Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental disorder. Approximately 25% of the population experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

Anxiety Indicators

If a number of the following statements apply to you, this could indicate you have a problem with anxiety that needs to be addressed. Of course, physical symptoms, as in statement 7, need to be checked out by a doctor.

1/ I spend much of my life worrying.

2/ I experience panic attacks

3/ I have frightening fantasies and daydreams

4/ My thoughts continually race around in an uncontrolled manner.

5/ I feel tense and uptight much of the time

6/ I fear people in many social situations

7/ At times I feel a shortness of breath, discomfort in my chest, abdominal discomfort, sweating and headaches.

8/ I limit my activities due to my anxiety

9/ My anxiety can bring about depression

10/ My uncontrolled thoughts cause me to feel that I’m going crazy

Types of Anxiety Disorders

1/ Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Characterized by constant worry. The person is preoccupied with thoughts of dread about many things in their life, such as family, health, work, etc., despite any real problems in these areas. The person is unable to control the worry, even though they may be aware that this is irrational.

2/ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – People with OCD have intrusive, unwanted thoughts that they can’t get out of their head (obsessions). As a result, they feel compelled to perform ritualistic behaviours or routines (compulsions). These compulsions can take the form of hand-washing, counting, repeating a phrase, preoccupation with appearance, etc., in order to ward off the obsessive thoughts.

3/ Panic Disorder – Characterized by ‘Panic Attacks’, which are abrupt onsets of intense fear. These bouts of fear can feel like heart attacks, asthma or other health issues, which can further increase the fear.

Many people with panic disorders are often too embarrassed to tell anyone, including their physician, for fear of being labeled  a hypochondriac. As a result, they can suffer in silence and become isolated from friends and family. In addition, they may avoid public places such as malls, transit or any public gatherings for fear that they may have an attack. In this way they further restrict their lives.

4/ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic incident such as a natural disaster, rape, serious accident, childhood abuse or sudden death of a loved one.

Symptoms can include: insomnia, depression, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, stress and addictions.

67% of people who are exposed to mass violence, such as war veterans, develop PTSD.

5/ Social Anxiety Disorder – Is an intense fear of being scrutinized or negatively evaluated by others in a social or performance situation. It can result in an inability to function effectively in social or work situations. It can lead to avoidance and restriction in a life. This disorder often originates in childhood or adolescence.

6/ Specific or Simple Phobias – A strong, irrational fear of a particular object, person or situation. Even though the person often recognizes the irrationality of the fear, they are unable to stop it. This results in an avoidance of the specific object of fear. Phobias often result in a growing anxiety, especially with the avoidance of such things as necessary medical care.

Dealing With Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Can Be Helped In A Number of Ways:

1/ Evaluate your life style – Look at the things in your life that are causing you anxiety. address the ones that are possible to change.

2/ Consider the things in your life that cause you pleasure – Make time to give yourself these things.

3/ Cut back on substances such as caffeine or alcohol.

4/ Address physical care – Eat, sleep and exercise in a responsible manner

5/ Practice stress relaxation techniques – Listen to calm music, meditate, or practice yoga. Do anything that slows you down – This should not include television or computer games which have been shown to increase anxiety in people

6/ Physical Intervention – such as massage, acupuncture or biofeedback

7/ Natural herbal remedies

8/ Getting a positive support network – Isolation increases anxiety.

9/ Anxiety medication

10/ Therapy – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Group therapy, talk therapy

My Holistic Therapeutic Approach to Anxiety

My experience as a Toronto therapist has shown me that anxiety accompanies other problems, such as depression, stress, addictions, anger and childhood trauma. For this reason I will address the whole person in order to deal with the anxiety. To do this I will:

1/ Evaluate how the person presently copes with anxiety. Here I assess the strengths and weaknesses of a person’s ability to cope with anxiety and other problems in their lives

2/ Investigate the origins of anxiety – I look at the things in a person’s life which caused or contributed to the onset of anxiety. This investigation can be wide-ranging and can include childhood development, specific incidents, personality traits

3/ Help the person to come up with new strategies to cope with their anxiety. Most people get stuck in a feedback loop, trying the same solutions over and over without success. For this reason it is important to strategize in a new, creative, manner

4/ Help the person with self-care. Many people with anxiety neglect self-care. I find this area to be an important place to focus.

5/ With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder my intervention will include a detailed look at the specific trauma

6/ Help the person with a lifestyle inventory. Many people with anxiety disorders need to ‘step back’ and evaluate their lives in order to get the big picture

7/ Evaluate and address the relationships in a person’s life. I often pay specific attention to this area as anxiety often comes from difficult relationships

8/ Specifically address other problems such as addiction or depression. If these problems aren’t dealt with, it is difficult to successfully deal with the anxiety.

9/ Supportively listen to and understand the person.  This aspect of therapy can be taken for granted. However, since many people with anxiety disorders feel isolated, it is important that they feel supported and understood in order to help them emerge from the isolation

10/ Help provide the person with resources – In addition to specific strategies I try to help connect the person to other resources. This can include individuals, groups or other venues that can help them with their anxiety

Anxiety Can Be Dealt With

Anxieties are very treatable. As with many other mental health issues, the key factor in successful treatment is motivation. A person needs to be willing to look at their life in an honest manner. Along with this they often need to make changes in their lives that can be quite significant. Making such changes can paradoxically produce anxiety. However, the long term gain from these changes can produce a positive and conscious lifestyle where anxiety is managed in a productive manner.