Anxiety is one of the most frequent diagnosis for U.S. Americans. We are a scared and worried group. Effective medications have been developed to relieve anxiety symptoms, but at the risk of addiction, yet another thing about which to worry. However, taking the medications changes nothing other than one’s body chemistry.
Patients might report feeling better, but nothing fundamental has changed, and the dosage of the drugs has to be increased as the body struggles to re-balance its own chemicals to offset the drug’s alterations.
Anxious persons have a lot in common. They have a strong desire to be in control to avoid personal discomfort, and/or strife in the life of loved ones. They attempt to grasp an out-of-reach goal and/or hold on to the impossible. They seem to have a high opinion of their power to control and, when reality tells them different, they experience fear which drives them to strive ever harder, creating more stress and anxiety. They might try to control the actions of others, even taking over their role, job, or a chore to see that it is done “right.” They are a bit catastrophic in their thinking and ask the question over and over “What if...?” They invent scary mental movies of events which rarely if ever happen in reality but, if they did, “it would just be terrible, so awful.” Anxious clients tend to have a lot of rules or standards dominating their life. Until these rules, demands, or standards are satisfied, they remain anxious and uncomfortable. Examples of such standards are a person who buys a book drives themselves nuts with the belief that they MUST read the whole book, not merely the parts of interest to them, or the person wanting to take a college class believing that, if they take any classes, they MUST get a degree.
To treat anxiety, it is necessary for the client to recognize his/her “stink’n think’n,” embrace the reality that some things will go badly for them, accept their limitations, and bring them to the point where they no longer fear life but accept adversity and discomfort as unpleasant yet potentially profitable visitors.
Anxiety carries with it one attribute that can sabotage therapy. It is very common for anxious clients to say that “my plate is full,” and indeed it is - too full. For an anxious person to put something new on their plate requires that something else be taken off, which evokes anxiety because that means they must give up control, or at least the hope of control, of that area.