Anxiety & Stress

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Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety is a natural and universal human emotion, but sometimes anxiety and stress can be overwhelming.  When anxiety and stress interfere with your day to day functioning, small changes in how you think and act can have a big impact on how you feel. Whether you are anxious about social situations, your health, having panic attacks, or worrying about a number of different things, CBT can help.

Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders that share a common core feature – significant fear or anxiety. They differ in the target or focus of concern. There are 11 different types of anxiety disorders, associated with their own pattern of emotions, thoughts, behaviours, and physical symptoms, including:

  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific Phobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder associated with repeated, unexpected panic attacks, characterized by sudden surges of physical arousal and fear. They often worry about something bad happening because of their panic attacks (e.g., going crazy, having a heart attack) or avoid important parts of their lives to prevent having a panic attack.  During a panic attack, you may experience the sudden onset of some or all of the following physical symptoms:

  • Racing or pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Chills/hot flashes
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling of detachment
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Fear of dying

In addition, many individuals with panic disorder develop agoraphobia to varying degrees. Agoraphobia is a fear of situations in which escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or in which help might be unavailable in the event of a panic attack.

The types of situations that people avoid may include:

  • Using public transportation (e.g. bus, train, car)
  • Being in open spaces (e.g. fields, parks)
  • Being in enclosed spaces (e.g. elevators, tunnels)
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside of the home alone

If left untreated, panic disorder rarely remits fully and may become a chronic, lifelong problem. CBT helps you learn about the nature of anxiety and panic, challenge your fearful thoughts, and face feared situations and physical sensations.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with GAD experience excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday life and activities. They often experience uncomfortable physical symptoms, including fatigue and sore muscles, and they can also have trouble sleeping and concentrating. If your worry is interfering with your ability to enjoy and participate in your life, CBT can help you learn skills for relaxation, problem solving, and thinking about anxiety-provoking situations differently.

Health Anxiety

Many people worry about their health and physical symptoms from time to time, particularly when there have been changes in your health, life stress, or activity level. However, people with health anxiety worry excessively about bodily symptoms or fear that they may have a serious illness. They often check repeatedly for signs or symptoms that could signal a serious problem, seek reassurance from doctors, friends, or on the internet, or avoid situations that increase anxiety or exposure to germs or disease. CBT helps you interrupt the cycle of health anxiety by challenging your anxious thoughts, changing anxious behaviours, learning skills to manage stress.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. People with social anxiety disorder feel anxious or uncomfortable in social situations in which they may do something embarrassing or humiliating, or that they will be judged negatively. Some people are afraid of showing the physical signs of anxiety, such as blushing or shaking, because they think they may be perceived as weak or unlikeable. Other people worry about offending others or being rejected. Because of this fear, people often avoid social or performance situations, such as parties, family functions, conversations, dating, or accepting a job promotion. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder tends to be persistent; however, it is very responsive to CBT and, in fact, most people who receive a full course of CBT experience significant improvements. CBT will teach you skills to challenge your thinking, stop avoiding, and engage more fully in social situations.

Learn more about anxiety and how CBT can help: