Anxiety is the most widespread of all psychological difficulties in our culture, so if you are seeking psychotherapy for anxiety, you are far from alone. But you may feel isolated in your distress. Anxiety can be exhausting and exasperating as you lie in bed awake with worry or wake up with racing thoughts that you feel powerless to stop. It can be impossible to focus on almost any task at hand. Anxiety can bring on physical problems such as chronic muscle tension or stomach problems. You may be having panic attacks with sweating, racing heartbeat, dizziness, or nausea.
These are some of the many symptoms that lead people to seek out psychotherapy for anxiety. And common as it is throughout our society, anxiety is surely even more so in New York City. Here, people are striving to excel, the pace of life is accelerated, and competition can be fierce. Pressures are acute, from professional to financial to social. Along with the excitement of life in New York, the anxiety that many experience can be crippling.
One of the most frustrating parts about anxiety is the anxiety about anxiety! If you’ve had a panic attack, for example, it’s natural to live in anxious fear of another one, and of how you are going to deal with it. Again and again, I find when treating clients with psychotherapy for anxiety that even the initial act of coming for a first appointment has an immediate calming effect. The anxiety is there, but the second-level anxiety subsides right away. There is comfort in finding a place that is entirely devoted to helping you, where there is nothing to be ashamed of, and where you do not need to handle your difficulties alone.
We set out to explore the conditions in which your anxiety arises, the ways you have typically dealt with it, and various relevant parts of your background. Often there are roots, patterns, and triggers that a person wasn’t aware of, so the very mysteriousness of the anxiety was part of what was so disturbing. As it becomes more of a known quantity, and as one begins to figure out new ways of responding to feelings and situations, the anxiety tends to let up. A degree of control becomes possible where previously things felt out of control.
Control, however, is not possible in all parts of life. Psychotherapy for anxiety often involves the need to face this unpleasant truth. In my view, one reason anxiety is so prevalent is that our way of life does give us an ever greater degree of control through technology. As a result, feeling out of control becomes a more and more unfamiliar and distressing experience. In psychotherapy, anxiety sometimes needs to be analyzed: Which parts of it have to do with things that can be changed and controlled in my life? Which parts are simply the way life is? For instance, the possibility of illness or injury, the certainty of pain, loss, and death.
Crucial Life Changes
Anxiety can feel like something we want to banish from our life, but in therapy we also want to see how any problem might be conveying vital information about our well-being. It may be telling us: Slow down. Some things are out of balance. If you take the opportunity to explore the meanings of your painful experience, you might decide that some crucial life changes are needed in order to be more content. Psychotherapy for anxiety can help you to explore your life more deeply, and to find the courage to act on what you discover.
Exercise, Sleep, & Nutrition
As part of psychotherapy for anxiety, we look at your exercise, sleep, and nutrition. These are vital parts of our overall health, because the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual parts of us are intertwined within a unified whole. Working on any one of these areas thus reaps benefits for all the others. Almost everyone has experienced the positive effects that exercise has on emotions and moods, and numerous clinical studies underscore the efficacy of physical activity on anxiety symptoms. Regarding sleep, some helpful approaches to many sleep disturbances may be found in the link below.
For some people, medication can be helpful when combined with psychotherapy for anxiety. As I explain elsewhere on this website, I respect all attitudes toward medication—those who want to try (or continue) it, those who do not, and those who are uncertain or have very little knowledge about it. I work with a client to decide if consulting with a psychiatrist about medication could be a helpful aid to psychotherapy. A psychiatric consultation in no way obligates a person to begin or even to try medication. It can simply provide additional helpful information and another point of view.
The Help of Psychotherapy for Anxiety
Within a safe and compassionate environment, problems of anxiety that seemed overwhelming can actually be dealt with. You can gain some control where you had felt none. You can gain understanding where you had little. You can identify and find ways of accepting and even appreciating the aspects of life that remain uncontrollable and mysterious. Psychotherapy for anxiety is a collaborative effort on these fronts and others toward growth and well-being.
Daniel Lehrman, MA, NCPsyA, LP provides Psychotherapy for Anxiety in New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn.