"I just want to feel normal again"
"I am so exhausted from worrying"
Anxiety can be an extremely uncomfortable emotion, particularly if it persists is an intense and chronic state. The term “anxiety” is broad and typically refers to a cluster of very different disorders. Anxiety around a specific event (e.g. crowds, social gatherings) or object (e.g. spiders, germs) is much different from anxiety that looms overhead at all times, as is the case in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Each requires a different and unique approach, however, they often share a common symptomatic presentation. If you are feeling chronically keyed-up or on edge, startled easily, have difficulty concentrating, experiencing racing thoughts, uncontrollable and excessive worry or sleep disturbances you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is also highly connected to your physical health. For many, anxiety shows up as a mysterious health condition like gastrointestinal distress (e.g. IBS), heart arrhythmia’s, chronic pain, or headaches. Whichever your unique experience, there is help. Anxiety can be properly treated and in a relatively short amount of time. People that are suffering from anxiety disorders often feel at their wits end and exhausted in managing this uphill battle. There is real help and hope in overcoming this life-limiting illness. We have experience as specialized anxiety counselors in helping people of all ages overcome anxiety and get back to enjoying and living their lives.
Our approach is primarily psychodynamic. In other words, we believe that we are often mysteries to ourselves and a psychologist is skilled at uncovering deeper, root issues often suppressed from our conscious thought. People often have thoughts, feelings, and inner conflicts they may not be aware of but which can produce the experience of conscious anxiety. Once those issues are brought to light, processed, and worked through people begin to feel immensely better.
We first learn to work with anxiety in our early relationships. You might ask yourself, how was anxiety dealt with in the home I get up in? Was it a feeling that was allowed? Was it the only feeling allowed? Did it push away or draw our primary caregivers closer or further? The basic footwork of how we relate to our anxiety can be found in these early relational and emotional templates. Diving into this in psychotherapy is an extremely healing element. A common, faulty belief is that what we choose to forget, “get over” or move on from can no longer affect us. This couldn’t be further from the truth, real freedom is understanding, allowing, and integrating these sworn off inner experiences.
Utilizing both insight-oriented and mindfulness-based strategies in tandem is what gets people back on their feet and enjoying life again. We help people to make these important discoveries and can attest to the incredible healing that can occur. You don’t have to live chronically anxious and the place to start is right here.
Read our FAQ’s below for detailed responses on commonly asked questions regarding anxiety and anxiety treatment.
Anxiety Disorders are diagnosed by a psychologist. Of all the types of therapists, we are the most trained in being able to effectively diagnose mental health issues. Within the first session or two you should have a solid working understanding of your diagnosis and the treatment approach. We even offer the option (at no cost) to complete a psychological evaluation digitally prior to your first session. However, we would never diagnose from this alone and any accurate diagnosis includes in-person clinical evaluation which is seamlessly embedded into the beginnings of therapy. Your questions about diagnosis are always welcomed and we take the time to explain your condition and collaborate with you on care.
We are not psychiatrists who prescribe anti-anxiety medication, but we are very familiar with the course of medications typically prescribed to those suffering from anxiety disorders. This is also not a substitute for a visit with a psychiatrist. Anxiety is tough to quell long-term with medications.
Psychiatrists will typically start you off on some form of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) antidepressant. These work on the neurotransmitter Serotonin and typically have an anti-anxiety component to them.They take about three to four weeks to kick in and are non-addictive, but do create dependence—you have to wean on and then wean off of them over the course of one to two weeks.Antidepressants in general do not make you euphoric and totally free of anxiety instantly but instead work more subtly. At low doses, they are relatively side effects free, and can at times be a helpful adjunct to therapy.
When antidepressants work well, that’s actually when you want to double down in therapy so you don’t have to be dependent on the meds. It gives you a little breathing room to do the work. That’s the purpose of the medications, not to fix it once and for all long-term. Most psychiatrists will not want you to be on the drug forever, but rather use them as a way to get therapy moving. Once you have worked through the issues pertaining to your depression in therapy and feel the real change, we will work with your psychiatrist to titrate you off of the medications.
At times, psychiatrists will provide other medications that target anxiety more directly but they are short-acting and not meant to be taken long-term. A safer option is typically a beta-blocker drug (e.g. propranolol) that blocks physical effects of an anxious mind (keeps heart rate low and red/flushed symptoms minimal). Essentially, the feeling of anxiety won’t go away but the physical symptoms of it are temporarily muted under the influence of the drug. It is not psychoactive so you won’t feel much different and it is relatively safe compared to other anxiety-specific medications. It is a helpful emergency use, non-addictive drug for those suffering from panic attacks.
On the more risky side, there are drugs in the benzodiazepine class. Some psychiatrists are more liberal at prescribing these medications. However, it is worth stopping and considering the risks before starting these treatments for anxiety. They are extremely psychoactive, carry a high risk of addiction and dependence, and have a rebound effect of anxiety when the drug wears off.We now know that long-term use of benzodiazepines is correlated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Anxiety affects teens and young adults in very similar ways to the general adult population. In addition to those symptoms, you may see some other features common to teens and young adults. These include irritability, trouble concentrating in school, poor grades, social isolation, withdrawing from friends, associated depression, anger, and avoidance. Anxiety is unfortunately frequently mistaken for ADD or ADHD in teens.
If you are noticing these signs and symptoms it may be indicative of an underlying anxiety disorder. It is estimated that 31.9% of teens have had an anxiety disorder at one point in time (NIMH, 2021).
Those who have a family history of anxiety or depression may be more at risk for developing an anxiety disorder. However, the underlying genetic mechanisms of anxiety disorders are not well understood.
In part, this is tricky because parents often provide both the genes and environment making it hard to clearly separate the two. Those with a history of trauma, loss, childhood instability, neglect, or chronic stress may also be more at risk.
Lastly, anxiety disorders appear more prevalent in women as compared to men. However, again, research is complicated because it may be that women are simply more likely to report symptoms and seek help as compared to men.
When left untreated we know that fear networks in the brain continue to grow. What is once a kernel of anxiety, can quickly evolve into a diagnosable disorder.
Getting treatment as early as possible is key. Habits of mind, ineffective coping, and years of a revved-up central nervous system take longer to heal than one that is managed therapeutically earlier in life.
It is important not to wait if you are noticing signs and symptoms, early treatment could potentially change the trajectory of the condition and thus change the course of your life.
With teens and young adults, we will on occasion, reach out to the family with the cooperation and consent of the patient, to make changes in the family system. When everyone works together, therapy works best.