Treatment of Anxiety

Overcoming high levels of anxiety is perhaps the most prevalent of client accomplishments I see in my practice.  I have had the honour of providing support and guidance for many courageous and hard-working clients over the years who have faced, battled and conquered anxiety.  Their strength, perseverance and collaboration in this process truly inspires me and helps to fuel our work together. The clients I counsel work hard to implement the research-backed, cognitive-behavioural and mindfulness strategies that are gained through therapy.  Witnessing so many clients implement this approach successfully routinely reinforces my strong belief in the appropriateness and effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioural approach to treating this very challenging life difficulty. 

Not all forms of anxiety are detrimental.  In fact, anxiety at an optimal level can be quite useful in our lives.  However, when anxiety reaches clinical levels and is having a negative impact on daily functioning, formal intervention is required whether or not a formal diagnosis of an anxiety disorder has been made.

 Although researchers don’t know exactly why some people experience anxiety disorders, they do know that there are various factors involved. Like many other mental health conditions, anxiety disorders seem to be a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and other individual factors.

How we think and react to certain situations can affect anxiety. Some people may perceive certain situations to be more dangerous than they actually are (e.g., fear of flying). Others may have had a bad experience and they fear this will happen again (e.g., a dog bite). Some psychologists believe that childhood experiences can also contribute to anxiety.

Researchers know that problems with brain chemistry can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain involved in anxiety include serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Researchers have also shown that changes in activity in certain areas of the brain are involved in anxiety. Many anxiety disorders run in families and likely have a genetic cause.

Certain medical conditions such as anemia and thyroid problems can also cause symptoms of anxiety. As well, other factors such as caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications can cause anxiety symptoms.

Traumatic life events such as the death of a family member, witnessing a death, war, and natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes may trigger anxiety disorders.

The good news is that anxiety is highly treatable.  Happily, I have found that it frequently improves quite quickly if the strategies provided are implemented thoroughly and daily during treatment.  No one needs to suffer anxiety alone or for a prolonged period of time.  I am dedicated to supporting my clients as they move out of anxiety and into a healthier, happier way of functioning.

*Sections of this write-up regarding "anxiety disorders" courtesy of the Canadian Mental Health Association