Anxiety Myth #2

Everyone has anxiety…it’s no big deal.

There is both truth and lie to this statement.  Of course, anxiety is a normal and healthy part of life.  Anxiety is a common name we use for our personal experience of the activation of our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS).

I’m not sure if the SNS is taught today in “therapist school”, but I can confirm that I don’t recall learning about it in my DSM-III-R class at the University of Illinois School of Social Work way back in 1990.  Of course, we didn’t have the opportunity to study any disorder very deeply when you are trying to cover the entire DSM in 17 weeks.

I first learned about the SNS when teaching an Intro to Psych class for Lake Land College, and I became quite interested.  I enjoy learning about the biology and neurology behind our behaviors…I want to know what is goading me to do something that isn’t always rational.  For those who are not familar with the SNS, please allow me to explain.

The SNS increases our arousal, awareness, and escape abilities when we face a dangerous situation.  Initially, sensory and perceptual information about your current situation is sent to the Amygdala in your brain for a determination as to whether it is a serious threat or not.  If it is determined by the amygdala to be a threat, then the SNS is activated resulting in the release of several hormones (Adrenaline, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone, Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, and Cortosol) and neurotransmitters (Norepinephrine).  These powerful chemicals enables and supercharges your “fight or flight response”.

For example, you are walking across a parking lot at night and suddenly hear footsteps getting louder and quicker. You feel your heart begin to race, your eyes dart and your ears focus to determine the exact location of the threatening sound.  You feel adrenaline being released, sweating begins, your breathing quickens, and tension and energy builds in your leg and arm muscles.  These are they effects of the SNS, and they are designed to energize you to survive whatever danger you are experiencing.

Without the SNS we would not survive very long in this old world.

However, what if our Amygdala learned that something was a danger, that really wasn’t?  Or, what if it was a danger only during a specific time and place, and it was safe at all other times?

Let me offer another example…a friend of mine bought a new car that was painted a color unique to that model and year (you know, those weird color cars that no one really likes).  One night she had a car accident that was very dangerous and very scary, and she totalled her car.  After she was healed and ready to drive again, she decided to get the same make, model and color car that she unfortunately totalled.  However, when she went to the dealership and saw the car’s color she had a full-blown activation of her SNS, or as it was termed, a Panic Attack.

Within seconds of seeing the car’s color her heart was racing, blood pressure was up, she was sweating, her stomach was nauseous, and she was hyperventilating.  In addition, she was filled with an incredible sense of dread, her mind was flooded with images of her wrecked car, and all she could think about was getting away from the dealership.

In discussing the situation with my friend, she stated that the make and model of the car didn’t bother her, but seeing “that color” was all that it took.

Let me ask you, is the color of a car dangerous?  Of course not, but in this case, and many similar ones out there, something as benign as a color was matched up with a traumatic experience, learning took place, and now the color has the same effect as the trauma.  Does this sound familar?  It should.  Think back to your Intro to Psych class and what you learned about Ivan Pavlov or the story of Little Albert; what is happening is Classical Conditioning.

There are many opportunities for problematic Classical Conditioning to take place resulting in inappropriate anxiety reactions.  Sometimes these reactions are severe enough to result in the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, such as a phobia or even part of the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

So, going back to the beginning question posed by the myth, yes – everyone has anxiety and it is a normal and important part of life in specific situations; however, when anxiety reactions take place without danger or when they are tagged inaccurately to a non-threatening trigger then the anxiety is a big deal because it is causing unnecessary problems for the individual and typically the family as well.

When this happens, the sooner someone engages in therapy with specific techniques designed to retrain the Amygdala the better.  I typically use a combination approach involving education, cognitive assessments of beliefs, and in-context experiential learning of corrected beliefs.  More on that in later blog posts.

Below is an info-graphic that you can freely share on your own blog or social media outlets to help debunk some of the myths about anxiety disorders.

Treatment can work…there is hope!

Have a Great Day!

Debunking Anxiety Myths 2

Anxiety Myth #1


Recently, I came across a list of anxiety myths that inspired me to develop my own list and thoughts on the topic.  I also wanted to create an infographic that could be shared to help raise awareness to the topic.

Regarding the notion that people with anxiety are weak, I often find this myth most often held by those suffering from anxiety and from their frustrated family members.  Anxiety is a bit like depression: all of us get depressed from time to time, but the majority will never experience depression at it deepest depths.

As people try to understand and place meaning to the severity of an anxiety disorder, many will settle on the belief that it has to do with weakness; however, this belief is not isolated to the sufferer and their family.  For years psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists have believed that the person had an innate condition resulting in the extreme reactions found in some anxiety disorders.  A review of the history of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can demonstrate how names of the condition evolved with changes in beliefs about the cause.

Anxiety disorders are at times complex and not easily sorted out.  As a result, in order to have both effective diagnosis and treatment planning you have to clearly understand the person’s history and interpretation of key events related to the experience and perception of anxiety.  Once you dig deep enough you start to identify specific wounds and inaccurate beliefs that are the root of anxiety disorders.  Where you find the wound is where you have to start your work as a therapist.

Below is the first of a series of info-graphics that you can freely share on your own blog or social media outlets to help debunk some of the myths about anxiety disorders.

Have a Great Day!

Debunking Anxiety Myths #1

The Entrepreneur Mindset

Good Morning!

Larry E. Quicksall

Larry E. Quicksall

I recently re-discovered the work of one of my colleagues in the Christian counseling field whom I first met back in 2001. Chris McCluskey is the Founder and President of the Professional Christian Coaching Institute, and he is the host of “Professional Christian Coaching LIVE” podcast, available for free at iTunes.

I was listening to his August 25, 2013, podcast titled “Michael Gerber: Entrepreneurial Mindset 3” and found it very interesting. Michael Gerber has been coaching small businesses for success starting back in the 1970s.

Michael’s presentation was not a skills-focused presentation, but instead exposed not only the valuable and necessary mindset of the entrepreneur, but also of the manager and technician. For without these three components in their proper balance and business will flounder and ultimately fail. Below is an infographic I created to help make this point more memorable.

3 Key Components to Successful Business

So, my recommendation today is to listen to Chris’ podcast and take notes from Michael Gerber’s presentation…I don’t think you will regret it. AND, if you don’t know what a podcast is or haven’t listened to one yet, then now is the time to start doing so. Podcasting is emerging as the new medium for education on your time schedule.

Have a Great Day!

Welcome to Therapy Talk

Hello and welcome to Therapy Talk.  My goal in this blog is to help you become the therapist you always wanted to be!  Now, I don’t have a magic wand, but I do have a range in experiences that have given me insights into helping my clients move forward in their lives through a process of recovery.  Sometimes the recovery is complete, while other times it is an ongoing path with the goal of stability.

With that said, let’s get started.  I have several topics I intend to address, but I am always open to questions, challenges, insights from my readers.  If you have something to share, please add a comment or shoot me an email, and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts in a way that will help you grow you abilities to help those you serve.

Have a Great Day!