Finding Help

Finding help can be tricky business, but so is staying stuck. First of all, we people with anxiety are not usually all that vocal about what we’re going through. Finding help has to begin by reaching out and telling someone what’s going on. Yes, you can just hang out on the internet searching symptom checkers and reading blogs, but your best bet on feeling better includes interacting with a live person in real time.

Are you ready?

  1. The best way to start is by making an appointment with your primary physician. It’s important to rule out any physical conditions that could be causing anxiety and panic.
  2. Before the appointment, jot down some notes about symptoms you’ve been experiencing, both physical and emotional, and for how long. It’s easy to forget what we want to discuss when someone in a white coat enters the room.
  3. We all hope that our anxiety is just something physical like a thyroid condition that can be cured with medication. For some people this is the case. But for the vast majority, we will be given a clean bill of health and the green light to go forth and find a therapist.
  4. Finding the right therapist is hard work and takes time but it is worth the effort.
  5. You can look at sites like the ADAA and ABCT but I’ve found them to only generate a few names and never the names of people I know to be amazing clinicians. Still it can be a good place to begin.
  6. Asking family and friends for therapist referrals is a good next step. You’d be surprised at how many people have seen or are seeing a therapist or they’ve heard friends rave about someone who is excellent.
  7. Once you have a few names and numbers, it’s time to be brave and make some phone calls. Think of it as shopping around for a therapist. Ask lots of questions. What is their professional background? Area of expertise? Thoughts on medication? Theory base?  How long do people typically come to see them? Do they assign homework between sessions to keep up the work and momentum? What’s your gut feeling after talking to them? For anxiety, you want your therapist to have experience with and a thorough understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy, the gold standard for anxiety. I would also ask about experience helping clients with exposure therapy. Lots of therapists say they treat anxiety, but make sure it’s their area of expertise.
  8. Schedule an appointment and show up. Expect to feel nervous and show up anyways, just like exposure work.  Give the therapist a few sessions and see how you all connect. If it’s not a good fit, move on and keep trying until you find the right person.
  9. Once you’ve found a great therapist, remember you have to do the work to create actual change.
  10. For further reading, check out a few links:  Wall Street Journal, Anxiety Coach, Huff Post, Oprah.

*More of a self help/support group kinda person? Read this.

Anxiety Superhero: Erin Craig

Today I’d like to highlight Anxiety Superhero Erin Craig. Check out this BBC video of Erin taking on Scuba Diving certification! I love how she talks about not letting her panic disorder get in the way of trying something challenging and way out of her comfort zone. But also be sure to read the post which describes her experiences with travel and anxiety and how she found herself in Thailand in a scuba suit in the first place. Go Erin!

Image from Posieonthelamb.com

 

Scuba-surface

 

 

 

A Few Resources for Anxious Parents and their Kids

Recently I’ve had a number of friends ask about resources for their anxious children.  Most of these friends deal with anxiety themselves & are either beginning to see signs of anxiety in their kids or are worried they’ll somehow pass down their “crazy genes”.

I’m a big fan of Lynn Lyons who co-authored Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents with Reid Wilson. Check out the website with links to the book  and Casey’s Guide (a companion book for kids & teens – find the free download here and “real” book for sale here). Each chapter has info you can use right now with your family.

And this is the video I’ve been sharing with everyone. I listened to it a few weeks ago while making dinner and it’s excellent.   Lynn has years of experience working with anxious kids and their parents, and I love that she’s a straight shooter and delivers information with humor.

Wanting more? If you haven’t already, check out this article, plus this one and the exciting research about using CBT to prevent anxiety disorders in children before they can pop up. Anxious parenting behavior, it turns out, is more indicative of an anxious child than genetics. That’s not to say genetics and an anxious pre-disposition aren’t at play, but it’s nice to know there is much we can do to help educate and build skills within the whole family.

The video is just under 90 minutes. Why not make it a movie night, along with some stove popped popcorn and limeade spritzers? (Jenn’s recipe: Fill glass with ice. Pour 3/4 glass with seltzer water & 1/4 limeade – pop in a straw & enjoy!)

Enjoy & let me know what you think!

Weekend Treatment Groups

Reid Wilson is getting ready to hold a few weekend treatment groups for people with panic disorder and OCD. Check out his website and get ready for a life changing weekend! You can read about my experience here.

If you live in the Chicago area, Dave Carbonell is also holding a 10 week panic attacks treatment group this coming Fall 2011.

Has anyone else attended either of these groups? If yes, what did you think? Does anyone have other resources they’d like to share?

Coping Cards

I have little pieces of paper all over the place with affirmations and coping statements. You can find them in the bottom of my purse, the dashboard of my car, on top of my nightstand and many other places. I write them when I’m feeling good in preparation for the times when logic goes flying out the window. Almost all of them have the acronym AWARE, which I read about in Dave Carbonell’s workbook. Here’s one that I just pulled out of my purse:

*Courage is being afraid and doing it anyways.*

Accept: I expect to feel anxious.
It’s ok to be nervous here.
This is what I came for – practice with fear.

Wait & watch: Resist the urge to leave or make it stop.
Stay put & see that you’re ok.
Watch anxiety – it goes up and down.
Am I being tricked again?

Actions: Deep belly breathing; imagry; music.
Try to get comfortable & enjoy the ride; some rides are longer than other;
if you can’t get more comfortable, that’s ok too.

Repeat: Start from the top as often as needed.

End: All anxiety attacks end. It’s not my job to make it end.

Where are we getting with chronic anxiety?

I must have a dozen books or so on the subject of anxiety. All of them tout that panic and anxiety can be cured or treated without drugs and that cognitive behavioral therapy is the gold standard.

Since I’ve become more open about my anxiety, I’ve found out that many people in my life have the same or similar issues – teachers, social workers, lawyers, doctors – people from all walks of life. Many are taking SSRI’s, recommended by their therapists, and feeling like anxiety still takes the better of them more often than not. Many are also seeing therapists who they really like, but aren’t seeing the real, lasting results they want. I can relate. I’ve taken meds before. I’ve been through therapy. And, even though I work really hard at facing my fears and strive for acceptance & surrender, I’m still not where I want to be. Fear still slips in and can throw me for a loop and I can work myself up irrationally in anxious anticipation and end up feeling pretty miserable. Like Jack Nicholson said, in the classic movie, “Is this as good as it gets?”

So, why do so many people struggle with this on again, off again anxiety or constant, underlying anxiety that grips their lives and can’t easily be shaken? The self help books say ‘quick & extremely treatable’, life experience & observation says ‘years in therapy, medication and just getting by’. If it’s really that treatable, what’s going on?

David Burns’ book “When Panic Attacks” is subtitled “The new drug-free anxiety therapy that can change your life.” I’d like a few sessions with him to find out what I’m missing here as a student of anxiety.

Because, I truly believe what the books say — that even severe anxiety can be effectively treated to the point that, when it rears its ugly head over the years, a person has the skills to handle it – that with acceptance, exposure and a confidence in your skills, feeling anxious becomes no big deal.

Perhaps, we as clients need to be more willing to do the hard, often scary work of facing fears. And, perhaps more therapists need to become experts in anxiety, get out in the field with their clients, and be creative in their approaches, sticking it out until they figure out which treatment mode is working. It’s not one size fits all. Most of the people I know who have quit going to therapy weren’t “resistant”, it just wasn’t helping them to feel better.

With some 40 million Americans struggling with anxiety disorders, surely we can work together to do better.