San Diego Anxiety Counseling & Therapy

san diego anxiety counselingWhether you are rich or poor, single or married, live alone or have a family, chances are you experience a certain amount of stress and anxiety. It is a common misconception that money, fame, having a partner, or having a family means that you live a happy, stress-free life. Even the happiest of events, such as deciding to get married or having your first child, create large amounts of stress and anxiety for us. Therefore, stress and anxiety are not solely related to negative events, such as being fired from your job or failing a test. Anxiety is a normal, healthy response to all types of situations – good and bad.

A FREE 15 minute consultation for San Diego Anxiety Counseling is only a call away!

Without a certain amount of anxiety, we would have no motivation to ever do anything productive! Additionally, we would not fear things that could potentially harm us or put us in danger, as our “anxiety switch” would be turned ‘OFF’. Luckily, our bodies have a built-in, natural response, or “alarm system”, to stress. For instance, when a dangerous or threatening situation arises (whether it is perceived or real), the body responds in one of two ways:

1. Fight – we confront the dangerous situation, or 2. Flight – we flee the dangerous situation.

The body’s physiological response to stress, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, is a helpful biological tool to ensure our survival. When the brain’s “alarm system” is activated, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream to help you respond appropriately and effectively to the stressor. Difficulties arise however, when our “anxiety switch” is constantly in the ‘ON’ position. This means that the hormonal levels (particularly the cortisol levels) are at a constant high, which can produce very negative and unpleasant psychological and physiological effects that can be detrimental to you health and well-being. Initially your body will respond to a stressful situation by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure.

Your body will also temporarily ‘shut down’ unnecessary functions, such as the digestive system, immune system, and reproductive systems, to ensure that you have adequate energy available to deal with the stressful situation. Once the stressful situation has passed, these functions will resume normally. However, if the cortisol levels remain high in your bloodstream, and your “anxiety switch” is constantly ‘ON’, more serious effects such as insomnia, depression, memory loss, ulcers, pain, decreased libido, heart disease, stroke and other physical illnesses (as a direct result of your immune system being lowered or ‘shut down’) can occur. Anxiety disorders occur when stress levels are at this constant high, and include diagnoses such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Phobias (usually specific), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The First Step in San Diego Anxiety Counseling

The first step in treating anxiety disorders is to help you realize that stress and anxiety are inevitable parts of daily life and cannot be completely avoided. This step will also help you to understand the different types of stressors for you, as not everyone will share the same types of stressors. Generalized events such as the death of a loved one, moving in with your partner, or being hired or fired from a job are stressors that we probably all share. However, other events that trigger your internal “alarm system” could be very different from someone else’s.

Together, we will help you to identify your personal stressors and decide whether these stressors are actually occurring or are perceived to be occurring. It often helps to have a person who can be objective to help you through this process, since anxiety disorders can create a tunnel-vision thought pattern. As a therapist, I can help you to expand your vision to include other possibilities or explanations for your perceptions. Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular and widely-used tactic of helping you to identify and define your stressors. CBT also helps you to realize that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all inter-connected and therefore influence one another. We will together determine whether your stress is caused by external factors (family, friends, work, etc.), internal factors (unrealistic expectations of yourself or a perfectionist all-or-nothing attitude), or a combination of the two.

Once we have identified your major sources of stress and anxiety, we can begin to help you positively re-frame your cognitions, which will in turn affect your feelings and behaviors. Depending on the severity of your anxiety and the pace at which you progress, this type of therapy can be brief (several weeks) or lengthy (several months and sometimes even years). Regardless of the length of time you are in therapy, I will be able to help you through these difficult situations which are hard to confront on your own, by providing you with the tools and coping mechanisms best suited to your stressors. This will help you lessen your anxiety and subsequently increase your physical and psychological well-being.

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