Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the world. It can affect anyone and at any time, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation, and so one.
Anxiety affects the mind and body. If left ignored, it can severely impair your ability to function every day at work, school or home. It can also come between you and your loved ones, straining your relationship with them and decreasing your overall quality of life.
If you or a loved has been living with anxiety, you need to know that anxiety disorders can be treated. In severe cases, people with anxiety disorders may require medications for treatment. However, counseling combined with medications has shown to deliver highly effective outcomes.
Before seeking counseling for your anxiety, it is crucial to know what type of anxiety disorder you have. Essentially, there is six types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves persistent worrying or feeling anxious. People with generalized anxiety disorder have several concerns, such as finances and health problems. The symptoms include irritability, restlessness, muscle tension, sleep problems, and unable to concentrate.
- Panic Disorder involves recurring panic attacks. The symptoms include trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate or beating heart, the feeling of choking or excessive fear. The attacks occur out of the blue without warning. It causes people to become fearful of experiencing the attacks in public, resulting in them changing their lifestyles and restricting themselves from daily activities.
- Phobiainvolves having an intense fear of certain things, such as snakes, spiders, thunder, and enclosed spaces.
- Social Anxiety Disorder involves fearing social situations where a person might feel judged or embarrassed. People with social anxiety feel nervous and self-conscious among crowds. The symptoms of this disorder include feeling shaky, nauseous, and sweaty.
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorderinvolves recurring and uncontrollable thoughts and feelings about following rituals or routines, such as washing hands because they fear germs or constantly checking their work for errors.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder involves severe emotional or physical trauma due to a traumatic experience. Symptoms include flashbacks, scary thoughts, and nightmares, all of which can interfere with a person’s life.
If you or anyone you know suffers from an anxiety disorder, seeking counseling can assist you. Here are some of the ways that counseling can help you to address your anxiety:
1. Identify Your Negative Thoughts
Anxiety makes a person perceive a situation as more dangerous and frightening than it actually is. For instance, a person with germ phobia will avoid shaking hands with someone as it may seem life-threatening to them. One of the most challenging things for someone with anxiety is identifying their own thoughts and fears as irrational. Counseling can help people answer the question: “What was I thinking about when I started feeling anxious?”
2. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Counseling teaches a person with anxiety on how to evaluate the thoughts that challenge them. This step involves questioning the proof for their terrifying thoughts, examining unhelpful beliefs, and challenging the authenticity of negative predictions. Some strategies used to challenge their negative thoughts through counseling include performing experiments, weighing the positives and negatives of worrying or avoiding something they fear and identifying the realistic chances of what they feel anxious about will really occur.
3. Substitute Negative Feelings with Realistic Feelings
Once a person has determined the irrational predictions and negative patterns in their anxious thoughts, they can substitute them with new, accurate and positive thoughts. Counseling can help them develop realistic statements to calm themselves down. They can repeat these statements when faced with certain situations that cause anxiety and increase their anxiety levels.
4. Learn Skills to Relax
Through counseling, people learn different relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing. They can practice these relaxation techniques during their counseling sessions and then practice them at home. Once they begin to confront their fears, they can use the relaxation techniques to decrease the symptoms of anxiety, such as hyperventilating and shaking when faced with a situation that causes their anxiety levels to increase.
5. Create a Step-by-Step List
During counseling, your counselor may ask them to create a list consisting of around 10 to 20 situations that causes you to feel anxious and find ways to overcome them. For instance, a person with a fear of flying may have a goal of overcoming that fear; hence, they will begin to look at pictures and videos of planes taking flight. Each fear should be followed by a clear and measurable goal.
6. Work through the Steps to Achieve Goals
Counseling helps people work through the steps, as mentioned above. It typically requires a person staying in a frightening situation until their fears go away. The goal is to teach them that their feelings will not hurt them and will subside. Each time their anxiety worsens, they can use the relaxation technique they learned during counseling to calm themselves down. This will help them overcome their fears and achieve their goals without feeling extremely distressed.
7. Keep a Diary
Writing down thoughts into a diary can help a person become aware of their triggers. Every time they experience an anxiety attack, they can record it and use that information to overcome anxiety attacks in the future. They should also write down all the times they have been able to successfully manage them.
8. Create a Healthy Routine
Counseling encourages a person to adopt a healthy routine to deal with their anxiety. A healthy routine can consist of exercising and eating right. It can also include limiting the number of hours they spend on technology, not using technology in bed, and sleeping on time. If they have any bad habits, such as smoking, taking steps to quit it could be a part of their healthy routine.
9. Stop Feeling Ashamed
People with anxiety often label themselves as worrywart, party pooper, or a killjoy. During counseling, they will learn not to feel ashamed of their anxiety because by doing so, it will just worsen their symptoms. Instead, counseling encourages people with anxiety to recognize and control their emotions.
10. Just Do It
The effects of severe anxiety can be paralyzing. As a result, a person may feel even more anxious. People can manage their symptoms of anxiety through self-encouragement. They can motivate themselves to break the cycle by doing the thing they fear the most.
11. Recognize the Physical Signs of Anxiety
People with anxiety need to determine the physical signs that indicate they are about to experience an anxiety attack. Some physical signs of anxiety may include tensing and freezing up, feeling like running away from the situation, feeling nauseous, sweaty and clammy palms, and breathing heavily.
People diagnosed with an anxiety disorder should go for counseling to help them overcome it and come out stronger in situations that once used to scare them.