Has A Need To Please Others Jeopardized Your Sense Of Self?
Is it common for you to act according to how you should be rather than how you actually are?
Do you feel compelled to do everything “perfectly”?
Are you concerned that if you don’t, you’ll be judged, rejected, or abandoned?
Anxiety presents as physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms that impact our ability to make clear, healthy decisions. When faced with worry, we might respond with overwhelming feelings of fear or obsessive thoughts. And in some cases, panic occurs, taking the form of a racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, and trembling. Oftentimes, sleep and appetite are impacted by anxiety, furthering overall discomfort.
In some cases, symptoms become so intense that we’re no longer able to function or be productive. Ever concerned about our performance and how others will judge us, it’s increasingly difficult to work, fulfill daily tasks, and meaningfully engage in relationships. If it sticks around for long enough, anxiety can cause us to entirely lose sight of the goals, values, and connections that truly motivate us.
Anxiety Manifests The Most Within Our Interpersonal Relationships
Oftentimes, anxiety appears on the surface as fear-based ruminating thoughts and uncomfortable physical symptoms. Yet, upon closer inspection, anxiety tends to have relational roots, meaning that anxious thoughts derive from fears about how we will be perceived by others. A people-pleasing mentality can quickly develop, perpetuating the idea that as long as things are done “right,” we are worthy of acceptance, respect, and admiration.
Concerned about what others think, it’s easy to generate unhealthy relational behaviors. In some instances, social anxiety occurs, taking the form of detaching from or avoiding social situations. And in other instances, anxiety may cause clinginess and a need to be constantly reassured by loved ones—perhaps trying to convince yourself that you aren’t in danger of being rejected or abandoned.
If you were less hypervigilant about how others perceive you, you’d probably free up a lot of time and energy in your life. Fortunately, anxiety treatment is a liberating opportunity, allowing you to find out who you really are—and not just who you think you should be.
So Where Does Anxiety Come From?
Though anxiety symptoms might develop later in life, many of us struggling likely have some core experience from childhood that skewed the thoughts and beliefs we developed about ourselves. These experiences typically involve an attachment injury with a primary caregiver, causing us to avoid others or become anxiously clingy. As a result, fear-based thinking bleeds into every area of life because every area of life involves relationships.
Cultural factors reinforce feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness, as social media breeds the idea of perfection. Through comparison, we’re quick to identify all the ways that we’re falling short instead of recognizing when the standards we create are impossible to achieve. As we grow into ourselves, anxious thinking becomes entrenched, affecting our perception of ourselves and the world around us.
The numbers demonstrate the duplicitous and widespread nature of anxiety. It’s estimated that anxiety disorders affect close to one-third of adults at some point in life, making anxiety the most prevalent mental health challenge in the world. ¹
Different Types Of Anxiety
There are common, everyday symptoms of anxiety—such as nervousness before a first date or job presentation—and then there are symptoms that fall under diagnosable anxiety disorders. These disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – ongoing fear-based thinking that interferes with daily functioning
Panic disorder – acute and overwhelming psychological distress that leads to heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, disassociation, and a sense of impending doom
Phobias – excessive fear of an object or situation
Social phobias and agoraphobia – in some cases, significant anxiety about being in public situations develops, often causing extreme avoidance of gatherings and other social interactions
Conditions like OCD and ADHD are also closely related to anxiety, and like other anxiety disorders, highly effective treatment is available. And though medication can be a helpful tool in these instances, ongoing therapy is usually the best intervention for treating anxiety.
Working with a therapist, who can hold up a mirror to your experience, allows for meaningful time and space to reflect, explore, and find solutions for the ways that anxiety holds you back. Together in counseling, we can enhance your self-compassion as you learn new ways of relating to yourself and others.
A psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approach is essential to understanding how past experiences and relational templates impact the ways my clients feel right now. The trusted, tailored relationship we build in therapy allows new, healthier relational patterns to be created, replacing old, anxiety-inducing ones. Through treatment, clients can feel less dependent on the approval of others to feel satisfied and motivated in their lives.
What To Expect In Our Sessions
My clients lead the way in therapy. As such, we will begin early sessions discussing your anxiety symptoms, treatment goals, and early influential experiences. Sooner or later, we will arrive at the core issue or memory driving your anxious reactions and feelings. My job as a therapist is to point out how past pains relate to current symptoms of anxiety.
With this newfound understanding of where your anxiety comes from and how it manifests in your life, you can begin to identify the roadblocks in your relationships that are perpetuated by fear-based, anxious thinking. Whether you provide me with examples of other relationship dynamics causing you distress, or we’re identifying patterns within the client-counselor relationship itself, you will be able to respond to your anxiety in real-time, and manage the expectations it’s forcing you to meet.
Unlike other therapeutic techniques that center around behavioral change or surface-level coping skills, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy gets to the heart of your anxiety. As we develop a more secure attachment together in the counseling space, you will be given the tools you need to reduce the impact that anxiety has had on your life and relationships.
Chronic self-doubt and worry have taken valuable energy from you, but anxiety treatment is an opportunity to get that energy back. As you begin to adjust your relationship with your self-perception and beliefs, you’ll have more energy to strive toward your own authentic preferences and goals—rather than those that have been created by unrealistic, harmful expectations.
Still Not Sure If You Will Benefit From Therapy For Anxiety?
How will talking with a therapist actually address my anxiety? After all, you won’t be there when I am put in an uncomfortable social situation or have a panic attack.
You’re right that a therapist can’t be there for every painful or uncomfortable experience you have with anxiety. However, intense experiences of anxiety are welcome—and can occur safely—in the counseling space.
When this happens, I can be there to help you identify self-limiting behaviors or reactions that worsen your symptoms. Working together, you can be more aware of and able to manage feelings of social alienation. And with time and practice, you’ll be able to take the tools you learn in anxiety treatment into every area of your life.
I don’t need counseling for my anxiety—I can just vent to my friends for free.
Having the support of friends is essential, but talking to a friend is not the same as talking to a therapist. Therapists are extensively trained in anxiety disorders and cater to your—and no one else’s—best interest in treatment.
In our work together, I am more likely to challenge your thinking patterns and notice aspects of your personality that others may not be able to discern. The therapeutic relationship is often the most important factor when it comes to treatment outcomes, so I will make sure that our time together centers on your unique experience of anxiety, attachment style, and goals for counseling.
I thought psychodynamic therapy took years; I don’t have that much time to devote to anxiety treatment.
Psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approaches can require a little more time than other modalities like behavioral therapy, but that is because these approaches get to the core of the issue. Rather than targeting surface-level symptoms of your anxiety, psychodynamic therapy digs into the early experiences and relationship templates behind your symptoms.
More often than not, psychological discomfort stems from adverse relationship experiences, and a psychodynamic approach is the most meaningful method for understanding and overcoming those issues.
Conquer Your Fears
Anxiety has been controlling your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, but therapy is an opportunity to regain a sense of agency over your life. To schedule an appointment, contact me or call (949) 237-2372.