Do I Have OCD? Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Do I have OCD?” If so, continue reading, because this article is for you.

First of all, what is OCD? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) causes people to experience frequent, recurring and unwanted thoughts, beliefs and sensations. It affects a large number of people across the United States and is one of the many disorders recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition (DSM-5).

People with OCD find that their recurring thoughts and ideas compel them to repeat certain actions – over and over again in some cases. Some well-known examples of OCD-related behavior include washing hands to an excessive level and cleaning multiple times a day. The compulsive nature of these behaviors tends to escalate to the point where the person’s daily life is being severely affected and their quality of life deteriorates.

Not all people who have symptoms similar to OCD experience a severe impairment in the quality of their life. In some cases, OCD-like symptoms are milder, and these people are able to live relatively regular lives, albeit a life regimented by some kind of repetitive actions. These people do not meet the criteria to be diagnosed as having OCD, however. Invariably, clinical OCD has a significant impact on a person’s daily life functioning.

The rigidity of the compulsions that are the hallmarks of OCD makes life difficult for people suffering from the disorder. Generally, the compulsions are not helpful and if the person is somehow prevented from completing them, they experience significant distress. They may understand that their thoughts and obsessions are unhelpful but find it stressful to try to stop the thoughts and behaviors.

How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Diagnosed?

As with many other mental disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has a number of criteria that a person must meet in order to get a diagnosis.

DSM-5 defines obsessions as:

  • Thoughts, urges or images that are both recurrent and persistent, and which the person experiencing them finds distressing and intrusive. These kinds of thoughts and urges cause a significant level of anxiety and distress.
  • The person with obsessive thoughts and urges makes attempts to deal with them by performing some kind of action, known as a compulsion.

Compulsions are defined as:

  • Behaviors that are completed repetitively, such as checking and re-checking doors, repeated hand washing, ordering items alphabetically or numerically.
  • Mental activities that are performed repetitively, such as counting, praying, and repetition of words sub-vocally.
  • These are actions that the person feels compelled to complete due to a particular obsession or extremely rigid rules that they apply to their lives.
  • These behaviors have the purpose of reducing the individual’s anxiety or distress levels or may be perceived as a means of preventing some feared situation from happening.
  • These behaviors are not logically or realistically connected to the situations that the person believes they will prevent, and/or are performed in a highly excessive manner.

Other things that are considered when a clinician is assessing a person for OCD include the types of obsessions and compulsions and the amount of time that is spent on them.

Generally speaking, for a diagnosis of OCD, the obsessions and compulsions would be required to take up at least an hour a day or have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life in terms of distress, social impact, a person’s ability to work, and the impact on family life. The way that a person with OCD functions on a day to day basis is an important aspect of diagnosis.

Do I Have OCD?

If you’re wondering, “Do I Have OCD?” it’s important that you take an evaluative look at your life. For example, someone who has addictions to drugs, alcohol or prescription medications would not fit the diagnostic criteria for OCD, especially if the behaviors are caused by the addictions.

Likewise, underlying medical conditions need to be considered as a cause for obsessive or compulsive behaviors, and other mental health disorders need to be ruled out. It is not helpful to be diagnosed with OCD if it is another mental health issue causing the symptoms.

One example of mental health disorders that can be confused with OCD is body dysmorphic disorder. People experiencing body dysmorphia are obsessive about their appearance. Only a mental health professional is adequately qualified to differentiate between mental health disorders that may resemble OCD.

Examples of Compulsions in OCD

  • Cleaning the home repeatedly
  • Washing excessively
  • Counting
  • Excessive re-checking of things – for example, locks, door handles, switches and appliances.
  • Excessively checking in with friends and family members to make sure they are safe.
  • Repeatedly ordering or re-arranging things into a specific order or what you perceive as “perfect.”

Examples of Obsessive Thoughts in OCD

  • Being afraid of being infected by germs
  • Being afraid that you might hurt yourself or someone else
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts and images of a violent or sexual nature
  • Excessive focus on superstitions – things that you regard as either “lucky” or “unlucky.”

Treatment Options for OCD

With OCD, one of the most effective treatment options is therapy. Some therapists would argue that therapy is essential if you want to understand and overcome your obsessions. There are a variety of therapy options that are suitable for working through the issues associated with OCD.

A common therapy option for OCD is known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). Therapists who specialize in the treatment of OCD tend to use this form of therapy more than any other type. ERP is actually a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). ERP has two primary components. Exposure, as the name suggests, requires someone to expose themselves to the same situations, thoughts, objects and so on that trigger the anxiety and compulsive behaviors.

The response prevention stage of ERP is about choices. When exposed to a compulsion trigger, you have a choice whether or not to begin the compulsive behavior. The goal of ERP, therefore, is to work with a therapist in order to reach the point where you can choose not to begin the compulsive actions. Once you can choose not to engage in compulsive behavior with the therapist, you can work on making that same choice on your own.

Some people are alarmed by the idea of deliberately exposing themselves to the things that trigger their obsessive compulsive behaviors. It is a frightening prospect since the disorder is a result of maladaptive coping mechanisms designed for avoidance. With ERP, you have to make an active choice to face the triggers head on. Despite the fear this may cause, ERP is actually a very effective means of developing a range of tools to help you cope with your OCD.

Medication for OCD

Therapy is very effective for OCD, but another treatment option is medication. You can talk to a Psychiatrist about what medications can be prescribed. Even if you decide not to use medication, it is still helpful to explore the options available.

The type of medication most frequently prescribed for OCD belongs to the SSRI class – medications that are usually prescribed to treat the symptoms of depression. SSRIs have been shown to be effective in helping people to manage the symptoms of OCD. When SSRIs are used to treat OCD, however, higher doses tend to be needed than when treating depression. These higher doses are still safe and do not usually increase the side effects.

Helping Yourself When You Have OCD

Working through the issues surrounding your OCD with a professional is a great start in treating the disorder, but professional help is only part of the solution. Generally, therapists will ask clients to complete homework exercises, such as practicing the techniques learned in sessions.

Additionally, there are other things that you can do that will have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing as well as your recovery from OCD. Finding ways in which you can relax, discovering successful distraction techniques and spending time on activities that take your mind off both your disorder and your treatment are all beneficial.

Yoga Meditation

When it comes to relaxing, yoga and meditation can be an excellent place to start. You may find that your OCD treatment can become exhausting, particularly when you’re working on the more challenging exposure aspects. Practicing yoga and meditation can help you to learn how to quiet your mind when you’re feeling anxious or distressed.


Calming your mind can also be achieved through the practice of mindfulness. It is a technique that is sometimes learned during therapy sessions, but once you understand the principles, you can practice whenever you feel the need to. Your therapist can give you advice, and there are also books that you can use to expand your understanding of mindfulness.


It’s a well-known fact that exercise is beneficial for a wide range of mental health conditions – including OCD. When you exercise, you have an outlet for feelings of frustration, and there is the additional benefit in the release of endorphins. When endorphins are released, your body is flooded with chemicals that trigger positive feelings. You don’t have to go to the gym, either. Simply going outside for a brisk walk is just as effective.

Be your own cheerleader and advocate

It can be tempting to look to other people for acceptance and/or praise, but it is important that you don’t rely on others in that way. It’s much better for your recovery if you learn to self-affirm by praising yourself as you progress along the recovery journey. Be your own best cheerleader. It’s also important that you advocate for the things that you need, too.

Don’t wait for perfection before adopting an attitude of gratitude

This advice doesn’t just apply to people with OCD. In all areas of life, you should learn to stop waiting for some kind of perfection or completion before you allow yourself to be grateful. You don’t have to be fully recovered in order to feel grateful. Celebrate where you are on the journey, and the small victories as well as the big ones. You can be grateful for today instead of only focusing on the future.

Talking to God and Looking to His Word

Whatever trials that we face in life, it’s important to remember that we can always lean into God for support. God is always available to offer comfort and gives us the hope that we need in difficult times. The Bible can offer a lot of help when you are struggling. Here are some examples.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. –  Psalm 23

What this Scripture is saying is that the Lord, who is our Shepherd, will guide us to find everything that we need, including water, food, love, and work – in the same way, that a shepherd would with a flock of sheep. God helps us even when we deviate from what is right. When the psalmist says, “I shall not want,” it’s a clear reference to the fact that God promises to take care of our needs. God protects us; therefore, we have no reason to worry.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

This verse from Proverbs is a great source of comfort for many people, particularly during difficult times. God says that He will direct our journey through life, but we have to make a complete commitment to Him. When we focus on God and His Word, we’re allowing Him to lead us and depending fully on Him. To fully focus on God, we have to be intentional about turning our thoughts to Him (rather than focusing on our struggles, such as obsessions).

Some other Scriptures you may find helpful are:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-8

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Faith Without Works is Dead

It is certainly true that God will always be there to support, comfort and guide us, and we can put our trust in His faithfulness to us when we seek Him. A short verse in James 2:26 reminds us that “Faith without works is dead.” Every Christian needs to consider this verse, no matter what you are facing. While we absolutely need to be reading the Bible and praying and trusting in God to help us in our difficulties, we have to put in the work ourselves, too.

There is nothing wrong with praying to God and asking Him to help you on your journey towards recovery from obsessive compulsive disorder. However, it’s important that you remember that while God will help and support you, you have to put in the work yourself, too. When you combine God’s guidance with your own efforts (both alone and with a therapist) to recover from the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you are in a much stronger position.

In Summary

Although Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can have a huge impact on people’s lives, it is very treatable. There is hope of recovery for everyone who is struggling with the distressing symptoms. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a Christian counselor to help you work through the difficulties that you’re facing. Recovery can be a big challenge, but when you lean on the support of God and others around you, it is possible to walk free from OCD.

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Effective Treatment Methods for Trauma Healing

What comes to mind when the word trauma is spoken? You may immediately think of a child who has been physically or sexually abused or maybe someone who has been involved in an active-shooter situation. These are all legitimate examples, but trauma is much more complex. The purpose of this article is to explain trauma in detail and how to heal if trauma is a part of your story.

Trauma Explained

Unfortunately, we live in a word full of traumatic experiences. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70.4% of people surveyed experienced trauma during their lifetime. When most people think of trauma, thoughts of sexual assault, military combat, physical abuse or near-death situations come to mind.

Trauma doesn’t always evolve into PTSD. Normally, PTSD is attached to highly interpersonal trauma like rape. It’s even possible for trauma to be the result of serious surgery, childhood neglect, a painful divorce, the death of a loved one or a major life change.

The emotions that accompany traumatic situations can interfere with having a healthy personal and professional life. Trauma can influence your relationships, spiritual beliefs, and emotional responses. There’s usually no area that isn’t somehow touched by the effects of trauma.

There are symptoms of trauma that you should be aware of. This list isn’t exhaustive, but just to give you an idea of commonly experienced symptoms.

  • Shock
  • Emotional numbness
  • Disconnected from reality
  • Paralyzing anxiety
  • Consuming fear
  • Overwhelming guilt
  • Indecisiveness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Easily frightened
  • Tendency to isolate
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Sorrow
  • Extreme moods
  • Loss of trust in people
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Insomnia
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Body aches (including head and stomach)
  • Loss of interest in eating

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Defined

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Those events are defined as natural disasters, serious accidents, terrorist acts, military combat, rape or other violent personal assaults.

Even recurring exposure to forms of traumatic events can cause trauma (e.g., first responder). Symptoms of PTSD often develop years after the trauma occurred and can be quite the shock.

PTSD Symptoms

PTSD symptoms are numerous and can include anything from angry outbursts and substance abuse to intrusive memories and sudden nightmares about the traumatic event. PTSD can cause a person to avoid any event or environment that may trigger memories of a traumatic experience.

For example, a war veteran might avoid watching firework displays on the Fourth of July due to the noise triggering memories of a time in combat. A woman may avoid visiting the home where childhood abuse happened.

Complex Trauma

Most people are familiar with PTSD, but, surprisingly, this is actually not the most common trauma diagnosis. Researches have found that separation anxiety disorder and defiant disorder are some of the most common diagnoses when dealing with victims of trauma. Trauma during childhood causes challenges in regulating emotions and hinders the attachment system.

Complex trauma is when there are many traumatic events that keep building on each other over a certain period of time. Most cases do occur in childhood such as habitual sexual or physical abuse or neglect.

You may have heard of the relatively well-known ACE (adverse childhood experiences) study that was conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Feletti, et al., 1998). ACE examined all forms of childhood abuse, childhood neglect, domestic violence, caregiver separation, and having a household member with a mental illness or problem with drugs and alcohol.

The ACE study revealed a strong relationship between adverse childhood experiences and a higher possibility to be susceptible to depression, sexual promiscuity, obesity, suicide and drug, alcohol and cigarette use.

The higher the number of adverse childhood experiences, the more negative outcomes. Those that conducted the study discovered these negative childhood experiences were linked to risk factors for common causes of death in adults.

Trauma during childhood has an impact on intellectual, emotional and physical development. The stress response system can be altered due to the child focusing on their need for safety rather than on regular growth activities. This means they are constantly at a heightened state instead of only when there’s an imminent threat. If you live in this state for a long period of time it can have negative implications for your overall health and ability to function.

People living with hyperarousal symptoms are always on the lookout for danger or are frightened easily. Those that have experienced an active-shooter situation may have hyperarousal for years after the situation.

Finding Effective Trauma Healing

Trauma healing is not an overnight process. Trauma has many layers and it takes patience to work through every step toward healing. If you are experiencing the symptoms described above and have experienced a traumatic event, there are a few places to focus on to help cope.

Howard Bath wrote The Three Pillars of Trauma-Informed Care which focuses on safety, connections and emotion management during the trauma healing process.

1) Safety

When a person experienced trauma his feelings of security were shattered. That’s why it’s even more important to create a safe environment where the person suffering from trauma can share experiences and begin to process what happened to him or her. Those feelings of safety were stripped away from them at some point but finding a safe place to open up about emotions and thoughts is critical in the healing journey.

Safety can be created by offering a child control in decision making. If their life felt out of control during the time of the abuse, the child can benefit from being granted some control over his or her life. Another way to form a safe environment is by developing consistency or a routine in life. This child can learn to relax over time knowing there is stability.

2) Connections

Relationships are necessary for a fruitful, healthy life. Unfortunately, trauma sometimes is a result of a trusted family member or friend crossing a physical boundary. Thus, it can be difficult to trust again or have emotional and physical intimacy with others. It’s normal to gravitate toward isolation, but this is a gateway to depression.

Healing doesn’t happen in isolation. Bringing what happened in the dark to the light is one component of healing. It lightens the burden you’ve carried as you share among people you trust. It takes courage to speak up and often the bravest thing we can do is let people into our pain.

3) Managing Emotions

If you’ve experienced trauma, you may have a harder time managing emotions. Mood swings and angry outbursts become normal for those living with PTSD or other diagnoses. Emotions are real, but they aren’t reliable.

Here are a few ways you can begin to manage your emotions to promote trauma healing:

Breathing techniques

Anxiety really messes up our breathing. You get less oxygen to your body when you take shallow breaths caused by anxious thoughts. As a result, this increases the intensity of anxiety. Taking slow, deep breaths is one way to combat anxiety and calm down. There are many different breathing techniques available online that you can test out in your daily life to see what is the most beneficial.


Your mind is a battlefield of twisted thoughts. One thought can lead to another and soon you are frozen on your bed unable to make a move. It’s important to learn to control your thinking, instead of letting it control you. Learn how to take your thoughts captive, speak life into your situations and reject the lies invading your mind.


Discovering ways to relax is paramount. Living in constant fight or flight mode takes a toll on your body and can have negative health implications. Maybe your way to relax is painting, dance, yoga, or going to the spa. Find out what works for you and begin to make relaxation a daily or weekly practice.

Physical activity and Nutrition

Joining a gym or fitness class can be a wonderful outlet for your emotions. It’s equally important to focus on your nutrition and the amount of sleep you are getting every night. Avoid trying to use alcohol to numb your pain or escape from your emotions.


Journaling provides a way for you to release bottled up emotions and thoughts. Putting pen to paper is its own form of therapy.


In a moment of panic, you may need to ground yourself in a tangible way. Feel your feet on the ground, look at the things around you, and say aloud where you are.

Healing is not a quick process that can be accomplished in a few steps. Some days you might feel on top of the world, and other days you might feel like you’ve lost your will to persevere.

If a person or place triggers unwelcomed emotions, this does not mean you aren’t making progress or that you’ve moved in the opposite direction.

These are more opportunities for growth. It’s important to seek professional help for your trauma symptoms if they are negatively impacting your quality of life. Yes, healing can take place over time, but a trusted counselor can support you as you heal from trauma and go on to live an abundant life.

Treatment Methods for Trauma Healing

Two possible effective treatments for trauma healing include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Memories from trauma can be stored in an unprocessed and non-adaptive state. Extreme stress or a lack of development ability to process trauma can cause incomplete processing of trauma. EMDR therapy focused on three time periods: the past, present, and future. EMDR therapy uses bilateral stimulation like left-to-right eye movements to enable memories to become unstuck and reprocessed into an adaptive memory.

The unprocessed traumatic memories are in their original states with all thoughts, feelings, images and body sensations that occurred during the traumatic event. EMDR therapy proves that the mind can heal from psychological trauma similar to how the body recovers from physical trauma.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT)

Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavior Therapy is designed to help those who have been traumatized to navigate through the thoughts and emotions associated with the trauma. TF-CT may include relaxation training, discovering how to regulate emotions, examining the thoughts attached to the trauma, and creating a trauma narrative. This therapy can occur in group, family or individual settings.

If you are finding the trauma healing process to be difficult, you are not alone. You can experience recovery and there’s hope for your future. Professional therapists are ready to go through this healing journey alongside you.

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Anxiety Symptoms in Women: What is “Normal”?

Did you know that even though anxiety affects both genders at all ages, anxiety symptoms in women are different from anxiety symptoms in men?

Anxiety also manifests differently depending on how old the person is. Symptoms of anxiety in children and younger teens are usually some type of phobia or incessant worry. Young adults are most likely to experience PTSD, and older adults are most prone to panic disorders and generalized anxiety.

Yes, men experience anxiety; however, women are twice as likely to suffer anxiety, and anxiety disorders are much more prevalent in women than men. Anxiety in both men and women is often missed by physicians and mental health professionals, as many of the symptoms can be misdiagnosed as other health issues.

Which anxiety disorders most commonly affect women in their 30’s and 40’s?

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)

Why are midlife women more likely to be afflicted by these disorders?

The hormonal fluctuations of childbirth, pre-menopause, and menopause are a plausible factor in anxiety. Midlife is also an especially demanding time for women. At this age, most women have children to care for, and probably aging parents. Many women are climbing the ladder in their career and balancing the stresses of family life and work.

The requirements of raising children can be a daunting task for mothers. Women also feel pressured to maintain immaculate and stylish homes, hair, nails, and clothes, to stay in good physical shape, to advance in their careers, to have an active social life and to engage in church, community, and volunteer activities, not to mention nurturing a marriage!

Anxiety in mid-life women in mid-life can often simply be due to the stress of trying to squeeze too many responsibilities into 24 hours. Women also tend to compare themselves to other women their age and become self-condemning as a result. They may have negative “self-talk” that sounds something like this:

  • Everyone else here looks so thin! I’m the fattest person here. And look at her boots and her hair! I wish I’d done more with my hair before I left the house!
  • She always seems to glide effortlessly through work, church, and home. I need to be more like her! What’s her secret?
  • Oh! Look at her Facebook photos! Her husband seems to really dote on her! And they’re in France! They always have such glamorous vacations! All we ever do is visit the in-laws!

Another cause of anxiety disorder in some mid-life women is abuse that they suffered as a child, adolescent or young adult that can result in PTSD episodes years after the violence occurred. Females are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse and violence, and random events or places can trigger latent memories.

Common Anxiety Symptoms in Women

If you’re a woman in your 30’s or 40’s, you may be experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder. You may have a vague feeling that something’s wrong, but not sure what. Let’s take a look at the three most common anxiety disorders in mid-life women and what the symptoms are.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience incessant worry about many different things – their own health, their children’s health, their career, relationships, finances, relationships, and so forth.

We all worry about these things from time to time, but someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder literally feels compelled to worry – to stew over every concern to the point where they’re not able to enjoy or engage in life very much.

Someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is ruled by anxiety. They can’t snap out of it by distracting themselves with other things or trying to be more realistic. They blow actual concerns out of proportion or even worry about things that aren’t really a problem. They often imagine the worst-case scenario and have a sense of impending doom.

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder have at least three of the following symptoms that occur regularly and persist for at least six months:

  • Inability to relax and enjoy the moment
  • Fidgety, nervous, edgy, easily startled, or tense
  • Difficulty focusing and staying on task, mind “goes blank”
  • Sleep issues: trouble falling asleep, mind racing, waking up with obsessive thoughts and not being able to fall asleep again.
  • Fatigue, sleepiness
  • Muscle tension and muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Stomach problems – nausea, diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate, hyperventilating

Panic Disorder Symptoms

People with panic disorder have unexpected and intense fear that comes on suddenly, usually brought on by some trigger, and generally resolves within ten minutes or so.

Psychological symptoms include:

  • The sense of impending doom
  • Feelings like everything is surreal
  • Feeling like you’re going crazy or losing control
  • Feeling like you’re going to die or pass out
  • Feeling like you need to escape

Physical symptoms include:

  • Racing or pounding heart and/or irregular heart rate
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or choking feeling
  • Feeling weak or lightheaded
  • Feeling hot and sweaty or chills
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or abdominal pain
  • Feeling numbness or tingling or “pins and needles” on the skin, especially in hands and feet.

People who have panic attacks begin to have anxiety about having another one, which leads to avoidance behavior – trying to stay away from the trigger that caused a previous attack. Avoidance behavior can quickly lead to a significantly altered lifestyle.

Panic attacks are often undiagnosed because a number of the symptoms mimic heart issues, respiratory disorders, and other health problems. If you are a woman in your 30’s or 40’s and have had at least four of the above symptoms at one time, you may have been having a panic attack.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms

PTSD symptoms will manifest for at least a month after a person experiences some sort of trauma: such as witnessing a sudden or violent death, being the victim of a violent attack, observing the results of violence in victims – especially in situations such as soldiers in a war zone, first responders to accident or crime scenes, or emergency room personnel.

PTSD may lie dormant for years, even decades, and then symptoms might surface due to another trauma in the person’s life, or having one’s memory jogged by some sort of experience.

PTSD is characterized by the following dominant symptoms:

  • One finds they are reliving the trauma in some way, such as through sudden and distressing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks.
  • One goes to great lengths to avoid memory triggers – such as people, places or situations that are associated with the trauma, as exposure to triggers causes extreme distress.
  • One persistently has negative emotions and beliefs, such as believing the world is an unsafe place, blaming yourself or others for the trauma, emotional numbness, detachment, disinterest in activities, inability to feel positive emotions, and commonly experiencing feelings of shame, horror, or fear.
  • One has significant changes in reactions and arousal, such as difficulty focusing, disruption to sleep, feeling nervous and very easily startled, irritated by minor things, outbursts of anger, aggressive behavior, and self-destructive behavior

About half of all women have experienced trauma of some sort. Women and men tend to experience different types of trauma, and they also usually manifest different symptoms of PTSD.

We often think of PTSD as being associated with veterans of combat, but women who have been victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence or have dealt with the sudden death of a loved one are also prone to PTSD.

Actually, women are more than twice as likely as men to develop PTSD following a traumatic event. Because women have a propensity to take responsibility for themselves and others, they tend to have a higher anxiety level simply due to stress.

But this sense of responsibility also causes women to take the blame for trauma that has been inflicted on them. Because they blame themselves rather than realize they were a victim, they tend to ignore the impact that trauma has had on them, including symptoms of PTSD.

Where to Go for Help

Are you a woman in midlife and experiencing the symptoms of one of the anxiety disorders listed above? Anxiety issues are common for women, although the symptoms are frequently overlooked. Women often fail to get the help they need because they minimize their symptoms and don’t realize that what they’re experiencing isn’t normal.

The good news is that there is hope and there is help for you! Treatment can be very helpful in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, enhancing the quality of life, and helping you take charge of your emotions and thought life.

You may feel like you can deal with things on your own, but anxiety rarely goes away by itself, and it can interfere with how you live your life and the quality of your relationships. If left untreated, your symptoms could worsen.

If you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, counseling can help you identify triggers, and equip you with the tools you need to deal with its symptoms. A counselor can introduce you to therapy methods that have a proven track record in helping people with anxiety disorders gain control of their life and their emotions.

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How to Actively Fight Depression

When depression strikes, it infiltrates every area of life including your thoughts, feelings, and actions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 300 million people who suffer from depression across the globe.

Depression has a way of preventing people from even seeking out healthy ways to combat its effects. For the person experiencing depression, it can literally feel like nothing will make your situation better. However, there are some practical steps to actively fight depression in your life.

Depression is serious and identifying a proper treatment plan and finding help is going to improve your chances of recovery significantly. Unfortunately, depression is multifaceted and simply trying to “change your attitude” often isn’t the remedy for such a dynamic disorder.

The first step is to understand the common symptoms of depression and determine if you are experiencing these systems regularly. These symptoms must be present for at least two weeks to be diagnosed. Some symptoms of depression described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) are:

  • Depressed, negative or sad mood
  • Dwindling interest or excitement in things you once enjoyed
  • Serious weight loss or weight gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Energy levels plummet
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Indecisiveness and suicidal thoughts

These symptoms can interrupt your abilities to work, complete personal tasks, or interact with friends.

Depression is extremely common and is not a sign of weakness. Many of those who suffer from depression battle the disorder in isolation due to feelings of being ostracized by others. Unfortunately, a big stigma around depression still exists today.

When a person is in a car accident and injured, family and friends might gather around at the hospital to show their support. However, because depression often isn’t defined in tangible ways, people find it hard to discuss it with others. Many people who would have compassion on someone with a broken arm, don’t have the same compassion on someone facing a mental disorder.

People learn to suffer in silence instead of searching for someone they can trust to share their experiences with. Every individual is unique and finding ways to overcome depression might look different than someone else’s approach. Find safe people in your circle that you can confide in and extend grace to yourself as you learn to actively fight depression. The good news is that many people are finding ways to cope and hope is not lost.

Identify Fact vs. Opinion

Everybody has an opinion about depression and how to manage the disorder. Usually, people who have never experienced depression or interacted with someone who has, believe people can just shake depression off and suck it up. Misinformation is circulated frequently about depression and how it influences people.

If depression were that simple, then millions of people wouldn’t find themselves struggling with it daily. You can’t just stop being depressed on command. If someone has told you to stop feeling depressed or that if you just had more faith you would be healed, it is unfortunate that you were subjected to such narrow-minded perspectives.

God does not love you any less because you are battling depression. He is with you. He hurts to see you hurting. He can help you on your journey toward recovery.

9 Ways to Actively Fight Depression

It’s important to note that this journey requires patience. Everybody experiences depression symptoms differently and each person will discover the process that works best for their unique circumstances.

Allow your mind, body, and spirit to heal the way that is best for YOU. Refrain from comparing your journey to someone else’s journey. Let’s take a look at what other people have done to fight their depression.

Avoid isolating yourself

This is major. It’s natural to want to isolate yourself when you’re depressed. It’s almost like keeping to yourself becomes the default during a depressive state. Your thoughts become trapped in your mind and you avoid connection with others.

Depression can worsen when you are around joyful people. You begin to wonder if you’ll ever be that person enjoying an abundant life. You are not alone in this way of thinking and behaving. Isolation increases the severity of depression.

You will have to push through your discomfort to connect with people. This can be hard and feel like you are going against the grain, but having face-to-face time with those that care about you eases the symptoms of depression. Find those that remind you that you are loved and valuable.

It’s okay to have time to yourself, but don’t be afraid to bring your whole self to the dinner table with a friend. A genuine friend cares about you during the valleys and mountaintops. Getting outside of those conflicting thoughts and talking to someone else will help.

Leave your house

Many people who are experiencing depression lock themselves in their house, pull the covers over their head and watch shows that aren’t beneficial in their current state. Do what you can to get out of the home and participate in a life-giving activity. Even if you don’t feel any different, removing yourself from isolation helps gradually over time. Even if it’s taking a walk in a nature park or driving to a place you’ve never been. Staying in the house is comfortable, but counterproductive to your healing and progress.

Don’t believe the lies in your head

The mind is a battlefield and a constant tug-of-war between good and evil. Being lost in your own thoughts is incredibly dangerous in a depressive state. It’s easy to succumb to lies during this time. These thoughts might sound like, “Nobody likes me,” “Why am I even still here,” “I’m worthless,” or “I’ll never get anything right.”

Our internal dialogues determine our direction. These thoughts are not from God and can derail your healing. Lies can be hard to reject when depressed. It’s important to have someone else who can speak truth into your life and remind you who you are in Christ. Other people will be able to pinpoint the thoughts that are blatant lies. These lies can consume your mind and eat away at your mood.

Get active

Even on a good day, most people dread exercising. It’s normal to have to give yourself a pep talk to make it to the gym. That being said, incorporating movement in your day is going to be challenging, but critical to fighting depression symptoms. Exercise is known to release your body’s chemicals that help you feel better.

Depression makes it incredibly hard to get motivated because of a lack of energy. Even if you can lace up your tennis shoes and walk around the neighborhood for 15 minutes. That is a great start to getting moving. This movement, when done consistently, will benefit you tremendously. Fresh air, a dose of sunlight, moving and immersing yourself in nature boosts moods. You might even want to invite someone else along to keep you accountable.

Practice proper nutrition

Food is fuel. What we put into our body contributes toward our overall health emotionally, mentally and physically. If we fill our bodies with unhealthy food or drinks we can’t expect that our body will be efficient. Our bodies will become sluggish as a result. Adding enough protein, vegetables, fruit and eating balanced meals is important. Hydrating yourself with water is also a big deal.

I know this suggestion might seem elementary, but often when people are depressed they skip meals or binge on food that isn’t healthy. When energy levels are low, attempting to cook a meal for yourself seems like an insurmountable task. Find prepared foods that are healthy that you can rely on to fuel you.

Some people turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their pain or make them feel alive. Alcohol is a depressant and will make things worse. Any substance that alters your mood should be avoided. If you are self-medicating, please know that other options exist to help manage depression and overcome its power.

Talk to God

Depressed people often drift away from God instead of clinging to him. You might begin to question why God would let you suffer from depression or why he won’t just make your pain go away. God doesn’t want you to live a depressed life. He wants you to live an abundant life.

He is by our side in the good and bad times.

When depression hits, it’s more important than ever to seek him minute-by-minute to be your strength and guide you every step of the way. If you are involved in a church, reach out to your community to provide comfort and encouragement. You might want to look for a church program like Celebrate Recovery to get involved with. Don’t give up asking God and His people for help. Believers are here to comfort those with the same comfort they have received.

Read God’s Word

Absorb God’s Word and meditate on his promises. God gives us life-giving words on the pages of the bible that we can access and apply. Here are a few verses that display God’s promises.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.Psalm 40:1-3

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.Psalm 34:17

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.Isaiah 42:3

Try Therapy for Depression

It can be useful to have an outsider’s perspective on depression. A trained therapist has the experience to help you navigate the complexities of depression and even uncover the source of the pain. Therapy is another good tool to use in addition to the others mentioned in this article.

A professional therapist has years of experience and training and can give you resources custom-tailored to your situation. A therapist also provides a safe place to share and be vulnerable without any repercussions. Talking is an important way to combat depression.

Talk with a medical provider

If you find medication is the best solution for you, this does not mean that you’ve failed or even that you will need to take medication forever. Many people I know have weaned themselves off medication after some time. Medical intervention is necessary at times and not something to be ashamed about.

There are also other options to treat depression that a professional medical provider could review with you. Remember, using medicine doesn’t mean that you aren’t still trusting God for your healing. God can provide healing in a variety of ways.

Christian Counselors are Ready to Help

Christian counselors are ready to talk with you today in a judgment-free environment. You are not alone and you do not have to battle this alone either. Now is the time to find someone you trust and begin the journey to actively fight depression. Find someone who will be by your side no matter what. Reach out today to a trusted friend, family member or professional. Help is only a phone call or text away.

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Self-Injurious Behavior: What It Is and How to Help

If you have never participated in a form of self-injurious behavior, it can be confusing when you hear about someone cutting themselves. You might ask, “Why would someone have the desire to intentionally hurt themselves?” What you may not be aware of is that for some, self-harm can genuinely feel pleasurable.

As an example, young children hit their heads on walls when angry or overwhelmed. You may have witnessed this yourself with your own kids or a friend’s children. The initial pain sends a wave of “feel good” chemicals through the body. The child alleviates the pain through hitting their head on a surface. This behavior can be scary, but it’s typical in children up to four years old.

Teenagers might scratch themselves to escape their feelings of anger or frustration. This action is then tied to those “feel good” emotions and is also a way to punish themselves. It’s important to watch for signs of self-mutilation in adolescents and provide solutions to help them cope with the thoughts or emotions they are battling. There could be a variety of reasons why someone might resort to self-injurious behavior.

A Story about Self-Harm

As a young child, Maria would slam her head against the table or wall when frustrated. Maria’s mother’s first child never did this, so she was confused as to what caused Maria to lash out. She researched the reasons and decided to wait it out.

As Maria became a preteen, she continued to bang her head on the wall in her moments of rage. Over time, Maria learned to turn to karate as a way to release those unwelcome emotions. Maria’s mother was excited to see her daughter’s progress and that she had stopped banging her head on the wall.

One day, Maria’s mom entered Maria’s room to look for dirty laundry. Months had passed since she last entered Maria’s room. Maria’s mother was horrified to see Maria has stabbed her headboard repeatedly with a knife.

Instead of exploding, Maria’s mother ignored the issue and continued to keep an eye on Maria. In time, she quit her destructive patterns and became a thriving, productive woman in the world. Although she has times of frustration, she no longer escapes her feelings by destroying something.

How to React to Self-Harm Issues

If your child is banging their head or scratching, overreacting isn’t always the wisest way to solve the problem.

  • A kid may increase their head banging if they sense it’s the only way to get noticed.
  • Overreacting might terrify the child and cause more issues.
    Respond in a relaxed, casual tone that can help put your child at ease
  • Encourage the child to discuss their emotions and thoughts
  • Remind them you are always available to approach instead of resorting to self-infliction.
  • Research some options for enhancing self-confidence.
  • Come up with a plan on how to cope, along with practicing communication skills.

Your child may prefer to talk about their actions more than the reason why they are upset. Your child may not even understand what’s causing their anxiety. In cases like these, therapy is an excellent option. A therapist is professionally trained to uncover the root issues.

When a person performs an act of self-injury, immediate relief of pressure from “bad feelings” occurs. Naturally, these feelings are fleeting and are normally replaced by feelings or thoughts of condemnation. This is the vicious cycle of self-injurious behavior.

Children are increasingly exposed to self-injury more than years ago. As a result, self-infliction has become common in children as young as 11.

Once self-harm starts, it can be difficult to quit as the momentary “high” becomes addicting. That’s why it can take awareness, accountability, and support from a counselor to break the cycle of self-injury. Ultimately, the person has to want to stop causing harm to themselves.

An Example of Self-Injurious Behavior

Jacob had a habit of biting his cheek when he felt the urge to get upset and raise his voice. It would help calm him down and keep him composed. However, by the age of 13, the number of situations that set him off had escalated. Anytime he faced his rude brothers, angry father or school bullies he would bite down on his cheek. This caused him both pain and relief. The pain reminded him he was real.

Jacob was experiencing depression, but it was difficult for him to define it as depression since this was the norm for his life.

As situations and stress became more severe, Jacob began scratching himself until his skin was red and raw. Jacob would replay hurtful experiences in his mind and his scratching became more intense. He wished his family would care about him and express concern.

At school, he excelled in his studies and teachers were shocked to learn about his problem with coping. In his health class, self-harm was discussed. He couldn’t help but imagine what it must be like. As he poked his skin with a pin, it didn’t cause much pain. He became enthralled with watching the blood well up. Seeing the blood drip from his skin released the anger inside. He began to cut with blades to cope with his pain.

Jacob went to college where he had more freedom and responsibility. His need to see perfect grades created severe anxiety. Cutting was his only answer to the looming anxiety he felt.

Jacob met a girl on campus, fell in love and his depression seemed to fade, momentarily.

Unfortunately, positive thinking or love can’t remove depression completely. Jacob learned cutting himself did not help him relate emotionally and socially with his girlfriend. She broke up with him and he fell back into old patterns.

Overcome by shame, Jacob recognized his life had become unmanageable and he needed help. Although he had been to therapy before at his parents’ request, this time he walked through the doors on his own. He wanted to become well and learn why he couldn’t stop his destructive behavior.

Jacob allows himself to express emotions today and to dig deep into what is bothering him. He still occasionally bites his cheek, but he has eliminated cutting from his coping mechanisms. He knows how to vocalize when life becomes overwhelming for him. Jacob has learned what people and situations to try to avoid, so he isn’t triggered unnecessarily. Counseling has provided him with a safe place to share his feelings about his life experiences.

Forms of Self-Harm

Self-harm is normally done in private and in a controlled, planned manner.

Examples of self-injurious behavior include:

  • Cutting the skin
  • Scratching
  • Burning (with matches, cigarettes or even ice)
  • Carving words or designs on the skin
  • Hitting or punching
  • Piercing the skin
  • Pulling out hair
  • Persistently picking at a wound as it heals

The most common forms of self-harm are cutting which makes up 70% to 90% of all cases. Hitting oneself or banging the head happens in 21% to 44% of self-harm cases.

Reasons for self-injurious behavior:

  • Boredom
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • To calm down
  • Numbing of emotions
  • Addictive
  • A feeling of empowerment or control
  • To fit in with peers
  • To inflict punishment
  • To communicate in a nonverbal form
  • Fill an empty void
  • Lonely or misunderstood
  • Low self-esteem or depression
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Feel panic or frustration
  • A reminder of being alive

Many teenagers use social media to glorify cutting. Young, impressionable people can be drawn to these websites and social profiles. Cutting is portrayed as cool and encouraged. They share stories and display their scars from cutting. Glorifying self-harm is an indicator of a person’s state of mind. It’s important for parents to know what their kids are consuming online and who they are hanging around.

How Common is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is rare, despite how often certain communities and television shows are glorifying it. It is higher among teenagers, but most grow out of the self-harm habit. Still for the 17% to 35% who do practice self-harm getting professional help is an incredibly beneficial way to learn how to handle life’s challenges.

Self-Harm Risk Factors


Teenagers are more likely to engage in self-harm. Parents need to be aware and active in their child’s life to notice if she is inflicting intentional wounds on herself.

Having Friends Who Self-Harm

Once I heard a story of a child who cut herself because her friend did and she didn’t want her to do it alone. The child didn’t even know the implications of cutting. Children are easily swayed and if cutting is acceptable in their circle of friends it could become normal for the child. Children don’t want to be left out or feel like an outsider.

Life Issues

If a person is isolated or ostracized, he might consider self-harm as a coping mechanism. A person’s mental state can be dramatically influenced by the toxic or unhealthy environment.

Mental Health Issues

A person battling depression, or another mental health issue like bipolar disorder, has a higher probability of turning to self-harm practices.

How to Diagnose Self-Injurious Behavior

Because self-harm is often hidden, it isn’t obvious until revealed. Now, the level of severity is something a doctor or therapist would need to determine. If someone has many tattoos or body piercing that doesn’t necessarily signify self-harm, but it can be a part of the behavior expressed by a cutter.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs alter the brain and significantly increase the risk of those prone to self-harm.

Self-Harm and Suicide

Self-harm is normally done in private and the scars are hidden under long sleeves. It doesn’t automatically mean someone is suicidal. However, if the person is depressed or battling other overwhelming emotions, it could be a way to gain confidence to commit suicide. Sometimes the person cuts too deep and accidentally commits suicide or ends up in the hospital.

If you, or someone you know, is contemplating ending their life please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Someone is waiting to speak with you 24/7.

Self-Harm Complications

Even after someone quits inflicting wounds on themselves, the scars are usually still evident. This can be a source of shame for the person. Also, infections can occur as a result of creating open wounds using random objects. Accidental death can happen if the person uses extremely sharp objects. It’s important to lovingly talk to your friend about self-harm if you notice any signs. Let them know that they are seen and heard.

If you are recovering from self-injurious behavior or need someone to talk to, please reach out to a counselor you can trust to help you navigate your experiences.

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