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Anxiety, stress, panic, anger and depression: how therapy can help

People often seek emotional support because they are feeling varying degrees of anxiety or stress or anger or panic or depression or any combination of these, saying they can’t stand feeling like this any more and that they need help.  Therapy can help in a variety of ways.

Having a therapist acknowledge how horrible it is to feel at the mercy of these kinds of feelings can be therapeutic in itself, because as human beings living in western society we are often expected to bottle these feelings up, even though they are very normal human responses to living in a stressful world.

Living itself is by definition stressful and clients fairly often struggle to identify a specific cause for the way they feel.  On exploration, clients often find that there are reasons; they have just got locked away inside their head, as a coping strategy.  The coping strategy that used to work has ceased to do so and levels of stress increase, in response to a need to let some of those bottled up feelings out. Perhaps there has been a trigger, perhaps a stressful life event, perhaps not.

Even if people come to therapy saying they know the reason/s why they feel the way they do, they usually uncover other, unexpected reasons, as well. It is usually these unexpected revelations and connections that people make that really help them move on in therapy.  

It is often the case that what emerges in therapy for clients is that, for example, the anxiety, stress, panic, anger or depression that they feel is actually masking deeper emotions kept at bay by these other symptoms.  When clients learn to accept that they have these deep feelings and that they are very normal, they will often feel much more in control of themselves and their lives.  Helping people develop a set of strategies for coping with these deep feelings, plus encouraging them to explore where they come from, often really makes a positive difference.

Recognising that we live in a world that for the most part does not encourage us to express our deep feelings, and in fact often censures them, can be very therapeutic too.  Being bereaved is a good example of a process that is enormously complicated, not linear, and engenders enormously strong feelings in us as human beings, but is not really recognised by society as such. We are often expected to get on with life quite soon after someone close dies, when we are not really ready to.  This can, in itself, provoke feelings of panic and anxiety in someone, alongside many other feelings, and therapy can be very helpful for supporting a bereaved person, in the ways I have described above; equally so any one coping with any trauma or change in their lives.

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