Top 5 Ways to Help with Anxiety

 In Blog
Clinical Psychologist

Panic — photo by Nate Steiner

Anxiety disorders are conditions characterized by pathological anxiety without causes like physical or psychotic illness or substance abuse. Pathological anxiety differs from normal anxiety in several aspects. The intensity of pathological anxiety is significantly higher; it lasts longer compared to normal anxiety. People suffering from pathological anxiety are preoccupied with anxiety. They find the experience far more distressing and unpleasant. Normal anxiety, on the other hand, does not cause impairments to functioning and affects behaviour only temporarily.

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent of psychological illnesses; they affect the 13-33% of the general population, based on the estimate of various researchers (Sookman & Leahy, 2010, Orsillo & Roemer, 2005, Simos & Hofmann, 2013). Anxiety starts early, negatively affecting various forms of functioning, causing life impairments, and tending to be chronic and unremitting. Anxiety is associated with lower life quality, increased chance of unemployment, and enhanced risk of suicide.

The society spends significant amounts of money each year to treat cases of anxiety. The effectiveness of treatment methods vary, but many patients drop out of treatments, their symptoms remain or they experience a relapse. The aim of therapy of anxiety should focus on complete symptom remission and the long-term maintenance of improvements.

Why are anxiety disorders so difficult to treat?

Anxiety, and therefore anxiety disorders, can have many faces – panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, acute or posttraumatic stress disorder, just to name a few. The varied nature of anxiety does not allow one simple solution for every case. As Starcevic (2010) warns, the situation is paradoxical; although there are many evidence-based guidelines and algorithms to treat various forms of anxiety disorders, clinicians are often confused about their application on individual patients. Different patients have different treatment goals, but treatment methods often fail to consider this fact. This blog entry will try to give some directions to help in the fight against anxiety. We present five ways to effectively battle anxiety and provide a better life quality.

Five ways to battle anxiety

Collaborative negotiation of therapy: The treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders should not only involve a professional who determines the guidelines of treating the patient, but the active involvement of the patient is also required. This does not belittle the responsibility of the clinician who leads the treatment but emphasizes a shared responsibility in formulating treatment goals, as well as the course and potential outcomes between the therapist and the patient. Collaborative negotiation of the therapeutic process helps the patients to remain more engaged, with the adjustment of treatment goals to the actual situation and condition of the patient, and thus better adherence to treatment.

Metacognitive methods can offer great help as well. Thought processes determine the length of mental suffering. The focus of thoughts is not on the content, but on the extent of engaging in a special style of thinking, according to metacognitive theory. The basic principle of metacognitive therapy is that negative thoughts and emotions along with distressing beliefs are normal. A disorder occurs when a toxic style of thinking or cognitive attentional syndrome exists. CAS represents a person’s response to internal events, threat monitoring, coping and self-regulatory mechanisms. Worries usually start with negative thoughts. Metacognitive therapy works with the content of metacognitions. It targets the erroneous belief about the uncontrollability of worry. Once the uncontrollable nature of worry is challenged, treatment can focus on the negative beliefs associated with danger or threats. (Sookman & Leahy, 2010)

Acceptance-based behaviour therapies are also effective against anxiety. The most important aspect of this therapy is the expansion of the client’s awareness of her or his experiences. It teaches patients to observe their own responses with clarity, become more aware of their actions and the consequences. The therapy emphasizes a shift from a controlling and judgmental stance to a compassionate and accepting one. A transcendent and consistent self is a very important goal of this form of treatment, which is separate from the momentary experiences. The acceptance-based therapeutic approach strives to increase the life quality of patients as well. It reduces the intense distress associated with the internal experiences of the client. Anxiety is often characterized by avoidance, but instead of that, the acceptance-based approach suggests flexibility and choice. It urges clients to participate in activities, which reflect their personal values, engaging with important people of their lives and pursuing their individual goals. (Orsillo & Roemer, 2005)

Consider one or more treatment methods: Treatment must be in accordance with the specifications of the disorder, characteristics of the patient and the features of treatment options and the clinician’s preferences. Therapeutic methods are desirable that are well-established, effective, easily administered, available to a wide range of patients, have low cost and faster onset of therapeutic effects. The severity of the disorder, the impairment or disability it is causing and the presence of other disorders also determine the possible treatment methods, such as medication or cognitive-behaviour therapy. The patient’s individual needs, tolerance, attitudes toward treatment methods and motivation must be considered as well. The clinician might also prefer one or more treatment methods and he or she is more familiar with certain interventions. (Starcevic, 2010)

Striving for better tolerance: The learning of tolerating uncertainty and the unlearning of intolerance to uncertainty are vital aspects of dealing with anxiety. Individuals with anxiety often experience uncertainty in a way that is very stressful and upsetting. It interferes with their functioning, and they may feel that uncertain events and situations are best avoided. Uncertainty is part of everyday life, but anxiety patients are worried too much about it. Better tolerance for uncertain situations can result in improved problem-solving skills of patients. (Simos & Hofman, 2013)

The above list highlights the importance of the role of the mind in the development and treatment of anxiety. It is often a negative mindset or thinking pattern that is responsible for the existence and persistence of anxiety. The demonstrated techniques do not substitute working with a professional, but they serve as guidelines for a better understanding of the nature of anxiety and help with its treatment.

Psychologists at the Centre with expertise in anxiety

If you are looking for help with anxiety, the following psychologists at the centre can assist you:

To get an appointment or to make enquiries, please call (03) 9820-5577.

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