Joanne Gilhooly - Psychotherapist & Counsellor - Dublin City
Counselling and Therapy for Anxiety and Panic...
Some anxiety is a part of everyday life, a natural response to challenges and facing the unknown. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to experience real personal growth without some anxious feelings. This healthy anxiety is that feeling we get when we are challenging ourselves just enough to take the next step forward. However, when anxiety feels overwhelming or paralysing, maybe rising up suddenly in episodes of panic, you may feel it is time to explore the meaning of your anxiety, and what experiences and feelings underlie it. This is the other side of anxiety, the kind that holds us back and prevents us from living fully, rather than occurring as a consequence of moving forward.
Anxiety may manifest in numerous ways, including pervasive worry which may be experienced most of the time; it may be experienced as full blown panic attacks, which are by their nature extremely frightening experiences, and include symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking and trembling, dizziness, feelings of unreality, fear of dying or losing control, among others; or as a lower grade panic or anxiety, in which a person may experience noticeable and uncomfortable physical responses such as those listed above but at a lower intensity.
You may notice a pattern around your anxiety or panic – maybe it happens mostly in social situations, at work, in crowds, outdoors, with authority figures (your boss, manager, doctor, lecturer etc.), when being evaluated e.g. in an interview or exam; or you may find no discernable pattern, finding it unpredictable and confusing, probably leaving you feeling on guard at all times for the next occurrence; or you may be aware that your anxiety has been triggered or intensified by a particular incident or distressing episode.
When anxiety is getting in the way of your life and is keeping you from doing the things you would really like to do, taking a step to deal with it can feel empowering in itself.
There many ways to understand anxiety such as learning about what happens physiologically during anxiety and panic - this can have the effect of demystifying it and easing some of the confusion; as well as learning the skills to manage anxiety - such as deliberately thinking safer thoughts, abdominal breathing, meditation and various relaxation skills.
All of these can be very useful in working with anxiety for some people, but therapy also provides an opportunity to explore what your unique experience of anxiety or panic is about, and what feelings and beliefs may be underlying it, with the intention of using this new awareness of self to move gradually toward lasting change.