Retired

Retirement
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com   

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“Retirement is not in my vocabulary. They aren’t going to get rid of me that way.”

― Betty White

“Whether we’re a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we’re acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.”

― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

 “For it is in your power to retire into yourself whenever you choose.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

As we are about to retire the year 2021, I thought now was a good time for this post. I personally have no intention of retiring, so long as I have more life left in me. As we move into the new year, I hope you will continue to read some of the things I write and find them useful.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Today is the Winter Solstice

By David Joel Miller

Sunrise at Stonehenge.

Winter solstice.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Today marks the time of another change – the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice is sometimes called the midwinter, it marks the point when the sun, here in the Northern hemisphere is as far south as it will go. From here on out we wait for the return of the Sun.

Today marks the shortest day and the longest night we will experience this year. For some of us this realization will be a comfort and for others, it will be a reminder of the temporariness of our human experience.

For most of us, the worst of the winter storms remains ahead. All the while we should be reminding ourselves that the best of times is just ahead. Before long spring will return and then the cycle of life will renew itself again.

We all should take this time to reflect on how much of our lives here on this crazy planet is dependent on the Sun and the fact that our planet leans on its axis and turns once each year around the Sun. The result of this cyclical rotation is all those things that we may well take for granted.

Humans mark the time of our lives by these seasons. One trip around the sun and we add one more number to the sum of things we call our age.

Some of us will learn something each time we make that trip and others are content just to have returned each year to the starting place.

In ancient times this event, occurring at sundown on the day of the solstice, was a time for celebrations, festivals and holidays. Today we should be thinking of things that have ended and things that will begin as the cycle of the year advances.

The story is told that this day marks the beginning of the three famine months when food was in short supply and the grim reaper of starvation walked the land. Despite all out belief in the progress of man, this day and the three months to come mark the time when the poor are the neediest and food banks the most strained in their efforts to preserve the poor from another winter of hunger.

That tradition of marking the change of the seasons continues to this day in many places. In predominantly Christian countries the celebration of the Winter Solstice has largely been replaced by the observation of Christmas.

Some will take today to make the start of one last binge effort to accumulate gifts for the day of celebration that marks Christmas.

Personally, I take time on this day to reflect on things lost and things gained and the time for transition from one of life’s periods to another. I also remember on this day a dear friend lost and a new person who came into my life.

Here is wishing you a happy solstice and the hope that you will not lose the meaning of these last few days before Christmas to the roar of indulgence.

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 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 would like to stay connected to the posts on counselors soapbox, hear about the progress of my book in progress or the flow of the conversation about mental health and substance abuse issues – please subscribe or follow counselors soapbox.

You will find the follow button at the very tip-top of the page, in the black area, next to the counselorssoapbox.com name. And don’t forget to hit the share and the like buttons at the end of each post.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy improves your life.

Woman thinking

Unhelpful Negative Thoughts create depression.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy improves your life.

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

CBT is more than just a therapy.

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT has proven effective in treating severe mental illnesses, including depression and generalized anxiety. In some controlled studies, CBT therapy has been more effective than medication for treating various mental illnesses. CBT is so effective for treating even the most severe depression that it has become the treatment of choice for depression. For now, I’ll focus on how CBT reduces depression and increases subjective feelings of well-being which we sometimes call happiness or contentment. Just remember that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be highly effective for many other problems of living.

CBT can help you create your good life.

CBT goes beyond simply being a professional treatment for severe mental illness. CBT is effective for treating mild or even subclinical illnesses. The principles of CBT are also effective for helping people with low self-esteem and low self-confidence. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy principles are helpful in treating a variety of problems of everyday living, including frustration, guilt, and apathy. While CBT is a theory used by counselors and therapists, many people have been helped simply by reading books and hopefully blog posts that explain the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The origins of CBT.

CBT began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, though its roots go all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Before CBT, therapy was primarily divided into two distinct camps. Traditional Freudian psychoanalysis was long, involved, expensive, and focused mainly on exploring unconscious drives.

The other major therapeutic camp is the behavioral scientists, who believe that it was possible to shape behavior by reward and punishment. In a strictly behavioral model, the role of what you’re thinking is disregarded as either unknowable or irrelevant. While the stick and the carrot are still popular with some bosses and some educators, we have learned that human behavior sometimes defies the effects of rewards and punishment.

Today over three hundred different therapy theories have been described. Most are either focused on feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. CBT and related counseling theories have become the treatment of choice for depression and are helpful for many other problems.

What are the primary components of CBT therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on the relationships between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By examining your thoughts, you can learn to alter your feelings and your behavior. Once you know the basic principles of CBT, you will also find that a change in behavior can change feelings and, therefore, your thoughts about the situation. By two different routes, changes in thinking can result in changes in feelings. By following this thinking, your feelings are no longer controlled by outside influences. Now you can choose how you wish to feel about various situations.

How do thoughts play a role in your mental health?

Your cognitions are made up largely of your thoughts and beliefs and your perceptions. Your thoughts create your moods. This process happens very rapidly and goes almost unnoticed. For example, when most people are angry, they believe that someone or something externally made them angry. But when we study the phenomenon of anger more closely, we find that what you believe about what that other person did causes you to become angry. I’ve written more about this connection in some blog posts about anger and anger management.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming just because you think something it must be true. Not everything you think is true. If you’ve ever seen something on the ground ahead of you, gone to pick it up, and then discovered that it wasn’t what you thought it was, you’ve experienced an example of how thoughts can appear very real even when they are just mistaken beliefs.

There’s also a particular connection between thoughts and the chemistry in your brain. Because of the prevalence of the use of some psychiatric medicines, some people have come to believe that depression is the result of a shortage of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. As we’ve learned more about brain chemistry, we come to find that thoughts are moved in the brain from one neuron to another chemically. Simply having more depressing thoughts reduces the prevalence of certain neurotransmitters, while more happy thoughts increase the prevalence of those neurotransmitters.

Don’t misunderstand. CBT does not propose to change the brain simply by thinking happy thoughts. In addition to a handful of prominent thoughts in your brain at any one moment, there are a host of other automatic thoughts taking place in the background. Humans are cognitive misers. We don’t think out each movement of our hands before we reach for a cup of coffee. The same thing happens when it comes to thoughts about life events. People get into the habit of automatic thoughts, which results in them interpreting life events as either positive or negative. CBT therapy seeks to find those recurring “unhelpful thoughts” and teach you to reevaluate them and dispute those that are not helpful.

People with depression have characteristic patterns of thinking.

Depression in all its various shades and flavors is caused by patterns of pervasive negativity. In general, pessimists are more likely to be depressed, while optimists are more likely to be content with their life. We used to think that personality was pretty well fixed at birth. You were born either a pessimist or an optimist. Research across the lifespan has shown that personality does change, usually at a slow rate, but there are things that you can do to become more optimistic. We can debate whether the pessimist or the optimist sees the world more realistically, but what happens is that the optimist is happier and often more successful.

The negative thoughts which create and maintain depression are often distorted, inaccurate, and unrealistic. Unfortunately, depressed people rarely think to challenge these negative, unhelpful thoughts. Most negative thoughts are distorted, inaccurate, and unrealistic.

So, what can you do if your brain continues to replay negative, unhelpful thoughts?

The first step in the process of defeating depression, anxiety, and other life problems is learning to recognize when you have slipped into a pattern of negative, unhelpful thoughts and then, having recognized them begin to dispute those thoughts.

In some future posts, I want to walk you through the steps of recognizing and disputing unhelpful beliefs, improving your optimism and your outlook on life, and creating the happy, contented, well-functioning life we all deserve.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Curious.

Curious.

Curious.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

― Walt Whitman

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

― Walt Disney Company

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”

― Marie Curie

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”

― Mark Twain

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

It’s been a challenging couple of years

Challenging.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s been a challenging couple of years

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

The last two years have been a time of overwhelming change.

As the end of 2021 rapidly approaches, I think it’s a good time to look back at all the things we’ve been through. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I do think the holiday season is a good time to reflect on what’s happened over the last year and what direction I want to take for the year to come.

I lump the last two years together because 2020 and 2021 have been a blur in my head. I suspect these two years will blend together as we move forward. A lot of the things I think of as the sixties actually happened in the early nineteen seventies.

The pandemic certainly has affected everyone regardless of their feelings about Covid or the vaccine. What we have been through has changed a lot of people and changed the way we do things.

I’ve become convinced that some of those changes are likely to be permanent. I’ve made many changes in my life over the last two years. Some were because of Covid, and some for other reasons. Many of these changes were already in the works even before the pandemic. I want to summarize those events briefly here. Some of these I’ll write about in more detail in future blog posts.

Online education has become a viable option.

Over the years, I have taught five separate classes at two different colleges. Over the last two years, I have taught online classes for both colleges. Moving in-class material into an online format turned out to be quite a bit of work. Some students struggled with the online instruction. But a great many of them reported that it was preferable to the way we used to do it. I taught all but one of my online classes as an asynchronous class. Many said that they benefited from being able to do the work on their own schedule.

The feedback I’ve gotten from teachers who are working at the lower grade levels has been more mixed than my experience at the college level. Some students worked enthusiastically on their own and completed more assignments in less time than they would have in class. Other students struggled with discipline and fell behind. I’ve also heard multiple reports that students with anxiety disorders frequently turn off their cameras or refuse to attend online classes if they must be on camera. It will be interesting to see how the shift to distance education plays out.

I am now certified as an online teacher.

The early shift to online education was a rapid movement out of necessity. Then, as it continued over a longer time, the colleges began to emphasize distance education. Over the last two years, I have taken a series of classes and become fully certified to teach online courses. Personally, I prefer teaching online classes. It takes me a lot more work to create the materials. Still, it allows both the students and myself to go online and work on things whenever we have the time available rather than all of us having to make the long commute and fight for parking spots in order to be in a small classroom for the same three hours each week.

Both faculty and administration seem to be divided over whether we should continue to offer classes in the online distance education format. While some students will continue to benefit from the discipline of studying while a teacher stands over them, I think most college students would greatly benefit from the online format.

Counselorssoapbox is now a YouTube channel.

Part of the shift to teaching an online class was converting my PowerPoints and lecture material into a series of videos. I’ve learned a lot, and the quality of my videos continues to improve. One of the things I want to do in the coming year is become even more proficient at creating videos for the counselorssoapbox YouTube channel.

Some of my in-person trainings may become online classes.

In addition to academic classes of the last few years, I’ve done several in-person trainings for various groups. Putting on a training involves a lot of travel and leaves me tired for a week after. I have become increasingly aware of the number of online trainings or classes people are taking, many of which are taken for the knowledge rather than for college units or CE’s.

Over the last two years, readership on my blog has declined, while viewership on my YouTube videos has continued to increase. While I’ve been a lifelong reader, I find myself watching more and more videos. If there’s a topic you think I should cover in a video, please leave a comment.

The way we do therapy is changing.

When I first became a counselor, there was one predominant paradigm. Therapy should be done with one therapist and one client in their room behind a closed door. Many people avoided therapy believing that it was only for the seriously mentally ill. Today more and more people are going to see therapists for help with solving life’s problems.

Those who read my blog in the past are probably aware that I am engaged in a great many activities. For example, I do group supervision for a local nonprofit. Because of Covid, group supervision was moved to an online format. Although a few of the trainees reported missing the human interaction we had when we met in person, most report they prefer the online format for supervision. While a few long for a return to the days when we met in person, most enthusiastically want to continue meeting remotely.

It has been interesting to see the various reactions that beginning counselors and therapists have had to see clients online. While I think we were all initially skeptical most of us have developed the skills to work effectively using distance methods. For some clients, talking to their therapist over the Internet or by phone has made therapy more effective and more readily available.

More people are interested in mental health than in mental illness.

During the pandemic, I’ve done some work for several online counseling and therapy companies. This online practice of counseling seems to be moving in two separate directions. First, therapy that is paid for by an insurance company is becoming more medicalized. There’s an increasing emphasis on making sure the client meets the full criteria for a mental disease. I’m seeing more of an emphasis on having the therapist talks the client into taking medication. Insurance companies are also trying to reduce the number of therapy sessions the client may have unless they have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist or medical doctor and are on medications.

People who self-pay are more interested in reaching their goals.

To get treatment by a counselor or therapist paid for by an insurance company, you pretty much need to have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Most of the people who voluntarily seek counseling are looking at solving the problems of everyday living.

Several counselors have asked me whether it is okay to continue seeing the client who no longer meets the criteria for a particular mental illness but just really needs someone to talk to. My answer is that it’s not okay to bill medical insurance if the client no longer has a mental illness. However, I believe it is okay for a counselor to talk to a client each week if the client is paying and finding the sessions helpful. Sometimes this gets close to being coaching rather than counseling.

There’s a difference between being discouraged and being depressed.

They are having a problem finding a job; they would like to be more productive or better at reaching their goals. Medical insurance pays to treat someone who is depressed until they’re not depressed. Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of distance between being not depressed and having a fulfilling, happy or contented life. As a result of working with clients who are not mentally ill but do want to have a more fulfilling life, I’ve shifted away from taking on more insurance clients and seeing more clients who are willing to pay for private counseling. If you live in California and think that talking with me might be helpful, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Besides being licensed in California as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT.) I recently took a class to get certified as a life coach. In future posts, I want to talk more about the differences in what those three professions do.

I’ve concluded there’s too much focus on illness and not enough on happiness.

Over the last ten years, I’ve written over 1900 blog posts. Many, but not all, of those posts, have focused on specific diagnosable mental illnesses and their treatment. I’ve also written a lot about substance use disorders and how those interact with mental illnesses, a condition known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses. In future posts, I want to focus more on how to have a better, more productive life. If there’s a topic that you would like to see covered, please email me using the contact me form.

Were you wondering what happened to my fiction books?

Getting through the pandemic and making this career pivot derailed my plans for writing more novels. I have one nonfiction book and six fiction books, which continue to be available from Amazon. I’ve taken a couple of classes in fiction writing over the last two years and hope to get back to a series of novels I had planned to write, which got crowded out by learning to be an online teacher, learning to make videos, and all the other skills I’ve been developing over the last two years.

Increasing my emphasis on personal relationships.

Over the last two years, I have spent less time in the classroom, office, and consulting room. Instead, I have found it important to put more time and effort into maintaining my friendships and close relationships. As I have gotten older, a handful of close personal relationships have become increasingly important to me. I hope that all of you are putting effort into maintaining your relationships with those who are the most important in your life.

Sorry for the long post. Stay tuned for more to come.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Concern.

Concern.

Concern.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.”

― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

“True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well-being of one’s companion.”

― Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a Little Taller

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

― Elie Wiesel, Night

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Starting Over in a New City: Practical Tips for Rising From Your Low Point

Starting over in a new city. Photo courtesy of pexels

Starting Over in a New City: Practical Tips for Rising From Your Low Point

Guest post by Jennifer Scott.

Are you ready for a fresh start? Have you been struggling with substance abuse, mental illness, emotional challenges, or any combination of these issues?

Here’s the good news: Whatever your journey, you can come out of this low point and build a happy life for yourself. One way many people do that is by packing up their lives and moving to a new city. If you’re ready to reinvent yourself and start over in a new place, consider these practical tips from counselorsoapbox.com:

Consider Your Career     

One of the most effective ways of getting a new start is to shift your career path. If you are unfulfilled at your current job, or if your workload is contributing to the detriment of your mental or emotional health, then it might be time for a change.

Think through your options. Factor in your interests and passions, your current skills and expertise, and things that you need to learn and develop. Take time to brainstorm ideas, whether it is looking for jobs in your current industry, finding a job in a completely different field, or starting your own business.

However you choose to change your career, you will need to acquire the education and training necessary to succeed. For some people, this means going back to school. Thankfully, there are accredited online universities that allow you to take courses and earn a degree without setting foot on campus. For instance, you can get a business degree while still working a full-time job, tending to family responsibilities, and having time for any other activities you may have.

Take Time to Choose a City

The first step of moving to a new city is figuring out which one you will move to. There are many factors to consider, but it comes down to finding a location that you believe will allow you to regain your footing and flourish.

For example, do you picture yourself in a small town or big city? Do you prefer moderate weather, or would you rather live in an area that is warmer or cooler year-round?

Next, think about the lifestyle you hope to create for yourself. Would you be working from home, and do you want to be near essential establishments like grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and medical facilities?

Also, decide whether entertainment and culture are important aspects to be present in your new city. And of course, if you have a family, you will need to choose a place with quality schools nearby.

Research the Housing Market    

Once you have a location nailed down, it’s time to research the housing market to see what options you are working with. Cost of living, as well as home layouts and amenities, should be your priority. Using sites like Redfin and Zillow can prove useful to get a feel for home prices when you are buying. If you plan to move to an apartment, look to sites like Rent.com and ApartmentGuide.

Get Connected in the Community   

Finally, after you find your new home and get settled in, you will need to be intentional about getting to know your new community. The last thing you want is to isolate yourself, which can exacerbate the substance abuse, mental illness, or emotional challenges you may be battling.

Get outside and explore your new area. Try local restaurants, coffee shops, and community events. Become a volunteer at a local organization to socialize and help those in need. And look for hobby groups, book clubs, or any other opportunities to meet people with shared interests.

If you need a fresh start, moving to a new city is a great way to accomplish it. Think about whether it’s time for a career change and take any steps necessary to put it in motion. Carefully consider which city you should move to, and research the housing market to find a suitable home within your budget. And as soon as you arrive in your new area, be intentional about connecting with your community. Along the way, remember that this low point in your life can make you stronger as you build a brighter future for yourself.

If you would like to read more helpful content about counseling, therapy, recovery, and living a happy life, visit counselorsoapbox.com today!

Delight.

Delight.

Delight.
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

― Maya Angelou

“Tell me a story of deep delight.”

― Robert Penn Warren

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”

― E.E. Cummings

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Does drinking alcohol to cope help?

Bottles of alcohol.

Alcoholic Beverages.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

Have you ever told yourself, “I need a drink?”

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression a million times, more or less. When someone has had a rough day and is feeling anxious or depressed, their first reaction is often to reach for a drink of alcohol to cope. Humans have been saying this and doing it ever since alcohol was first packaged so it could be saved for later use.

People who use alcohol to cope rarely ask themselves if the alcohol is really helping. Most people simply assume it is helpful. If you’ve developed a problem with alcohol or if you’re one of those who work in the counseling field, you probably have a strong opinion about the dangers of using alcohol to cope with stressful situations. But until recently, there’s been very little scientific research into when alcohol is helpful and for what problems.

Now we have evidence about drinking to relieve stress.

A recent study by Andrea M Wycoff at the University of Missouri-Columbia, US, looked at the use of alcohol for coping and concluded that not only is it not helpful, but it can also make your symptoms worse.

The study compared two populations, the group drawn from the general population and another group who had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). People with borderline personality disorder are known to be more likely to develop drinking problems. Some of the people with BPD had also been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.

One problem with other research of this nature has been the strong tendency to exclude from the research anyone with a substance use disorder diagnosis. Some studies also exclude anyone with a previous mental health diagnosis. Eliminating people who have developed an alcohol use problem from a study on alcohol use problems results in a study that doesn’t inform us much about the connection between using alcohol and the subsequent development of problems.

How were the effects of alcohol on stress measured?

During this study, participants were given an electronic journal. They received periodic prompts to write down in their journal what they were doing, any alcohol consumption, and what they were feeling. They were specifically prompted to report on negative, sometimes called unhelpful feelings.

Whenever someone reported using alcohol, they were asked if they had done this to reduce negative feelings such as anxiety and depression or to increase positive feelings such as feeling calm or relaxed.

Did the alcohol help reduce anxiety and depression?

People who reported drinking to reduce their anxiety, depression, or both did report that they were doing it to reduce those negative emotions. In addition, after drinking, those people were more likely to report that they felt the drink had relieved their anxiety or depression. Initially, the researchers took this as confirmation that drinking alcohol did relieve the discomfort of anxiety and depression.

The facts didn’t confirm the feelings.

Feelings are difficult to measure. There aren’t medical instruments that can directly measure how anxious or how depressed someone is. What researchers resort to are paper and pencil questionnaires. These assessment instruments ask a series of questions about anxiety or depression. Using the same scale at different points in time helps measure increases or decreases in someone’s anxiety or depression.

While many people expected the drink to reduce their feelings of anxiety and or depression, that’s not what happened. Scores on an anxiety inventory did not decline. Instead, scores on depression inventories actually went up, meaning that people who drink to cope with depression end up more depressed, not less.

Drinking to relieve anxiety and depression affects alcoholics more than others.

Even more striking is that many people with an alcohol use disorder, especially those who would call themselves an alcoholic, found that their scores for depression rose even higher than the scores for those without an alcohol use disorder.

Some of the likely conclusions from this research are that repeatedly drinking to control anxiety and depression can result in an alcohol use disorder and that those people with that disorder will find drinking alcohol makes the problem worse, not better. The ability of alcohol to help you cope with anxiety, depression, and stress declines the more you use alcohol and eventually reaches a point where another drink will make your anxiety or depression worse.

An even more important conclusion is that using alcohol to cope with anxiety or depression increases the risk of becoming an alcoholic.

We need to know more about drinking when anxious or depressed.

There are some limitations of this study. It wasn’t a huge sample. It might be possible to find people who were an exception to these results. The sample also had a large percentage of women. Much of the literature about alcoholism and how it develops tells us that women are more likely to develop alcoholism and develop it more rapidly than men if they drink heavily.

The authors note that previous studies limited to men tell us that men are more likely to drink to cope with negative emotions and more likely to develop alcohol problems than women. Presumably, a study of men only would have resulted in an even stronger connection between using alcohol to cope with negative emotions and a subsequent increase in anxiety, depression, and an alcohol use disorder.

What about alcohol and the mentally ill?

The sample had a large number of participants who had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, which should underscore an extra warning for those people with BPD to avoid the use of alcohol to regulate their emotions. It’s extremely likely that people with other specific mental health diagnoses would see a similar or an even larger effect.

I’ll be on the lookout for research that studies the effects of using alcohol to cope on subjects who have other diagnoses. From my experiences working in the drug and alcohol counseling field, I would expect to see very similar results among clients diagnosed with mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, and those suffering from the aftereffects of early childhood trauma. All of this tells me that the more someone believes they need to have a drink to cope with negative emotions, the more likely it is that drinking will lead to more severe and longer-lasting problems.

The takeaway from all this?

Drinking alcohol to cope with negative emotions and stress may feel like it’s working in the moment, but it is likely to make your problems worse.

For more on this topic, please see:

Wycoff, A. M., Carpenter, R. W., Hepp, J., Piasecki, T. M., & Trull, T. J. (2021). Real-time reports of drinking to cope: Associations with subjective relief from alcohol and changes in negative affect. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 130(6), 641–650. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000684

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel