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Healing from Anxiety Disorders
What is Anxiety: Anxiety is a basic emotion that applies to all animals including humans that is needed for survival. It is a useful emotional reaction needed when faced with real threatening situations. Anxiety triggers the threat system ‘fight or fight’ also known as ‘acute stress response. ‘Fight or flight’ is a behavioural responses, a process in the body that empowers both animals and humans to organise a lot of energy quickly in order to cope with real threats to survive. Anxiety is the biological mechanism geared to protecting us, it is possibly one of the most important ammunition our body have to help us stay safe when faced with real danger. However in everyday existence we need some level of anxiety to function and to stay focused, energetic and alert. In this case anxiety is considered normal and adaptive as it serves to improve our functioning or wellbeing.
Physical Symptoms of The’ Fight or Flight’: When we feel threatened an increased activity will occur in the body. This is known as the fight-or-flight response or acute stress response. Basically, the response prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. It is also important to note that the response can be triggered due to both real and imaginary threats. Circulation increases blood supply to brain. Muscles and to limbs take more oxygen. Brain activity changes: We think less and react more instinctively. Heartbeats quicker and harder – coronary arteries dilate. Blood pressure rises. Lungs take in more oxygen and release more carbon oxide. Liver releases extra sugar for energy. Muscles tense for action. Sweating increases to speed heat loss. Adrenal glands release adrenalin to fuel response. Mouth does dry – constriction of blood vessels in salivary glands. Kidney, large intestine and bladder slow down. We often feel we want to go to the toilet: this is the body’s way of “lightening the load”. Immune responses decrease.
What Is An Anxiety Disorder: Normal anxiety is momentary and is expected based on accurate threatening events or situations. When people are told they have an anxiety disorder, the problem is not anxiety. The problem is when the above strong, physical symptoms designed to temporarily change the way the body functions to enable rapid physical response to danger are constantly triggered when there is no real threat. This is when common everyday events bring on chronic flight or flight symptoms that interferes with many life functions. The mechanisms of problematic anxiety centre round the fear of something and include anticipatory of some potential threat that may or may not happen in the future. These fears are accompanied by copy strategies and behaviours to attempt to prevent the fear-provoking circumstance from occurring and/or ways to avoid or eliminate the fight or flight symptoms. People with anticipatory anxiety seem to live in a world surrounded by predators. They spend their lives worrying excessively asking “what if…” type questions. What if I losing my job? What if they think I’m not good enough? What if I get cancer? What if she /he leaves me? What will the dreaded meeting be like? What if I get another panic attack? The longer these questions of anticipation haunt their daily lives ultimately they will reside in the subconscious mind and often become a complex system of what they do consciously in their everyday life.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders? Anxiety disorders may be caused by many factors including genetics, brain chemistry, substance abuse, or a combination of these. However environmental factors and early childhood experiences; such as having parents that are overprotective, demanding and/or set inconsistent standards and unrealistic expectations as well as other experiences with significant others such as bulling/teasing by peers. The other factors that can contrite to the development of anxiety disorders in adulthood such as stresses in life, relationship conflicts and other factors. However it makes sense on the surface that people want to know the cause of their anxiety disorder, but unfortunately that is not going to help eliminate it. The question you should be asking yourself is, ‘what do I do about it now?’ The most important and first step is to understand the mechanism that is keeping it going.
The Power of Hidden Beliefs: The subconscious mind is where most of the work of the mind gets done. The subconscious mind stores all of your past experiences, memories and all images you've ever seen. The subconscious mind is the source of learned beliefs, fears, and attitudes that interfere with everyday life. Its job is to act upon any request or instruction you give it. Any thought that you repeatedly think and act upon over and over again will take an imprint within the subconscious. Unfortunately this brain organ cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Beliefs are so important to the extent that they shape your behaviours, behaviours that may even create a self-fulfilling prophecy to support your belief that you hold about yourself. When we believe in something, we create behaviours that make the belief to become the truth. This is because our beliefs determine the choices we make in our lives, and our behaviours help shape the world we live in. The question is what do we need to do to overcome an anxiety disorder created by this complex mechanism?
Treatment Approach Considerations
There are two treatment options I recommend. You can over come an anxiety disorder with the power of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT has been shown to effective in treating several types of anxiety disorders, including: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), Panic disorder, Social Anxiety, Acute Stress Disorder (PTSD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
CBT emphases on the 'here and now' difficulties and problems, this does not mean the past does not matter, but the question is what do we do about it now? We can spend time looking at the past but that will not improve the present functioning. Instead of concentrating on the causes of your initial symptoms in the past, CBT looks for ways to improve your current function now. CBT approach to treating anxiety disorders can be divided into its cognitive and behavioural components. The Cognitive component means thinking/thoughts, CBT can help you change the way you think and what you do (the behavioural component of CBT). These changes can help you to feel better.
However if you have tried CBT and/or other main stream talking therapies and you still feel stuck in an anxious state it might time to consider a holistic healing approach. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is the cutting-edge technique for releasing old traumas and negative beliefs imprinted in the subconscious mind. In my clinic I combine EMDR and CBT. CBT works on a more intellectual level however, there are times when intellectual arguments barely change beliefs, because you cannot out-think your subconscious mind. The key to change the self-limiting beliefs is to work with and not against the subconscious brain. EMDR is known to complement CBT. EMDR targets the subconscious, the more primitive parts of the mind where learned fears and unhelpful beliefs are stored. CBT focuses mainly on the prefrontal cortex (the thinking mind) which relying on insight to effect changes. EMDR has effectively treated many emotional and psychological problems from all forms of anxiety disorders, phobias, and recurrent nightmares to post-traumatic stress disorders and grief. EMDR helps to get rid of the problem much quicker, this is because EMDR works with the subconscious mind, it allows for a quick processing of deeply rooted memories, giving clients back control of their lives and their emotions.
Gean Viriri is an Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing
(EMDR) accredited practitioner and accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
Gean is the founder of Steps To Rational Living Psychotherapy
1. CBT- Anxiety Common Mental Mistakes (pdf)
2. CBT Anxiety Common Mental Mistakes In Anxiety Disorders (pdf)
3. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)–Imaginal Exposure To Overcome ‘What if’ Worries. (pdf)
4. Stress And Anxiety Management (pdf)
Please note: If you are thinking about harming yourself or someone else, please call 999 for immediate assistance.