We all experience anxiety from time to time. Around 8% of us will have a diagnosed anxiety disorder at one time in our lives. However, there is a difference between normal anxiety which can be helpful e.g. before an exam, and an anxiety disorder which can be very difficult. When our lives are dominated by anxiety, we might experience panic attacks, phobias, social phobia, obsessions and compulsive behaviour, amongst other things.
What do we mean by anxiety?
We know what we mean when we talk about fear. If for example I want to cross a road, and as I’m crossing I see a car speeding towards me. My heart beats faster and I’m focussing on getting to the other side. In this situation I felt fear, and fear gave me additional energy to get to safety. However, if I am on the same road and I have got stuck in the middle, with cars passing on either side, I might feel panic. I can’t gauge how fast the cars are travelling, I’m not sure which way to go. I feel really unsure and my vision may seem blurred. I may have a sudden impulse to run. Afterwards, I feel a dizzy, and there is an odd sensation in my stomach. This is a form of anxiety.
Fear or Anxiety?
When we know what frightens or threatens us, we are energised, our senses are sharpened and we deal with it. “Fight or flight”.
When we feel threatened without knowing what to do about the danger, we feel overwhelmed, and our senses become dull or blurred instead of sharp. We are experiencing anxiety.
Anxiety is a painful emotion which can often be quite debilitating. Sometimes anxiety can be neurotic, stemming from an unconscious conflict. We are aware of a sense of threat or dread, but don’t know where it comes from. In these instances we need to seek professional help to help us understand the root cause of this conflict and develop a method of coping.
In psychotherapy we would work to increase your self-awareness, to understand the cause of anxiety and why it has such influence over you. We will work to strengthen your sense of self, to help you get through the confusion and bewilderment that is anxiety.
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