Does your heart race, can’t think, or can’t seem to stop worried thoughts? You may be experiencing anxiety. Anxiety is a normal emotion that can be helpful to complete a task or improve quality. But if anxiety is so intense that it is interfering with your life, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder or a panic attack.
Intense, chronic anxiety is unnerving, disconcerting and shakes a person’s self-confidence. Anxiety can affect an individual physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Anxiety disorders may have an underlying biological cause and frequently runs in families. Other possible predisposing factors include growing up with overly critical or extremely cautious parents or parenting style that blocked self-assertiveness or having ongoing high levels of stress. Short term triggering factors include significant loss, life change, stimulant or recreational drug use. Other contributing factors include experiencing trauma, phobia, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Symptoms of anxiety include chronic intense worry or fear, stress, physical tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, trouble falling or staying asleep to feeling on the verge of losing control, heart pounding, or fears of fainting. From a spiritual viewpoint an individual suffering from anxiety may be wondering where God is and why do you worry so much when others seem to be able to trust God. For more information on addressing anxiety from a spiritual perspective read the “Coping with Anxiety” article on the Heritage Counseling Center’s website.

Effective treatment for anxiety and panic attacks may include:

 Medication
 Therapy
 Supportive relationships
 Relaxation, meditation, prayer
 Identifying and changing distorted worried thoughts and anxious self-talk
 Exercise, yoga, therapeutic massage
 Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants
 Improving assertiveness skills
 Learning to express your emotions
 Learning mindfulness or staying in the moment skills
 Learning to self-nurture
 May need to seek treatment for drug abuse
 Learning to identify and reduce muscle tension
 Problem solving to reduce stressors
 Developing your relationship with God
 Finding meaning and purpose in life

You may find it helpful to begin to ask yourself the following questions when feeling worried.

• What’s the worst thing that could happen?
• If the worst thing happened, could I survive it? How?
• Have I survived similar situations in the past? How?
• How likely is it that this event will happen?
• Is it possible that a positive outcome could occur?
• Of all the times I’ve worried, what percentage of the time have my worries come true?
• Even if my fears do come true, what did I gain by worrying ahead of time?

Please seek professional help if you experience chronic intense anxiety, panic attacks or symptoms of PTSD. CallHeritage Counseling Center in Plainfield, Illinois to find a licensed clinical professional counselor who can provide effective treatment for you or a loved one of yours. Additional information may be obtained from www.nimh.nih.gov, www.mentalhealth.org, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmond J. Bourne, Ph.D., the Feeling Good Handbook, Plume, 1990.

Written by Mary Karalis, LPC.