Anxiety Interventions: How To Pick The One That WorksMar 28, 2021
There are so many anxiety interventions and anti-anxiety strategies out there that it is difficult to know which ones to use. From medications, counselling and nutrition, to yoga, mindfulness and EFT – The plethora of interventions can be overwhelming. Some cost money, others require time and we want to know what works before we invest either our time, or our money into the chosen intervention. In this series of articles we are looking at the variety of anxiety interventions and how to pick the one that works.
Understanding The Problem
As with any issue – we cannot find a good solution if we don’t know what the problem is.
When you head to the GP, s/he first assesses the issues before diagnosing a problem and then prescribing an appropriate intervention. If our GP didn’t first assess the problem, then it is likely that the intervention may not be appropriate.
You wouldn’t use an anti-depressant to treat the common cold.
Now most of us are convinced that anxiety is the problem. It is the thing we need to treat. The condition we want to be rid of.
Anxiety, however, is not the problem. It is the symptom. And we first need to understand the problem before we can pick an appropriate intervention.
Just how do we do this?
We need to understand the causes and reasons for our anxiety before we can go any further.
Causes Of Anxiety
There does not seem to be a single cause to developing an anxiety ‘disorder’. There are, however, four main factors that play a role in the development of anxiety. Biology, environment, risk factors and protective factors. The way in which these interact creates a breeding ground for an anxiety ‘disorder’ to develop.
Let’s look at this in more detail:
1. Biology: The Seed
Biology refers to your physiological make up. Many studies have shown a strong genetic link in anxiety. In other words, if you have a family member that has struggled, then your chances of developing an anxiety disorder are higher.
But other factors play a role too. If you have had a head injury then you’re more vulnerable to developing anxiety.
Physical / hormonal problems such as Hyperthyroidism includes an experience of anxiety. As does Menopause.
Deficiencies in Magnesium and Vitamin B1 have also shown to have heightened anxiety levels as an effect.
So our physiology plays a big role in the potential development of an anxiety disorder.
Let’s imagine biology is the seed. This seed doesn’t just grow on it’s own though. It needs soil to start off with. And water and fertiliser. And only when all the conditions are met will the seed likely grow.
In some cases seeds grow easily, and in other cases they don’t. Anxiety is much the same. But let’s look at the other factors that need to be in place for the seed to take off.
2. Environment: The Soil
The seed of anxiety gets planted in the soil – our environment. This refers to your childhood and upbringing. What were your relationships with your caregivers like? Did you experience trauma or adversity? What was your socio-economic environment like?
As you can imagine, difficult upbringings with volatile relationships and unstable living conditions will create a more fertile soil for our anxiety seed to take off.
3. Risk Factors: The Fertiliser
Once our seed is in soil, adding fertiliser will increase the likelihood of our anxiety growing prolifically.
Risk factors are considered the fertiliser here. Unhealthy, abusive or toxic relationships will increase the likelihood of anxiety. An unhealthy lifestyle – such as not sleeping enough, using harmful substances and eating poorly will also contribute to our anxiety. Experiencing environmental stress, such as noise pollution, cramped living conditions, financial stress or political unrest all contribute to anxiety.
The more risk factors we have present, the more fertiliser we add to the soil.
4. Protective Factors: The Weedkiller
Our protective factors are the exact same as the risk factors, but on the positive side.
So healthy relationships that leave us feeling validated, loved and important will increase our mental wellbeing. Similarly, a healthy lifestyle, nutrition, and stable living conditions will increase our likelihood of staying well.
Protective factors have the potential to keep the seed from growing altogether. But they can also be added in once it has already sprouted to try reduce the rate at which it grows, or kill it altogether.
The Anxiety Garden
So we have our seed (biology), the soil (environment) and then the fertiliser (risk factors) or weedkiller (protective factors). The ecology of these factors is what, largely, contributes to the development of anxiety.
Causes vs. Reasons
While we have many causal factors for anxiety, our anxiety could be triggered in a specific situation for a variety of reasons. These are not the same as the causes.
The causes form the breeding ground and the reasons can be seen as the triggers.
What has triggered your anxiety? It could have been a significant life event or trauma. Perhaps there has been a relocation, divorce, promotion. Sometimes our anxiety can be triggered by important decisions that we are avoiding. Or maybe there is something happening in our lives that we don’t want to acknowledge or pay attention to.
The reasons are often not as easy to uncover as the causes. But they play a vital role in understanding what the problem is.
Diagnosing The Problem
Once you have a clear understanding of your biology, environment, risk and protective factors then you can begin to see where the problem lies. Include the reasons for being triggered at this particular point in your life and you have what you need to start diagnosing the problem.
Once you know what the problem/s are then you can start making decisions about potential interventions.
Anxiety Interventions: Choosing The Right Ones
If, for example, you have biological markers and many risk factors then we know that a physical intervention such as medication would be appropriate. Identifying the specific risk factors will also alert you to specific changes that need to happen in your life.
For example, if you are experiencing toxic relationships then interventions aimed at supporting and empowering you in this area would be more useful than increasing your magnesium intake.
At the same time, if you notice that your lifestyle is a risk factor then it might be that deficiencies play a role and nutrition is something to look at as an intervention.
At the same time, if you don’t have any biological markers but there has been some adversity in your upbringing, then you might find that counselling is a more appropriate intervention.
The interventions that you choose will always have a greater chance of being effective when they are in line with the problem.
Remember that the anxiety you experience is the symptom of a larger problem and, when you can address the problem directly, then you can become unstuck.
Your interest is piqued and you have a vague idea of the causes, but would like more clarity? Sign up for an Anxiety Audit – A 90 minute intensive coaching session where you deeply explore the causes and reasons for your anxiety and carve out a clear action plan to move forward.
Click Here to schedule a no obligation discovery call to see whether this option is right for you.
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