Your All-Things-Anxiety Resource
Struggling with anxiety? This page is an "all-things-anxiety" resource. We'll discuss types of anxiety, causes of anxiety, treatments for anxiety, and provide a few quick and helpful strategies and resources for anxiety.
What Anxiety is
To start with - EVERYBODY deals with anxiety. Anxiety is your body's natural response to stress. Anxiety is typically future-oriented and is associated with feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness, or dread. Although we typically frame "anxiety" as a bad thing, anxiety served us from an evolutionary perspective by its ability to warn us of potential dangers and to help us prepare for situations that require action. In threatening situations, our all-on fight-flight-freeze response kicks in to help us survive whatever dangerous situation we might be in. At its best - and when it's truly needed - anxiety is your very own built-in "Super Hero". At times, though, your "Super Hero" is just a little bit overprotective and kicks in full blast when it's not totally necessary.
Trouble with anxiety comes in when we feel this stress or fear (and full survival/stress response) when we are in situations that are not actually dangerous or life threatening! For some people, anxiety simply comes in the form of constant worry and overthinking. When anxiety is high enough to interfere with daily life, work, or overall functioning, it becomes a real problem...a problem that's not just in your head, but also in your body. Anxiety can cause stomach issues, headaches, insomnia, aches/pains, increased heart rate, and a broad range of other REAL physical symptoms. Aside from that, anxiety can really shrink our world and cause us to start to avoid doing things that cause anxiety. When we avoid or escape things that cause anxiety, we might actually cause the anxiety to get worse by reinforcing the body's reaction to anxiety.
What causes Anxiety?
Being human causes anxiety. We need anxiety. Anxiety helps keep us safe. Without anxiety we would not have the natural fear we need to have built in to protect us from natural dangers. Disordered anxiety (anxiety that gets in the way of normal everyday living), on the other hand, is more complex and may have multiple causes that differ from person to person.
Getting to the root cause of (and treating) anxiety can be tricky at times, but with a little bit of exploration and help, you'll get to the bottom of your anxiety and learn how to manage it. Often times anxiety can be pointed to unhelpful thinking patterns, avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations over time (this actually reinforces anxiety even though it seems counterintuitive), or bad experiences from the past that have led to anxiety in certain situations. Other times, there may be some medical, genetic, or environmental-related factors. Most often, though, we find that anxiety is a cognitive (thinking) issue that can be treated by learning new coping skills, having a different attitude towards our anxiety, and changes in behavior that allow us to build confidence.
Understanding your anxiety, where it comes from, and what it is that triggers your anxiety is the first step towards reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Types of Anxiety
There are 6 major types of anxiety, as categorized by the DSM-5. They are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: characterized by excessive, persistent, and sometimes irrational worries about a broad range of things. With general anxiety, thinking tends to be the problem rather than the solution.
- Social Anxiety: refers to fear of social situations.
- Specific Phobias: intense irrational fear or aversion to something (think fear of spiders, flying, or heights). People often go to great lengths to avoid things associated with their phobia.
- Panic Disorder: an anxiety disorder that involves recurring panic attacks - and often complicated by fear of the fear - and fear about having another panic attack.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: an anxiety disorder that involves unwanted thoughts/sensations (obsessions) and/or the urge to do certain things over and over again (compulsions).
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: develops after exposure to a traumatic incident and can bring on intense emotional and physical responses. It is often accompanied by nightmares, flashbacks, heightened anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Although anxiety can be stubborn and sometimes debilitating, it is something that can be treated and managed. Anxiety shrinks our world and the right care can get us back to living full and fulfilling lives that we don't need to escape from.
Two common treatments for anxiety are 1) Exposure Therapy and 2) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that allows you to slowly/gradually/safely expose yourself to situations that cause anxiety (that you may have been avoiding) in order to desensitize you to stimuli. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses any irrational thinking patterns that may be causing or contributing to anxiety.
Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy incorporate anxiety/stress reduction techniques to help you better cope with your anxiety. Although some people find therapy to be enough when it comes to dealing with their anxiety, medication management is an option that may be explored as a supplement - especially in more severe cases of anxiety.
Quick and Effective Tips/Strategies for managing anxiety
Coping strategies may need to be tailored to your unique situation - and we could go into a lot more than those listed below, but here's a brief list of some effective and evidence-based anxiety management techniques.
- Get plenty of exercise - start each day with a walk or a little bit of cardio
- Decrease caffeine use
- Use alcohol and/or other substances in moderation
- Practice mindfulness and mindfulness-based meditations. The Waking up Course by Sam Harris is a great app that helps you learn and cultivate the practice of mindfulness.
- Practice general everyday mindfulness (click on link) to interact with your thoughts and environment in a more healthy way.
- Practice some focused deep/slow breathing exercises a few times each day and when dealing with anxiety. Breathe in for 3-4 counts and out for 3-4 counts.
- Get plenty of sleep
- Practice the 5,4,3,2,1 Grounding technique. While breathing, acknowledge 5 things you can see in your environment, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. When anxious, this exercise can help you feel more present and grounded.
- Journal. Write down things that are making you anxious. You can journal about what's causing your current anxiety, anxiety triggers, things you avoid due to anxiety, and what kinds of things you might do if anxiety was not getting in your way. These exercises will help you express yourself and increase your awareness of your anxiety.
- Find a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety to help you cope better with your anxiety. Therapy can sometimes help people fully resolve disordered anxiety, and at a minimum can help you learn how to manage it better.
- Slowly and gradually expose yourself to things that cause anxiety to desensitize yourself to them while practicing relaxation skills. Ultimately, we learn that our assumptions about worst-case scenarios are often unfounded and all a part of the trick that anxiety likes to play on us. For really bad cases of anxiety, we recommend working with a therapist knowledgeable about anxiety disorders so that you have someone to educate you and guide you through the process.
More on Anxiety from our Blog
If you are considering starting therapy for anxiety, you can send us a message or you can call or text 813-515-9602. Summer (our scheduling coordinator) can help connect you with a good fit. You can meet our therapists here or click on the "request appointment below" button.