What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal emotion and set of physical responses that helps us survive, cope and adapt to perceived physical and emotional threats. Some anxiety can actually motivate us to function and perform well. It can also help us focus our attention on the things that are important to us. Too much anxiety can lead to chronic distress, panic and impairment of normal functioning.
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is an overwhelming experience of severe anxiety, fear or even terror and extreme physiological arousal, such as, shortness of breath and hyperventilation, heart palpitations and increased heart rate (many people fear they are having a heart attack), trembling, muscle tension, dizziness, feeling sick and feeling like fainting. Panic attacks can come on suddenly and seem unrelated to stressors but usually are the result of an underlying build up of anxiety and tension. Learning how to manage anxiety and stress can prevent panic attacks.
What is An Anxiety Disorder?
An anxiety disorder involves anxiety that regularly occurs when there isn’t a realistic threat or the intensity of the anxious feelings and physiological arousal is more severe than the situation warrants. Some people are prone to experience anxiety due to having naturally sensitive nervous systems (inherited genetically), too much stress or personality and thinking styles that focus on worrying. A history of trauma can also make your nervous system more sensitive and alert to threats.
Anxiety disorders are very common and they can be disabling. About 14% of Australian adults will experience an anxiety disorder. There are different types, including specific phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How are Anxiety Disorders Treated?
The good news is that effective psychological therapies can help you learn how to self-manage anxiety and panic, address underlying causes and often recover from anxiety disorders. Some people with more severe symptoms or who have co-occurring depression or other mental health problems may also require medication for psychological therapies and self help strategies to be effective.
I use evidence-based psychological therapies for anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been shown to be the most effective form of treatment for most anxiety disorders. Schema Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness Skills Training are compatible with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and can assist in addressing underlying causes as well as offer additional management and treatment strategies.