Win over Anxiety

What do these situations all have in common?

1.  A man is in a meeting at work and suddenly experiences a feeling of terror that something bad is going to happen, along with a fear of losing control and doing something embarrassing in the meeting.  He starts experiencing nausea, tingling in his hands, and chills.  He has always had good rapport with his colleagues and is highly respected, so these feelings make no sense to him.

2.  A woman is a single mom of two young children.  At the end of a long day at work, she picks her kids up from the babysitter, gets them home to dinner, a little play time, a bath and then bed.  When she goes to bed, she quickly falls into an exhausted sleep, but about an hour later, suddenly awakens with symptoms of a heart attack. She calls the paramedics, but by the time they get there, the symptoms have already begun to subside.

3.  A teenager, whose father is very sick, begins to avoid every third step on any stairs she encounters.  She also becomes afraid of stepping on any line in the floor in the hallways of her school, and so has difficulty getting to class on time.  She knows it isn't logical that her actions will help her father get well, but she feels compelled to do these things.

4.  A woman thinks something bad will happen to her children if she is not with them at all times, and so she will not allow them to walk to school with friends or ride the school bus. She insists on taking them to and from school.  They are allowed to have friends come over to play but are not permitted to go play at a friend's home.   

5.  A college student is taking a class for the second time, having dropped out of the class once due to feeling very uncomfortable with other people.  She struggles academically but won't ask a question in class, nor will she attempt to talk to the teacher outside of class because she thinks she will be seen as inadequate or stupid. She avoids speaking to any of the other students, or even making eye contact, because she is sure they will find her unattractive and lacking.

6.  A veteran no longer in the military but who served in Iraq finds it difficult to have dinner with his wife in their previously favorite restaurant. He is always on high alert, searching for anyone in the crowd who could attack, and making sure they sit in a place that can more easily provide an escape route.  He knows he is not back in Iraq, and that what he is feeling isn't logical, but he can't stop being on high alert.

The common denominator between all of these situations is anxiety.  Having Panic Attacks, Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are all anxiety disorders, even though the anxiety may manifest differently with each one.

Panic Attacks
People who experience panic attacks have sudden feelings of intense fear, usually without warning, which may last a few minutes up to a few hours. Sometimes, but not always, people start to fear having another attack, and so they begin to avoid going to the places where they had a panic attack.  An extreme version of this is Agoraphobia, in which the person starts avoiding so many places that their life becomes more and more restricted, possibly even to the point that they no longer leave their home.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : People who suffer from OCD have repeated, intrusive and obsessive thoughts or
images that are disturbing to them. These thoughts are not just general worries that are common to a lot of people, but are sometimes very irrational kinds of thinking.  They know the thoughts are irrational, but they can't stop thinking about them. Then they feel compelled to engage in behavioral rituals that function to relieve the anxiety. Some kinds of compulsive behaviors might include things like, excessive hand washing; repeatedly checking things, such as doors or the stove; counting things; repeating words and phrases over and over. The behavior may relieve the anxiety temporarily, but it eventually repeats again and again.

Phobias: These are extreme and irrational fears of things that may or may not be dangerous, and they certainly can cause a person to limit their life in order to avoid the feared object or situation.  There are many kinds of phobias but some of the most common ones are the fear of germs, fear of blood or anything connected with medical concerns, fear of flying, fear of heights or doing such things as crossing a bridge, and fear of public speaking. The person may not be an anxious person in general, but this one particular area causes much concern and worry.

Social Anxiety : This is an intense fear of being watched or judged by others, or of engaging in behavior in public that could lead to feeling embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected.  Of course, there are huge negative ramifications in someone's life who suffers from Social Anxiety, and there is usually a lot of shame involved.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: People who experience GAD regularly experience an exaggerated worry about ordinary life events and activities, and the worry is not proportionate to the actual problem or event.  They ask, "What if...?" a lot, and they find it difficult to control the worry.  They also have difficulty relaxing and being in the moment, and in fact, attempting to relax can sometimes make them more anxious.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: People who experience PTSD have been exposed to a life threatening or potentially injurious situation themselves, or they have observed it happening to someone else. Please see the page on "Healing from Trauma" for more details about PTSD.

If you are experiencing any of these patterns of anxiety, it is important that you see your Primary Care Physician to rule out any possible medical problem that could be occurring, such as Hypoglycemia, Hyperthyroidism, or Mitral Valve Prolapse (which can cause symptoms like a Panic Attack).  Your doctor should be able to tell you if there is anything else going on in your body that could be impacting the way you feel.  A  mild anti-anxiety medication may be helpful if nothing else works in calming down the anxiety.

If there is nothing going on medically that is causing the anxiety symptoms, and you would rather not take medication at this point, then you would benefit from doing some counseling.  The exciting part is that anxiety is very treatable, and there are many tools you can learn that can help you feel much calmer and more at peace.

If you would like to set up an appointment, please call me at 480-603-5360 or  use the form below to contact me. I would love to help you win over anxiety!

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