Talking Therapy: CBT
The First steps to understanding ANXIETY.
- Understanding the fight, flight or freeze response is an essential first step when thinking about how and why difficulties with anxiety develop in humans.
- Once we know why humans have a fight, flight or freeze response and how it works, then it may feel less threatening when we experience it because we can learn to recognise it for what it is.
- Our brains respond to a ‘fear situation’ by ‘taking charge’ of our thought process’ (cognitions), our behaviour (run, fight or play dead) and perhaps most importantly our physiological symptoms, (what happens in our bodies). Our response to a fear stimulus has to be quick, instant because if our brain had to wait for our conscious permission to fight, flight or freeze, then humans would have died out years ago. We would have been eaten by lions, burnt by forest fires or washed away by the sea.
- This automatic response by our brains to a feared situation is essential to our survival. However, when our fight, flight or freeze response is happening all over the place, in situations we rationally know are not life threatening, then things get difficult. It is not helpful to want to run away or avoid a crowd of people, a memory, a spider, going outside for example.
- This avoidance can be life limiting. It can lead to self-recrimination, frustration, unhappiness, blame, low confidence/self-esteem and depression.
- BUT……..Things can be different!!!!
- CBT can help you to notice anxiety. Becoming aware of anxiety when it happens, noticing what happens in your body and mind, means you understand your experience of it. Once you understand your experience, change can happen.
- A different way of viewing that experience can be found.
I have sourced a video which explains this process. I hope it’s helpful.
First of all it may be helpful to define exactly what anxiety is.
Then look at it’s prevalence:
- More than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ at some stage in their life. Ehlers, A. ‘Anxiety disorders: Challenging negative thinking.’ Quoted in the Wellcome Trust Reveiws, 1997..
- An estimated 13% of the adult population will develop a specific form of anxiety known as a phobia at some point in their life. Wittchen, H.U (1998) in Emmelkamp, P.M.G Bouman, TK & Scholing, A ‘Anxiety Disorders: A practitioner’s Guide.’ Wiley, 1992
- Large scale studies have suggested that around 2.5% of people are likely to experience OCD at some point in their life. Robins, L., Helzer, J., Weissman, M., Ovashel, H., Gruenberg, E., Burke, J., & Reiger, D. ‘Lifetime prevalence of specific psychiatric disorders in three sites.’ Archives of General Psychiatry (1984) 41:949-58.
A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study compared depression with angina, asthma, diabetes and concluded that the impact of depression on a person’s functioning was 50% more serious than the impact of any of the four physical conditions. At present 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety. (Anxiety UK).