Psychological Self-Help

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increase the panic. Sometimes, we are given specific instructions by
others to expect danger, e.g. some social phobics have been told that
interacting with others can be disastrous--"they will think you are
stupid or weird," "you can't trust them," "you'll make a fool of
yourself," etc. Sometimes, we have started to think in a certain way
(the source may be totally unknown--a TV, movie, book, or just our
own fantasy as a child) that implies some situation is dangerous.
Examples of this might be: "Oh, what I just said sounded really
selfish... dumb... critical... " which grows into "I'm going to mess up
when I talk to them," "I'm not good at socializing," "I can't think of
anything to say," or "I get really uptight and start to sweat when I try
to talk to someone." We can create, in effect, our own dangers, and
may be especially prone to do that if we are given certain genes and
childhood experiences. 
Unfortunately, as a self-helper you can not un-do many of the
early origins of your anxieties--your genes, your traumatizing
childhood experiences, or the mistaken but frightening ideas you
developed as a child. What you can do now is (1) learn the skills
that will help you cope, (2) armed with those coping techniques,
expose yourself to the scary situations to learn that they will not result
in a catastrophe, and (3) work diligently to test out your anxiety-
producing ideas and correct your false beliefs that make your life less
happy or unproductive. The rest of this chapter will help you learn
useful self-change methods for coping with fears and for developing a
realistic sense of mastery. Chapter 12 contains several methods for
reducing fears and anxiety. Also, chapter 6, is about dealing with
depression, and chapter 14, is about changing your pessimistic or
negative thoughts. For interpersonal concerns, see chapters 9 and 10.
All these chapters will be of further help in the long process of learning
An overview of this chapter: we will first consider the signs of
stress and the sources of stresses. Then, we will review several
theories that attempt to explain why and how stress occurs, why there
are such different individual reactions to the same situation, and what
the consequences (beneficial and harmful) of prolonged stress are.
Lastly, we will discuss controlling our anxiety. Many specialized Web
sites will be given there. 
The major purpose of this chapter is to give you more
understanding of stress so you can handle it better. At the end of this
chapter there are descriptions of several methods for managing stress,
fears, anxiety, and specific psychological disorders. You may need to
refer to chapters 12 and 14, and other chapters to find the details of
how to carry out specific self-help methods for reducing anxiety. 
A Case Study: Jane--difficulty speaking in front of groups 
From grade school through high school Jane avoided speaking up
in class or any public speaking. She wasn't shy; in fact she was
outgoing and popular. She was comfortable with friends. Even in front
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