Do you worry that something bad is going to happen but you don’t know what? Do you get uncomfortable in social situations? Do you feel like life is happening TO you rather than feeling in control of it? Do you find yourself lying awake at night worried or agitated? If you often feel fear, uneasiness and have problems sleeping, you may have an anxiety disorder.
You may have anxiety as a result of a traumatic event like a bad car accident or sexual assault, however, many people feel like they’ve had anxiety their entire lives. The severity of anxiety is different for everyone and you don’t have to experience regular panic attacks to have an anxiety disorder.
Individuals who were raised with a great deal of instability or had unreliable and inconsistent caregivers tend to become anxious adults. Anxiety can also come from experiencing abuse as a child. If you lived many or most days in wait for the next episode of abuse, you may be left feeling a lack of safety and chronic worry. It’s important for childhood development to have stability, boundaries and caregivers that we can rely on to take care of us. Without these things, a child does not feel safe or secure in the world nor are they able to develop an appropriate level of self-confidence.
Anxiety can occur even if you haven’t experienced any neglect or abuse in your childhood. Many people are confused about why they feel anxiety because it “doesn’t make sense,” but anxiety is not rational. If you don’t know why you struggle with anxiety, we can work to identify the root cause.
Anxiety can often be an isolating experience leaving you embarrassed and causing you to avoid activities you would otherwise enjoy. Individuals with anxiety disorders tend to have a need to be in control and feel uncomfortable when they can’t predict or control a situation. These situations are difficult to avoid and its impossible to control every aspect of our lives.
Anxiety can also cause irrational thoughts or beliefs. Intellectually, you may be aware that they are irrational but the thoughts still FEEL real. Your significant other or family may not understand your anxiety or feel helpless and lost in their attempts to comfort you. This can result in frustration which causes distance in relationships. No one likes to feel like they can’t help their loved one.
Although you may feel like your anxiety hits you all at once, it’s actually a reaction developed over time in the brain. The brain learns what to be afraid of as a way of self-preservation. The brain’s ultimate goal is to keep us alive to the extent that it will shut down other organs to survive. If you experience repeated events where you are afraid of a certain event, feeling or person, this triggers anxiety or fear. Then, the neurons in your brain fire together. Over time, “what fires together, wires together.” For example, “when I’m alone with my mom, I feel unsafe because she is an alcoholic and acts erratically when she’s drunk.” This can translate to “when I’m alone, I’m unsafe.” The brain has learned to link being alone with being unsafe.
You learn by repetition, regardless of the subject matter. When you learn to type, tie your shoes or ride a bike, your brain develops connections and pathways which eventually make these tasks automatic. Remembering your father brings back memories that are all connected through these pathways created in the brain.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety has been linked to muscle tension, indigestion, fibromyalgia and many other physical conditions. Anxiety or panic attacks can include rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, inability to stay still or calm, sweaty palms, insomnia, loss of appetite, tightness in your chest. It can also cause a “fight or flight response” which is a physiological reaction when your brain wants to protect you from danger. It prompts you to run away from the situation or to defend yourself, regardless of how rational that reaction is.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to deal with daily anxiety that negatively impacts their lives and relationships. They may worry a lot about insignificant things or have a bigger reaction to a situation than is appropriate. The severity differs with each person.
Panic Disorder involves the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder but also includes panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without reason or warning. It is far more intense than the feeling of being “stressed out” that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include: racing heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, trembling, sweating, chest pains and an overall fear that something terrible is about to happen. Some report this can feel like a heart attack.
Social anxiety or Social Phobia is characterized by discomfort or a fear when a person is in a social interaction that involves a concern of being judged or evaluated by others. People with this disorder will usually avoid crowded places such as shopping centers, movie theaters and restaurants. They will avoid situations where there is an expectation to talk to new people or will go when they know there won’t be many people.
Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. A phobia is characterized by an intense and unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation. This means having an extreme anxiety response towards something that is not causing immediate danger. Someone may have a phobia of needles, snakes or planes, for example.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a commonly misunderstood illness. PTSD happens after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks of the event, nightmares about the event or a similar experience, frequent anxiety that wasn’t there before and intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts about the event. A common misconception is that PTSD only effects those in the armed forces.. Actually, many people who experience something traumatic, shocking or overwhelming have difficulty coping and adjusting. Other examples of traumatic experiences could be rape, date-rape, molestation (even if it was 20+ years ago), carjacking, loss of a close relative, loss of a child, abusive relationships, witnessing a car wreck or something similar.
Symptoms can last a few months or many years. Some people see their PTSD symptoms decrease over a short period of time where others experience consistent symptoms or “flare ups” after a stressful event. Individuals who have a complex PTSD have multiple traumas over the course of their life such as sexual abuse as a child coupled with multiple abusive and unhealthy relationships.
With anxiety disorders, knowledge and understanding are key. The more you understand about your anxiety and where it originated, the more in control you feel. If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, we will help you to understand it, identify triggers that cause anxiety and help you learn effective and specific interventions to cope with it as it happens.
Becoming more aware of your anxiety, labeling it, learning where it came from and what purpose it serves can help you. Additionally, as you implement skills taught and begin experiencing success in managing your anxiety, you should see your symptoms start to dissipate. Our goal is to reduce your anxiety to a level where you can cope with it instead of it controlling you.
1. DO I HAVE TO TAKE MEDICATION?
Medication for anxiety is considered and recommended on a case by case basis. Medication is not for everyone but it can help those who need some immediate relief while we work on a long term solution. Medication for anxiety can change brain chemistry but it’s only a temporary solution because they cannot change the connections or pathways in your brain. You will need to continue the medication to get the same effect, while with therapy we can change brain chemistry and pathways. If you aren’t comfortable taking medication, therapy can still be incredibly effective.
2. I’M AFRAID MY THERAPIST WILL THINK I’M CRAZY IF I TALK ABOUT MY THOUGHTS…
All of our therapists have been hand chosen by the clinical director who believes in a very open minded, laid back atmosphere. In the therapy room, we are not here to judge you, we are here to help figure out where you learned to think this way and help you change. Our greatest reward is hearing a client say “I can’t tell you the last time I had a panic attack.” And seeing how much they change over time. Your anonymity and privacy are a big concern for us.
3. MY ANXIETY HAS CONTROLLED SO MUCH OF MY LIFE, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN HELP?
We have spent many years learning about mental disorders and continue to seek training in the most innovative and successful ways to treat anxiety disorders. We have years of experience treating anxiety successfully and understand the biology behind anxiety. We have specific skills and techniques we can teach you to reduce anxiety.
Please contact us by phone or email to schedule an appointment for anxiety treatment. You can also fill out the contact form below and someone will get back with you ASAP. We strive to return calls and emails within a two hour time frame most days.