Ask the Expert

arm squareReaders’ questions about emotions and wellness are answered by the expert professionals in the field of Psychology. They have extensive experience and a passion for helping the community live healthier life. Click here to ask her a question.

Answers to questions will be made available on MySahana’s e-publication, MyMantra, every month and archived here.

 

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Question: My elderly father, who is very well educated, is now living with us since my mother passed away. He and I used to always share a drink in the evenings in India but since he came I’ve noticed he’s started asking for more and more drinks. Could he be an alcoholic?

Alcoholism and alcohol addiction can begin at any age after any trigger regardless of educational status. It is possible that your father has decided to use alcohol to cope with the numerous changes in his life – losing his wife, moving to a new place, losing his independence, etc. Excessive alcohol use is linked to numerous emotional and neurological problems, such as depression and seizures among others. This can be especially dangerous for the elderly who may already be losing some cognitive and physical capabilities. Keep all alcoholic drinks away from him like you would a teenager, always have someone present when he is drinking, and maintain a hard limit of one drink per night. Additionally, encourage him to open up to you about his new life and how he feels. Find senior groups in your area to help him feel social again.

Question: I’m a junior in high school and all the pressure of SATs and APs is really stressing me out. I woke up this morning with a huge clump of hair that fell out and that scared me. How do I lower my stress?

Teens these days have an incredible amount of stress on a daily basis. Despite just feeling unpleasant, it can have a long term negative impact on your future development. Identify the sources of your stressors. Is it truly the SATs that are stressing you or is it pressure from friends, parents, or even yourself to achieve a certain standard. Make note of the sources of your stress and eliminate as many as you can. For example, just because your friend is taking 7 APs this year does not mean you have to. For the stressors you cannot remove, try to reframe them in your mind. Review your goals and identify if they are even realistic and adjust them so they are more practical. Everyone has strengths and limitations. Knowing yours will help you make better decisions in high school and as you move on in life.

Question: From your website, I have learned that couples counseling is necessary for me and my husband. But my husband refuses to go. What should I do?

Many people have reservations about going to couples counseling. Whether it’s because it feels like they have failed at the relationship, are worried about confidentiality or are concerned that the therapist will side with their partner over them, attending counseling can be a point of contention itself.

Ask your husband what his reservations are and encourage him to be specific. Once you know what his concerns are, you can both try to find solutions around it. For example, men may be less comfortable seeing a female therapist for fear she will only understand the wife’s position. If that is the case you can try to look for a male therapist. If he is still resistant or cannot find a solution to the problem, I would recommend that you begin individual counseling to receive support for what you are going through.

Question: My husband is my everything. I love him more than life. But whenever I want to talk, he tells me that I talk too much. And he doesn’t listen like my sister does. How can I teach him how to listen better?

One thing women have to learn is that their boyfriends and husbands are never going to be their girlfriend. Men and women are literally wired differently biologically and thus communicate differently to have a satisfying conversation. Many women do complain that their husbands become Mr. Fix-it when they are facing a dilemma. Asking him to change this is perfectly reasonable. Tell him you wish for him to just listen and afterwards, to validate your feelings. Let him know that when you’re ready to find a solution you will let him know. Beyond that, if you just want to chat for hours on end, you may be better off calling your sister or your girlfriends.

Question: My child is 8 years old and is a very good child. She is quiet, not disruptive and sits patiently in the classroom. She has been getting lower grades in school and the teacher says that she isn’t focusing much because she catches my daughter “spacing out” a lot. She told me to see a doctor who said my child might have ADHD. Is that possible? I thought children with ADHD are hyper. She is definitely not.

ADHD is a difficult diagnosis to make but one of the biggest misconceptions is that the diagnosis only applies to hyperactive children. While that is the stereotype and the type of ADHD that gets noticed more often because of how disruptive the children can be in the classroom, there is a second time, called Inattentive Type, that does not have hyperactivity as a symptom. Children with this type are often described as unfocused or spacey and not able to concentrate for a long time. The list of symptoms is long so I recommend if your doctor is suspecting it you have your child tested by a counselor, clinic or psychiatrist. It is a fairly easy diagnosis to treat, if it is in fact what your child has, and is important to diagnose early so she can maintain high self esteem and can succeed in the many years of education she has ahead of her.

Question: I recently read your article The Invisible Divorce. I think my situation is very similar. My husband and I are married more than 25 years. He does not abuse me physically but his comments (which he thinks are funny) are very hurtful because he has a short temper. We still have feelings for each other, so I am not planning to divorce him. It is extremely difficult to convince him to see a marriage counselor. But I feel like I am tired of this life. How can I make a change?

I’m sorry to hear about your difficult situation, though it is one that many South Asians couples experience so you are certainly not alone. Making comments that hurt you can be a form of emotional abuse especially if your husband does this to purposely hurt your feelings to take out his emotions (anger, frustration, etc.) on you. Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse though it leaves no visible scars so it is often taken too lightly. If your husband will not attend counseling with you, I would recommend that you go alone to work through your feelings about your marriage so you can cope with the situation better or figure out what changes you want to make to be happier. You don’t mention if you have children but it is important to note that even if parents do not fight in front of their kids, the children will pick up on the stress and be affected by it. Finally, relationship stress is one of the biggest risk factors for countless physical ailments that South Asians are already at high risk for, such as heart disease and diabetes. For this reason too, it is very important that you address your marital issues as soon as possible. Best of luck to you.

Question: I have a son who is in high school and I think he might be being bullied. What can I do about it? What are the signs that I should look for?

Bullying happens to children of all ages across all ethnicities and for a variety of different reasons. Children and teens who are bullied can exhibit numerous different signs and symptoms. You may notice that they are more withdrawn, showing signs of depression or they may be more stressed. Sometimes children or teens may find excuses not to go to school or experience physical illnesses more often as a result of the anxiety that they feel about going to school every day. Some children or teens may become more aggressive or hostile. Any changes in behavior or mood is a sign of concern and should be addressed. Talk to your child in a safe, understanding manner. The more comfortable they feel with you, the more likely they will tell you what is upsetting them. If they truly are being bullied, it is important to inform school administration so they may step in and prevent others from being bullied as well.

Question: From your website, I have learned that couples counseling is necessary for me and my husband. But my husband refuses to go. What should I do?

Many people have reservations about going to couples counseling. Whether it’s because it feels like they have failed at the relationship, are worried about confidentiality or are concerned that the therapist will side with their partner over them, attending counseling can be a point of contention itself.

Ask your husband what his reservations are and encourage him to be specific. Once you know what his concerns are, you can both try to find solutions around it. For example, men may be less comfortable seeing a female therapist for fear she will only understand the wife’s position. If that is the case you can try to look for a male therapist. If he is still resistant or cannot find a solution to the problem, I would recommend that you begin individual counseling to receive support for what you are going through.

Question: My wife has been going through depression since past 2 years (since her move to the US). I was trying to treat her by talking about motivation, but now I am also getting depressed by seeing her condition. I would like get both of us treated via medicines or therapy. How do we find a therapist or a psychiatrist?

First, let me just say what a great thing you have done by recognizing that you both would benefit from seeing a mental health care specialist. Prioritizing your health as such will ensure a much healthier life than pretending there is no problem or that you can do it all yourself.

Finding a therapist can be tricky. Most people prefer to go through their insurance company so they can find an in-network provider. Check on your insurance carrier’s website or call them to receive a list of providers. If you prefer a South Asian provider, you can visit MySahana’s resources page (www.mysahana.org/resources) to find one in your area.

After that you will have to call them to find out who is taking new patients and if their schedule matches yours. It is common to have to leave a message and have them call you back at a later time. When you talk to them, ask about their fee schedule and confirm that they are covered by your insurance. They may ask you to describe your reason for seeing them. Most importantly, assess how comfortable you are with them on the phone. Successful treatment depends on the trust level between you and your clinician.

Best of luck to you and your wife.

Question: How do I deal with postpartum depression? Is there any hope?

Yes there is hope! About 28% of Indian American women experience postpartum depression and about 50% of men whose wives have postpartum depression also develop depression.

Postpartum depression is very important to address as soon as possible because it affects the health of your child as well as your relationship with

your spouse. Here are some things you can do to help yourself:

1) Get fresh air everyday even if it’s for a few minutes to stand outside.
2) Try to do at least mild exercise 3 times per week (based on your doctor’s instructions)
3) Every single day, try to carve out at least 20 minutes to do something for yourself, even if it’s a long shower or painting your nails.
4) Ask for help with your daily routine. Moms are not superwomen. None of them can do everything all alone!
5) Avoid fatty, salty and sugary foods that tend to lower mood even more.
6) Talk to your doctor right away so he/she can help you monitor your symptoms and suggest a treatment plan for you.

Postpartum depression can be easily treated. When yours is treated, you will feel like a whole new person and you can begin to enjoy the happiness that your new child brings to your family.

Question: Can self-esteem cure depression, anxiety, stress, etc.?

High self-esteem can act as a protective factor against depression, anxiety and stress. However, even people with high levels of self-esteem can experience emotional health issues. By having confidence in yourself, you are less likely to take situations personally or to feel guilty about something you did not do. This will help you to treat or address the situations causing your depression, anxiety and stress more effectively than if you have low self esteem.

Question: What might be the cause of low self-esteem in a highly privileged child that is smart, good looking, funny, has a great personality, is an over-achiever?

Often, we mistakenly assume that people who have the “perfect package” on the outside must feel great about themselves. Unfortunately, low self-esteem is a very prominent issue in South Asian children, despite having the “perfect image” on the outside. Children with low self-confidence may hide behind high grades or a great sense of humor so that no one knows how vulnerable they feel inside. Reasons for low self-esteem are numerous and vary from child to child. Sometimes it is from hearing negative talk from their parents (e.g. “You can’t do that. Try a different activity.”) or feeling excessive pressure from parents to be perfect. It can also come from hearing the parents compare the child with his/her peers or siblings. Low self-esteem is something children also learn how to emulate, so watching a parent with low self-esteem can make a child feel as if low self-confidence is normal. If you think your child has low self-esteem, ask your child about how he/she feels about himself/herself. Listen without judgment and do not try to tell your child that they shouldn’t feel that way so that your child can feel most comfortable to be honest with you.

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One Comment:

  1. This is very true. Additionally, there can be times when self-image becomes a problem because often, South Asian families hold their families to the highest of standards (or what they consider to be high standards). What is necessary here is to adopt a mentality that no matter what your child looks like, what their strengths and weaknesses are, you are proud of them for tackling the difficulties that come just from being a child. Often, this goes unnoticed, and these same children turn into adults, who cannot see the simple beauty of things without wishing they had more.

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