Many people who suffer from anxiety and anxiety-related problems have become immune to the distress anxiety causes. This is especially sad because many steps can be taken to reduce or eliminate anxiety. When anxiety is under control, it is possible to treat the underlying problems that caused the anxiety. Many of my patients say they are used to their anxiety symptoms and they generally don't notice how much discomfort they are in. They see it as normal to be in a regular state of physical or emotional distress.
When anxiety and the underlying causes are addressed directly, relief is possible.
Unfortunate things happen in life and unwanted events do occur: we lose people we love, we get sick, we are mistreated or rejected by people we rely upon, kids grow up and move away, we lose jobs or competitions we had hoped to win.
The feelings of constant distress can be alleviated if you know how to recognize, identify, experience, and process the anxiety and feelings underlying challenging or difficult life events.
Anxiety's physical symptoms, including:
- Pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach upset or nausea
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Tremors and twitches
- Muscle tension
Common emotional symptoms of anxiety:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense and jumpy
- Anticipating the worst
- Watching for signs of danger
- Going blank in the mind
- Being easily startled
- Irrational fear and excessive worry
A lens through which to understand anxiety:
No matter how well-meaning our caregivers might have been, most of us have experienced disappointment or trauma in childhood in the form of unhelpful, neglectful, or abusive parental responses.
Without repair, these unfortunate experiences prime us to become adults who lack important healthy capacities such as:
1) the ability to soothe ourselves as well as to regulate and process feelings and anxiety of our own and of others.
2) accurate perception of ourselves, others, and our possibilities
3) success in life and relationships in accordance with our optimal potential.
Difficult experiences trigger feelings which get co-mingled with--and blocked by-- anxiety. We experience the anxiety instead of feeling our actual feelings so our feelings get suppressed (i.e., pushed out of awareness). As a result, our feelings are replaced with dysfunctional habits and patterns (i.e., strategies that determine how we treat ourselves and others), which I refer to as "defenses." Automatically relying on defenses is a problem because defenses keep us from knowing and processing our real feelings. They serve as faulty coping strategies and turn into regular patterns that rob us of free choice. These automatic defensive strategies get relied on into adulthood even though they no longer serve any productive purpose and usually cause or perpetuate suffering. Effective psychotherapy helps us identify and remove unhelpful patterns so we can achieve our optimal potential.