Dec 19

Burnout or Boreout – in the last issue of the ‘counseling Corner’ / this blog I have already mentioned that people being ‘bored out’ often show similar symptoms to people suffering from high amounts of work-related stress.
Interestingly, on a physiological level, the neurological and hormonal changes are quite similar between both of them, and their consequences are as well. Just as burnout, being ‘bored out’ is seen as a cause for diseases of the cardiovascular system (heart, veins and arteries), the digestional system, and it also might raise the risk for autoimmune diseases.

Here are 3 typical indicators for a burnout dynamic:

  • Physical, Mental and/or Emotional Exhaustion: Free time snaps away in a blink without any feeling of recovery or relief (burnout) or it seems to be never-ending with eating being one of the few highlights of the day (boreout).
  • Depersonalisation / Cynicism: Unfeeling and impersonal attitudes and reactions towards others, particularly with people you are dealing with on a regular basis. The goal of this behavior is seen as an effort to create distance between oneself and the ones who are causing discomfort.
  • Reduced Appraisal of Accomplishments: You might feel that you don’t achieve anything remarkable anymore, wasting your time. A feeling of failure and insufficiency is indicating an increasing loss of trust in our abilities.


The main problem in dealing with progressed forms of burnout is that we don’t have access to our usual resources of energy, creativity and a positive mindset anymore that could help to gain ground again. Instead, you as a ‘burned out’ person might make your situation even worse by trying harder to succeed or to gain control again.

Basically, every strategy to deal with the burnout process must relate to reducing the workload and to find balance again. But for that, quite dramatic turns might be required, like to take some time off or maybe even a ‘sabbatical’ leave.It might also turn out that organizational changes or adaptations to one’s self-management might be required in order to avoid ending up in the same situation again. Often enough, it doesn’t help to blame a company or a ‘situation’ for one’s burnout since to a very high extent, it is actually our own psyche that makes us vulnerable and causes us to have a tendency to drift towards boreout or burnout. It is also us who have to find means to find back to happiness again. From a professional standpoint, it is essential to do that as soon as possible (instead of waiting for irreversable damage to one’s health), and ideally, to get professional support for it as this can remarkably reduce the time required to regain stability and to find balance again.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011; Image credit: thelocal.de)

Dec 08

An interesting study conducted by researchers of the University of Wroclaw has found that people are able to guess a person’s type of personality to a reasonable extent, simply by smelling them, or their clothes. The team did some testing with volunteers, as they describe in their study published in the European Journal of Personality, and found that people could guess another’s personality through odors at least as well as they could when shown videos of people in action.

To find out just how well people can gauge personality types through smelling odors given off by other people’s bodies, the team asked 60 people, half men and half women to wear plain white t-shirts while they slept, for three nights in a row. Each was asked to not use perfumes, soap or deodorants and to not smoke or eat or drink things that affect body odor, such as onions or garlic. Each of the participants were also given personality tests before the t-shirt wearing part of the study began, to asses personality types.

At the end of the three days, the t-shirts were all collected and put into non-clear, labeled plastic bags. Then, two hundred volunteers, half men and half women, were enlisted to sniff the bags and offer their opinions on personality type based on nothing but the odors wafting from the bags. Each volunteer sniffed just six bags to avoid becoming inured presumably and each bag was sniffed by twenty sniffers to get a large enough sample to avoid coincidence.

After all was said and done, those doing the sniffing were able to guess whether the person who had emitted the odor was anxious, outgoing or dominant at least as well as people in a previous study had been able to do watching videos of people interacting with others. Also interesting was that the sniffers were particularly adept at picking up dominate personality types from odors that came from someone of the opposite gender.

While clearly not at a hundred percent, the researchers indicate the study shows that there is something going on regarding how much a person sweats and under what conditions as well as a correlation between the components in sweat and personality traits and that other people are able to pick up on those differences when in their vicinity. Thus, the results are actually two-fold. The first is that people apparently give off personality clues when sweating, and second, that people are able to not only smell the differences in people, but make judgments about them based on what they smell.

(Sources: PhysOrg.com</>; Does Personality Smell? Accuracy of Personality Assessments Based on Body Odour, Article first published online: 12 OCT 2011. DOI: 10.1002/per.848. Image credit: onsugar.com)

Aug 05

Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Well, we all know: quitting smoking reduces the risk of terrible illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease. It increases fertility levels, breathing and overall fitness. Another benefit of quitting is enjoying the taste of food again. You will look and smell better and on top of it all, save a lot of money.  Why then is it so hard for many to stop the habit – or addiction – of smoking?

The reasons for smoking addiction can be cut down to 2 important factors: nicotine and habits.

Nicotine, for one, is a highly addictive substance that occurs naturally in tobacco, and hooks your brain by stimulating it with a shot of dopamine, the hormone that tells us that food and sex are pleasurable. It also increases activity in areas of the brain that are believed to be involved in cognitive functions, so a cigarette can make you feel sharper and more focused. As if that weren’t enough, nicotine also increases the endorphin levels, the proteins that give you feelings of euphoria. Needless to say that having a ‘tool’ that can make you feel better in these ways, is something you don’t give it up easily. Quitting may leave you feeling deprived, and you may exhibit serious withdrawal symptoms if you have to go without nicotine.

Another important factor for this specific kind of addiction is habits – the patterns that are involved in smoking. Smoking behavior usually becomes closely linked with daily activities and ‘cues’ such as: after a meal, when socializing with friends, to ‘take a break’, when under stress (to relax), when relaxing (to relax further), etc. These aspects of smoking can be just as challenging to overcome as the physical dependence.

Consequently, most people who want to quit smoking once and for all, require an approach that deals with both vulnerabilities: the addiction itself and the behavioral aspects of it. The current ‘traps’ have to be identified and after that, new patterns and routines to be developed that make it easier to ‘skip’ the impulse to look for a cigarette. Hypnotherapy can support in this aspect by allowing our mind to adapt to the new behavior, but it can’t do wonders without the patient’s strong dedication  to getting rid of their smoking addiction. The first few weeks without cigarettes are usually the hardest. After 8-12 weeks, most individuals who make it that far start to feel more comfortable without smoking. Still, only 3 in 10 people can successfully stop smoking once and for all.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011)

Jan 14

When they hear the word ‘depression’, many people think of sad or hopeless individuals who can’t cope with a life event, who are living withdrawn and are often crying their existence.

But in fact this is only rarely the case. In a U.S. study published in 1996, for example, only a third of the patients suffering from depression could name a stressful or dramatic experience that took place before the disease kicked in. And it is by no means only negative events that can trigger depression in some people, but also such as the birth of a child or winning a business contract. That not all people who experience dramatic events develop depression also suggests that other factors such as stress or genetic factors may be involved. For patients themselves or their environment is therefore usually not even possible to identify a potential reason for a probable depression – which usually leads to long delays in search for the correct diagnosis for the malaise they feel in.

Physical symptoms are another, often misinterpreted facet of depressive disorders. Headaches, insomnia, reduced memory and concentration, but also other kinds of physical pain, digestive problems or a general lack of energy are typical physical symptoms of depression.

The lack of perspective that is typical for depression, quite often also leads to self harm. Most people who commit suicide previously suffered from an (often unrecognized or untreated) depression. But it doesn’t need to be suicide: other self-defeating forms of behavior, such as alcohol and drug abuse, self-destructive eating habits or risky driving are, as studies illustrate, linked to depression in about 60% of the cases.

Particularly in older men, depression often manifests on aggression, particularly of the verbal kind, like ranting, looking down or lashing out on others or constant cynicism. Again, these persons are only rarely aware that they actually suffer from depression, but explain their inner discontent and anger with external circumstances over which they usually can’t complain too loudly and often.

About 20-25% of women and 7-12% of men suffers with depression at least once in their life time. However, the real figures are probably higher due to the frequent misdiagnoses and years of suffering without a proper diagnosis and adequate treatment.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011)

Nov 28

Die LebensqualitĂ€t von Tinnitus-Patienten kann laut Experten durch eine Psychotherapie erheblich verbessert werden. Viele Menschen mit dem belastenden Pfeifen, Zischen oder Brummen im Ohr litten auch unter Depressionen oder Angststörungen, teilt der Berufsverband Deutscher NervenĂ€rzte (BVDN) in Neuss mit. “Eine Behandlung dieser begleitenden seelischen Störungen erleichtere den Betroffenen oftmals den Umgang mit dem OhrgerĂ€usch”, erlĂ€utert der BVDN-Vorsitzende Frank Bergmann. DarĂŒber hinaus helfen Entspannungsverfahren Tinnitus-Patienten, Stress in den Griff zu bekommen und ihren Alltag besser zu bewĂ€ltigen. Andere psychotherapeutische Methoden helfen dabei, die seelischen Belastungen, die hinter dem Tinnitus hĂ€ufig stecken, zu reduzieren. Hypnotherapie hat sich als Methode bewĂ€hrt: der Patient erlernt hierbei Methoden, die ihm helfen, das belastende OhrgerĂ€usche besser zu bewĂ€ltigen, was zu vermehrter Selbstkompetenz bezĂŒglich des Problems verhilft. Weitere mitunter bewĂ€hrte Verfahren sind Osteopathie, Akupunktur und TCM (Traditionelle Chinesische Medizin).

HĂ€ufige Auslöser eines Tinnitus sind Stress, meist im Berufsleben, oder auch permanenter oder kurzfristig auftretender starker LĂ€rm, wie z.B. nach Böller-Explosionen, Konzerten oder Disco-Besuchen. Ein plötzlich auftretender Tinnitus infolge eines Hörsturzes oder starker LĂ€rmeinwirkung sollte unverzĂŒglich mit durchblutungsfördernden Medikamenten behandelt werden. Nur so lĂ€ĂŸt sich verhindern, dass die OhrgerĂ€usche chronisch werden. Eine Ă€rztliche Diagnose ist daher zur AbklĂ€rung der korrekten Therapiemaßnahmen unbedingt erforderlich.

Besteht ein HörgerÀusch lÀnger als sechs Monate, wird von einem chronischen Tinnitus gesprochen. Die Wahrscheinlichkeit einer Spontanheilung oder einer medizinischen Beseitigung wird dann als unwahrscheinlich eingeschÀtzt. In Deutschland leiden etwa 10 bis 20 Prozent der Bevölkerung dauerhaft unter Tinnitus.

(Quellen: Angstnetz.de, Der Standard)

Sep 26

You have plenty of time, but can’t get things done? Busy with many little things, but way too often find yourself postponing the really important tasks?

Then you might be one of the many people suffering from procrastination. Procrastination often looks like self sabotage, since it can result in missing important business opportunities, offending others by repeatedly arriving too late at appointments or not finishing crucial steps in achieving carreer-related or educational goals.
Out of that, many develop feelings of guilt, stress and a reduction of self-esteem, which itself can leed to further procrastination, and even depression. So-called ‘Messies’ often show symptoms of procrastination as well.

Another cause for difficulties in achieving goals can be juvenile or adult ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). People with untreated ADHD often appear to be disorganized, have chaotic lifestyles, and tend to rely on (non-prescribed) drugs and alcohol to get by. While childhood ADHD gets lots of attention these days, psychologists and psychiatrists have found that quite many adults are suffering from the same impairments, though with slightly different symptoms.

But how to get rid of this inhibition of getting things done? My observation is that many people who are suffering from it tend to buy an abundance of guidebooks with lurid titles like ‘Everything Is Possible!‘ which usually contain at least a few dozen instructions and tips each – but at the end, this only leaves them feeling more frustrated and inapt than before. If you want to get to the roots of your problem, first check for ADHD as a potential cause by getting a diagnosis from a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or psychologist. While ADHD may require medical support in many cases, procrastination in general is a problem that can be succesfully dealt with through regular counseling and coaching over a reasonable amount of time.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)

Aug 20

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) – besser bekannt als Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – betrifft rund eine Million Menschen in den USA und noch mehr in Europa. Dennoch gibt es viel zu wenige intensive Forschungsinitiativen, kritisieren Experten in einer Aussendung. Die Zahl der Patienten steige an, aber das Wissen ĂŒber mögliche Behandlungsmethoden fehle.

Im Krankheitsverlauf zeigen sich meist neurologische, immunologische und endokrine AuffĂ€lligkeiten. Die Ursachen sind – trotz einer Vielzahl von Studien, die vor allem auf biologische und Umweltfaktoren abzielen – bis heute ungeklĂ€rt, es gibt nicht einmal laboratorische Tests oder Biomarker, die Hinweise auf bestimmte organische Komponenten geben könnten. Zu den hĂ€ufigsten Symptomen von CFS gehören Muskel-und Gelenkschmerzen, kognitive Schwierigkeiten, chronische geistige und körperliche Erschöpfung bei vorheriger Gesundheit und normaler AktivitĂ€t. ZusĂ€tzlich mögliche Symptome sind MuskelschwĂ€che, HypersensibilitĂ€t, Verdauungsstörungen, Depressionen, reduzierte Immunabwehr sowie Herz-und Atemwegserkrankungen – bemerkenswerterweise alles Symptome, die auch beim Burnout hĂ€ufig sind. Es ist jedoch unklar, ob diese Symptome einander gegenseitig verstĂ€rken oder nur das Ergebnis der “eigentlichen” CFS sind. Um die Diagnose CFS zu rechtfertigen, dĂŒrfen die Symptome nicht durch andere Erkrankungen verursacht werden.

Das Resultat der schlechten Forschungslage und Information ist wohl, dass die Krankheit oft jahrelang undiagnostiziert und unbehandelt bleibt. Das Vorkommen der Krankheit und ihr Einfluss auf das Gesundheitswesen sei höher als besser erforschte Krankheiten wie Multiple Sklerose oder HIV, so der belgische Forscher belgische Kenny De Meirleir. ME/CFS ist ihm zufolge eine chronische Krankheit, die die LebensqualitÀt der Betroffenen enorm einschrÀnke.

Professor Luc Montagnier – NobelpreistrĂ€ger 2009 fĂŒr Medizin – meint, dass das Wissen, das ĂŒber das Syndrom bereits existiert, medizinisches Personal aber entweder nicht erreicht oder es zu wenig ernst genommen wird. Montagnier, einer der Mitendecker des HI-Virus, unterstĂŒtzt einen neu gegrĂŒndeten Think Tank zur Erforschung und Bewusstmachung der Krankheit. Die mit diesem verbundene Organisation “European Society for ME” (ESME) hat das Ziel, das Bewusstsein und die Forschung fĂŒr die ernst zu nehmende Erkrankung interdisziplinĂ€r zu schĂ€rfen.

(Quelle: European Society for ME)

May 28

Violence is an ‘unforgettable’ valve. Already as a toddler, each of us learned that violence can at least provide short-term benefits – an experience which was stored deeply in the brain. From then on, whenever we don’t feel understood or not heard in a conflict, and in any situation that feels threatening, there will be at least a subconscious thought playing with the possibility of using psychological or physical violence to gain ground.

Education and maturation of our personality however allow us to learn other means of conflict resolution as well, which is the reason why very few adults are using physical violence. But then there are also people who find it harder than others to control their emotions. Their conflicts escalate much more easily: at first, mostly verbal, but sometimes they can end up in the form of physical attacks or reprisals.

The roots of the propensity to violence are almost always socially conditioned: the vast majority of perpetrators of violence grew up in economically poorer and atmospherically difficult families, often there are feelings of depression, a lack of perspective or a feeling of ‘not being able to achieve it.’

Unfortunately, the use of force almost always results in massive problems in partnerships, friends and society. Also, studies show that due to higher stress loads, the tendency to violence harms various organs and can make physically sick. Therefore, psychological and psychotherapeutic impulse control programs have been developed which can help affected people to learn regulate their emotions better and regain their ability to be ‘the boss of one’s body’.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)

Jan 20

Nach einer Analyse der Daten von 2.755 mĂ€nnlichen Angestellten, welche zu Beginn einer kĂŒrzlich abgeschlossenen Studie des Stressforskningsinstitutet der UniversitĂ€t Stockholm noch keinen Herzanfall erlitten hatten, zeigte sich zumindest fĂŒr MĂ€nner eine Assoziation zwischen “unterdrĂŒckter BewĂ€ltigung” infolge einer unfair gefĂŒhlten Behandlung und gesteigertem kardialem Risiko.

FĂŒr die Untersuchung wurden die verschiedenen Strategien, Dinge fĂŒr sich zu behalten, als unterdrĂŒckte BewĂ€ltigung definiert. Die Teilnehmer wurden gefragt, welche Strategien sie anwendeten: Ereignisse vorbeigehen zu lassen ohne etwas zu sagen, aus einem Konflikt einfach auszusteigen, Symptome wie Kopf- oder Magenschmerzen zu haben oder zu Hause schlechter Laune zu sein. Faktoren wie Rauchen, Alkohol, körperliche AktivitĂ€t, Bildung, Diabetes, Anforderungen im Beruf und Entscheidungsfreiheit wurden berĂŒcksichtigt, Blutdruck, BMI und Cholesterinwerte gemessen. Die MĂ€nner waren zu Beginn der Studie in den Jahren 1992 bis 1995 durchschnittlich 41 Jahre alt. Informationen ĂŒber einen Myokardinfarkt oder Tod aufgrund eines Herzanfalls bis zum Jahr 2003 wurden aus den nationalen Datenbanken zu Krankenhausaufenthalten und TodesfĂ€llen entnommen.

Bis 2003 hatten 47 der 2.755 MĂ€nner einen Myokardinfarkt oder starben an einer Herzerkrankung. Jene, die hĂ€ufig oder oft einfach einem Konflikt auswichen oder nichts sagten, verfĂŒgten ĂŒber ein doppelt so hohes Herzrisiko als jene MĂ€nner, die sich unangenehmen Situationen stellen und versuchten sie zu lösen (2,29 [95% CI 1,00-5,29]). Kopf- und Magenschmerzen oder schlechte Laune zu Hause erhöhten das Risiko nicht.

(Quellen: J Epidemiol Community Health; 2009, Nov 24; MedAustria)

Nov 30

Bis heute ist fraglich, ob es sich beim sogenannten “Night Eating Syndrom” (“Nachtesser-Syndrom”) nur um eine schlechte Angewohnheit oder doch eine Krankheit handelt. Beim Night Eating Syndrom (NES) essen sich die betreffenden Menschen regelmĂ€ĂŸig in der Nacht voll, sie schlafen schlecht und nehmen mindestens ein Viertel ihrer Nahrungsmenge spĂ€tabends oder nachts zu sich. Mehr als 70 Studien zu den biologischen HintergrĂŒnden des PhĂ€nomens haben keine entscheidenden neuen Erkenntnisse gebracht. Schwierig ist die Analyse deswegen, weil es in einer Grauzone verschiedener Störungen liegt: es enthĂ€lt Spezifika von Essstörungen, Schlaf- und affektiven Störungen, diverse Kriterien dieser jedoch werden allerdings hĂ€ufig auch nicht erfĂŒllt: das Kriterium von Essstörungen etwa deshalb nicht, weil die meisten Betroffenen tagsĂŒber ein normales Essverhalten aufweisen und auch nicht jeder Nachtesser ĂŒbergewichtig ist.

Viele Betroffene leiden unter einem gestörten Schlaf, weil sie glauben ohne Stillen ihres Hungers nicht schlafen zu können, tagsĂŒber fĂŒhlen sie sich hĂ€ufig reizbar und mĂŒde. Forscher sprechen dennoch nicht von einer Schlafstörung. B. MĂŒhlhans, die am Uniklinikum Erlangen eine Studie zum Störungsbild leitete, schĂ€tzt, dass ein bis zwei Prozent der Menschen an dem Problem leiden. Bei manchen verschwinde die Gewohnheit wieder, bei anderen chronifiziere sie mit den Jahren. Stress dĂŒrfte zumindest eine wichtige Mitursache sein, fast alle Betroffenen weisen hier bei Tests höhere Werte auf. Psychotherapeutische Verfahren werden deshalb als am effizientesten in der Behandlung des Syndroms erachtet.

Um eine bessere Klassifikation zu ermöglichen, wurden nun an der UniversitĂ€t von Pennsylvania diagnostische Kriterien definiert: betroffen sei, wer entweder seit mindestens drei Monaten mehr als ein Viertel seiner Nahrung nach dem Abendessen einnimmt oder mindestens zweimal pro Woche nachts deswegen aufsteht. Zudem mĂŒssen sich die Betroffenen der Episoden bewusst sein und Leidensdruck bestehen.

06.01.16