Category Archives: Fear

Hypochondria and Health Anxiety

“If you’ve got a lot of anxiety in this area, stop googling diseases. That’s like a person with a fear of flying being on a plane and choosing to watch an in-flight documentary about airplane crashes. It’s going to make you feel worse.”

All of us live in an imperfect body in a constantly changing environment. Some of us have it worse than others. But it is perfectly normal for our bodies to not work at its most optimal level at all times. Sometimes your stomach won’t feel too good. Sometimes you will feel a soreness that you didn’t notice before. Sometimes you’ll develop a rash. It’s all quite normal.

But when these unpleasant events occur, there’s different places that our thoughts can go to. There’s the “Oh, it’s nothing” thought, there’s the “Hmmm… I’m sure I’ll be ok. But just in case, I’ll go see the doctor in time” thought, and there’s also the thought “Oh my gosh. This is probably a terminal disease and I’m going to die. I need to see a doctor right now!” Like I explained in my 11th VLOG about the addiction to negativity, whichever thought your mind goes to, you will create a neural pathway between the event and your response. And if you keep on responding in the same way again and again, you can eventually become addicted to thinking in that way.

If you get to this point, this is very scary. And the scariest part of it all is the uncertainty. So, many people experiencing this kind of fear will then attempt to remove the uncertainty by seeing a health professional, a doctor. They get their relief upon hearing from the doctor that they are going to be fine.

But you know what has just happened inside your brain? It has just recorded this response and reward. And if you do this again and again, you can become dependant on this reward. In other words, seeing the doctor can become the coping mechanism that you are addicted to. And if this is the case, the number of people who can actually comfort you in this area drops down to a very small number.

If you’ve been so used to this pattern for a long time, another scary thing can start to happen automatically. Instead of first sensing a physical problem which then leads you to think catastrophically about your health, the whole pattern can become so interconnected overtime that these things start to happen in reverse. So your thoughts and your anxieties can begin to cause you to feel the symptoms of diseases, when actually, everything is fine.

This can cause a new problem. After the doctor says “You’re going to be fine,” there, again, are different places that your thoughts can go to. One thought might be “Yes, you’re probably right.” But another might be “Oh my gosh, you don’t know anything, do you? I know what I’m feeling and I know something is definitely wrong.” People with a lot of anxiety and a tendency to think negatively are also often very skeptical people. Skepticism protects them from overly trusting information that could be wrong. And after repeatedly doubting doctors, you can get yourself trapped into a place where there is no longer anyone who can comfort you. But the idea that there must be some perfect doctor out there will keep you on an endless hunt for that perfect doctor. And along the way, there’s so much anxiety, disappointment, and stress, and depending on where you live in the world, that could be quite costly too.

This is a mental health issue that requires a reprogramming of the mind. It is an addiction to thinking negatively about your own health. What you need to do is build a new pattern of thinking positively in this area. Yes, you can still see the doctor, but even before you do that, you have to learn how to comfort yourself and not always depend on the doctor to feel at peace.

For a more thorough explanation on how to recover from this pattern of negativity, check out my short series on the addiction to negativity:
(1) NEGATIVITY
(2) RELAPSE
(3) RECOVERY FROM NEGATIVITY ADDICTION

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Tunnel Vision

I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten into a fist fight as I have, but your brain does amazing things when such a moment of crisis occurs. As a survival response, your brain momentarily zeros in all your attention, focus, and memory onto your opponent and pumps loads of energy into the rest of your body. Now imagine being stuck in this survival mode for the rest of your life because your entire life is an unending crisis.

People with OCPD operate with tunnel vision because they are always in survival mode (my first post on hypersensitivity explains why they are in survival mode in the first place).

As you can see from my fight example, tunnel vision is not something exclusive to only people with OCPD. Anyone who has a fear gets their tunnel vision activated. Even my arachnophobic friend, who I have been using as an example in all my earlier posts about fear, also operates in tunnel vision when he is confronted with his fear. When he sees a spider in my bathroom, his focus zeros in on that spider. His entire body is still. He does not think about anything else. He never takes his eye off, not even while he is using the toilet, until the spider is killed.

But while his tunnel vision only needs to be activated in those occasional times that he comes across a spider, the tunnel vision of people with OCPD is activated all the time because of their unending fear of the entire world. So what you get are people who function like superhuman beings in a few areas of their life. Their attention, focus, memory, drive, and motivation operate at extreme levels that no regular person can match. In other “nonessential” areas, however, their life feel like a chore to them. In these areas, they have extreme difficulty being attentive, keeping focused, remembering, and being driven and motivated. After repeatedly operating in tunnel vision for so much of their life, their brain develops such strong neural pathways of this type of focus that it becomes an automatic way in which their mind operates.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Unless you live alone in the Himalayas and have no family or friends, you cannot get away with neglecting your “chores.” It is unfair for your family, friends, employer, business partner, or government to suffer because you choose not to pull your own weight. Before you forget, get your chores done and over with. Then move onto the things you are passionate about. If your tunnel vision is causing you to neglect simple gestures of care that mean a lot to your friends, allow them to communicate openly with you what those gestures are. Put your pride down for a minute and listen to how you can make them feel like you care about them. If you get angry, you will destroy that channel of communication and leave your friend to assume that you do not care about them. While you are in the zone and someone “interrupts” you, do not explode in anger – you know you can easily get right back in the zone because it’s something you are passionate about.

HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Assume that your OCPD friend is not reliable at all in things that he or she does not have much passion for. If there is something that requires his or her attention, summarize very concisely (1) what needs to be done, (2) when it needs to be done by, and (3) what will happen as a consequence if it is not done by that time. If you do not learn how to speak concisely about things that your OCPD friend considers as chores, he or she will only hear “blah blah blah” as you talk. If your OCPD friend fails to do things that most people would automatically do out of their care and consideration for you, don’t go on assuming that he or she does not care about you. Although that may be the case for regular people, it is not the case for people with OCPD; people with OCPD can care about someone so much, yet still be completely oblivious to simple gestures of care because of their tunnel vision. All that they need sometimes is someone to give them a hint. But thanks to Disney, giving hints shows weakness. So women avoid asking their men to treat them like princesses and men avoid asking their women to treat them like champions. They should just know, right? Wrong! If you let your OCPD friend know how he or she can make you happier (without offending him or her), most likely he or she will be happy to do that for you. On the other hand, if you choose not to communicate, but rather have the attitude that he or she should be able to read your mind, bitterness will build up inside of you from all your assumptions until you will eventually hate your OCPD friend. Now whose fault is that? The one who has little control over his or her tunnel vision because his or her brain has created strong neural pathways from repetitive use or the one who chose not to communicate because he or she did not want to appear weak? If your OCPD friend is in the zone, try not to interrupt. Don’t take it personally if your OCPD friend seems to be unaware of your existence while he or she is in the zone.

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR TUNNEL VISION (OCPD):
I believe it is very important for people with OCPD to make timetables and day plans. Set aside some time for work, family, friends, errands, chores, meals, exercise, sleep, leisure and relaxation, things you are passionate about, etc. Make an agreement with the people you live with that you will follow your timetable. Whatever time slot you are in, regardless of how passionate you are about it, give your 100%. For example, if you are in your relaxation time slot, do not think about work.

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Control

Fear creates a need for something to be done in order to keep oneself safe.

People with OCPD are preoccupied with control because doing something rather than nothing gives them a sense of security from their fear.

I have a friend who has a fear of spiders. When he finds a spider in my bathroom, his mind alerts him, “Danger!” He feels compelled to do something in order to protect himself. He kills the spider right away and flushes it down the toilet to control his fear.

For all of us without arachnophobia, it is easy to say to him that the spider poses no real threat to our survival. Most of us may have the freedom to continue on our business in the bathroom without feeling as much need to do something about that spider.

In the same way that my friend feels the need to do something about that spider, people with OCPD feel the need to do something about the world around them and the uncomfortable emotions inside of them that they fear.


SO WHAT NOW?

ADVICE FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE WHO ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH CONTROL:
As long as you keep on controlling your fears, you will prevent yourself from facing your fears. You will not get to personally experience that you will be just fine, that things will be ok. Rather than controlling your fears, try to let go and think positively.

ADVICE FOR PARTNERS/FRIENDS/LOVED ONES OF HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE WHO ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH CONTROL:
Try to understand that your friend’s need for control comes from his or her anxiety and fear. Try your best to be a source of comfort and security. Submitting to the control of your friend will only temporarily alleviate his or her anxiety. Doing this occasionally may be appropriate some times to not push your friend off the edge of his or her fear. But when he or she is in a calm state, help your friend identify the root of his or her need for control, invite him or her to let go of control, and comfort him or her by saying, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be just fine” (be a voice of positivity in his or her life).

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