DO YOU DREAD APPROACHING AN OBJECT OR SITUATION?
Do you become highly anxious when you get close to an object such as a spider or snake. Or do you find it terrifying to approach a situation, such as flying or being in an enclosed space or social situation?
OTHER PEOPLE SEEM TO APPROACH THESE OBJECTS OR SITUATIONS WITHOUT A LOT OF WORRY OR FOOT-DRAGGING, AND THEY AREN'T NERVOUS ONCE THEY CONTACT THE OBJECT OR SITUATION.
SO WHY ARE YOU SO ANXIOUS?
You have become conditioned to "link" anxiety with facing the object or situation. This can cause you to avoid it, generating more anxiety and frustration. Because you avoid the anxiety, you never get a chance to to learn how to manage it. You don't know how to unlink the anxiety from your thoughts about it. And you may not know how to stop it from interfering with how you want to live your life.
YOU CAN OVERCOME THIS PROBLEM
Several research-tested methods help most people with fears.
Exposure Therapy has you encounter the feared object directly or in your imagination until you get used to it and the anxiety subsides. For example, if you are afraid of snakes, you might be asked to handle a harmless snake until your fear is "unlinked" from the snake. Although unpleasant, this method works very well for most people.
Systematic Desensitization has you learn to relax, then to link relaxation rather than anxiety with the object or situation you are afraid of. For instance, if you are afraid of heights, you would relax while imagining gradually scarier situations related to heights. Finally, in real life you could approach the most frightening situations, now linking them to relaxation instead of dread. This method takes more time but is less daunting than exposure therapy and usually works quite well.
Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Here you think about the feared object or situation while you tap a prescribed sequence of acupuncture points on your body. The tapping forms a distraction, which seems to weaken the link between your anxiety and the dreaded object or situation. This takes very little time and is highly effective for most people.
Social Skills Training. There are times when one of these anxiety-reduction methods needs to be supplemented. For example, if you are afraid of social situations, you may need to learn conversational and other social skills.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). From one point of view, the methods just described really don't help you get rid of anxiety. They help you form a new way of relating to anxiety. Each of these methods helps you approach rather than avoid anxiety. And it's the avoidance that has kept you from having a chance to deal with the anxiety. Also, there may be some situations in life where the methods described above may need to be supplemented. ACT has a number of mindfulness-based techniques to help you take a step back from anxiety, so that you are not overwhelmed by it and can continue to move on with your life.
JANE'S PROBLEM: FEAR OF HEIGHTS AND FLYING
Jane had just retired, and her husband was insisting on a long-delayed vacation to Switzerland. Jane was afraid of flying and heights, but she was now determined not to let this stop their plans.
After Dr. Agigian explained treatment options and their pluses and minuses, Jane chose systematic desensitization. She learned deep muscle relaxation to the point where she could quickly relax her entire body. She then made a hierarchy of distressing situations related to her fears. Starting with the least distressing situation and working her way up the list, she learned to relax while imagining herself in it.
After five sessions, Jane could imagine the most upsetting flight and height-related situations without noticeable anxiety. A few months later Dr. Agigian received a postcard from Switzerland saying that Jane had had an enjoyable flight and had just taken a trip on the aerial tram shown on the front of the post card.
TAKE THE NEXT STEP
Contact Dr. Agigian for more information or to arrange a free 30-minute consultation at (510) 653-7596.
Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org