Overcoming Anxiety & OCD - Interview with UK therapist
How would you define anxiety?
Interesting question. As I see everything as energy, my thoughts, these words, this lap top, I feel that when anxious there is far too much energy zooming around inside increasing speed of thought. Which when fueled by more fear and imaginings the mind (and body) become a battlefield as we get caught up in a loop of intense, inner discomfort.
Fear like any emotion is as negative as it is positive. Remember as a child crossing the road with your Mum? We need to have a healthy amount of fear for fast moving cars so we can safely cross the road. So, the positive of fear is it keeps us safe. The problem arises when we fuel fear with imagination.
The power of imagination and negative thinking add wood to the fire. All too easily getting out of control. Fear is powerful. When we suffer anxiety we are afraid of that power and our attention drawn inwards feeds our fear by imagining all which could go wrong. The mind speeds trapping us into fearful and negative thoughts.
When anxious we are too aware of this internal intensity. The body responds - heart racing, shortness of breath, confused thinking, hitting the digestive system, nervous system - everything becomes all too much. Understandably so. We are desperately looking for safety through being too aware of all that could go wrong.
The fight or flight syndrome, an innate system designed to keep us safe in danger, is on overdrive and not letting go. Adrenaline floods the system. Anyone with too much energy zooming around inside will be intensely uncomfortable.
In a nutshell though it is being afraid that something bad is going to happen but we don’t know what it is. Once on that racetrack the mind speeds up. We are no longer in the driver’s seat.
Where does anxiety come from? And why does it rob us of some of the basic pleasures in life?
What’s interesting is so many of my clients who define themselves as a ‘worrier’ or are prone to anxiety have a history of it in their family. It makes sense, children learn of life by observing parents. If the mother flips out because of a spider - there is a good chance that child also learns to fear spiders.
If a new experience is laced with, “What happens if or be-careful you could...” the child becomes hesitant worrying something bad could happen or go wrong. Which when repeated becomes conditioned thinking. But, as well as conditioned it could also be physiological. The body not digesting sugars properly fuels the speed of the energy levels, triggering the fight of flight syndrome and off we go galloping into the negatives of imagination - fueling fear. The mind can’t tell the difference between what is real and imagined which means we totally believe the disastrous stories we create and then getting caught up in those we create more. Taking us away from reality.
Another place I feel it stems from is sometimes the flight or fight syndrome gets stuck on -on. This often happens if the person experienced early trauma or shock. When this happens the system is overloaded with adrenaline which becomes the norm. In other-words, their mind always races, never giving them rest. At such a heightened uncomfortable state there is never a feeling of safety therefore they remain hyper-vigilant, always looking out for danger.
Our mind is the most intimate relationship we will ever have. Just us with us. When in a state of fear we look through the eyes of caution. We feel a dread of the ‘What if??” which in turn stops us from doing things and being fully present in what we are doing. When the inner is louder than the outer we get snagged in the web of discomfort. It is all too much. So to protect ourselves from increased anxiety we keep our world small and manageable. We say no to lots of things because we need to keep our anxiety quiet in order to manage.
When extremely uncomfortable, it’s difficult to be fully in the present as your mindset zooms around into the future zone. Making it not only hard to relax but when trying to survive the world within you end up missing out on the world around.
What would you say the difference is between anxiety and stress?
For me they go together, like a hand and glove. The hand representing our stress levels with the glove needing the intensity of stress to fuel fear. Remember what I said about adrenaline? Well, when our stress levels are high our flight or fight syndrome is producing adrenaline giving us tons of energy so to defend or remove ourselves from danger. As we discussed previously, when we don’t feel safe that energy also hits the mind, increasing the speed of thought.
It does not say that if you are stressed you are in a state of anxiety. No, only if you put the glove on instead of lowering your stress levels.
What are some of the symptoms of these conditions and how do they affect your inner spirit?
As everything speeds up - your heart pounds, you sweat, have stomach upsets, shortness of breath, dizziness, tremors, twitches, frequent urination or diarrhea, headaches. In the extreme the fear is so great - you can feel like you are going to die. That’s the adrenaline trying to get you to fight or flee and you are stuck in fear.
Our inner spirit gives us hope, inspirations, ideas, understandings, wisdom and connects us to all. But when in a state of anxiety all that good stuff gets buried. We feel separate and alone.
And what is the jump that is made between Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? Are they two different conditions or intertwined?
Again working with clients I discovered that the OCD - repetitive actions help them to deal with anxiety. Almost as though by focusing on the doing and it’s repetition for a while it bounces them off their anxiety track. If you imagine being racing around a track 200 miles an hour with no way off it, you will be desperate to find a way out. The rituals of repetition slows the mind giving them respite as well as feeling their actions will keep the bad at bay. OCD is a survival tool, often difficult to break only because it is serving such a valuable service to the sufferers. What I found - once we know the positive of the OCD and relax the mind they are better able to manage and overcome these issues.
What role do you feel the mind plays in creating anxiety?
The mind creates everything but as well, our belief systems. If we believe and fear something bad is around the corner the imagination is excellent at making up scenarios or creating stories which fuel our fear. I often find that those who suffer anxiety are some of the most creative people. As only with a rich imagination can we create such uncomfortable scripts.
How do you break this mind cycle?
First, you have to see it as exactly that. A mind cycle. Thought process that go round and round not letting you on the off ramp. Then seek out support to relax the mind. If the mind is relaxed and a new perspective introduced there is a better chance to be inspired and shift your mind set to a more positive one and let go destructive thought patterns and outdated conditioning. Hypnotherapy is brilliant for changing mind sets.
Is there hope for someone who has suffered with anxiety or OCD for years or even their whole life?
In my experience without a doubt. I had an 80 year old client who defined herself as a ‘worrier’. She said she always worried and will always worry. My question to her was - “Do you always want to be a worrier?” She recently lost her husband who because of her high anxiety levels did everything for her. Now without that support she has to learn to manage on her own which is difficult in itself - never mind with a mind that is zooming around in circles.
So, we talked, relaxed, changed her patterns of thinking and honestly, she has a much better social life than me. For years she could never go anywhere (needing to manage her anxiety) but is most certainly making up for it now. More importantly she is no longer living in a state of fear.
How can anxiety or OCD be treated? How do you treat them?
I think I have covered that in other questions but basically in order to change we need to see where we are. We need the whole of the issue, not just the problem. So this means looking at the positive as well as the negative of the situation. Sometimes the positive maybe harder to get your head around but always it is there supporting you from changing. Again I can’t emphasize enough the need to empty the stress bucket (reducing stress levels) which is important for all but especially so as that flight or fight syndrome needs to be switched off (not something that should ever be left on. Always that protective system is available and best used when needed).
My work is all about Personal Development - helping us to evolve from whatever mindset or state which holds us back. I work on quite a deep intuitive level with both the Hypnotherapy , NLP and the counseling. As well, provide lots of practical tools to help sustain healthier thought-patterns.
What success rates have you had of overcoming anxiety?
I have had very good success with both anxiety and OCD. OCD as I said is more challenging because of the habitual rituals trapped within the web of intense anxiety. But certainly I have helped many manage better and indeed step into life more fully.
What is the key bit of advice you would give to anyone who is suffering with anxiety - firstly personally, and secondly in terms of what to do about it?
- It doesn’t have to be this way. All that is carried within is going much too fast, the speed fuels our fear which calls on the imagination to think of all the things which could go wrong. When in fear we look for safety. It makes sense when hyper-vigilant we end up curtailing much of what we do or want to do because we don’t want any more fear and discomfort and certainly don’t want it to grow.
- Seek help. A good first step is to lower those stress levels. Again Hypnotherapy is great for that as when the stress falls away, relaxation starts to take hold. When relaxed the mind slows. And then you need to shift your perspective which is why it helps to have someone (another perspective ) as a guide. However, there are lots of self-help books about that can also help you make that shift. An old favorite - Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers comes to mind.
Remember though -
You can change.
Life doesn’t have to be this way.
The Mind loves to evolve, embracing flexibility and expansion.
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