Anxiety is a normal feeling in response to life’s stress. However, anxiety can increase to the point that it interferes with our functioning, causing us moderate to severe distress and discomfort.
Here are some of the symptoms of anxiety:
- Physical tension in the body, or sweating and even nausea
- Headaches, neck aches, grinding your teeth
- Many worries, sometimes appropriate to a situation and sometimes over-worrying about a situation or future event
- Feeling edgy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Easy startle reaction
- Reliving a traumatic event
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive thoughts and compulsions to perform certain behaviors
- Phobias such as fear of heights and bridges
Many reading this will have no doubt that they suffer from anxiety. But one of the many surprising things about anxiety is that it is often behind a lot of other problems you may suffer from. For example, it may be the culprit that is in the background behind your drinking, drug, shopping problem, sex addiction or eating disorder. Anxiety can hide behind depression or even cause you physical symptoms of illness. Another surprise is that a little anxiety is a good thing – it helps us get things done and keeps us on our toes.
More women suffer from anxiety than men, making it even more important to learn the signs and symptoms. Science reports that women may be genetically more susceptible to anxiety, and hormones (too many or too few) can make it harder for your brain to manage stress. We all go through stress in our busy, complicated lives. Even positive and hoped for events such as weddings and job promotions are stressful. In fact, any change can be stressful.
If you have a hard time sitting still, or you keep yourself too busy, what are you avoiding? Even boredom can have an element of anxiety beneath it. Anxiety may be one of the most uncomfortable feelings you can have, especially when it feels like it can easily get out of control.
Treatment for anxiety
Because anxiety has many different causes and treatments we at Women’s Therapy Services believe it is important to understand your unique situation. This could mean getting a physical to rule out medical problems, reducing or avoiding caffeine and alcohol or other drugs that may only soothe symptoms of anxiety but not help it get better. In fact, certain prescription drugs in the valium or barbiturate families are very addictive and usage needs to be monitored with care especially if you have a tendency towards getting hooked on drugs. Some antidepressant medications have been helpful for anxiety sufferers and your doctor or psychiatrist can discuss this with you especially if your anxiety is interfering with your ability to function.
Talking with a therapist is very useful in anxiety treatment. First, you will have a chance to understand why you are feeling anxious and sometimes just this is a big relief! There may be things bothering you that you have been unable to talk to anyone about. In the context of privacy and without judgment, the therapist can help you lift burdens of fear, isolation, guilt, and shame. You may also have thoughts that make your anxiety worse, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help with this. Sometimes anxiety happens when we are overwhelmed by unacceptable feelings. Identifying the feelings and finding appropriate ways to express them can help. Relaxation techniques, self-hypnosis, and meditation or mindfulness can be very helpful as well as writing or creative expression of any kind. Spiritual connection is another way to reduce anxiety.
In summary, here are some key points in the treatment for anxiety:
- Accept that you can’t take care of this problem by yourself.
- Take action to get help such as making a therapy appointment.
- Get a physical to rule out medical problems that can be treated and healed.
- Get exercise to help reduce the tension in the body.
- Reduce/stop caffeine and alcohol. Reduction of sugar and addition of healthy foods in your diet is also very helpful.
- Use talk therapy as a way to release and rework problematic thoughts and feelings.
- Learn relaxation techniques, get a relaxation CD, go to yoga or meditation, express yourself creatively with poetry or art therapy.
- Resolve underlying trauma using EMDR Therapy.
For some, anxiety can be calmed in simple steps, whereas for others it is a very difficult problem. Women’s Therapy Services can evaluate your individual problems and make recommendations for anxiety treatment. For more information or to make an appointment, please call Phyllis Klein at (415)273-1036 or Marlena Kushner at (415)563-2759.