Anxiety disorders can be tricky.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, one study found that some people see 10 or more doctors before being properly diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and that only one out of 4 receive the treatment they need.
Anxiety symptoms can range from psychological symptoms such as excessive or irrational fear or worry that may or may not be brought on by an identifiable stressful life situation, to physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, or chest pains that may seem to come from nowhere. I've had many a client come to see me after a couple of trips to the emergency room thinking they were having a heart attack, (seeking medical attention is definitely the right thing to do when experiencing these types of symptoms, by the way) only to return with a clean bill of health and an admonition from the doctor that what they were experiencing was probably "just stress."
The truth is, anxiety itself is a normal and necessary function that alerts us to a potentially dangerous situation. This is what is known as the "fight or flight" response--it prepares us to take quick action to protect ourselves. Worry, fear, dread, or panic only become anxiety "disorders" when the symptoms become chronic and interfere with daily functioning, such as with work, school, or relationships. My clients with chronic worry or panic often report feeling "helpless," "out of control," or like they're "going crazy." Sometimes, fear of the symptoms themselves have caused them to make alterations to their regular activities, or avoid them altogether. For example, a person who has experienced symptoms while driving, may suddenly refuse or feel unable to drive. Soon enough, the individual's life and relationships seem to be "ruled" by his or her symptoms.
Men and women, adults and children, can suffer from anxious feelings uncomfortable enough to seek treatment. Recurrent symptoms that may warrant a consultation with a licensed psychotherapist include the following:
Anxiety disorders fall into several different categories or diagnoses, and each can range from mild to severe. Read on to find out more about the particulars of the following types of problems: