Can people overcome acrophobia through proper training?

Anxiety and Panic: What is Anxiety?

Fear and Panic: But what is fear? Fear is a basic emotion that everyone experiences, regardless of their culture and upbringing. Fear is therefore part of human existence and is even vital, as it is supposed to protect us from potential dangers. In addition, fear can also be perceived as positive and pleasant. In psychology this is referred to as (eng.) "Thrill". It is an ambivalent experience between fear and pleasure, which has a stimulating effect on the organism.

In his fear model (1966), Charles Spielberger describes fear as an emotion, also (eng.) State fear (state) and anxiety as (eng.) Trate fear (property).


Furthermore, there is a difference between the emotion fear, the temporary state of immediate experience, and fearfulness as a personality trait that is independent of temporally bound events. However, when anxiety is disproportionate, has no rational cause, and is associated with suffering, it is known as an anxiety disorder.

Fear differs in intensity and appearance. First of all, according to the psychoanalyst Fritz Riemann, there are various basic fears of people that everyone knows. These include the "fear of change", the "fear of closeness", the "fear of finality" and the "fear of becoming oneself".

The expression of fears, the intensity, range from simpleUncertaintiessuch as B. simple trepidation or shyness, up to severefear

An externally manifested form of fear represents thephobia It is directed against certain objects, situations, rooms or living beings.

Fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of spiders (arachnophobia), claustrophobia caused by many people in confined spaces (agoraphobia), fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia) or fear of the mother-in-law (pentheraphobia) are among the widespread phobic anxiety disorders.

If the fear is perceived as particularly intense, one speaks ofpanic. Anxiety attacks occur, which are characterized by shortness of breath, racing heart and sweating, among other things. But it can also lead to rigid shock or catastrophic paralysis, which make the person unable to move in particularly frightening situations.


Physical reactions to fear

Fear actually serves to protect us. We feel fear when we are exposed to a (supposed) danger, e.g. B. a car is approaching us quickly. Fear therefore leads to a “fight or flight” reaction. This means that we either try to fight or to flee - in the case of the car, escape is the better option. What happens in our body is an activation that enables us to act quickly and effectively. The reactions in detail are:

  • Sensory perceptions intensify (especially the pupils dilate)
  • Stress hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released
  • Heart rate increases
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Blood vessels constrict
  • The muscles are better supplied with blood
  • Blood thickens (in preparation for potential injury)
  • Breathing becomes faster so that more oxygen can be drawn into the muscles
  • Digestion and libido are inhibited to save energy
  • Blood sugar rises
  • Body temperature rises
  • Cold sweat comes out
  • Tremble
  • Attention rises and nervousness (excitement) spreads

The so-called sympathetic nerve, our excitation and tension nerve, is responsible for this activation of the body. If the danger and the fear pass, the corresponding opposing, inhibiting, physical reactions occur in order to calm the organism again and to bring it back to normal. This function is taken over by the so-called parasympathetic nerve, our relaxation nerve. In some people, however, the inhibitory reactions set in first in fearful situations, which leads to the aforementioned paralysis.

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Behavior in fear

The researcher Siegbert Warwitz divides the reactions to fear into 8 different behaviors. They move between the two extremes: fleeing or attacking, excessive elevation and trivializing.

  1. Avoidance - an attempt is made to avoid the triggering event
  2. Trifling - the fearful behavior experienced as embarrassing is played down in front of oneself and others
  3. Repression - Feelings of fear are suppressed or pushed away
  4. Denial - Feelings of fear are ignored and hidden from others
  5. Exaggeration - safety precautions are exaggerated for reassurance
  6. Generalization - one's own fear is generalized to others so that one does not feel special or alone "Everyone is afraid"
  7. Coping - Make reasonable efforts to deal with the fear
  8. Heroization - feeling of heroism when searching and experiencing, or overcoming fear

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What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders is a collective term for mental disorders that are associated with feelings of fear. This results in exaggerated or disproportionate fear reactions to the actual lack of external threats. Affected people cannot control their exaggerated fear response. Anxiety disorders are divided into two categories. The first category includes unspecific fears that occur spontaneously and randomly and have no specific trigger. The second category includes phobias. In other words, fears that are related to certain objects, situations or spaces that trigger fear. Anxiety disorders can e.g. B. arise when living conditions change and these changes are associated with additional burdens. Examples of this can be a separation of the partner, a serious medical diagnosis, the loss of a job, moving to another city, the birth of a child, the transition from school to study or work, or the transition from work to retirement life or the Loss of a relative, friend or acquaintance. In general, however, the causes of an anxiety disorder are diverse and cannot be broken down into a single trigger.

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What are Panic Disorders?

Panic disorders require that the person concerned has already experienced one or more panic attacks. They are also characterized by a constant fear of having another panic attack. There are no special triggers or situations for these panic attacks. They can appear in relaxed situations such as watching TV, while sleeping, or in certain situations such as shopping or swimming. In two thirds of the cases, panic attacks occur in combination with other phobias. The most common of these is agoraphobia (claustrophobia). Those affected feel constricted or are afraid of a lack of opportunities to escape.

The frequency of panic attacks varies between several times a day to monthly. This makes them unpredictable, which is a heavy, constant burden for those affected. After all, the next panic attack can happen at any moment at any time. This is called the so-calledFear of expectation. Affected people are afraid of the fear. The duration of a panic attack is limited to a few minutes up to half an hour. In rare cases, panic attacks can last for several hours. The symptoms of panic attack are very similar to those of other anxiety disorders:

  • Racing heart
  • Chest pain
  • Feelings of suffocation
  • dizziness
  • Fainting
  • nausea
  • Sweats
  • Hot flashes
  • Tremble
  • Feeling of depersonalization / alienation (the feeling of standing next to you)
  • Feeling of derealization (the feeling of being in a strange environment)

In addition to the symptoms mentioned, a fear of dying, a feeling of loss of control, or a fear of going insane may also arise.

Panic disorders are very common. Around 3-4% of all people worldwide are affected. Women are about twice as likely to develop panic disorder. Most patients develop this for the first time between the ages of 20 and 30. Panic attacks are strongest in their mid-30s and decrease with age.

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First aid tips for panic attacks

What to do if you have a panic attack These first aid tips are intended to provide support for this. First of all, please note the following: It is not the symptoms themselves that trigger a panic attack. But your own assessment that these are life-threatening. The less threatening thoughts arise, the less fear and panic will be felt.



Mindful breathing

During a panic attack, people tend to breathe in large amounts of air quickly because they feel like they are suffocating. However, they forget to breathe out again. The first advice for panic attacks is therefore: Slow down your breathing and actively feel the incoming and outgoing air. Active tracking helps to find a focal point so as not to get involved in thoughts of a possible threat. To prevent thoughts from becoming independent, it is also helpful to count the breaths. You can count ten breaths at a time and start again at 1. It can also help to put your hand on your stomach and feel it move with each breath. The same goes for deep, slow inhalation through the nose, where every breath can be actively perceived. To counteract hyperventilation, it can also help to inhale into a bag or to hold the inhaled air for about 10-15 seconds before exhaling it again.



keep Calm

If you yourself are affected by a panic attack, the tip "keep calm" is of course not very helpful in the first place. Nevertheless, it helps to make yourself aware again and again that you are not exposed to any acute danger and that the attack will pass quickly - even if it doesn't feel like it at the moment. However, this tip is very relevant for companions. After all, in such a situation they must not allow themselves to be infected by fear. Downplaying the fear is not the right approach. Instead, it is important for companions to act as a safe point of contact for those affected to convey security and security.



Relaxation techniques

Numerous relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation have been shown to build muscle tension and fear. Since these methods are also very easy to learn, they are ideal for providing relief from acute panic attacks. The method works so well because it combines various aspects such as concentration points, a regulated breathing technique and targeted muscle tension and relaxation.



Self-compassion

Many sufferers are ashamed of their panic attack. Especially when it takes place in a public place. It is important that you do not have to be embarrassed and that there is no reason to be ashamed of it. Actively fighting anxiety also doesn't help, because it will make you tense up even more. Even if it is difficult, it is more helpful to accept your feelings and to try and understand what is happening in and with you at the moment. Panic attacks come quickly, but they also come to an end quickly. Convincing yourself well and motivating yourself to overcome the attack again can be very supportive.



deflection

During a panic attack, people are very focused on themselves and their feelings. This means that they can get deeper and deeper into the attack. To prevent this, it can help to focus on external circumstances.

Chewing gum can also help. This provides a physical distraction and has been shown to reduce stress. Listening to loud music, singing, humming, or even just being active can also be good distractions.



Cold water

Cold water lowers the body temperature and cools or slows down breathing. In turn, slow breathing helps to find peace and drinking also creates a certain distraction.



to get help

If you find that breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and distraction are no longer helping, outpatient treatment may be necessary. In this case you can go to a hospital with a psychiatric department. In some cities there are also so-called “fear clinics” that offer consultation hours or you can use other telephone advice centers, e.g. B. Telephone counseling.

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Treatment options for panic disorder

Before you can treat panic attacks, it is important to find out what their cause or trigger is. Panic-like states can be related not only to mental disorders, but also to physical illnesses. Therefore, the exact diagnosis is necessary for targeted treatment. Physical illnesses that trigger panic attacks can include:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • asthma
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • epilepsy
  • Drugs (cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, opiates, and hallucinogens)

If the panic attacks are psychological, cognitive behavioral therapy has established itself as a particularly effective form of therapy. In severe cases, additional medication can also relieve symptoms.

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Anxiety and Panic: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Psychoeducation, i. H. the detailed education of the patient about the respective disorder is the first stage in the therapy. Simply by providing information and familiarizing yourself with typical features, those affected find it easier to understand what happens to them during an attack. This removes the fear of the unknown. In addition, those affected do not feel left alone, as they learn that many other people also have the same symptoms.

In the second stage, the patient is supposed to cause a panic attack willingly during his therapeutic session. This can be caused by a combination of rapid breathing and rapid circular motion and making you feel dizzy. The goal behind this exercise is that those affected learn that panic attacks are not caused by a potential heart attack, but are primarily regulated by their own breathing. In this way, for the first time, the person affected also has control over when and how a panic attack starts.

If panic attacks occur in combination with phobias, those affected are confronted more and more with their fears during their therapy. Through the repeated confrontation and additional knowledge transfer, the triggering fears decrease and the number of panic attacks decreases.

Before the therapy is completed, the therapist prepares the person concerned for potential relapses. This prophylactic knowledge is used to ensure that those affected know how to deal with panic attacks and how to fight them independently.

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Generalized anxiety disorder

People with generalized anxiety disorder live in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and tension. The fear is not tied to a specific trigger, but rather non-specific.

Those affected have the persistent fear that they or their relatives would be exposed to a danger such as illness or a possible accident. It is normal for everyone to worry. However, these fears are much more pronounced in people with generalized anxiety disorder, so that their everyday lives and that of their loved ones can be severely affected. In order for the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder to be made, the person concerned must have been in a tense and worried state for at least 6 months.

Those affected experience the following symptoms:

  • Persistent nervousness, worries and fears
  • Tremble
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweats
  • Drowsiness
  • Palpitations or racing heart
  • dizziness
  • sleep disorders
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • stomach pain
  • Avoidance of supposedly threatening situations



Development of a generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorders can have a variety of causes. A trigger for this can be a genetic predisposition. Affecting other family members can make it more likely that you will develop an anxiety disorder yourself.

Other genetic predispositions can ensure that certain messenger substances in the brain, especially those that are supposed to provide relaxation, are less present or have a poorer effect.Medical research has shown that the brains of those with anxiety disorders respond differently to external stimuli. However, it cannot be clearly determined to what extent these biological changes are of a hereditary nature or the result of environmental influences. According to the latest research, we know that our experiences definitely influence our genes and that we are therefore not “at the mercy” of our predispositions.

Another theory that tries to explain the development of anxiety disorders deals with human development in early childhood. Children who were unable to develop secure bonds with their parents or other caregivers were more affected by anxiety disorders than children with healthy attachment behavior.



Treatment of generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorders can have a variety of causes. A trigger for this can be a genetic predisposition. Affecting other family members can make it more likely that you will develop an anxiety disorder yourself.

Other genetic predispositions can ensure that certain messenger substances in the brain, especially those that are supposed to provide relaxation, are less present or have a poorer effect. Medical research has shown that the brains of those with anxiety disorders respond differently to external stimuli. However, it cannot be clearly determined to what extent these biological changes are of a hereditary nature or the result of environmental influences. According to the latest research, we know that our experiences definitely influence our genes and that we are therefore not “at the mercy” of our predispositions.

Another theory that tries to explain the development of anxiety disorders deals with human development in early childhood. Children who were unable to develop secure bonds with their parents or other caregivers were more affected by anxiety disorders than children with healthy attachment behavior.

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What are phobias?

A phobia, unlike generalized anxiety disorder, is the fear or fear of a specific object, space, or situation. So it is aimed at something specific. However, the fear is unfounded, as the fear-inducing object does not pose a threat to the person concerned. Interestingly, those affected even know themselves that their fear is unfounded - but they still cannot “switch off”. Because of the unfounded fear, which is very intense during the moment, the quality of life of the person concerned is disturbed.

Phobias can be directed against anything, so that a wide variety of phobias can arise. In order to distinguish a phobia from a normal fear, an impairment of everyday life or an avoidance behavior of the person concerned must have occurred. Many people fear or respect spiders and would not want to touch them if they are sitting in front of you. People suffering from arachnophobia would most likely not enter the room the spider is in. This avoidance behavior is part of a phobia. Phobic fears are not only experienced psychologically, but are also accompanied by physical symptoms that intensify the negative perception.

These include the following symptoms:

  • Racing heart
  • Sweats
  • Tremble
  • Fainting
  • Hot flashes
  • nervousness
  • Hysterical behavior

People who suffer from certain phobias try to avoid these triggering situations, rooms, objects or living beings. Depending on the phobia, however, the avoidance behavior exercised can also develop into a generalized anxiety disorder and social isolation, since all situations in which the triggering anxiety could be present are avoided.

Phobias are usually divided into three main types: agoraphobia, social phobias, and specific phobias. These three main forms can form different variations and combinations.



Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia (claustrophobia) describes the fear of large public places or crowds. Those affected are afraid of not being able to flee the situation quickly. In the event of a potentially dangerous situation, they would not have a safe haven. Agoraphobias often occur in combination and as a result of panic attacks.



claustrophobia

In contrast to agoraphobia, the fear of public places with many people, claustrophobics are afraid of narrow or closed spaces. Common examples of this are elevators, full buses or trains, airplanes, changing rooms, basements or small rooms. Claustrophobics feel trapped and quickly feel like they are not getting enough air. Just like agoraphobics, those affected by claustrophobia develop intensive avoidance behavior in order to escape their fears.



Social phobia

In contrast to agoraphobia, the fear of public places with many people, people who suffer from claustrophobia are afraid of narrow or closed spaces. Common examples of this are elevators, full buses or trains, airplanes, changing rooms, basements or small rooms. People with claustrophobia feel trapped and quickly feel like they are not getting enough air. Just like agoraphobics, those affected by claustrophobia develop intensive avoidance behavior in order to escape their fears.



Specific phobia

The specific phobias can be directed against any possible object, space, situation or living being:

  • Acrophobia - fear of heights
  • Aviophobia - fear of flying
  • Dentophobia - Fear of the dentist
  • Allium obia - fear of garlic
  • Arithmophobia - fear of numbers
  • Ataxophobia - fear of disorder
  • Acrophobia - fear of gold
  • Papaphobia - Fear of the Pope
  • Phobophobia - fear of fear
  • Lutraphobia - fear of otters
  • Oenophobia - fear of wine
  • Venustraphobia - fear of beautiful women

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HelloBetter Training: Anxiety and Panic

At HelloBetter, we offer training against panic attacks and anxiety attacks, the effectiveness of which has been proven by 2 large-scale scientific studies. In these studies, a lasting relief of the occurrence of anxiety and panic symptoms could be demonstrated after completion of the training.

The training is aimed at anyone who suffers from panic attacks and would like to learn tested methods to overcome the fear of fear. In appealing texts, videos and audios, proven psychological techniques are conveyed that serve to improve one's own quality of life. A trained psychologist is at the participants' side during the training. The program can be flexibly integrated into your own everyday life so that you can access it independently at any time.

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