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OCD? Addiction? Fear? Lockdown Nightmares? Your Questions Answered.

Updated: May 31, 2020

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I would like to share my knowledge so we can reduce fear and stigma around mental health issues. Mental illness is how someone has developed their emotional resources they have in dealing with a lack of safety growing up and a response to life events. Working with clients, I do not call them patients or diagnose - I believe people have creatively adjusted to their environment in order to survive. I emphasise to clients they are the expert on their lives as they have an internal wisdom and are aware that their armor of defenses has become quite heavy to carry. Coming to therapy assists with increasing a sense of belonging, expanding potential and looking at unfinished business. Lets look at some of the questions that have been raised during this heightened period of uncertainty:

Feel anxious- is it your anxiety or theirs? Clients who are anxious often have developed creative ways to self-regulate their emotions. If they feel uneasy or unable to relax they will invest in behaviours like frequent cleaning, checking doors or constantly being busy. Intense anxiety can result in O.C.D. and this will be exacerbated by the recent pandemic. O.C.D is a way to soothe difficult feelings of dread and reduce constant punishing self-talk. Vivid dreams is related to anxiety and can be symbolic metaphors to what is not being attended to. Nightmares are a normal response to trauma, the brain simply trying to process what has happened. Jot down feelings and see if there are any reoccurring themes, during the day think how the dream could have a positive ending and keep playing in your mind - during the day, a positive ending, one where you are in charge. Struggling to sleep? Write a list of all the things you check or wash and see if you can challenge yourself to reduce the list by 1 item? Download guided meditation apps / audible book. Create self-care rituals that focus on soothing and switching off the internal self critic. Do you feel compounded by feelings of guilt for putting your feet up? Can you learn to relax more? Remember your self-worth is not based on your productivity.

Living in Lockdown with someone who is paranoid or fearful? My tip here would be not to mention the pandemic, do not ask how are you, have you watched the news or mention the 'C - Word'. The reasoning for this is they are already quite anxious, the skill here is to immerse yourself in their world, ask more questions that start with how not why? Anxious people will have a routine or have objects that they find comforting; for some it maybe cleaning the kitchen top to bottom a few times in a day or hoarding items. Try to be in place of the observer and maintain an open curiosity and not judgement. Hoarders' items will hold emotional attachment and during this time they will find reassuring. If you are feeling anxious or stressed - where can you get a break or privacy? Look at forums where you gain knowledge and connect to others who are in similar situations.

Drinking more, investing more time in porn, food, gambling or drugs at home? The Lockdown is placing people in extraordinary situations. The Government symbolised as the authority is restricting our freedom, no wonder people want to rebel or escape. Addiction is misunderstood or judged as a lack of self control or will power. Addiction is a powerful brain chemical response to coping with difficult feelings that stem from underlying childhood trauma or unfinished business. The brain science behind addiction is compelling. Paula Hall describes clients who have sex addiction that their brain arousal levels will increase by seeing a chair and a desktop computer. As brain anticipates the dopamine level about to arrive as because this is where they view hours of porn. One common misconception is that therapy demands removing substances or abstinence - it would be terrifying to remove the coping mechanism that a person relies on and going cold turkey. Addiction is complex and by understanding the triggers, brain science and looking at unmet needs enables the road to recovery. If you need support - Google AA/ Eventbrite / Meet Up to see if there is a suitable online therapy group or have a look at this short video by Mandy Saligari on Addiction

How come everyone else is coping and I'm not? The compare and despair is universal to everyone, how quickly we can make a narrative about someone's life. Mix that in with feelings of insecurity e.g competition, envy and not feeling good enough and you can spiral into creating all sorts of narratives and acting out dynamics - Stop! This is the ego mindlessly carrying on. Remember you are only seeing one bit of their day or what that person chooses to present to you or what you choose to see. Slow it down, am I attaching a narrative? A feeling? Is it true? For more understanding on projections and ego work check out Byron Katie.

Feeling like a stuck teenager at home during Lockdown? As the pandemic initially unfolded it was interesting to note people moving back in with their families. At first seeking comfort, space and a sense of needing to be together with family has resulted in relationship dynamics being strained or in conflict. Many people are living in oppressive home environments, couples who are separated, adults moving back in with parents? The Lockdown is like the whole nation being ''grounded'' restricted play and no socialising, it is easy to see why our inner teenager emerges looking to rebel by potentially break the rules? Feeling triggered and establishing boundaries around limited physical space is bound to cause irritation and upset. Often the inner child will look to the parent to reassure, give love or validation. It is traumatising when you keep looking to your family of origin to meet your needs and because of how they were parented are unable to. The ancestral baggage is heavy, emotional wounds tender and lack of privacy leads to growing feelings of desperation, bubbling anger or suicide ideation. Start thinking practically where you can get space; connect to friends, see if you can go for social distancing walk, can you volunteer somewhere so you have space from home? Can you house sit for people who are not in their properties? Feeling suicidal check the Samaritans.website for more support.

I am really worried about money, job security and in debt: Do not suffer in silence, there can be shame around money issues as it is a taboo topic. Money management was not taught in schools and can be a source of immense distress. Research your options and reduce the power out of worrying by being practical talk to banks, debt advisors, local accountants and have a look at Martin Lewis' website and call Turn2Us for access to welfare benefits or charitable grants. Remember you are not alone.

For more information or to book in a session email me : umaa.counsellor@gmail.com

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