Help for Anxiety, Phobias, OCD and Depression

Evolving Self Confidence:
How to Become Free from Anxiety Disorders and Depression


THIS BOOK IS for all those of us who suffer the anguish and despair of loneliness rather than face the perceived rejection that social failure may bring... it is for those who experience as much fear and panic, in phobia, going into a shop or stepping outdoors as if they were going to face a firing squad... and for those who are so convinced that they are physically or mentally ill that no medical tests can convince them otherwise. It is for those who scrub themselves hundreds of times a day or repeat phrases and rituals to allay the anxiety and prevent some perceived catastrophe or retribution from 'higher forces'... and it's for those of us who look back on a life with regret, in depression, longing for the person we feel we could have been or should have been.
This book is for all of us whose own thoughts, feelings and behaviours drive a life of anxiety and fear instead of the adventure and excitement it can be... it is for all of us because we are all doing the same thing.

With anxiety-related problems (including depression as such a problem), we watch ourselves in everything we do and it is not difficult to appreciate how this self-absorption can lead us to believe that we are the only one with such a problem. This, in itself, strengthens the 'what's wrong with me' beliefs, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Millions of people worldwide experience these problems; it is estimated that in America alone over thirty million people suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. The most common one is Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia), closely followed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Around one in thirty to fifty people suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and one in ten are reported to have a specific phobia. This doesn't include vast numbers of people who have depression or those living anxious lives ruled by shyness or stress.
Many people feel they are working below their potential and are frustrated, more people are unhealthy and overweight than ever before, greater numbers of teenagers are depressed and problems involving anxiety and stress account for the majority of visits to doctor's surgeries. In a world of better education, food, hygiene and healthcare – emotionally, society is crumbling.

The unique pressures in modern society no doubt play a part in the tension and stress found in these problems, but anxiety problems are nothing new; they are part of the human condition and the following quotation, from over three hundred years ago, sums them up aptly:

qstart The mind is it's own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.qend

... John Milton (1608-1674)

For centuries writers, poets and artists have tried to convey the inner turmoil and conflict that is often associated with existence.
The world we live in personally is dictated by what goes on in our mind, irrespective of what external reality seems to be. Nowhere can this be seen more profoundly than in the case of anorexia nervosa. How can a painfully thin girl look in the mirror and see herself as fat? Even to the extent of pointing out which areas of her body are too fat. Anxiety problems are reality to us and later we shall discover just how and why this happens, how we start living a life ruled by anxiety and how, even though we had little power over the creation of the situation, we can change things. Others don't see us as we see ourselves and once we understand this and why we think the way we do, we can start to accept things and change, move forward and evolve beyond the problem to true self-confidence.

Vast resources in the form of research, therapy and medication have been used in an attempt to resolve these problems, with, on the whole, a spectacular lack of success. Problems are defined, named, classified, listed, ordered, placed in categories, placed in sub-categories in an attempt to understand and control them. Strangely enough, exactly the same attempts to gain control are found in most forms of OCD. And while some argue that benefits of this system include a more accurate diagnosis and subsequent better treatment (which is debatable given such a lack of success) others argue that it is inaccurate, misleading and overlooks the bigger picture. That is what this book is about – the bigger picture.

But for slightly different circumstances, my social anxiety disorder could have been your OCD or your generalized anxiety disorder could have been your neighbour's Bulimia. At their heart, all these problems are the same; they start for the same reason, grow in the same way and are cured by the same methods. Indeed, many people who seek treatment for anxiety-related problems present with a number of symptoms across the whole range of anxiety disorders and the final 'disorder' diagnosed is often one relating to the most frequent or strongest set of symptoms shown. Many people are actually diagnosed as having a number of anxiety disorders!
When we look at the backgrounds of large numbers of people with anxiety and depression problems, they are often strikingly similar in many ways. Negative life experiences and subsequent feelings involving self worth and insecurity occur across the board with such regularity and are so similar that it is hard to see how these factors cannot play a major role in anxiety-related problems. Ranging from acute shyness and stress to anxiety disorders and depression, each problem is unique to the individual. Expressions of social phobia vary from person to person just as those of agoraphobia vary from panic disorder and GAD varies from OCD. However, as unique to the individual these problems are and as different to each other they are, these problems develop for similar reasons and strengthen in a similar way. They do so in a manner that reflects the way our mind and body works.
Every human being on the planet (indeed, every animal) is built in such a way as to develop an anxiety disorder given the right (or wrong) set of negative life experiences.

We shall learn how at the heart of these problems lies neither illness nor disease and not even disorder for these problems aren't irrational, they develop for a good reason – for our survival. As such, anxiety disorders (including depression) will be referred to as 'anxiety-related problems' throughout much of this book.
Anxiety problems are, in fact, highly adaptive given our life experiences and genetic history but they are not appropriate. In essence, most problems involving anxiety are learned behaviours involving deep-seated survival mechanisms that develop from the ways we learned to cope with negative life experiences. The vast majority of people with these problems are extremely intelligent, more so than the average population, and are aware of the inappropriate thoughts, feelings and behaviours, yet feel powerless to stop them. It's the fact that we are dealing with deep-seated, instinctual behaviours and self-beliefs that make them seem so hard to control.
Long-term anxiety and panic, phobias, OCD and depression can leave us feeling helpless, that there is nothing that can be done about them or little we can do to get free. Years of searching, reading books and websites, finding what seem to be answers, trying ways to think, trying ways to behave, 'get-well quick' ideas, therapy, medication etc. can leave us exhausted, without hope and even more anxious about our problem.
And yet, many people do successfully overcome these problems, usually after years and years of experience, research and experimenting with their problem. They find the answer.
These people don't suddenly wake up one day and the problem has gone; they grow, move forward and change. Their problem weakens and fades as they come to understand it, accept it and develop a new attitude towards it. They start to think and behave differently.

The key to overcoming most anxiety and depression related problems involves understanding how they work. Like everything in life, when we know how and why something works we know how to stop it. To try and overcome these problems without this understanding is exceptionally difficult for whatever we may try, as soon as any symptoms occur, we think that it's not working, that it isn't the answer and we continue with our never-ending search for the 'real answer'. Feelings of no control play a huge part in the development and growth of these problems and without a real, deep understanding of what is happening, the unknown will always overpower us.
To start dealing with these problems takes courage, for fear and self-doubt play a major part in them. And yet, if you have admitted to yourself that you have a problem, you have already taken one of the most courageous steps.
Although you may not appreciate it at the moment, you do have special qualities that many people don't have, including some that could have only developed out of the struggle with feelings of self-doubt and anxiety symptoms. You have the potential to become a much stronger, wiser person than one who hasn't experienced these problems.
We all learn and grow through our experiences. In anxiety disorders and depression we learn and grow in a negative way. But this can be turned around whenever we choose and we can become stronger, wiser, better for the experience. Armed with the right knowledge it is possible to become free.

The aim of this book is to provide such an insight into these problems that you can stand back and say "that's it, that's what happened to me", and with this knowledge you can stop searching for that elusive ultimate reason (which, as we shall learn later, doesn't actually exist) and start to live.
Research shows that the right kind of self-help can be beneficial with anxiety and depression problems, however our individuality and uniqueness means that with self-help: 'one size doesn't fit all'. Basic truths apply to all of us, but take the advice given and tweak it, mould and shape it to suit yourself. Use the 'my notes' section at the back for your notes, for anything that strikes a chord with you. Even if you feel that you have (or have been diagnosed with) a particular 'disorder', read about all the disorders in 'The Problem' part of this book – you may learn something beneficial.
When it comes to the mind and anxiety problems, generally speaking, anything that we feel uncomfortabe with and have to force will not work since this merely enhances the 'feeling bad' part of us. Conversely, things that are comfortable to us can work.

Freedom from these problems involves insight, understanding, acceptance, practise and perseverance. With these, we can go from feeling bad about our self to feeling great about our self and once we start to feel this way everything else follows. The foundation for this change is insight, the greater the insight the greater is the potential for change. So let's look at the ultimate question – just what are these problems and how do they start?

(End of Introduction)

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Evolving Self Confidence