Gaslighting: How Addicts Drive Loved Ones Over the Edge

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Gaslighting: How Addicts Drive Loved Ones Over the EdgeWhat Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where false information is presented to the victim by a spouse or another primary attachment figure, causing the victim to doubt his or her perceptions, judgments, memories, and even sanity. The term derives from the 1938 stage play, Gaslight, and a pair of film adaptions, one in 1940 and a more famous one in 1944 starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. In the 1944 film, Boyer’s character convinces his wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, such as the occasional dimming of the house’s gas lights, as part of his ongoing effort to steal her deceased Aunt’s money and jewels. (The gas lights dim whenever he is in the attic, searching for the treasure.) Over time, his insistent and persistent lies cause her and others to question her sanity.

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With No Formal Diagnosis or Treatment Plans, How Can Sex Addiction Exist?

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

With No Formal Diagnosis or Treatment Plans, How Can Sex Addiction Exist?After more than twenty years spent treating, speaking about, and writing about sexual addiction, I’ve heard all the arguments (and then some) both in favor of and against utilizing an addiction-focused model of diagnosis and treatment to identify and help individuals who self-report repetitive, problematic patterns of impulsive and/or compulsive sexual behavior. For the most part, those who believe that sexual addiction (also known as sexual compulsivity and hypersexual disorder) is simply a myth tend to offer some combination of the five challenges presented below. I thought it might be both interesting and useful to examine the validity/reality of these concerns here.

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Do You Want to be Happy?

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Do You Want to be Happy?What is Happiness?

As a therapist, I often encounter clients who say things like: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have everything I want and yet I never feel satisfied. There’s no joy in my life. Maybe I’m just not a happy kind of person. Maybe I’m just a glass-half-empty person.” When I get hit with that sort of proclamation, I typically respond with a few probing questions: “What would happiness look like and feel like for you? How would you know if you had achieved it?” Sadly, much of the time these “unhappy” clients simply don’t have an answer. For them, happiness seems so elusive that they can’t even picture it.

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Understanding LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychotherapy

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Understanding LGBTQ-Affirmative PsychotherapyI don’t understand the concept of having a “gay agenda.” In my belief system caring people closely hold to a “human agenda” of loving, accepting, and helping all people.

What are L, G, B, T, and Q?

We live in a heteronormative society. In other words, heterosexual relationships are the cultural norm, and anything different is, well, different. Yes it is true that things are changing rapidly in parts of the Western world and elsewhere – evolving societal attitudes about cultural diversity, softening religious dogma, the repeal of DOMA and the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, growing intolerance of pejorative terms like “faggot,” “homo,” and “dyke,” legalized gay marriage, and more – but this doesn’t mean that people whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity falls outside the norm suddenly have an easy time of it. In fact, these individuals typically experience, at best, confusion (not just from others but within themselves) about who/what they are why/how they are different. In fact, sometimes even psychotherapists are unsure about what it means to be LGBTQ, and even the clinicians who do possess a basic understanding typically bring a lifetime of cultural bias to the therapy room.

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The Missing Treatment Link – Viewing Addiction as Symptomatic of Disordered Intimacy

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

The Missing Treatment Link  -  Viewing Addiction as Symptomatic of Disordered Intimacy Escape versus Connection

Alcoholics and drug addicts don’t drink and use to feel better; they do it to feel less. In other words, addiction is a disease of escape and dissociation from stress and other forms of emotional discomfort. This means that substance abusers don’t get drunk or high because they’re looking to engage with other people, they do it because they’re hoping to avoid the turmoil of other people. Nevertheless, our very human desire for connection that is present from birth onward remains in effect. As such, drug addicted individuals typically do want to connect, even though they are desperately afraid of the trauma that might ensue.

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Fame and Fortune in Psychotherapy

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Fame and Fortune in PsychotherapyThe (Non)Importance of Media

Prior to speaking, along with my friend and colleague Dr. Christine Courtois, at the amazing Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in DC last weekend, I spent several days in New York interacting with one media outlet after another in the service of promoting my latest book , Closer Together, Further Apart, coauthored with Dr. Jennifer Schneider. The book examines the intersection of human relationships and digital technology – a hot topic at present – so it’s generating quite a bit of interest. At the same time, because my other primary area of clinical expertise is sexual addiction, I found myself fielding questions about Lars von Trier’s new film, Nymphomaniac: Volume I, an artistic rumination on active sex addiction in women. For several days straight it was a 24/7 media binge.

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Addiction: Nature versus Nurture

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Addiction: Nature versus NurtureTwo Kids, One Bottle, Vastly Different Response

Best friends Eric and Thomas are 14 years old. They are from upper-middle-class families. They make good grades, play sports, and are getting interested in girls. At their eighth grade graduation Thomas tells Eric that his older brother has invited them to an end-of-school party. They know they’re only being invited so Thomas won’t rat on his brother for being at a party where kids are drinking, but they don’t care because they’re invited to their first-ever high school party. As a further inducement to silence, Thomas receives a bottle of rum from his older sibling.

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Sex Addiction: The Never-Ending Debate

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Sex Addiction: The Never-Ending DebateA few weeks ago, after writing and publishing a blog titled “Treating Sexual Addiction” on the Counselor Magazine website, links to this fairly brief article made its way into various LinkedIn forums, including the Professional Sexology group (1,700 members), a forum that leans heavily toward the “sex addiction is a myth” school of thought. Generally, in virtual professional forums I am willing to answer questions, but I try to avoid ruffling feathers. As such, I typically don’t post about sex addiction in the groups that don’t want to hear about it (such as Professional Sexology). That said, I do believe an occasional debate is good for everyone involved—and we certainly have had (and are still having) a good one in the Professional Sexology forum. So far, the link to my little Counselor Magazine blog has received well over 100 comments, with more appearing every day. When I printed this material out, I was shocked to see that it had generated more than 30 single-spaced pages of commentary.

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When Parenting Your Kids, How Much Tech is Too Much Tech?

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

When Parenting Your Kids, How Much Tech is Too Much Tech?Just the Facts

If you’ve got kids or grandchildren, you know that they love technology. They’ve got televisions, gaming consoles, and laptops in their bedrooms, pads and tablets in their book-bags, iPods and smartphones in their pockets. And wherever they are, whenever they are, no matter how old they are, they are probably using one or more of these devices. In fact, one well-researched study estimates that children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend 11.5 hours per day using various forms of digital technology. Since most kids are awake only 15 or 16 hours per day, somewhere between 71 and 76 percent of the typical young child’s day is digital. And, let’s face it, this 24/7 tech-fest usually kicks in well before the study’s low-end cutoff age of 8.

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Linking Sexual Shame and Addiction

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Linking Sexual Shame and Addiction Flawed, Defective, Unworthy of Love and Happiness

It’s no great secret that most alcoholics, drug addicts, and behavioral addicts live with deeply felt feelings of shame. In fact, shame is nearly always part of the underlying matrix of psychological conditions that can typically lead to addiction. In short, shame leads to extreme emotional discomfort and the gnawing belief that one is inherently flawed, defective, and unworthy of love. These feelings can in turn lead to depression, severe anxiety, and lifelong challenges with intimacy and relationships. And all of the above can create a powerful desire to escape and dissociate via the use of addictive substances and/or behaviors. Over time, a pattern of self-medicating life stressors and emotional discomfort in this fashion can easily escalate to full-fledged addiction, with all of the usual negative life consequences.

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