If you’re the parent of a teen girl, you’ve probably experienced one (or maybe both) of the following two scenarios: watching helplessly as your daughter is hurt by the meanness of other girls; watching helplessly as your daughter inflicted meanness on others.
I have some thoughts about the emotional brutality of female adolescence, and what you, as a parent, can do about it. First, it’s important to be aware, honest, and compassionate. That means acknowledging what your child is experiencing and/or doing.
Sometimes parents are in denial. It’s hard for them to face their children’s pain and so they minimize it (“We all went through it, it’s not really that bad”). Or it can be hard to face that your child is behaving cruelly toward others (“She’s not really involved”, “So-and-so is actually the ringleader.”)
If you want to have a meaningful impact on your teenager, you need to wake up to what’s really going on. It can be rough out there, and the pain–albeit temporary, since adolescence is a temporary state–is very real.
Teen girls are often trying to validate themselves by judging others harshly, and there is a pack mentality that can set in, with everyone piling onto one victim. If your child is that victim, it is a truly awful experience for her. Before you can help her see that it is temporary, you need to full empathize with the pain.
Now here’s where it can be more challenging to be compassionate. If your daughter is the mean girl, recognize that she has various motivations that are comprehensible. Now, that doesn’t mean you should condone the behavior. But when you’re confronting your child, you need to start from a curious and open place.
Name what you’re seeing and ask what your daughter is feeling. Express confidence in her good heart. Then help her to be compassionate and empathetic toward the other girl(s). Often, it’s not that difficult for your child to place herself in the other girls’ shoes because she has, in fact, been there herself. Teen cruelty is often cyclical, with moving targets. In fact, part of why your daughter might be engaging in the mean behavior is so that she won’t stand out, i.e. won’t become a target herself.
Expressing empathy for this position and for the dilemmas she feels is not condoning behavior. It’s the first step in exploring alternatives to that behavior that are more in keeping with kindness and good character. The ideal, of course, is for your child to take a stand against all forms of meanness. But there’s a whole range of options open to her that she might not be seeing in the moment.
That’s the wisdom you can provide as a parent–a broader perspective. But to get there, you have to fully understand and accept the perspective your teen is already entrenched in. As a therapist, I know that people change once they feel understood. That’s true for parenting, too.
Published by John D. Moore, Ph.D., on PsychCentral
Hello, my name is depression. You know me by many different names, including dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression and so forth. I am an insidious in nature, sneaking up on you when you least expect it.
If left unchecked, I grow in power and have the ability to bring you to your knees. I can lie to you, twist your thoughts and make you disconnect from everyone you care about. When I am super strong, I can even make you take your life.
What you may not know however, is that I am vulnerable to 10 specific things that weaken my intensity. If you engage in any one of these, you chip away at my strength. When you combine several together however, you cause me to lose my grip and become smaller.
I shouldn’t be telling you this information – but I am going to do it anyway.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
10 Things Depression Doesn’t Want You To Know
1. Circle of support
When you call upon your circle of support, like friends and family members, I start to cower. Reaching out to others means you are not isolating. This in turn makes my presence weaker.
2. Talk Therapy
When you visit your therapist to engage in talk-therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy to address your sadness, you cause me to lose my reign of terror. Choosing to bravely work through your feelings is one of the things I fear most!
3. Physical Activity
When you embark on an exercise program like strength training or involve yourself with other forms of physical activity, you prevent me from taking a hold of your body and mind. One of the things that repels me from you is your commitment to self-care, particularly during stressful times.
Because you engage in mindfulness based living, I don’t have the ability to sneak into your mind and make you ruminate about the past. Mindfulness robs me of my most powerful weapons; guilt, shame and fear!
When you embrace the various parts of your life, including my presence, you paradoxically make me smaller. That which you fear controls you but that which you confront, you begin to control. I can’t tell you how much it upsets me when you do this!
When you make the conscious choice to have a happy day, you seriously mess with my plans to wreak havoc upon you. Simply put, when you decide to choosehow your day will be, I start to melt away like snow in the sun.
Oh how I despise it when you laugh! Any time you seek out forms of humor therapy or engage in things that are fun, I start to shake in my boots! Watching a funny movie or making light of something serious really gets under my skin.
8. Healthy Diet
I love it when you stress eat and gobble down food that causes my powers to grow! On the flipside, I absolutely hate it when you choose to eat healthy meals that cause me to lose my grip. Making the deliberate choice to care about what you put into your body sends me running for the hills!
When you consult with your doctor and decide to use anti-depressant medications, I get really freaked out. I don’t like it when you become educated on the different types of anti-depressants. I get really scared too when you ask your physician questions about potential side effects. All of this means you are actively doing things to drive me out of your life.
10. Patterns of time
When you recognize that I often visit you on a seasonal basis, particularly during wintertime, you start become empowered with knowledge. I particularly despise it when you are aware that I am a temporary presence in your life. Oh how I hate it when you say to yourself: this too will pass. Your ability to rationally look at who I am and my patterns really dis-empowers me.
There are lots of other things that you can do to repel me away but I have said far too much already. And hey baby – what you choose to do with this information is up to you.
Remember this – I’m always here – lurking in the darkness and waiting to attack. I generally give you warning signs before I kick in to full gear. Oh yeah – it bothers me that you know this too!
Published by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., on PsychCentral
Criticism stings. Many of us may be so focused on protecting ourselves from the potential pain of criticism that we start to tailor our work — and our lives — to avoid it. We may let criticism dictate everything from the ideas we bring up in a board meeting to the passions we pursue.
Interestingly, we do the same with praise. We get so used to positive feedback that we may change how we act. And, when we don’t receive the accolades and applause, we start questioning ourselves and feeling like failures.
Years ago Tara Mohr found herself letting criticism and praise rule her writing. She went from writing for the pure joy of it to fearing feedback and creating inauthentic work to not writing at all.
Seven years later she had an a-ha moment: She realized that if she wanted to write, she’d have to unhook from both criticism and praise. As she writes in her excellent book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, she told herself: “You are going to have to write for you — for your joy, for your pleasure, for your self-expression, not for anyone else’s approval.”
That day, she started writing because she is “a woman who loves writing.” She realized that she deserved to judge her work, to determine what needed improving and what she was proud of, as much as anyone else.
Maybe you also have given up doing something because you fear critical comments. Maybe you were scarred by biting criticism in the past. Maybe your family taught you that it’s best not to stand out and make a splash. Maybe you get sucked into the sweetness of praise and worry about rocking the boat with unconventional or potentially controversial ideas.
So you stay silent. You abandon beloved pursuits or anything else.
In Playing Big Mohr shares insights into savoring praise without being driven by it and incorporating useful criticism without being paralyzed by it. Here are three key principles for unhooking from both praise and criticism, from her book:
1. Remember that feedback is information aboutothers.
The feedback we receive doesn’t tell us about our worth or talent or even the quality of our work. Instead, it tells us something about the people providing the feedback. For instance, if your paintings don’t resonate with any of the three successful artists you showed them to, all it tells you is their preference, Mohr writes.
If a potential investor isn’t interested in your business idea, it simply tells you what does and doesn’t pique their attention, she says.
According to Mohr, “Feedback is vital not because it tells us about our own value but because it tells us whether we are reaching the people we need to reach.”
A teacher who wants to create a knowledgeable and enjoyable class would need feedback directly from her students. An entrepreneur who wants to create an effective pitch would need to hear feedback from potential investors on what inspires them to invest.
Feedback may provide useful data on how to reach the people you want to reach. Approaching criticism in this way helps us improve. It stops us from getting caught up in a persistent and problematic cycle of negative thinking:I’m not good enough! My work is worthless. I don’t know anything. Because that kind of approach only paralyzes us and sinks our self-worth. And it’s not true, anyway.
2. Incorporate “strategically useful” feedback.
When considering what feedback to incorporate, Mohr suggests asking ourselves: “What feedback do I need to incorporate in order to be effective in reaching my aims?” and “Who am I trying to influence or engage?”
She notes that the most important people to collect feedback from are your intended audience and the decisions makers you need to influence or reach. For instance, for a business, this might include “investors, customers, potential partners.”
3. Focus on what’s more important than praise.
Mohr stresses the importance of remembering our true priorities. She suggests asking ourselves: “What is more important to me than praise or being liked in this situation?”
Her clients have said everything from being useful to being truthful to fully living in their own skin to liking themselves to spreading their message to doing something they believe in.
We don’t need to eliminate our desire for praise. We don’t need to stop caring what others think.
According to Mohr, “I didn’t try to stop wanting praise, lots of readers, plenty of blog comments, a positive reception from the audience. I didn’t give up on wanting the magic of human connection that can happen between a writer and a reader. That would have been unrealistic, and, I think, it would have denied a basic humanness in me.”
It’s a healthy desire to want to know that we matter to others, Mohr writes.
It becomes unhealthy when we let praise and criticism dictate our actions and rule our lives.
Is your glass half empty or full? Are your glasses rosy or is your future shadowed by a dark cloud?
Whether you live in the best or worst of all possible worlds depends on your point of view. What we pay attention to and how we interpret it is essentially up to us. This is especially true when we think of the future.
Much is unknown about our future, leaving it largely to our imagination. In our future thinking, we may be eternal optimists imagining the perfect situation, diehard pessimists planning for the worst-case scenario, or somewhere in between.
Optimism is the characteristic of seeing the future in the best possible light and viewing oneself as having some control in achieving these good things. Optimism also seems to be related to reminiscing about the past. When we feel nostalgic, we are quite often also feeling optimistic. Being optimistic about the future is key to turning life’s lemons into lemonade rather than being left with a sour pile of fruit.
Our natural disposition plays a considerable role in our future thinking, and some of us effortlessly maintain a sunnier outlook than others. For many, though, it may not always be easy to look on the bright side.
You may be wondering why this is so important. After all, haven’t we heard that we’re better equipped to handle negative life events when we prepare for the worst (and sometimes hope for the best)? Positive psychology has unearthed some compelling findings about the benefits of optimism and how it can be cultivated.
It is no secret that optimists seem to be happier. When we generally expect good things in life, we are far more likely to be in a better mood. With optimism also comes the belief that we have some control over those good things happening. This can bring us more hope and a greater recognition of our personal agency. This might explain why optimists are often seen as cheery, even when life throws curveballs.
Optimism also is one of the characteristics most highly related to life satisfaction. When we’re optimistic, not only do we believe that the future is bright, but we have no trouble thinking of specific things to look forward to. In itself, this is fundamental to our well-being. Perhaps viewing the future as positive and ourselves as capable of creating those positive outcomes helps us take the steps that lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
As if that isn’t good enough, optimism also builds our resilience against life stress and improves our health. No wonder optimists feel they have something to smile about.
Optimism can be enhanced by fairly simple means. Below are five simple ways you can boost your optimism.
Think of your best possible self. Spend about 15 minutes thinking of and writing about having the best possible circumstances in your future. Consider your goals and dreams. Imagine that everything works out for the best. After you’ve done that, spend five minutes imagining this best possible future as vividly as you can. This exercise can improve your mood and your future outlook, especially for worriers.
Put away the to-do list. Every evening, rather than thinking of what needs to be done the next day, focus instead on three things about tomorrow you are looking forward to. Choose one and allow yourself to experience everything you feel about it for five minutes. This can help rid you of a bad mood, emotional exhaustion, and pessimistic thinking at the end of a long day.
Create something to look forward to. Think of ways that you can create a pleasurable experience tomorrow. These may involve activities with others, rest, and even simple, everyday pleasures such as enjoying the weather.
Reminisce. Spending as little as five minutes thinking and writing about a pleasant memory can improve your mood and optimism for the future. Common events that make us feel nostalgic are those that connect us to people, a special place, or a special time in our lives.
Put on sentimental music. We all have songs that can leave us feeling sentimental about the past. Choose a few songs that leave you feeling nostalgic. Track down their lyrics. Listening to a personally nostalgic song or even simply reading the song’s lyrics can boost your mood, feeling of connection to others, self-esteem, and optimism.
Published by Clair Dorotik-Nana, LMFT, on PsychCentral
Getting through any setback is tough. Yet sometimes the most challenging kind are the ones that involve the heart. After a breakup, we’re likely to struggle with feeling rejected, unloved, not good enough, and, just simply, not wanted. And while recovering from heartbreak isn’t supposed to be easy, we can also make it harder on ourselves than it should be — without even realizing it.
Here are five ways:
Ruminate About The Past. Ruminative thinking has a negative, self punishing quality, and often takes hold without really being cued. It’s as if the thought, “I’m not wanted,” just pops into your head at any given moment — and usually several times a day. And when you entertain this thought — collecting evidence for why this may be true — not only do you end up feeling worse, you also stay stuck in the past. Active, solution focused thinking, on the other hand, asks the question, what do I need to do right now to feel better? Asking this question begins the process of searching for solutions — as oppose to replaying the heartbreak.
Stop Doing What You Love. Being in a relationship with someone involves sharing activities, interests, and lives together. And often, in the process, we can forget ourselves, let go of things that are important to us, and trade the things we love for time with our partners. While this is usually a mutually beneficial process, after breaking up, the challenge is to remember what you — and just you — are passionate about, and get back to it. Because this is the authentic you that was there before the relationship began and these are the things that inspire, fulfill, and drive you — and they can also be the things that pull you through.
Isolate. It’s the easiest thing to do when we feel bad. We stick our heads in the sand, assuming that no one wants to be bothered with our problems, burdened by our sadness, our brought down by us. Yet when we isolate, we are more likely to ruminate about the past, stay stuck in our bad feelings, and return to negative habits. And that bowl of ice cream isn’t going to take the sting out of a broken heart — it might just temporarily distract you, and that’s before it makes you feel worse. After all, isolating — like ice cream — tends to be addictive.
Stop Exploring Other Options. Sometimes we become so involved with a person that when things come to an end we forget that there was life before.And we forget that there are other choices, options, and people that we are perfectly capable of going after. Especially when we invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in cultivating a life with someone, we tend to hang on — afraid of losing the investment — and ignore that we may also be missing the other opportunities right in front of us. And heartbreak is a time to let go of the illusion that is no longer there and immerse yourself in the reality of what is in front of you today — which is not the one who broke your heart.
Listen To Anyone Else’s Relationship Advice. While everyone else may have the best advice for you — it’s just that, their advice. It’s not coming from you, and it probably will not work for you either. While you may be anxious to do anything but feel the way you feel, going through a heartbreak is a time to search inward, ask yourself what you most need, what you most want, and what you need to do for you. The solutions are probably already inside of you — curated through years of life experiences and learning who you really are — and if you take enough time to find them, they will be the right ones for you.
A broken heart may be one of the toughest things we will ever go through — but it is also a moment of definition as you come to terms with what was, and move forward with what is. And while you may not have had choice in having your heart broken, you do have choice in just what you are going to do about it.
A month into our relationship, my now-husband asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I didn’t hesitate.
“As a nun in a third-world country doing missionary work,” I said.
Somewhere around that time I also told him it would be five years before I slept with him. It was the quickest five years of my life.
I had a few issues.
Major abandonment and rejection issues from a dad who, according to my mom, left “us” because the birth of my twin sister and me was two too many girls. That warm fuzzy was compounded by a few bad sexual experiences in high school, which I’m sure I haven’t resolved completely because I blacked out and don’t know what happened.
This left me a relationship moron, someone who would freak out if a relationship lasted more than four weeks.
I still don’t understand how Eric calmed me down enough to enter week five, let alone pass 20 years this October.
I’m still awkward when it comes to love and sex and anything related to a relationship because, even though I have spent the last 20 years with a man who loves me unconditionally, I still feel substantial cavities in my self-worth that make it hard to trust and be vulnerable, to be naked without being self-conscious.
According to shame expert Brené Brown, “vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” So I guess courage is what I need to pray for, even over love.
I often wonder if I would be so depressed had I chosen to be a nun in a third-world country or in some peaceful cloister — if family life is meant for people with more solid footing in the world. I spend way too much time fantasizing about an imaginary existence, like in the movieAvatar, where I can live inside somebody else’s body and be free and naked — completely uninhibited — as I ride those exotic mammoth birds. I cling to certain people, places, and things where there is an intensity that I mistake for intimacy.
Of course, the third-world country and the convent would be hiding places for me, an appropriate ducking spot for a person with my kind of baggage. The Avatar fantasies are cop-outs, as well. They merely flood my bloodstream with dopamine to provide me an escape from my reality, which is full of work.
“Love hunger … is the God-given need to love and be loved that is born into every human infant,” explain authors Robert Hemfelt, Ed.D, Frank Minirth, M.D., and Paul Meier, M.D. in their bestseller, Love Is a Choice. “It is a legitimate need that must be met from cradle to grave. If children are deprived of love — if that primal need for love is not met — they carry the scars for life.”
I think those of us with depression issues and addiction problems, or, God forbid, both, have to be mindful of this unmet need that is constantly fishing for things to fill the cavity in our souls or at least make it pipe down. We easily mistake the excitement of a new project or an infatuation with the lasting emotion that is love. And when the initial exhilaration dissolves, we’re left with an even bigger chasm in our hearts.
It’s difficult even for people without love hunger issues, depression, and addiction to recognize that doing the family dishes each night after dinner is love, that folding each other’s underwear is love, that offering to pick up a relative from an airport two hours away in the middle of the night is definitely love.
Raising kids with a partner is not the adventure of missionary life nor is it the serenity of a convent. It’s definitely not the dopamine rush of flying — naked and uninhibited — on a cool, gigantic bird or the equivalent sexual fantasy. It is mundane and wearisome and maddening. It can feel like a nightmare from which you never wake up.
Life may be like a box of chocolates, but love is like a box of Rainbow Loom, the cool kit to make bracelets and necklaces that toy stores couldn’t keep in stock for months last year. If you work a little bit at it each day, you’ll have something beautiful before long. And that will outweigh the frustration you feel when you find those tiny rubber bands all over your house. If you let the box sit, the rubber bands are in place, but all you have are some fantasies in your head of how it could be if you did something else. You have nothing real, and your arms are bare.
Published by Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. on PsychCentral
Often these days the subject of bullying comes up in the context of prejudice. For example, during the last Presidential election former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was accused of bullying a fellow student during his youth, a student who was perceived to be different and possibly homosexual. When bullying is seen in this context, it becomes a simplistic victim syndrome.
In general, we view bullying as something children do to other children (or sometimes adults do to other adults). The bully is seen as a villain, oftentimes with hateful or prejudiced motives, and the person who is bullied is tabbed as an innocent victim. However, bullying is much more pervasive than that, much more complicated, with psychological consequences for both the bully and the person who is bullied.
The bullying that occurs among children is but one of many kinds of bullying. Bullying starts in families. Parents or older siblings are the original bullies. Children are taught to be bullies or to be bullied by the family system in which they grow up.
A number of my patients suffered from lifelong abuse. Indeed, they originally came to therapy because of this problem. Their lives were a series of relationships, jobs and situations in which they would be treated with condescension and even contempt. They complained of continually getting teased, mistreated, and rejected by lovers, of being unfairly treated by bosses, of being betrayed by friends. “I don’t know why,” they would complain, “but everybody always seems to look down on me. Without even knowing me, people suspect the worse of me.”
They were unconscious of how they had been conditioned by their childhoods to act in such a way as to provoke bullying. Most were either the youngest in the family or the shortest or stood out in some other way (not as smart or too smart). Their parents were often bullies; the father bullied his wife and children. The wife, in turn, emotionally bullied the children. Sometimes one particular child became the family scapegoat and was treated by everyone as they were stupid and deserved the bullying. The more they were treated as if he they were stupid or weird, the more they began to act that way. They more they were bullied, the more they learned to provoke bullying.
Sometimes a younger child may stand out because he is more talented or cuter than the older siblings and a Cinderella syndrome develops, where the older children are jealous and mean to the cuter younger sibling. This can go on for years and is a common way that bullying starts. Sometimes children’s stories tell truths that children need to know.
The consequence of this type of childhood is that a child can became a self-defeating personality. There is a cliche used about some people that they are wearing a sign that says, “Kick me!” Through their body language and their expressions and because of their inability to respond appropriately to bullying, they tend to provoke even more bullying. If someone teases them, they may become irate and fight back by warning the bullies not to tease them. This only makes people laugh and gets them even bolder so that they tease all the more.
Victims of bullying suffer from bad health. Because they are in a constant state of high stress, they develop such things as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. A recent National Geographic documentary called, “Stress: Portrait of a Killer,” details research on the connection between bullying, stress, and later diseases. Bullies tend to have less stress because they take out their anger on others.
And what about bullies? How do they fare in life? Bullies become bullies because they are imitating their parents or others who are bullies. Their parents look the other way or somehow reinforce their children’s bullying. When bullies grow up they became adults who have almost no awareness of their disorder. They rationalize it. They believe that some people deserve to be bullied because they are selfish, uppidy, or have a different, unpopular point of view. Although bullies have less stress, they often have their own personality disorders that can eventually bring havoc to their lives. Their power-mad attitude may result in some kind of emotional crash.
Both childhood bullies and childhood victims of bullying may become bullies to their own children; they become parents who have the attitude “It’s my way or the highway.” They have never learned to express their anger in an appropriate way, and so when they are in a position of power (as parents are) they abuse their power.
Bullying is complicated and, as I said before, pervasive. It starts in families but it takes place in all aspects of life. It occurs in schools, in companies, in athletics, in religions, and in politics. Individuals can be bullies and groups can be bullies. The Nazis in Germany before and during World War II are a notorious example of group bullying, as are the Muslim terrorists in our own time. Any group that uses intimidation, manipulation, guilt-tripping or other methods might be described as a bully. Any group that disparages another group, that accuses another group of being hateful, inferior, bigoted or in some way dangerous and uses that as an excuse to discriminate against that group, is a bully.
To end bullying, we must see it in all its varieties and in all its complications: which means, we must understand that both the bully and the victim of bullying contribute to the syndrome. The phrase, “Don’t blame the victim,” is a simplistic phrase the discourages us from looking at the complexity of bullying.
To end bullying, we must see the bully in ourselves. That’s the hard part.
** If you or someone you know is struggling with bullying, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule an Initial Assessment.
In a healthy relationship, fights are going to happen. (Often, a complete absence of fights is a sign partners have become irrevocably disconnected.) So the goal isn’t to eradicate all fights; it’s to make sure you’re fighting well.
What I mean is, a good fight is one that’s productive: grievances are aired, resentments are released, both parties ultimately feel understood, and the least possible emotional damage was inflicted. A bad fight is–well, the opposite of that.
If you’ve been having bad fights, this is a great post to read with your partner. If you can agree to the ground rules in here (and maybe even put them on the fridge or somewhere you can reference them), that can start turn things around. So here goes!
1) Remember that at the core, your partner is someone you love and respect.
Sure, you’re mad at him/her right now. But you chose this person as your partner for a reason, and before you unload all your frustration and anger, it’s actually a good time to remind yourself of that.
Reinforce that your partner is your teammate. You each bear some responsibility for a fight, as it’s about the dynamic that’s occurring between you; you’re both contributing to that dynamic. Whatever communication problem you’re having, you need to solve it together.
2) Draw on your communication skills, and possibly your anger management tools.
Communication skills rest on this fundamental principle: Express what you feel, don’t attack the other person’s intentions. That’s the purpose of “I” statements. You only know what you feel, you don’t know your partner’s motivations or intentions, even if you think you do. So start from that place, and be open-minded to what the other person will say in return.
Making assumptions about your partner will only produce defensiveness, so avoid that as much as possible.
Anger management tools include deep breathing and taking a break when the conversation is getting too heated (preferably, early on in the conversation, as that will mean it’s a shorter break and you can get to resolving things quicker.) Monitoring your rising frustration and anger helps.
For example, on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is not at all angry and 10 is Mount Vesuvius, notice when you’re going up in numbers quickly. Take a break before you reach 5. Once you’re at a 7 or 8, your higher brain functioning and impulse control will get worse and the odds are, the argument will cease to be productive.
If you’re not able to control your impulses and your anger (or your partner isn’t), it’s a good time to seek out a self-help book, a class, or a therapist.
3) Notice your own reactions, instead of focusing on the other person’s.
You want to avoid the “You made me…” syndrome. We’re all responsible for our own responses. Your partner might be doing a lot of things, some of the provocative, but he/she can’t make you do anything.
If you’re upset by how your partner is talking to you, say that clearly. Point out that the tone or the word choice doesn’t feel helpful, or that it actually feels hurtful. Agree with your partner, ahead of time, that when one of you does point things like that out, the other person will work to alter their demeanor/delivery.
If your partner won’t agree to that, won’t take responsibility for changing, and/or blames you for everything, you might be looking at an emotionally abusive relationship. For more on that, please read my recent posts: Are You Being Emotionally Abused? and (if need be) the follow-up You’re Being Emotionally Abused–What Do You Do About it?.
But remember that a healthy relationship does involve conflict. You’re not one person, after all, and how boring would it be if you were? You’re going to disagree, and sometimes you’ll be irritable or stressed or in any one of a number of situations that increases the likelihood a fight will occur. But you’re also in it together.
** If you or someone you know is struggling in your relationship, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule a Couples Initial Assessment.
Published by Margarita Tartakovsky. M.S. on PsychCentral
Depression and sadness are often viewed as the same thing. Part of the confusion is that the most recognizable symptom of depression is sadness, according to Stephanie Smith, PsyD, a psychologist in practice in Erie, Colo.
Many people use the words interchangeably. “It’s just part of our popular culture. ‘I’m so depressed!’ to most of us actually means ‘I’m so sad!’ — except maybe it sounds a bit more sophisticated,” she said.
Sadness is a painful emotion. At times, it can feel utterly agonizing. But it’s “a normal response to difficult life events,” said Elaine Ducharme, Ph.D, a board certified clinical psychologist in private practice in Glastonbury, Conn.
When we think of depression as the same as sadness, we minimize the illness. We don’t realize the many other debilitating symptoms depression creates. We expect people to get over it quickly. But people with depression don’t. (In order to be diagnosed with depression, you must experience symptoms for at least two weeks.)
And when they don’t, we lose patience and run out of compassion. We blame the person for not snapping out of it, for not trying hard enough, for not being motivated enough.
When we conflate sadness with depression, we may think or say anything from “What do you have to be depressed about?” to “Happiness is a choice” to “But it’s all in your mind” to “Well, everyone gets depressed sometimes” to “Go out and get some fresh air… that always makes me feel better” to “You don’t like feeling that way? So, change it,” or any of these platitudes.
Sadness is actually a small part of depression, Smith said. Some people who have depression don’t even experience sadness, she said. Instead, they experience anhedonia, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed.
In order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, an individual must experience at least five out of nine specific symptoms, Ducharme said. (Again, this is for at least two weeks.)
Individuals may feel hopeless, helpless, worthless or guilty. They may experience a variety of cognitive symptoms, such as negative or distorted thinking, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, distractibility, memory loss, and indecision.
They may experience physical symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and muscle aches. They may sleep too much or too little. Their appetite may sink or rev up. They may feel as though the energy has been sapped out of them.
People with depression have described it as a black cloud following them everywhere they go. Some people describe feeling numb or empty. Some are utterly exhausted, so much so that getting out of bed is hard and walking to the mailbox feels like a workout.
“Things around them may appear grey rather than their true colors,” Ducharme said. Instead of feeling fueled and energized by their relationships, professions or life in general, they feel depleted and find it difficult to enjoy anything, she said.
Men may seem angry, act aggressively, and quickly lose their temper, she said. They “may try to deal with life with excess alcohol, which often just fuels their anger.” (“But, when truly assessed it can become clear that they are avoiding feelings,” she said.)
Postpartum depression also commonly gets dismissed as “just the baby blues,” Ducharme said. However, it’s a real and treatable illness, though it is undertreated, she said. In this piece, advocate Katharine Stone noted that some research has even found that only 15 percent of women with postpartum depression ever get professional help.
Depression also goes untreated in individuals who undergo cardiac procedures, even though they have a high rate of depression after surgery, Ducharme said. “They often are facing their own mortality in a way they probably never did before,” and may have a difficult time “re-engaging in life.”
Again, sadness and depression are not the same thing. One is a normal response to tough times; the other is a serious (and treatable) illness.
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