Anxiety & Stress

Everyone experiences symptoms of anxiety, but they are generally occasional and short-lived, and do not cause problems. But when the cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms of anxiety are persistent and severe, and anxiety causes distress in a person’s life to the point that it negatively affects his or her ability to work or study, socialize and manage daily tasks, it may be beyond the normal range.

The main categories of anxiety disorders are:

People with anxiety disorders may feel anxious most of the time or for brief intense episodes, which may occur for no apparent reason. They may have anxious feelings that are so uncomfortable that they avoid daily routines and activities that might cause these feelings. Some people have occasional anxiety attacks so intense that they are terrified or immobilized.

People with anxiety disorders are usually aware of the irrational and excessive nature of their fears. When they come for treatment, many say, “I know my fears are unreasonable, but I just can’t seem to stop them.”

Signs & Symptoms

Each of these anxiety disorders is distinct in some ways, but they all share the same hallmark features:

  • Irrational and excessive fear
  • Apprehensive and tense feelings
  • Difficulty managing daily tasks and/or distress related to these tasks.

Cognitive, behavioural and physical symptoms include:

  • Anxious thoughts (e.g., “I’m losing control” )
  • Anxious predictions (e.g., “I’m going to fumble my words and humiliate myself”)
  • Anxious beliefs (e.g., “Only weak people get anxious”)
  • Avoidance of feared situations (e.g., driving)
  • Avoidance of activities that elicit sensations similar to those experienced when anxious (e.g., exercise)
  • Subtle avoidances (behaviours that aim to distract the person, e.g., talking more during periods of anxiety)
  • Safety behaviours (habits to minimize anxiety and feel “safer,” e.g., always having a cell phone on hand to call for help)
  • Excessive physical reactions relative to the context (e.g., heart racing and feeling short of breath in response to being at the mall).

The physical symptoms of anxiety may be mistaken for symptoms of a physical illness, such as a heart attack.

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Anxiety & Stress Resources

  • Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think (Authors: Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky)
  • The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Author: Chad LeJeune)
  • 10 Simple Solutions to Panic: How to Overcome Panic Attacks, Calm Physical Symptoms, and Reclaim Your Life (Authors: Martin M. Antony and Randi E. McCabe)
  • 10 Simple Solutions to Worry: How to Calm Your Mind, Relax Your Body, and Reclaim Your Life (Authors: Kevin L. Gyoerkoe and Pamela S. Wiegartz)
  • 10 Simple Solutions to Stress: How to Tame Tension and Start Enjoying Your Life (Author: Claire Michaels Wheeler)
  • Stop Obsessing!: How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions (Authors: Ednra B. Foa and Reid Wilson)
  • 10 Simple Solutions to Shyness: How to Overcome Shyness, Social Anxiety, and Fear of Public Speaking (Author: Martin M. Antony)
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