social addiction

Time To Stop Your Social Media Addiction From Killing Your Career & Relationships

Social networking sites have become the cornerstone of communicating in our modern era and an important way of connecting with other people. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok allow users to create a sense of belonging and redefine their way of being in the world. As of the end of 2020, a digital 2020 report published by We Are social Inc. mentioned that over 3.7 billion people are actively using the different types of social media platforms worldwide. Moreover, most of these platforms provide people with information, career interests and interactive forms through virtual communities. Despite the positive vibes these platforms generate, there have been recent developments that have raised questions.

Alarms have been raised about the possibility of a type of social media addiction, causing adverse effects on users and those in contact with them. Notably, the purpose of this article is not to outrightly declare that public social media networks are harmful since they have some benefits. We want to look at the potential negative impacts, the issue of social media addiction, its symptoms, and the best treatment methods.

social addiction

What is Social Media Addiction?

We refer to social media addiction as the relentless urge to use public online platforms even at the cost of real-life relationships and activities. Even though experts are yet to produce an official “social media addiction disorder”, the dangers of public networks are rising at an alarming rate daily. A Nobel-winning prize study conducted in 2014 showed that teenagers’ excessive use of technology caused massive disruptions to their mental and physical health, weight, sleep patterns, exercise levels, and, most importantly, their schoolwork. Young girls seem to be at a higher risk.

The same study showed 40% of the young adults and 21% of adults were using online public networks even while in the bathroom. A recent survey conducted shows that social media addiction on users clocked a mean of 37% from a sample size of 1390 persons. This data would mean that 1 out of 3 people in a group is a potential addict.

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How Public Platforms Affect the Brain

According to Harvard University’s recent study, social networking sites affect the same part of the brain that gets ignited by addictive substances. Our brain has different sections, and for our case, we will focus on the reward section. This section comprises messenger pathways affected by the many decisions we make and the sensations we experience.

Whenever you experience something rewarding or inject any addictive substance into your system, the neurons located in the primary dopamine-producing areas are activated. When these neurons are activated, they cause dopamine levels to rise, thus sending messages to the brain to receive a “reward”, which is also similar to the experience produced by an addictive drug. Upon receiving a notification such as a “mention” or a “like”, the brain also receives information to release dopamine. Once produced and transmitted, dopamine causes the subject to feel pleasure. Public platforms tend to provide an endless number of instant rewards in the form of attention from other platform users.

Addiction to Facebook and other public platforms activates the brain’s reward section, which doubles when individuals speak about themselves. People tend to talk about themselves around 32 to 45% of the time in an actual life situation. Contrary to this fact, people tend to talk about themselves or show off their life’s accomplishments on social media platforms almost 82% of the time. Whenever a user posts a picture and receives positive social feedback, the brain releases dopamine which is regarded as a reward to the behavior and glorifies the social media habit.

Public networking sites are problematic when users view these sites as a vital coping technique that relieves loneliness, depression, and stress. Especially if users perceive social media as giving them more rewards than real-life experiences, forcing them to engage with these sites persistently.

Eventually, they get caught up in denial leading to various interpersonal problems such as ignoring work or school responsibilities, real-life relationships, and even physical and mental health needs. The continuous use of these platforms increases their level of dependency.

Signs of social media addiction
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The Signs and Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

The Signs of Social Media Addiction

Most users need to be wary of the signs mentioned below in their earlier stages. Users’ alertness will go a long way to help neutralize the addiction faster and before a stronger addiction appears. If any of these signs and symptoms feel too familiar to you, act fast! The sooner you act to stop social media addiction on its tracks, the easier it will be for you to either avoid it altogether or minimize its impact and harm. It’ll also make it easier to stop in the future.

  1. Sharing Every Activity, you Undertake Anytime

By now am sure your mind is racing on that friend who you can keep track of all their minute moves. Alex, a renowned author of the book “The Distraction Addiction,” wrote that people are interested in the amount of fun they have or what they do online rather than what they do in the natural/physical world. We all desire to share our incredible experiences during the last vacations or social gatherings we attended. However, distractions caused by our smartphones when attempting to get the perfect shot makes us miss on more than what we gain.

  1. Knowing a lot of Social Media Information about People who you have little information on them in the Real World

Pang, an Asian Scientist, reported that a vital indicator of social media addiction is having a vast knowledge of people’s social lives compared to real life. What they do, what they ate for breakfast, and which shop they get their merchandise from are readily available online. Such information usually open doors to a long-term intimacy, often not achievable with real-life friends.

Notably, knowledge about an individual without physically meeting them explains the time we spend on their social network platforms. Scholastic study conducted by Mr. Ayeni reported that 90% of teens using public networks concur that a large portion of social media users share too much information about themselves, their loved ones, and their surroundings. Therefore, the million-dollar question is, why do they do it?

  1. Preparing Recipes and Cooking Clips to Share on Social Media Platforms

When making your finger-licking salad for lunch, between enjoying the salad peacefully or sharing it on your page, which one is more important? Furthermore, with the popularity and mass following on these sites, the food’s visual aspect overrules the practical one, eating. This notion has led to improper planning on the meals we wish to prepare, inappropriate shopping for ingredients which eventually leads to mass food wastage.

  1. Feeling Uncomfortable when you Fail to Access your Phone

Have you experienced dissatisfaction when you fail to control Instagram when asked to stop at the traffic lights? Or are you unable to scroll through Facebook before you go to bed? Research has shown that an average person tends to check their phones every 12 minutes while one of them in every 10 persons tends to check theirs after every 4 minutes. Inability to access their phones leads to anxiety, which shows how dependent we are on social media platforms.

  1. Unhappiness Caused from Comparing Yourself with Social Media Personas

Jealousy is the other sign that depicts the dangerous dimensions that social media dependence has placed over your life. Having the freedom to select what we desire to share online has opened the floodgates to creation of online personas. Even though we get to see a fraction of their real world online, we often choose to throw that fact under the bus and continue stalking them. Whenever you begin feeling jealous over your friends’ celebrations, homes, cars, and body measurements, your public network addition has probably gone overboard.

The Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction shows the following symptoms

  • Lack of concentration on physical activities
  • Feeling guilty repeatedly
  • Sleep disorders
  • Overweight and obese
  • Anxiety and dishonesty
  • Low self-esteem and loneliness
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS): This condition causes numbness, weakness or tingling on your hand. This condition may be caused by spending too much time on your phone
  • Depression: Due to lack of motivation resulting in low productivity at work and poor school performance

Notably, many of these symptoms are majorly caused by unrealistic expectations that social media users subject themselves to. Moreover, they tend to survive on pretense of living a glamourous lifestyle showcased by the affluent social media users.

The Plausible Ways for Breaking Social Media Addiction

The only way to salvage yourself from social media addiction is by first accepting you have this problem. You tend to discover that you are deeply affected if you are constantly asked to put down your phone or when your family members complain of your unavailability or repeatedly miss or come late for scheduled activities since you were engaged in social media platforms. Breaking the addiction chain cannot happen by abrupt abstinence from online activities, although you can begin by setting limits. Moreover, you can control your internet usage by following these steps.

  • Deletion of unnecessary mobile chatting applications
  • Dedicating your time to other social activities or hobbies
  • Deactivating the push notifications to lessen the traffic on alerts. This reduces the urges to check your feeds frequently
  • Proper Allocation of time for online activities: You can indulge yourself in other productive activities such as reading a book, workouts or taking walks
  • Maximum allocation of your free time to your family members and friends since they are the first respondents to most of your social needs
  • You can also seek professional help if you cannot manage your addiction from an individual perspective or within your circle

Illness and Antisocial Behaviors Associated with Social Media

In recent years, heavy dependence on social media has caused mental illnesses to rise to new prevalence in the forms of voyeurism, paranoia, antisocial tendencies, and narcissism. Moreover, the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO could be among the pacesetters of most inappropriate behaviors posted on social media feeds. Also, there is a group that dwells on the shock factor, and the more the mass that reacts to the post, the more satisfaction is derived. This gives room to reinforce the behavior.

Some of the traits that are regarded as antisocial include the inability to be remorseful for wrongdoings, inability to show empathy, complete disregard to other people’s feelings and bullying. Furthermore, the prevalence of antisocial traits has dominated the internet, especially after the breakout of the novel coronavirus. Daily we witness horrible acts of violence, cyberbullying, racial abuses, self-mutilation with extremities leading to loss of life. All these acts can be attributed to antisocial behaviors spreading across the internet.

How to Use Social Media Safely

Among the wake-up calls to mitigate public network additions is when you begin experiencing frustrations on the number of chatting apps on your phone. At this point, to salvage your wellbeing, here are a few tips for consideration.

  1. Learn to live in the Moment

Even though the urge to post fun activities online becomes pressing with time, allow yourself to give in occasionally. However, never let these urges overshadow the actual feeling of living these moments and enjoying real-time experiences.

  1. Follow Feeds that Brings you Gratification

This will help ensure that the extent of exposure is only to people and things that generate positive vibes while you are online. Furthermore, you will get essential takeaways, which can be applied in different situations, such as conflict resolution.

  1. Avoid Making Comparisons with Online Personas

When scrolling through people’s content, always keep in mind that what they share only depicts a small portion of their lives. Hence, comparing yourself to their online lives will create a feeling of inadequacy, leading to unhealthy obsessions while you continue stalking them.

  1. Always Filter your Content Before Posting

Learn to post content that best fits all social groups in society. This will prevent creating online chaos while maintaining the status quo and passing your message effectively.


Public networking sites have become increasingly omnipresent today. However, this should not give room for addiction or inappropriate usage of the platform. Ensure you set clear boundaries and prioritize your time efficiently to prevent over reliance on social media.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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What are the benefits of online mental health courses?

Research shows that mental health issues affect a significant number of employees. Poor mental health causes an increase in injury claims against your company, avoidable accidents, and a decline in productivity.

Mental health training online can be a crucial exercise for your team. You’ll discover essential tools and techniques to cope with mental health issues at the workplace.

What Is Mental Health Training?

Mental health training is a program that teaches employees about mental health conditions at the workplace. They will discover the warning signs, accept people struggling with mental health conditions, and help them get better.

Everyone at the company should attend a mental health training program, including:

  • Managers wanting to support their employees’ mental health better
  • HR teams and other related functions that incorporate mental health into their management and strategy
  • Employees leading programs or activities dealing with mental health, such as awareness campaigns
  • Leaders developing and reviewing their company’s mental health strategy
  • Employees whose work and behavior dwindle because of reasons that may affect their mental health

What You Will Learn in an Online Mental Health Training Program

You’ll learn various things via mental health training online.

  1. The Impact and Prevalence of Mental Health in the Office

You’ll learn about these aspects:

  • The mental health spectrum
  • Each employee’s unique role in the workplace’s mental health
  • The office’s mental health in the context of inclusion and diversity
  • Relevant laws and how to implement them
  1. Capabilities and Skills To Develop a Mentally Healthy Culture

You’ll learn these things:

  • How to develop a culture for change and each person’s role in this step
  • How to help employees that might be struggling with mental health issues
  • Proactive steps to have a flexible environment to support and manage mental health
  • Strategies to take care of an individual
  1. Join Other Leaders Who Are Driving Change in Their Enterprises

You’ll learn these things:

  • Mental health best practices from other companies
  • How to solve real-life issues via case studies you do with colleagues
  • How to get ongoing coaching and peer support

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Benefits of Mental Health Training Online

Your company will enjoy various benefits if it participates in mental health training online.

  1. Improve employees’ welfare. Employees are a crucial part of any company. Taking care of their mental health via online training programs helps them prosper and enjoy their stay in the firm. They will feel a sense of belonging and stay in the enterprise for extended periods.
  2. Participate in flexible and convenient programs. Mental health training online is suitable for your schedule. Your company’s staff can participate in them when they have time. The providers may also customize them to fit your needs.
  3. Avoid stigma towards people struggling with mental health issues. Stigmatization of these individuals may worsen their condition and discourage them from seeking help. Training your organization on mental health encourages it to recognize warning signs, accept the affected people, and help them.
  4. Save on costs. You’ll save on expenses incurred because of accidents caused by mental health issues. Employees will also be content and focused on their work, improving their productivity. They’ll use resources well to produce maximum output with no distractions, such as depression episodes.

Enroll for Mental Health Training Online

The Workplace Mental Health Institute, the Premier Mental Health Solution, offers expert, affordable, and high-quality mental health training programs online. Companies that work with us enjoy many benefits, including a 79% reduction of employees with mental health issues and a 57% improvement in employees’ wellbeing.

Contact us to discover more about our mental health training online.

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What is bullying in the workplace and how can we prevent it?

We’ve all witnessed or experienced bullying at some point or another – in the playground, at the family dinner table, in a relationship etc. While usually bullying is thought to take place between children, it’s actually very prevalent in all aspects of society and between all different group dynamics. A huge place for bullies to migrate and act is actually in your everyday workplace. Let’s take a look at what bullying is, why it happens, and how we can prevent it.

What is bullying?

First, let’s consider what bullying actually is. By definition, to bully someone is to seek to harm, offend, intimidate, or coerce an individual in some form or another. This can be done in numerous different ways such as name calling, blackmailing or physical violence. The act of bullying usually follows a repetitive nature and is the constant harassment of somebody without remorse.


What is bullying in the workplace?

To bully someone in the workplace entails hurting or isolating an individual from the rest of the workforce and is done all too often by both employers and employees alike. Often people in positions of power use this as an excuse to degrade, take advantage of and belittle those that work for them. Bullying in the workplace is also seen between members of staff with the same credentials, in which one employee targets and takes advantage of the other.

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What forms can bullying take place in?

In day-to-day life, bullying can take place in many forms. A bully may be aggressive, rude and derogatory to someone for no reason. If you’re being bullied you may be being shouted at or talked down to, touched in an unwanted manner, or coerced into doing something you don’t really want to do. Bullies will use offensive language to the person they’re bullying such as name calling or swearing. They may also tease or embarrass you for their own amusement and joke at your expense in front of others. The sole goal of a bully is to make somebody feel bad about themselves so they can feel better.

Specifically, in the workplace, bullying may look like interrupting an individual’s work, blaming someone for something that went wrong or belittling somebody’s efforts. Someone may be bullying you if they’re taking credit for your hard work and they may be isolating you from the rest of the team if they leave you out, talk down to you, or make unwarranted jokes at your expense.

If you are being bullied by a colleague, you may:

  • Be relentlessly teased or embarrassed in front of other colleagues.
  • Have your work belittled and insulted.
  • Be interrupted constantly so you can’t complete tasks.
  • Have your ideas disparaged.
  • Be discredited behind your back.
  • Be verbally abused.
  • Be blamed for errors.

If you are being bullied by an employer, you may:

  • Be given difficult tasks in a short time frame.
  • Be made to work more and later than other employees.
  • Get in trouble for minor things that other employees don’t get called up for.
  • Be ignored or refused help.
  • Be refused time off.
  • Have your individual needs put behind everybody else’s in the workforce.
  • Be verbally abused.
  • Be blamed for errors.
Anti Bullying and Bullying Prevention Course

Why do people bully others?

A lot more of us have probably bullied someone in some form or another then we care to admit. This happens for numerous reasons but the root cause of bullying someone usually stems from some kind of insecurity and desire to feel power. Bullies will often receive a sense of power and pride in bullying someone else. This is because belittling someone often makes a bully feel stronger. Bullying stems from the need to feel like you’re in control, which a bully may be lacking in other aspects of their lives.

Remember that while what bullies do is horrific, they’re actually just acting out and projecting their own fears and insecurities. Often, a bully may need just as much help as the person being bullied.

How can bullying affect an individual and how can it affect a work environment?

Bullying someone in a work environment can have a massive impact on somebody’s work performance and their relationships with other employees. However most importantly, it can take a massive toll on their mental health. If someone is being bullied in a work environment, they may feel isolated and hopeless. Being bullied is never a good experience but being bullied in a professional space is particularly hurtful. It makes it incredibly hard to focus on the work at hand and makes it hard to maintain professionalism. A bullied employee may not want to speak out in fear of getting in trouble themselves or causing tension amongst the rest of the workforce.

Ongoing bullying can cause a serious strain on your mental health, especially if you’ve yet to find the courage to speak up. If you’re dealing with the stress that being bullied can cause, it’s important that you look after your mental well-being. If you’re not ready to speak up and report the bully, perhaps simply talking to somebody you trust can lift the weight of your shoulder and help put things in perspective. This will potentially share your burden and they may be able to advise you and give you the courage to speak up.

How can you prevent workplace bullying?

To prevent bullying in the workplace, remember to always treat those around you with kindness and respect. Preventing workplace harassment is easy if you remember to maintain professionalism and always treat others in a considerate manner. This will ensure a stress-free environment that will help enhance your work ethic. If you happen to witness workplace bullying, speak up to put a stop to it. Doing so will prevent hostility from festering and will stop the same thing from happening in private or to somebody else. You should go directly to someone of authority and allow them to take action instead of getting involved yourself. A superior will be able to address the situation from a higher position and ensure it doesn’t continue.

What should you do if you’re experiencing workplace bullying or have witnessed it happen to somebody else?

Being bullied or seeing someone else be bullied isn’t a nice thing to experience but it can be prevented, helped, and stopped. Taking action against a bully can save an individual and potentially prevent the same hostile treatment from happening to somebody else. If you yourself are being bullied in any form, first realize that you are not to blame. The actions of your bully are their own and you are not responsible for them. Doing this will hopefully give you the courage you need to speak up and reach out for help.

When you’re ready, reach out and talk to somebody else in your workplace. This may be a colleague you trust or someone from higher up. It’s probably more helpful to you to reach out to a manager or someone in a position of authority as they’ll be able to directly take action against the bully. If you’re unfortunate enough to experience bullying from an immediate manager, you should report it to the next manager available. This could be someone in a different department, your bosses’ boss, or potentially take the issue to HR.

What will happen once you’ve reported an incident of bullying?

Once you’ve reported an incident of bullying to a superior it’s up to them to take action and then put an end to it. In serious incidents, bullying may be taken above your superior and to HR. Otherwise your superior may be able to tackle the issue themselves sensitively and between the parties involved. Your claim will be investigated impartially, and the evidence will be assessed to see whether it needs taking further. If you have provable bases to your claim, the offending party will be disciplined accordingly, and steps will then be taken to reestablish a healthy work environment. This may include dismissal of the offending party, team restructuring and a stronger emphasis on appropriate workplace behavior.

How should we be acting in the workplace?

Remember that when you’re at work you’re in a professional environment working with other professionals. No matter how laid back or friendly a workforce can be, you should always maintain professionalism to a certain degree. This will prevent personal lives and affairs being dragged into the office. This means treating those around you with respect and gratitude. Consider your own job role and theirs when talking to other employees and remember that you’re being paid to be there and carry out some kind of service. It’s a privilege for you to be working.

If you have bullied or are bullying someone, remember that doing so is a punishable offence and may cost you your own job. Creating a hostile environment is inexcusable and serious and permanent action may take place as a result of doing so.

If bullying has reared its ugly head in your workplace, it might be time to nip it in the bud fast. We encourage you to run our online Anti Bullying & Bullying Prevention Course. Find out more here

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Advanced Psychological Self-Defence

Protecting Yourself from the Expert Manipulation of Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Difficult People

Have you ever been in a relationship where, for some reason, you couldn’t quite figure out, you felt as if you were being controlled or restricted in some way? A relationship where you started to doubt yourself, your actions, and your emotions, or felt as if something just wasn’t right? If you have, there’s an excellent chance that you were being manipulated.

What, Exactly, is Manipulation?

While it does have a negative connotation, manipulation is a natural, effective and useful tool that helps us survive and thrive in society. We start using unconscious manipulation as infants and small children. For example, when they get hungry, babies cry. This manipulates their parents into doing what they need, giving them food. Children will often do the same thing once they realize how powerful their cries are, for example, using them to manipulate their parents into purchasing them a toy.


This type of manipulation is, truth be told, relatively normal behavior. All children do it, so the last thing you want to do is judge them or deride them too harshly. At some point, with discipline, most children grow out of self-obsessed manipulation and mature into adults who are considerate of others, kind and don’t need to use manipulation to get what they want or need; they ask. But it doesn’t always work out that way and, for some, immature manipulation traits can continue into adulthood.

When adults use wanton manipulation, however, it often is emotionally and psychologically dangerous and damaging. That’s because, at its core, manipulation is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) form of control. Control of an individual, a group, team, or organization, or even an entire nation. When a car salesperson pushes you to make a purchase, they’re trying to control both you and the situation to create an outcome that favors them (i.e., more sales). The problem is when their wanting to sell the car is more important to them, than your need to buy one.

You can walk away from that type of situation, of course, but it’s not as easy if, say, the person manipulating you is your partner, a colleague, or someone in power, and they’re doing it to ‘keep you in line’ or otherwise derive some other benefit from your abject obedience. In short, manipulation is a typical human trait that, when selfishly abused, can be quite damaging.

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The Different Types of Manipulators (And Why They Do It)

Manipulation covers a whole range of different scenarios and situations, from more ´mild´ forms, to those that are much more damaging and dangerous. To help us clarify, we´ve identified at least 3 types of manipulators:

  1. Immature – like a child, they don’t intend harm, but are merely self centred
  2. Entitled – they believe they deserve things to be their way, and don’t want to cause harm, but will justify hurting others, to get what they want.
  3. Pathological – they don´t care who gets hurt, or even enjoy causing harm to others. This includes sociopaths, who may act impulsively without thinking how others may be affected, and psychopaths who are cold and calculating and may even play along within societal rules to achieve their own objectives, but with zero regard for human life or emotions.

Identifying the Obvious (and Not So Obvious) Signs Of Manipulation

Some of us are very trusting people, and when we meet someone new, it may not even cross our minds that they could have ulterior motives, or not be completely trustworthy. You might dive into a new romance, friendship, or business partnership assuming that the person has none other than the best intentions, only to find a little while down the track that things start to go pear shaped.

If you´re nodding your head here, it´s likely that you may have been burnt before in this respect. You´ve probably had friends and family tell you that you´re too trusting or naïve. And they could be right.

On the other hand, some people (usually those who have been burnt too many times before!) err in the other direction, and could be very critical and closed off, even suspicious towards someone new.

As with all things, a bit of balance is called for. It is worthwhile as you are getting to know someone that you remain aware, but not hypervigilant, to the way they behave and communicate.

To know if you’re being manipulated, you need to know the signs and, if you will, symptoms of unhealthy manipulation. Like the early days of the flu, things won’t ‘feel right’ when you’re being manipulated. That’s the best time to nip it in the bud, frankly, so knowing what to look for (and all the many signs of manipulation) is vital.

Things Don’t ‘Add Up.’

One of the most common signs you’re being manipulated is when situations and circumstances don’t add up or make sense. If your new partner is trying to convince you, for example, to sign away your home to them so that you can save money on a new mortgage. That doesn’t make any sense and would be a big red flag that they may be manipulating you.

You Start To Question or Doubt Yourself

Some manipulators are very good at what they do. So good, in fact, that they can start to make you doubt yourself and start seeing things their way. Their manipulations can make you feel as if you’re going a little crazy as your brain tries to figure out what’s going on.

Something Feels Off (Your ‘Gut’ Is Telling You To Be Careful)

Knowing how to feel and trust your ‘gut feeling’ is essential to sniffing out a manipulator. It’s a little feeling that says ‘hey,’ this doesn’t seem right’ or ‘get the heck out of here, this is a bad situation´. If something feels ‘off’ to you, there’s a good chance it is and that you need to extricate yourself from the situation.

Understand the Common Manipulation Strategies

People who use manipulation for evil or immoral intent have specific tried-and-true strategies they use and use often. Knowing these strategies will make it easier for you to spot if you’re in danger of becoming the victim of a predator, sociopath or psychopath.

Initial Grooming and Creating Trust

This strategy involves being nice to you and creating a feeling of trust and security. It can happen quickly (within a few hours) or over a longer period of time (weeks or months).

Playing Your Emotions With a Sad Story

Human empathy is an excellent thing, no doubt. Manipulators know this and use sad stories to hit your empathy button. Portraying themselves as weak or a victim, ironically, is how they manipulate their victims.

Foot in the Door

A classic strategy of persuasion: I ask you to make a small concession, to which you reluctantly agree. Like the unwelcome houseguest who asks to stay for ´just a couple of weeks, til I get on my feet´ and is still living with you (rent free) a year later.

Separating You From Those Who Love and Care About You

This is one of the most wicked forms of manipulation, putting a wedge between their victim and those who care about them (and who may alert you to their ways). They create drama where there is none, making their victim believe that their family or friends have shunned them (or worse).

Praise or Putting You Up On a Pedestal

This is a prevalent strategy used by sociopaths. By showering compliments, they overwhelm their victim’s gut feelings, leaving them highly vulnerable. Manipulators have used this technique to steal from people for eons, preying on their victim’s vanity or lack of self-confidence. Praising you for following their orders or giving them what they want

Ridicule and Sarcasm

Praise can often be alternated with ridicule and sarcasm, designed to avoid addressing your concerns (no matter how legitimate), create shame and self doubt, and deter onlookers from even considering your perspective or supporting you.

Twisting the Facts

This can be the most frustrating, but sometimes you won´t even know it is happening. This can include exaggerating or understating the facts, bias, outright lying, feigning ignorance, making excuses, leaving out important details, using language to mislead, and so on.

Reciprocity & Guilt

They may go out of their way to do something for you. It could be just that they are nice, but beware, if they try to convince you that you ‘owe’ them, they’re using reciprocity as a manipulative tool. Or they may flat out blame you when something they have done doesn´t turn out well. This is where it starts to take a horrible turn and can often lead to…

Fear, Threats and Intimidation

Creating fear, threatening violence or to reveal intimate knowledge is a potent strategy and used by sociopaths and psychopaths frequently. Some will veil their threats (however thinly) with storytelling. For example, by telling their victim a story about “a lady who went to the cops but later disappeared and was never heard from again” or “imagine what would happen if your family found out about what you did¨.

Wearing you Down

All of these strategies can play with your mind and emotions to such an extent that after some time, you simply get worn down and end up giving in to the bully.

How to Protect Yourself

The very best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a sociopath or psychopath’s manipulation is to nip the problem in the bud as soon as it starts.

While most people are good, well meaning people just trying to do their best in this world, there will always be a small percentage,who are willing to trample on other people´s rights to achieve their own outcomes and agendas. Some of these are even wily or charismatic enough to make it into positions of power.

When it comes to protecting yourself, you really only have two options:

  1. Walk Away– If someone is trying to manipulate you, your best bet is to disengage completely and walk away. It might not always be possible, of course, but if it is, that’s your best course of action.
  2. Learn how psychological manipulation operates so you can spot it coming, and avoid you or your loved ones falling victim to it.

Either way, don´t allow yourself to be manipulated. The costs are simply too high. And when you see signs of psychological manipulation at play, whenever possible, speak out about it. If you don´t, you may find yourself or someone else in a world of trouble not too far down the road.

In our online learning course ´Psychological Self Defence´ we show you 18 different strategies you can use to handle a master manipulator, sociopath or psychopath, and how to protect yourself both in physically, mentally and emotionally.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Looking after your Social Connection

Moving from Conflict and Separation to Love and Belonging

As we counted down to the New Year, around the world millions of people were pleased to see the end of what for many has been the most challenging year in recent history, if not in their lifetime, and to welcome in a new year, with hope for something at least a bit more positive.

Observing the mixed emotions and reactions across different platforms including both mainstream and social media, one word seemed to keep coming up as important for people everywhere: Connection.

It shouldn’t be surprising really, that after a year of social distancing, quarantining, isolation and disconnection, that people are yearning to reconnect.

We are social beings after all. If you think back to our caveman times (well, you can imagine at least), we went from being lone homo sapiens wandering the lands, to forming tribes, who had a better chance of survival by coming together to fight the sabre tooth tiger and raise offspring together as a community.

But besides survival, was there another benefit? Perhaps psychological in nature?


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that once our basic physiological and safety needs are met, we then seek to fulfil our need for love and belonging. And there it is, we need connection not just for physical survival but for our psychological survival and wellbeing.

Social distancing has meant not just a physical distancing between people, it has also meant an emotional distancing.

Perhaps one of the most distressing phenomena we have observed in the last 12 months has been the increased amount of conflict brought about by world events and the stresses that it creates. I´m sure you can think of examples of the following:

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  • Conflict between family members with different perspectives or different levels of risk tolerance–with some questioning whether we should we have that get together or not, others feeling hurt or rejected when family members are too afraid to see them – sometimes even their own parents or children. Or perhaps they do get together and then argue about the politics of it all.
  • Friends fighting on social media about the definition of pandemic, about how many masks to wear, about the pros and cons of lockdown, quarantines, presidents and prime ministers. We’ve even seen close friends of decades end relationships on the basis of philosophical differences. Of course, the trolls jump in to stir up the drama and discontent.
  • Partners who have become ‘COVID casualties’, no longer able to sustain a romantic relationship, either due to distance or domestic distress.
  • News articles about brawls in the street, fights in the supermarket, not to mention protests, riots and the like.

Indeed, it seems stress levels are at an all-time high, and conflict is at every turn.

Considering Moving to a Deserted Island?

Most people have at some point entertained the idea of escaping to a deserted island (if you could find a plane to get there!). When we keep coming into contact with people in a conflictual space (whether overt or covert) it can make us want to stop contacting and connecting with people at all. When every interaction raises our emotional temperature or requires a greater amount of emotional regulation on our part, no wonder we are feeling burned out by people. When the world and everyone in it is crazy, it is easy to want to withdraw from it all, in a self-imposed quarantine.

The problem is that while getting away from everyone may sound lovely, peaceful and refreshing, and indeed there can be many benefits from periods of self-reflection, it´s not a long term solution. The flip side is loneliness.

Loneliness has been recognized amongst psychologists as a huge concern for mental health, long before we ever knew what social distancing was:

  • A 2018 survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), found that more than two in ten adults in the United States (22%) and the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated.
  • A Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.
  • And in a nationwide survey from the BBC, a third of Brits said they often or very often feel lonely.

And loneliness is not so much about being physically separate from people, as it is about feeling emotionally separate. That’s why you can be physically in contact with people, yet still feel lonely, or vice versa, oceans apart yet still feel loved and connected.

What are the benefits of Social Connection?

It is well evidenced that we DO benefit from positive social connections, mentally, emotionally, and physically:

  • Quality relationships help maintain brain health, slowing down cognitive decline and reducing risk of dementia.
  • Helps you live longer: a review of 148 studies shows that people with stronger social relationships improve their likelihood of survival by 50%.
  • Reduces susceptibility to inflammation and viral infection, something we should all be interested in right now, and helps us to recover from disease faster.
  • Lowers rates of anxiety and depression.
  • Better emotion regulation skills.

And conversely, lack of social relationships has been found to have a detrimental effect that is just as bad as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity, in terms of their association with illness and death.

What Do We Do About It?

So, if getting away from them all isn’t the answer, what can we do to reduce the conflict, and the so often subsequent distress and create more positive social connections with people?

1. Turn off the News / Social Media?

News and social media are part of the problem. In a previous article of WorkLife we talked about how the media feeds on fear and negativity to capture our attention and sell. Hence, it is clear that it is good to unplug from time to time. The problem is not with the mediums themselves, they are just a tool after all, the problem is that it is practically impossible to control the type of input you are getting. So even the most self-aware person with great mental habits cannot fight against our natural emotional responses to emotional content, nor can we beat the bots who program us for heightened emotional arousal (and therefore sales in advertising).

Is it realistic to stop using these tools altogether in this day and age? Well, those who do, report being happy with the decision, but for many of us this may be quite drastic. And it can have the unwanted side effect of further disconnection from others. So, if you do decide to unplug for a while, make sure you are filling that gap with other, more healthy types of connection.

2. Manage Your Own Responses to People

Yes, people can be jerks. But part of our development as adult human beings is to learn to navigate that. In fact, that is something we strive to teach our children from the first moment they begin to interact with other children.

Emotional intelligence is about being able to empathize, understand others, manage our own emotions, and relationships with people, not to run away and withdraw from others.

It’s good to be humble and remember that we have also been jerks to others at some point in our lives. Wasn’t it nice when others made room for our shortcomings? It can be helpful to step into a place of compassion, remembering that most people are doing the best they can with the resources (emotional or otherwise) they have available. Instead of allowing yourself to get frustrated or angry with others, recognize that they may actually be struggling themselves. This will allow you to approach them with greater kindness, or at the very least, help you to cool down a little while you consider your response.

3. Respect Diversity

Respect for diversity is crucial if you are going to have other people in your life. Not just diversity of gender, race or culture, but diversity of perspectives, beliefs and opinions. Because as soon as you have more than one person in a room,sooner or later differences of opinion, great or small, are unavoidable.

While it can feel great to surround ourselves with like minded people, there are benefits to having people from all walks of life, perspectives and ideologies in your social circle. It makes you a more well-rounded person.

In fact, many people love the sport of engaging in a debate over the merits and pitfalls of different ideas, but this only works if both people enjoy the debate, and it is done with a great deal of respect for the other person as a person, and therefore entitled to their beliefs.

At the end of the day, the world is full of different people. It would be pretty boring if we all thought and behaved the same. So, if you are going to nurture your relationships and social connections, “to each to their own” is a pretty wise philosophy to adopt. Stop trying to change or control everyone else (an impossible task), and immediately a weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

4. Listen to Understand

“But I can’t actually respect their opinion because it is not just different, it’s immoral, evil or downright dangerous!”, you may say. Unfortunately, adding a moral judgement doesn’t help matters. But consider for a moment – is it REALLY likely that your partner/family member / friend / colleague who previously was a regular ‘good’ person with positive intentions, overnight turned into a horrible, reckless person with no care nor concern for others? Or is it more likely that perhaps you´re not really hearing what they are trying to communicate. Nor them, you.

Genuinely try to step into their shoes, and understand what they are saying, even if you already have a counter argument for it in your own head. Where are they coming from? What is leading them to come to a conclusion so different from yours? Get curious. There might even be something to learn here.

Consciously remind yourself that ultimately, they have a good intention. You may disagree on the details but it’s likely that you both want to see the same outcome, you just have different ideas on how to get there.

5. Agree to Disagree

With so many polarizing topics being discussed right now, sometimes it is simply best to agree to disagree. As mentioned, diversity is good, but we don´t want to be so divided we can´t function. With some people it might be best to agree not to discuss certain topics. That is fine too. You can still love each other and bring a lot of positive to each other’s lives. Know which conversations to have with whom, and when.

6. Don’t Make Decisions in a Crisis

Sure, take some time out from people if you need to, but keep it in balance. Don’t write off entire relationships on the basis of one disagreement, or a relatively short period of discontent or distress.

In psychology we have a saying “Don’t make decisions in a crisis” which is pretty good advice in a whole range of scenarios. If you cut off people too easily, or if you only ever have relationships with people who never hurt you, offend you, anger you, disappoint you, or let you down, you will end up a pretty lonely, and bitter, person.

Accept that part of having relationships with other humans means experiencing the lows as well as the highs, accepting people for who they are, even if they are imperfect in your view.

Come Together

Human relationships are complex, messy, and often frustrating, yet they are also necessary, beautiful and meaningful. Make 2021 a year of reconnecting with the people in your life from a place of compassion, love and kindness. There is already enough fear, anger and stress in the world. As has become so abundantly clear – life is short, and we never quite know what is round the corner, so connect in ways that you can be proud of within yourself, so you can live with no regrets.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Workplace Mental Health and Resilience Magazine

WorkLife eMag – Look after your Social Connection

It has never been more urgent to look after your social connection. In the year 2020, we were taught to implement social distancing. Since then, there has been a divide between people. We cannot get too close to others for fear we may contaminate each other. Yet, as social beings, we cannot thrive without others. Our psychology demands this. The need for others is especially important for our young. So, what can we do? This latest issue of WorkLife, ‘Social Connection’, reminds us that connecting is still a necessity of ours. It also shows us some of the things we need to do to reverse social distancing’s negative consequences and move forward.

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First published on The WMHI Global

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

Caring For The Carers

Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips For Health Professionals (and everyone else too!)

Sarah is a caring 36-year-old nurse working long hours at the local hospital. Sarah is also a wife and a mother to two gorgeous kids. Yet, Sarah is at her wit’s end. You could say that ‘her candle has burned at both ends’. Sarah is exhausted. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. She feels burnout. She remembers fondly the time she started her nursing studies. She loved the idea of becoming a nurse. These days she shudders at the thought of having to get off the bed to go to work. See, the shifts are just too long, the demand too great and her life seems an endless procession of chores, even with the help of her husband and the grandparents. But what could Sarah do?

Sad as it is, Sarah’s plight is far too common.

Here at the WMHI, we work with organisations from a whole range of different industries. From the public sector, through to private corporations and not for profits, and with people in engineering, finance, education, construction, mining, defence, IT, you name it!

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

In recent times, we’ve seen much more attention paid to the work of health professionals and those in caring roles.Along with that, we’ve also seen an increased awareness of the importance of the mental health and mental wellbeing of those health professionals themselves. After all, they are people too, and in order to be best able to serve and support their patients, they need to be well themselves.

We were recently asked about mental health and wellbeing for staff in the health & medical industry. Below is our response to three questions we were asked. I think you’ll find many of the ideas can be translated across to any industry. What do you think?

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Why is it so important for a workplace in the medical sector to be aware of the mental wellbeing of their staff, as well as their patients?

  • Staff in the health and medical sector, and caring professions in general, are well known to be at higher risks of stress, burnout, and mental health issues themselves.
  • Part of this is due to the nature of their work, where staff are often dealing with people in highly emotional contexts and also because of the long hours and shift work. Most people came to the sector because they care about people, and want to help, but without the right working conditions, skills and tools, they can often end up suffering ‘compassion fatigue’ where they simply become tired of caring. For some people this means, they become less effective at their jobs, no longer able to give the patient the emotional support, nor the bedside manner, that benefits the patient so well. For others, this can lead to frustration, angry outbursts, conflict within teams, and even an end to their employment in a particular role (either by choice or following an incident) and, at the more extreme end of the scale, suicide.
  • Another contributor to the increased stress amongst medical staff is that as a customer facing role, they are also many times subject to those people in the general public who may take out their fears, frustrations and anger on service providers. In the worst cases, this can escalate to outright aggression and abuse, where the medical staff are required to maintain their emotional maturity, stay calm and handle each situation appropriately and respectfully. That can be a tall order for someone who is already stressed.
  • These two elements combine with what is often a very busy working environment, with a high volume in terms of workload, time sensitive job tasks, and high stakes work, coupled with many legal obligations and consequences.

Do you have any advice for workplaces in the health industry, about a few ways that they can prioritise mental health for their practitioners?

  1. Make mental health and mental wellbeing a part of the conversation and make people mental health aware from Day 1 of working in your clinic or practice. E.g., make it part of your induction training, share tips for staying calm under pressure, managing stress, and building resilience in your meetings or newsletters, put posters around the office.
  2. Don’t wait for people to be stressed or develop mental health problems before doing something about it. Have conversations early, provide training in personal resilience, managing stress and compassion fatigue, and mental health.
  3. Make sure the leader practices what they preach, use a strengths-based approach when interacting with their practitioners at all times.
  4. Make sure the job demands are doable within the time frames provided. Don’t ask one person to do the work of three people with no extra time (or pay!) provided.
  5. Make sure people have time during the day to get out of the practice, and get fresh air, sunshine, a bite to eat, stretch their legs and have a change of scenery. It does wonders for productivity as well as mental health.
  6. Make an Employee Assistance Program or independent counselling available for staff and their family members, should they need a safe, private and confidential space to get further support.

What would your top 3 tips be for health practitioners to prioritise their mental health?

Yes! We have more than three tips:

  1. Remember WHY you got into this profession and WHAT you love about it. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see often.
  2. Practice your Self Care activities daily – encompassing the basics like good nutrition, movement, sleep, enjoyable hobbies, and also more advanced strategies like making daily gratitude lists, mindfulness or meditation practice,
  3. Notice ways of talking to yourself that make you feel good, and ways you talk to yourself that make you feel bad. Then do more of the first and less of the second.
  4. Every time you have a success, get a thank you, or positive feedback from a patient, capture it. Put it on a pinboard somewhere, or keep it in a file you can go to whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, disillusioned, or have had a difficult patient/procedure/day.
  5. Make sure to keep talking. Debriefing with colleagues, friends or family members (while ensuring confidentiality is maintained) can be vital for maintaining a healthy perspective. And if you need to get more professional, objective help, reach out early. The sooner you get support, the quicker and easier it is to get back on track.
Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profilePeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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The Psychology of Fear: How Fear Harms Workplaces and People’s Lives

‘El miedo es gratis’ (Fear is free) – Old Spanish proverb.

Most people in Spain have grown up hearing that. Fear is free. What that means is that fear is free, as in, it doesn’t cost any money. But it turns out, they weren’t 100% right, were they? No, you don’t need to pay money to be afraid, but Fear,it turns out, is very costly. It has a high psychological cost, physical cost, and a financial cost, since, at the very least, it stops you from doing things and taking chances.

Today we see the whole world gripped by fear. A fear with a name but without a face. A fear that has been going on since the beginning of the year. A fear that has become imperative we get rid of immediately. Why? Because prolonged fear causes a type of stress that can become really hard to ditch.


In psychology we see fear as a basic and ever-present emotion. A certain amount of fear is normal, even good for us. It helps us to survive, by having an inbuilt, rapid mechanism to detect danger, and therefore allow us to take action to prevent harm. It is the foundation of our fight or flight response.


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The problem is that if our fear response goes into hyper drive, it can cause harm itself. It can paralyze us and stop us from taking actions that would be beneficial to our wellbeing. It begins to control us rather than serve us. And when fear is prolonged, the potential for serious mental distress in the form of mental disorder is greatly increased.

In mental health, we know that all mental illnesses are founded in, or at the very least, accompanied by, a large amount of fear. This means that when someone you love experiences mental health distress, of any kind and severity, you can be fairly certain that at some level, fear is involved. Fear may be lurking just under the surface, or it may permeate every aspect of their life and their decision making.But, how specifically?


Decision Making – A fearful person cannot make good decisions, the decisions that they normally would make, because fear impairs and interrupts good cognitive function. For example, the research shows that when we are stressed, we are less likely to choose good healthy foods. So much for dieting when you’re afraid of being disliked! Another common response to fear is to delay making any decision, because we are too worried about what the consequences might be if we make the wrong one!


“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – Franklin D Roosevelt

Risk Averse Bias – Importantly, fear also creates a bias in the way we interpret information. It leads us to focus too heavily on the risks, rather than making an objective analysis of all the facts of a situation. We can easily appreciate this in sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a disorder where the person becomes fearful of dying, either of unseen microorganisms like bacteria, viruses or germs, or from physical accident, injury or misadventure. People with OCD are not able to make objective analyses of situations and have to be helped, through therapy, to change their association with fear of pathogens. In a work context, in organizations where there is fear, you see groups become risk averse, which is not helpful for growth and development, and sometimes causes the exact result that the executives were afraid of, and trying to avoid.

Problem Solving –It’s also well known that fear disrupts our capacity for problem solving. We become tunnel visioned on our main concern, rather than expanding our thinking to discover and consider a wide range of solutions. In fact, often people tend to oversimplify the problem and the solution to the problem. The solution is often emotional, rather than logical, and does not stand up to scrutiny.

Undermining success – Fear not only impairs our capacity to solve problems and to make good, effective decisions, it also boycotts our chances for success in life. For example, ever heard of the term ‘fear of failure’? Well, we now understand this differently.We now know that often, people that say that they are afraid of failure, when they dig in deeper and explore it, they are also fearful of succeeding. How is that possible? How can anyone be afraid of succeeding? Simple, think of your life right now, as it is. If you were 100% successful and achieved amazing dreams and goals, how many of the people that are around you now, would still like you then? Or would they be envious? For most people, if they were to significantly improve their life, fear would need to take a back seat.

Can you see why fear would not always be useful in a work context?


Today, as a collective, we are experiencing a new kind of fear, which is unique in a sense. This is a fear that is being drummed up, encouraged by governments, some scientists, and the media. Though it may not be the intention, we are reminded to be fearful of others, and fearful for our safety. These reminders to be afraid are conveyed in somewhat subtle ways by the masks we must wear in many places, the visual signs we see alerting us to social distance, the announcements and conversations we hear, and in many other indirect ways. There doesn’t seem to be a reprieve from these (sometimes) subtle, yet constant reminders.

Whether it is warranted or not, is not the question here. The fact remains that we know that fear causes stress, and that long term stress causes an untold number of physical and psychological illnesses.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 120000 people die every year as a direct result of workplace stress. Chronic stress is also linked to the 6 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, respiratory deaths, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.

The idea that fear causes physical damage is not new knowledge. In fact, there’s a lovely Sufi story that illustrates the harm fear brings:

“A caravan leader in the middle of the desert crossed the plague cloud on his way. – Where are you going like that, asked the chief? – To Baghdad! I have a thousand lives to take, the plague replied without stopping! A few weeks later, the leader of the caravan again crossed the cloud of plague. – ‘Hey!’, said the head of the caravan, ‘I’m back from Baghdad! It was not a thousand but ten thousand people that you took away!’ – ‘I only killed a thousand people as I was ordered’, retorted the plague! ‘The others were scared to death!’”

Being literally scared to death may sound a bit extreme, but it brings us to an interesting phenomenon that was discovered in the 1800’s, called ‘Voodoo Death’.


Voodoo death is a sudden, unexplained death resulting from spells, sorcery, or curse. From a psychological perspective we may explain it as resulting from belief in the power of those spells, sorcery or curses.

In his article ´Voodoo Death´, Walter Bradford Cannon shares numerous examples from traditional cultures, where there have been instances of death observed in these conditions:

  • In the Tupinambas Indians of South America, there have been cases observed of fright induced death, following the prediction or condemnation by a chief or medicine man with the reputation of having supernatural power.
  • In Brown´s New Zealand and its Aborigines, there is an account of a Maori woman. who, having eaten some fruit, was told that it had been taken from a tabooed place. She exclaimed that the sanctity of the chief had been profaned, and that his spirit would kill her. This incident occurred in the afternoon; the next day about 12 o’clock she was dead.
  • Australian University Professors have observed that from time to time the natives of the Australian bush do die as a result of a bone being pointed at them, and that such death may not be associated with any of the ordinary lethal injuries.

In today’s terms we may not call it ‘Voodoo Death’ anymore, but we have studied the science, and we now have good evidence for what we now call Somatoform Disorders, and the Nocebo Effect. We can categorically say that fear can, and does injure, harm and, in the most extreme cases, kill.It can be directly, as in the case of the examples above, or indirectly, as in the case of people believing themselves sick and dying of iatrogenesis or side effects of treatment.


Almost everyone has heard of the placebo effect. We see the placebo effect when people have a positive improvement in response to a substance, idea, thought or situation, simply because they believe it to be ‘true’ but without it actually having any active ingredient or proof. Their mind, the unconscious part, has taken control of the body and made it respond ‘as if’ the substance or idea is a matter of fact.

The placebo effect is the most studied effect in the history of science since it’s used as the standard to produce relatively safe medicines. What most people don’t know so well is its close cousin – the nocebo effect. That’s where a person believes something benign is actually malignant to them. In this case, the person starts feeling all the symptoms and often displaying the signs of the particular ailment they believe they have, although they don’t have it. For example, ever googled some kind of strange illness and then you start feeling some of the symptoms explained? How did that happen? Well, you tapped into your nocebo. Of course, most people stop just in time of making themselves actually sick, or do they?

Building Resilience at Workplace course


Think of this interesting and dangerous situation during the Coronavirus situation: the media actively selling fear, the government promoting fear to get people to follow their directions, the doctors panicking trying to understand a new threat and an increased influx of new patients, and the patients themselves in a state of panic. This is a situation of compounded fear. Fear at every level. What do you think will be the results of this heightened level of fear? From purely a psychological perspective, that’s a PERFECT STORM for ill health in the form of somatoform disorders, mental disorders,iatrogenic deaths and suicide.

So, it is vital we learn to identify when fear is building in us and learn how to handle it as quickly as possible. It can save our lives and that of our loved ones.

6 Things You Can Do That Will Immediately Neutralize The Fear In You

  1. STOP, or severely limit, watching the news. It’s a horror movie!
  2. STOP believing unreliable sources that have a vested interest in selling you fear AND have lied to you in the past (politicians, media, etc) when in doubt, ‘follow the money’.
  3. STOP ruminating – it means stop entertaining negative, fear inducing, thoughts. Get busy with another, better thought or activity. Ie watch a comedy, go and play, etc
  4. START exercising – it releases yummy endorphins and makes you happy. Start with some kind of easy exercise
  5. START spending time every day to notice all the things you do have that we usually take for granted (ie clean water out of a tap, hot showers, some of your loved ones ;), the warm and comfy bed you get into at night, etc)
  6. START eating healthy. What we eat does make a difference. The wrong kind of food, or the wrong amounts, can tax our system and produce chemical anxiety. Ie coffee, capsicums, iceberg lettuce, oranges, etc. Every body is different so it is a matter of paying attention to what your body says and experimenting.

This article was first published here

Worklife eMag - Fear Factor
WorkLife emag - the Fear Factor

WorkLife eMag – The Fear Factor: Exploring the Psychology of Fear

There’s no way around it; fear is an ugly and harmful thing. Fear can be all-encompassing and turn reasonable and intelligent people mad. It is at the heart of every mental health problem.

That’s why it’s essential we understand the psychological drivers of fear, how fear operates, and the damage it can cause. This edition of Worklife delves into these drivers of fear and exposes the harm it causes. We have also added some advice as to what you can do to protect yourself from fear, anxiety and stress.

Mental Health and Resilience are more crucial than ever for organizations, companies and individuals. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute, our response to fear is to meet it head-on with education.

We are pleased to present you with our last eMag for 2020 – The Fear Factor.

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