What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come. But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for several months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.

It is normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. This type of anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and to do a better job. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life.

In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating.

This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator, crossing the street, or even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. According to the American Psychiatric Association, females are more likely than males to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a key part of several different disorders. These include:

  • panic disorder: experiencing recurring panic attacks at unexpected times. A person with panic disorder may live in fear of the next panic attack.
  • phobia: excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity
  • social anxiety disorder: extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations
  • selective mutism: a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child's inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder: recurring irrational thoughts that lead you to perform specific, repeated behaviors
  • separation anxiety disorder: fear of being away from home or loved ones
  • illness anxiety disorder: anxiety about your health (formerly called hypochondria)
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): anxiety following a traumatic event

Causes of Anxiety

Researchers are not sure of the exact cause of anxiety. But, it’s likely a combination of factors play a role. These include genetic and environmental factors, as well as brain chemistry.

In addition, researchers believe that the areas of the brain responsible for controlling fear may be impacted. Current research of anxiety is taking a deeper look at the parts of the brain that are involved with anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety

An anxiety attack is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress, or fear. For many people, an anxiety attack builds slowly. It may worsen as a stressful event approach.

Anxiety attacks can vary greatly, and symptoms may differ among individuals. That is because the many symptoms of anxiety do not happen to everyone, and they can change over time.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Apprehension and worry
  • Restlessness
  • Distress
  • Fear
  • Numbness or tingling

Anxiety in Children and Teenagers

Anxiety in children is natural and common. In fact, approximately one in eight children will experience anxiety. As children grow up and learn from their parents, friends, and caretakers, they typically develop the skills to calm themselves and cope with feelings of anxiety.

But, anxiety in children can also become chronic and persistent, developing into an anxiety disorder. Uncontrolled anxiety may begin to interfere with daily activities, and children may avoid interacting with their peers or family members.

In children, the following symptoms of anxiety may also be present:

  • Jitteriness
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feelings of fear
  • Shame
  • Feelings of isolation

Symptoms of anxiety in teenagers may include nervousness, shyness, isolationist behaviors, and avoidance. Likewise, anxiety in teens may lead to unusual behaviors. They may act out, perform poorly in school, skip social events, and even engage in substance or alcohol use.

Treatment for Anxiety

Psych Connect employs a range of therapies to treat anxiety. The most common methods include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Emotion Focused Therapy
  • Schema Focused Therapy
  • Solutions Focused Therapy
  • Sand Tray and Symbol Play Therapy
  • Art Psychotherapy

At Psych Connect, counsellors, psychologists and art psychotherapists are skilled in treatment of anxiety disorders. We provide individual and group-based intervention for anxiety disorders. Often, we take a team-based approach in treatment. In addition to teaching you skills to manage the symptoms of anxiety, we will also help you work through the root cause of your anxiety, helping you understand why you feel a certain way, what triggers your anxiety and what you can do to stay psychologically healthy.