Janice is a hard working high schooler who does all her homework, completes projects on time, and gets extra help from the teacher. She just cannot seem to score well on tests.
Justin graduated near the top of his class at law school, but his practice is floundering because just the thought of networking puts him into a cold sweat.
Tonya is a married mother of two teenage boys. She has not had a good night’s rest in years because at bedtime her mind races with vivid images of her sons… in car accidents… overdosing on drugs… falling down stairs… moving away and never speaking to her again…
What do these 3 people have in common? Anxiety.
If you read that word and can immediately think of five things stressing you out, I’m hoping you’ll find some relief with this and future blog posts.
I plan to spend quite some time writing about the different types of anxiety, why we get anxious, various ways to treat it, and provide tips you can implement right away to start taking charge of your life again.
Let’s start with the good news. Those people who are sick of anxiety and make the decision to seek help often see reductions in their anxiety symptoms and an improvement in their quality of life!
The bad news is that of the 40 million Americans with a diagnosable anxiety disorder, only one-third reach out for help.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Excessive worry, more than is warranted by life events. The worry is not easily controlled and causes problems in some area of life.
- Panic Disorder – Panic attacks (e.g., shortness of breath, chest tightness, dizziness, feeling of losing control, etc.) occur out of the blue causing the individual to worry if or when the next attack will occur.
- Agoraphobia – Fear of being in public places or places where escape would be difficult.
- Social Anxiety – Fear of being judged by others resulting in the avoidance of certain social situations.
- Health Anxiety – Fear that bodily sensations could possibly be a terrible illness.
- Separation Anxiety – Primarily in children, fear of separation from caregivers.
- Specific Phobias – Strong fear reactions to specific situations (e.g., driving over bridges, spiders, needles, heights etc.).
As you can see, the unifying thing between the various anxiety disorders is worry that negatively impacts life. If you aren’t sure if you fit neatly into one of the categories above, that’s okay! As long as you are sick of the fear, done with missing out on important events, and ready to feel joy again, then help is available!
Why do we feel anxiety?
I always ask my patients whether anxiety is good or bad, and invariably they say, “it’s TERRIBLE!”
Then I usually ask them what would happen if they smelled smoke in their house. They would bound out of bed, collect the kids, and get out the front door lickity split!
I hope if any of us ever face that scary situation, we are able to react quickly and get everybody out safely. And when we do, we can thank our body’s response to anxiety.
That’s right, anxiety can be good!
When anxiety hits, our body goes into FIGHT – FLIGHT – FREEZE mode. The entire purpose is to prepare our bodies to survive a life threatening situation.
Either to fight off a dangerous attacker, to run away from the danger, or to stay still until the danger is gone.
Without this response, the human race would not have survived the many perils we have faced over the years.
Thank goodness for anxiety… sometimes.
The problem is that anxiety comes up when it’s really inconvenient for us today. Janice will not literally die if she fails the big test. Justin will survive not having a thriving practice. And Tonya’s children seem to be making it through their teenage years just fine.
For some reason, our mind can interpret non-life threatening situations in ways that spark our fight-flight-freeze response.
In the short term, that wouldn’t be a big deal since we would just make it through the situation and be done.
Anxiety symptoms become a disorder when they happen too often and negatively impact our ability to function in an ongoing basis. When it keeps coming up, we start to avoid the situations that raise our anxiety. As time goes on and we avoid more and more situations, our world shrinks and we miss out on important parts of life.
BUT THERE IS HOPE!
It does not need to stay that way! You can expand your world and not allow anxiety to keep the control that it has right now.
I specialize in helping people shake the burden of anxiety off their back, and move forward feeling more free to actually decide what to do each day.
Often times we begin with strategies to help reduce anxiety in the moment, such as relaxation (see my videos). We then work together to better understand how anxiety is limiting your life, how you would like things to be, and then we develop a personalized plan for how to get you there. I will go into more detail on other types of anxiety treatments later.