Archive

for August, 2019

WHY DO WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME WORRYING?

Posted on August 21, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Contributed by Elizabeth Galt: Clinical Psychologist

Worry is something that almost everyone will do from time to time. However, sometimes people find that their worry has become a large and interfering part of their daily life. They may not like it but might believe that it is a part of who they are – to be a worrier. Or they may think that it is necessary to worry as much as they do. Sometimes it is hard for people to acknowledge how much they are worrying because the thoughts seem to be justified if about their real life problems. Often their worrying is pointed out to them by other people.

Frequent and interfering worry is associated with anxiety but not all people who worry a lot are aware of feeling anxiety in their body. Some people may have habituated to a higher level of daily anxiety, accepting it as their normal.

Worry is different from constructive problem solving. Problem solving is “here and now” action. Worry typically becomes repetitive and looping patterns of thought that don’t resolve to any practical action or outcome. For example, problem solving a bill that might be difficult to pay could look like calling the company and making a payment arrangement. In the same scenario a worry pattern would look like repeated thoughts of “what if I can’t pay it?”, “what will happen if I can’t pay it?” and similar.

Not all situations that provoke worry will be able to be problem solved. Some situations may be completely out of our control or may require time or other events to unfold. Often people get into the worry habit because it paid off for them a few times. Maybe they were prepared for a situation or felt partly protected from disappointment when something went wrong. It might seem counterintuitive  but often people will have some positive ideas or beliefs about the value or benefits of worry. Unfortunately worry tends to get worse over time and then people find themselves worrying more and more about minor things. Then they can become worried about how much they are worrying, or feel stressed about how easily they are getting stressed.

The good news is that worry doesn’t have to keep its hold and reduce a person’s quality of life. A psychologist can assist with helping an individual to understand their worry pattern and why it has been persisting in their life. The psychologist can then provide strategies and activities that reduce the worry pattern.

There are also self-help approaches that target worry. Resources for these can be accessed at many reputable mental health websites. The Black Dog Institute has some tip sheets available (see http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au) and the Centre for Clinical Interventions has full modules and workbooks available in their Resources section (see http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au).

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What is the best treatment for anxiety disorders?

Posted on August 21, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

According to Beyond Blue, Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their life. With this in mind, it is important to understand the different treatment options available to people suffering from anxiety disorders, to keep the disorder in check and under control.

Different Types of Anxiety

Anxiety can present in many different ways and therefore must be treated in different ways. Not all anxiety disorders look the same or have the same underlying cause. There are three main types of anxiety disorders including, generalised anxiety disorderssocial phobias and panic attacks.

Generalised Anxiety Disorders typically present in extreme worriers who seem to have a negative or pessimistic view of the world, always assuming the worst will happen. Although it is normal to worry about life, finances, children and relationships, people with generalised anxiety disorder find it difficult to get through the day, as the worry can be all consuming and sometimes debilitating.

Social Phobia is another form of anxiety where a person’s fear of social situations, prevent them from participating in daily tasks, like going to work, meeting with friends and even doing the groceries.

Panic Disorders are a sudden attack or onset of uncontrollable fear or terror, resulting in physical symptoms like a cold sweat and heart palpitations. Panic attacks occur at any time and the person experiencing the attack may feel an intense sense of fear or impending doom. Panic Disorder is one of the most common presentations with many individuals diagnosed with the disorder also meeting criteria for Agoraphobia. A diagnosis of Agoraphobia is given if (a) the patient reports anxiety about places or situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing or in which help may not be immediately available, and (b) these situations are avoided or endured with marked distress. Patients who present with panic attacks may appear as composed, competent individuals with full and fulfilling lives, however, beneath the surface they are enduring extreme discomfort and are often struggling to keep going.

Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety can be caused by a number of things that present as risk factors contributing to the development of an anxiety condition. Such factors include a genetic predisposition, stress and lifestyle, chronic health conditions, substance abuse and mental health conditions just to name a few.

Sometimes anxiety or other mental health problems run in the family therefore giving you a genetic predisposition to it. This is not to say you will definitely have an anxiety condition if your grandmother did but if you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and you know it runs in the family, it would be a good idea to speak to a professional about it. You may also consider your personality type as research shows certain personality types are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Perfectionists, people who like to be in control or those who lack self-esteem sometimes develop anxiety disorders at various stages of their life.

Ongoing stress such as work related stress; marriage or relationship stress or traumatic life events may lead to the development of an anxiety condition.  It is important to recognise the stressor and manage the symptoms by talking to friends, family and a professional.

Chronic health like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other major physical illnesses are challenged to face the reality of the disease and often feel anxiety as an effect of the disease. Faced with problems that the disease places on everyday living such as monitoring and self-treatment and the effect it can have on relationships. Poor sleep, lack of self-confidence and low self esteem as a result of the disease, can also contribute to anxiety.

How do drug and alcohol affect anxiety?

Managing anxiety can be difficult and some anxiety sufferers turn to alcohol or drugs to manage the symptoms. Unfortunately, the immediate effect of the substance that may seem effective, they often lead to long term addiction or substance abuse and may also aggravate the condition.

Treatments for Anxiety

Everyone is different in how they experience anxiety and what might provoke the onset of anxiety or a panic attack, which is why it is important to recognise your individual signs and symptoms and seek professional help. Ideally a team of health professionals will work together to delivery a holistic mental plan that works for the individual.  In terms of psychological treatments for anxiety, talk therapy, has proven effectiveness by equipping the individual with personalised strategies to control symptoms of anxiety.

Also known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) talk therapy often focuses on changing belief and thinking patterns that result in certain behaviours, namely anxiety. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit and like any other bad habit, it can be modified.

So in treating anxiety, our psychologists help people identify when their thought patterns are negative and replace them with more helpful thoughts, resulting in more positive behavioural outcomes.

Part of cognitive behavioural therapy in treating anxiety is monitoring your ‘self talk’ and testing realities of negative talk by evaluating the thoughts that lead to unhelpful fears and beliefs.  For example, people who suffer from anxiety may avoid friends or social situations because of negative beliefs. The treatment focuses on questioning the negative thoughts and beliefs (like, my friends find me boring) that lead to the feelings of anxiousness in social situations.

Finally, CBT not only helps you understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns but can also provide you with a range of  useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or noticing these symptoms in someone you love, we have a diverse team of Brisbane psychologists who can help manage your anxiety. Visit the Brisbane Psychologists page to read about our team and their areas of specialisation.

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Natural treatment for insomnia

Posted on August 15, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

We all know how it feels when you’ve not had enough sleep- tired, cranky, irritable, unproductive and overwrought. Even the simplest task can seem overwhelming and this is largely due to the fact that your brain and cognitive function is not operating at optimal levels.

Although bouts of bad sleep are normal and to be expected in our fast paced society, chronic sleep problems and ongoing insomnia (difficulties with sleep for 3 months or more) should not be ignored. According to the National Sleep Foundation, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression and an increased risk of other co-morbid conditions.

So how do you break this vicious cycle of bad sleep, poor health and its myriad of negative repercussions and say goodbye to a dependence on sleeping tablets? Research suggests that the most effective long-term treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a psychology based treatment that addresses behaviour and thinking around sleep.

Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith and Psychiatrist Dr Curt Gray have been effectively treating insomnia with CBT through their long-standing group programme, Towards Better Sleep. Unlike sleep medication, CBT is not a quick fix and takes time to work, which is why the programme spans across 6 weeks, focusing on education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies.

A group setting has proven an effective setting to treat people with sleep problems, allowing participants to share their experiences and learn from one another in a more cost effective way.

The next Towards Better Sleep programme and the final one for 2019 commences on 10th October from our Morningside office. For more information or to register your interest in the programme, visit www.towardsbettersleep.com.au or email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au

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Brooding Badly – How to Stop Obsessive Thinking

Posted on August 1, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

When we are stressed or dodging one of life’s many curve balls, it’s common to become obsessed with the subject matter and it can be hard to stop thinking about it. Also known as obsessive thinking or rumination, the mental merry-go-round can be difficult to get off, it’s metaphoric dizziness often interrupting sleep and inducing stress. It has also been known to lead to anxiety and depression. Similarly, those experiencing depression or anxiety, commonly ruminate and their experiences may present in what is often described as ‘catastrophic thought’.

Although it’s normal and sometimes even helpful to ‘workshop’ problems or decisions you’ve made, when there is no solution in sight and the thoughts are becoming obsessive and interrupting daily function, you’ve almost certainly tipped the scales to an unhealthy level of rumination.

Obsessive thinking has been known to lead to depression and anxiety as the negative thought increases the brain’s stress response leading to higher levels of cortisol. It also leads to dangerous physical symptoms of stress like high blood pressure and heart problems.

So how do you short-circuit obsessive thoughts?

The first step is to recognise when you are thinking this way and to know where to draw the line of healthy vs unhealthy rumination. This is the most difficult step as people prone to rumination see it as ‘workshopping problems’ rather than brooding badly! If you find yourself reacting irrationally to the present, it might be because your mind is elsewhere, perhaps dwelling on negative thought. Regularly checking in with yourself and understanding your own individual signs will help you recognise the signs of rumination.

Being mindful and present can also help you let go of past decisions and actions that cannot be changed. Practicing yoga can be a positive way to physically commit to mindfulness, as the ancient art focuses on being present and grateful for the now.

Exercise is a known distractor when negative thoughts are overwhelming you. Walking with a friend or socialising can also be helpful in shifting the focus to more positive and enjoyable experiences.

As cognitive behavioural therapy is focused on stopping negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing them with more positive, helpful ones, it’s world renowned as one of the most effective treatments for alleviating cognitive distortions. A Psychologist can help guide you through the process of breaking down these thoughts and perceptions and how these may affect your emotions and behaviour.

If you need help with obsessive thoughts or your general health and wellbeing, Psychology Consultants has a large team of experienced, male and female Clinical Psychologists committed to helping you thrive.

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