Mental Illness Stigma Still Exists

By: Gisela Serrano

The sad reality is that a stigma on mental illness still exists, although we’d like to think that it has been minimized significantly. There are several people with a voice, including celebrities, who advocate and speak on the importance of mental health; some even give light to their own mental health issues. However, stigma on mental health illnesses is still very much alive today and can prevent many people from seeking professional help, which can be beneficial to them. Ignorance and a lack of education also play a major role in preventing people from reaching out for the help they need. People who are uneducated may not be familiar with the options they have when seeking professional providers and thus limit themselves the access of qualified providers who have more clinical experience and expertise. For this reason, they consult professionals who may not necessarily specialize in the condition from which they are suffering from. People with low income may also not be able to afford high quality care. As a result of these factors, many people usually shy away from searching for help as they unfortunately feel shame and embarrassment.

Overall, many people fear that they would be the subject of criticism, lose friendships and relationships, and lose their jobs if they were to confide in someone about their mental health state. According to David B. Feldman Ph.D., in his post “The Tragedy of Mental Illness Stigma” on Psychology Today, “in half of U.S. states, admitting to a history of mental illness can lead to loss of a driver’s license, inability to serve on a jury or run for office, or even potentially loss of custody of a child.” It makes absolute sense why some people would be hesitant about speaking out or seeking the help they need. The bottom line here is: there is nothing wrong with accepting that you need help – whatever your situation or problem may be. Recognizing that you need help is the first healthy step you can take to achieving mental health and overall taking care of yourself. Stop waiting decades to search for help or receive care. Many mental health illnesses are treatable and for good reasons should not be put off. Talking to your friends and family is also an important step you should consider taking as it can provide you the strong moral support system you need. The sooner you learn to avoid and disregard mental illness stigma, the quicker you can be on the road to recovery.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: What is it?


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: What is it?

By: Daniela Chica

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by prolonged intervals of repetitious and undesired thoughts and compulsions. About 2.2 million Americans live with OCD and 1/3 of people who develop the disorder first experience symptoms as children. Obsessive compulsive disorder can be a lifelong condition if left untreated and it can limit people’s ability to function in everyday life. Because OCD is an anxiety disorder, deviating from usual compulsions and obsessions can cause great distress. Some common symptoms of OCD are:

  • Having repetitive thoughts or urges about a wide range of issues such as neatness, germs or violence
  • Engaging in repetitious behavior such as washing one’s hands, hoarding, or locking doors
  • Getting no satisfaction from engaging in one’s repetitious behavior, but still getting some form of relief from the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts
  • Spending at least an hour daily on repetitious behaviors and thoughts that affect one’s normal functioning

Although there is still much to know about obsessive compulsive disorder, researchers believe that biological factors increase the risk of developing the disorder. One is also more likely to develop the disorder if a first degree relative is diagnosed with the disorder. Abuse in childhood and trauma of any sort are often linked to OCD.

If you or someone you know has obsessive compulsive disorder and needs help, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and 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, visit


Burnout vs. Depression

Burnout vs. Depression

By: Christina Mesa

Has work been making you feel exhausted lately? Have been feeling increasingly negative thoughts about work lately? Is it hard for you to concentrate at work?  If you said yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing burnout.  Burnout is a relatively new phenomenon in which people feel exhausted and stressed because of the profession they are in.  Burnout often is especially apparent in “helping professions” such as nurses or doctors. Symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, withdrawal from work-related activities, and reduced performance at work.  Burnout and depression are often confused for each other, as the two share symptoms such as exhaustion, feeling low, and reduced performance.  Burnout is different than depression however, as people with depression not only think negative thoughts about work, but all aspects of life in general.  Symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.  People with burnout do not always have depression, although burnout may increase the risk of someone having depression.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from burnout or depression, 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

Conversion Disorder


Conversion Disorder

By: Daniela Chica

Conversion disorder is characterized by psychological problems that show up as physical symptoms. The disorder occurs after a physical or psychologically stressful event triggers the onset of a physical symptom. Someone who has been in a car crash may feel as if their leg is paralyzed when indeed they have no physical ailments. Although there is no known cause for conversion disorder, researchers believe that the areas of the brain connected to the control of muscles and senses play a role in the progression of the disorder. Some common symptoms of the disorder are:

  • Weakness and paralysis of single or multiple limbs
  • Shaking and/or difficulty walking and swallowing
  • Balance and equilibrium deficits
  • Unresponsiveness for varying periods of time
  • Seizures and/or convulsions

Although conversion disorder is more common in females than males, both sexes experience similar symptoms and risk factors. Some of the risk factors include but are not limited to:

  • Experiencing a stressful event or trauma
  • Having a pre-existing mental health condition such as anxiety or a personality disorder
  • Having a family member that has conversion disorder

If you or someone you know has conversion disorder and needs help, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and 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, visit


Talking to your Teen

By: Davine Holness

talking to teens

How should communication change as your child ages?

Many of the problems that arise for parents during their child’s teen years may be traced to reluctance to adapt.  Many changes separate adolescents from younger children, and if the parenting style doesn’t change as well, conflicts are sure to arise.  Carl E. Pickhardt, PdD., a psychologist who specializes in parenting, suggests that parents adapt the way they speak with their children when the children hit adolescence.  Specifically, he says parents should communicate with more respect in order to help the child grow in skills and independence.

One tip Pickhardt provides is to respect the independence-creating properties of arguments.  Parents who are used to passive compliance during childhood may be daunted by the disputes that arise during adolescence.  Yet, by standing up for oneself against the authorities in their lives, teens express a more adult standing and move toward maturity.  Another suggestion for respecting independence is utilizing language of requests rather than commands.  This does not mean the parent should lose all of his or her power in the relationship, but phrasing needs as requests shows respect for the volition of the adolescent.  Another very helpful method is giving a full hearing.  Taking the time to give full attention to what the teen has to say allows for full communication, and may even make the teen more willing to comply with the desires of the adult.  Finally, being accessible and flexible about when to talk makes a difference.  When a teen says they don’t feel like discussing something at a certain time, parents often interpret it as an attempt to avoid the conversation.  However, it can simply be because the teen needs to become more emotionally prepared before they face a difficult or important discussion.  These ways of showing respect can lead to more harmonious communication.

If you are experiencing conflict with your son or daughter, you may find therapy to be of assistance.  Feel free to contact the Manhattan or Bergen Country, New Jersey offices of Arista Counseling and Psychotherapy at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit for more detailed information.


Pickhardt, C. (2013, May 14). Respectful Communication with Your More Independent Teenager. Psychology Today

Depression – Why is Depression on the Rise? – Bergen County NJ

By: Davine Holness

Depression statistics: A disturbing trend shows a striking increase in depression in the past half century

Depression statistics: A disturbing trend shows a striking increase
in depression in the past half century

A disturbing trend has been occurring in recent decades.  Around the globe, depression has been on the rise.  In fact, the World Health Organization states that suicide rates have gone up by a shocking 60% in the past half-century.  Furthermore, the worldwide burden (a measure of time lost to healthy years of life) of mental illness and substance abuse has gone up by 36.7% since 1990.  Certain factors – such as the fact that mental illness is losing its stigma causing more people to report and get treatment for depression – contribute to the increase in depression rates.  Nevertheless, even taking these possible confounds into consideration cannot entirely explain the trend.  This change has many bewildered and wondering: What is causing depression to increase in prevalence?  Definite answers are hard to come by, but research has produced various theories which are accepted by many health professionals.


One factor that is often faulted for the increase in depression is the food we consume.  In the past several decades there has been an exponential increase in the consumption of processed foods.  Substances such as high fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered wheat gluten – things that weren’t present in our ancestral environment – can have unwanted effects on our bodies, leaving us vulnerable to psychological stressors.  It is well known that body and mental health are tightly correlated, so many scientists attribute part of the increase in depression to our dietary changes.


Another probable contributor is that people are now much less connected to one another than they used to be.  Face-to-face conversation is increasingly replaced by video chats, voice calls, and textual communication, each method less personal than the previous.  Physical touch is at an all-time low: many of us now make physical contact with our cell phones more often than with each other.  We are also less dependent on one another now that technology can provide us with so much information and so many services. We google questions we would have asked our friends.  We use GPS systems for directions rather than asking one another.  We seem to need each other less and less.  But interdependence and physical touch have been found to bring us joy.  Humans have a need to feel connected, and since today’s society is structured in a way that often neglects this need, feelings of sadness and loneliness are allowed to fester in a way that less likely prior to recent technological advances.


Stress is another major concern for current mental (and physical) health.  More than ever before, people seem to be constantly busy.  Expectations are high, productivity is emphasized, and our fast-paced society leaves us little time to relax.  Even when we do get time to take a healthy break, we often feel that we should be doing something, or we don’t know how to relax.  The constant pressure from work, family, and living up to society’s standards is likely to be one of the culprits for the way depression has crept into higher prevalence rates.


Social media has also been blamed, due to the way it causes us to compare ourselves to our peers.  A profile on a social media website or application is crafted by the individual it represents, and people usually choose to expose the best parts of their lives while obscuring the worst parts.  People compare themselves to these altered presentations of their friends and feel that their lives come up short.  Websites like facebook often plague people with images of parties to which they weren’t invited, vacations they can’t afford, and milestones in life that they haven’t reached.  We don’t realize that we’re only seeing one side of someone’s life, so our comparisons lead to jealousy.  As a result, people are less content with their lives.


Whatever the cause, depression is a pressing matter that cannot be ignored in modern-day societies.  If you think you might be depressed it is important to talk to someone to get help.  Feel free to contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists of Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.


Visit for more information.



Borchard, T. (n.d.). » Why Is There More Depression in the World? – World of Psychology. Psych Retrieved May 22, 2014

Marriage Counseling – Love vs. Infatuation – Bergen County NJ

By: Davine Holness

Marriage: Knowing the difference between love and infatuation can help forge a healthy relationship

Marriage: Knowing the difference between love and infatuation can help forge a healthy relationship

One of the most beautiful feelings of the human experience is being in love.   However, many relationships have ended because people discovered that what they had thought was love was in fact merely its deceptive cousin: infatuation.  In any relationship, it’s important to know where you stand, and in amorous relationships this means finding out whether you’re truly in love or just infatuated with the other person.  While most people are infatuated with their love partners to an extent, it is important to understand which of the two forces is the basis of the relationship.  This knowledge can help you make wise decisions about commitments, and give you a better understanding of yourself and your partner.  Understanding the difference between love and infatuation will lead to a healthier, happier love life.


Infatuation is static: it is the passionate feeling when someone else is all you can think about.  It is when you are attracted to the person, and your priorities are built around them, but there is no shared growth or development.  When a relationship is based on infatuation, there is often little trust, loyalty, and commitment – the relationship isn’t a mutual give-and-take.  The key feature of infatuation is an unrealistic idea of who the other person is, and what the relationship will provide for your life.


Love, on the other hand is a dynamic process that involves shared emotion, trust and growth.  It’s constant consideration for the other person that leads to joint planning and decision making.   The important thing is knowing who the person really is, knowing that the relationship won’t be perfect, and loving them anyway. The relationship evolves as the individuals mature and needs change; the two parties work together in building a shared future.  Love is strong enough to outlast the ups and downs of life.


So how can you go about differentiating between love and infatuation?  Asking yourself the following questions can help you figure it out:


  • Are you truly happy?  Are you treated as a person of value?
  • Is there hope for a shared future?  Are the two of you thinking and planning as a couple rather than separately?
  • Is your life better because of your partner?
  • Are you foregoing your dreams for your partner, or are you restructuring your dreams to fit each other?
  • Does your partner’s mother know about you?
  • Most importantly: does the relationship bring out the best in each of you?


Telling the difference between true love and infatuation is not easy.  If you are working through this or other relationship/marriage issues, the Bergen County, New Jersey or Manhattan offices of Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Call us to arrange an appointment with one of our marriage counselors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.


Arista Counseling: (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920

Visit our website for more info:

Turning Trials into Triumph: Lessons from the Life of Maya Angelou

By: Davine Holness

Abuse: from selective mutism and PTSD to fame and fortune

Abuse: selective mutism turns to triumph

On May 28 2014, author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou passed away peacefully in her home.  Her work has touched the lives of many, and her story can inspire us today.  Despite the physical abuse and psychological trauma of her past, she rose to great financial success, world renown, and a fulfilled life.

At the age of eight, Angelou was raped by her mother’s then-boyfriend.  She told her brother who told the rest of the family.  When the law found Angelou’s rapist guilty but only jailed him for one day, her uncles retaliated by beating the rapist to death.  Angelou felt that her words had killed a man, and so out of fear and guilt she stopped speaking.  This selective mutism – a psychological problem that affects many children worldwide – lasted for nearly five years of Angelou’s young life.  With the help of a teacher and literature, she was able to find her voice.  She eventually turned this painful past into several autobiographies and poems, as well as a passion for activism and supporting those who suffered like she did.  Her life is an example of how finding and pursuing a passion can help you overcome devastating circumstances, and how a troubled past doesn’t have to hold you back.  Though recovering from the pain of traumatic experiences is a struggle, rebounding can propel you into greater success.

For help recovering from a painful experience (such as verbal abuse, physical abuse, or rape) or selective mutism/, feel free to contact the Manhattan or Bergen County, New Jersey offices of Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy at or (212) 722-1920.  Visit for more information.


Preventing Affairs: Four things you can do right now to stop infidelity from damaging your relationship

By: Davine Holness

Don't let this happen to you!

Infidelity: What can a couple do to inoculate itself against cheating?

An affair can be extremely damaging; in fact, the single most common way for a relationship to end is for one partner to become involved with another person.  People cheat for a variety of reasons, but one commonality is that the cheater feels that the new partner will meet more of their needs than their current partner.  While most marriages survive an extra-marital affair, it is much better to take steps to prevent it, rather than have to heal the hurt after it happens.  What most people don’t know is that there are some simple steps that can be taken to stop an affair before it occurs.

 1. Engage in an open conversation.  Most couples do not have an explicit discussion about affairs until one has already occurred.  Affairs are a contentious matter that can be uncomfortable to talk about.  However, taking the time to have a talk and create a Primary Prevention Plan can save you a lot of strife in the future.

2. Understand that it could happen to you.  Extra-marital affairs are more prevalent than you might think.  At least 80% of people start out their marriage with the belief that it will be a completely monogamous relationship.  However, 35-45% of marriages involve an affair of some sort.  Furthermore, while people tend to think that affairs are endemic to old or unhappy marriages, they are in fact most likely to occur in the first 5 years of marriage, with the highest rates occuring in the first two years.  Avoiding denial is an important step toward making an agreement that can ultimately prevent an affair.

3. Identify vulnerabilities.  Each partner should reflect on what situations would make them more likely to cheat, and share these vulnerabilities with the other.  They should then agree to let each other know if they’re in a potentially tempting situation rather than acting impulsively.  This makes affairs less likely by taking away the edge that they get from being spontaneous and secret.

4. Commit to honesty.  Agree that you will tell each other within 72 hours if an incident of cheating occurs.  Hiding what’s happened is usually more harmful than the incident itself.  Covering up infidelity leads to feelings of betrayal which only grow with time.  Honesty prevents an affair from becoming a bigger problem than it needs to be.


An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.  For help preventing (or recovering from) an affair, feel free to contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit for more information.

McCarthy, B. W. (2012, January 2). Preventing extra-marital affairs. Psychology today. Retrieved May 15, 2014