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Monday, August 11, 2014

Fear of Passing Out: A Common Phobia

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Asthenophobia, or the fear of passing out, can often stem from a history of panic attacks or panic disorder.  During a panic attack, a person experiences heightened anxiety that leads the body to the “fight or flight” response.  This intense response produces a surge of adrenaline, feelings of anxiety and panic, and an urge to escape whatever situation is threatening survival.  This reaction can be useful, if one is faced head-on with a hungry animal that is looking for its next meal.  However, panic attacks occur out of context—the physical reactions are the same, but the danger is only perceived as real.  Panic attacks are accompanied by other physical elements, for instance, lightheadedness, dizziness, and weakness.  They can also induce a feel of “faintness” in a person, which causes one to believe they might pass out. 
Research has depicted that the majority of people who have a fear of fainting have never actually passed out.  Let’s take a moment and clarify the definition of fainting—it is a sudden, brief loss of consciousness and posture caused by decreased blood flow to the brain.  In people who suffer from Asthenopobia, anxiety is produced by a fear or a belief of fainting rather than the actual act of fainting.  

Does this all make sense?  People who have a phobia of passing out fear the experience of passing out.  This phobia is typically developed when one has undergone an embarrassing fainting episode in public.  It could be panic-induced or from a medical condition such as anemia.  The event might become solidified in the mind, which leads the person to fear any type of bodily sensation that is associated with fainting (i.e. dizziness, weakness, or shortness of breath).  The person then avoids situations that can induce these sensations.  In extreme cases, obsessions about passing out may develop.  Asthenophobics tend to avoid strenuous exercise, public places, and crowds of people.  Understandably, this can have a significant negative impact on one’s life.

The fear of passing out is attached to the concern of losing control.  I mean, this makes sense—passing out equates to loss of consciousness, in which state we do not have control.  It is important to understand that it is the anxiety that causes us to feel that we are not in control.  We do actually have control.  That being said, let’s move on to treatment.

Anxiety specialists that use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are the proven treatment choice, as shown in countless research studies.  These trained anxiety doctors can help you challenge and change ineffective and destructive thought patterns which lead to feelings of panic and anxiety.  CBT also helps reduce the unwanted feelings while simultaneously building healthy and adaptive coping mechanisms.  Anxiety specialists can also provide psychoeducation for people who are suffering from Asthenophobia.  This involves distinguishing between fears and feelings of fainting and the actual physical act of passing out.  

As always, anxiety therapists at the April Center are specifically trained to address fears and phobias, including Asthenophobia.  If you believe you or someone you know may suffer from the phobia of fainting, please seek help immediately.  Let’s end the suffering together, and put you on the path to a healthy and happy life.

All the best,  
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for our anxiety newsletter on our website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips! 


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fear of Throat Closing Up: A Common Phobia and Obsession

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Anxiety is a general feeling of worry and discomfort—you know that shaky, unsettling feeling you get before a big speech or a first date?  For some of us, it can be adaptive.  If we are faced with a life-threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response in the brain gets activated and we react spontaneously and efficiently. For others, anxiety is a pervasive, debilitating state that our minds and bodies are constantly battling. Anxiety no longer serves a healthy function—rather, it prohibits us from moving forward in different areas of our lives.
Anxiety is not just a feeling—it is literally a state of being.  Our bodies change when we become anxious. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, our immune system is affected, and our brain responds by releasing hormones, which activate that fight-or-flight response.  The lungs increase the oxygen intake and the scalp tightens so it literally feels like your hair is ‘standing up.’ Another way the body responds to anxiety is that fluids are diverted from the mouth and throat to other more essential areas.  This may explain why stress often produces dryness in the mouth and throat. If you pay attention to people giving speeches, they likely sip water frequently to counteract the dryness. In more severe cases, like those who suffer from anxiety disorders, it can even feel like the throat is literally closing up.
Now, the throat closing up can be an extremely terrifying phenomenon.  This is true, especially if one is unfamiliar with what is going on and experiencing an anxiety attack for the first time.  Throat closure can lead to difficulty breathing and swallowing.  It can create shortness of breath and even lead the person to ‘black out.’  Fear of the throat closing up and fear of not being able to swallow is a real issue that affects a lot of people who have anxiety.  It is no wonder that more and more people are now developing a phobia of the throat closing up.
Anxiety doctors are very knowledgeable about this sensation.  The throat closure phobia is linked to panic symptoms and panic disorders.  As mentioned before, that knot-like feeling in the throat or the tightening of the muscles is caused by our body’s reaction to stress.  It can also be related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, in which one engages in repetitive actions to avoid distressing thoughts.  A person might constantly clear their throat or cough in order to ensure that their throat is not actually closing up.  Whether the phobia of throat closure occurs from panic attacks or OCD, there is a definite need to see an anxiety specialist.
Anxiety doctors help you identify and address your fears and work with you to reduce and eliminate negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.  Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an anxiety doctor can help you better understand the phobia of the throat closing up and teach you techniques and skills to overcome the fear.  CBT tackles not only the throat-closing phobia, but it treats all of the components that comprise an anxiety disorder.  CBT is the most effective psychological treatment for anxiety disorders and phobias, as proven in the literature and research.
As always, it is important that one seek out help as soon as possible in order to conquer anxiety disorders.  This is true, especially for those who have a fear of the throat closing up or a fear of not being able to breathe. There are skilled anxiety doctors at the April Center that can help youto overcome your anxiety so that you can live a peaceful and fulfilling life.

All the best,  
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for our anxiety newsletter on our website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips! 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Type of OCD do I Have?

-->by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles     


Some are familiar with the definition of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  OCD is most simply defined as an anxiety disorder that is characterized by intrusive thoughts that generate worry or fear and repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the anxiety.  To put it in even more basic terms, the anxiety-producing thoughts are obsessions, and the repetitive behaviors that one engages in to eliminate the anxiety are compulsions. 
OCD has become a bit of a household term over the last couple of decades.  The World Health Organization has classified it as one of the top ten causes of disability worldwide.  In the United States alone, an estimated 2 to 3 million people are suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.  For those who struggle with OCD symptoms, it is important to be aware of the types, causes, and effective treatments of OCD, so that you can maximize the chance of leading a healthy and high-functioning life.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of OCD, let’s go a little bit deeper into the specifics.  OCD can be broken down into many different types, or subcategories.  Some common forms are as follows:

1.     Checking
2.     Hoarding
3.     Contamination
4.     Ordering
5.     Rumination
6.     Harm/Aggression

Now, let’s look in detail at these types of OCD.  As mentioned, this list does not compile every type of OCD.  If you suffer with one of these common OCD types or one that is not on this list, do not hesitate to contact a mental health professional at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management for help.
The first and probably most common type of OCD is checking, which as the name implies, is the need to check.  The purpose of compulsive checking is to decrease the anxiety associated with uncertainty or doubt over feared consequences.  So, the compulsive behavior is the need to check and the obsessive thought is usually the prevention of some kind of damage or harm.  Within the checking type of OCD resides a myriad of different things with which people compulsively check:
-Locks: The person knows, although is uncertain, that they have locked the door and continues to check with the fear that someone may break in, steal possessions, and/or cause harm.  If this should happen, the person would feel responsible for not having checked the lock properly.
-Stoves, appliances, and switches: The person will check repeatedly to ensure that they have turned off the stove/light switch/hair dryer/oven/anything hooked to an electrical outlet.  The fear is that by not checking, the person may be responsible for causing a fire.
-Wallet or purse: The person will constantly check to make sure they have credit cards or personal documents.  The fear is that they may misplace or lose personal possessions.
-Reassurance: The person will check to make sure that they have not said or done anything to upset other people.  The fear is that they have angered or offended a loved one.
-Driving routes, mistakes, windows, house alarm, candles, etc.
A second type of OCD is hoarding, which is the inability to throw out useless or old possessions despite having limited space for the items.  Hoarding arises when the person experiences severe anxiety at the thought of discarding items, and is therefore unable to get rid of them.  There may be fears of running out of the item or needing it in the future.  The person may also fear that the item is irreplaceable or has sentimental value.  Impairments from the hoarding type of OCD can be familial or marital discord, loss of living space, social isolation, financial difficulties, and health hazards.
A third type of OCD is contamination, in which there is fear of disease and illness and most ultimately, death.  The need to wash and clean is the compulsion and fear of illness and/or death is the obsession.  The contamination fears cause the person to continually and repeatedly wash their hands and body.  These may also limit the places to which a person can feel safe and comfortable.  Here is a list of the most common fears that one might have in regards to contamination:
-Public toilets
-Shaking hands
-Touching doorknobs and handles
-Sticky or greasy substances
-Animals or insects
All of the above are associated with the fears of contracting an illness or disease from whatever object or person they come into contact.  This type of OCD causes extreme distress in nearly every area of the person’s life.
A fourth type of OCD is ordering, in which the person is preoccupied with arranging, organizing, or lining up objects until certain conditions feel ‘just right’.  People with this type of OCD can often be thought of as perfectionists due to their need for precision and exactness.  When objects are not displayed ‘correctly’, the person experiences agitation and discomfort.  Sometimes there is a need to arrange objects a certain number of times, or the person may incorporate special patterns into their ordering routine.  There may also be counting, touching, or tapping behaviors associated with this type of OCD.  The person will experience distress if others move their things.
A fifth type of OCD is rumination, or prolonged thinking about a question or theme that is unproductive or useless.  Ruminations differ from obsessional thoughts in that they are not objectionable and they are indulged rather than resisted.  Examples of ruminations include origins of the universe, life after death, and the nature of morality.  Typically, the ruminations have a metaphysical, religious, or philosophical focus.  Ruminations can cause the person to become socially detached and internally distressed.
The last type of OCD to describe today is harm/aggression.  This person is constantly plagued with worry about causing harm or being responsible for harm done to others.  Additionally, those with aggressive obsessions often worry about impulsively hurting someone simply because they are able.  This type of person generally has no history of violence, nor does he act on his urges.  He simply appraises his thoughts as dangerous so when a random thought involving harm enters his mind, the person begins to worry.  This worry takes control of the person’s mind, therefore rendering him unable to think or focus on anything other than harm.  The person does not act on their thoughts; they simply become consumed by them, which leads to greater distress and fear.
Do any of these types of OCD ring familiar to you?  Have you noticed you or those around you engaging in any of the compulsive behaviors such as checking or ordering?  Do you or someone you know have obsessional thoughts, such as those of contamination or harm?  If so, it is extremely important to seek out help from a trained mental health professional.  The April Center specializes in treating those who suffer from OCD of all types and presentations.  Please—do not allow these obsessions and compulsions to take over your life.  You deserve to have peace of mind and it all starts with getting help.  You can break free of the suffering caused by OCD!

All the best,
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for our anxiety newsletter on our website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: How to know when it’s Time for Treatment

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles      

             Do you or someone you know suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder?  OCD can be one of the most distressing and difficult psychological disorders for both the patient and the patient’s support system.  That is why getting help for OCD's intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors is so necessary.  So where does one begin?  And how does one know exactly when it is time for treatment?
            According to the article below (see link)*, we all have our own health barometers that alert us when something is out of balance.  Think of these barometers as signals sent from our body and mind to inform us that something is not working properly.  For people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, those health barometers can be obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
            We are all aware that obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder.  It is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts and overwhelming urges to repeat certain rituals or behaviors in order to control these thoughts.  Now, let’s break this down more simply.  Say you have a recurring thought of germs.  It is with you at all times—when you use a public restroom, when you hear someone sneeze across the room, and even when you are in your own home.  The thought of germs is terrifying—what if you get sick or infected?  Could it lead to your death?  To rid yourself of these thoughts, you begin to engage in behaviors that may prevent you from getting sick.  You wash your hands repeatedly, use hand sanitizer after touching anything, and refuse to be around anyone who appears ill.  Slowly, these behaviors become rituals that rule your day.  And this is all done in order to control that original thought of germs.
            That is the general picture of OCD thought disorder.  If not treated properly, it can overrule and overtake virtually every aspect of a person’s life.  Family, friends, work, and school are negatively affected by the need to control the obsessive thoughts causing a rapid decline in mental, emotional, and physical health. 
            Cognitive behavioral therapy is essential for managing and overcoming OCD thought disorder.  So how do you know when it’s time for therapy?  Ask yourself this question: Is your experience with OCD affecting your life in any way?  Are you unable to relax because of some annoying thought that won’t seem to leave your head?  Are you having difficulty getting through a normal day because you are trying to control those thoughts by doing some behavior?  If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, then it is definitely time to seek out OCD treatment.  Specially trained OCD doctors at The April Center can help you learn to tolerate the anxiety that comes from the intrusive thoughts, and better control the rituals and behaviors that have interfered with your life.  They will also help you understand the connection between the thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, and how to disrupt the vicious cycle that causes so much distress.  Finally, OCD doctors can help you become better attuned to genuine conflicts within body and mind.  I know starting treatment can appear scary, but it far outweighs the misery and anxiety of living with obsessive compulsive disorder.

All the best,
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for our anxiety newsletter on our website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marijuana Can Cause Panic Attacks

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles      

           It has long been known by scientists that marijuana can have an effect on mental health.   I recently happened upon an article I found very interesting and also a little bit surprising.  Check it out:
            For many, a common misperception of marijuana users is that they are the laid back, mellow, listen-to-Bob Marley, ‘no worries’ type of people.  However, research evidence appears to demonstrate that 50% of marijuana smokers in the United States have experienced a panic reaction on some occasion.  Some people seem to use marijuana to self medicate anxiety symptoms.  Others seem to experience anxiety and panic symptoms from marijuana itself.  In both cases, there is a definite link between marijuana and panic attacks or anxiety attacks.  So what can we do about this?
            People who smoke marijuana either socially or as alternative medicine are at serious risk for panic attacks.  This is problematic, especially for those who are unaware of this knowledge.  Panic attacks often occur suddenly and without warning, and can be extremely debilitating, especially when they happen in a setting, such as school or work.  It may feel like you are going crazy or dying.  These experiences are entirely unpleasant and weed just might cause these panic attacks to occur.
            California has not joined with Colorado in legalizing the use of marijuana, however this does not stop people from growing it, distributing it, obtaining it, and smoking it.  I assume that everyone reading this blog has either tried marijuana or knows someone who has used it before.  These days, it is almost as commonplace as alcohol, and it is important that awareness be shed on the adverse effects of the drug.
            So does weed cause panic attacks?  According to research, use of marijuana, weed or pot can definitely cause an acute anxiety reaction.  And this acute anxiety can lead to panic, in which the user becomes extremely agitated and even incapacitated.  Certain phobias can develop, such as fears of being in public, or fears of being around other people.  And it seems that the chance of having panic attacks increase when marijuana is used more frequently and abundantly.
            Whether you're a frequent pot smoker or a one time user, following a panic attack, it is highly recommended that you seek out anxiety treatment.  The research has clearly stated a strong link between marijuana and anxiety attacks.  Following an initial panic attack,  a common struggle is  attacks that occur separately from smoking weed.  There is no immunity or specific selection of whom may be susceptible.  The best way to prevent panic attacks is by seeking anxiety treatment to learn strategies for reduction.  Anxiety doctors can work with you and teach you ways to systematically build healthier coping strategies.  

All the best,

from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for our anxiety newsletter on our website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Group Therapy For Social Anxiety Works!

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles
           Group therapy for those dealing with social anxiety?!  Strange as it may seem, there is a great amount of evidence that shows a social anxiety group is extremely helpful and also may be a first choice treatment option for those suffering with social anxiety.*
            I have had the privilege of working with many people of varying ages and backgrounds who struggle with this complex fear.  I know the debilitating nature that social anxiety can have over one’s experience at a job, in relationships, and in life.  I also understand the proverbial loneliness that can pervade one’s existence once victim to this anxiety disorder.  If you or someone you know suffers from social anxiety, I commend you for reading this.  I know this can be really scary, but I also realize the benefits to overcoming social anxiety far outweigh living a life of isolation and fear.
            So how do we get there?  Recent research has provided that cognitive-behavioral therapy conducted in a group format can be valuable in conquering social anxiety disorder.  It goes on to specify that group treatment may be more effective than individual treatment for social anxiety in that it allows people to practice the very interactions of which they are afraid.  Researchers also advocate for group therapy for social anxiety because it is cost effective and efficient.  This is not to say that individual treatment with a social anxiety doctor specialist does not work—it is, in fact, just as helpful, as depicted in research studies.  However, support groups for social anxiety can be a breakthrough additional treatment to offer those who struggle with fears of interaction.
            Let’s close our eyes briefly and conjure up an image of what a social anxiety group might look like.  Think of six or seven other members, all with their own trepidation and fears of social situations.  Anxiety is high—yes.  But judgment is non-existent.  Everyone is too occupied with their own internal struggles to notice anything about anyone else.  There is a trained anxiety specialist who is leading the group, gently but confidently providing support and guidance to help all members reach the shared goal of overcoming social anxiety.  This group meets once a week, always on the same day and at the same time.  There are no surprises.  Gradually, the members become familiar with the context and the environment, and they begin to look to one another for reassurance and validation.  And before you know it, interactions are occurring without the fear and worry of being judged or misperceived.  It becomes safe.  And eventually the group members are able to take what is being done in group and apply it to their personal lives.  And that is a picture of a successful support group for social anxiety.
            Could you imagine it?  Was it difficult?  My guess is that while it may have been scary, it also sparked some glimmer of hope.  That maybe this could be the answer to overpowering the fears and heartaches that comprise social anxiety disorder.  If you are looking for help, the April Center leads groups for all sorts of anxiety disorders, including a support group for social anxiety.  Lastly, if you are still reading this, I once again congratulate you for even considering seeking help.  You are one step closer to overcoming fear and leading a life filled with freedom.

All the best,
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for our anxiety newsletter on our website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips!

The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles and The South Bay

The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management is committed to helping you remove the destructive barriers of anxiety, so that you may lead a calmer, healthier, happier life.

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