When Fear Rules !

Tag: Anxiety Attacks

Why Panic ?

by on Jan.26, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I have often said that one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle that truly needs to be understood and dealt with is finding the source for the panic attacks a client is experiencing, although I fully realize that the primary focus of the client initially is just getting rid of these anxiety symptoms and being comforted by hearing that this is not a sign that he or she is going crazy. 

Not knowing the source, which amounts to not understanding why this is happening, leaves a person feeling vulnerable and out of control. Not surprisingly, feeling “out of control” is how most people explain how the symptoms make them feel. Medications may lessen the severity of anxiety symptoms, but the haunting thought of them returning is anxiety-producing in and of itself. ” What if the medications wear off or just stop working ?”

As the therapist, I focus intently of listening to my client, getting a feel not only for a peek into their personality and its needs, but also to pick up on bits and pieces of his or her history to see if I can identify emotional conflicts that are more often than not an indicator of the source of the PAs. At times the conflicts and issues are easy to pick up on as I listen not only to my clients words, but more so, the emotions behind the words. At times I meet a client that is harder to read, not because he or she is resistant, but because the client’s personality is such that they tend to habitually blow things off, minimize issues because they feel it is just how life is for them. It is what it is !

One such client came to me as he was obviously in significant emotional pain over having these anxiety symptoms and it was seriously effecting his performing his job. That was a problem, especially because he was a very high-achieving young man, and had responsibilities for a wife who wanted a family. He had to get his act together, but just did not see why this was happening to him.

I pressed him further, and although a rather modest guy, he had in past years created business of his own and had been quite successful. However, although he did well for five years making six-figures and garnering considerable respect in his field, his company was subjected to the fall-out from the banking and housing crisis and the banks stopped lending, and his business died a sudden death. He moved on, because that is what you are supposed to do, and took a significantly lower paying job just to be a responsible person. When his very successful business ended, he was able to pay all debts, so he did not feel guilty, or a failure. I could hear something in his voice, and when i asked him whether he thinks of starting another business since he had proven to be quite good at it, his response was, ” Well, I have thought about it many times, but now I have a wife and we do want to start a family. I cannot take that kind of risk. I mean, I would love to do it, but it would not be fair to her.  And besides, every time I allow myself to dream about starting a business again and being my own boss, the symptoms get worse. How can I seriously think of creating my own business again when I am having these anxiety symptoms ! ”

Now there is a hint that would slap you in the face unless you had your head buried deep in the sand. Once we talked about it, he realized how conflicted he was between giving up on himself as an entrepreneur, and doing what was “right” for his wife and future family. And when he heard himself say that the anxiety symptoms seemed to increase in frequency or intensity whenever he thought about starting a business again, I could see the look on his face that said, ” Did I just say that ? Could my anxiety symptoms be a way of keeping myself from doing what I really love to do, be my own boss again ?”

Oh yes, he got it ! So besides working with some tools we discussed to deal with the anxiety symptoms whenever he felt them coming on, he realized that his best weapon against anxiety was to focus on the source. He needed to make a compromise rather than a sacrifice, a deal with himself to develop a plan and gradually create and take steps to build his business, but step by step so there was less risk.  His wife could be a part of his business. He was in conflict because he was giving up on a very critical piece of who he was and is, instead of focusing on doing what he wants and needs to do to feel in control of his life, but taking appropriate steps in palatable bites rather than leaps as he did when he had no other responsibilities.

What about you ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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Challenge Your Fears or Settle

by on Jan.20, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Have you ever felt frustrated with nagging private thoughts because you have avoided doing things in your life that you always told yourself you would…only to put them off again and again ?

Have you always imagined speaking up for yourself but mostly go along to avoid conflict, only to feel anger within yourself for being weak ?

Do you pride yourself on always being there for others but feel that those whom you put energy into seldom seem to think that you have needs too ? Maybe it is because you dare not express those needs for fear of appearing needy !

Do you find your thoughts at times drifting back to earlier years when you made a few bad choices, and maybe when you find yourself contemplating some change or challenge in your life, those thoughts seem to appear to come to the surface more often and with more intensity as if to shut down any chance of moving forward ?

Do you find yourself dwelling and obsessing over issues and situations that seem irrational, so foolish, but seem to take control at times ?

Are there times when you feel the need to carry out some ritual like checking, doing things the same way all the time, or needing to repeat certain behaviors before you can move to something else ? Does the obsessing or the rituals seem to be interfering with you moving on in your life ?

Maybe this is happening due to anxiety and conflicts in your life. Maybe fear of failure, rejection or embarassment is a factor behind that anxiety or those conflicts. You and I have a choice, an option to really understand the forces of fear in our lives, and to create a game plan to face our fears and take control of our personal growth rather than avoid challenges and change so as to not nurture fear !

A large percentage of good people in our society experience significant anxiety, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors that all but rule their lives, holding them hostage to their thoughts and symptoms. They avoid doing things outside their limited comfort zone due to their fear of having more anxiety symptoms. The very aware individuals may see that whenever they allow themselves to dare think of moving forward in their lives, the panic attacks become more intense or the intrusive thoughts grow louder.

As a recent client put it to me, ” I have had a few successful experiences, and they felt good, but then I so easily fell back into my old way of seeing myself as weak, and then feel no motivation to stretch, to grow, to challenge. I want to better my life. I have frequent thoughts of doing more, but then I turn around only to see I am still in the same place I was before, comfortably-uncomfortable.”

In my mind, it is all about fear, and the choices we make, or do not make, which is of course, a choice !

It is a very uncomfortable issue to face, but realizing the degree to which our lives can be ruled by fear is the first step. We can blame our genetics,our environment and experiences of childhood, or other traumas, yet the stories of individuals rising above their handicaps, trials and tribulations, to attain great personal growth and sense of purpose always catch our attention and inspire, if only for a few minutes. However, isn’t fear mostly learned ? So why do some find themselves overcoming their fears to achieve, while so many others give in or use their anxiety symptoms as an excuse ?

I was discussing this with a fourteen year old girl who I am so proud to know, and who never ceases to amaze me with her ability to adapt and overcome, including at one point being homeless by herself on the streets at the tender age of ten, and being physically and sexually abused more times that I can even talk about without still choking-up. Yet just recently, she expressed how very happy she is now and what a wonderful Christmas she had with her new family. At one point she could imagine no future, expecting to die on the streets as every day was an exercise in survival. When on the streets, there was no time to give into fear because it was all about survival. Each day she had to choose to do whatever it took to survive, to find food, to find a safe place to sleep. Whether it was hiding in the library until after closing so she could sleep among the less-used rows of reference books that night, or finding a refrigerator box behind Home Depot that she could drag to some alley and use for that night’s shelter from the cold, she was strong and feisty because she had to be ! She made choices because there was no one to make them for her ! She spoke her mind because if she didn’t, she would be perceived as weak and she would not make it through the night. She did not have the option to avoid, and she knew that being personally strong was the only way.

So she could not be spoiled. She could not allow herself to be pampered, or become dependent. She did not have the option to be comfortable. If she screwed up, she took on the responsibility to admit to it, if only to herself, and then to learn from that experience.

And most importantly, she had a plan. She was going to somehow get an education, and get off the streets. That plan was her focus, and every step of that plan gave her more strength to take the next step. She never gave up her faith in God, did not blame God or mankind for her trials, and knew it was and is about having faith in yourself that comes from DOING what makes you stronger, not avoiding.

What is your plan ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

The Benhaven Group

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group / Newsletter : www.OneStepataTime.com

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Feels So Good, Hurts So Bad !

by on Dec.01, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

You know what I mean by an “adapting” personality, don’t you. I am referring to those caregivers, conformers, perfectionsists and peacekeepers who value relationships with others, who bend, adapt and adjust in an effort to please others because, well maybe it just feels good to do so.

At least at the time it feels good because they treasure the approval, appreciation and possibly respect that they ‘hope’ to glean form being there for others. While many may rush to say they have great empathy for others, the adapting personality types truly do, but at some risk to their emotional well-being. They probably make up a third of all the people walking on the face of this diverse planet we call Earth.

So often however, many of the adapting personalities come to the slow and troubling realization that they put out a great deal of emotional energy into others, where the return on that emotional investment seems
to lessen, to dwindle, to be taken for granted over time. See, many of these adapting personalities are truly dependent, dare I say compulsive in needing that approval from others, to feel worth and value. The role of being there for others, fixing or taking care of those they perceive as in need, being so very productive and maybe avoiding emotional conflict becomes their goal, a primary purpose in life.

When the adapting personality types wake up to anxiety symptoms, even panic attacks, it is often a reaction to the realization that they have invested so much energy into being there for others,
needing that approval like the body needs blood, that they feel emotionally bankrupt, spent and depleted. Sometimes there is resentment and anger felt towards those whom they feel have taken advantage of all those efforts without reciprocating, but mostly they are frustrated and in conflict for allowing this to happen. Adapting personalities certainly do not want to appear needy, and they are not ! Adapting persons do not want to seem selfish or uncaring and they certainly do not want to be seen as angry, but let’s face it, if you put out more emotional energy than you take
in, someone is going to crash !

In fact, I see many of the adapting personalities in my work, and our joint efforts in therapy come down to helping them realize they can still be who they are, still enjoy being adapting and caring, but with a twist.
They learn to make better choices in those they call friends by identifying and setting well-defined boundaries with the ‘ blood suckers ” in their world, and yet, reasonable and more porous boundaries with those who appreciate, respect and return some of the energy.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

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Out of Control !

by on Nov.10, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Out of Control !

One message I have often repeated in my blog and newsletter is that significant anxiety symptoms, especially in the form of panic attacks or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, often tend to sneak up on their victims. This is why, in my opinion,  so many of my clients have said, ” These symptoms just seem to have come from out of the blue ! ”
 
Well, I truly believe that these symptoms have a cause and therefore need to be treated not just with medications, but with a structured game plan  where therapy helps the suffering individual realize and deal with the causes as well as the resulting fears and symptoms.

The symptoms can be very overwhelming to be sure, and the natural want to control those symptoms leads most clients to medications. I fully understand and appreciate that fact. However, medications, although sometimes helpful, may curb or limit the symptoms, but I seriously question that they are actually treating the cause unless there is found a true medical source for those symptoms. Even when there are thyroid issues, hypoglycemia or other conditions that may predispose a person to anxiety symptoms, while those conditions need to be treated medically, I have not found that the panic or OCD stops after such treatment. Make no mistake, if true medical or neurological conditions exist, by all means they should be treated. I have just not found that to be the case for the vast majority of especially the panic attack or OCD  clients I have worked with during the past forty years.

As just another yet very vivid example of how anxiety symptoms can mask or distract a person from the  true sources for the pain they are feeling, I offer the following :

What I observed of this woman as she sat across from me for the first time was the look of full-blown terror painted on her face and of course  her tears of frustration and hopelessness. She  was feeling totally out of control physically and emotionally, and her husband sitting next to her felt helpless.

No, her focus was not on her panic attacks which she hardly mentioned. Understandably, she was focused instead on the horrible withdrawal symptoms she was experiencing week after week after she stopped taking Xanax. 

She seemed obsessed with making sure I understood that the symptoms she was feeling were real, that she was not making them up, so I just listened at first.
She felt her skin crawling, she could not stay focused  on any one thing as her thoughts ran away from her. She physically and mentally felt out of control, and was dwelling on whether she had some kind of brain or nervous system damage due to previously being on Xanax, at 3 mg. a day.

I knew I had to bring her to a point where I could help her to focus on why all this was happening, but that was a challenge as anything I said was not being heard over the dominant fear-based chatter going on in her head. I realized the withdrawal symptoms were real, but her fears and resulting anxiety were making all her symptoms worse.

So after listening to her intently, and showing acknowledgment and respect for all she was going through, I asked her…. ” Why were you put on Xanax, especially that high of a dosage, to begin with ?” She had to collect her thoughts and wipe her tears, and I could see that look on her face that almost cried out, ” What does that matter ? ” However, after a few seconds and with her spouse’s urging, she related a story of being  a rather perfectionistic wife, mother and loyal friend who was just helping neighbors through a difficult crisis in their lives when ” this anxiety just came over me ! ” She ended up in the ER, then being seen by the hospital’s house psychiatrist, and was placed on the rather significant dose of Xanax. From that point on, it became all about her unreal feelings while taking the medications, and the horrible withdrawal symptoms once she stopped the meds.

I brought her back around to the reality that, as the doctors had told her,  the medications would gradually work their way out of her system, and she should continue working with her PCP regarding her physical symptoms, but that I wanted to refocus on the true source of the anxiety, as her withdrawal symptoms had all but distracted her from the real problem.

So then she listened as I told her about herself, where I described her perfectionistic and caregiving personality which had run unchecked and unbridled for many years leading to her gradually overwhelming herself, and creating anxiety and panic attacks. In essence, I was describing a good person, well-meaning and caring, who was burning the candle at both ends. She sat there acknowledging that yes, she did tend to take on too much, and rarely could say no to anyone’s request for her help. Why not, it felt good to be needed and see herself as useful and well-liked ! How could that be a problem !

I could see her husband’s facial gestures and eye-rolling that all but said that his wife was minimizing the extent to which SHE OVER-EXTENDED herself all the time. She was addicted to pleasing !  However, without boundaries, that need to be needed and fix others had become a self-sabotaging path to disaster.  I expressed to her that this is less a disease, and more of a reaction to her habitual, compulsive pattern of overwhelming herself because her very positive personality characteristics had run amok and caused her to unravel.

Once she realized what had happened and truly embraced it, and that took some time and soul-searching, she learned to set healthy limits and boundaries. She learned she was not broken, and that she could be better than she was before, as she could still be who she was, but would make smarter choices. Her pain taught her to take better care of herself. Unfortunately, without pain, she would never have seriously considered change. Would you ?

She had to realize that all she had been through was not a sign of weakness, but a sign that corrections needed to be made where she created a greater balance in her life between being there for others and being there for herself. She was not needy, but she had needs. She was not selfish, but needed to take care of herself. She could be there for others, but knew where to draw the line so that the energy she put into others was better matched with the energy coming back.

Oh, she would still screw up at times and have little setbacks as old habits are hard to break, but she would catch herself and readjust. That’s how it works !

Just a thought or two !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach
dba, The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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Why We Fail ?

by on Oct.28, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

While talking with members in our on-line Support Group at www.OneStepataTime.com last evening, it was obvious that while some had been making great progress in facing their fears and taking control of panic attacks, others were predictably stuck, unable to make significant progress.

Why do I say “ predictably “ stuck ? They were, in fact, so fearful of feeling any anxiety symptoms that there could be no progress. Now, some of the same individuals had made some progress in the past, where once housebound or equally paralyzed by their panic symptoms, they were now able to at least function within a small limited radius of their homes. Please, make no mistake, I am thrilled that they have learned some skills that allowed them to break free of some of their self-imposed paralysis, but they were again stuck, far below their potential and their desires to do more with their lives.

Why ? Because, in my opinion, they were motivated earlier to stretch because they felt they had little choice. They could have lost their jobs and any chance of a productive life, so the need to take steps forward was greater than the fear of symptoms. So, they did stretch enough to create a somewhat bigger comfort zone, one that was at least more tolerable. THEY DID SO, ONE STEP AT A TIME and usually while being guided by a therapist. But then, they fell into that thought pattern where that little voice said that was enough, they were comfortably-uncomfortable. Not yet where they really wanted to be, but better than they were, and besides, the more you do, the more people expect of you !

However, for others, they could put off pushing forward because….well, because they could. Maybe living at home with parents or having a spouse that worked, they could rationalize avoiding what needed to be done just a while longer, which sadly only weakens the chances for success. Maybe the idea of going on Disability was presented to them by weary family members or a frustrated therapist or primary care physician.

One primary issue that I stressed rather firmly last evening was that they were all still more focused on how they felt, on avoiding anxiety symptoms, and were still missing the greater issue, the true source for their anxieties. The majority of these individuals, and truly most of my clients, never allowed themselves to focus on why they were having panic attacks in the first place. There is, in almost all cases, a reason. After forty years in practice, and after resolving my own issues and panic attacks, I still see panic attacks as a reaction. A person has to look at their lives and see that when the anxiety symptoms first manifested, as easy as it is to focus entirely on how horrible the symptoms feel, there was something being experienced, some real issues or conflicts being denied or avoided, that stimulated the panic and got the ball rolling down hill.

One only needs to look at the conflicts that come with dealing with people, especially for those personalities that are more adapting and approval seeking, yes dependent on approval to feel worth and value, and perceive themselves as inadequate in conflicting situations. One of the individuals in group last evening said, upon reflection, “I was always a door mat “. So we learn to avoid ! And just how vulnerable and at risk does a person feel when they perceive a habit of avoiding ??? Avoidance causes us to not trust ourselves, it weakens our resolve and brings on more avoidance.

Therapy must focus on not only facing the anxiety symptoms and places one avoids because of panic attacks, but realize that the real issue is that there is an underlying pattern of avoidance when it comes to conflicting issues in our life, and that usually means even as a child or adolescent.

Listen please: There is no quick fix or ten easy steps. It is a commitment to hard work and soul-searching under the guidance of a therapist well-experienced in the area of panic attacks someone who really gets it !

I invite anyone reading this to join us in our free Support Group on Sunday evenings, at 9 PM ET.

I am including instructions to Join www.OneStepataTime.com and to enter the Support Group below.

If you are in therapy and do not feel you are making progress, you might discuss some of what I have shared above with your therapist.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach
dba, The Benhaven Group. LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Private Practice: www.BenhavenCounseling.com

Instructions for using OneStepataTime.com website and Chat Room for Support Groups:

Our On-Line Support Groups, 9 pm, ET, every Sunday evening. Come Join us !!!

If you are serious about making some needed CHANGES in your life, STOP AVOIDING and JOIN US….

First, Go to : www.OneStepataTime.com

Join and become a member…It’s Free and Anonymous !

For returning visitors, If you do not remember your ID and Password to enter the web site at www.OneStepataTime.com you can sign up again for a new basic free membership.

Sunday Evenings at 9 PM ET, will be entirely devoted to provide SUPPORT services for ALL members. This time will be used to answer questions, share experiences and discuss both progress made and challenges experienced as each of you confront your symptoms. Psychologist, Gene Benedetto will moderate this Support Group.

How to Log-on to Chat Software

You will need to use either Mozilla Firefox, Chrome or Safari to use the chat room since Internet Explorer will not support the Chat Server.

Once you are a Basic Free Member and want to enter the Support Group on line, here are the steps you should take.

Log on to our site at www.OneStepataTime.com using Firefox, Chrome or Safari.

Sign in using your User ID and Password

Click on Support Group

Click on Enter. You will now see a log in page for the Chat Room.

DO NOT click on “Login as Member”. You will “Log in as Guest”

Enter a User ID…whatever you want to be seen as, [no password is needed]

The Chat Blazer Sign-in page will load and you will see your choice of Support Group and Private Coaching Room and Workshop Room.
Highlight the Support Group…and you are in!!!!

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Why Am I Having Panic Attacks ?

by on Sep.30, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Why Am I Having Panic Attacks ?

When a person experiences a panic attack, it is a horribly frightening experience that he or she is unlikely to forget. In fact, the fear of having another such experience can often bring on another one.  Then the stage is set where one might find himself or herself avoiding doing things to avoid another incident which can be very alarming and embarrassing.

Unless the person is dealing with some obvious and major crisis or trauma, the  victim of a PA is so focused on their symptoms that they don’t take time to realize the source of their symptoms. Typically, the anxious person will look for a quick remedy through medications. While medications are quite often necessary and helpful,  they do not always offer a cure. I always recommend that anyone experiencing panic attacks seeks medical intervention. You want to make sure there are no physical causes for your symptoms, or that the symptoms are not exacerbated by some condition like thyroid imbalances, hypoglycemia,  etc. Then I recommend you see a therapist who is experienced with treating panic attacks.

Now is there a cure for the heart palpitating, chest beating, frantic shortness of breath or that light-headed dizzying feeling that may be a PA ? Well, in my opinion, there is no quick fix or magic pill, but with hard work, soul-searching under the guidance of a trained professional counselor, and a focus not only on learning how to deal with and desensitize to the symptoms, but also discovering and taking steps to face the source of the anxiety, you can learn to control your symptoms. Dare I say, I have had many a client who no longer experiences panic attacks.

At first, the true source can be a very evasive issue as we tend to look for something traumatic, some overwhelming crisis. Not that panic attacks cannot occur as a result of some tragedy, but in my experience, the source for many panic attacks tends to be “personal conflicts ” that cause us to feel trapped, out of control and overwhelmed rather than traumas. 

A suggestion is that you might look at issues, be they people or situations in your life that you might be avoiding. We do not avoid without paying a price in our thoughts.

I will expand on this topic by offering examples in my next article to see if I can stimulate even more soul searching on your part.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Blog : RuledByFear.com

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Can you be honest with yourself ?

by on Sep.24, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

You have to be especially and sometimes painfully honest with yourself if you truly want to feel in control of your life  and master real control of your anxieties. Whether in the form of panic attacks, obsessive thoughts or other physical manifestations of anxiety and stress, you have to get a true handle on why this is happening to you, not just treat the symptoms. 

Clients I work with are usually just normal people who are experiencing symptoms of anxiety because they are feeling overwhelmed in some important aspect of their lives or feel in conflict, often over their dealing, or lack of dealing with certain difficult people in their lives. 

The symptoms themselves  tend to cause a person to feel a sense of being out of control, and thereby distract the client from looking at the true source, the reason they are having symptoms. This is where the personal soul-searching and down in the gut honesty with oneself is critical. So often, the source issue that is adding to one’s sense of being overwhelmed truly is something or someone we are avoiding, not wanting to see or deal with. You cannot truly avoid without consequences, unless maybe one has no conscience. YOU KNOW at some level that you are avoiding, and that triggers even more stress, that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Take a few minutes to assess the potential sources for your anxiety, especially that persistent anxiousness.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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Fear Grows in an Atmosphere of Avoidance

by on Aug.18, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Personal Growth comes only when we stretch, explore and challenge our own personal status quo. Many of us do not realize how much time we spend AVOIDING options or choices to grow, as avoidance can become a habit as it is often the result backing down from fear, which in turn leads to a feeling of weakness and self-doubt, leading to more avoidance.

Some may just be lucky that they are either “wired” for success or grew up in an atmosphere that nurtured the idea of taking risks to grow and not be as  vulnerable to the fears of failure, rejection, ridicule or embarrassment. But then, there ate others whose early years were so fraught with challenges that they used all their mental energy to escape being ever again so vulnerable to fear. Don’t we marvel at the person who, against all odds, comes through life so motivated to take on challenges and build empires ? In some ways, these individuals were forced by the dark side of life, and some of the darker people they came up against to see evidence that they could persevere, that they were witness to the fact that what they did to survive demonstrated an inner strength. That inner strength created a momentum that was hard to stop, as they were not ruled by fear.

Then there are the rest of us mere mortals, good people all in all, from loving families, maybe somewhat over-protected and under-challenged. We may not be Supermen or Wonder-Women but we CAN ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS if we can escape our fearful thoughts, which although often meant to protect, most frequently detour many of our efforts to grow outside what is comfortable,  leaving us comfortably-uncomfortable.

So how do we achieve great things when up against our fearful thoughts, and the self-doubt ?
First, we might recognize that many of the anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors we experience might just be a reaction to feeling trapped in our so-called comfortable lives. When we give into our fears and avoid, we feel a sense of inner weakness, a feeling of not quite being in control of our lives. Could that feeling possibly trigger an anxiety reaction, which then in itself creates more of a sense of being out of control, just maybe ? But once truly recognized and with a carefully laid out plan, we can step by step, with a support team around us, begin to challenge our fears.

The following are comments from a client who has experienced significant anxiety in the form of Obsessive- Compulsive symptoms but has begun to seriously explore why he was having these anxiety symptoms that all but paralyzed him in his life. He asked that I share what he has experienced as he talks himself through his fearful and sabotaging thoughts :

” I hate this job ! I think this is a euphemism for I hate myself for being in this job. 

Whoa, let’s look at reality ! I am disappointed that I am not doing more to change my situation, but that is no reason to hate myself. Besides, I am now taking steps. They might not seem like much, but they are steps. I am taking a class this Fall to give myself a bit of a challenge and get my feet wet. I am starting to read a Calculus textbook to refresh myself. I am making plans to contact a past college professor, to see if he has any suggestions on how I can achieve my new goal of teaching at the college level.

I am the one who is living my life. If I am not happy then I should do whatever I can to make myself happy. If others do not approve, are skeptical or negative about what I want to do to make myself happy, then I need to realize that while I am sorry they feel that way, it is my life, my happiness that I need to pursue, not theirs.  So they can either help or get out of my way. If they cannot be supportive, I must go around them as they are symbols of the fears and negative thoughts that I have allowed to hold me back.

I am intelligent. I am capable. I care about people. I can do this !!! ”

It is hard work, but aren’t you worth the effort to do more of what you are capable of doing with your life  ?  The more you avoid, the more conflict you feel within yourself, the angrier or more frustrated you become. You need reasonable goals with reasonable steps, and then allow each step to motivate you to the next move. 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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That Look of Being Overwhelmed and Trapped !

by on Jun.23, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

It caught me off-guard at first when I saw that look in his eyes. I have seen that look before with many a client when they feel overwhelmed with anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive thoughts. They think there is something seriously wrong with their minds, like they are having a  “breakdown” or “going crazy”. So I am no stranger to that look, that anguish written all over their faces. But this was not a patient, but one of the physicians that I have worked with for years. We have collaborated with many a patient/client, but I had never seen this look of fear and frustration on HIS face before. I had gone to his office as I had done many times before, just to touch base, share what we were trying to do to better serve his patients and have a quick cup of coffee with him and his fellow docs. It had been a while since my last visit because we had been so busy dealing with changes in the health care system.

I knew what the problem was immediately. But within seconds he expressed what he was feeling. He, like many professional caregivers I know and work with, was feeling overwhelmed and trapped in his medical practice, a career that he worked so hard to create and develop. He was one of those docs that would sit a few minutes to catch up with his patients, knew their kids names, and always had a pretty good idea what was going on in their lives. It was a family practice much like my own father had, where you knew your patients well enough to spot problems even when the patient hadn’t said anything yet. Yes, there was a time when physicians and therapists built a professional relationship with their patients. That time is slipping away. Actually, it is pretty much gone already.
Now, as hospitals gobble up physicians practices and Obamacare is beginning to take hold, these healing professionals are being dictated to as to how they must run their practices. They are being told to spend two to ten minutes with a patient and move on to the next, make less outside referrals because those are costly, and of course, create an Electronic Record of each session. Really ??? That makes one feel all warm and fuzzy when they visit their caregiver. Somehow the doctor is to find out all he needs to diagnose and treat you in ten minutes, really connect with you,  and make sure to type his notes regarding that diagnosis and treatment into a permanent record that can be stored in a “cloud” somewhere that is certainly safe and secure. I mean who would ever want to hack into a system that contains all your health information ? I am sure our government will take every step to assure the safe keeping of all that vital information !!!  And of course, the IRS will be handling Obamacare, so not to worry ! It makes many of us Caregivers sick to see where healthcare is going….excuse me, has gone.
I stopped at another office of physicians I work with and the story was the same. The only difference was that MY primary care physician had recently left the practice to set up a solo practice where he will take no insurance and will limit the number of patients he will see. He will be available 24/7 for that limited number of people and will serve their needs for a flat fee each year.
The only relief I felt was when I thought about the fact that I already signed up as a member of his practice. Now that I am a senior, and seeing on the inside what is happening to Health Care in our Country, I need to take steps to make sure I get quality care when I go to my primary care doctor’s office, and that my care is a private issue between my doctor and myself. Is it so hard to imagine that when you get older, some Secretary of Health and Human Services or some panel of bean-counters will decide that maybe I am too old for that treatment option? It’s coming people…..it’s here !
That’s Big Government….CONTROL….and they have such a good record of self-policing and security and of course ethical behavior.  Right ? WAKE UP !

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Lack of action on our part gives them all the POWER they need.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
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Intrusive Thoughts Paralyze

by on Mar.17, 2013, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I spend much of my time as a therapist helping people who have Intrusive Thoughts, where a person obsesses over something, often an irrational thought, to the point that it can paralyze them from getting anything meaningful done for hours if not days.

For some, the focus of their thoughts is on some health issue, and most often not an actual physical issue they are dealing with but one they fear might arise. Every ache or pain triggers the fear of something more serious lurking around the corner.

Others find themselves spending vast amounts of their energy avoiding germs, not necessarily because they have had some disease, but they experience this urge, this unexplainable need to wash their hands repeatedly, or to shower multiple times before they feel comfortable enough to move on.

Still others find themselves checking their work over and over for fear that there is something they are missing that could lead to a disaster, failure or rejection.

A person can find himself obsessing over anything and then compulsively needing to carry out some repetitive behavior like checking, reorganizing and repeating some behavior while his day is passing him by. The nature of the thoughts and the resulting rituals know no boundaries, but they can be paralyzing.

If you have not experienced a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior, you may think it odd that others do. Certainly, some individuals who do find themselves trapped in the endless pattern of obsessing and carrying out rituals are the butt of jokes and sitcoms. But the reality is, many people suffer from this anxiety disorder and it is quite emotionally painful.

Having had a turn at obsessive-compulsive behaviors of my own,  I enjoy working with these individuals in therapy, because I understand them. Of course I find them intelligent and truly wanting to find an avenue to control their thoughts and rituals. They are most often driven to find answers. There are most often sensitive, empathetic, adapting and caring people.

But what I also find is that they are people who have experienced emotional  conflicts in their lives, where they are caught between doing what they feel they should, what is expected of them versus doing what they want, what is personally satisfying. It might be a child  experiencing her first taste of rejection at the hands of a new student that she attempted to befriend, only to find the new friend bad-talking her to others. It might be an adolescent experiencing normal sexual urges but also being sensitive to what he has been taught about being responsible and respectful, what is right and wrong. Does he follow his basic urges, does he experiment and take risks ?  It might be a young man raised in a perfectionistic environment where he feels nothing he does is good enough, yet he gives up being a child to do all he can to please his parents’ expectations.

Emotional  conflicts often cause much frustration and anger, but the emotions are suppressed for fear of rejection. Suppressed emotions can do harm.

Conflict and conflicting emotions, especially anger, tends to create a sense of not being in control. Anger especially can ramp up ones brain chemistry so the person has strange feelings, even panic attacks. Not feeling in control, and not understanding the emotional turmoil that is brewing below the surface only adds to those feeling of not being in control.

This is when the person may find himself having intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, momentary yet irrational thoughts leading to an urge to carry out some ritual, some compulsive behavior. Carrying out the compulsive behavior may give some relief, create a sense that ‘If I do this, I will feel better “, thus creating a temporary sense of control. Then  the compulsive behavior becomes a habit.

When a client is willing to do the work to uncover the emotional conflicts, and also make some changes in how they deal with issues and people in their lives, they can in fact learn to challenge and take control of their intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The trick is to be able to guide the client to see the true causes and triggers, and offer the needed support while steps are taken to face changes. What these people need most of all is understanding and support. If you know someone with OCD, remember that !

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Newsletter and Support Group : www.OneStepataTime.com
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
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