What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common and natural experience for us as humans. It has been hardwired into our biology as an evolutionary process. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has evolved since much faster than our biology has. While we all experience depression, some people experience it more intensely than others and for prolonged periods of time. Anxiety can come in the form of diagnoses such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Specific Phobias.

Up to 33% of the population experiences an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. Anxiety is often caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. Stress, illnesses, trauma, and family history are among risk factors for anxiety. It is also common during the perinatal period. Anxiety and depression often occur in the same person at the same time.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of nervousness and restlessness
  • Feelings of panic, panic attacks
  • Increased heart rate, breathing rapidly, sweating, and trembling
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Experiential avoidance of activities that trigger anxiety

If you are experiencing more than two of these symptoms, know that anxiety is treatable.

The largest evidence-based in treating anxiety is a combination of medication and counselling. Medication is helpful with the biological components, and counselling can provide support, skills and action planning to help you engage with your life.

Counselling at Westwood includes the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for depression. In ACT for anxiety we focus on:

  • Contacting the present moment, because often anxiety pulls us into the future.
  • Creating distance between ourselves and our anxious thoughts.
  • Accepting our emotions of anxiety and panic as real but passing experiences, and learning to tolerate the physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Connecting with our values, as we often ignore them when we feel anxious.
  • Engaging in activities that we are avoiding through the use of exposure.
  • Noticing what we are doing, thinking, and feeling in any given moment.