Understanding anxiety is key to emotional health. Anxiety and depression are the most common emotional problems faced by Americans, affecting 18% of the adult population in the United States at one time or another – or about 40 million adults. Of those, about 15 million suffer from social anxiety. Fortunately, there are good treatments for anxiety available. Unfortunately, perhaps two-thirds of those suffering from anxiety or depression get treatment.
Types of anxiety.
Anxiety is a problem with many faces. General anxiety disorder (GAD) is the name for chronic worry and distress. People with this type of anxiety often fear the worst. They often exaggerate the likelihood of something awful happening. The problem can show itself through emotional distress and irritability, trouble sleeping and physical symptoms like muscle tension or headaches.
Panic attacks result in a large number of emergency room visits because symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or heart palpitations mimic problems like heart attacks. They are a miserable experience, and can be pretty frightening.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves recurrent intrusive, unwanted thoughts or ritualistic behavior like handwashing or counting things. These problems can be very distressing – and also take up a lot of a person’s time.
Social anxiety – a fear of social situations like meeting new people or fearing rejection and humiliation at work — is quite common and leads to a great deal of social isolation. People with social anxiety are likely to withdraw and keep to themselves. In my experience, people with social anxiety sometimes self-medicate and are at considerable risk for alcohol or substance abuse problems.
Because we live in the age of worry, many people have distress that may not fit into one of these classically-clinical types. Instead, they just find themselves unhappy. Anxiety may affect people in a variety of ways. For instance, people…
- are troubled by criticism, from others or from themselves. They worry they are not good enough.
- can’t let go of annoying thoughts, waking up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep.
- are irritable and not enjoying life as much as they would like.
- find themselves withdrawn or without satisfying friendships.
Anxiety is very treatable.
What all of these problems have in common is that psychotherapy can help, sometimes with the help of prescribed medication.
Probably some anxiety-related conditions have a physical, even genetic, basis. They can still be managed effectively with appropriate approaches. But many times, worry has its root cause in our patterns of thinking. That’s why psychotherapy – not medication alone – is the treatment of choice for anxiety and depression.
We all talk to ourselves all the time. It’s not a sign of craziness. It’s just the way our minds work, yet we may be unaware of the conversation going on between our ears because it is such a private experience. Yet the mind-chatter is there through much of our day. First of all, when you’re alone with yourself, what are you talking about? If the conversation is self-defeating, we’re setting ourselves up for problems.
Becoming aware of what’s going on within our consciousness is what people who meditate call mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of staying aware in the present moment. When we become more aware of this internal experience, we gain much more freedom. We have choices in how we respond to the world around us, even in situations that are unpleasant.
As a result, therapy using mindfulness techniques can be a great way to manage these problems. It helps strengthen self-esteem and gets us unstuck. If you have questions about how this might work in your situation, feel free to contact me.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions. It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist. I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.