Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, ADHD, Et al: How to Support a Friend with Mental Illness

By: Sarah Cohen

When helping a friend with a mental illness, the first step should be assessment of their symptoms. Sometimes they just might be going through a difficult time, but if certain common symptoms associated with mental health issues persist it is imperative to respond sensitively. Majority of the time, friends will just want to know they have your support and that you care about them. A good way to show your support is by talking to them. If you provide a non-judgmental space for them to speak about their issues it will help encourage them to be open with their problems. Let them lead the conversation and don’t pressure them to reveal information. It can be incredibly difficult and painful to speak about these issues and they might not be ready to share everything. If you aren’t their therapist do not diagnose them or make assumptions about how they are feeling, just listen and show you understand. If someone doesn’t want to speak with you, don’t take it personally, just continue to show them you care about their wellbeing and want to help as much as possible. Just knowing they have support can give them the strength they need to contact someone who can help them.

If a friend is having a crisis, such as a panic attack or suicidal thoughts, you must stay calm. Try not to overwhelm them by asking a lot of questions and confronting them in a public setting. Ask them gently what would be helpful to them right now or reassure them. If they hurt themselves, get first aid as soon as possible. If someone is suicidal, contact the suicide hotline at 800-237-8255 immediately.

The best way to help someone is by connecting them to professional help. By expressing your concern and support you can show them that they can get help and their mental health problems can be treated.

If you or someone you know needs support with their mental illness, 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

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: DSM-5

By: Cassie Sieradzky

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by a pattern of angry/irritable mood swings, argumentative/defiant behavior, and vindictiveness. For a diagnosis to be warranted, symptoms must be present for at least 6 months and the individual must display at least 4 symptoms. The behaviors are associated with distress to the individual or those in their immediate circle, such as family or friends. The individual’s behavior may also negatively impact important areas of daily functioning, such as school or work.

A common symptom in individuals with oppositional defiant disorder is an angry/irritable mood. For example, they may often lose their temper, be touchy or easily annoyed, or are commonly angry and resentful. Argumentative/defiant behavior is also a core symptom of this disorder. Someone with oppositional defiant disorder may argue with authority figures or, for children and adolescents, with adults. They may often actively defy or refuse to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules. Additionally, they may deliberately annoy others and blame people for their mistakes or misbehavior. Vindictiveness or spitefulness at least twice within the past 6 months is also a symptom of oppositional defiant disorder.

The diagnosis must be developmentally appropriate. For children younger than 5, the behavior should occur on most days for a period of at least 6 months, while individuals 5 years or older should exhibit symptoms at least once per week for at least 6 months. The disorder varies by severity as to whether the condition is mild, moderate, or severe. Mild oppositional defiant disorder is diagnosed when symptoms are confined to only one setting, moderate severity is diagnosed when symptoms are present in at least two settings, and severe oppositional defiant disorder is diagnosed when symptoms are present in three or more settings.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from oppositional defiant disorder, licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. 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, visit

Oppositional Defiant Disorder DSM V – Pearson Clinical NA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2018, from,5064.1