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The vicious cycle of anxiety

“Houston traffic was causing my anxiety and panic attacks” said Penny Shaw (pseudonym.) “I was a small town girl who went from a town of 75,000 people to one with 4 million people.” Shaw was working in a stressful position as a journalist with deadlines always looming.
The traffic and stress triggered her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which triggered more panic.
“This stuff kind of piggybacks, they bounce off of each other” Shaw said.
Shaw’s father abused her as a child. Through years of counseling she was able to overcome the trauma of this abuse. But Houston traffic proved to be the trigger that brought back the memories of this abuse and set off her PTSD.
Then her PTSD would cause more panic. Shaw would have bad dreams and wake up to a panic attack. Add to this that Shaw is bipolar.
The mania of her bipolar episodes would trigger her panic, and that would in turn trigger more depression. One trigger could get the vicious circle rolling.
“Everyone hates Houston traffic. Most people are not incapacitated by it though. That’s the difference,” Shaw said.
“The stuff that would bother anyone is more advanced with an anxiety disorder,” she said.
“Anxiety will break you down,” said Allen Apperson, M.Ed, who operates his own counseling service and is the treatment director at Girl’s Haven, a Beaumont residential care facility that helps girls work through past trauma. “It can cause sleeping issues, appetite issues, muscle issues.”
“Once the damage starts to occur in the brain, it alters the brain chemistry. It damages them,” Apperson said of people suffering from multiple anxiety issues.
That is the case with Shaw.
Shaw was working in a newsroom when the Sept. 11 attacks took place. She found herself interviewing victims and their families.
“I could not take it and would go in the restroom and cry,” Shaw said.
The stress of having to hide her attacks from co-workers would cause more attacks. Shaw tried many jobs through the years but would get anxiety and couldn’t handle it.
Shaw first noticed stress symptoms when she was in college.
“I had kidney stones, bladder infections and memory loss. It all stopped after I graduated from college,” Shaw said.
“Exams would cause memory loss and I would forget where I lived. My husband thought I was fooling around and left me,” she said.
Shaw’s panic attacks also caused pain in her chest. She would feel like she was having a heart attack. She would have difficulty breathing and become disoriented.
“You have to remind yourself that it’s not a heart attack but a panic attack.” Shaw said. Counseling has helped Shaw control her panic.
“They teach you how to catch it when its coming on and talk yourself out of it,” Shaw said speaking of cognizant behavioral therapy.
“There’s an event, that leads to a thought, that leads to behavior” Apperson said when describing cognizant behavioral therapy.
“These three things are happening almost instantaneously by the time most patients seek help. We try to capture the thought and spread out the time between these,” he said.
Apperson tries to slow his patients down over time.
“It’s like a continual process of working that muscle until it grows,” he said.
Apperson’s favorite “medicine” is exercise.
“Deep breathing and muscle tension exercises can work. They result in a slower heart rate, more oxygen and toxins can be expelled through breathing. Exercise also alters brain chemistry,” he said.
“That’s the preferred route but I don’t rule out medicines.
“The brain can heal. We are learning the brain can repair itself. Patients can repair and heal, if they are managing,” Apperson said.
Through years of counseling Shaw has learned to manage her anxiety.
“I tell them to always keep healthier things in your life and not let the bad things in. Anxiety sufferers have to learn to continually adjust,” Apperson said.

By | 2017-05-03T15:22:55+00:00 December 19th, 2016|English, ETC Online, This Just In|0 Comments
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