Anxiety can severely impact an individual’s ability to function in relationships, work, and school.
When many of my clients take the first steps to see me, they’ve already been living with significant Anxiety, which has interfered with their day-to-day functioning. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 18 % of US adults and 25% of adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience Anxiety. While it is the most common mental health condition, only about one-third of the people suffering from Anxiety receive treatment.
There are several major types of anxiety disorders.
- Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent worry or anxious feelings. People with this disorder worry about many concerns, such as health problems or finances, and may have a general sense that something terrible will happen. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and feeling on edge.
- Panic disorder is marked by recurrent panic attacks that include symptoms such as sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, or a feeling of choking; a pounding heart or rapid heart rate; and feelings of dread. Such attacks often happen suddenly, without warning. People who experience panic attacks may visit the emergency room or seek help from a medical professional with complaints that mimic a heart attack.
- Phobias are intense fears about particular objects (spiders or snakes, for instance) or situations (such as flying in airplanes) that are distressing or intrusive.
- Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. People with this disorder fear social situations in which they might feel embarrassed or judged. As a result, they typically think nervous about spending time in social settings, feel self-conscious in front of others, and worry about being rejected by or offending others. Other common symptoms include having difficulty making friends, avoiding social situations, ruminating thoughts for days before or after a social event, and feeling shaky, sweaty, or nauseous when spending time in a social setting.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable feelings, thoughts (obsessions), and routines or rituals (compulsions). Compulsions can also be hidden in the head rather than in action. For example, you need constant reassurance from those around you that you did not hit someone with your car the night before.
Therapists will use a combination of tools to diagnose an anxiety disorder. In addition to the DSM-V and verbal reports, assessments such as GAD-7 can also be a screening tool.
Some everyday life occurrences are considered common triggers for Anxiety.
1. Lack of self-care
2. Not enough sleep
3. Stressful work or home life
5. Social gatherings
6. Work environment
7. Trauma reminders
Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: What to expect
Often, individuals try to manage their Anxiety by avoiding the feeling and the contributing event. While avoidance may feel good at the moment, it worsens the intensity of Anxiety over time. Therapy techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will teach individuals to become more aware of their thoughts and their effects on feelings. Emotional regulation skills such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing exercises are also tools taught to reduce anxiety symptoms. Therapy can also help individuals develop a self-care and anxiety action plan to manage Anxiety over time.
Gradual exposure therapy is another CBT method aimed to help gradually expose(in small increments) individuals’ fearful reactions to objects or situations is another tool used to manage Anxiety and phobias.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy uses mindfulness and behavior change to enhance the quality of life. This approach helps individuals to understand thoughts as just thoughts and feelings as just feelings.
Therapy is a collaborative process where clients and therapists work together to develop an action plan for anxiety management. Clients at Mendings Wings To Soar are expected to practice new skills outside of therapy as the day-to-day situation arises that is Anxiety provoking.
Anxiety ranges from person to person, even from episode to episode, and falls from mild to severe. Therapists use the Diagnostic Statistical Manual(DSM-V) along with self-reported symptoms to determine whether a person meets the criteria for an Anxiety Disorder diagnosis.
Even without an official diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder, you should work on your Anxiety if:
1. You are anxious about everyday situations or tasks that most people face without difficulty.
2. You feel and deal with Anxiety daily or several times a week.
3. Your Anxiety over a particular situation lasts longer than expected.
4. Avoid places, people, or situations that make you anxious.
5. Anxiety interferes in decision-making, relationships, work, or school
6. You catastrophize situations(What ifs).
7. You’re anxious about being anxious.
8. You’ve experienced panic attacks(more on this later)
9. Your loved ones point out that you’re being anxious
10. You’ve referred to yourself as an over-thinker or nervous person
Anxiety disorders are very treatable; most individuals who suffer from Anxiety can reduce their symptoms after a few months of therapy. If you’ve answered yes to most or all of these questions. Then, consider whether or not you should speak with a professional if you are not already working with one.
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