You can reach me at 208.557.8603. My office is located on 6th Avenue next to Idaho State University in the University Historic District of Pocatello.
When Excess Anxiety Runs the Show, Anxiety Treatment is Probably the Answer
As an anxiety therapist I cannot stress enough that some anxiety in life is normal. Our bodies and minds are designed to perform under pressure, based on what is going around us. It is also natural to experience anxiety when we feel threatened and expect something bad is going to happen. Anxiety helps us plan and avoid potential harm.
The part of our brain involved with fear and anxiety is more primitive as compared to the neocortex part of the brain where reasoning takes place. When fear is activated, the primitive part of the brain takes over and the neocortex essentially goes off line. We are then poised to take action to ensure our survival without thinking much at all. Anxiety is a full body response. Animal studies have clarified a great deal about what happens in the human brain and human body during a fear response.
Sometimes, however, anxiety becomes a habit that keeps us from responding to life in a flexible and fluid way. We lose the confidence that we can cope. Treatments for anxiety are designed to restore our ability to live our lives without feeling imprisoned by anxious feelings.
Anxiety disorders arise when we consistently over-evaluate danger while underestimating our ability to cope. These disorders can show up in different ways, such as panic attacks, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, posttraumatic stress, obsessive compulsion and phobias. Here are some common experiences for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder. Do you recognize in yourself any of the following?
- You experience intense fear or anxiousness that you try to avoid at all costs.
- You suffer from sensations of panic, worrisome thoughts, catastrophic images, or recurrent painful memories.
- You feel like you’ve lost control of your mind or your body.
- You worry about how limited your life is because of anxiety. Your world has become small.
- You can’t actualize your potential or be your best self because of your anxiety.
- You worry about when anxiety or panic is going to show up next.
An anxiety disorder is a mental habit of imagining danger where there is none, a habit that leaves you stuck in a pattern of avoidance.
If Anxiety is Normal How Do We Know When is Some Anxiety Too Much?
By definition, anxiety is a natural response to the perception of threat. Anxious feelings can be beneficial in situations where you need to put yourself out of harm’s way, such as when you cross a busy road or walk down a dark alley. Your mind and your body naturally react when you feel threatened.
Actual threat does not need to be present in order to experience anxiety, however. There only needs to be a perception of threat. For example, there are times when the experience of momentary fear proves to be groundless. Nonetheless an anxious response arises all the same. For example, have you ever reacted to a snake on the path, only to realize it is just a stick?
Anxiety becomes a problem is when it is frequent, intense and/or unpredictable, and when it feels hopelessly out of control. When anxiety interferes with day-to-day functioning it becomes a disorder. Anxiety disorders are typically associated with a vicious cycle where the perception of threat leads to anxious responding which, in turn, leads to more threat perception and anxious responding, and so on.
Anxiety can show up anywhere, such as at social interactions, at work, while shopping, getting medical care, etc. Anxiety can also be triggered by internal experiences such as thoughts, images, impulses, and memories, especially when these are experienced as unacceptable or threatening. For some people the experience of uncertainty is difficult to tolerate. For others, specific thoughts lead to a sense of overwhelm and dread. Studies have shown that most people (that is, those without an anxiety disorder) experience random disturbing thoughts as harmless (as a kind of mental “driftwood) and naturally filter them out of their awareness. If you have an anxiety disorder, on the other hand, you might experience these thoughts as intrusive and to be suppressed at all cost. You may feel you will be forced to act on these thoughts should you allow them into your awareness.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders experienced by Americans. About 18% of Americans suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. It appears that the experience of anxiety is growing. According to the Google search engine, online search rates for anxiety related issues have more than doubled in the last eight years. They are the highest this year than they have been any other year.
Therapy for anxiety usually calls for a rather clear cut approach. As an anxiety counselor I make use of both Eastern and Western psychology to address how habits of the mind can make it difficult to function freely as a human being.
Your First Step is to Understand the Psychology and Physiology of Your Anxiety
It is helpful for you to thoroughly understand how situations and triggers cause you to act the way you do. In fact, your anxious behaviors can be explained by simple psychological principles. Many people say they are aware that what they do does not make sense but that they are compelled to act anyway. These impulses to act can easily lead to a sense of helplessness and harsh self-criticism. You may experience yourself as weak or ill disciplined. Yet, when you study your patterns and understand why they exist, you are better positioned to experience self-compassion and work effectively towards personal change.
Treatment for Anxiety Includes Developing Skills Useful in Other Parts of Your Life.
Once you identify the distorted thoughts and behaviors that reinforce your anxiety you are on your way to changing these patterns and reducing anxiety.
Although this seems a simple approach to anxiety problems it is not necessarily easy. The hard part is that, for most anxious people, the patterns associated with the fear response are so entrenched that it is difficult to learn how to respond differently without the assistance from a qualified anxiety therapist.
This is where I can help. As your anxiety counselor my role can be as teacher, trainer or coach to assist you in understanding of the basic psychology underlying your anxiety disorder and help you develop the skills to overcome it.
Sometimes anxiety is caused by a habitual response by the nervous system. Other times anxiety may be due to trauma or unprocessed memories. Whether we use cognitive behavior therapy or EMDR, we will work to weaken the thinking and acting patterns that contribute to your anxiety. In addition, you learn how to successfully confront situations that cause anxiety so that you don’t have to avoid important parts of your life. Your habitual patterns of anxious responding will weaken.
Some anxiety may have a root cause in a medical condition. It is helpful consult with your doctor about your anxiety as well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
FAQ: Why can’t I just rely on prescription medication for my anxiety symptoms? Why should I seek counseling?
Using prescription drugs to reduce anxiety is based on the assumption that you have some kind
of chemical imbalance in the brain. Certain doctors and advertisements claim that chemical imbalances of the brain can be “corrected” with medication. However, medication does not address the root cause of anxiety, which involves erroneous thoughts and behaviors that have been learned.
Prescription medication should be used only when anxiety symptoms are severe or fail to respond to psychological treatment. If you use anti-anxiety drugs you should be cautious about the potential for dependence, the dangers of alcohol consumption, and other risks, including driving a car while impaired. There are other potential side effects as well. It is best to use these medications only for a short period of time prescribed by a doctor, such as a period of one month.
Whether to rely on anti-anxiety medication or not depends on your view of your condition and whether you are satisfied with the risks and side effects of prescription use. I invite you to come in to discuss with me any thoughts or concerns you might have about your particular situation.
FAQ: Why would I want to engage in therapy? I have my own ways of coping that seem to work OK!
Most people with anxiety disorders are not able to change by themselves how they think, feel or
act. If you have ways of coping that seem to work for you, then the question is if your coping patterns allow you to live the way you want to live. Sometimes it is obvious how limiting life has become. However, other coping patterns can be quite subtle, such as the use of mental distraction, alcohol, lower motivation, apathy and/or disengagement from the world. If you would like your life to be better then come see me and let’s talk.
FAQ: Exposure therapy sounds so hard! Why should I subject myself to situations that make me uncomfortable?
What would you do or how would you be if you were not afraid? An important step for anxiety treatment is to clearly identify your values and goals so that that you find the motivation and energy to work through your anxious patterns.
Exposure therapy is a gradual process, starting with easier scenarios where are you not so overwhelmed.
Research is Overwhelmingly Supportive of Exposure Based Anxiety Therapy
There is a large body of evidence that indicates that some form of exposure based CBT is effective for almost all anxiety disorders. In addition, mindfulness is also emerging as an effective and useful adjunct to CBT, providing additional skills for orienting towards experience, building resilience and connection to personal empowerment.
Of course, treatment can and should be tailored to your specific situation, including the type of anxiety you have, your personal preferences and your treatment goals.
When You Work With Me, We Work as a Team
When you and I work together we each bring our expertise to the table and address the uniqueness of your anxiety in the context of your life circumstances. Whereas I offer my mindfulness informed counseling expertise, you are the expert on the details of your situation. My job is to educate you on what you need to do, to champion your cause, and to assist you in getting the most out of treatment. I will likely encourage you to do your homework and your exercises but it will always be your choice as to what you will do and how fast you go through treatment. You will be in the driver’s seat. The commitment to root out your anxiety disorder has to come from you.
My Consultations Are Free.
If you are ready to give it a try and want to see if I would be a good fit, simply contact me. Call me at 208.557.8603 for a quick 20 minute phone consultation or to schedule a longer consultation in person (backed by a $40 refundable deposit). I can assist you in learning more about your issues and what your options are to address them.
Classification of Anxiety Disorders
An adjustment disorder may arise when the experience of a stressor is so overwhelming that it leads to a prolonged or disproportionate response to the stressful event. Failure to cope effectively can lead to even more symptoms that interfere with functioning.
Generalized anxiety disorder is associated with persistent, excessive and generalized anxiety and worry that is difficult to control. Worrisome thoughts interfere with everyday functioning.
A phobia is a marked and persistent fear of a specific object or situation. Exposure to the object or situation results in intense anxiety. Phobias are not uncommon. A one month prevalence of a phobia is estimated to occur in 6.2 percent of the population.
A panic disorder is a pattern of discrete episodes of intense fear that abruptly surge in the absence of real danger and is accompanied by intense and distressful symptoms of anxiety and stress.
An obsessive compulsive disorder can include obsessions, i.e. persistent and intrusive thoughts, impulses, or images that feel inappropriate and distressing. Compulsions can also be a part of this disorder, and include stronger urges to engage in repetitive behaviors or mental acts to relieve anxiety or stress.
Acute stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder may follow an exposure to extreme traumatic stress generated by directly experiencing or witnessing others experience threat of death, injury or sexual violation. These disorders are characterized by distressing memories, dreams, flashbacks, and triggers that resemble the event. They can be associated with negative moods, disassociation, sleep disturbance, avoidance, angry outbursts, and hypervigilance.