Since I started with my take on anger in my first post, I thought it might be best to continue with some basic issues for which people seek help. This is not to say these issues are simple, but rather they are common. And along with common, they are also often misunderstood.
Anxiety seems to be a trending mental health concern. We are all stressed about something. We all get nervous in certain situations. Some of us are anxious enough that it gets in the way of our daily lives and is severe enough for others that it costs them their job or damages their relationships.
I think using the word “anxiety” isnot helpful and breeds misconception. What we ought to be saying is “scared.” We are not anxious, nervous, stressed or whatever word you want to use. We are SCARED. Anxiety is a mental health disorder. Nervous is a physiological response. Stress often refers to a strain or tension that we feel cognitively. If someone is diagnosed with anxiety, they are scared of something or possibly more than one thing. If they are nervous or stressed their fear is affecting them physically and cognitively.
The issue with calling this fear or state of being scared “anxiety” is that you are less able to identify the actual problem and don’t know what to do about it so you can’t take power over it.
Identifying when you feel scared:
Chances are you are not able to give me a good definition of anxiety. If you search the web, you will find all kinds of takes on what it is. (Including this one). The fact is, there is only one correct specific definition, the signs and symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders V (DSM-V).
When you being scared meets certain criteria, a mental health professional can diagnose it as anxiety. We can then talk about it amongst ourselves to better understand how anxiety comes to be and how to address anxiety. This exchanging of ideas offers you the opportunity to receive evidenced-based treatment for anxiety. I admit this is absolutely beneficial, and would have it no other way. But, it’s not useful to you in the moment.
In that moment you need to recognize that you are scared. This could mean you have a physiological reaction, such as sweating, tense muscles, or increased heart rate. You may also have a cognitive reaction like racing thoughts. You can use these signs to recognize that you are feeling scared.
Moving beyond feeling scared:
The problem is, you’re not a mental health professional exchanging ideas in a in a state where you feel safe. When you are scared, you are not able to think logically or rationally. The part of your brain that is capable of doing this shuts down and the part that says “Oh no, there is some scary thing that can hurt me! Be scared! Get your heart rate up and ready to fight or get the heck out of here!” takes over. In that moment, you need to address the issue at hand: the overwhelming fear. To do this you need to acknowledge the fear, as I mentioned, and have a choice of what to do about that fear.
Sometimes once people identify the fear, they realize it’s silly to be scared about that thing. Others choose to avoid situations where they may feel that fear. Some want to overcome their fear. Some plans are more appropriate for different people or in different situations and in therapy we can talk about what would be best for you.
I find my approach to be helpful to clients and empowers them to take control of their emotions. If you would like to know more about how I help people who are scared or interested in setting up an appointment about what scares you, please contact me.