Asks the Psychologist

"Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever" – Mahatma Gandhi

Mission, vision, values

You are not alone!

I started this project out of a desire to share with you useful and verified information related to the problems we faced day to day. Too often we hear, both in conversations with others and online, false and unproductive advice and ideas for the problems we face. These tips often deepen the problem or make us believe that there is no effective alternative.

The information found on these pages is sourced from established books and articles in the field of psychology, which are based on scientific studies and data. We avoid offering general opinions without foundation, and seek the answer in research and other data provided by specialists in the field.

I invite you on a journey through various areas of the human mind, and I hope you find among this information something special for you! Something to make you say… AHA! or something to keep you reading!

Psychological Assessment – When is it necessary?

A psychological assessment is welcome anytime we wonder if we or our loved ones are psychologically well. If we have an unpleasant state but we don't know if it's depression, when we're worried but we don't know if we have anxiety, when our child has behaviors that worry us or doesn't develop as we expected, when our elderly parents start to forget more and more a lot.

Psychological assessment generally involves 6 steps

carrying out a clinical interview

choosing the right tests

administration of psychological tests and their analysis

analyzing all the data from the interview, tests, observations

drafting the evaluation report

sharing the results with the client

The psychologist evaluates the stress conditions in which the person is, and then the cognitive (thought processes) and emotional status. The person's history, social integration (family, friends, occupation), medical problems or substance use (drugs, alcohol, etc.) will be discussed. The main goal is that together with the client we discover possible causes of the current problems, which we then examine more closely. In the next stage, psychological tests are included in the evaluation, which help us measure a certain characteristic. As with physical analyses, this stage shows us how severe the problem we are dealing with is.

– In general, the following types of information are collected, following the purpose for which the person came to the assessment or was brought to the assessment

- demographic and identifying information

– the main reason and problems the customer is facing

– medical and psychiatric history, as well as treatments used (currently and in the past);

– educational and professional history

– family history (birth, childhood, personal development);

– data about negative experiences (trauma, abuse, neglect, accidents);

– current goals and expectations related to the intervention.

Psychological evaluation should not be a cause for concern. Just as we go to the doctor and do our annual check-ups, this is how we should approach the psychological evaluation. A complex understanding of the current inner life gives us a direction for the future, for more complex or specialized interventions, if necessary.


Anxiety - what is it and what can we do?

Anxiety disorders are a group of similar psychological problems that share excessive fear/anxiety and behavioral disturbance. What does excessive mean and when should it raise questions? For each of us maybe different. When our daily life and activity, professional, social or personal, are affected, it is a clear signal that we need help to overcome these states.

What is the difference between fear and anxiety? Fear is generally a response to danger, real or not, and anxiety is the anticipation of danger. Many times we create negative scenarios about an event, and the more intense and relived these are, the more fear will connect with anxiety and they will increase each other.

When do they appear and how do they evolve? Some anxiety disorders appear since childhood, being supported by some personality traits or events that the child experiences and interprets. If these disorders are not treated, they tend to worsen in adulthood and even affect adult functioning.

Types of anxiety disorders

Separation anxiety (fear and anxiety of being separated from the caregiver (eg mother))

Selective mutism (inability to speak in social situations, even if there are no physiological causes and communication proceeds normally within the family)

Specific phobias (fear of certain objects and situations leading to avoidance (eg animals, natural environment, blood/wounds, situations))

Social phobia (fear of social interactions where you might be criticized/not accepted)

Panic attack (intense fear or discomfort for several minutes, with physiological and/or mental symptoms)

Panic disorder (unpredictable panic attacks, fear of having them and avoidance of certain situations)

Agoraphobia (fear of open/closed spaces, public transport, crowds or fear of being alone at home; fear that it will be difficult to escape from those situations, that they will not be able to ask for help and that they will feel embarrassed)

Generalized anxiety (excessive and persistent worry about an area considered difficult; symptoms of restlessness, agitation, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, tension, sleep problems)

Substance-induced anxiety disorder (as adverse symptoms of a drug, in case of intoxication, or in case of withdrawal after consumption of substances)

Effective treatment and therapies

Anxiety disorders are very common, and almost all of us will experience elements of one at some point in our lives even if we don't develop a major psychological problem.

We are genetically programmed to be alert to danger, need parental protection as children, crave group approval as teenagers, worry about ourselves and our family as adults. All this often contributes to the formation of anxiety disorders, especially if we enter a circle of worry and avoidance.

Why are some people anxious and others not?

Part of the answer would be genetics, family predisposition plus the role models we have around us. Anxious parents often raise anxious children if the problem is not identified and treated.

The second part of the answer is mindset. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has been proven in specialized studies to be very effective, the focus is on the irrational thoughts that anxious people have and cultivate excessively. Therapists work with the client, trying to identify these thoughts, and then discuss finding their more rational and useful version for the individual's functioning in everyday life. After the thinking part is addressed, the behavioral part is also assessed. Gradual exposure, with the support of the psychologist, is very effective and brings many social and professional benefits, increasing the quality of social and implicit life support.

Although it sounds clear in theory, in practice it is often difficult to apply. The causes that caused the disorder and the context in which they appeared must often be evaluated, and based on the conclusions the person in question can decide if he wants to evolve, cultivate a new way of seeing life, or remain stuck in some invisible strings, drawn by others more or less consciously.

Each of us can be more than what we currently are, if we really want to!

Existential Drama And The Fear Of Death

"We are all immortal, but we must die first."

– Mircea Eliade

Probably the hardest truth to accept, which we have to assimilate and accept, is the fact that we are mortal beings. Many times this statement sounds trivial, as if it's normal, it's a reality we know... but should it really be? Do we understand deeply what this means, or do we actually run away from it like a hamster spinning very hard in a running wheel, thinking that it is doing something very important?

We can have a possible moment of clarity when we reflect this cruel reality through the eyes of a child. When a child understands for the first time, that his life and the lives of his loved ones are finite, the whole ground beneath his feet shakes. Parents try by various methods, including religious ones, to calm these fears, and yet ... unanswered, postponed and unclear questions can generate anxieties that will accompany him for a long time.

The awareness of one's own end is even more acute as we approach the third age. Health problems, lack of vitality, retirement or the death of close friends are often milestones that force you to look in a certain direction. If up until that point, avoidance was the preferred way to manage fear, now it may no longer be enough.

Irvin Yalom, one of the best-known contemporary therapists, addresses in his book "The Executioner of Love" several aspects of existential therapy that are worth discussing. He says that our fundamental fears come from our struggle to deal with a brutal and harsh reality, namely:

Death is inevitable for us and for those we love

We are largely free to build our lives (and responsible for the outcome)

In the end we are all alone (especially in the face of death)

Life has no obvious meaning or purpose

Even though these truths hurt us, a full awareness of death gives us wisdom and enriches our lives. Although the concrete, physical reality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us. How exactly? In the way we choose to live our lives!

A crucial step in our transformation and evolution is taking responsibility for how our lives look. If our suffering is always caused by some external force or power, we will have no point of support from which to start. We are just another leaf in the wind, carried by the storm. People who do not know what they want and feel become attached to the desires of others, tending to become tiresome, and the moment they realize that they have been living fulfilling someone else's desires and not their own, they can find themselves in a complex existential crisis. Even if we manage to reach the necessary wisdom, the mere fact that we take responsibility does not guarantee that we will change. It is, however, the point from which change can begin. The decision to change something is often difficult. Why? Because it implies giving up something else, because it implies the elimination of other options, a difficult element to accept.

Humans are beings in constant search for meaning and significance, in a world where these are extremely difficult to find. This makes us constantly ask ourselves - Why do I live? If, however, we could drop this question, and rather ask ourselves - How do I live? Perhaps the answer to this question would be not only easier to find, but also a guide into the unknown. If the answer to the question - How do I live? there would be one who would satisfy me, the question would still be so difficult - Why do I live?

"If there is any way to better, it calls for facing the greatest evil."

- Thomas Hardy

Once we accept the greatest evil, our own death, the question arises - OK, now? A lot of possibilities and nuances appear, to start living a life that is complete, authentic and aligned with your real desires. A life that is lived now, in the present, being aware that that future...someday...may never come, and the past, though often very vivid, is but a shadow.

Although the reality is that we cannot change the laws of nature, we can use them so that the idea of death does not scare us so much. People who feel that they have not fulfilled their potential, that they have not lived their lives as they wanted, have greater difficulty accepting death. If we realize this, and try to use the time in our favor, we can reorganize our priorities and maybe put something on the list that we always wanted to do. Not in the future, but now!

The issue of death takes on new nuances when we talk about the loss of a loved one, tragically felt most of the time. Mourning is a complex process, which involves remembering the past and reaching into the projected future. Often the loss of a parent or close friend resembles the loss of the past, of good times. Losing one child, on the other hand, means the loss of the future, and few losses can be greater than that. Such an event shatters our illusion that we are unique and invulnerable, leaving us defenseless and often completely lost. Understanding and sharing grief, followed by renewed concern for those who still need us, can be the first steps in the grieving process.

  "Refusal to accept what life offers you, so that you don't owe it in death."

- Otto Rank

We probably all have regrets about something we didn't do, an opportunity we didn't take, a chance we missed. If we honestly analyze what exactly has stopped us, we will probably discover many fears, more or less real. Out of a desire to protect themselves, many people demand guarantees from life, which is impossible to obtain. Thus, they miss the opportunity to experience a success or learn from a failure. Everything, absolutely everything, is temporary, and yet we ask to be exempted from the general rules of the universe.

A key element that can help us in this journey of personal development, is the identification of the fundamental self and the additional, peripheral elements. Too often, the values of modern society are focused on what I have, what I own, and not who I am. If you had nothing...who would you be? If you couldn't mention what assets you have, what functions, what roles... what would be left? This question scares us at first, and then it frees us! Even our body being in a continuous transformation, it cannot define us. At most it says something about us at a certain point in life. Who I am, my essence, without the peripheral elements, cannot be destroyed, cannot be canceled - which is truly wonderful!

Stages of development

The typical development of children is achieved on several levels: physical, cognitive and psychosocial. Each child is unique and at some point may deviate from what is considered standard, but in these lines we aim to talk about the characteristics that most children of a certain age have. Any element that the parent considers atypical, or that worries him, should be discussed with a specialist, because early intervention can have a great impact on the future performance of the child.

From 0 to 2 years (infants and toddlers)

From a physical point of view, during this interval the height doubles and the weight increases 4 times. Motor coordination is getting better, the child being able to grasp with his hands and walk. From a cognitive point of view, the child initially expresses himself by crying, cooing and then the first words (around 1 year). By age 2, the child is usually capable of simple, 2-word sentences, and the child is able to understand that an object exists even if he can no longer see it. From a psychosocial point of view, the child becomes self-aware, and acquires elements of independence (feeding, dressing, etc.) with the help of parents. If the attachment is secure, the child gains more and more independence for exploration and begins to relate to other play partners.

From 2 to 6 years (early childhood)

During this period, from a biological point of view, there is an intense development of the brain and a specialization of areas in the brain. Physical strength increases, and so does jumping, running, drawing or writing skills. Cognitively, children are able to use mental representations (such as words) and vocabulary develops at an accelerated rate. From social interactions, the child learns how to adapt to the interlocutor. The ability to think about thinking also appears at this stage. From a psychosocial point of view, play becomes increasingly complex and imaginative, they have increased energy and the need to be appreciated. During this period, children have a growing need for autonomy/independence, control and competence.

From 7 to 9 years (middle childhood)

Biologically, brain and physical growth slows during this period, with variations in height. Children become more physically resilient and their skills more refined. On the cognitive level, children begin to think logically, memorize better and develop their own learning style, including learning more languages. At the psychosocial level, the child increasingly wants to belong to the group, and friendships develop based on common interests. The child is now also developing his own strategies to cope with stress and to solve the problems he faces, but also to better understand those around him.

From 10 to 12 years (Late Childhood)

Biologically, this period is the onset of puberty with accelerated increases in weight and height. These changes are more obvious in the case of girls, in whom maturation begins more quickly. Cognitively, children now have the ability to think abstractly, language is becoming more complex, memory is improving and long-term knowledge is increasing. From a psychosocial point of view, society's impact on the child becomes greater, the self-image being influenced by social and moral norms. There are gender stereotypes, gangs, a very strong desire for autonomy, independence from the family.

13 to 15 years (early adolescence)

Physically, girls' growth slows down and boys' growth begins. In addition to physical maturation, sexual maturation also occurs. Cognitively, scientific thinking and the ability to abstract, criticism and self-criticism, idealization and understanding of sarcasm appear. In the psychosocial sphere there are questions about the self, personal identity, sexuality and a greater pressure to conform to the rules of the group. The teenager wants more autonomy, which can often lead to conflicts in the family.

16 to 19 years (late adolescence)

Biologically, this is the peak of growth in boys. In girls, development continues and motor skills are perfected. At the cognitive level, reasoning and logic are used, intelligence is at a constant level and character develops based on internalized rules. At the psychosocial level, the period of romantic encounters begins, and the importance of the group decreases. Environmental conditions have a great impact on personal achievements and work familiarization begins.

Rules for a happy life
Time is so limited and patience is so short that we often want a summary...a guide...a list to look at and inspire or give us direction.

Jordan B. Peterson wrote a very interesting book for this purpose, from which we can extract 12 rules of great help in life.

Posture matters! In both the animal world and ours, non-verbal communication is extremely important. It usually creates the first impression and can give you an advantage or a disadvantage over others. Become aware of what you are transmitting in your body and adjust, practice, so that you are able to transmit exactly what you want!

Take care of yourself the same way you would take care of your loved ones. We too deserve the compassion and time that we often easily give to those close to us. But don't fall into the trap of doing only what you want, but rather doing what is good for you.

Choose your close circle very carefully! The influence of others is often much greater than you imagine, and you can often end up behaving, thinking, feeling, in a similar way to those around you. Surround yourself with people you admire and you will progress too.

Compare yourself only to yourself, to your past performance and not to others. If you constantly relate to others and their achievements, there is no way to be satisfied. There will always be someone better than you in some area, and you will never know that person's entire life to fully evaluate them.

Parents have a duty to raise responsible and respectful children. Even though it's hard to admit, children naturally have a tendency to respond aggressively at times. This is where the adult intervenes, who with gentleness but also with firm rules, must give the child the tools to get what he wants otherwise (negotiations/postponement), not through aggression. It is very important that there are consequences after the aggressive display, but in proportion to the event. Not excessive! And in the case of adults who behave aggressively there are consequences, including legal ones. Childhood rules are a foundation for social rules, and the earlier these are understood and accepted, the better the child will be socially accepted and, implicitly, happier. But the key is consistency in the family, meaning that mom and dad agree on the rules and enforce them consistently.

The world and life are unfair, but always blaming the outside doesn't help. The sooner we accept that there is rarely absolute justice, that people rarely get what we think they deserve, the better we can focus on what matters. Of course, it is normal to want and dream of a just world, even to work towards it with everything at hand, but it is not helpful that once we discover that it is not so, we remain stuck in thought and action.

Accomplishing a greater goal requires sacrifice. Obtaining immediate gratification is what we naturally desire. This is even more visible in the new generations, who have obtained the fulfillment of their desires much more easily than those of the past, and who, thanks to technology, are extremely accustomed to immediate rewards. Achieving an ambitious goal can be immensely rewarding, and can make the difference between a person who feels fulfilled and one who is still searching for purpose in life. Even if not now, but most of us will ask ourselves at some point, what is our role on earth... and then? Be honest with yourself and stop lying!

Carefully analyze your goals and future plans and see if they are really realistic and achievable. Did you do anything to fulfill them? Do you think they have a chance of success or are they just dreams that keep your mind busy, lying to yourself that you know where you are going. The most effective is not to give them up forever, but to make them achievable and measurable. Break the dream into small steps, and start taking those steps consistently.

In a conversation you should ask yourself what you have to learn, not how to compete with the other person. Often the conversations of people with different views turn into real battles, where no one listens to understand but to build their next argument and prove how great it is. But, most of the time the effect is the opposite, the relationship falls apart because neither feels understood. Accept that people have different opinions because they have lived in different environments and had different kinds of experiences. Reflect that you understand their point of view before you present yours, and chances are the relationship will grow.

Life is complicated, try to simplify it with clear and precise language. When you are honest and direct about your wants and needs at the right time, the chances of improving your life are greater. Avoid power games, manipulation and competition, especially those in the close circle (family, friends), because in the long run they will only bring you trouble. Those around you will think that you are complicated, hard to please or even insincere, and you will find it harder and harder to get what you want.

Human nature is imperfect, but if we suppress it, we also lose its benefits. Humans have a natural tendency towards aggression, completeness, demonstration of power and influence, shaped by millions of years. It has been responsible throughout history for many violent acts, but it has also led to the greatest advances that have transformed the world. Human nature must be accepted, and shaped so that its benefits continue to exist and its disadvantages are minimal.

Let's appreciate and enjoy the little joys of life! The truth is, life is hard for most of us. If not now in the present, then either it was hard in the past or in the future. If we manage to enjoy what we have, to appreciate the present moment and the small pleasures of life, we are mentally resilient people who can face the challenges of the future. In any situation, no matter how difficult, a moment of pause to focus on something pleasant can be the breath of fresh air we need to keep going.