Having once had an anxiety disorder himself, Joshua Fletcher looks back on his time suffering with anxiety, overcoming it, writing a best-selling book, then training to become a psychotherapist. “A huge part of my own recovery, as well as the recovery that I oversee in my clients, is gaining knowledge about anxiety and what is happening to us,” Fletcher tells us.
Joshua believes that by utilising more psychoeducation about anxiety in therapy, this will equip many anxious clients with a better understanding of what is happening to them during times of anxious arousal. “Anxiety, especially panic, is a scary phenomenon to live through, particularly if we’re unsure about why we are feeling this way and it seemingly having no identifiable trigger. For a lot of people with anxiety disorders, feelings of fear and doom appear from nowhere and this can be frightening. A great tool people can use is to reassure someone highly anxious that they’re actually ok. A lot of anxious people misinterpret the adrenaline and sensitised nervous system as the first sign of a heart attack, a stroke, or going insane, all of which is actually a predictable trick of the mind and body.”
In the US, around 18% of the population are affected by some form of anxiety disorder, which amounts to roughly 40 million Americans. Joshua believes that a lot of energy and resources can be saved if we invest in the education of anxiety and mental health, rather than treating it as an illness in itself. “Your usual anxious person will go to the doctor with normal feelings of anxiety and come out again with a box of pills. In a lot of cases, I believe this sends out the wrong message to anxious people. It tells us that having anxiety means we are broken. It also suggests that we need to, in some way, be ‘fixed’. Of course, there is a role for medication in the treatment of anxiety, but culturally I feel we’re sending out the wrong message about feeling anxious if we treat it as an illness,” Fletcher explains.
“Ultimately, when we’re anxious, we are experiencing rushes of adrenaline, which creates confusion, lots of ‘what if?’ thoughts and worst-case scenarios in our imaginations. This is just the fight-or-flight response and it is safe and normal. The relief this provides to people when I explain it is so significant that it actually starts the process of recovery. I go out of my way to tell people that they are not broken!”
Joshua has been a practising psychotherapist at The Panic Room for four years and has written two best-selling books, Anxiety: Panicking about Panic and Anxiety: Practical about Panic. He also hosts a radio show on Wellbeing Radio called Notes on Anxiety, as well as hosting an educational podcast about anxiety called The Panic Pod.
For more information, you can visit his personal website www.joshuafletcher.co.uk