Like many things in life, getting rid of anxiety is not what we might expect. In fact, in order to reduce our overall experience of anxiety and stress we often have to do the opposite of what we think would make us feel better. It is for that reason that having a guide through the process can be so helpful. David DiSalvo wrote a book called, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite. While the title is amusing and somewhat helpful in and of itself, the book presents a straight forward summary of what professionals who treat anxiety will tell you. The good news is that anxiety treatment actually works. You can get rid of anxiety, but not by trying to get rid of it. Instead, let go of certainty. Let go of predictability. Let go of all the things that fix your fears and sit with the anxiety until it dissipates. In therapy we will help you build the skills to do that.
Anxiety is actually a very normal feeling and can be triggered by a myriad of very real life situations including money, work, family life, health, life status or other issues. It becomes a condition when it occurs frequently and even without a trigger. When your feelings move out of the range that can be easily managed by dealing with the external events you may be ready to address the underlying condition in therapy. But before you can get the right solution for your situation, you have to know the type of disorder you are battling with.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders can be classified into six main types
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): The most common anxiety disorder. A chronic disorder that involves excessive long lasting anxiety and worries about nonspecific life situations, events and objects. People who suffer from GAD are not always able to identify the cause of their anxiety.
Phobia: An irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation is the manifestation of this disorder. Phobias are different from anxiety disorders because they relate to a specific cause. Although the fear may be considered irrational or unnecessary, the person is still unable to control the anxiety.
Panic disorder: These attacks often lead to shaking, nausea, dizziness, confusion and breathing difficulties. Panic disorder may occur without triggers but usually they happen after difficult experiences. A person who experienced a panic attack may misinterpret it as a life-threatening illness, and may begin to avoid situations that could trigger another panic attack. In this case, agoraphobia can develop and a person may develop fears to such an extent that they begin to limit what they do and where they go.
Social anxiety disorder: No one likes to feel judged negatively by others, but for some people that fear escalates to such a point that they avoid social interactions almost entirely. The fear of public embarrassment or humiliation, public speaking and even the fear or intimacy are aspects of this disorder. When people respond to normal anxiousness by withdrawing themselves from public situations and human contact, fears tend to increase rather than get better.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This form of anxiety can result from previous traumatic experiences. Sometimes these traumas are as severe as military combat, sexual abuse or a serious accident; sometimes as seemingly incidental as a fall or as chronic as an illness or loss of a loved one, the traumas of life have an impact on the brain. Because they cause extreme states the repercussions may be long lasting and include flashbacks, avoidance and panic.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Obsessions are distressing, intrusive thoughts and feelings that are repetitive in nature. Compulsions are the things we do to neutralize or provide relief from the obsessions. We may all feel that we sometimes are a little OCD, but that is not actual Obsessive Compulsive disorder. When the cycle created by obsessive thoughts and compulsive activities becomes so severe that it takes an inordinate amount of time out of life and limits normal life activities, then we call it OCD. People may clean their personal items, or hands or constantly check locks, stoves, or light switches obsessively, but they may also think certain thoughts to undo other thoughts or have compulsions that do not look like the typical ones that we know from media portrayal of OCD.
People may identify with one of the types of anxiety presented above or several. They key is to identify that something is not working and to become willing to do something about it. Commitment and willingness are the greatest predictors of successful treatment. Professional help such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), Mindfulness and proper medication can assist you in getting your life back. Learning how to accept uncertainties in life can shift your experience from being a life dictated by fear to a life that allows you to honor your values, pursue your goals and follow your dreams.