Wednesday, October 8, 2008

While Shivering In My Shoes

Today I’m going to continue my series of articles spreading the word about National Mental Illness Awareness Week. Yesterday, I talked about depression and invited you to join my "Walk This Way" campaign. There is nothing funny at all about depression, but you might get a chuckle or two out of this article.

Now we're going to talk about anxiety. Shivering in your shoes anxiety. One that no pose around in existence is going to convince anyone that you’re not afraid.

Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults in this country and are highly treatable, yet something like only 33% of people seek treatment for them. Many people mistake the physical symptoms of anxiety for something else and of course, there’s the worry about what people will think. (Who are these thinking people anyway? Pffffffft.)

It can be embarrassing to admit to someone that the sight of a cotton ball will send you swooning, weak in the knees nauseous and willing to risk life and/or limb to escape the sight of it. But, there you go, I just did it, so now you have no excuse. I know it seems amusing, but once, while going to Parent Teacher conferences at my kids’ school, I walked into a hallway where the kids’ latest art projects were being displayed. They had drawn eskimos and had outlined the hoods of the parkas in...cotton balls. Shiver me timbers, there was no striking a careless pose that time. I fled, screaming and when I told the teacher why I had to miss the conference, she laughed uncontrollably.

It is kinda funny, I guess. I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it. It’s a true, honest to goodness, phobia. And in case you were wondering, no I don’t like cotton candy or insulation, either.

Anxiety disorders are categorized as follows:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder which is characterized by excessive and unrealistic worry that lasts for a considerable length of time. Or, in my case, like 40 years ;)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which causes persistent, obsessive thoughts that often lead to its sufferers performing rituals or routines over and over.

Panic Disorder characterized by severe, well, attacks of panic. These need no explanation for anyone plagued by them. If you haven’t ever had one, be glad.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder usually follows an extremely traumatic event, like a sexual assault, witnessing a murder, natural disaster or war. It doesn’t have to be these things, though, it just has to be traumatic to you. Being kissed on the lips by a Santa Claus with a beard made of cotton balls for me, was a traumatic event, but that one’s not included on any of the lists I’ve read. To each his own.

Social Anxiety Disorder is also known as social phobia and is characterized by an extreme fear of being judged by others or doing something that would cause you embarrassment.

Specific Phobias are an intense fear to a specific object or situation. Some, like heights, do seem to be more logical than perhaps my fear of cotton balls. There was a waitress on Maury Povich once who was afraid of lettuce. The sufferers of phobias realize that their fear is completely irrational, but have no control over the way their mind reacts to the object. This fear kept me out of pharmacy school. Seriously. How would I open the medicine bottles?

These disorders can cause a whole slew of physical symptoms that are sometimes mistaken for other illnesses. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable through different types of therapy like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example and the use of medications.

Anxiety and depression, more often than not, go hand in hand. Most people who have symptoms of one, will also have symptoms of the other. Anxiety disorders also seem to coexist with bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

So what’s a person to do if you have one of more of these anxiety disorders? See a therapist. Whether or not you require medication depending on the severity of your symptoms and the effect on your quality of life because of these disorders, the therapists can teach you some incredible relaxation and breathing techniques that can stop some of these things in their tracks with a little practice.

While you're waiting for your appointment, just be glad you’re not that waitress ;)

Related posts: Walk This Way, Rainy Days and Mondays


Samantha said...

"Great post. Here's a website that can help you overcome
anxiety disorder without much hassle. You might want to give it a try at"

Damien said...

These are serious. A friend of mine just had a severe panic attack. He thought it was a heart attack but the er told him he was fine physically.

Dustin said...

Jessica, I find myself bewildered.

1) I am trying to understand what on EARTH could give someone a fear of cotton balls.

2) I am trying to figure out why I'm bewildered about your fear of cotton balls when I have my own fear of BALLOONS!

Seriously...I am not 100% sure where mine comes from...I think I might have an idea of what has aggravated in the past, but BALLOONS??? Mine isn't completely disabling, but I do get the racing heart and get really cautious when balloons are around. In fact, I worked for a truck dealership once and they blew up balloons every saturday *shudder*. They MADE ME DO IT! I had to blow up balloons that were so big we could hardly fit them through the door. I managed my way through it, but not without feeling like I had to run from the building!

The Rock Chick said...

Samantha: great links! Thank you!

Damien: they are serious, no doubt. I know quite a few people who have gone to the ER thinking they were having a heart attack.

Dustin: a doctor once told me that he believed that phobias to strange objects, like cotton balls or balloons, are caused by the mind associating fear of something with that object. He said he had come across quite a few people with a fear of cotton balls and he has no doubt that it arises from getting shots at the pediatricians office. They used to wipe your arm with an alcohol soaked cotton ball before giving the injections. Somehow the mind put all the fear involved into that cotton ball. Maybe it's true, I have no fear at all of getting shots, needles or anything like that. Just cotton balls. Well, and Santa's since the other incident :)

I'm just curious because I know how hard is it is to do, but did you tell your boss about the balloon thing? I'm trying to imagine actually working with a cotton ball. I don't see it happening.

Dustin said...

As much as I hate to say it, yes I did tell my boss, and my co-workers, and it did NOT go over well (for me). (I hate to say it because people fear telling people about their issues because they fear they will be ridiculed.) They thought it was hilarious and wanted me involved all the more because they wanted to see me squirm. If it was particularly disabling, I probably would have gone to human resources with it, but I also think my fear of balloons is kinda kooky and I am able to force myself to be around them...I just hate every second of it.

Crystal said...

Dustin's boss should be ashamed. I've been laughed at too as well as treated poorly in other ways (by one dental assistant in particular who I'd still LOVE to slap if I weren't such a nice person) and it's ridiculous.

I HATE watching those talk shows when they cover phobias because the poor people are in tears and very obviously physically, mentally and emotionally being traumatized and what is the audience doing? Laughing their butts off. It's shameful that people can be so calloused. They wouldn't be laughing if they knew sheer terror themselves.

Whew. Can you tell I have big feelings on this topic? ;o)

The Rock Chick said...

Dustin: UGH! Phobia free people don't get it sometimes. That's why I'm here writing! :)

Crystal: That's what floors me. Laughing from regular people, I get. But I don't get it when a doctor or a dentist doesn't understand about phobias and treat you like you're insane or something. I don't normally watch phobia shows like that but they were leading in with curing someone of a cotton ball phobia, so I was intrigued. I decided to fight my anxiety just watching the program listening to them talk ad they told the woman to go backstage to meet with this therapist. She got up and the cameras followed her and as soon as she got backstage a man wearing an entire suit made of cotton balls jumped out at her! I screamed and ran and was only watching it on TV. I can't even imagine what happened to that woman. It wasn't funny at all.

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