All effective psychotherapies for anxiety disorders emphasize the goals of decreasing avoidance and increasing anxiety tolerance. These goals can be pursued in several ways. Talking about anxieties, their origins, meanings, and purposes is a way of facing them. Avoidance may also be circumvented by actual exposure to feared objects and situations in real life or through imagining them. Relaxation and meditation techniques are helpful in reducing the base-line level of anxiety so that it is harder to trigger the symptoms. They also can be used when anxiety needs reducing in the here and now, as can medication, if needed.
Through psychotherapy, anxiety can become more proportionate to what is going on as well as generally milder in intensity. Appropriate anxiety can be better tolerated and avoidance can take its rightful place among other defenses and coping tools. And, perhaps most importantly, there can be more self-confidence.
"A cure doesn't mean the end of anxiety, it means a willingness to try new things, take some risks, and accept anxiety as an inherent part of growing and living." (Psychotherapy Networker, 2013, 37, 1, p. 45).
But what about the biology of anxiety? Medication from a physician works directly and often quickly at the biological level to subdue the associated physical symptoms, such as speedy heart rate, trembling, nausea, and dizziness. There is also the reality that anxiety can have a genetic component. The DSM 5 (2013) only speculates that some disorders are heritable but is also clear about some others. For example, in the DSM 5 it is asserted that the "heritability for agoraphobia is 61%" (p. 220).
Interestingly, there is more and more data to support the possibility that psychotherapy is itself a biological intervention. There is mounting evidence that psychotherapy impacts the mind-brain connection. This connection was succinctly explained by Hanson (2014), who said that "repeated patterns of mental activity build neural structure. In essence, the mind itself is the greatest sculptor of the brain" (p. 19). As Wylie (2014) stated, "Talk therapy is more than just talk. In fact, the right kind of therapeutic talk can be seen as just as much of a biological intervention as medication" (p. 37).
As for talk therapy, I use the complementary techniques of psychodynamic psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy.To learn more about psychotherapy, go to these pages- About Therapy, Individual Therapy, and Relationship Therapy. Because depression often occurs along with anxiety, it may be useful to look at the depression page..
Contact me if you would like to meet about your anxiety.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Hanson, R. (2014) The next big step. Psychotherapy Networker, 38(1), 18-25 &48).
(2013). Psychotherapy Networker. 37(1), p.45.
Wylie, M. S. (2014). Beyond phrenology. Psychotherapy Networker, 38(1), 35-39 & 54.