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Treat anxiety with the 12 Steps

October 10, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Anxiety is an addiction, according to Dennis Ortman, PhD, author and psychologist. Traditional treatment often fails to provide the holistic, spiritual healing needed to overcome the underlying issues that drive the anxiety, and Ortman recommends using the 12 Steps.

"There's more of an addictive quality to anxiety than we recognize," he tells Addiction Professional. "We can become addicted to mood states and to ways of thinking."

He presented his model at the Institute for Clinical Excellence in Atlanta this week.

"The 12 Steps contain the ingredients of any good therapy," Ortman says.

Among the key tenets of the Steps are the transformative journeys from ignorance to self-knowledge and from a self-centered life to an other-centered life. Such principles apply to anxiety's addictive nature as well.

For example, with Step 1, patients would admit they are powerless against anxiety. In other words, patients would recognize how the obsession with their own closed off world of anxious thought is self-centered and childlike, according to Ortman. Patients exhibit a helplessness where anxiety takes over their life just as a substance might take over the life of someone with addiction.

Working the Step helps them to move closer to a value-directed life.

"People who are anxious want to get rid of pain, but it's a battle they can't win," Ortman says. "The mindfulness approach is an invitation to come to an acceptance of where you're at. Accept that pain, lean into it and learn from your experience. Pain has value."

And just like addiction, anxiety has a relapsing nature. Therefore, Ortman says, the treatment with the 12 Steps does not aim to make the world accommodate the anxious patient but rather to have the anxious patient learn how to live in the world.



The serenity prayer helps with anxiety as well. Anxiety can come from not accepting what cannot be changed and from not controlling what one can. It's a lot like learned helplessness.

Persons with less patience are generally pointed as anxious person. I don't think it is one type of addiction rather it is the nature of someone. Of course it can be treated and we can lower the anxiety of a person but it completely depends on a person who can help you out. A personal coach or Life coach is the one who can help someone get out of it. Meditation can be an easier way to deal with it. Well Julie, thanks for posting but only the first step i.e. patience have been described here. Would be pleased if you'll explain the rest steps!

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity." Personally, I try to focus on the few things in daily life that I have some control over. Some power greater than me takes care of the rest. I don't always like what a higher power does. My choice seems to be to do whatever I can to change it (which cannot be done) or accept it and make the day the best that it can be.
It must take a very long time to develop the "wisdom to know the difference." I'm not there yet.

In what universe (besides "Planet 12 Step"!) should a person WITH anxiety, learn to "turn it over" "let go", and let some imagined spiritual entity handle all anxiety-inducing issues, when its a clear LACK OF CONTROL OVER the issues, that are CREATING THE ANXIETY? Clearly the author of this article has NO CLUE as to what causes anxiety, nor what a viable solution is for it! 12 Steppism, with its PAST-TENSE phrased "steps", and non-acknowledgement of the individual is NO SOLUTION, nor ever will be! I cannot think of a more ANXIETY INDUCING PROGRAM then a 12 Step one! Solving anxiety by creating MORE OF IT, is NOT a solution!