Anxiety and Panic

How to Handle Panic Attacks

There are many things in life to be afraid of. You can be injured or killed in myriad ways. You can get lost. You can make a fool of yourself. Something can happen to your loved ones. Another terrorist attack can happen at any moment. So much to be frightened of. It’s enough to make you fearful of leaving your house!

And so you don’t. Or, you do with much trepidation. And when you do, you may feel your heart racing, your body trembling, your breathing tight. You may feel chest pain and wonder if you’re having a heart attack. You may feel sweaty and wonder why your body temperature is out of whack. You may feel dizzy, unsteady, faint and more.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

Understanding Claustrophobia’s Impact on Your Life

Those who suffer from claustrophobia always remember the first time they felt the hopeless sensation of being trapped or enclosed. It’s a feeling unlike any other -- and one that can humble anyone in any situation. And whether you’ve experienced claustrophobia once or you deal with it every time you get on a crowded elevator, it’s important to come to terms with what it is, what causes it, and how it can be overcome.

What is Claustrophobia?

Simply put, claustrophobia is an
Continue Reading

Brain and Behavior

What is Commitment Phobia & Relationship Anxiety?

For most people, relationships are fairly easy things. They come as naturally to life as breathing or making a meal.

For some, however, relationships are not so easy. In fact, they present such a challenge to the individual, that a person can be said to have relationship anxiety, a fear of relationships, or suffer from "commitment phobia."

Commitment issues in relationships are nothing new. But our understanding of how the fear of commitment for some people can be paralyzing has increased. And while you won't find "commitment phobia" in any diagnostic manual, it is a very real experience of anxiety and fear.

Here's the lowdown on commitment phobia and relationship anxiety.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

Do Your Fears Hold You Back? 3 Simple Strategies to Ease Fear

Are you paralyzed at the thought of public speaking? Shaky in meetings with your boss? Find yourself tongue-tied in social situations?

Fear can occur in any number of situations.  It can be both effective -- for instance, when it compels us to run from a burning building -- and a blockade that can keep us from living our lives fully.

In a recent article in GQ Magazine, behavioral neuroscientist Mona Lisa Shultz, PhD, describes illogical fear -- involving that which does not threaten our lives or well-being -- as a “corrupted file that you downloaded by accident that keeps coming up.”

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

How Kathryn Tristan Overcame Her Anxiety – And You Can Too!

Research scientist and author Kathryn Tristan was unable to fly or leave her hometown for over 20 years.

But after working from the inside out, as she puts it, Tristan was able to move past her overwhelming anxiety and panic. Through the use of specific techniques, she's been able to quell them and lead a fulfilling life.

Below, Tristan, who’s also author of the forthcoming book Why Worry? Stop Coping and Start Living (available December 4, 2012), reveals the four strategies that have helped her overcome anxiety and worry.

Continue Reading

Brain and Behavior

The Fear of Flying Mindset

In my fear of flying program, Fear of Flying?... Not Anymore!™, I address the key psychological factors that contribute to this phobia (which I've also discussed in two other articles here: Why Do We Fear Flying?, and Fear of Flying -- How to Overcome).

One focus is on the concept of "normalization." Our brains can be trained, through various exercises created for this process, to understand that flying is a normal, routine activity. Our brains can normalize routine situations, even if these routine situations involve risk.

For example, we likely don't ruminate over the possibility of slipping every time we shower because our brains have become trained to expect that we will safely take our showers, based on many years of successfully completing this task.

But since most of us only experience flying on an occasional basis, if at all, our brains automatically go on alert when we think of flying.

Whereas showers are routine, flying is not.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

How to Decode Your Anxiety & Worry — And Diminish Both

Sometimes anxiety and worry can seem to spring out of nowhere. Before you know it, you’re upset and your brain is buzzing with bothersome thoughts.

But your anxiety isn't that random. “Your anxiety is actually a process,” writes Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, in her book Women Who Worry Too Much: How to Stop Worry & Anxiety from Ruining Relationships, Work & Fun. “It’s made up of a series of thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors.”

The key to better understand your anxiety and worry is to examine all these components individually. Once you know how your anxiety and worry manifest, you can work on reducing them.

Continue Reading


Touchless Soap: Marketing To Your Fear of Germs

I'm not sure when the scale tipped in the other direction, but there is a whole generation of children growing up who've been made fearful of the potential threat of germs by well-meaning but over-protective parents.

Germs are indeed potentially harmful to our health. But so is being driven around in a car to soccer or dance practice. And while most germs won't kill you, many automobile accidents will.

Because germs are everywhere, in virtually every environment you live or work in, it's silly to believe you can somehow "escape" them (short of living in a clean room). The key is to take reasonable measures to help protect yourself from germs -- but not to give into some irrational fear of them.

That's why touchless soap dispensers are just plain silly and have far more to do with marketing to our irrational fear of germs than doing much of anything to actually help us wash our hands better.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

Why We Fear Flying: Part 2

The previous post discussed what's behind a fear of flying: In order to fly comfortably, we need to be able to develop awareness and process of underlying emotions, soothe emotional and physical symptoms triggered by fear, and resolve the perceived threats that drive the fear.

When not addressed, these components feed off of one another, and can make our flight experience cognitively, physically, and emotionally quite uncomfortable. In essence, this is the fear of flying.

Fear of Flying?... Not Anymore! is a program I designed to directly address these areas of cognitive, emotional, and physiological dysregulation during flying. In addition to my work as a therapist, I have a background in and an ongoing study of aviation, including flying airline and general airplane simulators on a regular basis. This knowledge of aviation enables the combination of tools from both the therapeutic and aviation worlds to resolve people's fear of flying.

The program utilizes a variety of therapy techniques integrated with passenger flying education. Its goal is to build situational control and mastery over the complete passenger flying experience. Some people have even found the program makes flying enjoyable, even after decades of not getting on a plane.

Continue Reading

Anxiety and Panic

Why We Fear Flying: Part 1

Fear of flying -- also known as aviaphobia -- is an increasingly common problem in today's world. I have treated people who previously avoided flying at all costs, and others who would fly, but only while enduring significant fear, discomfort, anxiety, and nervousness in order to do so.

But what is it about the thought of airplanes that gets us so riddled with fear? Though accidents do happen, they are exceedingly rare, and when in-flight problems occur, the planes usually end up landing safely with no injuries. Flying is actually known to be the safest mode of transportation, yet it's feared as if surviving a flight is pure luck.

How do you know if you have a fear of flying?

Continue Reading


Is Anyone Normal Today?

Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

Continue Reading