Phobias

Phobias are excessive and irrational fears that may or may not be associated with a certain place, object, situation. These fears interfere with a person’s coping ability or lead them to stay away from the object, situation, place of trigger altogether. The triggers may or may not be normally dangerous or frightening for most people, but people suffering from phobias feel a deep sense of dread or paralyzing panic when they encounter the source of fear. 

Phobias can be annoying or disabling to the extent that they severely impact a person’s day-to-day life and the decisions they make as a whole. Often, people suffering from such phobias are aware of the fact that the fears that they have are irrational, but they aren’t able to voluntarily do too much on their own to help themselves. Phobias are a very common mental condition. As a matter of fact, 1 in 10 people experience phobias at some point in their lives. Individuals suffering from phobias mostly act and behave calmly and rationally most of the time but when they are exposed to their triggers, they become paralyzed by their fears.

What Causes Phobias

Like most other mental conditions, there is no specific cause for the development of phobias. However, there are some factors at play here which are studied, identified and confirmed by some researchers. They are as follows: 

  1. Exposure to traumatic events or experience of certain terrifying incidents: 

For example, if you were, for whatever reason, trapped in a confined space when you were young, you might have developed a fear of enclosed spaces called claustrophobia. 

  1. Learned behavior and responses:

Fear, by certain psychological approaches, is defined as a learned (or conditioned) response to stimuli in the environment. It can thus be picked up by certain factors early on in life. For example, you may pick up the same specific phobia that your parent has as a result of observational learning. 

  1. Genetics

Several studies have shown that some people are predisposed to developing phobias and are more likely to do so than others. 

  1. Long-term stress or illness:

Long term stress or an illness can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. It can reduce your ability to cope in some situations. This can make you feel anxious, stressed out and fearful about being in those situations again and, if this goes on for a longer period of time, you could develop a phobia.

Symptoms of Phobia

The fear and anxiety that a person with a phobia suffers can be experienced as both mental and physical symptoms. However the intensity of the same generally differs from one individual to another. 

A person might be involved in trying to avoid the trigger or thinking about what might happen if they encounter the trigger so much that it can cause fatigue and irritability, difficulty concentrating on even the simplest tasks, and make it difficult for such people to fall asleep or have any restful, undisturbed sleep. The physical signs of  such anxiety results are  heavy sweating, difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeats or palpitations, dizziness or faintness, muscle tension, stomach problems, etc. 

The most disabling symptom or the peak that having a phobia could lead to, is a panic attack. Not all episodes may culminate in a panic attack, but for people with severe phobias, panic attacks can be a frequent occurrence. The symptoms of panic attacks are as follows: 

Mental Symptoms:

  • Depersonalization: Feeling detached from oneself
  • Derealization: feelings of unreality
  • A fear of going crazy, dying or losing control

Physical Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath and hyperventilation
  • Shaking, trembling
  • A feeling of choking
  • Palpitations or increasing heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea 
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations in the limbs
  • A feeling of dizziness and light-headedness 
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal pain

Difference Between Normal Fear And Phobia 

It is important at this point to talk about the difference between fear and phobia as people often can’t discriminate between the two. It is possible that you have a fear of something, and it isn’t a phobia, or maybe you’re confusing an actual phobia with just a fearful sentiment. There is a basic distinction that psychology as a field of study makes between phobias and fears. A fear is an emotional response to a real or a perceived threat. Fears are common, and are considered normal reactions to certain things. Phobias are similar to fears but there’s one basic differentiating characteristic of phobias: the anxiety aroused by the triggers and experienced by the person with the phobia is so severe that it disrupts the person’s quality of life and daily functioning.

Types of Phobia

There are mainly three types of phobias. Along with those, there are some of the most common phobias listed after these. They are as follows: 

Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia is a fear of places and situations that causes feelings of entrapment, panic, helplessness or embarrassment. The literal meaning of the word is “fear of open spaces.” The one main defining symptom of this phobia is that people with agoraphobia feel panicked in large crowds and trapped outside of their homes. They avoid social events or situations and prefer being inside their homes. 

Social phobia:

Also known as social anxiety disorder, social phobia is an extreme fear of social situations, meeting new people, and public speaking and can lead to self isolation. The simplest of social interactions such as talking to the person at the counter, placing an order on the call, or even small talk over the phone can cause a lot of anxiety and panic. 

Specific Phobias: 

Specific phobias are fears of certain situations or objects and they interfere with a person’s daily life. A few of the most common phobias are:

  • Claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces)
  • Coulrophobia (fear of clowns)
  • Zoophobia (fear of animals)
  • Aerophobia (fear of flying)
  • Xenophobia (fear of driving)
  • Chionophobia (fear of snow)
  • Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  • Aichmophobia (fear of needles)
  • Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
  • Acrophobia (fear of heights)
  • Gamophobia (fear of commitment) 

The list of  phobias goes on. For more information on the various types of phobias, refer to the list of phobias in DSM-5.

Treatment

The treatment of phobias involves therapeutic techniques, medication, or a combination of both. 

Therapies can be of different types depending on the signs and symptoms and their severity of the client. Some of the therapeutic interventions used for treating phobias include eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy (EMDR) which is based on some concepts of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is also used for treating phobias, systematic desensitization, and exposure therapy among others.

Medication for phobias includes antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medication to reduce the emotional and physical reactions of fear. 

Why Seeking Help Is Important

If your condition has begun to interfere with your daily functioning and is negatively affecting most or all aspects of your life, seeking help is a crucial step that you must take. Even though it may be difficult to gather the courage to do so, you must see a mental health professional for your phobia(s). Remember that mental health disorders can be treated and are manageable, and your life has the potential to be the most fruitful, wholesome and enjoyable experience. So, joining a support group, going for therapy and taking your prescribed medication (if any) is absolutely critical. The outcome that you’d gain would be a deeper understanding of yourself and your condition,  the ability to form better relationships and find more meaningful connections, and skills that help you manage your condition and excel in life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Phobias

Q. How to prevent specific phobias?

Many specific phobias can unfortunately not be prevented, but early intervention and treatment can considerably help and reduce the symptoms and instances of any anxiety or panic attack episodes. It can prevent the development of chronic fear associated with the incident.

Q. Which is the most common phobia?

Arachnophobia (Fear of spiders) is the most common phobia in the world, 50% of women and 10% of men have it.

Q. What is the basic diagnostic criteria for phobias?

Phobias are fears that:

  1. Disturb the sufferer’s life in some way, i.e. they degrade the person’s ability to function optimally in day to day life. 
  2. Make the affected person avoid the specific situation, or feared object.
  3. People with phobias are constantly troubled with thoughts about the dreaded object or situation, i.e, there is anticipating anxiety
  4. The exposure to the feared object or situation triggers panic attacks in the patient.

Workplace Stress

Work stress and its symptoms are a response that people may have when certain demands and pressures at the workplace exceed their knowledge and capabilities and thus challenge their ability to cope. This kind of stress occurs often and helps us to work on ourselves and strive for self development and get that extra bonus or promotion at work. But more often than not, it peaks and affects our mental and physical well being negatively. 

Work stress can occur in a wide variety of work circumstances but it can worsen when employees don’t have the proper support of their supervisors or coworkers. It can also be aggravated when the employees have little control over the work processes. 

Some pressures can’t be avoided at the workplace due to the current work culture that has been adopted globally and the contemporary work environment. However, taking care of one’s own mental health and adopting the correct coping strategies is also of prime importance. 

Work-life balance can be created by devoting some time to one’s mental and physical health and setting aside a few minutes each day for processing one’s thoughts and feelings. It is important to let yourself unwind and relax every once in a while. Just the way we eat, drink, and take care of our hygiene, we must realize the alarming importance of taking care of our minds.

What are the Signs of Work Stress?

Feeling overwhelmed at work and losing one’s self esteem and confidence due to the daily pressures at your workplace can cause you to feel out of control, moody and have short outbursts of anger and irritability. It may cause you to withdraw yourself socially. Some of such workplace stress symptoms include: 

  1. Feelings of anxiety, irritability and/or unexplained sadness
  2. Feeling apathetic, indifferent, and losing interest at work
  3. Problems related to sleep such as insomnia or parasomnia 
  4. Constant fatigue
  5. Having trouble focusing and concentrating
  6. Muscle tension, headaches
  7. Social Withdrawal
  8. Using alcohol or other substances to cope
  9. Loss of sex drive
  10. Stomach or digestive problem

Causes of Work Stress

The common causes of workplace include: 

  1. Fear of suspension or termination of employment
  2. Having to work overtime frequently due to the cutbacks in staff
  3. Pressure to work at optimum levels throughout the term
  4. Rising expectations and pressure to perform well without increase in job satisfaction
  5. Lack of control over work processes and less involvement in workplace discussions, meetings, etc.

How Workplace Stress Can Affect One’s Well Being

It is a fact that frequent or constant exposure to stressors in life can lead to severe stress responses in the body and the mind. The same is for workplace stress. In fact, countless researches show that burnout and anxiety disorders and depression are linked. This can lead to severe mental health problems. Moreover, statistics show that the rates of employee burnout are the highest in Singapore. The leading cause of this is that there is an ‘always on’ work culture in Singapore, specifically among women, which requires employees to always be working 24/7, either on call or at the office itself. Another study confirms that younger employees who regularly face time pressures and heavy workloads are much more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. 

Not only detrimentally harming our mental health, workplace stress also has the potential of severely damaging our physical health.  Repeated release of cortisol, a hormone which is associated with the fight-or-flight response, leads to disturbances in the immune system and is linked with a higher likelihood of developing alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune disorders.

Higher levels of stress are associated with unhealthy behaviors and poor decision making. Stressed out individuals are less inclined to make the right choices and perform healthy behaviours such as exercising, eating well, and sleeping properly. 

Work stress can inevitably harm companies and organizations at large. It reduces productivity and harms the relations between coworkers. It encourages absenteeism as well, and the conflicts between employees can cause the stress to spread across the workers, ultimately harming the output and reputation of the corporation.

Methods to Cope With Workplace Stress

The following tips on managing stress at work can help you conquer your mental health and achieve better productivity, help you manage stress at work and achieve a healthy work-life balance. You will most definitely benefit from learning the following skills and habits that’ll help you reduce stress and anxiety by considerable amounts:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an ability that allows us to be fully present in the moment, aware of what we’re doing, thinking, and our surroundings. It allows us to limit overly reactive behaviour and helps us in not being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The things that make us stressed are usually associated with the past or the future. That is where most of our worries lie. Other than that, stress arises when we complicate our situation by reacting to things in our environment rather than responding to them wisely. Mindfulness is not only an ability, it is a way of life that helps us be healthier, more content and more loving of ourselves. It can be added to your daily routine with the numerous mindfulness apps available or going to classes. Mindfulness based therapies, too, help reduce stress and anxiety.

2. Better Time Management

Time management is a skill that is considered to be the most invaluable one these days. It is rightly considered so as mastering this skill can greatly improve one’s state of mind, body and bring much more success and joy in one’s life. Learning how to prioritize well, establishing healthy work boundaries, creating a balanced schedule, etc. are all components of the time management required at the workplace. A great way to think about time and scheduling is to perceive it as something you use to negotiate with yourself to create a schedule that you would be happy with. Negotiate with yourself to give an important work-related task a number of hours in exchange for giving yourself a short break in which you do something that rewards you for what you did. At the same time, you get to unwind during that time. In this way, design a day that you would be satisfied with and happy going through, at the same time the day should be productive enough to leave you satisfied and fulfilled.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques help calm down the fight-or-flight response and help us recompose ourselves. A few examples of relaxation techniques are: progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, music and art therapy, biofeedback, creative visualization, yoga, etc. While relaxation techniques take practice to master fully, the benefits are endless and rather fruitful. These are some of the most profitable investments of time, energy and/or money, as the output that you’d get would be of a calmer mind, improved decision making, self-awareness, healthier body and in turn higher productivity!

4. Problem Solving

Problem solving is a coping strategy that allows you to plan your way out of a challenge faced at work or in your personal life systematically with specific steps involved and an assured outcome (if you follow these steps through and through with sincerity and commitment). This can include brainstorming, ranking solutions, making an action plan, and testing a solution.

5. Rediscover meaning and satisfaction at work

At the end of the day, when work becomes dull and mundane and when we are not in a position to chase our dream jobs, we have to figure out how to start liking what we do and how to effectively contribute at the workplace. Focus on how you can add value to the lives of the people you’re working and providing for and how your service helps the people around you. Focus on the responsibilities and duties assigned to you that you actually enjoy: this could be interacting with your coworkers during meetings, contributing to ideas in brainstorming sessions, or maybe even making aesthetically pleasing presentations. Changing your attitude from a negative one to a positive one in this sense will help you lead a happier, more meaningful life at work and otherwise! 

Why Seeking Help Is Important

Stress management is certainly important at the workplace, and seeking help for it can be imperative at times. You might be at risk of developing mental health problems and stress can also make existing problems even worse. When you seek help and see a mental health professional, you get to understand yourself in ways that you can’t do on your own. And so, when you get the kind of empathy, unconditional positive regard and acceptance by someone who’s trained to guide you through working upon yourself, you build the much needed resilience of character and bring back essential balance and stability in your life. This doesn’t only help you in performing well at work, but also in all other areas of your life.

Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

For someone who has been exposed to traumatic or life-threatening events — like a workplace accident, road accident, physical or sexual assault or mass murder, it is normal to have flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories.

It is important to be tolerant to your brain and its reactions. You have experienced something terrible, and thus you are experiencing such after effects. However, it is important to reach out and seek help as you may be suffering from a serious mental condition called post-traumatic stress disorder, which can keep you anxious and depressed for a long period of time. 

Early intervention can prevent the onset of PTSD and reduce the risk of depression.

Read on more to know further about PTSD.

What exactly is PTSD? 

PTSD is an acronym for the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” which refers to a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event such as natural disasters, wars, any kind of extreme violence, rape, being threatened, or even witnessing such an event. The diagnosis of PTSD requires indirect or direct exposure to a traumatic event as a prerequisite. The term is known to be more associated with war veterans as they more than often experience this condition. It has thus been known by many names in the past such as “combat fatigue” after World War II and “shell shock” during the time of World War I. However, the misconception that PTSD only happens with war veterans is far from the truth. Any kind of trauma can result in this condition. 

Such experiences are extremely emotionally scarring, and more than often physically wounding as well for the sufferer. However, there is a difference between normal, expected reaction to trauma and PTSD. 

PTSD vs. Trauma 

The differentiators between PTSD and a normal response to trauma is the length and severity of the signs and symptoms. It is important to understand that not all traumatic experiences result in PTSD. After a life-threatening, shocking event, most people experience many symptoms similar to what is experienced in PTSD. Those who haven’t developed PTSD will continue on to live a normal life with a relatively smaller amount of help than those with PTSD would take to stabilize. People with PTSD require a full-fledged treatment before they can finally live their life peacefully. While those who experience trauma do often require help, of course, but some of us display more resilience and are able to cope much faster. 

Another fact is that not all of those who have PTSD have gone through a serious, major traumatic event that threatens their life and survival. They might have witnessed it, and that would have triggered the onset of PTSD and its symptoms. 

However, one should remember, that all those suffering from PTSD can live a peaceful, fear-free life and go on to be amazing individuals who contribute a lot to society. With the kind of treatment procedures that are available today, recovery is possible. And in most cases, it is guaranteed.  

Signs, Symptoms Or Stages of PTSD

The symptoms, signs and indications of PTSD occur in layers. They have a physical, emotional, cognitive and social dimension. Many of these symptoms overlap with the normal responses to trauma, as well as some other trauma-related disorders. They are as follows: 

Disorientation and Denial: 

Upon the experience of trauma, the first, immediate reaction is that of complete disorientation. It takes time to realize and accept what has happened to the individual. At first, the person may even deny the happening of such a debilitating event. It takes much time and acceptance to fully come to terms with what has happened to them. 

Physical and Bodily Reactions: 

Following the disorientation, denial are the physical and bodily reactions which may comprise of complete exhaustion without performing any physical task, increased levels of heartbeat and blood pressure, feeling jumpy or easily getting startled and insomnia or difficulty in sleeping. These reactions may last till the end of the treatment. 

Emotional Reactions:  

Emotional reactions to a traumatic event felt by someone who’s developed PTSD would be that of grief, shock, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, etc. They might question their situation and its unfairness, and why it happened to them. They might even feel shameful and guilty for something they weren’t even responsible for. Many people report a feeling of numbness, or hollowness and inability to experience emotions for a while. 

Cognitive Problems:

They may find it really tough to do the same tasks that they regularly used to do before with the same level of focus and concentration. Their span of attention reduces, and in many cases there are memory lapses. Nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatic event are very common. Some may develop suicidal ideation. 

Social Reactions: 

The person suffering from PTSD is likely to withdraw socially from their loved ones. They may become argumentative and get into conflicts with them. They might even have difficulties maintaining professional relationships as well. 

Causes of PTSD

PTSD, as stated above in the article, is caused due to the experience of or witnessing a frightening, traumatic, extremely distressing event. One in three people who go through such severe trauma develop PTSD. People who already have depression or anxiety issues are more likely to develop PTSD. Having a parent with a mental health disease also increases the chances of developing the illness. Lack of social support may also increase the said likelihood. Females are twice as likely to develop this disease than males are.

The kinds of trauma that they could’ve witnessed/experienced is as follows: 

  • Natural disasters
  • War and combat
  • Sexual or physical violence
  • Severe diseases
  • Torture
  • Childhood or domestic abuse
  • Accidents 
  • Traumatic childbirth events, like losing a child when giving birth

PTSD treatment

The main part of the PTSD treatment is therapy, though some medication may be required. The treatment is focused on helping the client take the control of their life and regain a sense of balance, peace, hope and optimism in life. 

 Therapy: 

The therapy for PTSD involves three kinds of approaches; cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy  (EMDR). 

Cognitive therapy helps you identify your unhelpful and unhealthy thinking patterns, and replace them with rather healthier and more helpful ones. 

Exposure therapy helps you face the fact that you’ve gone through such an event, and helps you accept your memories and the situation, and cope with it much more efficiently. It can also use virtual reality and augmented reality technologies which expose you to the kind of environment you experienced the trauma in much more safely. 

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy is usually combined with exposure therapy in a way that uses a series of eye movements that are guided, and they help you handle and manage your perception of the event, the memories, and associations in a better way. This changes the way you react to the memories. The therapists at Incontact have specializations in EMDR, and have years of experience in using this therapeutic treatment to help the clients recover from PTSD.

Medication: 

Medication for PTSD involves antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and prazosin.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. How can I speed up my recovery from PTSD? And what can I do to cope better on my own?

The first and foremost tip would be to follow your therapy and medication plan properly and sincerely. Talk to your therapist with utmost honesty and take your prescriptions very seriously. Secondly, do not turn to alcohol or other drugs as it will slow down your recovery. Educate yourself as much as you can about the condition so you know what you’re going through better. And do join a support group, because there are many others going through things similar to what you are going through and it wouldn’t hurt to connect!

Q. What are some of the signs of PTSD in children?

In very young children, some indicators would be bedwetting, inability to speak, and being overly clingy with a parent or a caregiver. The adolescents, however, may show some disruptive and destructive behaviour.

Panic Attack Treatment in Singapore

Do you, at times, have a sudden or abrupt surge of anxiety and overwhelming fear that lasts several minutes? 

Do you, in those instances, feel that you can’t breathe, sweat frantically and feel your heart pounding very fast? 

Does this happen without any obvious trigger, and come with the anxiety of having another such attack?

If you’ve ever experienced any of that (or more), you probably have had a panic attack. According to worldwide statistics, it is estimated that 1 to 2% of the world’s general population will suffer from panic disorder in any given year and 5% of the population will suffer from this disorder at some point in their lives. It is the fifth most disabling mental health problem in the developed world.

So, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to deal with this alone, either. 

If you or anyone you know are suffering from the common signs and symptoms of a panic attack, it is important to visit a doctor or go to the emergency room of a hospital to rule out any medical condition.

At the same time, know that help is possible, and with Incontact’s mental health professionals with years of experience in dealing with people who have panic disorder (and other mental health issues), and a bit of cooperation from your side, wellness is guaranteed.

Read on further to know more about this condition.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense anxiety that is characterized by severe physical manifestations that are shortness of breath, choking, nausea, dizziness, chest pain and discomfort, etc. 

All of this makes panic attacks feel extremely debilitating and overwhelmingly difficult to handle. 

During a panic attack, a person may even experience an unexplained fear of going crazy or a fear of dying. Such attacks are entirely unexpected and occur out of the blue. They may not even have an apparent cause or trigger. It can occur for only once and never happen again or, like in most cases, it may be a recurring condition where it is triggered by a particular stimulus. If you are experiencing such recurring panic attacks then you probably have a condition called panic disorder.
While the exact statistics for panic disorder and panic attacks remain unknown for Singapore, a cross-national epidemiology study of panic attacks and panic disorder in World Mental Health  surveys reveals that among persons who’ve ever had a panic attack, around 66.5% have recurrent panic attacks. Recurrent panic attacks, according to this study, are also associated with an onset of a variety of other mental health disorders.

Signs & Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Panic attacks’ symptoms may occur abruptly and out of the blue as stated above and reach their highest intensity i.e peak within the first 10-15 minutes. You may have

panic attacks occasionally or they may frequent whenever your triggering stimuli is present in the environment. You’ll feel exhausted and tired once the panic attack subsides, which it takes about 20-30 minutes to do. Panic attacks rarely exceed an hour. 

Their symptoms may have some variations but typically, a person experiencing such an attack will have the following symptoms:

Mental Symptoms:

  • Depersonalization: Feeling detached from oneself
  • Derealization: feelings of unreality
  • A fear of going crazy, dying or losing control

Physical Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath and hyperventilation
  • Shaking, trembling
  • A feeling of choking
  • Palpitations or increasing heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea 
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations in the limbs
  • A feeling of dizziness and light-headedness 
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal pain

Effects of Panic Attack

The effects of a panic attack are long-term even though a panic attack usually subsides under a half an hour. Recurring panic attacks, on top of that, are even more intensely debilitating and disrupt your emotional equilibrium terribly. Panic disorder thus has the following long-term symptoms: 

  1. Anxiety in anticipation of having another panic attack: You’ll feel increasingly anxious and tense instead of feeling healthy and normal between your panic attacks. This is because you will fear having another panic attack. 
  2. Avoiding certain situations and places: You’ll begin to avoid certain places, objects, scenarios as you may believe that that specific stimuli caused your panic attack. Such avoidance based responses can turn into agoraphobia in extreme cases. 

Causes of Panic Attack

The exact cause of panic disorder and panic attacks, just like how it is with other mental conditions, are unknown. However, there are some risk factors and some physical ailments that can lead to the development of this problem. They’re as follows:

  • Experience of trauma earlier in life
  • Genetics i.e having a close family member with panic disorder
  • An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain or changes in the way some areas of your brain function
  • Having a temperament or diathesis that makes you more prone to negative emotions and stress
  • Stressful lifestyle or life challenges
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Stimulant use
  • Withdrawal from medication
  • Mitral valve prolapse which is a cardiac problem

Treatment of Panic Attack in Singapore

While there is no “cure” for panic disorder, just like for most psychological problems, it is certainly treatable. For panic attack disorder, both therapeutic intervention plan and medication can be required. The treatment, its duration, kind of therapy, etc. will depend on your symptoms and their intensity.

Psychotherapy in Singapore: 

A form of therapy called EMDR, that is, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is also very effective for panic attack disorder and is statistically proven to successfully help individuals with anxiety-based disorders recover.

CBT for panic attack : 

Another effective therapy for panic disorder and shortest in duration is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It will help you identify your distorted way of thinking and your associations with the triggering stimuli. You’ll learn different ways in which you can respond to situations. You’ll learn more helpful techniques of thinking, behaving, and responding to your outer environment and your inner emotions.

At Incontact’s Singapore counseling center, we have specializations in both CBT and EMDR along with rigorous training in other forms of therapy as well. We help make a positive change through a broad-ranging approach, creating a unique therapeutic plan for your specific needs.

Medication for panic attacks are different in types, the most commonly prescribed of which are: 

  • SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Beta blockers
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • SNRIs or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors

The medication may take upto a few weeks or months to start working. But they also prove to be effective and helpful for reducing the symptoms of the disorder. While medication does have side-effects, they aren’t severe. 

Another thing that will help facilitate the treatment is a healthy lifestyle and good habits. Going to bed on time, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly can bring about a lot of change.

Self Help for Panic Attack: What to do when you’re experiencing a panic attack, and what to do after?

During a panic attack: 

Do not resist the attack and try to stay put, and not move. Try to control your breath and inhale and exhale deeply. Remember that the attack will go away and the symptoms are going to subside. Try to visualize a peaceful, calming place or imagery that makes you feel positive sensations.

Other tips to prevent further attacks and help subside other symptoms:

  • Read about your condition and read upon CBT based principles. 
  • Consider joining a support group and discuss your problems within the group as freely and openly as possible. 
  • Learn stress management techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, creative visualization. 
  • Try apps that use guided meditation to help you relax and practice mindfulness regularly. 
  • Do remember to workout regularly and avoid unhealthy foods and alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions about Panic Attacks

Q. What are the differences in the symptoms of a panic attack and a heart attack? How to differentiate between the two?

The symptoms of a heart attack and a panic attack are quite similar, and it can be tough to differentiate. If you aren’t sure what you’re experiencing, it’s best to go to the emergency department of a hospital to get evaluated.

Q. Which category of disorders does panic disorder fall under?

Panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder and it can be treated with medication and therapy.

Q. Are there any natural remedies for panic attacks?

No, there aren’t any natural remedies for panic attacks, however you can start developing some good lifestyle habits to prevent the recurrence of one.

Stress Management

How often, in your typical week-day, do you say that you feel stressed? 

How often, due to the said feeling, do you find yourself unable to focus on the task at hand? 

How often do you feel overburdened by life and the challenges it regularly pelts us with?
It is normal to feel that way, from time-to-time. However, we should understand the fact that stress can be regulated. The tools and techniques which help us do that are collectively known as stress management.

What is stress?

Stress is a normal reaction to any changes that may occur internally (physical, or mental changes) or externally (environmental or social changes). This reaction is felt as a feeling of emotional, mental, or physiological strain.

Good Stress & Bad Stress

Stress is a normal part and parcel of our lives. It can be good for us as well. Stress is the motivator behind you working extra hard for that bonus, or finishing the last few crucial reps of a workout routine. However, it can be debilitatingly harmful if you don’t learn how to appropriately cope with stress and get a good grip over your life. 

The level of stress that is good and healthy for us is called eustress. It helps us perform our tasks efficiently and manage minor crises. However, eustress can turn into distress if not managed the right way. This level of stress exceeds our ability to cope and has many severe physiological manifestations, too.

Why is managing stress so important?

Stress is a powerful feeling that can make or break your entire well-being. It can, if not handled properly, completely shake the foundations of your career and relationships. Just like that, your whole life could be impacted.

If you felt uneasy reading that; hold on, we’re not here to overwhelm you.

In fact, we’re here to help. But to do that, we need to make you realize the significance of what we’re trying to help you with.

A staggering 92 per cent of the working population of Singapore report feeling stressed, as revealed by the Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey. This is much higher than the global average. Moreover, 13 percent of this group report that their stress is unmanageable.

You could very well be contributing to that percentage.

Now, you see; if you’re living with an uncontrollably high amount of stress, you’re not just putting your mental health at risk, you’re also very likely to have poor physical health. It is a proven fact that stressed individuals are likelier to expose themselves to pathogens of illnesses. Around 60-80% doctor visits are stress-related. This is because distress impacts our immunity levels drastically. 

Moreover, stressed people are also much more susceptible to taking part in health impairing activities such as:

  • Consuming high amounts of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • High dietary fat consumption
  • Substance abuse
  • Unsafe sexual practices
  • Risky driving
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Violent or suicidal behaviour

 Physical health problems and chronic illnesses like ulcers, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer have strong links with stress. This makes stress management not only an important skill to have, but also necessary for one’s survival. 
Learning how to deal with stress, in this sense, immunises us in many ways against both physical and mental health complications.

How to manage stress?

1.Practice relaxation techniques.

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is one of the most popular ways to relieve stress. It plays a crucial role in reducing symptoms of stress. 

  • Begin by tensing a group of muscles. If you’re hurt somewhere, presumably due to stress-related causes, then tense the muscles around that area, otherwise, you can either begin with facial muscles or foot muscles.
  • Breathe in for about 6 seconds as you tense your muscles this way.
  • Relax the muscles suddenly and abruptly as you breathe out. 
  • Relax for a few seconds before you repeat the procedure with the next muscle group.

2.Meditate regularly.

Meditation techniques are the age old method of reducing stress.

Meditation usually involves focusing your attention to a particular object, thought or bodily sensation. The attention is generally focused on the breath. This focused attention and increased level of concentration helps the meditator achieve an altered state of consciousness which can prove to be very healing and relaxing.

3.Working out is the key to keeping stress in control.

Exercising and working out regularly is the simplest way to reduce stress in life. It is very cathartic and also improves the functioning of the heart, improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, etc. Working out at least 3 to 4 times a week for 30 to 40 minutes is crucial for health.

4.Are you an imaginative person? Well, then imagine things that make you feel good.

Creative visualisation involves the usage of imagery to help calm the mind. Any scene, like that of a serene beach, or beautiful stratocumuli in a dazzling blue sky on a windy day, or a sunrise in the hills, is imagined. Then, one lets go of all the tension in the facial muscles, the limbs, and then gradually the whole body. All attention is focused on the scene and it’s visualised for as long as required to soothe away any stressful feelings and thoughts. 

5.Start writing a self-reflection journal.

Being one of the most ancient forms of self-help in the world, journaling is most definitely a tried and tested way to vent out your feelings appropriately, learn much more about yourself and grow and mature holistically as a person. We often prescribe journaling to our clients, as well. As long as you begin journaling with the intention of increasing your self-awareness, journaling can help you accomplish wonders.

Incontact’s Counselling & Therapy Services for Stress Management

At Incontact, we believe that every individual and his or her experiences are unique. Therefore, every individual requires a unique treatment plan. Our team of extensively experienced professionals adapt and evolve the treatment plan according to the client’s distinctive needs. We strive to create an eclectic mix of different concepts and therapeutic approaches to resolve the specific issues that you may be experiencing. For more information on our services offered for stress management, visit our service page for the same. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Stress Management

Q. Can I completely eliminate stress?

No. It isn’t possible to eliminate stress from life. In fact, it’d be unrealistic to think that way. However it is crucial to make use of at least one stress management technique everyday to reduce stress.

Q. Can stress be a positive thing?

Yes, stress in a small amount isn’t only good for us, but is necessary for our optimum functioning. It helps us achieve our goals and keep us up and running. In fact, too little stress can make us feel quite listless and low on motivation.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a group of mental illnesses that are characterized by abnormal eating habits which are associated with severe distress and body image issues. Such eating habits can severely impact a person’s physical and mental well-being. The eating disorders mostly develop in young females, however anyone can develop such a condition regardless of what age group they are in, or what gender they are, etc. 

Over 70 million people worldwide are affected by eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa has the second highest mortality rate of all the mental illnesses. Thus, the severity of eating disorders and their negative impact on the millions of people that they affect, cannot be left neglected. The first thing that you must do if you are concerned for yourself or a loved one ,who could be suffering from an eating disorder, is contact a doctor who understands this condition and ask for a check-up, immediately. 

Eating disorders cannot be cured, just like how other mental health conditions can’t be cured, but their symptoms and the distress that they cause can be considerably reduced with the help of a proper treatment plan

Types of Eating Disorders

There are 4 major types of eating disorders that are discussed below:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa: The person suffering from anorexia nervosa has an intense fear of gaining weight, has a disregard for the objective definition of a healthy body. They generally have a severely unrealistic body image that they want to achieve. At the same time, they view themselves as ‘fat’ and want to achieve a body shape that can be called ‘skinny’. They have a very unhealthy obsession with food and exercise. They often purge themselves through inducing vomiting and abusing laxatives. These habits lead to brain damage, organ failure, a decrease in bone density, heart problems, and infertility. They can even lead to death in extreme cases. 
  1. Bulimia Nervosa: A person suffering from bulimia nervosa is, in a way, ‘trapped’ in a loop that has alternative phases of bingeing and purging. Bingeing periods involve eating excessively large portions of food in a very short amount of time. These periods are typically followed by a period of excessive exercise. The purging period involves self-induced vomiting and laxative abuse. People with bulimia nervosa judge themselves and their bodies very harshly. These symptoms have an effect on physical health as well, as people suffering from bulimia nervosa have severe gastrointestinal problems, dehydration, heart problems, and electrolyte imbalance. 
  1. Binge-Eating Disorder: People who suffer from binge-eating disorder often lose control over their eating habits and such behaviour isn’t followed by the purging phase, unlike in bulimia nervosa. A person with this disorder is highly likely to be obese and have other physical ailments as well such as heart conditions, diabetes, etc. Binge-eating disorder is also associated with intense feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment due to their eating habits. 
  1. Orthorexia Nervosa: A comparatively lesser-known illness, orthorexia nervosa is characterized by an obsession with extreme exercise and ‘healthy’ foods. Orthorexics do not eat or at least avoid dishes with oil, carbohydrates, butter, etc. as much as they can. They eliminate many foods from their diet. Orthorexics usually aim to build a healthy body unlike anorexics who wish to lose weight. 

Common Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders:

Emotional & Behavioural Symptoms: 

  • Behaviours and attitudes in general indicate weight loss, dieting, etc. becoming the primary concerns
  • Rejection of certain foods, which develops into a rejection of whole food groups or categories of foods (no carbohydrates, no fats, etc.)
  • Preoccupation with weight, body shape, calories, inch loss and weight loss, diet fads, etc.
  • Withdrawal from usual social activities
  • Uncomfortable eating around others
  • Extreme mood swings

Physical Symptoms:

  • Significant fluctuations in weight
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Stomach cramps
  • Anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low white or red blood cell counts, etc. 
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Fine hair on body/lanugo
  • Impaired immune system
  • Swelling around the area of salivary glands
  • Cuts and calluses on the top of finger joints
  • Poor wound healing

Causes of Eating Disorder

There are many factors associated with the development of eating disorders. The exact cause of eating disorders cannot be identified, or at least hasn’t been identified yet. But an intermix of several factors from different groups is associated with their onset and further worsening. They’re as follows: 

  1. Hormonal problems
  2. Genetics
  3. Nutritional deficiencies
  4. Poor body image
  5. Poor self esteem
  6. Dysfunctional familial environment
  7. A career in which an ‘ideal body’ or being slim is promoted
  8. Childhood trauma
  9. Peer pressure
  10.  Stressful life challenges

Treatments for Eating Disorder

The complexities and physiological manifestations involved in the eating disorders make it very essential to have a very good team of mental health professionals available so that a really good treatment plan can be devised. They address all the dimensions of the illness since eating disorders affect every part of a person’s  life. At Incontact, we know that treatment plans need to be extremely adaptable to the client’s needs as every person is unique and has unique problems when tackling a mental illness. We at Incontact provide support and help for clients with eating disorders in Singapore and depending on the client needs apply an eclectic approach involving all concepts and skills that are best suited.

A treatment plan for eating disorder involves the following: 

  • Medical care: The main problem in eating disorders is addressing all the health issues that the client faces which need to be immediately treated. 
  • Nutrition: People with eating disorders have many nutritional deficiencies which need to be immediately addressed as well because if left untreated they can lead to major physical problems that may or may not be permanent and may have lifelong effects. 
  • Medication: Some medications can be given for reducing mood and anxiety related symptoms that are associated with eating disorders. However, they cannot cure eating disorders. 
  • Psychotherapy or counseling: Many forms of psychotherapy can be incorporated depending on the client’s condition and specific needs. They are: 
    1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy helps resolve any cognitive distortions that are the source of the client’s problems. These distortions are ultimately the cause of their behaviour and emotional disturbances. The deeply rooted body image issues, trauma related problems, familial issues etc can be addressed with CBT. CBT is considered to be one of the most effective forms of therapy which is used for a wide range of psychological problems and illnesses. The results of the therapy can be seen within 2-3 sessions and usually a CBT based psychotherapeutic treatment lasts about 10 sessions, or a few more.
    2. Family-based Therapy: Family based therapy is typically effective for the younger clients, that is, children and adolescents with eating disorders. FBT makes sure that the whole family is involved in their child’s treatment and helps in the development of good eating habits. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Eating Disorders

Q. Can eating disorders be fatal?

Yes, eating disorders have the second highest fatality rate among all mental illnesses. It is very important to find a doctor as soon as you think you can identify a few or all of the symptoms of an eating disorder. Consult the doctor and ask for a check-up ASAP. 

Q. What should I do if I think I have an eating disorder? I’m afraid to disclose it to my loved ones.

It is a brave yet an important step to reach out to the ones that you love and trust. Most people report feeling relieved when they’ve told someone. However, with their support, you must seek professional help as well. 

We are here to help and listen to your story