ANXIETY (OCD, Depression-a cousin to Anxiety)
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life such as panic attacks.
• Generalized—at least for 6 months—excessive worry, difficulty controlling worry, restlessness, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance.
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—repetitive behaviors such as excessive hand washing, ordering, checking, repeating words silently. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at reducing or preventing distress.
• Panic Attack—intense fear or discomfort that develops abruptly and reaches its peak within 10 minutes—heart pounding, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing control, fear of dying, tingling in limbs, chills or hot flashes, sweating.
• Depression (Anxiety and Depression are cousins)—blue feeling, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, crying spells, indecisiveness.
• Relationship Anxiety—symptoms only show up when you’re in a dating relationship. When you break up, you no longer feel them. Stress within a marriage or cohabitating couple can cause anxiety and one’s anxiety can also cause stress within the relationship if the person projects their anxiety onto their partner.
ABUSE (or traumatic experiences)
Different types of abuse can include the following: physical, sexual, mental, or emotional. Children who witness emotional, mental, or physical abuse between parents can cause secondary trauma for children. This can affect children when they later become adults in how they feel, act, and behave in their adult relationships. They may even have difficulty committing to a relationship as an adult out of fear of what they witnessed as a child and not want to have the same type of relationship their parents had.
Abuse can affect trust, self-worth, and boundaries. If people were sexually abused while growing up they may shut themselves off emotionally when they try to have sex with their partner. 8 out of 10 domestic violence offenders witnessed abuse while growing up. They all claimed they didn’t want to be like their mom or dad but when they were given a limited toolbox, they tended to grab the one tool they had, which was a hammer. Obtaining new healthy tools are essential to deal with emotions and communicate more effectively. Not everyone is affected the same by abuse. We can all be in the same room as someone who has a cold but not everyone will get a cold.
Dr. Susan Johnson in her book, “Hold Me Tight,” talks about feelings of abandonment that are referred to as attachment injuries. An attachment injury is when you needed the person you were close to during a significant moment and they weren’t there for you either mentally or physically. A simple example is when a woman is in labor and her partner decides to go golfing instead of being there for the birth of their child. This can shift how the couple interacts from that moment on. The woman in labor feels completely ditched by her partner and loses trust that her partner will be there for her in the future.
These attachment injuries can begin in childhood. If parents are having a rough time, kids can feel neglected. The parent may be physically there but not mentally or emotionally there for the kids. Kids may also feel neglected when a parent remarries if the parent is not as emotionally available to them like they were before. Please note: This is NOT meant to cause guilt towards parents who remarry or have a tough time in their current relationship. There is hope to remedy the situation and we’ll get to that in a moment.
Tough break ups and divorces can lead to feeling abandoned by their partner. This can shake trust in people. As a result, in their next relationship they might withdraw or push people away first to avoid getting too close to someone to stop from getting hurt. It gives the person a sense of having more control.
An addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming and that causes major distress if the person is unable to continue with it. Some addictions include: porn, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, lying, shopping, food, etc.
People who are heavy into their addictions tend to lose the capacity to love. The addiction becomes their love. Their perception of reality is skewed. They tend to withhold information, tell half-truths, minimize, or flat out lie. This kills trust in a relationship. Addictions are commonly used as a coping tool to escape responsibility, relieve stress, relieve boredom, or avoid getting too close to someone.
REMEDIES ON WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Learn to manage stress in your life. Keep an eye on pressures and deadlines, and commit to taking time away from study or work. Learn a variety of relaxation techniques. Information about physical relaxation methods and meditation techniques can be found in bookstores, libraries, and health food shops. Some local libraries and community pages will offer guided imagery relaxation and meditation classes for free or at a reduced cost. Mindfulness techniques are excellent at focusing on the present moment and clearing the mind.
Get your body moving! Have you ever heard of the runner’s high? Exercise increases endorphins in your body, which improves the mood and helps to reduce stress. Exercise also increases serotonin levels in the body, which regulates learning, mood, and sleep. A lot of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications regulate serotonin levels in the body.
Keeping a journal is very therapeutic. You can vent your feelings onto the paper and the paper will not get its feelings hurt or even judge what you have to say. When you write down your feelings, the paper can be responsible for the information so you don’t have to recirculate the information again and again in your head. When Abraham Lincoln was upset with someone, he actually wrote the person a letter to vent his feelings but never gave the letter to the person he was upset with. It was a way to clear his head and figure out what do with that situation next. Writing a to do list and keeping things in a calendar also allows you to see what needs to be done instead of trying to remember everything in your head.
How’s your support system? Having people to talk to can really make a difference in processing feelings, helping you feel more connected, and seeing what’s rational versus irrational. My old college professor said, “If one person tells you something about yourself, take it as a grain of salt. If two people tell you the same thing, pay attention. If three different people tell you the same thing, it’s gospel!” Visit a licensed therapist. It’s really okay to treat yourself to feeling better! Therapists can help identify things faster than you might be able to on your own.
Remedies for Addiction:
Key elements to overcoming addiction have to do with changing your playground, your friends, and your toys. If alcohol is the addiction, avoid the playground of the bar. It’s a major temptation. You will also put yourself on shaky ground if you think you can hang out with your drinking friends at the bar and tell yourself, “I’ll just order a Diet Coke.” Getting rid of the alcohol in the house is getting rid of the “toys”. I understand this is easier said than done but it has certainly worked for many people.
When it comes to a pornography addiction, many of my clients are technical savvy and are successful at getting around filters. One filter that’s different than traditional filters is called www.covenanteyes.com. This makes it so that a designated person will get an email history report of every website that was ever visited. It helps the addicted person to think twice about visiting pornographic websites when they know someone else will get the web history report. For additional remedies on pornography addiction, visit http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/.
Support systems and 12 step programs are useful tools in managing addiction. If the addicted person has at least a few people to check in with them as a support, other than their partner, this helps the addicted person be more accountable for their behavior.
Individual therapy is useful to figure out why that specific person has that addiction. Not everyone is addicted for the same reason. It’s a matter of getting to the core issue why that particular person started the addiction because of a mean boss, a cruel parent, sex abuse, not feeling “good enough”, etc. Identify the pay off for having the addiction—this applies to any addiction. For every negative habit or addiction, there is always a positive pay-off in doing it, even if it’s short–lived. Even though you may not like that you have the addiction or habit, you are getting something out of it. What is the addiction a substitute for? Love? Acceptance? Comfort? Once the positive intention behind the addiction is identified, the person can come up with other alternatives to achieve a similar pay off in a healthier way.
Additional Remedies for Abuse, Anxiety, Abandonment, & Addiction issues:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves challenging distorted thinking. Thoughts affect feelings. If we shift our thoughts, it shifts our feelings. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) and EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques) are great tools to reduce anxiety, trauma, depression, past abuse anxiety, and addictions. Both techniques help release blocked energy that gets trapped inside the central nervous system from a disturbing event or stress. The body remembers everything it’s ever gone through at a cellular level. This is why when people have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they will have distressing dreams that will physically affect them.
The EMDRIA organization explains, "When a disturbing event occurs, it can get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations.” If you feel stuck from a certain event in your life, EMDR helps to clear that disturbance so your heart can catch up to where your mind is. It’s similar to unclogging a drain in the sink. Once the drain is unclogged, everything can flow through. “EMDR seems to stimulate the information and allows the brain to reprocess the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep. The eye movements (tones, tactile) may help to process the unconscious material. It is your own brain that will be doing the healing and you are the one in control." -EMDRIA
EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques) involves tapping the meridians of the body to unblock energy flow. It’s similar to reconnecting wires in a wall where electricity can flow through.
EMDR and EFT can facilitate healing in fewer sessions than traditional talk therapy alone. If a person previously has had a Traumatic Brain Injury or consistent severe migraines, he or she should consult their physician first. See www.skylightcounseling.com under the “Resources” tab for more information about EMDR and EFT Tapping. For a list of book recommendations to reduce anxiety/depression, improve self-esteem, and improve communication in relationships, visit the “Books and Products” section at www.skylightcounseling.com.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share this blog!
Heather Severn, LMFT
The clip below has the TV condensed version of it on Channel 2 News.