Anxiety Disorder  |  Anxiety Attacks  |  Anxiety Symptoms

What is anxiety and what can I expect in treatment for my anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a body’s natural response to stress. Like many mental health disorders, anxiety can be looked at through a spectrum. Anxiety can range from general life stressors concerning upcoming events such as taking a test or having a performance review at work to having existential anxiety or paranoia and everything in between. Each individual is unique and can have differing anxiety triggers, experiences, and responses to stressful stimuli. In addition, each individual has differing levels of support in their lives to help him or her through these stressors. Anxiety is a natural human response that is often meant to keep us safe. For instance, anxiety tells us to look both ways before crossing the street, anxiety tells us to turn assignments in on time, anxiety can allow us to run away from danger. However, anxiety can also sneak into our lives in very destructive ways; interfering with our work ethic, relationships with others, and even how we view ourselves.

Anxiety Disorder, Anxiety Attack, Anxiety Symptons

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses and affects around 18.1% of adults age 18 and older in the United States population every year. It has also been found that anxiety is one of the most treatable mental illnesses; however, only 36.9% seek and receive treatment. It has also been shown that 31.9% of adolescents in the United States between the age of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). (It is likely that these percentages and findings increased due to the COVID19 pandemic).

Risk Factors

Some individuals may have a predisposition to developing an anxiety disorder. Some of those risk factors are listed below. These are all important for you to communicate to a therapist if they apply to you, should you be inclined to seek support if you:

  • Were exposed to a traumatic event
  • Have a have a chronic illness
  • Have significant stress build-up
  • Are diagnosed with other mental health conditions
  • Lack a strong support system
  • Have a family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways for different people; however, the most common symptoms of anxiety are as follows:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Feelings of panic or doom
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Difficulty controlling thoughts
  • Avoidance of certain thoughts, places, or stimuli
  • Difficulty concentrating

When to Seek Treatment

As mentioned previously, anxiety is a common and normal emotion to experience. However, it might be helpful to seek assistance from a licensed therapist and/or a doctor if you begin to feel as though your anxiety has interfered with your work, relationships, or interpersonal functioning, your fear or anxiety is upsetting and difficult to control or if you have developed suicidal or homicidal thoughts or behaviors. Some people decide to seek treatment for anxiety following a “breaking point” or that feeling of “rock bottom” however, being proactive about seeking help for your anxiety can be extremely beneficial. Learning to manage lower levels of anxiety can help you to more effectively process and self-regulate when you are under significant levels of stress or anxiety in the future.

Regardless of your starting point, allowing yourself to open up to someone puts you in an incredibly vulnerable spot; however, it can be cathartic. Many people have shared that their anxiety levels are impacted by simply communicating about their anxiety, connecting with another individual, and having someone actively listen and try to understand it.

Treatment for Anxiety

Seeking treatment and attending that first appointment can seem daunting. However, we are here to welcome you with open arms. The first thing that you can expect is that your therapist will want to get a clear picture of what experiences you are having with your anxiety and how it is impacting your life and your overall wellbeing. Your therapist will start by helping to normalize and validate your feelings of anxiety. It is also common for therapists to provide you with information regarding anxiety and your specific anxiety disorder (this is often called psychoeducation). Through exploration, you and your therapist will collaborate and explore to find triggers of your anxiety and you will be assisted in identifying and implementing coping strategies to ease your anxiety responses.

The most common treatment for anxiety disorders includes psychotherapy. One of the most effective psychotherapies that you can receive for anxiety is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT assists individuals in identifying and changing negative or destructive thought patterns that impact mood and behaviors. Learning how to interrupt these anxious cycles can help you to regain confidence and control over your anxiety. During therapy, you and your therapist might explore whether or not medication could be a good therapeutic option moving forward. It would also be important to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist about your options.

What can I do to support my anxiety before my first session?

Before your first therapy session, it is often helpful to begin tracking your anxiety. It is helpful for your therapist to know a timeline of your symptoms. Some questions that might be helpful to consider in tracking your anxiety include:

  • How frequently do you feel anxious?
  • How frequently is your sleep disrupted due to anxiety?
  • Have you recently gained or lost weight due to changes in eating patterns?
  • Is there a time of day where your anxiety is heightened?
  • Are there known triggers to this anxiety?

What are things that have helped you to cope or stay calm through moments of anxiety?

Consider things that have helped you in the past to calm down from anxiety (common calming activities include reading a good book, meditation, journaling, taking deep breaths, knitting, exercising, or taking a bath).

For more information call Matone Counseling & Testing at 704-503-8196, or register for an online consultation.

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