What is an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is the body’s innate response to stress. Occasional anxiety is normal. When you find yourself in a constant state of worry and fear, then anxiety has an unhealthy grip on your life.
Anxiety hijacks emotions and causes individuals to anticipate the worst, feel restless or have an unending nagging concern. Anxiety symptoms and signs include:
- pounding heart
- sweaty palms
What to expect from anxiety disorder therapy
Our experienced, licensed mental health counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to help you take control of your life and loosen the grip that anxiety has on your daily functioning. You will learn to:
- identify negative thinking patterns that trigger anxiety
- replace negative patterns with realistic, positive thoughts
- recognize the emotional and physical signs of anxiety
- learn coping skills to neutralize anxiety
Our licensed therapists can help you gradually and repeatedly expose yourself to situations and fears that spur anxiety. This enables you to face troublesome events without experiencing the anxiety that formerly diminished your quality of life.
What is Anxiety?Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, presentation or social event. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that interfere with daily activities and are characterized by chronic, unremitting anxiety and fear.
Anxiety is a feeling of tension or apprehension in response to a perceived threat. The anxiety attack reaction is part of the “fight or flight” response that enables you to respond rapidly when faced with danger, and also occurs when the demands of life feel greater than your ability to cope and deal with them. Most people feel some anxiety symptoms in their daily lives and shouldn’t be concerned about experiencing a moderate amount.
Many students, for example, experience some level of tension or nervousness before tests or other important events. A little anxiety can actually help motivate us and make us more alert, but too much anxiety can interfere with our ability to prepare for and perform on tests.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million Americans, ages 18 and older are affected by anxiety. That’s 18 percent of the nation’s population!
Anxiety Disorders Symptoms
- Repeated, random panic attacks, feelings of terror or impending doom
- Chronic worry or anticipation about having another panic attack
- Embarrassment, humiliation, or concern over everyday social situations that pose little or no threat of danger
- Fear or avoidance of an object, place or situation that poses little or no threat
- Constant, chronic and unsubstantiated worry
- Uncontrollable, repetitive action, such as washing one’s hands repeatedly or checking things over and over
- Nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event
In general, two types of anxiety treatment are available for an anxiety disorder: counseling and medication. Both approaches can be effective for most anxiety disorders. The choice of one or the other, or both, depends on individual and doctor preference and the particular anxiety disorder.
In general, two types of treatment are available for an anxiety disorder: counseling and medication. Both approaches can be effective for most anxiety disorders. The choice of one or the other, or both, depends on individual and doctor preference and the particular anxiety disorder.
Taking Care of Yourself
To begin, increase your awareness of your feelings of anxiety and pay attention to the coping methods that work best for you. There are some things you can do to help prevent normal anxiety from developing into a full blown anxiety disorder.
Anxiety TreatmentsOnce you have begun the anxiety treatment recommended by your mental health therapist, you may also find it helpful to follow these strategies for improving your mood:
Change Negative Thinking
Negative or distorted thinking patterns are a major cause of anxiety (seeing things in black or white categories, using “what ifs” or “shoulds,” catastrophizing, jumping to conclusions, or blaming). Use thought stopping (saying “stop” when you find yourself thinking this way) and work to re-direct your thoughts towards a more rational response.
Work on Control Issues
Trying to exert control over things you can’t possibly control (other people’s thoughts or behaviors, deadlines, traffic) can produce feelings of anxiety. Let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can (your own perceptions, behaviors and responses).
Watch What You Eat
Eat a balanced diet and avoid or eliminate stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, which increase anxiety. Check your medications and talk to your doctor to determine if you are taking a medication or supplement that may be causing or worsening your anxiety.
“Deep” or diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowers blood pressure and reduces the pulse rate, leading to increased relaxation. Shallow chest or thoracic breathing increases blood pressure, respiration and pulse rates, leading to increased anxiety. For short-term benefit, practice this technique when you are beginning to feel anxious. For long-term benefit, practice daily when you are not anxious.
Exercise is a healthy outlet for physical and emotional release. Taking a brisk 20-30 minute walk is an easy, effective strategy for immediately reducing anxiety.
Manage your Time
Trying to “get it all done” can increase anxiety. To decrease feeling overwhelmed or anxious by all you have to do, prioritize your tasks. Then try breaking each task into small manageable parts. Set clear goals to make sure each task is doable. Be flexible and willing to alter your plan as new tasks are added to your list.
Improve Your Sleep
An anxious or worried mind can cause insomnia, making it more difficult to feel rested and capable of coping. If daytime worries or stressors keep you awake, try reducing some of what is on your mind by writing down your thoughts or making a to-do list before you go to bed. In the morning, you can review your notes and try to figure out ways to deal with each stressor more effectively.
In addition to diaphragmatic breathing, learn and practice meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques to manage or reduce the physical manifestations of anxiety.
Focus on the Present
Anxiety is often characterized by future-oriented thoughts of worry or fear about what might happen. Try bringing your attention to what is happening in the present moment and ask yourself if worrying about the situation will help. If not, focus on what you can do now.