Anxiety FAQ

What is an anxiety disorder?

Generally speaking, an anxiety disorder is excessive worry, fear, anxiety, and nervousness that interfere in your ability to meet work, social, academic, and/or familial obligations.

Examples of specific anxiety disorders that commonly impact adults include: Specific Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear and anxiety, accompanied by different physical sensations.  These sensations may include racing/pounding heart, shortness of breath, tingling in the arms and legs, sweating, chills, upset stomach, shaking, and feeling faint or dizzy, among others.  Panic attacks are usually accompanied by scary thoughts such as one is losing control or will die.

A panic attack usually reaches a peak in about 10-15 minutes before deescalating.  Over time, some people begin to avoid places or activities that they believe trigger panic attacks, which over time, can lead to panic disorder with agoraphobia.

It's important to remember that panic attacks are extremely common, and most people will experience at least one during their lifetime!

Where do Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related disorders fit in?

OCD and related disorders such as body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling), hoarding disorder, and excoriation (skin picking) have been moved to their own chapter in the new DSM due to features such as obsessions and compulsions that make them somewhat distinct from other anxiety disorders.

I feel anxious sometimes, do I need therapy?

I get asked this question all the time!  The answer is, it really depends.  The experience of anxiety is a part of our normal, human range of emotions.  A little anxiety is beneficial; it keeps us safe, and in smaller amounts, provides motivation.  The real key question is, does your experience of anxiety interfere in your life?  If the answer is yes, then seeking a psychotherapy consultation may be a good idea.

Are anxiety disorders treatable?

There is a lot of research that shows that certain types of psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and more recently, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and other mindfulness based interventions can successfully treat most people who suffer from anxiety and related disorders.

Will I need to take medication? 

I am a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, and therefore, do not prescribe medication to my clients.  Some clients find medication helpful; if this is something that I believe will be helpful to a client, I initiate a collaborative conversation, and provide assistance in finding a psychiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.

How long will therapy take to help my anxiety?

This answer depends on many different factors such as how significant someone's particular symptoms are, how long they've persisted for, and if there are other co-occurring conditions such as depression or substance abuse.  CBT treatment for anxiety disorders tends to be shorter term in nature, often lasting between 10-15 sessions.  This decision is made collaboratively between myself and my client, and is based on their individual needs, and regular ongoing monitoring of therapy progress.

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