Tag Archives: Anxiety

Anxiety : Personality Characteristics Which May Intensify It.

Personality and anxiety

We have seen from several articles that I have already published on this site that if we have suffered significant childhood trauma we are at increased risk of suffering from crippling anxiety conditions in our adult lives.

Such anxiety conditions, unfortunately, may be intensified if we have certain personality characteristics. I briefly outline each of these characteristics below:

High Anxiety Personality (HAP) Traits (Characteristics):

1) Creativity/Imaginativeness:

Such individuals’ brains may ‘run wild’ when thinking about what could go wrong in their lives; hence, of course, the expression, ‘You’re letting your imagination run away with you.’

2) Excessive Need For The Approval Of Others:

Such an individual is extremely dependent upon the approval of others in order to sustain self-esteem as s/he lacks the requisite internal, psychological resources to sustain it by him/herself.

Those with this extreme need for approval often deeply fear rejection and find it very hard indeed to accept criticism from others.

They may, too, constantly feel compelled to meet the needs of others (or to perpetually be what is colloquially known as a people-pleaser).

Personality and anxiety

3) Perfectionism:

A perfectionist:

– sets him/herself  unreasonably and, often, unobtainably, high standards in the tasks s/he undertakes

– tends to become obsessive about small flaws in tasks s/he undertakes, detracting from concentration on the ‘big picture’ in relation to what s/he wishes to achieve

– tends to see outcomes of tasks s/he has undertaken in ‘black and white’ terms, ignoring all of the ‘shades of grey’ in between; to the perfectionist, the outcome of a task is either a success or a failure. For example, a student may regard getting a grade ‘B’ rather than a grade ‘A’ as a ‘failure’, thus ignoring the fact that getting a grade ‘B’ is itself a very worthwhile achievement which many other students (non-perfectionists) would be quite content with.

4) Excessive need to be in control:

Those with an excessive need to be in control tend to have a very high need for life proceeding in an orderly, structured, predictable and routine manner, and to become very anxious when unpredictable events intervene. Frequently, also, they feel a strong need to control those around them.

Whilst they may experience a high level of anxiety and distress when events conspire to undermine their ability to control their environment, they may, nevertheless, be very adept at hiding such internal feelings from others, giving the impression of being an extremely strong individuals.

5) Excessessive need to be in control of their negative emotions:

For example, they may feel it is somehow ‘wrong’ to ‘indulge in’ negative emotions such as sadness and anger and, therefore, subjugate and suppress such natural feelings that are, of course, common to all humanity.

However, this is not healthy. The suppression of anger, for example, can cause it to build up over time, eventually erupting in a manner that is totally disproportionate to the trigger (or, to use a very well known expression, the straw that broke the camel’s back). Also, research suggests that the suppression of anger can also impair physical health, contributing to:

– high blood pressure

– heart disease

– insomnia

– and, possibly, even cancer



NHS information on anxiety, click here.


Hypnosis downloads (click below):

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

Anxiety, CBT and Neuroplasticity


It is a relatively new discovery within psychology that the brain physically changes throughout our lives (not just during childhood and adolescence as many previously supposed).

Just as the brain’s physical development can be harmed (eg certain types of severe childhood trauma can interfere with the development of the amygdala, which, in turn, is related to the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD)click here to read my article on this), so, too, can its structure and functionality be repaired and enhanced by therapeutic interventions; the harnessing of the power of such  beneficial interventions has come to be known as  SELF-DIRECTED NEUROPLASTICITY.

Self-directed neuro-plasticity essentially involves us teaching ourselves to think and act in new ways that can positively shape and control the functioning of our physical brain, altering its structure to our advantage and ‘re-wiring’ it in helpful ways (click here to read my article about how the brain can ‘re-wire’ itself).





A recent research study, conducted by the psychologist Schwartz, involved patients suffering from an anxiety disorder being treated with a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) technique (called ‘mindfulness‘). CBT, to explain it in very basic terms, is a form of therapy based on the premise that by changing how we think, we can change how we act and feel, and, furthermore, that many psychological disorders have at their heart a faulty thinking style that causes distress. CBT seeks to correct this faulty thinking style.

But back to Schwartz’s study. He found that those treated with CBT improved to about the same degree as would be expected had they been treated with medication. This having been established, Schwartz then arranged for these improved patients to be given a brain scan (specifically, for those interested, a PET scan, or positron emission tomography scan).

This revealed that certain NEURAL PATHWAYS in the brains of the patients had undergone significant change. Specifically, there was seen to be, after the CBT therapy had been completed, significantly greater activity in the patients’ ORBITAL FRONTAL CORTEX.


As research into neuroplasticity continues and more experiments, such as the one outlined above, are conducted, it is likely that more and more psychological disorders will be amenable to interventions that exploit the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, providing us all, even those with conditions  thought to be deeply entrenched, a good deal of hope that we can get very significantly better.


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


Childhood Trauma and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Treatment


childhood trauma and obsessive compulsive disorder treatment



In the last 2 posts on this condition I explained what OCD is. In this post, Part 3, I want to consider how it may be treated.


Experts in the field of the treatment of OCD generally recommend cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) which is made even more effective if it is combined with medication – usually the medication will be an anti-depressant, although sometimes a benzodiazepam may be used.

Generally speaking, the anti-depressant is a long-term treatment, eg given for perhaps a minimum of a year, and up to a whole life-time, even if symptoms significantly improve (this is done in order to minimize the chances of a relapse occurring).

On the other hand, if the individual with OCD is prescribed a benzodiazepam, this will generally only be taken over a short period of time (eg a period when the symptoms are very acute) in order to minimize the risk of the individual with OCD becoming physically and/or psychologically dependent upon them (as they are addictive).


If studies on the effectiveness of anti-depressants for the treatment of OCD are looked at as a whole, on average individuals with OCD who undergo such treatment significantly improve around about 45% of the time. Whilst any improvement is obviously extremely desirable, in general the improvements individuals make by taking anti-depressant medication are not great enough to eliminate the need for other treatments being given alongside.

As has already been referred to, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is usually the type of therapy to be used alongside medication – in fact, it is a specific type of CBT which is known as EXPOSURE WITH RESPONSE PREVENTION (which I’ll henceforth refer to as EWRP). As has also been mentioned, if symptoms are extremely severe then benzodiazepam may be prescribed over the short term before the EWRP can take place.


We have already looked at  how sufferers of OCD have obsessive thoughts which cause them distress. What EWRP is designed to do is to help the individual TOLERATE SUCH DISTRESS. For, example, one common way in which OCD manifest itself is by making the sufferer inordinately and irrationally fearful of germs. Therefore, s/he may constantly be acutely anxious that his/her hands are ‘dirty’ and that this is potentially ‘highly dangerous’ – this, in turn. leads to constant compulsions to wash their hands in order to relieve their distressing and acute anxiety. However, the sense of relief is extremely ephemeral and the compulsion returns, perhaps leading the afflicted individual to wash his/her hands 100 times a day.

In the above example, the approach EWRP takes is to help the person tolerate the distress that his/her perception of having ‘dirty’ hands causes him/her by encouraging him/her not to wash them for a given period of time. As the person becomes better and more used to the anxiety caused by not washing them, the period of time can be gradually increased. The idea is that the person will become desensitized to the anxiety associated with unwashed hands.

On top of this, CBT can be used to help the individual challenge irrational thoughts which are connected to his/her OCD. For example, in the case described above, the individual could be helped to challenge thoughts such as ‘having any dirt on my hands is highly dangerous’ and to understand that the thought is an enormous exaggeration of any objective danger.



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

Why We Worry.


why we worry

Other posts in this category have already dealt with how early life experience of trauma can contribute to us becoming anxious adults, and, also, that the type of negative thinking (cognitive) style we may have developed as a result of the early trauma can perpetuate symptoms of depression and anxiety. But what are the other causes of excessive worrying and what are the other ways of dealing with the problem? It is to this question I now turn:


1) OUR GENETIC INHERITANCE: It seems we can inherit a predisposition towards anxiety genetically. This means, for example, if we have a parent who is very anxious, all else being equal, we are more likely to become anxious ourselves due to our genetic inheritance. (Also, of course, if we have a very anxious parent, we are more likely to develop anxious responses due to ‘learned behaviour’ – ie modelling our behavioural reponses on those of the anxious parent). However, the key word here is ‘predisposition’; in other words, having an anxious parent will not guarantee that we, ourselves, will become anxious adults, but, rather, we will be more vulnerable to this happening if other factors also affect us in life (such as those detailed below):

2) LATER LIFE EXPERIENCES: If we have suffered the experience of early life trauma, the damage done by this can be compounded (made worse) by going on to experience yet further trauma in later life. It is particularly unfortunate, then, that early life trauma can in itself create problems for us in later life, thus increasing the probability that further trauma will strike (which is one reason, amongst many others, why early therapeutic intervention is crucial for those affected by childhood trauma).

3) DRUGS: It is not just a side-effect of many illicit drugs which can create anxiety conditions; some prescribed drugs, too, can cause anxiety as a side effect. It is, of course, always important to ask doctors about possible unwanted effects of the medications they may prescribe.

4) INTERNAL CONFLICTS: Sometimes we behave in ways which CONFLICT with our own ideals and values, or the ideals and values we have INTERNALISED from our upbringing and culture (even if we have only internalized them on an unconscious level). Freud believed we all have such internal conflicts, a price he thought was paid for living in a ‘civilized’ society, in which we are compelled to repress many natural human instincts (for those who are interested, you may wish to investigate further Freud’s view of how the ‘Id’ (the name he gave to our instinctual self/basic impulses) and the ‘Superego’ (the name he gave to our conscience/moral selves, which develops due to learning from parents, teachers, society, culture etc) may be constantly ‘at war’ with each other.

Therapists who place emphasis on the link between INTERNAL CONFLICTS and ANXIETY tend to recommend what is known as PSYCHODYNAMIC PSYCHOTHERAPY.

5) NEUROLOGICAL FACTORS: This refers to how the brain we possess is physically set up or ‘wired’ Some of us are, it seems, ‘wired’ in such a way that our ‘internal alarm systems’ are highly sensitive. I have discussed in other posts how the brain’s physical ‘wiring’ can be affected by the experience of early trauma.


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

Childhood Trauma: Its Link to Adult Anxiety.

childhood trauma and anxiety

Childhood Trauma And Anxiety :

Anxious personality types often result from childhood trauma. Research has shown that there are 7 major factors which influence the way our personalities develop. These are:

– the way in which we are disciplined in childhood
– our place within the family eg birth order/sex
– the kinds of role model we had as children eg parents
– the belief system of the family we grew up in
– our genes/biochemical makeup
– the social and cultural influences we experienced as children
– the particular PERSONAL MEANING that we attach to each of the above

childhood trauma and anxiety

There are many ways that the above factors can interact to produce a personality dominated by anxiety in adulthood. Below are some experiences, directly related to the above factors, which can contribute towards us developing an anxiety disorder in adulthood:

1) AN ANXIOUS PARENT OR ROLE MODEL: one way in which children are programmed to learn by evolution and develop their personalities is by a process referred to by psychologists as MODELLING (copying the behavior of role models, either consciously or unconsciously). It follows that a role model who frequently displays intense anxiety is likely to lead to the child adopting a similar manner of behaving and responding.

2) RIGID BELIEF/RULE SYSTEMS: if the child’s role models (especially parents) have a rigid belief system, perhaps deriving from their culture or religion, the child may develop inflexible and ‘black and white’ thinking styles which can frequently become a source of anxiety in later life.

Additionally, if a child lives in a highly chaotic environment, due, for example, to parental mental illness or substance abuse, s/he may learn to develop a rigid set of rules to give him/herself some sense of security and stability. Again, carrying such rigid rules into adult life can often lead to high levels of anxiety.

3) CHILD ABUSE: abuse, during childhood, too, frequently leads to the abused child developing problems related to anxiety in adult life. The types of abuse which may occur include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, neglect (physical and/or emotional), and cruel and unusual punishment.

4) ANXIETY RELATED TO SEPARATION AND LOSS: a child may be separated from a parent or carer for extended periods of time, due, for example, to the following events:

– a parent/carer going into hospital for a long time
– divorce
– death

If the child DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHY the parent/carer has become absent, this can be especially anxiety inducing.

A more subtle, but, equally damaging, form of separation a child may experience is if the parent/carer is PHYSICALLY PRESENT BUT IGNORES/FAILS TO INTERACT MEANINGFULLY with the child.

5) REVERSAL OF PARENT-CHILD ROLES: for a significant part of my childhood, starting at around the age of 11 years, this was the situation that I found myself in. Essentially, I became my mother’s personal counselor, permanently, it seemed, on call ( I’m surprised she didn’t provide me with a pager). Indeed, at this stage in my childhood she began to refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist.’ A child may also find him/herself having to adopt a parental role for many other reasons; for example, parental substance abuse, parental absence etc. When the child, by necessity, in order to survive, takes on responsibilities with which which s/he is not old enough to cope, this can lead to a number of anxiety-linked personality traits; these may include: ‘black and white’ thinking, suppression of feelings, unrealistically high levels of self-expectation, and a deep need to have control.

Reversal of parent-child roles is sometimes referred to as PARENTIFICATION.

Other childhood experiences which may lead to an anxious personality type in adulthood I list below:

– highly critical parents/carer
– overprotective parents/carer
– parental/carer pressures placed on child to suppress/deny his/her own feelings.


We learn, then, certain ways of coping and behaving when faced with difficult childhood experiences; the problem is, however, that carrying these ways of coping and behaving into adulthood is often unhelpful; this is because, as adults, we are frequently presented with an environment to deal with which is very different from the environment we needed to deal with as children – we therefore need to adapt our behavioural responses to the new environment, in order to function in it effectively.

THE POSITIVE NEWS is that, as adults, it is possible to MODIFY OUR PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS (which previously led to anxiety) and to learn new, more appropriate, ways of thinking and behaving, adaptive to the new, adult environment into which we are inevitably plunged. One therapy which research has shown can be particularly effective in treating anxiety which has its roots in childhood is called COGNITIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY (CBT) which I have discussed in other posts.


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