What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

What Causes Anxiety?

Like depression, anxiety can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Anxiety can be a learned behavior like when growing up with highly anxious parents. Some people seem to have been born with anxiety as seen in extreme separation anxiety that morphs into other types of anxiety as the person ages. Other anxiety might appear after a car accident where the person fears getting back into the car. Just as there are no two people exactly alike, there are no two exact sets of feelings and symptoms of anxiety.

Types of Anxiety

There are many types of anxiety but the three most common are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder—People with generalized anxiety disorder display excessive anxiety or worry for months and face several anxiety-related symptoms.


·       Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge

·       Being easily fatigued/tired

·       Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank

·       Irritability

·       Muscle tension

·       Difficulty controlling the worry

·       Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

Panic Disorder—People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom.


·       Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear

·       Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack

·       Intense worries about when the next attack will happen

·       Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past

Social Anxiety Disorder—People with social anxiety disorder (sometimes called “social phobia”) have an intense fear of social or performance situations in which they expect to feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others.


·       Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them

·       Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others

·       Being very afraid that other people will judge them

·       Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be

·       Staying away from places where there are other people

·       Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends

·       Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people

·       Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around

Diagnosing Anxiety

Anxiety, by itself, is fairly easy to diagnosis and many clients have already self-diagnosed before walking in the door. It is helpful though to have a thorough medical evaluation by your primary care doctor because some physical health conditions, such as an overactive thyroid or low blood sugar, as well as taking certain medications, can imitate or worsen an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety often co-exists with other related conditions such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder so it is recommended that your therapist also evaluate you for these and other conditions as well.

How I Treat Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.

“Talk therapy” is a very effective type of treatment. Since each person’s anxiety is unique to them and their experiences, treatment is tailored to each client’s specific needs. Some clients feel more anxiety from talking about their anxiety. This is a small hurdle to overcome in order to achieve lasting results.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help people with anxiety disorders. CBT starts with the understanding that the way we think, feel, and act are all interconnected and if we can change just one of the three areas, then the other two will inevitably change as well.

For those that have a specific event or task that causes them anxiety, we use a technique called laddering. Laddering involves listing all events leading up to and following the ‘main’ event or task that causes anxiety (for example, giving a speech or flying in an airplane). After assigning levels of anxiety, we work on learning some relaxation and imagery skills to help at each stage of events. These, along with the next steps in the process have a high success rate in anxiety reduction.


Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but often relieves symptoms. Medication can only be prescribed by a medical doctor (such as a psychiatrist or a primary care provider). Medications are sometimes used as the initial treatment of an anxiety disorder, or are used only if there is insufficient response to a course of psychotherapy.

Mental Wellness

Anxiety and other disorders can be exasperated by leading an unhealthy lifestyle. Getting enough sleep, limiting caffeine and alcohol, exercise, and eating a balanced diet can help alleviate symptoms. Managing stress on a daily basis can also lead to better outcomes in anxiety reduction. Many people find that participating in yoga, meditation, or simple deep breathing exercises can have a big impact.

Call 608-628-7147 or e-mail now for a free 15-minute phone consultation or to schedule an appointment. Anxiety is highly treatable and an extra burden that you will enjoy living without!


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Authenticity Counseling

6601 Grand Teton Plaza

Suite 1A

Madison, WI

Phone: 608-628-7147





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