Many people can feel lonely from time to time, especially at this time of year. As the cold weather sets in, days get shorter and darker, and people are often less likely to go out and socialise with others. This only increases feelings of loneliness. However, for others, loneliness can be a constant feeling. Loneliness can affect different people in completely different ways. For example, some people can even feel alone when surrounded by loved ones. A person can be lonely without being alone.
Loneliness can be described as the gap between a person’s desired level of human connection and the actual level of human connection they experience. It occurs when our desire for meaningful connections and relationships is not satisfied.
Although each person’s experience of loneliness is unique, those suffering often experience social isolation, feel left out, unheard, or feel like they don’t belong. This can have extreme effects on both mental and physical health if not dealt with.
The importance of human interaction
Human interaction is an essential part of life; it is only human to crave compassion and companionship. When this is taken away, you can feel very lonely and depressed. Here are some of the most common causes of loneliness:
The loss of a loved one
A sudden breakup
Moving to a new area or going away to university
Loneliness can be experienced at any age or moment in life.
According to the 2021 World Happiness Report, those who felt more socially connected during the pandemic had:
Higher life satisfaction
Improved mental well-being
It was shown that people with a strong support network could overcome challenges, be less stressed, and maintain a stable mental state.
What are the benefits of social connection?
Improves Mental Health: Connecting with others can give a boost to your mood, decrease stress levels, and even improve a person’s self-esteem.
Increases lifespan: research by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) has suggested that being socially isolated can raise the chances of death by a staggering 50%. Furthermore, loneliness can lead to serious issues such as depression and cognitive decline.
Improved quality of life: social isolation can also be linked to health problems such as obesity, smoking, and heart disease.
What are the emotional consequences of loneliness?
There are strong links between loneliness and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and substance dependency. Loneliness can also contribute to disruptions in eating and sleeping patterns. It is common for feelings of loneliness to sometimes develop to such an extent that they lead an individual to engage in acts of self-harm or have thoughts of suicide.
How we can help
The good news is that you aren’t alone; there are people who can help. The feeling of loneliness doesn’t have to be permanent. At the Henry Centre, we have experienced counsellors who can help you understand the cause of these feelings and discuss and resolve them to aid in your recovery. We provide the following therapies for those suffering from loneliness:
When we think about a child with optimal wellbeing…what do we imagine? A healthy, happy child, well nurtured, provided for materially and educationally with access to all the opportunities life holds?
Wellbeing relates to quality of life dependent on our ability to fulfil personal and social goals. However, our perceptions of quality of life vary. What makes one person happy may be another’s idea of misery. Yet it is fair to assume most consider good family relationships, happy home lives, meaningful friendships, good health, education and hope for a secure future as the main contenders in maintaining optimal wellbeing. All of which we would wish for every child.
The Wellbeing Decline
After the last 15 months, it will come as no surprise that wellbeing levels for children are at an all time low. The pandemic with its associated lockdowns impacted everyone’s wellbeing, but looking at the situation from a child’s perspective, we can see how the uncertainties and frustrations of the situation raised anxiety levels. Something I am sure we can all relate to. Our worlds were turned upside down and many of us…not least our children…are still recovering and trying to adapt to the new ‘normal’.
Even before the pandemic, a decline in children’s wellbeing was evident. According to ‘The Good Childhood Report 2020’, children in the UK are among the least happy in Europe.
So, what exactly has been impacting the wellbeing of our children? Pandemic aside, there are many other factors contributing to the overall feeling of malaise.
I spoke with a range of people invested in children’s wellbeing. Parents, grandparents, teachers, child counsellors and perhaps most importantly, the children themselves. What do they feel the main factors impacting children’s wellbeing are and what can we do to help support their wellbeing?
Pandemic Effects On Children’s Wellbeing
Primary school teacher Heather describes the effect the lockdowns have had on her pupils: “Some children have become more withdrawn following the lack of face to face contact with different adults and children. “
This is an understandable reaction to the associated anxieties of socialising and will likely take time to readjust.
Manjeet, child counsellor at The Henry Centre mentions how the transition from primary school into senior school was so difficult throughout the pandemic. The usual groundwork such as transition days, was not always available. She noticed an increase in children requiring counselling support which needed to take place online during lockdowns. What became evident to her through speaking with these children was how the school environment plays a key role in overall wellbeing. They struggled with their time away from school. Routine, face to face communication, structure and mental stimulation are all such vital factors in wellbeing.
Internet Safety And Social Media Influence
Since the rise of internet communication, we are increasingly impacted by social media. This affects children to a large extent. Much of their social interaction takes place online (particularly throughout the pandemic). The proliferation of chat groups on social media platforms means children can find themselves added to groups without their consent. A bombardment of continual messages can be stressful (some of which can lean towards cyber bullying). It’s an unlimited world of interaction with limited means of protection. Online information and communication needs to be extracted and constructed safely and mindfully. But are we really in control of what our children can access online? We need to stay up to date on how best to support our children with internet safety and empower them with the knowledge to navigate their way safely. Let’s face it, we can’t avoid the need for online connection and this communication tool can be such a positive resource. Fortunately, schools are providing children with internet safety lessons and workshops for parents.
Speaking with mother and grandmother, Julie, she believes the main impactor of children’s wellbeing is social media. “The impact social media has on children can be very destructive. It makes children feel inadequate, fearful and can lure them into highly dangerous territory. Their wellbeing is at risk due to what’s out there and it’s so easily accessible.”
Social media can feed the culture of comparisons/ influences/ FOMO (fear of missing out) pressure to fit in and this can all raise anxiety. Children are exposed to more information now than we were as children. Without sufficient safeguards in place it is possible for children to access information inappropriate for their age. This can have a lasting detrimental effect on the vulnerable mind of a child.
Primary school teacher Heather illustrates this, “Images showing unobtainable bodies in social media affect children’s wellbeing. My own seven year old thinks she is fat.”
Manjeet has noticed an alarming increase in eating disorders throughout the pandemic which she believes can be attributed to two things. The closure of eating disorder services during lockdown. (Vulnerable children were prevented from obtaining vital support from in-person communication.) She also feels pervasive anxiety from the pandemic itself (the associated lack of control) led children and young people predisposed to eating disorders to attempt to claw back some control through their eating habits.
I spoke with Terry, a counsellor at The Henry Centre. He also believes social media is a big influence on children. He noted how it can be used as a powerful, manipulative tool. “Social media can be used as a weapon. It presents the opportunity of cyber bullying. Children can’t leave it at the school gates. It comes home with them. The existence of chat rooms devoted to subjects like self harm or eating disorders provides readily available hints and tips. Peer pressure has always existed, but since the invention of the smartphone, there is no escape from people’s opinions and social influence.” He goes on to say, “Many children become secretive about their use of social media, in their attempt to hide their inquisitiveness from their parents.”
However, Terry is careful to point out the positive aspects of social media. “Lockdown negatively impacted the wellbeing of children. As we know, face to face interaction is beneficial to our wellbeing. Socialising has been made possible via online platforms and this helped ease the pressures of lockdown for children.” It seems the benefits of social media can balance the negative aspects, provided we have the right approach to online safety.
So as to gain a balanced perspective it is important to include the views of a child. I spoke with 12 year-old Will. He seems to appreciate boundaries. “I think it’s important kids have enough time to socialise, even if that’s online, but not too much screen time because it just gets boring.” He went on to describe how some children in his school year play computer games with a higher age rating than is appropriate. “I think that’s dangerous. Once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it. Parents should make sure the game is an appropriate age (certificate).” He feels it’s important for children to feel protected by their parents. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I was allowed unsupervised access on the internet.”
Heather speaks about her practice as a parent. “I always encourage time spent outside away from electronic devices.”
Education and Wellbeing
The amount of agency children have in life affects their levels of happiness. The Good Childhood Report acknowledges this impact.
As their report suggests, the type of school children attend plays a significant part in their happiness. According to research conducted in 2008 by Gutman and Feinstein, learning is closely intertwined with wellbeing. “The school environment…plays an important role in children’s social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing”. (Gutman and Feinstein, 2008). The positive association between learning and wellbeing has lasting effects through childhood into adolescence. For boys, this predicts their wellbeing in terms of behaviour, whereas for girls, the effects can be seen in their social wellbeing. (Gutman et al., 2010).
Heather speaks about the importance of education providers “They play a key role in supporting wellbeing and identifying issues early on which could prevent them from developing into greater problems.”
The young people Terry works with provides him with an invaluable insight into the wellbeing of this age group. He highlights pressures children feel as a result of missed schooling due to lockdowns. “I’ve seen how the situation created anxiety for younger clients.Some missed up to six months of school. Children worry if they can achieve the grades they need to to get them to the next level.” Anxiety is a natural response to a situation where there appears to be no answers. However, if anxiety is unregulated, it can lead to serious issues such as self harm, depression and even suicide.
Will spoke about his levels of wellbeing in school. “My wellbeing seems to be affected by others around me. I don’t have control over the kids I have to be with at school and their behaviour affects how I feel.” This lack of control highlights the agency factor the Good Childhood Report sites as significant in the attainment of happiness. He explained how frustrated he feels when he perceives teachers as handling situations unfairly. He suggests children need to respect other children’s needs. He feels this could be supported by teachers clearly explaining boundaries to children. Interestingly, he expresses “I actually think there should be more discipline from teachers” which is contrary to what most people would assume children want.
Family relationships and home life
As The Good Childhood Report suggests, the way children perceive their family relationships and home life impacts their happiness levels.
Heather notes the importance of family quality time. “I try to make family dinner time an opportunity to talk to each other.”
Terry cites the lockdowns as having put unforeseen pressures on some parents, such as job losses and even home losses. “Some turned to self-medication such as drugs and alcohol which spiralled out of control.” This undoubtedly severely impacted children. “Some families experienced an increase in domestic violence which negatively impacted children who witnessed this. Some bore the brunt of their parent’s self medication through abuse or neglect.” Terry’s findings are in line with research. ‘In just one month, the number of new cases (or child domestic abuse) rose by 1493% compared with the same period over the previous three years.’ (Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2021.)
It is worth noting, as we emerge from the pandemic, those who experienced a decline in wellbeing are now in a position to rebuild their lives both personally and socially (although the journey may not be easy).
Manjeet acknowledges the importance of parental mental health in terms of a wider perspective. “Parents need the capacity to help their children, so a holistic approach is needed when looking at the wellbeing of children.”
How issues are discussed within families influences how a child learns to communicate and subsequently deal with more serious aspects of life.
Manjeet points to family therapy as a consideration. She notes how many issues experienced in families, such as eating disorders can be intergenerational. “Issues can be unwittingly passed down. Opening up the dialogue can be incredibly valuable.” She acknowledges some children aren’t encouraged to talk about mental health issues within their family. “It’s important children are given the opportunity to open up that line of communication within their wider world.” This is where counselling can help.
The Impact Of Children’s Wellbeing On Our Wellbeing?
Anyone invested in the wellbeing of children will recognise an empathic connection with the way children feel.
As Heather explains to me, “Unhappy children make for an unhappy classroom. If they’re not in a ‘good place’, learning becomes difficult, impacting progress and self-worth which is an essential part of their development.”
Julie also notes the impact on teachers, “Any outside influence impacting the wellbeing of my children or grandchildren makes me feel stressed and worried.”
Terry’s views align with this. “My mood is definitely affected by my child’s. If he is suffering, I feel a personal responsibility to remedy that. It can be draining.”
Being invested in the wellbeing of children means our work is cut out for us, so we need to find positive ways to manage any associated stress. Parenting groups, family therapy and/or personal therapy can play a key role.
Negative Effects Of An Unhappy Childhood
As previously touched upon, negative childhood experiences can be passed on from generation to generation, which can, if unaddressed, result in intergenerational wellbeing issues.
Terry explains how mental health in adult life begins in childhood. “Unhappiness in childhood impacts the child’s wellbeing into adolescence and beyond. If a child experiences trauma this manifests in a variety of ways including personality disorders. If left untreated, their personal crises can have far reaching implications for all around including friends, family or colleagues.”
Will offers his perspective and voices his fears for the future: “If a child is unhappy at home, they might act out at school. They will do as they please and disobey rules if they don’t have rules at home. I worry about where the world is going with some kids in my school. If they’re behaving disrespectfully now, what will they be like as adults?”
Almost in answer to Will’s question, Heather speaks of her experience. “Those with unsettled beginnings in care, poverty or having experienced early bereavement went on to lead troubled lives. I can think of at least three I taught who are either in prison or in trouble with the law. I think there is a direct link.” She goes on to explain how supportive home lives provide grounding for success later in life. “There is an unfair stigma attached to people who had disadvantaged childhoods. If they can’t achieve good exam results because of their home lives, it’s difficult to secure good jobs. The cycle may continue with their own children.”
How To Improve Our Children’s Wellbeing
Although the type of help required depends on the individual as needs differ from person to person, modelling positive behaviour, positive praise, listening and quality time are among the most agreed upon methods of supporting wellbeing.
Heather speaks about the benefits of children appropriately witnessing their parents’ emotions. “This demonstrates it’s ok to feel emotions and models how they can be managed. Children need to learn to take responsibility for their feelings; but to do that, they need help identifying what those feelings are.”
Heather highlights the link between positive praise and wellbeing. “Rather than focusing on negative aspects of behaviour, celebrating successes can empower children and encourage further positive behaviour.”
Julie notes the importance of children feeling able to reach out. “Adults need to take an interest, really listen to children and keep the lines of communication open.”
Will appreciates quality time with his mum. “I think all parents should spend time bonding with their kids over things their kids enjoy doing.”
Physical and Mental Wellbeing
Manjeet feels the government previously focused on physical wellbeing to the detriment of mental health. “They have placed a lot of emphasis on funding to support physical health; but what about mental and emotional health?” Although it is important to take care of our physical health, a holistic approach to health has long term benefits. As the Mental Health Foundation states, ‘We often think of our mind and body as separate, but our mental health and physical health are interconnected.’ (Mental Health Foundation 2021.)
Wellbeing on a widespread scale
Heather points to the benefits of positive societal influences. “Children need and seek out positive role models to aspire to.”
Terry asserts the importance of raising awareness around issues such as self harm and suicide, the subject of which is widely shared via social media. “It’s important to remember self harm is not necessarily linked to suicide. Self harm is about changing the way you feel, whereas suicide is about ending the way you feel but social media doesn’t always make that distinction. Things can get dangerous.”
Julie suggests “The government can look at ways to make social media more responsible for what they share, as currently, children have a false sense of reality.”
Will speaks about appropriate control and structure. “Teachers should be able to control the class.” Referring to the issue of gang culture, he says “There should be more police out on the streets, especially rough areas.”
Government Support For Children’s Wellbeing.
Heather shares her views, “The government needs to put more funding into wellbeing programmes in schools, especially in light of the pandemic.”
Will puts his thoughts across, “I think the government needs to make moreyouth centres to help get gangs off the street.” He also mentioned the importance of child-led help through authorities asking children what they need rather than just prescribing what they assume they need. “What about a survey of what the kids like doing most in their spare time?”
‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’ is a ‘green paper’ government document stating planned improvements. Among the points mentioned, it is proposed there will be a mental health specialist in each school and provision of a lead in mental health in every school and college by 2025. They also pledge to reduce waiting times for treatment from children and young people’s mental health services.’ The government also aims to work with the Children’s Commissioner to explore how social media affects children and young people’s health. They pledge support to families of children with a higher risk of developing mental health problems. They also promise to continue researching how to prevent mental health problems. (Gov.UK 2021)
How Children Can Help Themselves
An effective way to empower children is by inviting personal responsibility for their wellbeing.
Heather speaks about how we can do this. “It’s important to encourage children to have lots of interests, do things they enjoy and not give in to peer pressure to fit in. We have a picture in class of a group of fish swimming one way and one is going alone in the opposite direction. We say ‘Be the fish’! It’s positive to be different.”
Julie feels it is important kids are educated not to use social media as a guide for life.
Will acknowledges the importance of children being mindful of the amount of sugar they consume. “I’ve noticed fizzy drinks can make me feel argumentative. I like fizzy drinks and don’t want to stop drinking them, but it’s important to drink a sensible amount.” (A reminder of how our physical and mental wellbeing is intertwined.)
Some children benefit from having the company of pets. Will tells me “I have 2 dogs and a cat and they help me feel happy.” The therapeutic effect of animals is well documented. He also notes how being creative, playing with Lego and listening to music helps calm him.
Serious Wellbeing Situations
In an emergency situation where a child’s safety is at risk, it is important to act swiftly. Depending on the situation, be it self harm or planned suicide, it may be appropriate to involve emergency services. Obviously we want to avoid a crisis situation and put safety precautions in place to help prevent the possibility of a child harming themselves or others. This is why it is important to put wellbeing strategies in place as soon as possible.
Manjeet recommends supportive websites designed for children like YOUNG MINDS, KOOTH and PAPYRUS as especially beneficial for children uncomfortable speaking to adults. This cultivates a reflective practice on wellbeing and possibly an openness to the concept of counselling.
Although every parent would like to think their child would speak with them about absolutely anything, some may fear upsetting their parents or worry about potential judgement. Sometimes it’s easier to speak with someone who isn’t so close.
Manjeet explains how short term counselling can help support children through a difficult patch. “Children may need some space away via personal therapy. Child-led conversations are so beneficial to help empower a child in a situation where they feel they have no control.’
Every child has the right to a bright future. Knowing children are concerned about the negative effects of an unhappy childhood on society is a warning to us all. We must act now to secure our children’s wellbeing, helping foster a positive future for us all.
The Henry Centre
The Henry Centre therapists are experienced and highly trained to masters level to work specifically with a younger age group. The centre provides space specifically designed for children and young people.
Understandably, the NHS is currently overwhelmed with requests for support for children’s mental health. Clearly they are doing their best under strenuous circumstances, but consequently, waiting lists are long. Depending on the severity of the situation, time may be of the essence. Please contact the centre if you would like to arrange some professional support for the emotional wellbeing of a child or young person you care for. The Henry Centre can arrange an initial assessment to be carried out within the same week.
Abomeli, Baker, Hameed, Mankad, Sidpra,. Rise in the incidence of abusive head trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021. 1st ed. London: BMJ, Archives of Disease in Childhood, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
GOV.UK. 2021. Quick read: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision – GOV.UK . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-provision-a-green-paper/quick-read-transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-provision. [Accessed 19 July 2021].
Mental Health Foundation. 2021. Physical health and mental health | Mental Health Foundation. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health. [Accessed 19 July 2021].
You’re at the supermarket with your husband. While you’re in the checkout queue, you pick up your mobile and begin scrolling through the dozens of contacts. Although you have already managed to have sex with 4 of them in the last 24 hours, you’re desperate to arrange another hook-up. You remember calling in sick to work recently and cancelling meeting friends to accommodate sex. Does any of this sound familiar?
What is Sex Addiction?
Although most people associate the condition with men, sex addiction can affect all genders equally. However, females report greater shame, possibly due to cultural expectations (‘boys will be boys’ and ‘good girls don’t do this, that and the other’…)
Compulsive sexual behaviour diagnoses linked to sex addiction were first recognised over 40 years ago. However, due to the associated stigma, this controversial disorder often remains hidden. Psychology studies have shown brain changes within the reward centre of the brain, associated with addiction, illustrating the powerful drives motivating behaviour in those with sex addiction.
Sex addiction* can be described as engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behaviour, despite increasing negative consequences to self and others including threats to health, finance, relationships and even the risk of arrest. This encapsulates the sheer desperateness of the situation. As with all addictions, the negative impacts increase as the addiction increases.
Sex addiction can be any sexual behaviour that feels ‘out of control’. It’s not necessarily the behaviour itself that constitutes the addiction, rather the dependency on it. The addicted person gradually has to intensify the behaviour to achieve the same results. Most will have tried to stop or limit their behaviour countless times, but despite knowing the risks, they can’t seem to.
For some, the behaviour does not venture beyond compulsive masturbation, phone/ computer sex or extensive pornography consumption; but for others, it can progress to illegal activities…exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene communications and in some extreme cases, abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Sex Addiction
As no person is the same, the behaviours will vary. However, there are common behaviours attributed to someone in this position. For example, due to an excessive sex drive, they will be preoccupied with having sex. This may interfere with daily life, such as work performance. It would not be unusual to find those addicted engaged in compulsive relations with strangers.
As with anyone who battles addiction, they may lie, in an attempt to cover their behaviours. They may become skilled at hiding their behaviour for fear of being found out. They may lie outright about their activities or partake at times and places they know they won’t be discovered. Addicts describe the compulsion as moments where they feel they are being controlled by a force greater than themselves.
Warning signs include:
Pornography (legal or illegal)
Exhibitionism/voyeurism Sadistic/ Excessive sexual pursuits
Although the above signs can signal sex addiction, it’s important to remember there may be other explanations for these behaviours.
Emotional Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Anyone in the grip of addiction will feel guilt after engaging in the activity. The behaviour may have negative personal and professional consequences, yet unable to stop, they pursue their next high. This behaviour pattern gradually erodes away their self-worth. An addict will live with feelings of depression, shame and hopelessness.
What About Life Partners?
Although addiction to sex is a genuine condition, some people may claim to have a sex addiction as a way to explain infidelity in a relationship. However, genuine sexual addiction in a relationship can be distressing for both parties. Partners may experience shock, hurt and anger at the deceit. They may feel betrayed in a way usually attributed to an affair. On top of the effort to rebuild trust is the realisation they may have to face a future of trying to support their partner through recovery. Some partners may have no idea about their partner’s addiction (such is the skill of an addict to hide their disorder). The point of discovery may be the point when the addict breaks down, finally admitting their struggle or the moment a partner uncovers the truth. Partners may experience self-doubt as questions bubble up, “Why did my partner satisfy their needs outside our relationship?”
The Difference Between Sex Addiction and a High Sex Drive
It’s important to remember that enjoying sex does not constitute sex addiction. **Enjoying a healthy activity, such as sex is completely normal. Even cheating or engaging with prostitutes, whilst this may cause relationship problems, it doesn’t necessarily equal sex addiction. Also, differences in sex drive levels between partners doesn’t mean one person has a sex addiction. An addiction, like any addiction, is the point where you are having sex not for pleasure, but to help you fall asleep, face the day and cope with withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to recognise the differences.
What Are the Dangers of Sex Addiction?
If protection is absent, obvious risks would include contraction of sexually transmitted infections and diseases, possibly leading to serious long-term health problems. Continually putting yourself in vulnerable positions may lead to a greater risk of attack. As mentioned previously, sex addiction may destroy relationships. At the sharp end of the point, there are connections between sex addiction and sex offending. Just over half of convicted sex offenders are diagnosed sex addicts. The tragedy is, the problems this sector of society suffers are so severe, imprisonment may be the only option to ensure society’s safety. However, sex addicts will not necessarily become sex offenders. Equally, not all sex offenders are sex addicts.
What’s Behind Sex Addiction?
Sex addiction has been linked to insecure attachment, poor impulse control and childhood abuse. The behaviour, developed as a coping mechanism, is an attempt to numb painful emotions. The growth of internet technology means increased accessibility to graphic content. Chronic consumption plays an influential role and early, persistent exposure to sexual content may result in ‘sexual conditioning’. Sex addicts may act out of a need for control as a perverted expression of anger.
What Should You Do if You Think You or Your Partner Has a Problem?
A vital component for any relationship is communication. If you feel there is a problem, as hard as it may be, the courageous and sometimes relationship-saving action to take is to voice your concerns. If your partner has previously struggled with addictions and you’re aware of their pornography consumption, it may be worth asking if their use has increased or become problematic.
What if Both Partners Have a Sex Addiction?
You may think on some level, this would be the perfect match. Admittedly, while each may understand the other in a way other partners may not, the problems experienced would be exacerbated. Just as it would be a toxic combination of both partners were addicted to a class A substance, both partners addicted to sex could create an enabling environment fueled with denial which only serves to perpetuate the problem. Many addicts experience a period of denial before entering the realms of acceptance. The first step is to accept the problem. The next step is to treat the issue with the importance it warrants (and each other with the respect you both deserve) and source expert assistance. It’s impossible to confirm sex addiction without a professional assessment.
What if My Partner Won’t Accept They Have a Problem?
If your partner can’t accept they may have a problem it’s unlikely they would benefit from therapy. However, it’s still beneficial to reach out for personal support. It may transpire the problem is not addiction, but something else affecting your sexual relationship.
Where To Turn?
This may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. To admit to yourself and/or your partner there’s a problem is the first step. Addiction is nothing to feel ashamed of, no matter what societal messages may have you believe. Addiction is a powerful controller that can be too big to handle alone. That is not a sign of ineffectiveness or weakness on yours or your loved ones part, rather an indication of exactly how difficult an addiction can be to handle alone. Please remember you are not alone. There are many others battling the same addiction. With the right help, it’s possible to overcome the obstacles to achieve recovery.
An option could be a therapist (ideally a sex addiction specialist). An assessment will reveal whether or not sex addiction therapy would be beneficial. Some people may assume only the person with the addiction needs help. However, you can seek help as a partner. Sourcing support for yourself will harness the strength you need to support yourself and your partner. The benefits of speaking with a therapist about how to move forward can be life-changing. Successful treatments involve individual therapy for the addicted person, individual therapy for the partner and couples therapy to support the relationship.
What is Sex Therapy?
The term ‘sex therapy’ may sound confusing, but don’t worry…everyone keeps their clothes on! The sex therapist won’t have sex with anyone or physically demonstrate how to have sex! Sex therapy, like any other psychotherapy, treats the condition by talking through feelings. You can work with your therapist to gain self-awareness and find healthy coping mechanisms. Whereas other addictions involve discontinuing the use of the substance, the goal of sex addiction treatment is not to banish sex. The aim is to develop a healthy attitude towards it. The therapist’s role is not to take sides or to help persuade anyone. Their role is to help you explore personal challenges and guide you towards finding your own way through.
Get in touch
The Henry Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy The Old Station House,
*The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity
**professor of neuroscience, David J. Linden, in his 2011 book ‘The Compass of Pleasure’
It has long been said that the human body is so complex that it would be impossible to create it from scratch. Everything is designed to work in perfect harmony, every muscle and ligament, every nerve and synapse, everything down to the way that the body extracts vitamins and minerals from food in order to keep itself working at a premium.
While we are all aware of how having a well-balanced diet can help us feel our best, it is also important to not underestimate what happens when our bodies are not getting the nutrients that they need. In this article we are going to have a very brief look at the most common deficiencies that can make us feel less than our best and how the symptoms can often manifest in ways that affect our mental wellbeing.
One of the main culprits of feeling extreme exhaustion is a deficiency in iron. This mineral is present in our blood and is concerned with our red blood cells- the part of the blood which carries oxygen around the body. A significant decrease in blood oxygen levels can make us feel cold, jittery, weak, persistently tired and headachy, many of the symptoms of which can overlap with depression and generalised anxiety. Those on a vegan or vegetarian diet can sometimes find themselves with anaemia- which occurs when there is a lack of healthy red blood cells- as a result of not enough dietary iron, though this problem is not always restricted to non-meat eaters.
B12 is another vitamin often associated with veganism and those following a vegan diet are commonly warned of the risks of not getting enough as it is usually derived from red meat and eggs. Many vegan milks and similar products however are fortified with B12 and so strangely vegans are not always the ones who fall victim to this deficiency, purely as they are generally more aware of how much they are getting and often use products that have it added in.
A deficiency or a level in the body that is even borderline deficient in B12 can manifest in very low energy, low mood, limb numbness, trouble with balance, cognitive difficulties and an extreme physical lethargy. In other words, it can often present very much like some of the symptoms of depression, M.E or chronic fatigue. Some people describe feeling as though they are underwater, others with a feeling of helplessness as life feels impossibly exhausting and they find even basic tasks hard to tackle.
Vitamin D, the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ is another which when we don’t have enough of, can make us feel more tired than usual, cause respiratory issues and make our bones and muscles weak. While the amount we generally need to keep us feeling strong and healthy is around a mere 20 minutes of direct sunlight a day, many of us are managing to not get even that minimal amount. When we consider that a vast number of us now work either from home or in an office environment, often travelling by car to get there, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it is easy to spend a whole day without being in direct sunlight. Repeat this on a regular basis and there is a risk of your vit d levels dropping dramatically.
While luckily many of us are now much more clued up about the signs and symptoms of mental health it is important to first eliminate the physical side of things when we are feeling out of sorts. A simple blood test either from your GP or via a self-testing kit such as those at Holland and Barrett can help rule out a biological problem. Deficiencies can usually be easily fixed with supplementation, diet and lifestyle adjustments and in the more extreme cases a simple series of injections. The changes from adjusting vitamin levels can have a fast and very profound effect and are well worth exploring if you suspect you are feeling the symptoms of poor mental health because of your diet.
If you feel however that your mood is not related to diet or deficiencies there is also a chance that it is your mental health that needs attending to. If you feel this may be the case why not make an appointment with The Henry Centre where a professional counsellor can help you explore where this lethargy and low mood is coming from.
For most young people the first brush they have with overwhelming anxiety is around exam season and the lead up to it. Often teachers will begin to reinforce the importance of GCSEs or A-levels a full year before they are set to commence and that pressure can be mirrored at home where parents and family members remind them that they need to do well in order to get to the next academic stage. This extra worry, stacked ontop of usual teenage stress can cause a tinder box of emotion, where merely the thought of an exam or revision can send a young person into panic mode.
It is not uncommon to hear around the exam lead up of teens struggling to sleep properly, finding themselves unable to focus on work, feeling clouded with a sense of dread or experiencing panic attacks for the first time. Being bombarded with all these intense emotions can feel really scary and in a time where this young person already feels a bit out of control, the idea of not being in control of your own body or mind can feel really frightening.
As an adult onlooker it can often be hard to remember quite how difficult this time is for young people and easy to forget that we know what life is like post exam results, whether they were good or not. Education is also often portrayed as a formulaic, linear process where we meet one requirement in order to continue onto the next stage. In times where GCSEs or A Levels are looming it can feel as though if you don’t meet the mark you need all will be lost.
The cultures within family structures can also add a lot of pressure when it comes to exams, whether you are part of a gifted family or you are the first one aiming to get to uni, the expectation of parents, siblings and the wider family can play a huge part. It is important to remember that all is not lost if you dont meet the grades you are expecting or aiming towards. Although it is a pain, there is always the possibility of redoing most things in life- exams included.
Sometimes there is a sense that we should never be stressed and that in order to have good mental health we should feel happy and relaxed all the time and that if we are feeling worried then we are somehow broken. It is worth remembering that once exams are over (or if you are particularly anxious, and the results are back) the feelings of being acutely stressed will subside. One of the few things that is good about exam related stress is that it is time limited and once the work is over you can relax a bit. In times of really heightened emotion it can be useful to remember that these feelings will pass, even if at the time they feel like they won’t! It is also important to understand that almost everyone gets overwhelmed when they have exams or tests and there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the same way.
In the midst of exam season, make sure you manage your time and take regular breaks, move away from your work space when not working and allow yourself proper down time when not revising. If it is possible, have a dedicated place to work away from your room or even your house so that you can properly switch off when the revision stops. Taking care of basic functions should also not be overlooked, getting enough nutrition, sleep and exercise becomes all the more important when you are feeling overwhelmed.
However, if you feel that you are finding exams particularly difficult to cope with or have a young person in your life who is really struggling, now may be a time to reach out and find some help.
At The Henry Centre in Southend we have a number of therapists trained to work with children and young adults who will be able to provide an outlet to explore how their client is feeling and how best to cope in this heightened time. Why not get in touch today and see if talk therapy would be beneficial to you