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Anxiety Counseling

Anxiety Counseling

Anxiety is one of the most widespread mental illnesses affecting the majority of the population at one time or another in their lives. It can take many forms but always stems from an intense fear that is overwhelming and persistent.  Anxiety varies greatly in the types of symptoms that manifest and in the subgroups of anxiety disorders such as Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety can best be described as a sense of worry, foreboding, or fear that is not related to an actual threat to one’s safety or security. Individuals with anxiety often feel a pervasive sense of impending doom even when they are unable to describe the specific nature of the threat. This sense of doom is associated with the "fight or flight" response.  Our heart rates quicken, our muscles tense, and we become hyper-vigilant.

Although an Anxiety Disorder can be extremely debilitating, there are effective treatments that help effectively manage and reduce symptom severity and duration. Anxiety Counseling can provide individuals with skills and tools to not only alleviate symptoms but to prevent them from recurring. If symptoms become overwhelming or unmanageable, you can work with your counselor and physician to manage medications. Typically medications for anxiety are viewed as a temporary solution and our long term aim is to reduce the need for medication.

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Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): is a common, chronic disorder characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Those suffering from GAD experience non-specific persistent fear and worry and become overly concerned with everyday matters. The DAM-IV TR states that GAD is "characterized by chronic excessive worry accompanied by three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance." GAD is the most common anxiety disorder to affect older adults. GAD diagnosis is made when a person has been excessively worried for six months or more. Such a person may find they have problems making daily decisions and remembering commitments as a result of lack of concentration or preoccupation with worry. Appearance looks strained, with increased sweating from the hands and feet.

Panic Disorder (PD): with PD, a person suffers from brief attacks of intense terror and apprehension, often marked by trembling, shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and/or difficulty breathing. These panic attacks, defined by the APA as fear or discomfort that abruptly arises and peaks in less than ten minutes, can last from minutes to several hours. Attacks can be triggered by stress, fear, or even exercise; the specific cause is not always apparent.

In addition to recurrent unexpected panic attacks, a diagnosis of PD requires that said attacks have chronic consequences: either worry over the attacks' potential implications, persistent fear of future attacks, or significant changes in behavior related to the attacks. Accordingly, those suffering from PD experience symptoms even outside specific panic episodes. Often, normal changes in heartbeat are noticed by a panic sufferer, leading them to think something is wrong with their heart or they are about to have another panic attack. In some cases, a heightened awareness (hypervigilance) of body functioning occurs during panic attacks, wherein any perceived physiological change is interpreted as a possible life-threatening illness (i.e., extreme hypochondriasis).

Agoraphobia: is the specific anxiety about being in a place or situation where escape is difficult or embarrassing or where help may be unavailable. Agoraphobia is strongly linked with PD and is often precipitated by the fear of having a panic attack. A common manifestation involves needing to be in constant view of a door or other escape route. In addition to the fears themselves, the term agoraphobia is often used to refer to avoidance behaviors that sufferers often develop. For example, following a panic attack while driving, someone suffering from agoraphobia may develop anxiety over driving and will therefore avoid driving. These avoidance behaviors can often have serious consequences.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): is an anxiety disorder which results from a traumatic experience. Post-traumatic stress can result from an extreme situation, such as combat, natural disaster, rape, hostage situations, child abuse, bullying or even a serious accident. It can also result from long term (chronic) exposure to a severe stressor, for example soldiers who endure individual battles but cannot cope with continuous combat. Common symptoms include hypervigilance, flashbacks, avoidant behaviors, anxiety, anger and depression. There are a number of treatments which form the basis of the care plan for those suffering with PTSD. Such treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and support from family and friends.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD; also known as Social Phobia): describes an intense fear and avoidance of negative public scrutiny, public embarrassment, humiliation, or social interaction. This fear can be specific to particular social situations (such as public speaking) or, more typically, is experienced in most (or all) social interactions. Social anxiety often manifests specific physical symptoms, including blushing, sweating, and difficulty speaking. As with all phobic disorders, those suffering from social anxiety often will attempt to avoid the source of their anxiety; in the case of social anxiety this is particularly problematic, and in severe cases can lead to complete social isolation.

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD): is a type of anxiety disorder primarily characterized by repetitive obsessions (distressing, persistent, and intrusive thoughts or images) and compulsions (urges to perform specific acts or rituals). It affects roughly 3% of the population worldwide. Obsessions and compulsions relate with each other by a belief in a causative relationship (i.e., the house will catch fire (obsession), if I don't check the stove before leaving (compulsion)). Often the process is entirely illogical; for example, the compulsion of walking in a certain pattern may be employed to alleviate the obsession of impending harm. In most cases, the person suffering from OCD recognizes their patterns are illogical but feel powerless to stop them.

Phobias: the largest category of anxiety disorders is phobic disorders, which includes all cases in which fear and anxiety is triggered by a specific stimulus or situation. Between 5% and 12% of the population worldwide suffer from phobic disorders. Sufferers typically anticipate terrifying consequences from encountering the object of their fear, which can be anything from an animal to a location to a bodily fluid to a particular situation. Sufferers understand that their fear is not proportional to the actual potential danger but still are overwhelmed by the fear.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SepAD): is the feeling of excessive and inappropriate levels of anxiety over being separated from a person or place. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development in babies or children, and it is only when this feeling is excessive or inappropriate that it can be considered a disorder. Separation anxiety disorder affects roughly 7% of adults and 4% of children, but the childhood cases tend to be more severe; in some instances, even a brief separation can produce panic.