Anxiety Therapy: A Guide for Berkshire Residents
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. From dogs barking to tripping, physical dangers can trigger our stress response, as can psychological triggers, such as an important meeting.
Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness, keeping us on permanent alert and prompting us to feel excessive agitation in reaction to ordinary, everyday events. When feelings of anxiety make it difficult to carry out daily activities, perform at work or school, or maintain close relationships, you may have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
If you’re struggling to cope with anxiety, you’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting 40 million adults each year. Although living with anxiety can feel overwhelming, anxiety disorders are highly treatable with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, and each type of anxiety disorder has different diagnostic criteria under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Some common types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobias (e.g., agoraphobia)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
- Separation anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorders can affect anyone—from children and adolescents to adults. Many people with anxiety disorders also live with co-occurring mental illnesses, including mood disorders (bipolar disorder and major depression), substance use disorders, eating disorders, and body dysmorphic disorder.
If left untreated, related disorders and physical health conditions can worsen anxiety symptoms and make recovery more difficult. As with all mental health conditions, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to manage your mental health and improve your quality of life.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
For most people, anxiety involves a combination of psychological and physical symptoms, including:
- Excessive worry and nervousness
- Rapid heart rate and/or hyperventilation
- Trembling or muscle twitching
- Intense fear of humiliation or embarrassment in social interactions (social anxiety)
- Unexplained headaches or body pains
- Sleeping problems, such as insomnia and restlessness
- Digestive problems, such as nausea
- Intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and/or compulsions
- Increased irritability
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty focusing and making decisions
- Avoidance of a feared situation or object
Some of the signs of anxiety can happen as a result of conditions other than anxiety disorders. For example, the symptoms of panic attacks may resemble those of heart disease, thyroid problems, and other physical health problems.
Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is treated with psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, or both. Whether you’re experiencing occasional anxiety or excessive worry, here are some helpful tips and resources to manage your mental health.
- Schedule a psychotherapy appointment. Psychotherapy is the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), psychotherapy is the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders. Working with a psychologist can help you navigate your mental health concerns, identify your triggers, and learn new ways to cope with anxiety symptoms.
- Talk to a psychiatrist about medication. If you and your psychologist decide that medication is right for your treatment plan, your psychologist can provide a referral to a psychiatrist. Types of medications commonly used in treating anxiety include antidepressants—either selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or tricyclic antidepressants—along with benzodiazepines and other anti-anxiety medications. You’ll be able to discuss your specific symptoms and explore medication side effects to determine the most effective treatment for your anxiety.
- Visit your primary care provider for a check-up. Because the symptoms of physical health problems may resemble those of anxiety disorders, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups.
- Make healthy lifestyle changes. Taking care of your physical health is important, too. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. If caffeine, nicotine, or other substances trigger your anxiety symptoms, take steps to eliminate these or reduce your consumption. Before using any herbal supplements or vitamins to treat your anxiety, talk to your doctor.
- Join a support group. Joining a support group can provide a valuable source of social support, especially for individuals living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it’s important to keep in mind that support groups are not substitutes for talk therapy. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers numerous support group resources.
- Try mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Mindfulness and relaxation help relieve anxiety symptoms by helping you live in the present moment, according to a meta-analysis by Breedvelt et al.
Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
Several types of psychotherapy are used to treat anxiety, and the type of therapy that works best for you will depend on your specific symptoms. Some types of therapy commonly used in the treatment of anxiety disorders include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Cognitive-behavioral treatment, which combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy, helps clients identify negative patterns of thinking and behaving. By addressing these patterns, clients can develop different ways of thinking that will promote healthier behaviors.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT focuses on accepting problematic thoughts and behaviors. Through validation, clients can work toward positive change.
- Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapy, which can be delivered as a short-term or long-term treatment, helps clients recognize negative patterns of behavior rooted in past experiences.
- Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a behavioral intervention commonly used to treat phobias, OCD, and PTSD. During therapy sessions, mental health providers help clients identify triggers and learn new ways to avoid becoming anxious when exposed to them.
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on interpersonal relationships to improve clients’ communication skills. During therapy sessions, the mental health provider works with the client to evaluate social interactions, recognize negative patterns, and learn new ways to interact.
To start anxiety therapy, reach out to a mental health professional through the Berkshire Therapy Group. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or anxiety symptoms are disrupting your daily life, our licensed therapists are here to help you navigate your mental health issues and start feeling better.