We are a nation known for our ‘stiff upper lip’ and our reticence to talk about how we really feel, so anyone who suffers with mental health issues will have no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when Prince Harry addressed the world by saying he “shut down all his emotions” for almost twenty years and that he had sought counselling. Due to the suppression of unaddressed grief after the death of his mother, Prince Harry, as many of us do, had bottled up his feelings and continued on with his life until aggression and anxiety crept in. This suppression of grief had manifested so much throughout the preceding years, now the anger of losing his mother was being released through episodes of anxiety and panic attacks.
Anyone who’s ever experienced a panic attack knows it takes an exceptional toll both physically and mentally on the body. Some people feel like they’re having a heart attack, some experience numbness to their face or hands, and some have such stricken anxiety that they feel they cannot leave their home. “In my case, every single time I was in any room with loads of people, which is quite often, I was just pouring with sweat, my heart beating ― boom, boom, boom, boom ― literally, just like a washing machine,” Prince Harry told U.K. Army channel Forces TV.
In psychodynamic therapy, the understanding is that anxiety is seen as a symptom of an underlying conflicts. As psychodynamic therapy is a talking therapy, the therapist is looking for irregularities or discrepancies in what you say, so for example, they might say, “You’re talking about something full of uncertainty, but yet you look calm on the outside .”
In therapy we try and link these current experiences and anxieties, to unresolved conflicts and struggles within your family and the environment in which you grew up. As these feelings aren’t immediately attainable to you, the therapist will make interpretations to try to link your current anxiety to these unresolved issues, making what’s in the unconscious more available for you to work with and by making you more aware. In working through these kinds of conflicts and unresolved struggles, you can reduce your anxiety over time.
Even though mental health is finally being spoken about in the media and in schools, persistent stigma remains, and that’s why it’s important and relevant today that Prince Harry has spoken so honestly about his awareness of his own mental health and demonstrating that along with therapy he is a better person today. Many people struggle on a daily basis with anxiety and panic attacks and hopefully to see that someone of such stature can be affected then perhaps these ‘celebrity endorsements’ on mental health will open an area of discussion where we realise and learn that anyone can be affected.