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A Young Woman’s Personal Experience with Anxiety

Anxiety is something that everyone deals with, to some extent, during their life. For some people it’s a passing experience of feeling stressed and overwhelmed. For others, though, anxiety can be crippling. I mean truly, intolerably, despairingly crippling.

You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t focus. Your work suffers; your relationships suffer.  You question everything you do, and everything you say. Your mind never stops churning things over. You’re filled with feelings of self-doubt and never being good enough. It’s pure agony.

The term “anxiety” gets thrown around for everything, ranging from feeling nervous to experiencing unrelenting, incapacitating panic attacks. Because of this, there are people who equate “feeling stressed” to knowing what having an anxiety disorder feels like. Unfortunately, this attitude feels discrediting and invalidating to the person who truly experiences the wrath and magnitude of anxiety.

Anxiety can manifest itself as a condition, such as a phobia, social, or generalized anxiety; or on a greater level, it can present comorbidly with other conditions, such as Depression, ADHD, Schizophrenia, and so forth. Anxiety is not a character flaw. I repeat: ANXIETY IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW. Anxiety is a neurological imbalance. It is the result of obtaining some unfortunate genetics and/or exposure to certain life experiences. None of those things are your fault in any way.

I am the youngest child of two girls. Some people believe that being the youngest child makes you “selfish.” I would say that I do, in fact, have a tendency towards selfishness. But my selfishness isn’t due to being the youngest child; rather, it’s a result of having to manage my anxiety.

For instance, I can’t be the person who goes and offers comfort to a friend in the middle of the night because of a break-up, or some other challenging situation. I have to be selfish; I need to sleep. Because altering my routine and extending myself could offset my own mental stability. I need to rest. I need to relax. I need time to myself.

I have to “be selfish” in order to operate in a fast-paced, high-producing, performance-based society. I’m at a disadvantage to others, who function at a higher level, and with more ease. Because of my anxiety, my mental and emotional reserves are easily and quickly depleted.

I want to be there for my friends in the middle of the night, when they are hurting, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t. I have to take care of myself. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care. It doesn’t discredit me as a kind-hearted person. I absolutely want what is best for the people around me. I simply need my time, time when I am off limits, time to recuperate.

I’ve learned from past mistakes of over-extending myself. There have been times when I’ve tried to be everything to everyone. I went out of my way, above and beyond, to be there for people. Even when I did all that I could, I still felt this hankering guilt that it wasn’t enough; that I wasn’t enough.

I have since learned that the care and support I am able and willing to offer others is enough. I have since learned that I am enough. I realize that I owe it to myself (and others) to take care of me. I have to care for myself at least as well as I care for others. Self-care is a requirement for others-care. And when you think about it, there’s really nothing selfish about that.

 

* Special thanks to my considerate, generous, hard-working, and capable niece for sharing her story, in hopes of providing understanding and validation for those who face their own struggles, and in hopes of providing insight for others to develop empathy for such challenges. 

Raised by an Addict [Part III]

[Story Continued from Part II]

Brooke’s self-awareness and mindfulness allow her to break the cycle of addiction and dysfunction in relationships. She is empowered to make her own decisions and do things differently with her children.

A bad childhood mustn’t equate to a bad future.

In a letter to her mother, Brooke reminds us of a very important lesson: not only do you not have to repeat the mistakes of your parents, you get to TAKE THE GOOD, AND DISCARD THE BAD.

      I learned about humor survival and perseverance. I learned the power of observation. I learned how to always work hard and try my best. I learned how to never take no for an answer and how to fight for what I want. I learned to pick myself up when I fall and never allow defeat to define me. You taught me to cast of any negative comments and not to sweat the small stuff. You taught me to look for the good in people and to admit that life could always be worse. You taught me how to adapt to my surroundings and to jump into life with both feet. You taught me how to sneak into a second movie, and be silly for a laugh. Throughout the good and the bad, I would not have traded you for any other mother. I would have exchanged some of your behaviors, sure, but I can say that about practically everyone I know, including myself. You did the best you could, and so did I.

There is hope for all of us. We can still become our true selves, even if it’s been hampered for a while. Even if it doesn’t happen until adulthood.

We get to acknowledge the parts of our life that haven’t been ideal, learn from mistakes (whether our own, or those of our parents), and then write the rest of our story. We get to make a better future for ourselves. Our past experiences need not continue to control our lives.

The rest is up to you.

It’s All About Balance

I am always preaching “balance” to my clients. 

Whether it’s in regards to having a good balance between your work and personal life
Balance in having structure, but with flexibility
Even in one’s personality having a balance between extroversion and introversion.

It’s important to have balance within character traits, as well.
Such as finding the right balance between confidence and humility.
Between passivity and assertiveness.
Between delicacy and strength.

Todd Stocker (writer, speaker, pastor) says, “To live a more balanced life, glance at the past, live in the present, and focus on the future.”

There is much wisdom in having this balanced perspective on life.  If you focus too much on the past, you might get stuck in it.  However, if you focus too much on the future, you risk feeling anxious about what’s coming.  The best approach is to live in the present.  Process and work through the past, and plan for the future, but LIVE in the present.

It’s all about balance.

When in doubt: SEEK BALANCE!

Perfectionism as a Roadblock to Productivity – James Ulrich

Perfectionism as a Roadblock to Productivity by James Ulrich
The truth behind the personality trait
Published on September 26, 2013 by James Ullrich, M.A. LMHCA in The Modern Time Crunch

Far from being a motivator for productivityperfectionism (or more precisely, the byproducts of it) can be a debilitating pattern that inhibits healthy functioning.

Though it’s driven many of the great feats of art, science, and sports, it has driven many others to distraction and led to significant problems with beginning and finishing projects. One of the main roadblocks to productivity created by perfectionists is a tendency to procrastinate.

While procrastination is often confused with plain laziness, sometimes it is the byproduct of perfectionism. The daunting nature of the unrealistic goal of perfection can be so intimidating that it leads to a crippling fear of beginning. This is particularly true when one’s self-esteem is closely tied into (or contingent) upon success.

This tendency for perfectionists to yoke their sense of worth to the success of a project can be a prime driver of procrastination. It’s that fear of failure (and the ego-crushing that would inevitably result) that is powerful motivation for avoiding the situation altogether.

Falling short of an unreasonable goal too many times can lead to a sort of learned helplessness, i.e. “no matter what I do, it’s never quite good enough.” Disempowerment follows, which is another significant nail in the coffin of productivity—not perfectionism per se.

The best way to fight this self-reinforcing pattern of negativity is, of course, to water down the perfectionism and thus its unwelcome side effects. How? It’s simple: First, try beginning any project with a good-enough plan and a good-enough skill set. Remind yourself that you can always adjust your plan as you go along, and that you can always find a work-around or draft in help when you’re in over your head.

The important thing is beginning, taking the first steps of the journey. Only then you can develop momentum that can carry you along. Remember the Newtonian gravity rule that, “an object at rest tends to stay at rest”. This can help break through the icy barrier of anxiety that causes procrastination.

Second, decouple your performance from your sense of self-worth. One is not dependent on the other, and punishing yourself for failing to meet an unrealistic goal is simply counterproductive. Talking yourself into a very negative self-image as you castigate yourself is dangerous. Take a more holistic view of yourself and your role in life. Perspective is the key.

This is all easier said than done, and therapy can help.

With these initial steps, you can begin to better manage the anxiety and insecurity issues that drive procrastination and negative self-esteem, the insidious byproducts of perfectionism.

A Look at Test Anxiety

Interview with Kansas City Blogger Local

High school and college students are no strangers to the effects of anxiety and depression.  This segment of the population however, faces a unique type of anxiety and depression that the general population rarely comes in contact with.  Test anxiety is a major issue for students the Kansas City metro area.  We met up with one local counselor to discuss test anxiety and how to deal with it.

Ben: Hello there.  This is Ben Hartman from Blogger Local Kansas City.  We’re out in Leawood with Molly Pierce, a Kansas licensed professional counselor  and owner of True Self Counseling.  We’re meeting with her today to discuss some of the upcoming anxiety that is related to the school season being in full swing.  There are a lot of tests coming up.  We met with Linden at Get Smarter Prep the other day, and she was actually talking about the ACTs coming up on September 21st.  Molly, if you can just tell us a little bit about yourself and True Self Counseling, that would be awesome.

Molly: Aright.  I started True Self Counseling in 2010.  I really have a passion to help people deal with common everyday problems, such as anxiety, depression, and communication/relationship problems.

Ben: Okay, so you deal with individuals, and then you deal with people in relationships, and then some group counseling as well?

Molly: Yes, absolutely.

Ben: You have a test anxiety clinic going on over at Get Smarter Prep.  Tell us about it.

Molly: It’s a one hour clinic in the evening to help students prepare to manage their anxiety, to get the best score that they can on their ACT or SAT.  With the ACT test coming up, we actually just did a test anxiety clinic last week.

Ben: Is it open to only people that go to Get Smarter Prep already or is it open to the general public?

Molly: This was the first one we did, and it was just Get Smarter Prep students, but I’m sure that outside people would be welcome to come.  There’s just a $25 fee.

Ben: Okay, so this is something that you guys are developing and working on, and it seemed successful this time?  There was a good turnout?

Molly: It did seem successful.  It seemed like the students really benefited from it.

Ben: There’s kind of two sides to being anxious about tests, the side where it’s impending and you’re stressed and you’re trying to learn as much you can before it comes.  Then for some people, afterwards there’s the anxiety of not having gotten the goal they strived for and being let down by or disappointed by their performance.  Can you maybe talk a little bit about the difference in the problems face on either side of the test?

Molly: Sure.  A lot of the students are getting the help they need in learning how to solve the problems on the exams and they feel confident in that aspect, but they really get freaked out about being timed and running out of time, and then there’s just this train of negative thoughts of like, what if I run out of time?  What if I fail?  Then I’m not going to get into the school I want to get into, and into my preferred profession.

Ben: It’s a compounding cycle?

Molly: Yes, it can go down this compounding hole of anxiety.  Same thing for after the test if they don’t get the score they were hoping for.  It’s almost like this sense of impending doom that now they can’t pursue the career that they want.

Ben: Yes, that their life is over.

Molly: Their life is over, even though they can really just go retake the test and go on with life.

Ben: Yes.  For some people, they feel like it speaks about them and tells people outwardly something they don’t want to convey.

Molly: That is absolutely true.  A lot of people equate their self-worth with how well they perform whether it’s on the test, or in sports, or relationships, or jobs, or whatever, so not getting a good score can actually make people feel pretty bad about themselves.

Ben: Yes.  There’s that misconception that the test score you get is a reflection of your worth, and those things are really completely exclusive.

Molly: Exactly, and that type of thinking really leads into depression and just feeling bad about yourself.

Ben: For some people that didn’t come to the clinic what could you recommend?  What are some tips that people can follow to get in their habitual nature that will help them avoid getting test anxiety or help them in reducing test anxiety?

Molly:  Anxiety is really a twofold issue.  There are the physical symptoms of anxiety, so when you feel like your breathing is getting short and shallow, and you might feel tingly.  You might feel butterflies in your stomach.  One thing you can do is deep abdominal breathing, which really calms your body and soothes the physical symptoms of anxiety. 

The other aspect of anxiety is the mental part of it.  It’s the thoughts, so if you’re thinking, oh my gosh, I’m so nervous.  I’m going to do horrible. I’m going to fail. That thinking is not going to be helpful, so you need to identify that negative thinking and change it into more positive and accurate thinking, such as I’ve prepared for this test.  I know what I’m doing.  It’s going to work out, and so forth.

Ben: Okay.  Do you have any recommended reading for people that need some encouragement, that need to help to and reinforce a better positive mental frame of mind before a test?  

Molly: Sure.  There’s lots of good reading out there on anxiety and changing negative thinking.  One book is the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook  by Edmund J. Bourne. Another good one is When Panic Attacks, which is written by David Burns, and he really does a lot in the treatment of anxiety and depression.  He’s pretty big in that world.

Ben: Okay, so that would be some good recommended reading?

Molly: Absolutely.

Ben: We will check back in with you soon so we can learn about some of the group work you’ve been doing over at the  Leawood Church of The Resurrection on the topics of depression and anxiety.  Thanks for your time, and we encourage our readers to check out your test anxiety clinic over at Get Smarter Prep as well as many of the services you offer.

Molly: Absolutely, and really, anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, marital issues can feel free to check out True Self Counseling to see if we might have services that are helpful for them.

Ben: Definitely. Thanks for your time, Molly.

Molly: Thank you.

People-Pleasing: Is it really such a good thing?

Excerpts from The Disease to Please (Harriet B. Braiker)
Additional annotations by Molly Pierce, MA, LPC, NCC

Has anyone ever told you that you’re a people-pleaser?  Don’t be so flattered…it’s not really a compliment.  It feels better to view people-pleasing as an admirable attribute, rather than look at it for what it truly is: a serious psychological problem. 

In actuality, the “disease to please” is a compulsive — even addictive — behavior pattern in which you feel controlled by your need to please others, and addicted to their approval.  At the same time, you feel out of control over the pressures and demands on your life that these needs have created. 

The Disease to Please is comprised of three components: (1) People-Pleasing Mindsets, or distorted ways of thinking; (2) People-Pleasing Habits, or compulsive behaviors; and (3) People-Pleasing Feelings, or fearful emotions

People-Pleasing Mindset
If you fall into this category, your behavior is driven by a fixed thought that you need and must strive for everyone to like you.  You measure your self-esteem and define your identity by how much you do for others whose needs, you insist, must come before your own.  You believe that being nice will protect you from rejection and other hurtful treatment from others.  You impose demanding rules, harsh criticism, and perfectionist expectations on yourself in an attempt to gain universal acceptance from others.

People-Pleasing Habits
If you fall into this group, you are driven to take care of others’ needs at the expense of your own.  You do too much, too often for others, almost never say “no,” rarely delegate, and inevitably become overcommitted and spread too thin.  And, while these self-defeating, stress-producing patterns take their toll on your health and closest relationships, they maintain a firm grip on your behavior because they are driven by your excessive, even addictive, need for everyone’s approval.

People-Pleasing Feelings
Under this category, your behavior is primarily caused by the avoidance of frightening and uncomfortable feelings. You will recognize the high anxiety that merely the anticipation or possibility of any angry confrontation with others evokes.  (All you conflict avoiders out there — this is you!)  Your people-pleasing behaviors are primarily an avoidance tactic intended to protect you from your fears of anger, conflict, and confrontation.  These fears don’t actually diminish; they intensify as long as the avoidance pattern persists!  (Long story short: you have to face your fears in order to overcome them).  Because you avoid difficult emotions, you never allow yourself to learn how to effectively manage conflict or how to appropriately deal with anger.  As a consequence, you relinquish control too easily to those who would dominate you through intimidation and manipulation.

Living a life of people-pleasing is not the way to go.  Your self-esteem takes a massive toll.  Your identity and sense of self-worth is all tied up in how much you do for others and how successful you are at pleasing them.   It causes your relationships to lose their authenticity; If your niceness prevents you from telling others what is making you unhappy, angry, upset, or disappointed — or from hearing their complaints — there is little chance of fixing what has gone wrong.

Under the surface of your selfless niceness, resentment and frustration will begin to boil and churn, threatening to eventually erupt in open hostility and uncontrolled anger.  It takes a physical toll, as well.  It may come out in the form of migraine or tension headaches, back pain, stomach pain, high blood pressure, or any of a host of other stress-related symptoms.  You will eventually hit the proverbial wall with your energy exhausted and you’ll want to give up, not knowing what else to do.  In the end, your trusty habits of people-pleasing will fail you. So save yourself the trouble, and don’t spend your whole life living hostage to its ways.

Boundaries: A concept commonly misunderstood by many, but imperative for healthly relationships

Insights from Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Summarized by Molly Pierce, MA, LPC, NCC

What are boundaries?
What does a boundary look like?

Boundaries help us to define what is NOT on our property and what we are NOT responsible for. We are not, for example, responsible for other people. Nowhere are we commanded to have “other-control,” although we spend a lot of time and energy trying to get it!

People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but inwardly resent. Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something; other times the pressure comes from your own sense of what you ‘should’ do. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of ‘self-control.’

Boundaries can take on many different shapes and forms for different people. However, some of the common factors of boundaries include geological distance, time, emotional distance, other people, consequences, feelings, attitudes & beliefs, behaviors, choices, limits, talents, thoughts, desires, and love.

Geographical Distance:
Sometimes physically removing yourself from a situation will help maintain boundaries. You can do this to replenish yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually after you have given to your limit, as Jesus often did.

Time:
Taking time off from a person, or a project, can be a way of regaining ownership over some out-of-control aspect of your life where boundaries need to be set. Adult children who have never spiritually or emotionally separated from their parents often need time away…They need to spend some time building boundaries against the old ways and creating new ways of relating that for a while may feel alienating to their parents. This time apart usually improves their relationship with their parents.

Emotional Distance:
Emotional distance is a temporary boundary to give your heart the space it needs to be safe…People who have been in abusive relationships need to find a safe place to begin to ‘thaw out’ emotionally. You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. To continue to open yourself up emotionally to an abusive or addicted person without seeing true change is foolish. Forgive, but guard your heart until you see sustained change.

Other People:
Fear of being alone keeps many in hurtful patterns for years. They are afraid that if they set boundaries they will not have love in their life…Many people have been taught by their church or their family that boundaries are unbiblical, mean, or selfish.

Consequences:
Just as the Bible sets consequences for certain behaviors, we need to back up our boundaries with consequences. God does not enable irresponsible behavior. Consequences give some good ‘barbs’ to fences. They let people know the seriousness of the trespass and the seriousness of our respect for ourselves. This teaches them that our commitment to living accordingly to helpful values is something we hold dear and will fight to protect and guard.

What’s Within My Boundaries:
We may be moved with compassion to give to someone in need. But sometimes a person may manipulate us into giving more than we want to give. We end up resentful and angry.

Feelings:
The Bible says to ‘own’ your feelings and be aware of them. They can often motivate you to do much good. Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships. They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem. If you feel close and loving, things are probably going well. If you feel angry, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. But the point is, your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.

Attitudes & Beliefs:
People who have never questioned their attitudes can fall prey to the dynamic that Jesus referred to when he described people holding on to the ‘traditions of men,’ instead of the commands of God (Mark 7:8; Matt. 15:3). People with boundary problems usually have distorted attitudes about responsibility. They feel that to hold people responsible for their feelings, choices, and behaviors is mean. However, Proverbs repeatedly says that setting limits and accepting responsibility will save lives (Prov. 13:18, 24).

Behaviors:
Behaviors have consequences. As Paul says, ‘A man reaps what he sows’ (Gal. 6:7-8). To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless. Parenting with love and limits, with warmth and consequences, produces confident children who have a sense of control over their lives.

Choices:
We need to take responsibility for our choices. This leads to the fruit of ‘self-control’ (Gal. 5:23). We need to realize that we are in control of our choices, no matter how we feel. This keeps us from making choices to give ‘reluctantly or under compulsion,’ as 2 Corinthians 9:7 says. We have been so trained by others on what we “should” do that we think we are being loving when do we things out of compulsion {or reluctance}. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with.

Limits:
What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right. We are not being unloving. Separating ourselves protects love, because we are taking a stand against things that destroy love. We need to be able to say no to ourselves. This includes both our destructive desires and some good ones that are not wise to pursue at a given time.

Talents:
We should not be chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult. However, we should confront our fears and do the best we can. Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.

Thoughts:

1. We must own our thoughts.
Many people have not taken ownership of their own thinking processes. They are mechanically thinking the thoughts of others without ever examining them.

2. We must grow in knowledge and expand our minds.

3. We must clarify distorted thinking.
Taking ownership of our thinking in relationships requires being active in checking out where we may be wrong. Also, we need to make sure that we are communicating our thoughts to others. Many people think that others should be able to read their minds and know what they want. This leads to frustration.

Desires:
We need to own our desires and pursue them to find fulfillment in life.

Love:
Many people have difficulty giving and receiving love because of hurt and fear. Having closed their hearts to others, they feel empty and meaningless.

We need to take responsibility for all of the above areas of our lives. These areas all lie within our boundaries. Taking care of what lies within our boundaries isn’t always easy; neither is allowing other people to take care of what lies within their boundaries. Setting boundaries and maintaining them is hard work, but is well worth it for a healthy you and for your relationships.

Physical Risks of Depression

Most people realize all of the emotional, mental and social tolls that Depression takes on a person and his or her loved ones.  I.e. Extreme feelings of sadness, excessive guilt, isolation, changes in eating patterns, changes in sleeping patterns, and so forth.  However, most people fail to realize the physical risks that Depression has on a person’s physical health. The article below does a great job of pointing out the physical risks of Depression in addition to the emotional, mental and social risks.  – Molly Pierce, MA, LPC, NCC

Depression Treatment: Your Heart and Mind Depend on It
Author: Dr. Kira Stein, MD and Erin Yates, Bsc
(kirastein.com; westcoasttmsinstitute.com)

You likely know the impact that depression can have on a person mentally. However, it’s important to note that depression takes a physical toll as well, and it’s important for a person suffering from emotional difficulties to realize that seeking treatment is essential for his or her overall health and well-being.

It’s common knowledge that living with major depression has its mental health risks, including suicide, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and difficulties with attention; but these are not the only implications associated with depression. In fact, recent research has shown that depression can be linked with a number of physical conditions, including heart disease, stroke and decreased cognitive functions. And, the more severe the depression symptoms, the higher the risk for these illnesses.

Physical depression risks

When inadequately managed or untreated, the physical toll depression takes can be significant for sufferers. In fact, these individuals can find themselves at a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease or even death, and studies have proven that even people who did not previously have any type of coronary artery disease before suffering from depression had an increased risk of developing the condition after the onset of depressive episodes.

One study looked at patients aged 60 and older diagnosed with high blood pressure, and found that these people had 2-3 times the occurrence of heart failure when they were depressed. In addition, those who had been hospitalized before for heart failure and also suffered from depression had a higher mortality rate three months (7.9 percent) and a year (16.2 percent) after being hospitalized.

There are also alarming numbers when it comes to depression and the risk of stroke. Studies indicate that untreated clinical depression also increases the risk of having an ischemic stroke and of dying from a stroke. Plus, individuals who suffer from chronic depressive symptoms for several years often experience a decline in cognition, even if the individual’s depression is in remission.

Seek Treatment for Depression

Considering these studies, it’s important for individuals suffering from clinical depression to also look at the physical ramifications of leaving their conditions untreated. After all, people commonly take supplements, engage in exercise and start healthy diets to improve their physical health, but don’t realize that they need to take into account their mental health, as well. Thus, if you or a loved one feel that depression has become a problem, you should have that person seek treatment in order to prevent further health problems in the future.

If you feel that you may need treatment for depression risks, help is available to you. Contact us if you feel you would like to look into your depression risks, set up a consultation and explore your options further.

References:
Abramson, J., et al. Depression and risk of heart failure among older persons with isolated systolic hypertension. Arch Intern Med. 2001 Jul 23;161(14):1725-30.
Empana, JP., et al. Clinical depression and risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jan 23;166(2):195-200.
Jiang, W., et al. Relationship of depression to increased risk of mortality and rehospitalization in patients with congestive heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2001 Aug 13-27;161(15):1849-56.
Mojtabai, R. & Olfson, M. Cognitive deficits and the course of major depression in a cohort of middle-aged and older community-dwelling adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 Jul;52(7):1060-9.
Pan, A., et al. Depression and risk of stroke morbidity: a meta-analysis and systematic review. JAMA. 2011 Sep 21;306(11):1241-9. Review. Erratum in: JAMA. Dec 21;306(23):2565.

Take Control of Your Anxiety

Everybody deals with stress and anxiety at different points in their life. It’s normal to feel anxious or nervous before taking an exam, having a performance review at work, or when faced with a difficult decision. But when worry and fear consume your life or cause so much distress that it interferes with normal functioning, it begins to become a problem. More than 40 million American adults struggle with some form of an anxiety disorder, which is about 18% of the population in a given year.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and generalized anxiety.

Panic Disorder consists of sudden attacks of fear or nervousness, which are accompanied by physical symptoms, such as sweating and a racing heart. Most people with panic disorder develop a constant fear of having another panic attack, which impacts daily functioning and quality of life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder consists of recurring and distressing thoughts, fears, or images (obsessions) which create anxiety, causing the person to perform certain rituals or routines (compulsions) in an attempt to make the obsessive thoughts go away. People with OCD often realize that their obsession-compulsion cycle is irrational, but they can’t seem to control it.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops after a person has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event in which harm occurred or was threatened. It causes intense feelings of fear, helplessness, shock, anger, nervousness, horror, and sometimes guilt. For people with PTSD, these feelings last for more than one month and cannot return to normal functioning as it was prior to the traumatic event.

Social Anxiety (also known as social phobia) is an intense, irrational, and persistent fear of being negatively evaluated by other people. Some people are just shy, but those with social anxiety can become completely overwhelmed in the context of a simple social situation. People with social phobia tend to be sensitive to criticism, have difficulty being assertive, and suffer from low self-esteem.

Phobia Disorder involves a persistent, excessive fear of a specific situation or object. Phobias are one of the most common types of anxiety disorder. The difference between a fear and a phobia is that people with a phobia are actually physically and/or psychologically impaired by it.

Generalized Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry about everyday life events – such as health, money, family, work, or school – with no obvious reason for it. People with generalized anxiety can’t seem to stop worrying and they live in a near constant state of worry, fear, or dread.

For people suffering from anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant, overwhelming, and sometimes crippling. At True Self Counseling, we teach relaxation exercises and coping techniques so that you can effectively manage the stress in your life, rather than let it consume you. The choice is yours: you can let your anxiety control you, or you can take control of it.