Category Archives: Parenting

How to Stop Hurting When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

How to Stop Hurting When You Have a Narcissistic Parent

Published on PsychCentral

narcissistic parent

“If I accept that I can never have a real relationship with my father, it feels like I don’t have a father. If I accept that, am I still a son?”

Jack’s Story:

Jack is a 45-year-old architect, recently married for the first time. He came to therapy to deal with long-standing feelings of depression. His wife, ten years younger than Jack, wanted to start a family. Jack had spent years keeping a cool and cordial distance from his critical father. Now, as his wife pressed him to become a father himself, he felt flooded by sadness and insecurity. Could he be a good father? What if he messed it up?

Having done much reading, Jack came into therapy with the understanding that his father had many characteristics of a narcissistic personality disorder. Even as an adult, Jack could no right. Jack’s father constantly criticized his life choices, even his thoughts and feelings. Only his father’s way of seeing things was right.

Although Jack learned to expect that his father would react to perceived slights with complete rage, this behavior never became easier for him to bear. Still, part of him continued to hope that things would change. He hoped that some day he could have a “real” relationship with his father that would help him feel better about himself.

How to Feel Better

Jack gradually learned ideas that helped him cope with his painful feelings about his relationship with his father. He also learned that he could have these feelings and move forward in his life.

The following ideas helped him and they can help you, too. They are based on concepts from Buddhist meditation practices and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The good news is you don’t have to a Buddhist, expert meditator, or be in DBT to greatly benefit from these ideas.

1. DIALECTICAL: means two ideas can be true at the same time. Life is full of opposites that exist together.

We can can feel better when we acknowledge what is AND that change can still occur. We can learn to cope with two opposite ideas.

2. ACCEPTANCE: means that we suffer when we hold onto things we can’t change.

We can accept things, without approving of them, and find new ways to live. When we accept painful realities, we can begin to problem solve.

Here is an especially important point:

Acceptance is more than than today’s ubiquitous phrase: “It is what it is.” This seems to imply: “Whatever. Just deal with it.”

Acceptance does not mean approving of, condoning, or forgiving a situation.

For Jack, this meant that accepting that a father with a narcissistic personality will not change. This is very painful; he will never have the kind of father-son relationship he craves and deserves. At the same time, Jack can move forward in his life. He can learn ways to deal with these painful feelings and have the life he wants (marriage, fatherhood, feeling good).

3. MINDFULNESS: helps us notice our feelings, but not be overwhelmed by them.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. For example, when Jack felt hit by feelings of grief or fear, it helped him to imagine these feelings flowing out of him like waves roll out of the ocean.

After Jack learned about dialectics, acceptance, and mindfulness, he continued to have negative thoughts about himself and his future. This is normal. Our minds are like Gorilla Glue — they do not want to let go. Jack practiced noticing his self-critical, pessimistic thoughts and letting them go, without beating himself up for it. Sometimes he had to do this many times throughout day. It helped to remind himself that acceptance does not equal liking or even forgiving. It just meant that he was learning to cope and change.

The more Jack practiced Acceptance and Change, the more optimistic he felt. He began to feel that his sense of worth was separate from his relationship with his father. He could make his own choices.


A Look at Effects of Stimulant Treatment on ADHD

A Look at Effects of Stimulant Treatment on ADHD

Researchers are working to gain a better understanding of long-term impacts.
From psychology today

Medication is an effective approach to helping children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but more research is needed to explore the long-term effects on the brain.

Most of us are aware of the fact that ADHD is often treated with stimulant medications. While there are well-documented, short-term benefits of this type of treatment, the long-term effects are still being studied. This post discusses how the medications act in the brain immediately, helping symptoms of ADHD, and then touches on some of the issues surrounding long-term effects on behavior and brain functioning.

ADHD can make it difficult for children to succeed in school and disrupt functioning in other areas of their everyday lives. About 6.4 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with ADHD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011) and the most common treatment approach is stimulant medication (Barbaresi et al., 2006). Stimulant treatments for ADHD include Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, Metadate and Adderall.

Stimulant treatment has been used to help reduce the two major symptoms of ADHD: 1) inattention and 2) hyperactivity and impulsivity (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Some children display both symptoms, while others exhibit primarily only one symptom. Frequently recognized behaviors associated with ADHD include:

1. Inattention – behaviors such as forgetting to complete homework, having difficulty organizing or planning a task, or trouble following instructions.

2. Hyperactivity and impulsivity – behaviors such as difficulty remaining in a seat, speaking out of turn, or engaging in too many tasks at once (see

These ADHD symptoms are thought to stem from improper levels of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, in the brain. Two critical neurotransmitters are dopamine and norepinephrine. Their action and signaling mechanisms within many brain regions are essential for the regulation of attention and behavior (

For individuals with ADHD, stimulant treatment helps to maintain optimal levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the frontal cortex and other critical brain regions. The proper levels of these neurotransmitters help to reduce hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity (Arnsten 2009 for review).

While a particular medication may not clinically benefit all individuals for all symptoms, there are substantial benefits for many individuals (Fredriksen et al., 2012; Parker et al., 2013). As each type of medication differs slightly, different children might respond better to one type of medication compared to another. Unfortunately, there is no perfect method of determining the ‘best’ medication; often this process consists of trial and error.

Americans have reported concerns about pharmacological approaches to treatment, including their effectiveness and side effects, such as sleep abnormalities, loss of appetite, and nervousness. (For more discussion, see These effects are important to consider.

Another concern with treating children with stimulants for ADHD is the long-term effects on the developing brain. During the ages that many children and adolescents receive stimulant medication for ADHD, the brain is still changing and maturing (Andersen, 2005). It is important to understand the effects of these medications on the brain after months or years of treatment.

A recent research paper reviewed much of the available information on brain structures of children with ADHD. Overall, the authors found that some areas of the brain in children with ADHD were reduced in volume compared to children of similar ages without ADHD. Stimulant treatment “normalized” particular brain regions, such that they were similar to children not diagnosed with ADHD (Schweren et al, 2013).

However, it is very difficult to study long-term effects of stimulant treatment in human children. Every child enters a study with a different treatment background (e.g. Ritalin v. Adderall, 2 years v. 6 years of treatment) and it makes it difficult to determine the cause of changes to the brain.

Our laboratory and others have recently studied stimulant treatment in young rats during their “childhood” ages. The lifespan of rats (~2 years) is shorter than humans and all developmental stages are faster, although similar to humans (Andersen, 2005), which makes rats very useful for studying ADHD medication and the brain. Rats can be given Ritalin orally, similar to a child, either on a cookie or in drinking water each day during their childhood years, and then tested in adulthood.

Initial findings from our laboratory suggest that adult female rats perform better on learning and memory tasks when given Ritalin as young rats, compared to female rats given no treatment. Unexpectedly, male rats given Ritalin performed the same as untreated rats in the same learning task, suggesting that the differences in stimulant treatment might depend upon gender. We hope to determine where in the brain Ritalin facilitates the behavioral improvements in female rats seen months after the last treatment.

In conclusion, scientific understanding of the fast actions of stimulant medication in the brain is quite clear, such that stimulants change the neurotransmitter levels. But the long-term effects of childhood stimulant treatment on the brain are still being measured (Molina et al., 2009).

More research is helping us to understand whether there are treatment approaches for childhood ADHD that could result in enhanced learning and memory throughout a lifetime. Indeed, that would be an exciting possibility for those who suffer from the disorder.

Leslie Matuszewich is an associate professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University. She is in the neuroscience and behavior program and teaches courses in biopsychology, research methods and psychopharmacology. Her research interests include the effects of chronic stress on brain function and behaviors, sex differences in motivated behaviors, and long-term effects of early stimulant exposure.

Mercedes McWaters is a graduate student in the Neuroscience and Behavior psychology program at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include the long-term effects of early stimulant exposure, motivation, and the effects of stress on the brain and behavior.

Childhood psychological abuse as harmful as sexual or physical abuse

From Medical News Today 10/10/2014

Children who are emotionally abused and neglected face similar and sometimes worse mental health problems as children who are physically or sexually abused, yet psychological abuse is rarely addressed in prevention programs or in treating victims, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

“Given the prevalence of childhood psychological abuse and the severity of harm to young victims, it should be at the forefront of mental health and social service training,” said study lead author Joseph Spinazzola, PhD, of The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, Brookline, Massachusetts. The article appears in a special online issue of the APA journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Researchers used the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set to analyze data from 5,616 youths with lifetime histories of one or more of three types of abuse: psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse or emotional neglect), physical abuse and sexual abuse. The majority (62 percent) had a history of psychological maltreatment, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all the cases were exclusively psychological maltreatment, which the study defined as care-giver inflicted bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, threats, overwhelming demands, shunning and/or isolation.

Children who had been psychologically abused suffered from anxiety,depression low self-esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic and suicidality at the same rate and, in some cases, at a greater rate than children who were physically or sexually abused. Among the three types of abuse, psychological maltreatment was most strongly associated with depression, general anxiety disorder,social anxiety disorder>, attachment problems and substance abuse. Psychological maltreatment that occurred alongside physical or sexual abuse was associated with significantly more severe and far-ranging negative outcomes than when children were sexually and physically abused and not psychologically abused, the study found. Moreover, sexual and physical abuse had to occur at the same time to have the same effect as psychological abuse alone on behavioral issues at school, attachment problems and self-injurious behaviors, the research found.

“Child protective service case workers may have a harder time recognizing and substantiating emotional neglect and abuse because there are no physical wounds,” said Spinazzola. “Also, psychological abuse isn’t considered a serious social taboo like physical and sexual child abuse. We need public awareness initiatives to help people understand just how harmful psychological maltreatment is for children and adolescents.”

Nearly 3 million U.S. children experience some form of maltreatment annually, predominantly by a parent, family member or other adult caregiver, according to the U.S. Children’s Bureau. The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012 identified psychological maltreatment as “the most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse and neglect.”

For the current study, the sample was 42 percent boys and was 38 percent white; 21 percent African-American; 30 percent Hispanic; 7 percent other; and 4 percent unknown. The data were collected between 2004 and 2010 with the average age of the children at the beginning of the collection between 10 and 12 years. Clinicians interviewed the children, who also answered questionnaires to determine behavioral health symptoms and the traumatic events they had experienced. In addition, caregivers responded to a questionnaire with 113 items pertaining to the child’s behavior. Various sources, including clinicians’ reports, provided each child’s trauma history involving psychological maltreatment, physical abuse or sexual abuse.