Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What is a Narcissist?

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC

The word “Narcissist” has it’s origins in Greek Mythology. Around 8AD, there is a story about a beautiful hunter named Narcissus who was exceptionally proud. In order to expose his arrogance, Nemesis (a long standing rival and the origin of the word nemesis) drew him to a pool of water.  Narcissus, upon seeing his reflection and not realizing it was his own image, became so attracted to himself that he refused to leave. He later died there. Thus, the name Narcissist describes a person who is fixated on themselves.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) takes it root from the same name. Here is a practical definition:

·      Believes they better and/or superior to others,
·      Fantasizes about their unlimited power, success, and attractiveness,
·      Exaggerates their achievements and talents,
·      Expects constant praise and admiration from others,
·      Believes they are special and can only associate with other special people,
·      Shows little to no empathy for others,
·      Expects others to go along with their ideas and plans without question,
·      Takes advantage of others in exchange for a personal gain,
·      Expresses disdain for those they feel are inferior or beneath them,
·      Believes that others are jealous of them and their success,
·      Pattern of troubled close relationships, especially family members,
·      Sets unrealistic goals for others,
·      Lies to get what they want or think they deserve,
·      Is easily offended and hates to be embarrassed or ignored,
·      Very charming when needed,
·      Can cut off relationships with others without remorse,
·      Arrogance in nearly every environment, and
·      Believes it’s all about them.

Many movies have portrayed a person with NPD but perhaps the funniest and most exaggerated example is of Will Ferrell’s character Ron from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. Ron’s admiration of his looks and talents despite his obvious flaws is characteristic of narcissism. But narcissists are not just in movies, they are also in real life.
Many professions even encourage and reward a narcissistic mentality. After all, it takes an ambitious goal setter to run corporations, a charming person to win an election, a very confident (arrogant) person to perform surgery, and an embellisher to get press coverage. Narcissists can be doctors, lawyers, managers, leaders, speakers, athletes, pastors, professors, and business owners.
Some narcissists however have a difficult time holding down a job because they constantly believe they are smarter than their superiors. This can become problematic in a work place environment where subordinates are expected to succumb to a supervisor’s requests. The result is often a trail of jobs rarely lasting over a year.

Once the narcissism is revealed, spend some time understanding the disorder. Learning to work with a narcissist is much easier than fighting with it.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Role of Food in Holiday Celebrations: Eating Disorders

By: Nancy Tikunoff, IMH
In the United States, our holidays are rife with references to food as a central part of the celebration. Who can imagine a Thanksgiving get-together without all the traditional favorites? The meal is planned, budgeted, shopped for, cooked and eaten with much attention and relish. Along with the emphasis on the food comes an expectation that we will overeat. Oh yes, we’ll then complain about how “stuffed” we feel like the turkey itself and make jokes about the now-needed after dinner walk. We might even take the walk but we will still eat too much. The naps will abound before the football games start. All of this is within the normative experience of Americans during this special time of friends, family, relaxation and food. After it’s all over, we’ll go back to our usual eating habits that don’t include two pieces of pie and extra helpings of all of our favorites. It was only for a day or two and not a lifestyle and we won’t be seriously harmed.
There will be those, however, who will not be laughing and whose usual eating patterns will remain hurtful and destructive. Their intense adversarial relationship with food will rage on unabated. This “food fight” can reveal itself in different forms such as through anorexia, binge-eating, bulimia, bulorexia, compulsive overeating and other forms of disordered eating. Their common theme is the use of food to kill or quiet painful emotions, to grasp onto a sense of control or to try to find comfort when other methods (people) have let us down. Yes, you heard me right. These “food fight” maladies are not about food! They are just expressed in food-centric ways.

Why food as the drug of choice?
The reason some of us become obsessed with food is because it’s all that we have available to us. If we are children when the maladaptive relationship began, we don’t have the resources to obtain other common sources of self-medicating that adults choose such as drugs, alcohol, sex, work or gambling. But most of us in America have an ample supply of food available. In other words, we take what we can get and have easy access to. Makes sense, right?
For the anorexic, their body and their ability to make decisions about its intake and output is the sole area in which they feel they have a voice. Again, this is especially true when we are in relatively powerless and vulnerable positions, which is the case in childhood and is also when these patterns usually develop. For bulimic purgers, food allows the comfort of reducing distressing emotions to a manageable level without the added pain that excess weight gain brings.
Other reasons for food as the choice for pain control and comfort are that it is a societally and religiously “safe” addiction. Drug and alcohol addictions are frowned upon openly in our society but food addictions don’t seem to be so detrimental to the person, their families or society at large. Don’t be fooled by appearances – they are just as deadly as pills or alcohol can be. Untreated eating disorders will progressively worsen with an accompanying decline in self-esteem and physical health in conjunction with a rise in fear, a sense of being out of control and self-loathing at one’s inability to stop. The isolation and the associated sense of aloneness increases due to the secrecy required to “hide” our disordered eating from others and because of our shame and guilt.
Physical illness and death can result from the physical results to our bodies from the dangerous eating habits. Death can also occur from suicide secondary to a loss of hope that anything other than “this nightmare that has become my life” is possible.
Is help available? Can I recover from an eating disorder?
Yes, help is available and you can rediscover a normal relationship with food where it’s really about what food is – healthy nutritional fuel for our bodies. I know that may feel impossible to you now because this problem could have been present for decades. But it’s true nonetheless. There is HOPE. You can get well. The food relationship that once seemed so empowering or comforting for you but then turned on you so that it is now producing more pain than it relieves can be righted. It can be turned around. But you have to ask for help. You’ve already figured out that you can’t do it alone or you already would have fixed this mess, right? You would have stopped the pain if you could.
Call and make an appointment with a caring, understanding professional today to get started on the road back to a healthy relationship with food where it is  neither your friend nor an enemy but it’s just food (just like gas for your car at the gas pump). The suffering needs to stop and IT CAN!
Glossary of Terms
Anorexia–a serious disorder in eating behavior that is characterized especially by a pathological fear of weight gain leading to faulty eating patterns, malnutrition and usually excessive weight loss
Binge- Eating Disorder – excessive or compulsive consumption of food, usually those foods high in fat, carbohydrates and/or sugar, with the potential for ingesting thousands of calories in a short period of time; the eating feels out of control and produces weight gain, fear and shame
Bulimia- excessive or compulsive consumption of food, usually those foods high in fat, carbohydrates and/or sugar, with the potential for ingesting thousands of calories in a short period of time followed by some mechanism to rid the body of the calories and discomfort (self-induced vomiting, overuse of laxatives, excessive exercise or some combination of these methods)
Bulorexia – a pattern of eating that combines periods of anorexia with periods of bulimic behaviors
Compulsive Overeating–not an official diagnosis of an eating disorder but similar to binge-eating wherein the person’s eating feels out of control and like an addiction that they cannot stop and results in unwanted weight gain, fear and shame; by far the most common pattern of maladaptive eating
Disordered Eating – any type of relationship with food and eating wherein food and eating somehow rules the person’s life; it can exhibit itself in the form of over concern or obsession with food safety, rigid rules of eating, only eating organic foods or only eating at certain times or places
About Nancy: Having suffered from an eating disorder for decades and become free, Nancy has a deep compassion and a non-judgmental understanding for those struggling with eating disorders. It doesn’t matter what you weigh (no matter how little or how much) she just wants to help you get free. Nancy would count it as her privilege and honor to be the one to walk this out with you.

In addition, Nancy is a Registered Nurse with education in nutrition and also a Professional Life Coach in the area of Health and Wellness. She holds a Master’s Degree in Health and Wellness and a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing as well as a Master’s Degree in professional counseling. Please contact Nancy to make an appointment at:  LifeWorksgroup@aol.com or by calling 407-647-7005. You can read Nancy’s biography at www.lifeworksgroup.org

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Holiday Conversation Tips - Millenial Edition

By: Nate Webster, IMH

If there is one thing millennials deal with around the holidays, it is the passive-aggressive (or sometimes obviously aggressive) cross-examination and questioning of their life and career choices. Many millennials are dreading the question, “So what do you do for a living?” only to be met with blank stares when they try to explain that they are free-lancing, creating art or finding themselves. Holidays can be especially tough for millennials because it often feels more like a time to justify their existence than to celebrate family. So for those millennials reading this, let’s review some strategies for handling those inevitable periods of time during the holiday season when friends and family will prod at you about your life.

1.       Keep it simple: There are some old sayings, "Don’t throw pearls before swine or else they’ll trample them" and "Don’t give what is special to dogs or else they may turn around and bite you for it!" Most people in life don’t appreciate the journey; they only value the destination. They listen to someone talk about the “path they’re on” but they only really care about where that path is going to end up. This point is captured no better than in the proverbial question “So what are you going to do with that degree?” A question that pricks at the hearts of millennials as they sincerely try to express that life is more than just a degree. So while you enjoy your seasonal soirĂ©es, keep things simple and remember to be cautious about providing details to those who won’t appreciate them.
2.      Be the ambassador: If you, however, are the type of person who just can’t keep quiet and perhaps enjoys some jesting with friends and family around the holidays, then here’s a tip to help you in your ventures. Try being an ambassador. Ambassadors are individuals who represent and promote specific ideas, activities and traditionally, the interest of countries. However, as it pertains to our topic, being an ambassador can look like advocating for millennials when culturally they are often depreciated. My favorite angle to take with scrutinizing family is to put the ball back in their court and to ask them how we can actually equip millennials instead of criticizing them. Spinning around a sideline scrutinizer, who is criticizing the players but abdicating any responsibility to get in the game, promotes a conversation about solutions rather than criticism. It lovingly challenges someone’s apathy and moves the conversation towards answers, instead of just arm chair opinions.

So there you have it - a strategy for making it through the holidays and initiating some constructive dialogue. Wherever your holiday conversations take you, be sure to still be able to give your family or friends a hug and tell them that you love them. 

To schedule an appointment with Nate Webster, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Top 10 Holiday Defense Mechanisms

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
For many, the stress of the holidays is overwhelming. The anticipation of family gatherings alone can create anxious, tense, and uncomfortable responses. Then there are the personal expectations of gift giving, the lack of appropriate boundaries of friends, and the increased tension of an end-of-the-year work cycle.
Sorting through these conflicting thoughts and emotions can be difficult. Fortunately, Freud identified common coping strategies that many people utilize which he referred to as defense mechanisms. Here is a list of ten typical holiday defense mechanisms:
1.       Denial. At the top of the list is a concept of refusing to accept that anything is wrong or needs to be handled. Denial is very powerful because if something doesn’t exist then it doesn’t have to be addressed. A person may deny that anything is different after losing a family member, forbid discussion about touchy subjects, or reject a new person in their life that is displeasing.
2.      Regression. This is commonly seen when an adult child returns home for the holidays especially if the home is one they lived in at some point. Instead of acting like an adult, the adult child becomes child-like in front of their parents. An entirely different person may appear much to the surprise of a spouse or their own children. Trying to point out the change in behavior may be met with a child-like temper tantrum.
3.      Projection. Making accusations about another person that are really about the accuser is projecting. This is typically seen alongside addictive behavior. Addicts toss their issues onto others in order to divert attention away from their dysfunctional behavior. By pointing out and talking about another person’s drinking habits, the conversation and realization of their own drinking is sidetracked.
4.      Avoidance. Rather than deal with any of the stress of family, friends and work during the holidays, some avoid gatherings all together or attend very briefly and depart quickly. By making excuses for non-participation, issues are successfully evaded.
5.      Disassociation. From the view of another person, this might be a difficult one to identify. The disassociating person momentarily loses connection with reality, as if outside of their body. This is usually triggered by an anxious moment or a panic attack unnoticed by others. A person disassociates to avoid obvious outward anxiety as a self-protective device.
6.      Idealization. One of the easiest ways of coping with a difficult past is to think the holiday memories were better than they were. Idealizing is also referred to as historical revisionism. The brain blocks out difficult times and only remembers the positive because the past was too traumatic. This is commonly seen in abusive home and work environments.
7.      Introjection. This word is not commonly used in our vocabulary. Projection is putting things on another person; introjection is internalizing other’s comments. This can be particularly damaging when the statements are critical and the person then believes the remarks to be true, even when there is evidence to the contrary.
8.      Passive aggression. When another person sparks an angry emotion, a passive-aggressive remark is sometimes used instead of an aggression. This comes in the form of biting sarcasm, intentional prostration, and convenient forgetfulness. Sometimes negative comments are made behind the other person’s back.
9.      Somatization. This manifests through real physical symptoms which are actually rooted in a mental condition such as anxiety, depression, guilt, or anger. A person may have an intense upset stomach, not from the food, but rather from anxiety over seeing someone else they did not want to see. Because this is difficult to diagnose, the default should be that the symptoms are rooted in a physical issue before jumping to a mental issue.
10.   Wishful thinking. Believing that this holiday will be the best ever without any evidence to support it is wishful thinking. While at first this may seem to be a positive defense mechanism, it can be disastrous. The potential letdown from an unrealistic fantasy is like falling off a steep cliff and could take much longer to recover from than a more realistic viewpoint.

Learn to identify your own natural defense mechanisms before picking out others. This is more about understanding how stress is managed rather than finger pointing.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.


7 Tips for Surviving the Holidays with a Narcissist

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

As if life with a narcissist wasn’t bad enough on a regular basis, add the holidays into the mix and it becomes chaotic. Narcissists want the best looking house on the block with extreme decorating measures just to outdo the neighbors and relatives. The food is Martha Stewart worthy (even when it is purchased and made to look homemade), the clothes are the latest fashion trend, the parties are legendary but so are the rants and verbal assaults beforehand. And the gifts…well they are always memorable as either too lavish or too thoughtless.
But the narcissistic relative does not have to get the best of the holiday season. Try these seven tips for surviving the next holiday function.

1.       Remember who they are. A narcissist acts narcissistic. Expecting them to be anything different because it is a special time of the year is unrealistic. If anything, the charming narcissist will emerge full of colorful stories of their exaggerated elaborate accomplishments designed to impress everyone. Remember who they are and expect them to act accordingly.
2.      Resist the temptation to disprove. Any attempts to discount or minimize the narcissist’s achievements will be met with a swift insult or biting sarcasm.  The narcissist cannot be upstaged or proven unworthy of praise. Sometimes, they resort to a stare tactic followed by the silent treatment just to demonstrate their total disgust for any show of disrespect. This can be completely avoided by resisting the urge to disprove the exaggerations.
3.      Don’t take the comments personally. The narcissist is betting that their personal attack, even the subtle or passive-aggressive ones, will disarm anyone trying to discredit them. Think of it as a bully on a playground who makes a quick comment to intimidate any competition. Instead, try to make light of the attack, refusing to show any negative emotion. This might frustrate the narcissist but they will be the ones acting poorly this time.
4.      Expect them to steal the show. A holiday gathering is like cat nip for most narcissists as they have a captive audience of which to dominate and absorb the energy of the room. Narcissists need attention and admiration to survive and a holiday function is the perfect environment to get both. Everything will be about the narcissist and all other conversation will eventually be redirected as well. Expect this, don’t fight it.
5.      Don’t treat them the way they treat others. There is a temptation to treat a narcissist with the same disregard as they treat others. But this often backfires as the narcissist uses that opportunity to demonstrate how they are the real victim. This twisting of the truth becomes a weapon of sorts targeted at whoever tries to treat them poorly. Rather act in a manner that demonstrates maturity, instead of immaturity.
6.      Have an exit plan. Sometimes the show is just too much or sometimes the narcissist explodes in a rage over something minor. Either way, have an exit plan well in advance for a quick departure if needed. This could be another engagement or a friend who suddenly needs support. Escaping is far better than confronting.
7.      Be grateful the holiday is once a year. Keep the holiday in perspective by remembering that it occurs only once a year. The event might seem like an eternity but in reality it is one day out of 365. Being grateful for the other 364 days without the narcissist can reduce tension and anxiety even in the worst of circumstances.

Vowing to enjoy the holidays despite the narcissistic relative takes planning, thought, and emotional control. But this is an excellent place to test new techniques on how to handle a narcissist. After all, there is likely to be another one close by.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.


Monday, November 14, 2016


By: Nancy Tikunoff, IMH

What is EMDR?

The EMDR acronym stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. It is a psychological treatment based on a scientific model of adaptive information processing (AIP). The theoretical basis for it was formulated by the founder Dr. Francine Shapiro who found that traumatic or problematic events and their later memories sometimes are processed maladaptively by our brains. The EMDR process allows for those events/memories to be reprocessed in an adaptive manner thus relieving the client's distressing symptoms.

How does it work?

After ensuring that the client feels safe through the creation of resources to assist them in accessing a place of safety, the actual eye movement reprocessing is started.

Hand movements initiated by the therapist & followed by the client's eyes are designed to cause the eyes to move in such a way that allows the brain to correct the way the memory was processed.

Other methods such as tapping, listening with earphones to an alternating tone or having the client hold a sensor feeling the alternating tone by holding it in their hands can be used for clients whose trauma may be triggered by the raising of the therapist's hand to perform the eye/hand movements and are thus unable to tolerate that approach.

What kind of problems is it used to treat?

Research has repeatedly demonstrated its effectiveness in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other distressing, traumatic experiences. It also has successful outcomes in treating anxiety, fear, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anger, phobias, grief, eating disorders, addiction and depression caused by a variety of distressing life experiences or events including one-time events such as being in a hurricane or multiple events such as repeated sexual abuse.

Clients report decreases or complete resolution of such debilitating symptoms as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, hypervigilance, avoidance of anyone or place that reminds them of the event and lessening of destructive behaviors such as addictions to numb the overwhelming emotions of fear, shame, anxiety and guilt that they are experiencing.

Waving hands, eye movements and tapping tones sound weird to me. Is this a legitimate therapy?

Absolutely. Research findings demonstrate its effectiveness in over 30 randomized controlled clinical trials. The Veteran’s Administration (VA) approves and reimburses it as a first line of treatment for veterans. It is an accepted mainline therapeutic approach.

Am I a candidate for EMDR?
Your EMDR-trained therapist can meet with you to make an assessment whether EMDR is the right therapeutic approach for your particular situation. In addition, certain conditions are not conducive to having the therapy done and you will need to be screened for these.

If you would like more information about EMDR here are some resources to assist you.

Emdrvideo.com (free videos of EMDR sessions)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nylajeG6uFY (Interview with Dr. Shapiro)

“Getting Past Your Past – Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy” by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. (available as an ebook or print version)

The Anxiety of Living in a Military Family

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC
As a mom with a child in the military, every time a news story breaks of a military death, my heart and breathing literally stop. It doesn’t matter what branch, location/country, circumstance, on base, off base, or in the line of duty, life comes to a screeching halt. A flood of emotions takes over any logic at the moment as all five senses become hyper-aware of the potential crisis. It usually takes reading or listening to the story several times before logic returns and the anxiety diminishes.
Keeping the anxiety at bay is nearly impossible at the initial onset of news even though that would be ideal. The last thing that is needed in those moments is an emotional overreaction because it clouds thinking. By the end, the emotional toll from the rush of anxiety is exhausting, draining, and can be debilitating. However, there is a better way. Follow these steps to reduce the intensity of the anxiety.
1.       Prepare. Mentally prepare ahead of time for the next anxiety attack. Take a few moments to mentally review a past incident of anxiousness. What happened? What were the circumstances? What worked? What did not work? This information provides clues as to how handle a situation going forward. At the end of reviewing these steps, imagine the same situation with a reduced level of anxiety. This provides the brain with a template for how to handle situations going forward.
2.      Aware. At the first indication of breaking news, become aware of the basics such as breathing. Just before jumping out of a plane to skydive for the first time, my instructor reminded me to breathe. It sounded ridiculous at first but after jumping it became extremely practical advice especially since I was unconsciously holding my breath. It is a natural response during anxious moments to do likewise. Saying, “Don’t forget to breathe,” can be come as automatic with practice.
3.      Stop. If driving a car when the news breaks, pull over immediately. Stop listening or paying attention to anything else in the moment so all attention can be focused on the information at hand. This is not a good time to multi-task because key information my go unnoticed which could prolong the anxiety attack. If stopping is not possible, slow down.
4.      Absorb. In order to absorb all of the information, active listening must be done. Remove any random thoughts from the brain and repeat what was just said on the news. Sometimes it helps to speak it out loud especially for auditory processors.
5.      Respond. This is the time to do a reality check. Is the military person stationed where the news hit? What is the likelihood that they were in that particular location given their job? When was the last time communication happened? For the sake of the military person, please resist the urge to reach out to them if none of this is likely. It makes their job much harder if family members are constantly communicating anxiety.
6.      Release. The quickest way to release emotion is to cry. Get to a private place and let it out as soon as possible. Allowing anxiety to build can create an angry emotional response later which is likely to be more harmful to others. Crying is a far better and safer release of tension.
7.      Hydrate. It is back to the basics again with drinking some water or another beverage other than alcohol. Drinking something ice cold to induce a brain freeze can be extremely useful because the brain shuts down the anxiety in favor of warming itself up from the cold beverage.
8.      Extend. Reach out to a friend who is supportive and understanding. Pray for the other family’s loss. Go outside and stare at nature. The key is to look past the self for a moment to gain perspective and reestablish normality. 
9.      Create. Lastly, create a new ritual for how to manage upcoming news. Doing the same routine over and over every time creates a new pathway in the brain. This can greatly reduce future anxiety because there is a comforting process in place.

It is good to play with these steps and revise or modify as needed. Everyone is different with unique needs. But having established a habitual routine can go a long way to reducing the anxiety.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.