by Carol Fredrek
You are likely reading this article because you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, and managing the anxiety is paramount.
A fight or flight response is adaptive and lets you know that you are in danger, physically or psychologically. You might have panic attacks and have trouble breathing. You might find that you dissociate because of past trauma. Or perhaps you are afraid of flying and traveling is a significant part of your job.
You don’t like what is happening to you and want some help managing your anxiety, post traumatic stress, or obsessions and compulsions. You want to develop an adaptive response. One that is not so distressing or that takes up so much of your energy. This impacts so many aspects of your life.
A book that I have found to be very comprehensive for helping anyone with an anxiety disorder better understand their anxiety and ways to manage it is the sixth edition of The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, Ph.D.
This book will help you assess your anxiety, identify what type of anxiety you have, and goes through a range of tools for each type.
Chapter 1 discusses a variety of anxiety disorders, providing you with a list of symptoms, and current treatments for each disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Panic Disorder: intense fear that occurs out-of-the-blue.
- Agoraphobia: fear of open spaces; fear that it would be difficult to escape, for example trains or buses.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: fear of embarrassment or humiliation, for example a fear of crowds.
- Specific Phobia: fear and avoidance of one specific type of object or situation, for example an elevator phobia.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: persistent anxiety and worry, but without panic attacks, phobias, or obsessions.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Obsessions are repetitive ideas, images, thoughts, or impulses; Compulsions are the behaviors or rituals that you perform to get rid of the anxiety.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: disabling psychological symptoms because of a traumatic event. They include repetitive distressing thoughts about the event; nightmares related to the event; flashbacks of the event; avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or activities associated with the event; emotional numbness; and persistent symptoms of increased arousal.
There is also a Self-Diagnosis Questionnaire that can help you identify which anxiety disorder you are struggling with. This questionnaire provides you with confirmation and normalization of the symptoms that you experience, that they are real, and that you are not the only one that struggles with this.
Chapter 2 discusses the reasons that you develop anxiety disorders. Some of the predisposing causes might be heredity, childhood circumstances, or cumulative stress over time. There may be biological causes as well for panic attacks, generalized anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, or medical conditions.
Edmund Bourne talks about the short-term, triggering causes. They include precipitating stressors, such as personal loss; conditioning, which is often the origin of phobias; or a trauma.
He goes on to discuss the causes that often maintain an anxiety disorder. This can be helpful when looking at ways to manage your anxiety. An awareness of the cause of the anxiety might help you prepare a plan to overcome and manage the anxiety disorder.
Chapter 3 explores the importance of a Holistic approach to managing anxiety disorders. Edmund Bourne calls this a “comprehensive approach” to managing anxiety.
Levels of the Comprehensive Approach:
- Physical: breathing exercises
- Emotional: learning to identify the anxiety as anger in disguise
- Behavioral: coping techniques such as distraction techniques, which are different from avoidance.
- Mental: changing negative self-talk.
- Interpersonal: learning communication strategies to be able to talk with others about your condition
- Whole Self: developing self-esteem
- Existential & Spiritual: finding a broad purpose or direction that gives meaning to your life
Edmund Bourne provides lots of case examples throughout the book, which provides a context for the concepts and tools he presents.
The remainder of the chapters are dedicated to specific anxiety disorders, for example panic attacks and another on phobias. Or a description of strategies, such as self-talk, relaxation, and assertiveness.
Questions of which medication or even if you are comfortable with medications will arise at some point in finding ways to better cope with your anxiety. Edmund Bourne dedicates a chapter to medication for anxiety. It is helpful to have the information so that you can make an informed decision about medication and whether it is an option for you.
He ends the book with four appendix’s that provide helpful resources, such as organizations, resources for relaxation, ways to stop worry, and affirmations.
I encourage you to purchase a copy to put on your book shelf. You don’t need to read the book from cover to cover. Just go to those sections that apply to you. Using this workbook in conjunction with a good support system which might include family, friends, a support group, or counseling will help make the work that you do much more effective.
If you are struggling with anxiety and need help to explore ways to manage your struggles
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