Have you ever asked yourself why your spouse makes such a big deal about the smallest issues? Is it difficult to tolerate the sometimes agonizing process your sister goes through to make a decision? Do you find yourself avoiding certain topics because you don’t want to subject yourself to what seems like an unreasonable reaction?
You may be dealing with someone who has an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a normal part of life and we worry appropriately about important matters -- things like missing an appointment, failing an exam, being diagnosed with a medical condition.
An anxiety disorder differs from normal worry. It is much more intense, often impossible to control and can seriously interfere with normal functioning at work, home or school. There are different levels of intensity that people with anxiety disorders experience. Almost all of them are accompanied by some level of emotional discomfort and a variety of physical symptoms, including shortness of breath, sweating, numbness, nausea, racing heart and even a fear of losing control or dying. Some people demonstrate compulsive behaviors such as checking and rechecking plugs on appliances, or double and triple checking assignments. Some experience obsessive thoughts they can’t seem to control, which may make sleep or concentration difficult.
Anyone with an anxiety disorder will tell you it is not possible to “just get over it,” no matter how much a loved tells you, “You’re being ridiculous.” I often hear my clients who have anxiety disorders talk about how difficult it is to explain to others what they are feeling in an anxious moment. While one person may see a thought as irrational, highly unlikely or even outside the realm of possibility, the person with anxiety will tell you it is overwhelming and very real. People with anxiety disorders would love to be able to “just get over it,” but it is not that simple.
Anxiety disorders can cause a great deal of stress in relationships. Partners try to reassure and encourage those with anxiety, but they can become frustrated and even angry that the anxious person is behaving irrationally and making things much more difficult than they need to be. I hear a lot of stories from anxious clients of feeling criticized, isolated or hurt. These reactions can lead to greater misunderstanding within relationships.
One of the most effective therapeutic approaches for learning to manage anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive behavioral therapists believe that while forgotten childhood events may be a root cause in the development of an anxiety disorder, our current thoughts are much likely to influence how we feel. There are a variety of methods and techniques which can be learned, practiced and used to reduce or eliminate the painful effects of anxiety disorders.