asking for salads in her lunch. At first this may seem completely normal and somewhat healthy. However, it is essential to pay close attention to your child’s eating habits at all times and keep an eye out for warning signs. These signs can range from anything between physical and emotional indications. 

Physical signs

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight
  • Stomach complaints
  • Hair thinning
  • Changes in menstrual cycle (for girls)
  • Increased fatigue

Emotional signs

  • Preoccupied with food, calories and their body image
  • Limiting specific food groups (eg. carbs)
  • Withdrawing from social activities and any activities involving food (eg. dinners)
  • Anxious prior to or during eating times 

At first, Jeanie didn’t suspect her daughter’s actions to be an alarming behavioural change, but assumed she was “trying to act older” and was simply “too sophisticated for a sanga, banana and a little chocolate in her lunch”. 

Eventually, Jeanie started noticing that her daughter had grown a sudden willingness to take control of the food she was putting into her body, through diet and restriction.

Dieting

National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) affirm that “Dieting is one of the strongest predictors for the development of an eating disorder.” This can include anything from your child simply replacing meals for ‘healthier’ alternatives or restricting specific foods. This supports the false notion that certain food groups are ‘bad’ and should be avoided. It is important to stay mindful of this and ensure that food groups are not labelled as good or bad when educating children on the importance of nutrition and health. 

Motivation Behind Disordered Eating

It can be collectively agreed upon that the main intention behind disordered eating is the pressure to ‘look’ a certain way. Jeanie explains that once her daughter lost her “Pre-adolescent weight,” she began receiving an influx of compliments, which inevitably fed the motivation behind her disordered eating. Jeanie believes the focus on the “Selfie” and the “Beginning of the instagram age,” puts an immense amount of pressure on teenagers to focus on their appearance in ways that are damaging.

Pressure on Parents

Not only does disordered eating affect the lives of those who fall victim to the illness, but for their loved ones too. Jeanie expresses her times of hardship dealing with emotions of guilt, stress and worry regarding her daughter’s illness. “Of course, I blamed myself. There were times in my life where I had ‘cut carbs’ or fasted or whatever. Had she watched me do that and learned dieting behaviour?” Not only did this cause Jeanie an extreme amount of anxiety, but she also found herself growing annoyed with her daughter during this time. “It was very, very frustrating. There were times when I wanted to yell, ‘Just f****** eat the cake!!!’ or whatever it was”. 

“Of course, I blamed myself. There were times in my life where I had ‘cut carbs’ or fasted or whatever. Had she watched me do that and learned dieting behaviour?”

Fortunately, Jeanie’s daughter is slowly recovering after six long years of dealing with this horrible illness. Despite still struggling with health issues related to liver function and a weakened immune system as a result of her eating disorder, Jeanie’s daughter is growing stronger mentally and physically every day. 

No one is safe from this illness. Anyone can fall victim to disordered eating and can eventually develop an eating disorder at any stage in their lives, despite their relationship with food. Disordered eating habits are all around us and it is our responsibility as a society to pick up on these unnatural behaviours, put a stop to it and ensure it does not progress any further.

Jeanie shares a piece of advice she urges parents to take on board: “Jump on it! Educate yourself and trust your instincts. The earlier the intervention, the earlier you can start removing this monster from your loved ones’ heads, because it can spiral so quickly”. 

Jeanie and Phoebe, January 2019.

If you or a loved one are struggling with any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact Butterfly Helpline. Be sure to confide in your friends, family or anyone willing to listen for support.