Someone sent me a link to the story of Brigitte Harris who accidentally killed her father after she found out he was intended to molest other children as he had molested her. Unfortunately, her story is not rare. But she said something which deeply saddened me.
I was once working with a child who was also seeing a psychiatrist. Like many children with whom I work this child had numerous diagnoses: ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. However, when the mother would describe the child's behavior I would instantly think "trauma". I kept saying this to her, but she was swayed by the authority of the doctor and maintained his belief the child was mentally ill. Until her child told her he had been sexually and physically abused.
Throughout the years I have worked with several clients who were criticized or rebuked by family members or Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors for using psychiatric medications as a "crutch". Yes.... and?
Throughout the years I've agonized when working with dual diagnosis clients who attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or any of their sister programs. Too often there are well-meaning people in the groups who take it upon themselves to give psychological or medical advice. All too often, this results in tremendous damage. One of the major offenders is the idea that any member of AA, CA or NA who is taking psychiatric medications is not "clean and sober". Not only is this bad advice it's not the official policy of AA.
The New York Times has a wonderful article on anxiety, "Understanding the Anxious Mind" which seems to suggest that we are born with an anxious temperament. Personally, I wonder.
Yes, therapists have issues too. Anxiety was never mine until a few years ago. Prior to that I could intellectuallly understand that people said they were experiencing anxiety and panic, but I couldn't fully appreciate how bad it felt, until I had my own.
It seems most Americans like to think of themselves as thinking beings who happen to feel. But research into the human brain shows that we are instead feeling beings who are able to think. I believe our failure to recognize this causes untold frustration and the current epidemic of people being diagnosed with depression.
People often think of trauma, anxiety, panic attacks and depression as four separate "disorders". Indeed the medical model of psychiatric treatment fosters this way of thinking, but it's not always accurate. Many time these four separate "disorders" are all expressions of trauma. Anxiety and depression can be intimately linked. How?
Therapists often help clients struggling with trauma symptoms like anxiety and panic attacks by teaching them to develop what we call an "anchor". An anchor helps you pull down fear and panic and steady yourself, much like the anchor of a boat. It's easy to use and anyone can do it for themselves, if they know how.
There is an interesting concept that can greatly help you get control of your own emotions, thoughts and behavior - the awareness that your body, your thoughts and your emotions all exist as parts within the same system. If you change one, you can affect the other two. Understanding this can help clients get control of uncomfortable thoughts or feelings which may seem too nebulous to get hold of otherwise.