Category Archives: psychology

Accept anxiety as a part of life

 

accept anxiety

Accept anxiety as a part of life

Anxiety is a part of life unfortunately, yet we all furiously engage in behaviours to try avoid anxiety as much as possible. When you accept anxiety as a part of life it actually becomes easier to manage.

If you are not willing to experience anxiety, you will definitely have anxiety!

When you accept anxiety as something that will always be there, you can then learn ways to deal with it more effectively. Anxiety can be managed but it can’t be removed completely.

Anxiety is caused by two things:

  1. The fact that we overestimate the threat. This could be fear of rejection, humiliation or failure. It could also be fear of losing someone or experiencing shame. There are numerous triggers around us and the more we try to avoid them, the more anxious we become.
  2. The fact that we underestimate our ability to cope. We often cope far better than we anticipate bit the more we avoid situations that might cause anxiety, the fewer opportunities we have to test out our beliefs.

Tips for managing anxiety

Know the difference between a real problem (the car has broken down) and a hypothetical problem. This is a “what if” problem that might never happen. Learn to spend less time agonising over “what if” type problems. Find a solution if possible but then ‘mentally shelve’ the worry.

Don’t spend time overthinking. If you can do something that is solution focused to help towards solving the problem/worry, do it. If you can’t, learn to distract yourself. Count backwards from 100 or do something else but don’t waste mental energy by allowing a problem to go round and round in your mind.

Learn to let thoughts pass without focusing on them. We have between 40 000 – 60 000 thoughts per day. Visualise thoughts as leaves flowing on a river, let the ones that aren’t useful pass by. It is possible to learn to focus your attention on the thoughts that are helpful rather than unhelpful. Examples of unhelpful thoughts: I will never be able to cope. I am useless. It will never work etc

If you really cannot focus elsewhere, try implementing ‘worry time’ Give yourself 30 minutes per day to worry and for the rest of the day, do your best to distract yourself and keep busy.

Ask yourself: what would I tell a friend in this situation? Am I exaggerating the threat? Is there another way to look at this that makes me feel less anxious? (there is always another way to look at something).

Learn mindfulness – be in the moment more rather than living in your head. TO bring yourself back to the present moment, try this:

Look for 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch, 1 thing you can taste. The more you engage your 5 senses, the less time your brain has to wander off to your worries.

Anxiety is the body’s way of telling us we are in danger but often the body sends us false alarms. We may feel physical sensations related to anxiety – sweaty palms, heart palpitations etc but tell yourself quietly that you are safe and that you are not in danger.

Try deep breathing to calm yourself and tell yourself “this will pass”.

Make anxiety your friend as much as possible. See it as an early warning system that can prepare you and make you ready for action.

Mandy X

 

How Thinking affects brain chemistry

 

brain photo

How Thinking affects brain chemistry

 

It’s been proven over and over again that just thinking about something causes your brain to release neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that allow it to communicate with parts of itself and your nervous system. Neurotransmitters control virtually all of your body’s functions, from hormones to digestion to feeling happy, sad, or stressed.

Studies have shown that thoughts alone can improve vision, fitness, and strength. The placebo effect, as observed with fake operations and sham drugs for example, works because of the power of thought. Expectancies and learned associations have been shown to change brain chemistry and circuitry which results in real physiological and cognitive outcomes, such as less fatigue, lower immune system reaction, elevated hormone levels, and reduced anxiety.

According to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom,  humans are evolutionarily wired with a negativity bias. In other words, our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. This is because it was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards: An individual who successfully avoided a threat would wake up the next morning and have another opportunity to collect a reward, but an individual who didn’t avoid the threat would have no such opportunity.

Thus, the human brain evolved to focus on threats. Millennials are no stranger to stress and depression, especially when it’s work related—a recent study reported that around 20 percent of Millennials sought out help or advice in the workplace for depression—a higher percentage than any other generation. According to the Status of Women in the States report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Millennial women ages 18-34 report an average of 4.9 days of poor mental health per month, while Millennial men report an average of 3.6 poor mental health days. Our brains are highly attuned to stress, even when such stress is of the mundane variety and not at all life threatening.

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intense (e.g., loud, bright) positive ones, Hanson writes on his website. “They are also perceived more easily and quickly. For example, people in studies can identify angry faces faster than happy ones; even if they are shown these images so quickly (just a tenth of a second or so) that they cannot have any conscious recognition of them, the ancient fight-or-flight limbic system of the brain will still get activated by the angry faces.”

Hanson describes the brain as like “Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” While some individuals may be inherently more optimistic than others, it’s generally true that in order for positive experiences to “stick” in our brains as well as negative ones do, these positive experiences need to be held in our consciousness for a longer period of time.

“The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala (you’ve got two of these little almond-shaped regions, one on either side of your head) — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative,” writes Hanson. “Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory — in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in awareness for a dozen or more seconds to transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.”

How negative thinking changes the brain

The more that an individual’s thought patterns trend negative and slip into rumination—continually turning over a situation in one’s mind and focusing on its negative aspects—the easier it becomes to return automatically to these thought patterns.

That’s not so great for our health. According to a blog post on Psychology Today, ruminating can damage the neural structures that regulate emotions, memory, and feelings. Even when our stress and worry is completely hypothetical and not based on any real or current situation, the amygdala and the thalamus (which helps communicate sensory and motor signals) aren’t able to differentiate this hypothetical stress from the kind that actually needs to be listened to.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, breaks down the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps form new memories. Most people experience a peak of cortisol in the morning, but it can also spike throughout the day in response to stress. The more cortisol that’s released in response to negative experiences and thoughts, the more difficult it can become, over time, to form new positive memories.

In neuroscience, the expression “neurons that fire together, wire together” describes “experience-dependent neuroplasticity”—essentially, the concept that our brains are shaped by our thoughts and experiences. According to Hanson, the synapses in our brains that fire frequently become more sensitive. Our experiences and thoughts can lead to the growth of new synapses and even change our genes, altering the very structure of our brain. Or, as Hanson writes, “the brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon.”

If you’re prone to negative thinking, this might seem disheartening. It’s easy to assume that we have no control over our thoughts. After all, they often pop up out of nowhere, and when rumination takes hold, it can be difficult to break its grip (I would know, I’m an accomplished ruminator). But the good news—and the basis of much of Hanson’s work—is that it ispossible to change our thought patterns and even “hardwire happiness” into our brains (which is the title of Hanson’s 2013 book).

If I were to put you into an MRI scanner—a huge donut-shaped magnet that can take a video of the neural changes happening in your brain—and flash the word “NO” for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication.

In fact, just seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse, and the more you ruminate on them, the more you can actually damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions.[1] You’ll disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-termhappiness and satisfaction.

If you vocalize your negativity, or even slightly frown when you say “no,” more stress chemicals will be released, not only in your brain, but in the listener’s brain as well.[2] The listener will experience increased anxiety and irritability, thus undermining cooperation and trust. In fact, just hanging around negative people will make you more prejudiced toward others![3]

Any form of negative rumination—for example, worrying about your financial future or health—will stimulate the release of destructive neurochemicals. And the same holds true for children: the more negative thoughts they have, the more likely they are to experience emotional turmoil.[4] But if you teach them to think positively, you can turn their lives around.[5]

Negative thinking is also self perpetuating, and the more you engage in negative dialogue—at home or at work—the more difficult it becomes to stop.[6] But negative words, spoken with anger, do even more damage. They send alarm messages through the brain, interfering with the decision making centers in the frontal lobe, and this increases a person’s propensity to act irrationally.

Fear-provoking words—like poverty, illness, and death—also stimulate the brain in negative ways.  And even if these fearful thoughts are not real, other parts of your brain (like the thalamus and amygdala) react to negative fantasies as though they were actual threats occurring in the outside world. Curiously, we seem to be hardwired to worry—perhaps an artifact of old memories carried over from ancestral times when there were countless threats to our survival.[7]

In order to interrupt this natural propensity to worry, several steps can be taken. First, ask yourself this question:  “Is the situation really a threat to my personal survival?” Usually it isn’t, and the faster you can interrupt the amygdala’s reaction to an imagined threat, the quicker you can take action to solve the problem. You’ll also reduce the possibility of burning a permanent negative memory into our brain.[8]

After you have identified the negative thought (which often operates just below the level of everyday consciousness), your can reframe it by choosing to focus on positive words and images. The result: anxiety and depression decreases and the number of unconscious negative thoughts decline.

Making the association between thoughts and our brain chemistry is crucial in understanding the link between our thinking and our physical and mental health. Thinking rationally and trying to look for positives has far more benefits that many of us realise, or even really understand.

Mandy X

 

Source/References:

 

How Your Thoughts Change Your Brain, Cells, And Genes

http://www.attn.com/stories/2587/what-negative-thinking-does-your-brain

How to spot a manipulative personality

 

manipulation photo

How to spot a manipulative personality

Do you know the signs of a manipulative personality? Chances are, you have a vague idea but for many of us, manipulation carries on right under our noses. That’s because manipulative personalities are so adept at manipulation that they do it often, without being detected.

A manipulative personality is focused on getting their needs met. They don’t really have the time or inclination to be bothered with your needs, no matter what they are. They are skilled in the art of deflection. Any accusation aimed at them will shift direction, be aimed away from them – most likely back onto you. Example: “It upset me when you left me standing in the rain last night”. Deflection: “Well you should’ve taken an umbrella”. Here, the manipulative personality does not wish to deal with their behaviour and take responsibility so they will deflect that by adding in a new issue to take the ‘heat’ off them = manipulation!

A healthy, rational person would be able to deal with WHY they left someone standing in the rain.

A manipulative personality often lacks assertiveness and has learned to use manipulation as a covert way to get what they want. They will cast doubt on how you see things, even going so far as to poke fun at you or criticise your way of thinking. The more someone lacks self belief and confidence, the easier they will be to manipulate.

A manipulative personality often suffers from low self esteem and often don’t believe that they deserve many of the things they wish for. Instead, if they use manipulation, they can get what they want in an underhanded and subtle manner that avoids them having to ask directly for it.

They will adopt passive-aggressive behaviour and play mind games. They won’t ever want to be backed into a corner and may offer vague explanations for things. They like to be able to chop and change to suit their current mood so you may find it almost impossible to obtain a definitive answer from a manipulative personality.

Manipulative personalities never accept responsibility for their own behaviour, often see themselves as the victim and never accept the blame for anything. They often have low empathy for others and many tend to possess narcissistic tendencies. This is an over-generalisation but there is often an overlap between narcissism, sociopathy and manipulation.

Spotting manipulation can make it easier to withstand. Look out for the signs. When you are with a manipulator, you will often feel you are not being heard and that your needs are going unmet. Take heed and listen to your inner voice. At times, we are so desperate to be loved that we overlook the signs but they will become worse so it’s better to spot them early on!

Mandy X

 

 

Attachment theory and adult relationships

 

attachment theory

Attachment theory and adult relationships

The style of care we receive as infants and children sets up our attachment type for our adult relationships. Attachment theory looks at three types of attachment: anxious, ambivalent and secure. The way our primary care giver treated us teaches us about human interaction. Is the world a safe place? Do we get our needs met consistently? How is it for us when our caregiver leaves us alone?

Secure Attachment as an infant (50% of population)

If our care giver consistently met our needs, picked us up when we cried and helped us feel safe we are more likely to develop a secure attachment and go on to have fairly stable adult relationships built on a strong stable foundation.

Anxious Avoidant Attachment as an infant(25%)

Parents of children with an avoidant/anxious attachment tend to be emotionally unavailable or unresponsive to them a good deal of the time. They disregard or ignore their children’s needs, and can be especially rejecting when their child is hurt or sick. They frequently rationalize their lack of response by saying they are trying not to spoil the child with “too much” affection or attention. These parents also discourage crying and encourage premature independence in their children.

In response, the avoidant/anxiously attached child learns early in life to suppress the natural desire to seek out a parent for comfort when frightened, distressed, or in pain.

Anxious Ambivalent Attachment as an infant(20%)

When parents or caregivers interact with their children in ways that are inconsistent and unpredictable, the children develop ambivalent/anxious attachment patterns. Attachmentresearchers describe the behavior of these adults, noting how at times they are nurturing, attuned and respond effectively to their child’s distress, while at other times they are intrusive, insensitive or emotionally unavailable. For example, they can be neglectful and then later try to make up for it by being overindulgent. When parents vacillate between two very different responses, their children become confused and distrustful, not knowing what kind of treatment to expect

The poet Philip Larkin was not the first or the last to notice that parents, “they fuck you up.”  How you are as a parent makes a huge difference in the neural development of your child for the first four or five years. While John Bowlby is known as the father of attachment, a prodigiously smart psychologist who worked briefly as his researcher, Mary Salter Ainsworth, is the one who brought his theory to life. In 1954, Ainsworth’s husband got a job in Uganda and she accompanied him, determined to set up a research project testing her and Bowlby’s budding theory with real people. After a year of observing Ganda mothers and babies, she noticed that the babies who cried the least had the most attentive mothers. And she saw how “maternal attunement” to babies’ cues seemed to determine these patterns.

Four Adult Attachment Styles

Secure Attachment (low avoidance, low anxiety): If you relate positively to others and yourself, you probably have a secure attachment style. Securely attached people are generally happy in their relationships, feeling that they and others are sensitive and responsive to each other.  They sense that connection can provide comfort and relief in times of need. They also feel that they are good, loved, accepted, and competent people.

Preoccupied Attachment (low avoidance, high anxiety): If you are always worried about what others think of you and don’t really factor in your thoughts and feelings, this style of attachment most likely fits you. People with a preoccupied attachment style feel a powerful need to be close to others, and they show this by clinging. They need a lot of validation and approval. They are concerned that others don’t value them, and they also doubt their own worth in relationships. So, they often worry a lot about their relationships.

Dismissing-Avoidant Style (high avoidance, low anxiety): Although the need for connection is biologically wired in people, those with this style of attachment deny it. They like to see themselves as independent and self-sufficient; and they minimize the importance of relationships. To keep their relationships unimportant, they suppress or hide their feelings. They also often think of other people less positively than they think of themselves. When faced with rejection, they cope with it by distancing themselves.

Fearful-Avoidant Style (high avoidance, high anxiety): People with this style of attachment tend to think of themselves as flawed, dependent, and helpless. And, they think they aren’t worthy of loving or caring responses from their partners. As a result, they don’t trust that others see them positively, and they expect to get hurt. So, although they want to be close to others, they also fear it. Understandably, they often avoid intimacy and suppress their feelings.

Attachment Questionnaire: which style are you?

Try this link if you would like to know more about your attachment style.

http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl

We all need human connection. Understanding our attachment style can help us to feel closer to others and to find ways to counteract our negative limiting behaviours if we do have an anxious or fearful attachment style.

It is only by facing our fears (with baby steps if necessary) that we can learn to minimise fears and overcome our limiting beliefs about relationships and love.

Mandy X

 

Info:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/making-change/201105/learning-your-attachment-style-can-light-your-life

http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl

http://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-change-your-attachment-style/

http://www.psychalive.org/attachment-theory/

How to improve mental resilience

 

mental resilience

How to improve mental resilience

Some people seem to cope better with setbacks than others. Despite life’s challenges they seem to be able to rise above the trouble and emerge stronger. The reason for this is their mental resilience. It is one of the most important skills you can learn to improve your quality of life and reduce stress.

  1. Mental flexibility

People who catastrophise and think up worst case scenarios invite unnecessary stress into their lives. Possessing mental flexibility is one of the most important ways to be mentally resilient. The ability to be able to look at a situation in different ways and think up rational alternatives tends to produce people who are happier in life. Of course, what happens to you in life is important but even more crucial is how you wish to perceive what happens to you. The story you tell yourself about your life. A pessimist might respond to a difficult life situation by saying to themselves, “This is just confirmation of what a loser I am. Nothing ever works out for me”…whereas someone with mental resilience would probably think more along the lines of:

“I’m not happy about this situation but there are things I can try to help the situation”.

Another example:

Situation: You greet someone and they ignore you.

Person without mental resilience “They obviously don’t like me.I must have done something wrong”

Person with mental resilience “They could be tired or stressed about something else. It might have nothing to do with me”.

2. No overthinking

Mental resilience involves awareness of thinking and knowing that thoughts are not facts. The reality of the situation might not be as we think it is. Being aware of types of worry can improve mental resilience. There is real worry and there is hypothetical worry. Real worry can usually be actioned immediately – such as a broken washing machine or a flat tyre. A hypothetical worry is a ‘what if’ worry – it may never happen. The less we preoccupy ourselves with thoughts of possible problems, the more we free up our minds for more productive thinking.

3. Avoidance of irrational thinking

Irrational thinking is something we all do but being aware of the types of irrational thoughts that exist can help us to dismiss these thoughts quicker. There is never obvious clear evidence for irrational thinking – we assume things that may not be true.

Examples:

Mind reading – when we assume that we know what others are thinking

Overgeneralising – assuming one example means all in that category will be the same

Black and white thinking/all or nothing thinking – this type of thinking does not allow for ‘grey’ areas which is unrealistic

Comparing and despairing – looking at other people’s lives and feeling worse off. We don’t know what is really going on behind closed doors

Catastrophising – thinking of the worst possible outcome when faced with a problem

Personalising – self blame when there is no evidence to suggest a person is at fault

4. Tolerating uncertainty

Trying new things regularly is a good way of learning to tolerate uncertainty. Uncertainty is something we all have to face so it’s a good idea to learn acceptance and find a way to cope well with it. Instead of resisting uncertainty by never trying anything – the more you can push yourself out of your comfort zone, the better.

Mental resilience can be learned and improved. Be brave, see life as an experiment and never take your thoughts too seriously. There are  many ways to look at  life, so learn to choose ‘stories’ that serve you well and motivate you rather than frighten you.

Mandy X

 

 

Playing mind games in relationships

 

mind games

Playing mind games in relationships

Any interaction with another person has the potential to involve some type of mind game. In fact, many of us are quite good at playing mind games in relationships. The problems start when the mind games are used for dubious purposes. Unscrupulous people want to be in control and many have learned how to push other people’s buttons and pick up on subtle emotional signals in order to manipulate the other. Mind games involve manipulation, twisting the facts and creating doubt to destabilise another person. Here are some examples of mind games in relationships and tips to counteract them:

The more tumultuous someone’s childhood was, the more likely they are to engage in mind games. As a powerless child faced with unfair and unreasonable parents, children learn ways to manipulate the situation in a subtle passive way in order to cope emotionally. Many take these dysfunctional coping mechanisms into their adult relationships.

Twisting the facts

Playing mind games involves twisting the facts of a situation in order to suit the manipulator’s version of events. They will see the situation their way and will generally lack the empathy to understand another person’s point of view. They will ignore feelings and repeat their version of events, effectively voiding any other point of view of a situation. This can be extremely frustrating for the partner who feels misheard and misunderstood.

Deflecting and dismissing

Someone is definitely playing mind games when they dismiss your feelings. They will say something upsetting and when you react, you are told you are “Too sensitive”. A healthy, carting person will not like upsetting someone else and make a point not to do it again. A person playing mind games will make a mental note of that weakness and keep it as a weapon to be used in the future to control and manipulate. Another tactic is when you try to talk to your partner about their behaviour or about something you don;t like that they do. Instead of listening and communicating, a person playing mind games will merely deflect the conversation and your concerns with a reply such as ” Well you did the same thing last week and that’s why I do it”. There is no acceptance of responsibility – somehow their behaviour gets blamed on something you have done.

Creating self doubt in another

“What are you doing that for?”, “Why are you thinking like that?” etc. A mind game player will do their best to shake the foundations of your beliefs and ideas about the world. The more confusion and self doubt, the easier it is to influence you.

Emotional blackmail

“If you truly cared, you wouldn’t do it” is an example of emotional blackmail. You are made to feel you do not care enough and in this way they control your behaviour.

Subtle erosion of confidence

Over time, mind game players ‘groom’ you into doubting yourself and this undermines confidence. They may also throw in comments like, “You are lucky to have me, no one else will love you like I do” or “You on’t find someone else to love you”. Instead of bringing out the best in you, they chip away at your confidence to keep you feeling unworthy. As a result, you will be less likely to leave the relationship.

If you think you are experiencing mind games in your relationship, you probably are. Second guessing yourself is common in relationships where mind games are rife. Learn to recognise the types of mind games and don’t play the game.

Mandy X

The difference between operant and classical conditioning

 

conditioning

 

The difference between operant and classical conditioning

Both operant and classical conditioning are types of learning.Classical conditioning -involves learning, or becoming aware of, an association between stimuli (for example: sexual arousal when seeing lacy underwear) whereas operant conditioning involves learning with the help of a reward system to reinforce behaviour – for example, when I compliment my partner, they treat me nicely and smile. Both processes lead to learning and changes in behaviour.

Classical conditioning involves mostly involuntary processes whereas operant conditioning is voluntary.

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning was first described by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist who discovered he could modify an involuntary, automatic behavior by using a signal prior to a reflex. This was most notably demonstrated by Pavlov’s famous experiment. He noted the dogs began to salivate after hearing a bell tone when the sound had been repeatedly paired with food. Even when food was not present, the dogs would salivate. He concluded that it was a learned response. Classical conditioning takes a previously neutral stimulus, such as the bell, and pairs it with an unconditioned stimulus, such as the taste of food, and uses them to condition a desired response, such as the salivation.

The influence of classical conditioning can be seen in responses such as phobias, disgust, nausea, anger, and sexual arousal. A familiar example is conditioned nausea, in which the sight or smell of a particular food causes nausea because it caused stomach upset in the past. Similarly, when the sight of a dog has been associated with a memory of being bitten, the result may be a conditioned fear of dogs.

As an adaptive mechanism, conditioning helps shield an individual from harm or prepare them for important biological events, such as sexual activity. Thus, a stimulus that has occurred before sexual interaction comes to cause sexual arousal, which prepares the individual for sexual contact. For example, sexual arousal has been conditioned in human subjects by pairing a stimulus like a picture of a jar of pennies with views of an erotic film clip. Similar experiments involving blue gourami fish and domesticated quail have shown that such conditioning can increase the number of offspring. These results suggest that conditioning techniques might help to increase fertility rates in infertile individuals and endangered species.

Classical conditioning is used not only in therapeutic interventions, but in everyday life as well. Advertising executives, for example, are adept at applying the principles of associative learning. Think about the car commercials you have seen on television: many of them feature an attractive model. By associating the model with the car being advertised, you come to see the car as being desirable (Cialdini, 2008). You may be asking yourself, does this advertising technique actually work? According to Cialdini (2008), men who viewed a car commercial that included an attractive model later rated the car as being faster, more appealing, and better designed than did men who viewed an advertisement for the same car without the model.

Operant Conditioning

B.F. Skinner was the first psychologist to describe operant conditioning. It focuses on using either reinforcement or punishment to increase or decrease a behavior. This type of conditioning allows an association to form between the behavior and the consequences for that behavior. Animal trainers often use this form of conditioning during training. When the animal completes an action successfully, the trainer offers praise. If the animal does not perform the action requested, and then the trainer withholds the praise.

Classical and operant conditioning are fundamental concepts that help us to further understand the complex mental processes that make up how we learn.

Mandy X

References/Sources:

Source: Boundless. “Applications of Classical Conditioning to Human Behavior.” Boundless Psychology. Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 06 Sep. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/learning-7/classical-conditioning-46/applications-of-classical-conditioning-to-human-behavior-194-12729/

Emotional detachment disorder

 

emotional detachment disorder

Emotional detachment disorder

There are many causes of emotional detachment disorder and it manifests differently for everyone although there are core features:

Emotional detachment disorder often forms in response to some sort of severe emotional trauma. As children, we are in an unequal relationship with adults who are powerful. If there is any type of abuse going on, a child often can’t escape and has to learn mental techniques to cope with the emotional trauma. These coping strategies often include distancing or detaching from feeling anything. It’s almost as if there is a different compartment in the brain where a person can go to shut of the unbearable emotional pain. In its most severe from – multiple personality disorder can form.

The problem with learning to detach emotionally from emotional trauma is that when we are in healthy relationships, that mistrust stays and at the slightest hint of hurt or rejection, a person with emotional  detachment disorder will withdraw and become cold and unavailable for communication and sharing of feelings. This can interfere with healthy relationships.

Symptoms of detached personality disorder

  1. An inability to express emotions
  2. A lack of emotional intelligence – unable to show empathy towards others
  3. Regularly feeling numb
  4. Displaying little emotion especially when it is appropriate to do so
  5. An inability to identify one’s own emotions
  6. Thinking in an overly logical or rational way
  7. Unsuccessful relationships due to minimal connection on an emotional level
  8. Being able to switch emotions ‘off’ at will

Feeling emotions is normal and healthy. Someone who has learned to suppress their emotions will often develop unhealthy behaviours to compensate for this suppression – such as many encounter with others sexually in a very casual manner, fear of intimacy, drugs, alcohol, gambling or other forms of ‘escape’.

Counselling is an effective way to start identifying emotions and allowing yourself to feel again. Learning to feel emotions is scary but it makes life more exhilarating. It’s like being plugged back into the electricity – there will be highs and lows but you will feel alive again, instead of feeling you are just surviving and going through the motions.

Mandy X