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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Swamped by the Worried Well in the Emergency Room

Emergency Room workers are being swamped by medically healthy people who are frantically seeking testing for coronavirus. Though the present national period time is exceptional, their behavior is no different from anytime when anxiety escalates and panic overwhelms.


Anxiety is the normal, healthy experience when the mind senses danger. It can produce symptoms that mimic virtually any medical disorder: pain in the head or back; nausea or dry mouth; scarily heightened blood pressure; skin eruption; lack of appetite. All instantly vanishing when the fear that aroused them disappears. During normal times, forty to sixty percent of the people arriving at an Emergency Room who fear that they're having a heart attack are really suffering a Panic Disorder. This is the condition when the normal symptoms of anxiety are misinterpreted as a deadly medical event.


More public education about the human mind is sorely needed.

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How the Present Coronavirus Crisis Differs From Past National Crises

The present extreme public anxiety caused by the coronavirus may reflect its difference from past national crises. Those, like in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack and President Kennedy's assassination, were better capable of being grasped, being more "conventional" and having a presumed brief time frame to experience whereas the present crisis may be experienced more like that of the seemingly endless and inexplicable Great Depression.

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Overcoming an Agitated Depression

There are few more painful experiences than an agitated depression: the combination of pervading anxiety and deep depression. Which can result following such common trauma as divorce or unemployment. Or even apparently nothing since, as I never tire of saying, the unconscious is very powerful and one must respect its power.


Because feelings reflect both mind and body, they cannot be separated. Thus does remaining in bed make depression worse and incoherent flight increase panic. So when altering the body through constructive activity, as by involving oneself in a work or household chore, the agitated depression lifts and, sometime later, its unconscious cause (if one exists) may surface.

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The Anxiety of Physical Illness

Physical illness involves feeling different, disconnected from the usual experience of possessing control over oneself, having the ability to reason, and considering oneself omnipotent in the world. While unrealistic, feeling all-powerful is needed for it enables one to function in the world, to engage in needed routines without anxiety. Yet this critical sense can be disrupted by physical change, even one so insignificant as suffering a conventional cold or stomach upset for these deny the person the feeling of intactness and affect reasoning.

 

Suffering a severe illness can be far worse as thinking processes change and helplessness ensue, the latter being the scariest of all feelings: when the ill person becomes passive, and his body no longer respects his commands.

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Anxiety Disorders, and the Retreat from Relating to Unconscious Motivation

This past weekend’s edition (April 29-30, 2017) of the Wall Street Journal contained the review of a book describing the author's painful experience with anxiety (“On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety” by Andrea Petersen). Her long-term symptoms included the usual: multiple fears, and non-medically caused, odd bodily sensations.
After years on various medications and ( Read More 
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The Difference Between Fear and Anxiety

Like conjoined twins, it can be hard to emotionally separate fear from anxiety though they differ. Fear is the suspicion of danger, whether actual or merely imagined. Anxiety is the resultant physical experience with symptoms that can mimic virtually any medical disorder: increased heart rate, dry mouth, loss of appetite, and/or pain in  Read More 
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