Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Future Suicide Attempts.

child trauma and suicide

childhood trauma and risk of suicide attempts

Research has shown that the experience of childhood trauma and the risk of the individual who suffered it attempting suicide in later life (as a teenager or as an adult) are extremely strongly correlated.

A particular study, carried out by Dube et al (2001), which involved gathering data related to this issue, found that those most seriously affected by childhood trauma were a staggering 51 Xs (ie 5100%) at greater risk of suicide attempts as a teenager compared to those who had experienced a settled childhood.  As an adult they were found to be at 30Xs (ie 3000%) greater risk of attempting suicide compared to their more fortunate contempories.

Other findings in the study by Dube et al were that about 67% of adult suicide attempts were linked to the experience of childhood trauma, and, also, that about 80% of teenage suicide attempts were connected to the experience of childhood trauma.

THE SPECIAL ADVERSE EFFECT OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

The same study also found that the type of abuse that was most strongly predictive of the individual who experienced it making suicide attempts in later life was emotional abuse.

OTHER TYPES OF ABUSE FOCUSED UPON BY THE STUDY :

Dube et al’s study also found many other types of abuse to be powerfully correlated with increased risk of suicide. These were :

– domestic violence

– loss of a parent (eg through divorce or abandonment)

– family member in prison

– parent with mental illness (eg depression

– parent with addiction

– physical neglect

– emotional neglect

– physical abuse

– verbal abuse

 

POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO TAKE IN LIGHT OF ABOVE FINDINGS :

Given the above facts, it is necessary to ask what may be done to address this tragic problem. I provide some suggestions below :

– more training for those who work with children about the effects of childhood trauma and how best to treat these effects

– more education to be given to the public in general about the effects of childhood trauma

– rather than expel or suspend ‘difficult’ children, schools should keep them in education and provide the appropriate counseling and/or other professional support

– respond more sensitively and compassionately to ‘problem behaviour’ (or, ‘acting out’) by young people, both in schools and other applicable environments.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Overcoming Fear.

‘Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give to it ourselves’

T. Harv Eker

PERCEPTION AND FEAR – how we perceive something determines how we respond to it, including our behavioural response. This is true even if our perceptions are inaccurate, distorted and misleading.

When we fear something (even if, in reality, what we are afraid of presents no real danger to us) we will tend to avoid it.

Very often, avoidance behaviour, caused by fear, spoils our quality of life. For example, someone may be afraid of interacting with others and therefore avoid social situations and become reclusive and lonely.

One way to overcome such a problem would be for the individual to ANALYZE THE REASONS FOR HIS/HER FEAR ; the question needs to be asked : ‘is the situation I fear truly dangerous to me, from an objective and realistic perspective, or is my imagination inventing/exaggerating reasons to be fearful which have no real basis in reality?’

It is important to overcome fears which are spoiling our chances of living more fulfilled lives.

FEARS ARE LEARNED AND CAN BE UNLEARNED :

Our fears are not innate – we are not born with them. They are learned as we go through life and can be unlearned. Let’s look at an example :

Suppose an individual grew up with  parent/s who made him/her feel worthless and made him/her feel very awkward and uncomfortable. And let’s say, as a result, the individual grew up fearing social situations as s/he believed other people would also make him/her feel worthless  (even though, in reality, there is no reason to make such a supposition). How could such a fear be overcome? Two main psychological approaches that could be effective at helping the individual overcome such an irrational fear are :

1) BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY

2) COGNITIVE THERAPY

Let’s briefly examine these two approaches in turn :

1) BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY – if an individual fears social situations, behavioural therapy would approach the problem by gradually introducing the person, in small steps, to the feared interpersonal interaction. For example :

Stage 1 – meet up with old friend

Stage 2 – meet up with well known acquaintance

Stage 3 – meet up with less well known acquaintance

Stage 4 – attend a small gathering of old friends

etc…etc…

Obviously, the above is just an example, but the idea is to gradually build up to attending increasingly challenging social situations  (or, in more general terms, to gradually increase the individual’s exposure to the feared stimulus) – the individual can tailor the stages in any way s/he wishes, ideally under the guidance of a therapist.

Behavioural therapy works by indirectly challenging the irrational beliefs the person holds which are maintaining his/her fear. Over time, in our example, the individual will come to realize that social situations are not a danger to him/her in any real sense – slowly, s/he will become more comfortable and at ease.

2) COGNITIVE THERAPY – this therapy involves a therapist talking to the individual who has the irrational fear and helping that individual to diretly CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF HIS/HER FEAR. The therapy aims to dismantle the very foundations (ie the deeply held, irrational, underlying belief) that the fear is built upon.

Often, in order to achieve this aim, the therapist will use what is called the ABC model  which was originally devised by the psychologist Albert Ellis. Below I explain what the letters stand for:

A – activating event (ie the trigger that led to the sensation of fear).

B – belief (the person’s assumptions about the situation)

C – consequence (ie the feelings and behaviours which arise as a consequence of the above).

If C (consequences) is undesired and spoiling the person’s quality of life, cognitive therapy encourages the individual to move on to steps D and E. I explain these below :

D – dispute ie what are the more positive alternatives to the belief which is causing the fear? For example :’ just because I got on badly with my parent/s, this does not mean I will not get on with other people’ would be a preferable alternative.

E – energizing alternative ie what would be a more empowering belief to adopt? eg’ the more I interact with others, the better I will become at doing it’.

I hope you have found this post of use. Please leave a comment if you would like to. I’ll respond asap.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc: PGDE(FAHE).

Recovery: How the Brain can ‘Rewire’ Itself (Neuroplasticity).

childhood_trauma_effects

Childhood Trauma And The Brain :

Severe childhood trauma can adversely affect the way in which the brain develops, leading to, for example, extremes in anxiety or great difficulty in controlling emotions. However, there has been exciting research conducted showing that the brain is able, under certain conditions, to ‘rewire’ itself, correcting its own faulty circuitry, and, thus, alleviating the behavioral and emotional problems caused by the original damage.

The adult brain is much more changeable and modifiable than had previously been believed. There is now a large amount of evidence to show that damaged neural (brain) circuitry resulting from severe childhood trauma can be corrected, reshaping our brain anatomy and consequent behavior, with the right kind of therapeutic interventions. In other words, it is now clear that brain architecture continues to change throughout adulthood and this can be manipulated in highly beneficial directions.

Many people who suffer extreme childhood trauma go on to develop personality disorders as adults; one hallmark of these disorders is rigid, destructive behavioural patterns. Research is now showing, however, that certain therapeutic interventions, due to neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change itself), can change those behaviours to become more flexible and adaptive (helpful in creating a more successful life).

Another problem those who have suffered extreme childhood trauma  develop later on is extreme and obsessive worry which can be so severe it is pathologically categorized as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). For the purposes of explaining how neuroplasticity works, let’s take that (ie OCD) as our example of a problem which needs to be alleviated.

With OCD, obsessive worries can become so extreme that the person experiencing them becomes actively suicidal. Such a tortured state of mind can persist for months or even (as in my own case) years. Indeed, one suicide attempt nearly killed me and I even underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) — to no avail, most regretably (see the ‘My Story’ category if you want to read a bit more about this profoundly distressing period of my life). When anxiety is this pathological, medications may dampen the symptoms somewhat, but, this, of course, fails to address the root psychological cause of the problem.

With this kind of anxiety, terrible and terrifying events are unremittingly anticipated – whether these are largely imagined or not is not the point : the problem is that the threats FEEL real. When something truly appalling is even remotely possible, in the mind of the individual experiencing obsessional anxiety, it FEELS INEVITABLE.

Neuroplasticity-Based Treatment :

In order to address such life-threatening (due to risk of suicide) conditions, the psychologist Jeffrey Schwartz has developed a NEUROPLASTICITY-BASED TREATMENT; it has already yielded excitingly successful results.

To understand his form of treatment, let’s first examine the theory of why those suffering from OCD become mentally fixated on their intense anxieties.

Schwartz, first of all, compared the brains of those who suffered from OCD with the brains of those who did not (by taking scans). After he delivered his form of psychotherapy, he took the scans again which revealed the brains of the patients had normalized.

In ‘normal’ people, when something goes wrong, there is a period of anxiety which gradually wears off. However, with OCD sufferers, the period of anxiety is not only much more intense but also maintains an iron mental grip on the sufferer – the individual becomes ‘stuck’ in this intense anxiety phase. So what is going on in neurological terms?

Schwartz generously enlightened us in the following manner :

1) When something anxiety inducing occurs, a region of the brain, known as the ORBITAL FRONTAL CORTEX, is alerted. Activity in this region of the brain is far greater in those who suffer OCD – it becomes HYPERACTIVE.

2) A chemical message is then sent from that brain region to another brain region – the CINGULATE GYRUS, triggering the anxiety response. IN PEOPLE WITH OCD, the activity here is, again, far more than normally intense. Crucially, too, in people with OCD, the intense activity in this brain region STAYS ‘LOCKED ON’ (as if the ‘ON SWITCH’ which has activated it CANNOT BE ‘SWITCHED OFF’). Indeed, Schwartz referred to this phenomenon as ‘BRAIN LOCK’. (In ‘normal’ individuals the activity in the stimulated brain regions gently fades away, as the brain designed it to do).

The treatment Schwartz developed is designed to ‘UNLOCK’, and normalize, the manner in which the brain’s circuitry works.

THE FIRST STEP in the therapy is for the OCD sufferer to RELABEL what s/he is experiencing AS A SYMPTOM OF HIS/HER OCD. S/he should remind him/herself that it is ‘just’ the neurological malfunctioning (the ‘brainlock’) which is the true cause of his/her discomfort, NOT the content of the anxiety itself. This relabeling provides some mental distance from the content of the obsessive concern. The more the person can concentrate on the physiological reasons for the feeling of distress, and the more s/he can distance her/himself from its actual content, the more effective the therapy tends to be.

Once this has been acknowledged, THE SECOND STEP is to REFOCUS THE ATTENTION ON SOMETHING POSITIVE and, ideally, pleasure-inducing.

As the person gets better at implementing these steps, new brain circuits start to develop : the obsessive circuits begin to be bypassed. Of course, changes do not materialize instantaneously – the brain takes time to ‘rewire’ itself.

If the person finds implementing the above two steps difficult to do, s/he should remind him/herself that even distancing him/herself from the content of the anxiety and doing something pleasurable instead for just one minute will help develop the beneficial new brain circuitry.

Two rather pithy sayings, often quoted by psychologists, help us to remember the theory behind the therapy :

– ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’

– ‘neurons that fire apart, wire apart’

To end this post with an encouraging statistic, it is worth recording that 80% of Schwartz’s patients got better when this therapy was combined with medication.

RESOURCES:

EBOOKS :

4c0da47c-a1c7-4fc1-873f-f4b6931f3b3b

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download.CLICK HERE.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Mindfulness Meditation: An Escape Route Away from Obsessive, Negative Ruminations.

 

mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness :

MINDFULNESS is a very effective and evidence-based therapy for the treatment of anxiety, depression and other conditions related to childhood trauma. Mindfulness helps individuals to develop the skill to DELIBERATELY FOCUS ATTENTION AND AWARNESS on THE PRESENT MOMENT. WHILST BEING INTENSELY AWARE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT, MINDFULNESS TEACHES US TO ACCEPT THINGS AS THEY ARE IN A NON-JUDGMENTAL WAY.

Mindfulness helps us to become aware of our CURRENT experience, of things we would normally take for granted. These may include becoming aware of our breathing, of the feeling of our clothes against our skin, the furniture on which we sit, the feel of the temperature in the room etc; anything, in fact, which we are presently experiencing through one of our five senses. It teaches us, as I have said, to accept things as they are rather than to fret about want them to be. We may, too, become aware of our thoughts; again, we are encouraged to accept them non-judgmentally – to simply observe them floating through our minds in a detached manner and not get caught up in them.

Negative Ruminations :

This state of mind of existing intensely in the present, accepting it as it is in non-judgmentally, is, at its best (it takes time to master the skill), the polar opposite of obsessive, negative ruminative thinking which can be so painful and destructive.

mindfulness meditation

Below, I summarize the principles which underpin MINDFULNESS :

1) IT IS INTENTIONAL – it helps us to become aware of current reality and the choices which are open to us. This is in direct contrast to rumination (in which we are caught up and trapped in the destructive downwaed spiral of our automatic negative thoughts).

2) IT IS EXPERIENTIAL – mindfulness trains us to experience the present moment (unlike rumination, which fills us with concerns about the past and the future and causes us to be preoccupied with abstract thoughts detached from present experience).

3) IT IS NON-JUDGMENTAL – mindfulness helps us to accept things as they are right now rather than to get caught up in judgments and frustrations about how we think things should be.

By cultivating MINDFULNESS, it stops us from becoming stuck in a futile cycle of depressive and anxiety creating negative ruminations; instead, it helps us to develop new and wiser ways to relate to our actual experience IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

However, MINDFULNESS is about more than noticing things around us that we had previously taken for granted and ignored; it also helps us to develop awareness of THE HABIT OF A PARTICULAR STATE OF MIND WE USED TO FIND OURSELVES IN, WHICH GOT US STUCK AND CAUGHT UP IN RUMINATIONS DESTRUCTIVE TO US AND TO OUR EMOTIONAL LIVES. The skill of mindfulness allows us to DISENGAGE from such destructive, ruminative thinking and shift to an enormously healthier frame of mind which frees us from our self-defeating emotional struggles. Mindfulness allows us to accept the different emotions which drift through our minds non-judgmentally and with self-compassion.

download (5)

Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon. CLICK HERE (Other titles available).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

The Vicious Cycle of Adult Problems Stemming from Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma

‘WE NEED TO SEE THE SYMPTOMS WE HAVE AS A RESULT OF OUR CHILDHOOD TRAUMA LESS AS THE RESULT OF SOME CHARACTER FLAW, AND MORE AS THE RESULT OF HAVING SUFFERED EXTREME AND PAINFUL EXPERIENCES WHEN WE WERE LEAST ABLE TO COPE WITH THEM. BY CONSIDERING THE IDEA THAT OUR SYMPTOMS COULD BE SEEN AS NORMAL REACTIONS TO ABNORMAL AND TRAUMATIC EVENTS IN CHILDHOOD, IT IS POSSIBLE TO USHER IN THE IDEA OF CHANGE.’

– CHARTED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND EXPERT ON EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.

People who have suffered childhood trauma frequently go on to develop multiple problems in adult life which tend to build up over the long-term. A range of difficulties like the ones given in the fictional scenario below would not be untypical:

Losing interest in school and unable to concentrate resulting in leaving at age 15 ; becoming disruptive and difficult leading to home-life problems, so leaving home at 16 ; this could then lead to homelessness or insecure housing (eg sleeping on friends’ sofas) ; depression and unsettled life style and lack of direction could then lead to abuse of drugs and alcohol ; unable to hold down job for long (eg due to having problems getting on with authority figures (stemming from problems with relationship in childhood with parent/s) and inability to accept criticism (eg becoming angry and aggressive when criticized, this, again, stemming from earlier relationship with parent/s, perhaps because they were physically abusive leading to a an intense need to ‘stand up for self’ and protect self).

The above example of how life can unravel as a result of childhood trauma, a whole string of problems feeding in to one another and compounding one another, are likely, too, to be underpinned by feelings of LOW SELF-ESTEEM, EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY and EMOTIONAL SCARS, A POOR SENSE OF OWN IDENTITY, AN INABILITY TO TRUST AND ‘PUT DOWN ROOTS’ – all these factors, also, stemming from the problematic childhood.

imagesCAEH7Z1BimagesCA24B8VY

STOPPING THE VICIOUS CIRCLE : The key to BREAKING OUT OF THE VICIOUS CYCLE IS TO BECOME AWARE AND RECOGNIZE THAT OUR PROBLEMS IN ADULT LIFE HAVE THEIR ROOTS IN OUR DISTURBED CHILDHOOD. By doing this, we can begin to understand that our unhelpful behaviours are rooted in our disturbed childhood and start to discard them. By understanding the enormous, destructive impact the past has – up until now – had upon our life, we can begin to loosen the past’s invidious grip on us.

We need to understand that our traumatic childhood experiences have affected how we THINK, FEEL and BEHAVE as adults. Apart from all the potential effects I have already described, our disturbed childhood is likely, too, to have had a VERY ADVERSE IMPACT UPON THE RELATIONSHIPS WE HAVE HAD, SO FAR, IN ADULTHOOD, perhaps due to feelings of FEAR, SHAME, FRUSTRATION, MOOD DISORDERS, ANXIETY and DEPRESSION. Again, these symptoms will almost certainly have their roots in our adverse childhood experiences.

LEARNING NEW WAYS OF COPING : Because our childhood experiences, the effects of which then become compounded by the adult experiences we have which stem from these childhood experiences, we are likely to have suffered EXTREME EMOTIONAL DISTRESS in our adult life, at worst leading to such horrors as compulsive self-harm and suicide attempts. Due to such intolerable distress, we are likely to have turned, in desperation, to any WAYS OF COPING possible. Often, these will have been unhelpful in the long-term and will have made matters yet worse. The coping mechanisms may have included alcohol abuse, drug abuse, withdrawal from society etc. These coping mechanisms may have become habits which we find difficult to change. We may, too, have become so enmeshed in the damaging life-style we now find ourselves in, it is difficult to step back and reassess why we are suffering our futile, negative, repeating pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Often, the only viable option will be to seek therapy and start the process of stepping back, understanding how our lives have become as they have, stop blaming ourselves and feeling bad about ourselves, and, gradually, seek new and more positive ways of approaching life.

We may have come to see the personal characteristics we have displayed up until now (our anxiety, our depression, our bleak outlook, our problematic relationships etc, etc) as just ‘who we are.’ This, though, is a mistake which will only perpetuate matters. We need to detach these SYMPTOMS of our traumatic childhood from our TRUE IDENTITY. We may need to realize we are not ‘bad’ even though are childhood experiences and the symptoms they have caused may have made us (FALSELY) believe that we were ‘bad’.

CONCLUSION : AN IMPORTANT NOTE OF CAUTION:

Those who played a part in causing the childhood trauma (parents, step-parents, siblings etc) will often ENTER A STATE OF DENIAL to PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THEIR OWN GUILT. It will often suit them to regard you as ‘innately bad’, and to regard this ‘badness’ as having nothing whatsoever to do with their treatment of you. Freud, of course, would regard this as a flagrant example of the psychological defense mechanism known as PROJECTION. I am inclined to concur.

eBook :

 

Above eBook available now on Amazon for instant download.  CLICK HERE FOR FURTHER DETAILS.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma : Defense Mechanisms Resulting from Stress.

Childhood Trauma And Defense Mechanisms

In response to stress resulting from our childhood trauma and other factors we often develop psychological DEFENSE MECHANISMS in an attempt to protect ourselves (though, very often, we are not consciously aware that many behaviours/defense mechanisms we have developed have developed in order to try to reduce the adverse effects of stress (though not all, eg CONVERSION – see below).

Often, however, the behaviours we develop which serve as these defense mechanisms to protect ourselves against stress are, at best, unhelpful, and, at worst, extremely damaging. I list and give a brief description of the main defence mechanisms that may develop below:

1) COMPENSATION: this behaviour occurs to offset a weakness or failing in ourselves eg someone who has very low self-esteem becoming a workaholic in an attempt to gain social status.

2) CONVERSION : anxieties can be CONVERTED into physical symptoms eg racing heart, sweating, high blood pressure, psychosomatic illnesses.

3) DENIAL : this defense mechanism is well known and the term has entered into the realms of popular vocabulary. It refers to a situation in which someone will not acknowledge something is wrong (eg after being told by a doctor one has only 3 months to live).

4) DISPLACEMENT : this is when we transfer the emotions we feel caused by one person onto somebody else who has nothing to do with how we’re feeling eg a man badly treated by his boss at work coming home and taking his anger and frustration out on his children.

5) DISSOCIATION : this is when we avoid examining how our behaviours relate to our beliefs by avoiding looking, too closely, at this relationship eg seeing ourselves as caring and compassionate but doing little or nothing to help others

6) FIXATION : this is when we have behaviours which stay fixed at an earlier stage of development and are therefore not appropriate to the life stage the individual is at eg a middle-aged remaining highly emotionally dependent upon his parents

7) IDENTIFICATION : this is when we behave, dress etc in a way which duplicates the way the person we are modelling ourselves on would behave and dress etc (this can occur on both conscious and unconscious levels and is not considered abnormal in young people).

8) INTROJECTION : this is when we turn our feelings towards others onto ourselves. Freud, for example, believed someone who is clinically depressed has, unconsciously, turned his/her anger with another/others onto himself and is, therefore, in effect, punishing him/herself with his/her depressive feelings in a way he/she unconsciously wishes to inflict upon others.

9) INVERSION : this is where we REPRESS a desire which we are uncomfortable having and act in a way which expresses the opposite eg a repressed homosexual who acts in an obsessively homophobic manner. This often occurs on an unconscious level.

10) PROJECTION : this is really the opposite of introjection (see above). It is where we constantly see faults in others which we, ourselves, are ashamed of and feel guilty about having eg constantly pointing out selfishness in others when we ourselves are ashamed of our own selfishness. Again, this can occur on an unconscious level.

11) RATIONALIZATION : this is when we, in effect, deceive ourselves and tell ourselves that something we have, in fact, done due to bad motives we have really done for socially acceptable reasons eg a man who divorces his wife and leaves his young family may tell himself it’s in the best interests of everyone, when, really, deep down, he is doing it purely in his own interest

12) REGRESSION : this is when we go back to behaving in a way that is no longer appropriate and would usually only occur at a much younger age eg a middle-aged man having a child-like tantrum.

13) REPRESSION : this is when we, unconsciously, bury feelings and attitudes which are unacceptable to us, and contrary to our moral beliefs, deep in the mind away from conscious access eg an illicit sexual attraction. When we consciously bury feelings that we are not comfortable with (often referred to in popular language as ‘putting something to the back of our mind’) it is called SUPPRESSION.

14) RESISTANCE : this is where there is a barrier between what we have repressed/banished into the unconscious mind. In other words, what we have repressed is not allowed conscious access. Freud believed this process meant the psychological tension produced by keeping the feeling, memory etc repressed can’t be resolved and so perpetuates the emotional pain that the individual is feeling.

15) SUBLIMATION : this is where the energy associated with feelings that are unacceptable to us (usually sexual, according to Freud) and buried in the unconscious mind is channeled into something else that is socially acceptable. Unlike many of the other defence mechanisms that I have described, this can be very positive, and, even, Freud thought, produce great art.

16) TRANSFERENCE : this is where feelings and emotions we have about a particular individual are transferred onto somebody else who was not the original cause of them. For example, an individual in therapy who transfers the feelings of hatred he feels towards his mother onto the therapist.

17) WITHDRAWAL : this is when we just cut off from a stressful situation, give up, lose interest and become apathetic eg a man who stops trying to make conversation with his wife or take any interest in her after the relationship has been very difficult for a long period of time and he can no longer cope with it

eBook:

depression and anxiety

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma: Food and Nutrition which may Help with Resultant Depression.

depression and nutrition

Due to the side-effects associated with anti-depressants, together with the controversy which surrounds their effectivenes, some individuals prefer to try to treat their depression in more natural ways; in relation to this, many people adjust their intake of nutrients in ways which research suggests may lift their mood. I examine the foods and nutients which may help this goal to be achieved below:

FOODS AND NUTRIENTS WHICH MAY HELP TO LIFT MOOD :

Not only does some research suggest that the foods and nutrients listed below may help lift mood when depressed, it suggests they may also make depression less likely to recur once feeling better:

1) SELENIUM : this can be found in oysters, mushrooms and Brazil nuts

2) CHROMIUM : this can be found in turkey and green vegetables

3) ZINC : this can be found in shellfish, seafood and eggs

All of the above nutients can also be bought in supplement form from chemists and health food shops. However, they should not be taken in large doses so be sure to read the relevant labels to obtain the recommended amounts to take.

4) VITAMIN B12 : this vitamin, which can also be bought as a supplement from health shops and chemists, is thought to help maintain general mental alertness and, also, help keep feelings of depression at bay. It can be found in salmon, meat, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and yeast extract.

FISH

Some scientists recommend eating fish as a way of reducing depressive symptoms. The reason for this is that some research studies have provided evidence that FISH OILS have both an ANTI-DEPRESSANT and MOOD-STABILIZING effect. However, because of the amount of fish oil which needs to be ingested, one would have to consume a vast quantity of fish. In order to rectify this problem, many companies now produce FISH OIL CAPSULES (eg OMEGA – 3) as dietry SUPPLEMENTS. These contain very concentrated fish oil. However, more research needs to be conducted in order to come to a definitive verdict on their effectiveness. One benefit of them, however, is that they have no side-effects, apart from, rarely, a mildly upset stomach.

5-HTP

Otherwise known as HYDROXTRYPTOPHAN. The body manufactures this from tryptophan (an AMINO ACID) in the diet (sources include turkey and bananas) and it is linked to the production of SEROTONIN (a neurotransmitter which I discuss in other posts – please enter ‘SEROTONIN’ into this site’s search facility if you wish to access those posts) in the brain. Depleted serotonin levels in the brain are thought to be connected with depression and insomnia. Indeed, taking supplements of 5-HTP has been linked to not only helping to treat depression and insomnia, but, also, obesity.

The Cochrane Review (2001) found two studies suggesting that 5-HTP was more effective at treating depression than placebos, but, also, concluded that more research needed to be conducted in order to reach a proper conclusion in relation to how beneficial it is.

CONCLUSION:

A lot more research needs to be conducted in order to come to any definitive solutions about just how helpful diet, nutrients and supplements are at treating mental health conditions. However, there is a vast number of people who take them and are convinced of their effectiveness.

Finally, I wish to stress that it is extremely important to speak to a doctor if you are considering coming off any prescribed medication.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Simple Questions We can Ask Ourselves to Reduce Anxiety

effects of childhood trauma

Below I have listed a set of questions we can ask ourselves when we are worried and anxious. The questions are intended to help us CHALLENGE OUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS; this technique derives from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):QUESTIONS WE CAN ASK OURSELVES WHICH HELP US TO CHALLENGE OUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS:

1) What evidence is there that the negative thought I am having is true?
What evidence is there that the negative thought I am having is not true?

2) Is the negative thought a fact based on rational and logical thinking?
Or is it influenced (distorted) by the way I am feeling (ie based upon EMOTIONAL REASONING rather than on rational thinking)?

3) Is constantly focusing on this negative thought helping me to move forward in my life? Or is focusing on the negative thought causing me unnecessary distress, hindering me and holding me back, preventing me from making a valuable contribution in life?

4) Is there a more positive way I can interpret events? Is there another perspective I can take/ Can I apply ‘out of the box’ thinking?

5) If a close friend was in the same situation, what advice and help would I give him/her? Can I apply the same sensitivity, compassion and understanding I’d show to a friend to myself? If not, why not? Am I treating myself unfairly?

6) What is the worst outcome of the situation in which I find myself? Am I over-estimating the probability of the worst happening? If the worst does happen, am I underestimating my ability to cope with such an outcome?

7) Can I change my mind-set from viewing this situation as a problem, to viewing it as a challenge? Which of these two approaches is likely to be of most benefit to me?

It is possible, of course, for us to write these questions down and remind ourselves of them when we feel particularly anxious; we can even carry them around with us if we feel so inclined! Sometimes, a simple shift of perspective can have a very liberating effect.

 

David Hosier BScHons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Why We Worry.

 

why we worry

Other posts in this category have already dealt with how early life experience of trauma can contribute to us becoming anxious adults, and, also, that the type of negative thinking (cognitive) style we may have developed as a result of the early trauma can perpetuate symptoms of depression and anxiety. But what are the other causes of excessive worrying and what are the other ways of dealing with the problem? It is to this question I now turn:

CAUSES OF ANXIETY/EXCESSIVE WORRY:

1) OUR GENETIC INHERITANCE: It seems we can inherit a predisposition towards anxiety genetically. This means, for example, if we have a parent who is very anxious, all else being equal, we are more likely to become anxious ourselves due to our genetic inheritance. (Also, of course, if we have a very anxious parent, we are more likely to develop anxious responses due to ‘learned behaviour’ – ie modelling our behavioural reponses on those of the anxious parent). However, the key word here is ‘predisposition’; in other words, having an anxious parent will not guarantee that we, ourselves, will become anxious adults, but, rather, we will be more vulnerable to this happening if other factors also affect us in life (such as those detailed below):

2) LATER LIFE EXPERIENCES: If we have suffered the experience of early life trauma, the damage done by this can be compounded (made worse) by going on to experience yet further trauma in later life. It is particularly unfortunate, then, that early life trauma can in itself create problems for us in later life, thus increasing the probability that further trauma will strike (which is one reason, amongst many others, why early therapeutic intervention is crucial for those affected by childhood trauma).

3) DRUGS: It is not just a side-effect of many illicit drugs which can create anxiety conditions; some prescribed drugs, too, can cause anxiety as a side effect. It is, of course, always important to ask doctors about possible unwanted effects of the medications they may prescribe.

4) INTERNAL CONFLICTS: Sometimes we behave in ways which CONFLICT with our own ideals and values, or the ideals and values we have INTERNALISED from our upbringing and culture (even if we have only internalized them on an unconscious level). Freud believed we all have such internal conflicts, a price he thought was paid for living in a ‘civilized’ society, in which we are compelled to repress many natural human instincts (for those who are interested, you may wish to investigate further Freud’s view of how the ‘Id’ (the name he gave to our instinctual self/basic impulses) and the ‘Superego’ (the name he gave to our conscience/moral selves, which develops due to learning from parents, teachers, society, culture etc) may be constantly ‘at war’ with each other.

Therapists who place emphasis on the link between INTERNAL CONFLICTS and ANXIETY tend to recommend what is known as PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY.

5) NEUROLOGICAL FACTORS: This refers to how the brain we possess is physically set up or ‘wired’ Some of us are, it seems, ‘wired’ in such a way that our ‘internal alarm systems’ are highly sensitive. I have discussed in other posts how the brain’s physical ‘wiring’ can be affected by the experience of early trauma.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

‘Fighting’ Anxiety can Worsen It: Why Acceptance Works Better.

fighting anxiety

What Happens When We Try To ‘Fight’ Anxiety?

Trying to fight anxiety, research suggests (and, certainly, my own experience of anxiety would tend to confirm this) can actually AGGRAVATE the problem and lead to greater feelings of distress. Stating the shatteringly obvious, none of us wants to experience the feelings an anxiety condition brings; however, difficult as it may sound at first, DEVELOPING AN ATTITUDE OF ACCEPTANCE TOWARDS IT, rather than entering an exhausting mental battle with it, has been reported by many to be a superior strategy for coping with anxiety.

The psychologist Beck, to whom I have made several references already in this blog (he was one of the founders of the very helpful therapy called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT, for people suffering from conditions such as depression and anxiety – see my posts on CBT) devised the acronym A.W.A.R.E for ease of remembering the key strategies for coping. Let’s take a look at what the acronym A.W.A.R.E stands for:

A Accept the anxiety (it sounds hard, I know, but so is constantly struggling to fight it):

The benefits of adopting this approach are that it may help to reduce the PHYSIOLOGICAL symptoms commonly associated with anxiety (eg accelerated heart rate, increased muscle tension, hyperventilation, sweating -or ‘cold sweats’- trembling, dry mouth etc). It may, too, help with PSYCHOLOGICAL symptoms (people report that an attitude of acceptance towards their anxiety makes them feel less distressed). A kind of motto which has come to attach itself to the acceptance approach to anxiety is: ‘if you are not WILLING to have it, you WILL’ (see what they’ve done there!)

W Watch your anxiety:

It is suggested that rather than get too ‘caught up’ in anxiety, together with all the distressing negative thoughts and fears it produces, to, instead, just observe it in a DETACHED and NON-JUDGMENTAL manner; this involves trying to adopt a kind of NEUTRAL MENTAL ATTITUDE towards it – in other words, neither liking it nor seeing the experience of anxiety as a terrible, unsolvable catastrophy (again, I realize, of course, that intense anxiety is very painful, so this, too, may sound difficult at first). People report that when they adopt this DETACHED, NEUTRAL view of their feelings of anxiety they starts to lose their, hitherto, tenacious grip on their lives.

A Act with your anxiety:

Severe anxiety can leave us feeling as if we are incapable of functioning on even a basic level. It is important to remember, however, as I have repeated at, no doubt, tedious length througout this blog, that just because we believe something it does not logically follow that the belief must be true. Indeed, when my anxiety was at its worst, I did not feel able, or even believe I could,shave or brush my teeth etc…etc… Many people report, however, that if they take the first (often, extremely challenging) step to try to carry on with normal activities, despite the feeling of anxiety which may accompany this, they can, after all, accomplish that which they originally believed they couldn’t. Success then tends to build upon success: completion of the first activity increases the self-belief and the confidence to go on to the second activity, the completion of which provides further self-belief and confidence…and so on…and so on…

In order to make this easier, it may be necessary to slow down the pace at which, in different circumstances, we would otherwise carry out the particular tasks that we set ourselves.

R Repeat the steps:

This just means that by repeating the ACCEPTING ANXIETY, WATCHING OUR ANXIETY (in a detached and neutral manner) and ACTING (despite the feelings of anxiety which may accompany such action) CYCLE, the anxiety may be slowly eroded away.

E Expect the best (even if it does not come naturally)

When we are depressed and anxious we, almost invariably, expect the worst. This is overwhelmingly likely to perpetuate the condition. However, just as expecting the worst can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so, too, can expecting the best. If, like me, you are not a natural optimist, the concept of expecting the best may go against the grain. However, research shows that optimistic people are more likely to achieve their goals than those of us who do not appear to have been blessed with quite such a sunny disposition. It is worth adapting the strategy on, at least, an experimental basis. It is also useful to keep in mind that even if the best does not occur, we will still have the inner-strength necessary to cope.

eBook :

 

childhood trauma and depression

 

Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon.  CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).