CBT therapy specialising in anxiety disorders

My blog

Welcome to my blog.

My blog aims to give you up-to-date information, resourses and research and anything in between that I think may benefit you in your journey to anxiety recovery.

By Matthew Coleclough, Oct 4 2017 07:02PM

When it comes to overall health it’s saddening to see in our society how little credit is given to the ‘mind’ and instead the focus is mainly on improving the ‘body’, generally through diet and exercise. It is well understood in psychology that the content of our mind can have detrimental effects on our body with increasing studies suggesting that negative thinking can cause conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), heart disease, fibromyalgia and even cancer! Considering this, surely it would be best if we instead paid more attention to our minds and learned to better understand it, respect it and train it? Our overall mental wellbeing lies in large on the content of our thoughts; if we have lots of positive thoughts we will generally feel quite good and likewise, if we have lots of negative thoughts we will generally feel bad. Its useful to think that negative thoughts relating to our past can lead to depression and thoughts relating to our future can lead to anxiety. Ideally what we need is more presence and to try and keep our minds in the moment because when we really think about it the present moment is always all we ever have anyway.

By Matthew Coleclough, Nov 21 2016 09:38PM

"Knowledge is power"

Francis Bacon

In my experience, complete recovery from anxiety disorders can only be achieved by gaining a thorough understanding of your condition and by applying complete acceptance

I remember when I was a kid and my dad suggested we watch this old black and white horror movie called 'The Haunting'. He said it would be one of scariest films I would ever see. He was right! It was a film about a group of people, temporary living in a supposedly haunted mansion in the middle of nowhere, hoping to find some evidence of ghosts. I remember after the film he asked me if I knew why it was such a scary film. I had no idea why. He told me that it was because it was one of the only horror films where you never ever get to see the ghost throughout the entire movie. He had an excellent point, people get frightened when there is uncertainty and stay frightened until they know what is happening. As soon as they understand what is happening and uncover what is scaring them, they can let go of it in their mind and begin to relax. As I never got to see the ghost throughout the entire movie I was continually left frightened and tense.

In the same way, it is necessary for you to uncover everything there is to know about your anxiety disorder. Ultimately your anxiety disorder exists within you because of the way you think, your thinking habits. Habits are hard to break but gaining knowledge about how these thinking came to be and why they continue to cause you suffering will help empower you to find the courage and determination to ‘accept’ everything and make recovery much more achievable. It really only comes down to acceptance you know – acceptance, acceptance, acceptance!!

By Matthew Coleclough, Jun 25 2016 08:20PM

*First and foremost you must understand that it is worry and rumination that ultimately cause anxiety disorders – it’s as simple as that! REMEMBER THAT!

What to do when you ‘catch’ your worry and rumination (second fear)

Worry and rumination are types of thinking styles, which, although people engage in for a reason, are ultimately unhelpful. Nothing good ever comes from worry or rumination. It is this worry and rumination that causes and prolongs your suffering.

Detached mindfulness is a way of taking a perspective on your own thinking processes in a detached way, without interpreting, analysing, controlling or reacting to them in any way. When you notice a worrying thought or image (e.g., what if….) or a ruminative thought (e.g., why me…if only…), it is important not to engage with these. Engagement involves responding to the thought, questioning the meaning of it, or having or continuing a dialogue with it in any way. It is important to remember that non-engagement is not the same as avoidance, such as trying to distract oneself from the thought or pushing it away.

Analogies of detached mindfulness

The unruly child

Treat your intrusive thoughts as you might an unruly child that you have to look after (i.e. you cant avoid). You need to acknowledge the child is there but paying too much attention to it (engaging with it) would merely reinforce its bad behaviour, and attempting to punish the child (suppress it) would upset the child even further. Thus, the best thing to do is leave the child alone to settle of its own accord.

Pushing clouds

Intrusive thoughts can be treated as if they were clouds in the sky. That is, they are something that is passing by, and that we can do nothing about. They are part of a natural self-regulating weather system and attempting to stop or push them away is neither necessary nor possible. Even if we could, this would disturb the balance necessary for the rainfall and nature. Therefore the thing to do is let them occupy their own space and passively watch their behaviour over time.

Train analogy

Imagine you are on a train platform. Trains (of thought) will pull in. Rather than getting on them and become trapped inside (engaging with them, simply stand on the platform and observe them as they pull in and away. It may help to say to yourself ‘why get on this train of thought and become stressed and anxious when I can just stand on the platform and enjoy the scenery?.

*Remember cure lies in reversing the pattern and that begins in learning how to respond differently to your habitual worrying or ruminative thought patterns. In order to get a different result you need to try a different approach. It is simply the worrying and rumination that keeps you feeling the way you do…change it!

By Matthew Coleclough, Apr 22 2016 08:23PM

The tractor analogy

The tracter Analogy. The habit of negative thinking, particularly ‘worry’, is what ultimately causes and prolongs anxiety disorders; it’s as simple as that. Stress, genetics and learnt behaviour can all be contributing factors but without the added stress of ‘worry’ they simply wouldn’t exist. Through repeated worry, the brain changes the way it functions, and begins to treat ‘worry’ as ‘important’ and that it must be continually used. This is no different than learning to ride a bike. We keep learning it until the brain changes the way it functions so much so that it becomes ‘learnt’ and we can ride the bike without even thinking about it; it becomes a habit.

Imagine a tractor crossing a bumpy field via the same track every day. Each day the track becomes increasingly deeper and deeper until eventually it becomes so entrenched that this becomes a quick and easy route for the tractor to cross the field. If the tractor were to digress away from this route it would be difficult; the deep walls of the track would pull the tractor firmly back into it. However, if the tractor chipped away steadily at a new route, over time this new route would begin to form until it was firmly laid. If the tractor then decides to continue to use this new track, it too would become more entrenched until eventually this route would become a quick and easy route across the field. The old ‘unused’ route would gradually over time begin to naturally fill up with dirt and debris but it would always leave some sort of impression. If there were a sudden storm bringing flash floods there is a chance that the tractor could slip back into the old track which would start to become once more entrenched.

In the same way when we think negatively (old track), initially it can be very difficult to think more positively (change track). However, the more we try this then the easier it becomes until eventually the new track becomes the habitual way to think. Under times of stress (storm) it can become so difficult to retain this new way of thinking that sometimes we can slip back into the old negative thinking habits. The difference between recovery and non-recovery lies in learning how to stay on the new path.

By Matthew Coleclough, Apr 18 2016 06:06PM

I thought I'd write a little (or a lot) about how Dr. Claire Weekes' method can help to eradicate anxiety. In my experience it is the surest way to complete recovery from nervous illness.

Firstly panic is the dominating force and this must be addressed. A nervously ill person must realise that when they panic there are two fears involved. When they spot the second fear they should apply the 4 concepts AND detached mindfulness

Dr Weekes sets out to explain how a nervous breakdown begins and develops and how it can be cured. She states simply that a cure can be achieved if we use our innate courage and perseverance and emphasizes that the power is within us to achieve the goal of recovery from a ‘nervous breakdown’, no matter how difficult our plight is. Dr Weekes states –

“Each of us has unsuspected power to accomplish what we demand of ourselves, if we care to search for it. You are no exception. You can find it if you make up your mind to, however great a coward you may think of yourself at this moment. I have no illusions about you.”

An important element in the key to our recovery is understanding t he notion of nervous fatigue which can manifest as muscular, mental, emotional and spiritual fatigue. Apparently any individual can suffer from any one or all of these fatigues and not be deemed as nervously ill when one fears the effects of nervous fatigue and this fear interferes with one’s life thus creating an anxiety state. The phrase ‘fear of fear’ comes to mind. The anxiety sufferer becomes fearful of the symptoms of anxiety thus perpetuating a ‘web of fear’.

Dr Weekes explains the four types of nervous fatigue as follows:

• Muscular fatigue relates to the physical aches that are experienced when muscles are subjected to constant and severe tension resulting in physical symptoms such as blurred vision and headaches.

• Emotional fatigue occurs when our nerves are subjected to strong emotions over a prolonged period of time and become sensitised to the slighted provocation. Dr Weekes describes how a ‘fear-adrenaline-fear cycle’ can set in thus perpetuating anxiety. Fear can activate the hormone adrenaline which in turn intensifies and creates more fear and then more adrenaline results thus creating a debilitating cycle.

• Mental fatigue can result from constantly thinking about and being pre-occupied with the concerns of being an anxiety state.

• Fatigue of the spirit can be experienced when the constant struggle and battle with anxiety wear us out and flatten out hope and courage.

Dr Weekes alludes to ‘that persistent inner voice’ that seems to urge the anxiety sufferer to not have faith in themselves. The inner voice may say “Others can do it, others can recover, but not you!” Dr Weekes advises that in a sensitised person this voice is only natural, however don’t be fooled by it. You have the capacity to move forward.

Dr Weekes treatment for anxiety and a cure is based on four concepts:

1. Facing 2. Accepting 3. Floating 4. Letting time pass

1. FACING requires the individual to acknowledge and understand that the cure comes from within. It means facing the things and situations that make us fearful as well as facing the nervous symptoms than many of us would rather avoid. According to Dr Weekes the notion of facing fearful situations but having the option of retreating if we panic or go beyond our ‘comfort zone’ does not facilitate a long-term cure. Instead, it is necessary to face fear and panic symptoms and to learn to deal with them. The long term goal is for the individual to learn to cope with panic so that it no longer matters if it does happen. An old Chinese proverb ‘Go straight to the heart of danger, for there you will find safety’ reflects this concept.

2. ACCEPTING involves learning to co-exist in a kind of truce with the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic no matter how uncomfortable they can get. Fighting fear and its often terrible physical symptoms can spark more fear and thus perpetuate anxiety and panic. De-sensitisation to fear lies in acknowledging the physical symptoms and discomfort and to trying to flow with it. The aim of acceptance is to try not to fuel existing fear with more fear. Obviously this isn’t easy and requires practice. Dr Weekes states that by practicing accepting, “…you earn the little voice that says, ‘It doesn’t matter anymore if panic comes!’ this is the only voice to listen to. It is your staff, and will always come to help you in setbacks, even if you find yourself almost helpless on the floor”.

3. FLOATING encapsulates the idea that instead of fighting and forcing our way past anxiety and fear it is more effective to physically and mentally take the path of least resistance and float towards, through and past the anxiety. Dr Weekes likens the sensation to floating on a cloud or water. The aim of floating appears to be to remove the rigid and exhausting physical and mental fight that panic and anxiety sufferers find themselves involved in when confronting fear thus removing another source of fear. Indeed, floating can be a very pleasant antidote to fear and panic.

4. LETTING TIME PASS asks from us an understanding that recovery can take time. It takes time for a nervously sensitised physical body to heal and for the heightened memory of fear and panic to gradually extinguish. We live in a society that fosters an expectation that life can be instant and fast, and these concepts can be counterproductive to a recovery that requires time. Dr Weekes counsels that setbacks on the road to recovery should not create dismay, but instead be expected and accepted. Setbacks provide us with an opportunity to build and forge our recovery on repeated practice and experience so that the techniques become truly ingrained in us.

“Complete Self-Help for Your Nerves” provides a wealth of practical information in addition to the practical techniques discussed in this review. The familiar physical aspects of anxiety such as churning stomach, sweating hands, racing heart, trembling and inability to take a deep breath, amongst many others are examined. The ‘all too familiar’ problems such as sorrow, guilt, obsession, sleeplessness, depression and loss of confidence are discussed, thereby providing useful information that the anxiety sufferer can tap into. The use of anxiety sufferer’s experiences to illustrate discussion helps this text to ‘come alive’ and provides practical examples that enhance understanding of the concepts discussed.

An aspect of Dr Weekes’ attempt to facilitate the reader’s understanding and recovery from anxiety is the role and power of our thoughts in creating and perpetuating anxiety. The saying ‘Your thoughts are your reality’ comes to mind. I gleaned an impression from this book that Dr Weekes has great faith in our ability to heal our nerves. The practical advice and strategies contained in this book as well as its optimistic tone and faith provide the reader with access to the skills and courage to help themselves onto the path to recovery. An unsolicited piece of advice from this reviewer to the anxiety sufferer would be “Just read it!”

Dr. Weekes books are available from major book retailers, the Open Leaves Bookshop and may be available in your local public library

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