Reflections on Stress

Stress

Stress involves internal and external demands placed on us. Internal demands are within us, either in our bodies or our thinking. External demands are outside of us such as work, environment, relationships, etc. Some stress can be within our control, though it may not feel like it, such as choosing to accept another task, or thinking that we must carry out a particular number of tasks within a day. Some stress is outside our control such as being retrenched from a job or being a victim of a crime.

Stress is a natural and necessary part of living. Stress helps with our survival by activating the body with adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) to either fight or flee a threatening situation – this fight or flight has occurred since our cave-men and cave-women days. We may not have the same threats as our ancestors (sabre toothed tigers) but we essentially respond physiologically the same way.

The level of stress or the impact of stress experienced can be mediated by our thinking and behaviours. That is, we can set ourselves up and train ourselves to learn to become stressed. For example, have a think about your self-talk (internal dialogue in your head). Do you use phrases like, “I should be doing…” or “I need to go to…” or “I ought to be doing…” These words are demands and inherently stressful. They could be replaced with “I would like to…” Can you hear the difference? If thinking places certain demands on us that are causing distress or feeling overwhelmed, then it is time to change that thinking.

Stress is a strong motivator, but too much for too long can be harmful to our well-being. Just thinking about something that is stressful can activate the body’s stress hormones. For example, worrying about an important deadline can cause the adrenal glands to release a cocktail of hormones into our bloodstream. This affects thinking and behaviour.

Prolonged or excessive stress levels may lead to:

  • Relationship problems (and breakdown)

  • Accidents – concentration is affected

  • Lower productivity – due to poor focus and concentration

  • Poor relationships with friends, colleagues or family

  • Health problems such as heart disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), high blood pressure, headaches or migraines, asthma, allergies, etc.

  • Mental illness – may trigger symptoms or exacerbate an existing condition.

What can you do to manage your stress?

  1. Recognise your symptoms – write down what you have noticed when you are stressed (i.e. your symptoms: physical, emotional, thoughts and behaviours). If you recognise your symptoms you are better able to do something about them.
  2. Develop a stress management plan – prevention is better than cure.
  3. Exercise – when you exercise you use up the stress hormones and release endorphins (feel good hormones) in your body. Therefore, working out is relaxing!
  4. Change your attitude – evaluate priorities.
  5. Slow down!!!
  6. Join a laughter group – Laughter, like exercise, releases endorphins, even if it’s fake laughter. Your body doesn’t know the difference.
  7. Try relaxation or meditation – learn how to do this on your own or join a group.
  8. Be social.
  9. Get creative – find a hobby or make time for an existing one on a regular basis.
  10. Drink tea – reduce your caffeine intake and try some herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint or lemon.
  11. Simplify your life – get rid of clutter.
  12. Book a massage.
  13. Vitamins – start a diet of healthy food today, which includes fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, etc.
  14. Listening to music – find some music that reminds you of a happy memory or is deeply calming.

Mental Health Fact

Stress may trigger some mental illnesses or may prolong episodes. Stress can also result when a person develops a mental illness.

http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/health/mentalhealth/illnesses/facts.htm

Monthly Quote

“The birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”

Chinese Proverb

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Reflections On Friendship

The role of friendship

If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.”

Charlotte Bronte

What is friendship?

Friendship is an overall term to describe a type of interpersonal relationship. When I discuss the nature of relationships we have with people I often use a diagram. I draw a stick figure and a circle around that figure, and more circles around the circles with spaces between. The furthest outer ring is symbolic of people known but not liked, moving inward are acquaintances, then friends. The people in the inner circles represent a closer level of intimacy and trust. The further in towards the centre indicates a stronger level of emotional attachment.

Types of friendships

Friends can fall into different categories. For example, someone we feel close to, trust with our inner thoughts, feel we can rely on and want to be with, may be deemed to be a best friend. Some friends are only seen at events such as a sporting or shared interest events (e.g. at the football). Work friendships are people who share a similar workplace and if you don’t socialise with them outside of work, the friendship is likely to end when you leave the job.

The role of friendship in our lives?

Friendship plays a big role in people’s lives, as human beings we are social creatures and generally like to mix with other people. The quality of our friendships with others can be indicative of our mental health. People with severe mental health problems have significant difficulties interacting successfully with others.

Loneliness

Without a good friend to share some of life’s experiences with, a person may feel very lonely. If you have good friends and still feel lonely then a deeper concern may be present.

The friends we choose

Some people have large circles of friends and others one or two. Some people have very strong emotional bonds with friends and others to a much lesser extent. Some people maintain friendships from their school days which last a lifetime, others don’t maintain such long term friendships. We all have different personalities and likes, therefore we tend to choose friends who are like us in some way, or friends who fill a particular emotional need. It’s important to choose friends who are positive and share the same values.

Friends are different from family – because you get to choose! A good friendship can certainly compensate for a difficult family relationship.

Enjoy and cherish your friendships!

Monthly Quote

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be”.

Albert Einstein

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Reflections About The Therapeutic Journey

To say that the counselling process is not an easy path is perhaps an understatement. For a lucky few the path is reasonably smooth, but for most people the path has varying degrees of challenges. And for some it is a very difficult journey. Those deciding to undertake the therapeutic journey do so for different reasons. For example, some decide to do this to avoid medications, others because they feel ready for the experience, some because they recognise the benefit of an impartial, skilled and supportive psychologist and some because their GP, family or friends have insisted that they attend.

One thing is for sure, for the therapeutic journey to end with a desirable outcome a number of factors need to be present. I have included these in the following points. Perhaps the most important factor is a person’s willingness and commitment to the process. And it is a process, not an event. It really does take time.

I hope that the following points will help those already on, or those considering starting, the therapeutic journey of psychotherapy.

The most important part of psychotherapy…

Psychotherapy is a very effective treatment for many mental health concerns. However, the most important aspect of the therapeutic journey is the relationship that you have with your psychologist. Your psychologist should be someone you can trust and makes you feel cared for. Your psychologist needs to have the experience that helps you to make changes in your life for the better. The quality of your relationship with a caring, empathic, knowledgeable psychologist is what matters the most.

Where does the therapeutic journey lead to?

The goal of psychotherapy is change. This can be a change in attitude, thinking, behaviour or emotions. It may be coming to terms with a difficult situation and learning acceptance or it may be behaving in a completely different way. Your psychologist will help you to identify and work towards your goals. A good psychologist is someone you can easily talk to and who cares about you and your problems.

Why psychotherapy and not medication?

The thought of being able to solve your problems by taking a pill each day does sound attractive. If only it were that easy! Unfortunately, some of life’s challenges doesn’t warrant medication, even though very distressing (e.g. grieving or divorce). Some mental health concerns are not best treated with

medication and most mental health problems tend to have multiple causes, and medication is not a one stop cure for them. Medication may help ease some symptoms, but there are usually side effects and it does not provide complete relief. Medication does not provide new ways of thinking or responding to problems.

The difficult task of psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can be time consuming and challenging, as uncomfortable emotions and thoughts can arise as part of the treatment process. These can occur in session and out. You may feel annoyed with your psychologist because of this. However, psychotherapy provides longer lasting benefits in terms of personal development and symptom relief. It helps by providing tools for coping by learning how to identify and avoid triggers in the future. Psychotherapy can help you to learn to change unhelpful behaviours. Often these changes may only start off small, but in time their importance will become more evident.

Psychotherapy will not always feel satisfying or enjoyable. Painful memories, annoyances, frustrations or other feelings may surface. This is a normal part of psychotherapy and your psychologist will guide you through this process. It is important to communicate with your psychologist how you are feeling.

However, if these feelings are so overwhelming that you are miserable after each session and start feeling like you want to quit or are dreading the next psychotherapy session, then this is an indication to you that you need to discuss things with your psychologist and you will most likely need to slow down the process.

Myths about psychotherapy

I don’t need counselling. I can just talk to my friends”.

Yes, the support of friends and family are very important. However, psychotherapy is different. Psychologists are professionally trained to identify issues that affect your well-being and also to be able to guide you to a solution.

Therapy is only for mentally ill people who can’t handle their problems”.

This myth makes me really annoyed. If you needed your appendix removed would you try to handle this operation yourself? Psychotherapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realise they can only benefit from asking for help. Psychotherapy helps you to improve your relationships and your quality of life.

The psychologist should be able to fix my problem”.

Your psychologist provides emotional support and guides you through paths that focus on the unhealthy patterns and symptoms in your life that you need to change. Your psychologist is like a coach or personal trainer – they guide, but you do the work.

Choosing a psychologist

This may take some time but it is worth the effort. The connection you have with your psychologist is very important. You need someone that you feel you can

trust, someone you feel comfortable with when discussing difficult concerns. Someone who is interested in you and your concerns. Psychotherapy is unlikely to be effective unless you have this bond. I would recommend that you take some time to find the right person.

How long does psychotherapy take?

Everyone’s treatment is different and there are many factors involved. Some treatment types take longer while others are quite short. On a practical/financial level, private health insurance or availability of Medicare rebates may influence the number of sessions you have. It is a good idea to discuss the length of treatment with your psychologist at the beginning of treatment.

Psychotherapy is not a competition and you are not a failure if you do not meet your goals within a desired number of sessions. Focus on what you have learned along the way.

How to make the most out of your therapeutic journey

  • Make a commitment to your treatment.
  • Don’t skip sessions.
  • Do your homework exercises.
  • Did the last session hit a nerve? Tell your psychologist.
  • Be open about any reluctance you may have about your treatment.
  • Don’t expect your psychologist to tell you what to do.
  • Share what you are feeling.
  • If something is bothering you that is embarrassing, painful or you feel ashamed, be brave and tell your psychologist.
  • Be prepared to work together.

Monthly Quote

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”.

Albert Einstein

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Reflections for January

In the news…

Like many people, I am back at work. I hope you have had a relaxing, enjoyable and safe holiday break. I have certainly enjoyed some downtime with family and friends. Like most people I have been following the flood crisis that seemed to begin in Queensland and spread interstate. I have phoned family living in Queensland to check that they are OK and encouraged them to keep safe. Watching the news you see many images of cars and trucks floating away; or of people clinging to trees or on tables or rooftops. In Toowoomba the flash flood was described as an “inland tsunami” that took many people by surprise.

Many families have lost everything in the floods and insurance usually doesn’t cover flood damage. The shock and grief of this experience can be very traumatic. It is not only the people who are directly experiencing the effects of flooding that are emotionally and psychologically affected. The images shown on television can be very distressing to some people. Natural disasters are something that ignites a primal fear in everyone. For those with a mental health concern this may exacerbate or trigger some symptoms.

A New Year…

It can be useful to reflect on the year that has been and make plans for the New Year. I think it is also important to list achievements in 2010, big or small, and consider the things that you would like to do in 2011.

Whatever you would like to do in 2011 include things that are enjoyable, help you to learn or do something new, involve sharing with others and develop Mind, Body and Spirit.

Mind…

Research indicates that it is important to exercise our brain to keep it sharp. Consider attending a quiz night regularly, or joining a chess club, doing puzzles, crosswords or Sudoku. If you have always wanted to learn a language or musical instrument, now might be the time.

Body…

Exercise is without question good for physical health. However, it is also good for mind and spirit. Exercise that increases the heart rate helps with regulation of emotions. Research indicates that exercise is very good for our mental health. Consider daily walking for mind, body and spirit.

Spirit…

Everyone is capable of faith. It may be faith in a higher being or ultimate reality or in each other. Whatever your faith, consider nurturing it regularly. Connect with your natural environment through walking, gardening or relaxing. Connect with other people, in meditation, prayer, as a volunteer, as a friend or as a family member.

Do something different…

Doing something different is good for us because it helps us manage change more positively and be open to possibilities.

Humour is the best medicine…

Humour can really help with stress management and improve mood. Have you ever thought of joining a laughter yoga group?

I heard this joke on a TV show.

Two nuns were driving through the dark, narrow hills of Transylvania one night and their car broke down. A vampire jumped out in front of them. The nun on the passenger side said to the nun driving, “Quickly, wind down your window and show him your cross”!

The nun who had been driving wound down her window and yelled out, “get away from us you big, toothy git”!!

Send me your contribution for future editions of Reflections.

Monthly Quote

“I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering”.

Steven Wright

About MBS Psychology

MBS Psychology offers caring and professional counselling services for adolescents and adults.

Counselling          Psychotherapy          Hypnosis

MBS Psychology provides Relaxation classes Mondays & Wednesdays.

For tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

www.facebook.com

Contact Us

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Website: www.mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

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Reflections About Depression

The three main concerns that people come to see me for are, depression, anxiety and relationship concerns. This is not unusual as anxiety and depression are the most common mental health concerns. I do see people for many other matters too, however, these three rank the highest and are also often present in other mental health concerns.

Depression comes under the banner of mood disorders. Some people call it “clinical depression” or “major depression”, but regardless of the choice of name it is essentially the same. Depression, as a condition is, however, different from “manic depression” now called “bipolar disorder”. Bipolar disorder involves both highs and lows in mood, whereas depression involves only lows. Depression involves a diagnosable set of symptoms but the lived experience is very different for each person. Depression is not simply a low mood. In fact, some people I have seen do not realise that they have it.

Depression can be complicated with other co-existing problems, such as anxiety or a physical illness. For some people experiencing depression it can feel like complete exhaustion, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Thoughts of death and suicide are not uncommon.

Though depression is sometimes described as a mental illness the word illness is perhaps a misnomer. Depression is not caused by a virus or germ. Research has indicated that it is caused by many factors. That is, some are social, some are biological, some are personality, or because of an event, or for psychological reasons. It is complicated.

The good news is that depression can be treated. Research indicates that a psychological treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Interpersonal Therapy that incorporates active skill-building, is more effective than medication especially in terms of preventing relapse. Research has also shown that depression is more likely to return if it is left untreated.

“Any person who takes prescribed anti-depressant medication and seeks no other intervention is not doing themselves any favours. There is a higher relapse rate when anti-depressants are the only treatment” (Dr. Michael Yapko “Breaking the Patterns of Depression”).

Winter blues

The Winter Blues sounds like a type of music, but it is actually a form of depression that takes place around the same time each year with the change of seasons. It affects individuals who are exposed to very few sunlight hours during the winter months.

The clinical term for Winter Blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Generally, Australians are exposed to mild winters compared with Northern Europeans. However, if much of your time during the winter months is spent inside then you may be susceptible.

The Winter Blues is primarily caused by unstable melatonin levels, as well as serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, hunger, and sleep. As the days become shorter and the hours of sunlight decrease, people suffering from Winter Blues experience changes in their mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate.

Although the Winter Blues is not as severe as other types of depression, it can change the way a person thinks, reacts, and deals with everyday challenges. People with Winter Blues experience increased appetite, weight gain and hypersomnia. It is similar to animals winter hibernation.

What to do to beat the Winter Blues

1. Exercise. This improves your mood and reduces stress.

2. Improve your diet. Carbohydrates are often effective in increasing serotonin levels in the brain. A better strategy for anyone suffering from winter blues would be to eat larger portions of complex carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, and healthy simple carbohydrates like fruits between and during meals.

3. Most importantly, go outside during breaks at work. Try and get 30 minutes of natural sunlight each day, even if it’s cloudy.

If you think you may have depression…

If you think you might be depressed, have a chat with your GP or a Psychologist.

If you see your GP first, they can provide a referal to a Psychologist and then you may be entitled to Medicare rebates for your visits to the psychologist. Your GP may recommend a psychologist if you don’t have anyone in mind, but regardless of whose name is on the referral, you can use this to see any psychologist you want to.

Mental Health Fact

One in five Australians will experience a mental illness.

www.dhs.vic.gov.au/health/mentalhealth/illnesses/facts.htm

Did you know?

Exercise improves your mood and reduces stress. So what are you waiting for?

Relaxation through guided meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided visual imagery, breathing exercises and other similar techniques can also provide an array of health benefits.

The benefits of regular relaxation include:

  • More energy
  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced immunity
  • Increased focus & concentration
  • Better problem-solving abilities
  • Greater efficiency & productivity
  • Less headaches and pain
  • Smoother emotional states – less anger, crying, anxiety, frustration…

… among many other benefits.

About MBS Psychology

MBS Psychology offers caring and professional counselling services for adolescents and adults.

Counselling          Psychotherapy          Hypnosis

MBS Psychology provides Relaxation classes Mondays & Wednesdays.

For tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

www.facebook.com

Contact Us

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Website: www.mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

The three main concerns that people come to see me for are, depression, anxiety and relationship concerns. This is not unusual as anxiety and depression are the most common mental health concerns. I do see people for many other concerns however these three rank the highest and are also often present in other mental health concerns.

 

Depression comes under the banner of mood disorders. Some people call it “clinical depression” or “major depression”, but regardless of the choice of name it is essentially the same. Depression, as a condition, is however different from “manic depression” now called “bipolar disorder”. Bipolar disorder involves both highs and lows in mood, whereas depression involves only lows. Depression involves a diagnosable set of symptoms but the lived experience is very different for each person. Depression is not simply a low mood. In fact, some people I have seen do not realise that they have it.

 

Depression can be complicated with other co-existing problems, such as anxiety or a physical illness. For some people experiencing depression it can feel like complete exhaustion, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Thoughts of death and suicide are not uncommon.

 

Though depression is sometimes described as a mental illness the word illness is perhaps a misnomer. Depression is not caused by a virus or germ. Research has indicated that it is caused by many factors. That is, some are social, some are biological, some are personality, or because of an event, or for psychological reasons. It’s complicated.

 

The good news is that depression can be treated. Research indicates that a psychological treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Interpersonal Therapy that incorporates active skill-building, is more effective than medication especially in terms of preventing relapse. Research has also shown that depression is more likely to return if it is left untreated.

 

Any person who takes prescribed anti-depressant medication and seeks no other intervention is not doing themselves any favours. There is a higher relapse rate when anti-depressants are the only treatment” (Dr M. Yapko “Breaking the Patterns of Depression”).

 

Winter blues

The Winter Blues sounds like a type of music, but it’s actually a form of depression that takes place around the same time each year with the change of seasons. It affects individuals who are exposed to very few sunlight hours during the winter months.

 

The clinical term for Winter Blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Generally, Australians are exposed to mild winters compared with Northern Europeans. However, if much of your time during the winter months is spent inside then you may be susceptible.

 

The Winter Blues is primarily caused by unstable melatonin levels, as well as serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, hunger, and sleep. As the days become shorter and the hours of sunlight decrease, people suffering from Winter Blues experience changes in their mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate.

 

Although the Winter Blues is not as severe as other types of depression, it can change the way a person thinks, reacts, and deals with everyday challenges. People with Winter Blues experience increased appetite, weight gain and hypersomnia. It is similar to animals’ winter hibernation.

 

What to do to beat the Winter Blues

 

  1. Exercise. This improves your mood and reduces stress.

  2. Improve your diet. Carbohydrates are often effective in increasing serotonin levels in the brain. A better strategy for anyone suffering from winter blues would be to eat larger portions of complex carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, and healthy simple carbohydrates like fruits between and during meals.

  3. Most importantly, go outside during breaks at work. Try and get 30 minutes of natural sunlight each day, even if it’s cloudy.

If you think you may have depression…

 

If you think you might be depressed then I suggest you have a chat with your GP or a Psychologist. If you would like a Medicare rebate from seeing a psychologist then I suggest that you see your GP for a referral. The GP will do what’s called a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP). Sounds a bit serious, but it simply involves you explaining that you would like a referral, what your symptoms are and answering the GPs questions. The GP needs to make an assessment as not everything is covered with a Medicare rebate. For example, if you wanted to see a psychologist to give up smoking this would not be covered. Depression and anxiety are both covered.

 

Your GP may recommend a psychologist if you don’t have anyone in mind. FYI – regardless of whose name is on the referral MHCP you can essentially take this and see whoever you want.

 

Mental Health Fact

One in five Australians will experience a mental illness.

http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/health/mentalhealth/illnesses/facts.htm

 

Did you know?

 

Exercise improves your mood and reduces stress. So what are you waiting for?

 

Relaxation through the following; guided meditation; progressive muscle relaxation; guided visual imagery; breathing exercises, to name a few provide an array of health benefits.

 

The benefits of regular relaxation include:

· More energy

· Improved sleep

· Enhanced immunity

· Increased focus & concentration

· Better problem-solving abilities

· Greater efficiency & productivity

· Less headaches and pain

· Smoother emotional states – less anger, crying, anxiety, frustration…

…Among many other benefits.

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Reflections About Phobias

When I was a child I really never liked clowns. They were supposed to be humorous bringing joy and laughter to children and adults alike. Not for me. They were mysterious and very frightening. Reading Stephen King novels as a teenager didn’t help with this fear either. I must confess that I still think clowns are rather creepy. Do I have a phobia?

What are phobias?

Coming from the Greek word meaning fear, a phobia is an intense fear of something that does not involve any immediate danger. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adults.

Phobias are very common. It is likely that you know someone who has one, or that you have one yourself. If you do have a phobia, you probably realise that your fear is unreasonable, yet you still can’t help how you feel about the phobia. For some people just thinking about the thing you fear may cause anxiety.

When are phobias a problem?

A phobia produces anxiety and as such is considered an anxiety disorder. Yet, it is only a problem if it produces distress regularly and if it is stopping you from living your life as you would like to. The word phobia has evolved to become the clinical name of a type of anxiety disorder.

Experiencing clinical phobia

For someone with a phobia the terror is automatic and overwhelming. The experience of anxiety is so distressing that people with phobias usually go to extreme lengths to avoid the feared object. This may involve inconveniencing themselves or even changing a lifestyle. For example, someone with claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces, may turn down a job offer if they have to use an elevator to get to their office.

Common phobias include needles, confined spaces, heights, insects, driving on the freeway and flying in an aeroplane. However, we can develop a phobia of virtually anything, including clowns! (Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns).

Can phobias be overcome?

Yes. There are very effective treatments for phobias. However, some people may be a little put off by the treatment when they are told about it. Essentially, the most effective treatment for phobias is Systematic Desensitization which involves Exposure Therapy. The thought of being exposed to what you fear most puts some people off seeking treatment. My recommendation is to give it a go because it is not as bad as it sounds. The exposure is so graduated that it is not too much of a shock to the system. It is also done at your pace.

Please consider the above information as just a general discussion of the condition and not as a diagnostic tool for phobias.

Remember, if you think a phobia or anything else is affecting your life then it is worth seeking help.

Mental Health Fact

Social phobia, also called social anxiety, is a disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with work or school and other ordinary activities.

(http://www.mentalhelp.net)

Did you know?

The word phobia is added as a suffix (at the end of a word) to other Greek words to construct formal sounding types of fears. For example, Arachne (spider) + phobia (fear) = arachnophobia (fear of spiders). You could probably make up your own word for a particular fear, but it is more than likely that someone has already done that.

For an A to Z listing of phobias check out http://phobialist.com

Your fortnightly Quote

“Fear is the highest fence.” Dudley Nichols

About MBS Psychology

MBS Psychology offers caring and professional counselling services for adolescents and adults.

Counselling          Psychotherapy          Hypnosis

MBS Psychology provides Relaxation classes Mondays & Wednesdays.

For tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

www.facebook.com

Contact Us

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Website: www.mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

When I was a child I really never liked clowns. They were supposed to be humorous bringing joy and laughter to children and adults alike. Not for me. They were mysterious and very frightening. Reading Stephen King novels as a teenager didn’t help with this fear either. I must confess that I still think clowns are rather creepy. Do I have a phobia?

 

What are phobias?

Coming from the Greek word meaning fear, a phobia is an intense fear of something that does not involve any immediate danger. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adults.

 

Phobias are very common. It is likely that you know someone who has one, or that you have one yourself. If you do have a phobia, you probably realise that your fear is unreasonable, yet you still can’t help how you feel about the phobia. For some people just thinking about the thing you fear may cause anxiety.

 

When are phobias a problem?

A phobia produces anxiety and as such is considered an anxiety disorder. Yet, it is only a problem if it produces distress regularly and if it is stoping you from living your life as you would like to. The word phobia has evolved to become the clinical name of a type of anxiety disorder.

 

Experiencing clinical phobia

For someone with a phobia the terror is automatic and overwhelming. The experience of anxiety is so distressing that people with phobias usually go to extreme lengths to avoid the feared object. This may involve inconveniencing themselves or even changing a lifestyle. For example, someone with claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces, may turn down a job offer if they have to use an elevator to get to their office.

 

Common phobias include needles, confined spaces, heights, insects, driving on the freeway and flying in an aeroplane. However, we can develop a phobia of virtually anything, including clowns! (Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns).

 

Can phobias be overcome?

Yes. There are very effective treatments for phobias. However, some people may be a little put off by the treatment when they are told about it. Essentially, the most effective treatment for phobias is Systematic Desensitisation which involves Exposure Therapy. The thought of being exposed to what you fear most puts some people off seeking treatment. My recommendation is to give it a go because it is not as bad as it sounds. The exposure is so graduated that it is not too much of a shock to the system. It is also done at your pace.

 

Please consider the above information as just a general discussion of the condition and not as a diagnostic tool for phobias.

 

Remember, if you think a phobia or anything else is affecting your life then it is worth seeking help.

 

Mental Health Fact

Social phobia, also called social anxiety, is a disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with work or school and other ordinary activities.

(http://www.mentalhelp.net)

 

Did you know?

The word phobia is added as a suffix (at the end of a word) to other Greek words to construct formal sounding types of fears. For example, arachne (spider) + phobia (fear) = arachnophobia (fear of spiders). You could probably make up your own word for a particular fear, but it is more than likely that someone has already done that.

 

For an A to Z listing of phobias check out http://phobialist.com

 

Your fortnightly Quote

Fear is the highest fence.” Dudley Nichols

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Reflections about OCD

Most of us have had the urge to check if the back door is locked before leaving home, perhaps even need to do this a couple of times, that is not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a type of anxiety that is very distressing or disturbing to the sufferer, and can cause significant disruption to a person’s life.

What characterises OCD is the frequency of the obsessions. These can be recurrent thoughts, imagery, doubts, impulses, and the like and also compulsions, such as checking, washing, counting, requesting reassurance, praying, repeating words silently, ordering of objects and so on.

I tend to think of all mental health concerns on a continuum. If you think of a person with a predisposition to OCD and think of the severity of symptoms on a volume switch that ranges from 1 to 100. Now imagine that 1 to 50 is the level without OCD but where there may be some OCD like behaviours. This would create no out of the ordinary disruption to your life. Now let’s say anything higher than 50 represents OCD and there is a range even within that in terms of severity of symptoms.

The obsessions part of OCD is the repeated and consuming thoughts that cause anxiety and distress. In order to reduce the anxiety and distress, acts are performed that become so frequent they are often called rituals – like checking, counting, praying, etc. For example, a person with OCD might have thoughts about becoming sick if they touch surfaces that are perceived as dirty and contaminated with germs (obsession). To reduce their distress and anxiety they wash their hands (compulsion).

To some extent this may seem reasonable. Think of the volume switch. If the person is washing their hands hundreds of times a day until they are raw, perhaps even wearing gloves, using disinfectant, and their life is affected by these compulsions, then the volume switch is above 50 and there is a problem.

Some common obsessions include:

  • Thoughts about contamination (e.g. “Will I catch the flu from shaking hands?”).
  • Repeated doubts about tasks (e.g. “Did I remember to lock the door? Or did I turn off the light?”).
  • A need for order and exactness (e.g. anxiety occurs if pantry items are not lined up, or objects are not straightened or lined up or seem untidy).
  • Aggressive impulses (e.g. intrusive thoughts of killing or hurting a family member, self or other person). These thoughts are frightening to the person and just seem to pop into the person’s mind.
  • Sexual imagery. Intrusive sexual images or thoughts.

People with OCD usually attempt to ignore or suppress their anxious thoughts and impulses. Then they try to stop them with a compulsion. Compulsions are often observable, repetitive behaviours and/or sometimes unseen mental acts which are done to prevent or reduce the anxiety and distress of obsessions.

Some compulsive behaviours include:

  • Checking
  • Washing
  • Ordering for symmetry or exactness
  • Stepping over cracks in the footpath
  • Doing something a certain number of times – lucky/ important numbers. (e.g. stirring coffee exactly 8 times clockwise, then tapping the spoon 8 times)
  • Requesting or demanding reassurance from other people (e.g. “Did I lock the door?”)
  • Hoarding, saving or collecting objects or money.
  • Some compulsive mental rituals include:
  • Praying
  • Counting
  • Repeating words or phrases silently

Logic doesn’t work with OCD, therefore it cannot simply be thought or explained away. Often the person with OCD already knows what they are doing is illogical but are compelled to do it anyway. Treatment of OCD depends where on the ‘volume switch’ you are. For very severe OCD a combination of medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques maybe required. For other levels of OCD Cognitive Behavioural Therapy alone is usually quite effective.

I must also point out that there are other disorders that present very similarly to OCD and only psychologists or psychiatrists are trained to provide a diagnosis. So please consider the above information as just a general discussion of the condition and not as a diagnostic tool for OCD.

Remember, if you think OCD or anything else is affecting other areas of your life then it is worth seeking help.

Mental Health Fact

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that affects more than 500,000 Australians. It usually begins in late childhood or early adolescence.

Did you know?

100 years ago the maximum speed limit in most cities was 16km (10 mph).               (http://didyouknow.org)

Your fortnightly Quote

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” – Leonardo da Vinci

About MBS Psychology

MBS Psychology offers caring and professional counselling services for adolescents and adults.

Counselling          Psychotherapy          Hypnosis

MBS Psychology provides Relaxation classes Mondays & Wednesdays.

For tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

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Contact Us

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Website: www.mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

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Reflections about Panic

My last edition of Reflections was about anxiety and I have been asked to comment on specific types of anxiety. So, for the next few editions of Reflections I will briefly cover the 6 categories of anxiety disorders, starting with Panic disorder.

There are times in most people’s lives when they have experienced panic. Panic is that overwhelming fear and dread that something terrible is about to happen to you or someone that you love. A type of anxiety kicks in at record speed – heart pounding, muscles tense, shortness of breath, feeling like you are losing control and so on. There is an instinctual desire to flee or escape the situation. This is a type of “fight or flight” response. Interestingly, there is also a “freeze” response that is perhaps less well-known, but can also occur. Anxiety is our survival switch that is hard-wired in our brains to deal with threats. Therefore, in certain situations the anxiety associated with panic would be a normal response – e.g. if your life was in danger.

Those with panic disorders – i.e. panic attacks in non-life threatening or low stress situations that occur regularly – find the experience very debilitating. Some people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives and it does not become a disorder.

Some people develop a fear of having a panic attack because of a particular experience and as a result take measures to ensure this doesn’t occur again. The person may engage in avoidance behaviours that usually result in relationship or other social problems.

Panic attacks can occur in response to various stressful situations or phobias (e.g. fear of crowded or enclosed environments). For instance a person may experience a panic attack on a train or other public transport and as a result decides to avoid trains altogether. Such a response is perfectly understandable, but it does not deal with the real cause of the attack and is not a long-term or a healthy solution.

Some people who have been referred to me have thought that they were experiencing a heart attack and called an ambulance and were admitted to hospital to later find out that it was a panic attack. This is not uncommon and quite a sensible precaution as the experience of panic can feel very much like a heart attack or other serious condition. For that reason, the experience of a panic attack can be very frightening and debilitating.

However, panic can be treated successfully through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques and hypnosis. Remember if panic, anxiety or anything else is affecting other areas of your life then it is worth seeking help.

Mental Health Fact

Suicide claims more lives in Australia each year than our national road toll. More than 2,200 Australians take their own lives every year (ABS data).

It is the biggest killer of men and women between 15 and 35, and for every known victim, it is estimated that up to 30 people make an attempt. That means up to 65,000 people a year are directly affected by suicide (Lifeline).

R U OK? aims to inspire all Australians so that they can have an immediate impact on our country’s shockingly high suicide rate by reaching out and making contact with others.

Most people don’t openly share their feelings, particularly when they are struggling. So don’t wait for a sign – trust your instincts. A conversation could change a life.

The best thing we can all do is regularly ask the people we care about: “Are you OK?” regardless of whether they are at risk or not because connection is good for us all.

Source: http://www.ruokday.com.au

Did you know?

Ice cream was invented in China around 2000 BC when soft milk and rice mixture were packed in the snow.

Your fortnightly Quote

“How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?” Homer Simpson

About MBS Psychology

MBS Psychology offers caring and professional counselling services for adolescents and adults.

Counselling          Psychotherapy          Hypnosis

MBS Psychology provides Relaxation classes Mondays & Wednesdays.

For tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

www.facebook.com

Contact Us

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Website: www.mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

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Reflections about Anxiety

Probably the most common condition that people come to see me for is anxiety. Sometimes it is anxiety with depression or anxiety and relationship concerns or anxiety and an eating disorder and so on. Overall, anxiety is usually present or the sole reason for a visit.

When does anxiety or stress for that matter become a problem? If your relationships with family, friends or work colleagues are impacted; or your own well being like sleep, appetite or physical health are affected then it is a problem that needs addressed.

When does anxiety become a disorder? If anxiety is not addressed and it is affecting your life it can be considered a disorder. If the level of anxiety is not in proportion to the event triggering it, like in phobias, it can be considered a disorder. The general rule of thumb is if the anxiety is preventing you from doing something or affecting your life it’s worth getting it checked out. Anxiety can be successfully treated without drugs in many cases.

What are the main types of Anxiety Disorders? There are 6 categories of anxiety disorders; Phobias (specific and general), Panic Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Acute Stress Disorder.

What are the symptoms of anxiety? Everyone is different in what symptoms they notice first, perhaps most notably are the physical effects of anxiety. These may include heart palpitations, muscle weakness and tension, fatigue, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headaches. The body thinks there is a threat and therefore prepares to deal with a threat: blood pressure and heart rate are increased, sweating is increased, blood flow to the major muscle groups is increased, and immune and digestive system functions are inhibited (its the fight or flight response). When a person is in high arousal (i.e. the anxiety state) they may have trouble concentrating and feel agitated, tense or jumpy. Many people experience sleep problems and/or nightmares.

For the person with anxiety there may be a sense of impending disaster, dread or panic.

Some people report turning thoughts over and over in their heads – I call this the “cognitive rotisserie chicken”. Often these thoughts are “what if” scenarios and there is a process of anticipating the worst. Different circumstances seem to produce different anxiety symptoms. For example, when alone and worrying it could be “the cognitive rotisserie chicken”, or the “what ifs”, that might be occurring. For those about to perform in public there may be the sensation of your mind seeming to go completely blank.

NB: The anxiety experienced during preliminary AFL football matches, the Grand Final and part two of the Grand Final to determine the premiership is not considered an anxiety disorder. Though the way some of my friends behave – I am not so sure…!

Mental Health Fact

In 2007, 45% of Australians aged 16-85 years, (or 7.3 million people), had reported that at some point in their lifetime they had experienced a mental health concern.

http://www.abs.gov.au

Did you know?

Honey is the only food that does not spoil.

Your fortnightly Quote

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential”.

Winston Churchill

About MBS Psychology

For more tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

www.facebook.com

www.mbspsychology.com.au

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

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Reflections about seeking help

I find the topic of seeking help an interesting one, so much so that I researched this along with people’s belief systems when I did my Masters degree research. There are many factors involved when seeking help including cultural, social, religious, spiritual, personal beliefs and so on.

There still seems to be a stigma associated with seeking help for mental health concerns. Generally speaking, a mental health professional is sought only after other methods have failed. Often friends or family become informal sources of support or guidance.

Sometimes people don’t want to admit that there is a problem. They work their lives around the anxiety, depression, sleep problem, or whatever it is. They may manage symptoms by self-medicating (alcohol, drugs) or blaming other aspects of their lives (e.g. work, a family member, etc.). This temporarily acts as a distraction and takes the focus away from within. Unlike physical injuries, mental health issues are often not very visible to other people and sometimes not to the person with the concern.

There was an interesting news item during the last fortnight that you may have also read about or seen on TV. The news item was about GPs having higher rates of depression and suicide than the general population. “Beyondblue research adviser, Professor David Clarke says barriers to help-seeking in the medical profession include concerns about stigma, career progress, impact on colleagues and patients, confidentiality and embarrassment”.

To read more:

http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/news/stigma-stops-doctors-seeking-help-for-depression-and-anxiety/15414

GPs lack of help-seeking due to concerns about stigma highlight the need for a change in cultural and social attitudes towards mental health. I wonder what the research would find for psychologists and psychiatrists! I am reminded that mental health is not about particular professions or groups, but about something that doesn’t discriminate.

Mental Health Fact

Bipolar Disorder used to be called Manic Depression.

Did you know?

Thursday 10th of September was World Suicide Prevention Day.

Your fortnightly Quote

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Chinese Proverb

About MBS Psychology

MBS Psychology offers caring and professional counselling services for adolescents and adults.

Counselling              Psychotherapy               Hypnosis

MBS Psychology provides Relaxation classes Mondays & Wednesdays.

For tips and information follow MBS Psychology on Twitter and Facebook

www.twitter.com/mbspsychology

www.facebook.com

Contact Us

Phone: (03) 8518 2507

Email: enquiries@mbspsychology.com.au

Website: www.mbspsychology.com.au

Address: 730 Waverley Road, Malvern East, VIC, 3145

Feedback

Your thoughts, comments and suggestions about this newsletter or things you would like to see in future newsletters are most welcome. Email me on the above address.

MBS Psychology – well-being for your Mind, Body and Spirit

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