Anxiety can be normal, even helpful at times, such as when you're preparing for an important exam or facing a dangerous situation. Anxiety becomes a problem when fear and worry are either chronic or reach a level of intensity that becomes disruptive to your life.
Anxiety has a negative impact when it shows up in unsettling ways, such as creating problems with your work, social life, relationships, or your level of confidence. Common ways that anxiety can have a negative impact on your life include:
Possibly you've learned to manage your anxiety through avoiding the things that you fear, such as socializing, dating, or performing. Or perhaps you've taken to numbing your anxiety with alcohol, drugs, overeating, or other compulsive behaviors. Ultimately, you may find these avoidance strategies unsatisfying and far less fulfilling than fully participating in life the way you want to.
Specific ways that anxiety may be holding you back in your life include:
The term "trauma" refers to wounding or painful experiences that you've endured in your past, which still create discomfort for you. Because traumatic experiences are overwhelming, the negative feelings, memories, and uncomfortable body sensations that occurred during the trauma tend to get "frozen" in your nervous system, and thus remain unprocessed. This can account for the symptoms that get activated when your anxiety gets triggered, such as fear, worry, panic, and sleeplessness.
The types of traumas that cause anxiety can be severe or subtle. Clearly, severe trauma can cause intense anxiety. Subtle trauma can have a major impact too if you have a sensitive temperament, you've experienced trauma at an early age, or you've endured ongoing trauma. Examples of the types of traumas that can be at the source of your current anxiety, fear, and worry include:
Another contributing factor to anxiety is the role of negative beliefs. "Beliefs" are essentially "mental programming." They typically operate outside of your awareness, yet wield enormous influence over how you think, feel, and behave.
Your mental programming is shaped by past experiences. Positive experiences lead to positive, supportive beliefs. Negative, painful, traumatic experiences lead to negative, unsupportive beliefs. Examples of beliefs that are often linked to anxiety, fear, and worry include:
A key factor with anxiety treatment that cannot be ignored is the role that depression plays. Feeling trapped, hopeless, and discouraged - common symptoms of depression - can lead to fear and worry about never feeling good again. Mixed Anxiety-Depression is also very common. In these cases, it's useful to address your depression as part of your anxiety treatment.
While your past can play an enormous role in your anxiety, there is more to the picture. How you navigate current challenges plays an important role in your anxiety level. Common triggers to anxiety that you may face in your present-day life include:
My approach to anxiety treatment includes three key steps:
These skills and resources include relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and learning how to effectively handle anxiety-provoking thoughts and worries. This also includes being more assertive, setting healthy boundaries, and learning how to problem solve instead of focusing on worries.
The goal is to help you experience:
For many, anxiety, fear, and worry can seem insurmountable. Often though, anxiety is due to unresolved traumas and the maladaptive thinking and behavior patterns that these traumas reinforce in your life. Addressing these traumas, as well as developing healthy skills and thinking patterns, can support you to experience more calmness, confidence, and well-being in your life.
Office located in NW Portland, Oregon. Serving the Portland metro area, including Beaverton, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Tigard, West Linn, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Tualatin, Gresham, and Vancouver, WA.