What is anxiety?
There is a big difference between occasional anxiety and an anxiety disorder. It is normal to be nervous about a presentation or a big speech, but an anxiety disorder is more than that. You may experience debilitating worry or fear that interferes with everyday life, or keeps you from leaving the house. You may find yourself avoiding certain places or situations to avert anxious feelings.
Anxiety can occur co-morbidly with other psychiatric disorders meaning it can be present in addition to another disorder. It can also occur by itself. Anxiety affects people of all ages and genders and stems from a variety of places, including a traumatic experience or a specific phobia. Anxiety may also be due to additional medical issues. In these cases, worrying about one’s health may become so overwhelming that it distracts from everyday life.
Like many other disorders, the symptoms of anxiety can be both physical and psychological. Exact symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety, but in general, you may experience many of the following:
- Nervousness, restlessness, or feeling tense
- Sleeping disturbances, such as difficulty getting to or staying asleep
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Invasive thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Muscle tension
- Weakness and fatigue
- Increased heart rate
- Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
Types of Anxiety
There are 5 main types of anxiety. Some are focused around specific triggers, while others are more generalized.
Generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) affects approximately 7 million adults in the United States. People with this disorder often feel a deep sense of unease or worry for no discernible reason. GAD often co-occurs with depression, but this does not happen to everyone.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety marked by periods of intense fear. These panic attacks occur when the person is presented with a perceived threat, not a real one. Like most anxiety disorders, women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder.
Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. Natural disasters, near-death experiences, military combat, and accidents are all examples of things that may cause PTSD. 3.5% of the United States population have PTSD.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t often thought of as an anxiety disorder. It is comprised of repetitive behaviors fueled by nervous thoughts. The performance of these behaviors, such as washing hands, turning on the light, or locking a door, is done to temporary relieve unwanted thoughts.
Phobias are specific, strong fears. Some of the most common phobias are arachnophobia (fear of spiders), agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house), and acrophobia (fear of heights). Phobias typically begin in childhood around age 7, but can also be developed in adolescence or adulthood.
Anxiety can be managed effectively through therapy and medication. As with any disorder, the treatment plan of each client is tailored to individual needs. The most common types of therapy for anxiety are:
Mindfulness-based therapy, or MBT, helps you focus on the sensations that arise during anxiousness. There is great emphasis on staying present and accepting of your thoughts and feelings. Doing so helps release negative thoughts and, additionally, relieve the amount of anxiety experienced. This therapy is shown to be very effective across many disorders, meaning the skills learned through this treatment apply to a variety of life events.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT) also helps you focus on present life events. By becoming aware of your current feelings, you will be better prepared to combat future anxieties. CBT teaches skills to manage maladaptive thinking patterns, improve self-confidence, and maintain control over thoughts. These are skills that will carry on long after therapy has concluded.
Anxiety is normally treated using two classes of medications: anti-depressants and benzodiazepines.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are the most common type of antidepressant used. Since depression often occurs alongside anxiety, a medication that can combat both is the most effective treatment. fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro) are the most common SSRI’s used to treat anxiety. SSRI’s are at low risk for both side effects and overdose. They are also less addictive than benzodiazepines and are better suited for long term treatment. In certain cases, other antidepressants like SNRI’s, TCA’s, and MAOI’s are used to combat anxiety.
Benzodiazepines are a special class of drugs designed to treat anxiety. Most people know of the benzodiazepines Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Other examples include triazolam (Halcion), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), midazolam (Versed), and lorazepam (Ativan). These medications can be extremely addictive, and because of that, are prescribed only for short periods of time and only in certain situations. Since benzodiazepines are powerful drugs, they are often absorbed into the body quickly. In turn, they are used by the body quickly and stay in the nervous system only a short amount of time. This contributes to their addictive nature.
Therapy and medication can also be supplemented with alternative treatments. Meditation, yoga, self-management, and stress-reducing techniques can all help to decrease the symptoms of anxiety. Finding enjoyable activities, such as walking, reading, or photography, can help take your mind off worrisome thoughts. Combating anxiety requires a changed mindset and a changed routine.
Another great technique is to keep a journal. You can leave a journal by your bed or carry one with you during the day. If you choose to leave the journal at home, you can jot down your worries from the day right before you go to bed. If you choose to take the journal with you, write down your stressors as you begin to feel them overwhelming you. Having a physical outlet for your anxieties have been shown to reduce their power. A journal is also a great resource to bring to therapy sessions if you wish to share your entries with your therapist.
Anxiety can seem like it is taking over your world. When the feelings of worry become too much, you may wish to seek help. The therapists at New Milford Counseling Center know the strength it takes to start anxiety treatment, and are here to offer their expertise. Schedule an appointment today by calling 860-740-2228, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org more information.