Overthinking takes you nowhere.

By David Joel Miller.

Thinking the same thoughts over and over does not lead to insight.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In overthinking you get stuck on thinking the same thoughts over and over. To gain insight, you need to think about things from a different perspective. Take a break from your problems, sleep on it overnight, have some fun, and your problem is likely to look different the next time you think about it.

Overthinking is sometimes described as racing thoughts. These racing thoughts are different from the kind of out of control thoughts described in Bipolar Disorder. Overthinking is related to anxiety disorders in that these thoughts look like a hamster in his wheel, running as fast as he can around and around in the same place. In overthinking your thoughts take you nowhere but they do increase your anxiety. The racing thoughts of bipolar take you farther and farther into grandiose beliefs and urges.

Things will change whether you think about them or not.

Whether you think about it or not the weather will change. You can prepare for the weather but worrying about it will neither prevent the storm nor make it worse. Know that, regardless of what you think, the summers and winters will come. Overthinking steals your life.

The time you spend overthinking is time you are not doing.

Living is about the things you do, not the things you think about doing. The best way to prepare for the future is by living today. It’s easy to stay busy thinking about the past, worrying about the future, all the while avoiding taking action in the present.

Don’t believe everything you think.

Sometimes we take our own thinking as evidence for the truth of what we believe. IF something is making you anxious, you need to take a good look at it, and sometimes you need to listen to your gut. Consider however that just because something scares you that does not make it dangerous. Often our preconceived views of things turn out to be wrong. Be careful that you don’t jump to the conclusion and then because you think it; you look for evidence to support that view.

Don’t recruit others to overthink with you.

Group overthinking has been called co-rumination. If every time you get together with your friends, you go over and over the same problems in life, these relationships have moved from being supportive to keeping you stuck in your problems. You don’t need half a dozen people helping you think about how awful things are.

The more baggage you accumulate, the harder it is to move forward.

Do you have a lot of baggage from the past? Do you spend a lot of time taking it out, looking it over and then packing it up again to take it with you into the future? Constantly dwelling on the mistakes and the pain of the past keeps you stuck. Learn life’s lessons but be careful not to carry any more baggage into the future than is absolutely necessary.

Overthinking prevents you from making decisions.

The more you think about something, the harder it may be to decide. Unfortunately, not deciding and not acting are decisions. Don’t let overthinking make your decisions for you by preventing you from ever doing something which might benefit you.

Overthinking destroys your creativity.

Creativity is about new ways of looking at things and new ways of combining them. If you are stuck in overthinking and worry about what the right way to do something is, you will become afraid to take the chances necessary to be truly creative. Overthinking will tell you that there’s only one correct answer and you need to find that answer. Creativity will tell you that there are many possible solutions and the more open you are to those solutions the more creative you will become.

Overthinking tells you there’s only one way to do things.

The longer you think about things more likely you are to doubt each possibility. Overthinking by pointing out the pitfalls of potential decisions takes away your choices. If you want to be truly free, don’t let your worried mind tell you that you shouldn’t make the choices that appeal to you. Often when presented with a choice, our first thought is the correct one. People who are high in test anxiety often find the more they go over their answers and change them, the lower their test score goes. Don’t let overthinking talk you out of the choice that’s right for you.

New Book Bumps on the Road of Life is now available in Kindle format for preorder. It will be released on 11/13/17. The paperback version should be ready shortly.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch. Sometimes you get your life going again quickly. Other time you may stay off track and in the ditch for a considerable time. If you have gone through a divorce, break up or lost a job you may have found your life off track. Professionals call those problems caused by life-altering events “Adjustment Disorders.” Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of Adjustment Disorders, how they get people off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Bumps on the Road of life

Amazon Author Page  – David Joel Miller

More to come as other books are completed.

Thanks to all my readers for all your support.

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

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How to stop overthinking.

By David Joel Miller.

Overthinking is harmful to your mental health.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

People who do a lot of overthinking, sometimes called rumination, increase their anxiety and their sadness. Unchecked overthinking, far from being helpful, can result in worry and leads to mental health issues such as anxiety disorders and depression. In overthinking your mind becomes your adversary, not your ally. If your mind is constantly turning things over and over and is wearing you out or if you find your overthinking has begun to interfere with your sleep and your relationships, it’s time to do something to put a stop to that over thinking.

If you suffer from overthinking here are some ways to get off that destructive path.

Notice when you overthink.

Overthinking can become an insidious habit. Become aware of when you are feeling distressed or anxious. The first step in getting overthinking out of your life is to become aware of how frequently you are overthinking. Avoid the trap of overthinking your overthinking.

Practice thought stopping.

When a child is doing something, they shouldn’t, we tell them to “knock that off.” When your mind starts taking you into bad neighborhoods, tell that mind to “stop that.” Another technique for stopping negative thoughts is to shift your focus to something positive. Search your memory for the happiest event in your life or imagine a happy event. When your brain begins to overthink possible negative occurrences, tell it to move to the positive.

Focus on the things that are likely to happen.

Most worry and overthinking is the result of an excessive focus on things that might or could happen but are very unlikely. Don’t spend large amounts of time thinking about things that are unlikely to happen. Most of the things we worry about never happen. Overthinking low probability events distracts you from dealing with the things that need doing today to prevent problems in the future.

Become a happiness expert.

Overthinking makes you an expert on unhappiness. Having a laser focus on what could go wrong obscures your vision of what could go right. People who are high in anxiety and depression develop a cognitive bias towards the negative. They don’t see the positive in their lives, and when they do they discount it. Notice small positive events in your life. When something good happens, don’t blink right away. Continue to look at and think about those positive, happy occurrences.

Avoid perfection paralysis.

Frequently people who are high in overthinking consider themselves perfectionists. An excessive focus on a perfection can leave you paralyzed. Pursue excellence. Try to become the best person possible, but avoid an emphasis on absolute perfection. Whatever you achieve should be valued.

Accept yourself as you are.

Failure to accept yourself, as you are, leads to a lot of unhappiness. However, you are, is perfectly acceptable. Acceptance values how far you have come. If you spend all your time looking for flaws you will miss your unique, individual qualities. Acceptance of yourself, others as they are, and the world the way it is rather than insisting that people places and things must be the way you want them to be will increase your happiness and reduce your anxiety provoking overthinking.

Inventory what you have not what’s missing.

Our society today, with its emphasis on the lifestyles of the rich and famous, has resulted in a lot of people believing their life is missing something. Constantly thinking about what’s missing from your life robs you of the enjoyment of the things you do have. When your focus is on keeping up with the Trumps, you will never have enough. When you adopt an attitude of gratitude, you can enjoy the people and the things you do have rather than grieve over your lack of those things that others have.

Take the long view.

Overthinking takes the short view. The focus is on what’s lacking now, the problems of today. Ask yourself what difference today’s problem will make 20 years from now? How about 50 years from now? When you start focusing on where you want to be in the future the problems of today shrink and become insignificant.

Reframe the scary as exciting.

Before an athletic contest, teams try to psych themselves up. If you expect to be beaten badly, it will take all the energy out of your performance. Worry about failing a test is likely to result in lower scores. Go into life’s adventures expecting them to be exciting and regardless of what you do you can have fun. Focusing on the scary parts of life prevents you from ever-living.

Get into action.

A great way to overcome overthinking is to get into action. Stop ruminating about what could go wrong and start doing. Some of what you do today will be the great memories you will be storing up for the future.

New Book Bumps on the Road of Life is now available in Kindle format for preorder. It will be released on 11/13/17. The paperback version is ready now.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch.

Sometimes you get your life going again quickly. Other times you may stay off track and

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.
By David Joel Miller

in the ditch for a considerable time. If you have gone through a divorce, break up or lost a job you may have found your life off track. Professionals call those problems caused by life-altering events “Adjustment Disorders.” Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of Adjustment Disorders, how they get people off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Bumps on the Road of life

Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

More to come as other books are completed.

Thanks to all my readers for all your support.

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

Do you overthink things?

By David Joel Miller.

The more you think about things, the worse you feel.

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Overthinking, sometimes described as rumination, is a common feature of several emotional problems, especially anxiety disorders. These constant thoughts can leave you both physically and emotionally exhausted. At times, you may feel as though your thoughts are racing away without you. Because you think these thoughts so often and they are so upsetting, you may begin to believe that the things you think about are very real possibilities.

Overthinking what might happen in the future increases your anxiety. Overthinking your past, beyond the point of learning from your mistakes, can result in depression. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that going over and over the same issue in your mind, in the same way, will result in additional insight. Overthinking increases self-doubt. The over-anxious brain is constantly on the lookout for threats and magnifies the smallest risk to terrifying proportions. Here are some of the common causes of overthinking.

Overthinking is about judging yourself too much.

Overthinkers judge themselves more harshly than they judge others. Self-evaluation, looking at both the things you do well and the things that you could improve on can be helpful. If your self-evaluation does not move beyond repeatedly reviewing less-than-perfect behaviors, you are judging yourself too harshly. Using the same scale to judge yourself that you use to judge others can reduce excessive self-criticism and prevent overthinking.

Comparing up causes overthinking.

Overthinkers always compare themselves to others who are better looking, more successful or seem more important. Constantly comparing yourself to others who have more or accomplish more, results in discounting everything you have accomplished. Rather than comparing yourself to someone you admire and feeling you are inferior, look for ways to learn from what they do and improve your performance.

Focusing on the negative increases your anxiety.

When you constantly look for the negative, that’s what you will find. Avoid focusing on what’s wrong in your life. Look for opportunities to improve yourself and the life you’re living. Spend less time thinking about what’s wrong and more time focused on the actions you need to take to reach your goals. Overthinkers look for the negative and disregard the positive.

Too much attention to other people’s opinion is harmful.

If you constantly are focused on other people’s opinions of you, your self-doubt increases. Everyone will have an opinion about your life. Sometimes it’s helpful to seek out advice and information from teachers or mentors. Too much attention to other people’s opinions results in you not having an opinion of your own. Be very careful whose opinion of you receives your attention. You are living a real life, and the person whose opinion matters most is yours.

Not knowing who you are creates confusion.

Not having a clear picture of who you are, results in a great deal of confusion and uncertain. Be careful not to be simply a reflection of other people’s opinions. Get clear on your values, your goals, and the person you want to become. Learning about yourself is one of the most important tasks you will undertake in your life.

Believing mistakes mean you are flawed undermines your self-confidence.

Focusing only on your mistakes put you on the path to overthinking, self-doubt and anxiety. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you must be perfect to have value. All humans make mistakes. Cut yourself some slack. Accept that making mistakes is a necessary part of learning, growing and becoming who you can be. Learn from life experiences but don’t judge yourself harshly. Looking only at your mistakes leads to a very negative, biased, opinion about your self-worth.

Being overly judgmental of others creates uncertainty.

Avoid judging others using a stretched yardstick. If you expect an unreasonably high standard from others, you will find that you are unable to measure up to the standard you have set. The more judgmental you are of the people you meet, the more difficult it will become for you to feel good about yourself. Humans are not infallible computers, but then computers frequently make mistakes also. Avoid expecting impossibly high standards from yourself or others. Accept that you like all other humans are a work in progress.

Work on making overthinking a thing of the past. If you’re overthinking has gotten out of control, consider working with a counselor or therapist to get your thoughts back on a helpful path.

New Book Bumps on the Road of Life is now available in Kindle format for preorder. It will be released on 11/13/17. The paperback version is ready now.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Your cruising along the road of life and then wham, something knocks you in the ditch.

Sometimes you get your life going again quickly. Other times you may stay off track and

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.
By David Joel Miller

in the ditch for a considerable time. If you have gone through a divorce, break up or lost a job you may have found your life off track. Professionals call those problems caused by life-altering events “Adjustment Disorders.” Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of Adjustment Disorders, how they get people off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Bumps on the Road of life

Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

More to come as other books are completed.

Thanks to all my readers for all your support.

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

Is it Anxiety, Stress or PTSD?

By David Joel Miller.

Just how stressed out are you?

Stressed

Feeling stressed out?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Everyone experiences a little stress in their day-to-day life.  Having anxiety in your life is considered just a part of modern life.  But sometimes that stress and anxiety overwhelm people.  The things that get called trauma come in all shapes and sizes.  Many times these traumas resolve in a short period of time.  Traumas that don’t resolve, that hang on for long periods of time and interrupt your daily life, can turn into a serious mental illness such as an anxiety disorder a stress related disorder or even Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

If you’re struggling with difficulties, anxieties, stress or even some traumatic events it is helpful to know just what kind of problem you’re dealing with.  Some things will sort themselves out on their own.  Other times anxiety, stress, and trauma need professional help.  Here are some of the problems that you might be experiencing and some thoughts about how to tell the different problems apart.

Stress.

Stress is that reaction the body has to challenges from the environment.  Stress can be small and repeated or large and dramatic.  Even good things can be stressful.  That first day on a new job can be full of stress even when you really want that job.  Many people get sick the first week on a new job.  Weddings or the birth of a baby can be stressful also, even when these have been something you have looked forward to.

Most of the time people have stress and it goes away.  But over time people can accumulate a great deal of stress, and this can result in physical, emotional and mental illnesses.  One very important life skill is learning how to manage and reduce stress.  Take a look at the other posts on counselorssoapbox.com about stress and stress management.

Animals get stressed and so do people.

Humans are not the only creatures to get stressed.  Animals in the wild can have a very stressful life.  Sapolsky wrote a very interesting book called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”  The main difference between humans and animals seems to be how they adjust to stress after it has come and gone.  Animals who were stressed returned to a low-stress state very quickly.  Humans get stressed and years later they are still experiencing that stress.  For humans, this accumulation of stress over time can result in chronic illnesses.

Anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal human response.  But when it gets out of control it can become a disease.  If you’re in a dangerous situation, anxiety and even fear can help you stay safe.  If the volume on your anxiety is turned up too high, it can cause you to overreact to many everyday situations.  Sometimes people have what they call anxiety attacks.  For a brief period of time, they feel excessive anxiety but eventually, these anxieties attacks subside.

When this high anxiety continues too long and begins to interfere with your daily life, your job, or your relationships, it is excessive and may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.  There are a number of different recognized Anxiety disorders depending on the particular features of your anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a diagnosable mental illness.  Sometimes in life people experience overwhelming traumatic experiences.  They may witness a violent death, a tornado, hurricane, or other natural disasters.  In these events, the person may fear that they or someone close to them is going to die.

This condition was originally identified in the veterans returning from war zones.  It has since been identified in civilian populations who have been exposed to traumatic events and feared for their lives.

As a result of this trauma, people begin to develop difficulties functioning.  Some people will struggle with these problems for short period of time a month or so.  Other people will very quickly return to normal function.  In some cases, as a result of these traumatic experiences, people will continue to have symptoms for years afterward.  These continuing symptoms may be PTSD.

Complex trauma.

Repeated traumatization becomes more difficult to heal from.  There has been a good deal of research and writing about a condition that is sometimes called complex trauma.  While it’s not an official diagnosis, is helpful for many people to think about it this way.  Someone may be able to experience a trauma and recover from it.  If that same person experiences the same trauma repeatedly, each time it becomes more difficult to recover.

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress or PTSD consider getting professional help.

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

19 Ways to manage your anxiety

By David Joel Miller

Too much anxiety in your life?

Anxiety and Fear

Lessons Anxiety teaches you.
Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

You do not need to let the anxiety monster run your life. Turn down the volume on that anxiety and take back control of your life. Anxiety monsters come in all sizes but these tips may help you with the one you are living with. Here are some ways that can help you manage those anxious moments.

1. Make to-do lists.

Trying to remember all the things you need to do will keep your head full of little working memory to keep track of what still needs to be done. The result of all that anxiety in your head is that you will forget something, probably something really important.

Write it all down, prioritize and start with the most important thing first. Cross things off the list as you get them done. This way you won’t forget to do something and if there is something left on the list at the end of the day it will be a less important thing.

2. Update your calendar.

Like daily list making, try keeping a longer term calendar to plan those important must do and must not forget projects. This can help reduce your anxiety over forgetting to do things.

3. Empty your mind – write it down.

Just remembered that you need some milk on the way home? Not sure if you sent the power bill in this month? A coworker mentioned a book and you are thinking you would like to stop on the way home and pick up a copy. Will you really remember all these things at the end of the day?

Writing down these things-to-remember frees more memory space and reduces your fear you will forget to do something important.

4. Be on time for things.

People who get to things on time and are well prepared have less anxiety. Show up late and your anxiety goes up. This is especially true if you are going somewhere for the first time.

Being on time is a skill most of us can learn. For more on being on time see the post about how those punctual people do things titled “How to be on time.”

5. Create routines and rituals.

Having a systematic way your do things can help take the stress and worry out of daily life. Clean out a place for something you do often. Have all the parts or ingredients necessary at your fingertips. Having a book bag for school books and a drawer in your desk for your writing things can reduce the last-minute frantic search.

You need rituals and routines, so does your family. See the post – Happy Families have routines and rituals for more on this topic.

6. Interview your anxiety and make it your friend.

Sit down and have a talk with your anxiety. What is it trying to protect you from? Why is it following you around? This may be the result of something that happened in your past that you are resolved to never let happen again. It might, however, be an effort to get total control over the world around you, something you should have left behind in middle school.

7. Sit and hold anxieties hand – learn to be comfortable with anxiety’s presence.

Sometimes anxiety, like fear, is justified. There may be risks involved. Anxiety can help you keep an eye out for unexpected events. Do not let the presence of your anxiety keep you from doing things you might enjoy or that might be beneficial for your life.

It is OK to feel anxious some of the time. Just feel what you are feeling. Say Hi to Mr. Anxiety and then move on.

8. See your doctor.

Some physical conditions can result in an increase of anxiety. Some medications turn up the volume on your anxiety. Worry about your heath is a leading cause of needless anxiety.

Work with your doctor on managing your health and on being sure that your medications are not making your anxiety worse.

Finding out if that little pain, you know the one, is a real health challenge or just something common, can reduce your need to worry and feel anxious.

It there is something wrong with your health the sooner you face it the better.

9. Keep your body in good shape – exercise, eat, drink enough water.

A healthy body helps keep your mind running well. A poor diet makes it harder for you to cope with life.

Having energy and feeling healthy can reassure your anxiety that you are back in control and it does not need to protect you anymore. Low blood sugar from not eating right can increase your symptoms of anxiety. Dehydration can put you on edge.

Lack of exercise keeps your body in protection mode. It can’t cope if it never gets to do anything.

10. Prioritize dealing with those high risks issues.

High risk and high priority worries control you until you take control of them. The sooner you take action on those important issues the less time you have to spend worrying about the outcome. Rarely does putting off an important action make it come out better.

11. Discover what relaxes you.

Pay special attention to those times in your life when you feel genuinely relaxed. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing when you are at peace? Recreate those moments whenever possible throughout your day. Pay attention to those gifts of calmness. What you notice hangs around longer.

12. Reexamine your habits – caffeine, drugs, alcohol.

Excessive use of stimulants is a real problem for anyone who has an anxiety disorder. Cut out the caffeine and other stimulants. Avoid street drugs. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with your anxiety only makes the situation worse. They work for a while, but when they wear off the anxiety returns worse than ever.

Smoking damages your heath, short-term and long-term. Do not tell yourself that you will quit when you get the anxiety under control. Quitting smoking and those other habits will help turn down the volume on the anxiety.

13. Get more sleep.

Being chronically sleep deprived makes you irritable and overwhelmed. Being well rested gives you the confidence to tackle more of life’s challenges. Most of us do not get enough sleep and the sleep we do get is low quality. Work on the things that promote good sleep hygiene.

14. Deal with those nightmares.

Nightmares play a role in maintaining mental health issues. In a previous post “Getting rid of Nightmares that maintain Depression and PTSD,” I wrote about the role of nightmares in depression and PTSD, Nightmares can both reflect and magnify anxiety. The treatment for nightmares is very similar regardless of what your issue is.

15. Systematic Desensitization.

This is a specific treatment that has been shown to be effective in reducing the effects of fears in creating and maintaining anxiety. A similar treatment “Exposure and response prevention therapy” has been effective in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.) Generally, these treatments are done with a professional but there are self-help books based on these principles available.

16. Strengthen your support system.

Having a strong support system makes you less at risk to be overwhelmed by anxiety or any other disorder for that matter. There are several posts on counselorssoapbox.com about developing a good support system. The post – 11 rules for Making Friends & Creating a Support System is a good place to start.

17. Pray and meditate to clear out the worries.

Religious and spiritual practices can be helpful in managing your worries regardless of your particular faith. I try not to take sides in the debates on this subject. I am neither a religious expert nor a theologian. What I do know is that consistently clients have told me that religious and spiritual practices are helpful in managing their issues, whatever they chose to call those issues.

People who believe in something have better mental health, as a rule than those who believe in nothing.

19. Get professional help.

See the post – Anxiety – fears and phobias can be treated There are a number of treatments for excess anxiety, some better than others but seeing a professional counselor or therapist can be very helpful in managing your anxiety’s. Medication can be helpful for short-term or temporary control of anxiety also.

There were some of my suggestions for managing and reducing your anxiety. Have you found others that have been helpful to you?

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 http://www.counselorfresno.com/recommended-books/

Relapse on anxiety, depression or another mental illness?

By David Joel Miller

Can you relapse on anxiety, depression or another mental illness?

Relapse Prevention

Relapse Prevention

Relapse is a concept that has been borrowed from substance abuse treatment. It is easy to think in terms of an alcoholic drinking again as a relapse, but do people with a mental illness relapse? What would a relapse for anxiety or depression look like and what can we do to prevent a mental health relapse?

We are starting to view mental health and wellness as a continuum so people can move from well to less well to unwell and back again. In that respect, a mental health relapse seems to make sense.

A lot of people experience a mental illness at least once in their lifetime. Estimate run from 25% in any one year to 50% at some point in a lifetime. For an Anxiety Disorder, the estimates run from 10% to 20% and may even be higher than that when we consider the increase in PTSD.

In a previous post, we talked about Bob and Ellen who were treated for anxiety disorders, social phobia and specific phobia using systematic desensitization sometimes called exposure therapy. This is a proven effective treatment for specific phobia. As we last saw Bob and Ellen, after getting better they had both relapsed and were having symptoms of anxiety again. This is not surprising.

From one-third to two-thirds of everyone treated for anxiety disorders relapses, despite the fact that we know why this happens and how to prevent it.

Anxiety is fear based.

It shrinks when approached. We tend to avoid scary thing but the more you avoid them the harder they become to face the next time. Once people complete treatment they tend to stop thinking about the thing they feared. Over time the gains they made fade away. Substance abuse treatment tries to avoid this problem by encouraging people to continue with self-help groups to maintain the growth that has happened. Self-help groups for emotional issues are much harder to find.

Treatment for fear in the office does not equal less fear out in the backyard.

A recovery skill needs to be practiced in many settings so that it is usable any time or place. Fear is worse in new novel situations. Learning, to be useful, needs to “generalize” into many settings. People who are in treatment for an anxiety disorder need to practice their skills in as many situations as possible.

Many people use medication to reduce or manage symptoms.

As soon as the symptoms are reduced they discontinue the medication. Discontinuing medication too soon is likely to result in relapse.

If there is an actual injury fear is more likely to return.

Getting treated for irrational fear is likely to stick but if you were in an accident you have good reason to be afraid of the same thing happening again. You should expect to use extra caution in dangerous situations if you have been injured in the past. Anxiety is meant to keep you safe. The goal is to manage the anxiety not to completely eliminate it.

If nothing else happens fear tends to return with time.

Treatment for anxiety needs occasional “boosters” to prevent its return.

Other emotional issues increase the risk of a return of anxiety.

An untreated Depression greatly increases the risk of a relapse of anxiety, so does substance abuse. If you have multiple problems, anxiety, and depression or anxiety and substance abuse you need to be working on all the issues at the same time. Leave on issue untreated and the risk of relapse for the others increases.

Continue to work on your recovery to prevent a relapse of anxiety, depression or another mental illness.

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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

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