Tag Archives: cbt

The Challenge

The importance of challenging ourselves, even when anxiety is at its worst. We all know that feeling, of an intrusive thought coming in you try to get ignore it but it just gets louder and louder and louder, like an alarm clock that wont turn off. You try your best to not listen to the alarm, but eventually you snap and want to break the alarm clock to stop the incessant beeping. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn off thoughts, or break them and the more you try not listening to them the worse they get. The solution to these thoughts seems backwards, but welcoming and accepting the thoughts actually helps relieve the anxiety being felt.

For example:

Say you have a thought that something terrible is going to happen, you keep playing scenarios out in your head the plot always ends in a horrible terrible outcome. You become so engrossed that your heart starts to beat so fast, you begin to tremble, maybe you carry out compulsions to try and relive your anxiety and before you know it you are having a full fledged panic attack. You try so hard to ignore the thoughts, you might pray, cry or beg them to stop but they just become worse and worse, until you are on the floor trembling in fear. Eventually the panic attack subsides, and your anxiety calms down, until the next intrusive thought enters and the cycle starts up all over again. Now let’s go over this same exact situation but try a different approach, the intrusive thought comes in but this time you allow it in, you even welcome it in, this time you acknowledge its presence and you do not react. The key thing here is not reacting, no matter how intense, no matter how awful the outcome your mind is presenting you. You DON’T react, it might seem so scary, but being brave and allowing yourself to feel the anxiety come on and not fight it will prove to your brain that there is nothing to actually be afraid of. Overtime the more we react to a thought, the more our brain becomes hardwired to think that we need to be afraid of that thought, and the more that thought pops up starting a never ending cycle of fear and anxiety. The moment we decide to let go, and not be afraid of our thoughts, and allow them to be present without reacting no matter how painful resisting the urge of wanting to just completely give in and freak out (like breaking the alarm clock) is worth enduring the temporary pain for the long term benefits. This will help reverse the ingrained fear response. How to do this? It is much easier said then done, the suffocation and intense fear can be so consuming it sounds terrifying to have to sit alone and welcome the anxiety in, but the less you react the quicker the thought gets bored and leaves – you are not providing any energy to fuel the thought. Lets go back to the analogy of an alarm clock, the alarm clock is beeping this time you welcome the alarm clock in, you don’t react and you even accept the uncertainty of not knowing if the alarm clock will ever stop beeping. You are not resisting it and you are not trying to ignore it, you simply are okay with having the alarm noise apart of your life. Overtime you have become so comfortable with having the noise in the background it gets quieter and quieter, you even forget it is there at times. That is the goal with intrusive thoughts, you have to accept the uncertainty and be okay no matter how intense or horrible the thoughts & feelings being presented to you are, even if your mind tells you that you are wrong to be okay with the thought because something BAD is going to happen!!! Try your hardest to resist the urge to react, think about all the times you have been through this and nothing bad ever happened, take that risk even just once, it will be worth it. Think about all the time you gave in to its demands and the time and energy and pain it has caused you, and again NOTHING bad happened….anxiety is a monster and it may never go away but you can learn to coexist with horrible a roommate.

 

 

 

The hidden beast of anxiety…

In a new piece for the Players’ Tribune, Corey Hirsch opens up about his struggles with mental health issues. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

A great article by

For a long time, Corey Hirsch was overcome with dark thoughts.

In a new piece for the Players’ Tribune, the former NHL goaltender opens up about his struggles with mental health issues.

At age 22, Hirsch seemingly had it all: He’d earned an Olympic silver medal with Team Canada, and, as the New York Rangers’ third goalie, he’d been part of a Stanley Cup championship. But the goaltender felt suicidal. As he describes it in the Players’ Tribune, it was a feeling of overwhelming darkness disconnected from his outer life. “Darkness. Pure, relentless darkness,” Hirsch writes. “For no reason.”

The pain was so bad that, while with the Rangers, Hirsch tried to break his hand, hoping to be sent home to Calgary.

After the morning skate, I grabbed an extra stick blade from the bin and stuffed it in my bag. When I got back to my hotel, I sat on the edge of the bed in silence and took out the blade.

My plan was to break my hand and hide the injury until the next day at practice. That way, I could go down after taking a shot, and the team would send me home to recover without knowing what was really going on. In those days, the blades were wooden and heavy as hell. I smashed the blade against my left hand three or four times, as hard as I possibly could.

The Players’ Tribune

It didn’t work. Hirsch ended up with a badly bruised hand instead, and he stayed with the Rangers right up until the team hoisted the Cup. The next day, he promptly flew home.

Hirsch’s struggles continued, and he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. On an East Coast road trip, Hirsch pulled a trainer aside to ask for help. After one meeting with the team’s psychologist, Hirsch finally had a diagnosis: obsessive compulsive disorder.

Having a diagnosis came as a huge relief. Finally, he thought: “I am not insane. I am not a bad person. I am not weak. I have an illness, and there is a treatment.”

His key message? “A mental health issue is not a sign of weakness.”

For hockey players, struggles with mental health can be especially difficult to reveal. But Hirsch implores anyone who can relate to his struggles to find hope.

“There is a light, however faint, in all this darkness,” he writes. “There is help out there for you.”

To read more of Corey Hirsch’s story:

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/corey-hirsch-dark-dark-dark/

Amazing story from Varun Gwalani

Amazing video from Varun Gwalani! So brave of him to share his struggles with OCD, and show that sufferers are not alone. Please take the time to read his story, and watch his video. I was truly inspired by his courage and efforts to spread awareness.

https://www.thequint.com/health-fitness/2016/11/24/stereotype-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-bleak-picture-monster-varun-gwalani-mental-illness-ocd 

The other day, I heard someone say, “She kept yelling at me when my room was untidy. She’s so OCD, man.”

As someone who is actually so OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I was understandably annoyed. I didn’t turn around and go on a tirade about how offended I was. I don’t do that when people use the term for their own purposes- Obsessive Comedic Disorder or Obsessive Christmas Disorder, or something else that’s clearly not obsessive.

I don’t do that because I know there’s no malice behind it, just ignorance.

To explain OCD simply, first remember that a large part of your brain’s job is to be a warning system, to detect possible threats, to remind you that something as simple as putting your hand to fire, or crossing the street without looking, will harm you.

Now imagine if this warning system, this most fundamental part of your brain, is broken.

Also Watch: Mental Heads: Stamping Out Stigma Around Mental Illness

With a broken system, you’re constantly scared of everything. Anything and everything around you can kill you. If not kill you, it can infect, hurt or damage you in some way or another. Most of the time, though, it’s not just you that it’s affecting. Your parents, your family, your friends, all of them are in supposed danger, if you and you alone don’t do what your broken brain compels you to do.

That’s what OCD is.

There are more than ten different kinds of OCD, and every case of OCD has a high chance of being severe and debilitating to the point that it affects everyday life.

Even those “funny” pop culture stereotypes of people with OCD tics become less funny when you pull back the curtain and see the reality. Repeated hand-washing becomes slightly less funny when your mind compels you to do it over and over again, till your skin strips off your fingers, but you still can’t stop. Counting steps while walking, or having to shower several times because of germs sounds funny, until you realise that the person doing it believes that their life physically depends on it. And why shouldn’t they? Why should you believe your brain is lying to you?

These are all symptoms of different kinds of OCD, which include morality OCD, checking OCD or sexuality OCD. When you have OCD, that’s exactly what your brain is doing. And after a point, you can’t distinguish between what is you and what isn’t. With that, we come to the kind of OCD that I have. It’s called Aggressive OCD. What does that do? Well, it’s really fun: It gives me visions of death.

So when I encounter ignorance, what I try to do instead is to the set the record straight- What exactly does being obsessive or compulsive mean?

Let me answer that by telling you the story of one day in my life.

My eyes open. It’s 4 a.m. Or is it p.m.? I look around. The curtains aren’t drawn, the sky outside is dark. It’s night. Not that it matters much to me. I had fallen asleep for a few minutes before I was jerked awake again by a stabbing. It wasn’t a stabbing pain in any part of my body; it was more like my brain had conjured up an image of my oldest friend stabbing me in the throat. I yawn.

I turn over on my cool, comfortable bed in my big house and I try not to dream of death. I’m able to stop when I’m awake but I need to sleep. I can’t control it while I’m asleep. So I’m simultaneously tensing my body in fear and anxiety, while trying to relax it enough to fall asleep.

I finally fall asleep without knowing. I say without knowing not because I didn’t know when I fell asleep, but rather that my dreams are so vivid and impactful that when I wake up in a few short hours I was more tired than when I went to bed.

I lay in bed for a few minutes, scrolling through Facebook, waiting for the noise and the chaos of my mind to surge once more. Right on cue, they do, and I get out of bed. There’s no need to “steel” myself or “force” myself to get out of bed. Do you have to steel yourself for the sun to rise? It just does. In the same way, the monster in my brain will always be whispering and screaming.

I look into the mirror to brush my teeth and my throat is cut, it opens up before my eyes. I continue brushing. I am boiled alive before I step into the shower. I step in. An image of sprawling intestines from a dead body flashes before my eyes. I eat my ketchup-soaked omelet, the reds melting together.

I am done. I have delayed enough at home. I have to go out into the world, doesn’t matter for what. The monster licks his lips with relish, a visible smacking sound resounding in my head. I roll my eyes.

In the streets is my monster’s favourite weapon: Vehicles. Vehicles off all kinds. Get in a cab and the cabbie will have a secret gun to blow your head off. Ooo, maybe it could be one of those glowing-light cabs. Brains would look so nice splattered on them.

Trains? Everyone on the train is a murderer, rapist, cannibal. Your friends will die over and over before your eyes, your monster will feed on this chaos in your brain, you will suffer. You get the picture.

I get home, staggering and drained. I start writing about this monster and I am still haunted by the inescapable fact that the monster is made in my image.

This monster is made up of thoughts that I couldn’t possibly conceive of myself, but they still come from my own mind. That is what true obsession is: An inability to control your own thoughts. It will be hammered into you every minute of every day until you wish you were numb to it, but you aren’t.

And it’ll make you want to blame yourself. Because the same place that controls all your basic functioning, is also the place that’s rife with corruption. Medicines help me. Therapy helps me. But I don’t know if that guilt and anger I still hold at myself for not being able to control something that is out of my control, will ever fade.

(Varun Gwalani is a TEDx speaker, author and mental health advocate. The First Storyteller, his second novel, is based on his experiences with Aggressive OCD. Twitter: @varunug)

Intrusive Thoughts

 

We have all on occasion experienced an involuntary disturbing thought or violent image which leaves us upset and confused — these are called “intrusive thoughts.” Aaron Harvey, who battled these on his own for over 20 years, has launched an intrusive thoughts website to help people with OCD. According to the website, as many as four out of five people experience such thoughts. However, for some, the repetitive nature of these troubling thoughts may be a symptom of certain forms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Many try to ignore these thoughts and push them out of their head, but that can make them even worse and more frequent. Attempting to repress the thoughts instead of addressing them can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, questioning of one’s character and abilities, creating isolating behavior. Often, those who are tormented by intrusive thoughts are too embarrassed or ashamed to share them or seek help. Intrusivethoughts.org delivers, through a stylish website, carefully curated facts and statistics, videos, information on different types of OCD symptoms and personal stories. It also elaborates on treatment through counseling, yoga, mindfulness and healthy eating techniques. Here, Aaron Harvey seeks to fill the void for an online community forum, which will help educate and provide support and treatment.

Aaron Harvey, a creative marketing entrepreneur, wrestled with these thoughts for over 20 years before being diagnosed. He began having intrusive thoughts when he was 13. “I started to have a lot of graphic violent images in my head that I couldn’t understand. It produced a lot of anxiety and led to panic attacks and constantly questioning my character,” he told Refinery 29. “Any time I would try to escape them, they would get more violent and more graphic.” This vicious cycle is common of many types of OCD. As it says on the website, “for 1 in 50 the fear becomes much harder to dismiss… These thoughts repeat over and over, faster and faster, making the fear we might act more real.”

Aaron Harvey credits the essay “Pure OCD: a rude awakening” by Rose Bretécher with finally providing him with some relief and hope. His suicidal thoughts and anxiety had become unbearable, leading him to search for help online. After wading through immense amounts of psychological studies and treatments, Bretécher’s article published in The Guardian was a breath of fresh air. It addressing the issue head on and with humor, “She forever changed, if not saved, my life,” Harvey told Market Wired.

Harvey saw the need for more approachable information on the disorder, and founded the not-for-profit Intrusive Thoughts, Inc. which launched the website as an “educational hub.” The site is essentially built to appeal to his younger self. “My goal is to capture me when I was 13 and I started to experience this,” he described to Refinery 29, “so that next 13-year-old doesn’t have to spend the next 20 years figuring out what the hell is going on and thinking that they’re a bad person.”

There was a clear opportunity to use my professional skills to create a resource with a youthful look and tone of voice that also humanized the experience of living with intrusive thoughts, promoted a holistic treatment plan and elevated conversations about mental health in the media,” Harvey said, commenting on the approachable and smart design of the website.

This important tool will provide relief to the many who suffer, and help them feel part of a greater community. Harvey hopes to create similar websites for all mental illnesses in the future.

Images: OscarKeyes/Unsplash, ChristopherSardegna/Unsplash, JayWennington/Unsplash, JenelleBall/Unsplash

Non-Judgement

Dealing with the discomfort of anxiety is a daily struggle. Sometimes it can feel like you are in control and other times it can feel completely unmanageable. When anxiety surfaces getting up to even carryout essential activities can be extremely challenging such as bathing, eating and sleeping. Anxiety feeds off of the fear of its victims, and wants to be noticed. It will try extremely hard to gain recognition making each thought worse then the next until it can hijack the spotlight.

How to practice non-judgment?

In conjunction to practicing being mindful and an observer of your thoughts, adding non-judgment to the equation can help a lot with diffusing anxiety. For example,

Anxiety provoking thought – “I am 40 and am still single, I will never meet anyone and will die alone”

If we look at this thought as just a thought, with no emotional response we now have shifted the paradigm to that of an observer. As an observer it is clear that there is a lot of personal judgment happening here, being hard on ones self and jumping to extremes of a bleak and lonely future. Instead of allowing the thought to consume you, try and welcome its presence maybe even if possible try and not judge the thought “I am aware of the presence of the thoughts, and do not have any opinion good/bad” or “Its okay that I had this thought, it does not mean anything”.

It can seem discouraging when anxiety seems to settle down for a bit and suddenly rears its ugly head again. The key is to not identify with the thoughts, no matter how extreme and fear provoking they become. By practicing non-judgment anxiety can no longer get your attention. Try and also remember that it is okay to have a day where you are not able to control your anxiety do not judge yourself or feel discouraged. It takes a lot of courage to not judge our fears and stressors.

Here are some great diffusion techniques that can really help:

http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/Defusing_Exercises

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Autoimmune Diseases Linked To Anxiety?

I stumbled across a very interesting study consisting of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both illness compromise a persons immune system.

Take a look at the following article from WebMd:

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) — People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, have an increased risk for an anxiety disorder, especially women, a new study suggests.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

“Patients with IBD face substantial chronic physical problems associated with the disease,” lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, a professor from the University of Toronto, said in a university news release. “The additional burden of anxiety disorders makes life much more challenging so this ‘double jeopardy’ must be addressed.”

The study authors looked at 269 Canadian adults who had been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease. The researchers found that these patients were two times more likely to have had generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives than adults without Crohn’s or colitis.

And for women, the risk was four times greater than for men, the investigators found.

In addition, people with an inflammatory bowel disease and a history of childhood sexual abuse had a sixfold increased risk of an anxiety disorder. And those with Crohn’s or colitis who reported having moderate or severe chronic pain were twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as those with mild or no pain, the study revealed.

Although this study found an association between people with an inflammatory bowel disease and the likelihood of an anxiety disorder, it wasn’t designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between these conditions.

Findings were published online recently in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

“The study draws attention to the need for routine screening and targeted interventions for anxiety disorders. Particularly among the most vulnerable patients with IBD: women, individuals who are in chronic pain, and those with a history of childhood sexual abuse,” study co-author and adjunct lecturer Joanne Sulman, from the University of Toronto, said in the news release.

The study also highlights the link between physical and mental health, according to Patrick McGowan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto. He was not directly involved in the study.

“We sometimes think of the two as if they are entirely separate entities but the reality is they are intimately linked. Both involve genuine physical changes in the body and affect each other,” McGowan said in the news release.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

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The Beauty in knowing nothing…

What does paradigm mean? In the dictionary paradigm is described as a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology. Every individual possesses a way of thinking that has been molded by our personal beliefs. Our personal beliefs are formed over time through our relationships, our upbringing, culture and our education. We don’t even realize that our perspective is being formed over time, and as we age it is sometimes even hard to pinpoint why we believe in something. We become protective of these beliefs and have difficulty when they are challenged. Why do we respond with such emotional conviction towards defending our principles? One of my favorite quotes is when Socrates describes being wise: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing”. This really resonates with me in that it shows the importance of severing the emotional ties with our personal beliefs. This allows other possibilities to surface and limits the emotional impact our thoughts have on us. This also enables us to not be so protective of our views. The route of anxiety comes from the worry of the unknown, and the fear of the “what if”. I know for me personally, a lot of my anxiety is caused by my biggest fears coming to life, “what if I am a bad mother” or “what if I get fired and can’t support my family?”, “what if my health never gets better?” and so on… I use Socrates words to challenge anxiety-provoking thoughts, I do this by reminding myself that I don’t know what will happen and that is okay. I now try to welcome the many different possibilities life has to offer.

The idea of accepting the unknown is extremely scary. Anxiety sends us on a cycle of agony and seeking reassurance. It is not easy by any means, trying to strip away and re-train our mind from conditioned behavior. On the plus side our minds are extremely malleable and adaptable. When we actively try to change a habit we are able to do it, but it takes daily discipline and conscious awareness. There is no finite timeframe where this is achieved. For me it is still a daily practice, something that I will follow for the rest of my life. Some days will be easier then others, but the hardest is the beginning transition. Anxiety loosens its grip the less attention it gets, and overtime its voice turns into a whisper.

OCD: Alternative to meds…

OCD is an anxiety disorder where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity. An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person’s mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.

When I was researching tools for my anxiety I stumbled across a concept called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to form new neural connections, and its ability to adapt to changes. I was fascinated by this concept, particularly in the works of Dr. Jeffery Schwartz; he brilliantly illustrates his work in his book “Brain Lock”. His breakthrough discovery showcases that through self-guided practices we can change the neuroplasticity of our brain. Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder practiced his four-step cognitive behavioral method; these patients underwent PET scans before and after implementing the four-step technique. The results were groundbreaking he showed that something physical the brain can be changed by something non-physical the mind.

He scanned OCD patients, and found their brains were overactive; he then scanned their brains after implementing the four-step method and found their brains restored itself to a normal response. The reason why this is so groundbreaking is that through actively trying to change our response to anxiety or compulsions we truly can rewire our brains response.

Watch Dr. Jeffery Schwartz explain his method in the following video:

 

It is important to note that not all people who suffer with OCD can deal with their situation without the use of Medication. Medication can play a key role into making sufferers live a more fulfilling and manageable life.