Working With Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that has helped us, as a species, to survive from back in the days of the “cave man.”  We need it. It informs us of when we need to take action or do something differently to “keep us safe.” We ALL have anxiety.

However, too much anxiety can be a bad thing. It can overly restrict our lives, affect our interpersonal relationships and career, cause isolation and depression, and even negatively affect our physical health.  Additionally, untreated anxiety can be the underlying reason a person turns to substance abuse (including alcohol), because these substances can temporarily ease anxiety. No one wants to live with uncontrolled anxiety. Some people, not knowing other ways to help manage their anxiety (yet!), are drawn to drinking and other drug use because it helps them to feel better. Ironically, using substances to cope can actually intensify anxiety when not actively using the drug of choice. This leaves people at risk for potentially serious consequences like addiction, arrest, worsening relationship problems, and regretful decisions while under the influence.

Clearly, some people have more anxiety than others and, if you are one of those people, it can really affect the quality of your life.  Maybe your anxiety is triggered by things that you perceive as an emotional threat, like whether someone will laugh at you, think you are stupid, or be angry with you. Perhaps you actually, in your inner thoughts, treat yourself that way, berating yourself and regularly feeling deep shame and embarrassment.  Or, perhaps you have experienced a trauma, or multiple traumas, in your life that have made your body more likely to go into the intense, “fight, flight, or freeze” mode, keeping you on guard for potential physical threats.

Anxiety affects a significant portion of our population: 18.1% of US adults had some form of excessive anxiety within a 12 month period in 2005.¹ The numbers for a US adult having anxiety at some point within their lifetime is even higher: 28.8%.² Genetics, how we were raised, life events, poor nutrition/eating habits, lack of physical exercise, not enough sleep, and, as mentioned above, use of drugs and alcohol can all play a role in why someone might struggle with anxiety and/or depression.

The good news is that, if anxiety is controlling more of your life than feels good/healthy to you, therapy can help! If your anxiety is holding you back, my comfortable office space provides an emotionally safe place to explore and work on these issues. I will teach you what science has learned about anxiety: what causes it, what makes it worse…and what makes it better! You don’t have to be alone with these challenges. We will work together to more deeply understand the unique struggles that you are going through and create customized interventions that will help you learn to respect your anxiety and work with it so that it doesn’t control your life. Together, we will help you to be better prepared for the more challenging times in your life, times that everyone has (some more than others), so that you have the skills you need, when you need them.

And, finally, therapy doesn’t have to be a serious, uncomfortable experience. I use humor and common life circumstances to help people to feel respected and at ease.

So, if you are ready for a change, contact me and we can get started, usually within a week. Many of the people I work with (particularly the folks who are ready and willing to commit to following a traditional, incredibly powerful, CBT approach that involves doing assigned reading and between session homework) start to report positive changes after the first four sessions and are doing significantly better within three to six months. You can too!

¹Kessler Ronald C., et al. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.

²Kessler, Ronald C., et al. “Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.” Archives of general psychiatry 62.6 (2005): 593-602.