Monday 18 March 2013

MoodGYM review Part 2 (unfinished)

The next module is entitled “Thoughts”. The introduction to this very briefly recaps what should have been learnt from the previous module. Click next to proceed.

The “Depression Quiz” exercise is presented again. This must be to revisit how we are feeling since taking the course. My results are now in the Middle range, but, again these talk about physical as well as mental feelings. My medical condition presents physical symptoms that are similar to depression so I will take this score with a pinch of salt again.

The “Anxiety Quiz” exercise is presented again for an update on feelings. My results are still middle to high, however, most of the questions focus on sleep problems (a symptom of my medical condition) so I may not be as anxious as this test assumes.

The next page describes the goals of this module. This goes into the errors people make in their judgments, relationships and building up self esteem.

Next, is a page listing “David Burn’s Warped Thoughts”, a list of common errors of judgment made. Examples are given when clicking on the characters in the table. The errors I can definitely identify with include:
·         ALL or NONE thinking  – I find I use this type of thought in workplaces and if I happen to do something embarrassing whilst in a public place. For example, I may make a couple of mistakes in a workplace (such as forgetting to pass a message on or misunderstanding an instruction). I may not even be criticized much by my colleague but I will instantly think I’ve done a bad job for that day and I worry about making mistakes the next day. I may have had a day out where I’ve slipped on a wet floor or tripped over something. I will get really embarrassed if someone has noticed and will let it take over my whole day.
·          Disqualifying the Positive – I don’t believe I am very good at taking compliments; especially when they are about my physical appearance. I’m never quite sure how to respond. If I dismiss it, I feel I come across as moody though.
·         Jumping to Conclusions – I think I’m most likely to do this when it comes to exams or interviews. If I don’t feel I’ve done my absolute best, I will instantly think I have failed or have not even been considered for the job. What I’ve found though, is that I’ve actually done quite well in exams I thought I’d failed, and I’ve been put through to the next stage in interviews I thought I did badly at.
·         Magnification or Minimization – My attitude to my degree classification comes into play here and eligibility criteria for postgraduate courses only solidifies it. Even though I was ill for half of my degree, I still managed a 2:2. Now I should be glad I did this well but I can’t help but think I could’ve done so much better and I find that it will be very hard to get onto a postgrad course because 2:1 is usually the minimum criteria. I think I understood most of my degree’s topics very well but the grade is based on key terms and references remembered. My memory is terrible.
·         Emotional Reasoning (to some degree) – This applies when my moods are particularly low, or when I feel I have let myself down. For example, the other day I was supposed to take a 5/10 minute walk to my hairdressers appointment. No matter how ill and anxious I felt (I haven’t been anywhere by myself for a few months now) I was determined to go. Then, I let that little anxious voice into my head (metaphorically, I do not actually hear voices) which tells me that I will never have the courage to face this ‘fear’ as such. When I did get too anxious and cancelled the appointment I suppose, in my head, I labeled myself as a wimp for not pushing through and doing it anyway.  

In the next step, you are asked to apply the correct ‘warped thought’ label to examples of thoughts. Feedback is then given. The next exercise asks you to apply these labels to some thoughts you put down as part of an earlier module. You have to identify which of the warped thoughts labels your thoughts identify with most. This exercise continues and asks you to attribute the correct warped thought labels to statements you identified with in a previous module. You are also asked to provide a brief statement to say which warped thoughts you feel you identify with most.

On the next page is the recap and you then move on to ‘unwarping’ these warped thoughts. The list of warped thoughts is presented and the questions about them are shown when each are clicked. I can definitely see the idea here but I think more detail and examples may make changing perception more possible. The next exercise is to rethink warped thought examples you most identify with.

Next, you come to a page which describes problem areas. You are asked to have a look through and see which areas you can identify with. I think in some small way or another, I can identify with all of these and can think of examples of when I have presented these problem areas in the way I have reacted to certain events. For example, when I am there for a friend, I feel that it is unfair that they are not there for me when I need it. This is called the “sense of feeling deserving”. I believe I deserve that mutual support as friendship should go both ways. There’s a “should” statement for you! I wouldn't call this thought completely ‘warped’ but maybe I make it out to be a bigger deal than it is?

Next is a follow up quiz for the problem areas to see how high a percentage you have of each. My results are as follows:
  • The need for approval from others – 13%
  • The need to be loved – 17.4%
  • The need to succeed – 18.8%
  • The need to be perfect – 14.5%
  • The sense of being responsible for others reactions – 11.6%
  • Happiness is contingent upon external things – 11.6%
  • The sense of feeling deserving – 13%

In part 1 you can see my original results but I will do a brief comparison here for the sake of this review. I notice that my scores are now higher in “The need for approval from others”, “The need to be loved”, “The need to be perfect” and just slightly on “Happiness is contingent upon external things”. My scores are now lower on “The need to succeed” (significantly!), “The sense of being responsible for others reactions” (slightly) and “The sense of feeling deserving” (also significantly).  This may be coincidental or may be due to the influence this cognitive therapy programme has had on me. In general, I believe this programme has instilled more mindfulness in me. I may not have changed my behaviours drastically yet but I think more about situations that have made me anxious, upset me or things I have taken personally. I feel I am definitely learning to think more calmly although I’m sure that I still have a long way to go.

On the next page, you are presented with example results from each of the characters. Elle has high scores in the “Approval” and “Love” factors, Moody has high scores in the “Approval” and “Perfect” factors, Cyberman has high scores in the “Approval” and “Succeed” factors and Noproblemo has moderate scores in all factors (with slightly higher scores on “The need to succeed” and “The sense of being influential on others’ reactions”). I can’t say I really fit any of these profiles now.

The next exercise is entitled “My Scores on the Warpy Thoughts Test”. The task is to write a summary of your own strengths and psychological weaknesses based on the previous test results. I spoke about how I am career driven and determined but often find I compare myself to others and expect too much of myself in terms of what I achieve and how quickly I achieve it.

On the next page, you are introduced to the subject of Self Esteem and the aim to improve it. This is the final module in the programme. Click next to start this module. The exercise which follows is entitled “In Two Sentences or Less, What do I Think of Myself?”. The task is to list at least two of your positive and two of your negative characteristics. I wrote for positive that I believe I am kind, caring, ambitious and hardworking. I wrote for negative that I lack self confidence, I have low self esteem, I take things too personally and that I overthink things.

After submitting your answers, you will come to a page that explains self esteem in more detail. This makes sense and is something I can definitely relate to, but I’m hoping that the methods in which to improve self esteem are well explained in a way that will result in improvements in the long run, and the ability to protect yourself when circumstances result in a large knock of self esteem.

The next exercise is a week long and involves spending at least 10 minutes each day doing things you like to do (watching your favourite film, playing music etc) then 5 minutes each day being nice to yourself and seeing yourself in a more positive light. Keeping a diary of these things will help keep you on track. On the next page you could write down the days you did something nice, how many 'nice' things you did and more details about them. I filled in around 8 days with enjoyable things, such as complimenting myself on having nice hair that day, watching a favourite tv show, noticing that my vocals had improved (I enjoy singing, although I never perform lol!), cooking a nice meal. I didn't do many nice things each day, due to other responsibilities, but I definitely tried to take time out for 'me'.

The next pages acknowledged that I had finished the Thoughts module and gave a summary. The points made included:
  • Discovering people interpret events differently, and warpy thoughts included things like Overgeneralisation, Jumping to conclusions and Emotional Reasoning. 
  • Finding out ways of contesting warpy thoughts and learning to question the basis of my own thinking.
  • Finding out my own weaknesses, when it comes to the way I think about things
  • Looking at ways of improving self esteem.
There's also a recap of my scores on the Depression and Anxiety quizzes (middle for depression, middle to high on anxiety) as well as the type of warpy thoughts I have (All or none thinking, Overgeneralisation, Jumping to conclusions and Mislabelling), my areas of vulnerability (see the percentages I mentioned previously) and my characteristics (positive and negative). 

The next task is to write down a couple of goals you'd want to achieve by the next module. These are my goals:
  • I would like my immediate reaction, to situations, to be positive and healthier.
  • I would like to take events less personally.
I think these are realistic goals. I do tend to take things very personally and misinterpret situations. I think this is down to my lack of trust in some people. If they happen to talk in a different way (such as, in shorter sentences or in a less friendly way) I tend to worry that I have done or said something to offend them. In some cases I will ask, in some I won't. It can't be a healthy way to think right?! So yes, I would like to react to situations in a calmer, healthier, more positive way and think before I take something personally. Maybe even be more compassionate towards people?

The next module is entitled the "Unwarping Module: Changing Warped Thoughts". This module asks you to think back to previous tasks and modules, in order to see how you have progressed. Click "next" to continue. The Depression quiz is presented yet again. I guess this is to see if you have progressed; whether this programme is having a clinically significant effect upon your mental health. Some of the questions can be related to physical illnesses (such as lacking in energy, difficulty concentrating etc) so it is wise to keep that in mind when looking at the response.

I am now in the Middle to High range. I'm sure you have noticed that it has been a heck of a long time since I started this review so I have not been completely compliant with the programme. This has probably had an effect on the way the programme works for me. If you have read my most recent posts, you will have noticed that my mental health has taken a turn for the worse so the Middle to High range of depression probably makes a lot of sense. I feel programmes like this have brought my thoughts, events which have influenced them and past experiences to the surface; thus making my moods, emotions etc worse. I would not say that this programme is necessarily detrimental to my health though. Not at all! It has given me some things to work on. Sometimes bad things do have to come to the surface (temporarily negatively affecting mental health) before they can be treated or solved. I then proceeded to the next page.

The Anxiety quiz is presented again, probably for the same reasons as the Depression quiz. I responded "Yes" to all questions apart from "Have you felt keyed up or on edge?". Now I probably have felt this way on occasion, but it's always been in response to a situation that would naturally make most people feel that way (in my case, the atos assessments). Some of the questions ask about physical symptoms, which can be attributed to long term physical illnesses also. I don't think this quiz is very accurate to be honest. I believe it needs a field which asks how often you feel this way and whether it can be explained by a pre-existing medical condition. This would help to eliminate other factors which could affect the validity and reliability of the quiz.

As expected, my result is that I am in the High to Very High range. I may suffer some symptoms of anxiety but I do not believe I would be diagnosed with extremely high anxiety. The description of the result includes possible diagnoses to explore; such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder and Social Phobia. I have wondered about PTSD because of how the abortion I had at 19 affected me. I do get flashbacks; triggered by stories I see on television and pains I get sometimes. These can stay with me for a while and take over my thoughts. I'm not sure though, and wouldn't want to self-diagnose. I'm sure there's a lot more to the illness than that.

The next page explains the Unwarping Module's aims. This includes:
  • Finding different ways of 'attacking' warped thoughts.
  • Exploring personal vulnerabilities further.
  • Improving self esteem further. 
The first aim is described in more detail. What the programme wants is for you to look at methods, for changing warped thoughts, without using straight talking or personal dialogue. Sounds a bit confusing huh? From the examples given, I think the point is to try to look at situations from an outsider's point of view (e.g. the aim which states "Taking the role of the reporter"). I think it's also about training yourself to think in a different way; in response to certain situations (e.g. "being your own coach") and testing yourself (e.g. "Setting up experiments to test thoughts and interpretations"). 

The next page concentrates on the first aim; namely "Take the role of the reporter (Turning Clark Kent into Superman)". This appears to be about distancing yourself from the situation. When we are directly involved in the situation, emotions tend to take over, so, logically, mentally distancing ourselves will help us to 'see' our emotions and analyse them; therefore, hopefully learning from and adjusting them. There is a recap to an earlier module; where an event was described involving the character Moody and a broken car. You can click the arrow to get the recap; where Moody's thoughts are described to show how he reacted to his broken down car. Underneath this recap, is what Moody's 'reporter' would say. He puts himself in third person, as if he was describing someone else's events and reactions. This makes the description objective rather than subjective, so warped thoughts can be identified and analysed more easily. 

When you click next, you are given some of the character Elle's thoughts about an event where her friend (or date?) was late. Elle's description over-exaggerates how late the friend was, what he said to her and how she believed he felt about her. Elle's 'reporter' gives a much more truthful and objective description. He wasn't as late as she first described, she acted a lot worse than she first described and he acted a lot nicer. Here you can see how recalling of events, in a very subjective way, can exaggerate certain things to make them seem worse than they actually were. 

You are then asked to practise this 'distancing' technique with a few examples. Afterwards, it is noted that it is easier to more logically analyse these example situations, as they do not relate to us. We have not experienced the situation so can interpret it in an objective way; with no residual emotions interfering. The next exercise is entitled "The Reporter's Notebook". In this exercise you are asked to look at some personal events and describe them in a table. The categories are "Behaviours/Comments", "Interpretations" (i.e., how you reacted to/felt about the event), "Facts" (what actually happened) and "Discrepancy" (the difference between what actually happened and how you interpreted it). I described a couple of events and then submitted my answers.

The next page introduces another technique; i.e. Increasing Positive Self-Interpretations. The concept of this is to look at the negative comments we make about ourselves (e.g. "I'm ugly", "No one likes me") and turn them into more realistic positives (e.g. "I like my eyes", "My close friends like me"). I think the point of this task is to touch upon increasing self confidence. In theory, the more you tell yourself positive things about yourself, the more you will believe them and will give out more confident vibes. Our attitudes about ourselves can show in body language that others can see. This can affect the way they view us, so if we feel more self confident, we look more positive to others. In the long run, if this works, it can positively affect our relationships. This leads onto the exercise where you are asked to give examples of negative comments, you tend to make about yourself, then give positive and more realistic statements.

The third aim is called "Setting up experiments to test thoughts and interpretations". With this method, you are asked to think about the negative/warped thoughts you've had about certain events (as demonstrated by MoodGym) and test whether they are seen as warped by others. This 'test' is done simply by asking others how they would interpret the event. If they interpret it differently, it may be that your thoughts about the event were actually warped.This is like an informal type of research so can have its inaccuracies. It may be, simply by coincidence, that the particular 'sample' of people you ask may have warped interpretations also. I guess, if you ask enough people, however, you may have a more accurate result. The larger the sample, the more valid and/or reliable the data. 

The exercise, which follows this, is entitled "Surveying the Scene" and asks you to spend a week observing events. You then need to pinpoint which one/s you respond to in an overly dramatic way. Take note of this then ask others how they would respond.

Ok so I need to test this exercise out so will be continuing this review next week! I'm so sorry it's taken so long. It is partly my fault for not sticking with it but I promise to get this finished soon! Maybe you could try out some of the exercises and let me know what you thought of them? 

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