Anxiety is a natural human response to a threatening situation.
Our bodies prepare for danger by increasing blood flow and heart rate and producing adrenaline. This programmed “fight-fight-freeze” response is a normal reaction that allows us to sense danger and react in a way that keeps us safe.
For most of us this alarm reaction is short lived as we successfully deal with the danger.
For those with an anxiety disorder:
- Alarm: goes off, does not shut off and the experience is a constant state of anxiety.
- Alarm: goes off unnecessarily in real or imagined situations.
- Autonomy: the anxiety seems to have a life of its own.
- Appraisal: irrational even in the face of contradictory evidence.
- Cause: no one cause and brought about by a combination of factors such as hereditary, biology, family background, learning, recent stressors, self-talk and personal belief systems.
- Cure: no cure for anxiety disorders but there are effective treatments.
There are a many effective intervention techniques within the various therapeutic modalities: Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Relational, Hypnotherapy and Energy. See therapies page for a description of these therapies. There are several points to remember about treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral: is the primary evidence based modality with or without medication.
Alternatives Therapies: such as energy healing, hypnosis, herbal medicines, acupuncture have their place but are not stand alone in treating anxiety disorders.
Lifetime: various therapeutic strategies are helpful but as there is no cure effective treatment needs to be used for lifetime and this is where CBT comes in.
Signs of Anxiety Disorders
The following is not meant to be diagnostic. Contact your physician if you think you may have problems with anxiety. Remember that for your anxiety to be considered a disorder it must cause significant distress or impairment in your social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
- Sudden, without warning intense fear or anxiety
- Symptoms last about ten minutes
- Trembling or shaking
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
- Specific fears such as heights, blood, animals, getting into an airplane or enclosed spaces
- Experience either a panic attack or anxiety symptom in the presence of the feared object or situations
- Believe the fear is unreasonable or out of proportion
- Avoid the object or situation or endure with distress
Social Anxiety Disorder
- Fear social or performance situations and worry about being watched or evaluated negatively by others
- Fear continues after situation has passed
- Blushing, sweating and difficulty talking in the situation that causes fear
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Recurrent anxiety provoking thoughts that can’t be stopped such as contamination, doors unlocked or harming someone
- Compulsive rituals such as washing or checking
- Behavioral or mental rituals to neutralize obsessions
- Recognize that the obsessions and compulsions are unreasonable
- The anxiety is temporarily reduced by performing the ritual
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Exposed and responded with fear, helplessness or horror to an event that threatened injury or death to self or others
- Re-experience the event through dreams, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and mental or physical distress to internal or external cues that resemble the event
- Avoid thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places or people that arouse recollection of the event
- Some inability to recall important aspects of the event
- Loss of interest in significant activities
- Estrangement or detachment from others
- Persistent hyperarousal-sleep disturbance, irritability, angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance or exaggerated startle response
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Excessive feelings of anxiety, worry, tension nervousness or fear
- Tend to worry day after day
- The worry is difficult to control
- Experience three of more symptoms-restless or keyed or on edge, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension or sleep disturbance.