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Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders are a category of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear

Anxiety and Sleep

Hard to live with anxiety without a healthy sleep pattern

Among the many things that can cause insomnia, anxiety is the number one culprit. No matter how tired your mind and body may feel, when the house gets quiet, and you get still, your mind will go into overdrive — with worry — if you are suffering from anxiety.

This scenario happens because there is nothing else to occupy our minds. During the day, we have tasks and activities that keep our minds engaged and away from the worry in many cases. Anxiety and SleepBut at night, when all gets quiet, our minds are free to focus on other worries.

Your first instinct may be to ask your doctor for sleeping pills, and there are many good sleeping pills available on the market that are mild enough to help you sleep, but gentle enough that you don’t feel drugged the next morning. The newer sleeping pills are even nonaddictive, making them great to use for temporary insomnia or long-term insomnia.

However, there are a couple of things that you can try before you turn to chemical help as well. Taking a hot bath before bedtime helps many people. Beware, however, that for some people, taking a hot bath only serves further to energize the mind and body. As with other things in life, this has a different effect on different people.

You can learn some deep breathing exercises that you can practice when you lie down in bed at night. With deep breathing exercises, your mind will be focused on the breathing, and not have any room to focus on worries. The breathing will make it easier to fall asleep.

You should also have a regular bedtime and a regular wake up time. Try not to stay up past the bedtime that you have set for yourself, and don’t sleep past your usual wake up time. If you do, this will put your body on a schedule, and even if your mind is worried, your body has a better chance of taking over and stick to its plan.

Finally, make some gentle noise. Turn the fan on. It doesn’t have to be blowing on you — it is a soft noise from the fan that you need. When you lay down, focus your attention on the hum of the fan. You can also try “boring” yourself to sleep with a book. The book should be boring. The process of reading will occupy your mind, but the boring book will have your eyes closing before you know it.

Deep breathing exercises can help you to fall asleep.

A healthy sleep pattern can help against anxiety attacks

Panic Attacks and Anxiety

Suffering from anxiety disorder and have panic attacks?

Do you have anxiety?
Are you constantly worried?

We all probably know that anxiety is a normal part of life.  That horrible feeling of anxiousness is something that can happen to all of us from time to time — and with good reason. However, many people suffer from anxiety without any valid reason — regardless of how correct the reason for the anxiety seems to them.

Anxiety can cause a host of other mental health problems.
Child AnxietyFirst, when the brain is stressed, the body’s immune system fails to function properly. Things like this leads to illnesses. Second, anxiety can prevent one from living life to the fullest. And, finally, stress can lead to full-blown anxiety attacks, otherwise known as panic attacks.

A panic attack might feel like a heart attack. In fact, when one suffers their first panic attack, this is what they think that it is, in most cases. They will usually seek out medical emergency services. A lot of the symptoms are often the same as a heart attack. The person may feel chest pains, have trouble catching their breath, become dizzy, feel nauseous, and also feel completely out of control.

AnxiousLuckily, you won’t die from a panic attack — even though you can’t be convinced of that when it is happening. Even better news is that panic attacks can be prevented. Medication can be prescribed, relaxation techniques can be used, and counseling, in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be sought.

Your doctor will most likely prescribe an antidepressant for your anxiety. However, antidepressants take about three weeks to become effective, and during this time, you may discover that you are more anxious than you were before. Panic attacks may become more severe during this time.

For reasons mentioned, your doctor may also prescribe a benzodiazepine. The benzodiazepine will effectively take care of the anxious feelings, and help to prevent panic attacks. However, this is not a safe long-term drug, as antidepressants are. Therefore, after about three weeks, your doctor will most likely discontinue the benzodiazepine, and continue with the antidepressant. Naturally, CBT will also be recommended.

Panic attacks are very real — and very scary. If you suffer from panic attacks, know that there is treatment out there, and with that treatment, you can avoid future panic attacks.

Stress and Anxiety – Is There Any Relationship? (Free PDF)

Panic attacks and anxiety disorder sufferers

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD

Collecting, Organizing, Checking, Washing…. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder.

OCD - Bug ObsessionIt is composed of two parts: Obsession and Compulsion.  Obsession is the portion of OCD that occupies your thoughts such as excessive concerns about cleanliness (my kids call this germophobia), extreme social fear, fear of harming someone, preoccupation with organization or other intrusive thoughts that create anxiety.  Compulsion is the physical manifestation of needing to do something about the obsessionsCompulsion results in behaviors such as ritualistic behaviors like excessive hand washing, repeatedly checking to make sure the stove is off, counting steps and other extreme behaviors such as hoarding.

OCD the Good
Once I while participating in a wedding, I was attending the rehearsal dinner at the home of the bride whose mother made the appetizers for over 200 people.  I was amazed at her management skills that made her capable of preparing appetizers from a single kitchen – right up until the time that when looking for the restroom adjacent to the laundry, I opened the pantry door.

There, staring at me were over 100 spice containers, of all the same brand, all the same size and all angled at a precise 45-degree angle so that the labels were all pointed exactly at my head.  I was so dumbfounded that I continued to stare and found that on the other shelves there were precise pyramids of 5 cans each of various vegetables – all the same brand, all the same size, with all the labels facing exactly the same direction.

Lining the floor were plastic bins, spaced 2 inches apart…exactly, containing 3 bags each of a variety of pasta, flour, rice…. all of course the same brand, carefully placed in the bin, with the label in exactly the same location.

This is OCD at its best – at least for others.  She had an obsession and a compulsion that created this superbly organized pantry.  Likely though, even this “good” OCD manifestation took up a lot of her time – and had a negative impact on her daily life and that of her family’s.

OCD is not always at its best however and can result in the opposite – hoarding.  I don’t have to go into this but if you haven’t seen it, you should watch “Hoarders” or “Hoarding, Buried Alive” for some insight.

OCD the Bad
In addition to situations like hoarding, OCD can also interfere with life in other ways.  I have a cousin with OCD, who before he was medicated, found himself unable to leave his driveway due to fears that he would back over a child with his car.  This caused him to spend hours – literally hours every morning starting the car, looking in the rear view mirror, getting out of the car to look behind it, getting back in the car, looking in the rear view mirror, getting out of the car….  He eventually found himself unable to work.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - OCD Confused MindOthers have found that OCD has limited their lives in similar ways.  Howie Mandel, a well-known comic, has talked about his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It prevented him from appearing in public for many years, in part due to social fear but also due to fear of infection.  Even today, while his disease is “under control,” he does not ever shake hands or allow others to touch him.

How do I know if I have OCD?
A lot of people have rituals – such as specific routines before bed.  A lot of people have extreme concerns which may consume thoughts for a while – such as excessive concerns over money.  The difference in “normal” rituals and “normal” concerns is that they don’t typically impair normal life and they don’t become paralyzing.

Thoughts and behaviors that might indicate OCD:
•    Repeated thoughts or mental pictures about things such as
o    Germs
o    Dirt
o    Intruders
o    Violence
o    Hurting others
o    Embarrassment
o    Disorganization
o    Religious beliefs
•    Repeated behaviors such as:
o    Washing hands
o    Disinfecting surfaces
o    Locking and unlocking doors
o    Counting
o    Repeating steps over and over
o    Keeping unneeded things
o    Excessive grooming
•    Lack of ability to control or stop unwanted thoughts and behaviors
•    Repeated behaviors provide temporary relief from anxiety that is caused by obsessive thoughts
•    Repeated behaviors don’t provide any pleasure other than temporary relief
•    Spending at least 1 hour a day on thoughts and behaviors, creating a negative impact on daily life

The International OCD foundation reports that it takes around 15 years for most people to be diagnosed.  This may be due to hiding of symptoms – but it may also be due to lack of awareness of both the public and health professionals.

What can be done about OCD?
OCD can be treated – it usually cannot be cured but can be controlled.  First line treatment for OCD includes working with a properly trained therapist – most beneficially, one who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  CBT uses “exposure to” unpleasant stimuli, carried on to the “what if” stage.  “What if” I touch that faucet without disinfecting it?  “What if” I get into the elevator without opening the door 10 times?  The “exposure” period is followed by “response prevention” where the patient chooses NOT to perform the behavior that the “exposure” usually causes.  Over time, the obsession and compulsive thoughts and behaviors become more manageable.
In other cases, medication may be needed – usually given in combination with CBT.  Some antidepressants (not all) will help with OCD.  Anti-depressants that have been shown to help include:
o    Luvox (fluvoxamine)
o    Prozac (fluoxetine)
o    Zoloft (sertraline)
o    Paxil (paroxetine)
o    Celexa (citalopram)
o    Lexapro (escitalopram)
o    Effexor (venlafaxine)

Other medications may also help but have not been “approved” to treat OCD.  Doctors who have found them helpful may use them regardless of whether they are officially approved to treat OCDMedications such as Cymbalta (duloxetine) have been reported to be helpful – and some patients may benefit from short-term use of anti-anxiety agents.

It is important to know that all medications may cause side effects and you should tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking.

Melissa Lind

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety and by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing that anxiety.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be treated!

Anxiety Treatment Method – Mental Imaging

Use of mental imaging as an anxiety treatment method

While there are many wonderful medications that aid in the treatment of anxiety symptoms, there are other methods for controlling anxiety as well. Mental imaging is one such treatment.

Mental ImagingMental imaging is used in many instances and professions. Professional sports players, speakers, and actors use mental imaging. For the purpose of anxiety, mental imaging works as a relaxation technique. It can be used to negate negative thoughts, and replace those negative thoughts with positive images that help one to face or get through a situation that makes them feel anxious.

To practice mental imaging, you must predetermine what your image will be. Will you see yourself handling a tough situation? Will you see yourself doing something that you didn’t think you could do? Again, you need to have your mental image ready to go before you need it.

The hardest part of mental imaging remembers to use it when you need it. This is not always easy to do when you are feeling anxious, and worries are clouding your mind. You may also need mental imaging aids at the beginning, such as cassette tapes to get you into the state of mental imaging. You may need to close your eyes to practice mental imaging in the beginning as well.

Mental imaging can also be used outside of anxious situations — when you are calm — to help build confidence in yourself.

In fact, people who suffer from anxiety disorders who practice mental imaging outside of anxious situations find that the anxiety episodes that they do have are fewer and far between — and that they don’t last as long.

While mental imaging is very easy, and can be done by anyone, it should not be used to replace medical treatment for anxiety. You still need treatment from a doctor, and you can discuss mental imaging with your doctor.

Mental Imaging and Anxiety

Depression in Young Children

Child’s may become depressed because of several different things

Today, we are more aware of teenage depression, but there still isn’t enough said about depression in younger children. Depression in young children is not as common as teenage depression, but it does still exist, and it is still a significant problem. Did you realize that even babies can suffer from depression?

Depression in ChildrenIn children, depression shows itself through developmental delays, failure to thrive, sleeping and eating problems, social withdrawal or anxiety, separation anxiety, and dangerous behavior. Unfortunately, children are not yet equipped to express depressed feelings in simple words. They may not even be old enough to know what those feelings are. So, for the most part, a child’s depression is expressed in other ways and actions.

When an adult becomes depressed, their first stop may be their medical doctor’s office, followed by an appointment with a therapist. With children, it does not necessarily work this way. Instead, you may need an appointment with a child psychologist so that an assessment for depression can be done, using the Children’s Depression Inventory.

If the child psychologist determines that the child is indeed depressed, he or she may want a physical workup done by the child’s pediatrician to determine whether the cause of the depression is physical. A child may be depressed because there is simply a family history of depression. (Genetically illness) Child’s become depressed because of things going on in their lives, or because of a medical problem.

In most cases of depression in children, the cause of the depression can be associated with more than one of these causes. So, if your child is found to be depressed, and medical reason for it is discovered, you should still seek out answers and determine if one of the other factors — problems in their lives or genetics — are also contributing.

The important thing is to watch your child closely. Is your child getting along with other children? Are they growing and developing as they should? If either of these things isn`t happening, you should seek help before the problem escalates.

Depression in children is not as common as depression in teenagers!

Getting Out of Depression

Some tips to get you out of depression

Major depression is the third most common mental disorder in the US.  Nearly 7 percent of the US population is affected in any one year.  Incidentally, if you are keeping track, the two most common mental disorders are Anxiety disorders and Phobia disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Major Depression, also called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has an average onset of 32 years of age and is more common in women than in men.  It is also called “unipolar depression” by those who are familiar with Bipolar disorder.  It may include a subset of depressive disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects people yearly – usually in the winter and Dysthymic Disorder, which is a less severe form of depression.

In order to be diagnosed with Major Depression, a person must meet the DSM criteria including at least five of the following for at least two weeks:
•    Depressed mood most of the day
•    Diminished interest in all or most activities
•    Significant, unintentional weight loss or gain
•    Insomnia or sleeping too much
•    Agitation or psychomotor retardation (slow movement) noticeable by others
•    Fatigue
•    Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
•    Diminished ability to think or indecisiveness
•    Suicidal thoughts

In some cases, depression can be relieved by changes in lifestyle or with psychotherapy, but in severe cases – medication may be warranted.  We are fortunate today in that there are a number of effective medications that have fewer side effects than previous treatments, and the category continues to evolve.

Even with medication – that may not begin working for at least several weeks – some lifestyle changes, and habits may help a person “emerge” from their depression and manage symptoms in the future.

Major DepressionLifestyle changes are difficult, particularly when depressed, but the effort it takes to “soldier through” is worth it in the end.  These tips for helping with depression are not easy – especially when you do not have any energy and don’t feel like getting up, but even though they may not provide a cure – they almost always provide some help.

  1. Get up and move – this is the hardest for most people to do.  It may take a tremendous amount of efforts but even simply getting off the couch or out of bed and walking around the house will help.  Getting up and moving around will increase your blood flow and heart rate will help increase blood flow to your brain and may convince your body that “hibernation” is over.
  2. Get dressed – you may have been wearing the same clothes for many days.  Changing into a “daytime” outfit can help regulate your time clock and may help you feel like you can accomplish something.  If you wear makeup or fix your hair, do so – and by all means, take a shower.
  3. Get out in the sun – don’t stay long enough to get a sunburn but studies have shown that bright light helps your brain wake up.  It resets your internal clock by adjusting your melatonin levels (a hormone responsible for inducing sleep).  It also triggers a “springtime” effect – that again tells your brain and body that winter is over, and it is time to come out of hibernation.
  4. Talk to a friend – making a phone call may not be tops on your mind, but even a wordless chat can help you feel like someone else is aware of your existence.
  5. Watch something enjoyable – even if you don’t want to enjoy anything, do something that would normally make you happy.  Just a little bit of happiness peeking through can go a long way.
  6. Go to bed and get out of bed at normal hours – sleep patterns are often destroyed by depression.  Reestablishing those normal patterns will help reset your internal clock to a natural level.
  7. Don’t take naps – again with both the normal sleeping hours and with the “getting up.”  Reinforcing physiologic habits will help establish normal brain functioning.
  8. Eat healthily – you may want to eat everything, nothing, or only certain foods.  Likely, no matter how much or how little you are eating, you are deficient in some of the necessary vitamins and nutrients – so eating a healthy diet and taking a multivitamin mineral supplement is a good idea.  B vitamins are especially helpful to restore nerve cell functioning, C and E are useful for combating inflammation that can cause sluggishness, D vitamins are useful to aid in the “sunlight” phenomenon discussed before, Calcium and Magnesium are good for the brain cells which are malfunctioning.

Most people who are depressed will find a lot of these activities difficult – and you may only be able to do one or two a day.  None of this is meant to be insulting, but there is science behind all of it – and others have been through it before.
With the help from the medication and the lifestyle adjustments – you will feel like you are coming out of the fog – and be able to do all of them – or sometimes, choose not to.  Choosing not to do something is different than feeling like you are unable to do something – and you want to have control of your life.

Melissa Lind