Boynton Beach Anxiety Counseling
Anxiety symptoms can take many forms. There is what is referred to as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is a recurrent feeling of worry and anxiety that may increase or decrease at varying times but remains a predominately persistent state.
Then there is Panic Disorder in which an individual experiences frequent or periodic panic attacks and may become phobic about when the next one will occur or fear having one in public often leading to Agoraphobia – an overall fear of being in public places, open spaces, or far from home.
Social anxiety can present in a variety of ways but primarily consists of a fear of judgment from others or being rejected or publicly embarrassed. This is also closely associated with fear of public speaking or ‘stage fright’.
One of the most debilitating forms of anxiety is severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in which a person experiences chronic thoughts or images leading to anxiety and resulting compulsions that are an attempt to manage the high anxiety states resulting from the intrusive obsessions.
Why Anxiety Treatments Typically Fall Short
Historically, the most common forms of treatment for anxiety disorders have been medications, insight-oriented talk therapy, and approaches founded in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Although, these approaches have benefited a segment of clients, I believe they have not achieved symptom resolution for the majority. It again points to the mental health community’s focus on symptom management rather than symptom resolution. In the case of OCD, I have seen the CBT approach make clients symptoms much more severe.
In outlining my approach to working with anxiety disorders, I do not intend to be disparaging of anyone and their approach or for any client to feel ashamed to take a needed medication in the moment to stabilize. However, if you take a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax or Klonopin, to reduce your anxiety in the moment, it is not identifying or resolving what the principal source of your anxiety may be.
In my experience, there is also no long-term plan given by the prescribing physician. Are you just supposed to keep taking the medication from now to the end of time. Again, I am not placing into question the sincerity of the physician but they and the pharmaceutical company benefit greatly from keeping you a recurrent patient.
Freedom From Anxiety
After working with thousands of clients over the years I can say this with absolute certainty, “There is not one human being on the planet earth that should be living with chronic anxiety.” Every client I have ever worked with who came to address issues related to anxiety and completed their treatment has left here with their symptoms resolved.
I always look for a way to simplify complexity to capture the essence of it. When it comes to chronic anxiety or related anxiety disorders it all primarily stems from one thing: chronic or overactivation of your sympathetic nervous system (SNS). As with depression, I do not see anxiety as a disorder but a manifestation of something that is disordered in your system. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates and controls heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, urination, sexual arousal, performance, etc.
Your sympathetic nervous system increases energy that allows us to focus and perform important task and duties. When activated to a higher level it also triggers or fight or flight response to varying perceived threats. Contrastingly, the parasympathetic nervous system lowers energy and returns us to a more balanced state following performing the necessary activity or having adequately addressed the threat.
The Primary Cause of Chronic Anxiety
Overactivation of the parasympathetic system can contribute to anxiety’s kissing cousin depression. The key in helping each of my clients resolve their anxiety symptoms is to identify and intervene on what is causing the chronic or overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system. There can be a diversity of causes, such as current stressors, chemical or hormonal imbalance, gut issues and nutritional deficiencies.
However, in my experience, the vast majority of what is triggering the SNS to respond in this manner is blocked and unresolved implicit memories. “What are implicit memories’” you ask. Great question! As human being, we have two primary type of memory systems – explicit and implicit. Explicit memories are conscious memories, i.e., images, facts, data we retrieve for recall. You are aware you are recalling something from your stored memory. This type of memory is stored in a part of the brain referred to as the hippocampus.
Implicit memory is comprised of a felt sense in the body; it is a body memory. It has no images, no conscious thought, and this is where it gets complicated, it has no sense of linear time or no ability to differentiate people, place or setting. It only feels. Furthermore, it can be activated with any association to the original event – smell, color, time of day, day of the year, phrase of speech, etc. It is stored in a part of the brain referred to as the amygdala, which is the brain’s threat detector.
Because implicit memory has no sense of time, the event has never ended. Whenever we cannot regulate our emotional energy into adaptive action for whatever the reason, we will dissociate it neurologically into its own isolated memory network to protect the rest of the brain. This is how these events become embedded into implicit memory. Ultimately, this is the whole ball of wax when it comes to identifying and resolving my client’s anxiety symptoms.
In addition, this type of memory is stored in the body and the more primitive regions of the brain making it almost immune to talk therapy and cognitive approaches. Our more advanced parts of the brain are the chief cause of why the memory is blocked in the first place. In humans, we call this protective mechanism to split off what is unregulatable dissociation. It exists in the animal kingdom as well and is referred to as tonic immobility.
How Chronic Anxiety is Generated
When an animal is pursued by a predator and cannot escape, its last time of defense is to collapse into a catatonic state know as tonic immobility. There are numerous adaptive reasons for this behavior that I won’t take the time to presently enumerate. For whatever reason, if the animal has an opportunity to escape it will reactivate its adrenaline, flee to freedom, and once safe it will shake for a period of time releasing all the energy remaining in its body and nervous system.
Human beings rarely do this because we have this large, developed neocortex, thinking brain, that blocks the body and nervous systems ability to reset itself. Depending on the intensity level of what was dissociated this can lead to anything from unresolved emotional memories to severe post traumatic stress.
Returning to focus on anxiety symptoms, unresolved implicit memories is what I have found is causing the vast majority of the overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system. Moreover, they cannot be cleared using cognitive or talk therapy; they only perpetuate the blocking of the energy that needs cleared from the body.
Harnessing Innate Healing Capacities
I love my clients who are one step ahead of me when I’m sharing this and are already asking, “Well then how do I clear these implicit memories from my system.” The answer is you have to utilize experiential therapies that can actually access these parts of the brain and activate the implicit memory in the body so it can be cleared in session, which will ultimately lead to the termination of your anxiety.
We are gaining an ever increasing knowledge of how to harness the body’s natural healing capacities for emotionally painful and traumatic experiences. Think of the explicit memory being the image of the event and the implicit memory being the energy connected to the event. You can completely clear the energy from the body so the event will never affect you emotionally or activate your sympathetic, or in some cases parasympathetic, nervous system the rest of your life. True resolution rather than just ongoing symptom management, which in my opinion is not a real solution.
To achieve this result, I use a variety of experiential therapies that I have found most effective. I integrate these into a unique way with each client based on what is most impactful in the moment in session. The following are a list of what I have found to be most effective:
- Internal Family Systems
- Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy
- Somatic Experiencing
If you have been struggling with any form of chronic anxiety for an extended period of time, you have not healed because you are incapable you just need to be guided into how to access your own healing capacity and reset your nervous system. The amazing thing neuroscience has shown us is your body has to follow these rules; everyone can fully heal.
Don’t continue to needlessly suffer with anxiety for so long. Contact us today for an initial session to assess the cause of your anxiety symptoms and allow us to develop an individualized treatment plan to create a greater sense of peace, joy , purpose and connection in your life that your anxiety is keeping you from experiencing.