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What is an Anxiety Disorder and How Can Christian Counseling Help?

By Mali Hawkins, MS, LMFTA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

Image-13We all experience times of stress, worry and anxiety. A change in jobs, a move to a new city, the arrival of a new family member, or any other life transition can raise concerns and fears about how we will cope with the future. In my work as a counselor I see anxiety manifest itself physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. When anxiety becomes all-consuming it can affect every area of our lives.

Signs of Anxiety Disorder

Many people wonder whether their anxiety is “normal” or whether they should be concerned about it. Here are some signs that indicate that your anxiety has too much power in your life right now:

  • Excessive or unrealistic worry that is hard to control and that occurs more days than not for several months
  • Restlessness, fatigue, shakiness and muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath, a dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea and diarrhea
  • Feeling on edge, having trouble concentrating, experiencing difficulty sleeping or falling asleep, and irritability

How a Christian Counselor Approaches Anxiety

Our goal in counseling is to reduce the frequency with which anxiety occurs so that you can function normally in your daily life. This comes through exploring your past and present relationships and the circumstances that may contribute to your anxiety. We will also work on developing coping skills to enable you to deal effectively with the anxiety that normal life events can bring.

Who Does Anxiety Affect?

Anxiety does not just affect busy adults. It can also infiltrate the life of your child or teen and keep them from reaching their full potential, both academically and socially. In the following paragraphs, I expand upon how anxiety can affect different life stages.

  • Children: Anxiety can affect children in several ways. A child can experience anxiety second-hand through the stress of a parent or guardian, as well as the anxiety caused by their own situation at home or school. Anxiety can impact a child’s confidence at school and their ability to be independent from their parents. Children don’t have the words or capacity to understand what anxiety is and why it impacts us at times. My role as a counselor is to help children normalize their fears and to come up with creative ways of coping with and overcoming this bothersome worry. It is also important to ensure that children don’t feel responsible for their worry or make it part of their identity.
  • Teens: Teenage years can be hard enough without the constant pestering of anxious thoughts. In my practice, I have seen anxiety impact a teenager’s ability to build healthy friendships, participate in class and try new activities. Anxiety may be holding your teen back from reaching their full potential or trying new things. My role with teens is to empower them to ask for help when they need it and to question the fears that enter their thoughts. Enabling them to work through their anxiety is a wonderful stepping-stone that equips them to deal with future struggles.
  • Adults: Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms that I encounter in counseling. I have seen adults whose anxiety controls their choices in the work place, their ability to be in romantic relationships, and their fears about making the right choices for the future. Working on issues of anxiety in counseling may involve unraveling years of subconscious fears and internalized truths that have built up over time. It is a challenging but also a rewarding process.

You Can Take Steps to Deal with Your Anxiety

Image-23My approach to anxiety begins with the language I use when discussing the problem. It is important to emphasize that my clients are not themselves “anxious.” I prefer to speak of them as suffering from the effects of “anxiety.” Changing the narrative around anxiety allows us to take a stand against the troublesome feelings and to create a new path that helps us to deal with worry and fear.

It is also important to note that, in some situations, anxiety comes from a chemical imbalance in the brain. In these cases, medication can be a helpful tool as clients regain control over their life and free themselves from the grip of anxiety. But medication is not for everyone and not always necessary on the path towards healing.

Christian Counseling Can Help You to Address Your Anxiety

The Lord did not intend us to be consumed by anxiety. He desires for us to live full lives and to rely on him for our needs and future plans. In Philippians 4:6 we read:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

Anxiety can make it hard for us to live the life that God intended for us. But we do not need to be consumed by anxiety, for there is help available. Christian counselors are trained to help people who struggle with anxiety so that it does not consume your life. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like to explore how Christian counseling can change your relationship with anxiety.

References

Jongsma, A. and Peterson, L. (2006). The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Photos

Images are from freedigitalphotos.net; Woman With Head Ache Stock Photo by Michal Marcol; Daffodil Blooming Through The Snow Stock Photo by Serge Bertasius Photography



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