Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia and the "little anxiety guy"

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Hi Everyone,

Stephani Fried gives us a first class example of digging up core issues in a difficult agoraphobia case. In my experience, the persistent detective often comes up with the healing trophy. S/he is the one who develops mastery after others have given up.

Hugs, Gary


by Stephani Fried

Dear Gary,

Although I've been motivated to write to you in the past, the case of "Rikki," a 25 year old woman with a 5 year history of agoraphobic and severe panic symptoms MUST be shared.

I've been working with Rikki for a short time. She was referred by her Homeopath who was treating her anxiety with homeopathic remedies. Rikki is studying to be a Naturopath and refused to work with a psychiatrist whom she believed would prescribe traditional anti-anxiety medications. The Homeopath and I have worked successfully together (non-traditionally) in the past, where I utilize EFT in the psychotherapy process and SSRI medications were not necessary.

Rikki is the mother of a 22 month old daughter. She had rarely left her house for 15 months prior to our work. She was overwhelmed with disabling anxiety and fears of just about everything. She had not driven a car or left her block in all this time.

I made home visits and supplemented them with phone sessions. After she learned the procedures the phone was a viable alternative, with my coaching her in the procedure as we went. Rikki's anxiety about "unsafety in the world" was triggered and fueled by a multitude of negative thoughts and belief systems that all started with "What if...?" followed by a negative worst case scenario "Then..." statement. For example, "What if I start to drive to my grandmother's house and Then I get stuck in traffic at the corner of Main St. and Elm and I have to go to the bathroom and I get nervous, and I'm stuck there and THEN I can't get back home again." Rikki was conscious and aware that her thoughts had fueled the panic but had not previously looked at them individually on her own.

Well, we began to track her thoughts and the complex system of negative beliefs. With each discovery of a new "nagging" thought we used an EFT procedure to ameliorate it. Rikki became empowered by the process of uncovering the patterns and then letting it go.

Frequently, She would state that just acknowledging her worries would escalate the anxiety, so I would stop and have her tap on "even though continuing makes me feel a little nervous....." and then she could continue. After 1 session Rikki left her house. After 2 sessions she drove the 3 blocks into town, took her daughter to the library, and began short excursions daily. Her life was beginning to normalize, and then we uncovered a core issue and the anxiety returned but she continued to go out.

The core issue had to do with an acid trip she had when she was 16 years old. She has been traumatized by the memories and the "stuckness" of not being able to stop the hallucinations and distortions she experienced for 12 hours. She described the shame and guilt of taking the drug as well as the aspects of the traumatization for her and how it relates to the symptoms of agoraphobia. We used two sessions , the first setup session we tapped on shame, on guilt, on the trauma of allowing herself the memories, the trauma of verbalizing the experience. (Her belief here was that talking or reliving the emotional experience would trigger an acid flashback.) We tapped on feeling unsafe to do this work. We tapped on fear of uncovering something painful. We were partners in the process of uncovering every resistant or terrifying block to actually doing energy work on relieving the trauma of the acid trip itself.

Another important factor here is some work around having Rikki befriend and know the forms of her anxiety. I used guided meditation to clarify her "nagging anxiety thoughts and all those what ifs." Rikki was able to perceive an image of what she now refers to as her "little anxiety guy." The little anxiety guy rests behind her right ear. He is described as looking like the Tasmanian devil, with a pitchfork. He is always jumping up and down and reminding Rikki all of her worst case scenario fears. He kept her from driving, or from leaving her house for over a year. This separation of her fears from her own genuine perceptions of what is real and okay for her was extremely helpful.

So yesterday we began to use EFT on the trauma of being stuck in the acid trip and the little anxiety guy went "nuts" He tried to stop us but we acknowledged his voice, tapped on his wording of Rikki's fears, and then we were off again. He only stopped us twice. But taking the time and care to tap on "his concerns" disarmed Rikki and we continued successfully. The surprise outcome here was that after the 2nd round of tapping on the little anxiety guy's concerns he disappeared. Rikki was flabbergasted. She cried for joy that her tormenting part of her actually was no longer there. She did not even question how it could be possible, or if it was real, and for good. She just knew that his voice was gone and his image was completely absent behind her right ear. What a profound experience it was for this young woman to make peace with her tormentor.

I am continually awed by the transformative healing power of these procedures. Thanks for listening.

Stephani Fried, LPC

 

 

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