Anxiety and stress are often linked together, and both are very commonly experienced. Stress is our bodies’ natural response to threats. Anxiety is our reaction to stress. Since anxiety at its core is a survival reaction, it is normal to experience both stress and anxiety throughout our lives. However, stress and anxiety can become debilitating when they are experienced in a high volume. When we have unmanageable anxiety, it can lead us to have physiological responses, like a racing heart, shortness of breath, tingling sensations, uncontrollable shakiness, feeling flushed, and more. It can also lead to issues sleeping and can impact our energy levels.
Given anxiety’s role in keeping us alert and safe, the goal of therapy would not be to “get rid of” anxiety, but to help navigate and manage anxiety as well as find healthy ways of coping with stress.
When we experience or witness an event that threatens our life or safety, our bodies have a trauma reaction. These experiences trigger our flight-fight-freeze response, and serve to help us survive the trauma. However, when our minds and bodies are not able to heal from the trauma, we can develop posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. People who have PTSD may notice unwanted memories of the trauma experience coming back to them in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. Because these memories can be distressing, we may avoid people, places, or things that could trigger them. This can cause us to feel isolated and withdraw from activities we used to enjoy. We also may become hypervigilant around environments or situations that cause us to feel unsafe as the trauma had. We may develop maladaptive coping strategies, like substance use or sleep disorders, to try to navigate the difficult emotions triggered.
Trauma-informed therapy can create a safe, nonjudgmental space that promotes healing. Being able to work through the experience of trauma with a compassionate, caring therapist can empower us to explore what happened so as to heal and move forward.
When going beyond the experimentation or social use of substances or other behaviors, we can become psychologically and physically dependent on drugs, alcohol, and behaviors like gambling. Dependence can result in adverse consequences including relationship issues, legal or financial troubles, and health concerns. Habitual use can also impact emotional and psychological health and safety. It can be difficult to break the cycle of dependence without support.
Therapy can help us become aware of what triggers our use and understand healthier ways of navigating and coping with these triggers. We also can use therapy to address the negative ruptures that may have occurred when we were engaged in use. Therapy can also support in proactively managing difficult emotions or addressing social pressures that contribute to using substances or engaging in addictive behaviors.
It is normal to have dips in mood where we may feel down or depressed. However, when those moods are heightened and sustained for a longer period of time into depression, it can result in impacting our ability to fulfill our basic needs. Depression can impact our appetite, our sleep, as well as our motivation to engage in our life. We may find it harder to concentrate and may start withdrawing from people who support us. We may even notice we aren’t deriving the same pleasure from activities we used to enjoy engaging in. These feelings can impact our self-view and our perceived self-worth, which can lead to low self-esteem.
Therapy can help us understand the root of our depression, and learn coping strategies to navigate the impact of feeling depressed. Having a supportive therapist can help us explore the connection between how our depression is impacting our thought patterns and our behaviors or lack of engagement.
Grief is a natural reaction to experiencing any form of loss. Grief can encompass many emotions, including helplessness, anger, sadness, guilt, and more. Importantly, grief can also impact us physically, socially, and mentally. Everyone’s experience of grief is valid as there is no one way to grieve, just as there is no proper time frame in which to heal from loss.
That being said, therapy can allow for a safe space to hold and process grief and promote healing. It can also provide a space to explore ways to cope with the difficulty of loss and complicated nature of bereavement and grief. It is normal to carry grief with us over our lives, but we are allowed to keep living while coping with it.
Anger can be a normal reaction for us to experience in various situations. However, when anger causes us to react in ways we feel are uncontrollable and intense, we may find our anger to be problematic. Having no way to manage our anger can lead us to having difficulties in our interpersonal relationships, negative impact on our career growth, and even feeling socially withdrawn from our support network.
Anger management therapy can help provide tools for recognizing the causes of our anger and learning more functional ways to regulate that anger productively. It can also help to make us more mindful of our triggers and problematic reactions so we can proactively limit emotions of rage from influencing how we behave in a situation.
A lot of us have people we feel close and connected to that make up our support network. However, when individual needs and sensitivities are not communicated well, it can lead to interpersonal problems within our relationships that can be difficult to navigate. Problems can further impact our communication, intimacy, and connection to others. Furthermore, issues can span across different types of relationships, including romantic relationships, friendships, colleagues, or family members. This can leave us feeling isolated, lonely, and apprehensive about establishing connections with others in our lives.
Therapy can provide space to understand our needs and emotions and strengthen communication styles to be able to voice these needs to others. It can also provide space to process the impact of past relationships and identify dysfunctional patterns that may persist to impact current relationships negatively. By helping to establish healthy boundaries in relationships, therapy can also support us in navigating toxic relationships that may exist in our lives.
If you or someone you know is seeking mental health care, you can reach out to our Care Coordination team at [email protected] or by phone at (415) 202-5159.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Additional resources can be found here.