Anxiety Treatment In Sydney

Is Anxiety Bad?

The reality is that anxiety is a normal emotion that all people experience. In many ways it is similar to fear. However, anxiety refers to a fear that something bad is going to happen rather than is currently happening.

When you experience this type of worry your brain turns on a system in your body called the fight-or-flight response which gets you ready to take action and resolve the problem. This makes a whole bunch of things happen in your body such as a racing heart and shortness of breath.

So, anxiety isn’t bad, it just feels really horrible. But that’s what it needs to do to function and help you perform at your best.

Sometimes however, we can get stuck on a feeling of anxiety which can stop us from doing our normal daily routine. And that’s when we have a problem that a Clinical Psychologist can help treat.

How Anxiety Effects Your Body – The Fight of Flight Response

The flight or fight response is the body’s natural response to perceptions of threat or danger, with our nervous system preparing us to either fight or run away from a dangerous or challenging situation. We lump all of these internal physiological sensations together and call them anxiety!

From an evolutionary perspective, the flight or fight response enabled us to run very fast from a predator. Great system for staying alive, right?!

In modern times however, there are fewer physical dangers, but our minds are still wired to engage this system for things such as social threats.

What this means is that the system created to get you ready to fight a bear can also be turned on by having to meet a deadline at work! As you can imagine, this isn’t always helpful.

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Is Anxiety Genetic?

To answer this we have to look to the nature vs nurture debate.

On a purely genetic level, scientists are yet to locate any gene that specifically causes anxiety. The full story is a bit more complex.

While certain studies have found chromosomal links between certain presentations of anxiety, there does not appear to be a 100% causal link.

From the point of view of anxiety treatment this is great news, as it means you’re not a slave to genetics, but that there are other factors at play which Cadence Psychology can assist you with.

So What Causes Anxiety?

It’s best to think of those times when we get stuck on anxiety as originating from a combination of several different areas. Remember everyone on earth experiences anxiety. It’s a normal human emotion. But let’s look at what can cause us to sometimes get stuck on it:

Personality

Have you ever met a new baby and noticed that they tend to have a temperament from the very beginning? Some are really fussy. Others are incredible chilled. What you’re seeing here is the beginning of a person’s personality developing.

As we get older and our brain develops, our temperament will expand out to a more fleshed out personality. When assessed, people who get stuck on anxiety tend to rate more highly for personality factors such as neuroticism and shyness.

There’s nothing wrong with these personality traits, but if we’re not guided with how to best use them, they can create a situation whereby we might learn to see the world as more threatening.

Thinking Habits

The way we’re taught to think about the world heavily influences how we experience anxiety.

Say for example one of your parents has been worried about things going wrong and has modelled this by doing things such as not letting you explore further than 20 metres as a child. This will start to teach you to perceive the world as dangerous.

As we grow, we start to practice these beliefs over and over until they become cognitive distortions such as seeing everything as black or white, or trying to mind read others. Such habits will make us more prone to experiencing anxiety on a recurrent basis.

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Stressful Life Events

From time to time life gets hard. When this happens it’s natural for our bodies to react. Unfortunately this can result in things such as sleepless nights, fatigue and hypervigilance.

Being in this state for prolonged periods can cause you to feel drained and start to ruminate about threats. Although there’s no physical risk to your body in this state, your brain can start to feel overwhelmed.

Substance Use

Anxiety and substance use have a tricky relationship. People who have a prolonged experience of anxiety may use substances or alcohol to try and numb their pain. This unfortunately can create a cycle that becomes hard to escape eventually resulting in dependence.

Certain substances can also exacerbate anxiety due to their effect on the body. Stimulants can cause increases in anxiety if a person has a bad experience during their use. The come down from such substances can also create anxiety if a person is unable to recall their action, or is worried about their activities while under the influence.

Avoidance And Safety Behaviours

Realistically no one wants to feel anxious (that’s how the fight-or-flight response works remember). But sometimes we’re so keen to get away from anxiety that we might do things to try and avoid worrying situations (avoidance) or do things to make us feeling safer (safety behaviours).

Whilst this feels great in the short-term, it also prevents you from finding out if the situation was worth worrying about, which means in the long-term the anxiety comes back.

Our Sydney based team will spend time with you learning how to decrease these unhelpful avoidance strategies and safety behaviours as a part of your anxiety treatment.

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Different Types Of Anxiety

Although all anxiety is the basically the same thing (i.e. the body’s response to a perceived threat), Clinical Psychologists tend to break anxiety down into different categories to help with treatment based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

These diagnoses provide a shared language that your Clinical Psychologist can use to communicate with your GP, psychiatrist, or other allied health professional.

Social Anxiety

Worry about how you are perceived in social situations and a fear that others are judging you. This often results in the avoidance of social situations where you don’t know the people present.

Panic Disorder

A fear of the panicky symptoms experienced during the fight or flight response (i.e. panic attacks). This is often connected to the development of agoraphobia.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

An ongoing experience of low level anxiety around a range or day-to-day things such as being on time, signing your name in front of people etc. Sometimes includes positive beliefs about worry. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Experienced when a person begins to have intrusive thoughts or images that makes them feel anxious. The individual will then feel the compulsion to do something in order to “neutralise” the thought e.g. hand washing, counting numbers, checking the doors.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Anxiety that develops after a person experiences a traumatic event. This is different to simply feeling shocked after an event. Symptoms such as flashbacks, hyperarousal to sounds and light, and nightmares may be experienced; often some time after the event.

Although these DSM-5 diagnoses can be helpful guides, our Sydney team of Clinical Psychologists at Cadence Psychology prefer to focus on understanding the factors that have you stuck on anxiety so that we can create a bespoke treatment that fits your needs.

Types Of Treatment For Anxiety

Anxiety can be treated through either psychological or medical means. As Clinical Psychologists, our preference is to work on therapy interventions as an anxiety treatment at Cadence Psychology. However, many people report good outcomes using pharmacological interventions.

Psychological Treatments

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT aims to help you challenge your worries by exploring for supporting evidence. It generally involves exposure-response prevention work as well, which relates to learning to sit with whatever is causing you anxiety.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT approach anxiety treatment by helping clients to learn to let go of worries and try to move towards valued action in their life. This often involves aspects of mindfulness, but not formal meditation.

Medical Treatments

Medical treatments for anxiety generally involve either the use of anti-depressants or benzodiazepines. While they are often effective, they do not treat the underlying causes of anxiety and are best thought of as something to assist while doing the work of therapy.

Anti-depressants affect brain chemicals such as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine which are involved in the experience of anxiety. These can have side-effects such as nausea, headaches, and dizziness.

Benzodiazepines are a form of mild tranquilliser that are highly effective at reducing anxiety. However, they can be quite addictive and can reduce alertness and co-ordination. As such they are not recommended for long-term use.

Anxiety Treatment Strategies To Get You Started In Sydney

Mindfulness

As you can see there’s a lot to good old anxiety. To start changing your relationship with worry Mindfulness can help a lot. Check out our Anxiety Treatment Mindfulness playlist to try it out.

You can also try some popular apps such as Headspace and Calm.

Trying out mindfulness might seem a little odd at first, but it’s got proven benefits such as improving sleep and mood. It doesn’t do this by making anxiety go away, but rather by increasing your ability to sit with anxiety.

Healthy Lifestyle

Health living is just as important as any psychological strategy when it comes to the treatment of anxiety.

Exercise such as walking, swimming, playing a sport, going to the gym, or yoga can help relax the body and mind. The key is to exercise regularly. Sometimes exercising with a friend or exercise group can help keep up motivation and the social aspect of the activity can also contribute to managing stress.

Ensuring that you have regular pleasant activities in your life will also help with managing anxiety. Anxiety can make you feel like staying inside all day, but there are a wealth of fun and social activities you can get involved in around Sydney to boost your mood.

Relaxation

Whilst we have to be careful about ever trying to avoid anxiety, sometime it can be helpful to step back when we’re in full fight-or-flight mode and reset. This way we have the chance to recompose and develop a new pathway forward. A great way of achieving this goal is developing relaxation skills.

Check out our Anxiety Treatment Relaxation playlist to bring your heartbeat down and spend some time taking care of yourself.

Of course relaxation can take the form of any activity that helps you chill out. Getting a massage, going for a walk, giving yourself a treat; they’re all great options!

Our Top 10 Tips For Managing Anxiety In Sydney

Starting to bring it all together now. Let’s look at Cadence Psychology’s top 10 tips for getting ahead of anxiety.

  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reduce alcohol and drugs
  • Practice mindfulness to let go of worries
  • Spend time with friends
  • Ensure a study/life balance
  • Use cognitive strategies to deal with stressful thoughts
  • Engage in enjoyable and fun activities
Even just trying to do a few of these things will put you on a path to greater well-being.

Summary

Anxiety is not your enemy. You can learn how to harness it for your benefit. By learning the skills to make anxiety your friend you’ll be able to perform better by being able to let go and get on with the things that matter to you in life. This isn’t always easy to do on your own which is where a Clinical Psychologist can help.

There are a range of treatments out there to help with managing anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask your Clinical Psychologist or Doctor about the options that are available so that you can find the approach that best suits you.  

Start Treating Your Anxiety With Cadence Psychology In North Sydney

If you’re interested in getting treatment for anxiety in Sydney then we’d love to hear from you. Cadence Psychology provides sessions with Medicare rebates meaning you can start getting help without breaking the bank.

Contact us today to schedule an intake call and see how we can best help you. You can call us on 0478 876 678 or leave us a message using the contact form below.

Don’t forget to check out our other toolbox guides as well to help you on your way towards living the life you want to live.