Feeling anxious is quite normal and people can experience it on a daily basis in a variety of situations. For example, right before an exam when the nerves are at their peak or when we cannot fall asleep because we have to make an important decision.
Anxiety is a normal adaptive response that occurs in situations of stress or uncertainty. However, when anxiety leads to functional impairment, affects different areas of our life (interpersonal relationships, work, school …) and causes great discomfort and suffering, then it is possible that it is an anxiety disorder. In this case, it is necessary to undergo psychological therapy.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders
Negative anxiety can manifest for different reasons, as there are different types of anxiety disorders. Some people have a great fear of speaking in public (social phobia) and therefore ** tend to avoid situations in which they are exposed to this discomfort **.
Others have irrational and catastrophic thoughts almost daily about events that have not happened and are very unlikely to occur (generalized anxiety disorder), and others feel great embarrassment about reliving a traumatic event from the past. Post-traumatic stress). Regardless of the type of anxiety, some characteristic symptoms of this disorder are:
Intense and irrational fear.
- Excessive worries.
- Dizziness, sweating, muscle tension, shortness of breath, dry mouth, or fatigue.
- Avoid dreaded situations.
- Repetitive thoughts and behaviors.
- Traumatic events are relived.
If you think you are one of those people with an anxiety disorder, know that you are not alone, as it is a very common problem. Because there are different types of anxiety disorders, each has a specific treatment.
however, psychologists can provide a number of techniques that help improve anxiety statesBut the problem does not recover if you do not side with your side. It is your responsibility to implement certain habits and strategies in your life so that anxiety is no longer a problem.
If you want to know which treatments are applied in the therapeutic sessions, below is a list of the most relevant and remarkable:
1. Relaxation techniques
Our bodies respond to thoughts of anxiety with muscle tension and a number of physiological responses. When an anxious person interprets a situation as threatening, the fight-and-flight response is activated, a series of hormones are released, and the autonomic nervous system prepares the individual to react to a dangerous situation.
Relaxation techniques aim to teach individuals to relax, to learn to breathe properly and to decrease physiological activation. There are several types of relaxation techniques, for example Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique or Schultz’s autogenic training.
2. Exposure techniques
Anxiety is not a pleasant feeling, so people with this disorder try to avoid situations that cause discomfort. A very common way to do this is to walk away from the anxious situation or stimulus.. If someone is afraid to speak in public, they can avoid attending their best friend’s wedding to avoid making a speech in front of all the attendees. If someone is afraid of flying, they can drive for days to avoid getting on a plane.
Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, involves exposing the patient to feared situations or objects.. The idea is that through repeated exposure, he gains a sense of control over the anxiety and the situation will tend to go away. Presentation techniques are used in cases of phobias and other anxiety disorders (eg, obsessive-compulsive disorder), and are characterized by the patient having to deal with the feared stimulus until the anxiety is reduced by the habituation.
Through this type of technique, it is possible to prevent leakage or avoidance from becoming a safety response. To do this, a hierarchy of feared stimuli is usually established, so that the patient can gradually approach these stimuli until they are extinguished. These types of techniques can be performed both live and imaginary. Today, thanks to new technologies, it is possible to carry out these techniques thanks to virtual reality. Exposure therapy can be used alone or as part of cognitive behavioral therapy.
3. Systematic desensitization
Instead of dealing with the feared situation or object immediately, treatment and exposure may begin with a situation that is only mildly threatening, To work slowly towards the goal. This step-by-step approach is called systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization allows you to gradually overcome fears, build confidence, and master panic control skills.
Systematic desensitization is similar to exposure techniques (and for some authors is included in them). However, there are differences between the two treatments. While in explanatory techniques habit is used to overcome anxiety, in systematic desensitization counter-conditioning is used, i.e. the substitution of a response that produces anxiety, a other incompatible with it. In systematic desensitization, the approach to the stimulus occurs gradually, but in the exposure technique, the rate of approach depends on the time available, the patient’s disposition and the rate of habituation.
Systematic desensitization has three parts:
- Learn relaxation techniquesAnd, once the patient faces their fears, use these relaxation techniques to reduce their anxiety response and stimulate relaxation.
- Make a list step by step. 10 to 20 fear situations are selected to progress towards the final goal. For example, if you want to overcome the fear of flying, the first step may be to look at photos of airplanes.
- Work the steps under the guidance of the therapist. The patient is exposed to the dreaded situation and replaces the anxiety with the techniques learned.
4. Cognitive restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is based on the idea that the way we feel, behave and react to situations based on our way of thinking, this technique therefore attempts to modify dysfunctional thought patterns and beliefs.
Cognitive restructuring derives from cognitive therapy (but is also used in cognitive behavioral therapy) which can help people identify and challenge the thought patterns and beliefs that cause anxiety. The purpose of this technique is to modify the patient’s thought patterns by different methods.
5. Pharmacological techniques
In some cases it is advisable to supplement the psychological treatment with pharmacological treatment, Especially in situations where symptoms need to be reduced quickly, such as when treating a panic attack.
However, drugs must be combined with different cognitive and behavioral techniques and must be gradually replaced by them. Medicines can be addictive and intolerant, so care should be taken and self-medication should be avoided. Two types of medications are commonly used to treat anxiety: anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants.
Mindfulness belongs to third generation psychological therapies. One of the most widely used programs for the treatment of anxiety disorders is MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) or Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. The program combines meditation with the acquisition of practical skills that characterize cognitive therapyAs the disruption of thought patterns that lead to anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness, rather than a set of techniques, is a philosophy that emphasizes self-acceptance, compassion, focusing attention on the here and now, and embracing a state. of non-referee spirit. It is based on the idea that it is not the events that cause anxiety, but how we interpret them and how we deal with them. It is not a question of eliminating the anxiety but of accepting it, because by not offering resistance, the symptoms of anxiety are reduced.
Go to psychotherapy, the best option to overcome anxiety
When it comes to treating anxiety disorders, science shows that psychotherapy is usually the most effective option. Therapy helps the patient discover the underlying causes of their worries and fears; it allows you to learn to relax and to look at situations from a new perspective, and gives you the opportunity to develop better coping and problem-solving skills. Therapy provides the tools to overcome anxiety and learns how to use them.
The length of treatment will depend on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder. However, many anxiety therapies are relatively short, as the vast majority of people get better after 8-10 treatment sessions.
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