The Psychology Network
Psychological Therapy for Anxiety
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Symptoms and Psychological Treatment of Anxiety
Signs and Symptoms

Very few psychological problems cause more distress than anxiety. Often, the symptoms develop over time and the individual may not be aware of the anxiety as an ongoing problem. Anxiety causes a range of psychological as well as physical symptoms. These can vary between individuals, however, psychological symptoms often include:

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  • excessive worries
  • exclusive focus on one particular topic
  • lack of concentration
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • social withdrawal
  • avoidance of locations or individuals
  • hopelessness
  • disturbances to memory and attention
  • negative thinking ("There is no easy way out")

In addition, physical symptoms are possible including

  • feeling hot
  • feeling unsteady
  • heart pounding or racing
  • feeling dizzy
  • hands trembling
  • difficulty in breathing
  • a feeling of choking
  • indigestion
  • lightheadedness
  • hot and cold sweats

Not everybody experiences all of these symptoms and they may change over time. Individuals with phobias (fear of a specific object or situation) may feel anxious when approaching the particular object or situation. Examples of specific phobias are

  • a fear of certain animals
  • concerns about a particular medical procedure (e.g. an injection)
  • a fear of flying (e.g. air travel)
  • being uncomfortable in open places
  • being uncomfortable in narrow/enclosed locations
  • a fear of acceleration (e.g. in an elevator)
  • a fear of public places

Individuals with social anxiety (or phobia) often avoid social groups and situations as well as meeting new people. It is important to distinguish social anxiety from neuro-developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including Aspergers, and social (pragmatic) communication disorder. These neuro-developmental disorders make social communication difficult or may delay the devlopment of social skills.

How often do Anxiety Disorders occur?

Anxiety disorders are common in children (and adults), with prevalence estimates ranging from 5% to 25% in different countries (Figueroa, Soutullo, Ono & Saito, 2012; Simon & Boegels, 2009). Anxiety disorders often co-occur with mood disorders and can result in depression or other mental health problems such as substance use. Early onset anxiety disorders (13 years or younger) may follow a chronic course and, hence, an early diagnosis is important.

What are the Causes of Anxiety Disorders?

Cognitive-behavioural models of anxiety disorders suggest that negative automatic thoughts play a significant role. Hence, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) strategies have been developed, which include cognitive restructuring, coping self-talk, in vivo exposure, modelling and relaxation training. The effectiveness of CBT can be further enhanced through the addition of family therapy, even though this has not been shown in all studies (Muris et al., 2009). The authors report that negative automatic thoughts and anxiety control (the feeling to be in control of symptoms) make unique contributions to treatment outcome.

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Psychological Treatment Options

CBT is long established as a method of choice for anxiety and depression in children and adults. CBT addresses distorted and unhelpful patterns of thinking that result in anxiety. Based on the assumption that negative thoughts result in negative emotions and that well-adapted positive thoughts result in positive emotions, CBT tries to replace cognitive distortions (unhelpful thinking styles) with well-adjusted thinking patterns. Core elements of CBT are:

  • Cognitive restructuring: Identifying negative thoughts and replacing these by positive thinking styles.
  • Modelling: Practicing successful behaviour for critical situations; plus
  • Relaxation training: This may include calming (breathing) techniques and progressive muscle relaxation. These can be adjusted for young children.

Autogenic Training.

Autogenic Training is an evidence-based relaxation technique that involves self-suggestions and the concentration of bodily perceptions. Autogenic training is not recommended for individuals with severe mental health issues. If you have any health issues, you should consult with a medical professional prior to beginning autogenic training. If you feel any discomfort during or after autogenic training, please discontinue and consult a health professional.

Coaching Services

Personal coaching services are available for clients with an established anxiety diagnosis. Coaching is hands-on and includes motivational strategies and relaxation techniques. We advise clients on the use of mindfulness techniques as well. Frequently, coaching is an online service: a one-to-one, personal and confidential online consultation by use of Skype, WhatsUp or a similar service. The online consultation offers a number of advantages:

  • Coaching is available after hours and on weekends.
  • Coaching fees are lower than psychological therapy due to the reduced overheads.
  • If the client is at home or at work, we help in everyday living environments.
  • Online coaching allows more frequent consultations between psychologist and client.
  • The online service makes it easy to integrate partners and family members.
  • Online psychological testing by a clinical psychologist is available as well. Some conditions apply.
  • Online services make it easy to track progress and to help in case of a relapse.

The Psychology Network Pty Ltd offers coaching by text and video and the psychological AI JoBot™ for a low weekly fee. Simply subscribe for one week and continue if you like the service. JoBot™ can be use for ADHD coaching, Anxiety and Asperger support since it has background knowledge on both conditions. Subscribe to this innovative service today.