Anxiety is one of the most common problems that brings individuals to counseling. There are different types of anxiety disorders, but one of the most common is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Worry is one of the most troublesome symptoms of GAD, and those meeting criteria for GAD spend 50 percent of their time worrying, according to Dr. Jennifer Abel, an expert in the field of anxiety. Her research shows that even the average person worries 5-10 percent of the time.
Here is an example of how anxiety-worry can spiral out of control. The young woman in this example has Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
This young woman met a man through an online dating site. They had their first date, and the young woman thought it went very well. He told her he would call or text her the next day.
In the afternoon of the next day the young woman looked up from what she was doing and happened to see her phone on the table.
She picked it up to see if she had heard from him. There was no call, no email, no text.
She started to feel some tension in her neck. The thought passed through her mind, “Maybe he didn’t like me at all. Maybe he thought I was a complete idiot.”
The tension in her neck worsened and she felt a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She thought of all the times before when she felt rejected.
Her thoughts jumbled: “I know he won’t call. I’m a loser. I’ll never have a lasting relationship. I’m destined to be alone.”
The rest of the afternoon she ruminated about why she had not heard from him and whether or not she should call or text.
By early evening she felt depressed and hopeless.
This example might sound a bit exaggerated, but it illustrates how anxiety-worry hijacks the peace of mind of its sufferers.
Fortunately, there are good strategies for dealing with generalized anxiety. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are commonly used.
To practice deep breathing, place one hand on your abdomen and sit up straight. Slowly breathe in through your nose to the count of five and out through your mouth to the count of 10.
Learn to rate your anxiety on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Learn to practice deep breathing several times a day when anxiety is five or lower, and it will be easier to do when experiencing more severe anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective in learning how to challenge the automatic negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety.
There are many other useful techniques and treatments.
If worry or anxiety is a problem for you, consider contacting a mental health therapist who can help you learn to manage your symptoms and find relief.
Mary Bieda, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor and pastoral counselor in private practice in Old Town Bluffton.