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Am I an Introvert or Could It be Social Anxiety?

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 7:00

Written by Jessica Parker (August 2020)

Have you ever wondered if your Shyness or Introversion is a little out of the ordinary, perhaps a friend or family member has expressed some concern about your avoidance of certain social situations? Well you are not alone. Working in private practice I often see people, particularly young adults who are trying to find their place in the world, come in feeling distressed that being ‘introverted’ is affecting their work, family, and/or social lives.

So, what is the difference between being an Introvert and having social anxiety?


Well Introversion is a trait, meaning it is part of your inborn personality. Introverts simply prefer to unwind with more solo, often quiet activities. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to recharge by spending time alone. There are lots of strengths and benefits to being an introvert.

However, if you feel that your choice to avoid certain social activities is more fear driven, then it could be social anxiety.

What is Social anxiety?

While many of us feel some anxiety from time to time, whether it be giving a big presentation or going for a job interview. Social anxiety involves intense fear and avoidance of certain social situations that interferes with daily routine, work, school, or other activities. These situations are often so distressing that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them. Situations that are commonly feared by people with social anxiety include: Talking in front of others, attending parties, talking to strangers, eating in front of others, waiting in line, talking on the phone and speaking to people in authority.

The feared situation usually creates an immediate anxiety response. The symptoms of social anxiety include: Blushing, fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, nausea, trouble catching your breath, dizziness and feeling that your mind has gone blank.


Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include persistent:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Intense fear of talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing or sweating
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety
  • Spending time after a social situation analysing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation


The good news is that psychotherapy has been shown to effectively treat social anxiety disorder. While the above is not to be a substitute for a professional psychological diagnosis, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms it may be useful to see a mental health professional who will create an individualised treatment plan to help you effectively cope with your anxiety.

Anxiety and Stimming

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 6:50

Written by Colette Dekker (August 2020)

We have all seen people tapping feet or moving legs or even tapping fingers when thinking or being stressed. What about shouting and clapping hands, jumping up and down when they are happy? These are all know as stimming or “self-stimulatory behaviour”. Everyone of us stims from time to time, however stimming is most commonly associated with autism.


One of my young ASD clients explained to me that when he realises that he cannot deal with the situation he is in; he uses his stimming to let the people around him know that he is not ok.


Stimming can be healthy. These healthy stimming helps ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) people to deal with sensory overload and anxiety in a positive way. The repetitive behaviours feel good and may counteract an overwhelming sensory environment or may alleviate high levels of internal anxiety even in people without ASD. Next time look around when watching a game of football – you will see people pacing, standing, moving legs, slapping hands on legs ect. just before the match-winning kick.


On the other side, there are the uncontrollable stims. These stims occur overly in inappropriate settings, and may prevent a person from socially acceptable interaction and needs intervention.


Far more serious are unhealthy stims like self-injurious behaviours such as hair pulling, biting, hitting oneself, hitting the head against something in a harmful way, or picking/nail biting to the point of injury. People whom engage in self-injurious stimulation probably do so because their overload or source of anxiety is so overwhelming, it requires a much more serious stimulation to block it out.


There are ways to help people whom engage in harmful stims, these include:


1. Removing the cause: remove the stimulus that is causing the overload. The ideal is to recognise the triggers/stressors and remove them BEFORE the overload happens and harmful stimming starts. This comes back to where my client explained that his stimming is to inform others that he is not dealing with the situation. It can remain as just rocking backwards and forwards, however, should the stressor not be removed, this could escalate into unhealthy or harmful stimming such as hair pulling or hitting self.


2. Redirect to something less harmful: should it be impossible to remove the overload stressor or if you cannot figure out what it is, then redirecting the behaviour whilst still addressing the need for stimulation is key. These can be as simple as rocking on a chair or jumping. If the stimming is harmful behaviour, then choosing other painful but safe coping stims like holding an ice cube or listening to loud music, even drawing on a piece of paper until it is totally black, might be good options. The key here is knowing the person in order to find something that works which isn’t harmful.

Depression in Men

Posted on 1 July, 2020 at 19:30

Written by Jessica Parker (June 2020)

Mental illness is extremely common. According to the Black Dog Institute one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. However, studies have shown that a large proportion of men do not seek treatment for mental health issues.

Although men and women both experience depression, their symptoms can sometimes be different. Men who are depressed often appear to be angry, irritable, or aggressive rather than sad and therefore those around them including doctors may not recognise the anger as depression. Men have also been found to be less likely than woman to recognise and talk about the depression symptoms in themselves.

So how can we recognise symptoms of depression in men? Of course, as we know everyone is different and different men may experience depression symptoms differently, but some common symptoms of depression in men include:

• Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

• Feeling anxious, restless or ‘on edge’

• Loss of interest in work, family, or leisure activities

• Feeling down, flat, empty, or hopeless

• Difficulty concentrating or being forgetful

• Feeling tired, difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much

• Overeating or not wanting to eat

• Thoughts of suicide

• Physical aches, headaches, or digestive problems

• A need for alcohol or drugs

• Engaging in high risk activities

• Failing to meet deadlines at work or inability to meet family responsibilities

• Withdrawing from family or friends or becoming isolated

It’s important to remember that not every man who is depressed experiences every symptom. Experiencing a few of the above symptoms may be an indicator that you could benefit from seeking treatment.

If you think your loved one may have depression, you can support him by helping him find a Doctor, talking to a primary care provider is often a good first step in learning about and treating depression. You can also offer him your support and patience.

Self-care for Frontline Workers during COVID-19

Posted on 1 June, 2020 at 20:20

Written by Melissa Copeman (June 2020)

While a lot of us are starting to (hopefully!) see the light at the end of this COVID tunnel, our frontline workers continue to face the ongoing demands and challenges of working in the coalface of a worldwide pandemic. These are our Doctors, Nurses, Police and Emergency Service personnel who routinely risk their own health and safety to reduce the risk to ours. You know how the saying goes... Not all Superheroes wear capes!!!!!! Given the role they play, it is vital our frontline workers prioritise their own wellbeing. In order to achieve this, here are a few simple tips:



  • Recognise your own stress markers and acknowledge if you need to get some support
  • Educate yourself on the support options available to you
  • Attend your GP for advice and referral to a Psychologist if needed
  • Exercise regularly, eat well and get adequate rest and sleep
  • Take regular breaks, even if it is for 10 minutes during your work day
  • Leave work at work, avoid taking calls and checking emails after you have finished your shift
  • Avoid the use of alcohol at the end of your work day
  • Schedule plenty of enjoyable activities outside of work, such as going on a beach walk, whale watching, hiking, socialising with a small group of friends
  • Spend quality time with those you love
  • Engage in some mindfulness practice

Thank you for your service, Frontline workers! Take good care of yourselves!











Couples: A Healthy Relationship in Isolation

Posted on 14 May, 2020 at 20:20

Written by Colette Dekker (May 2020) Going from simply living together to spending every waking moment together can be demanding on a relationship. But this isolation is not meant to cause distance between you and your partner, but rather strengthen the bond

Wishing to avoid the drama that comes with constant cohabitation as a result of COVID-19? Try these tips to keep both yourself and your relationship healthy while in isolation.

1. Create routines - individual and shared:

Maintaining some structure to your days can help with sustaining your own mental health, as well as that of your partner’s.

Whether you are working from home or just living together, try to go to bed at a reasonable time and get up the same time every morning.

Having a “together” schedule as well as some personal day-to-day routines is important under isolation.

Create a no-go zone (in the house or in the garden) where you are explicitly allowed an hour of uninterrupted me time per day.

Schedule some joint activities into your day-to-day routine such as a coffee or lunch break together as a couple and/or family. This will give you something to focus on and create the experience of re-grouping after spending time on separate tasks specially if working from home.

2. Spend time alone:

In addition of having separate routines, is the importance of setting aside time to be completely by yourself – connecting with friends and family online and participate in activities separated from your partner as much as possible.

These times spend doing things on your own makes coming together for meals/coffee/relaxation more rewarding as you had time apart engaging in something outside your isolation bubble.

3. Maintain open communication:

Being physically together, doesn’t mean you're spending that time talking and listening.

Uncertain times bring anxiety and sometimes frustration over the situation that you have no control over. To avoid the risk of projecting anxiety onto your partner, talk openly with each other about your own anxieties and be open to feedback.

For serious conversation – find a time and space where you are both relaxed and comfortable and able to talk uninterrupted.

For daily communication - In your schedule set aside a time each day to sit and talk. Write down different topics and put them in a box. Pic a topic from the box each day.

Play board or card games. Playing games encourage communication.

Do a daily gratitude diary at dinner time.

4. Keep date night:

All the times before, with work, home and social distractions, intimacy has taken a backseat, but now could be a great time to rediscover the passion you have for each other.

Have some make-believe fun by getting dressed up. Set the table for two for a romantic dinner with candles and music. Whether you are cooking or ordering a take-out, enjoy some special quiet time together.

Make a bed in front of the TV, pop some popcorn and watch a movie or just snuggle up and have an evening of chatting.


Children and Corona Virus

Posted on 6 May, 2020 at 21:25

Written by Jessica Parker (May 2020) Covid19 or Corona Virus have become common words that can be heard in all households over the last few months. Our worlds have been turned upside down by this global pandemic. And this can be particularly scary for children! It’s important to know that children experience complex feelings just like adults, however, young children usually don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how they are feeling. Imagine for a moment how worried or anxious you may have been feeling lately, now try and describe it without using any feeling words like scared, anxious or worried. Yup, this may be how your child is feeling, all mixed up and overwhelmed and this often leads to behaviour that we see as ‘playing up’ or ‘acting out’.

Here are 5 ways that you can help your child deal with these big emotions:


1. Bibliotherapy: Bibliotherapy which is also sometimes called “book therapy" is a fancy way of saying that we use storytelling or the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. This is such a wonderful tool as it gives children the opportunity to step back from her/his problem which allows them a safe avenue to investigate their feelings. There are so many wonderful books available for children and of course heaps of free books available online, all you need to do is google free stories for kids about x (feelings, anger, sadness or whatever you would like to focus on). Or my personal favourite is to look up ‘kids stories read aloud’ on youtube. You could even help your child come up with their own story, which can be a lot of fun drawing and putting together.

2. Get Active: Research shows that keeping physically active is critical to boosting mood. Boredom and pent up physical energy can quickly turn to frustration and meltdowns. Avoid this by making sure that regular physical activity is a part of your family's routine. 'Activity' can include anything from games of Simon Says to kids yoga. Again, YouTube has some fun follow along videos and websites such as Go Noodle which have plenty of exercises and activities to keep your little ones busy for ages.

3. Breathing: Breathing is one of the most useful tools we can teach our child. Teaching children to breathe provides them with a simple but effective strategy for slowing down, both mentally and physically, helping them to take notice of how they’re feeling and to relax or calm down in the face of overwhelming emotions. Deep breaths send oxygen to the brain, soothing the amygdala, a small area in the middle that acts as the brain’s alarm system. There are so many fun ways to teach relaxed breathing. Here is one called Elephant Breathing: Stand with your feet wide apart and your arms dangling in front of your body like an elephant’s trunk. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, raise your arms up high above your head. Then slowly swing your arms down again as you breathe out through your mouth.

4. Routine: Routine gives children a sense of security and helps them to feel like they have some control over their world. Maintaining this routine doesn't need to be super strict and should allow for flexibility, aim to keep things like bedtimes and bath times similar each day.

5. Play: Not only is play an important part of development, but it is also a natural stress reliever for children. You can help facilitate your child’s play by arranging safe places for play, providing some playthings that allow for creativity and imagination such as building blocks or play dough and join in when invited, following the child’s lead and resisting the urge to direct, criticise or turn play into a lesson. It is important to remember that while your child may be allowed some ‘screen time’ to play video games, this does not replace the active, creative and imaginative ‘playtime’.


The power of Forgiveness

Posted on 14 March, 2020 at 22:45

Written by Dirk Vermooten (March 2020)  In October 2006, after a long shift at the fire department, 20-year-old Matt Swatzell fell asleep while driving and crashed into June Fitzgerald, who was pregnant and had her 19-month old daughter, Faith with her in the car. Faith survived the crash, but June and her unborn child did not. It is hard to imagine how devastating this must have been for her husband. Still, we could probably put ourselves in his shoes and find it in your heart to forgive Matt – it was an accident after all. And, that is exactly how it played out. June’s husband did indeed forgive the person who killed his wife and child and continues to have contact with him many years later.

But, what if it if the wrong-doing was not an accident? According to the book:”Why Forgive?”, Steven McDonald was a young police officer in 1986 when he was shot by a teenager in New York’s Central Park, an incident that left him paralysed. “I forgave him because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart,” McDonald wrote.

If these people can forgive in the most horrific of circumstances, surely, we too can forgive those that have wronged us. But, let’s face it, it is not an easy process, and, in most cases, we have to forgive many times before it truly sets us free. You see, forgiveness (or unforgiveness if we choose it), has everything to do with the forgiver, and very little with the person that is being forgiven (or not).

In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, forgiveness can have powerful health benefits. Research shows that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction – all this to the benefit of the forgiver. In stark contrast, unforgiveness leads to high blood pressure, digestive problems, poor quality sleep, increased stress, chronic back pain, anxiety and depression.

So, forgiving is good for us. Yet, most of us find it to be quite a difficult process and we need lots of practice to get it right. According to Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one of the best ways is to practice forgiveness is with the REACH method. REACH stands for Recall, Emphasize, Altruistic gift, Commit, and Hold.

Recall - The first step is to recall the wrongdoing in an objective way. The goal is not to think of the person in a negative light nor to wallow in self-pity, but to come to a clear understanding of the wrong that was done. Visualize the person and situation and all the feelings that come with it. Don't push aside anything, especially if it makes you feel angry or upset.

Empathise - Next, try to understand the other person's point of view regarding why he or she hurt you, but without minimizing or downplaying the wrong that was done. Sometimes the wrongdoing was not personal, but due to something the other person was dealing with.

Altruistic gift - This step is about addressing your own shortcomings. Recall a time when you treated someone harshly and were forgiven. How did it make you feel? Recognizing this helps you realize that forgiveness is an altruistic gift that you can give to others.

Commit - Commit yourself to forgive. For instance, write about your forgiveness in a journal or a letter that you don't send or tell a friend.

Hold - Finally, hold on to your forgiveness. This step is tough because memories of the event will often recur. "Forgiveness is not erasure," says Dr. VanderWeele. "Rather, it's about changing your reaction to those memories." When the bad feelings arise, remind yourself that you have forgiven and that ultimately you are the one that suffers in body and spirit if unforgiveness creeps back.

It is like Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”


Youth Relationships

Posted on 4 March, 2020 at 23:05
Written by Colette Dekker (March 2020) Being young is not easy. Relationships with parents change and relationships with peers are getting more involved and we start feeling butterflies when a certain someone is close by or just looking at you. Knowing the characteristics of a healthy relationship can keep us safe from unhealthy relationships and help us build healthy relationships inside and outside of the family circle. So keep the following in mind: Mutual respect. each person values who the other is and understands the other persons boundaries. Trust. Both should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Honesty. Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship. Compromise. Each person does not always get his or her way. Each should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take. Individuality. No one should have to compromise who he/she is, and his/her identity should not be based on someone elses. Communication. Speaking honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. Remember that others cannot read your mind. Anger control. We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships with others. Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, walking away until calm or talking it out. Understanding. Taking time to understand what the other might be feeling. Being a role model. By exemplifying what respect means, we can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way. Healthy sexual relationship. When you engage in a sexual relationship, both parties need to be comfortable with it and neither should feel pressured or forced to engage in any sexual activity that is outside his or her comfort zone and NEVER without consent. NO ONE IS PERFECT. If you love someone, you should not expect her or him to be perfect. You need to accept his or her mistakes and if something needs working on, do it with love and patience.

Mindfulness: What is it and how to do it?

Posted on 16 January, 2020 at 22:15
Written by Kathleen McEvoy (January 2020) Mindfulness-based practices can be thought of as the melding of eastern and western philosophies into a scientifically proven method to improve our mental health and enhance our overall wellbeing. In fact, mindfulness-based practices are thought to rewire our brain to become calmer and less reactive to the stressors in our environment. Some research even suggests that regular mindfulness practice strengthens the part of our brain responsible for things like planning, problem solving, goal setting, relationship skills, and mood regulation. At its core, mindfulness techniques are about accessing your awareness and leveraging this part of you to accept your current experience. You can think of your awareness as the part of you that notices what you think, feel, touch, taste, hear and smell. It is the part of you that is aware of what you are thinking right now as you are reading this article. It is the part of you that is aware of how you are sitting or standing; whether you are hungry, full, or somewhere in between; interested, or bored; the taste of coffee in your mouth; and the smallest sound you can hear right now. You might like to think of your awareness as the sky. It is the part of you that is always present and unchanging. And while your awareness is like the sky, your thoughts and feelings are like the weather- changing moment to moment, and day to day. Its comforting to know that regardless of the weather, the sky is always and will always be there- just like your awareness. While the goal of mindfulness is acceptance of symptoms, unpleasant symptoms often decrease as a result of regular practice. You may ask yourself why on earth you would want to accept your symptoms? Well, once you can accept your experience, you can redirect your energies and take effective action towards creating a rich, full, and meaningful life. Consider the time, energy and effort you have spent battling with your symptoms, trying to force them away?.Now imagine if you were able to use all of that time, effort, and energy that energy into creating the life you wanted?. What might you be able to achieve? Here are some ways you can start to practice mindful awareness. Remember the goal is not to change, but to accept your experience so you can stop the struggle and redirect your energies into creating the life you want. 1. Using mindful awareness to observe your morning routine: Tomorrow morning try paying particularly close attention to each action you take to get ready for the day. a. Upon waking, you might focus your awareness on the sensation of your sheets, on your feet, or on the temperature of your bed. See if you can notice areas of your skin that feel warmer or cooler. b. While brushing your teeth, notice the colour and texture of your toothpaste, notice the smells in your nose, and the tastes in your mouth, see if you can notice the first part of your mouth where you experience the taste of the toothpaste and how the taste floods your mouth or changes as you continue to brush. See if you can notice how your toothbrush feels, the sensation of the bristles on your gums, and the pressure of the brush on your teeth. For extra points try brushing with your opposite hand for a few days- this is a sure way to focus your awareness. If you choose to try this, pay particular attention to the uncomfortable sensations, or thoughts you might have, and see if you an continue to brush with your opposite hand regardless of what your mind may be telling you about the experience (maybe "this is a waste of time"), or the mild discomfort (frustration) in your body. 2. Using mindful awareness to observe your thoughts: Practice noticing what your mind is telling you. See if you can identify your minds favourite thoughts- these are the ones that tend to play in the background throughout our day- like a song stuck on repeat. Often with anxiety, these thoughts will be related to things that may happen I the future; for example, "What if my spouse leaves me? What if I get sick? Or what if I lose my job? When you notice one of your minds favourite thoughts say to yourself "I'm having a thought that (whatever the thought is), or trying to thank you mind by saying "thank you mind for trying to help me". Then refocus your awareness on whatever you are doing at that moment. 3. Using mindful awareness to describe feeling or sensations: Practice observing and describing the sensations in your body as if you were a curious scientist who has never experienced that sensation before. Where is the sensation in your body? How would you describe the sensation; aching, stinging, tight, fluttery? Does it move or stay in the same place? If it had a temperature what would it be? What about weight; would it be light, heavy, or somewhere in between? What colour might you assign it? If you would like to give mindfulness a try in a structured class why don't you register for our weekly Mindfulness Class by clicking here. Places are limited so Register now!

How to develop a positive mindset

Posted on 10 January, 2020 at 17:05
Written by Dirk Vermooten (January 2020) The latest research shows that a positive mindset is a better predictor of success than IQ, school grades, or almost any other factor you can think of. In contrast, negative people get sick more often, are divorced more frequently and raise kids who get in more trouble! Unfortunately, our minds are 5 times more likely to jump to a negative thought than a positive one. So, does that mean we are victims of never-ending negativity? Not at all! You see, free choice always wins, and we can choose to be positive anytime we want. One way of developing a positive mindset is through changing your thoughts. You have probably heard numerous people say: "Just be positive!" and you had to fight back the urge to slap them because if it was that easy you would have done it already. Well you're right, changing your thoughts and developing a positive mindset requires a CONSTANT, CONSCIOUS EFFORT. Here is the steps you need to take in order to change your thinking: Step 1 - Catch your negative thought when it pops into your head, like "I am not good enough" Step 2 - Immediately beat it back with by repeating the opposite positive affirmation 3 times. In this example: "I AM good enough, I AM good enough, I AM good enough". If you do this consistently with every negative thought you have, you will soon teach your mind not to default to negativity and develop a positive mindset in the process.