Counselling for Anxiety in Singapore

Anxiety, a prevalent issue in Singapore’s fast-paced society, can significantly hamper daily life, making routine tasks and decisions feel insurmountable. It’s a condition that has become more common, often disrupting personal, professional, and social well-being. Much of the way the general population conceptualises mental health issues such as depression or anxiety is through the medical model and pharmaceutical lens. This model approaches anxiety by looking at the problem separate from the person, ignoring the context of the person’s life, relationships, and coping skills while addressing anxiety only through medication.

However, personalised therapy and counselling can provide a more holistic approach. With personalised therapy, a mental health counsellor will find out what you are trying to solve and help you find effective, healthy ways to deal with the issue at hand. This will involve understanding the challenges you are facing, the quality of your relationships, and the skills you need to manage anxiety levels and regain control of your life. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey; help is available, and with commitment and support, a path to well-being and peace of mind is within reach. It is possible to move beyond the constraints of anxiety towards a fulfilling and empowered life.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety, as clinically defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is characterised by persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This condition is more than just feeling stressed or worried; anxiety involves prolonged feelings of apprehension and fear that are disproportionate to the actual threat or challenge. It stems from the brain’s natural response to perceived danger, evolving into a chronic state where the individual’s fight or flight mechanism is in constant activation. The DSM categorises various anxiety disorders, each with specific criteria, acknowledging anxiety as a complex mental health condition that impacts emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.

Fortunately, anxiety can be effectively diagnosed and managed with specialised individual counselling tailored to address the nuances of each anxiety disorder, providing relief and strategies for individuals to regain control over their lives.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders encompass a range of distinct conditions, each characterised by its unique set of symptoms, triggers, and effects on daily life. Understanding these different types of anxiety disorders is crucial for individuals seeking insight into their own experiences and those of their loved ones. Going for counselling for anxiety can be incredibly helpful, offering tailored strategies and support to manage these disorders.

Here are various forms of anxiety disorders, each with its own distinctive features:

1. Panic Disorder

This anxiety disorder manifests as recurrent panic attacks occurring unexpectedly. These attacks bring about symptoms such as sweating, chest pains, elevated heart rate, and sensations resembling a heart attack or choking. The emergence of overwhelming dread and the onset of excessive apprehension regarding the possibility of experiencing another panic attack can also trigger altered behaviour patterns that profoundly disrupt your everyday life.

2. Specific Phobias

Specific phobias involve an intense fear of a particular object or situation, like heights or seeing blood or snakes. Encountering these objects or situations can often trigger a fear response akin to the symptoms of a panic attack. As such, people experiencing specific phobias may freeze up, tremble severely, and even experience an increased heart rate when confronted with their phobias.

3. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is characterised by excessive and persistent worries about several everyday matters, lasting for months. Therefore, making decisions and committing to choices can be particularly challenging for them. This overwhelming concern often presents itself alongside indications including a persistent sense of unease, heightened susceptibility to fatigue, irritability, muscle tenseness, and disruptions in sleep patterns.

4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with OCD are plagued by intrusive, distressing thoughts or images, leading to repetitive behaviours or rituals performed to alleviate the anxiety caused by these obsessions. They recognise that their actions are irrational yet struggle to control or stop them. Examples include compulsive hand washing to prevent infections.

5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Individuals who have experienced extreme traumatic events such as abuse or natural disasters may develop PTSD. This disorder leads to excessive vigilance, flashbacks of the traumatic event, perceiving threats in everyday situations, outbursts of anger, and sleep disturbances.

It’s important to note that these descriptions provide a basic overview of each anxiety disorder. Symptoms and experiences can vary widely among individuals, and professional evaluation and counselling are essential for proper diagnosis and tailored therapy plan.

Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders stem from a complex interplay of factors involving biological, genetic, environmental, and psychological elements. Understanding these contributing factors can shed light on why anxiety happens and how it can be effectively managed during counselling.

Biological Underpinnings

Within the brain’s intricate network, neurotransmitters serve as messengers, orchestrating emotions. Serotonin and dopamine, pivotal neurotransmitters, orchestrate our emotional balance. However, if their equilibrium falters, anxiety and depression may ensue. In addition, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that slows nerve signals in the brain, curbing anxiety. When GABA activity drops, anxiety can surge, overwhelming your thoughts and feelings. Think of GABA as a calming conductor, quieting the brain’s inner turmoil. Anxious disarray can occur when GABA’s balance is disturbed by genetics, stress, or other factors.

Genetic Predisposition

Family history can serve as a significant indicator of susceptibility to anxiety disorders. A lineage with a prevalence of similar cases can increase an individual’s likelihood of experiencing such conditions.

Early Life Experiences

Upbringing and exposure to traumatic or stressful situations during formative years can contribute to the emergence of anxiety later in life. Early adversities may sensitise individuals to react more strongly to stressors, fostering an environment conducive to anxiety disorders.

Triggers and Stressors

Anxiety symptoms can also be prompted by triggers—specific events or circumstances that activate the onset of anxiety in those susceptible to such disorders. While triggers vary between individuals, they may include life-altering situations like the loss of a loved one, marital separation, or career transitions. Social situations and health concerns can further catalyse anxiety symptoms. The intricate relationship between triggers and anxiety underscores the importance of identifying and managing these stressors in the therapy process.

Environmental Factors

The environment in which a person lives can also contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. Elements such as exposure to loud noises, family composition, crowded spaces, or highly demanding work environments can contribute to heightened anxiety levels.

Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders, encompassing a range of mental health conditions, have the potential to significantly impact an individual’s daily life, resulting in an overwhelming sense of unease, apprehension, and distress. And anxiety often manifests itself through a range of distinct physical and psychological symptoms, each indicating the presence of this complex mental health challenge. By identifying these unique markers with the help of counselling, individuals can gain a clearer understanding of their experiences and seek appropriate support. Here are some key signs that could indicate the presence of anxiety:

1. Physiological Responses

Anxiety disorders can trigger a spectrum of physiological responses, ranging from panic attacks that mimic cardiac symptoms to significant gastrointestinal distress. Individuals may experience intense nausea, an urge to vomit, and even dry retching, amplifying their discomfort. Anxiety can also exacerbate or trigger gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastric reflux, stomachaches, and ulcers, further affecting one’s physical health. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for anxiety to cause dizziness, feelings of losing control, and fears of fainting, alongside disrupted sleep patterns, leading to night sweats and persistent difficulties in both falling and staying asleep. Sweaty palms, trembling hands, body shakes, and tingling sensations in various parts of the body can be indicative of heightened anxiety levels.

2. Impaired Concentration and Mental Paralysis

Anxiety can interfere with cognitive functions, causing difficulty in focusing, mental numbness, and even moments of feeling mentally paralysed.

3. Specific Phobias

Anxiety can trigger specific fears or phobias, such as an intense fear of crowded places, public presentations, and germs.

4. Fear of Judgement

Anxiety often leads to a constant worry about what others think, resulting in a persistent fear of being judged negatively.

5. Feelings of Helplessness and Hopelessness

Anxiety can contribute to a pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness, making it challenging to envision a brighter future.

6. Heightened Irritability

Anxiety can contribute to increased irritability and difficulty in managing emotional responses. Individuals may become more prone to irritability, frustration, or anger, often as a result of their ongoing anxiety. It can also lead to restlessness and an inability to stay still, driven by a heightened state of nervousness.

7. Overwhelming Emotions

Feeling overwhelmed and breaking down in tears without a clear trigger can be a manifestation of anxiety’s emotional toll. Those grappling with anxiety disorders can often find themselves caught in a cycle of incessant and disproportionate worry about various aspects of their lives, such as work-related performance, academic responsibilities, personal relationships, financial stability, and overall well-being.

8. Avoidance Behaviour

Individuals contending with anxiety frequently engage in avoidance behaviours, steering clear of 

situations, environments, or activities that evoke intense feelings of anxiety. These may include evading social interactions or shying away from crowded places.

The Purpose of Anxiety and Where It Goes Wrong

For many people, anxiety stems from a deep-seated belief that they are not competent or capable of handling what life throws at them. This may not even be a conscious belief. People with chronic or severe anxiety can be extremely successful professionally or personally, but they often believe it’s because of their worry or anxiety-type solutions that they choose that make them successful.

One purpose of anxiety is to rev-up a person’s fight or flight mode for survival. Anxious people are constantly worrying about what might happen in the future. They play out all the potential worse case scenarios of what might happen. This constant state of heightened alertness for potential future disasters leads to compulsive planning and backup strategising, which, while intended to offer protection, often results in paralysis and an inability to engage with the present. This cycle of focusing on future anxieties to distract from current unsatisfactory realities—be it in personal relationships, financial struggles, or health concerns—only serves to neglect the present, where real change is possible, thereby ironically fostering the very outcomes feared. This is where counselling for anxiety can help people look at where they feel out of control and create plans to develop an internal sense of safety and security. 

When Should You Consider Going for Counselling for Anxiety

Embarking on anxiety counselling in Singapore is beneficial when emotions feel overwhelming and daily life becomes challenging. Recognising the signs that indicate a need for therapy is crucial in taking the first step towards wellness.

Disruption to Your Daily Life

When anxiety starts to obstruct your routine activities like work or school, it’s a clear signal that therapy might be needed. This continual interference with daily functioning can result in decreased productivity and satisfaction, highlighting the importance of seeking therapeutic intervention to reclaim control.

Strained Relationships

Anxiety can greatly affect your interactions and bonds with others, leading to misunderstandings or conflicts. Such tension not only strains relationships but also isolates you from support networks, making professional guidance crucial.

Difficulties Achieving Your Goals

When anxiety prevents you from reaching personal or professional milestones, you should consider seeking therapy to address these barriers.

Social Withdrawal

If you find yourself actively avoiding gatherings or social events due to anxiety, you can get professional support to overcome these fears and learn how to form and maintain healthy relationships.

Disruptive or Worsening Physiological Responses

Experiencing significant physiological responses that negatively affect your daily life, such as insomnia or difficulty breathing, indicates that it might be time to seek professional help. These uncomfortable biological reactions are clear signs that your body is under stress from anxiety, and addressing them with professional counselling can provide strategies to manage their impact on your well-being.

How to Deal with Anxiety

When addressing anxiety, several therapy methods are available, each catering to individual needs.

Anxiety Therapy & Counselling

This is a pivotal approach, employing psychotherapy to identify underlying triggers and provide essential coping strategies. Two main techniques within anxiety therapy are Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.


This can complement therapy, especially for severe cases. Antidepressants can be considered, while other medications can be prescribed to offer short-term relief, but these may require dosage adjustments over time.

Good Lifestyle Habits

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits plays a pivotal role in managing anxiety. Regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep can significantly reduce symptoms, fostering a sense of well-being and resilience against stress.

Talking to a Friend

Opening up to a friend or someone you trust about your feelings can be a powerful antidote to anxiety. This act of sharing not only alleviates the burden by providing emotional support but also helps in gaining new perspectives and coping strategies from those who care about you.

Navigating therapy choices hinges on individual circumstances, severity of symptoms, and preferences. As such, it is important to not only go for counselling to address the anxiety but also collaborate with mental health professionals to tailor an effective plan, leveraging the synergy of therapy and, if needed, medication to regain control over anxiety’s grip on your life.

Begin Your Path to Growth with an Anxiety Therapist

Counselling for anxiety can manage one’s present-day issues and figure out how to address them. Avoiding issues in the short term is helpful, but it creates long-term problems. An anxiety therapist can help identify the cause of your anxiety and equip you with helpful tools and techniques to manage your anxiety.

M.S., NCC, CTRT, USA Sex Therapist, Hypnotherapist

Ms. Tammy Fontana, offers her expertise in individual counselling, drawing upon a foundation of clinical training and an impressive eight-year counselling career. Her specialisation in working with children and families underscores her comprehensive approach to fostering lasting change in the community.

Her experience in the field of counselling includes significant roles at distinguished organisations such as, Alife, The Star Shelter, Singapore Anti-Narcotic Association, and Simei Health Care. Moreover, she engages in intensive child-client treatment within residential care, facilitated by her close collaboration with MCYS.

Notably, Ms. Fontana’s dedication and expertise have been recognised through her passage of the US National Counsellor EXAM (NCE), earning her the esteemed title of a Nationally Certified Counsellor (NCC) in the USA. She also successfully completed her 3000-hour clinical practicum and internship under the seasoned guidance of a senior US licensed Counsellor (LPC).

Currently, she holds an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from the esteemed Capella University, an institution approved by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programmes (CACREP). Her journey is one of empowerment, education, and a heartfelt desire to catalyse positive change. With her, clients find a compassionate partner, a skilled guide, and an unwavering advocate on their path toward well-being and growth.

Therapy Options for Anxiety

When it comes to addressing counselling for anxiety, two primary therapy options stand out for their effectiveness:

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a highly effective method that focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. It equips individuals with strategies to challenge and alter these thoughts, leading to healthier and more positive responses to stressful situations.
  • Exposure Therapy: This therapy is particularly beneficial for those whose anxiety is linked to specific fears or situations. Through gradual and controlled exposure to the sources of anxiety, individuals learn to diminish their avoidance behaviours, ultimately reducing their anxiety levels.

Experienced therapists tailor the therapy to suit the individual’s needs and circumstances, often utilising a combination of both CBT and exposure therapy. Their empathetic approach and deep understanding of anxiety allow them to foster a safe and nurturing environment, making personalised care a cornerstone of their practice. 

What Happens During Anxiety Therapy?

Understanding Your Anxiety

The counselling session will start with exploring the specific characteristics of your anxiety, identifying whether it manifests as a pervasive sense of fear and worry, social anxiety, or concerns tied to particular scenarios.

Tailoring Your Therapy Plan

The counsellor will then explain the fundamentals of anxiety and its cycles, crafting personalised strategies or interventions that align with your unique situation. These strategies may include relaxation techniques like deep breathing or muscle relaxation, cognitive restructuring to challenge and change negative thought patterns, maintaining a worry journal, and systematic desensitisation for overcoming specific phobias.

Reflecting and Planning Ahead

After each counselling session, it’s beneficial to allocate 10-15 minutes for reflection or to jot down your thoughts. This time allows you to process what was discussed, assess any insights gained, and consider any topics or questions you might want to address in your next session. This practice can enhance the therapeutic process, helping you to connect more deeply with your journey towards managing anxiety.

Consider an Initial Consultation Session

Through an initial consultation we’ll help you frame goals and outcomes of therapy and what that would look like to achieve it. Clinics offer both in-person and online therapy services to provide the most effective and comfortable therapeutic experience possible.

Frequently Asked Questions About Counselling for Anxiety in Singapore

What is the connection between anxiety and depression?

Anxiety and depression often share a complex relationship, frequently coexisting and intertwining. While they are distinct disorders, they can manifest together, amplifying each other’s symptoms. Both conditions share common emotional features, such as persistent negative thoughts, low mood, and reduced interest in activities. Understanding this connection is crucial for proper diagnosis and effective therapy during counselling.

How many anxiety counselling sessions do I need?

The number of anxiety counselling sessions needed varies based on individual circumstances. Some individuals find relief after a few sessions, while others may benefit from more extended support. Experienced therapists collaborate with you to determine a suitable plan tailored to your needs, ensuring progress throughout your journey towards well-being.

When should I go for counselling for anxiety?

Consider seeking anxiety counselling if you experience persistent worry, fear, or overwhelming anxiety that interferes with your daily life. If you find it challenging to manage symptoms on your own, or if anxiety disrupts your relationships and functioning, professional counselling can provide guidance and strategies to cope effectively.

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