Much of the way the general population conceptualizes mental health issues such as depression or anxiety is through the medical model and pharmaceutical lens. This particular model tends to approach anxiety by looking at the problem removed from the person’s context. In other words depression or anxiety is seen as separate from person as something happening to them. So from a medical model, then you treat the anxiety with medication, ignoring the context of the person’s life, relationships, and coping skills. The goal is to irradiate the anxiety, as though it is a virus or external thing attacking the person through medication.
There are many problems and limitations with this approach. You may know people who are taking SSRIs and other serious brain drugs to treat their anxiety or depression. Often these medications take a long time to take effect, have serious effects and need to be modified and adjusted because over time they stop working so need to be increased. People may feel a bit better while on them, but if the real underlying issue isn’t resolved, the person needs to stay on the medication.
The problem with the medical/pharmaceutical model is that it doesn’t look at the context in which the person is living and how relationships, problem solving and the undesirable choices a person is facing may contribute to their anxiety or depression. Often when we step back and look at the person’s life, relationships, choices they face, you can start to see how anxiety may develop.
Mental health counselling takes another, more holistic, model to look at mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. It is more like a quantum physics approach to issues. The mental health issue, whether it is called depression or anxiety, is not some external thing attacking the person that must be eliminated, but instead it is seen as a symptom or outcome from how a person’s creative system to consciously but more often unconsciously choose to deal with the relationships and choices in their life.
When people come in to see me for anxiety or depression, they often believe that this misery is happen to him or to her. However, the mental health professionals see the client as (unconsciously) choosing the misery s/he is feeling as their best attempt to solve their current relationship or life dilemma. So I would say the person is depressing or anxietying- an active verb. The good news is this also means the person can do something about this so that they can stop anxietying and starting happying.
Now most people reading this would say, “I’m not CHOOSING to be depressed or anxious, I don’t want this.” I would agree that it is something you don’t want and it is not necessarily anything that you are CONSCIOUSLY choosing, but none-the-less, it is a total behavior emanating from your control system and you are choosing it. The great news is that once you figure out what you want you can choose differently.
All people can do from birth to death is behave. All behavior is purposeful to meet our needs to the our best ability at the time we are choosing. All behavior is total behavior and includes thinking, doing, feeling and physiology.
Anxiety is normal response that all people have and is a total behavior that affects your thinking, doing, feeling and physiology. In fact without it we would be dead. For example, if you are crossing a street and see a bus coming and you had no anxiety, you might stare at the bus as it proceeded to run you over. So anxiety helps us stay alive, it is looking out for threats to our wellbeing. Kept in check it is a good thing to have.
Unfortunately, for some people, anxiety starts to become a solution to everyday living. People with anxiety are plagued by physiological symptoms of shortness of breath, racing heart, sweaty palms, general discomfort and constant sense of doom or something bad happening. Their thinking is focused on out the future and all the horrible things that might happen. Their behaviors are panicking, pacing, worrying and their feeling is anxious, out of control and overwhelmed.
So if you step back, you can see how anxiety is a total behavior that affects all the components of people:
· Thinking: many anxious people are thinking about the future and catastrophizing worse case scenarios and all sorts of horrible things that can go wrong
· Behavior: Anxious people can be seen reading, planning, researching, fretting, pacing, calling and talking to people nonstop about the issue over and over again
· Feeling: They will have a constant feeling of unease, worry, doom, something bad happening
· Physiology: The will often feel a “pit in their stomach”, sick to their stomach, have a headache or muscle tension or body aches as though their body is gear up for a fight.
So anxietying is a total behavior, it is not something that you just feel or just think or just do. But rather your whole being organizes around this state in attempt to solve a problem. One of the challenges for people is that by the time the anxietying has become this big and has so much physiology, the total behavior is very distracting and creates problems for the person.
It is at this point often people seek help. If they go to a doctor for the psychiatrist to treat the symptoms of the anxietying they will be given medication. However, if a person sought help from a mental health professional the treatment would be looking at what is going on in the person’s life and relationship. The session would see the anxiety as a symptom to the REAL issue, not the problem itself. Anxiety started out as a solution for the person, but then the solution created its own set of issues.
The mental health counsellor would look at finding out what the person is really trying to solve and help them find more effective healthy ways that will involve understanding what are the choices the person is really facing, the quality of their relationships and skills their need to choose more effectively. A psychiatrist or medical doctor will just write a prescription to treat the symptoms of anxiety but it will not target the thinking or behaviors or choices of the person’s problems.
Purpose of Anxiety and Where it Goes Wrong
All of us have a creative system. Our brain is very creative and trying to solve problems for us. It never does anything to hurt us. But sometimes our brain is a little like a Genie. If you have seen tv shows, Genies grant you a wish, but they are bit literal. For example, if you say “Genie give me all the money in the world”. The Genie grants you this wish by dropping literally all the money in the world on you and kills you.
For many people anxiety stems out of a deep seated belief that they are not competent or capable to handle what life may throw at him or her. This may not even be a conscious belief. People with chronic or severe anxiety can be extremely successful professionally or personally, but they often believe it’s because they worry or anxiety type solutions they choose that makes them successful.
One purpose of anxiety is to rev-up a person’s fight or flight mode of survival. Anxious people are constantly worrying about what might happen in the future. They play out all the potential worse case scenarios of what might happen.
Why do they do this? So that they can build plans and back-ups to the catastrophe that might occur. Now, lots of people do this and it’s not a totally bad thing. Anxiety people do it compulsively or to a point that makes them unhappy and fearful that they won’t be able to handle some unexpected, unplanned for event or worse disaster. They believe that by focusing on and planning for all the possible worse case scenarios they’ll be protected or safe.
Anxietying people become paralyzed to do anything or go anywhere for what if something happens that they didn’t plan for. This false belief that to be safe you must anticipate every horrible things is false and traps the person. At one time in their life it was problem helpful, but now it has gotten out of whack.
Counselling can help people look at where in the person’s life they really feel out of control and create plans to develop an internal sense of safety. We do not have control of the outside world, but we do have control over ability to respond.
Another person of anxiety is to distract us from the unpleasant realities of our life. This may be an unsatisfying or dying marriage, a difficult child to parent, aging or ailing parents, financial difficulties, work problems or health issues. By becoming so anxious and focused on the future, it allows us to avoid issues in the present. However, the solution while effective at distracting us, also creates present day problems. The more you stop paying attention to the present, where you can affect change, the more likely you are to create future problems that are REAL worries.
Counselling can help people face their present day issues and figure out how to solve them. Avoiding issues in the short term is helpful but does create long term problems.
If you want help to figure what your anxiety is all about and how you can get better, contact us to learn more about how counselling with our professional mental health therapist can help you by calling or smsing 90307239