I manage the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City
and work as a therapist at the Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center at
White Plains Hospital, as well as in a private practice. My work as
a therapist mostly consists of working with people who suffer from panic
attacks, phobias and social anxiety. In general, I work with a lot of
anxious people on a short-term basis.
Since the World Trade Center tragedy, I have not seen a tremendous increase
in clientele. Still, a few people have come to see me with panic attacks
and anxieties resulting from the disaster. One person had a panic attack
while taking a subway, being afraid of another terrorist attackthis
time in the subway. Usually, this type of panic attack is easily identified
and treated, but people should not wait too long to address it. When
not addressed, the attacks may continue and a person will begin to avoid
the places where they occur, and this may eventually develop into agoraphobia.
Avoiding the scary places is the worst coping technique one can develop
to deal with their anxieties.
A woman came to see me because, since the WTC tragedy, she cannot be
at home after sundown and has to sleep at her friends house. People
who have begun to have intrusive and unwanted memories, nightmares,
depression, experience a lack of appetite, nervousness and irritability
may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms
of PTSD typically appear within a few weeks of the trauma, but on rare
occasions there can be a long gap between the triggering event and the
beginning of PTSD. Treatment consists of allowing a person to talk and
tell her story about the traumatic event and go back to the time when
it occurred to help her re-experience her feelings and state of mind
when the event happened; then encouraging her to integrate the experience
into the present moment. Also, encouraging her to reduce her avoidance
of the places associated with the traumatic event will help to change
underlying thought patterns and rebuild confidence. This could take
some time, but if it is a relatively recent event, it does not have
to take too long. A lot of people who are afflicted with anxieties due
to the current events have been slightly predisposed to anxiety in the
past. This type of behavior therapy (gradually exposing people to the
feared situation) is one of the best and most long-lasting methods of
treatment for anxiety disorders.
Since I have been studying and teaching yoga for the last 14 years,
I combine cognitive/behavior therapy with yoga therapy. For example,
such yogic teachings as diaphragmatic breathing and deep relaxation
deal directly with anxiety symptoms and allow the client to experience
relief from shortness of breath and muscle tension. In addition, combining
short-term medication therapy with a cognitive/behavior/yoga therapy
can be the best and fastest treatment in cases of severe anxiety.
Boris Pisman is a professional member of the Anxiety Disorder
Association of America and the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation. He recommends
that people research anxiety disorders as much as possible on the Internet
and in bookstores, and take their recovery into their own hands. He
can be reached via Integral Yoga at (212) 929-0586 ext. 23, or at 917-270-5391.