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Man is anxious in front of crowd

Understanding Anxiety

Several patients here at the clinic have recently been diagnosed with various forms of anxiety disorders. I thought maybe it would help to write a little bit about what anxiety is. One of my professors in college said that, “… while depression is great sadness about what has happened, anxiety is great fear about what might happen.”

Some anxiety is actually normal. We get anxious when we start a new job or buy a car, or even give a speech in class. This is the body’s way of sensing a stressful situation as well as helping us to respond accordingly. Some of us, however, have a more difficult time calming down or may, in fact, over-respond to a stressor. For some, it can occur out of the blue, without any real explanation. These can be very upsetting for the person and may be an indication of an anxiety disorder.

Various Types of Anxiety

You may have heard of Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as Phobias. All of these various forms of anxiety and can be treated. The first step is to talk with your medical provider. There are many medications that may help. You and your provider can talk about which one might be right for you. You may also want to talk with a mental-health therapist. There is a lot of research that medication combined with therapy can benefit those struggling to manage this disorder. The most helpful form of talk therapy for these patients is Cognitive-Behavioral therapy. The National Institute for Mental Health describes CBT the best, stating, “The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.”

Signs of Anxiety

According to, there are some things to look for regarding diagnosis. It is really helpful to let your medical provider know if:

  1. Feeling on edge, constantly worried, and tense are all signs.
  2. Your worries interfere with your work, school or other responsibilities – like family.
  3. Your fears are irrational.
  4. You worry that things will go wrong if you don’t do things in a certain way.
  5. Everyday activities increase your anxiety.
  6. The sudden experience of heart-pounding panic.
  7. You fear catastrophe around every corner.

To have an anxiety disorder you do not need all seven symptoms. If you see yourself in the list above, not to mention having a loved one experiencing some of these symptoms, I encourage you to make an appointment with a medical provider to determine the best course of action. Struggling with this disorder can be difficult, but the good news is there’s help available … you don’t have to go through this alone.

Until next time, take care!

Original post date: July, 2012. Revised: February, 2019.

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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