When anxiety symptoms manifest we might choose adaptive or maladaptive reactions, the latter can progressively change our life in a –real nightmare – where we feel hopeless and prisoners of our own fears”.
Have you ever experienced a high level of anxiety that stopped you doing ordinary things? And did it happen in specific situations or was unpredictable?
What have you tried to do to overcome the anxiety/panic attacks? Have you tried to control them, to avoid specific situations or to distract yourself? Did it work?
The term Anxiety disorders is a category which covers different forms of mental health problems characterized by pathological fear and anxiety such as – generalized anxiety, panic disorder, panic attack with agoraphobia, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other types of specific phobias.
At some point in our life, we have experienced different levels of anxiety and preoccupations related to a situation which has become a phobic stimuli- it is important to understand how we have reacted to them. How have we managed that situation?
Anxiety is an adaptive reaction to anything challenging such as for example: a performance, an exam, a direct confrontation, a public speech, an interview, a meeting or a decision to take.
If we consider the human body as a complex and sophisticated system, its subsystems (nervous, sensory, immune, circulatory, respiratory systems etc.) are interdependent, connected and in communication to each other.
Anxiety is an active and natural response which is processed by our mind, increasing alerted by challenging perceptions and stimuli.
In other words, in particular situations our mind is aware that there is something we need to focus on, something that demands our attention. In this sense, anxiety is a positive reaction, necessary for our survival and personal development.
In particular situations we might have experienced an intense level of stress, its causes might vary (accidents, medical conditions, prolonged stressful situations at work or in our personal life, bereavement, financial breakdown and many others).
Specific phobic situations might evoke physical and psychological symptoms and are more or less intense and frequent depending on individuals’ responses.
High levels of anxiety can trigger psycho-physical responses and similar stimuli might evoke same symptoms. The most common are: palpitations, heart beating, excessive sweating, dry mouth, cramps, muscle tension, nausea, dizziness, feeling exhausted, hopeless, irritable, low in mood, powerless, without control, irrational, worthless, confused and more others…
Anxiety is also caused by a prolonged mental state of stress and is a defensive mechanism: an ancestral primitive reaction to what is out of our control and virtually harmful. In primitive human beings it was related to the greatest fear of dying and it’s a natural survival response to dangerous stimuli (wild animals, enemies, natural risks).
Since the dawn of time – anxiety had always been a powerful internal alarm and commands: “Get ready to run or fight: your life is in danger!” In challenging situations our body would respond adequately – the adrenalin is pumped within the body, activating a state of arousal leading to an action – ready to be taken.
“The fight or flight response” is linked with the sympathetic nervous system but I reserve the explanation of its process for another occasion. Although anxiety is an ancestral survival mechanism nowadays human beings experience anxiety in a variety of contexts more or less challenging but not always related to a risk of life or threatening attacks.
“When we face our fears and overcome the anxiety, our self-esteem increases and we feel stronger and stronger as a warrior who has defeated the dragon and regained his honour”. We are meeting the ghost of our fears.
Human beings tend to anticipate events and make sense of the world they experience and perceive, by doing this, they create their own construction of reality. We attempt to anticipate events in order to feel more secure.
We tend to predict and control our own life, which is linked to a basic, primary instinct of survival.
We tend to categorise information, smells sounds, memories of particular places and we also recall sequences of actions which were functional in specific contexts.
In other words, if in the past we succeeded in using a particular strategy, we tend to use it again in the future.
Unfortunately, the situations we face may be different and the strategy may not help. As a consequence – by reacting to a phobic stimuli over and over again without success – we generate a vicious circle and we end up feeling hopeless, exhausted and depressed.
When you feel anxious, do you avoid that situation or do you face it? When you face it, do you ask for help or do you fight as a fearless warrior?
Analysing the sequence of dysfunctional reactions to a specific phobic situation – is crucial – if we aim to find the solution for our problem.
The Brief Strategic Therapy is a short term therapy which usually lasts no more then 10 sessions and adopts specific models of treatments for specific mental health problems.
The therapeutic intervention is built in partnership with our clients – aiming to break their vicious circle and enabling them to perceive and react to the problem in a functional way.
The Brief Strategic Therapy” is a model focussed on breaking the vicious circle through specific strategies and has had over 89% of positive outcomes. It was developed in USA – (G. Bateson, J. Weakland, P. Watzlawick, J. Jackson – Mental Research Institute of Palo Alto) and Italy by Professor G. Nardone who has created specific protocols of treatments for specific mental health problems.