Struggling with negative thoughts.need help to find the right therapist?
October 11, 2021 4:57 PM   Subscribe

I have been having a lot of negative thoughts popping up and haunting me.I am having lot of crying spells most of the times when I try to relax.I try to keep myself busy but it’s getting harder to control the thoughts and the crying .I have been reading about how to handle the negative thoughts. The things that I have tried….

1.I think of stop sign to stop the negative thoughts from going further…..didn’t work for me.

2. Tried gratitude journal before going to bed.I’m thankful for many things in my life.But after writing the gratitude journal ,when I go to bed,all negative thoughts pop up….didn’t work.

3. Some suggested hobbies.Yes,I love art.It has helped me all my life during tough times.It is helping me a lot.I have to say that it is the most relaxing for me.If I lose interest in art,that means,I’m seriously not well.But some days , I cannot focus on anything,that’s when all negative thoughts pop up and even makes me think that all my art work is a waste of time.

4. Exercise…..It’s hard but I push myself( or my husband tries to give me company)to do 45mts every morning at least 5days of the week.Its helping me to be active but it’s like a routine I do.But doesn’t stop the negative thoughts.

5. Meditation…..I’ve been using headspace only for breathing,yoga/stretching exercises but meditation didn’t work for me.The moment I close my eyes,I can only see negative events and some days I start crying immediately.So I stopped doing meditation..didn’t work..

6. I don’t have friends who I can vent my feeling too.

7. Prayers to calm my mind….I could hardly sit in front of god without crying but I still try my best to pray for few minutes (crying most of the days)

Now I feel therapy may be my next best option.I’ve been reading that Cognitive Behavior Therapy helps with negative thoughts.
What are your thoughts and experiences?

I have never been to a therapist. My problem is …
how to find the right therapist?
What questions to ask when I call?
People who have been to therapy,how did you find the right one?
Has anybody felt like how I feel now with negative thoughts?What helped you get out of it? What type of therapy helped you the most?

posted by SunPower to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, friend! I love you and I see you. I have been there before and will definitely be there again and you are making a lot of smart decisions regarding how to manage your negative thoughts. Here's some tips that might help you.

1) The above solutions take time. Focus on 1-2 of the activities instead of trying everything at once. What you are doing is attempting to learn new ways to manage your negative thoughts and learning = practicing. And practicing takes time. Same as if you were learning how to run a race - it takes a lot of practice and a lot of time to retrain your brain.

2) Don't push away the negative thoughts. Sit with them - the pushing away just adds to the depression and stress. Look at them. What are they trying to tell you? Your mind is trying to help you, believe it or not, even if it is using a rotten, ineffective solution.

3) You may benefit from antidepressants - for me, they reduced the roaring, out-of-control bonfire of depression into a campfire. Still there to tend to and manage, but no longer acute and life-threatening.

In terms of finding a therapist, I have relied on friend and family recommendations. I understand that may not be an option, but do you have even casual acquaintances that you could reach out to? In my experience, people often are very willing to share their experiences with therapy.

I know this doesn't answer everything you asked but I wanted to provide information where I could. I'm glad you are reaching out - we may not be friends, but we are certainly both part of a weird, little community here on MeFi.
posted by dngrangl at 5:33 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]

I wonder what kind of negative thoughts you're talking about. I'm not a therapist but there's something called rumination (where your mind keeps chewing endlessly on depressing thoughts) and another thing called intrusive thoughts (where horrifying images keep popping into your head, i.e. images of violence). The former is usually discussed as part of depression and anxiety, the latter in relation to obsessive-compulsive stuff, so if one of those sounds more like your experience, knowing that could help you in terms of finding a therapist.

When you do get some therapist recommendations, the best thing to do is ask your friends who go to therapists to ask their therapists for a referral. That helps you get a good one AND it helps you get a call back (they're very busy in the pandemic).

If you do end up contacting people without a referral, it helps to get a call back if you tell the therapist what insurance you'll be using, what times/days you're available, what you want to work on, and why you're calling them specifically.

Then, if you can get two or three of them to call you back, you can do phone interviews and ask them how they explain their therapy "mode" to a non-specialist and how they work with people with your specific stuff. Sometimes the actual answers are very helpful, but also hearing the person talk can give you a feeling for their personality and if you think it might be a fit.

You're doing so many good things. I hope you soon can find peace.
posted by hungrytiger at 5:44 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]

Some other things to consider are:

Are these negative thoughts intrusive thoughts connected to a past traumatic experience?
When you try to relax and start to cry, do you feel hopeless? Anxious?

To some extent, a therapist can help you sort these things out. But it’s also good to have a sense of what you are going through and then ask the therapist for their approach with regard to your specific challenges.

More than anything, I knew I had found the right therapist when I felt at ease in our first session. I felt safe and supported, and I felt like my therapist was able to ask questions that help me see the big picture without being pushy. That’s what I need, you can think about what an ideal therapy experience would feel like for you.
posted by mai at 5:55 PM on October 11

For me, chronic negative self-talk type stuff or generalized negativity/doom are depression or burnout/exhaustion symptoms. I can often manage that by getting my lifestyle more in order (more/better sleep, reduce obligations, simplify household stuff, eat better, watch caffeine intake) but sometimes it requires meds. CBT doesn't help much until my stressors are reduced.

Really intrusive thoughts, like unavoidable mental images of terrible things or just a general agonized despair over the existence of some tragedy (world hunger might be a very gentle example of this, I don't want to trigger anybody), historically have meant I really do need to get sleep issues dealt with, and also maybe hormonal. If that's what you're experiencing and you haven't had a physical with bloodwork lately, it's time. (Might be time anyway, even if it's just negative internal narrative.)
posted by Lyn Never at 6:20 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]

First of all, have you had a recent physical lately? One of the first things to look at is possible vitamin deficiency, or getting your thyroid tested, to rule out any physical causes of depression. For instance, I have known people who had symptoms of depression, but were low in Vitamin D. I myself have hypothyroidism, and have to take a pill for that every day.

Second, being isolated with no friends to talk to can be very hard. Even if you have a penpal, that can help a lot.

I've found therapists by reaching out to the local college's psychology department, which sounds a bit weird, but was able to find a good psychiatrist and therapist associate with him, recommended by one of the psych professors.

Another might be to ask on a local group, such as Nextdoor. Be sure to see if you can find any online reviews on therapists, before calling them.

If the first one isn't a good fit, which you will know after a few visits, feel free to tell them and seek out another. I've had ones that were bad fits for me, and ones that were excellent, which can be tedious, but it's worth making the effort to find one that you are in sync with.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:08 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]

I have felt pretty much like this in the past and the only thing that helped me was antidepressants in combination with therapy (so don't stop one to start the other). Keep looking until you find a psychiatrist who's willing to try more than one or two drugs, who won't give up on you.
posted by 8603 at 3:35 AM on October 12

Therapist here, but not yours. There are all sorts of lists of therapists out there but like all sorts of dating sites, it's an individual choice of who you're a match with. Someone good for one person will not necessarily be good for you (though recommendations can help) . You need to try a therapist out and see if you feel a connection. As to what questions to ask, you need to find someone who you feel able to ask whatever occurs to you, to ask. And you need to be able to tell them when you don't like or agree with something they said. If you can't do those things it's probably a bad match, but it can take time to open up as well. Trick like stopping negative thoughts fail because there's a part of you that finds those thoughts important and you need to discover and understand that part of you. Good luck.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:27 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I was thinking of going to my PC for her recommendations first.But before that, I wanted to do my homework and make sure that I know all my options available. Being an asian American it's the culture within the community/family/friends who think that the people who reveal they're going to/gone to a therapy is a sign of weakness.So nobody says or recommends anybody even if they have one.That's why I like coming here seeking for help.

Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions.Already I made a list of therapist available in my area.That's a huge step forward.Will be calling to check everyone.Will be checking with my doctor too.I'll remember the tips you all have provided here.Thank you all for your support.

If by chance, anybody who knows of any good therapists around Princeton NJ, appreciate if you could please memail me? Thanks
posted by SunPower at 7:07 AM on October 12 [5 favorites]

One thing you may want to do is explore the possibility that the negative thoughts are being triggered by physiological issues. For example if menopause is screwing up your thermo-regulation you may be having mini hot flashes all the time, and the hot flashes make you feel physically bad. They are a vascular thing. You can get a serious increase in anxiety and distress when they are happening, and whatever thoughts you have will match your mood. They can trigger the old distresses and shames and griefs.

There are other things than hot flashes that can do this - anxiety, asthma indigestion and fatigue are others. You might not be suffering from bad mental habits so much as responding to waves of neurological fatigue caused by poor quality sleep. Try to figure out if there is something else going wrong that your thoughts are just a symptom of.

One of the first things you can do is not try to control your thoughts when they come along, but instead control your actions. Treating yourself for an anxiety attack with the various things that people recommend from dunking your face in cold water or breathing into a paper bag or doing thirty jumping jacks may be a whole lot more effective than trying to talk yourself out of the mental tracks that are distressing you.

Another thing that sometimes helps is not to try to control your thoughts, but to treat them as the result of a badly over tired brain, and go lie down in the dark to see if you can drop off to sleep for a nap. While lying down and resting your eyes and ears and brain don't try to avoid terrible thoughts, deliberately pursue the right kind of terrible thoughts, such as thinking about fictional serial killers or vampires or fantasies about aliens dismembering the people you feel threatened by - something gory, grim and terrible but also something you can completely and easily tell apart from reality.

If you can figure out underlying causes you can look for solutions to those causes. You could be experiencing social distress because of lock down, and the cure might be to get into scheduling walks several times a week with friends, so as to dampened down your social anxiety and feelings of isolation. You could be short of breath, so getting an inhaler and an air purifier with a HEPA filter will help. Mental health is hugely linked to the health of your body.

You could also be going into mental spirals because of real distress about something that is going to happen, such as a looming period of unemployment when your contract expires, or the warning signs that one of your parents is slipping into dementia. So a simple life assessment could provide some useful data. Sometimes you're really mainly worried about one thing and it is causing you to go around with feelings of dread that colour all your other thoughts.

Finally, I am told that Tetris or similar games that are captivating and require total focus can be useful to blocking intrusive thoughts.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:39 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Hey there. I've been there too and it's tough. You've already made an important step in the right direction by realizing how much your negative thoughts are affecting you.
What works for me is not trying to stop or control, or even judge my negative thoughts.
I simply label them. "Oh. I've just had x kind of thought again."
In a neutral way. I try to see it as an interesting phenomenon that's giving me clues about what is going on inside.
For me negative self talk is often a way of trying to exert control over something that is out of my control. Predicting failure can feel more comfortable than accepting uncertainty. Once I realize that I am doing that, I just note it and move on.
You will probably have different patterns and habits.
Trying to study my thoughts and emotions as natural phenomena, something I'm interested in, instead of something I'm trying to control, or am afraid of, helps.
Trying to approach the process with kindness and patience is important too.
I found my therapist by googling "ACT Therapist" because that was an approach I found appealing, and phoning a few of the numbers. I chose the person who seemed kind and patient, and just took the chance on them.
Oh, I also find mindfulness meditation to be very useful in just making me more aware of my thoughts, and so being able to be less affected by them.
Good luck in your journey. May you find ease and peace. You are stronger and braver than you think you are right now.
posted by Zumbador at 8:12 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Also to echo everything that Jane the Brown said about how aspects of your physical health etc may be affecting you. I wish I'd known earlier, how menopause exacerbates anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
posted by Zumbador at 8:17 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Therapy inevitably becomes about our family backgrounds. I'm speaking from personal experience - if you're asian, then this will involve talking about your family. From personal experience, I recommend finding a therapist that has a similar cultural/ethnic background as you. For me, this helped with three things: A) the therapist was able to account for cultural family norms, and B) I personally felt more comfortable talking about my family, and C) I was actually uncomfortable in a particular way that turned out to be very healing and supportive long-term.

You can do this by searching for therapists on Psychology Today using 'language' as a filter.

Sending so many hugs. Finding a therapist is definitely a great next step and props to you for moving in a positive direction. :)
posted by many more sunsets at 9:20 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if it's not clear, I'm asian-american as well, and definitely know what you're talking about. I love therapy now, think it is such an important and interesting practice, and will happily talk about it to anyone who asks. If our Asian families are anything alike, maybe there might be some similarities, so I'll share some more specifics about my process choosing a therapist, hoping it will help you.

When I found my therapist, I initially saw two therapists at once (and told that I was doing so) for a month. They were both Asian-American. This process (while $$) was helpful because it helped me realize what I wanted more / what I didn't want. For example, one therapist tended to give me specific advice on exercises / etc / what to do, but I realize that this felt very unhelpful to me at the time. The other therapist was more open to listening and asking questions, which I liked, and ended up going with. Also, I just felt more... heard in the conversation, but also surprisingly felt more emotionally charged, almost fearful, even. The first therapist just felt like a normal conversation. I decided to trust that feeling of fear and emotionally charged-ness., and to move into it. And so, when I switched over to only seeing one, I was able to then articulate a bit more about what I was looking for.

You have particular needs; figuring out what kind of relationship with a therapist you want that meets those needs and creates a context for reflection and understanding. What I wanted was to feel deeply heard (but it took me therapy to even realize this), so I moved into that chargedness. What you want might be different, but my gut says that if a meeting with a particular therapist makes you feel funny or weird, maybe slightly uncomfortable, but still safe, then that's a good place to start from.

And also - A reminder that therapists are used to this! It's not supposed to be smooth, or natural, or easy, or anything. It will be awkward or uncomfortable or strange, and that's all okay.

Sending more hugs. Feel free to DM me.
posted by many more sunsets at 9:35 AM on October 12 [1 favorite]

If this is being triggered by past trauma, I’ve never experienced anything as revolutionary as EMDR. It’s evidence-based, and has saved the lives of many people I personally know. It’s truly unique.
posted by asimplemouse at 11:06 AM on October 12

many more sunsets has some great answers, especially re: how being Asian-American might influence this process for you. I will add on something that might help you frame how to think about what you potentially want out of therapy.

You can think of the "kinds" of therapy as falling along a spectrum, where on one end you have what you could call "Symptom-Oriented, Solution-Focused" therapy. The clinical sensibility at this end of the pole will foreground particular symptoms that you wish to eliminate (e.g. negative thoughts, crying spells, in your case), and then work with you to figure out and implement solutions that will eliminate or reduce these symptoms. Disclosing your past or family details will typically only happen to the extent that it's judged relevant for reducing/eliminating the symptoms, and it generally tends to be more structured and explicitly directed by the therapist. It also tends to be shorter term, anywhere between a month to half a year.

On the other end, you have "Personality Change-Oriented" therapy. The clinical sensibility at this end of the pole focuses on your whole mind/psychology, with an emphasis on understanding how you psychologically "tick" as a person, and understanding how your current symptoms result from the interaction of your personality structure, life history, and more recent events/stressors. Simultaneous to this understanding, changes occur in your personality, through both these insights and experiencing of the therapeutic relationship itself. There is much less emphasis on implementing concrete solutions, except in situations where such issues may impede the progress of treatment. This treatment tends to be much more unstructured, and more open-ended in length--typically no less than half a year, and could even span multiple years.

Neither is better nor worse than the other - it's strictly a matter of: 1) what fits your needs right now and 2) what you're able to handle in terms of time commitment and intensity. They can both be very intense in their respective ways, e.g. EMDR is a famously intense short-term exposure treatment, but tends to extinguish trauma responses quite effectively; psychoanalysis can trigger all sorts of regression and disruption in one's life, but tends to produce stable, long-term changes in personality.

Most therapists won't be at the extremes of the spectrum, and many will typically shift along it, depending on your needs and what they're capable of as therapists. This kind of framing isn't typically how therapists present themselves, so it's something to have a conversation about with any new therapist in the first couple of sessions.
posted by obliterati at 2:09 PM on October 12 [1 favorite]

Really basic and undoubtedly will only be part of your solution, but the research on how lack of sleep can exacerbate intrusive thoughts was hugely helpful to me in my own battle with this.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:27 PM on October 12

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