Free yourself from your anxiety by befriending it
Anxiety can be so debilitating, as I know from personal experience; having suffered from bouts of severe anxiety in my early 20s, which started me on my long journey of healing, as I began therapy to cope with and ultimately overcome it.
It can trigger feelings of terror, shame, inadequacy, despair and bewilderment amongst others, and can diminish a sufferer’s life in many cases as the person starts to avoid certain situations, places or people. This in turn can lead to feelings of depression, low self worth and isolation.
Through therapy, you can start to uncover root causes, which may stem back to many years before and by getting a better understanding of your particular anxiety and its many guises, you can hopefully become less scared of it.
Being anxious about being anxious just keeps sufferers in a horrible self defeating loop, but by befriending your anxiety, you can start to also look at any safety behaviours you may have formed to cope with it.
Safety behaviours are behaviours you’ve developed to try to avoid or prevent future anxiety. Eg, someone who has an anxiety about their body image, may dress in baggy clothes or someone who has anxiety about social situations may avoid social gatherings altogether.
To an anxious person, this may seem perfectly logical but avoiding any anxiety provoking situations through safety behaviours, will only maintain the anxiety.
The old adage ‘what we resist, persists’ certainly applies where anxiety is concerned. It takes courage to face it but by doing so in a safe and supportive environment, it can lose its power over us.
Psychodynamic counselling can help us to discover from where and from whom we may have picked up messages that the world is an unsafe place, which possibly led to hyper vigilance and anxiety.
Once you’ve identified your triggers for your anxiety, you can explore what safety behaviours you have used to cope with it, and gradually start to let them go with a CBT technique called 'exposure therapy.' This is a collaborative approach, where the therapist helps the client to be exposed to the source of their anxiety at a gentle pace, which is non threatening to the client.
By gradually letting go of those safety behaviours, it can help you stop that cycle of anxiety and be finally free of its clutches.
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About Cressida Ellis
Cressida Ellis is a BACP accredited Integrative Counsellor and Psychotherapist who specialises in treating anxiety and addiction issues such as co-dependency, alcohol abuse, eating disorders and sex and love addiction.
She has worked for 5 years at a psychodynamic clinic in Hove as well as seeing clients privately.