Tag Archives: depression

Is my thinking normal?

 

person thinking photo

Is my thinking normal?

This is a question we all ask ourselves at times. I know I have had moments where I have questioned my sanity and wondered if I have completely lost the plot. This is usually as a result of some overwhelming emotional experience. I find when emotions are involved, my thoughts tend to be far less rational.

If you would like to test out your thoughts, try the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale:

This questionnaire lists different attitudes or beliefs which people sometimes hold. Read each statement carefully and decide how much you agree or disagree with the statement. For each of the attitudes, indicate to the left of the item the number that best describes how you think. Be sure to choose only one answer for each attitude. Because people are different, there is no right answer or wrong answer to these statements.

To decide whether a given attitude is typical of your way of looking at things, simply keep in mind what you are like most of the time.

1 = Totally agree 2 = Agree very much 3 = Agree slightly 4 = Neutral 5 = Disagree slightly 6 = Disagree very much 7 = Totally disagree _____

1. It is difficult to be happy unless one is good looking, intelligent, rich, and creative. _____

2. Happiness is more a matter of my attitude towards myself than the way other people feel about me. _____

3. People will probably think less of me if I make a mistake. _____

4. If I do not do well all the time, people will not respect me. _____

5. Taking even a small risk is foolish because the loss is likely to be a disaster. _____

6. It is possible to gain another person’s respect without being especially talented at anything. _____

7. I cannot be happy unless most people I know admire me. _____

8. If a person asks for help, it is a sign of weakness. _____

9. If I do not do as well as other people, it means I am a weak person. _____

10. If I fail at my work, then I am a failure as a person. _____

11. If you cannot do something well, there is little point in doing it at all. _____

12. Making mistakes is fine because I can learn from them. _____

13. If someone disagrees with me, it probably indicates he does not like me. _____

14. If I fail partly, it is as bad as being a complete failure. _____

15. If other people know what you are really like, they will think less of you. _____

16. I am nothing if a person I love doesn’t love me. _____

17. One can get pleasure from an activity regardless of the end result _____

18. People should have a chance to succeed before doing anything. Revised date (4 October 2006) 56 _____

19. My value as a person depends greatly on what others think of me. _____

20. If I don’t set the highest standards for myself, I am likely to end up a second-rate person. _____

21. If I am to be a worthwhile person, I must be the best in at least one way. _____

22. People who have good ideas are better than those who do not. _____

23. I should be upset if I make a mistake. _____

24. My own opinions of myself are more important than others’ opinions of me. _____

25. To be a good, moral, worthwhile person I must help everyone who needs it. _____

26. If I ask a question, it makes me look stupid. _____

27. It is awful to be put down by people important to you. _____

28. If you don’t have other people to lean on, you are going to be sad. _____

29. I can reach important goals without pushing myself. _____

30. It is possible for a person to be scolded and not get upset. _____

31. I cannot trust other people because they might be cruel to me. _____

32. If others dislike you, you cannot be happy. _____

33. It is best to give up your own interests in order to please other people. _____

34. My happiness depends more on other people than it does on me. _____

35. I do not need the approval of other people in order to be happy. _____

36. If a person avoids problems, the problems tend to go away. _____

37. I can be happy even if I miss out on many of the good things in life. _____

38. What other people think about me is very important. _____

39. Being alone leads to unhappiness. _____

40. I can find happiness without being loved by another person._______

Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (DAS)    Author: Arlene Weissman

The DAS is a 40-item questionnaire that is designed to identify and measure cognitive distortions (irrational thinking), particularly distortions that may relate to or cause depression.

The items contained on the DAS are based on Beck’s cognitive therapy model and present 7 major value systems: Approval, Love, Achievement, Perfectionism, Entitlement, Omnipotence, and Autonomy.

Scoring: Any items that are missing, assign a zero. To obtain the overall score, simply add the score on all items (ranging from 1 to 7). When no items are omitted, scores on the DAS range from 40 to 280. Lower scores represent more adaptive beliefs and fewer cognitive distortions.

The higher your score, the more likely it is that your thinking is working against you and creating anxiety and depression. Be more aware of your thoughts and get into the habit of challenging their validity. Not every thought we think is true or is valid.

Mandy X

 

 

 

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

 

intrusive thoughts

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

We all have ‘noise’ going on in our minds. Odd thoughts pop into our minds that surprise us but usually we never act on them. Many of my clients don’t realise that intrusive thoughts happen to all of us. The trick is to realise that thoughts will always keep coming. Learning to filter your thoughts and not pay each thought equal attention is the key to a more contented life. When we focus on the negative thoughts, it can often lead to anxiety and/or depression.

Optimists are very good at buffering themselves from their negative thinking, they are just somehow good at placing less importance on negative self critical thoughts and spend more mental energy on the positive hopeful thoughts.

Imagine that you are a bus driver and you need to drive your bus from A to Destination B. On your bus you have a few intrusive difficult passengers who keep yelling, “What if we get lost?”; “You can’t drive a bus, you’re pathetic!”; “What if we get a flat tyre?”; “What if we have an accident?” or “You’ll never be able to do it”.

What would happen if you listened to these passengers? It would certainly make the task a lot harder and would probably distract you or lead you to avoiding driving the bus altogether.

Our intrusive thoughts are like these passengers on the bus – they can be ignored. If we pay attention to them they distract us and affect our confidence and our behaviour. Learning to focus our attention only on thoughts that are helpful is a skill that takes practise but we are all capable of doing it.

At times, we have to distract ourselves completely in order to stop the thoughts. One clever technique is to practise mindfulness which means being fully present in the moment. To help bring you back to the present moment rather than engaging with mad thoughts in our minds – try this technique:

  1. Look for 5 things you can see around you
  2. Listen our for 4 things you can hear
  3. Three things you can touch
  4. Two things you can smell
  5. One thing you can taste

It’s possible that not all the above will be possible depending on where you are, but engaging as many of your senses as you can leaves your brain with less space for mindless thoughts.

Thoughts are not facts – they are just part of how your brain works. Learn to ignore the thoughts that are unhelpful. Look for evidence of your thinking to ensure you are not assuming or mind reading (imagining you know what other’s are thinking), overgeneralising, catastrophising (thinking about the worse possible scenario) or personalising (eg. assuming someone isn’t talking to you because of something you have done – it could be that they slept badly or have a worry completely unrelated to you that has made them seem unfriendly). All of the above examples are not evidence based yet cause us stress.

Learn to be discerning with your thoughts – many of them are just complete nonsense!

Mandy X

 

How to manage negative thoughts

negative thinking photoPhoto by martinak15

 

How to manage negative thoughts

We have somewhere between 40 000 and 60 000 thoughts every day so it pays to be selective about the thoughts you decide to focus on.  In general, I have found that most of my clients tend to worry more when they have spare time. Rumination is the tendency to over think things without finding a solution. It is wasted energy and only serves as mental torture.

The best way to deal with negative thoughts is to remind yourself that thoughts are NOT facts. They are merely a representation of reality and are formed according to your existing ‘filters’ and experiences. This means they can often be distorted and unhelpful – creating anxiety and distress unnecessarily. Have you ever worried about something only to find out that you had made assumptions and all your worry was for nothing? Remember that there is ALWAYS another way to look at an event. Watch what you tell yourself and how you interpret things.

Thoughts affect emotions which in turn affect how we behave. THINK – FEEL – BEHAVE. This is the bottom line of cognitive behavioural therapy. Watch your thinking, challenge your negative thinking and immediately improve your quality of life.

We can all ‘catastrophise’ initially and think the worst. For example, I have had days when I have eaten junk all day and then had the thought “I am never going to be healthy, I may as well just give up”. This thought led me to feeling pretty low and annoyed at myself. I could also choose to think “I may have been undisciplined today but tomorrow I can start again”. The same event and two different thoughts which will in turn lead to two different emotions….the first negative thought will lead to negative emotions whereas the second thought will lead me to feeling more hopeful and optimistic. Watch what you feed yourself – I call it my ‘mental diet’ and I constantly work at talking to myself in an empowering way.

Ask yourself what you might tell a friend to help you think up another way to look at something.

Remind yourself that “this too shall pass”. One good thing about life is that there will always be change and although change isn’t always welcome, at times it can really be a good thing.

Accept that negative and intrusive thoughts are part of life. They will keep coming but you can train yourself to let the thoughts pass without really giving them attention. Distract yourself if necessary…another thought will soon be coming along.

Learn to choose the thoughts that work for you and empower you. You can choose your thoughts and beliefs.

Don’t compare yourself to others as you never truly know what is going on, Instead focus on yourself, your strengths and your goals.

If you find it really hard not to worry, schedule yourself some ‘worry time’, say half an hour in the evening and then don’t allow yourself to worry until then. Make sure that when worry time comes around, you do your best to be resolution focused rather than allowing your scary thoughts to ‘bully’ and scare you. Fear paralyses us and often there is no need for the fear in the first place.

Think of these three options: Change, accept or let go.

Decide on a plan of action and do it. Try not to allow thought to just keep running through your mind over and over. The more you worry, the more you lose time to be content and at peace.

Keeping negative thinking in check takes practise and the job will never be perfect but I work at it every day and I have definitely improved my happiness levels and ability to cope over time…a work in progress and you can do it too.

Mandy X

 

Depression in teenagers

 

depressed teen

Depression in teenagers

Depression in teenagers is a growing problem. Teenagers face increasing pressure to achieve, perform and cope with a variety of stressors. There is academic pressure to achieve against an extremely competitive backdrop. Teenagers are also going through huge developmental and hormonal changes that can lead to insecurity, low self esteem and extreme self consciousness. Social anxiety in teenagers is on the rise and bullying can now follow teenagers into the previously relied-upon sanctity of the home. Nowhere seems safe anymore.

Symptoms of depression in teenagers

Lack of enthusiasm and/or motivation

Social withdrawal

Decreased pleasure in activities or hobbies they used to enjoy

Changes in appetite (eating more or less)

Changes in sleep patterns

Irritability or anger

Restlessness

Poor school performance

Is it depression or ‘usual’ growing pains?

Teenagers all go through tricky phases, such is life for all of us but when symptoms persist for a few months, it may be time to delve deeper.

What to do:

Don’t ignore the problem. Gently talk to your teenager and try to find out how they are feeling. It’s is also important to establish whether they have ever thought about suicide.Try not to lecture or judge, rather listen and encourage – be supportive even when at times this can be hard. As parents, we all have expectations of our children and when they fail to manifest, we can become irritated at their perceived lack of drive.

Encourage socialisation. Withdrawal and hiding away only adds to depression. Being involved in activities and getting out of the house, even for a brief walk can have a positive effect on mood and behaviour.

Seek professional help if your teenager seems unable to help themselves get out of their funk. CBT can be useful and this can also be supplemented with antidepressants after a careful assessment by a doctor.

There is always hope and with the right input, all teenagers have the capacity to improve.

Mandy X

Helpline:  The Samaritans:  CALL  116 123 (UK)

http://www.samaritans.org/

I want to die

 

suicid

I want to die

Thankfully I don’t hear the words “I want to die” often but they are very worrying words when they are uttered. Those that think people who commit suicide are selfish don’t truly understand the torment and anguish of those who feel so hopeless that suicide seems to be the only way out.

When someone is suicidal, they aren’t thinking clearly. Emotions are extremely powerful and can reduce a logical rational person to a complete wreck. Emotions tend to win the argument every time. Ever reacted to something strongly, only to feel embarrassed a while later once you have calmed down? That’s your emotions taking control. Ever been in love and made a fool of yourself trying to win back an old flame? Yep – emotions yet again.

Suicidal people are so overwhelmed by negative emotions that are so unbearable that all they can think about is getting rid of the pain. There is no room for logical sane thinking in this process.

When someone says they want to die, take it seriously, even if it is a cry for attention, either way the victim is crying out for help.

Mandy X

 

Managing Type A behaviour

 

calm person

Woman with eyes closed sitting in meadow.

Managing Type A behaviour

10 steps to manage type A behaviour:

Modern society has changed over the last two decades. The pace has increased and so has stress-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease and strokes. We all have different temperaments but for some, life is a constant rush and this can seem normal when in fact it isn’t. The style of behaviour often has its roots in the early childhood whether need to achieve and be successful is instilled from an early age. Type a behaviour is associated with heart disease, allergies stomach ulcers and an exaggerated response of the sympathetic nervous system to stress (fight or flight response) and poor levels of mental health (anxiety and depression). Type A behaviour also seems to be linked with high levels of success in career and financial terms.

1) Slow down

Become more aware of how time focused your lifestyle is and make an effort to slow down. Deliberately eat slower and tried to do one thing at a time. The more present in the moment rather than living your life in your head, worrying about the future. It really is a case of taking the time to “smell the roses”.

2) Take breaks

Built stress free ‘breathing spaces’ into your daily and weekly routine. Use these spaces to focus on relaxation. This could be a five minute period where you carry out a muscle relaxation exercise or breathing exercise (slow deep breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth). You could also use this time to take a walk in the park or read a newspaper. And regular holidays and if possible get away to a different environment.

3) Commit yourself to hobbies

As part of an effort to broaden yourself and reduce obsessional time focused behaviour, it is A good idea to develop activities and hobbies such as sailing, gardening, sewing or walking. Try to engage in uncompetitive trivial activities just. This helps the brain to be more balanced and open to new things.

4) Express feelings

Try to adopt a more positive approach to expressing yourself and how you feel. Take time to think others and show appreciation and get into the habit of identifying the emotions you feel on a daily basis. Our emotions are messages that we need to listen to. Emotions are like our internal compass letting us know whether we are on the right path. Expressing emotions to others helps us to feel connected and brings true contentment, more so than achievement or possessions.

5) Practise listening

Search out somebody who talks slowly and deliberately. Have a slow conversation. Try to hold back from making yourself the centre of attention. Ask yourself ‘do I really have anything important to say?’

6) Forget time

Give yourself breaks where you remove your watch try to lose your sense of time. Break the habit of always being punctual, deliberately miss a few deadlines alternate from meeting five minutes late. This may seem odd advice but working against your usual patterns of behaviour is a good way to mentally reverse ingrained habits. The less time focused and more ‘experience focused’.

7) Manage your hostility

Identify the triggers-keep a diary. It is essential to challenge your rigid thinking. Be especially careful of the words “must, should and ought”. Loosen up those thoughts, use ‘it would be nice if’ instead of ‘should’. Occasionally to say to yourself “it doesn’t matter”. Get into the habits of challenging the thinking that puts you under pressure.

8) Learn to relax

Learn a relaxation technique and try to practice once a day -whether this is some form of meditation or yoga or just practising being in the moment, learning to quieten our minds is a valuable skill.

9) Have a chat

Make a point of chatting or engaging in conversation that has no specific purpose. Slow down and try to be less task orientated. Learn to idle the time away. Try to laugh or make somebody.

10) Understand the reasons

Take time out to assess the cause of your type a behaviour. Did your parents approval depend on how successful or achieving you were as a child? Ask yourself, “what am I trying to prove?” Does your idealism and striving improve or diminish the quality of your life?

Research indicates that, with the right intervention, people can manage their type A behaviour effectively thereby reducing the risks of physical and mental health without impairing their performance.

Mandy X

Don’t despair

 

despair

Don’t despair

Life can certainly get on top of us all at times. I know I get days when I feel like nothing is going right and everything is awful. That’s normal and it’s a horrid place to be. The trick is to give yourself a time limit. Self pity and wallowing is fine, even necessary, but after 2-3 days it’s time to take hold of your wayward thoughts and focus on climbing back out of that depressed hole you have dug for yourself.

Yep, sometimes life sucks and it can truly feel as if you are completely alone in what you are going through but you can take solace in the fact that we all get those times. We are all just good at hiding it from each other. It’s okay to feel like you have had enough. Despite all my psychological training I have not found a way to prevent life from getting to me at times.

We can easily go off track and begin to focus on everything that isn’t working and give in to our insecurities. Remind yourself that it is just a frame of mind, not necessarily the reality. You may feel that you aren’t loved or that you are unimportant but more often than not, the reality is not that way at all. It is our thinking that needs adjusting.

Write a list of all the good things you have in your life. Write a list of all your good qualities – what do you like about yourself? These can be physical attributes or personality characteristics.

At times, it’s not about having what you want ‘its about wanting what you have. Focusing on what you don’t have or looking at your perceived lack is never going to help you to feel better. Do what will work – force yourself to think about what is going right for you, no matter how small and build on these small successes.

Also – force yourself to DO more. Even a small thing like walking the dog when you don’t feel like it or getting out of bed one hour earlier. DO it – be strong. Talk to the strong part of you and take back control. You are in control of your life, not your thoughts.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are wonderful..you are amazing…believe this at all costs. Mandy X

positive affirmations