Another fab idea from Gwyneth 😉 7 reasons to create a journal
Mental health helplines
Whether you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, these helplines and support groups can offer expert advice.
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Abuse (child, sexual, domestic violence)
Children’s charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.
Phone: 0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)
0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)
Advice on dealing with domestic violence.
Phone: 0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
Addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling)
Phone: 0800 917 7650 (24-hour helpline)
National Gambling Helpline
Phone: 0808 8020 133 (daily, 8am to midnight)
Phone: 0300 999 1212 (daily, 10am to midnight)
Provides information on dementia, including factsheets and helplines.
Phone: 0333 150 3456 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and 10am to 4pm on weekends)
Cruse Bereavement Care
Phone: 0808 808 1677 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
To find your local services phone: 0808 802 9999(daily, 12pm to 2.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm)
Phone: 0808 168 9111 (24-hour helpline)
Phone: 0808 801 0677 (adults) or 0808 801 0711 (for under-18s)
Charity working with people with a learning disability, their families and carers.
Phone: 0808 808 1111 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Advice on all aspects of parenting, including dealing with bullying.
Phone: 0808 800 2222 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 3pm)
The UK’s largest provider of relationship support.
This article probably sums up the issues that many couples are facing at the moment (a light-hearted read):
Working from home
I recently came across this interesting article giving providing some food for thought in difficult times.
The following clip from the School of Life usefully helps us understand how we might process some of the difficult feelings we might be having at the moment.
The idea of conflicts over unacceptable aspects of the self is a central part of the psychodynamic point of view. In relation to our internal worlds Freud borrowed the word ‘dynamic’ from the study of physics to convey the idea of two conflicting forces producing a resultant third force which acts in an opposing direction.
Any attempt to understand the basis of human behaviour must consider the issue of our motivation in relation to the conflicts that arise within our inner selves. Dramatists, poets and artists have explored the fields of love and hate, destructiveness and hedonism long before science turned its attention to these issues. There are many types of innate behaviour, from simple in built reflexes promoted by survival and learning to more complicated patterns built up over our childhood. In Western society our needs are generally no longer driven by our struggle for food and water, but a constant motivator is our desire to relate and for love. In our choice driven society this creates enormous conflict within our psyches.
In relation to relationships there is now a dilemma. Choice implies some conflict. When we break up with someone we might be told ‘there are plenty of fish in the sea’. However, these days these fish really are at our finger tips….on Tinder, Grindr and the many other apps and dating websites. Committing to someone with so much choice is now hard, even impossible. The conflict is always present –with one eye wandering, we want perfection and possibly the next ‘like’ may be that perfect match. Choice. We think opportunity is good. We think the more chances we have, the better. But everything becomes watered-down. Never mind actually feeling satisfied; it can now feel difficult to understand what satisfaction actually looks like, sounds like, feels like. We’re one foot out the door, because outside that door is more. We are unable to see who’s right in front of our eyes asking to be loved, because no one is asking to be loved. We long for something that we still want to believe exists. Yet, we are looking for the next thrill, the next jolt of excitement, the next instant gratification.
Is our constant need to distract ourselves to bombard ourselves with stimuli an indication of our inability to face the conflicts inside our own mind? Is that what makes us miserable? Why we feel dissatisfied? We wonder why nothing lasts and everything feels a little hopeless. Because, we have no idea how to see our lives for what they are, instead of what they aren’t. How can we be expected to stick something out, to love someone when we struggle to love ourselves?
In a world filled with tantalising options perhaps the way to true love is to put our phones down for a moment and take time to consider the people that exist in our lives already.
At the start of 2020 many of us will turn our attention to exercise and healthy eating to shift those few extra Christmas pounds and re-energise ourselves into the New Year. However, for some there may be a much darker side to the resolution to look and feel better.
The rise of a form of disordered eating called Orthorexia is becoming increasingly mainstream, fuelled by the mania for healthy eating and our growing anxiety around obesity it lies somewhere on the blurred boundary between being health-conscious and a health obsessive. Defined as a “fixation with righteous or correct eating” – what begins as an attempt to improve one’s lifestyle can morph into an unhealthy fixation. It’s unknown how widespread the condition is because it is not currently recognised as a clinical diagnosis , however, it can be just as harmful psychologically as it possesses the same joyless preoccupation with appearance and food.
Eating disorders are a relatively common psychological illness but are not always well diagnosed. They describe illnesses characterised by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape. Eating disturbances may include inadequate or excessive food intake, ultimately damaging an individual’s well-being by both physiological damage to health and psychological illness. There are also the more hidden negative social, employment and lifestyle effects associated with eating disorders.
As a defence mechanism they can represent a maladaptive approach to tolerating the unbearable, and perhaps demonstrate a continued conflict of desire. Those with anorexia may refuse food in order to maintain a space to keep desire alive. Those patients who eat junk food or partake in fad diets only to then indulge in violent bodily purges attempt to feel or subvert desire. These feelings are further complicated by the influences of culture and social media.
The NHS recently revealed that the number of teenagers being admitted to hospital with eating disorders has nearly doubled in the last three years. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has laid the blame for this unprecedented rise firmly at the door of social media and particularly pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites offering tips on how to avoid food.
As clinicians we may also become aware of the significant percentage of those with eating disorders who also struggle with alcohol and substance use disorders. In 2003, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse issued the seminal report, “Food for Thought: Substance Use and Eating Disorders,” which highlights this relationship. The report established that Individuals with eating disorders were up to 5 times as likely as those without eating disorders to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, and those who abused alcohol or illicit drugs were up to 11 times as likely as those who did not to have had eating disorders. Specifically, up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs, compared to 9% of the general population. Other research has offered similar findings. Struggling with an eating disorder ¬ or a substance use disorder -increases one’s chances of developing the other disorder.
There can be many underlying issues which lead to an eating disorder, these may include, difficult relationships in early life, low self-esteem, loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Different forms of psychotherapy, such as individual, family, or group, can be helpful in addressing the underlying causes of eating disorders. Therapy can be fundamental to treatment because it the opportunity to address and heal from traumatic life events and learn healthier coping skills and methods.
Confronting a disorder is the first step of recovery. If you are suffering, it is important to admit that you need help. Though this can be the most painful and difficult part of the process, it is essential in order for recovery to begin. By reaching out for help and confiding in others trust about your struggles, you are taking the biggest step towards overcoming your eating disorder. If you have a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder and are worried about their eating behaviours or attitudes, it is crucial to communicate your concerns in a loving and supportive way. Confronting the person you care about is a necessary step towards getting them the help and treatment they deserve.
If you are concerned about any issue related to an eating disorder then please consult your doctor or seek advice from a reputable website such as:
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/eatingdisorders/Pages/eating-disorders-advice-parents.aspx ) http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/teengirls/Pages/treatmentforeatingdisorders.aspx)
For most of us this time of year brings us closer than usual to our family. While the holidays can be a time of celebration, and coming together, being together can also provoke feelings of anxiety for those of us whose families don’t quite live up to our hopes and expectations.
Families are the tribe from which we come from, and the desire to be with family and stay connected is deeply compelling. The other truth is that our relationships are often fraught with unresolved issues that may carry simmering tension and ambivalence. The holidays can exacerbate this built-in tension.
There are ways in which we can satisfy our need to connect and also take care of ourselves in the process. Family time cannot always be controlled or curated into a meaningful or joyful experience. Sometimes not even a peaceful one. There are always different agendas and personalities at play, knowing and respecting your limits can be critical to maintaining emotional balance. This may mean setting a boundary or stepping away if you find yourself feeling triggered.
Being Mindful is the ability to be in the present moment, without judging your experience. Mindfulness is a practice of simply observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations. It can help to free us from over-identifying with emotional reactions. Mindfulness can help you stay grounded and create space from thoughts and emotions that arise, that would otherwise derail you.
Most of us cannot be our full authentic selves in the family context. If we reduce our expectations and separate our desire for acceptance and closeness from what is actually present, we may suffer less. If we accept the inherent limitations of being with our families, we don’t have to superimpose and experience disappointment when our family doesn’t live up to our fantasy.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life.
The word envy comes from the Latin invidere: to look upon maliciously. It is to look at another’s good fortune grudgingly, the feeling of horror when we contemplate a colleagues advantages or the need to spitefully denigrate when we fear that others are getting more than their fair share and certainly more than us.
Melanie Klein’s view of envy highlights its destructive assault on anything that is admirable. ‘Envy is the angry feeling that another person possesses and enjoys something desirable – the envious impulse being to take it away or to spoil it’ (Klein, 1957: 181).
In psychological terms envy is a feeling or impulse, which in its destructive and spoiling qualities can be disastrous to the personality. Envy can inhibit development when deeply entrenched in the psyche and exerts a powerful influence on the whole personality.
The more we examine our own envy, the more we understand it, the less likely will be our need to use it against others. In therapy we might find a way to transform our envy into a vehicle that allows us to look deeper into ourselves. When we feel the raw force of envy we know that we are not settled in our minds and bodies and not fully accepting of who we are in both our beautiful and flawed ways.
The term melancholia has served many uses in literature and poetry. It is perhaps particularly useful as a semantic device in English language writing, where few nouns exist to describe a state of mind which is at once calm, fearful, despairing, restless, hollow, and longing for something inexpressible. In Von Trier’s film Melancholia (2011) he attempts to capture this set of emotions. In the film, Melancholia is the name of a rogue planet that crashes into earth, causing its destruction. The story depicts the lives and relationships of a handful of people in the lead-up to this Armageddon. It centres upon the sisters Justine and Claire, who are portrayed as each other’s conceptual opposites. We see Justine sink further and further into the throes depression whilst Claire tries harder and harder to care for her.
The three terms melancholy, melancholia, and depression have overlapped throughout history, and in a broad, general sense the use of the latter has grown increasingly popular as the former two have declined. This does not mean, however, that ‘depression’ has simply replaced melancholy and/or melancholia. That there exist such a vast number of different historical narratives about melancholia, melancholy, and depression is not simply a result of different perspectives among today’s historians. Rather, it is a testament to the vast and shifting meanings that these terms have possessed over time. When it comes to melancholia in particular, the word has been used at least since antiquity to describe illness, but not one uniform disease. Thus, rather than speaking about melancholia as a single concept, the word is best understood as corresponding to a number of different – though often overlapping concepts.
In psychoanalysis, Hanna Seagal describes melancholic depression as a defence mechanism devised by the body to fight the depressive state of the mind. This defence is known as manic-schizoid. Freud went further and was the first person to use melancholic to describe depression.
Freud compares the phenomenon of mourning after the loss and death of a close loved one to the idea of melancholia. Freud explains, they both share a similar outward affect on the subject and are both due to similar environmental influences. The inhibition, “absorbedness” of the ego, and the disinterest in the external world is evident in both, mourning and melancholia equally.
Despite their similarities, Freud states, there are some fundamental differences; mourning is recognized as a healthy and normal process that is necessary for the recovery of the loss and would not be seen as a pathology nor a need for medical intervention. However, melancholia, is an abnormal pathology, and a dangerous illness due to its suicidal tendency. In ‘healthy’ mourning we slowly detach ourselves from our loss whether that be through death or heartache, in melancholia we attach ourselves to it, creating the empty space within our psyches. Crucially with melancholia, it is the impasse that is created in the impossibility of expressing the true extent of the feeling that overwhelms. In melancholia the capacity to link the thoughts with words that provide catharsis has been lost. The purpose and rituals that we adopt to find meaning lose significance and no longer provide a symbolic capacity to hold our mental and physical selves together. We can see the depiction of this in the film ‘Melancholia’ as the lead characters depression stems from her inability to seek comfort and relevance in the ritualistic behaviours that humans engage in. She becomes more and more absorbed by the meaningless and insincerity of life, loosing the capacity to find the words to connect her feelings to those around her, there is an absence of inherent value both in her self and in living. However, as Justine begins to accept the inevitability of utter sorrow and unhappiness, the sense of longing melancholia produces is so great that it is concurrently painful and sweet as it provides the possibility of escape.
While many of us will have never experienced melancholia to the depth that Justine exhibits it, we can understand her emotions in part by drawing on what we may have experienced of sadness and longing. The film demonstrates that emotion doesn’t have to be rational to be true. In fact, it speaks to the idea that emotion is never rational, but, in contrast to the cultural view, it is not necessarily bad for emotion to be irrational. We can find a kind of optimism in the peace that Justine is ultimately able to find in her melancholia. In the words of the philosopher Slavoj Žižek:
‘If you really want to do something good for society, if you want to avoid all totalitarian threats and so on… accepting that at some day everything will finish, that at any point the end may be near. I think that, quite on the contrary of what may appear, this can be a deep experience which pushes you to strengthen ethical activity.” The result is not fatalistic hedonism, but a kind of profound engagement with the meaning and significance of life’.
We might consider that at the core of therapy is the idea of self-awareness. At times of vulnerability – whether that be heartbreak, stress at home or work or generally feeling unable to cope we may find ourselves suffering from unbearable feelings and want to block these out. However, avoiding the sensations we feel can increase our vulnerability to being overwhelmed by them.
Becoming aware of the ebb and flow of emotions within our bodies can put us in touch with our inner world. In noticing our feelings of anger, irritation, nervousness or desperation we become able to shift our perspective and open up new options other than our automatic, habitual reactions. Mindfulness puts us in touch with the transitory nature of our feelings and perceptions. When we pay focused attention to our bodily sensations we can recognise that our emotions are not set in stone and hopefully increase control of them.
The paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, observation of mothers and children focused amongst other things on how the mothers held their babies. He proposed that these physical interactions lay the groundwork for a baby’s sense of self, and with that their capacity for self-regulation. ‘The ability to feel the body as the place where the psyche lives.’ In the majority of cases Winicott believed that mothers were able to be ‘good enough’, but in cases where the mother cannot meet her babies needs and impulses ‘the baby learns to become the mother’s idea of what the baby is’. Children who lack physical attunement are vulnerable to shutting down the direct feedback from their bodies.
As adults in order to learn how to become available to our bodies feedback we need to change how we deal with difficult feelings and increase our awareness of inner experiences. Allowing our minds to focus on sensations and notice how in contrast to feelings that might feel overwhelming our physical sensations are transient and respond to slight shifts in bodies, such as how we hold ourselves, our breathing and even our thinking.
The next step might be to label our physical sensations. Practising mindfulness calms down our sympathetic nervous system, so we are less likely to be thrown into a flight or flight response. Learning to observe and tolerate what we are feeling in the moment, is a prerequisite for safely being able to revisit the past. It is possible to tolerate a great deal of discomfort if we are able to remain conscious that our bodies’ reactions are constantly shifting. Mindfulness has been shown to have a positive effect on a number of psychosomatic and psychological issues. It has also been shown to activate the brain regions involved in emotional regulation and lead to changes in the regions related to body awareness and fear.