Trouble concentrating and sleeping


Trouble concentrating and sleeping


your avatar   Lilly (37 year-old woman) from Alaska

I was in an abusive marriage that is long over (6 years) and I have moved on in my life. I have a lot to be grateful for, as I have reached significant goals. But two years ago, I was stalked on the campus I attend. I had support during that time, but since then, I have had increasing difficulty with sleep and concentration. It has gotten to the point that I sleep only about 2 hours at a time, and feel run down. I have to nap, not for relaxation, but to get some rest!

As I mentioned, my concentration has gone down - to the point where my advisor at school, my friends and my supervisor at my part-time work all notice. It is taking a lot of energy hiding my lack of concentration, and that makes me more tired. I have taken Paxil, and also Buspar, and they worked o.k. for a while, but the Buspar made my legs shake involuntarily, especially at night, and this woke me up. I did see a very good psychiatrist, who prescribed these medications, and I had therapy with him - but he moved away. I just don't feel I have the energy to start over with someone else - and with my poor concentration, I don't make much sense when I try to talk about it!! Then I feel discouraged, and don't talk about any of it.

I am fine with getting my studies done, as long as I am alone, with no distractions, but I get so agitated when even the telephone rings - and I could scream! That is not at all like me. But I have to admit, that I am just not able to complete a sentence when I am talking to others. I can write fine, but cannot seem to stop thinking too quickly, and I cannot verbally express myself (all my life I have been extroverted, and quite a talker!), to the point where I no longer enjoy one of my favorite pastimes - going for coffee with a friend and chatting for hours. Also, because of the anxiety, I get a lot of muscle tension, and feel aches and pains more. I read some information from the makers of Buspar - and I was surprised to find out that many of the psychological symptoms and physical symptoms that I am experiencing are part of anxiety.

My former psychiatrist and I had just started to get into my having PTSD - I agreed with him that I am not so much depressed, as having severe anxiety. I worry more too, and have to "reality check" with my friends about situations and conversations, as I no longer feel I am perceiving things as they are.

Am I losing it? I don't remember dates, things I am supposed to do, and cannot keep up with conversations! Others are noticing this as being all the time. So now, I am so self-conscious that I just want to stay home, by myself, and not go out with friends, and certainly don't want to go on any dates. I am 37, working on another advanced degree, have a good support network, great friends and family - have o.k. health (other than muscles tightening and this strange sleep pattern),do have asthma (but feel that quitting smoking is too scary right now) usually am optimistic, outgoing and confident - but this is all deteriorating, steady, rapidly and I need some help - I know that. I just need some advise/understanding to help point me in the right direction. I tried to talk to a counselor, but she did not know about PTSD, and kept saying that I am depressed, and I should get meds for that. NOT! It is PTSD, and I am wondering if this accentuates any residual ADD from when I was younger? I have always been dyslexic with numbers and doing any math - but now the concentration concerns extend to reading, writing (even trying to use my normally very organized day planner does not seem to work! I have to leave notes on everything, and have my housemate help remind me of simple daily things, what deadlines I have and even remind me what day it is!) and memory. To say that I am scared is an understatement!

I have not been home to see my family in two years - I had help getting the plane ticket - but I am about to go home, and am scared to be in the airport alone, and fear I will get lost or something. I cannot stand that I have started to stutter, and don't want to have to try to explain anything verbally! Any ideas or directions you think I would look at?

Does any of this sound like typical PTSD/anxiety? What kind of therapist should I see? What questions should I ask? How can I get "me" back? I am not a scatterbrain, at least not before now - and this has been getting worse for six months now! All summer and now its fall. Please help me.


    Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC

As I read your email I was deeply moved by the pain you have been experiencing. When I was finished reading I realized how long this email was posted. Given how many messages Queendom receives each week and how many counselors are available this is bound to happen at times, however I am sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. I hope you have already received help from another source, but if not hopefully this will help.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a problem that occurs suddenly after an overwhelming incident. However, it can also occur after prolonged stress from several incidents over a lifetime. Although you do not state in your letter in what way your marriage was abusive, any abuse lowers resistance and would therefore make the stalking even more upsetting.

This disorder is very similar to anxiety disorders. In PTSD old terror is re-experienced at inappropriate times. The central nervous system is activated in a fight or flight response that is often overdone. This tends to freeze an individual and makes them feel as if they're not in control of themselves. They often suffer from general anxiety, sleeplessness, vivid dreaming, hyper- vigilance, appetite disturbance, irritability, panic, and at times flashbacks.

Anxiety disorders share many of these same symptoms. The main difference is that PTSD originates from a trauma and anxiety disorders are often originating from a chemical disorder. I don't have any problem with your psychiatrist prescribing Paxil as both conditions often respond to medication. The problem you were experiencing with Buspar is not unusual. It can even cause more anxiety with some people. Anyone suffering from PTSD is going to have some symptoms of depression. However, I agree that this is not your main problem.

It is always difficult to share with a new therapist, but dealing with this problem is one that requires professional face-to-face contact. I would recommend someone who is proficient in EMDR and Neuro Emotional Techniques, which is based on Acupressure. The first technique is an effective and quick way to deal with trauma and is widely practiced. It is a relatively new therapy that is fast and relatively painless. The other technique was originally practiced by chiropractors and only later taught to therapists. It will be very difficult to find someone proficient in this technique. TFT, which is based on this discipline, is another quick and painless therapy and more clinicians practice this art.

All of these new therapies are very effective in dealing with PTSD and shorten the treatment time. Anyone who has suffered from this problem has feared that they are going crazy. It is a common fear but has no basis in reality. From your message it seems as if this problem has generalized into a bit of Agoraphobia. This is not unusual if it is left untreated, but should respond to medication. As to your question about whether ADD would make this condition worse. It would not help, but I do not think it is germane to the problem.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Jef Gazley

This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit:


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