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A-Z Mental Health Conditions and Topics

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Abuse and Domestic Violence
What is Abuse and Domestic Violence? Abuse is behaviour used to intimidate, isolate, dominate or control another person. It may be a pattern of behaviour or it may be a single incident. Abusive behaviour might involve acts or words or even neglect.   Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial: Physical abuse is when someone hurts you physically in any way. It includes hitting, kicking, slapping, pinching, cutting, stabbing, and shooting. All of these examples are assault, which is a crime in Canada and the United States. Sexual touching or sexual activity is abuse if you do not consent or if ...
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Alcohol and Substance Use Problems in Children and Youth: Guide for Caregivers
David's Story Up until this school year, David was a regular teen who goes to school and hanging out with his friends. Recently, he's been moody and irritable all the time. His grades have been dropping, and his parents are certain that he's come home intoxicated or high at least a few times. His parents wonder about drug problems, but they just don't know what to do. David's been so irritable and withdrawn  that everyone in the family feels like they're walking on eggshells.... What are Alcohol and Substance Use Problems? Many children and youth have tried drugs and alcohol. Surveys have reported that by the end of high ...
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Alcohol: Cutting Back or Quitting Drinking
Introduction Many people who drink moderately put themselves and others at risk of alcohol-related harms. These people often believe that only “alcoholics,” people who are dependent on alcohol, cause car accidents or bar brawls. They believe that because they are not dependent themselves, they can drink freely without worrying about the consequences. But the truth is that moderate drinkers cause as much damage as heavy drinkers.   Many moderate drinkers—particularly those who sometimes drink to the point of intoxication—walk a fine line between living normal, productive lives and living recklessly, wearing down the faith ...
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Anger
Does any of this sound like you? Traffic is terrible today! It's making me very IRRITATED. My tax return is so complicated. It's making me very FRUSTRATED. I can't believe my mother would say something like that I'm really ANNOYED that my neighbour's garbage keeps getting strewn all over the alley! That driver just cut me off. I'm really IRATE about it! I'm so ANGRY! Read on to find out if you have a problem with managing your anger and what to do about it. Anger and Positive Change ANGER is an emotion that tells us someone or something has interfered with our goals, ...
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Anxiety in Adults
Do I Have an Anxiety Disorder? Do you find that that many of the following apply to you... I am often startled by the smallest thing I worry that something terrible will happen to me or others I am easily irritable I get sudden fears of dying or doing something out of control I often worry that something has not been done correctly even though I know I completed the task properly I am extremely worried about disease (e.g. germs, infections, dirt, dust, contaminates, cleanliness) I need constant reassurance I often find myself doing things repeatedly (e.g. hand washing, showering, tooth ...
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Anxiety in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
Does Your Child Have.. Does your child have any of the following:  Gets fearful or worried about leaving the home, e.g. school or activities? Require a lot of reassurance to calm down?  Fears that are so extreme, that it gets in the way of life? Introduction Dylan is afraid of the dark. Tricia hates to eat in front of other people. Eric becomes sick to his stomach and throws up if he has to speak aloud in class.    Life is stressful. It is normal to have fears and worries. Being worried about things can help us prepare for potential dangers. E.g. being worried about failing a test ...
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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) in Adults
Inattentive Ivan... Ivan is a 40-ish year old, who despite being smart and funny, struggles with work and relationships. When younger, despite teachers saying that "Ivan has great potential", he found school painfully boring and was relieved when he finally completed high school. He thought things would get easier once he finished school, but as an adult, he faces other challenges:  With work, its hard to focus on the boring parts of his jobs. He forgets deadlines, has troubles getting tasks done. As a result, he has had troubles staying in the same field, and has been through several jobs, while he sees his friends ...
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Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD/ADHD) in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Everyone has trouble paying attention from time to time, especially during activities that are boring or not enjoyable. But for children and youth with ADHD/ADD, the problems with paying attention and getting distracted are so severe that youth can have problems with school, work and relationships.   There are 3 main types of ADHD:   1. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)   This is the most common type, causing troubles with attention and hyperactivity. Typical symptoms of ADHD: Attention ...
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Youth Edition
­ Do you: Have trouble focusing on things like reading, school work and tasks? Have troubles paying attention in class? Have problems getting homework or assignments done? Get easily distracted? Often lose things that you need? Tend to act impulsively or without thinking? If so, you might have ADD/ADHD, a brain condition which makes it hard for people to focus. If you have ADD/ADHD, there is good news! There are many things that can help you pay attention, and make life easier. What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Everyone has ...
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Auditory Processing Disorders (APD)
Introduction Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), or Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a condition which affects how people hear the sounds around them. APD makes it more difficult to hear, especially in noisy situations, even when a hearing test is normal.    If you or your child has APD, you may notice some of the following: Difficulties hearing when there is background noise despite normal hearing. Difficulty following multi-step, or multiple instructions. Difficulty following rapid or accented speech. Lower school achievements than would be expected, ...
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children and Youth: Information for Families
"Thomas likes trains..." Thomas is a 10-year-old boy who has always been really interested in trains. He knows so much about trains that he can go on and on with his vast, encyclopedic knowledge. If you wanted to know the train schedule at the local train station, he could tell you. Schoolwork has never been a concern and he has always done well in school with little effort.   Unfortunately, when it comes to anything involving people, he has a lot more difficulties. He just can't seem to relate to others, and has no friends. He doesn't seem to get social cues. He'll talk endlessly about trains without realizing that others are ...
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Autistic Disorder in Children, Youth and Adults: Information for Families
  This handout is specifically focused on Autistic Disorder (aka Autism, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder), which is one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).   For more information about 'high functioning' Asperger's Disorder or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD NOS), please see our separate handout on those topics. Introduction A young boy plays hours on end busily lining up cars in perfect rows. A girl at school flaps her arms wildly whenever she gets excited. Another student constantly rocks back and forth. All of these children and youth have Autistic ...
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Bedwetting (Enuresis): Information for Parents and Caregivers
Definition of bedwetting Because young children are not capable of staying dry through the night, a child is not considered to have problems with bedwetting until at least age 5.   Children are considered to have bedwetting if: A child aged 5-6 that has two or more bedwetting episodes per month A child aged 7 and above that has one or more bedwetting episodes per month Bedwetting is very common in children who are going through toilet training.   How common is bedwetting? At age 5, 15-25% of children wet the bed At age 6, 15-30% still have at least one episode of bedwetting a ...
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Bipolar Disorder in Adults
Introduction Ever since his mid 20's, a normally shy man gets high energy periods lasting up to several days where he doesn't need to sleep, and where he impulsively goes on spending sprees that put him into severe debt. These high periods are often followed by periods of severe low mood and depression, even to the point where he has thoughts of suicide. What's going on here? Is it normal mood swings, or could it be something else? What Is Bipolar Disorder? Everyone gets mood swings whereby sometimes our mood and energy is up, and where sometimes our mood and energy is down. But if you have mood swings so severe that it ...
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Bipolar Disorder in Children and Youth: Information for Families
What Is Bipolar Disorder? All of us have changes and swings in our mood which are normal. There are times when our mood is up, and we have more energy and excitement about things. There are other times when our moods are down, and we have less energy.   However, people with bipolar disorder  have periods of extreme mood change that  cause serious problems in their lives.   In the classic form of bipolar, people have episodes of depression and of mania, when their mood, energy, thinking and behaviour gets stuck for a period of time at a very  low or a  very high level. Hence the term, "bipolar", ...
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Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Introduction M. is an 18-yo who has been increasingly obsessed with her "horrible pimples" and "big nose". And despite the fact that she gets asked out on dates all the time, she has now become so concerned about her appearance that she has recently stopped going to school. "I can't go out - people will see how ugly I am."   J. is a 7-yo boy who believes his hair is "all wrong" and that his stomach is "fat", despite the beliefs of his friends and family who see none of these 'defects'. But now it's to the point where he refuses to go to school unless he combs his hair for hours... What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder? Body ...
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Borderline Personality Disorder in Adults
Introduction All humans are social, and one of our deepest needs is to attach, or feel connected to others. After all, we cannot survive without others. When we are young, our most important attachments are to parents and adult caregivers. As we become older, our attachments change to include friends and peers. In adulthood, it changes to focus on romantic partners.    Because one of our deepest needs is to attach, it is natural then, that one of our deepest fears is lack of attachment, or rejection, or abandonment. For people with borderline personality disorder, these fears become overwhelming and ...
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Borderline Personality Traits in Youth
Introduction All humans are social, and one of our deepest needs is to attach, or feel connected to others. In fact, we can’t survive without others. When we’re young, our most important attachments are to parents and adult caregivers. As we get older, our attachments change to include friends and peers. In adulthood, it changes to focus on romantic partners.    Because one of our deepest needs is to attach, it is natural then, that one of our deepest fears is lack of attachment, or rejection, or abandonment. For youth with borderline  personality traits, these fears become overwhelming and ...
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Bullying in Children and Youth: Guide for Caregivers
What is Bullying? Bullying is a form of aggression in which one individual is exposed to deliberately harmful actions by a more aggressive person.  Bullying can be physical (e.g., hitting, pushing, tripping), verbal (e.g., name calling, insults, put-downs), social (e.g., social isolation, rumours) or cyber (e.g., threats or insults spread through internet or cell phone).   It is also possible for the same child to be both a bully and a victim. There are also "provocative victims" (term coined by Olweus, 2001), who display negative behaviours that annoy bullies and lead them to take action.   School ...
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Children and Youth Coping With Grief, Bereavement and Loss: Information for Families
Introduction At some point, we all face the loss or death of a loved one. This is a difficult experience for a person of any age, but is particularly hard for young people. Adults may be uncertain on how to respond to the needs of children during this time. They might be overwhelmed with their own grief or have questions about how to explain such a difficult concept in ways that children can understand. Even when adults respond the best that they can, a child may still be overwhelmed by grief issues.    This article describes how children are affected by grief and bereavement, and what family and friends can do to support a ...
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Children and Youth with Intense Emotions: Information for Family and Friends
Does My Loved One Have Intense Emotions? Does your loved one have this set of traits? Troubles regulating his/her feelings, leading to mood swings? Such as being sad, angry, or upset one moment, whereas becoming euphoric and happy the next moment? Impulsive and harmful behaviour? Youth with intense emotions may turn to behaviours like self-harm, or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to try to  control their intense emotions. But in the long run, these behaviours end up causing more problems instead of being solutions.Relationships that go from one extreme to the other? Such as loving someone or being friends one moment, alternating with ...
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Children and Youth with Thoughts of Suicide: Guide for Parents and Caregivers
What is Suicide? Suicide is the act of ending one's life. It is unfortunate, but modern society tends to be stressful and disconnecting, and as a result, some children and youth may think about ending their lives. People may suicidal when they feel disconnected from people or activities that give a sense of belonging, purpose, hope and meaning.  Stresses can contribute, such as: School stress such as problems with friends, schoolwork, teachers, bullies.Home stress, such as conflict or disagreements with family members. Work stresses such as problems with co-workers, bosses, workload.Modern society, with the way that ...
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Children/Youth Who Hear Voices: Information for Family and Caregivers
Dave’s Story Dave is a 10-yo boy who has started to hear voices. He has always been somewhat quiet, and not been that talkative about his thoughts and feelings. The voices appear triggered when he is under more stress, e.g. conflicts with classmates or not understanding work at school. When he is angry, the voices are angry. When he is feeling good, the voices are nice…  How Common are Voices? Studies show that voices are quite common, though the exact numbers vary depending on the study:   At a single point in time About 2-3% of the general population hears voices (Tien, 1991)  In children, a ...
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Coping with the Stress of COVID: Survival Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Introduction Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been extremely stressful for us as caregivers and parents. We have the responsibility of supporting our children and youth during this time. And we have the stress of having to manage finances and work responsibilities.   The good news is that there are many healthy strategies that we can do to support our kids, and survive as parents during this stressful time. Looking for Basic Needs? Do you need a food bank? Call 211 (http://211.ca/) or Food Banks Canada (https://www.foodbankscanada.ca/utility-pages/find-a-food-bank.aspx) Do you need shelter and housing? Call 211 ...
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Coping with Thoughts of Suicide: Youth Edition
Many youth will have thoughts of suicide. These thoughts can range from simply wishing for the pain to end, all the way to taking steps to seriously harming themselves. People who have thoughts of suicide often struggle with distress for a long time. They consider death as one option for stopping their pain. Others might have a sudden urge when they live a moment they find difficult to accept.    When we asked youth about suicide:   Guys told us... 1 out of every 7 or 8 guys said they had thoughts of suicide in the past; About 1 in every 15 guys said they had current thoughts ...
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Delirium: Information for Families and Caregivers
What Is It? Delirium is a sudden change in how a person thinks or acts. Delirium can occur in all ages, though the elderly and the very young, are at the highest risk. It can happen to anyone, however most commonly happens to patients who are already in hospital. Signs of Delirium The first sign of delirium is that you notice that your loved one appears to act differently and not as you’d expect. Caregivers often say, “He is not himself… This is not like my child at all….” Classic signs include: Confusion and disorientation, such as:Getting confused about the time or dateGetting confused about who he or she is, not recognizing ...
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Dementia
Sally's Story "I was just going out for a walk..."   Sally is a 75-yo widow, active in her community, with an outgoing personality and a great sense of humor. She lives alone, but her daughter lives in town, and checks in on her occasionally. Over the last few months however, she has become noticeably more forgetful, to the where she has gone for walks while leaving the stove on. Last week, she went out for her usual morning walk, but got lost. Luckily, one of the neighbours that was driving by happened to recognize her, and brought her home.   Is this normal aging? Or is it something else? What is ...
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Depression in Adults
What is Depression? Everyone has times when they feel the ‘blues' or when they get sad from time to time. Depression on the other hand, is a sadness so severe that it can cause: Difficulties functioning at home, work or school Changes in sleep, energy, appetite and concentration, Feelings such as sadness, anxiety, irritability or anger, Low self-esteem or feelings of hopelessness. When extremely severe, people who are depressed may have thoughts of hurting themselves. How Common is Depression? Depression is a common condition that can affect anyone at any age. In any given year, it is estimated that ...
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Depression in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
What is depression? It is normal for children and youth to feel sad from time to time.  But this sadness doesn’t stop them from going on with their everyday activities.  And it goes away on its own.  Depression, on the other hand, is a sadness so severe that it interferes with everyday life.   Typical symptoms of depression (aka clinical depression, or major depressive disorder) are: Feeling sad, worried, irritable or angry Lack of enjoyment in life, or troubles enjoying anything Feeling hopeless and worthlessHaving troubles coping with everyday activities at home, school, or work Problems ...
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Depression in Youth: Youth Edition
Amanda's Story I used to be happy go lucky when I was younger. But when I got to be a teenager, things started to get really stressful. My parents split up.  I got into a fight with some friends on social media.  I felt so alone. I felt like nobody cared about me. I got realy depressed, and at times, I felt life wasn't worth living. But then I saw a picture of myself with my parents when I was younger -- it reminded me how happy I used to be. I decided to give my mom a chance -- so I told her what was happening and how I was feeling... What is Depression? It is normal to feel sad from time to ...
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Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD): Information for Families
David’s Story Dave is a 10-yo youth who has always had a spirited temperament. He is always easily irritated and easily triggered to have tantrums, on a daily basis, several times a day. Triggers for anger include making any sort of requests that take him away from a preferred activity (e.g. if parents ask him to get off the TV and come for dinner), or if he has a wish and parents say no (e.g. he wants to have another cookie and parents say no.) As he is getting older, his tantrums are harder to manage as he gets bigger. He has kicked holes in the walls and broken his door. Parents have tried various parenting strategies (including ...
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Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
Mary's Story Mary is 30-years old. She lives on her own, and does not have any contact with her family. She has no memory of her childhood at all. She is a gentle person, and works in an office. Sometimes she meets people who say that they know her, however she has no recollection of having met them. What is going on with Mary? Could I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? Do you notice any of the following? A feeling that your sense of self has two or more distinct parts, and that each of those parts has its own behaviours, moods, thoughts, memories, and way of understanding the world That sometimes you don’t ...
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Eating Disorders in Adults
Introduction Everyone has times when they don't eat normally; sometimes we eat less, sometimes we eat more. But when a person has such extremes of eating that it causes problems, it may be an eating disorder.   These extremes may range from purposely starving oneself and trying to not eat in order to lose weight, to the opposite extreme of binging or overeating. At either extreme, there are usually feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.   A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat ...
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Eating Disorders (including Anorexia and Bulimia) in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
What are Eating Disorders? Eating disorders are a group of potentially fatal conditions where people experience severe problems with their eating, which affect them physically and emotionally.   Things may start off as a diet, where your child is doing something to try and feel better about him or herself.  From there, however, it can quickly escalate into a dangerous, life threatening eating disorder.   On the outside, you may notice the visible signs of an eating disorder in your child, such as not eating, binge-eating on food, vomiting, or being obsessed with how his or her body looks.  On the inside, your ...
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Eating Disorders: Youth Edition
What are eating disorders (EDs)? Eating disorders are different types of unhealthy eating patterns. Statistics tell us that EDs happen more often in girls and young women, but we're learning that more and more boys and men experience EDs too. For the most part, they involve eating either too much or too little. Other behaviours can also come along with disordered eating, like exercising too much, obsessing about food, throwing up, or taking laxatives to get rid of food you've eaten. What types of eating disorders are there? The most common types are:   1. Anorexia Nervosa    Also known as Anorexia. ...
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Encopresis (aka Soiling): Guide for Parents and Caregivers
What is soiling (aka. Encopresis)? Soiling (also known as encopresis) is when a toilet-trained child has bowel movements in places other than the toilet (for example, in their underwear or while sleeping), when he/she loses control of their bowel. Constipation is by far the most common cause of encopresis in children. How does soiling (encopresis) happen? Children often put off going for a bowel movement or resist the urge to poop when they are stressed about toilet training, or simply busy playing! Over time, this can lead to stool becoming hard, dry, and difficult to pass. By this point, constipation makes bowel movements hurt, and ...
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Fear of Vomiting (Emetophobia) in Children and Youth
What is the Fear of Vomiting (Emetophobia)? It is normal to dislike the thought of vomiting, but for someone with emetophobia, the thought of vomiting is so terrifying that it can end up controlling a person's life.   The person may: Avoid going out, due to fear of vomiting Avoid eating in public places (such as restaurants), or with other people Avoid any place or situation where there is the slightest possibility that the person (or others) may vomit Become upset even at the mere mention of the word ‘vomit,' or synonyms like ‘throw up', ‘barf,' ‘puke,' ...
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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
About the Disorder Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of effects that can occur in a child whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause significant brain damage. The effects of FASD typically include physical, mental, and learning disabilities as well as behavioral deficits and problems with socialization.   FASD includes the following categories: Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)—This is indicated by a pattern of neurological, behavioral, and cognitive deficits along with specific facial features. Alcohol-related ...
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Food Cravings: Strategies for those Annoying Cravings
What are Food Cravings? Human beings need to eat in order to live, and as a result, our body signals through cravings and urges that we need to eat.  For most of human history, humans spent most of their days moving outside, and would expend large amounts of energy in hunting and gathering. Our traditional diet was high in natural grains, vegetables, fruits and lower amounts of meat. Food cravings helped hunter gatherers survive: Cravings for sweet foods were a signal that a ripe fruit was ready to be eaten; Cravings for salty foods helped ensure we had enough salt in our diet; for most of human history, salt was extremely hard to find and ...
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Gender Identity and Diversity: Information for Parents and Caregivers
Introduction For many people, the sex we are born with (designated at birth) is a good match for how we see ourselves on the inside. But for some, the sex and gender identity don’t match at all. This could mean that: A child who is born male at birth, feels like a girl on the inside A child who is born female at birth, feels like a boy on the inside A child or youth does not identify completely as either a boy or a girl Gender While some people see gender as ‘binary’ (either you’re male or female), others see it very differently. Another way to think about gender is as a continuum, a scale ...
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Grief and Bereavement
What is Grief? Grief is the normal response of sadness and other feelings that come from losing someone close to you.   Feeling grief is a natural part of life, because at some point, we will all face the loss of a loved one.   Bereavement is the period after a loss during which a person experiences grief and is in mourning. What is Normal Grief? After the death or loss of a loved one, you may feel all sorts of feelings such as feeling: Sad Anxious, worried or scared Empty and numb Angry You may find yourself having physical reactions such as: Problems ...
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Grounding Strategies
Introduction Grounding is a type of coping strategy that “grounds” people in the present moment and is a form of mindfulness.  When you become overwhelmed by flashbacks or dissociation, it is as if the brain forgets where you are, and you become transported to past times when you felt unsafe.  Grounding strategies help the brain refocus on the present. There are two main types of grounding strategies:  Sensory, e.g. Using strong sensory input to bring one back to reality and the present moment (e.g. listening to loud music, biting a lemon, holding a piece of ice)Cognitive, e.g. Doing an activity requiring one’s focused ...
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Helping Children and Youth Cope After Traumatic Events
Children and youth can have strong emotional reactions (or stress reactions) after a difficult experience. A traumatic event is one that causes a child or teen to react with horror, fear and distress. Events that might cause a stress reaction include:  Being in a car crash  Getting badly hurt  Witnessing violence  Nearly drowning  Seeing another person get badly hurt  How do children and youth react after traumatic events?  Everyone is different, and reactions often depend on a child’s age.  After a traumatic event, children and youth may ...
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Helping Children Feel Good About Their Bodies
Eating disorders, now considered the third most common chronic illness among adolescent girls, are serious emotional problems that are manifested through weight and food issues. They can have life-threatening consequences. Behaviors that include dieting, bingeing, self-induced vomiting, using diet pills and laxatives are seen in more than 27% of girls aged 12 to 18 years.   Eating disorders develop in boys and girls for a lot of different reasons. Eating disorders may stem from anxiety or depression, or from feeling a loss of control due to a family situation, trauma, or other stresses. Those who tend to develop eating disorders are ...
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Hoarding Disorder (aka Pathologic Hoarding)
Introduction Bob lives in a house, but has collected so many books and newspapers that they have filled his rooms and hallways. Just last week, his wife left him due to the clutter.  Cathy has secretly kept over thirty cats in her small home. Just week, neighbours have complained and she is worried that she’ll be forced to get rid of them. Introduction It is normal that human beings need to acquire and use various possessions in order to survive. Unfortunately, some people end up 1) collecting too many things, and 2) have troubles getting rid of possessions that they no longer need. When severe enough, it may be hoarding ...
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Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH)
What is Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health? Everyone has mental health. Even infants and young children! Infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) is about an infant and young child’s ability to: Form safe, secure relationships with adults and peers.Experience, manage and express a full range of emotions.Cope with stresses in life. Unfortunately, mental health issues are becoming an increasing problem for many of our children. Since 2010, mental health emergency visits at the Children ‘s Hospital of Eastern Ontario have increased by 75%One in four (26%) children in Ottawa are behind in their development as they enter school. ...
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Infant Mental Health: Comforting Your Baby
Introduction Crying is the main way your baby can tell you what he or she needs. How you respond when your baby cries during the first year of life will teach your baby if he or she can count on you.   No one can comfort a baby ALL the time. What matters is that most of the time, you try to comfort him or her. Three Very Important Times To Pay Attention To Your Baby's Cries When your baby is sick When your baby is hurt When your baby is upset (for example, when he or she is sad, frightened or lonely) Comforting your baby at these times does not spoil him or her. It makes your baby feel respected and ...
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Insomnia and Sleep Problems
Introduction It seems like life is getting more and more stressful all the time, with demands for work, school, family and home responsibilities. As a result, we often cut back on the very things that are the most important, like getting enough sleep…   Getting enough sleep is essential. Studies show that getting enough sleep is essential for maintaining proper health. Furthermore, lack of sleep can cause numerous health and related problems. It is a risk factor for mental health problems such as depression, and can also contribute to cardiovascular and other conditions. Being sleep deprived also significantly increases your risk ...
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Lead Poisoning
Are my children at risk of lead exposure? Are your children: Living in or regularly visiting a house or day care center built before 1950? Living in or regularly visiting a house built before 1978 with peeling or chipping paint or recent (within the last 6 months), ongoing or planned renovation? Living with or regularly visiting a sibling, housemate or playmate with lead poisoning? Living with an adult whose job or hobby involves exposure to lead? Living near an active lead smelter, battery recycling plant, or other industry likely to release lead? Recent refugee, immigrant, or child adopted from outside ...
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Learning Disabilities
Lynn’s story Lynn is a typical 10 year old who likes sports and hanging out with her friends. She is an average student, getting B’s in all subjects, except for math… Math has always been tough for her compared to other subjects. But this year, she’s been failing all her math classes. Even when she asks her teacher for help, she still doesn’t understand. Her dad thinks, ‘Well, I wasn’t good at math either, so that’s why she’s failing’. Her mom thinks that Lynn is being lazy and she should just ‘work harder’. Is Lynn’s trouble with math because she is lazy or because ...
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Mental Health and Mental Illness in Children and Youth: Fact Sheet for Parents and Caregivers
What is Mental Health? Mental health (like our physical health) is a resource for living. It allows us to learn, work, play and find enjoyment in life. It helps us through tough times.   From a child or teen’s point of view, mental health means… I feel like I have things to live for I feel that people care about me I feel hopeful and good about the future I feel in control of my life I like myself I’m satisfied, content or happy with life What is Mental Illness? People have mental health problems or mental illnesses when problems with thoughts, feelings or ...
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Mental Health and Mental Illness: Youth Edition
Mental Health vs. Mental Illness  Many people talk about mental health and mental illness as if they were the same thing. But they’re not the same thing at all.    For starters, mental health is something we all have. Mental illness only affects some people. Just like physical health, there are some things that you can do to be mentally healthy and reduce your chances of developing a mental illness.  What is Mental Health?  Mental health is your brain’s ability to:  Make sense of and interact with the world around you;  Enjoy life;  Realize your personal ...
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Mental Wellness and Resiliency while Coping with COVID
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring Introduction Dealing with COVID is stressful. For most of us, the measures being taken with COVID have been unprecedented in how disruptive they are to our lives, our families and our friends. On the one hand, it is understandable that anyone would feel stressed out by the current situation. On the other hand, overreacting and coping in negative ways are ...
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Misophonia: When Ordinary Sounds are Upsetting
Is This You? Do you get upset, irritated or very angry when you hear people: Eating or chewing with their mouths open? Sniffling? Typing on a keyboard? Making other soft sounds that others aren’t bothered by? If so, you may have misophonia. What is Misophonia? Many of us have had the experience of hearing sounds that make us feel uncomfortable. The sound of fingernails scraping across a chalkboard makes many people cringe. Sirens or smoke alarms make our hearts beat faster. Being very aware of certain sounds, and reacting strongly to them may have been very helpful to early humans. This may have helped ...
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My Safety Plan
What is a Safety Plan? A safety plan can help keep you safe, if you are feeling overwhelmed and/or having thoughts of ending your life.  During a time when you are feeling calm, try answering these questions that ask about triggers and stresses, and possible ways to cope, so that if you are faced with a stress later on, you will have some ideas to try out. As you learn more about what works or doesn't work, its natural that the safety plan will change and improve over time.  Ask your support network (such as trusted adults, parents, relatives) to take a look at the plan, so that they can support you.  My ...
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Narcolepsy and Cataplexy: Information for Adults and Families
Case Jennifer is in her 20’s and has extreme problems with sleepiness. This is extremely frustrating, because when younger, she was extremely active and athletic. Nowadays however, no matter how much sleep she gets at night, she is always exhausted. The sleepiness is so bad that she’ll fall asleep on public transit, and even while talking with friends. It is so bad that she couldn’t finish high school, and hasn’t been able to keep any job due to her fatigue and inability to wake up on time for work. She has seen doctors and been tested for hormone, vitamin deficiencies and diet issues, but no one has found anything. Could I Have Narcolepsy? ...
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Nature and Why It’s Essential For Kids’ Brains: Information for Parents and Caregivers
Introduction  All parents want to raise happy, healthy children, but in spite of our best efforts, many children and youth struggle with physical and mental health problems in today's world.    The good news is that there is an easy way to help our children’s and teens’ physical, mental and spiritual health...  ...Spontaneous, unstructured outdoor play! Spontaneous, unstructured outdoor play is letting kids be kids outdoors, creating on their own without adult interference. It means letting kids: Be outdoors with fresh air, sunlight and the sounds of nature.   Use their imaginations to ...
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Needle Phobia in Children and Youth
What Is Needle Phobia? Fear of needles is very common in children and adults. All children get needles through their regular immunizations. Those with medical illnesses or problems will need to get even more needles for injections or blood work. Most children and adults are able to overcome their fears, and it does not stop them from getting necessary immunizations, injections or blood work.   But if the fear is so great that it stops that person from getting needles, then it may be a condition known as ‘needle phobia'. Definition of Needle Phobia According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), ...
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Nightmares in Adults
What is a Nightmare? A nightmare is a very distressing dream that usually wakes one up, usually causing fear and upset. Nightmares are not real, though they can feel very real. How common are nightmares? Most people have experienced a nightmare at some point in their life, but in most cases, they are temporary and do not persist. However, when nightmares are severe and persist, they can cause numerous problems. They can: Affect the person having nightmares by leading the person to feel scared, anxious or depressed, and since they can interfere with sleep, can lead to fatigue.Affect family members, especially if their loved ones frequently ...
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Adults
Introduction Most people have had times when certain thoughts or images get stuck in our head. Like getting a certain song stuck in your head; worrying that we forgot to turn off the stove at home.   But when such thoughts get so extreme that it gets in the way of daily life, it may be the sign of obsessive compulsive disorder... What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition where people have troubles with obsessions and/or compulsions: Obsessions are distressing thoughts or images that won't go away, for example, worries about being dirty or ...
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Children and Youth
"He just can't stop washing..." William is an 8-yo boy who enjoys hanging out with his friends and family, and is a great soccer player. But over the past few months, he's been much more concerned about his cleanliness. In the beginning, his parents thought it was great, because he began showering more often. But now he needs to shower several times a day and will actually get upset and angry if he can't have his shower. And in the past few weeks, he's become extremely concerned about germs to the point where he won't even touch door handles. And if he does, he has to wash his hands, and so now it's to the point that his hands are chapped, sore ...
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Youth Edition
My Story (Part 1) I’m 15 years old and my OCD began not long after starting high school. I think like most people, I was excited and stressed at the same time. One day, after watching a TV show about germs, I became very worried about getting sick. I became obsessed by the idea that I could get contaminated by these microscopic germs. Every time I met someone, or touched a door knob or heard someone sneeze, I would worry.   I started to worry about bringing these germs back home and harming my whole family. Soon, every time I tried to leave the house, I would panic and need to go back to clean my hands and take a shower. I ...
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Operational Stress Injury (OSI)
What is an Operational Stress Injury (OSI)? An OSI is term used to describe any persistent psychological injury resulting from operational or work-related duties in the military or police service. What Causes OSI's? Many situations may cause an OSI, which include: Being involved in combat Witnessing atrocities Coming close to death Being assaulted Seeing someone killed or killing someone Being held hostage Natural disasters Handling injured bodies and human remains Canadian Forces and law enforcement personnel are regularly exposed to extreme situations beyond the experience of ...
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Paediatric Acute-Onset Neurologic Syndrome (PANS) (aka PANDAS): Information for Families
What is PANS? Paediatric acute-onset neurologic syndrome (PANS) describes a small group of children that develop a relatively rapid onset of various symptoms following a streptococcal infection. Symptoms include anxiety, mood problems, obsessions, compulsions, inattention, hyperactivity, tics and  behavioural problems such as regression (i.e. behaving like a younger child). Who Gets PANS? PANS occurs in childhood (age 3 to puberty). What Happens In PANS? The following steps are felt to occur: The person develops a strep infection  The person’s body produces antibodies against the strep ...
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Panic Attacks in Adults
Penny’s Story, Part 1 Penny is a married with two kids. She has a supportive partner and great kids, but but recently has been having more stresses with work and her aging, elderly parents.    She’s always been a bit of a worrier, but now she’s started having periods “out of the blue” where she feels suddenly anxious, along with shortness of breath, feeling sweaty. The periods are so severe, that it feels like she’s having a heart attack… “I must be going crazy” she thinks to herself…   What are Panic Attacks? Panic attacks are periods of intense fear and anxiety, caused by a sudden ...
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Panic Attacks in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
Petra's Story Petra is in her last year of high school. Unfortunately, it has been a stressful year -- there have been difficulties with peers, and the work has been very hard as well. Now she’s having periods out of the blue where she feels panicky and anxious for no reason. During these times, she feels her heart racing, starts sweating and has to leave the room, and ends up hiding in the bathroom until she feels better. Things are so bad that she is starting to skip classes in order to avoid having an attack…   
How would you support Petra? Introduction Everyone gets anxious from time to time. The ...
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Adults
Do I Have PTSD? Have you been through traumatic events (such as violence, crime, combat or abuse) in the past? If so, then do any of the following apply to you: As a result of that event, do you avoid being reminded of this experience by staying away from certain places, people or activities? Yes/NoDid you lose interest in activities that were once important or enjoyable? Yes/NoDid you begin to feel more isolated or distant from other people? Yes/NoDid you find it hard to have love or affection for other people? Yes/NoDid you begin to feel that there was no point in planning for the future? Yes/NoAfter this experience were you having more ...
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Postpartum Depression
One Mother's Story "After my first child was born, I started to cry all the time and feel sad. And I felt guilty because you're supposed to be happy about being a new mom and all that. So I hid all of the sadness from everyone else. The funny thing is, that I was doing such a good job at making things look good on the surface, that no one knew I was depressed. But I knew it was time to get help when I started to really resent my child."   "I saw my family doctor, who told me that I had Post-Partum Depression. We started with some counselling but after a few weeks things weren't getting any better, so I ...
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Problem Gambling
What is gambling? Gambling involves any activity in which a person takes the chance of losing money or belongings, and when winning or losing is decided mostly by chance.   Gambling is a common activity in our society. Common forms of gambling include buying lottery tickets, playing poker with friends, or going to a casino. When done in moderation, gambling can be a fun activity. But at its extreme, gambling can cause problems such as bankruptcy, loss of relationships, and even lead people to commit suicide. What is problem gambling? When gambling becomes so excessive that it starts causing problems, it is known as ...
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Problematic Video Gaming (including Gaming Disorder and Video Game Addiction): Information for Caregivers
Does Your Loved One Have Any of the Following...  Does your loved one have any of these signs that might indicate problematic video gaming? Playing more than 1-2 hrs a day of video games? Spending so much time playing video games that it causes problems with home, school and extracurricular activities? Neglecting sleep, physical activity, and other basic needs in order to spend time playing video games? Gets upset or irritable when it is time to stop playing, or when asked to stop playing? If your loved one has one or more of these signs, then continue reading to learn more about problematic video gaming and what to do… ...
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Psychosis in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
What Is Psychosis? Psychosis is a serious medical condition in which a person has trouble telling the difference between what is real and what is not real, typically with symptoms such as delusions and/or hallucinations:   Delusions: These are fixed, false beliefs, which do not have a basis in reality. Paranoid delusions are one common type of delusion, where a person may become suspicious of others and worried about being harmed by others. It may include fears of being spied on or being followed. Delusions may be "bizarre" which are delusions that are strange and completely impossible, e.g. believing that one is ...
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Psychosis: Information for Youth Coping with Psychosis
My Story, Part 1 It all started in college. I began having a hard time with school work, and my part-time job. I just couldn’t focus on anything, and it was like my thoughts were all jumbled. And then I began hearing this really negative voice -- it was quiet at first, then it got louder. I began to feel that everyone was watching me.    Things got so bad, that I had to quit my job and I began skipping classes. I hid this from my parents, but my friends started to worry. I just wanted to hide all day. When I watched TV, I thought the people on the shows were speaking directly to me.    Luckily, I had a ...
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Schizophrenia: Information for Consumers, Families and Caregivers
Introduction Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that causes changes in a person's thoughts, perceptions, emotions and behaviours. It can make someone hear or see things that others cannot see. It can make someone feel unsafe, afraid, and lead to avoiding other people, and loss of function. Without proper treatment, it can cause serious problems with school, work and relationships. Fortunately, help is available for those with schizophrenia. In addition, there are many things that family and friends can do to support their loved ones with schizophrenia. Do I Have Schizophrenia? The following is a list of some symptoms of ...
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Seasonal Depression (aka Winter Depression)
What is Seasonal Depression? "I used to really hate the winters. I'd get sad and start crying for no reason. I'd just hibernate - stop going out, sleep all the time, and couldn't stop eating carbs, and I'd gain ten pounds every winter. And then I realized that really what I had was winter depression."   Seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD, season depression or winter depression in North America) is a type of depression that occurs in the fall/winter months. It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away by summer, and is felt to be due to the seasonal lack of sunlight.   But doesn't everyone get a little ...
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Selective Mutism in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
“She won't speak to anyone…” Fatima is a 7 year old girl who plays soccer with her brothers and talks excitedly about her favorite World Cup team. Yet, at recess time, she stands alone watching the other kids play soccer and doesn’t speak when her classmates ask her if she wants to play. And despite the school year being half over, she has not spoken a single word in her classroom.   Fatima's parents have tried everything to get her to talk. They've tried talking to her about her feelings, and asking if she's been bulied. They've tried positive consequences such as rewards for being able to speak. They've tried ...
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Self-Harm Behaviours in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
Mary's Story Mary is a 14-yo teenager who has always been somewhat quiet and shy, so her mother was surprised when she found out that Mary started dating a boy this school year. But lately, Mary's been a lot moodier than usual. And just the other day, Mary's mother caught a glimpse of Mary's forearms and saw that they had scratches and cuts all over them. Like most parents would feel in such a situation, Mary's mother felt suddenly scared and confused, and thought to herself "This is terrible! I've no idea how to deal with this! What am I supposed to do!" What is Self-Harm? Self-harm is the deliberate attempt to harm oneself and in most ...
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Self-Harm: Information for Adults
What is self-harm? Self-harm is when people purposely try to hurt themselves. Common ways of self-harm include: Self-cutting Scratching or burning one's skin "Minor" overdosing of medications (taking excess amounts of medications but not enough to kill oneself) Head banging (banging one's head against a wall).Who Self-Harms? People of all ages may self-harm, though self-injury behaviours start on average at age 15, and is most commonly seen in teenagers and young adults.  Why do people self-harm? It is believed that people self-harm in order to cope or deal with some stress. Some of ...
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Sensory Processing Problems in Children and Youth
Introduction A boy is so sensitive to being touched that he can't stand being hugged or touched, his parents even need to cut tags off his clothing. A girl is so sensitive to noise that when it gets loud, she starts to cry or have tantrums. Another girl needs to move constantly to the point where teachers and other students find her constant moving disruptive. What's up with these children? Are they simply being oppositional or difficult children? Is it bad parenting? Or could it be something else... Sensory Processing Problems Sensory processing problems is a complex condition where a person misinterprets information from the ...
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Sleep in Children and Youth: Information for Caregivers
How Does Sleep Usually Happen?  The brain has an internal clock that tells us when we need to sleep. When it becomes dark outside in the evening, this clock is triggered to make melatonin. Melatonin is a brain chemical that makes us feel sleepy.    When youth reach adolescence, their sleep pattern changes. Their inner clocks shift, making them want to stay up later and sleep later the next morning. This can be difficult if they have an early school start time. Even so, try to accommodate this as far as possible.  How Much Sleep Does My Child/Youth Need?  Age of Child (in Years)Amount of Sleep ...
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Sleep Problems? Try Cutting Back on Your Blue Light
Introduction In today’s modern society, more and more people seem to be having problems with sleep problems (aka insomnia). It was not always this way however. Throughout most of history, human beings were outside during the daytime, and thus exposed to sunlight (from the sky) that would signal our brains it is daytime. And in the evening, as it gets dark, it is the lack of sunlight that is the normal signal for our brains that it is bedtime, and thus our brains make melatonin to help us sleep. Research suggests that blue light (and possibly also green light) are particularly important in suppressing our melatonin production in the evenings. ...
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So You Want to be Happy? Information for Teens
Introduction Everyone wants to be happy, i.e. have mental wellness, the state of well-being where we feel contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure or joy. Throughout history, people have struggled to find the secret to happiness. What’s the Secret to Being Happy? Is it having fun all the time, like playing video games and watching movies all day? As it turns out, living a life of leisure does not lead to happiness… Happiness (and Mental Wellness) is about Belonging, Purpose, Hope and Meaning Happiness (and mental wellness) is a positive side effect that happens when you live a life with belonging, purpose, meaning and hope (Health ...
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Social Anxiety Disorder in Adults
Introduction It's the adult who has never dated because he's too shy to talk to members of the opposite sex. It's the quiet employee who is under-appreciated by his co-workers and underpaid by his company. It's that great, funny person that you know, but who suffers from loneliness because s/he is too shy unless around close friends and relatives... Do I have Social Anxiety Disorder? Do you have any of the following? Significant and persistent fears of social or performance situations in which embarrassment, rejection, or scrutiny are possible.You either avoid such situations, or endure them with distress (e.g. having symptoms of anxiety)The ...
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Social Anxiety in Children and Youth: Information for Parents and Caregivers
Introduction It's the student who struggles at school because she's too afraid to ask questions in class. It's the teenager who suffers from loneliness from not having any friends because he's too shy to talk to anyone in school. It's shyness so severe that it gets in the way of life...   Shyness runs along a spectrum. It is normal for everyone to be shy at certain times. It is appropriate to be more shy in some situations than in others.  Some cultures value shyness more than others, especially for children. Social anxiety disorder is more than just normal shyness - it is shyness so severe that it gets in the way of enjoying ...
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Social Anxiety: Information for Youth
What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Many people feel shy or stressed in social situations. But when you feel so anxious that it’s hard to go out and take part in everyday activities, you might have social anxiety disorder (sometimes called “Social Phobia”). People with social anxiety can become very fearful about things like:  Meeting new people;  Going somewhere new;  Speaking in public;  Eating or drinking in front of others;  Making phone calls;  Going to school or work;  Going shopping;  Taking the bus.  Many people with social anxiety ...
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Stop Being So Hard On Yourself: How Self-Compassion Is the Key to Mental Health
Samantha’s Story, Part 1  Samantha usually has a good day at work. She’s normally on time, she has a reasonable boss, and her co-workers are pretty easy-going. But recently, she had a very bad day. She was late for work. Her boss was upset. And she had a disagreement with a co-worker.   As a result, a negative, self-critical voice started running in her head: “I'm such a disappointment. Nobody likes me! Why do I even bother? No matter what I do, it’s going to fail.”   Samantha had a rough childhood. She didn’t feel accepted by her parents, and at school, there was a bully who tormented her for ...
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Straight Talk About Mental illness: Information for Siblings
About 1 in 5 young people experience a mental illness like anxiety or depression before their 18th birthday. Chances are you probably already know someone with mental illness, like a friend, classmate or teammate. Sometimes, it’s a brother or sister coping with a mental illness. When this happens, it can be hard to know what the right thing is to do or say. It can also be confusing if you don’t have a good understanding of mental illness. This information sheet should help answer some questions for you. Ways to help your brother or sister “Do’s”   Some things that could help: Do be open and ...
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Surviving the Christmas, Winter Holidays and Festive Season
Introduction Ah, the holidays! They can be a time to celebrate and relax. But holidays can also be difficult and stressful, especially when you feel pressure to have a wonderful, perfect time.    The good news: there are many things you can do to help you and your family members cope with the holidays. Tips for Surviving the Holidays Keep up with healthy routines. Holidays can be physically and emotionally demanding. Stick to healthy routines. Try not to overindulge, because it can make you feel even more exhausted and physically unwell.   Get enough sleep. If you don’t ...
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Technology Contracts (including Social Media and Video Game Contracts)
What is a Technology Contract? On one hand, using technology can bring many benefits. Social media offers the promise of connecting people. Video games can be extremely fun and enjoyable to play.    Unfortunately, when used improperly, technology also has the potential to cause great harm to people.    For this reason, it is recommended that parents use a technology contract, to help children and youth make better choices around their use of technology.    There are various websites that have examples of technology contracts Common Sense Media has technology contracts such as ...
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Tic Disorders and Tourette Syndrome
Introduction We all get thoughts in our heads and urges to do things. For example: You might get an itch inside your nose, and feel like you want to pick it, but you know that if you're talking with your boss, you have to suppress it. You might see someone really smelly, but you keep that thought to yourself. Someone is rude to you, and you feel like swearing at them, but you don't actually say anything. Most of us are lucky because we have "brakes" that keep us acting out every single thought that we have.   But imagine what it would be like if you had ‘leaky brakes' (in the words of Dr. Duncan ...
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Tragic and Upsetting News Events : Helping Children and Youth Cope
Christopher's Story, Part 1 Christopher is a 10-year old boy who heard about a recent terrorist attack on the news. Ever since then, he is worried when parents leave the house, and is having trouble sleeping at night. When he expresses his fear, his father tells him not to worry.   His dad reminds him that it’s safe in their home, that they have a security system, and that they can call the police if they have trouble. But Chris is still anxious, no matter how much his parents try to reason with him. What News Events are Upsetting for Children? We all want our children to grow up feeling safe. But almost every ...
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Trichotillomania
What is Trichotillomania? Trichotillomania (pronounced as "trick-o-till-o-mania",  commonly called "trich" or also known simply as ‘hair pulling') is a condition where a person has repeated, uncontrollable urges to pull out hair from their scalp, eyelashes, nose hair, ear hair, eyebrows or other body hair. Hair pulling by itself is not harmful -- but it can lead to social problems with others. Many adult individuals with trich report leading perfectly normal lives, with the difference that they happen to have more bald spots than others. In others though, their trichotillomania can cause problems with ...
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Unplug (from Technology) and Connect: Keeping Families Strong in a Wired World
Introduction  Our brains are wired to require strong relationships, attachments and face-to-face social contact with fellow human beings for happiness and well-being. Good relationships and healthy bonds to others keep us resilient and allow us to bounce back from setbacks. Unfortunately, our technologies and devices are so addictive, that many people are more connected to their devices than each other. The very devices that were meant to make life easier for us are now threatening to disconnect us from one another and thus, damage our physical and emotional health...   Children and youth now use technologies that did not ...
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Visual Stress: Information for Patients and Families
Vivian’s Story: “When I read, I get headaches, the light hurts, and the words move”  Vivian is a student who has been struggling for a long time. “I want to learn, but I hate school because there's too much reading. When I read, I get headaches, the light hurts, and the words move..."   When she was younger, she saw many professionals for her reading issues. Her parents were told many opinions including:  "Your daughter is lazy -- you just need better discipline to get her to read." "She has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and that's why she can't focus" -- yet all the usual ADHD ...
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When Your Brother or Sister Has Psychosis: Information for Young People
Introduction "When my sister got sick she was acting really bizarre and the police had to take her to emergency. It was really scary. My friends didn't understand at first that it was just because her brain was sick, but they do now." Why is my brother or sister acting this way? Psychosis is an illness of the brain. It is caused in part by genetic (inherited) brain problems plus stress or street drugs like marijuana and crystal meth. When the brain gets ill, it is hard for the person to know what is wrong. They may make up and believe other explanations for why they feel so weird, and they may act strangely. It will be really hard for ...
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