Is it Time to Re-Evaluate Your Friend Group?

Friendships can be deeply complex. Our natural dependency on what they represent can cause us to ignore red flags from friendships that have become toxic and unsustainable. If you are feeling stress, anxiety, or other negative feelings from certain friendships, it may be a sign that it’s time to explore setting boundaries or even ending the relationship.

Unhealthy friendships can profoundly affect our physical and mental health and overall emotional well-being. The stress caused by consistent negative interactions with friends can cause physiological and psychological damage including higher blood pressure, increased inflammation, and impacts on your mood and morale. It’s essential to be aware of typical behaviors and effects that indicate a troubled friendship bond and what you can do to invite healthier boundaries and relationships into your life.

Are your friends critical?

In unhealthy friendships, you may notice that conversations can turn negative quickly. There may be constant put-downs and instances of ignoring or degrading you when something positive happens.

Are you noticing an excess of negative or derogatory remarks made toward you? Are they critical of your decisions and belittling the things that make you excited or proud? There are many reasons a person may act this way toward their friends including jealousy, unrealistic standards, and even factors that have little to do with you and are triggered by something within them.

Are you always the first to make plans or initiate a phone call or text? 

Are you usually the first one to make contact or plans? Do your friends give you a hard time when the plans are made, consistently wanting to change or cancel them? If your friend group seems rather difficult to get a hold of or nail down when it comes to committing to plans, it shows a lack of respect and balance in your friendship. It can create feelings of lower self-worth and even embarrassment or social anxiety.

Do friendship boundaries seem non-existent?

Do you have friends with seemingly high expectations of you to do things for them, but they do not return the favor? Do they cross boundaries by asking uncomfortable questions about your finances, politics, sex life, or marriage? Or do they pressure you to think or feel a certain way that is more aligned with their views or beliefs? You may be experiencing manipulation that is already unhealthy and could escalate to other adverse outcomes and a feeling of losing yourself and your identity.

Is it time to make a change?

Whatever the reason behind the behavior, it’s never okay, and steps should be taken to create healthy boundaries and balance within the friendship if possible. Know that you are not alone, and you can take action to create a healthier friend dynamic in your life and move on from irreparable toxic friendships with confidence.

The first step is to have a candid conversation with your friends regarding the feeling you are having. This may lead to a better understanding of your mutual needs, and occasionally your friendship could mend itself. Be prepared that it could also lead to an end in the friendship, which could be very difficult to come to terms with, even if it means that the unhealthy behaviors are out of your life.

Occasionally, people need additional support. You can seek professional guidance from Hudson Psychiatric Associates, who are here to help you deal with your feelings and the outcomes of your choices. 

Disorders like complex social anxiety can deeply affect existing and future friendships and have become more prevalent in recent years. Our mental health professionals can guide you through numerous treatments to help you heal, attract healthier friendships, and set better boundaries.

Strive for healthy friendships

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously stated that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. When it comes to relationships and friendships, we are influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. If evaluating your friendships is part of a larger goal in evaluating yourself and your goals, it’s a great place to start.

If you have suffered from toxic friendships, you may need to recognize what a typical healthy friendship dynamic should be. In an ordinary healthy friendship, your friends will check in with you, respect healthy boundaries, support a give-and-take interaction, speak to you respectfully and send positive or supportive messages. They will celebrate your victories with you and comfort you when you are down. 

If you need support as you reevaluate your close relationships, contact Hudson Psychiatric Associates today to connect with a provider.

Identifying the Conventional Impacts of Trauma

According to The National Council, 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some profoundly traumatic event at least once in their lives. That means most of us will experience a deeply distressing or disturbing event or series of events classified as acute, chronic, or complex trauma. 

As alarming as that statistic is on its face, trauma is simply a part of life for most Americans. Even though the effects of trauma are different in each specific circumstance, the impacts of trauma on victims’ lives are often the same. Here are some commonalities among those who have dealt with trauma. These may ring true for those who have experienced trauma and their loved ones.

1. Changes to your perspective on life

Even though types of trauma vary greatly, there is often a current of similarity that runs through the way it manifests itself. Trauma will often critically shift how one sees their life. Self-worth, relationships with others, and what people envision for their future are often all affected by the traumatic events they’ve endured.  

2. Resistance to change 

Most people who have gone through trauma are resistant to change, even if it is positive. Change often represents a perceived threat to safety and control over our lives, and it’s typical to experience a push-back to things that could open us up to vulnerability. 

This resistance can occur with changes in physical locations and residency, interacting with new people, and even a promotion at work that brings new responsibilities can be an unwelcome change to a victim of trauma. Consistency in where we go, what we do, and who we see brings comfort, and change can also reignite your traumatic response and trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, fear, and even anger. 

3. Changes in memory or concentration 

It may feel unnerving, but it’s typical to experience gaps in memory, including events that friends and family may remember, yet the trauma sufferer has no recollection of. This is another natural response to trauma and our brain’s attempt at self-preservation. This symptom can also damage your ability to concentrate as you once did. A generalized lack of focus is often an additional side effect that those who experience trauma report.

Processing and Coping with Trauma 

Trauma survivors experience and cope with trauma in a variety of ways. The mental health effects can manifest immediately, or days, weeks, and even years after the occurrence of trauma. Human beings are unique and complex creatures, and when our brains are processing trauma, our survival and coping mechanisms can upend our daily lives.

Often, symptoms get better over time as we naturally connect with others close to us, and we build meaning out of our lives as we get some distance from the trauma. It is normal to experience sadness, sleep issues, avoidance, anger/rage, intrusive thoughts, other unpredictable emotions, and even physical symptoms related to the trauma.

Additional Support for Victims of Trauma

If these symptoms persist or continue to interfere with your ability to live your daily life, you may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This type of condition is most common in complex trauma that occurs over time and is deeply threatening to and invasive of personal safety. If you or a loved one is experiencing extreme stress, anxiety, or depression related to one or more traumatic events, it may be time to seek professional care through therapy, medications, and/or other available treatments.

The care team at Hudson Psychiatric Associates is here to help address your mental health concerns and bring you resources to get back on the path to wellness. Reach out today to request an appointment, or get more information about our support services.

Understanding the Stages of Grief

Grief is a natural human response to loss. We often connect the term to a loved one’s death, but grief is an emotional response to having something or someone you love taken away. Often, those suffering loss can feel overwhelming pain and sadness. However, the expression of grief comes in many forms, including shock, rage, disbelief, guilt, worry, fear, and disassociation.

Grief can present itself in various circumstances ranging in severity from a missed or lost opportunity to extreme trauma-related events. It’s important to note that there are five typical stages of grief we tend to cycle through when faced with these situations. Though the length of time to process grief can range from days to years, it rarely occurs linearly and can also return long after we assume that we’ve processed and moved on from the initial triggering event.

It’s essential for those who wish to heal and cope with grief to understand its stages. This information further helps us to recognize how to build tools to address it and when we may need additional support.

The 5 stages of grief and how to recognize them

The stages of grief all have distinct purposes and manifestations. People often assume we move from one stage to the next and eventually recover. While this is possible, it’s also natural to jump around and even revisit stages as we adapt to our circumstances.

Here are some examples of what we might expect from each stage:

1. Denial

This is a form of self-preservation. It can present as avoidance, mindlessness or numbness, distraction, forgetfulness, and convincing yourself and others that you are “fine.”

We may experience shock, confusion, or emotional shut-down.

2. Anger

Anger generally presents in three ways: passive aggression, open aggression, and assertive anger. That can look like physical aggression or verbally lashing out, having a short fuse and being easily irritated,  having a cynical or pessimistic outlook, and reacting with sarcasm and contempt.

We may feel frustrated, full of rage, embarrassed, resentful,  impatient, or like we lack control over our emotions.

3. Bargaining

During this stage, we often run through alternate versions of events. We get stuck obsessing over past and future events, thinking events would have been or will be different ” If only ….”.

We might feel judgemental of ourselves and others, insecure or worried about the present and future. We might compare ourselves to others, feel fear, shame, blame, or guilt,  and have heightened anxiety and fixation on events. 

4. Depression

This is the stage most easily recognized as part of the grieving process. It includes feelings of sadness, despair, and hopelessness. 

We may recognize ourselves experiencing sleep and appetite changes, lack of energy, loss of interest in activities or socialization, decreased motivation, crying, and loss of concern for our well-being. 

5. Acceptance

Experiencing acceptance does NOT mean we stop experiencing the negative emotions related to grief. It is the point in the grieving process where we can build coping mechanisms to orient ourselves in the present moment and help guide ourselves out of the other stages as they occur and recur.

People in the acceptance stage feel more compassion and grace toward themselves. They tend to be open to adopting mindfulness techniques and are willing to be vulnerable, honest,  and responsive to outreach from others without feeling defensive. 

Strategies to work through the stages of grief

The stages of grief are our defense mechanisms to protect ourselves, disconnect, or avoid the reality of loss. Once we reach the acceptance stage, we accept our new reality and set goals to help ourselves adjust to it. The initial 4 stages prevent us from making adjustments, and we may experience a range of complicated behaviors that we’ll need to address once we reach acceptance. These include increased alcohol or drug use, sleep and appetite changes,  increased anxiety and depression symptoms, hyperfocus on external responsibilities and the needs of others while neglecting our own, seeking persistent distraction, and other activities that affect our well-being.

Sufferers also experience physical effects of grief that may have a long-term impact on health if steps aren’t taken to resolve them.

By acknowledging the problems and struggles created by grief, we can reflect on them and identify small changes and priority shifts to address them beneficially. Using self-talk strategies to notice the root cause of your behavior helps us to change or have acceptance for them. For instance, if a grieving person acknowledges that they are sleeping too much, they can set achievable goals to wake up earlier or develop a more concrete schedule. In the same vein, if one recognizes that they are feeling angry, it’s also appropriate to show grace, validate those feelings, and handle them better next time.

When you need more support

Grief can create powerful, all-consuming, and complex emotional and physical responses. While it is a natural process, sufferers may need help guiding themselves out of a specific stage. Often our loved ones and community can be a great support system to help us see our way through our grief, but there are many instances where one may need additional support. 

The dedicated team at Hudson Psychiatric Associates offers clinical and therapeutic support for individuals seeking trained, experienced, compassionate, and empathic mental health professionals. Contact us today to get help addressing grief and developing better tools to handle it.