I personally struggle to see why anxiety is classified as a mental illness. To me it is obvious that anxiety actually is a nervous system response, and should be spoken about in this way for a few reasons. When my clients grasp this new way of looking at anxiety and understand the reasons why we look at it differently, a new possibility opens up for them that was previously not available. This shift in perspective is so empowering for my clients that I thought I would share it with anyone who is interested.
I am not trying to convince you of anything here, I am just offering you a new perspective that I want you to, feel free to try out and see if it fits, just like when you’re thinking of buying a new pair of shoes. You make sure they fit and that they’re comfortable. It seems that most people have been given this really uncomfortable pair of shoes that hurt, causes blisters, looks really bad, and to top it all off they feel like they are stuck with this pair of shoes for the rest of their life. So many people are labeled with a mental illness and it sticks even when on the inside if they look within, they know this is not a fit with who they are.
When you look up the definition of a mental illness (and disorder), you will quite quickly see that these definitions are quite varied and not really that consistent at all. There is no universal definition. Here are two:
Any of the various forms of psychosis or severe neurosis. Also called mental disorder, mental disease.
I think neither of these definitions are a great placeholder for anxiety — to me they don’t seem like a great fit, not even close. I invite you to look up a few more dictionaries and see the variance in this term.
If the dictionaries can’t agree, it definitely means that it has a very different meaning for every person who thinks about what it is. When your doctor tells you that you have anxiety and if you think anxiety equals a mental illness, the way you will then process what this means, will depend on how you view a mental illness.
If you think that there is something wrong with you, that your broken or damaged or mentally unwell and have a problem or chemical imbalance or have some genetic lack in some area. You will be giving all your power away, without even realising it. You unconsciously become a victim and lose the ability to take control of your life. The label that you think you are giving to some experience (body-mind), actually owns you, it becomes a filter of how you see and experience the world. And it is a filter that I see having negative consequences time and time again for the person who has anxiety and believes that they have or worried that they might have a mental illness.
I see how this ‘mental illness’ label, when used for anxiety has damaging effects, also it just explains the effects (the experience) not the cause. It hooks people into the problem and hides away the solution.
How you look at something changes the way you feel about it. Both for the suffer and the helper. If you go to a therapist who sees you as having a mental illness — the interaction will be very different from when you come to me. I don’t see you as being broken — I see it as a gift that when you uncover will transfrom your life and make it far better in many many ways. The reason why is because I see this everyday in my clinic. I see people who have been struggling with anxiety for years, holding onto their labels (the labels begin to own and control them) break free.
I want to make something clear — I am just stating from my opinion that has come about after helping many many people who have been told that they have a mental illness; that they need drugs to get by, that they may have failed with their psychologist or therapists to see results and then come to believe that they will be stuck with this thing called anxiety for the rest of their life — I have helped them break free! And not once did I work with anyone to help resolve a mental illness!
In fact when I think someone actually has a mental illness that is causing the anxiety, that is when I will refer them out to someone qualified to work with mental illness’s — this is the domain of psychiatrists and psychologists.
Why do I get such extraordinary results with anxiety?
Let me explain with first sharing with you my definition of anxiety. My definition of anxiety : a sympathetic nervous system response of high arousal, causing increased awareness to protect oneself from danger, real or imagined.
I see anxiety as a nervous system response. The fight or flight is activated. Sometimes clients are always in this state (Generalised anxiety Disorder), it’s like this protective, defensive ‘switch’ is always turned on. And sometimes this response is triggered by certain situations (social anxiety) or with random triggers of sudden intensity (Panic attacks).
Anxiety is often caused by an accumulation of stress over a period of time — this is the majority of cases of anxiety. And sometimes from one big traumatic event or period of intense stress (PTSD).
All of these types of anxiety have one thing in common — the nervous system is in a state of fight or flight. And this is why we work with people at the level of the nervous system helping them to be able to move out of a state of fight or flight and into a state of safety and ease.
When the nervous system is safe, you feel safe. When you feel safe you don’t need to worry, you can become excited about the future once again. I help people everyday — I don’t label them as having a mental illness — because I don’t see anxiety that way. I get fantastic results because I am not placing people into a box with no solutions, but by providing a framework (that I customise to each person) that moves clients quickly towards feeling safe again. Like how they used to live life before this anxiety was in there awareness. I love watching people make these transformations. It almost always surprises people, how quickly they start feeling great.
If you are interested in seeking help feel free to contact us.