The majority of my clients are anxious. I am always sorry to hear how long they suffered from anxiety and how much it influenced the quality of their lives. That’s why I want to explain what anxiety is and help you to find professional help for anxiety and live again!
Anxiety is a normal part of life. It is your body’s natural response to signals of danger. It is normal to feel anxious from time to time. It is unreal to expect that we should never feel stressed or anxious, that we should never fear anything or that we should be in a good mood 24/7. But if your feelings of anxiety are severe, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes but does not interrupt your everyday life.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. There are diverse sorts of anxiety disorders like PTSD or panic disorder, but they all have few things in common. The anxiety disorders are characterized by notable feelings of anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a worry about future events, while fear is a response to current events. Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, into your system. This increases your pulse and breathing rate, so your brain can get more oxygen. It also increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain, where you need it. It tenses your muscles and the adrenaline loads you with energy. When you feel anxious and stressed, your brain floods your nervous system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a threat. This very physical response is preparing you to face an intense situation.
Why am I anxious?
Why is this happening? Your brain automatically reacts to signals of danger. It prepares your body for the fight or flight reaction. Why is this important? Imagine you are in a Zoo. A tiger escaped. What would you do? What is important that you do? You should run away or fight with the tiger to survive. Either way, your body prepares you to fight or flight. You start breathing faster so that the oxygen gets to your muscles and brain. Your heart starts to beat faster bringing blood to your muscles. Faster pulse raises the blood pressure. Your muscles tense to prepare to fight or run away. The adrenaline fills the body with loads of energy that will be used for running or fighting. Your mind gets focused on tiger and danger signals. You sweat to lubricate your skin. Your digestion stops because your body needs to preserve the energy to fight or flight. Your whole body and your mind are expecting danger, you are tensed, you are worried and frightened.
Do you understand why you feel dizzy? Your body got too much oxygen because you were breathing faster. Do you understand why is your heart pounding? You should run or fight! Do you understand why your pulse and blood pressure were up? Do you understand why you have pain in your neck, leg, head? Because your muscles are constantly tensed, waiting for the danger! Maybe you can’t fall asleep, but in a dangerous situation, you should not sleep. Go back to that Zoo. Would anyone sleep if they knew a tiger escaped its cage? Would you be able to concentrate on studying or work knowing a tiger could eat you any time? Of course not. When you are anxious, your whole body is constantly in a fight or flight mode. Your brain constantly awaits the coming danger. Do you think you would feel hungry if you were expecting a tiger to jump on you and eat you? No, your digestive system is blocked in a dangerous situation. You are anxious and you keep eating while your body does not digest food so you get weight or you have gastritis. Or you lost your appetite because of prolonged fight or flight mode and you are losing weight. I am sure you can see it clearly now. Your body reacts to help you survive the danger. But is there a real danger? Are you fighting?
Long-term anxiety and panic attacks can cause your brain to release stress hormones regularly. This can increase the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and depression.
While perhaps most recognized for behavioural changes, anxiety can also have serious consequences on your physical health. Fight or flight reaction is helpful for the occasional dangerous or stressful event, long-term exposure to stress hormones can be more damaging to your physical health in the long run.
Anxiety disorders can have a bad effect on your cardiovascular system, excretory and digestive system, immune system, respiratory system, but it also causes or worsens muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, depression, social isolation. It also influences your weight.
Untreated anxiety disorders can lead to notably negative consequences that can affect a person’s entire daily life – they may not be capable to work, go to school, or have normal social relationships. Because anxiety can have such a serious impact on well-being, it’s important to get help. Mild anxiety may go away on its own or after the event causing the anxiety is ended, but chronic anxiety often persists and may get even worse.
If your quality of life is suffering, if you are unable to go to work or school or have pleasant social contacts, go for an ordinary walk downtown or woods, you should get yourself professional help.
There are three options:
- Medications – a medical doctor can prescribe you medications based on your symptoms, intensity of anxiety, weight etc. Don’t compare yourself to others. The doctor has seen hundreds or thousands of people with the same problem and knows how to doze medications for you. It is not the final thing. The doctor may change medications or dozes based on your reactions. Be patient. Prescriptions are not magical pills which will help you instantly. You are the doctor are allies. You need to help each other to help you. Please, don’t take pills on your own and don’t change dosages on your own. If you want to stop with medicines, you need to ask the doctor and not do it by yourself.
- Psychotherapy – a psychotherapist may be a psychologist, psychiatrist or another kind of mental health professional, but educated for psychotherapy. Not every psychologist or psychiatrist can do psychotherapy. Psychotherapists spent years and years getting educated about different psychotherapy techniques for different disorders. There are numerous forms of psychotherapy, but cognitive behavioural psychotherapy is the most effective for anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioural psychotherapy is proved to be the most effective when used by itself and its long-term effects are better than those of prescriptions. But if you are already taking medications, don’t stop to start psychotherapy. I never suggest my clients to stop taking medications. If you are already using medications, keep using them. If you don’t use medications and come for psychotherapy, I will suggest trying psychotherapy solely. Besides cognitive behavioural techniques, I also use cognitive hypnotherapy, which helps me too much. It is amazing for fears like flying or snakes as it would be hard to expose yourself to a feared object or situation at least 4 times a week.
- Combination of psychotherapy and medications – if you are taking medications and come to a psychotherapist, you will most probably continue with a combination of both. Sometimes, if you come to psychotherapy first and your problem is severe, or your symptoms are asking for it, we will suggest you to visit a doctor. For some clients, this is the best solution.
Remember that we are all individuals and react differently. Let us help you finding the best solution for your anxiety. I guess you have your preferences, but all three solutions are truly good and helpful. We only need to find the best option for you!
M.A. in Psychology
B.A. in Psychology