Anxiety Treatment Cape Town

Anxiety is an often debilitating condition that most people experience at some point in their lives. It can be extremely frustrating and even debilitating, however stress and anxiety can also have an elevated level of arousal that can help us successfully cope with our current situation.

The problem: knowing when normal anxiety becomes debilitating anxiety. If you feel anxious, it might be hard to tell whether your feelings are caused by real-life stress or anxiety, or a lifelong trait that has gone unacknowledged. Either way, help and support are available if you want to learn more about anxiety treatment.

Continue reading for more information about anxiety and anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health-related disorders.  Nearly 30% of all adults will be impacted by an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Research from the University of Cape Town has found an increase in anxiety disorders in South Africa, due to Covid.

Anxiety disorders include Generalised Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorders, or Specific Phobias.

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that cause a person to experience extreme fear and anxiety. These feelings can be constant and overwhelming, making it hard to function during daily activities.

There are several different types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety disorder. It causes worry about many different situations or events, and those worries are difficult to control. The worry is typically focused on everyday problems such as money or family issues.

Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) involves intense fear of being watched or judged by others and also leads to avoidance of social situations. People with this condition may have panic attacks when they’re around other people.

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated frequent panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. These episodes can range from minutes to hours, depending on the severity of the panic attacks. They often begin in adolescence or early adulthood and last at least six months.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurring thoughts or behaviours that seem impossible to stop and cause severe anxious feelings in some people

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm (either from something outside or from one’s own thoughts). Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety about future traumatic events; dissociative symptoms such as feeling numb; depression; irritability; angry outbursts.

Anxiety symptoms can often also lead to depression and other mental health difficulties.

How do you treat an anxiety disorder?

The most widely accepted and researched treatments for anxiety disorders are the therapies classified as cognitive behavioural therapies. The type of cognitive behavioural therapy varies depending on the type of anxiety disorder and your situation.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people understand and deal with their problems by changing the way they think and act. CBT is often used to treat anxiety disorders. It changes how you react to stressful events and not let your anxiety problems intervene with your life.

Other types of therapy are also be helpful, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which focuses on mindfulness, acceptance and validation; or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), which focuses on relationships with others and improving communication skills.

Anxiety symptoms

Anxiety disorders can be disabling conditions that interfere with daily life and cause both physical and psychological symptoms. If you have an anxiety disorder, your fears may come on so strong that it interferes with your daily activity or lifestyle. You may also avoid certain situations that trigger or worsen your anxiety — such as public speaking or doing something you consider embarrassing — which can lead to isolation because you don’t want to face these situations.

What are some of the signs and common symptoms of anxiety problems?

Common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Constantly feeling stressed

  • Feeling restless, keyed up or on edge

  • Sleep problems (insomnia)

  • Problems concentrating

  • Muscle tension or aches

  • Irritability

  • Frequent headaches

  • Excessive fear or unfounded fear

Anxiety Treatment

The good news: Although anxiety disorders are so common they are very treatable.

In an interview, Professor David Barlow highlighted 5 dimensions of good anxiety treatment.

When treating anxiety there are five dimensions that a therapist looks at.:

  1. Creating awareness

  2. Tackling the interpretation

  3. Identifying avoidant behaviours

  4. Learning how the body responds

  5. Understanding your emotional experience

Creating awareness about your anxiety disorder

Creating awareness of your personal experience is a key component in not only treating anxiety difficulties but also various other emotional difficulties. There are two key factors to be aware of, repression and avoidance.

Tackling the interpretation of anxiety.

A key feature of anxiety therapy is to create awareness of your anxiety experiences. Once the awareness has been created the next aim is to equip you to develop more flexible interpretations when experiencing anxiety.

This is where cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy have made significant inroads. Part of the anxiety therapy process is to become more aware of your inner experiences. With this new awareness, the focus shifts to dealing with how you experience anxiety more flexibly.

Identify avoidant behaviours

Excessive avoidance of stressful events or thoughts that trigger anxiety is a key future of anxiety disorders. It is good to avoid threatening situations. Not so good if it stops you from living your life.

The aim of therapy will be to create awareness of your avoidant behaviour. With this awareness, you can lean into your anxious feelings and stressful situations with the necessary coping skills.

Learning how your body responds to anxiety

Your body can tell you about your emotional state much quicker than you realise. Small changes in your bodily experiences can become warning signals.

By creating the awareness of the bodily response to anxiety, you become more proactive in identifying the sources of your anxiety. Additionally, knowing your bodily response you also learn how to calm down through applied relaxation therapy.

This will make you feel more in control of your emotional experience. It can also help you perceive your anxiety proving experiences differently. This method is especially useful for treating panic disorders.

Understanding your emotional experience

The last component in the treatment of anxiety is to take the skills learnt in therapy and practise it.  The emphasis in this dimension is to understand your anxiety experience. 

Certain events have certain triggers causing anxiety levels to rise.

Part of the cognitive behavioural therapy process is for you to have small exposures to anxiety provoking situations. Afterwards in a safe non judgemental space we reflect on this and learn from the experience.

This empowers you to become aware of your thought processes during anxiety situations.

It also provides the therapist with information about the skills and tools to equip you with.

Book a therapy session today

A lot of people struggle with anxiety, and it’s even more common than you might think! The best thing to do if you’re suffering from anxiety is to start learning ways to control it. Ultimately, there are a variety of methods that work.

So why not let me help? I am a psychologist in Cape Town and Northern Suburbs.