COMMON REACTIONS 

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-I published in 1952 Dr. Adolf Myer focused on psychoanalytic reactions to psychological, social, and biological factors. The term “reactions” and way of thinking about mental illness was subsequently dropped from all further editions of the DSM.

Even though the DSM largely ignores reactions that people experience and display as a result of their environment, reactions remain an important part of who and what we are. We react consciously and unconsciously to change and our reactions can be physical, behavioral, mental, emotional, spiritual, sexual, relational, social, and biological. Our reactions can affect all the domains in which we live – home, work, social, spiritual, educational, sexual, etc. – and appear to be mental illnesses or disorders. They are not. They are simply reactions to what has happened to us. The following is a self-report tool you may want to do for yourself. I use it with every one of my clients at initial assessment and periodically during therapy.

The following are lists of common reactions people can have to stress, tension, grief or loss, past trauma, etc. These are not disorders or mental illnesses but are often uncomfortable or painful reactions to abnormal events. Each person responds differently to stresses and changes in their life. Your pattern of reactions is neither right nor wrong. It simply reflects how you’ve responded to what’s happened to you.

In the paragraphs below please mark or underline the reactions that you are feeling or experiencing now or that have caused you problems in the past..

PHYSICAL
difficulty sleeping or poor sleep, insomnia, nightmares, sensitivity to light and/or noise, restlessness/agitation, exaggerated startle reactions, cold sweats, increased heart rate/blood pressure, tingling sensations, muscle tension, lethargy, poor or no appetite, changes in sexual activity or interest, headaches, chronic fatigue, very low physical energy, decreased resistance to illness, poor or slow healing, increased illnesses, thyroid problems, neck and back pain or aches, asthma, GI tract problems, IBS/Crohn’s disease, spastic colon, severe PMS, dizziness, physical numbness, nausea, shortness of breath, tightness in chest or throat, difficulty breathing, exhaustion, fatigue, weakness, lack of energy, weight loss or gain, constipation or diarrhea, blurred vision, dry mouth, reduced ability to handle stress, changes in sexual interest

BEHAVIORAL
abrupt lifestyle changes, withdrawal or isolation from family or friends, feel apathetic, treasuring objects of a person or event, searching for something, calling out, have frequent anger or crying spells, loss of appetite, under- or over-eating, frequent arguing, changes in sexual interest, visiting places or carrying objects as reminders, avoidance of reminders, sighing, restlessness, over- or under-activity, risk-taking or attraction to risky or dangerous situations, excessive shyness, oppositional, changes in drinking or drug use, excessive drinking or drug use, fighting, violence, cutting, burning, or harming yourself, inability to make or keep commitments, inability to get or keep a job, hypervigilance, too compliant, family conflicts, relationship problems

MENTAL
disturbing dreams, nightmares, night terrors, fear, inability to make decisions, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, disorganization, inability to think clearly, sense of unreality, confusion, short term memory loss, absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, visions or hallucinations, sense of presence, memory problems, gaps in memory, preoccupation, rumination, disbelief, intrusive thoughts, intrusive imagery or flashbacks, racing thoughts, feeling helpless or immobile, recurrent thoughts that it’s happening again, blame yourself for what’s happened, hate yourself for what’s happened, feel like you’re never good enough

EMOTIONAL
abrupt mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety, agitation, fear, anger, sadness, hopelessness, panic, gloom, helplessness, worthlessness, depression, despair, guilt, relief, loneliness, bitterness, emptiness, numbness/can’t feel, shock, emotional agony, resignation, disbelief, defeated, shame, rage, temper tantrums, fear of dying or having a shortened life, constant worry, reduced ability to handle stress, feeling or sense of impending doom, feel like you’ll be hurt again, excessive misery, can’t experience fun or pleasure, feel damaged, unlovable, can’t protect myself, a failure

SPIRITUAL
feeling like the living dead, isolated, alone, detached / disconnected from myself and the world, distanced from God or higher power, angry at God or higher power, changes in faith or beliefs, no sense of purpose in life, changes in values

SEXUAL
risk taking, promiscuity, STDs, unwanted pregnancy, multiple failed relationships, harmful fetishes, views physical sex as emotional love, compulsive sexual activities, fearful of being touched, avoids touch from others, rejects touch from others, self-harm (cutting, burning, scratching, hair-pulling), over/under eating, low/high sexual desire or libido, don’t like my own body, can’t trust, hard to trust others, craves physical touch from others, pain during sexual intercourse, can’t experience physical sexual arousal, needs medicine / substances to feel sexual interest / arousal, use medicines / substances to avoid sexual memories

PSYCHOLOGICAL
daydreaming, feeling like you are outside your body, personality changes, hearing voices in your head that don’t sound like normal yourself, self-critical of yourself

RELATIONAL / SOCIAL
avoidance, withdrawal, loneliness, changes in sexual activity, inability to make or keep commitments, feel betrayed or you’ve betrayed others, have frequent arguments with people you love, feel anxious when you’re not with people, can’t trust others, can’t seem to say no and mean it to other people

Have some questions about your reactions, bothered by your reactions, perhaps feel stuck and can’t get past some reactions? Lots of people struggle in this area. Give me a call. I can help.