I'm not a neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist, I have no medical background and I can have totally misunderstood some of the things I went through, bear with me and do not hesitate to reach out to me if you found something that doesn't make sense.
I've spent about a month now reading, watching and reseaching about anxiety to try to find ways to help my wife sort her anxiety issues. The idea is to find progressive ways, that will help her get better and that will last and help avoiding relapsing.
I simply want to share what I found out up to now for the people it could be useful for.
So here are some of the things I went through with some insight of what I found out through each, and what I feel is important to keep in mind from these.
That is indeed a bit long, if you want, you can simply go through the videos and not bothering reading my summary/analysis, but the ones I'll share here are worth watching in my opinion.
It all started with the first video you'll find below, a TED Talk having interesting pieces of information about how the brain works and how our feelings can affect what we think.
I highly recommand watching it over reading my summary below, it may seems unrelated at first, but believe me there are pieces of information that are worth the watch.
What you see impact how you feel / the way you feel can literally change what you see
What you see is a complex mental construction of your own making, but we experience it passively as a direct representation of the world around you
Sight is just one way we shape our reality, we create our own realities in many other way
That's when he starts talking about fear and it gets interesting for anxiety, the most interesting point to keep in mind to try to make sense of how anxiety leads you in its trap is that:
Your fears distord your reality, under the warped logic of fear, anything is better that the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing of what you dread for what you know, offering up the worst in place of the ambiguous, substituting assumption for reason. Psychologists have a great term for it: awfulizing. Fear replaces the unknown with the awful.
With some edit to ease the transcription here:
Fear shrinks and distords you view, drown your capacity for critical thought with a flood of disruptive emotions
Fear lulls you into inaction, enticing you to passively watch its prophecies fulfill themselves.
In my opinion he doesn't provide solution for anxiety, note that it wasn't his point in the first place, still, his advices are good, but too generic and not easy to simply follow for an anxious person:
Hold yourself accountable for every moment, every thought, every details. See beyond your fears, recognize your assumptions, harness your internal strenght, silence your internal critic, correct your misconceptions about luck and success.
He then emphasize on this, which basically is what cognitive theray is meant for: identifying the flaws and distorted perception, realize the mistakes and learn to spot them before getting deep into it.
As you may have guessed from te title this isn't directly related to anxiety in the first place either, but there are a lot of explanation about how you brain can be impacted by your stress and the chemicals that comes into play.
He is using cardiac coherency to show when you're at peace or not, and explains the simplest way to regulate it: rythmic and smooth breathing.
He also exlains with simple 2 axis diagram the stress/relax and good/bad states, and that no matter if you're pumped/stressed, if you are on the good side (so when you heart rate variation is coherent), you'll be able to make the best out of this state.
I highly encourage watching the whole video, but to make some quick notes to remember:
Ain't much, but that's pretty important!
This mostly talks about Cognitive behavioral therapy and ways to use it. She explains why it is important to face fears to finally understand that the fear response we had for this thing was a false alarm. For this it is useful to find ways to get your attention on something else, like meditation, rythmed breating, mindfulness...
I'll simply sum up what I think is the most important, especially for illness anxiety (i.e: awfulizing on healh: my throat hurt, it must be a throat cancer)
This video is on Cognitive Therapy. Basically:
The most import thing to get out of it is that she suggest playing SuperBetter for small exercises that will help boost your resiliance to various things.
A very good explanation with images to represent anxiety and how it feels, by someone who really lived through it. Explanations are well done, and the way he illustrate the anxiety traps as custard traps, help understanding things.
That is a funny one, it is a more accessible and funnier way to work on confidence, it is just a funny way to apprehend Cognitive behavioral therapy
A good watch, better seen than explained.
A pretty short video, where she presents a small exercise that can be pretty useful if it works on you, can also be used to calm down, to divert attention on something else in case anxiety is starting to rise but is enough under control to do something like that.
Not sure this will bring much help, beside seeing someone with real anxiety issues who actually got out of it and can live now.
Most important things, I'll take from there: - The fear response our body have isn't adapted to our lifestyle anymore - If you avoid things that get you anxious, you're afraid of, the threat level they are to you will raise, that's why Cognitive behavioral therapy is interesting
She also quotes a book
mastery, autonomy and purpose are the 3 nutrients that feed our intrinsic motivation and they promote our greater physical and mental well being
So to sum it up here is a small overview of what I think is important.
This is known as the stress hormone, and it will prevent you from logical reflexion and analysis, one of the goal I think, is to find ways to reduce it.
It kinda is at the opposite spectrum from cortisol, your body generates it, some food may help your body producing it, but I haven't found anything that seems really serious about it for now.
There also are food supplements, but apparently they are still not allowed everywhere, can make athletes positive to drug test, and effet on longer term are not well know.
I haven't done much research on this yet.
Should help get to a safer level of stress and allow more logical thinking, therefore allow you to be able to detect the anxious thought and analyze them as wrong and deformed or not worth the anxiety spike and handle it a bit better.
I'm not saying this will cure everything, but that's an additional help, I'm currently searching for various small things to help the whole process.
Training 3 times a day, 5 minutes over a period of about 30 days should normally get your body to have learned it and be more at ease to do it on its own, and to use it in case of a spike of anxiety before you're too far down the spiral of fear.
There are apps, I only have android phones so I only list those I tested on my phone:
I would suggest to do it before sleeping to try to take advantage of the Memory Consolidation during sleep.
That may sound pretty stupid, but if you can find a sport that will make you workout enough to release endorphin, it helps feeling better, and thinking clearer generally.
Again, this won't be a miracle cure that solves everything, it is an additional stuff that can help you out a little.
Cognitive Therapy is meant to analyse the false assumption, the wrong idea you tell yourself, detect them, analyze them and prove them wrong.
In my wife situation that would be a good plan, if she could actually beleive the analysis we do together. Let's take an example:
The fact is, if we take this idea and try to analyze it together, I can't prove that it isn't a throat cancer, and she'll therefore know there is a possibility it can be that, and won't accept the fact that this possibility, this thought is absolutely wrong and that there is nothing to fear.
So the principle is good, but the application isn't easy, also, apparently the relapsing rate is pretty high, especially for anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as explained a bit earlier is mainly aimed at facing the fears, because avoidance will let them grow and become more and more of a danger in you mind. So facing it more and more enable the idea of a thing to be frightful to become less scary over time and repetition.
In my wife situation, the fear of sickness cannot be treated by this, but her fear of social interaction, of going out on her own, or to take a car drive (as a passenger, she doesn't drive) can be impacted by this.
As the Cognitive Therapy, the risk of relapsing is pretty high, in my experience, if any situation that became bearable to her, triggers a panic attack again because she wasn't that well this day for example, will go back to its previous state, or even worse, as she'll avoid it more and more and therefore strengethen it.
Schema Therapy is apparently using part of various other fields in therapy, amongst them are CT and CBT of course, but it has a different apporach that tries to be more positive and more self healing. I haven't finished my work on this, I bought books that I am still reading right now so it may be a bit early to talk about it too much.
Interesting part is that the schemas are the way we react to events, there are adaptive and maladaptive schemas, and early or late schemas, this theory focuses on the one called: early maladaptive schemas which are schemas learned earlier in life, and that are not using the right way to deal with the situation.
I won't enter into the details of the various parts to work on for a schema therapy, but what is interesting is that by finding the needs and they source in an early maladaptive schema, this therapy aims to help the patient to fullfil its needs, and therefore heal himself from the root cause of the issue, helping rewiring this schemas to a more functional one for each situation.
Jeffrey E. Young, the one at the source of this therapy, wrote various books, I currently own two:
One drawback is that from what I'm currently reading it looks like you'll most lilkely need a therapist that knows this very well to go through a full healing. I'll may change my mind once I read reinventing your life, but I wanted to know as much as possible on the principles before starting it, that's why I went directly with the bigger, longer and more detailled book first.
So in order to get various small stuff going, I would suggest making a plan, a progressive plan for you to incorporate the small stuff, especially if you're not yet heavily handicapped by your anxiety: DO NOT LET IT GET YOU ANY FURTHER.
Again I'm no doctor, therapist or anything related, these are just suggestion to help out if that can bring any help to anybody, this doesn't have to be done in that order, you can take the progression as slow as you want. And in the worst cases, theres is nothing better than having a good therapist that cares about helping you out and with whom you feel ok.
So my suggestions: - Magnesium + vitamin B6 cure - Play superbetter everyday - Sport - Cardiac Coherency training, with one before bed for memory consolidation - Cardiac Coherency when anxiety rises - Power poses for 2 minutes before stressful thing on when anxiety start - Power poses for 2 minutes before bed, I would say before cardiac coherency - Reach out to others, talk about it, be open about it, and do NOT take personally or badly things they say, that shows they don't understand, better try to explain better to them, and if they act like it is your fault, or still don't get it, find nicer people, or people with more empathy to talk about it. - Taking notes of disruptive thoughts, analyzing them on the spot if possible, later if you can't do it at the time they are coming. - Facing some of the fears, confort zone challenges, whatever way feels the best to you, but that has to be done regularly, not once every now and then or the benefit of the "there finally was no danger doing that" will disappear and won't make any benefit to you - Reading Reinventing your life to find other ways to help yourself
Hope this can be of any help to someone, again, not a doc, I'm just a software engineer trying to find ways to help my wife, and thought the month worth of reaserch I did was worth sharing...