Dr. Martha Stamper, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist

Posted On August - 9 - 2010

In our society today, anxiety is common. While we have all sorts of technological devices to help us, and entertain us, finding satisfaction with life can seem harder than ever to achieve.

Part of the problem is biological. Our system was built for a much slower time. The fight or flight response (heart beating, palms sweating, rapid breathing or feeling frozen in place) helped our ancestor’s survive lions, tigers, and bears. This response is not as helpful with traffic jams and office deadlines but sadly our system does not necessarily know the difference.  When our biology tries to help out, it can be confusing and many of us look around for a cause that seems more appropriate to the response. The fear is real: the cause may not be.

Part of the problem is that the obvious solution tends to make the problem worse. It seems logical to avoid uncomfortable emotions when possible. This ends up, however, reinforcing the very response you wanted to avoid. Sure, there is a short term calming from leaving the stress, that’s a powerful reinforcement. The calming avoiding provides makes it seem as if you have made the right decision. Staying in that situation seems like it would have definitely resulted in all those terrible consequences you were imagining.  The problem was that you never took the time to find it out. There are some truly dangerous  situations out there, but if most everyone you know is not as worried as you are about the situation it is possible your anxiety is simply the emotion reinforced by your own behavior.

That’s where therapy comes in. A careful examination of the circumstance, by an objective observer, helps determine what fears are real. When anxiety is not necessary, a psychologist helps clients face those fears, teaching the stress-management and coping skills needed.