Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a familiar emotion.  It is an expected part of life.  Most everyone experiences some anxiety before taking a test, when they encounter problems at work, or make a significant change in their life. Anxiety becomes a disorder, however, when the anxiety does not dissipate and worsens over time.  When anxiety interferes with daily functioning, often you need help.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health issues.  It presents as excessive anxiety or worry for months at a time. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms include:

  • Restlessness, feeling wound-up or on edge;
  • Easily fatigued;
  • Difficulty concentrating or the mind going blank;
  • Irritability;
  • Muscle tension;
  • Difficulty controlling worry;
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or fitful, unsatisfying sleep).

Panic Disorder

A panic disorder is different from anxiety.  It is expressed through periodic unforeseen panic attacks.  These are abrupt periods of acute fear that may include heart palpitations, sweating, tremors or shaking, sensations of shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom.

Panic disorder symptoms include:

  • Sudden and recurrent attacks of penetrating fear;
  • Feelings of being out of control;
  • Intense worries in anticipation of the next attack;
  • Fear or avoidance of places or situations where panic attacks were previously experienced.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (aka social phobia) presents as notable fear in social or performance situations.  The person foresees humiliation, criticism, rejection, or they fear they will offend others.

Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Excessive anxiety about being with other people and difficulty talking to them;
  • Feeling awkward and insecure around other people and worrying about being humiliated, embarrassed, rejected, or fearful of offending others;
  • Dreading judgment or criticism by other people;
  • Agonizing for days or weeks preceding an event where other people will be gathered;
  • Avoiding crowded places;
  • Difficulty creating or maintaining friendships;
  • Experience blushing, sweating, or tremors around people;
  • Feeling nauseous when in the presence of people.


Treatment for anxiety is based on how it is affecting your ability to function in your daily life.  Typically, anxiety disorders are treated with psychotherapy and medications.  Psychotherapy can help reduce anxiety symptoms through cognitive behavioral (CBT) strategies or DBT skills.  CBT helps you manage your worries so you no longer have to avoid the associated activity.  DBT utilizes mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills to assist you in managing your behaviors, emotions and thoughts.
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