Are Fear and Apprehension in the Driver’s Seat of Your Life?
- Is it difficult to stop worrying about anything and everything?
- Do you usually fear the worst will happen?
- Do you have intrusive and distressing thoughts that require you to think or do something to ‘undo’ them?
- Do you dread or avoid talking to people you don’t know?
- Does the anxiety ever get so bad that you feel like you might be dying or going crazy in that moment?
Fears and worries can impact your ability to concentrate and keep up with responsibilities at work or school. You may feel exhausted at the end of the day, but racing thoughts make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. At the peak of your anxiety, you might feel like you’re in a fog or viewing your life through a distant lens instead of living it. Do you wish you could feel safe and confident while living the life you want to live?
Anxiety can leave you feeling like something catastrophic is about to happen, even when you know that you are safe. Feelings of anxiety may lead you to believe you that you are one mistake away from getting fired from your job despite the fact that you’ve received glowing reviews from supervisors. You may interpret a fluttering in your chest to mean an imminent heart attack. Alternately, you may be preoccupied with the health and safety of your family members. You may recognize that ongoing worries are interfering with your concentration, sleep and overall ability to participate in the present moment but feel helpless to find relief and take control of your thoughts and emotions. Finally, your anxiety may be triggered by uncontrollable intrusive and distressing thoughts, impulses or images that compel you to do a mental or physical operation in order to ‘undo’ them. For instance, you may experience the thought to hurt a beloved family member and need to imagine yourself not doing this over and over in order to relieve your anxiety.
Anxiety is More Common Than You Think
Although it is not often discussed, about 1 in every 5 people suffer from anxiety in the U.S. That’s about 40 million people. The experience of anxiety can be alienating—it makes you feel different from everyone else. However, since anxiety is so common, it has been studied at length. We now know that you can move past your anxiety to live the life you want with the help of an empathic, trained, and experienced psychotherapist.
For some, anxiety consists of social situations that invite the possible scrutiny of others. It can be particularly hard to feel comfortable when you are not sure how the other person feels about you. Within this uncertainty, a slight frown on their face or a look of disinterest can feel like confirmation of rejection. Some people’s fears may be limited to performance-related situations, such as meeting with a supervisor or giving a speech, while others’ discomfort extends to nearly all social situations. Anxiety can make unfamiliar social situations feel dangerous even though “objectively” they should feel safe.
Adolescents who suffer from anxiety may shy away from important developmental tasks such as dating, going to parties, interacting with adults, or speaking to unfamiliar peers at school. They may also worry excessively over their performance at school and/or peer relationships. Parents of adolescents who are suffering from anxiety may assume that their child just likes to “keep to themselves,” but withdrawing from activities and interactions may be the young adult’s attempt to manage their anxiety levels.
Anxiety can be extremely frustrating because the intuitive ways to solve this problem—such as avoiding stressors or isolating yourself—usually only worsen the matter. We are taught to believe that if something is a problem, we need to figure out how to control it and then eliminate it. Anxiety—like any other spontaneous process (e.g. sneezing or hiccups)—does not take kindly to control. Your efforts to talk yourself out of feeling anxious while you are away from the anxiety-producing situation or avoiding the situation altogether may only serve to reinforce the underpinnings of your anxiety.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to find relief and healing. With anxiety therapy, you can learn to recognize stressors and manage anxious or negative self-thoughts so you can feel more confident and in control of your life.
Psychotherapy Can Help You Break Free from Anxiety
Anxiety is a common problem that can be addressed with the help of a psychotherapist who is trained and experienced in approaches proven to work. I possess the flexibility, openness, and empathy to tailor anxiety treatment to your particular strengths, goals, and needs. Whether you have been suffering from anxiety for years or it has just arrived, my integrative personalized approach to anxiety treatment can help you deal with it in a fundamentally different and healthier way and stop it from being a roadblock in your life.
I use my training and clinical experience across three therapeutic modalities (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Self Psychology, and Control-Mastery Theory) to develop a customized roadmap for you to overcome your anxiety. Each of these three modalities provides me with a map to help guide our mutual exploration of how anxiety impacts your life. Most importantly, they all ask “what happened to you that contributed to these feelings of anxiety?” rather than “what’s wrong with you that you feel so anxious?” I believe that psychotherapy is not a finger-pointing exercise where someone seeking help is made to subtly feel “broken” or “pathological.” You may have survived situations that made it impossible for life to be lived any other way right now. This starting point will allow us to explore your experience with the empathy and respect you deserve.
During sessions, our first task will be to develop a shared understanding of how anxiety operates in your life. As we identify those areas where anxiety is impacting your life and you experience my non-judgmental, empathic, and curious attitude about your experience, you can see that you have a supportive ally in your struggle with anxiety. Over time, this compassionate and trusting connection will change the way you relate to yourself when you are experiencing anxiety. Instead of being confused by your reactions in different situations, anxiety therapy can help you see that your reactions – even the anxious ones – are understandable. It may sound subtle, but this shift towards an empathic view of yourself can have a tremendously positive effect on the quality of your life.
In addition to developing an empathic understanding of how anxiety has functioned in your life, you can develop practical tools to help you overcome the habits of avoiding situations, sensations, or people that keeps the anxiety cycle in place. These tools include customized exercises that help you be aware of and challenge the accuracy of negative self-thoughts, feelings, and sensations you experience in difficult situations. As you shift your attitude towards your thoughts about anxious situations, you can experience more calm in approaching—instead of avoiding—the situations that arouse anxiety. As you approach these situations, your system will be exposed to the reality that the dreaded outcome either does not occur (e.g. your plane lands safely) or is survive-able (e.g. getting turned down for a date or promotion).
During anxiety therapy in my office in downtown San Francisco, we will work together to empower you to understand and manage difficult thoughts, emotions, and situations so you can foster a calmer, more peaceful life.
But, you may still have questions or concerns about counseling for anxiety…
“I’ve never been to therapy before. Opening up to a stranger makes me uncomfortable.”
It is natural to be skeptical about opening up to someone new, especially if that person is initially a complete stranger. Can you trust a therapist to treat you with respect, warmth, and validation? The only way to answer this question is to have an interaction with a therapist that you are considering going to see. In my practice, I offer a free initial 15-minute phone consultation so that you can gain a sense of what it’s like to work with me and decide whether you feel comfortable enough to make an initial appointment. The discomfort of talking to a ‘stranger’ usually diminishes quickly as we build a trusting relationship and you experience my attempts to understand and empathize with your experience.
“Shouldn’t I be able to fix this myself?”
A lot of life’s problems can be fixed by identifying what’s wrong and taking the steps to fix it yourself. However, emotional problems do not usually fall into this category. In fact, trying to “fix” yourself can leave you feeling even more discouraged or helpless if it doesn’t work. Emotions don’t take kindly to our efforts to control them, and you may need help developing the awareness and resources you need to find relief. Instead of working against your emotions, anxiety therapy helps you understand your feelings and use them as a resource for yourself. It may sound strange to think of anxiety as a resource, but you can grow to see anxiety as an important signal that a deeper emotional need is not being met. For instance, you may anxiously obsess over a problem because it feels safer than getting angry at someone you love. As we work to understand what is dangerous about expressing anger in a relationship, you can learn to catch yourself when you begin to feel anxious and consider expressing that anger constructively towards your partner instead.
“Can I just take medication instead?”
Although medication can be a useful way to treat emotional difficulties, research has shown that the improvements made in therapy often last longer than those occurring with medication. This is particularly true after you stop going to therapy…the benefits tend to live on while the same cannot be said when you stop taking medication. In my practice, I will often recommend that people consult with a psychiatrist to see if medication might be a helpful addition to therapy. In these cases, and with your permission, I work in close collaboration with your prescribing doctor to ensure that we are both informed about how the medication is working and how you can achieve meaningful, lasting change in your life.
You Can Overcome Anxiety
If you are tired of anxiety being a force in your life, or if you have additional questions about anxiety therapy, I invite you to contact my office in downtown San Francisco at (415) 944-3628 or email me to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.