Anxiety

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Anxiety is basically another word for fear and is something that we all live with in our daily lives. Fear is another word for the thoughts and feeling we have that something we value is being threatened.

 

Anxiety is a normal part of everyday life. Humans never would have survived without it. Anxiety makes us listen more keenly when we hear a strange noise and tells us to check the traffic before we cross the road. The problem with modern day anxiety is that it can become overly sensitive and people can worry excessively about things at home, at work, relationships, money, how we look, whether we will ever be loved, how to loose weight, that promotion and so on ………

 

The mind looks for problems and solves them and will always find a problem that needs attention. That is what the mind does.

 

Problems with anxiety occur when the fear grows out of proportion and starts dictating behaviour. Major life events (like natural disasters, experiencing violence) can trigger anxiety. An Acute Stress reaction to extreme levels of anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress may develop in response to major life events.

 

More commonly, Anxiety disorders come about slowly and develop over time. The slow development makes anxiety difficult to gauge and people often present for treatment further down the track when they realise that their anxiety is creating problems for them in their everyday lives. Many people seeing a Psychologist for anxiety issues present with Generalised Anxiety Disorder which is, as the name implies, an anxiety that is generalised to many areas of life and is or has been causing problems. People suffering from Generalised Anxiety have trouble shaking their concerns and tend to worry all the time about every day stuff.

 

Fears can become irrational over time and the things people do to avoid anxiety can actually make matters worse. For example, an aspect of Social Phobia is the fear of being humiliated in public so people suffering from this disorder will avoid social events and can often end up being isolated. When someone suffering Social Phobia goes out they can be so crippled by anxiety they may panic and draw attention to them selves through their overly anxious behaviour.

 

There are also many specific phobias that develop about certain things like the fear of public speaking and fear of spiders for example. These fears may or may not be problematic. Most people are scared of snakes because many are poisonous and fear of public speaking is not a problem for most. However, fear of public speaking would be an issue if work success depended on presentations you regularly needed to make to your colleagues.   

 

Panic occurs when someone becomes scared of their anxiety and experiences intense symptoms that feel like they are having a heart attack. Tight chest, racing pulse and sweating all signal that there is something to be feared so the body prepares to fight or run away. The increase in physical arousal increases worry about the anxiety and feedback loop increases with intensity. Some people develop elaborate rituals to contain their anxiety and these people can sometimes be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

 

A skilled Psychologist can help teach skills and strategies to deal with the symptoms of anxiety and reduce the impact that it has on everyday life. Dealing more effectively with anxiety is empowering and having greater control boosts confidence to deal with whatever challenges life presents.   

It matters where you invest your time and energy.

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Why is it that we spend so much time looking for what is wrong when there are so many things that are right and good in life?

Our attention is often fixed so hard on trying to fix things that are upsetting us while our good fortune is left overshadowed.

It may be because it is so easy to be happy, feel the feelings that we like and remember the good times while difficult memories and unpleasant feelings are unwanted so we spend heaps of energy trying to rid ourselves of them. The theory is to focus on the ‘bad’ stuff, get rid of it and then we can all be happy again.  

It is so ironic that the more time we spend trying to avoid and rid ourselves of difficult thoughts and emotions the bigger they grow. The more effort we put into trying to rid ourselves of unpleasant memories and emotions the more powerful they become. How annoying is that?

Think about everything you do to avoid emotional discomfort. Maybe you smoke, do drugs, drink alcohol, do lots of coffee, sleep a little more than you really need to, snack when your not hungry, watch TV rather than do something fun, say no to that invitation when deep down you know you haven’t been out and had fun for ages.  

The answer is to accept that life is full of emotions and memories. Some memories and emotions are awful and others are fantastic and wonderful. Fixating on one difficult memory or emotion can close you off to experiencing others. The remedy is to say “you know, this is how I feel right now, I don’t like it but it will pass and in the mean time I will get on with living”.

If you feel stuck, do something positive. Think about something you are grateful for. Acknowledge a strength that you have.  Do something that you like doing or that you think is fun. Maybe it wont feel so great at first but persevere. It is better than spending all that energy on avoiding unpleasantness. One day you’ll look back with pride and say “I got through that hard bit, cool”.

Take care

Therapy Monkey

Something to fix or something to face?

Memories

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Hello

People often come to therapy with the view that they want to fix something that they feel is wrong. Like they want to fix a bad memory of something. They’d like the remove an unwanted, uncomfortable feeling. Therapy doesn’t work like that. It is hard work.

Take depression. Depression often presents as a heavy feeling characterised by an overwhelming sense that there is nothing that can be done about the situation. It may very well be true. Sometimes nothing can be done to change a particular situation. Life can really dish up some rubbish when it wants to but we have to get on with living. There really is no other healthy choice.

Death can sometimes feel like an option but is simply a long-term solution to what may be a short term problem. So, the only way out of a depression is out and you have to work at it. The work is often painful with very intense emotions. Avoiding these thoughts and feelings can create other problems. Avoidance can take many forms. A common way is to indulge in a substance. This is OK for a little while but people can get stuck for years trying to erase bad memories. 

Avoiding negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings has the opposite effect. The memories can grow in potency while whole lives are geared around trying to forget something terrible. The result is often a sense of inertia and hopelessness while erasing memories can become the focus of life. It is ironic how avoidance of painful emotions reinforces a sense of inability to cope and sets up a negative feedback loop that grows in intensity.

The alternative is to face the memories and the associated pain while making the conscious decision to get on with life. Confronting the memories is like standing up to a ten foot tall monster that scares the hell out of you but can not actually touch you. The memories can not hurt you anymore. They are past. Avoidance actually keeps the memories fresh. Professional counsellors can help you pass through this difficult terrain.

Moving from a life of avoidance and back into a life full of action changes one’s head space from being a victim of things that have happened and moves them to take up the stance of a survivor.

Take Care

Therapy Monkey

What exactly is therapy? 1.

Family Therapy

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Blog 1.

Hello to you the reader

Therapy is a beautiful thing. I believe that therapy (or counselling) is a space where a person (or more than one in the case of group or family therapy) can get together with a therapist to discuss what is happening in their life.

Discussions with the therapist brings about realisations about thinking, feelings and behaviour. The change in understanding opens one up to new possibilities. The therapist’s skill is important here. You need to find the right person.  

The therapeutic relationship is very powerful because the therapist is completely neutral about the outcome and provides a space where people can realise their own potential. I do not believe therapists have a right to tell people what to do. The people, not the therapist must live out the consequences of their decisions. Unless they are going to harm them selves or others, of course.

Most people seek help about something in particular. Like when they are having trouble and need some help. Apart from dealing with the main issue that initiates therapy, it’s difficult to know exactly what is going to happen but you can look back at the end and see what has taken place. Like life….

Being open to the idea of personal growth is the key. In my experience, many people attend therapy/counselling for one reason and find that they have enriched their life in other areas as well. 

More later……..

Take Care

Therapy Monkey