It has often been said that old problems are not so much cured but grown out of. That is to say that the things which used to bother us don’t disappear, but become less important.
What I am talking about here is of course the underlying causes of anxiety, panic attacks, depression and phobias, especially the more complicated phobias like agoraphobia and fear of flying. What is that underlying cause? It’s different for everyone but for many people it is some kind of nameless dread that is never really identified. Perhaps that unidentifiable monster was created early in life, before our logical and linguistic brains had developed enough to make sense of it, perhaps that is why it will always stay out of the reach of our logical minds.
So, if this is the case then rather than remove this thing, it might be the case that we live with it. After all, if it is by its very nature unidentifiable then how can we hope to remove it? We don’t know what it is and can’t know when it’s gone. That is why the statement at the beginning might well hold true. As we grow, and expand our lives, we become bigger than the problem. What was once a mountain will become a molehill.But remember, this simplistic metaphor does not apply where there is no logic or understanding, as is the case with our deep subconscious minds. Sometimes, for some reason, that molehill can flair up and cause trouble again. As we grow, we should be sure to learn to see that coming and to be bigger than it again. Eventually a position can be reached where what used to ruin lives now spoils only half a day, then only an hour.
So, the advice here is to not fixate about destroying a problem, or even changing it, but to change yourself in relation to it!
A lot has always been made about the links between what you eat and how you feel. Everything that happens to us emotionally or physically is chemical, so the theory goes, so how we feel and how our bodies behave must be governed by what chemical we give the body.
One should be aware of over simplifying the food/mood connection. It is not just a case of eating more of X and less of Y. For example depression is linked to low serotonin levels, but eating lots of bananas (which are high in serotonin) is not likely to cure any kind of clinical depression. Broadly speaking, there are two key factors: Having enough of a substance, and having the right balanced of other substances for it to be available.
A real-life application of this would be in eating dairy produce, which is high in the amino acid Tryptophan, with a complex carbohydrate like wholemeal bread. The idea is that the starchy carbohydrate will cause a release of insulin which will remove other proteins from the bloodstream giving the Tryptophan an improved chance to cross the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan is one of the building blocks of serotonin. Through studiously planned diets people have definitely made a difference to their mood.
There is a whole separate question of allergies and intolerance. Wheat an dairy produce are often the biggest culprits, or at least the most persecuted suspects. Therefore anxiety and depression diet advice becomes much harder to give. Should you eat more dairy to increase serotonin production, or less, or cut it out completely? Likewise wheat?
Checking for allergies and intolerance is a good idea, however you should be sure to keep a balanced diet no matter what. If dairy has to go then make sure you have another source of protein. If wheat has to go don’t replace it with simple carbohydrates…find a good rye bread or a corn bread. When you remove a foodstuff, do so for at least three weeks, to really notice if you feel different or if others see a difference in you.
A few months ago I wrote an article on the labeling of anxiety sufferers by a medical profession that was obsessed with diagnosis apparently to the detriment of cure or containment. the situation is a perversion: Anxiety and mood disorders are broadly caused by either genetics, some other biological predisposition, a traumatic event(s), generally unhappy environment during formative years, accident, food allergy or intolerance, other environmental factor, and, most commonly, a combination of two or more of the
I think it is safe to assume that often problems with varying causes will have varying solutions. So why stigmatize two different human beings with the same label just because on paper their symptoms are similar at any given moment.
For example, a diagnosis of GAD is often made when a patient has been suffering persistent worrying to the detriment of their ability to lead a normal life. But the criteria state that those people who are to receive a diagnosis of GAD can not have been suffering from panic attacks, agoraphobia, or simple phobias. This seems palpably ridiculous.
It is annoying to say the least when you talk to a doctor and realise that he or she has no real idea about how best to treat an anxiety disorder, and you wonder how much time they have wasted learning daft labels and silly criteria.
The best thing for any patient that presents to a doctor with a specific anxiety disorder is this:
1) The doctor checks, or organises checks, to make sure there is no physical cause (thyroid problems etc).
2) The doctor refers them on to a specialist who decides on a case by case basis the best path to talk (relaxation, cbt, drugs, group therapy, a holiday!)
All of these endless labels are driving as mad and causing misdiagnoses. Anxiety sufferers are not vegetables that can be divided up by variety, they are individual human beings.
Firstly, let me apologise for not updating this blog for the last week or so. I have been extremely busy at work and also working on a new home page for http://www.anxiety2calm.com/ because it struck me that the current one, while initially good, has been out grown by the amount of content on the site making it hard for users to find the information they wanted. It will now be split up into sections on the various different aspects of anxiety and other minor mental health disorders.
I am also going to add some new sections, about OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) social anxiety and depression. So check back in the next few weeks to see them.
Now, onto some interesting things about anxiety. I recently re-watched a documentary about two severe phobics, one with a horror of mice and another with a debilitating fear of feathers and birds. Interestingly both of these phobias could be checked traced back to single early childhood traumas. I should point out that these were simple phobias, and the idea of a single traumatic cause of complex agoraphobia, panic disorder or depression is still an unobtainable Elderado for most suffererers.
To cut a long story short, both of these phobics were cured by exposure therapy (effectively with CBT) after hypnosis and the controversial Dr Callahan’s TFT failed to shift them. I, however, am still convinced that some problems are still too complex for the brutal sledge hammer that CBT can be, and am working on a section on psychotherapy, art therapy and other talking therapies. They are long, they are unfashionable, but are they also extremely successful? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Watch this space!
Something started me thinking about what Tom Cruise said about Brook Shields and the anti-depressant debacle. While double blind tests of anti-depressants have shown that they work against anxiety the debate as to how well they work, and how much of a solution they provide rages on.
For example, one study I read (and I must admit I have lost the link) consisted of one group of depressed patients being Celexa (citalopram) and the other group being given a placebo sugar pill. The results of the study? Celexa had a significant effect. Great, you might think. But when you look at the details you find that Celexa helped 60% of the depressed patients, while the placebo helped 50%! So much of Celexa’s success could have been down to the placebo effect!
Those who advocate SSRI’s often state that anxiety is a chemical imbalance which therefore must be corrected with other chemicals. This, I think, is a misconception. There may well be a chemical imbalance and SSRI’s and other medication may be able to temporarily correct this imbalance OR make it seem as though the balance is correct, however the balance has not been corrected and the problem is still there. The only exception to this is when the problem originates outside the body and passes naturally, as perhaps in the case of anxiety brought on by injury that causes temporary disability.
This quote from http://anxiety.wordpress.com/2006/01/30/these-are-the-anti-anxietydepression-medications-that-i-take/ shows how tempers tend to fray in this matter:
You have to be kidding…..this must be a pharmaceutical company’s doings. I don’t believe you are a single person writing this. How about a picture of yourself posted on your “blog”???
There is no, repeat absolutely NO proof that “anxiety” is caused by a “chemical imbalance”. Drugs are not the answer. You are doing a disservice to anxious people reading this! Paxil is highly addictive.
In fact, SSRI’s can and do help in many cases, it’s just a matter of what you are doing to find a permanent solution while you are taking this medication…The above response is typical of those for whom SSRI’s did little, and it is understandable. But perhaps they are the lucky ones though, because with drugs that change your mood how can you tell when your therapy is altering your mood? How can you tell when you are finding a permanent solution to your problems? I leave you with that dilemma!
Hi, I got emailed this from the BBC, who are making a new documentary on phobias. For those who will do anything to get on TV it looks interesting. If you are in the UK and you fancy it, get in touch!
Does the thought of spiders make your skin crawl?
Does your fear of flying send you soaring into panic?
Does your fear of social gatherings make you stay at home?
Do you panic at the thought of using a public toilet or become panic stricken at the sight of a needle?
Has your fear prevented or disrupted holidays with friends and family?
Cost you promotion at work?
Is your phobia destroying your life, ruining your relationships or getting in the way of your happiness?
If your phobia is controlling your life then fear not we can help.
The BBC are looking for people to take part in a brand new groundbreaking programme which aims to help people overcome their worst phobias and alter their lives for the better.
But you won’t have to face your fear alone. Leading experts will be guiding you through the latest treatments and using new, highly successful techniques, they’ll train your mind to overcome your phobia and dramatically change your life forever.
So if you want the opportunity to face your fear and over come it then the BBC would like to hear from you.
Please contact us today on 0808 100 4999
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Followed by Your name, address etc to 83199
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Hi, I saw this question on the Tapir Discussion Board:
Does anyone ever feel like they can’t get a deep breath? I feel like I can’t get a full breath in and when I keep trying it makes my lungs actually HURT … its starting to bring on a panic attack. HELP!
This is a common complaint of anxiety sufferers and posters on Tapir gave some good answers and responses:
My last panic attack which was my worst and darkest one made me feel like i couldn’t breathe and that i was going to die. Since then every now and then at work, home or when i’m at the gym i remember and become really conscious of my breathing, but as has already been said let go, cos it’s automatic anyway and it won’t just stop. Just relax, and know that it won’t suddenly give way. I get it a lot but i’m learning to accept it.
I had that for a bit a few years ago. What I discovered was that after I started taking a low does of asthma medication (allergies) it helped emmensely. Can’t remember what it was though. Also, square breathing is great, breath in to 3, hold for 3, breath out for 3, hold for 3, repeat. Its something to focus on, very calming and assures that your not hyperventelating. Most times when someone feels they can’t breath they just breath all the harder which in effect turns into a bit of hyperventalation and doesn’t do any good at all.
Hope this helps.
That’s pretty much exactly what i go through. it starts out with not getting a full breath and then i think something may be wrong and it goes from there. but ever since i learned that it’s just a symptom of a panic attack i just layback and breath in only through my nose and constantly remind myself it’s just anxiety and it can’t hurt me. like the previous ppl said you won’t just stop breathing so when you feel like you didn’t get a good full breath just remind yourself oh ya that’s just my anxiety and also realize you are getting plenty of air, and don’t struggle for deeper breaths that just makes it worse. that works for me, hope it works for you. and if you want the lingering feeling of not enough air to go away then you have to find out the trigger. for me it was over thinking and dwelling. you should try to find your trigger. hope it works.
I use to get that all the time! When I was younger my mom would bring me a paper bag to breath in! As I got older I realized I could just cup my hands around my nose and my mouth and breath in and out slowly through my nose would help.
Sounds to me your hyperventilating which is definately part of anxiety!!!! Try not to fight it when it happens. Try the hand trick if your in public and if your at home use the paper bag until you get good at it!!!!
i also had that really bad years ago,and it lasted about a year,of course this was before they new much about anxiey.what was happening is my chest museles were so tight from the anxiety every time i would take a deep breath it would hurt,and of course that made me have more anxiety,but after finding out that is was just my musels i slowley began to feel alot better.even whlie i slept i was holding such i grip on my hole body,that really i hurt all over,but of course always noticed how my chest and back hurt the most.i hope you feel better soon………cathSometimes I feel like my ab muscles are so tight around my lungs that I can’t get a good breath in. Then, I start forcing the deep breathing which leads me to hyperventilate. I actually don’t experience panic attacks, but I panic at the onset of the side effects of hyperventiliation. Sheesh!Here is what I am going to try –
1. deep breathing exercises daily while calm
2. when I start to feel like I am not breathing in enough, I am just going to focus on relaxing all muscles in my abdomen (I read somewhere that you should try to go limp) and breathe subconsciously. i’m going to focus on something else besides my breathing – like my favorite beach.