Couples and Anxiety

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Anxiety | 0 comments

Anxiety can cause serious relationship problems. Since it typically robs people of self- confidence and turns life into a struggle, people think they don’t have much to offer in their relationships. Sometimes they spend so much time with the struggle they are not as involved in their relationships as they might want to be. Anxiety often causes feelings of shame, so people try to hide the anxiety and its effects from their partners. When that happens, their partners may think that they are withdrawing from them.

Alternately, if partners are told about the anxiety and how it operates they can be involved in working against it. For example, the voice of anxiety usually has people focus on what might go wrong. A partner can counter that voice through gentle and consistent reassurance. It is important for the reassurance not to become pushy, since anxiety often begins because of the pressure of cultural messages to perform. Reproducing that pressure in the couple relationship may exacerbate the problem. Instead, the partner can help the person focus on what is going well and what is most interesting and pleasurable. If the partner is aware that anxiety stands in the way of certain goals, they can join together in reaching these goals a little bit at a time.

Questions for Couples

click here for more useful questions

  • Has anxiety come between the two of you? How?
  • Have there been times that it could have come between you but didn’t? What did each of you contribute that helped you keep anxiety from coming between you? Are there things you could generalize from that experience that may be helpful again?
  • If you were to think of yourselves as a team against anxiety, what might that lead you to do?
Read More

A Poem About Anxiety

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Anxiety | 0 comments

(sometimes anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, as attested to by this young woman who writes about “feeling blue“)

Read More

Parents dealing with Children’s anxiety

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Anxiety | 0 comments

Watching a child struggling with anxiety can be very difficult for parents. Anxiety may begin to color their perception of their child and convince them that he can’t do things that he really can. Many parents find it helpful to keep track of the child’s accomplishments and abilities so that they don’t begin thinking of their child as anxious and fearful. Instead they can recognize what abilities their child has that might be useful in dealing with anxiety.

It is particularly helpful for parents to find out how the anxiety is frightening their child so that they can help develop counter-tactics. Here are some examples of how some parents helped when anxiety threatened sleep:

  • When Maureen discovered that anxiety flooded 5-year-old Erica with worries that kept her from sleeping, she gave Erica a set of Mexican worry dolls and suggested that Erica tell each doll a problem at bedtime so that the dolls could solve them while she slept
  • When 11-year-old Lisa told Ron and Elaine that fear of “something happening” kept her awake at overnights, they suggested that, in her imagination, she station each of her parents at the foot of her bed. This way they could guard her through the night.

It is also helpful for parents to keep track of times when their child is in charge of his life and the anxiety does not veer him off course. They can remind the child of those times and even celebrate these successes together to give him hope.

Questions for Parents

  • Can you identify the tricks anxiety is using against your child? What are counter-tactics that would be appropriate for his age and interests?
  • What does your child do that is helpful when anxiety is becoming present? Can you help create more contexts where this could happen or find ways to help him notice these times?
  • If you believe that your child is experiencing pressure, can you speak to her about being satisfied with her accomplishments, without letting perfectionism, competition, or stress take over?
  • Are there ways that your family can focus more on fun and less on performance?
Read More

Being Single and Dealing with Anxiety

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Anxiety | 0 comments

In our culture, single adulthood is a time when people are particularly vulnerable to anxiety because it is a time of strong expectations for creating a foundation for “when you really grow up.” Messages about career, marriage, and children begin to dominate many people’s lives that previously had been occupied with creativity and exploration. Single adults often show up in therapy with anxiety associated with one of three kinds of experience: Physical sensations such as shortness of breath, racing heart, and shakiness, for which no physical cause can be found.

  • A tremendous sense of pressure and fears about not being able to live up to expectations or a sense of being a failure.
  • Worry and a sense of panic that get in the way of moving toward goals.

For all of these experiences, young adults have found it helpful to identify the expectations placed on them and evaluate whether those are fitting for them. Often these expectations come directly from their families, but are really nested within larger cultural ideals.

  • Elizabeth couldn’t stop focusing on her inability to catch her breath and her pounding heart. When she realized she had used family connections to gain a job that wasn’t satisfying and acknowledged to herself that she really wanted to be an artist, these feelings stopped.
  • In his first business job, Tom was preoccupied with thoughts of failure and compared his progress against other people’s promotions. Looking at the bigger picture and at what was most important to him helped him appreciate both his job and other aspects of his life.
  • Lynn always expected that, in her twenties, she would marry and have kids. As she approached her thirtieth birthday still single, she felt a sense of growing panic and despair. Once she recognized how the panic was keeping her from enjoying anything, she realized there could be other ways to live a productive and enjoyable life.

Questions for Single Adults

  • What do you think are the cultural messages, in terms of expectations, for you at this time of your life?
  • What do you find most fulfilling in your life?
  • If you were to be guided by fulfillment instead of the pressure of expectations, what would that be like? Would that be a good thing or bad thing? Is there a middle ground that would be more fitting for you?
  • Who would support this kind of direction for your life? Why?
Read More

Living With Anxiety

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Anxiety | 0 comments

Women in Their 20’s Dealing With Anxiety

In an Ally McBeal episode from late 1997:
Ally: “Why do you think that women feel the need to be married anyway?”

Renee: “Society drills it into us that women should be married. Society drills it into us that smart people should have careers. Society drills it into us that women should have children and mothers should stay at home. And society condemns the working mother who doesn’t stay at home. So what chance do we really have when society keeps on drilling us?”

Ally: “We can change it, Renee… I plan to change it! I just want to get married first.”A young woman recently told a therapist she was having problems with “anxiety.” In the conversation, the therapist mentioned that in her generation women went to college to get their “Mrs.” The young woman looked at her blankly, having no idea what she was talking about, not getting the reference. The therapist said, “You know, to find a husband, to get married.” The idea was so foreign to the young woman, she had trouble comprehending. “That’s not what’s happening now,” she said. “I have to go to college, get a degree, and be good at what I choose to do. Otherwise I won’t make it.”The therapist asked, “What do you mean– ‘make it’?””Well, you know, have a career, make lots of money.””And what else?””Get married and have children, of course.” They then entered into a discussion about the kinds of pressures young women in their 20’s experience.

  • They (we) live in a time of increased production and consumption
    –faster, better, smarter, more power.
  • They have increased access to information
    –information the media moguls decide to produce.
  • They are bombarded by how they are supposed to look, what they are supposed to eat, what to wear, how to keep fit, where to be seen
    –the computer-generated “perfect” female image.

Then the young woman said that many of her friends, ranging in age from 21-29, were also experiencing different versions of what they call “anxiety.” Why were she and her friends having this particular experience? The woman and the therapist thought that perhaps these young women, who go to college to get degrees in biology, psychology, film, communications, anthropology (not to get their Mrs.), are horribly affected by the pressures enumerated. These women are supposed to have a career, find a partner, make money, have a life. Do it all. Do it now. Responding to all of these expectations is, of course, impossible. And what happens when women see how impossible it is?
They experience anxiety. Although single men may not experience the degree of pressure to get married and have children that women do, expectation is something they have to deal with as well. They are also subjected to the expectation to do it all and do it now. For both men and women who stay single, unless they have entered an alternative life in which marriage is not the expectation, the pressure can continue throughout life. James, a 48-year-old architect, reports that 80% of the clients he works with ask about his marital status and wonder what the problem is that keeps him unmarried!

Read More

Understanding Anxiety, introduction to the Issue

Posted by on Mar 25, 2012 in Anxiety | 0 comments

Anxiety is the most frequently diagnosed mental health disorder in the United States; over 40 million people experience it in any 12-month period. It most often occurs in people between the ages of 25 and 40, and it shows up with women more than men.

Read More