When Fear Rules !

Tag: Intrusive

Feeling Out of Control !

by on Apr.13, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Feeling Out of Control ?

Sheila had not driven on a freeway in twenty-five years, although she had never been in a major accident. Her anxiety and fear of having a panic attack had seriously limited her options and choices for both a social life and a more desirable career as she was always searching for alternate roads to travel.

Chuck was so caught up with his obsessions over germs that it all but paralyzed him from doing anything to explore his desire for a meaningful relationship or a more challenging career. How could he even think about making changes in his life with all these anxiety-driven fears dominating his thoughts ? What girl would give him a second look when she realized his life was ruled by these fears of contamination ?

Rick was a productive guy with a potentially awesome career, but his anxiety and compulsive rituals of checking everything from doors being locked to “repeatedly” searching for errors in his work had negatively affected his performance to the point that his job was now in jeopardy.

Patricia loved her job, but all of a sudden her ability to travel was threatened by these panic attacks that came out of nowhere !

So, if you have ever experienced panic attacks or the companion symptoms of obsessive-intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviors, I do not have to tell you how overwhelming these symptoms can become and how much they can affect your life. Panic attacks, which often seem to come from ” out of the blue “, can quickly become an all consuming and draining experience as they leave one feeling such a very real sense of being out of control.

What could be the reason or a source for these life-altering symptoms ? Not wishing to over-simplify, but to at least get you thinking about why this might happen, I would offer the following points for you to consider. One of the common elements with each of the examples I offered above is the issue of being an adapting personality type. In my opinion, being an adapting person, one who is aware of and sensitive to the reactions, thoughts and feelings of others around them, is a gift but can feel like a curse. While being aware and sensitive is a characteristic that could enhance one’s personal life and career, depending on the depths one has “learned” to bend and adapt to please others, one can lose their sense of self because of their dependency on approval and acceptance. In too many situations, there are many of us who have “learned” to depend too much on the approval of others to measure their personal worth and value, and their sense of identity.

Dependency breeds a sense of doubt in oneself. What do I really want to do with my life ? Am I truly exploring what I want, or putting all my energy into what I think people expect me to do ? Do I just settle, and stay below the radar, or do I challenge myself even when others say I should be happy with what I have now, so don’t rock the boat ?

Do I stretch and put more energy into being there for others while ignoring or seldom expressing my own needs ? Do I conform to the “shoulds” or do I experiment with potential options in my life ? Do I avoid conflict at all cost ? Do I push myself to prove my worth and value but hesitate to reward myself for a job well-done ?

If you have experienced panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, please just consider that there are most often, in my humble opinion, reasons why this is happening to you. You may need to feel more in control of your life, which, if lacking, may cause you to experience panic and OCD which creates a more immediate sense of loss of control and at the same time may distract you from what is really going on.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

CEO: The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

Newsletter and On-Line Support Groups: www.OneStepataTime.com ,
www.PanicAttacks.com , www.Self-Esteem.com

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Intrusive Mothers ?

by on Feb.10, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Intrusive people are always the most difficult to deal with in our lives, but when it is a mother, it is especially anxiety producing.

By intrusive, I mean a person that does not have boundaries or respect those of others, and that certainly can apply to a mother or mother-in-law in their behavior towards their own adult children. Let’s say, a daughter and her husband return from a well-deserved night away from the kids only to find that her mother
re-arranged the living room furniture while she was babysitting, or decided the that she knew better how their pantry should be set-up. ” Surprise, I took the time to set up your kitchen the way it should to be done, I know you will love it ! ” Or the mother comes over bearing a gift of a flower arrangement in colors that she likes and then proceeds to tell her daughter what throw pillows she needs to buy to go along with the new color scheme. Get the picture ?

It gets much worse ! I have seen situations where mothers will openly criticize the relationship that their son or daughter has chosen or how the grandkids are being raised.
What makes is so very conflicting and bordering on abusive is when the mother tries to guilt, shame or blame the daughter every time she does not approve of what she has done.
This is not about giving loving suggestions, but more so controlling and manipulating

So while the daughter and her husband now have children of their own and want to establish a new Christmas morning tradition of opening the gifts as soon as the kids awake with all their enthusiasm at its peak, the mother expects the daughter and family to pack up everything, bundle up the kids and trek over to mom’s with gifts and diapers because that was the tradition. When the daughter tries to nicely say that they will come later but they want to establish their own traditions, or even suggests that the mother come early to see the kids come down the steps wide-eyed and filled excitement, the mother says, ” You can do that after I am gone. Do you want to break your mother’s heart. I won’t be around that much longer ! ”

Intrusive people are most often very insecure below the surface, very needy of attention and yes, selfish and feeling entitled. Instead of celebrating someone else’s happiness or personal growth, they want to re-establish their importance, secure their position of being special.

Lacking somewhat in empathy, but suggesting they are the picture of that quality, the intrusive mother has a warped awareness of the needs of others, and does not often recognize boundaries as her needs dominate.

I have watched many a young married adult go through much conflict, bouncing between guilt and anger in their attempts to set limits and boundaries with an intrusive parent. Not surpisingly, such conflict can bring on anxiety symptoms, including full-blown panic attacks.
What the adult child of an intrusive parent should do, no, what they must do , is set those boundaries firmly and lovingly…and be prepared to be persistent and consistent.

” I love you mom and I know you mean well, but that is not how my husband and I want to do things with our children. Please respect my boundaries. ” Then repeat this without trying to defend your position, as the more you say, the more the intrusive person will try to manipulate and control.
I tell my clients dealing with intrusive mothers not to expect this lesson to be learned long-term. Most often, one has to be prepared to express this mantra each time the intrusive mother even shows the slightest move to cross a boundary. Intrusive people tend to not understand or have much insight into the sabotaging behavior, so it is the consequences that they learn. So when the adult child of an intrusive parent speaks in respectful and consistent terms and follows-through, the intrusive person will more than likely come to change their behavior, not because she truly gets it, but because she cannot over-rule the daughter with blame, shame and guilt tactics. Now, if instead, the daughter becomes angry and shows that anger, she plays into the intrusive mother’s hands. The mother will surely blame, shame and guilt the the daughter for any outbursts and then take control, unless the daughter is also a similarly intrusive person. Then all bets are off and I am out of there !

You can, of course, apply this approach to dealing with any instrusive person, be it a co-worker, a friend, sibling or stranger. This is not easy, but the effects that an instrusive person can have on your life, marriage, children and self-esteem is real, and it is one of the most important lessons to learn about dealing with difficult people.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling, LLC

The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
On-Line Suppoort Group and Newsletter: 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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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
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFearhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image20924564

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Why Don’t We LISTEN ?

by on Jun.23, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Once we learn to talk, it seems like we become so enamored with the sound of our own voices, that we never learn to LISTEN.

In my work as a therapist, that is my number one tool to help people, JUST LISTEN. If I take the time to draw out of the other person what is on his or her mind, it is only then that I can be of any significant value in helping my client resolve whatever issue [s} that brought them to me. One of the reasons people do come to me is that there is no one else they can trust to hear what they have to say since most people in their lives are oh so ready to tell them what to do, but not so ready to just LISTEN.

I mean, coming up with answers for everyone’s problems is hard work, but just listening is easy. By just allowing the other person to talk, or even more by encouraging them to share with you, you are opening up a form of communication for which you can feel satisfied that you were truly of help, while at the same time, allowing the person being heard to feel validated, as opposed to feeling he or she unable to solve problems.

In so many cases, when I listen as a professional, or even just as a friend, I can see the look on the face of the person I am listening to lighten up as if to say, ” I DO have the answer in my head, I just needed someone to help me get them out into the open “. Listening helps the other person feel respected instead of embarrassed that they needed someone else to solve their problem.

Think about it ! Would you rather just have someone tell you what you should do, or help you draw out the options in your mind and assist you in making decisions that are natural to your personality’s needs ?

Then there is the issue of agendas !!! This is a BIGGIE ! Can you tell another person what to do without allowing your own biases to  interfere or rule what you say ? What if what is good for you is not good for her ? Can you be neutral ? Oh please, really !!! We often worry so much about what other people think or say about us, how much does that influence what we might say to another person if what they are bringing up touches a nerve in us ?

Then there are the parents who are trying to teach their children how to deal with life, but are so busy dealing with that life themselves that they end up preaching instead of really teaching. Do you really want your child to just echo what you think, or to understand, to have some insight into what they need to do ? I listen to parents talk to their children all the time, and very seldom do I hear that they are teaching the child to think, but instead……

……..Well, as an example, a child I have grown to know very well was adopted by a very loving family this past year. This child has survived  crisis after crisis, disaster and abuse heaped upon upon more abuse. Now with good, wholesome parents, she is having to learn so much about living WITH a family, as opposed to feeling all alone.  Think for a second how hard that might be when you have had no guidance for maybe thirteen years of your young life, but then all of a sudden, you have more guidance and  rules than you ever knew existed. Now, there are proper words to use, proper things to say, to dress, eat and yes, to think and feel.

Now again, her new parents are very loving and well-meaning, but when there is a problem she is experiencing as she tries to fit in, belong, and be accepted in this new world, she comes to me for answers. I have frequently said to her that as much as I will always be there as a friend to help her through the difficult times of those teen years, that she needs to go to and trust her new parents. She knows that she should but then says, “They do not really hear me, they don’t listen. I know they love me and I love them, but they don’t want to hear anything uncomfortable. If I go to them with a problem, it always turns into them telling me what I should think and feel, let alone DO !  Do they think I am stupid ? I know what I am thinking, and I know that I am feeling a lot of mixed up feelings, but I just need them to listen ! How can they love me if they do not respect me ? How can they respect me if they think I am stupid and do not know my own thoughts, or have my own feelings. Sometimes I feel like one of those dummies that sit of the man’s lap and my mouth is moving, but they are not my words.”

Listening, TRULY hearing what is being said and what is felt is one of the most wonderful things you can offer another human being. And, it is so much easier than having to have all the right answers .

 


Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Coach

Blog:

www.RuledByFear.com

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

See our Blog at: www.RuledByFear.com

To Sign up for FREE Newsletter  and join us in our Free Support Group On-Line most Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET go to:

  www.OneStepataTime.com

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Negative Thoughts Trash Self-Esteem

by on Apr.29, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

I talk a lot about how crucial it is that we continue to challenge ourselves, to stretch and face obstacles. We all enjoy feeling we are doing something worthwhile and purposeful with our lives, that we are taking steps to accomplish things we have thought of doing.

However, most of us have a competing need to feel comfortable and safe.
It is like we have a part of our brain that daydreams and imagines while another part wants to protect, and that is the reality of what often does occur between our ears on a rather constant basis. This is especially true for the more adapting, approval seeking personality types. While your intellectual side says, “ I would like to do something special and more meaningful in my life”, the other side throws negative thoughts in your way to detour your efforts.

The more you allow yourself to give in to the detours, the more you weaken your resolve to stretch and take new steps, thereby creating even more negative self-talk that trashes your self-esteem. It’s a viscous cycle !

We know it has been a difficult job market out there. Great opportunities for personal growth are harder to find,  and many find themselves having to take a job that is below their expectations, just to have a job. Others lose jobs and find themselves filing for Unemployment Compensation, while I find some attempting to seek out Social Security Disability due to stress and depression. It is tough out there !

There is no perfect answer, but one thing I have seen is that even though the road map may have more detours than you are use to, it is still very important to stay on course. Yes, you may need to take a job that you feel is beneath you, or that is not on your career path, but what is critical is that you stay focused on the reality that this is just a detour, and that you continue to network and search for what you really want. At least you are working, which keeps you out there mingling with people, where others can see what you are capable of, and where you can feel more worth and value than if you are sitting home collecting unemployment.

I have seen many who have taken advantage of unemployment, which I can appreciate, but while receiving benefits, they do not search for jobs or take classes to improve their chances of securing a better job and staying focused on their personal growth. Many have said to me,”I will start looking once the Unemployment checks stop”. For so many, their self esteem weakens as they are not feeling productive and they are avoiding taking steps that would put them in a better place. After a while, their dreams die off and they settle for so much less than they want and deserve.

Then there are those who take jobs, but what they are doing is certainly not on par with what they planned. However, if it is a reasonable job, helps pay the bills, it is not surprising that many in that situation just become comfortably-uncomfortable with what they are doing. The longer they are in that limbo state, the more they weaken in personal resolve.

Now all of these people I am talking about most likely know they are avoiding doing what they need to do, but at the same time, they may want to avoid feeling potential rejection by continuing to job search. Obviously, since there is that underlying realization that they are avoiding, their self-esteem gets slammed as their negative self-talk becomes more intense.

In the case of my clients going through the above scenarios, they report that their anxiety symptoms have increased,  where they are either experiencing more panic attacks or that the obsessive/ intrusive thoughts or compulsive behavior is on the rise. Sure, they are feeling in conflict within themselves. They KNOW they are avoiding or giving in to the detours, not taking all the steps they should be. We cannot escape the ravages of avoidance on our self-esteem.

Of course, this does not just apply to job/career issues. The fact is that relationship issues and conflicts are huge triggers for anxiety symptoms. If a person is in a relationship where they are unhappy and unfulfilled, or even worse where they are being abused, manipulated or controlled, but avoids taking steps to make changes, they weaken day by day. The longer one stays in that type of friendship or relationship, the more our self esteem suffers, and the negative self-talk flourishes. Before you know it, we can start telling ourselves we do not deserve any better, or that we are not good enough to deserve what we truly want.

Obstacles are made to be challenged, but unless you are by nature an aggressive personality, you run the risk of a shrinking self-esteem if you avoid taking steps {not leaps} to challenge your fears and negative self-talk. That can easily lead to an emotional paralysis. Don’t let this happen. One Step at a Time ! Re-work your plan and goals. Set reasonable goals based on the changing climate out there, find support persons where you keep pushing each other ahead, but don’t dare settle.

Feel free to join me in our on-line Support Groups, Sunday evenings at 9 PM, ET. Just go to http://www.OneStepataTime.com  and join as a free member.

And remember to visit our Blog at http://www.RuledByFear.com

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We are also writing Blogs for the San Clemente California Patch, the Brecksville Ohio Patch and the Strongsville Ohio Patch on line Newspapers. Go to http://www.Patch.com .

Be Good to Yourself,

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Emotional Pain is Real Pain !

by on Apr.21, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

So this child comes to see me because there had been a minor accident where the child had fallen down some steps and sprained an ankle. The child was in obvious pain, wearing a cast and on crutches. You might ask, why is this young child seeing me, a psychologist ? Isn’t this the domain of a medical  doctor or physical therapist ?

Then there was an adult client, about forty, who was experiencing increasing and unexplainable pain in the  hips and legs,  as well  as some numbness which caused  depression as it limited this person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

Of course, I will never forget the thirteen year old child who would not, could not talk…since kindergarten. They called it Selective Mutism. About to graduate from eighth grade and make the transition to high school, this child was terribly fearful of being rejected and made fun of in high school, and that there would be no way to survive in that world without being able to talk.

In each of these cases, the clients were referred because there was no known reason for their pain or physical symptoms.

The fall that the child in the cast had experienced was over a year ago. Tests and examinations by the pediatrician and a neurologist found no reason for the physical pain over a year later.

The adult with the leg pains and numbness had been through every test known to man, and then some, but there was no known source for the symptoms, as real as they were.

And the child of thirteen with Selective Mutism wanted so much  to talk, and the doctors had no answers. This child had been to other therapists, but apparently, no one was listening.

All three of these individuals in pain were being thought of as fakers, malingerers, making up symptoms to get attention. Of course, there are many people who might fake pain for one reason or another, as that can be a means by which to avoid issues in their lives.

I certainly see my share of individuals who express physical and emotional symptoms, and yes, are faking it in order to make a case for being placed on Disability.
The only real pain they  feel is the whiplash as they are shown the door. There are way too many people who are truly suffering and need and deserve assistance. And our social security disability system is bent and yes, broken by the weight of malingerers and those that feel entitled, but with no cause.

But what if the pain was real !

Yes, and it was real in all three of these cases. After exploring the situations and life conditions of these clients, I came to the conclusion that I was dealing with Conversion  Disorder, where real physical symptoms in the form of numbness and pain were real, but caused more by emotional conflict or trauma, not medical or physical issues.

Emotional pain is REAL and can paralyze a person emotionally, let alone cause physical symptoms and pain.

In the case of the child who could not walk on the previously injured foot, this child  came into the last appointment without crutches and although wearing a brace, was putting full weight on the foot. We had talked about emotional pain, and as soon as I opened up the topic, there were tears welling up. Why ? Because the child had been bullied and felt rejection at the hands of a new student in school that my client had befriended, who then subsequently began telling lies about my client to cause my client’s friends to abandon this child and go to the bully instead. That caused significant emotional conflict and pain for this very sensitive child so that my client had not discussed what had happened and what was felt with anyone so as to avoid possible further rejection and embarrassment. The pain was real, but it  was emotional pain that migrated to the part of this child’s body that was most vulnerable, the previously injured foot.

The child who never talked is now talking non-stop ! Why ? Because, as this child finally felt respected and understood, the child learned that the emotional pain at being bullied and rejected in Kindergarten had caused the response of shutting down the ability to talk so as to not have to deal with the kids who were the source of the emotional pain.
So instead of feeling weak or “crazy”, the child understood what had happened and gradually took steps with me to free the voice from the emotional prison it had been enslaved in for over eight years.

The adult with the ever increasing leg pain has not yet faced the causal issues or the source of the emotional pain nor has the client realized the power of the mind it’s ability to convert emotional pain to physical pain and symptoms. I have a challenge ahead of me in that case.

How about you ? Do you have pain or physical symptoms not explained by a medical diagnosis ? On the other hand, is there someone you know and care about who is experiencing physical pain, and you have thought that she might be faking ?

I am just offering food for thought !

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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You Can Run, Not Hide From Anxiety 1

by on Apr.15, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Do You Really Want to Control Anxiety  ?

When I see a new client, I naturally believe he or she wants to know how to control anxiety in his or her life whether that anxiety comes in the form of panic attacks, phobias, intrusive/obsessive thoughts and worry or compulsive behaviors.

The first thing I do is make every attempt to know the personality of that client, because the way a person thinks and feels, the way the client has learned to see his or her world and deal with that world is most often a huge factor as to why they are experiencing the anxiety symptoms.

So, I attack the problem in a two ways simultaneously, looking at and dealing with both the SOURCE issues as well as building a plan to help the client face the fear of the anxiety symptoms through gradual exposure to the perceived fear. If you as a client are not dealing with both issues, you rarely will succeed in taking control of your symptoms.

However, the approach I have just described has allowed the vast majority of my clients to overcome their anxiety issues.

Now, there are situations where medical or physical issues may be causal factors or triggers for anxiety, panic or obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I always look into this possibility with each client. In fact, I have found those cases  to be few and far between. Truly, I have found that physical issues often exacerbate already existing anxiety, but are not as often the cause. In fact, I have found such physical factors to often be a distraction from seeing the real issues as those physical issues become the focus of both the client’s and physician’s attention.

There are certainly cases where significant trauma will bring on severe anxiety symptoms, but again, I find that to be less often the case. Trauma can cause a person to feel “out of control” in their lives, allowing them to feel more vulnerable and fearful of worse to come, or bring on symptoms like PTSD.

What I do find to be most commonly the source or trigger for these anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms is personal conflict which when avoided, causes one to feel out of control in their life. I have written numerous articles on the danger of avoiding issues in our lives as avoidance brings on an erosion in ‘our trust of ourself’, and therefore creates that sense of being weak, vulnerable and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Interestingly, as is typical, I had no less than three clients this week who had made significant progress in controlling their anxiety symptoms who returned to me saying that they were experiencing a small return of symptoms. I reminded each one of what they had discovered as the source of their anxieties, and the light immediately went on in their minds.  Each had one of those “Aha Moments” where they realized they had indeed made progress but lately had dropped the ball as to their efforts to be more in control of their lives.

One realized that after making significant effort to challenge himself to not settle for a mediocre life, and after going back to school and discovering he had a voice and could express himself to others, he had slipped back into his comfort-zone and  had given up much of his momentum as to making needed changes in his life. He immediately saw the cause and effect of his falling back into avoidance mode which led to a resurgence of anxiety symptoms. You can run but you cannot hide from yourself and what you really want and need to feel a worthwhile and purposeful life.

Another had made some significant decisions to change her dependent ways in relationships, realizing she had repeatedly placed herself in unhealthy relations with others who were not equipped to give back emotionally. She took steps to set boundaries, to take better care of herself, an she set a deadline for the present destructive relationship to end. All was good as she felt more in control. However, doubt crept into her thoughts as the date for the unhealthy other person to leave was drawing near and my client felt uncomfortable kicking this person out, even though she had given him ample notice and time to find alternative housing. Her caregiving personality and compulsion to take care of others, to be needed, was rearing it’s head. But as she realized what it was, she re-affirmed her right and need to set the boundaries and follow through with her plan to be independent of manipulative and controlling people in her life. Two days later, she reports the anxiety lessening.

The third client had experienced very significant reduction in anxiety once she realized that the source was her habit of placing herself in risky situations with other men which could obviously create havoc in her marriage and turn her life upside down. She needed a lot of attention and that need allowed her to rationalize that a little flirtation could do no harm. But it created conflict within her and therefore panic attacks. In therapy, she took steps to work at her marriage, learned that if she expressed her needs, her husband was more than willing to oblige her. Although her husband loved her very much, he did need a course in “intimacy” and reminders that a marriage does not run on fumes. All was going well, but a change in his job was taking him away more often which had stoked  her feelings of abandonment. That had caused a resurgence of negative thoughts and caused some return of anxiety symptoms. However, once we talked and she realized what was happening, she became creative and she and her husband began having “an affair” on the phone with each other, planning for things they would do when he returned. That got the embers flaming and brought her doubts to ashes.

The bottom line, taking control of significant on-going anxiety symptoms takes  a lot of soul searching and a willingness to face needs, and overcome barriers to meeting those needs. Avoidance is always destructive. You can run but you cannot hide. You cannot stop in your efforts to take control.

Gene Benedetto,
Psychologist

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Avoidance of Conflict

by on Mar.17, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

Avoidance Of Conflict

It is so very important to realize that there is almost always a reason why a person is having panic attacks, intrusive thoughts or obsessive worry with compulsive behaviors.

Certainly, trauma can cause these anxiety symptoms, but I rarely find that among the majority of my clients. Stress can surely add to the symptoms, but most often I have found that stress only aggravates the anxiety symptoms.

What I find in most cases is that personal conflict is typically the source. Whereas stress can come and go, conflict hangs over our heads until we deal with it.

Conflict ?

Yes, like feeling trapped in a go-nowhere job but avoiding taking steps to create opportunities to change for fear of failure or rejection.

Maybe feeling stuck in an emotionally, physically or sexually abuse relationship, but avoiding taking steps to remove yourself because of your fears of being alone, or the fear of retaliation.

How many times we want to express ourselves toward someone who is controlling, intrusive or manipulative, but end up avoiding and repressing what we feel.

Key word is avoiding, since avoidance effects how we see ourselves. Avoidance can cause us to feel weak, erodes our self-esteem and leads to our not trusting ourselves.
Of course, when we doubt ourselves, what do we do next ? We WHAT IF ourselves and then we avoid !

There is a reason why the more adapting and approval seeking personalities have more anxiety, panic and OCD symptoms. Their need for approval and want to avoid possible rejection or exclusion makes them fair game for the more manipulative people in the world. All you caregivers, conformers, peacekeepers and perfectionists are really good people but you need to learn to set boundaries with people who would  take advantage of your adapting natures.

In future blog articles, I will address some ways for each personality type to make changes so they might feel more in control, and thereby begin to take control of their anxiety symptoms. I look forward to your comments.

Meanwhile, take a look at our Blog at www.RuledByFear.com

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

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Afraid to Expose the Abuser ?

by on Mar.05, 2012, under STOPPING ABUSE

Afraid to Expose an Abuser ?

A young woman working at her first real good  paying job, but is being sexually harassed by her boss as are a number of other woman who work there. No one else has ever dared expose this supervisor even though the abuse  is done openly, with witnesses. “ I can’t afford to lose my job and not be able to make my house payment”.

A woman married 27 years is afraid to tell her husband how much it hurts when he puts her down, demeans her when she offers any suggestions. She fears his flare-ups of anger and is having panic attacks.

A young lady, just legally an adult, takes her life because it is the only way to escape the pain of her father’s sexual abuse. The thought of exposing him meant she would lose any chance of her father ever returning and being the man that once loved her and protected her,

Another young person is a victim of cyber bullying, and takes an overdose to deal with his pain.

Unless you are a victim of some form of abuse, you may not be able to fully grasp the effect that it has on one’s life. FEAR is paralyzing !

I can see the effect that the abuse has had on my clients. It is obvious  that being a victim of abuse can CHANGE a person, often creates issues in future relationships, demeans and effects self-esteem, and leads to anxiety symptoms including panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive issues.

I have known that feeling. I had that feeling revisit me a few years ago when a sexually abusive father of the young lady I mentioned above threatened me with, ”You don’t know whom you are dealing with. I can destroy you !”

The point of this is not only how fear prevents us from exposing abuse and abusers, but how our not exposing the manipulative and controlling actions of others , especially when taken to abusive levels, empowers the abuser and weakens us in our own eyes.

I am sure you have heard it all before ! By avoiding the exposure of abusers, we give them more control over us. And yes, I understand the fear. But please understand how that avoidance effects you, prevents you in some cases from taking steps in your life that you always thought you would take someday, only to see that you opted for what was comfortable.

Abusers I have had contact with are insecure people with their own dark secrets who spend a lifetime hiding those insecurities with their ugly behavior. As an example, after being personally threatened in the example above, I did some long and involved investigative work, and detailed documentation, and I found that the father who molested his daughter to the point of her death had been exposed to homosexual activities as a child under the watchful eye of his own very abusive father. Do you think that might have caused some deep insecurities and a need to prove his manliness, leading to his needing to over-power and abuse woman ?

Avoiding the reporting of abuse of any kind is a life changer even as much as the abuse itself.

If their is or has been any sexual, physical or emotional abuse in your life, talk to your therapist.

Remember, abusers always try to divide and conquer. They want their victims to feel alone, and try to convince them that no one would listen to them anyway. Don’t hide the abuse any longer ! Build your support system between your therapist, organizations like NCADV { National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The Nicole Brown Foundation,
Rape Crisis Hotline, an attorney, and EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunities Commission}, etc.

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