The most famous representation of anxiety is the bell shaped curve which teaches that a moderate amount of anxiety in some situations can help us to succeed. Anxiety of course is totally normal during periods of adjustment and change like attending a new school, starting a new job, or anticipating a big meeting or presentation. However, for many individuals anxiety is more consistently present at much higher levels and impacts social, academic, and professional functioning in drastic ways.
Depression can keep us stuck in the past but is is anxiety that is already way ahead in the future. Anxious concerns usually arise from uncertainty about how something will go, and usually our brain comes up with all the awful things that might happen. These worries are made up of concerns about our own future experiences but also about the future of those around us. Many people experience anxious thoughts that lead them to believe terrible things will happen to those around them. This leaves them living in a sense of fear and constantly distracted by their negative thoughts.
Anxiety is experienced and exacerbated by our thoughts and feelings but also physiologically. Think about the experience of being anxious which may include your heart racing, feeling like you can breath, shaking/trembling, or sweating. When this process occurs our thoughts tends to become more catastrophic and our anxiety skyrockets.
Some people who experience anxiety may be less aware of these thoughts and situations but experience pain, stomach aches, and headaches related to underlying anxious distress. In these cases it is important to become more aware of your experience and understand what thoughts and feeling may be contributing to these physical complaints.
The most common type of anxiety affecting young children is separation anxiety. Upon initial separations this is totally normal and part of the developmental process of growing up However, if separation anxiety continues it may be a sign of a more chronic anxiety disorder.
Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) Therapy is an evidenced based, effective treatment for assisting clients across the lifespan manage anxiety. CBT is based on the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Through increased awareness of this relationship and the identification of specific thoughts feelings and behaviors, clients are supported in making small changes in their thinking and behavior than can have a positive impact on their tendency to become anxious. Clients are challenged to think about worst case scenarios in different situations and evaluate evidence to support that notion that they will get through a specific situation.
In some cases, medication management may be recommended, and may be just temporary in the case of anxiety depending on the specific symptoms, how much these symptoms impact functioning, and how much a client can benefit from using and developing skills and strategies in therapy.