Fifty Million Anxious People In The U.S.

June 27, 2015 by  

50,000,000. Yes, fifty million people in the US suffer from a form of anxiety each year. Anxiety is the # 1 disorder among women dead tree silhoueteand #2 for men (alcohol and drugs are # 1 for guys). Why is it so prevalent?
Here are some possible answers about the epidemic nature of anxiety disorders:
1. Anxiety is learned in families – was your mother anxious?
2. Some people are probably predisposed to anxiety disorders.
3. Anxiety may be masking depression.
4. Anxiety arises from an accumulation of stress over time
        On a global scale………..
1. Our society pounds us with fear and stress; it feels out of control
2. Things change fast and we have little time to adjust to change, especially technological change
3. We worry about the future of our lives and planet
4. People are creating their own meaning because we are bombarded with so many disparate views
Want to change? My suggestion is to work with a therapist and begin reading Edmund Bourne’s book.
book cover
 What do I Say?

Anxiety: Friend or Foe

February 9, 2015 by  

I’ve written many (maybe too many) posts about anxiety because it is a prevalent and disturbing problem for as many as 15% of Americans. Most postsMerry-go-round have been about understanding or countering anxiety. Here is a new twist. Some studies have found anxiety to be helpful – you be the judge.

1. Anxiety leads to embarrassment but people TRUST others who show embarrassment.

2. Anxious people have fewer accidents when they are younger (but more health problems as they age).

3. When anxious people deliberate and evaluate decisions, their memories are stronger than others.

4. Anxious people think they appear weird to friends, but friends rate them highly. People don’t notice as much as you think they do.

5. Worry is good for planetary survival (Jeremy Caplan study). I remain unimpressed with our care of the planet.

So, for those of you who are anxious, I hope you enjoyed knowing that there are some benefits to the problem.

Quick Relief For Anxiety

August 1, 2014 by  

Here are some proven techniques that you can use to reduce low/moderate anxiety fast. Getting anxiety under control takes a lot of work, but try these for quick dreamstimefree_435701 nutcrackerdreamstimefree_head iconsdreamstimefree_head iconsrelief.

1. Stop !  Even though your anxiety tells you to speed up, stop. Rushing is not the answer. Impulsiveness will make you feel worse later on.

2. Breathe. Yes, it is a cliche, but there are good reasons why cliches have staying power. After you stop, breathe deeply a few times. It won’t cure your anxiety but it helps break the swirling feeling in your body.

3. Talk to yourself; and listen. Remind yourself that you can cope; remember that you are over-dreading something; and quiet yourself with whatever phrases and knowledge you already have.

4. Do something. Let me rephrase that – do something that isn’t crazy. Clean your closet, go for a walk, take a shower. Get yourself engaged with other thoughts or activities.

5. Exercise, walk, relax, do yoga – something that helps your body while you are helping your brain.

Don’t get hungry (it fuels anxiety), don’t drink (it increases depression), don’t text your high school sweetheart (it only creates problems to be anxious about tomorrow).

Healing Anxiety

January 20, 2014 by  

The agony of the obsessive worrier is that whenever something bad is remotely possible, it feels inevitable. Obsessive Merry-go-roundworrying become obsessive/compulsive disorder when the worrier begins to do some behavior to quiet the worrying. Rituals of checking, cleaning, praying, speaking, doing are probably related to the magical and superstitious belief that you can avoid disaster in this way.
Not being able to stop is called (by researcher Jeffrey Schwartz) “brain lock”. Obsessive compulsives ‘hold on’, they can’t let go.
Normal brains do the following when we make a mistake:
1. we get a mistake feeling
2. we become anxious so we correct the mistake
3. our brains automatically shift so we move on to the next thought and the anxious feeling disappears.
Obsessive compulsive brains do not move on, even though the mistake is corrected. The OCD brain stays stuck so anxiety remains and builds.
Brain scans have shown OCD to be located in 3 parts of the brain:
1. The orbital frontal cortex (part of the frontal lobe located just behind the eyes) detects mistakes. Obsessive people have highly activated orbital frontal cortexes.
2. Once the orbital frontal cortex has fired the ‘mistake’ signal, it sends a signal to the cingulate gyrus (located in the deepest part of the cortex). Anxiety is now triggered. We feel dread that, unless we fix it, something terrible will happen. This is where the physical symptoms come in.
3. The automatic gearshilft, the caudate neucleus (deep in the center of the brain) allows our thoughts to flow freely except in OCD when it becomes ‘sticky’.
In OCS, all three brain areas are hyperactive. The orbital frontal cortex and cingulate stay on as thought they are ‘locked’ The caudate doesn’t shift so the person is being bombarded by signals of anxiety and dread.
Therapy teaches people to “manually” shift the caudate by paying constant vigilant attention to something new and pleasurable until the rewards and pleasure become consolidated. It is replacing the old with the new, competing with it rather than ‘breaking’ the old ways.
Steps:
1.A.  Relabel what is happening; not a health attack but an OCD attack. Yes, it is a problem but not a health problem. This gives you some distance to observe yourself.
B. The feelings are not going away because it is faulty brain chemistry. (look at the picture)
   C. Stay away from the content of your worry, just know that the heightened worry is the disorder.
2..    If you have a compulsion, DON’T DO IT.
3.     Refocus on positive, wholesome, pleasure giving activities. Other people help keep your focus away from worry. “Do” something, shift your gears manually. It doesn’t matter what you feel; it matters what you do. Resist !!!!!

Anxiety Affects Your Sense of Smell

January 8, 2014 by  

In a  2013 research study, the researchers found that when you are anxious, you are more likely to consider neutral smells as bad smells. Why?  Usually, you simply IMG_0862use your olfactory (smelling) system to assess the odor. That is your body’s involvement BUT, when you are also anxious, your emotional system gets involved and affects your response.

In an earlier study, the same folks found that you become better at distinguishing among bad smells as your anxiety increases. Interesting tidbit but I’m not sure of the usefulness other than it would be good to clean the fridge when you are anxious – accurate smell and it will keep you busy.

Source: Krusemark and Li, 2013.

High Anxiety

November 25, 2013 by  

50,000,000…. Yes, fifty million people in the US suffer from a form of anxiety each year. Anxiety is the # 1 problem among women and # 2 for men (alcohol dreamstimefree_3373332and drugs are # 1 for guys). Why is anxiety so prevalent?
Possible answers:
1. Anxiety arises from an accumulation of stress over time.
2. Our society pounds us with fear and stress.
3. Things change fast and we have little time to adjust to change, especially technological change.
4. We worry about the future of our lives and our planet.
5. We are bombarded with so many disparate views that there is little security and people have to create their own meaning.
Want to change? My suggestion is to work with a therapist and begin reading Edmund Bourne’s book.  I will be writing more about tips to combat anxiety in future posts.
OO v3
     For a fun read, relax with Object of Obsession

What Creates Anxiety ?

October 8, 2013 by  

I wrote about understanding anxiety on 9/23 and want to follow up with more IMG_0860information about its causes.

Anxiety is when you are uncontrollably focused on a possible future threat, danger, or other event that you believe will have a negative outcome.  You are thrown into a state of helplessness because you are convinced that you cannot predict, control, or obtain the results you want. This is the feeling/emotional part of anxiety. There is also a physiological aspect to anxiety.

The physical part is activation of the brain circuits associated with engagement of the corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF).  It physically feels like a state of readiness, vigilance, or hyper-awareness. What causes this reaction?

Setting Anxiety in Motion

Cues or triggers set anxiety in motion. They can be events that will happen soon, such as taking a test (test anxiety), anticipating sex (sexual performance anxiety), a date (social anxiety), or a doctor’s appointment  (health anxiety). This means that you will have to perform Now. The apprehension results in an increase in self evaluation, self focus, and/or uncertainty of your ability. So, your attention narrows and you search for cues about this particular thing, looking for more information. Unfortunately, your judgments are usually then biased. This leads to avoidance of the situation (cancel appointment and go to sleep) or you perseverate on certain aspects of the situation (date – what to wear, sex – an erection, job – too many sick days, test – did you study the footnotes). there is always something to worry about when you are looking for trouble. You are living the old adage: when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Worry, or concern over events is probably an attempt to control threatening or challenging events.

The Illusion of Control

Your perception of your lack of control over potentially challenging or threatening events causes anxiety. Many people ignore hints of their lack of control and therefore, do not feel anxiety – not a bad strategy. In experiments, the researchers find little difference in the people’s abilities to perform – talented people are anxious and slackers are anxious and different people dread different situations –  think stage fright, going out in crowds, tests, sexual performance, flying in airplanes.

Other Factors Influence Anxiety

            Here are 2 other important factors:

1. Early learning experiences seem to focus anxiety on specific types of threat, for example, whether anxiety will show up as social anxiety (people related), somatic anxiety (body and illness related) or phobias (things like snakes, bugs). So, childhood experiences may become associated with certain worries that focus anxiety reactions on those particular concerns.

2. Genetics also play a role. It is estimated that genetics may account for between 30-50% of the variance of expressions of anxiety. Also, people who are temperamentally neurotic and negative are more likely to display anxiety.

Source: David Barlow. The nature and development of anxiety and its disorders. Winter, 2003. Eye on Psi Chi

 

 

How Anxiety Works

September 23, 2013 by  

Anxiety may affect as many as 16.4% of the population in the U.S.  If this number Digital StillCamerais correct, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the country. I want to give you a few essentials about anxiety so that you will understand this disorder a little bit better. If you use the chart at the end of the post, it can help you to follow and understand your own reactions.

What is anxiety? Think of it as an uncontrollable focus on a possible future threat, danger or other event that will produce a negative outcome.

The emotional aspect of anxiety. It produces a state of helplessness because you fear that you cannot predict, control or obtain your desired results. This is the affective or feeling part of anxiety. When you feel anxious, you also experience a physiological change.

The physical aspect of anxiety. The physical part is the activation of the brain circuits associated with engagement of the corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF). It physically feels like a state of readiness, vigilance, or hyper-awareness – perhaps to counteract the emotional feelings of helplessness.

Anxious apprehension (anxiety) can be understood as the negative mood in which you are preparing yourself for some terrible event in the future (usually imaginary). There is a trigger but it may not be conscious or rational.

Chart of anxious apprehension

1. Trigger (a cue that evokes anxiety)             –> leads to

2. Negative affect which is a sense of uncontrollability and lack of belief that you can influence the outcome                             –> leads to

3. Attentional shift where you think about yourself (self-evaluation) and your emotional or physical responses                          –> leads to

4. Intensified response                                      –> leads to

More arousal,

            Cognitive biases (selective attention to threat ignoring more positive information)

Hypervigilance (super-alertness), and

More negative affect                                            –> leads to

5. Attempts to cope by Avoidance or Worrying

  Hypervigilence also leads to poor performance which, of course, increases negative affect.

And there we have the miserable circle of anxious apprehension. You cannot control most cues (although you can certainly change some – like a bad boss) so we try to intervene someplace after the trigger, as soon as possible to shut down the rest of the cycle.

one source: the work of David Barlow, Ph.D., 2003

 

 

 

What Creates Anxiety ?

August 5, 2013 by  

What Creates Anxiety ?

Anxiety is an uncontrollable focus on a possible future threat, danger or other event that you believe will have a negative outcome.  You are thrown into a state of helplessness because you come to believe that you cannot predict, control or obtain your desired results. This is the feeling part of anxiety. There is also a physiological aspect of anxiety.

The physical part is activation of the brain circuits associated with engagement of the corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF). It physically feels like a state of readiness, vigilance, or hyper-awareness – perhaps to counteract the emotional feelings of helplessness.

Cues or triggers can be narrow (test anxiety, sexual performance) that signal imminent performance. This results in an increase in self evaluation, self focus, and/or uncertainty of ability. Your attention narrows and you search for cues about this particular thing; your judgments are usually then biased. This leads to avoidance of the situation.

Worry, or concern over events is probably an attempt to control threatening or challenging events

The illusion of control

Your perception of your lack of control over potentially challenging or threatening events causes anxiety. Many people ignore hints of their lack of control and therefore, do not feel anxiety – not a bad strategy. In experiments, the researchers find little difference in the people’s abilities to perform (shown clearly in sex experiments). The vulnerability is not to sexual performance but to anxiety about sexual performance. Some situations get filled with threat, dread or apprehension  – think stage fright, tests, sexual performance.

Other factors influence anxiety

            Here are 2 other important factors:

1. Early learning experiences seem to focus anxiety on specific types of threat, for example, whether anxiety will show up as social anxiety (people related), somatic anxiety (body and illness related) or phobias (things like snakes, bugs). So, childhood experiences may become associated with certain worries that focus anxiety reactions on those particular concerns.

2. Genetics also play a role. It is estimated that genetics may account for between 30-50% of the variance of expressions of anxiety. Also, people who are temperamentally neurotic and negative are more likely to display anxiety.

Source: David Barlow. The nature and development of anxiety and its disorders. Winter, 2003 Eye on Psi Chi

 

 

Understanding Anxiety

August 2, 2013 by  

Anxiety may affect as many as 16.4% of the population in the U.S. If this number is correct, anxiety disorders become the most common mental health problem in the country.

What is anxiety? Think of it as an uncontrollable focus on a possible future threat, danger or other event that will produce a negative outcome.

The emotional aspect of anxiety. It produces a state of helplessness because you fear that you cannot predict, control or obtain your desired results. This is the affective or feeling part of anxiety. when you feel anxious, you also experience a physiological change.

The physical aspect of anxiety. The physical part is the activation of the brain circuits associated with engagement of the corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF). It physically feels like a state of readiness, vigilance, or hyper-awareness – perhaps to counteract the emotional feelings of helplessness.

Anxious apprehension (anxiety) can be understood as the negative mood in which you are preparing yourself for some terrible event in the future. There is a trigger but it may not be conscious or rational.

Chart of anxious apprehension

Trigger (a cue that evokes anxiety)           —–> leads to

Negative affect which is a sense of uncontrollability and lack of belief that you can influence the outcome —-> leads to

Attentional shift when you think about you (self-evaluation) and your emotional/physical responses  —> leads to

Intensified response  —–> leads to

More arousal,

            Cognitive biases (selective attention to threat ignoring more positive  information)

Hypervigilance (super-alertness), and

More negative affect     —– > leads to

Attempts to cope by Avoidance or Worrying

Hypervigilence also leads to poor performance which, of course, increases negative affect.

And there we have the miserable circle of anxious apprehension. You cannot control most cues (although you can certainly change some – like a bad boss) so we try to intervene someplace after the trigger, as soon as possible to shut down the rest of the cycle.

 

one source: the work of David Barlow, Ph.D., 2003

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