Anxiety from a psychoanalytic perspective


Overcome your Anxiety

Are you distracted by worrisome thoughts or stressed? Feel overwhelmed? Concerned with issues that feel bigger than you can handle? Panicked? Tense? These feelings are strong indications of anxiety, and are often a sign that help is needed. Our therapists at Bay Psychology Group can help you understand your anxiety so you can find balance and live a more relaxed and fulfilling life.

What is Anxiety?

We don't always refer to anxiety as such. Instead we tell ourselves that we are stressed, burned-out, tired, edgy. Or we might explain our outbursts and distance from others as feeling preoccupied or needing space. And since we may struggle to recognize these issues as signs of anxiety getting help is sometimes hard.

It is therefore important to look for these code words in our thinking and assess our behavior. By asking ourselves if we might be responding out of anxiety, we can begin to take steps towards finding relief.

Like other psychological issues, anxiety has complex origins. Generally it can be understood as coming from biochemical activation, past experiences, distorted thoughts, and maladaptive behaviors.

From a contemporary psychoanalytic perspective, anxiety is understood as an emotional state that is triggered by the presence of a perceived threat or danger. This threat may be real or imagined, and it can manifest in various forms such as physical symptoms, thoughts, or behaviors. Contemporary psychoanalysis views anxiety as a normal and adaptive response to stress and danger, but it can become problematic when it becomes chronic or excessive, and interferes with the individual's ability to function in their daily life.

From this perspective, anxiety is also seen as a signal that something is wrong in the individual's psyche and that there is an unresolved emotional conflict or trauma. Anxiety is seen as a way of the mind to alert the individual of the need to address these unconscious conflicts and traumas, and through the process of psychoanalysis, the patient can gain insight and understanding of the underlying causes of their anxiety, and work towards resolving them.

Additionally, contemporary psychoanalysis also recognizes the role of external factors such as culture, society, and environment, in shaping an individual's emotional state, and how it may influence the expression and experience of anxiety.

The brain is wired to respond to danger by getting our body ready for a fight. This response evolutionarily was very helpful in that it allowed us to escape or defend against hungry predators. The brain does this by increasing blood-flow to big muscles while constricting it on the surface (to stem blood loss if we are injured), increasing heart rate and breathing, stopping digestion, and increasing awareness of our surroundings. While very helpful to our ancestors these same biological responses get triggered when anxious and can be problematic for modern life. Essentially when you are stressed about a deadline at work, you body is responding as if there is a tiger chasing you.

This activation can be caused by our thoughts. If we tend to be anxious we may distort our assessment of situations, erring on the side of worry, seeing danger or jumping to unrealistic and frightening conclusions. A chain of such distorted thoughts might be something like: "If I don't get this report in by the deadline, my boss will be upset, he'll fire me, I'll never find another job, my family will be too burdened to be able to care for me, and I'll become homeless". Going from meeting a target to being homeless is not very likely, but when anxiety takes over we have trouble seeing this.

Understandably when facing such intense physical reactions and worrying thoughts, most will turn to something for relief. Unfortunately, often these behaviors can make the anxiety worse. In seeking relief excessive eating, drinking, porn, shopping, avoidance, isolation, angry outbursts, gambling, etc., may all seem like ways to feel momentarily better, but at best they do little to address the issue and at worst may actually make the anxiety stronger.

This may not be your experience, and indeed, anxiety is personal. Your reasons for anxiety will be unique to you, which is why a tailored approach is needed to return to a less anxious state.

How we treat Anxiety

How can a specialized therapist for anxiety help? First we must understand that anxiety is common and very treatable. How common? Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnosis in the US, with a rate as high as 18 percent of all adults. According to additional data, 23 million people will meet the criteria for this diagnosis. Thankfully, this means significant research has been done and we know what therapies work best.

At Bay Psychology Group we primarily provide therapy from a psychodynamic or psychoanalytic perspective. This is an evidence-based therapy for anxiety that shows very good outcomes, among the best, indeed, when sustained effect is considered. That is, in post-treatment follow-ups when patients are asked to report how they are doing, these patient report the greatest relief from symptoms than any other types of therapy--even over medication. This seems to indicate that psychodynamic therapy sets in motion on-going change, even after therapy has ended. Translation: you'll continue to reap benefits after therapy and enjoy continued relief from depression.

Want to work on your anxiety? Get started by contacting us. We would love to help.


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