4 Things Single Women Wish You’d Talk About in Therapy

This is an interesting article I found on: www.goodtherapy.org

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In my practice, I have worked with my fair share of single women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Most of these women express a desire to be in a long-term relationship and eventually married. Not every woman desires relationships or marriage, and many are content to remain single. I want to be clear that single women are not damsels in distress waiting to be rescued. However, I want to speak specifically to those who desire to date, be in a committed relationship, or be married, and for whom it’s currently not happening.

Singleness can be particularly difficult for women over age 25 as they watch their friends marry and have children. They often ask the question, “What’s wrong with me?” while simultaneously listening to media that proclaim they should be “independent” and that they “don’t need anyone.” They may feel torn between these two messages of finding a lifelong partner and feeling the pressure to “fly solo.”

It can be tempting to minimize this desire with platitudes such as: “You’ll find someone,” “But you’re so young!” and “Don’t worry so much about it.” These do not often give voice to the single woman’s experience. For clinicians working with this population, it’s important to remember the following.

Reflect the pain and loneliness you notice and make space for the sadness, as it may have often been minimized by others.

Acknowledge the Pain and Sadness

The pain and sadness of being single is real. It may be difficult for these women to discuss this with friends who are already married because they feel their experience won’t be understood. It may be difficult for them to discuss this with their single friends, as they are in the same situation.

They may feel silly for wanting a life partner or feel as if they should be more independent. As their therapist, you can offer compassion for their painful experience. Reflect the pain and loneliness you notice and make space for the sadness, as it may have often been minimized by others. You can also offer validation for their current experience, as dating and not finding anyone can be its own set of discouragements.

Discuss the Practicalities

Being in a relationship has some tangible advantages. From finances, to chores, to emotional support, you have someone you can lean on. Talk through the practical side of things with your single female clients. They may not feel they have someone they can rely on if they have to go to the hospital in an emergency. They may be wondering if they lose their housing whether someone will take them in. This is only compounded for single women who do not have family they can call upon for help.

Help them build upon their support network. Ask them questions like “Who can you call on in times of trouble?” “Where can you find like-minded people to form a ‘family’ with?” Consider the adage, You cannot choose who you’re related to, but you can choose your friends.

Encouraging single women to live their lives as fully as possible will allow them to build the support network they need. This might include things like joining a club, church, or religious organization, playing sports, or traveling. Talk with your clients about what they enjoy and how they can connect with others in an effort to build upon their supports.

Process the Pressure

Single women feel a lot of pressure to be in a relationship. It’s possible their families are constantly asking them, “When are you going to find someone?” or “You’re such a catch—how come you’re not married yet?”

These statements only serve the purpose of making women feel worse. They look inside and ask the question “How come I haven’t found anyone yet?” which only induces more shame and guilt. They watch on social media as their friends pair off one by one, and the same is true for television and movies. Shows like The Bachelor have become incredible main stays because they highlight this very notion, that life should end in some kind of lavish engagement. This creates an incredible amount of pressure for single women who want to be married.

Explore with your clients what this is like. What kind of messages are they receiving about being single? What do they do with these messages? Are there people in their life that pressure them in a way that is unhealthy? Can they set boundaries with those who are constantly asking about their marital state? Help them develop an inner voice that is able to connect with what it really wants.

Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the messages that media and friends are setting, and the single women forgets to listen to her own voice.

Explore the Significance of Being Single

Singleness is not just about not having someone in your life; there is meaning behind not being in a relationship, and this is necessary to look at. For many single women at a certain age, it means not being able to have children. This is a reality for women who are not able to freeze their eggs, do surrogacy, and do not plan to adopt or foster children. There is grief that goes along with this reality.

As a therapist, it is important to validate the sadness that goes along with this loss. Likely, these women may feel uncomfortable broaching the subject with their parenting friends, and it can be helpful when a professional wants to know more about their experience.

Explore the loss with your clients and allow them to talk about the other losses connected with it, such as not “providing” grandchildren or not having someone to carry on their family name. Providing a safe space to process loss that may seem confusing to others can be incredibly important.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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Podcast: There’s More to Trauma than PTSD

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Most of us are familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD (deservedly) gets a lot of attention, largely focused on soldiers returning from service. But trauma comes in many forms, and most people have experienced it in one form or another. In this episode, learn about the differences between PTSD and other forms of trauma, how to identify it, and what can be done about it.

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About Our Guest

Robert T. Muller, Ph.D., is the author of the psychotherapy book, “Trauma & the Struggle to Open Up: From Avoidance to Recovery & Growth,” which focuses on healing from trauma.

Dr. Muller trained at Harvard, was on faculty at the University of Massachusetts, and is currently at York University in Toronto. He has over 25 years in the field.

Books by Robert T. Muller

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TRAUMA SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Narrator 1: Welcome to the Psych Central show, where each episode presents an in-depth look at issues from the field of psychology and mental health – with host Gabe Howard and co-host Vincent M. Wales.

Gabe Howard: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Show Podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m here with my fellow host Vincent M. Wales and our guest today is Dr. Robert T. Muller and he is the author of the psychotherapy book Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up: From Avoidance to Recovery and Growth, which focuses on healing from trauma. Robert welcome to the show.

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Very, very glad to be here.

Vincent M. Wales: We are glad to have you. So the word trauma is thrown around a lot these days. What do we really mean by that?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Well, so there are different kinds of traumatic experiences but they all are based in the fact that something clear has happened to the person in the external world. Something that overwhelms their normal coping abilities and this can be a natural disaster, of course, but it can also be an event that occurs in the home. It could be something like physical or sexual abuse from a caregiver or various kinds of assault. And these are experiences that are overwhelming and most people who go through these overwhelming experiences don’t end up with post-traumatic stress disorder or various kinds of consequences. But a number of them do. and when they do and they’re left with these feelings of great distress and that’s what we refer to as trauma. The feelings that are left in the person that affect them, that affect their choices, that affect their relationships, that affect the way they engage in friendships following an overwhelming experience. And it’s hard, it’s very, very tough for people to deal with.

Gabe Howard: You know, outside of people who work in this field, the only really thing that they understand about trauma is post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s like the closest that the general public gets when you’re talking about trauma. Where does PTSD fit in? Can you kind of help people understand that?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: So the term PTSD we see in the psychiatric literature, and by PTSD we mean that the person has a disorder after a traumatic event post-traumatic stress disorder. So that means that they are continuing to suffer and by disorder we mean that their mental health is suffering and that they’re experiencing symptoms of re-experiencing the event, flashbacks. They may remember and have memory intrusions, memories of the event. And that’s very severe. They also have startle responses where they’re stressed very, very easily and by stress that can be very overwhelming stress. They also have problems with mood because they often feel depressed because of these traumatic experiences. And then finally they try to stay away from the things that remind them about whatever happened. So we see post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam vets, Gulf Wars vets, vets who’ve come back from Afghanistan, for sure. So we can also see these symptoms in victims of domestic violence and people who have been to experiences even who haven’t gone to war. So PTSD refers to the psychiatric language that’s used to describe the symptoms that many people have after a traumatic event. So that’s what it’s really meant by PTSD.

Gabe Howard: Thank you so much for that. And just to clarify, you can be traumatized and not develop PTSD. Is that correct?

Well you can be. Yeah. So here we get into a little bit of different words can sometimes mean similar things but when we talk about someone who is traumatized, they have all kinds of symptoms. They may not have exactly that cluster of things that I mentioned that we call PTSD but they’re going to have very similar experiences. There’s something called Complex PTSD and that’s a little bit different. Complex PTSD refers to people very often who have had traumatic events happen in childhood and in relationships. They feel betrayed by people who have who they thought were going to care for them the most. And when people have complex PTSD, very often what they have are huge problems in relationships. So, they’ve been hurt by somebody, they may feel tremendously abandoned by someone who they trusted. And then in life and in relationships, they now struggle to trust and they often really question other people. They question whether they can really trust them and they have a hard time with developing relationships because they feel scared. There are many feelings of fear that come over them. Shame, feelings of shame are common in complex PTSD. So, complex PTSD can take longer to heal than PTSD. If treatment for PTSD tends to be something more like six months to a year, treatment of complex PTSD can be two, three years, maybe even four years something like that. Pretty common. So those are some distinctions.

Vincent M. Wales: Thank you. Gabe and I are both very familiar with abandonment disorder and that sort of thing, attachment disorders. And there seems to be a very clear relation there with complex PTSD?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: For sure there is. There often is that for sure. There are feelings of abandonment very often and people with complex PTSD, and there are attachment problems. So, by attachment, that means that in times of distress they have difficulty turning to others who if you had a secure, what’s called a secure attachment, you might have an easier time turning to the people who feel, you know, should care about you. You know you might do that more easily; you might turn to them and ask for help and feel comfortable with that. But when people have what’s called an insecure attachment, and this is very common in complex PTSD, they have a great deal of difficulty turning to those people, who really you would think that they could turn to, their husbands, wives, their friends. They have a hard time turning to them because they feel very very frightened very often that people are going to just going to let them down. It’s a very very challenging disorder to treat. But it’s important for a therapist who works with people like this be what’s called trauma informed. Where they know about the effects of trauma so they can help people like this manage and find their way through their trauma.

Gabe Howard: Trauma informed care is something again, coming up more and more in mental health circles. Can you explain what trauma informed care means?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: So, there are many conditions that are related to trauma. It’s not just trauma therapists who come across people who have trauma histories. Family doctors very often will come across people who come in complaining of migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, immune system kind of disorders, stress related disorders. All of those are greatly exacerbated in people who have trauma histories. So it’s very important for family doctors. It’s very important for teachers, actually, to be trauma informed because you may see a kid in your class who appears like they have ADHD. They can’t sit still, they’re irritable, and that may also be a reaction to trauma. And I’m not saying that every person with all these disorders has a trauma history. I’m not saying that. Most of time people have migraines not because of trauma. But, if you do have a trauma history, all of those conditions can be greatly exacerbated. And so it’s very important for professionals who work interpersonally with people, family doctors, chiropractors, dentists, temporomandibular joint dysfunctions can be a symptom of trauma. Teachers, nurses, it’s very important for them to be trauma informed. For them to understand about the different manifestations of trauma. And there are many very often the immune system because of the stress of trauma the immune system has been affected. And that makes you more susceptible to a variety of different disorders. That’s why you need to be trauma informed.

Vincent M. Wales: Now for someone who has a pre-existing mental illness, whether it’s bipolar, or depression, or what have you, how are they affected by trauma? Is it any differently than someone without those issues?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Yeah. Yeah. So trauma exacerbates other kinds of conditions. People have, let’s say, a family history of depression or family history of bipolar illness and then very traumatic thing happens to them. That can exacerbate other problems that they have. So it’s very difficult to disentangle this symptom is caused by this and this is a symptom caused by that. It’s impossible really to disentangle what’s caused by what. But what you do want to do is you want to work with people if you’re doing therapy with an individual who’s been through this. You want to work with them in a way where if somebody has bipolar illness where you get them seeing a good psychiatrist who can prescribe the right medication. But then if they have a trauma history that doesn’t mean that that’s it. That medication is all of the treatment. No. Somebody has a trauma history, they’ve got to find a way to talk about what’s happened to them. And that’s very difficult when you’ve been through trauma. It’s hard to talk about. And so good trauma informed therapies will work with a person in a measured, paced way to help them slowly feel comfortable. We’re starting to talk about what happened. And that can be very, very challenging.

Gabe Howard: It’s interesting. As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I know the importance of being able to tell my medical team, whether it’s a psychiatrist, or a social worker, or a psychologist, you know, what’s going on inside my head, what my challenges are, what I need help with. It sounds like you’re saying somebody who just has a trauma background really needs to respond the same way. They have to be able to explain that to their medical team in order to get the right care.

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Well the thing with trauma is that people, a lot of professionals are not trauma informed. And so what ends up happening is that you get people going in for symptoms. So somebody with a trauma history, a typical kind of presentation. I’ll just give a name, Susan. Susan was raped let’s say in university. She experiences all kinds of difficulty in classes. She then goes and sees her doctor, gets put on an antidepressant. Is O K for a year or two on this antidepressant. And then, she starts to date again and then whoa. All these symptoms start to come back. She starts to experience confusion. She experiences other symptoms like headaches. She goes back and gets sent to a specialist. Then she says she has difficulty with her eating. Then the question of what? Does she have an eating disorder? And so what you end up with is this smorgasbord of different professionals. You know, this person specializes in depression, that person specializes in eating disorders, this sort of person specializes in migraines and whatever, trying to treat this person. And you don’t have a coherent treatment plan. And it’s because none of these professionals actually sat down and said, “Tell me a little bit about what happened in your life for the last five years. Walk me through it. What’s happened? Anything important? Tell me about it.” And if you do that with people, you can look for this. Sort of sitting down where you can say OK. Yes. Look at this. This person’s had these depression symptoms and this eating disorder seem to have really gotten a lot worse when dot dot dot. And then you could start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And so you’re not just treating for this disorder or that disorder or the other disorder, but you develop a coherent plan to help the person find a way to start to deal with the underlying trauma that led to a variety of different responses. So that’s where it’s really important to be trauma informed.

Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsor.

Narrator 2: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com, secure, convenient and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Vincent M. Wales: Welcome back. We’re here with Dr. Robert T. Muller discussing trauma. There’s a therapy relationship. What’s so important about that?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Well it’s really, really important, the therapy relationship. And in trauma work, that’s absolutely true. It’s even true in other kinds of psychiatric or psychological problems. Research on outcomes of mental health problems and treatment strategies, what we find is, that regardless of the school of thought that the clinician uses, let’s say people go to see a cognitive behavioral therapist, or the person goes to see a psychoanalyst, or the person goes to see a Gestalt therapist, you name it. Regardless of the school of thought, the one thing that seems to run throughout therapy is the benefits of having a good, strong psychotherapy relationship. And so this means that if you’re a cognitive behavioral therapist, it might be that the person got better in part because you help them look at their underlying thoughts and how their thoughts affect their feelings and how to help them change their behaviors and they’ll improve their feelings. Maybe. Maybe that’s a piece of it. But it also is the case for research what we know is that if you do that in the context where the two of you are really working together and feel like you’re on the same page then therapy will be much more effective. So this is true for all schools of thought of therapy and psychoanalysis and everything else. And so this therapy relationship research shows is really important. So what does that mean? That therapist and client are working together, on the same page working toward similar goals. The same goals really. You have to have similarity of thought around the goals and there’s a sense of warmth. There’s a sense that the client feels that their therapist gives a darn. That they really do actually care. And that the therapist gets it. That the client has to feel that the therapist gets it and is listening and paying attention. These are really important skills. And you know, Carl Rogers in the 1950s really honed in on this. And since then we’ve come up with all kinds of therapies. And I’m not saying these other therapies are not helpful. I’m just saying that going back to basics is really important. That the skills that Rogers taught around empathy turned out to be, in fact research shows, they’re very important. This is really the case with trauma therapy. When you’ve been traumatized and you’ve been traumatized most often when people feel in relationships that they’ve been hurt, then they might work with a therapist and think my therapist doesn’t like me, or my therapist is going to abandon me. My therapist is judging me. And it’s understandable that you’d feel this way as a client. If you’ve been hurt, when your trust has been violated, you’re going to be very cautious for good reason in relationships, and you’re even going to be cautious around your relationship with your therapist. You don’t know whether your therapist is just trying to manipulate you. In all fairness, you don’t know. And so it’s very important for the therapist to be attentive to these kinds of relational issues and trauma. Are my client and I are on the same page? And that sort of thing.

Gabe Howard: Who should go to trauma therapy? I mean who is, I know that the answer might be anybody who is traumatized, but you know more specifically, like who is trauma therapy for exactly?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: So very often if you’re holding something that feels like it’s a huge burden that’s something to notice. So pay attention. Pay attention to this question. Ask yourself, am I carrying around a deep burden from years ago? Am I holding on to a secret? A secret that if other people knew, I would feel judged? I would feel that they would hate me? I would feel ashamed of those sorts of things? Am I being loyal to people who harm me? Those are all questions that you can ask yourself. I talk a little bit about this in Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up, the idea of how people, how many trauma symptoms develop, and these themes are really, really big. The themes of secrecy, feelings of betrayal, themes of loyalty to those who maybe you shouldn’t necessarily be so loyal to. But those are the kinds of questions to ask yourself. That is does the thought or some memory about something, does it make you feel sick? Does it make you feel like this feeling of I’m a bad person? You know, when I think about x y z that happened to me, I feel terrible guilt. How could I? How could I have done that? If you’re asking some questions like why me? Or if you’re asking questions of yourself like why not me? Why did X Y Z happen to my brother and not me? Those sorts of questions are very important questions that can be addressed in trauma therapy. And very often people have those questions in association with symptoms. When you know when you think about x y z that I just mentioned, maybe you feel depressed? Or maybe you feel self-loathing or disappointed in yourself? Why did I do that? Why didn’t I help my sister when such and such? When dad was, I don’t know, especially when Dad was drinking the way he was or mom was? Why didn’t I? So if you ask yourself those kinds of questions and you’re pained by it, that might be a sign that getting help, that talking to a therapist around your history is important. Because you’ve been trying to deal with this on your own for so long, and that can feel very lonely, it can feel very burdensome. And you don’t have to be alone in dealing with these things. That’s where I would think of therapy.

Vincent M. Wales: Right. We also have what we call post-traumatic growth. Is that just a fancy word for recovery or?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Well no. No, it’s related to recovery. I mean people you hope that through trauma therapy people will get back to the way they were before you know they started really deteriorating. But it doesn’t exactly work that way. Recovery is a bit unpredictable. And what happens is as people start to talk about their problems, and start to talk about their history, they start to deal with things in a way that they never dealt with before. And so they start asking themselves questions like I mentioned. Why me? Why not me? Maybe those kinds of questions. Like what’s my place in the world after what happened to me? I thought my identity would be such and such but now I just don’t know. So when you start addressing questions like that, those kinds of questions lead to a re-evaluation of yourself. And so along with recovery, along with feeling better, along with removing, or removing and recovering from these psychiatric symptoms, that you really want to recover from, along with that comes a new understanding as you start to delve into issues from the past. And so that’s where there’s an opportunity for what’s called post-traumatic growth. That through the process of talking about and questioning and dealing with, there’s a reckoning. And that reckoning can help you grow in ways you may not have imagined. You may realize things about yourself that you hadn’t really thought of before. You know, like you may realize things like previously when I thought about such and such, I just felt guilt about what I did. But now, as I think about it now, actually, I was pretty strong the way I stood up to so and the way I did such and such. And I feel, I actually feel proud of myself for that. That may not sound like a big deal, but it can really feel like a big deal if you’ve felt ashamed of yourself for so long.

Gabe Howard: Do you do you think there’s a lot of people who are suffering from trauma who just don’t realize it? And how do we reach those people? Because you can’t exactly go ask for help if you don’t know that you are in need of help, right?

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Well this is why trauma education is so important. There’s getting to be more and more education about this. I have an online therapy and mental health magazine called The Trauma & Mental Health Report where you know my students and I, we publish articles and they’re very, very straightforward articles written for general consumption. They’re not academic heavy kinds of articles. And we’re trying to teach people about what happens in trauma. We have a lot of stories. You know for example, one of my favorite stories is A Corporal Speaks: 10 Questions for a Soldier Who Served in Afghanistan. And he tells his story. This corporal who came back and happened to be a Canadian, and who served alongside Americans. And many of the stories relate actually to the American soldiers who he served with. And it’s just a really interesting story. And these stories and so we’re trying to teach about how people struggle with these things in a way that the general public can start to learn. Not just people in mental health or whatever academics who know about this stuff, but that people in the general population can start to learn about this. And I think there’s greater interest. There’s more interest lately I’ve noticed in the topic of disassociation, people who have been through trauma, many of them dissociate. So they check out. They sort of go absent at times, you know. Why do they do this? Because sometimes. emotional trauma can be so overwhelming that they lose focus and lose attention to that and start thinking about some totally different things. And that allows them to feel okay. But you know that can be very very challenging when you dissociate a lot in your everyday life. So there’s a little bit more knowledge about that in the general public. I mean I’m noticing increasingly. So I think it’s, I think it’s really about education. And I think what you guys are doing here with this podcast and other people, other mental health podcasts, are becoming much more commonplace and people are asking these questions. There’s more stuff out there. I think that I think is the way to get people to learn about this stuff.

Gabe Howard: We agree with everything you just said except other mental health podcasts. We’re completely unaware of any other podcast other than this one. Don’t search for them. No, just kidding. I just have a couple of more questions because we’re about out of time. But one is please talk about your book for a moment and where folks can find it. I’m assuming you’re going to say Amazon. And what got you interested in researching and writing about trauma in the first place? I imagine they go kind of hand-in-hand.

Dr. Robert T. Muller: Yeah, that’s for sure. So I’ll do the thing about the book. It’s called Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up: From Avoidance to Recovery and Growth. It is available on Amazon and mental health bookstores as well. So there’s a hardcopy and a Kindle as well. So. what got me interested in trauma is not a short answer, but also what originally got me interested is a little bit different than when I realized, you know years later when I worked in the field for a long time. Originally, I just thought it was you know an interesting research topic and my supervisor was interested in it in graduate school. But what I realized in my 40s, was that there was a much deeper unconscious reason, I think, that I really got drawn into it. And I also realized that much more so as I did my own psychotherapy. And that is that my parents were children during the Holocaust. And both of them actually were separated from their families, and I believe to some extent traumatized by the Holocaust to some extent. I would say that their childhoods were shaped in ways that you can never imagine. My father’s father was actually killed. My mother’s parents were not killed they were okay, but they were there. My mom was separated from them. She was only 6 years old. She was separated from her parents for months. And so it was terrifying for a 6-year-old. She had no idea where her parents were and they left her in the care of a non-Jewish woman. Again, this saved my mom’s life, but this was a terrifying experience for her. And so I grew up with stories about the Holocaust and with stories about what it was like to be a child during the Holocaust. What it means to lose your innocence as a child. What it means to lose your childhood as a child. And so those kinds of experiences I think to a very large extent shaped me. I believe that’s ultimately why I went into this. Why I went into this field and why I can connect with trauma survivors I think it’s that experience. That’s a fair answer.

Gabe Howard: Yes. Thank you so much.

Vincent M. Wales: Wow. Well thank you for sharing that story with us.

Dr. Robert T. Muller: No problem.

Vincent M. Wales: That’s really heavy. And thank you so much for being here and for informing us on trauma so that we can recognize it and deal with it when we have it.

Dr. Robert T. Muller: OK. Ok. My pleasure.

Vincent M. Wales: And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime anywhere by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. Thanks. We’ll see you next week.

Narrator 1: Thank you for listening to the Psych Central Show. Please rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you found this podcast. We encourage you to share our show on social media and with friends and family. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show. PsychCentral.com is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website. Psych Central is overseen by Dr. John Grohol, a mental health expert and one of the pioneering leaders in online mental health. Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who travels nationally. You can find more information on Gabe at GabeHoward.com. Our co-host, Vincent M. Wales, is a trained suicide prevention crisis counselor and author of several award-winning speculative fiction novels. You can learn more about Vincent at VincentMWales.com. If you have feedback about the show, please email [email protected].

About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is also one of the co-hosts of the popular show, A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. As a speaker, he travels nationally and is available to make your event stand out. To work with Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. He is also the author of several award-winning novels and creator of the costumed hero, Dynamistress. Visit his websites at www.vincentmwales.com and www.dynamistress.com.

Podcast: There’s More to Trauma than PTSD

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5 Myths and Facts About Drug Rehab

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Drug abuse is a serious health concern. Overdose-related deaths in the United States have reached epidemic level. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate an average of 130 people die from opioid overdose each day. This number doesn’t take into account deaths related to other drugs, which may increase this number.

Any drug use can become dangerous. Marijuana, now legal for medicinal and recreational use in many states, may help relieve pain, chemotherapy side effects, and symptoms of mental health concerns such as anxiety and posttraumatic stress. Research has also suggested marijuana may help treat addiction in some people. But despite these potential benefits, it can become addictive and could have health effects such as short-term memory impairment, impaired brain function, and respiratory health issues, among others.

Recreational use of illegal substances, even short-term use, can have serious health effects, including anxiety, paranoia, depression, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, nausea, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and more. There’s also a risk of death due to overdose or complications. Long-term use of certain drugs could increase risk of violent behavior and may lead to legal trouble. Abusing drugs can also lead to drug dependency, or addiction.

Rehab can help people who’ve reached their absolute low work to overcome addiction, but it can also help people begin to break free of addiction before it significantly impacts their lives.

If you’re experiencing addiction, you’re not alone. According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 20 million Americans experienced a substance abuse disorder in 2014. Addiction can be difficult to overcome, no matter how hard a person tries. Professional support, in the form of inpatient or outpatient drug rehab, can benefit many people living with drug addiction.

Myths about drug rehab are plentiful. If you’re considering rehab for yourself or a loved one, making sure you have all the facts will help you make a more informed decision. Here, we present five common myths about drug rehab and the facts to counter them.

Drug Rehab Myths and Facts

Myth: Only wealthy people go to rehab.
Fact: Anyone can go to rehab.

It’s true that drug rehab can become expensive. Some people may not even consider inpatient rehab an option, believing it to be out of their budget. But the cost of drug rehab can depend on a number of factors, and there are rehab options for a range of budgets. See our article here for a more detailed explanation of rehab costs.

Some drug rehab centers offer low-cost or sliding-scale fees, based on your income. According to the 2012 National Survey of Substance Abuse, 62% of rehab facilities charge based on a sliding scale. Facilities may also offer payment programs or other types of financial assistance to people in need. Many drug rehab centers accept insurance, though not all insurance providers cover rehab.

When considering rehab, talk to your insurance provider and the rehab facility you’re interested in to get a better idea of the cost involved. Some centers may be able to work with you or refer you to another quality center that is more affordable. If the cost of inpatient rehab is a barrier, you might also consider outpatient drug rehab programs.

Myth: Rehab is for when you hit “rock bottom.”
Fact: You can begin recovering from addiction at any time.

Many people go to rehab when no other treatment option has worked. Often, they’ve lived with addiction for many years. Rehab can help people who’ve reached their absolute low work to overcome addiction, but it can also help people begin to break free of addiction before it significantly impacts their lives. Research suggests early intervention helps improve treatment outcomes.

Addiction not only contributes to emotional and physical health concerns, it can also lead to homelessness, unemployment, debt, and breakup or divorce. Choosing to enter rehab when you first find yourself becoming dependent on substances can help you begin the recovery process before addiction can have more of an effect on your life.

Myth: Rehab is only for people who can’t quit on their own.
Fact: Anyone experiencing addiction can get help in rehab.

The idea that addiction only happens to weak or flawed people is widespread. It might seem logical: Many people experiment with drugs, but not everyone becomes addicted. But drug abuse alters brain chemistry and affects cognitive function, leading to cravings for the substance and eventually addiction. Certain factors, including genetics, can increase a person’s risk for addiction.

Although a person might choose to try drugs, they don’t choose to become addicted. Once addicted, many people can’t stop using drugs without professional help. Needing rehab isn’t a sign of weakness. Changes in the brain resulting from addiction can make it extremely challenging, if not impossible, to stop using drugs without the support of health care providers trained in addiction support.

Whether you’ve tried to stop using drugs and relapsed or are just beginning to realize you may have a problem with substance abuse, rehab can help you begin recovery.

Myth: Rehab will prevent a person from relapsing.
Fact: Relapse is common, but treatment can help reduce its impact.

Between 40 and 60% of people dealing with addiction will relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While rehab may help reduce your risk of relapse, completing a drug rehab program doesn’t guarantee you’ll never relapse.

But rehab still has benefit. Research shows rehab can help by helping you develop skills to resist cravings, making relapse less likely. If you do relapse, the length of the relapse may be shorter. People who participate in treatment programs such as rehab also tend to relapse fewer times than people who don’t. Rehab can also lead to improvements in your relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. Developing stronger bonds with people you care for can also decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Myth: Rehab doesn’t work if you force someone to go.
Fact: Rehab can work even if you don’t want treatment.

Some people choose to enter rehab on their own, but some people experiencing addiction may not see its effects on their life, or they may not believe they have a problem with substance abuse. They may only decide to enter rehab grudgingly, after a court order or intervention from loved ones.

Being issued an ultimatum or feeling otherwise “forced” into rehab could make some people resistant to treatment, at first. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, however, people who feel pressured to overcome addiction in order to maintain an important relationship or avoid criminal charges, for example, often do better in treatment, even though they didn’t choose to enter rehab on their own.

Substance abuse and addiction can have serious, lifelong consequences. But there is help. Drug rehab may seem like an extreme measure, but this is partially due to the many myths surrounding rehab treatment.

Numerous studies support the benefits of rehab for addiction recovery. Inpatient centers provide a safe place to begin the detox and recovery process at any stage of addiction. Some facilities are expensive, but it’s possible to find affordable centers that will work with you to find a treatment program that’s right for your needs and your budget.

Don’t let myths about drug rehab keep you from getting addiction recovery support. Compassionate care is available! Begin your search today at GoodTherapy. Recovery may be a lifelong journey, but you are not alone.

References:

  1. American Addiction Centers. (2019, February 14). How much does rehab cost? Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcohol-rehab/cost
  2. American Addiction Centers. (2018, October 15). Rehab success rates and statistics. Retrieved from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/success-rates-and-statistics
  3. Blending perspectives and building common ground. Myths and facts about addiction treatment. (1999, April 1). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/blending-perspectives-and-building-common-ground/myths-and-facts-about-addiction-and-treatment
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, December 19). Understanding the epidemic. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
  5. Leshner, A. I. (n.d.). Exploring myths about drug abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/exploring-myths-about-drug-abuse
  6. Mayo Clinic. (2017, July 20). Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
  7. Mayo Clinic. (2017, October 26). Drug addiction (substance use disorder). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112
  8. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Retrieved from http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Is marijuana addictive? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
  11. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 national survey on drug use and health. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
  12. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Early intervention, treatment, and management of substance use disorders. In Facing addiction in America: The surgeon general’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424859
  13. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019, January 30). Mental health and substance use disorders. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disorders
  14. Walsh, Z., Gonzalez, R., Crosby, K., Thiessena, M. S., Carrolla, C., & Bonn-Miller, M. O. (2017). Medical cannabis and mental health: A guided systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 51, 15-29. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735816300939?via%3Dihub
  15. Weber, L. (2015, July 11). How much does inpatient rehab cost? Retrieved from https://addictionblog.org/rehab/inpatient-rehab/how-much-does-inpatient-rehab-cost

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How Writers Write About Heartbreaking Things and Care for Themselves in the Process

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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For more than 20 years, Mary Cregan wanted to write her recently published memoir The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery, but she felt that she couldn’t. It’s primarily because she wasn’t ready to face the exposure required to be so honest about such a devastating, difficult part of her life.

Because that’s the thing about writing: We let readers into our innermost thoughts and feelings, into our souls, and that can be scary.

We tackle topics we’d never bring up with a close friend, let alone a stranger, and yet that’s exactly what we do. We share our stories with thousands of strangers.

Writing about heartbreaking things and publishing that work makes the private very, very public, a process that we, of course, can’t reverse. This is especially difficult if you were taught to keep your stories to yourself, behind closed doors. As Cregan writes in The Scar, “In my large Irish Catholic family, the tacit understanding was that it was best not to draw attention to oneself.”

Nita Sweeney thought she was writing a memoir about running, but after many, many drafts realized that she was writing a memoir about how running saved her life—from depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, and alcoholism.

“The fact that I’d gone from a woman who could barely walk around the block into a marathoner was important, but the real story was that I’d gone from a woman who wanted to kill herself into one who wants to live,” said Sweeney, whose forthcoming memoir Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink will be published mid May.

Mental health advocate and writer Hannah Blum regularly writes about her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her blog “I’m Bipolar Too” and her website Halfway2Hannah.com. While there are many parts of her story she’s not ready to share, writing about difficult things actually isn’t that difficult for her.

“Turning my pain into art gives power to any of the challenges I have faced throughout my life.”

“It’s when I am writing about the people I have met along my journey who were not given a chance because of their mental illness that I struggle to write about the most,” Blum said.

Author, mental health advocate, and Psych Central editor Therese Borchard has been writing online about her experiences with mental illness for many years (and before that she shared her story in her print column). But that doesn’t make sharing any easier.

“It’s extremely difficult to share the more personal posts. My index finger hovers over the publish button sometimes for an hour before I have the courage to press it,” Borchard said.

Why Write About Such Hard Things?

When a friend asked Cregan why on earth she’d want to revisit the worst days of her life—the death of her infant daughter, and her descent into a deep, unrelenting, suicidal depression—Cregan realized that it was because she’d spent decades trying to conceal that time. “…I wanted to turn to the past and face it squarely,” she writes in her memoir.

Cregan also wrote her story as a way to reject the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. She wrote it for her younger self, and for the young women in her family who, too, live with depression.

“It is also for the countless people who find themselves struggling to cope with internal forces that feel overwhelming but—as I try to show in these pages—are survivable,” she writes.

She writes at the end of her book: “Most importantly, I want to encourage people in the depths of hopelessness to believe that they can come through, and to find help from a compassionate, responsible professional who will care for them until they do. People in the grip of severe depression might take as their mantra a line from Rilke so relevant to all kinds of human trouble that it has become an Internet meme: ‘Just keep going. No feeling is final.’”

Sometimes after publishing a vulnerable post, Borchard feels like she’s “walking around naked,” and wonders if it’s really worth it. “However, then I will get an email or comment from a reader who tells me she feels less alone because I shared it, and it makes it worth it.”

Blum, too, is propelled by the people who read her work, along with the mental health community in general. “Knowing that I may help someone not feel so alone or encourage them to accept themselves is a gift to me. Relating to people emotionally through words inspires me every day to write.”

For Borchard, writing about the more challenging parts of her recovery helps her in another powerful way, as well: “I get to recognize the voice within me that doesn’t necessarily come out in casual conversation with friends or even in therapy. There is something about writing about your experience that clarifies it…”

Self-Care During the Writing (and Publishing) Process

After Borchard pens a difficult piece, she’ll often walk in the woods or over to the creek by her house. This is when she processes what she’s written—and tells “myself that should I get scathing responses, it doesn’t detract from my truth—that I am a good person who speaks from the heart, even if that truth isn’t received well.”

Blum finds it helpful to sit with her thoughts, and journal what she feels. She also reads books by Hemingway along with pieces from modern-day poets, such as April Green, Lang Leav, and JM Storm.

For Cregan, when the writing became especially difficult, self-care looked like refocusing her attention toward researching or writing less personal sections of her book. On the days it felt unbearable, she’d schedule several sessions with her psychiatrist.

She also found it helpful to “change the channel” in her mind, something she still does today when she’s getting depressed. “I read or watch a movie or see a friend—anything, really, to get my mind out of the track it’s stuck in.”

Exercise is equally critical for Cregan’s well-being, which she does regularly, whether it’s indoor cycling or yoga.

For Sweeney, self-care while writing includes: hugging her husband, cuddling her dog, running, spending time with a supportive community, meditating, taking medication, going to therapy, not drinking, and calling her sister.

Because Sweeney writes regularly, the actual process isn’t so difficult (more on that below). But the after is.

“My mindfulness meditation practice helps with the aftermath, the ‘post-writing’ emotional hangover…During the time I’ve allotted for this practice, the huge rock in the pit of my stomach or the noose tightening around my neck becomes the object on which I focus. Awareness and a non-judgmental attitude transform these unpleasant sensations into something more neutral. It might sound like hocus pocus, but it’s quite intensely practical and for me, effective.”

And sometimes, Sweeney said, she needs a good “scream-cry.” “I do my best to experience heaving chest, stinging tears, and howling, with awareness and equanimity. If I find myself judging any of this, that becomes the object of meditation.”

The Power of a Regular Writing Practice

Sweeney also has developed a consistent, strong writing practice. Thanks to studying with Natalie Goldberg, she’s learned to “shut up and write,” and “go for the jugular.”

“Following [Goldberg’s] suggestion, I’ve spent years, no, decades, pushing my pen or pounding keys into painful and unpleasant memories. Hours reading aloud to small groups of people then listening to others who are also sharing their difficult situations by reading aloud, developed my spine.”

Plus, Sweeney has participated in National Novel Writing Month every year for a decade, writing or revising nonfiction. “Producing 1667 words a day during the 30 days of November, trained me to write on a regular schedule the rest of the year.”

Because she’s always writing, nearly every day since 1994, she doesn’t think about it. “It’s just what I do. If I thought about it too much, I’d never do it.”

Borchard views writing from the heart as “just another way of living sincerely, or with integrity.”

“It’s not for everyone, but I’ve found that the more transparent I can be in my life, the more I create opportunities to bond with readers and others on their journey. You are like a travel guide of sorts. So it’s also a privilege and one I take seriously.”

How Writers Write About Heartbreaking Things and Care for Themselves in the Process

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6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Recovery from Depression and Anxiety

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Recovering from depression and anxiety call for the same kind of shrewdness and amount of perspiration as does running a 4,000-person company. I say that having never done the latter. But hear out my logic: great leaders must master impeccable governing skills, develop the discipline of a triathlete, and build enough stamina to manage multiple personalities. And so does anyone wanting to get outside of her head and live a little.

So I think it’s fitting to translate the insight of a book about business success, The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price by Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, to victory over a mood disorder, or even mild but annoying anxiety and depression.

Weinzimmer and McConoughey describe their “taxonomy of leadership mistakes,” or nine common ways an executive falls flat on his face and is made fun of by his peers. The business world is replete with calculated risks. It’s a chess game, and a few too many wrong moves will have you packing up your stuff from the corner office.

As I read through them, I kept thinking about my main job — managing my depression as best I can — and the pitfalls that I so often run into. Many are the same listed in this book. Here are six mistakes business leaders make that are appropriate for our purposes:

Mistake one: Trying to be all things to all people.

The “just say no” problem that I have all the time. If you think of requests from friends, families, bosses, co-workers, and golden retrievers as customers asking you for all kinds of products that you can’t simultaneously produce, then you see the logic in your having to draw the line at some point. You must hang on to your resources to stay well.

Mistake two: Roaming outside the box.

Clarification: thinking outside the box is good. Hanging out there, strolling around in pursuit of some meaning that you keep finding in everything that passes by — that’s dangerous. When it comes to recovery, this is very important to remember. I like to try new things: yoga, new fish oil supplements, a new light lamp, different support groups.

What gets me in trouble is when I start to think that I don’t have bipolar disorder and can go off all meds, healing myself through meditation alone. I tried that once and landed in the hospital twice. Now I double check to make sure the box is still in my peripheral vision.

Mistake three: Efficiencies before effectiveness.

This has to do with seeing the forest behind the trees, and subscribing to a policy of making decisions based on the view of the forest, not the trees that are blocking everything from your sight. The authors cite the example of Circuit City’s CEO who cut 3,400 sales people to decrease costs despite the fact that their research said that customers want knowledgeable sales people to help them make decisions when buying electronics. His approach was efficient, but not all that effective.

When you are desperate to feel better, it’s so easy to reach for the Band-Aid — booze, cigarettes, toxic relationships — that might do an efficient job of killing the pain. Effective in the longterm? Not so much.

Mistake four: Dysfunctional harmony.

Like me! Like me! Please like me! Dysfunctional harmony involves abandoning your needs to please others, which jeopardizes your recovery efforts.

“Being an effective leader [or person in charge of one’s health] means that sometimes you will not make the most popular decisions,” the authors explain. “By doing what is necessary, you will sometimes make some people angry. That’s okay. It’s part of the job. If you are in a leadership role and you try to be liked by everyone all of the time, you will inevitably create drama and undercut your own authority and effectiveness.”

So think of yourself as the CEO of you and start making some authoritative decisions that are in the best interest of You, Inc.

Mistake five: Hoarding

I’m not talking about your sister’s stash of peanuts and Q-Tips. This is about hoarding responsibility. For those of us trying like hell to live a good and happy life, this means giving over the reins now and then to other people, persons, and things that can help us: doctors, husbands, sisters, even pets. It means relying on the people in your life who say they love you and letting them do the small things so that you can try your best to be the best boss of yourself again.

Mistake six: Disengagement

Burnout. It happens in all recovery. I have yet to meet someone who can continue a regiment of daily meditation, boot camp, and spinach and cucumber smoothies for more than three months without calling uncle and reaching for the pepperoni pizza. That’s why it is so critical to pace yourself in your recovery. What’s a realistic number of times to exercise during the week? Are you really going to do that at 4:30 am? Why not allow yourself one day of hotdogs and ice-cream in order to not throw out the whole healthy living initiative at once?

Imagine yourself a great leader of your mind, body, and spirit — managing a staff of personalities inside yourself that need direction. Take it from these two corporate leaders, and don’t make the same mistakes.

6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Recovery from Depression and Anxiety

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Why It’s Okay to Cry in Public

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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I waited three months after I was discharged from the hospital for suicidal depression to make contact with the professional world again. I wanted to be sure I didn’t “crack,” like I had done in a group therapy session. A publishing conference seemed like an ideal, safe place to meet. A crowded room of book editors would certainly prevent any emotional outbursts on my part. So I reached out to colleague who had been feeding me assignments pre-nervous breakdown and invited her for a cup of coffee.

“How are you?” she asked me.

I stood there frozen, trying my best to mimic the natural smile I had practiced in front of the bathroom mirror that would accompany the words, “Fine! Thank you. How are you?”

Instead I burst into tears. Not a cute little whimper. A loud and ugly bawling — pig snorts included — the kind of sobbing widows do behind closed doors when the funeral is done.

“There’s the beginning and the end,” I thought. “Time to pay the parking bill.”

But something peculiar happened in that excruciating exchange: we bonded.

Embarrassment Leads to Trust

Researchers at the University of California, Berkley conducted five studies that confirmed this very phenomena: embarrassment — and public crying certainly qualifies as such — has a positive role in the bonding of friends, colleagues, and mates. The findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest that people who embarrass easily are more altruistic, prosocial, selfless, and cooperative. In their gestures of embarrassment, they earn greater trust because others classify the transparency of expression (buried head, blushing, crying) as trustworthiness.

Robb Willer, Ph.D., an author of the study, writes, “Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources. It’s part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life.”

Now public crying is even better than splitting your swimsuit in half during swim practice or asking a woman when her baby is due only to learn it was born four months ago (also guilty). Tears serve many uses. According to Dr. William Frey II, a biochemist and Director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, emotional tears (as opposed to tears of irritability) remove toxins as well as chemicals like the endorphin leucine-enkaphalin and prolactin that have built up in the body from stress. Crying also lowers a person’s manganese level, a mineral that affects mood.

In a New York Times article, science writer Jane Brody quotes Dr. Frey:

Crying is an exocrine process, that is, a process in which a substance comes out of the body. Other exocrine processes, like exhaling, urinating, defecating and sweating, release toxic substances from the body. There’s every reason to think crying does the same, releasing chemicals that the body produces in response to stress.

Crying Builds a Community

Anthropologist Ashley Montagu once said in a Science Digest article that crying builds a community. Having done my share of public crying this last year, I think he is right.

If you spot a person crying in the back of the room at, say, a school fundraiser, your basic instinct (if you are a nice person) is to go comfort that person. Yeah, there’s the voice that says she’s pathetic for displaying public emotions, much like the couple fighting in the hallway; however, you want the crying to end because on some level it makes you uncomfortable — you want everyone to be happy, like the mom who pops a pacifier or a stick of butter into her 6-year-old’s mouth to shut him up.

The high sensitive types begin to swarm around this woman, as she divulges her life story. Voila! You find yourself with a group of new best friends in an Oprah moment, each person offering intimate details about herself. A women’s retreat has started, and there is no need for a lake house.

In a 2009 study published in Evolutionary Psychology, participants responded to images of faces with tears and faces with tears digitally removed, as well as tear-free control images. It was determined that tears signaled sadness and resolved ambiguity. According to Robert R. Provine, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, tears are a kind of social lubricant, helping people communicate. Says the abstract: “The evolution and development of emotional tearing in humans provide a novel, potent and neglected channel of affective communication.”

In a February 2016 study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, researchers replicated and extended previous work by showing that tearful crying facilitates helping behavior and identified why people are more willing to help criers. First, the display of tears increases perceived helplessness of a person, which leads to a higher willingness to help that person. Second, crying individuals are typically perceived to be more agreeable and less aggressive and elicit more sympathy and compassion.

The third reason I find most interesting: seeing tears makes us feel more closely connected to the crying individual. According to the study, “This increase in felt connectedness with a crying individual could also promote prosocial behavior. In other words, the closer we feel to another individual, the most altruistically we behave towards that person.” The authors refer to ritual weeping, say, after adversity and disasters or when preparing for war. Those common tears build bonds between people.

I don’t LIKE crying. And certainly not in front of people. It feels humiliating, like I’m not in control of my emotions. However, I no longer practice smiling in front of the mirror or the sentiments that are packaged with the grin. I have learned to embrace my PDT — public display of tears — and be my transparent self, even if the result is more pig snorts.

Why It’s Okay to Cry in Public

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8 Things Autistic People Wished You Knew about April

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Every April, autism takes a center stage in global awareness. All around the world, well-meaning, good-hearted people “Light it up blue” for Autism Awareness Month, and they decorate their social media with the puzzle piece frames and the jigsaw rainbow awareness ribbons.

And, every March, autistic adults are already dreading April. Many of them report feeling traumatized by previous Aprils. They begin to mentally prepare for what is ahead, feeling powerless to stop it. They’re bracing themselves for what is on the horizon.

What autistic people wish their neurotypical allies knew going into April:

  1. We really don’t want or need awareness. To most neurotypical (non-autistic) people, awareness of autism is to be aware of a disease, to regard it with a somber recognition of how serious a problem autism is and how fervently a cure is needed. It doesn’t conjure the reverent solidarity that breast cancer awareness does for survivors, the bereaved, and their loved ones. Instead, it means that the world comes together to talk about the tragedy of autism.
  2. Most of us do not want a cure. The vast majority of autistic adults do not want a cure, nor do they see autism as a disease. It is simply their way of existing, perceiving, and being. Autism is inextricable from the identity and perception of the autistic person, and a “cure” would mean to erase from them what is their core self and what their divergent minds can contribute to society. Most of us are quite proud to be autistic.
  3. We wish you’d see us outside of the medical disability model. The medical model pathologizes our innate traits. We may develop on a different curve, have different strengths and weaknesses, and relate differently from the majority of the population, but those traits aren’t inherently negative. Our traits are interpreted in the most negative way because they are not what “most people” do. We express empathy differently, but a lack of eye contact or verbal expressions of emotional solidarity do not mean we lack empathy.
  4. We are offended by puzzle pieces, “Light it up blue,” and Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks has dominated the world’s narrative about autism. They are a fundraising monolith, and their information distribution campaigns rank at the top of search engine results around the internet. The focus of their campaign was originally to scare the world into realizing how important it was to find a cure and to eradicate autism and to implicate vaccines as the culprit. They have continued to deny autistic perspectives, and only a minuscule portion of their many millions in donations actually goes to helping autistic people (often less than 1%). Essentially, donations go to marketing puzzle pieces and the international “brand” Autism Speaks has created. They are responsible for the puzzle pieces and the “Light it up blue” campaigns. For a more detailed breakdown and alternative charities to support, click here. We ask that you share autistic-authored posts and articles in April and hashtag them #redinstead.
  5. We prefer identity-first language over person-first language. This means that we prefer to be called “autistics,” or “autistic people,” or “aspies” (if that’s how one identifies) as opposed to “person with autism” or “person with Asperger’s.” But, every individual’s preference should be respected.
  6. We are great at self-advocating, and we wish you’d learn about autism from autistic people. There are thousands of blogs, websites, organizations, and informational resources out there produced and managed by autistics. The autistic community is a thriving, tight-knit juggernaut of change and advocacy, and they uplift other marginalized populations by focusing on intersectional human rights outside of the neurodiversity paradigm. They’re fierce defenders of children and dedicated scholars and researchers. They can be found on social media by searching the hashtag #actuallyautistic. The Aspergian is a collective of autistic writers, or you can read more of my blogs here at PsychCentral.
  7. Autism doesn’t end at age 18. Most people tend to think of autism as a childhood disorder, but an autistic person is autistic every day of his or her life.
  8. Function labels are deeply offensive and inaccurate. When someone is autistic, it has been socially acceptable to comment on how high- or low-functioning he or she is. The truth is, autism is invisible, and a person’s struggles cannot be measured by how a person seems to be performing. Often, “function” comes at great price to the autistic person, meaning that they have to hide or “mask” their innate traits and behaviors to appear more “normal.” You can read all about function labels by clicking here.

Autistic people need neurotypical allies to be more than just aware of autism, but to accept our differences and see our strengths and our weaknesses as unique to the individual. We need your help to find our way into the conversation about autism, which means sharing articles by autistic people and supporting autistic organizations. We need employers and schools to accommodate for our neurological profiles, and individuals to understand how we relate differently.

So, let’s make April “Autism Acceptance Month” and shift the focus to autistic people as thinking, feeling, valuable human beings. By reading this article, written by an autistic person, you’re off to a great start as an ally.

8 Things Autistic People Wished You Knew about April

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4 Signs Busyness Is Your Coping Mechanism and How to Slow Down

This is an interesting article I found on: www.goodtherapy.org

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Busyness may seem fairly harmless; after all, you are just filling your schedule and accomplishing tasks, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, busyness can take over in ways that may be similar to how an addiction can and prevent you from being present in your own life with those around you.

Here are some signs you might be addicted to busyness and how to address it.

Signs You’re Using Busyness As a Coping Mechanism

1. Your calendar is cluttered or full

Someone who is addicted to being busy may feel a compulsive need to fill up their schedule. They may have difficulty spending time not “doing.” They may feel they are wasting time if they are not scheduling something or constantly have activities waiting in the wings. They may feel most satisfied when they see their calendar is completely full. In order to combat this mentality, it’s important to acknowledge this is a behavior you see in yourself.

Acknowledging the constant desire to fill up your calendar is a good place to start. It may be helpful to look at the function of that behavior. What does it offer you? How do you feel when you see that your schedule is full? What are you getting out of moving from task to task without slowing down? And on the contrary, how do you feel when your schedule is empty? What feelings arise for you when there isn’t another task to complete? Being able to say to yourself what the busyness offers you is a good first step.

2. You’re a social butterfly

Busyness can often cause people to become “social butterflies,” and they may feel a constant need to go from social What feelings arise for you when there isn’t another task to complete? Being able to say to yourself what the busyness offers you is a good first step.engagement to social engagement. These folks may say in passing, “I’m just social” or “I like to go out.” They may have difficulty being alone or spending time with themselves. If this sounds familiar, tune in to this feeling. What is it like to be alone? Connect with that. Does it bring up any other feelings or remind you of anything?

Often, loneliness can remind us of difficult times during our childhood when we felt alone and no one came to be with us, so we take a lot of measures to not have this feeling be present. We try and fill it up with activities. We have to remind ourselves that feeling lonely is okay. We can notice this feeling and let it be what it is. You can practice building up tolerance to being alone by spending larger and large increments of time by yourself and observing how it feels. You can utilize some self-talk and let your body know feeling lonely is normal and that it’s going to be okay.

3. Others mention how busy you seem

Often times, people will tell the busy person that it seems they are always busy or “on the go.” This may seem like an obvious indicator, but busy people may have difficulty recognizing this in themselves, so they need others to say something. If this is the case with you, it may help to ask the loved ones in your life about this. Be curious about what friends and family are telling you. Ask questions. “You say that I am often on the go, what do you mean by that?” “You often say that I am busy, does it feel like I’m present when I’m with you?” “Does it feel like I’m too busy for you?” This will give you a better sense of how your busyness is impacting others.

4. It’s difficult to slow down

That adage “stop and smell the roses” may seem cliché, but it can be hard to do for those who can’t stop being busy. If you find you have difficulty taking in the details of the day—the way your morning coffee tasted, the smile on your co-worker’s face, or the sounds of children playing in your front yard—because you feel like you must go onto the next item, you may be addicted to being busy.

A good next step for this is to slow down as much as possible. Take a deep breath, pause, and notice what’s going on. You can start with your body: what does it feel like inside? Do you observe any tension or tightness? Do you feel happy, sad, lonely, mad, or something else? Where do you feel that feeling in your body? Can you allow it to move through your body?

Next, see if you can move on to tuning in to the experience of others. Slow down and really listen to what they are saying instead of giving a rehearsed response. Can you tune in to what they might be feelings? Can you give yourself the space to really be present with others? Feel your way into what it’s like to be truly present with you family and friends.

Being busy can be a good thing. As humans, we may often have a desire to be productive and use our time well. It’s when the busyness takes over our lives and we stop enjoying living that it’s important to look more closely.

If you feel busyness has become a coping mechanism for you, therapy may help. A licensed mental health professional can show you strategies that allow you to tune in to your inner world, sit with your emotions, and learn healthy ways to cope.

© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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Nutrition for Anxiety: Foods to Eat and Avoid

This is an interesting article I found on: www.goodtherapy.org

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Nutrition is fuel for your body. Choose the right fuel and your body, including your mind, may function better.

Research on the role of nutrition in fighting anxiety is mixed, but studies consistently find people with anxiety may have lower quality diets that are low in fruits and vegetables and high in fats and sugars. Emerging research also suggests some foods may help regulate neurotransmitters, thereby improving brain health and potentially reducing anxiety.

Dietary changes are not magic, and a few nutritional tweaks are unlikely to correct serious anxiety or the lingering effects of trauma. They may, however, supplement the effects of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and other strategies. Diet changes may also help alleviate some of the physical effects of anxiety, such as muscle tension and a racing heart.

Experimenting with a different diet can help people with anxiety feel an increased sense of control and self-efficacy. Many people with anxiety struggle with feeling out of control. Proactive measures to fight anxiety may help with this feeling. Be open to experimentation, and know that it can take time to realize the anxiety-fighting benefits of anti-anxiety foods.

The Science Behind Foods That Reduce Anxiety

Nutrition affects anxiety in both direct and indirect ways. Low blood glucose can be an anxiety trigger, so crash diets and prolonged periods without food may make anxiety worse. Sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol can also trigger or exacerbate anxiety. People struggling with anxiety may wish to cut back on these ingredients or eliminate them altogether.

Experimenting with a different diet can help people with anxiety feel an increased sense of control and self-efficacy.

Certain foods may also reduce anxiety. There’s no single mechanism through which food reduces anxiety. Each anxiety-friendly food boasts its own unique benefits. Some common features include:

  • Promoting general health. Some evidence suggests that simply eating a more balanced, nutrient-dense diet can help with anxiety. For example, some people report reductions in anxiety when they eat a whole foods diet or when they correct nutritional deficits.
  • Neurotransmitter regulation. Certain chemicals, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosehexaenoic acid (DHA) may help regulate neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals that help carry messages across a synapse. Many anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications also work on neurotransmitters.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially among seniors and those who do not spend much time in natural sunlight. Vitamin D supports healthy brain function and may regulate neurotransmitters. Doctors think it may be especially critical for regulating dopamine, a brain chemical that plays important roles in motivation and pleasure.
  • Fighting inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury. Chronic inflammation, however, can cause a wide range of maladies. Some research links it to anxiety. Foods that fight inflammation may help with anxiety as well as other chronic health problems.

8 Best Foods for Anxiety

The best foods for anxiety are rich in nutrients, tasty, and adaptable to a wide range of diets. This ensures that even if they don’t immediately help with anxiety, they offer other health benefits. Try incorporating some of the following anxiety-reducing foods into your diet:

Pieces of salmon sashimiSalmon

Salmon is rich in vitamin D, DHA, and EPA. It’s also a healthy source of protein and an excellent substitute for other meats. A 2014 study weighed the effects of salmon on men seeking inpatient mental health treatment. Men who ate salmon three times a week for 5 months had fewer symptoms of anxiety. Salmon was especially effective at alleviating physical measures of anxiety, such as a rapid pulse.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are nutritionally dense foods that are rich in DHA. DHA is linked to improved brain health, including reductions in anxiety and better regulated neurotransmitters. Additionally, most nuts and seeds are high in selenium.

Cup of chamomile tea with chamomile flowersChamomile

Chamomile tea is one of the world’s oldest and most popular folk remedies for insomnia. This may be due in part to its effects on anxiety. A 2009 double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that chamomile could modestly improve symptoms of generalized anxiety.

Eggs

Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a role in numerous functions, including supporting brain health, memory, and concentration. It’s also a precursor to acetylcholine. Preliminary research suggests choline deficiency may increase the risk of anxiety. Many vegetarians are deficient in choline, since the primary sources of this important nutrient are all meats. Eggs offer a viable alternative. Consider incorporating one or two hard-boiled eggs into your diet for a protein-packed source of this important nutrient.

Pieces of dark chocolate with cocoa powderDark chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that can fight inflammation. It’s also a healthy substitute for milk chocolate and other sugary snacks. A 2012 study found that regular consumption of dark chocolate was associated with a decrease in biochemical measures of stress, such as cortisol production. For some people, dark chocolate can also be a powerful comfort food that eases stress after a difficult day.

Berries and citrus fruits

Inflammation may be a culprit in anxiety. Inflammation can also trigger other health issues, such as chronic pain and autoimmune disorders. These conditions can intensify anxiety. Fruits that contain antioxidants may help reduce chronic inflammation. Berries, especially blueberries, are high in anti-inflammatory ingredients. Citrus fruits are a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin C.

Bowl of turmeric powder with roots in backgroundTurmeric

Turmeric has long been used in herbal medicine. Emerging research suggests it may play a role in general brain health, perhaps by fighting inflammation. A 2015 study found significant reductions in anxiety scores among people who consumed turmeric.

Dairy products

Most dairy products are fortified with vitamin D. For people who do not get enough vitamin D in the diet or who spend little time outdoors, vitamin D supplementation can ease anxiety. Dairy is also a rich source of protein. Particularly for people who do not eat meat, dairy consumption may ensure adequate protein intake. Protein helps the body produce key neurotransmitters, potentially improving mood and reducing anxiety.

Every person is different. The ideal diet for one person can prove catastrophic for another. Foods that ease anxiety in some people may make it worse than others. For example, a 2015 case study details how fish oil supplements made anxiety and insomnia worse following treatment of depression.

It’s important to consult with a doctor or mental health provider who is knowledgeable about nutrition and up-to-date on recent nutritional research.

Even with expert advice, some people find their anxiety makes it difficult to adopt a healthy lifestyle or change their diet. The right therapist can help people overcome anxiety and make healthy diet and lifestyle changes. Therapy also supports people in understanding their anxiety, managing the lingering effects of trauma, and improving their quality of life. To find your therapist, click here.

References:

  1. Amsterdam, J. D., Li, Y., Soeller, I., Rockwell, K., Mao, J. J., & Shults, J. (2009). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 29(4), 378-382. doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e3181ac935c
  2. Bjelland, I., Tell, G. S., Vollset, S. E., Konstantinova, S., & Ueland, P. M. (2009). Choline in anxiety and depression: The Hordaland Health Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(4), 1056-1060. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/90/4/1056/4596992
  3. Blanchard, L. B., & Mccarter, G. C. (2015). Insomnia and exacerbation of anxiety associated with high-EPA fish oil supplements after successful treatment of depression. Oxford Medical Case Reports, 2015(3), 244-245. doi: 10.1093/omcr/omv024
  4. Cui, X., Gooch, H., Groves, N. J., Sah, P., Burne, T. H., Eyles, D. W., & Mcgrath, J. J. (2015). Vitamin D and the brain: Key questions for future research. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 148, 305-309. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2014.11.004
  5. Dyall, S. C. (2015). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: A review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7, 52. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2015.00052
  6. Esmaily, H., Sahebkar, A., Iranshahi, M., Ganjali, S., Mohammadi, A., Ferns, G., & Ghayour-Mobarhan, M. (2015). An investigation of the effects of curcumin on anxiety and depression in obese individuals: A randomized controlled trial. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 21(5), 332-338. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11655-015-2160-z
  7. Hansen, A., Olson, G., Dahl, L., Thornton, D., Grung, B., Graff, I., . . . Thayer, J. (2014). Reduced anxiety in forensic inpatients after a long-term intervention with Atlantic salmon. Nutrients, 6(12), 5405-5418. doi: 10.3390/nu6125405
  8. Martin, F. J., Antille, N., Rezzi, S., & Kochhar, S. (2012). Everyday eating experiences of chocolate and non-chocolate snacks impact postprandial anxiety, energy and emotional states. Nutrients, 4(6), 554-567. doi: 10.3390/nu4060554
  9. Murphy, M., & Mercer, J. G. (2013). Diet-regulated anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2013, 1-9. doi: 10.1155/2013/701967
  10. Naidoo, U. (2018, March 14). Eating well to help manage anxiety: Your questions answered. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-well-to-help-manage-anxiety-your-questions-answered-2018031413460
  11. Salim, S., Chugh, G., & Asghar, M. (2012). Inflammation in anxiety. Advances in Protein Chemistry and Structural Biology, 88, 1-25. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-398314-5.00001-5

© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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Emotional Numbness and Depression: Will It Go Away?

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Even as we don’t like pain, it is a reminder that we are alive and have a steady pulse. Worse than heartbreak or rage can be the sensation of numbness, when you lose access to your feelings and can’t feel the sadness of an important loss or the aggravations that used to make you scream. Emotional numbness is a common, yet not talked about, symptom of depression.

In an informational video, Will This Numbness Go Away?, J. Raymond DePaulo, Jr., M.D., co-director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, describes emotional numbness and helps people to distinguish between the numbness caused by depression and that from medication side-effects. He also assures anyone experiencing it, that it WILL go away.

I don’t feel anything.

“Numbness is not the most talked about experience or the most prominent experience of a depressed patient,” DePaulo says, “but there is a small group of patients for whom their first concern is that they don’t feel anything.”

Writer Phil Eli could be included in that group. He wasn’t prepared for the way his depression stole his sex drive and attention span. Nor was he ready for the overwhelming fatigue that made it difficult for him to stay on task. However, he was most surprised by his inability to feel anything. In his piece “Sometimes Depression Means Not Feeling Anything at All” he writes:

Nothing about hearing the word “depression” prepared me for having a moment of eye contact with my two-year-old niece that I knew ought to melt my heart—but didn’t. Or for sitting at a funeral for a friend, surrounded by sobs and sniffles, and wondering, with a mix of guilt and alarm, why I wasn’t feeling more.

During my recent depression spell, I experienced this kind of numbness for weeks. Political news that would have previously enraged me left me cold. Music had little effect beyond stirring memories of how it used to make me feel. Jokes were unfunny. Books were uninteresting. Food was unappetizing. I felt, as Phillip Lopate wrote in his uncannily accurate poem “Numbness,” “precisely nothing.”

Is it my medication?

To further confuse matters, numbness can also be a side-effect of certain medications.

“It is true that there are medications and a particular group of antidepressants that can cause a very similar numbness,” explains DePaulo. “It’s important to distinguish that and know if it’s a side effect of medication. The Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors at higher doses can cause this.”

A 2015 study published in the journal Sociology found that emotional numbness was among the dominating experiences of antidepressant use among young adults, and a 2014 study published in the journal Elsevier cited that 60 percent of the participants who had taken antidepressants within the past five years experienced some emotional numbness.

That said, it can be tempting for people to assign blame on the medication when it is due to the depression, itself, especially in the initial weeks and months of treatment.

Will it go away?

Regardless of the cause, people want to know if and when numbness will go away. DePaulo asserts, “If the treatment is sufficiently helpful, it will go away.” However, he explains that it may not be the first thing to improve. The progression of recovery usually starts with a person looking better to other people and talking more and being response. “They may still feel awful on the inside,” he explains, “but usually those feelings go away later in the course of treatment.”

And if the numbing is caused by a medication? “We have to figure that out,” says DePaulo. “We may try reducing the dose of medication — if the medication seems to be otherwise working — or may attempt to change medications.”

Either way, though, DePaulo says, it should go away. “That is our job.”

The good-bad news is that ALL your feelings will return.

Emotional Numbness and Depression: Will It Go Away?

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