While these compulsive behaviors can reduce the experience of anxiety, the anxiety remains just below the surface.  It generally returns once the compulsive behavior stops, often at an even higher level.  Additionally, the cost of engaging in these behaviors is usually quite high, damaging to both health & relationships and interfering with the accomplishment of important goals.

Counseling for Anxiety in Portland Oregon

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex experience of the body-mind involving millions of split-second neurological and chemical reactions to our perceptions.  To the person experiencing the anxiety, it may seem like it suddenly comes out of nowhere, with no discernable cause or function.  However, if closely examined, there are almost always patterns to the anxiety and important reasons for its occurrence.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for the person experiencing the anxiety to perceive these patterns on their own.  One reason for this is the lack of distance and objectivity we all have when examining our own lives.  Another is that when we think we are in danger (whether real or imagined), our bodies and minds literally shut down cognition and reasoning in order to first focus on, fighting or fleeing for our lives, and if those actions aren’t possible, “playing dead” or “freezing”.  This is why you may get tongue-tied, have trouble thinking clearly, or freeze during stressful encounters and performance situations. In humanity’s early history, the fight, flight or freeze response was extremely important and useful, as the most common threat was from physical attack.  But, in our complex modern society, while we still need the fight, flight or freeze response, what is more often needed to keep us safe is effective and controlled performance. Unfortunately, when experiencing extreme anxiety it is just this kind of controlled, careful thought & action that is interrupted.


Anxiety is a common and normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time.  Anxiety helps us avoid danger, and in small doses can even enhance performance.  Unfortunately, if anxiety is experienced at high levels or if it is continuous (even at low levels), it is a terrible experience, damaging to our health, and can greatly interfere with living a full and rewarding life.

Symptoms of Anxiety

The extent and range of anxiety’s effect on people can vary widely. If you are living with anxiety you may be experiencing any or all of the symptoms below:

Anxiety Can Lead to Avoidance

Anxiety is often provoked or increased by certain situations and conditions.  Because of this, it’s common for those who frequently experience excessive anxiety, to avoid anxiety provoking situations.  Sometimes people aren’t even quite aware that anxiety is the reason for the avoidance.  They simply know there’s something about the experience that they don’t like.  If you suffer from excessive anxiety, you may find that in order to cope you avoid:
Avoiding anxiety provoking situations is an important and valuable tool for managing anxiety.  Unfortunately it can greatly limit one’s life.  Additionally, it is simply not possible to avoid all the anxiety provoking situations that may occur.  For this reason it is important to find other methods of managing anxiety.

Anxiety Can Drive Compulsive Behaviors

People can sometimes distract themselves from experiencing their anxiety through compulsive behaviors.  You may find that in an effort to change or soothe the anxious feelings, or to aid with sleep, you engage in compulsive behaviors and patterns involving:







Self Awareness Counseling’s Approach to Anxiety

Self-Awareness Counseling approaches anxiety by utilizing and enhancing the resources you have within you to notice, study and interrupt the patterns of thought, sensation, emotion, behavior and circumstance that are contributing to your anxiety & fear. It does this in a slow, careful way, establishing a collaborative counseling relationship and safety parameters within the sessions.  This enables you to control the pace of the work so that the anxiety and other feelings that may arise do not become overwhelming or re-traumatizing during sessions.  This enables you to more effectively study the origins of the feelings. The counseling then focuses on the selection, development and practice of tools and skills that you can use in your everyday life to increase calm feelings of centeredness and clarity and decrease the occasions of anxious response.  Although Self-Awareness Counseling uses a variety of specific counseling techniques in the above process, they can generally be broken down into three main categories:

Sources of anxiety
—Together we will investigate the thoughts, concerns, images, self-talk and habitual survival strategies that accompany the anxious response.  We will look at what happens before the anxiety or panic attacks and what behaviors & experiences follow.  By increasing your awareness of what precedes and is associated with your anxiety, you can learn to make changes that help you notice when small feelings of anxiety first begin and act in productive ways rather than being overwhelmed by increasing anxiety and fear.

Experiential counseling approaches
—Experiential counseling techniques involve exploring the feelings & sensations that are being experienced in the present, in association with the anxious thoughts.  These counseling techniques are often associated with the term Mindfulness and may be drawn from body psychotherapies, Gestalt, Internal Family Systems (IFS), Hakomi, movement therapies and Psychodrama.  These counseling techniques create a safe environment to explore the anxiety at low tolerable levels.  They can provide access to subconscious causes of patterns of worry & fear as well as your unique way of making meaning of your experiences.  Understanding the anxiety’s causes and patterns enables us to create tools you can use to manage the anxiety response in a useful, rather than paralyzing, way.

Tools and resources for managing anxiety
—Together we select and often create these tools as we discover collaboratively what would be helpful in your individual process of healing.  They can range from corrective experiences and new perspectives during your counseling sessions to homework assignments charting thoughts & behaviors; or from mindful awareness meditations to journaling or creative projects. The objective is always to implement tools and experiences designed to help you learn to change behaviors and thoughts that lead up to an anxiety response and/or to interrupt and calm the anxious feelings if they start.

As always in Self Awareness Counseling, the decision of which counseling techniques to use and how to use them is determined by which approaches are best for you!  For this reason, our work will focus on tailoring the counseling techniques used to your specific needs.
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Self-Awareness Counseling  •  7409 SW Capitol Hwy, Suite 207  •  Portland, Oregon 97219  •  (503) 729-9662

Serving The Greater Portland Area, Tigard, Beaverton & Lake Oswego, including the following Neighborhoods:
Arnold Creek, Ashcreek, Bridlemile, Corbett / Lair Hill, Collins View, Crestview, Far Southwest, Forest Highland, Goose Hollow, Hayhurst, Healy Heights, Hillsdale, Homestead, Maplewood, Markham, Marshall Park, Metzger, Multnomah, Raleigh Hills, South Burlingame, Southwest Hills, West Portland Park.

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