A big proportion of the people who come to see me want to overcome anxiety related problems. This could be Panic Attacks, Fears and Phobias, Generalised Anxiety or related conditions such as OCD, IBS and so on. The more I see it in people the more it seems to me like a 'Mind Rot'. It's something that invades a healthy mind and causes self doubt and creates fear where there wasn't fear before. It grows and spreads.
Imagine someone who has their first panic attack. It seems to come from nowhere. Maybe it was whilst out shopping, before a major event, travelling on a bus - something they've done many times before but this time they panicked. This triggers a powerful process in the brain. The brain is a patterning and survival engine. It looks for patterns and it seeks ways to avoid that which which causes you harm. Panic attacks can be terrifying. They cause you harm.
So a number of things start to happen in that person:
They desperately try to understand why it happened this time
They search for ways to stop it happening again.
They begin to fear things that they didn't fear before.
It's not the circumstances they fear - it's the panic or anxiety itself.
These things combined start the process of rot. They weaken once strong attitudes and beliefs and introduce doubt. What's more it begins to spread. Let's say the incident happened on a bus.They begin to question was it the particular bus? Was it the length of the journey? Was it how crowded the bus was? In the absence of concrete answers they develop avoidance strategies. How can I plan my day so I don't need to get that bus? How can I limit where I travel to? How can I make sure I get a quieter bus?
And when they do need to get that bus again, they become anxious. They visualise what may happen, they recall and relive what happened before, they focus on being panicked. And what happens? The chances are increased that they will panic again and the cycle continues. Mind Rot sets in. And it's usually the same process for all types of fears and anxieties.
The good news is that it's something you DO, not something you HAVE. By this I mean that after the initial 'trigger' you in all likelihood tell yourself things, visualise things or 'catastrophise' scenarios in your mind that all make the anxiety worst. This is true with Generalised Anxiety and often OCD and IBS as well.
If it's something that you do, that means that together we can UNDO it.
Tame your Brain - Dealing with Fears, Phobias and Anxiety Disorders
And I do that by working with your brain. The part of the brain that is responsible. It's sometimes know as the fear centre or Reptile Brain. It's one of the first parts of the brain to have evolved and it's job is to process threat and keep you alive. It's actual name is the Amygdala and limbic system and when it's fired up it it sets off a chain reaction which pumps adrenalin and Cortisol in your system, makes you hyper alert and causes all those really uncomfortable and awful feelings you associate with anxiety and panic - high pulse, shallow breathing, clammy hands etc.
The short video above shows you some exercises you can do to help you understand and manage your anxiety more effectively. The better option is to get rid of it completely, well the dysfunctional parts - we all need a bit of anxiety now and then. How I do that is to get a detailed understanding of what makes you anxious, when you do it and how you do it. We then train your brain to do something completely different instead. And the techniques I use mean that can often be done very quickly.
So don't be a slave to your reptile brain any longer, whether it's anxiety, panic attacks, fears or phobias. I offer a 30 minute one to one Strategy Discussion you can find out about it here
I own and operate from Watson House Therapy Centre in Morpeth. It's a fabulous grade 2 listed building in the heart of Northumberland and I have clients from across the North East and the UK.
We know that fears, phobias and anxiety attacks are powerful and very debilitating but how do we get them? Well there are different reasons. A common one is as a result of a severe trauma. So, for example, you fall in a wasps nests as a child and now you're terrified of swaps. Some are inherited, believe it or not, passed down from generations as a genetically encoded survival strategy - known as epigenetics. Some are as a result of 'vicarious learning', that is we pick them up as children by being exposed to 'fearful' type behaviours of significant adults around us. Some just seem to defy explanation. We just don't why or, as with Generalised Anxiety Disorder the bodies own stress hormones perpetuate the condition.
For most anxieties, fears and phobias there are specific 'triggers' so I call them 'Triggered Responses'. These can be 'collapsed' in therapy so you get rid of the unwanted response.
Generalised Anxiety or stress can be different. It can feel like it's there all the time without any particular reason. Usually the reason has just been forgotten and you are suffering from the bodies own response to ongoing anxiety. Below I talk about the Amygdala and it's role in anxiety, fear and panic. One of the things that happens when the Amygdala 'fires up' is that Adrenalin is released into the system which instantly increases heart rate, breathing, sweating as it prepares you for fight, flight or freeze. Adrenalin is the 'Sprinter' hormone - fast acting and explosive and wears off just as quickly as it started. The thing is Cortisol is also released and this is the 'marathon' hormone it helps you to hang in there as long as is needed until the 'threat' is over. Cortisol is longer acting and harder to flush from your system. If you're anxious a lot, you have a build up of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) which perpetuates your stress and anxiety and you get into a vicious cycle.