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 times, anxiety is also seen in people who have depression.
Signs and symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety presents itself in many different ways:
Since anxiety is connected to our primal 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 to your body, making you a “super human” 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 cracks, provoke tremors, do not let you complete you sentences, or make you develop “nervous” laughing, or giggles.
- Anxiety also makes you vigilant: you may scan for “dangerous” or triggers, feels 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 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 system). Anxiety can be triggered by thoughts, emotions, situations, environment, or physical sensations.
How I treat Anxiety
I often use an integrative approach to treat anxiety. I use techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as well as psychotherapy, Mindfulness, ACT, EFT, and other types of therapy I’ve trained on and maybe useful to the treatment. I spend a great amount of time in psychoeducation on anxiety and the sympathetic system.
Although anxiety is so intrusive, it is also one of the less difficult disorders to be threatened, (depending of the degree of the anxiety).
Typical outcomes of Anxiety treatment
After completing treatment, patients can expect recovering 90 to 95% from anxiety, returning to an optimal level of wellbeing. Since anxiety is connected to the body’s flight/fight/freeze/faint system, once activated often times it cannot return to base level of zero, but to a healthy level of functioning that should not interfere with wellbeing.
FAQ about Anxiety
Since there are many different levels of anxiety, it is expected that the duration of treatment depends of 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 say. 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. Dr. Rosana Marzullo-Dove use many techniques to treat anxiety. Note that you will be anxious talking about your anxiety, but a good psychologist will know how to diminish your anxiety and have a solid treatment plan.