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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5823
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate. I am really sorry to trouble you yet again but I need

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Kate. I am really sorry to trouble you yet again but I need some advice please on how to control my emotions when I get triggered. The problem I have this week is that I have a dental appointment on Wednesday .... I am being sedated for the work to be done, but I am already getting extremely anxious.
I am dreading being made to lay down for the treatment to be completed; I am dreading having the dentist's hands across my mouth; and I am dreading having things put into my mouth.
Is it normal to feel this anxious and be triggered this much?
I cannot ask anyone face to face just in case it's just me being stupid.


You are not troubling me at all! I am very happy to hear from you, anytime.

After the trauma you have suffered, what you feel is very natural. What the dentist is going to do can trigger the same feelings you had when you were traumatized. The vulnerability and the sensations can be difficult to separate in your mind.

There are some things you can do to make this situation easier to handle. One, consider letting the dentist know that you feel very anxious. You don't have to say why, but if you want to, let him know that you have been traumatized. He will understand.

Also, ask that you be put under while you are sitting up. That way, you feel you have some control.

Practice your relaxation exercises. If you don't have any, here is a link:

Try to picture scenes in your mind that make you feel safe. Imagine somewhere that you can be that no one can hurt you. Picture the details of this scene, adding smells, tactile sensations, etc. Practice this scene in your mind starting now so you can call it up easily when you get to the dentist.

Take head phones with you to the appointment. Put soothing comforting music on your MP3 or IPod and listen to it until you relax.

Let me know if you feel these will work for you.


TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I doubt I would be able to say why I was so anxious, but saying I've suffered a trauma is a possibility.
I hadn't thought about asking for the sedation sitting up, so will definitely ask for that. I have to ring to speak with the anesthetist tomorrow so maybe I will ask him/her then.
Muscle relaxation looks easy enough and as for imagining somewhere safe I really like that idea and will definitely start practising that today and at various times tomorrow. Presumably I can use that technique whenever I get triggered (eg in a department store when I smell a certain aftershave)?
Finally, music is a definite strategy for me. Thanks.
Thanks Kate. I was really worried that this was a daft question. I will definitely follow your advice. Thanks.

It was not a daft question at all. It makes perfect sense you would feel this way.

You can use the sensory imagery anywhere anytime to calm yourself down. It also can help you fall asleep faster as well.

I hope it all goes well. If you want to, let me know how it goes. You will be in my thoughts.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi Kate
The dental treatment has been started. Unfortunately they couldn't do all of it today, so I have to return in a few weeks for the remainder.
I was able to keep the anxiety at a manageable level until I was called into the treatment room. The minute I sat in the dentist's chair I could feel the panic rising. I thought everyone could hear my heart beating!
Then the anaesthetist mentioned that the sedation might not work because of the drug combination that I am on at the moment.
I requested that they sedated me whilst I was in a more upright position and they honoured that request, although I was still aware when they laid me flat. Then they covered my eyes and I could feel my breathing change .... I felt like I was being suffocated. The anaesthetist was lovely. He said he would keep asking me if I was okay and the minute I indicated that I wanted them to stop then they would.
The work was completed quite quickly in reality, but for me it felt like the ordeal went on for hours!
I tried to think of somewhere safe and calm that I could 'be' in my head. This definitely helped me before they started and helped me get to the dentist in a surprisingly calm state; it also helped me afterwards to calm me down .... I just failed during the actual treatment.
This said, I don't feel quite so scared about the remainder of the treatment because I know that the panic (although extremely uncomfortable) is more controllable.
Kate, thanks for all your help and support. I couldn't have done today without your assistance.
Thanks again.

You're welcome!

Thank you for letting me know how it went today. You did it! That's great. No matter what, you faced it and got through. Being anxious during the procedure is not comfortable, but what counts is that you faced it anyway even though you were scared. Now you know what to expect for next time. And I am relieved to hear that the staff was so kind to you. Sometimes that makes all the difference.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks Kate