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7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
San Diego, CA, 92108

858.354.4077

At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.

 

Filtering by Tag: panic symptoms

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

Anxiety is a hot topic these days. It’s all over the news, and apparently it is on the rise. In the age of information and technology, we are constantly bombarded with doom and gloom news alerts, including reminders that on top of everything else, we are plagued with increasing anxiety. Eventually, these reminders can get exhausting and may even contribute to the anxiety that is apparently so prevalent in the first place.

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Image source: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poems-read-anxiety

Of course, there are benefits to all this conversation around anxiety: we have a better understanding of what anxiety is and as a result we may be able to understand and empathize with those who are struggling better. But it’s important to be careful that we don’t pathologize all anxiety, and that we don’t lose sight of the strength that exists in those who truly do have anxiety disorders.

Anxiety: Natural Response to Stress or Disorder?

The way we talk about anxiety today, it is easy to believe that all anxiety is inherently bad and forget that it’s our natural response to threat or danger. We actually need anxiety to survive; it prepares our body to respond appropriately in the face of danger. However, our physiological experience of anxiety developed back when the regular dangers humans faced included running from large, sharp toothed predators. So when we are experiencing the fight-or-flight response before a big exam or presentation, it may not feel particularly adaptive. But despite the discomfort that comes with anxiety, it is natural when it is experienced as the result of a particular situation or problem, when it is proportional to the stressor, and when it only lasts until the situation is resolved (ULifeline, 2016). Anxiety, though often painful, is an important and adaptive part of the human experience.

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Image source: aconsciouslifenow.com

Though originally an adaptive response, anxiety does have the potential to be harmful when it manifests as “constant, chronic and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress, disturbs your social life and interferes with classes and work” (Active Minds, 2016). In other words, anxiety is no longer helpful when it begins to appear when there is no actual threat present. When a person experiences anxiety but has no threat to respond to, what happens? They begin avoiding situations that are actually safe. Their mind and body are telling them that safe situations are threatening, which can have a debilitating effect. When anxiety becomes disordered, it arises unexpectedly, is overwhelming, and, rather than catalyzing adaptive behavior in the face of a threat, often fosters avoidance of everyday situations (Here to Help, 2016).

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

Image source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/18/anxiety-photos-katie-crawford_n_7292548.html

So what is the takeaway? Anxiety is uncomfortable, but it helps us respond to threat, uncertainty, trouble, or feelings of unpreparedness (Active Minds, 2016). Anxiety becomes a problem (and possibly a disorder) when it comes seemingly out of nowhere and in the absence of a stressor proportional to the response, and it interferes with functioning in some way.

Recognizing Strengths as well as Struggles

There is no denying that feeling anxious is not pleasant. It can range from uncomfortable to unbearable. For those with anxiety disorders, anxiety is unpleasant on a whole new level; it can be completely overwhelming and paralyzing. It is hard to describe how out of control one can feel in the middle of a panic attack, or how draining it is to go through the day (week, month, or year) flooded with anxiety.

But in the midst of this struggle, it’s important to remember that anxiety doesn’t own you. It may be a part of you, and it may influence your life in various and profound ways. But anxiety does not determine who you are. A diagnosis does not define you. You are not a disorder. You are not weak, powerless, or alone.

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Image source: http://quotesgram.com/from-brene-brown-quotes/

Acknowledging the pain anxiety can bring is so important, but it can also be helpful to recognize that struggling with anxiety may also foster certain strengths. According to Dr. Tracy Foose (2013), trait anxiety is associated with being “highly conscientious, honest, detail oriented, performance driven, socially responsible, [and] self-controlled.” Furthermore, learning to cope with anxiety can push us towards an increased self-awareness and knowledge of ourselves. Because it is so uncomfortable, it can motivate us to grow and change parts of ourselves or our lives that may not be serving us. And once we learn that we can move through the discomfort of anxiety, we often feel stronger and more confident in ourselves knowing that we have the fortitude to move through something so profoundly difficult (Sutherland, 2011).

Finally, if you do feel like anxiety is controlling your life, you don’t have to stay stuck in this space. Not only can anxiety teach you to embrace vulnerability and reach out for support from loved ones, but therapy offers very effective treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can teach valuable coping skills, and can help to change your relationship to anxiety. Nothing will ever take anxiety away completely, but we wouldn’t want that because without anxiety, we wouldn’t survive. But therapy can help us learn that even in the worst throws of anxiety, we will survive, and even thrive.

CSAM IS HERE TO HELP

If you or someone you love might benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback for anxiety, depression, stress, or PTSD, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at csamsandiego@gmail.com.

References:

Active Minds. (2016). NSOD: Difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder.  Retrieved from: http://www.activeminds.org/component/content/article/512-nsod-difference-between-normal-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Foose, T. (2013, Feb. 19). Positive traits seen in anxiety disorders. SF Gate. Retrieved from: http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Positive-traits-seen-in-anxiety-disorders-4291474.php

Here to Help. (2016). What’s the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder?  Retrieved from: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ask-us/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder

Sutherland, M. (2011). The Benefits of Anxiety. Retrieved from: https://willowtreecounselling.ca/articles/the-benefits-of-anxiety/

ULifeline. (2016). Anxiety vs. anxiety disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/439-anxiety-vs-anxiety-disorders

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the scariest of them all? ANXIETY!

Jill Stoddard

by Dr. Janina Scarlet

In honor of Halloween, I would like to discuss one of the scariest topics, anxiety. You might be cringing just by reading about it because the topic sounds so frighteningly familiar or you might be rolling your eyes, as if to say, “Anxiety? That’s not scary! Monsters are scary.” Anxiety can in fact become a monster. Just like Freddy Krueger, it can take over your life and even your dreams. Have you ever had a nightmare about being late to class or an important meeting, dying in a plane crash, or showing up to your interview in your pajamas? That’s because anxious thoughts can even manifest themselves in our nightmares or interrupt sleep altogether.

So, why is that? Why is anxiety so overpowering? After all, it’s just an emotion, right? Shouldn’t you be able to just “get over it”? In reality, it’s not so simple. While anxiety is in fact an emotion, it does not act alone. When an intimidating event is lurking in the nearby future (such as having to do a presentation at work or school, having to drive on the freeway, or fly on an airplane), you might begin to notice some anxiety-provoking thoughts, where you imagine the worst possible scenario, such as “If I try this, I will fail,” “I’m going to lose control, or pass out, or go crazy,” “I’m going to do a terrible job and everybody will judge me,” “What if this plane crashes,” “What if I get fired?” These thoughts are often self-propagating, which means that they cause more of such thoughts to occur, and soon enough you’re flying in a tornado of terrifying thoughts that you cannot control. To make matters worse, these thoughts trigger uncomfortable physiological sensations that come along with the emotion of anxiety, such as increased heart beat, shallow breath, sweating, muscle tension, and other sensations. And what happens to your thoughts as these physiological sensations increase? You guessed it, they get worse. Thus, the thoughts and feelings (both emotional and physical), affect one another and result in you wanting to escape from the feared situation by cancelling, calling in sick, rescheduling, procrastinating, taking a Xanax, the list goes on. Initially, you might feel very relieved after escaping from the hairy anxiety monster. However, what happens long term, what are the costs of avoidance? For many people the cost is reduced ability to live a meaningful life. For example, if you keep avoiding social events, or driving/flying, this might result in you having fewer personal connections or fewer employment opportunities.

So how do you battle the anxiety monster? There are many treatments that exist for reducing anxiety and/or learning to live a meaningful life despite your anxiety. Different treatments work for different people, so you might want to do some additional research (or email us with questions) to figure out which treatment will work better for you.

 Several treatment modalities are supported by research to help people with anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works by directly challenging anxious thoughts, such as “If I fly today, my plane will crash,” as well as by teaching you techniques to break the vicious cycle where thoughts and feelings feed off of each other. Finally, it focuses on changing your behaviors to reduce your fears, anxious thoughts, and physical sensations.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) focuses on reducing avoidance and increasing mindfulness, awareness of thoughts, and increasing behaviors that are in line with your personal values, allowing you to live a more meaningful life.