Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Because I Am Afraid of Heights Does Not Mean I Am Crazy!

So you have a phobia? And you FEEL crazy because you know it is not rational to be afraid to fly or afraid of dogs or afraid to go up in an elevator...... What if it turns put a phobia is part of an ancient survival mechanism you have inadvertently activated? This then means that you are not crazy, you are simply mistaken. And mistakes can be rectified.

In general, a phobia is created when something bad happens or you THINK something bad has happened and you logically avoid similar experiences in the future. You get stuck in an elevator and for a few weeks you stay away from them--your primitive brain then decides that those new-fangled things are DANGEROUS and warns you strongly away from them. Even if you did not panic the first time you got stuck, you are likely to panic the next time you get into an elevator, weeks later, having now taught your primitive brain that the only way to stay safe is to avoid elevators. You get bitten by a vicious dog and avoid all dogs for a while until you feel like testing the situation. Only now you find that you are terrified at the sight of dogs and cannot make yourself approach one! Perhaps you have a full-out panic attack with racing heart and sweating palms as soon as you get on the same side of the street at the neighbor's pup. So you continue your avoidance tactic, because at least this prevents panic.

Of course, there are downsides to such choices. Now you are stuck avoiding everyday things that you encounter all too often. AND you are afraid not only of dogs or elevators, but also of feeling panicky. And being afraid of feeling panicky seems logical whereas being afraid of elevators does not, so you now can justify your irrational behavior on the grounds that if you panic, you will get hurt or hurt someone else (What if I run into the street to get away from a dog? What if I drive into a tree in my state of panic? What if I faint?) Of course, it has not ever occurred to you that you have been injured or injured another in a state of panic,but again, the primitive protective mechanisms work hard to convince you to stay safe.

So now you have a panic problem---essentially a panic-phobia, though others would label it "panic disorder") along with your phobia, and you find yourself more and more restricted in things that feel safe to do. The fun begins to drain out of your life. You go to the doctor and are told you have a panic disorder. Perhaps you are given an anxiety drug, but more likely, you are given and anti-depressant, because anxiety drugs are quite addictive and MDs do not like to prescribe them. The result of this is that you feel defective because you have this disorder. The drug might work to a small extent and decrease your overall anxiety, but it is NOT a cure for panic AND it has many unsavory side-effects. Besides which, you have not learned anything to help yourself, so you also feel helpless, a feeling that can lead to more and more anxiety and even depressed feelings.

So, you ask, what on earth can help you if drugs and your favorite MD cannot? The answer is to take control. You and that first dog/elevator/germ/airplane created this problem and you can uncreate it. First you must stop all avoidance behaviors--that's right--hair of the dog, so to speak--go into the situations you fear, and you begin to retrain that primitive brain mechanism that dogs were NOT the terrible danger they seemed. But this is too hard, you exclaim--after all, a panic attack is nothing to sneeze at--people go to emergency rooms every day thinking they are actually going to die from the miserable feelings involved in a panic attack. Correct you are--this is no small feat, but it is an achievable one.

Thus comes the inevitable offer--if you need help to conquer your phobia or panic WITHOUT being accused of being crazy or diseased or defective, without being drugged, please phone the Center fro Conscious Living and Dr. Low can teach you the steps to regaining control of your brain! Call 630-249-1983 today.

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