A Drug To Cure Fear?

Taken from the New York Times  which is found   HERE.

A Personal Update

I have been a bit lax on posting new articles lately. I’m hoping to correct that soon while keeping in mind the world will continue if I don’t! 🙂

A number of years ago I left a church under negative circumstances. Since that time I’ve had some rough times with anxiety and depression.

Being that I can’t travel far to go to church the choices we have had have been limited. Sadly the churches we did attend were not a fit for us and I was losing hope a church wasn’t in our future.

A month ago we decided to try two churches that were nearby. When we attended one of those for the first time the main issue for us was the church was so small. My wife and I are shy by nature.

After attending for a few more weeks we were feeling maybe this is a place we can land and call home. I set an appointment with the senior pastor and we met for 90 minutes.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with how he answered my questions and concerns. I was forgetting genuine pastors still existed who I felt comfortable enough to attend their fellowships without worrying about any of the stuff I’ve experienced in the past.

We had attended another church for a time until things became very unacceptable and we had no choice but to leave.

I know a lot of believers who live with mental illness have left church because of pain that was inflicted upon them for one reason or another. I can fully relate to that.

Maybe you are one of those people???  The idea of being hurt again is something you can’t begin to imagine. The stigma is too much. It’s not worth the risk.

I don’t know how this chapter of my life will unfold but I confess I am excited for the future. I still have issues I’m wrestling with but that’s okay. We all have issues. It’s when we think we don’t is when real damage can be done.

I’m trying to look ahead and not beat myself up over past mistakes as the enemy would have me do. Most importantly I want to be able to trust God with my life and that will be a challenge. But there’s a flicker of hope. That’s all I desire for now. I desire it for you as well.  Allan

My Story From The Beginning: Part 1

Joel 2:25  And I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the locust larvae, and the stripping locust, and the cutting locust, My great army which I sent among you

I grew up scared. Fear was my constant companion. At times my fear amped up to terror. Typically this took place with nobody knowing and me learning to adapt by self preservation. I guess it was very early avoidance behavior.

In my teens I was a very good athlete. I excelled in most everything. I loved when my excellence was noticed.

But ask me to defend myself against anyone and I could not bring myself to do it. My will had been broken along the way.

meeeeeee

I made it through high school and ended up working in a factory doing machine work. I spent thirteen years at a job I really didn’t care for. It paid the bills so I stayed with it.

The truth was I didn’t believe I could do anything that required skill. My self confidence had been broken along the way.

It was during those thirteen years I married and came to faith. I will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of both of those events in 2016.

I served God with passion in those early years. All I wanted to do was share my faith with others. All of my fears faded into the background for a time. Then life happened. As the late John Lennon sang “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Things began happening with me in about 1974 and it all culminated in about 1995 when I had my first full blown panic attack.

Through the years leading up to this I experienced different things I kept to myself. I found myself having trouble eating meat. I had trouble swallowing it and I feared choking so I gave up steak and other meat.

meee____

 

I also found myself pacing my apartment at night with my finger on my neck. My pulse would be racing and I thought I was on the verge of a heart attack. I went to see a doctor and he pretty much patted me on the head and sent me on my way.

 

I would not go to the dentist. The first time I went was when I was 16 and it was a bad experience. I avoided doctors like the plague. I was scared if I went they would find something terminal or require me to do something that terrified me.

These were things that took place before I came to faith. All of these mixed feelings were beginning to build up within me. This set the stage for my life up to this point. Next time I’ll describe how I tried to COPE.  Allan

 

 

 

 

Myths About Agoraphobia

Taken from Fear Of  which is found  HERE.

Agoraphobia is the irrational fear of having a panic (or anxiety) attack in a place that may be difficult to escape from.

Before we learn about the causes, symptoms and treatment of this phobia, let us first see a few myths associated with it and the actual facts.

Myths about Agoraphobia

  • People with the fear of open spaces always remain housebound– Many sufferers of Agoraphobia actually prefer crowded spaces than being left alone at home. Majority
    • of these patients may have milder symptoms of Agoraphobia. If one is housebound for months or years, then his/her Agoraphobia can be classified as being extreme.
    • Agoraphobia is only the fear of crowded spaces– As mentioned above; some individuals are known to fear crowds while others to prefer them.
    • Fear of enclosed spaces in not Agoraphobia, only claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces)– Many individuals with Agoraphobia are also known to fear enclosed spaces but they might have other fear symptoms as well.
    • Agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces and public places– More than the fear of being in an open space; the phobic tends to fear a “symptom-attack”- a rush of symptoms and sensations that s/he is unable to deal with.
    • Agoraphobia is always a fear of panic attack– In Agoraphobia, it is not just ‘panic’ that one fears but several other symptoms. For example, a person might feel nauseated in a crowded space and fear not being able to reach the bathroom on time to throw up. Thus, the sufferer might “learn to feel or expect to feel something disturbing” in a particular situation and hence try to avoid the situations as much as possible.
    • Causes of Agoraphobia or the fear of open/crowded spaces

      There is no single cause for the fear of open or crowded spaces. Researchers believe that a number of physical and psychological factors may be responsible for this phobia.

      • In majority of the cases, an underlying ‘panic disorder’ may be responsible for Agoraphobia. A panic disorder is characterized by an intense and irrational fear that can cause the sufferer to lose control, cry, shake and have thoughts about dying. In his/her mind, the sufferer then links the attack to situations and then tries to avoid those situations completely.
      • A research is also suggesting a possible link between long term tranquilizer or sleeping pill usage with Agoraphobia.
      • Individuals with difficulty of spatial orientation and balance (or those with weaker vestibular functions) are also known to experience the extreme fear of crowded or open spaces.
      • A history of alcohol or drug abuse, traumatic childhood experiences, recent life changes such as death, divorce, relationship difficulties, war, explosion, earthquakes etc can bring on the fear of open or crowded spaces.
      • Symptoms of Agoraphobia

        The symptoms of this phobia can be classified into physical and psychological symptoms.

        Physical symptoms:

        • Hyperventilating or rapid/shallow breathing
        • Feeling of choking or difficulty swallowing
        • Sweating
        • Shaking and trembling
        • Nausea and other gastrointestinal distress
        • Dizziness or lightheadedness
        • Ringing or buzzing in the ears

        Psychological symptoms

        • Fear of losing control or going crazy
        • Fear of dying
        • Feeling ‘unreal’ or detached from oneself
        • Feelings of depression, dread or anxiety
        • Having low self esteem or low confidence
        • Treatment for Agoraphobia

          It is essential to treat Agoraphobia early on, since, left untreated, it may take a more serious form and even make the sufferer depressed or suicidal.

          There are several treatment options for dealing with the fear of open or crowded spaces. Of these, it is best to rely on the self help techniques rather than taking medications as the latter can have withdrawal symptoms and other side effects.

          Self help techniques for dealing with panic symptoms

          • Breathing slowly and counting to ten while repeating the word ‘relax’ in calm and soothing manner. This is one of the expert recommended self help techniques that have been proven highly effective in managing panic symptoms.
          • Slowly exposing oneself to one’s fears and also writing down things that make one feels fearful. This might turn out to be difficult in the beginning but gradually one can overcome the fear of crowded or open spaces.
          • Educating self – There are many books and case studies available online and offline that can inspire one to fight their Agoraphobia.
          • Other than these self help methods, one can also opt for CBT/cognitive behavior or behavior therapy, guided imagery, counseling, talk therapy and group therapy. Taking baby steps is the key to overcoming Agoraphobia.

12 Things To Know When Someone You Love Has Anxiety

Taken from The Mighty  which is found   HERE.

Anxiety is unpredictable, confusing and intrusive. It’s tough. Not just for the people who have it but also for the people who love them. If you are one of those people, you would know too well that the second hand experience of anxiety feels bad enough – you’d do anything to make it better for the one going through it.

Whether we struggle with anxiety, confidence, body image – whatever – there are things we all need to make the world a little bit safer, a little bit more predictable, a little less scary. We all have our list. If you love someone with anxiety, their list is likely to look a little like this:

1. They’ll talk about their anxiety when they feel ready.

In the thick of an anxiety attack, nothing will make sense, so it’s best not to ask what’s going on or if they’re OK. No, they don’t feel OK. And yes, it feels like the world is falling apart at the seams.

Ask if they want to go somewhere else – maybe somewhere quieter or more private. Don’t panic or do anything that might give them the idea that they need looking after. Go for a walk with them, or just be there. Soon it will pass and when it does, they’ll be able to talk to you about what has happened, but wait for that. Then just listen and be there.

2. They’re pretty great to have around. You’ll want them as part of your tribe.

Because of their need to stay safe and to prepare against the next time anxiety rears its head, people who struggle with anxiety will generally have a plan – and they will have worked hard to make sure it works for everyone involved, not just for themselves. They’ll make sure everything has been organized to keep everyone safe, happy, on time and out of trouble. Notice the good things they do – there are plenty. Let them know you love them because of who they are, including who they are with anxiety, not despite it.

3. Remember: anxiety is a normal physical response to a brain being a little overprotective.

There’s a primitive part of all of our brains that’s geared to sense threat. For some people, it fires up a lot sooner and with a lot less reason than it does in others. When it does, it surges the body with cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline to get the body ready to run for its life or fight for it. This is the fight or flight response and it’s in everyone. The “go” button is a bit more sensitive for people with anxiety.

4. There’s a lot to know, so if you try to understand everything you can … well, that makes you kind of awesome.

It makes a difference to be able to talk about anxiety without having to explain it. On the days they don’t feel like they have it in them to talk about it, it means a lot that you just “get it.” If you’ve tried to understand everything you can about what it means to have anxiety, then that’s enough. Anxiety is hard to make sense of – people with anxiety will be the first to tell you that – but it will mean everything that you’ve tried.

5. Make sure there’s room to say “no.” And don’t take it personally.

People with anxiety are super aware of everything going on – smells, sounds, people, possibilities. It’s exhausting when your attention is drawn to so many things. Don’t take “no” personally. Just because they might not want to be doing what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be with you. Keep offering – don’t assume everything you offer will be met with “no” – but be understanding and “no big deal” if you aren’t taken up on your offer. They are saying no to a potential anxiety attack. Not to you.

6. Loads of lovin’ never hurt anyone, so be compassionate and there for them.

Talk up the things you love about them. There will be times that people with anxiety will feel like they are their anxiety and that they are a source of difficulty. (Who hasn’t felt like they’re making things harder than they need to be?) Specifically, I’m talking about when plans have to be changed, when you need to book a few rows back from the front row, turn the radio down, take the long way. If this is the worst you have to deal with in a friend, sign me up.

7. Anxiety has nothing to do with courage or character. Nothing at all.

Courage is feeling the edge of yourself and moving beyond it. We all have our limits, but people with anxiety are just more aware of theirs. Despite this, they are constantly facing up to the things that push against their edges. That’s courage, and people with anxiety have it in truckloads. They’re strong, intelligent and sensitive – they’ll be as sensitive to you and what you need as they are to their environment. That makes them pretty awesome to be with. They can be funny, kind, brave and spirited. Really, they’re no different than anyone else. As with everyone, the thing that trips them up sometimes (their anxiety) is also the thing that lifts them above the crowd.

8. Anxiety can change shape. It doesn’t always look the same way.

Anxiety can be slippery. Sometimes it looks the way you’d expect anxiety to look. Other times it looks cranky, depressed or frustrated. Remember this and don’t take it personally.

9. People with anxiety know their anxiety doesn’t always make sense. That’s what makes it so difficult.

Explaining there’s nothing to worry about or they should “get over it” won’t mean anything – it just won’t – because they already know this. Be understanding, calm and relaxed and above all else, just be there. Anxiety feels flighty and there’s often nothing that feels better than having someone beside you who’s grounded, available and OK to go through this with you without trying to change you.

10. Don’t try to change them.

You’ll want to give advice. But don’t. Let them know that to you, they’re absolutely fine the way they are and that you don’t need to change them or fix them. If they ask for your advice then of course, go for it. Otherwise, let them know they are enough. More than enough, actually. Just the way they are.

11. Don’t confuse their need to control their environment with their need to control you. Sometimes they look the same. They’re not.

The need to control everything that might go wrong is hard work for anxious people, and it also might make you feel controlled. See it for what it is: the need to feel safe and in control of the possibility of anxiety running the show – not the need to control you. You might get frustrated, and that’s OK; all relationships go through that. Having compassion doesn’t mean you have to go along with everything put in front of you, so talk things out gently (not critically) if you need to.

And finally …

12. Know how important you are to them. 

Anyone who sticks around through the hard stuff is a keeper. People with anxiety know this. Nothing sparks a connection more than really getting someone, being there and bringing the fun into the relationship. Be the one who refuses to let anxiety suck the life out of everything. And know you’re a keeper. Yep. You are. Know they’re grateful – so grateful – for everything you do. And they love you back.

 

9 Panic Attack Myths We Need To Stop Believing

Imagine that you’re walking down the street, when out of the corner of your eye you spot a semi-truck barreling toward you at an astronomical speed. Your instincts kick in and your stress level goes into overdrive. You have to move as fast as you can to get out of the way. For the next few moments, you feel like your life is hanging in the balance.

Now imagine dealing with that feeling when you’re casually shopping at the grocery store.

These intense episodes are an all-too-familiar reality for those who struggle with panic attacks and panic disorder — a mental health issue that many people still don’t understand, says Ricks Warren, Ph.D., a psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. Below Warren highlights nine common misconceptions people believe about panic — even the ones that suffer from it.

Panic attacks are just an overreaction to stress.
stress

Panic attacks are more than just being “too worried” or “high strung.” They’re debilitating episodes that can last anywhere from a few moments to 10 minutes, Warren says. The body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered. As a result, sufferers can feel like they’re in danger and they work to avoid the source of the problem at all costs.

“They often feel shame about the fact that they have panic attacks and they feel the need to do all this avoidance,” he tells The Huffington Post. “It’s a major, major problem.”

You can pass out from a panic attack.
Fainting is caused by a dip in blood pressure and during these episodes your BP actually rises, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While it may feel like you’re going to lose all control, it doesn’t necessarily happen, Warren says.

However, there are other very real physical symptoms of panic attacks. Due to the increase in blood pressure it can also feel like you’re having a heart attack (even though you’re not). You may experience chest pain, dizziness or difficulty breathing.

Panic attacks and anxiety are the same thing.
anxiety

While both are equally difficult to deal with, Warren stresses distinguishing just the episodes (i.e. one or two panic attacks) from disorders. Anxiety is more of an umbrella term, which can encompass panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more.

“Anxiety is more worrying about something bad that could happen in the future, whether it’s in the next five minutes or later in the week,” he explained. “When [panic] starts affecting their life, when they start worrying about the next panic attack, when they start avoiding situations to prevent them, that’s what we would call panic disorder.”

You’re stuck with the disorder for the rest of your life.
“It’s a common misconception that [being diagnosed with panic disorder] means that you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life,” Warren said. There’s a huge stigma when it comes to mental health, which can make sufferers prolong getting help. However, the sooner you do so, the sooner you can control your panic.

Research shows that medications are effective, but so is Cognitive Behavioral Therapywithout medications or a combination of both, Warren added. “There’s also a myth that there isn’t any hope or any effective treatment, which isn’t true,” he said. Your doctor can help you determine which method works best for you.

It’s hard to relate to someone who has panic attacks.
friends talking

Remember that truck scenario from before? Chances are you can recall a time you’ve been in a similar situation where you needed to spring into action. Those are versions of panic attacks, Warren says. It’s just not as easy for some people to write them off.

Warren suggests practicing compassion the next time a loved one goes through the experience. “Listen and let the person tell you about what it is they’re experiencing,” he said. “Empathize. Think of a time in your own life when you’ve been terrified of something. It might have been external, but you still remember how terrifying that is.”

Panic is a gateway to a more serious mental illness.
Many people believe that being diagnosed with panic disorder or having a panic attack means they’re going to develop another serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. “Panic disorder is something that’s kind of in its own right,” he said. If you’re still worried, bring up your concerns with a mental health professional, he added.

Deep breaths will calm a panic attack.
hyperventilate

“We hear all the time that if you’re really anxious to take a deep breath — but with people who have panic attacks … you put yourself in a hyperventilation state,” Warren said. By inhaling deeply, you’re releasing extra carbon dioxide. This causes anincrease symptoms like dizziness and and numbness, which can make you feel like you’re suffocating and lead to more rapid, deep breaths. Focus on more shallow inhalations and exhalations instead.

Loved ones can’t help when someone is having a panic attack.
Panic attacks are a personal experience, which means each person who sufferers from one reacts differently than another. Some people may want you to talk them through it, others may want you to distract them, Warren explained. “The point is to try to respond non-judgmentally and get it from their point of view,” he said.

Looking for more ways to help? Check out these supportive phrases (and whatphrases you should avoid).

You should avoid what causes the episodes.
rollercoaster

It may be the first instinct to avoid whatever is causing you pain, but Warren advises to do quite the opposite. “Once you start avoiding places because you think you might have a panic attack, you start restricting your life,” he explained.

Engaging in “safety behaviors,” i.e. not going to places that will trigger the attack or even avoiding exciting movies that cause a rush of adrenaline, the sufferer may not learn that there’s nothing to fear in the first place, Warren says. The best way to manage them is to employ the CBT techniques or other methods that have been discussed with a professional.

Panic Disorder: An Example Of Fighting Against The Stigma Of Mental Illness

Taken from the  Huffington Post  which can be found   HERE.
I have panic disorder. I manage chronic anxiety every single day. I had my first panic attack when I was 15 years old and (at the time) I had no idea what was going on. I thought I might be having a heart attack. It seemed like a physical problem at first. I had an uncontrollable racing heart followed by sweating and shaking. But then I quickly realized that nervous thoughts were accompanying my physical symptoms.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Anxiety and depression run in my family, and my mother knew exactly what was going on and how to help me. I started seeing a therapist and learned coping techniques to deal with anxiety. However, the techniques I learned were not enough. From ages 15 to 18, I still suffered from severe panic attacks that made it incredibly difficult for me to function.

For the most part, I suffered in silence. The only people who knew about my struggle with panic were my parents, my brother and my best friend, who didn’t attend my high school. I attended a performing arts high school where I studied theater. I was an excellent actress, but not in the way one might think. I was well adept at hiding my mental illness from my peers.

After three years of covering up my suffering, I was mentally and physically exhausted. In 1998, when I was 18 years old, I made the decision to see a psychiatrist. I started taking medication. My whole life changed after that. I didn’t suffer from intrusive thoughts anymore, I was able to breathe and was able to function like a normal human being. I thought to myself, Oh, this is what normal people must feel like.

I went on to attend NYU and graduate with a decent GPA. I could not have done this without the help of antidepressants.

Since college, the only time I have been off of antidepressants was when I was pregnant with my children or breastfeeding them. Other than that, I recognize and I know that taking antidepressants helps me to keep anxiety at bay.

In addition to taking antidepressants, I also eat mostly organic, take herbal supplements, see an acupuncturist and meditate daily. But these things are not enough. At this point in my life, I still need to take antidepressants to manage panic attacks.

As a person managing chronic anxiety, I have heard a lot of unhelpful advice from people who don’t understand mental illness. Here are some common things people have said to me:

1. Antidepressants are just a Band-Aid covering up the problem. Why don’t you stop taking them and try to deal with your anxiety?

This is analogous to telling a diabetic to stop taking their insulin and see what happens. Mental illness is a real condition that can be debilitating if left untreated.

2. You’re being dramatic. You think too much. Why don’t you just stop obsessing?

There is a chemical imbalance in my brain. My brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin. Therefore, the result is I have chronic intrusive thoughts, depression and anxiety. Unless you would like to talk to the neurotransmitters inside my head and tell them to stop firing, I think we’re done here.

3. You’re lazy.

Quite the opposite, actually. I have to work twice as hard to do the things “normal people” do, such as wake up, get dressed and leave the house. I am constantly battling the thoughts in my head. I would call myself a warrior.

Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or any other mental illness, you are fighting a battle. To those around you, it may look like an invisible war, but it’s happening. You’re working hard to be able to function.

Mental illness is real. We need to be just as empathetic and sensitive to those who are managing depression as we are to people that are dealing with physical ailments or diseases. If your friend tells you she she’s having a panic attack, ask her what you can do to help. I promise you, she’s not being lazy. She’s trying to survive.