ANXIETY COUNSELLING IN VANCOUVER AND BURNABY, BC
The presence of Anxiety has been rising significantly over the last decade and is affecting more and more of us every week. The symptoms of Anxiety disorder include an inability to get to sleep or stay asleep, difficulty focusing on work or relationships that matter to us, a sense of paralysis that keeps us from taking action in the present because of the fear of what might happen if we do, as well as the physical symptoms of increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and flushing of the skin.
Anxiety and Depression disorders often operate together in people’s lives. Some people only experience Depression. Others only experience Anxiety. For many others, Depression and Anxiety frequently show up at a team.
MOST COMMON ANXIETY DISORDERS
There are many different ways to experience Anxiety. While many of us talk about being ‘anxious’ on a semi-regular basis, we may simply be referring to a state of expected ‘anticipation’ as we prepare for an interview or exam, or an elevated sense of arousal as we prepare to speak in public. While the physiological symptoms of these situations may be easily referred to as Anxiety, suffering with an Anxiety Disorder, is quite different in many ways.
A Panic Attack is most often described as a sudden, overwhelming sense of impending doom or certain disaster, even when the likelihood of such an event is minimal. The fear is typically linked to a loss of control and this can lead to intense discomfort, including strong physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest pain, and others. Not everyone who experiences a Panic Attack will go on to develop Panic Disorder, a label characterized by repeated episodes of panic.
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
While all of us worry about things in our lives, people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D.) worry a lot more about a lot more things. It typically develops slowly, often showing up in the teen years, often not really seeming to be a problem until it begins to really take over a person’s life. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are often exhausted, struggle to maintain relationships because they are so distracted by worry, and have difficulty concentrating. People with G.A.D. often worry about worry.
While this disorder is often not taken seriously, or can be easily dismissed by friends, family, and health care providers, G.A.D. takes a significant toll on people. The amount of energy used up by this level of constant worry is exhausting and interferes significantly with one’s quality of life.
SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER / SOCIAL PHOBIA
Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder is described as an irrational fear or self-consciousness of public situations. This may be a fear of talking in front of others, completing a daily task of living (such as eating or drinking) in public, or even using a public washroom. Struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder often invites people to avoid situations where they will be out in public, reducing their contact with the outside world, leading to increasing isolation.
Specific phobias are irrational fears about things such as a fear of heights, a fear of flying, a fear of birds, etc. Exposure to these situations can lead to intense physical symptoms and make it virtually impossible for people to function. In some cases, these phobias can be traced to specific events in people’s lives, in many other cases, there is no known cause.
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER / OCD
While most of us need to double check whether we locked the door now and then, people struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) have thoughts like this much more often. There are essentially two aspects to this disorder. The first is the persistent, unwanted thoughts that appear in the person’s brain. Thoughts related to making sure certain appliances have been turned off, doors locked, or whether items are free of germs, are typical of these obsessive patterns of thinking. The second part of this disorder is the compulsion to complete a task to mitigate the obsessive thought. This may include double and triple checking that the appliance has been unplugged, the door has been locked, or washing of the hands to ensure cleanliness. There is often a ritualistic aspect to these behaviours and they can be almost impossible to control.
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER / PTSD
When individuals survive or are exposed to great danger there are often significant effects on the brain, the body, and the nervous system. Many of these people will develop the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress and they may include flashbacks, sleep disturbance, intense anxiety, emotional numbness, and irritability.
Not all people exposed to traumatic situations will develop PTSD. It is thought that the longer the exposure to trauma, i.e., war, highly dangerous jobs, the greater the likelihood it will develop. Researchers also believe that an a feeling of having no control over a situation greatly increases the probability of an event being experienced as traumatic and thus leading to PTSD.
CAUSES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
While there is no definitive cause for anxiety, it is quite clear that the disorder runs in families. Some researchers believe that there are genetic links although no definitive studies have proven this theory. More and more research is revealing how the brain is involved in Anxiety disorders and is appears that once the ‘alarm sensitivity’ of our natural warning systems are set on high alert, it is very difficult to find the ‘reset’ button without assistance.
WHAT TO DO?
While it may seem inevitable that Anxiety will sneak up on most of us at some time in our lives, surrendering the best parts of our lives to this challenging disorder is not a given. There are many ways to take an active approach to understanding and treating Anxiety for ourselves and the people we love.
TREATMENT OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
There are several proven treatments to help with Anxiety. There is no need to struggle along all alone, hoping that things do not get worse. Help is available and can alleviate symptoms relatively quickly, even if full recovery takes a bit of time, the beginnings of relief are not far away.
Talking to someone is the best first step. There is a good chance that talking to almost anyone about Anxiety will reveal an understanding response, often with a shared story of another experience of Anxiety. Almost all of us have connections with some form of anxiety disorder or love someone who has struggled with anxiety. When we begin talking about anxiety, we learn that we are not alone and that help is out there.
Many medications are available to help treat Anxiety and a conversation with your doctor will allow you to discuss the options. While medication is not necessary to treat most forms of Anxiety, in some cases, it is absolutely essential to starting to get well.
Counselling and, in particular, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, have been proven to be very effective in treating most forms of Anxiety. Some clients prefer to learn ‘skills’ rather than simply take ‘pills’ to deal with Anxiety and the right counselling (and the right counsellor) can definitely make a big difference. In most cases, a counsellor will help to identify problematic patterns in thinking, assist in building new skills, and provide education about how your brain and nervous system work to support Anxiety treatment. In all cases, a positive relationship with a counsellor, where you feel heard, understood, and accepted will improve how you feel, almost immediately.
Generally speaking, a combination of medication and counselling will result in the best outcomes in the shortest amount of time. Should clients prefer a counselling approach that does not use medication, this is certainly an option that can be discussed with your counsellor and / or your doctor.
Below are some resources that may be helpful in your quest to learn more about Anxiety that may be affecting you or someone you love.