To some degree, nearly each and every person has some sort of psychological disorder — none are immune to the human condition. For those diagnosed with a disorder, we would like to share some general information to help you better understand your condition. These resources are provided as information only and should never take the place of professional counselling services.
For your convenience, these documents are provided as downloads, so you may print them off and share with a loved one or with your registered psychotherapist during your next appointment.
What is Addiction?
When life spins out of control, sometimes there is an urge to look outside of yourself for something to make it feel better because the challenges seem too overwhelming to face. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol or gambling, the “interventions” in which we choose to engage might make us feel better quickly, which can make it seem like our intervention is working. You might feel as though the activity gives you more confidence, and a much-needed distraction from the challenges you’re experiencing. But sometimes these seemingly short-term solutions to life’s challenges make our lives spin even more out of control. Over time, you may need more and more of the substance or activity to make your feel better. And, you might start to experience negative changes to your body and your brain, and create significant disruption in our relationships with others, work life, and health.
An addiction is a strong and compulsive need to have or do something that is typically harmful to you in some way.
There are many different kinds of addictions, but the most common addictions include alcohol, drugs (prescription or recreational), gambling, sex, and shopping.
Signs of an Addiction
Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint whether there is an addiction because it can flip from healthy to unhealthy over a long period of time. There are four critical questions that help clarify if an addiction is affecting you:
If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to get more information about dealing with addictions and unwanted behaviours.
The first step to any addiction is recognizing and admitted that something is wrong. Having an awareness of the issue allows you to make decisions about how you’re going to move forward towards resolving it.
Pathways Counselling has specially trained mental health professionals who can provide you with counselling support; a proven, effective method for overcoming addiction. A mental health professional can help teach you the strategies needed to stop the cycle of addiction, understand the behaviour, resolve underlying challenges, and get back to thriving without the addictive substance or activity.
What is Anger?
Feeling angry, upset and irritable is a normal part of life. Most of the time it’s in response to something that we perceive as wrong or unfair. In its mildest form, we may feel annoyed at someone or a situation, such as when we’re stuck in traffic. In a stronger form, we may feel rage at an injustice done to us or a loved one.
However, normal anger is usually something that we’re able to resolve; whether that means looking at a situation differently to change our perspective, or giving ourselves space and time from an upsetting situation before re-approaching the issue. But sometimes anger can be a destructive emotion that negatively impacts our ability to communicate, our relationships, our jobs, and our health.
Different Forms of Anger
There are three general types of anger that can negatively impact our lives. These include:
Signs that Anger is a Problem
Here are some common signs that your anger is outside of the normal range of everyday emotions:
Anger Management Options
There are options for resolving issues with anger. Some of the activities may include:
Don’t let anger take a hold on your life. Pathways Counselling can help you stop the cycle of anger, resolve angry behaviours, learn new coping strategies, and return to enjoying your life.
What is Depression?
Sadness is a normal part of life. Everyone feels the “blues” every now and then. Most of the time, sadness comes on as a result of a situation that happens in our lives. Sadness is typically passing, and resolves itself with time.
When you experience depression, you’re experiencing more than just passing sadness. Depression is when you feel severe despair over a long period of time. It affects all aspects of your life, including your mental health, physical health, relationships, work, and personal goals. As a hypo-arousal emotion, depression takes away your energy, making it difficult to fulfil your normal daily functions. You may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, engaging with others, finding interest in things you used to enjoy, feel worthless or hopeless, and find it hard to concentrate.
1 in 4 Canadians will experience depression at some point in their lives. It is extremely common, and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, and socioeconomic status. It is believed that many different factors cause depression, including genetics, family history, environmental factors, situational factors, personality, and physical health changes and challenges. While depression may not go away on its own, with professional support it is very treatable.
The following symptoms are common in people who experience depression:
Without treatment, depression can last a long time and may never be fully resolved. If you are struggling with sadness or depression, here are some next steps for you:
What is Family Dysfunction?
It is common for families to go through difficult times. There is no such thing as a “perfect” family, or one that never experiences any challenges. Families are complex systems made up of long-term, complex relationships. The loss of a loved one, health challenges, trauma, and financial difficulties can significantly impact family dynamics, relationships, routines, communication, and problem-solving abilities, which, left unattended, can lead to chronic family dysfunction.
Some of the common reasons why families may experience difficulties may include:
While family challenges can pass on their own, most of the time they require purposeful attention and involvement of all family members to resolve difficulties and move forward in a positive way.
Signs that Something is Wrong
There are many different signs that can indicate that a family is struggling. These may include:
Treating Family Dysfunction
Family counselling by a trained mental health professional may help to resolve the challenges your family is facing, improve communication, strengthen relationships, and build resilience in the face of stressors. Family counselling involves bringing together all members of the family, in a collaborative partnership with the counsellor, in a safe, caring, and confidential environment.
Family counselling may be able to help in a variety of ways, including:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Worry and nervousness are feelings that we all experience from time to time. Your heart may beat faster, your face may flush, and you may have a sensation of “butterflies” in your stomach. This type of anxiety is healthy; it keeps us from entering or remaining in situations that are dangerous or threatening to our lives. This anxiety is also passing, and usually resolves itself once we’re out of the situation of danger.
Anxiety becomes a problem when you experience excessive worry and nervousness over normal, everyday things, for an extended period of time (usually more than 6 months). People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) often fear the worst when it comes to relationships, finances, employment, or health. Their fear is persistent and it not usually realistic, which causes them to experience distress that makes it hard to enjoy life.
GAD is common, and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, and socioeconomic status. GAD is caused by a variety of factors, including your brain chemistry, a buildup of stressful life events, and certain predisposing personality traits.
There are several symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, including:
Without treatment, the symptoms of GAD may continue to interrupt your quality of life. However, treatment has been proven effective in supporting people with GAD to get back to enjoying life. Here are some next steps to help you get started:
Grief and Bereavement
What is Grief & Bereavement?
Over the course of our lives, we all experience grief as a result of a loss. Grief is a normal, and necessary, reaction to losses of all kinds (e.g. loss of a job, loss of finances, etc.), but usually the most troubling occurs when we experience the death of a loved one. After experiencing such loss, we may ask ourselves why this happened to us, or how we’re going to be able to make it through another day and move forward with our lives. The profound devastation, sadness, anger, confusion, and denial we experience are part of grief.
Bereavement is the period of grief and mourning after we experience loss. Each person will react to and manage their grief in different ways; no two bereavement experiences are the same. There are similarities, however, that are often described as the “stages of grief”; denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance. While we may face these different experiences as a result of our bereavement process, there is no one formula, process, or specific amount of time for grief. Typically, over time, we instinctively develop new ways to cope with our loss, and our grief becomes more manageable.
Sometimes, however, we can’t adapt to our loss. This is when “grief” becomes “complicated grief”. The major signs of complicated grief include:
If you, or someone you know, may be experiencing complicated grief, getting proper support can help.
Grief is a powerful emotion, and bereavement can be a painful experience. However, grief and bereavement are necessary and normal experiences after loss. It is also normal to need the support of loved ones and/or professionals to move through grief in a healthy manner, and to avoid or treat complicated grief.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
We all have habits or routines that make us feel better, but that wouldn’t cause us distress if we couldn’t do them. For example, you might make the bed every morning before heading to school or work. It makes you feel better, tidies your space, and sets your day off well. Without that routine, however, you could still continue on with your day. When you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these habits and routines can profoundly impact your life. They may inhibit your from fully functioning on a daily basis. People with OCD often feel that their impulses and behaviours are not within their control, and are somehow not a natural part of their nature.
Obsessions are unwanted preoccupation with specific urges, images, or thoughts. Compulsions are actions taken to reduce anxiety caused by obsessions. OCD is a common mental illness, affecting approximately 1 in 40 people. It typically comes on gradually in a person’s life, in adolescence or early adulthood, and affects both men and women equally. While no single cause of OCD is known, it is believed that OCD stems from a combination of family history, genetics, and life experiences.
The most common obsessions include:
Because OCD relates to specific obsessions and compulsions, there is no one set of symptoms that can describe OCD in its entirety. However, the key features of OCD include recurrent thoughts, images, impulses or behaviours that:
OCD may disrupt your ability to concentrate on tasks, prevent you from participating in various activities of daily living, and disrupt your relationships and cause interpersonal conflicts with others. Treatment for OCD may include:
What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?
Many children and adolescents are oppositional and defiant at times. A little bit of this behaviour is normal and expected as they learn to recognize their boundaries. Typically, this behaviour can be curbed through different parenting strategies, such as defining boundaries and following-through on set consequences. However, sometimes the behaviour may indicate a deeper issue.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is classified as a disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorder that is characterized by issues with emotional and behavioural regulation. Children, adolescents and adults with ODD may struggle with self-control, which may bring them into conflict with social norms and authority figures. While some people with ODD only exhibit behaviours at home, others may display these traits throughout life, causing significant issues in relationships, school, employment, and social settings.
While there is no single known cause of ODD, risk factors include genetics/biology, environmental factors, and psychological factors. ODD is more prevalent in males than females, and usually sets in prior to adolescence.
Symptoms of ODD may appear similar to those displayed in other mental and physical health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance use. Therefore, people are typically not diagnosed with ODD unless they exhibit the following symptoms without the presence of other mental and physical conditions:
ODD is treated through a variety of different interventions, which need to be tailored to the specific needs of the person with ODD and their family. Family therapy and skills training, problem-solving skills training, psychoeducation, counselling, and medication are typically options for those seeking treatment for ODD.
Human beings experience panic when they are in a situation of danger, triggering a normal “fight or flight” instinct to help them get out of a situation that is potentially threatening to their lives.
A panic attack, however, is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that arises without a distinct situation of danger. It is far more intense than a common feeling of being “stressed out”. Some people feel as though they are suffocating, having a heart attack, or fear they are dying. While terrifying and stressful, a panic attack is not dangerous and will go away on its own.
A panic attack is marked by the following conditions:
A panic disorder is marked by repeated and unexpected panic attacks. People who are suffering from panic disorder typically fear they are going to experience more panic attacks, and as a result they avoid people, places, and situations that they have identified as potential triggers for a panic attack.
Panic disorder can be caused by, or can cause, phobias and other mental health challenges such as depression, substance abuse, and physical health complications. It ranges from mild (social impairment) to severe (complete inability to face the outside world).
If you are, or suspect that you may be, experiencing panic attacks, the trained therapists at Pathways Counselling can help you build strong, positive coping strategies to resolve the challenges, and regain control of your life.
What are Personality Disorders?
Every person has a unique personality that is formed from genetics and life experiences. Personality dictates how we interact with people and how we act in different situations and environments. Personality is an integral component of our identity.
A personality disorder occurs when a person exhibits a distressing pattern of mood and behaviour that have a negative impact on themselves and other people in their life. The abnormal thoughts and behaviours inherent in a personality disorder can keep an individual from functioning fully in their lives.
Enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.
Personality disorders can have significant negative impact on:
There are three categories of personality disorders.
Symptoms of these different personality disorders are varied, and a person may exhibit signs of more than one personality disorder.
If you are struggling with the challenges associated with a personality disorder, a mental health professional may be able to help. Dalton Associates can connect with you with a mental health professional that is a personal fit for you, and has the experience in supporting your unique challenges. Please contact us for more information.
What are Phobias?
Fear is a normal human response to a perceived danger or threat. It is an emotion that we all experience at times in our lives, and is something that can keep us cautious in situations of uncertainty. However, when you experience an overwhelming and pervasive fear of a particular situation or object, when that situation or object poses little actual danger or threat, you may be experiencing a phobia.
Unlike brief anxiety that many people experience when faced with uncertainty, such as taking a test or public speaking, a phobia is long-lasting and causes intense physical and mental health reactions. When you experience a phobia, you are typically unable to function normally.
There are many different kinds of phobias, including phobias to animals, natural environment, blood-injection-injury, situation, and other. Phobias usually develop in childhood, but can be experienced throughout one’s life. Phobias develop for different reasons, including experiencing a traumatic event, witnessing a traumatic event, an unexpected panic attack in a feared situation, or information given to you by media or others. However, most of the time, people are unable to recall what triggered their phobia.
People who have a phobia typically display the following common symptoms:
If you are suffering from the distressing symptoms of a phobia, Pathways Counselling may be able to help you develop positive strategies to manage your fears, develop strong self-confidence, reduce the impact that the phobia has on your life, and improve your quality of life.
What is Postpartum Depression?
It can be physically and emotionally challenging when you bring a new baby into your family. Sadness, stress, anxiety, mood swings, loneliness, tiredness, and weepiness (otherwise known as the “baby blues”) are common in women following the birth of a child. Baby blues typically goes away soon after birth all on its own. But sometimes you may experience more serious mental health challenges following the birth of your child; challenges that do not go away in the days, weeks or months after delivering a baby.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is depression that may start during pregnancy or at any time up to a year after the birth of a child. Depression is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood; the way someone feels about themselves, how they relate to others, and how they interact with the world around them. PPD affects a woman’s daily functioning, making it hard to take care of herself or her new baby.
PPD affects both women and men; although it is more commonly reported in women who are also new mothers. However, PPD affects people from many different walks of life, regardless of the ease or difficulty of the pregnancy, whether they are a first-time parent or have other children, whether they are married or not, and regardless of socioeconomic status, education, and cultural background.
The symptoms of PPD are quite similar to those of depression, and include:
However, with PPD, you may also experience disinterest in your baby, fear of not being a good parent, and fear of being left alone with your baby. In severe cases, parents may have thoughts of harming themselves or their child, and should seek immediate help.
Like depression, PPD does not go away on its own. It is, however, treatable with the right treatment. With the help of a trained mental health professional at Pathways Counselling, you can get back to enjoying your new baby, build confidence in yourself as a new parent, and regain quality of life.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Everyone experiences frightening situations in their lives. It is normal for us to feel nervous, have a hard time falling asleep, or have recurring thoughts about the situation after having experienced something frightening. The discomfort and disruption in our lives eventually go away, however, and we resume our normal lives.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is different. PTSD is a pervasive mental illness that is typically brought on by the experience of, or witnessing of, trauma associated with death, threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Traumatic events are typically unexpected, and you often feel powerless to stop or change the event.
PTSD is not always brought on by a single event. Sometimes trauma is experienced over a longer period of time, such as in cases of abuse or during war. People in certain careers, such as military personnel, first responders, and health care providers, have higher rates of PTSD due to their regular exposure to traumatic events.
There are varied symptoms of PTSD, and not everyone will experience PTSD in the same way. Some of the common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
People with PTSD may be experiencing other mental health challenges at the same time. As a result, people with PTSD may turn to unhealthy coping strategies, such as drugs or alcohol, which can lead to substance dependence and abuse.
Counselling with a mental health professional, one that has specific training in treating individuals who have experienced trauma, has been proven to be a successful intervention for individuals with PTSD. The specially trained trauma therapists at Pathways Counselling can help you regain control of your life, rebuild self-esteem and confidence, and get you back to enjoying quality of life.
What are Relationships Issues?
Every couple experiences issues in their relationship every once in awhile. No couple, no matter how well-suited, goes without times of struggle. Sometimes, couples are able to resolve their challenges and get back to enjoying life together. However, if concerns, challenges, and issues are left unresolved they can turn into marital dysfunction, which can lead to chronic conflict, blaming, separation, and ultimately, divorce. For the individuals in the marriage, these issues can seriously and negatively impact physical and mental health.
There are many different reasons why couples struggle in their relationship. Some of the reasons why marital dysfunction arises may include:
Signs of Marital Dysfunction
Marriage can be rewarding, but also equally challenging. Sometimes, the issues and concerns that a couple experiences become ingrained in the identity of their relationship; the couple may think that the pain, hurt, and unhappiness they’re experiencing is “normal” for a marriage, and thus does not require attention and change.
Some signs that your relationship may be struggling includes, but are not limited to:
Resolving Marital Dysfunction
Marriage and couple counselling is a form of psychotherapy that has the couple meet with a qualified mental health professional toward the goal of resolving the concerns and conflicts in the relationship, and restoring trust and communication.
Some ways that marriage and couples counselling can help your relationship include:
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
As the seasons change from autumn to winter, the temperature drops and the days become shorter. You may experience sadness, irritability, and a general lack of energy. These feelings can be quite normal; our moods naturally shift with changes in the weather. However, it is when your low mood becomes pervasive and disruptive to your daily functioning that may indicate you are experiencing something more.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as S.A.D., is a type of depression that begins in the late autumn and typically lasts until the beginning of spring. While it isn’t completely known what causes S.A.D., it is suspected that the lack of exposure to sunlight is a factor. Sunlight provides us with vitamins that we require for our emotional wellbeing. With a lack of sunlight in the late autumn and winter months comes a lack of these important vitamins, and results in reduced mental wellness. There may also be a genetic factor to the development of S.A.D.
Some of the common symptoms of S.A.D. overlap with those seen in depression. These may include:
If you experience these symptoms and suspect you may be experiencing S.A.D., you may wish to seek the support of a mental health professional who can help you build strategies to manage your challenging emotions in the late autumn and winter months, and regain quality of life.
Luckily, there are several options for treating S.A.D., which include:
What is Self Harm?
Sometimes, thoughts, feelings and experiences can seem too overwhelming or difficult to handle. Loss, trauma, feelings of emptiness, or loss of control are all reasons why people may self-harm. People may cope with these experience by hurting themselves. For some, self-harm may turn emotional pain into physical pain, which can be easier to understand and resolve. Most of the time, these individuals do not have an active wish to die. They hurt themselves by cutting, burning, or hitting themselves as a way to feel better. Self-harm is typically a symptom of another mental illness, such as depression, rather than a mental illness on its own.
Self-harm is most common in adolescents, and typically in females. People who self-harm may have suffered a significant stress or trauma in their life.
Often, people who self-harm do so in private. They may feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed. Some warning signs to pay attention to include:
If you’re worried about someone who may be self-harming, its important to learn more about it and talk about it. If you self-harm, it’s important to get the right treatment. Self-harming can actually indicate that you’re experiencing an unresolved mental illness that requires attention and care.
Your therapist at Pathways Counselling can help you learn new skills on how to effectively cope with difficult thoughts, feelings and past experiences without self-harming, or how to support someone struggling with self-harming behaviours.
What are Sleep Disorders?
Everyone experiences problems sleeping every once in awhile. Normal sleep disruptions can come on for a variety of reasons, including excitement, anxiety, preoccupation, feelings of stress, teeth grinding, or night terrors. While you may lose a night or two of solid sleep, typically these normal sleep disturbances resolve themselves in a short amount of time.
However, sometimes sleep disturbances are not quickly resolved. A lack of regular sleep can affect every aspect of your life, including your communication and relationships with others, your concentration, decision making, school or work responsibilities, and daily functioning. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can create significant emotional upheaval, including increased irritability, agitation, and anxiety.
Often, when we are having sleep issues, we are not able to get to the point where sleep is restful and restorative for our bodies. Our body cannot cycle through the proper stages of sleep, and therefore does not allow us to regenerate our energy and rest our minds.
Here are some common signs and symptoms that a lack of sleep is becoming an issue in your life:
Some more sleeping tips
What is Stress?
Traditionally, stress is our body’s reaction to a real or perceived threat. The stress prompts us to fight or flee, getting us out of immediate danger. However, in our Western society, stress is more of a daily occurrence that comes up for a variety of reasons, and are not typically things that can be fought against or from which we can run.
Whether we have too much on our task lists, major life changes, or illness in the family,, our bodies and minds feel the pressure and become “stressed”. A little stress is normal; it motivates us to become more productive, and complete tasks. However, too much prolonged stress can be overwhelming, creating problems in our relationships, work, and daily functioning.
Different people, in different stressful situations, may react differently. Here are some common signs that stress may be an issue:
Some common techniques for the short-term resolution of stress can include:
What is Suicidal Ideation?
Suicide continues to be a growing presence in our society. People who want to end their lives typically do so because they don’t feel they have any other choice. They feel desperation, an overwhelming, constant emotional pain, and a belief that their life has no worth. People commit suicide because of a variety of reasons. Severe depression, psychosis (e.g., delusion or hallucination prompts self-destructive tendencies), substance abuse, and terminal illness are some of the common reasons why people may wish to end their lives.
There are many causes for suicidal ideation, including our genes and biological make-up, environmental factors, childhood developmental issues, and trauma. Suicide claims that more lives than homicide and war every year.
There are several signs that a person may be considering or planning suicide, including:
If you know someone who may be at risk for suicide, call 911 or your local emergency response centre immediately.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing suicidal ideation or has a plan to end their lives, it’s important to get immediate emergency assistance.
Treatment for suicidal ideation often involves treating the underlying issues, such as mental illness, through psychotherapy. Your therapist at Pathways Counselling can help you identify the causes of your suicidal ideation, and give you tools for managing the overwhelming challenges you’re facing. They can also work with families to help support a loved one struggling with suicidal ideation.
If you need help in understanding your psychological diagnosis, our Mississauga psychotherapists are available to explain the various disorders mentioned on this page. To schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist, call Pathways Counselling & Life Coaching Centre, today!