Monthly Archives: June 2019

What are Your Emotional Health Questions?

Do you have questions or curiosity about emotional (mental) health? If you are fascinated by human behavior or not at all, we all, at times, question why people act the way they do.

You might ask: why does s/he get so angry over such simple things? Why does s/he always on the go and seem so anxious? Why do I get sick to my stomach whenever I have to deal with confrontation?

There are so many questions we ask ourselves about emotions because it is natural to be curious about human nature/behavior. When we do not know the answers to our human nature/behavior curiosity questions, we can mistakenly make harmful assumptions that can often lead to contempt and stereotyping.

If you have a question, please ask below in the comment section! My goal is to open up a dialogue about emotional health. When you put words to problems, you never know who you are helping, and helping others thrive is a great feeling!

For more information about me, Catherine Cleveland, please read Why Consider Me as Your Counselor. To book and schedule a secure online appointment click here.

Is Emotional Neglect Abuse?

I think the answer to the question: is emotional neglect abuse, depends on who you ask. Most of my clients are able to recognize abuse in others but can have difficulty expressing (or admitting) the extent of their own abuse (not all clients have been abused).

Clients commonly recognize physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Nonetheless, clients typically do not recognize emotional neglect. Imagine that you grew up in a nice home, you had clean clothes, you were fed, and got medical attention. However, imagine that you were never hugged, told that you were special, or told that you were loved. Imagine that you were the only kid you knew whose parents never came to watch you play sports or act in a play. Imagine that your parents did not teach you life skills, nor paid attention to what time you got home at night.

Emotional neglect can be defined by the absence of the traditionally provided parental emotional supports, such as belonging and encouragement (Bernstein & Fink, 1998). Emotional neglect is when we do not feel loved, nor received emotional attention.

What happens when kids are emotionally neglected? Research shows strong evidence that emotional neglect is strongly connected to problems in social relationships (Hildyard & Wolfe, 2002; Trickett & McBride-Chang, 1995). For example, emotionally neglected individuals feel a sense of independency because the cannot feel like they can rely on anybody. They have difficulty with asking for help or being a support towards others reaching out. They can become self-centered and have difficulty with perspective taking (understanding from another’s point-of-view). They may also have difficulty expressing empathy, therefore affecting their ability to form safe and secure relationships.

As a mental health counselor, it is my job to develop a secure relationship with my clients in a nonjudgmental and compassionate manner. I become the support system they may never have previously experienced. This begins the process of trust and compassion, which eventually develops in the client’s social relationships.

Please contact me, Catherine, for more information and to set up an appointment.


  • Bernstein, D., & Fink, L. (1998). Manual for the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. New York: Psychological Corporation.
  • Hildyard, K. L., & Wolfe, D. A. (2002). Child neglect: Developmental issues and outcomes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26, 679–695. doi:10.1016/S0145- 2134(02)00341-1
  • Trickett, P. K., & McBride-Chang, C. (1995). The developmental impact of different forms of child abuse and neglect. Developmental Review, 15, 311–337. doi:10.1006/drev.1995.1012

Symptoms of Emotional Neglect in Family Functioning

“Emotional neglect can be defined as a relationship pattern in which an individual’s affectional needs are consistently disregarded, ignored, invalidated, or unappreciated by a significant other” (Ludwig & Rostain, 2009). People raised in emotionally neglectful families are emotionally disconnected from one another, behaving as if they were living completely different lives.


Neglectful parental figures usually stem from multigenerational neglect. Meaning that adult figures that find it challenging to express emotional support and compassion were likely to have been raised in a similar environment. Recognizing in yourself the ability to show appropriate emotions with others, is the first step to breaking the cycle of emotional neglect.

It is also common that parental figures may lack emotionally satisfying adult relationships. These adult caretakers have trouble understanding their children’s and partners needs for love, affection, closeness, and support. When feeling overwhelmed or powerless to meet the emotional needs of others, parents (and partners) can become anxious and argumentative, or become avoidant and shut down.

“Forced to rely on themselves for support, afraid of their own dependency needs, and reluctant to admit their pain, these parents are highly ambivalent about their children’s needs, particularly when their children are hurting, crying, or looking for emotional support. They may feel jealous or resentful of their children and may perceive them as excessively demanding and impossible to satisfy. They may be so preoccupied with their own needs that they never consider the children’s point of view. Alternatively, they may feel so angry and resentful about having children that they simply ignore them” (Ludwig & Rostain, 2009).


For children, affectional neglect may have devastating consequences, including failure to thrive, developmental delay, hyperactivity, aggression, depression, low self-worth, early substance use, and multiple other emotional disorders. These children feel unloved, and they maladaptive behaviors (acting out, negativity, or avoiding) to receive the attention they crave. 

Emotionally neglected children may withdraw from people and appear uncaring and indifferent. They may be afraid of emotional closeness and may shun intimacy in relationships. They are at high risk for emotional problems throughout the rest of their lives. The degree of neglect and individual vulnerability will likely affect the magnitude of the consequences. 

For more information, click on the link in references.


Stephen Ludwig, Anthony Rostain, in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (Fourth Edition),2009

Am I Having a Panic Attack?

My heart is racing. It is pounding in my chest. I feel completely out of control. Maybe I am going crazy? Maybe I am having a heart attack? I feel like I am dying! I can’t breathe! Have you ever experienced any of these symptoms?

A panic attack is an intense wave of anxiety. It can come on unexpectedly and become immediately debilitating. Attacks often strike out of the blue, without any warning, and sometimes with no apparent trigger. They occur at any time, for instance, when driving, relaxing, in public, and at night when you are trying to sleep.

Furthermore, you may have encountered panic-inducing situations that trigger your body’s sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system or you parasympathetic dorsivagal system (freeze) response. For example, your triggers could be situations such as public speaking, being around strangers, keeping up with school work, or excessive worry about the future. Or, you may have no idea what is bring on your panic attacks. They may just come out of the blue. 

For some individuals, your panic attack(s) may be related to other mental health symptoms, especially anxiety, depression, trauma, and low self-worth. Regardless of the cause, be assured that panic attacks are a treatable condition.

Panic Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking feeling
  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
  • Feeling like you are having a heart attack

What to Do

If you are not sure that you are having a panic attack, seek medical attention. Physical health can also contribute to the severity and frequency of panic attacks. If you are having a panic attack, splashing cold water on your face will quickly reduce your symptoms. Cold water helps you become present and begins to decrease your physiological sensations that make you feel like your body is out of control.

Become the observer. Pay attention to your symptoms. Try to step out of yourself as if you are looking at what is going on within you. Take a compassionate approach and investigate what is going on. You may not have the answers. However, what you are doing is separating yourself from the event which will begin to eliminate the attack.

Remember the more you try to avoid or suppress your anxiety (not addressing it), the more likely you are to have a panic attack (even if they seem to come out of nowhere).

For more information on how to eliminate your panic attacks, better understand your anxiety and other distressing symptoms, please make an appointment today!

Don’t judge someone’s life by the chapter you walked in on…

If you’re going through a difficult time right now in your life, then my heart goes out to you. Pushing past difficulties and surmounting adversities, especially in the face of very trying times, is a monumental undertaking. To add to that, when you have the regular stresses of everyday life that include things like your finances, job, children, and significant others, and the fact that you have to deal with life’s random crises, it can be too much to handle. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help. Together, figuring yourself out can be a very fascinating, educating, and an enlightening process!

Do I Have Trauma Symptoms?

Trauma is a psychological, physiological, and an emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. A traumatic experience is something that can happen once or is reoccurring. It is something you either experience firsthand, witness (seeing a car accident or watching your mother get abused) or from a connection to the victim (vicarious trauma).

Trauma is either ongoing (chronic) or has happened only once. Chronic trauma (complex trauma) is repetitive over a period of time and is within an interpersonal relationship — for example, child abuse or neglect. Acute trauma usually happens once or only a few times. For example, surviving a natural or humanmade disaster.

Trauma is on a continuum and is viewed subjectively at the age(s) of when the event(s) occurred. Trauma does not have to be under severe circumstances to have lifelong effects. You do not have to have been hit by someone, have harmed someone (by accident or act of war), or witnessed horrific events to experience the effects of trauma.

Unrecognized Signs of Trauma 

There are multiple signs that you are experiencing (or had experienced) trauma. Some examples of unrecognized signs of trauma are: living with someone who is depressed, living with someone who uses substances, who has emotional control over you, or who guilts you into doing things you do not want to do. Living with a narcissist, emotional neglect in any form, living with someone who makes you feel like you are walking on eggshells all the time, witnessing caretakers (parents) fighting or one parent using you as leverage against another parent.

Being in a chronic traumatic situation doesn’t mean that you do not feel loved or that the person that harmed you doesn’t care about you. The feelings that bond us make it even more difficult for us to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma.

Symptoms of Trauma

Trauma survivors will have different degrees of symptoms but not have all of the symptoms. Think of symptoms on a scale of 0 -no symptoms or 1-10, 10 being the most severe. Write your scores down for each symptom to help give you a better idea of the extent of your trauma. Remember, trauma is subjective, so there is no magic scoring system. Now review your scores and write down your thoughts about your scores. Again, this is a subjective activity; there is no right or wrong, only what you feel.

  • Anger
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and despair
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep issues (insomnia)
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Specific triggers that set you off like smells and sounds
  • Flashbacks (usually images)
  • Intrusive distressing memories
  • Unpredictable emotions
  • Lack of control
  • Impulsive behaviors (substance use and behavioral disorders)
  • Physical symptoms, such as stomach issues, headaches, light headed, racing heart, tight chest, muscle pain, IBS, Fibromyalgia.
  • ADHD
  • Intense feelings of guilt, as if you are somehow responsible for the event
  • A sense of shame, such as not being good enough (intrusive inner critic)
  • Feelings of isolation (social anxiety), hopelessness, and helplessness

Lifelong Impact of Trauma

Victims of trauma develop defenses that become habitual behaviors to protect them from hurt and pain. Imagine that you are being hurt by people that are supposed to help and care for you. How can a child or a dependent live-in survive if they leave the situation? So instead, you develop parts of yourself that become survival protectors. Most of these protectors are the symptoms listed above that you scored yourself on.

These defenses, such as anger, control, depression, and anxiety, continue throughout your life even when we don’t need them anymore. You discover that what once protected you now causes severe distress, especially in social situations and interpersonal relationships. You use your protective defenses to evaluate interactions on how others engage with you, which can be inaccurate.

According to Dana (2018) “Trauma compromises our ability to engage with others by replacing patterns of connection with patterns of protection. If unresolved, these early adaptive survival responses become habitual autonomic [central nervous system] patterns” (p. 3).

Neuroceptive (unaware) physiological reactions can also manifest throughout your life when traumatic experiences go untreated, are avoided, or go unprocessed. Trauma induced physiological reactions surface throughout your life in many different trajectories, including chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, digestive problems, and heart disease (stress).

If you are a victim of trauma, avoiding your symptoms does not work. It is crucial that you work with a mental health professional who specializes in the treatment of trauma. If you broke your leg, what would happen if you let it go untreated? Your mental wellbeing affects all areas of your life. Why wouldn’t you want to take good care of it?

Catherine G. Cleveland is and mental health counselor and owner of Cleveland Emotional Health. Catherine specializes in the treatment of trauma and chronic pain. For more information and to book an appointment go to:


Porges, S. W., & Dana, D. A. (2018). Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.

Are you making the progress you want right now?

Are you having trouble with continuous negative thoughts that just won’t leave you alone? Are they worse when you are alone and not busy? Do your negative thoughts affect your ability to sleep or get to sleep, maybe even sleeping too much? Do you find that you eating too much or feel like you can’t eat at all?

You can feel better! You don’t have to stay stuck and you are not alone! Click here to easily make your first appointment. I can help you feel and be the way you want!

I take a compassionate non-judgmental approach, and your privacy is my priority.

Is it Arguing or Reaching Out?

When you are in the middle of an argument with a loved one, it is difficult to see what is going on from an observer’s perspective. Imagine yourself in an argument: what is it like for you? Are you yelling, getting angry, frustrated, trying to prove your point, or defending your position?

According to the Gottman Method, 60% of arguing is perpetual. This means that, most likely, five years from now, you will be fighting about the same thing you were fighting about five years ago. It might be he won’t help around the house, or she won’t stop nagging me, or his chronic introversion. It doesn’t matter. It’s not going away.

Arguing, no matter what form, is a type of emotional bidding. Imagine that you step out of the argument while it is happening. Look at both people arguing. It could be about whose turn it is to do the dishes (or whatever your most common perpetual argument is). What are you really saying? Think about this for a while.

Are you saying: I am here, and you are not seeing me? I am doing the best I can, give me a break. You don’t care about me as much as I want you to. I need you to care about me. Stop putting me down. Please support me. Why don’t we have the connection we once had? Arguing is a type of emotional bidding in a fallacious attempt to feel connected.

While being the observer and paying attention to the argument, you begin to get to the core of the problem. It’s okay that you don’t know exactly what is missing in the relationship or perhaps what void you are trying to fill. That is why you seek mental health counseling. What you will realize is that the fight is not about whether or not the dishes got done.

What can be done? In our relationships, you need to take time out to appreciate what you loved ones mean to you. Think of it like servicing your car. You have to give to it, to keep it running smoothly. You need to provide it gas, change the oil, run diagnostics, and change the tires. What would happen if you never serviced your car?

Ask yourself these questions: Are you giving to your relationship? How often do you check in, in a non-judgmental manner, on how they are feeling about the relationship? How often do you do things to help without being asked, and without expecting praise? Separate yourself from the argument, pay attention to the emotional bidding, choose your battles carefully, and remember, you don’t have to be right to be happy.

Catherine G. Cleveland is and mental health counselor and owner of Cleveland Emotional Health. Catherine specializes in the treatment of trauma and chronic pain. For more information go to:

9 Signs you Should Seek Mental Health Counseling


One of the most common things I hear when someone first contacts me is “I need help with my anxiety.” And who doesn’t sometimes have issues with anxiety? So, I decided to create an interactive online course on how to alleviate your anxiety! I will be launching this course in a matter of weeks. So, if you are interested in learning more, click this link: “Alleviate Anxiety” and you will get an email notification when it is up and ready to go!

9 Signs you Should Seek Mental Health Counseling

You do not have to be “losing your mind” or be in crisis to seek help for your mental health. Life is stressful, and sometimes we can all use help to feel good and find joy again. Here are nine common signs that you should seek mental health counseling:

Feeling Strong Emotions

Emotions can become overwhelming, and at times, you may not recognize them. You may be getting angry or frustrated easily and are “snapping” at others or situations that seem to be out of your control. The emotion of shame is also common in our culture, including feelings of worthlessness and putting yourself down. Guilt is another emotion that we all try to avoid. Guilt is feeling like you have done something wrong or you can’t ever please the people who put demands on you. Shame and guilt can prevent you from getting what you want out of life.

Trauma, Past or Present

Trauma comes in many different forms. You may think that your trauma is in the past, or that you are dealing with your current distress, but what you may be doing is avoiding processing your strong emotions (anger, depression, anxiety) they keep resurfacing while affecting your relationships with others. These emotions cause behaviors that take a toll on relationships, work, and daily functioning. 

Substance, Food or Behavioral Addictions

Most individuals who have addictive behaviors downplay its severity. Why? Because additions have short-term relief for long-term and recurrent pain. So why would someone want to give up something that works to alleviate suffering? Hence, additions and lying go hand-in-hand. With Substance use, tolerance develops and you begin to need more of the substance or behavior to get the same effects. The long-term consequences of addictions are numerous, including, loss of normal functioning, poor physical health, loss of relationships, financial distress, loss of work, diminishing self-worth, and guilt.

Chronic Physical Pain

Many people do not realize that physical and psychological pain affects the same brain regions and physical injury or malfunction. The means, regardless of whether the source is, biogenic, psychogenic, or both, your pain is real. If your pain issues are not getting resolved after seeing the doctor, several specialists, or even surgery, you may want to consider how the effects of stress or trauma are manifesting as physical pain.


Losing a loved one, a job, or a way of life has an unexpected way of affecting us, and you may not be prepared for this dramatic life change. Holding onto pain and grief can materialize later in forms of relational issues and emotional problems.

Loss of Interest in Doing Things

When you can’t get off the couch or get out of bed to do even simple things, like getting dressed and tidying up, you are experiencing symptoms of depression. Untreated depression can become chronic, which will affect your physical health and reduce the ability to find joy and pleasure in life.


Isolating yourself from being in a public place or at social events are symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety. Social anxiety is when you are worried about what others think of you, so you avoid being around others. Repeated avoidance can lead to panic attacks, thus affecting daily functioning.

Cannot Feel Calm

Not being able to relax (hypervigilance) is a protective behavior that is typically a result of traumatic experiences. This type of anxiety can become overwhelming, leading to addiction or the need for prescribed medications. Using either substances or medications helps temporarily, but there are side effects, and they won’t work forever. Strong emotions such as anxiety are messengers, and you need to give it your attention, especially its cause. Substance and medications shut down the messengers, but they never completely go away.

Difficult Relationships

If you are having problems with your relationships, especially family members, it can be frustrating. You want to get away from them, but at the same time, you don’t. At times you may feel that you are blaming others for your behaviors, and sometimes you may feel trapped. Whatever your relational issues are, trying to get the other person to change usually becomes a futile effort. Changes happen when you can begin to develop intrapersonal insight into how you are affected by all your relationships.

Thank you for reading! Please like, share and subscribe! I am Catherine G. Cleveland, a mental health counselor and owner of Cleveland Emotional Health. I specialize in the treatment of trauma, chronic pain and anxiety. For more information go to: here to make an appointment.