Eight Truths About Therapy You Might Not Know

Many people claim that they are “aware” about the use of therapy for mental illnesses. In fact, on both the big and small screens, characters are often shown visiting a therapist to assist them with their mental or emotional issues.

Unfortunately, this “awareness” of theirs leads to the conclusion that only those in dire straits, those with no one else to talk to, or only those with the means can avail of such help. Sadly, this prevents many people from availing of needed help until it is too late, which should NOT be the case.

There is still much to clarify about therapy in this modern age.

Some Important Clarifications about Therapy

1. Therapy IS meant for all.

Aside from worries about the cost, there really is a stigma attached to the idea of therapy. People just don’t want themselves, or their loved ones, to be labelled as “crazy,” particularly in this age of social media where news can spread instantly.

Although self-respect is important, too much pride – either for oneself or for one’s family – becomes a big hindrance. Without professional help, a person suffering from mental or emotional issues has a slimmer chance of getting better and a higher chance of life becoming more difficult.

Mental and emotional problems interfere with many aspects of life, lowering the possibility of success at school, work, or at home. So the earlier a person is properly treated, the better for everyone involved.

2. Therapists are NOT there to judge their clients. They just educate impartially.

The idea of sharing one’s deepest fears and secrets can be very frightening. This is why many choose to stay quiet about such, even if a close loved one is asking.

Therapy, however, is meant to be a venue where a person CAN share these inner thoughts, fears, and desires without being judged, ridiculed, or exposed. Professional therapists know this and approach each situation with an open mind, giving unbiased advice on what to do. As they are not personally involved, it is sometimes even easier for them to notice things that family members and friends cannot see; or share the advice that loved ones with vested interests do not want to say.

When many people are involved, group therapy can become a way for all parties to share their side with an unbiased therapist managing the conversation so that negative emotions are handled well. In such a neutral environment, rocky relationships have a better chance of mending, giving hope to all concerned.

3. Therapy takes time.

Unfortunately, many try therapy thinking it will be a quick fix. But after a few sessions, they decide to opt out because it is seemingly taking too much time.

Just like many other medical conditions or emotional setbacks, therapy requires time for things to sort themselves out. Years of abuse, anger issues, low self-esteem, or addictions cannot be overcome in a week’s or even a month’s time. Sufficient time is needed for the therapist to help sort through the underlying issues, and time is necessary for the person’s heart and mind to finally accept what has happened and move forward in life.

4. Full participation is necessary.

Every person’s circumstance is different, which means the therapist has to consider what approach will work best. This is why there may be different suggestions or assignments for the person to try. If they do not work out, then something else may be suggested in the next session.

Things, however, become difficult when the client does not fully participate. Because of doubts, busyness, or pride, some clients do not accomplish their assignments, making it hard for the therapist to do their job. Full participation is a must for therapy to work well.

5. The client is in control.

Most people are not happy about always being told what to do, especially when one has invested much time and money into something. This is another reason why some shun the idea of therapy as they believe that in therapy they will simply follow someone else’s regimen, not theirs. Such thinking, however, is far from the truth.

While there are protocols that therapists follow, each therapist knows that healing cannot occur if the client is not comfortable with the process. So while there will be suggestions to follow and assignments to do, everything begins with what the person needs as communicated in the sessions. Therapists understand this and are willing to adjust according to what works best for each client.

6. Sometimes the situation may get worse before it gets better.

Since mental issues are very complex, it is often necessary to revisit painful experiences or discuss shameful thoughts or desires. Doing so, however, usually elicits negative emotions which can make the counseling process more difficult to bear. In fact, many clients feel like quitting as they wrongly believe the therapist is adding to their mental burden rather than alleviating it.

But as stated earlier, therapy takes time and requires full participation. And if there are many layers of pain that have caused the present situation, each layer needs to be addressed lest they return to haunt the client in the future. Hence, each client needs to stay the course, knowing that sometimes things have to get worse before changes can begin.

7. Therapists CAN understand what the client is going through.

Some people are hesitant to continue therapy, or even start it, because they believe that their situation is much too difficult for someone else to handle, regardless of their expertise. They think what they are going through is “too crazy” for anyone else to understand, so they opt to deal with it on their own.

Professional therapists, however, have already learned, seen, and experienced much in their training and practice. While each person’s situation is truly unique, there are still many similar emotions and desires that each client feels. So therapists CAN understand what the client is feeling, no matter how grave their circumstances. This is why they are able to help those who seek their assistance.

8. Therapy requires the right therapist.

Unlike other physical ailments, there is no single solution to each mental health problem. Every client’s background and personality have to be taken into consideration before the right steps can be made. This is why it is important that both the client and therapist are able to work well with one another.

While it may seem strange that a trained professional cannot help their client, such an occurrence happens regularly in many fields that require close communication like teaching, coaching, and even wedding planning. Sometimes particular personalities and styles fit; while other times they clash, preventing positive gains. Thus, it pays to put some effort into the search.

One good way is to ask friends for referrals as they may have had firsthand experience. It also pays to search online as many counseling websites post the expertise of their therapists. But in many instances, the “right fit” won’t be gauged until client and therapist have sat down and begun their discussions. Fortunately, therapists are aware of the need for a “good fit” so they are not hurt when a client opts to continue elsewhere.

Christian Counseling as a Better Option

Mental and emotional issues take a heavy toll on both the mind and body. But one other aspect they also hurt is the spirit. This is why even though the person may seem to be on the road to recovery, there may be inner spiritual turmoil that causes them to regress later on. So though secular therapy can be helpful to an extent, it is always better to seek Christian counseling.

Similar to secular therapy, in Christian counseling the latest therapeutic techniques will also be used to discuss and resolve the client’s mental and emotional issues. But most importantly, the faith-based counselor will introduce the client to the love and mercy of God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. With prayer and meditation on God’s Word, the client’s spiritual needs will be addressed leading to a more complete recovery.

If you or a friend is suffering from a mental or emotional issue, do not hesitate anymore to seek professional help from a Christian counselor. Complete healing can only begin with the right assistance.

Photos:
“Comfort Therapy”, Courtesy of Mindy Jacobs Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Group Therapy”, Courtesy of Rudamese, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “Therapy”, Courtesy of Rawpixel.com, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Screen time,” courtesy of Neonbrand, unsplash.com, CC0 License

What are the Signs of Codependency I Should Watch For?

When a client describes him or herself as a “people pleaser,” an alarm bell might go off in a counselor’s mind. That’s not because codependents are psychologically disturbed; instead, it’s because signs of codependency can subtly wreak havoc in relationships.

If someone has codependent behaviors, this equates to a lack of boundaries, and a client who is struggling in this area will need help working through issues of self-esteem and personal identity.

Have you heard of the book Codependent No More? Melody Beattie wrote this landmark primer on codependency in the late 1980s, and this is how she describes codependency: “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” (Codependent No More, 1992 ed.)

We’ll get into the details later, but for now, remember the key points of codependency:

  • Being overly affected by other people’s actions.
  • Being obsessed with controlling other people’s actions.

This description might sound confusing at first because codependents do have people-pleasing behaviors; they don’t always seem controlling at first glance because they’re not angry, powerful people. But, as we will see, codependency is rooted in fear, and when someone feels afraid and helpless, they often grasp for control as a way to feel safe.

Pia Mellody has also researched codependency extensively. She breaks down the specific areas codependents struggle with:

  • Having healthy self-esteem.
  • Setting healthy boundaries.
  • Being confident of their reality and able to express their perspective.
  • Taking responsibility for their own needs and desires.
  • Experiencing and expressing their reality moderately.

Beattie writes this about self-esteem and codependency:

If codependents have any kind of esteem, it is not self-esteem but other-esteem; which is based on external things such as how one looks, how much money they make, who they know, what kind of car they drive, what kind of job they have, how well their children perform, how powerful and important or attractive their spouse is, the degrees they have earned, how well they perform at activities in which others value, etc. Facing Codependence, p. 9

In moderation, it’s natural to enjoy our accomplishments, but if you derive your worth from impressing other people or winning their approval, you don’t have healthy self-esteem. You have other-esteem. Does this sound familiar, possibly for you, or for many people you know? Codependency is quite common.

Social media tends to magnify underlying personality issues such as narcissism or codependency. We can see that while using social media, everyone is mostly competing to be recognized, “liked,” and “favorited” by others. Accomplishments, material possessions, and experiences are all fodder for public admiration.

Social media can pose dangers for everyone, and if you are prone to codependency, you might notice that social media magnifies your drive to find your value in what others think. As Christian counselors, our goal for our clients is a life of healthy interdependence, not codependence or complete independence.

David Richo, the author of How to Be an Adult, writes:

In a healthy person, loyalty has its limits and unconditional love can coexist with conditional involvement. Unconditional does not, after all, mean uncritical. You can both love someone unconditionally and place conditions on your interactions to protect your own boundaries. It is building a functional healthy ego to relate intimately to others with full and generous openness while your own wholeness still remains inviolate. It is a great boost to self-esteem to be in touch and intact. This is adult interdependence. How to Be an Adult, 1991, p. 58

A clear view of healthy relationships reveals that love and approval are not always synonymous. You can love someone unconditionally, yet not approve of their actions, just as God loves sinners.

Boundaries and Codependency

The word boundaries can turn into a catchphrase that’s thrown around when people don’t like how others are treating them. But, boundaries aren’t a way to control other people. They are the freedom we have as humans to make decisions for our protection and autonomy. Based on our discretion and other people’s choices, we decide our level of participation with them.

When you lock your doors at night, you’re not insulting your neighbors, or controlling them. You’re protecting yourself and what’s inside your house.

Boundaries are similar to locking a door. They help us delineate what belongs to us, and what belongs to other people, and how we can peacefully coexist while protecting our property. As a human, your mind, heart, soul, and body are your “property,” and boundaries are meant to help you thrive and to prevent potential violations of your rights and autonomy.

So as opposed to being a form of control, boundaries are the ultimate admission that we can’t control other people. But, we can proactively create a healthy environment for ourselves. In our relationships, we can observe others’ choices and modify our behavior as needed – acknowledging that we can’t control their actions, only our own.

By reacting in a way that preserves our health and freedom, we’re not overly attached to the other person’s choices. That’s not to say we won’t be hurt or feel emotional pain, but we experience hurt and pain and express it without trying to force the other person to change.

On boundaries, David Richo writes: “I know I have lost my boundaries and become codependent when: I don’t let go of what doesn’t work, and it feels like I cannot let go of what could possibly/hopefully work. Codependency is unconditional love for someone else that has turned against oneself.” (p. 59)

So, why are we talking about boundaries? Because this concept intertwines with codependency. Codependency, low self-worth, and poor boundaries always coexist. As we mature from childhood in adulthood, we should find our value and worth in God as believers. We depend on him to meet our needs.

On a human level, we recognize that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves. We do not expect others to do it for us, and we do not make ourselves accountable for other adults. We have many responsibilities to other people, but we are only responsible for ourselves.

Hope for Codependents

If you recognize codependent traits in yourself, don’t lose hope. You are not defective or inadequate; you just need to work through the heart issues and learn healthier ways of relating to others.

Codependency is often learned as children in our families of origin, when we witness poor boundaries, enmeshment, low self-esteem, enabling, or other unhealthy relational patterns. Many codependents grew up with a parent struggling with addiction.

In its original definition, codependency described the relationship between an alcoholic and an enabler, but mental health experts realized that many relationships display these traits even if there is no substance addiction. Although you may have developed these behaviors to survive, they are now, in turn, preventing you from living a full and healthy life.

So, what exactly are healthy boundaries? In How to Be an Adult (59-60), Richo provides a helpful summary of how to set boundaries. Here are some thoughts, based on his summary:

  • Learn to ask directly for what you want. Pursue your good desires. Refuse to live in fear, isolation, or bitterness.
  • Care for yourself and receive God’s care for you. Ask God for wisdom and discernment in managing your relationships. Work on developing a robust support system that can give you feedback when needed, whether that be a counselor, friends, or a group that you join.
  • Observe, don’t absorb. Practice “watching” how other people treat you and letting that inform what will you accept from them. This stance allows you to act instead of reacting.
  • Acknowledge that you can’t change others. Instead of basing your relationship on hopes for the future, decide how much you can handle in a hurting and disappointing relationship. How many lies and betrayals will you accept? You are your advocate.
  • Trust God alone. Only he is worthy of our complete devotion and trust. All humans will fail us, some more destructively than others. We will fail the people in our lives too. Finding security in the Lord helps us to work through hurt from others without letting it define us.

Good relationships involve an investment in the lives of others, a giving of power, without us diminishing ourselves in any way. We voluntarily enter vulnerability freely as lovers, not as helpless victims. In an unhealthy relationship dynamic, we fail to protect ourselves and live from a place of reaction versus acting on behalf of ourselves.

On the other hand, in unhealthy relationships, we don’t have a sense of self-protection, and instead of choosing how to act, we merely react to how others treat us.

Common Signs of Codependency

Not all mental health professionals agree on how codependency presents. But there do tend to be some common symptoms. The following list is adapted from Codependent No More. A person with codependency:

  • Takes responsibility for how other people feel, think, and behave.
  • Finds their sense of worth in “rescuing” people from the consequences of their own decisions.
  • Says yes when they would rather say no, to meet someone’s expectations instead of doing what they would rather do.
  • Neglects their own needs and lives to please others.
  • Feels insecure and guilty if someone else serves them in some way.
  • Notices how often they give to others and how rarely people give to them and feels sad about it.
  • Is attracted to needy people.
  • Finds that other needy people seem drawn to them.
  • Feels restless or unsatisfied in the absence of a crisis or a problem to solve.

What are the outward signs of someone who has low self-worth? According to Beattie, a codependent person with low self-esteem:

  • Feels hopeless, like nothing good will happen to them.
  • Is indecisive.
  • Has survived abuse, neglect, abandonment, or addiction.
  • Fears rejection.
  • Rejects compliments.
  • Probably comes from a dysfunctional family, but may deny it.
  • Feels unworthy of love, so settles for being needed.
  • Puts others first, often to the detriment of their own needs.
  • Has a lot of negative self-talk.
  • Takes things personally.
  • Feels guilty for doing something nice for themselves.
  • Blames themselves for things that are not their responsibility.

Where is Christ in Codependency?

In the gospel of John, Jesus promised his disciples that he would bring them abundant life. As Christians, we don’t have to live a life of survival, or barely getting by. No matter what trials we face, we can look to Christ for unconditional love. When we know how much he loves us, we are free to love others from a place of abundance instead of lack.

When Jesus taught the two greatest commandments, loving God and loving others, he added: “as you love yourself.” This teaching assumes that we have a healthy perspective on our worth and know that God loves us; and, moreover, it implies that we are to love ourselves well and love others the same.

If you feel deprived of love or acceptance, you’ll always be looking for those things in human relationships. If you know Jesus Christ richly loves you, you won’t have to feel so desperate for other people to assure you of your worth.

If reading these descriptions of codependency has opened your eyes to the possibility that you might be in a codependent relationship, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Christian counselors. We are here to help you work through your foundations of love, worth, and value while encouraging you to pursue healthy boundaries and bonds in your relationships. And above all, we want to help you realize the fullness of your worth in Christ.

Photos:
“In Love”, Courtesy of Henry Washington, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “Social Media”, Courtesy of Adrianna Calvo, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Warmsweaterday”, Courtesy of Anne-Marie Pronk, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tarnica Beech,” courtesy of jarekgrafik, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License

How to Set and Achieve Realistic Personal Development Goals

It is important to live with intentionality. To achieve our own personal growth, we need to set goals and make active progress forward. These can’t just be any goals. They need to be specific goals covering three aspects. These goals need to be guided by purpose, give you direction, and need to be made thoughtfully and well.

Imagine a motor boat. It has all the normal parts an engine, propeller, rudder, compass, and hull. The engine and the propeller allow it to move forward. This is your purpose. The rudder and the compass help it navigate the seas. This is your direction. And finally, the hull makes sure it makes it through stormy seas. This is a thoughtful, well made decision to help you get through adversity. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Personal Development Goals: Guided by Purpose

The first aspect of goals we will examine is the purpose. A good goal is guided by purpose. Every goal should move you toward a purpose, and more importantly, toward your purpose.

To put it simply, the purpose of a goal is knowing what you want to achieve.

As a result, you can set goals like this in all sorts of realms whether it be financial, spiritual, personal, romantic, etc. The idea of a goal is to keep us heading in a direction with a purpose rather than vaguely moving forward.

What can be more difficult to determine is to ask “what is your purpose?” “What are you supposed to do?” “Why did God create you?” To help you orient yourself, consider a few general principles about human purpose. We exist for the glory and joy of God and should live in a way that honors our calling to him. We should live for others, willing to give up things for ourselves.

Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

This verse speaks of offering ourselves upon the altar, which could be translated to giving up ourselves for his mission and calling on our lives.

When we consider our personal development goals, we consider them in connection with our general calling as children of God. Once you move beyond our general calling given by God, you can begin to consider your individual purpose and calling. Maybe you haven’t really considered your individual purpose before if so, that’s okay!

There is a lot of anxiety surrounding the ominous question of “what do you want to do in your life?” especially among younger people. What helps eliminate some of the stress is to re-frame the question, asking “who do you want to be?” This often helps people release some of the pressure to perform and focus on who they want to be.

By focusing on who you want to be, you are able to move beyond work. Perhaps you would like to have more space for your passion. Or maybe your passion can become your work. Or maybe you want to be able to provide well for your family and you know that requires long hours.

Making decisions regarding who you want to be can turn into your individual purpose. Then, you just need to make sure your goals line up with this purpose, and you will be headed in the right direction (or as MxPx put it: free to do what you want to be).

Finding Your Purpose

As you start to think about your purpose, remember the importance of prayer. It is a good place to start. Ask God to speak to you and show you what he has for you. What you feel called to might be scary or risky. It might not even totally make sense financially, but remember money can’t grant you fulfillment. Remember the verse from Romans 12, it calls us to sacrifice, not comfort and riches.

Also, remember this will require trial and error. You will likely need to explore a few different paths before you find what exactly is your purpose and that’s okay! Your story doesn’t have to match the timeline of a friend or a sibling, it’s yours. Sometimes it will take years to fully discover your purpose and that’s okay. You will figure it out along the way as you move forward.

Lastly, when you do find your purpose, keep in mind that it probably will (and probably should) influence all areas of your life (social, personal, professional, spiritual). Finding your purpose reorients your life. It isn’t just a hobby or a side hustle. It will produce meaningful and significant changes to your life!

Goals Give Direction

The second important aspect of personal development goals is to provide direction. If you’ve ever wondered what you are doing with your life and felt like you were going nowhere, then you probably weren’t setting up goals guided by your direction.

It may be helpful to think of personal development in both the short-term and the long-term. First, start with the long-term — Where do you want to be? When do you want to be there?

Start with the short term. What do you need to do to get headed in the right direction? Are you considering ministry, then maybe you should look into seminary or pastoral internships? Or maybe you want to get into web design? Then it would probably be good to find a coding bootcamp to get started.

When it comes to direction, a contradiction exists. You need to start with something small that moves you forward. Even reading this article is a good step. But on the other hand, you need to remember that achieving your greater goals takes time.

In order to achieve your personal development goals, you will need to have patience, motivation, and energy. It takes time to accomplish goals, which is okay, but the waiting can be frustrating, especially when you are eager to move forward. It can feel like if you don’t start right now, that you will never be able to accomplish your goals, but remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Another note about direction is to start big. Think as if there were not obstacles. Imagine where you would go if nothing stood in your way. You can deal with obstacles better when you know where you are headed. Even when you know where you are going, obstacles remain obstacles.

But if you don’t have a larger vision, simple obstacles can turn into full on roadblocks. By thinking big from the beginning, you will be able to stay focused on what lies behind the problems, so you can face the difficulty as it comes.

Goals are Manageable When Made Well

Finally, personal development goals need to be made in such a way that sets you up for success. If your plan is to “get to Mars,” you’re not likely to achieve your goal. But, if you are in NASA or the Air Force, then maybe it might work out.

The best goals can be defined as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound). To help illustrate this definition, let’s consider someone with a passion for wildlife working on a biology degree so they can work on a creation care team. Their love for animals and desire to help care for them give them direction and purpose.

But, they are struggling in some important courses and currently have D’s.

Specific goals include a higher desired grade, not simply “doing better.”

This is also a measurable goal because if you work hard, you will see your grade raise.

Other goals will be more difficult to measure, which may force you to think more creatively about how to quantify your given circumstances.

The goal needs to be achievable,

which means that an A might not be possible to achieve halfway through the semester, but you can still try for a B. Setting unrealistic goals can be discouraging.

Goals need to be relevant.

For example, cutting out TV may help improve your grades, but isn’t directly relevant. It is better to set an amount of time you want to study for or to get a tutor.

Lastly, it should be time bound,

which means you need to have a deadline. It can’t be ambiguous and open ended.

Making time bound goals helps you create checkpoints, thereby making them more measurable. For example, you could decide to study for two hours a night for two weeks in order to get an A on a test. The is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. Each goal will look different, but you should always have an end date.

How Christian Counseling Can Help

If this article has you excited, but you still feel apprehensive the amount of work you need to do or don’t know where to start, that’s okay.

A great way to jumpstart your personal development is counseling. Counselors can help you understand your passion and purpose so you can establish personal development goals and overcome any obstacles you face. They are a force of clarity and accountability as you seek to grow.

When we try to do things alone, it’s very easy to get distracted or lose track, but a regular counseling session can help keep you on track toward your long-term goals. So don’t just sit there! Get started on your personal development today.

Photos:
“Boating”, Courtesy of Nick Karvounis, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wish for it”, Courtesy of SOCIAL CUT, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Man on Arrow”, Courtesy of Smart, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Goals,” courtesy of rawpixel.com, pexels.com, CC0 License

Anger Management Exercises: Find the Path to Peace

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

Acquire a Box of Tools and Use Them

Taking a time-out

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

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

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

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

Recognize early stage warning signs

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

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

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

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

Engaging in physical activity

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

Use distraction methods

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

Practice relaxation techniques

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

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

Journal

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

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

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

Getting to the Cause of the Anger Within

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

Make a fearless and searching inventory

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

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

Practice listening effectively

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

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

Look for the humor

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

Learn to be assertive

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

Practicing good self-care

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

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

Live your life agreeably

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

Seeking the help of God & standing on His Holy Word

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

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

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

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

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

What is Emotional Abuse? Causes, Effects, and Recovery

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

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

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

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

What is Emotional Abuse?

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

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

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

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

How Abuse Starts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with Emotional Abuse

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

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

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

Long-Term Effects Caused by Emotional Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

Stopping Abusive Behavior

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

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

Choices for Healing from Emotional Abuse

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

1. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

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

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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

Where to Turn for Help

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

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

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

Start Your Journey to Healing

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

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

Treatment for Anxiety: Options Without Medication

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

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

Treatment for Anxiety Without Medication

Some methods of treating recurring anxiety without medication include:

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

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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

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

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

Yoga

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

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

Acupuncture

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

Massage

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

Self-Care

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Photos:
“Agitation”, Courtesy of GoaShape, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Kinga Cichewicz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “List”, Courtesy of Hannah Olinger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Frazzled”, Courtesy of Carolina Heza, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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.

Photos:
“Sadness”, Courtesyof 422694, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Child”, Courtesy of Kevin Liang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Weeping”, Courtesy of Free-Photos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Darkness of Depression”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License