Conquer Anxiety Problems With Counselling In Singapore
By Carol Goh | Published on 27 April 2021
Anxiety is one of the many emotions that is present in us. The function of anxiety is to alert us of imminent danger or threats by generating a feeling of uneasiness in our bodies. Our physical body will respond to this anxiety and manifest symptoms as a form of “fight or flight” response, -- we either face these challenges head on and overcome them (“fight”) or we withdraw and escape from the issue (“flight”).
If we are unable to calm down and handle our anxiety, it could lead to more serious anxiety problems such as panic attacks and phobias.
What are the main types of anxiety?
a. Normal Anxiety
It is normal for human beings to develop anxiety in the face of threat. For example, almost everyone will feel anxious before examinations or a presentation to a group of audience. Such anxiety is confined to the event and will dissipate once the event is over, posing no threat to future well-being.
b. Chronic Anxiety
Chronic anxiety refers to anxiety that has become a long-term problem affecting us regularly and inhibiting normal functioning of our life. Examples of chronic anxiety are:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety
- Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic attack
According to research conducted by Chang (2019), the lifetime prevalence of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in Singaporeans aged 18 years and above saw an increase from 0.9% in 2010 to 1.6% in 2016.
Symptoms of anxiety:
- Increased heartbeat
- Racing thoughts
- Breathlessness, needing to take deep breaths
- Trembling, shivering
- Feeling agitated or irritable
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Difficulty in getting to sleep
- Waking up in the middle of the night with fear
- Fear of losing control or going mad
- Blanking out
Causes of anxiety
The root cause of anxiety is fear. It could be a constant fear of an impending disaster that is looming at large and waiting to engulf us. Anxiety can also result from fear of the past or uncertain future. Negative past experiences of failures and criticisms from other can result in our mind constantly worrying about the “what ifs”.
Feelings of anxiety do not manifest overnight. The seeds of anxiety could have been sown way back in our childhood. In Singapore, we live in a competitive society where academic excellence is prioritised above all else, resulting in the fear of failure constantly at the back of our minds. Over time, this fear adds up and culminates at an unbearable peak when we can no longer cope. All of a sudden, it explodes and implodes.
Fear of the future could also be due to insecurity that you face in your health, family relationships, and career. You may require the help of a psychotherapist or professional to help you through therapy sessions for anxiety.
b. Past traumas
If the scars of past traumas are not worked on, they will lie dormant but can affect you subconsciously. Trauma is essentially any distressing or disturbing experience, no matter how big or small it seems. It can be as small as the impact of hurtful comments made by your friends or parents, or severely traumatic experiences like death, accidents and abuse. While individuals in these circumstances may not always be at immediate risk of harm, these past traumas will leave long-lasting scars.
Sigmund Freud once said, “Emotions need to be decluttered on a regular basis. Or else they just keep on piling up. One after another they keep on adding. Unfortunately, they don’t just die with time.” Over time, we could have subconsciously piled up a bunch of hurts inside us that we are not aware of. Unexpressed emotions and unaddressed issues do not just disappear – often, they are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.
“Emotions need to be decluttered on a regular basis. Or else they just keep on piling up. One after another they keep on adding. Unfortunately, they don’t just die with time.”
In my experience working with many clients who suffer from chronic anxiety, the common trauma-related causes are:
Even if these traumatic incidents have happened years ago, our body still keeps these scars and remembers the emotions. All these traumatic incidents have been locked in our subconscious. What is worrying is that we can be easily triggered in an unexpected place and time.
For instance, we may be relaxing and unwinding with a movie at home. A particular scene flashes across in the movie, triggering unpleasant emotions similar to those we experienced years ago during those traumatic times. Within seconds, we may be sent into a tailspin of anxiety. We may end up breaking out in cold sweat, feeling like nauseous and like we are unable to breathe. According to psychologists, these are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event – either by witnessing or experiencing it first-hand. It is a complex issue that requires the help of a PTSD therapist in Singapore.
“Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”
M. Scott Peck, Psychiatrist “The Road Less Travelled”
Getting to the root causes of your anxiety
In order to treat anxiety problems or panic attacks, the first major task is to uncover your history through a series of questions: "When was the first anxiety attack?", "How did it happen?", "Who were the people who caused it, and were there significant people present?" A certified counsellor that has experience with counselling for anxiety problems in Singapore will be able to help get to the root cause of your anxiety.
Talking about these details during therapy sessions for anxiety will help you get over the feelings of shame, humiliation, pain and fear, slowly but surely. In many cases, these traumatic experiences occurred in one’s childhood, and it is the child inside you that holds the key to unlocking these feelings and memories.
After understanding the causes of your anxiety, it is the time to draw on a suite of therapeutic tools to treat the anxiety. The methods used will differ and depend on each individual’s condition.
You may be wondering about the role of medication in treating anxiety. According to Dr Leslie Lim (2010), medication alone cannot provide total cure. On the same note, he also argued that anxiety counselling alone is not entirely effective.
For many who struggle with anxiety, their emotions control them, and no amount of logic will be sufficient to calm the nerves. Therefore, individuals will require different techniques to address various causes of anxiety.
How anxiety affects our brain
Before we look at the different tools used in therapy for anxiety, it is important to understand how anxiety affects our brain.
The major part of the brain that sets off such body sensations during an anxiety attack is called the amygdala. A neuro-imaging research by Shin and Liberzon (2010) reported that there is heightened amygdala activation in response to anxiety. The amygdala is always on the lookout for potential harm. When activated, it will set off the fear alarm to alert the body of impending danger lurking. Its role is to protect us from harm by preparing us to fight or flight.
The amygdala reacts very quickly and can even bypass the cortex, which is the centre of logic. The human brain is hard-wired to allow the amygdala to seize control in times of danger. Because of this, it can be difficult to use reason-based thought processes to calm the mind and body when under threat. You may realise that your anxiety rarely makes sense to your cortex (or logic), and that you usually are not able to just reason it away.
"Anxiety rarely makes sense to your cortex (or logic), and that your cortex can’t just reason it away."
A dire impact on having anxiety and panic attacks is the development of agoraphobia – a phobia of experiencing the fear that arises in situations where the individual feels trapped. At its extreme, such fears can hinder an individual’s day-to-day life.
Treatment of anxiety using psychotherapy techniques
Unlike other emotional issues, anxiety has many facets to it and can be complicated to treat. It requires a varied suite of therapeutic techniques to target various components causing the anxiety. The earlier you start therapy sessions for anxiety, the quicker you can get well.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Techniques such as EMDR and Schema target specific past traumatic incidents that manifested into anxiety. These treatments can help to resolve the pain, hurts and fears found in an individual.
EMDR therapy in Singapore helps an individual process all the emotions and body manifestations associated with a traumatic incident by letting them relive the experience again. Through the use of this technique, individuals will be able to recall the incident without the negative emotions associated with it (these emotions will be desensitised).
On the other hand, mindfulness is to be practised daily to condition the mind to experience calmness amid adversity. This method is proven to help the mind stay focused in the present moment rather than allowing the mind to worry about past or future events which can fuel anxiety.
The latest research on mindfulness by Hoffman (2010) has shown that consciously living in the present is a promising intervention for treating anxiety. According to a study conducted by Nolen-Hoekseman (2000), the beauty of mindfulness is like putting a brake to the mind that is constantly ruminating on unpleasant thoughts that trigger anxiety.
Our client’s healing journey…
Below are some of our client’s personal experiences on how our counselling services have helped with their anxiety:
“I first started having panic attacks at ten years old, I would just be running or looking for something and have a panic attack. Having lost a close friend during the holiday, I was having really bad panic attacks and insomnia. I could not sleep and I did not have any appetite. When it was looking like I was going downhill because of my friend's passing, I decided to go for therapy to seek help. That is when I met Ms Carol. From weekly sessions of one hour, Ms Carol has encouraged as well as tried different methods of overcoming my panic attacks such as visualisation. Because of therapy, the different methods used during therapy, the encouragements and the support, I have not had a panic attack in a long while. Thank you for all the visualising methods! I went for 4 interviews and did not blank out or stutter or have a panic attack! Thank you!”
Female young adult, 20s
“My first concern when I started counselling was that I had to admit I had a real problem which I couldn’t solve myself. I needed real help. I knew since a young age I had suffered from panic attacks and anxiety. But it had boiled out of control and I ended up almost having a panic attack on the MRT and then couldn’t bring myself to go back on it again. I was not able to cope with living by myself and was miserable with the way I was living. So I had to go to therapy as this is a big problem which I couldn’t fix myself. During my first session I was nervous and cried as I had a lot to share and was desperate for change. It wasn’t a quick fix but every session I felt better and better learning techniques to get through panic attacks. I then practised going on the train for one or two stops and eventually I did it. I was able to take the train! I was also able to be alone at home with my parents away for periods of times overseas. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support and guidance of therapy using EMDR and Schema therapy to provide therapeutic solutions to my problems!”
Female teenager in tertiary education
“I used to get anxious very easily. Through therapy I got to feel my emotions that were blocked off, which was relieving. I've now understood that negative beliefs from past experiences aren't true and hence, felt more confident in life.”
Male teenager in tertiary education
“Previously, when I first met you (Carol), I was not feeling very confident as I was always scared of failure. Now, I have accepted that failure is part of learning, and that I have to fail sometimes in order to move forward stronger. I used to be very anxious and stressed out about my grades. However, after we met, I realised that it didn’t really matter. What matters is that I have put in my best effort that I can, and that I cannot control the final result. It is important that I did my best, and that I cannot control external factors as we had discussed. I have thus been more carefree during lessons and more confident of my own abilities.
Male teenager in tertiary education
“I always knew the unresolved issues from my past hadn’t been addressed properly and I didn’t heal well. The effect of some incidents changes you and the memories continue to linger even as you grow up, something stopping you from growing into a stronger and mentally healthy individual. I was suffering from an unstable emotional state, before I met Ms Carol. Seeking therapy was the only help I could get, over the course of time the exercises and weekly sessions progressed. I couldn’t feel the positive impact immediately, but over time it did make me reach a better rather healthy emotional state of being. I could be more in control of my feelings and thoughts and had a deeper connection with my abused emotions that I now respect greatly. Over the course of time you realise talking to a professional to seek help on understanding some issues will change your negative perspective and bring you to a better place of understanding for the future events to come. I was overwhelmed easily by little things to the point of having anxiety. I can deal with it better now and has the mental strength to face it. I can come to terms with my feelings and at peace internally to grow.”
Female young adult
Anxiety can be treated. You can be set free from the torment of anxiety related emotions with professional counselling and therapy sessions. Seek professional help and treatment early with Emotional Wellness’ exemplary anxiety therapy in Singapore.
1. Anxiety and Panic by Dr Harry Barry
2. How to Heal Yourself From Anxiety When No One Else Can by Amy Scher
3. Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky
4. Rewire Your Anxious Brain by Catherine Pittman
5. The Anxiety Cure by Klaus Bernhardt
6. The Anxiety Toolkit by Alice Boyes
Chang, Sherilyn & Abdin, Edimansyah & Shafie, Saleha & Sambasivam, Rajeswari & Vaingankar, Janhavi & Ma, Stefan & Chong, Siow & Subramaniam, Mythily. (2019). Prevalence and Correlates of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Singapore: Results from the Second Singapore Mental Health Study. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 66. 102106. 10.1016/j.janxdis.2019.102106.
Hofmann, S., Sawyer, A., Witt, A.A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 78 2, 169-83.
Lim, Leslie (2012) Freedom From Fear: Overcoming Anxiety Disorders. Armour Publishing Pte Ltd
Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2000). The role of rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms. Journal of abnormal psychology, 109 3, 504-11.
Shin, L.M., & Liberzon, I. (2010). The Neurocircuitry of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety Disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 169-191.
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, video, and other material in this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
During counselling sessions for anxiety, the underlying causes of an individual’s fears are uncovered through the use of a suite of psychotherapy techniques. Individuals and therapists will work together to identify these unconscious patterns of negative behaviour and the root causes of anxiety. Psychotherapy techniques are effective in eradicating the symptoms of anxiety. By addressing the root causes of the issue, the results are more lasting. Many other methods such as mindfulness, breathing and more, are just short term measures that do not last.
Seeking counselling for anxiety problems can help you eradicate your anxiety disorder. If you are looking for professional anxiety counselling in Singapore, our therapist will work together with you to identify the root causes of your anxiety and help you to resolve them. Usually, anxiety is due to fear resulting from past experiences – such as childhood, school experiences etc. By using techniques to desensitise these past hurts, the symptoms of anxiety can be completely under control as well.
The duration of treatment varies depending on the severity and complexity of symptoms, and other individual circumstances. Most individuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder see an improvement in their overall well-being after 8 to 12 weeks of regular counselling sessions for anxiety. For more information or to fix an appointment with Emotional Wellness, feel free to drop us a message.
The average cost of counselling services for anxiety in Singapore is around S$100 to S$200 per hour session. Under the Chronic Disease Management Programme, individuals suffering from conditions such as depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders can withdraw up to S$500 annually from their MediSave accounts to defray the cost of treatment.
Psychotherapy is highly effective at treating such disorders. In particular, techniques such as EMDR, schema therapy, visualisation and more, are helpful in helping individuals learn to identify and overcome the triggers that contribute to their anxiety. Desensitising the symptoms of anxiety by resolving past hurts and fears will empower individuals to face and overcome their past and future fears. With the help of a professional therapist, you will learn to regain control of your thoughts and emotions.
Seeking help from a mental health specialist for your anxiety is imperative, especially if it is interfering with your everyday life. Emotional Wellness offers professional counselling services for anxiety in Singapore. Our psychotherapist is equipped with the expertise and experience to help you regain emotional control. We have also developed a holistic programme in-house, the RENEW programme, that goes beyond providing temporary relief from various emotional issues.