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'T' is for Triggers. Saturday May 17, 2014

I'm sorry, I know it's the weekend, but I'm nearly done with my week of blogs looking at A.N.X.I.E.T.Y., and we're up to the letter T, for Triggers, a tricky subject I know. Picture it as a mountain climb – we're giving ourselves one final push to the top, and then we can all relax and enjoy a glorious overview of what we've learned.

Many people who suffer from anxiety find themselves triggered by certain situations or people. Some triggers are obvious – such as getting stuck in a lift or having to give a speech – but others less so. Sometimes we can be triggered when something happens to us in the present which echoes a past bad experience. I get very jumpy when people walk quite close behind me, for instance, and this goes back to a time when a youth ran up and grabbed my handbag. Rationally I know not every pedestrian is about to mug me, and understanding that I've been triggered makes it easier to deal with the rising panic, but still, when I feel someone is walking too close, I tend to step aside and let them pass, so I no longer feel vulnerable.

I'm glad this sensitive subject has come close to the end of this series, as if you look back at my previous blogs, you'll find tools which you can use when you get triggered. The breathing exercises I explained on Thursday can ease symptoms if you're overwhelmed by panic, and many find mindfulness practice (which I touched upon on Tuesday) very valuable.

At other times however, we may not know why we're getting triggered – and suggesting it's possible to ease deeper issues in a simple blog would be naïve and irresponsible. Instead I'd recommend seeking professional help. Start by visiting your doctor, who can check that your anxiety isn't caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, altered blood sugar levels, or asthma. Once a medical cause is ruled out, he or she may be able to prescribe medication. Beta blockers can ease the adrenaline rushes, for example, although they won't treat the underlying cause of your anxiety. To help with this, the next step is to consult a therapist who has experience of anxiety attacks and disorders. The therapist will work with you to determine the type of your anxiety disorder and devise a course of treatment.

Meanwhile, remember, if you can, that it will pass. Nothing in life is permanent, including anxiety.

Sarah Rayner
A Moodscope member.

Every day during Mental Health Awareness Week, Moodscope are giving away a signed copy of Sarah Rayner's new novel, Another Night, Another Day, available exclusively from Waterstones. Its focus is mental health, and it's a touching yet ultimately uplifting story of ordinary folk living through the extraordinary things life can throw at us all. Today is another chance to win. Just email with 'Giveaway' as the subject and we'll pick one person each day to receive a free signed copy.

The Moodscope Team.

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Mary Blackhurst Hill Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 8:23am

Thank you Sarah. Nothing is permanent. I needed that reminder this morning. Just hanging on in there, and waiting for the bad time to pass.

Anonymous Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 9:37am

My low-grade anxiety is a permanent state Sarah. I know what the trigger is: the death of my father when I was a toddler. When terrible things happen when we are very young, when our world should be safe and secure and something terrible happens, it can cause permanent anxiety that something awful could occur at any time. Such events can cause a loss of trust that all will be okay - which ideally, should be our normal mindset. Children who are very young cannot understand or rationalise major life traumas and when they occur they can leave a permanent imprint which, in some cases, cannot be eradicated - however much good therapy one receives. I have learned to live with it.

Anonymous Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 9:46am

My father died when I was 14, and that increased my own anxiety. Recently I've been left feeling very weepy by incidents in the TV series 'The Trip To Italy' and I now realise it's because I relate Steve and Rob's fears about ageing to the death of my brother, who was 49 when he died, and had suffered depression up to then. Both are 49 now.

There was also an incident where Rob imagined reading to a Steve who couldn't move due to paralysis similar to the hero of 'The Diving Bell & The Butterfly', and it brought up a sad memory of my auntie, who died from cancer of the oesophagus. The last time my mum and I saw her she was unable to move, or speak, and my mum was reading her messages on Christmas cards.

Sarah Rayner Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 10:23am

Oh that book, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, so beautiful and poignant, and a lovely film too, and interesting to watch The Trip and wonder what is fiction and what is reality, and see them banter and compete and philosophise. Also, sorry to hear about your losses.

Yes, my low grade anxiety has a childhood root too, and we can't undo our past. But I did find learning what the link might be was very helpful, as not understanding why I was so panicky only increased my fear. For me, I've found CBT and Mindfulness are very useful when it comes to tackling the current thought processes of anxiety, but psychotherapy gave me a deeper understanding of myself and that had a place in healing too. Though I will *always* be prone to anxiety, that's just who I am. And it's OK. Today anyway.

Anonymous Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 10:26am

Yes, these things do trigger emotional responses. As a child I disliked Walt Disney films, it wasn't until I was an adult I realised the reason. The main theme of the cartoons is separation of the child from a parent, usually but not always, they are reunited. This caused tears. I also found the final scene of "The Railway Children" caused tears and anger when I was a child. Obvious when I think back. Nowadays I go with the tears, knowing it's my two year old self crying the tears for my Daddy that I couldn't express then. They are a balm. But the anxiety is unpleasant and different from sadness.

Anonymous Sat, May 17th 2014 @ 12:28pm

Through studying Clinical Theology (Dr Frank Lake) & group meditation with a strong leader I felt I could trust, I discovered that I had been parted from my mother at birth for two weeks. This was a loss at the beginning of my life. This, I believe, caused the anxiety & depression I experience periodically. The anxiety I've dealt with through Christian faith (liberal, not extreme & guilt provoking) while the depression I'm learning to deal with by avoiding stress & tiredness and alcohol (which I keep to a minimum- I love wine). Discover your triggers folks and avoid them. x

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