Friday, January 29, 2010

Why You Should Stay Away From Anxiety Disorder Forums

I decided recently to visit a few anxiety disorder forums and what I found saddened, disappointed and even shocked me. What I read was mostly people saying how great it is to find other people who understand what they're going through and discussions about what meds they're taking to dull their symptoms.

I didn't see even one post from someone talking about what they're doing or have done to help themselves climb out of the hell they've been living in. It seems a lot of people with anxiety disorders actually would rather wallow in self-pity and cry on each others shoulders than take any kind of positive action to alleviate their problems.

That's Depressing!

I suppose this is evidence to support the theory that anxiety causes depression, as opposed to the way physicians see it, that the two conditions go hand in hand or the cause and effect is the other way around. Years ago, when I first sought help, my doctor explained that people who have depression often also have anxiety disorder and that's why they prescribe antidepressants for anxiety. Like the depression leads to anxiety. And he was a very caring and knowledgeable doctor.

If you're living a life limited by your anxiety disorders, whether panic disorder, agoraphobia, OCD or any other disorder, life is undoubtedly depressing. If you're afraid to go somewhere because you might have a panic attack, if you're afraid to drive to work for fear of becoming anxious, if you can't even take your kids to the park, you're going to be depressed.

How Does This Tie In To The Forum Posts?

Interestingly, a lot of depressed people seem to LIKE being depressed. It has become their comfort zone, it's all they know. And as long as they keep trading their sob stories, it will continue to be all they know.

In my mini-course I recommend to anxiety sufferers that they stay away from these forums because the more time and energy you spend reading about other people's problems, the more time and energy you will put into thinking about your own anxiety issues. And if you know anything at all about the Law of Attraction, you know that what you focus on is what you'll get. Besides, for most of us who have or have had anxiety disorder, focusing on our anxiety problems and symptoms CAUSES our anxiety problems.
You Have A Lot Of Company Outside The Forums

Look, there are plenty of people who have or have had anxiety disorder and we ALL understand how you feel; you don't need to go to the forums looking for someone to feel sorry for you. I, for one, understand completely. But I don't want to talk about your problems, I want to talk about a solution and help you rid your life of anxiety disorder and the depression it causes.

And I'd really like to get on some anxiety forums and say: "Hey! I've got a solution for you, click here to read about what helped me." But I have yet to find one forum whose moderators will allow posting a link to something that will help you. I wonder why THAT is? Maybe they're afraid they'll lose some members if you were to find a cure for your misery?

In my 12 Step Program we like to say "Let's not focus on the problem, let's focus on the solution." Which would you rather focus on?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive Anxiety Disorder or Innocent Habit?

I have a quick quiz for you, see if you can quickly answer these questions:
  1. Which shoe do you put on first?
  2. Which leg do you put in your pants first?
  3. Which side of the bed do you sleep on (doesn't count if you share the bed)?
If you answered these questions, then I have a 4th one for you: Why? Think about that one for a few seconds and see if you have an answer.

Innocent Habits or OCD?

If you have any form of anxiety disorder, I know you were able to answer the first three but the 4th might have been a little harder. If your answer to that last one was "It's a habit" that's okay, because we're all creatures of habit, but if when you think more about it your answer is really "Because I have to" you need to start making some changes.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - OCD - is a common trait (to varying degrees) in people with anxiety disorders and if you have it, these little "habits" we have become difficult to break or change. In fact, a good way to find out if your habits are actually OCD behavior, is to just try to not follow a habitual pattern and see how hard it is. Note how much you have to concentrate or distract yourself in order to do something differently.

Don't get me wrong, there are some good habits, habits that make life simpler and more organized. For example, I'm one of many who sort the bills in my wallet and have them turned the same direction. This makes it easier to pull out the right amount of money to pay for something. But if I were to TRY to do it differently just for the heck of it, I'd find myself in disharmony, and I'd call that "borderline OCD".

Comfort Zone and OCD

When we follow obsessive and compulsive patterns, the behavior becomes our comfort zone. And as long as we stay in that zone, we're comfortable and secure. Or so we think: the reality is, what we're doing is reinforcing our anxiety disorder by staying in that comfortable place. It's very much like a phobia, which can be simply defined as avoidance of something we think is going to make us anxious. And if we constantly reinforce the comfort zone, it WILL make us anxious to step outside of it.

In order to begin to break free of our anxiety issues, we need to break out of our comfort zones. Changing a few of our little OCD-like habits is a great place to start, since they're not really important in the first place. Jon Mercer, creator of the anxiety treatment video program I like, has an exercise in his videos asking you to write a list of things we do out of habit and then pick a few and change them - do something differently. A few each day - simple things like shop at a different grocery or sleep on the other side of the bed. If you usually eat certain kinds of food, change it up and try something different. You get the drift.

I'd have to say Jon's advice is golden. Start small and work your way up to the major limitations you're imposing on yourself. Get out of that little comfort zone and experience some freedom. It's not a bad feeling at all!

Read more on this subject: Obsessive Compulsive Anxiety Disorder 

To your recovery,


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The News And Your Anxiety

Do you watch the news on TV, listen to it on the radio or habitually read the newspaper? If you have an Anxiety Disorder of any kind, be it Generalized Anxiety, Chronic Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Hypochondria, Agoraphobia or OCD, you probably should break the news habit. Why? Because watching what media outlets decide is newsworthy will cause your anxiety problem to worsen!

Think about what's on the front page of the paper, on your local or national news broadcasts - and even what's on NPR. Is it good news? Is it about happy events? Are there any personal interest stories in the first 20 minutes of the local news program? Not very often, right?

So what are they feeding you? Crime, death, war, bad economy, epidemics and in winter, deadly snow storms. That's right, even on the weather channels and in the brief weather reports on the local and national news, they don't bother telling you how wonderful the weather is in Key West, they only mention Key West when there's a hurricane there.

And notice how when they're going to tell you there's a slight chance of snow in your area they start off the news show by getting (and keeping) your attention with "Snow possible tonight!" Be honest, how many times when they've done that, has it actually snowed an appreciable amount?

News media have one purpose, and that's to make money for the station or network, or the paper. And their decisions as to what's newsworthy have nothing to do with what you want to see, only with what they want you to see. In other words, what sells.

What Sells Commercial Airtime and Why Should You Care?

Apparently the media have done their homework and found long ago that what brings in the most money is keeping you glued to the TV. And that what keeps Americans (and I'm sure anyone else anywhere in the world) glued to the TV is fear, plain and simple. High drama. Things that make you think: "Oh! How awful!"

Even though what they're showing you on the TV or the front page of the paper probably isn't happening to you, it's affecting you. Because you're not involved in what's happening, you can't do anything about it and you have no power to resolve the conflict you're absorbing. And this causes you tension and stress. And anxiety.

How About Sports?

Of course, something that brings in the big bucks for the TV networks is sports. Pretty fun stuff, right? I mean, it beats war and famine. But guess what? If you have a favorite team - YOUR team - watching them on TV can cause you worse problems than the news!

Don't believe me? I used to be a huge sports nut but found out years ago that watching my Seattle teams lose made my anxiety symptoms terrible - after I quit drinking. In fact, the last time I tried to watch the Seahawks play was at the end of their best season ever, in the Super Bowl. I should be happy and excited, right? But what I witnessed was the officials embarrassing the entire NFL by doing anything they could think of - no matter how obvious - to steal the game from the Hawks and hand it to the Steelers. Hey, ESPN polls showed that most of the country saw the same thing. Anyway back to the anxiety: I had to quit watching my team playing in the Super Bowl because I started having a panic attack!

How About Regular Programs and Movies?

Back when I used to watch some TV, the most popular shows were police and crime dramas, what my dad used to call "shoot-em-ups". Again, these create unresolved conflict that you internalize, leading to higher stress levels and anxiety. And really, if you want an example of unresolved conflict, the soap operas are BUILT on it! Day after day of no resolution.

The same can be said about a lot of dramatic movies, by the way. Have you ever watched a scary movie, the kind that keeps you on the edge of the couch waiting to find out if the hero is going to get killed? Bad news if you suffer from anxiety disorder. And even after the movie ends, you're still stressed out and nervous, right?

When you get right down to it, about the only thing on TV that's safe for anxiety sufferers to watch is comedy and the educational cable channels, like Discovery and Animal Planet. But now that I think about it, isn't most TV comedy an insult to your intelligence? :-)

Let's face it: Watching network television isn't good for your mental health and if you have anxiety disorder, your physical health, either. You'd be better off spending your time reading this blog.

To your health,