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When to Seek Help for Anxiety

When to Seek Help for Anxiety

Mental Health Matters.

Anxiety is defined by the American Psychological Association as:

“an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune.
The body often mobilizes itself to meet the perceived threat: Muscles become tense, breathing is faster, and the heart beats more rapidly.
Anxiety may be distinguished from fear both conceptually and physiologically, although the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Anxiety is considered a future-oriented, long-acting response broadly focused on a diffuse threat, whereas fear is an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat.”

Anxiety typically crosses the threshold from “emotion” to “disorder” when it begins to negatively impact well-being or daily functioning.

An inability to decrease or limit excessive worrying is a main complaint among those with an anxiety disorder; and it is uncomfortable.

Anxiety disorders are common; NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) estimates that 1 in 5 adults, or 40 million people in the U.S. experience anxiety (2024).

group of people walking outside on a sidewalk in black and white; 1 in 5 people in the U.S. experience anxiety

Anxiety is adaptive and has helped humans survive encounters with snakes, bears, unstable cliffs, or "bad vibes."

However, anxiety in the 21st century is often less adaptive. Anxiety may still be “helpful” in contemporary situations, and almost every person will feel anxious at some point in life.

brown bear behind a tree looking grumpy; anxiety is common and psychotherapy can help

For instance, many people feel overly worried with public speaking.

9 Coping Skills for Anxiety

People with anxiety do not WANT to feel worried or nervous as frequently as they do. 

Telling someone with an anxiety disorder to "stop worrying" is the opposite of helpful (despite good intentions).

As a psychotherapist, my work often supports folks who are seeking new ways to help stop excessive worrying and decrease other anxiety symptoms. Continue reading to learn more about how psychotherapy can help treat anxiety.

This information is provided as general knowledge and does not substitute the recommendations of your own healthcare provider(s).

Anxiety Signs & Symptoms

People with anxiety come to therapy when symptoms have been negatively impacting functioning in areas such as work, home, relationships, or self-care (including hygiene).

Read: 45 Regulation Skills to Boost Well-Being

A person struggling with anxiety may have the “feeling” his/her/their brain is trying to make life more difficult; or experience a near-constant state of self-doubt. 

Someone with anxiety may also assume (and believe) that “everyone” harbors negative thoughts towards that person.

Anxiety often presents with more than “just” uncontrollable worry or as the symptoms listed above.

Anxiety may also look like:

  • Inability to get a good night’s sleep

  • Other mental health issues (including depression or PTSD)

  • Difficulty coping with a stressful life transition such as bringing home a new child, starting college or a new job, or moving to a new city

  • Struggling with self-care activities such as bathing, oral hygiene, or general cleaning chores

  • Experiencing thinking errors

  • An unescapable feeling of shame, guilt, worry, or self-doubt

blue tint image of stressed bald person laying on a bed covering their face with hand; anxiety is common and treatable. Signs and symptoms of anxiety

Physical symptoms of anxiety may present as:

  • Clenched jaw

  • Tension in shoulders, hands, hips, legs

  • Frequent headaches

  • Feeling lighted headed, dizzy

  • Nausea, upset stomach (which are not attributable to another health issue)

  • Fidgeting, restlessness

  • Feeling hot or sweaty

If you notice any of the symptoms above, consult with your healthcare team for medical advice and treatment. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety comes in several “flavors,” including:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD); the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder

  • Phobias (agoraphobia, mysophobia, acrophobia, arachnophobia, dentaphobia, or a fear of needles)

  • Social Anxiety

  • Panic Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

journal of anxiety entry. anxiety signs and symptoms when to seek help therapy for anxiety

How Does Counseling Help Anxiety?

Mental health professionals (professional counselors, psychologists, clinical social workers, and psychiatrists) use individual therapy, group therapy, or medication management to decrease symptoms of anxiety.

FAQ: Group Therapy Pros & Cons

Living with untreated anxiety can cause long-term health issues including increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, worsened symptoms of pain, memory problems, and other health conditions (Bandelow, Michaelis, Wedekind, 2017; NAMI 2024).

Recall that anxiety is common and treatable, and long-term health risks can be prevented.

A psychotherapist will assess your level of anxiety and develop a treatment plan which will target your specific goals and steps to help decrease symptoms of anxiety.

How to Find a Therapist (How to Start Therapy)

This may often include “talk therapy,” where you and a counselor identify triggering situations, thoughts, and feelings; and practice using regulation skills, which are commonly known as coping skills.

Evidence based treatments that decrease anxiety include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is the “gold standard” (Bandelow et al.). Other front-line approaches to anxiety that I use in my clinical work include mindfulness training and behavioral therapy.

Anxiety is treatable; and it is never too late to seek help.

eucalyptus in clear jar on white table. psychotherapy can decrease anxiety disorders

Psychotherapy is not the only way to treat anxiety, though it is efficacious (Bandelow et al.; NAMI). 

Other evidence based treatments include medication and medication in conjunction with psychotherapy; though psychotherapy has better long-term outcomes than medication alone.

As a psychotherapist and human with anxiety, I am aware that anxiety is exhausting.

If you are a woman or non-binary femme Alaskan seeking new ways to manage anxiety, I am offering an 8-week online CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) group session in August 2024; learn more and register for the C.A.L.M. Group (CBT for Anxiety Laden Minds) here.

In addition to group therapy, I am accepting new clients seeking individual therapy for anxiety. 

Call today for a free 20-minute initial consultation to see if we are a good match.

About the Author:

Hi, my name is Nicole!

Nicole, a white woman with short brown hair smiling gently at the camera. Nicole is wearing a button down chambray shirt and gray/blue cardigan indoors against a blue background.

I am a master’s level pre-licensed psychotherapist offering telehealth counseling services to adults in Alaska (Supervisor info: Dr. Ekstrom, #196093, #125200). When not working, I like to spend my time hiking, paddling, baking, reading, gardening, or relaxing with my pets.

Learn more about me and my practice Stellar Insight Counseling, here.

CBT for anxiety group therapy Stellar Insight Counseling online telehealth counseling adults online services


APA Dictionary

(Bandelow, Michaelis, Wedekind, 2017)

(NAMI, 2024)