Anxiety is no fun! It can range from a minor inconvenience to a crippling and painful state of near paralysis – either way, it’s not a pleasant experience.
The interesting thing about working with anxiety is that we don’t seek to eliminate the ability to get anxious, because, for starters, that’s impossible, secondly, anxiety is often useful and adaptive.
Quite simply, without the capacity for anxious reactions our species would have perished long ago. Much of the time our anxiety is protective and healthy.
Unfortunately, anxiety becomes a concern when an individual’s anxious reactions are disproportionate to the causes for the anxiety; for example, a relatively small or benign situation can cause much consternation and fear.
Anxiety also becomes a concern when a state of prolonged stress can trigger continual feelings of intense uneasiness, which can sometimes manifest as crippling panic attacks.
Signs of Anxiety
There are many different types of anxiety disorders that we see in clinical practice – some clients have specific phobias (such as the fear of flying or public speaking), while others may have social anxiety, general anxiety, obsessive compulsions, or post-traumatic stress, and more.
Here are some signs that you may be suffering from anxiety or an anxiety disorder:
And here is more information on specific anxiety disorders:
Involves non-specific, excessive and pervasive worry about everyday life, often in many different areas leading to negative impacts to overall quality of life. An important aspect of GAD is that it may not be better explained by other medical conditions and it is not attributable to the physiological effects of substance use or medications.
An intense and sometimes debilitating sense of unease or self-consciousness in social situations with fear of judgment or appraisal from others often leading to avoidance of social situations.
Symptoms may be similar to Generalized Anxiety but will include various additional intense physical symptoms such as a racing or pounding heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest pain, a sensation of choking or impending doom and induce a sense of panic or fear of dying.
Marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation which almost always provokes immediate fear or aversion. This fear is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the object or situation. Examples include, intense fear of heights, needles, germs etc.
A persistent fear of being away from home or without an attachment figure, usually causes significant distress and poses difficulty going to school or work due to the separation.
People with separation anxiety disorder are prone to nightmares or intense worry about unwelcome events happening to those who they are close to.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Although OCD is in a category all of its own, like other anxiety disorders, it causes marked negative impacts in one’s functioning in life and often leads to excessive avoidance or interruption to normal day-to-day behaviours. OCD is marked by distinct obsessional preoccupations or worries and also specific behaviours that the sufferer feels compelled to do, aimed at coping with the anxiety.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Also in a category of its own, PTSD is a condition that stems from seriously traumatic experiences and leads to marked distress and impaired functioning in life. Hallmark symptoms include sudden intrusive thoughts about the traumatic events and hyper-reactivity to triggers that remind one of the original events. PTSD sufferers often experience difficulty with their mood, emotional regulation, and are prone to substance use and difficulty coping with stress.
How Therapy Can Help With Anxiety
The approach of our therapists to working with the many different forms of anxiety is to first treat each client as a whole person and to help them feel ok about their condition. We seek to build them up by focusing on their natural strengths so they can go directly towards the source of their anxiety and hopefully learn to overcome it.
Sometimes this requires a deep and courageous exploration of the past, and sometimes this requires more simple behavioural exercises.
We also explore the loop between the body and the mind, and seek to interrupt the chain of events that often lead to anxious reactions.
Our therapists take a wholistic approach to treating anxiety disorders and help audit lifestyles to identify areas that may be contributing to the anxiety. Medications can be useful for anxiety and so our clients are sometimes encouraged to explore this with their doctors.
Anxiety is not always easy to treat but our experience has been that significant improvements and sometimes total remission is possible through the course of psychotherapy.
Pathway Therapists That Specialize in Treating Anxiety
Gerard MacLellan, MEd, MA