Published On: April 2, 2015

Psychotherapy can assist you in understanding how your brain makes you anxious. It can also help you understand what you can do to change it. According to Margaret Wehrenberg, statistics from the website of Anxiety Disorder Association of America indicate that up to 33% of the U.S. population suffers a panic attack during their lifespan. Thus, 40 million Americans are affected by an anxiety disorder and are three to five times more likely to seek medical help and six times as likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.

Often people who feel panic, anxiety or dread feel the desire to find a quick fix by seeking medication. This prevents the person from learning what is actually happening to them and hence exploring other options to eliminate the anxiety. In severe cases, medication may be useful for a brief time while also utilizing psychotherapy to facilitate further progress. Psychotherapy assists the person to be able to learn coping strategies to deal with the anxiety and/ or eliminate it. Anxiety medications can be highly addictive. If the person is able to come off the medication, the anxiety remains as the individual has not learned how to understand their anxiety or how to change it through the use of psychotherapy. They have relied solely on the medication to alleviate symptoms of panic, anxiety and dread.

There are several types of anxiety disorders which would need to be assessed by a psychotherapist or psychiatrist to determine how to best treat your anxiety. The approaches can be different based on the type of anxiety disorder. Following are some of the most common anxiety disorders. Panic Disorder is marked by a fear of having a panic attack. There is high physical arousal, including rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, nausea, dizziness, sensations of shortness of breath or smothering, feeling of choking, chest pain or discomfort, feeling dizzy, lightheaded, unsteady or faint, fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, chills or hot flashes. Four or more of these symptoms would qualify for a diagnosis of Panic Disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is marked by six months or more of excessive worry over normal things. A sense of dread or doom is frequently felt. This disorder can be seen in children, especially those with worries about school performance. Social anxiety disorder is ma rked by avoidance of activities and settings that cause the person to shake, sweat or blush and in which the person feels very anxious. Specific Phobia is a marked and persistent fear that is unreasonable or excessive triggered by the anticipation or presence of a situation or object (e.g. heights, elevators, flying, animals, seeing blood). Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is defined when the person has either obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are persistent and recurrent thoughts, images or impulses that are experienced during the disturbance, as inappropriate and intrusive and that cause marked anxiety or distress. Compulsions are defined by repetitive behaviours (e.g. hand washing, needing to have objects in a certain order, checking) or mental acts (e.g. counting, praying, repeating words silently.) The person feels driven to do these behaviours or mental acts in order to prevent or reduce distress or prevent some dreaded event or situation. These mental acts or behaviours are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to prevent or neutralize or are excessive. Agoraphobia is anxiety about being in situations or places from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. Agoraphobia is identified in situations whereby the person is outside the home alone; is in a crowd or standing in line; traveling in a bus, automobile or train or in a movie theatre and becomes highly anxious. The person may then avoid these situations.

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