As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often receive new clients seeking assistance with Anxiety Disorders. While this is an extremely common disorder, I believe it requires a deliberate approach in order to effectively assist people to reduce their anxious emotions and intrusive thoughts of worry.
I would propose a unique view in regards to the experience of anxiety. In my professional opinion, the emotion of anxiety is typically an internal "call to action" so to speak. Most of us experience anxiety as a motivational force. Think about it. When is the last time you experienced a low level of anxiety. Lets take driving on the freeway as an example.
If we are driving at highway speeds, and a sign indicates that our exit is in 3 miles, we begin to have the slightest bit of anxiety, which is telling us that we need to plan on merging in order to prepare to exit the freeway through an off ramp. At the 2 mile indication, if we have not made preparations to exit soon, our anxiety now increases, thus providing a greater motivational force. At the 1 mile marker, our anxiety will increase further, especially if we have to merge 4 or 5 lanes during rush hour traffic. At the 1/2 mile marker, our anxiety begins to peak. How often have you seen people make drastic changes in the last few hundred feet prior to an off ramp? At this point, we may fail to use our turn signal, we might cut off other drivers, we drive across the apex (which is illegal) or even crash into the barrier which divides the freeway from the off ramp.
When we effectively and accurately respond to our prompts of anxiety in a timely manner, we have the ability to resolve our anxiety. Making decisions to begin merging at the 3 mile marker allows us to resolve the low level anxiety, which brings us back to a baseline emotional and cognitive state.
Typically, when people seek therapy for an anxiety disorder, they have layers of compounding anxiety, and typically ignore the early indications of anxiety. The more you ignore or feel as though you cannot cope with the promptings of anxiety, the louder the internal anxious alarm becomes. When we live our lives day in and day out with unresolved anxiety, it becomes difficult to determine and connect the heightened and complex anxiety which we experience, and thus feel immobilized in our ability to respond to the anxiety.
Therapy can assist those struggling with an anxiety disorder to sort out, or even reset their emotional homeostasis, however, without a new process for regulating the emotion, the resolution will only be temporary.
Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE