Introduction to Anxiety
At Aucoin and Associates Psychology Practice, in Lafayette, LA, we treat anxiety, a highly treatable condition that affects 40 million adults in the United States. Anxiety is a disorder in which a person experiences overwhelming apprehension and worry more days than not. It is hard for the person experiencing anxiety to control the apprehension and worry. Both children and adults can be affected by anxiety. Worry is normal and necessary for survival but when it keeps someone from experiencing everyday life, then a person could be experiencing an anxiety disorder. School, work, and social experiences may be affected by symptoms of anxiety. Changes in a person’s environment and brain as well as genetics play a role in a person experiencing the symptoms of anxiety. There are different types of anxiety disorders that are classified by different symptoms. The different types include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Selective Mutism, Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), Panic Disorder, and Agoraphobia. A person might also experience panic attacks or a specific phobia.
Symptoms (DSM- 5)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
A person experiences overall restlessness and often feels keyed up or on edge. A person will often feel tired or easily fatigued. A person will often have trouble concentrating and getting things done as well as being short- tempered or touchy. Muscle tension is often experienced as well as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Separation Anxiety Disorder:
A person experiences high levels of anxiety when they know that they will not be with the people they feel comfortable or secure with. A person may also experience high levels of anxiety when thinking about losing someone they care about or love. Losing a loved one through a frightening situation such as a natural disaster is often feared by a person with this disorder. A person will also often be apprehensive about leaving the person they are attached to due to the fact that they would be separated from them. Being alone can also cause high levels of anxiety. Nightmares where a person is separated from their attachment figure are common. Physical symptoms such as nausea or vomiting may accompany the high levels of anxiety when a person is separated from the person to whom they are attached. This anxiety is experienced for at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and for at least 6 months in adults.
It is difficult or impossible for a person to speak in specific social situations where speaking is expected. The person that has difficulty speaking in these specific social situations is able to speak in other situations. A person’s educational or occupational achievements could be affected by the lack of speech as well as how a person communicates in social situations. The absence of speech occurs for at least one month but is not limited to the first month of school. The person not speaking is comfortable and knowledgeable with the spoken language.
High levels of anxiety are experienced due to the fear a person has in regards to a specific object or situation. A child experiencing a specific phobia may cry or even have tantrums as they express their anxiety or fear. The phobic object or situation almost always brings about immediate feelings of fear or anxiety for the person experiencing a specific phobia. The phobic object or situation is actively avoided. The fear a person experiences about the phobic object or situation is much greater than the actual present danger. The high levels of anxiety are present for 6 months or more. Some common specific phobias include animals, natural environment, blood- injection- injury, situational, and other (ex. costume characters).
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia):
Social situations are intensely feared. Criticism by other people is feared. Examples include eating in front of people, giving a speech, and meeting new people. The person experiencing social anxiety is often worried about another person scrutinizing them for showing their anxiety symptoms. A person actively avoids social situations. The actual threat posed by the social situations is much less than the level of anxiety experienced. The anxiety present in the social situations is experienced for 6 months or more.
A person with Panic Disorder experiences unexpected panic attacks. These attacks happen over and over again. Consistent concern over having another panic attack or the consequences that could occur from having one as well as maladaptive behaviors used to avoid having another panic attack are experienced.
Panic Attack Symptoms:
A panic attack is a “very quick surge” of intense anxiety or discomfort that within minutes, reaches an extremely high level. Four or more of the following symptoms could be experienced:
- Palpitations, pounding heat, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling, shaking
- Feeling short of breath or as if you are smothering
- Feeling as if you are choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Dizziness, unsteadiness, light- headedness, feeling faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Numbness, tingling
- Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
High levels of anxiety or extreme fear are experienced in 2 or more of the following five situations:
- Public transportation
- Open spaces
- Enclosed spaces
- Being in line/ in a crowd
- Outside of home alone
A person worries that they might not be able to get out of a place or situation or that they might not be able to be helped if needed if they experience embarrassing or extremely debilitating symptoms of anxiety.
Diagnosis and Treatment
At Aucoin and Associates Psychology Practice, our therapists and medical health professionals along with our clients, complete thorough mental health assessments in order to determine if a person is experiencing anxiety. Psychological testing is also offered through our practice. Anxiety can be treated with both psychotherapy and medication management. At Aucoin and Associates Psychology Practice, therapists as well as medical professionals will work with clients in order to address anxiety concerns, collaborating in order to determine if clients are in need of mental health counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy or rational emotive behavioral therapy, medication management, or a combination of both.