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At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Filtering by Tag: Center for Stress and Anxiety Management

Misophonia: A “Rarely Known” Conditioned Aversive Reflex Disorder

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

Most of us can probably agree that it’s very unpleasant to hear nails scraping a chalkboard. Other sounds that tend to make us cringe include a woman’s scream, a disc grinder (think construction site), and a baby crying. This is because we are genetically wired to respond to a baby’s cry, so any other sound similar in frequency tends to be upsetting (Dozier, 2015).

There are sounds that are almost universally annoying, and then there are those sounds that get to each of us individually. But for some of us, a specific sound can be more than simply annoying or unpleasant; it can be intolerable. Do you find yourself experiencing a particularly extreme or adverse reaction to a sound or stimulus that seems strange or out of proportion? If so, you may be encountering a misophonic reaction.

What is misophonia?

Misophonia is a condition characterized by an extreme, immediate, involuntary emotional response accompanied by a reflexive physiological reaction to a specific, commonly occurring sound or visual stimulus (Dozier, 2015).

Tom Dozier, director of the Misophonia Institute, describes misophonia as a Conditioned Aversive Reflex Disorder. Though misophonia is most commonly identified by the emotional response – typically anger, rage, disgust and even hatred - there is almost always a physiological response that occurs as well. Tom’s research suggests that it is actually the physical response that lies at the heart of misophonia. When a person hears (or sees) their trigger, the autonomic nervous system elicits a reflexive physical reaction. It could be contracting of a particular muscle group or it could be an internal reaction, varying from nausea to a numbing sensation to constriction of the esophagus. Because the intense emotional reaction follows so quickly, the physical response often goes unnoticed. But it appears that the emotional reaction is directly related to the physical reaction. In individuals with misophonia, the connection between the autonomic nervous system and the limbic system (emotional center) becomes hypersensitized (Bernstein, Angell, & Dehle, 2013), such that the trigger stimulus elicits the physical reflex which then elicits the extreme emotions and fight or flight response.

What misophonia is NOT.

Misophonia is not a sensitivity to the volume of the sound; it is not a fear of a sound; it is not becoming upset by a continuous, loud, intrusive, irritating sound; and it is not a logical response to the meaning behind a sound (for example, responding to a baby’s cry is a natural response to address the infant’s distress). It IS the emotional and physiological response to a single occurrence of the trigger, regardless of how loud or noticeable the trigger is.

What are some common triggers?

There is an enormous range regarding potential trigger stimuli. However, some common examples include the eating or chewing sound, breathing sounds, coughing, swallowing, pen clicking, whistling, typing, and a dog barking. A trigger can be any repeating sound or sight. Triggers tend to be most strongly associated with one particular person, but they do have the ability to generalize. For example, the original trigger might be the sound of a sibling chewing. This will likely remain the strongest trigger, but it could also generalize to the sound of any person chewing.

How common is misophonia?

Not very many people know about misophonia, doctors and therapists included. Many people with misophonia struggle with feelings of guilt for their reaction, as they are aware that it is both out of proportion and irrational. They may also feel isolated in their experience. But if you struggle with a misophonic reaction, you are far from alone. It is not a rare disorder, but rather a “rarely known” disorder. Based on several studies and surveys, it is estimated that misophonia affects about 15% of the population (Dozier, 2015), compared with Major Depressive Disorder which, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2016), affects about 6.7% of the population above the age of 18 in a given year.

How does misophonia affect people?

Misophonia can range from manageable to debilitating. If a person’s trigger is fairly uncommon, it may hardly affect him or her at all. However, if a trigger is very common and the reaction is severe, it can lead to avoidance of situations and serious strains on relationships.

Can I get help for misophonia?

If you think that you may be struggling with misophonia, you don’t have to continue to try to handle it alone, particularly if it is something that has begun to impair your day-to-day functioning or affect your relationships. Misophonia can continue to increase in severity if it is left unaddressed, so it is important to know that help is available.  However, because there is not a widespread awareness of misophonia, it can often be misdiagnosed as anything from oppositional defiant disorder to ADHD to anxiety or OCD. So if you are struggling with what sounds like misophonia, it is important to find a professional who understands what you are experiencing and knows how to help.

For more information about misophonia, how it is treated, and related resources, please visit http://misophoniainstitute.org. If you think you or someone you love may be struggling with misophonia, CSAM’s Dr. Michelle Lopez offers specialized treatment at our Rancho Bernardo office. If you would like more information…

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

Please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com if you or someone you love might benefit from treatment for misophonia. We also offer acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, and would be happy to provide more information about our therapy services.

References:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2016). Facts & statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Bernstein, R. E., Angell, K. L., & Dehle, C. M. (2013). A brief course of cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment of misophonia: A case example. The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, 6(10), 1-13. doi:10.1017/S1754470X13000172

Dozier, T. H. (2015). Understanding and overcoming misophonia: A conditioned aversive reflex disorder. Livermore, CA: Misophonia Treatment Institute.

An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Approach to New Year's Resolutions

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

As we enter another new year, many of us have set our 2017 resolutions. Maybe you make resolutions, maybe not, but either way this is generally a time of reflection. In what ways do we hope this year will be different from last? What are we hoping to change in our lives? What goals do we have going forward?

 The new year always seems to be a good time to think about making some changes because it gives us the chance to start fresh in some ways. But in other ways it is simply just another day. Nothing changed automatically on January first. What can change is our perspective, and it is our job to ensure that our actions follow. This is the tough part. Do you find yourself already struggling to maintain your resolution? Do you wonder why we have such a hard time keeping our resolutions for more than a few weeks? How do we make our resolutions stick?

The truth is, change is often slow. Occasionally we are able to make huge changes immediately, but more often than not change takes time. New year's resolutions often fail to take into account that it may actually take you all year to create the change you were hoping to see on January second. When we fail to recognize all the small steps on the road toward change, we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure. A new year's resolution sounds like an easy solution: set a major goal for the new year ahead. But our resolutions are empty unless they are backed by action, and creating a resolution doesn't necessarily help us to make an action plan.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers some ideas and tools that can be very helpful in guiding us along the process of change. Whether you come in to see a therapist for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or whether you apply the wisdom it can offer to your life on your own, this model can help us to keep our resolutions all year long.

ACT aims to increase psychological flexibility, which means that you are able to connect to the present moment consciously and choose to behave in a manner as consistent with your values as the situation allows. Part of the purpose behind ACT is to get in touch with your personal values (not those determined for you by society, family, friends, or any other external source), and then use these values to guide your actions and formulate specific goals. This is usually what we are aiming for with our new year's resolutions.

For example, if my resolution is that I want to eat healthier, a good place to start is to examine my values. Do I feel like I "should" eat healthier because I feel pressured by our health conscious culture or by my friends, family or partner? Or do I want to eat healthier because I value my physical health, deep in my heart? Or perhaps I value my role as a model to my children, and want to eat healthier for this reason. Once I determine my values and make sure that my resolution is driven by my own intrinsic motivation, then I can create a concrete plan of action to move forward.

The Choice Point Model, another helpful ACT tool, offers us a framework to use when we face a decision. A choice point is a moment in time where we can choose to act in a manner that is either consistent or inconsistent with our values. The Choice Point is about identifying the hundreds of moments in a day where we can be on autopilot and be driven by thoughts and feelings, or we can make a conscious, deliberate choice that is in the service of our values. When in this moment, we can use the acronym STOP:

S: Slow down. Take 3 mindful breaths.

T: Take notice. What are you thinking and feeling?

O: Open up. Make room for those thoughts and feelings instead of trying to avoid the discomfort.

P: Pursue values. Do what matters to you.

Sometimes, in a Choice Point, we will choose to avoid or procrastinate acting in a values consistent manner, and that is okay. Give yourself grace when this happens. But remember that though avoidance may provide relief for the moment, in the long run it will make us feel worse. So if we can STOP and choose to act in accordance with our values as frequently as possible, it will serve us.

As you approach this new year and begin thinking about your potential resolutions, remember that big change happens slowly, choice point by choice point. Remember to consider your values, and to STOP when you hit a choice point. If you feel you need some extra support along the road to change or healing...

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

Anxiety is a hot topic these days. It’s all over the news, and apparently it is on the rise. In the age of information and technology, we are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom news alerts, including reminders that on top of everything else, we are plagued with increasing anxiety. Eventually, these reminders can get exhausting and may even contribute to the anxiety that is apparently so prevalent in the first place.

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Of course, there are benefits to all this conversation around anxiety: we have a better understanding of what anxiety is and as a result we may be able to understand and empathize with those who are struggling better. But it’s important to be careful that we don’t pathologize all anxiety, and that we don’t lose sight of the strength that exists in those who truly do have anxiety disorders.

Anxiety: Natural Response to Stress or Disorder?

The way we talk about anxiety today, it is easy to believe that all anxiety is inherently bad and forget that it’s our natural response to threat or danger. We actually need anxiety to survive; it prepares our body to respond appropriately in the face of danger. However, our physiological experience of anxiety developed back when the regular dangers humans faced included running from large, sharp toothed predators. So when we are experiencing the fight-or-flight response before a big exam or presentation, it may not feel particularly adaptive. But despite the discomfort that comes with anxiety, it is natural when it is experienced as the result of a particular situation or problem, when it is proportional to the stressor, and when it only lasts until the situation is resolved (ULifeline, 2016). Anxiety, though often painful, is an important and adaptive part of the human experience.

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Though originally an adaptive response, anxiety does have the potential to be harmful when it manifests as “constant, chronic and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress, disturbs your social life and interferes with classes and work” (Active Minds, 2016). In other words, anxiety is no longer helpful when it begins to appear when there is no actual threat present. When a person experiences anxiety but has no threat to respond to, what happens? They begin avoiding situations that are actually safe. Their mind and body are telling them that safe situations are threatening, which can have a debilitating effect. When anxiety becomes disordered, it arises unexpectedly, is overwhelming, and, rather than catalyzing adaptive behavior in the face of a threat, often fosters avoidance of everyday situations (Here to Help, 2016).

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

So what is the takeaway? Anxiety is uncomfortable, but it helps us respond to threat, uncertainty, trouble, or feelings of unpreparedness (Active Minds, 2016). Anxiety becomes a problem (and possibly a disorder) when it comes seemingly out of nowhere and in the absence of a stressor proportional to the response, and it interferes with functioning in some way.

Recognizing Strengths as well as Struggles

There is no denying that feeling anxious is not pleasant. It can range from uncomfortable to unbearable. For those with anxiety disorders, anxiety is unpleasant on a whole new level; it can be completely overwhelming and paralyzing. It is hard to describe how out of control one can feel in the middle of a panic attack, or how draining it is to go through the day (week, month, or year) flooded with anxiety.

But in the midst of this struggle, it’s important to remember that anxiety doesn’t own you. It may be a part of you, and it may influence your life in various and profound ways. But anxiety does not determine who you are. A diagnosis does not define you. You are not a disorder. You are not weak, powerless, or alone.

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Acknowledging the pain anxiety can bring is so important, but it can also be helpful to recognize that struggling with anxiety may also foster certain strengths. According to Dr. Tracy Foose (2013), trait anxiety is associated with being “highly conscientious, honest, detail oriented, performance driven, socially responsible, [and] self-controlled.” Furthermore, learning to cope with anxiety can push us towards an increased self-awareness and knowledge of ourselves. Because it is so uncomfortable, it can motivate us to grow and change parts of ourselves or our lives that may not be serving us. And once we learn that we can move through the discomfort of anxiety, we often feel stronger and more confident in ourselves knowing that we have the fortitude to move through something so profoundly difficult (Sutherland, 2011).

Finally, if you do feel like anxiety is controlling your life, you don’t have to stay stuck in this space. Not only can anxiety teach you to embrace vulnerability and reach out for support from loved ones, but therapy offers very effective treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can teach valuable coping skills, and can help to change your relationship to anxiety. Nothing will ever take anxiety away completely, but we wouldn’t want that because without anxiety, we wouldn’t survive. But therapy can help us learn that even in the worst throws of anxiety, we will survive, and even thrive.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

References:

Active Minds. (2016). NSOD: Difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder.  Retrieved from: http://www.activeminds.org/component/content/article/512-nsod-difference-between-normal-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Foose, T. (2013, Feb. 19). Positive traits seen in anxiety disorders. SF Gate. Retrieved from: http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Positive-traits-seen-in-anxiety-disorders-4291474.php

Here to Help. (2016). What’s the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder?  Retrieved from: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ask-us/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Sutherland, M. (2011). The Benefits of Anxiety. Retrieved from: https://willowtreecounselling.ca/articles/the-benefits-of-anxiety/

ULifeline. (2016). Anxiety vs. anxiety disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/439-anxiety-vs-anxiety-disorders

DEALING WITH BACK-TO-SCHOOL ANXIETY IN YOUNG CHILDREN

Jill Stoddard

a guest blog post originally posted on SitterCity.com

As parents prepare their children for the school year to begin, it’s easy to get swept up in all the details: Are the school medical forms filled out? What’s left on the school supplies list? Have you found an after-school sitter yet?

Ticking off all the items on your family’s back-to-school checklist is important, but it’s equally important to pay attention to your child’s behavior during the weeks leading up to school. Anxiety about advancing to a new grade or starting a new school is normal; after all, people of all ages need time to adjust to a new situation. Here are a few ways you can turn those back-to-school jitters into excitement.

(Please note: If you suspect that something more than garden-variety jitters is going on, call your pediatrician who can refer you to a child psychologist for a consultation.)

Get some sleep.

A well-rested kid is a happy kid. While it’s fun to stay up late and sleep in during the summer, it’s important to get bedtime on track at least a week before school starts. Kids can feel grouchy, upset or fearful when they’re sleep deprived. Start practicing normal school day wakeups a week or two in advance so they get used to their new schedule.

Attend the open house. 

Schools often host an open house a couple weeks before classes begin. Be sure to clear your schedule for it — it’s an invaluable chance for your child to meet their new teacher and start feeling comfortable with them, as well as a chance to check out their new classroom.

Plan play dates. 

If you’re new to a school, open houses are also a chance for kids to mingle with their new classmates a little with the safety of you still being around, so they’re not making as many introductions on the first day of school. As you chat with the other parents, see if any of them are open to the idea of a play date, even if it’s just meeting up informally at the playground so your kids can continue to get to know each other.

Do a practice run. 

If your child is starting at a new school, take the time to do a dry run of the morning commute. On one of the mornings they’re waking up early, be sure to get them dressed and out the door on time, too. Practice walking or driving to school — whatever your normal commute will entail. If your child is taking a bus to school for the first time, drive along the bus’s route and answer any questions they might have about what school buses are like.

Eat at a cafeteria. 

Is this the first time your child will be eating a hot lunch at school? Go to a cafeteria-style restaurant to help them practice holding a tray, waiting in line, selecting from multiple options and sitting at a bench-style table. Even if you’re planning to pack a bag lunch, it’s doesn’t hurt to get your child used to a cafeteria-like environment.

Visit the library.

It’s time to do a little back-to-school reading! There are plenty of great children’s stories that address back-to-school anxiety. A few worth checking out are First Day Jitters by Julie Dannenberg; The Night Before Kindergarten and The Night Before First Grade, both by Natasha Wing; The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn; and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate. Talk to your librarian to see if they have any other recommendations as well.

Take care of the details.

Pay attention to little things that will help make the first week of school smooth sailing. Have them pick out some new clothes and a new backpack for the first few days of school so there are no morning wardrobe meltdowns. If they’re bringing their lunch, plan out a few of their favorite meals ahead of time. Create a morning “launch pad” for backpacks and coats. These may seem like little things, but they can add up to a lot of stress for a child, and they’re easy to prepare for in advance.

Listen to them.

Keep those lines of communication open! Ask you’re child if they’re excited for school, what subject they’re looking forward to most and what friends they’re excited to see. If they’re experiencing social anxiety this is a good time to start talking it out and reassuring them. Being understanding and supportive is the most important thing you can do to ensure your little one has a great back-to-school experience.

How To Listen When Someone You Love Is Struggling

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

Life presents us each with challenges.  While it is often uncomfortable and painful to grapple with adversity, to experience this struggle and to feel pain is to be human.  At some point, we will all find ourselves in this place, as will those we love.  So how can we help each other?  How can we listen when someone we love is struggling, whether it is with a mental health condition or with a painful experience in his/her life?

 LET GO OF THE IMPULSE TO TRY TO FIX

Source URL: https://scott-williams.ca/2013/03/

Source URL: https://scott-williams.ca/2013/03/

It is painful to watch someone we care for struggle or hurt.  And it’s natural to want to take away her pain or try to fix the problem at hand.  However, despite our best intentions, trying to “fix” does not actually help.  It tends to make the person struggling feel as though she cannot share her pain, sadness, or anger.  Trying to “fix” sends this message: “I can’t handle seeing you in pain, so I have to make everything better.”  It also implies that it is not okay to feel sad or angry or anxious, and that these feelings should be avoided at all costs.

AVOID ADVICE

Just like our impulse to fix the pain, we also often believe that the best way to help is to offer advice.  But advice is usually not helpful for several reasons.

  1. If we offer good advice, our loved one will think that anytime he is struggling, he needs our instruction. 
  2. If we offer bad advice or our advice doesn’t work as we hoped, our loved one can place the blame on us instead of owning responsibility.
  3. Advice takes away the gift of helping our loved one to realize that she knows herself best, and ultimately she is capable of navigating difficult situations herself.  (Though, of course, she will always have our love and support).

LIMIT SHARING YOUR OWN SIMILAR EXPERIENCES

Source URL:  http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/the-biggest-communication-problem-not-listen-understand.html

Source URL:  http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/the-biggest-communication-problem-not-listen-understand.html

If you have had a similar experience or believe that you have felt the same way, you can share this with your loved one.  But don’t make it all about you.  Keep your story brief, and make sure the purpose of the story is to let him know that he is not alone.  Also, be sure to include that you understand that your experience, while maybe parallel in some ways, is yours, and you are not claiming to have experienced the exact same situation or feelings.  This allows him to feel comfort in not being alone, but also gives him space to communicate how his experience may be different.

If we shouldn’t try to fix the pain or offer advice, and we should limit how much we share of our own experience, what can we do to help?

REFLECT OR PARAPHRASE BACK TO YOUR LOVED ONE WHAT YOU HEAR HIM/HER EXPRESSING

This shows that we are listening, and gives us the opportunity to clarify that which we don’t understand fully.  While it may sound too simple to just reflect what our loved one is saying, it actually makes the person feel heard and understood.  It also offers her the opportunity to hear what she is expressing, and to clarify how she feels or what she wants.

USE NONVERBAL SIGNALS TO SHOW YOU ARE ENGAGED

Nodding and using eye contact and engaged body language shows that we are interested and open to what our loved one is sharing.  It gives him the space to express himself, and makes him feel heard.

SHOW EMPATHY

Empathy is: “I see that you are struggling and hurting right now, and I am so sorry.  I can’t fix it for you or take it away, but I will sit here with you and listen to your story.  As much as this hurts, it is okay to feel this way.”

Check out Brene Brown’s brilliant short on empathy.

Sometimes, all our loved ones need when they are in pain is to be heard; to be given a space with someone they trust to express how they are feeling.  Sometimes, however, they may need some extra support or professional help.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

REFERENCES:
Brown, B.  (2013, Dec 10).  Brené Brown on empathy. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

 

That Which Fuels the Fire of Anxiety: Unhelpful Thinking Patterns

Jill Stoddard

By Lauren Helm, M.A.

 

 

We’ve all felt it at some point in our lives (likely many times over, in fact), though perhaps it manifested in different ways. You may have noticed the rapidly increasing pitter-patter of your heart, the fast, constricted breaths, the growing tension in your shoulders and neck, clammy hands, or maybe a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. The experience of anxiety is unpleasant, to say the least, and as it builds, it certainly has a way of getting our attention.

Why do we experience these uncomfortable sensations that we call anxiety? From an evolutionary perspective, fear and anxiety (two related but slightly different emotions) have a function: they keep us alive. More specifically, fear and anxiety are emotions that occur in response to a perceived threat. When we believe that something may harm us or is dangerous, we feel these emotions and they motivate us to protect ourselves from the danger, typically either by avoiding or escaping the threat. Without fear or anxiety, we may not react to truly dangerous situations in an adaptive way, and thus not survive as a species. Imagine walking along and crossing paths with a Grizzly Bear. Would it be helpful to feel no fear, and to run up and hug it? Obviously for most of us, this would not end well! Our emotions give us invaluable information about the environment and about what actions we should take, based on how we feel.

As incredible as our brains are, they also are prone to errors. We are not always able to accurately assess the true amount of danger (or safety) that may be present in our surroundings. Sometimes this means that we may miss a true threat that was present and suffer the consequences. However, in our modern day society, more often than not we experience the opposite – we overestimate the true amount of threat and thereby experience excessive anxiety as a result.

The problem with excessive anxiety is that it can negatively impact the quality of our lives in multiple ways. Prolonged, pervasive anxiety has an impact on our physical well-being, in addition to our psychological well-being. Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to a deterioration of optimal physical functioning, preventing your immune system, digestive system, and heart from performing the best that they can. Chronic anxiety may also interfere with your ability to sleep, eat, and generally function as you’d like to in life.

 

 

 

How does anxiety become problematic? Cognitive-behavioral therapists tend to understand most mood and anxiety disorders using the cognitive triad, which breaks down our experiences into thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. In brief, anxiety is both developed and maintained by an interplay between certain unhelpful thinking and behavioral patterns. For example, anxiety may be perpetuated by certain ways of thinking. A low threshold for perceiving threat (i.e. situations very easily feel threatening) and an attentional bias to threat (i.e. focusing and narrowing your attention on potential dangers that surround you) can contribute to feeling anxiety. In other words, if we easily feel threatened and continue to be on the lookout for threat, we will likely frequently feel anxious. Another thinking pattern that feeds anxiety is called catastrophic thinking. Catastrophic thinking occurs when our mind jumps to imagining worst-case scenarios when we are uncertain about an outcome.  For example, our mind may imagine that our loved one has been involved in a car accident because they still haven’t returned home 30 minutes after they said that they would. Furthermore, probability overestimation occurs  along with catastrophic thinking – this is when we overestimate how likely it is that the “worst-case scenario” has or will occur. When we are feeling anxious, we often feel very certain that the worst-case scenario will occur  even though realistically-speaking, the chances are much lower (or are little to none) that what we fear will actually happen. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to recognize this while we are in the midst of severe anxiety – instead, we may engage in worry orrumination (i.e. brooding) about the many possible negative “what if” scenarios, and use extensive cognitive energy to plan for or prevent potential future threats from occurring. In moderation, worrying and planning for future threats can be helpful, but when it begins to take excessive time and energy (which is quite exhausting), it becomes maladaptive and interferes with your ability to function optimally. More often than not, the cost of worrying exceeds the benefits (it may become a waste of energy) and actually feeds the anxiety that it is intending to placate.

 

These are just a few ways that our patterns of thinking can create and maintain anxiety. In our next blog, we will talk more about unhelpful or inaccurate thinking patterns (also called cognitive distortions) and some suggestions for creating more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving in response to anxiety.

 

 

If you'd like to speak with a professional at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management for help with anxiety, please click here.

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Resources

http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body

http://www.apa.org/divisions/div12/rev_est/cbt_gad.html

 

 

 

References

Barlow, D. H. (2004). Anxiety and its disorders: The nature and treatment of anxiety and panic. Guilford press.

Behar, E., DiMarco, I. D., Hekler, E. B., Mohlman, J., & Staples, A. M. (2009). Current theoretical models of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Conceptual review and treatment implications. Journal of Anxiety Disorders23(8), 1011-1023.

Beck, A. T., Emery, G., & Greenberg, R. L. (2005). Anxiety disorders and phobias: A cognitive perspective. Basic Books.

Sibrava, N. J., & Borkovec, T. D. (2006). The cognitive avoidance theory of worry. Worry and its psychological disorders: Theory, assessment and treatment, 239-256.

Tags: anxietycognitive behavioral thearpyanxiety therapy san diegoanxiety therapyworryCognitive Behavioral TherapyCenter for Stress and Anxiety Managementcognitive distortionsemotion regulationanxiety disordersunhelpful thinking