Anxiety Therapy in NYC
Anxiety, stress, and worry—we have all experienced them before. There is, however, a distinction between normal anxiety, and clinical or pathological anxiety. In this article, we will explain the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder, discuss why some people are more prone to anxiety, describe the many different types of anxiety, and finally explain anxiety therapy.
If you're wondering whether or not you have anxiety, take our short quiz here!
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to a stressful or potentially frightening event. For example, moments before getting on stage for a performance, or while waiting for a test result, we tend to feel some worry, or anxiety. If you have a big exam or project due at work, you might feel anxiety about not performing well—and that anxiety might motivate you to work harder. During these moments of worry, our minds may be racing, hearts pounding, or we might even sweat. Anxiety affects the entire body.
What’s the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?
“Why can’t you just stop worrying? Just get it together…”
We all experience worry or anxiety from time to time. Sometimes, anxiety can be a good thing—a motivator. Other times, our anxiety can become so overwhelming that rather than motivating us, it becomes paralyzing and debilitating. For example, we may get stuck on a singular thought or concern and continuously think about it, often in a loop. We can also experience physical symptoms of distress in our chest or stomach, feel like we can’t breathe or settle ourselves down. Finally, we may worry about what others think of us so much that we restrict what we say or avoid certain social situations. The resulting suffering and disruption to our lives from this condition are the result of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety can be rational, but anxiety can also be illogical. Often, anxiety can start off as an overreaction to a small stressor, and eventually evolve into a paralyzing force. People with anxiety disorder will get stuck worrying about something in a repetitive circular manner, unable to move forward.
An anxiety disorder can also drive other mental health symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up early, or feeling restless. Additionally, anxiety can lead to physical symptoms such as muscle tension, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, nausea, stomach upset, or loose bowels.
An anxiety disorder can also limit your interactions with others. Some of us will experience worry in advance of and during social situations – feeling concerned we will sound dumb, silly or embarrass ourselves publicly. Beyond shyness, we may avoid social situations to lessen this worry.
Telling someone with an anxiety disorder to be “less anxious” doesn’t make sense—it’s like telling someone to un-break a bone. Those with anxiety disorders can’t just get rid of it, but like a broken bone, anxiety can be treated.
“It’s like you’re in a constant fog state. You can hear fine, but you have trouble listening. You know what to say (or you don't), but you can't say it. It's not quite fear that's holding you back, but your body and everything in it is just frozen.”
Common anxiety feelings
- You may worry about everyday things and try to excessively control situations, particularly things that you cannot control.
- You feel uncomfortable around people you don’t know and often worry about embarrassing yourself.
- You often end up in an overthinking loop that is hard to escape from.
Why do anxiety disorders exist?
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders, as 1 in 3 US adults experience some type of anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
In many ways, anxiety is useful, and normal to have. When ancient humans were living as hunter gatherers in the wild, anxiety helped them stay alive and reproduce. For example, if you came across rustling in a bush nearby, being cautious about the possible danger would help keep you safe. Then, when a tiger jumps out of the bush, you would start sweating and your stress hormones would shoot up. Your body is preparing you to either fight or run for your life. In these life-threatening situations, anxiety served to protect you.
In modern life, very few of us encounter life-threatening situations on the daily. However, your brain’s same anxiety circuit, which protected you thousands of years ago, has not quite adjusted to modern times. For those with anxiety disorders, the same system is activated around non-life-threatening concerns. Someone with social anxiety may find themselves sweating, heart pounding, and chest tensed up at a social gathering—like their body is preparing them to run from a bear. This biological overreaction is known as a panic attack, and is common among those with anxiety disorders. The anxiety disorder brain is hyper-responsive to fear and worry, and is sending false alarms in non-life-threatening situations.
“My life feels like I’m in a video game and there's ominous (anxiety provoking) music playing, like you are about to run into a boss or something bad is about to happen. Except there is no boss. There is no threat. Yet the anxiety provoking music keeps playing.”
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
Anxiety can be classified into several different types.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is when an individual is plagued by worries and fears about the uncertain future and other things outside of their control. The worry may often appear excessive to others or out of proportion to the event. This type of anxiety disorder is very common, tends to run in families and waxes and wanes in its intensity.
Panic disorder / panic attack are assaults of worry and fear on your mind and body. These events include many symptoms including physical discomfort or pain in your body, fears of dying or feeling like you’re going “crazy”, sweating, unable to catch your breath, pounding heart rate, numbness, nausea and others. These events are frightening to experience and can result in Emergency Room visits.
Social Anxiety Disorder
An individual with a Social Anxiety Disorder will experience significant anxiety in everyday social situations. Many tend to feel intense self-consciousness and negative judgment from others, even if it is irrational to think so. This can lead to complete avoidance of social situations, which can significantly disrupt an individual’s life.
There is a difference between being generally scared of something, such as driving, and having a clinically significant fear of driving. Specific phobias tend to be treated if the individual finds it significantly impairing to everyday life. For example, someone who is intensely scared of planes can choose to avoid flying. On the other hand, someone having a phobia of driving while needing to drive to work may require therapy and treatment.
“My anxiety brain creates problems that don’t exist, and my anxiety assumes the worst will happen. This makes me very scared and paralyzes me from living my life.”
How we treat anxiety disorders
Your anxiety plagued brain is using up precious bandwidth and headspace in your mind. For instance, your mind is running an unnecessary program in the background all the time. The anxiety program wastes mental resources and disrupts or slows down everything else you’re trying to do in your life. Treating your anxiety disorder empowers you to manage your condition – allowing you to enjoy your life to its fullest capacity.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an anxiety therapy commonly used in conjunction with medication to treat anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy trains you to manage and reframe anxious thoughts, making them less harmful. The goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to train you to adapt your thought processes. This training prepares you for stressful and anxiety provoking situations by improving your mind’s toolkit.
For example, if you have social anxiety, you may have self-critical thoughts such as, “People don’t like me”, or “I’m going to sound dumb”, or “I’m not interesting enough so I should just shut up”. With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, these thoughts can be restructured to become “Going to the party may be stressful and I may feel overwhelmed while I’m there. Why don’t I go for a short period of time, talk to one or two people, and then reassess my feelings?”
Using this method, you are slowly exposing yourself to a situation that is stressful, rather than avoiding it. Ultimately, you build up a strength and tolerance to these situations you previously found anxiety-inducing. Some people will supplement this process with medication.
There are many different types of medications that can be used to treat anxiety. Some medications relieve your anxiety immediately, but do not improve anxiety in the long term. We recommend this type of medication sparingly. Other medications don’t remove your anxiety, but rather make the feelings less intense, as if you were “turning the volume down”. While taking these medicines, people say that their feelings of worry or anxiety are less overwhelming, less frequent, and that they no longer get stuck on them.
Techniques such as mindfulness are also helpful in calming the mind. Regular frequent meditation practice will train you to focus on the present. By growing this muscle in your mind, you can achieve a sense of calm during stressful situations. This is “mindfulness”, in which your mind is rooted in the present moment rather than worrying about the future.
Finally, lifestyle changes and interventions have value. For example, strenuous physical activity can both discharge feelings of anxiety and provide distractions from worry. Dietary changes towards more consistent glycemic (blood sugar) control can reduce episodic anxiety. Regular self care and exposure to nature will also improve anxiety disorders.
Work with an NYC Anxiety Therapist at Integrative Psych
Integrative Psych is an NYC-based private practice specializing in anxiety therapy and related conditions. Many of our clients are based in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan (Chelsea, Village, Lower East Side, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Tribeca, SoHo), Westchester, and New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida.
Integrative Psych takes a compassionate, comprehensive and holistic approach to the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety. We will carefully explore your present life and evaluate how your anxious thoughts affect your day-to-day life, including work and relationships.
When making recommendations, anxiety therapy may involve tailored medication and likely cognitive-behavioral therapy, depending on what works best for you. Our goal with anxiety therapy is to help you develop coping skills to reduce anxiety.
Decisions about what treatment or treatments to pursue are made as a team, between you and your anxiety therapist. Once you have begun care with us, we will see you regularly to monitor your progress and make any adjustments necessary to ensure that you benefit fully from your anxiety therapy at Integrative Psych.
Obtain anxiety therapy in NYC today. If you’re interested in working with one of our anxiety therapists, book an appointment here.
“My daughter had trouble adjusting to college. As a parent we struggled to get her to discuss it with us. We began seeing one of the clinicians at Integrative Psych. Now my daughter seems to have overcome all her fears and anxiety and is doing a lot better now. Her grades are great and she's made a few new friends. We're excited to see her on weekends, she's more open to sharing about her college experience.”
“I was getting to the point where I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me but I knew something was up…I had this constant feeling of dread…I started worrying about going places…I literally never left my apartment…I’m so glad I [started treatment at Integrative Psych]! It wasn’t easy, it took a lot for me to leave my comfort zone and face my anxiety but I can happily say after a lot of time and effort, I’m able to venture out into the open without feeling like the sky is falling. Thank you Integrative Psych for your wonderful approach and effective treatment methods. I wouldn’t be here without you!”
“I always thought I was an anxious person. [For example], I worried all through my pregnancy about the delivery and when my husband would run up the road to the grocery store, I worried that a drunk driver would kill him…I knew that my worries were irrational but I continued to ruminate…[Eventually], it got so bad that I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t drive, and eventually couldn't leave my house…[In therapy], my treatment consisted of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Lexapro. After providing me with information through psychoeducation, my therapist worked with me on taking control of my thoughts. We worked together to also incorporate an exercise regiment into my daily schedule. All of these treatments have helped me cope.”
- Being in social situations without constantly wondering if you are making the right impression
- Feeling excited instead of stressed out when you have an important work project or exam
- Having the ability to re-focus when you begin to overthink or over-analyze a situation