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Anxiety Counselling Perth

Need help with anxiety? Anxiety is a treatable condition, so there is no reason why you should suffer endlessly. It is the most common reason that people seek counselling. Anxiety counselling can help you fully understand the causes of a range of anxiety-related issues. It can provide you with the tools to obtain relief from stress, overcome panic, and manage stressful situations confidently and calmly. Learning how to manage your anxiety constructively will help you reduce the symptoms and cope confidently with daily living.

What is Anxiety?

Feeling stressed or worried is a normal and natural human experience. Most of us experience some level of stress or worry on most days in response to a situation where we feel under pressure. These feelings usually pass once the stressful situation has ended. Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. For some, it may be experienced as ongoing, intense and excessive, along with other frequent and severe debilitating symptoms that cause distress and leaves you feeling powerless and out of control.

Understanding Anxiety

 

Fear is an automatic inbuilt emotional response to a situation or circumstance that involves some threat of danger. It occurs in both animals and humans, enabling our bodies to respond in ways that help keep us safe. For example, if a dangerous animal confronted us, we would likely respond with fear. This emotional response initiates a whole series of automatic physical, behavioural and cognitive changes that ultimately serve to protect us, known as the fight or flight response. This response is useful because our bodies become highly alert and stronger, allowing us to either stay and fight the enemy or flee as fast as we can.

 

Symptoms of the above response may be experienced as:

  • Racing thoughts

  • Dizziness or light-headedness

  • Changes to vision

  • Dry mouth

  • An increase in heart rate and strength of beat

  • Quick and shallow breathing

  • Nausea and butterflies in the stomach

  • A rush of adrenaline

  • Cold hands

  • An increase in sweating

  • Muscle tension

  • Feelings of anger or rage (fight)

  • An overwhelming desire to escape (flight)

 

The experience of anxiety is very similar to the experience of fear. The main difference is that with anxiety, the fight or flight response is triggered in preparation for 'perceived future danger', unlike fear, where the response is associated with 'real imminent danger'. The fight or flight response was designed for use in short-term situations, after which the body should return to a normal level of function. However, for about one in twelve people who continuously trigger this response due to imagined or perceived future danger, the body is unable to return to a normal level of function. For those individuals, the ongoing unpleasant symptoms of the response can become so severe and prolonged it can impair daily functioning.

What are the Causes of Anxiety?

 

There is no single cause of anxiety, but the following factors or a combination of them may increase an individual's vulnerability:

Stress:

High levels of ongoing stress over a prolonged period. For example, work stress, family and relationship problems, death or loss of a loved one, bullying, and sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

Unhelpful Thinking Patterns:

For example, negative thinking, self-blame, catastrophising, making assumptions, over-generalisation and unrealistic demands on self.

Personality factors:

People with certain personality traits are more likely to experience anxiety. For example, people who are perfectionists, lack self-esteem or want to control everything.

Early Childhood Experiences:

Abusive or traumatic early childhood experiences can lead to the development of beliefs that the world is unsafe and that others cannot be trusted.

Health Issues:

Chronic physical illness can cause significant worry about issues such as your treatment and your future.

Genetics:

Anxiety can run in families.

Medication:

Side-effects from prescribed medication.

Drugs and Alcohol:

Some people use alcohol or other drugs to help them manage their anxiety. However, alcohol and substance use can aggravate anxiety conditions, particularly as the effects of the substance wears off.

Treatment Options & Strategies to Manage Anxiety

 

Being able to control anxiety is a learned behaviour, and anxiety can be effectively managed. It’s important to seek support early as the symptoms may not go away on their own. The following strategies and treatment options are known to help to manage anxiety.

Psychotherapy & Counselling For Anxiety

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to Treat Anxiety:

Evidence suggests that CBT produces the most favourable outcome and has the longest lasting effect on diminishing anxiety. Cognitive restructuring is a technique drawn from CBT which recognises that the way we feel, behave and respond to situations is based on how we think. Thinking that is inaccurate, based on negative predictions or based on false assumptions about other people and the world fuels anxiety and other negative mood states. Cognitive restructuring involves working with a professional therapist to identify unhelpful thinking patterns that are causing you to become anxious. Once identified and challenged, these anxiety-provoking thought patterns can be replaced by more positive thoughts and beliefs that reduce your anxiety and improve your coping skills.

Gestalt Therapy:

Gestalt therapy centres around remaining centred in the present. Individuals learn to tune into their inner selves, release the past, and engage with the present moment and present context. Instead of worrying about the past or the future, Gestalt therapy focuses on the here and now.

Graded Exposure Therapy:

Relief brought about by avoidance of an anxiety-provoking situation is temporary. It can mean you don’t get a chance to face your fear and prove to yourself you can cope with it, in turn causing your anxiety to persist. Exposure to the anxiety-provoking situation, rather than avoiding it, is usually the best way to reduce its impact. A trained professional therapist can provide coping skills and support you to do this slowly and gradually in a controlled and safe environment. This allows you to build your confidence steadily, and as you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes.

Grounding:

Grounding is a therapeutic technique that guides you to focus outward on the external world rather than inward on negative thoughts and feelings. Although these techniques will not prevent the onset of anxiety, they can be especially helpful when experiencing extreme emotional distress. A therapist can teach you the following range of grounding strategies:

  • Mental grounding, which includes activities such as counting backwards and/or naming and describing objects in your surrounding environment.

  • Physical grounding, which includes activities such as clapping your hands, jumping up and down, and/or running your hands under cold water.

  • Soothing grounding, which includes activities such as having a hot bath, rubbing hand cream onto your hands and arms, gently stroking your upper arm and/or saying kind things to yourself.

Medication

In some cases, medication is used as a temporary treatment option for reducing the symptoms of anxiety while you are taking it. However, it does not address the underlying causes.

Natural Remedies

Relaxation:

Learning relaxation skills can help you release the physical tension in your body, which may be contributing to you experiencing excessive anxiety. Simple daily relaxation tools may be helpful, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, mindfulness exercises and non-strenuous exercises like yoga.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices:

  • Eat nutritious food

  • Obtain sufficient sleep

  • Engage in regular physical activity - for many people, walking, running, or swimming is helpful

  • Take time out for family, friends and recreational activities

  • Avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other drugs

Severe Anxiety & Anxiety Disorders

Ongoing severe anxiety may result in an individual developing an anxiety disorder. There are many types of anxiety disorders. Here are some of the more common ones. These brief descriptions are for educational purposes only and should not be used to label or diagnose yourself with a condition.

Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a situation where one might experience anxiety or panic and where escape from the situation might be difficult or embarrassing. Although the primary fear appears to be a fear of public places such as shopping centres, public transportation and open spaces, evidence suggests the anxiety is more about having a panic attack.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

Persistent and excessive anxiety or worry most of the time, not necessarily about anything specific, that the individual finds difficult to manage or control. The individual’s worries relate not just to specific stressful situations, but they may also relate to several aspects of everyday life, including work, health, family, relationships and/or financial issues. GAD can feel like a constant state of dread with little respite from the anxious state.

 

In addition to chronic worry, GAD symptoms can include trembling, muscle aches, abdominal upsets, dizziness, and irritability. Because of persistent muscle tension and physical anxiety reactions, individuals may develop headaches, heart palpitations, and insomnia. These physical complaints, combined with the intense, long-term anxiety, make it difficult to cope with normal daily activities, and relaxation can feel almost impossible.

 

Hypochondria or Health Anxiety:

Refers to a healthy individual having an obsession or fear about having or obtaining a serious illness. Sometimes harmless physical symptoms are perceived as serious medical conditions. People with hypochondria have a constant fixation with the body, self-examination and self-diagnosing.

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

Obsessions are unwanted recurrent and persistent thoughts or desires that the individual tries to control but which are very difficult to eliminate from the mind. These persistent thoughts may cause significant anxiety or distress. A compulsion is an uncontrollable urge to perform some repetitive action or ritual to relieve the anxiety. For example, someone who is obsessed with catching an infection and therefore washes themself or cleans their environment repeatedly.

Panic Disorder:

Panic attacks are unexpected surges of intense fear or intense discomfort that reach a peak within minutes, accompanied by physical and/or cognitive symptoms. The panic attack may or may not occur for an apparent reason. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or about to die. Panic disorder is the term used to describe recurrent panic attacks or persistent fears of having one for more than a month or an unhelpful change in behaviour because of the panic attacks.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

PTSD is a particular set of reactions that can develop in individuals who have experienced an extremely traumatic event(s) which threatened their life or safety or that of others around them. In this condition, the individual often re-experiences the traumatic event(s). This experience may be accompanied by ongoing symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks of the event, difficulty relaxing, and the avoidance of anything related to the event. As a result, the person may experience feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror.

Examples of the type of events that may cause PTSD:

  • Prolonged physical, emotional or sexual abuse

  • A violent personal assault, such as rape or robbery

  • Experiencing or witnessing serious traffic accidents

  • Witnessing violent deaths

  • Military combat and wars

  • Being held hostage

  • Terrorist attacks

  • Natural disasters, such as floods, fires, earthquakes or tsunamis

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences these events will necessarily develop PTSD.

 

Social Anxiety or Social Phobia:

In this condition, individuals experience intense anxiety or fear brought on by exposure to certain types of social interactions or social situations in which there is an expectation to speak. For example, meeting unfamiliar people, circumstances in which the individual may be observed eating or drinking, and situations in which the individual performs or speaks in public. The person’s fear is driven by ideas of being negatively evaluated by others, by being embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected, or offending others. This intense anxiety may lead to avoidance behaviour and can significantly limit the sufferer from achieving his or her full social and occupational potential.

 

Specific Phobia:

In this condition, people experience clinically significant fear or anxiety about specific objects or situations, such as spiders, heights, or flying. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is almost always immediately induced by the phobic situation, to a degree that is excessive and out of proportion to the actual risk posed.

Featured Articles About Anxiety

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Featured Videos About Anxiety 

Click here to view a range of short informative and interesting YouTube videos about anxiety.

Anxiety Counsellor Perth

Anxiety is a treatable condition. I can help you explore the possible causes and triggers of your anxiety. With evidence-based techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I can work with you to diminish, manage and resolve your anxiety symptoms. Why not call me today or use the online contact form to make an appointment and begin the process of working through your anxiety.

Contact William Macaulay Counselling

William Macaulay

Anxiety Counsellor & Psychotherapist

Perth, Western Australia