Do You Have Unexpected Anxiety Attacks?

Anxiety AttackI was in the dentist office watching my daughter have some work done on her teeth when my heart began pounding  and racing. My daughter was fine. She was not in any pain as the dentist and assistant were very polite and the environment was extremely friendly. But I felt like I was losing it.

Shortly afterwards my stomach took it’s turn. It felt like it was in my throat, my palms became sweaty, I felt light-headed, my breath became shallow and my thoughts began to race. I am physically healthy with very low blood pressure and normal cholesterol levels so this was clearly not a heart attack.  Rather, it was an anxiety attack.

Perhaps this has happened to you recently. You run into someone unexpectedly, walk into a hospital room, watch something on TV, or eating dinner out and all of a sudden, for no particular reason, you have an anxiety attack. At the moment, it seems as if the attack comes out of nowhere. You realize that analyzing the problem in the moment is futile. So instead, you need a quick solution to settle down immediately and then later evaluate the potential cause.

Mental Solution. During my anxiety attack, I looked for a distraction in the room to minimize the intensity. Sometimes, just focusing your thoughts on something else other than how you feel can be helpful. There was a picture hanging on the wall that caught my attention. It seemed a bit out-of-place and overly simplistic yet the image of the fish was very colorful and the fish seemed to be smiling. This odd distraction reduced the intensity but it was not enough to remove all of the anxiety.

Physical Solution.  Next, I focused on my breathing taking not so obvious deep breaths. There was no need to alarm the dentist or my daughter about my anxiety. I breathed in for a count of four, held it for another count of four and breathed out for a count of four. Repeating this four times while simultaneously becoming aware of the tension in my face, shoulders, hands and even toes. These breaths brought relaxation to tense areas, reducing the anxiety even more.

Needing more help, I remembered my “happy place” on the beach, a place of serenity and calm.  Despite the drilling sound, I imagined the crashing of the waves, the birds singing in the air, the smell of the sea, the soft cold sand in between my toes and the warmth of the sun. A feeling of peace began to peek through the anxiety but the drilling sound was far too distracting. So I moved onto the next solution.

Spiritual Solution. Finally I recalled a passage in Scripture that reminds us to have no anxiety but instead with thanksgiving make your request known to God (Phil. 4:4-6). So I prayed. Thought about all the things I had to be thankful for and the many blessings in my life. That worked, the anxiety disappeared. The rest of the visit was spent focusing on my daughter’s needs instead of fearing that I would pass out.

Several hours later, I reflected on the real cause behind the anxiety attack. My fear was really about not having any control over the potential pain my daughter maybe in during the visit. Although she reported no pain, as a mother I was still concerned for her and wanted the visit to go well.

The next time you have an anxiety attack, try some of the solutions above including spending time later to discover the real cause behind the attack. Knowing your real cause and addressing it quickly can keep the attacks to a minimum and help you to focus on what really matters.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Difference Between an Obsession and an Addiction

parentAn obsession and an addiction can look the same but the root is very different.  For instance, you gamble every week spending approximately $10 on lottery tickets; gambling in this example is your behavior that can be obsessive, addictive or both.  The obsessive part of your behavior is gambling at the same store, on the same day, with the same numbers and if it is not done in this manner then you cannot win.  It does not matter if there is evidence of past wins; it only matters that things be done a certain way.  The addictive part of your behavior is dreaming of how the money will be spent, what will be bought, and who will benefit from the winnings.  The dreaming is active and an entire day can be spent just thinking about the possibilities.

Obsessive Behavior.  When you obsess, ritualistic routines are part of your everyday life.  Perhaps you comb your hair the same way you did as a teenager, you recheck all of the doors at night even though you have been told it is already locked, you replay the same conversation over and over again just trying to figure it out, you wash your hands after anyone touches them, you clean with bleach because that is the only way to get things truly clean, you straighten things up and like things in neat rows, or you count the number of beeps on your car door lock before believing it is locked.  All of these behaviors have roots in fear.  Fear that if you don’t follow your routine you will get a headache, fear that if you don’t recheck things the house will burn down, fear that you will miss something important if you can’t figure out the conversation, fear that you might get infected and die, fear that if things aren’t clean someone might think badly about you, fear that if things aren’t straight your whole life will be out-of-order, or fear that if you don’t hear a certain number you will lose the car.  Fear, either real or imagined, leads to obsessive behavior.

Addictive Behavior.  When you are addicted, you never feel satisfied unless using the substance.  Perhaps you drink alcohol to relax, take prescription drugs to numb the pain, shop for clothing to feel better about how you look, gamble to earn quick easy money, exercise to get the adrenaline high, look at porn to feel desirable, smoke to unwind, watch soap operas to feel romantic, play video games to feel successful or eat sugar to get energy.  All of these behaviors have roots in escaping from an undesirable place to a desirable place and in fantasy living.  Fantasizing about a life with less stress, fantasizing about a life without pain, fantasizing about a body that you want, fantasizing about having lots of money, fantasizing about feeling high all the time, fantasizing about being desirable, fantasizing about less anxiety, fantasizing about a romantic relationship, fantasizing about being the best or fantasizing about limitless energy.  Your fantasy life, either from real experiences or imagined, leads to addictive behavior.

Combination.  Putting obsessive and addictive behavior together can intensify both the desire to avoid fear and the desire to escape.  While you may clean with bleach because you fear that someone might think you are dirty, you can also become addicted to the smell of bleach and fantasize about living dirt free.  Or you can fantasize about being the best video game player and insist that you can’t be successful at video games until you reach a certain level three times.  This is precisely why it is hard to recover from obsessive and addictive behavior because they can be co-mingled rather easily.  The key is separating out the behaviors and tracing them back to the root of the problem in order to stop doing the undesirable behavior.

It takes time and energy to do this process and even in recovery of an addiction or obsession, new addictions or obsessions often emerge to take the place of old ones.  By recognizing what is obsessive and what is addictive however, you can go back to each individual root and address the underlying problem.  While it is a hard personal journey, it is well worth the time and effort.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Fear Fuels Obsession

Fear Obsession CycleHave you ever felt as though you were doing everything you could yet no matter how hard you tried things got worse and worse?  Are you caught in a trap that leaves you feeling helpless, frustrated and discouraged?  Do you find that your behavior which is careful and cautious to you is perceived by others as obsessive and often repels others instead of drawing them closer?  Certain emotions such as fear can add fuel to an obsessive cycle that you leaves you feeling trapped and out of control.

It all starts with a painful event such as abuse by a relative, abandonment by a friend or rejection from a job.  Each of these events can spark fear directed at another person for their part in the event or directed at you for failure in handling the event properly.  This feeling of fear is uncomfortable so you counteract it with a desire to over control yourself, others or your environment.  So you turn to the obsession of your choice: cleaning, checking, washing, excessive order, repeating the same conversation, repetitive thoughts, hoarding, perfectionism, reassurance seeking, rituals or counting.  Other people in your life don’t like your obsession so they in turn withdraw from you.  You are now confused by their response as you were just trying to avoid the fearful or anxious feelings.  This in turn results in another painful event such as a fight, more distance in relationships or further loss.

Acknowledge.  The first step to stopping the crazy cycle is acknowledging that you are repeating the same behavior over and over.  You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge.  So admit it.  You are doing the crazy cycle.  This is not the time to blame others for the reason you are doing the crazy cycle; this is the time to accept responsibility for your own crazy behavior.  Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.  This maybe a new concept to you as our culture is quick to blame others, parents, churches, organizations, companies, governments, and even nations for bad behavior.  But this is not constructive thinking, it is destructive thinking.  You are responsible for your own behavior.

Stop at Fear.  There is nothing wrong with feeling fearful.  The Bible acknowledges that you will be fearful but you don’t have to control the fear by becoming controlling.  Whether you are acting scared, anxious or fearful or avoiding those feelings by being controlling, fear is still controlling your behavior.  It is OK to be fearful when you are hurt, when someone hurts you, or when someone hurts someone else.  Just don’t take it to the next step and become controlling; rather deal with the fear by confronting how you feel and taking responsibility for the actions that follow.  Just saying the words, “I am fearful or anxious but I’m going to act responsibly” can restore that out of control feeling to feeling more controlled.

Know Your Obsession.  What is your obsession of choice?  More than likely you have more than one obsessive behavior.  Not all of the obsessive behaviors are listed so taking an inventory of your go-to obsessions is extremely helpful.  Many times you will go directly from the painful event and skip right past the fearful emotion to the obsessive behavior because you have developed a conditioned response similar to Pavlov’s dogs.  In Pavlov’s experiment, he trained dogs to salivate at the ringing of a bell by first giving food along with ringing the bell.  Before long, he only needed to ring the bell for the dogs to salivate.  You have done the same thing with your obsession.  You no longer need to feel fear to justify the obsessive behavior; rather you go straight from the painful event to the obsession.  If you know your obsessive behaviors, you can trace backwards to the fear anytime you feel the desire to become controlling and stop it from going any further.

You can take responsibility for your own behavior and stop the crazy cycle from destroying your life.  You do not have to be a victim to your obsessions or continue to allow painful events determine how you will respond.  Remember, if you make a mistake along the way and slip backwards, it is never too late to turn around no matter what others around you say.  Who you are is NOT defined by your mistakes.  Who you are is defined by your character which can be shaped by your mistakes only if you let it.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

When Small Spaces Equal Big Fears

Have you ever found yourself in a small tight space like a storage closet, a closed MRI, or an elevator and out of nowhere you felt like you were going to lose it?  Suddenly your breath seems lost, your palms and underarms sweat, your heart races, you feel light-headed and your stomach does flips.  The next thing you know, you are looking for a way out and analyzing how fast you can escape.  Then you become angry because you have not escaped yet and the desire to run away fast is so overwhelming that you could scream.  If so, you might have experienced an anxiety attack.

The problem with anxiety attacks is they happen when you least expect it or worse, when you really don’t have the time to properly deal with it.  But it cannot be ignored.  If you chose to ignore the anxiety attack and deny its’ existence, it will come back again and again with a vengeance.  The best plan for action is to revisit your last attack in your mind and look for the following clues as to the cause.

Check your environment.  Many people do not handle small tight spaces well and have a fear that the space is closing in on them.  If this sounds like you then analyze the other times when you have experienced an anxiety attack in the past.  Is it only in small spaces?  Does the size or location of the exit have an effect?  Look for patterns in your anxiety as a clue to what maybe causing the anxiety in the first place.

Check your thoughts.  Once you have identified a pattern ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”  Were you thinking that you could not escape?  Were you thinking that the space was getting smaller and smaller?  Were you thinking that you could be attacked?  Once you know your thoughts and now that you are no longer in that same environment, ask yourself, “How realistic was my fear?”  Even mild fears tend to be irrational at times but when mixed with anxiety, they can grow into a larger than life fear that becomes hard to overcome.

Check your emotions.  Now that you know your pattern and have identified your thoughts, ask yourself, “How was I feeling?”  Your feelings in that moment are likely to be intense.  If you experienced anger or a form of it such as frustration, tension, irritation, hurt, hostile or rage then the event most likely triggered something from your past.  Ask, “What does this remind me of” to uncover the real anxiety producing event.

Anxiety attacks do not happen in a vacuum, they occur for a reason and sometimes that reason is rational but it manifests itself in irrational ways.  By spending some time analyzing you last event, you can prevent future events and learn to keep small spaces equaling small fears.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

What Type of Narcissistic Husband Do You Have? Part 2

A Bully Narcissist may have you intimidated.  A Girly Narcissist may have you feeling bi-polar.   A Poker Face Narcissist may have you questioning reality.  A Debater Narcissist may have you arguing with yourself.  But a Psychotic Narcissist will have you downright fearful with little justification for how or why you are feeling that way.  The urge to run in the opposite direction will be just as strong as the curiosity to explain where the intense feelings are coming from.  It is almost as though you are having a moment of heightened sensitivity where all of your antennas are up and you are on full red alert just looking for the slightest indication that you are in immediate danger but without success.  Any yet you are in danger.

For this reason, the Psychotic Narcissist becomes an interesting study in how a Narcissistic Personality Disorder can become so intense that they proudly commit heinous acts of violence with no morsel of empathy for the victims.  In fact, they will claim to be the victim and further claim that the people they have harmed actually deserve to be harmed.  They will insist that anyone who disagrees with them secretly agrees but is too fearful to admit it and arrogantly assumes that they are admired for their supposed bravery.  They are an exaggerated hyper negative form of each type of Narcissism: Bully, Girly, Poker Face, and Debater with no accurate perception of reality.

From Bully to Belligerent.  The Bully Narcissist who is loud, pushy, and overly aggressive while making decisions by bulldozing over you now transforms into belligerent.  Their behavior so quickly becomes aggressive that you hardly know what is happening and you don’t have time to think about your reaction.  Their aggression is so well-practiced, even perfected, that you discount your instinctive reaction to run as you become enticed by their charismatic personality.  Once they see your guard is down, they become aggressive believing they are more powerful, more intelligent, and more worthy of existence than you.

From Girly to Hypersensitive.  The Girly Narcissist who believes their feelings are king and literally takes up all of the oxygen in a room now transforms into hypersensitivity.  They are so much in tune with your emotions and level of fear that they delight themselves causing you to be emotional or fearful.  Just to prove they are in charge of your feelings, they will turn on the charisma till you are no longer fearful and then in a second turn it off so that you are fearful again.  The rush they get from watching your reactions and knowing that they have influence over you eggs them to repeat it.  Because their feelings are always right, if they enjoy watching you squirm then they justify in their heads that you in turn should be grateful to feed their enjoyment no matter what the personal cost.

From Poker Face to “Boy Next Door”.  The Poker Face Narcissist who has learned to be quiet so no one knows what they are thinking which in the end enables them to better manipulate you now transforms into the “boy next door”.  Everything about their outward appearance indicates that they are safe and no one believes they could ever do such any offense until after the event.  While your emotions may tell you to run, their physical appearance is not intimidating and looks strangely like a person you would imagine meeting at church.  Their quietness is often mistaken for shyness but they are not shy, they are cunning and spinning a web of deception waiting for the next target.

From Debater to Obstinate.  The Debater Narcissist who over explains everything again and again requiring you to agree with every small detail and then to agree again with their conclusion now transforms into obstinate behavior.  They become so engrossed in the lies they tell to win their argument that they actually begin to accept them as reality.  A simple statement can have so many multiple meanings, spins, manipulations and lies all mixed in with one dose of truth that it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction.  In fact, they are so good at convincing you that fiction is fact that you become confused when confronted with actual fact and shut down instead.  That is precisely where they want you, depending on them for what is real and what is not.

The worse part of a Psychotic Narcissist is that they believe themselves to be perfect, almost God like and the rest of the population is beneath them.  So any behavior they can justify in their minds, they are capable of doing making careful notes to blame a host of other people if they are ever discovered.  Because in the end while they are proud of what they have done, they don’t want to be responsible for suffering any consequences handed to them by people who are beneath their level of intellect, power, understanding, and ultimately anyone in a position of authority.  They believe they are the rightful authority figures who have yet to be appreciated for their brilliance.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.