Therapy for Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience.  Anxiety helps us avoid danger and, in small doses, is a performance enhancer.  Unfortunately, if anxiety is experienced at high levels or if it is continuous (even at low levels), it can be an uncomfortable experience, damaging to your health, and can greatly interfere with living a full and rewarding life.

Symptoms of Anxiety: There are many different types of anxiety disorders, each with some unique symptoms in combination with their shared symptoms.

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety or worry for months.  Symptoms include: 

    • Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
    • Being easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension
    • Difficulty controlling the worry
    • Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

    Social Anxiety Disorder: Individuals with social anxiety disorder have a marked fear of social or performance situations in which they expect to feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others.  Symptoms include:

    • Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them
    • Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
    • Being very afraid that other people will judge them
    • Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
    • Staying away from places where there are other people
    • Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends
    • Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
    • Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around

    Panic Disorder: Individuals with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that often include physiological arousal.  Symptoms include:

    • Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear
    • Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack
    • Intense worries about when the next attack will happen
    • Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
    • Palpitations, accelerated heart rate, or accelerated heart rate
    • Sweating
    • Sensations of shortness of breathe
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Nausea or abdominal distress
    • Fear of losing control or going "crazy"
    • Fear of dying

    Treatments:

    Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy (aka: "talk therapy") can be helpful for individuals with anxiety disorders if it is directed at an the individual's specific anxieties and tailored to his/hers/their needs. 

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is a type of psychotherapy that teaches individuals different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful situations.  CBT for anxiety disorders has two main components: cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy.  Cognitive restructuring helps the individual learn how to identify, challenge, and neutralize unhelpful/maladaptive thoughts.  Exposure therapy helps the individual to confront the fears underlying their anxiety disorder by helping them engage in activities they have been avoiding. 

    Mindfulness: Research supports the use of mindfulness for the treatment of anxiety by altering stress hormones and inflammatory markers.  There are many types of mindfulness techniques that an individual can try including meditation, certain types of yoga, and mantras.

    Medications: Medications do not cure anxiety disorders but can often relieve symptoms.  Medications are especially helpful in conjunction with psychotherapy.