Psycho-education Anxiety

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What is anxiety? Anxiety is an emotion that helps you respond to impending danger. This response is important as it helps to protect you from potential danger. During an anxious reaction, the substance adrenaline is released in your brain, which prepares your body for ‘fight or flight’. In some people, anxiety may play a predominant role: you become afraid of things that are not dangerous and your body responds to them with anxiety anyway. Your thoughts label these situations as ‘dangerous’, and, therefore, you begin to avoid them. By avoiding these situations, the anxiety you associate with these situations will not reduce.

 

Characteristics of anxiety can be (not all characteristics apply to everyone):

  • A lot of worrying for no immediate reason.
  • Feeling anxious and tense for long periods of time.
  • The occurrence of physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling and dizziness.
  • Avoiding situations or places in which you do not feel comfortable.
  • Fear of losing control and compulsive behaviour.
  • Constantly being afraid of getting sick.
  • A tendency to ruminate about unpleasant events/situations.

 

Avoidance

If you avoid these situations, you will not confront your feelings of anxiety. It can feel comfortable in the short term, because you do not experience anxiety if you avoid the situation, but unfortunately this will have the opposite effect in the long term. You will learn that you will not experience anxiety by avoiding these situations, which is pleasant. However, you will not learn to cope with your anxiety in this way. When you investigate and learn to cope with anxious situations, you will notice that the feelings of anxiety will start to reduce and that they are no longer realistic. Combating avoidance and experiencing tense situations play a central role in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

 

Safety behaviour

Safety behaviour is behaviour used to reduce the anxiety you are experiencing at the time. They make you feel safe, but they also reinforce the idea that, without this behaviour, you cannot reduce anxiety. In the long term, the use of safety behaviour therefore has a counterproductive effect. You will reduce the use of safety behaviour in the treatment of your anxiety disorder.

 

Examples of safety behaviour:

  • Holding your phone in your hand when you go out
  • Bringing a bottle of water with you
  • Only going to the supermarket with your partner
  • Only going to the gym during quiet times
  • Looking at the ground
  • Taking medication before a situation which makes you feel nervous
  • Wearing your hair in front of your face
  • Checking your heart rate on your wrist or neck
  • Staying in the ‘background’
  • Wearing a lot of makeup
  • Taking anti-anxiety pills with you
  • Always having your doctor’s phone number with you

Together with your practitioner, you will investigate which forms of safety behaviour you are portraying. Do you already recognize a few?

 

Source: Keijsers, G. P. J., Van Minnen, A., Verbraak, M., Hoogduin, C. A. L. & Emmelkamp, P., (2017). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten.

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