John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

dialing back anxiety


Sometimes people will come to therapy hoping that I can make their anxiety disappear, as if by psychological surgery. Almost as if anxiety is the psychological equivalent of an appendix. But therapy doesn't remove anxiety so much as help you learn to dial it back.

If your anxiety (apprehension, worry, panic attack, social discomfort, performance anxiety, etc) is running at about an 8 or 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 with ten being high, dialing it back to a 4 or 5 can make a huge difference.

But we never really eliminate anxiety altogether, any more than we eliminate other negative emotions like fear, anger, or sadness. Our emotions make us human, but they also help us make decisions. (Without emotions, we would have no values. Values tell us what's important to us.)

Anxiety is an emotional state that signals danger or threat or concern. We don't want to cut this out of your psyche. You need this signal. Life is sometimes dangerous or threatening. But too much anxiety, especially without the governing power of reason, spells trouble.

Or rather, avoidance.

Avoidance becomes its own problem. Avoidance robs you of life.

If anxiety is robbing your life, get help. Dare to try to therapy. Sure, you can read this blog post or read a book, and these are great ways to get information, raise awareness. But therapy helps you implement information. Therapy is an experience.

If you dial back your anxiety by just a few percentages points, you might live just a bit more fully. You might enjoy being alive again.

Related post: Brief Thoughts About Anxiety