Understanding & Treating Anxiety: Making Sense of the Transition Between a Necessary Emotion & an Unnecessary Disorder [Professor Paul Sarkovsky]

Understanding & Treating Anxiety: Making Sense of the Transition Between a Necessary Emotion & an Unnecessary Disorder [Professor Paul Sarkovsky]

– anxiety is entirely treatable & he believes there is no such things as a “hopeless case”
– he believes people need to recognise the physical symptoms of anxiety, but that they also need to understand that they o not get anxious be use of these physical symptoms, but rather that the physical symptoms of anxiety arise because of what meaning we attach to the events/situations leading to those symptoms
[note the thoughts, feelings, behaviour connection here?]
– Aaron Beck & the CBT model – it is not things, events, situations, people that cause anxiety, but rather the meaning that a person attaches to these matters – In other words, it is “what you make of it”
– this is known as the Cognitive Theory of Emotion
– he notes too how people often have more than 1 set of anxieties

Social Phobia
– this involves the perception that there is imminent danger in social situations
– this involves thinking about what is the worst thing that can happen, & anxiety typically arises when a person thinks things will go wrong
– it involves assessment of threat, exaggerating that threat accompanied by both the feeling & belief tat they are under threat
– it is characterised by selective attention – I.e. expecting & therefore looking for trouble
– involves safety-seeking behaviours which maintain negative relationships

– intrusive thoughts which are often unpleasant
– suppression is often used, but the more it is used, the more the person thinks about the unpleasant thought
– it is also characterised by what is termed: “thought-action-fusion” which is found by sufferers to be extremely anxiety-provoking
– note: the behaviour excesses become the problem
– treatment: focuses upon the behaviour excesses & the misinterpretations of anxiety-provoking situations
– he believes 12 to 50 sessions can address OCD
[he notes Big Pharma is “trying to redefine” OCD & CFS as a brain disease]

Specific phobia
– treatment is engagement/confronting feared things/situations rather than avoidance (this is known as exposure – the person learns for themselves that the feared outcome does not actually happen & that they can cope)
– this acts to disconfirm thoughts & behaviour
– these “behaviour experiments” help to further shift beliefs (by feeling on a sustained basis (e.g. 5 minutes) the fear of confronting the feared situation (this is believed to led to extinguishment of the fear response – note: to succeed, exposure typically requires 20 hours of practice
– these are supported by anxiety ratings & belief ratings
– spider phobia treatment does not work well in virtual settings

Panic Disorder
– involves high-attention to paying attention to signs from the body (for example hypochondriasis / health anxiety)
– however, it also involves misinterpreting what in fact these signs mean
– this anxiety is characterised by a person doing too much when instead “letting go” would be more useful

Source: Public Lecture Podcast: university of Bath / broadcast date: 29 June 2012


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