Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist philosophy, but it is not a religion, neither is any religious belief necessary to its practise. Mindfulness was introduced to the western society by Jon Kabat Zinn in 1979 to assist him in his work with people suffering from a wide range of medical problems including chronic pain, cancer and heart disease.
No, mindfulness is not about learning to relax, it is a way of being, of remaining present, and practicing the art of observation. Much of the observation is focused on the breath or the body.
Mindfulness is a cognitive-attentive process that allows to stay in the moment.
Many of us spend most of our time focused either on the past or on the future, paying very little attention to what is happening in the present. Interestingly, the present is the only time we really have to live if we consider that the past is already gone, the future is not here yet!
Anxiety disorders can be summarized as follow:
- Specific phobia
Describes persistent fear of a situation or an object and, often, fear of one’s reaction to it. Fear is recognized as exaggerated but suffers still tend to avoid the phobic stimulus
- Panic disorder
Describes the repeated experience of panic attacks, often described as sudden increases in anxiety accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, breathlessness and dizziness. Such symptoms are often described as terrifying and misinterpreted as a sign of imminent heart attack or stroke.
Describes an anxiety that is characterized by preoccupation with, and fear of having a serious illness, either now or in the future.
- Social phobia
It is characterized by marked or persistent fear of social performance situations in which a person feels scrutinized by others and fears embarrassment or humiliation. The fear is restricted to social situations and the sufferer is very focused the physical symptoms and behavioural performance. Panic disorder can occur with or without agoraphobia.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
It presents with persistent and excessive worries, fears and negative thoughts about the future that lead to distress and/or impairment of performance.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
It is characterized by recurrent and persistent thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions) that are experienced, as intrusive and unwanted. The sufferer attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).
- Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
Describe the situation in which a person develops anxiety and dissociative symptoms that occurs within one month after exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor (e.g. witnessing a death or serious accident).
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
It occurs when following and event deemed seriously threatening to oneself (or others), a person develops intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Symptoms include intrusive memories of the traumatic events e.g. flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance, numbing or hyperarousal.
Anxiety is a normal, vital reaction to a threat. It is characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Anxiety becomes a problem when the normal response is exaggerated or occurs in the absence of a real threat. This often leads to engaging in unhelpful copying strategies that do not resolve the situation fully but maintain or worse the anxiety.
For example, Jean had a panic attack and now lives in fear of having another. To minimize the likelihood of a panic attack he tries not to move too fast, or not to practice sports to avoid hyperventilation. He also avoids situations that he predicted could be stressful. As a result, his life is very restricted and his fear of panic attacks is unchanged.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, is a talking therapy. It has been proved to help treat a wide range of emotional and physical health conditions in adults, young people and children. CBT looks at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we act. In turn our actions can affect how we think and feel.The therapist and client work together in changing the client’s behaviours, or their thinking patterns, or both of these. (British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies, BABCP; 2014)