Wow! Nearly Anxiety
In the words of Johnny Lee Hooker “Man this world is mad, what makes one fellow happy it's bound to make another one sad. '
Just listen to this "Dear Doctor K I’ve always worried a lot. I saw a psychologist but she said that I didn't have an anxiety disorder so she couldn't help me. I can't believe there's nothing to do. Can you help?
Now I do not mean to question Doctor K expertise and ability in any way, that is not my intention for he is a medical professional far more experienced than I am. He points out that there is a new classification which is called "Nearly Anxiety" he then draws attention to a new book by two Harvard medical school colleagues Doctor Luana Marquez and Eric Metcalf who explore the idea in their book Almost Anxiety.
I know that when psychologists are checking the symptoms that the client has presented the criteria is set out in the book of diagnosis criteria, usually referred to as DSM4, from which most of their judgments are made. If one does not hit the needed a number of repetitions of a particular response pattern of behaviour within a set period of days or weeks then one does not have the condition according to the book DSM 4. This is where the pptential patient has failed to reach the required level of symptoms of the specified intensity.
(I know that the above may seem a bit tricky so just bear with me and hopefully it will become clearer. If it does’nt leave a comment and I will go into more detail.)
From this the specialists have now construed yet another new condition for people who do not comply with the necessary numbers of points on the DSM system for someone to be considered to be troubled with Nearly an anxiety disorder.
Let us just remember what anxiety is; first and foremost it is a natural reaction to thinking about something that could be threatening to us. This then causes us to have a fight flight response that sets the body going through a chain reaction of physical changes. We are feeling fearful. The fight flight response is what happens to the body and mind when we are threatened by some type of danger. The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear happens when we are in direct and immediate threat. Anxiety occurs when we imagine what could be happening in the near future. The same bodily and mental reactions happen for both.
Anxiety is therefore a thinking problem before it becomes disorder. The chain reaction brought about by the fight flight response is what causes the body and the mind to generate even more anxious feelings because there is no way for us to respond physically to an imagined threat. The natural bodily response can create an even more anxious reaction because we don’t recognise what is happening to us.
Doctor K goes on to appreciate that the correspondent appears to have nagging worry-some thoughts and that they can be distracting her from joyful life experiences. He then makes suggestions about the ways in which people can counter these by taking some action in a very simple and straightforward manner.
He begins with nutrition, suggesting a regular pattern of wholesome food rather than unhealthy comfort food and skipping meals. This is a great idea and does demand a certain amount of discipline because anxious feelings can create discomfort in the stomach and abdomen. Sometimes this leads to what is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
He then briefly mentions setting good sleep patterns and the need to limit alcohol close to bedtime. He also recommends regular exercise, aiming for 30 minutes five days a week.
All his recommendations make great sense. They are the same ones which I recommend to my anxious clients the major differences is he does not include any mental exercises to help calm the brain and reduce the effects of the fight flight response which drives the need to take the actions he suggests in order to reduce symptoms.
I know from my own experience that taking the actions he recommends are very very useful to help counter mental reaction to the feelings caused by the body's anxious response. These are natural feelings and not a condition or disorder. These feelings only become a disorder when they run out of control. To reduce anxiety still further these practical activities need to have breathing exercises added to them and also further mental activities.
There are several different breathing exercises most of which come from yoga exercises. Probably the simplest of these is diaphragm breathing which is simply exactly what it says, breathing consciously using the diaphragm to fill and empty lungs.
To practices sit in an upright position with your feet on the floor, put a hand just above the belly button and as you do that breathe in and out feeling the movement of the air pushing your hand out and then in. Change this and place your opposite hand at the top of your rib cage just below the collarbone now breathe into your chest lifting the top hand. Notice as you do this that the lower hand is not moving as much. Now change again and continue to breathe into your diaphragm making the lower hand lift you will notice the top hand moves less than lower hand.
Continue this exercise by breathing in and out comfortably and easily at the end of each in breath pause for no more than one second and continue to breathe in the normal way. You can now use diaphragm consciously for breathing in this way. Should you ever feel anxious thoughts coming on or feel panicky simply return to this type of breathing. There is no need to place your hands where they have been.
Whenever you feel panicky or anxious you can practice this breathing quietly so that no one notices and as you do it tells your mind and your body that you are taking control. How does that feel?
Alongside this exercise but probably not at the same time you can now begin to practice calming those anxious thoughts by challenging them. For example if you're the sort of person who worries about bad things happening, challenge the thought by ask yourself "is that really the case?" Or you could say. “what happened last time I did this did something terrible happened?" You may choose whatever question challenges that thought that is troubling you.
It will take him some time to learn to do this don’t expect it to work quickly and when it does you can find yourself really surprise and pleased.
Now you can practise these methods and
learn how to reduce your anxious thoughts. Obviously there is more to learn to really overcome anxiety.
But to return to te rigianlthread of my
concern. Nearly Anxiety seems to me to down grade the experience of the patient not by the boos content but by the title have you got any better ideas>