anxiety, counseling, psychology, self-help, Uncategorized

Anticipatory Anxiety: Why We Need to Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety we experience in anticipation of exposure to our frightening triggers. Anticipatory anxiety is a more complex problem than other forms of anxiety because in our attempts to avoid what we fear, we only make our fear and anxiety THAT much stronger. The only way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to face your fear.

Anticipatory anxiety is a negative projection about an unknown outcome.

Common ways we cope with anticipatory anxiety?
-Drinking alcohol

-Taking anti-anxiety drugs

-Avoiding the source of our fear

-Seeking reassurance from others

If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you likely suffer from high negative emotions. You likely have high trait neuroticism. If you’re highly neurotic, it’s possible that you feel trapped by the trait’s maladaptive thought patterns, or struggle with depression or anxiety, both of which are more likely to occur in highly neurotic individuals. (If you are interested in finding your level of neuroticism, I copied and pasted a link to the Big Five Factor test that assesses levels of neuroticism as one of the fundamental personality traits).

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/IPIP-BFFM/

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If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you are likely NOT open to new experiences. Anything that is not routine and within your comfort zone is going to spike your baseline anxiety levels. People who struggle with anxiety tend to be high in neuroticism and low on openness to new experiences.

If you struggle with this type of anxiety, you hate dealing with uncertainty. The problem with this is life is chock full of uncertainties. The thing is some people are okay with having a lot of uncertainty in their lives, and other people cannot stand even a small amount of uncertainty.

Some people may be temperamentally more “high-strung” and biologically more vulnerable to anxiety. It is important you seek treatment as left untreated it tends to worsen with age. Learning coping skills to mitigate anxiety is transformational to those who suffer.

Some common traits of people who are intolerant of uncertainty:

  • Seeking excessive reassurance from others: You want others to agree with you or reassure you. This might be asking friends or family their opinion on a decision that you have to make or asking for excessive support
  • List-making: As a way of eliminating uncertainty, some people will make long and detailed “to do” lists, sometimes several lists every day
  • Double checking: For example, calling loved ones repeatedly to “make sure” that they are okay, or re-reading emails several times to check that they are perfect and that there are no spelling mistakes
  • Refusing to delegate tasks to others: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty will not allow anyone either at work or at home to do certain tasks; this is because they cannot be “sure” that it will be done correctly unless they do it
  • Procrastination/avoidance: Because being uncertain can cause anxiety, some people simply procrastinate or avoid people, places or situations. If you do not do something, then you don’t have to feel uncertain about it
  • Distraction: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty keep themselves “busy” most of the day, that way, they don’t have the time to think about all the uncertainty in life

A common way we see anticipatory anxiety play out is in a common fear many people have which is of flying.

Here is how it plays out.

If you are phobic of flying, booking a flight might bring upon some anxiety. The week before the trip, your anxiety will likely begin to escalate. By the night before you are scheduled to fly, you may be on the verge of having a panic attack. In anticipatory anxiety, you imagine the future. You experience an imaginary airplane, not a real one.  You imagine what might happen if you get on the plane. You are at home, imagining one or a variety of imaginary in-flight disasters.Or feeling anxious about being trapped in a rocket ship (your own “internal” claustrophobia). You see stress depends upon imagination. Note I am saying you “imagine” because your imagination is creating the worst case scenario. Anticipatory anxiety has you amping up your stress response and mentally psyching yourself out.

When the day comes and it is time to leave for the airport you may feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Your imagination runs wild. You will continue to feel your anxiety escalate as you drive to the airport, go through security, and sit waiting for your plane to board.

Yet when you actually board the plane and take it off, you actually feel okay during the flight. This is because anticipatory anxiety is different from phobic anxiety. Yet while flying you may feel okay, if you were to think about scheduling ANOTHER flight, your anticipatory anxiety would ramp up. The thing about anxiety is it is often quite  irrational in nature.

Anticipatory anxiety is the fear and dread you experience before the event or situation.

It’s what’s at play when you spend weeks dreading the results of a doctor’s appointment, yet the news is benign and manageable. Or when you have social anxiety–you may struggle with the decision to accept or decline attending a friend’s birthday, but eventually give in and go, and have a great time!  “Why did I do that to myself?” you wonder.

Most people experience anticipatory anxiety, every once and awhile. This experience is the body’s normal response to perceived future threats. In the days and hours leading up to an important event you may be anxious and nervous, which is the stress response in action. It is anticipating the need to protect the body from threat or danger. Although this system is critical to our survival when there is actual threat or danger, it’s a big problem when there isn’t.

People who struggle with anxiety tend to have faulty cognitions. This is why CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be so helpful in the treatment of this disorder. It is understandable that during times of high stress and uncertainty emotions run high. However, people who are anxious perpetually suffer from high stress and out of control emotions. Anxiety suffers tend to see things in black or white terms, in other words, as right or wrong, moral or immoral. They are not able to see the nuances and complexities of situations.

Common areas of anticipatory anxiety include:

  • Applying for a new job
  • Speaking in public or other performances
  • Going on a date or to a party
  • Joining a club, team or sport
  • Starting a job
  • Preparing for an interview
  • Going on vacation
  • Tests, projects and oral reports
  • Life changes: getting married, having a baby, buying a house, relocating, retiring

Underlying this sense of anxiety is the feeling that you cannot handle whatever it is you fear. It is a lack of confidence in your ability to cope.

Yet every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised immensely. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably. You realize you can handle WHATEVER life throws at you.

Being anxious leads to behavior that drives others away. When we struggle with anxiety we feel compelled to control other people and our environment. Anxiety leads us to manipulate others because we desperately need them to act in a way that feels safe to us or predictable. It is a self-defeating strategy as this type of attitude will act a repellant to healthy-functioning people.

Once you have this confidence, you are able to face challenges head on because you are not dependent on a particular outcome. You know no matter the outcome you can cope.

People who struggle with anxiety lack the confidence to cope with stress. Remember true security and confidence is knowing you can handle things. Underlying any anxiety disorder is a lack of trust in ourselves.

Think of it this way: IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD HANDLE ANYTHING LIFE THROWS AT YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT? The answer is: NOTHING!

Remember that the mind and body is designed to adapt. Too often people forget the inherent resilience of the human spirit. As long as you continue to face the things you fear, your anticipatory anxiety should subside. Short-term use of medications that calm anxiety may also be useful — talk to your doctor to find out what is best for you.

As long as you continue to grow and evolve, there will be new challenges and fears to face.

So the choice is yours. Grow, evolve, and face your fears OR choose to stay stagnant and in a bubble throughout your life. If you continue to do what you have always done, you will get the same results. If you want new results, you need to try a new approach.

Attempting to do anything new is uncomfortable and anxiety producing. This is a universal human experience. But anxiety is paradoxical–face the painful feelings now and feel incredible after or feel relief now and face the painful feelings later. We must push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Because in doing so we get to the other side: a place of genuine growth and a better version of yourself.

Remember coping with anxiety is a life long process. Be kind to yourself.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

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anger management, counseling, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, loneliness, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help, Uncategorized

Emotional Dysregulation: Can You Recognize An Emotionally Immature Person?

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Can you recognize an emotionally immature person? A person whose emotional age is far behind their chronological age.

Of course, this does not include children and adolescents. Children and adolescents are not expected to have a full grasp of their emotions. Part of their development process is learning how to regulate and control their emotional responses.

Yet once we reach adulthood, you will encounter two distinct types of people: the emotionally mature and the emotionally immature. You will be able to detect quite quickly the type you are dealing with.

Emotionally mature people master control of their emotions meaning they are emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation involves maintaining thoughts, behaviors and expressions within a socially acceptable range. Therefore, you are not going to break down in tears in public or in the middle of a tense work meeting. You are not going to start screaming at other people or make a scene in public. You are not going to hurl insults and name call your coworkers or clients. You are able to appropriately respond to life stressors. Emotionally immature people never develop this ability and tend to struggle with emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is a term used in the mental health community to refer to an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts or behavior outbursts such as crying or melting down, high levels of anxiety, being inflexible, aggression towards self or others, inability to adapt, etc.

Emotion dysregulation is associated with many psychiatric disorders such as major depression, PTSD and C-PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder/borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse.

Emotional maturity is defined by the ability to control your emotions and take full responsibility for your life.  A large part of being emotionally mature is having the ability to handle anger, disappointment, fear, jealousy, resentment, insecurity, and a myriad of other feelings appropriately. Emotional maturity is defined when you have the ability to experience these emotions and then let them go. People who are immature seem to remain stuck in these negative emotions, unable to get past them.

Emotional maturity is the ability to see life clearly and accurately, and to deal with it. Often we may not like how it is but we are mature enough to recognize that it is what it is. We are not in control of much in life–including circumstances and other people. For many of us, this is just a given.

Emotionally immature people cannot do this-they often expect life to be easy or comfortable all the time and if it isn’t—they look at who or what is to blame. They often try to control others and their environment since they struggle to control themselves. These are very childish people in terms of their emotional responses.

No matter who we are, we will all eventually meet, perhaps at work or our extended social circle, an impossibly immature person.  The person may look mature, and have many adult responsibilities, but emotionally, they are still a child. A person who can at times present themselves appropriately but can turn on a dime acting hurtful, rude, inappropriate, tactless,and dangerously childish whenever the need suits them.

Emotionally immature people can be extremely challenging to deal with, because their ability to interpret and react to the variety of life’s challenges is often impaired.

Emotional immature adults are known to throw “adult temper tantrums.”  Whereas adults tend to stay calm, emotionally immature adults are quick to anger and rage. They cannot control their emotions much like a toddler. They can cry uncontrollably and be unable to hold themselves together when confronted with the slightest inconvenience or the smallest amount of stress.

Now this is to not say we all do not have our moments. None of us are perfect and we all will have our off days. What I am talking about here is a pattern of behavior over time.

Emotionally immature people tend to struggle with emotional dysregulating i.e. the ability to regulate their emotion responses.

Whereas mature adults, respond not react, immature adults are impulsive and can blurt out hurtful, tactless words.  Mature adults recognize sometimes it is better to say nothing than to say something we will live to regret. We are not going to flip out on our boss because we got passed on for a promotion or tell our sister to screw off because we are upset with her. We are able to think before we speak as to not make things worse for ourselves (and others). This is because people who are psychologically mature have impulse control. Emotionally immature people never cultivated such an impulse control.

Often for one reason or another, the person never quite grew up.

Below are the telltale signs of an emotionally immature person:

  • A person who is emotionally immature will: be reactive; see himself as a victim; act out his emotions (intense or gut reactions, like explosive anger, sudden crying, etc)
  • A person who, like a two-year old will throw temper tantrums because they are entitled to get their way even to the detriment of those closest to them (they feel they have the right to attack anyone who thwarts their wants, needs, goals)
  • A person who is be self-centered and concerned with self-protection; appear to always be justifying his actions to himself or others
  • A person will be manipulative; be motivated by fear or a feeling that he “has to” do something,” as well as a need to avoid failure, discomfort, and rejection
  • A person who whines & complains frequently or literally acts like a crybaby
  • A person who must be right and is incapable of hearing differing viewpoints
  • A person who escalates things emotionally
  • A person who loves to blame and name call
  • A person who has a low frustration tolerance. They are not able to deal with every day stress. As the result, they will become excessively emotional
  • A person who speaks recklessly without thinking about potential consequences (adults resist the urge to react in order to avoid shooting out hurtful words/action–they self-soothe). Such a person believes they can blurt out whatever they think or feel even if it hurts or alienates those around them
  • A person who bullies. Adults respect boundaries.  Emotionally immature adults do not
  • A person who has immature defense mechanisms. Children tend to regard the best defense as a strong offense.  Similarly an emotionally immature adult attacks anyone who expresses a viewpoint different from what they want
  • A person who is passive-aggressive. Subtle insults, sullen behavior, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks.

As we grow up and mature, we learn that much of life we cannot control including other people and circumstances. We recognize life is constant change. The ability to adapt and evolve is a must.

We recognize much of life is unfair.

We do not get the job we deserve. We are passed over for the promotion. We have health problems. Financial problems. People we love pass away. Friendships fade, relationships end. People we love move away. We do not have perfect parents, the perfect partner. We are not perfect partners or parents either.

Yet there is a sense of humility in the emotionally mature. With emotionally maturity comes the recognition that many things in life are complicated. We develop the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. We humble ourselves when necessary. We also recognize most things will pass and get better. If we let them. But emotionally immature people cannot get out of their own way.

Emotionally mature people recognize the complexities of life. We will not always get what we want. We will be disappointed. We cannot always get our way. Things will not always go according to our plans. Other people will let us down. We will let ourselves down.

As a counselor, often what brings people initially into treatment is an ongoing struggle with an important relationship in their lives: spouse, child, parent, etc. Our level of maturity will determine how we manage everything in life including our relationships.

Emotional mature people are able to acknowledge others are entitled to live their lives the way they see fit, to not like us; to leave us. We understand others have the right to speak badly about us, or even to hate us. This is not to say we do not try to discuss it with the person at hand or make things better but we know that this is not always possible. As I wrote on a previous post, this is where it is important to be psychologically flexible.

Emotionally mature people recognize we are only in control of ourselves. This is where our power is. We can be agents of positive change or negative change, the choice is ours. Mature people recognize they are not entitled to anything in life. A mature individual does not lose control and give into irrational thoughts simply because they haven’t gotten their way.

As a clinician, it surprises me how many people growing up, were never taught coping skills. I have seen many people were never taught to self soothe or regulate their emotions. They never learned how to effectively handle the problems in their life or deal with stressors. Some people will not be able to cope with the difficulties of life and do not have the ability to face and overcome obstacles. These people will continue to exhibit childish behaviors.We all have our bad days but if you generally function as a grown-up, the more clear you are about what qualifies grown-up behavior, the more you will be able to stay a grown-up even when you are interacting with someone who is acting like a child.

Emotion regulation is essential for healthy functioning (Grecucci, Theuninck, Frederickson, & Job, 2015). If you experience emotion dysregulation, you should consider seeking qualified professional help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

aging, counseling, psychology, self-help

Do You Feel “Old?”

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There is a lot of things that suck about getting older.

There is a reason they say getting old is not for the faint of heart.

Fine lines, high blood pressure, slower metabolisms, gray hairs, never-ending bills. Just to name a few.

Psychologically speaking, aging can be daunting, to say the least.

Then there is the narcissistic injury that comes with aging. NONE of us get to escape it. As we pass our prime, it is with a growing awareness that younger people coming after us haven’t yet reached their peak. You look at younger people and see the torch has been passed to a new generation. The generational guard has changed. It is THEIR turn. Yours has come and passed to a larger extent. The next generation is still building and designing their lives: education, marriage, kids, houses, careers, ambitions. Whereas you life in comparison feels relatively set.

It can be a bummer to say the least.

Perhaps “excitement” feels like an emotion of yesteryear.

And then of course is the startlingly realization there are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it once we reach a certain age.  Everyone is winging it, some just do it with more aplomb.

Yet there is also something extremely liberating about getting older: a shift in perspective, one that comes hard-won.

At some point you start to say to yourself: “I’m too old for this.”

This has become my M.O. for how I view certain things in life. I have been practicing it frequently and often, amazed at how I can ignore nuisances that once would have gotten to me or upset me. How much easier it gets with each passing year to be comfortable in your own skin.

Getting older helps you gain such awareness of yourself and all the trivial things you have wasted your time on over the years.

All the silly things that you spent your time and energy on. Oy. Wasted moments, days, months…(hopefully not years).

What have I come to realize I am too old for?

Judgments. My own (self-directed ones mostly). You know that voice in your head. The one saying you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, pretty enough, thin enough. I’m trying not to judge myself so harshly for being human. For some reason, this non-judgment comes so naturally in my role as a clinician, working with others, but is more of a challenge with myself. I feel we struggle for years to accept our imperfections. Yet the fact remains we are all flawed. I can list off my many flaws– I sleep with my makeup on. I eat sweets more often than I should. I skip the morning workout session to get the extra 20 minutes of sleep to power through a 14 hour work day. I skip exercise on the weekends to do a bottomless mimosa brunch. I cannot draw or do anything artistic to save my life. I can on and on.

Letting others make my decisions.  When we are children, we yield to our parents. Sadly many people never outgrow this inclination to yield their decision-making to others. Some live their whole lives yielding to the will of others. Sure, you may have family/spouse/friends whose insight you may seek, but you are no longer making decisions based on what others think you should do. You are making decisions based on what is right for you. It’s liberating. There is nothing sadder than someone who lives their whole life living for the approval of others (which may never even be granted).

Expectations–Unrealistic ones specifically (both for myself and others). Figuring out how to manage my expectations without sacrificing my sense of idealism has been a struggle. I see the struggle play out with clients in our sessions, many who find it challenging to manage expectations in their relationships. It is so hard for many of us to accept other people are not here to meet our expectations. You see our expectations are based on our experiences and we all travel different paths on journey through life. I am mindful that all people have their own hopes, dreams, identities, ways of operating, and plans for their lives. Letting go of expectations are a must if you want to have an inner sense of peace and healthy, enduring relationships.

In my work as a therapist, I’ve met with many clients who share with me their disappointment with their friends, family, and coworkers. Disappointment is a soul crushing emotion. Clients share it is hard for them to let go and forgive the mistakes of others. Others cannot forgive themselves. I can relate to the feeling-I have been there far too many times than I care to admit. A huge part of my own personal growth was freeing myself from external expectations–the ones held by others towards me and vice versa. I gently remind clients (and myself) we are ALL doing the best we can at our personal level of development. It is important to live with an internal locus of control.

I am too old to keep my mouth shut when I see injustice— Life is not fair. That is a given. But I cannot enable bad behavior–especially in the large issues facing our society (in politics we see bad behavior playing out on the daily). I no longer want to keep my mouth shut when I see an injustice. Or feel one. It’s not that I never spoke out, there were times when I did, but it was usually on behalf of someone else. I never tolerated people mistreating people I cared about. But I learned life is short and the older you get your time is PRECIOUS.  We need to serve goals and issues outside of our selves.  Injustice to others is injustice to all.

Thinking something is the end of the world. Emotional scenes are tiring and pointless. Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Reacting no longer seems necessary. If you get treated like shit, it would be wise to exit stage left.

Spending unnecessary time with people I don’t care for — I struggle to be around people who mean, petty, and close-minded. I think we all can relate to being in situations where people are squabbling over something asinine and thought what am I doing here? Life is too short to spend unnecessary time with people who are not in aligned with your values.  The friends you keep in your life have your back… you weed out the others. It saves a lot of emotional angst. Ones of the perks of getting older is your circle gets smaller, but with quality people.

I am too old to try to change people.  People’s youthful quirks can harden into adult pathologies. What is cute and harmless at 25 is pathological by 40. Be wary of people who are committed to the same misery instead of trying to change things for the better. By now I’ve learned, the very hard way, that what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get in perpetuum. I have come to realize people find comfort in the predictability, even the ritualization, of the same problems with the same people over and over again. Instead of going through the struggle of changing dynamics for the better, people rather stay stuck in the familiar misery they know.

Marriages, friendships, family relationships….people do-si-do, round and round until the music stops. People will go through the same toxic, unhealthy patterns just because it is familiar.

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? We should simply walk away. We get to not just be too old for but too wise for such nonsense.  At my age and in my field, I can spot trouble coming a mile away  (believe me, this is a big improvement). I spare myself a great deal of suffering, and as we all know, there is plenty of that to be had without looking for more.

To think I am special. Growing up, the “special” movement was full swing. Trophies for everyone! The fact remains more about you is universal than not universal. I feel a small percentage of us is unique but for the most part we are part of the cohort. A bit disappointing and also a relief.  We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But the fact is, most of us are pretty average at most things we do.

For firsts. When we are young, we have plenty of firsts.  So many great new experiences! First day of school. First day of summer vacation. First date. First kiss. First real relationship. First terrible breakup. First real job. First… you get the point. When we’re young, life is full of firsts. I am too old for many firsts. But I look forward to not firsts, but different times. It may not be a first time but it will be a different time.

As you can see with time you evolve, just as the world does.  One upside to getting older? Research shows the older we get, the happier we are. Studies show as we get, our overall mental health, including mood,  sense of well-being and ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life.

Something to look forward to.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

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counseling, psychology, self-help

Panic Attacks: When We Fear Our Fear

Imagine…your heart is pounding. You suddenly feel like you can’t breathe. You wonder if you are dying and feel like you are going CRAZY.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what it feels like to have a panic attack.

panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

What You Feel

A panic attack means you experience some of these following symptoms (from WebMD):

  • Feel like you’re losing control or going crazy
  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • An out-of-body sensation
  • Like you’re choking
  • A fear that you’re dying
  • Tingling or numb hands, arms, feet, or legs

While extremely unpleasant, panic attacks are NOT life threatening.

As a clinician, I can see the anxiety become palpable as my clients describe this debilitating disorder to me in great detail. Panic disorder has a way of making someone live in terror of the next attack. You see the thing about people who suffer from panic disorder is they begin to fear their fear. A panic attack is an extreme form of fear that causes physical and physiological symptoms. But a panic attack is not physically or medically dangerous. You are not in ANY danger of dying when you suffer from a panic attack but in that moment you truly may think you are dying. It is THAT psychological painful.

Panic attacks can lead you to constrict your life out of fear of having an attack in a place where you perceive there to be NO escape. Unfortunately, when I work with people who suffer from panic disorder, I often see symptoms of agoraphobia present as well. I will see people refuse to drive, refuse to leave their house without a “safe” person with them (someone they can turn to for help if a panic attack arises), struggle with social situations out of fear of having an attack in front of people, refuse to be in crowded places such as malls and concerts, and be afraid of any activity that reminds them even remotely of their panic attacks.

This is no way to live.

Panic disorder is NOT a life sentence.

People who struggle with this disorder start to limit their worlds: being particular with where they will go and what they will do. They try to be as “safe” as humanly possible.

Vigorous exercise may become a no go because the rising heart rate reminds them of their last panic attack when their chest was POUNDING. Caffeine is treated like it is poison because of the jittery, sweaty, high blood pressure feeling it produces which brings about a flashback of their last panic attack. Going into a hot tub and starting to sweat? No way—I can pass out in here and drown, they may tell them self.

One’s thoughts become increasingly irrational with panic disorder.

Anything that produces symptoms similar to a panic attack (increased heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath) will be avoided at all cost. Driving on the highway where you can’t get off an exit for another THIRTY miles? NO WAY. I am not getting STUCK.

The thing is the fear of being stuck and or in a place of no escape is a form of “internal” claustrophobia~existing in one’s mind and not in the external world.

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You see panic disorder and agoraphobia go hand-in-hand.

IF you suffer from panic attacks on the regular, you may begin to fear you have will have another attack at the worst possible moment. In the middle of a presentation at work, waiting on-line at the store, driving on a bridge, flying where there is no perceived escape, at a social gathering–embarrassing yourself in front of many with nowhere to hide….

These fears can be so powerful you can begin to plan your life around them—allowing your range of experiences to become smaller and smaller. Your world becomes limited.

What can you do if you suffer from panic attacks?

Consider seeking treatment immediately. This is not something you should struggle through on your own. Counseling can help you with coping skills, relaxation techniques, and help you become cognizant of how one’s thoughts can amp up our body’s fight/flight response.

You see a panic attack is a response to something we view as threatening–even if in actual there is NO REAL DANGER FACING US. We can be triggered by other people, certain places, or the mere thought of facing down our fear.

During a panic attack, our body’s alarm response is triggered even in the absence of real danger.

Remember, you can overcome your panic disorder. When we avoid panic or treat it like our enemy, it will in turn ONLY get stronger. Don’t run away from that which you fear–it will only strengthen it. Accepting you struggle with anxiety is the first step to becoming better.

Acceptance drops our resistance.

Be gentle and kind to yourself. Don’t judge and criticize yourself for panicking. This will only make your more susceptible to an attack.  YOU ARE NOT WEAK.

This disorder is HIGHLY responsive to treatment. Taking care of your mental health should always be a top priority. 

And remember…this too shall pass. What you resist will persist. Do not try to fight the feelings of anxiety and panic.

Stay calm.

Breath through the thoughts and feelings.

Remember: 1) You are not going to die; 2) This is a panic attack and it WILL end — it will not go on forever; 3) Work to calm your baseline anxiety which will help reduce the severity and the duration of the panic attack — going to a quiet place, focusing on regulating your breathing, stating over and over again, even if you don’t believe it, “I will be okay, this too shall pace, I am safe.”

You WILL come out on the other side.

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Below I share with you a TED talk from my fellow UDEL alum, Summer Beretsky, on the struggle of dealing with anxiety & panic disorder.

 

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, psychology, self-help

Can You Tolerate Uncertainty? The Answer May Reveal Why You Struggle with Anxiety

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We live in an age of uncertainty.

Not knowing can be the worse.

 All of us experience anxiety from time to time. 

It is a part of the human condition to feel the discomfort that is anxiety. Many of our “firsts” trigger such feelings of anxiety-our first day of school, our first time away from home, our first date, our first kiss, our first job.

Anxiety can also be brought on by life events: going away to college, getting married, your first job, having a baby, buying a house, getting divorced, selling your house, retirement. Any major life change, positive or negative, can produce worries and feelings of apprehension. In life changing moments or when you are in unfamiliar waters, these feelings are to be expected.

As human beings, we have a tendency to hate change.

Dealing with an uncertainty is an inevitable part of life. None of us can predict the future. For some of us this is just an inalienable truth to life–none of us know what the future will bring. But for others, their INability to tolerate uncertainty causes distress and suffering.

Anxiety is the root cause of controlling behavior. Many people struggle to control themselves, the people in their lives, and their environment. For them, this is a way to try to ensure certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.

Some of us can tolerate a large amount of uncertainty in our lives but for others even a small amount can feel unbearable.

The sad thing for people who suffer with anxiety is they miss out on many of the unpredictable, unplanned for moments of life that come with going with the flow. Of spontaneity. Of just waiting to see how the day unfolds.

For people who cannot stand uncertainty–their increasing levels of anxiety makes their world smaller and smaller. If anxiety isn’t effectively managed it can take over your life.

Anxiety suffers tend to use safety behaviors designed to eliminate uncertainty.

As many as 1 of 4 adults suffer–meaning there are people in your life who struggle with this disorder and you may have no idea.

Anxiety is the most common mood disorder in the United States (NIMH).

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If you are wondering if you or someone you know may be struggling with anxiety below are some behaviors and red flags of people with high anxiety:

~You have trouble having fun

~Seeking reassurance from others

~Withdrawing from others

~Sleep disturbances

~Refusing to delegate tasks to others

~Difficulty focusing

~Mood swings

~Procrastinating

~Needing to be in your comfort zone (usually your house or some other environment you feel in control of)

~Planning things down to the minute (can’t let others make the plans)

~Unwilling to travel to new places (or at all)

~Relationship issues (constantly checking in, codependency, not going anywhere without your partner)

~Overthinking

~Struggling with anger

~Second guessing (yourself and others)

~Underemployment or unemployment

~Difficulty with change

~Preparing for every possibility (or trying to)

~Having a dislike for anything new (new equates to uncertain)

~Avoidance of said new places, new people, new experiences

~Avoiding any situation (or person) you feel you cannot control

 

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If you recognize yourself in these behaviors, there are steps you can take to mitigate your anxiety.

1)Stay in the present moment. Anxiety comes from projecting our attention into the future. Anxiety is negative thoughts about the future–negative what-ifs and worst case scenarios. Practice bringing your attention back to the present when you feel your anxiety levels rising.

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2)Expose yourself to the things that make you anxious. Avoidance behavior is an effective way to relieve anxiety in the short-term, but increase your anxiety in the long-term. Anxiety will continue to make your world smaller and smaller unless you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Take baby steps out of your comfort zone.

3)Reflect on your personality. Certain personalities are more prone to anxiety–some people have a more active brain than others–reflecting, worrying, analyzing things to death. You may worry too much about what others think or about making a mistake. If you fall into this category, you are more likely to struggle with anxiety.

4)Stop focusing on yourself. Anxiety is a very much a focus on your feelings, your thoughts, your reactions. A large part of anxiety is centered on how things affect YOU. Try to step outside of yourself and focus on helping out someone else. As someone who works in a helping profession, I find helping others is one of the most effective ways to lessen my OWN worries and anxious thoughts. It is hard to sit in worry and anxiety when you are busy with connecting and helping others.

5)Seek counseling. A good therapist has numerous technique and coping skills they can provide you with. They can also help you work through the root causes of your worries. Counseling is a good place to start your recovery from anxiety.

And lastly, what is the likelihood something bad will happen? I often have my clients discuss with me things they worried about that never came to fruition. It helps them to recognize that most of the things we worry about, never happen.

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