Licensed Professional Counselor
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Helping people to heal and grow in their lives.

Treatment for Anxiety, Fear, and Worry

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:

  • Excessive worrying or nervousness
  • Fear or phobia (e.g. socializing, performing, flying)
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Feeling tense, restless, or stressed
  • Sleep difficulties and/or nightmares

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:

  • Shyness or low self-esteem
  • Job related anxiety
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Test or performance anxiety
  • Avoiding athletic or competitive activities
  • Decreased confidence

An essential key to overcoming this anxiety, fear, and worry may lie in resolving the old traumas that keep you connected to anxious and emotionally difficult situations from your past.

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:

  • Experiencing the death of a loved one
  • Feeling betrayed or rejected by a significant other
  • Humiliating or embarrassing experiences
  • Family conflict, stress, or dysfunction
  • Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Health problems, such as an injury, accident, or dental procedure
  • Role modeling by a highly anxious or stressed parent

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:

  • I'm not good enough
  • I'll never succeed
  • I'm a failure
  • I'm powerless
  • I'm unsafe

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:

  • Fears of embarrassment in social situations
  • A tendency to obsess about worst-case scenarios
  • Hypervigilance
  • Being very critical of yourself
  • Trying to be perfect
  • Not setting healthy boundaries

Fortunately, the emotional trauma, negative beliefs, and present-day challenges that trigger your anxiety can be addressed.

My approach to anxiety treatment includes three key steps:

  1. We start by addressing how anxiety holds you back in your present day life, such as at work, in relationships and social situations, or how you feel about yourself. These present-day challenges can provide valuable insight into the particular traumas that remain active and continue to fuel your anxiety, fear, and worry. Through using specific counseling techniques we can work toward defusing these particular traumas.
  2. The next step is to shift the negative beliefs that you hold about yourself. Changing your negative, fear-based beliefs into positive supportive beliefs, can support you to overcome your tendency toward fear and worry and help you to start thinking more positively.
  3. Finally, we focus on developing new skills and resources to give you the tools to handle present-day anxiety-provoking situations and to strengthen your sense of confidence and empowerment.

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:

  • Increased calmness
  • More self-confidence
  • Feeling in charge of yourself and your life
  • A sense of empowerment
  • Feeling comfortable in your own skin

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.

For Counseling in Portland, feel free to call me today at (503) 887-3309, email me, or use my Contact Form to book a counseling session or to set up a FREE consultation.

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.