Navigating the Experience of Anxiety
Anxiety can take on various shapes: long-term generalized anxiety, a reaction to trauma, social anxiety, and panic attacks.
When any sort of anxiety begins to take away from normal functioning, it’s time to seek help and support, says Georgia Youssef, therapist at Associates.
“People come in when the anxiety is affecting their functioning in some way,” Youssef says. “There’s an overall feeling that the way you live your life is changing in response to the anxiety.”
Youssef describes a variety of treatments that work for clients with anxiety. They range from cognitive behavioral therapy and breathing techniques to referrals for medication.
“Of course, what works is different for different people,” she says. “But what’s always helpful is for clients to begin to understand what is actually happening to them with their anxiety.”
She described what happens to clients who experience panic attacks.
“Bodies are programmed to react to danger. God built that in us to help us survive,” she says. “What happens to someone dealing with anxiety is that the body ‘turns on’ that response but there is no danger.”
She does not discount how real and consuming a panic attack can feel.
“It feels like something is really wrong—and something really is wrong!”
With therapy and practice, a person having a panic attack can learn to break the cycle and counteract the body’s responses.
Youssef says sitting down and working to control thoughts and breathing can help. “Learning to say to yourself, ‘I’m not really having a heart attack. I’m going to be ok.’ Counting to slow down breathing, claiming a verse to say aloud—all those things have been helpful for clients. But it takes practice!”
The same is true for dealing with anxiety in general, not just panic, she says.
“It’s very important to ask, ‘Lord, help me see what is true right now.’’