The Curse of Depression

Low Mood

We’ve all experienced days when we have low mood, feeling a bit down. Sometimes it could last for two to three days leaving us feeling flat and out of sorts. Then, all of a sudden it lifts and we’re back to our old selves.

Everyday life clutter/frustrations

Everyday life and environment situations can cause these low moods and this can be due to weather, disharmony in our relationships of varying kinds, pressure of work, poor health, lack of sleep and boredom, feeling a lack of direction.  When these things are reasonably short lived, our moods return to normal.

Living with depression

When something difficult becomes ongoing, it may cause stress and then anxiety. Left untreated with the situation becoming a burden, this can escalate into depression. There are two common symptoms that people feel when in the throws of depression and they are the feelings of isolation and depleted energy levels. People often speak of the misery of stolen energy and pushing people away due to feeling we’re running on empty and totally isolated. They often report wearing the mask of normality, as they try to continue with their daily lives. This in turn depletes even more energy. Treatment for depression looks at exploring the root causes and finding the right resolution and self-management. There are several different types of depression.

When we’re depressed the negative thought patterns that accompany depression and become very dark – hence the term being in a dark place.  The body also can suffer due to replication of negative cell structures instead of positive cell structures. Our immune systems can lower, leaving us vulnerable.

Carrying Burdens

Now we’re carrying burdens. Some of these we could let go, to improve the energy levels and help co-regulate the neurotransmitters between the brain and nervous systems. Attempting this to ease the of feeling of being trapped or stuck in our heads can help, because to stay stuck only drags out the condition of depression.

Characteristics of Depression – An article series.

There are several types of depression, each with distinct characteristics. Let’s explore them:

  1. Reactive Depression:
    • Triggered by specific life events, such as divorce, loss, or financial difficulties.
  2. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
    • SAD occurs during specific seasons, often in winter due to reduced sunlight exposure. Symptoms include fatigue, low energy, and changes in sleep patterns.
  3. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD):
    • Also known as clinical depression, MDD is the most common type. It involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities. Symptoms can be severe and impact daily functioning.
  4. Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder):
    • chronic form of depression lasting for at least 2 years. It is characterized by milder symptoms but persistent low mood.
  5. Cyclothymia:
    • Involves unstable moods, including periods of depression and elation. Not severe enough to be diagnosed as bipolar disorder.
    • Psychotic Depression:
      • Severe depression accompanied by psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions.
  6. Prenatal or Antenatal Depression:
    • Occurs during pregnancy and can affect both expectant mothers and fathers.
  7. Postpartum Depression:
    • Occurs after childbirth and affects both mothers and fathers. Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, and difficulty bonding with the baby.
  8. Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression):
    • People with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings. These include depressive episodes (similar to MDD) and manic or hypomanic episodes characterized by elevated mood, increased energy, and impulsive behavior.

Panic Anxiety Disorders and Health Anxiety  PART TWO

Crossover Symptoms of Anxieties.

In part one we looked at the DMS-5 Guidelines for recognising the differences between Panic Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. In Part Two, we look at people’s experiences from panic attacks of both types and question if there is a link to health anxiety disorder, based on patient experiences.

The Guideline Symptoms:

raised heart rate                                                  shortness of breath.

Feeling queasy                                                    stomach tightening

Throat restrictions                                              hands clammy.

Depersonalisation

The Symptoms according to people’s actual experiences of panic attacks:

Heart rate

It felt like a sledgehammer in my chest, and it felt loud. My chest felt like it was being crushed and I thought I was having a heart attack. I felt like my chest is caving in on itself from so much pressure.

Shortness of breath

 For no reason I felt myself struggling to breathe, my breathing was rapid and in explainable I do not recall having problems with breathing before, but this is weird and restricted.

 I found my stomach feeling queasy.

 I felt like it was rolling like a ship in stormy waters not at all like the usual butterflies when I am nervous.

My stomach

It felt very tight and hard, as if it were suddenly clenched and had become restricted, very painful.

Throat restrictions.

 I just could not speak my throat was all closed down, it was like my throat was not capable of an uttering a word and had completely left me.

Clammy / sweaty

 I felt clammy and sweaty all over but particularly my hands, my face, and my body.

 Depersonalization

 It all felt so surreal, one minute I was walking along and the next, I was having a panic attack and everything around me felt surreal. It was like I was not in reality anymore. I felt totally confused and out of it, like I had gone somewhere else entirely but not somewhere I know. I was so scared and I still am. Since my panic attack I am reluctant to leave the house, and this is the crux of the matter. If asked why? No explanation can be found.

The jigsaw pieces have not been found and this is where therapy can be helpful, joining the dots, so as to speak of a trigger, which relates to the past – let’s not forget the older part of the brain has no concept of time, but keeps a record of experiences and sometimes similar modern experience can trigger a past experience as if it were recent. It all stems from the past experience playing out in the present. The problem or block is that the old experience is not recognised and dealt with (processed).

The differences between a shared natural traumatic disastrous event and a personal traumatic event:

Let us just suppose, a natural traumatic event takes place when you least expect it too. Shock, heartache, misery, confusion and bewilderment are the likely feelings we experience. There is here however a difference, in the way that we process trauma. When it is a shared tragic experience amongst many people at the same time, a shared bonding develops to help the processing with multiple support. We are able to come back online to our nervous system and brain again because the processing of the trauma has been completed. This is where the difference lies, a collective bonding between a catastrophic event which effects so many people at the same time versus a singular incident or catastrophe/trauma in which the individual feels shut down and isolated. With no support, understanding or compassion from other people, the sufferer can be feeling a hidden despair and dysregulation of the nervous and brain systems (not fully online together). Carrying the trauma alone with not enough support or any at all.  Many times, I have seen the symptoms of panic disorder and anxiety, amalgamate into health anxiety disorder (HAD). Hence, it is always wise to look at what else in going on currently and from the past. Clients and patients are the first to then tell you as they have all the information.

Panic Anxiety Disorder & Panic Disorder Part 1

DSM-5 Definition of panic attacks or panic anxiety disorder.

The DSM-5 Diagnostics, has simplified the approach to panic anxiety disorder into two very clear differences: expected panic attacks and unexpected panic attacks.

Expected panic attacks are associated with a specific fear like that of flying and any type of phobia which interferes with day-to-day life or planned activities. It’s quite common for expected panic attacks to be linked to phobias, which is one of the most common causes of expected panic attacks.

Panic anxiety disorder is the opposite and is a completely unexpected panic attack. This type of anxiety disorder where panic attacks can suddenly occur without warning and be followed by increased heart rate, shortness of breath, feeling queasy, stomach tightening, throat restriction, hands clammy. They occur suddenly without any warning catching you completely unawares and leaving you in a dreadful and terrified state, feeling quite shocked. Some people can also experience feeling detached from their reality (depersonalisation) or a feeling of internal numbness.

This type of panic attack is very often triggered unknown to us and at any time any place anywhere. What’s happening here is the information that the brain is receiving is being compared to any previous experiences similar. If there is a strong previous experience, then flight or fight kicks in instantly to aid human survival. These kinds of panic attacks are often linked to PTSD, which can involve ongoing repetitive trauma in the past but also a singular traumatic experience from the past as well. Let’s not forget the area of the brain that is triggered into panic/anxiety mode, is the area of the brain has absolutely no concept of what time is and when trigger experience suddenly occurs and creates a panic attack, it can be related to an incident that occurred in the past and yet, as if it was 5 minutes ago.

What other presenting issues can bring on panic attacks?

Certain drugs or substances alcohol combinations. Other underlying medical conditions and mental health disorders. The majority of people with underlying conditions would be aware of these and realise hopefully that panic attacks can be the result of these things.

If, however panic attacks are a complete mystery to you and causing you such misery because you can’t understand why they’re happening, then it’s a question of looking to environmental root causes and for the answers and the best treatment plans are found to be within talking psychologies, such as psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and EMDR. Talking therapies can help to bring about the missing jigsaw pieces which complete the picture that results in panic attacks. The results are good because it gives you a much clearer picture of the underlying causes and can help you to self-manage the condition of anxiety freeing up your life to reach whatever potential you choose.

Agoraphobia can start as a mild form of avoidance and if not treated can escalate into full blown agoraphobia.  It is an anxiety disorder in which a person is distressed by settings in which there is no easily perceived means of escape. An agoraphobic avoids certain social situations, large or open areas and public places where it would be difficult to hide. In some case’s agoraphobia debilitates someone to a point at which he or they cannot leave home. Any situation unfamiliar to the agoraphobic becomes a potential source of fear or anxiety arising from panic attacks, which some believe stems from traumatic early life experiences. Traumatic events can disrupt learning and memories, causing depersonalisation and other methods of blocking out anxiety.  Hypnotherapy combined with psychotherapy has been proven to produce long-acting beneficial results when the root cause is to be found in the yearly developing years.

How does Agoraphobia develop?

The causes of agoraphobia, like most mental disorders, are not definitive. Still, some experts have theorised that besides stressful and traumatic events, sudden shock, other anxiety disorders and substance abuse may also contribute. Along with agoraphobia, many patients have also been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety disorder. Women may suffer from this condition more than men because of social-cultural factors that encourage avoidant coping strategies. Other theories have posited that more women may seemingly suffer from the condition simply because more of them are willing to seek help.

Health Anxiety Disorder. Why I’m always unwell, Why?

Venture towards anybody undertaking some sort of activity or job at a desk with a computer and notice the telltale signs of health anxiety disorder (HAD).

For one thing you’ll notice everything on the desk is reasonably tidy and easy to find, there’s a distinct lack of coffee or tea stains from cups on the table and there may be a little bag of wipes for cleaning around the desk area nearby somewhere. If you look on the desktop you see Google is open on the NHS site or similar containing advice on a medical condition of sorts.

People living with health anxiety disorder very often do a body scan to check in with how they’re feeling, tracking in to make sure they’re OK physically and mentally. They’re looking for self-assurance that they are in control and by keeping on top of things all will be well. They just need to find the answers to their questions. Briefly people will health anxiety disorder just don’t feel safe; they need to protect themselves and are indeed in protective mode.

The exact cause of health anxiety is not yet known, but researchers believe that it may be due to a combination of factors. According to medical journals people who experience severe illness during childhood, have parents or siblings with a serious medical condition, or have other outside conditions such as general anxiety disorder and social anxiety are at risk of developing health anxiety.

Health anxiety can be due to a combination of factors including learned coping patterns, genetics, temperaments, personality traits, childhood and family history, chronic stress and traumatic events. People with health anxiety may also tend to misinterpret physical symptoms as a sign of serious illness, which can lead to further anxiety and worry. It’s worth noting that while HAD has been on the increase several years now it has increased even more post COVID-19.

Hypnotherapy is a gentle and relaxing therapy for the treatment of the differing anxiety groups. With the more pronounced types of anxiety, its effectiveness brings excellent results by helping patients into a nice dreamy relaxed altered state of mind or trance state as it was known for years. During hypnotherapy patients are able visit their fears in a variety of different scenarios feeling safe and relaxed in a gently exposed non-threatening way but sensitised manner. This helps them to realise that the fear can be rationally contained, and several solutions can be shown to counteract the fear.  Anchors can be embedded in hypnotherapy to allow the patients to use when their anxiety starts to take hold. Practicing an anchor can invoke clients with feelings of calmness and ease of mind, by using and practicing their anchor. A good follow on from hypnotherapy is the information retrieved and be explored in psychotherapy and exposure therapy. EMDR is also and successful therapy to reduce root causes of anxiety when used in conjunction with psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.

Exposure therapy is a type of behavioural therapy that helps people confront their fears and overcome anxiety. Graded exposure involves gradually exposing the patient to the source of their fear by going up the ladder one step at a time. Systematic desensitisation involves helping the patient relax and get comfortable with each step of the process. It’s important to note that exposure therapy is highly individualised and should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Health anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are two separate mental health conditions with a distinct symptom. Whilst there are some overlapping symptoms between the two disorders, they are defined as separate disorders. According to OCD-UK health anxiety is a condition that exists over preoccupation with having a serious illness or a fear of developing a serious illness. People with health anxiety may believe they already have an illness or are in imminent danger of developing one despite receiving reassurance from health professionals. People with health anxiety may continue to worry excessively about their health.

OCD, on the other hand, involves having repetitive upsetting intrusive thoughts (obsessions) I’m feeling the need to address those obsessions with rituals (compulsions), 40% of OCD sufferers use this as a coping mechanism. 60% of OCD sufferers on the other hand employ their obsession with Intrusive thinking.  It is mostly unlikely that the majority of people live with just one issue, as usually we have more than one which stems from a knock on effect, hence, it is possible for someone to be diagnosed with both OCD and mental anxiety however, they are defined as separate disorders with one significant difference worth noting. Those with OCD have better insight into their problems compared to those with health anxiety who honestly believe they have a serious illness.

The prison of Social Anxiety Disorder and it’s difficulties in life!!!

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) has a different characteristic, hence its own label above. The difference with this type of anxiety is that we internalise our world and our place in it. When we internalise our anxiety, we view the cause of concern as being us ourselves, that we are in one way or another, different from other people. In other words, we have too much wrong with us to blend or fit in successfully. Hence, this is known as Social Anxiety Disorder. Our internal belief system about ourselves carries false/inaccurate information leaving us full of self-doubt messages about who and what we are.

The distinguishing threats of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and its internal messages of self -criticism

People see me as stupid, not having much to say, not being educated as much as others. Quiet, boring, not a fun person.

Common issues felt by people living with this condition.

“I feel unable to say much in company and I’d rather listen to others. I feel dread if someone asks ne my opinion because I don’t know how to respond, my words get stuck in my throat and I feel embarrassed, I may even turn bright red in my face and neck. I just don’t have the confidence, that others have. I’d like to interview for a job because I know I would be really good at it but I feel I can’t because I just don’t have the confidence to come across in an interview properly and I’m afraid of going blank and not being able to speak, if asked questions and it’s the same when I meet people I’m attracted to, I just feel tongue tide and then I go bright red, I need to find an escape route quickly.  It takes me a while to get to know people before I feel comfortable in their presence but then I’m already worried that they think I’m a bit stupid before they get to know me.”

Social anxiety disorder is not to be confused with panic disorder. It is related to general anxiety disorder. It can sometimes also be known as social phobia. It stems from interaction with other people and the fear of being judged and criticised. For some young people they may have got involved with other childhood gangs of people and been teased consistently by other kids. Perhaps you had bright red hair awesome kind of affliction.  Vulnerable people who are the victims of some kind of abuse are also easy targets of ridicule by others. This anxiety has wide spreading ramifications and I’ve worked with a small hand full of clients, which have developed body dysmorphia, usually relating to how their face looks. This is where people will see their faces looking distorted. One thing is for sure social anxiety disorder needs to be taken a lot more seriously, with compassion and understanding.

Many an adult has come out with the unhelpful comment, regarding a sensitive or shy youngster by stating “don’t worry, they’ll grow out of it.” You have made the youngster feel that they are not normal!!!!

So, what can the root causes be, because that is where the answers to this awful type of anxiety often lies.

Imagine as a child growing up, you were always criticised or compared to other children who performed better than yourself in certain areas, this could be critical parenting, relatives, and teachers, after all the big grown-ups must be right when they make these judgments.

Now your Self- belief evaluation of yourself is being corrupted when having suffered childhood criticism on a regular basis. It could also stem from sibling rivalry, having a very clever sibling can be a very tough act to follow especially where expectations are put upon us. On speaking of expectations very often the adults IE: our parents’ grandparent’s teachers often have higher expectations of us that we can deliver and therefore perhaps we feel slightly failing or lacking in some ways or not up to scratch, not quite as good as others. This is a disorder that can develop during the first 25 to 30 years of someone’s life, however most sufferers develop this at a much younger age.

Recommended Therapies

Psychotherapies, humanistic therapies such as Person-Centred Counselling and Gestalt therapy. Hypnotherapy and hypno-analysis can very often help with uncovering suppressed root causes. EMDR is also an excellent therapy for producing longer term lasting results when teamed with other major therapies.

My final thoughts on this debilitating type of anxiety are that if we were to compare our instinct deep down, to the inner tribal elders or the inner committee, what would the names of the members be called?

Self-belief, trust, compassion, acceptance, choices and courage with the chairperson sitting on the fence of doubt -known as avoidance.

How does healthy anxiety become unhealthy? How does it manifest in the mind and body?

General Anxiety Disorder & The importance of GABA nutrition?

If a person suffers with an inflamed sympathetic symptom (over-active radar) for six months or more, it is diagnosed as General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This is because healthy anxiety has become unhealthy and requires intervention treatment. Anxiety can be triggered by a difficult situation that has become out of hand. Different symptoms of general anxiety disorder (GAD) can be negative over-thinking, fears or concern of what can go further wrong in our lives from the environment around us and feelings of being unsafe and insecure. When we live with this type of anxiety, we are externalizing (it normally comes from the outside towards us), the potential threats or actual threat that we have encountered. General anxiety disorder is easily treatable with medical hypnosis, counselling, psychotherapy (if the cause is deep rooted) eye movement desensitisation reprogramming (EMDR).

What are GABA levels and how can they calm anxiety?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neeurotransmitter that helps the body to relax after stress. Low GABA activity can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. Research shows that people with anxiety and depression are more likely to have low levels of GABA and it is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human central nervous system. It reduces the ability to receive, create or send chemical messages to other nerve cells. GABA, when at normal levels, produces a calming effect, with a significant role in controlling anxiety, stress, excessive fear, and depression. GABA supplements have shown a very small amount of beneficial promise in treating anxiety and depression. However, it’s important to note that only very minimal amounts of GABA can cross the blood-brain barrier to have any effect on the brain. Research shows that supplements are poor performers. Better success however, is through diet with certain foods can help elevate and improve levels GABA far more effectively. 

So, what does help to maintain GABA at healthy levels

  1. Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts
  2. Whole wheat, barley, rice, and other grains
  3. Beans, peas, and soybeans
  4. Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  5. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and cauliflower
  6. Tomatoes and green tomatoes
  7. Mushrooms, especially shiitake
  8. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and kimchi
  9. Tea, especially oolong and white tea

What is Anxiety? and what purpose does it serve in our body as well as our minds? How and where does it occur?

3D Illustration Concept of Central Organ of Human Nervous System Brain Anatomy

Anxiety is a protective process. It allows us to experience protection from what is unsafe to our well-being, such as, intense heat or cold. In pitch darkness it warns us to not put one foot in front of the other as we can’t see where we’re going. It gives us a feeling of disorientation; its too risky. It stems from one of two areas, the mid brain area (limbic/sympathetic area and the nervous system – sympathetic area). It’s an early warning system which detects anything that may be of threat to our survival. This can range from something small to something extremely threatening.

The scale of the threat, however, can’t always distinguished by the Brain. It often depends on what we can see, hear, sense, or feel. Sometimes anxiety is triggered by something in the present that is perceived to be a threat from past experience, which is similar. This is due to the fact that the older more primitive area of the brain, does not have any concept of time and play out past memories of potential threat from the past as if it were happening right here and now.

The front of the brain (cortex) can be pictured like the top part of an iceberg. This is responsible for what you’re doing, planning, thinking about, choosing, contemplating. Your everyday thoughts and behaviours. What remains of the iceberg beneath the water’s surface are the different functions for your physical being and automated learnt actions. This includes patterns of behaviour which stem from earlier belief systems, within the older area of the brain.

The brain interprets a potential threat that requires further action. It is sent via the brain stem whose job it is to alert the physical body and prepare the body for defence or action, within the nervous system as depicted in the photo. This occurs via the inflamed sympathetic system / heightened arousal (flight/fight).

A further explanation of fight/flight is the relationship that occurs between the physical body and brain. A dynamic at an unconscious awareness level occurs, and this is known as Neuroception. In other words, we’re unaware that anything is happening until we feel the physical symptoms. Our bodies carry automatic radar (An inflamed Sympathetic system) alerting us with its anxious feelings.

What occurs in the body to alert it to any kind of threat?

When the brain stem becomes involved with a potential threat it alerts the body by triggering the hormone cortisol and boosting the secretion of the adrenaline glands. The impact of this causes a larger flow of blood to the arms and legs in preparation for what we know as fight or flight. This can occur in various stages and fluctuate (Co-regulation). The result of these changes can cause us to start to breathe from higher up in the stomach and limiting the amount of oxygen to the visceral area off the body – our torso. Our heart rate can increase, our throat and mouth feel dry and sometimes our hands and other areas of our bodies feel sweaty.

The term for this is an inflamed Sympathetic system. The good news is that we have a Para-sympathetic system to balance the body again, once the threat has diminished.

Agoraphobia – Causes and development

what is Agoraphobia?

There are dozens of phobias within our society. Some phobias are deemed ‘ok’ as they are of an inbuilt protection mechanism. Most of us would not seek the company of rats or snakes, as they can be harmful, if not lethal. With other phobias we can find a solution e.g. stairs instead of the lift, therefore some phobias do not impinge on our overall well-being. However, when a phobia does dictate how we live our lives, then it’s a sure sign that we need to act.

A great many people have found hypnotherapy, NLP, EMDR and counselling to overcome their phobias and lead a fuller life. Some phobia’s, however, are far more debilitating than others, such as agoraphobia.

Causes

Agoraphobia can start as a mild form of avoidance and if not treated can escalate into full blown agoraphobia.  It is an anxiety disorder in which a person is distressed by settings in which there is no easily perceived means of escape. An agoraphobic avoids certain social situations, large or open areas and public places where it would be difficult to hide. In some case’s agoraphobia debilitates someone to a point at which they cannot leave home.

Any situation unfamiliar to the agoraphobic becomes a potential source of fear or anxiety. This usually arises from panic attacks, which some believe stems from traumatic early life experiences. Traumatic events can disrupt learning and memories, causing depersonalisation and other methods of blocking out anxiety.  Hypnotherapy combined with psychotherapy has been proven to produce long acting beneficial results when the root cause is to be found in the yearly developing years.

How does Agoraphobia develop?

The causes of agoraphobia, like most mental disorders, are not definitive. Still, some experts have theorised that besides stressful and traumatic events, other anxiety disorders and substance abuse may also contribute. Many patients have also been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety disorder paired with agoraphobia.

Women may suffer from this condition more than men because of social-cultural factors that encourage avoidant coping strategies. Other theories have posited that more women may seemingly suffer from the condition simply because more of them are willing to seek help.

Thoughts stopping sleep – Causes and Solutions

Many of us have a problem switching off from thoughts late in the evening or at bedtime. As an example we worry and ponder about our work situations and work load, personal relationships and families and our thought processes go round and round in circles, achieving nothing but a state of frustration.

The brain – An optimal environment

 The brain enjoys a balance of routine, creativity and recreation and works at its best optimum, when it has variety. Intrusive thoughts around the same problems causes the brain to become increasing bored and not forth coming with good constructive solutions, especially when these thoughts become a habit and concentration levels drop, leaving us feeling tired in the day and disturbing our sleep patterns at night.

So how can we stop this happening at night and bedtime and induce restful, quality sleep, so that our mind & body feels properly restored and alert in the mornings.

Solutions

To begin with, the mind requires at least two hours wind down time to prepare for sleep.  This means not eating heavy meals, drinking caffeine drinks or alcohol during that time.

Don’t play computer games, as you speed up the brain or increase adrenaline with dance music. Be mindful of the types of programmes that you watch on TV, in other words, no programmes that upset you and the same applies if you watch TV in bed.

When we’re in bed our mind & body responds best to peaceful darkness and you could turn any glowing lights from appliances towards a wall or away from you.

The power of imagination

As the brain loves to use its imagination, reading a book before sleep is always a good idea and helps us to become sleepy.  When you do turn off your light to go to sleep, remember this is your personal special time (when you don’t need to share your time with anyone or anything else, once those eyes close) just for you to escape into your own world.  The brain also loves escapism into the realms of fantasy, it’s unlimited imagination can really let loose, it’s like giving the brain a good mental massage.

Before you know it, it will be morning.  I wonder what you will think about? You can choose to own this special time and make it your own habit when you close your eyes in bed at night and shut out the rest of the world, whilst you recharge yourself.

Analysis of Dreams – A deeper look

The following Dreams Analysis was emailed in by TG from Leeds.

Context

TG: Last night’s dream was a strange one, I was in an old market where people I have known in the past are all around selling sweets on different stalls. I was with someone I’m not in contact with anymore and then it jumps to me talking to a little boy trying to get him to find his school trousers because he was wearing girl’s school trousers with frilled pockets. I was getting frustrated as he would not accept that he was wearing the wrong trousers…it’s weird as I rarely remember my dreams but lately bits of dreams come to me throughout the day. 

My dream doesn’t seem to have a beginning or an end as such, I just know that I am in that state where I am not quite in deep sleep yet, the half and half state sort of thing and then the knocking begins, about 6 very loud knocks in my ear, the sound vibrates through my head but doesn’t wake me fully up. All the things that happen in my dreams are trying to wake me, the tapping on my shoulder comes after the knocking and then sometimes I will hear a voice calling my name over and over. Then I awoke.

Analysis

 Me: An old place you recognize sweets – pleasure, carefree treats, friends – little boy whose getting it wrong or is not coordinated, doesn’t care what he looks like or prefers the company of girls – does this remind you of anyone?  Who have you heard or read about recently who knows someone you used to hang out with as a kid – your pleasure seems to be interrupted by having to see to this boy, when your dream jumps to him.  How does this relate to your recent life?

You appear to be dozing but are you giving yourself permission to rest, relax take time out to slumber? Or waiting for something or someone to disturb you or maybe not looking forward to the following day?  Do you feel guilty for taking time out for yourself?  Is there stuff you should be getting on with or are you under environmental pressure i.e. work colleagues or people / family?  What’s the worst can happen if you ignore that knocking, tapping and voice and allow yourself to fall into a deep sleep  – what fears and anxieties would that highlight?

Context

TG: I recognise the market place but only from another dream, its old fashioned, 19th century style (I have been watching Murdoch Mysteries series set in the same century) The person I was with was a friend in the past, someone who I used to think I could trust but who slated me to other people and was a bit of a snake.

I agree that I do not really allow myself to fall into a deep sleep any longer (once my partner is awake in the morning he will cuddle up to me in bed talking to me whilst I am semi asleep and then potters around and comes in and out the bedroom etc. until finally I give up sleeping and I am fully awake). But on the other hand if my partner is out early in the morning, I am still just dozing because I am listening out for the dog moving about on the wooden floor waiting to be let out or fed…..or….I am expecting my mom to come knocking the door because she has not heard from me and is worried. Either way I just can’t allow myself to relax, completely.

 I do feel guilty in a way for sleeping in as I know that I am not at work at the moment and feel idle…as though I should be up doing something productive (Especially when my partner is working, I felt as though he is working so I should be making sure the house is in order for when he gets back). I might subconsciously associate the calling of my name with danger as the first time I recall it happening I was falling asleep whilst in the bath and the voice calling my name was that of my late Nan’s, my chin had just begun to touch the water when I suddenly woke alarmed.

When I first moved into this house 4 years ago with my ex, I gave mom and dad a spare key in case I got locked out, one morning we had both slept in, which is why I had not phoned my mom and I awoke to my Dad standing at the side of my bed with a glass of orange juice, mom sent him around to see if I was okay. My partner recently left the door open when he went out and Dad came in calling my name, I was in bed and startled me again.  

In relation to this little boy, my partner told me I was controlling during a row we had because I can’t allow myself to let him do DIY alone. I have to be there to make sure it’s done right, this I get from my mom. My mom has specific ways of doing things, she used to sit and watch me colour as a child…telling me I must stay in the lines etc. If what my partner does is not right, mom will inspect it (like she does my house and my cleaning every time she visits) and I will get the numerous questions about it when my partner isn’t around. Mom will ask me in a very particular way though, first saying “Do you think this might look better” or “This would have been a better way of doing this.” as though she is trying to push me into doing it how she thinks it should be done but not saying it outright.  This little boy wearing the girl’s trousers is part of this equation…I simply can’t stand that he is wearing girl’s trousers and refuses to believe they are for little girls…it’s the controlling part of me which can’t get past it.

Final Analysis

Me: There is frustration and guilt in this dream and overall TG feels a lack of control in her life due to family childhood conditioning and has a deep desire to feel free to run her own life, however, feels she cannot explain her frustrations to her mother as she fears feeling guilty of going against her Mum or challenging Mum. This is against her deep rooted self- belief system. I do apologise TG but Mum does come across as a wee bit demanding and I wonder if Mum even realises it?

This is the final installment of our dream discussions. Should you wish to explore the previous discussions they are linked in order here. ( 1, 2, 3, 4 )

The Waking and Dream states

When trying to sleep, we fluctuate between the waking and dream states. This blog post explores these states and provides some insight into them.

The waking and dream states – A comparison

In our waking state we are fully conscious, using the conscious mind to make decisions where we employ logic and reasoning. For example, if we walk down a corridor looking for a particular person in one of the rooms, we ourselves will decide which room to enter to find them. If it’s the wrong room that we enter, we simply leave and choose which door to try next.

in our dream state, however, is where the conscious mind is at rest. The unconscious is working solo and it does not understand logic or reason. What’s at work here is the filing cabinet of our memory and experiences (hippocampus) and the emotional control centre (amygdala). Both are house and connected together. The waking state and dream state are in complete contradiction to each other. The dream state is chaotic and surreal. Both states exist entirely separately. We may as well be in parallel universes.

The dream state – A deeper look

The dream state borrows its dream material from the conscious state of what we have already experienced. It cannot detach itself from that reality. When we dream, what we experience in the dream state is the combination of the filing cabinet experiences of our lives and the emotions which attach themselves to those memories. Let’s say it’s like a partnership between the two, i.e. what we feel in our dreams depends on what memory we are visualizing and this will evoke an accompanying emotional response, without any logic. It appears in a bizarre and confusing format not of our understanding.

The waking state – Dream recollection

When back in the waking state, it can be hard to recall all the dream. The knowledge is often fragmented and unclear. We can look at them as jigsaw pieces scattered to the wind, leaving us thinking “what was that all about”.  The selection of the dream material is usually random daily occurrences of little significance. These, none the less, attach themselves to the more in-depth cerebral cells, which carry our heavier weight experiences from the past. Working out the dream from the symbolic snapshots and accompanying emotional feelings takes some investigative work to understand. 

Last week’s dream, for example, highlighted a repressed emotion of fear by being chased in a hay field by an angry farmer. The long forgotten childhood memory of the experience was triggered by seeing a haystack in a field whilst driving in the countryside.

Freud’s Dream Psychology

Sigmund Freud argued that repressed emotions, sometimes as far back as childhood can manifest themselves in dreams, even years later. During the Victorian era is when we discovered that our emotions are evolved physical responses. They are affected by our unconscious minds.

Next week, we will explore another dream and analyse the interpretation of it.

Rationalising dreams – A dream analysis

In this post we explore and discuss an individuals unusual dream. Rationalising dreams means we will break down the dream into components to gain a understanding of why this dream has occured.

In this dream the dreamer is driving in the country side to visit a friend and sees a small field of haystacks in mid-summer.  Next the dreamer is walking down the steps of a country mansion with the friend, heading towards the parkland.  Then the dreamer notices Prince William and Kate in the parkland surrounded by lots of people and sees the friend amongst them.  When the dreamer looks next to themselves the friend has disappeared and they are on the steps alone.  Then the dreamer looks back towards the parkland and sees that there is nothing there and they are completely alone in a large green field surrounded by giant haystacks, the mansion having disappeared and wakes up feeling scared and overwhelmed.

Reasoning

When asked what the dreamer had been doing recently in their life, where they had been and who they had seen and spoken to recently and about what, the dreamer came back with this information.

The dreamer had been to visit the friend in the dream about four days earlier.  The friend lives in a village in Oxfordshire and they had taken a picnic with them to Blenheim Park for an afternoon out.  They talked about having watched the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton three months earlier in April and how beautiful they thought the ceremony had been.

Now the disjointed snapshots made sense, however where did the haystacks come into it?  When asked, the dreamer came back with this.

Explanation

The dreamer whilst driving in the countryside towards the friend’s house, had noticed some haystacks in a small field. 

Why were they a threat?

When asked why haystacks should pose a threat, the dreamer said that the only circumstances they could relate to was as a child. At about the age of five or six, the dreamer had been playing hide and seek in a field of haystacks with brothers and cousins. They used the haystacks to hide in.  The dreamer spent quite some time in the haystack before hearing angry shouting. Becoming alarmed at this and moving out of the haystack, the whole mound of hay collapsed onto this child.  The dreamer stood up only to see the others running away in the distance and so also started to run. 

Another frightening aspect was that the farmer who gave chase, was closest to her and was shouting that he knew who the kids were and was going to tell the parents. Those parents would have to pay for the damage and that the children would be in serious trouble with the police.

Rationalising

The dreamer had forgotten this childhood experience and now the haystack part of the dream made sense.  The dreamer went on to add that as a recently separated person, there were feelings of abandonment when the children spent weekends with the ex-partner. Despite making an effort to rekindle old friendships they were fearful of what the future may hold and felt the time had come to make new friends.

Our next discussion in the dream series will explore our dream and waking state. There will be comparisons made for us to better understand them.

Negatives of Excessive online Gaming

When we overdo online gaming, there are repercussions in our thought and behaviour patterns.

This can end up effecting us and those we care about and live with.

Here are some of the self-defeating behaviour symptoms’ that indicate your gaming habits has become unhealthy. Both for your mind and body and those around you:

  • Thinking about gaming all or a lot of the time.
  • Feeling irritated when somebody ask to do something which means leaving your game.
  • Feeling bad when you can’t play.
  • Needing to spend more and more time playing to feel good.
  • Not being able to quit or even play less.
  • Feeling guilt as you know deep down your gaming is taking over your life.
  • No longer caring about what or when you eat.
  • Not wanting to do other things that you used to like.
  • Snapping at someone when they point out the changes, they see in you.
  • Having problems at work, school, or home because of your gaming.
  • No longer sleeping deeply and feeling tired much of the waking day.

If these symptoms reflect your reality, it is advisable that you consciously make an effort to find alternatives to gaming that you enjoy. By replacing gaming with an alternative, healthy action you enjoy, it may allow some of the negatives of excessive online gaming to ease.

Part one and two of this discussion can be found (here) and (here)

Gaming and Gambling in Lock-down

Research is telling us that gaming and gambling in lock-down dramatically increased through the pandemic during 2020/2021.

Whilst that may be obvious to most of us, this trend appeared to be across all age groups.  Many people enjoyed playing easy relaxing games to pass the time.

The lockdown gaming Spike

Surprisingly, there seems there was a payoff during the lockdown period where people were at home nearly all the time. Many people stated that it helped make the days shorter and distracted them from the constant negative news of Covid.

Younger individuals in particular, (people under the age of 25) reported feeling a lot happier after playing online games and interacting with other online players. A key reason stated was that it left them feeling less isolated. The gaming in lock-down distracted them from anxiety and worries over what would happen with the Covid pandemic.

gaming and gambling in lock-down

The rise of gaming

The huge take off of online gaming was came with the birth of the internet.

Games have altered during the last two decades to become more interactive and action filled. Competitive games with the integration of other online players introduced the capacity of being able to talk to each other.

In the next installment of our gaming and gambling discussions, we shall delve into the negative impact excessive gaming has on us. Click here for part one of this discussion.

Gaming and Gambling today

What are the differences and similarities:

Gambling is as old as the start of civilisation and is a wager where anything of use or desire can be won. It evolved into casino’s, slots and racing amongst other things. These days it has a huge online presence.

Gaming evolved with competitions such as football pools and bingo halls initially among others but again we’re looking at the modern online presence. It finds it home now mostly in software programmes.

Similarities include:

  • Exciting graphics
  • sound effects and different jingles that stimulate our sensory perceptions. 
  • They create highs and lows, or a feeling of disappointment
  • At times even deep frustration and a sense of high achievement following the chase and perseverance for a winning game.

The differences between gambling and gaming.

Gambling is often about the big life changing win but also finding the wins to pay gambling debts to keep even (chasing the losses).  With gambling, huge amounts of money are lost, sometimes homes repossessed. Traditional gambling is also a social engagement with like-minded people, whilst out and about with lots of human interaction. Gamblers will spend money they haven’t got and sometimes use other people’s money via deceit.

Gaming on the other hand, encourages the payment top ups to have extra tools for completing levels – usually not large amounts but regularly done it all mounts up. Gaming is socially engaging, in as much as gamers will talk to each other online during a game. Professional gamers will spend time promoting games on social media or at conventions and engage in little about life in general. Gaming overall is an isolating pastime.

The follow up to this will be looking into gaming and gambling during the Covid lockdown periods.

Where do dreams come from?

Dreams Part 2

Where do our dreams come from?  It’s an interesting question. 

Let’s start with some neuroscience. In a part of our brain called the Limbic System, we have an area which contains all our long term memories, called the “hippocampus”. After all we need a storage system for our vast memories and experiences. Like an endless filling cabinet, we can’t carry all our vast memory systems and experiences around with us in the foremost of our minds on a day to day basis.  Therefore we store them in our filling cabinet. 

It processes almost thirty billion bytes of data per second and it records all our significant experiences that we have, from the time of our birth to our final breath.  The filling cabinet doesn’t recognise logic or reasoning but has its own language.  It recognises – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and instinct, in other words, it relies on our sensory perceptions. 

Perception.

Let’s just run a bit further with this. Suppose we’re chatting and a fly passes by us, are we really going to bat an eyelid? After all, a simple fly is quite harmless; it possess no threat, so we wave it away and carry on chatting.  Now, let’s suppose it’s a wasp; now this becomes a potential threat, as a wasp can sting us and cause a reactive pain.  Our audio hearing perceives this threat through our hearing, so we’ll stop talking and look around to see where the threat is.  This is the learnt and conditioned information putting us on high alert and so we react accordingly. 

The same applies with the threat of potential aggression or risk of attack, we react accordingly.  We’ll either remove ourselves from the threat or confront it (flight or fight).  Our sensory perceptions are working for us at an unconscious and conscious level.  A foul smell or taste we don’t like can have us wrinkling our noses or even gagging; a gut feeling can tell us that something is not right.

We’re collecting and gathering files in our filling cabinet and our environmental existence contributes mostly to this.  It forms a blueprint as to how we see and evaluate our internal world about ourselves, as well as the safety of our external world.  In other words, we become shaped by the filling cabinet, good and not so good experiences.  It’s from these file snap shots that our dreams come, randomly all mixed up according to what happening in our lives in the present as well as the past. 

Understanding the connection.

Connected to this integrated function and next to the filling cabinet (hippocampus) is the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotions and fear-learning.  It links areas of the cortex that process higher cognitive information with hypothalamic and brainstem systems that control lower metabolic responses (e.g. touch, pain, sensitivity and respiration).  This allows the amygdala to coordinate physiological responses based on cognitive information. 

If we experience a frightening dream, our body will also react automatically with symptoms such as;

  • rapid heart rate,
  • dry mouth
  • perspiration

This is why we can awaken from a bad dream feeling emotionally overwhelmed or a happy dream only to realise that we are chuckling with laughter.

Next time we’ll explore a weird dream and give it a rational meaning.

Dreams, The Labyrinth of the Unconscious Realm

Dreams part 1

Our dreams come to us from the unconscious part of the mind and speak to us of our hidden fears and desires           

            Many therapists will tell you when working with clients, one of the most common statements made at the start of many a session is “I had the strangest dream the other night” or “I’ve been having really weird dreams lately about ………..” It teaches and shows us that dreams are a large part of the therapeutic process and that therapy has already stated to work well for the client.  If we were to take the view that dreams are snippets of mumbo jumbo, let’s dispel this myth right now and instead ask this question. Why does there always seemed to be a connection between some part of a person’s dream and the issues they encounter in their waking life, before the dream? 

Why do we use the very old term of “Follow your dreams”? 

This is because we know that one of the functions of dreams is to express our desires and gratifications. This is emphasised in the ones we feel too embarrassed to admit to ourselves.  Likewise dreams can also mask our deeper fears and anxieties at a level we can’t even begin to fathom.  Something too horrible to contemplate or too horrific to remember, or something we want to avoid facing up to can become surpressed at a deeper level of the unconscious mind. Past trauma or incident or unhealthy behaviour pattern, begins to manifest itself in the symbolic language of dreams.  Likewise with painful memories, our dreams can have a way of letting us know upon our waking, that unresolved issues are ready to be dealt with.

Such is the power of our dreams, that they can be disturbing. 

When we experience a nightmare, we are known to thrash about in our beds, shout aloud and sob our hearts out; because of the phenomenal gripping power of a dream.  The first waking moments after a nightmare can leave us feeling emotionally overwhelmed and unbearably vulnerable with a pounding heart, accompanied by perspiration and not really sure of what’s reality or fantasy.  We know that we can be left feeling completely disorientated, desolated and even in the pits of despair.  Whatever terminology people use to describe their dreams, we’ve all experienced them from time to time, the ones that throw us off kilter for a while and the wonderful funny and joyous ones we really don’t want to wake up from.  They are a part of us; they live deep within the bottomless labyrinth of the unconscious mind and psyche.

They speak a perplexing language all of their own in symbols. These can be difficult to fathom and can stir up the most disturbing and pleasant of human emotions. This especially in the ones dreampt in vivid colour.

           

Next time we will be looking at where dreams come from and their symbolic language.

Finding the right therapist for you.

In general, well-established and legitimately practiced brands of therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, dialectal-behavioral, or interpersonal therapies) are about equally effective for many problems and many people. However, as an individual, you may feel more comfortable looking for a therapist who practices one type of therapy versus another.

Some therapists are more active than others in initiating topics of conversation. One thing we know from psychotherapy research is that a therapist’s theoretical orientation is often (but not always) a good predictor of this process:

Psychoanalytical/ Psychodynamic therapists

Frequently allow/suggest their patients to take the lead in initiating conversation.

Humanistic therapists

Person centered therapy. Therapist focuses on listening skills and mirroring clients behaviours and habits back to them.

They key

To conclude, the right therapist for you will be one that works at your pace and employs proactive listening skills. This will allow you to express your train of thought and be heard.

Hypnotherapy for Insomnia

The way insomnia works.

People with insomnia often believe that they are “Insomniacs”; i.e. genetically predisposed to insomnia. Nothing can be further from the truth. Every living organism has a dormant period, so sleep is natural, therefore insomnia is unnatural.

In general insomnia is caused by an underlying anxiety which can be about relationships, financial worries, self-esteem issues and many other anxieties. Each client is different. However, by using hypnotherapy for Insomnia we can work out what is going on and resolve the issues at a subconscious level, leading you back to a natural sleep pattern.

Using hypnotherapy for insomnia

 “Nearly 30% of the population has some form of insomnia. Insomnia is nearly always underpinned by anxiety and this anxiety interrupts the normal sleep pattern. This anxiety is what people with insomnia tend to ruminate about whilst attempting to sleep, which is what hypnotherapy for insomnia targets. This rumination generates high levels of anxiety and hence an increased level of alertness within the insomniac and therefore sleep eludes them. Sometimes this anxiety is so low level that the person may not be very aware of it and therefore believes there is no reason for the lack of sleep.”

People with insomnia often have a multitude of problems associated with their sleep disorder. Problems associated with insomnia are:

– Anxiety

– Alcohol abuse

– Health problems

– Fatigue

– Depression

Insomnia often co-exists with other disorders and can be the main factor in the other disorder. For example, someone with depression might have significant sleep disruption. This sleep disruption will cause fatigue which makes it far harder for the person to deal with and resolve their feelings of depression. So, achieving a more natural sleep pattern can significantly help with the depression. This is true with several anxiety disorders.

How can hypnotherapy for insomnia help?

We will help you return to a more normal pattern of sleep by using hypnotherapy to remove any underlying anxiety issues and helping you to get back to a normal sleep routine. Hypnotherapy is extremely effective at teaching you to relax at the appropriate times. So teaching you how to relax before sleep is a significant part of the therapy. Deep relaxation is a pre-cursor to sleep and without it sleep will elude you.

Many patterns of sleep disturbance become embedded in our subconscious mind after many months/years of unsatisfactory sleep.  By using hypnotherapy, clients will experience fast and effective changes.

Hypnotherapy really can help with insomnia. If used properly it is a very effective weapon against the lack of sleep that affects our lives significantly.

Useful Tips Before Entering Therapy

Afraid of opening up or sharing your thoughts in therapy? Here are a few things you can do:

1. Talk to your therapist about the problem.

This may sound silly if the actual problem is talking to your therapist about your problems in the first place. However, one of the factors most strongly and repeatedly linked to improvement in psychotherapy is the quality of the relationship between a patient and therapist. One aspect of a strong psychotherapy relationship is confidence in the collaboration with the therapist. It’s important for patients and their therapists to actively negotiate/collaborate on what they want from therapy and what the expectations/process of the therapy should be. In this process, flexibility in both the patient and the therapist is important as is the ability to maintain a reasonable and boundaried treatment frame.

2. Start a journal.

The act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can be incredibly liberating, constructive, and healthful. Like exercise, journaling requires commitment and regularity. Set aside a time and special place for journaling (even if it’s just 5-10 minutes!) and stick to it. Make it your goal to write down whatever thoughts and feelings come into your mind and try not to censor yourself. No thought is too silly or stupid. Lousy handwriting? Who cares! Forget your sixth grade English teacher! The blank page is your space to write what you want, how you want, spelled whatever way you want. No one has to see your writing. You don’t even have to keep it! You can tear it up, trash it, or just hit delete. As you get more into the habit of honoring your time to write down what you think and feel, you’ll get better at it. If writing comes easier to you, you might even consider bringing your journal with you to therapy and using your entries to jump-start the conversation.

3. Practice, practice, practice.

With time, attention, and practice, sharing your voice with others may become easier. This is not an easy process, and in fact, staying silent may be one coping skill you’ve developed over time to keep yourself safe from people like an overcritical parent or a demeaning boss. However, if you get into the practice of opening yourself up in ways that you still feel safe and with people you can trust, you just might be surprised at the results. You may end up feeling more confident, emotionally secure, and in greater control of your life and your relationships.

4. If therapy is broken, fix it.

Therapy is not supposed to be easy. Starting therapy is hard and even if you’ve been in therapy a while, you’re bound to hit rough patches with regularity. In fact, “deep” sessions where you address and work through tough topics and interpersonal conflicts are generally more effective than “smooth” ones which gloss over important or difficult subjects. However, if therapy is a grudging experience week after week, something is wrong. Seen as early as after the first three sessions, the overall quality and strength of the therapeutic relationship is highly predictive of what the quality of the relationship will be throughout the rest of the treatment.

If you have a problem with the therapist or how the therapy is going, in most cases (except those of boundary violation or professional misconduct), the first and best thing to do is talk to your therapist. If you’ve been in therapy awhile and things had been going well, but seem to take a turn for the worse, you might just be working through a critical or difficult issue. If you’ve just started, you might be learning about or adjusting to the process of being in therapy. If you’ve talked to your therapist about the problems with the therapy and made efforts to work through it over a course of time and at least a few sessions and things still haven’t improved, it may be time to consider a different therapist or approach. You should talk to your therapist about leaving and they can perhaps even suggest a referral to a new therapist or different treatment approach. Jared DeFife Ph.D.