Everyone has bad days. And many have bad weeks. But when feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious stretches out over a period of several weeks and begins to interfere with daily life, then mental health professionals may need to be involved. Here are some signs that you or someone you care about need evaluation and possibly treatment:
1. Suicidal thoughts or plans. If you start thinking that life is not worth living, help is available. You can call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or a local mental health center. If you are aware of someone else who has thoughts of suicide, the hotline can advise you of what action you should take.
John Tierney (New York Times columnist) has teamed up with Roy Baumeister, Ph.D. (social psychologist) to write a book about willpower, decision making, and self-control entitled “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.”
He summarized some of the book’s major points in a recent column. I can’t wait to read the entire book. We have commented in previous blogs about the fact that the highly related issues of self-control, the ability to delay gratification and tolerate frustration, and what’s often called “willpower” constitute a set of the most critical skills people need to acquire. Kids who gain such control become more successful adults; they achieve more; they earn more, and they report greater happiness and satisfaction with life.
We just returned from a much enjoyed vacation to the British Isles. When I can remember, I like to write down ideas for blogs or other projects and carry them around. Many times I forget to use them or look them over later and can’t figure out why the particular phrase sounded so interesting. Well, we were taking a tour of some prehistoric ruins and for some reason the tour guide (I forget why) said that something was “as useless as a chocolate tea pot.”
That description seemed to me so utterly British and I immediately imagined a picture of chocolate melting from hot water. I couldn’t resist getting out a scrap of paper to write it down but had no idea how to use the words.
Anxious people tend to think differently than those who are more laid back. Thoughts of those with anxiety often stay focused in the future. You don’t really feel anxious about what happened last week, you worry about what may happen later today, tomorrow, or even years from now. Here are a few examples of people having anxious thoughts.
People with all sorts of anxiety disorders worry a lot. Frequently, they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to anticipate and prevent negative outcomes. They fret for hours about possible risks like MRSA, heart attacks, traffic accidents, and airplane crashes. Sometimes they also spend lots of time trying to minimize these risks by excessive cleaning, avoiding traffic at all costs, taking a train instead of a plane, exercising to excess or dieting beyond all reason.
It’s as though they think that their worries and/or compulsive actions will truly help keep catastrophes at bay. In other words, spend enough time and effort and you’ll be safe from harm. Oh, it only it were so.
Inspiration for the title of today’s blog came from a segment of the Suze Orman show called “Can I Afford it?” By the way, it’s a great show for those who want to learn something about basic personal finance issues. Another really good show for this purpose is called “Till Debt Do We Part.” Check them out. OK, now for the blog…
We’ve paid special attention to kids’ problems with anxiety in a number of our For Dummies books, including “Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies,” “Child Psychology and Development For Dummies,” and “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies.” That’s because attending to anxiety early can help prevent the emergence of much bigger problems down the road.
I thought you might like to see some of these ideas in a snapshot. Here they are:
As I write, we are leaving for a trip this weekend overseas. The weather could be raining and cold or hot and muggy. I planned to start packing today. However, I decided to clean microscopic soap scum off the shower door instead. It feels much better to use a toothbrush to clean those tiny crevices in the shower than to contemplate packing. Nothing like a bit of obsessive compulsive behavior to ward off anxiety!
People with anxiety disorders tend to get anxious (okay, duh). They even worry about getting anxious after seeking treatment for their anxiety. Sometimes they go so far as to use this concern as an excuse for not seeking treatment in the first place. In other words they think, “Why bother getting treated if the problem is likely to make a swift return after I get treatment anyway?”
If you’ve had thoughts like these, I’d like to suggest you try rethinking your viewpoint. Treatment of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder generally has enduring, positive effects. That’s especially the case if you obtain treatment based on cognitive behavior therapy that’s been specifically tailored for the type of anxiety or OCD you struggle with.
In fact, cognitive behavioral treatment for anxiety typically holds up far better than medication over the long haul. So even if you do take medication for anxiety or OCD, you now have one more reason to add cognitive behavior therapy to your regimen—the likely prevention of relapse as well as the possibility (for many) of successfully tapering off your medication at some point.
Nonetheless, relapse does happen. What should you do if it does?