An Anxious World! Anxiety Treatment in RI

Jan 26, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marriage, Mental Health, News, Self Help, Stress, Uncategorized, cranston  //  No Comments

An Anxious World

At Anchor Counseling Center we believe that s human beings, we all experience a form of anxiety at some point during our lives.  Anxiety is often thought of as worry and fear about uncertainties. It is usually depicted as a negative attribute, but it can also serve the useful purpose of alerting one of lurking danger. We may find ourselves worrying about school, work, our kids, or paying bills, and that’s all perfectly normal. When anxiety and worrying is a persistent, or common, feature causing disruption to your daily life, then it becomes a maladaptive. Excessive worrying may interfere with your relationships, your leisure activities, and can eventually lead to physical health issues.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 40 million adults in the U.S., in the span of one year, suffer from an anxiety disorder2. The average age of onset for anxiety is 11 years old; so many children are affected by anxiety disorders as well2.  Also, women are more likely do experience anxiety disorders than men2. So anxiety is not a new or unheard of phenomenon, and it is fairly common, however, some may not recognize symptoms of maladaptive anxiety because it may not look like the common perception of an anxiety-ridden individual.

In fact, anxiety disorders can take on many forms, and one person’s experience with excessive worrying can be completely different than another person’s experience. Some people have very general based anxiety of which they worry excessively about every little thing throughout the day, from work, school, paying bills, to having enough time to complete a task, or to what will happen if my car stops working. A popular perception of an anxiety disorder is of people with specific phobias. For instance, an individual’s fear-based worrying may only be provoked by exposure to specific stimuli, such as a bridge above water, or snakes. Even though the phobia is highly specific, it may be clinically significant if the individual experiences anxiety about it on a daily basis and it interrupts his/her daily tasks.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, commonly termed OCD, is also a form of an anxiety disorder1. A person with OCD will have obsessive thoughts, which tend to cause marked anxiety or distress, and/or compulsions, which are often performed in order to reduce anxiety.  Take for example, a man who has a fear of germs contaminating his body. This man worries constantly throughout the day about contracting some disease from all the germs he believes surrounds him. In order to reduce the likelihood of him contracting this horrid disease, he washes his hands 52 times, every time he goes to the bathroom or touches an object he does not own. As a matter of fact, he also showers at least twice a day for more than 45 minutes, and if he forgets to clean any body part, he goes back and re-showers entirely.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and Acute Stress Disorder, are characterized by “anxiety from re-experiencing a traumatizing event, often accompanied by symptoms of increased arousal, and avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma”1. While PTSD can occur any time after the traumatic event, Acute Stress Disorder occurs immediately after the traumatic event, lasting for at most, four weeks. In this form of anxiety disorder, there is a distinct trigger event where the individual felt threatened.

Other forms of an anxiety disorder to mention is Panic Disorder With and Without Agoraphobia, Agoraphobia without a history of Panic Disorder, and Social Phobia.  Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia is characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks about which there is persistent concern, while a person suffering from Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia may experience both recurrent, unexpected panic attacks, and anxiety about places or situations that may not be easily escapable.  That being said, Agoraphobia, “is anxiety about or avoidance of places or situations from which escape may be difficult (or embarrassing)”1. Social Phobia is basically when a person’s “anxiety is triggered by exposure to social situations in which he/she is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possibly scrutiny by others”1.

As you can see, there are a variety of anxiety disorders; however, one thing to note is that anxiety has an altering effect on one’s perception of the world around them and an effect on one’s interpretation of the stimuli he/she is exposed to. A Common behavior associated with people who have anxiety disorders is avoidance behavior. For example, the man with a phobia of bridges above water may stop going to visit his parents because he refuses to drive or walk over any bridge above water. In fact, he may miss a work conference next week that is detrimental to his job security because it’s across a bridge over water.  Another example is people with social phobias who avoid public speaking at all costs. Even with OCD, the compulsions acts as an avoidance mechanism set to reduce ones anxiety about an obsessive thought.

Also many anxiety stricken individuals have cognitive errors set in place that alter their ability to make judgments and function in the every-day world. Most people with anxiety tend overestimate the probability of the occurrence of the worry at hand. On the other hand some people assume that an outcome will be much less manageable than it actually is, also known as catastrohpizing. A big commonality amongst those suffering anxiety is the human tendency to be intolerant of uncertainty, the fear of ambiguity, and the acceptance of change.

Most people don’t like to be surprised by negative events, and more often than not, we want to try and control (or limit) the amount and impact of those negative events. But humans cannot know, or evade every problem—sometimes we just have to go through the pain. And attempting to control or change something you have no power to control or change is physically exacerbating to the human body and psyche. Taking risks, accepting change, and understanding that uncertainty is not an abyss of pain and negativity is a part of alleviating some anxiety.  Dr. Biali (2012), as do many psychologists, argues that anxiety is not always bad—it’s a part of experiencing life and trying something new3,4. Now, excessive anxiety about things you truly can’t control becomes tiresome and is often how clients present—overly stressed. Biali (2012), suggests several healthy ways to help people reduce anxiety, including, writing one’s worries down, practice breathing exercises, do yoga or stretching and exercise to alleviate muscle tension, and to avoid stimulants (like caffeinated beverages)3. Will this rid you of your anxiety? Probably not, but it can help you manage it.

Biali (2012) and Markway (2012), both suggest that in order to address and solve issues regarding your anxiety and excessive worry, one should invoke the assistance of a professional that is trained to guide you in restructuring your current cognitive methodology, and avoidance behaviors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health and the Psychological Diagnostic Manual, people with anxiety disorders usually benefit from methods of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or Exposure Therapy. Here at Anchor Counseling Center, we have therapists trained in both CBT and exposure therapy to help you reduce your anxiety and manage healthier lifestyle.

By: Aryssa Washington

Sources

1The American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

2www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml

3Biali, S. (2012). How to manage the anxiety that comes with change. Prescription for Life: Psychology Today com

4Markway, B. (2012). Can Willpower help you overcome social anxiety: willpower is not always about giving something up. Shyness Is Nice: Psychology Today.com

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