Therapy Words


Anxiety generally refers to both a state of mind (unease, apprehension, worry, fear) and bodily states (such as breathlessness, tension, nausea, dizziness).

Anxiety can be free-floating and constant (generalised) or acute and temporary (panic).

Anxiety is something we seek to avoid at all costs.

Outside of our awareness, we develop symptoms that serve to protect us from anxiety.


A phobia, for example, transforms anxiety into fear by attaching it to a very specific object: spiders, snowman, buttons, open spaces. Almost any object or situation can be used to form a phobia.

The phobia provides protection from anxiety – so long as your life is organised and structured so that you do not to come into contact with the phobic object.

This is why a quick removal of a phobia is rarely successful or desirable, it leaves you without the protection your phobia provides from anxiety.

Obsessions and compulsions

Also referred to as OCD.  These off another protection from anxiety.

Obsessions involve particular patterns of thought that can be absurd or unreasonable in nature, and which recur, often relentlessly.

OCD serve as a protection from anxiety

Compulsions require us to perform actions – sometimes against our will – that may be repetitive, ritualistic and trivial (having to check several times a door is locked, for instance).

OCD may also be accompanied by a strong sense of guilt or perpetual hesitation that can lead to a state of limbo, confusion, meaninglessness or lack of direction in life.

As with phobias, OCD serve as a protection from anxiety: anxiety appears first and OCD forms in response.

Psychosomatic illnesses

If OCD refers to troubling patterns of thought, then what are often referred to as psychosomatic illnesses are very real bodily sensations, pains or complaints for which a GP can find no organic cause.


This can involved injury to the physical self that may begin as a coping strategy to relieve the build up of anxiety or of feelings and beliefs that may otherwise be overwhelming.

Therapy can reduce reliance on self-harm as a coping strategy.

The frequency and severity of self-harm may increase and give rise to other medical conditions.

Therapy can reduce reliance on self-harm as a coping strategy.



Depression describes a range of experiences that can vary in duration, frequency and intensity – feelings of worthlessness, loss of confidence, loss of sex drive, loss of concentration and purpose, and thoughts about death.

As this brief description may suggest depression often forms in response to a significant loss of an identification – with a person and a relationship, with a belief or an ideal, or with something that may not be so apparent or tangible.

Find out more about depression, mourning and melancholia here.


For some, depression can alternate with feelings of elation or mania that may also involve delusions.

Delusions can range from a single idea to beliefs which come together to form a pattern as in paranoia.


In therapy, there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ sexual orientation or gender identity. Your orientation and identity may not remain the same throughout your life. This can be both exciting and also a source of unsettling questions.

Therapy enables you to change your relationship to your symptom.


Instead of emphasis placed on symptom removal, therapy invites you to address the underlying cause your symptom shields you from.

Once therapy is working, the symptom then usually fades in importance.

You, in turn, can experience a deeper level of self-acceptance, greater freedom to make decisions, and an increased ability to live life more fully in the present.

At Therapy in Manchester, we provide a professional, supportive and confidential environment to enable you to work things through.