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Overview of Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

It’s common for people to feel a little anxious from time to time. We rely on it to let us know when there’s danger nearby. It’s our body’s reaction to stressful situations. For example, you may be anxious before an interview or meeting someone new for the first time.

Anxiety disorders are more than just temporary worries or fears. If someone has an anxiety disorder, their anxiety doesn’t go away, and it can even get worse over time. This constant worry can make it hard to do daily things like go to work, perform well at school, or socialize with others.

There are different forms of anxiety: General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Phobia Disorders. Individuals may have more than one form of anxiety.

Types of Anxiety

General Anxiety Disorder

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is persistent and excessive anxiety over everyday events/routines. This includes finances, family, relationships, routines, work, and health. GAD may also co-occur with Depression, OCD, and PTSD.

General Anxiety Symptoms

  • Difficulty controlling worry (intensity or frequency)
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Avoidance or Procrastination of approaching situations or people that elicit anxiety
  • Overly high expectations for oneself or others (perfectionism)
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Physiological symptoms persist after medical conditions have been ruled out (headaches, digestive upset, fatigue, muscle tension, chest pain, breathing difficulty, weight changes)

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is when individuals are persistently fearful of being judged or watched by others in social situations. Their fear can be so intense that they may struggle with school, work, or daily tasks such as grocery shopping.

Social Anxiety Symptoms

  • Stomachaches
  • Sweating, trembling, or blushing
  • Stiff body posture
  • Feeling self-conscious and fearful that people will judge them
  • Being closed off in conversation
  • Fear about upcoming social situations
  • Pounding or racing heart

Phobia Disorders

Phobia disorders are intense fears of being exposed to specific objects or situations with a strong desire to avoid them. Some examples are Acrophobia (fear of heights), Aerophobia (fear of flying), and Trypanophobia (fear of injections).

Phobia Symptoms

  • Lack of ability to manage fear reactions
  • Feelings of anxiety, panic, or dread
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Intense or irrational phobia of specific triggers
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Avoidance tendencies

Diagnosis & Treatments for Anxiety

How is anxiety diagnosed?

Most people receive a diagnose of anxiety from a primary care or mental health provider through a series of questions and answer. If you have anxiety in the context of other health concerns or acute stressors, a psychologist can use formal, objective assessments to assess the existence of anxiety beyond the situation, including the severity and subtype of anxiety.

How is anxiety treated?

Psychologists can provide various therapy services such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Exposure Response Prevention, and Interpersonal Therapy. Your doctor will work with you to see which treatment is the best for you. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy focuses on helping individuals recognize unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. CBT involves techniques where unhelpful thought patterns are replaced with more balanced ones. This therapy has been well-studied and is often the gold standard by most professionals.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

This therapy focuses on promoting psychological flexibility and overall well-being. It acknowledges that suffering is a normal part of life and helps individuals accept difficult thoughts instead of trying to control or avoid them. ACT focuses on being mindful and goal-setting to match your values.

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)

This therapy helps individuals approach anxiety-provoking situations without avoidance. The goal is to help individuals gain confidence and skills necessary to confront their anxieties.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

This therapy focuses on improving relationships and social functioning to alleviate emotional distress and mental health issues. IPT explores communication patterns, role expectations, and conflict resolution skills. This is particularly helpful for individuals who might struggle with assertiveness.  Individual and group therapies are available.

Additional Help for Anxiety

In addition to professional help, individuals with anxiety may benefit from:

  • Regular, sufficient sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • Good nutrition
  • Regular social connection with others
  • Using compassionate self-talk
  • Setting realistic, attainable goals
  • Breathing exercises or meditation

To request an appointment with a provider, fill out this form.

Anxiety Resources

Anxiety Overview (NHS)

About Anxiety (Medline Plus)

Anxiety Disorders (Mayo Clinic)

Help for Anxiety (APA)

Additional Anxiety Treatments (NIMH)

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Why seek help from a psychologist rather than some other type of therapist?
  • Psychologists are among the most rigorously trained mental health professionals. Psychologists complete doctorate level coursework, several years of clinical rotations/practicums, a year long predoctoral internship, & a year long postdoctoral fellowship.
  • In addition to having the highest level of training, psychologists are licensed to complete psychological assessments (often with comparative normative data to help you understand and target a specific concern) to fully understand a concern. Psychologists often see this initial assessment as the key to designing an informed, individualized, and focused treatment plan.
  • Psychologists also receive extensive training in research in order to ensure only treatments that have been studied by researchers and shown to work, are used.
  • Psychologists often have medical / healthcare backgrounds and work closely with physicians and other medical providers when biological interventions are incorporated into treatment (e.g., medications).

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