As we are preparing for our yearly vacation, and I am excitedly telling friends and acquaintances about our plans to see the beautiful Portugal, many react with comments and questions such as...
If you are a parent of a child who has OCD, you know only too well how easy it is to get entangled in an endless argument where you try to use logic to no avail. You tell your child how unlikely it is that something bad will happen, you teach her to think positively, you reassure her, and you try to help her out.
When the sun is shining, and everything is starting to bloom, we naturally feel more energy. This is a great time to do something wonderful for our children and ourselves. This is the best time to start gardening. This simple activity has vast physical and emotional benefits. Additionally, it is tremendously important for our electronics-dependent children to venture outside and to connect to nature while disconnecting from the constant stream of information.
When experiencing a negative emotion, we often try to ignore it, pretend it's not there, or distract ourselves. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of energy and does not always work. A surprisingly effective strategy to diminish a negative emotion is to actually stay with the emotion, identify it, and name it in your mind or say it out loud. Psychologists call it Affect Labeling (naming your feelings)
Well, maybe not really the best friend. But definitely, something that we better learn to at least tolerate or, preferably, embrace.
In my sessions, I often ask patients to name things that they are totally certain of (other than the fact that we will all die one day).
I have yet to hear of another absolutely certain thing. If you are the first one to come up with an idea, please email me, and I will add it to this article.
Remember The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum?
If you do, you must recall how everybody was scared of Wizard of Oz the terrible.
The whole country lived in fear. But the powerful never-seen wizard turned out to be a humbug - an imposter.
To reveal that, though, he had to be seen for who he was, - not for who he was trying to pretend to be.
In a similar way, anxiety (and its close relative Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)) trick us into seeing danger in neutral, non-dangerous situations.
When we feel threatened, our attention is focused on the perceived threat.
(Perceived is the key word - remember the overly sensitive car alarm? The threat can be real or nonexistent. As long as we perceive it as dangerous, we are on high alert).
Our perception of the situation mostly depends on what we are saying to ourselves about it. Anxiety-related perceptions and thoughts revolve around the themes of danger (physical, mental, or social), threat, or vulnerability.
Let's say you bought a fancy new car and installed a sophisticated alarm system to protect it from thieves.
The alarm was quite an expense and you take great pride in it. The only problem is that it goes off when the neighborhood kids play too close to it.
And when your cat climbs on the hood. And when there is a gust of wind.
And for no apparent reason several times at night. You get the idea.
One of the most common presenting problems that patients come to my office with is anxiety.
Some people are anxious in social situations. Others may worry excessively about physical symptoms, thinking that they may have a heart attack or collapse.
Some people are fearful of specific objects or situations. And sometimes people seem to worry about everything!