I hear voices. They’re different than the voices of a psychotic disorder. A person living with schizophrenia, for example, can physically hear voices as if they were real. There is a sound to them in the brain. There are other ways to hear voices that do not involve psychosis. I happen to have a voice in my head, and it speaks to me loudly and clearly. The voice, in my case, belongs to anxiety, and it never seems to shut up. Keep reading »

My name is Gabe Howard and I have bipolar and anxiety disorders. As a public speaker and writer using my lived experience with mental illness, I say that sentence often. Some version of that is on my business card and website and it is how I start most of my speeches. But, is that my identity? Is a set of diagnoses really who I am?

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Last weekend, I had a conversation with a good friend. The conversation involved a disagreement, and I honestly thought I might have a heart attack. I don’t disagree well. Doing so increases my anxiety, sometimes to anxiety/panic attack proportions. Typically, I change the subject or, better yet, excuse myself and run. This time, though, I stuck it out. One, the woman is a good friend who is used to me, and two, the subject was anxiety. I wanted to stick around for that discussion. The essence of the debate was this: can anxiety be accepted as part of who one is and thus shoved to the background of existence and be practically ignored, or is anxiety bigger than that, something that cannot, will not, be accepted and ignored? Keep reading »

As one of the resident anxiety bloggers here at HealthyPlace, I spend a fair bit of time thinking about anxiety disorders. Between living with anxiety, talking to others who live with anxiety, writing about anxiety, and reading about anxiety, I have amassed quite a bit of knowledge. This is good, because I get a lot of questions.

Among them: What is an anxiety trigger? What causes triggers? How can anxiety triggers be avoided? Unfortunately, there is no real, concrete “answer” to any of those questions, save for the first one. We can define what an anxiety trigger is. But, not surprisingly, the definition isn’t really very helpful:

An anxiety trigger is an object or situation that can cause your anxiety symptoms to appear.

Clear as mud, right?

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Mental Illness Awareness Week 2014 continues. The week means slightly different things to different people (as in specific awareness, the attitude behind the desire for awareness, etc.) To me, it means something relatively simple. It means looking at people in a new way, leading to a new understanding of them as human beings. Mental illness happens to be part, just part, of who they/we are. Awareness of the whole package brings understanding of the whole person. Keep reading »

Managing an anxiety disorder is a bit like navigating a minefield. There are safe places to step and there are dangerous places to step. The trick to navigating a minefield successfully is to not step on any mines, which is made easier by being able to detect where the mines are buried. The trick to navigating anxiety is much the same. Avoid the anxiety and/or panic attack by knowing how to avoid the triggers.

Unlike anxiety, a mine has the decency to only explode once. But it is possible to have anxiety be triggered by the same thing multiple times. If loud noises give you anxiety, they will continue to give you anxiety. If you can avoid loud noises, you’ll be fine.

But what can be done about anxiety triggers that you can’t avoid? What if the only path through the field is to step on the mine?

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I once had a therapist whom I admired, respected, and trusted who observed during a particular session that I have an anxious personality. Hmm. What, I wondered, did that actually mean? Is that better than the anxiety disorders I had previously been diagnosed with? Or was it worse, because “disorder” implies that something can be improved, whereas a personality is just what it is? Of course my anxiety skyrocketed and I set out to discover what personality has to do with anxiety. Keep reading »

As of this writing, I live with my wife. But before I lived with her, I had a variety living situations, including living alone and with a roommate. Anxiety and panic attacks occurring at home are fairly common for many of us with anxiety disorders and disorders don’t much care what your personal living situation is.

Panic and anxiety attacks in public present a special kind of frustration because, in addition to the attack, we have to deal with the embarrassment of being sick in public. Even during my worst panic attack in a public forum, I was still concerned with what others thought of me and whether or not they were judging me.

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Anxiety can be beastly. It can take hold of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Anxiety seems to take control of our physical body, too. How on Earth do we combat such a beast? How about with bubbles? Keep reading »

Assertiveness doesn’t come easily to many people, myself included. Sometimes, the mere thought of having to express myself or make some need or another known is enough to kick anxiety into high gear. When engaged in a situation where it’s necessary to assert yourself—from speaking up to a supervisor about something you think isn’t quite right to informing a friend that you hate the restaurant she chooses every time you have lunch together, and a million other situations—anxiety can stop you in your tracks. Indeed, it’s difficult to be assertive when we’re nauseous, dizzy, sweaty, and unable to breathe properly let alone think clearly or concentrate. Happily, we’re not doomed to a life of passivity. Keep reading »