Dancing with the demon of Anxiety

Anxiety Pic

Are you suffering from anxiety? Well, you are not alone. Recent research tells us that anxiety is increasingly common amongst the British population, and national figures suggest that as many as 30% of the population are likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder at any one time. These findings, alarming as they might be, are hardly surprising given the vast amount of literature on anxiety over the last 300 years. Anxiety is not a recent concept developed by psychiatry in the 21st century, but a sensation that people across the planet have experienced for a long time. If we look to the literature, then we will find that the Dutch philosopher Spinoza wrote about anxiety and dread already during the 17th century. Since then, prolific writers such as Kierkegaard and Freud have both dedicated whole books to the topic of anxiety.

As we can see, anxiety is not a new experience to us humans, but how do we understand it? The novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka has portrayed his own experience of anxiety in his literature saying: “the feeling of having in the middle of my body a ball of wool that quickly winds itself up, its innumerable threads pulling from the surface of my body to itself”. Reflecting on conversations with my own clients, they all in one way or the other seem to have described anxiety as a manifestation of inner turmoil. Freud has described anxiety as objectless and located in the future, and many of my own clients who present with anxiety regularly describe worries about future humiliation or ruination. My work has taught me that anxiety also has a tendency to surface when people already feel vulnerable. It’s almost like it is lurking and looking for a chink in their armour or an opening to attack their defences. Once it breaks through it’s like the floodgates have opened and the mind can start to race. My client’s often tell me that the voice in their head is exhausting, that they can’t stop it and that it is constant. They tell me that they feel out of control and that they worry about everything. The literature on anxiety teaches us that this experience might eventually die down for a period, however, unless the anxiety is dealt with through talking therapy, it often has a tendency to return.

Here are a few pointers on how therapy might be able to help:

  • Therapy provides a safe place to off-load your worries onto someone else who understands what you are going through
  • Therapy will teach you to challenge the voices in your head and help you develop tools to reduce your anxiety
  • Therapy offers a space where you can explore your anxiety objectively
  • Talking therapies can alter anxiety at its root by strengthening the neural pathways that counteract anxiety.
  • Therapy can be fun and it is scientifically proven that laughing is good for us
  • Therapy can provide a space to explore your dance with the demon of anxiety, as well as give you the confidence to send it packing.

If you think you are suffering from anxiety or would like to learn more about how we might be able to help you manage anxiety differently, contact City and West Psychology for a free 15 minute consultation here.

Author: Dr Torstein Stapley
Read more about the author here