Our not so realistic reality

Not so real reality

Not so real reality

The basis of any anxiety or panic problem is a personal belief about something that in reality is not true. Whatever your individual fear may be, the chances are that it is completely illogical and not at all rooted in real facts. Living a life based entirely on thoughts and feelings which we know don’t reflect reality is one of the strangest experiences a person can have, and yet so many of us live this way every day, sometimes without even realizing they’re wrong.

Myself, I could say with total conviction that I know my anxious thoughts are incorrect. My logical brain is well aware that a panic attack will do me no harm; I’ve had more than enough to factually confirm that. However, there is still that thought, a voice so to speak, which convinces me to avoid any situation that could cause a panic attack because there is always a “what if?”. This makes my anxiety very difficult to explain to others, and I know I’m not alone. People will say “there’s nothing to worry about, you’ll be fine” and you can’t help but answer “I know I will”. They ask why you’re so scared if you know you’re going to be safe, and unfortunately you’re left with no real answer. It is simply a feeling which guides you through your day, and although this may only make up 1% of your thoughts, that 1% is stronger than all of your logical thoughts combined.

It seems mad, on paper, to allow something you know is wrong to dictate everything you do. From what you eat, to where you go, to who you go there with, this one small sensation, which tells you that maybe this time will be so much worse than all the others, is in control of your life. It doesn’t take long to collect a full repertoire of symptoms and side effects of anxiety, from heart palpitations to nausea and full panic attacks. You become familiar with each one, you’ve experienced them all at their very worst and still survived to tell the tales, but still you continue to avoid and fear situations which may cause them again, all because of one tiny voice.

Imagine a world where this voice, this feeling, is the minority. Where you consider that maybe there is a risk, a small “what if?”, but you don’t allow it to control you because you truly do believe that those anxious thoughts are nothing but lies. Simply knowing that your paranoid brain is wrong is just step one, and while it’s an excellent step, it doesn’t change the fact that there is still a part of you which refuses to commit to the belief entirely. There is so much more freedom and liberation which comes with fully accepting and internalising the idea that these thoughts you have are only there to hold you back, and in no way reflect what life is really like. You first have to realise that you’ve seen it all before, you have the wisdom and benefit that comes with experience. You have been through the worst of it and you are still standing, and that should suggest that maybe, just maybe, some part of your way of thinking is very, very wrong.

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To see ourselves as others see us

I don’t know about you but there have been times in my life when I have been acutely sensitive to the gaze of others. I am not immune even now, although I am better at managing how it makes me feel.
Which is why I found this video interesting and I thought you might also. It shows how different our own impression of ourselves can be to that of others.
It is like having a window into the subtle ways we see ourselves (not the good ways) and how that can distort everything else we feel.

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How To Combat Anxiety

How to Combat Anxiety

In the previous video I explained how a terrible event that may have no actual connection to you can increase your sense of threat. A feeling of threat, without an obvious tangible focus for the threat can cause anxiety. If you find that after Paris you are more anxious then you may find the tool I share with you in this video helpful. I have used this with many clients and the simplicity of it comes from the fact that it uses the same processes and the same neuro-chemicals as anxiety but it transforms what they are used for. Turning fear into excitement.

You don’t have to live with anxiety you can choose to do something about it.

Stop being anxious

A link to the previous film

 

 Get the Panic Pit Stop app here

About Dr David Purves

Dr David Purves is a Reading based psychologist providing private CBT in Reading, Berkshire. Dr Purves is the clinical Director of The Berkshire psychology service and former Consultant Psychologist and Head of the NHS Berkshire Traumatic Stress Service. He treats trauma and PTSD at his clinic and writes and speaks internationally on matters of terrorist related trauma.

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After Paris does the world feel more dangerous and do you feel more anxious?

Terrible things do happen.

Terrible things that happen without warning can make you feel more vulnerable and anxious. The media play and replay their footage, with comment and analysis. All of this can have the the effect of making the terrible event seem more likely to happen to you or the people you love. Your brain is genetically tuned to detect threats to you. Indeed it is highly sensitive to any situation that may even turn threatening. So when a threat is perceived but there is no obvious focus for the threat your brain often goes into a worry loop.

If you find that the terrible events in Paris have caused you to be more anxious but you’re not sure why then watch my video. I will explain how worry gets started and why anxiety goes up.

Are you anxious?

 

The link to the next film

About Dr David Purves

Dr David Purves is a Reading based psychologist providing private CBT in Reading, Berkshire. Dr Purves is the clinical Director of The Berkshire psychology service and former Consultant Psychologist and Head of the NHS Berkshire Traumatic Stress Service. He treats trauma and PTSD at his clinic and writes and speaks internationally on matters of terrorist related trauma.

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You can walk away stress

We have all known it for ages but now science is catching up with the evidence that exercise is stress-busting. The Daily Mail reported that walking briskly or jogging really does calm you down by sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses.

exercise can beat stress

You can walk away stress

Exercise has long been thought to be effective for anxiety and depression, but the brain mechanism behind the phenomenon has remained a mystery. Now tests on mice show when they are active, soothing neurons in the brain are triggered. Then when they are then exposed stress they are more calm. You can read the original article by following the link.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2356004/You-CAN-walk-away-stress-Scientists-discover-stroll-soothe-brain.html#ixzz2YY52ZK84

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking part 3

The consequences of faulty thinking

So far in the attacking anxiety and depression: correcting faulty thinking series we’ve looked at how the brain works and thinking develops and how and why your brain makes errors. In part three I’d like to focus on the consequences of faulty thinking – how this affects you.

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Attacking anxiety and depression:  What are the consequences of faulty thinking?

When the short cuts your brain makes go wrong, you are left with the wrong interpretation or understanding of something. Imagine the experience of seeing someone from behind, being convinced it is someone you know.

You tap them on the shoulder and it turns out to be a stranger. That is an example of a short cut error that could be called faulty thinking. In this example you jumped to a conclusion without enough information to be fully sure you knew the person. If this has happened to you there is not likely any harm done, it was a mistake.

Sadly, many human error disasters and accidents can be wholly attributed to short cut errors. The human brain often misjudges the distances between things, miscalculates the speed of something, hears what it expects to hear and interprets something in an habitual way.

In fact it jumps to conclusions,  it sees what it expects to see, it hears what it expects to hear and is imagines things that have not happened. All of these are based on scanty information and the application of rules that are no longer valid.

Sometimes faulty thinking can have catastrophic effects. And the same principles that underlie the faulty thinking in disaster or accident situations also happen in everyday life and can lead to very serious problems;  leaving you dealing with depression and anxiety.

Attacking anxiety and depression:  How faulty thinking creates psychological problems

You are equipped with the ability to be self-critical. Depending upon your life experiences up to this point, your ability to be self critical will be more or less developed. For many people it will be highly developed. But be under no illusion, everyone is critical about themselves to some degree.

If you experience times in your life when you are overloaded, stressed, burdened, confused, tired, unsure or unstable, then your self critical capacity is increased. At the same time your brain is probably working hard to manage the problems you perceive in your life. This is when short cut errors become highly dangerous.

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When your brain makes a shortcut error and the outcome is negative, self destructive, depressing or fear inducing, you may not recognize it as a short cut error. You may accept it as a fact. This increases unpleasant negative emotions and depresses your mood further. Remember: if an error has happened once it is more likely to happen again. The next time your brain makes a short cut error you again accept it as fact. And so this continues until the shortcut error is automatic. You no longer question it.

The process can repeat itself many times with many forms of shortcut error. Your job now is to recognize short cut errors and bring them once again under conscious control; because only by bringing them under conscious control can you rectify them.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking:

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking part 2

Brain Processing Errors

In part one of attacking anxiety and depression: correcting faulty thinking I talked to you a little about how your brain works so that you could understand how thinking develops. In part two I’d like to tell about how and why your brain makes errors and what that means for your mental health.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: How your brain works

Firstly, I should point out that your brain works very well indeed. However, in any system that has to manage the vast amounts of data your brain does, there will always be the possibility of error. The study of brain processing errors is a whole field of research that helps us better understand how the brain works. Many common errors seem to be the result of the brain using an inappropriate short cut. Which means the brain applies a strategy or rules it has used before thereby not having to fully process something. This leads to what we have called shortcut errors.

Attacking anxiety and depression: Brain short cut errors

The real problem with these errors is not so much that errors exist, but that you do not recognise them as errors.
Remember the effect of learning and repetition which we talked about in part one? Well, if an error occurs and it is not recognised it becomes easier to make the same error again; and after 50 errors it is automatic.

Sometimes this really does not matter very much. Suppose you acquired the habit of never eating green vegetables as a child because you mistakenly believed they were poisonous. It is now automatic. You never eat them. It is probably not going to hurt you much.

But suppose you acquired the habit of thinking of yourself as stupid. If you have thought it 50 times or more it is likely to be automatic. Lack of green vegetables will not stop you from achieving your life goals; thinking of yourself as stupid probably will. Both are examples of shortcut errors we have called faulty thinking.

Attacking anxiety and depression: The Muller Lyer Illusion

muller lyer illusion
Look at this picture. It is called a Muller Lyer illusion. Can you decide which of the horizontal lines is the longer, the one on the left or the one on the right?

This illusion is one of many tools that is used to study brain shortcut errors. Actually the horizontal lines are both the same length. But the way the diagonal lines are arranged fools your brain into thinking that the line on the right is shorter and the line on the left is longer. Feel free to measure them with a ruler is you feel the need.

The fact that your brain can make short cut errors may seem strange to you; if so, you can now see why you may have never corrected the errors. The fact is you would not recognise any thought or belief as an error unless you were shown how to see it in the first place. This is what we will do in part three.

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Attacking anxiety and depression: Correcting faulty thinking:

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No one is immune from depression

A long line of objectively successful people have succumbed to low mood. The latest is actress Shobna Gulati who yesterday revealed she quit Coronation Street because of her battle with depression.

She’s not alone. There have been many articles in the press over the last year featuring celebrities such as Frankie Sandford and Helen Flanagan  talking about their experiences with depression and anxiety problems.

  • At Christmas, actress, Helen Flanagan told a national newspaper that she had considered killing herself in a car crash on the way to the Coronation Street studios.
  • And just last year, Singer, Frankie Sandford spoke to Glamour magazine about her battle with negative thoughts and panic attacks, which escalated, leading to her being hospitalised.

Depression destroys lives and no one is immune.

There are approximately 121,000,000 people suffering from depression throughout the world.

What causes depression?

Depression is often caused by a nagging fear that failure is only around the corner. No matter how much success is achieved the person cannot shake off this fear.

At its heart low self esteem is based on the false belief that you are not good enough. Not simply not good enough in what you do, that would be a lot more manageable. No, the belief that you are not good enough as a person. You are unworthy and maybe even unlovable.

If you achieve success it is only through luck and you expect to be found out and exposed for what you believe you really are at any moment. A part of you cannot believe you have not been seen as the fraud you feel you are.

Battling depression in the public eye

If you are at all in the public eye and anyone makes a derogatory comment about you it can be crushing. While in reality it is just a throw away comment by a viewer or follower it can seem like they have somehow seen into your soul and discerned the truth. If they can see it then surely everyone else can also see it. And yet they seem not to.

The tension of waiting to be exposed and your inner feelings seen by all is very tiring. This can cause a stress that swings you from hoping you may actually be okay as you are to truly believing the most horrible and negative things you can imagine about yourself.

Often in the end it seems easier and a lot less trouble to just walk away. That way you have the relief of knowing that the imminent danger of exposure is further back and therefore more manageable. But it can make it harder to re-engage again because staying at home with the curtains shut feels a lot safer. As we age it feels like taking the ‘chance’ of exposure again has too high a price tag.

Anxiety and Depression Treatment

Sometimes counselling is not enough. What is needed is a CBT Therapy that challenges and changes the distorted and inaccurate negative beliefs we all hold but which sometimes seem to ruin our experiences.

Cognitive Behavioural  Therapy (CBT therapy) is put forward by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the psychological treatment of choice for mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Recovery rates from CBT therapy are impressive with up to 70% of sufferers achieving significant clinical gains over the course of a treatment program for both depression and anxiety.

Mood Control CBT System

When you have anxiety problems or depression you may want anxiety therapy or depression treatment immediately, in your own home.

This is why I created, the Mood Control CBT System which is an affordable membership program which delivers the full  personalised CBT therapy experience straight to you in your home via the internet on your personal Mood Control dashboard. Learn more.

 

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Ever wondered ‘how long will I live?’

Will you live to be 100?

Live-to-be-100Have you ever wondered, ‘how long will I live?’ We all have an attraction to the idea that maybe there is a way to see into the future and even to control the future to some extent. One thing is for sure, we are all living longer and as such are going to have more future about which to speculate. Have you thought about living to a hundred?

When you think about how long you can live you’ll realise that living to 100 is not ‘off the wall’ anymore. Many people will do it, maybe even you. Women live longer than men which is nice for them. But we are all likely to live longer than our ancestors, though quantity isn’t everything, there has to be quality of life as well. In fact, in the end, quality might be the most important element. If you are keen to know,’how long will I live’ and find the thought of living to 100 intriguing, then download the attached report and see your probability of living to 100.

I couldn’t resist finding out the answer to ‘how long will I live?’

I was fascinated to see my likelihood of living to be 100. It is about 10% but if you look at the numbers of people living to be 100 it is increasing a very great deal. By the time I get there it is estimated that there will be over 200,000 women at 100 and about 100,000 men. That is a massive increase of today’s rate.

When you think you want to live a long life remember living a long time is not the only concern…it is how you live.

I often make a distinction between destination and journey. You may have a lot more years but you also want them to contribute to a satisfying and enjoyable journey towards 100.

Taking responsibility for your journey

The truth is we cannot know the answer to the question, ‘how long will I live’ nor can we know what will happen to us on our journey. But that does not prevent us from taking what control we can over aspects of our journey. Every day is full of choices and the way we choose them determines our path.

A few years ago a user of the Blues Begone program said… ‘it is amazing I realized that you are only as depressed as your last thought.’  This is an empowering idea because it reveals some of the profound truth behind CBT therapy, when you change the way you think about yourself then you can change your life trajectory.

It is self evident that you have the potential to have more control over your internal world, if you know how to get it and exercise it. And yet anxiety problems and depression problems, which are both very common reveal a loss of psychological control. So, following this theme of taking what control you can how might we have an enjoyable and meaningful life journey?

Look after your mental health

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As a psychologist this is my primary concern. Without good mood then everything else seems much less valuable. Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are very common and yet they are also very treatable. There are various treatment options available but in general I favour those that create a greater knowledge and sense of control over the whole process. Which is why CBT therapy is my favoured approach for helping people to have a good quality of life, it directly focuses on those profound elements that deliver meaningful life.

Meaning in life

Curiously it is not entirely clear if there is a particular type of thought that shortens your life. You might think catastrophic thoughts or worrying thoughts could potentially shorten you life as they create stress and spoil your present moment. However I am not at all sure the data supports this viewpoint. What does seem to be important is creating and maintaining a sense of meaning in life. It does not seem to matter how you do it but strive to find life a meaningful endeavour. The loss of meaning that accompanies depression is therefore problematic. And this is probably why depression can be a life shortening disorder.

Humans come into this life pre-programmed to find meaning in life. We seek it out and we create it from the things we see and do. If you find yourself without meaning in life then this is likely to be a consequence of some faulty thought processes and can be addressed and worked with. Depression treatment, especially in CBT therapy has powerful tools for doing this (for more information see The Mood Control System.

Excessive fearfulness always seen in anxiety problems can also be adequately treated by a comprehensive anxiety therapy (to start you off you’ll want to watch my film, What is anxiety? How does it affect you? below:

Psychological research has put a lot of resources into figuring out how to be happy and live a worthwhile life. Here are some of the things we know for sure.

Do work you find meaningful

(Bear in mind that no one ever lay on their deathbed and said ‘I wish I had worked harder’)

Make an effort to derive meaning and purpose from your work. If at all possible enjoy what you do, This usually follows from taking a sense of satisfaction from the work. However what it really means is to take a certain amount of responsibility for what you do. It is possible you work in a horrible job that you hate. But this is not conducive to a long and happy life. It is stressful and fills your days with time spent in an environment you dislike. Therefore change it. If necessary invest in yourself and your education or skills to enable to you do something you really find fulfilling. There are many careers in the world that people find engaging and life enhancing, or at the very least interesting and stimulating. These surely are the goals of a working life. But only you can take the necessary steps to ensure it happens. So be responsible for you working life.

A bit of my story

When I was a teenager I took my first job which was an apprenticeship, in a heavy industry. I really disliked the job but what I disliked even more was the sense that the management was responsible for everything and the worker was there to do as much as possible for as little as possible. This was a perspective that both disempowered the worker but also made it hard for people to develop their skills and expertise; although many did, but it made it hard to enjoy the process of being expert and knowledgeable. In essence I don’t think it matters too much what you do but make sure you gain some satisfaction and a sense of mastery from it.

Stay as fit as practical but don’t overdo it!

First things first. A lot of exercise can be bad for you!

I have spoken about studies in the past that have documented the beneficial effects of moderate exercise on longevity. The days of most of us doing manual jobs are gone and if you, like me sit down for most of the day then you like me have a problem. The trouble for me is that what we call exercise now is institutionalized. We use gyms and have workouts when perhaps what we need to do is to incorporate exercise into our daily lives. Walking as much as possible and using our muscles as much as we can within the environment in which we live. In the UK gardening is a great fair weather exercise and combines both movement and interest so it is fantastic.

Find things you can do that are interesting to you as opposed to simply being exercise. Surely if you can engage in a hobby activity that is also exercising then so much the better. The fact is that the alternative of not staying as fit as practical is you lose some of your longevity but as with all things in life moderation is the key. If you enjoy hard exercise like marathons then good for you. But if you’re concerned with the question, ‘how long will I live,’ they will not lengthen your life and may even cause you longer term problems.

Relationships are important

People usually say that the most important things in their lives are relationships with others. We are social animals and what we value is the quality of the time spent with people who mean something to us. If you think about what makes an experience meaningful to you it is likely to be the sense of emotion you get from it. A film that engages your emotions is much more easily remembered than one that does not. The same is true for relationships and the experiences we have when in relationships.

Relationships are the most meaningful processes we have and they enrich our lives. Of course they have to be decent relationships to do that. We don’t want massively stressful ones or ones that are burdensome to us. Therefore following the theme to taking responsibility for our lives see what you can you do today to make your relationship deeper and richer. And if you don’t have one put some effort in engaging another human being in a conversation that is meaningful (not just greetings and stock phrases.)

There is also one important relationship we must not overlook. It is the relationship you have with yourself. Many clients I have seen over the years have been very conflicted within themselves. They may hold two or more positions about what they think about themselves, the world and even their own future. They are both highly competent and yet very self critical causing a lot of anger and internal conflict. If you experience this it is often a precursor to symptoms of depression and anxiety but is entirely amenable to a comprehensive depression treatment or anxiety therapy such as CBT therapy so while it may feel impossible to resolve it’s actually very resolvable. 

Every day you can make choices that change the trajectory of your life’s journey for the better. This is empowering information but only if you take the choices that are presented almost every moment of every day. Taking more control of your life is simply about seeing what is already there and making informed choices rather than letting chance determine what happens next.

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