Anxiety

What is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is most often described as a “disorder”.  Most resources and texts talk about 5 so called Anxiety presentations. They are: Obsessive Compulsive “Disorder”, Post Traumatic StreWoman's Facess “Disorder” Generalised Anxiety “Disorder”, Panic “Disorder”and Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety “Disorder’.

“Normal” anxiety, so called, can be a time and situationally limited experience, such as a fear of  asking for a pay increase or asking a  gorgeous girl or guy out, on a first date for example.

The anxiety experienced by people with a so called anxiety “disorder” attached to the name,  is a horse of an all together different colour.  This kind of anxiety is way more persistent, intrusive, insistent, and is not always connected to an obvious ‘thing’ or stimulus and it really impacts on your quality life and relationships, on a daily basis.  While each of these anxiety types or condition has its own set of idiosyncratic features, they all share some common features/symptoms.

These include physical responses such as panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, feeling tense, wound up and edgy. There are also some psychological responses too such as  excessive fear, (sometimes a very real fear that you are literally about to die),  worry, catastrophising or obsessive thinking and there are some behavioural responses such as  avoidance of situations or places (shopping centres or parties etc) giving a presentation at work for example as we do the “what if” thing in our heads (the catastrophising thing). That is the kind of self-talk that makes you feel anxious, and can impact significantly on all areas of life.

Understanding Anxiety

As suggested above anxiety is often seen as a  disorder, and something that works against you.  I hold a different opinion  to that norm.  This may sound strange to hear, but I believe that anxiety, no matter how it manifests, either as OCD or Panic Disorder for example, is actually a coping mechanism, and it is actively trying to work FOR you, NOT against you and to that end you are not broken or ‘disordered”. It’s merely seeking a way to ‘keep you safe’ and, as far as it goes, it does a good job. Let me explain…

If you are suffering from a phobia, which is one form of anxiety, around snakes, or flying say, it makes perfect sense not to go near a snake or not to go near an aeroplane.  So the mind creates this anxiety with a view to helping you avoid those particular stimuli.  And it usually works perfectly… but the quality of that survival, is not good so we need to find a better coping strategy.

Every single human being experiences anxiety from time to time. It’s nature’s way of motivating us to get our butt into gear or anticipate and react to a potential, or real threat.  Without getting ‘anxious’ about the long dark winter, we wouldn’t be motivated to stockpile food stores.   Without being ‘anxious’ about an exam, we wouldn’t make the time to study, instead of hanging out with friends.  Some degree of anxiety can be a good thing, even if it doesn’t always feel great, and there is that saying about ‘having too much of a good thing’.

The problems arise when we are anxious too much, and too often.  The fast paced world in which we live with its many demands on our time and attention, and the constant exposure to stimuli, can cause our anxiety to spiral out of control.  This can be a big problem. Our heart rate goes up, our breathing increases, and we get into that ‘fight or flight’ response, as a natural coping style.  It’s all perfectly normal if you get anxious every once in a while. as when the threat is dealt with or goes away, the body slowly but surely, calms back down.

But what happens when we are in a constant state of anxiety, when we get anxious more and more frequently, as many of us do.   The body has no chance to calm down. We’re constantly on high alert.  Our bodies have to pump more and more adrenaline and cortisol into our system and we stay wound up and anxious for longer periods of time.  This places a lot of chronic stress on the body and the mind. It’s that kind of intense and seemingly never ending kind of anxiety that is debilitating and needs to be treated.    So, treatment for this anxiety thing, it not about never feeling anxious again, that is really not possible. It’s about finding and restoring balance, health, and well-being and better ways to manage life free from anxiety.

Treatment for Anxiety 

There are several treatments available for working with anxiety; some, of course are better than others.  My preference is to actually eliminate the experience of anxiety, if possible (and often it is), rather than have a person learn to simply “manage” it or having to live with it constantly lurking in the background.   To manage it,  means you need to be able to access a number of resources,  whenever you feel a panic attack or episode of something, coming on. Techniques such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), tend to “manage” anxiety, and requires you to do things such as ‘step outside the circle’, employ some thought stopping techniques, learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, coping self-talk such as “I’ve done this before, just take deep breaths,” and distraction  disassociate and/or distract from the sensitising event, breathe, tell yourself “this will pass” and so on. And it takes a long time to get good at doing that stuff.  The number of sessions quoted to treat anxiety can be anywhere from 10 – 24 sessions or more with CBT as the therapy.

This approach in my opinion, even though it is evidenced-based,  is too laborious, expensive and ultimately ineffective, because the horse has already bolted as you have “felt the fear” and that is THE thing that you don’t like. It’s kind of like ‘it’s the fear of the fear’  that you dread, as you go about talking yourself into anxiety, by focusing on the very thing you don’t want. It is said that “what we focus on we amplify in our experience ”  and “when you focus on what you don’t want,  you get what you don’t want”.  So it makes sense does it not,  to focus on what is wanted and allow that to be amplified in experience.

I use hypnosis and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) as my preferred ‘go to’ therapies for treatment in eliminating anxiety. These two treatments are explained elsewhere on this site and they are much more effective in my opinion than CBT and much much quicker in resolving your issues, and they are aimed at eliminating the anxiety not have you just ‘manage it’. Do these techniques always great great outcomes? No of course not, as there are many variable involves in working with people but they are very effective. A review of the ‘Seachange Psychology Reviews’ on Google will give you a sense of what is possible.   You might also find these videos  (below) interesting.

To find out more about how best to treat anxiety,  contact Cris at Seachange Psychology on phone 07 4041 4147.  This service is also offered online.