How can counselling help with generalised anxiety disorder?
If you are suffering with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), it can feel overwhelming because you can’t focus on one issue or aspect and say that is the issue. I find that when people in general come for counselling, they would like a “magic bullet” to fix their issue. While it is possible there is one issue that is the cause of their distress, my experience suggests that while the presenting issue may be a major part of the issue, there will be other aspects that are involved. This is because we are not simple beings; we are complex and we learn behaviour that makes it seem easier if everything is all down to one issue.
This leads to GAD - if you are suffering with this condition, it can feel like you can’t understand it or “get your arms around it” to try and deal with it. By coming to see a counsellor, you can get a space for you to talk about all the issues that concern you. From there, you can hopefully feel supported enough to be able to identify one or two that are your main concerns.
Once areas have been identified, either through your choice or randomly picking, it is then about working together to start to think about how we can change how you think about the issue, or your behaviours around the issue and how it can be changed. This will be done with you, and any strategies will need to be developed with you because if you don’t buy into them, it can never work.
Sometimes, the anxiety of “failing” at a change in behaviour will stop us from trying, and it is important to acknowledge that change can be difficult and scary in itself because the patterns of behaviour have become “familiar”. It is important to come to terms that you will likely fail to change your behaviours to start with. It is important to listen to the way you talk to yourself when/if this happens, because it is possible that you will be talking negatively to yourself and re-enforcing that view of yourself.
Something that is important to changing behaviours is an awareness of what the stimulus is that causes the anxiety to become unmanageable. When you are aware you can then try to implement the strategies before they become unmanageable. As an analogy, if you imagine a rock starting to roll down a hill, the earlier you try to stop it, the more success you will have. But there comes a point where no matter how you try, the momentum is so great that it is going to roll down the hill until it stops. This highlights my philosophy of trying to alter the behaviour; it is about being self-aware enough to be able to recognise when you are starting the behaviour and to try to stop it. You may not always be successful, but you are aware that you can survive the journey. You then also know to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to forgive yourself for the slip, but know that next time you can do something different.
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About Andrew Regan
I am a qualified BACP registered counsellor.
I have worked as a volunteer working with clients since 2007.
I have over 7 years working as a private practitioner.
I have a Masters in Contemporary Therapeutic Counselling from the University of Hertfordshire.