Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety-Girl

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the feeling of worry, fear, or nervousness about the possibility of something bad happening. You may feel anxious while giving a speech in a class, thinking about a loved one dying when they are healthy, or even while shopping in a grocery store. Anxiety may be an issue for you at work, with friends, or even prevent you from leaving your house. It can be debilitating and make you feel like you are going crazy. You may feel several physical symptoms, leading you to believe something more serious is actually happening. Anxiety may prevent you from fully living your life.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Excessive worry
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart
  • Headaches
  • Racing thoughts
  • Fear of something bad happening to self or others

You may have been feeling any or all of the symptoms of anxiety for weeks, or even months. Anxiety can be experienced alone, or accompany a panic attack or phobia. It may be causing impairment at school, work, or socially.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

  • Fear of meeting new people
  • Fear of interacting with others, such as conversations
  • Fear of being in front of people or speaking in groups
  • Fear of crowds
  • Fear of being watched
  • Fear of making a mistake in front of others
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety during social interactions
  • Fear of future social interactions
  • Avoiding social interactions to prevent anxiety

Social anxiety may include many of the symptoms of anxiety, but in relation to social interaction. You may desire to have relationships with others, but struggle due to feeling anxious.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Fear of dying
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Shaking
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling of being outside of your body
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Sweating

A panic attack can come on out of the blue, or be triggered by an event (e.g., running out of gas in a remote place). It can last for as long as 10 minutes, but may feel like it’s never going to end. Panic attacks are debilitating and leave you feeling drained. They can be frustrating and make it hard for you to function in your daily life. You may feel paralyzed, unable to do any thing out of fear of triggering another attack.

Symptoms of Phobia 

  • Irrational fears of everyday objects (e.g., bridges, blood) or situations (e.g., flying, being in public)
  • Avoidance of object or situation that causes fear
  • Panic attacks may occur when exposed to object or situation
  • Symptoms of anxiety or panic occur only when exposed to or thinking about the object or situation

A phobia can be easily avoided, or it may be dramatically interfering with your life. Your phobia may even be preventing you from leaving your house out of fear. You may take dramatic steps to avoid your phobia (such as changing jobs, or avoiding driving or walking a certain way).

Treatment for Anxiety

 Living in Orange County can be stressful. Trying to keep up with the “Joneses” and fit into a fast paced society can cause severe anxiety. There are several treatment options if you feel like your anxiety is out of control. Please schedule an appointment to explore your options.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy explores how your thoughts impact your behaviors. You may be able to stop your anxiety or panic attacks from occurring by learning to stop or change your thoughts. Learning behavioral changes, such as relaxation and deep breathing will also be a part of therapy.

Exposure Therapy

With support, exposure therapy gradually exposes you to the feared object or situation in small, doable steps. This may start through visualization or looking at a picture. The time exposed will start out small (e.g., 1 minute) and work up to longer exposure, as you are able to tolerate it. Sessions are offered in the community to work on phobias and panic attacks, if appropriate.

Medication

Medication may be used to aid in recovery of anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias. It should be paired with therapy to work on the root cause of the anxiety and to see the biggest reduction in anxiety.