This Thing Called ANXIETY ~ Written by: Grace Hutchinson, PsyD
Anxiety is a very common condition that is often seen in various degrees in clients coming into therapist’s offices. There is much interest in understanding why some people experience high anxiety levels and others experience milder levels of anxiety. Imaging studies have revealed that certain areas of the brain such as the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, show increase activity when introduced to anxiety producing stimuli (Kolb & Whishaw, 2014). But what’s interesting is that some people react with high anxiety to the introduced stimuli and others do not.
There are some studies that suggest that people who have experienced early childhood traumas are more prone to develop anxiety disorders at some point in their life. There are also some studies indicating that anxiety disorders are biological and can be seen in many members within one family (Hettma, Neale, and Kendler, 2001). Severe anxiety disorders are sometimes treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medications such as benzodiazepines and SSRI’s. In psychotherapy sessions many therapists use systematic desensitization techniques. This is a form of behavioral therapy that teaches a client different methods to help them relax when thinking about a particular anxiety producing situation or object.
People with anxiety sometimes experience panic attacks. The physical symptoms of a panic attack can include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, dizziness and faintness. People who suffer from panic attacks often state they feel like they are going to die and everything around them feels unreal. Anticipatory anxiety can occur after a panic attack. Anticipatory anxiety is the fear that another panic attack will strike again. This sometimes frightens a person so much that they start to avoid going out in public and can develop a condition called agoraphobia.
As a person who has suffered with anxiety and panic attacks in my twenties, I have a soft spot in my heart for those that come into my office wanting help for their anxiety and/or panic attacks. There is no one single technique that works with everyone. In my case there was a genetic component to my anxiety and panic. It tends to run in my family along my mother’s side. My own personal psychotherapy has helped me learn to cope with and overcome the majority of my anxiety. I no longer suffer from panic attacks. I often tell my clients we need to have a plan to tackle this problem. Living in California I often say, “It’s like an earthquake kit. Just knowing we have a plan in place when or if the earthquake hits allows us some control over the situation”.
Contact Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org or (714) 336-5574