Psych Central

Anxiety and Panic Articles

Flow: An Antidote to Anxiety & The Secret to Happiness?

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Flow: An Antidote to Anxiety & The Secret to Happiness?Flow is the mental state of a person when he is completely immersed in one activity or event — a moment in which all of her energy is focused on one thing so that she is oblivious to the world around her.

It is a single-mindedness that harnesses all emotions into one action to produce a kind of rapture. Flow is a moment of nothingness — when all senses are so focused on an activity that a person isn’t able to feel anything in his environment — and that nothingness or suspension of feeling can be experienced as bliss.

Sounds good, huh?

4 Step Method To Overcome Anxiety

Friday, July 19th, 2013

A 4 Step Method to Help Overcome AnxietyClinical psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., founder and director of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety, is one of the nation’s leading experts on anxiety disorder. She is also my personal coach on trying to tame my overactive amygdala, the almond-shaped structure inside your brain whose day job is to yell “Run for cover!”

The last few weeks, I’ve walked around the house with her books safeguarded under my arms, as my anxiety has had me in a half-nelson of sorts, making it extremely difficult to accomplish the usual stuff of my day: getting the kids to do things without uttering too many four-letter words, writing blog posts that make sense, not yelling at co-workers for leaving dirty dishes, and so forth.

In “Freeing Yourself from Anxiety,” Dr. Chansky offers a four-step method for overcoming worry and changing the story lines in our mind from an R-rated horror picture to a PG humorous flick. They constitute a cheat sheet for anxiety.

5 Steps to Improve Sleep & Emotional Vulnerability

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

5 Steps to Improve Sleep & Emotional VulnerabilityMost of us don’t need science to tell us that sleep and emotion are closely linked.  Spend a couple nights with interrupted sleep or talk to any parent of a newborn and the connection is quite clear.

The connection appears not just in everyday life.  In certain physical and mental disorders sleep disturbance and emotion dysregulation are hallmark symptoms. Symptoms of one rare disorder, cataplexy, which often co-occurs with the sleep disorder, narcolepsy for example, include sudden muscle weakness when a person experiences strong emotion, such as anger or fear, or exhilaration.

Lack of adequate sleep also is commonly linked with emotional or psychological problems. Examples include depression and PTSD, while sleep disturbances combined with emotional reactivity are key dimensions of bipolar disorder.

And even when lack of sleep isn’t connected to rare disorders or affective psychological problems, it is linked to increased emotionality. 

Managing Anxiety with Biofeedback

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Managing Anxiety with BiofeedbackWorrying is natural. In some cases, anxiety can be beneficial, such as before a big sports event or dance recital. However, some of us are overwhelmed by worry on a daily basis. The worry becomes excessive and can interfere with daily tasks. The anxiety or panic felt is gripping for those who have experienced it.

Having an anxiety disorder is difficult and frustrating. It is considered a silent killer and most people who see you upset will just say “calm down” or “stop worrying so much” and not truly understand.

The feeling anxiety creates and the worried thoughts it causes do not have an immediate “off” switch.

The good news is there is a simple, non-drug treatment for the management of anxiety: biofeedback.

3 Tips for Using Exercise to Shrink Anxiety

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

3 Tips for Using Exercise to Shrink AnxietyWe know that exercise is a boon for our mental, physical and emotional health. And it’s particularly helpful for easing anxiety. “[M]oderate exercise has been shown to have a significant effect on anxiety and mood,” said Marla Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC.

For instance, exercise reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. And it stimulates the production of feel-good endorphins.

It also leads to an increase in activity levels in the serotonergic system, which may help to decrease anxiety and improve mood, Deibler said.

Plus, “moderate to intense exercise raises core body temperature, which is accompanied by a simultaneous reduction in muscle tension, thereby affecting the experience of anxiety.”

So if all this can help, how can you motivate yourself to do more of it?

5 Reliable Ways to Deal With Mental Health Stigma, Prejudice

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Had depression not killed my godmother — my mom’s sister — and had it not made a pretty good attempt at ending my life, I doubt I would admit to anyone that I pack my suitcase full of the old-people container of meds. It’s hard enough to list them all at the doctor’s office with a straight face, much less speak openly online and offline about my ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression.

We all make fun of Tom Cruise for his beliefs that you can cure depression with exercise alone, but my guess — based on the reactions I get and the conversations I have when I throw out the D word — is that most people share his philosophy… That those chronic worriers and criers among us haven’t learned how to cope with life’s blows, give into needless thoughts and feelings, and — with a little yoga and tofu — might toughen up and get off the couch.

What do we do about it? How do we possibly stand a chance at fighting such an uninformed but common mindset?

I’m a Helicopter Parent: Have Trauma, Will Hover

Monday, July 15th, 2013

I'm a Helicopter Parent: Have Trauma, Will HoverParenting is hard. Single parenting is extremely difficult. Single parenting with family-based trauma is borderline impossible.

There are so many times I have wanted to stop a parenting moment in mid-stream, so I could research possible approaches on the Internet. I don’t know what I would have done without the countless books, articles and Google searches that have taught me how to be a parent.

I have come a long way in the past seven years. I’m much more patient. I am willing to apologize and admit when I am wrong (sometimes). I don’t spank. I yell significantly less. My children are not exposed to my dangerous biological family. They live a safe life.

So safe that it might be too safe.

Yes, I am one of those helicopter parents.

5 Tips for Managing Anxiety During Transition

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

anxiety-1One of the primary characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is difficulty processing change. The uncertainty of a new path generates anxiety, sometimes so crippling that the person is unable to move forward on the new path in front of her.

I am reminded of that this month as I make the significant transition from a job as a defense contractor — a communications advisor to a cloud computing company, with comfortable benefits — to an unstable gig as a freelance writer crafting pieces on mental health. I am following my heart all right, as it’s racing to catch up with me.

Every time I sit down to write a piece, I second-guess myself and list all the reasons why I’m unqualified to write articles that will technically be read by a few people.

I have felt this way every time I move through a transition. And so I may know a thing or two about how to manage this kind of anxiety…

What to Do with Worry Thoughts

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

What to Do with Worry ThoughtsAll of us have negative thoughts. And we have “lots of them,” writes professor Mark Reinecke, Ph.D, in his book Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety and Fear.

And all of us worry about the same things, everything from work and school to health and relationships. What separates an anxious person from a calm one isn’t the content of their thoughts, it’s the connotation.

According to Reinecke, “The types of intrusive, negative thoughts that anxious, worried people experience differ little, however, from the thoughts of nonanxious people. The difference is in the meaning given to the thoughts.”

If you’re a worrywart, or especially anxious, you might think, “This thought is awful. I shouldn’t be thinking this; I have to make it stop,” says Reinecke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and chief of the division of psychology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

But, as he points out, the more we try to squelch a thought, the bigger and bothersome it becomes. So how can you deal with these kinds of intrusive, troublesome thoughts?

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs for Insomnia: It’s Working

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs for Insomnia: It's WorkingIn January 2013, I started my acupuncture and Chinese medicine experiment. I was seeking help with my chronic insomnia and willing to try anything.

After 11 sessions and a few different Chinese herbal prescriptions, I still could not figure out if the experiment was working. I felt confused and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue.

In the end, money made the decision for me. I decided that if I couldn’t make up my mind, it didn’t make sense to continue paying for sessions and herbs.

At the same time, however, I was not ready to give up the experiment completely. I was still feeling desperate for regular sleep and had exhausted all the standard approaches without success.

What are Some of the Physiological Manifestations of PTSD?

Friday, June 28th, 2013

What are Some of the Physiological Manifestations of PTSD?Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a result of severe trauma. The trauma experienced is usually one that has threatened a person’s safety. PTSD is seen in people returning from fighting in a war, or people who have been victims of violence or a natural disaster.

It’s normal to feel traumatized by significant life events such as surviving a severe car accident. It becomes pathological when the feelings of trauma, anxiety, panic, or sadness don’t fade with time. People who experience PTSD may feel like they are forever changed and suffer constant panic attacks, loss of sleep and social isolation.

Trauma and prolonged stress inevitably has a negative impact on overall health. PTSD has been linked to more physician visits in veteran populations.

Making Up Your Mind & Getting to a Decision

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Making Up Your Mind & Getting to a Decision“You could sum up my inability to make a decision in two words: ‘wishy-washy.’ Wait, is that two words or only one? Not sure. Think it’s one word but maybe it’s two. I know that lots of people have trouble with decision-making, but I think mine is epic. I am always of two minds. Or three. Or four.

I envy those people who are certain of themselves. They have no doubts. “This is what I want. This is what I’m doing. This is what I believe. Don’t really care if you agree with me or not.”

Me. I have major doubts about all kinds of stuff. From whom to marry? (Knew I was making a mistake when I said “I do.” But I did.) To what to buy? (I spend way too much time returning stuff.)

When I finally do make a decision, does that end the turmoil?”

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