Anxiety is an emotion characterised by an unpleasant state of psychological turmoil – a feeling of unease, worry and fear.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety from time to time. You would feel nervous and anxious when you face a challenging situation that matters to you – i.e. sitting an exam, having a medical test or job interview. At the times like these, it is a normal reaction to stress to have some degree of anxiety.
However, it becomes a mental health issue if the feeling of anxiety becomes more constant and gets the better of you. Then, symptoms of anxiety interfere with one’s quality of life.
Anxiety can affect anyone regardless of gender, age and background. It is one of the most common mental health problems alongside with depression. (Often anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin.)
Symptoms of anxiety are;
|*a sense of dread|
|* a sense of panic or a heightened sense of alertness|
|*a constant feeling of nervousness/being on the edge|
|*an Inability to concentrate or a difficulty in concentrate|
|*Suspiciousness and distrust in others|
|*bowel or bladder problems, such as IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome|
|*fatigue or drowsiness|
|*insomnia or sleep disturbances|
|*muscle aches and tension|
|*painful or irregular periods|
|*pins and needles|
|*sexual dysfunction or loss of libido|
In general, CBT is believed to be the most efficient non-medical treatment option to treat generalised anxiety disorder since it focuses explicitly on changing cognitive processes, such as worrying and automatic thoughts.
However, in a recent study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in January 2010, showed psychodynamic psychotherapy was just as effective as CBT in the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder.
Falk Leichsenring, Simone Salzer, Ulrich Jaeger, Horst Kächele, Reinhard Kreische, Frank Leweke, Ulrich Rüger, Christel Winkelbach, Eric Leibing
In psychodynamic psychotherapy, anxiety is regarded as a symptom of underling conflicts. A psychodynamic psychotherapist is looking for inconsistencies and discrepancies in the client’s story – something unique to the individual or things do not quite add up. For example, the therapist may say, “The situation you are in is anxiety-provoking, but you talk about it in a matter-of-face manner”.
Psychodynamic psychotherapists try to link current experiences or events, the discrepancies of the story, to unresolved difficulties in historical experiences that shaped the client who he/she is.
Those unresolved historical difficulties are not immediately accessible to the client. So, the therapist helps the client link his/her current anxiety to the unresolved conflicts. So, what is hidden (in the unconscious) becomes more accessible for the client (and the therapist) to work with. Anxiety can be reduced if those unresolved difficulties are worked through. This process takes time. Although short-term psychodynamic work is possible, it usually requires a longer duration of treatment compared to CBT.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy aims to help you come into greater contact with yourself, especially with thoughts and feelings you may not be aware of. We see things in the way we want. We forget things if they are too difficult to hold. The more we become aware of the hidden thoughts and feelings, the less they interfere with our emotional well-being. Also, recently studies show that psychodynamic psychotherapy produces a longer lasting effect on the clients.
“The conclusion reached in this review is that there is strong support for the use of psychodynamic psychotherapy in the treatment of a broad range of psychological conditions. Moreover, the improvements gained through psychodynamic psychotherapy are typically maintained beyond the termination of treatment. Psychodynamic psychotherapy appears to be as effective as other psychotherapies, but more comparative trials are needed before firmer conclusions can be drawn.” (The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy ; a systematic review of recent international and Australian research, Dr Cadeyrn J. Gaskin, Gaskin Research, December 2012).
“With the caveats noted above, the available evidence indicates that effect sizes for psychodynamic psychotherapies are as large as those reported for other treatments that have been actively promoted as “empirically supported” and “evidence based.” It indicates that the (often unacknowledged) “active ingredients” of other therapies include techniques and processes that have long been core, centrally defining features of psychodynamic treatment. Finally, the evidence indicates that the benefits of psychodynamic treatment are lasting and not just transitory, and appear to extend well beyond symptom remission. For many people, psychodynamic psychotherapy may foster inner resources and capacities that allow richer, freer, and more fulfilling lives” American Psychologist, in press Copyright 2009, American Psychological Association www.apa.org/journals This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record. Revised: 10-9-2009 The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Jonathan Shedler, PhD University of Colorado Denver