Do Your Best, Just Don’t Hurt Yourself

On a semi-regular…er, once a week or so… basis, one of many clients will refer to me as a hypocrite. Sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. I’ve had weeks when I’ve worked six days straight. I have been known to drink too much coffee in order to offset lack of sleep. And I can be very focused on removing those little fringes from torn sheets of notebook paper.

Here’s the thing. I am a happy person, I have self-esteem, I love my family, I love my little spot in suburbia, and I love my job. People who end up in my office have some combination of unhappy, worthless core beliefs, self-injury, have difficulty forming valued relationships, feel disconnected, hate others, cling to others, restrict their eating, are anxious, and yes I could continue.

Perfectionism is almost like a cute beauty mark with a biopsy indicating it’s a malignant tumor in need of treatment. Fine on the surface while it festers, but eventually it’s going to become blatantly obvious to everyone it’s a problem. The plus to perfectionism is that treatment is more about hanging on to what works – such as achievement – and learning to let go of what doesn’t work – harsh self-appraisal, self-punishment, etc.

So when is perfectionism helpful?

When it’s adaptive perfectionism (some researchers refer to it as conscientiousness). Adaptive perfectionism is all of that great perfectionism you know and love – grades, promotions, goals, beauty, “doing the right thing,” competitive spirit, sense of accomplishment, and more – without all of the self-loathing, insecurity, and at times life-threatening behavior. We call that stuff maladaptive perfectionism.

How does you know when you’re engaging in adaptive vs maladaptive perfectionism?

One being able to accept disappointment if things do not go as planned, and not viewing these events as some sort of confirmation of inferiority. Maybe the Easter ham was overcooked. Maybe you failed an exam. Maybe you bought the wrong socks for your partner. It happens.

Another is something I’ve seen in my practice is how perfectionists motivate themselves. It often has a moral tone to it. Recurrent themes include a sense of responsibility to others (and objects in those with Hoarding Disorder) and being worthwhile to friends, family, or peers. People may criticize themselves or ritualistically engage in self-injury in order to punish themselves when they do not meet their very high standards. Those engaging in adaptive perfectionism do not do this or are at least in the process of challenging these thoughts and behaviors when they occur. They use more positive reinforcement with themselves, such as tangible rewards for a job well done or use of cheerleading statements.

Ultimately, adaptive perfectionism meets the goals of perfectionism: being the best possible and feeling good about it. Perfectionism can be broken down into subcategories, which is for another blog post.

I’m sold on the idea of adaptive perfectionism, but I’m skeptical about my ability to change.

Which is normal. The plus is that Cognitive Behavior Therapy, CBT for short (That therapy the dusting, straightening yours truly uses), is helpful for maladaptive perfectionism. CBT teaches perfectionists to challenge their thinking, practice self-kindness, and improve efficiency.

Another promising treatment is Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or RO-DBT for short. It isn’t widespread, though that will likely change when more clinicians are trained.

Alright, I will give it a shot.

Contact Cortney Modelewski at 269-389-0402 or cortney@cortneymodelewski.com

Advertisements

I put things off

This is awesome: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

I think it’s true for many procrastinators. Though I found it didn’t entirely reflect my procrastination experiences, because hey, we’re all different and what not. That said, I don’t think my experiences are particularly unique.

I procrastinate. Sometimes for hours, sometimes days. In college and grad school, weeks. Feedback on my work in college included such gems as:

“The paper is still warm from the printer.”

“I would not have guessed you had written this in forty-five minutes.”

“Great Job! 100%”

It was the 100% assignments that kept me afloat throughout school. And reinforced the procrastination to a degree.

Overall, procrastination was a means of avoiding work. Very aversive work.

chart

 

It didn’t seem to make a difference whether or not I started assignments the day assigned or the night before they were due – my thoughts were still a distorted train wreck. So I put things off – I wasn’t exactly going to rush into self-deprecation and misery.

Things improved when I was no longer in college, when what is now considered important is incredibly different than what was. Things also improved when I figured out how to work without the thought train wreck  РI learned to change my thinking.

 

 

 

No, I’m not trying to lose weight

My husband and I went to an event where we live on New Year’s Eve with our seven year-old daughter. My husband made a comment about walking around enough to burn off calories from eating Christmas candy. Daughter didn’t get the joke. I quickly said, “I’ll explain it later” and told her to enjoy her elephant ear. Of course when we got home to watch the ball drop, everyone in Times Square was crowned with a Planet Fitness ad. She didn’t get that one, either, but was more interested in getting into pajamas at that point in the evening.

By Sunday afternoon, the ratio of fitness goals to political discussions on my Facebook feed has skewed to the former. The inauguration will come right around the time people ditch their resolutions, so that will change by the end of the month. There may be a slight upswing in dieting when Lent starts, but it will die off soon enough.

Except for some people. For some the pursuit of perfect eating and perfect body doesn’t stop easily. Much of eating disorders is biology – more than most people realize – but New Year’s resolutions are a delightful environmental factor.

I didn’t make any resolutions. So no, I’m not trying to lose weight. Nor will I be trying to help anyone do so.

 

#OCDweek

Today is the last day of OCD Awareness Week. I have been putting up links to informative websites on my Facebook page to, well, bring some awareness. I have also spent some time reflecting on how U.S. views OCD, which is pretty warped.

OCD is a neuropsychiatric disorder, which means the cause is attributed to abnormal brain function. It is not caused by weak will, lack of exercise/nutrition, or difficulties with mothers. It is likely caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors, with an emphasis on the genetic part. It is treatable with therapy and medication.

Misconceptions about OCD are abound. I don’t expect people in general to understand everything about the disorder, but it would be nice if people could at least tone down the judgments to be on par with epilepsy or cancer. OCD isn’t anyones fault, even if individuals with OCD (and sometimes their families) have to solve those problems anyway (DBT reference). And of the things I’ve learned in my personal and professional life, the inclination to psych problems would be higher if fear of being judged weren’t an issue. Instead, people may wait to get treatment until it’s unbearable, or worse commit suicide.

Yes, OCD can cause people to be miserable to the point of killing themselves.

It’s not a personality quirk.

It’s mental torture.

Stigma continues to decrease as people continue to speak out. OCD Awareness Week is one way to do that. Having OCD does not mean someone is defective. It just is what it is.

 

 

 

 

Accepting Suicide

Attempt, thoughts, knowing someone who had an attempt or thoughts – you will be hard pressed to find a person who hasn’t been impacted by suicide. If they talk about it. A lot of people won’t out of fear of being judged.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide can be prevented. In order to do so, however, it’s necessary to accept – which means without judgment – that it exists and needs to be addressed. No calling it a sin or a sign of weakness. No keeping it quiet. No more stigma.

As long as there are psychiatric disorders, trauma, addiction, chronic health conditions, and loss, there will be suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. It is what it is, and it needn’t be.

Check out these resources:

International Association for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

10 Things Not to Say to a Suicidal Person

Finding a Mental Health Professional

Albert Ellis On Guilt and Shame

Albert Ellis is one of the most influential therapists, and he founded the first of the cognitive and behavioral therapies called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This lecture (audio only) on guilt and shame is pretty fantastic.

As I was listening to it, I thought of the clients I’ve seen who feel guilt and shame regarding their obsessions and compulsions, e.g. “I’m a bad person for thinking [insert images or fears of murder, pedophilia, etc], and people will hate me if they find out about what goes on in my head.” And of course, “I have no reason to be depressed.” (I don’t need to expand on that one) Typically guilt and shame are not justified (meaning they fit the facts) in these sorts of cases. And if guilt and shame do fit the facts – you did in fact do something that went against your values (guilt) and you will be ostracized if anyone finds out (shame) – acknowledge it, make amends with yourself/those harmed/your higher power, accept what happened, and don’t do it again.

 

Can Social Media Stop Pro-Ana?

The Internet is a beautiful thing. It’s an expansive repository of information on any subject. A massive emporium of anything one could want, from Apple seeds to Zebra pelts (Yes, you can buy zebra pelts on the Internet). And it’s a means of social connection.

This Buzzfeed article outlines the current state of attempts by social media companies to thwart pro-eating disorder (i.e. pro-ana and pro-mia) groups, blogs, and photos. I first heard about pro-ana back in the late 90’s when every middle schooler with an Internet connection had a Geocities page. I saw pro-ana sites again late into college, when a friend of mine was doing research on eating disorders for a psychology class and read a few posts on a pro-ana forum aloud to me in horror. Now it’s 2016, and people are still forming support communities based on a collection of deadly behaviors and maladaptive personality traits. Companies have been trying to shut down these communities with mediocre results like it’s 1999.

The latest effort by some is to strategically place recovery-oriented advertising and messages on pro-eating disorder media. I’m not entirely certain if there is evidence to back up this practice, though it’s probably not harmful. The site visitor is given a prompt to call the National Eating Disorders Association or talk with a trained volunteer online.

Here’s part of what it’s like to have an eating disorder: loneliness, feeling disconnected from others, self-loathing, shame, isolation, sadness, anger, and more self-loathing, shame, and loneliness. The well-known perk of pro-ana sites is the same as any other online support group: When you enter, you’ve found your people.

Social media can’t fully control what people post, try as they might. Continuing to try is the responsible thing to do. Social media is more complication than cause of the development and continuation eating disorder symptoms.What is especially problematic is how variable in real life support for individuals with eating disorders can be in the US, as well as a need for trained health professionals, and of course underfunding for researching causes and treatment.