Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Psycho education for anxiety. A begginer's guide.

Right, this is what I was taught in one one hour session by a psychologist. It's not going to be comprehensive, but if you are struggling with anxiety too then it struck me as the most sensible and practical advice I've been given on the subject in all my years looking for treatment and you might like to find out more.

The first part of the session focused on explaining what anxiety was, why we need it and why suffering it in the way that I, and maybe you, do is inappropriate.

So, anxiety is necessary to a stone age creature like man to us deal with physical threats. If you experience anxiety, the symptoms are the body preparing for violent attack - ye olde fight or flight reaction. So, sweating to make you slippery (apparently, according to my psychology guy!), increased heart rate to get oxygen to the muscles, breathing more oxygen in, stomach upset as chemicals pour into your system. As the anxiety increases so do these symptoms, into a panic attack in fact, until it escalates and you go into a sort of pre-shock and your body starts to shut down, which might even involve hallucinations and you will almost certainly believe you're about to die.

Now, this is great for dealing with physical attack. However, in our society, although there are threats and dangers, most of our anxiety is centred on things for which this physical preparation is completely inappropriate, but it is the only response our body has.

Anxiety sufferers (who tend to be intelligent, deep thinkers and very concerned with the world around them flattery fans) are wasting their time worrying about fantasies. Almost everything that causes the response above in anxiety sufferers is an irrational fear. If you are afraid of crowds for example you are afraid of a fantasy - if a friend rang you and said they were in town and it was crowded, you would not advise them to flea, would you?

But humans are learning creatures and by being anxious about certain situations your mind will learn to behave this way. Your response is that of something under attack, which tells your brain that the situation - crowds for example - that makes you anxious, is something that is worth being afraid of, because it produces the response that comes with being under attack.

Now, the two ways I was taught to try and deal with anxiety.

The first starts with the preceding information and using your brain rationally and logically.

When you experience anxiety remember what is going on phsyically and why you are starting to feel so bad, it's a fear of fear, a fear of nothing and you CAN overcome it.

The second is not to behave in certain ways and take some actions to deal with the symptoms of what is primarily a physical problem.

So, try and control your breathing. I've had breathing into a paper bag recommended for dealing with panic attacks, or try to breathe slowly through your nostrils for short time - your body is trying to flood your system with oxygen.

Your system is also heating up as lots of chemical reactions go off and making you sweat too. Try and drink some cold water, take off clothes if you can.

Try to walk steadily. It's calming, familiar and stabilising - it is NOT running. But, it's not a good idea to isolate yourself, sitting still and alone: this is like hiding and will only increase the anxiety.

Try and do some muscle relaxation if you can.

DON'T give yourself more energy - definitely avoid caffeine (and, if you suffer from anxiety than you should probably look at what your caffeine intake is as too much can, on its own, trigger a panic attack. The psychologist I spoke too described it as speed, it works in exactly the same way, he said.)

The same with foods or drinks that are full of sugar - you're feeding more energy into your system, which is not what you want to do - try water if you can.

Cigarettes are not a good idea. The relaxation of smoking is just the satisfying of cravings, and nicotine is a stimulant - at another relaxation related thing, the leader said one of the reasons smoking can relax people is because you tend to breathe more slowly; this chap was skeptical but did say that you're certainly breathing in less oxygen when you're smoking because you're filling your lungs with carbon monoxide.

Try and keep your metabolism steady - avoid getting hungry and eat three good meals a day and as healthily as you can. There you go. Now that's only what I remember from one session but it might be something you'd like to try or try to find out more about.

The psychologist I spoke to added that the worse thing you can do is expect to do this instantly and then consider yourself a failure if it doesn't work. You'll need to learn and it may well happen bit by bit, but even if you're only trying to do something or using the logical thinking stuff at the moment you are on the right track.

If you spent it, thank you for your time. CD.


Mrs Pouncer said...

Hello Mr Drinker! I am so riddled with anxiety, and my panic attacks are so acute, that oft-times I stand rooted to the spot - generally in the Karen Millen concession at the House of Fraser, or in the refrigerated meats section in Waitrose, Twyford. I am so convinced of imminent death that I dare not move. What I do is to call my mother and say I have a migraine. I do not know why I do this because it is not true. All it serves to do is to normalise my irrational behaviour. I then leave a trolley full of shopping in the aisle or, if in KM, put my clothes back on and go home. I have nothing to eat and nothing new to wear on these occasions, but at least I haven't died in front of everyone. That is my main fear: not dying exactly, but dying in front of an audience. I don't know why. Being an habitual heavy drinker hasn't helped, of course, but nothing can break me from the booze.

delcatto said...

Think of anxiety management as a tool kit for life.
Good blog by the way after lurking for a while.

The Drinker said...

Hello Delcatto and cheers, thanks for commenting.

Hello Mrs Pouncer - aren't you in Rimmery? You should be with Frank Ribbery. Twyford is a frightening place - perhaps the ghosts of battonned road protesters still squeal and mob through the local stores.

Do they do ruby slippers in KM? (What is a Karen Millen? I'm a man, I'm anxious; such places are far pavilions to me) If so, you could slip a pair on for your changeling thing and should it, as Noel and Liam like to nasal to each other, come on top, you can do a Dorthy and click yerself home. If it doesn't work you will at least be providing some entertainment for other shoppers - you're obviously already prepared to disrobe for them - and your arrest and removal will make a briefly amusing news in brief for the local paper - they might even let the work experience kid write at and you'll start someone off to the peak of respect and loveliness that is Andrew Neil. Oh yes.

In Waitrose, make sure you shop with someone with very similar taste in food with you and they can have yer trolley and can return the favour by giving you their weekly shop.

Never lie to your mother, you'll go to hell with her when you die.

That ought to do it. Cheers.