'Can My Abusive Husband Change?'

Your questions about mental health answered by a real therapist

Ilkka Kärkkäinen / Unsplash

Ilkka Kärkkäinen / Unsplash

Our Ask a Therapist series gets answers to your questions about mental health from real therapists. Follow @idontmind on Instagram for more and a chance to ask questions of your own.

Today’s therapist is Lynn. She’s a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in California, and has been featured as a guest expert on numerous TV and radio programs. She also built a “rabbitat” in her backyard for rescued bunnies.

Anxiety is preventing me from finding a job. What do you recommend?

Since thoughts create feelings and feelings create behaviors, you might be scaring and/or criticizing yourself, feeling anxious, and stopping yourself from taking steps to find a job. If you can figure out what cognitive tape is making you feel anxious, you can often recognize that it’s not true, just a familiar protective pattern from childhood experiences. Confront the negative or self-critical message and imagine yourself ejecting and replacing it with what you’d tell a friend or loved one in your situation.

A therapist can also help you identify and modify the thought pattern so that as you think positively, you’ll feel more relaxed and confident, so it will be easier to take positive action toward achieving your goals. 

My parents don’t believe me when I say I’m depressed. How should I deal with this?

It’s probably scary for them to think their child is struggling with depression and frustrating for you not to feel heard or understood by them.

You can certainly give your parents some reading material from a reputable source concerning depression, symptoms, and recommended treatment strategies. If they’re still not open to the idea, you can also seek treatment on your own and invite them into the process when you feel ready so your therapist can help them understand you better and learn what they can do to support you more.

Can my abusive husband change?

Without more information, it’s difficult to say if your husband is likely to change. Has he acknowledged responsibility for his behavior and taken any proactive steps to address and remedy his abusive behavior?

It’s unlikely that someone with longstanding patterns of abuse can change without professional help, and if the behavior goes untreated it’s likely to progress in frequency and severity, affecting you and any children you may have.

The good news is that you recognize the problem and you can change, and if you change, it will change. It’s crucial that you have a place to be safe. Please make contact with a domestic violence agency in your community who can help you protect yourself and your family with information, support, treatment, shelter, and help. For more information, visit the National Domestic Abuse Hotline’s website.

When I get depressed, I feel anger instead of sadness. Is that normal?

Yes! Episodic depression is typically anger turned inward. You’re likely feeling blame instead of shame. Shifting to anger instead of sadness is actually a step in the right direction, as long as you’re expressing the anger in a constructive and safe way.

Talk to a therapist about healthy ways to manage your negative emotions. Simple techniques like meditation, breathwork, or journaling can really go a long way towards putting you back in charge of your impulses. It just takes a little work!

Follow @idontmind on Instagram for more Ask a Therapist answers and a chance to ask questions of your own.

Content is for informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as medical advice or to replace consultation with your physician or mental health professional.