Welcome to our Mental Health blog at the Chicago Counseling Center. This is a space where we discuss Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Phobias, and PTSD and other mental health resources.
Understanding the difference between anxiety vs. panic attack can make a big difference in how you approach your mental health or that of someone who is experience one or both of these. The following article covers the differences and why they happen.
The Experience of Anxiety
Anxiety while functional, can be rather uncomfortable. In our physical bodies, we may experience shortness of breath, increased sweating, a rapid heart rate, and even feelings of dizziness or nausea. This experience can be so overwhelming for some that the initial factors which contributed to the anxiety can be completely disregarded, and the anxiety itself becomes the problem. But what is the limit? When do normal physiological senses of anxiety become so extreme that you feel a struggle to hold on as the world forcefully spins around you?
As human beings we experience thousands of thoughts a day. Some are intentional, such as when we are planning for something or trying to remember something, and some are unintentional, such as a worry about something going wrong or a memory of someone being triggered by something. Thoughts can also be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, though most often they are experienced as either pleasant or unpleasant. When a thought is unintentional or spontaneous and experienced as unpleasant or unwanted, it is considered an intrusive thought. Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that can occur spontaneously or in response to internal or external cues. They are often experienced as distressing and can cause significant anxiety. When intrusive thoughts are interpreted as meaningful and threatening, this distress and anxiety can be quite debilitating. This is often what happens to someone who struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or a related Anxiety Disorder.
Considering taking medication for your OCD? Here is a guide to give you all the information to make an informed choice.
What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is generally understood as the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions, although the two are often found together. Obsessions can be in the form of thoughts, urges, or images and are persistent in nature. They are experienced as intrusive and unwanted, meaning the person does not find any enjoyment in these obsessions. The person will try to ignore or subdue these obsessions, which usually takes form through compulsions.
Until the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was classified as an anxiety disorder. Many still consider anxiety to be the defining feature of the disorder, by which obsessions cause anxiety and compulsions alleviate those feelings associated with anxiety.
In the post below, you will learn more about what obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is and how it is characterized. This post will focus specifically on “existential OCD”, just one of the many unique subtypes of the disorder. Read on to learn about what it means to have existential OCD, common symptoms and treatment options.
After the holidays end, the travel bug kicks in. Not only does the bug start to appear more and more, but Spring Break comes up quickly as well. For some traveling is exciting, but it can also be a pain. Do you want to learn how to ease into vacation better? Are you looking to actually relax and enjoy the trips you take? Whether you are alone or with your family it is possible to eliminate travel anxiety as your constant and primary companion.
First and foremost, resist the urge to procrastinate. If you know that the budget is tight, and you need to be scoping out travel costs and hotel prices, make this a fun part of the planning process. It can be fun by making the time for it and not pushing it off until the last minute. So, try setting aside time in your schedule for planning around lodging and how you are going to get to your destination in a way that doesn’t break the bank. The more you put it off, the more it will feel like a burden as opposed to an exciting part of the trip.
Try to keep in mind the times that you have successfully approached barriers and difficult situations during previous trips.You may not realize this, but you are already your own traveling expert! That’s right…you are your own expert! This is a good reminder for many different situations that can come up in daily life, and if you take the time to do this you will have a tool you can use forever. “How do I do start?” you might ask. Start by acknowledging that you are the primary expert on all things you! Therefore, take some time to reflect on difficult moments when you have had to approach anxiety-ridden situations and how you successfully got through those times. This exercise will help you come up with tools you can use if similar situations arise while you are away from home.
Fear of flying is one of the most common phobias in the United States. You may have a flying fear yourself, or, if not, you definitely know someone who does. A vast majority of the population reports experiencing at least some level of discomfort while flying. For many people it is such a crippling fear that they simply refuse to get on a plane anymore. People frequently use alcohol and/or prescription (or even non-prescription!) medication to help themselves get through a flight with less anxiety, and most people feel a sense of relief once they have landed safely at their destination. But what if I told you that it’s not actually the flying part that freaks you out?
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Do these three things to help you start improving mental wellness today!
Abigail Yeomans, LPC
The more we try to create absolute certainty in our lives, the more we may realize how much uncertainty exists around us. It is a losing battle. Sure, uncertainty is uncomfortable, but is it harmful? Discomfort will not hurt us and while it is difficult to sit with, there is relieving power in doing so. On the other side of things, rejecting uncertainty can lead to avoidance of people, places, and situations that trigger uncomfortable emotions in our daily lives. That avoidance can then create a shield between you and what you truly value and enjoy in life. It is my advice to embrace uncertainty in order to let go of all things unknown. Letting go of what is unknown to us as opposed to constantly seeking out answers and certainty, will help you start living in the present moment and feel more balanced.
Previously I wrote about 3 OCD subtypes that most people are not familiar with: Harm OCD, Pedophile OCD, and Sexual Orientation OCD. In the interest of continuing to try and break through stereotypes of what OCD is and help people better understand the complex ways in which OCD may manifest itself, here are 3 more types of OCD that most people haven’t heard of: