A highlight from Judson Brewer || Unwinding Anxiety


Great to chat with you today. On the podcast. It's so great to be here. This is a topic. That's just a little bit timely. I think that there's very few topics that are more important than this one. But i'd like to start with tracing your development of your own career because you're psychiatrists be. I think you said you never planned on becoming a psychiatrist. Is that right that is true. You know i did this. Mvp steep program where you do a couple of years of medical school and then you do your phd for long enough that you forget everything you learned in medical school and then you go back into the wards and have to kind of catch up so i actually did psychiatry my first rotation back on the wards off going to become a psychiatrist and you. You're i am turned out to be really good much better than expected. I'm glad to hear it. It's something i thought was really cool. Was this connection you made in your work between the mindfulness work that you were practising on your own and the addiction work that you're learning as a psychiatry student and that feeling of craving and clinging grasping that a lot of people who are addicted things mentioned i thought it was a really brewing connection and An and you thought it was available connection to right. I did i did. It was really interesting to see. You know i. I've been training for about ten years. in mindfulness. was seeing these terms come over and over around craving and clinging and then when i started working with patients especially in my psychiatry residency. They were using the same terms and i was thinking. This cannot be a coincidence. And so i really looked into a lot more to see you know a very very deep connection. Yeah well why did you start. Meditating was there a particular reason. I was stressed beginning of medical. Good reason yeah and around that time you know. What was the science of meditation showing. So what around. What year was that. If i may ask he. I started medical school in ninety nine hundred ninety six and back then. There were probably literally a handful of papers that have been published on the science of mindfulness john. Robertson had started his mindfulness based stress reduction program in the seventies. He started publishing a couple of papers in the early eighties but there was really a long drought. Because you're literally just two or three papers being published two until probably the mid two thousand and then the field really just started exploding and you've contributed quite a bit to it. I've tried to do my piece here and there you sure. Have you done more than a little. Yeah so i really like to phrase you said in your book i try to science the shit out of anxiety and that was a reference to the The movie right. The matt dillon was in. Yeah demon the the martian yes where he gets stranded on mars. And then he's he's got quite a quandary and instead of getting anxious He turns that energy into To good use to help them get off the planet good. Let's use your powers to good use to help all of us on wind today. Because i know that we're all stressed sounds great. I'm just gonna. I'm just gonna speak for. Everyone has that. I think you would be speaking pretty adequately we've seen what we've seen a rise of anxiety over the last four or five years but there was there was a huge spike in the year. Twenty twenty yeah. Yeah for sure. So how can we work with our anxiety and break these helpful habits and addictions will the way i think of this. Is i see this a lot. My clinic is that a lot of us really. Don't know how our minds work. And i can certainly speak for myself. I didn't know how my mind worked. Even learning a bunch of medical school stuff didn't really give me a good handle on how my mind worked so here. I think it's really helpful to start with just really understanding our minds and not you know every single neuron every single brain region but really understanding some of the mo the most essential basics like how habits form and why we form habits in how some of those habits can spin out of control and start you move from helping us survive to actually being anti survival when we when we really get caught up in anxiety. So that's that's the place that i start good starting place. You have this freeze near book everyday addictions. I think there's like there's quite a bit controversy in the field about what actually counts addiction. And what doesn't count as an addiction like what is an addiction and one of the features of that while i think of this as related to a definition of addiction that i learned back in residency. Which was you know. An addiction is continued use despite adverse consequences and that's basically the definition that the american society of addiction medicine uses now and it's one that i've used throughout my my clinical practice because it's very pragmatic you know. It doesn't label people as use cocaine or use heroin or use. You smoke cigarettes. It's you know is what you're doing causing problems and that you know of course covers the classic addictions but it also helps us e things that we might not have noticed otherwise that are causing us problems so for example when people are taxed when they drive it's been shown the texting is more dangerous than drunk driving so there's an example of continued use despite adverse consequences when somebody can't wait to check their phone when somebody has texted while they're driving. That's a problem you know. And so there's you know it can fall into this realm of of addiction. Where we're you know we're so addicted to our phones for example social media or checking our news. It's really causing adverse consequences whether it's personally or professionally or even riffs or breakdowns in our relationships in our family wow can all addictions be reversed like. Are there any addictions or anything. Like how do you know when you pass the point of no return. I'm like obsessed with that question. Yeah it's really great question. I have yet to find an addiction that cannot be reversed and some. Yeah so the good news because you know if we can form them weakened uninformed them well that's amazing is sometimes it might just take on as it took to form them. It might. yeah and it doesn't have to so this is one of the beautiful things about our brains are so many beautiful aspects of the brain but one of them is that our brain has to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Otherwise we won't survive. You know if you think of our ancient

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