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Body dysmorphic disorder

Do You Suffer From Panic Attacks & Need Help Stopping Them?

If you suffer from panic attacks, then you’ll know just how debilitating, frightening and upsetting they can be. Often coming on without warning, and sometimes preventing you from being able to function normally at work, socially or at home, it’s important that you try and understand your attacks and learn ways of interrupting them. If you need help stopping such attacks, or are unsure whether you are suffering from a true panic attack, the following information should prove helpful:

What is a panic attack and what does it feel like?

A panic attack is the sudden occurrence of an intense feeling of discomfort or fear and can last for several minutes before dissipating. Often mistaken for high-level anxiety or heart attack, a panic attack is usually associated with a set of much stronger, uncontrollable symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, dizziness and even chills or overheating. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to, a choking sensation, shortness of breath or feeling lightheaded. While they are commonly experienced when a person feels anxious, nervous or stressed, they can also occur when someone is feeling calm, relaxed and in control, and may appear alongside other psychological disorders.

What kind of treatment is available to help stop panic attacks?

As with any kind of disorder or illness, be it mental or physical, a trip to see a physician or mental health professional should be the first step. A physician will examine you to determine whether there may be an underlying health concern or medical issue that might be causing your symptoms, before diagnosing you.

If you are already fairly confident this is a panic attack, or your physician diagnoses you with this, then visit a mental health professional and they will talk you through a range of treatment options that might help you cope with them better, and ultimately, stop them from occurring altogether.

While some medical professionals may want you to take some medication, the best treatments are usually some form of therapy,Find a therapist or counselor that you feel comfortable with, and who can help you overcome the symptoms of your panic attacks and the fear associated with them.

Today, there are many therapists available all over the state or country, by practicing online, and you can chat with you via a video call, right from the comfort of your own home.

Panic attacks and panic disorders are no laughing matter, and if you’re finding that frequent attacks are preventing you from living your life as you want to, then you should seek help as soon as possible. Nobody should have to live with fear, and once you seek therapeutic help, you’ll learn how to banish your attacks and embrace a calmer, much happier way of life.

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The Difference Between a Disorder and a Feeling

Experienced anxiety at some point. Running late for an important meeting, getting ready before a date, speaking publicly for the first time—anxiety is within the scope of the human experience. In fact, it’s a perfectly normal reaction to stressful situations.

This fact is both positive and negative for people who live with anxiety conditions. It’s beneficial because most people have some understanding of what anxiety feels like, and may be more sympathetic to someone who experiences daily symptoms. But because anxiety is “normalized,” it can often be downplayed as a feeling everyone experiences rather than a serious health condition. Example: “Oh I know exactly how you feel.

I had a panic attack last week when I thought I lost my wallet.”

These comments can make individuals experiencing an actual anxiety disorder feel dismissed. So, it’s important to learn the difference between anxiety, the feeling, and Anxiety, the condition (capitalization used for distinction).

What Does An Anxiety Disorder Feel Like?

It’s easy to assume that because we all experience anxiety, we have an idea of what living with Anxiety might feel like. But that’s simply not the case. Experiencing anxiety includes being nervous or stressed out in situations that naturally create those feelings, like a job interview. Living with an Anxiety condition makes you feel overwhelming fear and distress constantly—even in everyday situations. There are many types of Anxiety disorders, but they all share these symptoms:

Emotional:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

Physical:

  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
  • Upset stomach
  • Sweating, tremors and twitches
  • Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

A friend of mine who lives with Anxiety once described her condition like this: Imagine your mind as a typical four-burner stove top. At all times, there’s a small pot at a rolling boil on the back burner. That’s Anxiety. Every possible thing you could ever be anxious about is floating around in this pot, churning all day long.

Depending on what happens throughout the day, a thought can pop up out of the pot and intrude your thinking—“Oh God…did I lock the front door?” Then it goes back down—“Yes, of course.” Then other thoughts pop up—“Why did my boss give me that look the other day?” “Am I saying the right things?” “Do I look okay?” “Do I smell bad?” The churn is constant.

If something goes wrong, the churn worsens. And the small pot might even be replaced with a medium-sized pot. More water. More pressure. More thoughts. On days when Anxiety is severe, a large pot will slam onto a front burner—your anxious thoughts taking center stage on the forefront of your mind.

Panic attacks? Those things so many people joke about having? Here’s what those really feel like… Your heart beats with an increasing pace. Your chest tightens around your pounding heart—creating a painful tension. It hurts to breathe. You gasp for air, as if trying to breathe in high-altitude where oxygen is sparse.

Your thoughts are racing as quickly as your heart is pounding. Your stomach is in knots. You feel nauseous and dizzy and afraid. You feel trapped. You start to cry. Then you cry so hard you give yourself a headache. All of this happens within minutes, but it feels like years.

This is what it’s like to experience an Anxiety disorder. There are 40 million Americans who deal with this on a regular basis.

How To Show Sympathy

So, if you experience symptoms of anxiety—but never to this extent—be mindful of what these 40 million people may be going through. If a friend is having an anxiety attack, don’t assume you know exactly how she is feeling or undermine her struggle. Be understanding and supportive by consoling her in a way that’s specific to the situation.

Let’s say she is having a panic attack after having a fight with by her boyfriend, Tom. You may not understand why she is hyperventilating or rolled into a ball crying her eyes out. You may even think she’s overreacting. But remember that someone with Anxiety cannot control this type of behavior—it is a symptom of their mental illness. And she needs your support.

You could say something along the lines of: “I know your feelings are so overwhelming in this moment. I know you feel afraid that the pain and problems with Tom are never going to stop. But they will. You will get through this, and you may even laugh about it later. A year from now, this won’t matter.” The key is to say something soothing and calming while still acknowledging her pain.

Sometimes it can make a world of difference just to validate another person’s struggle, even if you don’t fully understand what they’re going through. You can be the person who makes someone feel accepted and supported during their darkest and most difficult days.

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Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Dysmorphic Disorder

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance; these flaws are often unnoticeable to others.In addition to feeling constantly self-conscious, people suffering from BDD often feel defined by their flaws and will believe that others will also think negatively about them and their flaw.Body Dysmorphic Disorder can vary in severity from person to person and from day-to-day; there may be times where people isolate themselves and are housebound, or it may be that people will seek needless cosmetic treatments. There is no doubt that the symptoms cause significant distress or handicap and there is an increased risk of suicide and attempted suicide. BDD affects people of any age, but it is most common in teenagers and young adults; it also affects both men and women. Often people with BDD do not seek help for their mental health because they may be worried that people will judge them or view them as being vain, which means BDD often goes untreated or those who suffer with it are likely to experience it for a long time before seeking support.


Symptoms

There are many symptoms of having BDD, for example, people may:

  • Obsessively worry about one or more perceived flaws in their physical appearance
  • Develop compulsive behaviours and routines (such as excessive use of mirrors, checking by feeling their skin with their fingers, cutting or combing their hair, picking at their skin to make it smooth, comparing themselves against models, discussing their appearance with others)
  • Feel guilt or shame towards themselves
  • Isolate themselves so to avoid other people criticizing them
  • Become depressed
  • Feel anxious
  • Have a compulsion to get unnecessary medical procedures, such as cosmetic surgery
  • Develop eating disorders
  • Over exercise
  • Have suicidal thoughts
  • Self-harm (including substance abuse)
  • Camouflage their appearance by wearing certain clothes or by wearing heavy make-up

These behaviors can start off as coping techniques (for example, camouflaging or isolating themselves), or ways to determine whether they think they look as bad as they think (for example, obsessively checking mirrors). However, they can lead to an increase in preoccupation and distress with appearance which can then lead to depression and other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.

Obsessive worries about the body will vary from person to person, however, common worries may include them thinking that:

  • Parts of their body are out of proportion
  • They are too fat or too skinny
  • They are disfigured
  • They lack symmetry
  • Something about their body is abnormal

BDD can affect any area of the body but common worries revolve around weight, skin, hair, nose, lips and genitals.

Causes

The cause of BDD is still unknown, but it might be associate with:

  • Genetics (people may be more likely to develop BDD if they have a relative with BDD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or depression
  • A chemical imbalance in the brain
  • A traumatic experience in the past – people may be more likely to develop BDD if they were teased, bullied or abused when they were a child
  • Some people with BDD also have another mental health condition, such as OCD, generalized anxiety disorder or an eating disorder.

Myths

One myth is that people who suffer with BDD are self-obsessed. However, sufferers tend to be reluctant in seeking help for their issues specifically because they are afraid to be perceived as vain or self-obsessed; for many people who experience BDD, their issues often go untreated and can become very harmful as time progresses. BDD is a chronic form of anxiety that can have a big impact on an individual’s life; BDD shares similarities with obsessive-compulsive disorder, health anxiety and social anxiety.

Another myth is that BDD is a form of eating disorder, and although BDD and eating disorders share similar symptoms (e.g. poor body image, excessive worry about physical appearance, compulsive behaviours etc.), the disorders differ in that eating disorders are mainly concerned with body weight and shape, whereas BDD sufferers are likely to have more of a focus on specific parts of the body, such as facial features. Some people who suffer from BDD may suffer from an eating disorder, however not all people suffering with an eating disorder will have BDD.

Some people may not consider it a real disorder, which is linked in to the assumption that people are just self-obsessed. However, it is not some made up disorder to justify self-obsession, it is an intense form of anxiety where by sufferers spend the majority of their time wither trying to fix what they think is wrong with themselves. The intensity and chronic nature of the disorder is not to be taken lightly.

Additionally, it is a common misconception that BDD only affects women because of the likelihood of women having more concern for their appearance, however, research has shown that it affects men and women equally.

A final myth is that people suffering will focus on a major body part, however, the mind can distort any part of the body, no matter how small; for example, although some may focus on facial features, other people may focus on a small birthmark. It is important to remember that BDD can affect people in different ways.

Treatment

It can feel daunting to seek help for BDD but it is important that sufferers understand the severity of the disorder; people should not feel shamed or embarrassed about seeking help. If untreated, the symptoms are likely to get worse.

A technique often used in CBT for BDD is exposure and response prevention (ERP) which involved the sufferer to gradually face situations that would trigger the anxiety and then the therapist would help them find other ways of dealing with the feeling that are more healthy.

CBT for treating BDD will usually include a technique known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). This involves gradually facing situations that would normally make you think obsessively about your appearance and feel anxious. Your therapist will help you to find other ways of dealing with your feelings in these situations so that, over time, you become able to deal with them without feeling self-conscious or afraid.

Recovery and treatment is a gradual process, therefore it is important that there is an acknowledgement of physical safety. It is likely that by the time an individual seeks help for their issues, they will have already established unhealthy coping behaviors therefore, people suffering must look after themselves in the process. 

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