Trypophobia? – Afraid Of Chocolate Chip Cookies β€” Overcoming OCD

Most people I know adore chocolate chip cookies and some of my friends are simply addicted to them. So, I guess it may come as a surprise if I tell you that I have never tasted them and I am not even planning to do so. I can totally imagine that they taste good – […]

Trypophobia? – Afraid Of Chocolate Chip Cookies β€” Overcoming OCD

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Afraid Of Your Mental Illness

Scared blonde girl hiding behind wooden door

Stranger In Your Head

Some people remember when their mental illness started while others are completely oblivious to when they first began experiencing symptoms. Some don’t even know that they have a mental illness; these are the cases with zero insight. Suffering from a mental illness is not easy and many are ashamed to even recognize their newfound reality. Many are afraid of their mental illness because they do not know how to deal with it.

Fear is a natural emotion that should be extinguished as soon as possible. The longer you allow fear to marinate within your mind, the more complicated things will get in terms of your mental illness. By being afraid of your mental illness, you are preventing yourself from taking the necessary steps required to defeat the disorder at play. That’s because fear paralyzes you, preventing you from thinking clearly and getting a grip on your mental state of mind.

It can be difficult to accept your mental illness because it can truly feel like a stranger has entered your head. Your reality may start to take a different shape because you previously never experienced any symptoms. For instance, I remember the day that I experienced my first panic attack: I was in college the day after partying and standing in line at a Chinese restaurant ready to order food.

I suddenly felt a great feeling of unease while standing in line, as if fear had engulfed my entire presence. I wasn’t sure what I was experiencing because I never thought for one second that it was something mental; a panic attack didn’t even cross my mind. But in fact, that’s exactly what I was experiencing: a full-blown panic attack at the age of 19. But rather than running out, I uncomfortably stood in that line suffering while afraid of my existence. That was the longest Chinese order I ever placed.

I eventually learned that I was in fact suffering from panic disorder: I would worry about future panic attacks after experiencing a handful in public. I was afraid of my mental illness because it seemed to rock my world (in a bad way) whenever it felt like it! I felt like I was just a bystander, observing a stranger in my mind controlling my reality. I had to go on a psychiatric medication and eventually felt much better on it. Today, I no longer take any medications and I feel great because I’ve learned to take back control of my mind.

The point is that you may be afraid of your mental illness, but you have to eventually conquer your fear and take back control of your life. You cannot allow a mental illness to push you aside like a bully controlling your mind; these bullies have to be pushed aside with therapy, medication or willpower. But sometimes willpower is not enough; therefore, you need to seek psychiatric treatment and there is no shame in that!

Are you afraid of your mental illness?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Coronavirus Fear Intensifies

Brunette woman wrapped in yellow "stop" tape holding sign that says "COVID19"

100,000-240,000 Deaths Predicted In The USA

Just when we thought that the coronavirus was going away, we were suddenly slapped in the face with an update about the projected death toll expected to climb to almost a quarter million. It seems that whatever we are doing is not working. They continue to emphasize social distancing, yet the death toll is steadily rising. The coronavirus fear intensifies while we sit in our living room shell-shocked.

Now states are considering passing executive orders for people to stay at home, but what are they going to do when many will disobey these orders? Fine us? Lock us behind bars? Having people locked inside their homes like caged animals does not sound like a tactic that is realistic; it works on paper but is not applicable in real life.

I mean think about it! How can you force people to stay at home without going to work or being productive members of society? Are we going to have the government deliver us food and toilet paper? Can we even get toilet paper anymore? Amazon seems to have let us down; maybe the first time in history! What are we paying Jeff Bezos for? Get us some damn toilet paper!

Can you imagine that it’s 2020 and the United States of America is out of toilet paper and we are sitting in our homes like caged animals? The social distancing technique is showing no signs of progress and the mainstream media (some call it the “lamestream media”) is making us more paranoid and fearful of our current situation.

The mental health of Americans and everyone around the world is taking a huge hit. Many are starting to lose touch with reality and those who were already suffering from depression, anxiety and psychosis are decompensating. The truth is that we shouldn’t blame the government. It’s so easy to point fingers at others while we casually sit in our homes doing nothing productive.

Even though we are becoming more fearful of the current situation, we must remain positive and in good spirits; we cannot let our guard down. The one positive thing about social media during this COVID-19 pandemic (and for those who know me, I’ve been critical of social media in the past) is that it helps to bring us together and prevent us from feeling completely isolated within our home.

Isolation is the cousin of mental illness; this cousin should be outcasted from the family because it only brings upon us negative results. Never isolate yourself; if you find yourself doing so, go take a walk in the park and observe the people around you. Isolation is bad and you should avoid it at all costs.

Let’s continue to connect.

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Pandemic: Coronavirus Gone Wild

Turquoise medical face mask on ground

New York State Of Emergency

New York state has declared a state of emergency due to coronavirus infections rising. While the government is doing its job to allocate resources and provide accurate information on the current crisis, it’s not really doing a great job at easing panic and preventing mental health issues from arising. The New York state of emergency is nothing more than a warning telling us, “it’s here and getting worse.”

The thing is that these kinds of messages do not help us. We all know from the mainstream media that the coronavirus has gone wild, whether naturally or after being genetically engineered; the truth, no one will find out. But one thing is for certain: the virus is out and potentially deadly.

But does all of this information affect us in any way? Do you really believe that by New York, California and other states declaring states of emergency, we will suddenly be more cautious to not acquire the virus? If the virus has spread all the way from China, then you best believe that whether you acquire it or not does not depend on the mainstream media or governmental warnings.

So what is the solution? As previously said, you need to continue living your life as if nothing has changed. Continue to wash your hands like you always have and stay away from people who cough. Wearing a mask will not decrease your chances of acquiring the virus. The virus can spread via touch as well.

One of the most important preventative tactics from becoming infected is maintaining a positive mindset. If you allow fear to penetrate you, then you are already making yourself vulnerable to becoming sick. Fear attracts negativity and bad results. During times of pandemics, you need to remain calm, vigilant and positive.

Don’t allow all the negative news to get to your head. In other words, don’t become part of the hysteria. As long as you maintain good hygiene, smart practices and a positive attitude and mindset, you will stay clear of this virus. This will not go on forever.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

So You’re Afraid Of The Coronavirus

Scared woman with face mask leaning on fence during daytime

Self-Harming Your Mental Health

The most effective tool for control of the masses is fear. When fear is used as a form of control, it penetrates the mind of the individual to a great degree, influencing his thoughts, emotions and behavior. Unfortunately, many people do not even realize that they are being controlled by fear; they view fear as a deer views the bright lights of a Chevy pickup in the middle of the Pennsylvania turnpike. So you’re afraid of the coronavirus? It’s time to stop this.

Mass hysteria is why fear spreads faster than the virus itself. The media doesn’t care about spreading fear; it cares about raising its viewership. So why do you continue to watch negative news about the coronavirus? When you continuously harbor doubts about the status of society, you slowly start to self-harm your mental health.

Rather than panicking and allowing fear to get to you, you must continue to live your life as if nothing is happening. What are you going to gain out of stockpiling on toilet paper and masks? Just the very act of doing this should prove to you how you are under the influence of fear; you are being controlled and your actions are proof of this external control.

There are conspiracy theories floating around that the coronavirus was manmade in a laboratory to analyze how the world would react in a time of crisis. What if this scenario were true? What if a group of elite individuals are sitting somewhere in Switzerland analyzing how the world is running around to buy more toilet paper?

While no one is suggesting that this is the case, it’s just an example to keep in mind how fear can manifest from any source and how you can become a victim of fear if you don’t control your mind. Whatever the source of the coronavirus is, no one can doubt its existence and deadly potential.

But what is also extremely harmful is allowing the coronavirus to affect your mental health. Anxiety can have a great toll on the way you think, view the world and even your physical health, such as blood pressure. You’ll be in much better shape if you don’t worry about the coronavirus and go on living your life as if nothing is happening.

Focus on staying positive and bettering yourself. This too shall pass.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Turn Off The Mainstream Media

Scared brunette woman with hand on face

When Fear Influences Your Mental Health

With all the negative news about the coronavirus on the verge of becoming a pandemic, the stock market crashing and the global economy on the brink of destruction, it’s no wonder why our mental health suffers in the process. All of this negative news has an influence on your unconscious mind, which pulls the strings of your conscious mind. Turn off the mainstream media and start engaging in positive activities.

A psychological tactic used since the beginning of time, whether intentionally or not, is the instillation of fear into the human mind. Fear easily influences your mental health by altering your behavior in negative ways. Fear is the seed of many mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, phobias, etc.

So why does the mainstream media do this? Intentionally or not, their objective is to report what is happening in the world. But unfortunately, fear is not excluded in the process of reporting. For instance, the way the information is presented on the coronavirus, it has many people starting to experience anxiety, worry and fear that it will soon make massive landfall in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

When your mind starts to become altered by negative news, you slowly start to become distracted from your work, relationships and positive states of thinking. Rather than focusing on bettering yourself, you start to worry about how to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus. Of course you want to avoid an infection, but this does not mean that you have to remain preoccupied with the idea.

When events such as the coronavirus occur, your best way of dealing with these kinds of situations is to continue your life as if nothing has changed. Remember that you should always be in control of your mind; never allow outside forces to influence the way you think and behave. The moment that you do is the moment that you make yourself vulnerable to developing a mental illness.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Specific Phobias

Person holding small gray snake on hand

Persistent Fear Of An Object Or Situation

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes a person to fear a certain object or situation. It’s not known why phobias occur in some people but not in others, but it’s safe to say that genetics and the environment are at play once again. Genetics dictate our personality traits, so if your parent had a specific phobia towards spiders, there’s a good chance that you will too.

The environment plays a role as well. For instance, if you were bit or startled by a spider as a child, the environment has now conditioned you to be afraid of spiders from that point on. There are many different types of phobias:

  • Pteromerhanophobia: fear of flying
  • Claustrophobia: fear of enclosed spaces
  • Trypanophobia: fear of needles
  • Astraphobia: fear of storms
  • Gynophobia: fear of dogs
  • Agoraphobia: fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment

. . . and the list goes on. But just because you have a phobia does not mean that you cannot get rid of it. Therapy such as exposure and response prevention is exactly what it sounds like: a person is exposed to their phobia and are refrained from their ritualistic or compulsive behavior that functions to decrease their distress.

It’s also known as “flooding”: the person is placed in a situation that causes them to encounter their fear without escape. An example is a flight simulation room for people who are afraid of flying. The person is exposed to the flight simulator, causing them excessive fear and anxiety, but they are not allowed to leave the room until their fear and anxiety have dissipated.

Many people can have a fear or general discomfort to the most common phobias, but they do not allow them to affect their lives. But someone with a phobia cannot function when it comes to their fear. For instance, if a person is required by their job to fly to different conferences around the world, they will request from their boss to be reassigned another position.

Or worse, they will attempt to fly and have the worst panic attack of their life, possibly requiring a medical evaluation and disruption of public affairs. After one or two awful experiences, they will most likely quit their job. But someone with a general discomfort towards flying will continue to fly if need be, with no adverse effects.

That is the difference between a person with a general discomfort towards something and someone with a specific phobia. It almost always comes down to perception: how you view yourself and your surroundings dictates how you will interact with your environment. The best medication is you! You have the power to change how you think, and the objective almost always comes down to, “what can I do to change my perception of my reality?”

If you can figure that out, then you’re on the right path to defeating your phobia.

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Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Escaping Panic Attacks

Anxious man holding his head during a panic attack

How To Help Someone With Panic Attacks

Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that it’s one of their worst experiences; maybe more terrifying than a natural disaster. Panic attacks are like intruders who invade your mental space and do not allow you to have peace. They disrupt everything about you during those 5-10 minutes. Escaping panic attacks must be done right!

The more that you fight a panic attack, the greater it becomes in strength. Panic attacks want you to fight them, because they strive on your fear, pain and struggle. Panic attacks are also very sneaky: they’re like snakes coming from behind you and snapping without your awareness.

But once you become cornered by a panic attack, you become more aware of them than anything else. Your surroundings quickly become irrelevant as all you can focus on is the war zone that has just erupted in the depths of your mind. And just as any war zone, you become fearful for your life and consider running away from your current location to hide in a safe haven.

But there is no safe haven outside of your immediate surroundings. Because if you do run away, you are actually beating yourself up. What do you accomplish by running away? You may be in an important meeting, in a room full of people or even seeing a patient in the office; running away will make your current situation awkward.

The safe haven lies in your mind; it always has and it always will. Panic attacks are just intruders that capitalize on the chemical imbalance in your brain; their high is your low! As long as your serotonin levels remain on the low side, panic attacks remain high and elated. So when you attempt to run, you are actually running away from yourself, because everything is happening within your mind.

Besides medications such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines and psychotherapy, such as CBT or psychodynamic, the real way of helping yourself or someone else from panic attacks is by learning how to become comfortable with panic attacks when they do strike. Medications and psychotherapy do help a lot, but if you cannot learn how to become comfortable in your own skin during the attacks, you will continue to struggle.

Experience is key. The more panic attacks you have under your belt, the more comfortable that you become at handling them. And the way to handle them is to remain calm in your present environment and continue to focus on what you were doing prior to the attack. This technique helps prove to yourself that you are still in control of your mind and that you do not have to get up and leave.

You can also try incorporating a technique such as massaging your hands without making it noticeable to those around you. For most people, hand massages feel good and put you in a state of relaxation. Hand massages can be a coping mechanism that you only perform when cornered by a panic attack: they help redirect your thoughts to the good feeling of your hands, and take away your focus from the uncomfortable sensations of the panic. Call it a “hand job” if need be.

Overall, the only way to properly escape a panic attack is by not reacting to it. No matter how difficult and uncomfortable it may be to ride it out, the more experience you have remaining cool, calm and collected during the attacks, the more control that you will gain over future ones.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Illness Anxiety Disorder

Anxious brunette man with illness anxiety disorder sitting at table using MacBook

The Fear Of Having A Serious Disease

Illness anxiety disorder (formerly known as hypochondriasis) is the fear of having or developing a serious illness. Patients experience a misinterpretation of bodily symptoms and have heightened bodily sensations. They are also very anxious about the possibility of having an undiagnosed illness.

They’ll devote excess time and energy to health concerns and obsess over them, despite reassurance on multiple occasions by medical professionals that nothing is wrong with them. They’ll even obsessively research an illness which they think they might have, in order to gather more information that can somehow be connected to their bodily sensations.

Patients may or may not have a medical disorder. If they do happen to have one, it may or may not be related to the development of their illness anxiety disorder. They won’t deny their medical condition, but they’ll remain preoccupied with developing another one or having an illness that may be undiagnosed.

Their beliefs are not of delusional intensity, meaning that even if they are medically reassured, they will not go home believing that a cancer is growing in their pancreas. They’ll just end up going home anxiously worrying about the possibility of acquiring pancreatic cancer. There’s a difference between the two: delusions are fixed false beliefs and the latter is an extreme anxiety disorder regarding the acquirement of an illness.

Patients with illness anxiety disorder may experience extreme distress, impairment and life disruption. Imagine going to work and always worrying about having or developing a serious disorder. Imagine the distraction that this anxious thought process would bring upon your work productivity, communication and state of mind.

The duration of these symptoms must last > 6 months in order to be diagnosed with illness anxiety disorder. It commonly begins in early adulthood and has a chronic waxing and waning pattern, meaning that the symptoms may remit and come back at some point in the future. Prevalence in the general population is about 1-5%.

Treatment is centered on behavioral therapy, reassurance and the encouragement to continue living a normal and stress-free life. Medical appointments with a primary care provider (PCP) are recommended on a monthly basis, in order to maintain a therapeutic alliance with the patient and provide them with reassurance.

If you or someone you know is suffering from illness anxiety disorder, please try to understand where they are coming from. Don’t tell them “you’re crazy” or “you don’t have anything” because it’ll only backfire. Compassion and careful listening often go a long way to helping patients better cope with their mental illness!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Agoraphobia With Panic Disorder

Blonde woman sitting along window suffering from agoraphobia

Fear Of The Marketplace

Imagine being trapped in your mind, not being able to function in the physical world because your confidence is handcuffed in your unconscious world. You open your eyes early morning and a flood of thoughts come rushing in: “you cannot go to the mall today”, “you will have a panic attack if you go to lecture”, “you cannot leave your home or else you will end up in the emergency room.”

This is the mental illness known as agoraphobia or the fear of being in public places. The patient’s rational is that a public place will cause humiliation or will be difficult to escape if a panic attack occurs. Usually, a person has experienced panic attacks prior to the development of agoraphobia, but the latest classification now lists agoraphobia as an independent disorder.

Some patients with agoraphobia cannot even leave their own home; stepping out of the front door brings upon a great fear. Can you imagine their quality of life? Try to put yourself in their shoes and experience the pain, suffering and depression that they go through on a daily basis!

How about patients who also have a comorbidity such as panic disorder? They muster up the courage to leave their house and attend a feared setting, only to be bombarded with a racing heart, a sense of doom and a feeling of detachment from their body! Their 911 alarm has rung again and they must now return to their prison cell known as “home.”

The important lesson learned here is that those of us who do not experience a mental illness, must remain thankful for being able to live our lives without worry and concern. And we must always be willing to offer help to someone who is suffering from a mental illness; they need all the support that they can get to defeat their struggles and enjoy life again as we do!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)