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Posts tagged anxiety disorders

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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

The person who suffers from OCD, is continually plagued by anxieties. And though their fears are often rooted in reality they are usually extreme and irrational. They also interfere with the person’s daily life, are highly disruptive and strain relationships.

OCD has five categories of obsession. These are:

· Washers (people who are terrified of contamination)

· Checkers (people who are afraid that something terrible could happen – because they forgot to take some action)

· Doubters and sinners  (people who are afraid of being less than perfect – and are “waiting” to be caught and punished for their errors)

· Counters and arrangers (people who have an obsession with order and symmetry. They are often very superstitious, too)

· Hoarders (people who can’t throw anything away). Thus, they compulsively store items that they’ll never use.  Examples of the kinds of things they hoard include old newspapers, receipts or medicine bottles.

Other common thought obsessions include sexually explicit or violent thoughts, or the fear of harming yourself or other people. Other common compulsive behaviours include repeatedly checking on people you love to make sure they are alive and safe; or counting, tapping or doing senseless things to try and relieve their anxiety.

With respect to possible causes:

· Research indicates that close relatives of an OCD suffer are up to 50% more likely to develop OCD than someone with no family history.

· There is also a link between OCD and insufficient levels of serotonin. Furthermore, brain imaging techniques have shown that people with OCD have unusually high levels of activity in 3 areas of the brain …

(i) The caudate nucleus – which acts as a filter for thoughts coming from different areas of the brain. This is also the area which manages habitual and repetitive behaviours.

(ii) The prefrontal orbital cortex - Damage or low activity here is linked to feeling uninhibited, having poor judgment, and feeling intense guilt.

(iii) The cingulate gyrus - This area of the brain is believed to stimulate the emotional response to obsessive thinking. It also instructs us to perform compulsions – as a means of relieving anxiety.

In terms of psychological causes, behaviour theory proposes that OCD sufferers associate certain objects or situations with fear. Thus, they learn to avoid those fear-invoking stimuli by perform certain rituals. Cognitive therapists argue that whereas the majority of people can simply shrug off worries that pop into their mind, OCD sufferers cannot do not this. Instead, they ruminate on their fears.

Treatment does not usually focus on medications – although sometimes antidepressants will be combined with counselling. CBT is believed to be the most effective form of treatment. Srategies include helping the client to anticipate obsessive and compulsive urges – and then to take concrete steps to bring them under control. For example, if a client’s compulsive behaviour takes the form of repeatedly checking to see that their doors are locked, they could be encouraged to remove the keys after locking the door, and then put them in their pocket (where they’re easy to find).

Filed under counselling psychology therapy anxiety disorders anxiety OCD mental health mental illness self improvement self help online counselling college

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Tips for Stopping Worrying

1. Remind yourself that worrying doesn’t stop things happening. Things will happen – or not happen –anyway.

2. Recognise that “What ifs” don’t usually help with problem solving. It’s better to use logic, and brain storm for solutions. Take control of your emotions by using rational thinking.

3. Motivate yourself by something other than worrying. Take a break and do something fun, and then go back to your work again. That positive approach will reap more benefits.  

4. Face your fears – and do the things that you worry about. The thought is often much worse than the actual thing you fear.

5. Ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Then, “What are the chances that it will happen? Then “Will you survive it, if it happens, in the end?” Usually, that helps to move us from an extreme and irrational way of thinking to a more realistic, and reasonable way if thinking.

6. Teach yourself a range of relaxation strategies – and then concentrate on them instead of on your different fears. Or, adopt a mindful approach – and keep your focus on “right now”.

Filed under counselling psychology therapy worry anxiety anxiety disorders mental health mental illness self improvement self help wisdom education online counselling college

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. Any overwhelming life experience can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell. While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms:

1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event. This includes: Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event; flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again); nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things); feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma; and intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating).

2. Avoidance and numbing. This includes: Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma; inability to remember important aspects of the trauma; loss of interest in activities and life in general; feeling detached from others and emotionally numb; and a sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career).

3. Increased anxiety and emotional arousal: This includes: Difficulty falling or staying asleep; irritability or outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”); and feeling jumpy and easily startled.

Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include: Anger and irritability; guilt, shame, or self-blame; substance abuse; feelings of mistrust and betrayal; depression and hopelessness; suicidal thoughts and feelings; feeling alienated and alone; and physical aches and pains.

Treatment for PTSD relieves symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. Rather than avoiding the trauma and any reminder of it, treatment will encourage you to recall and process the emotions and sensations you felt during the original event. In addition to offering an outlet for emotions you’ve been bottling up, treatment for PTSD will also help restore your sense of control and reduce the powerful hold the memory of the trauma has on your life. Types of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)include:

1. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD and trauma involves carefully and gradually “exposing” yourself to thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind you of the trauma. Therapy also involves identifying upsetting thoughts about the traumatic event–particularly thoughts that are distorted and irrational—and replacing them with more balanced picture.

2. Family therapy. Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what you’re going through. It can also help everyone in the family communicate better and work through relationship problems caused by PTSD symptoms.

3. Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety.

4. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. These are thought to work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm

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Coping Statements for Anxiety

According to Dr T.A. Richards, we can stop thoughts that lead to anxiety by consciously replacing them by more rational thoughts like the following:

When Anxiety is Near:

1. I’m going to be all right. My feelings are not always rational. I’m just going to relax, calm down, and everything will be all right.

2. Anxiety is not dangerous — it’s just uncomfortable. I am fine; I’ll just continue with what I’m doing or find something more active to do.

3. Right now I have some feelings I don’t like. They are really just phantoms, however, because they are disappearing. I will be fine.

4. Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I’ll be fine. For now, I am going to focus on doing something else around me.

5. That picture (image) in my head is not a healthy or rational picture. Instead, I’m going to focus on something healthy like _________________________.

6. I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now. I am becoming better and better at deflecting these automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and that makes me happy.

7. So I feel a little anxiety now, SO WHAT? It’s not like it’s the first time. I am going to take some nice deep breaths and keep on going. This will help me continue to get better.”

When Preparing for a Stressful Situation

1. I’ve done this before so I know I can do it again.

2. When this is over, I’ll be glad that I did it.

3. The feeling I have about this trip doesn’t make much sense. This anxiety is like a mirage in the desert. I’ll just continue to “walk” forward until I pass right through it.

4. This may seem hard now, but it will become easier and easier over time.

5. I think I have more control over these thoughts and feelings than I once imagined. I am very gently going to turn away from my old feelings and move in a new, betterdirection.

When feeling overwhelmed

1. I can be anxious and still focus on the task at hand. As I focus on the task, my anxiety will go down.

2. Anxiety is a old habit pattern that my body responds to. I am going to calmly and nicely change this old habit. I feel a little bit of peace, despite my anxiety, and this peace is going to grow and grow. As my peace and security grow, then anxiety and panic will have to shrink.

3. At first, my anxiety was powerful and scary, but as time goes by it doesn’t have the hold on me that I once thought it had. I am moving forward gently and nicely all the time.

4. I don’t need to fight my feelings. I realize that these feelings won’t be allowed to stay around very much longer. I just accept my new feelings of peace, contentment, security, and confidence.

5. All these things that are happening to me seem overwhelming. But I’ve caught myself this time and I refuse to focus on these things. Instead, I’m going to talk slowly to myself, focus away from my problem, and continue with what I have to do. In this way, my anxiety will have to shrink away and disappear.

Source: http://www.anxietynetwork.com/helpcope.html

Filed under counselling psychology therapy anxiety mental health mental illness anxiety disorders CBT self improvement self help online counselling college

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Developmental Trauma Disorder

Developmental Trauma Disorder has been proposed for inclusion in DSM-V (due to be published in 2013). This would provide a comprehensive lens through which to view the behaviors of children who have experienced trauma during their early lives[1].

Risk Factors for developing the disorder include: multiple traumas or chronic exposure to traumatic experiences, such as neglect, abandonment, violence or any form of social, emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual abuse. Also, having multiple changes in primary care givers in early childhood.

Typical symptoms include the following:

·         Being unable to cope with, manage and regulate strong emotions

·         Being hypervigilant and over-reacting to minor or benign stimuli

·         Outbursts of anger and rage/ serious temper tantrums

·         Disturbances in regulation of normal bodily functions (sleeping, eating, and elimination)

·         Sensory over or under-reactivity

·         Experiencing dissociation

·         Being out of touch with/ unable to experience emotions

·         Symptoms associated with ADHD

·         Engaging in self harm, excessive thrill-seeking or risk-taking behaviours  

·         Demonstrating maladaptive self-soothing behaviours (such as lying in a foetal position, rocking and compulsive masturbation)

·         Being unable to initiate or sustain goal-directed behavior

·         In childhood and adolescence, assuming the role and responsibilities of the parent (parental role reversal)

·         Extremely poor self image and low self esteem

·         An inability to trust others

·         Over react to displays of physical or verbal aggression

·         Inappropriate physical or emotional intimacy

·         Lack of empathy for others.

Note: Often these traits will continue into adult life.



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Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of:

·         Domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse

·         Childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse

·         Entrapment or kidnapping.

·         Slavery or enforced labor.

·         Long term imprisonment and torture

·         Repeated violations of personal boundaries.

·         Long-term objectification (the practice of treating a person or a group of people like an object.)

·         Exposure to gaslighting (the practice of systematically convincing an individual that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false) and

·         Repeated false accusations

·         Long-term exposure to inconsistent, behaviours such as alternating raging and hovering behaviors.

·         Long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.

·         Long term exposure to crisis conditions.

When people have been trapped in a situation over which they had little or no control at the beginning, middle or end, they can carry an intense sense of dread even after that situation is removed. This is because they know how bad things can possibly be. And they know that it could possibly happen again. And they know that if it ever does happen again, it might be worse than before.

The degree of C-PTSD trauma cannot be defined purely in terms of the trauma that a person has experienced. It is important to understand that each person is different and has a different tolerance level to trauma. Therefore, what one person may be able to shake off, another person may not. Therefore more or less exposure to trauma does not necessarily make the C-PTSD any more or less severe.

C-PTSD sufferers may “stuff” or suppress their emotional reaction to traumatic events without resolution either because they believe each event by itself doesn’t seem like such a big deal or because they see no satisfactory resolution opportunity available to them. This suppression of “emotional baggage” can continue for a long time either until a “last straw” event occurs, or a safer emotional environment emerges and the damn begins to break.

The “Complex” in Complex Post Traumatic Disorder describes how one layer after another of trauma can interact with one another. Sometimes, it is mistakenly assumed that the most recent traumatic event in a person’s life is the one that brought them to their knees. However, just addressing that single most-recent event may possibly be an invalidating experience for the C-PTSD sufferer. Therefore, it is important to recognize that those who suffer from C-PTSD may be experiencing feelings from all their traumatic exposure, even as they try to address the most recent traumatic event.

This is what differentiates C-PTSD from the classic PTSD diagnosis - which typically describes an emotional response to a single or to a discrete number of traumatic events.

Source: http://outofthefog.net/CommonBehaviors/Objectification.html

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Phobias

A phobia is a persistent and irrational fear that causes a person to avoid something specific - despite the awareness that it is not dangerous. It is extremely common, especially amongst women.

Some common phobias include the following:

·         Acrophobia – a fear of heights

·         Agoraphobia – a fear of places where escape is impossible/ help is unavailable

·         Arachnophobia - a fear of spiders

·         Aviatophobia - a fear of flying

·         Claustrophobia - a fear of having no escape and being closed in

·         Cynophobia - a fear of dogs.

Some less common phobias include the following:

·         Barophobia a fear of gravity

·         Blennophobia – a fear of slime

·         Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia - a fear of long words

·         Omphalophobia - a fear of bellybuttons.

Phobias result in extreme distress, and they impair the individual’s ability to function at work, or in a social context. Psychological symptoms can include: feelings of fear, panic, dread, or terror that are out of proportion to the real danger posed. Physical and mental symptoms can include shaking, trembling, dizziness, sweating; difficulties with thinking, concentrating and remembering; feelings of nausea, thinking you are going to vomit; racing heart, palpitations, sweating, breathing difficulties and fainting

The DSM-IV distinguishes between two types of phobia: specific and social phobias. The former are described as being “unwarranted fears caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation”. They are categorised according to the source of the fear:

·         Blood, injuries, and injections

·         Situations (e.g., planes, elevators, enclosed spaces)

·         Animals

·         The natural environment (e.g., heights, water).

Social phobias are described as being “persistent, irrational fears linked to the presence of other people”. Thus, those with this disorder will try to avoid particular situations in which they might be evaluated ( For example, public speaking or performances, eating in a group or using public toilets.)

In some situations, mild phobias are viewed as being understandable and relatively normal.

For instance, there are many children who’re afraid of the dark, of scary monsters or of people like clowns. Although this is normal, and usually just “a stage”, if they persist over time or are incapacitating then the person can develop a true phobia. Phobias also develop in response to a trauma, such as being bitten by a dog as child. However, in other situations, there is no apparent trigger so the fear seems completely irrational.

In terms of treatment, the most popular approach is taking medication (antidepressant or anti-anxiety agents), especially when combined with CBT. In addition to this, behavioural therapy (systematic desensitisation) is also effective when treating phobias. Here, the person is gradually exposed to the feared object or situation while also being trained in how to manage the resultant anxiety.

Filed under counselling psychology therapy anxiety anxiety disorders abnormal psycholgy DSM phobias mental illness self improvement self help online counselling college

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PTSD and Dissociation

People with PTSD may also experience dissociation. Dissociation is an experience where a person may feel disconnected from himself and/or his surroundings. Similar to flashbacks, dissociation may range from temporarily losing touch with things that are going on around you (kind of like what happens when you daydream) to having no memories for a prolonged period of time and/or feeling as though you are outside of your body.

Both flashbacks and dissociation may occur as a result of encountering triggers, or a reminder of a traumatic event. To the extent that people are not aware of their triggers, flashbacks and dissociation can be incredibly disruptive and unpredictable events that are difficult to manage. However, you can take steps to better manage and prevent flashbacks and dissociation. These are described below.

Know Your Triggers

In coping with flashbacks and dissociation, prevention is key. Flashbacks and dissociation are often triggered or cued by some kind of reminder of a traumatic event (for example, encountering certain people, going to specific places), or some other stressful experience. Therefore, it is important to identify the specific things that trigger flashbacks or dissociation.

By knowing what your triggers are, you can either try to limit your exposure to those triggers, or if that is not possible (which is often the case), you can prepare for them by devising ways to cope with your reaction to those triggers.

In addition to reducing flashbacks and dissociation, knowing your triggers may also help with other symptoms of PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts and memories of a traumatic event.

Identify Early Warning Signs

Flashbacks and dissociation may feel as though they come “out-of-the-blue.” That is, they may feel unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, there are often some early signs that a person may be slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state. For example, a person’s surroundings may begin to look “fuzzy,” or someone may feel as though he is separating from or losing touch with his surroundings, other people, or even himself.

Flashbacks and dissociation are easier to cope with and prevent if you can catch them early on. Therefore, it is important to try to increase your awareness of early symptoms of flashbacks and dissociation. Next time you experience a flashback or dissociation, revisit what you were feeling and thinking just before the flashback or dissociation occurred. Try to identify as many early symptoms as possible. The more early warning signs you can come up with, the better able you will be to prevent future flashbacks or episodes of dissociation.

Learn Grounding Techniques

As the name implies, grounding is a particular way of coping that is designed to “ground” you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and reduce the likelihood that you slip into a flashback or dissociation. In this way, grounding may be considered to be very similar to mindfulness.

To ground, you want to use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight). To connect with the here and now, you want to do something that will bring all your attention to the present moment. A couple of grounding techniques are described below.

·         Sound: Turn on loud music: Loud, jarring music will be hard to ignore. And as a result, your attention will be directed to that noise, bringing you into the present moment.

·         Touch: Grip a piece of ice. If you notice that you are slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state, hold onto a piece of ice. It will be difficult to direct your attention away from the extreme coldness of the ice, forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.

·         Smell: Sniff some strong peppermint. When you smell something strong, it is very hard to focus on anything else. In this way, smelling peppermint can bring you into the present moment, slowing down or stopping altogether a flashback or an episode of dissociation.

·         Taste: Bite into a lemon. The sourness of a lemon and the strong sensation it produces in your mouth when you bite into it can force you to stay in the present moment.

·         Sight: Take an inventory of everything around you. Connect with the present moment by listing everything around you. Identify all the colors you see. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. List off all the noises you hear. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment.

Enlist the Help of Others

If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support. Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers and knows how to tell and what to do when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state.

Seek Treatment

In the end, the best way to prevent flashbacks and dissociation is to seek out treatment for your PTSD. Flashbacks and dissociation may be a sign that you are struggling to confront or cope with the traumatic event you experienced. Treatment can help with this. You can find PTSD treatment providers in your area through the Anxiety Disorder Association of America website, as well as UCompare HealthCare from About.com. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) also provides a wealth of information on the connection between trauma and dissociation, how to cope with dissociation, and provides links to therapists who treat trauma and dissociation.

Source: http://ptsd.about.com/od/selfhelp/a/flashcoping.htm

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Social Anxiety Disorder

Some random facts on social anxiety disorder …

1. It usually first appears in early adolescence - a time when we are highly conscious of the judgements and evaluations of others. Average of onset is 13 years of age.

2. According to Stansfeld et al. (2008) average duration is 20 years.

3. It is more common amongst divorcees, those who have never married, those who have not completed a secondary school education, those who are unemployed or who are employed in low income jobs, those who are lacking in social support, or those who have a chronic physical condition (Stansfeld et al., 2008).

4. Students diagnosed with this disorder tend to have a distorted body image, low self-esteem, experience educational impairment and are more likely to drop out of school (Stein & Kein, 2000).

5. Prevalence increases, and statistics shift to higher prevalence amongst females, as teengaers get older and move into early adulthood (Renata et al, 2009).

6. People diagnosed with this disorder report a poorer quality of life, are more likely to be bullied and victimised and, as parents reports higher levels of anxiety and depression (Renata et al, 2009).

Filed under social anxiety disorder anxiety anxiety disorders mental health mental illness counselling therapy psychology psychiatry online counselling college mood disorders social work life

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Exploring Panic Disorder (Panic Attacks)

This a very frightening disorder where the person fears they are losing control, going mad, or may even die. Symptoms are usually unexpected and often seem inexplicable. Occasionally they are triggered by specific situations - and this is then called a cued panic attack. Over time the person who is battling this disorder may come to fear having a panic attacks!  Symptoms of panic disorder include:

·         Nausea and/ or upset stomach

·         Sweating or chills

·         Numbness or tingling in the face, hands or feet

·         Pounding or racing heart

·         Feeling as if they are choking

·         Shortness of breath, chest pains or heart palpitations

·         Feeling faint or dizzy

·         Trembling or shaking

·         Fear that they are dying

·         Fear of losing control

·         Fear of impending doom

·         Feeling detached from reality.

Currently, the cause remains unknown, although genetics are thought to play a role. For example, twin studies have shown that where one identical twin is diagnosed with the disorder, then there is a 40% chance that the other twin will develop it, too. However, many sufferers have no family history. It is diagnosed more often in women than men. The most effective form of treatment is a combination of medication and CBT. Prescribed medication is usually a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Prozac or Paxil, an antidepressants such as Valium or, in severe cases, an antiseizure drug. In terms of counselling and psychotherapy, CBT helps the person to recognize, challenge and replace panic-causing thoughts. This, therefore, decreases their sense of helplessness. Relaxation exercises can help manage the stress, and reduce the symptoms, too.

Filed under panic disorder panic attacks medicine psychology psychiatry psychotherapy social work anxiety disorders mental health mental illness Abnormal Psychology abnormal behaviour online counselling college

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an extreme response to a severe stressor. It involves re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding stimuli associated with the trauma, a numbing of emotional responses, and symptoms of increased arousal. Examples of events that can lead to PTSD include: bombings, ferry or airplane disasters, war, acts of terrorism, witnessing a death, rape, physical assault and natural disasters. Most people will experience PTSD symptoms within 3 months of the traumatic event. However, some will have buried their experience so deeply that their symptoms may not surface for many years – but when they do they are powerful and incapacitating.

The symptoms which define this disorder can be summarised as follows:

1. Re-experiencing the crisis or trauma: Most commonly, the person is confronted with intense, overwhelming and recurrent flashbacks or night terrors of the traumatic event itself. Thus, they feel as if they’re re-living the trauma, and they have the same reactions as they had when the trauma occurred. For many people, the anniversary of the trauma, or being in situation that reminds of what happened, can unleash powerful emotions and feelings of distress.

2. Avoidance and emotional numbing: People who suffer from PTSD will generally do all they can to avoid situations which remind them of the traumatic experience. Emotional numbing is usually experienced immediately after the event. Also, usually the person withdraws from others (including their close friends and family), and derive no pleasure from their job, or other interests. They find it hard to feel and deal with emotions, especially those related to trust and intimacy. They also struggle with guilt, despair and meaninglessness. In rare cases, the person may experience blackouts and or may dissociate from everyday life.

3. Heightened vigilance and alertness: This prevents the individual from relaxing, concentrating and completing normal tasks. There is usually a marked change in their sleep patterns too – in the form of insomnia, disturbed sleep, wakening early in the morning or being troubled by nightmares. Many sufferers are jumpy, highly reactive, and much more aggressive than they were previously.

PTSD sufferers may also experience depression, generalised anxiety disorder, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dizziness, shaking, chest pains, stomach problems and memory problems. It is not uncommon for sufferers to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol.

In terms of causes, PTSD is a response to a psychologically traumatic event which involves actual or threatened serious injury and death to the person - or to others. The triggering event can be either an isolated incident or something distressing that is witnessed or experienced repeatedly. The victim may have been alone, or have been part of a large group.

It should be noted that the risk of PTSD increases with increased exposure to traumatic events; struggling with emotional issues prior to the trauma; lacking social support; being female, a child or an adolescent; having learning disabilities; or having witnessed or experienced violence in the home. Also, disaster-preparedness (professional training for emergency service workers) reduces the risk of developing the disorder.

Treatment for PTSD usually takes the form of medication for depression, anxiety or sleep disorder. CBT and exposure therapy are also popular. In exposure therapy the person is encouraged to re-live the trauma under controlled conditions with the counsellor at hand. Chance of recovery in higher when the disorder is diagnosed early, treatment is prompt, and the person has a strong support system in place.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an extreme response to a severe stressor. It involves re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding stimuli associated with the trauma, a numbing of emotional responses, and symptoms of increased arousal. Examples of events that can lead to PTSD include: bombings, ferry or airplane disasters, war, acts of terrorism, witnessing a death, rape, physical assault and natural disasters. Most people will experience PTSD symptoms within 3 months of the traumatic event. However, some will have buried their experience so deeply that their symptoms may not surface for many years – but when they do they are powerful and incapacitating.

The symptoms which define this disorder can be summarised as follows:

1. Re-experiencing the crisis or trauma: Most commonly, the person is confronted with intense, overwhelming and recurrent flashbacks or night terrors of the traumatic event itself. Thus, they feel as if they’re re-living the trauma, and they have the same reactions as they had when the trauma occurred. For many people, the anniversary of the trauma, or being in situation that reminds of what happened, can unleash powerful emotions and feelings of distress.

2. Avoidance and emotional numbing: People who suffer from PTSD will generally do all they can to avoid situations which remind them of the traumatic experience. Emotional numbing is usually experienced immediately after the event. Also, usually the person withdraws from others (including their close friends and family), and derive no pleasure from their job, or other interests. They find it hard to feel and deal with emotions, especially those related to trust and intimacy. They also struggle with guilt, despair and meaninglessness. In rare cases, the person may experience blackouts and or may dissociate from everyday life.

3. Heightened vigilance and alertness: This prevents the individual from relaxing, concentrating and completing normal tasks. There is usually a marked change in their sleep patterns too – in the form of insomnia, disturbed sleep, wakening early in the morning or being troubled by nightmares. Many sufferers are jumpy, highly reactive, and much more aggressive than they were previously.

PTSD sufferers may also experience depression, generalised anxiety disorder, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dizziness, shaking, chest pains, stomach problems and memory problems. It is not uncommon for sufferers to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol.

In terms of causes, PTSD is a response to a psychologically traumatic event which involves actual or threatened serious injury and death to the person - or to others. The triggering event can be either an isolated incident or something distressing that is witnessed or experienced repeatedly. The victim may have been alone, or have been part of a large group.

It should be noted that the risk of PTSD increases with increased exposure to traumatic events; struggling with emotional issues prior to the trauma; lacking social support; being female, a child or an adolescent; having learning disabilities; or having witnessed or experienced violence in the home. Also, disaster-preparedness (professional training for emergency service workers) reduces the risk of developing the disorder.

Treatment for PTSD usually takes the form of medication for depression, anxiety or sleep disorder. CBT and exposure therapy are also popular. In exposure therapy the person is encouraged to re-live the trauma under controlled conditions with the counsellor at hand. Chance of recovery in higher when the disorder is diagnosed early, treatment is prompt, and the person has a strong support system in place.

Filed under post traumatic stress disorder PTSD anxiety disorders counselling therapy psychiatry psychology abnormal psycholgy online counselling college stress trauma

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Exploring Panic Disorder

This a very frightening disorder where the person fears they are losing control, going mad or about to die. Symptoms are unexpected and seem inexplicable. Occasionally they are triggered by specific situations.  (This is called a cued panic attack.) Over time the person who is battling this disorder may come to fear having panic attacks!  

Symptoms of panic disorder include:

·         Nausea and/ or upset stomach

·         Sweating or chills

·         Numbness or tingling in the face, hands or feet

·         Pounding or racing heart

·         Feeling as if they are choking

·         Shortness of breath, chest pains or heart palpitations

·         Feeling faint or dizzy

·         Trembling or shaking

·         Fear that they are dying

·         Fear of losing control

·         Fear of impending doom

·         Feeling detached from reality.

The causes of the disorder are unknown. Genetics are thought to play a role. For example, studies indicate that where one identical twin is diagnosed with a panic disorder, then 40% of the other twins will develop the disorder, too. However, many sufferers have no family history. As with other anxiety disorders, panic disorders occur more frequently in women than men. However, it is rarely diagnosed in children.

In terms of treatment, the most effective approach appears to be a combination of medication and CBT. 

Prescribed medication is usually a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor such as Prozac or Paxil; an antidepressants such as Valium; or, in severe cases, an antiseizure drug. CBT helps the person to recognize, challenge and replace their panic-causing thoughts – which then decreases their sense of helplessness. Relaxation exercises can reduce the symptoms, too.

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4 notes

Exploring Phobias

A phobia is a persistent and irrational fear that causes a person to avoid something specific - despite the awareness that it is not dangerous. It is extremely common, especially amongst women.

Some common phobias include the following:

·         Acrophobia – a fear of heights

·         Agoraphobia – a fear of places where escape is impossible/ help is unavailable

·         Arachnophobia - a fear of spiders

·         Aviatophobia - a fear of flying

·         Claustrophobia - a fear of having no escape and being closed in

·         Cynophobia - a fear of dogs.

Some less common phobias include the following:

·         Barophobia a fear of gravity

·         Blennophobia – a fear of slime

·         Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia - a fear of long words

·         Omphalophobia - a fear of bellybuttons.

Phobias result in extreme distress, and they impair the individual’s ability to function at work, or in a social context. Psychological symptoms can include: feelings of fear, panic, dread, or terror that are out of proportion to the real danger posed. Physical and mental symptoms can include shaking, trembling, dizziness, sweating; difficulties with thinking, concentrating and remembering; feelings of nausea, thinking you are going to vomit; racing heart, palpitations, sweating, breathing difficulties and fainting

The DSM-IV distinguishes between two types of phobia: specific and social phobias. The former are described as being “unwarranted fears caused by the presence or anticipation of a specific object or situation”. They are categorised according to the source of the fear:

·         Blood, injuries, and injections

·         Situations (e.g., planes, elevators, enclosed spaces)

·         Animals

·         The natural environment (e.g., heights, water).

Social phobias are described as being “persistent, irrational fears linked to the presence of other people”. Thus, those with this disorder will try to avoid particular situations in which they might be evaluated ( For example, public speaking or performances, eating in a group or using public toilets.)

In some situations, mild phobias are viewed as being understandable and relatively normal. For instance, there are many children who’re afraid of the dark, of scary monsters or of people like clowns. Although this is normal, and usually just “a stage”, if they persist over time or are incapacitating, then the person can develop a true phobia. Phobias also develop in response to a trauma, such as being bitten by a dog as a child. However, in other situations, there is no apparent trigger so the fear seems completely irrational.

In terms of treatment, the most popular approach is taking medication (anti-depressant or anti-anxiety agents), especially when combined with CBT. In addition to this, behavioural therapy (systematic desensitisation) is also effective when treating phobias. Here, the person is gradually exposed to the feared object or situation while also being trained in how to manage the resultant anxiety.

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3 notes

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are extremely common; roughly one in five will have symptoms leading to a diagnosis (Klomp, Bland, Patterson & Whittaker, 2009). Women are at greater risk than men, with the highest prevalence found in those who between 15 and 24 years of age. Rates are especially high among college students. With respect to the general population, Social Anxiety Disorder is the most common anxiety disorder (Government of Canada, 2006), closely followed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Van Ameringen, Mancini, Patterson, & Boyle, 2008). The majority of those with anxiety disorder report that it greatly interferes with home, school, work and social life (Government of Canada, 2006).

Comorbidity with other disorders – for example, depressive disorder, substance abuse, bipolar disorder (Stansfeld et al, 2008) and pain (Asmundson & Katz, 2009) – is generally relatively high.

Drug treatments that reduce ANS arousal are often prescribed and have a positive effect. However, CBT and other talking therapies have more permanent or long lasting effect. This is because when drugs are discontinued, the anxiety related symptoms return (Ryan et al., 2008). Usually this is not the case with psychotherapy.

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14 notes

How Normal is Abnormal Behaviour?

Studies on the prevalence of mental illness have revealed how common it actually is. It appears that a staggering 48% will be diagnosed, at some point in their life, with a psychological or mental disorder (Kessler & Wang, 2008). Here is a summary of what the research shows:

An anxiety disorder – 28.8%

A mood disorder – 20.8%

Impulse control disorders – 24.8%

Substance abuse disorders – 14.6%

Any mental health disorder at all – 46.4%

Since almost half of us will fall into this group (of people diagnosed some form of mental illness) perhaps it should lessen the stigma attached to sufferers and their families.

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