The word “anxiety” is often confused with the word fear. Fear is a natural response to a real or perceived immediate threat. Anxiety is usually about a future event or circumstance. People suffering from anxiety usually know the feelings or thoughts are irrational but that doesn't decrease the anxious feelings. Anxiety consists of a range of different clusters of symptoms: physical feelings like increased heart rate, shallow breathing, shortness of breath, tensed muscles, shaky hands, hot flushes, blushing, dizziness, fatigue; psychological symptoms like anxious thoughts, feelings of distress, restlessness and unease, difficulties to focus or concentrate, feeling emotional; and behaviour like avoidance, anger or the need for reassurance or support. If the focus of the anxiety is very specific we talk about a phobia. You might have heard about phobias as people have come up with specific names for the specific phobias like a phobia for spiders (arachnophobia), enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), heights (acrophobia) and so on. These phobias can usually be treated effectively and quickly with methods like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Rehabilitation) or exposure.
Anxiety can occur in different situations and can cause severe problems in your daily life activities. If you are extremely fearful in social situations, you might be suffering from a social anxiety. If you have gone through a traumatic experience and you feel anxious in situations that remind you of the trauma you might be suffering from a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or maybe you become extremely nervous and anxious that something horrible will happen if you don't go through certain rituals or repeated behaviours; in that case we might be talking about an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Many people will probably describe their anxiety symptoms in terms of panic attacks. Panic attacks are a cluster of the symptoms described above presenting all together at one moment in time. Panic disorder can be treated effectively with psychological therapy based on a cognitive behavioural approach and/or combined with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The goal of this treatment is to learn to understand the triggers of your anxiety, how to cope with the symptoms and what you can do to prevent them from occurring. It might sound strange but usually the more you fear or try to avoid the anxiety symptoms the more you might experience them. If you could come to terms with your anxiety by understanding the triggers and the meaning of it you might already make profound steps into a calmer and happier life. Avoidance is a natural response to feelings of anxiety but also reinforces the symptoms. Once you have learned how to cope with the feelings of anxiety we could shift the focus to breaking the cycle of avoidance so the anxiety will no longer determine your direction in life.
If you would like to learn more about your anxiety symptoms and discuss options for treatment please contact Selma van Diest here or make a appointment on our appointment page.