What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a sense of uneasiness, nervousness, or dread that may occur before certain events (such as public speaking or unfamiliar situations) or that may feel more general--often invading and coloring your whole life. A certain level of anxiety can be healthy, helping keep us alert and aware; however, if anxiety becomes so overwhelming and debilitating that it prevents you from engaging in and enjoying your life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Acute anxiety can feel terrible--people report feeling panicky, unable to breathe, and a general sense of foreboding. Chronic anxiety often feels as though you are always waiting for the next shoe to drop, never able to relax, and always on edge. Panic attacks are not uncommon for those suffering from anxiety.
There are several types of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Anxiety Disorders Due to a Medical Condition
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety can be acute, chronic, or both. Symptoms vary between people, but some symptoms of anxiety include:
- Generalized worry
- Inability to relax
- Insomnia (inability to sleep)
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- A sense of impending danger or doom
- Panic and panic attacks
- Somatic symptoms such as heart palpitations (increased heartbeat), sweating, gastrointestinal problems, trembling, and breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Trouble concentrating or shifting attention to things other than your present worry
- Perseveration -- thoughts running round and round as if on a hamster wheel
- Intense, persistent worry that feels excessive
- Avoiding things that trigger anxiety
Like all psychological conditions, anxiety disorders are complex and manifest in different ways. If you find yourself identifying with any of the symptoms above, teletherapy can be helpful.
Causes of Anxiety
There are many known contributors to anxiety, and oftentimes, it is a combination of factors responsible. Some known contributing factors are:
People who have experienced abuse, trauma, or witnessed traumatic events are at a higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Children who experience abuse have a higher incidence of anxiety disorders later in life. Adults who experience a traumatic event may also develop anxiety.
People who have high levels of stress often develop anxiety disorders as they are always “on” with no time to relax. This type of constant pressure on the physical, mental, and emotional system can result in feelings of panic, excessive worry, and an inability to quiet our minds. Over time, this type of stress-induced anxiety becomes debilitating.
Anxiety has been linked with certain underlying medical conditions. It is also the case that simply having a medical condition can lead to you feeling worried and anxious! Some medical conditions that are associated with an increased risk of anxiety are:
- Heart disease
- Thyroid issues
- Chronic pain
- Respiratory disorders such as COPD
- Withdrawal from certain medications such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants
- Drug misuse or withdrawal from alcohol
- As a side effect of certain medications
It is often difficult to isolate whether an anxiety disorder is a result of a medical condition; however, if you have never struggled with feelings of anxiety before you were diagnosed with a certain medical condition or placed on a certain medication, it is important to check with your medical doctor.
Certain personality types are prone to greater levels of anxiety. Many people who identify as “Type A” personalities report increased anxiety. There is some evidence that anxiety may run in families and have a genetic component as well.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drug and alcohol misuse can contribute to or cause anxiety. Withdrawal from both is also a risk factor.
The social world contributes to our mental health. When we are worried about pandemics, our economic security, discrimination and oppression, human rights, and the list goes on...we can easily begin to feel anxious and panicked! Our inner states are often a reflection of the outer world. When the world feels unjust and chaotic, we may experience feelings of heightened anxiety.
How Teletherapy Can Help You With Your Anxiety
In many cases, anxiety responds well to treatment. Depending on the underlying causes, there are multiple treatments that may work:
Talk therapy with a trained mental health professional has been shown to be highly effective for those experiencing anxiety. Psychotherapy allows you to work through traumatic events and other feelings you may be experiencing in a safe space with an unbiased therapist. Psychotherapy may help you develop better coping skills, reduce psychological distress, examine past events that may be contributing to your current patterns, change negative thought patterns impacting your well-being, and develop greater freedom for yourself through self-exploration.
There are different types of evidence-based psychotherapy and CHE psychologists utilize varying therapeutic orientations including:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Humanistic / Existential
- Eclectic / Integrative
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Teletherapy has been shown to be as effective as in-person psychotherapy for most mental health conditions. It is convenient and easy to simply log in and connect with your therapist.
At times, you may need to utilize medication to help alleviate acute anxiety or panic. This is not always the case; however, if you find you are experiencing acute anxiety, there are medications that may help in conjunction with psychotherapy.
Research indicates that lifestyle changes such as engaging in exercise, improving your nutrition, and mindfulness meditation may help in reducing anxiety. Typically, making lifestyle changes works best when combined with psychotherapy.