Do you worry too much?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man worrying,

Do you worry too much?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Not everyone means the same thing when they say they worry.

Pretty much everyone “worries” at one time or another. When some people say worry, they mean they are concerned about something. People worry about having enough money for retirement, and that may motivate them to save more. It’s reasonable to be concerned and take action if you don’t have money or a job. People who are high in anxiety may worry unreasonably about everything. If you worry repetitively, and you worry about things that have a low probability of happening, you may be suffering from a serious mental illness called Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Worry means more than just being concerned about something.

Dictionary definitions for the word worry include to give way to anxiety or unease, to dwell on one’s difficulties or troubles, a state of anxiety or uncertainty about one’s troubles, either actual or potential. Problematic worry involves worrying excessively about your problems rather than taking action to solve them or spending a great deal of time thinking about possible problems in the future even when the chances that will come to pass are very small. Ruminating about the future can make you more anxious and results in mental health problems.

Some worry is normal.

Doubts, worries, and anxieties are normal. Being concerned about something, having a real worry or anxiety, should motivate you to take action to prepare for possible negative outcomes. Buying insurance is one way of reducing your worries.

Worry and Anxiety can become your friends or your enemies.

How worry and anxiety affect you depends on your stress mindset. We all experience some stress before a novel experience. Going for a job interview, giving a speech, and athletic competition, taking a test, or a first date, can all be stressful. Some people interpret the butterflies in their stomach as excitement and the second themselves up to do better. Other people become so anxious they avoid these kinds of situations.

How can you tell if you’re worrying too much?

Constant or excessive worry takes its toll on your physical and emotional health. Worry can interfere with your sleep and your ability to relax. If you’re not able to rest up between episodes of stress, you’re at high risk of developing burnout. Uncontrolled excessive worry can leave you unable to cope with life.

One sign of excessive worry is having constant negative, unhelpful thoughts. If worry becomes persistent, you’re worrying too much. People with uncontrolled worry begin to worry about every possible what-if.

Using drugs and alcohol to treat worry makes it worse.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that alcohol or drugs can help you cope with worry and anxiety. Unfortunately, substances only work for a very short time. Once the alcohol wears off you will experience rebound anxiety, which will be stronger than before. Using substances may help you forget about your worries temporarily, but they will interfere with your ability to take action to solve those problems.

Unexplained physical ailments are a sign your worry is out of control.

Worry leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to a host of physical ailments. Excessive worry is a common cause of tension headaches. Worry can also lead to gastrointestinal difficulties, both constipation, and diarrhea. Worry increases the stress hormones in your bloodstream. If you’re in real physical danger and need to run for your life those stress hormones can be useful. But if your worry is creating those stress hormones, you’re going to feel it everywhere in your body.

People worry excessively are more likely to experience muscle aches and pains even when they haven’t used those muscles. Worry can also impair your concentration leading to poor performance at school or work. Worry leads to irritability, which can damage your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.

You can learn to control your worrying.

Somehow you learn to worry, and you learn to stop worrying so much. Changing the way you think about worry, and eliminating unhelpful thoughts will reduce your worry. If worry is impairing your happiness or making you sick you may want to work with a counselor who can teach you techniques to reduce unnecessary worries.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Are unhelpful thoughts causing you problems?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Woman thinking

Unhelpful Negative Thoughts.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What are unhelpful thoughts?

Unhelpful thoughts are part of some people’s self-talk. What you tell yourself often enough becomes automatic thoughts. Becoming aware of the negative messages you’re giving your brain and challenging those messages is a part of the process of change that we call Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

In the early days of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT,) researchers and theoreticians noticed a connection between the kind of automatic thoughts or self-talk that some people engaged in and the development of severe mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety. Originally these kinds of thoughts were described as irrational thoughts or dysfunctional thoughts. Those labels seem to me to be judgmental. Recently I’ve noticed therapists using the term unhelpful thoughts, and I believe that’s a much better way to describe these automatic thoughts.

Most of these unhelpful thoughts are the result of one or more informal logical fallacies. When you think unhelpful thoughts, they seem true to you, but when an outside observer looks at the evidence, these unhelpful thoughts don’t hold up. These categories of unhelpful thoughts may be called by different names, but here is my version.

All-or-nothing thinking is unhelpful.

This unhelpful thought involves looking at things in black-or-white or yes-or-no categories. For the person with all-or-nothing thinking, there is no middle ground. They tell themselves, “I must be perfect, or I’m a failure.” This type of thinking has led to an increase in depression and even suicide attempts at some of the prestigious colleges where students fall into the trap of believing there only two grades and A or a Not-A. This is a form of perfectionism in which one flaw makes the person worthless. While striving for self-improvement is worthwhile, believing that you must be perfect or you’re no good, will undermine your self-esteem and lead to depression.

Overgeneralization from a negative experience is an unhelpful thought.

This unhelpful thought involves the belief that one negative experience predicts the future. The person tells themselves, “I didn’t get hired for this job. I’ll never get any job.” If you get turned down for a date, you tell yourself no one will ever like me, and I will be alone the left rest of my life.

Having a negative mental filter creates unhelpful thoughts.

Someone with a negative mental filter never sees their accomplishments but only their mistakes. The student who gets one question wrong on a test believes that that means they’re stupid despite the overwhelming number of correct answers.

A person with a negative mental filter fails to get a promotion or is turned down for a raise, and they believe that means they are no good at their jobs and are at risk of being fired.

Discounting the positive is a common unhelpful thought.

Someone with this unhelpful thought might apply for a job and get hired, but rather than believing this is because they were a good candidate, they will tell themselves they only got hired because nobody better applied. No matter how many successes this person has; they only remember their failures and expect to fail the next time they attempt something.

Mind reading is a very unhelpful way of thinking.

People who practice mind-reading believe that when someone doesn’t return a phone call, this means that that person hates them. The mind reader is continually telling themselves that something terrible is about to happen. Since they always predict the worst, they see the worst in every person and situation they encounter. Expecting your partner to be a mind reader is an unhelpful thought that comes up often in couples counseling.

Jumping to dire conclusions is an unhelpful thought.

The jumping to conclusions unhelpful thought takes you from the weather report saying it will rain tomorrow to canceling your camping trip because you’re sure there’s likely to be flooding and lightning might strike your camp.

People with this unhelpful thought process always expect the worst possible outcome. It won’t invest in a retirement account because the stock market might crash. They don’t want to go on a vacation because the plane might crash.

Emotional reasoning will mislead you.

Feelings can be a useful source of information, but not everything you feel is real. Just because something scares you does not mean it is dangerous. Feeling embarrassed about something you did doesn’t mean everyone else noticed and is judging you. Question whether your feelings are providing you accurate information, or are you assuming that because you feel something that makes it accurate?

Trying to live by a long list of absolute rules is unhelpful.

Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules is a very unhelpful way of thinking. “I should never have said anything to her. I’m such an idiot.” Trying to live by an arbitrary list of “should’s” and “musts” can result in a lot of emotional problems.

Negative self-labeling is unhelpful.

If you make a mistake or your performance is less than you would like it to be, don’t call yourself stupid or clumsy. Telling yourself, you’re a failure, creates failure.

Trying to control things that are not in your control is unhelpful.

If you’re one of those people, who believes that everything that goes wrong is your fault, you have developed a very unhelpful way of thinking. Don’t try to control or protect other people by anticipating what could go wrong in their lives. You can plan, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your planning and worrying will somehow make everything come out the way you want it to.

What should you do if your life is full of unhelpful thoughts?

If you find that you fall into frequent use of these unhelpful thoughts, begin to challenge those anxiety-producing thoughts. Ask yourself what the evidence is that this thought is true. Get a second opinion from a friend. You may find self-help books based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, especially helpful. Consider working with the counselor or therapist. A good coach can help improve an athlete’s performance, and a good counselor can help you overcome the problem of frequent unhelpful thoughts.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Why your problems never end.

By David Joel Miller.

Problems time travel

Do your problems follow you around?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How come problems never end?

Doesn’t it seem like no matter what you do you have another problem? Some people think that life is nothing but a “veil of tears.” Have you started to feel like no matter what you do another challenge will be headed your way before you take a breath? Some people attribute their constant problems to bad luck or something wrong with them, but the truth is humans tend to view the world in a cognitively biased way. When you look at the world through dirty glasses, everything appears filthy.

We keep moving the goal posts – concept creep.

The closer you look at things, the more flaws you’re likely to see. From a distance, the lawn looks beautiful, but when you get close, you begin to see the weeds. Once you have defined what a weed is, the more weeds you will locate. Roughly a hundred years ago you wouldn’t find the word allergy in the dictionary. Once we created the idea, there was such a thing as an allergy more and more people have discovered they are allergic to more and more things.

When people lived far apart in rural areas what you did in your own home was pretty much your own business. The closer people live together the more laws have been enacted. The more laws we have, the more crime have.

This process of first identifying a problem and then finding more and more examples of similar issues has been going on long enough that we now have a name for this phenomenon, these constantly expanding definitions can be called “concept creep.”

More issues become mental illnesses, milder cases become disorders.

At one time there were only two types of mental illnesses, psychosis, and neurosis. Neurosis was just the everyday problems of life. Psychosis was a term for people who were thought of as “crazy.” Psychotic people were locked away in a mental sanitarium. Today we have medication, and we have treatment.

Where once someone had to be so severely depressed they couldn’t hold a job or maintain a relationship to receive a diagnosis of depression, we now recognize that major depressive disorder can come in severities from mild to moderate to severe. I see people with mild forms of mental illness who absolutely needed help to get their lives back. But as we recognize more and more varieties and intensities of mental illness, the list has gone from one serious mental illness that needed hospitalization to hundreds of types that require treatment.

When the problems look unsolvable, anything is progress.

Many people in America have financial problems. Up to two-thirds of all Americans are either in debt on credit cards or have so little money in the bank that if they are car broke down they couldn’t pay for the repairs. When you’re without savings or in credit card debt, becoming financially solvent looks like an overwhelming obstacle.

People who undertake getting out of debt may start by creating a small savings account. For others, financial health means paying down credit card debt. Months or even years later that goal of reducing debt becomes paying the charge cards off. The initial goal of saving 100 dollars becomes saving $1,000. Notice that people with lots of money still believe they need more to feel secure.

When crimes go down, neighbors call about “suspicious people.”

Many people are reluctant to call the police unless they’re the ones who have been victimized. There are still neighborhoods where nobody wants to call the police. To offset this lack of people caring about each other some areas instituted community watches. Initially, this can help the police prevent or solve crimes. Recently however we have seen people who are calling the police about all kinds of marginal issues. Be careful not to let your lawnmower get over onto the neighbor’s grass, or you may get the police called on you.

Find the purple dot – when there are no purple dots the blue ones get picked.

Psychologists attempted to see how well people can distinguish significant things. They would show them pictures of various colored dots. If you show people blue dots, purple dots, and green dots and tell them to keep track of how many purple dots they do well. But if you ask them the same thing but this time show them only the blue and green dots many people think that they saw a certain number of purple dots. Or put another way if they must press a computer key when they see a purple dot on the screen but are shown no purple dots they began pressing that key when shown the blue dots.

When the quality gets better things that used to pass get rejected.

People study quality control issues have discovered that as the quality on an assembly-line gets better things that used to pass get rejected. Rather than being able to identify poor quality items inspectors tend to pick a certain fixed percentage to reject.

Big depends on the last thing you looked at.

Humans have a cognitive bias to describe things as big or small by comparison to the object they looked at just before it. Show them several very tiny items, and suddenly the coin appears large. Show them a lot of car parts, and that coin looks small.

Food looks like more on a small plate.

The same amount of food on two different size plates is perceived differently. If you want to cut down on the amount of food you eat, use smaller plates. If you want kids to eat more give them larger plates. The same thing happens with problems. When you don’t have much everything can become a problem.

Given all these cognitive biases is it any wonder that no matter how many problems you solve you will still identify some of the things in your life as problems?

The way we perceive problems determines how many problems we have.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Four David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Why do you worry?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man worrying,

Some things you do not need to worry about.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Excess worry damages your mental health.

Many people know that worry and rumination can damage their mental health. Those same people may hold contradictory beliefs that they must worry to prevent bad things from happening.

People who hold both positive and negative beliefs about worry are likely to be higher in anxiety, experience more depression, and have impaired physical as well as mental health.

Positive beliefs about worry encourage worrying.

People who are high in worry, often have firm beliefs about the positive consequences of worrying. The way you think about worrying plays a role in creating and maintaining that worry. It’s hard to give up worry, no matter how painful it is, if you have positive beliefs about the benefits of worrying. If you worry a lot, examine your beliefs about worry. You may be expecting worry to play a role in life; it’s not able to fill.

People who worry a lot believe Worry will keep them safe.

People who worry a lot, often have a belief that worrying will make possible future negative events less likely to happen or will prevent those bad results from happening altogether. People who worry a lot expect that worry will reduce the consequences should a bad event happened.

Some worriers believe that worry motivates them.

Humans tend to be loss averse. Most people will work a lot harder to avoid losing something they have then they will work to get an item of equal value. If you worry about flooding, you may buy flood insurance.

When they are unhappy with their current job, a worrier is likely to put more effort into avoiding the loss of the current job then they will put into securing a new better job.

People who frequently worry may believe worry helps analytic thinking.

At the beginning of a project, most people see only probable success. Worriers have the belief that by worrying about what could go wrong they will spot possible dangers.

Frequent worriers believe that they need to control their thoughts.

People who are high in worry often believe that their brains will think dangerous thoughts. Sometimes they confuse the difference between thinking about something and causing it to happen.

Worriers are intolerance of uncertainty.

People who have difficulty accepting that some things are out of their control are at increased risk to develop excessive, pathological worry. People who are high in worry and anxiety believe they are responsible for controlling outcomes. Not being able to predict what will happen coupled with the belief that with enough thought and effort you should be able to control the results, can result in debilitating worry and anxiety.

Worriers use the “as many as I can” worry stop rule.

People who plan focus on the high probability issues. Worriers attempt to anticipate everything that could go wrong. Because of their efforts to anticipate every possible negative outcome, worriers spend a lot of time focused on low probability events and often are unprepared for the things that do occur. People who are low in worry use the “good enough worrying” rule. They worry only about a few high probability outcomes.

Worriers believe they must have cognitive confidence.

People who worry a lot, value high levels of confidence. They’re uncomfortable with uncertainty. Many life events contain large amounts of uncertainty. Worriers try to reduce that uncertainty by turning the possibilities over and over looking for other things that could go wrong.

People who worry a lot tell themselves worry is uncontrollable.

The focusing for worriers is on preventing negative feelings and consequences rather than on preventing worry. If you believe worry is uncontrollable, then it is something you are required to do. Believing worry is uncontrollable, but that you are responsible for controlling what happens leads to superstitious beliefs and may result in repetitive obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors.

High levels of negative feelings create worry.

Feelings of pessimism, personal inadequacy or incompetence, and personal despair and hopelessness make it more likely they will worry. People who are sad or depressed are likely to worry more.

Worry can be used to avoid facing unpleasant life events.

When you worry, you can stay focused on what might happen, and you don’t have to think about what is taking place in your life today. Studies have demonstrated that people use worry as a way of avoiding unpleasant situations and feelings. By staying “up in your head” in worry, you can block the part of the nervous system that processes feelings.

If you worry a lot, now might be a good time to challenge some of the beliefs you have about worry.

David Joel Miller, MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Your “feeling bad” may be Dysphoria.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhappy

Dysphoric.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Dysphoria – the feeling bad problem.

Sometimes you just feel bad. Many times, people feel bad but can’t describe what that feeling is. Ask someone at random how they feel, and the most common answers will be, good, bad, or angry. Some of this stems from the bad reputation feelings have received. Many people go to great lengths to avoid any negative feelings. When you tried to avoid negative feelings, it’s no surprise that when you do feel bad, you have difficulty identifying that feeling and giving it a name.

You may have been labeled dysphoric without your knowledge.

If you have been to see a professional because you were “feeling bad” but you didn’t know the specific reason, the professional may have written down somewhere in your file that you were “dysphoric.”

When you’re under stress, the chemicals your nervous system produces are felt widely throughout your body. Panic attacks can feel like a heart attack. Depression can leave you exhausted, lacking the energy to get out of bed. A high percentage of clients who experienced these symptoms go to the medical doctor first. Which is not a bad idea. You need to rule out a medical issue. Sitting and talking to your counselor during your heart attack could be fatal.

Once your medical Doctor has ruled out immediate, life-threatening illnesses, you may be referred to see a psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist. Seeing a counselor does not mean you are crazy. What it tells us is that your nervous system has been sending out chemicals alerting the body to an emotional crisis. The result is an episode of dysphoria.

Is dysphoria a mental illness?

Dysphoria is a term that goes back to the days of Freud. Back then someone was either diagnosed with psychosis, that meant you were crazy, or neuroses which largely meant you were struggling with the problems of living. I have seen the term dysphoria in a lot of the older literature from the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis. Today professionals use the DSM-5 to diagnose mental illness. The DSM lists about 400 different varieties of mental illnesses. Dysphoria can be an underlying symptom of many of these illnesses, but it is not one specific disorder.

No client has ever told me they felt dysphoric. But I’ve heard that they “feel bad” plenty of times. I have seen the word dysphoria on assessment forms several times, usually as a checkbox for a feeling the client might be having. As my students have heard, I think of a good assessment as more than just checking the boxes and filling out a form.

To help someone who is “feeling bad” the counselor needs to examine that feeling, identify the specific feelings involved and ideally match them up with a specific mental, emotional, or behavioral problem.

What exactly is dysphoria?

OxfordDictionaries defines dysphoria as “a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. The opposite of euphoria.” Some words are easiest to define by saying that they are the opposite of something else. Unfortunately defining dysphoria by saying it’s the opposite of euphoria is not much help.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, from 1889, gets us closer to a useful definition. I think this is an important point. When you are reading books which were written a long time ago, Freud and Jung, even the psychoanalysts who wrote before the DSM Four, it’s important to ask what the words meant to them. The English language has always been in a state of change.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia defines dysphoria as; pain hard to be borne, anguish, impatience under affliction, a state of dissatisfaction, restlessness, fidgeting, or inquietude.

In Psychology dysphoria generally means one of 3 things.

Martin Seligman in his book What You Can Change and What You Can’t begins with the idea of dysphoria and then breaks it down into three specific negative emotions. I would highly recommend this book by the way. One point he makes here is that to date there is no medication which cures any mental illness. At the time he wrote this book; he listed 14 mental illnesses that could be effectively treated, cured, or greatly reduced, using specific forms of talk therapy. I’m inclined to think in the years since he wrote this book other therapies have proven effective for additional mental and emotional disorders.

Anxiety can look like a physical illness.

Anxiety disorders are the “great pretenders.” During episodes of anxiety, the thoughts in the brain mobilize the body for flight or flight activities. Anxiety reduces a lot of physical symptoms in your body and is frequently mistaken for a physical illness.

Professionals split anxiety disorders into a number of specific types. Most are temporarily manageable with medication, but when the medication wears off the anxiety returns worse than before. Therapy of several varieties, coupled with relaxation techniques and life skills training can greatly reduce the levels of anxiety.

Recently, trauma and stressor-related disorders such as PTSD were separated from the Anxiety Disorders. These problems have added symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks. There are treatments for these disorders, but those treatments are very different from the ones used for anxiety.

Depression comes in many varieties.

Professionals categorize depression more by the physical symptoms you experience than by the cause of the depression. Some types of depression have a specific cause, and others don’t. Many of the symptoms of depression look like those of physical illness. Changes in appetite, eating either too much or too little, can all be part of depression. Changes in sleep are also an element of depression. Some people, when depressed, experience significant fatigue. Depressed people may take to bed and feel too tired to get up. Underlying depression is the loss of the ability to experience happiness. Some people can feel a few bursts of pleasure, but the temporary pleasant sensation quickly fades.

Anger and irritability are often components of dysphoria.

When someone doesn’t feel well, they are out of sorts, they become irritable and push others away. Some people feel “bad” and experience a lot of anger. Neither anger nor irritability is considered a specific mental illness, but they may be symptoms of several mental health challenges.

It would be wonderful if there were specific blood tests or x-rays that would determine that the physical symptoms you have are the result of dysphoria and could be identified as one specific mental illness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. First, you need to see a medical Doctor to rule out physical illness. Next, you would see a counselor who would talk to you about your symptoms. Based on the number and severity of symptoms you would get a specific diagnosis.

Treatment should be tailored to you and your particular symptoms. Therapy is not something the counselor should do to you. Therapy is something the counselor and client do together. As a result of counseling, you should learn skills and new ways of thinking that will help you manage dysphoric feelings and learn to increase the number of positive feelings you experience.

If you have been feeling bad, one or more of the dysphoric feelings, please consider getting help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Cocaine and methamphetamine-induced paranoia

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Grim Reaper

Paranoia.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Stimulant-induced paranoia isn’t exactly a diagnosis.

Paranoia is common among drug users. It’s especially common among stimulant users. When crack cocaine users first began to show up in hospital emergency rooms, there was a lot of confusion between drug-induced psychosis and the onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. For a while, it looked like there was an epidemic of new cases of schizophrenia. Then picture emerged, something was very different about these new cases of psychosis.

The key features of psychotic disorder, schizophrenia, and some other related disorders are delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thought and speech, and grossly disorganized or abnormal motor behaviors. Some loss of normal functioning called “negative symptoms” is also part of psychosis. People with drug-induced psychosis don’t show those same levels of “negative symptoms.”

What most of us think of as paranoia fits generally under a couple of types of delusions, persecutory delusions, and referential delusions. These are the beliefs that people are out to get them and that what others are saying and doing is directed at them. Researchers have discovered that symptoms of paranoid can fall on a continuum from some mild suspiciousness and trust issues to potentially dangerous psychotic paranoia.

Psychosis and presumably paranoia can occur at multiple points in the drug using experience. For any drug of abuse, we expect to see one set of symptoms while the user is under the influence and another set of symptoms during withdrawal. Some conditions will persist, sometimes for years, even after the drugs have left the users system. These conditions are called drug-induced. It’s also possible that a drug user had a particular mental illness before they began using or had a risk factor for an illness and the drug use was enough of a stressor to result in the appearance of that illness.

I should also mention here all these descriptions are based on the idea that mental illnesses are categories. That’s the way the diagnostic manual is designed. You either have the illness, or you don’t. Increasingly research has been suggesting that most of the things we are calling symptoms are on a continuum. You can have more or less of a symptom such as paranoia. This implies that counseling and the ways people think can result in changes in symptoms of something like paranoia, regardless of whether the person with paranoia has a diagnosable mental illness or not.

Paranoia among cocaine users.

Cocaine-induced paranoia is primarily reported during cocaine intoxication. It involves extreme hypervigilance for possible danger in the environment. Up to 70 percent of cocaine users exhibit temporary paranoia even after ruling out mental health diagnosis which would include paranoia. Cocaine users on average report developing paranoid symptoms after about three years of using cocaine. The quantity that was used or the patterns of use do not seem to affect the onset of paranoia (Rosse, et al., 1994.)

Methamphetamine-induced paranoia.

Studies of paranoia among methamphetamine users are generally newer than the ones involving cocaine. One noteworthy difference was that methamphetamine users who became paranoid were more likely to get a weapon and to attack someone. Meth users had typically been awake for 48 hours or more when the paranoia began. The majority experienced auditory and visual hallucinations. Almost 40 percent of the methamphetamine users also reported tactile hallucinations. These results not only overwhelmingly reported paranoia but fit more closely with the diagnosis of psychosis in the studies I found of psychosis in cocaine users (Leamon, M., et al., 2010.)

Other drugs probably cause paranoia also.

Most of the early research on stimulant psychosis was done using patients who had been addicted to crack cocaine. In the years since that research, it has become clear that other stimulants, methamphetamine and the so-called “bath salts,” also produce psychotic episodes and an increase in paranoia. Studies of paranoia among cocaine users were largely done in psychiatric settings while the studies of methamphetamine and paranoia were mainly done in outpatient drug treatment which leads me to believe that paranoia is probably much more common and more likely to lead to violence among those who develop severe methamphetamine use disorders.

Paranoia and hallucinations occur among users of dextromethorphan.

Since most drug users use multiple drugs as well as drink alcohol and many also have mental health issues, it’s hard to be sure about causes. One thing does seem certain almost all drugs of abuse and excess alcohol use result in an increased risk that you will develop some level of paranoia.

For more on this topic see:

Trust

Paranoia

Dextromethorphan and paranoia.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Is your paranoia showing?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Grim Reaper

Paranoia.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Increasing paranoia – the mental health challenge of this millennium?

The growing problem of paranoia is gone unrecognized for very long time. Currently, anxiety disorders are the number one diagnosed mental illness. The category of anxiety disorders has grown so large that recently professionals separated this family of disorders into two groups, the disorders of excessive anxiety, called anxiety disorders, and the disorders caused by real-life events, now referred to as trauma and stressor-related disorders. What has often overlooked is the prevalence of Paranoia.

The problem of paranoia frequently gets ignored.

Many people describe themselves as paranoid, or “a little bit paranoid.” Professionals often dismiss these labels as exaggerations. Over the last 25 years, as there has been more study of paranoia, professionals are starting to recognize how common paranoid symptoms are in the general population. Recent studies conclude that among the general population, people who have never been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, the rates of paranoia may run between 15 and 20 percent.

There’s no specific diagnosis for paranoia.

When we say paranoia, most people immediately think “paranoid schizophrenic.” We have come to understand that not everyone who has schizophrenia is paranoid. Paranoia can also be part of several other serious mental illnesses. Paranoia is also a part of paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, and may even be a feature of severe major depressive disorder. Many drugs of abuse can cause paranoia. Paranoia in its less extreme forms may go under the label “excessive suspicion” or “trust issues.” In it’s more dangerous form; paranoia can be a feature of delusional jealousy.

Humans are often poor judges of danger.

In the 1950’s almost every small child look forward to getting their first bicycle. Kids commonly walk to and from schools which were often a considerable distance away. Today many people do not let their children play outside. One explanation for this is they are afraid something bad will happen to their child.

The statistics tell us that the most dangerous place for most children is at home. Every year in America more children are shot and killed at home by a biological parent who then turns the gun on themselves than all the children killed in school shootings. Absolutely school shootings are a problem that needs to be tackled, but we are fooling ourselves by thinking that it strangers who are the major danger.

America and many other industrial countries are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity. The risk of poor health and shortened lifespan from lack of exercise far outweigh the risk to most children from going outside to play.

Many people worry every time they take to the road that they will encounter someone with road rage will run them off the road or shoot them. These are certainly risks, but the far greater risk comes from people being injured or killed in automobile accidents while not wearing your seatbelt.

Why have we all become more fearful?

High levels of danger are often associated with the big city and crowded urban environments. A hundred years ago less than 5 percent of the world’s population lived in large cities; most people lived in small towns and rural settings. Since the year 2000 more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in large cities. Today television and the online news are available 24/7 to tell you about every awful event.

Belief in conspiracy theories has become more common than not.

Humans use to accept widespread death from illness as normal increasingly people believe these epidemics must be the result of some government or international conspiracy. Throughout history, there have been plagues which devastated humanity. During the Middle Ages, there were places where as much as 70 percent of the population died. These same epidemics would recur periodically. In the 1800’s epidemics of yellow fever and cholera resulted in death rates of 30 to 50 percent of the population of some towns. In the U.S. Civil War, for every man killed in battle mortality in camp due to illness could run from 5 to 10 men. During World War I, deaths from Spanish influenza ran into the millions. These recurring illnesses used to be blamed on devils and demons, religious minorities and more recently bacteria and viruses. Today, when a new illness is discovered many people’s first thought, is that someone has deliberately created this illness or that there is a cure for it, but someone is withholding that cure.

People who believe in conspiracy theories often believe in mutually contradictory ones. The same person who believes that Jimmy Hoffa was killed by the CIA might also believe that he faked his own death and is currently living in Bolivia. The average person’s willingness to believe a conspiracy theory seems to be growing exponentially.

Some increased trust issues, even paranoia, may be reality based.

Modern society has created dangers that didn’t exist past. With larger numbers of people working for the same employer competition on the job becomes fiercer. Many of the people you work with you may never see outside of work. This has led to more competition on the job and less cooperation. When we were an agricultural society, farmers tended to help each other. Today it’s likely that the person in the next cubicle may be undermining you in the competition for promotion or to avoid the downsizing layoff.

Your increased dependence on technology put you at risk.

Technology is becoming more complicated and more pervasive, growing at an exponential rate. Your personal information is no longer safe because you keep it locked up. Every company you do business with, every detail of your financial and healthcare life may be at risk. Online companies know more about the person you sleep with.

How are trust issues, suspiciousness, anxiety, and paranoia connected?

In upcoming posts, I want to talk to you more about why “trust issues, suspiciousness, anxiety and even paranoia have become so prevalent, how they may be connected and how you can cope with your fears and not let the forces of anxiety and paranoia take over your life. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with the problems without talking about the solutions.

The future is not all bleak.

At the same time psychologists and counselors have been looking at some under recognize problems, things like paranoia, burnout, and the role of the Internet in changing human relationships some positive things have also been recognized. Positive psychology has revealed an entire technology centered around having a happy life. We now know happiness is not the result of constant doses of temporary pleasure but comes from long-term ways of thinking and behaving. We are also recognizing that people have certain inherent strengths. Whether you know it or not, you and your children have some talents and abilities just waiting to be discovered and perfected.

For more on these topics see:

Paranoia

Anxiety

Happiness

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.