Are you too hard on yourself?

Are you too hard on yourself?

You might be your harshest critic, but being too hard on yourself can be bad for your mental health.

A recent study of university students at Hiroshima University found people who felt strong responsibility for problems are more likely to develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The study categorizes “responsibility” into two types: Personal Responsibility (self-blame) and Responsibility to Continue Thinking (prolonged thinking or excessive worrying).

Lorin Stelly, a clinical therapist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., says what we tell ourselves matters.

“When we judge ourselves harshly and have a difficult time accepting ourselves, it can trigger feelings of anxiety or depression,” she says. “We all talk to ourselves. The question is, are we talking to ourselves like we would a good friend or our worst enemy?”

The study’s head researchers also explored “inflated responsibility”, which is when you feel responsible for things you can’t control. When surveyed, university students who scored higher on responsibility-related questions were likely to show behaviors resembling OCD or GAD.

“I encourage people to find ways to get out of their head and into their body,” says Stelly. “Studies show the connection between your body and brain is a two-way street.”

Your mental well being can be a direct result of how you perceive yourself, so Stelly shares how to practice positive affirmations and relieve some of the stress associated with OCD and GAD:

  1. Remind yourself of times when you have overcome obstacles.
  2. Make a list of strengths, accomplishments and daily gratitude.
  3. Think about what a good friend or family member would say to you.
  4. Practice your compassionate self-talk. Try saying, “It’s okay to make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect,” instead of “You can’t do anything right.”
  5. Engage in creative distraction and activate all your senses.
  6. Explore ways to move, whether it be in yoga, walking and/or stretching.

Stelly also notes with GAD or OCD, reoccurring and intrusive thoughts fuel anxiety symptoms and compulsive behaviors. She explains working on changing the way you think will affect how you feel. And changing the way your body responds to responsibility can change the way you think and feel. For example, calming techniques such as deep breathing can help the brain associate these stress-relieving movements with a new way of thinking.

This study was conducted using a small test group, and further research is being explored.

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About the Author

Natalie Passarelli
Natalie Passarelli

Natalie Passarelli is a Public Affairs Coordinator and Health eNews contributor at Advocate Aurora Health. Natalie formerly worked as a media relations specialist and attended Eastern Illinois University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. Outside of work, you can catch her at a hot yoga class or cheering on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.