What do I know? by Gill Batty

Out of the Loop was developed in response to my own anxiety. There was no such thing as ‘expert by experience’ back in the day. I was a trained Person-Centred Counsellor. Did that help? Not really…. I was a Psychology Graduate. Did that help? Definitely not! Surely this could not be right? I was 29 years old and stuck in a state of panic that my profession couldn’t help me with! This was terrifying, but it was also the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot about myself, other people, and the abysmal failings of Psychiatry, Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Medication, and our cultural attitudes to mental health in general.

20 years later, nothing can convince me of the ‘anxiety is a disorder’ model favoured by the prevailing system. I’ve worked with people told that there is no cure for anxiety, that they will have to ‘learn to live with it’. People who have been prescribed multiple medications to no avail. People who haven’t been out of their homes for years, in case they have a ‘panic-attack’. People who have been hospitalised and sectioned under the mental health act. I’ve been told by academic psychologists that they have funding to run fancy new ‘drop in hubs’ for anxiety sufferers, but with no effective ‘interventions’ because there aren’t any! None of this is good enough. We have more Psychiatrists, more Psychologists, more Research Psychologists, more Community Mental Health Workers, More third sector organisations and more counsellors than in the history of mankind, and yet we also have more people being diagnosed with ‘anxiety disorders’ than ever. Why haven’t the professions that are there to help people struggling psychologically come up with a solution to the most commonly experienced ‘disorder’ so called? Something doesn’t add up…..

I was determined to understand how I could go from being a laid back person to an anxious mess overnight – so I started to do research. I’d worked in engineering before I became a Mum and decided on a career change. That old profession taught me more about researching anxiety than the Psych subjects did. I studied every therapy I could at post-grad level, but with an engineering eye on systems. I wanted to know ‘how’ anxiety functioned, not just the bio-psychology – but the process – the cycle – the detail – the interactivity – the internal communication system. It took a year or so to have a complete understanding and to be entirely free from, and unafraid of anxiety.

Since then, I’ve worked in private practice all over the globe. I’ve spent a lot of time in third sector organisations working with people who have high anxiety levels. I’ve trained Health Visitors, GP’s, Counsellors, and Peer Support Groups to understand Anxiety fully. The same thing happens every time. People say – God, this makes sense – why hasn’t anyone explained this before? Good question. Why don’t the professions know categorically how to help people to understand and treat anxiety? You would think it would be a no brainer – but it isn’t. The Psych professions, my field, my world, are wedded to the theory of Psychiatrizing emotional responses, that is, labelling them as an illness of the brain, then failing to fix them. Not all, but most people in this world buy into this theory because it comes from a place of power and authority. It’s so dominant that the world is convinced that brains are suddenly failing our species and we are all ‘ill’. There are many vested interests when it comes to diagnostic methods in mental health. I’ve spent years researching this subject because I’m passionate about changing this situation. My recent MSc in Global Mental Health inspires me to keep challenging, before the Pharmaceutical Industry get to hoodwink the people in Low Income Countries into believing that their brains are broken, just as they have in High Income Countries like the UK, USA and Europe. I’m not alone in challenging this. There are even many within Psychiatry and Psychology admitting that it’s the theory that’s broken, not the brains of those responding to life and it’s challenges.

Being told that they are ‘mentally ill’ has only ever made the people I work with feel worse. Not only are they struggling to get on an even keel due to anxiety itself, but they then also have to contend with a label that does not come with a corresponding solution. I can honestly say that I have never met an anxious person with a ‘broken brain’. I’ve encountered nothing professionally to support the idea that anxiety is a ‘disorder’, in fact, what we refer to as ‘anxiety’ is a natural, inbuilt survival response in action. I prefer to describe anxiety as a ‘state’. States are fluid, evolving and adaptive, and can be deliberately altered. Once activated the anxious state can sometimes be tricky to switch off, but this isn’t a sign of illness or malfunction. Instead we can understand it as a communication glitch that can be understood and influenced. Anxiety is a natural response to trauma, distress and duress, but it can often linger long past its sell by date. If that is the case for you then you might find this approach helpful.

I share this process with you as someone who knows what it is like to be overwhelmed by anxiety, and how easily it can eclipse our ability to live life to the full. It’s more than twenty years since I experienced the anxious state in all it’s intensity, which at the time was unwelcome, yet now, I’m grateful for what it taught me. It shifted my psychological perspective away from the bio-medical and psychiatric dysfunction that I’d been trained to frame anxiety as, and towards a bio-LOGICAL perspective which made far more sense to me and was the way out for me and hundreds of people over the years. Out of the Loop is based on understanding and demystifying the systematic functioning of the particular internal feedback loop which is specific to anxiety. All ‘treatments’ disrupt this loop at one stage or another, however this approach does so without unwanted side-effects or unnecessary stress. As a result of understanding anxiety this way my work with people who are stuck in an anxious state has been truly rewarding.

In Out of the Loop I share with you everything that I’ve learned about the anxious state. I hope you find it as useful and interesting as I do, and most importantly, I hope you come to know that your brilliant brain, is far from disordered.

I’m a dedicated researcher and my next challenge is a PhD in the area of de-psychiatrizing human emotions. I can’t wait to get started and what I learn I will share openly.

All the very best.

Gill.