Portland Psychologist and Therapist Blog

How To Cure Anxiety

Doctor Aziz Anxiety 1

Can We Cure Anxiety?

cure anxiety

It is entirely possible to be free of your anxiety.

Anyone suffering from anxiety naturally wants to cure that anxiety. This is because that experience of uneasiness, discomfort, fear, tension, and worry can significantly reduce the quality of your life. Anxiety can be a powerful force that reduces your happiness while also limiting what you can do in life. For many, it can feel like their anxiety is running the show and that they are often just “holding it together” to get through the day.

There Is No Cure For Fear

When we talk about curing anxiety it is important to make a distinction between fear and anxiety.

Fear is our body’s natural alarm system that alerts us to danger. In many instances fear is life-protecting and informs us when we need to take action to protect ourselves. People who do not feel sufficient fear can put themselves at serious risk for injury or other problems.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a long-lasting sense of discomfort that results from worrying about something that is potentially painful. It also involves imagining a threat is much more likely to occur and then worrying about what we will do then.

While fear is something you will inevitably feel for the rest of your life, worry, stress, and anxiety are all patterns of thinking and feeling that you can change.

Change The Way You Think, Change The Way You Feel

While fear is an immediate, gut-level response to a present threat, anxiety is a lingering, nagging discomfort that is usually about something we fear will happen in the future. Much of our anxiety is the result of how we imagine something will go.

For example, if you are having trouble sleeping at night because you are worried about your finances, what are you thinking to yourself?

I can’t believe we didn’t get that client. Without that contract I am not going to make anything this month. What if I don’t make anything next month either? How will I pay my rent? What if I can’t cut it and I lose this job?? What will I do?

Notice how these thoughts are based on something in the future?

Anxiety usually results from these two basic beliefs:

  1. Something will go wrong in the future.
  2. I won’t be able to handle it.

The key to cure anxiety is to become aware of your thinking and to challenge the thoughts that are particularly unrealistic or fear-based. Once simple way to do this is to take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On one side, write out the anxious thoughts that are causing you distress. Getting these thoughts on paper and out of your mind can have a powerful calming effect, allowing you to see exactly what you are saying to yourself.

On the other side of the paper, write out more realistic, reassuring thoughts that are based on these two beliefs:

  1. This might go well or poorly, I do not know yet.
  2. No matter what happens, I know I will be able to handle it.

In the financial anxiety example above, you might write something like: That is a shame I didn’t get that client, I would have preferred to have gotten that contract. I am naturally feeling a little worried, however this is not the end of the road. There are many more opportunities ahead of me. Worst case scenario, if I lose my job, I know I will be able to handle it. I’ve always found a way.

Taking It Further

This process of learning how to take a step back, look at your thoughts, and choose to believe something more empowering and hopeful is a skill that anyone can develop. It is a big part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a highly researched type of psychotherapy that can help treat any anxiety disorder.

If you have been suffering with worry, stress, or anxiety for quite some time, then it might be time to take action. Clinical research has shown that psychotherapy can be incredible effective in helping you cure anxiety. Find out more here.

 


What is a Panic Attack?

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What are the symptoms of a Panic Attack?

Panic Attack

A Panic Attack (also called an “Anxiety Attack”) is a highly uncomfortable and frightening experience that many people will face at least once in their lives. Sometimes these experiences are clearly related to the situation (such as being trapped or in danger), but in many cases these attacks seem to come out of thin air.

A Panic Attack is a brief, intense period of fear that includes some or all of the following:

  • Sweating
  • Heart pounding
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Chills or hotflashes
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Feeling choked
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • Feeling detached from yourself or the world around you
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

 

The Experience of a Panic Attack

A Panic Attack is generally short-lived, lasting approximately 10 minutes, although it can feel like an eternity.

During the initial phase of a Panic Attack, you may feel a growing sense of unrest or fear, as if something bad were about to happen. Sometimes the fear is focused on something in your life, and other times it feels unrelated to anything. As the fear grows, you might start having thoughts or fears about the fear.

You might be thinking: What is happening to me? I feel like I’m going crazy. What if this keeps getting worse? What if I lose it in here?

As your mind starts to race, your feelings of fear can escalate into a sense of complete panic. Once this happens, it can be difficult to think, focus, or breath properly. Your breathing might come in quick, shallow gasps and you can feel like you are being smothered.

As this intense experience is unfolding, many people naturally fear that they are in danger. Some people think they are having a heart attack and rush to an urgent care facility. Others become terrified that they are going insane or about to die. As unpleasant and terrifying as this experience is, however, there is no actual danger of going insane or dying.

After a period of time, usually around 10 minutes or less, you will notice that the sense of complete panic is starting to pass and you might feel more like yourself again. After a Panic Attack, many people feel depleted and exhausted, as if they just ran a marathon.

 

Why Do I Get Panic Attacks?

Panic Attacks are caused by several factors which often operate simultaneously. Once a person has had one panic attack, they are much more likely to have another one. This is because the experience is so frightening and uncomfortable that we naturally would want to avoid it at all costs. Furthermore, most people experience their first attack as “out of the blue” or at a seemingly random time. As a result, the fear is that another can happen at any time.

This leads to a heightened sense of awareness on your body’s sensations and a regular scanning to see if you are safe. As you do this, it is easy to notice fear and start to worry if it will lead to another attack. When you worry, you start to breath more shallowly, which can produce shortness of breath or tingling, which you can then interpret as the beginning of another attack.

In short, the cause of panic attacks is in part a fear that you will have more panic attacks.

While behavioral psychologists would say this is the only source of a panic attack, many times there are other causes.

A panic attack is a strong signal from our mind and body that we are facing something scary or challenging. Sometimes we have mixed feelings about an important area of our lives – such as our jobs, relationships, or life path. When some of these feelings seem unsettling or inappropriate, we might not allow ourselves to feel and express our emotions. These “hidden emotions” can often lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or even panic.

Panic Attacks are entirely treatable, sometimes in just several sessions. Psychotherapy can be incredibly effective for helping you learn practical skills to manage your Panic Attack, while also getting to the bottom of the underlying causes.

 


Social Anxiety Disorder

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Social Anxiety or Shyness?Social Anxiety Disorder

 

Social Anxiety (also known as Social Phobia) are clinical terms used to describe shyness that is intense or debilitating.

Shyness by itself is neither a positive or negative trait. Over half of the U.S. population identifies as shy, and many people do not see shyness as a problem. In a different era, or in different cultures, being more quiet, humble, and respectful of others are highly valued traits. However in our current competitive western culture, being bold, taking charge, and being confident are heralded as ideal traits. Being shy is often synonymous with being timid or weak.

This is unfortunate, because many people who feel shy or anxious around others are already fearing and assuming that people will judge and criticize them. In fact, this is the hallmark of social anxiety and social phobia – the persistent fear that others will evaluate, judge, and criticize you.

The major difference between shyness and social anxiety is subjective. If you are feeling stuck or frustrated by your shyness, as if it is holding you back from fully living your life, then it might be more of a problem for you. When you feel like you cannot do the things in your life that really matter to you, such as finding a job that satisfies you, or creating a relationship with a partner, then it may be time to do something about your shyness.

 

Social Anxiety Disorder

When shyness prevents you from living the life that you truly want, then it can be described as Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia. This simply means that in certain areas your shyness is something that is negatively impacting your life and causing you distress.

 

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

  • You feel extremely uncomfortable in social situations and often avoid them.

 

  • You are frequently worried that other people are judging you negatively.

 

  • You are hyper self-conscious and always watching what you say or do so you don’t say the “wrong” thing.

 

  • You find rejection or disapproval intolerable and do whatever you can to avoid it.

 

  • You often feel like others are watching you and you constantly avoid doing anything embarrassing.

 

  • You can feel worried or anxious days or even weeks before a challenging situation.

 

  • You regularly criticize and attack yourself for feeling anxious.

 

  • Your anxiety, worry, and avoidance significantly interferes with your life.

 

  • You may feel hopeless about your situation, angry at yourself, or angry at others.

 

Beware Labeling Yourself

Reading the above section can be helpful to identify some of your struggles with feeling tense or anxious or others. The term “Social Anxiety” gives you a shorthand way to refer to your experience.

Social Anxiety is not something that you are, and it is not some defect or disease. It is an experience of feeling pain or discomfort around others and it comes from patterns of thinking and feeling.

While psychological research with infants shows that some people are born with more sensitive nervous systems that are more easily overstimulated, this does not necessarily lead to social anxiety. Hence social anxiety is not something that you are just born with and stuck with for your entire life, and it is not who you are.

Identifying yourself as a “socially anxious” person is useful if it helps you have compassion and patience with yourself as you learn and grow. It is not useful if you use it as a conclusion and a reason to stop trying or taking action.

There are many effective treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder that can greatly improve the quality of your life.

 


Do You Have An Anxiety Disorder?

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What is an “Anxiety Disorder”?

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is incredibly common and is a normal part of our daily lives. It comes in many forms – we might worry about our health or finances, feel nervous around our boss, or feel terror at the thought of giving a presentation in front of 50 people.

Anxiety Disorder is terminology used by psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals, to describe a very specific set of symptoms. The categories of Anxiety Disorders are created by committee decision, and are not necessarily based on biological markers or other evidence.

Instead, there are arbitrary cutoffs to determine if someone is simply worrying a lot, or if they have an anxiety disorder that features worrying (such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder).

 

What are the kinds of Anxiety Disorders?

There are many different forms anxiety can take.This can include chronic worry, panic attacks, shyness, phobias, obsessing, and concerns about your appearance. Each type of anxiety has an official diagnostic label associated with it (i.e. an anxiety disorder).

Common types of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – You have excessive and uncontrollable worry about your health, finances, work, school, or family.

Panic Disorder (PD) – You have anxiety attacks that come on fast and are excruciatingly uncomfortable. Your heart starts pounding, you sweat profusely and you feel like you might die or go crazy.

Specific Phobia – You have an intense fear of something very specific that you do your best to avoid. This can be spiders, flying, heights, bridges, elevators or other small spaces.

Agoraphobia – You have a fear that leaving home is not safe because something unbearable could happen to you.

Social Anxiety Disorder – You feel nervous, self-critical, or uncomfortable around other people. You may also have difficulty performing, public speaking, taking tests, or using public restrooms.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – You have repeated and intrusive thoughts that are uncomfortable and disturbing. These can be about harming someone, losing control, dying, or being contaminated by germs. In response, you may feel an irresistible urge to do something to alleviate your anxiety. This can include counting, washing your hands, putting things into order, or repeating phrases to yourself.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – After experiencing a traumatic event, you are permanently wound up. You have a hard time relaxing, feeling safe, and enjoying your life as you did before. You might have disturbing dreams or flashbacks, a short temper, and a hard time sleeping.

Hypochondriasis – You become anxious and terrified by physical symptoms in your body. You start to worry about those symptoms being related to something life threatening, such as cancer. The urge to seek a medical evaluation is overwhelming, even when test results reveal you are healthy.

 

Beware Disempowering Diagnoses

Being able to diagnose a particular anxiety problem is useful for psychologists, because it provides insight into which treatments will be most effective. It can also help someone to hear that other people have this problem too, and that they are not alone in their struggles.

However, a diagnosis can be problematic if we conclude that we have an incurable problem or some sort “chemical imbalance” that we are doomed to suffer from for the rest of our lives. While some organic illnesses do exist, such as Schizophrenia, most anxiety conditions are completely resolvable without the need for medication.

The diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder simply describes what you already know you are experiencing – anxiety. It allows you to effectively describe, understand, and address what you are struggling with so you most effectively face and overcome your challenge.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an incredibly effective form of counseling that has been demonstrated to be highly effective at treating almost every kind of anxiety. Even if you have struggled with anxiety for a long time and are feeling discouraged or hopeless about things being different, the potential for success in treatment is very high.


What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

Doctor Aziz Depression 2 Comments

The Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of Depression
Major Depression takes a considerable toll on your life.

Many people use the word “depressed” to describe a sad or low mood. These moods are very common and are a natural part of life.

In clinical terms, “depression” has a very specific meaning that describes a collection of symptoms. This type of depression is also referred to as Major Depression or Clinical Depression.

Major Depression is more intense than an ordinary low mood, lasts longer (2 weeks or more), and interferes with your day to day life. In other words, you cannot just “shake it off” or “push through.”

Signs & Symptoms of Major Depression:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, empty or “spacey” throughout most of the day.
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
  • Feeling discouraged, pessimistic, or hopeless.
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or defective.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or helpless.
  • Irritability and restlessness.
  • Fatigue and decreased energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions.
  • Insomnia (often early morning awakening) or sleeping excessively.
  • Overeating or loss of appetite.
  • Thoughts or urges of suicide.
  • Physical symptoms including body aches, headaches, and digestive problems.

 

The symptoms of depression can vary greatly between different people. Generally, women often experience more of the excessive guilt and worthlessness symptoms while men experience more irritability, fatigue, and difficulties sleeping. In addition, men are more likely to turn towards drugs or alcohol to cope and are less likely to seek treatment. Finally, women are more likely to have urges and attempts at suicide while men are more likely to actually commit suicide.

Are You Depressed?

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms of depression listed above, it is important to seek help. All too often when we start to experience these painful symptoms, we criticize ourselves for being “weak” or “lazy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. These symptoms are the result of a very complex mixture of your thoughts, moods, unconscious feelings, as well as your brain, body, and biochemistry.

While it is painful and can be debilitating in your work and your relationships, it is essential to address the challenges you are facing with the utmost respect and patience for yourself and the process you are going through.

Depression is very common in this time period in our culture. Throughout the course of their life, almost 20% of people will experience major depression and at any given time, 6-8% of people are struggling with this condition.

Rather than reflecting personal weakness, these high rates of depression might be indicating a greater challenge people face in living in a culture that prioritizes material achievement over more basic human needs such as connection and creativity.

If you are struggling with depression, you do not need to continue to suffer alone. Research has shown there are many effective treatments for depression.

Click here to learn more about the causes of depression or the treatments for depression.