Practical Help for People Suffering from Stress Disorders

by Dr. Simcha Sheldon

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This article appeared in “Connections” an Israeli magazine. Article Date: November 7, 2006.

Practical Help for People Suffering from Stress Disorders

By Dr. Simcha Sheldon

© 2007 All rights reserved.

Thousands of Israelis are currently suffering from one or more physical, psychological, or emotional consequence caused by stress or trauma. There are two groups who have been particularly susceptible to stress disorders. Those most susceptible are individuals and families who were directly involved in experiences of extreme stress and/or trauma, such as the war in Lebanon, bombings, and other acts of terror. Also at risk are new olim who are particularly susceptible to the harmful consequences of stress, as they both have a variety of new stressors uniquely related to aliya and living in Israel and who may be less prepared and experienced in coping with extremely stressful events that are more commonplace here than abroad.

Physiologically speaking, sustained high levels of stress create havoc with the body’s chemical hormonal functions, inhibit the immune system, and cause a variety of physiological and psycho-emotional damage. Unfortunately, many sufferers blame themselves, feel guilty or insecure, or feel embarrassed or ashamed, rather than understanding that they are not to blame.

Symptoms and conditions caused by stress can include loss of focus and attention (similar to ADD & ADHD), irritability, fatigue, gastro-intestinal disorders (including IBS – irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colon), eating disorders, difficulty sleeping, sexual difficulties, tinnitus, headaches, chronic pain, bruxism, TMJ, OB/GYN difficulties (including increased PMS, infertility, premature labor) lack of patience, increased frustration and temper, insecurity, decreased motivation and self esteem, and negative thinking.

The good news is that anxiety, depression and stress disorders can be alleviated and eliminated, in ways that are safe, relatively comfortable, and often inspiring, empowering, uplifting, and even enjoyable.

The proper use of psycho-therapeutic interventions can offer excellent results in both alleviating the symptoms and medical conditions that stress and/or trauma can produce, and in increasing one’s general personal effectiveness, efficiency and well-being. Such interventions include psychotherapy, hypnosis, biofeedback, and others.

Psychological and behavioral interventions are not only helpful in relieving many of the problems related to stress and trauma, they can prevent a person from engaging in unnecessary and potentially dangerous medical interventions and procedures, including the taking of medications – which often have harmful and unpleasant side effects, unnecessary surgery, and other invasive procedures.

A clinical example from each of the two groups mentioned above will help in the understanding of the psychotherapeutic process. A soldier who was in a house in Lebanon which was hit by a tank shell and experienced his friends being killed and wounded, suffered from stress disorders from the trauma. He was in a state of anxiety, depression, flashbacks, lack of motivation, and lack of focus. He had difficulties sleeping and eating, and was experiencing social avoidance. Psychotherapy helped him to relate to his experiences in a healthier way, cognitively, and to deal with his deep emotional pain. He learned to use guided imagery to create positive internal states so that he could sleep and eat normally, and re-enter his normal social and work activities.

Case 2: A new oleh came with his wife and three children from the US. He did not know how long it would take until he would be licensed in his profession so he could start looking for work in his field and he was not fluent in Hebrew. His children were experiencing difficulties adjusting in school, and his wife was somewhat depressed as she missed her friends and family. These challenges along with difficulties of self esteem and financial worry caused him the have symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), including stomach cramps and spastic colon, and occasional headaches.

He saw a therapist who utilized a variety of behavioral and cognitive therapeutic interventions, including biofeedback, guided imagery, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), and hypnosis to help reduce the psychological, emotional and physical stress, and to create deep states of relaxation, comfort, positive thinking and feeling, and to help find solutions to his personal difficulties. The family also had a couple of sessions of family therapy to help the kids and wife adjust to aliya. Within a couple of weeks his symptoms lessened and he was on his way to having a successful klita.

Oftentimes people suffer physical symptoms but their doctors do not really understand what is causing them. Hypnotherapy can help identify the source of the symptoms. In the treatment of many pain and stress disorders, biofeedback and medical hypnosis can successfully retrain muscles to perform naturally and properly (such as in spastic colon, migraine headache, and chronic muscular pain), restore proper sexual function, alleviate breathing malfunctions for people who react to stress with asthma like symptoms, hyperventilation, and chest tightness, alleviate certain allergic responses, and many other symptoms.

Shalom Bayit and enjoying ones family life is one of our most important desires; the peace in our homes must start with our individual ability to be peaceful inside. For those who need it, hypnosis and counseling with an effective and caring health practitioner can help make the dream of living in Israel a positive one through acquiring self understanding, self acceptance, and self mastery.

Please, only seek psychological services from someone who is licensed by the Israel Ministry of Health, and who has experience in treating your particular symptoms. Also, I suggest that you make sure that your therapist consults with your physician.

Dr. Simcha Sheldon is an Israeli licensed Clinical Psychologist, Medical Psychologist, and Hypnotherapist, a U.S. licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist, and Clinical Member of the Israeli Society for Sexual Medicine, Israel Medical Association. Dr. Sheldon practices in Hashmonaim and Modiin. (Tel. 08-976-1056) © 2006 All rights reserved.

Please feel welcome to call me regarding any questions that you may have or to schedule an appointment.

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