Christmas: Often anxiety disorders and panic attacks

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Anxiety disorders: For many people, Christmas is a horror trip

While most people enjoy the advent season and look forward to Christmas, others experience a veritable horror trip, especially in the contemplative season. "Those who suffer from social fears or panic disorders often perceive the approaching Christmas as a threat," said de psychotherapist and author Dr. Doris Wolf told the news agency "dapd".

According to the expert, anxiety disorders are a widespread phenomenon that affects or affects around one in seven Germans. People who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders can often hardly enjoy the Christmas season, but feel it as an enormous psychological burden, s Wolf continues. They "fear that they will have to endure the proximity of people they don't want to meet at festive gatherings, or they may feel lonely precisely because they have no one to be with or want to be with," reports the psychotherapist. Due to the psychological pressure, those affected also show physical symptoms such as faster and deeper breathing, increased muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure. It is not uncommon for the patients to experience real fear of death in the course of the panic attacks, which is also due to the noticeable physical symptoms (fear of a heart attack). Christmas is therefore not a contemplative season for those affected, but often characterized by considerable psychological complaints.

Self-doubts and fears intensify at Christmas time Numerous factors, which healthy people rate as common Christmas stress, are a considerable burden for people with anxiety disorder. For example, they torment considerable fears of failure when it comes to choosing food and gifts or organizing the festival. This can also be seen in the calls to the telephone counseling service, explained Ruth Belzner, psychologist and chair of the Evangelical Conference for Telephone Counseling and Open Doors. Fears and disappointments around Christmas are often an issue at this time of year. “Around the holidays, people start to think about things that repress them in everyday life, disappointment and self-doubt break out more easily,” explains Belzner. According to this, the fear and feeling of being exposed to people with anxiety disorders are particularly intense at Christmas time. This often has a significant impact on the behavior of those affected. Fear of fear alone in certain situations sometimes puts them under stress for hours and prevents them from doing important activities such as shopping or meeting friends and acquaintances. Your everyday life is severely restricted by the anxiety disorder. Telephone counseling offers those affected the opportunity to speak about their fears without being assessed or even condemned, explained Ruth Belzner.

Physical reactions intensify the panic attacks According to the psychotherapist Doris Wolf, fear in itself is a sensible alarm reaction of the body, in which our organism “reacts to certain stimuli today just as it does to our ancestors, who flee from wild animals at lightning speed fight hostile tribes or have to crouch silently. ”But the physical reactions triggered by this can aggravate the panic attacks in patients with anxiety disorder. They initially show typical anxiety symptoms in psychologically stressful situations, such as an increased heart rate. Due to the physical reaction, those affected have the feeling that something is wrong and their fear continues to increase. Without an objective reason, they panic. However, according to the expert, fear reactions can also be trained again. To avoid fear, those affected should first pay attention to what thoughts and fears precede their feeling of fear, explained Doris Wolf. Then the patients have to ask themselves whether all of the fears will actually materialize or whether they will exaggerate the extent of the danger themselves.

Unlearn fears? Just as fear reactions are learned, they can be forgotten again, the expert explained. Little by little, the disorder can be remedied, for example by repeatedly dealing with the actually harmless situations that cause them panic and saying to themselves: “I know that all my physical symptoms will appear. They are the result of my thoughts. You will pass. I can take it, they are just uncomfortable, ”said Wolf. In her view, it is particularly important that the patient remains in the situation until the fear subsides. Since this way of confronting his fear, however, costs a lot of energy, "therapeutic support is very helpful for some people", the expert continues. Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation (progressive muscle relaxation) are also helpful, because "we cannot experience fear and relaxation at the same time," explained Wolf.

Various causes of anxiety disorders Factors such as Christmas stress or high workloads can trigger the anxiety disorder, but the actual causes of the complaints are extremely complex according to current knowledge. For example, experts cite genetic, neurobiological and social factors as possible causes of anxiety disorders. Physical diseases, such as a thyroid dysfunction (overactive thyroid and underactive thyroid), should also be mentioned as possible causes of the fears. In the course of the diagnosis, the patient's medical history and their personal development should be taken into account. (fp)

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