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

How to Find the Depression Help You’re Looking For

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

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

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

Types of Depression

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

Clinical Depression

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

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

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

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

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

Atypical Depression (Subtype of Major Depression or PDD)

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

Postpartum Depression

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

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

Manic Depression

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

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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

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

Practical Stерѕ to Fіnd thе Depression Hеlр Yоu Nееd

Consider some wауѕ that уоu саn find depression help :

Therapy

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

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

Medication

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

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

Self-care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos:
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Social Anxiety Disorder: How to Manage and How to Thrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Recovery

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

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

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

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

Relaxation Training

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

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

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

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

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

Core Belief Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposure Tasking

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Personal Assertiveness Practice

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

The key elements of assertive communication include the following:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Photos

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A Counselor’s Trauma Definition: 10 Common Examples

If you’ve ever wanted to wake up from a nightmare only to realize it’s a reality, you might have experienced a form of trauma. Often trauma comes after a life-threatening experience, but it can also develop after an incident that is perceived as life-threatening. Trauma invades our individual sense of control after a deeply terrifying circumstance. How we perceive what has happened to us is where the trauma lies.
 

Trauma Comes in Many Shapes and Forms

Let’s take a moment to look at the 10 most common types of trauma in order to understand and to consider whether it could be what you are experiencing.

1. Sexual Assault, Abuse or Harassment

According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Normally, sexual assault can fall into three categories:

  • Acts of penetration either with objects or body parts.
  • Forced physical contact with the genitalia, breast, buttocks, or other intimate body parts through groping, fondling or kissing.
  • Exposure of genitalia, breast, buttocks or other intimate body parts. This includes being subjected to explicit materials like pornographic images, texting nude photos to minors or exploiting a child sexually. It can also be a neighbor exposing himself to children as they walk by his home.

2. Physical Assault or Abuse

Physical abuse or assault is intentionally inflicting pain or harm upon another person. An example might be a parent throwing his child against the wall after making a mistake or a teenager stabbing another teenager during a fight. If a person is deliberately hurt by someone else, this is physical abuse.

3. Emotional Abuse

Most people have a pretty clear and accurate idea of physical abuse, but emotional abuse is easier to miss. If your friend experienced physical abuse, bruises and scars might be left as reminders, but emotional abuse leaves invisible bruises like feelings of humiliation, shame, and depression.

Emotional abuse can be an aggressive shout or giving someone the silent treatment to intentionally isolate him. Emotional abuse is designed to make the victim feel like they are to blame and often leaves the victim feeling unworthy, unloveable and fearful.

4. Neglect

Experiencing trauma has serious implications for mental health. Neglect can begin during infancy when the parents don’t have the capacity or willingness to properly care for their child. Neglect, in a nutshell, is a failure to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, medical care, proper hygiene or shelter.

It’s often found in cases of children or the elderly. If a baby is crying and a parent refuses to feed and comfort her child, trauma begins to form. Not acting on a child’s need when the caregiver has the power to act is considered neglect.

5. Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is often hidden because it happens behind closed doors under the roof of a home. It looks like physical violence, sexual violence, or emotional abuse among adults in a relationship.

Verbal threats also fall into this category. Domestic violence victims often feel helpless or terrified to leave the abuser. Children who witness the circumstances absorb the negative activity and can internalize it, causing traumatic behaviors.

6. Serious Accidents or Illness

Car accidents, house fires, medical procedures or a major injury can be traumatic. If you faced and defeated cancer, you could exhibit lingering trauma behaviors. Children that experienced various medical procedures might harbor a fear of hospitals or doctors and lash out.

7. War-related Trauma

Most are aware of the term post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This can occur when someone has returned from a war zone where they experienced threats to life and other terrifying experiences. Memories are lodged in their mind and often flashbacks occur.

Many countries around the world are submerged in war and millions of displaced people have become refugees. These people might not personally be involved in combat, but have experienced shooting, torture, bombings, and forced separation from their country of origin. Families don’t know when they will be able to return to their homes and begin settling in other unfamiliar areas.

8. Natural or Manmade Disasters

If you keep up with current events, you have seen many natural disasters in the news lately. There have been hurricanes battering many states and countries, wildfires devouring property and sending people fleeing, earthquakes leaving a path of destruction and mudslides claiming many lives. In these instances, properties are swept away and lives are lost.

9. School Violence

When the Columbine High School shooting happened, it shocked the nation. It was hard to imagine such an atrocity occurring in a place where innocent children and teens go every day to learn. Unfortunately, the school shootings have continued to increase. Even if you weren’t injured during a school shooting, the sights, smells, and emotions can still leave severe symptoms of trauma.

10. Bullying

Kids on the receiving end of bullying wake up each day anticipating the moment they will be teased and tormented. School bullying is the reason why some young children commit suicide. It has devastating effects on young children. Social media has introduced cyberbullying.

It’s running rampant as keyboards become weapons for cutting others down. The computer screen offers security from the scars that are left. But behind that screen is a real person traumatized by the onslaught of negativity.

However, bullying doesn’t just occur on the school playground. Many adults in the workplace admit to having experiencing adult bullying. It’s not always something children grow out of since it’s an aggressive negative behavior. If you were bullied as a child, chances are it has impacted your adult life too.

Recovering from Trauma

If you can relate to any of the forms of trauma discussed in this article, a Christian counselor is ready to walk the road of recovery with you. Healing is a process and should never be forced. There are several methods of therapy and exercises that help with various types of trauma. Trauma recovery is designed to improve your quality of life on a daily basis.

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Common ADHD Symptoms in Adults and How to Treat Them

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is most commonly known to affect children. However, it can impact the lives of adults, too. Indeed, as an adult ADHD can be a life-altering condition to live with if the correct help is not sought. It affects millions of people. Recent statistics show that around 4 to 5% of adults in the United States deal with symptoms of ADHD.

Many ADHD symptoms in adults were misdiagnosed in their childhood. Common ADHD symptoms in adults include a tendency to become overly emotional as well as signs of hyperactivity. Adults with ADHD are also likely to struggle with:

  • Following directions
  • Concentrating
  • Any tasks that require organization
  • Remembering key information
  • Finishing work on time

Those struggling with adult ADHD might even experience some negative emotions as a result of their condition. These may include anxiety, perpetual boredom, bouts of depression, difficulty controlling anger, forgetfulness, problems at work, low self-esteem, mood swings, procrastination, relational issues, substance abuse, addiction, and a low level of motivation.

An adult struggling with ADHD might find that their issues of low self-esteem stem from being labeled as an “underachiever” throughout their schooling years. The result may be an inability to hold down a job, an attitude of self-criticism and a depressive outlook. There can also be a tendency to rely on substances such as nicotine and alcohol in order to cope with these emotional difficulties.

Why Therapy is so Important for Treating ADHD Symptoms in Adults

Therapy is absolutely essential for an adult struggling with ADHD. Yes, medication can be helpful. However, the only way you will see a true and lasting difference is to combine this with the expertise of a professional therapist.

Therapy will help the person develop the tools and skills needed to manage their disorder, and will help them begin to organize their life in a way which will improve their overall emotional well being.

It can be incredibly frustrating not being able to achieve what you know you are capable of as a result of a disorder like ADHD. Therapy can help change this.

An open, safe and disarming environment will provide the person with the opportunity to get to some of the roots of their disorder and will ensure that they are given great encouragement as they progress.

Accurate diagnosis

When it comes to ADHD, it is absolutely essential that a correct diagnosis is given. Due to ADHD being partly genetic, it is common for someone with the disorder to be surrounded by others who exhibit similar symptoms, and thus do not believe there is anything fundamentally “wrong.” Therefore it is important for an external, independent medical professional to conduct a thorough assessment and assign an accurate diagnosis.

Behavior modification is an absolutely essential element of any therapy that is offered to someone dealing with ADHD, as they will likely struggle with their emotional response to certain situations. A therapist will help them unpack their thinking and will assist them in developing reactions that are more appropriate to the given situation.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) will help the patient hardwire new patterns of thinking into everyday lives, and will seek to replace unhealthy thought habits. This type of therapy will also help the person put their worries and problems in context, and will ensure they do not blow things out of proportion. When dealing with ADHD and its accompanying anxieties, this can be a very important thing to work on.

In conjunction with CBT, traditional talk therapy can also help the person develop a greater understanding of their own anxiety and emotional fluctuations. Suffering from ADHD can bring with it a whole host of emotional, relational and spiritual issues. Talk therapy can help relieve some of that burden.

Remember the precious scripture:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

Raising self-esteem

Low self-esteem is one of the most common things that affect those who are dealing with ADHD. A person struggling with the disorder may have spent years being told they are “lazy” or “unmotivated,” when in reality they are battling with ADHD. These labels may cause them to feel very low. They might lack confidence and struggle to dwell on things that they are good at.

Therapy will help the person regain control over their thought patterns, and assist them in developing a positive view of themselves.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.2 Timothy 1:7

There is a powerful spiritual element to all of this. A Christian therapist will ensure that God’s view of the person becomes rooted in the foundations of their thinking. God loves us unconditionally and has placed a call on each and every one of us. He is always for us and never seeks to tear us down. He is always calling us forward.

Through the right therapy, the truth about God’s heart towards you can become intrinsic to your daily thinking. With the assistance of Christian therapy, this fundamental shift in perspective has the potential to transform the life of someone struggling with ADHD.

Photos
“Lost in my Mind”, Courtesy of Hailey Reed, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Cartwheel”, Courtesy of Pedro de Sousa, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Agitation”, Courtesy of GoaShape, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Comfort Therapy”, Courtesy of Mindy Jacobs Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Pornography Addiction: 6 Practical Methods to Help You Quit

This article highlights several key activities that can help individuals find victory over their addiction to pornography. In his Sex Addiction Training Workbook, Dr. Douglas Weiss discusses six primary actions that should be assimilated into every recovering sex addict’s daily life.

While these methods are enumerated for those struggling with an addiction to pornography, they are easily adapted for other non-substance addictions such as gambling and shopping.

Six Activities for Overcoming Pornography Addiction

1. The Rubber Band Method

The brain plays a part in every addiction. Certain activities (e.g. watching porn, shopping, gambling) engage the reward center of our brain which releases the chemical dopamine, giving the individual a sort of natural high. This substantially increases the likelihood that the activity will be repeated, creating a threshold for addiction. Over time, the neural pathway in the brain becomes so strong that it becomes harder and harder to stop the behavior.

How the Method Works

Place a thick rubber band around one wrist. Each time you are tempted to engage in the unwanted behavior, snap the rubber band hard against your wrist. The pain stimulus thwarts the work of the subcortical, or impulse-regulating, part of the brain which was poised to reward the acted-upon impulse with a boost of dopamine. Developing the habit of responding to the impulse (e.g. to watch porn) with a snap of the rubber band essentially breaks the impulse-behavior-reward cycle.

2. Prayer

Recovery is an all-out battle and calls for unprecedented vigilance. Most of us try to overcome our addictions with increased will-power or vows to do better next time, all to no avail. We cannot do battle alone. Every morning, pray that God will give you His strength to fight.

Don’t wait until you feel like praying – you often won’t. Don’t wait for a convenient time to pray – you won’t find one. Just pray. Every. Single. Day. Daily, intentional prayer reminds you that you’re not alone and that you have access to supernatural power to overcome the addiction.

3. Connection

Addictions often plunge people into isolation, so connecting with other people is essential while in recovery. In the same way that soldiers fight in battalions, we are not created to do battle with addiction alone.

We need people we can call when we’re facing temptation – people who are safe, available, and not afraid to speak truth to us. In order to establish these accountability relationships, we must first humble ourselves enough to acknowledge that we need others. And then we must call them!

4. Reading

Because battling addiction requires constant vigilance, those seeking victory must make use of every available resource.

Numerous books on porn addiction can be found in the marketplace as well as in public libraries – even digital copies – which can help keep the mind engaged in the process of recovery.

5. Support Group Meetings

As we mentioned earlier, connection with others is essential to the recovery process, but something must be said for connecting with those who are really in the trenches with you.

Support groups and 12-step programs provide connections with fellow recovering addicts – people who have been where you are – which fosters a sense of being truly understood. Making the effort to consistently attend the meetings is also an important step in making recovery a tangible, objective goal.

6. Prayer

Just as you pray for strength at the start of your day, recovering addicts should end the day with a prayer of confession and thanks.

In that way, prayer acts as the bookends of your day and is a means of reflecting on how God has provided for you; it expresses your dependence on God for all things, not just what is related to your recovery.

Christian Counseling for Pornography Addiction Recovery

Christian counseling can be a powerful resource for those seeking recovery from porn addiction. If you would like help in applying these six methods to your daily life, let me coach you through your recovery.

 

Reference

Weiss, D. (2014). Sex Addiction Training Workbook. American Association for Sex Addiction. Colorado Springs, CO: Discovery Press

Photos

“Rubber band”, Courtesy of Neonbrand, Unsplash.com,. CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Jordan Whitfield, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Books”, Courtesy of Rendiansyah Nugroho, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

The Benefits of Christian Grief Counseling after Losing a Spouse

There is arguably no harder life change than losing your marriage partner. Whether your spouse died suddenly or after a prolonged illness, you are left in a familiar yet devastated world. Understanding the natural aspects and steps of grieving can be beneficial as you begin the process of living life without your partner.

Acknowledgement of the Loss

The first response to the loss of a loved one is that of thinking, “they really aren’t gone, are they?” As you grieve, you gradually move from this initial response to a more intellectual acceptance that your spouse is gone and they will never return.

This knowledge also becomes your new emotional reality – e.g. when you remember that your partner is no longer there to turn to, or when you expect familiar words, gestures or responses.

Such habits of togetherness only serve as painful reminders of your loss. This explains why some people suffering from the loss of a loved one reportedly “see” their departed spouse in public places, only to realize later on that it was someone else with a striking resemblance of their loved one that merely conjured memories. Seeing someone you mistake to be your loved one usually brings a ray of hope, a temporary thought that your loved one is not gone after all.

The Need for Expressing Grief

Experiencing the pain of loss is another natural and important part of the grieving process. It includes being willing to not only feel but also express your hurt and any other emotion brought about by your loss.

Grief is a painful experience and it is normal to be overwhelmed with sadness.  Feeling the pain and grief of death helps you to process the different aspects of your loss. It is normal to feel alone because as the bereaved spouse, you are now alone in the relationship.

These strong emotions play an important role in helping you come to terms at an emotional level that your partner is no more. Sometimes, some upsetting and uncomfortable emotions might also emerge. Anxiety, anger, despair, guilt, regret and even depression may surface. These typically reveal the difficult parts of the relationship between the deceased and the bereaved.

Finding Hope in Pain through the Cross

For believers in Christ, death is more than a natural event. We were actually created to be immortal but as a result of sin, death comes upon mankind. We not only die but we also go through the pain of watching loved ones die.

Nonetheless, the death of Christ and his conquering of sin give us the hope that death is not the last state for us and our loved ones.

Christian Grief Counseling for the Bereaved

Friends, family and everyone else in the support system of the couple (like social groups and a church family), should help support the person that loses a loved one. However, after three or four months of grieving, the bereaved spouse is often encouraged to move on with life or at least adjust better.

Naturally, the loss will hit the left spouse harder than it will hit other people. When the initial shock of the loss of a loved one begins to fade off, at a time when they would really do with more specific support, the support almost always declines. This is an ideal time to pursue Christian grief counseling in Newport Beach to find the necessary additional support and guidance.

Photos
“Grief”, Courtesy of Claudia, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gone”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Grief”, Courtesy of Kinga Cichewicz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Common Abandonment Issues: Do You See Yourself Here?

Most people have struggled with some level of fear of being ‘abandoned.’ For many of us, this may be intrinsic to our thinking. We can often feel as if we are inadequate for the people that we are in a relationship with, and we may worry that they will suddenly leave us because of this.

As a result, this can lead to trust issues which can manifest themselves as an inability to commit to those same relationships that are so dear to our us. It is so important to recognize these abandonment issues before they start affecting the way in which we interact with those around us.

10 Common Abandonment Issues

Here are 10 of the most common abandonment issues. Are any of these true of you?

1. You Struggle to Let People In

Do you feel as if you constantly have to keep your guard up? Do you set up boundaries around your life in a way that protects you from giving too much away to your loved ones? Some of this can be healthy, but when you are unable to be vulnerable before those who are dearest to you, you have a problem.

2. You Detach Yourself From Those Nearest To You

Do you ever feel as if you are distancing yourself from those around you? Are you closing off from your partner? While over-dependence is never healthy, it is relationally appropriate for you to have some level of dependence on your loved ones. This helps nurture a deep, lasting relationship.

3. You Are Overly Clingy

We all get a bit clingy sometimes. When something happens in your life that threatens to rock your foundations, it is natural to want to cozy up with your partner.

But a perpetual state of clinginess is not healthy and may indicate that you are harboring a deeper issue related to abandonment. Clingy people can be overly demanding, and their relationships are likely to be dysfunctional.

4. You Struggle To Feel Love

Do you struggle to give and receive affection? Do you often feel numb when you are around your loved ones? People who fear abandonment often struggle to engage in any physical affection and may withdraw from situations where this has the potential to occur. Bonding becomes very difficult, and relationships often become strained.

5. You Seek To Control

Those who struggle with abandonment live in a constant state of relational uncertainty. This often produces controlling behavior. Do you commit yourself to knowing everything about your partner’s whereabouts at all times? Do you “blackmail” your partner in order to keep them from leaving you? This kind of behavior undermines any foundation of trust you are seeking to build and renders the relationship stilted and unhappy.

6. You Think The Worst Of People

Does the worst-case scenario always seem like the most likely outcome to you? Do you constantly think that those closest to you harbor ulterior motives as to why they want to spend time with you?

Do you always shy away from conflict, fearing that you will fall out with people and that they will abandon you? These negative core beliefs about yourself and others can lead to fractured and damaging relationships.

7. You Are Always Looking For Flaws

Do you compile a list of your partner’s failings? Do you dwell on the small wrongs you have suffered at their hands? Are you always on the lookout for flaws that you can pick up on in others? This mindset often stems from a fear of closeness. In order to protect yourself, you seek to find imperfections in others and demand perfection from yourself.

8. You Fear Intimacy

Do you run at the first sign of any real intimacy? Those who harbor an issue related to abandonment tend to go either way when it comes to engaging in a relationship. They either hold on far too tight and smother their partner, or they fail to show adequate commitment, leaving their partner feeling discouraged and insecure.

9. You Have Very Weak Boundaries

Those dealing with abandonment issues may find themselves in codependent relationships. Do you constantly seek to keep your partner happy because you are afraid they might leave you?

Do you make excuses for your partner’s poor behavior because you fear the consequences that standing up to them or pointing out any of their faults would bring? Do you constantly feel as if you must prove your worth in the relationship? Inevitably, this leads to an unhealthy relationship.

10. You Are Overly Sensitive

Do you often find yourself overreacting? Do you put up walls of defense at any sign of danger? If you feel as if you are going to be abandoned, you may find yourself incapable of dealing with any criticism, even if it is offered in love. Relentlessly attempting to justify your behavior produces frustration in those around you and often results in poorly maintained relationships.

The good news is, there’s hope! You do not have to be driven by your fear of abandonment. With the right help from a professionally trained counselor, you can be equipped with the right tools to help you throw off insecurity, doubt, and anxiety, and participate in therapy that is tailored to suit your emotional needs. You will be given the help required to start building healthy, lasting and life-giving relationships with those around you.

Photos
“Empty,” courtesy of Eddy Lackmann, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Diselo a la mano!” courtesy of Pablo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Angry,” courtesy of Forrest Cavale, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Morning Chills,” courtesy of Ian Dooley, unsplash.com, CC0 License