education Articles

Through the Looking Glass: Social Anxiety and Self-Absorption

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

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

The ABC’S of Behavior

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Most days I think about how dog training has influenced my therapeutic style. If you are a client, you have probably heard some of my favorite dog stories.

I often talk about how I forgot my training and turned my dog Sadie into a frightened mess of fur whenever a thunderstorm rolled through. It was pretty cute when she was a puppy and would cuddle up next to me for protection. I’d pet her and say whatever silly dog stuff you say to your dog when she’s scared. Now, she weighs well over 60 pounds and when she gets too close between her fur, dog breath, and weight—it’s not quite as cute.

Let’s take a look at what I did wrong with Sadie and see what lessons I can learn.


Health Anxiety

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

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!


In Sickness and In Health

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Like zillions of people around me who have shared a similar fate, a spring virus, unexpected and unplanned for, has fouled up my week. I spent a couple of days dazed—sleeping on and off—then a slow recovery. No single second was terrible, I’ve had much worse, just aches and pains, chills, and a deep cough. But the fatigue, the slogging through molasses deep tiredness of this bug, has gotten my attention.

Now I’m in the state of wellness that gives my brain permission to mull over all of the tasks that illness made seem impossible. And still tired enough that the simple tasks take on monstrous proportions. Two blogs to write, bills to pay, balances to figure. And of course, shopping and cooking. Cleaning, catching up on email, scheduling appointments. Too much for today. But, now on top of these lists, I pile stress and anxiety.


The Truth About Thoughts

Monday, April 9th, 2012

People with difficult feelings like anxiety or depression often believe what they think. This is a common and dangerous trap that most people fall into from time to time. Here’s a phrase that I find myself using over and over with my clients and with myself:

JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK SOMETHING DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE!

Simple right? Well, not that simple. We all get into thinking habits like “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never find anyone that will understand me,” or “If I touch that doorknob I’ll probably get sick,” or, “If only I could save more money I’d be happy.”

If you have thoughts like those you might feel depressed or anxious. Learning to not believe what you think takes practice (and often therapy). But for now, let’s play a game.


Sleep Anxiety

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Have you ever awakened at 3:00 am and found your mind racing? You might dwell on making sure you don’t forget some important work issue or start organizing your day to be sure you have time to finish everything you need to.

Or then again, your mind might start focusing on thoughts about how horrible it would be to have a lousy night’s sleep. Such thoughts include:


Behavioral Intervention Plans Run Amuck

Monday, March 5th, 2012

I recently ran across a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) for an elementary school girl. Behavioral Intervention Plans are often a good idea and can be used to teach students to focus better, reduce their oppositionality, follow rules more often, and become more cooperative. These plans usually emphasize positive interventions (such as rewards and attention) although they also employ negative consequences judiciously, when called for.

The original idea behind BIP’s was grounded in something called learning theory. In brief, learning theory proposes that kids will do more of what they are rewarded for and less of what they aren’t. They’re also likely to engage in disruptive behaviors less often if those behaviors result in a loss of something the child likes or if the behavior is followed by a mildly unpleasant consequence.

However, some of the BIP’s that I’ve seen in recent years seem to have lost their original grounding in learning theory. The school girl I mentioned (we’ll call her Nicole) had been failing to follow rules, blurting out inappropriate comments in class, banging her head, arguing with the teacher, and sometimes trying to leave the classroom when she shouldn’t. Here are some relevant snippets from Nicole’s BIP:


Getting Anxious Kids to School

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

schoolboy with backpackSome kids love school and others are more reluctant. How should parents respond when children complain about school, start to cry about leaving home, or even have a tantrum rather than going to school?

If your child has reluctance about going to school, start with the following:

  • Talk to your child about school. Is there a problem going on that you are unaware of? Sometimes kids will not really know why they don’t want to go, it’s just a feeling of unease. But in some cases, kids will identify specific reasons for not wanting to go to school. Common reasons include being teased or bullied by other kids or not understanding some part of the school work.

When a Loved One Has Anxiety: Acceptance Goes a Long Way

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

open handsWhen people you care about or love have problems with anxiety, the most natural thing in the world is to help. You may find yourself wanting to reassure them that everything will be OK. That sounds good, but in other blogs, we’ve discussed how reassurance can boomerang and easily make things worse. No doubt, we’ll write about how reassurance works in more blogs down the road because people fall into that trap all of the time.

Alternatively, you may want to coach your loved one through the problem. That strategy actually works sometimes, but it’s very tricky and we recommend professional guidance for both yourself and your loved ones if you want to become their coach.

Coaching, like reassurance, can easily backfire, cause arguments, or be perceived as criticism by people you’re trying to help.


Grieving About Books

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Today is quiet. The southern Rockies that I see out my windows are dusted with snow and the sun peeks in and out between broken clouds. The wind is picking up and the temperature is below 50—it’s a pretty typical winter day. Later as it cools, I think I’ll make a fire.

My goals for today are modest, sort through the recycles, do a few loads of laundry, and write a blog. I’m trying not to get a cold so I’m drinking lots of juice and I am spending most of the afternoon reading, one dog sleeping below me and the other curled up on the couch. It’s a bit chilly so I cover myself with an afghan that my mother knitted years ago. Pretty cozy.


Anxiety & OCD Exposed



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Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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