Counseling and Anxiety

Anxiety, stress, fear and tension all have different meanings yet are often used interchangeably to describe the most prevailing characteristics of human beings in this century. Rollo May called anxiety one of the most urgent problems of our day.

It is defined as inner feelings of apprehension, uneasiness, concern, worry or dread which is accompanied by heightened physical arousal. Classifications of anxiety are:

1. Acute: This comes quickly, is of high intensity, and has a short duration. If one is suddenly overwhelmed, it is usually acute.

2. Chronic: This is persistent and longer lasting, but the intensity is lower.

3. Normal: This comes when there is a real danger or situational threat. It can be recognized, managed and reduced, especially if the outward circumstances change.

4. Neurotic: This involves intense exaggerated feelings of helplessness and dread even when the danger is mild or nonexistent. It cannot be dealt with rationally because the source comes from subconscious inner conflicts.

Anxiety can vary in intensity as well: Moderate can be healthy and even desirable since it helps people avoid real dangers. High anxiety can shorten one’s attention span, make concentration difficult, adversely affect memory, hinder performance skills, interfere with problem solving, block communication, arouse panic, and even symptomatic paralysis or intense headaches.

The Bible and Anxiety:

1. Anxiety as fret or worry: (Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22), and we are told to avoid this type of worrying.

2. Anxiety in the form of realistic concern is not forbidden. To ignore danger is a foolish thing. (2 Corinthians 11:28, Philippians 2:20)

The Causes of Anxiety:

Sigmund Freud discusses human personality is terms of the id, ego and the superego:

  1. When he id recognizes a clear threat to the person, this is called realistic anxiety.
  2. When the id begins to get too powerful, so that it threatens to overwhelm the ego and cause the person to act with socially aggressive or sexually unacceptable behavior, this is neurotic anxiety.
  3. When the superego gets too powerful, so that the person is overwhelmed by guilt or shame, this is moral anxiety.

Anxiety Results from the Following:

1. Threat

  1. Danger: Crime, war, violent weather, unexplained illness
  2. Self-esteem: People like to look good and perform competently
  3. Separation: From significant others; or rejection
  4. Unconscious influence: Even those who reject Freud will accept that there can be certain underlying thoughts, emotions or experiences that will cause anxiety.

2. Conflict: faced with two of more pressures

  1. Approach-approach conflict: Conflict over the tendency to pursue two desirable but incompatible goals (two dinner invitations).
  2. Approach-avoidance conflict: Here is the desire both to do and to not do something. One might (grapple with a job offer with more pay and opportunity (approach), but it will bring a move and the inconvenience of a training program (avoidance).
  3. Avoidance-avoidance conflict: Here are two alternatives, both of which are unpleasant, like having pain versus having an operation to relieve the pain.

3. Fear: similar to anxiety, even though they are not identical. Fears can come in from a variety of situations. Different people are afraid of failure, the future, rejection, achieving success, intimacy, etc. These fears can build up into anxiety.

4. Unmet needs:

  1. Survival: need for continued existence
  2. Security: economic and social
  3. Sex: as an expression of love, as a sexual being
  4. Significance: to account for something, to be worthwhile
  5. Self-fulfillment: to achieve fulfilling goals
  6. Selfhood: a sense of identity

5. Individual differences: Some people are never anxious in the same anxiety producing situation for another person. Fears and phobias:

  1. Psychology: Most behavior is a result of experience or learned from parents or other significant persons. We will react as we have seen others react to similar situations.
  2. Personality: Some people are more fearful or high strung than others. Some are more sensitive, self-centered, hostile or insecure than others.
  3. Sociology: Political instability, mobility which disturbs our rootedness, shifting values, changing moral standards, religious beliefs can all cause anxiety.
  4. Physiology: The presence of disease can cause anxiety, as well as dietary imbalance, neurological malfunctioning and chemical factors.
  5. Theology: Some believers are so concerned about pleasing God that their theology cause them undo anxiety. This anxiety would then be considered a lack of faith.

The Effects of Anxiety:

1. Physical reactions: Ulcers, headaches, backaches, lack of sleep, butterflies, fatigue, loss of appetite, frequent urination, blood pressure, slow digestion, chemical changes in the blood.

2. Psychological reactions: Reduction in productivity, stifles creativity, hinders the capacity to relate to others, dulls the personality, interferes with the ability to think or remember.

3. Defensive reactions: Denial of the anxiety, blaming others for faults, rationalization, slipping into childish reactions, escape through alcohol or drugs, withdrawal into mental illness or bizarre behavior.

4. Spiritual reactions: It can drive us toward or away from God, lack of time for prayer, lack of concentration on reading the Bible, reduced interest in worship times, impatience with heaven’s seeming silence.

Counseling and Anxiety:

1. Recognize the counselor’s own anxieties: What is the situation that is making me anxious? What is it about this person that makes me anxious?

2. Demonstrate love: Love move towards others and shrinks fear, and is a demonstration of Christ (1 John 4:18, Hebrews 13:6).

3. Identify causes: One can’t simply show love and tell the client to get over their anxiety.

  1. Observation: Does he shift around, perspire or change breathing when a certain topic is discussed?
  2. Reflection: Can the client recall certain times when the anxiety is more overwhelming?
  3. Contemplation: Raise issues about the causes and get the client to dwell upon these to his own conclusion.

4. Encouraging action: The goal is not to eliminate the anxiety but to become aware of it and be able to cope with it. Help them to move through the situation rather than going around it.

5. Giving support: Anxious client get little help from impatient counselors. The helper must be calm, supportive and patient.

6. Encourage a Christian response:

  1. Rejoice (Philippians 4:4) in the midst of trouble
  2. Forbear (Philippians 4:5) graciousness in your spirit
  3. Pray (Philippians 4:6) about everything, details
  4. Think (Philippians 4:8) dwell on positive things
  5. Act (Philippians 4:9, James 1:22) put these into practice

Preventing Anxiety:

1. Trust in God: We know who holds the future

2. Learn to cope:

  1. Admit fears and insecurities when they arise
  2. Talk these over with someone else
  3. Build self-esteem
  4. Acknowledge that separation hurts
  5. Seek help from God
  6. Learn to communicate
  7. Learn some principles of relaxation
  8. Periodically evaluate your priorities, life goals and time management

Related Images:

Spread the Community, Faith, Love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.