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    Contact Me

    4421 N. Oakland Avenue, Suite 201
    Shorewood, WI  53211

     

    414-202-7754

    Michelle Fahrnow, MS, LPC-IT

    Areas of Practice

     
    Anxiety

    Anxiety has many forms and many related disorders, for example, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Anxiety may feel like intense fear, terror, panic, or dread. It can make your pulse race, your heart hurt, your chest tight, and even make it difficult to breathe. Sometimes you may sweat and feel tingling in your body and may have racing or troubling thoughts and worries that won't seem to go away, no matter what you try.

     

    All of this can lead to many kinds of avoidance such as staying in home, your room, or even only your bed. Compulsive behavior and perfectionism which may look like action can also really be about escaping from thoughts and feelings that are so painful. Avoiding places and certain people, or any kind of responsibilities are also avoidance strategies that may be implemented.

     
    Depression

    Depression affects a significant portion of the population. It is estimated that 7-12% of men and 20-25% of women will have a major depressive episode at some point in their life.
     

    Depressive disorders consist of a variety of symptoms in the areas of mood, thinking, behaviors and physical reactions. Mood related symptoms include sadness, irritability, depression and anger. Many depressed people are also anxious and nervous. When we are depressed our thinking is characterized by negative thoughts about ourselves (self criticism), negative thoughts about the future and negative interpretations/ thinking about ongoing events in our lives. When we are depressed our beliefs are characterized by negativity as well. For example, we may believe:

    • “I’m a failure.”

    • “I’m no good.” 

    • “I’m unlovable.”
       

    The behavioral symptoms of depression include withdrawal, avoidance of other people, and not doing activities that in the past gave us a sense of pleasure or mastery. The physical symptoms of depression include tiredness, fatigue and insomnia. Additionally, depression is associated with an alteration in brain chemistry. These four areas (mood, thinking, behavior and physical functioning) of our functioning interact and affect each other. When there is a change or alteration in any one of these areas the other three areas change in response. For example, changes in brain chemistry (anti-depressant medication) may lead to changes in mood, thinking and behavior. Similarly, enduring changes in thinking create enduring changes in mood and behavior. Finally, changes in behavior result in changes in thinking, brain chemistry and mood.

    Trauma
     

    The ability to recognize emotional trauma has changed radically over the course of history. Until recently psychological trauma was noted only in men after catastrophic wars. The women’s movement in the sixties broadened the definition of emotional trauma to include physical and sexual abuse of women and children.

    Now, the impact of psychological trauma has extended to experiences that include:
    • Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, etc.

    • Physical assault, including rape, incest, molestation, domestic abuse and serious bodily harm

    • Serious accidents, such as automobile or other high-impact scenarios

    • Experiencing or witnessing horrific injury, carnage or fatalities
       

    Other often overlooked potential sources of psychological trauma include:
     
    • Adoption

    • Falls or sports injuries

    • Surgery, particularly emergency, and medical interventions especially in first 3 years of life

    • Serious illness, especially when accompanied by very high fever

    • Neurological disruption caused by experiences in the womb

    • Birth trauma

    • NICU after birth

    • Hearing about violence to or sudden death of someone close

    • An auto accident considered minor by adults

    • The breakup of a significant relationship

    • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience

    • Forced separation very early in life from the primary caregiver

    • Chronic mis-attunement of a caregiver to a child’s attachment signals (“mal-attachment”)

    • Moving, changing schools, or change in life circumstances

    • Bullying

    • Isolation/lack of healthy attachments

    • Sudden loud noises for babies or young children

    • Recurrent medical issues early in life for example: Ear infections, asthma, seizures, reflux, allergies

    • Caregivers with insecure attachment styles of their own or unresolved baggage of their own

    • Genetic predisposition

     
    PTSD

    The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often develop weeks after the actual trauma and can surprise the sufferer who thought that they had moved on. If you have experienced some kind of trauma in your life, it can cause psychological symptoms at different intervals. These psychological symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, irritability, anger, aggression, substance abuse, hopelessness and guilt. Often these symptoms develop as a response to being physically or sexually abused, being in combat, being the victim of a violent crime, or witnessing such events.

     

    If you are suffering from PTSD, getting help is very important as these symptoms can severely interfere with your quality of life and well-being. While PTSD can invade every area of your life and experience, there is hope. If you (or a loved one) are suffering in silence or coping in unhealthy ways, please consider getting support.

     

    Relationships

    One indicator of relationship problems is the inability to resolve conflict. Sorting through what causes the conflict, as well as what should be done to resolve the conflict, is not an easy task. Just consider, how much actual training did you receive on how to avoid or resolve conflict before you were married and/or in any type of relationship. For most people, it was very little, if any. 

    Conflicts often seem to happen over just about anything. However, all conflicts impact us at deeper levels.  

     

    There are also some common areas that have the potential to create problems in relationships. These include:

    • How we have learned to "attach" to our partner (or individual in a co-relationship). 

    • How we regulate our emotions, and, how we can help regulate our partner's emotions.

    • A lack of understanding about how basic neuroscience impacts relationships.

    • How our past, (family of origin, trauma history, and other factors) impact our ability to trust others. 

    Adolescent Therapy

    It's important to support children and families experiencing relationship issues such as communication, conflict, abandonment, trauma, bullying, transitioning through developmental stages, power struggles, discipline, sibling rivalry, emotional connection, and social skills. As relationships come in many forms, it's imperative to work with the challenges and strengths that different relationship structures experience; such as blended or step families, co- or parallel parenting, single parents, military, foster or adoptive, same-sex parents, families with adolescents in different developmental stages as well as friend and school relationships.

    Experiencing yourself as valuable, competent and worthy is vital for adolescents. It sets the tone for our adulthood identity, ability to manage our emotions, and the map we have for connecting with others. It's beneficial to address the symptoms of low-self worth, unresolved pain, and disconnection at a young age. These symptoms often show up as anxiety, depression, anger or emotional outbursts, withdrawal, separation anxiety, hypersensitivity, unhealthy relationships, self-harm, eating issues, body image distortions, and identity confusion. It's essential to celebrate these individuals unique personhood, find more effective ways to manage emotions, and ask for what they need.