What is Anxiety?
Generalised anxiety is an anxiety disorder that is characterised by a vague, consistent feeling of uneasiness and nervousness. This is a good way of describing the feeling of anxiety, which is a constant, uncomfortable feeling that is similar to fear. Everyone experiences being anxious from time to time, it is the body’s normal way of responding to stressful or threatening situations by releasing adrenaline and getting prepared for “fight or flight”. This is normally a healthy response and, in many ways, these reactions help you to get motivated and to perform. At times, however, this anxiety can become overwhelming and debilitating so that, instead of optimising your functioning in a difficult situation, it becomes an obstacle to enjoying life.
People struggling with generalised anxiety disorder will feel as if they are constantly worrying about, and anxious about, almost everything and they may find it extremely difficult to control this worrying. Those struggling with this condition will find that the worry or the anxiety is not about any one thing specifically. In other words, they do not necessarily worry about having a panic attack, or going into public. Instead they will experience anxiety and worry about almost everything from social situations, work environments and personal relationships. This general sense of anxiousness is most often coupled with common symptoms of anxiety such as irritability, disturbed sleep, feeling tired, feeling restless or on edge most of the time, experiencing problems with concentration or a sense that their mind has gone blank, muscle tension and other physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Most people will say that they have been struggling with anxiety for most of their lives, although the majority of people struggling with generalised anxiety will be diagnosed in their twenties after having been through a range of physicians and specialists seeking treatment for the physical symptoms of the disorder.
Anxiety disorders can manifest differently.
The most common condition is Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which is characterised by the above description of “butterflies in your tummy” and a constant fear or worry that bad things may happen.
Many people also experience panic attacks and specific phobias such as social phobia, agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces) or an irrational fear of something specific. Anxiety counselling Brisbane can help you to locate those fears and anxieties, and come up with a plan to help you manage and move on with your life, without feeling restricted or trapped.
The most effective treatment for generalised anxiety disorder is one that combines a range of interventions. In this sense, it is more beneficial to combine psychotherapy with pharmacotherapy and set up supportive structures for the person.
During anxiety counselling, Brisbane psychologists serve as a support system, as well as an ally in problem solving – identifying any external situations that may be direct causes for the feelings of anxiety and assisting the client to make relevant and appropriate changes. We find most clients will experience a lessening of anxiety when given the chance to discuss their concerns and experiences with someone who can listen empathically and hear their story.
The main psychotherapeutic treatment for generalised anxiety disorder is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT is a model of therapy that looks at the interaction between people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. As such, therapy highlights the ways in which the client’s irrational thoughts and beliefs are contributing to their anxious emotional state and resulting in symptomatic behaviour. Challenging these irrational thoughts and replacing them with more helpful and rational beliefs assists the client in managing their anxiety and worry.
After a few sessions of anxiety counselling, most clients begin to feel a sense of control over their emotions and their lives. They will experience far less general anxiousness and will feel better equipped to manage their anxiety, if they should experience it. Remember, that anxiety in and of itself is a normal and healthy emotion to feel. The aim is to feel this emotion in appropriate circumstances and to be able to manage it effectively. Therapy and counselling will leave the client with the ways and means to cope effectively and to be able to see when the anxiety response is irrational and when it is not. In many cases, clients have a more positive view of life in general and are better able to manage their daily tasks and relationships. They become more assertive and more self-assured, with a confidence in their ability to manage their emotions and their behaviour.
If you think anxiety counselling can be of benefit to you, or someone you love, feel free to get in touch with our Brisbane office and talk.
Anxiety, whether it be generalised anxiety, panic attacks or phobias, is normally treated with anxiety counselling or in psychotherapy where your therapist helps you to understand what is happening to you and your body and assists you to becoming more aware of the thoughts and beliefs that may have resulted in the condition. While it is preferable to seek assistance from a professional like a psychologist, there are also many things that you can do to manage your anxiety apprehension and stress.
- No drugs or alcohol: First things first, try not to use alcohol or drugs to cope with the anxiety as these only cause more damage than good.
- No coffee: Try to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine in soft drinks, coffee and tea as they only exacerbate the physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Find some time to exercise: Prioritise some exercise every day. Not only is it generally healthy to get moving, but it also helps to spend some of that nervous energy caused by adrenaline surges. You will find that regular exercise also does wonders for your sleep, if you are struggling.
- Find ways to relax: A good relaxation cd or meditation cd will guide you through the process if you struggle to do so alone. Keep a quick relaxation technique in mind, like deep breathing and visualising a “safe place” that you can use when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
- Develop positive self-talk strategies: Often our anxiety is made worse by the negative things we tell ourselves. Learning to identify these negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones goes a long way in terms of helping you cope. When you catch yourself being negative ask yourself “is this really true? What evidence to I have for thinking or believing this?”, “how does worrying about this help me?” “Is there a more positive way of looking at this?” These challenges may help to get you thinking in a more positive and constructive way that can help to alleviate some of the anxiety you are feeling
- Be practical: employ some standard problem solving techniques by writing a list of all the things you need to do and checking them off one by one. Procrastination is a common defence against feeling anxious, but only makes things worse. Make sure that you tackle your tasks one by one and, in doing so, you will feel less stressed about all you have to do and gain a sense of achievement too.
While a small amount of worry in relation to an appropriate situation is normal and healthy, it is important to know when the angst you are feeling has become inappropriate. Any experience of anxiety that is consistent and stands in the way of you living your life is problematic. This is normally characterised by the symptoms listed below and can be experienced both mentally as well as physically.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
- Consistently feeling worried about possible negative events
- Feeling insecure and needing a lot of reassurance
- Needing to feel in control of things and getting really upset when things feel like they are unpredictable, disorganised or chaotic
- Feeling restless, or edgy
- Easily startled
- Feeling irritable and grumpy
- Easily tearful
- Finding it difficult to concentrate or feeling that you sometimes “go blank”
- Getting tired easily
- Finding that your sleep is disturbed
- Experiencing nightmares
- Feeling shaky
- Experiencing heart palpitations and/or feeling short of breath
- Often getting headaches
- Getting sore and stiff muscles, particularly neck and shoulder aches
- Feeling dizzy
- Experiencing nausea, perhaps even vomiting or diarrhoea
- Excessive sweating
- Having a dry mouth and finding it difficult to swallow
- Pounding heart, accelerated heart-rate or heart palpitations
- Excessive sweating
- Chills or hot flushes
- Trembling and shaking
- Feeling like you can’t breath
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, perhaps like you are going to faint
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
Specific Phobias such as social phobia, agoraphobia and others
- Characterised by an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety about a specific thing or situation – experience of anxiety as listed above when confronted with the phobic object or situation.
- Avoidance of this thing or situation that causes the fear
If you are experiencing some, or all of the above, you may be struggling with anxiety in a way that is debilitating and needs treatment. This is something that we can help you with through anxiety counselling and treatment.
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