Tag: #children #anxiety

I Need You to Understand Why I’m So Sensitive to Everything

So please, have some understanding for me when I say I need some space. I often make the mistake of holding out too long, pushing myself too far and ending up over the emotional edge because I didn’t stop and recognize what my body and brain were trying to tell me before it was too late. If I get there, there’s not much I can do but go to a quiet place where I don’t have to see or talk or touch anyone and try to use any number of tools — from medication to breathing exercises — to bring myself back to normal.

If you’re going to be in my life, then you should know about this. But if respecting my different needs or believing me when I say I have a need makes you feel hurt, then it’s better we not be friends.

The article:

I Need You to Understand Why I’m So Sensitive to Everything

Sometimes, when I get stressed, anxious or frustrated, I break down. The hard part is, it’s not just from things most people would find stressful. In fact, I deal pretty well with the big things: death, breakups, loss of a pet. I know these things are bad and I feel what I would consider “normal” emotions when they happen. Maybe that’s because I know everyone feels them and society accepts those emotions as valid.

The problem is, my emotions don’t just fire off from life-altering occurrences. My body and my brain can’t tell the difference between a life-or-death situation and a normal, everyday stressor. I have the same panicked reaction to misplacing my wedding ring as I might to misplacing my actual husband. My brain and body can go from zero to 100 in two seconds flat. I’m never truly calm: I might look like it on the outside but beneath the surface, there’s a trigger just waiting to flip and throw me into a full-on panic attack. What makes this even more fun is that I have learned to become anxious about the possibility of becoming anxious. If I start to worry that my emotions might get out of control, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’ve been this way my whole life but I never knew there was a name for it. When I “overreacted” as a kid, my parents thought I was just being melodramatic. Maybe they thought I just wanted attention and thought crying was the best way to get it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want nothing more than to be happy. Because, you see, my “happy” is a million times more happy than anyone else’s. Because my emotions are so strong, I don’t need to take drugs to feel the world’s best high. I simply need to be happy for a few minutes and I feel amped up like I’m on drugs — I can write, I can create, I can do anything. Not in a reckless sense: I’ve never driven fast or thought I could fly. It’s just… when I feel good, I feel amazing. The same way that, when I feel bad, I feel like it’s going to kill me.

A couple of years ago, I learned this has a name: emotional intensity. I simply experience the world in levels of color and sound and touch that most people can’t imagine. And of course, levels of emotion. It’s not just emotion, though; I’m sensitive to everything. There are fabrics I can’t bear to touch, sounds I can’t bear to hear, smells that make me want to vomit. Everywhere I go, I have to try to shield myself against things no one ever thinks twice about. I take a dose of NyQuil and I’m hungover for 24 hours. I have to be careful about something as commonplace as a cold pill or the medication they use at the dentist. If I don’t remind a doctor about my overly sensitive nervous system, I can have a terrifying out-of-body experience from stimulants they put in common drugs, which cause me to lose sensation in my limbs and feel like I’m both floating and drowning at the same time.

Most people don’t know this about me and I think I do a pretty good job of hiding it, so maybe that’s part of the problem. When I’m under a lot of stress — say from work, school or other things — or if I’m abnormally tired or hungry, for example, my ability to stay in control goes down. I am at risk of falling to the floor and crying into my hands for as long as it takes to unravel myself from the mental obstacle course I’m jumping through.

So, several years ago, when I started seeking professional help, I learned one coping strategy — remove yourself from the situation. De-escalate. That’s what my doctor said. I started to learn to recognize the feelings of overwhelming emotion or sensation before they got too far and I could tell myself (and others) I needed a break. It’s not always convenient or polite, but it’s what I need to do to prevent losing myself into panic, crying, and if I’m being honest, depressive thoughts that spiral to the darkest places extremely fast.

I’ve gotten better at this over the past few years. I’ve become better at voicing what I need, even if I’m far from perfect. At least now, I can say it’s starting to get bad before I’m “there.” At least now, I can recognize when I can’t handle a single minute more before I’m lying on the floor, pounding my fists into my own body out of frustration and rage.

I’m still working, very hard in fact, to move beyond where I am now to a place where I can not only recognize but stop my emotions in their tracks and separate myself from their painful effects. I have a whole set of professionals, medications, and even an iPhone app (yes, there’s an app for that!) And I swear, I’m trying my damnedest to get through life in a way most people take for granted.

Alexithymia: The Emotion-Processing Dysfunction That Makes It Hard to Identify Emotions 

At some point in our lives, most of us have answered the question, “How are you?” with an honest, “I don’t know.” 

It’s natural to struggle with knowing how we really feel from time to time. Sometimes life is going so fast that we don’t have a moment to slow down and check in with our emotions. Other times, we’ve been cycling through so many emotions at once that we don’t know which one is affecting us most.

But for people with alexithymia, identifying and processing emotions isn’t a now-and-then kind of struggle. It’s something that can feel next to impossible the majority of the time.

What Is Alexithymia?

If you’ve even heard the word “alexithymia” before, it’s likely because actress and Disney alum, Alyson Stoner, opened up about her struggles with it earlier this year. But if you haven’t heard of it, you’re in good company. 

Though alexithymia is fairly well-known in clinical circles, it’s not as well known outside of them — perhaps because it is not an official diagnosis recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Alexithymia can best be described as an emotion-processing dysfunction. 

“Alexithymia is essentially a dysfunction in the normal emotional awareness processes that make it difficult for people to put a name to their feelings,” John Richey, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychology at Virginia Tech, told The Mighty.

According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Sifneos coined the term “alexithymia” back in 1973 to describe patients who struggled to identify their emotions and therefore had trouble engaging in certain types of psychotherapy. 

The lack of emotional awareness people with alexithymia experience can sometimes also affect their ability to empathize with others. One studyfound that participants with alexithymia were less able to recognize emotional expressions in faces than people without alexithymia. 

“A child or adult with alexithymia often struggles to understand his or her own self experience,” Deborah Serani, Psy.D., who specializes in treating depression, said. “Individuals with alexithymia have difficulty understanding how others feel and think too.”

At the moment, there isn’t much research on alexithymia, so experts aren’t able to definitively say what causes it. Dr. Richey told The Mighty there is still much to explore when it comes to alexithymia, but he felt reasonably confident in the belief that alexithymia could be impacted by how much emotional labeling was modeled, and reinforced or punished in childhood.

Who Can Have Alexithymia?

Anyone can have alexithymia, but it’s slightly more common in men than women. Dr. Serani told The Mighty approximately 8% of males and 2% of females will experience this emotion-processing dysfunction.

Alexithymia also shows up in people with certain mental health conditions, most notably, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In addition to people with mental illnesses, some studies have linked alexithymia and autism. 

In their piece, “Am I Ready for an Autism Diagnosis?” Mighty contributor Anonymously Autistic wrote about how alexithymia made it difficult to describe their experience of autism in therapy:

I have alexithymia. It is part of my autism that makes it hard to describe my autism. I have had to teach myself to describe my feelings because if I don’t consciously ask myself how I feel, I don’t know. Before I started asking myself this question, I never would have been able to explain what I was feeling because people always told me how I was feeling growing up.

If the description of alexithymia sounds similar to your experience, you’re not alone. There are tangible ways to work on expanding your emotional repertoire — we’ve outlined a few of them below.

Treatment for Alexithymia

Though there isn’t a treatment out there that targets alexithymia specifically, people with alexithymia can benefit from existing forms of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help individuals focus on identifying and understanding the connection between thoughts and emotions. For people with both alexithymia and depression, this can be particularly useful.

“When someone with alexithymia says, ‘I’m depressed,’ it could be that he or she is very sad. But it might also mean frustrated, lonely, disappointed, mournful, empty, fatigued, lost, helpless,” Dr. Serani explained, adding:

Much of depression can be reduced with shifts in thinking and feeling. So, it’s vital for a person who has depression to become well-versed in the textures of their own symptoms to know what techniques to put into action. While it can be very challenging for those who struggle with alexithymia to broaden their emotional awareness, psychotherapy greatly reduces [the struggle].

Dr. Richey also encourages people with alexithymia to pay attention to the physical sensations that accompany the emotions they do feel. For example, you might notice your heart beat faster when you feel angry or upset. You might notice your body feels sluggish when you’re sad. You might notice yourself sweating when you feel embarrassed or anxious. Learning to link your physical sensations to emotions takes time, but as you work on emotion identification, it will slowly get easier.

Whether you have alexithymia or not, struggling with identifying and processing your emotions can be difficult and sometimes discouraging. While your feelings are always valid, we want you to know there is hope. 

“The best thing I could say as a word of encouragement is that you’re certainly not alone. There are many people who struggle with alexithymia,” Richey said. “There are also many people who are thinking about it from a research perspective. So I think there is a community of people who are very interested in understanding this problem and developing better treatments.” 

If you’re struggling, we encourage you to reach out to a trusted mental health professional. If you don’t have a therapist or don’t know where to look for one, check out this handy therapist finder tool. And as always, if you need support, you can always turn to our community by posting a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. Our community wants to support you, no matter what you’re facing.

Children use those phrases to say they are anxious

Source: https://themighty.com/2017/12/anxiety-as-a-child-kid-signs-phrases-code-words-anxious/

As children, it can often be difficult to effectively communicate what we’re feeling. We might think whatever’s going on in our head is “normal,” so asking for help never even crosses our minds. Or maybe because we didn’t quite understand what was going on, we did the best we could in those moments of struggle to “reach out” in our own little ways.

Not until we’re older and looking back do we realize we’ve probably been trying to combat our anxiety for quite some time now, and that people — ourselves included — just didn’t really know what the “signs” were. That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us things they said as a kid others may not have realized were code for: “I’m anxious.”

Here is what the community had to say:

1. “What’s wrong with me?”

“I didn’t realize I had anxiety and my parents didn’t either. They just thought I was being dramatic when I would burst into tears crying, ‘What is wrong with me?’ I was a chatter box, so my silence was a sign my anxiety was in full swing.” — Kylie L.

2. “I’m tired.”

“When I was a kid, I experience sleep disturbances for a very long time. The whole process of going to school, getting through the day, trying not to be bullied and coming home was always mentally rehearsed the night before. It was around fourth grade that I started seeing the school’s social worker to create plans to self-soothe and keep the anxious thoughts under control, so sleep was one less thing to worry about.” — Julie A.

3. “I have a headache.”

“I used the excuse of feeling ill plenty of times to avoid going to school. I didn’t realize I had anxiety at the time, but everything makes sense when I look back on it now. I wasn’t just being ‘lazy’ back then.“ — Ada T.

“It was easier to explain that something physical was going on as opposed to something that was invisible.” — Joanna L.

4. “I’m sorry.”

“I constantly apologized for things that weren’t really an issue, or I just wouldn’t interact. I still have issues with constantly saying I’m sorry for non-issues and being very quiet in hard situations.” — Teresa R.

5. “Can’t we stay home?”

“I hated going out places because the noise bothered me. Now as an adult, I try to balance things, but it’s still a challenge.” — Elyse B.

6. “You do it.”

“I had such a hard time placing an order for food that I would tell whoever I was with what I wanted and have them place the order.”— Becky B.

7. “Is it time to leave yet?”

“I always said this because crowds of even more then two people would trigger my anxiety. I couldn’t wait till said events or functions were done.” — Shannon C.

8. “Don’t leave me.”

“I was very anxious about being abandoned as a child. I believed people would leave me if I wasn’t good enough, and it would be my fault.” — Jennifer P.

“Whenever my parents would want to leave me, I would beg them not to leave because I was too anxious. Or if they didn’t pick me up at the exact time they said they would from the babysitters, I would call them constantly until they answered.” — Riley S.

9. “I want to go home.”

“I used to tell my dad this every time he would take me to my mother’s and he would get extremely confused.” — Megan G.

10. “Can you turn on the hallway light for me at night?”

“I lived in fear for a few years that someone was going to come into my room and kidnap me. The light didn’t help. I would lie in bed for two hours just waiting. I still don’t sleep well.” — Laura R.

11. “Don’t make me.”

“I’d tell my parents this when I didn’t want to go to school in the morning.” — Josephine C.

12. “My body is uncomfortable.”

“I used to say, ‘My body is uncomfortable, my body is uncomfortable!’ I didn’t know what it was at the time. Years later, I finally figured it out!” — Barb S.

13. “I don’t feel well.”

“Or more specifically, ‘My stomach hurts.’ Even now, my gut and my feelings are still greatly connected.” — Carrie M. 

“My stomach hurts. I remember being sent home several times because I was sick and no one ever knew what was wrong with me. Shortly after I’d get home my stomach pains would cease and I’d be fine. Of course I couldn’t have known on my own that I was just anxious.” — Rebecca R. 

14. “I don’t want to!”

“My 10-year-old has anxiety and he is rarely up for anything new. He digs his heels in and thinks of every excuse in the book to attend a new event, activity, vacation spot, etc.” — Reba S.

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