Anxiety can take the form of social anxiety (anxiety that presents itself in social situations or anticipation of social situations); a constant, ever-present anxiety; anxiety in the form of panic attacks (acute episodes of intense, often debilitating anxiety, often including intense physical symptoms such as sweating, heavy breathing, increased heart rate and/or an inability to move); or anxiety related to a recent or distant traumatic event (often diagnoses as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD). Of course it rarely fits neatly into any one of these boxes.
Most treatments for anxiety are designed to address the symptoms. They include medication (typically SSRI’s, which are also used to treat depression, or benzodiazepines such as xanax or klonopin which can provide short-term relief from the intense feelings associated with anxiety), short-term therapy (often cognitive-behavioral therapy designed to alter thought patterns and behaviors that produce anxiety) or meditation.
While many find relief from the symptoms of anxiety in these treatments, all fail to address the broader, critical matter of creating a life that’s less prone to anxiety. Many of us live our lives in ways that help to produce anxiety. This plays out in how we live our personal or work relationships, how much work we’ve done at coming to terms with trauma from our past, or how we organize our time to include (or not include) space to relax and create.
More than anything, anxiety is so often a product of lack of close, meaningful relationships with people with whom we can share our emotional lives. We are social creatures. When we sit alone with our pain, trauma, fears and even our joys and accomplishments, we’re creating a recipe for anxiety.
The cure? Other people. While medications and short-term therapies can take the edge off, we can create a life where anxiety plays a mere minor role by changing how we organize our relationships with other people. We can learn to give our pain to others, to get better at being close with other people.
To this end, group therapy is both an opportunity and a challenge. For those struggling with anxiety, group therapy is a place to give anxiety, and to learn how to develop close relationships with other people everywhere in life.