Anxiety is one of the most common mental health related concerns with over 40 million adults in the United States being impacted yearly. Yet, anxiety can manifest in many different forms and have different accompanying symptoms. Understanding the form of anxiety you are experiencing will often lead to more effective anxiety treatment. Below are brief descriptions of the five most common forms of anxiety:
Generalized Anxiety (GAD) – The hallmark symptom of GAD is persistent and excessive worry. The worry tends to be about many different things: school, work, the future, relationships, health, finances, and many more. Unlike others who may worry about these concerns individually from time to time, individuals with GAD are constantly bombarded with anxious thoughts that lead to more worrying.
Social Anxiety – Is exactly what you would guess, an intense fear or presence of anxiety in social situations. Most people with social anxiety are afraid of being judged, rejected, outcasted, or negatively evaluated by others. This anxiety is often much more than being “shy." Individuals with social anxiety may become so distressed around others that they experience a variety of physical symptoms (rapid heart rate, nausea, shaking, sweating, stuttering, mind blank) that make it difficult to communicate.
Panic – If you have ever experienced a panic attack before you may have thought you were suffering from a heart attack. In fact, many people with panic disorder end up in emergency rooms and doctors offices due to the following overwhelming physical symptoms: Chest pain, heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, dizziness, chills to name a few. These panic attacks tend to come unexpectedly and can cause individuals to become intensely worried about having another attack.
Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) – Most people have a basic understanding of PTSD thanks to the improvements of mental health aid for veterans. However, individuals can develop PTSD from any traumatic event whether it was experienced directly or indirectly (learning of trauma experienced by a family member). Key symptoms that an individual is experiencing PTSD after a trauma include experiencing flashbacks or nightmares about the trauma, feeling emotionally numb, avoiding people, places or things that remind the person of the trauma.
Obsessive-Compulsive (OCD) – You may have heard someone joke “that’s my OCD” because they like things a particular way or want control over a situation. Although this I true for all of us at times, OCD is marked by having either obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions feel like a broken record of repeating thoughts, images, or urges. These repeated and unwanted internal experiences cause significant anxiety in the person and can interfere with all facets of life. Compulsions are external, behaviors where a person feels the urge to do something in response to an obsession. These compulsions may take the form of excessive handwashing, counting things, checking devises (stove, doors, locks, lights) repeatedly, arranging things in a particular order.
Now that you have a better understanding of how your anxiety symptoms fit into one of the five anxiety categories , let’s talk about anxiety treatment. The most often referenced treatment for anxiety (due to the abundance of research conducted) is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves exploring your pattern of thinking and learning how this impacts your behavior. An example of this with someone who struggles with social anxiety would be realizing in therapy that prior to most social situations they have automatic negative thoughts of the following variety: “I’m going to be awkward” “No one wants to talk with me anyway” “I’m not interesting enough to talk to”. These thoughts can then lead to a pattern of avoiding social interaction or hinder ones ability to communicate.
Through therapy, I help people have a healthier relationship with themselves by restoring balance in their thinking, emotions, and behaviors. Whether that is utilizing CBT, Interpersonal Process, Emotion-Focused, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction treatment. While I have specialty training in each of these treatment modalities, my therapeutic approach centers around learning the uniqueness of you. When I can listen and learn about the intricacies of your world, it becomes clear which treatment modality to pull from to best help you along your journey.
To learn more about your flavor of anxiety and which modality may best suite you, let’s connect through a free consultation.