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Tag Archives: Effects Of Severe Stress

Why We May Severely Over-react To Minor Stressors.

Over react stress

We have seen from previous articles that I have posted on this site that, if we suffered chronic stress during our childhood, our ability to deal with stress as adults can be drastically diminished, making it difficult to cope with the daily stressors that others may easily be able to take in their stride.

We may, for example, become disproportionately enraged if we temporarily misplace our keys, inadvertently snap a shoe-lace, or are thwarted in our vehicular progress down the street by a succession of obstinately and infuriatingly red traffic lights.

The reason for such overreactions can lie in the fact that our chronically stressful childhoods have disrupted the process in the brain associated with the production of stress hormones.

In particular, levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol may have become chronically too high.

It follows that, when we experience a minor stressor, too much adrenaline and cortisol are released. Let’s look at the effect that these two stress hormones have upon the body:

1) The Effect Of Adrenaline On The Body:

– causes heart rate to increase

– causes blood pressure to go up

– causes breathing rate to become more rapid (sometimes leading hyperventilation, a distressing reaction associated with panic).

2) The Effect Of Cortisol On The Body:

– transports energy to muscles by diverting it from areas of the body where it is not immediately needed (such as the stomach).

So, the effects of adrenaline and cortisol combined are to prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’, as if we were being threatened by a ravenously hungry tiger (when, in fact, we are just stuck in traffic or have mislaid our keys etc). In such a case, energy builds up in the body which is not dissipated, causing great tension.

Why do people overreact?

Above: Over-reacting to minor stressors can be caused by chemical/hormonal inbalances resulting from a chronically stressful childhood.

In order to attempt to free ourselves from this unpleasant feeling of tension, we may try to partly dissipate it by shouting obscenities or pounding our fists against some wholly innocent inanimate object (this is sometimes referred to by psychologists as a displacement activity).

In other words:

We are responding to minor stressors as if they posed severe, even life-threatening, danger. Our brain is preparing us for fight or flight because it has grossly overestimated the risk the minor stressor poses to us. It is ‘fooled’ into making this error due to the disruption of the body’s system that produces adrenalin and cortisol caused by our chronically stressful childhood.

And, following the same logic, when we’re unfortunate enough to experience major stressful events in our adult lives, we may find ourselves going into nuclear meltdown, utterly overwhelmed and unable to cope.

GOLDEN RULES FOR DEALING WITH STRESS

According to the British Medical Association, the GOLDEN RULES OF STRESS MANAGEMENT are as follows:

1) Decide what is really important in life and concentrate upon that (i.e. develop a good sense of priorities).

2) If you know you have a difficult situation coming up, try to plan how you will deal with it in advance

3) Try to develop a supportive social network and discuss problems with others

4) Lead a regular life-style which includes exercise

5) Give yourself rewards (however small) for positive thoughts, attitudes and actions

6) Try to strengthen any important  weak points

7) Avoid brooding about problems – this is very important and you might need to distract yourself by doing something pleasant, rewarding and interesting

8) Try to think realistically about problems, keeping them in proportion. Where possible, TAKE DECISIVE ACTION to remedy them, rather than continuously having futile worries about them.

9) Be compassionate and forgiving towards yourself

10) Seek professional help if you feel you need it

11) Don’t over-exert yourself mentally or physically – rest and peace of mind are essential for proper recovery which will sometimes necessitate taking time off from work (taking time off work for psychological health reasons is just as valid as taking time off due to a physical problem).

12) Try to make small, frequent, positive changes – these soon mount up making a big difference

13) Make time for yourself – everyday.

14) Undertake as many enjoyable activities as possible.

HYPNOTHERAPY FOR STRESS :

Hypnosis can be combined with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to effectively help break the vicious cycle of anxiety. For many sufferers of anxiety, a vicious cycle of worry often develops which will often comprise the following five stages:

1) A specific situation or event (internal or external) triggers the initial automatic anxiety response.

2) Specific automatic, apprehensive thoughts are triggered about what could happen

3) The individual switches into ‘anxiety mode’ with the accompanying unpleasant symptoms and bodily sensations

4) The individual experiences ESCALATING WORRY. This can include expecting a catastrophic outcome and assuming one is utterly helpless. As a result, maladaptive (unhelpful) avoidance, escape and safety seeking behaviours frequently take over.

5) Frantic attempts to control and/or eliminate the anxiety (paradoxically making it worse).

hypnotherapy for anxiety

Why does trying to control and eliminate the anxiety paradoxically make it worse? This is due to something called the REBOUND EFFECT – by trying to exercise thought control, the unwanted thought tends to come back at us all the harder. In other words, when we try deliberately not to think about something, we can actually think of little else. For example, try very hard not to think of a pink elephant for the next 30 seconds and see what happens! Cognitive hypnotherapy can help us to overcome this problem by training us to ACCEPT our anxiety, which leads to it becoming less intense and less painful.

Another way cognitive hypnotherapy helps us to overcome our anxiety is to help us to ‘ACT AS IF’ we are not anxious. By thinking what we would be doing if we were not anxious, and then just doing it anyway, is a very effective way of loosening its grip.

Thirdly, cognitive hypnotherapy can help us to not get caught up and enmeshed with our worried thoughts – it does this by helping us to take a more DETACHED view of them (for more on the benefits of this, see my post on MINDFULNESS).

A fourth way cognitive hypnotherapy can help is allowing us to EMOTIONALLY REVIEW whatever it is we are worried about. In essence, this means IMAGINATIVELY EXPOSING ourselves repeatedly to what we are concerned about so we EMOTIONALLY HABITUATE to it – this emotional habituation to our concerns weakens feelings of anxiety connected to them.

Finally, cognitive hypnotherapy can help us see that our feelings are connected to our thoughts, and that our thoughts may be inaccurate and full of errors. The type of thinking errors that lead to anxiety and which cognitive hypnotherapy can help us to overcome are as follows:

a) PROBABILITY – anxious thinkers tend to greatly overestimate the probability of the bad outcomes they are expecting happening

b) SEVERITY – even if the feared outcome does actually occur, anxious thinkers tend to greatly overestimate how bad it will be

c) VULNERABILITY – anxious thinkers also often greatly overestimate their vulnerability, whilst underestimating their ability to cope

d) SAFETY – anxious people tend to overlook evidence that they will be safe from what it is that they are concerned about. Also, they often overuse maladaptive (unhelpful) safety behaviors, such as avoidance, which can, in the long-term, worsen the anxiety.

Some specific techniques cognitive hypnotherapy can help individuals develop which are very useful for reducing anxiety are as follows:

i) PERFORMANCE ACCOMPLISHMENTS – this technique helps the individual focus on times in the past when they HAVE COPED with something that caused them anxiety and realize that they can cope in the future too.

ii) VICARIOUS EXPERIENCE – here hypnotherapy is used to help the individual imagine how others have coped (or would cope) in a similar situation and then to imagine how they themselves could cope in a similar manner.

iii) VERBAL PERSUASION – hypnotherapy can help develop the technique of giving oneself positive and helpful self-instruction and activate appropriate cognitive interventions (thought processes).

iv) LOWERING EMOTIONAL AROUSAL – hypnotherapy, too, is very effective for helping individuals develop deep relaxation techniques.

Reduce Everyday Stress | Self Hypnosis Downloads : CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

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brain damage caused by childhood trauma.  depression and anxiety

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

Do You Have Depersonalization Disorder? The Symptoms.

Depersonaliztion Disorder Symptoms :

We have already seen that the experience of severe trauma can lead to us reacting (although it is a reaction created by unconscious processes, not a reaction we deliberately choose, of course) by developing a psychological defense mechanism known as depersonalization , which produces in us a sense of ‘unreality’ – as if we are living in a kind of dream world and are strangely detached and disconnected from the real world.

Essentially, it is our mind’s way of protecting us from fully experiencing a reality which has become intolerably psychological painful. However, this ‘protection’ comes at a very heavy price; indeed, I know, from my own personal experience, that the condition of depersonalization itself is very distressing.

In this article, I want to take a detailed look at the main symptoms of this disorder.

 

The Symptoms Of Depersonalization Disorder:

– the world seems lifeless and colourless. All experiences leave you feeling flat. There is no excitement or pleasure (an inability to experience pleasure is sometimes referred to by psychologists as anhedonia).

– you feel like a ‘detached observer’ of your own life, almost as good if someone else is playing the part of you in a movie that you are watching; you feel you are just going through the motions of living, like a robot or an automaton.

– you have lost the feelings of affection that you once had for your friends and family

– you may laugh and cry but you have ceased to feel the emotions that normally accompany such behaviours

– your head feels empty and devoid of thought and when you speak you feel you don’t know where the words have come from, as if your speech is automated

– your memories don’t feel like your own, as if you never experienced the events that are held in your memory

– you no longer feel fear in connection with things that once would have frightened you, just a numbness

– you are unable to visualize (eg the faces of your friends or family)

– you sometimes feel the need to touch your body in order to confirm you really are a present, physical, existing entity

– you sometimes have the feeling that your hands and/or feet are bigger/smaller than they really are (this is sometimes known as body dysmorphia).

– your body feels as if it is floating

– your body doesn’t feel like your own

– you feel as if you are ‘outside’ of your body

 

It is not necessary to suffer from all of the above symptoms to be suffering from depersonalization. However, the more symptoms one has, the more intense the symptoms are and the longer they persist the more likely it is that one has the condition.

For more information, including information about possible treatments for depersonalization, click here.

 

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

 

 

Depersonalization: How Trauma Can Leave Us Feeling ‘Unreal.’

 

One of the (myriad) symptoms of my illness can, perhaps, be best conveyed by the following example : I would look at a beautiful view, such as the sun setting on the horizon of the sea near where I live, but feel nothing. Whilst most people would feel their spirits lifted, glad to be alive, even joyful, I would just experience an emotional deadness and sense of emptiness. In fact, if anything, I would feel even worse than normal – as my inability to feel anything positive would remind me of how utterly devoid of meaning or anything vaguely approaching fulfillment my life had become.

In such situations I would sometimes try to will myself to feel at least a flicker of positive emotion, but it was impossible. It was as if the part of my brain which experiences pleasure had been excised from it by a malevolent and demonic neuro-surgeon.

Similarly, I always preferred rainy days to sunny ones because at least on rainy days there is not so much pressure on one to feel and behave cheerfully.

In short, I was suffering from a condition known as depersonalization.

 

 

What Is Depersonalization?

Whilst many people have not heard of the condition of depersonalization, and even many mental health professionals know little about it, depersonalization is, in fact, the third most common mental health condition after depression and anxiety (and people who suffer from depersonalization often suffer from depression and anxiety simultaneously).

It involves one’s sense of self becoming greatly diminished so that the concept of one’s individuality can be lost, leaving a feeling of uncertainty regarding who one actually is.

It also involves a sense of derealization. The world itself feels unreal, purposeless and meaningless. Many sufferers say it is like being in a constant dream state. In my own case, I felt that I was looking at the world through a metre thick, grey tinted, opaque glass. I was outside of things. Disconnected.

Sufferers, too, often describe feeling like an automaton or robot, simply going through the motions in life, but utterly unable to engage with the world emotionally.  Life seems pointless and absurd. The sufferer feels detached from the immediacy of the day-to-day world.

Often, too, as can be inferred from the above, people with the condition feel a profound sense of existential crisis, preoccupied with the meaning (or lack thereof) of existence. They are tormentingly aware of their condition and of the paucity of their experience of the world.

If early childhood, for some, is a magical and joyful time, this condition is its antithesis. One is cast out of Eden to inhabit, if not physical Hell, its psychological equivalent.

Other symptoms include feeling separate from one’s body. Some, too, report that everyday objects can start to seem strange, alien and ethereal.

Meeting people who used to lift our spirits now leave us feeling cold. Even people we considered ourselves to have loved. They can now bring no joy. No comfort. No consolation. It is too late.

Sufferers may be able to laugh and cry, but do not feel the emotions that normally accompany these acts. The world seems flat and two dimensional, as if experienced through a cold and dispiriting fog. One is numb, the emotions shut down. Some report feeling like a zombie – the living dead. Many feel they are going insane.

Causes of the condition are not fully understood, but often it follows severe trauma and protracted exposure to intense stress. As such, it can be seen as the mind detaching itself from reality when the reality can no longer be endured. However, the price of this protective mechanism is a heavy one indeed.

For treatment options, please click on this link.

 

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