What is the cost to control your anxiety? What do you give up because of it? Are there relationships that you lost? How does it affect your family? Anxiety is one of the main reasons that people come to therapy.
You Feel Like You Are Going Crazy
Many people with anxiety fear that they are going crazy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason being is if you can ask if you are going crazy, then by definition, you are not. Your life may feel out of control, or you are anxious about being anxious. The problem with anxiety is that you fear the worst that could happen, will happen. You might want to ask yourself, how many of the things you worry about actually happen?
Can You Really Control Your Anxiety?
People get themselves in trouble when they avoid the things they are afraid of. The more you avoid what you are afraid of, the worse it gets. Your life becomes smaller and smaller to the point where you don’t want to leave your house anymore. Most people are miserable at this point.
Also ask yourself how your attempts to control your anxiety have been working. Can you really control your anxiety? Most people will admit that they help in the short term. But in the long term they make things worse.
I have worked with many people with anxiety. Just know that when it gets bad enough, therapy can help. There are many tools I can teach you to learn to deal with it. Or at least to the point that it will be a minor nuisance vs. something that controls your life.
Passengers On the Bus
There is a wonderful metaphor by Stephen Hayes, one of the founders of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It is called Passengers on the Bus. It goes something like this: You are a bus driver and you have picked up some very scary passengers. You don’t want to let them on your bus, but you don’t have a choice. They go to the back of the bus and tell you when to turn left and right. As long as you do what they say, these passengers stay in the back. The problem is, you no longer have control of your bus . Perhaps these scary passengers are anxiety, depression, or your phobias. As long as you do what they tell you, you are safe. You cannot control your anxiety. Now you have given up some of the things you enjoy. Only when you confront these fears can you be back in charge of driving your bus.
Fight Or Flight
Something also to remember, as human beings we are wired for anxiety. It is known as our fight or flight system. If our well-being is being threatened, it will kick into gear as a way to save our life. Small to moderate levels of anxiety are adaptive, as if we didn’t have it we wouldn’t be motivated to study for tests, or prepare for our jobs or presentations. So the goal of therapy isn’t to get rid of all your anxiety, as that is impossible. We want it to be at a level where we can do the things we want in life. Or basically feel the fear and do it anyways.
The other thing that occurs to people with anxiety disorders is that they are hyper aware of their body and its sensations. They may feel their heart racing, so they focus on it. Perhaps you wonder, is my heart rate too high, or am I going to have a heart attack? Just by focusing on it you raise your alarm bells. If any of us want to focus on our heart rate, we too will be more aware of it, and feel it pounding.
Anxiety is also like waves. Some waves are little ripples, some may push us a little in the water, and others may throw us to shore. This is the same with anxiety. The importance is to learn how to ride the wave. If we float on the water, the waves won’t knock us over. Remember too, that just like the waves, anxiety eventually calms down.
Please give me a call at 713-304-6554 if you try to control your anxiety and it no longer works.
Debbie Grammas, PhD