All of us remember the typical pains of high school like having our hearts broken for the first time, being exiled by a former group of friends, or having pressures from parental expectations. Some of us handled these issues with typical sadness and moved past it readily, while other kids suffered anger and depression that was quite serious and took many months or years to resolve.
But, after these developmental years are over and other happy and sad life event takes place, do negative emotions have a way of hanging on? Surprisingly the answer is YES.
Research in the Journal of Family Psychology, studied 341 people for 25 years and found that teens suffering from depression or anger issues had problems with those same root causes later in life, even into their forties. Relationships especially were affected adversely by earlier ways of coping and handling stress.
So if you were a child that handled frustration by anger or despair, unless you made a pointed effort to change it is likely rage or depression is still your coping mechanism.
In the Little Five Points area of downtown Atlanta GA, I see adults with anger issues, depression, and relationship problems. In my experience it comes from unresolved grief or pain from adolescence or childhood. There could be many reasons why a person is depressed in adulthood, such as perfectionism or unresolved grief; but the reasons why a person cannot find a way other than depression or anger is the result of coping skills from earlier chapters of life. So, it makes sense that a teen that sees domestic violence & learns to solve emotional upset with anger might also find oneself as a perpetrator of domestic violence.
Depression can follow a person in the same way because when depression is part of who you are as a child and teen, it is difficult to change the hard-wiring of your coping mechanisms to life without intervention and support. Uncontrolled anger and depression can affect relationships in a truly terrible way, including violence and divorce.
So, if you find out the love of your life was a depressed or angry young man or woman, do you walk away now instead of suffering the consequences that might come later? Of course not, but it does need to be addressed with your significant other.
What if YOU were that previously mentioned young man or woman, then what? Can you help yourself? 5 ways you can:
- Get some help— If you are already aware that there are some issues you want to change, but do not know how, the time to address it is NOW. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200 (unless you are going to use that $200 for a good therapist). A therapist can address the immediate issue with helping you be mindful of your thinking, emotions, & behaviors; then teach you healthier coping skills, recommend medication for depression, if needed; and lastly can use psychotherapy to discover root causes for your depression or anger issues.
- Realize that your past does shape your future and accept it— It is not only current behaviors that mold your relationship, but it is also the story from your past that makes a difference in how you relate too. The way you learned to handle conflict from your family of origin is front and center in your current relationship. If you witnessed your parents screaming and yelling, this would be no worry to you if you and your girlfriend do it. However, if she came from a house that used the silent treatment, she may hold in her emotions until resentment and depression are the result. But one must accept that there is a problem to make steps toward changing it.
- Understand that your genes are a part of this— Science has shown that depression can run in families & can be affected by neurochemistry in the brain. If you know that depression runs in your family and you have suffered with it before, seeing a psychiatrist could be an option to get help pharmaceutically and begin therapy to learn new coping skills. Inability to control anger could also be biochemical, but at the very least a learned behavior. So, if you know it can be an issue in the future, go ahead and nip it in the bud with a therapist.
- Check yourself on negative thinking and be aware of your reactions to it— If you find yourself always seeing the worst in people and situations or find yourself biting off your assistant's head for forgetting to sharpen the pencils, realize that you have a problem. Feelings are something all of us are entitled to, but reacting in ways that are detrimental to others and ourselves is not okay. Remember you cannot really control your feelings, but every one of us can control how we react to those feelings.
- Buck the system— If you find yourself wanting to be less like a mother who finds the negative in every situation or not having a desire to scream embarrassingly at the family because dinner wasn’t hot the way your angry father did, then be aware of your behavior and make a change that will break the cycle.
What is front and center in this important study is that evidence is showing us something that Freud, the father of psychotherapy, suspected all along…the our emotional environment & family of origin does affect our future relationships.
So if you are a parent with a teen that is suffering with mental health or behavioral problems, it is a gift for your child to get them professional help from a mental health counselor to allow them to work through the thoughts and feelings. It will make for a happier and healthier future for them and their partner.
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