Three types of anxiety - Psychotherapy & Counselling

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Three types of anxiety

Problem issues

Problem issues that psychotherapy can help

Anxiety

There are a number of forms that anxiety can take. You may have had a diagnosis from your GP, for example, that you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Other forms of anxiety include OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) and PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).

There are two main types of anxiety though, and often I see the two occurring together, yet they are being seen - and often treated - as one and the same. They aren't the same

In fact, to be absolutely 'correct' here, there are three types of anxiety if we include "normal anxiety"

We all experience anxiety in our everyday life, and for the majority of us it is 'normal anxiety' and perfectly understandable. An example would be a forthcoming event such as an exam, a driving test, making a speech when we're not used to speaking in front of other people. Life is crammed with such events that cause us to experience normal anxiety, and there is rationality behind this type of anxiety that most of us would find understandable and normal

Then, there is what is called 'neurotic anxiety'. This form of anxiety often evolves from an otherwise normal anxiety provoking episode, but our reaction is an 'over-reaction' - one that has some element of irrationality behind it. Phobias are a great example of neurotic anxiety, and contrary to many a popular belief, phobias are usually fairly straightforward to treat by a properly qualified and experienced therapist. Phobias are irrational fears that usually have some basis in rationality, for example a fear of heights. The rational part of the fear is that if we are climbing a ladder, we could fall off and break a leg! Where it turns in to a phobia is when we are forced through fear of falling to go no further than the first couple of rungs of the ladder - there is an irrational rise in anxiety levels just at the thought of such an activity, for example

More complex forms of 'neurotic anxiety' are GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), OCD and PTSD. These are more complex than phobias, and yet they are very common indeed

The third form of anxiety is 'existential anxiety'. It often presents as a constant worrying - still fear-based - but with no obvious cause or reason. I have worked with many people through the years who have been diagnosed with or been advised that they have GAD, when in fact, upon deeper exploration with them, their fears are existentially based. These are fears that they rarely have any conscious awareness of. They simply 'feel anxious' and are unable to explain it or make sense of it, no matter how hard they try to analyse it

In fact, it would be quite true to think that most of us have some 'existential anxiety', but for those of us for whom it becomes a problem - makes us feel 'stuck', unable to move on, unable to make sense of the world we live in, existential anxiety is as real and as destructive as any 'neurotic anxiety'

My way of working with clients has been considerably enhanced through using an existential approach - frequently combined with mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy

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