Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

Does Trying To Relax Paradoxically Increase Your Anxiety?

Paradoxically, trying to relax can actually make some people feel more anxious and stressed, not less.

Indeed, when I was extremely ill and in hospital (I was hospitalized on several occasions due to the seriousness of my condition), I was encouraged to attend certain therapeutic classes (which, because I was almost catatonic with severe clinical depression and anxiety, I most resolutely did not want to do –  amongst other myriad other symptoms, I had no motivation whatsoever, together with an unshakable belief that there was no possibility at all of me getting even very slightly better (such thinking is almost universal amongst the seriously, clinically depressed).

However, I eventually agreed to attend a class in which the therapist tried to guide me (and the other patients who had attended) through a relaxation exercise. Just a minute or so into the exercises, I felt so overwhelmed by anxiety that I had to excuse myself and leave the room, seeking, instead, refuge in the smoking room where I chain-smoked innumerable cigarettes.

In fact, this such a paradoxical reaction to an attempt to relax is not especially rare – a small percentage of those with anxiety will react in a similar manner.

So, what is the cause of this paradoxical response? Several ideas have been proposed, and I briefly look at some of these below:

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF A PARADOXICAL RESPONSE TO ATTEMPTS TO RELAX :

  • Trying to relax and ‘let go’ of stressful mental activity can induce in some individuals a feeling of loss of control. Related to this is the phenomenon whereby some people feel that, if they stop worrying about things, something terrible will happen and that their constant worrying is therefore somehow ‘protective’. Psychologists sometimes refer to such mistaken belief systems ‘magical thinking’.
  • Fear of loss of identity – for some, being stressed (eg always busy, ‘driven’, ”keyed-up’ etc) forms part of their identity and they feel uncomfortable relinquishing this identity, fearing that if they do so others may see them as complacent, indolent etc rather than as the ‘dynamic’ individual they hope others perceive.
  • Brain wave activity – becoming relaxed correlates with a shift in brainwave activity from beta-waves to alpha-waves which may cause thinking to become cloudy, hazy and foggy; some individuals find this disconcerting.
  • Frustration – if we try to relax, and find we cannot immediately do so. this can lead to frustration which makes relaxation even more difficult; this can quickly develop into a vicious circle.
  • Fear – similarly to the above, we may fear we will not be able to relax (by thinking things like : ‘If I don’t relax soon, I’ll go completely and irreversibly insane’ – which was the kind of thing I used to think) thus putting too much pressure on ourselves. In this way, the fear that we will not be able to relax can rapidly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Depersonalization – relaxation techniques can lead to feelings of ‘depersonalization’ in some people. Depersonalization can manifest itself as feeling of being ‘detached from one’s body‘ or as being an ‘observer of oneself.’ Many find such a sensation unpleasant.
  • Derealization –derealization’ can manifest itself as a feeling that ‘the world is not real’ and more like a nebulous, hazy, dreamworld. Again, many find this unpleasant. (‘Dearealiztion’ is a type of ‘dissociation.‘)
  • Distraction – for some individuals, certain types of stress (such as always ‘keeping busy’) can operate as a distraction from problems and worries the person finds hard to face (in extreme cases, this may result in workaholism‘). In this way, the stress/’keeping busy’ works as a psychological defense mechanism – the sudden dropping of this defense may lead to the person becoming vulnerable to being overwhelmed by floods of previously suppressed anxiety.

In response to the problem of the possible paradoxical effect a small minority of individuals may suffer as a result of trying to relax, some hypnotherapists have been trained in technique of inducing what is referred to as an ALERT TRANCE which some may find to be helpful.

RESOURCES :

Related Post :

Fighting Anxiety Can Worsen It’. Why Acceptance Works Better.’

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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How To Calm Ourselves At A Sensory, Motor And Cognitive Level

If we have suffered significant childhood trauma, it is extremely common to find that, as adults, we can become emotionally upset as a result of (seemingly) small provocations, we experience particularly intense emotions when we are upset, and we have great difficulty calming ourselves down (‘calming ourselves down’ is often called ‘self-regulating’ by psychologists) once we are upset. This will be particularly true if, in connection with our traumatic early lives, we have gone on to develop, as adults, borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD).

This tendency to feel intense emotions when upset, together with the inability to self-regulate such emotions effectively, stems from a traumatic childhood that deprived us of developing the normal ‘self-soothing skills’ that those who experienced relatively stable upbringings are usually able to develop (as I have discussed at length elsewhere on this site – e.g. in my article entitled The Effects Of Childhood Trauma On The Limbic System).

THE THREE COMPONENTS OF EMOTIONS :

Our emotions are made up of three components :

  1. THE SENSORY COMPONENT
  2. THE MOTOR COMPONENT
  3. THE COGNITIVE COMPONENT

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1. SENSORY EXPERIENCING :

When we feel an emotion, one component of it involves biological / physiological alterations within the body, such as breathing (when we are anxious it tends to be fast and shallow and we may hyperventilate (to read my article on the bi-directional relationship between anxiety and hyperventilation click here).

Other sensory aspects of the experiencing of emotions include heart-rate, blood pressure and digestion (IBS and stress are often related).

Being aware of such biological / physiological sensations within our body is technically referred to as : interoception.

2. MOTOR ACTIVITY :

At the motor level, emotions such as anxiety may manifest as physical tension of various muscle groups such as the muscles of the face and shoulders.

3. COGNITIVE COMPONENT :

Emotions also interact with our cognitions (i.e. thought processes). A simple example is that constantly thinking the worst will happen is likely to make us feel constantly anxious and fearful.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THERAPY :

It logically follows, therefore, that in accordance with the three components of emotions described above, we may intervene therapeutically in an attempt to ameliorate unpleasant emotions such as anxiety at the three corresponding levels : the sensory level, the motor level and the cognitive level.

Treating our anxiety at all three levels can, therefore, be viewed as a kind of triple-pronged attack.

Examples Of Therapies Specifically Targeting Each Of The Three Levels :

At the sensory level, examples of therapies include breathing exercises, relaxation exercises and visualization/hypnosis

At the motor level, examples of therapies include massage, progressive muscle relaxation and physical exercise

At the cognitive level, examples of therapies include cognitive therapy and  cognitive hypnosis

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Crying Helps Re-Engagement With Authentic Feelings

As a child, even well into my teens, I cried extremely frequently. Usually this was alone at home, but, on occasion, at my prep school (which I attended until I was eleven) I was removed from the class for crying (there was little compassion on offer from the teachers) when I was particularly upset about what was going on at home.

Once, even, to my acute embarrassment and shame (at the time), I started to cry (or quietly whimper) in a second year (now it would be called Year Eight)  English class at my secondary school when I was about thirteen, desperately trying to conceal this inconvenient outburst of emotion from both my teacher and classmates.

Also, at about fifteen years of age, I once even rushed upstairs at home after one of my frequent arguments with my family and shut myself in my bedroom wardrobe where I stubbornly and emphatically insisted upon remaining (not that anyone encouraged me to come out), sobbing copiously, for a not inconsiderable period of time. It is quite clear to me, and, presumably, will be to the reader, too, that my emotional development had been arrested at a much younger age.

William Wordsworth, in his poem ‘Ode : Intimations Of Immortality From Reflections On Early Childhood‘, refers to ‘thoughts  that  often lie too deep for tears‘ and, when one is especially afflicted by profound depression and/or traumatized, this line of poetry is often most apposite  – one simply becomes numbed and internally deadened by the sheer intensity of one’s chronic and unrelenting mental suffering. In such a condition, as a psychological defense, all feelings and emotions shut down ; however desperately one wants to cry, one is unable to do so.

Something deep in our soul is blocked or frozen.

Being Finally Able To Cry Can Be A Breakthrough Moment In The Process Of Recovery :

The psychotherapist, Pete Walker, in his excellent book entitled : Complex Trauma – From Surviving To Thriving, explains how finally being able to cry after a long period of emotional numbness (emotional numbness is a key feature of complex post traumatic stress disorder) can signify a major turning point in the recovery process, marking our re-engagement with our long suppressed feelings.

Relevant Research :

There also exists a body of research supporting the idea that crying is beneficial. For example, the biochemist, W. Frey, reports that crying helps to rid the body of chemicals that are produced by stress and, therefore, when we cry, by lowering the concentration of these chemicals within our biological system, we reduce our stress levels ; this not only makes us feel better mentally but also has physical benefits (for example, by lowering our blood pressure).

Also, research carried out by Gracanin et al at the University of  Tilburg in the Netherlands supports the idea that crying can improve mood.

Conclusion :

Unfortunately, males in our society are often discouraged from crying on the erroneous grounds that it is ‘weak’ or ‘unmanly’. In fact, though, crying can be of immense therapeutic value, particularly when one has been feeling emotionally ‘dead inside’ for a long period of time due to having experienced severe trauma.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Reducing Amygdala-Based And Cortex-Based Anxiety

If we suffered significant childhood trauma in our youth, we are at increased risk, as adults, of suffering from anxiety – this increased risk can be due to damage the development of our brains incurred as a result of our traumatic childhood experiences.

Two regions of the brain, the development of which can be adversely affected in this way, are :

1) The cortex

2) The amygdala

Both of these brain regions play a central role in generating feelings of anxiety, but they generate this anxiety in different ways which I briefly describe below:

1) Cortex generated feelings of anxiety: feelings of anxiety that ORIGINATE in the cortex are usually due to maladaptive thought processes or distressing images; these include :

  • excessively negative thinking
  • excessive rumination/worry
  • obsessive thinking
  • perfectionist-type thinking
  • excessive self-criticism
  • catastrophization
  • thoughts leading to feelings of excessive shame and guilt
  • jumping to negative conclusions
  • erroneously interpreting neutral situations as negative situations
  • always imagining (sometimes in the form of distressing mental images)/expecting the worst possible outcome (this is sometimes referred to as anticipatory anxiety)

2) Amygdala generated feelings of anxiety : feelings of anxiety yhat ORIGINATE in the amygdala often involve :

  • sudden, unexpected feelings of aggression
  • sudden, unexpected aggressive acts (e.g. hitting someone ‘before you realize what you’ve done‘)
  • clouded/foggy thinking
  • rapid onset of physiological symptoms (sweating, racing heart-beat etc)

Different Types Of Anxiety Respond To Different Interventions

It is very useful to know whether the anxiety one experiences originates in the cortex or amygdala as some interventions are best for dealing with cortex-based anxiety whilst others are best for dealing with amygdala-based anxiety. I list these different interventions below :

Ways Of Dealing With Cortex-Based Anxiety :

  • distraction (any activity that distracts you from distressing thoughts/images)
  • try not to be concerned about what others think (if you experience anxiety in company you are likely to believe your symptoms are far more apparent to others than, in reality, they are)
  • try not to constantly worry about panic attacks (easier said then done for many, but constantly anticipating one is going to have a panic attack can increase the likelihood of such an occurrence)
  • remind yourself that the bodily sensations of anxiety cannot harm you (some people, whilst experiencing extreme anxiety, feel they are going insane or are going to die – remind yourself that feelings of anxiety can’t harm you in this way)
  • cognitive-behavioural therapy (a therapy that helps correct faulty and maladaptive ways of thinking)

Ways Of Dealing With Amygdala-Based Anxiety :

  • deep breathing exercises
  • physical exercise
  • systematic muscle relaxation exercises
  • mindfulness
  • self-hypnosis

eBooks :

     depression and anxiety

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Effects Of Inconsistent And Unpredictable Parenting

Coming home each day from school as a child, I would never know what kind of mood my mother would be in; one day she might be deeply depressed, the next excitable (in this mood she would often sing, diva style, her favourite songs from the Mikado – ‘ the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la, have nothing to do with the case…’ I can’t remember how the song goes from there, but you get the general idea?). Or she might be seething with anger and full of intense loathing for me, conveying her feelings of deep disgust, evoked by my most unwelcome reappearance, by shrieking insults at me through the kitchen window before I’d even set foot inside the door. (I have written about this elsewhere.)

Whilst there has not been a great deal of research conducted upon the effects of unpredictable and inconsistent parenting on children, there exists evidence to suggest (eg. Luxton, 2007) that those who experience it are at increased risk of developing low self-esteem and depression as adults. (Also, it seems that consistent maternal care may be a particularly important factor in the generation of high self-esteem).

Consistent Parenting:

Healthy families are relatively stable and predictable and the child knows that the parents can be depended upon both physically and emotionally. For example, if a parent says s/he will pick the child up after school, the child can be confident s/he will do so; and if the child is distressed, s/he can depend upon the parent to sooth and comfort him/her; the child knows, too, that if the parent feels the need to discipline him/her, s/he will do so in a fair, reasonable and consistent manner.

Inconsistent Parenting :

In unhealthy families, however, parents may behave towards their children in inconsistent and unpredictable ways. The environment in which the child is compelled to live, therefore, tends to be unstable, chaotic and fraught with potential danger. Because of this, the child is likely to feel constantly anxious – walking on eggshells and fearing what the unpredictable parent may do next.

In such a household, the behaviour of the parent may fluctuate wildly and dramatically (this can be for clinical reasons such as alcoholism, drug addiction, cyclothemia or bipolar disorder). Inconsistency may occur in relation to both physical and emotional care. For example, a parent may leave a lone child at home, promising to be back by 6pm, yet not return until 3 in the morning. And the manner in which the parent uses discipline may be highly unpredictable. Or when the child is distressed, s/he may not be able to depend on the parent for psychological support.

Conclusion :

To reiterate, then, according to research, such inconsistent parenting is associated with those individuals who are on the receiving end of it being placed at higher risk of developing depression and having low self-esteem as adults.

However, to gain a fuller picture, more research needs to be conducted – it is known, for instance, that significant and protracted child abuse puts the abused individual at increased risk of developing a whole range of psychiatric conditions, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD), in adulthood; it therefore follows that when inconsistent parental behaviour crosses a certain threshold (i.e. when it amounts to chronic, significant abuse), the seriousness of the implications speak for themselves.

RESOURCES :

eBook:

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Downloadable Hypnosis MP3 / CD :

    Overcome A Troubled Childhood   CLICK HERE.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Anxiety And Its Link To The Imbalance Of 5 Key Neurotransmitters

We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that significant childhood trauma over a protracted period of time can adversely affect the brain’s physical development both in terms of its structure and function. One common result of this is that, as adults, we are more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder (such as social anxiety, panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder) than are those individuals who experienced a relatively stable upbringing (all else being equal).

Indeed, two very serious disorders associated with childhood trauma – borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex post traumatic disorder (cPTSD) – both have anxiety as one of their most prominent symptoms.

Many individuals who suffer from anxiety take prescribed medication for it. This is because anxiety is linked to the imbalance of various neurotransmitters in the brain and medications can sometimes helpfully correct such imbalances (though, like any treatment for anxiety, they do not work equally well for everyone – indeed, in my own case, very few medications I have ever taken for anxiety have had any beneficial effect whatsoever).

What Are Neurotransmitters And What Is Meant By ‘Out Of Balance’?

The brain contains about 10 billion neurons (brain cells). Each of these can potentially communicate with 10,000 other neurons. This communication is carried out by the brain’s neurotransmitters and this communication gives rise to how we think, behave and feel.

When neurotransmitters become out of balance, it simply means that there is an excess or insufficiency of them being produced in the brain. The effect of such an imbalance can cause us problems relating to how we think, behave and feel.

In this article, I want to look at the main neurotransmitters in the brain that are found to be out of balance in those suffering from an anxiety disorder; they are :

  1. SEROTONIN
  2. DOPAMINE
  3. NOREPINEPHRINE
  4. GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid)
  5. GLUTAMATE

What Symptoms Are Caused By Imbalances Of The Above Neurotransmitters In The Brain?

I briefly describe these below :

  1. LOW LEVELS OF SEROTONIN CAN CAUSE : 

 

       2. LOW LEVELS OF DOPAMINE CAN CAUSE :

  • inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)
  • loss of motivation
  • delusions / psychosis
  • obsession with detail / perfectionism

 

         3. HIGH LEVELS OF NOREPINEPHRINE CAN CAUSE :

  • impaired ability to think coherently / scattered thoughts
  • intense anxiety and restlessness
  • impending sense of doom
  • sense of extreme tension (both bodily and psychologically)
  • hyperarousal
  • feeling ‘wired’ and ‘jittery’
  • panic attacks

4. GABA :

  • when GABA works ineffectively it can cause panic attacks and can cause a

         5. GLUTAMATE imbalance which can, in turn, exacerbate an imbalance in other neurtransmitters

 

As stated above, medication prescribed to help correct the imbalance of neurotransmitters does not work equally well for everyone. Non-drug methods of treating anxiety which can be effective include :

  1. COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)
  2. MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
  3. BREATHING EXERCISES
  4. HYPNOTHERAPY / COGNITIVE HYPNOTHERAPY

RESOURCES :

pack-beat-fear-anxietyBEAT FEAR AND ANXIETY

 

eBook:

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Alleviating Depression With Self-Hypnosis.

hypnosis for depression

We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing depression (as well as many other psychiatric conditions) in adulthood than those who had relatively happy and stable childhoods (all else being equal).

One method that can help to reduce feelings of depression, especially when used in conjunction with other therapies such as pharmacology and psychotherapy, is self-hypnosis.

One of the main prevailing theories of the cause of depression is that it arises due to imbalances in certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters), in particular serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

 

What Is The Function Of These Brain Chemicals?

 – Serotonin is thought to be involved with appetite, digestion, social behaviour, sexual desire, sexual function, sleep, memory and mood.

 – Norepinephrine is thought to be involved with the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

 – Dopamine is thought to play a very important role in internal reward-motivated behaviour (eg the pleasurable feelings generated by sex or a large gambling win).

In order to attempt to correct this chemical imbalance, and thus alleviate depressive symptoms, medications are frequently prescribed. Unfortunately, however, not everyone finds them effective.

Another way to alter the brain’s chemical balance in those suffering from depression, research has shown, is by self-suggestion, as used in self-hypnosis, and by altering a person’s level of expectancy regarding their recovery (which plays a major role, of course, in the placebo effect); both of these phenomena have their foundations in the well known phenomenon of  mind-body connection.

Indeed, self-hypnosis combined with psychotherapy and/or drug therapy may be a particularly effective way of alleviating depressive symptoms.

Depression can also be exacerbated by loneliness or due to poor relationships with significant others (an illustrative example of this is that, on average, married people are significantly less likely (some research suggests up to 70% less likely) to suffer from depression compared with their non-married counterparts; here, again, self-hypnosis can be of use in order to assist us to  improve our interpersonal relationships by, for example, helping to repair our disrupted unconscious processes, allowing us to be more able to give and receive love/affection, making us less withdrawn, and reducing tendencies to judge ourselves and others in an overly negative manner.

Related Resources :

depression and anxiety

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Self-Hypnosis Downloadable Audio MP3s:

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Shame And Its Agonizing Effects

As we have seen from other articles I have published on this site, those who suffer severe trauma in early life may go on to experience irrational, deep-seated feelings of shame in adulthood, particularly if they have developed conditions highly likely to be linked to their adverse childhood experiences such as clinical depression or borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Feelings of shame can be excruciatingly painful; at their worst, they can cause us to completely isolate ourselves so that we avoid contact with others to the extent that we may become virtual recluses, perhaps only daring to venture out of our house or flat when absolutely necessary. Indeed, the word ‘shame‘ derives from the Indian word ‘sham‘ which means ‘to hide.’

What Is Shame?

When we feel ashamed we feel very negatively about ourselves and believe we are, to put it simply, a deeply bad person. We also tend to assume that others are judging us in a similarly disparaging manner. The sensation of shame also frequently involves feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, incompetence, self-disgust, self-hatred, anxiety, anger, bodily tension, nausea and sweating/feeling too hot.

Effects On Relationships :

Because of our own jaundiced and self-lacerating view of ourselves, we assume others will feel the same way about us (or soon will do once they discover’ what a ‘horrible and disgusting’ person we are). We therefore avoid trying to form close relationships, believing such efforts to be futile given that we will ‘inevitably be rejected’ once the ‘real’ us is ‘discovered.’

Other Possible Effects Of Shame :

We may also try to psychologically defend ourselves from deep rooted feelings of shame. For example :

– we may become preoccupied with managing a superficial image of ourselves when interacting with others which we desperately hope will keep ‘our true badness‘ concealed; this can lead to the creation of a ‘false self’ which precludes any chance of authentic or meaningful interaction with others (in other words, we ‘become afraid to be who we are’).

   – perfectionism / ‘workaholism’ (in a desperate attempt to compensate for the profound inner feelings of inadequacy and inferiority that may accompany a pervasive sense of shame).’Workaholism’ and perfectionism are both extremely precarious ways of maintaining some semblance of self-respect and self-esteem as we tend to continually set ourselves targets which, inevitably, we sometimes fail to achieve. We are then highly vulnerable to suffering a catastrophic collapse in our sense of self-worth as it has not been built upon strong enough, nor sustainable, foundations.

Image result for shame

Differentiating Between Three Types Of Shame :

We can differentiate between three specific types of shame. These are :

1) INTERNAL SHAME

2) EXTERNAL SHAME

3) REFLECTED SHAME

I define these three types of shame below :

Internal Shame : this is a sense of shame we feel about ourselves

External Shame : this is when we perceive that others have a very low view of us which makes us feel ashamed

Reflected Shame : this is when we feel shame vicariously due to how someone else connected yo us has behaved, such as a family member or a member of a group with which we identify.

Often, a sense of internal shame and external shame co-exist within the same person. However, in the case of shame related to childhood trauma, we may (irrationally) feel a strong sense of internal shame even though we can accept that others are not negatively evaluating us as a result of what happened to us (i.e. there is an absence of external shame).

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION : COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY :

There is evidence to suggest that COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY may be of particular benefit to those suffering from distress connected to the experience of shame.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

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