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Health-Related Anxiety: Symptoms, Disorders, & Treatment

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Think about the most significant health scare you have ever experienced. Then multiply this experience by a factor of about 10. Unfortunately, this is a daily reality for many individuals suffering from health-related anxiety, a debilitating condition that can have devastating effects on one’s mood, relationships, and ability to function in academic and professional settings. What is health anxiety? Health-related anxiety is a general term that refers to intense fear or worry about one’s physical health. Fear about illness (or potential illness) might develop in situations in which an individual has a diagnosed medical illness. These health conditions might include: a diagnosed, progressive medical condition (e.g., worry about advancing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease). a diagnosed medical condition that requires management and/or health behavior changes (e.g., anxiety following a diagnosis of diabetes or after experiencing a heart attack). a diagnosed...

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Agoraphobia – Symptom Attacks, Triggers, Panic, & Avoidance Behaviors

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Let’s dispel a common misconception about agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is not a fear of the outdoors. Many people mistakenly believe this myth, due to the word’s Latin roots.  Because agoraphobia can be broken down into the roots agora (“marketplace”) and phobia (“fear of”), many people assume that agoraphobia is a “fear of the marketplace” or a fear of being in wide open spaces. What is agoraphobia? However, this literal interpretation is different than what psychologists mean when they use the term agoraphobia. Clinical psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists conceptualize agoraphobia as a fear of experiencing physical symptom attacks in certain types of situations (Zuercher-White & Pollard, 2003). Symptom attacks include full-blown panic attacks, limited symptom panic attacks (sweating, dizziness, disorientation, difficulty breathing. heart pounding, nausea), diarrhea, other gastrointestinal (GI) issues, vomiting, headaches, and feelings of dissociation, depersonalization, or derealization. Agoraphobia-related Situations The...

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Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty, ERP, & the Monster Under the Bed

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Everyone I know has, at some point, had to deal with the monster under the bed. Some do it with grace. Others falter. I’ve always been clumsy. I can vividly recall many terrified nights from my childhood, when I would lie rigidly in my bed, utterly paralyzed by fear. Afraid to make the slightest movement, to breathe, to call out for my parents…lest I be detected by IT. The pounding of my heart would be so loud in my ears, and my breathing so ragged, that I could swear the entire house could hear me. And yet…no one came to help. The moment would stretch out like taffy. At some point, my raw fear would ever so subtly decline, freeing me up to end the stalemate in one of several ways. Some nights, I would call out for help....

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Mindfulness & ACT-based therapy: Questioning “I hurt; therefore, I suffer.”

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Mindfulness & ACT-based Approaches to Therapy Mindfulness & Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)-based approaches to treatment might (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2003) ask you to consider the truth of the following statement: I hurt; therefore, I suffer. Most of us would probably agree that suffering is usually borne out of hurt. But this doesn’t mean that pain, discomfort, or unwanted emotions necessarily lead to suffering. In truth, many hurts do not lead to suffering. Pain and suffering are distinct entities that exist on two entirely different planes. Pain is based on an experience, whereas suffering is based on how we perceive that experience. In many cases, we may not be able to sidestep pain or hurt; however, suffering may be a different matter. Pain Think about the last time you felt physical pain. Maybe you’re feeling it right now....

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