4 Steps to Overcoming the Different Types of Panic Attacks

Imagine waking up at 2:00 a.m. with hundreds of thoughts swirling around in your brain. The thoughts are piercing. It is as if your mind is churning in a blender that will not turn off. It is so loud, almost as if it is jammed in an airhorn that doesn’t stop.

You are thinking about a project you forgot to do, a text message (to a sensitive friend) that you forgot to respond to earlier in the day, and worrisome thoughts on a medical test you are awaiting begin to escalate. Your fingers suddenly become tingly, legs become weak, and your breathing becomes labored.

Imagine preparing to head to a social event, but a million thoughts begin to steal your excitement. Instead of the excitement to get out of the house and mingle with friends, obsessive worry takes over.

You worry about being an awkward conversationalist and about potential societal threats. You worry about what you are wearing and wonder if it is the right attire for the event. Your palms begin to sweat, your breathing becomes more intense, your heart begins to race – why does this keep happening?

If these scenarios sound familiar, you or someone you know may be suffering from one of several different types of panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense feeling of threat or danger. It is the feeling of something terrible coming. Different types of panic attacks can happen regularly or can appear out of nowhere without the person’s realization as to what is causing it.

Sophie is an eighteen-year-old who struggles with social anxiety. Every time she enters a crowded room, she begins looking for the EXIT sign. She imagines all the worst-case scenarios. She plans multiple strategies in case something happens.

What if a fight breaks out? What if she sees an ex-boyfriend? She wonders what everyone thinks of her. Does she have something in her teeth? Are her clothes stylish enough, or are they too “last season”? Will someone think she is a bad Christian because she is beginning to panic?

As her breathing becomes labored, she suddenly gets chills, experiences heart palpitations, and becomes nauseous. Sophie is struggling with social anxiety. She is unsure of how to cope with these feelings, which causes her body to respond in this manner.

Anxiety can have a strong and paralyzing effect on one’s body. It is important to realize if this is happening to you so you can begin to pinpoint the triggers and working through different coping mechanisms.

Types of Panic Attacks

There are several types of panic attacks:

  • A cued panic attack is one of which you are aware. You may be very aware that you have social anxiety and what situations set your internal alarm off. You may avoid social gatherings altogether because of these unwanted intense feelings.
  • Non-cued panic attacks are those for which you are not prepared. You do not know why you are having them, and you are unsure of how to narrow down what is triggering you so you can stop them from happening. It may be something below the surface of which you are unaware.
  • Agoraphobia is the fear of going into crowded places. You may avoid going to the mall, movie theater, or other crowded and tight spaces because of a fear of not being able to control a social situation or feeling trapped/helpless.
  • Anticipatory anxiety is the fear of having a panic attack. You may avoid situations that you know have previously caused intense feelings of anxiety or panic.

The first step in the process of dealing with and processing your anxiety is to figure out your triggers. What is causing you anxiety? When is it happening? Who is it happening around? Why is it happening?

Steps to Overcome Panic Attacks

If you are struggling with intense feelings of impending danger, it is important to begin narrowing your signs and symptoms down so you can take proactive steps to improve your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed about what you are feeling.

The first step is to know that you are not alone. Do not feel like you are less-than or falling short. The Bible reminds us that God wants to walk hand-in-hand with us on this journey of life. He does not promise that the road will be easy, but He promises that He will walk alongside us. He will comfort us in times of pain. He will direct us in times of uncertainty.

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Anxiety may be part of your story, but it does not have to define you. The flames may be burning around you, but they do not have to steal your joy or feelings of hope.

Begin breathing techniques and relaxation exercises.

If you are struggling with panic attacks, begin taking deep breaths when a worrisome thought is consuming you. Download a relaxation breathing app on your phone to have on hand when you begin feeling the onset of panic. Find relaxation exercises and activities that work for you.

Re-channel that negative thought. Speak words of affirmation aloud. Practice yoga, exercise regularly, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition/water intake. To battle the mind, the body also needs proper care and nutrition.

Begin journaling when you have a panic attack.

What were you doing at that moment? What was happening around you? Who was around you? How did you feel? What thoughts began racing through your mind? Journaling will help pinpoint what is causing the panic attack if you are unaware. Journaling may also help you work through and process your thoughts on a deeper level.

Know that your pain will not last forever.

Barbara Haines Howett said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, she became a butterfly.” You may have seen a lot of pain in your lifetime. Maybe those closest to you have not been the most encouraging.

You were made for a beautiful purpose and your story is still being written. Perhaps the last few chapters of life have been painful for you, but there is hope on the horizon. Your story can help make a difference in someone else’s life. This setback may be propelling you into something amazing that is right around the corner – and you do not want you to miss it.

Find a strong support system or accountability partner that you can be authentic with. Find someone who will understand and support you when things become heavy.

Hope on the Horizon: Christian Anxiety Counseling

If you are currently struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, Christian counseling for anxiety may be the perfect fit for you. It is a non-judgmental space that wants nothing but hope, joy, and the beautiful unfolding of a new chapter for your life. Today could bring new dawn – scheduling your appointment is the first step to building a stronger and better tomorrow.

Bible Verses for Anxiety

I encourage you to say and pray these aloud when anxiety tries to creep in and steal your sense of peace:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:34

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.Deuteronomy 31:6

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.Proverbs 12:25

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

A Prayer for the Anxious Heart

Father, right now I pray for the person whose heart is anxious. Lord, I pray that you would intervene. Cover their soul right now. Replace their anxious thoughts with thoughts of hope and positive declarations to ward off this negativity.

Please take away the feelings of panic and replace them with feelings of peace and hope. Please soothe their soul, calm their mind, and let them feel that You are present – now and forevermore. Please work in their heart as only You can. Please remind them that they are not alone.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Photos:
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Alexandre Croussette, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Masking”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Letting Go of the Stress”, Courtesy of Eli DeFaria, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Free At Last”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Overcoming Social Anxiety

Many people struggle with the fear of public speaking or performance anxiety in public. But when this fear becomes pervasive and drives you to avoid even neutral, everyday social situations, you may be suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, otherwise known as SAD or social phobia.

SAD is the official psychological diagnosis for social anxiety so intense that it disrupts your daily life and functioning. Not everyone with social anxiety has a mental health disorder, but whether or not your anxiety has prevented you from functioning, it has probably caused you significant distress.

The DSM-IV defines social phobia as: “A marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing” (APA, 1994, p. 416).

According to experts, “the distinctive characteristic of individuals with social phobia is fear of scrutiny by others.”

In 2013, the DSM-V was published, with this updated characteristic of Social Anxiety Disorder: it lasts for six months or more. At that point, it qualifies for diagnosis as a disorder.

Social anxiety is a common fear, affecting around 7% of Americans (and up to 12% will experience it at some point during their lifetime). But just because it is relatively common doesn’t make it less isolating. When you struggle with social anxiety, you might think no one else feels this way, and this sense of isolation can increase your anxiety.

If you have a social phobia, you’re aware of your anxiety and how it interferes with your functioning, but you might feel powerless to stop your physiological symptoms when you are in a given social setting. Your fear of physical symptoms can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing more involuntary physical symptoms.

Sometimes this condition may seem to go away for awhile, but it flares up under stress, or when it’s no longer possible to avoid a triggering situation. If that is the case, you may think you don’t need to seek treatment for the anxiety, but fast forward several months or a few years. You’re going through a lot of life stressors, and suddenly you find that your social anxiety has driven you to avoidance and you’ve become isolated.

This situation can wreak havoc on your mental health, so it’s important to seek social anxiety therapy as soon as possible so the anxiety doesn’t become unmanageable. Keep reading to learn some of the most common signs of Social Anxiety Disorder, and to find out what you can do for social anxiety treatment if you think you may suffer from this mental health condition.Symptoms and Signs of Social Anxiety

As mentioned above, adults with social anxiety are usually aware that their level of fear in social situations is unusually high. This awareness doesn’t make the problem go away, though. And, even if you’re aware of your fear, you might not recognize all of the symptoms.

Here are some of the most common signs of SAD:

Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include:

  • Fear of being judged in social situations.
  • Fear of having to talk to or interact with strangers.
  • Fear of embarrassing yourself in public or around other people.
  • Avoidance of the situations you fear.
  • Avoidance of talking to people.
  • Overanalyzing your performance after a social situation.

Physical Symptoms

Mayo Clinic also describes the physical symptoms that accompany social anxiety:

  • Blushing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Upset stomach

If you suffer from social anxiety, you know that these physical symptoms make it more difficult to successfully navigate social situations, which in turn makes your fear worse. That’s why having social phobia can make you feel trapped. Facing your fears means having to go through those symptoms again, and that can make it seem like overcoming your anxiety is impossible.

Causes

Experts aren’t completely sure what leads to the development of social phobias. Some studies have suggested that genetics play a role, or that your environment may have something to do with it. For example, if one or both of your parents were anxious in social situations, you may have inadvertently internalized this anxiety, and then it manifested in you as you got older.

Or maybe you grew up with parents who were controlling or overprotective. If children are not allowed to naturally develop independence, they may internalize the message that they are not capable of successfully navigating the world on their own. If children are overly dependent due to being overly protected, they may develop social anxiety because they don’t have the necessary skills to navigate social situations – or they just don’t have the confidence.

This isn’t to say that parents are to blame when a child or teenager develops social anxiety; in some cases, it may just be that their personality makes them naturally shy and withdrawing, and then their social anxiety was triggered by an embarrassing or stressful situation (or a series of them).

Someone who has a lot of risk factors or is temperamentally prone to developing social anxiety may be triggered by an event or series of events, or new demands placed upon them, and find themselves with Social Anxiety Disorder.

Studies have also found a link between an overactive amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain, and social anxiety. And, we know that social anxiety often presents along with other anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, or substance use.

Therapy Options

Regardless of the root cause of your phobia, or your specific symptoms, social anxiety can be distressing and debilitating. It strongly impacts daily life and functioning, making it difficult to have a successful career and social life. The more you experience fear, the more you avoid situations that provoke your fear, and the more fearful you become.

The sooner you seek social anxiety treatment, the better. If you catch it early, you have a much better chance of overcoming social anxiety than if you have given it years to become cemented in your brain. However, even if you have suffered from this condition for many years, there is still hope for overcoming social anxiety. Here are some social anxiety therapy options.

Journaling

This first suggestion is one you can try right now, even before you are able to get an appointment with a professional. When it comes to any form of anxiety, writing can be an incredibly effective and free form of therapy. This is not to say that journaling should be used as a substitute for professional help, but you can use it in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

Expressive or therapeutic writing is connected to better mental and physical health, and it has even been shown to lower social anxiety levels over time in subjects who wrote about a stressful public speaking event.

If you want to try journaling, try setting a timer and writing for five minutes, then examine what you wrote and try to write about it from a different perspective. You can also write down a simple step to take to improve your situation.

When you can write down what you’re struggling with, reframe it from a different perspective, and imagine a possibility for handling it, this process can help your brain deal with your fears and begin to take a step towards overcoming your challenges.

Learning Healthy Coping Strategies

When you are struggling with this issue, learning some techniques for coping can make a big difference in your daily functioning. A counselor can help you learn specific techniques and make a plan for implementing them in your everyday life.

A few of the coping strategies you can try include:

  • Naming your anxiety
  • Recognizing that it’s irrational
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Focusing on what you can notice with your senses (colors, textures, objects in the room)
  • Accepting your discomfort

These strategies may not be possible to implement immediately, but they are something to work toward, especially with a therapist.

Christian Counseling for Social Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, can include exposure therapy, in which your counselor helps you face the situations you fear. Your counselor can help you set specific goals for each time you are exposed to a situation you fear – for example, trying to talk to one new person at a social event.

Medication is sometimes prescribed for social anxiety, but it depends on whether your anxiety is generalized or not.

Social anxiety can feel paralyzing, but you don’t have to let it take over your life. Treatment for this condition is very effective and can start you on the journey toward overcoming your struggles today. Christian counseling provides a safe setting for you to discuss your challenges in a judgment-free and compassionate atmosphere.

Photos:
“Two Women Talking”, Courtesy of Lisa Fotios, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Get Together”, Courtesy of Lisa Fotios, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Beach Party”, Courtesy of Bayu Jefri, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Planning Session”, Courtesy of RF._.studio, Pexels.com, CC0 License

How to Stop Worrying in a World Filled with Anxiety

Lisa began her day by announcing, “Good Morning!” in a groggy, insincere voice. She tossed and turned all night over her father’s unexpected diagnosis, not knowing how to stop worrying about what might happen. Her anxiety builds and sweat beads on her upper lip as she mentally reviews her to-do list.

No REM sleep and too many alarm snoozes mean no quiet time. She expects a pumpkin spice latte with an extra shot of espresso to replace her spiritual need. She tries to catch the weather on the local news only to be bombarded with a crisis overseas or a brutal murder.

Quickly, she turns off the television to spare what is left of her children’s innocence as they get ready for school. She grabs a protein bar on the way out the door and dreads the traffic she will encounter on the way to work due to her late start.

Her negative internal dialog begins. “There is so much to get done and no time. I can’t find peace. This world is crazy. Does everyone feel overwhelmed? This is too much! Do I have an anxiety disorder or is it my hormones? Why can’t I figure out how to stop worrying? Is it time to get counseling?”

Everyone has different ways of coping with anxiety in their lives and figuring out how to stop worrying. Lisa is unsure if her anxiety is normal anxiety or if maybe it has crossed over into a general anxiety disorder. She has gone from having a few sleepless nights to many over the course of the last month. She is premenopausal so she has blamed her anxiety and sweating on her hormones. Maybe it is just hormones, but maybe it’s General Anxiety Disorder.

Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The National Institute of Mental Health describes the symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder as:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Other symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Social isolation

Since Lisa exhibits several of the symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder, it would be wise for her to schedule an appointment with her physician. In order to properly diagnose Lisa, the physician will follow these steps:

  • Do a physical exam to look for signs that anxiety might be linked to medications or an underlying medical condition
  • Order blood or urine tests or other tests, if a medical condition is suspected
  • Ask detailed questions about symptoms and medical history
  • Use psychological questionnaires to help determine a diagnosis
  • Use the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association

As a Christian, Lisa has access to more than physicians. What could she do immediately to find some relief from her anxiety? She could pray. She could open her Bible to 1 Peter 5:6-7 and find hope from the Good Counselor.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7

To cast means to throw off. Lisa needs to throw off her anxiety. The anxiety is a tool of her adversary. Peter instructs further in verses 8-10.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:8-10

Lisa could just be struggling and suffering from ordinary complications of life, but if symptoms persist that seem to worsen regardless of prayer and healthy life choices professional treatment is available and should be considered to prevent Lisa from becoming clinically depressed.

How to Stop Worrying: Natural Remedies

There are natural remedies that Lisa can incorporate into her life. First, her physician should rule out any medical causes for anxiety such as her thyroid.

Natural remedies include:

  • Prayer
  • Casting your cares on the Lord
  • Scripture memorization
  • A healthy diet free of caffeine and processed foods
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy such as lavender essential oil
  • Forest bathing-time spent outdoors
  • Time spent with animals
  • Writing
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Deep sleep
  • Chamomile tea
  • Green tea

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Imagine Lisa sipping her chamomile tea before bed as she looks over a Bible verse that she is memorizing. She sets her alarm an hour early so that she can enjoy a healthy breakfast and spend quiet time alone with God.

She skips an unhealthy gossip laden lunch with coworkers and has a healthy salad that she brought from home followed by a nice walk on the greenway surrounding the office complex. As she dodges traffic on the way home, she is listening to a Christian podcast or recites that bible verse. She is taking every thought captive.

These are ways that she can put 1 Peter 5:8 into action.

  • She’s of sober spirit, alert: No caffeine, no alcohol
  • She’s resisting her adversary: No gossip with co-workers
  • She’s standing firm in her faith: Prayer, Bible Study, Memorizing God’s Word

Christian Counseling for Anxiety

Still, there are times when normal anxiety crosses over into something more and there is no shame or disgrace in seeking a clinically trained Christian counselor.

Lisa may find that regardless of all of her attempts at conquering her anxiety naturally, medication and psychotherapy is necessary. Medications are diverse and depend on the anxiety disorder.

Or, Lisa may have another anxiety disorder that can only be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or specialized counselor such as: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobias, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

If you’re struggling with how to stop worrying, feel free to contact our office today to schedule a counseling appointment.

Many times Christians avoid specialized treatment due to the stigma attached to having a mental illness or disorder. Christ died on the Cross so that the children of God could walk in freedom. Shame was nailed to the Cross so that Christians wouldn’t have peace in their eternal salvation. Shame has been exchanged for peace and freedom.

Having an illness is not a sin. The sin is living under daily condemnation that is self-inflicted or assumed due to another person’s faulty belief system. Own the freedom that has already been paid for by Jesus. Lay aside every encumbrance and sin. Run with endurance. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith.

Photos:
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Energepic.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Anxious”, Courtesy of Alexander Dummer, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Olga, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Approaching the Tree”, Courtesy of Vlad Bagacian, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Scripture for Anxiety Relief: Finding Hope in God’s Word

A racing heart, gripping fear or a persistent worry cycle that keeps you up at night are just some of anxiety’s many symptoms. The Collins Dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of nervousness or worry. Health websites explain that anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress: the approach of a predatory animal would have set off an alarm in early man’s body – a rush of adrenaline triggering a “fight-or-flight” response.

While running from large animals and imminent danger is a less pressing concern today, our anxieties now generally revolve around work, money, family life, health, and other issues that consume our thought life.

While in some instances the adrenaline rush is helpful (that nervous feeling before doing a speech can make you try harder and lead to enhanced performance), in most cases anxious thoughts are unpleasant.

Scripture for Anxiety Relief

If we look at what God has to say about anxiety in the Bible, it is something that we need to submit to Him. Here are some helpful verses from the Bible about not worrying, for anxiety, and God’s Word can help calm your fears.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

There are times in life when this command may feel impossible and not calming at all. God says we must stop feeling this way but how do we do that? We could easily end up feeling anxious about our anxiety, striving to be content but still feeling defeated. Reading the verse carefully, we see that the verse gives a better alternative. Instead of feeding fear, we should tell God what we think we need.

Praying to Him, with a thankful heart that acknowledges that He is a Father who cares and gives good things, is our strategy to combat anxiety. The verse that follows in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” is a promised result that comes after identifying our desires and handing them over to God.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

This word “cast” occurs one other time in the New Testament, in Luke 19:35, in exactly the same form. Referring to the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on on Palm Sunday, the verse says, “They brought it to Jesus, and casting their garments on the colt, they set Jesus on it.”

So the meaning is simple; if you cast the garment on the donkey, you no longer carry it anymore, the animal does. God is able and willing to carry your anxieties in the same way a donkey works for you and lifts your load. He wants to be a burden bearer because it demonstrates his power, as Isaiah 64:4b says, “no eye has seen any God beside you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

The reason why you are able to cast your cares on the Lord is that he cares for you, and this is where the rubber meets the road. Do you believe this promise? Then trust him. He cares about the thing that is worrying you and wants you to trust him for that.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:25-34

Of all the Bible verses about not worrying, this passage from Matthew is probably read most often. It speaks so directly to the physical needs that cause us concern. In John Piper’s post, “Do not be anxious about your life,” he mentions eight reasons why Jesus says his disciples should not be anxious from this passage.

The first is that we ought not to be anxious about food and clothing because they cannot provide the great things of life – the enjoyment of God, the pursuit of his gracious favour, the hope of eternity in his presence. The second is that the birds have taught us that God can be counted on to work for us tomorrow just as much as today.

Thirdly, anxiety is useless; fourthly, God delights in adorning us; the fifth reason comes down to unbelievers being anxious about worldly things so we need to set ourselves our apart in this way; the sixth is that when we are anxious it shows that we don’t think our Father in heaven knows our needs, the seventh that it is foolish to carry burdens that God has promised to carry for us, and lastly, that God has appointed to each day its portion of pleasure and trouble, so we need to believe that God will be God tomorrow.

There are many more Bible verses about anxiety that we can reflect on to help calm fears, as we meditate on God’s character and what he has done for us in Christ. Here are a few more to cling to:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand. – Isaiah 41:10

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. – Psalm 94:19

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. – Psalm 34:4

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

If you struggle with anxiety know that the Bible offers hope. The verses above, along with many others throughout the Scriptures are good food for meditation and memorization. When anxiety strikes, bring these passages to mind and rest in the calming assurance that God is in control.

Photos:
“In the Word”, Courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Catching a Feather”, Courtesy of Javardh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Flowering Grass”, Courtesy of Kien Do, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yellow Flowers”, Courtesy of Masaaki Komori, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Treatment for Anxiety: Options Without Medication

Anxiety is oftentimes crippling and causes excessive worries that can lead to physical effects like sweaty hands, a racing heart, sleeping problems, and many other unwanted symptoms.

Clients who are dealing with anxiety disorders often make an initial appointment to inquire about non-pharmaceutical methods that can be tried first. It is always beneficial to learn methods of managing anxiety as well as uncover underlying problems and triggers.

Treatment for Anxiety Without Medication

Some methods of treating recurring anxiety without medication include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Self-care

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a widely used and very effective way of treating anxiety before trying medication. Clients go through this type of therapy in the therapeutic setting of a counselor’s office.

Anxiety tends to make someone worry excessively that the likelihood of something bad is destined to happen, and CBT works to re-frame these thoughts and help clients understand the patterns of their behavior. Through CBT, patients learn ways to identify detrimental thinking patterns and transform them into rational thoughts that will help improve the regulation of emotions.

Progressive muscle relaxation is also part of CBT. Clients can learn breathing techniques to use that will relax them and assist them in dealing with the unwanted physiological consequences of anxiety, which include psychosomatic symptoms and muscle tightness.

Yoga

Some therapists have decided to incorporate yoga into treatment plans for clients. Since they are Christian counselors, their understanding of yoga refers to relaxation principles and mindfulness instead of non-Christian practices or Buddhism.

The popularity of yoga continues to increase, and this is partially because it can work to modulate one’s stress response. Yoga can improve mental clarity by using breathing techniques and different poses.

Acupuncture

One of the most common alternative forms of medicine is acupuncture. In this form of Chinese medicine, sterile, long needles are placed in different areas of the body close to nerves. This activates a body’s chemicals that work to reduce or eliminate pain. Despite the belief that acupuncture is a pseudoscience that has mixed results regarding efficacy, many people prefer to test it out before opting to take medication, and many people experience positive results.

Massage

Massages are great for reducing tension and lessening anxiety, but they cannot solve any underlying issues that are causing a client’s anxiety. Typically, people complain about muscle tightness and tension when they are experiencing anxiety, and a massage has the ability to provide a little bit of physical relief for at least a brief period of time.

Self-Care

Managing anxiety without the use of medications is impossible without spiritual, physical, and mental self-care.

Spiritual self-care includes making time for God through Bible study, Church, or prayer; physical self-care includes any form of exercise; and mental self-care includes things like journaling or breathing exercises.

The goal of self-care is to use techniques that make you aware of your feelings and responses to stimuli or unwanted stressors as well as cause you to simply be “present.”

In some cases, medication might still be necessary if someone’s symptoms of anxiety are severe, but using things like prayer, breathing exercises, self-care, or any of the other aforementioned options would be a great addition to medication. The first place to start is to find a professional therapist who can help you find the best treatment plan for your specific needs.

Photos:
“Hiding”, Courtesy of Claudia Soraya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yoga”, Courtesy of Matthew Kane, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Time”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Commonly Missed Anxiety Symptoms in Women

Anxiety impacts people of all genders and ages but usually manifests differently in people of different ages and genders. Anxiety occurs twice as often in women as in men and are they found to experience Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Phobias, PTSD and Social Anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety in midlife differ than symptoms of anxiety during childhood. Today we will explore what anxiety looks like for women ages 30 to 50.

Women approaching midlife traditionally experience a higher propensity toward anxiety disorders.

Usually, these anxiety disorders fall within generalized anxiety, PTSD, and panic attacks. Hormonal changes that happen during motherhood, pre-menopause, and menopause are all reasons for these anxiety disorders.

Women in their thirties to fifties are normally facing the peak of life’s highest demands as they try to meet expectations imposed on women from society. Women embrace the idea that they can “have everything,” including chasing career growth, raising children, managing the home, and maintaining active social lives.

Women measure their lives to other mothers and businesswomen around them and strive to keep up appearances. During these years, suppressed memories of former sexual assault or abuse can often crop up and lead to latent anxiety or PTSD symptoms.

What follows is a breakdown of the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and PTSD.  You may not realize that some of the symptoms that are outlined below accompany these diagnoses.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder manifests itself as excessive anxiety and intense worry about a whole host of things. This worry comes quickly and can be a real challenge to control.

This anxiety is associated with not less than three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms, including fatigue, restlessness, muscle tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances. If you have experienced three or more of these symptoms on a regular basis for 6+ months, you most likely are living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Commonly Missed Anxiety Symptoms in Women:

Difficulty Concentrating

Many women struggle to simply focus on what’s happening around them. They begin a task and then shortly after may realize, “Woah. My mind has totally been wandering.” This lack of focus can become a detriment to productivity.

Sometimes it’s worrying thoughts that are distracting the person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but other times that person is unable to focus long enough to complete the task at hand. Either of these can still point to you experiencing anxiety.

Difficulty Sleeping

Tossing and turning is a symptom of anxiety in women ages 30 to 50. Mothers are used to losing solid, uninterrupted sleep when the baby comes, but there could be other signs to look out for. If your day is full of anxiety then your sleep might be interrupted by nightmares or other internal thoughts.

You get in bed to catch some shut-eye and the thoughts that plague you make it nearly impossible to fall asleep. You might eventually be able to drop off to sleep, but sleep is still elusive. If this is part of your nightly routine, you might be suffering from anxiety.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

A panic attack happens suddenly and escalates to its peak within minutes. It’s diagnosed when four of the below symptoms are met and often can be overlooked because the symptoms are similar to heart disorders, breathing issues and other health problems.

Recurring panic attacks include four or more of the following symptoms. Pounding heart or accelerated heart rate, palpitations, trembling or shaking, sweating, feelings of choking, feeling short of breath or like you are smothering, discomfort or pain in the chest, feeling dizzy, nausea or abdominal distress, unsteadiness, light-headedness, or faintness, paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations), chills or heat sensations, fear of losing control or “going crazy,” derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself), fear of dying.

At least one panic attack is followed by one month of persistent worry of having more panic attacks. Also, there’s a presence of persistent behavioral changes that occur to avoid an attack, including avoiding similar situations that caused the attack in the first place.

Commonly Missed Symptoms:

Accurately Identifying Physical Symptoms as Anxiety

A panic attack itself is extremely noticeable. The physical signs can be frightening for someone who has never suffered through an anxiety attack. However, interpreting the symptoms accurately is harder to do.

Perhaps you have been experiencing tightness of the chest for days and wonder if your heart is healthy. This is one of the ways symptoms aren’t viewed accurately because anxiety may not have been on your radar as the problem.

The Fear of Recurring Panic Attacks

Once you’ve gone through a panic attack, a fear can grip you about when the next anxiety attack will occur. The worry about physically experiencing another panic attack is all-consuming, yet a normal part of the anxiety experience of a panic disorder.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD symptoms occur after being exposed to death, injury, or violence. This can happen by directly witnessing the trauma, or by learning the details of a trauma indirectly.

PTSD also happens when you’re experiencing the traumatic event in certain ways that include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or exposure to something that triggers traumatic reminders. Completely avoiding thoughts, feelings, or reminders of the traumatic experience can also be a symptom of PTSD. Usually, symptoms must have lasted for one month, but not all symptoms have to exist to be diagnosed with PTSD.

Commonly Missed Symptoms:

Self-Blame

Women often internalize traumatic events and feel responsible for what happened. In an attempt to minimize the pain, they just self-blame. Women are known to shoulder burdens and this behavior puts them at higher risk for experiencing PTSD when they are exposed to a traumatic event.

Christian Counselors Are Ready to Help

Don’t let the pressure of being perfect prevent you from seeking help. If you are women between the ages of 30 and 50 and find yourself relating to what’s been shared in this post, help is out there. Taking the step of finding a counselor can be daunting, but it can lead to incredible freedom in your life. Counseling can help in ways you might not even realize.

Remember, you are not alone. Anxiety is common and treatable. A professional, established counselor will come alongside you during this season of life and equip with the tools to take on your anxiety.

Photos:
“Portrait,” courtesy of Remy Loz, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone,” courtesy of Ann Demianenko, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Nervous,” courtesy of Eddie Kopp, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Trapped,” courtesy of Paul Gilmore, unsplash.com, Public Domain License

Social Anxiety Disorder: How to Manage and How to Thrive

Imagine being caught in a riptide. Your breath hitches and heart starts beating so loudly that you can’t hear the crashing waves. You are paralyzed and don’t know whether you will sink or swim. Suddenly, you feel energy flood your body and every hair on your back and arms stand up with anticipation.

You begin to swim, focused on nothing else except the beach. All of this takes less than 15 seconds, but when you get out of the current, you feel like you’ve been swimming for 15 hours.

This example of a flight-or-fight response is similar to the ones people experience in most dangerous, life-threatening situations. Our brain assesses the risk and tells our body how to respond

It is called an automatic stress response to danger, and under it, the body moves faster, bleeds less, and floods muscles with energy hormones while the brain disengages from all other input other than the main threat. This response is instinctual and meant to aid in survival.

But what if this happened every time you had to talk with someone new? Or every time you went to class, or church, or a party? What if this automatic stress response kicked in at coffee shops and shopping malls and yoga studios, and it always seemed like you were being swept out to sea, even when you were on a business call? This kind of survival response can be exhausting when triggered all the time, and can seriously affect a person’s quality of life.

Social anxiety disorder is like this. People with social anxiety fear embarrassment, being judged and evaluated negatively by others, and finding themselves in situations where they could be scrutinized. This fear leads to the avoidance of social situations altogether.

Sometimes this anxiety can be overwhelming. Social anxiety disorders correlate with a low quality of life. There is a greater risk of dropping out of school, experiencing lower work productivity, and receiving a lower income (Edmund Bourne, Ph.D. 2015). For this to be a clinical diagnosis, however, this fear or anxiety must stick around for six months or longer.

Humans crave connection and we are created for community and positive interaction. Social interaction is necessary for people to thrive. Just as food helps fuel the body, social interaction helps fuel the brain. When a social anxiety disorder is ignored, it puts a person at risk for unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

While anxiety in itself can be helpful (it typically serves as a prompt to grow or change), paralyzing anxiety can be dangerous. The key is to learn how to manage the anxiety so that it is not so overwhelming that the person is unable to function.

Planning Recovery

Several interventions exist for addressing and treating social anxiety, but the most important thing to know is: ask for help. Help can look different for each person but exists in many forms. Read a book on different treatment approaches, enlist the support of family and/or friends, or meet with a therapist. Just take the first step!

We hope this post will provide you with an overview of successful interventions and give you examples of common treatment plans for this disorder. The four following approaches can help people cope with their social anxiety:

1. Relaxation Training
2. Core Belief Transformation
3. Exposure Tasking
4. Personal Assertiveness Practice

While these four things aren’t the totality of intervention for a social anxiety disorder, they give a good overview of what a therapist might do to help someone manage their diagnosis.

Relaxation Training

We tend to perform best when we feel relaxed. We are more alert and energized, and willing to approach uncomfortable situations. With an anxiety disorder, however, relaxation seems out of reach. This is partly because the fight-or-flight response is antithetical to the relaxation response.

It takes practice. Relaxation training decreases an overactive heart rate, respiration, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and oxygen consumption. It calms the overly analytical brain and increases skin resistance and alpha wave activity in the brain. (Edmund Bourne, Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 2015).

Since people with social anxiety disorders often have past negative social experiences, they avoid future experiences in an attempt to mitigate any humiliation or degradation they might perceive. This avoidance ultimately strengthens the anxiety response to social situations. With mastery of relaxation techniques, the same person can gain confidence in social situations (even if they had past negative experiences).

Relaxation training can take the form of guided imagery, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and abdominal breathing. The method one chooses isn’t as important as the frequency with which they practice their chosen method. Twenty to thirty minutes a day can produce positive, life-changing results.

This is typically the first step to overcoming social anxiety. If you can relax, you can better assess risks. Relaxation helps free a person to face the situation they have previously learned to avoid.

Core Belief Transformation

Our thoughts are powerful, and when they are unhelpful, they can be powerful barriers to overcoming social anxiety. Our willingness to participate in social activities is directly related to how we think about ourselves, about others, about the situation, etc. Negative thoughts lead to increased anxiety.

We find that the more intense the thoughts are, the more intense the feelings are. The goal of managing any anxiety disorder is to reduce anxiety levels so that one is free to engage their social world. For example, someone with a social anxiety disorder might think and believe that they will look foolish if they speak in a meeting.

The more they think this, the higher their anxiety climbs, making it almost impossible for them to speak up. If they can change their belief that they are “foolish” and switch it to something less intense, like “I’m concerned others won’t like my ideas,” they are freer to explore ways to challenge that thought and speak up.

Edmund Bourne, Ph.D., recommends five questions for lowering the intensity of negative thoughts and challenging mistaken beliefs:

1. What objective evidence do you have for this belief?
2. Does this belief ALWAYS hold true for you?
3. Does this belief take into account the negative and positive outcomes? (Does it look at the whole picture?)
4. Does this belief give you peace of mind or promote your well-being?
5. Did you choose this belief on your own, or did it come from your experience growing up in your family?

Asking these questions will better help a person develop new thoughts that are less anxiety-provoking. While difficult to do at first, a supportive therapist can help those with social anxiety challenge their core beliefs so they can engage their social world without fear.

Exposure Tasking

Social anxiety disorder acts like a phobia. When you are afraid of something, you tend to avoid it. People with social anxiety disorder avoid social situations. They experience anxiety when confronted with particular stimuli (speaking in public, taking public transportation, attending parties, etc.), and when they avoid that stimulus, their anxiety is reduced.

The avoidance is like a reward-system and the more it happens, the more it creates a pathway in the brain to allow it to happen. The brain starts making the connection automatically, and the avoidance becomes second-nature. When anxiety reactions get hardwired into a person’s brain, it can be difficult to re-route.

However, our brains are built to adapt, change, and form new connections. This is called neuroplasticity. This rewiring process is also called exposure and exposure helps people unlearn “the connection between anxiety and a particular situation.” (Bourne, 2015).

Exposure tasking allows a person to enter a scary situation, feel their anxiety rise, endure the anxiety, and realize they can survive it. This ultimately allows that person to unlearn their anxiety response and gain confidence in their ability to handle it.

The key to doing this is to break down the exposure tasks into manageable chunks. The anxiety can be mastered in successive stages instead of all at once.

For example:

Fred is afraid of public speaking. He chooses exposure tasking to help him conquer his fear. He first imagines himself on stage speaking in front of a crowd. While doing this, he acknowledges all his thoughts and feelings.

If they are negative, he replaces them with positive. Next, he practices in front of a mirror. After he feels comfortable, he gathers a group of friends. On this goes until he is able to face the anxiety-provoking situation, literally rewiring his brain.

Personal Assertiveness Practice

The final approach that can help someone cope with social anxiety is assertive communication. This is a direct, non-reactive, clear, and honest form of self-expression that allows a person to interact with others in a non-anxious way.

The key elements of assertive communication include the following:

  • Identifying personal needs;
  • Describing facts;
  • Sharing personal feelings;
  • Making personal requests;
  • Providing positive reasons for need.

For example, if Fred was angry at a friend who always canceled plans, his first step would be to figure out his need. His need would be reliability. After identifying this need, he would sit down with his friend to discuss the facts in a non-emotional way. “You have canceled plans the past 5 times we’ve made them.”

Then he’d share his feelings. “This makes me feel unsure and confused.” Finally, he’d make his request by providing positive reasons for it. “I need you to keep plans when we make them or not make plans until you know for sure that you can go. It will help me feel confident in our relationship and give me assurance that we are in a good place.”

Even if Fred’s friend did not respond well, Fred has demonstrated that he can stand up for himself and not let his anxiety rule his friendships or create unhealthy relationships. Practicing this is key to being able to do this in everyday situations.

Conclusion

These four areas of intervention are just a small overview of what treatment looks like for social anxiety disorder. This is not a substantial how-to, as much as it is an informative look at what needs to happen when approaching this diagnosis.

There is help, intervention, and healing for social anxiety. Recovery is achievable and with the right supports in place, it is a journey worth taking.

Photos

“Blue Sea”, Courtesy of Clem Onojeghuo, Pexels.com; CC0 License; “Relaxation,” courtesy of Kosal Ley, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Time to Think,” courtesy of Enrico, Flickr Creative Commons; “Group Therapy”, Courtesy of Rudamese, Pixabay.com; CC0 License

How to Help Your Child Overcome Symptoms of Anxiety

When we imagine childhood, often thoughts of being carefree and happy flash across our minds. We hope for the same things for our children, yet more kids are showing symptoms of anxiety.

Unfortunately, they aren’t immune to anxiety. They enter this big, scary world and face many mountains of their own. Think about moving towns, changing schools or even having to participate in a spelling bee when there’s a learning or attention issue. Anxiety can be crippling at any age.

What Do Symptoms of Anxiety Look Like in Children?

All children get stressed at some point in life. They might have a test coming up or a tryout for a sport that turns their tummy into knots. If that’s the case, how do you know if your child is overly anxious? Children struggling with anxiety may have frequent stomach aches, headaches, completely stop eating and stop playing with other friends.

If your child is worried about an activity months or weeks in the future, this is a major indicator anxiety is consuming him. Children can also worry about catastrophes that are unlikely to happen and ask many ‘what if’ questions like, “What if our house catches on fire during the night?”

A child’s anxiety can extend beyond himself and affect his family. Some parents plan their vacations around finding a place that won’t disturb their child and trigger anxiety.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel helpless when your child is facing anxiety, but when you remain steadfast and calm you can be fully present to guide your child through their everyday anxiety.

To help a child overcome anxiety, it’s important to first understand what’s going on in their mind. Children form anxious thoughts after sensing a threat and lacking the ability to cope. It derails them from daily activities when they get stuck in this pattern of thinking. The things that cause your child anxiety might not appear major, but it’s crucial to understand and empathize with your child’s struggle.

How to Keep Your Child From Worrying

Make sure your children feel heard and understood when they begin to worry. Don’t dismiss or minimize their feelings. To them, the feelings and thoughts are as real as you are and they need your reassurance. Next, teach them about two different paths the mind can take. Your anxious child automatically goes down the worry path without realizing that another option exists.

Help your child understand how the body changes when experiencing fear and anxiety, so he can begin to recognize the signs. Teach your child to talk back to their worries and fears. Imagine worry as a big bully or monster that can be conquered by telling why it isn’t welcome in your world.

The worry bully exists to keep everybody from enjoying life. Parents and siblings can even gang up on the worry bully together so that one child doesn’t feel isolated in this. The worry bully is an enemy we all must face together.

Show your child how he has the power to change his thinking. Give an example of a situation that could potentially cause anxiety for your child. Maybe even the thought of riding a school bus without you would cause him anxiety. The thoughts and feelings might range from, “What if nobody sits by me? What if the bus driver leaves me somewhere wrong? What if I get picked on? The bus is scary.”

Instead, you can think of it this way, “The bus driver is a professional and cares about the kids. My classmates show up every day to school without getting left somewhere else. My good friend Robby would sit with me if I asked him. My classmates even talk about how much fun it is to ride a bus.” The thoughts slowly shift to ones of excitement and confidence.

Don’t Give Up

Rewiring the brain to externalize anxiety takes time. If the family continues to focus on working together as a team to fight the worry bully, your child will experience different ways to overcome those anxious thoughts and not allow worry to wear him down. Talking with a counselor can help the family navigate through anxiety and brainstorm strategies for overcoming its influence.

Photos:
“Girl,” Courtesy of greekfood-tamystika, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Worried,” Courtesy of Eneas De Troya, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Afraid,” Courtesy of Joseph Gonzalez, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Plea”, Courtesy of Bkrmadtya Karki, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Two Common Anxiety Disorders in Children

Do you recall what your very first day at school felt like? Or how about your first day of work on the job? These thoughts and fears may no longer reside in your memory since they were normal and temporary reactions. However, imagine how it would feel if you were to experience those same feelings constantly, even when they made no sense!

These feelings of anxiety can be overwhelming for a child. Maybe your child struggles with anxiety and you are wondering what is really going on in their head when they fear a social setting so much that they can’t participate.

It can be tough on the whole family when one of the children struggles with anxiety symptoms, and even more so when their best friend or their teacher just doesn’t get what is happening, or understand how to support them.

Some teachers are not equipped to know what is happening when a child experiences anxiety and they can underestimate the effects that it has on the student’s success and performance and social relationships. Teachers may confuse anxiety with other things, such as behavioral issues, and not know how best to work with parents for a successful outcome, as well as how to advocate for the child within the larger framework of the school system.

Perhaps you have wondered how to better understand your child’s needs when they face these types of challenges but are met with misunderstandings and/or lack of support from others.

The remainder of this article will cover 10 ways that anxiety affects a child’s life and education:

  • A child’s feelings of worry about themselves, their parents, or family members
  • Having nightmares or night terrors and lack of sleep
  • Symptoms of panic attacks
  • Decline in educational success
  • Physical symptoms of headaches and stomachaches
  • Extreme difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Heightened risk of developing depression or other anxiety disorders
  • Lack of social skills or experience
  • Low levels of communication while in social situations
  • Being misunderstood by family, school teachers, and/or peers

There is a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. There are anxiety disorders that occur only in children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) distinguishes between anxiety disorders and normative fear or anxiety, noting that anxiety disorders are extreme and persist beyond a time that is developmentally appropriate.

Anxiety disorders in children can cause them to read greater levels of danger into a situation or completely avoid it. Separation anxiety disorder and selective mutism typically begin in the early years and persist throughout adulthood when left untreated. Sometimes children with anxiety disorders may have the symptom of panic attacks in response to a fear.

Separation Anxiety

Although some separation from a caregiver is normal in children, separation anxiety is when a child is so anxious from the separation of a caregiver that it is developmentally inappropriate. The diagnostic criteria for separation anxiety disorder include:

  • Nightmares
  • Worry that their attachment figure might be hurt in some way and a reluctance to be separated from them.
  • Physical symptoms related to distress.
  • Extreme apprehension about possible events such as kidnapping, accidents, getting lost or getting sick – anything that might separate them from their attachment figure.
  • Reluctance or refusal to leave the house and go to places like school, aversion to sleeping somewhere other than home, and physical symptoms such as head or stomach aches when separated from the attachment figure.

The most commonly diagnosed childhood anxiety disorder is separation anxiety. School disruption effects 75% of children struggling with separation anxiety because of their unwillingness to even attend school on a daily basis. Even children who end up going to school may still suffer because they cannot focus on what is being taught due to their anxiety over those at home.

Sleep disturbances are also common with symptoms consisting of nightmares as well as physical symptoms. This is a challenge for any parent who is unaware of the level of fear that their child experiences from sleeping in their room alone.

When a child does not get enough sleep, it is difficult for them to function at school. Their behavior may cause confusion in the classroom which can create tension in their relationship with teachers and peers. The behavior can become so disruptive that the teachers and peers may find it difficult to engage with them on a developmentally appropriate social level, resulting in the child being labeled as defiant.

A parent may develop their own response to their child’s anxiety symptoms. Some parental responses can end up reinforcing the child’s symptoms and behaviors. Negative behaviors may result in a parent removing them from the area in which the behavior occurred, which can increase their anxiety even more.

This can be increasingly frustrated for parents who struggle to understand what is going on with their child. Parents may continue to reinforce behaviors, for example, by allowing their child to sleep with them when they fear to sleep alone or to stay home from school when they do not want to go. This is detrimental to the family as a whole and may cause stress to the rest of the family.

Do you have a closer bond with one child more than the others? Perhaps this bond was formed with the child who most needs the sense of closeness and safety. This can cause rifts between you and your spouse or other family members before you are even aware of it.  While you spend much of your time attending to the child struggling with separation anxiety, others in the family may be feeling left out.

Not only does separation anxiety have an immediate effect, but it can prove detrimental long-term as well. The isolation a child experiences today can bring on social problems, later on, making it more likely they will remain unmarried. In addition, children who suffer from separation anxiety disorder are more likely to develop depression or other types of anxiety disorders as they grow up.

Selective Mutism

Anxiety can affect a child’s life and educational success in other, more subtle ways. Does your child never talk at school, but won’t stop talking as soon as you pick them up?

Does your child act shy in public when around people that you know, when only moments ago they were laughing and talking with their brothers or sisters in the car? Does this seem to be context-specific? Perhaps they suffer from selective mutism, another anxiety disorder that can strike children.

Selective mutism, though quite rare, typically affects children prior to the age of five. It often goes unnoticed until such time as the child enters school. Many times, children grow out of selective mutism, but understanding the effects, symptoms, and signs of it is still important because of the many ways that anxiety can affect a child’s life and education.

In order to deliver a diagnosis of Selective mutism, certain criteria have to be met, such as:

  • Not speaking in settings or situations where it would normally be expected (i.e. – school).
  • Not speaking when it isn’t merely a result of ignorance of the subject being spoken about.
  • Symptoms that are unrelated to some other type of communication disorder or which happen simultaneously with some other disorder, like autism spectrum disorder.
  • Behavior that lasts for more than a month and stretches beyond the first month of school, when children are normally hesitant to participate in their new surroundings.

Here are a few factors that are critical for understanding the kinds of symptoms that one should look for. Children with selective mutism will often have normal patterns of communication at home with their family. However, they will clam up in public settings (such as school) and may even fail to speak to their extended family members who do not live with them. Children may also be silent when in the company of peers.

A child with anxiety may have even more of a struggle in making friends at school than will a child who is anxiety free. It is even more challenging for a child that suffers from selective mutism. Other children may be hesitant to befriend a child that cannot talk to them.

Selective mutism may also produce other problems at school, especially if the teacher cannot interact with, and assess the educational levels of the child, or where the child cannot communicate their needs to the teacher.

Even though children with selective mutism can occasionally come up with nonverbal methods of communication, like pointing, the lack of communication may increase the possibility that they will be teased by peers, which will further aggravate their anxieties about being in social settings.

A child with anxiety, whether ongoing or only occasional, has feelings, emotions, and behaviors that may be initially confusing to those who care about them. Young children will likely not understand the anxiety symptoms in their body at first, but they pass into the adolescent years they become more aware and they may prioritize their need to feel better, even though they might not know exactly how to achieve this.

They may try things that may appear to relieve the anxieties that they experience and run the risk of developing unhealthy or risky habits that can lead to increased anxiety, shame, guilt, or confusion.

Parents, siblings, friends, and teachers can find it a significant challenge to interact with a child that experiences all the worry and fear brought on by separation anxiety or selective mutism. However, these challenges can be overcome – there is hope, because of the high success rate of managing both conditions.

Therapy can (and should) include both the child and family members to increase their understanding of the symptoms and to help develop more appropriate ways to manage anxiety and its causes. Children will be taught more appropriate ways of coping with their anxiety and develop skills to change their thought patterns when anxiety symptoms show up.

If you are unsure whether anxiety is the cause of your child’s distress, schedule an appointment with a Christian Counselor Newport Beach today. Becoming educated about your child’s anxiety can be the beginning of a new day for everyone.

Photos
“I love you,” courtesy of London Scout, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Afraid,” courtesy of Joseph Gonzalez, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coloring time,” courtesy of Aaron Burden, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Smug,” courtesy of vborodinova, unsplash.com, CC0 License 

How to Cope During a Panic Attack

Are chest pains, a pounding heart, faintness, weakness or dizziness, breathing difficulties, sweatiness or chills, a feeling of impending doom all too familiar symptoms to you? If so, then you probably know how upsetting a panic attack can be.

Some people even think they’re having a heart attack when they experience these symptoms, so a trip to the emergency room would be wise to rule out the possibility. It’s quite stressful for your body, and it takes a toll on your emotions as well.

A Defense Mechanism

Stress is not necessarily evil, though. It’s the body’s way of reminding us we need to keep things in check. Our bodies are fragile and yet also adaptable, ready to cope with whatever comes its way.

The body is equipped with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which acts as a defense mechanism that helps us in times of crisis. This sympathetic nervous system stimulates the fight or flight response, which helps your body to make a split-second decision to either stand and defend yourself against a certain threat or flee it.

For instance, when faced with a person in an alley who seems to be wielding a weapon, your SNS could either prepare you to take out your umbrella to defend yourself (fight) or run the opposite direction as fast as you can (flight). Basically, the function of the SNS is to do whatever is necessary to maintain that balance, to keep you safe.

Traumas and Triggers

Understandably, your body would be agitated by such an encounter. Suppose you realize shortly after that instead of a weapon, that stranger was actually just holding a flashlight. Your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) then takes over to calm you down, helping you to relax by inhibiting or slowing the high energy functions activated by the SNS. It slows down your heart rate and relaxes some muscles, among other things.

The PNS is crucial because too much stress damages the body. Events like these can leave you traumatized, and trauma can rewire your brain and make your body act as if you’re always in danger, making it nearly impossible to remain in a state of calm. This predisposes you to anxiety and panic. If this persists for more than six months and remains unchecked, anti-anxiety medication may be required to help you keep things in check.

Our bodies have a way of remembering trauma. This can lead to a panic attack, which usually has a trigger. But not all triggers are the overt type. Some are less obvious, and this can make it quite challenging to figure out exactly what triggered your panic attack. This commonly happens when you don’t have outlets for these traumatic experiences, such as having someone to talk to and process these events with.

In these cases, they can build up in our system and implode with a panic attack even without any tangible trigger. A fainting spell is also possible; though this could also have a more serious root cause, in which case it would be best to see a doctor.

What You Can Do

You may begin to think that you’re helpless when it comes to managing your anxiety. The good news is that you’re not. There are many coping skills you can learn to help you keep your anxiety at bay. You have your parasympathetic nervous system to thank for that.

It may take a while, but it is definitely possible to unlearn your body’s response to trauma and retrain it to respond differently to anxious thoughts and feelings. One of the best and easiest ways to do this would be to control your breathing.

Here is a step-by-step procedure on how to do just that:

  1. First, find a place where you can sit in a comfortable, relaxed posture.
  2. Next, engage your diaphragm and breathe slowly. Make sure you push out your stomach (diaphragm). You can place your hand on your stomach to ensure its movement.
  3. Inhale slowly (through the nose) to the count of three. Inhale 1…2…3. Then exhale slowly through your mouth.
  4. If you were able to do that, increase the count of your inhale to six. Inhale 1…2…3…4…5…6. Then exhale slowly.
  5. Do this for a minute, focusing on your breathing and just feel the anxiety melting away as your body calms down.
  6. Continue this exercise and increase deep breathing duration to two minutes, then five, then ten, or twenty if necessary.

This exercise may not be easy to do at first. But just as you are teaching your body to cope in different ways, you are also unlearning some unhealthy learned responses to stress, so it may take a while to get used to. Take it easy on yourself. After all, you’re doing your part to teach your body that it’s okay to calm down.

The Three R’s: A Non-Medicinal Treatment Approach for Anxiety

A guide to the non-medicinal treatment of anxiety can be outlined with these three words: Recognize, Reflect and Redirect.

Recognize – A wise man once said: “Anxiety is a monster that grows when we feed it with avoidance.” This could not be truer. Some people are predisposed to avoiding anxious thoughts with unhelpful coping mechanisms, such as diverting their attention to social media, television or whatever it is that makes the anxiety go away…temporarily.

The thing with avoidance is that it does not solve the issue. It doesn’t even recognize the issue. Not recognizing the issue means not recognizing the need to keep things in check, until the issue has spiraled out of control. A series of persistent anxious thoughts that remain unchecked could lead to a panic attack, which leads to more panic attacks. This is why recognizing that you feel anxious is crucial in managing anxiety.

Reflect – Not all stress or anxiety is bad. In fact, a certain amount of anxiety could keep you out of trouble. For instance, that sudden stress you feel when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you left your front door unlocked would be enough to make you get out of bed to lock it so you can keep your family safe, no matter how tired you are.

But catastrophic expectations, such as thinking that one day, you are bound to forget to lock the door and an intruder will come in can quickly spiral into panic. Which is why it’s necessary to do a bit of reflection and consider asking yourself, “Is there anything I can do about this now?” If nothing can be done for the moment, then focus on the present. Practice deep breathing and remind yourself to focus on the now.

Redirect – Here come the helpful diversionary tactics. Once you’ve been able to recognize the anxious thought and reflect on it, it’s important to ensure it doesn’t cycle back to being picked up again. Now is the time to focus on positive things like work, your environment or even a memory verse from the Bible that ministers to you about your anxiety. Focus on mindfulness, the here and now, your extrasensory experiences and engage your imagination.

An example of using redirection would be to put on some relaxing music and work with your hands (clean the house, wash your car, clean up your closet) after you’ve recognized an anxious thought and reflected on it. As you redirect, engage your imagination and think about the instruments being used to play the music, consider what it must’ve been like as they recorded the song, think of who the musicians were.

While you’re at it, consider also the feel of your hands working through whatever it is you’re touching – a broom, a t-shirt, a sponge. Feel the texture, weight, shape in your hands. These mindfulness techniques help you focus on the here and now, thereby redirecting your mind and preventing the anxious thought from starting up again.

Growth and Healing Are Choices

One important thing to remember with any treatment approach is that you need to treat yourself with curiosity and kindness. The curiosity will help you look into your emotional world and try to see what drives your trauma, and the kindness will go a long way in your journey of healing.

All your past experiences, good or bad, shape your emotional structure as do your responses to these events. The responses may have ended up as learned (though unwanted) behavior. The key is that once you recognize that there is a pattern of unwanted behavior you may have picked up from some negative past experience, you have the chance to free yourself from being a helpless victim. If that means you need to take anti-anxiety medication then do so – there is no shame in that.

To say that a lack of faith causes anxiety is to oversimplify a psychological condition and undermine faith. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5:23, Timothy is given instruction by Paul to drink wine to ease his stomach discomfort. This shows men of faith taking practical steps to heal physical ailments.

Why should asking for help to ease your minds be any different? After all, God has given you a sound mind to be able to discern where to seek treatment – whether it be a recovery group, counseling or a psychiatrist. God has provided avenues for healing. You must make the choice to move forward.

God Loves and Values You

It is unfortunate that many believers think God doesn’t want us to feel good about ourselves. Blame it on the excesses of the self-esteem movement in the 60s that took Christianity and feeling good about oneself out of context and to an extreme.

No matter what has happened in the past, what’s happening now, and what’s to come, God loves you. He treasures you. Remember what He did on the cross to redeem you. This should be enough to remind you of your worth in His eyes. So stop believing the lies of the enemy. You ARE worth it.

Stop beating yourself up – He has already won. The work is done. Christ is victorious. All you need to do is take steps to manage your anxiety. God wants you to see His goodness in your life.

Christian Counseling for Anxiety

You are created in God’s image. As God’s image-bearers on earth, shouldn’t you be the best version of yourself so that you can reflect God’s greatness? If you struggle with anxiety, if it holds you back in any way perhaps Christian counseling Newport Beach could help you examine your struggles and provide expert guidance on how to cope. After all, you are not meant to bear this burden alone.

 

Photos

“Depressed,” courtesy of HolgersFotographie, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Upset,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Please, Lord,” courtesy of Diana Simumpande, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stretch,” courtesy of Jacob Postuma, unsplash.com, CC0 License