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Counseling for Anxiety

Counseling for Anxiety

Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time—when speaking in public or when going through financial difficulty or a major change in your life. For some people, however, anxiety begins to take over their lives. How can you tell if your everyday anxiety has become something more serious? It’s not easy. Anxiety comes in many different forms—such as panic attacks, phobia, and social anxiety—and the distinction between a diagnosis and “normal” anxiety isn’t always clear.

The core symptom of panic disorder is the panic attack, an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress. During an attack several of these symptoms usually occur in combination:

  • Pounding heart or chest pain
  • Sweating, trembling, shaking
  • Shortness of breath, sensation of choking
  • Nausea or abdominal pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fear of losing control
  • Chills or hot flashes

Because symptoms can be so severe, many people with panic disorder believe they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illness.

A phobia is excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. These fears cause such distress that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear.

There are three types of phobias:

Specific phobia — An extreme or excessive fear of an object or situation that is generally not harmful. People know their fear is excessive, but they can’t overcome it. Examples are fear of flying or fear of spiders.

Social phobia (also called social anxiety disorder) — Significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed or looked down on in social or performance situations. Common examples are public speaking, meeting people, or using public restrooms.

Agoraphobia — Fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms. Untreated agoraphobia can become so serious that a person may refuse to leave the house.

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have ongoing, severe tension that interferes with daily functioning. They worry constantly and feel helpless to control these worries. Often their worries focus on job responsibilities, family health, or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments. They may have problems sleeping, muscle aches/tension, and feel shaky, weak and headachy. People with GAD can be irritable and often have problems concentrating and working effectively.

The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown, although research has provided several clues. Areas of the brain that control fear responses (amygdala and cortex) play a role in many anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders. The role of brain chemistry is also being investigated.

Most people respond well to two types of treatment: counseling and medication. Counseling can help you learn stress management techniques, meditation, and other relaxation skills. Counseling can also assist you in identifying thought patterns contributing to your anxiety and learn to replace these unhealthy thoughts with healthier, more realistic ones (CBT). Medication may be prescribed to treat anxiety symptoms and often, successful treatment is a combination of medication and counseling.

If you want to participate more fully in normal daily activities by getting your anxiety under better control, please contact me to schedule an appointment.