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Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I am seeing someone who I believe has prolonged grief disorder

Resolved Question:

I am seeing someone who I believe has prolonged grief disorder and possibly PTSD. He witnessed his fathers death when he was 13. He has told me that he has episodes where he suddenly realizes he doesn't know where he's been for the las 20-30 min. It sounds like dissociation. He also has behaviors which I think have become obsessive,(that he hides) like continually trying to get attention from women. He also has very low self esteem. We can be together for several months then he starts to push me away. I'm not sure that he knows what is going on, so how do I talk to him about it without stressing him too much?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

 

It sounds like he has talked with you some about his situation since he shared with you about his father's death and his periods of missing time. That is good, because it shows that he has trusted you enough to tell you. The trust he has with you is going to be helpful when you try to talk with him about his current situation.

 

You can approach him by gently suggesting that you noticed that he seems to push you away at times. Ask him why he feels he does this. Depending on his response, you can do two things. One, you can express your hurt if you feel that it is appropriate and that he is open to hearing this from you. Or two, you can offer your help. Then suggest that he might want to see a therapist to help him work through whatever is causing his problem.

 

He can find a therapist by talking with his doctor or if he attends church, he can talk with his pastor. He can also find a therapist by searching on line at www.find-a-therapist.com. With all the trauma he has experienced, he would benefit from support to work through his grief. He also needs an evaluation to determine if he does have PTSD and also if he has dissociative identity disorder. It is important that he receive treatment if he needs help.

 

If you sense at any time that he is feeling too stressed by your conversation, back off and give him more time. Because of the trauma he experienced, he may need time to process what you are saying to him. Since you are not sure he is aware of what he is doing, it may be better for you to focus on what he is aware of and let him know that you care and are concerned. Then suggest you go to therapy with him for support. He may resist or he may not. If he does, then give it time. Unless he is hurting himself or others, then let him take some time to process your suggestions. Sometimes just giving him the idea of getting help can start the ball rolling and he may eventually follow through.

 

I hope this has helped you,
Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for your very thoughtful answer.

He has a negative opinion of doctors and is not at all religious. So I don't think that mentioning therapy at this time would be a good idea. I have found out on my own that he has been married at least 5 times. I'm guessing someone has probably told him to get help, but possibly not in a constructive way.

My plan was to discuss the lost periods of time and tell what it might mean. Then if he is receptive, mention how he pushes me away. Finally, I will probably tell him that if he wants to talk I will be there for him. I also want to assure him that I'm not going anywhere. Does this sound reasonable? Do most people with this kind of grief want to talk about it? A few months ago out of the blue he said he wouldn't want to tell me something I didn't want to hear. Is this an attempt to tell me he wants to talk?

Thanks so much
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

It may very well have been an attempt to talk with you about himself. It is difficult to tell because his meaning is well hidden with the way he said it to you.

 

I probably would not start off talking about his lost periods of time. You may want to start instead with letting him know that if he wants to talk, you are willing to listen. Then see how he responds. If he responds well, then go on to mention how you feel about being pushed away. Then see how he responds to that. Then go from there.

 

Bringing up the lost periods of time is a bit tricky. You will have to decide if you think he could deal with it when you chose to mention it. I would not do it at the same time you bring up the other issues because bringing it up at the same time could be too overwhelming. Plus, if he is is upset by the loss of time periods, your comments will create anxiety for him. So, it is important to chose the time you bring it up carefully, when he is not overtired or preoccupied with something else. When you do bring it up, start by saying that you are concerned and go from there. You seem to understand him well so you can judge when it's a good time.

 

Grief is something that each person works through at different levels. Some go through all the stages of grief, some go through only some stages and some people get stuck in certain stages and need therapy or other help to move through. How he is working through his grief and if he is stuck at all is hard to tell without talking with him. This is why I thought therapy might help. But if he will not go to therapy, you may want to try to learn more about grief yourself so you are aware of where he is and how to help. A good book that can help you is called On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler. You can find it on Amazon.com or your local library may have it available for you.

 

My best to you,
Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Kate,

One last quick question. Do I tell my friend that I think he may have prolonged grief disorder or PTSD?

Thanks
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

I think it is probably best if you suggest he may be grieving. Trying to diagnose him may make him feel defensive. Plus he could easily say that you can't be sure of that and dismiss you.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I spoke with my friend the other day about his grief. I was extremly nervous. I am sure he thought I was breaking up with him because he put his head down, like he was waiting for something bad to happen.

At first, I told him I thought he had been dealing with a lot of grief. He began questioning me about what kind of grief he had and where did it come from. So I said that it seemed similar to PTSD symptoms, and that I thought he had had it for a long time. He acted like it was nothing, relived I wasn't leaving, and began joking and laughing about a dream he has sometimes, (I have seen him act like this before. When once I said that I worried about him, he said "it's not worth it", then imediately tried to cover it by laughing and telling me he was kidding.) Anyway, I asked him if he would please not laugh about it. He said he wasn't laughing at me and then stopped joking.

A few minites later he said "I think you might be right". He then asked me why I would want to be with someone who has ptsd. I told him that there was a wonderful person underneath and that I loved him. Since talking with him he's seemed calmer and has shown a little affection toward me in ffront of other people, which didn't happen before.

Do you think this is a positive step?
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

I had to smile reading your reply. It sounds like he had a breakthrough and that is a very positive sign. You called him on his laughing and joking about his pain. He could have gotten defensive, but instead, he seemed to trust you enough to show that he is in pain. His insecurity showed when he asked why you would want to be with him if he has PTSD. He was testing you. Your response was great. You supported him and gave him the safe environment he needed to show you a deeper part of himself.

 

You did a great thing for him. He is blessed to have you.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hello again Kate,

I would like to thank you for all of your wonderful help. It means a lot to be able to talk to someone about my friend's trauma. I don't know what I would do without your advice. Thanks

My friend told me that he was "sick" again the other day. I could see this coming when I was with him the day before. He was hyperactive, laughing, joking and trying to get attention from the women around him. I am certain that he was heading into a panic attack because it happened exactly a year before. I think there is some anniversary that triggered him. When I talked to him a few days after the attack, he said that being sick was his fault. I think he is now aware of his trauma because of our talk and has blamed himself for being sick. When I asked him why he thought it was his fault, he said he was just "delusional". He also says he doesn't remember being stressed before the attack.

My question is, do I tell him that I think he had a panic attack? In general, should I wait for him to talk to me or should I ask him questions when he makes statements about himself or how he feels? I realize that that this process can take a long time and I will accept that. I have seen some improvement. He doesn't seem to be actively staring at women anymore. There was also a little sexual dysfunction and that has gotten better. He also spontaneously put he head on my shoulder while we were having dinner out at a restaurant.

Thanks again
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Hello! It's good to hear from you again. Thank you for all the kind things you said. I appreciate it. I am glad to be of help to you and your friend.

 

Yes, you can ask him questions whenever he brings the subject of his attacks. When he brings it up, it means that he is open to talking about it. He seems to be trusting you more and more and that is a good sign. So ask him whatever you feel is appropriate and helpful.

 

You can also bring the subject up. I would start by asking him how he is feeling. Then if he opens up and talks to you, then proceed by asking him if he thinks he may have happened the other day. Ask if he thinks he had a panic attack or if he thinks it is something else. This will not only allow him to chose if he wants to keep talking about it, it will also give him the chance to think about what might have happened and work on a solution.

 

I hope this helped. If you have more questions or want clarification, let me know.

 

Kate

 

 

 

 

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hello again Kate,

I really need yor help. Once a week I am in a class that my friend teaches, which is how we met. It is a very informal art type of class, so he moves around between the students for several hours.There is a woman in the class who gave him a hug when saying goodbye the previous week. This is not that uncommon since the class is informal and a lot of us know each other. At the next class he seemed agitated and told me he wasn't sleeping. He spent most of the afternoon trying to help the same woman (while ignoring me) and then gave her a big hug as she left. This scares me because he did the same thing with me before we got together. It seems that whenever someone shows him some affection he thinks they are interested in him. I think this is probably his low self esteem.

Well, after everyone left he thanked me for helping him and for being so nice to him. I asked him if he knew that I cared about him and he said he did. He said there were things back in the corners of his brain like mice chewing on something and cobwebs. I think he was implying that these were terrible things I shouldn't now about. I said that those things didn't scare me. I asked him if he would be happier if I didn't care about him, and he said no.

The next day he seemed better and even brought me a magazine he thought I would like. In addition, he seems to be in the stage where he's pushing me away somwhat. Nevertheless, he still wants to get together with me every week, outside of the class.

When I ask him how he's doing he says he fine. I just don't know what to do or how to get him to tal to me.

Thanks again
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for requesting me to help.

 

It sounds like he has a problem with intimacy. This may be a learned behavior from earlier in his life or it could be the symptom of something deeper.

 

If he has a learned behavior, it could stem from something that went on in his childhood, such as parents who withheld hugs and affection. Or he could have not been allowed to form attachments to caregivers in his life, such as being moved from home to home, or being a child in the foster system.

 

If his behavior is a sign of something deeper, it could be anything from depression to a Schizoid Personality disorder, where a person can't form close, meaningful relationships. This is hard to detect unless you know what to look for and the person is willing to allow you deeper access into who they are.

 

Since there is no way to know for sure why he acts this way, you might just want to proceed slowly. Be friendly but stay on the surface. You can say things like "hey, that's a nice shirt" or "what do you think about......(fill in something neutral like the color of a paint you are working with as compared to another, etc). See how he reacts. If you feel enough time has passed and he seems ok with you, go a little deeper. For example, ask what kind of car he drives and if he likes it. Ask in what part of town he lives. Questions like that will show you want to get to know him better but keep you still on the level as a social friend.

 

You will need to gauge how you feel your interaction is working. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or you feel things are not working out, pull back for a time. Until you have a better idea of what he is about, this is the best option.

 

If you want me to work on this with you as it progresses, I'm more than willing to help. Let me know.

 

Kate

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I am assuming that he acts like this because of the prolonged grief/PTSD that we spoke about earlier. He doesn't seem to have a problem with physical intimacy. It just seems that when he is stressed, he copes by getting attention from other women.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

My apologies, I was unclear you were talking about the same person. Sometimes I get asked different questions within one thread. But I'm on board now!

 

Yes, it could be because of the PTSD and grief. Or it could be learned behavior. That is hard to judge at this point. My guess as to why he is acting this way would be the trauma he suffered, but I was also wondering about his mother's role in his father's death and how he handled his relationship with her. How did she respond to his grief, how did she grieve and how did she respond to the death? That would help explain his response to the women around him.

 

As for your reaction, I would respond to him any way you feel he needs. If he draws closer, then be open to that. If he withdrawals, be there but back off a little. Always be a comfort but go with the flow and don't push it. He will give you the signs of how much he can handle.

 

You may also want to consider how long he is grieving. Although most people feel sadness and mourn over a death like he went through, most of the time they move on eventually and the trauma becomes more of a background in their lives. Is there something holding him to the trauma? Maybe something reinforcing it? Or even consider that he may want to act the way he does because it benefits him in some way (for example, he gets more of the kind of attention that he feels he needs). Just some ideas to ponder.

 

Let me know what you think,
Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks,

He has told me that his dad was a real kid person and always did things with him and his sister. He has also said that his mother was not a kid person and was very religious, but his dad was not religious. I thought it was very telling when he told me exactly how old he was when his dad died, but gave his mother's death within a year or two. He has been dealing with this grief for 40+ years. He seems to think everything is his fault and after this last episode in class said "what do I do wrong now", even though all I did was say his name and give him a hug. Maybe he thinks he needs to be punished for doing something wrong or maybe he thinks his dads death was his fault. He has mentioned getting in trouble in school when he was growing up and having trouble graduating from high school. He is always implying that he is not smart (and he is) or there is something unattractive about his body. I'm sure he thinks he will always be abandoned. I have read an article that said, when someone with prolonged grief sees a picture of the deceased person, the reward center of their brain lights up. Indicating that grieving is actually positive reinforcement.

Being there for him when he is hurting me emotionally is really difficult. I wish I could get him to talk about something, but I don't know how.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Hmmm, it does sound like the relationship with his mother may have influenced him a lot. Maybe she was emotionally unavailable to him, and this left him with a gap in fullfilling his needs. A young boy tends to have a close relationship with his mother (she usually is the first female he falls in love with) so if that relationship is distant or abusive, then no matter how close the father is to the child, the child will still exhibit the need for the mother relationship as an adult (unless they address it somehow).

 

He may very well feel abandoned by his parents. If the relationship with his mother did not address his needs then his father dies, he may feel he cannot be loved or not worthy of love. He may have felt that everyone cared more about themselves and not him. It could explain his need to move close to you and others then moving away when he becomes uncomfortable. He is afraid of getting too close and being abandoned.

 

It can be emotionally draining and difficult to be close to someone who is in constant need emotionally, especially when the person has been through a lot of trauma. Their needs are very strong and can make you feel emotionally spent. Keep in mind you are his friend but you are not responsible for how he feels or if he is full of self doubt or is self critical. Being there for him is more than enough. He has to be responsible for the rest. Plus, in order for you to be able to draw him out successfully, he has to recognize that he has these needs and address them with the purpose of solving his problem (insight). Otherwise, he will keep responding like he has been.

 

I'd say keep on the path you are already on with him but take breaks. Be careful to also keep your distance and refresh yourself as you need to. Pay attention to your own needs. If you start to feel drained, move away and recharge. You cannot be there for him if you are too emotionally drained to help.

 

Let me know how this works for you. We can work with the situation as it goes along.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Kate,

I've been feeling really hurt lately because my friend (I'll call him TM) in the withdrawal mode. He will say he is going to meet me for an evening or call me, but then doesn't and leaves me waiting for him. He did this tonight and then lied and told me he was home sick when I know he went out. Maybe he thinks that if he doesn't tell me the truth I won't get angry with him and leave. I just don't know what to do or say to him when he acts like this. I don't want to get angry with him, but I have to keep pushing my feelings inside and it's hard. Ive been crying a lot.

In my last question to you I said that I thought TM had abondonment issues. One of the reasons I think this is true is because of how TM acted towards his son. I saw TM's 16 yr old son stand in front of him with his arms out and say "I love you dad". TM just stood there like a deer in the headlights unable to move or say anything. His son is pretty clingy for a 16 yr old. I think he badly wants affection from his dad.

Should I still try to get TM to talk about his feelings and other issues when he is pushing me away?

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Probably not. It sounds like he may need some space right now. Keep in touch with him but back off a little. I know that sounds a bit scary, but I think if you push contact right now, he may back off permanently. And you don't want to lose him. So safe bet is giving space to him without disappearing all together from his life.

 

I agree with you that it sounds like he has abandonment issues. To have that kind of encounter with his son shows there are issues for sure. Whatever caused this type of reaction to his son's affection had to be pretty bad. Also, it sounds like that his son is compensating for his need for affection from his father by being clingy.

 

Just to let you know- I'm on the road today so if you want to respond to my answer, I will try to write back as soon as I can, most likely tonight. I hope that is ok.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Kate,

I saw TM the day after he didn't show up for our night out. He looked terrible, said he hadn't slept our eaten in a few days. He was barely able to function, but was wanting to be close to me again. I'm sure he had another panic attack because of the lack of sleep, not eating and he said there was a knot in his stomach. I fed him some soup and this helped a little. At the end of the afternoon he asked if he could sit with me and told me he wanted to kiss me. This is something he's never actually expressed in words. I don't know if I should read too much into this because I think whatever triggered the panic attack made him feel more vulnerable. Nevertheless, it is nice to feel cared about even if it's only for a little while. Tm has never before pushed me away and then wanted to be close to me this soon before. Usually, he really wants to be with me and then there is a slow withdrawal for a few months until summer when he is with his son and I don't see him at all. He also mentioned that he's been waking up with a puddle of sweat on his chest. Maybe there have been more bad dreams, I don't know

I didn't mention this before because I wasn't sure it was related to the panic attack but know I'm pretty sure it is. Just before the previous panic attack I was with him and he suddenly started shaking. He said he felt extremely cold and then later gets a fever. I just sat next to him and hugged him tightly. The shaking stopped after a couple of minutes. He said on the way home the shaking started again. I have read about people with PTSD who have the same thing happen. The reason I wasn't sure it was related was because I thought there was a small chance he had malaria. I have a background in this area of science. He was staying with his uncle a couple of years after his dads death, when his uncle had a malaria attack. It is theoreticallypossible to catch malaria from another person via mosquito bite. However, the periodicity of the symptoms and the infection time doesn't match up. I know think that maybe seeing his uncle sick triggered his first panic attack. Thoughts?

Thanks
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

As usual, I think your insights into TM's situation are exactly correct. It is a bit odd that he has a fever related to the shaking though. I think you said it, it sounds like something physical. Although it is natural that someone can feel hot with a panic attack or even PTSD, it is never normal to spike a fever. The areas of the brain that regulate fever as opposed to emotional symptoms are completely different. He needs to see his doctor to find the reason for the fever. The shaking might be related to the fever, or it might just be the panic/emotional trauma.

 

It sounds like he really trusts you to come to you after experiencing his most recent panic attack. I agree with you, I don't know that I would read too much into his need to kiss you. He may have needed the closeness and contact that a kiss provides, particularly since he had such a bad episode. But I would leave this open to developing further since he has reached a point that he trusts you so well. He may be just moving very slowly with his feelings. The trauma and panic can cause him to feel overwhelmed so he may not be ready for a relationship until he feels he can cope better with his symptoms.

 

Let me know if I can help with any other questions or insights you have.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Now I'm really confused. Ever since TM's last panic attack he has been very affectionate towards me. The other night we spent several hours together and he told me he loved me, TWICE! I didn't think I would ever hear him say that. I mean, he can't even tell his son that he loves him. TM thanked me for being very nice to him. He also told me that he was afraid of people. I assumed this meant he is afraid of getting to close to people. I told him that I wasn't a very scary person and he said that is why he was there with me. Tm said that he was afraid that he would hurt me. I said, sometimes I feel hurt but I know it's not his fault. Since he was being so open, I asked if he thought he had panic attacks. He told me that he thought he did sometimes. I'm trying to just go with this and enjoy it, but in the back of my mind I'm wondering when it is going to end. I don't know what triggered this last panic attack but I'm wondering if he is just feeling like he needs me now. What do you think?

Thanks
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

I think it sounds like he is feeling very vulnerable and that he trusts you right now. Whether or not it's something he can hold on to, I'm not sure. It depends very much on if he feels frightened again. It seems from what you have told me, whenever he feels threatened in some way, he withdrawals and stays distant from people. But whenever he feels vulnerable and has the panic attacks (if that is what they are), then he draws close to what makes him feel safe, which is you.

 

What you may be seeing is what is underneath and hidden when he is feeling protective and defensive. He lets you see it then hides it when he feels defensive. He seems very sensitive to how people react to him and it may be that although he feels safe with you, he may not feel safe with his son or other people. Sensitive people often take what you and I consider an off comment as very hurtful and upsetting. That might be why is a very protective of his feelings and expressions. People usually aren't aware that what they say can hurt a sensitive person.

 

At this point, it's probably smart on your part to keep doing what you are right now with him. Pushing it too far could frighten him away. Not doing enough could make him withdrawal, especially if he takes any withdrawal of your attentions as something personal. I know it's a tough balance, but I think you could pull it off. You have good insight into his behavior and understand more than most people do. Just keep your interaction with him gentle and giving and you should be ok.

 

Let me know how it turns out,

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for your reply,

I'm not sure that I understand the difference between TM feeling frightened and him feeling vulnerable because they both seem to have the same symptoms. The last episode where he wanted to get close to me was an exception. Also, I am not positive he gets a fever, he has never taken his temp. but he does feel warm to the touch.

Last week I met with him again and he started having some sexual difficulties again. I said it didn't matter and that I just loved being with him. In a nice way, he told me that I made him love me. It looked like he might almost be shaking a little again. I probably didn't make things any better by talking about one of my problems He told me that he could feel it coming on during the day. We were next to each other and he said he "felt like he was here and over there". Does this sound like dissociation? He always tries to act like he is fine, but I knew he wasn't. I told him to get back into bed and he did. I covered him up and fed him dinner in bed.

The next morning he came to see me again, which he usually doesn't do. He was obviously still having problems. I offered to leave the room so he could lie down but he said no and just sat next to me for about an hour. During our class time this same day, he started withdrawing again. He was trying to get attention from women again. I was feeling really hurt. When I feel this way, I just stop talking to him and probably look like I'm angry with him. I feel if I don't try to control my emotions I'll just start crying. In fact I had to go into the bathroom once and cry. I just can't turn off my feelings for him when he does this. I have watched him when this happens and it looks like it is a compulsion, he just can't help himself. It always seems to happen when he's feeling really bad about himself. He put himself down the night before and during the day also, saying he was a bad influence on me and how there was nothing in his brain but noise. By the end of class he told me he was afraid of everyone else but not me. I asked him later if he was sure about that and he said he was a little bit afraid of me. I told him I wasn't going to hurt him and he said he knew that.

Do you have any advice to help me cope with his behaviors? He said once he was heavily into drugs for awhile when he was younger. I wonder if this behavior is a substitute for the drugs he used to kill the pain.

Thanks again!
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

The difference between frightened and vulnerable is pretty close. It is usually up to the person feeling it to let you know which one they are experiencing. It may just be a matter of seeing if TM will let you know when you ask him.

 

HIs other symptoms are unusual but it sounds like it could be anxiety. If he is not getting worse, then it's most likely emotionally related.

 

As I'm reading your question, one thing seemed to stand out. TM's relationship with women is dysfunctional. The way he relates to you, to other women and the sexual dysfunction you described all point to either some type of abuse by a woman (maybe mother or another significant female in his life) or something abuse related. There are just too many signs to ignore. If I was seeing TM as a patient, it is a path I would explore with him.

 

The most important sign is probably the dissociation symptoms. If he does not have dissociation, he has signs or mild symptoms of something similar. Dissociation is not easy to diagnose without seeing a person face to face, but it can be possible he has it especially if he was abused. Oftentimes, abused children will remove themselves mentally and emotionally from what is happening in order to survive. Although it is a rare reaction, it does occur in certain cases.

 

TM may be approaching the other women because of the dysfunction. He either sees them as objects to be feared or he sees them as wanting their love and attention but either way he approaches it in a dysfunctional manner. If he is afraid of them, he may approach them much as an abused child would approach their abuser- seeing them as the only source of comfort but never being able to get any from them. Either way, he is not able to develop normal feelings and therefore tries what he knows and understands in order to attempt to relate.

 

There is no reason at this point to feel his attempts to engage other women is a threat in any way to your relationship. He has taken a long time to get to the point he is now with you and start over and to be able to do this with another woman would take a lot. The other woman would also have to have your insight and patience and that is quite rare indeed. Plus, you and TM fit together in meeting each others needs. His trust issues, difficulties and the other parts of his situation are not something that can be easily adapted to for most people.

 

You can choose to react to TM's attempts either by ignoring him when he does this or by letting him know (which sounds like you already did) that it hurts you. I'm not sure at this point if he could stop what he does because it may be based in something deep and unresolved for him. But working with him like you do may help him eventually deal with some of the issues and it may bring about better insight for him.

 

Let me know if I can help any further,
Kate

 

 

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Incredible, your answer just said what I've been thinking about for the last couple of months, but I wasn't sure how to interpret it. I don't have any experience in mental health, but his symptoms seemed overly severe for one traumatic event.

Every summer he goes back to the house he was raised in and his son goes with him. Last fall he told me that someone who was a "second father" to him died. This man lived down the road from where TM lived. After he came back he wouldn't be with me physically for about four months. He kept trying to come up with things for us to do together, but nothing was in private. He made a couple of comments implying that he wasn't functioning physically, telling me he was getting old. I thought he was just very stressed from this mans death. I also noticed that he needed to get a lot of attention from younger women and when he did he wanted to be with me physically (after four months). I don't know why, but I just became suspicious about this man and found his obituary on line. I guess nowadays everyone is suspicuos of an older man who takes an interest in a young boy. I don't know if there is anything there or maybe a family member of this man did something, I just wondered. I thought that it was possible that someone abused him and then his mother wasn't there for him. When he tries to get attention from women, he tries hard to make physical contact. it is usually a touch on the arm or a hug. He seems to badly want a hug when he is feeling negative about himself.

I wish I could find a way to nudge him toward therapy without upsetting him. I have thought about finding a therapist myself to talk about our relationship, and then offering to let him join me is he felt like it. I tried once to get him to go to a doctor about medical issues. His reply was, "but you want me to go to a doctor, doctors never help" I told him the other day that he could talk to me about anything, but he said he wasn't ready to talk about that. Unfortunately, when I asked him this I didn't realize he was having another episode. He is very good at hiding his symptoms, no one else has a clue that something is going on with him.

Thank you very much
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for letting me know that I was on target with the answer I gave. I would like to offer more, but with the restraints of JA, I give it my best and hope you will let me know if I'm off or you need more from me.

 

It is hard to know if the second dad TM mentioned could have been part of the problem. You are right, everyone tends to suspect the older man helping the little boy, sometimes unfairly and sometimes rightly so. But only TM can confirm this. And the way he acted when he came back to you tells you that the relationship he had with this man brought up something emotional for TM, it's just hard to tell what it was. It could have been anything from a sense of loss to the reminder that TM was abused by this man.

 

Therapy would be very helpful for TM but I suspect that with the difficulty he has at this point just in his relationships, he may not be ready for confronting his history just yet, such as he would need to do in therapy. Many people feel very exposed in therapy and although it does help, facing your past is sometimes too much for some people.

 

It would be great for you to start therapy, however. It would give you the avenue you need to help TM further. You could work on your feelings and thoughts about the situation, making a clearer path in your work with TM and helping you develop your relationship. And TM could be ready someday to join you, especially once he sees it helps you.

 

If you need help finding a therapist, let me know.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks,

I would like some help finding a therapist. I have looked on line and asked a couple of people but it just seems hard to know who would be good for my situation. I've had serious medical problems so I know the importance of finding the right doctor or therapist.

Let me know if you need more information from me. Is there a way we can communicate privately?
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

I wish there was a way to communicate privately, but JA policy does not allow it.

 

I can give you some general recommendations and you can see if they help you. If not, we can try to get more specific.

 

Besides asking your doctor for a referral, you could also try your pastor, if you attend church. Most pastors are good counselors and they also have many resources to help you.

 

You can also try these links which will have detailed information about counselors in your area, including what they treat:

 

http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/

 

http://www.goodtherapy.org/

 

 

Here is a guide on how to find a good therapist:

 

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/01/26/10-ways-to-find-a-good-therapist/

 

Let me know if I can do more,

Kate

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi again kateI would like to ask you a few things about my friend again if I may. For the past few months my friend has been very loving and open towards me. I have not seen him have any more episodes of dissociation or panic attacks, just occasional anxiety. He has been sharing more of his past uwith me and telling the truth more. He has told me a few stories about his past where he seemed to be testing me to see how i would react. He tells me he loves me all the time now. There also hasn't been any problems with sexual dysfunction either. He told me that i pulled him out of a deep hole and thanked me for loving him. He mentioned that he wasn't in pain as mu ch and had more energy.He said that things were getting better and it was from our relationship. This happened suddenly a few months ago, so i'm trying to figure out if this is real or if he is just afraid of being alone? How do I know!! I am afraid of being completely in love with him and then having my heart broken. I have told him that the thing I am afraid of is him running away from me. He told me that he ddn't think that was going to happen. I have been reading a lot about abuse and I think all of the symptoms fit my friend.what should I do at this point?
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

Hello! It's good to hear from you.

 

It sounds like you and TM have deepened your relationship and trust is developing, which is the needed basis for all long term relationships. What TM is telling you seems very positive and a good sign he might be ready for a solid relationship with you.

 

Because of his history, you may want to consider taking this slow. You have bonded and trust is there. But TM's behavior has hurt you in the past so that is why I am recommending caution. He has sought out the attention of other women and has withdrawn from your relationship. Is this still an issue between you both? If not, then you can move forward with more confidence. If it is still an issue, then going slowly is the best way to protect yourself.

 

He still needs to work through any abuse from his past. Abuse, especially in childhood, will have life long effects unless addressed. And one of the areas it comes out in most is adult relationships. That is because relationships bring out strong feelings and make us feel the emotions of our past. We play out childhood issues with others, particularly our parents, within our relationships. For example, if you grow up seeing your father hit your mother, your chances of finding that type of relationship increases because you still have trauma you need to work out. In finding a similar relationship, you hope to work out your trauma with a new person who may turn into the loving person your father should have been. This is the same for TM. He may have left over issues that he will subconsciously work out in your relationship. You have already seen evidence of that in depth. But by moving slowly, these issues will come up and can be addressed as they do.

 

But even with all these cautions I'm talking about, you both are doing so well. You have come a long way and there is no reason that healing and bonding cannot continue. You are already on the path and you've stayed on it tried and true through the good and the bad. There are people who have long term relationships based on a whole lot less!

 

I hope this helped. Let me know if I can do more,

Kate

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Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Kate,

I am trying to be very cautious with tm because I am afraid of getting hurt. I haven't seen any of the attention getting lately, but is is summer and he's not around many people. I told hem that the only thing I was afraid of was his running away from me and he said he didn't think that was going to happen. When he was having a bad day a couple of months ago, he said he tried to run away from me after his friend died. He did come back to me though. But it scares me that with any major stress he might do something like that or worse, have a relationship. We both sort of talk around the subject of his past but not directly. For example, he'll said once he wasn't ready to talk about "that" yet. He is very sensitive and I'm very careful about what I say. I have read many books and visited web sites on abuse. I know he is not ready to see a therapist, so what is the best way to help him? Is there anyway to change this automatic need to run when things get bad?
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 3 years ago.

The best way to help him is to keep him talking, the best you can. If he suffered severe abuse, he may be too traumatized to face it. That doesn't mean he shouldn't face it, but it may be a slower process. A therapist is best trained to help, but if he won't go, that may mean he is not ready to look at the abuse and work on it. So for you, going slowly to show him acceptance and being open to what he is willing to talk about will help him learn to trust. You have already been there for him and you seem to be the person he wants to be with most. That gives you an edge in working with him on this.

 

His need to run is something he should be aware of. Does he realize he does this? Does he recognize at what point he feels the need to run? Start working with him on recognizing the parameters of his behavior. By that I mean the wheres, whens, and hows of what he does. Then, when he is fully aware of those, work on the why. The why of the problem is going to be a deeper issue and he will need to be willing to face it before he can work on it.

 

This puts a lot of burden on you. Helping someone deal with emotional trauma is not an easy task. You are certainly up for it but my concern is more on the emotional toll it will take if you choose to help TM. Keep trying to introduce the idea of a therapist to him, even going with him if he needs that. He needs to recognize that reaching out to others can help him learn to trust and heal.

 

One of the best books on abuse is Adult Children of Abusive Parents by Steven Farmer. If you have not already read that book, it is a good one to try.

 

Kate

 

 

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Kate,

It's been awhile since I've spoken to you, but some issues have come up and I would like your opinion. Since I have talked with you my relationship with my friend has become very close. We have even talked about marriage and he said he wished I had been with him all along. He wants to be with me a lot now and really seems to enjoy the physical relationship we have.

Just before christmas, he was very agitated and stressed. I sat next to him and put my hand across his chest. He suddenly said "good boys don't put their hands up girls shirts". Last week I was talking about a certain hollywood personality and said the word "pervert" to describe this person. That word clearly triggered him and he said " it (sex) is better if you don't enjoy it" I would like to say something to him about the "pervert" episode and tell him that he has never been a pervert and will never be one. I'm wondering if this is the thing to do and do you think he is slowly trying to tell me about his past?




Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Hello, it's good to talk with you again!

 

I think he is trying to tell you about his past in an indirect way. People do not suddenly develop these types of thoughts unless they are exposed to them in some way, especially in childhood where such thoughts and beliefs are formed and ingrained in a person.

 

It sounds like he either was sexually abused by someone, or he was verbally/ emotionally abused by a parent or caregiver that had a dysfunctional view of sexuality. It seems that he might have been told that sex was bad or that his own sexual feelings where abnormal. He also might have been raised by someone who had very strong and dysfunctional religious beliefs that they used against him to discourage his very natural sexual feelings.

 

If you do talk with him, let him know that you noticed his comments and that if he would like to talk about it, you are there to listen. Be as supportive as you can but be ready to back off if he gets upset. He may feel frightened or angry about what he was put through so he may need time to open up.

 

I am happy to hear your relationship is so close and you may be getting married. That is very good news! I wish you both the best.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

I also thought that this link might be helpful to you in talking with your friend. It describes the many symptoms that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse might have:

 

http://www.psychotherapist.net/adultsurvivors.html

 

If you do not feel he fits these symptoms, there may be something else going on. But it would be unusual for someone to make comments like that and not have a background in some type of abuse.

 

Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the link, I have read several books on male sexual abuse and he has all of the traits. He has very low self esteem and always wants to please people even if it hurts him. Twice he has started shaking after performing a certain sexual act on me. He also occasionally gets overly excited when doing this same act on me. He has dissociated and lost time. He has panic attacks. He said he doesn't trust himself when it comes to relationships and has been taken advantage of. He also thinks our relationship is the first time he has felt love. He has a difficult time trusting. He always thinks he is to blame. He will withdraw and sleep all day. He is not able to hug his kids,always keeps them at arms length when they try to hug him. These are some of his traits.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

It certainly sounds like sexual abuse. Is he able to talk to you at all about it? Do you feel he may be in denial and is not ready to cope with it yet?

 

He may be dissociating because of the trauma he has experienced. If he was abused he may have dealt with it by blocking it out because it was too much to cope with. He may also be experiencing conflict because he wants a normal relationship with you but each time he tries to get close to you, the memories start to threaten to come out and he backs off or reacts by shaking or becoming overexcited.

 

Therapy would certainly help if he has not already sought help. He may want to see someone who specializes in childhood sexual abuse. Also, there are a number of online resources including support groups which may help him feel less alone and provide him with the validation he needs to feel safe enough to bring his feelings to the surface. And you probably are very familiar with what else is out there since you have been looking into male sexual abuse. Your insight is amazing. But if you need help finding something appropriate, I am happy to help.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Yes, he is in denial. Whenever he has another "episode" of withdrawal. self hatred. depression, vomiting and anxiety, he explaines it by saying he ate something bad or had a virus. He is over 60 years old and I'm afraid he may never try to remove this burden.

The thing is, over the past year our physical relationship has become wonderful. He tells me that he has never felt like this before and neither have I. He still has the anxiety, etc. but it doesn't seem to cripple him like it used to (at least not when he's with me). He has said he trusts me completly and feels very calm when we are together. He has only started shaking once over the past year. When he was shaking I asked him (probably not the best timing) if anyone had hurt him. He said no, but assumed I was talking about sexual abuse from a man. Nothing has come out except the two statements that I mentioned previously. i don't think at this point he could go see a therapist. Because of a couple things I've noticed while we're together, I think there may have been a woman and a man involved.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

It sounds like he was horribly abused and in order to cope with it, he has buried it as far down as possible. But with you, he feels safe and that might be triggering his feelings to come out. Before you, he may not have gotten close enough to anyone emotionally for his deeper feelings to be threatened. Now that he trusts you, he may feel safe enough to have the feelings come to the surface. But he may not be prepared to face them yet so his feelings manifest themselves through the withdrawal, self hatred and physical symptoms.

 

He may eventually be able to face what happened. But right now, whatever it was seems too traumatizing to face. It may take a lot of time and patience, but he may be able to face the trauma a bit at a time.

 

Do you feel that he would be able to talk about it at all? What does he do if you introduce the idea to him?

 

Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks

Well, a couple of years ago I thought most of his problems were due to grief from his father's death. At that time I asked him if he thought he had PTSD. He did agree that he might have it.

About a month ago, when he was shaking I asked if someone had hurt him when he was growing up. He was in pretty bad shape so I don't think he could have talked about anything. But he said there was never any uncle or male neighbor or priest. He assumed I was talking about sexual abuse and was careful to imply it would have been male.

I'm going to see him tonight and I would like to ask him about the statements he made about "sex being better if you don't enjoy it " and "good boys don't put their hands up girls shirts" Do you think I should bring it up or just wait for him to work things out at his own pace?

Thanks again
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

It is alright to let him know you heard what he said and are concerned that he was abused. He would not have said it to you if he did not feel safe doing so, if he did not want you to know or if he did not want to talk about it. He may just not be prepared to talk about it at length or maybe at all yet since facing it would be very painful.

 

If he was sexually abused, the dissociation you described him having is probably in part due to what he went through. He could also have flashbacks (related to PTSD from the abuse) and that may cause him to be fearful of thinking about the abuse or confronting it in any way. So talking about it is going to be a slow process.

 

But since he is willing to provide a few hints here and there about what may have happened to him, then he has left a door open for you to bring it up. As long as you are gentle with him, non direct and you allow him to control the conversation, it should go fine. You may want to gauge his mood first before you try to talk with him. Trauma from abuse is tricky. Some days are ok and others are too hard to cope with. So if he seems shut down or upset in any way, save it for another time.

 

Kate

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Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Kate,

I spoke with my friend about the comments he made (ie. pervert and good boys don't, etc) I said that i had noticed those comments and wondered if he had said them because he wanted me to talk to him about them. He just started laughing and I got offended because I felt he wasn't taking me seriously. He asked if I said it because I was trying to get a window into his brain. He said he probably just picked up those comments somewhere. I know these where not casual comments, he was agitated and the look on his face when he said them is something I have never seen before. I think part of the problem may be that he doesn't remenber the things he says when he's stressed. Anyway, it didn't go well, so I wll leave it alone and let him go at his own pace

I wanted to mention a couple of other things that have happened. He came to see me about a week ago, and he was clearly having a bad day, He had a dream that he was driving down tthe road and saw water crossing the road and tried to speed up to escape it. He has never liked water and won't get in a tub or go swimming. He had another dream where he found a dead dog and felt helpless not knowing what to do abbout it.

The second area I wanted to mention was some comments he made about us if we had been kids together. He is about 8 years older than I am. He has implied a few times that I could have had sex with him when I was ten. I have carefully said that we should have waited until we were a little older. I am not sure how I should respond to these comments. I have deliberately shown no emotion when he brings it up. Is he trying to gauge how I would feel about childhood sex? This doesn't seem like something someone would say unless their boundries had been violated as a child.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Hello!

 

I agree with you, there is something that happened to him in his past. He has too many signs and says too many things that most people who have not been abused or hurt would not even bring up.

 

It sounds like he laughed off your concern about his comments regarding perverts and good boys as a defense. He may be too scared to bring it up directly so he threw it in to see your reaction. For one, people who have not been exposed in some way to abuse would not say something like that in the first place. It would seem too out of context and they would know that. Then commenting about having sex as an adult and a child says that he is looking at your relationship in that context. For someone who was never abused that would be something they either would not consider, or feel very odd bringing up. But your friend has brought it up more than once, which means it is either a very appealing idea to him or it has happened to him and is not an unusual or odd thing in his world. In other words, it is something he is open to because he knows it can happen. That doesn't mean he would do it necessarily, but once a child is abused, their eyes are opened to that world and are never closed to it again. It influences how they see the world.

 

Connecting to him over this suspected abuse is going to be a matter of breaking through his barriers. That is not easy. He is going to have to want to let you in. But so far, he is giving you signs that he might be willing to open up. He is talking about it, but in an indirect way. I think you may be right, he is testing you to see your reaction. If you are shocked by it or try to stop him from saying anything he might shut down. But if you accept what he is saying in a tender and understanding way, he might be willing to open up eventually.

 

I get the sense that he was very hurt by someone in his childhood. The dream about the dead dog and the water may represent how he feels about his past. The dog might have been him (which would mean he feels dead inside or he is dead and no one can help him) or it represented someone close to him that he could not help. And water may have been used to hurt him during the abuse. So he was trying to get away from someone who wanted to hurt him.

 

The best way to deal with him is to encourage his attempts to express what happened to him, no matter how odd he expresses himself. Not that you should show approval to something that offends you like adults having sex with children, but saying something like "a child having sex against their will would be terrible for them". Any sympathy or tenderness you can show will encourage him to open up. And if he does tell you something that sounds like it is about him, make eye contact and listen to him. Respond by empathizing and be tender with him. The more supportive you can be, the more he will feel you are safe to talk to.

 

Kate

Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX was very helpful.

i am sure you are right when you say that he views childhood sex as something that can happen. I do know he would never do anything to someone else.

I think the dream about the dead dog may have represented his dads death when he was a teen. He witnessed his fathers death.

I was with him earlier tonight and I think he had a flashback and possibly dissociated. He wasn't speaking very much and didn't want me to get intimate with him. (he is so good at hiding symptoms, it takes me some time to realize what's going on) He fell asleep and then jumped and woke up. He said he felt like he was getting sick. He was blinking alot and acting like he was having trouble seeing. He also said he felt like there were bubbles and he was floating. When this happens, he face gets red and he feels hot. He also started shaking a little while later. What do you think?

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

It sounds like he might have had a panic attack. The floating sensation would fit as would feeling sick. Though these symptoms could fit something else like a physical illness, given his background a panic attack is a good possibility. Has he had this before?

 

Kate

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Yes he has had them before, but I usually just see him when he is looking red and his skin is feeling hot. He could hardly function, couldn't get up and barely spoke. I asked him if he needed to see a doctor. He hates doctors and said he wouldn't go even if he was dying.

Does the shaking usually happen with panic atttacks?
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

Yes, shaking is a symptom of panic attacks as is feeling hot and redness in the face.

 

Men usually are not good about seeing a doctor even if they need help. There may be ways to help him at home though. The more you both know about panic and anxiety, the better you can deal with it. Here are some resources that you can use to assist him next time he experiences a panic attack:

 

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/panic_disorder_anxiety_attack_symptom_treatment.htm

 

http://helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm

 

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/default.htm

 

He may also want to look into these books:

 

When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life by David D. Burns

 

How to Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks: A Simple Guide to using a specific set of Techniques to Stop Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Fear of Driving or Flying and Stress by Geert Verschaeve

 

A Life Less Anxious: Freedom from panic attacks and social anxiety without drugs or therapy by Steve Pavilanis and Patricia Alma Lee

 

Amazon.com has these books or your local library may have them as well.

 

Let me know if I can help any further,

 

Kate

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Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hello kate,

I have had a couple experiences with my friend that i would like you to comment on. My friend and I wanted to spend a few days together but we stayed in town because of his son. One night he had to go help a friend who was very ill catalog some possesions. He said he would be gone a couple of hours. After seven hours went by I started to assume he wasn't coming back. SInce early in our relationship he didn't show up twice. he eventually came back and I mentioned that I didn't think he was coming back. He seemed distraught and started cying. I have never seen him emotional like this. He said he gets stuck and doesn't know what to do, so he can't leave.

Another issue is something I talked about with him yesterday. I am aware that many male survivors are chronic liers. I know he has lied since we have been together. He often lies about really silly things. Because we have been getting so close, the lying has started to bother me. I talked to him about it and he was ecstatic. He was very happy I knew and said he doesn't like lying and always felt guilty. Any thoughts?

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.
Hello, it's good to hear from you!

It sounds like he may have some issues with asserting himself in situations. If he said that he doesn't know what to do and feels stuck, then that may indicate that he doesn't feel ok expressing his needs with the friend he was with that night. The fact that he didn't call may back this up. He may have felt that he could not say he needed to check in with you or even that he needed to leave. Given that his friend is ill, he may have thought that expressing his own needs was making him look too selfish. People who are abused as children are taught at an early age to deny their own needs, especially when the person they are with has needs of their own. Being with his ill friend, your partner would have felt the need to be there for him and put his friend's needs over his own. And your partner may have felt the pressure to please you as well, making him feel trapped between you and his friend, even if neither of you were putting any pressure on him to do anything.

Lying is usually a sign of insecurity. When someone has been abused in the past, they learn to lie in order to keep themselves from getting abused by their caregivers. It can be a survival tool to keep themselves safe. It can also be a way to help an abused child to feel better about themselves. They can lie to make themselves seem something they are not in order to get admiration, attention or sympathy from others, things they cannot get at home. And after using it for so many years, it can become ingrained. In order to deal with this issue, your partner can practice telling the truth. It may take a while because it is a behavior change, but after practice it should get easier. He needs to know that he is safe when he does tell the truth, so encouraging him may help.

You may also want to recommend that he reads a book called Hurt People Hurt People: Hope and Healing for Yourself and Your Relationships by Sandra D. Wilson which explains in depth about people who were abused as children and how they react as adults.

Kate
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Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I forget to mention, that when he was so upset, he said he might have to tell me about the "other stuff " sometime.
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 2 years ago.

It sounds like he got in touch with some of his deeper feelings while he was so upset. It would be natural for him to feel more in touch with his emotions when he is upset and feel it is easier to express his deeper feelings. He may also have felt very supported by you and safe enough to let you know that there is more he wants to share. By just telling you that, he can "test" to see your reaction and see if it is safe. It is a good sign that he trusts you.

Kate

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Kate,


 


I would like to talk to you again about my partner.


 


Some time ago I was helping my partner do genealogy research on his family. I came across public records which indicate that my partner was married and had two children when he was about 18. He never mentions the existence of these two children to anyone. I have never said anything because I think this might be related to some abuse in his past.


 


A few weeks ago when he was back in his hometown, he accidentally called me while his phone was in his pocket. The phone was on for a while so I got two voice messages. These voice messages included him playing with a little child and saying that grandpa is here. Given the age of the child, I believe that my partner is the great-grandfather. I mentioned to my partner that I heard these messages and that I heard a child. I did not say anything about the "grandpa" part. After I told him, he said in a very quiet voice; yes there was a child there.


 


If this is related to some abuse, should I bring it up or wait for him to tell me?

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Hello, it's nice to talk with you again.

Mentioning that you heard the voice message was a good opening for him to take it further and explain. Since he did not, he may either feel unsure how to explain it, feel he has been misleading you and is afraid of revealing the truth after all this time, or he may not want to talk about it at all for some reason. Those reasons could be that he feels it is private or that it is connected to past abuse and it is too hard to talk about for him.

That is a lot of possibilities. And the best way to know what route to take is to get some more information from him. By gently presenting a bit more about what you heard, you may be able to get more of a reaction from him, in turn giving you more to go on so you know how to proceed.

You may want to say that you heard a voice saying "grandpa is here" when you heard his message. Then see what he says. You can also add that you felt the child and "other person" you heard where having fun or something positive like that. Then wait to see how he reacts. If he seems ok with it, let him know that you are open to sharing that part of his life and that if he wants to talk about it, you would like to listen. Be as open as you can and gentle as you can. He knows you will not hurt him so that does not sound like the issue here. The pain behind the situation is probably what is driving his inability to talk about it, at least for now.

If he seems very reluctant to bring it up or discuss it any further, let him know that you are there for him and no matter what happened, you care for him and want to help. Then let it go. Hopefully, he will eventually open up and let you in.

Kate
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Kate,


 


I would like to ask you a question about flashbacks and dissociation.


 


I have mentioned in a previous post about how my partner seeks attention from women sometimes. I have started to realize that he may not be present mentally when this is happening. I was sitting next to him during the class he teaches (it is a metal shop, so lots of stuff going on). I started to talk to him when I realized he was just staring at a woman in class. I could tell that he was looking at her as a sexual object. This behavior occurred after he had not slept for three nights. When this happens, i just disappear from his mind and he is totally focused on this woman. When I have gotten upset from his behaviors, he really has no idea why I am upset. So talking about it hasn't helped.


 


Do you think that the lack of sleep has something to do with flashbacks? What is he doing during class? I know he does this to stop from feeling so much pain, but is he having flashbacks and/or dissociating or something else? In the past I have gone back to work on my project, leaving him alone. Now, I'm wondering if I should do something to help him. I have read about grounding techniques, so I'm wondering if those would help.


 



I have another totally different question about my partners past. I am beginning to think his father might have played some role in his abuse. I still think that at some time in his life there was a woman involved.


I mentioned before that he had a neighbor who was a "second father" to him. He said he spent more time with the neighbor's family than with his own. My partner only talks about the neighbor's ww2 service and not his father's. He has referred to the neighbor as his "real father
". The only time he feels bad about his father is when he talks about his dad dying when he was 13. He told me once that when he had a party ( as an adult) that a gay guy would show up and then hang around "hoping". We were talking about going on a trip, when I mentioned that we could stay a night with an old friend of mine who is gay. In an almost childlike way, he said "is he going to get me". I said no he wouldn't. These comments lead me to believe that there was some male abuse in his past.


 


On a positive note, I spoke with him about the panic attacks and gave him the book "when panic attacks" He read it and said he has all the symptoms. The book helped him and he has quoted it a lot. He said he never understood the connection between anxiety and depression before. He has been trying to not lie as much and is talking more. When I ask him how he is doing, instead of saying "I'm fine", he now tells me when he's stressed or upset! I'm very proud of him.


 


 


 


 


 

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Hello, I'm glad to hear from you.

It is hard to tell if your partner is having flashbacks or not. It is much like someone daydreaming, if they do not tell you directly you may not know. And much of the action goes on in the mind and is not easy to tell to others unless the person acts out. But usually the reaction is so unusual that you know that it is not normal.

Flashbacks are the mind's way of replaying the trauma to help a person cope with it. The flashback puts the abuse in front of you and say "this needs your attention." It is a way of re experiencing the trauma of the past. The person may experience this as if they are back in the trauma again. Dissociation is part of a flashback. The person moves away from their surroundings and withdraws, feeling that they are no longer connected to anything going on around them. Triggers are often causes of a flashback and dissociation. Whenever the person encounters something that reminds them of what happened to them, they may experiencing a flashback.

It does not sound like what your partner experienced was a flashback if he just focuses on women all of a sudden. He would be disconnected from his surroundings and would feel as if he was back in the trauma. He would probably not even notice the woman. Lack of sleep could explain a flashback (more difficulty coping when you are tired) but it does not sound like this was a flashback. It does sound like there is something going on in his mind when he sees these women. What that might be is hard to tell. If you feel he might tell you, ask him. That way, you can at least have an idea. But there is no mental health diagnosis that would explain what he is doing that I am aware of.

Your partner's reaction to your gay friend may be a reaction to abuse or it could be something he heard as a child. Some parents pass on their prejudices of people who are gay or otherwise different. If the parents are dysfunctional, they may make up something to scare the child by saying the person will "get" them in order to keep the child away and fearful of people who do not fit their parents parameters of a "normal" person. This may be what your partner experienced. Or he could have been abused by someone who is gay who made it part of the abuse to push his sexuality onto your partner trying to influence him.

I am glad he had such a positive reaction to the book you gave him. Any connections he can make to help himself are very positive. And the more he is able to find out about how he feels, the closer he is to healing.

Kate
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any more questions or need clarification?

Kate

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I asked him about what he is doing when he is staring. He said he is not aware that he is doing it and wants me to poke him when he is in the middle of it, so he knows what he's thinking about. He seems mentally absent when staring. I can no longer talk to him.


 


He has been making more statements about gay men lately too. I don't know if he is trying to tell me something. He said there were gay men in the town where he grew up, who would try to recruit boys. There has been an older man hanging around after class. My friend thought this guy was gay and was waiting to be alone with him. I think this is odd behavior for my friend. I don't know any man straight or gay that would think this way. Gay men usually know when another man is gay and don't make moves on just anyone.


 


I also asked my friend about the phone messages he left me, when he was with a child and referred to himself as grandpa. He told me that he has two other children. He got married when he was 18 because she was pregnant. he has grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is not sure if both children from his marriage are his. His wife was very violent and stabbed him and herself. He said he was embarrassed to tell me about them, because he hadn't seen them until about three years ago when one of them contacted him. I said I would not judge him and didn't think he was a bad person. This seemed to open the flood gates and he let a lot out.


 


He has a history of being abused in relationships. He has been stabbed, hit, punched, grabbed and emotionally abused. He told me it is difficult for him to stay present during conflict and he just tries to become small.


 


 

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.

I would be more than happy to continue working with you on any new questions you have. All I ask is that you remember to rate my answers for each new/different question you ask. Thanks!

Kate

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
It sounds like he may have been abused by someone as a child. If he is talking about men that stand out as gay to him, that usually means that the issue is very much on the forefront of his mind. And in order for that to happen, he has to have some issue with people, especially men, who are gay. These leads to the conclusion that either he is gay, he has experience in the past that is unresolved involving someone who is gay, or he has a phobia about people who are gay (which also indicates an issues of some sort, usually unresolved fear more than just someone who is gay).

The only way to know for sure is to ask him about his background, if he is willing to talk about it. But because he keeps bringing it up, that indicates that it is bothering him enough to express it. And he may be opening the subject up in order to gauge your reaction and see if you are ok with the topic.

It does seem that his background is full of abuse and violence. Marrying someone who is as violent as his former wife may indicate that he was either used to that level of violence in his life or that she was very unstable and that he was open to being with someone who was that unstable due to previous experience in that environment.

The fact that he was as open with you as he was seems to mean that he is trusting you more and more, which is a good sign.

Staring into space and wanting you to poke him seems a bit odd in behavior. I would recommend ruling out any possible physical reason for his behavior (maybe seizures?) before considering an emotional reason. But if he is ok physically, it may be good to find out what he might be thinking about that brings him so deep in thought that he tunes out his surroundings.

Kate
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

My impression is that he is fearful of men he believes to be gay and who are "waiting around" for him. In general, I don't think they are gay. I wonder if he is defining a pedophile from his past as gay, even though most are heterosexual. I know most men who are abused by other men have gender confusion and will often reenact the abuse with men later in life. I mentioned in a previous post that when my friend was younger, a man would "hang around" after parties. My friend said he would tell him to go. He seems afraid that someone might try to do something to him.

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.

It sounds like he was hurt in the past and since the feelings are unresolved, he is hyper aware of any men who remind him of the past experience he had. He may label them as gay because of his belief that the person that hurt him was gay or that he actually knew that they were. Either way, it seems that whatever happened to him is very much on the forefront of his mind.

Kate

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Kate,


 


I have an issue with my partner that I would like to talk to you about. As long as we have been together he has had a behavior that has really bothered me. He likes to meet with some of his female students outside of class and help them with their projects. I am fairly certain that he has never had any kind of physical relationship with these women, but he assumes I know nothing about it and lies about it.


 


Recently, he realized that I am upset by his behaviors in our class together, so he is having these women go to a class at another campus and then he goes out to this class and helps them. I believe his behavior is some sort of dysfunctional coping behavior and talking to him about it won't make it stop. Being around these women seems to make him feel better about himself. The other day he was almost trying to tell me about this. He mentioned a woman's name that I know he sees after class and then tells me he might take this class at the other campus. I thought he might be testing me, because the night before I had talked to him about some behaviors similar to these, early in our relationship when he was pushing me away. Is there any point in talking to him about this? If so, how do I do it without sending him into another downward spiral or hiding his actions even further?


 


On a slightly different subject. He also keeps thanking me "for doing this with him" and out of the blue will say "please don't leave me". We were talking about high school yesterday and out he says, "he seems kinda gay". I assume he was repeating something someone from his past said to him. The next few months are usually very bad for him so I am hesitant to bring up to many things.


 


Thanks again.

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.

Hello, it's nice to talk with you again.

You are walking a difficult line here with your partner. If you say too much, he can become upset and withdrawal. Yet he has behaviors that are upsetting to you and that interfere with the relationship between you. It is not an easy place to be in.

Being interested in hanging around other females can be an attention getting behavior. He may have something in his past that causes him to feel he "needs" to be with females who like him. It is often related to approval from a significant female figure from childhood, most often a mother, but it can be someone else who was close and emotionally significant. By seeking out these women and hiding it from you, he understands the impact of his behavior on your relationship but may not want to change his behavior because of the reward he gets from the attention.

It is perfectly fine to talk with him about it, but because of how he reacts, you may want to keep your words and your voice low key and gentle. Letting him know the impact on you when he seeks these women may help. If he knows that he is hurting you, he may consider stopping. Saying something like "it hurts me when I see you react to my hurt by hiding what you are doing with these women" might be ok for him to hear. By not blaming him directly, he may accept it better. Then ask him how you can help him stop and ways you can help him get his needs met in other healthier ways.

The key here is keeping the relationship open so both of you can get your needs met. If he is behaving in ways that hurt you and he knows it yet he keeps doing it regardless, that is going to hurt you and in turn eventually make you withdrawal from being open to him. He may have other issues that make it hard for him to get his needs met, but hurting you should not be a behavior that is ok even if the potential is there for him to have a difficult time with stopping. He needs to find healthier ways to cope with how he feels.

Regarding his comments about high school, he may be expressing what was said to him because it was traumatic but also because he wants to get your reaction. You can try to explore it a bit further by asking him if he'd like to talk about what he said. See how he reacts. If he backs off or seems upset, let it go. Just tell him you are there for him. But if he does talk about it, then try to just listen and offer support, much like you already do for him. The fact that you are there and offer him a steady support is a wonderful thing for him. It seems he knows that and may be playing out some of his past trauma because he feels safe.

Kate


If you have any more questions do not hesitate to ask. And please do not forget to rate my service with an OK or higher. Thank you!

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Category: Mental Health
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Kate,


 


After talking to you the other day, I realized that my partner was testing me again, when he told me that he was going to help a certain woman at another campus. The night before we were talking about early in our relationship when he was really pushing me away and doing the same behavior with a woman in class. I told him that I thought our relationship was ending then because he didn't want me to touch him for four months and he was going to take a class with this woman. He seemed upset and said he didn't remember things that way. He said he was very scared to be in a relationship and it got worse over time. This was also around the time that the man he viewed as his "second father" died.


 


He tested me in a similar way once before. This attention he needs from women seems to peak when he is having a very bad day with anxiety. He came to see me one day in bad shape from anxiety or something else. I noticed blond hairs on his clothes and the following class this very aggressive woman was practically groping my partner. He kept pulling away from her, but it was obvious she was the person he was helping. I mentioned this behavior to him and a day or two later he pretended to show me something in his phone while letting me see names of women. He also showed up with a blond hair (different kind) clearly stuck in his beard so I could see it. Since the first testing episode, he said that he knew he tested me and he wasn't going to do it any more.


 


 

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

It sounds like he learned this behavior from somewhere. It is difficult to say where, but it could either be from childhood and issues with his own mother and attention from her, especially when he felt upset or anxious (he didn't get enough nurturing or too much), or it could be a way to test you and push you away at the same time. Either way, it is not a healthy response to getting his needs met or maintaining the relationship between the two of you.

The fact that he seeks out these women when he feels anxious says that he is looking for something that he may not even be able to identify himself. If he is willing to explore this issue, it may be a good starting point to find out what he feels he is looking for when he engages in this behavior. Also finding out if he understands that this is not a healthy behavior is important as well. He could be automatically responding this way when he feels anxious or he could do it then realize it was not the best option open to him. Identifying other options and working on other choices is a better way to handle his anxiety. But all of this depends on whether or not he has the insight he needs into the problem in order to understand this and resolve it.

Making sure you see that he is seeking these women out is another issue. It is one thing to seek them for whatever reason, but another to hurt you with the information around his actions. Pushing you away because he fears you leaving him first is a likely reason, but he is taking a huge risk that you will walk away when he does this. It could be self defeating behavior, which can be common with people who have abuse in their backgrounds. They feel unlovable and therefore "prove" to themselves and others that they are not worthy of love by being self destructive. Another possibility is that he wants you to feel jealous, which might make him feel special. That would stem from insecurity, which is another common issue with people abused as children.

If you know the "why" of what he is doing, it can help. He may not understand himself yet, but talking to him about it can help to get to the root of the issue and resolve it.

Kate
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5419
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Kate,

 

I am beginning to wonder if a few of the interactions my partner is having with women are not so innocent. My friend, who is also in my partner's class, told me about something she saw the other day in class. This woman came up behind my partner, said "this is for you" and slapped him on the butt. My partner then told this woman that he liked it. Something similar to this happened almost exactly a year ago. A woman in class was practically groping him. He has very bad episodes this time of year.

 

I asked him about it and he laughs and acts like I'm talking about someone else. He then pretends that he doesn't know who these women are and can't remember their names. It is very frustrating because I don't know if I'm getting the truth and nothing gets resolved. This might be a bad idea, but I'm tempted to ask this woman what went on just so I can have some sort of closure. I am very upset and frustrated.

 

I also asked him about the way he was testing me with other women and he says he doesn't remember it or know what I'm talking about

 

p.s. I forgot to mention that when I first brought up the subject of what he did with this other woman, he immediately says "I don't want to deal with this drama" and starts to leave. He said his first reaction is to leave because he doesn't want to make people unhappy.

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

I agree with you, this behavior sound suspicious. If he is claiming that he doesn't remember anything, that is a bit odd. It's not everyday that people get approached in such a manner so it would stick out in your mind if you did. And the fact that he is not bothered about your reaction is also a concern. He should at least be reacting to how you feel and be concerned that you feel upset about what you are hearing. But from his reaction, he doesn't seem to be.

If he says things like "I don't want to deal with this drama", that is a poor reaction to your concerns. If he really did not want to deal with the consequences, then acting out in the first place should not be an option. But by not taking responsibility for his actions, he is making you deal with the consequences. And that is not healthy behavior in any relationship. Now he leaves you to worry about what he is doing when he is out of sight. Also, you are not able to trust him because he is not taking responsibility for what is going on, true or not.

Being confused about his past and not being sure about boundaries is one thing. It is understandable that he might be confused when it comes to how to deal with women and how to react if one approaches him. But the reaction you describe is very different than just confusion and past issues. It is clear that he invited this interaction and did nothing to stop it. And the time of year doesn't really allow him to have a bad time controlling himself with other women. That should be off limits no matter what because it hurts you.

Since he won't deal with what happened, this leaves you to decide how you want to react. You can either investigate it more to get the truth (which you may or may not get from this other woman), you can let it go and see what your partner does, or you can tell him that you won't accept another incident like this. You would need to decide up front how far you are willing to take it if he does this again. Do you want to insist on counseling? Or do you feel it's better you try to separate? Or even end the relationship? These are all things you have to decide for yourself. If he was willing to work with you, that would change things and hopefully he will be eventually. But until then, he is not leaving you much choice but to deal with it on your own terms.

Kate
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