Marilyn Riesz, MA, RP - Registered Psychotherapist

Specializing in the treatment of eating disorders


When people have difficulty coping with stressful situations, they may turn to various substances, both legal and illegal, to help them cope. Over time, people may abuse or become dependent on alcohol, over-the-counter medications such as pain killers or sleeping pills, prescription medications, or other drugs. If any of the following applies to your situation, you may want to seek professional help.

  • You think you may use drugs or medications too much
  • Others think you may use drugs or medications too much
  • Responsibilities at home, work, or school are not fulfilled as a result of drug use (e.g., missing work or school, neglecting children)
  • Drug use has led to problems, arguments, or fights with family or friends, including spending less time with them
  • Over time, you have developed a tolerance to the drug, so that more of the drug is needed to have the same effect as it once did
  • Irritability, depressed or anxious mood, increased or decreased sleep, and/or increased appetite when quitting or cutting down on the drug or medication



We all feel anxious or panic on occasion. It is part of who we are. A vicious cycle begins, though, when these feelings interfere with our daily lives—work, relationships, friendships, and sense of self—and we can end up feeling anxious about being in an anxious situation! If you find that at least three of the following points apply to your situation, you may want to seek professional assistance.

  • excessive worry or anxiety about activities, such as those related to work or school
  • difficulty controlling the worry or anxiety
  • problems concentrating or sleeping
  • irritability
  • physical tension or muscle aches
  • panic attacks
    • a panic attack refers to a contained period of time during which you may feel trembling, shaking, sweating, heart racing, difficulty breating, pain or pressure in your chest, and/or dizziness.



Just as occasionally feeling anxious or panicky is part of the human experience, so is feeling sad. We all feel sad or down from time to time. Depression is different from being sad, though. Depression can impact our lives in a number of ways including

  • not enjoying things you used to enjoy (e.g., eating, hobbies, sex, socializing)
  • significant weight gain or loss (unrelated to dieting)
  • significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • sleeping much more or less than usual
  • excessive fatigue or loss of energy
  • frequently feeling guilty or worthless
  • significant difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • recurrent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
  • sense of hopelessness

If you find that at least three of the above points apply to you, you might benefit from professional assistance.


Obsessions and Compulsions

Obsessions are thoughts that are recurrent, persistent, and intrusive. Someone who has obsessive thoughts at some point recognizes that these obsessions are inappropriate and/or exaggerated, and that they are not related to real-life problems. Obsessions tend to interfere with daily functioning (e.g, work, relationships) as do the responses to obsessions: compulsions.

Compulsions are behaviours that we engage in as a response to obsessions and that are intended to reduce the distress caused by the obsessions. However, these behaviours either are inappropriate or excessive, and they significantly interfere with a person's general activities. Like obsessions, at some point a person who engages in compulsive behaviours recognizes that the compulsions either are inappropriate and/or exaggerated.



Phobias are intense and persistent fears brought about by situations or objects. Unlike common, everyday fear, phobias generally are recognized as excessive or unrealistic, tend to provoke a sense of anxiety (or panic attacks), and attempts are made to avoid the feared situation or object. The fear or subsequent avoidance could interfere with relationships or work or school responsibilities. There are several types of phobias including

Social phobias
These are characterized by strong fears of social situations or situations where some level of performance is expected. Social phobias generally relate to a fear of embarrassment, being judged, or humiliated and could arise in situations such as when attending parties or business meetings, or when eating in public. Fear of public speaking is a common example of a social phobia.
Agoraphobia is related to social phobias in that they both relate to situations. In the case of agoraphobia, a person typically fears being in situations that will be difficult to escape. These situations may include being in a crowded location (e.g., mall, stadium, bus) or being alone and away from the home. Being in these situations could bring about feelings of anxiety or panic.
Like agoraphobia, claustrophobia refers to a persistent and intense fear of being in a situation that would be intensely uncomfortable or difficult to escape. However, whereas agoraphobia refers to open, public, and/or crowded places, claustrophobia refers to small, enclosed (possibly windowless) spaces.
Specific phobia
People may have phobias to any number of specific objects or situations. Examples of these include fear of heights, fear of blood or injections, or fear of animals. Like all phobias, someone with a specific phobia will do things that may interfere with daily functioning in order to avoid the fear-provoking situation or object.