Anxiety and worry are two emotions that people experience regularly. They can be overwhelming and difficult to control, causing many maladaptive responses. Therefore, it is essential to understand the difference between the two. Worry is a common occurrence that everyone engages in from time to time. It is a natural response to a situation that causes concern or uncertainty. Worry tends to be focused on a specific event or situation, and can often be alleviated by finding a solution or taking action. On the other hand, anxiety is a more intense and persistent feeling accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and increased heart rate. Anxiety tends to be broader and more generalized than worry and can be triggered by a variety of internal and external factors. We will briefly explore the various anxiety disorders and common therapeutic techniques that can be utilized to manage anxiety symptoms.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is a widespread anxiety disorder that affects a large portion of the population. You may have GAD if you experience feelings of anxiety about everyday activities, rather than one specific event. Anxious feelings may stem from work, family, finances, social issues, or a combination of these. Common physical side effects can include headaches, fatigue, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping, sustained hyperarousal of your nervous system, and muscle tension.
Panic Disorder: Panic disorder frequently manifests as sudden and unexpected panic attacks, sometimes with no obvious causation. These intense periods of severe fear and uneasiness can last several minutes and cause debilitating symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, increased heart rate, chest pains, nausea, and tunnel vision. Panic disorder symptoms are exacerbated by an intense fear of when the next unexpected attack will happen which can trap you in a fear cycle that habituates constantly. This cycle may further develop into agoraphobia which is a debilitating phobia that often prevents individuals from leaving their homes.
Social Anxiety Disorder: Can also be referred to as social phobia and is characterized by extreme fear concerning social situations. This fear may stem from past experiences of embarrassment, judgment, or conflict. If you suffer from this disorder, you likely avoid social events, public speaking, and group activities.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors or compulsions. People often feel that they have no control over their thoughts and are powerless to control the irrational behaviors that stem from these thoughts. Common obsessions are handwashing, persistent counting, or completing tasks in a specific order with a certain amount of repetition. However, there is a vast array of obsessions and compulsions that affect each person differently.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD usually develops after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This could include an accident causing severe bodily or psychological injury, a physical attack, sexual abuse, a natural disaster, or the sudden loss of a loved one. People with PTSD suffer from recurrent thoughts or dreams about the event and they may avoid situations or people that remind them of their trauma.
Specific Phobias: Phobias are excessive, and often irrational fears, of specific things or situations. Some common forms of phobias pertain to heights, small spaces, crowds, spiders, and snakes. However, phobias affect each person differently.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is the most common approach utilized in the therapeutic environment to counteract the negative effects of anxiety disorders. This modality focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns contributing to anxiety. Your therapist will likely help you pinpoint the triggers that activate your anxiety which may include specific situations, stressful environments, or negative thoughts and emotions associated with a person or experience. You can then work together to develop strategies and coping mechanisms for managing your triggers such as relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and positive affirmations.
Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy begins by exposing you to your fears or phobias in small, systematic increments to desensitize your psyche. Guided by your therapist, you will slowly build tolerance toward your anxiety and learn to manage the intensity of your symptoms.
Mindfulness-Based Therapy: Becoming mindful of your thoughts and emotions is an important step towards coping with your chronic anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness involves learning to focus on the present moment and accepting your thoughts and emotions without judgment. This is a particularly powerful technique for individuals who ruminate on negative thoughts or experience overwhelming fears associated with the future. Another common strategy utilized in mindfulness is referred to as “grounding.” This involves stimulating one of your five senses or finding tangible things in your immediate environment. This may look like splashing cold water on your face, taking a walk, or picking out five blue things that you can see at the current moment.
Worry is common and mostly manageable, but anxiety can be debilitating. Whether you have a specific anxiety disorder or still need help deciding, it is wise to seek professional help. New Vision Counseling and Consulting specializes in mental health counseling and can help you connect with a therapist that has your specific needs in mind. We are blessed to have a team of therapists who are highly trained and skilled in a broad range of therapeutic techniques and strategies. Seeking help can be intimidating, but we are here to help guide you through the process. We provide a non-judgmental environment that comforts our clients when they need it most. We want you to feel safe and empowered as you tackle your mental health obstacles so that you can live a life free from the confines of anxiety and other debilitating issues. If you are ready to make changes that transform then we are here for you. The next step is to contact us at (405) 921-7776