WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is a normal and common human reaction to stressful situations. It is characterized by nervousness, apprehension, self-doubt, and can cause physical bodily responses like increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Anxiety disorders occur when an anxious reaction is out of proportion with the stressful situation that caused the reaction. An anxiety disorder will cause a person to feel anxiety on a much larger scale or for a larger period of time that what one would expect for the situation – so much so that the anxiety will interfere with daily life. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive psychiatric disorders in the United States. There are many types of anxiety disorders. Some types of anxiety disorders are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – The most common anxiety disorder. GAD is a chronic disorder involving long lasting, excessive anxiety about nonspecific life events, objects, or situations. People with GAD may not be able to identify the cause of their anxiety.
- Phobia – An irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation.
- Panic Disorder – Panic attacks are brief and sudden attacks of intense terror. Panic attacks usually peak at about 10 minutes but can last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after periods of prolonged stress or frightening experiences.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Anxiety that results from a previous trauma. PTSD often leads to lasting and severe memories or flashbacks of the trauma.
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
Anxiety is a bodily response to anticipate danger. It is important for survival and allows people to protect themselves or avoid harm, much like the “fight or flight” response.
Anxious behavior can be both inherited and learned. For example, research shows that children can both inherit anxious behavior from their parents and learn anxious behavior that their parents model.
Beyond the normal occasional anxious behavior, research proves that anxiety disorders run in families. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and exposure to stressful life events.
TREATMENT OF ANXIETY
There are many effective treatments for anxiety and anxiety disorders:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts affect the way we feel. CBT sessions include the practice of Cognitive Restructuring, commonly known as Thought Challenging. This is a process where the counselor helps a client challenge negative thinking patterns that contribute to their anxiety and replacing those thinking patterns with more positive thoughts.
- Exposure Therapy – A key component to anxiety is that it causes people to avoid the situations that cause them anxiety. Exposure therapy aims to expose those with anxiety to the situations or objects that cause them anxiety. Over time, they will feel like they have more control over the situation and their anxiety will diminish.
- Relaxation Techniques such as Mindfulness
WHY SEEK HELP?
If you are suffering from anxiety, know that there is no quick fix for your condition. However, anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Many people with anxiety report that after seeking help from a qualified counselor, they see improvements with in the first few sessions.