Dr. Michael Oberschneider had the pleasure of speaking on the topic of emotional and social wellness for teens at Fusion Academy (Loudoun Campus) this past week.  To learn more about this great new school in Loudoun, we invite you to call them at:  (571) 252-7007

Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services


(703) 723-2999

Published in Blue Ridge Leader and Loudoun Today September 2017

Dr. Mike,
I commute to DC for work from Leesburg, and I spend over an hour in the car every day – each way. I leave very early and really don’t mind the drive, but rude drivers stress me out. For my DC exit, cars illegally pass me on the shoulder up the ramp while I more slowly wait my turn to exit correctly from my lane. On the way home, cars illegally fly by me on the left while I stay in my lane on the right and then those same cars sneak into my lane at the very end to exit faster. My blood pressure goes through the roof with these jerks, and while I know I shouldn’t let them get to me, they do. I’ve started putting the nose of my car out to block them, but this doesn’t make me any less angry. Your thoughts? – Angry Driver in Loudoun

Dear Angry Driver,
This summer, a driver in Washington State became so upset by cars passing her illegally on the shoulder that she finally decided to take matters into her own hands by intentionally ramming her Subaru into a Jeep three times.

While I fully appreciate that woman’s upset, ramming cars in retaliation or blocking them from passing are not good solutions. There are only three options to the problem: remove yourself from the situation, change the situation or accept it. Acceptance is probably the best of these options since you can’t get out of your lane during your morning or evening commute and you can’t change or control the behaviors of other drivers.

Mindfulness is a very effective way to achieve a state of acceptance during stressful situations. Mindfulness is the concept of being 100 percent present in the moment while accepting all aspects of what that moment is or what it brings – without criticism, blame or judgement.

Here are a few things to consider: be more consciously aware of what you see, hear and feel as a driver. When you sit in the car, feel your body fully in the seat, your hands fully on the steering wheel, and your feet firmly on the pedals. When you look through the windshield or out your windows, take in everything you see.

Don’t turn on the radio or allow yourself to be distracted by any other form of technology. Instead, allow yourself to embrace the natural sounds of your drive and enjoy the silence and attendant calm that comes with it.

As you practice these things, you will notice yourself experiencing greater awareness and focus, which should in turn have a positive impact on your mood and driving experience.

When you come upon those two upsetting moments of your commute, notice your thoughts and feelings, but don’t try to control them. Take deep breaths – inhaling in through your nose fully and then out through your mouth fully – to help you to remain calm and present. I also invite you to respond to drivers passing you aggressively on the shoulder with compassion and forgiveness. Perhaps you can even wish them well in your mind or even verbalize positive statements to them as they whizz by you.

Certainly, it will take time to retrain your thoughts and the ways in which you process annoying or upsetting moments more successfully with mindfulness strategies.

Lastly, I also recommend listening to, “Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving,” by Michele McDonald, to better help you to manage your anger behind the wheel.

Dr. Mike,
My wife is seriously addicted to the cell phone game Candy Crush. She plays it all the time, and it’s gotten so bad that it’s interfering with all aspects of her life. She’s also spent a lot of money on the game and can’t seem to level up on the game fast enough before she needs to spend and play more. Help! – Concerned in Loudoun

Dear Concerned,
Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders did not include a classification for Internet Gaming Disorder in its most recent edition in 2013, there is no denying that video game overuse has become a very real problem for many.

Candy Crush, like so many other smart-phone-based games, is fun, but it’s also cleverly designed to keep you coming back for more via a variable ratio reinforcement schedule where you lose a lot but win just enough to want to play more; this is the same tactic casinos use with slot machines. Throw in the engaging sounds and the colorful visuals and the leveling up goals, and what started out as something fun can become an out of control compulsion.

Research has also shown that incessant gaming – as well as well as other technology use also involves and alters dopamine levels in your brain.

Thus, too much Candy Crush may actually lead to problematic behaviors and symptoms that are consistent with substance use disorders or other addictions and dopamine appears to be the main culprit.  It appears that dopamine, a natural brain chemical that provides pleasure when we drink or use drugs, is also released in our brains when we use our smartphones.  Yes, Candy Crush use can be thought of then as a form of self-medicating where players can enter a vicious dopamine loop of constant seeking and receiving of dopamine (i.e. pleasure) when engaged in the game.

I think you should sit down with your wife to express your concerns again. If she dismisses you, be prepared to give her specific examples to better elucidate your concerns. You and your wife should come up with a game plan that will help her to gain control over her problem.

You could both agree that she delete the App and go cold turkey. Or, you could attempt a more nuanced step-wise approach to change where she plays at only certain times of day and in certain settings. If your efforts fail, I recommend seeking the help of a mental health professional.

Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice. He has been featured on CNN Nightly News, Good Morning America and several other media outlets. He can be reached at 703-723-2999 and is located at 444095 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 240, Ashburn.

5 Tips to Making This Year’s Thanksgiving a More Thankful Experience

 Special to the Loudouner Magazine, Fall Edition 2016

Thanksgiving is a time for family and close friends to come together with gratitude.  It can also be a time for self-reflection and remembrance; and, many of us have fond childhood memories of Thanksgiving where there was always a packed table of joyful and loving family members and an abundance of delicious food.

While as a child, the Thanksgiving gathering and feast can seem so rich, cozy and even wondrous, not everyone holds dear the image of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” painting when thinking about Thanksgiving.  In fact, the holiday season can be a difficult time for a lot of folks, especially those who have experienced, or are experiencing, painful hardships — divorce, an alcoholic or emotionally unstable parent, loss, financial difficulties, etc.  Here are 5 tips to help you make this year’s Thanksgiving a more thankful experience:

 Create a thankful state of mind.  Abraham Lincoln once said that you are only as happy as you make up your mind to be, and there is plenty of research to support Abe’s position that there is real power to positive thinking.  So, in preparing for your Thanksgiving, think about how you would like the experience to go.  Perhaps you could visualize yourself in relation to others and practice mentally before entering the situation.  If there’s a family member that you don’t care for very much, for example, imagine how you plan to be around that individual.

Don’t over do it.  Temptation is usually around every corner at most Thanksgiving gatherings, but you don’t need to over indulge to have a good time.  Make this year’s Thanksgiving meal a practice in moderation and mindfulness.  If you drink alcohol, you can enjoy some wine with your meal, but you don’t need to have 5 glasses!  You also don’t need to fill and refill your plate until you are stuffed.  Rather, listen to your body when eating and drinking, and it will tell you when it is satisfied and nourished.  Not giving into your temptations isn’t an easy thing to do, but it can be beneficial.  So, before reaching for that second or third piece of pumpkin pie or more alcohol, stop and try to become aware of your feelings; what’s the emotional part of you in that moment that wants to over consume and what can you do instead to take care of yourself.

Stay away from drama and potentially upsetting topics.  The Thanksgiving gathering is not a good time to make painful announcements (e.g., that you lost your job or that your are getting a divorce) since your problems would likely only burden your loved ones during a festive time.  They also say that politics, religion and money are the top three topics to stay away from during social gatherings, and Thanksgiving isn’t an exception.  From Trump and Clinton, to transgender bathrooms, terrorism, police shootings and Black Lives Matters, there’s no dearth of hot topics to debate these days.  But keep in mind though that not everyone in life (or even in your family) will share your particular opinions or views on sensitive topics.  Discussing sensitive topics with others at gatherings could offend or upset, so stay way from making things unpleasant.  Instead of debating controversial topics, show an interest in others and listen.  If your 8-year-old nephew is into Pokémon, talk about Pokémon.  If your sister just moved, talk about her new house.  If someone at the table just got a promotion, talk about that. The Dalai Lama once said, “When you talk, you are repeating what you already know.  But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

Try on a new tradition.  In addition to being a time of self-reflection and remembrance, Thanksgiving can also be a time for renewal — in our bonds with others and within ourselves personally.  So, perhaps you could come up with some new ideas or traditions for your family and yourself this Thanksgiving.  Running a 5K, breaking the turkey’s wishbone, watching the New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, volunteering, enjoying arts and crafts with the children, or watching a classic holiday movie (e.g., A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving).

Turn off your cell phone and your devices.  It’s one thing to watch the New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together as a family, but it’s rude to be look at your phone when celebrating.  There will be plenty of time later to check out Facebook or CNN or Fox, so put your device down and stay in the moment and connect with the folks your with.

This Thanksgiving is yours to experience however you choose, and while you can’t control others, you do have control over how you manage your feelings and yourself.  If your Thanksgivings from childhood were bad, know that you’re no longer that child in that house anymore, and you don’t have to repeat old patterns now as an adult.  And if you’re being challenged by a serious problem at present, then try to be thankful for all that you do have and give yourself permission to have an enjoyable and positive Thanksgiving.



Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. and Joseph DiPietro, Esq. have come together for quarterly divorce seminars in Loudoun County to help individuals navigate the legal and emotional hurtles of divorce. With their guidance, you are sure to begin down the right road to a bright future.

The next seminar will be held Saturday, September 17, 2016, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Gum Spring Library in Stone Ridge, VA. Please use the link below to schedule and sign up!

Hope to see you there!



Congratulations to Dr. Michael Oberschneider on his newly released children’s book! Fun read and great message for children…and parents!  Turn off your technology, engage and get outside!!