Is your paranoia showing?

By David Joel Miller.

Increasing paranoia – the mental health challenge of this millennium?

Fearfulness

Paranoia.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The growing problem of paranoia is gone unrecognized for very long time. Currently, anxiety disorders are the number one diagnosed mental illness. The category of anxiety disorders has grown so large that recently professionals separated this family of disorders into two groups, the disorders of excessive anxiety, called anxiety disorders, and the disorders caused by real-life events, now referred to as trauma and stressor-related disorders. What has often overlooked is the prevalence of Paranoia.

The problem of paranoia frequently gets ignored.

Many people describe themselves as paranoid, or “a little bit paranoid.” Professionals often dismiss these labels as exaggerations. Over the last 25 years, as there has been more study of paranoia, professionals are starting to recognize how common paranoid symptoms are in the general population. Recent studies conclude that among the general population, people who have never been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, the rates of paranoia may run between 15 and 20 percent.

There’s no specific diagnosis for paranoia.

When we say paranoia, most people immediately think “paranoid schizophrenic.” We have come to understand that not everyone who has schizophrenia is paranoid. Paranoia can also be part of several other serious mental illnesses. Paranoia is also a part of paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, and may even be a feature of severe major depressive disorder. Many drugs of abuse can cause paranoia. Paranoia in its less extreme forms may go under the label “excessive suspicion” or “trust issues.” In it’s more dangerous form; paranoia can be a feature of delusional jealousy.

Humans are often poor judges of danger.

In the 1950’s almost every small child look forward to getting their first bicycle. Kids commonly walk to and from schools which were often a considerable distance away. Today many people do not let their children play outside. One explanation for this is they are afraid something bad will happen to their child.

The statistics tell us that the most dangerous place for most children is at home. Every year in America more children are shot and killed at home by a biological parent who then turns the gun on themselves than all the children killed in school shootings. Absolutely school shootings are a problem that needs to be tackled, but we are fooling ourselves by thinking that it strangers who are the major danger.

America and many other industrial countries are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity. The risk of poor health and shortened lifespan from lack of exercise far outweigh the risk to most children from going outside to play.

Many people worry every time they take to the road that they will encounter someone with road rage will run them off the road or shoot them. These are certainly risks, but the far greater risk comes from people being injured or killed in automobile accidents while not wearing your seatbelt.

Why have we all become more fearful?

High levels of danger are often associated with the big city and crowded urban environments. A hundred years ago less than 5 percent of the world’s population lived in large cities; most people lived in small towns and rural settings. Since the year 2000 more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in large cities. Today television and the online news are available 24/7 to tell you about every awful event.

Belief in conspiracy theories has become more common than not.

Humans use to accept widespread death from illness as normal increasingly people believe these epidemics must be the result of some government or international conspiracy. Throughout history, there have been plagues which devastated humanity. During the Middle Ages, there were places where as much as 70 percent of the population died. These same epidemics would recur periodically. In the 1800’s epidemics of yellow fever and cholera resulted in death rates of 30 to 50 percent of the population of some towns. In the U.S. Civil War, for every man killed in battle mortality in camp due to illness could run from 5 to 10 men. During World War I, deaths from Spanish influenza ran into the millions. These recurring illnesses used to be blamed on devils and demons, religious minorities and more recently bacteria and viruses. Today, when a new illness is discovered many people’s first thought, is that someone has deliberately created this illness or that there is a cure for it, but someone is withholding that cure.

People who believe in conspiracy theories often believe in mutually contradictory ones. The same person who believes that Jimmy Hoffa was killed by the CIA might also believe that he faked his own death and is currently living in Bolivia. The average person’s willingness to believe a conspiracy theory seems to be growing exponentially.

Some increased trust issues, even paranoia, may be reality based.

Modern society has created dangers that didn’t exist past. With larger numbers of people working for the same employer competition on the job becomes fiercer. Many of the people you work with you may never see outside of work. This has led to more competition on the job and less cooperation. When we were an agricultural society, farmers tended to help each other. Today it’s likely that the person in the next cubicle may be undermining you in the competition for promotion or to avoid the downsizing layoff.

Your increased dependence on technology put you at risk.

Technology is becoming more complicated and more pervasive, growing at an exponential rate. Your personal information is no longer safe because you keep it locked up. Every company you do business with, every detail of your financial and healthcare life may be at risk. Online companies know more about the person you sleep with.

How are trust issues, suspiciousness, anxiety, and paranoia connected?

In upcoming posts, I want to talk to you more about why “trust issues, suspiciousness, anxiety and even paranoia have become so prevalent, how they may be connected and how you can cope with your fears and not let the forces of anxiety and paranoia take over your life. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with the problems without talking about the solutions.

The future is not all bleak.

At the same time psychologists and counselors have been looking at some under recognize problems, things like paranoia, burnout, and the role of the Internet in changing human relationships some positive things have also been recognized. Positive psychology has revealed an entire technology centered around having a happy life. We now know happiness is not the result of constant doses of temporary pleasure but comes from long-term ways of thinking and behaving. We are also recognizing that people have certain inherent strengths. Whether you know it or not, you and your children have some talents and abilities just waiting to be discovered and perfected.

For more on these topics see:

Paranoia

Anxiety

Happiness

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Lessons Anxiety teaches you.

By David Joel Miller.

What are your fears teaching you?

Anxiety and Fear

Lessons Anxiety teaches you.
Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

Are you someone who suffers from high anxiety?  Have you learned the lessons that your anxiety is trying to teach you?  Anxiety can be a kind of bully, trying to scare you away from anything new and keeping you from the parts of life that might be beneficial. Or anxiety can become a good teacher and help you learn life lessons.

Below is the list of some lessons that anxiety might be able to teach you and ways that you could develop those lessons.

Just because it scares you does not make it dangerous.

A well-functioning anxiety system helps you identify risks and warns you of danger.  Some people’s anxiety system is turned up way too high.  Overly sensitive anxiety systems give off warning sounds and flashing lights even when the danger is minimal.

An important lesson you should learn from your experiences with anxiety is that not everything that makes you fearful or scares you is in fact, that dangerous.  Learn that your anxiety is a source of information, not an absolute life ruler.

It is OK to feel scared.

Some people believe they should never feel scared.  One of the lessons about anxiety it is important to learn is that it is possible to feel scared and still have nothing bad happened.  Let anxiety teach you this lesson.  Just because you’re scared does not mean that anything terrible or awful will necessarily happen to you

It is OK to feel what you feel.

Are you one of those people who was taught that you shouldn’t feel whatever it is that you are feeling?  A valuable lesson that anxiety and many of our other feelings has to teach us is that humans use feelings as a source of information.  Information is neither good nor bad in and of itself.  Was is important is for you to feel what you’re feeling, decide what that means, and then decide what you wanted to do with that information.

Feelings can be your friends.

Feelings are not automatically your enemies.  They can be your friends.  Sometimes anxiety and fear are friends warning you of danger.  What you need to decide is how real and how important that danger it is.  Every so often the danger is very real and very imminent.  During those times you will need to do something about it.  Other times your anxiety is detecting something new and unfamiliar and you’ll need to learn how you are going to respond to that new and novel situation.

Walking towards fear makes it shrink.

Fear is a natural-born bully.  Fear wants to have its way.  The more you give in to your fear the larger the fear grows.  Many things that look scary and are fearful at first sight become far less scary as you begin to do them.

If you walk towards something that scares you, what you will often find is that it is far scarier from a distance than once you get up close.

The first time is always the scariest.

Many people are afraid of something new that they’ve never experienced, but once they’ve tried it for that very first time that may discover that they enjoy it.  Don’t let your fears and your anxieties keep you from trying something that might turn out to be a great deal of fun.

Scary experiences create lasting memories.

Despite the fact that many people avoid things that make them anxious or scare them, most of us are also fascinated by the scary.  Scary movies draw large audiences.  Haunted houses are perennial Halloween favorites.

Because of the heightened level of hormones in the body during scary events the brain thinks that it is important to remember these times.  In thinking about the times that some event made you anxious it is important to remember the times that despite the anxiety those things turned out very well.

You can’t be calm and scared at the same time.

Ever notice when there’s a loud noise everyone turns to look at it and ignores everything else that is happening?  Anxiety and fear are like that.  They distract your attention from what else is going on at the same time.

One way of reducing anxieties impact on you is to learn ways to calm yourself.  Stress reduction techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation can all be very helpful in reducing your anxiety.  What you will quickly learn, if you try these techniques, is that it’s not possible to be calm, relaxed and scared at the very same time.

Learn to make this fundamental rule of emotions work for you.  Opposite sets of emotions don’t like to live together.  It’s difficult to laugh when you are sad.  People don’t seem to be able to be both excited and relaxed at the same time.  If you have found that your anxiety has gotten out of control, a quick way to reduce that anxiety if is to learn ways to self-soothe and calm yourself.

The more skills you have the more you can handle.

In all aspects of life, it is important to develop a good set of skills.  While initially, it may be uncomfortable to work with strong emotions such as anxiety, the more you do this work the better you get at it.  Repeatedly putting yourself in situations that create a small amount of anxiety, which you discover you are able to handle, can result in increasing your ability to handle increasingly difficult anxiety-provoking situations.

Whenever the size of your comfort zone, if you spend too much time cramped inside it, that comfort zone will prevent your personal growth.  Gradually work on stretching out that comfort zone.  Before long you will have the skills to handle situations they used to seem impossible.

When you do good self-care less overwhelms you.

Another lesson than anxiety will teach you is the importance of good self-care.  With poor self-care, it’s easy to get stressed out and have everything overwhelmed you.  When you concentrate on taking good care of yourself you will be able to handle situations that you never thought possible.

You will handle most things better than you thought you would.

It’s normal to be very scared before something that you have never experienced. What surprises so many of us is how often we are able to handle far more than we ever believed possible.  Anxiety teaches you that you are capable of much more than you would have believed had you not been in those anxiety-provoking situations.

Most of the things we worry about turn out better than we thought.

Many people discover that the majority of things they have worried about turn out better than they expected.  It is a human failing to expect the worst.  Let your anxiety teach you that many good things can happen.

You almost always have more options than you think.

One bad habit that makes anxiety far worse than it needs to be is artificially limiting your options.  Often we only see a couple of alternatives.  Make sure that you look for other options.  People will tell themselves they have to get something done by a deadline or they’re going to lose their job. Only seeing those two options results in not making use of the many more options that might have resulted in a better outcome.  Besides not finishing the report or getting fired, you may also have the options of discussing the deadline with your boss or requesting additional help in completing the project on time.

If you make anxiety your friend you may find that it’s a wonderful teacher.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

17 Habits of unhappy people.

By David Joel Mille.r

Are these habits keeping you miserable?

1. Keeping Secrets – covering up your mistakes.

Unhappiness

Unhappiness
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Family O’Abé)

Happy people learn to admit mistakes when they make them and then try to stop making the same ones over and over. It takes way more work to cover up your faults than to admit them and change your actions.

Keeping secrets isolates you from others and can damage relationships.

2. Trying to please others – be someone else.

Spending your life trying to please others is a sure prescription for unhappiness. Trying to be someone or something you are not will keep you stuck in your misery. Learn to accept who you are and move towards who you chose to be. Make yourself happy and others will find it easier to like you. Try to please everyone and you will please no one, especially not yourself.

3. Trying to find someone who will fix you.

No one can make you happy. Happiness is an inside job. Happy people attract other happy people and miserable people draw misery to them.  You do not find the perfect friend or lover and then become happy. You become a happy person and then you can be with others or alone and still be happy.

4. Holding on to regrets over past mistakes keeps you unhappy.

Regrets keep you stuck in the past. Happy people are happy in the now. Let the regrets go and move towards the what you can be.

5. Putting off until tomorrow – Procrastination perpetuates unhappiness.

Unhappy people expect the worst. As a result, they never do today what they can put off until tomorrow. Happy people make the effort. If only part of what they try to do works out they have accomplished a lot.

6. Waiting for something else to happen first delays happiness.

Do not wait for a good time to go back to school or a better time to find a job you will love. Start the process now and things will begin to happen.  Do not put off doing things that will improve your happiness until some other day, month or year.

7. Letting fear keep you from trying again keeps you unhappy.

Learn from your mistakes. Try to do things better, smarter and safer. If you have been in a bad relationship check the next one out carefully before you commit. If you are unhappy in your job, take a look at why. Consider that if you can change you, then any job can be a happy one. If you stay in unhappiness all work settings will keep you miserable.

8. Comparing yourself to everyone else emphasizes what you do not have.

You are you, others are others. Unhappy people keep comparing themselves to others. If you look long enough you will always find someone who has accomplished more than you.

The State Senior could compare himself to the governor, he didn’t get elected Governor. The Governor might compare himself to the President. Each and every President could compare themselves to Washington or Lincoln. How many politicians can be the founders of their country?

Just how many other people do you need to be better than to feel OK about yourself?

Stop making comparisons and accept you for you.

9. Feeling sorry for yourself keeps you in misery.

Feeling sorry can provide excuses for your failures. Too much time on the reason why can take the focus off what could be.

Do not stay stuck in self-pity. Get into action and see where a few steps can take you.

10. Trying to get even perpetuates the hurts.

Revenge is a fire that can consume you and everything in your life. The best revenge is a successful life. Unhappy people plot revenge. Happy people plan for their own successful life.

11. Mistreating yourself guarantees unhappiness.

Others may have been unfair to you; they may even have abused you. Do not keep up the abuse. Unhappy people do not take care of themselves, they self-abuse. Engaging in good self-care is the first step to happiness.

12. Staying too busy to have fun prevents happiness.

Day after day of obligation can melt into a life lived for others. Carve out time to do things just because you like them. Do more that you enjoy and you become happier and the rest of your life is happier.

13. Trying to be perfect keeps happiness moving away.

Perfectionism is the great enemy of happiness. It is an unobtainable goal that keeps moving farther away. Aim high but cut yourself slack when you do not reach all the way to the top.

Nature knows there is no such thing as perfection. One sunset does not try to outdo another; each is there for us to savor. The most beautiful of flowers often have a small imperfection if you look closely. Do not let your inner beauty be obscured by a few imperfections.

Those flaws and scars you have accumulated are the facets that make you the gem you are.

14. Taking the easy way out does not lead to happiness.

Doing only the easy things never lets you stretch and grow to your full potential. In recovery, you need to learn to crawl. Eventually, you need to get up and take a few steps. Those first efforts may result in some falls. Do not let this deter you from walking and eventually running.

Avoiding challenges are a guaranteed way to stay stuck in your unhappiness.

15. If you spend all your efforts avoiding the negative – you are creating it.

You can’t solve problems by running from them. Turn towards your challenges, approach them and they often get smaller.

A life lived in fear, avoiding the negative in your life, will leave those things a part of your life. Face your defects down, fix what you can and accept the ones you can’t.

16. Ignoring your unmet needs prevents happiness.

No good parent would leave their child unfed. If you have a pet in your life you feed it and sometimes you have to clean up after it. But when it comes to your needs, the unhappy person will leave their inner person unfed.

It is not selfish to take care of yourself. Make getting your needs met a priority. Those needs include safety and new challenges. Do not go overboard and create a diet of only meeting one need.

A happy person feels free to tell others about their needs and to ask for support in meeting those needs. If those around you are not taking your needs seriously make sure you work harder at expressing those needs. Set a good example of meeting these needs yourself. If those around you still do not recognize your legitimate needs consider if these relationships are healthy.

17.  Letting Fear of failure paralyze you stops the creation of happiness.

When under stress the brain reverts to the most primitive mechanisms. Fear can set you into a freeze, flight or fight response.

Be very careful to avoid the stuck-in-fear response. Freezing will keep you stuck. Flight will leave your problems to grow. Taking positive action can get those issues in your life you have been hiding from back under control.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Anxiety – fears and phobias can be treated.

By David Joel Miller.

Are you afraid of spiders, snakes or public speaking?

If you are afraid of a particular thing or situation and go to lengths to avoid that thing you may well have a Specific Phobia. Specific Phobia involves the fear that a particular thing is going to harm you. This fear may be irrationally strong even when you have never been harmed this way before and the risk is low.

There are five types of specific phobias, Animal type, Natural environment type, medical type, places, and “other” type. Other type includes diverse things like a fear of choking and a fear of costumed characters. People with a specific phobia, except very young children, know their fear is excessive and is interfering with their life but they will go to great lengths to avoid the thing that scares them and to avoid getting treatment for their phobia.

Animal type refers to the spiders and snakes as well as any number of other creatures great and small that may scare us. Some animals may really be harmful or dangerous but a phobia is not restricted to only those things we should fear but is enlarged to fear all creatures whether they are likely to harm us or not.

Natural environment phobias include heights, weather, and water. The “medical type” includes such things as blood, needles and medical procedures. Place phobia is best known for fear of flying and elevator fear.

A closely related anxiety disorder “Social Phobia” includes things like public speaking and eating in public. In social phobia, the fear is not of being physically injured but a fear of doing something that is embarrassing or uncontrollable.

Both social phobia and specific phobia are treatable. For some people, medication can help to manage symptoms in the short run but over time the symptoms of anxiety may reappear. A specific counseling method called systematic desensitization or exposure therapy is especially helpful for treating specific phobia and a related method works well for fear of public speaking.

If the phobia becomes excessive someone may seek treatment. Here is an example of a treatment episode for a mother; we shall call Ellen, who had a terrible fear of snakes. She was practically pushed in the office door by her husband Bob. Her son and her husband Bob both wanted to go camping and she had refused. While on vacation they had wanted to visit a zoo. Both of these activities might involve snakes and snakes terrified Ellen.

The therapist began by teaching Ellen how to relax using deep breathing and other relaxations techniques. It is impossible to be both frightened and relaxed at the same time. Over the next week, Ellen practiced her relaxation methods every time she became anxious, whether it was about snakes or just day-to-day life.

At the second session, they discussed what things about snakes provoked what level of fear. Could Ellen write the word snake on a piece of paper with only modest fear? Could she say “S-N-A-K-E.?”

For each item on the list, they assigned a number from one to ten. The goal was, to begin with, the “snake’ exposures that were the least frightening and progress to the more threatening ones. Her fear hierarchy might come out something like this.

  1. Write the word snake on a piece of paper.
  2. Say snake.
  3. Talk about snakes.
  4. Read a word book about snakes.
  5. Look at pictures in a book about snakes.
  6. Watch a video about snakes on T. V.
  7. Visit a local pet store with her son and look at snakes in the cages.
  8. Touch a snake while the pet shop owner held him.
  9. Visit the local zoo and look at snakes in the Herpetarium with her son and husband.
  10. Go on a camping trip where they might encounter a snake.

After developing the “snake fear scale” Ellen practiced her relaxation. She was then able to write down the list of “snake steps” and read them back to the counselor at the second meeting.

By the third session she was reading an article the counselor had brought in about types of snakes and some of the good things snakes can do.

Her efforts to look at pictures in a book took longer, several times she had to stop, do her relaxation exercises and discuss her feelings with her therapist.

Ellen watched the snake video in the counselor’s office, being prompted to do her breathing and relaxation as needed. She was able to take the video home and watch it a second time with her family and reported it went well and she did not have to close her eyes even once.

By the time summer came Ellen reported to the counselor she had completed steps one to nine.

This same sort of method can be used for social phobia. A common fear is public speaking. Many people report they are more afraid of public speaking than death. The old approach to fears and phobias was the “throw them in the deep end and they will sink or swim.”  Too many people were traumatized by that approach and never went in the water again.

Turns out that Bob, (Ellen’s husband remember?) was not afraid of snakes, but he was terrified of speaking in public. His company wanted him to make a presentation later in the year at a large convention and Bob was terrified. The counselor worked with Bob for a while on relaxation techniques and then gave Bob some choices.

For those with a fear of speaking there are classes at the local college or adult education and there are clubs whose purpose is to help people overcome their fear of speaking in front of others. Working with a small group of others who are all trying to learn to speak in public can ease the tension. Building up gradually from talking around a table to standing up and speaking to the group and finally to speaking in front of progressively larger audiences can build your confidence.

Bob took the college classes. He was able to complete the class and began speaking to groups his company sent him to speak at. Things were going fine. – Sort of.

Then the counselor got a frantic call from Bob and Ellen. Despite all their efforts and all that progress, Bob was terrified of the speech he needed to give at the convention, he was thinking of quitting his job to avoid it. Ellen had been in the bedroom crying for the last week. She was not going to the convention with Bob, as much as she wanted to be supportive because that meant the camping trip after the convention and her fear of snakes had returned with a vengeance.

Why after all that work had Bob and Ellen had a relapse of Anxiety? We know systematic desensitization works to reduce anxiety.

Stay tuned for a post on what causes an anxiety relapse.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.