Anxiety Disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) in a given year,1 causing them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty. Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated. Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse. Very few Psychologist, psychotherapist and counselors in Austin Texas specialize in dealing with anxiety. Treatment for anxiety is effective, and finding the mental health professional that can help you is critical.
As changes in our culture today may make us more prone to anxiety type disorder, Austin Texas is no exception. Life is becoming more and more stressful, as we continue to take on more and more roles. There are many types of anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Panic disorder is a real illness that can be successfully treated. It is characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may flush or feel chilled; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control.
A fear of one’s own unexplained physical symptoms is also a symptom of panic disorder. People having panic attacks sometimes believe they are having heart attacks, losing their minds, or on the verge of death. They can’t predict when or where an attack will occur, and between episodes many worry intensely and dread the next attack.
Panic attacks can occur at any time, even during sleep. An attack usually peaks within 10 minutes, but some symptoms may last much longer.
Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults1 and is twice as common in women as men.2 Panic attacks often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood,2 but not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another. The tendency to develop panic attacks appears to be inherited.3
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb (especially in relation to people with whom they used to be close), lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate, be irritable, become more aggressive, or even become violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult. PTSD symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was deliberately initiated by another person, as in a mugging or a kidnapping.
Most people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. These are called flashbacks. Flashbacks may consist of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, and are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring on the street. A person having a flashback may lose touch with reality and believe that the traumatic incident is happening all over again.
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.
While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.
People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.
GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months.13 People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.
Anxiety disorders are real, serious, and treatable. As a psychotherapist in Austin Texas, I work with many clients with anxiety disorder. There is help for you if you have been living with an anxiety disorder. Experts believe that anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors, much like other disorders, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Do you have an anxiety disorder?
If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious?
Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
The vast majority of people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with professional care, including psychotherapist, psychologist, counselor and other mental health professional. Success of treatment varies among people. Some may respond to treatment after a few months, while others may need more than a year. Treatment is sometimes complicated by the fact that people very often have more than one anxiety disorder or suffer from depression or substance abuse. This is why treatment must be tailored to the individual. Although treatment is individualized, several standard approaches have proved effective.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are two effective anxiety disorder treatments. Both are types of behavioral therapy, meaning they focus on behavior rather than on underlying psychological conflicts or issues from the past. Behavioral therapy for anxiety usually takes between 5 and 20 weekly sessions.
Cognitive-behavior therapy – As the name suggests, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on thoughts—or cognitions—in addition to behaviors. When used in anxiety disorder treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify and challenge the negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs that are fueling your anxiety.
Exposure therapy – In exposure therapy for anxiety disorder treatment, you confront your fears in a safe, controlled environment. Through repeated exposures, either in your imagination or in reality, to the feared object or situation, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes.
Several new anxiety treatments are showing promise as complements to both therapy and medication. In mild anxiety disorder cases, these treatments may provide sufficient relief on their own.
Exercise – Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. Research shows that as little as 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week can provide significant anxiety relief. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least an hour of aerobic exercise on most days.
Relaxation techniques – When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, and visualization can reduce anxiety and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
Biofeedback – Using sensors that measure specific physiological functions—such as heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension—biofeedback teaches you to recognize the body’s anxiety response and learn how to control them using relaxation techniques.
Acceptance Commitment Therapy – ACT is a newer third generation behavior therapy based on behavior analytic research and theory regarding the nature of human language and cognition. This work, in turn, conceptualizes most psychological suffering as resulting from unnecessary and unworkable verbal self-regulatory processes getting in the way of value-guided actions. Instead of thinking and feeling better in order to live better, ACT teaches anxious clients how to live better with painful private events and move with them into a more vital and valued life. Clients learn that inflexible attempts to control anxiety are a problem, not a solution. Experiential exercises and value-guided behavioral activation are central to ACT for Anxiety Disorders.
Hypnosis – Hypnosis is sometimes used in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety. While you’re in a state of deep relaxation, the hypnotherapist uses different therapeutic techniques to help you face your fears and look at them in new ways.