Anger Management Exercises: Find the Path to Peace

Is anger putting a strain on your relationships, damaging any self-respect you have left, and taking a toll on your peace? This article will present some sound anger management exercises to help you manage your anger and finally walk in the joy of self-control.

Acquire a Box of Tools and Use Them

Taking a time-out

A good number of individuals with extreme anger issues say that their rage usually surges from of 0 to 60 in a matter of mere seconds.

When their anger is at its peak, rational thinking just doesn’t happen. Because of that, taking a time-out is usually the best remedy so that foolish and irrational behavior doesn’t happen and destructive, cruel words are not uttered.

If you find yourself riled up and anger is swelling, these activities can help you settle down during your time-out:

  • Don’t speak until you think. Often times, it is not so much what it is that you actually say, it is the manner in which you say it. When you take time to consider your response to the matter that has angered you, it is helpful to also think whether it would be pleasing to God, conducive to your relationship and if it is respectful. Writing your response down is very helpful so you can take it at face value and so you don’t change it around in your own head.
  • Explore possible solutions. No matter what situation you are in, brainstorming possible solutions can help you see the situation more clearly. Ask for God’s help in having thoughts that are not confined to your own box and those that are in your comfort zone.
  • Keep notes. It is a good idea to employ the use of a worksheet that tracks your emotional incidents and pinpoint within your writing such things as your thoughts, emotions, needs, desires, errors, and any useful strategies you might use to overcome. Chart the progress you make too. It will encourage you to see how far you have come.
  • Taking a walk works wonders. You might be surprised how much it can help. No matter if it’s a walk down the street, through the woods, or up a mountain, it gets you out and away from where you are and can greatly promote problem-solving deep thinking. Aerobic activities have been proven to release endorphins which enhance your mood so that is another plus.
  • Try listening to music that is soothing such as instrumental tunes or Christ-focused music. Lie down or sit comfortably so the tunes can calm your mind. Fix your thoughts upon Jesus and see how your mood changes.
  • Take a shower or a bath. Just the sensory experience has the ability to soothe you and to relieve stress. It also gives you some time and space to think of positive ways to make wise choices you can make.

Recognize early stage warning signs

In order to be able to implement a time-out and to use tools to help you successfully and constructively deal with your anger issue, you will need to become aware of the mental, personal, and biological signals you put off. If you don’t know the warning signs that take place before a melt-down, you will not have time to employ the use of your tools.

Pay very close attention to all the things you note about your thoughts and feelings prior to your melt-down stage, be sure to record those things so you can take preventive action in future cases.

Below are some indicators that are common to those who have issues with anger:

  • Teeth grinding and jaw clenching
  • Shaking
  • Clenched fists
  • Feeling hot and sweating
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Red face
  • Heavy breathing
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Pacing
  • Blank mind
  • Hurling insults
  • Obsessions concerning the problem at hand
  • Feel like breaking, hitting, or throwing, or breaking things

Engaging in physical activity

Taking part in a physical activity distracts your brain from the problem at hand and also discharges energy and diminishes the stress hormones which are produced when anger is present. It also helps release negative emotions. Riding a bike, jogging, building something, working out, playing sports, and hiking are examples of things you might consider doing.

Use distraction methods

When you find something that you can do in order to distract your mind from what it is you are angry over, your autonomic nervous part in your body will have the opportunity to recover. You can cook, talk to a friend, work in the garden, go see a movie, or take work on a hobby. What you chose to do really doesn’t matter as long as it is able to redirect your thoughts.

Practice relaxation techniques

Many Christ-centered counselors suggest the popular methods below to help their clients relax:

  • Breathing deep. One exercise that is considered to be very effective is to take in slow breaths through your nostrils while counting slowly to five, then to exhale through your mouth while counting to seven, then once again repeating over again and over again, until you find yourself relaxed. You should focus on your breathing which will help distract your thoughts from your anger.
  • Progressive relaxation. The technique of progressively relaxing involves the slow and systematic tensing then releasing of areas of your body however long it takes until you are fully relaxed.
  • Stretching and yoga. Yoga is known to relax your mind and body as is stretching. You are sure to find a myriad of resources available for learning both if you look online.
  • Thought-stopping and imagery. Commonly referred to as going to your solace or happy place, this tool can be implemented to help you take your thoughts captive as the Bible tells us to do. Picture being in your favorite spot. Think of pleasant situations. Eliminate the scrambled, negative thoughts in your head and relax your body and your mind.

Journal

Putting your feelings and thoughts down on paper is very therapeutic. It helps put things into perspective. Those who have problems with rage often see things out of proportion. Writing in a journal can offer the chance to physiologically calm down a notch and to steer stray and negative thoughts into a more constructive and positive direction.

You might try what is called a three-pronged journaling approach. The first step is to acknowledge your angry feelings by venting. Try to get in touch with the emotions that are associated with your anger like fear and hurt.

Next, begin to look to God for answers. The more you meditate and note the promises God has given you, the more your notes will reflect positive solutions and hope. Then, practice gratefulness by listing all the good things in your life. In other words, count your blessings. Look back on your past writings as you continue writing new entries. You will find it is life changing.

Getting to the Cause of the Anger Within

When your anger begins to rear its ugly head, use the tools in your toolbox. It is imperative to find out where your anger is stemming from and why it tends to become unmanageable. Soul searching will help immensely.

Make a fearless and searching inventory

By taking a fearless inventory of your morals, you are able to take a really good, honest look inside yourself. You can see where your intents are good and when they are not so good. It is easy to be fooled but when you get down to business you won’t be able to deny the truth.

Then you can let God clean house and get rid of the things in your life that do not belong there like resentments and pride. He will replace them with such things as love, joy, peace, and happiness. Forgiveness will often need to be sought after taking such an inventory.

Practice listening effectively

Individuals who have short fuses and who are chronically angry often fall into a habit of supporting their angry thoughts and feelings by hearing what they want to hear when listening to what others are saying, rather than really hearing what it is the other person is actually saying. Here are some listening skills that can help:

  • Practice empathy. Try to picture yourself in the shoes of the other individual so you can begin to imagine how they feel.
  • Intently and intentionally listen for important information so you can stop filtering out things, consciously or subconsciously. This will keep you from jumping to conclusions.
  • Check to see if you have a real perspective of what the other person is saying. Try to understand their viewpoint, even when you disagree.

Look for the humor

Have you ever thought about lightening up a bit when you are angry? Anger usually involves a lot of overreacting. You tend to look and act ridiculous. Why not find the humor and just crack up laughing rather than exploding in anger?

Learn to be assertive

A lot of people become angry because of passiveness. They never seem to let others know what they really think and feel or what they really want and need. When you learn to express such things, you will begin to feel freer and less angry. Setting some healthy boundaries and keeping them is a good assertive practice too. Why not try it?

Practicing good self-care

When you aren’t taking proper care of yourself and your own needs, it’s easy to fall victim to anger issues. It is imperative to pay attention to these areas to keep your anger from getting out of control:

  • Eat right
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Be social and nurture relationships
  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Relax and rest
  • Do things you enjoy
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep your relationship with God active and alive

Live your life agreeably

In times that we act or think in wrong ways, an inner turmoil is bound to follow. Anger management that really works takes work. It requires self-assessment on a regular basis and also requires that you line your values and actions up.

Seeking the help of God & standing on His Holy Word

Lack of control over your anger is often a very stubborn problem. Those who struggle may say that the tools received in therapy are not effective. They long for a cure-all pill instead – an easier, softer way of dealing with it. What we all are in desperate need of is the Holy Spirit’s power.

The tools detailed above cannot be effective if you don’t initiate and practice them. Asking for help from The Great Physician is necessary for experiencing true victory. Just ask Jesus to reveal the root of your anger and lead you in the path of righteousness and deliverance. Be sure to read the Bible with an open heart and cling to God’s word.

There are many times that living in this fallen world will present opportunities to become angry. Did you know that anger is actually an emotion God gave us that signifies something is not right? What we are angry about may have a legitimate cause, in which case, God instructs us not to sin though we are angry (Ephesians 4:26). On the other hand, our perception may be off, in which case we are to “put aside…anger” (Colossians 3:8).

If you find that anger is causing problems in your life, reach out to a Christian counselor who can give you the support and help you need to learn and make use of the tools above.

Photos:
“Angry Man”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Angry Enough to Kill”, Courtesy of WenPHotos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Write in Journal,” Courtesy of Walt Stoneburner, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2,0); “Hide My Face”, Courtesy of MMckein, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Do We Need a Communication Coach? How a Couples Counselor Can Help

Your nonverbal communication says more than the words coming out of your mouth. Your facial expression, the look in your eye, the tone of your voice, and your body language speak volumes.

When someone else is talking to you, their nonverbal communication is talking as well. As your mind processes what they’re saying, and what they’re not saying, you’re also thinking about how you’re going to respond!

It’s not surprising that we have trouble communicating with each other. When you hit a snag in an important relationship, a professional communication coach can help you untangle it.

Case Study: Jenna and Austin

Jenna and Austin have been married for five years and have two young children. They’ve agreed that Austin will be the breadwinner and Jenna will stay home with the kids.

Today, Jenna’s had a hard day. The kids have been difficult, the check engine light came on, she spilled coffee everywhere, and her mom called and gave her some “constructive” criticism that just ended up discouraging her.

When Austin comes home from work at 6 p.m., Jenna is trying to finish dinner while the kids whine and argue. The first words out of his mouth are, “You forgot to close the garage door last night.”

Can you predict what Jenna’s response might be? If you empathize with her feelings of being overwhelmed, you know she’ll be tempted to snap at her husband.

Austin could have prevented this scenario by assessing the situation for a minute when he came in. Instead, he was focused on something his wife did wrong, and he chose to confront her immediately.

This is a perfect example of the futility of communicating with someone who is distracted, anxious, stressed, or angry. Your chances of getting your point across in a helpful way drop significantly.

What does this mean? Should we never communicate unless everything is perfect? Not at all, but we should use wisdom to know what to say, how to say it, and when is a good time to speak.

A communication coach can offer effective communication tools that will provide practical help so you can speak lovingly and effectively.

The Benefits of a Communication Coach

Meeting with a communication coach is a great way to learn practical tools for communicating more effectively with your spouse or partner.

Here are a few examples of tools you might learn from a communication coach:

Take a minute

Just like in the example with Austin and Jenna, many arguments can be prevented if the person about to initiate conversation does three things:

1. Pause.
2. Assess the situation.
3. Make a reasoned decision about whether to speak at that moment.

If you’re feeling upset when you start a conversation, an argument will most likely follow, and effective communication won’t happen. The first thing to assess isn’t the topic you want to address, but how you’re feeling right now. Are you anxious? Is your stomach in knots? Are you angry? Is your heart racing?

What is your goal? Do you want to shame or hurt the other person? How will your words affect them? Are you trying to get your point across regardless of their feelings?

Are you trying to start an argument? Even if you aren’t trying to start an argument, have you had a lot of conflicts with this person lately?

Ask permission

The simple question, “Is this a good time to talk about x?” can prevent many, many arguments! If you ask permission, you’re honoring the other person from the get-go. You’re acknowledging that they have individual freedom, emotions, and their own stressors to manage. You’re giving them an opportunity to defer the discussion until a better time.

Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re putting the conversation off, not avoiding it altogether. If your spouse initiates a conversation about an issue, and you feel like they’re attacking you based on past conversations, let them know your concern.

If they tell you it isn’t an attack, give them the benefit of the doubt, but you have the freedom to end the conversation if they do start to attack you. Tell them you will continue the conversation only if they can agree to mutual respect.

Set ground rules

Arguments devolve quickly when the people involved fight unfairly. And when we are upset, that’s what we’re prone to do—act irrationally and emotionally. Anger and anxiety lower our capacity for logical thinking and relational bonding. We end up acting out of frustration instead of wisdom or love.

That’s why before you go into any discussion that might devolve into an argument, it’s best to have previously agreed-upon ground rules, such as:

  • Staying on topic: If the topic of conversation is corrective, meaning one person wants to discuss the other person’s shortcoming in some area, you have to stay on that one topic.

When someone confronts you about something, it’s very tempting to turn it around on them and point out one of their failures. Or, if you’re the person doing the confronting, you might be tempted to bring up other examples to “make your case,” but this just ends up coming across like an attack.

Instead of turning a constructive criticism into a long list of disappointments and failures, address one issue at a time and focus on resolving that.

  • Framing: If you think your conversation is going to be sensitive, try to prepare for it. Ask the other person when would be a good time to talk about a sensitive subject. If they don’t want to talk now, ask if they could talk in 20 or 30 minutes.

Some people, especially those with avoidant conflict styles, dread having a difficult conversation, but it’s important to have them anyway. If you’re afraid of how the other person will respond when you start the discussion, you can use framing to share your fears. “I need to talk to you about this, but I’m afraid you’re going to get angry or stonewall me.”

Framing gives the other person an opportunity to prepare themselves for what you’re going to say. Hopefully, they will be able to respond maturely and the conversation will have a better chance of not devolving into an argument.

  • Meta-conversations: Or, talking about talking. “When you said x, what I made up about it was y, and I felt z.” For example, “When you said you forgot to do that errand, what I made up about it is that you don’t care about my simplest requests, and I felt disappointed.”

You can even have a meta-conversation in the midst of a discussion. If you’re feeling hurt by how it’s going, use the template above to clarify what happened. If they won’t respond in a helpful way, it may be time to take a break from the discussion.

  • Avoid taking too much responsibility: We are each responsible for own emotions. Nobody can “make” us feel the way we do. Saying, “You made me angry” is not a valid accusation. Also, it’s normal to feel hurt, upset, or another negative emotion when someone gives us constructive criticism.

Sometimes we have an even more visceral reaction to any form of criticism. We might feel a deep sense of shame and woundedness arising from childhood hurt, and tempting us to lash out at the other person.

If we each stay on our emotional side of the street, we can resolve conflict and address issues without taking responsibility for each other. We are responsible for each other, but we can’t control the other person’s feelings or behavior.

Of course, we all influence each other, and when you love someone, it’s natural to want to improve their emotional situation or make them feel better. You can do your best to create a relational environment for happiness, but you can’t control the outcome, and you shouldn’t take the blame if they’re still not happy.

Picture this: you buy your child an expensive birthday gift. Think about the anticipation you feel before they open it. But, when they open it, they get upset because it’s not what they wanted.

Imagine your feeling of disappointment. Then, remember that it’s okay if your child feels differently than you do. If you choose to lash out in anger because your child seems ungrateful, even if they are legitimately being rude, it means that in some measure you were “owning” their reaction. You felt you deserved for them to react in a certain way.

It’s normal to be disappointed or hurt by other people’s words and actions. But lashing out in anger because we feel rejected is unhealthy. It means you allow your sense of self to be impacted by how other people respond to you.

As a parent, it’s easy to repeat emotional narratives from our childhoods, whether they’re good or bad. A licensed mental health professional can help you process those narratives so you can respond out of freedom instead of old patterns.

  • Body awareness: This might be a surprising ground rule for conflict, but physical sensations are closely tied to emotional situations. Our body has built-in defense mechanisms that help us survive intense or traumatic situations, but we’re not meant to live our everyday lives in a state of heightened alert.

Shutting down from your feelings isn’t healthy, either. It might seem like you’re protecting yourself when you do this, but you’re actually cutting yourself off from intimacy and healthy relationships with people you love.

So, when you find yourself having a difficult discussion with someone, check in with your body every so often. How do you feel? Is your chest tight? Is your stomach in knots? Do you feel shaky? Is your heart beating faster?

These physical signals are anxiety indicators. If your anxiety is rising, pause the conversation, tell the other person that you’re feeling too anxious to keep talking right now, and take a few minutes to calm down.

Deep breathing by counting to three as you inhale and exhale can help settle down your parasympathetic nervous system. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, pursing your lips like you’re blowing out a candle.

Like anger, anxiety can cause a conversation to go instantly downhill. If, instead of feeling anxious, you find yourself mentally checking out of (or dissociating from) your surroundings, center yourself back in reality. Touch a couch cushion, pick something up and notice its texture, or do whatever it takes to root yourself in the current moment.

  • Anyone can push pause: If someone is getting more and more upset, or starting to raise their voice, or sobbing, it’s time to take a break. Certainly, if someone is being verbally abusive, you have to stop talking. If someone has checked out and isn’t listening, stop trying to talk to them.

When you decide to take a break, use an “I” statement to identify why you’re stopping. “I feel like you’re not listening,” or “I feel hurt by what you’re saying,” etc. Setting this ground rule ahead of time allows the two of you to agree that you don’t want to argue, and pressing pause can help prevent that.

No matter what relationship you’re in, over time it will develop a history that gives you the potential to hurt each other. If you don’t process the hurts and frustration in your relationship, any difficult conversation will probably trigger them and make things harder to work through.

A licensed therapist or professional communication coach can help you set limits and navigate the use of communication tools in your relationship until you’re ready to consistently use them on your own. Contact one of the practitioners in our counselor directory to schedule an appointment today.

Photos:
“Conversation”, Courtesy of Alex Holyoake, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Attitude” Courtesy of Lucas Lenzi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Date Night”, Courtesy of Huy Phan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Communication”, Courtesy of Rawpixel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

What is Emotional Abuse? Causes, Effects, and Recovery

There are many types of abuse, but emotional abuse is in a category of its own. This type of abuse includes a number of ways to abuse others – as a parent, a child, a co-worker, and so forth. At Newport Beach Christian Counseling, there are expert counselors who are available to help recover from the varied results of emotional abuse.

Most emotional abuse seems to accompany parental neglect or emotional assault in some form or another, but because each person is unique, therapy can be different for each patient. Everyone is wired in an individual way, so an abusive history will impact each individual differently.

While one person may take cruel judgments from others, knowing the abuser is in the wrong and suffering no hurt, another person may take the situation in another direction entirely; reacting with self-hatred and despondency, while another reacts with openly aggressive angry behavior.

That is a simplified picture of how abuse affects individuals, but it points out how each person suffers equally but in their own unique way.

What is Emotional Abuse?

When another behaves in a snide, demeaning way on a consistent basis, eventually the person it is directed toward begins to believe that the abusive comments are true. If it is a parent constantly telling a child that they will never amount to anything, or calling them stupid, fat, or a host of other belittling statements, they are being abusive.

It can simply be a sneering or disgusted look from members of the family, downgrading the simple presence of the abused person, eventually making every encounter uncomfortable or even physically painful.

Shaming, belittling, and consistent denigration are forms of emotional abuse. This treatment can come from anyone, whether from family or their friends to a person’s classmates, peers, boss or a co-worker.

Anything that aims to make us fearful, makes us feel crazy or dirty, useless, or hopeless is considered emotional abuse.

How Abuse Starts

Abuse can start as early as from birth. A newborn grows his/her sense of self from how he/she is treated from the start. From the very first moment of life, children turn to the person who feeds them or protects them. This is the person they trust, and therefore, whose opinion is irrefutably more important than any other. This emotional structure is likely to be the root of the problem many people face.

If the person or persons we trust most are abusive or belittling toward us, we begin to believe the words, feeling that the abuse is deserved. A trusted person who yells, threatens, or shames us on a regular basis will eventually teach us that only negative responses make sense. The abuse has come full circle, and the abused begin to validate the toxic information by believing it is deserved. Some of the abusive words can include some of the following:

“If you’d quit eating so much junk food, you wouldn’t be so fat,” when in fact, it is simply that the child is experiencing a growth spurt. The child believes they are fat after it is said to them often enough, and they may begin to miss meals, thinking that cutting down on food will make them acceptable to the toxic parent. When they are not complimented or even acknowledged after losing weight, the behavior continues and the child becomes anorexic.

“If you weren’t so worthless, you’d have friends,” brings the victim to believe they are dirty and unable to deserve happiness. They become withdrawn and stop taking care of their appearance; in effect, encouraging the people around them to avoid them entirely.

“I’m so sick and tired of you. I wish you had never been born,” brings feelings of self-loathing and self destruction. When a child hears this enough, he/she begins to believe that they are hated; simply a “thing” to be tolerated. Destructive behavior starts, and the child may begin acting out in rage and self-hatred, hurting others around them.

There are thousands of stories out there, but the point is that there are thousands of victims as well. This is what the professionals at Newport Beach Christian Counseling are there for. They can help reverse the damage done by the abusers. The stories others have may be worse or less damaging, but all of them deserve to live a life free of abuse.

Living with Emotional Abuse

Those toxic people in the life of the abuse victim are experts at demolishing the ability to have a positive self-image, even to the point of making the victim question not just their worth, but their own sanity. When there is a malignant person twisting facts about the victim, even starting damaging rumors, the self-confidence of the victim plummets.

Without even physically touching the victim, the abuser has a powerful hold on the abused that can leave long-term damage. Emotional maturity suffers, and the victims find themselves powerless. Emotional abuse is devastating and much harder to recognize than physical abuse. There is rarely outward proof of the situation, like bruises or scars, so it can be explained away as just in the imagination.

Explaining away the behavior of the abuser eventually leads to codependent feelings. The dysfunctional family life begins to bleed into every part of their life; to relationships with friends and co-workers, for example. Friends become estranged or jobs are lost, strengthening the lack of self-confidence. Damaging feelings become ingrained in every aspect of the victim’s life.

Long-Term Effects Caused by Emotional Abuse

Because the victim is now holding stress and anger, they begin to suffer physically as well. Stress and anxiety that is held inside rears its ugly head in constant aches and pains, even neurological damage.

If the abuse starts early enough in life, it can stop emotional maturity completely. This leaves the victim in a constant state of powerlessness. The victim literally does not know how to process the feelings that abuse causes, and cannot find the right place to apply the blame for the negative feelings.

Perhaps the parents of the abused child were always distant. They may never have been exposed to unwavering unconditional love expressed by the parent. As they begin to marry and have their own children, perhaps, though they may love their own children, they find themselves unable to show love to their own children. Perhaps they even begin the cycle of emotional abuse toward their own loved ones, their children and their spouse.

The abused person has likely started having problems with trusting others, holding relationships, or making friends in the first place. They may even have trouble eating and sleeping. The abuse victim begins to believe that they are useless and unlovable, as well as being unable to show love to others. One of the hardest steps to take is to recognize that the abuse is undeserved.

With Christian counseling, there is a path to recovery. It starts with the first step, and that is recognizing that help is needed.

Stopping Abusive Behavior

Realizing that they are continuing the legacy of abuse to new victims, the next step is when healing needs to begin. This is when finding a mental health professional who can undo the damage of all of the past traumas. Taking into consideration how the actions of the victim later in life will damage others, everyone needs to be involved in the recovery from the cycle of abuse.

The victim may believe in the commandment “honor your father and mother” and may have endured the continual victimizing, believing that it was expected. God does not want His children to be abused. The professionals at Newport Beach Christian Counseling will be able to set their thinking right, helping the abused learn new habits and ways to deal with the feelings abuse brings.

Choices for Healing from Emotional Abuse

There are a number of methods of healing that are available, which can be discussed with a counselor. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

This is simply the victim and counselor talking through the problems and finding out what the specific problems are that need to be tackled to bring about healing.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

With this approach, the victim is able to recognize the behaviors that cause the negative self-image, identifying the items to focus one. It includes finding the negative self-talk and learning positive replacements for them and finding what triggers the damaging behavior and developing new habits to overcome them.

Where to Turn for Help

The first step, after the victim recognizes that they are being abused, is to find a therapist who is trained in helping the victim recover. That mental health counselor can help unravel the painful emotional bonds the victim has developed through the years. At Newport Beach Christian Counseling, professional experts can help start the healing process.

When trying to heal from years of abuse, these counselors are trained to walk through the process of learning new habits and new ways of thinking. There is no magic answer to recovering from abuse. The professionals at Newport Beach Christian Counseling Center know this and will work at the pace needed. Understanding without judgement is the best way to help a victim.

There may be breakthroughs and backsliding, but when the counselor depends on mind, body, soul, and spirit as ways to bring healing, success will happen. Each hurdle in the therapy will be able to give new self confidence that shows up in everyday life. The benefits of changing the destructive patterns in life will lead to a rewarding new life, not just for the abuse victim, but also for anyone’s life who is affected by the victim.

Start Your Journey to Healing

Contact Newport Beach Christian Counseling at (949) 386-7178 to set up a risk-free appointment to assess needs.

Photos:
“Stories”, Courtesy of Sydney Sims, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Victim”, Courtesy of Zach Guinta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tear”, Courtesy of Cristian Newman, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Worthy of Love”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Treatment for Anxiety: Options Without Medication

Anxiety is oftentimes crippling and causes excessive worries that can lead to physical effects like sweaty hands, a racing heart, sleeping problems, and many other unwanted symptoms.

Clients who are dealing with anxiety disorders often make an initial appointment to inquire about non-pharmaceutical methods that can be tried first. It is always beneficial to learn methods of managing anxiety as well as uncover underlying problems and triggers.

Treatment for Anxiety Without Medication

Some methods of treating recurring anxiety without medication include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Self-care

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a widely used and very effective way of treating anxiety before trying medication. Clients go through this type of therapy in the therapeutic setting of a counselor’s office.

Anxiety tends to make someone worry excessively that the likelihood of something bad is destined to happen, and CBT works to re-frame these thoughts and help clients understand the patterns of their behavior. Through CBT, patients learn ways to identify detrimental thinking patterns and transform them into rational thoughts that will help improve the regulation of emotions.

Progressive muscle relaxation is also part of CBT. Clients can learn breathing techniques to use that will relax them and assist them in dealing with the unwanted physiological consequences of anxiety, which include psychosomatic symptoms and muscle tightness.

Yoga

Some therapists have decided to incorporate yoga into treatment plans for clients. Since they are Christian counselors, their understanding of yoga refers to relaxation principles and mindfulness instead of non-Christian practices or Buddhism.

The popularity of yoga continues to increase, and this is partially because it can work to modulate one’s stress response. Yoga can improve mental clarity by using breathing techniques and different poses.

Acupuncture

One of the most common alternative forms of medicine is acupuncture. In this form of Chinese medicine, sterile, long needles are placed in different areas of the body close to nerves. This activates a body’s chemicals that work to reduce or eliminate pain. Despite the belief that acupuncture is a pseudoscience that has mixed results regarding efficacy, many people prefer to test it out before opting to take medication, and many people experience positive results.

Massage

Massages are great for reducing tension and lessening anxiety, but they cannot solve any underlying issues that are causing a client’s anxiety. Typically, people complain about muscle tightness and tension when they are experiencing anxiety, and a massage has the ability to provide a little bit of physical relief for at least a brief period of time.

Self-Care

Managing anxiety without the use of medications is impossible without spiritual, physical, and mental self-care.

Spiritual self-care includes making time for God through Bible study, Church, or prayer; physical self-care includes any form of exercise; and mental self-care includes things like journaling or breathing exercises.

The goal of self-care is to use techniques that make you aware of your feelings and responses to stimuli or unwanted stressors as well as cause you to simply be “present.”

In some cases, medication might still be necessary if someone’s symptoms of anxiety are severe, but using things like prayer, breathing exercises, self-care, or any of the other aforementioned options would be a great addition to medication. The first place to start is to find a professional therapist who can help you find the best treatment plan for your specific needs.

Photos:
“Hiding”, Courtesy of Claudia Soraya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yoga”, Courtesy of Matthew Kane, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Time”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

OCD in Children: What Parents Need to Know

When someone seems overly concerned about being clean, others might call them “obsessive.” When a person insists on specific behaviors or requires a certain order of things, words or actions, people may say they’re “compulsive”.

People may use the term “OCD” in an almost light-hearted manner to justify behaviors or rules which they themselves practice. But for anyone diagnosed with real Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), there is nothing light-hearted about their struggles. For them, the condition often brings distress and places limits on their every day lives to varying degrees.

According to information released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the best estimates are that about 1.2% of the American population struggles with OCD. It occurs in adults, teens, and children and it is likely that at least a million U.S. children wrestle with OCD symptoms (OCFMC, 2006).

Other studies predict that one child or teenager out of every 200 will develop OCD (AACAP, 2013). The average age when OCD begins is 19-1/2 years old, and 1/4 of all people who were diagnosed with OCD had developed obvious symptoms by the age of 14 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Parents are overwhelmed and confused when one of their children develops the symptoms or begins to live under the dark cloud of the fears that are a part of OCD.

It’s difficult to know what to do when a child has an emotional meltdown or battles with someone who has (probably without realizing it) interfered with a “necessary” order of items and actions.

It should be good news to know that effective treatment is available. Parents should begin by learning all that they can about OCD with the goal of becoming better able to understand what a child with OCD is facing and how and where to find the right help.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a mental health issue that is diagnosed by looking for genuine obsessions and/or compulsions.

Obsession: Obsessions may be defined as urges, thoughts, or images that intrude on a person’s mind and life in a way that becomes difficult or impossible to ignore (APA, 2013). For example, someone can become a germophobe. A child may become driven to seek perfection. Another lives with the constant fear of harming themselves or others.

Compulsion: Compulsions, on the other hand, are behaviors or mental acts that a person is driven to repeat again and again. Compulsions may grow out of obsessions (APA, 2013). People with OCD find themselves compelled to continually wash their hands, perform special rituals, engage in what is known as “checking” behaviors, count things, or even pray because they believe they must.

When a person suffers from OCD, they carry out certain acts (compulsions) to try to relieve anxiety or tension (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Often the anxiety for which the person desperately wants relief is driven by an obsession. The compulsive behavior brings a measure of relief but it’s only temporary, so when the anxiety returns, the person must perform the action again to get relief. This develops into a cycle where relief from the anxiety reinforces the need to repeat the compulsive behavior in order to experience another brief period of relief.

The obsessions and compulsions are often connected, such as germophobia and washing one’s hands. Or, a student is so afraid of failing that he or she keeps on checking and checking his or her test answers even to the point of missing recess or lunch.

In other cases, the obsessions and compulsions may not seem to be related. Think, for example, of a child who counts a certain number of cracks in a sidewalk thinking it will keep his mother from being hurt. So, a diagnosis of OCD does not always mean that the obsessions and compulsions are related. A child may have one without the other.

How OCD develops and manifests itself can also vary. Also, the focus of obsessions and compulsions shift over time. For some people, obsessions and compulsion come out more obviously and intensely when they are under stress (APA, 2013). Those same people may experience fewer or less intense symptoms in situations where stress levels are low. And often, when one obsession or compulsion is eliminated, others may change.

True OCD symptoms are not simply small irritations. They consume a major portion of the time in a child’s day. Further, they may increase a child’s level of stress, bringing layers of problems.

For example, a germophobic child may wash their hands to the point that they become dry and cracked, and may even start to bleed. Then, he or she may also become terrified of being around sick people or having physical contact with someone who has even been close to a sick person.

This can disrupt relationships, or bring on peer harassment if the fears or behaviors become known. Brothers and sisters may feel rejected by the child who struggles with germophobia because he or she may avoid giving hugs or express fear which the siblings may take personally.

OCD not only affects the person who struggles with the obsessions and compulsions, but also impacts their family and friendships. Then the OCD sufferer feels shame over their compulsive behaviors. A child’s need to carry out these compulsions often builds more shame. The emotional distress that often comes with OCD can become so heavy that depression also develops.

OCD in Children: Catching it Early

Early warnings of OCD in children may go unnoticed. Children may find certain behaviors embarrassing and may try to hide them. But parents who observe some of the following in their child’s life may have reason to seek further assistance in checking out the possibility of OCD (OCFMC, 2006; AACAP, 2013):

1. Repetitive behaviors (washing their hands over and over, touching things in a specific order, anxiously rechecking school work, or repeatedly checking doors, etc.

2. Continuous fears that become extreme (such as unusual fears surrounding germs or dirt, or anxiety about the well being of the family).

3. Often repeated statements that go beyond reasonable concern and obsessively express worry outcomes that do not necessarily follow. “I must touch [this object] 10 times so that my sister will still like me” or “When I fail to pray a certain way, our team loses.”

4. Habits and behaviors beginning to get in the way of normal life or friendships.

5. Needing reassurance too much and too often (“will I be okay if…?”; “will it be okay…?”).

6. Constantly compulsion to carry out an action until everything feels “correct.”

7. Often driven to confess bad thoughts, like sexual imagery or thinking unkind thoughts about other people.

8. Avoiding more and more activities not connected to obsessions or compulsions

9. Always seeming to be behind (because obsessions and/or compulsions demand time).

10. Increased physical symptoms of anxiety, such as headaches and stomach aches.

What Causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

As is typical of much of the world of mental illness, the exact causes of OCD are still largely a mystery. In fact, a number of different factors acting in combination, including environmental and biological factors, may be behind a child’s OCD.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), states that for those individuals who have a member of their immediate family that has OCD there is a 200% greater likelihood that they will develop OCD over those whose first-degree relatives are not OCD (APA, 2013).

What’s more, they also found that when the immediate family member has experienced childhood-onset OCD, the likelihood of developing OCD increases by 1000%. Other possible causes of OCD include significant life transitions (divorce, changing schools, etc), abuse, and loss (AACAP, 2013; APA, 2013).

Whatever the cause may be in a given instance, it has become clear that OCD has a significant effect on the brain. Brain scans have shown differences in brain activity between people who have OCD and those who do not (Scharwtz, 2016).

OCD may also have physical causes, so an evaluation by a medical professional is always a good idea. Physical causes may be addressed to help reduce contributing factors. For example, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal (PANDAS) can trigger a sudden and severe onset of OCD or tic disorder symptoms (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). In these cases, the streptococcal infection would require medical treatment.

Helping Your Child

If your child exhibits symptoms of OCD, there are a number of ways to find help and give good support.

  • Get immediate professional help and counsel. There is no reason for you to try to handle this alone!
  • Don’t fall into the trap of merely using reassurance as your tool to try to calm your child. This is not an effective way to reduce the symptoms nor does it teach your child to fight and manage them.
  • Don’t try to avoid everything that your child fears or is obsessed by since this only tends to reinforce their symptoms.
  • Give your healthy coping skills, like memorizing relevant Bible verses, relaxation techniques, evaluating the rationality of their thoughts, soothing activities, and learning to live in the moment. Stress tends to trigger and magnify symptoms, so being able to use effective stress management tools makes a real difference.
  • Demonstrate how to set proper boundaries. These can help your child handle stress.
  • Teach your child how to take care of themselves, like eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep,
  • Teach your child to recognize their obsessions and compulsions. Knowledge is a power.
  • Do not shame! There may be no logic behind OCD symptoms, but they are quite real and your child is not to blame.
  • Provide a time and place for your child to express and process negative feelings, like embarrassment and shame, that go along with OCD symptoms.
  • Find support for yourself and a place to process your own feelings about your child’s OCD symptoms. You may experience frustration and fear, along with any number of other difficult but typical emotions. Learn to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your child.

Treatment for OCD in Children

To confirm a diagnosis of OCD in children, parents should seek an evaluation by an experienced mental health professional. The DSM-5 states that OCD left untreated unlikely to go away and the symptoms will fluctuate as time goes on (APA, 2013).

Several different therapies exist for treating OCD in children. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most recommended. One kind of CBT applied quite often is known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

Much like it sounds, ERP is a type of therapy where a patient is taught not to act on any compulsion in order to ease their anxiety. Counselors will then teach a child various tools to deal with the difficult emotions.

Though the idea of asking a child not to use his or her compulsive behaviors in the face of anxiety may sound frightening, therapy can be paced so that anxiety does not become unmanageable.

Other methods of CBT, include “imagined exposure” and learning to overcome negative and illogical thinking patterns. For some children, play therapy may be a part of treatment.

Along with counseling medical, evaluation is crucial. A medical professional can help determine whether medication might help.

It may also be necessary to ask your child’s school for any help or support they may be equipped to offer. You should talk to your counselor about this.

Remember, you need not try to parent your OCD child alone! Reach out to a counselor today to ask questions and discuss the many options available.

There is hope and healing!

Photos:
“Jenga,” courtesy of Michel Parzuchowski, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Brain”, Courtesy of GDJ, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “Tablet Time”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Knowledge is Power”, Courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License;

How to Find the Right Family Therapist for You

Could your family benefit from getting counseling together? If so, how do you find a family therapist that’s right for you? It’s normal to feel hesitant about finding a good match for your family. A therapist can make or break the entire counseling process.

By reading this article you’re taking the first step in what can be a journey of healing and hope. We’ll discuss different types of family counselors, how to select one who’s right for you, and how to budget for counseling. Take the time to consider each point in the selection process, and you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision.

Does My Family Need Therapy?

Just as with physical illness, early treatment for family issues can prevent many problems later on. Unfortunately, many of us don’t seek relational help until we are at our wits’ end.

You’ve probably made several attempts to heal the brokenness in your family. Maybe you feel like you’re in crisis mode now. Counseling becomes the last resort when you’ve done everything else. If you’re at this point, there is hope.

Secrecy empowers sin and strife. As painful as it can be to talk about what’s going on, verbalizing the issues can offer massive relief and help you figure out what to do next.

If you’re not in crisis yet, be encouraged. It’s wonderful to seek help early. Your problems are not too small; rather, they have huge potential for healing when they’re brought out into the open before they’ve taken over and destroyed lives.

What is the first thing to consider in your search for a counselor? Take a step back and assess your family’s most pressing needs. Although not everyone will immediately let their guard down in counseling, each member of the family should feel emotionally safe and honored in therapy.

What Are Your Family’s Specific Needs?

Do your best to nail down your family’s specific counseling needs, because some family counselors specialize in specific areas of treatment.

What areas of your family life need the most help? Many families seek help for their children in a group setting to offer their support. Sometimes couples need help with communication issues, or parents feel overwhelmed and want to set new and healthier patterns.

Read through the following types of therapy and think about which one(s) may meet your needs:

Couples Therapy

Counseling for couples can really run the gamut from neutral to desperate situations, but it’s not just for the desperate situations, even though many people associate marriage counseling with imminent divorce.

Couples therapy can apply to you if you are in a relationship or engaged or married. Maybe you’re in a destructive conflict cycle, or you just need help communicating effectively, or you want to strengthen your relationship even though you’re not having any major issues now.

Behavior Intervention

Behavior intervention applies to children who are struggling with problem behaviors, or to adults who are behaving inappropriately either in public or at home. In the family therapy setting, parents and the child will work with the counselor to identify unacceptable behaviors, set boundaries, and create rewards systems, along with other helpful skills.

This type of therapy really thrives on parental involvement. The parents can witness the tools the therapist uses during sessions, and then practice applying those skills at home with their child.

Behavior intervention for children usually starts with a conversation between the therapist and the parents. The therapist usually asks about three components of problem behaviors:

  • What happens before?
  • What happens during?
  • What happens after?

Once the parents explain how these situations normally transpire, the therapist will work with them and their child to change everyone’s behavior in all three areas by using education and practical skill development.

Parent Coaching

Behavior intervention focuses on both parents and children, but parent coaching focuses on the parents and how they can improve their skills. Children may be present for sessions, but the therapy won’t focus primarily on their behavior.

As opposed to an interventional approach, coaching helps parents develop positive skills to become more effective in nurturing their child(ren)’s physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. Coaching will address discipline, helping children to listen and obey, and setting appropriate boundaries for each member of the family.

Parent/Child Issues

Do you feel that your relationship with your child has had a breakdown, and you’re not sure where to turn to fix the damage? Family therapy can help rebuild your relationship and find the right parenting method for this particular child.

Children going through puberty or experiencing life stress or mental health issues may struggle to have a good relationship with their parents. They may exhibit disrespect and dislike. Parents also deal with life stressors, mental health issues, and other factors that can make positive parenting difficult.

Counseling can help stop unhealthy patterns and replace them with healthy habits that will facilitate a thriving relationship between parent and child.

Navigating Systems Involvement

Child Protective Services, law enforcement, or the schools may involve themselves in family life for a number of different reasons. Families in crisis often have experienced intervention in one or more of these areas. How do you navigate these systems? A clinical social worker can provide advocacy and therapeutic support.

What’s Most Important in a Family Therapist?

In large part, the success of your counseling experience depends on your comfort level with your chosen therapist. Therapists have different beliefs, skills, and temperaments. Some use tough love, while others have a gentler approach. Not everyone’s personalities will mesh well together, so it’s important that yours is a good fit with your counselor’s.

It’s not unusual to meet with a couple of therapists before you find the best one for you. Remember, you can interview them by asking questions about their practice and what the process usually looks like.

Before you even meet with them, you can screen out potential problems online by reading about their practice and any articles or blogs they’ve written. Finding the right personality and specialization will help you get the most out of therapy.

What kind of practice does your potential therapist work in? What are their specializations? Maybe you have young children, but your potential therapist is most experienced in working with adult children and parents. A therapist with child-specific experience may be skilled in using play therapy in the family counseling setting.

If you are looking for a faith-based counselor, you’ll want to carefully screen therapists to make sure you won’t be working from conflicting worldviews.

Other Considerations

Budgeting for therapy can concern potential clients quite a bit, so it’s important to discuss this practical side of seeking counseling.

First, consider the value you place on therapy and the perspective that it can preventative medicine for your family relationships. Yes, therapy is expensive, but as counselors, we truly believe it’s worth it.

Next, sit down and figure out exactly what you can afford to spend. When a therapist bills insurance directly, they are considered an in-network-provider. These providers will take payment from you and bill your insurance for you.

Some therapists will directly bill your insurance, making them an in-network provider. But many therapists don’t take insurance due to high operating costs; instead, they operate as out-of-network providers.

With an out-of-network provider, you will pay a fee for each session and receive a receipt. You can give the receipt to your insurance provider, and they may reimburse you for some or all of the fee.

Before you attend your first session, please call your insurance provider to find out if they will reimburse you for any counseling services rendered.

What if you don’t have insurance, or your insurance won’t cover counseling? You can choose to pay out-of-pocket for each session, most of which run between $150 and $200 each. Some therapists may have different fees or operate on a sliding scale based on income.

Both fees and sliding scales vary widely among individual therapists and practices, based on operating costs, client income, practice size, etc., so don’t hesitate to look in several places to find an option that meets your family’s needs.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to make private therapy work for your family, you may be able to find a non-profit provider who takes state insurance or a local clinic that offers inexpensive therapy. Some people are able to meet with counseling interns who are in the process of receiving their master’s degree or licensure and can offer therapy at a reduced rate.

Where Can I Find a Family Therapist Near Me?

Now that you’ve considered some of the most important factors of finding the right family therapist for your needs, a good first step is to call your insurance company to discuss in-network providers who will bill sessions to them.

If you are looking for Christian counseling, you may be interested in our practice at Newport Beach Christian Counseling. We are one of the largest faith-based counseling practices, offering skilled, compassionate therapy for families, couples, and individuals. Visit our website to find a family therapist near you.

Photos:
“Family”, Courtesy of Laurel Harvey, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Ardanea, Morguefile.com, CC 2.0 License, “Her own girl”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “FlattopFamilyTime,” Courtesy of Flattop341, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)

Struggling with Anger Issues? Help is Available

Sometimes a couple can look like they have it all together on the outside, but really be struggling on the inside. This was true of Sarah and Zach. They were engaged and in the process of planning their wedding. They picked a date and a venue and had even announced the news to families and friends. All seemed to be going perfectly, but in private, they were struggling and second guessing their decision.

Their arguments weren’t healthy. They would begin small and escalate to nasty fights filled with loud outbursts. It usually ended with Sarah shouting, while Zach left. Sarah felt dismissed and ignored by Zach, which irritated her, while Zach felt disrespected and was upset because Sarah would stew on things and then explode.

They were caught in a vicious cycle. The more Zach dismissed Sarah’s emotions and thoughts, the more angry and aggressive Sarah became and things continued to spiral downward.

Finally, they decided to see a counselor named Megan. They hoped that a therapist would help them deal with the conflict in their relationship. When Megan heard their story, she recommended that Zach and Sarah begin seeing her on an individual basis.

In the first few sessions, Sarah’s anger issues surfaced and Megan shocked Sarah by suggesting that she should explore how to express her anger. Sarah laughed at her, outright, saying “I don’t have any issues expressing anger! I’m usually a hothead.”

Patiently, Megan explained that these expressions of anger were not the core of her anger, but only symptoms of it. The deeper issue was manifesting as rage, but the real issues weren’t being dealt with in a way that could be considered healthy.

Megan also explained that her angry outbursts were hiding the true feelings she was having, keeping her from understanding what was really going on in her heart. When Megan asked her to try to explain and describe the underlying feelings associated with her anger, Sarah didn’t know what to say.

The most Sarah could do was share that she had been raised by a father who punished her for any expression of anger because it was “disrespectful.” At the same time, her father would hypocritically excuse his own angry and abusive outbursts, placing the blame on Sarah or on her mother.

To make things worse, Sarah’s mother passive-aggressively took out her anger on Sarah and taught her that anger was unladylike and needed to be avoided by women. This unhealthy message made it hard for Sarah to understand her anger or express it well, while simultaneously making her feel anxious and guilty about her anger. Her inability to cope with and express her anger, combined with her anxiety regarding it, created the cycle of anger she was experiencing.

Megan also explained to Sarah that both Zach and herself were ignoring her feelings. Sarah tended to resist any feelings of anger and push them away until she couldn’t control them. Before Zach could ever dismiss them, Sarah’s feelings had already been ignored and rejected by Sarah.

This created issues before Zach even got involved and explained why Zach felt that Sarah would wait until it was too late to express her emotions. She wasn’t just hiding them from him, she was hiding her feelings from herself but the anger would come out at Zach when Sarah accused him of something or exaggerated a relational misstep.

When this happened, Zach would walk away, albeit against his will. He knew she was hurting, but by her anger and intensity was sometimes more than he could take.

Anger Issues: Indicators

It is possible for typical indicators of anger issues to go unnoticed in a relationship for a long time. Here are a few examples:

1. Poor, or lacking, emotional awareness

Sarah’s inability to express her underlying emotions related to anger showed how out of touch she was with her own feelings.

Psychology Today says “Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/emotional-intelligence)

Learning to empathize with Zach’s feelings and coming to understand her own was one of the most important steps for Sarah to begin controlling her outbursts. Feelings are transitory. One day they are here, the next day they are gone. When we attach negative associations to different emotions, we can prevent ourselves from dealing with them properly.

2. Unproductive communication styles

“The medium is the message” is the idea that means by which a message is delivered is actually part of the message itself. Sarah didn’t understand what she was experiencing and, as a result, she communicated about the issues in a counterproductive way.

As she became able to understand her feelings and needs, she learned how to communicate them in a useful way. Even if she knew what she needed, screaming about it wasn’t an effective medium of communication.

People who struggle with anger have predictable modes of communication when they are angry. Consider the following excerpt from the article “Assertive Communication and Anger Management” by Harry Mills, PH.D.

“As a social emotion, anger is experienced through communication. Angry people tend to have distinct communication postures that they habitually take up when communicating with others. Psychologists have described four of these communication postures, each possessing its own motto: The Aggressive communications posture says: I count but you don’t count.

“The Passive communications posture says: I don’t count. The Passive-Aggressive communications posture says: I count. You don’t count but I’m not going to tell you about it. The Assertive communications posture says: I count and you do too.

“As you might guess, angry people tend to use the Aggressive and Passive-Aggressive postures a whole lot. Aggressive communicators are more likely to start an argument than they are to get the results they want achieved, however.

“Being passive in your communications is also a mistake, as it communicates weakness and tends to invite further aggression. The Assertive communications posture is the most useful and balanced of all the postures as it is the only posture that communicates respect for all parties.

“Communicating assertively is the most likely way to ensure that everyone involved gets their needs taken care of. Learning how to become assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive is an important step in discovering how to communicate appropriately with others.

People who are habitually aggressive tend to fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be assertive. Specifically, they tend to confuse assertiveness with aggression and think they already are acting assertively. This is frequently a mistaken impression, however.

“Both aggressive and assertive communications postures can involve fierce and persuasive communication. They are fundamentally different things, however, in that aggressive communication tends to go on the offense – it attacks and berates the other – while assertive communication uses anger and fierceness only in defense.

“Assertive people stand up for themselves and their rights and do not take crap from others. However, they manage to do this without crossing the line into aggressiveness; they do not attack the person they are communicating with unnecessarily. Assertiveness is “anger in self-defense” whereas aggressiveness is “anger because I feel like it”. (https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/assertive-communication-and-anger-management/)

3. Unhealthy self-talk or distorted cognitions

Cognitive distortions are like the idea rose colored glasses. The idea that your lense, or view of the world, is not inaccurate. However, while rose colored glasses is the idea that you idealize everything, cognitive distortions are darker, distorted perspectives. There are 10 main distortions that often coexist with anger issues:

  • Personalization – This is when you take responsibility for a thing that wasn’t your fault. You personalize the problem. (David Burns’ book “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. The Clinically Proven Drug Free Treatment for Depression”)
  • Labeling and mislabeling – An extreme type of overgeneralization, instead of describing your mistake, you assign a negative label to yourself.
  • Reasoning by emotion – You think your emotions are representative of the truth as if just because you feel it, it must, therefore, be true.”
  • Jumping to conclusions – Even though you don’t have facts to convincingly support your position, you refuse to withhold judgment and choose to make negative interpretations of the events. (Involves mind-reading and fortune-telling.)
  • Should statements – You are emotionally hard on yourself and attempt to motivate yourself with sentences containing “should” or “should not,” trying to punish yourself to make yourself do right.
  • Magnification and minimization – An issue of perspective, your view of what things are important or unimportant do not conform to reality.
  • Disqualifying the positive – Only negative experiences are accepted. Anything postive is rejected because they “don’t count” for some reason. Then you are able to maintain your negativity, despite positive life experiences.
  • Mental filter – You fixate on one negative detail and ignore everything else.
  • Overgeneralization– You aren’t able to see things in context. A single negative event is seen as a repeating, inescapable problem.
  • All or nothing thinking – There are only two options: success or failure. Any sort of mistake or shortcoming equals failure.

4. Minimizing behaviors

Those who struggle to manage their anger, like Sarah, can develop concerning behavior that needs to be addressed. A common trait of anger disorders is minimizing. Minimizing is when someone belittles what happened during the escalation of a conflict.

Refusing to accept or recognize personal behavior in a conflict is an obvious sign that the anger is not being dealt with well. Abusive behavior includes disgust directed at an individual rather than a problem, yelling, disrespectful speech, and physical contact, like hitting or kicking.

Let’s think back to the case study of Zach and Sarah:

Through counseling, Zach shared that during two instances of Sarah’s anger, she actually struck Zach in the middle of an argument. When confronted with this, Sarah became defensive, claiming Zach was “too strong for it to have hurt him.”

Megan saw that Sarah blamed her angry and violent actions on Zach and his dismissive behavior, so Megan calmly explained the issue of minimizing and blaming. Slowly, Sarah’s attitude changed, and she began to take responsibility for her own actions.

In more extreme cases of domestic violence, the perpetrators have been known to minimize and blame regularly. A good example was a moment during my time working with domestic violence offenders in the state of Georgia.

I worked with a participant during group counseling who was being confronted because his partner needed to get stitches as a result of his physical abuse. The perpetrator responded that “It was only a couple.” A very sad, but classic example of minimization.

Maybe the best starting point for evaluating anger issues is to be on the lookout for indicators that anger is being poorly managed or expressed. Psychguide.com offers a good description of the signs of the physical and emotional states of anger issues. If any of these indicators are present in your relationships, then perhaps anger management training or counseling is for you.

Some of these emotional states are recurring irritability, uncontrollable rage, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, confusion, and fantasizing about harming yourself or others. The physical symptoms can include tingling, tightening of the chest, heart palpitations, heightened blood pressure, fatigue, and pressure in the head or sinus cavities.

Losing your temper doesn’t mean you have an anger problem. Anger is a powerful emotion that, at times, can trigger our adrenal system. It can move us to stand up for ourselves and our loved ones.

Anger becomes a problem when it is recurring, minimized when the deeper emotions are left un-validated and unexpressed, when it affects your relationships, and when it leads to hateful attitude and abusive behavior.

Unaddressed, anger often becomes a harmful and corrosive force, emotionally and physically. If it remains unresolved, then it can turn into contempt. In the book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman explains the four horsemen, which are indicators of future marital failure. Contempt is the most dangerous of the four horsemen. So anger issues left untreated, are no small thing.

But there is hope. One can deal with anger before it gets out of hand and threatens your relationships. Both anger management classes and counseling are available and have been proven effective. These resources can help those struggling with anger issues and train them to manage their anger in a healthy way.

Photos:
“Beautiful Argument”, Courtesy of Vera Arsic, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Angry,” courtesy of Forrest Cavale, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fighting Mad”, Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Signs and Symptoms

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental condition that is becoming increasingly widespread. Fortunately, however, so is the research being done on the condition. Behavior Therapy is available and the best thing about it is that it works.

OCD can manifest itself in a number of ways and tends to manifest specific to the emotional and/or neurological structure of the individual who is suffering from it. It is characterized by a feeling of being stuck within repeating cycles of behavior and/or thinking.

Over a period of time, the individual begins to feel they have little or no control over their behavior and/or thinking. Feelings of depression and anxiety may arise and escalate. Not stepping on cracks on sidewalks, constant washing of hands, and checking and rechecking to make sure the stove is turned off are all examples of OCD behavior.

The condition of OCD is complex. Being diagnosed as having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder warrants a visit to a mental health professional to discuss concerns and to explore solutions. If you feel you have symptoms where your OCD behavior is affecting yourself and/or your loved ones, it is crucial that you reach out for help.

Because the symptoms may be behavioral, neurological, or somatic, it’s vital to discover the root cause so you can find the treatment that best suits you. If you’ve received an OCD diagnosis from a professional in the mental health field, depending on the causality and severity, it may be able to be treated by Behavior Therapy.

Behavioral Therapy Help for OCD

As a rule, Behavioral Therapy, also known as (BT), embraces the use of operant conditioning as a tool to alter the sufferer’s behavior. It is through interventions that are structured especially with the patient in mind, sometimes employing the use of a reward or punishment or even extinction which is the abrupt halting of an unwanted, undesired behavior. Individually tailored treatment plans strive to make use of the interests and strengths of the person in order to optimize the effectiveness.

The following are some BT practice examples that are fictitious in nature, but whose scenarios ring very true to life where the condition is concerned:

  • A. is a male who is 24-years of age and is still residing with his parents. It has proven to be difficult for the young man to make it out the front door and arrive at college on time because he gets stuck sitting in his bedroom, obsessing over things that might go wrong throughout the day. His professional therapist has recommended that he pack his school things in his backpack the night before and set it beside the door, put a copy of his daily schedule on the refrigerator, and set his alarm before bedtime. In addition to these suggestions, A’s counselor is working with him to redirect his thoughts away from possible negative outcomes.
  • K. is a female who 32 years-old is. She was promoted in her job six months back but suffers from a touch of OCD, mainly the action of touching a light switch three times prior to turning it on. No other OCD actions were significant, however. Within the past few weeks, though, she has caught herself continually vacuuming her floor to the point where she is consumed with doing so any time she is at her house. Her therapist has recommended that she not vacuum after seven in the evening and suggested that her vacuuming should not go on longer than thirty minutes each day. She is to tie a ribbon on the doorknob of the closet that the vacuum is in to remind herself of the suggestion.
  • B. is a male who is 28-years-old who cannot get thoughts of a girl he had been dating out of his mind. She ended the relationship abruptly, without any explanation and refuses to return his phone calls. He is obsessed with her and constantly wonders what she is thinking, what she is doing, and why she ended things with him. He has not even been talking to his friends during this time. His therapist suggests that he pick a friend and set up an interaction such as going for coffee or to a movie. The counselor also tells him to put a rubber band around his wrist which he is to snap each time he finds himself thinking of the girl in order to distract his thoughts.

The above examples show how a therapist can use BT to help alter a patient’s thoughts and behaviors. These types of intervention may be helpful, depending, of course, upon the pathology that lies behind the behavior

If behavior modification worsens the situation or doesn’t work, other options will be explored such as psychodynamic psychotherapy for the purpose of finding the root cause, brain testing for possible neurological issues, and/or use of medication.

Underlying Structure

We are virtually completely emotionally unstructured at birth. Birth is generally the first traumatic experience that takes place and our response to it is typically to desire to control the trauma. Since infants, and even children, are helpless to control what is going on around them, they begin to create defense structures in order to protect themselves.

Since the very young don’t have the capacity to think it all through because the neocortex is not mature enough to understand and reason, a child who has experienced great trauma may become catatonic or may disconnect from the feelings that are just too overwhelming to deal with.

Among the number of possible trauma responses are ones that have to do with OCD. Repeating actions can, in some strange sense, make us feel as if we have control over what is going on around us. When we reach our adult years, those behaviors and thoughts are actually hardwired in our brains. Thankfully, neurological studies reveal that we can rewire providing we’re willing to go through the effort and time it takes to do so.

Brain Rewiring

When we are dealing with our typical ways of thinking, awareness and identification are about half of the battle. Our system defenses are automatic so they don’t necessarily need to be in the forefront of our thoughts in order to be used, which ultimately means that if we want to make changes in our modus operandi, we must make a purposed, conscious effort.

For instance, if just seeing your neighbor causes you to be anxious, you may, unconsciously, distance yourself from him. If you take it a step further and explore why seeing him might may you feel nervous and anxious, much may be discovered by exploring such a question. Does he remind you of a relative who was abusive? Maybe you are intimidated by him? Perhaps you waved to him once and he didn’t wave back?

Once you figure out that your emotional response isn’t realistic, the next time you see him, you can remind yourself of that fact. With each and every breath, remind yourself of what is and isn’t the reality of the situation and become consciously aware of the goal of working through the anxiety rather than adding to it.

It is amazingly easy to take a perfectly normal situation and make it into a vendetta which is imagined. Picture a family reunion. Your cousin is there with her new husband who is an attorney. In the back of your mind, you are thinking of years ago when you actually had to hire an attorney to represent you for a misdemeanor that stemmed from a case of bad judgment.

You are introduced and reach out to shake his hand but he does not reciprocate the gesture. You immediately assume he thinks you are beneath him. For years, you carry the intimidating feelings and when you see him, you feel very anxious.

Later, when attending a relative’s funeral, you learn that he suffers from a phobia of germs and never shake hands with anyone. Your anxiety and feelings of insecurity were never legitimate but years have been wasted by your assumptions.

The truth of the matter is we can’t really know what anyone thinks or feels, even in the event that they tell us. We can decide to believe them if they tell us, but we can never know for sure. A child who has a father who is abusive may be apologized to, time after time.

Can the child believe that the father really was sorry? It is normal in such an event for the child to look for signs of sincerity or evidence otherwise. That’s why our defense mechanisms are always sending out feelers to second guess others and to go into defensive gear if things seem out of order.

Abused children are often pros at reading people in a room. They can immediately see who is emotionally stable and safe and who is not. This type of hyper-vigilance can be temporarily effective because it gives the illusion of being in control, able to control social setting and to choose who to talk to and who not to.

It also causes problems. It becomes exhausting and your thoughts can be way off track. Having your defenses up can interfere with relationships with friends and family and even with intimacy. When your defenses are always up, it is difficult to have meaningful relationships.

But when we start to develop internal awareness, we can stop and ask ourselves such things as, “What was that response all about?” We can dig down inside ourselves and figure out the roots of our feelings. That is where a therapist shines.

A therapist is trained to work alongside you to explore and discover and then to reach solutions that will free you from the bondage of OCD behaviors and OCD thoughts. If the BT route is not productive, your therapist will present other solutions to you.

Unprocessed trauma narratives don’t just go away. You may rearrange the thoughts and tuck them away for a time, but they will always resurface. When you reach out to a therapist, together you can work through, not around the issues and put those traumas into the past so you can move on without the OCD symptoms that are controlling your life. It will involve some work (there’s no denying that) but in the end, you will be happy that you chose to get help.

As we begin to recognize things that are emotional triggers, we can reflect on the situation and what is going on around us. We can pinpoint why a song makes us sad or why a neighbor makes us anxious. We can then work through it, separating the two.

Just as defenses have become the natural way you go about your life, so can the learned behaviors of dealing with OCD. Soon, you will be able to put an end to the destructive behaviors and thoughts like clockwork and replace them with constructive ones that promote mental health, life, and healing.

Recognize, Reflect then Redirect is a useful tool when it comes to relatively mild traumatic triggers. The more severe the trauma is, the more possible it will be for it to take professional help and time in order to work it through.

Behavioral Therapy has the potential to be a very valuable tool in the management of thought and behavior patterns that are undesirable. While it can be tempting to self-diagnose OCD, it is not wise.

It’s best to seek a therapist and to acquire a diagnosis from a professional standpoint so that if it is present, you can begin with a tailored treatment plan. Working through to experience health and emotional growth is very possible. Don’t put it off another day. Your new life awaits you.

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“Jenga,” courtesy of Michel Parzuchowski, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Look”, Courtesy of Joshua Rawson Harris, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Brain”, Courtesy of GDJ, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “Anxious Man”, Courtesy of Jessica Oliveira, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Is Adult ADHD Affecting Your Work?

We hear a lot about children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), but what happens when these children grow up? Unfortunately, over half of children with ADHD carry their symptoms into adulthood. They now have to face the challenges and responsibilities of adult life while dealing with restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and a tendency to be disorganized.

Adults with ADHD may need professional help to better understand and manage their symptoms and their challenges. Most can benefit from therapy that integrates psychological, spiritual and practical support. The Bible is a great source of wisdom, giving comfort, guidance, and practical advice for those suffering from ADHD.

Do you feel like you’re drowning at work?

Adult ADHD creates problems with keeping up with the pace and completing projects at work. Adults with ADHD may be chronically late to work, to meetings or in fulfilling deadlines, they have trouble concentrating, they are forgetful and have poor organizational skills, they procrastinate a lot, and often have low motivation.

As you can imagine, these issues can seriously hinder job productivity. If you have ADHD, you probably feel overwhelmed with your work load, feeling as if you’ll never catch up. The anxiety this brings on makes it even harder to focus at work.

Is your career stalling out?

Adults with ADHD also have emotional and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, anger, impulsiveness, low self-esteem, mood swings, and an inability to deal with frustration. As you might imagine, this can lead to conflicts with colleagues and superiors.

The symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult to handle complex projects or to stay on task, which leads to poor job performance. Emotional and social issues make matters worse, and adults with ADHD often get passed over for promotions. Because they are impulsive, adults with ADHD may frequently change jobs or careers, attempting to find a place that is a good fit and trying to get ahead in their career.

Is it possible to have a successful career with Adult ADHD?

The good news, if you’re an adult with ADHD, is that coping skills can enable you to focus on tasks at work, relate well with your colleagues, and stay organized and motivated.

Let’s take a look at:

  • some of the specific challenges that adults with ADHD face at work,
  • some coping mechanisms to enable you to overcome these challenges,
  • how counseling and medication might help,
  • whether or not you should tell your boss, and,
  • how to put your strengths to play in choosing a career that’s a good fit for you.

What specific challenges do adults with ADHD face at work?

Most individuals with ADHD have impairment in executive function. Executive functioning takes place in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and gives the ability to analyze, plan, and organize tasks. If a person has an impairment in executive functioning, they will have trouble self-monitoring and staying on task.

In the workplace, adults with executive function disorder have problems with organizing projects and setting schedules to meet deadlines. They tend to misplace papers and reports and fail to keep track of what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re able to be highly productive, but other times they get lost in a haze of distraction.

In the workplace, adults with ADHD can display the following symptoms:

  • Easily distracted by stimuli in the environment, such as bright lights, people moving around or talking, or a cluttered desk
  • Internal distractions, such as daydreaming, racing thoughts, creative ideas popping in one’s head not related to the task at hand
  • Low frustration threshold – getting angry about small annoyances
  • Impulsivity (such as blurting something inappropriate out before thinking or doing something on a whim without thinking through the consequences)
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Memory issues – forgetting deadlines, missing appointments, forgetting important details
  • Easily becoming bored, making it hard to pay attention in meetings or to listen to what a colleague is saying
  • Poor time management skills
  • Procrastination – difficulty completing tasks and meeting deadlines
  • Poor organizational skills – such as a messy desk and flawed filing system – making it easy to lose things or overlook work that needs to be done

How can the adult with ADHD succeed in the workplace?

Many adults with ADHD do achieve success in their careers by a three-pronged approach:

  • Medication – usually a stimulant
  • Counseling – to design strategies to manage symptoms
  • Coping skills – practical behaviors to keep organized and focused

If you meet with a counselor, you will probably first discuss and explore specific issues at work due to ADHD. Your counselor will then help you come up with coping skills so ADHD symptoms aren’t playing havoc with your career. These coping skills will empower you to manage issues with distractions, scheduling, planning, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Practical Coping Skills

  • If you get easily distracted by your colleagues’ movement and noise, try coming into work at times when not many people are in the office or try working from home.
  • Other ways to deal with distractions from colleagues include having a private office or even a “cubby hole,” or finding an unused meeting room to work in.
  • If you have an impending deadline, don’t answer calls (if permitted) and put up a “do not disturb” sign. Try earplugs to block sounds.
  • Eliminate visual distractions by keeping your desktop clear of everything except the project you’re currently working on. Face your desk toward the wall, and keep that wall clear.
  • Organize your work area and keep it tidy. An organized environment encourages an organized mind. Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Have a logical filing system. Take five minutes at the beginning and end of each day to tidy and organize your work space.
  • If creative ideas pop into your head, take a minute to jot them down in a little notebook or put them in the memo section of your phone. You can come back to those ideas later, but don’t let them distract you from your present task.
  • Plot out all your appointments, meetings, deadlines (with a schedule of milestones for bigger projects), phone calls and other important times on a calendar that you carry with you or is in your office. Refer to that calendar at the beginning and end of each work day. Have a system of alarms on your phone to alert you to important dates and times.
  • At the beginning of each work day, list all the tasks you need to complete that day and prioritize them.

– Set a time to complete each task.

– Check off each task as it is completed.

– Try to work on projects that require a lot of concentration at times when your work area is quieter.

– You might want to get phone calls or other quick tasks done right away so they aren’t looming over your head and distracting you through the day.

– If boredom is a problem, try to get assigned tasks you find more interesting. You might want to explore a career change in a more creative field.

  • If you have trouble sitting still, reward yourself with a physical break each time you check off a task on your daily schedule. Go for a quick walk or do some stretches and aerobics for several minutes. You might try a standing desk. A fidget spinner or small stress ball could keep a hand busy and help with concentration.
  • Refer to your daily task list as well as your planning calendar whenever distractions come up. If you’re working to meet a deadline, learn to politely decline if a colleague invites you to lunch. If you think of a great idea to work on, write down a time and date to work on it once time allows.
  • Always allow more time than you think you’ll need to get to work or get to a meeting. Concentrate on the time you need to leave, not the time you need to be there, so last minute distractions don’t interfere.

What can a counselor “coach” do to help?

A counselor can coach you toward better job performance. Together, you can set up a schedule for your days, weeks, and months so that you’re able to be productive in the task at hand without worrying about something going undone. A counselor can help you with structuring your days and your work area and in using coping skills.

You would check in regularly with your counselor to report which strategies are helping you, and what areas you’re still having problems with. As you learn to self-monitor and develop effective habits at work to manage time and focus, you will report to your coach less frequently, until you’re ready to fly solo.

Every workplace is different and it’s important to find strategies that are appropriate for the job and also will effectively help you with work performance. A counselor will spend time getting to know you and your specific needs and recommend an action plan that fits you and your job situation.

Should I disclose ADHD to my employer?

Many adults with ADHD choose not to tell their employers about their diagnosis because they are afraid it may have a negative effect on their career. Discrimination due to disabilities is illegal (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990 and Rehabilitation Acts, 1973) and employers are required to make accommodations for disabled employees if they hire more than 15 employees.

However, adults are required to have a formal diagnosis of ADHD and also a statement from their physician that the symptoms are severe enough to be disabling. Adults with ADHD also are required to disclose their diagnosis before their employer is required to make accommodations.

You should disclose that you have ADHD if you cannot work productively without accommodations. If you fear your job is at stake, or if your employer is actually in the process of terminating you due to poor job performance, then you absolutely need to reveal your diagnosis.

If you haven’t responded well to medication for ADHD and your job performance is suffering, you may have some pressure reduced by telling your employer. It will help your colleagues understand what you’re going through.

Is my career the right one for me?

While job hopping can be an issue for adults with ADHD due to impulsivity, it’s also important that you find a job that you have a keen interest in, and where you can best use your strengths and abilities. Having a work environment and boss that can give you some flexibility and support is also helpful. If you’re thinking of a career change, here are some questions and suggestions to think through.

  • What are your top interests and abilities, and what jobs fit best with them?
  • In what areas have you been most successful?
  • What were your best subjects in school and what were your strengths?
  • What is your personality type?
  • What are your top values, and which careers line up with them?
  • What are your aptitudes that relate to the work place – such as typing speed, grammar, foreign language, types of reasoning, creativity and so forth?
  • What jobs fit with your energy level?
  • What mistakes have you made in past jobs and what career choices would help you avoid these again?

How can Christian Counseling help with Adult ADHD?

In addition to helping you analyze and cope with your biggest issues in the workplace, a Christian counselor can also help with spiritual development. A Christian counselor can help you understand that by turning over your fears and anxieties and insecurities to God and allowing Him to work with you through your challenges, that you can have renewed strength and focus, and peace and calm assurance instead of anxiety.

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Signs of Depression in Women (and What to Do)

Most women will have a variety of roles in their lives such as daughter, wife, mother, friend, employee, caregiver, and so on. With each of these different roles, there are natural ups and downs that are simply part of everyday life. Changes in mood brought about by things like fights with partners, work-related stress, and hormonal changes are very common, and not a cause for concern.

These types of emotional responses are usually short-lived and emotional balance restored within a few days. For women with depression, however, low mood is not limited to life stresses and does not simply go away once the immediate stressor has been resolved.

In depression, the symptoms often get worse over time and begin to have a significant impact on day to day life and relationships. Unfortunately, this often then becomes a vicious cycle in which many women feel trapped.

According to the statistics, approximately 15 million people in the United States suffer from one or more episodes of depression every year, and an alarming majority of these are women. In fact, depression is considered to be one of the most common problems that women in the United States experience and research has shown that women are up to twice as likely to be impacted by depression than men.

Additionally, depression tends to affect women earlier in life than for men, and episodes of depression in women are generally longer lasting and more frequent than for men.

Different Types of Depression

When symptoms of depression have a significant impact on daily functioning and are persistent, then a diagnosis of clinical depression is usually made. It is important for women who are struggling with this kind of depression to seek help from a medical professional or counselor.

Professional advice can begin to uncover the underlying causes of depression and help to formulate a treatment plan to ease the symptoms. The most common types of depression that women experience are:

Major Depression

A woman experiencing major depression will find that their daily life is considerably affected by their symptoms. Aspects of life that may be affected include work performance, sleep quality, and appetite.

In addition, major depression interferes with a person’s ability to experience pleasure or happiness, so things that a woman previously enjoyed may no longer be enjoyable.

One of the areas in which major depression has the greatest negative effect is in relationships. Women with major depression also tend to experience severely low self-esteem, which also has a considerable impact on their daily functioning. Major depression can be long-lasting and often reoccurs.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is considered to be unique to women, and generally affects women who have recently given birth to a child. While many women will experience low mood, often referred to as “baby blues”, as they adjust to the new addition in their life, postpartum depression is much more severe and causes significant difficulties for women.

The fact that most people consider the birth of a baby to be a cause of celebration only exacerbates the difficulties for women with postpartum depression. Symptoms usually develop in the first few months after giving birth, but in some cases, symptoms may emerge during pregnancy.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Although generally less severe than major depression, persistent depressive disorder, as its name suggests, persists for longer than other forms of depression. With this form of depression, symptoms can last for over two years and may be complicated by additional episodes of major depression.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Most people will know what premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is, and many women experience this on a monthly basis, with erratic moods and irritability. These symptoms are relatively mild and very common. However, premenstrual dysphoric disorder occurs much less frequently and is a form of depression that is closely linked with a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is much more serious than PMS and has a profound effect on women’s lives. Symptoms include anxiety, extreme anger, debilitating mood swings, appetite fluctuations, and suicidal thoughts and impulses.

These symptoms tend to appear up to a week before menstruation and fade as soon as the menstrual period begins. Symptoms are extreme enough to have a significant impact on daily life and relationships.

Other types of depression that only women experience include perinatal depression and perimenopausal depression. These hormonally-linked disorders occur at different life stages and can be debilitating for women.

What Causes Depression in Women?

Because of obvious differences between men and women, the causative factors for women are different from those for men. Hormones are high on the list of causes of depression in women, followed by varying stress responses, and social pressures that only women experience. There is a wide range of possible causes of depression in women, including genetic, hormonal, psychological and social issues.

Biological Causes

Biologically speaking, depression does tend to run in families. Research in genetics has shown that there are some genetic profiles that have a higher risk of developing depression, and others that lead to types of depression that are treatment resistant. However, genetical research cannot accurately predict who will or won’t experience depression.

Even though someone may have a higher genetic risk of experiencing depression, this does not guarantee that they will. Despite genetic risk factors, there are other aspects of life that may act in a protective way against depressive symptoms. Resiliency can be provided by strong family and social relationships.

In addition to genetic aspects, other biological risk factors for depression include fertility issues, pregnancy issues, perimenopause, menopause, and issues related to menstruation. There is a naturally increased risk of depression linked to hormonal changes and imbalances.

Chronic illness, health issues, disability and even stopping smoking can also increase the risk of experiencing depression for women.

Psychological Causes

Psychological causes of depression seem to be evident more frequently in women than in men. This may be due to women being generally viewed as more emotional and having the tendency to express emotions more than men.

Such factors mean that women have a greater likelihood of ruminating on negative and unhealthy thoughts, which creates a vicious cycle that prolongs depressive episodes and results in a greater severity in symptoms.

Women are also more likely to have issues related to body image and have less resilience to stress. Reduced stress resilience has been linked to high levels of the hormone progesterone, which can impede the balance of other hormones.

Social Causes

Women have different ways of coping with stress, react differently in relationships, and make different lifestyle choices when compared to men, and these differences impact their likelihood of developing depression.

For example, statistics have shown that more women experience depression due to relationship or marriage difficulties, struggle more as a result of poor work-life balance and have a greater likelihood of becoming depressed following financial problems and distressing life events such as a death in the family.

Factors that impact the risk of developing depression that are not exclusive to women include the effects of an abusive childhood, family history of mood disorders, and substance use.

Common Signs of Depression in Women

People experience the symptoms of depression in different ways, and their symptoms may present differently, differing in terms of frequency, severity, and symptom combinations.

Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling hopeless, being overwhelmed by despondency, misery, and anguish
  • Being uncharacteristically irritable, anxious, and feeling guilty
  • Severe, unexplained exhaustion
  • Losing interest in things that were previously important and pleasurable
  • Struggling with concentration, being unable to make decisions, poor memory
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Disrupted sleep, insomnia, wanting to sleep all the time
  • Lack of appetite or comfort eating
  • Physical issues such as aching, headaches, digestive upset, persistent pain
  • Having no energy
  • Feeling out of control
  • Crying a lot, or feeling constantly on the brink of tears
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling constantly on edge
  • Not being interested in people or activities

Differences in Depression for Women Compared to Men

Some of the differences between men and women’s experiences of depression include:

Women

  • Women are more likely to use food as a means of coping with their symptoms, developing unhealthy eating patterns
  • Women struggle more with feelings of lethargy and nervousness
  • Women experience more anxiety and fear
  • Women tend to feel responsible for their symptoms and inability to recover
  • Women struggle with sadness, poor self-worth, and experience apathy as a part of their depressive symptoms.
  • Women tend to retreat from conflict while battling depression
  • Women are more open in discussing their depressive symptoms, particularly their doubts and sense of despondency

Men

  • Men’s coping mechanisms are often more destructive in nature, particularly involving excessive alcohol consumption, sex, TV, and sports
  • Men struggle more with feelings of agitation and restlessness
  • Men tend to be more reticent during episodes of depression
  • Men hold others responsible for their symptoms
  • Men often initiate conflict when struggling with depression
  • Men are more prone to concealing their feelings of despondency, so as to avoid appearing weak

While these are some of the frequent differences distinguishing between men and women’s experience of depression, there are always exceptions to these, due to the variable and fluctuating nature of depression. Research has, however, shown these differences to be largely consistent.

Some of the differences can be attributed to the inherent hormonal differences in men and women. Naturally, those symptoms of depression that occur in connection with pregnancy or menopause are hormonal in nature.

One other explanation for why men and women experience depression differently can be the different social demands and expectations placed on women and men. For example, society often seems to have the expectation that men will not show weakness or be open about their feelings. Women, on the other hand, are expected to talk about their feelings.

Therefore, the way that society determines what is and is not acceptable has an impact on men and women’s experience of depression.

What to Do About Your Depression Symptoms

For women struggling with depression, it is important to think about how factors such as hormones, lifestyle, stress levels and age impact on your symptoms.

For example, if you are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant while receiving treatment for depression, your physician will be able to discuss what medications you can and cannot take and advise on alternative ways of handling symptoms.

When you are taking medication to treat symptoms of depression, you should be aware of any potential side effects and note those that you experience. This is particularly important with side effects that can intensify the symptoms of depression. Always consult your doctor if you suddenly feel worse.

In addition to medication, therapy has also proven to be valuable in treating depression, and for many therapies is a success. It is important to find a counselor that you can trust and talk openly with, and anyone in therapy for depression should be prepared to work at understanding the roots of your depression and developing effective ways of coping with symptoms.

Self-care is a vital part of recovery from depression. Taking good care of yourself has been shown to have a positive impact on depressive symptoms. It also helps to have a support system of friends and family who you can depend on when you are struggling. They can help you avoid the trap of isolation that only worsens symptoms and provide encouragement in your everyday life.

Studies have shown that having face-to-face support from others is more beneficial than phone calls, emails, or social media. Getting exercise and having healthy sleep habits are also useful means of reducing the impact of depression. Spiritual practices, as well as relaxation or meditation, can help also.

It is thought that around two-thirds of people with depression struggle to receive the help they need. Sometimes this is because they are afraid to ask for help, or ashamed of needing it. It is better to seek help early rather than risk symptoms worsening, as depression becomes harder to treat as the severity of symptoms increases.

Trained mental health workers can help you to look at the reasons why you are experiencing depression and build strategies that will help you the most. It is important to remember that only a mental health professional can make a formal diagnosis of depression.

Although depression affects people in different ways and has profound effects, all cases of depression are treatable. Combining treatment methods is the most effective, but there is no universal treatment plan that works for everyone. Seek advice from a Christian counselor to start on the road to recovery.

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