Fear is the emotion associated with real or perceived danger. Anxiety can be associated with the expectation that something bad will happen, remembering something bad, or sometimes it just seems to be a body condition without a clear cause. Fear and anxiety are closely related and often overlap each other.
Some anxiety disorders involve fear of a specific thing or situation. These are called phobias and can vary in how specific the feared object is. So-called ‘irrational’ fears are only called phobias if they interfere with your life and you want to get rid of them. Specific phobias are considered among the most psychologically treatable of all mental disorders. Social phobia is a common form of anxiety disorder.
Cognitive behavior therapy examines the role played by our habitual ways of thinking in maintaining anxiety. Our emotional states are frequently associated with ‘self-talk’ that is unexamined. As we can articulate this self-talk and the beliefs reflected by it, we can learn to use specific techniques to exercise more control.
Systematic desensitization can be useful in treating many types of anxiety. The client is taught relaxation techniques through guided imagery and diaphragmatic breathing. When the fearful experience is clearly identified, a hierarchy of situations—from only mildly threatening up to very threatening—is devised. Initially, a mildly threatening situation is imagined and then paired with the relaxation skill. After this is successfully done with several of the imagined situations, it can be done in ‘real life’ initially with a supportive companion if you wish. I use the analogy of teaching your body—as if you were training an animal—not to be afraid of certain situations.
Knowing how to relax and how to monitor our anxiety are very useful skills whether used with formal desensitization or not.
Anxiety can be associated with particular events or patterns of events from our history. Understanding how this has happened and being able to emotionally integrate these experiences into a bigger picture of ourselves can be freeing.
People have varying base-line arousal levels depending on their temperament and physiology. Coming to know and accept your natural level of excitement without harshly judging it can also be freeing.
At any given time, about 18% of the population exhibits an anxiety disorder.
28% percent of us will experience an anxiety disorder in our lifetime.
28% of us will experience an anxiety disorder in our lifetime.