Managing Frequent Nose Bleeds

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine….

BaylorCollegeBloody noses, while incredibly common, are inconvenient and can often be alarming to whoever experiences one. While everyone has their own idea of how to remedy the occasional bloody nose, Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Eddie Liou breaks down what is really happening to cause the bleed and how to manage it.

“People of all ages experience nose bleeds, and most are caused by simple dryness due to weather or air conditioning, picking the nose or a trauma event, such as a fall or sports injury, or by predisposed conditions like septal deviation or inflammation due to allergies,” said Liou, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Baylor. “Though very rare, more serious causes can include growths, tumors or elevated blood pressure. Additionally, older individuals who are on blood thinners may experience more frequent nose bleeds.”

Liou explained that most bleeds happen in the anterior area of the nose, or the cartilaginous portion at the front of the septum.

“The interior lining of the nose can dry out and become brittle and break, much like a chapped lip can split, causing a bleed. Because the blood supply to the nose is so rich, it can take a little longer to subside,” Liou said.

When experiencing a nose bleed, Liou said the best thing to do is to pinch the nostrils together and apply pressure to the flexible, cartilaginous area of the septum, as opposed to the bony bridge of the nose, for about five minutes.

“A common misconception is to pinch the bridge of the nose, but that is not where most bleeds are originating from. People also often ask if they should tilt their head forward or back, which is another misconception. The angle of the head does not have an impact on stopping the bleed, and, conversely, swallowing blood can actually cause nausea,” Liou said.

After applying pressure to stop the bleed, Liou recommends using an over-the-counter decongestant spray, which causes the blood vessels in the lining of the nose to constrict. Moisturize the lining by applying nasal saline followed by petroleum jelly, which can be applied twice a day with a cotton swab.

“If you have a nose bleed lasting longer than an hour, or experience regular nose bleeds over the course of a couple of weeks, it is important to consult your physician, as there might be a bleed in the posterior area of the nose, near the throat, that needs to be cauterized by a doctor,” Liou said.

5 Ways On Managing Your Dog’s Skin Allergies

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By Monica Mendoza

walkingdogJust like us humans, our dogs can be prone to skin allergies, causing them to scratch, itch, and chew at their skin and fur. This can cause not only unattractive, bald patches on their coat but possible wounds and injuries as well.

Fortunately, there are ways to help manage your dog’s skin allergies, or even prevent them from being triggered – with some you can do even before a veterinarian has to get involved. Below is a list to helpful tips you can implement in case you’ve noticed your dog scratching and itching more than usual.

Prevent flea infestation at all costs. Nothing can trigger or exacerbate a dog’s skin allergy faster and more effectively than fleas. In fact, it would only take a couple of bites from a lone flea to get your furry companion to scratch themselves until they’ve gouged bloody scratches onto their skin. Imagine, then, how they would feel with a full-blown flea infestation. As such, you should always have your dog on some sort of flea prevention method as much as possible. Giving them regular anti-flea treatment baths and powders are both effective solutions.

Buy only hypoallergenic accessories for your dog. Another similarity between dogs and humans when it comes to skin allergies is that the materials making up their accessories could also trigger an allergic reaction. Some dogs, for example, can get contact dermatitis from metal collars, while others may get skin irritation from wool covers on their beddings. In such cases it’s recommended to just get a brand new dog collar or cover, preferably one that’s made of hypoallergenic material and clearly sold as such. You may have to work with your veterinarian to verify what is hypoallergenic to your dog and what isn’t.

Maintain a strict diet. While the occasional store-bought treat is harmless and can give your dog a great mood boost, it’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a strict and hypoallergenic diet. Use fruit or brightly-colored vegetables (such as carrots) as treats instead of those with preservatives or artificial flavorings. Avoid giving your dog anything that has poultry, dairy or beef in it, as they are common allergy triggers.

Give your dog regular baths. Some dogs love baths while others just won’t get one without a fight. Whichever category your dog falls into, it’s important for them to be bathed one or twice a week – preferably with a gentle, soap-free shampoo formulated especially for canines. If you’ve already been to the veterinarian, then they should have already prescribed a medicated shampoo for your dog to use. Also, be sure to wash off all the shampoo suds off your dog completely, as any leftover suds may cause itching.

Have your dog undergo allergy testing and immunization therapy. Figuring out what is responsible for your dog’s allergy can be a trial of patience and anxiety. If you and your dog are both at your wits’ ends, you can go right to the veterinarian and have them perform allergy testing on your canine companion. From there, it’s possible that your dog will have to undergo immunotherapy – i.e. having your dog regularly injected with serum in order to desensitize them to their allergens and train their immune systems to ‘ignore’ the allergens. This may be a cost-prohibitive measure and involve multiple visits, but you’ll no longer have to worry about your dog having an allergic reaction, especially if it turns out that his allergens are something very common (such as pollen or even human dander).

Skin allergies are no picnic, especially for a dog. However, as their owners and companions, we can take certain steps in order to prevent our pets from developing these allergies. As with all medical advice, however, if you’re not sure about your dog’s allergies, it’s always a good idea to skip the self-diagnosis and go straight to the veterinarian.

Elder Care: The Challenge Of Managing Medications

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This article is provided by PRWeb and Elizabeth Landsverk, MD.

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD, with ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine Provides, Tips to Ensure Safety and Effectiveness.

pillsAbout half of Americans age 65 and older take five or more medications daily and many mix prescription and over-the-counter medications with vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. “With each additional medication or supplement, the risk of an adverse reaction increases,” says Elizabeth Landsverk, MD, founder of ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine. “Even simple foods can interact with medication and cause the body to respond in unexpected ways. Medication-related issues are complicated by how medications are taken, when they are taken, how they interact with each other, and the general health of the patient. As a result, adverse drug reactions are an all-too-common cause of hospitalization among elders.”

According to U.S. government estimates, more than 125,000 people die every year from failure to take medication properly. And almost 60% of elders make medication errors, about 26% of them with potentially serious consequences.

The most common and dangerous medication errors among the elder population are:

* Taking too much: Overdoses are the most common cause of drug fatalities. While painkillers, especially opioids, are most often abused, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants are also frequent culprits and any drug, including over-the-counter medications, can cause a life-threatening overdose.

* Taking too little (or “noncompliance”): There are many reasons people deliberately reduce their dosage or stop taking prescribed medication. Some feel better and think they no longer need it; some feel it isn’t doing any good; some are bothered by side effects; some are trying to reduce their costs by taking it less often.

* Confusing medications or administering them incorrectly: Many prescription medications have similar names, making them easy to confuse, or a facility may give the same medication under the brand name and a second dose as the generic name (i.e. Tylenol 650 twice a day and acetaminophen 650 mg twice a day given erroneously to the same patient).

* Medication interactions: With most elders taking multiple medications often prescribed by multiple physicians, the risk of dangerous interactions increases. Common complications result from side effects from one medication treated with another medication (i.e. Reglan, for nausea, leading to Parkinson’s like symptoms and treated with Parkinson’s medications).

* Patient error: Families and caregivers must be alert to elders’ ability to reliably manage their medications, particularly when even mild cognitive impairment is an issue.

Dr. Landsverk provides practical advice for patients, families and caregivers to help them reduce the risks of medication-related problems.

* Ensure that your doctor explains precisely what each medication is for, why the dosage has been chosen, and why it is important to take it as directed. Most important is that the doctor reviews the medication list and removes the medications no longer needed (i.e. decrease blood pressure medication when the systolic blood pressure has dropped to 120 from weight loss). Make sure each package is properly labeled and includes dosage instructions.

* Make a list of every medication you are taking, including over-the-counter, vitamins, minerals, and supplements, including dosage and purpose. Have it with you every time you talk to a physician or a pharmacist. Update the list when there is a change. Over the counter medications are NOT necessarily safer. No one should take the PM medications, such as TylenolPM (i.e. with Benedryl) since the Benedryl is anticholinergic and can lead to confusion, constipation, dry mouth and agitation.

seniorwoman2* Make taking medication part of the daily routine: morning meds with breakfast, bedtime meds with tooth-brushing, etc. If it’s difficult to remember, consider a reminder system like a pill sorter or an alert on an alarm clock or mobile device.

* Keep the number of providers who care for you to a minimum. More importantly, the primary care provider MUST communicate with the specialists. Make sure each doctor knows which others you see and what they have prescribed. If possible, use only one pharmacy. Consider using an online tool that can help you identify possible medication conflicts.

* Tell your doctor about prior experiences with medications.

* Ask questions! Ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects, proper storage and anything else that will increase your confidence that the medication is right for you and ensure that you take it properly. Seek a second opinion if you have concerns.

“Failure to take medication properly – whether by accident or intentionally – has serious consequences for elders’ health and for their ability to maintain their independence,” says Dr. Landsverk. “If confusion or cognitive impairment makes it impossible for the patient to manage medications properly, even with a reminder system, arrangements must be made for a family member or caregiver to intervene.”

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD, is founder of ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, a house calls practice in the San Francisco Bay Area that addresses the challenging medical and behavioral issues often facing older patients and their families. Dr. Landsverk is board-certified in internal medicine, geriatric medicine and palliative care and is an adjunct clinical professor at Stanford University Medical School.

Managing Autumn And Winter Skin

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jogsnowJust as fall, and then winter, brings a variety of changes in the natural world, it’s also a mixed bag for our skin. Dr. Joshua Fox with Advanced Dermatology PC offers a rundown of some of the changes you can expect in your skin, plus tips on how to manage them.

During the autumn months the kids head back to school, the temperatures (finally!) get down to a comfortable level, the leaves change—and so does your skin. Fall is a time of transformation throughout nature, says Joshua L. Fox, MD, founder and medical director of NY and NJ-based Advanced Dermatology PC, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that we humans go through transitions of our own this time of year. And just as fall, and then winter, brings a variety of changes in the natural world, it’s also a mixed bag for our skin. Dr. Fox offers a rundown of some of the changes you can expect in your skin, plus tips on how to manage them.

Welcome to the dry season. While lower humidity is great for anyone who battles frizzy hair and a shiny forehead all summer, it means drier skin for everybody, as less moisture in the air translates almost immediately to a corresponding drop in the moisture in us. What’s more, turning on the heat in your home also dries you out, no matter whether the heat comes from electricity, gas, or firewood.

To keep your skin beautiful and properly nourished this fall and winter, Dr. Fox recommends switching moisturizers, trading in the lotion for a cream or something else that’s more emollient. This goes for the skin on your body as well as your face. Use products made with humectants (such as glycerine, sorbitol urea, and alpha-hydroxy acids), which attract moisture to your skin, and look for an oil-based moisturizer for off the face, which will create a protective layer to hold that moisture in.

To combat dryness from the inside, stay hydrated (drink plenty of water and keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum). You should note, however, that the old saying about drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to keep your beautiful is a myth, Dr. Fox says. “We know that water is essential to keep the body functioning. But unless you’re dangerously dehydrated, drinking extra water won’t show up in your skin.” What can help, he says, is adding a humidifier to the rooms where you spend the most time—probably where you sleep and work. “Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which helps keep your skin from drying out.”

femalewashingfaceMake a date to exfoliate. After a summer spent outdoors, most people have exposed their skin to sun and wind (hopefully with sunscreen). But regardless of the SPF you’ve been using, Dr. Fox says, your skin has probably gotten at least some damage and may well show the signs: a dull and uneven surface (thanks to built-up skin cells), dry texture and hyper-pigmented patches. “Fall is a great time to have an in-office exfoliation procedure, such as microdermabrasion or a chemical peel,” he says. “You also might consider photorejuvenation, which uses a laser technique known as IPL (intense pulsed light, Blue
light or lasers) to improve the look of freckles, spots, and other sun damage.”

At home, Dr. Fox says, slough off dull skin and get your face and body springtime-smooth again with gentle exfoliants (try a hydrating mask on your face and an oil-based scrub on your body). Just don’t overdo it, especially if your face is already feeling irritated or extra dry.

Acne adjustments. The season’s cooler temperatures, coupled with drying acne treatments, can leave even oily and acne-prone skin feeling tight and flaky. Unless your dermatologist advises differently, keep up your regular acne treatments, but switch to a slightly heavier moisturizer (look for one that’s oil free and noncomedogenic) and cut back on cleansing.

Rosacea reinforcements. The stronger winds and cooler temperatures of autumn can leave some faces red and inflamed—especially those with rosacea. Other rosacea triggers, including indoor heat and hot beverages, can make things even worse. To keep your skin under control, use a humidifier and set indoor temps at the lowest comfortable setting, let the coffee (or cocoa) cool before drinking it, and protect your skin with a scarf when you go outside. Stick to your prescribed skincare routine, but consider switching to a heavier moisturizer if your skin feels especially dry. Sometime and additional prescription may be required.

The attack of the chicken skin (aka keratosis pilaris). Autumn is also a time for flare-ups of the condition dermatologists call keratosis pilaris (KP) or lichen spinalosis, characterized by bumps on the backs of the upper arms and thighs (which are caused by a buildup of keratin in and around the hair follicles) and exacerbated by dry conditions. To fight it, exfoliate gently and bump up the moisturizer (you might even switch to an ultra-rich ointment for KP patches). It that is not helpful, dermatologists have several prescriptions that can help clear up the condition.

Allergy alert! Changes in your skin during the fall months can also be triggered by increased exposure to allergens such as pollen, ragweed and mold. Allergic skin reactions can include itchiness, redness, puffiness, and flakiness (more severe symptoms include swelling, hives, rashes and blisters). If you’re allergic to pollen, wash your face and hands after you’ve been outside and keep the windows closed during peak pollen times (roughly 10 am to 4 pm). If ragweed or mold is your nemesis, use an air purifier with a HEPA filter. And moisturize often (with a hypoallergenic product).

Advanced Dermatology P.C., the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) provides cutting edge medical, laser & cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery services.

Joshua L. Fox, M.D., F.A.A.D., is the founder and medical director at Advanced Dermatology P.C. He is a leading authority in the field of dermatology with expertise in skin cancer, cosmetic surgery and laser procedures and is program director of a fellowship in laser and cosmetic surgery

– Courtesy of PRWeb

Managing Pain The First Few Days After Braces

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By Dr. Nima Hajibaik

dentistWhat are the best methods of managing pain and discomfort from the application of new braces?

The application of braces can sometimes cause minor sensitivity, and discomfort for your teeth, and irritation to the lips and tongue for the first several days, but there are ways to ease into the transition.

You have scheduled your appointment and discussed the different types of braces available, and now you are ready to have them placed. Is there anything you can do to prepare beforehand? Yes, there is. Take some time to be prepared for your orthodontic braces by purchasing a few items you will need for the first few days such as:

• Salt

• Over-the-counter-pain medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen

• Dental wax (This is also provided by your orthodontist.)

• Ice pack

• Soft foods like soup, mashed potatoes, yogurt, ice cream, etc.

• Smoothies or protein drinks

• Purchase oral hygiene implements such as toothbrush, floss, etc., as recommended by your orthodontist

Braces, day one: Take the recommended age-appropriate dose of an over-the-counter pain meds such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen 30 minutes before your visit to the orthodontist to have your braces applied. This can help to lessen any discomfort you may experience during and after you get your braces. This applies to children or to those who are having adult braces applied.

Once you get home, you can resume normal activity but you will want to stick to a soft food regime over the course of the next few days until you become adjusted to the new appliance. Taking sips of ice-cold water or eating frozen popsicles or ice cream can help to ease the discomfort. If you experience any sores on your tongue or lips, gargle with a mild salt water rinse to help heal the irritated areas.

Try to avoid citrus fruits or drinks at this time as they can cause further discomfort. Do not attempt to remove any bands or wires from your braces if they give you trouble; apply dental wax to the area to help alleviate any irritation.

After a week or so: you will become used to your new braces and they should not bother you as much. Continue to rinse with mild salt water and use your dental wax as needed. All of these tips can apply to the application of all types of dental braces. It is always a good idea to sit down and talk with a professional, your orthodontist has years of experience in this field, and will help you to make this transition as easy and painless as possible.

Learn More

Dr. Nima Hajibaik works at Newpark Orthodontics, located in Alpharetta, Ga. To learn more about Dr. Nima Hajibaik or Newpark Orthodontics visit or call (678) 389-9400.

Managing Your Weight And Staying Healthy

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scaleMost Americans can agree that when warm weather rolls around, we notice the weight we’ve put on over the cold winter months. Although it’s only natural to have some weight fluctuation this is not to be confused with eating disorders that require professional help. Please keep in mind that food addiction treatment is necessary at times and many people have had a lot of success with Rader Programs and other treatment programs, even individuals who have tried other more outdated methods. Below are some more common reasons for having a few extra pounds, but that should not be confused with binge eating that requires medical attention.

Lack of time

Not having enough time to cook or exercise is a common reason people tend to walk around with extra weight. Ten years ago there just weren’t nearly as many solutions as we have today. The days of exercise tapes and home work out routines have reinvented themselves. Now we have wii fit, and countless apps that help track calories and make exercise fun. A free and very popular app, My Fitness Pal, tracks calories using a barcode scanner which can find virtually any food you might eat at home or on the go. Keep in mind you can use an app to track your daily movement, and if you happen to have a labor intensive job you should be able to count that as exercise.

Emotional Eating

Did you know that your body is designed to be able to consume large amounts of food? The ability to consume more food than we actually need stems from times when humans were unable to eat regularly. Due to this mindset of feast vs famine we’re able to consume more food than we need. During times of high stress we physically are able to overeat, allowing the cycle of emotional eating to begin. One way to control this is to measure out food and prepare it ahead of time. When you meal plan you are not only counting calories but you’re showing your body what it needs rather than what it craves. If you feel like you are an emotional eater try to plan out meals ahead of time. This will train your body to recognize when it is full rather than assuming your brain will tell your mouth to stop eating. If your emotional eating seems to be serious you should take the time to talk to a professional. Finding out the cause of your stress is a sure fire way to solve this; it just might take time and open up emotions that you should discuss with a professional.

Choice of beverage

What are you drinking with meals? It can be easy to choose a diet soda at a meal (especially when dining out) but drinking even just a glass of water before eating can help kick your metabolism into gear. If you struggle choosing water try carrying around a filtered reusable water bottle. Frequently, when buying something to drink the water is displayed right next to other less nutritious drinks, making it difficult to choose water. If you carry around your own water bottle you won’t be tempted to go into a store and expose yourself to other drinks as well as snacks. Some dieters are successful just based on limiting themselves from other choices. Limiting alcoholic beverages and replacing them with water in the evening is also a quick weight loss solution. If you must have a drink try a cocktail with seltzer water rather than sugar juices; it might not be as tasty but your body will appreciate the hydration.

Managing Yours And Your Child’s Stress

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By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

familyrunOur kids are growing up fast and in a generation with electronics their parents never knew. Recent family statistics mention that:

* on average, 53 hours per week of a child’s life is spent interacting with some sort of screen media

* kids are sleeping less

* children are involved in more non-family activities

* children are being treated more as confidantes by their parents rather than as a child,

* kids have less time to be still or interact with family.

These don’t come without consequences.

One of those consequences is increased stress. A second consequence is a need for immediacy, and awkwardness with normal communication. Kids also feel more overwhelmed with emotions they don’t understand or have the ability to process. The brain changes as we grow and continues to change as it acquires new information.

An overload of information, or inability to manage the information, leads to anxiety, depression, and stress in our children. The evidence is everywhere. Attention deficit disorders are a real issue, but environmental influences cannot be overlooked. Many parents are as stressed, if not more, than their children. And when children don’t understand what is going on, it is likely they will try to help mom and dad by taking on some of their unspoken worries and concerns.

Parents traveling with their jobs, taking on more work, venting personal information to their children, or signing their child up for one more class or activity at night to help with carpooling may help everyone get home, but it may also be the very activity that pushes a healthy balance to an unhealthy point for their child. Just as parents need “down time,” their children do, too. The loss of childhood is a serious and complex problem facing many families in America.

How can we protect our children’s youth, help them manage necessary stress and minimize unnecessary stress? Below are a few suggestions for parents in managing their own stress as well as helping their children.

Parent’s stress:

* The number one way to manage stress for parents is to prevent it from happening. Prepare yourself as a parent to not expect perfection, and instead focus on being happy and raising kids who feel good about themselves. The easiest way to do this is to focus on all you love and what is going great in your life. If your child is getting all Bs with one C or D, focus on the Bs with encouragement toward improving on the C or D.

* Minimize stress with exercise and healthy foods. When you make healthy choices, you become happier. Taking ten minutes for you each day to exercise can minimize stress and anxiety while helping demonstrate a healthy lifestyle to your child.

* Take care of yourself spiritually. Your faith and beliefs can help you relieve stress. Praying, meditating and sharing your life with a community helps you feel less burdened, others are more appropriate as a sounding board than your children.

Parents, help your children minimize and manage stress by:

familyrunning* Talking to your kids about what is causing them stress in their life, and less about what is causing stress in your own life.

* Focusing on helping your child develop a routine to follow each day. Consistency and structure minimize stress in kids.

* Making sure you have a bed time plan and your child is getting plenty of sleep. Catching up on weekends is not okay.

* Planning family meals rather than going out for fast food will reduce stress. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be time consuming, and it allows you to spend more time engaged with your child.

* Choosing fewer planned activities allows children time to journal or work on hobbies giving them more control and encouraging healthy coping skills and stress management.

You cannot escape stress–and some stress is good for us. However, when your child becomes anxious, weepy, and unable to focus, it’s time to make changes in your family’s lifestyle.

– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at

Managing Anxiety By Accepting Your Brain’s Alarm System

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By Bob Livingstone

brainThere have been dramatic studies about the science of the brain, how it works and how we can deal with our emotional pain in new ways. There have been many articles and books written in the last few years about the different parts of the brain, how they function, and how they can heal emotional anguish.

This article will focus on the workings of the part of the brain called the amygdala. I am concentrating on this part of the brain because it has a huge impact on our emotional lives.

The amygdala is a necessary part of our brain that has kept us safe throughout history. It becomes activated when you are in real danger. It triggers the fight or flight response. If you see a wild dog running towards you, your amygdala will mobilize and you will take whatever action is necessary to protect yourself.

Without the amygdala, we would not be able to prepare for peril, so it is a necessary part of our being. However, sometimes the amygdala can become over active due to situations that create post-traumatic stress syndrome. (PTSD)

The amygdala plays a part in the creation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. The amygdala also plays a role in the formation of many fear responses including freezing, rapid heartbeat, increased respiration and stress hormone response.

If you are a victim of child abuse, if your parents had a hostile divorce, if someone close died when you were young, if you were a soldier in a war zone, or if you had physical health problems; you may be suffering from PTSD.

In the original trauma, the normal and natural fight flight response kicks in, the amygdala immediately decides it is a dangerous situation that must be reacted to in that way; and that is a normal body response to danger.

In the original trauma, the normal and natural fight flight response kicks in, the amygdala immediately decides it is a dangerous situation that must be reacted to in that way; and that is a normal body response to danger. The higher functions of the brain located in the frontal lobe allows us to sort our experience, compare and contrast, make meaning out of what is going on and finding a safe resolution. These higher functions vanish during the original trauma; making it impossible to create any kind of logical strategy for dealing with this emotional disturbance. They go offline because protecting a real threat to the body overrules any other brain task.

Sometimes the amygdala can misinterpret body sensations. Jane can be thinking about the possibility about being rejected by her boyfriend and her abandonment issues get triggered. The amygdala is sensing that her life is being threatened when in essence she is not in danger, but panicking because she has strong, negative feelings and memories of being abandoned by someone she truly loved. This panic is wrongly identified as the possibility of grave physical harm by the amygdala, so its forces rev up.

Around four years ago, I had a number of health issues happen one right after the other: I had the H. Pylori stomach virus that felt like rats were fighting for control over my stomach which led to acid reflux. I remember lying on the floor feeling without energy as the country celebrated the inauguration of the first African-American president. A couple of months later, the electrical system in my heart wore out which resulted in the installation of a heart pacemaker. Then I had surgery to remove a seven millimeter kidney stone that became infected. This followed with intermittent back and other muscle pain.

brainthinkingMy amygdala kicks in when I experience any body sensation that reminds me of the electrical system of my heart giving out or kidney stones floating in painful areas. I could be feeling winded when I exercise or heartburn or any other sensation that seems out of the ordinary. I feel the sensation and then thoughts about my possible demise enter and panic sets in like an unwanted visitor.

I also can be triggered by any incoming body sensation that I feel may lead to my death-even though there are no conscious thoughts that I am going to die, but the amygdala is getting the message that I am in danger and it sounds the alarm that is experienced as intense fear in my body. I feel so overwhelmed when this occurs and don’t know what to do. The panic can last a few minutes or can be intermittent over the course of a day.

This feeling of impending death is experienced at the same time as the memory of suddenly and without any warning, passing out while I was on my five mile run.

I realize that this hyperactive amygdala had its origins when my father died suddenly when I was fifteen years old. My innocence was instantly shattered and I was abruptly pushed into a world of having no father and no means to deal with such a loss.

I have felt shame about this fear/amygdala sensation being activated for most of my life. I always believed the fear was my fault and experienced humiliation since I’ve had no success in warding it off.

Now I know that the amygdala becomes active whenever it senses danger. I have had no control over that process when it does give out its warnings. A huge part of my emotional healing is about learning to accept that the amygdala will do its thing no matter what. Sometimes I will not be able to respond to the trigger immediately and the sirens from that part of my brain will ring with danger and a call to be ever vigilant.

When I was younger, I perceived the amygdala to be the critical parent inside me and now I am aware that I have mislabeled this part. We all have different parts of us inside that may include the child, teenager, calming mother or raging father. The amygdala is not in this category at all. It is part of your brain that is designed to keep you safe by alerting you to danger.

brainExample of how this all works: First you notice a physical sensation like heartburn and as soon as you feel it, you tell yourself that this feeling is not dangerous, that it is only heartburn and not a heart attack or heart failure. You will have to practice this; it won’t be natural to you at first, but after repeating this process several times, it will begin to become second nature. You then tell yourself to take some deep breaths and feel yourself relax. If you are focusing on your breathing, it is difficult to concentrate on anything else like fear.

It is important to realize that hardly any time elapses between the moment you are triggered and the amygdala can be deactivated. The amygdala, at the moment you are triggered is like a pot of water that is only simmering now, but will be boiling over soon if you don’t interrupt its process. Therefore, you don’t have much time to intervene and the trick is to identify what is happening quickly and calm yourself so the amygdala doesn’t sense danger and therefore doesn’t sound its full alarm.

Let’s revisit the case of Jane from earlier. When she was a small child, her father, who she loved very much, one day decided to leave his family without any notice or conveyed reason. Now, whenever she thinks about being abandoned, which she does often, she has the memory of her father leaving and then gets triggered. Shortly after she is triggered, the amygdala kicks in because it senses danger and possible catastrophe. Her past memory falsely interpreted that she is in danger now/in the present.

Jane can then feel out of sorts and very anxious the rest of the day until the amygdala senses that the danger has passed.

She can learn to identify when she feels triggered. She learns that it commences with an anxious feeling followed by her childhood memory of dad leaving. This self-awareness is a cue that the trigger-amygdala activation is about to begin. At this moment she tells herself that she can take care of herself no matter what, that she can tolerate being alone and that she doesn’t need to give this trigger any more energy. She chooses to focus on something else such as work or guitar lessons.

The amygdala will not sense any danger and therefore will not get charged up.

If the amygdala has been activated and you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, hopeless, distressed, and/or confused; healthy distraction is a great technique to use.

If the amygdala has been activated and you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, hopeless, distressed, and/or confused; healthy distraction is a great technique to use. In the midst of these intense negative feelings, you can give yourself permission to distract yourself from the fear by concentrating on something else. You may choose to focus on a work related activity, exercise or a walk on the beach. This diversion from the fear will cause the amygdala to shut down its warning system because it will no longer feel that you are at risk for demise.

One form of healthy distraction for me is to get angry at this sense of overwhelm and by telling myself how sick I am of having to deal with bone aching anxiety. The amygdala may have felt that my anger signified that I was in control and therefore no danger was on the horizon.

It is very important to understand that mastering the process above is far from an easy endeavor. It takes lots of practice and patience. It takes many instances of trial and error. You may find that one or more of these techniques presented here is effective or you may discover something that works for you that no one else has discovered. Sometimes no matter how good you are at these techniques, the amygdala is going to get fired up and you will be overwhelmed. It is possible to reduce the frequency of these incidents though and you need to be a warrior to reach your goals. Go for it!

Psychotherapy Techniques that may help you: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness.

Other techniques that may help: Meditation, Breathing Exercises, Relaxation Skill Training, and other Stress Reduction Programs

Medication prescribed by a psychiatrist may be helpful as well as certain herbs and supplements recommended by alternative healers.

I do recommend that you do your own research for all these helpful possibilities.

– Special Thanks to Kathy Carlson MFT and Sharon Kman MFT for assisting with this article.

Bob Livingstone is the author the critically acclaimed Unchain the Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist, Norlights Press 2011, The Body Mind Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise, Pegasus Books, 2007 and Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager’s Healing Journey through Sandtray Therapy, Booklocker 2002. He is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker in private practice in The San Francisco Bay Area and has nearly twenty five years experience working with adults, adolescents and children.