Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the U.S. They affect about 40 million Americans. They happen to nearly 30% of adults at some point, although most often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Speaking to a therapist is crucial for getting help with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is a mental disorder that is characterized by excessive worrying, fear, and other symptoms. The symptoms of anxiety can be mild or severe, depending on the person experiencing them. Anxiety disorders are common among teens and adults. However, some people experience anxiety disorders as a result of a traumatic event.
Some anxiety disorders are also caused by a medical condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and heart palpitations. Anxiety makes it difficult to get through your day.
Treatments can include supplements, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy. You should always speak to a therapist first before trying anything to treat your anxiety. Some ways to manage anxiety disorders include learning about anxiety, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, correct breathing techniques, dietary adjustments, exercise, learning to be assertive, building self-esteem, cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, structured problem solving, medication and support groups.
It’s normal to have occasional anxiety. You may perhaps feel anxious or nervous to tackling a problem at work, going to an interview, taking a test, or in making an important decision. Some anxiety can even be beneficial. For example, anxiety helps us notice dangerous situations and focuses our attention, so that we stay safe.
An anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. Anxiety disorders can affect a person’s ability to work, study and participate in other activities. Anxiety interferes with your ability to function. You often overreact when something triggers your emotions. You can’t control your responses to situations. These can be distressing and debilitating, possibly contributing to the loss of educational or employment opportunities, and difficulties in family and social relationships.
Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens, but it may stem from women’s hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too — men have more, which may ease anxiety. A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a person’s risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:
- Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias
- Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition — feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
- Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
Education is an important way to promote control over symptoms. Anxiety disorders can often go undiagnosed and untreated. An anxiety disorder is like any other health problem that requires treatment. Some options for anxiety disorders include:
- learning about anxiety
- relaxation techniques
- correct breathing techniques
- cognitive therapy
- behaviour therapy
- counselling with a therapist
- dietary adjustments
- learning to be assertive
- building self-esteem
- structured problem solving
- support groups
You can take steps to control or reduce your symptom. Talk to a healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies. Some of these contain chemicals that may make anxiety symptoms worse. Stop or limit how much caffeine you consume, including coffee, tea, cola and chocolate. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Get counseling and support if you experienced a traumatic or disturbing event. Doing so can help prevent anxiety and other unpleasant feelings from disrupting your life.
The standard treatment for anxiety disorders involves psychological counseling and therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely-used therapy for anxiety disorders. Research has shown it to be effective in the treatment of panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, among many other conditions.
CBT for anxiety teaches you to recognize thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. You then work on changing them. Your provider may also use relaxation exercises and imagery with exposure therapy. Exposure therapy focuses on dealing with the fears behind the anxiety disorder. It helps you engage with activities or situations you may have been avoiding.
Therapy emphasises that our thoughts—not external events— affect the way we feel. In other words, it’s not the situation you’re in that determines how you feel, but your perception of the situation. Through this process, your symptoms improve as you build on your initial success.
You don’t need to live with constant worry and fear. For people with anxiety disorders, negative ways of thinking fuel the negative emotions of anxiety and fear. The goal of behavorial therapy for anxiety is to identify and correct these negative thoughts and beliefs, so that, if you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel.
If you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone. Because anxiety is so common, there are many tactics and tools to help you get your emotions under control. It’s important to remember that recovery is a journey, but with the right treatment, together we can help improve your quality of life, relationships and productivity. It will also support your overall well-being. Our counselors want to help you find the best way to manage and reduce your anxiety so you can get back to living well.