Patterns of communication and unresolved conflict.

While occasional worry is an expected part of life, anxiety can result from your system being stuck on high alert and hypervigilance from the perception of threat.

Even when the rational mind is aware that there is no danger, the emotional brain, which is evolutionarily older, behaves as though we are in constant peril. This part of the brain developed when we were in an environment where we had to be on alert to survive. However, even though the modern world does not contain those same threats, the brain’s architecture has not caught up to the evolved society. Now, instead of fearing threats to survival, the brain can simulate scenarios that provoke a similar type of anxiety. Anxiety is not inherently wrong, as it often serves an important adaptive function of keeping us safe. But, when it is out of proportion to your current reality, it can lead to significant distress.

These scenarios can play on the fears of the health and safety of your loved ones, fears of engaging in social situations, or a general sense of dread of the future. Such fears can create thought patterns that play on loop, activating stress-response circuitry in the brain and keeping the mind and body on high alert.

Due to the distress caused by anxiety,  people develop coping methods that may work in the short term but may don’t necessarily benefit their well-being in the long run. Counselling can help teach you ways of coping with anxiety in addition to exploring and working through the underlying causes of its origin.

Types of Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety

Generalized anxiety is the experience of fear, dread, or anxiety directed towards a range of different triggers as opposed to a particular situation. It can often involve fears of the unknown, worry about the future, and ruminating over issues without feeling like one can manage or control their worry.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is the intense fear of social situations and interacting with strangers. It can range from fear of public speaking to a sense of dread over minor interactions with others.Often beneath the anxiety and fear lies a deeper sense of inadequacy. Fears of being negatively evaluated or acting inappropriately around others make avoiding all interactions a tempting option but it can result in a sense of disconnection for the individual.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are a terrifying experience where one experiences an intense surge of fear or anxiety that typically peaks within minutes but can feel unbearable. In these instances, the body reacts as though it is in actual peril, producing symptoms like a rapid heart rate, quick, shallow breathing, tingling sensations, trembling, dizziness, dissociation and more. In this state, people often fear losing control or even dying. Although panic attacks are not physically dangerous, this experience is highly uncomfortable. It can often lead to the ongoing fear of more panic attacks happening, avoiding situations that might provoke them.


Phobia is an intense fear or aversion to a particular object or situation. Generally, the fear associated with phobias is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object. The fear or aversion is typically persistent and lasts for more than six months If you have a phobia, you might experience irrational anxiety or panic about possibly encountering the feared object or situation and take active steps to avoid them. Fortunately counselling is a proven effective method of recovery for phobias. Exposure therapy, Mindfulness based therapies and Cognitive Behavioural therapies are just some of the ways you can be supported in your healing journey.

How can Counselling help?

The experience of anxiety can be terrifying and destabilizing, so it is often reacted to by using strategies of distraction or avoidance. Psychotherapy aims to give room to anxious experiences in order to disarm and neutralize their threat. Emotion-focused therapy is one such modality that aims to disarm these defenses in a gentle and caring manner and access the underlying feelings that may have previously felt too threatening to experience. By processing these deeper feelings within a safe, non-judgemental relationship, new ways of feeling can start to emerge.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy allows you to have incremental exposure to the previously fear-inducing situations and thoughts and slowly makes those experiences tolerable. Rigid thoughts and beliefs associated with th anxiety are questioned, and new adaptive ways of thinking and behaving are introduced.

Mindfulness-based approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) advocate for a way of engaging with the thoughts, feelings, and sensations of anxiety where instead of fearing or avoiding them, you learn to sit with them. Bringing such presence and acceptance to your experience of anxiety can eventually loosen the grip it has over your life. Mindfulness and acceptance skills are cultivated to help you align yourself to a life of value and meaning.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Craske, M. G., & Stein, M. B. (2016). Anxiety. Lancet (London, England), 388(10063), 3048–3059.

Swain, J., Hancock, K., Hainsworth, C., & Bowman, J. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy in the treatment of anxiety: a systematic review. Clinical psychology review, 33(8), 965-978.

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