I Can't Control My Anxiety -- Help!
Updated: May 26, 2022
I hear this probably more than anything else as a psychotherapist -- or some variant of it: "I can't control my anxiety", "I have no control over my anxiety", "anxiety is ruining my life" or "my anxiety is ruining my relationship." You get the picture. Anxiety can be a debilitating problem, and it's sort of like quicksand: the more we seem to fight against it, the harder its pull against us.
Fortunately, anxiety is one of the more treatable conditions in mental health, and with the right treatment most people begin to find relief from their symptoms in a fairly short period of time (often only a few short months). The key is finding the right treatment. I always tell my clients that not all talk therapies are created equal. Many years ago the standard treatment for conditions like anxiety and depression was Freudian psychoanalysis (you know -- where you lie down on the couch and confess your deepest, darkest secrets and talk about dream content for years on end, typically several times per week at exorbitant financial cost?). The pioneering work of Aaron Beck, M.D. (founder of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) and Albert Ellis, Ph.D. (founder of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy) paved the way for psychotherapy to provide fairly quick and efficient relief and at a much more reasonable cost.
Both approaches posit that our thinking about the situations in our lives, rather than the situations themselves, are what cause our emotional response. Consider for example an individual, who believes that if he goes out in public, others will have a negative opinion of him. This thought or belief causes him to feel anxious, self-conscious, and insecure--but how does he really know what others think of him? Has he asked them about their opinion of him? Is he basing his assumption on something, that happened in the past and may not necessarily be representative of the current situation?
Because of this assumption (thought), he feels anxious (emotion) and copes with his feelings by avoiding others in public (behavior). The more he avoids others in public, the more anxious he feels, and the more this reinforces his assumption that others don't like him. The three are invariably linked -- thoughts, emotions and behaviors. If we can break the cycle by changing even one part of this equation, the other two parts tend to change in turn. What if, for example, he chose one day to be brave enough to spend some time around others in public? Someone struck up a friendly conversation with him or smiled and greeted him casually. Wouldn't this challenge his assumption that everyone is going to have a negative opinion of him? Wouldn't he feel less anxious and begin challenging this assumption a bit -- "Maybe some people might have a negative opinion of me, but some people like me"?
The hallmark of anxiety is avoidance. Avoidance behavior is what perpetuates anxiety and ultimately what keeps the anxiety going. If we can interrupt the avoidance cycle in some way, the anxiety tends to also become interrupted. I do online LGBT therapy with clients in Texas, Florida and England but also work with clients outside of the LGBT community. Often clients will start therapy with me, describing maybe a previous therapy experience they've had on Pride Counseling, TalkSpace or BetterHelp, which didn't get them the results they were seeking. After typically only a few short months, I often hear clients say that they are coping much better than they were and no longer feel the need for therapy. That is what my work is all about -- giving you the tools and empowerment you need to be able to fly solo and become the person you always wanted to be. I would be honored to get to know you and to talk about how we can work together to put you back in control of your own life again.
For more information about how I can help you learn to get control of your anxiety, visit my homepage. I look forward to getting to know you and talking with you about how together we can put you back in control of your own life again.