TODAY

TODAY   |  July 08, 2013

Is this normal? Sorting through emotional issues

When it comes to moods and feelings, many people ask, “Is this normal?” Psychiatrist Gail Saltz is here to help sort out viewers’ emotional and mood problems, including whether it’s normal to dwell for years on a lost love.

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>>> back now at 8:52 with a new series we're calling "is this normal." from stressing over the kids to arguments with friends, it's a question we all ask of ourselves from time to time.

>> that's right. psychiatrist gail saltz is here to help us sort it out. gail , good morning.

>> good morning.

>> can we define normal ?

>> i think the best way to define it is if you have a mood or behavior or something that is causing dysfunction, real dysfunction, in work, in relationships, in your ability to be in the world, then that we would say is abnormal.

>> okay.

>> but otherwise, lots of things. lots of things that people are concerned about really are normal.

>> well, we put the call out to our viewers. and got some letters. one person wrote, is it normal to keep thinking about the argument i had with my once very close younger sister . on june 22, we had a talk about things and she started yelling at me so i stood up and left. i'm so hurt over this, i'm on the verge of tears every day. is that normal?

>> what do you guys think?

>> i think the everyday is the problem. if from time to time you think about it and you're on the verge of tears, fine. but every day?

>> this is normal. it's called resume nation. which comes from the term ruminating, a cow that chews its cudd over and over again but doesn't swallow. a thought you have about something in the past that upset you that you think about over and over again and can't stop. you both probably do it.

>> i call it obsessing.

>> women ruminate more than men and it's normal and often unproductive. but --

>> until when?

>> some people do it enough that it does cause depression. before it's depression, it's still normal. what you can do, however, is make a list of what you can do about your situation and then every time you ruminate, do something distracting that is positive like going for a run or listen to music to break the cycle.

>> pam from spokane, washington out on the plaza with a question. hi, pam . good morning.

>> good morning, gail . i'm wondering, is it normal to laugh hysterically at a funeral?

>> well, actually, pam , it is normal. it's strange and people don't like it, but it's normal. the reason is, the people do laugh at funerals is because thinking about death and mortality is very anxiety-producing. and when some people get really anxious, they laugh. and then the more it feels like an inappropriate reaction, the more they laugh. because the more anxious they are getting.

>> cue the mary tyler moore tape.

>> exactly, exactly. so the -- obviously you don't really want to laugh at a funeral. so if that's happening, you can do something else to try to relieve your anxiety. taking slow, deep breaths. sometimes actually biting the insides of your cheeks actually -- something that sort of pings you that is like a stress-reliever.

>> or think about that fight you had with your younger sister that makes you cry every day.

>> i wouldn't advise that.

>> here's another letter from a viewer. the love of my life left me two years ago for another woman. i can't seem to get over this and move on. all i do is cry over him. i feel as if i'm not good enough and will be alone forever. i feel as if there is nothing left in life. i don't know what to do. two years is a long time.

>> a long time.

>> at this level of upset.

>> it is. and here's the thing. two years of thinking some time, some day about the person you miss or anger you feel at being left is normal. but when life doesn't hold anything for you any longer, then i start to think about depression. so if this person is thinking about it all of the time, crying a lot, if they can't sleep, if they haven't been able to move on with other relationships at all, and they're not functioning in life, that's depression.

>> why is that not ruminating? why is that different from the first one?

>> other symptoms besides thinking about it.

>> oh, okay.

>> so if you're not able to function and move on with a relationship, if you're not doing well in work and that is depression. and let me say, that can occur from a break-up.

>> finally, gail , is matt normal? oh, we're out of time.

>> i'm sorry -- are you sure?

>> it's a quick answer.

>> no time for that.

>> back after your local news. true love it must be true love nothing else will