Most research studies and polls show that nearly 75% of all people experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) at some point in their lives. Generalized anxiety is characterized by long periods of anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension. This extends to worry and fear, even when it seems that there is little or nothing to cause it. This condition affects a person mentally as well as physically. Often people experiencing GAD will report panic attacks, racing heartbeats, sweating, difficulty breathing, stomach, and chest pain.
Anxiety can cause further problems in relationships and often causes avoidance of activities, people, and our intimacy with God. The question I often get from people I counsel is, “Why does God allow me to have anxiety?” When you dig deep into a person’s background, you can see that the root of all anxiety is fear. Anxiety is the fear of something bad taking place in the future. When the body is under mental stress, it will often react with anxiety symptoms. These symptoms that I described earlier are warning signs to help alert us that something is wrong.
The causes of anxiety vary from person to person. Often a person’s family background and experiences are the main cause. Childhood trauma, major changes and transitions in life, attachment to others, and genetic makeup are also some of the determining factors in how someone will deal with stress and anxiety.
What I have found to be the most effective form of treatment is to focus on a person’s mental makeup and help a person learn to change thought patterns and beliefs. Sometimes, it is also necessary to challenge the person through some type of exposure-based therapy. In both forms, I work at helping a person understand what their triggers to stress and anxiety are, learn more effective relaxation techniques, build a supportive network of people, and learn to develop a greater dependence on God through prayer.
Psalms 56:3 (NIV) states, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”. Anxiety truly can be a godsend at times for people. Anxiety can be humbling and cause a person to have greater dependence on God and less confidence in him or herself. John 3:30 (NIV) states this, “He must become greater, I must become less.” God uses difficulty, stress, and moments that cause anxiety for His glory and to help us develop greater character and dependence.
In therapy sessions, I will often encourage people to explore what they think God is challenging them with and to understand that our faith and dependence in God will help us through these challenges. One of my favorite verses highlights this in 1st Corinthians 10:13 (NIV), “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Resting in God’s promises can provide comfort, peace, and better understanding of why anxiety exists.
Tagline: Michael Linn, M.Ed., is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is the director of Safe Harbor Christian Counseling of South Central PA with office locations in Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and Carlisle offices. Please visit http://www.safeharbor1.com for more information or call 717-264-0614.