Have you ever been having a conversation with someone who speaks very slowly, so much so that you can barely understand or make out what they are stating? Often, you lean in, edge closer and utilize non-verbal cues in order to understand what the person is saying. Similarly, someone who lives in or is periodically in a state of anxiety is like a person who speaks softly…the communication is often missed, misinterpreted, or misread.
The thing about anxiety is that it can often cripple the way in which we communicate. I have a friend and classmate that I have known for almost thirty years. Throughout our friendship, he has dealt with high levels of anxiety, so much so that he often will not patronize certain establishments or surround himself with certain people or groups because he feels as though he cannot adequately communicate with others. As recently as last week, he described physical symptoms including his palms sweating, his heart beating fast, his mouth being dry and his throat and chest tightening. He states that he feels almost immobile. Now, my friend, who is an educator and philosopher, with multiple degrees and certificates, understands and fosters that his biggest fear is having to speak at conferences and within small groups because he does not feel adequate enough to deliver an appropriate and timely topic. He does not feel comfortable though he is a scholar and researcher.
Anxiety is no respecter of persons and it continues to elucidate feelings of feeling immobility as my friend would state. Communication can often feel like a heavy load, a burden of sorts. It can also lead to an over assertion or an oversharing of information as well.
Therapeutic work allows for the management (and sometimes reduction) of the symptoms of anxiety. Through focused work including cognitive behavioral training, anxiety can be managed and redirected to produce healthy communication, active listening and attunement to the person or persons with whom you are having a conversation.
Written by Aaron Kimble, LPC Intern