Beat the Christmas blues! by Creating Calm Counselling

Hi, my name is Colette Linehan. Welcome to my website You can also find me really easily on Facebook under Colette Linehan counselling services Limerick & Clare.

Are you, like so many of us, beginning to feel pressure being brought to bear in the run up to the festive season? Do you worry about how you’re going to manage everything-presents from Santa, the food shop, getting on with family members-do you wish that Christmas was all over and that you could put it behind you?? Perhaps you would benefit from taking an hour out of your busy schedule, investing in some “me-time” and talking through any worries & fears with a qualified professional.

Take some time to talk about the things that are troubling you…be kind to yourself…

You can call me in confidence on 087 2798553 to arrange a one-to-one counselling session. My email address is: [email protected].

Facebook: Colette Linehan Counselling Services Limerick & Clare.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.




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Anxiety Disorders: What is an anxiety disorder and how can it affect you? by Creating Calm Counselling

Anxiety Disorders


What is anxiety & how can it affect you?

1. Anxiety is a term used to describe uncomfortable feelings of nervousness, worry, and tension, which we all feel from time to time. Anxiety can affect anyone. It affects our thoughts, physical reactions, moods and behaviours.

Anxiety can be a normal response to a stress in our lives and some degree of anxiety can improve our performance in certain stressful situations. However, if anxiety occurs too often or for little reason, or if it begins to interfere with our life and prevent us from doing things, then it has become a problem.

2. How can anxiety affect you?
Anxiety can affect you in 4 main ways:

  • Thoughts – anxiety can lead to frequent negative thoughts such as “I will not be able to cope” or “I’m going to fail”. It can also cause frequent distressing images in the mind.
  • Physical effects – anxiety can produce many physical symptoms, such as a pounding heart, a churning stomach, light-headedness, muscle tension or breathing difficulties.
  • Mood – persistent anxiety can also lead to feelings of being down or depressed.
  • Behaviour – anxiety can change how we behave by changing the things which we feel able to do. This can result in avoidance of many things which actually just results in strengthening the feelings of worry.

All of these 4 areas influence and interact with each other as outlined in the below diagram, sometimes forming into a cycle that is hard to break.anxiety disorders

For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear can become overwhelming and interfere with their ability to lead normal lives.

What are the different types of anxiety disorders?

There are different types of anxiety disorders, which are listed and explained below:

  1. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    This is when the person feels tense and anxious nearly all of the time, and cannot relax or unwind even when in peaceful or objectively relaxing circumstances. The person’s thoughts will be preoccupied by different daily worries and they will feel like they can’t “switch off” from this high level of ‘background’ anxiety. Physical symptoms of anxiety are common and persistent, such as feeling of ‘butterflies in the stomach’, headache, and muscle tension. Concentration becomes impaired and fatigue is prominent, so that one’s ability to perform normal daily tasks deteriorates.
  2. Panic Disorder
    This is characterised by frequent, unpredictable and intense attacks of anxiety. Symptoms come on suddenly and reach a peak within minutes but can take sometime before settling down.
    Symptoms of a panic attack can include:

    • Fear that something terrible is about to happen, or of ‘going crazy’ or losing control
    • Palpitations or pounding of the heart
    • feeling short of breath
    • a choking sensation.
    • Tingling sensation in the toes or fingers
    • Dry mouth
    • Light-headedness
    • Trembling or feeling hot and clammy

    These attacks can be so sudden and severe that it is not uncommon for people to fear that they are going to die, or that they are having a heart attack. Many people who attend A&E departments with chest pain will actually turn out to have had a panic attack.
    In between attacks, people can become preoccupied with worry about when the next panic episode will occur – this is known as anticipatory anxiety and it can be the most disabling part of the disorder.

  3. Phobic anxiety disorders
    This is an irrational fear about something which is not actually dangerous in reality.
    People tend to cope with phobias through avoidance of the feared situation or item, and this can cause a lot of disability or disruption in a person’s normal daily life if the situation is very common and so can’t be avoided easily.
  4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
    This is an anxiety disorder in which a person experiences frequent distressing thoughts, images or impulses which are known as obsessions. These obsessions don’t make any sense to the person experiencing them (e.g. a person may experience a recurrent mental image of being violent to a family member whom they love dearly, or a fear of being contaminated by germs in food or on everyday items) and so the person can fear that they are ‘losing their mind’ or are going mad. The obsession is always distressing and causes anxiety, which the person learns to cope with and reduce by engaging in compulsive behaviour or actions (e.g. hand-washing in those with a fear of contamination). These compulsive behaviours lessen anxiety only temporarily, and so the person becomes trapped in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions which can disrupt their lives considerably.
    click here for more information on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    This is an anxiety disorder which results from experiencing a traumatic event during which the person feels in mortal danger (for example, a serious accident, a violent assault, a natural disaster, or learning about a life-threatening illness).
    Symptoms of PTSD usually commence soon after experiencing the trauma, but in some it may be several months later before symptoms develop.

There are 3 main features to PTSD:

  • Re-living experiences: these take the form of either recurrent, intrusive, mental images of the trauma during the waking day, or vivid nightmares of the event during sleep. They are distressing and associated with panic when they occur.
  • Avoidance behaviour: the person attempts to avoid anything which reminds them of the trauma e.g. avoidance of car travel after a road traffic accident.
  • Hypervigilance: this is a feeling of being alert, tense and ‘on edge’ most of the time. The person may startle easily.

What are the treatments for anxiety disorders?

The treatments for anxiety disorders involve psychotherapy (usually a cognitive behavioural therapy model) and/or medication (usually an antidepressant such as an SSRI). Most people who suffer from anxiety disorders will be offered a combination of psychological and medication treatment.

This is a talking therapy which involves regularly meeting with a therapist in either an individual or group basis over a course of several weeks to months or longer in some cases. In relation to anxiety disorders, the most effective form of psychotherapy is known as cognitive behavioural therapy(CBT).

In CBT the thinking styles and behaviours that may play a role in causing and maintaining anxiety are looked at, and more helpful ways of thinking and acting are discovered and encouraged. This can then help to reduce anxiety and improve coping.

Medication can play an important role in helping to reduce anxiety.
Antidepressants: these have been shown to be effective as part of the treatment of anxiety disorders, even in the absence of depression. The SSRI class of medication is usually the first line choice antidepressant but in some cases alternative classes (such as SNRI or TCA medication) are used, especially when a person has tried an SSRI previously but found it unhelpful. All antidepressants take between 2 to 4 weeks before they begin to work, and they must be taken regularly to be effective.

Benzodiazepines: These medications are sometimes used in the short-term management of anxiety. However, as they can become addictive when they are used regularly for a period as short as 4 weeks, their use is best reserved for help in coping with severe anxiety, and even then should be limited to no more than 2 weeks duration.

Other medications: Depending on the nature and severity of anxiety, several other medications are sometimes recommended by doctors in addition to the above.
These include:

  • Beta Blockers (which can help with the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as shaking or sweating or palpitations);
  • Buspirone;
  • Pregabalin (these can help generalized anxiety symptoms);
  • Low dose antipsychotic medication (these are sometimes used in addition to antidepressant medications in those with severe OCD or PTSD or in cases where there is significant agitation).

Examples of phobic anxiety disorders include:

This is a fear of public places where escape seems difficult (like when in a crowded place or when travelling on public transport etc). It usually begins with a panic attack in a public place, and this leads to fear of experiencing more panic attacks in public such that the person begins to avoid certain places. In severe cases, people can become housebound because they become anxious and fearful when they think about even leaving their own homes.

Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)
This is fear of being with other people in social group settings. The person worries that they are being scrutinized or judged in a negative way by others – that people think they are boring or foolish, or that they will do or say something that is humiliating – such that they may avoid social situations or find them intensely anxiety provoking if they have to endure them.

Specific Phobias
These are isolated irrational fears about a specific thing e.g. flying, fear of heights, spiders etc. Specific phobias are very common in the general population. People generally do not seek treatment for them as avoidance of the item which they are fearful of can generally be accomplished without it affecting their lives to a great extent.

Further information on anxiety disorders:

The following links contain further information on anxiety disorders:

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Bodywhys: An Overview of the Treatment Pathways to help overcome eating disorders by Creating Calm Counselling

Figuring things out

Figuring out the pathway to treatment when you, or someone you love, has an eating disorder can be a crash course in understanding the public health system, or the world of treatment and psychotherapy. It can be daunting and confusing. This guide will hopefully give you some knowledge that will make this pathway a little less challenging and help you to take the necessary steps towards treatment and recovery.

One of the key points to take on board is that when it comes to treatment and finding a treatment modality that works, there is ‘no one size fits all’. Every person who has an eating disorder is different, and while there are elements and aspects of eating disorders that are universal, the way in which a person finds their way out of an eating disorder is subjective and at all times we must keep an open mind.

An open mind also allows us to try something different if what we are doing isn’t working. Very often people say “I tried counselling and it didn’t work.” Keeping an open mind allows us to reframe this and say, “The counselling I tried didn’t work for me so I need to try something different, somebody different, or a different type of therapy”.

Our hope is that this guide prepares you to seek out and find a treatment that works for you or the person you care about. Our years of experience listening and supporting people in treatment and trying to recover from an eating disorder has taught us that recovery is possible and that if something hasn’t worked, it is not that the person can’t recover it is that the type of treatment wasn’t right for them at that time. Try not to give up. If something does not seem to be working, then we hope this guide, and our other information leaflets, will give you the confidence to think about why, ask the clinician the questions you have, and in some cases to try another approach.

Main pathways

Public treatment pathways for adults (those over 18 years old), and for children and adolescents differ in relation to the treatment team. In both cases the GP is the gateway into the treatment and assessment teams, and from there the basic pathways are the same, except that one is specific for adults and one for children, and the therapies that are offered differ according to the age of the person.

Generally there are two treatment pathways for eating disorders, in Ireland, a public pathway and a private pathway. However, separating the two pathways in this way, tends to limit our choices, and also tends to assume that the private pathway is very expensive, which is not always the case. Keeping an open mind, and not assuming that taking one pathway precludes a person from trying the other, can be very important, as in many situations they intertwine and can work well together, as well as working well separately.

For both adults and children/adolescents, the GP is the gateway into the public treatment and assessment teams. From this point the basic pathway are similar except that one is specifically for adults and the other for children and adolescents. The treatment approach offered differs according to the age of the person.

Another key point to keep in mind, is that an eating disorder is not just a mental health issue. All eating disorders pose serious physical and medical risks to a person therefore no matter which treatment modality is chosen, it is crucial that the treating clinician is cognizant of this, and has the experience and expertise to work holistically, allowing for the medical and physical aspects to be monitored. And vice versa, that if the treating clinician is a medical professional that they also recognise that the mental health aspects require experience and expertise to treat. When deciding on where to go, it is useful to know that it is recommended that people with eating disorders have access to advice from a consultant psychiatrist,  a psychotherapist and a dietitian, as well as a GP, so that all of their needs can be addressed. These are the person’s ‘team’ and it is important that these professionals communicate with each other.

A final point to consider before delving into the world of treatment, is that research suggests that a strong and trusting therapeutic alliance (relationship) between the person and their treating clinician is crucial for treatment to be successful, regardless of the modality of treatment approach. While certain treatment modalities are researched and have a growing body of evidence supporting their effectiveness, it remains crucial to form a strong and trusting alliance with the treating clinician for the treatment to be effective. This relationship is key to achieving long lasting and sustainable change.

Note: the public pathways for adults and for children is an evidence-based stepped model of care, which means that based on an assessment, the person enters at a particular level of care, based on the their clinical needs (outpatient, day patient, inpatient) and can move up (as needs and risks increase clinically), and move down (as the patient improves and needs / risks decrease clinically) as needs be.

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