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Depression: a global force that transcends language and cultural barriers.

Communicating through the body, the mind, our emotions, relationships, and behavior, depression is an all-encompassing part of life for millions of people. When communicating through our bodies, depression manifests fatigue, lack of motivation, poor sleep regiments, irritability, poor eating habits, aches and pains, and overall aggravated restlessness.

In depression we experience overall sadness, emptiness, and even a sense of deadness to our world. Tearful episodes, outrage, guilt and shame replace any semblance of joy life offers us. Sometimes you may feel unexplained bursts of joy which pitfall into despair without any reasoning or consistency behind them. In depression our emotions can become very unpredictable and almost feel like they have a life of their own.

The mental part beyond our emotions in depression holds the highest ground. This is by far the most dangerous and damaging part of depression. Your depressed thought process will communicate to you without doubt or hesitation, and with full confidence that you are a failure, unworthy, unlovable, that death is near, or that catastrophe is right around the corner. You can’t concentrate, you become confused and indecisive, forgetful and aloof and sometimes mentally blank.

In depression our behavior changes, and we find difficulty in normal human interactions. Depression makes one unable to be intimate in a relationship. There is a loss of trust or energy to carry out normal aspects of bonding with one another. This distrust and discontent creates conflict between companions, friends, family, and coworkers. Many depressed individuals begin to take on a self-destructive lifestyle overtime. This includes many aspects such as substance abuse, sexually acting out of character, avoiding social situations, behaving compulsively, isolating oneself, or simply losing oneself in their activities intentionally to avoid their inner thoughts.

While not all the symptoms may apply to you personally, there is a good chance some of these factors will resonate. Many people experience depression, if not chronically so. As an experienced psychologist I can assist you in understanding your own experience with depression. Through therapy you will be given the opportunity to take control over your emotional languages by psychologically and physically. In time you will experience healing and progress, to return to a healthy mental state you can be proud of working towards.

Top 5 Reasons to Stay Together and Seek Marriage Counseling

marriage-counselingSometimes our marriages hit a plateau. The magic that was once there begins to wear thin, with things like stress and depression taking the place of the romance. Marriage troubles are some of the worst anxieties people undergo. In fact, marriage problems that result in divorce are associated with the highest levels of stress a person can endure, just behind death of a spouse.Here are some tips on why looking for marriage counseling is a better option than divorce.

1. Your finances.

Finances are quite often a topic of heated contention in a relationship and it is not uncommon for couples to fight about money or even separate or divorce over it. This is because each person holds different attitudes and perspectives on money and how it should be spent. Decisions that might have been easy to make when you were making them just for yourself will likely be more difficult when they involve someone else. Identifying and understanding the other’s view about money, your past experiences with money and how it has shaped the way you treat money and how it should be used is the first step. Once we identify some common ground, we can move in a positive direction so that you and your partner can agree about how to approach your financial situation and relieve some of the stress you arc experiencing.

Separation or divorce is a stressful and upsetting time. It can also have a big effect on your finances, so if there is an opportunity to understand and communicate better, this may not always have to be the outcome. In relationship/marriage counseling, you can discuss how your past experiences have shaped the way that you treat money today and how your approach to saving/spending differs from your partners. After you have discussed these areas, I wall help you move in a positive direction so that you both feel satisfied with the role that money has in your life.

2. Your Family and Friends.

Nobody likes to see couples fight, but sometimes couples become so self absorbed in their own suffering they can’t see beyond themselves. Fighting and making damaging comments to one another may seem second nature in a destructive relationship, but it inflicts pain on everyone around you. Children especially are sensitive to divorce and often pick sides. Though it seems like a better decision for you personally, children often must endure an even greater agony than your frustrating marriage by losing the very family structure that they were born into.

3. Your own odds.

Chances are, married couples on the rocks are considering bigger and better options out there. Possibly, a spouse considers infidelity, or remarrying someone better, but the odds are against anything close to that working out in the long term. Though todays marriages are only given a 50% chance of success, it goes down significantly with remarriage. So even though you may think you have a better world waiting for you out there, just remember it’s easy to see an oasis in the desert.

4. Your mental health.

Divorces are some of the most stressful and agonizing moments people have to go through. Watching your family get torn apart, your bank account depleted, and friends and family made thru that marriage turn 180 degrees and become resentment is a horrible thing nobody should put themselves through.

5. Because you love them.

Though it may seem un-saveable, you married the wrong person, there’s a better option, chances are you’ve both just let issues go to far. It may sound cliché, but nobody is perfect and the real tragedy is that we don’t communicate our actual thoughts to the person we’ve entrusted the most to. Marriages can be saved, but it requires the effort to do so.

Anxiety and College Life: Get the Facts

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses. Forty million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by age 22. In addition, a 2008 Associated Press and mtvU survey of college students found the following:

  • 80 percent say they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress
  • 34 percent have felt depressed at some point in the past three months
  • 13 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as an anxiety disorder or depression
  • 9 percent have seriously considered suicide in the past year

The good news is that anxiety disorders are treatable, and the vast majority of people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with professional, individualized care.

Family Counseling

There are times when one needs to approach problem issues within the context of a system. All living organisms operate within some form of system. Whether they be cosmic, ecological, biological or family systems the sum is always greater than the individual parts. For instance, your body is made up of specialized anatomy, physiology and organs that perform or support particular bodily functions; eyes help us see, ears help us hear, our heart helps circulate blood and our liver and kidneys perform, among other things, detoxifying functions of the body. A problem with one of these functions affects the whole system. You are not completely you without these parts. Put another way, the you that you recognize as you is comprised of many parts. Take the heart for example, without a beating heart you would not be able see, hear, circulate blood, digest food etc. The whole you system would cease to work without your heart or some similar equivalent. In less catastrophic cases your heart may work but not very well which in turn affects the entire bodily system. A poorly pumping heart can cause cold hands, swollen feet, dizziness, fatigue and so on. The point here is that a problem in one-area can compromise or cause problems in many other areas or systems at the same time.

So what does this have to do with family counseling? As it turns out, the family too is a system. Parents have functions or roles that include taking care of children’s physical, financial and emotional needs. Children are usually expected to love their parents and make them proud. Parents and children unable to fulfill these functions, roles and expectations create problems within the whole family system. For example, Johnny may be cold at night because there is no money to pay for the heating bill. He may not be able to wear clothing that other children wear and as a result be ridiculed and ostracized by others. He may then feel humiliated and act out against his peers or do poorly in school. He may also resent his parents for not being better providers. His parents may in turn resent him for not understanding their situation and treat him badly by withdrawing from him. Johnny in turn will feel rejected and misunderstood and may resort to self-soothing by hanging out with the drug using crowd, ultimately getting arrested which results in conflict between his mother and father each of whom blames the other for Johnny’s problems.

In actual life things are much more complicated, rather than just one precipitating problem (finances), as expressed in this hypothetical case, there are always multiple causes and effects occurring simultaneously. With so many causes and effects, vicious cycles are created which produce emotional impasses and Self-Destructive behavior that often threatens marriages and the well being of the entire family on multiple levels. This is where the specialized services of an experienced therapist can help sort out the various misperceptions, miscommunications and misunderstandings and completely recalibrate the family system in new and more productive ways, breaking the vicious cycles of family dysfunction and creating new pathways for love and mutual support.

Guilt

Guilt is a ubiquitous and inescapable aspect of being human. There is evidence that infants and toddlers experience guilt and the expectation of punishment or ill befalling them on a regular basis. The basic idea is that as humans, we are born with various passions that drive our behavior and form our personality. The most basic of these passions or emotions is love and hate. Guilt comes about by our belief, real or imagined, that we have done damage or harm to someone we love or an ideal we may hold.

Guilt is, by itself, not a bad thing. As you might imagine, those who have a limited capacity for guilt wreck serious havoc on themselves, their family, friends and society, as can be seen in individuals who have sociopathic tendencies. Guilt, then, is a necessary and useful quality of the human condition. Without it, we would operate without conscience, essentially functioning as ruthless, self-centered animals. Like any good thing, however, guilt can be quite destructive if its role takes on excessive prominence. When this happens, our ability to cope and realistically assess reality is compromised. Those of us who have a good conscience but a colorful past, or present for that matter, that may not be understood by the casual observer, are particularly prone to feelings of guilt.

A major source of guilt is of the unconscious variety. Voluminous, empirical research attests to the existence of unconscious processes and their powerful effect on every day behavior. In the case of unconscious guilt, we essentially have stored up an abundance of feelings of guilt associated with damage we may or may not have exacted on our loved ones, (mother, father, friends, etc). Because these feelings are not consciously understood or processed, they remain below our level of consciousness, seeking ways to be addressed. Such feelings are especially likely to be evoked during times of stress or conflict when a current life situation resembles past life experiences where feelings of guilt were prominent. When this happens, individuals experience a sense of guilt that is not consistent with current events and often makes no logical sense. One of the qualities of unconscious guilt is its association with catastrophic expectations for the future or the expectation of some form of bad befalling one.

For example, as children, when we are frustrated or angry with a caretaker, our natural inclination is to hate. This not because we are intrinsically bad, but instead, this is a natural inborn reaction to frustration or pain. The problem here is that children have an underdeveloped sense of reality and are prone to thinking magically. The result of this is the belief that feeling hateful toward ones parents will actually harm them.

This phenomenon can often be seen when after a family conflict, a child might begin worrying about his parents’ health. The idea being that, “My hate will make my parents sick”. As adults we are not immune from this kind of thinking. Hence, if we have a store of unresolved, unconscious guilt, we will be prone to expect bad things to befall us.

This is the case because of another inborn tendency; the idea that if we think or do something we perceive as bad, that somehow that bad will return to us. Eastern religious conceptions refer to this as karma, westerners call it everlasting hell or an eye for an eye, etc. The main point here is that in most cases, our expectation of bad things befalling us or our deserving bad things are based on this unconscious, irrational thinking associated with misplaced guilt from other sources. As irrational as it may be, guilt, nonetheless, springs from basic emotions that physiologically induce real distress.

What can be done? While there are no simple or universal answers to such phenomena, some general considerations may be helpful. Recognition of how these processes work is an important first step. Consideration should also be given to appreciating that all of us fail, hate and are inadequate, sometimes miserably. Bad qualities notwithstanding, we also possess love, generosity, kindness, and all manner of good things as well. In most people, the good balances out the bad, and typically overshadows it, thereby absolving us of the necessity to entertain burdensome, conscious guilt. In the case of the situation where true harm has been perpetrated on another, if possible, reparation and self forgiveness should be invoked. In the event one consciously understands the basic issues and dynamics of ones guilt, but continues to be overwhelmed by its force, a concerted effort should be made to deny the current legitimacy of such feelings. Expectation of negative consequences that are not relevant to current circumstances are generated by the person feeling them, and as such can be mitigated or even eliminated by that same person. With regards to negative or catastrophic thoughts, these may be addressed by consciously stopping the thought(s) and replacing them with a more realistic and pleasant one each time it occurs. Finally, talking about these issues with an appropriate person to pinpoint the origins of specific and persistent concerns can be quite relieving.

Craig M. Hands, Ph.D.

Article on Guilt/2012

“The World Health Organization finds that mental illness is more debilitating than physical illness worldwide.”

Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 272, No. 22

Depression

Depression is a multi-lingual messenger that has quite a lot to say for those willing to listen and learn its language. Its 5 major languages include, the language of the body, the mind, emotions, relationships and behavior.

When depression speaks in the language of the body it articulates its messages to you through fatigue, lack of motivation, sleeping too much or too little, irritability, excessive or limited eating, bodily aches and pains- including headaches, low back pain, gastro-intestinal disruptions, chest pain, hyperactivity or restlessness.

Depressions’ emotional vocabulary causes you to experience things such as sadness, emptiness or even a sense of deadness. You may feel tearful, angry, guilty or ashamed and life’s joys are elusive if not completely absent. Sometimes you may feel extremely happy only to fall into the depths of despair without rhyme or reason.

Depression almost always communicates with you through the language of your thoughts or cognitions. This language is likely the one you understand the best. It tells you in no uncertain terms that you are bad, a failure, unworthy, unlovable, that you are dying or that catastrophe is just around the corner. You believe that you are useless, hopeless and sometimes that you should even take your life. It won’t allow you to concentrate, cause you to be confused and indecisive, forgetful or leave you mentally blank.

The relational vernacular of depression involves the inability to find or maintain or be intimate in a relationship. It is also a language that includes chronic relational conflict with companions, friends, family and co-workers.

Finally, the behavioral lingual franca of depression is associated with Self-Destructive lifestyles such as, substance abuse, sexual acting out, compulsive behavior, social avoidance, a need to be alone or conversely losing one’s self in frenetic social, sports or vocational activities.

While not all of the vocabulary I have just described may apply to you, it may well be that you are experiencing and struggling with some of these. In all probability you are likely experiencing more than one of these languages at the same time.

As an experienced psychologist, I will assist you in interpreting and understanding your own unique emotional, cognitive, physical, relational and behavioral languages and teach you to communicate across and within these languages. You too will have the opportunity become emotionally and psychologically multilingual.

You will learn that these hidden communications as disquieting as they can sometimes be, if understood and experienced in the proper context, can be your ally and your portal into a new and more fulfilling emotional culture taking you away from the tyranny of the old emotional regime.

I can be contacted at 310-823-0006.

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