What Does It Mean To Have Obsessive Thoughts? (And How To Stop Them)

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Obsessive thinking is a mental game that some of us partake in, but prefer to lose. When we go down the rabbit hole of overanalyzing what we said, what we did, or what a situation entailed, it can feel like a continuous loop of notifications popping up in our minds. And as hard as we try to silence them, they reappear without our consent, which can then affect our mood — and possibly, our way of life.Whether you’re experiencing this all-too-familiar situation or you know someone who is, it’s important to identify what and how these thought patterns can impact you and those around you. Below, we got to the bottom of what causes obsessive thoughts and how to overcome themWhat causes obsessive thoughtsObsessive thoughts, or rumination, usually appear in your mind when an unpleasant situation has occurred. According to the American Psychological Association, men and women tend to ruminate when they have a history of trauma, believe that it will provide insight into their situation, perceive that their situation is uncontrollable and stressful; and/or if they have personality characteristics that exemplify perfectionism, neuroticism, and excessive relational focus (aka overvaluing relationships to the point where you choose to sacrifice yourself to maintain them).

Essentially what this means is that your thoughts could be disrupting your life more than you realize. If you find yourself taking an hour or two to respond to a professional email because you want it to be perfect or deeply analyzing a conversation you had with a friend you just met, it could mean that you’re trying to control a situation to avoid or fix a possible negative outcome.

How to stop obsessive thoughts

Recognize and identify the pattern

Getting stuck inside a ruminating thought pattern can quickly feel debilitating when not addressed or stopped right away. If you’re not careful, you can easily spiral into an uncomfortable, negative cycle that can make you obsessive. The next time you become aware that you’re going down this route, try to take a break from thinking about the situation, take a deep breath, and identify why these thoughts are appearing.

According to text- or video-based therapy app Talkspace, Bruce M. Hyman and Cherry Pedrick wrote in The OCD Workbook that when you write down your thoughts, you should “examine these thoughts to understand how they’re triggered and how you’re currently responding to them.” Ideally, when you’re writing about what you’re feeling, you want to get to the root of the issue to identify the main cause of these negative thoughts. For instance, you want to ask yourself questions like “Why am I feeling anxious?” or “Is there another reason why I am experiencing these anxious emotions?” Sometimes we forget to actually take the time to talk to ourselves instead of just experiencing the emotions we feel. Asking these questions will help you have a better understanding as to why these type of thoughts are appearing in your mind in the first place.

Distract yourself

When you’re unable to stop worrying about a specific situation, the next best thing you can probably do is to distract yourself. Call a friend or family member who will help you think of something else, watch a movie, go for a walk, take an exercise class, or clean your home. Physically doing something else can help break the thought cycle and remind you that you have more control over your thoughts than you think.

Be kind to yourself

While we all wish that we could have obsessive thoughts about how amazing we are, we most likely experience the opposite. Our brains create scary scenarios in our minds because they want to protect us and keep us safe from doing risky and uncomfortable things. This is why applying for a new job or simply making a new friend can feel like the end of the world. Whatever situation you’re experiencing, remember to be kind to yourself and your thoughts. At the end of the day, your thoughts are just thoughts, and they’re not always accurate.

A great way to combat this is by talking to your thoughts like you would to your worried, overprotective parents. Begin by thanking them for trying to keep you safe and for caring so much about you, but let them know that they don’t have to worry about the situation anymore because you have everything under control.

Find stillness

It can feel nearly impossible to overcome obsessive thinking when everything around you feels chaotic. While you may not have the ability to control everything in your life, you can control how you feel and think. “Many people don’t take a step back in their own lives to sit and be still,” says mindfulness expert and author of Mindfulness for PMS, Hangovers, and Other Real-World Situations, Courtney Sunday to Well+Good. “If we use specific instances to focus our minds, like picking up our dog’s poop, we have the capacity to be more centered.”

While you don’t need a dog to find stillness, there are other ways to connect with your environment and mind, like meditating or being mindful. These two practices allow you to focus on your breath and observe your physical surroundings. For instance, when things become too overwhelming, try to physically touch and identify things that are around you by saying phrases like, “I’m sitting in a chair, the fan is blue, I smell coffee, the pillow is soft.” This exercise can bring you into the present and help you forget worrying about the past or the future.

Talk to a therapist

If you feel like your obsessive thoughts have gotten out of control and you have the ability to go to therapy, do it. While you can manage your obsessive behavior with the above exercises, sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental health is to seek professional help.

If you’re unsure of what kind of therapy to try, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is usually a go-to for anxious individuals who experience obsessive, worrisome thoughts. CBT is an evidence-based, action-focused form of therapy that can help change the person’s beliefs and thought patterns through acceptance, redirecting, and challenging dysfunctional behaviors. However, if you don’t have access to a cognitive behavioral therapist, there are plenty of other forms of therapy to help you with your mental health journey.

This article originally appeared on The Everygirl.

6 Signs It’s Time to Seek Help for Your Anxiety

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Like all emotions, anxiety is healthy, and we’re all prone to feeling it sometimes. Anxiety can become a debilitating problem, though, when the stress you feel is no longer in proportion to the situation. An upcoming test, jobinterview, or first date may make you feel anxious, and that’s healthy. But, if you feel symptoms of anxiety absent any apparent reason, or everyday things make you anxious—leaving your home, for example—it may be time to see a mental health professional. To know if your anxiety is unmanageable, you have to know the symptoms.

1. Physical Symptoms

The physical symptoms of anxiety may include an upset stomach, excessive sweating, headache, rapid heartbeat, and trouble breathing. If you get a stomach ache every time someone invites you to a social function; if you sweat through your shirt whenever you leave the house, even in the middle of winter; or if you feel like your heart is beating so fast it might burst when talking to a stranger on the phone, you may be unhealthily anxious. If your body regularly reacts to everyday stressors the way a caveman would if a lion chased him, your anxiety is no longer healthy.

2. Cognitive Symptoms

Memory issues, trouble concentrating, and insomnia are also symptoms of an anxiety problem. If you can’t fall asleep or wake up repeatedly during the night because you can’t stop thinking about things that stress you out, anxiousness is ruling over you. The same goes for if you can’t focus on work, or sit through a movie, or read a book, or if you seem to be continually forgetting things that happened even recently. When you’re severely anxious about something, even if the thing is “irrational,” it can be hard to function normally.

3. Procrastination and Avoidance

Whether it’s procrastinating about doing the thing that triggers your anxiety—like putting off an errand or not reading an important email until you’re “ready to deal with it”—or avoiding doing just about everything, excessive procrastination and avoidance are both signs of an anxiety issue. We all put off starting unpleasant or difficult tasks sometimes, but when you spend more time avoiding than doing, it may be time to seek outside help.

4. Overthinking and Constant Worrying

If worrying keeps you from functioning or you’re overthinking so much that you can’t focus on important work or sleep at night, you may have an anxiety problem. Your mind races, you lose track of your surroundings, and you’re so caught up in a storm of stressful thoughts that you miss your freeway exit. Anxiety tips over from healthy to unhealthy when it disrupts your life. If a recent health diagnosis has you worried, that’s totally normal. If you’re afraid that you’re dying every time you sneeze, that’s not.

5. Feeling Agitated and Restless

If you feel on edge, you can’t stop moving, and you’re quick to anger, you may be anxious. I’ve written before about how anger can disguise itself as anxiety, but did you know that anxiety can also disguise itself as anger? Anger can be a way to shield you from stressful thoughts. By raging at someone else, you can blame your anxious feelings on an outside force. And if you’re always moving, you don’t have time to ruminate on anxious thoughts. But neither response is healthy or helpful in the long term. When you feel agitated and restless more often than not, when you can’t stop moving and get easily annoyed or are prone to snap at people, you may have a serious problem with anxiety.

6. Panic Attacks

Often people mistake a panic attack for a heart attack. Tightness in your chest, rapid heartbeat, sweating and shaking, shortness of breath, and an upset stomach can easily be mistaken for a heart attack. It’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack so that you don’t dismiss one by thinking it’s a panic attack or do the opposite and call 911 when you should call a psychologist. Frequent panic attacks are a sign you may have a panic disorder.

To differentiate between healthy and unhealthy anxiety, ask yourself: Is this manageable? If your anxiety keeps you from sleeping, working, social interactions, or errands, you may want to reach out to a therapist. If you feel anxious more than half the week for six months or longer, it’s probably time to seek help.

Is It Good To Be A Perfectionist?

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As holidays end and goals are set for the work and school year ahead, it’s timely to question whether striving for perfection is a good thing.

A-plus interference: Perfectionism has been associated with many clinical disorders.

What makes someone a perfectionist anyway? Someone who is highly competitive and also extremely critical of themselves and others, says Magson.

“Their standards are impossibly high, and they often hold others to those same standards,” she says. “This often causes relationship problems with peers, partners and family members.”

Based on her own recent research of 525 families with Year 6 children, Magson argues that seeking perfection is not a healthy motivator and can pose a “serious risk” to mental health.

Perfectionists quickly become overwhelmed with tasks, procrastinate and find it difficult to finish. This can lead to failure at school.

“Perfectionism has been associated with numerous clinical disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, depression and preoccupation with body image – just to name a few,” she says. “It can severely interfere with your life.”

This is because a perfectionist ties their self-worth to their achievements, their successes and failures. “So when perfectionists fail to meet their high standards, which they inevitably will, they engage in self-criticism and feel a sense of worthlessness,” says Magson.

“‘If my performance is not flawless (ie: perfect) then I have completely failed’ they say.”

Perfectionism can also lead to mental paralysis. People become so preoccupied with the possibility of failure that they can become afraid of trying anything new.

“Perfectionists quickly become overwhelmed with tasks, procrastinate and find it difficult to finish,” Magson says. “This can lead to failure at school when they constantly revise assignments and class work, which are still incomplete by the deadline.”

Some research suggests that perfectionism is partially hereditary, and can also be a learned behaviour from parents. It often strikes in the teen years and is more common in gifted children.

The good news is you can do something about it. Magson offers strategies that concerned parents, caregivers and teachers can try:

First of all educate your child on what perfectionism is. Encourage them to set more realistic attainable goals and not catastrophise mistakes. When they become overwhelmed with a task, help them break it down into achievable chunks.

“You can help them overcome negative self-talk by offering more positive alternatives such as ‘although I didn’t win, I tried my best’,” she says. “Encourage good sportsmanship and kindness and write these thoughts on Post-It notes so they can read them often and positive thoughts become habitual, rather than the negative ones.”

She also suggests reassuring perfectionists that everyone makes mistakes – even a parent, teacher or world leader makes mistakes. Constructively reflecting on mistakes is a learning opportunity.

If you really can’t make headway with these tips, Magson suggests seeing your GP for a referral to a psychologist who may recommend various cognitive behaviour therapy techniques.

Dr Natasha Magson is a Research Associate at the Centre for Emotional Health.

15 Signs That You’re An Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety

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Anxiety is the voice in the back of your head that says, “something bad is going to happen.” It’s what keeps you awake at 2 a.m. thinking about something embarrassing you did — five years ago.

Not all introverts have anxiety, and extroverts and ambiverts can struggle with it, too. To be clear, introversion and anxiety aren’t the same thing. Introversion is defined as a preference for calm, minimally stimulating environments, whereas anxiety is a general term for disorders that cause excessive fear, worrying, and nervousness.

However, for many introverts, anxiety is a regular part of their lives. And indeed, anxiety is more common among introverts than extroverts, according to Dr. Laurie Helgoe.

What Is High-Functioning Anxiety?
Sometimes anxiety is obvious (think: panic attacks and sweaty palms), but that’s not always the case. Many people live with a secret form of anxiety called “high-functioning anxiety.” Outwardly, they appear to have it all together. They may even lead very successful lives. No one can tell from the outside that they’re driven by fear. Sometimes they don’t even realize it themselves.

Do you have high-functioning anxiety? Although not an official diagnosis, high-functioning anxiety is something countless people identify with. It’s closely related to Generalized Anxiety disorder, which affects 6.8 million adults in the U.S., women being twice as likely to experience it as men.

Symptoms of High-Functioning Anxiety
Here are fifteen common symptoms of high-functioning anxiety.

1. You’re always prepared.
Your mind frequently jumps to the worst-case scenario in any given situation. As a result, you may find yourself over-preparing. For example, you might pack underwear and makeup in both your checked luggage and your carry-on, just in case the airline loses your suitcase. People see you as being the reliable one — and often your preparations do come in handy — but few people (if any!) know that your “ready for anything” mentality stems from anxiety.

2. You may be freaking out on the inside, but you’re stoic on the outside.
Interestingly, many people with high-functioning anxiety don’t reveal just how nervous they are, which is another reason why it’s often a secret anxiety. You may have learned to compartmentalize your emotions.

3. You see the world in a fundamentally different way.
Your anxiety isn’t “just in your head.” Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel found that people who are anxious see the world differently than people who aren’t anxious. In the study, anxious people were less able to distinguish between a safe stimulus and one that was earlier associated with a threat. In other words, anxious people overgeneralize emotional experiences — even if they aren’t threatening.

4. You constantly feel the need to be doing something.
Which can be a real problem if you’re an introvert who needs plenty of downtime to recharge. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re attending lots of social events; instead, you may feel a compulsion to always be getting things done or staying on top of things. Staying busy distracts you from your anxiety and gives you a sense of control.

5. You’re outwardly successful.
Achievement-oriented, organized, detail-oriented, and proactive in planning ahead for all possibilities, you may be the picture of success. Problem is, it’s never enough. You always feel like you should be doing more.

6. You’re afraid of disappointing others.
You might be a people-pleaser. You’re so afraid of letting others down that you work hard to make everyone around you happy — even if it means sacrificing your own needs.

7. You chatter nervously.
Even though you’re an introvert who prefers calm and quiet, you chatter on and on — out of nervousness. For this reason, sometimes you’re mistaken for an extrovert.

8. You’ve built your life around avoidance.
You’ve shrunk your world to prevent overwhelm. You stick to routines and familiar experiences that give you a sense of comfort and control; you avoid intense emotional experiences like travel, social events, conflict, or anything else that might trigger your anxiety.

9. You’re prone to rumination and overthinking.
You do a lot of negative self-talk. You often replay past mistakes in your mind, dwell on scary “what if” scenarios, and struggle to enjoy the moment because you’re expecting the worst. Sometimes your mind races and you can’t stop it.

10. You’re a perfectionist.
You try to calm your worries by getting your work or your appearance just right. This can bring positive results, but it comes at a cost. You may have an “all-or-nothing” mentality (“If I’m not the best student, then I’m the worst”). You may have unrealistic expectations of yourself, and a catastrophic fear of falling short of them.

11. You have aches, repetitive habits, or tics.
According to psychotherapist Annie Wright, your anxiety might manifest physically in your body as frequent muscle tension or aches. Similarly, you might unconsciously pick at the skin around your nails, tap your foot, scratch your scalp, or do other repetitive things that get your nervous energy out — even if you appear composed in other ways.

12. You’re tired all the time.
Your mind is always going, so you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Even when you sleep well, you feel tired during the day, because dealing with a constant underlying level of anxiety is exhausting.

13. You startle easily.
That’s because your nervous system is in over-drive. A slammed door, an ambulance siren, or other unexpected sounds really rattle you.

14. You get irritated and stressed easily.
You’re living with constant low-level stress, so even minor problems or annoyances have the power to frazzle you.

15. You can’t “just stop it.”
Anxiety isn’t something you can tell yourself to just stop doing. In fact, the above-mentioned researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science found that people who are anxious have somewhat different brains than people who aren’t anxious. They noted that people can’t control their anxious reactions, due to a fundamental brain difference. (However, you can learn to cope with your anxiety and greatly lessen it — see the resources below).

12 Signs You Might Have an Anxiety Disorder

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What’s normal?

Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time—when speaking in public, for instance, or when going through financial difficulty. For some people, however, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so forceful, that it begins to take over their lives.

How can you tell if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line into a disorder? It’s not easy. Anxiety comes in many different forms—such as panic attacks, phobia, and social anxiety—and the distinction between an official diagnosis and “normal” anxiety isn’t always clear.

Here’s a start: If you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to talk with your doctor.

Excessive worry

The hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—the broadest type of anxiety—is worrying too much about everyday things, large and small. But what constitutes “too much”?

In the case of GAD, it means having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week, for six months. Also, the anxiety must be so bad that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue.

“The distinction between an anxiety disorder and just having normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction,” says Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland in Towson.

Sleep problems

Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep is associated with a wide range of health conditions, both physical and psychological. And, of course, it’s not unusual to toss and turn with anticipation on the night before a big speech or job interview.

But if you chronically find yourself lying awake, worried or agitated—about specific problems (like money), or nothing in particular—it might be a sign of an anxiety disorder. By some estimates, fully half of all people with GAD experience sleep problems.

Another tip-off that anxiety might be involved? You wake up feeling wired, your mind is racing, and you’re unable to calm yourself down.

Irrational fears

Some anxiety isn’t generalized at all; on the contrary, it’s attached to a specific situation or thing—like flying, animals, or crowds. If the fear becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and way out of proportion to the actual risk involved, it’s a telltale sign of phobia, a type of anxiety disorder.

Although phobias can be crippling, they’re not obvious at all times. In fact, they may not surface until you confront a specific situation and discover you’re incapable of overcoming your fear. “A person who’s afraid of snakes can go for years without having a problem,” Winston says. “But then suddenly their kid wants to go camping, and they realize they need treatment.”

Muscle tension

Near-constant muscle tension—whether it consists of clenching your jaw, balling your fists, or flexing muscles throughout your body—often accompanies anxiety disorders. This symptom can be so persistent and pervasive that people who have lived with it for a long time may stop noticing it after a while.

Regular exercise can help keep muscle tension under control, but the tension may flare up if an injury or other unforeseen event disrupts a person’s workout habits, Winston says. “Suddenly they’re a wreck, because they can’t handle their anxiety in that way and now they’re incredibly restless and irritable.”

Chronic indigestion

Anxiety may start in the mind, but it often manifests itself in the body through physical symptoms, like chronic digestive problems. Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), a condition characterized by stomachaches, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and/or diarrhea, “is basically an anxiety in the digestive tract,” Winston says.

IBS isn’t always related to anxiety, but the two often occur together and can make each other worse. The gut is very sensitive to psychological stress—and, vice versa, the physical and social discomfort of chronic digestive problems can make a person feel more anxious.

Stage fright

Most people get at least a few butterflies before addressing a group of people or otherwise being in the spotlight. But if the fear is so strong that no amount of coaching or practice will alleviate it, or if you spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about it, you may have a form of social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia).

People with social anxiety tend to worry for days or weeks leading up to a particular event or situation. And if they do manage to go through with it, they tend to be deeply uncomfortable and may dwell on it for a long time afterward, wondering how they were judged.

Self-consciousness

Social anxiety disorder doesn’t always involve speaking to a crowd or being the center of attention. In most cases, the anxiety is provoked by everyday situations such as making one-on-one conversation at a party, or eating and drinking in front of even a small number of people.

In these situations, people with social anxiety disorder tend to feel like all eyes are on them, and they often experience blushing, trembling, nausea, profuse sweating, or difficulty talking. These symptoms can be so disruptive that they make it hard to meet new people, maintain relationships, and advance at work or in school.

Panic

Panic attacks can be terrifying: Picture a sudden, gripping feeling of fear and helplessness that can last for several minutes, accompanied by scary physical symptoms such as breathing problems, a pounding or racing heart, tingling or numb hands, sweating, weakness or dizziness, chest pain, stomach pain, and feeling hot or cold.

Not everyone who has a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but people who experience them repeatedly may be diagnosed with panic disorder. People with panic disorder live in fear about when, where, and why their next attack might happen, and they tend to avoid places where attacks have occurred in the past.

Flashbacks

Reliving a disturbing or traumatic event—a violent encounter, the sudden death of a loved one—is a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which shares some features with anxiety disorders. (Until very recently, in fact, PTSD was seen as a type of anxiety disorder rather than a stand-alone condition.)

But flashbacks may occur with other types of anxiety as well. Some research, including a 2006 study in theJournal of Anxiety Disorders, suggests that some people with social anxiety have PTSD-like flashbacks of experiences that might not seem obviously traumatic, such as being publicly ridiculed. These people may even avoid reminders of the experience—another symptom reminiscent of PTSD.

Perfectionism

The finicky and obsessive mind-set known as perfectionism “goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders,” Winston says. “If you are constantly judging yourself or you have a lot of anticipatory anxiety about making mistakes or falling short of your standards, then you probably have an anxiety disorder.”

Perfectionism is especially common in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which, like PTSD, has long been viewed as an anxiety disorder. “OCD can happen subtly, like in the case of somebody who can’t get out of the house for three hours because their makeup has to be absolutely just right and they have to keep starting over,” Winston says.

Compulsive behaviors

In order to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person’s obsessiveness and intrusive thoughts must be accompanied by compulsive behavior, whether it’s mental (telling yourself It’ll be all right over and over again) or physical (hand-washing, straightening items).

Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior become a full-blown disorder when the need to complete the behaviors—also known as “rituals”—begins to drive your life, Winston says. “If you like your radio at volume level 3, for example, and it breaks and gets stuck on 4, would you be in a total panic until you could get it fixed?”

Self-doubt

Persistent self-doubt and second-guessing is a common feature of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. In some cases, the doubt may revolve around a question that’s central to a person’s identity, like “What if I’m gay?” or “Do I love my husband as much as he loves me?”

In OCD, Winston says, these “doubt attacks” are especially common when a question is unanswerable. People with OCD “think, ‘If only I would know 100% for sure whether I was gay or straight, either one would be fine,’ but they have this intolerance for uncertainty that turns the question into an obsession,” she says.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

Are Constant Nightmares A Sign Of Mental Health Problems?

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Constantly having nightmares can be very stressful on mental health. It disrupts your sleep; your mind doesn’t get the rest it needs and you could wake up feeling down, tired or sleep-deprived, which in turn affects your day-to-day activity. But why do these unhelpful dreams sneak their way into your head and are they a sign that something bigger is going on in your life? It can be particularly difficult to deal with a barrage of nightmares if you aren’t aware of any mental health issues that you’re suffering, because you might not have tools to deal with these issues. We find out what having consistent nightmares can be an indication of and how to manage them (so that you can finally get a good night’s rest). What causes nightmares? Nightmares usually occur during REM sleep – similar to dreams – and although they can be a sign of an underlying issue, they’re not always this complex. According to WebMD, having a snack late at night can trigger nightmares as it boosts your metabolism and tells your brain to ‘be more active’. Taking medication or coming off medication can also stimulate nightmares, as can alcohol withdrawal. You get less REM sleep when you drink, and although it may seem tempting to have a nightcap, reduced REM sleep also means your mind’s ability to process dreams is impaired – so you might not be able to deal with what you’re dreaming about. Interestingly, sleep-deprivation in itself can also lead to nightmares, meaning you’re effectively stuck in a loop of bad sleep. A study from 2016, which measured the role of insomnia, nightmares and chronotype (essentially your biological clock) in relation to mental illness revealed that 8% to 18% of the population is ‘dissatisfied’ with their quality of sleep, and between 6% to 10% suffer with some form of insomnia disorder. The same study showed that a disruption in sleep patterns ‘commonly presents prior to acute psychiatric difficulties’, such as a manic episode, paranoia or ‘transition to major depression’. (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk) Lola, 21, is currently going through a phase of sleep disruption – she’s only sleeping a few hours per night and when she does, her sleep frequently consists of nightmares. ‘After every night’s sleep, I wake up and remember the wholly vivid nightmares I’ve just had’, she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘They vary from being a mash-up of several short intertwined dreams about people, some good that I don’t want to wake up from, but mostly horrible ones. ‘Sometimes they involve people from my life, sometimes faceless figures, which makes it even more creepy. Mostly I will wake up intermittently throughout the night. ‘I’ve had dreams of my teeth crumbling out of my mouth and anxiety nightmares, where I spend the entire time feeling anxious within the dream. ‘When I wake up, I’m worn out and extremely tired, which makes me not want to get out of bed – it’s paralysing. I’ve pretty much had nightmares my whole life, but they never used to be as frequent as they are now. They definitely happen more when I’m stressed or anxious, but I’ve never spoken to anyone about them because I’m so used to it.’ When should you seek help for your nightmares? Just like mental health problems are very individual, so are nightmares, and having the occasional one doesn’t automatically mean you also have a mental health problem. Therapist Sally Baker tells Metro.co.uk it’s how these affect you that could be a sign of something troubling underneath the surface. ‘Occasional nightmares are completely normal and many people experience them,’ she said. ‘It is how you feel about having those nightmares and the judgements you make about them that indicates how you are feeling about yourself and can give you insights into whether you are feeling emotionally balanced and okay, or may need to seek professional help. ‘Dreams and nightmares are one of the ways the sub-conscious mind processes emotional challenges, so recurring nightmares can be a clue that your mind is struggling to cope with real life negative emotions or events. ‘The nightmares may even vary with different narratives but if they engender the same feelings on waking from them such as heightened anxiety or feeling of dread you are definitely struggling to process.’ How can you deal with constant nightmares? Hayley, 30, has suffered from night terrors for years and tells Metro.co.uk these are similar to nightmares, but completely ‘take over’ her mind. ‘It’s hard to deal with them, as I’m not sure when they will happen,’ she said. ‘I can go for nights without anything and then bam, suddenly I’m screaming in my sleep. The main difference between nightmares and night terrors is that night terrors completely take over. I also remember them a lot more vividly than nightmares. ‘They’re always the same – someone is trying to kill me. ‘Counselling helps and communicating what happens in my night terrors helps too, as it allows me to process and understand what’s happening in my head. ‘For example, whenever they happen, it’s always in the flat I lived in with my mum and I have a lot of negative emotions and memories in that place that I’ve never addressed. ‘The night terrors have actually allowed me to understand this and address these fears directly. ‘I often find if I’m relaxed or I’ve done a workout in the evening, this will rest my mind but ironically, my night terrors seem to be worse when things are going great – it’s a cruel twist.’ Sally also recommends speaking with a therapist about your nightmares, especially if you experience persistent after effects or if they’re anxiety-inducing. ‘If you are left with heightened anxiety or depression after recurrent nightmares, you can work with a therapist to resolve the negative emotions even when you are not sure what is bothering you,’ she said. ‘Be your own detective and focus on the feelings you’re left with, not the storyline of your nightmares as that will be more helpful in finding out what is at the root of your scary or disturbing dreams. ‘Also ask yourself what you may have been ignoring in your life or overlooking. ‘Your intuition or your gut reactions are always on your side and are your best friend, so ask yourself what have you been overriding in your life that in your heart of hearts you’re not really sure about.’ MORE: HEALTH You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I have MS but I get told to give up my train seat’ Will a CBD spree of workouts, croissants, and high tea get rid of your stress? Teenager uses coffee to colour her hair after dye left her looking ‘like a monster’ Having singular nightmares are usually not a sign of mental health problems. But if you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and suffering from nightmares or even night terrors, it’s worthwhile speaking to a medical or mental health professional about it. Don’t ignore your sub-conscious mind – it can be just as telling as your conscious one.

 

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/02/17/constant-nightmares-sign-mental-health-problems-8649694/?ito=cbshare

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