Treatment for anxiety

In the treatment for anxiety I use Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT). Most of the time it is a necessity to practice what is called Exposure. Often times changing our relationship to our thoughts is an important aspect.

When you experience mild to severe levels of anxiety you are likely to feel uncomfortable and want to get rid of the anxiety as soon as you could. If only you could just snap your finger and the anxiety would just go away. Unfortunately, it does not work like that. So you may start to eat as a way to relieve yourself and or take drugs or drink alcohol. Or you may read a book or watch TV. Any of these techniques can work. The question is do they work both for the short term and long term? Does a short term solution really help your life? Can it sometimes cause extra problems like addictions if the solution involves drugs or alcohol. If you think that what is really important is to have a long term solution than you may benefit from learning techniques developed from Acceptance and Commitment therapy, also known as ACT. One of the domains of ACT is the use of the technique called Acceptance. Acceptance here means learning to allow in uncomfortable feelings and sensations and to learn to notice them in an objective way. It is not about learning how to get rid of these feelings for once and for all. It is not just about exposing yourself to these sensations during exposure exercises, it is about learning to let them expand into you and observed them. If you are doing a social anxiety exposure for instance, not only do you practice introducing yourself to somebody it is also doing it without struggling with the anxiety that comes along with it.

If you also use CBT and you are trying to work on the thought that a social rejection is awful or that you couldn’t with it you may look at the evidence that this is true and evidence that it is not true. If you use ACT you would use some of techniques to detach yourself from the thought. You would not be looking at the truth or falseness of the thought but rather is buying into the thought helping get to where you want to go.

Often in using ACT there is learning how to use mindfulness. This is really about how to stay in the present moment, experience it fully, without getting hooked to the chatter that goes through your mind.

There is a strong emphasis on values in ACT. Values is about what is truly important to you. For example, if your are having panic attacks and are afraid to go to your favorite shopping mall because of your fear of having another attack it may be important to tune into why you want to go to the shopping mall, what makes that important to you. Then you could ask yourself are you willing to practice exposure so that you can learn to acceptance the anxiety, take it with you to the mall, and do what counts when you get to the mall.