10 Characteristics of Emotional Vampires.

By David Joel Miller.

Emotional vampires take your energy.

Emotional abuse

Emotional Vampires
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

There are those people who drain the energy of everyone around them. They can suck the happiness right out of a room. In the beginning you may think they are your friend or they are in need of help, maybe they are family. Over time you discover that they are feeding off your emotions and leaving you exhausted. Sometimes you ask yourself is it you? Or is it them? Others tell you that you are being emotionally abused.

Here are ten ways to spot an emotional vampire before they drain you of all feelings.

1. Their problems are always worse than yours.

You listen to them tell about their trials and tribulations all the time but should you ever face a difficult situation do not expect anything from an emotional vampire. No matter what difficulty you are having they have a story to top that. Every conversation turns to their troubles current and past. They have no interest in hearing about your problems because only their issues matter to them.

2. They take and never give.

You help them out because they need it. But let one time arise that you need a little help they will have a hundred excuses why they can’t. You may start to feel resentful when they ask you for something and then you question yourself. You should help out your friend’s right? But one day it dawns on you that they are never there when you need them. Emotional vampires take with no thought of giving back.

3. Nothing you do is ever good enough.

They can find fault with any and every gift they have ever been given. You try to please them and they point out your shortcomings. The gift is never good enough and the deed is never enough. Whatever you did for them you should have done more, done it faster and someone else does it better than you.

4. They can find a problem in good news.

Happiness destroyers can never see the positive in anyone or anything. Tell them that something good just happened and they will quickly tell you why this boon is nothing. They get a job and tell you that they know that it won’t last, the place is just trying to take advantage of them. You graduate from school and they will say with that degree you will never find a job. When they get a compliment they throw it back saying no one really appreciates them.

5. They make you walk on eggshells.

abusive person

Emotional Vampire Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

When you go to say something, you think first about how they will react. There are things you can’t talk about, people you better not mention and topics that are off-limits. When talking to an emotional blood sucker you worry about every word you might use being the one to set them off. You time with them is spent worrying about what you need to do and say to not upset them.

6. It is all about them.

Everything that happens, has happened or will ever happen is all about them. Every conversation turns to them and how it is always someone else’s fault they are miserable. Introduce a new topic of conversation it quickly turns back to their misery and their expectations that others will let them down. You need to constantly placate them and do for them and still it is not enough.

7. You are a tool to get them what they want – manipulation

Feel like you are constantly being manipulated? You probably are. Emotionally abusive people believe that if you spotted their game you would not play. Do you feel that this person never comes right out and asks for what they want but tries to use guilt and manipulation to get their needs meet? Are they feeding off your emotions to make themselves feel better?

8. They look for ways to hurt others.

Emotionally abusive people are bent on revenge. They have a list of enemies and expect you to be on their side in getting the revenge on that other. Emotional vampires will make you chose, them or the other. If you do not prefer them over everyone else you become an enemy also. For emotional vampires friends of their enemies are their enemies. Anything short of total loyalty to them is a reason for them to lash out at you.

9. Their life is full of drama and it sucks you in.

If you have family or friends who are always in the midst of drama you will find that this is not healthy for you. Each day in their life is another soap and they expect you to be their constant side kick in all this drama. Eventually you will come to feel that your life has followed theirs down the drama queen highway. Your own life is always in second place to their current crisis.

10. They always need to be right.

People who are emotionally needy find it impossible to ever be wrong. They will keep the argument going till you finally give in and agree that they are right. Even after you agree with them they will continue to insist on how they are right. Any contribution you make to the conversation will be dismissed and may be interpreted as yet another disagreement with their always correct position.

Have you had emotional vampires, emotionally needy and abusive people in your life? How have you protected yourself from them?

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Anxiety makes you sick in so many ways.

By David Joel Miller.

Lots of illness, is it anxiety telling you to be sick?

Stress causes illness

Anxiety makes you sick
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Many mental illnesses have very real physical symptoms. Those symptoms of depression and anxiety are not just in your head. Stress puts your body through some very debilitating changes. Having an anxiety disorder can look like a physical illness. If Anxiety goes on too long, those chemicals your nervous system is throwing out can lead to some long-term physical illnesses.

The mind body connection does not just work in one direction. Physical illnesses can cause emotional problems. Emotional problems unrecognized and untreated can contribute too many physical illnesses. If you have any of the following psychical problems check first with your doctor. If that doctor can’t find a physical cause, consider working with a mental health professional to reduce your stress or treat your anxiety and depression.

Getting mental health help does not mean you are “crazy” or are losing your mind. Not getting help is you cheating yourself out of something that could do you some good.

Because anxiety symptoms mimic physical health symptoms, when in doubt see your physician.

Anxiety causes sleep disturbances.

Being anxious interferes with your sleep and poor sleep contributes to physical illnesses. If you are lying awake at night turning problems over and over in your mind, a process called rumination, your anxiety is out of control and needs treatment.

Anxiety causes your mind to race.

Mind racing interferes with work and with relationships. You mind leaves on its own and there is no space in your head left for the things you need to be thinking about. Mind racing from anxiety is very different from the inattention in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or the impulsive thoughts in Bipolar Disorder. In anxiety disorders the racing mind is about what has happened and what might happen and how terrible it would be those things happen.

Anxiety leads to indecision.

Anxiety uses up so much of your brain that there is not much “computing capacity” left for other decisions. People who are high in anxiety find it hard to make decisions and remember everyday items. This leads some to question if they are developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.

With Anxiety you may find it hard to breath.

People with high levels of anxiety tend to breath from the upper chest, almost the throat area rather from way down deep near the diaphragm. The symptoms of this altered breathing are easy to recognize. They remind me of the dog that is out of breath and pants fast and shallow. Healthy breathing puts air in the bloodstream, anxious breathing, hyperventilating, leaves you worse off.

Anxiety leaves you light-headed.

That strange disoriented feeling, where you feel light-headed and out of things may be the result of excess anxiety. The changes in breathing describe above contribute to these feelings of light-headedness.

In “Anxiety Attacks” the heart races. Having sudden episodes of anxiety is common if you are in a dangerous situation or under stress. When these events get severe they get diagnosed as Panic Disorder, a recognized mental illness.

These feelings of chest palpitations result in people with anxiety symptoms ending up in the emergency room. The first few times the symptoms of a panic attack can resemble a heart attack. You need a doctor to check you out to be sure. People who have frequent panic attacks come to recognize the difference as they have been through this before. Unless you are sure, it is wise to get this checked out. One sure way to tell the difference is to try slow breathing and hold your breath of a few seconds between breaths. As the breaths slow down the symptoms should subside if this is a panic attack.

Anxiety prevents swallowing.

Anxiety can constrict your throat and make it hard to swallow. That feeling of choking that can happen before anything has entered your mouth likely is anxiety. Fear of something bad happening can create the same symptoms you feared.

Anxiety kicks in the flight mode.

High levels of anxiety prepare you to run, There may be trembling in the legs like a car revving up to take off. You may develop the restless feeling and want to run. Some people report jelly like legs. Sweating and shivering may also be caused by anxiety.

Anxiety disturbs your appetite.

Some experience this as a loss of appetite, others feel nauseous and unable to eat. You might also have feelings of wanting to throw up. All of these digestive interfering results of anxiety are the body’s ways of lightening the load and diverting blood from the stomach to prepare you to flee. If you really do need to run, all well and good. But if you, like many other people in modern life, have more anxiety than you need, these digestive irritations can do harm to your digestive system over time.

With all these health related symptoms there is a huge tendency for people to ask for, even demand, medication from their doctors. Anti-anxiety meds can be helpful in the short run but reducing the stress and anxiety provoking situations in your life coupled with other anxiety reducing techniques will work in the long run without the risk of becoming medication dependent. People who combine medication and counseling intervention seem to get past the anxiety faster.

Do any of these symptoms of anxiety affect you? Have you seen the doctor? Have you found other methods to control or reduce your anxiety?

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Unhelpful thoughts that are holding you back.

By David Joel Miller.

How many of these unhelpful thoughts are you holding onto?

Man walking on the moon

Reaching your goals-
Man Walking on the Moon
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Most people have a number of negative dysfunctional thoughts that get in the ways of having the happiest life possible. Some counselors call these thought patterns self-defeating thoughts or self-sabotaging.

Recently I have come to think of these thoughts as hugely unhelpful. Calling them unhelpful thoughts makes them easier to transform. If you have any of these unhelpful thoughts filling up your head and getting in the way of you being the person you want to be, if these kinds of thoughts are between you and your happy life, then now is the time to change these thoughts.

I should never make a mistake.

Do you think it is wrong to make a mistake? Making mistakes are a part of doing. The only way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing and that is a mistake. Cut yourself some slack and stop trying to be something you are not. No one is perfect. Accept this and let your best be good enough. Insisting on perfection keeps you stuck in mediocrity.

I am right and they are wrong.

This is sometimes called “right fighting.” Insisting on being right does not foster better communicator or move things along towards a resolution. It does not matter who is right. Rarely will continuing to insist that you are right make any difference. Let other people have their own opinions. Just because others may not agree with you should not diminish your view of yourself.

There is something missing in my life.

You have what you have. Continuing to focus on what is missing keeps you stuck. Really believe you need something then go out on a quest and find the missing element. What happens to so many people who spend their lives looking for that one missing element is that when they find it, it turns out the search was what they needed not the thing.

More money will fix what is wrong.

Money helps sometimes. More money creates more options. But most of life’s really major problems can’t be solved by money alone. If you put off action thinking that only money will make a difference you will miss out on a lot of other possibilities in life. Having money rarely happens all at once. People who have true wealth build it a little at a time over the long haul. Invest in yourself and the rest will follow.

Others need to change before I can.

Making others change is really hard. Most of the time you will not be able to make them change. If your reaching your goals requires others to change you are out of luck. The best way to create change in others is to change yourself first and then see how that puts others in a position to change in response.

My problems are someone else’s fault.

People can ease your path or make it more difficult. Continuing to blame others keeps you stuck in the past and in the problem. While others may have contributed to where you are, for good or bad, you are the one deciding whether to stay stuck in the past or move forward in the present.

Accepting that you are responsible for your choices and taking back your power over your future is on the path to recovery. Want to get unstuck? Start making your own choices. Stop looking over your shoulder at what others did to you in the past and start to look forward to what you will do for you in the future.

Things should not be this way.

The world is as it is. Energy focused on the problem is energy diverted from the solution. Dwelling on all the things that are wrong and insisting that things be the way you wish them to be will not change them.

Don’t like the way things are? Go about making changes. Start by changing you and then work on being of service to those around you.

I must have someone to love me.

To attract love into your life you need to be someone who loves themselves. Work on being the best you possible. Be your own best friend. Do kind loving things for you and those around you.

A partner can’t overcome the things you do not like about yourself.

 Other people must like me.

No one is ever liked by everyone. The more people do the more others will criticize them. Do what is right. Do what pleases you. You cannot please everyone all the time. If you please one person you may displease others. Focus too much on pleasing others and you will lose yourself.

I need to prepare before I can do something.

You are always doing what you are doing. You will not start out being perfect. Life is about growth and learning. Becoming good at anything requires practice. If you never begin because you are waiting to be fully prepared you will never get started.

My past controls my future.

Your past may have made you who you are but what you do now will make you who you will become. Every moment of every day we have choices. Some are small choices and some are larger. Those small choices can up to large changes over time.

Which of these unhelpful thoughts are holding you back? Which will you begin to change today?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Are you successful?

By David Joel Miller.

What is success and how would you know if you were successful?

Successful children

Being Successful
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Success is a slippery thing to catch hold of. When you say successful, most people think first of how much money someone makes. Money and success are not synonymous. Think about all those famous people, actors and musicians, that had the fame and the money but their life still ended up a disaster.

A few readers have responded to some past counselorssoapbox.com posts about success by telling me they did not care about being success because they were not all about money. In my thinking money and success are not the same thing, but for some people the thinking link between these two ideas is so strong they equate pursuing a goal other than money as not wanting to be “successful.” Some folks just can’t imagine being successful without having a pile of money. That seems sad to me.

People who live a good life, they are successful in my book. People who only have money and fame, eventually that goes away. It may come as a surprise to those who say they are not about money, that people who live a good life and have a proper relationship with money do not have to live in poverty to be a good person.

Successes is about achieving your potential. It is the result of being the best possible you rather than having the most other stuff.

Below are some ways to tell if you are living a successful life that is not dependent on how much you have in the bank or how many followers you have. Living a life of purpose and fulfilment is the best form of successes to my way of thinking.

How many of these ways are you successful?

You have good social skills – you get along with people

Highly successful people are able to get along with others. They enjoy diverse people and can interact with others regardless of that other persons characteristics. Really successful people treat others well and do not need to feel better than others to feel ok about themselves.

You look forward to your day

If you hate what you are doing and dread going to work, you may have piles of money, but your life is a failure. If you love what you do and look forward to each new day you are living a life of purpose. People who hate what they do each day eventually find that no amount of money is worth giving up their precious time. Ultimately they quit that job or their mind makes them ill to protect them from doing that unpleasant task.

You have a future

The successful life is headed towards something, not lugging a load of things after you. Today should not be the end of everything. If you find you think that nothing in your life will ever get better, that life is just something you have to endure, then you are in no way a success.

You value learning

People who love learning can find something new to learn every day. When learning is a chore, a drudgery that you do only because you have to, your world grows smaller and less joyous. Money does not compensate you for an unhappy life. A jubilant life is a great reward in and of itself. People who live a satisfying life are a pleasure to be around and they attract others of like mind to them.

You treat people well

People who feel good about themselves do not need to treat others poorly. One sign that you feel like a success is the way you treat others. If you need to put others down and act rudely that says a lot about how you feel about yourself. You may be able to buy compliance with fear or money but to truly have others care about you takes more, it takes treating others the way you would want to be treated and then some.

You help others – being of service

People who are successful think from a place of abundance. They have enough and they can afford to part with some. People who are stingy and selfish think that anything they part with diminishes them.

You are truly successful when you think of what you can do for others to be of service.

Setbacks do not end your progress

Every road has bumps, some larger than others. If a single set back throws you off course your success is not very secure. Highly successful people have failures and setbacks. Those obstacles do not define them. They are successful because they believe they are. For them success is the opportunity to pursue their dreams not the number of dollars they get paid for the things they did.

You have learned to control yourself

A rich person with no control can make a failure of themselves in short order. If you have learned self-control, some portion of it anyway, you can count that you have made some progress on your journey to being a successful person.

You keep improving

Success is about using your gifts and developing your talents to become a better you. No amount of having should get in the way of your journey to being the person you would like to be.

There is something you care about

A life of passion is a successful life. If you care about something you can commit to it and that gives your life meaning. How much money you will leave behind to others who only care about you for the dollars does not impart any meaning to a life.

The great deeds of heroes and average people are fuelled by deeps passions for the things that mattered most to them.

You have learned to wait for the good things – patience

Patience is not only a virtue it is the reward of a successful life. When you have the peace of mind to be able to wait for things you are in place of having what you need rather than chasing the wants of life.

You believe in yourself

If you need more of anything to feel you are acceptable you have not reached your fulfilment. Believing in yourself is a clear reflection that you are living your life in a fruitful way.

You do not need others approval to feel good about yourself your past is not controlling your present. Self-esteem is not about what you have it is about who you are.

You are able to freely make choices

Indecision is the opposite of a successful life. People who feel good about where they are can easily make choices. If you need others approval so much you bend your choices to please them you have not become all you might be.

You are able to accept help

Successful people know that everyone has the ability to make a contribution and they can easily accept help from others. If you feel the need to do everything yourself then you do not yet feel successful.

You spend your time on things that matter to you

If you are so short on time that it all needs to be spent on things and on pleasing others you are still poor in emotional terms. When you have the time to pursue things that matter to you then you have reached success regardless of the number of dollars in your bank account.

You see the good not the bad in people and situations.

The failure sees failure everywhere they look. For them the world is a dark and gloomy place. Successful people can see the good in others and the possibilities in life.

How many of these traits of a successful life have you cultivated?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is the difference between Melancholy and Atypical Depression?

By David Joel Miller.

How are Melancholy depression, atypical depression and major depressive disorder related?

Pain, Anxiety, Depression, Stress

Pain, Anxiety, Depression, Stress
Photo courtesy of Flickr (marsmet481)

When you read around on the internet, and in some books on the subject also, you will find a lot of different names for depression. Some of these are understood as separate disorders because in doing research or in the way these disorders affect clients they look like different but related conditions. Some of these terms are primarily descriptors, technically descriptors, for the most significant feature of the depression. Some of the terms you will read about elsewhere are more descriptions of the thing that may have caused or be causing the depression.

Someday we may be able to run precise test, brain scan or blood test and identify specific forms of depression. There has been a lot of promising research in this field and some huge claims about ability to diagnose mental disorders by this or that test, but as of now most diagnosing is done by asking the patent questions, counting up symptoms and then if you have enough symptoms you get a disorder with a particular name.

Melancholy depression or atypical depression.

Melancholy depression and atypical depression are two “Specifiers” used to group cases of Major Depressive Disorder with similar features together for ease of reference. In the newer diagnostic book (DSM-5) there are 9 specifiers. These specifiers are somewhat changed from the older DSM-4 system. What follows is my over simplified explanation, for the full text of the description you would need to look at the APA book DSM-5.

What is Melancholy Depression?

Almost total loss of pleasure. Stuff that used to make you happy now just does not interest you. If you are too depressed to think about sex or a hobby you used to love, chances are you have melancholic depression.

With Melancholic depression nothing is likely to snap you out of it. You see a show that others say is funny but you can’t enjoy it and laughter is just too much work. If something good happens, it does not make you feel good even for a little while.

People with Melancholic depression have a noticeable down mood. They are despondent, hopeless or in despair. People with this form of major depression wake up way early and their depression is worse in the morning. They have changes in appetite and feel guilty.

This is the kind of depression that made its way into novels in the last century and may still be seen on soap operas. These literary efforts make this look like it is someone being dramatic or over acting. In the clinic this is a real enough disorder and people with this condition are not faking it for attention.

Depression with atypical features specifier.

With atypical features the depressed person can snap out of it a little for a while if something really good happens. They laugh at a joke, some of the time. Trouble is that the happy feeling is fleeting and disappears before they realize they just smiled.

With atypical features the person has significant weight gain and or increased appetite. They are always tired and drag around. With this type of major depression the image that should come to mind is a bear hibernating for the winter. They eat everything in sight and then sleep for hours. Upon waking they are too tired to walk around and after eating they return to sleep.

People with atypical features to their depression customarily have had a long-term pattern of feeling rejected. They are very sensitive to any hint of rejection, judgment or criticism and this often interferes with personal relationships, job, school or any other activity that involves getting along with others.

With Seasonal pattern depression specifiers.

Another specifier would be added if this person had the depression only at one particular time of year or at a transition between seasons. This requires the change of weather or seasons to be the trigger for the depression. If you work a summer or winter job and get laid off each year that is not seasonal depression. We know what caused it and the weather need not get blamed.

This type of depression is often called winter blues or it used to be called seasonal affective disorder before we split bipolar and depression into two very different groups of disorders.

Peripartum onset specific for depression.

The name of this specifier was changed and I think for good reason. This is the “thing” that used to get called postpartum depression. Turns out that lots of times this started out in the middle of the pregnancy. Starting before the birth of the baby is a bad sign as often this results in a more severe depressive episode.

Women who had postpartum depression now called Major depressive disorder with Peripartum onset, found that with each succeeding pregnancy the depression gets worse.

With psychotic features turns into two specifiers.

What used to be major depressive disorder with psychotic features has been subdivided into two specifiers. One is Mood congruent psychotic features and the other is mood incongruent psychotic features.

Catatonia.

This is that condition where a person stands frozen like a stature. It can be diagnosed separately without any depression but occasionally it appears as a specific type or specific for major depressive disorder.

This is a quick, abbreviated, run down on some features of Major Depressive Disorder. If you or anyone you know has these symptoms seek professional help. Getting help is not giving in to your illness. Getting help early can keep depression from getting far worse and ruining your relationships, job or your happy life.

For more posts on depression:

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Are you catching a mental illness?

By David Joel Miller.

How would you know if you were becoming mentally or emotionally sick?

Mental Health or Mental Illness

Mental Health or Mental Illness?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Some mornings I wake up a little out of sorts. Maybe a cough, maybe a headache or just a general feeling of tiredness. Am I getting a cold or flu or is this just a difficult morning? This is the allergy season, or maybe it is the cold and flu season, am I coming down with something? I hope not.

There is this morning routine, for me it is mostly the same each day. Hit the bathroom, comb my teeth and brush my hair, no wait, that should be the other way around. Maybe just brush them both. Then I take my vitamins and an allergy pill and hope the headache or other symptoms will go away. Blowing my nose, that might help also. You get the idea of my routine? Lastly I feed and water my cat and slow down long enough to pet her a few times.

But if, after a while, I am not feeling better, say after my morning coffee and some light breakfast. Now I am thinking maybe I am getting sick. If by mid-day I am still coughing sneezing and feeling tired something is surely wrong.

What would happen if I were developing a mental or emotional disorder? Would I know? Do you?

This does not mean that you could catch a mental illness from someone the way you might catch a cold. We know of no germ that will get you mentally ill. Hanging out with someone who has schizophrenia will not give it to you. Being around someone with Bipolar disorder will not make you Bipolar. Being “stressed out” or living an unhealthy lifestyle, that may put you at added risk to develop a mental illness however.

We believe that there are things that you might do to wear your body out and increase your risk of a physical illness, staying up to late, not enough sleep, poor diet and being in unhealthy surroundings all increase your risk of getting a cold. Taking good care of your physical body will reduce your risk of physical illnesses. But you might do everything right and still catch a cold. Same thing is true of depression, anxiety, stress related disorders and a lot of other emotional and mental illnesses.

If I am sneezing, coughing, have headaches and so on I am thinking cold. There are certain signs and symptoms that should make me think maybe I am developing an emotional problem. Remember my daily routine above? The last thing I do before I start my day is feed, water and pet the cat. If I forget to do this, or just do not feel like doing it one morning, this is, for me, a sign that I am not mentally at my best.

These signs and symptoms are different for everyone. How would you know if you are having a good day? How would you know if you are having a bad day?

Being a professionally trained person I know and could rattle off the symptoms if a number of mental disorders. For me they are relatively easy to spot during an initial assessment interview. But let them happen to me personally and I may not notice these signs till it is way too late. Remember that mental health professionals are not immune to stress, anxiety and depression. We should know tools to work on those things if they ever happen to us, but most professionals like other people don’t always spot those instances in ourselves until someone else notices them.

One thing that is very helpful is to take a look at your life, daily and maybe in longer increments. What do you do when feeling emotionally at your best and what are you like when you are getting less well?

By knowing what you are like on a good day and then what you are like when things are headed in the wrong direction you are in a better position to do something about those off days before they become stretches of mental illnesses.

If you want more information on this topic, how to get and stay mentally well. Take a look at the works of Mary Ellen Copeland. Her WRAP (Wellness and Recovery Action Planning) program includes lots of material on this and many other areas of life.

WRAP has come from the consumer movement. People who have had a diagnosed mental illness and have recovered. People who have been brave enough to talk about their recovery. This information has influenced the direction of professional treatment. Professionals like Kay Redfield-Jamison who have openly talked about having a mental illness have also impacted the view we take of treatment for mental illnesses.

There was a time when professionals thought that once you had a mental illness, that was it, your life now needed to be turned over to others to control. We know now that throughout the lifespan people can become less well or they can become more well and that there is this thing that we now call the wellness and recovery continuum.

My suggestion to those of you who have read this far is to educate yourself about mental health and wellness and see if there aren’t things you can do to improve your mental health no matter where you may be on that wellness and recovery continuum.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books