Panic Attack

/Panic Attack

Overcoming Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. But some people experience anxiety too much of the time, often for no real reason.

Anxiety invades their lives with distressing images, painful feelings, or thoughts of impending doom.  Most are fully aware of the unpleasant feelings resulting from their anxieties, but often the anxieties themselves are subconscious. Yet these anxieties could become recognizable if they could learn to stop and reflect on them when they experience these feelings.

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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Cory, a veteran police officer, draws his gun just as a bullet whizzes through his hair, grazing his scalp.

Emma, a bank employee freezes when a gunman holds her hostage for several hours in the safe room.

Anthony, a military officer in Afghanistan, runs through crossfire to retrieve the corpses of his buddies.

 

These images are all too familiar to TV audiences, but nothing can simulate a near-death experience like the ones described by Cory, Emma and Anthony.

They all suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs after someone is exposed to a life-threatening traumatic event. Commonly this happens after coming back from a war zone, but it can happen after any traumatic or life-threatening event.

Although many people experience very disturbing things in war or security situations, not everyone will develop PTSD. Both the Canadian Department of National Defence, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs that 11 to 24 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD.

The prevalence of PTSD in the general population is about 7 to 8 per cent.

What are the signs?

Fight or flight is an instinctual human reaction in the face of extreme danger, when you have milliseconds to decide whether to run away to safety or to fight to defend yourself. After a traumatic event, this ”flight or fight” reaction in the body is damaged and the person freezes up when sensations, images, or feelings they had at that time recur in the here and now.

Physiological signs of fear, like rapid heartbeat and profuse sweating activate emotions of acute fear and strong normal responses to threatening situations often appear in PTSD sufferers in situations where there is no danger present.

PTSD usually develops within three months of the traumatic event, but can occur much later in life.

Flashbacks

Some of these symptoms are referred to as Re-experiencing symptoms. These include flashbacks of the event, which can bring extreme stress on not only the mind, but also the body in terms of sweating or a racing heart. Bad dreams and frightening thoughts are also typical. The traumas from the past become torturous again, in the present.

Avoiding Triggers

The next category is Avoidance symptoms. This is when the sufferer goes to extremes to avoid reminders of the traumatic event. This can cause people to change their clothing, hair, and even to quit their job to avoid things that trigger memories and to have deep feelings of shame or guilt.

Hyper-vigilance 

The last category of symptoms is called Hyper-arousal symptoms. This is when a PTSD sufferer becomes very easily stressed or fearful for their safety, such as checking that doors and windows are locked, feeling suspicious of parked cars, strangers and anything they used to consider benign.  This effect of being easily startled can also lead to angry outbursts, constant vigilance for possible signs of danger, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. These symptoms make people more vulnerable to overuse of drugs and alcohol.

Consequences

Unfortunately there is still a stigma surrounding PTSD. Because it can be such a terrifying and disruptive mental state, sufferers can be labeled as “crazy,” “dangerous,” or “violent.” Other stigmas are general beliefs that since in today’s wars people chose to go to combat, in a sense they brought it on themselves.

Many PTSD sufferers reported that they avoided early treatment because they did not want to be considered to have a mental illness. However, PTSD can be cured through different forms of therapy.

Group treatment programs for PSTD are delivered over 6 to 12 weeks, while individual therapy is customized to each person’s needs.

What happened to them?

Cory was in psychotherapy for 11 months, and eventually retired from the force  to work as an investment advisor. He sometimes remembers the trauma, but can now deal with stressful feelings realistically.

Emma was off work for six months before she was able to step foot in the bank again.  With the help of a psychologist, she eventually felt strong enough to return to her job.

Anthony was released from the military after intensive individual and group psychotherapy.  He still has survivor guilt. He works part-time as a security guard.     

A psychologist can help you learn more about PTSD and its effects, deal with explosive anger, and help you become aware of the signs leading to a recurrence.

If you or someone you know is struggling with post traumatic stress it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a registered psychologist.

 


Patients in this story are a fictional composite of people who have sought help for this issue. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisherFacebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych
All rights reserved. Copyright protected.
Photo Credits: www.flickr.com/photos/copsadmirer/5141029384 Oscar in
the middle
http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4446487398 Alan
Cleaver

Anxious Moms, Anxious Kids

“Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself”

-Kalil Gibran

From the moment they realize they are pregnant, women often shift from being “me” to being a “mom-and-child”. This is re-enforced through the early years, and most mothers feel both pride and pangs of separation when their little ones go off to school.

Unfortunately there are moms who find it impossible to let go at any time.  These moms share and peer into every corner of the child’s life and act as if their child’s life is their own.  They cannot see the child as a separate person; they see their child’s identity as being one with theirs.

Moms who interfere with their child’s normal attempts at independence have anxieties of their own, that are triggered by the child’s growing away from her – really just growing up. Unconsciously they see their kids as an extension of themselves, and constantly feel the child doesn’t really know what’s best and so she must intervene.  In reality the child’s existence must make up for their own childhood failures and deprivations.  And so they relentlessly plan, schedule, car pool, push and prod their kids into a facsimile of “mini-me”.

In fact, even when the “kids” are forty-year-olds, these moms may still be like this, and still be anxious about their children making the “correct” decisions in every part of their lives.  These moms are “micro-manager moms”, and in trying to control every aspect of their children’s lives they create unnecessary stress for themselves and immaturity and dependency in their offspring.

Paula, a 13 year old, was referred to a psychologist by her pediatrician for anxiety and self-esteem issues. In therapy with children, confidentiality is most important to give the child a place to think and express  things that may be taboo at home.

She was brought to every appointment by her mother, although Paula could easily have walked there after school.  After a few sessions, Paula confided her fears that she might be gay and how these doubts affected her self-esteem. The following day, the psychologist received a call from Paula’s mother who was incensed that the psychologist had discussed sexual matters with her daughter, demanded a thorough summary of each Paula’s sessions, and promptly cancelled future appointments.

Paula’s mother illustrates the micro-manager mom’s issues with boundaries and respecting confidentiality.  She had intruded into her own daughter’s therapy, effectively destroying Paula’s attempt to establish her own identity and raising Paula’s post-treatment anxiety even higher than it was before.

As children grow up and see their mother’s worrying and micro-managing approach, they may take on this behavior themselves as they grow up. If they are used to their mom always interfering, asking details, criticizing, and saying how they should feel and what they should say or do in every life scenario, such behavioral copying and low self-trust becomes endemic. The results can become generational, almost like a family habit.

Anxiety is serious, and the best way to treat anxiety is with psychological treatment by a trained professional. This is particularly important with anxious families and micro-managing moms, as these are serious external influences affecting the anxiety in the child.

Anxiety can really degrade the quality of living as a result, and addressing it with a professional is an important and effective investment of time and money.


Patients in this story are a fictional composite of people who have sought help for this issue. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisherFacebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych
All rights reserved. Copyright protected.

Making cents of financial decisions

In the last few years, watching the economy whip through its roller-coaster-like up and downs taught us that people don’t always make the most rational decisions about their money.

We know that people can be irrational, but it’s harder to accept that this effects important decisions about money and investing. In fact, behavioural economist Dan Ariely says that the recession in 2008 was caused by a build-up of all our small irrational thoughts.

Money is a motivator but it’s also a stressor, and for tough decisions people have little mental shortcuts we use to make our lives a little easier. (more…)

Impulsive and impatient? Maybe you’re living with adult ADHD

John, a 32-year-old man, works as a courier. He loves activities that are fast like white water rafting, off-road motor biking and speed boating. His IQ tests show that he is in the Very Superior level of intelligence, but he has a history of changing jobs often, saying he becomes bored and restless.

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