Everyone experiences stress
in life. Deadlines at work,
an ever-growing to-do list,
and relationship problems are
examples of stressful situations.
Even positives can create stress;
consider how stressful it is
to move into a new home, have
a baby, or start a new job.
However, it’s our response
to stress that’s most
problematic. Some people are
simply more sensitive to stress,
and anxiety disorders are common
The National Institute
for Mental Health estimates
that anxiety disorders affect
19 million American adults
in any given year. The Surgeon
General notes that “anxiety,
which may be understood as
the pathological counterpart
of normal fear, is manifest
by disturbances of mood, as
well as of thinking, behavior,
and physiological activity.”
does that mean? For some people
anxiety manifests as an overwhelming
feeling of dread that seemingly
comes out of the blue, and
may be accompanied by chest
pains or breathing difficulties.
Or it can mean muscle pains,
backaches, stomach pains, or
headaches. Individuals experiencing
any of these symptoms should
see a medical doctor immediately.
But if the doctor rules out
physical reasons for the symptoms,
anxiety may be the culprit.
It’s important to remember
that whether a corresponding
physical diagnosis is found
or not, the anxiety-related
pain and discomfort are very
husband and father had gone
back to school and changed
careers in his forties, exchanging
a manual job for one in information
technology. After a year on
the job with ever-increasing
responsibilities, he suddenly
experienced severe chest pains
accompanied by shortness of
breath in the middle of a workday.
He was taken to the emergency
room as a possible cardiac
patient. Much to his relief,
there was no evidence of a
single woman in her late twenties
considered herself to be in
a dead-end job. For years she
had an active social life,
but found herself going out
less and less and developed
pain in her legs and in her
abdomen. She went to her doctor
who conducted several tests.
While somewhat reassured when
the results all came back negative,
she still dreaded leaving home,
whether to socialize or for
in her thirties, described
having difficulty concentrating,
was always tired, and was a
chronic worrier. She was filled
with self-doubt in her professional
and personal lives.
Each of these people had symptoms
consistent with a type of anxiety
disorder that responds well to
a holistic therapeutic approach
that considers a person’s
physical, emotional, and spiritual
aspects – the “whole” person.
For emotional pain, treatment
often begins with a review of
stressors and problems, then
identifies what can be changed.
Time is spent helping that
person learn relaxation techniques.
One technique I use is Eye
Movement Densitization and Reprocessing
(EMDR) that aids my clients
in working through trauma and
other problems. Think of the
brain like a computer with memories
and behaviors that are associated
with painful or distressing
emotions in a program that runs
in a re-playing loop. EMDR teases
out the memories and breaks the
loop, allowing the "user" to once
again have control of the program.
As therapy progresses the client
sets goals for future growth.
Learning to access the power
to make life altering changes
that lead to a more fulfilling
life is a journey that can begin
in therapy. Joyfully, it continues
for a lifetime.