Treatment for Anxiety
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion where you may feel tension, feel worried about different things, and even feel symptoms in your body. You can also have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns or even be avoiding certain situations out of worry or fear. More than 50% of the time, anxiety is also seen in people who have depression.
Signs and symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety presents itself in many ways:
Since anxiety is connected to our first being (survival instinct), it is common to see people who have suffered an “event” in life that provoked symptoms of anxiety, such as:
- Stomach “butterflies”/churned
- Heart palpitation, racing heartbeat
- Queasiness, nausea, “wobbly on your knees”, vertigo
- Shortness of Breath, chest pain, choking, hyperventilation, tingling, numbness
- Urgent urination, diarrhea
- Sweaty palms, cold sweats/chills, excessive perspiration, dry mouth, hot flashes
These are also the common “symptoms” of the fight/flight/faint/freeze response when a huge amount of adrenaline is pumped into your body, making you a “superhuman” so you can deal with the event ahead of you.
When feeling anxious, you also may present with:
- “Nervous habits”: scratching, picking your skin, nail-biting, muscle tension, can’t sit still, leg fidgeting, hands restricted (in pockets), shuffling feet, avoiding eye contact, hair twirling/pulling, or coughing
- You may get to a level of panic that you may rush out, vomit, or faint
- Anxiety makes your voice crack, provokes tremors, does not let you complete your sentences, or make you develop “nervous” laughing or giggles.
- Anxiety also makes you vigilant: you may scan for “dangerous” or triggers, feel easily startled, jumpy, or over-reactive.
- You may have difficulties falling or staying asleep since your mind cannot keep racing
- When you feel anxious your mind may go blank, you may find difficulties concentrating, or cannot proceed with the task at hand, being unable to function
- Your emotions vary tremendously. One moment you can be calm and collect and the next you can start feeling “nervous” (uneasy/vulnerable/edgy/tense), then fearful (frightened/alarmed/frazzled), then terrified (rigid/frozen/panicky/petrified), like you are having a panic attack (you are!).
- The way you think also increases your feelings of anxiety:
- You may worry a lot, may ruminate about things, exaggerate the “danger”, feels threatened, feels the need to “escape”, fantasies with scenarios of “attack”, feels “going crazy”/rejected/or abandoned
- You may feel overwhelmed like you cannot control your thoughts, or feel confused
- Your preoccupation with future anxiety attacks may lead to avoidance of people, tasks, or situations
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety is connected to our “primal system of survival” – the sympathetic system (also known as the flight/fight/freeze/faint outline). Anxiety can be triggered by thoughts, emotions, situations, environment, or physical sensations.
How we treat Anxiety
We often use an integrative approach to treat anxiety. We use techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy, Mindfulness, ACT, EFT, and other types of therapy we’ve trained on and may be helpful in the treatment. Also, we spend a significant amount of time in psychoeducation on anxiety and the sympathetic system.
Although anxiety is so intrusive, it is also one of the less complicated disorders to be threatened (depending on the degree of the anxiety).
Typical outcomes of Anxiety treatment
After completing treatment, patients can expect to recover 90 to 95% from anxiety, returning to an optimal level of well-being. Since anxiety is connected to the body’s flight/fight/freeze/faint system, once activated, it cannot return to a base level of zero but to a healthy level of functioning that should not interfere with well-being.
FAQ about Anxiety
Since there are many different levels of anxiety, it is expected that the duration of treatment depends on the level of anxiety. It is usually resolved within a couple of months.
Yes. Life happens. And with that, there may be situations that will trigger the anxiety back. Understanding where the anxiety is coming from and how it has been triggered will help subsequent treatments.
Depending on the cases, I might recommend patients to see a psychiatrist and start on medication for situational anxiety - not as a treatment per se. Research says that the best treatment for anxiety is psychotherapy alone. Anxiety can also be treated without medication.
Consult with a psychologist to get help with your anxiety right away. Our therapists use many techniques to treat anxiety. Note that you will be anxious about your anxiety, but a good psychologist will know how to diminish your anxiety and have a solid treatment plan.