Dear Dr Gray,
I have always been a worrier and avoided the things that scare me, like lifts, the underground, busy pubs. However, recently my list of thing that make me anxious and things that I avoid seems to be growing and I am reaching the point where I feel anxious most of the time. Please help.
Lucy – Islington
Dr Gray Replies……..
One of the most common ways of dealing with anxiety is to avoid the source of the anxiety, we have evolved to respond in this way to danger, it is the ‘run to the back of the cave’ way of coping with threat. However, this way of coping is only helpful when we are faced with imminent physical danger, when we use avoidance to cope with psychological danger (e.g. I am going to lose control and embarrass myself) it brings only very short term relief. In the longer term avoidance robs us of the opportunity to test out our fears and discover that what we fear will happen, doesn’t. The result is that our confidence in ourselves and our ability to cope is diminished and over time our list of feared scenarios grows, as your experience shows.
The answer is to seek some help in the form of therapy, ideally Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy with help you to identify the thoughts that are causing you to feel anxious about certain situation and evaluate their accuracy and helpfulness and then if necessary replace them with alternative that enable you to gradually enter the situations that you fear and build your confidence in yourself and your ability to cope.
The British CBT & Counselling Service have recently opened a new centre for therapy in Islington so you should be able to get some help locally with one of our Clinical Psychologists or Counselling Psychologists, all of whom specialised in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).