Why ACT Treatment Works for Anxiety

It is understandable that some people use the word anxiety to describe an episode of nervousness or stress. It can also be counterproductive. We get nervous on the day of a big test or job interview or first date. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a common and diagnosable mental disorder that requires treatment.

Anxiety disorders impact approximately 40 million adults. One in four adults will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and 1 in 10 will have an anxiety disorder every year. It is the most common disorder in women and the second most in men.

5 Common Anxiety Disorders

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  2. Social Anxiety
  3. Panic Attacks
  4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Each variation presents differently but some symptoms are universal across all forms of anxiety, e.g.

  • Inability to calm oneself
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • A sense of panic and unease
  • Inappropriate and/or disproportionate fears
  • Physical symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, racing heart, dry mouth, nausea, unexplained muscle tension, feet or hands feel cold, numb, sweaty, or tingling

Obviously, anxiety disorders can dramatically impact your quality of life and your relationships. There is no shame in anxiety disorders, though. They are health conditions much like any of the common physical issues we face without guilt or stigma.

Anxiety Causes and Treatments

Like many mental health conditions, it’s not simple to identify anxiety’s precise causes. For the most part, it can be a blend of:

  • Genetics/inherited characteristics
  • Brain chemistry
  • Environmental stress

Treatment plans, conversely, are much easier to pinpoint. Medications like antidepressants and anxiolytics are a feasible option. More frequently, the plan centers around psychotherapy — in particular, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Essentially, CBT is a short-term goal-oriented approach that aims to change your pattern of thinking and associated behaviors connected to those thoughts.

Gaining popularity as a therapeutic approach for anxiety is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Why ACT Treatment Works for Anxiety

ACT is a form of talk therapy. Its focus is on the “battle” being waged inside our heads. Anxiety fills our mind with talk-talk-talk. ACT guides us to consider the words being used in this situation.

Acceptance and commitment therapy includes, of course, acceptance. We are asked to increase our acceptance of anxious thoughts occupying our heads. In addition, we accept the struggle involved in managing such a circumstance. This is done with a goal in mind: psychological flexibility.

In addition, CBT can help reduce the harshness and prevalence of our urges and cognitive distortions. ACT’s aim is also to reduce. However, what is being decreased is our battle to control or vanquish such experiences. The energy expended to fight off emotions is reallocated toward meaningful life activities consistent with our personal values.

This is called “cognitive defusion.” It helps separate us from unpleasant internal experiences. Cognitive defusion teaches us that trying to control anxiety is part of the problem. The solution involves acceptance and mindfulness. It also means we can identify our personal values and make those — not our anxiety or reaction to our anxiety — our focus and priority. From there, we commit to actions that are in line with those identified values.

Get Started with ACT Treatment

Generally, it’s not unusual for folks to hide their feelings of anxiety. They might feel shame. They may also fear wisecracks and criticisms. Other people may not think they have anxiety until discussing the problems they face in depth. There is no shame in seeking help to make your life brighter and happier.

Therapy is an investment in your wellbeing. Most of all, by learning to cope with your anxiety, you can reduce your stress and learn to lead a productive life. Finally, read more about anxiety treatment here. Contact me today to schedule a free half-hour initial session.