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Anxiety, Phobias, and PTSD – Part 2

There are healthy coping strategies for dealing with anxiety.

Lifestyle Changes

Routines, such as taking a daily walk or reading at lunch, can be helpful in alleviating anxiety.  Scheduling time to decompress from the worries of the day can, also, help.  This should be away from cell phones and other distractions.

Exercise is a natural de-stressor.

Sleep hygiene can be important, since restful sleep enables us to recharge our mental batteries.  This should involve regular times to turn in at night and arise mornings, along with a bedtime routine which encourages relaxation.  Video games should be avoided just before bed.

Therapy

Phobias are often reduced in severity using behavior modification (specifically “desensitization” therapy).  This involves repeated exposure to the fear-producing stimulus under safe conditions.

Talk therapy has, also, been found to be helpful, especially with social anxiety [1].  Biofeedback, which involves controlled breathing and other techniques, may be useful in reducing anxiety.

Medications

Numerous medications exist today to treat anxiety, including serotonin-specific re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and anti-depressants [2].  A knowledgeable psychiatrist should be consulted about these.

Spirituality

Meditation and, of course, prayer can provide relief.

THINGS THAT NEED NO LONGER TROUBLE BELIEVERS

The Past

Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43: 18-19).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5: 17).

The Present

“ ‘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?’ ” (Matt. 6: 25-26).

The Future

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29: 11).

Being Unloved

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16).

Being Useless or Worthless

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all” (1 Cor. 12: 4-6).

Being Lost

“ ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?’ ” (Luke 15: 4).

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Ps. 3: 6).

Being Abandoned

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31: 6).

‘…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ ” (Matt. 28: 20).

[1]  HelpGuide, “Therapy for Anxiety Disorders” by Melinda Smith, MA, Robert Segal, MA, and Jeanne Segal, PhD, last updated 10/16, http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/therapy-for-anxiety-disorders.htm.

[2]  In my view, faith and medicine are not at odds.  Medicine is a general blessing by God to mankind.  The miraculous cures by Christ were intended as a sign that He was the Messiah, not as a rejection of medicine.  Christ, Himself, referred to medicine, in response to the Pharisees.  He is quoted as saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matt. 9: 12).

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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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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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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