what is anxiety

Let’s get this out of the way early on; anxiety is healthy and normal to a certain extent. It can be a helpful motivator when we are interpreting the information we receive correctly. For example, it is healthy to have some anxiety when you are deciding whether or not you want to go swimming with sharks because it helps you measure the risks and possible consequences. However, anxiety is not helpful when it becomes invasive in our every day life. Frequency and intensity are the two measuring sticks we would use to evaluate anxiety. Do you feel anxious/fearful more often than not? Is your worry/anxiety inhibiting you from accomplishing tasks in your daily life? If the answer to either one of these questions is yes, you may benefit from seeing a counselor to learn some new coping tools and strategies.

Anxiety is the bodies built in response system to perceived threats.  You can probably guess the keyword in the preceding sentence…. it’s “perceived”. This means that, even when there is no actual threat, your body can kick into fight or flight if you are misinterpreting information.

The feeling that hides behind anxiety is fear; fear of not being enough, fear of being too much, fear of the worst case scenario, fear of being alone, fear of being worthless, fear of being a bad person, and the list goes on. Anxiety tells us that, regardless of the truthfulness of the thought, we are not safe. This is where we find perceived threats and real threats begin to illicit the same fear response. Naturally, when we are afraid, we avoid the thing we fear. This strategy can seem like a temporary fix but over time it teaches us that our fear is out of our control and we never learn to confront or deal with the underlying issues. We begin to accept the bondage that is our anxiety and by doing so become powerless to it.  Here is the good news; anxiety is highly treatable. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional cognitions, emotions, and resultant maladaptive behaviors, through a variety of goal-oriented, explicit systematic interventions. CBT can be extremely helpful for those struggling with anxiety and it is one of the most researched forms of treatment for anxiety.

I am aware that the term Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy can sound a bit overcomplicated but it is pretty simple. First, we work on understanding and labeling the symptoms of anxiety. Second, we identify triggers to these symptoms. Finally, we learn and put in to practice the appropriate coping skills to reduce future symptom escalation in anxiety provoking situations.