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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5808
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate. I need to ask you a new question please. Its a bit

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Kate. I need to ask you a new question please.
It's a bit delicate and I'm not sure who else I could ask. Sorry.

I desperately need to go to a dentist as my teeth keep breaking. I'm not sure if this is as a result of making myself sick so much over the years but, the fact is, they need some work doing on them. This is where my problem begins!

Here goes ...... I have had a panic attack every time I have tried to go to the dentist and always end up having to cancel. The reason ... I struggle to let any dentist put their fingers in my mouth. It makes me feel like I'm going to gag and I feel like I can't breathe. I believe this all relates to the abuse I went through as a child and whilst growing up ... the minute the dentist puts anything near my mouth I get overwhelming flashbacks of having my head held whilst being forced to perform oral sex on my brother!

Sorry Kate. I know this is really pathetic and I need to get over this but haven't got a clue how. I just needed to ask someone I trust. Sorry. I feel such an idiot not being able to deal with this on my own!


Hi Sue! It's good to talk with you. I am here to help you anytime so don't feel bad about asking anything you need to.


Oh Sue, I am so sorry that you went through such horrible abuse. It is very understandable that you fear the dentist because of what you experienced as a child. I believe that you are experiencing PTSD. Post traumatic stress often develops because of child abuse. Flashbacks are very common and can continue if not treated. Being at the dentist, which is normally an unnerving experience for most people, would be much worse when it triggers your memories of abuse.


The first thing to do is accept that what you feel is very normal. Anyone would feel as you do in the same circumstances. Give yourself permission to feel afraid. It will help your fear dissipate.


The second step is to understand flashbacks as being a part of your trauma. They are triggered by similar situations to the trauma you experienced. Being at the dentist feels similar to you. What we need to do is make the dentist seem different to you so you no longer associate the two.


Three, think of props you can use while at the dentist to help you change the association. Take headphones and an IPOD and play music or watch a show for example. Or take along something to play with in your hands, like a smooth stone or something with texture. Ask to have the seat changed to your liking or bring along something to focus on like a picture.


Four, enlist the help of your dentist. You don't have to share the whole story, just let him/her know you are extra anxious. Ask for more control over your appointment, like the ability to stop any time you need to take a breath.


You can also ask about being put to sleep, if that does not bother you. That way, you can get the work done without having to sit through it.


Just remember, you are normal. This is not an unexpected or unusual problem.



TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thank you Kate for not making me feel like some sort of freak.


I think being put to sleep would be the easiest option for me as I will have no memories linked to the treatment ... but first I need to see a dentist to have the referral made!


This is just the tip of the iceberg with my brother. The abuse went on for 30 years in all, ending with him raping me when I was 8 months pregnant ... 5 days before my little boy was stillborn.


There is so much I NEED to talk about (that I know I will never be able to discuss at group therapy) because it is now destroying me. I have no clue how to start, who to talk to, what to say. I'm scared because I feel out of control with it all and I am feeling overwhelmed right now. It's affecting every part of my life and my self esteem is rock bottom. Sorry, I'm rattling on again.


Thanks for the suggestions regarding the dentist.



Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Sorry, yet another question please ... any tips for coping with flashbacks because when they happen I feel like I am 6 years old again and can't move my feet? It's like I am paralysed.





Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Is it really possible to move on from a lifetime of trauma or am I fighting a losing battle?

You're welcome, Sue.


I agree, talking to someone about what you went through with your brother is vital. Is there any way you can see a therapist without having to go through the health system? Even if you talk a pastor or a counselor through a church that is better than having to go through the system.


Here is a link to help you learn ways to cope with your flashbacks. See if the tips work for you. If not, I can help you further:


It is very possible to move on from the trauma you experienced. It takes some therapeutic work and self help, but as long as you are motivated, you can recover.



TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Kate, finding a therapist would be the easy part I think. My problem is that because of the group therapy I am not supposed to see another therapist at the same time, but I know that I can't sit in front of a group of strangers and tell them that he made me pregnant when I was just 14, I can't tell them that he let one of his friends 'groom' me and then rape me, I can't tell them that my brother and 4 of his friends gang raped me etc. So how on earth am I meant to even begin to deal with this?


Sorry Kate, there just seems such a huge mountain of issues to face that I don't know where to start. The group definitely is NOT the right place for me to discuss any of the issues I've mentioned because I really need to talk about them in some detail and I would feel far too vulnerable letting so many people into my world of secrets!


I am prepared to do the work I need to, but I need to feel safe whilst doing that. I'm scared that I will feel like this for the rest of my life.


Thanks for the link to dealing with flashbacks. I will have a look at that later this morning and then come back to you with any further questions before I accept your answer. Hope that's okay?



Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Ok, I have looked at the link regarding flashbacks.


To me it seems like the key thing for me is the grounding techniques, so I can bring myself back to the here and now. However, the tips suggested are not manageable when I am outside and, in reality, most of my flashbacks happen outside the home. Quite often it is a smell of aftershave as I walk through a department store or maybe even sometimes it can be something that someone says that triggers me. Any suggestions of grounding techniques that I can do anywhere and, for me, it would need to be something that everyone around me can't necessarily see me doing?


Does that make sense?


Thanks Kate





You can use relaxation techniques for grounding yourself. Relaxation centers you and lets you focus.


Try this link for learning relaxation techniques:


Be sure to use guided imagery to help you center yourself as well.


These are all techniques you can use anywhere and that are not obvious to others when you use them.


Thank you ahead of time for your accept. If you would like to continue working on this issue, I would be happy to help. Most experts are reimbursed as the answers are provided. Bonuses are always appreciated!



TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I will look at these links and give them a try. I'm guessing that they will take practise.

I may have more questions but for now I will accept your answer and then I will contact you again should I need more help.


Thank you so much for your time and help, not to mention giving me a listening ear.



You're welcome! Take care, Sue.



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