What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural feeling that everyone experiences at times. At the right times, in small doses, anxiety can actually be helpful as our stress responses kick in. If our natural stress response is working well, it will increase our heart rate and respiration, increase our energy and focus, and give us a competitive edge.
However, many people experience an overreaction of the stress response known as anxiety. If excessive anxiety lasts more than two weeks and impairs an individual’s functioning, they may receive a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
The Three Most Common Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
*Chronic excessive worry about multiple subjects, *the mind may jump from problem to problem.
*Catastrophizing (expecting the worst possible outcome) *Difficulty falling asleep due to physical agitation
*Irritability, feeling overwhelmed
*Feeling restless or keyed up
*Fatigue during the day
*Muscle tension and pain
*Increased heart rate
*Chronic gastrointestinal issues including nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.
*Acute and very intense anxiety, usually caused by a specific stressor, which usually lasts for a few minutes, but in rare cases can be prolonged over a few days.
*Increased heart rate
*Nausea and vomiting
*Sweating or flushing of the face and chest
*Numbness or tingling in different parts of the body *Agitation
*Feeling detached from reality or one’s self (dissociation) *Fear of losing control or going crazy
*Fear of having a heart attack or fear of death
*(Rarely)self-harm or suicidal ideations during acute panic
*After the acute panic has passed, many individuals report feelings of fatigue, weakness, and muscle pain, as well as other symptoms sometimes known as a “panic hangover”
Social Anxiety Disorder:
*Excessive worry about social situations
*Fear of experiencing criticism, humiliation, or acting in a way that offends others
*Feeling that others are paying excessive attention to every action and passing judgment
*Fear of mind “going blank” or not being able to perform in social situations
*Physical symptoms such as blushing, shaking, sweating, stuttering, or fear of experiencing these symptoms in front of others
*Ruminating about past social encounters and having excessive negative thoughts about your behavior.
*Avoiding social situations as much as possible, unless it is with a small, trusted group of friends.
*Excessive anticipatory anxiety about social events which cannot be avoided.
Other Anxiety Disorders:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Hypochondria, and Specific Phobias, like Post-Traumatic Disorder, can be addressed with CBT. These are often best treated by a specialist. Unfortunately, none of our therapists at Shift Counseling, PC are specialists at treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Hypochondria, or Specific Phobias.
If one of these disorders are a client’s primary concern, we will discuss preferences and options for treatment with the client. We may refer to a practice or therapist that specializes in treating these disorders.
We do have therapists who specialize in treating PTSD at Shift Counseling, PC. See our page on PTSD/Trauma therapy here.
How is anxiety treated?
In many ways, the treatment of anxiety is similar to the treatment of depression. When a client seeks treatment for anxiety:
*The therapist performs a thorough assessment
*Works with the client to develop a treatment plan specific to the client’s symptoms and goals
*The treatment plan is adjusted as necessary
Although there are differences in the symptoms of depression and anxiety, there is significant overlap in general treatment strategies. Many people experience both depression and anxiety. Recognizing and challenging negative thoughts that contribute to symptoms of anxiety is key to treating both disorders. As well as finding alternative ways of coping with symptoms.
Because of the significant overlap between the treatment of depression and anxiety, on this page, we will focus on the parts of treatment that are different when treating anxiety vs. depression.
Why is it so important to focus on physical symptoms of anxiety?
While depression also presents a host of physical symptoms, finding interventions for physical symptoms is especially important when treating anxiety. General stress reduction is a big part of treatment. When stress accumulates over time, it often presents physically and can be an underlying cause of anxiety disorders.
Initially, treatment is often focused on helping people slow things down, set boundaries, and let go of activities or obligations that are not absolutely essential. We encourage clients to find time for relaxation, which could be a meditation practice or just scheduling time to engage with a hobby.
Exercise is a great natural release of the energy that builds up in our bodies from stress. Incorporating exercise is often very helpful in the treatment of anxiety if it is tolerated by clients. If you don’t want to incorporate exercise into your treatment plan, that is OK. We understand that there are a variety of reasons why someone might not be able to or prefer not to exercise.
Our therapists are not here to judge the type of exercise you choose, if you choose to utlize exercise as a coping skill. Studies show that spending as little as 10-20 minutes walking outside can provide significant relief from anxiety. Some people enjoy intense cardio routines, and that is OK, too. The right kind of exercise is the one that helps with your symptoms and that you will actually do on a regular basis.
How is panic disorder treated?
In the treatment of a panic disorder, in particular, the use of physical interventions such as deep breathing is helpful. Focused breathing is one of the best ways to de-escalate the cycle of fearful thoughts and intense physical sensations that are often a part of panic attacks. By intentionally slowing down breathing and deepening the exhale, people can stop the escalation of a panic attack.
Slow deep breaths help the body oxygenate the blood, which helps the brain get out of panic mode, which also slows respiration and heart rate, and eventually, muscle tension will decrease, which makes it easier to breathe. Bilateral tapping can also help the body gain relief from panic.
When the body is able to release from panic mode, the brain begins to function more clearly, and rational thinking comes back online. Problem-solving becomes possible again. Compassion for self and others becomes possible. Have you ever noticed that you think and act very differently when you are anxious versus when you are calm? There is a biological reason for these differences.
Cognitive interventions to address fear are also important for de-escalating panic.
Common positive beliefs that can be helpful during a panic attack include:
“This is just a panic attack, I am not actually dying.”
“I can calm my body and regain control.”
“This is very uncomfortable, but not actually dangerous.”
“This is temporary and it will pass.”
“I have gotten through panic episodes successfully before, I can do it again.”
Once an individual knows which physical interventions and cognitive strategies work for them, they are well on their way to effective management, and possibly even elimination of panic attacks.
How is Social Anxiety treated?
Similar to other types of anxiety disorders, treatment of Social Anxiety often starts with general stress reduction, and implementation of healthy lifestyle management (focus on adequate diet, improving sleep, and incorporating exercise and pleasurable activities.) In addition to stress reduction and improved self-care, your therapist will also help you identify and challenge negative beliefs that contribute to your social anxiety.
You may be assigned homework to slowly increase your exposure to anxiety-provoking social events so you can gather more accurate data about your ability to perform in social situations. Your therapist will work carefully with you to make sure any homework is something you actually feel you could tolerate with only mild distress. If social anxiety has its roots in “little t” trauma such as bullying, EMDR therapy may be helpful.
Why is anxiety so prevalent in Young Adults?
Being a young adult is often very overwhelming. Individuals are thrust into real-life scenarios for the first time. Most people are not fully adept at dealing with overwhelming situations the first time they come up against them. Generally, it is through a process of repeated exposure to challenges, often with support and encouragement, that people become skillful at dealing with the challenges that life throws at us.
In addition to the usual challenges of being a young adult, our world has faced and continues to face extreme uncertainty over the past few years. It is understandable that young adults could feel paralyzed and struggle to function during these chaotic times.
Our anxiety therapists at Shift Counseling, PC can help young adults, as well as members of other age groups, talk through their overwhelming feelings, find what parts they do have control over, and find coping strategies that work to improve symptoms of anxiety.
Begin Counseling for Young Adults with Anxiety in Chicago
Getting started with an anxiety therapist is easy. Our North Riverside, IL counseling practice is convenient to multiple areas of Chicagoland including Riverside, La Grange Park, Brookfield, Broadview, and more. If you’re ready to begin, simply follow these steps:
- Reach out to schedule an initial therapy consultation.
- Begin working with a skilled, anxiety therapist.
- Take back your life and thrive!
Other Services Offered in Chicago, IL
Shift Counseling, PC specializes in treating young adults with mental health concerns with a variety of techniques. We offer PTSD and Trauma Therapy, Young Adult Focused Therapy, and Depression Therapy online or in person.