Posted in Quotes, Uncategorized

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

Obtrusive Thoughts, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Mental Health

The life worth living group met today where the discussion surrounded around intrusive thoughts, OCD and mental health concerns more widely. As always it was a lively, constructive and considered sharing of our own lived experiences and/or those of others.

The first question posed was:

What is the definition of Intrusive thoughts and how might they impact on someone?

It was agreed that whilst intrusive thoughts are almost hard wired into all of us, they are mostly dismissed or filtered out so we don’t even notice them. However when someone is affected by a Mental Health condition these can become a major problem, and are chiefly experienced by people with OCD, Depression, Anxiety, Post Natal  Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Some examples given on intrusive thoughts were:

  • Over analysing our responsibilities and exaggerating the impact were we to fail.
  • Catastrophizing: always imagining the worst possible outcome.
  • Unwanted inappropriate sudden thoughts such as kissing or punching someone when that is entirely against our actual wishes, but driven by a false anxiety alarm.
  • Where we recognise how vital our care is such for a child, we might imagine harmful thoughts when all we are really focused on is care and protection for them.

Sometimes such thoughts lead to compulsive behaviours which may initially seem to offer comfort, but end up making things much worse. These can include excessive checking of locks and appliances to avoid danger or harm to others, and ideas of magical thinking, where the use or avoidance of certain numbers or tasks can either prevent or cause damage to loved ones. People who experience such thoughts know deep down that they are irrational and untrue, but shame and stigma can make these feel very real.

 Recovery

Depending on the extent of the problems there are a variety of treatments available such as:

  • CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Individually tailored help.
  • Exposure Therapy: Gradual exposure to acclimatise to and overcome particular fears, e.g. contamination or social anxiety in busy public places.
  • Personal Insight to learn how to diffuse delusional thoughts.
  • Shared experiences and humour: There can be much stigma to any mental health condition but possibly more so with less understood and frightening conditions like OCD. Whilst sharing these experiences can be daunting, if able to do so, using humour and openness, it can serve to diffuse the power of negative thoughts and help affirm how we’re all affected by mental health and there’s no place for shame or blame.
Posted in Weekly Blog

Songs that make me laugh!

This group regularly cite music and the arts as an important therapeutic tool for their well-being.  Today we wanted to continue this musical theme in a more light-hearted way and look at music and performances which made us chuckle. As musical tastes are totally subjective this can lead to some finding certain songs to be funny that were not necessarily intended to be so.

Below are some of the videos we watched.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Dealing With The Benefits System

job-centre-plus-sign

Today’s group focussed on how people deal with the benefit system and more specifically, ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews. At group sessions we often hear of how the current system invokes strong feelings of anxiety and  sheer terror. With this in mind we thought it would be good to have a look at the different processes involved and the options people have.

Below is an example of the different stages involved upon receiving assessment letter; 

  1. Attend ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interview
  2. You receive a letter from the DWP* informing you that you are not being awarded benefit.
  3. You disagree with their decision so respond by sending a ‘Mandatory consideration letter’ to inform the DWP* of your reasons for disagreeing with their decision to see if they will reconsider.
  4. If the response from the DWP* is that they are upholding their original decision you then have the option to appeal it and have your case taken to at an independent tribunal.                                                       

If you are feeling anxious it is so important to seek support.

Some of the suggested supports were,

Group members felt that having someone to help support them in filling in forms was extremely beneficial and relievied some of their anxiety. With no support it can literally feel like a real life or death situation with the looming uncertainty of having no income to survive. That is why it is so useful to have supportive people around you to help provide some hope for your future.

 

 

*’The Department of Work and Pensions* 

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Thinking about our Inner Child

Below is a small snap shot of how we used with Russian dolls to help us develop a better understand the dynamics of our ‘Inner child’

1. Inside the grown-up deep inside is the child just like these Russian dolls.
You might feel it a positive when you are playing with children. For example I feel it while playing football with my young nephews.

2. You might feel it in a negative way if you are waiting to go in for formal appointment and you start to feel as if you did when you were called to the headmaster’s office. (Or maybe you were all good kids and were never sent to the headmaster’s office!)

3. (Using an elastic band)
Like this band we are all big and stretched out, but certain events, circumstances or people could make us feel small again.

4. (Imagining all our younger selves)
Thinking about when you were at primary school what 3 words would you use to describe the wee person you were then?

5. (Pick an age between 5-10 years old)
– Thinking about you at the age you have chosen  we will ask a few questions if that is OK to that part of you, be it 5 or 7 or 10 years old- whatever age you have picked.
– Think about who was your teacher, your favourite toy or who were your friends then.
Ok so we are all focused in on an age and who we were then.
QUESTIONS-
If that child had something to say, to be heard what might it say?
What did it need?
What would you like to say to it?
How might you soothe it? (Note: Demonstrate by putting the little one in the big one.

6. We end by putting all the dolls back inside each other so there is just one big one. It demonstrates we are back in our adult place.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Are you a worrier?

Screenshot_20181123-135505_FirefoxThings by Fleur Adcock:

 

The following structure for this group’s discussion was taken from the following CBT book:

Corrie, S., Townend, M. and Cockx, A. (2016). Assessment and case formulation in cognitive behavioural therapy. Los Angeles: SAGE.

‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’ (GAD) is characterised by “Excessive worry and preoccupation about a number of events and activities”.  The condition is diagnosed when this occurs most days; the feelings of anxiety causing restlessness, easily tired, finding it hard to concentrate, tense, disturbed sleep and affected functioning.

  • The belief about the worry is worse than the actual worry
  • Worrying is actually a way of coping
  • The worry thoughts can centre around ‘what if?’
  1. When did you first notice that worry was a problem?
  2. What were the circumstances when you first started worrying?
  3. Has the worry changed or developed over time?
  4. Are there any significant worriers in your family?
  5. Have there been times in your life when things were going really well and how did you cope with difficulties then?
  6. Is it important to you to know what is going on all the time?
  • Can we think about worry differently? As a process without getting dragged into the actual fear, rumination or content.
  • Can we alter the way we talk to ourselves about things? E.g. not be so critical, perfectionist or brutal to self, instead be kinder, caring and give yourself a break.
  • Can we discover coping strategies?

Some strategies that the group have amongst them were to set a worry time (although this doesn’t work for everyone), meditation, write down the worries and then throw them away.  Accept that life is imperfect and uncertain.  Actually facing that uncertainty head on rather than avoiding it will see the worry gradually decrease over time.  Other skills that the group already employ included the use of poetry, adding a little transition between the days events e.g. to sit in the car for a few minutes after a day at work and going home, and remember that although you may feel anxious, others cannot see your anxiety.


Posted in Weekly Blog

Decision making and responsibility

make-good-decisions

Do you feel that you struggle to make decisions?  Do you feel defeated trying to choose a cereal in the supermarket, or tormented about whether to attend your niece’s wedding?  We make so many decisions daily, and life is scattered with huge life changing decisions with a myriad of implications.  Popping into Starbucks for a coffee alone offers you no less that 80,000 ways to take your caffeine, or maybe no caffeine, or milk, full fat, semi or skimmed, or soya, latte or americano, tall or grande…..you get the picture (!) So how do we cope with making decisions.  Or do we not?  Or is not making a decision actually making a decision?

First of all in the group we looked at what is it about making a decision that can feel difficult? People said not knowing the outcome, the fear that if it goes wrong it’s all your fault.  People also said that a history of making bad decisions makes it hard to trust yourself and so decreases confidence.  Overthinking and rumination over the potential ‘what if’s’ of a decision provokes anxiety and procrastination.  And a final difficulty cited is that once a decision has been made you may then be tied to the consequences of it, and that is scary.

So, the second part of our discussion was around responsibility-the level at which we are able to accept responsibility probably promotes our decision making abilities.

Taking no responsibility leads to blaming everyone else, whereas taking all the responsibility is blaming yourself for everything.

We had a think about what these two elements look like: Not taking any responsibility manifests in procrastination, always letting others decide, not paying bills, not contributing, not thinking of others, avoidance, not willing to look at oneself, unhealthy coping mechanisms [to escape e.g. alcohol or sleep], and blaming others.  Taking all the responsibility conversely involves always making decisions for others, taking the blame for everything, putting others before self, only seeing the negative in yourself, dis empowering others, not trusting others which can lead to micromanagement and bullying. Another direction of over responsibility is taking so much care of others that it can lead to obsessive compulsive behaviours trying to protect everything.

The question was posed to the group ‘Do you actually know what decision is best to make, but fear and doubt are what comes in creating confusion and reluctance to decide’.  Interestingly people mostly did seem to concur that they did in fact know what to do, so it isn’t the not knowing that creates a barrier to deciding but rather the implications of the made decisions.  People did chat too that as well as not making or avoiding decisions, sometimes they just make very impulsive choices, we talked about whether at times these were self-sabotaging behaviours.

There are some things we can do to help in combating decision fatigue.  A study of an Israeli prison parole board showed that prisoners appearing earlier in the day were more likely to receive parole for no other reason than by the end of the day the judges were tired and less likely to have the mental energy to make a decision regarding a prisoner’s release.  This study is cited in the New York Times in an article about decision fatigue. 

It is no different for us, when we are tired, hungry or it’s the end of the day having already made thousands of decisions, it becomes more difficult to decide.  So sometimes putting an important decision off until the morning may be wise, and planning and organising can significantly reduce the pressure of having to make extra decisions.

9 tips here to make better choices.