Month: August 2017

What’s Wrong With Being a People Pleaser?

By Amy Morrison PA-C and medical director of Morrison Clinic.

People pleasers feel more important and feel good about themselves through the act of taking care of others.  However the people they often take care of tend to manipulate and misuse them and offer them little care in return.  While People Pleasers show love and affection by taking care of others, they find it hard to set healthy boundaries.  They often over extend themselves.  They begin to feel resentful that no one is meeting their needs.

People Pleasers spend so much time and effort in taking care of others.  Unfortunately, they often do not establish good social support for themselves.  They also find it hard to give up control and let other people take care of them.  While taking care of others in noble and rewarding, it can also be toxic and unhealthy.  If other people are using shame and false guilt in order to get their way, then you need to consider making some changes.

Learning how to be assertive is very important in stopping the toxic cycle of giving too much and owning other people’s emotions.  I recommend working with a counselor in order to best learn about healthy boundaries.  You will also want to to learn assertiveness in your unique relationships.  This article is a quick primer on assertiveness that I have broken down into 3 steps.

Step 1: Stop owning other people’s emotions

It is very important to recognize and understand that other people can express a wide range of emotions.  They might claim that these emotions are a result of your behavior.  However it is very rare that you should take any ownership of their feelings.   I previously wrote an article titled“Do You Have a Guilty Conscience”. This article touches upon feelings of “false guilt” that occur when you own someone else’s negative emotions.   If you haven’t read it take a quick 5 minutes to read through it.  My rule of thumb about owning other people’s emotions is quite straight forward.  The only time you should feel guilty is when you intentionally behaved in a manner that you knew would cause  either physical or emotional harm to another person.    If your actions were not intended to inflict harm then don’t defend yourself.  Don’t justify your choices or decisions.

It is also important that your own emotions are not affected by  other person’s reactions to your behavior.  You must learn how to stay emotionally neutral with conflict.  Once you have mastered this  concept it will be much easier for you to set  emotionally healthy boundaries.

Keep in mind this does not mean that you can act inappropriately and get away with it.  When you have behaved poorly you should own it.   However if your behavior was not bad and another person is upset with you then you should not justify your actions.  An appropriate apology would be “I am sorry that you feel (fill in the blank), but it was not my intention to make you feel that way.”  In this way you can empathize with another person’s feelings without taking ownership.

Step 2: Embrace the adage that you teach people how to treat you based on what behaviors you accept.

If you allow people to behave poorly then they will continue to behave poorly.  If you do not accept bad behavior then one of 3 things will likely happen.  The person will either  learn to stop behaving that way, they will behave that way with other people but not with you, they will behave poorly in a different way, or they will chose to no longer interact with you.   Hopefully  the person learns to stop the bad behavior.  However, be weary of anyone who continues to act poorly with other people or who acts out against you in a different way.  These are red flags that they are not an emotionally healthy person.

Step 3: Determine what behavior, words, and actions are acceptable to you.

This of course will take some time.  As you have conflicts with other people start to make notes about what behaviors are not acceptable to you.  Take some time to reflect on what short phrases you could use in those circumstances.  You want to be able to quickly  nip the behavior in the bud with just a few words.  Practice what you will say.  You want to be able to deliver your responses with a pleasant look on your face and a neutral tone of voice.  You can practice by looking into the mirror, role playing with another person, or even pretending that the person you want to say this to is sitting in the empty chair in front of you.   Whatever method you chose it is important to practice and practice and practice some more.  It is important that you feel comfortable and confident when the time comes that you need to be assertive.


Learning how to be assertive is very important skill that you should take the time to master.  It will benefit you at work with co-workers, employees, and your boss, at home with your children and spouse, and socially with your friends.  At first you will notice that people don’t like that you changed the rules of interaction.  Be patient because  you will get some push back.  However it is very important to continue to be assertive.  Do not become emotional and hold your ground.  Consequently, you will notice a decrease in conflicts as the people in your life start to learn what behaviors you will accept.  You will also find that your resentment towards others will start to dissipate.   As you become more assertive,  your  needs will be better met and your relationships will become more fulfilling to you.

If you would like to do more work on your own then I recommend the following literature:

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Understanding Depression and Depression Treatment



Understanding depressionDepression can be difficult to diagnose because it presents differently in each person.    Depression treatment should be tailored to the individual person based ontheir symptoms.   In order to determine the depression treatment that is right for you, it is important to understand how depression impacts your daily life.  When you think of depression you think of sadness, right?  Unfortunately for many patients the first symptom is not sadness.  It can take a person a while before they identify  they are depressed.  Some of my patients notice that they are irritable, eat less, and struggle with insomnia before they start to feel depressed and sad.  Other patients  sleep more, eat more,  and stop enjoying the pleasure of life for several days or even weeks before they begin to feel depressed.  Depression has many faces and can also be a normal emotion.   Understanding the difference between the emotion and the illness is quite important and often difficult to determine without the help of a psychiatrist or psychiatric PA.

When Does Depression Become a Medical Illness?


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the illness of depression.  This illness occurs when you feel either sad or lack interest or please in your activities most of the day, nearly everyday for at least 2 weeks in a row.  You must also have at least 4 of these symptoms that occur most of the day nearly every day for at least 2 weeks in a row:

  • weight loss or weight gain
  • insomnia or sleeping too much
  • moving slowly which could include slow speech or walking slowly
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • difficulty with concentration
  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts

When depression becomes an illness it has a negative impact in more than one area of your life.  This means it is not just occurring when you are work because you don’t like your job.  It wouldn’t just occur at home because you are unhappy in your marriage.  When depression is a medical illness it occurs at work, home, and in your social life.  While you might be able to push through it,  you are unable to function at your normal level.  Key Facts About Depression According to the World Health Organization (WHO) [1]


  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.
  • At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • There are effective treatments for depression.

Other psychiatric illnesses that causes symptoms of depression


ADHD can lead to brief bouts of depression that tend to be triggered by boredom, rejection, or disappointment in themselves or others.   While someone with ADHD may feel depressed daily, each bout of depression does not last more than a few minutes or hours.  Most patients with ADHD notice a significant improvement in their mood symptoms once they are on the right medication regimen for their ADHD.    Working with a therapist to learn how to cope with the mood symptoms of ADHD can also be helpful.

Depression commonly occurs in people who have anxiety disorders.  For example, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder frequently cause symptoms of depression.  As you can imagine, struggling with feelings of high anxiety for an extended period of time it is quite depressing.  Sometimes anxiety disorders can lead to major depressive disorder.  It is also a common symptom of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder.

 Medication Options


Depression treatment and interventions should address your unique needs.   Medications should target the symptoms that are most problematic for you.  It is important to determine the symptoms which are impairing your ability to work and enjoy life.    There are many different types of antidepressants on the market.   The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI).   The medications in these classes are all effective for depression treatment.  However each has unique features that will impact the individual person’s response to the medication.  For this reason, it is important to work with a clinician who understands the nuances of the medication.    It is also very important to understand that antidepressants do not work quickly.   You typically see a 10-20% improvement each week you take the medication.  You will see the maximum benefit after 6-8 weeks.   Due to the complexity of depression it is not unusual for psychiatric specialists to prescribe more than one medication.  To avoid taking multiple medications, consider improving your emotional health by working with a therapist.

Therapy Options  


Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are both effective treatments for depression.  For mild depression, both types of therapy can be effective in place of medication.  For moderate to severe depression DBT and CBT are useful in conjunction with medication.  By adding these therapies to your treatment regimen you will likely be able to maintain stability on less medication.   Take a few minutes to read this article Depression Treatment: Why is Therapy Important in the  Treatment of Depression and Anxiety to learn more.   

Additional Resources


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[1] World Health Organization (WHO), Depression fact sheet,Retrieved from,

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