What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a condition which can affect us all at any time. A modest amount of it does no harm, in fact it can serve to keep us out of trouble. But too much anxiety can lead to symptoms such as panic, phobias such as agoraphobia and claustrophobia, stage fright, and so on. In extreme forms it can become paralysing, making it impossible to carry on the normal activities of living, working and relating to people.
Causes of anxiety
In helping many people work through their anxiety in counselling and psychotherapy, I have come to the conclusion that there is always an underlying cause for the anxiety. It may not be easy to find the cause, as it may have happened at a time before the earliest memories, but I believe that the cause always exists. Some typical causes include
- Traumatic experiences, which can include a single major trauma, or a repeated series of less traumatic events
- Abuse - physical, sexual or emotional
- Having a parent or guardian who were themselves anxious
- Having parents who set impossibly high standards ("perfectionism"), or gave confusing messages (the "double-bind")
- Living in a family where a parent or sibling suffered from mental illness
- Experiencing abandonment in early childhood, such as the death or illness of a parent, or family breakup due to divorce
- Beginning a new long-term relationship, such as engagement or marriage
- Frightening experiences caused by using street drugs - a "bad trip"
- Experiences which disrupt the sense of self, leading to a feeling of fragmentation, dissociation or "cracking up"
How to manage anxiety
When dealing with simple forms of anxiety where the trigger is clearly identifiable, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments. CBT treatment addresses the way the problem is maintained, because without these feedback loops the anxiety reduces of it's own accord. This is often done through exposure techniques that involve reducing the safety behaviours.
However, there are many different counselling services and therapies which can be effective.