Accepting Anxiety: Worries Can Be Helpful

By Jessica Jeffers

Your mind is racing. You have trouble sleeping or concentrating. Maybe you’re nauseous or your heart palpitates. You’re worried about everything, no matter how big or how small. As anyone who experiences anxiety can tell you: it’s not fun.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 40 million American adults are affected—that’s nearly 18% of the adult population. Anxiety disorders come in many different forms, but they all involve excessive amounts of worry.

One thing that’s easy for many people to forget is that anxiety is actually normal–in small doses. As Bret A. Moore describes in his book Taking Control of Anxiety, many people come to therapy with the unrealistic expectation that they can be rid of their worries entirely. “Trying to eliminate anxiety from your daily experience will leave you feeling frustrated and defeated,” Moore points out. “The key is [to learn] how to manage your anxiety through self-regulation, understanding, and acceptance.” Therefore, the goal of therapy typically is to learn techniques for keeping anxiety under control.

Anxiety evolved in humans primarily as a defense mechanism. It alerts us to potential dangers in our environment and encourages us to respond to these dangers. In this way, it’s an important response to potentially life-threatening situations, such as walking down a dark alley at night or encountering a bear while hiking. Worry becomes problematic, however, when it outweighs the actual amount of danger that is present and when it causes disruptions in your life.

Everyone experiences some level of worry about any number of issues. And these worries can serve a variety of functions that can actually be helpful. For instance:

  • Some anxiety can lead to improved performance. If you’re worried about a big test, an important job interview, or leading a presentation, it’s likely that you will study harder or practice more. That preparation could mean that you end up doing better than you otherwise might have.
  • Anxiety can serve as a motivator. Being anxious doesn’t feel good and most people who are experiencing anxiety focus on what they can do to reduce those feelings. This desire can often serve as the catalyst to change behaviors or situations that aren’t working.
  • People who struggle with social anxiety are excessively concerned about what people might think of them. You don’t want this concern to get in the way of building relationships with others or pursuing goals, but at the same time it can help you become more attuned to the other person’s needs or wants.
  • Visible physical responses to anxiety can serve as a means of communication. It can let others know that you aren’t comfortable, that you need help, and signs such as blushing or stammered speech can even indicate attraction to others.

Of course, excessive worrying can also have negative effects, like hesitation, confused thinking, and poor communication. The trick, as Moore puts it, is to find the right balance for you–which isn’t necessarily the right balance for others. Whether you’re doing it on your own or with the guidance of a mental health professional, part of taking control of anxiety involves finding that balance.

 

References

Moore, B.A. (2014) Taking control of anxiety. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.) Any anxiety disorder among adults. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml.

 

January Releases from APA Books!

adlerianAdlerian Psychotherapy 

Jon Carlson and Matt Englar-Carlson

Adlerian Psychotherapy provides an introduction and overview of the theory, history, research, and practice of this person-centered approach. In Adler’s theory, all behavior has social meaning, and the socio-cultural context of a person’s life is a driving influence on their mental health and life experiences. The task of counseling and psychotherapy is one of encouraging the client to develop social interest—a sense of belonging to and participating in the common good. The authors present a modern interpretation of Adlerian psychotherapy that is consistent with today’s short-term therapeutic approaches and can be used with individuals, couples, and families.

 

handbook comparative psych APA Handbook of Comparative Psychology

Vol. 1: Basic Concepts, Methods, Neural Substrate, and Behavior

Vol. 2: Perception, Learning, and Cognition

Editor-in-Chief Josep Call

Comparative psychology is the scientific study of animal cognition and behavior from an evolutionary perspective. This two-volume handbook presents the different aspects of comparative psychology—behavior, cognition, learning, and neurophysiology—in a balanced and exhaustive manner.

There are 80 chapters across the set, divided into nine parts. History and Methods constitute the first two parts of the handbook. Key events and basic questions (and controversies) that have shaped the field as well as the methods used to make those questions empirically tractable are presented here. The next three parts—Adaptation/Evolution, Genes/Hormones, and Neural Substrate—present the conceptual foundations for understanding the genesis of behavior and cognition, both from a phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspective. Finally, the next four parts (Behavior, Perception/Attention, Learning/Motivation, and Cognition/Emotion) are devoted to the core research in comparative psychology today.

 

generalized anxiety Emotion-Focused Therapy for Generalized Anxiety

Jeanne C. Watson and Leslie S. Greenberg

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), characterized by near-constant distress, is resistant to many treatments. However, master therapists Jeanne Watson and Leslie Greenberg argue that emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is uniquely capable of targeting the maladaptive emotional schemes that underlie GAD and promoting long-term change. In this detailed guide, they walk readers through the stages of EFT and describe techniques that therapists can use to build healing therapeutic relationships with their clients, address deep-rooted emotional pain, transform unhealthy coping mechanisms, and develop self-soothing strategies. Vivid case transcripts illustrate these methods being applied in actual practice.

 

teaching lgbtq Teaching LGBTQ Psychology

Queering Innovative Pedagogy and Practice

Theodore R. Burnes and Jeanne L. Stanley

The goal of all instructional environments is to be a safe place to engage in exploration and active learning. How instructors approach LGBTQ identities is critical for learning and performance in all students, whether or not the primary subject matter is sexual orientation and gender diversity. This book is a theoretical and practical guide for individuals who teach and train about LGBTQ psychology in diverse groups and settings.