When Fear Rules !

Tag: panic attacks

Feeling Out of Control ?

by on Dec.25, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

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 desireable 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 pursue 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 effected 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 effect 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 pursuing 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.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR THE NEW YEAR ???

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
President/CEO, Benhaven Counseling, LLC
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog : www.RuledByFear.com
http://www.facebook.com/groups/ruledbyfear

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Rebecca’s Story / Conquering Panic Attacks

by on Sep.07, 2015, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD

Growing up, no one warned me about how much pressure and scrutiny an 18/19 year old was put under. I always just assumed that by the time I graduated high school I would know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. But graduation came and went, and I still had these huge life decisions hanging over my head. “What are you doing with your life,” “Where are you going to college,” “You know that career doesn’t make enough money to support yourself,” “You better start now or you’ll never go back to school.”

If it wasn’t difficult enough to make these decisions while pleasing myself, imagine the horror of making these decisions while trying to please every single person I ran into that asked these exact questions. Having the adaptable, people-pleasing personality that I do made these choices even harder. How would I please everyone? Hearing the disappointment in people’s voices when you tell them you aren’t going to college or you don’t have a major picked out can really eat at your brain; it sure did bother mine. Should I just enroll in college because it will stop the badgering of questions? I mulled these thoughts over often. I never could seem to escape the questions. It didn’t matter if I was at work or at church on Sunday; they always seemed to be there. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the questions were coming from those with pure intentions, but I also don’t believe older people really understand the disapproval they show when you are 19 years old without a mapped out plan of what you are going to be when you grow up. It also didn’t help the fact that I seemed to be the only one my age who was having these issues. All of my other friends had left for school in other states, leaving me feeling alone and confused.

So there I was, 19 years old, not enrolled in college and working 30 hours a week at a job where I was not very happy. I decided to drive to the gas station after dinner one night in March. Gas was cheaper the next town over so I made the extra 10 minute drive, not thinking anything would happen. Everything was fine until I let my overactive brain cloud my judgment. Driving gives you time to think in silence, which can be good, I guess. For me it just gave me time to think about how much of a failure I felt as a daughter and person. I mean I thought my whole life was supposed to be put together already, I was so behind.

“I can’t breathe” I thought as my heart started to beat out of my chest. Staring at the dim brake lights in front of me I tried to focus on driving as my sweaty palms tightly choked the steering wheel. I didn’t know whether to pull over and turn around or keep driving. My throat tightened as it became hard to swallow and I sat in my car terrified. What the heck is wrong with me?

That became the new question. Obviously, I made it home safety and I would love to tell you that that was my first and only panic attack, but I wouldn’t be writing this article if it was. 
Shortly after that incident, driving in general became something of complete difficulty. It didn’t matter if I was driving three minutes to church, being in the car felt like an eternity. I battled with the thoughts that something was seriously wrong with me. I even made a trip to the emergency room one afternoon because my throat felt like it was suffocating me for hours on end with no relief. They sent me home with a packet on anxiety and some judgmental looks.

Anxiety. Panic attacks. How could this be happening to me? I’ve always done the right thing. Why would God allow me to go through this? What did I do wrong to deserve anxiety?
The pressure from home didn’t help my mental state. I love my mother dearly, but she didn’t and still doesn’t understand panic attacks and the effect they had on me. I could tell she was disappointed in me and herself for not being able to “fix” my problems. The thoughts of being a failure to her made my panic attacks even worse. I would cry at night – the idea of suicide entered my head more than once, but I knew it wasn’t the answer.

Life became very dismal and along with my anxiety came his buddy depression. I could barely make it through work and back home and my social life quickly diminished. Before too long I became house bound with panic attacks, no longer sleeping through the night, and deathly afraid to be left alone in fear that the next panic attack would leave me dead and alone.

By the grace of God, my story doesn’t end there. Life seemed impossible but somehow I was given the strength to keep fighting. During my sleepless nights I did a lot of research on panic attacks and methods to reduce them. I also began searching for some medical help. I met Psychologist, Gene Benedetto in the summer of 2013. After months of suffering alone, I was finally ready to reach out and try to figure out why this was happening to me. Talking to Gene helped put things into perspective. I realized that unlike what my brain was telling me, I wasn’t crazy and another people were dealing with the same issues I was having. I worked through a lot of personal issues sitting in his office. Although my mind was always somewhat distracted by the clock; waiting for what felt like an eternity for that hour to be up and to go back to the safety of my home. I visited Benhaven on and off over the next couple of months. It was difficult to see him regularly when I could not make the 15 minute drive myself. After Christmas, I decided I would not return. I had been put on Zoloft for my anxiety and it seemed to be working. The constant overwhelming feeling of choking had subsided enough to where I felt I could live a little and no longer felt the need to seek out help.

I didn’t realize until later on that I had stopped going to see Gene because I wasn’t ready to change. I wasn’t willing to put the effort into stretching and desensitizing myself to my anxiety symptoms. And I certainly wasn’t ready to open the can of worms that was causing all my issues to begin with. Anxiety became my new normal. I knew the limits I could live within to feel comfortable and as long as I stayed within them I could live my life just fine.

But after a while, fine wasn’t good enough. I was healing slightly, but I still didn’t feel like myself; just an anxious, unhappy version of myself that I really didn’t like too much. You see, if you don’t ever work on the root of the problem, the symptoms aren’t ever going to really disappear. Anxiety gave me an excuse not to answer the questions of my future, but having never dealt those issues never made them truly go away.

So time passed slowly as I adapted into a new “normal.” It had been a year and a half since I started having panic attacks and nothing had really changed. My meds did soften the effects of my panic attacks, but I was never willing to put myself in any situations where anxiety might arise.

That was until my boyfriend dumped me. It really is crazy how some of the worst things in life turn out to be for the good. So there I was alone, yet again. My first love, my best friend, my confidant left me without a reason to be seen. And I was crushed. I had so much banking on our relationship and I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I was again faced with the question of what I would do with my life; no longer able to hide behind a stable, hardworking man who was willing to drive anywhere for me so that I was never uncomfortable. But this time, I was ready to answer that question. I was finally ready to push myself to do something. Not because my mom, my friends, or the random lady from church wanted me to, but because I felt confident in myself.

I quickly signed up for a dental assisting program in my area. I traveled back and forth to school the weeks before classes started, filling out paperwork and trying on scrubs. Most of those trips started and ended in phone calls to my mom who assured me I could finish those drives by myself. As I continued to make the drive to classes something miraculous happened, the drive no longer seemed overwhelming or impossible. I was finally able to start trusting myself to get in a car and drive places. I even began driving to my boyfriend’s house, after we started working through our previous issues.

Six months later, I finished my dental assisting program at the top of my class. It was a tough 6 months, but worth the effort. I also pushed myself to go on several interviews way outside my 20 minute drive comfort zone. I had never been more proud of myself than I was in those months. I had done this. I had made a decision and stuck with it, no matter what anyone else thought.

With that program completed and a job lined up, I finally felt ready to return to Benhaven Counseling. I was finally mentally ready to make the steps needed to continue to push myself into becoming a stronger person.

One of the first lessons I learned from Gene was breaking everything into steps. Choosing not to look at myself as a failure for not being able to drive to California and back by myself, but taking reasonable bites often until they built up to longer drives. I also began to take steps to learn how to distract myself. Couponing and donating the items to a local charity became my way to calm my fears before pushing myself to go further on a drive. I continue daily to make the conscious decision to push myself, not allowing my anxiety ever to control me again.

The journey has been tough and there are still many twists and turns in the days ahead, but for the first time in my life, I’m not completely worried about my future. I have learned that I can trust myself to make decisions and that it is okay not to listen to everyone’s “advice.” I encourage all those reading to take the first step if you haven’t. Confide in someone you trust about what you are going through. You are not alone in this and there are so many people around you that want to help.

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Can You Teach Me to Become Fearless Again ?

by on Sep.22, 2014, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I had not talked to her in at least two months. I had wanted to gradually break any dependency she had on me, because she finally had a family that loved her. Besides, I loathe dependency as it weakens the spirit, and causes a spiraling down-turn in one’s motivation, creativity and momentum to find one’s purpose in life, to be special.

Make no mistake, I am all for support and reliance on others as long as it is part of a plan to teach an individual how to help herself or himself. However, I see an ever-increasing desire on the part of some to create a dependency of others on them, all for the purpose of having control and power.

This is not a conspiracy theory, just one of those cycles in the history of mankind. Keep your eyes closed to this and you will find out the hard way.

If you are someone who has followed my blog over the years, then you might remember previous articles about this child who came to me for help when she was just ten years old. She was a homeless child, living in a cardboard refrigerator box, on the streets of “Gotham City”, having escaped the grasp of her prostitute mother and the certainty that she would be forced to settle for her mother’s life-style if she did not take her life into her own hands.

However, this was the real world, so although Joy [ her name of choice ] , had successfully separated from her mother , the following four years found her vulnerable to people of lesser conscience, who would emotionally, physically and sexually abuse her, because they could.

Working with her was so very rewarding for me, and yet very painful as I saw her relentless efforts to escape the almost daily reality of abuse that she had to endure. She seemed fearless and undaunted, maybe because in her eyes, she had no choice. This was survival. So if some guy at the bar offered her a meal for a feel, it was not who she was, but just what she had to go through. Through her eyes, miraculously, she saw every abuse as a motivator, as a stepping stone to finding a path off the streets and into the arms of a loving family. Many times I felt helpless as she
endured what I could not imagine at the hands of those whose selfishness and neediness would have destroyed the average child, or adult for that matter.

Once she was in a family, although not without complications, I found myself relieved but somewhat depleted, thus some time has passed since my last article. Then, last evening, she contacted me. After the usual chatting to catch up, this now fifteen year old said something that I found invigorating. ” Can you teach me become FEARLESS again ? ” Oh, she loved her new family for sure, but at the same time, she felt somewhat lazy and, listen carefully, DEPENDENT ! It was wonderful to have people looking out for you. It somehow felt good to have rules to follow and rewards for good behavior. It felt safe, and yet it didn’t, as she had become less reliant on her own skills to survive. Dependency can do that to the best of us.

We talked about her wanting to become a child advocate, a person who could teach others how to recognize and be less vulnerable to the manipulators, controllers, and in some cases, sociopathic types among us who prey on the perceived weakness of others. Now that was a discussion that I found motivating.

Do you long to be FEARLESS ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
The Benhaven Group, LLC
Blog: www.RuledByFear.com
www.PanicAttacks.com
www.ObsessiveCompulsive.com
www.RuledByShame.com
www.SelfEsteem.com
www.OneStepataTime.com

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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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Why Panic ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you ?

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

The Benhaven Group, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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

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Feels So Good, Hurts So Bad !

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach

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Out of Control !

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

Out of Control !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a thought or two !

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

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

On Line Support Group: www.OneStepataTime.com

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Why 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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Fear Grows in an Atmosphere of Avoidance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC

Blog: www.RuledByFear.com

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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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