Anxiety

The holiday season: A time for cheer, a time for psychological skills

In this article, I discuss how you can practice using psychological skills over the Christmas holidays. The Christmas holiday season is a great time to relax and enjoy good times with family and friends. It also offers many opportunities to practice psychological skills which sometimes get neglected during the rest of the year. In the following sections, I will discuss how you can practice several psychological skills this holiday season...[more]

Double exposure: Choosing the right kind of exposure in addressing anxiety issues

In this article, I discuss how exposure can be used to address anxiety issues if it is the right kind. As a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, I often work with clients who experience uncomfortably high levels of anxiety in specific situations. Early on in anxiety counselling, I inform these clients that a key step in addressing their issues is exposing themselves to these situations rather than avoiding them. Overcoming avoidance through exposure is the fundamental way to help clients achieve their goal of experiencing lasting reductions in anxiety to a more comfortable and manageable level. After I have informed clients of the benefits of exposure, some of them give me a response which may appear to be puzzling...[more]

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How molehills become mountains: The formation of obsessive thoughts in OCD

In this article, I discuss how putting a negative spin on your random negative automatic thoughts can result in obsessive thoughts. At a professional workshop I attended recently, the presenter displayed a list entitled ‘Common Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts’. The list included thoughts involving aggression such as ‘killing a loved one’ and ‘hitting someone with a car’ along with thoughts featuring a sexual theme such as ‘engaging in unnatural sexual acts’ and ‘screaming obscenities’. Given that the focus of the presentation was treating people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I had assumed that the list referred to thoughts which were distinctive to people suffering from this disorder. To my surprise, the presenter indicated that the list referred to random thoughts which over 90 per cent of the general population admitted to having...[more]

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Want to reduce your anxiety? Focus on performing effectively with anxiety

In this article, I discuss how lasting reductions in anxiety occur as a result of first learning that you can perform effectively while experiencing anxiety. For most clients in anxiety counselling with whom I work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, their primary goal is either to eliminate their anxiety or reduce its intensity to a more manageable level. Because anxiety is an emotion built into us through evolution to prepare us to deal with dangers and challenges, eliminating it is an impossible goal to achieve. However, reducing the intensity of this emotion to a manageable level is an achievable goal...[more]

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How to change your negative core beliefs

In this article, I discuss how to change thought patterns called negative core beliefs which often play a role in many psychological issues. In my last article, I discussed how to identify negative core beliefs--long-standing negative views people may have about themselves, other people in their lives or the world. These negative views usually originate from people’s difficult experiences and predispose them to think negatively about themselves, other people or the world in the present. They also play a major role in causing and maintaining various psychological issues including depression, the anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders. In the following sections, I will discuss how to change negative core beliefs once they have been identified so that their negative influence on current thinking and mood can be reduced...[more]

How to identify your negative core beliefs

In this article, I discuss how to identify thought patterns called negative core beliefs which often play a role in many psychological issues. In my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist, much of my focus in helping clients is on identifying and changing negative thought patterns which contribute to their emotional distress. This ‘cognitive restructuring’ work typically entails examining clients’ negative thoughts in response to particular situations and events in their everyday lives. However, on some occasions I help my clients address negative thinking patterns which are rooted in their pasts...[more]

How to address thought suppression and its negative effects

In my last article, I discussed how trying not to think about something makes you think about it more and the negative effects which stem from this strategy. In this article, I discuss strategies to counteract this tendency to suppress thoughts and the disadvantages which come with it. As I discussed in my last article, engaging in thought suppression can contribute to several issues as a result of the strategy achieving the opposite of its intended effect. That is, trying not to think of something actually makes it more likely you will think of that something. When that ‘something’ is a disturbing thought, thought suppression can play a role in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). An obvious concern arises regarding alternatives to thought suppression which a person can use when disturbing thoughts enter their minds...[more]

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The futility of thought suppression and its negative effects

In this article, I discuss how trying not to think about something makes you think about it more and the negative effects which stem from this strategy. Here is an experiment for you to try with a friend: For the next five minutes, you can think of anything as long you do not think of a white bear sitting on your friend’s shoulder. You are likely to find during that time that you had difficulty thinking of anything other than a white bear sitting on your friend’s shoulder. The results of this experiment, which have been obtained consistently in research studies, point to the futility of trying not to think about something, a.k.a., thought suppression...[more]

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Psychology: A natural treatment for anxiety disorders

In this article, I discuss the benefits of using psychological skills as an alternative to medication in treating anxiety disorders. In my last article, I indicated that medication is viewed by many as the treatment of choice for depression. It is also commonly used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. However, just as there are many drawbacks to using medication to treat depression, there are disadvantages to treating anxiety disorders using medication...[more]

The prediction log: A tool to manage anxiety

In this article, I discuss how predicting negative events you may encounter and tracking those predictions can help you to manage the anxiety you experience in anticipation of these events. Difficulties in managing anxiety are rooted in negative thinking patterns known as cognitive distortions. These distortions skew our perceptions of events in a negative direction which is not consistent the available evidence. In anxiety, these distortions involve skewed perceptions regarding negative events which may occur in our lives in the near or distant future. There are two cognitive distortions which drive anxiety to uncomfortable levels in anticipation of these events—‘overestimating danger’ and ‘underestimating coping’...[more]

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