Why see an OT for anxiety?

This is a question that I get asked regularly.

OTs are focused on assisting people to engage in Occupations.

Occupations can include daily living skills such as cooking and shopping, self care, leisure activities or study and of course, work. One of the difficulties that people can have in engaging in Occupations is Anxiety. The anxiety can make it hard to get motivated to do it, or some do it but are anxious the whole time or panic, and others avoid it completely.

I start with looking at what a person is wanting to DO and then look at what the trouble is in doing it. With anxiety, there can be all kinds of things going on. Everything from fearing that something will happen when we are out, to social anxiety or anxiety about being overwhelmed by sound, smell or what we see.

Then I can look at the specific skills that can build the capacity of the person to do the thing that they want to do. This can include thinking skills, breathing, coping strategies, calming down through using their senses or DBT skills.

For example, a client may have difficulty with anxiety when going grocery shopping and be avoiding doing it. They may be anxious about people looking at them and judging them, or needing to go to the toilet, or having to make decisions about what to buy or hating the smell of the seafood section or worrying that they won’t have enough money. There can be 100s of other reasons too. By understanding what is creating the anxiety, we can then look at whether the person can learn some coping skills, or whether there needs to be changes to how they are doing their shopping or even where they are going shopping. An OT will consider that there may need to be changes to the person, the occupation or their environment in order to successfully go shopping without the anxiety.