Causes of Depression: Relational and Spiritual Perspectives

Depression is one of the most commonly occurring mental health issues. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that about 5% of men and 9% of women experience symptoms of depression in any given year. In this article, we will explore depression from a traditional medical point of view. We will also examine the relational, spiritual, and faith-related aspects and causes of depression consistent with biblical Scripture.

Presently, we are experiencing an unprecedented time of challenging circumstances. This pesky virus along with mandated social isolation and limitations placed upon individuals is upsetting to many. When we add into this situation an increase in responsibility with fewer resources available in terms of income and services, we have a hotbed for an increase in symptoms of depression and other serious mental health issues.

Sometimes depression occurs for the first time due to a hardship or situation. I would not be surprised to discover a much higher number of both males and females suffering with symptoms of depression and/or an increase in the level of negative symptoms in pre-existing cases.

Causes of Depression

There are a variety of causes of depression and reasons why people become depressed. A mixture of genetics, brain chemistry, and family history each play a role in developing depression. Certain individuals may have a biological predisposition for developing mood issues when faced with overwhelming stressors.

When ample distress has been added to a pre-existing vulnerability, a person is likely to become troubled in areas of mood regulation with symptoms ranging from anxiety to depression or a combination of both.

Underlying medical conditions (such as hormonal or thyroid issues), use of medications or substance abuse (prescription medication, alcohol, marijuana), a lack of adequate nutrition or physical activity, and any pre-existing addictions may all lead to or exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Family history also plays a part in developing depression. For example, research studies indicate that having a grandparent as well as a parent with depression doubles the likelihood of an onset of depression at some point in one’s lifetime.

Experiences of childhood neglect and abuse may also predispose a person to the development of depression at some point during the life span. Secrets and lies are contributors to depression even if you are the only one who knows what you are doing.

Symptoms of Depression

There is a wide range of assorted symptoms involved in each individual experience of depression. Each person will have a different combination of symptoms which fit one or more types or patterns of depressions.

A person may experience feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, fearfulness, irritable mood, or loss of pleasure in all or most daily tasks. Others may experience a loss of interest in sexual intimacy, significant changes in weight, sleep disturbance, significant changes in eating patterns (either loss of appetite or overeating), feelings of agitation or restlessness, or a loss of energy.

Some may experience feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, recurrent thoughts of death. However, in addition to having several of the above symptoms, an actual diagnosis of depression requires noticeable impairment in one or more areas of life, such as employment problems or problems at home.

Types of Depression

Depression can occur in shorter term episodes or be long lasting. Sometimes depression is accompanied with sadness, anxiety, or extreme changes in mood. Depression can also alternate with manic episodes. In extreme cases, a major depression can be accompanied by psychosis. Depression with psychosis can be caused by substance abuse or arise from a particularly challenging and overwhelming set of circumstances.

Once the root causes of depression are identified, the therapeutic remedy follows the root. Solutions offered are often tied to the mental health professional’s understanding of the nature of depression. One’s professional paradigm or viewpoint often tends to determine the type of treatment prescribed.

For example, a psychiatrist is likely to prescribe medications to address and enhance neurotransmitter functioning. A fitness-oriented mental health professional may focus upon your lifestyle and nutrition as a possible culprit in ongoing depression. In my practice, I take into consideration many possibilities of origin and then match the treatment to the individual’s needs and desires.

Relational and Spiritual Aspects of the Causes of Depression

Relational risks

There are both interpersonal risks as well as intrapersonal risks which contribute to the development of depression. While the word “interpersonal” denotes interactions between two or more individuals, the word “intrapersonal” refers to our relationship within ourselves. Intrapersonal relationship dynamics are often misunderstood or overlooked but are clinically significant contributors to mental health problems.

The most common intrapersonal cause of depression is a pattern of saying “yes” when you genuinely feel inclined to say “no.” Such behavior is an example of self-betrayal, which is not something God asks of us. In fact, when we are following Scriptural guidance our choices will be made from a place of love and not a place of fearful control.

Overriding your intuitive sense of what is occurring or neglecting to determine whether something asked of you is in your best interest undermines and destroys intimacy. This is because a foundation of trust is necessary to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships. A pattern of ongoing self-betrayal is a recipe for relational disaster. This is one of the first things I pay attention to when getting to know a new client.

Another relational risk contributing to depression occurs when you have a pattern of spending time in the company of people you genuinely dislike or who are unkind or unsafe for you.

Do you tend to over give without receiving in a reciprocal fashion over time? Do you find it difficult to speak up when something matters to you? Is it difficult for you to make your preferences, opinions, and needs a priority?

Are you able to fairly, yet firmly, inform others when you have hit a personal limit or want to establish a boundary to protect your best interest? Difficulties in any of these areas may be fueling or feeding symptoms of depression.

Spiritual risks

Making fear and anxiety-based decisions from your head that do not take into consideration the wisdom and knowledge of your body can lead to anxiety and depression.

It is therefore of utmost importance to be involved in an ongoing process of being changed by the renewing of your mind through exposing yourself to truthful and accurate streams of information, such as reading your Bible on a regular basis and attending services wherein the Word of God is spoken. God tells us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” which involves placing yourself in front of reliable sources of truth.

“Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2, NLT

Spiritual causes of mental health concerns often involve a kind of misalignment with truth and honor. When we tune into the fearful channel of deception or repeatedly behave in ways that violate our own sense of right and wrong, we become unable to see, hear, or discern truth. Then we tend resort to ill-advised attempts at controlling others, becoming even more small-minded in the process of manipulation.

Maybe during times of disagreement, we tend to resort to sarcastic puts downs of self and others. Or perhaps we engage in name calling, use exaggeration, portray a sense of entitlement, or are generally unsafe people in relationship with others. The antidote to this kind of depression is to root out deception and tune into the faith channel made available to each of us by the grace and mercy of God.

Lifestyle Risks

Other often overlooked contributors to depression include what I refer to as lifestyle risks. As previously mentioned in this article, alcohol and substance abuse contribute to the likelihood of developing depression, as do addictions such as gambling, pornography, binge eating or substance abuse, and prescription medications. Behaving badly, dishonoring agreements, a lack of proper and adequate self-care, being involved in deception, and living a secret life are all ingredients in a recipe for mood disorders and especially symptoms of depression.

Christian Counseling for Depression

In summary, there can be many different causes of a depressed mood and sometimes it may not be preventable. Other causes of depression could be situational or related to loss.

In my clinical practice, we will first look for any biological basis for your pattern of symptoms. From there, we will also examine your lifestyle and nutritional habits. Then we will carefully examine your relationships with others, yourself, and God for areas of misalignment. Please come back next month to read a follow-up article addressing the treatment and resolution of depression from a faith-based perspective.

Feel free to contact me or one of the other practitioners listed in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment.

Photos:
“Alone,” courtesy of Jude Beck, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Solo beach walk,” courtesy of Saksham Gangwar, unsplash.com, CC0 License 

Christian Counseling for Effective Anger Management

Anger is a powerful emotion that can cause us to behave very irrationally. When we fail to control or channel it constructively, it can also be exceedingly damaging both to us and those around us. However, not all anger manifests as emotional outbursts and violence.

Some people struggle with deep-rooted anger that is just constantly bubbling under the surface and is invisible to the naked eye. However, this is also very damaging to emotional and physical health, and will eventually lead to a massive outburst, or long-term issues, that will fail to be resolved until the underlying anger is taken care of.

So, while not all anger issues look the same from the outside, they each need dealing with effectively to ensure free living and healthy relationships and that’s where anger management therapy can come into play.

What is Anger Management Therapy All About?

Anger management therapy sessions can take place in a variety of settings. One of the most popular is to engage in therapy within a group. Indeed, it is possible to attain greater insight into your own anger when expressing your struggles in the presence of others who may be experiencing the same thing.

Simply acknowledging how you feel, and having others do the same, can be an extremely cathartic experience and may act as a springboard to dealing with your anger issues.

In addition, hearing from others who may be dealing with very similar struggles can be a great encouragement to those who feel they are alone and isolated in their difficulties. Knowing that others are battling the same issues can be incredibly energizing as you seek to address the problem and move into greater health.

Remember, you are never excluded from getting help for your anger issues. There are no “entry criteria” that you must meet in order to be accepted into a group therapy setting, for example. You also don’t need to be at a crisis point in order to seek out help.

Too often, people think that they only need anger management therapy if they are having regular outbursts of rage and are “out of control.” Of course, there may be people who need urgent intervention, but those who are struggling with consistently angry thoughts must also feel confident to reach out for help.

That being said, issues of anger may be varied in nature dependent upon age, situation and life stage. For example, a couple entering anger management therapy may find themselves dealing with unhealthy responses and reactions to each other which are making marriage increasingly unsustainable. However, a child with anger issues may be using the anger to mask an underlying issue, or because they are unable to adequately express their feelings or emotions.

When Should I Seek Anger Management Therapy?

Perhaps you can see that your anger is affecting those closest to you, or that your underlying issues are causing you to burst out in irrational behavior on a regular basis these could be clear indicators that it would be wise to seek out help in this area. If you feel as if your anger is growing uncontrollably, it could certainly be time to reach out to a counselling service for assistance.

Often times, there are underpinned emotions related to anger, such as sadness, frustration, and deep-rooted pain. Expressing anger is a common way of pasting over these feelings. However, true freedom will only be found when the root cause is identified and thoroughly dealt with through the appropriate form of therapy.

It can be difficult to recognize the anger issues that might be plaguing your life and relationships. If you have experienced anger for a number of years, it may be almost impossible to identify the behaviors without expert help.

While you might be blind to it, others may see the evidence of the unresolved issues in your life that are causing unrelenting anger to develop. It is worth listening to those closest to you with regards to your behavior, though this can sometimes be difficult to hear!

Often times, people deal with anger in unhealthy ways, even attempting to numb their feelings with certain addictive behaviors. This can also become very detrimental to the person and their close relationships all the more reason to deal with the root issues.

As Christians, we also believe that anger is something that can be wildly corrosive to the spiritual life of an individual. Indeed, the unhealthy habit of harboring anger against others is also addressed in the Scriptures.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry. – Ephesians 4:26

The Bible also instructs us to be “slow to anger,” which can be incredibly difficult to achieve if we are harboring deep-seated issues that are evoking an angry response within us. It’s like a bottle of soda being shaken up and down eventually, the top is going to blow off!

As Christians, we should have our anger in check at all times. Of course, there are things in this world which may cause you to feel “righteous anger” of some kind, but this is not the most common type of rage that people struggle with.

God wants us to be peace-filled human beings who are slow to get angry with others, and therapy may be a good avenue through which to access this greater freedom.

Anger Management for Kids

Children who are experiencing serious anger issues are often suffering from underlying mental health problems. A few examples of these may be conduct disorder, disruptive mood regulation disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and adjustment disorder.

As such, anger management therapy may be very beneficial to them as they figure out the root of the problems they are having with their emotional health. Often times, anger issues in children will lead them to act out in certain ways through starting fights, being disobedient, fighting against authority or even damaging property.

It is often a good idea for children to start therapy in a family setting so that siblings or parents are given the opportunity to gain some basic insight into the person’s behavior, what is behind it and how to react to it. It is also important for families to address this issue before the behavior gets out of control and becomes damaging for the person and those around them.

Of course, kids who have been diagnosed with specific anger issues may benefit greatly from therapy that seeks to address how to deal with and understand the behavior. However, other children, such as those who have experienced trauma or neglect, may find themselves in the midst of complex anger about their life experiences and may feel as if they are without any way of processing their thoughts and emotions.

Anger management therapy can be a highly effective treatment and can function well as a preventative measure to deal with anger-induced behavior before it spirals out of control.

What are Some Key Anger Management Techniques?

Certain anger management techniques may be utilized before the person begins to exhibit the damaging behaviors, and some may be drawn upon once the anger has begun to manifest itself. However, all forms of anger management are geared towards helping people understand their feelings and change their reactions.

One way of tackling anger is to really get to the root of what is triggering such a visceral emotional response. Some triggers may be more avoidable than you think, and may simply require a bit of extra forethought.

For example, if you find yourself getting uncontrollably angry at other road users when you are stuck in traffic and late for work, you might consider leaving thirty minutes earlier. This way, the stress trigger of being late for work is eradicated, and you are therefore less likely to get angry at fellow motorists and thus less likely to cause an accident.

If your anger is constantly directed towards those close to you, it might be worth looking at the state of your interpersonal communication.

Anger between individuals is often caused by misunderstanding and an inability to communicate with clarity. As such, it can be incredibly beneficial to define the lines of communication and ensure that you are addressing the person in a clear and concise manner.

Sometimes, it is simply a matter of taking a few moments to ask a couple of simple questions such as, “I am not sure I quite understood what you said, could you say that again?” or “I think I heard you, but I am not sure what you mean by that. Could you explain it a bit further for me?”

Often, if these conversations are done correctly and in a calm manner, any building anger will dissipate and you will save yourself a huge amount of stress!

Sometimes, however, situations in our lives which are out of our control may cause a spike in unavoidable anger. At these times, it is important to have an emotional toolbox to draw upon in response. It is about figuring out what works for you: listening to your favorite music, playing some sport, going for a walk or talking with a friend.

Some of these things may work for certain individuals and not for others. The goal is to find the things that work for you and help melt away the anger!

Anger is a very normal human emotion. However, if left untamed, it can become incredibly destructive and damaging both to yourself and the people around you. As such, anger management techniques, administered by a trained therapist, can offer help that could be absolutely life-changing.

So, if you are struggling with a perpetual sense of anger and frustration that is affecting your life in a significant way, make sure to book an appointment with a therapist who specializes in anger management, and begin your journey into a new sense of freedom and joy!

Photos:
“Campfire”, Courtesy of Volha Krayeva, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Catch me”, Courtesy of Noah Buscher, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Angry Enough to Kill”, Courtesy of WenPHotos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Overlook”, Courtesy of Mc7000, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Got Anger Issues? Find Hope in these Bible Verses about Anger

It’s not uncommon to get angry from time to time, but when anger leads to self-harm, sin, or the harm of others, it’s a problem.

In the Bible, we see God experience and express anger. Anger directed in the right place can often be very helpful. We should be angered by the corruption, violence, sin, and abuse that goes on in the world. It’s a basic emotion, but it’s an emotion that can harm our brains and bodies in addition to harming other people and we’re told to get rid of it.

So, how do you know if your anger is a problem or causing harm?

Answer a few of these questions:

  • Has your anger caused you to sin?
  • Has your anger interfered with a relationship?
  • Is your anger keeping you from experiencing peace? From sleeping? From forgiving someone?
  • Is your anger interfering with your work or your ability to focus on a project?
  • Do you yell, lash out, or get violent when you get angry?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, we want to give you some Scriptures on anger to help you overcome it God’s way.

You CAN experience freedom from your anger issues.

You may feel like your anger is a knee-jerk reaction and you cannot control it, but in the following Scriptures, you’ll find truth and encouragement to help you manage your anger and maintain self-control.

10 Bible Verses About Anger Issues

Let’s look at anger in the Bible. We’ve scoured Scripture and identified the Bible verses we believe are great sources of support for overcoming anger issues.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – Colossians 3:8

We mentioned that, as Christians, we’re called to rid ourselves of anger. So while it can be natural to experience “righteous” anger, the Bible instructs us to get rid of it. You might think to yourself: My anger doesn’t hurt anyone; what’s the big deal.

Even if you think your anger is not hurting anyone, it is proven that it hurts your body and brain. Regardless of that, however, God commands us to get rid of it. Now that we’ve laid the foundation and know that anger should not be an emotion we hold on to, let’s look at some more Scripture.

For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. – James 1:20

This Scripture is a reminder that anger does not draw towards a righteous life or help anyone be made more like Christ. If you hold on to anger, it’s important to remind yourself that anger is not achieving for you that which God desires and it’s not serving your life. In our feelings of righteousness, we often hold on to anger, but this verse clearly states that anger actually makes us less righteous.

In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27

This verse affirms that anger itself is not a sin, but that it can be destructive and lead to sin. It also confirms that prolonged anger is not good and dwelling on anger which often leads to days of “the cold shoulder,” bitterness, and unforgiveness is not God’s design. We’re not to end a day or go to sleep still holding on to anger.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

Anger in the Bible is depicted as residing in the laps of fools. Those who are easily provoked and quick to anger are prone to make foolish ways.

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32

This Scripture esteems patience and self-control two fruits of the Spirit that a person prone to anger often does not exercise.

Do not make friends with a hot tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered. – Proverbs 22:24

Through the Scriptures above, it’s very clear that God calls us to be slow to anger and not to associate with those easily angered. It’s also clear that He does not want us to hold onto our anger for prolonged periods of time in His instruction not to let the sun go down on our anger. We’re to release it within the same day we experience it.

Bible Verses about Overcoming Anger

Now, let’s look at some Scripture that gives insight into just how to release anger. It’s one thing to know what the Bible says about anger, it’s another to have actionable steps from the Bible about how to overcome it.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:12-13

To “put on” is to practice or exercise. To combat anger, practice the opposite of it. Begin practicing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Begin forgiving to a greater measure.

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things, there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

The fruit of the spirit are not duties or merely virtues to possess. They stem from fellowship and communion with God. Spend time in prayer, worship, and Bible reading and watch as your anger is replaced with patience, gentleness, and self-control.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 2:22-24

To overcome anger, it’s important to remember that you are made new in Christ. You must actively change your attitude by dwelling not on your anger or replaying an offence over and over, but by dwelling on the fact that your old self is a thing of the past and God has laid out for you a way to behave and respond in true righteousness and holiness just like Him.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Take captive every angry thought and stop fueling anger by demolishing any justifications or “proof” you have as to why you have a right to feel the way you do.

To recap, what does the Bible say about anger issues?

  • You should not hold onto anger for longer than a day
  • It resides in the lap of fools
  • Do not associate with those easily angered
  • Don’t let your anger cause you to sin
  • Anger does not lead to a righteous life
  • A patient person is better than a warrior and a person with self-control is better than a person who can garner control over an entire city

When you understand that anger does not serve you and is unhealthy to your body, mind, spirit, and relationships, the first step to overcoming it is to spend more time in communion with God through prayer, worship, and Bible reading.

It’s through that time that the fruit of the Spirit will become evident in your life, so that rather than anger, you’ll start to respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

Christian Counseling for Anger Issues

If you find yourself easily angered and falling into destructive patterns in your life and relationships because of it, save this link and return to it again and again when you need God’s support.

A Christian Counselor can also be a great support in helping you understand your anger issues and find the right strategies so you can actively choose to operate from a different place. Contact us to learn more about our Christian Counseling for anger management.

Featured photo:
“Storm,” courtesy of Casey Horner, unsplash.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

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:
“The Ring”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Sunset”, Courtesy of Meireles Neto, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Stream,” courtesy of Tom Chance, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Thinking,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License

Social Anxiety Disorder: How to Manage and How to Thrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Recovery

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

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

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

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

Relaxation Training

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

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

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

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

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

Core Belief Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposure Tasking

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Personal Assertiveness Practice

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

The key elements of assertive communication include the following:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Photos

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