All Stressed Out and Afraid You’re Going to Blow!

According to the NIMH, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects approximately 6.8 million American adults. Women are twice as likely to develop GAD than men. GAD’s onset is usually gradual, and may occur at any age of life, although the years of highest risk are from childhood to middle age. 1

When dealing with anxiety, it is common to ask oneself “why?” There is no one cause for anxiety disorders, nor is the knowledge of how anxiety develops necessary to deal with the symptoms. It is true that understanding the type of anxiety and the cause of ones’ particular situation may provide some insight into oneself. However, whether you are dealing with panic attacks, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder, recovery is possible.

Bourne (2005)2 describes a comprehensive, multi-level approach for recovery: physical, behavioral, emotional, mental, interpersonal, and whole self. Physical encompasses breathing exercises, relaxation techniques such as yoga or talking a walk, aerobic exercise, and nutrition. Behavioral techniques refer to coping strategies to recognize and stop panic reactions, and desensitizing to specific phobias.

Emotional strategies include training to recognize and express emotions. I encourage my clients to use their talents and skills to express their emotions (ie, music, poetry, art, writing, dancing, etc). Most of us have some negative self-talk. Mental strategies include how to counteract negative self-talk, worries, or perhaps underlying erroneous beliefs to train us with more healthy thinking patterns. 3

Bourne’s (2005)4 fifth level refers to the interpersonal level….relationships. Some people are engaged in toxic relationships, while others may benefit from improved communication skills or conflict management skills. The last level of Bourne’s (2005)5 comprehensive approach, he refers to as the “whole self.” Poor self-esteem is common in those struggling with anxiety and/or depression. We learned our self-esteem, and we can replace it with new learning, and overcoming our inner critic. Whole self also involves awareness of our meaning and life purpose. A major life change, such as empty nest, can be a difficult time if our life purpose has not expanded or shifted. One’s spirituality is also an important core piece of “whole self.”

I find with my clients, that they have many inner resources that they may have forgotten or simply not developed. Some prefer to talk through a specific stressful situation; others want behavioral tools; and still others, desire more. I like to give my clients a variety of tools from which they can choose.

If you are struggling with anxiety or love someone who is, be encouraged that there is hope and  recovery. There are many tools to help overcome anxiety. Take that first step.


1 National Institute of Mental Health. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”

2,3,4,5 Bourne, Edmund J. (2005). The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (4th Ed.) New Harbinger Publications: CA.

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