What is Anxiety?

From Tracy Fromm, Mental Health Counselor of Caring Communities

Everyone experiences anxiety in their lives, which can produce both a mental and physical reaction.  Anxiety in small amounts can give us greater focus and concentration or protect us from danger. However, anxiety in large amounts can literally make us sick and become debilitating.

Constant thoughts accompany anxiety, ruminating about details of our lives, which results in physiological effects ranging from increased heart rate, stomach problems, sleep problems, and extreme nervousness to name a few.

What level of chronic anxiety do you have?

There are three levels:

Generalized Anxiety:  This is a pervasive feeling of constant worry, excessive thoughts related to our jobs, finances, personal issues or even minor concerns.

Phobias: I addressed phobias in the last newsletter. This is an intense fear which is completely out of proportion to an actual threat. Examples include fear of flying, fear of cats, etc.

Panic Disorder: This type of anxiety can escalate very quickly.  Panic disorder can come upon us, “like a wave”, where we feel completely unsettled. We may experience several physical symptoms, dizziness, sweating, or a feeling of “fight or flight response.”

Anxiety drives people to avoid things that are “scary.” When we continue to encounter the same scenario, with each exposure, it gets “scarier.”  Our bodies are now conditioned to react with anxious feelings, creating a harmful cycle of avoidance and worsening anxiety.

What are the current treatments for anxiety?

Medication:  A good choice, this has almost immediate effects, depending on the medication chosen by your physician.  It is beneficial to pair the medication with talk therapy as well.

Relaxation Skills: Learning how to breathe deeply and in rhythm, watching each breath, assists the body to relax. This is very beneficial to someone who experiences anxiety. This form of treatment also has almost immediate effects.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:  This type of therapy is used to challenge unhealthy patterns of thinking which result in anxiety. Your mental health therapist can work with you in improving your emotional regulation and developing personal coping strategies.

Exposure Therapy:  This involves exposing the patient gradually to the anxiety source. With each exposure of anxiety-producing situations, the anxiety loses its power and is more manageable.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or if you suspect you are suffering with chronic anxiety, please consult your physician or a mental health professional. Help is within reach.

For more information, visit: www.nami.org/mental health or crisistextline.org   

You can also text 741741 to be connected to a crisis counselor.