Your Struggle With Anxiety Has Cost You
Maybe it has cost you time, energy, deep and painful regret, financial burden, lost moments, lost celebrations, restricted freedom, missed opportunities and damaged or strained relationships with those whom you love and trust. Below is a list of common things people do and feel when they struggle with anxiety and fear. Look it over. Do any of these apply to you? If so, you may have an anxiety disorder and could find relief in participating in counseling.
- Avoiding situations or activities that bring on anxious thoughts, feelings and memories (e.g. going to a party, speaking at a meeting, going outside, being in a crowd, experiencing a new situation, driving, working)
- Feeling constantly overwhelmed
- Fear of losing control
- Distracting yourself from anxiety, fear and worrisome thoughts
- Being in a state of uneasiness, apprehension; as about future uncertainties
- A heightened fear of what people think of you
- Self-doubt and low self-esteem
- Fear resulting from anticipation about realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation
- Fear of dying
- Feeling like you’re going crazy
- Inability to rest; sleep problems
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach aches and or nausea
- Neck tension or headaches
Although the above list includes common symptoms, this is by no means an exhaustive list. A more thorough and formal explanation of what an anxiety disorder looks like can be found in the DSM-V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). For example, some of the diagnostic criteria includes:
The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.
Excessive worry means worrying even when there is nothing wrong, or in a manner that is disproportionate to actual risk. This typically involves spending a high percentage of waking hours worrying about something. The worry may be accompanied by reassurance-seeking from others.
In adults, the worry can be about job responsibilities or performance, one’s own health or the health of family members, financial matters, and other everyday, typical life circumstances. Of note, in children, the worry is more likely to be about their abilities or the quality of their performance (for example, in school).
The worry is experienced as very challenging to control.
Worry in both adults and children may shift from one topic to another.
The anxiety and worry is associated with at least 3 of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only 1 symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD.):
- Edginess or restlessness.
- Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual.
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank.
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others).
- Increased muscle aches or soreness.
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep).
Many individuals with GAD also experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea or diarrhea.
The anxiety, worry, or associated symptoms make it hard to carry out day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may cause problems in relationships, at work, or in other important areas.
These symptoms are unrelated to any other medical conditions and cannot be explained by the effect of substances including a prescription medication, alcohol or recreational drugs.
These symptoms are not better explained by a different mental disorder. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)
Effective therapy and counseling can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with anxiety in a relatively short time, allowing you the ability to resume regular activities and regain a sense of control. Although some may not be able to identify the cause of their anxiety, after attending a few therapy sessions, many people are able to find the source of their struggle and work through this in more depth with their therapist. Psychotherapy aims to identify and address the source of the anxiety rather than treating the symptom alone. The self reflective process of therapy helps people understand, unhinge and transform anxiety.
Counseling may also include some homework. There are a number of exercises that will provide you with new perspectives- leading to new experiences. Doing work outside of sessions will help you make contact with what works and what doesn’t. Some work may entail helping you feel worries, anxieties and fears-but will show you how you can experience all of them without acting on them. Understanding this logically is helpful, but only experiencing it yourself will make a difference in your life. Therapy can help you and work for you – but only if you work with it!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Lindsay Melka, LPC
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