How Can Therapy Help with Anxiety?

Feelings of restlessness, dread, and tension are a part of life. But when you become unable to resolve those feelings or find that they are coupled with profound physical symptoms, it’s time to speak with a professional counselor about your anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health diagnoses in the United States. In fact, 30% of adults will experience clinical anxiety at some point in their lives. But while anxiety disorders are fairly prevalent, they are also treatable. You don’t have to continue living with the overwhelming symptoms of this disorder.

Here at Neal Psychological Specialties, we approach anxiety by redirecting those overwhelming feelings through cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness strategies aimed to reduce anxiety. Learning to interrupt and divert anxious thoughts takes practice—and our team is here to teach you the tools needed for success. Our goal is to always start first with non-medication strategies to deal with anxiety. 

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a term that most of us hear on a regular basis. It’s often used interchangeably with words like “worry,” “angst,” “tension,” or “stress.” The fact that clinical anxiety presents itself in a myriad of ways only serves to further complicate our understanding of the disorder. 

Odds are, your experience with anxiety is unique to your circumstances. However, some symptoms are more common than others. If you struggle with one or more of the symptoms on this list, you could have an anxiety disorder:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Inability to control feelings of worry
  • Frequent (and unexplained) headaches, stomachaches, and/or muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Constant fatigue
  • Feeling on-edge or wound-up

As you move forward toward a treatment plan, it may help to understand that there are several different types of anxiety disorders. They include:

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  3. Financial Anxiety
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder
  5. Panic Disorder
  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Each of these disorders has different root causes and presents in unique and challenging ways. But because they all stem from the inability to process overwhelming emotions, each type of anxiety can be managed with cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

How Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Used to Treat Anxiety? 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a proven method of treatment for those who are experiencing anxiety. It is based on the idea that a person can learn to control how they react to their emotions. While changing one’s emotions is notoriously difficult, it is much easier to learn how to interrupt and divert them.

First, your counselor will help you practice and master interrupting techniques like deep breathing, alternating body movement, and distraction. Once you know how to distract your brain and refocus your energy, you’ll be ready to divert those unwelcome emotions when they come.

Changing course from anxious emotions and behaviors is not easy. But with the help of a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy counselor, you can find a strategy that works for you. One of the most effective diversion techniques is the use of a thought log to identify and extinguish negative thinking and then generate positive thoughts to replace them. You might also find mental imaging, mindfulness, or other relaxation techniques effective.

Our counselors are well-versed in these techniques and others. We’ll work with you to identify those methods that work best for you.

What Is a Panic Attack and How Is It Treated?

Of course, some experiences with anxiety are more extreme than others. If you are prone to panic attacks, you may wonder whether deep breathing is enough to overcome your intense feelings of fear and impending doom. 

Fortunately, research has proven CBT to be highly effective in treating panic attacks and disorders. In fact, 80% of people who have a panic disorder and undergo Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy are panic-free by the end of their treatment. 

If you’re not sure whether your anxiety disorder includes panic attacks, ask yourself whether you’ve experienced any of these symptoms in the past:

  • Detachment from reality
  • Faintness, dizziness, and/or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

When these experiences are coupled with crippling fear or a sense of impending doom, the event is defined as a panic attack. Any person who experiences a panic attack and then lives in fear of experiencing another might also have a panic disorder. Our counselors can help you determine whether this is a case so that we can identify the best course of treatment.

Keep in mind that the purpose of CBT is not to identify the cause of your panic attack. Instead, it’s designed to distract and divert the emotion so you can return to a healthier state of mind. Anxiety and panic both have a tendency to build upon themselves. If you can stop the process in its tracks, you’ll have greater success in preventing the symptoms of anxiety from affecting your daily life. 

How to Help Someone With Anxiety

If you have never experienced anxiety or suffered from a panic attack, you may wonder how you can help others who struggle with the disorder. The first and most important step is to avoid dismissing or diminishing the person’s experience. You may be unable to relate, but that does not make the person’s experience with the disorder any less real or valid.

You might also support your loved one by learning the visual signs and signals of anxiety so that you can help in their efforts to stop the surge of emotion in its tracks. Here are a few things to watch for: 

  • Compulsive behavior, like washing hands repeatedly
  • Unexplained frustration or irritability
  • Second-guessing or feelings of insecurity
  • Avoidance of social situations or other triggering events

When you see your loved one exhibiting one or more of these behaviors, it may be time to gently intervene. Offer your validation and support and express your concern in a loving way. If the behavior begins to interfere with the person’s school or work responsibilities or otherwise affect their quality of life, it’s time to recommend professional help. 

How to Help a Student with Test Anxiety

It is not uncommon for teens and young adults to experience school-related anxiety. Tests in particular can cause a student to feel an overwhelming sense of dread or fear. As a parent or teacher, it can be difficult to know how to support a young person through this experience so that they can conquer their fear of failure. 

Unfortunately, anxiety often impedes a student’s ability to concentrate during an exam. As a result, they receive poor marks, obtain fewer opportunities for educational success, and feel even greater anxiety when it’s time for the next test. The sooner this process is stopped in its tracks, the better.

Here are some proven methods of treatment for students who suffer from test anxiety:

  • Implementing structured and effective study habits
  • Establishing a calming pretest routine
  • Developing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness
  • Staying well hydrated and nourished
  • Journaling as a means of releasing negative thoughts

If these habits and techniques don’t lessen the feelings of anxiety, it may be time to consider a treatment plan of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Neal Psychological Specialities can help.

How to Help a Child with Anxiety

Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are not limited to teenagers and adults. In fact, cases of childhood anxiety appear to be increasing over time. Some of the more common types of anxiety in children include phobias and separation anxiety. However, any of the five types of anxiety may occur in children.

It is often difficult to identify when a child has an anxiety disorder. But if you notice any worrying symptoms, like those on the following list, it’s time to seek a diagnosis and treatment:

  • Extreme anger or irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constant fatigue
  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches

The best thing you can do for a child who is experiencing anxiety is seek professional help.

How to Manage an Anxiety without Medication

Severe cases of anxiety may require medication. But if you are hoping to avoid a prescription, there are other treatment options to consider as well. Here are a few techniques to try the next time you experience a stretch of anxiety:

  • Eat three balanced meals and stay hydrated every day
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and illicit drug use
  • Attempt to get enough sleep
  • Practice deep breathing and mindfulness 
  • Spend time outside
  • Make time for hobbies that you enjoy and find relaxing

These may seem like simple suggestions, but they have the power to make an impact on your anxiety. If these techniques and habits don’t manage your symptoms, schedule an appointment with one of our counselors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness strategies specific for the reduction of anxiety and mindfulness meditation are some of the most effective methods of treatment available and medication can be avoided.  Our NPS counselors always look to natural treatments first before considering medications. 

We also specialize in a host of other alternative treatments that will help you find a natural path to healing. Clients find our approach to mindfulness and guided mindfulness meditation to be particularly helpful in treating anxiety. 

Schedule a Meet & Greet with One of Our Counselors

The first step to managing your anxiety disorder is one appointment. But at NPS, we understand that this first step is often the hardest. That’s why we offer easy 15-minute meet and greets for new clients that are free of charge and designed to help you find the perfect match in a counselor. Learn more by giving us a call at (815) 477-4727. 

Are you ready to take the next step?