Do I have anxiety?
If you have ever struggled with anxiety, you’ve probably experienced worries that start off small that slowly but surely snowball into much larger, sometimes, debilitating thoughts. These are the thoughts that keep you up at night, trying to figure out how you will get through the next day or the next time that you are in a certain situation.
For some people, anxiety comes in the form of discomfort or awkwardness in social, intimate, workplace or family situations, while for others, it can stem from feeling out of control of your situation or even knowing that something needs to change but not knowing where to start. For those of you out there who are struggling with anxiety-related digestive disorders, the levels of frustrations can be compounded by the well-meaning but unhelpful advice to “just relax” or “you need to find a way to be less stressed, it’s that simple”. That simple? Yeah, right!
The constant “what ifs” and self-doubt that comes with anxious thoughts are often a source of sleep deprivation because night time are when these thoughts are most active in your mind. As these thoughts, worries and fears keep you up at night, your concentration and focus are also affected. Your body’s ability to re-energize and regenerate itself decreases.
You may find yourself in an on-going battle with your anxiety, never quite knowing what tools you have – if any- to come out on the winning side of it. No matter how hard you try to stay calm or tell yourself “it’s going to be okay”, your mind and body disagree, making it almost impossible for you to manage those anxious feelings. If any of this sounds all too familiar, then let me just tell you that you are not alone.
But really, is anxiety all that bad?
Anxiety is a “motivational response” to stress, and a little anxiety can actually be helpful. For example, you might have a work deadline coming up, or perhaps you are planning a surprise party for someone who is important to you. If you are a student, you might feel anxious about getting a poor grade in school, and so your anxiety spurs you to study more and work harder or find an alternative way of studying that is better suited for your style of learning. In these cases, anxiety can be helpful in motivating you to be proactive or creative so that you can achieve your goals and have a direct impact on what you want that party to look like or to ensure that you are meeting deadlines at work or on what grade you earn on your next exam.
Unfortunately, many people struggle what is commonly referred to as unhelpful anxiety or unhelpful worries. As the word “unhelpful” implies, this type of anxiety or worry causes your mind and body to react in ways that cause distress and more often than not, it also leaves you feeling overall miserable. Anxiety affects all ages and can be triggered at any point in time. In fact, anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health issues in the United States1 and one of the leading reasons for seeking therapy.
With the right combination of skills and tools, it is possible for you to conquer your anxiety and come out on that winning side of it. There is no reason for you or a loved one to continue to struggle with anxiety. Let’s be in touch to see if therapy is the right next step for you. For more information on anxiety, read on!
So, why do I have anxiety?
The first and foremost thing to understand about unhealthy anxiety is that it LOVES to make you avoid. For example:
If you have anxiety about social situations, it eventually gets you to “rationalize” that going out is a really bad idea, which can easily turn into isolating yourself from friends and family.
If you have worries about your financial situation, you might avoid looking at your bank account, which could result in situations that will trigger even more anxiety.
If you have a chronic illness that changes the way in which you see yourself, you may begin to avoid reaching out to the people who might be able to provide you with support that you need because you worry that others will see you as weak or with pity.
Over time, this pattern of avoiding and worrying creates The Cycle of Avoidance:
As time goes on, the cycle gets more and more ingrained and eventually, it becomes a habit and a “go to” way of coping with distressful situations. Now, you might be asking yourself why is it so much easier to use avoidance in to cope with anxiety-triggering circumstances? The reason is because the act of avoidance or avoiding provides a momentary (and very temporary) relief that is brought on by avoiding the fearful situation (phew, I avoided it!!).
Let’s be clear – keeping your distance is not the only strategy that we use to cope with anxiety. Avoidance wears many hats and understandably, people tend to use the hat that “provides” the quickest relief. Many people also avoid by pretending that something is not happening (denial), focusing on trying to control things that are actually beyond their control, trying not to think about it, or using drugs or alcohol to escape from anxious feelings.
How can therapy help me to control my anxiety?
Through our work together, you will learn strategies to help you gain insight as to how and why your body is responding to your anxiety triggers, how to use what you already “know” in order to get your body to a calm state.
You will also learn how to “re-train your brain” so that you are able to deal with the negative thoughts or situations by learning how to look at situations with a different, less intimidating and less fearful way.
Little by little, you will begin to build a coping “toolbox” that you will continue to add to and choose coping skills to that will help you in different situations.
Is therapy for anxiety effective?
The best way to learn to do something is through practice. Therapy to treat anxiety can not only be a rewarding experience for you, the results can be life-changing.
Psychotherapy, and in particular,Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard of treatment for anxiety because it actually works by teaching you how to:
- Understand your cycle of avoidance and disrupt the pattern
- Gain new insight and perspective
- Change unhelpful ways of thinking
- Feel at ease in social situations
- Accept life’s uncontrollable stressors
- Enhance interpersonal and social skills
- Discover new aspects of your personality
- Regain a sense of control and confidence
- Use personally-tailored coping strategies that actually work
In essence, you will learn how to understand your triggers, confront your fears with confidence and be able to tell if you are focusing on helpful worries vs. unhelpful worries so that you can shift your focus if necessary.
Together, we will work to identify the specifics of what is causing you the greatest distress and then move towards achieving your goals. You deserve to have a better quality of life and I want to be there to see you through it.
In order to eliminate some of the travel issues that are sometimes involved with living in New York, I offer therapy for anxiety through a completely confidential online platform called Telehealth (like Skype, but secure!), as well as in person office visits for those who prefer to work in person. Ready to chat? Contact me today to learn more about how therapy for anxiety can help make things better. To learn about ways that you can cope on your own, read on!
I’m not ready for therapy yet- what can I do to cope with my anxiety?
By first acknowledging that you may be struggling with anxiety, you have already taken an important step towards wellness! Some of the symptoms of anxiety can be overwhelming, and many of the at-home coping strategies fail to make a difference. Although psychotherapy is the most effective way to deal with anxious thoughts and feelings, there are ways that you can cope on your own. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Be active and exercise often. Not only is exercise good for your body, regular physical activity can dramatically reduce day-to-day symptoms of anxiety
- Find solitude. Schedule time to meditate and calm your mind without the many distractions the world has to offer.
- Focus on what matters. Shift your focus away from anxious thoughts and feelings, and spend time being productive and living life to its fullest.
- Spend time around people. People with social anxiety tend to feel drained in social situations. Start out small and spend time in coffee shops, libraries, and other social venues to confront fears of being around others.
- Open up to a friend or loved one. Anxiety becomes even more difficult to manage when we must deal with it alone. Try talking to someone you trust about your worries and let them be a support to you.
I believe that everyone can learn to manage their worries, find self-control, and conquer lifelong fears. Contact me to see if we might be a good fit.
Have questions about rates, insurance and what to expect in therapy? Click here for the FAQ page!
I am a private practice therapist and LCSW based in New York, and I see clients from all over the area – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester and statewide within the State of New York. I specialize in helping people who are dealing with anxiety, relationship issues, chronic illness, digestive conditions and adult trauma related to childhood family dynamics. We all deserve a chance to be well and have support, and I would love to be there for you during this difficult time.