When I said, "My foot is slipping,"
your love, O LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought joy to my soul.
What is Anxiety?
Though we may not like to admit it, all of us feel anxious at times. Whether it’s a stressful situation with our families or an upcoming event that has us worried, men and women alike can relate to times where it is difficult to think of anything else. In short, we live in a society full of anxious people.
"Individual counseling gave me several tools that I could use throughout my day... to deal with anxiety and stress."(CU student)
For many people, however, the occasional worry or stressor gradually becomes a daily struggle that is debilitating. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health states that 40 million adults over age 18 suffer from anxiety disorders each year. Anxiety is a daily internal battle for these individuals. While many of us conclude otherwise, many Christians also experience high anxiety. Not surprisingly, they are often reluctant to share this aspect of their lives with other believers. Some Christians have confided in others in the past but opt to remain silent in the future after they were told they just need to pray more or were chastised for not rejoicing in the Lord. For others, they themselves have concluded that they are not faithful and trusting enough in the Lord, and they deem their anxiety to be a terrible offense against God. Unfortunately, for these people, anxious thoughts plague them nearly constantly. They feel that their frequent prayers for the Lord to change them and their sincere attempts to draw comfort from His Word leave their lives unchanged.
Causes and Symptoms of Anxiety
The causes for anxiety are as numerous as the people who experience it. Some people feel anxious about work or their futures, while others spend time obsessing about behaving or thinking in perfect ways. Some experience fears about specific issues, such as flying or being separated from loved ones, while others worry endlessly about their relationships with others or with God despite having authentic faith. Because of this, the words people use to talk about this battle in their lives are varied and might include anxiety, nervousness, fear or worry.
While there are many different types of anxiety disorders, below is a list of symptoms one can expect to find present in virtually all of them:
- Feeling restless or keyed up
- Excessive anxiety/worry
- Apprehensive expectation
- Difficulty in controlling the anxiety/worry
Anxiety can interfere with a person’s relationship with God and can limit his or her experience of the freedom that comes from God’s unconditional love and grace through Christ. Said another way, “Anxiety always leaves no options but the worst possible one. Anxiety ignores God’s possibilities or potentials for us” (AACC). When anxiety is present in someone’s life, his or her mind feels like a prison, eventually leading the person to believe there is no hope left that freedom can be found. “The anxious person struggles with refuting realistic outcomes and goes for the most highly-charged, negative and painful possibility as if it will happen” (AACC). It is not always a matter of memorizing more Scripture, praying more earnestly, or attending more church services. These people suffer in silence, desperately developing elaborate coping skills to deal with how significantly impaired their daily lives become. As a result, their quality of life gradually dwindles. To compound their anguish, people who battle anxiety often find themselves not only battling the original thing about which they felt anxious, but they begin to feel anxious about feeling anxious! In short, the lies in their minds grow like weeds in a garden, twisting more tightly, blocking out truth, and limiting one’s ability to know and experience the goodness of the Lord. Donald Miller wrote in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.” The anxious person whose life is focused upon minimizing anxiety and discomfort can view life as void of much meaning or joy.
Here in Counseling Services, we believe that freedom from anxiety can be found. We have walked alongside many wounded men and women who have been broken in their struggle against anxiety but have found healing by talking openly with a counselor about their pain. Using both effective therapeutic techniques and the powerful Word of God, counseling can introduce someone to a new season of growth and peace.
Treatment Options for Anxiety
Individual counseling is effective in treating anxiety. Counselors in the Counseling Services office are trained to understand and treat anxiety from the "whole-person" perspective. In other words, our counselors consider the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental issues that are present in someone’s life rather than considering the symptoms in a vacuum.
Many medications are available to treat anxiety, and these can be prescribed by a general practitioner or a psychiatrist with experience in treating mental health issues. Some physical conditions may also cause or contribute to anxiety disorders, so consulting with a physician helps to ensure that there are no underlying issues that are complicating the problem. Our counseling staff regularly assists students with utilizing University Medical Services to address these issues.
Articles about Anxiety
"Fear Not, I am with You, I Am Your God" – John Piper sermon/podcast from 1993
This sermon from John Piper details how we can use God's word to find freedom from anxiety. He helps us focus on God’s character and what He has promised us in order to let go of the anxious thoughts that plague us.
"Stop Being Trapped in Your Past" – Andrew Schwab, 2010, Relevant Magazine
This article deals with handling the anxiety that comes as we look toward the future by facing and learning from the pain of the past.
"Choking on Anxiety" – Chuck Swindoll, 2004, Christianity Today International
This article highlights how anxiety is debilitating specifically for the Christian. Swindoll illustrates the difference between fully experiencing God’s presence and being too distracted by worry and busyness through the story of Mary and Martha.
"Learning to Roll with Change" – Roberta Rand, 2002, Focus on the Family
The focus of this article is how to navigate through the stress of change by encouraging honesty with oneself about fear, hope, and expectations. The reader is encouraged to trust God by choosing to embrace life in the present.
Books about Anxiety
The Obsessive-Compulsive Trap by Dr. Mark Crawford (2004)
Crawford’s book explains what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is and illustrates with examples how it manifests in behavior. He gives us a chapter on the unique aspects of a Christian’s struggle with OCD. A substantial portion of the book is devoted to treatment and includes practical ideas for winning the battle against OCD.
Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer (1995)
Specifically Chapter 12, "An Anxious and Worried Mind"
A verse-by-verse look at the passage of Matthew 6:25-34, plus a fresh look at other Scriptures designed to combat worry. Great stuff!
The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Dr. Chris Thurman (1999)
This book categorizes types of lies Christians commonly believe. A questionnaire in the book also helps readers determine which area(s) are most problematic for them. Dr. Thurman’s book teaches how to attack and uproot specific lies with the truth from Scripture.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne (2005)
As a workbook, this resource takes a comprehensive, hands-on approach to address anxiety. The author provides education and activities in a personalized approach to address issues such as feelings, beliefs, and lifestyle. Someone interacting with this book will work toward adopting lifestyle changes that promote a more relaxed and balanced approach to life.