When Fear Rules !

Tag: compulsive eating

She Asked Me to Be Her Pretend Grandpa

by on Dec.27, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

My dear young friend who allowed me into her life when she was a homeless kid on the streets at age 11, has now been recently adopted by a great and loving young  family, and she just celebrated her first Christmas with that family.

About two years ago she asked if I could be her pretend grandpa. That was when she was still on the streets, just surviving. I was and am honored. But this Christmas, she is safe and sound, and part of a loving family.

She knows I would buy her anything for Christmas, but she wanted NO gifts. What she asked for was and Adoption Agreement, something I would create,which although not a legal document, would be a more formal testament to our relationship as grandpa and grandchild.

It was one of the most important documents I have ever been a part of creating, and it meant so much to me that she still wants me in that role.

She told me she was framing the agreement and hanging it next to her adoption papers from her new parents.  How awesome ! I am so proud of this young lady, my No. 7 Grand-daughter. What she has overcome is impossible to express effectively, but her tenacity and determination to get off the streets was nothing short of miraculous.

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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Anger With Ourselves !

by on Dec.18, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

When a person comes to me because of panic attacks or OCD, one thing I always look for is a sign of repressed anger.  Anger is such a powerful emotion, and although natural in so many situations, when it is not understood or dealt with effectively and honestly, this emotion can cause much inner conflict and many anxiety symptoms.

With that thought in mind, I typically will explore  any signs of anger and attempt to help my client look at the anger in his or her life, and realize when that anger is more anger with themselves than with the apparent object or person they profess to be frustrated with at the time.

The reality is, I find many are really more angry with themselves for being so naive, gullible or vulnerable to controlling, manipulative or selfish persons especially when they face the fact that there has been a pattern  of not taking control, of not asserting themselves, and avoiding conflict which is especially typical of the adapting and approval seeking personality types.

Those personality types might be seen as caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists. These are most often good people, with a sensitivity to others, but their adapting natures tends to make them vulnerable to the controlling and manipulative types.

So, yes, they often have repressed anger and frustration within themselves as they feel so much in conflict between their basic needs and nature and yet do not set adequate boundaries once they see signs of that anger rise to the surface. Setting boundaries is not an easy thing to learn, but it makes a huge difference in the emotional well-being of the person who is learning to take control of his or her life.

Step by step, the adapting personalities set basic boundaries by learning to put off decisions when things are being requested of them, and allowing a twenty-four hour period to pass at which time they can respond. In this way, they are giving themselves time to determine whether saying yes is a healthy response that they feel very comfortable with, rather than giving in just to please, when below the skin they are  wishing they had not.

Yes, there are manipulative, controlling and selfish personality types. The trick is to recognize them, realize your vulnerability to them, and develop a game plan to learn to deal with them.

 

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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She was only trying to protect herself !

by on Dec.11, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

“She Was Only Protecting Herself From Further Rejection and Pain “

 

I  was talking to a client who was experiencing excruciating and frequent panic attacks that were causing her to not want to leave her home.

She was a single mom with a job and a great deal of responsibility for two kids. I was initially thinking to myself that she must feel overwhelmed at times raising  kids and working and having all that on her shoulders. But she quickly said, “ I am a strong person, independent, I do not allow myself to become needy of anyone, and I work hard to stay in-control !”

I heard what she said, loud and clear, but something did not click for me as I saw a softer side below what she was “trying” to project. When I probed further, she also told me of a past where she was a people pleaser, never set boundaries which allowed people to take advantage of her. She admitted that  she sought approval and allowed herself to be abused in her first marriage.

Since I am always looking for the emotional conflicts that are the actual triggers for panic attacks, bells went off in my head. So I asked, “What happened to that nice, caring, adapting person who loved people and just wanted to enjoy life ? Do you think you buried her, eliminated her and her needs from your mind ?”

She thought for a moment and said, “ But I cannot allow myself to be vulnerable to people again. I cannot trust people to be there. !”

Therein lies the conflict ! She is still that adapting, caring, sensitive, even approval seeking person, but she has worked so hard to over-correct to protect herself, that she is in pain that she is missing what she always wanted, an intimate  relationship, a healthy, loving companion to share with. Her over-correction was in a real sense denying her most basic needs.

She needed to focus on  being who she really is, BUT, learning to do so in a healthier way. She needed to learn to make better choices, set better boundaries, and deal only with those who “proved they were trustworthy and dependable as well as shared some of the same needs.

One cannot change who they are ! It is not who she was that caused her pain, since she possesses many wonderful qualities. It was that she had to be smarter in the way she lived her life to realize she had the right to be who she was, but also that she could learn to allow in her private space only those who deserved to be her friends or companions.

Adapting personalities, like the caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are more susceptible to anxiety , especially in the form of panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors because they do not set boundaries for FEAR of rejection, failure or abandonment. It is very hard to teach a person to care and to feel, to be truly intimate persons, but it is a very do-able task to teach and learn to set boundaries. Learning to say “No” when your gut tells you something is not comfortable or right, even when that habitual, approval seeking voice in your head is telling you to adjust what you think and feel in order to please the other person is a typical dilemma for adapting personalities, and it is a very treatable pattern of behavior that can be changed.

We will talk more about this issue and others in future newsletters and at our On-Line Support Groups on Sunday Nights at OneStepataTime.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

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He Knew the Triggers for Anxiety and Panic

by on Nov.07, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So this client comes back after almost twenty years, saying he has not had panic attacks for all that time. Previous to that, his life had become RuledByFear in that the panic attacks were frequent and intense and were  effecting all aspects of his life, both his work and personal life.

He had learned and understood the causes for his previous panic attacks and had made some significant changes in his life which reduced the conflicts and issues that were previously triggers.

Now, after all that time, he returned with another form of anxiety symptom. His blood pressure had risen dangerously high. It was not constant, but frequent enough to put the scare into him. He did the normal visits to the doctor and was told there was no physical causation they could find.

So, he came to discuss what he thought might be the triggers for this renewal of anxiety symptoms, and behold, he was right on the money. He had pretty much figured it out, which meant he had learned well in the past. But he wanted some reassurance, which is quite normal.

He realized he had been under a great deal of stress lately, even more than just stress, he was feeling CONFLICT again, and that sense of being out of control over something in his life. Sure enough, he had been trying to help a friend of his son who was in bad need of medical care but had no money, and on top of that, was visiting from another country which is known to not have adequate medical care.

He felt he knew a lot of people, and besides, this young person was in crisis and truly needed immediate attention, including surgeries. Sadly, he  had exhausted most all of his contacts and options and he heard nothing but rejection, even from doctors. He took the rejection somewhat personally as  it caused him to feel that what he believed, that we are basically good people who will come to the aide of those less fortunate, especially when their ills are not the result of anything they have done.

Yes, he did finally find a resource that would help, but by that time, his faith in his fellow man had been shaken. He truly  had his eyes opened to the reality that he had little control in this case  and it caused him great personal conflict. I cannot adequately express all that he went through in just a few words, but understand, reality can sometimes shake you down to your toes.

At least he came to realize that it was all this  conflict that was causing his anxiety symptoms, so he did save himself from  allowing those symptoms to escalate into panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

We can at times be so enveloped in a situation that is causing us great conflict that we do not see what is happening to us. Then of course, we can become so wrapped up in our symptoms and obsessing that there is something seriously amiss medically, that we lose sight that we are reacting to feeling ‘out of control’ over some real issue in our lives.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Coach

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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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Self-Esteem and Panic Attacks

by on Oct.08, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Back to the Basics !

Let me first say that I would REALLY like to see you make some real progress in taking control of your anxiety, whether it be in the form of panic attacks, phobias, agoraphobia or obsessive/intrusive thoughts and /or compulsive behaviors.

Yes, I believe, actually, I KNOW you can gain more control over your symptoms if you are only willing to work hard to understand the true SOURCES of your anxiety, if you will take the time to develop a healthy and reasonable PLAN, and finally, are at a point where you are willing to work that plan, step by step.

You notice I did not say you could overcome your symptoms in  six easy steps, that all you have to do is buy some CD or DVD program. It does not work that way. It takes hard work and determination. But it does work because it is YOU taking steps to make it work and not just looking for a  magic pill. No Pain, No Gain !….or Know Pain, Know gain…get it?

I have no doubt that your Self-Esteem has a great deal to do with WHY you had anxiety symptoms to begin with, as is the case for most of us. There are things we need to do in our lives, people and situations we need to deal with so that we feel more in control in our lives, but we have avoided those people or situations because we want to avoid conflict, avoid disapproval or rejection.

When we avoid, our self-esteem takes a hit, a serious thrashing over time. If you just LISTEN to the way you sometimes talk to yourself in your private moments, you can probably hear your negative self-talk. :

“ I wish I would have taken the time to finish my degree !”,

“Why did I allow that person to manipulate me, why was I so weak ?”

“Why have I let myself go and gained so much weight, I can just imagine what people are thinking about me ? ”

“Here I am, another year has gone by and I have not made any of the changes I promised myself I would ! “

“Why did I yes, I did not want to go there with them ? ”

“ I am stuck in this job and it’s too late to change anything ! “

“ Why am I still in this relationship, I know I am miserable and it is not going to get better.? Maybe I am not suppose to be happy ! “

“ Nothing good ever comes my way. I must be cursed ! “

“How could I be so stupid to let him use me that way ? “

I could go on and one, but you get the idea. No one else has to put you down, you probably do enough of that to yourself. And, what I find in most cases is that this kind of avoidance and negative self-talk has been going on since you were a kid, or at least a teenager. People can be cruel and say and do hurtful things to others, mostly because they have their own self-esteem issues.

Maybe you have been bullied. Maybe you were made fun of by others. Maybe your need for approval caused you to spend more time pleasing the other people and not focusing on doing what you really wanted to do in and with your life.

Well, I have to tell you something and you need to listen ! It is not too late to make changes in your life and take steps to boost your  self -esteem while also learning to face your fears and anxieties. If you want to get on board, come join us in Support Group at www.OneStepataTime.com. We will start those groups in about two weeks on Sunday nights at 9 PM, ET.

Of course, you could avoid this too !

Gene Benedetto, Coach

Clinical Psychologist

 

 

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Anger and Contamination Issues

by on Jul.03, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

One of the most common emotions that is a trigger for panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive behaviors is ANGER. Sometimes we would rather believe that our anxiety symptoms ARE caused by something physical, something we can just take medications for and then they will go away.

But the reality, in my opinion as a therapist, is that most panic and OCD symptoms, while able to be decreased somewhat by medications, are caused by emotional conflicts, issues and people that we have a HABIT of avoiding.

One of my clients who has fought hard to take control of his OCD, and has made significant progress, put it this way: “ I am angry with myself for believing that I am so incompetent, that I cannot do anything right. I use my obsession with contaminating others as an alternative to dealing with this anger with myself ”. This is a great and potentially healing insight on his part. As a child, he perceived that he could do nothing right in the eyes of his father. As a child and adolescent, he did not realize that his father’s
unrealistic expectations and inability to praise were all part of his father’s insecurities which caused him to hide from his fears by demanding of his son. All the son saw and felt was that he was incompetent in the eyes of the father, a perception of self that the son adopted early on and which festered through his adult life.

That anger caused him to feel that there was something WRONG within himself, as anger toward the father, and more deeply toward himself for being weak, caused him to feel “out of control” within his own skin.

Rather than deal with that anger, my client was caught up with his obsessive worry over contamination and his ritualistic behaviors which included hand washing, excessive washing of clothes, or stockpiling clothing that he feared were contaminated, etc.

His obsessions and compulsive behaviors allowed him to ignore the anger brewing within him.

Now, with great effort on his part and a very, very supportive but firm wife, he is taking control of his OCD, but as important, or actually more so, he IS realizing and dealing with his anger both towards his father and himself.
He has made great and significant progress, and as proud of him as we all are, he knows he has more work ahead of him.

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She Speaks !!!

by on May.28, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

She Speaks !!!!!

I had mentioned in an earlier article about a young lady I was working with who had not spoken to anyone but her mother since first grade. She was referred to me as a case of “selective mutism” in that we knew there was no physiological barriers to her speech, but yet she would not utter a single word outside the protective walls of her home.

When I met her, she was thirteen, and was about to graduate from eight grade. Although accommodations had been made for her in her small private elementary school, High school would present more problems for a child who could, but would not speak.

She had been to other therapists, but she resisted their efforts. I did not ask, nor did I want to know what methods or approaches they had tried, as I did not want to be influenced in any way. I wanted to get my own feel for this child and the psychological and sociological factors that caused her to “choose” to be mute.

I found that as an only child, she had been somewhat sheltered and protected, but certainly loved. There had been a difficult kindergarten and first grade experience where this young child had possibly experienced some overwhelming pressures, but all in all, there were no serious traumas.

I focused of developing a trusting relationship with her, with the thought that as I got to know her, I would learn the conflicts and issues that were most likely sources for her unique anxiety reaction.

I made sure to let her know that even though I would suggest steps to take to face her “fear” of speaking, I would expect HER to decide which steps or how big a step to take. Feeling in control is a crucial issue for most who are experiencing panic attacks, significant anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders. So, I let her know that I would be her “coach”, but she had to decide what steps were to be taken ……an we together developed a step by step plan that took us from gradually making nonsense sounds just to make noise, to a progression of steps where she could see that whatever she feared was not an issue as we move up the hierarchy of our joint plan.

It took a few months, but two weeks ago, as I went to bring her in from the waiting room, the smiles on the faces of both mother and child said it all. She had progressed, step by step, and was able to give a short speech to her class about her Summer plans.

I was as excited for her as if it were my first case, because I knew she so wanted to feel in control of her life, but fear was holding her back.

At the next appointment, her mom reported some interesting results. Not only had she talked more and more to her fellow classmates, but she was overheard “telling a few of the bullies in school what she thought about them”. She had not only found her voice, but years of repressing to avoid rejection, embarrassment and the cruel games that children can play, had finally found an outlet for expression.

It took patience, and the realization that she had control of the steps she could take to find her voice. Steps allowed her to move against her fears in small enough bites that she did not choke. She was able to get the internal feedback that she was OK, which tehn gave her the strength and trust in self that she could do more.

The word is out, don’t cross her or you will get a piece of her mind, in the form of words that she had stored up for years.

Coach
Gene Benedetto, Clinical Psychologist

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Holding on to Fear !

by on May.22, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Holding on to Fear !

One typical behavior I see among most of my clients who experience panic attacks, or intrusive/obsessive thoughts is that they hold on to their fears.

I am not saying that they are fully conscious of what they are doing or why, but nonetheless, this can be at the heart of why they experienced panic or OCD to begin with.

Many times I have expressed that when a person experiences conflicts in his or her life, especially when there is a habit to avoiding or ignoring the conflicts, that an inner sense of weakness develops. We have all made some bad decisions in life, and most of us have had experiences where we feel we did not handle a situation well. Many of us have felt we have been bullied or found ourselves controlled or manipulated by another person. If we never take steps to deal with the people or situations, if we allow ourselves to repeatedly avoid conflict, what is the result ?

Avoiding conflicts leads to an erosion of self esteem for sure. When faced with conflicts, we feel fear. We often feel anger towards the person or situation that presents us with conflict, but we are often angry with ourselves for allowing the situations to persist. With the erosion or self-esteem comes the equally painful erosion of trust in ourselves. This begins a never ending and blinding cycle of avoidance…deflating of self-esteem…anger with self….lack of trust in self….and then more avoidance.

Sometimes the reality of this cycle existing in our lives is just more than we want to admit to, except in our most private thoughts. As a result of this emotional cycle, many will experience the symptoms of panic , intrusive thoughts or the menacing pattern of compulsive or ritualistic behaviors that seem to run our lives. What happens then is that the symptoms become the focus of all our attention. The symptoms, the result of our fears, allow us to further avoid recognizing or dealing with the source of our pain…..avoidance.

It is never easy facing our fears. However, when lack of self-trust and a fragile self-esteem take root, holding on to our fears allows us to further avoid.

Yes…there is an answer…a solution. No quick fix, but a step by step approach to realizing and facing your fears in real life. You will most likely need a very close friend, an ally or a coach to help you through this process, because you have allowed yourself to be Ruled By Fear.
But, it can be done.

Coach
Gene Benedetto,
Clinical Psychologist

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Fear of Change

by on May.01, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

It is so very easy to settle for less when you yearn for more. Deciding what needs to be changed is a challenge in itself, but once realized, we are most likely to overwhelm ourselves at the prospect of what needs to change.

I have seen first hand, and repeatedly, that if I have the opportunity to guide my clients not only to the source of their anxieties, but also have to chance to help them set up a game plan for change, a step by step approach, there success is much greater. Left on their own, most people allow their need for approval and fear of failure, rejection and embarrassment to cause them to try to make change with bigger bites then they can swallow, which ensures the frustration and often, failure that they fear.

Most often, we have developed certain habits of avoidance that cause us to put off anything uncomfortable, so we spend many of our productive years comfortably-uncomfortable, trapped as our life is Ruled By Fear.

Breaking free of our self-imposed entrapment requires that the degree of fear related to potential change is felt to be outweighed by the emotional pain, and symptoms we experience as a result of our avoidance of the needed change.

Creating a reasonable plan to approach needed changes in reasonable bites, step by step, requires patience for sure, but allows you to create some emotional momentum to help you take the next step.

The needed changes most often have to do with learning to more effectively realize and then communicate your needs, learn to deal with difficult people who often realize your need for approval and take full advantage of your need to please, but mostly to see yourself doing things with your life that enhance your perceptions of yourself, your self-esteem.

Those personalities who are less wanting or needing of approval are able to rely of what they DO in order to foster their self-esteem rather than being as dependent of the nods and smiles and encouraging words of others. Now, those of us who do value approval from others may at times be at a disadvantage, but isn’t it better to have that emotional and intimate side of one’s personality, but realize the need to focus on our gifts and talents and seriously make an effort to realize the value of what we do ?

Coach
Gene Benedetto
Psychologist

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