A Personal Note To People With Anxiety
You may be someone who thinks that you're the only one in the whole wide world with horrible anxiety symptoms.
Without exaggerating, many millions of people throughout the world at this given moment are going through exactly the same trauma that you are experiencing. It is helpful to know that you aren't the only one going through the painful anxiety that you currently experience.
One of the positive aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy is that therapy groups are usually a part of the therapy, especially for social anxiety. It can be healing and helpful just attending and being a part of a group in which everyone has the same anxiety background as you do. If the group is run as a positive and therapeutic group, and focuses on solutions to problems, it can be both supportive and strengthening at the same time.
We use our panic therapy group to consolidate and reinforce gains. That is, almost everyone in the group has been able to stop their panic attacks and is moving nicely along the road to reducing and overcoming the specific physical symptoms that they still endure. In the group, each member supports each other by providing any kind of practical method or strategy they have used that has worked for them. People who are a little farther along this road encourage those who are making progress but may just be starting. You will find that ANXIETY PEOPLE in general are very kind, supportive, and dependable. Any person who has suffered through the pain of an anxiety disorder and has become better, does NOT usually tend to be a judgmental or critical person.
The same is true of our social phobia/social anxiety people. Although even the thought of participating in "group therapy" (a very social event!) is much more anxiety-causing for them, when they feel ready to participate, they invariably sign up and begin participating in the behavioral portion of the therapy (doing things in front of other SA people). As you might expect, the reason the social anxiety group is successful is that we work slowly, nicely, and as peaceably as possible, toward ending social fears by gradual, step by step advances against the anxiety symptom we are working on. We make progress in the behavioral groups and in our real-world "experiments" as we participate with other group members and mentors.
Despite an initial amount of anxiety, anxious people stick with it, persevere, and keep working on it. By being persistent, they overcome it. The very positive aspect is that every other group member is encouraging, supportive, empathetic, and understanding.
These are not simply hollow, positive words. In fact, when an anxiety person enters a therapy group, they are struck with this fact almost immediately: These people are really nice people!
This is a very pleasant fact of life in individual therapy as well. Despite the fact that I've worked with thousands of people with anxiety problems, I've yet to find someone who is nasty, rude, or mean. Anxiety people are just different...and in this sense that is a very, very positive thing.
These positive core personality traits do not disappear when the anxiety disorder is overcome. All of these traits come out and can be used. Anxiety does not hold them back anymore.
It is very common for new doors and pathways to open up to those people who have gone through the worst of emotional difficulties and come out better on the other side. These are anxiety people who stuck with it, persevered through hard times, and didn't give up, until the progress became strong and permanent. And then to cap off the anxiety for good, they "over learned" the therapy so that there's little likelihood that the anxiety can ever return.
These are the anxiety people I know and work with.
They think anxiety and fear make them "weak"...
I constantly remind them of how courageous they are to live with the emotional pain and trauma of an anxiety disorder and still stick with therapy until the anxiety is finally gone for good.
These are not the actions or behaviors of weak-minded people. These are the actions of strong, courageous people who never give themselves enough credit for all the progress they make in life.
And they always do it in the face of public misunderstanding and judgment.
No one knows what it's like to go through an anxiety disorder unless they've lived through one themselves. It is harder for most of us because there is no one to share the pain and the victory with who will truly understand.
IT TAKES COURAGE
TO LIVE THROUGH A NIGHTMARE LIKE ANXIETY.
So, take heart! Don't let anyone tell you that you have to "live with" an anxiety disorder for the rest of your life.
Sure, the going can get tough, but it becomes harder the longer you wait, put things off, and give into it. We have seen so many people here at the clinic overcome anxiety disorders that we cannot entertain the fact that anxiety is something that has to be surrendered to, accepted as it is, or endured forever.
Research during the past twenty years has been consistent in showing that people who participate in active, structured cognitive-behavioral therapy are not only significantly better after therapy is over...but they continue to feel better as time goes on. In essence, life only gets better and better and better.