Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Change the Way You Feel

The topic is actually a question: Should you change the way you feel? We’ve been working with Dr. David D. Burns’ book, The Feeling Good Handbook. We’ve discovered how to diagnose our moods and now we are going to discuss if we should change our mood.

“Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that distorted thoughts, and not realistic ones, lead to unhealthy negative emotions like depression and anxiety. When you learn to think about your problems in a more positive and realistic way, you can change the way you feel.”

Straight from Dr. David D. Burns himself.

Dr. Burns asks this, “Are your negative thoughts and feelings always unrealistic?”

Think about that for a moment.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Think about this. You work a long day at your job. You stop at the appliance store on the way home, pick out a new stove, have it delivered and when the box is opened and the stove is connected, it doesn’t work.

Disappointment. Despair. Negative thoughts out the whazoo!

These feelings are inevitable. But, are the unrealistic?

Dr, David D. Burns says this, “I believe that the argument that stress and depression are always realistic is just as absurd as the suggestion that people should try to be happy and successful all the time.”

Anger and irritability can be destructive. I agree. If you use it against others you can be quite hurtful. You can hurt others who have done nothing to you. So, the question is this:

“From a practical point of view, how can you know when you should accept your feelings, when you should express your feelings, and when you should change them?”

The following questions can help you decide:

  • How long have I been feeling this way?
  • Am I doing something constructive about the problem, or am I simply brooding and avoiding it?
  • Are my thoughts and feelings realistic?
  • Will it be helpful or hurtful if I express my feelings?
  • Am I making myself unhappy about a situation that’s beyond my control?
  • Am I avoiding a problem and denying that I’m really upset about it?
  • Are my expectations for the world realistic?
  • Are my expectations for myself realistic?
  • Am I feeling hopeless?
  • Am I experiencing a loss of self-esteem?

How long have I been feeling this way?
If you are still feeling guilty or angry about something that happened in the past, ask yourself, “Just how much longer do I intend to make myself miserable about this? What is the point for feeling so bad for so long?”

Am I doing something constructive about the problem, or am I simply brooding and avoiding it?
Sometimes a negative feeling becomes a way of life. You may feel sorry for yourself instead of doing something about the problem that’s bothering you. It’s important to grieve over the loss of a loved one and to surrender to the tears, to the feelings of loss, and to remember how much you cared about the one who died. However, we can only feel healed and whole if we will allow ourselves to feel broken. But, if you get depressed, become cynical and hopeless and give up on life, you’ve slid into depression. Get help.

Are my thoughts and feelings realistic?
Healthy negative feelings are based on a realistic appraisal of your circumstances. It is often best to express these feelings as constructively as possible. But, when your negative feelings are based on distorted and unrealistic thoughts, it is often better to change the way you think about the situation.

Will it be helpful or hurtful if I express my feelings?
The real question is: Whether or not you want to feel like that. Will it help you deal with the situation if you express your negative feelings? If the answer is “yes”, go ahead and express them, if the answer is “no”, it might be better to change your feelings.

Am I making myself unhappy about a problem that’s beyond my control?
Sometimes we refuse to accept situations that are beyond our control. It doesn’t do us much good.  You have plenty of other options if you’re willing to be creative and to think about the situation more positively.

Am I avoiding a problem and denying that I’m really upset about it?
Sometimes one emotion can be a substitute for another. You may be angry with someone, but you don’t admit it to yourself. You repress your feelings and get anxious and panicky instead. Your anxiety is simply a way of disguising a problem that you’d prefer to avoid.

Are my expectations for the world realistic?
Dr. David D. Burns feels that distorted thoughts and unrealistic expectations can lead to negative emotions. What do you think? Is frustration realistic? Maybe not, but it is a human emotion. You may be frustrated that the train is late, but by definition, this means your expectations are unrealistic. You can’t change the fact that the train is late. It’s difficult to change your way of thinking when it comes to this kind of situation because you may strongly believe that life should or must or ought to be the way you want it to be.
Are my expectations for myself realistic?
Some people beat themselves up because they think they’re not good enough or as happy or as successful as they should be. You may find it difficult to accept making a mistake. But, if you punish yourself and act as if your mistakes are unthinkable and unacceptable, it means you’re superior to the rest of us!

If you can accept your behaviors and your feelings as a normal part of any healthy, loving relationship, you’ll discover that you can often resolve problems far more easily and your negative feelings will more quickly disappear.

Am I feeling hopeless?
Hopelessness is nearly always a sign of unhealthy emotions. People who are suffering from depression or anxiety often feel this way. These feelings are nearly always based on a distorted assessment of yourself and your future. Your chances of feeling joy and self-esteem again are extremely high, even if it doesn’t seem so.

Am I experiencing a loss of self-esteem?
Low self-esteem can lead to unhealthy anger, anxiety, guilt, and depression.  If you berate yourself as worthless and unlovable, you’ll be giving yourself distorted messages and destroying your self-esteem.

Genuine self-esteem is based on humility and an acceptance of your shortcomings. This makes it possible to assume responsibility for your actions, to feel remorse, to apologize and make amends, and to get on with productive and joyous living.

Have you learned something important today? Negative thinking and negative feelings can be changed. You can live a more joyful life. Distorted thinking can be modified with your own thoughts.

If you are still unsure, or have more questions, please refer to The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David D. Burns M.D.

Copyright: geargodz / 123RF Stock Photo

Reference: The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David D. Burns M.D.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Diagnose Your Moods - Depression and Mania

Last week we discussed diagnosing Anxiety and Panic moods. Today we're going to discuss how to diagnose Depression and Mania.

We'll still be using The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David D. Burns M.D.

I can't say enough about The Feeling Good Handbook. It's filled with great information and lots of exercises to help you understand your moods and how to evaluate them and what to do to adjust them.

There are several types of depression. You may check below to see if any of them fit your symptoms.

Major Depressive Episode
In a major depressive episode, a person feels sad or experiences a loss of interest in pleasurable activities for at least a two- to four - week period. In addition, there are several of the following symptoms:

  • loss of appetite (or eating too much)
  • trouble sleeping at night (or sleeping to much)
  • feelings of agitation and extreme restlessness (or feeling dull, fatigued, and slowed down)
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • difficulties concentrating
  • thoughts of death

Many people with these symptoms do not realized they are depressed. They may feel convinced they are inferior and that life is not worth living.

Dysthymic Disorder
This is an extremely common milder form of depression which lasts for two years or more. People with this problem tend to be chronically unhappy for much of their lives, but their depression is not severe enough to qualify as a major depressive episode.

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Depressions have "Two Poles", highs and lows. A person may go down into a deep depression, and then at other times may suddenly develop an abnormal and potentially dangerous mood elevation. The bipolar disorder has also been called manic-depressive illness, because it swings from mania to depression and back again.

Manic episodes usually develop rather unexpectedly in individuals who were quite normal before the episode began. The symptoms are just the opposite of the symptoms of depression.

  • feeling joyous
  • enjoy unlimited self-esteem
  • believe they can achieve anything
  • suddenly feel brilliant
  • alert
  • creative
  • euphoric
  • fountain of energy and ideas

They feel so good that they cannot accept the idea that there may be something wrong or that they need treatment.

Cyclothymic Disorder
These are people whose personality runs hot and cold. At times they are turned on by life, perhaps excessively so--and at times they are overly negative, pessimistic, and discouraged. They never seem to find the middle ground.

Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that distorted thoughts, and not realistic ones, lead to unhealthy negative emotions like depression and anxiety. When you learn to think about your problems in a more positive and realistic way, you can change the way you feel.

In our next blog, we'll discuss should you change the way we feel?

Reference: The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David D. Burns M.D.

Copyright: xochicalco / 123RF Stock Photo

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to Diagnose Your Moods - Anxiety and Panic

David D. Burns, M.D. wrote The Feeling Good Handbook in 1980, revised in 1999.

In Chapter 3, Dr. Burns discusses how to diagnose your moods.

He gives various tests to determine where you are in your mood. In determining the categories and symptoms, this helps you diagnose your mood.

We are going to start with Anxiety and Panic. Dr. Burns says that "Clinicians diagnose several types of anxiety. If your score on the Burns Anxiety Inventory is elevated, see if any of the following fits your symptoms."

Dr. Burns then asks you to complete a Diagnostic Summary filling Yes or No for Generalized anxiety disorder, Social phobia, Simple phobia, Panic disorder, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Hypochondriasis.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
If you feel anxious and tense all day long, regardless of where you are or what you're doing, and if these symptoms persist more or less continuously for six months or longer, the problem is called generalized anxiety.

Some people with generalized anxiety harbor the superstitious belief that anxiety and worry will help them.

Chronic worriers frequently believe that anxiety will protect their family and friends from danger.

Social Phobia
A social phobia is the fear of other people. People with social phobias feel shy and are afraid of looking foolish in front of others. They don't want to be in any situation where people will notice how anxious they are. You may have social phobia if you're afraid of public speaking, being with groups of people at meetings or social gatherings, introducing yourself to others, going out on dates, eating in front of others, saying foolish things at parties, or urinating in a public restroom.

Simple Phobia
A simple phobia is the fear of something specific like heights, a certain animal, flying in an airplane, choking, thunder, driving, darkness, closed spaces, being buried alive, elevators, blood, dirt, or germs, or bridges. Many phobias have Greek names. For example, the fear of heights is called acrophobia; the fear of closed spaces is called claustrophobia, and the fear of being buried alive is called laphephobia.

Phobias are uncomfortable, but they are not symptoms of severe mental illness or a weak charter. They can usually be treated effectively and quickly, but there is surprisingly little scientific knowledge about what causes them.

Panic Disorder
A panic attack is a burst of intense, overwhelming anxiety that generally lasts for a brief period -- sometimes for as little as a few minutes and rarely for more than several hours. The attacks seem to come out of the blue for no apparent reason. During a panic attack you will notice at least four uncomfortable sensations like: dizziness, a pounding of the heart, a lump in your throat, racing thoughts, lightheadedness, trembling or shaking, tightness in your chest, palpitations, diarrhea, or upset stomach, rapid breathing, a choking or smothering sensation, shortness of breath, numbness or tingling fingers, hot flashes, chills or sweating.

You may feel strange and thing that you are unreal or the world may seem unreal.

These symptoms develop suddenly and increase dramatically in intensity within ten minutes. At the height of the panic attack, you may be terrified by one or more of these fears:

  • What if I lose control?
  • What if I go crazy?
  • What if I have a heart attack?
  • What if I faint?
  • What if I die?

After a short time, the episode wears off. You live in dread of another attack. Your life becomes a constant vigil as you loo for some sign that this terrible experience is about to hit again. This leads to the fear of fear itself.

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in open spaces along or traveling away from home. People with agoraphobia are afraid of being in situations where help might not be available in the event they develop frightening or embarrassing symptoms, such as dizziness or fainting, losing bladder or bowel control, having a heart attack, smothering, or cracking up. As a result, agoraphobics restrict their travel and may need a trusted companion when they travel away from home.

Agoraphobia is one of the most common phobias, affecting an estimated 1 million Americans, as is far more common among women.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessions are persistent, intrusive, nonsensical thoughts that you can't shake out of your head. A compulsion is a ritualistic act that you feel compelled to repeat over and over in order to ward off the danger.

Thus, the obsession is the repetitious, frightening thought and the compulsion is the repetitious action that results from the thought.

People with this disorder are preoccupied with the idea that they are suffering from a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease. They usually go from doctor to doctor getting examinations and reassurances that they are in perfect health.

Hypochondriasis, like all other forms of anxiety described, is nearly always caused by other problems that the individual is ignoring.

Next week we'll discuss the types of Depression and Mania.

Reference Material: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Medication Slip Up - There are No Second Chances

I can only imagine. When all that I do is only worship you. Dear God. That even in the good times something like this could still happen.

I nearly killed myself this week and I didn’t even try. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t despondent. I loved life. I was enjoying getting ready for the next Bible class. I was working on the next Writers workshop I was going to give on May 3rd.

I’m working on developing a new business for a trauma therapy.

So, why am I on pseudo-suicide watch from my husband? Why am I not allowed to do certain activities? Why am I not allowed out of my husband’s sight? Why am I not allowed to make decisions?

Why did I take a nearly quadruple dosage of Topomax for nearly a week?

Because I didn’t pay attention when I got the instructions from my doctor. And then I again didn’t pay attention to the instructions from the pharmacist when I picked up the medication from the pharmacy.

Listen and listen well, people. You only get one chance to listen to your doctor and to your pharmacist if you are the only ONE in your life. I am so lucky I have my husband in my life. He realized something was wrong with me and contacted my doctor by e-mail.

We are so lucky I keep what I call a Wellness Recovery Action Plan. In it is a list of all my medications, the dosages and when I’m supposed to take them. Somehow, even though I got all the other instructions wrong, I got the instructions right enough to put them in my book. I updated my book. Thank you, dear Lord God.

Between my husband and my doctor they figured out that I had mixed up my medication. They made a plan between the two of them for the rest of the week and I’m going to see the doctor in a week.

I scared my husband to death.

He is taking it out on a new water heater.

I’m scared.

I’m tearful. What if my husband wasn’t watching me close enough?

I love him with all my heart. He is my everything.

We now have a new medication plan. Together we put my medication together for the next week. We double-check each other.

I’m still feeling the effects of the medication overdose. I’m taking things slow. But, with perseverance and faith, I am going to be back, better than ever.

Image credit: dianazh / 123RF Stock Photo