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

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.

Photos:
“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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How to Find the Depression Help You’re Looking For

Depression is a serious mental illness that can become incredibly dangerous if it goes untreated. Unfortunately, due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health, many of those who suffer from this condition do not seek out the help they really need.

Depression is also very common. Millions of Americans will suffer from it this year alone. Despite its prevalence, one person’s experience of depression may be very different to another’s. It is a complex illness with many varied factors and an array of different symptoms.

The causes of depression also vary. Links have been made between depression and negative life events, genetics, environment and overall levels of stress. Some types of depression will grow more severe over a number of years, while others may be confined to a “depressive episode” that might have been triggered by a life event.

Types of Depression

The following types of depression are very common and affect millions of people worldwide.

Clinical Depression

Clinical or major depression may be linked to genetics, hormones or even biological changes. This type of depression may prevent the sufferer from enjoying those things that used to give them pleasure. They may experience intense sadness and might find themselves getting easily irritated and angry.

Other symptoms might include loss of memory loss аnd a reduced interest in ѕеx. Every day may feel as if it is an uphill struggle, аnd thе ѕuffеrеr may stop ѕhоwing аny interest in their former hobbies. The duration of clinical dерrеѕѕіоn may be measured in уеаrѕ and can be absolutely debilitating.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

PDD іѕ a relatively mіld category оf depression that lasts for at least two years. It may not be the most severe level of depressive feeling, but it is there churning away in the background.

Sufferers may feel as if it has lasted for as long as they can remember. PDD is distinct in that it manifests as a low level of depression that is ongoing – often for years – as opposed to major depression that often comes in the form of short bursts or “episodes.”

Atypical Depression (Subtype of Major Depression or PDD)

This is a subtype of Persistent Depressive Disorder and is distinguished by a very specific set of symptoms such as changes in appetite, weakness, environmentally based mood swings, excessive sleepiness, fatigue, sensitivity to rejection. Some of these symptoms are also indicative major depression or PDD.

Postpartum Depression

Thіѕ type of depression is sometimes known as “Thе Bаbу Bluеѕ.” It is common for women to experience some level of depressive feeling as their hоrmоnе lеvеlѕ change, they find themselves short on ѕlеер, аnd thеy are overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting a child.

But postpartum depression is much more. The mоthеr may experience a heavy weight of dеѕраіr for an extended period of time. They may find it excruciatingly difficult to bond with the child, and may even feel a compulsion to harm their baby.

Manic Depression

Manic depression (also referred to аѕ Bipolar Dіѕоrdеr) iѕ a category оf dерrеѕѕіоn that is often represented bу times оf intense despair аnd mаjоr depression, fоllоwеd bу windows оf frantic hyperactivity and mania. These rhythms of depression followed by mania may occur for weeks or even months. Anyone suffering from this type of depression must seek professional help immediately.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Thеrе are some who find themselves falling into depression durіng fаll or wіntеr. Of course, many people feel a bit low when the evenings get darker and the days get colder, but SAD is more serious than that and may result in extreme feelings of hopelessness.

Therapists саll this condition seasonal affective dіѕоrdеr (SAD). People who are affected by the change of seasons plunge іntо dерrеѕѕion, cannot function normally, and may seem very similar to a person who is suffering from a mаjоr depression. However, those with SAD usually find that by the time the particular season ends, their mood begins to lift and they can function well again.

Practical Stерѕ to Fіnd thе Depression Hеlр Yоu Nееd

Consider some wауѕ that уоu саn find depression help :

Therapy

Talk therapy revolves around openly talking about уоur problems and feelings wіth a trained counselor. They may assist уоu in recognizing thought patterns or behaviors thаt are contributing tо your depression. Perhaps yоu will bе given some sort of hоmеwоrk, like trying to recognize the moments when your thinking begins to shift towards a depressive state. You may be encouraged to rewire those thought distortions; to trасk your mооdѕ, journal about your feelings, and develop a self-care plan. This wіll help you to progress with уоur treatment оutѕіdе of your sessions.

Yоur therapist may аlѕо provide you with еxеrсіѕеѕ for stress and anxiety reduction and hеlр to a better undеrѕtаnding of уоur illness. They may assist you in creating strategies to help identify аnd аvоіd trіggеrѕ thаt set off уоur dерrеѕѕіоn. A therapist саn аlѕо provide you with the tools needed to manage your depression when these triggers do inevitably pop up from time to time.

Medication

Medication is commonly used alongside the right therapy, as part of an effective treatment for depression. Sоmе people may use medication for a short time until their symptoms subside, while оthеrѕ may use them over the lоng-tеrm to stabilize their mental health. Common depression mеdісаtіоnѕ іnсludе:

  • Sеlесtіvе ѕеrоtоnіn reuptake іnhіbіtоrѕ (SSRI’ѕ)
  • Sеrоtоnіn-nоrеріnерhrіnе reuptake inhibitors (SNRI’s)
  • Trісусlіс antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines

Self-care

Dерrеѕѕіоn саn make іt tough to take care of yourself in the most basic of ways. But actively taking part іn уоur trеаtmеnt and working with a professional to help уоurѕеlf cope wіth things саn mаkе a huge difference tо your overall state of mind.

Engaging in mental, physical, and spiritual self-care on a daily basis can improve your mental health and even lift your depression. There are many brilliant self-care ideas around, but here аrе just a few examples of some things you can try:

  • deep breathing (mental self-care)
  • regular exercising (physical self-care)
  • prayer (spiritual self-care)
  • journaling your experiences, feelings, and emotions
  • соnnесting with your loved ones and friends
  • getting sufficient rest

Making use of sеlf-care techniques fоr treating depression саn be very effective for іmрrоvіng your overall mооd. Discuss various strategies with your therapist to find the best tools for effective mаnаgеment of thе ѕуmрtоmѕ оf your depression. If you have some key emotional strategies in place to deal with your depression when it strikes, you will be much better equipped to cope when your therapist is not around.

Depression can often feel as if it is uncontrollable and impossible to treat. But it is manageable, though it should never be battled alone. Seeking out help for your depression does not imply weakness or inability to cope. Rather, it is an illness that must be treated as such.

Christians should understand that depression, itself, is not a sin nor should you be ashamed of it. Depression does not equate to a lack of faith in God. In fact, many of the great theologians of the Christian Church have suffered from depressive disorders.

The important thing to remember is to always be bold in seeking professional help when you are struggling. With the right combination of therapy and medication, depression can be managed effectively, and you can find greater freedom and strength in your battle against mental illness.

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Commonly Missed Anxiety Symptoms in Women

Anxiety impacts people of all genders and ages but usually manifests differently in people of different ages and genders. Anxiety occurs twice as often in women as in men and are they found to experience Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Phobias, PTSD and Social Anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety in midlife differ than symptoms of anxiety during childhood. Today we will explore what anxiety looks like for women ages 30 to 50.

Women approaching midlife traditionally experience a higher propensity toward anxiety disorders.

Usually, these anxiety disorders fall within generalized anxiety, PTSD, and panic attacks. Hormonal changes that happen during motherhood, pre-menopause, and menopause are all reasons for these anxiety disorders.

Women in their thirties to fifties are normally facing the peak of life’s highest demands as they try to meet expectations imposed on women from society. Women embrace the idea that they can “have everything,” including chasing career growth, raising children, managing the home, and maintaining active social lives.

Women measure their lives to other mothers and businesswomen around them and strive to keep up appearances. During these years, suppressed memories of former sexual assault or abuse can often crop up and lead to latent anxiety or PTSD symptoms.

What follows is a breakdown of the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and PTSD.  You may not realize that some of the symptoms that are outlined below accompany these diagnoses.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder manifests itself as excessive anxiety and intense worry about a whole host of things. This worry comes quickly and can be a real challenge to control.

This anxiety is associated with not less than three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms, including fatigue, restlessness, muscle tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances. If you have experienced three or more of these symptoms on a regular basis for 6+ months, you most likely are living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Commonly Missed Anxiety Symptoms in Women:

Difficulty Concentrating

Many women struggle to simply focus on what’s happening around them. They begin a task and then shortly after may realize, “Woah. My mind has totally been wandering.” This lack of focus can become a detriment to productivity.

Sometimes it’s worrying thoughts that are distracting the person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but other times that person is unable to focus long enough to complete the task at hand. Either of these can still point to you experiencing anxiety.

Difficulty Sleeping

Tossing and turning is a symptom of anxiety in women ages 30 to 50. Mothers are used to losing solid, uninterrupted sleep when the baby comes, but there could be other signs to look out for. If your day is full of anxiety then your sleep might be interrupted by nightmares or other internal thoughts.

You get in bed to catch some shut-eye and the thoughts that plague you make it nearly impossible to fall asleep. You might eventually be able to drop off to sleep, but sleep is still elusive. If this is part of your nightly routine, you might be suffering from anxiety.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

A panic attack happens suddenly and escalates to its peak within minutes. It’s diagnosed when four of the below symptoms are met and often can be overlooked because the symptoms are similar to heart disorders, breathing issues and other health problems.

Recurring panic attacks include four or more of the following symptoms. Pounding heart or accelerated heart rate, palpitations, trembling or shaking, sweating, feelings of choking, feeling short of breath or like you are smothering, discomfort or pain in the chest, feeling dizzy, nausea or abdominal distress, unsteadiness, light-headedness, or faintness, paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations), chills or heat sensations, fear of losing control or “going crazy,” derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself), fear of dying.

At least one panic attack is followed by one month of persistent worry of having more panic attacks. Also, there’s a presence of persistent behavioral changes that occur to avoid an attack, including avoiding similar situations that caused the attack in the first place.

Commonly Missed Symptoms:

Accurately Identifying Physical Symptoms as Anxiety

A panic attack itself is extremely noticeable. The physical signs can be frightening for someone who has never suffered through an anxiety attack. However, interpreting the symptoms accurately is harder to do.

Perhaps you have been experiencing tightness of the chest for days and wonder if your heart is healthy. This is one of the ways symptoms aren’t viewed accurately because anxiety may not have been on your radar as the problem.

The Fear of Recurring Panic Attacks

Once you’ve gone through a panic attack, a fear can grip you about when the next anxiety attack will occur. The worry about physically experiencing another panic attack is all-consuming, yet a normal part of the anxiety experience of a panic disorder.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD symptoms occur after being exposed to death, injury, or violence. This can happen by directly witnessing the trauma, or by learning the details of a trauma indirectly.

PTSD also happens when you’re experiencing the traumatic event in certain ways that include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or exposure to something that triggers traumatic reminders. Completely avoiding thoughts, feelings, or reminders of the traumatic experience can also be a symptom of PTSD. Usually, symptoms must have lasted for one month, but not all symptoms have to exist to be diagnosed with PTSD.

Commonly Missed Symptoms:

Self-Blame

Women often internalize traumatic events and feel responsible for what happened. In an attempt to minimize the pain, they just self-blame. Women are known to shoulder burdens and this behavior puts them at higher risk for experiencing PTSD when they are exposed to a traumatic event.

Christian Counselors Are Ready to Help

Don’t let the pressure of being perfect prevent you from seeking help. If you are women between the ages of 30 and 50 and find yourself relating to what’s been shared in this post, help is out there. Taking the step of finding a counselor can be daunting, but it can lead to incredible freedom in your life. Counseling can help in ways you might not even realize.

Remember, you are not alone. Anxiety is common and treatable. A professional, established counselor will come alongside you during this season of life and equip with the tools to take on your anxiety.

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“Portrait,” courtesy of Remy Loz, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone,” courtesy of Ann Demianenko, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Nervous,” courtesy of Eddie Kopp, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Trapped,” courtesy of Paul Gilmore, unsplash.com, Public Domain License

5 Common Symptoms of Fear of Abandonment

Connection is a hardwired human need. Fear of abandonment usually stems from the loss of a parent through death, divorce, general absence, or even adoption. If children are limited in their ability to form secure, safe attachments then these wounds can influence adult behavior and healthy relationships.

If a child has endured consistent loss, all of those feelings and memories can be reignited in adulthood when triggered.

If your biological father abandoned you as an infant, that fear and pain might prevent you from having functioning and thriving relationships.

On a broader level, intense fears of losing a connection with a loved one can fuel abandonment concerns. Usually, these fears originate from moments when someone let you down or failed to take care of you. Abandonment can be real or perceived, emotional or physical. Some examples of childhood abandonment include:

  • Children who felt deserted due to divorce, death, foster care, or daycare
  • Children who felt forsaken because of verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • Children whose basic needs were not met by their parents.

There are many other forms of abandonment that may be less obvious but by no means less significant.

  • Parents who were emotionally unavailable
  • Siblings who constantly teased their brother or sister
  • Children who felt routinely ignored and were left to solve problems without guidance
  • Adolescents who were criticized and made to feel that making mistakes was prohibited
  • Other abandonment wounds occur from peer rejection, chronic illness, relationships ending or prolonged singleness

Common Fear of Abandonment Symptoms

Fear of abandonment is involuntary. Because of life events that were out of your control, this fear has been instilled inside of you. Here are five symptoms that are associated with a fear of abandonment.

1. Chronic insecurities

Abandonment can cause a severe fear of rejection, damage self-esteem, and bring about a host of other insecurities. The insecurities crop up and, in an attempt to hold onto someone out of fear, you end up pushing him away.

Your thoughts might immediately go to, “I’m unlovable. Nobody will ever love me.” The need for constant reassurance from other people causes stress in relationships. It’s important to be able to affirm yourself without needing someone else to affirm you.

You hold deep feelings of unworthiness. The insecurities intensify as the fear that abandonment will occur again plagues your mind.

2. Re-enacting Trauma

Habits are hard to break. Because of low self-esteem and past experiences, people with a fear of abandonment often find themselves being drawn to the same patterns in adulthood. Many people place themselves in relationships that end with being discarded or abused.

When someone re-enacts trauma it’s a subconscious effort to resolve past trauma. This could manifest by being attracted to the “wrong” person who is noncommittal and hurtful. You begin to project your insecurities on those around you.

As you cling to those around you, they feel suffocated from accusations that are thrown at them like, “You will leave me. You don’t love me anymore. You don’t need me.”

3. Growing Distrust

People with pain from abandonment were usually deserted by someone they trusted. As a result, these people learned to create boundaries and only rely on themselves for protection. They build an emotional barricade that keeps others from getting too close.

This growing distrust coupled with heightened sensitivity can create conflicting behaviors. On the outside, the person acts tough, but on the inside, the criticism, feelings of being misunderstood and other negative comments will cause emotional destruction.

4. Mood Swings

A breakup or fracture in a relationship is hard to handle on a normal day, but for someone with a deep-seated fear of abandonment, a wave of depression and anxiety can crash over you. In an effort to self-protect, you might try to numb your pain or detach completely from it. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness chip away at your heart.

You are constantly paranoid that the ones you love will leave you at any moment, and you over-analyze what others think of you and say about you. You struggle with feeling defensive and misunderstood. A surge of jealousy toward others can consume you.

5. Self-Sabotaging Relationships

Shame and condemnation bombard you daily. An onslaught of thoughts around worthlessness fills your mind. Those who can relate to a fear of abandonment normally find themselves wanting to cling to people, yet wanting to avoid intimacy at the same time.

To someone with a fear of abandonment, the thought of intimacy can mean being controlled and surrendering independence. To risk fully exposing their heart puts them in a vulnerable space. They reject first before they can be rejected by someone else.

Christian Counseling Helps Overcome Fear of Abandonment

Living with a fear of abandonment can make you feel unwanted and not good enough. If you believe you might be struggling with some of the symptoms outlined in this article, a Christian counselor can help redirect you to confidence boosting, uplifting thought patterns.

You don’t have to stay stuck. Refuse to allow this fear to become an obstacle between you and healthy relationships. Counseling is a safe place to navigate your story and find the strength to move forward in life.

Photos:
“Self-hate”, Courtesy of Louis Blythe, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Abandoned”, Courtesy of Christopher Windus, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Boots,” courtesy of holeysocksart, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Contemplation,” courtesy of Simon Powell, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)

Codependency Traits in the Church

“Codependency” is the commonly used term to describe the obvious accommodations that a person makes in order to adjust to an addict’s dependence on substances.

Consequently, it is damaging on two fronts: the addict is reinforced in their unhealthy behavior and the enabler is likely over-functioning in order to compensate for the lifestyle of the addict.

Codependents may feel as if they are some sort of hero for constantly saving the addict from themselves. But in reality, they are not helping the addict recover and are only compounding their issues. You could say that the codependent person has a control addiction in the same way that the addict does for a particular substance.

Substance addiction may be an extreme example of codependency, but it serves as a helpful one when we look at the nature of the human relationships trapped in this codependent situation.

The Bible teaches that every one of us is addicted to sin. The apostle Paul asserts in Romans 6:17, “though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.”

There is no doubt that the church can become an incredible force for good in breaking addictions and providing a community where codependency traits can be eradicated from people’s relationships.

The New Testament is full of clear direction pointing towards God’s design for Christians to assist each other in growing and maturing spiritually. Some of these instructions include teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, encouraging, reminding, and restoring. All of these things are intended to help someone transition from an unhealthy reliance on another person to a healthy reliance on God.

However, codependency can become an issue for church staff members as they seek to help and pastor many individuals who are struggling in their lives. If leaders fail to maintain a healthy balance in their pastoral lives, codependent relationships can thrive, and burnout is never far away. Simply put – Christian leaders must look after themselves.

Though the main point of the parable is about being ready for the His return, Jesus touches on the subject of personal responsibility in his Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). When the foolish virgins find that they have run out of oil because they didn’t bring enough, they then attempt to borrow more from the wise virgins who refuse because they only brought enough for themselves.

Christians are ultimately responsible for their own faith. God never intended that we should be either the object or the source of some else’s faith. We must all seek after the Lord for ourselves, knowing that He is the one who can fulfill us and grant us strength and healing.

Depending on the Holy Spirit vs. Depending on Flesh

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord’” (Jeremiah 17:5). The clear message of this verse is that God is to be the church’s source of strength. So don’t place your faith in the church leaders or unbiblical systems of doctrine, but instead look to the Lord.

Many would describe the Christian life as “just one beggar showing another beggar where to get some bread.” This is a brilliant quote as it sums up what the Christian faith is all about. We all need the Lord and our aim should be to point each other to Him.

The apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” James says in James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

These passages demonstrate the process of refinement that God brings about by means of trials that drive the Christian to seek Him out in the midst of the trouble. Of course, it is often much easier to simply instruct someone and think you have all the answers to give when they hit a rough patch in the life.

We must be careful not to try and think on behalf of others. This behavior disempowers the individual and will contribute to their dependent tendencies. It is always more helpful to try and enable the person to become the driving force behind tackling their own issues.

The church can help us with this! The church community should be a place where we spur each other on to grow in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Codependency runs the risk of robbing people of the things that they need to experience in order to teach them dependence on God.

“What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” – Proverbs 19:22

“One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” – Proverbs 27:7

These verses from Proverbs are excellent because they deal with the different ways people cover up their need for love. The first one addresses our desperate need for an eternal and unfailing love and how we might exchange this for something like money in order to feel secure.

The second one describes a person who does not have a sense of fulfillment, so they are more likely to search for it in places where it cannot be found. Both of these passages describe the motives of a codependent person. People with issues of codependency tend to cover up a hunger for love with something else. In turn, they fail to receive all that God has for them.

Those who are more susceptible to codependency are often seeking after a predictable way to attain a sense of value that has been lacking in their past.

The church is a wonderful environment in which we can be unconditionally loved and accepted, but it can also become a place where performance and pressure are rife. Too often, people are motivated to get involved in church in order to find self-worth. But this is never a good motivation in and of itself.

Christians must discover freedom outside of the “performance mentality” that demands perfect results in every sphere of their lives. Too often, those who are engaged in a codependent relationship have a tendency to behave in this manner.

Codependency is in direct contradiction to the unconditional “agape” love of God. It’s an attempt to exert control over how others feel or think about us, but it is a bottomless pit. You will never be able to do enough, please enough people, or perform to the level you think you should be achieving. When it comes to working for the church in either a voluntary or an employed capacity, we must carefully examine our motives.

There is so much freedom in knowing that God’s love is unconditional. When we are securely rooted in the finished work of Christ, we derive our ultimate value from Him. This helps us avoid attempting to overrule the work of God in other people’s lives. We must never think we know better than the Lord when it comes to dealing with the lives of those around us.

Dependency vs. Interdependency – The Culture of the Church

Of course, the church should be a place where we lean on each other. We are one body in Christ Jesus and must learn to be interdependent and selfless in our service to Him. But Jesus continues to challenge us just as he did with His disciples and listeners. Look at some of the key questions Jesus asked.

  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
  • Why then is it written that the Son of man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mark 9:12)
  • Who do you say I am? (Matthew 6:15)
  • Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
  • Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)

Jesus was a master at asking questions that cause us to search our souls and to think for ourselves. By these means, Jesus wants us to learn how to become people of bold and courageous faith, who both lean on Him and are able to take responsibility for their own spiritual lives alongside bolstering others in their faith.

Jesus calls us to be dependent on Him. This is, however, the only truly dependent relationship we should maintain. Of course, we should be interdependent in community – supporting one another, encouraging, and challenging each other. But we should always seek to harbor a special dependency on Christ, who is our master.

A wise piece of advice given to any person working in the ministry would be this: “The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give God – is the person you become.” We must embrace our testimony and utilize our life story for the glory of God. We must always seek to take care of our own issues in a healthy and appropriate way, and must never fall into the trap of thinking we possess all the answers for others.

Every single person possesses God-given ability to help others. As Christians, it is a central calling that we be a blessing to those in need. But we must be very careful not to enter into a relational dynamic of codependency, as this is never God-honoring and can be very damaging.

We must always seek to listen to the voice of God first and foremost. He is the one who can truly heal, restore and transform those people who are in need. We must never try and be the savior to others, as attempting to replace Jesus in the life of another is a dangerous and foolish endeavor.

Remember, interdependency in the context of a church community can be a wonderful blessing of rich joy, healing, and companionship. But we must always remember who is at the head of the body. Jesus is the only one who is able to guide our steps and lead us on into fullness of life; we are simply his vessels and the tools in His hand.

Photos
“Break”, Courtesy of Tanja Heffner, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Scripture,” courtesy of Aaron Burden, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Torn,” courtesy of Jiri Wagner, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking in the Park”, Courtesy of Mabel Amber, Pixabay.com; CC0 License

Social Anxiety Disorder: How to Manage and How to Thrive

Imagine being caught in a riptide. Your breath hitches and heart starts beating so loudly that you can’t hear the crashing waves. You are paralyzed and don’t know whether you will sink or swim. Suddenly, you feel energy flood your body and every hair on your back and arms stand up with anticipation.

You begin to swim, focused on nothing else except the beach. All of this takes less than 15 seconds, but when you get out of the current, you feel like you’ve been swimming for 15 hours.

This example of a flight-or-fight response is similar to the ones people experience in most dangerous, life-threatening situations. Our brain assesses the risk and tells our body how to respond

It is called an automatic stress response to danger, and under it, the body moves faster, bleeds less, and floods muscles with energy hormones while the brain disengages from all other input other than the main threat. This response is instinctual and meant to aid in survival.

But what if this happened every time you had to talk with someone new? Or every time you went to class, or church, or a party? What if this automatic stress response kicked in at coffee shops and shopping malls and yoga studios, and it always seemed like you were being swept out to sea, even when you were on a business call? This kind of survival response can be exhausting when triggered all the time, and can seriously affect a person’s quality of life.

Social anxiety disorder is like this. People with social anxiety fear embarrassment, being judged and evaluated negatively by others, and finding themselves in situations where they could be scrutinized. This fear leads to the avoidance of social situations altogether.

Sometimes this anxiety can be overwhelming. Social anxiety disorders correlate with a low quality of life. There is a greater risk of dropping out of school, experiencing lower work productivity, and receiving a lower income (Edmund Bourne, Ph.D. 2015). For this to be a clinical diagnosis, however, this fear or anxiety must stick around for six months or longer.

Humans crave connection and we are created for community and positive interaction. Social interaction is necessary for people to thrive. Just as food helps fuel the body, social interaction helps fuel the brain. When a social anxiety disorder is ignored, it puts a person at risk for unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

While anxiety in itself can be helpful (it typically serves as a prompt to grow or change), paralyzing anxiety can be dangerous. The key is to learn how to manage the anxiety so that it is not so overwhelming that the person is unable to function.

Planning Recovery

Several interventions exist for addressing and treating social anxiety, but the most important thing to know is: ask for help. Help can look different for each person but exists in many forms. Read a book on different treatment approaches, enlist the support of family and/or friends, or meet with a therapist. Just take the first step!

We hope this post will provide you with an overview of successful interventions and give you examples of common treatment plans for this disorder. The four following approaches can help people cope with their social anxiety:

1. Relaxation Training
2. Core Belief Transformation
3. Exposure Tasking
4. Personal Assertiveness Practice

While these four things aren’t the totality of intervention for a social anxiety disorder, they give a good overview of what a therapist might do to help someone manage their diagnosis.

Relaxation Training

We tend to perform best when we feel relaxed. We are more alert and energized, and willing to approach uncomfortable situations. With an anxiety disorder, however, relaxation seems out of reach. This is partly because the fight-or-flight response is antithetical to the relaxation response.

It takes practice. Relaxation training decreases an overactive heart rate, respiration, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and oxygen consumption. It calms the overly analytical brain and increases skin resistance and alpha wave activity in the brain. (Edmund Bourne, Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 2015).

Since people with social anxiety disorders often have past negative social experiences, they avoid future experiences in an attempt to mitigate any humiliation or degradation they might perceive. This avoidance ultimately strengthens the anxiety response to social situations. With mastery of relaxation techniques, the same person can gain confidence in social situations (even if they had past negative experiences).

Relaxation training can take the form of guided imagery, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and abdominal breathing. The method one chooses isn’t as important as the frequency with which they practice their chosen method. Twenty to thirty minutes a day can produce positive, life-changing results.

This is typically the first step to overcoming social anxiety. If you can relax, you can better assess risks. Relaxation helps free a person to face the situation they have previously learned to avoid.

Core Belief Transformation

Our thoughts are powerful, and when they are unhelpful, they can be powerful barriers to overcoming social anxiety. Our willingness to participate in social activities is directly related to how we think about ourselves, about others, about the situation, etc. Negative thoughts lead to increased anxiety.

We find that the more intense the thoughts are, the more intense the feelings are. The goal of managing any anxiety disorder is to reduce anxiety levels so that one is free to engage their social world. For example, someone with a social anxiety disorder might think and believe that they will look foolish if they speak in a meeting.

The more they think this, the higher their anxiety climbs, making it almost impossible for them to speak up. If they can change their belief that they are “foolish” and switch it to something less intense, like “I’m concerned others won’t like my ideas,” they are freer to explore ways to challenge that thought and speak up.

Edmund Bourne, Ph.D., recommends five questions for lowering the intensity of negative thoughts and challenging mistaken beliefs:

1. What objective evidence do you have for this belief?
2. Does this belief ALWAYS hold true for you?
3. Does this belief take into account the negative and positive outcomes? (Does it look at the whole picture?)
4. Does this belief give you peace of mind or promote your well-being?
5. Did you choose this belief on your own, or did it come from your experience growing up in your family?

Asking these questions will better help a person develop new thoughts that are less anxiety-provoking. While difficult to do at first, a supportive therapist can help those with social anxiety challenge their core beliefs so they can engage their social world without fear.

Exposure Tasking

Social anxiety disorder acts like a phobia. When you are afraid of something, you tend to avoid it. People with social anxiety disorder avoid social situations. They experience anxiety when confronted with particular stimuli (speaking in public, taking public transportation, attending parties, etc.), and when they avoid that stimulus, their anxiety is reduced.

The avoidance is like a reward-system and the more it happens, the more it creates a pathway in the brain to allow it to happen. The brain starts making the connection automatically, and the avoidance becomes second-nature. When anxiety reactions get hardwired into a person’s brain, it can be difficult to re-route.

However, our brains are built to adapt, change, and form new connections. This is called neuroplasticity. This rewiring process is also called exposure and exposure helps people unlearn “the connection between anxiety and a particular situation.” (Bourne, 2015).

Exposure tasking allows a person to enter a scary situation, feel their anxiety rise, endure the anxiety, and realize they can survive it. This ultimately allows that person to unlearn their anxiety response and gain confidence in their ability to handle it.

The key to doing this is to break down the exposure tasks into manageable chunks. The anxiety can be mastered in successive stages instead of all at once.

For example:

Fred is afraid of public speaking. He chooses exposure tasking to help him conquer his fear. He first imagines himself on stage speaking in front of a crowd. While doing this, he acknowledges all his thoughts and feelings.

If they are negative, he replaces them with positive. Next, he practices in front of a mirror. After he feels comfortable, he gathers a group of friends. On this goes until he is able to face the anxiety-provoking situation, literally rewiring his brain.

Personal Assertiveness Practice

The final approach that can help someone cope with social anxiety is assertive communication. This is a direct, non-reactive, clear, and honest form of self-expression that allows a person to interact with others in a non-anxious way.

The key elements of assertive communication include the following:

  • Identifying personal needs;
  • Describing facts;
  • Sharing personal feelings;
  • Making personal requests;
  • Providing positive reasons for need.

For example, if Fred was angry at a friend who always canceled plans, his first step would be to figure out his need. His need would be reliability. After identifying this need, he would sit down with his friend to discuss the facts in a non-emotional way. “You have canceled plans the past 5 times we’ve made them.”

Then he’d share his feelings. “This makes me feel unsure and confused.” Finally, he’d make his request by providing positive reasons for it. “I need you to keep plans when we make them or not make plans until you know for sure that you can go. It will help me feel confident in our relationship and give me assurance that we are in a good place.”

Even if Fred’s friend did not respond well, Fred has demonstrated that he can stand up for himself and not let his anxiety rule his friendships or create unhealthy relationships. Practicing this is key to being able to do this in everyday situations.

Conclusion

These four areas of intervention are just a small overview of what treatment looks like for social anxiety disorder. This is not a substantial how-to, as much as it is an informative look at what needs to happen when approaching this diagnosis.

There is help, intervention, and healing for social anxiety. Recovery is achievable and with the right supports in place, it is a journey worth taking.

Photos

“Blue Sea”, Courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo, Pexels.com; CC0 License; “Relaxation,” courtesy of Kosal Ley, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Time to Think,” courtesy of Enrico, Flickr Creative Commons; “Group Therapy”, Courtesy of Rudamese, Pixabay.com; CC0 License