Am I Suffering From An Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders at a glance: Everyone experiences the occasional jitters. But, did you know that The National Alliance on Mental Illness identifies anxiety as the leading cause of mental illness in the United States? A “handful” of Americans—40 million to be exact—would likely agree.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?
Experiencing a case of nerves before a big exam or work presentation is a pretty common dilemma—and believe-it-or-not—it can actually be performance-enhancing. There’s an undeniable advantage to be had in being particularly alert.
But when sensations of dread become all-consuming—your heart is perpetually racing and your palms are sweating, you feel physically ill or immobilized, and you can’t function effectively at work, school, or in social situations—you may be demonstrating the classic signs of an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include:
- Unshakable, unfocused, or intrusive sensations of worry or dread
- Feeling edgy or restless, or as though your skin were “crawling” from nervousness
- Difficulty concentrating, reaching decisions, or switching your mind to “off” before bed
- Insomnia (you can’t sleep) or excessive fatigue (…but all you want to do is sleep!)
- Irritability – mild annoyances that would normally only grate on your nerves cause you to snap at loved ones, acquaintances, or even strangers (like that sweet girl in the checkout aisle, or that elderly man on the bus, or… or…)
- Physical sensations associated with panic: You have moments where your anxiety overwhelms you. You break into a sweat. Your heart rate soars. Your anxiety forces you to crawl into the fetal position, trembling. You feel lightheaded, on the verge of hyperventilating, or as though you’re having an anaphylactic attack and your throat is swelling shut.
- Medical complaints (belly aches, headaches, cardiac symptoms) without an identifiable cause, (many individuals with anxiety are “too” in tune with their bodies, and anxiety can amplify a mild physical sensation into a very real and unbearable discomfort)
- Muscular tension – stress hormone release causes the muscles to tighten in preparation for flight or fight
- The development of compulsive behaviors (counting, obsessively checking to make sure that doors are locked, washing and rewashing your hands), which can have an instantaneous, but short-lived, self-soothing effect
What types of Anxiety-related conditions could I have?
Anxiety has many permutations—from non-specific worry (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) to situational dread (Specific Phobias, Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety, etc.) to stress-related panic (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) or the development of destructive, uncontrollable coping mechanisms for anxiety (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Detailed below are 8 of the most common anxiety-related disorders to afflict adults and children:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: pervasive symptoms of anxiety (outlined above) that persist for longer than six months
- Panic Disorder: when your peak moments of anxiety mimic the symptoms of a heart attack (a racing pulse, lightheadedness, chest pain, muscular pain, tingling in the extremities, nausea, an impending sense of doom or dread, or panic that one is dying, etc.) & your panic “attacks” become frequent, recurring life-interruptions
- Agoraphobia: when an intense fear and avoidance of public places, such as shopping malls or crowds, compel you to confine yourself at home or go to extreme lengths to alter your activities (e.g. hiring someone else to buy your groceries for you) to avoid future encounters with the distressing situation (e.g. to forestall having a panic attack at the grocery store)
- Specific Phobias: when you develop panic-like symptoms in the presence of a particular trigger; your heart pounds and you become frantic to flee or wish to curl up into a ball and hide when you encounter a specific animal or insect (such as a dog, snake, or spider), thunderstorm, dirty object, towering ledge, the confined space of an airplane bathroom, etc.
- Social Anxiety: when every time you enter a room, you experience the spotlight effect: you feel as though all eyes are on you, watching you and secretly judging whether or not you belong. You experience apprehension and physical discomfort (your stomach aches, your heart races), and you vow to skip similar social situations in the future
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: obsessive, anxious thoughts cause you to develop compulsive, self-soothing behaviors. If you have a fear of germs, you may wash and rewash your hands excessively throughout the day; or you may allay another fear by developing a counting habit, in which you superstitiously count to 100 before initiating even the most mundane daily tasks
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: when a near-death experience or traumatic event (such as a physical or sexual assault) results in prolonged anxiety, reliving the past event on rewind/repeat in your head, and avoidance of places, people, etc. who conjure up unwanted memories of the stressful event
- Selective Mutism: most common in children; when your typically gregarious child loses the capacity to speak during stressful situations, such as while attending school
How Can Anxiety Therapy & Counseling Help My Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety Counseling at The Lifeologie Institute is both comprehensive and customizable. Our counselors are trained to help you identify and unravel the cause of your anxiety and equip you with the tools you need for self-relaxation. However, because we realize that anxiety can also occur at the endocrine (hormonal), neurotransmitter (brain), and adrenal levels, we collaborate with several area physicians who prescribe medication in appropriate cases.
Your course of treatment may involve:
- Psychotherapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which enables you to pinpoint how sources of unconstructive thinking are contributing to your anxiety & assists you in improving how you typically respond to stress (Stress Management)
- Relaxation techniques, including controlled breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery (in which your therapist conducts you through a series of peaceful images to help you unwind and pause your mind)
- Mindfulness & Meditation (to help you achieve awareness of the present and connect yourself with—and gain control over—your body)
- Psychotherapeutic yoga, which combines mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and relaxation techniques to assist you in conquering and subduing anxiety
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) – a very specific form of desensitization method for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which your therapist uses bilateral stimulation (eye movements, sounds) paired with guided imagery of the traumatic event to help the brain reprocess the distressing memory at the neurological level
- Medication: the use of anti-depressants (SSRIs or SNRIs), tranquilizers (benzodiazepines), beta-blockers, or Buspar, in combination with any of the therapies outlined above