Sunday, September 18, 2011

Anxiety or Imposter?

We all experience some degree of anxiety in our lifetime. It can range from mild and time-limited, such as nervousness before a test, to debilitating and pervasive, such as struggling daily to leave home. Anxiety is one of the top reasons people seek therapy. Fortunately, therapists have made great strides in the past two decades in our knowledge of how anxiety affects the brain and the body, and how to treat it effectively.

I have worked with clients who came to therapy with different experiences of anxiety: panic attacks, being scared to be alone, being afraid of bridges, and living in fear of throwing up in public. Other clients suffer horribly from frequently being in a general state of high anxiety. 

Anxiety can make us miserable

What is heartening is that with a combination of relaxation techniques, cognitive strategies, and exposure therapy, most of my clients got better within a few months. Sometimes, however, these strategies have not helped clients. Several times the client and I have identified that their anxiety was actually a decoy.

This may sound strange, but anxiety is actually easier for some of us to experience than our emotions. Most of the time, when treatments for anxiety are ineffective, it becomes apparent that clients are struggling deeply with grief, a painful decision, or depression. Once the client and I agree that there is more going on than anxiety, we can get to work on strategies to help them face the underlying issues. It requires work, but clients report a decrease in anxiety within a few weeks of beginning to recognize and experience their emotions. 

If you suffer from anxiety and have struggled to feel better,  try to identify if you have been avoiding a difficult emotion or decision. If you think this is a possibility, spend 15 minutes at a set time every day for a week allowing yourself to "feel" that emotion or discomfort. Hopefully you will begin to feel better. If not, you may benefit from a few visits with a therapist or counselor. Don't let anxiety, real or imposter, keep you from enjoying life.

Please let me know if you suffer from anxiety, and what techniques help you feel better by commenting on this blog post.

Be well-

1 comment:

  1. Hey Laura!
    It's TIna....It's been a while, huh? Well, wanted to let you know since we last spoke, My relationship with God has strengthened, and my daughter came home. SHe is a changed young woman who is working her butt off and loving her mom! My son just left for boarding school at Oxford Academy in Westbrook CT....God works wonders if you have complete trust and faith in him.... It's been some journey, but I am getting through it. Didn't want you to think I
    Forgot you! You were such an incredible person for me to meet and I really felt connected to you. You are simply amazing at what you do.
    Stay well and take care.