Anxiety disorders are a broad category of problems, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Anxiety disorders are characterised by worry, fear, rumination and apprehension. It is likely that a variety of factors including genetics, stress, social learning, brain chemistry, thought patterns, environmental factors, and past (traumatic) experiences help determine whether someone will struggle with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety symptoms may also sometimes be caused by a medical problem (i.e., anemia or a thyroid disorder) or overusing a stimulant substance (i.e., caffeine).
All of these anxiety disorders involve 3 different components:
- psychological components (thoughts and feelings)
- behavioural components (avoidance of the trigger)
- physical components (the body-based reactions such as heart palpitations, sweating, and feeling dizzy).
My approach to anxiety counselling combines emotional support and guidance with strategies and interventions designed to target each of these 3 components.
My exact treatment procedure will vary depending on which disorder(s) are involved. Cognitive behavioural therapy strategies such as identifying, challenging and changing negative thought patterns are frequently used. I also often make use of other therapeutic interventions like exposure protocol, relaxation practice, assertiveness training, and EMDR. Anxiety, as a general rule, responds quite well to cognitive behavioural therapy and other psychotherapeutic approaches; some improvement in anxiety symptoms can often be seen in only 1-3 sessions.
It is not unusal for anxiety and depression to be 'co-morbid' in affected individuals (i.e., occuring together at the same time) so treatment typically involves an assessment to ensure that the client is not also strugging with depressive symptoms, which might complicate and worsen anxiety. If depression is present as well, treatment is expanded to work on managing and resolving both problems.