Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a persistent fear of social situations in which a person may be judged by others or do something embarrassing. This fear is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation. The feared situations are avoided or endured with intense anxiety and distress, which negatively impacts social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry for more than 6 months about a number of events or activities. It is difficult to control the worry and at least 3 of the following symptoms are also present: restlessness, fatigue, mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension and sleep difficulty.
Panic Disorder is characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks and at least one of the attacks is followed by a month of more of persistent concern or worry about having additional attacks or their consequences and/or a significant maladaptive change in behaviors related to the attacks, such as avoidance of exercise or unfamiliar situations.
A panic attack is an abrupt surge of fear or discomfort that reaches its peak within minutes, though it may last for much longer. During the attack 4 or more of the following symptoms occur:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Fears of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
Panic attacks can often mimic heart attacks, so it is important to see your doctor to rule out a serious medical condition if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Panic disorder is very treatable and responds well to interoceptive exposures, a subset of Exposure and Response Prevention.
Specific Phobia is an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little to no actual danger. Although an individual may recognize that the fear is irrational, even thinking about the feared object or situation causes severe anxiety symptoms, including panic attacks. Often individuals struggling with specific phobias will use avoidance to manage the anxiety. Unfortunately, this only increases the fear and anxiety associated with the phobia.
Anxiety disorders, while extremely distressing, are not dangerous and they respond very well to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a type of CBT. I have worked with clients for over 15 years using CBT and look forward to walking alongside you as you take the next brave step.