Anxiety is a reaction. It is how we react to worries and uncertainties in life. Most people have felt anxiety at different times during their lives--we all have situations we worry about.
Anxiety disorders can manifest as feelings of tension and worry, as well as physical symptoms like racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, dizziness, sweating, chills, trembling, nausea, or abdominal pain.
People experience anxiety in a variety of ways--everyone is different. You might want to consider therapy if you experience any combination of these symptoms, such that they get in the way of your goals. The following are some examples of how anxiety may manifest:
Therapists can use a variety of approaches to help people with anxiety disorders. Therapy is a powerful method and it targets the underlying factors that give rise to symptoms of anxiety and contribute in prolonging the distress.
One highly effective approach to treating anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses both on the thoughts, as well as behaviors that cause and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety disorders.
The “cognitive” piece of CBT targets the thoughts, beliefs, statements about ourselves, and assumed rules that contribute to the anxiety. For example, if you are expected to give a presentation for work, it is normal to feel a bit anxious. Some people can acknowledge that distress and engage in reassuring self-talk, such as “I’ve put a lot of work and practice into this, and it will pay off,” or “If I practice a few times, I will do fine.” Someone struggling with anxiety may experience the following:
You can imagine how these anxious thoughts and beliefs spiral down into agony. You can imagine how someone would try all they can to stop feeling this pain. What if their anxiety never allowed them to develop any strategies for managing this distress? They might try to run away from the pain and just not show up for the presentation. They may try to power through and give the presentation, while being in pain. You can imagine how some of the things they feared may come true.
With CBT, we identify your negative thoughts, we find ways to challenge them, and, most importantly, we develop new ways to think about yourself and others. We work to replace the anxiety provoking thoughts with more realistic thoughts:
Finally, we practice engaging with these new and adaptive thoughts and beliefs. We also develop new behaviors and strategies that can help manage symptoms of anxiety and optimize performance, even if a person will never really love giving presentations and public speaking.
There are many therapeutic approaches and strategies that can help you acknowledge your fears, strategize ways to overcome or get around them, and then accomplish your specific goals.