Archives for Anxiety
About two years ago, we put in a fish pond in our backyard. Before that we had a soothing water feature that regularly sprung leaks, ruined our adobe wall, and made a mud bath for the dogs. That soothing water feature became an endless series of frustrating repairs. So, when two new guys came out for the umpteenth time to dig around the back yard to find the leak, we were pretty stressed out. One guy with long hair in a ponytail drew us pictures of a tranquil spot that would never leak (he was planning on replacing the rocks with concrete). It sounded good. About 100 days later after delays, disturbances and more and more money, the guys left. And there was a small pond with some plants and fish in it. We were so happy to get rid of the workers (for those of you who spend lots of time working at home you know what I mean), that we celebrated with a barbeque.
One of the best things about writing a blog is that you get an occasional opportunity to complain. Today I am going to complain about insurance company “help” lines. Help is definitely the wrong word. More like unhelpful lines, or anxiety attack lines. First, it seems like many of these companies really don’t want you to call them. They make sure that the wait is long. Like, really long. My favorite trick is calling multiple phone numbers, being put on hold for 15 minutes for each number, and then finally being told that I have not reached the right department. That's in spite of the fact that I was using the phone numbers provided on the back of people’s insurance card or a number given to me by one of the multiple people who agreed to speak to me after 500 loops of “we value your call.”
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about believing what you think. The point of the blog was that people have thoughts all of the time that aren’t really true. For example, people who fear public speaking might think that if they speak in front of a group of people their voices might shake and people will think they are fools. Today, I want to discuss feelings. This subject is a bit more complex because you’ve probably been told that all feelings are okay. And that people feel what they feel. Sometimes, that’s true. But feelings can also get in the way of people’s happiness. Let’s start with the feeling of anger. Anger is an emotion that helps people stay safe. Parents’ get angry when someone threatens their children. Anger increases attention to threats. However, when people get angry too often or over small things, anger can become quite destructive.
Most people can find one thing or another that they don’t like about their bodies. For example, maybe you feel you have a few unwanted pounds, perhaps you don’t like the size or the shape of your nose, or maybe you struggle to deal with your complexion. If so, your concerns fall within a normal range. There’s no reason to think you have a serious problem. In fact, if you saw your face and body as totally, wonderfully, gorgeous and without flaws, many people would think you were narcissistic. But there’s a problem called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) that takes normal, minor dissatisfactions to a level that lies far outside the range of normal. People with BDD have heart-rending distortions of their own bodies. They obsess and feel anguish about one or more perceived bodily flaws.
Mirror mirror on the wall, why is everyone always looking at me? Some people believe that others are always looking at them and judging them quite harshly. It's like there are mirrors everywhere and they all reflect imperfections. People have social anxiety when this feeling becomes overwhelming and interferes with daily life. Symptoms of social anxiety include fears of: public speaking going to parties meeting new people speaking up to authority figures eating in public
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves feelings, thoughts and behaviors. For the vast majority of people with OCD, the feeling of anxiety stands out as prominent. For example, a man with OCD might have an obsessive thought that a doorknob is contaminated and the thought of touching the doorknob causes him great anxiety. He takes a spray bottle of disinfectant and sprays the doorknob, which decreases his decreases. Then he reaches for a Kleenex to give him a barrier from any possible remaining germs. He feels relieved. And that momentary relief feels pretty good; well, that is until the next doorknob appears. The pattern repeats: an obsessive thought, an overestimation of danger or risk, increased anxiety, a compulsive action, and then feelings of relief provided by the compulsive action.
About ten days ago, Laura and I came down with the plague. Well, OK, not the plague. More like the flu actually. We experienced energy draining fatigue, headaches, fever, chills, a constant cough and even back pain. We spent close to two days in bed and have just now overcome our symptoms with the sole exception of a lingering, but dissipating cough. Of course we wondered if we could have done something to prevent this malady from occurring. When we saw our doctor, he suggested that we might have gotten our flu shots too early this year (apparently, they reformulate the shots as the year goes on). Of course, he said we had no way of knowing that and, no, he wasn’t recommending that we start getting two flu shots a year. Maybe we didn’t wash our hands often enough. Or maybe we weren’t sufficiently attentive to getting enough sleep every night. Or maybe we spent too much time around crowds at the mall. Maybe…YIKES! Stop it!
People with anxiety disorders worry. They worry about getting sick, running out of money, losing control, becoming embarrassed, making mistakes, getting hurt, hurting someone else, forgetting to do something, and on and on. Anxious worries rarely happen, but sometimes they do. People do get sick, run out of money, embarrass themselves, make mistakes, get hurt, hurt others, forget stuff, and so on. The worries of those with anxiety are reality based. However, anxious people usually inflate the actual level of risk. For example, it is true that cold viruses often linger on surfaces after an infected person coughs, sneezes onto something. If you touch an infected surface and then rub your eyes or scratch your nose, it’s quite possible that you can get sick. However, you probably have touched zillions of things in your life without getting sick. The overall risk is pretty low.
What kind of title is that for a blog? Why would you want to make more mistakes and even if you did, why on Monday? Let’s deal with the making more mistakes part first. Many of the clients I see express the need to be perfect. They fear making mistakes and feel horrible when they mess up. Some of these folks even berate themselves for making trivial, largely inconsequential mistakes like parking a few inches over the line of a parking space or making a few typoss on a blog (NOTE TO EDITOR: please don’t correct my typos in today’s blog!). Some clients with sever obsessive compulsive disorder rachet this concern up to the point that they spend hours reviewing everything they right to insure a complete absence of errors. Others re-read passages from books over and over again to be sure that they remember every single detail. Still others consume large blocks of time arranging everything in their closets in perfect alignment with identical spacing between each item. If you’re a perfectionist, I strongly recommend that you get a grip! Stop viewing all mistakes as terrible. I can guarantee you that I’ve learned more from making mistakes than I ever would have if I didn’t make them.