Anxiety can be defined in many ways. Anxiety is a state of uneasiness and apprehension, about future uncertainties and also a fear resulting from the anticipation of a real or imagined event, situation, or circumstance one may thing is threatening (anxietycentre.com). Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States affecting 40 million adults ages 18 or older (Facts & Statistics). Anxiety disorder is seen in 18.1% of the population (Facts & Statistics). Anxiety is not just seen in adults but also seen in children as it affects 25.1% of children between the ages 13 and 18 (Facts & Statistics). Anxiety should not be perceived as something bad or unwanted. Anxiety may be seen before taking a test, before making an important decision, or when face with a problem.
To have an “anxiety disorder” the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time and the symptoms can interfere with your everyday life such as school, relationships and performance. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders that include generalized anxiety, panic disorder and phobia related disorders. It is important to remember that everyone experiences anxiety from time to time and that is completely normal. All of us as human beings are anxious from time to time and everyone experiences something to worry about. Anxiety is not a medical, biological, chemical or genetic problem. Anxiety turns into a disorder when it becomes a disruption to normal everyday functioning and interferes with a typical lifestyle.
Generalized anxiety disorder is defined as people that display excessive anxiety or worry most days for at least 6 months. The worry can stem from a number of things such as personal health, work, social interaction, and everyday life routines. Having generalized anxiety disorder can cause significant problems in many areas of life. Women are twice as likely to be affected by generalized anxiety disorder (Facts & Statistics). People with this anxiety disorder do not know how to stop worrying and feel it is beyond their control.
Knowing the symptoms of anxiety is very important for your everyday life but also important for counselors. There are many anxiety symptoms and signs. Most people with an anxiety disorder have a combination of physical and psychological symptoms. Some psychological symptoms include: feelings of apprehension or dread, feeling restless or irritable, feeling tense, anticipating the worst and constantly watching for signs of danger (Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders).
Some physical symptoms that are associated with anxiety disorder include; numbness and tingling, dizziness, chest pain, headaches, neck tension, excessive sweating, nervous stomach, shortness of breath and nausea (Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders). Having these symptoms is a sign that you may have an anxiety disorder but it is also important to know that caffeine, alcohol and some medicines can amplify anxiety symptoms (Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders). If you have these symptoms it does not mean anything is medically wrong, it just means you have not learned healthy ways to deal with uncertainty, adversity and risk. People who have anxiety worry about things frequently and to a great degree.
Behaving in an overly apprehensive manner creates the physiological, psychological, and emotional state of anxiety. Anxiety activates the stress response which leads to the body becoming overly stressed. Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. Everyone is different and chemically unique so the type of symptoms, number of symptoms, and frequency of symptoms will vary between individuals. One person may exhibit just a few anxiety symptoms while another person exhibits all symptoms at a high severity.
When one says they had an anxiety attack that is also referred to as a panic attack. Panic attacks are episodes of high intensity fear and anxiety and can happen out of the blue. Panic attacks may happen when one feels danger but other times they can occur without reason. These attacks can last for a few minutes to hours and during this time people feel fear, trepidation and foreboding accompanied by a feeling that you are going to lose control.
Anxiety disorder is highly treatable but only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. (Facts & Statistics) If you believe you have an anxiety disorder, it is a wise idea to visit your doctor. Your doctor or nurse will be available to ask you questions about our symptoms and do a physical exam to rule out other health problems. Once your doctor rules out other health problem they may refer you to a psychologist to make a diagnosis. Doctors will also look for other mental health conditions you may be experiencing such as depression. It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression.
Nearly one-half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (Facts & Statistics). People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorder than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorder (Facts & Statistics). Children who have anxiety and are untreated are at a higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experience and engage in substance abuse (Facts & Statistics). If left untreated, anxiety disorders increase the risk of depression and suicide in adolescents.
When one is feeling anxious or stressed it is important for them to understand healthy coping ways to deal with these overwhelming feelings. There are many ways to cope with anxiety that include your mind, body, and actions. In your mind it is important to accept that you cannot control everything, do your best, and maintain a positive attitude. Making an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones is a big step in coping. Coping is also done in your body and in how you take care of yourself. Limiting alcohol and caffeine may be beneficial since these can trigger panic attacks. Eating well balanced meals and getting enough sleep are ways you can help fuel your body to be healthier.
Lastly, there are many actions that one can perform to help with anxiety. Taking deep breaths when one is feeling stressed is beneficial to help calm yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed you can help clear your head by taking a time out and practicing yoga, listening to music, meditate or relax by getting a massage. If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress and having panic attack do not feel embarrassed to talk to a friend or family member to talk about how they can help.
Counselors therapists play an imperative role in helping people with anxiety of all forms. If one suffers from anxiety, unwanted worries and or panic attacks seeing a therapist is important because unlike medicine, therapy treats more than just the symptoms of the problem. Attending therapy can help uncover the underlying causes to your worries and fears. Therapy helps one look at situations in a new way, and develop better coping skills. In therapy, one will learn tools to overcome anxiety and teach you how to use them successfully.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most widely used therapy for anxiety disorders. Research has shown CBT to be effective treatment for anxiety, panic disorder, phobias and other conditions. CBT addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves (Therapy for Anxiety Disorders). This therapy has two components cognitive therapy which examines how negative thoughts contribute to anxiety, and behavior therapy which examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety (Therapy for Anxiety Disorders).
CBT focuses on understanding that it’s not the situation you’re in that determined how you feel, but the perception of the situation. For example: say you are invited to a party (situation) you could feel many different ways about the same situation. You may feel excitement because you like parties, you may feel neutral because parties aren’t your thing or you may feel anxious and sad because you THINK you will make a fool of yourself if you go because you don’t know how to interact at parties. In that case the same situation could cause three different emotions.
Thought challenging is done in CBT and is a process in which you challenge the negative thinking patterns that contribute to your anxiety and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts (Therapy for Anxiety Disorders). This involves three steps; identifying your negative thoughts, challenging your negative thoughts, and replacing negative thoughts with realistic thoughts. Identifying your negative thoughts can be challenging because you will need to identify your own irrational, scary thoughts.
A way to do this is to start thinking about what you were thinking when you started feeling anxious. Challenging your negative thoughts is where a therapist will teach you how to evaluate your anxiety provoking thoughts. Replacing your negative thoughts is where a therapist will help you come up with realistic, calming statements you can say to yourself when you are facing or anticipating a situation that normally begins your anxiety. Learning to recognize when your anxious and learning coping skills is essential when trying to recover from anxiety disorders.
A counselor can be proactive and initiate a school wide anxiety education program at the beginning of the school year to help increase all student’s ability to recognize symptoms of anxiety and learn coping techniques. A counselor should screen children for anxiety and figure out what type of counselor would work best. If a child has social anxiety than group counseling would not be best for that child. Counselors play a vital role in educating students about anxiety, teaching coping mechanisms and encouraging students to face fearful situations while using the skills they have learned.
- Anxietycentre.com. (n.d.). Anxietycentre.com Home Page. Retrieved December 5, 2018, from https://www.anxietycentre.com/
- Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders | Everyday Health. (2018, January 31). Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/anxiety/guide/symptoms/
Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
- Therapy for Anxiety Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/therapy-for-anxiety-disorders.htm