Depression is Common among College Students

It’s common for college students to feel depressed. Now, when I say depression, I mean anything from just feeling down to feeling so depressed you can’t get out of bed. It’s important to know that feeling sad is a part of life. Feeling significant depression doesn’t have to be, however. Everyone gets down from time to time, but depression is different (Related Article: What Is The Difference Between Sadness And Depression). So, if you are feeling down, know that others feel that way too. They might be able to help you if you reach out.

Depression Versus Sadness

What’s the difference between the two? Well, one of the differences is that sadness can be situational. If you just broke up with your girlfriend, you might feel sad. It might last for a few days or weeks. However, if that sadness turns into depression, you might find it lasting longer and stopping you from functioning in life. Depression seems to be a deeper feeling and can be longer lasting (Related Article: What Is Depression?). It might also show up when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to feel it. Sometimes it’s the weather and time of year that causes you to feel depressed (Related Article: Seasonal Affective Disorder). But, wether it’s the time of year or a situation that has you feeling down, there is help. It doesn’t matter if its sadness or depression they both hurt and are uncomfortable.

Signs of Depression

There are several signs of depression (Related Article: Depression Counseling: Surprising Symptoms You May Miss). First, a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy. Second, anger and irritability. Third, lack of energy. Fourth, impulsive decisions. It’s important to know what to look for in yourself or your partner (Related Article: Supporting Your Partner Through Depression). Adjusting to college life can be difficult and with that comes discomfort. Knowing if its turning into depression can help you reach out when needed.

Get Help For Depression

One of the best things you can do when feeling down or depressed is to get help. Try talking with a partner, parent, sibling, roommate, Church leader or friend. Meeting with a trained counselor for depression has been shown to be effective as well (Related Article: Help With Depression). Whatever you do, don’t keep it to yourself. Reach out to those who love you and can help.

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT. Utah Valley Marriage and Family Therapist

What do you do when your young adult child is struggling in Utah Valley? At this point, parenting is different. You don’t have the same influence over them that you used to. They don’t seem to listen and don’t think you have all the answers anymore. Not like when they were young. It’s difficult to know what to do to help them when they continue to make bad choices. Here are two things to consider that will help you help them (Related Article: How To Help A Struggling College Student With Mental Health).

Mental Health for Young Adults

Your young adult child might be open to talking about their mental health. It might not be now, but they will eventually be open to it if they trust you. So, be trustworthy. Talk with them about all aspects of their life – whats going well, not just whats going poorly. If they think you are just trying to fix them or talk to them about what they need to do better, they won’t trust you. You can talk with them about depression and anxiety when it seems to come up. However, it’s important to also talk with theme about what they enjoy and are having fun with – or want to be doing. Make it a safe relationship with them by being genuinely interested in all aspects of their life.

Be Open About Your Struggles As Well

Be open about your struggles with mental health, relationships or work with your child as well. This normalizes you and models for them how to work through it. Some conventional approaches to parenting tell you to not show any weakness. However, open up! Share with your young adult child that sometimes you don’t want to go to work. Or, that sometimes you feel down. It can be relieving to them that you aren’t perfect. They can start to see you and what you are doing in your life differently. They might be able to connect with you better. This helps create a safe place for them to be imperfect in front of you.

Counseling for Young Adults in Utah Valley

I have been a counselor for young adults in Utah Valley for almost two decades. They need help and need someone that is courageous enough to point them in that direction. My counseling office is in Orem. You can check out my other clinic as well – The Center for Couples and Families.

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, PhD, LMFT

Pornography is an avoidance issue. There are some who believe that using pornography is about sex. I have had clients tell me over the years that, ‘I used to use porn, but that was just because we weren’t having sex. It was just a sex thing’. Many clients believe that this is the case. It is important to note that this simply is not true.

Pornography use releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is designed to feel good and help reward us for certain behaviors. Riding a bike, looking at a sunset, getting a good grade, eating good food – are all among the things that might release dopamine. Masturbation and orgasm release dopamine as well. When you use pornography, which is usually accompanied by masturbation and orgasm, you release more dopamine that your body is designed to take and it feels really good. People often use pornography when they are sad, tired, hungry, bored, etc… When these two things are paired, for example – being bored and then feeling better through dopamine through pornography use, an attachment is made. In the future, your body remembers that it can not feel bored if it uses pornography and gets dopamine. This then happens again and again and an addiction to avoiding boredom (or insert another uncomfortable emotion) is born.

Even if pornography use seems to be paired with not getting sex from your spouse, its still more about the loneliness you feel because of a lack of sex than the actual sex. You use because you are lonely, not because you are undersexed.

In therapy, a counselor who understands these principles will help you to build your emotional muscles so that you are not avoiding uncomfortable emotions. Rather, they will help you embrace them.

Many couples that come in to see me for counseling are dealing with the devastating effects of an affair or infidelity. There is a process that usually happens as things unfold. For the sake of this article, I will assume that it is the male partner who has had the affair, although this certainly is not always the case. When couples come in they are still, often, in the discovery phase. She is continuing to learn about what he has done or at the least she worries and fears that there is more than what she knows. He seems contrite and sorry to a degree and willing to go to therapy. After talking, it usually seems that there is more to it that what has been discovered or disclosed. Sometimes for women, they are having a hard time dealing with the shock and betrayal. I notice at this time that they are also dealing with fear of losing him. For some women they seem as if they are mad, hurt and afraid. That fear keeps them from really sharing their feelings about what has happened. There can be desperation at this point too. Sometimes they try to win or keep their husband because they realize that he has gone out and has been with or still is with someone else. There is an element of competition, perhaps. This can be very difficult because to her, it seems as if she isn’t able to fully embrace and share her feelings because if she did, he would get upset and leave for good. Over time, he gradually, as my experience with couples has shown, opens up more and shares more details about what he has done or is doing. As the couple works through therapy, it becomes safer to talk about these emotions and she does. For male partner, this can be surprising, and he often states that ‘I thought we were doing fine, where did this come from?’. This is because she hasn’t felt safe enough with him to share it before, but after working through some of the issue they face, she has felt more secure and stable in the relationship – so she shares more of the hurt or betrayal that she is feeling because she isn’t afraid that it will end their relationship. It’s important to understand that this is a normal part of the process of healing. A good couple’s therapist will be able to help a couple navigate the different stages of healing after an affair.

I’m currently accepting new clients in my Orem Utah counseling center office. Call me at 801-215-9581

Written by Dr Triston Morgan, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Pornography is often mistaken as a ‘sex addiction’. Some have said to me that, ‘If me and my wife just had sex more, pornography wouldn’t be an issue’. This is a myth and false. It has less to do with frequency of intercourse and more to do with the emotions behind so many things. Pornography temporarily numbs someone from feeling uncomfortable emotions. It keeps them from feeling what is really going on in their life. It helps them avoid. For example, feeling rejected, alone and unseen is uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to feel these types of emotion’s so they try to avoid them. They might recognize that those emotions are present, but their main goal then becomes to get rid of them without first picking them up and experiencing them. The only way to do this is to numb yourself. You can’t move something that you first don’t have. You have to pick up the emotion if you are going to do something with it. That act is counterintuitive and difficult. Pornography is one way that people avoid feeling what is right there in their lives. It numbs them from feeling rejected, alone or unseen. But those emotions don’t go away, however. They get buried and still influence us. Learning to feel uncomfortable emotions and increasing your emotional capacity is part of the solution to addiction to pornography. Simply stopping using pornography isn’t enough to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Moving pornography out of the way only serves as a move towards creating more space to feel your emotions and therefore increase your emotional capacity.

Someone once told me that when they finally got rid of pornography in their life, that they would ‘miss it’. This is common for those struggling with this problem. The reason that this is is because you form an attachment with pornography. It is there for you when you are struggling with stress or problems in your relationships. It is there when you are bored or lonely. It gives you a powerful reinforcer when you use it. However, the aftermath of shame is so powerful ,that you are often left thinking – why did I do this again. I promised that I would never do it after the last time. This shame often leads you to use again, ironically.

Overcoming pornography isn’t something that you can do alone. Many individuals will go through a cycle of using and then making a firm determination to ‘never do it again’. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough and many people become frustrated because of this seemingly never-ending pattern. Its important to include family members, friends support groups and professionals into your recovery so that you have the tools and support necessary to deal with this powerful behavior.

 

Couples often come into therapy for ‘communication problems’. As a therapist for the last decade, I have found that this means many things – depression, anxiety, affairs, pornography use, among other issues. Outside of Utah County, pornography use seems to be more acceptable, or at least, less talked about as an issue. Is use in other locations less, or merely seen differently? When I speak with couples, this is something that is very painful and difficult to understand and overcome. There is a tremendous amount of shame associated with use. As we work in counseling to overcome the addictive cycle, the spouse who is using has to learn to attach to their partner instead pornography. This attachment is key to recovery and future success in a relationship. John Bowlby, an early psychologist, helped define attachment theory over his career. He found that they attachment between a child and a parent is crucial to the child’s development. Likewise, the attachment between partners is also crucial. When couples are able to create a safe base or a safe haven, as Susan Johnson references in her Emotionally Focused Therapy work, they are able to be genuine and transparent with each other. They are able to show their imperfections to each other and be vulnerable and exposed because they know their spouse will accept and love them. This process is crucial to working with couples counseling for pornography use.

Effective pornography treatment often includes family members. As I have worked with hundreds of individuals struggling with pornography use over the years, I have found that those who have loving, supportive family members often have better outcomes. For example, couples therapy is often a good place for you to learn how to connect with others instead of checking out or numbing through pornography use. This is a difficult thing to do because your spouse is someone who has the power to reject you in a way that can really hurt. It is hard to be vulnerable in these circumstances because of this fear of being hurt or rejected. It is also difficult because you are also working to heal the pain your spouse feels because of your pornography use.

One thing that you need is someone to be a ‘real’ person to you. Pornography is a fantasy world where there are no consequences and where other people’s emotions don’t matter. This is why couples therapy is so important – your spouse becomes more real to you as you let her describe and share her pain with you. She becomes more real to you as she is someone who your actions impact. She becomes more real to you as her experience is just as important as yours. A husband can turn their wife into pornography by not letting her be real – discounting her experience and not asking to hear it. A wife, inadvertently, can turn herself into pornography for her husband by thinking that she doesn’t want to stress her husband out by telling him about her feelings and therefore doesn’t say anything even though she is hurting.

Consider the impact that working with your spouse can have on your recovery from pornography use. As difficult as it is to face these issues, it’s a crucial part of your progress.

Pornography use often leaves the user feeling empty and shameful. To deal with this shame of using in the first place, they might actually use pornography again to numb themselves. This vicious cycle is played out within minutes of each other or within days, even weeks of each other.

 

I am often asked by spouses of pornography users one simple and somewhat complex question, “Why can’t they just stop using?” They tell me that they know that their spouse see’s how it hurts them and how it is ruining their lives and relationships. After a husband talks about his remorse about using pornography, a wife will often follow up with, “Then just stop it”. It isn’t this simple, however. Studies have shown the impact that pornography use has on an individual’s brain chemistry. Some would say that the brain and the person become hijacked – causing them to act in ways that they wouldn’t normally act. This is the same phenomenon that would cause a grandson to steal his grandmothers wedding ring to sell for drugs. You are not yourself, seemingly. The cycle of pornography use doesn’t make sense to those who are in it and doesn’t make sense to their loved ones.

 

Fight the New Drug is an organization who educates the public on the harmful effects of pornography. You will find a lot of good resources to understand this addiction. Strangely enough, it is somewhat a controversial addition. It is not included in the DSM-V (the big book of mental health disorders decided on by experts throughout the country). Educate yourself so that you can make a little more sense of it. A good counselor will also be able to help you understand the nature of this addiction as they work with you and your loved one. As a therapist in Provo Utah, I often see clients in these situations. I have several colleagues at the Center for Couples and Families that are experts in this area of treatment as well.

Secrets fuel addiction. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, addictions, such as pornography addictions, are a shame based experience. This means that when someone uses pornography they feel as if they are a bad person, rather than feeling that they are a good person despite making a mistake. When someone feels shame, they often compartmentalize what they have done – they hid it and separate it from who they think they really are, or, think that that mistake totally defines who they really are.

This is where secrets come into play. Over time, a man (or woman – I’ve worked with both in therapy for pornography issues) who has been using pornography and feeling shame because of it will gather many secrets. He won’t want to tell anyone what he is doing, or won’t want to tell them all that he is doing. He might only present the best parts of himself or just tell enough about his mistakes to others to appease them or to feel like he is being open. But, in fact, he is keeping secrets. These secrets start to bury him and make him feel more shame. They take effort to maintain and keep hidden. They cause him stress and to feel disconnected from others. All of these things can lead to more addictive acting out.

Being transparent is key. This, in part, is why in the 12-step model of recovery (for alcohol, sexual addiction or substance addiction) addicts are asked to write a fearless moral inventory and to share it. Being open with others can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many would say, “It’s in the past – let it stay there” or, “I don’t want to hurt her, so I’m not going to tell her about it”. These mindsets only make things worse for someone using pornography and their spouse/family. Telling others and being transparent is on the path towards recovery.

Pornography counseling offers a venue to be transparent and honest with yourself and with your loved ones. A good therapist will help you through this process in a way that might be painful, but certainly not shameful.

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