Anxiety, Fear & Panic
The Experience of Anxiety and How We Can Help
The Different Ways Anxiety Can Affect Us
Anxiety can affect us in different ways. It is associated with feelings of worry, apprehension and sometimes dread and is as much a physical sensation as a state of mind. Anxious thoughts are always accompanied by physical symptoms such as churning of the stomach, tightness in the chest, butterflies, shortness of breath. It can take a number of different forms.
In its most intense form anxiety is experienced as a spiraling feeling of panic, which is accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid beating of the heart and pain in the chest. In fact, it is not uncommon for panic of this kind to be mistakenly interpreted as a heart attack or other physical trauma – even though it actually poses no immediate risk to health.
Anxiety in its more generalised form can become all-pervasive. At first we may notice it in small ways or in relation to particular fears and worries, but over time it can spread like an infection to all aspects of our life. In these circumstances anxious thought and feelings become a habitual response to even supposedly trivial events. It is experienced as a free floating feeling of discomfort without any obviously cause.
In more manageable, but still unpleasant forms, anxiety may be associated with particular events or experiences. Here it might be better described as fear: fear of flying, fear of public speaking or fear of social gatherings for example. Fears of this kind are sometimes more containable and may be something we learn to live with. But they can limit us in unhelpful ways, leading to avoidance of certain situations. Such fears may also develop into more pervasive forms of anxiety if not managed.
Anxiety and Self-Esteem
Anxiety can also be associated with low self-esteem, or lack of confidence, both at work and in our personal lives. This link is less commonly made, but is an important one. In this connection anxiety is prompted by all those doubts we may have about ourselves: concerns about whether we’re ‘good enough’, whether we’re ‘up to it’, or whether we ‘fit in’ – above all a preoccupation with what others think about us. For more about this see our page on self-esteem.
How Counselling Can Help
What can add to the difficulty of dealing with anxiety is the element of taboo that surrounds it. This is where counselling can help. While it is generally more acceptable to talk about stress - stress at work, stress of being a parent etc - we do not talk so readily about feelings of anxiety or fear. Maybe this is because anxiety is perceived as a weakness in society, or because to admit to feelings of anxiousness exposes our vulnerability. Despite this, anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health problems in society today.
'the first and most important function of counselling
is to provide you with a safe setting'
Due to this element of embarrassment, even shame around anxiety, the first and perhaps most important function of counselling is to provide you with a safe setting where you can discuss your experience of it openly and honestly without fear of being judged. We will give you the space to explore your personal experience of anxiety and the ways it is affecting you, your life and your relationships.
'Appreciating the reasons why anxiety is something
we can't to without can help us to manage it'
Helping with understanding is also important when working with anxiety . Appreciating the reasons why anxiety is something we can't do without can help us to manage it. In counselling you will learn about ways the inherited fight/flight response operates in your life. This helps in coping with the physical aspects of anxiety, particularly the experience of panic, providing reassurance that at least you are not medically at risk.
'your anxiety may be trying to tell you something'
An important further aspect we may explore with you in a counselling session is the underlying psychological function that anxiety is serving for you. Like many feelings which we regard as negative, your anxiety may be trying to tell you something about yourself or your life. Unravelling what that might be can help to release you from the feeling.
'It can be the case that feelings of anxiety are rooted
in early life experiences'
We will help you to explore your experience of anxiety both in relation to the present and the past. It can be the case that feelings of anxiety are rooted in early life experiences when you were less able to look after and protect yourself. Gaining insight into these underlying sources of anxiety can help to release blocked emotion and create relief in the present.
'developing practical strategies and techniques
to manage your fears'
We will help you to change perspective on the things causing you anxiety in your day-to-day life. This may include developing practical strategies and techniques to manage your fears more effectively and to get into better habits of thinking. We will help you to notice patterns of anxiety, identify triggers and modify your responses to stress.
'Learning self-help techniques
can be particularly useful in dealing with panic'
As well as working through the mind we will seek to address the physical symptoms of your anxiety by helping you to develop mindfulness, relaxation and grounding techniques. This can ease some of the physical symptoms of anxiety and thus also reduce negative thinking. Learning self-help techniques of this sort can be particularly useful in dealing with panic.
'working with your confidence and self-esteem
can also help to ease feelings of anxiety'
If relevant, working with your confidence and self-esteem can also help to ease feelings of anxiety, but more of this in our page on self-esteem.
'we always aim to work flexibly and intuitively,
taking account of your preferences'
These are some of the ways in which we will help you deal with your anxiety in counselling. But we do not employ these approaches in a formulaic or impersonal manner . For example, strategies and techniques can be effective, but only work to the extent they are suited to you individually, your likes and dislikes. Everybody’s experience of a problem is to some extent unique to them. So we always aim to work flexibly and intuitively, taking account of your preferences and responding to your needs as they arise.
Making an Appointment for Anxiety Issues
Julian has a particular interest in working with anxiety, but this is also an area in which Michaela has extensive experience. Use our contact form to make an appointment or phone using the number provided.