Dr. Steven C. Hayes is considered a leading authority on anxiety disorder. Yet, his interest in this work didn’t begin after his doctorate in Clinical Psychology, nor when he proceeded to teach psychology at the collegiate level. It began after he experienced an anxiety attack of his own. This attack occurred early in his career, prior to his current position at the University of Nevada. Several colleagues started arguing and he felt an overwhelming sense of panic. His first instinct? Fight it.
This is how many combat anxiety — they feel an unpleasant emotion (such as pain) and stuff it down deep. But it was through this lack of healthy coping that Dr. Hayes began to see anxiety in a different light.
The world we live in is a recipe for anxiety, a “witches brew” of science and technology, Dr. Hayes says. With comparison etched into the fabric of our ever present social media world, and our news sources dependent upon bad news for views, it’s no wonder that anxiety lurches upon us at the most inopportune times. Furthermore, our systems for life perpetuate it further, not just by provocation but by finding that the promises of fulfillment are empty. As anyone looking to Instagram or Facebook to be soothed has discovered . . .disappointment awaits.
While some have found relief in medication (and there is no shame in having done so), the research is clear — long-term use can have negative consequences on neural health, often leaving its users facing difficult withdrawal issues. So what’s the answer?
Dr. Hayes may just have found it. He is considered a revolutionary in his field of study, having written over 650 peer-reviewed articles and 47 books. But it is his creation of acceptance and commitment therapy (also known as ACT) for which he is most recognized. It’s a system for training the mind, for “befriending anxiety,” as Dr. Hayes puts it, and has been shown effective for quelling anxiety. The success of ACT doesn’t end there. It has also been used by high-performance athletes wanting to push the limits, as well as those facing illnesses and other various mental and physical hardships.
ACT consists of 6 different skills to practice and become what Dr. Hayes calls, “psychologically flexible.” An in-depth analysis and practical application can be found in Dr. Hayes best-selling book, The Liberated Mind.
Anxiety doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence. With substantial data and mountains of positive testimonies to back up his claims, Dr. Hayes has cracked the code and provided a way out for anxiety sufferers. To hear more about his story, check out Episode 17 of Despite the Odds, where I interview Dr. Steven C. Hayes about his personal journey with mental health struggles and how he uses ACT to combat anxiety for himself, and thousands of others.
Click here to listen to Despite the Odds: Overcoming Debilitating Anxiety and Panic Attacks with Steven Hayes, PhD.