5 Years of Failed Blogging?

Sad Anniversary Can you believe it? I’ve been blogging for 5 years. I guess the old saying about time moving faster as you age is true. I can remember writing my first blog post in 2008 like it was yesterday.

To be honest I have mixed emotions about this blog now. At first I wanted to create something remarkable. I wanted to create an important anti-anxiety resource. I ended up with something very different.

For years I wrote blog posts and produced podcasts hoping that Anxietyguru.net would grow and evolve and you know what? It didn’t. I tried recruiting people to write, changing the design, asking for feedback, writing different types of posts but, it didn’t seem to matter.

Don’t get me wrong. This blog has grown. I’ve gone from 200 daily visitors to about 3,000. That sounds good I guess, yet in the world of websites that’s tiny. Worst of all I don’t know why. I don’t know what I did wrong.

Part of me wants to believe that this has happened because anxiety is transient. People are only interested in seeking tips when they are in crisis or semi-crisis. Anxious people, it seems, are more into internet surfing. They collect small bits of information from a lot of different places and build whatever they need from those small parts.

Sadly, that makes it less likely that AG will ever grow into a strong community. It can’t be the only reason this blog hasn’t developed more, but it’s certainly a big part of it. And that sucks because I’m not quite sure what to do now. I have failed. I feel defeated in my efforts to create something remarkable. At least that’s how I feel.

It’s hard to accept that something you’ve worked on for so long is futile. It’s downright depressing really. I guess in the end there’s only so much one person can do. Unlike a lot of successful websites AG has no staff, no budget, no nothing. Reality check I guess.

All that said, I still enjoy answering emails, helping people when I can, and receiving a kind message or two. That has never changed. So although AG isn’t what I hoped it would be, it still brings me satisfaction to know that I’ve brought comfort to some of you over the years.

Thank you.

Is Your Diet Causing Anxiety?

Today’s guest post by Juliana Weiss-Roessler of Weight Loss Triumph.

Last year, researchers found evidence that the kind of bacteria we have in our gut actually influences our brain chemistry and how we act. And what determines the types of bacteria that reside in our stomach and gastrointestinal tract? Food.

Translation: psychologically speaking, we are what we eat.

For years we’ve been aware of some kind of association between anxiety and things like irritable bowel syndrome, but now we know there’s a microbial component that may be involved in any number of mood disorders.

The harmful bacteria that can lead to these problems isn’t necessarily created by the things that we eat, but certain types of foods help it to thrive and overpower the bacteria that keeps us healthy and on an even keel.
So, how can you maintain a balanced level of good and bad bacteria? What should you eat and avoid? The answers are more straight-forward than you might imagine.

Foods to avoid

Refined sugars and starches. If you only cut one item out of your diet, make it refined sugar. Harmful bacteria are powered by sugar the way Popeye gets his strength from spinach. Get rid of sugar and greatly reduce the amount of starch in your diet and you’ll be metaphorically cutting the bacteria’s legs out from under it.

Fried foods. It’s not going to be easy, but say goodbye to those French fries and chicken fingers that you love. Not only do they have ridiculously little nutritional value, fried foods are hard for your body to digest, typically have too many omega-6 fats and trans fats because of the oils they’re cooked in, and they play a large role in the heart problems of many people. Basically, your body doesn’t process them very well.

Foods that cause acid to form.
What’s wrong with acid? Experts believe that it’s related to the level of magnesium in our bodies, and that magnesium at least contributes (if it doesn’t outright cause) anxiety in many people. Try not to eat too much of foods like liver, sour cream, eggs, pickles, or yogurt, or drink wine excessively. And while we’re on the subject of wine…

Alcohol. Everyone knows that drinking does nothing good for us nutritionally and a whole lot of bad, but still we partake because of the feeling it brings – even if that’s usually incredibly short-lived. Well, now there’s yet another reason to avoid alcohol, because it actually has the ability to cause you to suffer physical symptoms from the toxins in your body that help trigger attacks of anxiety.

Dairy. While dairy products aren’t bad for you in and of themselves, an excess of them can put you in a more anxious state by raising your levels of adrenaline. Take care that you eat and drink dairy in moderation and you should be fine.

Coffee. Drink too much coffee and you’re likely to experience an increase in your heart rate, as well as several of the other sensations that are known to create panic attacks. Obviously coffee doesn’t cause most people to experience anxiety or it wouldn’t be as popular as it is, but it is known to be an anxiety stimulant when taken to excess.

Foods to seek out

Traditional fats. While no one would call them “good” for you, natural fats like lard, coconut oil, and butter are far better than using processed oils in your cooking. Omega-3 fats. In recent years there’s been more and more talk about good fats and bad fats – well, omega-3s, generally speaking, are the good guys. Find them in things like grass-fed animals, wild fish, and more.

Protein for breakfast. Lean protein is pretty much always a positive thing, and if you eat it as part of your breakfast, it will help to keep you energized. Fermented foods. By making a food with natural fermentation, you create good bacteria that can help re-balance what’s in your gut. Pickles, chutneys, buttermilk, and even yogurt and sour cream can be great as long as they ferment naturally. Just be sure to eat dairy products in moderation.

Complex carbohydrates. When you do eat starchy foods, go for whole grains and eschew simple carbohydrates. Not only is this better for your gut, complex carbs are believed to release calming serotonin, which can help to relieve anxiety.

Soups and stocks. Really want to help your intestinal lining to heal improve digestion? Use animal bones and cartilage to create homemade stocks.

Obviously, worrying about how to get and prepare the right foods is something else that can add to your stress, but you can relieve that by using a home delivery diet plan that allows you to clearly define the foods you want.

AG Members Launches in 10 Days

anxiety treatment

Last year I was sitting at home thinking about how I could deliver exclusive content to people who are serious about getting better.

What I came up with was a private website packed with rock solid information.

And finally, after months of work, my members only website is ready to launch.

In the members only area you’ll find new podcasts, videos, articles, and a brand new forum. You can take a tour of the new site here.

Why is the new website private?

Many people with anxiety problems are reluctant to talk about their issues in public. This could be because of work, school, family; the list of reasons for wanting anonymity is long. So a member’s only website is the perfect solution.

Not only will there be privacy, peer support, and new content, but members will also get free access to both of my eBooks, How to Stop Anxious Thinking and The Big Idea. I’m really opening the doors on this one. I’m even starting a brand new personal coaching service that will only be available to members for the time being.

To see a sample video from my new site click here

I think the combination of great information, privacy, and peer support is a powerful blend that will help people learn helpful information in a safe environment. It creates a space where you can work on your goals without feeling isolated or misunderstood.

Do you want a FREE membership pass?

If you’re interested in a free membership pass then head to the comments section below and tell me how you would contribute to the new community at AG Members. Would you be an active member willing to reach out to others?

I’ll select 5 winning comments and award those people with a free membership pass. The winners will be announced on February 7, 2013.

I’d like to start off with a group of people willing to do more than just consume information. I’m looking for folks who want to take an active role in their recovery.

But if you don’t get a free pass don’t worry, all members of the Anxietyguru.net newsletter will receive something special in their inbox next week. So if you’re not already signed up, right now would be an excellent time!

 

 

Watch Paul Drive Across a 200 ft Tall Bridge

I don’t produce videos because I’m wary of making myself vulnerable.

Yet, I realize that if I put myself out there more, I have a greater chance of helping people. So today I’m releasing my first video, ever. I wanted to do something different in preparation for the launch of my new membership website.

In this video, I cross over the 200 ft tall Coronado bridge in San Diego to prove – mostly to myself – that I’ve done away with my old fear of heights. It’s nothing fancy, but I hope it encourages someone watching that overcoming their fears is a real possibility and not just something you hope for.

To watch the video click here.

Have you ever overcome a powerful fear? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

Note: Please excuse the shaky camera work. =)

Antipsychotic Drugs for Anxiety Disorders?

antipsychotic medicationsAbnormal anxiety isn’t easy to live with. Seriously, who likes panic attacks?

But are you willing to take an antipsychotic drug to make it stop? Some people are and I think this new trend is a slippery slope that could turn into a big problem.

See, a few weeks ago I had to write a paper about the off-label use of antipsychotic medications for school.

Right after I turned it in, like a day after, I ran into this article in the New York Times.

In it professor of psychiatry Dr. Richard Friedman argues that unless you have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression, taking antipsychotics may be a bad idea.

I agree.

First, a little background.  Antipsychotic drugs are better known under their brand names such as: Abilify, Seroquel, Haldol, Zyprexa, and a bunch of other names.

In the 1950′s antipsychotics were first used as a postoperative sedative. Over time doctors figured out that they could also be used on psychotic patients to great effect.

Since then a wide array of “second-generation” antipsychotics have been developed to help people cope with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations.

So how the heck did these drugs end up in anxious people? These drugs are powerful sedatives that block serotonin and dopamine reuptake which reduces “overactive” brain activity. In English that means that these drugs are the ultimate “chill pill.”

Plus, it isn’t shady to prescribe medications that aren’t designed to treat what you have. It’s called off-label use. In fact, the FDA says that doctors are free to prescribe medications to treat off-label conditions as long as doctors have a “firm scientific basis” to do so.

The problem is that there are too few studies proving that these powerful drugs are effective in people with anxiety. By effective I mean treating the underlying anxiety versus just making you sleepy. What is known however is that these drugs come with a ton of side effects.

Here are a few:

Antipsychotic Medication Symptoms

antipsychotic drugs

Thorazine was a precursor to second generation antipsyhotic drugs.

1. Weight gain

2. High triglycerides

3. Salivation

4. Hand tremor

5. Confusion

6. Mania

7. Irregular heart beat

8. Seizure

9. High cholesterol

10. Death

Does this mean that all people with anxiety problems should stay away from antipsychotic drugs?

I think they should be considered carefully unless folks are crawling out of their skin and nothing else is working.

I’d like to see more studies, more stats, and more information about the risk-benefit ratio of taking such a drug given all the potential side effects.

This is despite the fact that antipsychotics are often prescribed for mood disorders as a low dose augmentation for other medications.

I want to see this happen before these drugs become the new normal for people with anxiety problems. What I don’t want is a bunch of nervous folks losing their ability to function in the world because they couldn’t find a better way to reduce their high anxiety.

I can think of a lot ways to lower anxiety that don’t involve a pill and chronic sleep. I want to encourage you to be more creative than that.

This is especially true because there are already far less potent drugs available to treat high anxiety. Some of the drugs include:

Anti-Anxiety Medications

1. Celexa

2. Zoloft

3. Prozac

4. Paxil

5. BuSpar

6. Klonopin

7. Valium

8. Xanax

9. Librium

10. Ativan

You have options. Every single drug I listed also come with  side effects, but most of those include nausea, stomach problems, and dizziness. The reality is that most psychotropic drugs cause side effects. The question is are you willing to put up with potentially severe side effects?

The other issue is that antipsychotics can really knock you down. When they say sedation, they mean sedation. Below you’ll find a video of a guy on Seroquel.  He provides a firsthand account of why antipsychotics can be problematic when you have to work for a living.

Do you need to go through life like a zombie to not feel anxious? No, you don’t.

That being said, always do what works for you as long as it’s safe. My concern is that I don’t want anxious folks taking drugs that they don’t understand, need, or cause harm.

I’ve included in this post several links highlighted in blue so you can dig a little deeper. I simply wanted to introduce you to this new prescription trend.

You know, I’ve never been a huge fan of psych meds, however, I understand that they do help many people get better. There is no doubt about it. I just want you to have the information you need to make good decisions about your own care.

Listen to the podcast below:

anxiety symptoms

 

 

 

Disclaimer

When making decisions about medications always speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

 

The Beginners Guide to Getting Better

transtheoretical modelHow do you go from anxious to “normal”? Well, getting your hands on good information is part of it.

But you’ll need more than good information to get your life back.

There’s also a process, steps that you have to take mentally, before you can be free of abnormal anxiety.

Understanding where you’re at in that process, and how you can move forward from where you are, is just as important as any piece of information that you’ve ever, or could ever, learn about.

See, when you’re suffering from panic attacks or constant worry there’s no doubt that you want to change things for the better.

Simply wanting to stop the pain of anxiety however doesn’t mean that you’ll do what’s needed  to put an end to the special kind of hell that abnormal anxiety can represent.

That’s why understanding how people change can be helpful. It allows you to take a realistic view of what you need to do to achieve meaningful change in your life instead of sitting back and hoping for the best.

So today I want to challenge you by asking a very important question: “Where are you on your journey toward recovery?” Are you ready to break free from abnormal anxiety, or are you still not sure about what’s even happening to you?

I’d like you to answer this question so that you can understand how close you are, or aren’t, to ending your relationship with abnormal anxiety. Once this is clear in your mind you’ll be surprised how much easier making decisions about treating your anxiety can become.

To help me explore this topic I’m going to use something called the transtheoretical model. This model of health behavior change explains how most people think about change and what steps are taken to achieve it.

Using a behavior change model to understand how close you are to getting better makes sense because abnormal anxiety is rooted in behavior such as reassurance seeking and avoidance.

The transtheoretical model states that there are 5 stages of change. The stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Let’s look at these one by one.

1. Precontemplation: In this stage you’re not thinking about change. In fact, while in this stage you might tell yourself  that you don’t have a real problem.

For anxiety suffers in this stage there tends to be a “wait and see” attitude. This is why many anxiety sufferers in this stage are in a state of confusion that makes it difficult to know “what they have.”

Here you’ll experience some level of distress but aren’t yet thinking of ways to stop the cycle of panic or chronic worry you’re in. In that regard, you’re just rolling with it and hoping for the best.

2. Contemplation: Here you know there’s a problem and you start thinking about making a change. This is the stage of weighing pros and cons, this or that treatment, maybe yes or maybe no to doing something about your abnormal anxiety.

3. Preparation: This is the stage that I think most anxiety sufferers are in. This is where you might start looking for information, buying books, talking to people, seeing your doctor, et cetera.

Sadly, most people get stuck here. They become professional consumers of information, advice, and tricks, but tend to not use what they learn. So they’ll find something and think, “This sounds good, maybe I’ll give it a try.” Then, nothing. No follow-up.

Instead they move on to the next, “This sounds good” idea. This can go on for months, sometimes even years.

In the preparation stage you’re also likely to have a desire, maybe even a plan to change, but lack the commitment needed to reach your goals.

4. Action: This marks the point at which you want change, seek change, and do what has to be done to achieve it. Ironically, it’s also the stage where a relapse back into your old ways is most likely. This is because when you challenge your anxiety it usually gets worse before it gets better.

If that happens it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you’re wasting your time with whatever you’re using to get rid of your abnormal anxiety. At the same time though, this is where the real work of recovery is done. This is where you make a commitment to get better and stick to it.

5. Maintenance: This is what it sounds like. You do enough to keep the gains you’ve achieved by toning down the intense use of your anti-anxiety regimen. So instead of doing breathing exercises every day, maybe you do them 2-3 times a week, for example. The point is you keep taking care of yourself.

I found a diagram  to help you visualize what I’m talking about.

The process of change

Image credit: pponline.co.uk

 

In my experience recovery wasn’t linear. It looked more like a zig zag pattern that brought me one step forward, then two steps sideways. That’s the nature of recovery from abnormal anxiety. My hope is that this muddy road to recovery doesn’t discourage you from trying to get better.

It can be frustrating to develop and stick to a plan, but the key is to stay focused on one important thing, which is this: Recovery from abnormal anxiety is possible.

So ask yourself where you are on this road toward change and recovery. Are you thinking about change or are you preparing for change?

Maybe you are ready for action but remain ambivalent for one reason or another. I think it’s important to clarify what you think is holding you back and what you can do about it.

Talk it out in the comments section below and tell me your thoughts on where you are and why that might be.

 

How to Use Acceptance to Stop Anxiety

anxiety curesLearning the facts about abnormal anxiety is a good way of getting your healing efforts off the ground. But chances are that you’ll need more than facts alone.

I say that because most people who read this blog are anxiety experts that stay anxious despite their impressive knowledge. All you have to do is read the comments on my most recent article to verify this.

The power of anxiety, worry, negative thinking, and hopelessness are such that no matter what you know, it’s not always enough to keep anxiety away.

What helps more, I think, is to develop an impressive knowledge base and couple that with acceptance.

Acceptance allows you to do what seems like the impossible, which is to relax your attitude toward anxiety symptoms, anxious thoughts, panic attacks, and all the rest of it.

Acceptance allows you to suspend your need to find out what happens next. It gives you the confidence to stop analyzing every aspect of your mind and body. In short, it let’s you put your guard down so you can rest.

My new eBook, The Big Idea, will show you how to do just that.

The Big Idea goes into detail about what acceptance is, how it works, and how you can use it to stop abnormal anxiety.

When I wrote my first eBook, How to Stop Anxious Thinking, I was focused on the facts.

But since then, I realized that you need to learn how to accept your abnormal anxiety just as much as you need to learn about adrenaline, the flight or flight response, or the nervous system. Acceptance is crucial.

To learn more about acceptance and my new eBook listen to my latest podcast below.

anxiety symptoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2 Step Guide to Being Anxiety Free

Live without fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may seem inconceivable for you to live without anxiety right now but you can.

Perhaps you’ve spent time alone pondering what will become of you because of the troubles you’re facing. To be honest, that’s to be expected given your predicament.

Still, you can get better.

Here’s a good question: How did I overcome anxiety and when did I know it?

In the beginning I was Lost

“Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.” – Henri Frederic Amiel

First, let me tell you how I didn’t do it. As many of you know I spent about 10 years immersed in a special kind of hell.

Before moving toward a solution for my anxiety problem I had experienced panic, hypochondria, social anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, and many physical symptoms… geez the symptoms.

Things were tough.

During those hard times I did everything wrong. I searched Google incessantly for random information, went into forums to complain, and that’s about it.

In that regard, I was either trying to reinforce my suspicions about what was wrong with me, or worse yet, discovering brand new things to worry about.

I was also going to my doctor about once every other month for his reassurance. I was calling my mom, yes my mom, for advice, help, anything.

I was driving my poor wife up the wall, I wasn’t exercising, relaxing, people at work were telling me to perk up, daily. That got old, fast.

In the middle I was Focused

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

So, here’s how I did it. I overcame abnormal anxiety with facts.

It wasn’t facts alone though. I had seen plenty of those and I hadn’t done a thing with any of them. Nonetheless, I got smart and started to focus on the right facts. A select type of knowledge developed by renowned cognitive behaviorist like Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis, and Victor Raimy.

That stuff helped a lot. But I needed more than that.

I also needed belief. Belief in the facts, belief in myself. I developed a conviction.

I needed the facts to fill the holes in my knowledge and develop enough of an understanding of anxiety disorders so I could create reasonable alternatives to my ridiculous thoughts. And, of course, counter the physical symptoms that kept me afraid. I needed the facts.

But it was my conviction… my faith, perhaps even naive hope, that kept me fixated on being free from fear.

So often we cram facts into our heads and stop listening to our hearts. We think that by only having the factual knowledge, the intellectual insight, that we can progress. This is, however, wrong. It takes more.

There’s also an emotional insight that we often ignore as we hunt for the next big cure instead.

We tune out what we feel perhaps because we’re afraid to feel anymore.  Imagine, afraid to feel… we just want it all to stop, but in so doing an opportunity is missed – again and again – to feel our way out.

What I mean is that if you let yourself feel the pain, the fear, any and all of your emotions, you will find what you really need. A catalyst.

Something to agitate you from within that will drive you toward finding what you need to stop the cycle you’re in.

More often than not we get caught up in things we don’t use, tricks that don’t work, and information we forget.

What plan have you made, what things have you done over a long period of time, what new things have you explored past a one minute scan of a random webpage?

What, outside of wishing, have you ever tried with passion, with your heart leading the way; eyes shut to the fear of failure?

I once sat in my car sobbing uncontrollably, despondent. It was a terrible feeling, but at the same time it was that feeling that drove me to action.

I let myself feel all the things that I had been holding inside. In that hurt, that utter misery, I found what would later guide my persistent efforts to be free from fear.

In the end I was Free

“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.”

- Karl Augustus Menninger

When did I know that I had overcome anxiety?

When my wife saw me working on Anxietyguru.net one day she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Honey, you’re so different now, you’re not even the same person. It’s amazing.”

I hadn’t stopped to think about it before then. It was an “aha moment.”

I realized that I had reached a point in my life that I thought I would never see. Something I had assumed was impossible. Yet, I did it, and so can you.

Get the facts, then let the memory of your former self, your anguish, sadness, and hope lead the way. Stay focused.

 

P.S.

I’d like to thank Bryan, Kasey and Susan for asking this question.

 

 

 

 

 

Collaborative Psychoeducation is Essential

coginitive behavioral therapyFor most people, information about psychotherapy, or any mental health treatment, is a mystery.

People often have preconceived notions that they will be required to delve into their past but not sure why, will have to take medication, and often figure that they don’t know best and need their therapist to tell them.

Psychoeducation refers to being educated about a psychiatric/psychological condition, whether one is a patient, a family member, or someone not in treatment but interested in learning about a particular topic.  Ideally, psychoeducation is part of the standard of care that is provided by therapists or others in the mental health system.

I take it one step further: Collaborative Psychoeducation.  It is the education plus incorporating it as a part of treatment so a patient and family can use the information to be more actively involved in decisions about treatment.  The collaboration becomes an open dialogue.

My view: accurate information translates into a sense of control for people. If they are informed about the therapy they are in, what to expect, the condition they’re struggling with, medications, side-effects, whatever–they will be more actively involved in their own treatment, and this will likely improve their response to treatment.

Therapy is about change, and for lasting change people must find ways to make it meaningful and worth more than maintaining the status quo.

Most people view anxiety as an emotion or feeling, which is true but only part of the story. When I talk to people about anxiety I help them see that yes, they have anxious feelings, as well as anxious thoughts and behaviors. In many respects, it is focusing on changing the thoughts and behaviors that will have the biggest impact on diminishing the emotional suffering.

A classic example of anxious thoughts is worrying.  Worries are thoughts that people go over and over in their heads.  The more worry, the more anxious feelings.  The “what ifs” of worrying are toxic because people start believing them, despite the fact that there is little or no evidence.

Anxious behaviors? Number one is avoidance: stay away from something or a dreaded task, or isolate from people.  In the short-term anxious feelings may subside; unfortunately, avoidance doesn’t improve the situation, it only puts it off for another day and may even feel worse.

In the online Flexible CBT training program that I developed at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, to help clinicians work more effectively with patients, there is a section focused specifically on Collaborative Psychoeducation for anxiety and specific skills to manage it.

People with anxiety often feel out of control.  We get to the heart of the matter by helping people “control what they can control” to get them started moving in the right direction to manage their anxiety to improve their functioning and enhance their quality of life.

Edmund C. Neuhaus, PhD, ABPP
Founder, Atheneum Learning
http://www.atheneumlearning.com/flexible-cbt
Earn CE Credits for High Quality CBT Training
Are you a CIGNA or AETNA provider?


Dr. Edmund C. Neuhaus, founded Atheneum Learning in 2009 to fulfill his vision to deliver high quality Cognitive Behavioral Training (CBT) for everyday clinical practice to professionals and students worldwide.

After 20 years at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, where he trained hundreds of interns and treated thousands of patients, he has developed an online CBT training course based on a pragmatic and effective patient-driven approach that is perfect for clinicians treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, TBI, and combinations thereof.

You can learn more about how you can earn 20 CE credits for the Flexible CBT course at: http://www.atheneumlearning.com/flexible-cbt/

Atheneum Learning:

Atheneum Learning has developed high quality trainings and resources in the best evidence-based approaches of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Our focus is to support clinicians to learn skills that are immediately relevant to everyday practices in order to make them more effective with patients and improve treatment outcomes.

Our featured online training, Flexible CBT, will earn 20 CME/CEU Credits from McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.