What you need to know about anxiety

Everybody has uncertainties or feels the occasional case of butterflies in the stomach. But are your fears, doubts, and worries causing you to miss out on the life you want? Is anxiety keeping you from enjoying life? Though mild anxiety can be helpful and moderate anxiety can be limiting at times, severe anxiety is often crippling.

Anxiety can be a useful and vital emotion when it cautions us about future risks or possible problems. It can protect us from making bad decisions or judgments. Useful anxiety can help us get out of harm’s way and can prompt us to prepare for important events; it even can warn us when we need to take action.

However, it is also the emotion most commonly linked with emotional and mental health problems. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting both children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders, making it the most common mental illness in the US. And yet, only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, even though anxiety is highly treatable.

Anxiety can flare up very quickly and the key to managing it is in understanding what triggers your feelings of anxiety. It helps to see your anxiety as a warning system, much like your home’s smoke alarm. Anxiety is the system your brain uses to warn you that something significant may be about to happen. But like your home’s smoke alarm, sometimes the system can be too sensitive and as a result your anxiety gets triggered too often.

If the anxiety you experience is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming and you seem to experience an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, then your anxiety has become disabling. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Check out the chart below to determine if you are experiencing useful, everyday anxiety or an anxiety disorder.

Useful Anxiety
Anxiety Disorder
Worry about paying bills, landing a job, a romantic breakup, or other important life events
Constant and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life
Embarrassment or self-consciousness in an uncomfortable or awkward social situation
Avoiding social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated
A case of nerves or sweating before a big test, business presentation, stage performance, or other significant event
Seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and the preoccupation with the fear of having another one
Realistic fear of a dangerous object, place, or situation
Irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place, or situation that poses little or no threat of danger
Maintaining your health by living in a safe hazard-free environment
Performing uncontrollable repetitive actions such as excessive cleaning or checking, or touching and arranging
Anxiety, sadness, or difficulty sleeping immediately after a traumatic event
Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event that occurred several months or years before

Understanding that your anxiety has been designed as an internal warning system is just the first step toward learning how to manage it in a healthy way. The counselors at SoulCare are trained to know how to help you move toward understanding your anxiety. We will help you learn how to cope with it in ways that do not deny, minimize or dismiss your feelings or your experiences with anxiety. We do not use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or any behavioral modification type therapy in our treatment for anxiety. Behavioral modification attempts to change you from the outside in, but our therapy methods are designed to help you change from the inside out.

If you would like to visit with a SoulCare counselor for help with your anxiety, please click here .

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