CBT Counselling: What are anxiety problems?
Anxiety comes from an over-estimation of threat and it is a normal human feeling. Anxiety becomes a real problem when it becomes too strong and it interferes with your routine activities.
Fear is the emotion you get when you are confronted by a threatening or frightening experience. Your body responds to a threat with what has been called the fight or flight response. This is a healthy response to a threat because it is the way your body prepares for action either to fight danger or run away from it as fast as possible.
What happens when you perceive a situation as dangerous is that your body releases a number of hormones that prepare you for action. These are the same no matter what the threat. Therefore the physical symptoms of anxiety are simply your body’s preparation to cope with a threat.
If you can imagine you are about to be attacked what physical sensations would you experience?
Some of the common physical responses to perceived threat are:-
- Your muscles tense ready for any action you need to perform,
- Your heart rate goes up markedly to carry blood to your muscles and brain, where you need it most,
- You breathe faster to provide oxygen to your body,
- You sweat to stop you body overheating,
- Your mouth becomes dry,
- You have butterflies in your stomach.
CBT Counselling: When the threat has passed
The fight or flight system is designed to help you escape from life or death situations. When the threat has passed or you realize that there was no threat, your body quickly returns to normal. These days however, you rarely have to face life or death situations. But you do face stresses that are hard to escape from. And these can inappropriately activate the fight or flight system. You then have all the emotions and physical sensations that go with severe threat without any actual threat to your life existing.
CBT Counselling: Why do I feel anxious?
There are a number of paths to feeling anxious and it is important to think about these because knowledge of how anxiety is caused helps to fight it.
Any thought you have that focuses on threat switches on the fight or flight system. This results in uncomfortable bodily sensations. These give rise to feelings of fear and trepidation. You now want to run away, to escape from the threat. None of this is pleasant and in more extreme circumstances it can lead to lots of problems in just living a normal life.
If you become used to feeling anxious you will start to become sensitized to the early sensations that make up the fight or flight response. When this happens even small indications of rising anxiety can trigger negative thoughts of danger and this starts the vicious cycle again.
|Thought:I am in danger, threatened, I cannot cope Bodily sensations: Sweating, heart races, breath faster Feelings: Fear, Trepidation, Anxiety Behavior: Want to run and hide, avoid the threat|
CBT Counselling: The vicious cycle of anxiety
This vicious cycle makes you feel more anxious, uncomfortable and on edge. The longer term consequence of this experience is that you start to predict what will cause anxiety and a try to avoid these situations. Indeed, avoidance is the most common strategy for coping with anxiety.
It is natural to want to avoid something that feels dangerous. But this is faulty thinking because, the things you avoid are not normally real or immediate dangers; such things as other people, busy shops, crowds, talking to other people and eating out. The things that are avoided are actually necessary to a normal everyday existence.
Avoiding the mundane daily duties and obstacles makes life very hard to manage, with the result that a good mood is hard to maintain.
As you reduce your experiences to help you to manage anxiety and feel safer you place a self imposed boundary around yourself. Life gets harder and your range of experiences gets smaller. This is when anxiety becomes both an internal fear and a problem of living.
Fear is a natural response to danger. Unfortunately anxiety is an over-estimation of the likelihood of threat. Because your body cannot distinguish between a real or imagined danger the fight or flight response kicks in every time.
The sensations of anxiety are not dangerous in themselves; you cannot hurt yourself through feeling anxious. But, anxiety leads to avoidance of things you think may be threatening and this leads you to restrict your life.
The Berkshire Psychology Service’s CBT Counselling for anxiety gives you the tools to challange and overcome the problems of anxiety. We have a proven treatment track record in treating all of the anxiety disorders.