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Signs of Anxiety

  • Stressful thoughts
  • Keyed up, tension, insomnia
  • Inhibition
  • Unexplained physical issues or behaviors
  • Fears that appear unrealistic

The Uncomfortable Difficulty

Anxiety is a natural response to stress. But, it becomes a problem when it intensifies or happens more often.  It’s becomes a problem when it intrudes into work or home-life, when it disturbs sleep, sex, diet, or important relationships.  Anxiety can appear like an invisible bully, making it a difficult thing to see and therefore, to deal with. 

Anxiety has to be one of the most frustrating of symptoms. Not only can it intrude uninvited into our experience but it can lead us to feeling responsible or to blame for it.  However, while it may be possible to manage anxiety through activities and medications, being able to see it provides us leverage to change it.   With help, we can gradually explore the nature of our individual anxiety to find a picture of it. 

Picture Your Anxiety

For some, anxiety generates an experience that feels like masses of vibrating particles, much like the static noise on a t.v. screen. Not surprisingly, an experience of anxious agitation can make it very hard to think in a clear, linear way; things can become quite fuzzy and confusing to say the least. These sorts of feelings can also contribute to making decisions to avoid certain people, places or things that you may not ordinarily avoid. The trouble is, when you decide things based mostly on vibrating feelings you can easily end up avoiding things that are not really harmful; You may avoid things that are positive and personally desirable. Yet, anxiety can be extremely difficult to dispute, or change on you own. Reducing anxiety can occur with the understanding and support of an ongoing therapy relationship that helps you to gradually explore it and alter your relationship to it.

It's Official: Anxiety Is Common

If you struggle with intense or disruptive anxiety, you are not alone. Statistics show, there are millions of people, at least 3.1% of the population in the U.S. who are diagnosed with some form of anxiety disorder each year. You do not have to feel you are bad, weak or wrong for being anxious. You also do not have to accept it or contend with it all alone. The idea is to step back, take a serious look at your situation and consider that it is possible to address your anxiety. While some make use of pharmacology treatment to gain an immediate reduction of anxiety, it may not be your choice of a long term solution. On the other hand, psychotherapy can help you to build your own internal coping skills developed out of your personal experience of anxiety. Those skills will become part of the fabric of your experience, your can draw on whenever you need.

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The Good and Bad of Anxiety

Anxiety is not always a messenger of bad news. Anxiety can fall into two camps: the good kind and a bad kind. The good anxiety may not feel great, but it can be harnessed for your benefit. Good anxiety can spur you on to study hard in order to do well on a test. It can help you prepare to give a talk, get to get married, become a mother, interview for an exciting new job or to meet a revered person.

Bad anxiety is of course, the opposite in that it does not let you prepare to do things. The bad type can shut you down, make you confused. Even if you do follow through you may have to pay emotionally for doing good things for yourself. It can generate the feeling that things are much more loaded or hazardous than they really are. It can lead you into efforts of self-cure through avoidance, denial or self medicating. In these ways, anxiety can turn you into your own jailer. Therapy can help you get out of limiting patterns and replace them with adaptive ways to handling your anxieties. Treatment can also help you gain more clarity and understanding of important differences between reasonable and unreasonable anxiety.

Freedom From Torment

Most people will agree that the tormenting feeling of anxiety is something we naturally act against to regain calm. What is often less appreciated are how underlying factors or psychological dynamics that contribute to torment in the form of negative thoughts, ideas, beliefs and fantasies. These sorts of underlying forces can wreak havoc, causing you to imagine things that are anxiety provoking. There is a very high likelihood, that what you imagine to be so scary is not what you think it is. Even so, I understand that anxiety can be incredibly intense and make ideas believable. This is one thing that can make it such a difficult and stubborn issue to change. Underlying forces are part of long held patterns that become established over time and then never questioned. Like our old fears of monsters in the closet, anxiety compels us in an unquestioning, visceral way, to live by them. The good news is that those underlying roots and meanings of your anxiety can be explored and reworked. In therapy, we can begin to look at those things that are hard to do on your own; you can come to find new ways to channel your anxiety into healthier, more freedom enhancing directions.

Example: Anxiety of a Forbidden Love

Please Note: The material following is a fictitious creation to show how underlying ideas contribute to current problems that can be re-worked.

A bright woman who was achieving some success in her career, recognized she was unable to sustain a romantic relationship, and this lead her to seek therapy. One contributing factor from her growing up years was how adored she felt by her father. She and her father were very close and rarely apart. Her mother had been quite depressed and withdrawn from her father so he turned to his daughter for the vital engagement he missed in his marriage. When the girl turned twelve her father divorced her mother. This devastated the young girl and she became very anxious. While this intelligent woman knew quite clearly that she wasn’t outwardly responsible for her parents divorce, on a deeper level, she harbored a feeling that she had somehow taken her father away from her mother. Even though this guilt inducing fantasy was not in her rational awareness, it still exerted a powerful influence over her romantic life. Just when she felt that a man was in love with her, she would become anxious and pushed the man away and tried to ruin their connection. In the treatment these issues were able to develop sufficiently, to allow her to work through them so she was free to find and hold onto, a lasting romantic relationship.