When Fear Rules !

When Panic and Obsessive Thoughts Return

by on Oct.16, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Relapse: When the Panic or Obsessive Thoughts Return

Yes, as frustrating as I know it must be to hear this, it is true. Symptoms of panic attacks or obsessive/intrusive thoughts can return. However, this does not mean you cannot gain control and eliminate these symptoms.

What does it mean ?

Well, if you have not done  any therapy, it may mean that the sources for your panic or intrusive thoughts had temporarily passed, or that you are taking medication that helped you over-ride your symptoms for a while, or maybe that you have been so distracted by other significant issues in your life that the symptoms took a back seat in your life. But obviously, if you have not done the work to identify the true causal factors, the real sources as well as gone through a process of desensitizing to your symptoms through therapy, then the band-aid you used to deal with these symptoms has come off.

If you have done therapy, but did work to desensitize step by step to your symptoms so that you are less fearful, but have not really dealt with the sources of your symptoms, then it is just a matter of time when they will return as those sources rear their ugly heads someday.

As an example, let’s imagine a woman who was so plagued by intrusive thoughts that her husband was or would cheat on her that she was obsessed with checking his cell phone for unknown callers. The more she gave into this urge, the stronger the need became. Since she was able to feel immediate relief when she found no strange numbers on his cell, her behavior was internally rewarded. However, she also realized she was taking a serious risk in that if he found her checking on him, it would damage his perception of his wife, causing HIM to distrust HER.

She was able to show more control of her urges to check by recognizing them quickly, postponing giving in to them and then giving herself something else to focus her mind on, like calling a friend, working on a project, or going out with friends.

She made some progress, then, without warning, the urges became so strong again that the obsessions and need to check returned with a fury.

The issue ?  She also needed to understand the source of her fears and  deal with them. She came to understand that her fears of his cheating on her were really without evidence, but were there because she, in fact, was rather needy emotionally and wanted and needed a more open show of affection to feel good about herself.

Her husband loved her, but was not one to initiate affection. So her mind drifted and she had fantasies of other being with other men.. Her fantasies caused her some guilt, but also led her project her  needs on her husband. “If I have these thoughts, HE  must be having these thoughts too !”

Once she clearly understood it was HER insecurity and neediness that was the source of the problem, we set up a plan to build on his self-esteem.

She lost wait through exercise and changes in her diet.

She got involved with projects she enjoyed but had avoided.

She tried new things and initiated going more places with her husband.

All these things just made her look even better to him. She felt better about herself, and her throwing so much energy into personal growth stimulated her husband’s positive reactions and comments.

Instead of focusing on her fears, she focused on both self-improvement as well as being a loving but less needy wife.

As she became more comfortable with this game plan and saw his response, she was able to see her own fantasies change in that they were more about things to do with her husband. As the husband responded more positively and openly because of changes he was seeing in her, she was receiving the feedback she needed to refute her fearful thoughts.

Any thoughts ?

 

Gene Benedetto , Psychologist

Coach

 

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