In Addition To Feeling Fearful and Sad, Feeling Angry About The Coronavirus Outbreak Is Normal and Understandable. Suffering Through Extreme Deprivation and Uncertainty Feels Similar To Being Abused.

It may be difficult for some to understand the anger and blame many feel about the Coronavirus epidemic in this country. If you grew up in a family with competent, loving parents who made you feel safe, you might be feeling satisfied with how elected officials are managing the crisis. You might trust they could not have known this disease was coming and that it would kill so many people. However, for people who grew up in a dysfunctional family with parents who were not competent at protecting and taking care of them, the pandemic and mandate for social isolation trigger flashbacks of abuse and neglect and cause suppressed anger to surface.

Many people are becoming aware of how angry they feel about the conditions we are living under due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. To better understand an analysis of the widespread anger so many Americans are feeling, it will help not focus on who you voted for in the last election and who you plan to vote for in 2020. Setting aside political preference will allow for a humanistic attitude towards understanding why so many people are not only fearful but also furious about the scope of this ravaging epidemic.

Just like children expect their parents to be competent to protect them and take care of their needs, Americans hope elected officials have the knowledge and competence to keep them safe from predictable, catastrophic events. Because of the current infection and death rate from the disease, many people are having a hard time trusting those in power. The existence of the Coronavirus is not the fault of any world leader. However, what many people share with me in therapy, is they believe they were lied to about the severity of the disease and that it was definitely coming to the United States. In addition to feeling lied to, people report feeling shocked that our country does not have enough supplies in stock for all citizens to protect themselves from infection. Also a source of anxiety and anger is the inadequate access to testing. It is common to become angry when we are scared.

An analogy would be if a parent had three children, and one of them got sick, would that parent go to the pharmacy and buy medicine for only the sick child? The correct judgment and action by a competent parent in that situation would be to buy enough supplies for every child and adult in the household. Additionally, if no one is sick in a family, a responsible parent would know that someone could become ill and contagious and they would stock the home with medicine for everyone. Projecting the worst-case scenario in a situation like protecting the health of a family is not negative thinking. Instead, it is a logical, protective, and compassionate approach to being in a position of respinsible preparedness.

Parents who suffer from addiction, depression, personality/character issues, and other afflictions do not have the maturity or capacity to appropriately care for and protect their children. Parents with mental health or character issues are also often abusive. The effects of this early trauma stemming from a lack of protection and nurturing creates the child’s initial experience of anxiety, depression, lack of trust, and the need to feel in control. A pandemic the magnitude of COVID-19 is an intense experience of feeling out of control and needing to feel protected by the people who have the power. The level of infection and death from the virus is making it difficult for many to feel trust in the people with the power.

The anger many feel towards officials in power is based on a belief that maybe the threat to the public health was downplayed for political reasons, making the public vulnerable to harm. Such a belief fuels anger and anger needs to be expressed to avoid depression and other forms of emotional harm to the self. Angry and hurt are related feelings. When we hang on to anger, we feel like a victim.

To avoid becoming trapped in toxic anger, it is vital to release the emotion, not judge it, and assert control where you have it. Practicing social distancing, wearing protective gear, staying in contact with people, being productive, setting goals and making plans for when this epidemic ends will help reduce anger and anxiety and increase hope and self-determination.


The Emotional Affects of The Stay-at-Home Experience During The CoronaVirus Crisis.

In addition to the threat to our physical health, The Covid-19 epidemic is presenting a danger to the mental health of everyone forced to practice extreme social distancing. Those who are already dealing with managing chronic mental health issues such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, addiction, and autism may find maintaining the isolation and restrictions are causing an increase in their symptoms. However, we are all human, and the stress of trying to understand and stop the spread of this virus is creating emotional challenges for everyone.

Wearing protective gear and keeping appropriate physical distance from others when you go outside the home is essential and can provide a much-needed sense of control to protect yourself from infection. Going outside the home within your state’s guidelines also offers the opportunity to receive much-needed sunlight, fresh air, and exercise, all of which support emotional well-being.

If you live with others, setting the boundaries you need to avoid feeling resentful or claustrophobic is essential. The honeymoon period of hanging out together 24/7 might be ending soon, if it hasn’t already. Before you become angry or stressed out by forced closeness, consider setting reasonable boundaries with your family or roommates. Stay in touch with your feelings and communicate the limits or changes you need to keep the rules of engagement positive for everyone. It is a challenge to do this, because personality types differ, as do intimacy and communication needs. However, it can be accomplished with a healthy balance between the ” I matter” vs. “They matter” mentality.

Whether you live alone or with others, some coping strategies to lessen the emotional strain are;

  1. Stay connected to people by text, email, face-time, social media platforms, and phone calls throughout the day.
  2. Express your feelings about the restrictions being imposed to fight the spread of the virus. Share what strategies you are using to cope. Ask others how they are getting by to get ideas for yourself. Also talk about other topics unrelated to Covid- 19. Doing so reminds us that despite the changes we are experiencing, other aspects of life are still happening, and they are still essential to acknowledge and value.
  3. Ask for help if you need it. Knowing there are still ways people can be there for you helps lower anxiety.
  4. If you take medication, make sure you continue to stay consistent with taking it as prescribed.
  5. Do not watch the news all day. Watch enough to be informed. Too much exposure to repetitive, concerning information can be overwhelming and cause heightened anxiety. Watch a comedy, read or view intellectually challenging material, watch tv shows from your childhood, etc.
  6. If you are in therapy, stay in contact with your therapist. The emotional support is crucial, and the continuation of your prior therapy goals are still relevant to pursue. If your therapist is unavailable and you need immediate support, call a local mental health hotline. In a mental health crisis, go to the nearest emergency room.
  7. Create a routine to help structure your day. Include time for projects related to your home, your work, creativity, hobbies, and exercise. Do not stay in pajamas all day.
  8. Try out new activities for challenges to your brain.
  9. Start a journal to record your experience of social isolation. Write about fears, losses, and discoveries during the epidemic. Include writing about your goals for when this crisis is over.
  10. Offer help to someone. Becoming too self-absorbed heightens anxiety. Helping others gives purpose and raises self-esteem.
  11. Remember this crisis will be resolved. Information on how to stop the spread of the virus and how to treat those infected is occurring daily. The medical experts are making headway. We will get through this difficult time by working together. The result with be a renewed appreciation for each other and all that life has to offer.

How We Think Affects How We Feel, And How We Feel Affects How We Behave. Understanding The Concepts of Cognitive Therapy Can Help Alleviate Depression, Anxiety and Low Self- Esteem.

Our brains are constantly processing. We are continuosly analyzing, judging, predicting and computing information taken in by our senses. When information is processed factually and neutrally, our emotions stay relatively stable. However, when negative styles of thinking occur, an increase in depressed and anxious feelings result. Such emotions will increase self-defeating patterns of behaviors.

Some of the most common thought distortions that cause anxiety or depression are; catastrophizing, futurizing, mindreading, personalizing and magnification .

For example, thoughts that predict failure cause anxiety. Anxiety causes behaviors that can sabotage preferred outcomes in a variety of situations. For instance, if prior to walking into a job interview you thought, ” I am sure my resume is awful and I have no chance at being hired”, you would probably be nervous and not perform well in the interview.

Common psychological issues that cause distorted thinking are low self esteem, past or present trauma, depression and excessive stress. When ones thinking is influenced by these conditions, perceptions lean in a negative direction. Resolving these psychological issues makes it possible to maintain optimistic attitudes, accurate observations, and self-confidence.


How Codependency Patterns Can Ruin Relationships

A general definition for codependency is, ” a pattern of over- focusing on another person to the neglect and detriment of the self.” To fully understand this concept, you have to understand what is meant by ” over- focusing.” There is an obsessional quality to over- focusing. When one obsesses, an imbalance in the self/other dynamic occurs. Anxiety or exhaustion are common symptoms of this imbalance. Maintaining your own life while trying to manage, control or fix someone else’s life is a drain of time and energy.

In certain life situations, codependency naturally occurs and is normal and helpful. For example, when you are in the early stages of dating someone that you really like, it is normal to obsess and direct a lot of activity and attention towards that person. In the situation where someone is ill or going through a crisis, it is normal to prioritize their needs over yours.

However, under normal conditions such as a friendship, family or romantic relationship, finding a balance between the needs of another person, yourself and the relationship is an important skill to develop. Being successful at attaining this balance says that you have self-esteem and have developed skills related to self awareness, communication and intimacy. Learning to set boundaries that create healthy separateness in relationships is essential in achieving recovery from codependency.

People with codependency often experience resentment, lack of fulfillment, and depression and yet still feel compelled to enmesh with people in order to feel purpose, identity and emotional stability. Stopping codependent functioning is simple in concept, however navigating the emotions necessary to achieve breaking the pattern is harder and more complex.

In upcoming posts, understanding the origin of codependence and how to transition to healthy bonding will be explored.


Giving Too Information Much Too Soon-

Knowing what to talk about in the early stages of dating can be challenging. The anxiety that one might feel about awkward silences can cause lapses into styles of communication that can make the date go in the wrong direction. The “interviewing for a spouse mode” or the “information dump” are common communication patterns that can derail a potentially successful date.

Asking questions is an aspect of normal conversation when you are trying to get to know someone. However, certain questions are more appropriate than others and too many questions feels like an interview rather than a comfortable social exchange. Asking questions that encourage the sharing of information that is too personal is a big mistake. It can result in the person shutting down, getting defensive or sharing more than appropriate.

The person who feels pressured by excessive questioning and as a result discloses too much information too soon, will feel vulnerable and embarrassed.The person receiving the information can potentially be confused or overwhelmed about how to respond. If one minute ago your date was technically a stranger, and now you know that they grew up being abused or are a member of a different political party than you are, the attraction or connection that was beginning to form can be destroyed.

In place of telling your whole life story, it’s safer to talk about interests, work, the activity of the date you are on, school experiences, current events or surface family facts. Talking about past relationships, family problems, or sensitive medical information in the early stages of dating can change the atmosphere from fun and interesting to one that is too serious and potentially off-putting.

Read more specifics in “The Ten Foolish Dating Mistakes That Men and Women Make” or in the article “The Honesty Dilemma In Early Dating”, http://www.rebeccasperbermft.com.


Most Common Dating Mistake: “Too Much, Too Soon”

Many single people do not see fast paced dating as problematic.. They presume if something feels good or right, speeding it up will get you to your relationship goal faster. However, what often happens is the opposite.

Several problems often result with a “ too much, too soon” pattern of dating. A false sense of familiarity and compatibility can develop that may be based more on an urgency to find a partner than on authenticity. One can feel as if they have known someone for a long time if they see each other too often too soon. Just as sabotaging can be excessive texting and social media contact. Seeing each other and talking too much right away can either lead to spontaneous burnout of chemistry or premature commitment that cause feelings of entrapment. A true self unfolds over time. Rushing the process cannot replace the test of time.

The person offering too much of themselves soon after one or two dates can appear desperate or insecure. This scares people away. What healthy person wants to feel sorry for or worried about hurting or rejecting a person that they have just met? Not many people will stay interested in or attracted to a person exhibiting an urgency to attach. Although this level of attention is flattering, it can also cloud ones awareness of significant negative factors.

Healthy dating patterns will eventually lead to a committed relationship if that is ones goal. However, it is also important to see dating as an opportunity to learn more about who you are, what you want, what traits you like and don’t like in others, and what behaviors and attitudes you could improve in yourself. If you’re self esteem is strong and you are managing your life well, dating will be a fun, growth promoting social experience. If not, dating can be a dreaded, confusing experience. Learning to take it reasonably slow instead of going like a bullet train will increase the odds of having positive experiences leading to healthy attachments and commitments

More to come on the “too much too soon” style of dating…Sex too soon, sharing personal information too soon, excessive gift giving too soon, intruding into each other’s lives and problems too soon…


AUTISM: How The Cognitive Deficit Issue Affects Treatment Results

Autism is a neurological disorder usually diagnosed in childhood when developmental milestones begin to show significant delays. Autism affects each individual to varying degrees in all areas related to speech and language development, social engagement, cognitive and behavioral functioning, and sensory/motor function. Additionally, a hallmark feature of autism is the exhibiting of repetitive behaviors (similar to OCD), and restricted interests.

Low cognitive functioning is a feature of severe autism and greatly inhibits progress in all areas of functioning. Many stories depicted in the media highlight children and young adults with higher functioning autism where understanding concepts and having some degree of conversational speech skills are intact. However, thousands of kids without these capacities struggle to function and to be understood. When understanding the “ what and why” of a situation is not possible, compliance by the person with ASD is more challenging to obtain. Intervention strategies have a much better chance of being effective when a person understands the reason for the targeted goal.

For example, without an understanding of the importance of being on time, a person with autism is much less able to self motivate and regulate behaviors that results in punctuality. Additionally, If someone doesn’t understand the concept of fairness, their social behaviors will be disruptive and inappropriate.

The solution to increasing cognitive levels in persons with more severe forms of autism is the teaching of skills within the context of functional systems that have meaning to the individual and their life. Go to my website to read more about a method, The Miller Method, to learn about strategies that increase cognitive functioning.

Rebecca Sperber, M.S., MFT