Everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety is our body’s reaction to what we perceive as threatening. Anxiety can be a healthy and adaptive response to stress. But, anxiety occurs on a continuum, ranging from normal, healthy concern, on one end, to worry, anxiety, and panic toward the other end. Normal caution and concern can help to motivate you, to estimate risks, and to get things done. Worry, anxiety, and panic are more akin to apprehension or fear. They can dominate your thoughts and make things harder for you. They don’t help you solve problems. They create more problems.
Where do you fall on the anxiety scale? Test your level of anxiety and discover ways to manage your daily stress.
We know that when we get anxious, the fight-or-flight response is triggered and our bodies experience many physiological changes and symptoms that we find stressful and unpleasant. But, do you know what causes us to get anxious? It may not be what you think.
No, it’s not that upcoming presentation at work or that plane flight next week. It’s not something external.
I’m a psychologist, so I’m going to try to help you discover the answer. Here’s an example. You and a friend are out on a morning walk and a neighborhood dog barks loudly. You love dogs and this makes you smile as you comment, “He’s up bright and early.” Your friend, on the other hand, is startled. Her heart begins to race and she finds herself a bit breathless, as she comments, “Oh my! Where is it? I don’t like dogs.” Same situation. Very different reactions. Okay, now do you have an idea of what causes anxiety?
Anxiety…the word alone can make you feel uneasy. It can come out of nowhere or be easily anticipated. Why is it that anxiety affects so many of us and how can we harness it to be helpful, rather than stressful? Let’s look at anxiety and in plain English, answer some of the most common questions asked.
1. What is the difference between stress and anxiety?
Stress is a state of mental and bodily tension you experience when faced with a demand. We feel stress when we have a long to do list and very little time to accomplish it. Anxiety is the fear we may experience when we think about what may happen if we don’t complete our to do list. — Stress and Anxiety both involve tension. Both involve some of the same physiological responses such as the release of adrenalin, but anxiety involves fear. Stress does not.
There’s no greater skill to easing anxiety and physical tension, than learning to relax. It sounds silly, perhaps, to think of relaxing as a skill, but think about how many times you’ve said or heard someone else say, “relax,” “calm down,” “settle down,” or “chill out.” And, if you’re on the receiving end of that comment, it’s not as easy as it seems.
Compulsive hoarding has attracted a great deal of media attention. These media portrayals, whether they are television, newspaper, or other illustrations of the problem, tend to be somewhat unidimensional. Yes, these individuals’ homes are frequently difficult to navigate, and, yes, these individuals appear to be excessively attached to items that many of us view as of very little or no value. However, these snapshots into the lives of these individuals sometimes lack the depth of difficulty these individuals have in their lives.
Let’s look at a few of the challenges that are often under-conveyed, but that are very real, very significant challenges to individuals, their family members, and to us, as psychologists who treat them.
Approximately 6 million individuals experience panic disorder each year. Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent, intense periods of anxiety/panic, which are often unprovoked, or, “out-of-the blue,” and are accompanied by anticipatory anxiety regarding the possibility of future attacks. Panic disorder can be quite debilitating, sometimes accompanied by agoraphobia, or avoidance of pubic places due to fear of being in a setting or situation from which escape or finding help may be difficult.
Before we get to what DOES NOT work, let’s discuss what DOES work. Evidence for effective treatment of panic disorder is very well documented. The data show with great robust that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective and is superior to a number of other treatment strategies.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for panic disorder often includes:
One of the most difficult parenting moments we may experience is seeing our child in distress and feeling powerless in our ability to help him or her feel better. There will be a time in the life of every parent in which his or her child is struggling and the path to understanding and overcoming this struggle is unclear.
In order to help a child overcome distress, it is first important to identify the problem. Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychological difficulties in children and adolescents, affecting approximately 13% of youth in the United States.
Anxiety disorders in childhood are the greatest predictors of anxiety, mood, and substance abuse difficulties in adulthood; thus, it is important to identify and treat anxiety difficulties as early as is feasible.
Early identification and intervention is associated with positive long-term outcome.
A Parent’s Guide to Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a healthy, normal, and adaptive response to stress. It is our body’s way of alerting us to danger. It can be motivating and helpful to us in meeting our goals. However, in excess, it can cause us to feel overwhelmed and leave us unable to carry out our daily activities.
There are a number of anxiety disorders common to children of which parents should be aware:
We’ve all been there. Sometimes, demands on us exceed our ability to cope and we reach a point of feeling overwhelmed. We feel completely overcome in mind and/or emotion and feel ill-equipped to cope.
When we are faced with stressors, good (eustress) or bad (distress), we experience physiological, emotional, and cognitive arousal. Activating chemicals, such as endorphins, cortisol, and adrenalin, are released in order to help us rise to the challenge of meeting the demands of these stressors so that we may effectively manage them and reduce the arousal or tension we are experiencing. This state of arousal is known as the fight-or-flight response. Essentially, it is the sympathetic branch of our nervous system (our alarm system) taking control from our parasympathetic branch (our state of calm and homeostasis).
Words cannot express the sorrow of a nation that grieves the loss of innocent youth and those who gave their lives to protect them. Emotions run deep; from confusion and sadness to anxiety and anger. In the wake of such trauma, it is our natural response to traumatic events, to try to make sense of what we experienced. We search for meaning. Why would such a horrific event happen? What can we do to ensure the safety of our loved ones?
And, yet, we are likely to never understand why on December 14, 2012, a 20 year-old, heavily armed man opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing twenty children between the ages of 6 and 8 and six staff members, before turning a gun on himself.
The compulsion to hoard belongings has been likened to addiction; yet there are some important differences between the two. In a previous post, some of those differences were discussed. Most importantly, however, are the differences in treatment approach. I am frequently asked by loved ones, “Can’t I just go in and clean the house?” It can be difficult to understand why this is not in the best interest of the individual struggling with hoarding difficulties. Herein lies the reason: