Anxiety is like a cat!

By David Joel Miller.

Anxiety is like a cat!

What exactly is anxiety? And what is an anxiety disorder?

Well to some people it looks like this: 


And to others it looks like this:

A little anxiety can feel like a small cat rubbing on your leg, a bit of an annoyance but nothing you can’t handle. It can push you to try harder. It is the stage fright that keys up the performer to go all out and give the performance of their life.

For others, Anxiety is the lion that keeps you off the stage of life. It is a terrifying disorder that tries to eat you alive.

Anxiety disorders are the most common emotional problem in America. In any one year, approximately one in five Americans will have an episode of anxiety that is severe enough to interfere with their everyday functioning, an episode so severe they should go for treatment.

Dictionaries define anxiety as a feeling, worry, nervousness, agitation, fear or apprehension. The symptoms can interfere with every system in the body. Anxiety symptoms are often mistaken for physical illnesses and send millions of people repeatedly to the doctor looking for a physical cause to an emotional problem.

Now if you have a physical problem, by all means, see your doctor. But if the problem keeps changing, if the doctor can’t find anything wrong with you, then the problem may be emotional. That does not mean the problem is “all in your head” it is there, but it is everywhere in your body also, and there are treatments for anxiety.

Robert Sapolsky wrote a really cool book, called “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” which explains how your fears can essentially hijack your body and show up by making you sick. I highly recommend this book to counselors and therapist who want to understand anxiety and want to help people with this problem. But what if you or your child is suffering from anxiety. And I do mean SUFFERING? What if you just want to get your life back?

There are ways to turn the volume down on anxiety, shrink that cat down to a manageable size. I am not saying to get rid of anxiety altogether. If there is a real live lion chasing you, or a gang banger with a gun, some fear and anxiety is a good thing. Under those circumstances, anxiety might save your life. If your fears are keeping you from having a life, what then?

A good counselor or therapist can help you shrink those fears. There are self-help books that help also. A good counselor can help you learn and practice skills to stop anxiety in its tracks. The difficulty here is they will probably see you an hour a week, now you got 167 hours to go before your next appointment. What now? This is where a good self-help book can help, especially if you talk it over with a professional and practice the skills. A book is also helpful if you need to help a child get over their anxiety.

One book that I find helpful for managing anxiety is Tamar Chansky’s book “Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias.  She has lots of good techniques for reducing and controlling anxiety. She does some creative things like using a “Fear Extinguisher” and a “Fear Thermometer” as well as some of the standbys like creating incompatible emotion states by using humor or relaxation to reduce anxiety.

So is anger a problem for you? How do you reduce or control your anger? And if you are a counselor and work with clients with anxiety – What do you find the most effective approach?

There will be more on this topic to come, and please feel free to comment on this or any other topic in my blog. Till next week. David Miller, LMFT, LPCC.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the books, trainings and classes category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area information about my private practice is at Thanks to all who read this blog.


2 thoughts on “Anxiety is like a cat!

  1. Wow — love your analogy and the photos, David! “A little anxiety can feel like a small cat rubbing on you leg, a bit of an annoyance but nothing you can’t handle….For others Anxiety is the lion … a terrifying disorder that tries to eat you alive.”

    Did you come up with this yourself? If yes, you need to get published!


    • Thanks for the comment. I think I thought this up. If I heard it somewhere I don’t remember where.
      Currently I am working on the final editing on several books. The plan is to post them to the book page as they are available.
      Thanks again and best wishes. David Miller, LMFT, NCC.


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