PTSD stands for post traumatic stress disorder. Basically it refers to negative feelings that are experienced after a traumatic event. It could be a month after and event or years. When anyone experiences a trauma it can be a shock. One of the effects of shock is a feeling that what just happened hasn’t really happened. This state of shock can last a very long time and is a kind of defence against feeling the emotions associated with the trauma.
In a previous blog I raised the question of the difference between feeling suicidal and becoming suicidal. Feeling suicidal reflects feeling like the world would be better of without you and having fantasies about your death. This is more common than people think.
Becoming suicidal means making an actual plan to end your life ie: purchasing pills, writing a note etc. Both feeling and becoming suicidal are important and should not be ignored.
If you are immediatley concerned about yourself or someone else:
samaritans : 116 123
With self harm on the rise amongst young people it is important to look out for those who might feel suicidal. But how does someone know when someone else is feeling suicidal and what is the difference between feeling suicidal and becoming suicidal?
First lets look at identifying suicidal feelings. Extreme withdrawal can be a huge sign especially if that person has a history of anxiety and depression. They may withdraw more than usual, this maybe worth looking into. A lack of engaging with the environment around them is also a indication. Certain drugs can cause feelings to be intensified, so if someone is taking psychoactive drugs it maybe a concern.
It is not to say that if a person matches the above behaviours then they are definitely suicidal but that it is something to look into. Being supportive to another person who you might think is in a suicidal state is more help than you realise. They may not want your support but they also may do. Either way you recognised what was going on and tried to intervene.
In my previous blog I spoke about a simple breathing technique to help stay in the moment and manage stress. Another technique is thinking about what is in your control vs what is out of your control. In reality this technique is often a process that happens after the stressful event.
At times when we think back to a recent stressful event is can feel punishing and painful. There maybe complex feelings which come up such as feeling you are to blame for everything or why did things have to go that way. These feelings can circulate and become a source of anxiety.
Thinking about the situation in terms of what you can/could control ie: your responses and actions can help you to reflect on the situation with a little more mental space. This technique won’t stop the anxious feelings that are born out of the stressful even but it can help you to hopefully lessen the blame on yourself for other peoples actions.
Another way to manage stress is to create a support network. A support network can come in different forms, co-workers, friends, family or therapy. Many people are able to offer support for others but find it nearly impossible to ask for it themselves. The thought that they should be able to cope and manage everything may inhibit the need for help. For some people there is a fear that asking for help or support is a sign of weakness or failure.
There are a few ways in which stress can be managed. But it is important to remember that as life goes up and down so does stress. Therefore ones ability to be able to manage it will also go up and down. There are no rules or dead certs that if you do this one thing every morning your stress levels will ultimately decrease and you will find your way on a happier path. This is simply not true and in my experience most people find that unhelpful as it creates an added pressure.
I find it more helpful to think of small and simple techniques that anyone can use when they feel stressed out. If your unable to use that technique then its okay too. The idea is that there should not be any pressure to deploy any stress management technique because that will only cause more stress.
One of the most common techniques is breathing. Most people will also recognise this as a technique to help with anxiety which is often a manifestation of extreme stress. Breathing in for 3 counts and out for 3 counts can help to ground oneself in a highly stressful situation. You can take as many breaths as you feel you are able to. The breathing helps you to create a tiny bit of space for yourself in an overwhelming environment.
Everyone encounters stress on a daily basis. Some days can be more stressful than others and some stressors are more familiar than others. For example that particular family member that seems to get under your skin or taking a different route home. To some these can be seen as small stressors to others they’re huge.
Stress has become such common place in our society that it is difficult to recognise the effects it has on our bodies. Headaches, skin problems, stomach problems, muscle tension, apathy and fatigue are the most common physical symptoms.
Statistically the top 5 reasons that cause people stress are job pressures, relationships, money, health and social media. Now imagine all 5 of those things causing you stress a majority of the time, that’s a lot of stress. Yet most people have and do experience those high stress levels without knowing how to manage it or better still how to lessen it.
Identity is a word society uses to refer to who they are as an individual.
The overriding feeling associated with a lack of identity is usually being unsure of oneself. An aspect of this is being unable to make up your mind. What you do and don’t like? These are feelings that can create a large amount of anxiety because there is a feeling of being ungrounded.
Identity helps to ground an individual, no matter what the situation, if a person feels they know themselves they are likely to get more out of that situation. Essentially having an identity is about how well you know yourself which then leads to a knowledge of what you want out of something as opposed to not knowing. Which can result in opportunities passing you by.
Isolation has always been present in our society. Humans need other humans, relationships are important and its what helps us to thrive as individuals. The growing presence of social media makes being isolated harder to notice. Having a relationship with your screen is not the same as having a relationship with a person.
Im sure many of us have encountered social gatherings where the majority of people are on their phone because relating to the screen on your phone has become more familiar than relating to another person.
In our phone our lives can be perceived to rich and full but in reality there is an emptiness that is born out of a lack of meaningful relationships.
Whether it is in your family, friendship group, work or college. Feeling like an outsider is awful not matter what the situation.
Feeling like you can't quite get into the conversation even if you want to and feeling as though you observe more than taking part. These are common feelings associated with feeling like an outsider.
The more you feel like you can't take part in something the more habitual it becomes. Feeling like your always on the outside can stop you from really getting the most out of an experience. The experience can begin to feel removed from you thus resulting in you feeling like your not really there.
The reality is that you are there but something is happening internally that stops you from getting involved and that involvement turns feeling like an outsider into feeling very much part of the experience..
How do you know if your suffering from low self esteem or just having an off day? Usually people with low self esteem will think they are the sole cause of that bad day whereas people with higher self esteem would be able to put their bad day into perspective and come to a rationale conclusion.
People suffering with low esteem can spend days tormenting themselves over something that is not their fault. All the feelings that go along with having low self esteem can very painful. To name a few of those feelings; isolation, frustration, hatred, depression and feeling invisible.
Having low self esteem can make it very difficult to process the surrounding environment which includes relationships. When bad things happen they feel it is always their fault and when good things happen they may unconsciously attempt to sabotage them because they feel undeserving.
Poor self esteem cannot be changed overnight. If you are someone with low self esteem you have most likely suffered with it for a long time. Trying to understand why someone has formed such a low opinion of themselves is crucial in getting that person on a path that leads to a higher opinion of themselves.
Self esteem reflects a persons general opinion of themselves and their value (self worth). These opinions come from childhood, how a child is related to and how the world is viewed all have a huge impact on someones self esteem.
Over time these opinions about the self become entrenched and go on to effect all areas of a persons life . For example someone could feel like they are a failure which may get in the way of taking up opportunities.
Not being able to recognise your own worth can lead to staying in damaging relationships that match a persons distorted view of themselves. For example an individual with no self worth may find themselves being belittled by their partner which the individual feels they somehow deserve.
Over the last decade society has rapidly changed how they view gender. Some have embraced those changes within society whilst others have remained opposed to those ideas. I believe throughout history some people have always felt that they do not understand the gender they are born with but it is not until recently that those difficulties are being taken seriously.
Feelings towards gender and sexuality can be so overwhelming and confusing. Although society has become more accepting of how people express their differing gender roles a lot people still experience discrimination and that can highlight an individuals feelings of shame towards themselves.
I feel it is important that individuals who struggle with their gender feel able to explore the painful feelings that come up. Therapy offers a safe and non-judgemental space to do be able to do that without trying to put a label on you. People don't fit into boxes and can't be covered up with labels but they can have the opportunity to be themselves.
Substance misuse can be seen as a way of coping/escaping reality. It can present itself in various forms such as drugs, alcohol, food, sex, tv, shopping etc... People who find themselves addicted to something do not do it out of choice. No one wakes up one day and decides that they are going to be addicted to a particular drug.
There is usually something within that individuals reality that has become too difficult to bare. Addiction can start out as something very pleasurable but then just becomes away of avoiding painful feelings.
It is not the drug itself that has become addictive but the turning away from pain and life that has become so addictive. The drug or drop of alcohol is just the vessel used to avoid feelings.
As humans we are able to feel a number of different emotions at once. Identifying these feelings can be very difficult and trying to communicate these feelings to another person is even harder.
When one does finally begin to try and talk about how they feel it can seem as though its impossible, as if there were no words at all.
Some individuals have spent much of their life not being expressive and not being able to voice how they feel. Learning to express emotions can be a very scary process and may even seem threatening.
Threatening because one has become so adapt at going through life not noticing their emotional state let alone being able to vocalise how they feel.
Learning to listen to yourself and developing your emotional language takes time. Whilst being in therapy one learns slowly how to talk about what they are feeling.
Having a negative body image, needing to loose weight or maintain a certain weight are feelings people often associate with eating disorders. However another important aspect is needing to excessively control what is being put in your body.
For example an individual who for various reasons feel they cannot control what is happening in any aspect of their lives may begin to control their food intake as an attempt to have some control over their lives.
There is much more to an eating disorder that just feeling overweight although that maybe the prominent feeling they are able to express. There perhaps maybe a lot more going on for the individual that just having a negative body image.
Some people find certain emotions unbearable and find that controlling what they eat helps to manage or escape those feelings. Once that control has been established a vicious cycle can then form. The more unbearable the feelings are, the greater need to control their diet.
Depression can be a very hard thing to describe or to define. Similar to anxiety, depression can often remain hidden within an individual. Some people may find they are able to go to work, socialise with friends and even attend family functions but whilst that is going on theres a sort of emptiness that is felt. This emptiness can be very difficult to understand and can go ignored for a long time.
When someone who is depressed but can also function highly in other aspects of their life it can be very daunting to seek help because the individual may feel very self critical for feeling depressed in the first place.
Depression can effect the most charismatic and sociable people as well as the most isolated. The depth of the emptiness that can be felt within can be so consuming but at the same time so hard to articulate. This is another aspect that can prevent people from getting help.
Some people may feel there is an expectation when they seek help to fully articulate what they are feeling and their reasons for why they are feeling that way. In reality the causes of depression can ofen be hidden to the person. When someone is depressed there can be an absence of feeling. It is understanding why an individual feels this emptiness that they need help with as often they do not know why. Therefore expecting someone to know why they are depressed can be unhelpful.
Social media has had a huge impact on how people interact with each other and the world around them. More recently there is an increasing awareness into how this ever growing presence of social media effects peoples mental health.
It is not that social media creates poor mental health but perhaps triggering what difficulties an individual may already have. As a society we already interact less face to face and the preference has now become to interact on various devices using certain apps.
With over 1 billion likes daily on instagram, there is an ever growing intense need to seek out validation and approval from from the click of button. For individuals who have well functioning relationships there may not be such an intense desire to seek out that constant approval through social media.
However for others who do not have well functioning relationships there is a potential for there to be a huge amount of pressure to be liked and to like on these social platforms. Whilst the disconnection to the outside world and to the individuals sense of self grows deeper. For some the constant feeding of hash tags and pictures fills an emptiness that actual relationships have failed to fill. Making it increasingly difficult for some individuals to take themselves aways from the constant presence of social media.
Every one will experience some level of anxiety at some point in there lives. The shape and form anxiety takes can vary according to the individual. Anxiety is affecting more people than ever and when anxiety takes over it can limit the ability to reflect on a situation.
Some individuals can function even though they are experiencing varying levels of anxiety whereas others may not. Anxiety is a response to a situation, person or thought. It can come and go in different strengths.
For some individuals anxiety will be felt in a very physical way. Fatigue, insomnia, nausea, constipation, shortness of breath, accelerated heart rate, perspiration, visual impairment, muscle aches, stomach pain and headaches are all common physical manifestations of anxiety.
Due to the variety of ways anxiety can manifest it is possible to feel anxious without knowing your suffering from anxiety, which can sometimes make it difficult for the individual to recognise what is happening to them.