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Anxiety is a common response to actual or perceived events/thoughts that occur in everyday life. In many instances, a healthy level of anxiety can be useful toward propelling action and performance. A lack of any form of anxiety has also shown to decrease performance. However, anxiety can become problematic when in abundance, and can even hinder everyday life and activities. Problematic anxiety can manifest as co-occurring in a difficult adjustment period or meet full or partial criteria for an actual Anxiety Disorder.


Anxiety Disorders are a combination of fear of a real or imagined imminent threat; and anxiety toward the anticipation of this threat. People who endure anxiety disorders often engage in avoidant behaviors as an attempt to decrease fear and anxiety, which in the short-term may alleviate symptoms, but in long-term create a dependency on avoidant strategies to cope in everyday life, thus exacerbating anxiety as a whole. Anxiety can also trigger expected or unexpected panic responses/panic attacks. Panic attacks are abrupt surges of extreme fear or worry causing intense discomfort usually within minutes. Often cognitive and/or physical symptoms are also present.  



Abstract painting with red sky depicting Anxiety



Genetic: A family history of anxiety disorders increases the chances of developing anxiety symptoms. The genetic link also is strong for those with a first degree relative who suffers from anxiety as well as being female (approximately 2:1) ratio. However, having a genetic risk does not determine whether you will develop anxiety, as environmental factors also can play a key role in whether the genes will be expressed.


Environmental: Whether having a genetic link for anxiety or not, environmental factors can also increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Common indicators include witnessing or hearing about traumatic events, physical, emotional, sexual abuse. Less commonly recognizable factors include experiences that have been erroneously linked to dysfunctional thoughts and/or objects (i.e., phobias).


Developmental: Many anxiety disorders develop in childhood, which can be a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. While some individuals overcome and outgrow symptoms, some persist into adolescence and adulthood.

CAUSES OF ANXIETY-  According to Psychodynamic Theory


Intra-psychic and/or Inter-psychic Conflict- Due to unconscious processes rooted in early infancy and childhood with others or within oneself, the defenses one learns to manage and cope with the world are either creating additional stressors and/or no longer able to ward away distressing material in the pre-conscious (items/event we are able to recall when prompted) and unconscious mind (items we are unable to readily recall even when prompted, however manifest in relation to others, dreams, urges, and impulses).


(*Some symptoms may be more indicative of they type of Anxiety Disorder, all may not apply)


Behavioral Symptoms


  • Restlessness/Keyed Up/On Edge

  • Aversion to being separated from primary attachment figures.

  • Avoidance of certain individuals, places, events, situations or objects.

  • Unable to fulfill daily responsibilities/increased absences

  • Social isolation

  • Refusal to leave home


Physical Symptoms


  • Racing heart

  • Sweating/Clammy skin

  • Muscle tension

  • Panic attack(s)

  • Easily fatigues

  • Disrupted Sleep

  • Stomach Aches

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness


Cognitive Symptoms


  • Uncontrollable worry and apprehension

  • A feeling that one’s surroundings are not real

  • A feeling that one’s thoughts/feelings seem unreal or not belonging to oneself.

  • Nightmares

  • Racing thoughts

  • Paranoid ideation

  • Suicidal ideation


Psychosocial Symptoms


  • Fearfulness

  • Excessive worry/apprehension

  • Irritability

  • Helplessness

  • Hopelessness

  • Low-self-esteem

  • Nervousness



Treatment of Anxiety disorders depends largely on the type of anxiety disorder and the symptoms they present. Initially we will work toward identifying symptoms, level of distress and common triggers to stress response. Once these are determined, relaxation and mindfulness techniques will be used to provide symptom relief. Longer-term dynamic work will focus on helping to integrate the cognitive and emotional components of anxiety along with reduction of somatization and/or acting out behavior. Ultimately, the exploration of the nature and potential root of anxiety can increase one’s self-awareness and potentially reduce or prevent future anxiety.












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