When Fear Rules !

Tag: panic attack

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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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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Broken Merry Go Round

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

While taking my puppy Izzy on a ride through the park this morning, I found myself intently listening to the lyrics of a song, ” Merry Go Round ” , by singer Kacey Musgraves…

” Mary Mary quite contrary,We get bored so we get marriedAnd just like dust we settle in this town.On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go,Where it stops nobody knows…And it ain’t slowin’ down, this merry go ’round…

We think the first time’s good enough,So we hold on to high school love,Say we won’t end up like our parents.

Tiny little boxes in a row, Ain’t what you want it’s what you know, Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’.

Read more: http://artists.letssingit.com/kacey-musgraves-lyrics-merry-go-round-vlwdr26#ixzz2KVwrcQL7
LetsSingIt – Your favorite Music Community

I had been thinking all week about a few clients who, despite some significant efforts on their parts to escape their past sabotaging thoughts and self-limiting perceptions of themselves, seemed to be stuck on that Merry Go Round, where any real change in their lives was thwarted by their negative self-talk, reinforced by fear.

One man in particular had made some very real efforts to change, to escape his boring life and take some risks. He actually quit his go nowhere job, and went back to school to seek at least an associates degree in alternative energies, something he felt some passion about. He actually did quite well, not only excelling in his classes, but being recognized by fellow students who requested tutoring from him, and then being recognized by a professor as being an exceptional student. Of course seemed proud at the time of what he accomplished and the accolades.

The anxiety symptoms and especially his rather severe obsessive-compulsiuve behaviors that had previously been ruling much of his life began to weaken some. He was surprised and I was extremelypleased at his progress. I knew much of his OCD was the result of his frustrations and conflicts with himself, so I did expect some decrease in his symptoms.

After two semesters, he had to return to work to pay bills, hoping to return to school in the near future. Sadly, within two months of being  back at work and away from school, all his anxiety symptoms returned and his OCD was wreaking havoc. He was again stuck on the Merry Go Round of his previous life, going nowhere and being ruled by his  self-defeating negative thoughts.

As we talked about his loss of momentum, he struggled a bit to explain his thoughts and feelings, but then he uttered  an illuminating comment. ” I Never Embraced the Changes I was Making !”

Over those two semesters, he did experience what felt very new and different. He did “witness” that he was actually knowledgable, and was in fact able to help other students. But the whole time, it was like he was another person in some make believe world. He never really accepted, adopted, or presumed to be that person. Those two semesters were no match for his previous lifetime of ” that’s good enough”, “don’t make waves “, ” just be content with what you have and who you are “. ” I realize now that I dummed-down my good experiences so as not to rock the boat.” So even though his boat was going nowhere, the risk and fear of failure, rejection and embarrassment over-ruled his good experiences, all but erasing them from memory.

The bright side of this story is that there is a good chance that this young man can still get off the Merry Go Round. Since together we are not allowing him to forget what he actually did achieve, and armed with the realization that it takes continued, persistent,repeated experiences to break free of the ” gravitational pull ” of his past, he can plan his next steps to more effectively project himself into the world of his potential.

He can change, by taking steps, one at a time, but not allowing dust to settle on his efforts.You cannot take breaks from your efforts at personal growth. You must become ” obsessed ”  with that growth to truly get off that Merry Go Round of the past, and never give into the urge to avoid. You must be ready to talk out loud about steps you are taking to grow. You must share your experiences with all who will listen, and not be detoured by non-believers. You must actively build a support system of like people. I believe this man will make it if he has the needed support and knowledge of how real change is accomplished.

“Tiny little boxes in a row, Ain’t what you want it’s what you know, Just happy in the shoes you’re wearing’.”

How about you ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFearhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image26688221

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Panic Attacks…Find the Source

by on Dec.09, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So you find yourself in the ER or sitting in front of your Primary Care Physician {PCP} because you are experiencing some intense physical symptoms such as tingling in your arms, tightness in your chest, light-headedness, heart palpitations and an overall feeling of weakness. You may have felt this before and it passed, but here it is again.You felt that alarm go off in your head, a sense of dread, fear that it could be a heart attack.

You felt that alarm go off in your head, a sense of dread, fear that it could be a heart attack.

 

Well, first, you are smart for taking action. But then your doctor checks you out, and says that all your vitals are good. He thinks it is anxiety, but wants you to have more testing. He makes the referral and you go to the hospital for further tests, just to make sure.

 

After all tests are done, again you are told it is anxiety, and that you are having panic attacks. You are at first relieved it is not something critical to your health, but then think, these panic attacks are horrible and you ask the doctor for medications.

 

The most knowledgeable physicians will instruct you to treat these anxiety symptoms with both medications and counseling. On the other hand, you may just be given meds and be sent home with a reminder to see your PCP for a follow-up appointment.

 

This is where it gets tricky !

 

If you were offered medications, such as an anti-anxiety med  [ Xanax,or Ativan , etc. ] and /or an SSRI med like Zoloft or Paxil, you might feel some relief of your symptoms, at least for a while. Part of that relief might be psychological [placebo effect], but certainly some is a physical reaction to the drugs you have ingested. However, the meds are not a cure. You may go for weeks without any symptoms and you so earnestly try to convince yourself that it was just a fluke. Then the symptoms return, maybe even more intense. You call your PCP and he suggests that you increase your medications. You readily do so, but maybe some voice in your head  says I need to know WHY this is happening, maybe not. Hopefully, now your PCP suggests you see a therapist who specializes in treating Anxiety Disorders such as panic attacks, phobias, obsessive worry and compulsive behaviors.

 

Now, if you find the right therapist  who seems knowledgable and experienced, you are finally on the right track. However, now you have more serious decisions to make. Are you going to be truly open with your therapist,  let down your guard, and really explore issues and conflicts that may be triggers for your anxiety ?

 

Are you going to be willing to take steps that are laid out between you and the therapist that so often can be uncomfortable at first ? Are you ready to make the needed changes in your life ?

 

Therapy works, especially when dealing with Anxiety Disorders, if you are ready to face what needs to be done to help you feel more in control of your life, because that is a KEY issue. There are most likely, and most often conflicts going on that you have repressed that are causing you to feel inner turmoil. When you avoid those issues, as you most likely have in the past, they just fester and come to the surface in the form of anxiety symptoms, a temper tantrum, or an anger outburst that just makes you feel more out of control. It is a vicious cycle that must be broken.

 

A reminder ! The medications may be helping, but in most cases as I have said previously, they do not actually cure the anxiety. The temptation to just take more and more meds is a real problem. You need to look at meds as a step in treatment, offering you enough temporary relief that you are in a better state of mind to identify and DEAL with issues and make changes.

 

This is just my experience with clients, but I have seen all too many on higher and higher doses of meds, often with the blessings of their physician or psychiatrist. My greatest concern is that at these higher dosages I also see clients experiencing side effects that actually create more anxiety, cause one to not be able to focus or concentrate, and possibly not be able to feel much of anything. These side effects can exacerbate the feelings of being out of control. Make sure to work with your therapist and PCP [or psychiatrist], and check often that they are communicating over your care.

 

Just a Thought !

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

 

 

 

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

 

 

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Neutralizing Negative People !

by on Nov.25, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 

Let me begin with a short note I received from a client who is trying with all her might to free herself from anxiety that had a all but made her a prisoner of her home. As we were talking about her progress, she expressed how even a hopeful day and good mood as a result of her efforts to fight off her anxiety and fears could so easily be destroyed by the negative comments of a bitter relative. My response to her note follows

Dear Coach,

It can be hard not letting the harsh comments of others bother us. Even when we might be doing better at something or when we feel a little better about ourselves than usual, a negative comment can seem to change that and make us go from feeling okay to horrible. For example, over Thanksgiving, I did pretty well with dealing with anxiety and yet when a mean comment was thrown in my direction, I got upset. I had never really voiced to this person how I felt about his comments and I just kind of blew up.

 

I knew on some level that I shouldn’t have gotten so upset and I realized that since I was doing better, I should have just ignored what he had said. However, between wanting my relative to know how I felt and being frustrated, I got mad.

 

I was told by a therapist { aka, Coach }, and I think it was very good advice, that it’s okay to be sensitive. We can also stand up for ourselves without getting defensive. All we have to do in some cases, is to say that we understand that the person feels that way and we can continue on. If you’re in an argument that you can’t win, why not throw the other person off-guard and not yell back like they want or just give up? Instead, make that person realize that for some reason he is always the one yelling. Maybe then he will realize why he comes-off sometimes as harsh or mean. Again, you can be sensitive, just don’t let others manipulate you because of it. Be strong without adding to the conflict.

 

B.G.

Dear B.G.,

 
I have been stressing to you in therapy that to overcome your anxiety and panic attacks, you must both face the fears of having more anxiety and panic attacks through step by step desensitzation, as well as face the conflicts that were the CAUSE for your anxiety in the first place.

 

One of the most common causes for the more serious anxiety symptoms like panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behavior is that something is happening in your life that is causing you to feel emotionally conflicted, overwhelmed and even angry, but you feel I’ll-equipped to deal with that situation, which is either a person or situation in your life. Of course, the situations usually include people, so we might as well face the fact that it is our perceived inability to deal with people-conflict that is a huge stimulus for severe anxiety. These conflicts leave one feeling helpless, ” out of control ” , and feeling weak which is very destructive to our self-esteem.

 

Faced with difficult people, or people with selfish agendas,  tends to set one off on an arduous path, a struggle between the want to avoid possible rejection or failure, the want and maybe need for approval versus the desire to be able to express what WE really feel, what we want, not selfishly, but in some reasonable manner so as to not harm or take away from someone else’s sense of worth and value.

 

When we do find ourselves avoiding self-expression, our self-esteem takes a hit which thereby decreases the chances of making positive changes in our lives. Avoidance leads to sense of having little worth and value and seriously undermines development of goals and the strength to take steps towards those goals.
Anger and resentment are often the result, but those powerful emotions, although normal at some levels, become more intense as they have been repressed for years. That abundance of repressed anger and resentment, much of it with ourselves for avoiding and being weak, and the emotional turmoil they wreak within our minds and bodies, can lead to more fear. What if those repressed emotions ever come to the surface ? Will we act out in some manner that demonstrates just how ‘out of control’ we truly are ?  Just more conflict heaped on conflict. All this can be paralyzing especially for people who are sensitive, approval seeking and yet yearning to grow personally in their lives.

 

So, I have suggested to you that rather than feel you have to go toe-to-toe with a parent, relative or friend, defending your past actions and inactions, that you instead :

 

1] Focus on the steps you ARE now taking to be more in control of your life;

 

2] When actually faced by one of the aforementioned persons, especially if they are being critical, prepare yourself to say, ” Uncle Joe, I appreciate and respect you having opinions as to my life and my progress, but I am taking steps to be more in control of my life. I understand that you may look at things differently, but in my heart, I know I am making progress ! ” and then …

 

3] No matter what response you receive in return, do not fall into the trap of defending yourself. Remind yourself again that you have set goals and you can see that you are taking measurable steps to overcome your fears and anxiety. Then, just repeat steps 1 and 2 .

 

If the other person persists, then follow up with, ” I am trying to be respectful towards you and I would hope you could do the same, but I am not comfortable discussing this any further with you at this time. ”

 

Now, let’s focus on practicing these techniques and using these tools to neutralize difficult people !

 

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

 

Benhaven Counseling.com

 

On-Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

 

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

 

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/groups/RuledByFear

 

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Anxiety Does Not Mean You Are Weak !

by on Nov.18, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

So this young man, in his mid 30’s, was obviously frustrated and anxious as he had been to countless physicians, neurologists and other specialists in an attempt to find answers for the host of physical symptoms he was experiencing. His angst was exacerbated by the fact that he was not getting any answers and his symptoms were worsening. Pains in his arms and his chest along with feeling physically tired, somedays not feeling he had enough energy to walk without stumbling as well as tingling of his scalp, hands and feet were all very alarming.

Some where along his quest for answers, it was mentioned to him that he might be suffering from a ” Conversion Reaction “, a condition where persistent physical symptoms that cannot be fully explained by a medical condition, substance abuse, or other mental disorder, and seem to stem from psychological issues or conflicts. He seemed almost angry but al least very concerned at this suggestion, as if professionals were telling him he was weak, that his symptoms were all mental.

I could feel his conflict over wanting relief of his physical symptoms, yet not being able to swallow what he was hearing. But then again, he was there, with me, hoping that together we could find answers.

So I listened, asked some probing questions, and listened some more. I heard that there were indeed some symptoms that were physical in origin, as with an issue with hypoglycemia where he would feel shaky if he did not eat more frequently. But after he gradually opened up and shared more and more, it appeared obvious that there were some personally significant emotional issues and conflicts in his life that were most likely hitting more nerves than anything physical or medical. He knew there were issues, but never suspected that they could be the source of his symptoms. Like many, it is thought that something truly cataclysmic would be going on if that would result in the symptoms like this man was experiencing.

Although I knew he needed  answers, it was obviously critical that he understand a very important fact, one that I have preached many times to clients. In fact, I had just received a note from one of my past clients asking that I press the issue in my Blog that having anxiety symptoms, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive issues does not mean we are weak or fragile people !

This man was a perfect example of how physical symptoms can be triggered by emotional issues and conflict, not because a person is weak, but because he or she is a more adapting person, one that enjoys validation from others, yet has thoughts, feelings and desires of his own. It is not a bad thing to have a conscience and to want to avoid conflict, but one must also have effective tools to deal with conflicts and issues when they do arise, and especially when compromise is not easily at hand. It is all right to want to feel the approval from others, as long as one can set boundaries and not allow that want to become a need that keeps you from seeking what you desire in your life. 

This man was not weak, in fact he had taken some very real and bold steps to become an entrepreneur, creating a business out of one of his passions. However, over time, dealing with his business partners was creating considerable conflict. Changes needed to be made that were going to lead to some uncomfortable and hard feelings. This very creative and already successful man was avoiding dealing with these issues, and instead, the resulting anxiety symptoms had taken up so much of his time and energy, that he had no fire left in his belly to deal with the actual conflicts, the real sources for his pain.

Again, that does not make him weak. As he understood that, like many people, it was just his nature to want to avoid conflict. He now had more of a grasp as to how the mind and body can play havoc, distracting him from dealing with unpleasant things. He was not crazy, not out of control, he was just suffering from a complex anxiety reaction to conflict, and he had now learned a very important lesson. My goal will be to guide him so he can take what he has learned, set reasonable goals to deal with his conflicts while gradually and more deeply realizing that his symptoms are reactions, not a disease. No, he was not weak, but this will make him even stronger as he takes steps, takes action to deal with issues One Step At A Time.

It will be most important for him to attack the issues in his life with a plan, allowing time to desensitize and work through his thoughts and feelings at each step. We can desensitize to so much in life if we just do it the right way. Sure, there are some people who appear less bothered by conflict.

Certainly there are aggressive types that can blow right by potential conflicts not hesitating to make changes. There are those that seem less burdened by a conscience. Let me tell you from experience over many years and after dealing with many personality types, those others have their own interpersonal issues that if you fully realized or walked in their shoes, you would not wish to be one of them.

I would be happy to respond to your questions and hear your thoughts.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

On-Line Support Group: OneStepataTime.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Escaping Negative Thoughts

by on Nov.04, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Unless you were one of the lucky ones, you learned fears during your childhood that remain active today if you actually listen to your private thoughts.

I was talking with a client recently who, in my opinion, has been putting some significant but inconsistent effort into controlling his anxiety and panic attacks as well as his obsessive-compulsive behaviors [OCD}.

Now, what do we mean by obsessive-compulsive behaviors ? Actually, they are very common, although differing in frequency and certainly intensity, where an individual finds himself feeling an urge to carry out some ritualistic behavior, repeating that behavior to a point that it can be disruptive in his life. I see people suffering from this type of anxiety reaction every day. One person may find himself giving in to the urge to check over his tax return over and over, even though no errors were found. Another might have spilled some cleaning substance on their hands and then found herself washing her hands and arms, repeating the action even when her hands became chapped and bleeding. Then maybe a child feels an urge to say good-night and blow a kiss to each of her more than one hundred stuffed animals before she can go to sleep at night, only to find herself having to repeat the process for over two hours for fear she missed one of her precious inanimate friends.

These rituals can take over one’s life to one degree or another, but are responses to inner conflict that is often hidden to others, and even unknown or unrecognized by the client. My experience is that the conflicts are just below the surface but are issues the person may just not feel able to deal with, thus is consciously or subconsciously avoiding.

The client I was talking with came to realize that his OCD, which had grown in power and was ruling much of his life, was a reaction to conflict. There was an inner desire to do more with his life and escape the shadow cast by his family tree,a history of depression, negativity, avoidance and regret. He came to realize that most of his anxiety was due to the personally painful reality that he had and was avoiding making needed changes in his life. His negative thoughts and fears were echoing through his mind, but more importantly were and still are the habitual thoughts of his past and especially his parents whose lives were ruled by fear.

He could catch himself in his private thoughts saying “I’m not smart enough !”, or ” Who do I think I am, that I could do something special with my life ? “. He had also become vividly aware  through introspection triggered in part by therapy,  that these were the thoughts based on fears of rejection and failure, that he had been taught by his mother. Even recently, when he discussed possibly looking for a another job that was more challenging and he could feel some passion over, his mother, backed by other family members, said ” Just be happy you have a job !”

This client had taken some steps to challenge his fears. He did at one point go back to school to take course he was very interested in, and from that experience, learned that he was not stupid. He was able to master the material, and in fact thrived in that class and others and was actuallycalled upon by the teacher to share more of his thoughts with the class. He found himself actually tutoring others who were struggling more with the classes subject matter. It was very esteeming for him. So, that should have turned his life around, right ? In fact, his obsessive-compulsive behavior was down significantly. He really felt great about the stretching he was doing. However, due to changes with his present but boring job, he was distracted from continuing his course work. His efforts were very positive, but the reality was that once he stopped stretching, he fell back into the gravitational pull of his past negative thoughts, and his family history of self-defeatism. He lost that momentum he had begun by stretching outside his comfort zone.

Now he realizes what happened, that it takes frequent and consistent exercising of one’s energies to escape the gravity of the past.  Just as it does with physical exercise, where muscle turns to flab when the exercise stops, his efforts to challenge his fears worked, but needed to become part of his life, not a past chapter.

So, now he is beginning to edit the book that is the story of his life. Armed with the awareness of what he did, and therefore what he COULD DO, he is working to create an ongoing momentum, one that he must nurture through repeated  experiences that will desensitize him to his fears and emboldenhim to persevere.

How much are you ruled by fear ? How often do you hear yourself uttering or thinking something sabotaging, that shuts you down and causes you to avoid ? Where did you learn fear and avoidance ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

Benhaven Counseling

Blog: RuledByFear.com

Free Sunday Eve On-Line Support Group : OneStepataTime.com

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Why Do I Procrastinate ?

by on Oct.07, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

 

So, Why do I Procrastinate ?
There is not necessarily one simple answer to that question, as much depends on the personality and needs of the person asking the question. Granted, for some, they may procrastinate because there is no real desire or need to do whatever is in question. However, for many of the individuals I work with as a therapist, there may be another more compelling and obvious reason for their avoiding. However, no matter how obvious it may be to some, when a person is in a state of anxiety, the obvious easily becomes blurred.
Most of my clients come to me because they are experiencing significant anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Rarely are their symptoms the result of some significant trauma, or a crisis that would be considered by most of us to be a serious threat to life or limb. To be sure, trauma or crisis can cause serious anxiety symptoms, but most often I have found the trigger for these symptoms to be personal conflict, some inner turmoil that they suffer through privately.

Many times, my clients are in conflict because they are not living their lives to the fullest measure that they desire or dream of, but instead find themselves settling, opting to be comfortable rather than stretch or test themselves. I call this being ” comfortably-uncomfortable. I would expect many of you feel you are not doing all you hoped or expected to do with your lives.

So, I had this client ask me today, ” Why would I procrastinate when I know I am not happy with my place in life, when my job is not fulfilling, when my social life is blah ? When I think about it, and the fact that one day after another goes by and I put off taking steps towards any of the changes we have talked about it therapy, I feel more and more anxious. I still put off doing anything about it.”

What most often comes to my mind when I hear comments like this is… FEAR !Our lives are ruled by fear in many ways, some more evident than others. But make no mistake, FEAR RULES. Fear of failure, embarrassment, rejection, and even fear of success can be triggers for many of our negative, self-sabotaging thoughts.

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who was “wired” like Steve Jobs. Possibly you were brought up in an atmosphere where taking reasonable risks was rewarded, meeting challenges head-on was second-nature and self-esteem was nurtured. Or, you may be one on many, I dare say the majority of persons who adapt but give up little pieces of who they are or want to be or withdraw and go numb when faced with significant changes or even mild to moderate challenges.

“Let’s just play it safe, and not buck the system. Keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.”

This young man I was talking to had actually stretched rather significantly in his life for a short period of time. While in therapy, we were able to identify needs and issues and laid out a game plan for action. He put himself and his level of self-confidence to the test by taking on some classes that he had always thought about but always put off. What did he experience as a result ? It was exciting ! Not only did he prove to himself that he could still master new knowledge, but he was also able to ask questions and make comments in his classes that seemed to open his eyes to the reality that he truly had potential to do more with his life. He felt validation from others which was definitely not what he was use to in his life.

So what was the problem ? The classes ended, and he returned to a boring job, one that helped pay the bills but did not really interest or challenge him. His short stint at this exciting new world of challenge gave way to his life’s way of thinking that success is for the other guy. The thoughts that he was not good enough had been so pervasive throughout his life, that without consistent and persistent challenging of his negative self talk , his confidence and esteem hit the wall and slid down that slippery slope of “what ifs” and ” what ever gave me the idea I could really do this ?”

Hopefully now he understands that he was on the right course, but that he has to choreograph his life so that he further develops reasonable goals with steps, and that he must practice stretching every day. Like physical exercise, one can wish to be in shape, but without persistent effort, muscle turns to flab, confidence turns to just being comfortably-uncomfortable……and anxiety flirts and plays with your thoughts, and not in a fun way.

We can take greater control of our lives, but dare I say, we must be somewhat obsessed with taking steps and desensitizing to our fears. This is not something you can do half-heartedly. You must face your fears, challenge yourself to the point that you can feel resistance and beyond without overwhelming yourself. If you do not feel some anxiety while making changes, there is little real growth. But by taking STEPS, you break the anxiety of change down into digestible bites instead of choking and giving in to your fears.

Do you procrastinate ? Why ? Care to share your thoughts ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC
Blog : RuledByFear.com
On-Line Support Group and Newsletter : www.OneStepAtaTime.com

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I Use to Pray for Rain !

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

I listened very intently as she expressed both her excitement over her progress, but realization that even a few days of avoiding anything stressful, including the homework I had given her, caused her to doubt herself and, yes, feel some of those pangs of anxiety and panic.

Her homework was to face her fears, every day taking steps to face the situations where panic had occurred. We broke the steps down into very reasonable bites, and they were steps that she could adjust so she felt more in control.

She had in fact, allowed her anxiety to take control of her life. She had been housebound, what we call agoraphobic. She could not shower, so was reduced to a sponge bath at the bathroom sink. She could not wash her hair, which was not onlya hygiene issue, but an especially devastating state of affairs as she had always been so proud of her appearance, and one of her special treats was to have her hair cut and styled once a month. So then, although in her early forties and reduced to living with her parents, she was all but a prisoner in her apartment. Her ” fear of fear ” had grown to the point that she had no faith in herself to do much of anything, I am sure this is very hard to understand for someone who has never experienced panic attacks, but it has become very common to see in my practice.

If only she or those around her that loved her and were witness to her initial slide onto the abyss of anxiety, and then depression, would have seen to it that she entered effective therapy at the time of onset. Unfortunately, she was an adult when all this began, when she first experienced panic attacks, and in her mind, the answer was medication. Pills might have reduced some of the anxiety, but it did not get to the sources for the panic, so after an initial few weeks of improvement, she relapsed even further into her fears.

I was witness to that slide into hell, but could not stop it from happening as she would not embrace therapy or face the needed changes in her life. Oh, there were causes for the panic attacks. Overprotective parents, a heavy dose of intrusive behavior on the part of the mother, some paternal physical abuse, and a boyfriend who actually reinforced her dependency on him due to his own insecurities, all led to her feeling weak and very emotionally conflicted. Now that she had become so dependent, there was no way she could truly imagine being otherwise, although she was so depressed as to what her life had become.

I was more than thrilled when she contacted me and said, ” Coach, I am ready ! I cannot stand this any longer. I got rid of the boyfriend, I am setting boundaries with my parents, I am on very limited medications, and I want a life !
I felt something had truly changed. I actually could sense that her pain at giving up her life had come to a point that it was over-riding her fears of making changes. She was angry, and we could use that anger to challenge each fear, step by step.

Over the ensuing weeks, she took steps to face her fears. She challenged her fears and was able to shower. Within two weeks, she was washing her hair. Recently, after practicing just sitting in her car, realizing she was not going to die no matter what anxiety she experienced, and focusing on the fact that there were still many things she could do, and wanted to do in her life, she drove that car, at night, to a Burger King. Can you imagine how HUGE that was for her ? If she can do what she has done so far, although commonplace for many others, there is no limit as to what she can do if she continues to guard herself from people who would abuse, manipulator control her, if she would refuse to compromise away who she is and what she wants just to please others, and if she continues to face her fears in steps that SHE controls.

“Coach, I use to pray for rain. On those days I felt I had an excuse to go nowhere, and felt less guilt. I tried to convince myself that when the weather was better, I would try to embrace life again. Now for the first time in so long, I really think I can have a life ! ”

I hope this true story encourages at least one other person imprisoned by their anxiety, to seek help, embrace the needed changes, and take back their life.

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist

BenhavenCounseling.com

Blog: RuledByFear.com

www.OneStepataTime.com

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Hidden Agendas…Why We Hit a Wall !

by on Aug.12, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Do you have any hidden agendas ? That is seldom an easy question to answer, but it is at the same time, one that I feel is extremely important to ask.

By hidden agendas, i am specifically talking about either conscious, subconscious but possibly unconscious reasons to behave in a certain way, or focus on certain feelings, even obsess on some hurt or emotional pain.

Let me give you some examples.

a] Every time a young lady seems to find herself becoming more comfortable in a relationship, she begins to find fault with the guy, picks fights over trivial issues, and within weeks, breaks off the relationship. There might easily be some fears  and insecurities just below the surface, or then again, deeply buried, that cause her to sabotage each relationship.

b] Although I have enjoyed success in helping many people understand and conquer their panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors, I have also witnessed a percentage of clients who just make so much progress, but then seem to hit a wall. They say they feel better and have more control over symptoms, but I also see that they hold on to certain symptoms which limit or restrict their lives. I am very happy to see their progress, but it is very evident that something is holding back complete success. Why? There are times when certain symptoms serve a secondary purpose.
A client who could not drive due to panic attacks, now can drive where she “needs” to go, but won’t stretch further because if she is free of anxiety, people will expect too much from her and she will feel overwhelmed as she once did when the panic first began. Get the idea ?

Often the person does not consciously realize they are sabotaging their own progress. A person often tries to bury their fears and self-sabotaging negative thoughts since they are so uncomfortable. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, even fear of success can cause a person to limit how far he or she goes to take control of their life.

” It makes me feel so weak to say this but what if the guy I am engaged to  finds himself unhappy with me ten years down the road? He may leave me !”

” I can never do enough to please my mom. If I do more, that will become the new standard, and then I have to do even more. I can never win.”

” I am not happy in this relationship, but I see so many people struggling after a divorce. Maybe his verbal abuse is not so bad. At least I have a roof over my head.”

You might get the picture that many hidden agendas are the result of a person’s insecurities, a lack of trust and faith in his or her ability to survive without others. And yes, much of the insecurity is based early life experiences and learned fears. Most of us do feel we need other people in our lives, but that does not have to make us dependent. Dependency breeds weakness. However, good healthy interactions with others where you also allow yourself to grow and stretch with new experiences, where you create a life for yourself with goals and steps to accomplish those goals, and where you see yourself able to express your thoughts and opinions in a respectful but open manner are the cornerstones for a more healthy self-esteem.

Where self-esteem is nurtured, hidden agendas atrophy. One needs not to have excuses to emotionally or psychologically protect himself or herself  when self confidence and trust in self assures you that you will do what is best for you.

When I see a client hitting that invisible but all to real “wall”, I know what we have to do. The goal becomes to take advantage of the progress the client has made to emphasize  what she now sees she is capable of doing, and then using the lessons learned to identify and then conquer the fears that come out as the triggers for self-sabotage. It is always amazing how surprised many clients are to see the issues, just below the surface, that hold them back. This can change his or her life forever. I have to admit, I never get tired of experiencing that kind of growth on the part of a client, it is a phenomenal feeling.

Hopefully, this is food for thought !

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

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