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What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the feeling we get when we feel worried, concerned, overwhelmed, or even afraid something bad might happen. While everyone experiences situational anxiety (i.e. we made a mistake at work, worry someone we love is upset with us, or obsess about a passing score on an exam), people who suffer from an anxiety disorder tend to experience a high level of stress, irritability, and discomfort on a daily basis. It is important to seek anxiety treatment from a mental health professional who can teach you tools and techniques to help you manage your anxiety and depression better over time.
It’s important to remember two things about anxiety:
- Anxiety is common- so much so, that one in four people suffer from an anxiety disorder. Some typical risk factors for generalized anxiety disorder include increased stress level, family history, and past emotional and physical trauma.
- Anxiety is both normal and necessary for survival. When we feel anxious or afraid, a part of our brain called the amygdala (or alarm system) gets triggered. Our body then reacts through its fight-flight-freeze response. For example, when we are walking in the woods and we think we see a snake, we might react by fighting (yelling and screaming), fleeing (running away), or freezing (standing still and hoping the snake does not see us). But, after a few minutes we realize it’s really just a stick and that we are safe.
Without anxiety, we are not able to anticipate danger and as a result protect ourselves in times of need. The tricky part is that the amygdala in people who suffer from anxiety is malfunctioning, meaning it triggers the fight-flight-freeze response when they are NOT actually in danger. Because of this, it is often difficult for people with anxiety to distinguish between a real threat and an anxious fear.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety tends to show up as physical symptoms, cognitive thoughts, and/or behaviors. Some common physical symptoms include chest palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweaty palms, and stomach pain or nausea. These physical symptoms can often occur simultaneously with anxious thoughts that bring the person a great amount of fear and discomfort. As a result, people often engage in behaviors such as rituals to help decrease and avoid the anxiety. It is also not uncommon for people suffering from anxiety to start to feel irritable or depressed and to demonstrate a change in mood.
While anxiety can feel overwhelming and debilitating at times, therapy can help people become more aware of their experience and teach them techniques to manage their anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely studied treatment models for anxiety and is used frequently as a part of New York Psychotherapy. It works by teaching people how to change the way they feel by altering their thoughts. Another effective anxiety treatment is mindfulness and breathing techniques to soothe the body’s physiological response to stress. While CBT and mindfulness are examples of treatment methods used at Holding Hope, we will also work together to explore the underlying fears and concerns at the root of your anxiety so you can get closer to living the life you deserve!