Anxiety Counselling

We live in the Age of Anxiety – a mental state far more prevalent these days than depression. Many people experience anxiety as very intense, unpredictable and uncomfortable bodily sensations combined with undesirable thoughts and feelings.

Unfortunately, fear and anxiety also occur when we are not in imminent danger. We fear public speaking, meeting a new person, job interviews, crowded places – situations that do not threaten our survival. We experience fear and anxiety in these moments because of the way we evaluate them. In other words, in humans the threat doesn’t have to be real; it only needs to be perceived as real. Our body cannot always tell the difference between real and imagined threat. For instance, the body can be activated by intrusive thoughts, images and memories. When we interpret a situation as threatening, the body responds to this perceived psychological threat just as it would to real physical threats.

Anxiety, often driven by a fear of the unknown or the past repeating itself, can pose serious long-term implications. People struggle with anxious discomfort, fears, or worries in different ways. Some may turn to self-isolation to envelop themselves in the familiar and become shielded from what makes them uncomfortable, which can result in social repression and a struggle to interact with others. This is particularly true if they have gone through a traumatic experience such as mental or physical abuse at a younger age that haunts them. The more intense the situation, the stronger the long-term impact it can have. Therefore, individuals such as ex-military personnel and broken-up family members often struggle with PTSD, anxiety, and other issues that can detract from their ability to enjoy day-to-day life. Ventures such as travel, new friendships, and even social outings can pose as more considerable barriers for them to get over, whereas some of us take such moments for granted and are privileged enough not to develop a natural bias against them.

Anxiety can present other problems as well. For instance, many of us drink, take drugs, eat or engage in worry to reduce the strong sensations or feelings. It is only natural that we work hard to avoid situations that might bring on unpleasant experiences. This avoidance seems to help in the short run, yet in the long run, it constricts our lives and in fact brings on more anxiety.

Those of us who do not struggle with anxiety have a harder time understanding how debilitating and difficult to control it can be. This can make it more challenging for individuals who do suffer from it to find the support and guidance they need, as a lack of empathy or understanding from those close to them can result in increased feelings of isolation. However, there is a solution, and that is professional therapy.

Anxiety-related issues respond well to treatment through learning new skills and strategies. The most successful approaches include emotion-focused, behavioural and cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy as well as self-help and/or mindfulness. The latter introduces clients to seemingly counter intuitive practices such as befriending emotions, letting go of control strategies, bringing heightened and compassionate attention to one’s experiences as they arise in the present moment. It teaches you how to change your relationship to anxiety rather than eliminate it. Integrated with cognitive-behavioural approaches, mindfulness offers one of the most promising programs for anxiety in the field of psychology.

To book an appointment for anxiety counselling or other Ottawa psychotherapy services with Elizabeth fill out the form below.

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