Archives for Panic
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.”
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
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.
Did you remember to pay your bills on time? How about making that appointment with the dentist? Do you need more gas in the car this week or will it wait until the weekend? Is that parent teacher appointment next week or the next? Did you make up that list of questions for the teacher? How will you ever find time to look up a new recipe and get to the store before your friends are coming over for dinner? If you have a life full of responsibilities, like many people you feel stressed out at times. There are many details that adults have to juggle. Chronic stress can lead to disorders such as anxiety or depression. But stress can also interfere with optimal brain function, especially memory. These lapses of memory caused by stress actually increase stress by making people forget to do some daily responsibilities. For example, most people misplace objects from time to time. They put something down (such as keys) thoughtlessly and a few hours later have no recollection on where they put them. Then their minds start spinning unhelpful thoughts such as, “I must be really stupid,” or “I wonder if I am becoming demented?,” or “What’s wrong with my brain?”
I’m sure you know what selfish means and it’s not considered a particularly lovely trait by most people. But what do I mean when I suggest that you become self-less? Typically, the term selfless refers to people who put other people’s needs before their own. Selfless people typically have very little concern for making money, becoming famous, or obtaining a prestigious position. But that definition doesn’t quite fit what I mean by self-less (note I put in a hyphen to distinguish the term from selfless). I think people can and probably should have at least some concern for their own needs in terms of finances, relationships, security, and so on. And sometimes your own needs may even have to take precedence over the needs of others. But people all too often seriously mess themselves up when they become overly concerned about themselves and their egos. They experience exquisite concerns with how they look, what they say, mistakes they make, who likes them and who doesn’t, et cetera. People who worry a lot about their egos judge just about everything that they do. Their internal dialogues consist of an endless loop of self-hate and vitriol with thoughts such as “How could I be so stupid?,” “I hate myself,” “No one could be this dumb,” “I’ll never amount to anything,” “Nobody could ever like me,” and on and on. It’s pretty difficult to feel alright with thoughts like those.
John wakes up this morning instantly anxious. He tossed and turned most of the night, waking and worrying. He stands in the shower until the water begins to get cold, once out, he experiences a terrible cold even though it is warm in the house. He notices his hands trembling while he brushes his teeth. His stomach is upset, he feels no hunger. He makes himself a cup of coffee hoping the caffeine will help him stay focused. His mind is racing; thoughts tumbling over each other. He feels like he can’t catch his breath. He tries to settle himself by thinking calm thoughts and taking deep breaths. Finally, he puts on his jacket and heads to the door, chanting, “One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.”
A couple of days ago, we wrote about exposure. The opposite of exposure is avoidance. We touch on the topic of avoidance fairly often in this blog, but it’s been years since we focused on the topic exclusively. That’s too long because avoidance is arguably the most important thing for you to understand in order to successfully battle anxiety and OCD, or for that matter, most types of emotional disorders. Humans have an understandable desire to avoid feeling distress, anxiety, sadness, and upsets of all kinds. If you’re like most people, when you experience these feelings, you’ll do almost anything to get rid of them. Common strategies include: Abusing substances like drugs or alcohol Distraction Smoking Staying in the house Making great efforts to avoid the triggers for your upsets
When 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.
Most people, who have more anxiety than they want, work hard to rid themselves of their anxiety. They try relaxation training, meditation, medication, and more, all in a desperate attempt to conquer uncomfortable, distressing feelings. And who can blame them? After all, isn’t that the goal of therapy—to rid yourself of anxiety, uncertainty, doubts, and discomfort once and for all? Well, yes and no. Of course most therapists would love for you to be able to feel calm, relaxed, and peaceful all of the time. However, that goal isn’t possible for anybody. Life is full of unpredictable, often random, dangers, hassles, and perils. Therefore, if you have the goal of eliminating these things, you will almost certainly fail.
Human beings are graced with having minds that can use language and thoughts to learn from the past and anticipate future events. How glorious! We can actually manage to read about various threats, calamities, and hazards—and sometimes actually prevent them from happening or minimize their effects when they do. Therefore, we can substantially reduce a variety of risks by learning to drive the speed limit, use seat belts, avoid excessive sun exposure, avoid known toxins, engage in regular exercise, and eat healthy. All of these things are great to do. Unfortunately, humans also have a habit of taking things too far. We exaggerate our minds’ ability to predict the future and prevent what we fear from happening. For example, some people refuse to consider locating to the southwest (including our lovely part of the country New Mexico) because they are afraid of snakes. Well in the 25 years of my residency, I’ve only seen two snakes and I walk or jog quite frequently. The chances of actually getting bit by a snake are extremely unlikely—much less than getting hit by a car or having a heart attack.