Autism vs. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

Autism vs. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

By Crystal Tsui

Autism and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation disorder are often diagnosed together. However, DMDD is a fairly new diagnosis that first appeared in the DSM-V in 2013. As per DSM-V, DMDD is typically diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 18 years old, but symptoms can begin before the age of 10. Before the child is diagnosed, symptoms should last about a year. DMDD goes even further than childhood “moodiness.” It can cause functional and emotional impairment.

Symptoms of DMDD include:

  • Irritability or angry most of the day, almost every day
  • Severe, explosive temper (verbal or behavioral) an average of 3x or more per week, not related to a situation and child’s developmental level
  • Trouble functioning in more than one place (e.g. home, school, and/or with friends)Autism Spectrum is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. It has been categorized by patterns of repetitive behavior and difficulties with social interactions. Symptoms tend to be present in early childhood and affects daily life and functioning.

Symptoms of autism include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Isolation
  • Obsessive interests
  • Resistance to physical contact
  • Word repetition
  • Little danger awareness

Individuals with these symptoms are not guaranteed to be autistic. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, each individual has their own strengths and challenges. Early intervention has shown to lead to positive outcomes later in life for individuals with autism.

Because both of these disorders are usually diagnosed together, there are no set ways to treat either disorder. If a parent or guardian is concerned about diagnosis or treatment plans, always feel free to get a second opinion.

If you or someone you know who may have Autism and/or DMDD, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit .




Am I Too Sensitive?

Am I Too Sensitive

Am I Too Sensitive?

By Julia Keys

Has anyone ever said to you in passing, “you’re so sensitive”? Our society seems to shun sensitivity without truly understanding or appreciating it. Stereotypically, a “sensitive person” is portrayed as irrationally emotional or ready to cry at any moment. In reality, sensitivity is defined by psychologists as the amount someone reacts physically, emotionally, or mentally to external and internal stimuli. Researchers have actually coined a term for someone you may describe as “sensitive”: the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

Highly Sensitive People, (HSP), process their external and internal environments with more attention than typical people. About 20% of the population are estimated to be a HSP. Some evolutionary psychologists suggest that HSP evolved from people that needed to be hyper vigilant in their environments to survive. Nowadays, we do not need as much extra attention to survive, but HSP are still affected by their high level of sensitivity.

It is easy to think that HSP and introversion are interchangeable traits, however there are some key differences between the two that are important to understand. HSP are not always introverts, they may like being around other people, but certain social environments can be overwhelming to their senses. Also, introversion refers to one’s preference for spending time alone versus spending time with others while sensitivity is how one processes sensory input. Although some HSP are introverted, there are definitely a fair amount that are extroverted as well.

Signs of a Highly Sensitive Person

  • Easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby
  • Gets more anxious than typical people when there a lot to do in a short amount of time
  • Easily disturbed by violence or graphic images
  • Feels the need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where they can have relief from overstimulating environments
  • Makes it a high priority to arrange their life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations
  •  Notices or enjoys delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art
  • Has a rich and complex inner life
  • Was shy or sensitive as a small child

Being an HSP can sometimes cause distress. HSP can have feelings of anxiety or stress when they are in environments that are overstimulating. Certain environments that may be enjoyable for neurotypical people such as parties, outside markets, or concerts may present too much sensory input for an HSP to enjoy. As a result, some HSP may struggle with isolation or loneliness.

On the other hand, the Highly Sensitive Person can also benefit from their heightened sensitivities to stimuli. HSP tend to be observant and perceptive, picking up on small details that others would not. As a result, many HSP are highly creative and innovative. HSP are also naturally empathetic, making them sensitive to others’ emotions and needs. HSP that balance their attention between a healthy internal and external environment reach their highest potential.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the stress being a HSP may bring, and are seeking stress management, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit .



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Parenting: Homework and Your Child

Do you feel like you’re completing your child’s homework too often?

It’s not easy seeing your child struggle to complete homework assignments, or the overall lack of motivation and excitement to do it. Next thing you know, there is an e-mail from the teacher saying your child hasn’t been doing his or her homework and is struggling in class. At first, you get mad thinking your child is just being lazy. However, maybe there is something more to it. Here are some common signs to look out for if you suspect your child has a learning disability:

Reverses letter sequences (soiled/solid, left/felt)

Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling strategies

Avoids reading aloud

Trouble with word problems

Difficulty with handwriting

Awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip

Avoids writing assignments

Slow or poor recall of facts

Difficulty making friends

Trouble understanding body language and facial expressions

Most parents will occasionally see one or more of these warning signs in their children. This is normal! If, however, you see several of these characteristics over a long period of time, consider the possibility of a learning disability.

The experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling are here to help. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.

Written by: Brielle Internoscia

ADHD: Symptoms in Adults – Bergen County, NJ


By Irada Yunusova

Although the visual of a hyperactive kid bouncing around in his seat is the cliché often associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the symptoms of ADHD may prevail into adulthood and arise in different fashions. The subtle signs of adult ADHD may be overlooked because many of the symptoms seem like ordinary inconveniences everyone must face, such as boredom and daydreaming. The extent and frequency of symptoms must be considered in order to diagnose individuals and improve the life functioning of afflicted individuals. Five indicators of adult ADHD are discussed below.

1. Dissatisfaction with Reading

Many adults with ADHD do not draw satisfaction from reading books because books require a lot of attention. They may notice themselves going through the motions of reading without actually taking in the information, causing them to miss details that prevent continued interest. Adults with ADHD may enjoy websites and magazines more because they do not required as much ongoing attention.

2.Interruption during Conversations

Although adults with ADHD understand the proper etiquette of conversations, where individuals take turns in listening and speaking, they may find the balance difficult. Many adults do not have the attention and working memory to hold a thought in their mind while simultaneously listening to someone speak. Interruption may appear to be the only solution to prevent forgetting one’s comment. Some individuals identified challenges with communication as a cause of their marital problems.

3. Hyperactivity

This common identifier may present itself differently across individuals. Adults often times may describe themselves as restless, on edge, or tense. Diagnosing ADHD may be complicated by the fact that not all individuals with ADHD are hyperactive. In addition, those who were hyperactive as children may no longer be as adults.

4. Challenges with Focusing

Individuals with ADHD may find it more difficult to keep their attention on a given task. This may make them reckless drivers, where occurrences of speeding and traffic accidents may be common-place. Adults may also find themselves struggling with career performance because noise and phone calls may be a source of distraction.

5. Difficulty with Organization and Task Completion

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty organizing and balancing responsibilities, such as bills, their job, and children. Individuals with ADHD may have trouble starting a task and often procrastinate both in their home and work environments. Distractibility and inattentiveness may lead to tardiness in the completion of tasks.

Although adults with ADHD may have struggled for years, identifying this problem may improve their chance of finding treatment as adults. A combination of therapy and medication can help improve daily functioning and life satisfaction. If ADHD is causing distress, contacting a mental health professional at Arista Counseling and Psychological Services in Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan, NY may be the first step. Feel free to contact us for a free phone consultation at 201-368-3700 in order to set up an appointment with one of our licensed therapists, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Help is just a phone call away.



Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s and the DSM-V – Bergen County, NJ


By Laine Podell

After the release of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders one of the changes most covered by the media was the “disappearance” of Asperger’s Disorders. However, mainstream media portrayed a skewed message. To say that Asperger’s has disappeared, implies those previously classified as having Asperger’s lost their diagnosis, and that is not accurate. Rather, the term has been removed and those with a prior Asperger’s diagnosis are now to be considered on the spectrum for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This merge does not trivialize or eliminate the validity of the diagnosis; it is rather just an edit.

Yet major news sources, including coverage from Fox and CBS, have the public believing this disorder vanished from the world of mental health. For instance one headline read “Asperger’s syndrome will be dropped from the latest edition of the…DSM-5”.  It is important to recognize the distinction; eliminating an illness from the DSM-V is quite different than altering the terminology. The new diagnosis of mild Autism Spectrum Disorder does not change the person behind illness.

It is important to point out that the media was correct to bring attention to this issue. The change does have an effect on certain issues, including insurance reimbursement. Although the news may be coloring their stories in a way that is deceiving, the change did occur and is important to be recognized.

At the end of the day, when debating the changes to the DSM-V, be sure to have the information beyond the headlines.



LGBT: Gender Identity Issues More Common Amongst Kids with ADHD or Autism

By: Davine Holness

LGBT: Gender variance is correlated with certain neurodevelopmental disorders

LGBT: Gender variance is correlated with certain neurodevelopmental disorders

A new study has found an unexpected correlation: children who have attention deficit and hyperactivity problems, as well as children with autism spectrum disorders, are more likely than their peers to experience gender variance. Gender variance is the wish to be another gender. Researcher John Strang found gender variance to be 7.59 times more common in children with autism spectrum disorders when compared with kids that had no neurodevelopmental disorder. Additionally, children with ADHD were 6.64 times more likely to wish to be another gender than the control group in this study.
While the study did not provide the reasons for the observed correlation, Strang has proposed a number of possible explanations. His theories are based on reasons why children with these mental disorders who have certain traits would be more likely to identify these traits as gender identity issues and mention them.  In the case of ADHD, the disorder is characterized by difficulties with impulse control. Thus, children with this disorder may be less likely than their peers to respond to pressures against cross-gender expression by restraining their gender impulses. With autism, the correlation may occur because these children are less aware of social norms that frown upon expressions of gender variance, so they would feel less compelled to hide their desires to be the other gender than their neurotypical peers. Additionally, children with autism spectrum disorders often have rigid thinking, seeing everything as either black or white. They may therefore be more likely to interpret mild or moderate gender nonconforming tendencies as definite gender variance.

If you or your child is struggling with gender identity issues, ADHD, or an autism spectrum disorder, talking to a mental health professional may be of great help. Feel free to contact Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy at (201) 368-3700or (212) 722-1920 for more information and/or to set up an appointment.

More detailed information can be found at



Wood, J. (2013, March 14). » Kids With ADHD, Autism More Likely to Have Gender Identity Issues – Psych Central News. Psych Retrieved May 28, 2014