LA Therapists Tell Us the Most Common Problems Angelenos Have
In LA, saving your therapist's number under your iPhone "Favorites" is like having your lawyer or agent on speed dial: a total necessity. While it might have near-perfect weather 364 days of the year, this city is packed with routine stresses like standstill morning commutes, constant professional rejection, and the realization that you're probably more like a 6/10 on the hotness scale out here.
All of these daily struggles can trigger feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, and debilitating pressure. California employs more psychologists than any other state in the country (though New York isn't far behind), and since LA itself has no shortage of therapists, we spoke to a few who gave us the lowdown on what Angelenos struggle with most.
Note: It's important to mention that the therapists quoted deal specifically with middle- to upper-middle-class clients in Los Angeles. Factors like neighborhood, income, race, family situations, etc. are all life factors, and differ across the city.
"There is tremendous pressure, and people often struggle with not measuring up."
We strive for perfectionWhether it's your appearance, assets, or profession, Angelenos are surrounded by an entire city of critics judging them, particularly if you're in the entertainment or creative industry. "I see a lot of creatives and professionals who feel stuck. They may still have the voice of a narcissistic or self-centered parent in their head, telling them that they will never be good enough, which causes them to have so much self-doubt even in the face of so much evidence showing that they are capable, likable, and smart," says Dr. Shirley Pakdaman, a clinical psychologist in LA who focuses her practice on older teens and adults struggling with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and/or relationship issues. If there were ever an LA handbook, "being comfortable with rejection" would arguably be rule #1 -- but that can take a toll on a lot of people. "This shows up in wanting to look perfect, write the perfect piece of work, or make perfect art (as you can guess, this makes it really hard to get started on writing or art!)," says Dr. Pakdaman.
Being geographically undesirable is a real thing here...Newsflash: Dating in LA isn't easy. Angelenos don't have the same luxury as other metropolitan areas like New York, where casual sidewalk encounters are common, which can make it difficult to develop meaningful friendships and relationships. Dr. Karen Stewart, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexual dysfunction and couples, says, "A lot of my patients discuss how difficult it is to date and make friendships in this sprawling city. 'Geographically undesirable' is a great term for the resistance many people have to dating someone that is outside their neighborhood; dating is hard enough, and when you are trying to make time for someone and have to add in the amount of traffic, what freeways to take to see your partner, [it] adds stress to any relationship." For instance, if you live in Silver Lake and your new Bumble date lives in Marina del Rey, that's considered a long-distance relationship in this town, and would require some serious dedication.
… as are the fame-sucking parasites we dateOther common patient concerns include finding genuine companions who aren't social climbers going after their partners' fame or pockets. Dr. Liana Georgoulis, a licensed clinical psychologist at Coast Psychological Services in Larchmont, has also practiced in more suburban communities like South Bay and Newport Beach and believes, "A lot of people who are drawn to wealth and fame live in Los Angeles, which can create a larger community of people who are entitled, selfish, and narcissistic… LA, because it can be so individualistic and also so spread out, can create more distance between people, which may depersonalize the human experience and lead people to get away with behaviors such as treating people poorly because there is less accountability."
The political climate is taking a toll on usThis year's election has been one of the most controversial in history, leaving people feeling uneasy and fearful for their future. "Because of the current political climate, people are more vocal about fears of discrimination, and issues of social justice, class, and privilege. It's really interesting to have these conversations and see what actions come out of them after," says Dr. Pakdaman.
"People... are willing to put up with a lot of misbehavior to get a foot in the door."
LA is the city of (broken) dreamsStarry-eyed actors, models, and [insert any creative professional] from all over the world are drawn to LA with big dreams and hopes that their work will manifest in some way. Of course, the reality is that not everyone gets their "big break" in Hollywood, and some people spend decades (if not a whole lifetime) trying to achieve their goals, only to be caught in a perpetual cycle of rejection. Dr. Georgoulis says, "There is an individualism, a fierce independence, and dreams of making it big out here that have permeated our culture since the 1800s. There is tremendous pressure, and people often struggle with not measuring up... People, especially in the entertainment fields, have to regularly deal with so much rejection that it can be hard to tolerate at times."
We're constantly competing with people "better" than usWhether it comes to dating or the entertainment industry, there is a plethora of beautiful, talented people in this city, so we often feel disposable. "This is such a competitive town, and there are so many people in one place who are talented, attractive, wealthy, and creative. It's easy for people to feel like they can be replaced at any moment, whether at work, in a relationship, or dealing with friendships. There are also many temptations people have to deal with in a city like Los Angeles, and I see a large percentage of the population struggling with not giving into excessive drinking, partying, and spending money," says Dr. Georgoulis.
Degrading ourselves is par for the courseThe combination of a young, hungry actor/actress living in a highly competitive city can lead to a perfect storm of unethical behavior when the right opportunity knocks. Richard Hupp, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Woodland Hills, states, "Due to the short-term nature of many of the entertainment-based jobs, some clients struggle with on-the-job abuse and how much they have to tolerate because there is an abundance of talent. There are individuals who have the power to hire and fire, make or break careers, and people who are willing to put up with a lot of misbehavior to get a foot in the door."
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