Is My Anxiety Normal or Not?

July 23rd, 2016
In: Anxiety

Every client has their own unique experiences. That is a given. But if I could pinpoint a common thread I hear in many of my clients' stories it would be the story of how anxiety hijacked their life.

Some anxiety is normal and healthy- we need that little bit of fear/activation to get us out of bed and into our roles in life. But when our anxious behaviours start hijacking our life- and are interfering with our daily functioning  and are becoming distressing- that is when it's not normal anymore and seeking help is a good idea.

We all have our healthy and unhealthy ways of coping with a little anxiety: Our less healthy ways can include, for example: obsessing about the future, worrying about our health, fighting with our spouse about money. These are just a few examples of how we may be coping with our anxiety. This is our chosen way of coping with anxiety for whatever reason. But the point is that this less than healthy way of coping has always there, but been at bay. It's only come out once in a while, and usually there have been healthier ways to cope with anxiety that rotate in so it hasn't been much of a problem.

And then something happens. Sometimes it's a life event like the birth of a baby, death of a parent, loss of a job, or an accident. In some cases it is several life events happening in close sequence or ongoing high stress: the birth of a baby followed by the death of a a parent; the loss of a job followed by an accident; the sexual assault while away at college; getting married and then relocating to a new area with no social support; ongoing health issues in our children; preparing to go back to work after being off for a year's maternity with no real village to help us.

Our brain's response is to view this onslaught of stress as threats to our survival and it responds by increasing that unhealthy way of coping until it is working overtime to make sure we stay alive. We now have worries about our health every day, multiple times a day. Or, we used to only catastrophize about money but now it seems like we are doing it all the time. We are having problems staying asleep because the negative thoughts are now intruding at night.

It's getting in the way of being present with our kids. It's negatively impacting our marriage. It's harder to stay focused at work.

Is this sounding familar?

If so, have hope. Out of control anxiety is one of the most common and most treatable problems that clients come in with. There are skills you can quickly use- such as mindfulness techniques- that can be very effective in treating anxiety.

Your behaviour may have even gotten to the point where you have visited a family doctor and been given a diagnosis for what you are experiencing: generalized anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, hypochondriasis, post-partum anxiety, pre-natal anxiety, post-traumatic stress anxiety, or social anxiety.

Psychotherapy is very effective with all of these types of anxiety. The earlier you can get help and start regulating your system, the faster the treatment will work. When you come in you will learn about your system and why it's gotten off track and allowed the anxious behaviours to hijack it. And you will leave with simple skills that you can use to start feeling relief right away.

Natalie Hansen
Natalie Hansen Counselling
406-555 6th street, New Westminster, V3L 5H1

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