Anxiety is the most common condition for which people seek counseling. Symptoms include excessive worry, nervousness, muscle tension, fatigue, sleep disturbance, irritability, uncertainty about the future, or feeling angst or fear about a real or imagined threatening event or situation. People seek help when they can’t manage the symptoms on their own, or they notice impairment of their physical or mental functioning. The reference manual clinicians use to identify disorders lists 10 different anxiety disorders.
Some disorders are more common in children, such as Separation Anxiety Disorder, where there is developmentally inappropriate or excessive worry over being separated from their attachment figure. Another is Selective Mutism, where children won’t speak in social situations where it is expected (e.g. school), yet they speak at home.
Specific Phobias affect all ages and deal with significant fear about a specific object or situation (e.g., heights, public speaking). So, people avoid it or endure it with intense fear. The same is true of Social Anxiety Disorder, which is excessive fear of being scrutinized by others.
Panic Disorder is diagnosed when people have panic attacks, typically triggered by excessive stress in multiple areas of their lives. The body interprets this stress as a threat, prompting “fight or flight” physiological changes quite distressing.
At the same time, they experience psychological symptoms (e.g., feeling they’re going crazy; sensing impending doom or the need to escape). As people avoid the place(s) where the attacks occurred, their world gets smaller to the point they may develop Agoraphobia (e.g., fear of leaving their home).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves pervasive excessive worry about people, events, and activities which occurs more days than not for at least six months despite their efforts to control the worry. People often report a familial pattern of “worry-warts.”
Anxiety can be a side-effect of another condition, as in Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder and Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition. And lastly, Other Specified Anxiety Disorder, and Unspecified Anxiety Disorder, are for reports of limited symptoms/duration, and are used when there was not enough time to get all the information.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a highly effective treatment approach that looks at how thoughts affect (e.g., exaggerate) peoples’ feelings and behavior. Enduring and pervasive symptoms will more likely require talk-therapy plus medication for effective management of symptoms. It is important for people to know professionals are skilled at treating excessive anxiety if they would just seek help.
Stockton is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and owner of Inner Peace Coaching & Counseling located at 4030 Mount Carmel Tobasco Road in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, call 513.201.5949 or visit www.lindastockton.com.