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Archive for the ‘Anxiety/Fears’ Category

This research sparked a big response on a group I belong to and how so many of our children who have an eating disorder, are also double jointed and flexible.It may be something my readers also relate to and recognise in their children or themselves.

It’s an interesting concept and one that further research would be good to continue. Unfortunately they didn’t link to the actual research papers, but the news post is available on Scientific American.

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Joint flexibility is an oft-coveted trait that provides a special advantage to dancers and athletes, but there can be too much of this good thing. A growing body of research suggests a surprising link between high levels of flexibility and anxiety. A study published last year in the journal Frontiers in Psychology is among the most recent to confirm the association, finding that people with hypermobile joints have heightened brain activity in anxiety regions.

Joint hypermobility, which affects approximately 20 percent of the population, confers an unusually large range of motion. Hypermobile people can often, for instance, touch their thumb to their inner forearm or place their hands flat on the floor without bending their knees. The trait appears to be genetic and is a result of variation in collagen, the main structural protein of connective tissue.

Being double-jointed has long been linked with an increased risk for asthma and irritable bowel syndrome, among other physical disorders. “Joint hypermobility has an impact on the whole body and not just joints,” says Jessica Eccles, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Sussex in England. It was only a matter of time before scientists also looked at whether joint hypermobility was linked to mental disorders. The investigation began in 1993 and heated up in 1998 when researcher Rocío Martín-Santos, now at the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona, and her colleagues discovered that patients with anxiety were 16 times more likely to have lax joints. Their findings have since been replicated numerous times in large populations.

A 2012 brain-imaging study conducted by Eccles and her colleagues found that individuals with joint hypermobility had a bigger amygdala, a part of the brain that is essential to processing emotion, especially fear. In the 2014 study, which was conducted by Eccles and her associates in collaboration with researchers from Spain, hypermobile participants displayed heightened neural reactivity to sad and angry scenes in brain regions implicated in anxiety. Researchers have also linked the condition with increased consumption of chocolate, tobacco and alcohol—items that are often used in an attempt to self-medicate anxiety.

Joint hypermobility may also be associated with an exaggerated fight-or-flight reaction. Eccles and her colleagues recently found support for this idea in a study of 400 psychiatric patients. They uncovered a simple yet powerful mechanism behind the link: the collagen abnormalities that make joints especially flexible seem to affect blood vessels, making patients prone to an accumulation of blood in the veins of the legs. This pooling may lead to exaggerated cardiovascular responses to maintain the output of blood from the heart. When the heart has to work extra hard just to circulate blood, it brings the entire body to the verge of a fight-or-flight reaction, requiring very little to set off panic.

Eccles hypothesizes that these patients might benefit in particular from beta blockers, drugs that ease anxiety by reducing symptoms of the body’s fight-or-flight response. She hopes that future studies will investigate such targeted treatments for double-jointed people. In the meantime, the findings are an important reminder for clinicians to consider the possibility that a patient’s mental disorder could have purely physical origins.

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negative thoughts and behavioursOften we post lots of information about ‘positive’ signs and skills. After all part of recovery is learning to focus on the positive. But what about the negative, how do you recognise negative coping skills. How do you know that the behaviours you are doing are actually harming you or not promoting recovery. We live inside our heads so much that often negative process are so natural as breathing we think this is normal. Continuing negative behaviours can act as triggers for relapse or harming ourselves even more.

As part of a bigger post, I found a great list of negative behaviours and recognising them as such. Put together by Blake Flannery it is an excellent starting point. You can add your own unique negative behaviours to the list. The full article by Blake ‘List of Coping Skills for Anger, Anxiety and Depression’, also gives a lot of positive skills and how they actually help us by adopting them.

Being aware is the starting point for changing any behaviour.

Negative Coping Skills

Here’s a list of things that will cost you in the long run as coping strategies. These do more harm than good in most cases and can make life more stressful.

Diversions

  1. Procrastination
  2. Abusing drugs or alcohol
  3. Wasting time on unimportant tasks
  4. Shopping (online or malls)

Interpersonal (With Others)

  1. Blaming
  2. Isolating/withdrawing
  3. Mean or hostile joking
  4. Gossiping
  5. Criticizing others
  6. Manipulating others
  7. Refusing help from others
  8. Lying to others
  9. Sabotaging plans
  10. Being late to appointments
  11. Provoking violence from others
  12. Enabling others to take advantage of you

Cognitive (of the Mind)

  1. Denying any problem
  2. Stubbornness/inflexibility
  3. All or nothing/black or white thinking
  4. Catastrophizing
  5. Overgeneralizing

Tension Releasers

  1. Tantrums
  2. Throwing things at people
  3. Hitting people
  4. Yelling at others
  5. Destroying property
  6. Speeding or driving recklessly

Physical

  1. Suicide
  2. Self harm
  3. Developing illnesses

Intrapersonal

  1. Making fun of yourself
  2. Self-sabotaging behaviors
  3. Blaming yourself

Indulging

  1. Spending too much
  2. Gambling
  3. Eating/drinking too much
  4. Setting dangerous fires
  5. Continually crying

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Many therapists use the term ‘Distraction Toolbox’ for recovery strategies. I have written before out this too and what Sophie used as her distraction toolbox. Basically the idea is to use healthy and positive means of taking the attention from eating, or ED thoughts, negativity etc that drag you down into ED behaviour or worse, relapse. Learning to block ED thoughts and behaviours, automatic thoughts, anxieties, fears, black/white thinking is critical to recovery and moving forward.

The below is a visual idea that makes it clear and easy to imprint your mind. Sophie’s biggest problem was trying to remember her tools to use when the ED voice was really loud. She would get distressed and her mind would go blank. So visual for her worked in clearing some of the ‘noise’ and helped her focus.

Thanks to Buzznet and ‘Forbidden’ Blog.

Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 1
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 2
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 3
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 4
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 5
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 6
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 7
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 8
Let's make a Coping Skills Toolbox photo 9

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Lost count of how many gratitude lists I have done on the site. Sometimes you really need them and then you roll along for a while in what other people take for granted as normal life. I NEED this today. My thoughts are scattered and not focussing very well and much has to be done. Sophie is great, Will is not. And that’s about all I will say at this stage, apart from the heart felt cry of ‘how do you keep an 18 year old safe’ until he is able to engage with therapy.

1.  My son is alive

2. Autumn is the most beautiful season

3. I loaded the dishwasher and fed the cats (actually no, my partner fed the cats, damn)

4. There are people around who really care at a grass root level

5.  We had a friend come to the house and turn off the stove, because we had to bolt to find Will

6.  God has a definite plan for Will – he is not letting him slip away

7.  Never never fear police involvement. They go above and beyond the call of duty.

8. I am functioning (enough) and got dressed today.

9.  God is good. So very good.

My son is alive.

gratitude list

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This comes back to my previous post about teenage suicide. An article in the Sunday Telegraph recently about the increasing incidents of teenagers presenting to emergency departments with over dose of paracetamol brings the attention to the fact today’s teenagers are ‘spur of moment’ kids. There is not a lot of planning involved in most cases and they know just enough to be a serious danger to themselves with their attempts. Unfortunately some of these end up being fatal. Based on my experience and the experience of others, the warning signs for suicide on mental health websites are not adequate. You cannot tell in most cases if your child is high risk based on the ‘symptoms’ the sites give. Even knowing your teenage suffers from depression and/or anxiety is not enough to know what is really happening ‘behind the scenes’ and they don’t ‘adhere’ to the signs below.

Being on suicide watch for your child (and having a team around them), does not always give you the insight or knowledge when suicide is imminent or planned. 

Taking each warning, my comments are in italics.

Are There Warning Signs of Suicide?

Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:

  • Always talking or thinking about death
    They don’t. They keep that to themselves very deeply if they serious about suicide. If they talk, statistics say they are not usually serious about suicide. Total confliction here.
  • Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that gets worse
    They still eat, sleep, take a shower, get dressed, go out, go to school, socialise despite wanting/planning to commit suicide.
  • Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
    This is about the only thing that is true, they can do high risk behaviour.
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
    Still make daily, weekly plans, buy things to use, go on living
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
    Not a word if they are serious about suicide, or are very depressed.
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
    Teenagers don’t have wills. The majority don’t tie up their affairs.
  • Saying things like “it would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
    Again, they rarely say anything. The above comments usually come out in a fit of anger and are more related to ‘heat of the moment’ comments.
  • Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
    Yes they can do this one.
  • Talking about suicide or killing one’s self
    Don’t you get it, they don’t talk about it to anyone. Because someone might stop them.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
    That would mean planning which doesn’t take into account impulse behaviour. They rarely write a note of goodbye either. Teenagers are not mature adults who do deal with ties to the world.

Physical changes

  • Major changes to sleeping patterns; change in energy; lack of interest in personal hygiene; change in eating habits; weight loss/gain
    Doesn’t mean suicide and often is the same as before. Depression or anxiety can do this alone.
  • Increase in minor illnesses
    Seriously?!

Behaviours

  • Alcohol or drug misuse – MAYBE
  • Fighting and/or breaking the law – MAYBE
  • Withdrawal from family and friends – MAYBE
  • Quitting activities that were previously important – NO they don’t always drop out of activities.
  • Prior suicidal behaviour – YES
  • Self-harming – NO (self harm is not a sign of suicide. Statistics prove that one over and over).
  • Putting affairs in order e.g. giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance for the person – NO teenagers don’t normally do this.
  • Writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people – NO, same as above.
  • Uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness (e.g. driving recklessly) – YES
  • Unexplained crying – MAYBE
  • Emotional outbursts – MAYBE

For a parent who is trying to ascertain if their child is a risk, the above lists are almost next to useless as a guide.The sites with their warnings are aimed at adults, not teenagers. Even teenage sites don’t cover enough of high risk, impulse behaviour and don’t talk about kids still doing normal, everyday things despite having plans to commit suicide. Teenagers don’t have the ties  to this world in the same way as adults. With high risk behaviour, impulse often rules the day. What can be relied upon, is if your child has tried before, then they are a risk – a high risk. People don’t curl up in a ball, check out of daily living and give clear indication that they are a suicide risk. If your lucky as a parent, your child may talk to a close friend and the friend will contact you as a tip off.

As a parent you may have to make a decision to get help and decide when and how to do it if your child’s doctor is away or the child is too old and strong to put in your car and drive them to get help. When it comes to our kids, any behaviour is suspect – even normal common place stuff.

What does help and these people are fantastic, are the emergency mental health call lines. Not Lifeline or HeadSpace in an emergency. You can be left holding for ages waiting for someone to just answer the phone. As a parent or carer needing emergency feedback, this only heightens both frustration and fear. The emergency mental health line in each state in Australia is fantastic. Answer straight away, put you through to highly trained staff who DO understand teenage suicide risk and don’t use the lists above as their guide. They do act immediately and continue to act well after the event.

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Hope you all had a lovely Christmas with your families and friends. Granted this time of year can be an utter minefield of surviving the family and meals – and that’s just those of us who are healthy! Whatever the day brought I hope you came through in one piece.

It’s update time on how my two are going – thanks for the reminders all. It has been quite a while since I did this. lol, just realised too how out of date my Tumblr profile was, so have updated that too.

Soph, despite the weight loss, is really good. My fears of her being perhaps compromised by the anorexic voice are so far unfounded. She eats widely and varied, flexible and with seemingly no barriers. Her weight loss comes from actually doing some activity instead of sitting in her room on her computer, 24/7, lol. Through all the refeeding, weight stabilisation and long term monitoring with no exercise her body hadn’t ‘repositioned’ the gained weight. Now it has. Normal activity, like walking, has put her right where her body needs to be and the ‘fluffy weight’ is now fully distributed. Her body stores would also be complete. What is now important is for her to not let go of the therapy net around her and continue to monitor and be vigilant about her health. She has a new psychologist for next year, who specialises in ED’s and is on the medicare funding – great for uni students. This combined with the normal uni counsellor (who focuses on Sophie’s personality and emotions) should help her through. LOL, though I think total breakdown towards the end of each semester is on the cards, with mum as first point of call.

Will, is ok. Look really don’t know what else to say. He is surviving and getting through each day. Has dropped out of school (read frustrated mama), but does have goals. As he said, “it still hurts and nothing has changed that way, but I do have goals now”. To me that is huge and maybe he will be alright. As for the new psychiatrist grrrr. Enough time to oversee medication, hand over a new script and ‘see you in two months time’. Oh and sorry this appointment is only for 1/2 hr. Only special asking will get you more time with me!! Seriously!

And there you have it. This last post of this year, compared to my others done at this time of year, is the most positive we have had. 🙂

Thank you to all for the emails of telling me your stories, of where you are, of what it means to live with the eating disorder in your life or your child’s life. Thank you for being part of my world and letting me share in a small part of yours. It is indeed a privilege. To all may the New Year bring you hope, may change happen in a positive way and there is movement forward. xx

Finding hope

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feelings and anorexiaThere is a blog doing the rounds at the moment of how it is to feel during an eating disorder, particularly anorexia. It is a haunting read. Many of us, either parents/carers or sufferers relate to every feeling. It highlights where we are or have been. We can shout, YES! we agree with all of that.

But we need to balance out what is the need for validation and the need for truth. Every story about living and surviving, or living and still struggling with an eating disorders needs validation. They are your personal journey, your personal thoughts and feelings. Validation is essential, otherwise it takes away your value as a person. It makes your journey a real one. It also helps those of us who don’t suffer with an ED to understand what is going on in the mind of someone who does. It helps those who suffer to know they are not alone nor in some weird, hateful universe of their own making.

The truth of these feelings though is what is needs to be understood. In the depth of the grip of an eating disorder (particularly anorexia), the mind is totally in the control of the ED. It is manipulated, distorted and controlled. Normal perceptions, thoughts and feelings are not happening. What you think and feel is based solely upon the eating disorder and not based in truth or reality. The ED distorts reality, life, decisions and perceptions so badly that your feelings get mixed into this mess as well. It may seem like truth, that this is all there is and it is real. But once you are on the other side, into recovery or recovered, you can see these feelings were not based on truth. Life is not like that, the people around you are not like that, you are not like that.

All mental health illnesses distort our perceptions and govern our thoughts and feelings. When I am severely depressed I know I think all sorts of weird, paranoid, self-inflicting thoughts. I feel many things but none of them based on the reality around me. It’s when I am back in safer lands that I realise that those feelings were not true nor indicative of what was happening to me or around me. My daughter used to think and feel like this current highlighted blog post, but she will tell you now that she knows those feelings to be just about all false. That it was the anorexia that coloured everything and gave her those dreadful feelings.

A good therapist will hear your feelings and validate them. They will allow you to identify and explore your feelings.

A better therapist will THEN point out the ED behaviour and teach you to separate yourself from the negative and distorted feelings.

Our whole team based their care of my daughter on this. They called each anorexic thought, feelings and behaviour into the open and pointed out how false and wrong they were. Without taking away my daughter’s need to be heard or validated.

She never felt she had to apologise for her feelings or she was wrong for feeling them. She did learn that the anorexia had given her thoughts and feelings that were not true about herself and life around her. She learnt to counter each negative feeling with a positive one.

When writing our stories, we need to be mindful that we show that these feelings are only for here and now in the grip of the illness. We need to put forward what happens after therapy and into recovery, that our feelings change and we see things for more differently as the ED loses it’s grips. We need to ensure that our stories are not ‘blanket’ approaches, one size fits all. Above all we need to share that hope lives and that the negative, destructiveness of an eating disorder does not last.

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