Why you shouldn’t trust psychological research.

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

The Psyche

Why you shouldn’t trust psychological research.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do not trust psychological research.

Much psychology research is unhelpful.

In writing this blog, I read a lot of research. I’m looking for ideas and suggestions for ways to be helpful to people struggling with life’s problems.

Occasionally I find some extremely well-done research that is enlightening and helpful. Much of the time, what I encounter is a lot of published studies of dubious value. Let’s look at the problems with much psychological research and why it may be less than helpful.

Most of the research is not about you or your problems.

If you are a person struggling with depression, anxiety, loneliness, or low self-esteem most psychological research will not help you. If you’re encountering memory problems, you may find a lot of studies about how rats memory works. Don’t expect a whole lot of practical help. If you’re a businessman looking for ways to convince people to buy your product, skip the psychology research and take a good look at marketing research.

For a discipline that began with the lofty idea of being the science of thinking and behavior how did it get so far off into academic research with so little value to people in distress?

Psychology research often is performed on a select group of people who are very different from the general population and predominantly different from those people who struggle with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. People most likely to seek treatment for problems are systematically excluded from many research studies.

A recent study I read about attitudes towards relationships which highlights this issue: this research was conducted using a convenience sample of students in a psychology class. The majority of the respondents were 18 to twenty-year-old female college students at a private 4-year college who were living at home, were unmarried, and had never been in a relationship for more than two years. While this study may tell you something about the attitude of young women who are not yet in a relationship, towards relationships it is not very applicable to working with couples who have relationship issues. Here is a highlight of the problems you may encounter when reading psychological research.

Psychological research is often conducted in fantasy land.

A lot of research is done by professors at four-year colleges. Much of this is driven by their need to create something to publish if they want to keep their jobs. The sample in the studies is often full-time students who attend during the day. Two-thirds of these students are female. This results in excluding most men, most people with full-time jobs, night students, community college students, the employed, and the unemployed, and so on.

Minorities, the elderly, and other special populations are underrepresented.

Our population is aging. Depression is common among the elderly. Repeated studies have found that minority populations are not engaged in treatment. Results of most studies will not generalize to the most impacted people.

Psychological research excludes people who are incarcerated.

Mental health and substance issues are common among incarcerated populations. Excluding those populations biases the results by underestimating the number of people with a problem and by excluding people with multiple issues.

People with substance use disorders are excluded.

The majority of people in treatment for substance use disorder also have a mental illness. At least half the people with a mental illness report a substance use disorder. Counselors working in treatment settings are primarily working with people with one or both problems. While some psychological research may include people with depression or anxiety, most exclude anyone with a diagnosable disorder.

Anyone with less than 12 years of completed education is excluded.

One result of doing psychological research on average people in academic settings is to exclude all those people who dropped out of school or failed to complete a high-school education. As our society has become more technologically focused more years of schooling has become a necessity. Excluding people who are not enrolled in college in research studies has excluded the people most likely to be seeking help in public settings.

The verbal yardsticks used in psychological research may be inaccurate.

One of the significant challenges in treating mental illness is the difficulty of communicating through words. Many clients lack a functional feelings vocabulary. When you try to use words to describe symptoms not everyone agrees on which words describe which symptoms. A great deal has been written about the “big five” psychological constructs. Those Big Five constructs were created from more than 100 different possible constructs. Introverted versus extroverted personality, doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

The sample size and research are often microscopic.

Grab any 10 or 20 people off the street and asked them a series of questions about their feelings, their life, and their problems and you can get radically different results. Results done at one school in one district may not reflect results you would obtain at other schools in other areas. When it comes to specific mental health issues, I have seen studies published with fewer than ten people. The chances that those ten people represent in any way millions of other people is nonexistent.

Results of many psychology experiments can’t be replicated.

Back in the 1960s, many people were “psychology majors.” The promise that psychology as a discipline could help us improve our selves, society and solve problems seemed great. Unfortunately, much of what people learned back then and since has turned out not to be accurate. Today psychology is experiencing a replication crisis — many of the things I learned in psychology classes were the results of one “landmark” famous experiment. As the years have passed, other experimenters tried to reproduce those results. Unfortunately, doing the same research more than once has produced different results.

Results psychological research do not generalize to other populations.

The “Psychological principles” we discover in one place and at one time haven’t held true when applied somewhere else or in some other year. Experiments, particularly surveys about attitudes and issues, done in America don’t necessarily hold true in other countries. Results of studies on young, white, female, college students have in no way remain valid when applied to minorities, men, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the addicted, and so many other populations.

Mental health is about abnormal psychology.

One small branch of psychological research deals with “abnormal psychology.” The things we now call mental illness and substance use disorders are included in the field of abnormal psychology. Unfortunately, more than half of all the people in America will experience a mental health or substance use disorder. “Normal psychology” is not about normal people. The majority of normal people will experience one or more episodes of something described by “abnormal psychology.”

The next time you read about a startling new revelation from the field of psychology, you may need to take out your salt shaker. I still read a lot of that research, but I’m much more skeptical now that I was in 1966 when I thought I might want to be a psychology major.

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.

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What is trust?

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

Word trust

Trust.
Photo courtesy of pixabay

Do you have trust issues?

Many people report they have trust issues.

It is a common complaint among people who come for counseling.

Some people are shy or anxious, others have been hurt. It’s tempting to believe that not trusting protects you from pain.

Not trusting can also cause you loneliness and isolation. The challenge is learning when to trust and when to be wary and cautious.

The definition of trust.

The dictionary, or denotative meaning, of trust as a noun is a firm belief in the truth, reliability, ability, or strength of someone or something. Synonyms for trust include your faith, confidence, certainty, and belief. This definition puts trust into the realm of your opinion or feelings about how much you are willing, or able to put aside your doubts and accept something is true because you want it to be true. This subjective quality of truth leads to differences in trust between people.

The many kinds of trust.

There is more than one kind of trust, depending on the nature of the relationship. The qualities you look for in a trustworthy car will be different from what you look for in deciding to trust a person. Learning who to trust, when to trust, and how much to trust is a valuable life skill. Here are some of the varieties of trust.

Competence-based trust.

Sometimes you must rely on the skills of others. You want a doctor can trust. You look for a medical professional who went to a good school, has a good reputation, or is a specialist. If your car needs fixing you should be looking for a good mechanic. The trust you have in professional people is primarily a belief that they can do what you want them to and that they will do their job correctly.

Situational trust.

When you go into a bank, you trust the teller and hand them your money. You would not trust a stranger on the street with your money. You are more likely to trust people you have just met at work man people you’ve recently met socially. Students initially trust a teacher who tells them to go somewhere or do something far more than they would trust a stranger standing outside the building. Situational trust is based on the role the other person fills rather than any other information you have about the individual.

Caring trust, trusting that they won’t try to hurt you.

Most people grow up believing that their families care about them. The universal expectation is that parents should care about their children and that siblings should care about each other. As parents grow older, there is an expectation that their children will care about them. Extended family members are likely to care more about you than strangers.

Throughout life, most people develop friendships which are based on mutual caring and trust. These early life experiences create a mental blueprint for how we should trust others and expect to be trusted. Having an early life caregiver who was not consistent and reliable can result in trust issues in adulthood. Learning inappropriate relationships because early caregivers were abusive or neglectful are called attachment disorders and are a major source of adult trust issues.

Having a friend who trusted violate the principle of caring trust makes it more difficult to form adult friendships.

Character-based trust.

Some people are easier to trust than others. Everything they do seems appropriate and consistent with what they say. People who are described as being of “good character” seem to be easier to trust. People we say have a good character I described as honest, loyal, and trustworthy. Many youth development programs are built on the idea that it is possible to teach children character values and that those who were good and well-behaved as children are likely to grow up to be trustworthy adults.

Character-based trust has become suspect in recent years. We hear on the news after someone has been arrested for a serious crime that the neighbors were surprised because “he always seemed like such a nice guy.” Despite adult skepticism that many people who appear honest and trustworthy just haven’t gotten caught yet, some people, because of their appearance and demeanor, give the outward appearance of warranting character based trust.

More information on this topic appears in the category – trust.

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

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.

Why you are burned out.

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

Match on fire

Burnout.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are you experiencing burnout?

Burnout has been one of the major problems of the last century, and it’s getting worse, not better. As more people work in jobs that involve contact with other people, stress has been magnified. Among social worker’s burnout was called “compassion fatigue.” Teachers experience burnout, so do bankers. Customer service representatives and those who work in phone centers commonly experience burnout.

High levels of stress, particularly in situations where you are low in your abilities to control the situation, can result in burnout. Once you experience burnout, you may never be able to return to that job again. For some people, burnout is so complete that they become disabled and are never able to work afterward. Here are some of the things that may be putting you at high risk for burnout.

Trying to do too much results in burnout.

Worldwide, everyone seems to be doing more and finding less happiness. Today most families are either single parents or both parents work. With more hours put in on the job, there is less time for children, relationships, and self-care.

The price we have paid for more material possessions has been long commutes, more stress on the job, and declining life satisfaction. Recently we have seen a tremendous increase in anxiety disorders, depression, and stress-related disorders. Poor mental and emotional health is resulting in poor physical health. If your whole life consists of running from one thing to the next you’re at high risk to break down and not be to do anything in the future.

When you don’t say no, you take on too much.

Whether it’s on the job, or in your personal life; not being able to say no puts you at an increased risk of burnout. If you’re one of those people, who feel guilty when you say no, you are sacrificing your health for other people’s approval. Taking on that one more project may be the one to many that lead to emotional exhaustion.

Not taking care of your body, leads to burnout.

Most people are chronically sleep deprived, not out of necessity but out of choice. In that respect electricity, has been a mixed blessing. People set their alarms so they can get up before the sun. It’s a rush to get yourselves and your family ready for the day. The evenings are spent binging on electronic entertainment. It’s common for people of all ages to stay up late online, frantically pursuing pleasure. Junk food provides the bulk of the fuel for human bodies today. Being overweight or obese adds another burden, physically and mentally, for you to carry around each day. Poor physical self-care leaves you emotionally depleted as well and at high risk for permanent burnout.

When other people’s opinion matters too much, you risk burnout.

Social media likes have become the measure of personal satisfaction. A diet of craving other people’s approval leaves you starved for self-esteem. If you don’t feel good about yourself, you will never be able to get enough approval from others. One of the first signs of burnout is feeling chronically, physically and emotionally exhausted.

You will burn out if your brain never gets time off.

It’s common for people in therapy to report that their mind races. An unquiet mind can be a symptom of a particular mental illness, but it can also indicate stimulus overload. The human brain is designed to do most things automatically, without thought. Fewer things require serious deep thinking. When your brain is full of things you need to remember, and you are thinking deeply, your thought processes will slow down. When your brain is full, trying to do your daily job, life can be overwhelming.

Pursuing someone else’s goals causes burnout.

Some people look forward to their daily tasks. When you enjoy what you do each day, it energizes you. If you are pursuing your passions, are on the jazz about what you do each day, you were unlikely to experience burnout. Many people find they can tolerate an unpleasant workday if their leisure time allows them to pursue their passions. The more of each day you spend pursuing someone else’s goals, the less time you will have to reach your objectives.

Negative thoughts result in burnout.

The thoughts you have, produce the feelings you feel. If your typical way of thinking is pessimistic, full of negative, unhelpful thoughts, you will become emotionally drained. As burnout progresses people move from feeling physically and emotionally exhausted to being cynical and negative about other people, the situation, and the future. When you begin to feel that you are incompetent, unable to do your daily task correctly, you are at the end of the line for burnout.

More posts about – Burnout.

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

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.

Where you live can make you lonely.

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

Lonely person

Loneliness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Where you live can make you lonely.

Where do you think people, are most likely to be lonely?

When I saw the research on location and loneliness, I was surprised.

It seemed logical the people who live in remote, rural areas would have less human contact and would be lonelier. That’s not what the research showed.

The highest rates of loneliness are reported in crowded, urban areas. It’s not surprising then that with more than half the world’s population living in large cities loneliness is on the rise. Here are some of the reasons we think people who live in large cities experience more loneliness.

Not knowing people in the neighborhood makes you lonely.

One of the common complaints about small towns is that everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s harder, maybe impossible, to be anonymous in a small town. The upside of having everyone else know about you is that you know about them. In a large city, you may live in an apartment for years and never get to know other people in nearby apartments. That lack of connection results in loneliness. One cure for loneliness is to frequent places where people know your name.

Lots of crime around you increases loneliness.

If you live in an area with a high crime rate, you avoid other people. In cities with high murder rates, people stay indoors at night. If you believe you live in a high crime area, you are likely to stay boarded up in your dwelling, hiding from other people. Work with other civic-minded people to reduce crime and dispel the loneliness.

Not expecting help makes you feel lonely.

When you don’t know people nearby, you don’t expect them to help you. People who have close relationships with those around them feel safer and are less likely to feel lonely. In crowded areas, people are often reluctant to help those around them. When there are many people present everyone tends to think someone else will take care of it. The result of this thinking is that when everyone expects someone else to help no one may act.

Not feeling safe where you live can make you lonely.

Lack of safety, feeling at risk and vulnerable increases your isolation and loneliness. People who feel unsafe barricade themselves behind locked doors.

Being afraid to leave the house makes you lonely.

Fear isolates people. As your fear of leaving your house increases, you will feel a corresponding increase in loneliness. People in poor, crowded, environments, become increasingly lonely because they try to avoid contact with others who they fear will harm them. Not feeling safe has resulted in a generation of kids who grow up playing in their homes, connecting only with electronics because their parents are afraid to let them go outside.

People who are afraid to go walking after dark experience an increase in loneliness.

Have you noticed the news stories about a group of people who all go walking together after dark? The premise here is that people’s fear of leaving their homes after dark increases their loneliness and increases isolation, and turns the streets over to people out to harm others.

If you live in a neighborhood was well-lit streets and have a busy shopping area close to your home are more likely to go out at night. When you must travel long distances, alone in your car, to connect with other people are likely to stay home and feel lonely.

What do you do if where you live makes you feel lonely?

The greatest cure for loneliness is human connections. Get to know your neighbors. Enlarge your social network. For some people moving to another neighborhood where they feel safe and accepted is an option. For other people, the solution is to work to change the neighborhood in which you live. Join community groups dedicated to making your neighborhood safer and a better environment. Make friends and be a friend. Loneliness, the feeling, tells you that you need more human connection. Increasing your social connections will help you overcome that feeling of loneliness.

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

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.

 

The Times Loneliness Takes Over.

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

Lonely person

Loneliness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Loneliness is worse at transition points.

It’s common for people to feel lonely at certain times in their lives. The feeling of loneliness can have survival value. One person, by themselves, is in a dangerous situation. A group of people together can protect each other. In limited amounts, loneliness can motivate you to seek out others and create new supportive relationships.

Sometimes loneliness becomes excessive and can result in feelings of rejection, isolation, and distrust. High levels of loneliness can damage your physical and emotional health, harm your relationships, and result in self-harm, or abusing substances.

The effects of loneliness intensify when you have fewer supportive relationships. Knowing when loneliness is likely to strike can help you to understand that this is a normal part of life rather than something wrong with you.

If you are feeling especially lonely right now, reach out to others and work on improving your support systems. If loneliness has gotten you in its grasp, consider getting some professional help to get you through this time. Here are some of the times in life you are likely to feel lonely and what that loneliness is trying to tell you.

When you don’t feel you belong, you get lonely.

People used to know where they “belonged.” Historically individuals were connected to groups and locations in ways that told them where they belonged and where they didn’t belong. Over the last hundred years, most of these connections have weakened to the point that people no longer can tell you where they belong.

For most of human history, people lived in small groups. First, there were small bands, then larger tribes. Over time humans progressed to building dwellings and being parts of families. Next people belonged to a particular city or state. The group you lived in might have been loving, or it might have been harsh and cruel. Either way, you were likely to feel that where you were was where you belonged. People who grow up in a rural community or a small town typically put down roots. No matter where you go afterward you can feel anchored to your “hometown.”

People used to be able to define themselves by their social role. Men, when asked to describe themselves, would tell you what they did for a living. They were farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers, or they worked in the factory or mine. Women used to define themselves as wives or mothers. Over the last hundred years or so women moved into the workplace. Certain occupations became traditional “women’s work.” When asked who she was, a working woman was likely to cite a handful of common women’s jobs. She might have been a teacher, a nurse, or a cashier in a retail store. The work role person a person “belongs in” is more fluid today.

Most people used to be affiliated with a group. Church or religious memberships were the norms. There was a time in America when you ask someone about their religious affiliation they would give you the name of a particular denomination. They would say they were Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, and so on. They likely attended functions at the church even if they didn’t fully believe that church’s doctrine. Membership in occupational groups, like a grange or union was much more common in the past. So was membership in social and fraternal organizations.

In this new millennium, most group affiliations have weakened. People move frequently. Most people must change their career multiple times in their life. Women have moved into jobs that were once exclusively done by men, and in a few areas, men moved into traditionally female occupations. Church membership has declined. Today most people describe themselves as “spiritual rather than religious” or as simply “Christian” rather than as a member of a specific denomination.

Along with church membership, participation in fraternal and social groups has declined. Even union membership has become more fluid. Many of the newer jobs are not unionized and as people move from job to job they may move from union to union. Rather than being able to define yourself by the groups you belong to, today people must define themselves by the things they have. As you move through life, your changing experiences are likely to trigger feelings of loneliness.

When you are a teenager, you are likely to experience loneliness.

Part of being a teenager is moving through changes in relationships. During these years, teens make the shift from being part of the family to becoming a separate, individual person. Loneliness can drive you to find out who you are as a separate individual. During these years, the relationship between you and your parents or caregivers needs to transform from being close and affectionate to being a more separate adult relationship. You will need to make your first step to overcoming loneliness by finding out who you are as a person.

The teen years are a time when being accepted is important. Teens want to be liked and be a part of a group. Some kids become part of the “in” popular group. Others may become “stoners” or “nerds and geeks.” Increasingly teens find it hard to fit in anywhere. This lack of belonging has resulted in increasing depression and anxiety.

Those who don’t find the group to belong to may become lonely, isolated and develop significant emotional problems. As difficult as this stage is for some teen’s learning to cope with changing social relationships as a part of the growing up process. The hard thing to understand for many as they pass through this stage is not to take it personally. Not being a part of the group doesn’t mean there something wrong with you.

During your teenage and early 20 something years, it’s important to learn the skills to make and to maintain relationships. One of the biggest hazards of being lonely at this point in your life is that you will rush into a romantic, sexual, relationship to avoid feeling lonely. The most important developmental task during this stage in your life is not finding a life partner but learning to tell the difference between the potentially good partners and the bad ones.

When you live alone, loneliness tries to move in.

One of life’s challenges is learning that when you are alone, you do not have to be lonely. Most people tried to avoid the loneliness beast by staying constantly busy. You’re either going to school or working. First, you are a part of a family. If you go away to school, you probably have roommates. Many people move rapidly into romantic relationships. Some of the clients I’ve worked with moved in with a partner after the first or second date. A few of these relationships succeed. Most do not.

At some point in your life are likely to find yourself living alone. The minute you’re sitting there in an empty house or apartment loneliness moves in. If you can learn to be your own best friend, to be happy and content when you’re all alone, there won’t be room for loneliness in your life. People who manage to achieve a good balance between the time they spend with others and the time they spend with themselves are more likely to create a contented life, free from the presence of the loneliness beast.

When you are unemployed, loneliness comes calling.

What you do gives your life meaning and purpose. When you are young, you go to school. When you get older, most people must work. All those activities involve interacting with other people. The day you wake up and don’t have anywhere to go, you are likely to experience loneliness. Whether you have left your job voluntarily, resigned, been fired or watched the workplace close not having some purpose can leave you feeling depressed and lonely. The cure for this loneliness is to get out there and find another job.

When you are sick or disabled, you may be lonely.

People with a significant disability or those faced with a serious illness spend a lot of time alone. The most difficult part of this experience can be the emptiness of the time you must be alone. During these life transitions, it’s important to stay as active and engaged as possible. Newer technologies have made staying connected easier than ever. But staying connected requires effort on your part.

When you become an older adult, you spend more time alone.

Time alone does not have to equal loneliness. Developing the skill of being comfortable when you are by yourself can ease this life transition. As you age, it becomes harder to maintain connections with other people. For some people, the retirement years are active ones. For other people, the exit from work leads to isolation and loneliness. Families move away, and friends pass away. Overcoming loneliness in later life requires effort to maintain your friendships and social connections.

Now that you know the times that loneliness may come calling, what efforts will you make to keep him out of your life?

Read more about the causes and cures for loneliness.

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

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.

How lonely will you be?

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

Lonely person

Loneliness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Will loneliness cause you problems?

Loneliness can result in significant emotional problems. While loneliness isn’t considered a specific mental illness, it plays a role in creating and worsening several mental health issues. Loneliness can undermine self-esteem by making people feel, empty, worthless and unwanted. Loneliness is both a cause of and a result of social isolation. If you are feeling lonely, you probably feel that you lack something in your life. Loneliness coupled with anxiety and depression increases your risk of feeling threatened and may result in paranoia.

In its milder forms, loneliness can be a motivator for you to seek out human contact. Stronger versions of loneliness result from feeling you have too few social connections or the relationships you have are one-sided and unhelpful.

Researchers have discovered strong connections between loneliness and depression. Lonely people are at an increased risk to think about suicide or to even attempt suicide. Lonely people are more likely to use and abuse drugs and alcohol resulting in alcoholism and addiction. The combination of substance use disorders, feeling lonely and depressed, and believing that others are rejecting you, increases the risk of violent behavior. Loneliness has also been linked to physical health problems and poor emotional development.

The very young and very old are at increased risk for feelings of loneliness. Particular life transition points also increase these risks.

Your thinking can make your loneliness better or worse.

How lonely you feel is less likely to be the result of how many friends you have or how much time you spend with others, and is more connected to your attitudes about the quantity and quality of your social connections.

Your feelings of loneliness are primarily the result of your beliefs about four separate factors. When you’re feeling lonely, it is important to look at both the facts and your beliefs in these areas. One way to reduce the feelings of loneliness is to develop the skills you need to change your situation. The other way to feel less lonely is to reconsider your beliefs about things. Often negative emotions are caused not by the situation, but by the beliefs you have about your circumstances.

What do you think about your friendships?

Loneliness is reduced more by having close, true friends, than by the number of casual friendships you have. It’s not how many friends you have, especially your social media friends, but how close you and your friends are.

True friendships should be reciprocal. You care about them, and they care about you. You should be willing to do for them, and they should be equally willing to do for you. If you find that your relationship is all about that other person, that you must do what they want to keep their friendship, that’s not a healthy, positive friendship.

It’s wonderful to have a BFF (best friend forever.) Having only one close friend limits the ability of your friendship to be supportive. No one will be able to devote every minute of their life to meeting your needs. If you call that one best friend constantly about your problems, you are likely to burn them out.

Recovery programs often recommend that you have at least five separate people in your support system. Your friends should have other people in their lives beside you. If you’re in a relationship where you can’t have other friends or where you resent the other people in their life, these are not healthy relationships.

Emotionally healthy people belong to a group of friends rather than being dependent on only one person. Having only one person to meet their emotional needs is a large issue for couples. When there are difficulties in your relationship, you will find it hard to turn to your partner for emotional support. It’s risky to turn to friends with whom you might be tempted to develop a close sexual relationship. For heterosexual people, this is the time you need to have friends of your own gender.

Are you isolated?

Feeling socially isolated causes loneliness. If you feel like you have no friends and no one you can talk to, this should prompt you to reach out and make connections. For some people, this means professional counseling, which can help in the short-term. In the long-term, you need to put yourself into situations where you can make friends, and need to learn the skills necessary for creating and maintaining friendships.

Is being alone a bad thing?

Your attitude towards solitude will magnify or reduce your feelings of loneliness. Ask yourself how you feel about spending time with you? Some people find that when they are alone, they don’t know what to do. Are you bored when there’s no one else around?

Being alone shouldn’t make you unhappy. Alone time is an opportunity to find out about yourself. Focusing on the negative will increase your loneliness. Feeling negative about being alone will cause the time to drag. Filling the alone time with things you enjoy doing turns loneliness into happiness.

Can Solitude be a good thing?

When you are alone, look for the positives. Your time alone should be an opportunity to get to know yourself better. Develop a friendship with yourself. Throughout your life, the one constant will be you. Everywhere you go, every minute of your life, you will be there. Work on enjoying the time you by yourself.

Life can get hectic at times. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from it all. If when you get that chance to get away from life’s hassles, you discover you’re getting lonely, consider developing a stronger friendship with yourself.

Other posts about feeling lonely will are found in the category – Loneliness.

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

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.