Understanding Anxiety

For some individuals, just the thought of getting through the day produces intense levels of anxiety. No matter what they do, they cannot seem to stop the worry and often feel it is out of their control. They might anticipate disaster or be overly concerned about money, health, family, work or other issues.

Emotional Effects

The emotional effects of anxiety may include feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense or jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) of danger, and feeling like your mind has gone blank, as well as nightmares/bad dreams, obsessions about sensations, a “trapped in your mind” feeling, and feeling like everything is scary.

Cognitive Effects

The cognitive effects of anxiety may include thoughts about suspected dangers, such as fear of dying. For example, you may fear that the chest pains are a deadly heart attack or that the shooting pains in your head are the result of a tumor or aneurysm. You feel an intense fear when you think of dying, or you may think of it more often than normal, or can’t get it out of your mind.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Muscle Tension
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Edginess

How do I know if I have anxiety?

You might experience a persistent apprehension or dread that doesn’t go away (over the last six months), and it isn’t easy to control. These feelings interfere with how you live your life.

If this is true for you or somebody you know, seeking professional help is essential. A qualified mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis and develop a tailored treatment plan to support you in managing your anxiety. Some common anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): You often get caught up in excessive worry and anxiety about various aspects of your life. This worry can lead to symptoms like restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty sleeping. These worries may feel hard to control, impacting your daily life.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia): Social situations can trigger intense fear for you. As a result, you may avoid gatherings and interactions. This fear stems from concerns about being judged or scrutinized by others. Even though you desire connections, the anxiety from social interactions makes it challenging to engage comfortably.
  • Panic Disorder: If you have panic disorder, you encounter sudden, overwhelming panic attacks making you feel out of control. These attacks come with a rush of fear and physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, trembling, and a sense of impending doom. The unpredictability of these episodes can be distressing.
  • Agoraphobia: Certain places and situations evoke intense fear for you. You worry about being unable to escape or find help if panic-like symptoms arise. As a result, you may avoid crowded places, public transportation, or situations where you feel trapped.
  • Specific Phobias: Some specific things or situations provoke extreme and irrational fear in you. These fears might be related to objects like spiders, heights, or needles. Even though you recognize the fear as excessive, controlling your reactions is challenging.
  • Selective Mutism: You struggle to speak in particular social situations, despite being capable of speaking in other contexts. This extreme shyness or anxiety hinders your communication. It makes it difficult for you to communicate with others, especially in settings where you feel uncomfortable. 
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder: You might feel significant distress and fear when you are away from your attachment figures. An attachment figure is an individual you emotionally bond with and rely on for security, such as parents or caregivers, siblings, close family members, close friends, and partners/spouses. The fear of separation and worry about the well-being of these figures can result in anxiety, impacting your ability to engage in activities independently.
  • Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder: You can experience substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder when your anxiety symptoms might be related to the effects of substances, medications, or withdrawal from them. These external factors can contribute to your experience of anxiety, and addressing them is crucial for finding relief.

Who Is At Risk Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) in a given year. Interestingly, women are 60% more likely to be affected by anxiety. Sometimes anxiety can interfere with the individuals’ ability to engage socially and to function in their job, family, etc.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy One of the most effective treatments for anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations. For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their attacks are not really heart attacks, and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them.

Anxiety Is Treatable Anxiety is treatable and the help of a professional counselor can assist in helping to identify, understand and modify faulty thinking and behavior patterns. Relaxation techniques, meditation and other interventions can be extremely helpful in alleviating the symptoms that interfere with an individual’s ability to function on a healthy level.