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anxiety disorders, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder
     

Anxiety

Anxiety Treatment – Therapy Can Provide Anxiety Disorder Relief
Therapy is an effective treatment for an anxiety disorder, in whatever form it takes for you:  Anxiety Attacks (or Panic Attacks), Social Anxiety, Anxiety Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or a Phobia. 

Anxiety

How do you know if your anxiety symptom could benefit from treatment?
Anxiety becomes a problem when it reaches the point that it is interfering with how you live your life.  Does anxiety keep you from doing things you would like to do?  Does your anxiety scare you or paralyze you?  Does anxiety constantly nag at you so that you are never free from it?  Do you feel stress and anxiety without any apparent reason?  Do stress and anxiety overwhelm you, leading to depression, irritability or anger problems?  If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then treatment for your anxiety symptoms is appropriate. 

What is an Anxiety Attack (or Panic Attack)?
An anxiety or panic attack is an episode of intense, severe and temporarily debilitating fear or psychological distress, typically with an abrupt onset.  When a panic attack occurs, the body reacts with an evolutionary bodily response often known as the fight-or-flight response, which triggers a release of a large amount of adrenaline into the bloodstream.  Repeated and seemingly unprovoked panic attacks may be a sign of Panic Disorder, but panic attacks are associated with other anxiety disorders as well. For example, people who suffer from phobias may experience panic attacks upon exposure to certain triggers.

Someone who has panic attacks may experience one or more of the following common anxiety symptoms:

  • Breathlessness or hyperventilation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling on edge
  • “Racing” heart
  • Muscle tension or soreness
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Stomachache, “butterflies” in the stomach or other stomach symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • “Pins and needles” sensation in limbs
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain, feeling like you are having a heart attack, or chest tightness
  • Feelings of fear or panic
  • Thinking you are going crazy or are about to die
  • Sensations of choking or smothering

People with a panic disorder often can be successfully treated with therapy and/or anti-anxiety medication.

Anxiety
What is Social Anxiety?
The main symptom of social anxiety, or social phobia, is an extreme, constant fear of one or more social or public situations. The fear is strong enough to impair day-to-day functioning. Social anxiety affects people in different ways. Some people may only be afraid of specific types of situations, such as eating and drinking in front of others.  Other people may experience anxiety symptoms any time he or she is around other people. Symptoms can become so severe that one avoids going to work or school or has difficulty making or keeping friends. Other symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include:
  • Intense self-consciousness in social settings
  • Exaggerated worry about being evaluated by others
  • Physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling, fast heartbeat, and nausea
  • Unreasonable fear of embarrassment or humiliation
  • Anxiety or panic attacks

An early diagnosis of social anxiety may help in minimizing the symptoms and the development of additional problems such as depression. Some sufferers may use alcohol or other drugs to reduce fears and inhibitions at social events.  A person with the disorder may be treated with therapy, anxiety medication, or both.

What is Anxiety Depression?
Anxiety Depression is an informal term referring to the condition when one has symptoms of both an anxiety disorder and of clinical depression.  Depending on the person, anxiety or depression may be the dominant issue.  Fortunately, with both medicine and therapy, the treatment for one often overlaps with treatment for the other.  For more information on depression, please visit the depression page.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
If you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, you may always be anticipating disaster, worrying excessively about your health, finances, work, family, or friends.  The cause of your worry may hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety.  You may even realize the anxiety the feel is greater than the situation warrants, but knowing this doesn’t help relieve the anxiety.  Your worries may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as those listed under anxiety attacks above, or other physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping or staying asleep.  GAD may lead to overeating, alcohol and drug use as a means of coping.

Most people with GAD suffer only limited impairment and do not feel overly restricted in social settings or on the job. However, if severe, GAD can be very debilitating, making it difficult to carry out even the most ordinary daily activities.

Generalized anxiety disorder develops gradually.  It can start in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. It's diagnosed when someone spends at least 6 months worried excessively about a number of everyday problems.  Therapy and/or medication may be used to treat GAD.

Anxiety
What is a Phobia?
A phobia is an irrational, persistent fear of certain objects, situations, persons, or activities. The main symptom of a phobia is the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject.  Often a particular phobia can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Most individuals understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but are powerless to override their initial panic reaction. Phobias vary in their severity.  Some individuals can easily avoid the object of their fear and experience only relatively mild anxiety when confronted with it. Others may have full-blown panic attacks. Phobias can be successfully treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Coping with Anxiety
Depending on the degree of anxiety you feel, different remedies may be appropriate.  If you feel anxiety is having a real negative impact on your life, the most effective treatments are therapy and medication.  For lesser levels of anxiety, you might try a few of the following easy-to-use methods of coping with anxiety:

  • Find ways to relax. Some specific relaxation exercises include progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, yoga, or deep breathing.  In therapy you can learn more about these relaxation techniques and others. You might also try soaking in a hot bathtub while playing soothing music, or getting out in a natural environment you find soothing, such as taking a walk on the beach. 
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise provides a release for tension and can give you an overall sense of well-being.
  • Get plenty of sleep.  If you feel well-rested, you will feel more able to cope with any problems. Also, a lack of sleep can contribute to not thinking clearly.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug abuse. While the initial effect of alcohol or drugs may seem to relax you, in the long run they make anxiety worse and cause more problems.
  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which may increase your sense of anxiety. For the same reason, avoid over-the-counter diet pills, and cough and cold medicines that contain a decongestant.
  • Set aside a certain period for worrying. Pick a particular place and time for you to do your worrying.  It should be the same place and time every day.  Usually 30 minutes thinking about your worries and what to do about them is sufficient.  Avoid thinking about what “might” happen – focus on what is really happening.  At the end of your session, visualize locking your worry away in a thick metal safe, then get up and go on with your day.

     

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Susannah Muller, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #49050
San Diego Counseling & Therapy
5665 Oberlin Dr., Suite 201, San Diego, CA 92121
(619) 787-2743

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