Category Archives: Depression

OCPD Depression

All people are guilty of thinking negatively at some point in their life. It is only human. But when this seemingly harmless act is repeated over and over again, negative thinking can become a dangerous addiction that leaves its victims feeling hopeless. This addiction is called depression.

Depression is one of the more common addictions that people with OCPD are likely to struggle with.

Depression

First things first – I must address the chemical imbalance theory of depression. The chemical imbalance hypothesis is an unproven, convenient theory that oversimplifies the cause of depression to the depleted serotonin levels of the brain. In his book, “The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Anti-Depressant Myth,” Dr. Irving Kirsch goes into detail about how “the idea of depression as a chemical imbalance of the brain is a myth.” People with OCPD do not fall into depression because of any chemical imbalance in their brain. They fall into depression because of compulsive negative thinking.

So what causes OCPD negative thinking?

One of the main ingredients of OCPD negative thinking is “all-or-nothing thinking.” This type of thinking splits life events as being either “completely disastrous” or “absolutely wonderful.” But why does the pessimistic view repeatedly win over the optimistic one when people with OCPD judge their experiences? The pessimistic view wins because the majority of life’s experiences fall below the high standards of people with OCPD.

So we have established that people with OCPD tend to think negatively when they do think. But how frequently do they think? Do people with OCPD think frequently enough to develop an addiction for it?

Yes, people with OCPD are thinkaholics. The intellectual overexcitability of these highly sensitive people causes them to spend much more time thinking than most other people do. Anxiety turns this natural inclination into more of an obsession. People with OCPD think so much that they may be heavily burdened with issues of existence and loneliness. This can lead to existential depression when it is combined with “all-or-nothing” negative thinking. A lot of people with OCPD who are fearful of their overwhelming emotions are also used to thinking their way out of their feelings. This “flight into reason” not only reinforces the brain pathway associated with excessive thinking, but it also creates a whole new problem associated with depression.

In her book, “The Drama of the Gifted Child,” Dr. Alice Miller wrote,

“The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality – the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and grief.”

It is exactly this vitality which is missing in the lives of so many people with OCPD (read more about OCPD “Composure and Emotional Non-expression“).

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO GET OUT OF YOUR DEPRESSION (OCPD):
See your depression for what it is. It is an addiction. You do have the choice to put an end to it. But like all other addictions, you need to go “all-in” in your effort to stop doing the things that feed into your addiction. There is no easy way out of it, no “quick fix” pill you can take to end this addiction. You must force yourself to develop a habit of thinking positively.

Stop thinking in “black and white.” When difficult feelings come, do not think your way out of it. Feel your emotions without judging whether they are good or bad. Be calm as you say to yourself, “Ah, so this is what betrayal feels like.” Throughout your day, force yourself to smile even if it feels unnatural – your brain will follow and supply you with the emotions that have been linked with that behaviour. During the day, force yourself to go out and spend time with people even if all you feel like doing is lying down in bed.

If you are currently on antidepressants, do not suddenly stop taking them. Talk to your physician about gradually discontinuing your use of antidepressants.

If you relapse on your depression, just try again. Relapse does not mean you must go back on antidepressants. It just means you might need clearer boundaries. Some recovered alcoholics do not even have a sip of beer. Like them, you may need to keep yourself from having even a “sip” of negativity.

It is not so out of the ordinary for people with OCPD to experience sudden drops in their mood even after they have made all the right changes to their pattern of thinking and the way in which they experience their emotions. Do not be discouraged. Your emotional sensitivity may be causing you to unconsciously empathize with the pain and suffering of others.

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Empathy

em·pa·thy
/ˈempəTHē/

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

People with OCPD have a natural gift for empathy.

Empathy

People with OCPD have the capacity to experience great emotional depth because of their hypersensitivity. They are able to feel emotions that most of the world will never be able to feel or understand. People with emotional sensitivity also have a heightened sense of the emotions of others. Even if others say, “I’m doing fine,” people with OCPD have the ability to see right through surface level communication. In an instant, people with OCPD can assess the body language and tone of voice of others and figure out the true emotions behind all the masks that people put on. Some people with extreme emotional sensitivity, such as myself, possess a near-psychic ability to sense even the history of emotions, hurts, and pains of others. One of the things I learned about myself in all my travels was that I can even sense the pain and suffering collectively experienced by the people of an entire nation. People with OCPD have all the right tools to enrich the lives of others through empathy.

Why then are there so many people with OCPD who do not practice their natural gift for empathy? The answer is anxiety.

At a very early age, people with OCPD were once overwhelmed by their strong negative emotions. They needed their immediate caretaker (usually their mother) to comfort them by saying, “Don’t worry, child. You’re going to be just fine. Bad feelings are a normal part of life and they will come and go. Don’t try to avoid them. Just feel them out and let them pass.” Unfortunately, most of the world (mothers included) does not understand how emotionally sensitive we are and fails to provide this kind of security. Without this security, people with OCPD grow up to fear their emotions and try everything in their power to avoid them. Recently, in a post titled “Intellectualization,” I wrote about one of the primary psychological strategies people with OCPD use to prevent themselves from experiencing negative emotions. As long as people with OCPD continue to dodge negative emotions, they will never be able to give others the sense that their feelings are being understood and shared.

In order to redeem their natural gift for empathy, people with OCPD must face their fear of negative emotions. This fear cannot be faced, however, if people with OCPD continue to make use of the very things that prevent them from experiencing their emotions. Therefore, people with OCPD must resist the urge to use their defense mechanisms as well. Every step of the way, people with OCPD must re-parent themselves with the words of comfort that I wrote in the above paragraph. When negative emotions are no longer things that need to be feared and avoided, people with OCPD can then begin to feel the negative emotions of others. When this happens, people will discover that no one can empathize with them as well as their OCPD friend.

Feeling depressed? It might not be you.

The emotional sensitivity of people with OCPD is so strong that, despite all their efforts to avoid negative feelings, people with OCPD will still pick up the emotions of others unconsciously. People with OCPD might find themselves feeling sad all of a sudden. When this happens, most people with OCPD who have not yet familiarized themselves with the power of their emotional sensitivity will likely think that they are the cause of this emotional pain. What really might be happening is that they are unconsciously empathizing with others. It is a shame that people with OCPD do not get credit for this kind of behind-the-scenes empathy. Unfortunately, the burden that people with OCPD feel for others can become so heavy that going into isolation feels like the most liberating thing to do. It is very important that people with OCPD who often feel the pain and suffering of others have outlets, like hobbies, with which they can release the burden that they pick up. I love babies and I find it so therapeutic to hang out with them (my emotional sensitivity hardly picks up any pain and suffering when I am around babies).

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
When your loved one is experiencing difficult emotions, do not start talking about your psychological strategies. More than anything, your loved one wants to feel that he or she is not so alone in this. Just keep your mouth shut and hold your loved one in your arms. Even if this becomes overwhelming, do not let go. If you cannot do this because you are too scared, explain that your inability has nothing to do with you not caring enough for your loved one. Explain that you are fearful of difficult emotions. Ask them to have extra patience with you as you try to overcome your fears. If you suddenly become sad because you are unconsciously empathizing with others, explain to your loved one that this happens to you because of your emotional sensitivity.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Understand that your OCPD friend’s inability to empathize with you comes from his or her fear of experiencing difficult emotions. Do not take it so personally when your OCPD friend appears so emotionally removed from your suffering and pain. Deep inside, he or she really cares about you. He or she just happens to be too scared. When neither of you are experiencing overwhelming emotions, explain to your OCPD friend that when you are going through difficult emotions, what you would appreciate most, more than any well thought-out psychological strategies, would be for him or her to just share your feelings of suffering and pain. He or she may then go on to explain how psychological strategies are more practical than empathy in that they actually resolve the problem. Then respond, “As crazy as it may sound, I don’t care so much to resolve the problem right away. Maybe later. But the first thing I want is to not feel so lonely in my suffering and pain. I understand that it is uncomfortable for you to feel negative emotions, but for my sake, so that I don’t feel so lonely, please try to experience my pain with me.” You will then need patience as your OCPD friend faces his or her fears. This may take some time. Encourage him or her along the way. When your OCPD friend becomes sad or depressed for no reason, do not be so quick to blame yourself or your OCPD friend as he or she may be empathizing with others pain and suffering unconsciously. When this happens, remind your OCPD friend that the feelings may not be his or her own and not his or her burden to carry. Encourage him or her not to drain him or herself out too much if this is the case.

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Intellectualization

Emotional pain is not an easy thing to handle for many people, especially emotionally sensitive people. Emotional pain that is too overwhelming often causes people to resort to the use of defence mechanisms. One of those defence mechanisms that people with OCPD are likely to use because of their dominant “left brain” is intellectualization.

People with OCPD primarily use intellectualization to cope with their difficult feelings.

Intellectualization

INTELLECTUALIZATION:

This defensive style is a cousin to “Isolation of Affect.” Feelings are not allowed into consciousness. Instead, issues are discussed in a hyper intellectual manner. Everything is examined from every possible point of view. Everything is taken seriously; humor does not seem possible. A person who intellectualizes seems to rob life of its spontaneity and replaces it with an exaggerated sense of seriousness and microscopic scrutiny. (taken from “The Caller’s Coping Styles“)

Most people with OCPD are so accustomed to using intellectualization to cope with their difficult feelings that they do not realize it is a defence mechanism that is not shared or very well understood by the majority of the world. Consequently, it causes so much disunity and frustration between them and their loved ones.

Having successfully comforted themselves with the use of this defence mechanism for so long, most people with OCPD cannot think of any other way for their loved ones to comfort them. People with OCPD hope that their loved ones would partner with them in their intellectualization, help them in their logical reasoning and problem solving, and celebrate with them when they figure out the answer. In other words, many people with OCPD want their loved ones to join in on their use of their defence mechanism. This, of course, rarely happens.

What happens instead is that their loved ones give the kind of comfort that usually works on most people. They might say “don’t worry, you’re going to be ok.” To this, those accustomed to intellectualization will feel compelled to ask “how?” and “why?” as those are the questions they always begin with in their attempt to comfort themselves. Their loved ones may then take their best shot at an explanation. But being already ten steps ahead in the identification and analysis of all the different possible explanations (would you expect anything less from those who have been doing that for the majority of their life?), it is likely that people with OCPD have already considered the explanation suggested by their loved ones. In much of the same way that they wrestle with their own reasoning, people with OCPD will then wrestle with the reasoning of their loved ones. Although this just happens to be the OCPD way in which they eventually reach their comforting “truth,” their loved ones most likely take it personally when their reasoning is rejected in the process. The loved ones then conclude that people with OCPD are just too argumentative and impossible to comfort. When it is apparent to people with OCPD that their loved ones have given up trying to comfort them, people with OCPD then revert back to what they have always been used to: they go off on their own, work out their pain in isolation, and tell themselves that the only people they can count on are themselves.

People with OCPD who habitually intellectualize their own feelings often do not know any other way to comfort others as well. Out of genuine care, they may intellectualize their loved ones feelings. This, however, does not bring comfort to most people. The loved ones may wonder, “Why does he seem so disconnected from my emotions?” “Why is he unable to just empathize with me?” “Why does he turn my feelings into some emotionless law case?”

In the end, because of intellectualization, both sides are left feeling sad (or even angry) that the other is so incapable of providing the needed form of comfort.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Focus on the heart of your loved one. He or she cares about you and his or her intention is to comfort you. Whatever he or she advises, even if the logic is so flawed, accept it with delight. Understand that your loved one will most likely take it personally if you disagree with and rip apart his or her reasoning. Do that in your own head in silence (with a smile on your face) if you are going to do that at all. If your loved one is going through difficult emotions and needs you to comfort him or her, resist your urge to intellectualize his or her feelings. Remember, even though this defence mechanism makes you feel better, it does not make the majority of people feel better. It can make them feel much worse. If your loved one is unable to specify how he or she would like to be comforted, try to comfort him or her in the way that most people would feel comforted by. Show concern, emotion, and empathy. Feel the pain with him or her. Tell him or her that he or she will be ok. Let him or her vent out whatever he or she wants to say (even if it all comes out unstructured, illogical, and imperfect). Do not correct him or her. Hold him or her in your arms. Be there for him or her.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
If you are going to give your OCPD friend any reasons, explanations, or advice, make sure to give the ones that encourage him or her to experience his or her difficult feelings. Any other reason, explanation, or advice will encourage your OCPD friend to make use of his or her defence mechanism. Whatever reasons, explanations, or advice you give, understand that your OCPD friend’s analysis of your reasoning is simply his or her own unique way of trying to find comfort through working out a final answer. If he or she disagrees with you, do not take it personally – this is just what he or she does in his or her own mind all the time. Try to imagine that his or her disagreement with your reasoning is bringing him or her that much closer to the truth that he or she is trying to figure out through a process of elimination. If it appears that your OCPD friend wants to be comforted by your participation in his or her intellectualization, you can still participate by asking questions and listening. But as soon as you can (probably best idea not to do it while your OCPD friend is experiencing difficult feelings), discuss with your OCPD friend the consequences of intellectualization and have him or her understand the importance of resisting the urge to use this defence mechanism.

HOW TO GRADUALLY ELIMINATE INTELLECTUALIZATION (OCPD):
Completely removing this defence mechanism without replacing it with another one is not recommended if it is the only coping method you have to handle your difficult feelings. In order to soften the blow, you may want to lean on other healthier defence mechanisms (see “Mature Defence Mechanisms“) in the meantime. Choosing to resist the urge to intellectualize your difficult feelings will require you to first recognize the complications it causes on you and your relationships.

THE COMPLICATIONS OF INTELLECTUALIZATION (OCPD):
This defence mechanism is not helpful to you. It keeps you weak. It steals your opportunity to grow stronger and develop your ability to endure more difficult emotions in the future. It causes you more frustration and anxiety. Who knows when you will be able to figure out your “truth” through the stressful process of reasoning that you take? It may take forever. It keeps you in anguish until you find that answer you are looking for. Is it really worth it all? It also keeps you feeling very lonely. It limits the kind of people that can comfort you. The only people who can comfort you are those who are as good as you or better in logical reasoning. Good luck trying to find them. Do you not want to find refuge in your loved ones? Does it not ache your heart that your loved ones feel hopeless?

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The Loneliness of the Gifted and Genius

NOTE: I use the words “gifted” and “genius” in the place of “extremely sensitive” and “so extremely sensitive that there are not too many of them in this world.” I believe these definitions work better than the results of IQ tests because there is much more to these people than their intellectual overexcitability.

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”
- Albert Einstein

Being born into the one percent of the population that is extremely sensitive not only comes with many great advantages, but also many challenging difficulties.

One of the most challenging difficulties experienced by gifted individuals and geniuses is loneliness.

A Beautiful Mind

[ Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash in "A Beautiful Mind" ]

Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas of “overexcitabilities” in gifted individuals. We experience both the “bright side” and the “dark side” of these overexcitabilities:

Overexcitability

Bright Side

Dark Side

Psychomotor • Extremely active
• Surplus of energy
• Workaholism
• Defining ourselves by what we DO, not by who we are
• Difficulty sitting still, relaxing, sleeping
Sensual • Heightened awareness of all five senses • Constant physical discomfort
• Seeing, hearing disturbing things (not seen, heard by others)
Intellectual • Extremely smart
• Love of knowledge and learning
• Thoughts, logic, reasoning that hardly anyone understands
• Workaholic mind
• Existential depression
Imaginational • Extremely imaginative
• Vivid dreams
• Imagining disturbing events (not imagined by others)
• Fear of the unknown
Emotional • Great depth of emotions
• Concern for others, empathy
• Intense emotions that hardly anyone understands
• Depression
• Fear of our own intense emotions

Just like everyone else, we go through hard times. Just like everyone else, we experience painful thoughts and feelings. And just like everyone else, we would like to have someone who would listen to us, understand us, validate our experiences, and care for the things we care about.

Sadly, while the rest of the world gets this kind of understanding and care from their loved ones, many gifted people and geniuses are famished in this area. When we struggle with our “dark side,” the rest of the world tells us that we are wrong to see, think, and feel what we see, think, and feel. The rest of the world tells us that we are being too extreme, too dramatic, and too crazy. The rest of the world sees us as being disordered and labels us with ADHD, OCD, OCPD, schizophrenia, etc. By the way, before you go on accepting any diagnosis, be sure to read this first. The rest of the world leaves us to “professionals” who put us on medication that kills our “bright side” along with our “dark side” so that we become more “normal,” more like everyone else. In order to avoid the pain that comes with being misunderstood and outcasted by others, so many of us have trained ourselves to be “normal” on the outside while still experiencing our unsharable intense thoughts and feelings inside. We are accepted by others on the condition that we continue to pretend to be people we are not.

This loneliness is the root cause of the painful depression experienced by many gifted individuals and geniuses. Well-meaning friends and family members who think they understand this kind of depression then advise us to just be more optimistic – but how does a roof over my head or my many talents address the issue of how incredibly lonely I feel?

Many gifted individuals and geniuses then choose to distract themselves from their loneliness with an obsessive, all-consuming pursuit of excellence. But no matter how big of a dent we create in the universe, no matter how excellently we perform, our loneliness still exists and it kills us inside. Those of us who are not distracted enough are at a very high risk of committing suicide.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO HELP YOUR GIFTED/GENIUS FRIEND FEEL LESS LONELY (OTHERS):
Resist judging your friend’s experience. Rather than thinking that your friend is wrong or crazy, be open to the idea that your friend is just “different.” Even if you cannot relate to your friend’s experience, still try to show that you care. If you do not have the right words (if you are less sensitive than your gifted/genius friend, you probably do not have the right words), use physical touch. A caring hug can make your friend feel much less lonely.

HOW TO ADDRESS YOUR LONELINESS (GIFTED INDIVIDUALS/GENIUSES):
First of all, acknowledge your loneliness and recognize the pointlessness of living an exhausting life of moving from one distraction to another. Put an end to your distractions and forms of false intimacy. Face your loneliness once and for all. Stop agreeing with the thoughts in your head about how no one understands you. Work hard at reversing those thoughts. If no one around you is able to give you the sense of intimacy that you long for because of their lack of sensitivity toward your differences, find a professional therapist who is trained to give you that sense of intimacy through the patient-therapist relationship. For me, what eliminated my loneliness was choosing to believe in an omniscient God who not only knows all the things that I think and feel, but also cares about all the things that I think and feel.

This message was approved and shared by American Mensa (the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world)

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Composure and Emotional Non-Expression

Highly sensitive people experience very strong emotions. Sometimes these emotions can be so overwhelming that they impair these people’s ability to maintain their composure and function at their best. In attempt to prevent the consequences that come with this loss, many of these people do not express these emotions and hope that others do not as well.

People with OCPD may be closed to the expression of certain emotions because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of losing their composure.

Many people with OCPD have adopted the wrong idea from their past that some of their human emotions are unacceptable. They may have once expressed those emotions freely, but were punished with hurtful consequences. Those consequences, however small, were then magnified by their unmerciful all-or-nothing thinking.

People with OCPD then fall for another one of their tendencies: they make it a rule not to express those emotions. Even though it is a difficult rule to follow, people with OCPD do a good job following it because of their strong work ethic.

But to their frustration, it appears that everyone else seems to be breaking that rule. This can feel so unfair to people with OCPD. They question, “Why am I the only person who makes the effort to keep myself controlled?”

If the answer to this question comes from their all-or-nothing thinking, many of these frustrated people will judge that it is because others are “weak.” This is a very dangerous judgment for people with OCPD to make because they will eventually judge themselves in the same way when they break their own rule. This then leads to perfectionism and guilt.

The emotion that I have so much difficulty handling is anger. My father, like many other traditional Asian men, did not let me express this emotion because his culture taught him that speaking in an angry tone around elders is disrespectful. He would shut me up and I would be left feeling unheard and invalidated. I learned from him that the only way I would be taken seriously is if I suppress this emotion, communicate in a controlled manner, and validate all my points with logical reasoning.

After functioning out of this condition for so long, I have become a very controlled communicator. I carefully manage my choice of words, the tone of my voice, my body language, and the expression on my face as I construct what I want to say. Many times, my service of containing my emotions has saved others from becoming over-stimulated while we discuss sensitive topics. Giving others no reason to get defensive, I have been able to efficiently debate with others and be heard.

But others do not seem to work as hard as I do in controlling this emotion. They use offensive words, raise their voice, position their body as if they about to fight, roll their eyes, flare their nostrils, etc. I then quietly judge them in my mind. “You are so weak. How can you possibly think that your offensive language and tone of voice strengthen your pathetic argument? You are not worth listening to!” But as they keep on expressing this emotion that I never got to express, my anger builds up inside of me until I cannot hold it in any longer. I explode. Extreme guilt then follows as I tell myself how weak and pathetic I am.

Now I am moving towards handling anger in a healthier way through a process of forgiving my father and teaching myself that what I have to say does matter, regardless of the perfection of my communication. Along the way, I am also becoming more compassionate for those who express anger.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Be open to others about your difficulty in handling their expression of certain emotions. Let them know how you feel. Let them know your boundaries. Ask them kindly to be more sensitive to you.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
When you catch your OCPD friend breaking one of his or her own emotional non-expression rules, let him or her know that it’s ok. Fight against his or her guilt. Help him or her realize that the consequences of his or her loss of composure are not as bad as his or her all-or-nothing thinking makes them out to be. If your OCPD friend gets upset at you for breaking one of his or her emotional non-expression rules, be strong and do not allow yourself to feel guilt. Let your OCPD friend know that you prefer to give yourself more freedom to express your emotions. Let him or her know that the consequences of your emotional expression are not as bad as he or she thinks.

HOW TO FIND FREEDOM IN EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION (OCPD):
Think about that time when you adopted the wrong idea that it was unacceptable to express your emotions. What did you tell yourself? Understand that your all-or-nothing judgments were inaccurate. Forgive the person who made you feel that you should have never expressed those emotions. Tell yourself that you deserve to express those emotions just like everybody else. Whenever you feel those emotions come, face your fears and try to express them. If guilt follows, tell yourself that it’s ok.

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