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Your Anxiety Toolkit - It's a Beautiful Day to Do Hard Things

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Now displaying: March, 2022
Mar 25, 2022

Common treatment of derealization and depersonalization Kimberley Quinlan

SUMMARY:

Derealization & depersonalization are common experiences of anxiety. In this episode, we take a look at the definition of derealization and depersonalization. We also explore the common symptoms of derealization and depersonalization and the treatment of derealization and depersonalization. I also explore mindfulness and CBT skills to help you manage your discomfort and anxiety.

In This Episode:

  • The definition of derealization
  • The definition of depersonalization
  • Explore the symptoms of derealization
  • Explore the symptoms of depersonalization
  • Comparing derealization vs depersonalization
  • Common treatment of derealization and depersonalization

Links To Things I Talk About:

ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:
This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by CBTschool.com. CBTschool.com is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. Go to cbtschool.com to learn more.

Spread the love! Everyone needs tools for anxiety...

If you like Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, visit YOUR ANXIETY TOOLKIT PODCAST to subscribe free and you'll never miss an episode. And if you really like Your Anxiety Toolkit, I'd appreciate you telling a friend (maybe even two).

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 227.

Welcome back, everybody. I am so grateful to have this time with you. As you know, I promised this year would be the year I doubled down and get really into the nitty-gritty of some of the topics that people don’t talk enough about regarding anxiety. Today is so in line with that value

Today, we are talking about what is derealization and depersonalization. These are two what I would consider symptoms of anxiety. I see it all the time in my practice. I see it reported and commented all the time on Instagram. If you follow me on Instagram, we put out tons of free information there as well. This is such an important topic. And for some reason, we aren’t talking about these two topics enough.

My goal today is actually to give you a 101 on derealization and a 101 on depersonalization. We can touch upon derealization disorder and depersonalization disorder as well, but at the end, I want to give you as many tools as I can to point you in the right direction.

Before we do that, let’s do the “I did a hard thing,” because we love that, right? The “I did a hard thing” is a segment where people submit the hard things they’re doing. The main reason I do this is because, number one, you’re my family. We’re all in this together. But number two, often people, many years ago when I started the podcast, people were like, when I started saying it’s a beautiful day to do hard things, which I say all the time, a lot of people were saying, “But how hard does it have to be? And how do I handle the hard things? Can you give me an example?” And so, these have been just such a wonderful way to share how other people are doing hard things.

This one was submitted anonymously, and they said:

“I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation for a very long time. And after years of therapy, self-discovery, and lots of hard work, I’m finally accepting that I am better off in the world than out of it.”

Now I just have to take a deep breath and nearly cry because this is seriously the hard work. Sometimes when we’re talking about “I did a hard thing,” we’re talking about facing one small thing or one large thing, but I really want to honor Anonymous here and all of you who are doing this really long-term work and deep, deep work around really acknowledging how important you are and how much the world needs you in it and on it.

So anonymous, I love you. You are amazing. I have such respect for the work that you’ve done and are doing, and thank you. Again. I think we don’t talk about suicidal ideation enough either. In fact, I should really do an episode on that as well. I respect you and I’m so grateful you submitted this week.

Okay, here we go. I have some notes, which I rarely use notes for episodes, but I didn’t want to miss anything. I’ve got so much I want to share. I will do my best to break this down into, like I said, a 101, small bite-size helpful tools.

You will hear me, as I talk, taking little deep breaths and that’s because I have to practice slowing down. Just a little off-topic, when I’m doing podcasts, I get so geeked out that my brain races, and I’m all over the place and I’m talking fast and I have to slow down, “Kimberley, pump the breaks, lady.”

Let’s together take a breath... and let’s just be together.

First let’s talk about derealization. The definition of derealization is that derealization is a mental state or a psychological experience, it could also be a physiological experience, where things feel unreal. Not like, “Oh, that’s totally unreal, man. Amazing.” I’m talking where they don’t feel real. When you have derealization, you might feel detached from your surroundings. You don’t feel connected to what’s going on around you, and people and objects may also seem unreal.

Often people, when they have derealization or derealization disorder, feel like they’re going crazy. Actually, they feel like they’re going crazy. Not just the term that people use on the street. They actually feel like they’re losing touch with reality.

When we talk about derealization disorder, we’ll talk about that here in a little bit, but we could use them interchangeably. Lots of people have derealization without having the disorder, but to have derealization disorder, you have to experience derealization. So I’m including them both there.

Now the prevalence of derealization, I wanted to just give you this information because I felt it was very validating. I myself struggle with derealization and depersonalization. It was really validating for me to hear that more than half, more than 50% of people may have this disconnection from reality at least once in their lifetime. 2% of people experience it enough for it to become some kind of disorder, just like derealization disorder or even a dissociative disorder like amnesia.

If you’re concerned, you can go speak with your doctor or your therapist, or a licensed therapist for an assessment if you’re concerned about it. A lot of people who I have seen have already been to the doctor, gotten cleared. Schizophrenic is often a very big concern. People often feel that they’ve been misdiagnosed.

Now derealization is similar, but distinctly different from depersonalization, which we would talk about here soon. Some symptoms of derealization include feelings of being unfamiliar with your surroundings. You feel like you’ve never been there before, or you may feel like you’re living in a movie or a dream. You may feel emotionally disconnected from your loved ones or colleagues or friends. You just feel very numb. Like I said, you’re just very out of order. Things feel very strange. Your surroundings and the environment also may appear distorted, blurry, colorless, two-dimensional, or artificial.

I remember the first time I ever had derealization. I was sitting across from a client and I was an intern. I was very anxious. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. I was sitting across from them and all of a sudden, their body looked like a caricature of themselves. The caricature is where their body is really small and their head is huge. I was looking at my client, trying to be a therapist, and I’m thinking what happened. All of a sudden, their neck was very, very small and short and their head looked gigantic. It looked like a drawing, not three-dimensional, but two-dimensional. And that was so concerning to me. I freaked out. I got through the session. Thankfully, again, I had tools to use. But it was really scary. It actually brought on some panic later in that evening because it didn’t go away for a little bit of time.

Now, depersonalization, the definition of depersonalization involves feeling a detachment, not from your environment like in derealization, but from your own body and your thoughts and your feelings. Think of it like it’s like you’re watching yourself from an outsider. I always say it’s like you’re flying on the wall, looking at yourself, or it’s like looking at a movie of yourself.

Now, symptoms of depersonalization include feelings that you’re an outsider observer, like I just said. You’re disconnected to your body again. Others report that it feels like they’re a robot and that they don’t have control of their movements. Again, you feel like you’re watching yourself and you don’t have control of what’s going to happen next.

Another symptom of depersonalization may include the sense that your body and legs and arm appear distorted. They may feel enlarged or shrunken. Some people report that their head is wrapped in cotton. That’s a different symptom.

Another example I always use with my patients is often when I have depersonalization, which isn’t very often anymore, is I’d look at my hand and I couldn’t tell if it was my hand or not. I didn’t feel like it was my hand. Again, really scary, can feel really concerning in the moment.

Now you may also experience some numbness, whether that’s emotional or physical. Some people say all of these symptoms are similar for derealization as well. You may feel like your memories lack emotion. Again, you’re disconnected from your own experience. So, that can be an additional symptom of depersonalization.

Now for both, I’m going to talk about them together now. For both, the duration of these symptoms may last just a few minutes, they can last a few hours. Some people, particularly if you have derealization disorder or depersonalization disorder, it can be days, weeks, and months. In that severity, I would encourage you to go and speak with a mental health provider who is trained and can assess you properly.

Now, to be diagnosed with derealization or to be diagnosed with depersonalization, there is no lab test. There’s no scan you can have. It requires a trained professional to review your symptoms and give you the diagnosis. You could probably, by listening to this, define for yourself whether you have the criteria to meet this classification. But if you’re wanting to be sure, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help to get that diagnosis.

Now, the prevalence of the struggles almost always start in late childhood or early adulthood. The statistics, this is why I have my notes today, the average age starts around 16. 95% of cases are diagnosed before the age of 25. Not always, but that has been the common statistics that they’re showing. I think that’s really helpful to know.

Now, that being said, what do you do from here? The treatment of depersonalization and derealization is often CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Basically, what we do, and this is a lot of the work that you probably already have skills if you’ve listened to a lot of the podcast episodes – a lot of it is around practicing your mindfulness tool. The first thing I want to let you know is it doesn’t mean you’re going crazy. I totally get that. It feels like you are, but it doesn’t. The good news is, when you can’t stop appraising it as “I am going crazy,” you’ll actually start to notice it’s just a really strange feeling, but it doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

I once had a teen client who told me, he said he was laughing and we were giggling together. He said, “The crazy thing is some of my friends pay a lot of money to feel this way by using drugs,” and he says, “I have it for free. I have this strange feeling, this out-of-body experience. And I don’t even have to be under the control of a drug or a substance.” He said, “When I looked at it from that perspective, I stopped appraising it as if it’s dangerous.” And that was a game-changer for him to stop appraising it as if it is a dangerous problem.

For me now, when I have derealization, it usually occurs when I’m driving. I used to panic that that meant I was going to crash. But then when I just said, “Okay, I’m just having a feeling and I’m going to let it be there.” I’m not going to do anything about it. I’m not going to judge it negatively. I’m going to allow it to rise and fall on its own. And I’m going to put all of my attention on just staying present.

Now your brain is going to say, “Yeah, but present is bad. Present is terrible. Bad things are going to happen. What if you’re going crazy?” And your job is actually to practice just letting those be thoughts, because that’s what they are. They’re thoughts. Just because you have them doesn’t mean they’re facts. Lots of people have derealization. The clients I’ve had who’ve had severe derealization and derealization and depersonalization disorder, they now say, “Yeah, it happens. No big deal. They just go about my day.”

Now in the early stages of treatment, you’re going to hate this idea, but it works, is we actually used to purposely induce this sensation so that they could practice tolerating the discomfort without responding in unhealthy ways or in compulsive ways. We would sit them down and spin them around in a chair. We would have them stare at the wall. We would have them look at really psychedelic YouTube videos where the colors and the patterns are all wavy like seventies, like psychedelic. And we would practice inducing the feeling. From there, they would practice willingly allowing the discomfort and going about their day, being gentle with themselves, engaging in the things they value. Of course, they might feel great, and that’s okay. You can slow down a little and do what you need to do.

But ultimately, when you have depersonalization and derealization, the goal is simply to do nothing at all. Crazy. When I tell my patients that, they’re like, “Oh my goodness, you’re either crazy or you’re brilliant.” By the end, usually, they say that this treatment, not me, but the treatment is brilliant, because it teaches them not to be afraid of it and not to try and live their life avoiding it.

I’ve had patients report that they’ve avoided things at great length just to avoid the experience of depersonalization and derealization. And when they avoid it, it just keeps them stuck and keeps them scared and keeps it happening more.

The other thing I will add is, do not check to see if you’re derealized or depersonalized, because just the act of checking for it, like a mental check, can actually bring on the symptoms. Now, that’s easier said than done. Am I right? Yes, it’s very hard. I know it’s easy to say, “Just stop doing that.” But if you’re engaging in a lot of checking behavior, sometimes it’s helpful to catch when you are and bring yourself back to the present, do whatever disengagement skills you can use to get you back into the present moment. Again, we don’t want to push the discomfort away, but we also don’t want to give too much hyper attention to these sensations and symptoms.

If you’re struggling with these symptoms, go and see a mental health professional. You can quiz them, ask them if they have skills in this. Look on their website, see if they’ve got any information about it that will help you to get the help that you need.

This is great. Like I said, this is what I call derealization and depersonalization 101. But there are many, many other tools that you can use to help manage this. One day I will do my best to create an online course about this that goes into detail so you have that, but for right now, I hope that this is helpful.

Now, before we finish up, I’m going to do the review of the week. We have an amazing review here from Jessrabon621 and they said:

“Amazing podcast. I absolutely love everything about this podcast. I could listen to Kimberley talk all day and her advice is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone struggling with anxiety or any other mental health professional that wants to learn more.”

Thank you, Jessrabon621. I am so grateful that I’ve helped and I’m so happy that you’ve left a review. Thank you. I love your reviews. They help me so much.

2022 is the year that I want to get a thousand reviews. If you can help, I would be so grateful. Go in wherever you’re listening, click on the reviews, leave a review. You don’t have to write something. You can just rate it. Leave an honest review. I am so, so grateful. We will be giving a pair of Beats headphones to one lucky winner by the time we hit 1,000 reviews. So I am so grateful.

Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you next week.

Mar 18, 2022

SUMMARY:
Overcoming Health Anxiety is possible! Today, we interview Ken Goodman and his client Maria on overcoming hpyochondria using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In this episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, you will learn key concepts of health anxiety and how to overcome their health anxiety.

In This Episode:

  • What it is like to have health anxiety
  • The key concepts of treating Hypochondria
  • Tips for managing fears of death and cancer.
  • A step-by-step approach to overcoming health anxiety.

Links To Things I Talk About:

https://www.kengoodmantherapy.com/
Quiet Mind Solutions
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by CBTschool.com. CBTschool.com is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. Go to cbtschool.com to learn more.

Spread the love! Everyone needs tools for anxiety...
If you like Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, visit YOUR ANXIETY TOOLKIT PODCAST to subscribe free and you'll never miss an episode. And if you really like Your Anxiety Toolkit, I'd appreciate you telling a friend (maybe even two).

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 226.

Welcome back, everybody. If you have health anxiety, hypochondria, health anxiety disorder, or you know of somebody who has health anxiety, you are going to love this episode. I mean, love, love, love this episode.

Today, we have Ken Goodman, who’s on the show. He’s a clinician who’s here with his patient and they’re sharing a success story, a recovery story of health anxiety, and it is so good. I am so honored to have both of them on. It was so fun to actually interview other people and the way they’re doing it, and look at the steps that were taken in order to overcome health anxiety. And this is the overcoming health anxiety story of all stories. It is so, so good. I’m not going to waste your time going and telling you how good it is. I’m just going to let you listen to it because I know you’re here to get the good stuff.

Before we do that, I wanted to do the “I did a hard thing” and this one is from Dave. It says:

“I’ve been trying to get back into meditating regularly. I was sitting at a desk this morning, reviewing my work emails. And I told myself, before I get even further in my day, I need to meditate. I did a guided meditation, even though I felt a strong pull inside to go back to work. I kept getting caught up in my thoughts, but I just kept telling myself it doesn’t need to be a perfect meditation. I said the goal today is just to be able to sit without being busy for three minutes. Nothing more. It was hard, but I did it.”

Dave, thank you so much for the submission of the “I did a hard thing” segment, because I think that meditation is so important. In fact, I keep promising myself I’m going to implement it more into this podcast. And Dave has really looked at some of the struggles people have with meditation. And look at him, go, it’s so amazing. Totally did it. So amazing. Dave, thank you so, so, so much. I love it. If you want to submit, you may submit your “I did a hard thing” by going to KimberleyQuinlan-lmft.com. If you go to the podcast page, there is a submission page right on the website. And from there, let’s just go straight to the show. I hope you enjoy it.

Overcoming Health Anxiety with Ken Goodman and Maria Your anxiety toolkit

Kimberley: Welcome. I am so excited for this episode. Welcome, Ken and welcome, Maria.

Ken: Thank you for having me.

Maria: Hi, Kimberley.

Kimberley: So, as you guys, we’ve already chatted, but I really want to hear. This is really quite unique and we get to see the perspective of a client and the therapist. If I could do one of these every single week, I would. I think it’s so cool. So, thank you so much for coming on and sharing. We’re going to talk about health anxiety. And so, Maria, we’re going to go back and forth here, but do you want to share a little bit about your experience with health anxiety?

Maria: Yes. I think I’ve had health anxiety probably for like 15, 20 years and not known about it. Looking back now, everything comes clear when you see the multiple pictures that you’ve taken of certain lumps and whatever five years ago. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I have so many pictures that I’ve taken and so many different things.” But yeah, I’ve been struggling for a while I think, and had multiple doctor’s appointments. Until I realized that I had health anxiety, it was an everyday struggle, I think.

Ken: Well, you came to me and you were mostly worried at the time about ticks and Lyme disease and skin cancer, but you told me that for the previous 15 years or so, you were worried about other things. What are those things?

Maria: Well, I was mostly completely obsessed with moles on my skin and them being cancerous. And I was scared of ticks. I would not be able to walk through any grass or go hiking. I was scared that I would have to check my whole body to make sure that there were no ticks on me. I was completely scared of Lyme disease, and it just completely consumed my life really. And they were the main things. But looking back before that, I think that I always had a doctor’s appointment on the go. I would book one, and as soon as they said, “You can book online,” That was it for me. I would have one booked, and then I’d go, “Oh, what if there’s something else next week? You know what, I’m just going to book one for next week, just in case something comes up.” I am a terrible person when it comes to that because I’m taking up multiple doctor’s appointments. And I knew that. But it was trying to reassure myself, trying to control the situation, trying to control next week already before it even happened. So, yeah.

MARIA’S SYMPTOMS OF HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: Right. What did it look like for you? What did a day look like for you pre-treatment and pre-recovery?

Maria: Some days it could be fine. I remember days where nothing was bothering me. It was such a nice feeling. And then I was scared because I never knew what was going to trigger me and it could be anything at any time. And I think that was the not knowing. And then as soon as I would latch onto something, I would come to the phone, I’d start Googling over and over again, hours of Googling and then checking. And then it was just ongoing. And then my whole day, I was in my head my whole day, just what if, what if, asking questions, going back to Google, trying to find that reassurance that of course never happened.

Ken: Yeah. You tell me that you would take pictures of your moles and then compare them with the cancerous moles online and do those things.

Maria: Yeah. And I would book-- and interestingly enough, looking back now, I went through a phase of always having a doctor’s appointment. And then I also went through a phase of completely avoiding the doctor as well, not wanting to go because I didn’t want them to say something that I knew was going to trigger a whole host of anxiety. So, I’ve gone through multiple doctors. And then once you start the doctor’s appointments, then you’re on a roller coaster. Because you walk away from that appointment, never feeling, or for me, never feeling reassured. Or feeling reassured for maybe a few minutes, and then you leave, and then the anxiety kicks in. “Oh, I never asked them this,” or “Oh my gosh, well, what did that mean?” And then the what-ifs start again and you’re back to square one. So then, you go, “Oh, no, I didn’t try just what they said. I’m going to book another appointment and this doctor is going to be the doctor that reassures me.”

MANAGING DOCTOR VISITS WITH HYPOCHONDRIA

Kimberley: Right. Or sometimes a lot of clients will say to me like, “The doctor made a face. What did that face mean? They made a look and it was just for a second, but were they questioning their own diagnosis and so forth?” And I think that is really common as well.

Ken: Well, the doctor will say anything and it could be something very simple like, “Okay, you’re all good. I’ll see you in six months.” And the person will leave thinking, “Why would he want me to come back in six months if nothing was wrong?”

Maria: Well, that’s interesting that you would say that because I think probably at my lowest point, I was keeping notes about my thought process and what I was feeling when I was actually going to the doctors or waiting for the results. And actually, I thought it might-- if I have a few minutes to read what I actually was going through in real-time, I know it’s probably very relatable.

Kimberley: I would love that.

Maria: I had gone to basically a doctor’s appointment, an annual one where I knew I was going to have to have blood tests. And they’re the worst for me because the anticipation of getting the results is just almost worse than getting the results, even though--

Ken: Did you write this before we met?

Maria: No. While I was seeing you, Ken.

Ken: In the beginning?

Maria: Yeah. When you’d asked me to write down everything and write down what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and then read it back to myself. And this is what I had written down, actually, when I was going through the doctor’s appointment and waiting or had just gotten the results.

Kimberley: If you would share, that’d be so grateful.

Maria: So, my blood results came back today. I felt very nervous about opening them. The doctor wrote a note at the top. “Your blood results are mostly normal. Your cholesterol is slightly high, but no need for medication. Carry on with exercise and healthy eating.” “Mostly,” what does that mean? “Mostly”? I need to look at all the numbers and make sure that everything is in the normal range. “Okay, they’re all in the normal range except for my cholesterol. But why does she write mostly? Is there something else that she’s not telling me? I need reassurance. I’m driving down to the doctor’s right now. I can’t wait the whole weekend.” I go into the doctor’s office and ask them, “Is there a doctor who’s able to explain to me my results?” The receptionist said, “No, you have to make another appointment.” I explained to her, “You don’t understand. I just need somebody to tell me that everything is normal.”

Finally, this nice lady saw the anxiety on my face. She calls the doctor over to look at the labs. The receptionist shows the doctor the one lab panel, and he says, “Everything is completely normal. Nothing was flagged. Everything is completely fine.” I thank him so much for looking and walk away. As soon as I get outside, I realize I didn’t ask him to look at all the lab panels. What if she meant mostly normal on the other lab panels that I didn’t show him? When I get home, I look over each one multiple times and make sure that each one is in the exact number range. After looking over them four or five times and seeing that each one is in the number range except for my cholesterol, I still feel like I need to have her explain to me why she wrote the word “mostly.” The crazy thing is I’m not concerned about the high cholesterol. I can control that. I don’t know what she meant by the word “mostly.” I’m going to send her a message. And I’m going to ask her to clarify. I have to believe that she would tell me if something was wrong. I wish there was an off button in my head to stop me worrying about this.

Ken: I remember this now. I remember. And this was in the middle. Maria was really avoiding going to the doctor and she had overdue with some physical exams. And so, we really worked hard for her to stop avoiding that. She got to the point where she felt good enough about going to the doctor. And she really, I think I remember her not having any anticipatory anxiety, handling the doctor very well, host the doctor very well, until she got the email and focused on the word “mostly.” And that sent her spiraling out of control. But the interesting thing about that whole experience was that we processed it afterwards, and that whole experience motivated her to try even harder. And then she took even bigger strides forward. And within a couple of months, she was really doing so much better. And I think it’s been over a year now since that and continues to do really well.

Kimberley: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that. I actually was tearing up. Tears were starting to come because I was thinking, I totally get that experience. I’m so grateful you shared it because I think so many people do, right?

Maria: Yeah. And there’s always and/or. You go into the doctor’s appointment, they tell you everything. And because your adrenaline is absolutely pumping, you forget everything. And then you come out and you go, “Oh my gosh, I can’t remember anything.” Then the anxiety kicks in and tells you what the anxiety is like, “Oh no, that must have been bad. That must have been--” yeah.

Ken: And that boost in adrenaline that just takes over is so powerful. You can forget any common sense or any therapeutic strategies or tools that you might have learned because now you just get preoccupied with one word, the uncertainty of that word.

Maria: Yeah. I would have to have a family member come in, my husband to come in and sit in the-- it got to that point where he would have to come in and sit in the appointment, so then after the appointment, I could have him retell me what was said, because I knew as soon as the adrenaline kicked in, I would not be able to remember anything.

ROADBLOCKS TO HEALTH ANXIETY TREATMENT

Kimberley: Right. Ken, this brings me straight to the next question, which would be like, what roadblocks do you commonly see patients hit specifically if they have health anxiety during recovery or treatment?

Ken: Well, unlike other fears and phobias, the triggers for health anxiety are very unpredictable. So, if you have a fear of elevators, flying or public speaking, you know when your flight is going to be, you know when you have to speak or you know when you have to drive if you have a fear of driving. For health anxiety, you never know when you’re going to be triggered. And those triggers can be internal, like a physical sensation, because the body is very noisy. And everyone experiences physical sensations periodically and you never know when that’s going to happen. And then you never know external triggers. You never know when the doctor is going to say something that might trigger you, or you see a social media post about a GoFundMe account about someone that you know who knows someone who’s been diagnosed with ALS. So, you never know when these things are going to happen. And so, you might be doing well for a couple of weeks or even a month, and suddenly there’s a trigger and you’re right back to where you started from. And so, in that way, it feels very frustrating because you can do well and then you can start becoming extremely anxious again.

Another roadblock I think might be if you need medicine, there’s a fear of trying medicine because of potential for side effects and becomes overblown and what are the long-term side effects, and even if I take it, I’m going to become very anxious. And so, people then are not taking the very thing, the medicine that could actually help them reduce their anxiety. So, that’s another roadblock.

Kimberley: Yeah. I love those. And I think that they’re by far the most hurdles. And Maria, you could maybe even chime in, what did you feel your biggest roadblock to recovery was?

Maria: Being okay with the unknown. Trying to be in control all the time is exhausting and trying to constantly have that reassurance and coming to terms with, “It’s okay if I can’t control everything. It’s okay if I don’t get the 100% reassurance that I need. It’s good enough,” that was hard for me. And also, not picking up the phone and Googling was the biggest. I think once I stopped that and I was okay with not looking constantly, that was a huge step forward.

Ken: You really learn to live with uncertainty. And I think you start to understand that if you had to demand 100% certainty, you had to keep your anxiety disorder. In order to be 100% certain, that meant keep staying anxious.

Kimberley: Yeah. Being stuck in that cycle forever.

Ken: You didn’t want that anymore. You wanted to focus on living your life rather than being preoccupied with preventing death.

SKILLS AND TOOLS TO OVERCOME HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: Right. So, Maria, I mean, that’s probably, from my experience as a clinician, one of the most important skills, the ability to tolerate and be uncertain. Were there other specific tools that you felt were really important for your recovery at the beginning and middle and end, and as you continue to live your life?

Maria: Yes. I think the biggest one was me separating my anxiety from myself, if that makes sense. Seeing it as a separate-- I don’t even know, like a separate entity, not feeling like it was me. I had to look at it as something that was trying to control me, but I was fine. I needed to fight the anxiety. And separating it was hard in the beginning. But then I think once I really can help me to understand how to do that, at that point, I think I started to move forward a bit more.

Kimberley: So, you externalized it. For me, I give it a name like Linda. “Hi, Linda,” or whatever name you want to give your anxiety. A lot of kids do that as well like Mr. Candyman or whatever.

Maria: Yeah. It sat on my shoulder and try to get in my head. In the beginning, I would be brushing off my shoulder constantly. Literally, I must have looked crazy because I was brushing this anxiety off my shoulder every 10 minutes with another what-if. What if this? What if that? And I think I had to retrain my brain. I had to just start not believing and being distracted constantly by the “What if you do this” or “What if that?” and I’d say, “No, no.”

Ken: Yeah. I’d treat a lot of health anxiety. I have a lot of health anxiety groups. And I do notice that the patients that can externalize their anxiety and personify it do way better than the people who have trouble with it. And so, whether it’s a child or a teenager or an adult, I am having them externalize their anxiety. And I go into that, not only in my groups, but in the audio program I created called the Anxiety Solution Series. It is all about how to do that. And it makes things so much easier. If now you’re not fighting with yourself, there’s no internal struggle anymore because now you’re just competing against an opponent who’s outside of you. It makes things easier.

Kimberley: Right. Yeah. And sometimes when that voice is there and you believe it to be you, it can make you feel a little crazy. But when you can externalize it, it separates you from that feeling of going crazy as well.

Maria: I felt so much better as soon as I did that because I felt, “Okay, I think I can fight this. This isn’t me. I’m not going crazy. This is something that I--” and I started to not believe. And it was long, but it was retraining my brain. And I would question the what-ifs and it didn’t make sense to me anymore. Or I would write it down and then I would read it back to me, myself, and I’d be like, “That’s ridiculous, what I just thought.” And the other tool which was hugely helpful was breathing, learning how to breathe properly and calm myself down. I mean--

Ken: Yeah. There’s lots of different types of breathing out there. And so, I teach a specific type of breathing, which is, I call it Three by Three Relaxation Breathing, which is also in the Anxiety Solution Series. And it really goes over into detail, a very simple way to breathe that you can do it anywhere. You can do it in a waiting room full of people, because it’s very subtle. It’s not something where you’re taking a big breath and people are looking at you. It’s very, very subtle. You can do it anywhere.

MEDITATION FOR HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: Ken, just so that I understand, and also Maria, how does that help someone? For someone who has struggled with breathing or is afraid of meditation hor health anxiety and they’ve had a bad experience, how does the breathing specifically help, even, like you were saying, in a doctor’s appointment office?

Maria: I’ve done it actually in multiple doctor’s appointments where I’ve had that feeling of, “I’ve got to get out of here now.” It’s that feeling of, “Uh, no. Right now, I need to leave.” Before, before I started, I would leave. And now I realized, no, I’m not. I’m going to sit and I’m going to breathe. And no one notices. No one can see it. You can breathe and it really does calm me down, especially in the past, I’ve had panic attacks and feeling like I can’t breathe myself. When you start to realized that you can control it and it does relax you, it really helps me a lot. I do it all the time.

Kimberley: It’s like a distress tolerance tool then, would you say?

Maria: It’s something that I can carry around with me all the time, because everyone needs to breathe.

Kimberley: Yeah. I always say that your breath is free. It’s a free tool. You could take it anywhere. It’s perfect.

Maria: Yeah. So, it’s something that I can do for myself. I can rely on my breathing. And now knowing after Ken teaching me really how to do it properly, it’s just invaluable. It really is, and empowering in a way. Now, when I feel like I can’t be somewhere, and in fact just not so long ago, I was in a doctor’s appointment, not for myself, but I sat there and it was really high up and there was lots of windows around. Of course, I don’t like being [00:22:34 inaudible]. And I felt I have to get out. “Nope, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.” I sat there, I did my breathing. I actually put my earphones in and started listening to Ken’s anxiety solutions and listened and took my mind off of it, and I was fine. I didn’t leave. And actually, I walked away feeling empowered afterwards. So, it’s huge. It’s really helpful.

Ken: Yeah. You just said a couple of very important things. You made a decision not to flee, so you decided right there, “I’m not going anywhere. So, I’m going to stay here. I’m going to tolerate that discomfort, but I’m going to focus on something else. I’m going to focus on my breathing. I’m going to listen to the Anxiety Solution Series.” And then by doing that, I’m assuming your anxiety either was contained, it stayed the same, or maybe it was reduced. Yeah?

Maria: Yeah, it was reduced. It stayed the same. And then it started to reduce. And naturally, by the end, I was like, “I’m fine. Nothing is going to happen.” So, it was great. And the other-- I want to say actually one more thing that really, really helped me. And it was actually a turning point, was that I was in another appointment. The doctor came in and told me I was fine. And it was actually like an appointment where they had called me back medically. So, it was a different scenario. It wasn’t me creating something in my head. But anyway, there was a lot of anticipation beforehand and he came in and he said, “You are fine. Go live your life.” And I walked away and I went home. And within maybe about 40 minutes, I said, “Maybe he was lying to me. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel good because he saw how anxious I was.” And at that point I realized, this is never going to stop, never. Unless I fight back, I will never-- I felt robbed of the relief that I should have felt. When he told me that, I wasn’t getting that relief and I was never going to have that relief unless I used-- and at that point, I actually got angry. And I remember telling Ken, I was like, “I’m so angry because I felt robbed of the relief.” And at that point, I think I then kicked up my practicing of everything tenfold. And that was a turning point for me.

Ken: Yeah. That anger really helped you. And anxiety is a very, very powerful emotion, but if you can access or manufacture a different emotion, a competing emotion, and anger is just one of them, you can often mitigate the anxiety. You can push through it. And for you, it was an invaluable resource, because it was natural. You actually felt angry. For other people, they have to manufacture it and get really tough with their anxiety. But for you, you at that moment naturally felt it.

And you’re right. You said it is never going to stop. And physical sensations, the body is noisy. People will have the rest of their life. You’re going to have a noisy body. So, that will never stop. It’s your reaction and your response to those physical sensations that is key. And you learn how to respond in a much more healthy way to whenever you got any sort of trigger external or internal.

TREATMENT FOR HEALTH ANXIETY/HYPOCHONDRIA

Kimberley: It’s really accepting that you don’t have control over anxiety. So, taking control where you have it, which is over your reactions. And I agree, I’ve had many clients who needed to hit rock bottom for a certain amount of time and see it play out and see that the compulsions didn’t work to be like, “All right, I have to do something different. This is never going to end.” And I think that that insight too can be a real motivator for treatment of like, “I can’t get the relief. It doesn’t end up lasting and I deserve that like everybody else.” So, Ken, how do you see as a clinician the differences in recovery and treatment for different people? Do you feel like it’s the same for everybody, or do you see that there are some differences depending on the person?

Ken: Well, when I treat people with health anxiety, although the content of their specific fears might be different – some might worry more about their heart, some might worry more about shaking that they experience and worry about ALS – the treatment is basically the same, which is why I can treat them in classes or groups because it’s basically the same. There are some variations. Some people are more worried about things, where other people feel more physical sensations. And I may have to tailor that a bit. So, some people have to-- their problems are more the physical sensations that they feel and they can’t tolerate those physical sensations. And other people it’s more mental. They’re just constantly worried about things. But in general, they can be treated very similarly. It’s learning how to tolerate both the uncertainty and the discomfort and the stress that they feel.

Kimberley: Right. And I’ll add, I think the only thing that I notice as a difference is some people have a lot of insight about their disorder and some don’t. Some are really able to identify like, “Ah, this is totally Linda, my anxiety,” or whatever you want to name your anxiety. “This is my anxiety doing this.” Whereas some people I’ve experienced as a clinician, every single time it is cancer in their mind and they have a really hard time believing anything else. Like you said, they feel it to be true. Do you agree with that?

Ken: Completely. Yeah. Some people will come to me and they know it’s probably anxiety, but they’re not sure. And some people, they are thoroughly convinced that they have that disease or that disorder. And even after months and months and months of-- and oftentimes the content changes. So, I have patients who, when I first start seeing them, they might be afraid of cancer. And then two months later, it’s their heart. And then a couple of months later after that, it’s something else. There’s always something that can come up and they’re always believing it’s something medical. And of course, they go back to, “Well, what if this time it is? What if this time it is cancer?” And that’s where they get caught in the trap. So, for them, it’s answering that question. For Maria, it’s the word “mostly” that she became fixated on to get lured in and take the bait. It’s like, what happens to a fish that takes the bait? Now they’re struggling. So, now once you take the bait, you’re struggling.

Kimberley: Right. And I would say, I mean, I’ll personally explain. A lot of my listeners know this, but I’ll share it with you guys. I have a lesion on the back of my brain that I know is there. And I have an MRI every six months. And I have a lot of clients who have a medical illness and they have health anxiety, and it’s really managing, following the doctor’s protocol, but not doing anything above and beyond that because it’s so easy to be like, “Well, maybe I’ll just schedule it a little earlier because it is there and I really should be keeping an eye on it.” And that has been an interesting process for me with the medical illness to tweak the treatment there as well.

Ken: Yes, absolutely. I have a patient right now and she has a legitimate heart issue that is not dangerous. They’ve had many, many tests, but all of a sudden, her heart will just start racing really fast, just out of the blue. And it happens randomly and seems like stress exacerbates the frequency of it. But it’s not just irritating for her, it was scary because every time she would experience it, she thought, “Maybe this is it. I’m having a heart attack.” But she really had to learn to tolerate that discomfort, that it was going to happen sometimes and that was okay. It happens and you just have to learn to live with it.

Kimberley: Right. So, Maria, this is the question I’m most excited about asking you. Tell me now what a doctor’s appointment looks like for you.

Maria: It looks a lot better. You can actually pick up the phone and book an appointment now without avoiding it. I practice everything that I’ve learned. I’m not going to lie. The anticipation, maybe a couple of days before, is still there. However, it’s really not as bad as it was before. I mean, before, I would be a complete mess before I even walked into the doctor’s office. Now, I can walk in and I’m doing my breathing and I’m not asking multiple questions. I’m now okay with trusting what the doctor has to say. Whereas before, if I didn’t like what he had to say or he didn’t say exactly the way I wanted to hear it, I’d go to another doctor. But now, I’m okay with it. And it’s still something I don’t necessarily want to do. But leaps and bounds better. Leaps and bounds really. I can go in by myself, have a doctor’s appointment, ask the regular questions and say, “Give me the answers,” and leave and be okay with it.

GETTING TEST RESULTS WITH HEALTH ANXIETY

Kimberley: How do you tolerate the times between the test and the test results? How do you work through that? Because sometimes it can take a week. You know what I mean? Sometimes it’s a long time.

Maria: Yeah. I mean, I haven’t-- so, obviously, it’s yearly. So, I’m at that point next year where I will have to go and have all my tests again and get the results and anticipate. But I think for me, the biggest thing is distraction and trying not to focus too much beforehand and staying calm and relaxed. And that’s really it. I mean, there’s always going to be anxiety there for me, I think, going to the doctors. It’s not ever going to go away. I’m okay with that. But it’s learning how to keep it at a point where I can understand what they’re telling me and not make it into something completely different.

Ken: I think you said the keywords – where you’re putting your focus. So, before, your focus was on answering those what-if questions and the catastrophic possible results. And now I think your focus is on just living your life, just going about living your life and not worrying or thinking about what the catastrophic possibilities could be. Is that accurate? Would you say it’s accurate?

Maria: Yeah. Because if you start going down that road of what-if, you’re already entering that zone, which it is just, you’re never going to get the answer that you want. And it’s hard because sometimes I would sit and say to myself, “I’m going to logically think this out.” And I would pretend. I mean, I even mentioned to Ken, “No, no, I’m logically thinking this out. This is what anyone would do. I’m sat there and I’m working out in my head.” And he said, “You’ve already engaged. You’ve already engaged with the anxiety.” “Have I?” And he said, “Yeah. By working it out in your head, you’re engaging with the anxiety.” And that was a breakthrough as well because I thought to myself after, “I am.” I’m already wrapped up in my head logically thinking that I’m not engaging, but I’m completely engaging. So, that was an interesting turning point as well, I think.

Kimberley: Amazing. You’ve come a long, long, long way. I’m so happy to hear that. Ken, before we wrap up, is there anything that you feel people need to know or some major points that you want to give or one key thing that they should know if they have health anxiety?

Ken: Oh my gosh, there are so many. There is a tendency for people with all types of anxiety to really focus their attention on the catastrophic possibilities instead of the odds of those catastrophic possibilities happening. The odds are incredibly low. And so, if you’re focusing on the fact that it’s probably not likely that this is going to happen, then you’ll probably go through your life and be okay if you can focus your attention on living your life. But if you focus on those catastrophic possibilities that are possible, they are, then you’re going to go through life feeling very, very anxious. And if you focus on trying to prevent death, prevent suffering, then you’re not really living your life.

Kimberley: That’s it right there. That’s the phrase of the episode, I think, because I think that’s the most important key part. I cannot thank you both enough for coming on.

Ken: This is fun. This is great.

Maria: It was fun.

Kimberley: Maria, your story is so inspiring and you’re so eloquent in how you shared it. I teared up twice during this episode just because I know that feeling and I just love that you’ve done that work. So, thank you so much for sharing.

Ken: Yeah. She’s really proof that someone who’s suffered for 15, 20, some odd years with anxiety can get better. They just have to be really determined and really apply the strategies and be consistent. She did a great job.

Kimberley: Yeah. Massive respect for you, Maria.

Maria: Oh, thank you.

Kimberley: Amazing. Ken, before we finish up, do you have any-- you want to share with us where people can hear from you or get access to your good stuff?

Ken: Yeah. So, quietmindsolutions.com, I have a whole bunch of information on health anxiety. I have two webinars in health anxiety on that website, as well as other webinars in other specialties I have. Also, I have the Anxiety Solution Series, which is a 12-hour audio program, which focuses on all types of anxiety, including health anxiety, as well as others. And you can listen to a few chapters for free just to see if you would like it, if you could relate to it. And there’s other programs, other articles, and videos that I produced. I have a coloring self-help book, which is basically a self-help for people with anxiety, but every chapter has a coloring illustration where you color. And the coloring illustration actually-- what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s basically a representation of what you learn in that chapter. It strengthens what you learn in that chapter.

Kimberley: Cool.

Ken: Yeah. And then a book called The Emetophobia Manual, which is a book for people who have fear of vomiting.

Kimberley: Amazing. And we’ll have all those links in the show notes for people as well. So, go to the show notes if you’re interested in getting those links.

Ken: Ken Goodman Therapy is the other website. It has similar information.

Maria: I wanted to mention as well that I actually watched one of Ken’s webinars quite by accident in the beginning before I realized I had health anxiety. And after watching it, I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got that.” And so, it was hugely, hugely helpful because I think that having this for so many years and not realizing, there’s a lot of people that still don’t realize that they suffer from health anxiety. For me, as soon as I could label it as something, it was a relief because now I could find the tools and the help to work on it and get that relief.

Kimberley: Amazing. Okay. Well, my heart is so full. Thank you both for coming on. It’s really a pleasure to hear this story. So inspiring. So, thank you.

Ken: Yeah. Thank you for doing this, Kimberley.

Maria: Thank you.

Ken: And thanks, Maria.

-----

Thank you so much for listening. Before we finish up, we’re going to do the review of the week. This is from kdeemo, and they said:

“This podcast is a gift. I just found this podcast and I’m binging on the episodes. I learn something through each episode, and love her practical advice and tools. I feel like part of a community-what a gift!”

Oh, I’m so, so grateful to have you kdeemo in our community. This is a beautiful, beautiful space. My hope is that it’s different to every other podcast you listen to in that we give you a little bit of tools, a little bit of tips, but a huge degree of love and support and compassion and encouragement. So, thank you so much for your review. I love getting your reviews. It helps me to really double down in my mission here to give as many practical free tools as I can. It is true, it is a gift to be able to do that. So, if you could please leave a review, I would be so, so grateful. You can click wherever you’re listening and leave a review there. Have a wonderful day.

Mar 11, 2022

SUMMARY: 

Many people ask me, “Why do I have anxiety?” and the truth is, there is no clear-cut answer. However, in this week's episode, I give you nine possible causes of anxiety and what you can do to manage anxiety in your daily life. Some causes are in your control, and some are not.  Either way, it is important that you are super gentle with yourself as you explore some of the reasons for anxiety in your life. 

In This Episode:

  • NINE possible causes of anxiety for you in your life
  • What you can do to manage your anxiety
  • How to overcome anxiety by changing small behaviors
  • Reasons you experience anxiety may include
    1. Genetics
    2. Caffeine
    3. Distorted Thoughts
    4. Behaviors
    5. Trauma
    6. Environment
    7. Stress Management
    8. Lack of Tools
    9. Isolation (lack of community)

Links To Things I Talk About:

Time Management for Optimum Mental Health https://www.cbtschool.com/timemanagement
ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by CBTschool.com.  CBTschool.com is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.  Go to cbtschool.com to learn more.
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Causes of anxiety Your anxiety toolkit

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 225.

Welcome back, everybody. Today, we are talking about the causes of anxiety, why you are anxious and what you can do about it. This is a topic I feel like keeps coming up with my clients like, “But why? Why is this happening?” And I totally get it. Now, a lot of the times, I encourage my patients the end goal, jump straight to the end goal is we don’t want to spend too much time trying to solve why we’re anxious. That in and of itself can become a compulsive problematic behavior. But I wanted to just address it because I don’t think I have addressed it yet in the podcast. I thought now is a good time to really just look at some of the reasons we humans are anxious. I’m an anxious person, my guess that the fact that you’re listening to Your Anxiety Toolkit means you or someone you love is an anxious person. So, let’s talk about why we’re anxious. What are the causes of anxiety and what are some of the reasons we are anxious.

Now before we do that, we want to, of course, do our “I did our hard thing” segment, and this one is for Bradley. Bradley wrote:

“I was at a family event and had to see a family member I haven’t seen in four years. I said a firm, no contact boundary with her since she was so toxic. And as much as I tried, I knew I could not control whether she came or not. Seeing her was very hard, but I gave myself loads of self-compassion and allowed that moment to be very difficult.” Oh, Bradley, this is so good. “I was pleasant to her, but I did not engage beyond what was necessary. I took multiple moments throughout the event to check in with myself and see what my body needed.”

This is so good and this is such great modeling of how we can regulate and monitor ourselves, giving ourselves kindness as we do hard things. I love this. Thank you so much for sharing it. This is really super inspiring. I think we all need to practice this one a little better, myself included. I hope that that brings you some inspiration before we move on into the episode. Thank you again, Bradley, for submitting that. I love hearing the “I did a hard thing.”

Let’s talk about why you and I, and we might be anxious.

1. Genetics

Reason number one is genetics. I think that if I’m with a client and they ask me, this is usually the spiel I would give them, which is, genetically, a lot of us are set up to have anxiety. What that means is somewhere in our lineage, our parent, our grandparent, someone had anxiety and it is quite a genetic trait to have. As we go through these, I’m really wanting you, just as a side note, to think about these things, but we don’t want to use these as an opportunity to blame other people. We don’t want to blame, of course, our parents or our grandparents. It wasn’t their fault. Obviously, they probably had it passed down from somebody else as well. But as we move through some of these, I also don’t want you to displace blame onto yourself, and we can talk about that as we go. But genetics is a reason that some of us are anxious.

I’ll give you a little bit of a piece of my personal experience here, is I often-- I mean, I know every anxiety tool in the book and there’s been many times where I’ve visited doctors or psychiatrists and they ask me about anxiety and I’ll say, “Yes, I have anxiety.” They’ll say, “Well have you had therapy? Have you tried medicine?” “Yeah, I’ve tried all of those things and I’m highly functioning and I have a wonderful life.” But I also have to accept that some degrees of anxiety are just genetic. I’m not going to get rid of them all. In fact, I don’t want to get rid of all anxiety.

I want to use this as an opportunity to remind you that this is not meaning that it’s a list of things you now have to go and fix. Not at all. This is about just being aware of what’s going on. Hopefully, at the end, we’ll talk more about this, is you can then acknowledge what might be bringing the anxiety on, but then go straight to your toolkit. The tools are the most important part here –acceptance, not judgment, willingness, compassion, being mindful. Go straight back to your tools once you’ve listened to this podcast because that’s going to be the most important piece.

2. Caffeine

The second reason you might have anxiety is because of caffeine. A lot of people report that if they have too much caffeine, they get jittery and it sets off a nervous response in the body where the brain then sends out a whole bunch of anxiety hormones and chemicals in the body. Caffeine mimics anxiety, which then means that now you have more anxiety, because when you have anxiety and you experience something like it, usually, if you go, “Oh my gosh, yeah, something must be wrong,” your body proceeds to send out more and more and more and more anxiety.

Caffeine can be one, but I will also tag on additional one here, which is alcohol. A lot of my patients have reported that if they’re drinking too much alcohol, they do feel that same jitteriness the next day, which then causes their brain to think something is wrong. Therefore, again, send out more anxiety, chemicals and hormones, something to think about.

3. Distorted Thoughts

Now, the third is really important. I’ve done podcast episodes on this before, and it’s distorted thoughts, catching your distorted thoughts. If you are at the supermarket and the man or woman next to you drops the cereal box all over the floor or they drop a can or a glass bottle, and it shatters everywhere, you are naturally going to have anxiety. Normal. Anyone would have anxiety. It’s a big shock to the system. But if you then have distorted thoughts about that, like that means it’s bad luck, I did something wrong, I’ve humiliated myself, they’re going to be judging me – there are so many different distorted thoughts. I’m just using this as an example. Or another example would be you are interacting with someone at the bank and you have then following the distorted thought of like, “They are judging me. They think I’m stupid. I I didn’t handle that well.” Maybe you have the thought bad things are going to happen and you’re catastrophizing. Those thoughts will create anxiety.

Now again, if you go back and listen to those episodes back a few weeks ago, you will remember me saying, we cannot control our intrusive thoughts. I want to make that really clear. There are a lot of thoughts you are having right now that you have no control over. What I’m talking about at distorted thoughts are the thoughts on how you appraise a situation. Let’s say you have a thought, let’s say you have harm obsessions, and you have a thought like, “What if I wanted to hurt somebody or so forth?” That you can’t control. But if then you appraise it going, “I’m a terrible person for having that thought,” that’s the distorted thought that you can actually work on. Those distorted thoughts can cause anxiety as well.

4. Behaviors

Sometimes our behaviors can create anxiety. Avoidance is one of them. You would think that avoiding your fear makes anxiety go away. Makes sense, right? But actually, it’s not true. The more you avoid things, the more you actually increase your anxiety about that thing.

If you’ve avoided something for a very long time, let’s say you avoided flying. Now, even the thought of flying is going to give you anxiety. So, behaviors can cause anxiety as well. Now, this also includes compulsive behaviors. It includes reassurance-seeking behaviors. It includes rumination in your mind, mental compulsions. Behaviors can increase the degree in how your brain responds.

People pleasing, this is a big one for me. If I’m people pleasing, trying to make everybody happy, no one upset, you would think, oh, that’s a good thing. You’re being a kind human being. Well, yeah, except it then creates a lot of anxiety at the idea that someone doesn’t like something you did or that they’re upset with you about something that you did. Now, you haven’t built up a tolerance to just the fact that we can’t please everybody. These are ideas on how behaviors can actually cause anxiety.

5. Trauma

In the mental health field today, everybody is saying everything is trauma. It’s like, “You’ve traumatized me. I was traumatized by this.” It’s important that we-- and this is for another conversation, but I’m going to slide it in here. When we talk about trauma, where I’m actually talking about life-threatening trauma. Not to say that we call it little “t” trauma. There’s big “T” trauma, which are life-threatening events, war, assault, witnessing a death, and so forth. There’s some examples. It doesn’t include all of them, but that’s what we call capital “T” trauma. There are little “t” traumas. We all have little “T” traumas and they can cause anxiety.

I’ll give you an example. When I was a kid, we went through, in 1992 I think it was, this devastating drought. I grew up on a farm. We really needed water and the whole environment was just desperate for water and we didn’t have enough water. We had to pay to have a truck bring water just so that we could have baths. It was really scary as a very young child to be afraid of not having enough water to drink. It was scary. We could call that a little “t” trauma. Still to this day, when my kids, my son just spends forever in the shower, I start to notice I get anxious when he’s in there for a long time because my brain is telling me we’re going to run out of water. That’s an example of why you may notice some anxiety show up.

Now I can correct that and remind myself that I live in times where there’s no drought or that we have excess water and so forth. And that’s where I check those cognitive thoughts and errors of my thinking. But the trauma itself can cause the anxiety. Again, I want us to be really careful around the word “trauma” because I don’t want us to be using “trauma” about all the things, because that actually isn’t good for our brains either to keep telling ourselves we were traumatized. That actually can create anxiety in and of itself.

6. Environment

You all have experienced this. Even though I don’t know you and your beautiful face, this you would have experienced in the last few years – the environment of COVID creates anxiety. Seeing people with the mask at the beginning of COVID, I’m guessing you would’ve had a bout of anxiety. Being around loud noises can create anxiety. Being in countries or regions where there are discord, conflict, war, they can create anxiety. Being in an abusive household, the environment of abusive household can create, of course, anxiety. Having someone around you who yells a lot and screams and throws things can create anxiety. There we’re going into the line again of trauma, but we want to consider environment.

7. Stress Management

A big one for right now as well. If you have an incredible amount of stress on your plate, you will naturally have anxiety. If this is you, I’m going to encourage you to consider taking some of the stress off your plate, if possible. I know it’s hard. Some of you have double jobs and family and chronic illnesses and medical, mental illnesses. It’s hard. But anywhere you can, ask yourself, is there a way I can make this easier or simpler so that I can reduce my stress?

8. Lack of Tools

Now this is a big one for me because I get really grumpy and cross. That’s an Australian term for everyone who is an Australian. When you say you’re cross, it means you’re angry or very grumpy about something. I get really cross when people who claim to be anxiety specialists give these strategies that actually make anxiety worse. Sometimes people do have generalized anxiety, but the tools they’ve been given can actually make it worse.

Telling people just to use oils – oils are fine. I have nothing wrong with oils. I actually, PS, love oil. But if that’s your only skill and only tool that you have and your only agenda for recovery, that’s not going to help. It’s actually going to create more anxiety because you’re going to keep getting frustrated on why it’s not working. If your only tool is to, again, another gripe I have that makes me very cross – ah, so funny that I get so upset about it – is people who talk about thought-stopping, like just think about a big red stop sign. That is not a helpful tool. Sometimes it works for some people. But if you have a repetitive intrusive thought, that is not going to work. It’s actually going to make your anxiety worse.

Lack of tools is an important one. I’m even going to say be critical, even of me when I’m giving tools. Really stop and ask yourself, does this work for me? Because I don’t know each and every one of you and all the intricacies of what’s going on for you psychologically. Always stop and ask yourself, is this helpful? I like to give you as many science-based tools as I can. I try not to just decide of a strategy that I use and just use it. But I want you to be really critical of everybody. Be very wise in your selection of who you choose to get advice from. That’s just a little piece to think about. Like I said, I always say this, take what you need and leave the rest if it’s not helpful.

9. Isolation

The last one is important. It’s not last for any specific reason, but it’s isolation. If you are in isolation for too long, meaning that you’re alone, you don’t have community, you don’t have connection, your brain will naturally get anxious. Sometimes people love isolation. I myself love isolation and quiet and to be by myself. Oh, it’s so good. I just love it. I just can sit and be still.

It’s good for some people, but too much isolation, prolonged periods of isolation often can cause anxiety, because we are community humans. Humans are built on community and tribe and needing each other. That goes back thousands, millions of years. For those who are struggling, they’re like, “Everything’s fine. I don’t know why, I’m in my safe house.” It’s like, “Well, when’s the last time you saw somebody?” “Oh, it was months ago.” “Okay, well, that makes sense. You haven’t had any of that.” There is some science to showing that your parasympathetic nervous system slows down when you’re in connection and even physical touch with somebody. That’s just something to think about as well.

There you have it. Those are the nine reasons, 10 if we include alcohol. They’re the reasons that you might feel anxiety in your life or in your lifetime. I hope that this brings you some insight and you had a few aha moments about maybe why your anxiety is showing up again. I promised I would say at the end, this is not to say that now you have to go and fix all of those nine things. Actually, quite the opposite. We don’t fix anxiety. In fact, the more ideal option would be to practice befriending and allowing and not judging anxiety. But if this is helpful for you to maybe make some tweaks in your life, change your distorted thoughts, reduce your caffeine, manage your stress, change your environment, get some connection, get some helpful tools, that would make me so, so happy.

Before we finish up, we are going to do the review of the week. This one is from Tennessee Lana. She said:

“Game changer. I found this podcast four years ago and it has been monumental in my anxiety and OCD recovery. Many podcasts led to new content that I could follow and learn. I could write about this and never stop but instead I’ll leave a few adjectives that I think adequately describe this podcast. Kind, insightful, intelligent, easy, interesting, practical, helpful, uplifting, and LOVING.”

Oh my goodness, Tennessee Lana, do you know the word I love the most? Practical. If I can be practical in helping you, I feel like I am winning in my career. All of those adjectives make me so overjoyed, but I love these. Actually, Tennessee Lana, I’m going to steal them from you. Copy and paste them. Maybe put them on my desktop just to remind me of the goals of the podcast. Love it.

I hope you found this helpful. Have a wonderful day. Please go to leave a review if you can. Those reviews allow me to reach more people from people who trust the show, which is key. If someone can see that other people are enjoying it, that means they can trust us quickly, which is the goal. And then from there, I hope that this episode was helpful and gave you some insights.

All right. I will see you next week. Have a wonderful day.

Mar 4, 2022

SUMMARY: 

In today's podcast episode, we have Dean Stott from DLC Anxiety talking about his experience with Panic Disorder and Overcoming Panic Disorder.  In his upcoming book, Greater Than Panic, Dean talks about what it was like for him to experience agoraphobia, panic disorder, and other struggles after the death of his father.  Dean spread an inspiring story about overcoming panic and how he is Greater than Panic.

In This Episode:

  • What it was like for Dean Stott to have Panic Disorder
  • How he overcame panic disorder using CBT and Mindfulness
  • How Dean created DLC Anxiety, an online platform that helps millions with panic, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
  • Tools that he found helpful to manage his Panic Disorder while also grieving the loss of his father.

Links To Things I Talk About:

DEANS BOOK GREATER THAN PANIC 

Greater Than Panic Book

Amazon link

Episode Sponsor:

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by CBTschool.com.  CBTschool.com is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.  Go to cbtschool.com to learn more.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 224. 

 

Welcome back, everybody. We have an amazing guest, a very, very sweet friend of mine. I am so excited to have on with us Dean Stott from DLC Anxiety. He is a true legend. Dean is on the episode today to tell his story about going from having a fairly severe panic disorder to then creating a mental health platform with over 1 million followers. He’s now all about creating mental health awareness sharing with people. He’s such a cool human being. And I’m so honored to have him on today. 

 

We talk about his recovery, which you will get a lot of hope from because, like everyone who comes on the podcast, he really did the work, which is so cool. But then we also talk about the role that social media can play in mental health recovery, things to look out for, how to handle trolls, the benefits of being online, especially social media. If you have a mental illness, we go through it all. And it’s such a great episode. So, I’m so excited to have Dean on today. 

 

Before we get into the episode, I want to give you the “I did a hard thing” for the week. This is from Nicole, from the Netherlands, and she said:

 

“I did a hard thing and I get very anxious when I have to call my doctor. My heart rate goes up and I get all trembly. So, I tend to avoid calling the doctor. But because I had been feeling dizzy, I had to get my blood checked. Afterwards I would have to call the doctors for the results, except I didn’t. I told myself if there was anything serious, surely they would call me. I kept this up for almost two weeks and then I suddenly thought I really should call for the result. So I pushed in the numbers to the doctor’s office, feeling all kinds of nervous. I was very tempted to just hang up. While I was waiting, I thought, why did I do this? What if I get bad news? But then I had another thought, if it’s bad news, all the more reason to hear it. So I hung on and I faced my fears. Turns out I have a vitamin D deficiency. It’s not very worrisome, but important to fix. I’m so glad I phoned the doctor, even though I REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO. Nicole from the Netherlands.”

Nichole, I love this story. And the thing I love the most, and for those of you who want to submit for this, please do go. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. But Nicole, I love that you detailed what got you to do it, how you did it, what thoughts you had to shift up to get yourself to do the hard thing. You walked us through step by step and it makes my heart want to explode with joy. Thank you so much for sharing it. Amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing work. I am so, so impressed. So, thank you, Nicole. I love it. 

Let’s get over to the show where we can hear all about Dean’s recovery.

-----

Kimberley: Welcome, Dean. I am so happy to have more-- actually, as much as I’m happy to have you on the podcast, I’m just happy to have chats with you. Welcome.

Dean: Thank you so much. Thank you for inviting me, Kim.

Kimberley: Yeah. So, I feel like I know you and your story pretty well. But I would love for you to share your story with my listeners because I think you have some really great stuff to share. So, can you share whatever you’re comfortable about your recovery?

Dean: Yeah, sure. So, basically, once upon a time, I was going through a panic disorder. So, dealing with four panic attacks, maybe four or five panic attacks every single day, where I get the worst period. And yeah, I went through a panic disorder, did my own research, a lot of science research, CBT research, mindfulness meditation, and curated my own plan out of recovery with the guidance of a really good support network, friends, and mentors, who’d been through an anxiety disorder and come out the other side and fully recovered from the panic disorder. I then wanted to take that feeling of the support that I was given from my older mentor, the friend that had been through it. I wanted to share that with as many people as I possibly could. So, I came up with DLC Anxiety.

So, at first, I remember sitting down and I was like, “How can I get this message out to as many people as possible?” And I was thinking of local support community groups, like the Alcoholic Anonymous groups where people go and it’s a supportive network between each other. But then I was just so eager to try and get it even more on a global stage. And I saw what Instagram does and I just thought it would fit nicely in there, because I did see that there wasn’t many mental health communities when I first started. So, I thought there was definitely a nice place for it to fit there. So, yeah, I started to tell my story on Instagram. People started to relate, and it was a snowball effect from there. And now we’re over a million followers in the community, which is fantastic.

Kimberley: So cool. So, I think that the whole concept here is really to look at what-- let me backtrack a little bit. So, in your recovery, did you do it all on your own? Did you have a therapist? What was that process like for you?

Dean: Yeah. So, my father passed away. Like any people, any male in that situation, I bottled up the feelings that I was going through and tried to carry on with going to work and trying to get back into my daily routine. Almost putting it to the back of my mind because I wasn’t-- well, I didn’t have the techniques to cope with that and I’d never cope with loss before. So, it was from that bottling up of the grief that the panic attacks started and occurred. 

So, when I first started having panic attacks, the first thing I did was go to the doctors who then referred me onto a grief counselor, but just specifically to address the grief side of things and not the anxiety, not the panic attacks. Regarding the anxiety and panic attacks, that was me curating, delving into a lot of psychoeducation, which I found very useful, learning about the system and the symptoms of anxiety. Now I’d done Psychology at university and done CBT before. So, it is like not I’d never--I knew the basic concepts of anxiety, but learning more about it and learning about the scary symptoms where you think-- firstly, when you have a panic attack, you really think that you’re going to die. It’s a really, really scary thing to go through. And yeah, to start learning about that was super important for my recovery.

 

Kimberley: Right. And so, let’s talk about community, why do you feel the community aspect was so important for you? Tell me about the idea of creating a mental health community for someone, let’s say, who’s suffering with panic disorder or grief or OCD or anxiety. What’s your thoughts on that?

 

Dean: Yeah. So, when I was going through panic disorder, I felt isolated, I felt alone, and really, I didn’t really want to bring it up to people around me because I just didn’t think they’d be able to relate to me. I thought these symptoms was just something that I was going through and something that I’d have to stick with for the rest of my life. I thought that was me, that I was going to be Dean who has these panic attacks. And I was going to have to navigate my way through my daily routine. And I think when I opened up to my mentor, a close friend of mine, who was working with me at the time – when I opened up and he shared his experience, it was the biggest weight off my shoulders, knowing that someone else had been through not the exact same story, but it experienced all these scary symptoms that felt isolated, felt alone, but more importantly overcome an anxiety disorder. And I think it was that inspiration and motivation that really helped me in my recovery. 

So, yeah, having an important-- so, DLC is Dean’s Like-Minded Community. So, it’s a community full of like-minded people on anxiety recovery journeys. Some people are at the end, like myself, I don’t deal with panic attacks anymore, but some people are at the start, some people are in the middle. And they can all relate to each other no matter where they are on that journey. And then what’s beautiful about the community is where you see them sharing tips and experiences that work for them. And I know you speak about it highly as well, having an anxiety toolkit, because some tools might work for one person, but then might not work for another. But I think it’s very important to get as much information out there about all the different range of tools, so then each person can individualize their own recovery.

Kimberley: Yeah. So important more now than ever, I think, given that the degree of mental illness is so high given COVID and isolation and everything. Okay. So, you have this platform. I love it. Very much, I loved being a part of your community. Why do you think that that is the most important piece, the community aspect? Can you share a little bit about what you see and hear from your community and why that’s so important?

Dean: Yeah. So, again, so many DMs from people saying that they just feel connected. They feel hope, they feel inspiration, they feel motivation. Not only for me, who’s at the head or the founder of the community, but of all these people that are going through it, jumping over a million people worldwide. We know mental health. It doesn’t have a face, it doesn’t have a color, doesn’t have a social structure, it doesn’t matter what you’re working as it can affect anyone. And I think that’s why it’s really important and became an integral part of the community, was the interview series that I started doing with firstly mental health professionals from around the world. So, CBT professionals like yourself, Kim. Then we’ve had psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors. And having just as much information about anxiety and anxiety recovery, I think has been a super important part.

 

So, again, it’s not only having this community, it’s having the psychoeducation and real good-- I’m in a real good place now where I can guest on who I’ve joined a world-renowned within the space of anxiety. And also, we’ve had so many celebrities, musicians, actors, actresses come on and tell their own mental health stories where they struggled or where they’ve been vulnerable. And that’s really related to the community as well. Because obviously, people work at celebrities, people work at musicians and they might not know that just too, they’re going through a mental health disorder. So, yeah, having people like that come on and tell their own stories has been super, super beneficial for everyone as well. 

Kimberley: Yeah. See, the cool thing is that the science, this is why I’m really fascinated in, is the science of self-compassion says that there are three components of self-compassion. One being mindfulness, the second being common humanity in that reminding yourself that you’re not alone in your struggles is the second most important part of self-compassion. The third being self-kindness. Now the reason I love this is I know for myself in the areas that I struggle, if I look at an account and I can see that a million people follow a mental health account, it gives me a sense of common humanity that there are a million people struggling with something. If you see an OCD account and it’s got 60,000 followers, you’re like, oh my God, that’s a lot of people. I must not be alone in my struggle or an eating disorder account. Or I love some of the autism accounts. I think it shows that it gives you permission to see that you’re not alone. And I love that. It’s such a beautiful piece of the work.

Dean: Yeah. And especially where you just mentioned self-kindness as well. I think that’s an important subject just to speak about, is that when you’re going through an anxiety disorder, you have this inner critic that’s telling you that you’re never going to come out of it, that you’re not good enough, that maybe this is happening to you for a reason. When you come across these communities of people who are on their own journey of recovery might be a little a few more steps ahead than you, and you see that they have a positive outlook, some of them, on recovery and they are making steps. I think knowing to change that in a narrative and have that self-love and compassion is super important when it comes to anxiety disorders.

Kimberley: Yeah. And that’s the benefit of social media right there. I think social media gets a really bad rep, but we have to weigh the pros and cons because there are lots of pros, right?

Dean: Yeah, no, 100%. What I’d say is this is how I define it, is that if we just take Instagram and our mental health community so all the mental health accounts that are doing great, I see just like a safe haven corner of Instagram where people can go to and feel supported and connected and learn more about mental health in general. An app, like you say, can have a negative effect on people. And I think people speak about the algorithm and obviously, it’s all guessing what the algorithm’s going to do next, but I think we can actually use the algorithm in our favor. 

And if you just bear with me on this, if you think about all the accounts that you’re following, so if you’re following all positive mental health accounts or self-compassion or self-care, self-love, then the algorithms are going to spew that out to you in your own feed. So, what are you doing? You’re starting to change that in a narrative like in your digital world, because you open up your app and you start to see all this self-love and positivity. So, you can definitely use the algorithm. So, I think it’s super important in taking a look at who you’re following and seeing, does that benefit your mental health? And if it doesn’t, then I don’t think you should be following them.

 

Kimberley: Yeah, I agree. Actually, I just was saying yesterday that I was just scrolling my-- I’m rarely on social media just to scroll. I’m usually there to do the work I do. My son was sick. I was sitting there wasting time. But the cool thing is the suggested was all cool stuff. It was really cool. I was like, “Oh, I love all these new ideas and these new looks.” And I was really appreciating what was being suggested to me, even though I know there’s some controversy around that. It was very cool.

Dean: And you can imagine if somebody’s just starting or at the beginning of anxiety disorder and they’ve got this negative outlook and they’re isolated and they haven’t connected, then the algorithm may be spewing them not the right information. So, I think it’s important to really highlight the best we can our corner of Instagram, this mental health community that’s doing so great. And it’s a new wave of mental health support really and much needed, like you say, with COVID and everything that everyone’s still going through. I think over the next five, 10 years, it’s going to be more needed than ever.

Kimberley: Right. Absolutely. I can’t agree more. I don’t even think we have the stats yet on what mental illness is like from COVID, mostly the isolation of COVID. So, I 100% agree. So, let’s step outside of the online world and let’s talk generally, how did you find this community? Not the online community, but as you were going through recovery, did you tell them about your struggles? Did they come to you? How would you suggest people tell somebody about their struggles? Do you have any thoughts on that? 

 

Dean: Yeah. So, my body and my mind and everything was telling me not to open up about anxiety and not to speak to anyone and to keep it as an inner struggle, because everything with anxiety, we know it’s all internal, it’s all inwards. We’re ruminating on our thoughts, feelings, and sensations. So, it doesn’t make sense to then speak to other people. It’s not natural to do that. So, I had to go against that and I just started to open up and not feel ashamed to tell people what I was going through. I think I got to a point where it felt like I was struggling too much for me to be going through it, so I felt like I had to.

So, my advice to people would be, speak to the people around you, have a support network. You may come across people who dismiss your anxiety [00:15:20 inaudible]. And it’s super important to know that just because they dismiss it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just, they may be their views. They might not have the education on mental health. So, yeah, if you get dismissed, that shouldn’t stop you from opening up, because I know that people often, especially in my community, say, “Well, I feel like I can’t tell people because if I tell my parents, for example, they just tell me to continue to get on with it that I don’t have these issues.” 

So, I think that when that happens and you have parents and it’s important to put mental health boundaries in place, obviously, especially if we’re living with our parents, we can’t just move out or whatever or if we’re young. So, we have to put these boundaries in place and have a support network around us. So, if you are younger, it could be someone in your education system, it could be a support worker, or it could be the online communities like we mentioned.

 

Kimberley: Yeah. That’s interesting because what’s been on my mind lately, particularly in the online space, is what to do when you have been dismissed. Now that happens from parents and loved ones. But I think it does happen on social media as well, right? You will have-- the message I’ve been trying to give is, if it’s helpful, take it. And if it’s not helpful, leave it. Because a lot of people will come to my platform and say, “I’m freaking out because I just read this, which goes against what you’re saying. And I don’t know who to believe.” And they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got. So, I think that it’s important for people, even on the online, to also dismiss bad advice online, right?

Dean: Yeah, definitely. So many people get dismissed online, don’t they? But I think you gave some great advice, Kim. And that was, anybody can write anything on social media doesn’t mean that it’s true, does it? So, we need to take in what someone’s saying to us, but if it doesn’t fit our way of thinking or it doesn’t benefit us, then it’s okay to reject it. Just like if we think of anxiety and thoughts and you get these irrational thoughts. We get this irrational thought and we don’t believe it. What do we do? We don’t accept it. We can reject and replace it. And that’s what we should do with the information around us. So, if we see a negative comment towards us, it’s so easy, isn’t it? It is so natural for us to react in a negative way because that’s the way we’re built. You know what I mean? It’s our protective system there to try and protect us. But yeah, if it’s not benefiting you, then it’s okay to step away and move away from it.

Kimberley: Okay. So, let’s talk about the dreaded trolls because that’s the perfect segue. So, what I would love for you and I to talk about, and if it’s okay, be as open as you can, but let’s talk about the mental impact of having a troll, because I think you could have a bully at school and you could have a bully for a boss or you could have a bully online. And I think it’s similar in how we can internalize it. So, I have had a troll for over a year now who’s pretty aggressive. And most of my people know aggressive and awful. And in the beginning, I took it completely personally, right? Completely personally. I thought everyone was just going to hate me. And it was the most-- you know the whole thing about you have to break something to put it back together the right way?

Dean: Uh-hmm.

Kimberley: That’s how it felt for me, because obviously, I had built my platform and what I do, my businesses on this idea that if I just do good and I’m kind all the time, no one will ever hate me. It’s impossible to hate me if I’m kind. I think it was this belief system that I had. And that got shattered into millions of pieces because there were people who really didn’t like me. And so, I think that I’m glad it broke and it got shattered because I got to put it back properly of I had to restructure that belief. But that was really, really hard. And having someone online say things, such horrible things, I really, really had a difficult time of not taking it personally. So, can you share what your experience of online trolls and that kind of thing has been?

Dean: Yeah, sure. So, with the DLC Anxiety community, especially when the first lockdown happened and we had the celebrities and musicians, they all started to gain control back of their own social media accounts. So, we saw a lot of celebrities sharing mental health stuff, which is amazing because it’s shining a big light on everything to do with mental health. So, I saw an exponential growth within that period of the community. And yeah, I remembered it was on either speaking on interviews with people or just on lives. Again, your mind zones in. Doesn’t matter how many positive messages you see on your Instagram lives, for example. It’s only natural if you see one negative comment for your mind to then just zone in on that.

And I remember the first time that happened to me. I was really taken back because I was putting 23, out of 24 hours into being in this community and helping the best I can, sharing a very vulnerable story to do with my father passing and then an anxiety disorder. And I thought I was being vulnerable and open and honest, and like you say, just trying to give as much love and support for people as I could. And then to see that someone else, some people were being negative towards this, it was dismay. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t feel real. It was like, “Why are they saying negative things towards me?” 

So, it was definitely a learning curve. I always remember the first time that happened. Over time, it has got better. Like you say, you managed to structure and rearrange things and you managed to not take these things personally and look from the outside, that the people that are spreading hate or being negative, they may be hurting themselves. 

My take on it now, Kim, is that even if these people are spreading hate and being horrible on my community, especially towards me, is that hopefully, they may get some good out of one of the other interviews with someone else, because I know that these people, they’re in need of mental health support themselves. And for whatever reason, they haven’t been able to get it. And I always think that if they’re giving me hate, I can now take it. And hopefully, they might see something that benefits them. But it has been very hard to change my perspective on that. It was not an easy road.

Kimberley: Yeah. That’s hard for me. I think on my end, I just had to keep reminding myself that, well, all the words are about me, it’s really not about me. It’s a lot about them and their struggle. The way I work through it-- and maybe you could tell me what you think as you see the troll, like how do you think about it. For me, when I see really awful, hurtful, hard comments, I first remind myself, this person had to suffer a great, great deal to be spreading this much hate. To understand that they had to-- no one who’s had a really easy life is jumping onto the internet and spending hours spreading hate on people. It’s usually that they’ve been through an immense. And that was really helpful for me, compassion-wise, of just to be like, “I actually have compassion for you. You’ve obviously been through the wringer.”

And then the second piece for me, and this was the hard part and I’m curious, I really want to know your thought, was to start to trust that people will trust me, that people will see the real me, not me that that person is saying I am by me being consistent and showing up as me. And that was a hard piece because, at the beginning, I was like, “But what if they don’t trust me?” The consistency has been really helpful for me. But I think the truth is, that has also been really helpful for me to translate it into the real world. 

 

Dean: I was just going to say, yeah, because if your inner critic, like you say, is wanting for everyone to relate to everything that you’re putting out there, all the amazing stuff that you’re putting out there, the last thing you want is somebody trying to discredit that because, you know what I mean? All we’re trying to do is help the people around us. So, yeah, it’s that inner critic and working on our inner ourselves. 

When I see a troll online now, I just tend to leave them be. I think just leave them to do what they want. I think we know that our communities know what we’re about. They know how much we give to our communities, they know how much support and wealth that we give everyone on a continuous day. And like you said, you can’t stop these people, but also, just because they’re writing something, it doesn’t mean that it’s true, which I thought was beautiful for you to say. 

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s tough. I mean, I think that that is a huge part of our mental wellness, is how we relate to people, right? And we’re in relationships. So, even if we’ve got a panic disorder, I was thinking about this the other day, is we’ve had a really, really rough house here in the Quinlan house this week. It’s been pretty chaotic, lots of sickness, lots of scary COVID scares, and so forth. And there was a time where I would’ve lashed out because of my own anxiety. I would’ve been really snarky to my husband because he goes to work and he doesn’t have to handle it. And I would often displace my anxiety and anger, just snotty. And that happens a lot. I hear a lot of people talking about just in daily life like, “I’m really struggling because my partner and I aren’t getting along because everyone’s anxious and so forth.” So, I think it is helpful to be in relationship with people who do have their own struggles. Like I said, it happens online, but it’s also happening at home. 

Dean: Yeah. It can just happen on a day-to-day basis. A lot of people say that they can’t deal with people when they’re being negative towards them in real life. But it’s about taking a step back and knowing that the person who’s spreading that negativity towards you, that maybe they’re having a really rough time at home with their partner, that maybe they’ve got troubles with their job, money. It could be anything. Maybe they were traveling to work and they got caught up. And we’re all a product of our emotions at that time. And emotions, as we know, they come and go and it doesn’t curate who we are as a person. 

 

So, if someone’s being angry towards you and negative towards you, it’s about taking a step back and knowing that it’s more on them again and it’s more on what their experience and the feelings and emotions and putting the correct boundaries in place. But it is really hard to do. I’m not saying that it’s easy to do. It is super, super hard, especially when someone’s coming at you with negativity. Your first line of defense is, you know what I mean, to attack normally, isn’t it? Or to take a massive step back. So, yeah, it takes a lot of practice, but it can be done.

Kimberley: So, talk to me about, you’re probably the one person who would know the answer to this, can you share with us about managing mental illness with social media? How might someone have a healthy relationship with social media and the use of social media?

Dean: Yeah. I have to put boundaries in myself because I say everything that I do is on Instagram, 99% of it. And if I’m not working on Instagram, I’m working on my website, which again is online. So, yeah, putting boundaries in place is super important, having rest away from social media, what we mentioned earlier about following accounts that really benefit you and have a positive impact on you and just getting rid of the negative accounts that are not making you feel good. You don’t want to go onto social media and not feel good because we all know we spend way too much time on social media. And if we’re spending that time looking at negativity, then that’s what it’s going to do. It’s going to put our mood in that sense. And we could really spiral into a state of being in a negative state just by what we consume. It’s like when people speak about the news and say, “Oh, well, I can’t watch that because it affects my mental health.” Social media is exactly the same, but probably more so, because we’re spending more time on it and it’s literally part of who we are now.

Kimberley: Right. What would you say to someone who uses social media to cope with their anxiety, meaning to distract against it or to get them through their panic? Do you have any thoughts on managing it for anxiety?

Dean: Yeah. It’s a very good question. So, I always go back to thinking, at the start of my panic disorder, if there were communities like ours out there, would it have been beneficial for me? And the number one answer is yes, 100%. It would’ve been an eye-opener. I would’ve felt I wasn’t alone. I would’ve felt motivated and encouraged that I can continue. But if you’re using anxiety communities as a way to not do the hard work, then I think it can be detrimental. I think anxiety recovery is about doing the hard work. 

Now, a lot of people, and I’ve just done a post on this, unfortunately can’t have the access towards therapy, which we know has a massive benefit on mental health. We speak about anxiety, the latest sciences, the medication and a combination with CBT therapy has the best results. Now, that doesn’t mean for everyone, but some people may do better with medication, some people may do better with therapy. So, I think that having a community to help you and understand the psychoeducation behind it is great. But if you’re using it as a distraction to try and distract you from feeling anxious and dealing with the anxiety head-on, that’s when it can become detrimental. 

I often say that there’s so much information-- and you can obviously maybe shine away on this, Kim, but what would you say to people who say that they can’t access therapy? Maybe it’s a money thing. Maybe it could be anything, couldn’t it? Do you believe that these people can still recover? Because there seems to be a narrative online that therapy is the only way forward. I think that’s an unhealthy way of looking at it because we know that anxiety recovery, there’s so many different routes out of it, and it all leads to the same angle, doesn’t it? Which is anxiety recovery. So, what would you say to the people that can’t access therapy? Would you be still giving them hope?

Kimberley: Well, to be honest with you, 1000% I would give hope. I myself have had therapy for some things, but I really didn’t feel like therapy for other issues were helpful. And I felt it was better for me to actually work through a workbook, listen to a ton of podcasts. I’m a real mix. I’ve been blessed and privileged to have some amazing therapy, but some of my mental illness, I really needed to do on my own. But I did them through, like I said, a workbook, a support group, some were online courses. I mean, that’s why I created ERP School, was because people didn’t have-- that we’re turning them away to nothing. But what was really interesting about ERP School and CBT School is just recently, out of the blue, a bunch of people have reached out to me and said, “I wanted just to let you know that that got me right back on my feet.” It’s so wonderful to hear those stories, because otherwise, you’d don’t know them and you didn’t realize what an impact. So, no, I absolutely believe, I’m a real big believer in workbooks. I struggled with workaholism and that workbook for workaholism was huge for me and perfectionism. These are two really, really important things that I use that did not require therapy at all.

Dean: Yeah. So, like you, Kim, I like to be guided by the science. So, I know obviously how important therapy and how life-changing it can be for some people with anxiety. But also, I think there’s still a lot of stigma around medication when it comes to anxiety, especially online. And yeah, I think we need to do a little bit more work on that because I think anxiety medication is being dismissed more so. Maybe that’s another conversation that we can have in the future. But I didn’t go through therapy with my own anxiety disorder, with the panic attacks. Mine was going online. I think you have to go to a trusted site. So, over here, you have the National Health Service, which has a ton of resources, all scientific, proven, all credible from the correct sources. And I think if you’re researching and looking at all the correct things, I think that can be really powerful for you. So, if you can’t access therapy, of course, there’s still hope. Of course, you can still recover. And that my message to everyone is I did it. So, if I can, I’m just a regular guy, you can do it too. 

Kimberley: I love that. Just because I know, and thinking of the person listening here, like how did you do it? I know we haven’t got a ton of time, but could you just say, how did you muster up the courage on your own to face your fears?

 

Dean: That’s a great question. And I do have my book coming out, which is--

Kimberley: All right.

Dean: Yeah. So, the book is called Greater Than Panic. It’s the number one question that I’ve been asked since day one of starting out the anxiety community, and that was, what is your story and how did you get from four panic attacks a day to be in the head of DLC Anxiety and be in the face of the interviews and not having panic attacks? Obviously, I’m still having anxiety. That’s a message that I think isn’t hammered home enough, whereas the goal of anxiety recovery is not never to feel anxious again. I think people often are misguided and have misinformation, especially at the start of an anxiety disorder, thinking that the goal is to never feel anxious again. The goal is to change your behavior to when you’re feeling anxious and make sure that it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on your day-to-day.

I go right back to the basics. I go back to speaking about my father’s death, which was obviously a really terrible time, and it brought out a lot of emotions but also, I think it was important for me to go back and just explore it again. And I speak about my relationship with the doctor. It’s again another message that I like to hit home, is that if you’re dealing with any physical symptoms to do with emotional symptoms, to do with anxiety, your first port of call has to be the doctor, because we know that anxiety disorders can mimic other things. And so, it’s super important for a medical professional, a GP, a doctor, to run diagnostic tests to make sure that everything else is okay. And then when they tell you that it is okay, you can sit down with the doctor and you can start to plan your journey of recovery, which may be therapy, maybe self-help, maybe meditation, mindfulness, exercise, medication, so many different routes. 

But yeah, my number one message is, if you’re dealing with physical symptoms and you haven’t had them checked out, you have to go to the doctor. So, I speak about my relationship with the doctor. I speak about curating my own anxiety toolkits. So, what worked for me and the research and the science behind each thing that I was trying and how it had a benefit impact for me. And I speak about exposure therapy and how that was really beneficial for me, but doing it not guided by your therapist. 

Now, if you look at the science, you would say that the best effects of exposure therapy is guided with a therapist, but I didn’t personally have a therapist in my journey. But if you can have a therapist, I definitely recommend that that’s the best route to go down. But I speak about how exposure therapy worked for me and I speak about the hiccups on that road to recovery and what recovery looked like, what it meant to me. And then I speak about the anxiety community and how I wanted to spread the message and get that message across to as many people as I possibly can. And yeah, it takes me to the present day. 

 

Kimberley: I can’t wait. That’s so exciting. So, tell me about the name of the book.

 

Dean: Greater Than Panic. So, that’s the message that you are greater than panic. Just because you have feelings of panic, if you’re up in panic attacks or panic disorders, it doesn’t mean that you’re broken, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be fixed. There’s nothing to fix because you’re not broken. So, you are greater than panic at all life, things, all the dreams, aspirations, careers, travel, love, money, whatever it is that you want, you can get. Doesn’t matter that you’re going through panic or have panic attacks. O if you’ve been through panic disorder, the other message is that you’re greater than panic.

Kimberley: Amazing. Okay. So, I’m going to leave you. I feel like that’s the perfect way for us to end out. Is there anything else you want to share with us, any links, or how people can hear about you?

Dean: Just DLC Anxiety over on Instagram and the website, www.dlcanxiety.com. I’d just like to thank you, Kim, for obviously inviting me on here. And I’d like to thank you for everything that you’re doing in the mental health space. CBT is super important to me. It’s an integral part to my recovery. And yeah, I’m just super grateful for our connection on Instagram and just everything that you’re doing.

Kimberley: Thank you. I feel so blessed that we randomly got to meet. You know what, it’s such a blessing. So, thank you. I’m so grateful.

Dean: Thank you.

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Thank you so much for listening. I’m sure you got so much from that. Before we finish up, let’s do the review of the week. This is from Disc Golf Nate. They gave five stars and they said:

“As Kimberly would say, this is not necessarily a substitute for in-person therapy. But it is still a very powerful tool. I’ve used this podcast in conjunction with my therapist and some books, but this podcast brings me the most peace.”

Thank you so much, Disc Golf Nate. I am so honored for that amazing review. And yes, this should not substitute therapy, but my hope is it gives you some tools, some skills, some hope, some support, some joy, and compassion into your recovery. So, I’m so honored to have this time with you. I will see you all next week.

 

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