What Does an Anxiety Disorder Feel Like? Here Are 4 Signs You May Have a Problem

If 2.6 billion people were suffering from an illness, you’d think we’d all be more familiar with it. That figure represents 33.7% of the population of the world, after all. It also represents the share of that population that will at some point experience an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For those billions, the experience of clinical anxiety can range from a persistent fretfulness, distractedness and a sort of whole-body clenching, to the paralytic crisis of a full-blown panic attack. All of it feels lousy; all of it is a state you race to escape — which typically only makes it worse. But all of it, happily, is diagnosable, controllable and ultimately treatable. The key is recognizing if your anxiety rises to the level of a clinical condition, and if it does, what to do about it.

Anxiety may, by definition, feel bad, but that doesn’t mean it therefore is bad. It’s a menacing world out there, and your brain needs a way to grab your attention when you’re stumbling into danger. The job of doing that is actually handled by two brain regions: the amygdala, situated deep in the brain’s basement, and the higher, more complex cerebral cortex.

As befits its humble location, the amygdala processes very basic emotions — fear, anger, guilt, envy — and handles them quickly and unthinkingly. The fear you experience from a menacing stranger and the fear you experience from a scary movie set off the same amygdala alarms, and do it within 20 milliseconds — a very good thing if the danger is real. The job of determining whether it is or not goes to the cerebral cortex, which sorts things through more coolly and either responds to the threat or shuts down the siren the amygdala has set off.

Sometimes, however, the alarm gets stuck. The cerebral cortex can get flummoxed trying to sort real risks from exaggerated ones: Doorknobs do carry germs, so how do you know the one you touched didn’t have something deadly? People do suffer social humiliation at parties or while giving speeches; how do you know you won’t be one of them?

The most common recognized anxiety disorders include general anxiety disorder, agoraphobia (or fear of being in public situations you can’t escape), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and separation anxiety disorder. There is no blood test or brain scan that can conclusively diagnose any of them, but here are four signs that may point to trouble.

You have a high level of distress

Anxiety is a question of degree. It’s one thing to be jittery before an important test or presentation or to worry about your health when an epidemic is in the news. And if you have a particular sensitivity — flying, dentists, working the room at a crowded party — you’re going to be tense as one of those situations approaches. If the tension consumes your day, however, if it crowds out other thoughts or if the psychic pain goes from troubling to severe, that’s another matter.

“Anxiety will prevent people from sleeping; they’ll find themselves crying over it,” says psychologist Golda Ginsburg, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and a specialist in child and adolescent mental health. “There are students who will vomit in the days leading up to a test.”

In some cases, the emotions become so severe they lead to a panic attack, a sort of weaponized anxiety that hits fast and hard and includes such symptoms as dizziness, rapid heart rate, depersonalization or out-of-body experience and a fear of losing control or dying. “If you suddenly have to slam on your brakes and swerve to avoid a collision, that pounding heart and rapid breath you feel for a few minutes after is a form of panic attack,” says psychologist Anne Marie Albano, director of Columbia University’s Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. “In the context of a disorder, however, you might start to feel the same thing the moment you walk into the office or a party.”

Your panic is persistent

An anxious brain, like a non-anxious brain, is always learning. But the anxious brain sometimes learns the wrong things and has an awfully hard time unlearning them. Once you’ve decided that people at parties are probably judging you, your brain may lock that lesson in and pretty soon generalize it to any social encounter. Ditto an obsessive-compulsive fear of disease or a panic over separation or loss. Sometimes, especially in the case of OCD, it takes just a single traumatic event — a genuinely embarrassing social moment, say, or a legitimate medical scare — for the brain to establish a fixed fear. Left untreated, those anxieties can go on for months and years.

You avoid things because of your fears

We all avoid things we fear or dislike: you could go your whole life without roller coasters or cilantro or horror movies. But they don’t really affect your life. Anxieties start to strip away the things that do. “You may dread getting a medical test because of what you could learn,” says Albano. “But if you’re avoiding going to your doctor at all because of it, that’s a problem.”

People with an airplane phobia may, similarly, limit their travel to only places they can drive. People with big dreams may sometimes settle for smaller ones because their anxiety holds them back. “I know people who went to law school and wanted to pursue a career in criminal law but were afraid to be in front of a courtroom,” says Albano. “So they push documents in a law firm instead.”

Your worries interfere with your day-to-day life

Ultimately, an anxiety disorder may become so severe that the basic business of living becomes compromised. People suffering from OCD may need hours to get out of the house in the morning because the pillows on the bed aren’t arranged properly. Schoolwork and job performance may suffer because perfectionism makes it impossible to complete a project or because social anxiety makes it impossible to talk to classmates or colleagues. Things become worse when emotional symptoms lead to physical ones such as headaches, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. “The question I ask first is, ‘Is your anxiety impairing your functioning?’” says Goldberg.

Anxiety responds well to professional care. Treatment may include psychotropic medications like Zoloft or Prozac, which can at least lower the voltage of the pain. That may make it easier to embrace and practice the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, in which people learn to talk back to their anxiety, reframe their fears to something less extreme, and practice self-soothing techniques like mindfulness or distraction or breathing. Slow, graduated exposure to the very things people fear also helps the brain break the link between the trigger situation and the terror that follows.

No one can live a life untouched by anxiety. But with the right skills and the right help, no one needs to live one that is destroyed by it, either.

The fear of losing control and its role in anxiety disorders | EurekAlert!

Did you lock the front door? Did you double-check? Are you sure?

If this sounds familiar, perhaps you can relate to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Help may be on the way. New Concordia research sheds light on how the fear of losing control over thoughts and actions impacts OCD-related behaviour, including checking.

Although more traditional types of fear — think snakes, spiders, dogs, etc. — have been well investigated, this is one of the few studies to focus primarily on the fear of losing control.

“We’ve shown that people who believe they’re going to lose control are significantly more likely to exhibit checking behaviour with greater frequency,” says Adam Radomsky, a psychology researcher in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

“So, when we treat OCD in the clinic, we can try to reduce their beliefs about losing control and that should reduce their symptoms.”

The study

Radomsky’s findings were published this October in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, co-authored with PhD student Jean-Philippe Gagné.

It’s the first in a series of related projects Radomsky is undertaking, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

“The 133 undergraduate students who participated were given bogus EEGs. They were randomly assigned false feedback that they were either at low or high risk of losing control over their thoughts and actions,” explains Radomsky, Concordia University Research Chair in Anxiety and Related Disorders.

Next, participants were given a computerized task — trying to control the flow of images on a screen by using a sequence of key commands. At any time, they could push the space bar to check or confirm the key sequence.

Those who were led to believe that their risk of losing control was higher engaged in far more checking than those who were led to believe that the risk was low.

‘Something we can treat’

Surprisingly, the students who participated in the study did not self-identify as having OCD.

“If you can show that by leading people to believe they might be at risk of losing control, symptoms start to show themselves, then it can tell us something about what might be behind those symptoms in people who do struggle with the problem,” Radomsky says.

“This gives us something we can try to treat.”

The findings were consistent with what he and Gagné expected.

“We hypothesize that people’s fears and beliefs about losing control may put them at risk for a range of problems, including panic disorder, social phobia, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and others,” Radomsky adds.

“This work has the potential to vastly improve our ability to understand and treat the full range of anxiety-related problems.”

###

What Does an Anxiety Disorder Feel Like? 4 Common Symptoms …

If 2.6 billion people were suffering from an illness, you’d think we’d all be more familiar with it. That figure represents 33.7% of the population of the world, after all. It also represents the share of that population that will at some point experience an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For those billions, the experience of clinical anxiety can range from a persistent fretfulness, distractedness and a sort of whole-body clenching, to the paralytic crisis of a full-blown panic attack. All of it feels lousy; all of it is a state you race to escape — which typically only makes it worse. But all of it, happily, is diagnosable, controllable and ultimately treatable. The key is recognizing if your anxiety rises to the level of a clinical condition, and if it does, what to do about it.

Anxiety may, by definition, feel bad, but that doesn’t mean it therefore is bad. It’s a menacing world out there, and your brain needs a way to grab your attention when you’re stumbling into danger. The job of doing that is actually handled by two brain regions: the amygdala, situated deep in the brain’s basement, and the higher, more complex cerebral cortex.

As befits its humble location, the amygdala processes very basic emotions — fear, anger, guilt, envy — and handles them quickly and unthinkingly. The fear you experience from a menacing stranger and the fear you experience from a scary movie set off the same amygdala alarms, and do it within 20 milliseconds — a very good thing if the danger is real. The job of determining whether it is or not goes to the cerebral cortex, which sorts things through more coolly and either responds to the threat or shuts down the siren the amygdala has set off.

Sometimes, however, the alarm gets stuck. The cerebral cortex can get flummoxed trying to sort real risks from exaggerated ones: Doorknobs do carry germs, so how do you know the one you touched didn’t have something deadly? People do suffer social humiliation at parties or while giving speeches; how do you know you won’t be one of them?

The most common recognized anxiety disorders include general anxiety disorder, agoraphobia (or fear of being in public situations you can’t escape), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and separation anxiety disorder. There is no blood test or brain scan that can conclusively diagnose any of them, but here are four signs that may point to trouble.

You have a high level of distress

Anxiety is a question of degree. It’s one thing to be jittery before an important test or presentation or to worry about your health when an epidemic is in the news. And if you have a particular sensitivity — flying, dentists, working the room at a crowded party — you’re going to be tense as one of those situations approaches. If the tension consumes your day, however, if it crowds out other thoughts or if the psychic pain goes from troubling to severe, that’s another matter.

“Anxiety will prevent people from sleeping; they’ll find themselves crying over it,” says psychologist Golda Ginsburg, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and a specialist in child and adolescent mental health. “There are students who will vomit in the days leading up to a test.”

In some cases, the emotions become so severe they lead to a panic attack, a sort of weaponized anxiety that hits fast and hard and includes such symptoms as dizziness, rapid heart rate, depersonalization or out-of-body experience and a fear of losing control or dying. “If you suddenly have to slam on your brakes and swerve to avoid a collision, that pounding heart and rapid breath you feel for a few minutes after is a form of panic attack,” says psychologist Anna Albano, director of Columbia University’s Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. “In the context of a disorder, however, you might start to feel the same thing the moment you walk into the office or a party.”

Your panic is persistent

An anxious brain, like a non-anxious brain, is always learning. But the anxious brain sometimes learns the wrong things and has an awfully hard time unlearning them. Once you’ve decided that people at parties are probably judging you, your brain may lock that lesson in and pretty soon generalize it to any social encounter. Ditto an obsessive-compulsive fear of disease or a panic over separation or loss. Sometimes, especially in the case of OCD, it takes just a single traumatic event — a genuinely embarrassing social moment, say, or a legitimate medical scare — for the brain to establish a fixed fear. Left untreated, those anxieties can go on for months and years.

You avoid things because of your fears

We all avoid things we fear or dislike: you could go your whole life without roller coasters or cilantro or horror movies. But they don’t really affect your life. Anxieties start to strip away the things that do. “You may dread getting a medical test because of what you could learn,” says Albano. “But if you’re avoiding going to your doctor at all because of it, that’s a problem.”

People with an airplane phobia may, similarly, limit their travel to only places they can drive. People with big dreams may sometimes settle for smaller ones because their anxiety holds them back. “I know people who went to law school and wanted to pursue a career in criminal law but were afraid to be in front of a courtroom,” says Albano. “So they push documents in a law firm instead.”

Your worries interfere with your day-to-day life

Ultimately, an anxiety disorder may become so severe that the basic business of living becomes compromised. People suffering from OCD may need hours to get out of the house in the morning because the pillows on the bed aren’t arranged properly. Schoolwork and job performance may suffer because perfectionism makes it impossible to complete a project or because social anxiety makes it impossible to talk to classmates or colleagues. Things become worse when emotional symptoms lead to physical ones such as headaches, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. “The question I ask first is, ‘Is your anxiety impairing your functioning?’” says Goldberg.

Anxiety responds well to professional care. Treatment may include psychotropic medications like Zoloft or Prozac, which can at least lower the voltage of the pain. That may make it easier to embrace and practice the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy, in which people learn to talk back to their anxiety, reframe their fears to something less extreme, and practice self-soothing techniques like mindfulness or distraction or breathing. Slow, graduated exposure to the very things people fear also helps the brain break the link between the trigger situation and the terror that follows.

No one can live a life untouched by anxiety. But with the right skills and the right help, no one needs to live one that is destroyed by it, either.

What having OCD is really like – Business Insider


hiding
Joshua
Rawson-Harris / Unsplash


  • About 1.2% of the population have Obsessive Compulsive
    Disorder, or OCD.
  • There are many misconceptions about having the
    condition.
  • Stephen Smith, founder of nOCD, aims to help spread
    awareness of what it’s really like.
  • The app connects people with specialists and shares
    information on OCD.
  • nOCD currently has a community of about 80,000 people,
    and it’s growing.

When Stephen Smith was in his sophomore year at college, he was
on the football team, and working towards a degree in Economics
and Chinese. Then, something took a turn.

“I was a starting quarterback at my school, living the life,
everything was going perfectly,” he told Business Insider. “Then
there was a huge collapse. Basically I wasn’t able to leave my
house — it was a very bad time.”

Smith was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD),
which, according to the World Health Organization
(WHO)
, affects about 1.2% of the population, 

OCD is ranked in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of
any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of
life. But many people still don’t really know that much about it
as a condition.

Smith wanted to change this, and
so he set up nOCD
, an app which helps people with OCD seek
out experts for advice and treatment, connects them to others
with the disorder, and collects their data at the same time.

In less than a year, nOCD has amassed a community of more than
80,000 people who can talk to and help each other. They can also
submit information about their own diagnoses and treatments which
are used for research into the condition.

“We can help make a better ecosystem for them and a better future
for them,” said Smith, who is very familiar with how isolating
OCD can be. “Short term, we can provide content; long term, we
provide knowledge to help create treatment of OCD.”

There are many misconceptions about OCD, including exactly what
it is and what the symptoms are.

Smith told Business Insider what it is in his own words, and what
he wants people to know and understand about what it’s really
like to live with.

You have endless obsessive thoughts

Smith said having OCD is a bit like having a song stuck in your
head, but that song creates anxiety, and never goes away.

“You have these recurring thoughts that you can’t get out of your
head,” Smith said.

“But it’s a little bit more personal than [a song]. You have
these extreme fears that you can’t get out of your head, so to
get them out of your head you do specific actions, called
compulsions. The problem is, by doing those actions, you
essentially make the fear grow stronger and stronger.”

The fears people experience are so severe, Smith says, it can
make their chest tighten, throat close, produce dizziness. The
treatment to combat this is a form of cognitive behavioural
therapy, which helps people resist acting on these compulsions.

“The whole principal of OCD is you want to learn to accept
uncertainty,” Smith said.

“So people with OCD are often not willing to accept
uncertainty… An example is somebody who fears they are going to
hit someone while driving, so they start driving and getting
anxious, thinking what if I hit somebody, or did I just hit
somebody by accident?

“Then they will go back and check that they didn’t go and run
over somebody, and basically in that process they’re reassuring
themselves that they didn’t hit someone and they’re ok.”

The more the person goes back to check, the more they are
reassured. But that also means they are reinforcing that fear and
it will come back stronger. Smith said it’s like picking at a
scab — you know you shouldn’t, and it gets worse the more you do
it, but you can’t stop.

The treatment basically aims to get people to the stage that the
fear doesn’t bother them anymore.


hiding hole
Dmitry
Ratushny / Unsplash


It’s nothing to do with cleanliness

A common misconception about OCD is that people with it like
things to be clean. You might have heard people say they are
“OCD” about things, because they like to have everything in
order, no mess on their desks, and their kitchen is spotless.

But that’s not really what OCD is about. Someone might have the
specific fear that something bad will happen if they don’t keep
clean, and so they obsessively tidy up — although that’s not
something everyone with the disorder experiences.

“People with OCD have very specific fears,” Smith said. “For
example, someone may have the fear ‘If I leave my room messy I
could get sick and die.’

“So the fear is getting sick and dying, and to prevent that
coming true, they are always clean. But the reality is the reason
why they are cleaning is they are trying to prevent their fear
from coming true.”

It can take a long time to find the right treatment

Cognitive behavioural therapy for OCD works very well, with
people gaining good control over their fears, and learning to not
reinforce their compulsions.

But Smith says that because the condition isn’t widely well
understood, people aren’t always pointed in the right direction.

“The problem is it can take 14 to 17 years to find an effective
treatment, which is ridiculous,” he said.

“The WHO ranks OCD a top-10 disorder for loss of income, because
people are so crippled by it they can’t work. So we think this is
an incredible opportunity to help a huge section of the
population worldwide.”

This is why he wants people to be aware of the real symptoms. The
longer someone has been suffering with the symptoms of OCD, the
longer it will take for the treatment to work.

Smith said that if people can recognise the signs early, then it
can be treated pretty quickly and effectively.

“If there’s a great deal of awareness of OCD in society, if
someone’s saying ‘I can’t get this song out of my head and it’s
giving me tons of anxiety, I have incredible fear torturing me,’
you better know that’s OCD,” he said.

It’s not obvious, and people often think, ‘I don’t know what’s
wrong with you, I have no idea.'”

The goal is to get awareness of OCD to a place that is comparable
to other mental health conditions which are better understood.

For example, if someone says they are feeling down all the time,
or they can’t get out of bed, they are fairly quickly diagnosed
with depression.

“Once that awareness exists, you’ll see a lot of people coming
forward for treatment because they’ll know where to turn,” Smith
said.

The wrong treatment can be very harmful

Misdiagnoses do happen, and if a patient is told to give into
their compulsions instead of resisting them, that makes the
anxiety escalate.

But it’s not just the doctors. The families of people with OCD
can also make things worse if they don’t fully understand the
condition.

For example, the logical thing is to find an answer if someone
has a fear. If a child is scared of the dark, you can simply turn
on the lights and show them there are no monsters there. But with
someone with OCD, those answers will never be good enough.

“The brain isn’t structured in a way that they can find answers
that stick,” Smith said. “It’s like throwing something against
the wall and it sliding down — nothing will ever stick.”

Ideally, through the work of nOCD and increased awareness of OCD,
the truth about it will be common knowledge.

Until then, the best thing families can do, Smith said, is help
that person find an OCD specialist. There are organisations like OCD UK that can help people
connect with doctors who thoroughly understand the condition.

How We Can Discover New Treatments for Mental Health

The NIMH also contributes to novel approaches to mental disorders by community outreach. Since 2004, the NIMH has annually hosted the NIMH Alliance for Research Progress, a group of patient and family advocates representing national volunteer nonprofit organizations. The group is convened to discuss research priorities and advances, and allow the NIMH Director and staff to hear the views and concerns of representatives of stakeholder groups regarding its research. NIMH Director, Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., convened the twenty-fourth meeting of this group (see photo below). Topics included improving suicide risk and detection, novel treatments for opioid dependence, rapid-acting treatments for OCD, improving our understanding and treatment of depression, and advancing family-centered research, which involves collaboration with consumers to design, implement, and disseminate child mental health research. To find out more click here.

Bad News for the Highly Intelligent

There are advantages to being smart. People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence—IQ tests—tend to be more successful in the classroom and the workplace. Although the reasons are not fully understood, they also tend to live longer, healthier lives, and are less likely to experience negative life events such as bankruptcy.

Now there’s some bad news for people in the right tail of the IQ bell curve. In a study just published in the journal Intelligence, Pitzer College researcher Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues emailed a survey with questions about psychological and physiological disorders to members of Mensa. A “high IQ society”, Mensa requires that its members have an IQ in the top two percent. For most intelligence tests, this corresponds to an IQ of about 132 or higher. (The average IQ of the general population is 100.) The survey of Mensa’s highly intelligent members found that they were more likely to suffer from a range of serious disorders.

The survey covered mood disorders (depression, dysthymia, and bipolar), anxiety disorders (generalized, social, and obsessive-compulsive), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism. It also covered environmental allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. Respondents were asked to report whether they had ever been formally diagnosed with each disorder, or suspected they suffered from it. With a return rate of nearly 75%, Karpinski and colleagues compared the percentage of the 3,715 respondents who reported each disorder to the national average.

The biggest differences between the Mensa group and the general population were seen for mood disorders and anxiety disorders. More than a quarter (26.7%) of the sample reported that they had been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder, while 20% reported an anxiety disorder—far higher than the national averages of around 10% for each. The differences were smaller, but still statistically significant and practically meaningful, for most of the other disorders. The prevalence of environmental allergies was triple the national average (33% vs. 11%).   

To explain their findings, Karpinski and colleagues propose the hyper brain/hyper body theory. This theory holds that, for all of its advantages, being highly intelligent is associated with psychological and physiological “overexcitabilities”, or OEs. A concept introduced by the Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dbrowski in the 1960s, an OE is an unusually intense reaction to an environmental threat or insult. This can include anything from a startling sound to confrontation with another person.

Psychological OEs include a heighted tendency to ruminate and worry, whereas physiological OEs arise from the body’s response to stress. According to the hyper brain/hyper body theory, these two types of OEs are more common in highly intelligent people and interact with each other in a “vicious cycle” to cause both psychological and physiological dysfunction. For example, a highly intelligent person may overanalyze a disapproving comment made by a boss, imagining negative outcomes that simply wouldn’t occur to someone less intelligent. That may trigger the body’s stress response, which may make the person even more anxious.     

The results of this study must be interpreted cautiously because they are correlational. Showing that a disorder is more common in a sample of people with high IQs than in the general population doesn’t prove that high intelligence is the cause of the disorder. It’s also possible that people who join Mensa differ from other people in ways other than just IQ. For example, people preoccupied with intellectual pursuits may spend less time than the average person on physical exercise and social interaction, both of which have been shown to have broad benefits for psychological and physical health.      

All the same, Karpinski and colleagues’ findings set the stage for research that promises to shed new light on the link between intelligence and health. One possibility is that associations between intelligence and health outcomes reflect pleiotropy, which occurs when a gene influences seemingly unrelated traits. There is already some evidence to suggest that this is the case. In a 2015 study, Rosalind Arden and her colleagues concluded that the association between IQ and longevity is mostly explained by genetic factors.  

From a practical standpoint, this research may ultimately lead to insights about how to improve people’s psychological and physical well-being. If overexcitabilities turn out to be the mechanism underlying the IQ-health relationship, then interventions aimed at curbing these sometimes maladaptive responses may help people lead happier, healthier lives.

Anxiety Matters

 By Zara Maqbool

 

In the last few months, I have come across many people who complain of suffering from anxiety. A few of my clients have a similar issue complaining about anxiety that ranges from general anxiety without any distinct manifestation, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, phobias, social anxiety or any that comes post a trauma.

Most people cannot point out the reason for their anxiety especially if they have not suffered any trauma or do not have OCDs or phobias but this general anxiety mostly comes in the form of panic attacks or unexplained reasons that people cant find a cause to. The sad part is that whoever is suffering from anxiety is judged as if he or she induces it out of their choice. Or the common comment is “its all in your head.”

Another dilemma is how many illnesses in women are diagnosed as caused by anxiety and at times this causes serious illness to be ignored. I had suffered from SVT a heart condition that has very rapid heartbeat as one of the main symptoms, mistaken as anxiety and ignored till it became critical.

Most of us suffer from anxiety at some point of our lives but when anxiety becomes persistent and can immobilize us now and then, it’s a serious issue. We all suffer from the occasional anxiety attacks before a job interview, some exam or meeting someone new but if it becomes our habitual way of being, seeking help is important.

So when is anxiety a disorder and needs to be resolved by professional help? If we start having sleep problems, irrational fears, excessively worrying about everything or chronic body tensions, dysfunctional eating or panic attacks, then seeking help is critical.

So what does a panic attack look like? Palpitations, shivering, increased heart rate; excessive sweating that lasts for a few minutes and then subsides. So what do you do? In case seeking professional help is not an option there are some things that can be done to help us. For starters I tell all my clients that accepting your anxiety is most important if you want to change this. The problem is in our will to change we judge our actions and that makes bringing a change harder. Give yourself some acceptance and try to externalize that voice that is ready to shame you.

Some other things can be maintaining a healthy life style, good eating, exercising and managing the external stressors of life. In this day and age, YouTube is a reservoir for amazing information and learning some mindfulness techniques can bring a world of change. Learn some grounding exercises with the onset of a panic attack. Also try replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones, as it’s the thoughts that bring on emotions that lead to anxiety.

An important thing to remember is that even if with all these and more self-help techniques, you are still suffering form persistent anxiety give priority to yourself and seek some professional help. Coming from a profession where medicines are not preferred unless someone is suffering from a psychopathology, taking anti-anxiety drugs or anti-depressants is frowned upon as in my experience they only add to the problem. They numb the symptoms for a while and then once the body has used up the drug, its withdrawal adds to the already existing anxiety making it worse. Because remember that anxiety is just a symptom of a problem that might not be in your awareness. Sometimes we repress important links of our selves deep somewhere and these anxiety attacks are a reminder that these missing links need to be resolved. So don’t ignore these symptoms. don’t feel shame or betrayal by your body that is trying to tell you something. Seek help so you can lead a more free functioning life.

 

 

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Story first published: 2nd December 2017

Understanding OCD

One out of every 200 adults has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder — one Emporia family has three family members impacted by the disorder.

Becky Hayes and two of her daughters, Ginny Samples and Sasha Conrade, share similar symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

“We are all counters and touchers,” Conrade said. “We have to count a certain number of things or touch something a certain number of times.”

The National Institute of Mental Health defines Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and behaviors he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is frequently portrayed in media as a quirky condition which requires someone to lock their doors multiple times or obsessively wash their hands. Hayes and her daughters said the depiction isn’t realistic.

“People are quick to say, ‘Oh they are OCD’ when someone needs to double check the locks, but it isn’t like that,” Hayes said. “There are compulsions, but they are motivated by the obsessions, the thoughts. There is a feeling that something horrible will happen if you don’t do the compulsion. The thoughts are the problem; if I don’t check the locks or count or do whatever the compulsion is, then these horrible things will happen. If people knew the kind of hell this is, they wouldn’t joke about it or take it lightly.”

It isn’t uncommon for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to run in families. Studies have shown people with first-degree relatives, such as a parent, sibling or child, who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are at a higher risk for developing the disorder themselves. The risk is higher if the first-degree relative developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a child or teen like Hayes.

“For me it was early on, probably fifth or sixth grade; actually, for all of us it hit prepubescent,” Hayes said. “I would not be able to get to bed. I was a toucher and a counter. I couldn’t get to bed without having everything on my dresser just perfect. I remember my shoelaces — spending hours getting my shoelaces just laid straight and perfect in order to get to bed. It was exhausting.”

The obsessions, though not likely to happen, are terrifying for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The obsessions and compulsions can interfere with all aspects of life including work, school and personal relationships.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder typically appear between the ages of 6 and 15 for males and 20 to 29 for females. For Hayes and her daughters, the symptoms began to appear earlier. Samples remembers clearly the day she first experienced symptoms of the disorder.

“I was 11 or 12 and we had come home from a weekend doing something and I couldn’t get off a step,” Samples said. “I kept stepping off the step, but it didn’t feel right to step off the step, so I had to keep doing it until it felt right. In my mind, I was like, ‘what am I doing,’ but I kept stepping and stepping and stepping and I couldn’t get off the dang step.”

Hayes’ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder went undiagnosed and untreated for years. However, she recognized the signs and symptoms in her daughters and was able to help them get treatment for the disorder. Samples has found therapy and medication to be helpful and her symptoms have decreased dramatically.

“My compulsions are all based around my family leaving and dying or something is going to happen so if I don’t touch this or do that then I’m going to lose them,” Samples said. “I started going to therapy in Topeka and I started medication when I was a freshman in high school. The medication helps, but there are times that it quits working or dosages need to be changed, which is why I think doing therapy and medication together works best.”

Symptoms can increase during periods of stress. Tests in school, pregnancy, marriage, a big project at work can all increase symptoms. Conrade is now in college and said at times the stress of school leads to an increase in symptoms. She has come to accept some days are just bad days and will allow herself to take a day off to regroup.

“School is so hard,” Conrade said. “I’ll be sitting in class and I’ll miss out on the whole class sometimes because I’m thinking about other things. There are some days that are just bad and I know it’s not even worth going to class because I know it’s just a very bad day.”

Hayes and her daughters urge others to recognize the signs and symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and seek treatment as needed. Treatment can be beneficial and the women said there is no reason to suffer alone.

“It can be isolating,” Hayes said. “But it doesn’t have to be. There are things people can do to decrease the obsessions and compulsions.”

People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school and personal relationships.

^ Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:

^ Fear of germs or contamination

^ Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion and harm

^ Aggressive thoughts towards others or self

^ Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Common compulsions include:

^ Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing

^ Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way

^ Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off

^ Compulsive counting

Not all rituals or habits are compulsions. Everyone double checks things sometimes. But a person with OCD generally:

^ Can’t control his or her thoughts or behaviors, even when those thoughts or behaviors are recognized as excessive

^ Spends at least one hour a day on these thoughts or behaviors

^ Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause

^ Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviors

Making Sense of Medicine: Are you a bundle of nerves?

It’s normal, and common, to be somewhat anxious when joining a group of people you don’t know, or when you have to give a speech, or perhaps when you’re about to tell someone your private feelings.

You may feel anxious about paying your mortgage, finishing your schoolwork on time and countless more such situations.

For these examples, you may feel a bit tongue-tied and nervous or even shaky. Regardless, you plunge ahead and give your speech or introduce yourself, and it’s OK. This anxiety is important, as it marshals all of your energy successfully to focus on a particular task.

When anxiety is a problem

Some of us are more given than others to such run-of-the-mill anxieties and may spend almost an hour a day with such mild anxiety. For the more dedicated worriers among us, however, such worrying becomes a disruptive way of life, demanding five or six hours a day of obsessive anxiety. This is called a generalized anxiety disorder.

For others of us, some kind of trauma may have set up a pattern of anxiety that is triggered by specific sounds or places or other events in one’s external or internal environment. The one that is most commonly described is post-traumatic stress disorder. We hear of this mainly as it has affected military personnel returned from battle, but any serious trauma in any walk of life can result in PTSD.

In addition to these, there are phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic and more. Medically speaking, there are about eight types of anxiety disorders that affect close to 30 percent of the adult population in the U.S. This makes anxiety disorders the most common form of mental illness in our country. Except for PTSD, women are twice as likely as men to experience an anxiety disorder.

What’s happening in your body

The anxiety response is the result of a complex of neuronal and biochemical processes. They begin deep within your brain and affect every muscle and organ in your body.

It all begins in a tiny part of your brain called the amygdala. The name comes from ancient Greek by way of Latin, and it means almond. This is appropriate, as they are almond-shaped.

The amygdala is a group of neuron nuclei and is the primary place in your brain where you find decision-making; the processing of memories; and, for our purposes, emotional reactions. Anxiety begins here.

You actually have two amygdalae, left and right. The right amygdala is responsible for taking action. This tends to be more active in men than in women. Conversely, the left one is mainly focused on storing traumatic memories and is associated more with thought than action. This one tends to be more active in women and in people with anxiety disorders, regardless of gender.

Once triggered, the amygdala sends distress signals to other structures in your brain with names like medulla oblongata, nucleus ambiguous, hypothalamus and more; don’t try to remember those. It also activates centers in your brain and kidneys that release adrenaline.

The end result of all this is the activation of your fight-or-flight response, which prepares your body for any emergency, real or imagined. Your muscles, lungs, heart and more are prepared for the worst.

Modulating anxiety

There are at least two activities that can help get a hyperactive amygdala under control.

The amygdala doesn’t think, it only reacts. One modulating activity is using the part of your brain that does think, the prefrontal cortex. When behaving irrationally, the prefrontal cortex may be what’s triggering your hyperactive amygdala with dangers that are only imagined.

Here is where psychological counseling and therapy are effective. That is, by consciously working out what memories, fears, beliefs and more may be responsible for over-activating your amygdala, you can persuade your prefrontal cortex to be more responsible in its activation of your amygdala.

A second activity is to slow down fight-or-flight. Doctors may try to do this with various medications like antidepressants and beta blockers. However, a better way is to stimulate your rest-and-digest response.

There are many self-help activities that can help with this. Foremost among these are relaxed deep breathing, humming or singing, and regular meditation.

Anxiety resolved

A few weeks ago, a woman came to me for help in reducing her anxiety attacks.

One troublesome situation is related to her work as a checkout clerk at a grocery store. When able to keep the line of waiting customers very short, she has no problem. However, if things begin to slow down for whatever reason and the line starts to lengthen, she begins to get the symptoms of an anxiety attack that, untreated, becomes disabling. She has a medication that she can take as needed, and this seems to quiet the anxiety temporarily.

As mentioned above, treatments for anxiety include medication, psychotherapy and other mind-body disciplines. For her, however, these did not solve the problem. The anxiety attacks continued to occur.

After just one myokinesthetic, or MYK, treatment, however, she reported being in several situations that formerly would have brought on anxiety, but in which she was able to respond rationally and without anxiety. What appears to have happened is that the MYK treatment stimulated the rest-and-digest response in her body, countering the fight-or-flight response that research has shown to be integral to the experience of anxiety.

What’s to be done?

I don’t mean to imply that my MYK treatments are necessarily the last word in treating anxiety or that only one treatment is needed. In fact, it’s likely that some form of counseling or other psychologically based therapy is important, as well. The psychological work is likely to be more effective, however, if rest-and-digest has been stimulated.

The point is that anxiety disorders are almost always treatable, and your life is likely to be a lot more satisfactory when you are not preoccupied with anxiety.

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Bob Keller maintains a holistic pain management practice in Newburyport. His book, “Making Sense of Medicine: Medical Matters Made Simple,” is available locally or online. He can be reached at 978-465-5111 or bob@myokineast.com.

11 Habits All People With Anxiety Have In Common – Bustle

There are so many different types of anxiety, and even more ways its symptoms can play out. But it doesn’t seem to matter if you have generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or social anxiety — there are definitely a few habits all people with anxiety have in common.

For example, many sufferers have obsessive thoughts, and rituals to go with them, as a way of coping. “Obsessive habits give an individual a false sense of control,” NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. “Anxiety often makes someone feel out of control, so by thinking the same thoughts over and over the individual feels they can control things.” Same goes for performing certain rituals, staying “on guard” 24/7, and over-preparing for your day. These habits are all a desperate attempt to regain some control.

While you may be in good company with the 40 million other people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, it doesn’t mean you need to live with unhealthy habits. “It’s important to not give in to the negative thoughts and focus your attention elsewhere,” Hershenson says. “Meditation, calling a friend to see how they are doing, volunteering, or engaging in a hobby are all healthy coping skills to help you get out of your head.” Same goes for taking care of yourself, and maybe even seeing a therapist.

Do you have anxiety? Then there’s a pretty big chance you have one (or all) of the habits below.

1. You Let Self Care Fall To The Wayside

For countless reasons, people with anxiety tend to put their own self care on the back burner. “Anxious people tend to care too much about what others are thinking, and they put lots of effort into making sure everyone likes them,” says therapist Jill Howell MA, ATR-BC, LPC, author of Color, Draw, Collage: Create Your Way to a Less Stressful Life, in an email to Bustle. “What they really need is to spend more time liking themselves! Everyone, especially people suffering from anxiety, needs to have downtime where they focus just on their own needs, instead of worrying about everyone else.”

2. You Stress Out About Losing Control

Again, anxiety is all about fearing a loss of control, which is why many sufferers go out of their way to prepare. “That can develop counterproductive behaviors, like obsessive over-preparing or guardedness,” Dr. Seda Gragossian, clinical director at Talk Therapy Psychology, tells Bustle. “This is commonly seen in people with social anxieties who will avoid putting themselves entirely in situations where they have no control of an outcome.”

3. You’re Almost Addicted To Worrying

Since overthinking is pretty much the definition of anxiety, it can become a pattern for your brain. “An initial worry oftentimes feeds on itself as people play the same worrying thought through their heads over and over again,” Gragossian says. “This, in and of itself, can become a habit to the point where one becomes almost addicted to worrying.” Sound familiar?

4. You’re Quite The Ruminator

Overthinking brings me to rumination, which is another habit common among anxiety sufferers. “When you ruminate, your thoughts go in circles and you obsess about the same things over and over again,” Hershenson says. It can feel like your brain gets stuck, and you can’t think of anything else.

5. You Don’t Trust Your Own Opinion

If you have anxiety, then you aren’t likely to be someone who can confidently make a decision, and then stick with it. As Hershenson says, “You don’t trust your own judgment or the fact that things will work out, so you are constantly trying to get other people’s input.”

6. You’re Always “On Guard”

As psychotherapist Marc Zola, LMFT, LPC says, “In my practice, I find that most people struggling with anxiety are very bright, thoughtful, capable people who struggle with noticing when their normal vigilance crosses the chasm to hyper-vigilance.”

If you think everything will go wrong, you might be on guard 24/7 as a way of standing at the proverbial gates, waiting for problems to occur. And it can be pretty damn exhausting.

7. You’re A Magical Thinker

This is a big one for people with obsessive compulsive disorder, magical thinking is the belief that your anxiety is protecting you and your loved ones in some way; that, if you were to calm down, something bad might happen, therapist Thai-An Truong tells me. This can lead to rituals, which are performed as a way of warding off something horrible.

8. You Avoid Certain Situations

Another classic habit of anxiety sufferers? Avoiding situations that seem threatening, or ones that might induce an anxiety attack — such as a busy party, or a big networking event. (A major issue for those with social anxiety, btw.)

As Truong says, “They are often avoiding something they need to face because initially it’ll increase the anxiety even more even, though it’ll help them in the long run.” But when you have anxiety, it can be tough to see the difference.

9. You Sweep Your Feelings Under The Rug

Truong tells me many anxious people sweep their feelings under the rug, often by hiding anger towards a friend, or keeping their goals for the future a secret — all because the thought of sharing causes incredible distress.

10. You Jump To Conclusions Like It’s Your Job

Anxiety can make it incredibly easy to jump to conclusions, “e.g., I’m going to flunk my exam, I’m going to ruin my child, I’m not going to get better,” Truong says. Do you feel like you can predict the future? Do you always assume the worst? That’s your anxiety talking.

11. You Have Several Nervous Tics

Pretty much every anxiety sufferer has a nervous tic or two, like trichotillomania, finger tapping, or nail biting. “Some people gnaw at their nails until their cuticles bleed, while others chip at the polish until they’ve scratched them clean,” Truong says. “Nail biting, like many habits, can develop as a response to triggers in the environment, initially as a way of regulating emotions and alleviating anxiety.”

Anxiety can rear its ugly head in a variety of ways. But remember, none of the above — or any of your other anxious habits — have to define your life. If you want to learn how to better cope with your anxiety, or better cope with your stress, it is possible to do so with some lifestyle changes, or by seeing a therapist.

Kids with OCD are more likely to struggle in school | New York Post

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), especially those diagnosed before age 18, are less likely to pass compulsory school tests or to go on to higher education compared with peers who don’t have the disorder, a large European study finds.

Less schooling can translate into fewer job opportunities and lower pay over a lifetime, but early OCD diagnosis and interventions might help to close this gap, researchers conclude in JAMA Psychiatry.

OCD is estimated to affect approximately 2.2 million U.S. adults, or about 1 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association. Symptoms of the condition include obsessive thoughts and fears, and compulsions to repeatedly perform tasks to allay those fears.

“OCD often starts in childhood/adolescence and can be chronic,” said lead author Dr. Ana Perez-Vigil, a researcher with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Sufferers typically experience highly distressing thoughts and feel compelled to perform rituals (compulsions) for several hours a day. This can have a major impact on the person’s ability to concentrate and benefit from school,” Perez-Vigil told Reuters Health in an email.

For example, individuals with contamination fears may not be able to sit in the classroom or might have to constantly visit the toilet to perform rituals, such as hand-washing.

Other common rituals include the need to re-read or re-write sentences many times, which makes learning slow and frustrating, she added.

“Everyone who regularly works with persons who have obsessive-compulsive disorder has seen that their patients often struggle with school work.”

It is not uncommon for these individuals to have poor school attendance and severe patients can be out of the education system altogether, Perez-Vigil noted.

“We have long suspected that OCD has a detrimental impact on the person’s education, with all the consequences that this entails (worse chances to enter the labor market and have a high paid job), but we did not really know to what extent OCD impacts education.”

Perez-Vigil and her colleagues analyzed data from several national registers on more than 2 million people born in Sweden between January 1, 1976, and December 21, 1998. Follow-up information was available through the end of 2013.

About 15,000 of the people included in the analysis had been diagnosed with OCD and 81 percent of these had additional psychiatric diagnoses. That compares to 13.6 percent of the group without OCD who had other psychological conditions. In addition to the broad analysis, the study team compared sibling pairs in about 700,000 families.

The researchers looked at who attained several educational milestones in the Swedish school system.

Compared to people without OCD, those with the condition were 40 percent to 65 percent less likely to pass all their compulsory education courses in their middle-teens, and were 53 percent less likely to move on to an upper secondary vocational school program and 39 percent less likely to get into an academic upper secondary program.

People with OCD were also 57 percent less likely to finish upper secondary school, 28 percent less likely to start a university degree program, 41 percent less likely to finish one and 48 percent less likely to complete postgraduate education.

“OCD was associated with pervasive academic underachievement across the lifespan, compared to matched population controls.” Perez-Vigil said.

The association wasn’t specific to a particular school subject, she noted. “We found that patients were more likely to fail every single course or subject at the end of compulsory education, including each of the core subjects.”

As expected, the association was stronger in individuals first diagnosed in childhood/adolescence, though patients with a later age of onset were still substantially impaired across the board, Perez-Vigil added.

“OCD sufferers also need to cope with the social consequences of their symptoms, which they may perceive as embarrassing,” she said. Severe cases may be housebound and unable to attend school altogether, and it is not uncommon for families to arrange home tuition for their children.

“We also observe that it is difficult for young people to return to school even if they have had a successful treatment with us. Considerable efforts are needed from the families, schools and mental health professionals to try to get these kids back on track,” she said.

Repetitive behaviors like hair pulling and skin picking can turn …

Lucy Harper, 17, a high school junior who lives in College Station, Tex., has been picking at her skin for as long as she can remember. When she was in seventh grade, she also started pulling out her hair.

“For a while my skin picking was under the radar, but it was because I was pulling my hair,” she says. “If I wanted my skin to clear up, I’d stop picking and start pulling. If I wanted my hair to grow back, I’d stop pulling and start picking.”

She lost so much hair that her middle school classmates asked whether she was going bald. “I tried everything to stop picking and pulling,” she says. “I bought tons of fidget toys. I tried constraining my arm with a wrist brace. I got permission to wear gloves and a hat to school, and I even once went to piano lessons with Band-Aids on every one of my fingertips.”

Harper suffers from trichotillomania (hair pulling) and excoriation (skin picking, also known as dermatillomania), two of several disorders collectively known as body-focused repetitive behaviors, or BFRBs. The umbrella term includes a number of repetitive “self-grooming” habits that can cause damage or injury through pulling, picking or scraping, or biting the hair, skin and nails.

Many people engage to some extent in nail biting or skin picking. But when these behaviors become extreme and out of control, they are regarded as serious disorders.

“There is significant psychosocial damage,” says Douglas Woods, a professor of psychology at Marquette University who studies these conditions. Among those who can’t contain the urge to pick, pull or bite, “depression is relatively common. People become very self-conscious, and self-esteem suffers. They start to avoid social situations in which people could notice the effects of their behavior, and often spend tremendous amounts of time trying to cover the effects.”

Historically, BFRBs had been considered impulse-control disorders, along with kleptomania and gambling addiction. However, in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, BFRBs are categorized as obsessive-compulsive disorders, or OCDs. “The truth is, they probably belong in an in-between category,” Woods says.

Although now regarded on the same spectrum, the two actually are quite different. Classic OCD occurs when someone experiences uncontrollable, recurring thoughts — such as a disproportionate fear of germs — and behavior she or he feels compelled to repeat over and over, such as excessive hand-washing.

Impulse-control disorders, on the other hand, typically involve an inability to resist a potentially harmful or self-destructive urge.

An estimated 2 percent to 5 percent of Americans suffer from trichotillomania, or hair pulling (which includes eyelash pulling) and 5 percent from skin picking, the two most-common BFRBs, according to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. Other BFRBs include hair or skin eating, lip and cheek biting, tongue chewing and compulsive hair-cutting, according to the foundation, a nonprofit based in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Before age 12, hair pulling occurs equally in boys and girls, but later it predominantly occurs in girls, according to psychologist Suzanne Mouton-Odum, a clinical assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine. “Why is this? We are not certain, but I suspect that many more females begin to pull around the age of puberty,” she says. “Likely there is a hormonal component that affects more females than males. Other hypotheses are that males are more able to cover hair loss, or maybe do not seek treatment as they can hide the results of their pulling.”

Researchers believe that these disorders probably have a genetic component, because they tend to run in families. Scientists are studying the genes of affected people, trying to identify markers that can provide clues to their origins. Several studies have shown a familial connection; one, for example, found higher rates of OCD in immediate family members of those with extreme cases of hair pulling than in the general population.

Also, evidence from a twins study suggested a higher occurrence of hair pulling in identical compared with fraternal twins. Research also has shown differences in the brains of people with these disorders compared with the brains of those who don’t have them.

“Each person seems to pull or pick for different reasons, or in different situations,” Mouton-Odum says. “Some do it in response to emotion — anger, anxiety, happiness — while others in response to needing to feel a certain sensory sensation, while others pull or pick in response to certain environmental triggers, such as activities, places, mirrors.”

Woods agrees. “The behaviors seem to be both a problem of a habit gone awry and a way of coping with emotional distress,” he says.

Medication such as clomipramine, an antidepressant used to treat OCD, can help, but experts say the most effective therapy is behavioral. There are two frequently used approaches.

The first is habit-reversal training, which teaches patients to be more aware of their pulling and picking, and its cues, and trains them to use a “competing response” when the urge hits, such as clenching the fist with the hair-pulling hand and pressing it to the side of the body.

The second is comprehensive behavioral treatment, or ComB, which “looks at each person as an individual and evaluates [his or her] individual pulling/picking profile,” Mouton-Odum says. ComB allows clinicians to design a treatment plan specifically for that person. “Strategies are offered based upon their unique pulling/picking triggers,” she adds. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is quite tailored.”

Because people often are unaware of when they pull or pick, some have found that using an app-equipped bracelet called Keen helps control the habit. The bracelets are programmed to detect when the behaviors begin, then send a gentle vibration to alert the individual to stop. The bracelet has not been studied in clinical trials, but anecdotal reports suggest it can be a valuable tool. Its price starts at $129.

Lesley Stevens, 37, an online content creator who lives near Phoenix, is a hair puller, skin picker, nail biter and thumb sucker. She wears one bracelet on each wrist — because she picks and pulls with both hands — and says they have been very useful in keeping her habits under control. “They buzz my wrist and make me aware when I’m doing anything I have trained it for,” she says.

For Harper, the Texas teenager, connecting with other BFRB people “who completely understand my struggles” has enabled her to cope, as has attending therapy workshops “that remind me that I am so much more than my BFRBs.” She says she still struggles “a little” with skin-picking, “but it doesn’t control my life anymore, and being open about it allows me to not be ashamed,” she says.