Ask a Therapist: What Can I Do About My Chronic Anxiety?
By: Dr. Joey Tadie
One of the most common areas of concern I see in my practice is the overwhelming and sometimes debilitating experience of uncontrolled anxiety. I work with many individuals who constantly feel worried, uncertain, self-conscious, and on the edge of panic. Anxiety is tremendously distracting and can even breed feelings of hopelessness and depression when untreated. In our modern culture, the first line intervention for many medical/mental health problems is often medicine. However, research consistently shows that medicine is not in fact the most effective treatment of anxiety. Many times certain medicines such as Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin are prescribed to treat anxiety, and they can be effective to a point. But, they are merely effective in controlling the symptoms you experience (e.g. physical tension, agitation, nervousness, panic) and have little long-term impact on the root causes of anxiety. Moreover, there can be risks of dependence with certain medicines and it is crucial you discuss any questions you have about meds with your medical doctor or psychiatrist. You can manage chronic anxiety to a degree with nothing but medicine, but you will likely notice very little long-term improvement unless you also devote time to understanding why your anxiety is active.
Therapy can help with this process and has been shown to be a superior method of addressing anxiety symptoms, triggers (things that activate anxiety), and thinking patterns. Many of us have heard the best way to deal with weeds overtaking a garden is to "pull the weeds out by the roots." This is essentially the conceptual process through which I address anxiety in therapy. I use techniques such as self-reflection, analyzing thought patterns, making behavioral/activity changes, learning self-empowerment skills, and interactive feedback to help you understand and effectively counteract your anxiety experiences. In addition, I still work with you on managing and reducing physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety. The result is that not only do many individuals experience needed relief from ongoing and debilitating anxiety, but they also learn techniques that help them sustain their positive progress.
Coming to therapy is not about learning skills to help you in your present situation, but also to help you across many situations throughout the rest of your life. Many times we can become tangled in our own thinking/reflection without guidance and thoughtful feedback from a trusted confidant. This is why it is so useful to have a therapist who can deliver suggestions to help you meet your anxiety management goals, while also collaborating with you to develop customized coping methods that match your personality and needs. Anxiety does not have to remain a constant and disruptive force in your life. Consider how rewarding your life could be without the consistent drag of anxiety, tension, and fear. Take one of the most important steps you can for your life and investigate your treatment options. It might be tempting to rely of medicines alone, but investing time into therapy can help you experience the most and longest lasting relief possible.