Getting hooked means getting caught up in thinking and losing touch with what is happening outside of our minds. When we get hooked by unwanted thoughts it is as though they push us around or bully us, like a critical coach who stands on the sidelines giving harsh feedback.
Getting unhooked means stepping back from our minds and experiencing our thoughts without evaluating them, trying to change them, or pushing them away. That is, paying attention to the experience of having the thoughts, rather than focusing on their meaning (for example, “there must be something wrong with me).
That doesn’t mean you have to like or want the thought. It is more to do with acknowledging that you are having the thought and that pushing it away may not have been very helpful. The more you resist, the more the thought persists.
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, an influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and East Asian philosophy and military thinking.
The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
All warfare is based on deception.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.
“Approximately 50 percent of the population will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives. While reactions to trauma can vary widely, and not everyone will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trauma can change the brain in some predictable ways that everyone should be aware of, especially if you or someone close to you is struggling to cope after trauma. With increased awareness, you can seek treatment to address your symptoms and learn skills that could actually rewire your brain for recovery. Additionally, knowing what’s going on can be immensely helpful because it may help you realize that you’re not crazy, irreversibly damaged, or a bad person. Instead, you can think of a traumatized brain as one that functions differently as a result of traumatic events. And just as your brain changed in response to your past experiences with the world, it can also change in response to your future experiences. In other words, the brain is “plastic,” and you can change it.
3 Areas to Know
Trauma can alter brain functioning in many ways, but three of the most important changes appear to occur in the following areas:
- The prefrontal cortex (PFC), known as the “Thinking Center”
- The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), known as the “Emotion Regulation Center”
- The amygdala, known as the “Fear Center”
The PFC, or thinking center, is located near the top of your head, behind your forehead. It’s responsible for abilities including rational thought, problem-solving, personality, planning, empathy, and awareness of ourselves and others. When this area of the brain is strong, we are able to think clearly, make good decisions, and be aware of ourselves and others.
The ACC, or emotion regulation center, is located next to the prefrontal cortex, but is deeper inside the brain. This area is responsible (in part) for regulating emotion, and (ideally) has a close working relationship with the thinking center. When this region is strong, we are able to manage difficult thoughts and emotions without being totally overwhelmed by them. While we might want to send a snarky email to a coworker, the emotion regulation center reminds us that this is not a good idea, and helps us manage our emotions so that we don’t do things we regret.
Finally, the amygdala, a tiny structure deep inside our brain, serves as its fear center. This subcortical area is outside of our conscious awareness or control, and its primary job is to receive all incoming information – everything you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste – and answer one question: “Is this a threat?” If it detects that a dangerous threat is present, it produces fear in us. When this area is activated, we feel afraid, reactive, and vigilant.
What’s Going on in a Traumatized Brain
Traumatized brains look different from non-traumatized brains in three predictable ways:
- The Thinking Center is underactivated,
- The Emotion Regulation Center is underactivated
- The Fear Center is overactivated.
What these activations indicate is that, often, a traumatized brain is “bottom-heavy,” meaning that activations of lower, more primitive areas, including the fear center, are high, while higher areas of the brain (also known as cortical areas) are underactivated. In other words, if you are traumatized, you may experience chronic stress, vigilance, fear, and irritation. You may also have a hard time feeling safe, calming down, or sleeping. These symptoms are all the result of a hyperactive amygdala.article continues after advertisement
At the same time, individuals who are traumatized may notice difficulties with concentration and attention, and often report they can’t think clearly. This, not surprisingly, is due to the thinking center being underactivated.
Finally, survivors of trauma will sometimes complain that they feel incapable of managing their emotions. For example, if someone spooks them, they may experience a rapid heart rate long after the joke is up, or may have a hard time “just letting go” of minor annoyances. Even when they want to calm down and feel better, they just can’t. This is in large part due to a weakened emotion regulation center.
What You Can Do Now
Changing the brain takes effort, repetition, and time. The best gift you can give yourself toward this goal is psychotherapy. If you’re ready to start that journey, look for a psychologist who specializes in trauma and PTSD, and who uses evidence-based methods that change the brain by working with both the body and the mind.
Also, consider adding a body-based or mindfulness-based technique to your daily routine, to help begin deactivating the fear center. This is a vital first step to healing, as when we are able to quiet the fear center, we are better able to work on strengthening and activating the thinking center and emotion regulation center. Two such exercises include diaphragmatic breathing and autogenic training. (Access free, guided practices of these techniques HERE.) The recommendation is to practice these techniques, or similar ones, for short periods of time multiple times per day. Remember, practice makes progress.”
“Cell phones have become such powerful and versatile tools that, for many people, they feel literally indispensable.
In fact, it’s easy to feel like you’re the one who’s lost when you can’t find your phone. So, how do you know whether your attachment to your phone is just a 21st century cultural phenomenon or a genuine, life-altering addiction?
To figure out the answer, let’s take a look at what current research has to say. Also, we’ll take a closer look at the symptoms of phone overuse, the side effects, and how to break the hold your phone may have on your daily life.
Is cell phone addiction really a thing?
Pew Research Center reports that 81 percent of Americans now own smartphones — up from just 35 percent in 2011. And, over the past 5 years, Google Trends indicates that searches for “cell phone addiction” have likewise been rising.
And pathological phone use has given rise to a raft of new terminology, such as:
-nomophobia: the fear of going without your phone
-textaphrenia: the fear that you can’t send or receive texts
-phantom vibrations: the feeling that your phone is alerting you when it really isn’t
There’s little doubt that excessive cell phone use is a problem for lots of people.
But there’s some debate among medical and mental health professionals about whether problematic cell phone use is truly an addiction or the result of an impulse control issue.
Many medical experts are reluctant to assign the word “addiction” to anything other than habitual substance misuse.
However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the handbook used in the medical community to diagnose mental disorders) does recognize one behavioral addiction: compulsive gambling.
It’s worth noting that there are some important similarities between cell phone overuse and behavioral addictions like compulsive gambling. The similarities include:
-loss of control over the behavior
-persistence, or having real difficulty limiting the behavior
tolerance, the need to engage in the behavior more often to get the same feeling
-severe negative consequences stemming from the behavior
-withdrawal, or feelings of irritability and anxiety when the behavior isn’t practiced
-relapse, or picking up the habit again after periods of avoidance
There’s some debate in the medical community as to whether phone overuse is an addiction or impulse control issue.
There are, however, a lot of similarities between phone overuse and other behavioral addictions, like compulsive gambling.
The dopamine connection
And there’s another similarity between behavioral addiction and cell phone overuse: the triggering of a chemical in the brain that reinforces the compulsive behavior.
Your brain contains several pathways that transmit a feel-good chemical called dopamine when you’re in rewarding situations. For many people, social interaction stimulates the release of dopamine.
Because so many people use their phones as tools of social interaction, they become accustomed to constantly checking them for that hit of dopamine that’s released when they connect with others on social media or some other app.
App programmers are counting on that drive to keep you checking your phone. Some apps even withhold and release social reinforcements, such as “likes” and “comments,” so we receive them in an unpredictable pattern. When we can’t predict the pattern, we check our phones more often.
That cycle can lead to a tipping point: when your phone ceases to be something you enjoy and becomes something you’re virtually compelled to use.
Your brain releases a chemical called dopamine when it feels rewarded.
Some phone apps are designed in a way to keep you coming back again and again for positive social reinforcements that can trigger the release of dopamine in your brain.
Who is at greatest risk?
What researchers do agree on is the fact that adolescents are more likely to demonstrate addiction-like symptoms with their cell phone use than other age groups.
Studies show that cell phone use peaks during the teen years and gradually declines thereafter.
Excessive cell phone use among teens is so common that 33 percent of 13-year-olds never turn off their phone, day or night. And the younger a teen acquires a phone, the more likely they are to develop problematic use patterns.
For girls, dependent use patterns may develop because phones become important tools of social interaction, whereas boys demonstrate a greater tendency to use phones in risky situations.
Teenagers tend to overuse their phones more than other age groups. Studies show the earlier a teen starts using a phone, the higher the risk of problematic use patterns.
Who else is at risk?
A review of the available research revealed that several personality traits and conditions have been associated with problematic cell phone use.
These personality traits include:
-low impulse control
-being highly extroverted
Researchers point out it’s not always clear whether the problems with cell phone overuse are causing these conditions, or whether the conditions themselves make people more vulnerable to overuse.
Symptoms of phone addiction
So, how can you tell if you have an overuse problem with your phone?
Some of the telltale signs include the following:
-You reach for your phone the moment you’re alone or bored.
-You wake up multiple times at night to check your phone.
-You feel anxious, upset, or short-tempered when you can’t get to your phone.
-Your phone use has caused you to have an accident or injury.
-You’re spending more and more time using your phone.
-Phone use interferes with your job performance, schoolwork, or relationships.
-People in your life are concerned about your phone use patterns.
-When you try to limit your use, you relapse quickly.
What are the side effects of phone addiction?
One of the hallmarks of any addiction is keeping up the compulsive behavior, even when it can cause severe negative consequences.
Take, for example, the risks associated with texting while driving. The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source report that texting while driving is a triple threat, because it causes you to take:
-your eyes off the road
-your hands off the wheel
-your mind off driving
That kind of distraction kills nine people every single day. It also injures many more.
The dangers of using a cell phone while driving are widely known, yet people ignore the risk in pursuit of the small jolt of connectedness a phone provides.
ResearchTrusted Source has shown that people who overuse cell phones may experience:
sleep deficits and insomnia
poor academic or work performance
That list doesn’t take into account the many ways cell phone compulsions subtly affect your life.
One studyTrusted Source showed, for example, that your ability to concentrate on important job-related tasks is “significantly disrupted” by phone notifications, even if you don’t interact with your phone.
How to break the addiction
If your phone habits are interfering with your health, relationships, and responsibilities, it might be time to make some changes.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to change the way you interact with your phone to help limit the negative impacts on your life.
First, find out if there are underlying worries
ResearchersTrusted Source believe that people who compulsively use cell phones may be trying to avoid issues in their lives that feel too difficult or complicated to resolve.
So, one of the first things to consider is whether there’s something deeper bothering you. Resolving the underlying issue could be the key to reducing your anxiety.
Knowing what’s truly bothering you could help reduce your need to compulsively text, buy, pin, tweet, swipe, or post.
Consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This therapeutic approach helps illuminate the links between your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. It can be a very effective type of therapy to help you change certain behavior patterns.
At least one small study suggests that CBT may be effective in balancing changes in brain chemistry associated with cell phone addiction.
If you think this type of therapy may help you, talk with your primary care doctor about where or how you can find a therapist.
Try these other practical steps
-Remove time-consuming apps from your phone and access them through a device you don’t carry with you all day.
-Change your settings to eliminate push notifications and other disruptive alerts.
-Set your screen to gray scale to keep it from waking you at night.
-Place some barriers around your phone use that force you to think about what you’re doing. For example, you could create lock screen questions, like “Why now?” and “What for?”
-Keep your phone out of sight. Charge your phone somewhere besides your bedroom.
-Develop hobbies that feed your soul. Replace the games and social media apps with hands-on, real-world activities, like meeting up with friends, creating music or art, or doing volunteer work.
-Adopt a growth mindset. Brief relapses, adjustments, and withdrawal symptoms are part of a journey toward healthier phone use. Don’t expect to get it right immediately. Expect some setbacks, and learn from each experience.
When to seek help
It’s always OK to reach out for help when you’re dealing with any issue that concerns you, or that you feel you don’t have control over.
If you’re noticing symptoms of addiction or dependence, or if the people in your life are talking to you about the amount of time you spend on your phone, it may be a good idea to ask for help.
Consider reaching out to a therapist or your doctor, checking out a self-help guide, or following a digital detox program.
The bottom line
Problematic cell phone use shares a lot of characteristics with behavioral addictions like compulsive gambling.
People who develop a dependent pattern of phone use typically experience a loss of control. They often find that their cell phone habits are causing real damage in their lives.
If your phone use has become problematic, or if it feels like it’s become an addiction, there are steps you can take to retrain yourself to use your phone in healthier ways.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and digital detox programs can both be very effective at reclaiming a sense of control over your phone use.
Feel that phantom ringing? It’s a productive, restful life calling. It’s OK to answer it.”
What is a panic attack?
Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement.
“I can’t sleep due to panic attacks and nightmares. When I fall asleep within an hour I am up, soaked, heart racing and shaking.”
What do panic attacks feel like?
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
-a pounding or racing heartbeat
-feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
-feeling very hot or very cold
-sweating, trembling or shaking
-nausea (feeling sick)
-pain in your chest or abdomen
-struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
-feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
-feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings (these are types of dissociation)
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
-going to faint
-having a heart attack
-going to die.
“My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body [would] tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.”
You might find that you become scared of going out alone or to public places because you’re worried about having another panic attack. If this fear becomes very intense, it may be called agoraphobia (see our pages on phobias for more information).
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I just wanted to get out, to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t because I was on a train.”
When might I have panic attacks?
Panic attacks can happen during the day or night. Some people have one panic attack then don’t ever experience another, or you might find that you have them regularly, or several in a short space of time. You might notice that particular places, situations or activities seem to trigger panic attacks. For example, they might happen before a stressful appointment.
Most panic attacks last between 5–20 minutes. They can come on very quickly. Your symptoms will usually peak (be at their worst) within 10 minutes. You might also experience symptoms of a panic attack over a longer period of time. This could be because you’re having a second panic attack, or you’re experiencing other symptoms of anxiety.
“My panic attacks seem to come out of the blue now. But in fact, they seem to be triggered mainly at night when I want to go to sleep but cannot stop my mind racing, experiencing worry and panic about anything that may be on my mind.”
What helps to manage panic attacks?
Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. It could help to keep print these tips out and keep them somewhere easy to find.
During a panic attack:
-Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
-Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
-Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
-Try grounding techniques. – Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks.
After a panic attack:
-Think about self-care. It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
-Tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you’re having another one, and how you’d like them to help you.
What is panic disorder?
If you’re having lots of panic attacks at unpredictable times and there doesn’t seem to be a particular trigger or cause, you might be given a diagnosis of panic disorder. It’s common to experience panic disorder and agoraphobia (a type of phobia) together. People who experience panic disorder may have some periods with few or no panic attacks, but have lots at other times.
Panic disorder and high sensitivity
Some research suggests that people who have panic disorder might be very sensitive to sensory experiences (such as sunlight, smells and changes in the weather), but there’s not enough evidence yet to say for sure. Also it’s not clear whether having a high level of sensitivity to these sorts of things is something that might cause you to develop panic disorder, or whether it may be an effect of having it.”
This past night was awful. I slept for an hour and a half, woke up and was wide awake. I felt depressed, flat, ghostly and completely empty looking at the ceiling, bored of endless nights awake, scared, alone and missing Michael. But that’s that. I had sleep paralysis twice in one night; my mind was awake but my body felt like it was being pressed down. The more fearful I got, the more the paralysis got worse. When I said “I love myself” in my head, the sleep paralysis started to ease off. Fear feeds the monsters, love makes them edge away. I felt a dark presence around me. It was scary. I felt as if I was trapped in that sleep paralysis dimension and that I was dead and dying. I spent time thinking about you, “my protector who was,” tears pricked my lower face, I scrunched it up and wanted to scream from my heart. I’m really looking forward to this day.