Anxiety Therapy

The feeling of anxiety can be defined as a sense of worry, nervousness, or unease.  Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in Canada.  Typically, problems with anxiety are characterized as being chronic, lasting at least 6 months, and likely to get progressively worse without treatment.  There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, all with their own characteristics, as outlined below.  Fortunately, anxiety psychotherapy can significantly improve most if not all symptoms associated with anxiety.

 

 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is characterized by:

  • Generalized and persistent excessive anxiety accompanied by somatic symptoms (muscle tension, for example).

  • Worry is exaggerated and unrealistic, with little evidence to either provoke or support it.

  • Everyday concerns can cause marked discomfort and distress, such as going to work, attending to finances, or living a healthy lifestyle.

  • Onset it typically gradual (compared to other anxiety disorders).

  • GAD affects 3% of the population in any given year, and is the most common of diagnosed anxiety disorders.

  • Other symptoms may include:

  • Restlessness

  • Feeling on edge

  • Easily fatigued

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Muscle tension

  • Sleep disturbances.

 

 

 

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is characterized by:

  • Unexpected and recurrent panic attacks.

  • A panic attack is a sudden episode of:

  • Intense fear

  • Heart palpitations

  • Chest pains

  • Nausea

  • Trouble breathing/shortness of breath

  • Flushing or chills

  • Terror/fear of losing control or dying

  • Sensory distortions

  • A panic attack can occur with no apparent reason, even during sleep.

  • However, occasionally stressful life events or periods may trigger an episode.

  • Typically, a panic attack will only last for a few minutes.

  • Usually, debilitation results from the anxiety surrounding the anticipation of another attack.

  • Often, people will try to avoid the environment where the panic attack occurred, although this may actually exacerbate the problem.

  • Although the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, there is evidence to suggest there is a genetic component; individuals with a close relative with panic disorder are 10-20% more likely to develop it themselves.

 

 

Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD)

SAD is characterized by:

  •  A fear of situations where there is potential for embarrassment or humiliation in front of others. 

  • The fear can involve something specific, such a speaking in public, or eating in public, or a generalized fear of embarrassment. 

  • As an individual attempts to avoid public situations, negative interference with work, school, or other daily activities is possible. 

  • Withdrawal and isolation is also possible.

  • Onset typically occurs in childhood or early adolescence, and symptoms may fluctuate with stressful periods.  

  • Treatment is less likely to be sought by individuals with SAD due to the fear or embarrassment of seeing a professional.

  • Often, individuals will use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate and escape the constant anxiety.

  • Although the exact cause is unknown, familial and environment factors during early childhood, such as child-rearing style, parental/peer modeling, and behavioural inhibition, likely play a role.

 

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is characterized by:

  • Obsessions or compulsions, usually both.

  • Obsessions are persistent and unwanted thoughts which trigger intense anxiety.

  • Compulsions are urges to perform repetitive/ritual like behaviour in an attempt to control the anxiety.

  • Compulsions only relieve the anxiety temporarily, and may contribute to the worsening of daily functions.

  • Personal and occupations distress may occur.

  • Typically the onset occurs earlier in males than females, and symptoms may first appear in childhood or adolescence.

  • The disorder is often variable over time and with age, though it is chronic and relapsing.

  • Most often, individuals are aware that the obsessions and compulsions do not make sense. Nevertheless, the urge to perform the ritual is too overwhelming to ignore.

  • Individuals may also recruit others, such as friends or family members to check on their obsession.

  • Examples of OCD may include compulsions involving counting, ordering, repeating actions, hoarding, and/or washing.

© 2019 Trish Stephens, Psychotherapist - Ottawa, Canada