Anxiety Issues, Symptoms and Effective Treatments
Anxiety manifests itself as physical tension, apprehension, uneasiness, fidgeting, fatigue, sleep disturbance, a lack of concentration, negative thinking, perspiration, nausea, elevated heart rate, and muscle tension. These symptoms can occur even if you logically know that there is no real danger (Durand & Barlow, 2003).
is characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks or anxiety attacks, constant worries about having additional panic attacks, and changes in behavior related to the anxiety attacks. Common panic attack symptoms are heart palpitations and pounding, sweating, trembling, shaking, shortness of breath, feeling of choking, chest pain, nausea, abdominal distress, dizziness, feeling lightheaded, feelings of unreality, fear of losing control, fear of going crazy, fear of dying, numbness, tingling sensations, chills, and hot flushes (American Psychiatric Association, 2004).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
is characterized by a persistent re-experiencing of traumatic events involving near-death, serious injury, intense fear, and helplessness in the form of distressing recollections, thoughts, dreams, flashbacks, and strong physical reactions to even remotely associated reminders. This can lead to a difficulty sleeping, irritability, and hyper-vigilance. Social and occupational functioning can be severely impacted (Durand & Barlow, 2003).
Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia
is characterized by persistent and unreasonable fear of humiliation or embarrassment when exposed to unfamiliar people. Therefore, the situation is avoided completely or endured with intense anxiety, which interferes with the person’s normal functioning (Durand & Barlow, 2003).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
is characterized by constant, intense, and uncontrollable worries about everything. These worries are accompanied by tenseness, irritability, fatigue, and restlessness. GAD is not only distressing for the people affected by it, but also for everyone around them (Durand & Barlow, 2003).
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
is characterized by intrusive and unwanted reoccurring thoughts that provoke anxiety and distress. Having obsessive thoughts can commonly include a focus on things like the fear of oneself or a loved one becoming ill, hurting a loved one, thoughts that conflict with moral beliefs, violent acts or a fear of germs, etc. Compulsions can include an overwhelming urge to engage in repetitive behaviors such as hand-washing, checking to see if a door is locked, checking to see if the stove is off or a preoccupation with order and symmetry. Both obsessions and compulsions involve a feeling that one cannot control the undesired thoughts and behaviors. As a result of OCD, the individual suffers frequent bouts of anxiety and a loss of peace of mind. (National Institute of Mental Health).
are characterized by an excessive, unreasonable, and persistent fear of a specific object or situation that causes immediate fearful responses, anxiety, and distress when being encountered. Some of these phobias may have some danger associated with them, however, not to the degree of the anxiety experienced. Physical responses (sweating, dizziness, and heart palpitations) as well as extreme fear are symptoms of various types of phobias (Durand & Barlow, 2003). Common specific phobias include:
1. Fear of Heights
While people have to be careful in a high place, a fear of heights causes extreme anxiety responses even when a person is safe, such as when looking out of a window or being secured by a banister.
2. Fear of Flying
Fear of Flying may be a combination of a height phobia and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, negative thoughts and images of possible catastrophic outcomes can increase the fear even more.
3. Fear of Driving
Fear of Driving may be a result of an auto accident or of a traumatic observation, and the symptoms are intensified by negative thoughts and images. Furthermore, a fear of driving can lead to isolation and impact social and occupational functioning due to avoidance of the feared situation.
4. Fear of Public Speaking
Public Speaking Phobia is closely linked to fear of embarrassment and humiliation. This fear is also intensified by negative thoughts about possible shameful experiences and it is related to social phobias.
Phobias and panic attacks often develop because of a traumatic experience. However, they can also develop as a result of cumulative stress overwhelm. In such a case, the person's coping capacity is exceeded by a combination of too many stressful experiences. In the moment of overwhelm, anxiety can become associated with whatever is present in the environment at the time (driving, flying, etc.).
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Impact of Anxiety
Anxiety can lead to avoidance of certain situations and stimuli, as well as unreasonable worry in everyday situations, and can therefore markedly impact a person’s life and relationships. It can lead to negative thinking, a defeatist attitude, and health issues (such as hypertension, eating problems, headaches, and digestive problems), all of which can result in social isolation and depression. This shows the crucial need for true anxiety relief.
Minor tranquilizers have been used to treat anxiety, but with only moderate success. Their side effects are considerable: impaired cognitive and motor functioning, as well as psychological and physical dependence. A number of car accidents have been associated with the use of tranquilizers. Therefore, this type of drug treatment is usually only recommended for short-term use and during extreme, stressful situations. Antidepressants have also shown some moderate benefits for anxiety disorders, even without a mood disorder present, and they can be used for longer periods of time (Buck, 2008). However, they also can cause a range of adverse side effects. No one knows the long-term consequences of using many of these newer drugs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT focuses on dealing with stressful situations and images by means of cognitive restructuring. This is about learning how to think differently about anxiety evoking situations. While its short-term success is moderate, similar to drug treatment, its long-term benefits are somewhat better. Moderate anxiety levels, restlessness, and worries can remain, especially in stressful situations but for many people who have frequent worrisome thoughts ("what ifs") cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful.
Exposure Therapy (i.e. Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Systematic Desensitization) is another approach used in CBT, which can work with anxiety triggering images and memories (i.e. imagining stressful situations in the person’s mind) or actually facing stressful situations in real life (i.e. stepping into the elevator to confront the fear of elevators). All types of exposure treatments result in moderate improvement (Whitney, Jacob, Sparto, Olshansky, Detweiler-Shostak et al., 2005).
Anxiety Management Treatment
Anxiety Management Treatment is a more structured approach that involves education, relaxation training, and exposure treatment, but no cognitive restructuring. Its effectiveness is comparable to CBT (Buck, 2008).
Quick REMAP is an alternative approach that calms the person’s emotional and unreasonable but automatic and uncontrollable responses without relying just on his or her logical “thinking brain”. That part of the brain cannot be reached during extreme anxiety-provoking situations. Therefore, the “emotional brain” has to be addressed first when emotional issues are treated. Quick REMAP does just that. It is a relatively brief and emotionally less painful treatment that does not require the use of medication. It uses evidence-based acupressure points to calm the emotional mid brain and to ease emotional distress first. However, a change in the person’s thinking and their perspective on anxiety-provoking situations can often take place automatically as a result of the treatment. Quick REMAP has provided striking and quick results in overcoming anxiety, unreasonable worries, fears, behaviors, and specific phobias, and they tend to be long lasting. It is an excellent treatment choice for anxiety, panic attacks and phobias.
Overcoming Anxiety | Finding Relief
As mentioned above, a number of treatment approaches involve systematic desensitization (one of the most common treatments for anxiety) that encourages the person to focus on stressful situations in order to learn to face the fear, to begin to increase their comfort level, and to desensitize the fear gradually. Cognitive therapy, for example, works with mental images and the scary thoughts in order to change those thoughts to be more rational and calming. However, a person’s cognitive ability is heavily impaired when experiencing anxiety. Unfortunately, CBT does not have a tool to reduce the person’s extreme emotional distress during the exercise, which can limit its effectiveness considerably. On the contrary, Quick REMAP focuses on the person’s emotional distress first before – if at all – applying logical cognitive interventions. At this time, this appears to be the most promising approach for truly overcoming anxiety.
Before working through emotionally charged situations with Quick REMAP, the person needs to identify specific stressful events that need to be grouped according to various themes, situations or objects that cause his or her anxiety. Then one event at a time can be worked on. The person creates a hierarchical list of anxiety provoking situations for each cluster that will be dealt with from the least to the most stressful situation on the list. However, rather than having the person endure each situation without any emotional help for longer periods of time, activating various acupuncture points dissolves his or her distress rapidly. Using this process, the list can be tackled not only much faster than in traditional CBT, but also in a much less painful manner.
After dissolving the emotional distress, the list can, if required, be approached cognitively in a much more effective manner because, as mentioned above, the thinking brain does not work effectively as long as the emotional charge is too intense. However, Quick REMAP has often shown that with the resolution of the emotional charge no further cognitive treatment is in fact needed, because the perspective of the person towards the respective situations has already switched from viewing them as anxiety-provoking towards entirely neutral. This is true anxiety relief that includes emotional healing and cognitive restructuring, both of which ensure long-term results.
To schedule an appointment with Steve to begin therapy to relieve your anxiety, call 972-997-9955 today.
Steve Reed is available for an office appointment for your counseling and psychotherapy needs in the Dallas, Fort Worth, DFW metroplex, including Addison, Allen, Arlington, Bedford, Carrollton, Colleyville, Denton, Euless, Flower Mound, Frisco, Garland, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Highland Park, Hurst, Irving, Keller, Lake Highlands, Lewisville, McKinney, Mesquite, Murphy, Plano, Richardson, Rockwall, Rowlett, and University Park. He provides therapy at his office in Richardson, TX. He also offers phone appointments from anywhere in the world.
American Psychiatric Association (2004). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text revision). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
Buck, A. (2008). Dealing with anxiety. Practice Nurse, 35(2), 34-37.
Durand, V. M. & Barlow, D. H. (2003). Essentials of abnormal psychology (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth-Thomson Learning.
Whitney, S.L., Jacob, R.G., Sparto, P.J., Olshansky, E.F., Detweiler-Shostak, G., Brown, E.L. et al. (2005). Acrophobia and pathological height vertigo: Indications for vestibular physical therapy? Physical Therapy, 85(5), 443-458.