Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a natural emotional response for humans and most other animals, therefore we should be careful not to make it “wrong” or an “illness” as such. Biomedical labelling has tended to do this with a range of scary sounding labels like “Generalised Anxiety Disorder”, “Anxious Personality Disorder” and “Clinical Anxiety” among the most common.
What does happen is that anxiety becomes disproportionate and therefore a major and disabling problem for people, and it is this lack of balance and proportion that causes the severe distress. This is caused by deeper issues of development, trauma, perception and behaviour and therefore anxiety is actually a symptom and not the real problem itself. This is another reason why treating the “anxiety” as an illness is a short term strategy.
NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommend a range of methods for anxiety and anxiety related conditions, including short term psychoanalysis, counselling, MBCT (a form of mindfulness) and their favourite: CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy). Anxiety UK add hypnotherapy to this list, which is often provided as a cognitive behavioural therapy (Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy).
Treating anxiety in the medical model is merely treating the fact that your anxiety is disproportionate and does not fully address the underlying issues that caused it to occur. One might liken this to taking a pain killer for a headache and not looking at why the headache occurred in the first place. This might be fine for fleeting or “one off” fears and anxieties, but if there is a history of anxiety, then deeper work is clearly required to make long term progress. Indeed research has shown that CBT (the main NICE recommended quick fix) is not effective long term. [Evidence is available that short term CBT intervention as favoured by NICE and IAPT does not really work. Shezad et al (2017) showed a 53% relapse within 1 year.]
More holistic approaches while maintaining clinical effectiveness
Some methods are both recommended by NICE as effective, and can be combined with longer term and deeper exploration methods. Mindfulness based strategies are recommended by NICE and have proven effectiveness, yet can be used to explore deeper and make long term changed as part of a humanistic psychological approach. [Studies at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (part of Oxford University) have indicated: measurable improvements from practising mindfulness in up to 20% of people with anxiety disorders, and MBCT therapy reduce recurrence rates in long term depression compared with normal care by 40-50%.]
Mindfulness however does not just incorporate the “quick fix” approaches favoured by the medical model. It also has other functions:
- Mindfulness has mindful analytic models that help you to work out and trace back the cause of the anxiety or other feeling.
- Mindfulness teaches you to be less afraid of anxiety and therefore reduces the “fear of fear itself” that cripples sufferers. It teaches you to cope with being anxious more easily.
- Mindfulness teaches you that low level anxiety is totally natural and vital information enabling us to learn and function, and allows us to treat it as such.
- Mindfulness has medication and relaxation functions that bring down overall states of anxiety.
Combined with other forms of psychoanalysis, counselling or psychotherapy, it is possible to explore the underlying reasons for anxiety, including the events, experiences and “learning experiences” that caused the client to become afraid.
Ethical Mindfulness & Critical Psychotherapy
Social psychology is the area of interaction between us as individuals and the rest of the world around us. In Gestalt this is described as fields of influence – ours, other peoples, groups, the environment all overlapping. In Mindfulness and eastern psychology we are all seen as part of one whole. In Humanistic Psychology and Critical psychotherapy there is a strong realisation that we are not individuals in isolation.
Without understanding the interaction between ourselves and the world around us, and appreciating that our actions and the actions of others are not separate, we fall into the trap of pathology – making ourselves “ill” when sometimes our relationship with the world around us needs to be addressed.
Psychological education is often cited in NICE recommendations for mental health treatment. it can be quite blunt and instructive, or it can be used in a holistic yet effective manner to ensure:
- Understanding or self awareness of what is happening. This helps to defuse fear, enable understanding and created change.
- Development of better strategies for coping with what can not simply be changed.
- Development of more helpful perceptions and behaviours that make us more resilient and adaptive.
- Understanding of when we need to resist or change our relationship with the world around us.
The above is a summary of some of the aspects of coping with anxiety. More information available HERE
Anxiety Disorders, generalised anxiety disorders, anxiety specialist, psychotherapy for anxiety, mindfulness for anxiety, hypnotherapy for anxiety, CBT for anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety, counselling for anxiety, addressing anxiety triggers, understanding anxiety, treating anxiety, anxiety mental health, counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, MBCT, MBSR, ethical mindfulness, critical psychotherapy, humanistic psychotherapy, psychological education, psycho-education, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scotland, Skype, Dublin, Falkirk