Tag Archives: anxiety

Anxiety, Phobias, and PTSD – Part 1

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1893), National Gallery, Norway (Accession No. NG.M.00939), Source WebMuseum (PD)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea
…” (Ps. 46: 1-2).

Most people have experienced anxiety, in one situation or another.

The death of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, job loss, and moving are recognized as major stressors [1].  Other anxiety producing occasions include public speaking (always a favorite), waiting on approval for a mortgage, meeting a girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and having the in-laws over for Thanksgiving.

Then, of course, there are a host of phobias.  As a general rule narrowly focused, phobias are no small matter for those suffering from them.  Phobias include the fear of heights, spiders, snakes, birds, tight spaces, bridges, flying, and blood [2].

Purpose of Anxiety

Anxiety is intended to alert us to potential danger, and prepare the body for it.

A part of the brain called the amygdala releases neuro-transmitters that initiate the so called “fight of flight” response, producing the sensations of anxiety [3].  The heart rate climbs; blood rushes to the muscles; the lungs work harder.  This process is largely autonomic.  We have, by design, very limited control.

For most, the panic associated with stressful situations quickly subsides.  Shallow breathing deepens and slows.  Rapid heartbeat subsides.

The audience does or does not throw tomatoes.  The in-laws smile or grimace – it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference – and swallow their turkey.  We eventually get the mortgage.

In short, the body figures out we are going to survive.

Anxiety Disorders

About 40 million Americans, however, suffer from anxiety disorders [4].  Severe anxiety, whatever form it takes, is debilitating and can be crippling.

A. PTSD

The severe anxiety resulting from traumas such war, rape, or child abuse is better known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [5].

Whatever its origin, PTSD can cause recurrent, powerful, panic attacks, with or without an identifiable trigger.  These attacks are typically accompanied by heart palpitations, chest pain, the sensation of being smothered, and a feeling of dread.  A panic attack can, also, be experienced as paralysis and overwhelming fear.

PTSD sufferers may, in addition, experience flashbacks (vivid and disturbing memories, re-experienced involuntarily).  I have discussed these elsewhere [6]. Continue reading

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Heartbreak

Heart transplant in 5.5 lb infant, courtesy of Anatomy Box anatomybox.com

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Willow Short was born with a congenital heart defect, detected while she was still in the womb [1].  Doctors warned her mother, Megan, the baby could be stillborn.  But Willow was born alive.  And, at just six days of age, the little trooper survived a heart transplant.

A newborn’s heart is roughly the size of a walnut.  It can fit into a spoon.  The fact a child’s chest cavity is much smaller than an adult’s makes surgery more difficult.  The time a transplant on a child takes will vary.  The procedure may be as short as four hours or as long as sixteen.

Megan Short was extremely grateful to the donor’s family.  She was quoted by the The Reading Eagle as saying, “Someone else’s child died so mine could live.  I know they’re in so much pain.  I’m so thankful.”

But Willow needed fifteen different medications, around the clock, after being discharged.  Megan Short told the New York Times that she developed PTSD from the anxiety.  Continue reading

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Jellyfish

Cyanea jellyfish, North Sea, Author Ole Kils olekils@web.de (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, GNU Free Documentation License)

Jellyfish are equipped with stinging tentacles used to paralyze, capture, and kill their prey.  The largest known specimen, the lion’s mane or giant jelly, has tentacles which can reach 120 feet in length.  That is longer than a blue whale.

The sting of a jellyfish can be agony.  In humans, that sting can cause burning and blistering of the skin, difficulty breathing, changes in heart rate, chest pain, abdominal cramps, vomiting, muscle spasms, numbness, weakness, and collapse.

The tentacles can sting, even after a jellyfish has died.

The Tentacles of Abuse

Like jellyfish, abuse has long tentacles.  Rather than extending into deep water, those tentacles extend across the years.  But their sting can still be agony.  Like the tentacles of jellyfish, the tentacles of abuse can paralyze, capture, and in some cases kill.

Real Wounds

Whether we suffer with physical ailments and visible scars or with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, the wounds stemming from our abuse are severe and real.  We are not weak.  We are not malingering.

It is, in some ways, easier when our wounds can be seen by the naked eye.  Burns are recognizable as such.  By contrast, the wounds of many abuse victims cannot be bandaged or sutured.  Invisible, those wounds can yet be deadly.

Long-Term Damage

Because it was inflicted early in our lives, while we were most vulnerable, the damage done by abuse is long-lasting and multi-faceted.  Victims must endure it for decades, across the full range of life activities.  This can be exhausting.

Eventually, we may feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, as if we were drowning; may feel trapped by our past, despite our best efforts; may feel wrongly that ending our lives is the only way out. Continue reading

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Healing from Abuse

Child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect – is likely to have permanent consequences. The wounds of abuse are grievous, inflicted when we are most vulnerable.

The extent to which we heal varies from one victim to the next, as does the rate at which healing takes place. This makes perfect sense. Victims are violated at various ages, for varying lengths of time, in countless evil ways. They have unique internal resources, and varying degrees of external support (sometimes none).

All these are factors in recovery. We must not, therefore, gauge our progress by that of others.

The “Inner Child”

Experts often refer to the wounded “inner child”. This is not to suggest that victims develop multiple personalities, though some may. It is an abbreviated means of saying we remain sensitive to issues relating to abuse, and – at an emotional level, at least – retain a strong recollection of the trauma inflicted on us.

Misplaced “Coping” Strategies

Unable to defend themselves against abuse, some children adopt desperate strategies in the effort to cope with it. These childhood strategies may continue into adulthood, becoming a hindrance where they once served a legitimate purpose.

Dissociation is one such strategy. The child, in effect, imagines himself or herself elsewhere while the abuse is taking place. This is the “out of body” experience. Dissociation may later be triggered by events which recall (or mimic) the abuse. Though meant to be protective in nature, dissociation can produce serious gaps in a victim’s memory. Continue reading

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Focus

Reports have been made of abuse by priests, abuse in residential boys’ schools, abuse in church-operated Magdalene laundries, abuse by pediatricians, abuse by police, abuse by politicians shielded by police, abuse by the committees formed to investigate abuse.  The list goes on and on.

Abuse is widespread, generational; the number of victims, staggering.

It is essential that light be shed on this perverted behavior.  It is not necessarily wise, however, that victims focus on the reports of abuse. The sheer numbers can be overwhelming.

We have enough reminders of our brush with evil. The scars of abuse may include perfectionism (and the reaction to it, workaholism), anxiety, depression, sexual difficulties, and weight issues. These pose challenges to many of us on a daily basis. Continue reading

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Landmines

Anxiety is one of the many scars typical of childhood sexual abuse. It is the feeble attempt to control our circumstances by worrying about them. Many things in this world, however, are beyond our control. This is not a sign of weakness on our part, even if we experience it that way.

Boundary issues (the diminished ability to protect ourselves, as a result of abuse) are another typical scar.  Recurrent unwelcome incursions can feel like defeats to us, “proof” that abuse victims are defective on an ongoing basis. But that is not the reality either.

Anxiety and boundary issues – like other long-term abuse scars – are evidence that the abuse actually did occur; that it was no mere figment of a disturbed imagination, but rather a profoundly harmful violation and a continuing threat to the victim, in the same way that landmines remain a threat long after the conflict has resolved.

This is what Jesus had to say about anxiety, vulnerability, and the cares of this world:

“ ‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…’ ” (Matt. 6: 25-29).

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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In the Aftermath of Abuse, Part 2 – Guilt and Shame

Sexually abused child (1910), Author Dr. P. Langenscheidt, Source “Der Sexualverbrecher” [“The Sexual Criminal”], (PD, published before 1/1/23)

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in Me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea’ ” (Matt. 18: 6).

It is easier for children to believe they “deserve” the evil done to them, than to take in the fact an adult who should care for them actually has little or no regard for their well-being.

The Statute of Limitations and other obstacles can make it difficult to hold child abusers and molesters accountable legally.  Even with a conviction, however, the feeling of “sinfulness” may rebound from an abuser to his victims.

This in no way implies that they were at fault. Victims, however, relive the trauma of having been treated as worthless. They are often left with a vague sense of unworthiness that can permeate their lives, and undermine subsequent relationships.

Though this feeling of their own “sinfulness” can be overwhelming to abuse victims, the conclusions they draw from it are not accurate.  Victims did not warrant or invite the abuse.  They remain deserving of love.

The feeling of “sinfulness” is just one of the scars left in the wake of abuse.  Other symptoms can include anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug addiction, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction.  These behaviors either stem from the pain or are attempts to numb it.  All of them “punish” the victim, who was never at fault in the first place!

The symptoms of abuse may, themselves, become a cause of shame to victims.  Self-destructive behaviors shift the focus away from the abuse, while silently declaring it to the world.  Imperfect as coping mechanisms, these behaviors can have dire consequences but are, in effect, a cry for help.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT:  https://alawyersprayers.com

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