Treatment for Anxiety in Adults

What Does Anxiety In Adults Look Like?

Do your find yourself in a state of constant worrying?  Do you struggle with relaxation?  Do you or a loved one lay awake at night stressing about deadlines, health issues, or the future? 

Anxiety is one of the most common struggles for adults in the U.S. (DSM-5; Baxter, Scott, Vos, & Whiteford, 2013). Just like fear, anger, disgust, or sadness, anxiety is an emotional state.  Feelings of anxiety arise when we anticipate a threat or uncertainty to prepare us to respond.  Clinicians divide anxious feelings into bodily symptoms (somatic) and mental symptoms (cognitive).  Bodily symptoms include might include shakiness, edginess, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.  Mental symptoms include worry, difficulty concentrating, and fixation on certain fears or thoughts. 

Many of adults confuse anxiety and fear, seeing them as one state of being.  Although very similar, fear and anxiety have a few important distinctions (DSM-5; Getz, 2014):

 

Definitions

  • Fear:  Emotional response to an actual and present threat (e.g. a bear is attacking you right now)
  • Anxiety:  Emotional response to an anticipated threat (e.g. you think a bear is going to attack soon)

When It Happens

  • Fear: Typically occurs when the threat is present
  • Anxiety: Occurs when one believes a threat is oncoming or possible

How the Body Responds

  • Fear: Brief “Fight or Flight” response:
  1. Threat is detected
  2. Stress hormones (e.g. adrenaline and cortisol) flood the bloodstream
  3. Blood vessels constrict, pupils dilate, heartrate increases
  4. Body is prepared to address the threat by attacking (fight) or running away (flight)
  5. After the threat is addressed, body returns to baseline and relaxes
  • Anxiety: Long-term “Fight or Flight” response:
  1. Threat or uncertainty is anticipated
  2. Stress hormones are released into bloodstream
  3. Body become alert (hypervigilant) and prepared for threat
  4. Body maintains state of alertness, but threat may not occur
  5. Brain begins to associate alertness with safety, thereby making anxiety the default

Why It Happens

  • Fear: To survive immediate danger
  • Anxiety: To prepare for future danger

 

As you can see in the “Why It Happens” section, fear and anxiety both have a functional purpose.  Fear helps us address immediate threats, and anxiety helps us feel motivated to preemptively address threats before they happen. 

Yet, anxiety can become dysfunctional when it keeps us from living life in accordance with our values.  The DSM-5 has many different classifications of anxiety, as the dysfunction can present in multiple life domains. 

Here are a few of the most common examples:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    • A long-standing prevalence of intense worry that is difficult to control
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Fearfulness, nightmares/flashbacks, and avoidance of certain situations
    • Onset is caused by a traumatic event (witnessing death, victim of abuse, etc)
    • Abuse victims are at the highest risk (Lindert, von Ehrenstien, Grashow, Gal, Braehler, & Weisskopf, 2014)
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • Fixation with certain behaviors (e.g. cleaning, tapping), numbers, or other patterns that help the person feel safe
  • Panic Disorder
    • Frequent panic attacks (feeling a loss of control, racing heart, sensation of choking/ dizziness)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Intense anxiety regarding social situations, speaking or eating around other people, etc.
    • Can also include performance or competition anxiety

Left untreated, symptoms of anxiety can be extremely disruptive and harmful (van Beljouw, Verhaak, Cuijpers, van Marwijk, & Penninx, 2010), even for physicians and other health professionals (Yelin, Mathias, Beusching, Rowland, Calcucin, & Fifer, 1996).

Do not let anxiety rule your life.  If you or someone you know struggles with anxiety, there is hope.  Schedule your first meeting with me today to get the help you need.

 

Treatment for Anxiety

Clinical psychologists take a careful and direct approach to helping adults overcome anxiety.   Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be one of the most effective treatment options for anxiety (Öst & Ollendick, 2017; Warwick et al, 2017). 

In treating anxiety disorders, my process begins with a thorough intake interview and diagnosis.  Based on the diagnosis and the goals you have for improving your life, I design an evidence-based treatment plan with a focus in symptom reduction. 

Therapy can help adults with anxiety:

  • Identify roots of anxious feelings
  • Regulate emotions and self-soothe
  • Decrease avoidance
  • Tactics for coping with panic symptoms
  • Increase tolerance and management of anxious feelings
  • Augmenting social skills
  • Increase confidence and feelings of self-efficacy
  • Awareness of anxiety triggers

Therapy is the fastest, most effective way to address your anxiety.  Adults may also wish to discuss options for medication, which can help people with severe symptoms make rapid progress.  These options will be discussed in our first meeting if desired. 

Sometimes anxiety can keep people from seeking the help they need.  Take the first step towards regaining control of your life, and schedule your first session today.     

 

Interested?  Let’s Connect!

If you are interested in therapy services, please contact me as soon as possible. I would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have about my practice. 

It is never too late to receive treatment.  I believe I can help make a difference in your life. 

 

Read About Dr. Montgomery

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Click on the About tab to find out more about my credentials and get a better sense for who I am.

I help people and their families in the Newport Beach area, but I also work with folks from Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Anaheim, Orange, Tustin, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Dana Point, Fountain Valley and more.

 

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References

Baxter, A. J., Scott, K. M., Vos, T., & Whiteford, H. A. (2013). Global prevalence of anxiety disorders: a systematic review and meta-regression. Psychological medicine43(5), 897-910.

Cummings, C. M., Caporino, N. E., & Kendall, P. C. (2014). Comorbidity of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents: 20 years after. Psychological bulletin140(3), 816.

Essau, C. A., Lewinsohn, P. M., Olaya, B., & Seeley, J. R. (2014). Anxiety disorders in adolescents and psychosocial outcomes at age 30. Journal of affective disorders163, 125-132.

Getz, G. E. (2014). Applied biological psychology. Springer Publishing Company.

Lindert, J., von Ehrenstein, O. S., Grashow, R., Gal, G., Braehler, E., & Weisskopf, M. G. (2014). Sexual and physical abuse in childhood is associated with depression and anxiety over the life course: systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Public Health59(2), 359-372.

Öst, L. G., & Ollendick, T. H. (2017). Brief, intensive and concentrated cognitive behavioral treatments for anxiety disorders in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy.

Steel, Z., Marnane, C., Iranpour, C., Chey, T., Jackson, J. W., Patel, V., & Silove, D. (2014). The global prevalence of common mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis 1980–2013. International journal of epidemiology43(2), 476-493.

van Beljouw, I. M., Verhaak, P. F., Cuijpers, P., van Marwijk, H. W., & Penninx, B. W. (2010). The course of untreated anxiety and depression, and determinants of poor one-year outcome: a one-year cohort study. BMC psychiatry10(1), 86.

Warwick, H., Reardon, T., Cooper, P., Murayama, K., Reynolds, S., Wilson, C., & Creswell, C. (2017). Complete recovery from anxiety disorders following Cognitive Behavior Therapy in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review52, 77-91.

Yelin, E., Mathias, S. D., Buesching, D. P., Rowland, C., Calucin, R. Q., & Fifer, S. (1996). The impact on employment of an intervention to increase recognition of previously untreated anxiety among primary care physicians. Social Science & Medicine42(7), 1069-1075.