Anxiety or Normal Worrying?

You know the feeling, the butterflies in your stomach and the fluttering in your chest.  You feel it when you’re presenting in front of the class or sharing your good idea with your boss.  It feels like your heart is going to beat out of your chest and all the “what ifs?” swirl around in your mind.  What if I mess up or fail?  What if my boss thinks my idea is stupid? What if the people in my class laugh at me?  You might wonder, is this anxiety?  Or is this just a normal worry?

I think we can all agree that this is a normal situation that most of us would worry about, so it’s not one to be concerned about, unless you find yourself avoiding doing presentations or sharing ideas because you get anxious.  Worrying can be productive in small doses because it makes us over-prepare and think of every scenario that might play out, and that sometimes leads to better results.  Anxiety also can keep us safe and out of danger, because it’s designed to alert us to threats to our safety. But if your feelings of worry persist and are not happening on a once-in-a-while basis, then you may actually be dealing with an anxiety disorder.

For example, if you feel a bit nervous before going into a social networking event, that’s expected because you’re meeting new, potentially important people, and you’re putting yourself out there, which can feel uncomfortable.  But if you find yourself worrying about the event weeks ahead of time, and you try to stop worrying but can’t, it’s time to come in to see a therapist to see if anxiety could be the culprit.  Perhaps you’re more restless, fidgety, tired, or irritable.  Sometimes anxiety can cause difficulties in concentration, which of course creates challenges with performance at school or work, and you may feel foggy or like your mind is blank.  Because anxiety can make you feel on edge, you may experience muscle tension or difficulties falling or staying asleep.  And anxiety can take a physical form through headaches, stomachaches, racing heartbeat, dizziness, and shortness of breath.  It can become a vicious cycle, where you feel anxious all day, toss and turn at night, feel drained and tired the next day, and then feel even more anxious than the day before, because sleep significantly impacts mental health. 

Any of this sound familiar?  Well, if it does, you’re definitely not alone.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.  And the ADAA also reports that anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.

The good news is that anxiety is treatable, and the outcomes are good, especially with using EMDR.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) registry cites EMDR as evidence-based practice for treatment of PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms, which means that research has shown its effectiveness.  Their review of the research also indicated that EMDR leads to an improvement in mental health functioning, which is a nice bonus.  

In therapy, you can learn tools to help you to manage your anxiety symptoms, and you can process through triggers and experiences that have led to the worsening of anxiety.   EMDR therapy can teach you skills to calm the overwhelm and stay present, which is a huge part of the anxiety battle.  And one of the best parts of EMDR therapy is the ability to target specific situations that evoke anxiety in an efficient manner.  The root causes are dealt with, the situation itself is desensitized, and helpful thoughts and information replace negative, anxious thinking.  That means the next time you’re facing that networking event, social gathering, uncomfortable conversation, or whatever you feel anxious about, you don’t feel all panicky. Instead, you feel as though you can get through it more easily,.

There’s no reason to continue struggling with anxiety on your own.  Let’s start working towards coping and feeling more in control. 


Statistics and information referenced in this article borrowed from: