So, perhaps you’ve ended up here because you’re interested in therapy but you’re wondering, how can it actually help?
You’ve landed in the right place.
If you haven’t tried therapy before, not only can it feel daunting but it’s hard to imagine exactly what it entails and how it can help – especially if you’re feeling particularly stuck at the moment.
Let’s start by exploring anxiety itself in a bit more detail.
It’s important to say anxiety is a normal, basic human emotion. It’s an emotion we will all experience in situations where our bodies anticipate danger. Anxiety actually has an evolutionary value in the sense that it alerts us to threat – something that was understandably vital in our hunter gatherer days. However, for some people, anxiety can end up becoming disproportionate to what’s happening and they can find themselves feeling anxious without there being any clear trigger. This is when anxiety moves from a healthy response to stress to an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are a lot more common than you may think, affecting 1 in 5 people in the UK. And they come in lots of different shapes and sizes, impacting people in different ways. Some of the most common anxiety disorders are Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Health Anxiety.
It’s important to know that this is not something you’re expected to deal with alone. Anxiety is very much treatable and – with the right support – it is possible to make a full recovery.
Let’s take a close look at how therapy for anxiety can help…
You’ll get to the root of the issue
People can develop anxiety for different reasons. But the main underlying core belief of any anxiety disorder is an exaggerated sense of vulnerability in the world – of yourself or the people you care about. A big part of therapy will revolve around identifying how your early – or later – life experiences may have given you that blueprint. There’s nearly always a reason and getting to the bottom of it is the first step towards recovery.
Identify your triggers
Anxiety can often feel like it comes from nowhere, but when you take a step back, you’ll begin to notice that there are specific triggers that can make it worse. Does your anxiety get spurred on by a particular person or certain situations? Your therapist will help you identify your triggers so that you can begin to understand what may be leaving you vulnerable to anxious episodes. From here, you can start putting the necessary changes – and/or boundaries – in place.
Overhaul your thinking patterns
Anxiety can end up getting exacerbated by distorted thought and behavioural patterns. “Thinking traps” are patterns of thought – typically with a negative swing – which distort the way we see ourselves, others and the world around us. Fortune-telling is an example of a thinking trap that can heighten anxiety and it’s when we automatically predict a negative outcome without considering the facts. Instead of saying, “I’m definitely going to mess up this presentation” you can question this thought and remind yourself that no one can predict the future. Your therapist will help you identify which thinking traps might be at the root of your anxiety so that you can override them once and for all.
Increase your self-awareness
Your therapist may encourage you to keep a mood diary so that you can chart different thoughts and feelings and gain greater insight into how you’re feeling. The greater your self-awareness, the easier it’ll be to put the necessary coping strategies in place.
Enhance mind/body body
Anxiety can leave you stuck in a constant state of fight-or-flight with elevated levels of stress hormones. Anxious, rapid breathing leads to less oxygen in the body which can exacerbate anxiety. In therapy you’ll learn breathing and relaxation techniques that will help prevent your anxiety from taking hold, bringing greater balance to both mind and body. Slow, deep breathing can be a really powerful way of giving your parasympathetic nervous system a jump-start (promoting a sense of calm in the mind and body). Likewise, grounding exercises can help. When we spiral into anxious thinking we’re very much in our heads and a quick grounding exercise can help bring us back into our senses.
Anxiety interventions for adults
Remember, anxiety isn’t something you’re expected to muddle through alone. Therapy can help you unravel where your anxiety started and teach you healthier coping mechanisms and techniques for managing symptoms when they arise so you can start living the life you deserve.