Anxiety disorders are often thought of as the common cold of mental health issues. They include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety and many more. They are some of the most popular disorders out there and some of the most popular treatments are cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, re-conditioning, and breathing techniques. But what if I told you anxiety can be treated in psychotherapy without ever discussing it directly?
First, let's be clear. Most of the treatments named above are very effective. They teach people how to prevent, manage, and arrest panic and anxiety attacks. The techniques themselves are well researched to be helpful for anxiety and NOT using them in treatment could be considered malpractice. However, in my experience, the longevity of their successes is limited. Just as quickly as symptoms subside, they can return quite suddenly and often worse than before.
That is because treating any form of anxiety with a superficial approach, is like treating an infected toe with a splinter in it, with antibiotics, and leaving the splinter in. You simply have not reached the cause of the problem.
That is why I endorse a practice where those treatments are offered as a much needed survival technique and then psychotherapy can proceed by treating the whole person. Every single part of a person is connected to the other parts. Much like a woven rug, it is all intertwined. So through the exploration, every part of the person gets treatment, even if it seems, at first, to be unrelated to anxiety. I have seen people who are awakened every night with panic attacks. I have worked with people who walk around everyday with a pit of anxiety in their stomach. Many spend their days paralyzed hourly with worry and fear. Through this type of approach, and often without discussing their anxiety directly, their symptoms subside. Forever.
by Li Faustino PhD