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Unresolved disputes can lead to long term health issues

Unresolved disputes can lead to long term health issues

Relationship Therapy

New study reveals the long term impact of an unresolved argument on overall health and well-being.

A recent Oregon State University study found that when people feel they have resolved an argument, the emotional response associated with that disagreement is significantly reduced and, in some situations, almost entirely erased.That reduction in stress may have a major impact on overall health, researchers say.

"Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren't going to stop stressful things from happening. But the extent to which you can tie them off, bring them to an end and resolve them is definitely going to pay dividends in terms of your well-being," said Robert Stawski, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. "Resolving your arguments is quite important for maintaining well-being in daily life."

Researchers have long been aware of how chronic stress can affect health, from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety to physical problems including heart disease, a weakened immune system, reproductive difficulties and gastrointestinal issues. But it's not just major chronic stressors like poverty or violence that can inflict damage.

"Daily stressors -- specifically the minor, small inconveniences that we have throughout the day -- even those have lasting impacts on mortality and things like inflammation and cognitive function," said Dakota Witzel, lead author and a doctoral student in human development and family studies at OSU.

For the study, Stawski and Witzel used data from the National Study of Daily Experiences, an in-depth survey of more than 2,000 people who were interviewed about their feelings and experiences for eight days in a row. The researchers looked at reports of both arguments and avoided arguments, defined as instances where the person could have argued about something but chose to let it slide so as not to have a disagreement. They then measured how the incident affected the person's reported change in negative and positive emotions, both for the day of the encounter and the day after it occurred.

The measure of how an experience affects someone emotionally, an increase in negative emotions or a decrease in positive emotions, on the day it occurs is known as "reactivity," while "residue" is the prolonged emotional toll the day after the experience occurs. Negative and positive affect refer to the degree of negative and positive emotions a person feels on a given day. Results showed that on the day of an argument or avoided argument, people who felt their encounter was resolved reported roughly half the reactivity of those whose encounters were not resolved. On the day following an argument or avoided argument, the results were even starker: People who felt the matter was resolved showed no prolonged elevation of their negative affect the next day.

The study also looked at age-related differences in response to arguments and avoided arguments and found that adults ages 68 and older were more than 40% more likely than people 45 and younger to report their conflicts as resolved. But the impact of resolution status on people's negative and positive affect remained the same regardless of age. The researchers had several explanations for older adults' higher rate of resolution: Older adults may be more motivated to minimize negative and maximize positive emotions as they have fewer years remaining, which is consistent with existing theories of aging and emotion. They may also have more experience navigating arguments and thus be more effective at defusing or avoiding conflict.

"If older adults are really motivated to maximize their emotional well-being, they're going do a better job, or at least a faster job, at resolving stressors in a more timely fashion," Stawski said. While people cannot always control what stressors come into their lives -- and lack of control is itself a stressor in many cases -- they can work on their own emotional response to those stressors, he said. "Some people are more reactive than other people," he said. "But the extent to which you can tie off the stress so it's not having this gnawing impact at you over the course of the day or a few days will help minimize the potential long-term impact."

Read this article on Science Daily: Oregon State University. "Want a longer, healthier life? Resolve your arguments by day's end." www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210325084833.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

In-person and Online Video Counseling Services are now available. Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support to meet your needs. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Friends who are interconnected make the best friends

Having a network of people who know one another helps to make social support more beneficial

It's good to have friends and family to back you up when you need it -- but it's even better if your supporters are close with each other too, a new set of studies suggests.Researchers found that people perceived they had more support from a group of friends or family who all knew and liked each other than from an identical number of close relationships who were not linked.The results suggest that having a network of people to lean on is only part of what makes social support so beneficial to us, said David Lee, who led the study as a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at The Ohio State University.

"The more cohesive, the more dense this network you have, the more you feel you can rely on them for support," said Lee, who is now an assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo. "It matters if your friends can depend on each other, just like you depend on them." Lee conducted the study with Joseph Bayer, assistant professor of communication, and Jonathan Stahl, graduate student in psychology, both at Ohio State. Their research was published online recently in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

The researchers conducted two online studies. In one study, 339 people were asked to list eight people in their lives that they could go to for support in the last six months. Participants rated on a scale of 1 to 7 how much support they received from each person. (Most were listed as friends or family members, but some people also named co-workers, romantic partners, classmates or roommates). Crucially for this study, participants were also asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how close each possible pair of their eight supporters were to each other (from "they don't know each other" to "extremely close.") Based on those answers, the researchers calculated the density of each participant's network -- the closer and more interconnected their friends and family were to each other, the denser the network.

Results showed that the denser the networks, the more support that participants said they would be able to receive from them. "We found that our support networks are more than the sum of their parts," said Bayer, who is a core faculty of Ohio State's Translational Data Analytics Institute. "People who feel they have more social support in their lives may be focusing more on the collective support they feel from being part of a strong, cohesive group. It's having a real crew, as opposed to just having a set of friends."

A second study, involving 240 people, examined whether the density of a social network mattered in a specific situation where people needed help. In this case, participants were asked to list two different groups of four people they could go to if they needed support. One group comprised four people who were not close to one another and the other group consisted of four people who were close with each other. Participants were then asked to imagine a scenario in which their house had been broken into and they went to their network for support. Half the people were told to think about going to the four people who were not close to one another, while the other half imagined reaching out to their four connected supporters. Results showed that those who imagined going to their tight-knit group of friends or family perceived that they would receive more support than did participants who thought about going to their unconnected friends. The results also offered preliminary evidence of two psychological mechanisms that could help explain why people feel better supported by a tight-knit group of friends.

In answers to survey questions, participants suggested that they thought of their group of close friends or family as one entity. They also were more likely to see a closer-knit group as part of their own identities. Both of these factors were related to perceiving more support, results showed. The researchers said the results of both studies show it isn't just the number of friends and family you have in your network that is important.

"You can have two friends who are both very supportive of you, but if they are both friends with each other, that makes you feel even more supported," Stahl said. On a practical level, that means it is important which friends we think about when we most need help or when we are feeling lonely in the midst of daily life. "Focus on those friends who are connected to each other," Bayer said. "That's where we really perceive the most support."


Read this article on Science Daily: Ohio State University. "Why some friends make you feel more supported than others: People feel most backed when their network is connected." ScienceDaily, 7 October 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201007085609.htm.


Therapy for Relationship Issues

Relationships require work and over time will inevitably face challenges large and small. Everyday stressors can put strain on any relationship, particularly intimate relationships. When major sources of stress arise, the stability of the relationship can become vulnerable. When each participant in a relationship is willing to address the issue at hand and participate in developing a solution, most relationship problems are manageable. But, when challenges are left unaddressed, tension can increase, poor responses develop and the health and longevity of the relationship are in jeopardy.

Whether you are having difficulty with a partner, business associate, family member, neighbor or acquaintance, Dr. Holland’s comprehensive therapy program will provide you with the tools you need to reshape and redefine your relationship. Over the course of your sessions with Dr. Holland you will learn alternatives to destructive communication patterns that will help you to build a harmonious, thriving rapport of love and respect. 

Individualized Teletherapy Sessions are Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.