When worry becomes too much

JMKass2_thumbby Jennifer Miller Kass, MSW, LCSW at Southwest Behavioral Services

We all know life can be stressful at times. But what if simple worries become too much to handle? For people with constant worry or anxiety, life can be an endless round of stress, disrupting sleep, reducing productivity, and wreaking havoc on relationships and even physical health.

Chronic worrying can be very painful, and it can take pleasure out of everyday life. In some cases, excessive worrying may turn into something worse.

What causes anxiety disorders? A combination of biological and environmental factors, much like physical disorders, such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders develop from risk factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Though anxiety disorders are both real and serious, they are also very treatable.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders include repetitive worrying, irrational or uncharacteristic rage, difficulty sleeping, bouts of crying, and difficulty concentrating. Some people also experience muscle tension, an inability to solve minor problems, and physical symptoms like tremors, muscle twitching, undiagnosable aches and pains, and even stomach or intestinal problems.

“Anxiety should not be dominating your life. If you feel that nervousness and fear are effecting your day-to-day choices and behavior, consider talking to a mental health professional” says Jennifer Miller Kass, MSW, LCSW.

Therapists recognize six categories of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive, unrealistic worrying that lasts six months or more
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) occurs when people are plagued by persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears
  • Panic Disorder sufferers experience severe attacks of panic which may make them feel much like they are having a heart attack
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) follows a traumatic event such as a sexual or physical assault, witnessing a death, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule
  • Specific Phobias occur when people suffer from an intense fear reaction to a specific object or situation, such as spiders, dogs, or heights

The silver lining with anxiety disorders is they are treatable. With a combination of psychotherapy and medications, most people can find relief. If you or someone you know suffers from symptoms of an anxiety disorder, consider contacting our mental health clinic at Southwest Behavioral Services.

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