Do you ever feel like your anxiety is interfering with your life?
Do you experience persistent worry, fear, racing ruminating thoughts that won't turn off?
Is there a sense of dread cloud following you wherever you go? Always feeling on edge?
Do you have panic attacks that come out of nowhere and prevent you from leaving your house or going places for fear of spiraling out of control?
Does your anxiety leave you feeling overwhelmed causing muscle tension, heart palpitations, sweating, shallow breathing and sleeplessness?
Do you just want to feel normal again and be able to engage in life like other people do?
Are you suffering in silence, afraid of what people might think of you if they found out you had anxiety?
Are you physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted by negative self-talk and recurring thought patterns that pervade your relationships, jobs, school and normal life activities?
Are you feeling that you cannot control anything in your life, and the paralyzing, crippling fear dictates every decision you make?
Does the feeling of not being in absolute control of your life, leave you anxious and scared?
Do you often feel, “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do that” so you don’t partake in events or activities or you struggle with anticipation of the event?
Are you using drugs or alcohol for relief?
Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are currently 40,000,000 people in the United States living with an anxiety disorder, or approximately 18% of the population. This number only refers to those currently living with a diagnosable anxiety disorder – That number would be much higher if it included people who have anxiety or suffer from panic attacks but don’t meet criteria for a diagnosis OR they have suffered in the past, but have gotten it under control.
Like every other mental disorder, anxiety symptoms fall on a continuum ranging from mildly controlling to devastating and crippling, preventing some people from even leaving their house. Most people however find themselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Anxiety may result in lost friendships, jobs, relationships or isolation, and exclusion from activities.
We experience anxiety whenever we perceive a threat, even when one is not present. The threat of psychological harm (humiliation, rejection, shame) can feel just as real as the threat of physical harm.
This cycle of anticipating and over-thinking causes thoughts to spin out of control, thus perpetuating the anxiety even further. We’re always thinking of the “what if” scenarios.
People are quite often aware that their thoughts are irrational, but don’t have the tools to de-escalate anxiety before it turns into a full-fledged attack. This is what people find so vexing – they are intelligent people who don’t know how to think themselves out of their anxiety. There fears don’t make sense to them. And, it’s not helpful when people say, “Just calm down. You’re going to be fine.” No amount of reassurance seems to help. Nor do logic and reason. Because once the thoughts take over, it can be a matter of seconds before the feelings of fear, panic and helplessness become so real and overwhelming that they are running the show.
Anxiety is treatable and people often respond well to therapies, usually in a relatively short time period. Once you understand and recognize the physical and mental components of anxiety, you will be in a much better position to manage it.
We can help.
Psychotherapy focuses on re-educating and reshaping behavior and thought processes by teaching strategies that can help you cope with anxiety-producing thoughts and behaviors.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are two types of evidence-based therapies that are particularly beneficial. The basic premise of Cognitive behavioral therapy is that our thoughts—not external events—affect the way we feel. It is our perception of a given situation that determines how we feel —not the situation per se. The Cognitive component of the theory examines how negative thoughts contribute to anxiety, while the Behavioral component addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves as well as our escape and avoidance behavior.
Exposure therapy is a process for reducing fear and anxiety responses. Using this method, a person is gradually exposed (either in their mind or in reality) to a feared situation or object, learning to become less sensitive over time. After multiple exposures, the object or situation will evoke less and less anxiety each time, and patients then usually move up to more difficult or anxiety-producing objects or situations. You will never be asked to do anything that you are not willing to do, but understand you will need to venture out of your comfort zone in order to re-learn an alternative and healthier response to your fear. Do that which you fear and are reluctant to do and you will likely not experience the worst possible outcome as your mind would have you believe. You will be able to recognize and process anxious thoughts in a more productive manner, replacing ineffective coping strategies with healthier tools. By learning how to change the way you think, you exert greater control over your emotions and behavior.
Overcoming anxiety is a common and achievable goal, although it may seem like an impossible task given its severity or the duration in which you’ve had it. You likely have re-arranged your entire life around anxiety and its torments. Or you have resigned your life to one of isolation, limited social activities and regret.
When we work together in session, I will provide a safe and supportive environment in which to explore the nature of your anxiety, understand your specific triggers, symptoms and fears. Every person is different and triggers can include various smells, places, sounds, people, environments, or tastes. While increased knowledge and information is important to overcoming anxiety, you will need to actually practice the techniques that I teach you in order to create meaningful change. This will likely include facing those uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, impulses and physical sensations that you try so hard to avoid. But you won’t be giving any power to your thoughts or feelings. You won’t be resisting or struggling with them. You won’t become them. You will simply be watching them, acknowledging them. By addressing anxiety in small steps, one challenge at a time, you will achieve confidence that will propel you to bigger anxiety challenges until you have successfully managed your anxiety and are living the life you desire.
While your anxiety won’t completely disappear (remember, some amount of anxiety is healthy adaptive and helpful) it is possible to have it greatly diminished and controlled.
The outcome of treatment is determined by several factors, including the severity of diagnosis, level of functioning prior to onset of symptoms, degree of motivation for treatment, level of social or family support and one's ability to comply with medication and/or psychotherapeutic regimen. With proper treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.
You may be ready to take the next step toward counseling, but still have some questions or concerns…
Can’t I just take medication for my anxiety?
Of course you can. When you are overwhelmed with paralyzing fear and crippling panic you’ll do just about anything to get relief. And in the short term, medication may be helpful. Many different types of medications are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Some are potentially addictive (e.g. benzodiazepines) and difficult to withdraw from. Medication has its role and at times it is needed to manage severe and disabling anxiety, or in conjunction with counseling while you are learning new skills. But is it the best answer in the long run? Consider safety concerns, addiction potential, side effects, and alternative strategies for managing your anxiety that can be just as effective without the drawbacks. Do you want to be dependent on medication indefinitely? Or would you rather be able to manage and control your anxiety with tools that you have learned and that you will always have access to. Whether or not you need to take medication is a conversation for you to have with your doctor. You are free to talk through your feelings about taking meds in our sessions. Any decision to take or come off of your meds should be under your doctor’s care.
I don’t want to have to face my fears. That’s too scary.
I understand that this can be very frightening for a lot of people, but with practice you will find that you will be able to tolerate some level of anxiety and that your worst fears do not actually happen or at least not to the severity that you imagined. By avoiding and escaping that which you do not want to face, you actually perpetuate and fuel the anxiety cycle. This behavior teaches you that by fleeing or avoiding a situation, you’ll never have to experience the ensuing anxiety. While this works in the short term, you are only strengthening the behavior of avoidance. Once you learn that you are able to tolerate the anxious situation/event without the feared response (fainting, having a heart attack, throwing up, being humiliated etc….) you are on your way to re-training the brain to form new associations.
I’ve tried counseling before and it didn’t work for me.
There are many variables that can affect the success of counseling. One of the most important factors is the fit between the therapist and the client and how comfortable the client is with him/her. Other factors include the therapist’s experience and training in a particular area, realistic goals, length of therapy, motivation level and commitment of the client. When seeing a new therapist make sure you share with them what you liked and didn’t like about your previous counseling experience. Most therapists are trained and experienced in a variety of different counseling approaches and styles, and can adapt to your personal needs. The important thing is to communicate to your therapist if you feel like you are not progressing as you expected. And if the relationship is simply not working, the therapist will be happy to refer you to someone else.
I can help you reduce your symptoms and live the life you’ve always wanted. I encourage you to contact me here or by phone: 904-543-6055 to schedule an appointment or free 15-minute consultation. Your inquiries will always remain confidential, and I return calls within 24 hours, usually sooner!