What are Anxiety Disorders?

Stress Worry Woman with Text on White

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States. Anxiety disorders include a variety of conditions where excessive anxiety or fear cause significant distress or impairment in functioning at social, work, family, school or other domains of life. Anxiety disorders include: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, Agoraphobia (fear of leaving the home), Phobias, Separation Anxiety, and Selective Mutism.  Some research suggests that here in Portland, Oregon people experience Anxiety Disorders and other mental health issues at the highest rates in the nation.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 1/3rd of the population (32%) will experience an anxiety disorder within their lifetime.  19 percent of U.S. adults will experience an anxiety in any given year. A larger percentage of young adults (ages 18-44) 22% will experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. A smaller percentage of the population, 8%, will experience an anxiety disorder which severely impair quality of life. Female identified persons tend to experience anxiety disorders at a higher rate than male-identified folk.

What is the Difference Between Regular Anxiety and an Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety is a normal part of life. Anxiety is an activating emotion which helps us deal with a challenge, or fear in our future. Having a healthy concern about a situation can help you anticipate possible problems and discover better ways of handling them in advance.  However, people with anxiety disorders experience frequent worry or fear that interferes with everyday life, relationships, work, or it causes an inordinate amount of distress compared to normative anxiety.

What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

There is no one specific reason or cause of anxiety disorders, usually it involves a combination of things; chemical changes in your brain, traumatic events, environmental stress, coping skills which no longer work, or even your genes. These disorders can run in families, research estimates that about 1/3rd of the risk of developing an anxiety disorder is genetic. This is why it is important to identify a disorder in order to help understand behavior family dynamics and help the next generation. Given the fact that nearly 1/3rd of the population will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, this also indicates that an anxiety disorder may be a normal human reaction to unhealthy or overwhelming circumstances.

What Can Therapy Do for Anxiety Disorder?

Generally speaking, when your world becomes limited due to fear or anxiety it is time to seek treatment. Anxiety can impact your relationships, health, sleep, or work. It can even impact the ability to learn, pursue new things, or feel comfortable in your own skin. Therapy can help in learning tools to promote relaxation, reduce emotional vulnerability, increase resiliency, as well as changing unhelpful thinking, emotional, and behavioral patterns to more helpful ones that empower you to control anxiety and lead the life you want to live.

Do I Need Insurance to See a Therapist?

No. In fact, at Mindful Healing we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.

 

If you live in Portland or the Portland area and want information or help with Anxiety Disorder,

E-MAIL US OR CALL US AT 503-878-8588 TO SCHEDULE YOUR INTAKE TODAY.

 

What are the Different Types of Anxiety?

Silhouette of troubled person head.

Is Anxiety Normal?

Anxiety and panic are experienced by everyone to a certain degree. Concern and, in some cases, fear can be healthy and beneficial. We are biologically hard-wired to experience concern and fear when we are confronted with a challenge, a problem or danger.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) about 18 percent of U.S. adults will experience anxiety.

When Does Anxiety Become a Disorder?

The short answer is that anxiety is often considered a disorder when the anxiety and fears impact your everyday life. People with severe anxiety tend to become overwhelmed by their emotions and often cope by avoiding situations and experiences that trigger overwhelming emotions. This can almost cause a type of paralysis where most actions feel like they may lead to emotions that are overwhelming. When your anxiety impacts your health, relationships or work, you may want to seek help.

What are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorder?

The entire list of disorders is not limited to the bullet points below, but these are some of the general categories of anxiety disorder that therapy can help with.

  • General Anxiety Disorder: Persistence is the keyword. When you feel persistent worry or anxious despite everything you do, you could be experiencing General Anxiety Disorder. Many who experience General Anxiety Disorder have a constant sense that something bad is going to happen.
  • Panic Disorder: Sudden is the keyword. Panic Disorder is defined by sudden repeated episodes of feeling intense anxiety and fear. This feeling usually transfers to physical symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, pounding rapid heart-rate.
  • Specific Phobias: Fear is the keyword. Common phobias you may be familiar with are fear of spiders, fear of snakes, fear of heights and fear of flying. These objects or situations feel intrusive and distressing.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Embarrassment and judgment are the keywords. Another word is rejection. A person experiencing Social Anxiety Disorder avoids social situations. For some eye contact or a greeting is overwhelming.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Routines or rituals are the keywords. The two parts are Obsessive and Compulsive. When you have persistent uncontrollable thoughts is the Obsessive part, reacting with routines and rituals is the Compulsive Often portrayed as hand washing or turning a light switch off an exact amount of times—every time.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Trauma is the keyword. Made more aware by the trauma soldiers face in war this anxiety disorder is not limited to battlefields. Traumatization can happen from any experience that is extremely stressful and leaves you feeling helpless or emotionally out of control. Trauma can result in flashbacks, nightmares or frightening thoughts during the day.

How Does Therapy Help with Anxiety Disorders?

The biggest benefit to a therapist is identifying the disorder and the cause of anxiety. Therapy is a collaborative process. It is an opportunity for both you and your therapist to have a better understanding of yourself.

What Can I Expect from a Therapist?

Expect a lot of questions on your first visit. A Therapist is trained to diagnose anxiety disorders and teach patients healthier, more effective ways to cope. They will need to spend a lot of time learning about you to get to the root of your anxiety. You will also gain new skills to cope with your anxiety and have the ability to practice these new skills outside of the sessions. Anxiety disorders are very treatable. The majority of patients who suffer from anxiety are able to reduce or eliminate symptoms after several (or fewer) months of psychotherapy, and many patients notice improvement after just a few sessions.

Do I Need Insurance to see a Therapist?

No. In fact, at Mindful Healing we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.

 

If you live in Portland or the Portland area and want information or help with Anxiety Disorder,

E-MAIL US OR CALL US AT 503-878-8588 TO SCHEDULE YOUR INTAKE TODAY.

 

Counseling for Anxiety in Portland

Thoughtful stressed young man with a mess in his head

What Is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Disorders are more common than most people are aware of and Portland, Oregon is no different from any other city. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 18 percent of U.S. adults will experience anxiety. A larger percentage of adolescents, about 25 percent, also experience some form of anxiety. A smaller percentage experience what is considered severe anxiety disorder; 4 percent of adults and 6 percent of teens.

What is the Difference Between Regular Anxiety and Severe Anxiety?

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Having a healthy concern about a situation can help you anticipate possible problems and discover better ways of handling them in advance.  However, people with severe anxiety disorders experience persistent worry and fear that may interfere with everyday life, relationships, and work.

What Causes Anxiety Disorder?

Researchers don’t know what brings on anxiety disorders, but it is usually a combination of things; chemical changes in your brain, environmental stress or even your genes. The disorder can run in families. This is why it is important to identify a disorder in order to help understand behavior from previous generations and help to be mindful of the next.

What Can Therapy Do for Anxiety Disorder?

Although there are multiple symptoms of anxiety disorder and different types of anxiety disorder, generally speaking, when your world becomes limited due to fears it is time to seek treatment. Anxiety can impact your relationships, health, sleep, or work. It can even impact the ability to learn and pursue new things.

Do I Need Insurance to See a Therapist?

No. In fact, at Mindful Healing we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.

 

If you live in Portland or the Portland area and want information or help with Anxiety Disorder,

E-MAIL US OR CALL US AT 503-878-8588 TO SCHEDULE YOUR INTAKE TODAY.

 

Negativity Bias, Running Late, Anxiety, and Mindfulness

I woke up to my alarm for the 2nd time that morning feeling groggy. It was two hours earlier than I normally would wake on a Friday, and yet I was running late; whoever invented the snooze alarm is an evil genius. I hate running late, though it’s a situation I often find myself in. My mind began to focus on some solutions to my time problem: just have some cereal for breakfast, skip a shower, move faster, and eat faster…things like that. I sped into to the kitchen to make breakfast and discovered there was no coffee in the house. Who’s supposed to function in the wee hours of the morning without coffee? A friend needed a ride to an important appointment and I needed to make sure they got there on time. And with each misstep that morning I could feel the tension increasing in my traps, and the need to move faster. Unfortunately while operating at this pace I was making more mistakes, wasting valuable time. And then, I couldn’t find the keys. The tension was overwhelming. My mind started racing through worst-case scenarios. What if they missed their appointment because I hit the snooze, or couldn’t find my keys? That would be my fault, and would make me a terrible friend. And what would happen to them? The tension in my traps felt more intense and spread throughout my body, my jaw got tight. I felt like I couldn’t contain it. “Damnit” I shouted in frustration…Anxiety is a powerful force.

Fast forward to an hour later. I drove to my friend’s place and got to them on time. Traffic was light that morning and I dropped them off at their appointment with 20 minutes to spare. All of those catastrophe scenarios my mind generated suddenly seemed so silly in retrospect. I could breathe, my trapezius muscles could soften, I could finally relax and was on my way to getting myself a well-earned cup of coffee. In reflection it is pretty easy to see that my response to anxiety that morning was not very helpful except for causing me some distress.

Breaking down this situation: here’s how much anxiety I would like to have felt given the totality of the situation.

JS hits MW slow mo

And here’s how much anxiety I experienced.

MW hits JS

Ah the absurdity of being human.

JS MW Laugh

That morning I was not very mindful. I disconnected from the present moment and allowed my mind to pull me into worries of the future, and ponder catastrophes yet to happen. It also pulled me towards the past with my critical mind, “if you only didn’t press that snooze button you wouldn’t be running late. Why didn’t you check to see if there was coffee yesterday?” My mind went to blaming. “If you weren’t making so many stupid decisions in the past, you wouldn’t be in this position now. If my friend didn’t need a ride, I wouldn’t be in this mess.” I also allowed my feelings to control me, reacting to the powerful hormones of anxiety by hurrying up, getting into flight mode.

We humans have a negativity bias. We naturally connect with experiences and thoughts that tell us that we are in danger more than ones that tell us we’re OK. Danger can mean many things: for our ancestors, that could’ve meant a large predator in the wilderness. In the modern era danger can be a car rolling through a stop sign, a fight with our partner, a work deadline, or running late for a meeting. Evolutionary psychologists call our propensity to be on guard for danger the false alarm effect. A great way to think about this process is like having an internal fire (danger) alarm. If a fire-alarm is extra sensitive and it goes off when it’s not supposed to it can be a nuisance at worst, but it doesn’t place your survival at risk. If a fire alarm isn’t sensitive enough and it fails to alert you to a fire, your survival is at stake. Thus it makes sense that we evolved to have a more sensitive alarm for danger instead of a dull one. When our alarms go off, regardless if the danger is due to a large jungle cat, fire, or running late, our fight-or-flight response activates increasing physical tension and narrowing the focus of our minds.

Complicating matters is the fact that the mind is a compelling story-teller. It tells us stories all throughout the day. Sometimes it daydreams ridiculous stories of possessing magical powers, or rehearses the big meeting coming up. Other times, it likes to catastrophize, magnify, minimize, judge and blame. It can weave tales of black and white about a rainbow. It told me I was a bad friend because I hit a snooze alarm, it told me that for sure my mistakes would cause my friend to miss court. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we say that when our mind tells us a story, it changes our perception of reality, and we have fused with that thought. When you disconnect from that thought, it is called defusion.

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That morning I fused with the story that “I am running late, I need to move faster.” And I reacted to that fusion with anxiety. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, tension, gastrointestinal issues, tingling, numbness, sweating, clenching, panic and/or goosebumps. Typical psychological symptoms of anxiety include: racing thoughts, worry, catastrophic thinking, self-criticism, poor self-confidence, apprehension, problems with decision making, and/or fear. Some of the common behavioral reactions to anxiety include: avoidance through distraction, substances, staying away from reminders of the anxiety, suppressing thoughts, or substance use. Other reactions to anxiety include: rushing, pacing, nervous laughter, combativeness, or working extra hard to compensate for the feelings of anxiety.

In essence, our minds are prone to seeing the world in a more negative light, restricting our focus from seeing other perspectives, create stories that may enhance those negative perceptions. In response—to believe the stories your mind tells you—your body releases a series of hormones which make it more difficult to defuse from the story. Suddenly you get a vicious self-feeding cycle. That morning, I rushed through my morning routine due to anxiety, and as a result I made more errors, which led to an increase of the anxiety. I was so focused on the negative that I couldn’t see the blanket truth happening in the world around me.


So how do we manage our minds when they combine negativity bias and compelling stories? Well for starters, we can stop minding our minds. With mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or other mindbody practices we can learn to take the observer role, learn how to ground, notice that thoughts and feelings can be inaccurate, and they happen automatically. When we develop such skills we develop the power to choose which thoughts and feelings we want to engage with, and how we want to react to them. Mindfulness is an active practice that can be used throughout your lifespan. Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all that means we can achieve a state of being that removes us from human paradoxes and drama, but it helps a lot.

Other ways of managing mindbody reactions include taking active self-care to reduce our psychological vulnerability to unhelpful frames of mind. When our mindbodies are in peak health, they adapt to stressors with more flexibility, creativity, and ease. Peak health is often achieved by having good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, feeling safe and secure, relaxation, managing stress, and satisfying our social, psychological, and physiological needs. When I gave my friend a ride that morning, I was sleep deprived and I also did not participate in exercise that week. Those factors made me more vulnerable to having an intense anxiety reaction compared to when I experience similar stressors of running late when I’m well rested and exercise regularly throughout the week.

Today, we explored some of the nature of anxiety. The human mindbody is sensitive towards danger signals, and responds by activating our fight-or-flight system. Additionally, the mind is a compelling storyteller and it can tell us tales of disaster, judgment, or catastrophe. And when we aren’t in peak health conditions, we’re more vulnerable to unhelpful frames of mind. Anxiety is experienced through physiological, psychological, and behavioral responses. Mindfulness activities, stress management, and self-care can help us manage our responses to our internal systems and give use more power to choose how we want to react to what is happening in the here and now. Thank you for taking the time to read this article dear reader. Until next time, farewell.