Why Is It So Hard To Ask For Help?

Feel Better, Live Better
Why Is It So Hard To Ask For Help?
By Tammy Kennedy, LPC, LADAC

Why is it so hard to ask for help…It shouldn’t be, should it? When did it become so hard, anyway? When did that moment in life occur that changed everything so drastically? Suddenly, it wasn’t expected of you, nor was it okay for you, to ask for what you needed anymore. When was that moment when asking for help felt “WRONG”. That may be the very question that brings you into therapy, doing the thing you dare to do – Ask for HELP! In therapeutic circles, we like to call that “reflecting” and “testing boundaries”. Doesn’t that sound better? Of course it does, because the word “help” implies a negative connotation…it implies weakness…it implies vulnerability.
Nobody wants to be viewed as weak or vulnerable. But, “Is vulnerability a weakness…Is asking for help a negative thing?” I see all kinds of people in my practice everyday struggling with difficult life situations that have slammed them to their knees but when I ask them “Who is your go-to- person?” Again, and again, I hear “Nobody”. People struggle alone in their grief…their sadness…their fear…They even struggle alone in their anger. When I ask “Why do you struggle alone…Why don’t you share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust?” Most often, I hear “I don’t want to appear weak.” When I talk to them about trusting someone enough to be vulnerable – enough to share their innermost thoughts; they’re confused, because they view vulnerability as weakness. Brenè Brown tells us that being vulnerable with someone you trust…someone you love, is an act of courage. Trusting someone enough to share your innermost negative thoughts about yourself and the world around you is a very scary thing to do but, that’s where the healing process begins.
In the therapeutic process, we explore past experiences to discover who/what influenced the development of your thoughts/feelings/beliefs about yourself and your connectedness to others. If your core belief about “self” is negative, you may interrelate with others from a “fear-based response” which may be very offensive, aggressive, critical, or even neglectful. When we react from a fear-based response we often push away the very ones we desire to be connected; we act in ways that sabotage any chance we may have of getting our needs met. Our interactions with others are inappropriate and ineffective, so we feel like a failure. This conflict between “what we want/desire” and what we “believe we deserve” invites shame. Shame invites us into a cycle of self-hate, self-sabotage, and self-defeat, denying ourselves any chance of stepping out to claim happiness, joy, and fulfillment. We don’t see a way out of this insane cycle of shame. We can’t ask for help because we don’t believe we deserve it. We’re – stuck.

So here we are, back at the initial question: Why is it so hard to ask for help? I think Brenè Brown got it right: asking for help…trusting others…being vulnerable…is a very courageous act. Are you courageous enough to step out and ask for help? The First step is always the hardest. We will be here to help make each step thereafter, easier.

Can Stress Be Fatal?


Audrey A. Adams LCSW

We’ve all heard the saying, “stress can kill you.” Is that true? Well, as a matter of fact, YES it is! The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and stress-related tension builds. A Health and Safety Executive states around 9.9 million working days are lost each year to stress, depression, or anxiety. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed; we often don’t know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point.

Common symptoms of stress are headache, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, excessive worry, and sleep problems. Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Besides these very serious health problems, stress that’s left unchecked can manifest itself in anger, resentment, depression, and anxiety. Stress can interfere with your judgment and cause you to make bad decisions, make you see difficult situations as threatening reducing your enjoyment and making you feel bad, making you feel rejected, unable to laugh, afraid of free time, unable to work, and not willing to process your problems with others. A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol for immediate relief, but drugs and alcohol quickly turn into more stressors, problems, addictions, and health problems of their own.

In the world we live in today, we not only are concerned with our own personal issues, family problems, employment situations, finances, etc. But, we are bombarded with daily news about extremely scary and violent behavior from thousands of miles away to right in our own backyards. One thing that is in our control is making sure we make time for self-care. Your first thought to hearing that was probably, “I don’t have time,” or “I wish!” But think of this, if you don’t find time to do things for yourself, then who will? No one. As adults it is our job to take care of ourselves the best we can or we may not be around as long as we had hoped.

While most of us would likely prefer to take a cruise, rent a cabin in the woods, or go the beach, it is important to remember when it comes to stress, a little bit really does go a long way. The 10 minutes it takes to drive through Starbucks to buy your $6.00 morning coffee, the 30 minutes spent wandering around the grocery store because you’re not sure what you want, or the extra 15 minutes on the phone talking to someone you don’t even really want to speak with can produce stress. Those precious few minutes add up. Taking small chunks of time for yourself can make a profound difference. You deserve to be as stress free as possible. You have to pick your battles. Is what you are stressing about today going to matter this time next year? Is what you are stressing about today something you can control? Putting yourself first is not selfish. Take a walk, talk to someone you trust, take a bubble bath, go fishing, read a book, get a massage, color, dance, watch a comedy that made you laugh 20 years ago, have a picnic by the creek, fly a kite, leave your phone in the other room, look at old pictures, go barefoot in the back yard, try wood carving… The point is just do something…..but do it for YOU!


Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor


Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?


Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

Therapist or Counselor: What's the difference?

Therapists frequently give counsel and counselors frequently provide therapy. Sometimes counselors call themselves therapists and sometimes therapists call themselves counselors. If you are seeking help, it doesn’t matter whether the person you are speaking with is a counselor or a therapist. What matters is whether or not you’ve found someone who can help you. (See a complete list of mental health credentials here: Psychology Today: Therapist Credentials.)


The right person, whether they call themselves a counselor, therapist, or psychotherapist, can help you change your life. Finding someone to help in this endeavor is a very important decision. Our advice: shop around. Use the first appointment to see if you’ve found the right person. Don’t move forward unless you’re certain.


Here are a couple questions you should take with you into a first appointment:

  • Can this therapist or counselor listen to me and talk to me and understand me in a way that helps me understand myself  more honestly, more truthfully?
  • Does this person have a deep knowledge base in the following areas: behaviors, emotions, addictions, self-deceptions, change, spirituality, and meaning?
  • If I had to hear bad news, would I want to hear it from this person?
  • Do I feel that he or she cares about me?
  • Can I trust this person to help me change?

Lessons learned from resistance to change

“I need to change” is probably one of the most common issues that bring a person into counseling and frequently the person has a specific idea of what needs to change. However, how change will occur and what needs to be different in order to bring about change can be very challenging for many people. There are numerous reasons why we resist change–fear, anxiety and uncertainty, just to name a few. The counseling process can help one sort through their resistance and discover that in every situation– no matter how unfortunate, painful, hurtful or scary, there is a meaningful lesson that can be learned from the experience. Think what wonderful lessons are waiting to be discovered if you allow yourself to stop resisting and appreciate what your problems and experiences can teach you.

Releasing Fear

There are challenges, conflicts and crisis that are an inevitable part of being human. In these times of difficulty we can become overwhelmed by our emotions, fear, shame, anger, disappointment, and sorrow as a result of living through these experiences. The emotional responses can be as painful as any physical injury or illness. They may cause us to feel that life is dangerous and out-of-control.  The psychological pain experienced during periods of loss or trauma can be so uncomfortable that we may become numb. Our emotions shutdown and the results are often described as a feeling of detachment from oneself or others.


During periods of difficulty like the loss of a loved one, financial loss, physical injury or decline, breakup of relationships, or job loss, we often find ourselves beginning to feel that the world is an unsafe place. A common response to this anxiety and fear is to become more and more controlling or passive within our own lives, feeling like we have less power and control. Most people have some sort of major loss by the time they’re in their early thirty’s. Given the commonality of these events, the majority of the population is reporting some level of stress or anxiety. Anxiety symptoms include irritability, feelings of being on edge, excessive worry, fatigue, and physical distress in the chest or stomach. These symptoms can be slight or become debilitating.


The brain protects the body from what is considered to be more pain than can be processed effectively by denial and shock. The shutting down process allows us time to process. These coping mechanisms are intended to be temporary, survival strategies. At times the body does not reset itself after a traumatic event and therefore the fear last for years. The brilliant human beings that we are sometimes get stuck. The system that manages and regulates a body’s response to danger sends messages to the body to prepare for run, or fight in defense. Getting stuck often feels like we are unable to relax, adrenaline pumps, the heart pounds, and awareness of the environment is heightened.  Feelings of anxiety or nervousness become common during situations that are not dangerous but feel dangerous as a result of the body not resetting after difficult events.  The discomfort in experiencing the event is usually very short lived in comparison to the duration of the pain experienced by anxiety and fear we carry on for years after these events have passed.



Humans are resilient beings who are built for surviving and recovery. So what is it that goes wrong? We don’t bounce back or we are unable to move on after tragedy in our lives.  As Franklin Roosevelt said “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” What he meant by this is that it is actually the fear that does the most damage, not the events themselves. The challenge in releasing or facing these fears is that humans are often under the impression that being afraid of things is helpful to them, protecting them from future harm. However, fear results in anxiety, worry, and potential increased depression as we try to control the circumstances or the responses of others. The result of becoming guarded, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, is that feelings of anxiety and fear increase and people begin to feel worse not better.


So what could we do to feel better? The simple answer is to start releasing the fear. Letting go of fear and the feeling of guardedness is usually great relief if one can give permission to do so. How do we release the fear? First, it’s important to remember that the concept of fear is designed to keep us safe from dangerous situations. It is in the generalizing of feeling afraid that we get ourselves into trouble. Therefore, to begin getting out of fear is crucial to understanding that there is more to be gained by feeling good than being guarded.  As we learn to release our fear by letting go a piece at a time, we are free to love and to find more joy in life. The key is recognizing that when we are afraid of the unknown we are practicing the state of worry instead of the state of hopefulness.  In reaching for a feeling of hope and releasing the feeling of dread, we become open and available to opportunities we may not see while being fearful. Developing the spirit of curiosity about what’s next helps reduce the worry that it is going to be something bad.  There are many wonderful new experiences ahead for each person who is willing to leave behind feelings of fear and face the future.



Torie Sullivan, LPC

Helpful tips for handling the holiday “blahs”

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.


Erika McCaghren

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Alcohol Use

Most people use alcohol in ways that do not bring negative consequences into their lives. For many, Alcohol is an accepted, often expected, component of social occasions: weddings, special dinners, athletic events, BBQs, family gatherings. But alcohol is not a benign social lubricant for everyone. For some (10-20%), alcohol brings catastrophe, disorder, chaos, personal destruction, and eventually death. For most people alcohol is nothing to worry about. For others, whether to drink or not is a life or death decision.

So we are left with two broad categories of people:

  • Those who can drink with little or no negative consequences
  • Those who should not drink

Determining in which category you belong may be one of the most important decisions of your life.

A cost-benefit analysis is a great way to start thinking about your relationship with alcohol. Here is one way to think about it: what does alcohol do for you versus what has alcohol taken from you? Things it has done for you, benefits. Things it has taken from you, costs. If you find your analysis tipping heavily in the direction of costs, it may be time to rethink your relationship with alcohol. Here are some different types of benefits and costs you may have experienced in your life:


  • stress reduction
  • social lubrication
  • taste enjoyment
  • hobby


  • relationship stress
  • legal problems
  • work problems
  • hangovers

The holiday "blahs"

With the holiday season and winter months fast approaching, feelings and symptoms of depression will often surface or increase. Feeling “down in the dumps” or “blah”, sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, cranky, or easily frustrated are typical symptoms of depression. Also feeling withdrawn, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, sleep, energy, difficulty concentrating, and making decisions are commonly reported. A sense of feeling worthless or excessive guilt may be experienced. Some of these feelings may actually interfere with our relationships, school, job, social activities, and even day to day functioning. If you experience a few or most of these symptoms it is wise to pay attention to what your body is telling you and to take care of yourself.

Often people minimize or don’t understand depression and the possible effects of going untreated. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand depression and learn multiple ways to manage its symptoms. Regardless of the season, feeling better means living better!


Erika McCaghren