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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety manifests as being highly concerned about the future and outcomes of the future. It presents as overwhelming, excessive, and persistent feelings of apprehension, worry, and nervousness over everyday situations that other people may face with no issues. Anxiety differs from fear in that it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what its source is. Anxiety may signal that there may be a possible threat or something important to pay attention to. We may start noticing that the sense of worry seems out of control and not proportional to the present threat level. Individuals who experience anxiety worry to a degree of distress that impacts their relationships with themselves, romantic partners, family, friends, and colleagues. 

Some examples of anxiety disorders are: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 
  • Unspecified anxiety disorder
  • Situational anxiety 
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Phobic anxiety
  • Agoraphobia 
  • Separation anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What are the effects of anxiety?

When fear is misplaced, excessive, and disconnected from reality, it no longer provides an accurate and reliable signal of danger. Anxiety has effects at the physiological, psychological, and behavioral levels. Some of the physical symptoms that may be experienced by someone with anxiety include heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, the sensation of something being stuck in one’s throat, sweating, dizziness and instability, and digestive problems. Psychologically, anxiety may manifest in a myriad of ways, including constantly feeling on edge, not being able to stop worrying, feeling irritable and in some cases detached from yourself or reality. Behaviorally, anxiety can significantly alter the choices you make in daily life and the way you express yourself to others. 

How can I manage anxiety?

One of the first ways to learn to manage your anxiety is to recognize it and learn to understand it. Sometimes all it takes to take the first step is to understand the distortion of your thoughts. You can begin by logging your triggers, thoughts, and feelings. Eventually, you will be able to transition to challenging those thoughts. Mindfulness and meditation techniques, different types of breathing, and yoga can be helpful at all stages of recovery. If you are experiencing situational anxiety/phobic disorder, exposure therapy can be very effective. For generalized anxiety disorder, exposure to worries may be helpful over time as well. 

With consistency, the frequency and intensity of anxious distortions are likely to decrease. We also recommend exploring resources like the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne to identify and learn how anxiety works as well as try specific exercises to challenge behaviors and thoughts that are associated with it. Clinical treatment options that can help with managing anxiety are psychotherapy such as CBT, certain medications and support groups.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.