What You Should Know About the Link Between Anxiety and Self-Harm

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Side view of woman standing in field of tall red poppiesWhile many people are much more aware of anxiety now than in the past, some details and symptoms still aren’t as commonly discussed.

One lesser-known symptom of anxiety is the urge to self-harm. Not all or even most people who experience anxiety will have these urges, and there are people who self-harm who do not struggle with anxiety. Yet, when anxiety and self-harm co-occur, it may be crucial to a person’s well-being and safety to identify the issue in order to connect with help.

Can Anxiety Cause Self-Harm?

It’s very possible for anxiety to spark urges to self-harm. Self-harm is frequently associated with a sense of release from overwhelming emotions or situations in those who engage in the behavior. Since anxiety is characterized by a sense of feeling overwhelmed or worried about not being able to handle life situations, self-harm acts can bring relief from anxious feelings. While anxiety does not always lead to self-harm, studies have shown people who engage in self-harm are more likely to experience anxiety and vice-versa.

Types of Anxiety That May Lead to Self-Harm

Certain types of anxiety may be more likely to lead to self-harm than others:

  • Social anxiety: This type of anxiety is characterized by an intense fear or worry of being judged by others. Studies have shown that this type of anxiety has a high likelihood of leading to self-harm behaviors.
  • Generalized anxiety: General anxiety is a constant sense of worry or stress in the long-term that doesn’t seem to have one specific cause. This type of anxiety has also been shown to have a higher chance of leading to self-harm behaviors.

While obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was once listed as an anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the DSM-5 lists it as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although OCD is now technically in a different category than anxiety, is may frequently co-occur with anxiety and has been known to cause self-harm.

One type of OCD, known as harm OCD, can cause intense fear of hurting oneself or others. While this anxiety about harming oneself may be severe and vivid, those with harm OCD are thought to be no more likely to act on their thoughts of self-harm than someone without harm OCD.

Why Is Anxiety Connected to Self-Harm?

Anxiety is frequently accompanied by overwhelming feelings of worry, racing thoughts, and sometimes panic attacks. This can make people with anxiety feel they’ve completely lost control of their minds and bodies. They may turn to self-harm in order to focus their mind outside of their racing thoughts or worries, or they may use it as a way to regain feeling if they’ve begun to feel numb from long-term anxiety.

Alternatively, self-harm is sometimes used out of anger. People with anxiety may feel frustrated or mad at themselves for not being able to keep their anxious thoughts under control or that they can’t “fix” themselves. In this case, self-harm may not be done for the purpose of relief, but as self-inflicted punishment. Self-harm used in anger can be especially damaging, as it isn’t a coping mechanism, but a sign of deeper emotional struggle.

Self-harming thoughts often lead to self-harming behaviors in an effort to either feel relief, feel pain, or punish oneself.

Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC, a therapist in Clarkston, Michigan, notices that self-harm may tend to occur with social anxiety. She explains,

“In my clinical practice with teenagers, I often see self-harming behaviors co-occur with social anxiety. Those who experience social anxiety are afraid that they will be judged by others and often that belief is validated because they lack social skills and social confidence to create friendships or engage with others.

When you feel like no one is your friend, and you are too afraid to speak to anyone, you tend to feel poorly about yourself. Low self-worth then leads to self-critical, irrational thoughts presuming we are “bad” and “stupid” and “no one likes us.” Self-harming thoughts often lead to self-harming behaviors in an effort to either feel relief, feel pain, or punish oneself.

I tend to view harming behaviors as coping strategies of choice for people who view themselves with a severely critical eye. Add in a sprinkling of social anxiety or limited social skills and we have a combination for continued harm.”

It’s important to note that anxiety can lead to multiple forms of self-harm that aren’t always what people typically think of. The stereotyping around self-harm as a form of “attention seeking” or something people do when they’re into a certain type of music has deeply damaged our society’s ability to recognize self-harming behaviors in some cases.

Anxiety and Personality Disorders As a Cause of Self-Harm

In addition to anxiety, some some studies show that certain personality disorders may have a higher likelihood of leading to self-harm. Some of these disorders are closely linked to anxiety and may co-occur, and some can lead to self-harming behaviors independent of anxious thoughts or feelings.

Some disorders that have been linked to self-harm include:

At the end of the day, regardless of the cause, people who are engage in destructive self-harming behavior should not try to overcome these patterns alone. They’re a maladaptive coping mechanism, and while they can be painful and scary, there is hope. With the help of a licensed mental health professional and plenty of love and encouragement from friends and family, people can learn to manage their anxiety and overcome their self-harm behaviors.


  1. Bhandari, S. (2018, February 21). Mental health and self-injury. Retrieved from
  2. Bolton, J., Chartrand, H., Sareen, K., & Toews, M. (2011, September 21). Suicide attempts versus nonsuicidal self‐injury among individuals with anxiety disorders in a nationally representative sample. Depression and Anxiety, 29(3), 172-179. doi: 10.1002/da.20882
  3. Klonsky, E. D., Oltmanns, T., Turkheimer, E. (2003, August 1). Deliberate self-harm in a nonclinical population: Prevalence and psychological correlates. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(8), 1501-1508. Retrieved from
  4. Living with harm OCD: What’s going on? (n.d.). Retrieved from
  5. O’Connor, R., Rasmussen, S., & Hawton, K. (2009). Predicting depression, anxiety and self-harm in adolescents: The role of perfectionism and acute life stress. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 84(1), 52-59. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.09.008
  6. Pierce, L. (2018, April 21). OCD, Self Injury, and Suicidal Thoughts. Retrieved from
  7. Self-harm. (2018, May 25). Retrieved from

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Avoidant Personality and Social Anxiety: What’s the Difference?

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The silhouette of a person standing in a field of yellow mustard flowers.Social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder share some common features, but they are separate mental health conditions. Because the two conditions appear similar in many ways, it’s not uncommon for people to mistake one for the other.

Sometimes simply getting help is more important than having a specific diagnosis. But some people also find it beneficial to know what’s affecting them. In some cases, the best approach to treatment differs for separate mental health issues, so misdiagnosis can affect treatment and make it harder for a person to improve.

Social anxiety, or social phobia, is a specific type of anxiety characterized by a fear of social situations. People with social anxiety worry about embarrassing themselves in public or doing something that will cause others to judge them negatively. It’s fairly common for people to feel nervous about doing something embarrassing in public, but the feelings of fear and anxiety that occur with social phobia can become so distressing they cause difficulty at work, school, or other parts of daily life. About 75% of people with social anxiety are between the ages of 8 and 15 when diagnosed.

Avoidant personality disorder is a cluster C personality disorder. Personality disorders are a specific kind of mental health issue where patterns of thought and behavior affect daily life, and those with personality disorders often experience difficulty in professional and personal life because they have a hard time understanding other people and common situations.

Levana Slabodnick, LISW-S, a therapist in Columbus, Ohio, notices one difference between social anxiety and avoidant personality may lie in how a person views their own experience. She explains, “A fundamental difference between social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder relates to how the sufferer perceives their own pain. Those with anxiety understand on a basic level that their anxiety is irrational and that the world doesn’t judge them as harshly as they judge themselves. Those with APD, on the other hand, lack this insight. They hold deep rooted feelings of insecurity and worthlessness that they believe to be factual.”

People with avoidant personality often feel socially awkward and inferior to others. They tend to be very sensitive to criticism and rejection and often avoid making friends or participating in social events unless they are sure of their welcome. Feelings of shame or self-loathing are more strongly associated with avoidant personality than social anxiety. This condition is not often diagnosed in children, though it often develops in childhood.

Avoidant Personality Disorder vs. Social Anxiety

Social anxiety and avoidant personality share an intense fear of being embarrassed or judged in social situations. People might describe a person with either condition as shy, timid, awkward, or fearful.

Fear associated with these conditions can present in many ways, such as:

  • Avoiding social situations
  • Avoiding interactions with strangers
  • Low self-esteem
  • Shyness or timidity around other people
  • Isolation from others or complete social withdrawal

Debate over whether avoidant personality is a more severe type of social anxiety exists among mental health experts. According to the fifth edition of the DSM, these issues are often diagnosed together and can overlap to the point where they might seem like different presentations of the same concern. But while avoidant personality typically involves patterns of avoidance in most or all areas of life, social anxiety may only involve avoidance in a few specific situations. The DSM continues to categorize them separately.

Debate over whether avoidant personality is a more severe type of social anxiety exists among mental health experts.

The two issues continue to share similarities when it comes to risk factors. Genetic and environmental factors can contribute to the development of either condition. Avoidance can be a learned response. People might begin to avoid social situations after a negative experience, for example. Being shy as a child can also increase the likelihood a person will go on to develop social anxiety or avoidant personality, though being shy does not necessarily mean a person will develop either issue for certain.

Experiencing abuse, trauma, bullying, or other negative events in childhood can increase risk for both social anxiety and avoidant personality. But neglect, particularly physical neglect, is a significant risk factor for avoidant personality. A 2015 study comparing the two conditions found that having disinterested caregivers, feeling rejected by caregivers, or not having enough affection in childhood was more common in people with avoidant personality.

Certain risk factors do differ between the two conditions:

  • Some research has suggested avoidant personality may be more likely when someone’s physical appearance changes after illness.
  • Research suggests brain structure may contribute to anxiety. If your amygdala, which is believed to help regulate your response to fear, is very active, you may experience greater anxiety in certain situations than other people do.
  • Having a parent or sibling with social anxiety makes it 2-6 times more likely a person will develop the condition, according to the DSM-5.

Should I Get Treatment for Social Anxiety or APD?

Therapy is generally recommended for both avoidant personality and social anxiety. Only a mental health professional can diagnose mental health issues. If you think you might have symptoms of either avoidant personality or social anxiety, making an appointment with a qualified therapist or counselor can be a good place to start.

Letting any potential counselors know your particular symptoms and describing your specific experience can help them decide whether they’re qualified to help you. Not every therapist has experience treating every mental health condition, but an ethical therapist will always let you know if they think another therapist might be more helpful.

Social anxiety is often treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy helps you identify thoughts that cause distress and affect you negatively. Once you identify them, you learn how to change them. You can do CBT alone, but some people find group therapy helpful.

Exposure-based CBT is a specific approach to CBT where you slowly expose yourself to feared situations. This approach often involves skills practice or role-playing techniques, both of which can help people get more comfortable interacting with others in the safe space of therapy.

According to a 2015 study, performing random acts of kindness for others led to a decrease in symptoms of social anxiety in study participants after 4 weeks.

While therapy can have great benefit, sometimes social anxiety doesn’t improve right away. If you are working with a counselor and still experience significant difficulty in your daily life, a psychiatrist may recommend medication, such as:

Anxiety medication can help relieve some symptoms of social anxiety, but it’s a good idea to continue with therapy at the same time, as therapy helps you learn how to cope with what you’re experiencing. This can have a more lasting effect on your symptoms.

Many people believe personality disorders are not treatable, but this isn’t the case. They can be difficult to treat, especially if you’ve had symptoms for a long time. But therapy can still be very helpful. People with avoidant personality often seek treatment when they experience loneliness and distress as a result of being unable to participate in social events.

Research has shown people with avoidant personality may do better in therapy if they have the support of family members.

Any kind of talking therapy can be helpful for avoidant personality. CBT is commonly used to treat this condition, but other helpful approaches include family and group therapy. Research has shown people with avoidant personality may do better in therapy if they have the support of family members. Group therapy can help people learn how to develop relationship and communication skills in a safe space, and it’s often recommended for treating personality disorders.

There’s no specific medication used to treat avoidant personality. However, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help relieve some severe symptoms.


Social anxiety and avoidant personality have some similarities, and some approaches to treatment may be similar. Regardless of which condition you have, therapy can help. It’s important to reach out for help if you’re struggling with social situations. When social anxiety or avoidant personality go untreated, complications like depression, isolation, and substance abuse can develop. Some people may experience significant loneliness and distress.

Talking to a therapist can help you get a diagnosis. But you’ll also begin to learn ways to cope with the feelings you experience and explore methods of overcoming these feelings. Therapy can help you become more used to the company of others. In time, you may find it easier to participate in social situations.

If you need help finding a counselor in your area, our therapist directory is a good place to start. Remember, you aren’t alone!


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 103-110.
  2. Anxiety disorders. (2017, December 15). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from
  3. Avoidant personality disorder. (2017, November 20). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from
  4. Eikenaes, I., Egeland, J., Hummelen, B., & Wilberg, T. (2015, March 27). Avoidant personality disorder versus social phobia: The significance of childhood neglect. PLoS One, 10(5). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122846
  5. Kvarnstorm, E. (2016, April 6). Avoidant personality disorder goes beyond social anxiety. Bridges to Recovery. Retrieved from
  6. Lampe, L. (2016). Avoidant personality disorder as a social anxiety phenotype: Risk factors, associations and treatment. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 29(1), 64-69. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000211
  7. Personality disorders. (2016, September 23). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from
  8. Smith, K. (2018, November 19). Avoidant personality disorder. Retrieved from
  9. Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). (2017, August 29). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from
  10. Trew, J. L., & Alden, L. E. (2015, June 5). Kindness reduces avoidance goals in socially anxious people. Motivation and Emotion, 39(6), 892–907. Retrieved from

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Yes, It’s Okay If You Are Still a Virgin

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Silhouette of a hand and rose before a sunset.Losing your virginity can be a rite of passage signaling a transition from childhood to adulthood. For some people, having sex for the first time is an act of committed love. For others, the loss of virginity is a path to greater sexual pleasure and personal fulfillment. In a sex-saturated culture in which everyone is expected to have and enjoy sex, virginity may be stigmatized—especially for adults.

Virginity is a cultural construct. It means different things in different societies, and its definition has shifted with time. Most studies and many people define loss of virginity as having penile-vaginal intercourse for the first time. Yet this is a heteronormative definition of sex that excludes many sex acts.

Virginity is not a medical term. You cannot tell if someone is a virgin by looking at their hymen, penis, or other genitalia. Since there are many definitions of sex, there is no single, clinical definition of a virgin. The very notion of virginity or virginity stigma depends on a social construct, not a biological one.

The Stigma of the V-Card

Virginity comes in many forms. Some virgins may be eager to have sex, but unable to find the right partner. Others may be comfortable waiting, while quietly worrying that their inexperience means something is wrong with them. Some people remain virgins because of a lack of interest in sex. Asexual and aromantic people may face both virginity stigma and sexual minority stigma.

Some examples of virginity stigma include:

  • The idea that everyone wants to lose their virginity, and that people who remain virgins remain so because they cannot find a partner.
  • Shame about remaining a virgin.
  • Viewing virgins as categorically different from non-virgins.
  • Using “virgin” as an insult or a way to bully someone.

Virginity stigma is often gendered. Traditional notions of masculinity demand boys and men be very sexually active. Men who are unable or unwilling to conform to this norm may feel ashamed and self-conscious. Some men may engage in aggressive sexual behavior in an attempt to get partners to have sex with them.

Women often face conflicting pressures around sex. Some religions prize virginity in women. Some cultures and families even demand virginity, using virginity pledges and virginity balls as a way to encourage girls and women to abstain from sex. Yet women may also feel pressure to hew to their romantic partner’s desires and face criticism for putting up boundaries. Women who are interested in sex may feel ashamed of their desires, while others may be pressured into sex before they are ready.

More People Are Making Their Sexual Debut as Adults

When you’re anxious about still being a virgin, it can feel like everyone else is having sex. Media depictions of rampant sexual activity don’t help. Yet research actually shows that more people are remaining virgins for longer.

The average age of loss of virginity is around 17 years old for both males and females. However, fewer high school students are having sex. In 2007, 47.8% of high schoolers had had sex. By 2017, the figure had dropped to 39.5%. Research published in 2005 found that, among adults age 25-44, 97% of men and 98% of women have had vaginal intercourse. Research published in 2013 found 1 to 2% of adults remain virgins into their forties.

Most people assume others are having more sex and are more sexually experienced than they are, which is usually not the case.Young people today have less sex than the youth of two previous generations. A 2017 study found that, on average, they have sex nine fewer times per year than young people did a generation ago. Today’s young people are also on track to have fewer sexual partners.

Rachel Keller, LCSW-C, CST, a Maryland therapist who helps individuals and couples with sex and intimacy concerns, says perceptions often do not match reality.

“Most people assume others are having more sex and are more sexually experienced than they are, which is usually not the case. Young men in particular tend to assume that everyone else has had sex but them. They feel ashamed and wonder how they can possibly tell a future partner that they are a virgin. Once they finally have the conversation, they realize it’s not nearly as big of a deal as they thought. Being confident in who you are, open-minded, and generous are more important in creating a positive sexual relationship than the amount of experience you have,” she explains.

Some people may feel so ashamed of their sexual inexperience that they lie about their sexual history. This can actually compound stigma by contributing to the illusion that people are having more sex than they actually are. Additionally, anxiety about sex can make a person’s loss of virginity stressful and less pleasurable than it might otherwise be.

When people feel ashamed of their perceived inexperience, they may feel uncomfortable communicating with partners about their sexual history, preferences, or needs. This can make sex less enjoyable.

How Therapy Can Help With Virginity Stigma

Virginity is not a psychological problem. There is no “normal” age at which to have sex or appropriate amount of sex to have. Yet misleading and conflicting social norms about sex can lead to a toxic stew of self-doubt, sexual shame, mistaken notions about sexuality, and relationship frustration.

Therapy can help people navigate these complex issues. A therapist can work with a person to identify and understand their own values and sexual goals. For example, a person raised in a family that demanded virginity might interrogate this norm, then decide whether they wish to embrace or reject it.

A couples counselor can help couples who struggle with virginity stigma. For example, a couple who waits until marriage to have sex may need support to talk about sex and feel comfortable losing their virginity. Or a couple in which only one partner is a virgin may need to master sexual communication to reduce shame around virginity.

Some other ways a therapist can help include:

  • Destigmatizing virginity with education and research about typical sexual behavior.
  • Discussing issues of sexual identity and orientation. Some people remain virgins because they are asexual or aromantic. Others worry they can’t be certain of their identity until they have sex.
  • Supporting a person to talk about sex with their partners and identify sexual acts with which they are comfortable.
  • Encouraging a client to draw their own sexual boundaries rather than relying on the sexual boundaries that friends, family, or society want them to draw.
  • Talking about issues of self-esteem, shame, and gender norms.

Therapy can play a key role in helping sexually inexperienced people prepare for a healthy sexual relationship. When a person does not want to have sex at all, therapy can support them in embracing that identity and pushing back against stigma.

You can find a therapist here.


  1. FAQs and sex information. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Fewer U.S. high school students having sex, using drugs. (2018, June 14). Retrieved from
  3. Haydon, A. A., Cheng, M. M., Herring, A. H., McRee, A., & Halpern, C. T. (2013). Prevalence and predictors of sexual inexperience in adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(2), 221-230. Retrieved from
  4. No such thing as virginity, author says. (2010, August 3). Retrieved from
  5. Twenge, J. M., Sherman, R. A., & Wells, B. E. (2017). Declines in sexual frequency among American adults, 1989-2014. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(8), 2389-2401. Retrieved from
  6. Virginity and the hymen myth. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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Frequent Problem Behavior in Your Child? This Might Be Why

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Having to deal with problem behavior in your child can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless. But what if this behavior was sparked by anxiety?

A number of studies have found that children’s inability to process difficult emotions often leads to what commonly comes across as “problem” behavior. This may look like uncontrollable tantrums, unpredictability and impulsiveness, extreme clinginess, an inability to do what is expected (for example, an inability to follow simple instructions in school or at home), developmental difficulties, uncontrollable anger, extreme reactions, defiance and aggressive or dangerous behavior that puts your child or those around him in danger.

There is now solid evidence that the behavior of children suffering from high anxiety closely resembles that of children with behavioral disorders.1 What this means is that a child unable to manage her anxiety may be diagnosed as suffering from common disruptive behavior disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Part of the problem associated with misdiagnosis lies in the fact that it is not always easy to establish what drives your child’s behavior. When dealing with a violent or extremely disruptive child, it may be difficult to make the connection between anxiety and the behavior displayed. In other words, a highly anxious child will not tell you that he doesn’t want to go for his swimming class because he doesn’t know how to swim and is scared of making a fool out of himself. What he is likely to do is go into defense mode to avoid that class, and this may translate into disruptive behavior, aggressive behavior toward his classmates, disrespect and a refusal to follow instructions, and so on. In reality, all these are simply attempts to escape his swimming lessons.

Problem behavior is often an attempt to escape from anxiety-provoking situations and other difficult emotions associated with such situations. By this I mean that although anxiety may be the primary emotion experienced, other secondary emotions such as fear, panic or shame can also develop alongside the primary emotion.

That said, all hope is not lost. Indeed, being aware that anxiety or other strong emotions may be behind your child’s behavior is a great starting point to help you deal with problem behavior more effectively.

Here are three things you can start doing today to better manage the impact of emotions on your child’s behavior:

1) Get the conversation about emotions going.

How would you define frustration? Emotions are not always easy to put into words, even for adults; imagine how hard it can be for your child to navigate big emotions. The first and most important thing to do is to teach her about different emotions using age-appropriate techniques. She needs to know that she is safe to express her emotions.

Appropriate techniques for kids include games, holding conversations around characters in the book she’s reading (“He sure looks sad”), asking the right kind of questions (“what made you happy today?” talking about your own emotions (I was sad when…), and so on.

2) Learn to anticipate anxiety-provoking issues.

The thing with anxiety is that it’s pretty good at hiding, but there are always ways to get around it. The easiest way is to pay close attention to your child’s behavior in order to determine anxiety-triggering situations. It is always easier to deal with a highly anxious child before the situation gets out of hand. What you need to remember is that just like in adults, there is a strong link between anxiety and a need for reassurance — You matter, no matter what!

Ultimately, teaching your child to identify how his body feels when he’s feeling anxious is a great way to help him learn to identity and manage anxiety by himself.

3) Teach your child to succeed on her own.

Dealing appropriately with strong emotions is about having a set of tools, some form of “tool box” that your child can use any time she needs to. Help your child identify appropriate responses to anxiety. Help her come up with “power cards” that give her a visual example of how she can deal with anxiety. Let her know that she has what it takes to deal with strong emotions by herself. No one said this will be easy, but by taking small steps toward the development of your child’s emotional intelligence, she is bound to get there.

Anxiety in children is a very common phenomenon and often lessens with time as your child learns to better react to difficult situations. That said, it can also be a sign of a more serious problem. Please seek professional help if none of your attempts seem to be working or if you feel unable to manage this behavior on your own.

Frequent Problem Behavior in Your Child? This Might Be Why


  1. Moskowitz , L.J., Walsh, C.E., Mulder, E., McLaughlin, D.M., Hajcak, G., Carr, E.G., & Zarcone, J.R. (2017). Intervention for Anxiety and Problem Behavior in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(12): 3930-3948.Retrieved from []

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Feeling Completely and Utterly Alone Because You Have a Mental Illness? This Can Help

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You have a mental illness, and you feel incredibly alone. Intellectually, you know that you are one of millions of people who also have a mental illness—people who also have depression or an anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

You know that you’re not the only person on this planet to be in pain.

But it doesn’t matter. Because it looks like everyone around you is just fine. You’re the only one who has a hard time getting out of bed, who feels overwhelmed by everything, no matter how small. You’re the only one who feels like an impostor and a fraud. You’re the only one who feels irritable and on edge for no reason. You’re the only one who can’t seem to get through the day. You’re the only one who has strange, sad, uncomfortable and cruel thoughts.

But you’re not. You’re really not.

Sheva Rajaee, MFT, is the founder of the Center for Anxiety and OCD in Irvine, Calif. She’s lost count of the number of times a client has started a session by saying: “I know you hear things every day, but this one is really weird.” When the client shares their “gruesome or socially unacceptable thought,” Rajaee’s face barely registers surprise.


“…[B]ecause I’ve had the experience of seeing thousands of clients, which means thousands of thoughts. I’ve come to understand that if the brain can think it, the brain can obsess about it, and that everyone experiences dark thoughts and scary feelings,” Rajaee said.

Kevin Chapman, Ph.D, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders in Louisville, Kentucky. His clients regularly tell him that they’re the only ones who feel afraid to go into a carwash, they’re the only ones who freak out at Target, they’re the only ones who feel like they’re dying, and they’re the only ones who are dwelling inside a bubble while everyone else is actually living their lives.

Rosy Saenz-Sierzega, Ph.D, is a counseling psychologist who works with individuals, couples and families in Chandler, Ariz. Her clients have told her: “I know everyone knows what it’s like to be sad, but being depressed is much worse…it’s like the darkest shade of black…it’s like a 100-foot pit that I have fallen into and there is no way out. I’m in there, alone, and I know I can’t get out.” “I can’t even describe what I feel to my friends because they just think I’m exaggerating.” “Being around people is just too difficult, but being alone means it’s only me and my dark thoughts.” “I feel like I have an emptiness I can never fill; I can’t ever deeply connect with anyone because they will never know what it’s like to be me…in my head.”

According to Chris Kingman, LCSW, a therapist who specializes in individual and couples therapy in New York City, “thoughts like ‘I’m the only one….’ or ‘I’m alone in this…’ are cognitive distortions. They are irrational.”

We tend to automatically generate these kinds of thoughts when we’re feeling vulnerable and are in an unsupportive environment,” he said. Sadly, while it’s getting much better, as a whole, our society isn’t very supportive of people with mental illness. That’s “because most people have not had sufficient education about mental health and illness; and [they] feel uncomfortable when faced with others’ mental health struggles.”

Cognitive distortions also are part and parcel of illnesses like depression and anxiety. For instance, Saenz-Sierzega noted that “depression creates a severely negative view of the self, the world and of one’s future—which frequently includes feeling as though no one can possibly understand what you are going through, how you feel, and how to help. [And this makes] it that much harder to seek help.”

While seeking support is certainly challenging, it’s not impossible. And it’s the very thing that will make a huge difference in how you feel and in how you see yourself. So if you’re feeling alone and like a massive outcast, these suggestions can help.

Validate your feelings. Acknowledge, and accept how you’re feeling, without judging yourself. Honor it. “The experience of having a mental health disorder of any kind can be emotionally and physically draining, and even with all the help in the world there will be days when you feel down and alone. This is normal,” Rajaee said.

Revise your self-talk. Kingman stressed the importance of not telling ourselves that we’re alone (or inferior or broken or wrong), because “feelings aren’t facts.” As he said, you might feel alone, and inferior and broken and wrong—and that’s a valid experience, as any emotion is—but these emotions don’t reveal some end-all, be-all truth.

“The issue is that you feel vulnerable and insecure, and you need support but you’re afraid of judgment and rejection.”

Kingman encouraged readers to record your thoughts in a journal. Specifically, observe how you talk to yourself, “catch” yourself when your thoughts are critical or demeaning, and replace these thoughts with constructive, compassionate, supportive self-talk, he said.

Seek therapy. If you’re not seeing a therapist already, it’s vital to find one you trust, Saenz-Sierzega said. A therapist will not only normalize your feelings and help you better understand how your mental illness manifests and functions, but they’ll also help you build a healthier self-image and learn effective coping tools and strategies.

“The gift of mental illness is that if navigated well, you come out a survivor,” Rajaee said. “The same tools and coping strategies you have had to learn through treatment give you a resilience that makes other challenges in life more doable.”

You can start your search for a therapist here.

Reach out. This is a powerful way to “get outside of your own head,” Saenz-Sierzega said. “Surround yourself with person(s) who love you, know your worth, and appreciate you for who you are.” Talk to them about how you’re feeling.

Join an in-person or online support group. For instance, Kingman suggested participating in 12-step recovery groups. They “are free and there are many groups in every city for so many human issues, like alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, relationships, emotions, over-spending, and more. Lots of acceptance, support and solidarity in these groups for human suffering, diagnoses [and] struggles.”

Also, check out the online depression communities Project Hope & Beyond and Group Beyond Blue.

Rajaee suggested finding online forums with people who’ve been through what you’re experiencing. Psych Central features a variety of forums.

Another option is a therapy group, “where the experience of being human and the struggle of having a mental health disorder is normalized and where you are celebrated for your strength and resilience,” Rajaee said.

Finally, Saenz-Sierzega suggested texting “home” to 741741.

Listen to sound mental health information and relatable stories. “[I]f you’re not ready for [therapy, or want to expand your knowledge], start with a podcast on mental illness to get familiar with how to even talk about it and to learn what helps others,” said Saenz-Sierzega.

She recommended Savvy Psychologist and the Mental Illness Happy Hour. Psych Central also has two excellent podcasts called A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic and a Podcast, and The Psych Central Show.

Read inspiring stories. “To alleviate human suffering, we need solidarity with others who are suffering and working on their own process,” Kingman said. He recommended reading the book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Psychologist David Susman has a blog series called “Stories of Hope,” where individuals share their mental health challenges and the lessons they’ve learned.

Psych Central also features numerous blogs written by individuals who live with mental illness.

Create a list of comforting things. Your list might include activities, movies, songs or photos that make you laugh or spark a fond memory, Saenz-Sierzega said. Turn to something on your list when you’re having a hard time. Let it “remind you of who you are and who you are fighting for.”

Mental illness is common. If you just look at anxiety disorders, the stats are staggering. They affect about 40 million individuals per year, Chapman said. Forty million. Maybe this is reassuring to you. Maybe it’s not. Because your soul feels alone.

This is when reaching out is critical. This is when talking to someone face to face or in an online forum is critical. Because this is when your soul actually hears the truth: You are not alone. You are absolutely not alone.

Feeling Completely and Utterly Alone Because You Have a Mental Illness? This Can Help

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CBD Oil for Depression, Schizophrenia, ADHD, PTSD, Anxiety, Bipolar & More

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You can extract over 70 different components from a marijuana plant, technically known as cannabis sativa. Two of the most common constituents are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (known colloquially as THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Because CBD is not as regulated as THC (though may be technically illegal under federal laws), nor does it provide any accompanying “high” as THC does, it has become increasingly marketed as a cure-all for virtually any ailment. You can now find CBD oil products online to treat everything from back pain and sleep problems, to anxiety and mental health concerns.

How effective is CBD oil in the treatment of mental disorder symptoms?

Unlike it’s sister THC, CBD doesn’t have any of the associated negative side effects of tolerance or withdrawal (Loflin et al., 2017). CBD is derived from the cannabis plant, and shouldn’t be confused with synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists like K2 or spice.

Because of its relatively benign nature and more lax legal status, CBD has been more widely studied by researchers in both animals and humans. As researchers Campos et al. (2016) noted, “The investigation of the possible positive impact of CBD in neuropsychiatric disorders began in the 1970s. After a slow progress, this subject has been showing an exponential growth in the last decade.”

Research has shown that CBD oil may be effective as a treatment for a variety of conditions and health concerns. Scientific studies demonstrate effectiveness of CBD to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with: glaucoma, epilepsy, pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. It appears to help some people with gut diseases, such as gastric ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome as well (Maurya & Velmurugan, 2018).

You can find low-end and high-end CBD oil products. The most popular CBD oil product on retails for around $25 and contains only 250 mg of CBD extract.


In a pilot randomized placebo-controlled study of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a positive effect was only found on the measurements of hyperactivity and impulsivity, but not on the measurement of attention and cognitive performance (Poleg et al., 2019). The treatment used was a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD, one of the common CBD treatments being studied along with CBD oil on its own. This finding suggests more research is needed before using CBD oil for help with ADHD symptoms.


There are a number of studies that have found that CBD reduces self-reported anxiety and sympathetic arousal in non-clinical populations (those without a mental disorder). Research also suggests it may reduce anxiety that was artificially induced in an experiment with patients with social phobia, according to Loflin et al. (2017).


A review of the literature published in 2017 (Loflin et al.) could find no study that examined CBD as a treatment for depression specifically. A mouse study the researchers examined found that mice treated with CBD acted in a way similar to the way they acted after receiving an antidepressant medication. Therefore, there is virtually little to no research support for the use of CBD oil as a treatment for depression.


Loflin et al. (2017) only found a single CBD study conducted on sleep quality:

Specifically, 40, 80, and 160 mg CBD capsules were administered to 15 individuals with insomnia. Results suggested that 160 mg CBD was associated with an overall improvement in self-reported sleep quality.


There are currently two human trials currently underway that are examining the impact of both THC and CBD on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. One is entitled Study of Four Different Potencies of Smoked Marijuana in 76 Veterans With PTSD and the second is entitled Evaluating Safety and Efficacy of Cannabis in Participants With Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The first study is expected to be completed this month, while the second should be completed by year’s end. It can take up to a year (or more) after a study has been completed before its results are published in a journal.

Bipolar Disorder & Mania

The depressive episode of bipolar disorder has already been covered in the depression section (above). What about CBD oil’s impact on bipolar disorder’s manic or hypomanic episodes?

Sadly, this has not yet been studied. What has been studies is cannabis use on the effect of bipolar disorder symptoms. More than 70 percent of people with bipolar disorder have reported trying cannabis, and around 30 percent use it regularly. However, such regular use is associated with earlier onset of bipolar disorder, poorer outcomes, and fluctuations in a person’s cycling patterns and severity of manic or hypomanic episodes (Bally et al., 2014).

More research is needed to see whether supplementing CBD oil might help alleviate some of the negative impact of cannabis use. And additional research is needed to examine whether CBD oil on its own might provide some benefits to people with bipolar disorder.


Compared to the general population, individuals with schizophrenia are twice as likely to use cannabis. This tends to result in a worsening in psychotic symptoms in most people. It can also increase relapse and result in poorer treatment outcomes (Osborne et al., 2017). CBD has been shown to help alleviate the worse symptoms produced by THC in some research.

In a review of CBD research to date on its impact on schizophrenia, Osborne and associates (2017) found:

In conclusion, the studies presented in the current review demonstrate that CBD has the potential to limit delta-9-THC-induced cognitive impairment and improve cognitive function in various pathological conditions.

Human studies suggest that CBD may have a protective role in delta-9-THC-induced cognitive impairments; however, there is limited human evidence for CBD treatment effects in pathological states (e.g. schizophrenia).

In short, they found that CBD may help alleviate the negative impact of a person with schizophrenia from taking cannabis, both in the psychotic and cognitive symptoms associated with schizophrenia. They did not find, however, any positive use of CBD alone in the treatment of schizophrenia symptoms.

Improved Thinking & Memory

There is little to no scientific evidence that CBD oil has any beneficial impact on cognitive function or memory in healthy people:

“Importantly, studies generally show no impact of CBD on cognitive function in a ‘healthy’ model, that is, outside drug-induced or pathological states (Osborne et al., 2017).”

If you’re taking CBD oil to help you study or for some other cognitive reason, chances are you’re experiencing a placebo effect.

CBD Summary

As you can see, CBD research is still in its early stages for many mental health concerns. There is limited support for the use of CBD oil for some mental disorders. Some disorders, like autism or anorexia, have had little research done to see whether CBD might help with its symptoms.

One of the interesting findings from research to-date is that the dosing found to have some possible beneficial effects in research tends to be much higher than what is found in products typically sold to consumers today. For instance, most over-the-counter CBD oils and supplements are in bottles that contain a total of 250 to 1000 mg.

But the science suggests that an effective daily treatment dose might be anywhere from 30 to 160 mg, depending on the symptoms a person is seeking to alleviate.

This suggests that the way most people are using CBD oil today is not likely to be clinically effective. Instead, at doses of just 2 to 10 mg per day, people are likely mostly benefiting from a placebo effect of these oils and supplements.

Before starting or trying any type of supplement — including CBD oil or other CBD products — please first consult your prescribing physician or psychiatrist. CBD may interact with psychiatric medications in a way that is unintended and could cause negative side effects or health problems.

We also do not really understand the long-term effects and impact of CBD oil use on a daily basis over the course of years, as such longitudinal research simply hasn’t yet been done. There have been some reported negative side effects experienced in the use of cannabis, but it’s hard to generalize such research findings to CBD alone.

In short, CBD shows promise in helping to alleviate some symptoms of some mental disorders. Much of the human-based research is still in its infancy, however, but early signs are promising.

For further information

Reason Magazine: Is CBD a Miracle Cure or a Marketing Scam? (Both.)

Thanks to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect service in providing access to the primary research necessary to write this article.


Bally, N., Zullino, D, Aubry, JM. (2014). Cannabis use and first manic episode. Journal of Affective Disorders, 165, 103-108.

Campos, AC., Fogaça, M.V., Sonego, A.B., & Guimarães, F.S. (2016). Cannabidiol, neuroprotection and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmacological Research, 112, 119-127.

Loflin, MJE, Babson, K.A., & Bonn-Miller, M.O. (2017). Cannabinoids as therapeutic for PTSD
Current Opinion in Psychology, 14, 78-83.

Maurya, N. & Velmurugan, B.K. (2018). Therapeutic applications of cannabinoids. Chemico-Biological Interactions, 293, 77-88.

Osborne, A.L., Solowij, N., & Weston-Green, K. (2017). A systematic review of the effect of cannabidiol on cognitive function: Relevance to schizophrenia. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 72, 310-324.

Poleg, S., Golubchik, P., Offen, D., & Weizman, A. (2019). Cannabidiol as a suggested candidate for treatment of autism spectrum disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 89, 90-96.

CBD Oil for Depression, Schizophrenia, ADHD, PTSD, Anxiety, Bipolar & More

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Psychology Around the Net: January 26, 2019

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This week’s Psychology Around the Net takes a look at children taking mental health days, the definition of relationship cycling and what it can do to your mental health, career advice for having not only a successful but also a happy career, and more.


Women Urged to Put Mental Health On Pre–Conception Checklist: Just like a healthy diet and exercise routine, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking and alcohol, addressing her mental health should be on a woman’s pre-conception checklist. Researchers have found that women who have depression before conception are more likely to experience depression after giving birth, which can, according to Dr. Katrina Moss of the University of Queensland School of Public Health, “have a negative influence on parenting” and affect children’s psychosocial outcomes.

I Will Always Let My Kids Take Mental Health Days: Speaking of parenting, here’s one momma’s story about how she discovered that children — just like adults — can benefit from mental health days.

Having Stressed Out Ancestors Improves Immune Response to Stress: A new study suggests that having ancestors who were regularly exposed to stressors could improve your own immune response to stressors, and these results suggest we should consider family history when trying to predict or understand the health implications of stress.

I Felt Something After KonMari-ing My Home—But It Wasn’t Joy: She might not have felt joy, but what she did feel was definitely positive and something we can all benefit from feeling — especially when it doesn’t seem like there’s much else in life giving us that feeling at the moment.

‘Relationship Cycling’ Is Messing With Your Mental Health: According to new research published in the journal Family Relations, people who engage in “relationship cycling” — repeatedly breaking up and getting back together — aren’t doing their mental health any favors. While it might make for entertaining television, movie, or book plots, in real life it causes and/or increases stress, anxiety, and depression and according to the study’s co-author Kale Monk of the University of Missouri-Columbia, the highs and lows aren’t even worth it in the end as relationship cycling was “linked to poor relationship quality, including impairment in satisfaction, commitment and communication.”

What’s the Best Career Advice You’ve Received? Check out some advice these students, employees, and other career professionals have received — and have to give — to help guide you toward a career that brings happiness and fulfillment.

Psychology Around the Net: January 26, 2019

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Podcast: How to Tell Friends and Love Interests About Mental Illness

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A mental illness diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t date or make new friends. It does mean – at some point — that you need to tell all the new people in your life that you’re living with depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or whatever your mental health concerns are.

In this episode, our hosts discuss telling the new people in our lives about our health issues – including the people they’ve dated.


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“I had this plan that the third date was the right time to tell people about my mental illness.”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Mental Illness, Friends, Love Interests’ Episode

[2:20] Being public and vocal about mental illness.

[3:30] What is the right (and wrong) way to tell people you have a mental illness?

[4:00] How soon is too soon? How late is too late?

[7:00] Michelle shares her story of telling romantic partners.

[11:30] We discuss when would we not share our diagnosis.

[15:30] Some people don’t believe we have mental illnesses.

[18:30] If we talk more about mental illness, people will understand it more.

[20:30] People should still respect your boundaries when it comes to mental illness.

[23:30] Michelle’s friends all knew she was schizophrenic before she was diagnosed.

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘How to Tell Friends and Love Interests About Mental Illness Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Narrator: [00:00:05] For reasons that utterly escapes Everyone involved. You’re listening to A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic and A Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer. Thank you for tuning into A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic and A Podcast.

Gabe: [00:00:22] My name is Gabe and I have bipolar disorder.

Michelle: [00:00:25] I’m Michelle and I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:00:27] Michelle you and I we just we just we just own it.

Michelle: [00:00:30] We own

Gabe: [00:00:31] I’m Gabe Howard bipolar.

Michelle: [00:00:32] Michelle Hammer schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:00:34] And that’s it.

Michelle: [00:00:35] That’s it.

Gabe: [00:00:35] So I think we have completed the episode on how to tell people that you have a mental illness.

Michelle: [00:00:41] There you go. Just be like hi hello. This is me I have this hello how are you doing. Goodbye.

Gabe: [00:00:46] That’s it. So, if you had major depression it would be.

Michelle: [00:00:49] Hi I’m Michelle I have major depression.

Gabe: [00:00:51] And I’m Gabe but I have major depression.

Michelle: [00:00:53] I’m Michelle and I have ADD.

Gabe: [00:01:01] I love how you were thinking of all of the different mental disorders you like. Which one do I want to jokingly claim that I have?

Gabe: [00:01:08] I feel like maybe there was some stigma in there like some other ones popped in first and you were like oh hell no huh. No, I can see you having some OCD but like instead of wanting everything neat you want everything to be like completely deranged.

Michelle: [00:01:23] Well my room is a mess but I know where I keep my stuff. Usually it’s when other people clean up my stuff I don’t know I don’t know where anything is. It’s very frustrating. Don’t touch my stuff. I know where it is. It looks like a mess but there’s a method to my madness here I promise.

Gabe: [00:01:40] There’s no method you throw everything on the floor so you know that everything is on the floor.

Michelle: [00:01:45] But in the position of where it is.

Michelle: [00:01:47] I once had an issue with the pharmacy they were saying that I couldn’t get my medicine I got it three days after and I found the receipts on my floor. Good thing I didn’t throw those receipts out and I brought those receipts in and showed them their mistake and I yelled at them and reported them to the corporate office.

Gabe: [00:02:08] I completely agree that you have ADD because we’ve just been talking about your housekeeping skills for the last three and a half hours.

Gabe: [00:02:17] We’ll edit it down to like two minutes. Fine. Michelle a lot of people aren’t in our position. They’re not public or vocal about living with mental illness a lot of people they just they’re just live in regular lives. They want to be left alone. They don’t want to announce to the world that they have bipolar and schizophrenia. They don’t have podcasts they don’t give speeches. They don’t write. They’re just leading a quiet normal life and there’s nothing wrong with that because that’s what they want to do. But they still have cause to tell people they have mental illness not on the public scale that we do. But person to person you know they want their spouse to know or a potential date to know or they needed to tell their parents or their friends or maybe they need to disclose at work. And this creates this this problem.

Michelle: [00:03:01] Yes the problem of when to tell how to tell how what is the right way to tell.

Gabe: [00:03:08] And of course what is the wrong way to tell.

Michelle: [00:03:11] Yeah. What is the wrong way to tell?

Gabe: [00:03:13] I can honestly tell you that swinging from a chandelier screaming I’m mentally ill. That is the wrong way to tell people.

Michelle: [00:03:22] I would say also the wrong way to tell people would be like if you are on the way to the hospital to be sent to the psych ward you probably shouldn’t call up your partner and be like hey by the way I’m schizophrenic and I’m going to the psych ward right now because I tried to kill myself. OK see you later.

Gabe: [00:03:38] Well that’s an interesting point that you bring up because if you really are on your way to the psychiatric hospital if you really did just self-harm.

Gabe: [00:03:46] And you’ve never told your romantic partner your friend, etc., then unfortunately even though that’s the worst time to tell somebody it’s still better than not telling them at all. So, I really think that the message is the best time to tell people is when you’re doing well.

Michelle: [00:04:05] Absolutely. But how soon is too soon?

Gabe: [00:04:08] This is the million dollar question.

Michelle: [00:04:12] How late is too

Gabe: [00:04:14] I mean I think that question is worth at least a half a million dollars. As you know I’m married. I’m married to Kendall. She’s my third wife. My first wife I never told because I was an untreated bipolar and we never knew I had it. My second wife told me that I had bipolar disorder so that was convenient but my wife I knew that I had bipolar disorder.

Gabe: [00:04:33] I was living well and I was I was looking for a long term relationship I was looking to date and I dated a few people before I got married before you know the right one came along and I had this idea in my head that the third date was the right date to tell. I don’t know why I came up with that plan but it was always the third date, except for Kendall. I don’t know. I told Kendall via a text message before we ever met.

Michelle: [00:05:04] Well I guess it went well then.

Gabe: [00:05:06] I mean it worked out.

Michelle: [00:05:07] She didn’t ghost ya

Gabe: [00:05:07] Yeah.

Michelle: [00:05:09] She wasn’t like new

Gabe: [00:05:12] I often wonder though like I started off chatting with like one of her other friends and they were like oh hell no. uh uh Just change your name to Kendall and you can have this guy. Her name is actually Mary Beth

Michelle: [00:05:25] Just some bitty That’s in the living room with a different name. Lied to you the entire time. Yeah.

Gabe: [00:05:33] But the reason that I say this is because it just goes to show you the best laid plans.

Gabe: [00:05:37] Honestly the reason that I told her via text message is because I had just had yet another bad experience not really tied to living with bipolar disorder. Just you know I had a couple of bad dates with somebody and I was just like you know I don’t really want to date but I had been e-mailing back and forth and I believe in ghosting I think that’s wrong. So, I was just kind of trying to sabotage it. I thought if I sent a text message and said hey, I live with bipolar disorder that she would ghost me or you know we just kind of fizzle out from there but that didn’t happen.

Michelle: [00:06:12] I guess she liked you Gabe.

Gabe: [00:06:14] I she was willing to have a date with me.

Gabe: [00:06:16] I mean guess this did not deter her from having a first date.

Michelle: [00:06:22] And he was just so suave that suave bipolar guy. Oh that text message suave texting.

Gabe: [00:06:33] The thing is I don’t I’m ever gonna get the opportunity to try it again. I mean should I like for science purposes. Should I open up an account on like OK and just start sending hey I’m bipolar text messages?

Michelle: [00:06:43] You know the no longer lonely site.

Michelle: [00:06:47] Remember that.

Gabe: [00:06:48] I do remember that site.

Michelle: [00:06:50] Yes.

Gabe: [00:06:51] Are you no longer lonely Michelle.

Michelle: [00:06:54] Yes I’m no longer lonely.

Gabe: [00:06:56] Oh now how did you tell your significant other that you were a whack job. Sorry, Schizophrenic.

Michelle: [00:07:00] I my most recent relationship on one of the first dates I was shown that my partner had an eating disorder tattoo. So right out in the front I was told eating disorder. So on like the second date I was like Hey watch this video I was featured in and I showed the WebMD video where I was featured in and showed all about my schizophrenia and we watched that and then I was asked why did you show me that? I was like really OK because it’s not that big a I was say the relationship before that where I was like two years in and I’m like Hey I’m gonna start a company called Schizophrenic.NYC because I’m schizophrenic and he’s kind of like you’re not schizophrenic I go No I am umm no you’re not:

Gabe: [00:07:51] You dated someone for two years and didn’t tell them that you lived with severe and persistent mental illness.

Michelle: [00:07:57] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:07:59] I also want to say that for two years he didn’t notice he was not that into you.

Michelle: [00:08:05] I was not that into him either.

Gabe: [00:08:08] That’s awesome. That’s like that’s the greatest relationship. I like what you said there about because this is happening more and more.

Gabe: [00:08:14] The eating disorder tattoo. There’s lots of people that have all kinds of tattoos to symbolize living with mental illness. There’s obviously the most popular one which is the project tattoo just a little semicolon that people get tattooed all over the body that shows that they live with mental illness or that they support somebody who does. There’s obviously my bipolar symbol that a lot of people are getting tattooed on their bodies which I think is fantastic. It really makes me feel really good.

Gabe: [00:08:39] But there’s all kinds of other stuff that people get the green ribbon Sainz etcetera so people really are just kind of wearing it on their sleeve.

Michelle: [00:08:47] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:08:47] Or under it.

Michelle: [00:08:48] Or under their sleeve.

Michelle: [00:08:49] It’s becoming way more accepted.

Gabe: [00:08:52] And I think especially among the younger generation all of the people with these tattoos are closer to your age than they are mine

Michelle: [00:09:01] I suppose

Michelle: [00:09:02] Ann- Otis has a semi colon tattoo.

Gabe: [00:09:05] And it’s not just tattoos I mean a tattoo is you know like a lifelong art on your body but there’s clothing that signifies this you know for example I have the bipolar shirt you have schizophrenic which sells clothing. We have the define normal shirt which starts a conversation about mental health. So it’s it is becoming I mean I don’t know that 20 years ago somebody would have put on a shirt that said bipolar or Schizophrenic maybe the define normal one because that’s a little I don’t know it’s it’s easier to swallow maybe you know we also have you know the pins and the stickers and I know that we see it everywhere because of course we attend you know just a boatload of mental health conferences.

Michelle: [00:09:50] We really do. But I like that it’s getting out there more definitely. Michelle wants a new microphone so we got a sponsor. We’ll be right back.

Narrator: [00:10:00] This episode is sponsored by secure convenient and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you.

Gabe: [00:10:33] So Michelle let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. that you are not the great Michelle you are not living with schizophrenia openly. You don’t have your own podcast. You don’t have an award-winning clothing line. You’ve never spoken to thousands of people before in your life. You’re just sitting at home living with schizophrenia. You meet a new friend. It’s not romantic in any way. You just meet a new friend a coworker at work and you’re just you’re just hanging out one day.

Gabe: [00:10:58] You’ve known it’s a she and you’ve known each other for like a month and you can tell that you’re all besties. You like the same types of ice creams the same types of movies and you both are annoyed by the same types of politics. So you probably want to share deeper parts of your life with this budding BFF.

Michelle: [00:11:19] That’s true but it’s a co-worker.

Gabe: [00:11:21] That’s an excellent point Michelle. I take that back by co-worker I’m a volunteer co-worker you’re hanging out beautifying the local temple.

Michelle: [00:11:30] You mean I can’t show the WebMD video.

Gabe: [00:11:32] Right because you don’t have any of this.

Michelle: [00:11:34] So if I want to just share just share that I have schizophrenia.

Gabe: [00:11:37] Yeah and remember you’re not you’re not Michelle in this you’re just you’re just a regular person you’ve lived your life you’ve got a great job a nice apartment and you’re volunteering on the weekends for your synagogue and that’s how you met your budding BFF.

Michelle: [00:11:50] I think I would just you know what. I don’t know if I would share it. I don’t really know I think I would wait a longer

Michelle: [00:12:01] Really depends how close we are. This is kind of a hard question to answer. Do I really want to share it. I’d be nervous that they would judge me differently or how just how close is our relationship. If we were super close and I knew there was going to be no judgment whatsoever, I would just share the information because the person knows me for me. If I felt a little uncomfortable, they felt like the person judged other people all the time then I wouldn’t share it at all. I would have to notice how that other person judges other people when they’re around they you know do they gossip a lot do they talk bad about people really have engaged the other person’s personality to really decide if I’m comfortable telling them.

Michelle: [00:12:40] And what if I tell them and then they go and tell tons of other people behind my back in a snarky mean way or are they going to keep my secret in a nice way or if they feel that I should tell more people.

Gabe: [00:12:53] You’ve raised so many excellent points and these are the problems that people in our community have because let’s say like you brought up the co-worker at work and you’re like look I don’t know if I want to risk because I don’t want people at work to find out because I could lose my job which would be my support my money my health insurance and that’s not necessarily worth the risk even for a friend. And many people in our community just feel that way. But let’s move off of that for a moment and touch on what you said about maybe I just wouldn’t tell them. Maybe that’s not something I want them to know.

Gabe: [00:13:24] Isn’t that a bummer. Because there is a part of you a big part of you that you’re afraid to share with somebody and that that’s that that’s got to suck. That I mean I don’t know why I said that’s got to suck. That does suck.

Gabe: [00:13:39] Just when you’re looking at somebody and saying you know I want to be your friend and I like you but I don’t know if I can trust you. But I still want to be your friend. How do you resolve that in your mind? I’m not sure that I can trust you with this thing that’s important to me but I still want to be your friend fully acknowledging that I don’t think I trust you because if I share this part of me you will be mean to me. But I want I still want to be friends with

Michelle: [00:14:02] It’s hard. It’s not it’s not an easy thing but I would have to say just from my experience of talking to people at my pop shop as soon as I say that I have schizophrenia they say to me either they have a mental illness. A friend has a mental illness, or a family member a mental illness.

Michelle: [00:14:22] So if I’d even do share that with this person this theoretical person it’s more likely that they’re going to actually connect with me in some way. I would think.

Gabe: [00:14:31] And that’s what I want to put out for people to understand there is a reason that you want to be friends with somebody and you have to trust that if you bring somebody into your home if you bring somebody into your life and you’re spending time with them and they make you feel good and you like this person you have to ask yourself why do you not want to share this let’s say that it goes well because I’d like to believe that we’re all being friends with people who are good people for us.

Gabe: [00:14:59] They are good friends for us. We made them a friend for a reason. I mean if you’re too afraid to tell them because you think that they’re snarky judgmental or mean or they’re going to tell everybody. You might just want to rethink the friendship.

Michelle: [00:15:09] Good point.

Gabe: [00:15:09] We should throw that right out.

Michelle: [00:15:11] Yeah. Yeah.

Michelle: [00:15:11] If you’re friends with the mean person then don’t be friends with that person.

Gabe: [00:15:14] Yeah. If the person is a dick move on. now. Yeah later.

Gabe: [00:15:19] So now you’ve told the person you’re going to connect on this meaningful level. You sit the person down. We’re gonna say over coffee.

Gabe: [00:15:27] I don’t know why it’s always over coffee it’s probably because you’re from New York so it was coffee or pizza I went for coffee and you say random friend that I met while helping out at the synagogue I live with schizophrenia and that person says to you the only thing that every single person ever says when you tell them that you have a mental illness is. That’s funny. No, you don’t.

Michelle: [00:15:49] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:15:49] Now what do you say.

Michelle: [00:15:51] I would say no I really do take seven medications a day. It’s how I live my life. I have it. You don’t have to believe me I have it.

Gabe: [00:15:59] So what I always say when people think that I’m being funny is I say I completely understand why you think I’m being funny because we have this idea in our head of what people with mental illness look like and I know that I don’t look like that but I really do have bipolar disorder and I’m living quite well. I’m living so well that nobody believes me which is a testament to how well I am doing. And there’s hundreds of thousands of games out there that are just living their life and nobody knows that they’re mentally ill because of course crisis is public and wellness is private.

Michelle: [00:16:30] Exactly. I’ve been with people where they’ve been like they’ve been like. So if you didn’t know that Michelle had schizophrenia would you have been able to guess? And they’d been like no but really what I think when they say no is that they just haven’t spent enough time with me.

Gabe: [00:16:47] I go back and forth on this one Michelle because on one hand you do have a couple of tells you do kind of mumble to yourself you kind of talk to yourself you do some stuff but

Gabe: [00:16:56] I don’t know I don’t know that I would think schizophrenia because again people think that people with schizophrenia are drooling and rocking back and forth they’ve got this very unfortunate stereotype and you are incredibly articulate and you are smart and you are accomplished and achieved so I might just think you were weird. I think I would.

Gabe: [00:17:17] Before I would guess mental illness I would probably just think wow that chick odd. I don’t know. And I’m certain you know unfortunately and this is nothing that our listeners don’t already know. People think that people with schizophrenia are like the most violent of the mentally ill and you have no violence in you. I mean none the most violent I’ve ever seen you is when you couldn’t get like a pack of pretzels open on an airplane. You fought valiantly to do it.

Michelle: [00:17:46] I don’t know why pretzels are so hard to open.

Gabe: [00:17:49] It’s because your hands are so small and you’re weak.

Michelle: [00:17:51] My hands are not even small I have gigantic hands.

Gabe: [00:17:55] That’s true. Man hands.

Michelle: [00:17:57] like man hands. Yes. Exactly.

Gabe: [00:18:00] That’s so mean. You know many people in our community they gripe you know they’re listening to this right now and they’re thinking wait a minute.

Gabe: [00:18:06] So on top of being sick I’m now the appointed spokesperson for whatever illness I have because I have to teach the people all around me about my own illness like they couldn’t just know why couldn’t I get the hiccups. People already the hiccups. I got to be like I have the hiccups. People again understand. But no, I’ve got to pick an illness that when I tell them that I have the illness they’re like what’s that and then I have to teach them that sucks.

Michelle: [00:18:28] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:18:29] But yeah it does suck but that’s where we are right now.

Michelle: [00:18:33] That’s why more and more people need to talk about it so everyone can understand what mental illness really is and what it entails.

Gabe: [00:18:40] That is very true. And if you think about it there’s a lot of illnesses that are this way. It’s not just mental illness.

Gabe: [00:18:48] There are no end to the number of diseases and illnesses and maladies that happen to people. And whenever something medical happens to somebody people have questions. You know my father had to have heart surgery a few years ago. I know what a heart is. And I know what heart surgery is. I had a ton of questions but it was like I have to have heart surgery wait why. What’s your blood pressure what do you do when are they going to use a pig valve. I actually think it turned out to be a cow valve.

Gabe: [00:19:12] Why are we putting cows in my father? And when it gets hot is it gonna smell like hamburger?

Michelle: [00:19:16] Does he milk now?

Gabe: [00:19:17] No.

Gabe: [00:19:22] That would be awesome dad milk but so we do tend to believe people in our community people living with mental illness that the reason that we’re being asked is because of the mental illness and because it’s so stigmatized and discriminated against. But the reality is I think people just have questions about illnesses that they don’t have because they don’t understand and asking these questions is proof that they want to get to know you. It’s proof they want to understand.

Michelle: [00:19:49] That’s true. And sometimes my friends will get annoyed when I go delusional and I look to the side and I start smiling and talking to myself and they go hey hey who are you talking to. Why are you smiling. I was just going on and I’m just like I’m like Oh nothing I don’t want I don’t want to talk about it it’s embarrassing I don’t want to say it like and they get mad because they’re like No. What was so funny what were you thinking about.

Michelle: [00:20:10] Tell me Tell me. But I I don’t want to say because it’s it’s embarrassing that I just got caught talking to myself and then I don’t want to talk about it.

Michelle: [00:20:19] But then people think that I am hiding something from them and they don’t like it.

Michelle: [00:20:24] So I’m kind of stuck in it and I don’t know what to do. Do I tell them the ridiculous thing I was thinking about which really isn’t all that interesting. It just took me out of reality or I mean do I not tell them or do I tell them I don’t even know what what’s is there a right answer there.

Gabe: [00:20:40] No! T actually yes! I stand corrected Michelle. You heard it here first. Gabe Howard was initially wrong. Yes, there is a right answer the right answer is whatever you want it to be because it’s your life and they need to respect your boundaries. I’m not saying be rude to your friends or call them names but you need to let them know you know look when stuff like this happens. This is how I want to handle it.

Gabe: [00:21:04] Still to this very day when I have a really bad panic attack I want to be alone. I don’t want my wife to sit with me and rub my back. I don’t want people to come in and give me a hug and tell me they love me when I have a really bad panic attack. I want to sit in a room and I want to be left alone. And when I’m well and I’m not having a panic attack I set that expectation among all of my family. Other people are different. I talk to other people. Like when I have a panic attack my wife brings me water and she hugged me and she loves me and I’m like Hey that’s fantastic.

Gabe: [00:21:32] That’s not what I want until of course it is because sometimes I do want that. So you know people are welcome to change their minds. You don’t have to share your delusions with your friends if you don’t want to but you do need to tell them what’s going on.

Gabe: [00:21:48] You can’t just shut them out or they’re not going to want to hang out with you because they’re going to be like we don’t know what’s going on with her.

Michelle: [00:21:54] I get that but that’s not really an instrument question.

Gabe: [00:21:56] There is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s and you should educate the people around you about what makes you happy and what you need.

Gabe: [00:22:05] But is there a right way or is there a wrong way?

Gabe: [00:22:08] The only right way is what works for you and what works for your group of friends. Because if they’re unwilling to do that maybe they’re not the right friend group. And I think that if we’re honest with our friends if we’re honest with our family and we explain why we need this and how this is beneficial and what’s going on and why it’s important I think that reasonable people will be supportive of what we need. I think that we have a tendency as as traumatized people living with a really shitty illness to kind of scream demands at people and nobody responds to that screaming leave me alone I’m depressed. That doesn’t make people want to leave you alone. That means people want to scream back.

Michelle: [00:22:48] That makes people want to help you because they think you’re going through a really rough time right.

Gabe: [00:22:53] They don’t know when they can trust you and when they can’t they don’t know when to step in or when to give you space. And that’s why communication is so important. And that’s how come when you want to be BFF’s with somebody should probably tell them about your illness or not.

Michelle: [00:23:07] I mean I had best friends that already knew I was schizophrenic before I found out I was schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:23:12] I think everybody knew you were schizophrenic. I think like you’re on your birth certificate it’s schizophrenic Michelle Hamer.

Michelle: [00:23:19] I don’t think so.

Gabe: [00:23:20] in NYC that’s how you got the domain.

Michelle: [00:23:22] Know I seriously I told them and they were like. Yeah. That couldn’t have been more obvious. They seriously is that that to me. They’re like yeah yeah. Like there’s nothing more obvious you could have said to us right now. We thought that’s what you had the whole time. And then when my friends they’re like Yeah we even told you that I was like you did and they’d be like Do you remember us like yelling like Who are you talking to all the time.

Michelle: [00:23:45] And I was like Well sometimes I was on the phone. They’re like Well how many times were you not on the phone. I was like I was just working things out just just so just working situations out and then you know you were talking to somebody that wasn’t there and I was like well I guess that would have been a big red flag I guess.

Gabe: [00:24:05] Yeah maybe a giant red flag.

Michelle: [00:24:06] I guess that was a big red flag and I guess I should have known that sooner right. Yes. OK. Maybe it was more obvious than I thought it was.

Gabe: [00:24:16] Listen how defensive that you were. And this does make it harder to work with our friends and family because our friends and family have spotted that something’s going on and you’re like No it’s not. You’re being mean to me. You’re defending yourself you’ve got your back raised and you’re like ready to fight and all they’re trying to do is help you. And in many cases as we know this devolves into just hurt feelings arguments and nobody getting along. Now I know you know people are going to say hey listen really you want the sick person to be the reasonable one in the room.

Gabe: [00:24:46] Yeah it’s rough. It’s hard to advocate for yourself because you’re both sick the expert and you’ve got to like teach everybody and be an advocate it’s real big pain in the ass.

Gabe: [00:24:56] But this is what we’re left with. So you know tell your family hey you know I’m going through a lot.

Gabe: [00:25:02] Maybe you could chill maybe you could forgive me for the times that I was defensive and angry as you pointed out I was sick maybe cut me some slack.

Gabe: [00:25:10] And I think that sometimes this works. This is how I made up with my family. I was like Yeah I know a lot of shitty things got said but as you pointed out I was sick and they’re like that’s a good point. We did know you were sick and they were stressed out too come to think of it’s all their fault.

Gabe: [00:25:25] Yeah yeah yeah yeah. the takeaway.

Michelle: [00:25:28] Our family’s messed up. Yes yes.

Michelle: [00:25:30] Yes yes yes yes. Our families made us mentally ill.

Gabe: [00:25:34] No that is like one of those myths that just will not end.

Michelle: [00:25:38] Nature versus nurture.

Gabe: [00:25:42] Michelle it is always great hanging out with you. Listen if you’ve got somebody to tell rip the Band-Aid off that is the best advice that Gabe Howard has for you. I think that Michelle will agree.

Michelle: [00:25:51] I do agree. Just be confident in who you are and if you’re going to tell somebody be proud of yourself don’t put yourself down. And if you are the more confident you are the more the person will accept you.

Gabe: [00:26:05] That’s true and the more they’ll understand and remember if somebody asks a lot of questions or they’re scared it shows how much they care about you that often gets misread as anger distrust and it makes people defensive. Don’t. People should be curious about what’s going on because chances are they don’t understand. And if you’re honest with yourself when you were first diagnosed you had a lot of questions too and you didn’t understand either.

Gabe: [00:26:31] Thank you everybody for tuning into this episode of a bipolar, a schizophrenic and a podcast. Remember you can go to and grab the define normal shirt. It’s literally the best shirt that we sell. So please go ahead and grab it over it Go to stitcher, Google play, or Spotify. Leave us all a whole mess of stars and write a review it really helps. Finally share us on social media comment on Psych and make us famous.

Gabe: [00:27:00] We’ll see everybody next week.

Michelle: [00:27:02] Be Brave!

Narrator: [00:27:11] You’ve been listening to a bipolar a schizophrenic kind of podcast. If you love this episode don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe rate and review to work with Gabe go to To work with Michelle go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups. Head over to Show’s official Web site you can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.Podcast: How to Tell Friends and Love Interests About Mental Illness

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Podcast: A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Feelings of Loneliness

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While depression is a common mental health issue, it’s not even close to being the most common. Listen in to hear our hosts discuss how loneliness can make a person feel unwanted and uncared for – even if they are standing in a crowded room.


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“People think you can’t be lonely if you have people in your vicinity.”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘loneliness’ Episode

[0:30] Loneliness kills more people than depression.

[3:30] Michelle explains loneliness she has experienced.

[5:20] Gabe explains loneliness he has experienced.

[8:00] We always bring up our moms – so why stop now?

[16:30] What can help people feel less lonely?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Feelings of Loneliness’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Narrator: [00:00:05] For reasons that utterly escapes Everyone involved. You’re listening to A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic and A Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer. Thank you for tuning into A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic and A Podcast.

Gabe: [00:00:08] Hello everybody and welcome to a Bipolar, a Schizophrenic and a Podcast!

Gabe: [00:00:21] My name is Gabe and I live with bipolar disorder.

Michelle: [00:00:24] My name is Michelle. I live with schizophrenia.

Gabe: [00:00:27] And today we are going to talk about loneliness. It seems to be everywhere right now because there were some landmark study done that said that loneliness kills more people than depression and heart disease. And I’m brutalizing it you know. Please go look up the study it’s available to find but it turns out that loneliness is actually a health condition.

Michelle: [00:00:50] I don’t understand. Would you say that if you’re depressed your lonely or lonely, you’re depressed?

Gabe: [00:00:55] We’re not going to devolve into explaining the study the Psych Central Show podcast which I am the host already did that. So there’s no reason to kind of you know just repeat the episode we’ll put the link in the show notes for this podcast. But there’s all kinds of different types of loneliness. And one of the reasons that we wanted to talk about it is because people with mental illness often feel lonely and people fire back immediately. Well you’re not lonely your parents love you or you’re not lonely you have all these friends or you’re not lonely you have a rich life you go to Starbucks every day and get coffee and they always say hi. And there’s this idea that the only thing you need to combat loneliness is another breathing human being in the vicinity and nothing could be further from the truth.

Michelle: [00:01:42] To me loneliness is just really really frustrating. You want to like go somewhere if you want to go to the bar but you don’t have a friend to go with there you want to go to the museum but you don’t have anyone to go with you kind of just feel alone. You have no one to do any of your things with. That’s what loneliness kind of feels like to me, when you have no-one to share any of your joy with, you’re just alone.

Gabe: [00:02:07] And that is kind of a better way to define it. Once again somebody can say to you “Oh Michelle you’re not lonely Gabe’s your friend,” but the way you described it is that you want somebody to share your joy with. You know we’re business partners we share our podcast we discuss business things etc. But I’m not your romantic partner I’m not your BFF, and I’m never gonna go to a museum with you.

Gabe: [00:02:32] The only joy that you share with me is work related it’s business related. I’m not saying that I’m not happy when you have personal dreams come true. I’m not a jerk but that’s not what you mean by sharing. And that’s what people misunderstand. They think that anybody who has a job can’t be lonely because after all you have all your co-workers.

Michelle: [00:02:53] Yeah because co-workers are such great friends all the time right.

Gabe: [00:02:56] Well exactly. Exactly. Again people think that you can’t be lonely if there are other humans in your vicinity. So the only people that can be lonely are people that are in the middle of a field a thousand miles away from everything. So you know that character that Tom Hanks played in Castaway.

Michelle: [00:03:12] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:03:12] That guy’s allowed to be lonely.

Michelle: [00:03:13] That just makes no sense to me because you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room of tons and tons of people. Yet I felt nobody understood me. Nobody here wants to talk to me. If I even try to go up to someone, they are just going to shut me out of the conversation. I was too nervous or anxious or I was just too in my head or I was just too paranoid. But I felt alone and it didn’t matter if anyone maybe even said “Hi.” I thought maybe they were just saying hi because they felt bad for me. So being with people that’s not really what loneliness could always look like or being completely like the dude in Castaway.

Michelle: [00:03:59] Even though he had a friend that was a volleyball.

Gabe: [00:04:01] Well and that’s why he created the friend that was a volleyball because he felt lonely and he wanted somebody to talk to and he created this this thing and that’s how he combated loneliness because he would tell Wilson everything. And as you saw as the movie went on him as a great movie. What 15 years ago were totally aging ourselves out but at one point I *spoiler alert* he gets off the island. But in the process of getting off the island he loses Wilson.

Michelle: [00:04:29] I know how i it’s devastating exactly.

Gabe: [00:04:32] Even though Wilson wasn’t real this meant something to him because it’s it was a representation of somebody else that he could share his life with.

Michelle: [00:04:40] Yeah basically Wilson dies.

Gabe: [00:04:43] Yeah. And that’s how he felt about it. He was screaming and yelling and his beardedness.

Michelle: [00:04:47] We’re getting really passionate about castaway right now.

Gabe: [00:04:49] I really miss Wilson.

Michelle: [00:04:50] I know Wilson should have come back. He should have been a new Wilson.

Gabe: [00:04:54] Everybody deserves a friend like Wilson. He just listens. He sits there he understands.

Gabe: [00:05:00] You know some people have said though that like Wilson jumped. Wilson’s like you know you never ask me about my day.

Gabe: [00:05:14] A long time ago when I first started writing my book that may or may not ever get done I wanted to call it alone in a crowded room and several of my friends and family members were like that is the dumbest fucking name we’ve ever heard. Because you can’t be alone in a crowded room.

Michelle: [00:05:27] They’re their wrong.

Gabe: [00:05:28] They’re completely wrong.

Michelle: [00:05:29] 100 percent wrong now and so wrong unbelievably wrong.

Gabe: [00:05:33] And I tried to explain to them Do you have any idea what it’s like to be the only person with mental illness in our family.

Gabe: [00:05:43] It’s devastatingly lonely.

Gabe: [00:05:46] It’s awful to this day to this day every Christmas or Thanksgiving whichever one is the turn with the spouse. I sit in a room of my entire family and I look out at all of them and I think I have something that none of you do and you know they’re good people.

Gabe: [00:06:06] I love my family. They’re not bad. They try to understand but they don’t. And I think people can maybe can understand it better this way. Imagine if my entire friend group were women who had children. And I’m a man that has no children. So I’d never been pregnant and I’d never been a parent. It’s not that they’re not good people.

Gabe: [00:06:28] It’s not that we don’t share things. It’s just that part of their bond is this pregnancy part of their bond is motherhood. And here I am childless and not pregnant. So I can never connect with them on that level. No people are like Well but that’s cool because you have things in your life that you know maybe they envy like you know not having periods or something I don’t know.

Gabe: [00:06:48] The analogy is falling apart relatively quickly.

Michelle: [00:06:51] Yea I know you just pee anywhere.

Gabe: [00:06:53] Yeah. I mean that’s that’s a real benefit to manhood. I completely agree.

Michelle: [00:06:58] Yeah. You don’t understand gave it really is I.

Gabe: [00:07:02] Listen I’m not debating.

Michelle: [00:07:03] You don’t understand. You don’t understand. You can pee anywhere you want to pee.

Gabe: [00:07:08] I I’m I’m on board. It’s wonderful it’s fantastic.

Gabe: [00:07:14] But what I’m saying is when I look out at my family they don’t know they they’ve never experienced major depression. They’ve never experience psychosis. They’ve never been in a psychiatric ward. They’ve never had their life reduced to an illness they’ve never seen it.

Michelle: [00:07:32] I don’t understand why you feel so different. Same thing happens to me like go to family things.

Gabe: [00:07:37] Exactly. And that’s why we’re friends and that’s why our friendship combats loneliness.

Michelle: [00:07:42] I don’t really think it’s that big a deal.

Gabe: [00:07:45] Let’s touch on that for a moment because you’ve said to me numerous times and on this podcast as longtime listeners know that your mother doesn’t understand you well why not. I’m serious. Why not. She has known you your entire life. She gave birth to you. She is also a middle-class Jewish woman just as you are. So why do you think she doesn’t understand you.

Michelle: [00:08:07] My goodness did she send you an email.

Gabe: [00:08:11] She gave me 50 bucks. I’m just kidding. No she didn’t.

Michelle: [00:08:15] $100.

Gabe: [00:08:16] She gave me $100. Yeah. Yeah. The first offer was 50. But I Blanched it up.

Gabe: [00:08:24] No I I’m serious. This isn’t the pick on your mom. I feel the same way about my mother. Let’s reverse it on me.

Gabe: [00:08:29] I have said that my mother doesn’t understand me. I actually wrote an article once that sort of bothered my mother she said that I quote threw her under the bus and the title of the article was my mother doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.

Gabe: [00:08:42] I wasn’t trying to be mean. She doesn’t she doesn’t understand and that sucks. I wish that she did because I feel that that would let her be closer to me which would mean that I was closer to her. And I think if you thought about it you would realize that your parents do not understand what it’s like to live with schizophrenia.

Gabe: [00:09:02] There’s a barrier, there just is.

Michelle: [00:09:05] Recently I visited our good friend Anne-Marie Otis and she has a ton of kids1w and her youngest child is bipolar. And I realized when I was there is that Anne-Marie knows about mental health. She knows that her child is bipolar. She you know, has him on medication if anything goes wrong with anything. She’s always there for him you know. She knows things are rough. She’s getting him the help that he needs she understands how to treat him what to say to him. She’s educated on the topic. I grew up with schizophrenia. My mom had no idea that I had schizophrenia. She didn’t know how to handle a girl with schizophrenia. She was never educated on the topic because I was not medicated for anything, she had no idea it existed. So, if we had both known that was the issue if I was medicated if we were both educated on how to treat a person with schizophrenia if she knew the right way to treat a child going through those issues I think we would have a better relationship today. And I think it is unfortunate that we did not know the problem way back when because we didn’t know the exact issue so we weren’t educated. My mother wasn’t educated and how to bring up a child with schizophrenia that is my answer to your question.

Gabe: [00:10:26] So that made you feel pretty lonely right.

Michelle: [00:10:28] I guess so.

Gabe: [00:10:29] I would like to point out we love Anne-Marie on the show you should check her out at stupiddumbbreastcancer she is a breast cancer advocate. Her son does live with bipolar disorder and he is a complete badass. We want to give him a shout out as well. He will join our ranks no doubt when he turns 18. Probably start his own podcast and Michelle and I will get cancelled because his will be better but I would also like to point out that that is an excellent point that you made but Anne-Marie lives with depression so she does understand mental illness.

Michelle: [00:10:57] I said Anne-Marie understands mental illness.

Gabe: [00:10:58] Right.

Gabe: [00:10:59] So my family and your family have no mental health problems. I mean they’re crazy but they have no mental health problems. And it does make me feel lonely because of all the reasons that you just said I completely agree with everything that you said 100%.

Gabe: [00:11:17] I would have a better relationship with my parents if they understood mental illness. If I got diagnosed younger and if I didn’t go through so much trauma. We have built up from the ground up as adults after like I don’t know my 13th divorce.

Gabe: [00:11:32] But why do we have to do that?

Gabe: [00:11:33] You know who has a great relationship with my parents?

Michelle: [00:11:37] Who?

Gabe: [00:11:37] My sister, and you know why my sister has a great relationship with my parents.

Michelle: [00:11:42] Why?

Gabe: [00:11:43] Because she’s a woman who is cheap and clips coupons and is a mother like my mom and she’s a stubborn bad-ass like my father. So they basically on the third try. Got the right kid. And they’re like super close because they’re basically all three carbon copies of one another.

Gabe: [00:12:03] And then there’s me, the gigantic redheaded stepchild.

Gabe: [00:12:10] I do. I feel lonely and that is what I think people a lot of people with mental illness. I think they feel lonely and their families get really really upset. They do. They’re like Well I don’t know why you’re lonely your father and I are always there for you. I don’t know why you’re lonely. I’m always there for you. We talk to tons of people that live with mental illness and their families are always really really defensive about the idea that they can be lonely because they’re like Well we always come when you call. That’s not what loneliness is. It’s not about you coming when I call.

Gabe: [00:12:45] It’s about you understanding me. Don’t you often feel misunderstood Michelle?

Michelle: [00:12:52] Yeah definitely.

Gabe: [00:12:53] I always feel misunderstood. I don’t feel like my wife understands me and she’s my wife and she’s trying so hard.

Gabe: [00:13:01] So hard. She’s taken every class read every book listen to every podcast read every article. I think that in her brain exists like if ever breaks my wife could recreate it from scratch.

Gabe: [00:13:17] But you know what she’s never been mentally ill. There is a big difference between somebody describing the Sistine Chapel to you and standing in the Sistine Chapel.

Michelle: [00:13:31] We’ll be right back after these messages.

Narrator: [00:13:34] This episode is sponsored by secure convenient and affordable online counseling. All counselors are licensed accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you.

Michelle: [00:14:05] And we are back talking about loneliness.

Gabe: [00:14:08] The best thing we can do to a lot of our friends and family is describe what it’s like to be bipolar and schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:14:14] There’s really no way to let them live in our head for a day and I think that’s why there’s so much bullshit in the world about you don’t need antidepressants. Go for a walk in the woods well you’re lonely because you don’t come to more family functions. Well why don’t you join a book club if you’re lonely.

Gabe: [00:14:31] Oh my God. I just came up with an idea.

Michelle: [00:14:34] A book club in the woods!

Gabe: [00:14:35] No. Now I’ve come up with two ideas. A book club in the woods! Thank you, Michelle. Number two a book club for mentally ill people! Oh my God. I’ve just invented support groups.

Michelle: [00:14:48] Book club support groups.

Gabe: [00:14:51] Oh my God! Book club support groups. But let’s not read the book.

Michelle: [00:14:53] I don’t want to read a book.

Gabe: [00:14:54] I don’t want to read a book either.

Gabe: [00:14:55] Let’s start a book club for mentally ill people where we get together and we share our issues we learn from each other.

Michelle: [00:15:03] That’s called that’s called group therapy.

Gabe: [00:15:05] I really think we’ve just invented therapy. We did it like we invented support groups. A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and A Podcast is on the front lines of support groups. We did this.

Michelle: [00:15:17] Are you lonely? Are you sad?

Gabe: [00:15:20] You don’t have to be lonely at Remember the dating site for mentally ill people?

Michelle: [00:15:27] I think I’m still on it and every once in a while, I get an email.

Gabe: [00:15:31] However the date’s gone.

Michelle: [00:15:32] I haven’t replied to a single one.

Gabe: [00:15:34] Really.

Michelle: [00:15:34] I haven’t even logged in. I forgot my username and password.

Gabe: [00:15:37] I remember when we did that episode I logged in and there was a couple of people that suffer from agoraphobia. And I was like listen this going to work. Also it’s really not a good place for people with obsessive compulsive disorder, because like all of the things don’t match perfectly. Like some people wrote two paragraphs some people were one paragraph that’s not okay. How you’re gonna line that up I’m just saying.

Michelle: [00:16:03] I mean it was very weirder that I got the message from the guy that owned it.

Gabe: [00:16:06] I think he still wants to date you.

Michelle: [00:16:08] He wants to be on this show.

Gabe: [00:16:11] If we ever have guests on the show, I think there are several people who might be contenders.

Michelle: [00:16:16] Peppy?

Gabe: [00:16:18] For those that don’t know Peppy is my dog that Michelle is enamored with because she’s never seen a schnauzer before.

Michelle: [00:16:25] He woke me up this morning.

Gabe: [00:16:27] You left your door open.

Michelle: [00:16:29] He jumped on my bladder.

Gabe: [00:16:31] You left your bladder open.

Gabe: [00:16:35] We’ve talked about loneliness and of course we’ve talked about a volleyball that came to life for 20 years ago Tom Hanks.

Gabe: [00:16:42] But a lot of people in our community feel lonely. What some practical advice that we can give them to help kind of get out of the funk.

Michelle: [00:16:50] We can realize that loneliness is just more a feeling and it’s not really a fact.

Michelle: [00:16:56] You’re not going to be lonely for the rest of your life.

Gabe: [00:16:58] And it’s so much like a lot of the other things that we feel you know living with mental illness you know depression isn’t a fact either it’s a feeling. Mania isn’t a fact either it’s a feeling. You know paranoia isn’t a fact either it’s a feeling. And we have to try to find ways to use our brains to kind of escape that.

Michelle: [00:17:17] Yeah, another good idea would be to put your attention into something else you could just ask people if they need help or you can try to volunteer with something.

Gabe: [00:17:27] Joining groups is also I think a good idea.

Michelle: [00:17:29] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:17:29] I don’t know it’s sort of counterintuitive. It’s like when people say so when I’m lonely the solution to loneliness is to go out with people and not feel lonely. It’s not a bit like saying when I’m depressed. The solution is to not be depressed. Listen kind of. I mean I understand how that kind of sounds but Michelle is dead on.

Gabe: [00:17:47] I mean if you’re sitting at home feeling lonely go find some people in whatever way is meaningful to you.

Michelle: [00:17:54] Yes something I always did was join sports teams. That’s how I got out of.

Gabe: [00:17:58] You don’t say.

Michelle: [00:17:59] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:18:01] And one of the things that I do is every morning I get up and I go get a soda at the local fast food place. I don’t even eat the food but I just kind of sit there and people watch and I see a lot of amazing people.

Gabe: [00:18:14] And it’s just I don’t know something about connecting with them even though I’m kind of sitting in the corner and I know everybody’s got their like wait there’s a mentally ill man in the corner watching families come in and get their food. But seriously I just I sit there with my phone I drink and I watch.

Michelle: [00:18:28] Which brings me to the next point of go run an errand and make a point to be nice to people wish them a good day hold doors show kindness which is something that you do because everywhere we go you have a full conversation with everybody. It’s like everywhere we go they know you already, and they know you’re going to get a pretzel or they know you’re going to get a Diet Coke. You know everyone.

Gabe: [00:18:57] I mean yes. And the reason is because to ward off loneliness and to find meaning in my life, I really do spend a lot of time. I am that guy in line that turns around and asks you how your day is.

Michelle: [00:19:09] Yes. And stranger danger.

Gabe: [00:19:11] No it’s not stranger danger if you don’t want to talk, I don’t press. I mean I’m not an asshole about it but I say hello. I say hi. I ask people how their days are. It makes me feel better. And you know I could be like curmudgeonly about it because almost nobody asks me how I am. But I ask like 20 people a day how they are. But I don’t care because I get to kind of connect with them just for a moment. And it does make my life more meaningful.

Michelle: [00:19:35] It does actually do well. I would say because when I worked retail and I was a cashier when I would say Hi how are you and they would say I’m good how are you doing. It always made me feel better because not every customer would say How are you doing. They would say, I would say How are you. And they’d be like fine in a rude way. Okay great. You’re just rude. That’s not nice.

Gabe: [00:19:54] It is nice to connect with people. And I think that again people build things up in their mind. They think that a connection has to be like Uber meaning for you know it has to you have to meet your future spouse or meet your new best friend. But you know connection can come in little couple of second bites. You can say hey and the person can say hey you can say I like your hat. Well I like your hat too. I hope you have a good day. You too. And that whole thing took like what five seconds but I’m telling you it’ll put a little extra spring in your step.

Michelle: [00:20:24] Absolutely 100% agree with that statement.

Gabe: [00:20:27] Wow. I think it’s the first time in the history of man that Michelle is 100% agreed with anything that I have ever said. Could this be the start of something new for Gabe and Michelle.

Michelle: [00:20:36] Yeah, we’re gonna get married.

Gabe: [00:20:37] No no no. But tune in next week to find out.

Gabe: [00:20:43] We don’t have a lot for you to do but we do have a couple of things one rate and review us on iTunes Google Play Stitcher or Spotify.

Gabe: [00:20:51] Go on to social media until all of your friends about us don’t make us the best-kept secret in the world. And finally, you can head on over to store. It’s and buy the Define Normal shirt. It helps support the show and of course, it starts many conversations. So, you won’t be lonely. We’ll see everybody next week on a bipolar schizophrenic and a podcast.

Michelle: [00:21:12] Wilson! Wilson! No Wilson!

Narrator: [00:21:17] You’ve been listening to a bipolar a schizophrenic kind of podcast. If you love this episode don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe rate and review to work with Gabe go to To work with Michelle go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups. Head over to Show’s official Web site you can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.Podcast: A Bipolar and a Schizophrenic Discuss Feelings of Loneliness

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Podcast: How to Change Your Psychological Identity

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We all know that addiction, severe depression, and other conditions change our personality. What few know, however, is just how deeply ingrained that change can be, and how difficult (and scary) it can be to try to become “ourselves” again. In this episode, we examine such changes through the experiences of our guest, who overcame depression and addiction, and now helps others do the same.

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About Our Guest

David Essel, MS, OM, is a number one best-selling author (10), counselor, master life coach, international speaker and minister whose mission is to positively affect 2 million people or more every day, in every area of life, regardless of their current circumstances.

His latest #1 best seller, FOCUS! SLAY YOUR GOALS…THE PROVEN GUIDE TO HUGE SUCCESS, A POWERFUL ATTITUDE AND PROFOUND LOVE, was selected by the influential blog “FUPPING” as one of the top 25 books that will make you a better person!

David’s work of 38 years is also highly endorsed by the late Wayne Dyer, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Mark Victor Hansen, as well as many other celebrities and radio and television networks from around the world.

He is verified through Psychology Today as one of the top counselors and life coaches in the USA, and is verified through as one of the top relationship counselors and coaches in the world.

David accepts new clients every week into his 1-on-1 programs from around the world at


Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Narrator 1: Welcome to the Psych Central show, where each episode presents an in-depth look at issues from the field of psychology and mental health – with host Gabe Howard and co-host Vincent M. Wales.

Gabe Howard: Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Show podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and with me as always is Vincent M. Wales. And today Vince and I will be talking with David Essel. David is a number one best selling author, counselor, master life coach, international speaker and minister whose mission it is to positively affect 2 million people or more every day in every area of life, regardless of their current circumstances. David, welcome to the show.

David Essel: Oh gosh, it’s great to be with you, Gabe and Vince. Looking forward to our conversation today.

Gabe Howard: This is wonderful. And just to clarify real quick before we get going… Two million people every day.

David Essel: You know, we don’t believe in tiny goals, do we?

Gabe Howard: No we don’t. Thank you so much for being here.

Vincent M. Wales: That’s a lot of people. So let me ask you… you know there are an awful lot of people out there who do similar things to what you do. And you’ve been helping people for what 30 years? Something like that? That’s that’s a long time. What makes your story about your healing different from the others?

David Essel: The reason in the world of personal growth and mental health addiction recovery and more… the reason why there are 700 million authors, basically, in this industry is the same reason why there’s so many authors in the auto repair industry, and you know personal growth industry in general is massive, but people need to hear different voices and I may be saying the same thing the late Wayne Dyer said and people, X percentage of people would grab Wayne’s words and change their lives and then there’s other people that may not connect and Wayne and I were very good friends when he was alive. And then there are people that may not quite connect with him but they might connect with the way that I talk or the way that I write or the videos we do, so I don’t know if it’s as much “What’s the big difference?” as we need to have different voices out there with different experiences. I know one of the advantages in the world of mental health that I have is that in my background I came from extreme alcoholism and cocaine addiction for years, which was caused or the underlying cause of many addictions is depression and an inability to deal with emotions in life. I went through a severe clinical depression, suicidal, to the point where that I had to get extreme medical care and you know all these things, guys, happened while I’m doing the same work I’m doing today. So not only is my energy different than a lot of other people that do the same work, the words I use might be a little different, but unlike some people that write about these topics that we’re going to talk about that have not experienced extreme mental illness or challenges or anything else, addiction, that I’ve gone through, I think that’s one of the advantages that I bring, too. Because I’ve been on those sides of the fence that are very daunting, extremely scary, and have come back and I think that’s an advantage that our work has that some other people may not be able to go that deep or as deep as we go because they’ve never personally experienced these things,which I don’t wish on anyone, but the end result is is that the empathy and compassion that I can have for people in the world struggling with mental health or addiction is is incredible because I was there. I’m very grateful for the work that I’ve done to remove myself from some of these challenges and also extremely interested in helping as many other people as we can work their way through this stuff.

Vincent M. Wales: Fantastic.

Gabe Howard: When we’re doing research for the show, one of the things that came up a few times that I thought was interesting is that you said it’s scary at first to heal from depression. And I wanted to know what you meant by that. Can you explain that a little more?

David Essel: Well you know when we have some type of a mental health challenge like a depression, we create an identity around it and that that identity is very powerful. We… it’s scary to let go of something you’re comfortable with, even if it isn’t healthy. In other words, let’s say that, during the depression, we create an identity well when we talk to our loved ones or our family, it’s always based on how we’re not feeling that great today, how we don’t have the motivation to go to the gym, how we don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t. When you repeat those phrases either vocally to the outside world or in your head, over the course of months and years we create an identity. The identity says, this is who I am. I’m a depressed person. So to walk away from that identity and then not have people saying to you on a daily basis, Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, this is such a hard day. Or, come on, we know you can move through this or have you tried this or have you tried that? When we’re doing all these things, thinking we’re helping the depressed person, we’re actually deepening their identity. We are… the compassion and empathy that I think we should all have in the beginning turns into this thing where the depressed person actually looks and will latch on to certain individuals who will also deepen their identity as a depressed person. So when I say it’s scary. it’s like. if we’ve been in a depressed state for a number of years. we don’t know what it’s like to live with a little bit of lightness. a little bit of inner peace. a little bit of joy. and while lightness. inner peace and joy. guys, sounds like three really great things… to the depressed person, it’s like moving to Afghanistan. We don’t know what it’s like. We don’t know the terrain. We don’t know the customs. We don’t know anything other than our identity as a depressed person. So that is frightening. And it’s the same thing with the world of addiction. You know, coming from a serious addiction background, myself, I didn’t know what it was like to go out to dinner without having drinks before I left my house. I didn’t know what it was like to go to sleep at night without multiple drinks to put me to sleep. So it’s scary to walk away from an identity that you’ve held on to for years and to walk into a new life. And that depressed person, of course, at the core wants to be happy and healthy, is so comfortable in their little zone that getting outside of it can seem unbelievably threatening. And we’ve worked with some people that, once they’ve overcome, quote unquote, their depression and started to feel better, missed all of the accolades of people saying, how are you today and we hope you’re getting better and have you tried this. Some people will slip back into the old identity just to get the attention. so it can be scary. Healing on any level can be scary for people that have long term identity based on some condition.

Vincent M. Wales: We get comfortable, even if it’s something that should be uncomfortable. It’s familiar to us. So, you know, you’re right, it is hard to leave it. And that’s that’s pretty sad when you think about it.

Gabe Howard: Well especially if it’s all you’ve ever known.

Vincent M. Wales: Right.

Gabe Howard: As longtime listeners know, I thought about suicide from a very young age. In fact, I don’t remember ever not thinking about suicide and I thought that everybody did. I thought that weighing the pros and cons of life and death was just like a normal thing to do because there’s no mental health education, nobody challenged this belief in me, and then of course that’s not OK. Eventually, I went to a psychiatric hospital, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I learned about mental health and mental illness and and that all got fixed. So that was wonderful except, here I am at 26 years old, and for the first time ever, it occurred to me that I could die. And I didn’t want to die. So that was a scary thing. And I just became ultra paranoid about everything. So even though this led to greater potential for my future and you know now I’m 42 and everything is wonderful. You know for a couple of years, it was just really hard. My entire identity was wrapped up in this way of thinking. I knew no other way to think. And it sounds like that’s what you’re describing there.

David Essel: Oh it’s exactly. Gabe. what I’m describing. And you know it doesn’t even have to be from birth. I mean someone could hit a real challenging mental health crisis in their 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, 80s. It doesn’t take more than about six months of something very extreme of PTSD, high anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenic disorder… It doesn’t take more than six months for the subconscious mind to create an identity that says, this is who I am. To our listeners that maybe have loved ones that struggle with depression, but they haven’t, to hear what we’re talking about, that it’s scary to not be a depressed person, doesn’t make sense. But a lot of conditions in this world – addiction and mental health disorders – don’t make sense. So if you’re listening because you have loved ones that are struggling and we’re talking about people that who are depressed, they create an identity, and they want to stay in their identity, even if it doesn’t sound logical, it’s very true. So understand that when you’re dealing with your loved ones that they may be trying to hold on at some unconscious or subconscious level to their title, to their identity as a depressed person in order just to survive, because they have nothing that they can even compare it to. And let me make this differentiation between the conscious and the subconscious mind. So the conscious mind that the mind says, you know, I’ve been feeling down, I’m always blue, I’ve lost my joy for life, nothing sounds good to eat or to drink and no activities that I used to do sound good anymore. And it’s dragging myself out of bed in the morning and so many of the symptoms of clinical depression that I just mentioned. Wen we have all those things going down and we live with ourselves on a daily basis, that subconscious mind picks up the pattern. We’ll never get out of this. Life is too hard. It’s too challenging. No one understands me. No one could possibly understand me. There is nothing that works. I’ve tried several medications, the side effects are worse than… And it’ll go on and the subconscious will grab that identity that we are a depressed person, and because we’ve rethought it so many times and talked about it so many times and gotten that validation from the outside world – I’m so sorry you’re struggling – that the subconscious then, because it’s so powerful, will hold on and fight like heck for that person to stay in that depressed identity. You know, we work with people that, in the beginning, they were on the correct medication, they were doing the correct coping mechanism skills that we gave them, we have them doing all kinds of exercises on emotion for depression. We believe in our experience in the world of depression that about 90 percent of it is caused by unexplored or submerged emotions like rage and anger, resentments, shame, guilt, like we really believe about 90 percent of depression is caused by emotions that have not been vented, that haven’t had no place to escape. So the subconscious continues to grab onto these thoughts and as that person starts to feel better, they start to see the world open up. There is a percentage that will actually try to retreat back into that depressed identity to get the validation and the feedback from the outside world that they are used to. So again, while it may not make sense to the person that’s never personally struggled with anything we’re discussing tonight, it doesn’t have to make sense to be real and hopefully some of this information that we’re sharing will make it easier for us to understand that person struggling without having to judge them or without having to placate them and keep them in that stuck identity.

Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsor.

Narrator 2: This episode is sponsored by, secure, convenient and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you.

Vincent M. Wales: Welcome back everyone. We’re here talking with David Essel. You’re not the first that I’ve heard talk about depression being caused by unexpressed emotions, specifically anger is what I’ve heard in the past, so I’ve always found that pretty interesting. I never considered myself an angry person. It takes a lot to get me angry, as Gabe can attest. But when I when I stopped to think about it, I did have a lot of repressed anger, just unexpressed, and that I just would fight down and everything. And it often was that way because there was no target. It was just general, you know, free floating kind of anger with nothing to aim it at. So that was an interesting thing. So you talked a lot about the subconscious versus the conscious mind here, and of course, a lot of us have always heard things like well, you know, subconsciously, yada yada yada. We’re responsible for this and this is what’s causing that. The subconscious, in other words, just sounds like a negative thing but is there a positive aspect to it?

David Essel: Oh gosh, Vince, that’s that’s a great question. And you know, we believe in life that whole concept of yin yang is is absolute perfection. There is an opposite to everything. So if the subconscious that we’re talking about tonight from a negative point of view, keeping us stuck in an identity as a depressed person, then it must also be, there must also be a powerful side of the subconscious. And and there is. Thank God. Because the subconscious works on patterns, whatever you feed it or whatever you’re around listening to or whatever you’re watching or the people you’re hanging out with, they’re all sending messages to the subconscious constantly about someone’s right, someone’s wrong, conspiracy theories, you know, your weight gain is genetics and all this other kind of stuff. When a depressed person can break the chains of an identity based on being depressed and they can start to heal, if they’ll stay with the daily exercises and the possible medication that they may be on that they can stay with the program long enough, they can turn that subconscious mind from battling to hold onto an identity that I am a depressed person or I am a suicidal person. We can actually turn that around, guys, that you can use the subconscious as your greatest ally in the world. Now when I say subconscious, I want to make something else clear, too. We look at subconscious responses and a term that we always use is a subconscious response is a knee jerk reaction. That’s the easiest way to describe it. So someone is talking to you about your mental illness and they say, hey you know I just read the story about this person in some other city that used this new therapy and it was incredible. Now, to most people who are struggling with depression, the immediate response is, well it might work for them, it would never work for me, I’ve tried everything. That happens so fast that it’s not a conscious decision to reply like that to this person. It’s a knee jerk reaction. It’s a defense mechanism, and it happens instantaneously without us even thinking about it. Now the cool thing is, and I’ll sort of jump tracks here over to the world of addiction, for twenty-five plus years, I knew myself as a raging alcoholic, but I was in denial, so I didn’t call myself a raging alcoholic… a cocaine addict, and I was in denial with that, too. For twenty-five plus years, my identity was all about addiction, but I didn’t use the word addiction on myself. I said, this is the way I relax. This is what successful men do. So I created a subconscious identity to protect my addiction so I never had to end it. Now when I ended it, guys, there were three parts of my recovery that were the scariest… It was like living a nightmare. The first was going to a treatment center and knowing that, as of noon when I checked in, I would not have access to any alcohol or drugs. And it scared the hell out of me. The next time I was extremely afraid was the day that I came home, thirty-two days later. And now I was free. I had the freedom. I could go to the store. I could go to my local dealer. I could do whatever I wanted to and that was outrageously scary. And then the third scariest time was basically the next year. When I was changing my identity. I wasn’t drinking. I was doing really heavy duty emotional work with several counselors. But I was still afraid to go to dinners or to go anywhere… I was based in fear. And over time and a lot of work – and that was a number of years ago – the fear totally was gone. The subconscious mind we turned around to be an ally where I am a completely recovered person. We don’t even talk about the word addiction, anymore. I don’t believe that I’m a “recovering” alcoholic. I believe I have fully recovered, which is a pretty strong statement, but we can back it with tons of information, if needed. But the subconscious, now, I go to parties, I go out to dinner, I’ll go to funerals, I’ll go to weddings, I’ll officiate weddings and funerals, and where in the past, it was just really normal for me to look for a glass of wine or someone to offer it right away, now the subconscious has turned around so much, guys, that there’s not even an interest. When the last great depression hit, in 2006, 2007, and I was sober back then, I lost everything. And I over-bet on the real estate industry, I had everything on the real estate industry, and I lost my shirt, as they say. In that time of going through those years, of accumulating all of this wealth and losing it in a matter of a year, completely losing everything… It would have been a great opportunity, if the subconscious hadn’t been so wholly turned around, for me to drink or to do cocaine or do something to get out of the pain. But when you learn the correct coping mechanisms, and the subconscious is turned around, the thought of having a drink never even enters your mind. And that’s the beauty of the subconscious, is that if you’re willing to do the work – which about 90 percent of people in this world (now listen to this) are not willing to do – you can go ahead and take wherever you are with your addictions, with your challenges and with the correct help, and in some cases, as you guys know, the correct medication – which can be really hard to get that correct dosage and the correct medication – but if you’re willing to do the work, we can heal so deeply and turn that subconscious mind that used to have an identity as a depressed person or I can’t do this because I have this other mental health issue or I have an addiction… we can turn that around and find out what freedom truly feels like.

Gabe Howard: I think I understand what you’re saying because, for example, when I work with doctors, social workers, psychologists, people that work with people with, you know, severe and persistent mental illness, you know, bipolar, schizophrenia, major depression… I always ask them what are their goals for their patients. And, oftentimes I get pretty stereotypical answers. They want them to be med compliant, they want them to stop pushing back in therapy, they want them to be on time, they want them to not complain about the wait of the waiting room, they want them to pay the bills on time. You know, a lot of stuff like that, that is all very good things. I mean, I understand why they want them to, you know, take their medicine as prescribed and be on time and not cause a problem in the waiting room, but I pointed out that there’s a disconnect there because their patient’s goal is to go to Hawaii. Their patient’s goal was to get married, is to have a job. They’re not going to see you to be compliant with the treatment that you prescribe. They want the treatment so they can get on with the rest of their life. And it seems like what you’re saying is if the doctors sort of subconsciously believe that the goal is to be compliant, they’re going to subconsciously push that compliance onto their patients. That’s going to make their patients unhappy because they don’t feel that their medical staff understands that their goal isn’t to be compliant. Their goal is to go to Hawaii. And the doctors don’t realize they’re doing this, the medical staff, they don’t realize they’re doing it, they’re not bad people. So yeah, if your knee jerk reaction every time something bad happens is to drink, that is in fact problematic… or however it fits into, you know, anxiety, depression, etc.

David Essel: Yeah. Interesting comment that you just made, too, Gabe, about, you know, do we as professionals, do we understand what someone’s going through? And again I’ll say it’s probably one of the edges that counselors, therapists, psychiatrists who have struggled themselves have. A number of years ago, I started working with a young schizophrenic man, and I still work with them to this day. And when… you know, our traditional sessions for 18 and up is an hour, 17 and lower is a 30 minute session. So, you know, he was they were really struggling with finding the right medication. He would be in the session with me but not there present for about 80 percent of the session. He would be drifting off and, you know, the voices were coming and thoughts were coming and he couldn’t stay… he couldn’t concentrate, just could not concentrate. So I said to his parents one time, I said, hey listen, I love your son, by the way. I’ve worked with him. We do great work together. But I want to make a recommendation, and this is going against all protocol that we’ve been trained with, but I want to do 15 minute sessions. That’s it. I can see that this is a strain on him. I can see that this isn’t what he wants. Now, he walks out of the sessions telling you, mom and dad, that you know he wants to continue to work with David. But I said in the sessions it’s different. So if you’re willing, and thank God they were… guys, we went to 15 minute sessions. This young man blossomed. Right now – and I’m getting shows as I say this – the last time I saw him was three weeks ago because his family went on a vacation. He is now in his… I think he’s 24. He’s in college. He’s going to get an associates degree. Now, it’s going to take him… I think he’s been at it for about three years. I think it’s going to take him another year. Now, he will never live outside of the house, he’ll always live with mom and dad, but for this kid, this young man… and it goes right to what you’re saying, Gabe, it’s like, you know, when we asked him what was his goal, his goal was to finish school. Now according to everyone else that had worked with him, that was an impossibility. He couldn’t go to college, for all the different challenges that he had. And yet, in a year he’s going to graduate. When I saw him just before the Christmas break, the last time I saw him, he was ecstatic. Now he doesn’t show ecstasy like I might or someone else might. But you could see it in his face and his eyes how proud he was that he was able to do this, you know, and able to accomplish something that everyone had told him he couldn’t do. And I think it’s because we modified, extremely modified the program to fit him, not what statistically programs are supposed to be like. Does that make sense?

Vincent M. Wales: Yeah yeah. And that’s that’s a great story. Great story. Thank you. Thank you. Let’s talk about anxiety for a second. What kind of things have you got to say about that?

David Essel: First let’s look at the volume. You know, 40 million people on a daily basis in the U.S. alone struggle with depression and/or anxiety. It’s an interesting topic because we’ve heard over the years that there’s been a continual increase in anxiety in our society and people are blaming social media, and it definitely has a role in it for sure. When we talk about anxiety, and I just had a brand new client this week start, and he came in and he’s filled with anxiety. Now he has a high pressured sales position, so everyone who has always told him, all the counselors he’s worked with,you know, it’s genetically based or it’s something, it’s just you put so much pressure, you’re so competitive, you’re so you’re this, you’re so that… and I just met with him one time, we had our first session, and I asked him – because this is, I think, a missing link with anxiety – I asked him was his grandmother, grandfather, mom, dad, sister, brothers, aunts or uncles… Was there anyone in his life when he grew up that couldn’t relax? That was always on the move. That was always trying to accomplish the next ABCDE. And he looked at me and he started laughing and I said, What’s so funny? He goes, You just called my mother out. I said, Well let me tell you something. In our opinion, and we’re just one opinion of 40 years in the personal growth industry, 30 years in counseling and coaching, he said we see anxiety being created by the core family element between the age of zero and 18 much more so than a genetic link. And what we mean by that is… we’ll go back to the subconscious mind. From zero to 18, we’re in an environment where mom can’t sit down. She’s always up and moving. She can’t relax. She’s always doing that. It might seem productive, you know, that she’s dusting now and she’s sweeping next and she’s picking up this next and she’s got TV’s on one room and and a radio on and another room. That might seem like a productive use of time. Actually it’s an example of a full-blown anxiety episode. So this young man was raised in an environment where it was normal to not relax. It was normal to be hyper-competitive. It was normal that, when friends or relatives were coming over, that that house was freaking spotless. It was normal that all of this anxiety that was produced, not on purpose, but by mom, and she’d probably modeled her mom or dad… he took on because of the environment he was raised in. And right away when I see… when I can when I can pull someone out of, you know, this must be genetic, and everyone wants to use those words, genetic. So with anxiety, a large percentage we see that people – just like almost everything we’re talking about tonight, guys, is that people, when we’re not taught how to deal with emotions, when we’re not asked to go deeper, when we’re not exploring what could be the cause of this depression or anxiety other than the fact that it could be genetically related, that we’re losing out on helping millions of people a day to heal. So anxiety is real. The condition is real. A huge number of people are affected by it. But we have seen in our practice so many people heal from it, get off of their medications, live super productive lives when they learn how to deal with underlying emotions that they didn’t even know were there. Or they can start to see constructively that, oh my god, I’m repeating my dad’s alcoholism or I’m repeating my uncle’s whatever it might be. There are so many conditions that are created in this incubator called zero to 18 and I think that information is crucial to get out because, once again, going back to what I talked about a little while ago, this gentleman that came in the other day, he said, I’ve been diagnosed with full-blown anxiety attacks, panic attacks. I have them once a week. And now we’re going to get to the core and find out what is causing them. And a big part of it could be he’s just repeating the way his mom reacted to life, and if he continues doing that, it’s going to get worse. But we’re gonna help him break through it, for sure.

Gabe Howard: That is wonderful. Thank you so much. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left, is there any final thoughts that you want to leave us with? Where can we find you? Obviously the show notes will have your web page and all of that stuff. But, you know, there’s just so much that we didn’t get a chance to talk about. Can you give us the 30 to 60 second overview of of everything that we can know about you?

David Essel: Absolutely, Gabe. First of all I want to thank you and Vince for having me on, and for our listeners… you know, we offer a lot of free stuff. And that’s – again, how do you reach 2 million people a day, is that you’ve got to be creative, so – if your listeners want to get on our daily video e-mail list – it’s called David Essel’s Daily Video Boost – where we talk about these type of topics, where we talk about what causes depression and what are some of the potential cures and everything else that we’ve discussed today… All they have to do is go to the Web site, which is and sign up for the Daily Boost, it’s free. They’ll also find our link for our YouTube videos. Thirteen hundred videos, there’s a lot of videos on depression anxiety et cetera there. So if they just go to, they can find out where they can get all the free information, and then if they wanted to do something with the work that we do, they could let us know with an e-mail.

Gabe Howard: That would be wonderful. Thank you so much. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in this week. And remember you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private, online counseling anytime, anywhere by visiting We will see you all next week.

Narrator 1: Thank you for listening to the Psych Central Show. Please rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you found this podcast. We encourage you to share our show on social media and with friends and family. Previous episodes can be found at is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website. Psych Central is overseen by Dr. John Grohol, a mental health expert and one of the pioneering leaders in online mental health. Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who travels nationally. You can find more information on Gabe at Our co-host, Vincent M. Wales, is a trained suicide prevention crisis counselor and author of several award-winning speculative fiction novels. You can learn more about Vincent at If you have feedback about the show, please email [email protected].

About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is also one of the co-hosts of the popular show, A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. As a speaker, he travels nationally and is available to make your event stand out. To work with Gabe, please visit his website,

Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. He is also the author of several award-winning novels and creator of the costumed hero, Dynamistress. Visit his websites at and

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