Recently, the number of individuals seeking help for anxiety has risen. Some professionals advocate a combination of drug therapy–some say necessary for a life time–and psychotherapy. I have a problem with anything being “for a life time.” Anxiety medications also have a limited effect for many. There are some major psychiatric disorders for which we’ve found no treatment beyond medication, but I don’t believe this is true for most individuals struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety and it’s frequent companion, depression, are sometimes very natural. NOT being anxious in some situations doesn’t make sense. Teens facing adulthood often experience very understandable anxiety. Individuals in transition also face this emotion–jobs and relationships change. Even change about which individuals are excited can bring unsettling feelings.
Big moments like the birth of a child or marriage and moving to a new city can be both exciting and anxiety-producing. All three of the above appear on some depression scales. Change brings lots of different emotions and anxiety is one of these.
We don’t need to suffer long-term with crippling anxiety, however.
By far the greatest cause of anxiety is self-doubt. Maybe I can’t handle this. Those who struggle with nervous, anxious feelings frequently see themselves as failures…even if others really don’t. Those who in the world’s eyes are very successful can have unrealistically high expectations of themselves and can believe themselves always teetering on the brink of failure. Anxiety often follows.
This self-doubt or self-criticism can be found in individuals who cower in their homes with agoraphobia and those who function, but run an inner critical monologue all the time.
One of the great ironies of humanity is that while we are acutely aware of our failures, most fail to even notice or give themselves credit for their successes. Successful treatment of anxiety requires individuals to learn to assess themselves more objectively and to push through to do the things they feel they can’t accomplish. Then they have to really pay attention to the reality that they did this.
For a smaller, but just as significant group of anxiety sufferers, self-doubt isn’t an issue. For these stalwart folks, their usually sudden burst of anxiety tends to stem from the fact that they aren’t listening or attending to their own inner experience. They ignore their emotions and plough ahead, thinking they’ll get over it. Some of these folks have a hard time identifying emotion beyond anger and annoyance. They’re also pretty good with happy, but sometimes everything inside just feels gray.
This groups needs to learn to listen to their emotions, even though these are sometimes inconvenient and messy.
Sometimes feeling nervous makes total sense. It can warn you of dangers and help you survive. It becomes and problem, however, when not based in any reality. Unfounded anxiety can be survived to the point that it’s not a large player in life. You can learn how to live your life better and it will diminish.