Anxiety is a mental and physical reaction to perceived threats. In small doses, anxiety is helpful because it protects us from danger and shifts our focus to problems that require our attention. But when anxiety is too severe or occurs too frequently, it can become debilitating. It is important to note that while anxiety symptoms vary from person to person, the body generally reacts in a very specific way to anxiety. When you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating your fight or flight responses. As a result, you will experience common anxiety symptoms, such as:

  • Nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
  • Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Increased or heavy sweating
  • Trembling, shakiness, or muscle twitching
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive or gastrointestinal problems
  • A strong feeling of avoidance
  • Obsessions about certain ideas
  • Repeating certain behaviors
  • Anxiety surrounding a particular life event

How does Anxiety grow from normal stress to needing professional help?

Anxiety drives people to avoid the things that frighten them. When a fear is avoided, there is an immediate, but short-lived, sense of relief. However, the next time a similar threat arises, it feels even more daunting. This creates the harmful cycle of fear-avoidance and worsening anxiety. Unfortunately, the relief does not last long and the desire to avoid a situation becomes increasingly difficult to resist. Many anxiety treatments work by breaking the cycle of anxiety and avoidance. In therapy, clients are encouraged to face the source oft heir anxieties because when confronted, anxiety and avoidance will eventually diminish and tolerance, for what was intolerable, develops.  

Types of Anxiety

Agoraphobia People with agoraphobia have a fear of certain places or situations that make them feel trapped, powerless, or embarrassed—these feelings often lead to panic attacks. People often try to “cope” by avoiding certain people, places, and/or situations in order to prevent panic attacks. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) People with GAD experience constant anxiety and worry about certain activities or events, even those that are ordinary or routine. Given the reality of the situation, the worry is greater than it should be. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) OCD is the continual experience of unwanted or intrusive thoughts and worries that cause anxiety. Even though a person may know these thoughts are trivial, they will try to relieve their anxiety by performing certain rituals or behaviors. Common examples include hand washing, counting, or checking on things. 

Panic Disorder Panic disorder causes sudden and repeated bouts of severe anxiety, fear, or terror that peak in a matter of minutes, sometimes even seconds—this is known as a panic attack. Common symptoms are feelings of looming danger, shortness of breath, chest tightness and/or pain, rapid or irregular heart palpitations. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) PTSD occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event such as war, a form of assault (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual), a natural disaster, or an accident. Common symptoms include trouble relaxing, nightmares, or flashbacks of the traumatic event or situation.  

Selective Mutism This refers to the ongoing inability of a child to talk in specific situations or places. For example, a child may refuse to talk at school, even when they can speak in other situations or places, such as at home. Selective mutism can interfere with everyday life and activities, such as school, work, and a social life. 

Separation Anxiety Disorder This is a childhood condition marked by anxiety when a child is separated from their parents or guardians. Separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood development and most children outgrow it around 18 months. However, some children experience versions of this disorder that disrupt their daily activities. 

Specific Phobias A very intense fear of a specific situation, object, or event which is out of proportion to its actual threat. Common examples include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of small spaces,) or acrophobia(fear of heights).

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms and/or behaviors, please reach out to us. Anxiety is treatable and seeking support from a professional is the first step towards healing.