The psychologist Ruth Fernández Matía gives several key ideas to understand how anxiety works.
Anxiety is one of the most frequent psychological disorders, and it can also be produced by a large number of different situations. That is why it is important to know how it works and what characterizes it.
Therefore, in this case we interviewed an expert psychologist in the resolution of anxiety problems: Ruth Fernández Matía.
Managing anxiety problems: interview with Ruth Fernández Matía, psychologist
Ruth Fernández Matía is a health psychologist with many years treating people with anxiety and mood problems. She currently resides in León, a place where she treats patients of all ages. Here she talks about the keys to understanding how anxiety works.
What are the risks of maintaining an anxiety problem for a long time? Can it lead to other disorders?
Anxiety maintained over time can lead to health problems, digestive problems, insomnia, headache, dermatitis … It influences social relationships, as a couple, your academic and work performance … it can affect all quality of life.
The consequences of having suffered anxiety for a long time and without putting a solution, can lead to depressive symptoms, abuse of certain substances or consumption of hypercaloric foods that help in the short term to reduce those levels of nervous activation.
Do you think that it is easy for most people to detect when they have a problem with anxiety, beyond noticing a feeling of discomfort?
Many people are not aware of certain symptoms that anxiety generates; they live like this for a long time and normalize it in their lives.
Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways; at a physiological level there is an activation in our sympathetic nervous system that causes people to perceive themselves at a bad physical level, some manifest a feeling of suffocation and others who are unable to swallow food. Sometimes they are not aware that everything stems from anxiety.
When patients affected by anxiety problems come to your office for the first time, what specifically do they complain about, in general?
Some report not sleeping, or having different dreams-nightmares, they do not have a restful sleep. Others arrive because they do not control their anger, others because of a low mood and apathy, etc. There are also people who comment that they have begun to think more negative things more than normal, to have fears … although there is a similar symptomatology, each one channels anxiety in a different way.
Once you have detected that the underlying problem has to do with anxiety, what phases does the psychotherapy go through, throughout the sessions?
I always like to evaluate the emotional imbalance that they present in the now, and what their tendency is as a personality trait. In five sessions I carry out the evaluation again, and the patient himself will see how his emotional maladjustment has been reduced by more than 50%.
I carry out a form of therapy with which the patient learns strategies and resources that will help reduce anxiety. I work on my thoughts with very innovative techniques, and there is another behavioral part that is also very important.
After several sessions have passed, what are the first signs that the therapy is working?
Our most important and objective signal is the comparison of the evaluation at the four sessions, there we objectively see the improvement. The patient himself begins to notice that he is sleeping better, that he breathes more calmly as all the symptoms of activation of the sympathetic nervous system are being deactivated.
What tips do you give to prevent excessive build-up of anxiety?
A basic and very preventive advice is to learn to breathe well, breathing is a natural anxiolytic. Our body is a natural pharmacy and we are not taking advantage of it.
Working on our thoughts is very important, because the quality and content of what you think modifies our brain and the body ends up manifesting what our mind believes. You also have to learn to distance yourself from certain thoughts and beliefs, and generate new habits in the patient that lead to a better quality of life.