January 26, 2022

How Therapy Can Help You Overcome Anxiety and Fear

Fear is an emotion that can have a powerful impact on your body and mind. Learning to manage fear and anxiety is a personal journey, meaning that what might work for you may not necessarily work for someone else.  Therapy can significantly help people process their feelings of fear or anxiety when it adversely affects their quality of life.Fear vs. Anxiety Fear is a powerful response signal in emergencies, such as being attacked or caught in a fire. It can even take effect while encountering non-dangerous events, such as public speaking, taking an exam, an interview or a new job, a date, or even a party—In these situations, your brain has learned to see these experiences as threatening, even if there is no real safety risk. In short, fear is a natural biological response to a perceived or actual threat designed to keep you safe.On the other hand, anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, dread, or fright, or that may cause you to become tense or feel restless. Anxiety can become associated with certain situations that could involve actual threat but probably will not, such as going out in public or driving a car.  Some people might feel anxiety about things that are not likely to happen, such as getting struck by lightning.  Anxiety also describes certain types of fear of something going wrong in the future, instead of right now.  For example, a common anxious thought is “What if something bad happens?”Everyone feels anxious or worry about things from time to time. Both anxiety and fear can last for a short while, and for most people, it eventually passes as the situation or stressor resolves. However, anxiety tends to become destructive when it develops into an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders suffer from worries, fears, and anxious feelings that are not temporary. Their anxiety doesn’t go away, and in some cases, gets worse over time.In some instances, anxiety can affect a person’s ability to sleep, eat, concentrate, leave the house, travel, and even enjoy life. This might often hold back a person from doing things they need or want to do and affect their health.  Anxiety disorders can impair an individual’s ability to function in school, at work, in social situations, and in life overall. Some people become so overwhelmed by their anxiety that they entirely avoid situations in which they feel anxious.Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illness in both children and adults. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that almost 31% of teens in the U.S. between the ages of 13 to 18 and 19% of U.S. adults experience anxiety. Approximately 6% of teenagers and 4% of adults suffer from anxiety disorders that are categorized as severe (American Psychological Association), such as:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  2. Phobias
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  5. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia.
  6. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

When You Should Seek Help Anxiety and fear are likely to affect everyone every now and then; it is when anxiety is persistent and interferes with daily activities that it may be considered a mental health problem.If you have been feeling anxious for most days over the past 6-months, consider your anxiety to be “excessive” or unreasonable, and find it difficult to manage these feelings, it may be time to seek professional help from a therapist.How Therapy Helps Overcome Fear and Anxiety Therapy is known to support individuals in managing anxiety in the following ways:

  1. Understanding what is causing your
  2. Building skills to manage anxiety and put fears into perspective.
  3. Setting realistic expectations for the future.

Types of Therapy for Anxiety and Fear Avoiding fears or situations that provoke anxiety is a common way that people “manage” their anxiety before therapy.  Unfortunately, avoiding fears will only make them stronger over time.Treatment for anxiety includes effective and well-established treatments that focus on identifying, evaluating, and restructuring thoughts and behavioral patterns that stimulate fear and maintain anxiety.The two most common types of therapy are:

  1. Exposure Therapy
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is one the most widely used therapeutic approaches for anxiety disorders. Research shows that cognitive-behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for many types of anxiety disorders, among other mental health conditions.CBT helps people learn how to evaluate the negative patterns in the way they view the world and themselves. Just like its name, it primarily involves two core components:

  1. The “Cognitive” part focuses on how inaccuratethoughts contribute to fear and anxiety.
  2. The “Behavior” parttargets how actions trigger a sense of fear or anxiety.

The fundamental premise of cognitive-behavioral therapy is that our thoughts influence how we feel, rather than the external events. Put another way, it is often not the situation that determines how you feel. Instead, it is how you perceive the situation.Negative ways of thinking further fuel negative emotions of fear and anxiety. CBT aims to identify a person’s thinking and behavioral patterns, and correct the negative and inaccurate thoughts that fuel unproductive feelings and behavior. The primary idea is that if you can change the way you think, you’ll ultimately be able to change the way you feel.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), CBT has been shown to produce beneficial results in 12 to 16 weeks.Exposure Therapy.  The American Psychological Association defines exposure therapy as a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is based on gradually exposing a person to the things, places, or situations that make their anxiety worse, all while being in a safe environment. The goal of exposure therapy is that through repeated exposures to the cause of anxiety, a person will start to feel an increased sense of control over the situation in which they once felt helpless, and their anxiety will become diminished.Generally, exposure therapy begins by envisioning a situation that produces mile anxiety. Over time, exposure will move on to higher anxiety provoking stimuli, and various other representations, such as drawings, photos, videos, and eventually real life, when relevant. As you approach each exposure, your therapist will guide you in using relaxation skills to calm your anxiety.Exposure therapy has extensive research in how it helps people feel less fearful about the places, objects, or situations that cause them anxiety and stress, and it is used to treat many different types of anxiety disorders.  Exposure therapy is unique to every client, so there is no “standard” set of exposures.  You and your therapist will discuss your specific concerns and create a list of exposures together.Schedule with a Therapist at Grapevine Psychology Our Team is here to support you. If you are ready to take your life back from anxiety,  get in touch with us today.