Anxiety is a small footprint on the mind. Anxiety therapy prevents it from becoming a rut that traps all other thoughts.
Is anxiety “making you crazy”?
- Do you get anxious in social situations?
- Does your anxiety take over when you’re giving a presentation?
- Are you worried about your child, your partner, your family?
- When things don’t go according to plan, do you automatically think the worst?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep at night because the “what ifs” of all shapes and sizes have taken over?
- Have friends or family described you as a “worry wart”?
- Is it hard or impossible to control your thoughts?
If a typical day starts off with your worries about:
- what to wear
- what to eat for breakfast
- whether your project will be good
- whether your boss will yell
- whether the subway will be on time
- whether your child’s homework will be good enough
- whether your partner is thinking of you
- whether your partner is angry
- whether your child is thinking of you
- whether your friends/coworkers/boss/strangers like you
- whether there will be enough money for the bills/vacation/school/retirement
- whether your investments are productive
- whether the real estate market is going to collapse
- how your life will change after the election
- whether the environment is hopelessly compromised, or some variation of the above,
you don’t need me to tell you that you’re not enjoying your life! And that you’re not being as productive as you could be.
Is anxiety part of the human condition?
Statistics range from estimates that 1.5% to 18.1% of people ages 18 to 54 suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety can be anything from “white noise” in the background of your mind to panic attacks, and everything in between. Think of it as being on a continuum.
Anxiety in the life cycle
Anxiety is common throughout the life cycle. Does this sound like you?
- You’re a young adult trying to make your own life, worried that you’re not living up to your potential.
- You wonder if you’re ever going to meet “the one.”
- You’re planning an event and are lying awake worrying about the details.
- You’re starting a family and worrying about your child’s happiness, health, homework.
- You avoid networking because you get too nervous.
- You refuse career opportunities that involve public speaking or presentations because of your anxiety.
- You’re going to a party and feel anxious about socializing.
- You walk into a restaurant and feel that everyone’s looking at you.
- You dream that you’re back in school and are having a final in a class you forgot about, or that you’re going on a business trip and forgot to pack.
- Do you feel pressure to succeed on a grand scale, to prove yourself, to live up to your potential? Do you negatively compare yourself to others and then put more pressure on yourself to “catch up” or surpass the people to whom you’ve compared yourself?
Or have you done well, and feel enormous anxiety to live up to or exceed your most recent success?
How much is enough?
One of the first questions you may be asked in a social situation is “What do you do?” followed by a question about whether or not you’re in a relationship or have children. If you’re someone who feels you haven’t done enough in those areas and are dependent on others’ approval, you may feel anxious when asked these questions, as if the conversation is a test of your value as a person.
Many people who struggle with anxiety had parents who also struggled with anxiety. This begs the question: Is anxiety learned through parents’ modeling of it, or is anxiety inherited? That’s something to explore in anxiety therapy!
Can you ever stop worrying? Do you feel that if you can just know that everything will be okay you can stop worrying?
How do you know if you need therapy for anxiety?
If anxiety’s interfering with the quality of your life, why wouldn’t you?!
If you’re having panic attacks, you should definitely get therapy for anxiety.
If your anxiety is not as extreme, but you find yourself worrying about everything from the state of the world to whether the child you haven’t had yet will get into a top school, you can benefit from treatment for anxiety.
I’m not saying that working to improve the world, through donating time and money to causes that make things better, is a problem. I’m saying that worrying—instead of taking action in ways that can help—is a problem.
If your friend hasn’t called in a couple of days and you assume he or she no longer wants to be friends or that he or she must be ill, you can benefit from therapy for anxiety.
If your default position is to assume the worst, you’re not fully enjoying your life because you’re not using your mind properly.
Your mind is a tool for your satisfaction, not for your displeasure.
If you’re not fully enjoying life because of your anxiety, you’d benefit from anxiety therapy.
How I can help
Therapy with a skilled and warm therapist can help with anxiety, because there’s no judgment here, just a calm acceptance of you as you are, as we delve into understanding the roots of your anxiety.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
You’ll learn about the roots of your anxiety and how to calm anxiety in the moment. I’ll help you learn to recognize the “early warning signs” of your anxiety, so you don’t have to run it all the way through to the end, and learn to work your way around your anxiety, thinking your way to a calm, realistic, adult state of mind.
This approach is specific to you and builds on the exploration of how you got to this point in your life. The kind of therapy I do involves dealing with your history as it affects your current life, so we will deal with things in your past, as well as things in your life today.
Compassion and theoretical understanding
Theory without compassion is cold and raises a patient’s anxiety. That’s the “Ummm” and no feedback or interaction that you see on TV or on film.
Compassion without theory is like a body without a skeleton: it has nothing to stand on!
My approach marries theory and compassion.
I’ve studied anxiety since 1993 and have been treating patients with anxiety disorders since 1995, so I bring a wealth of understanding and experience to treating you. These are among the people I’ve helped:
- performers with stage fright
- writers who have writer’s block
- professionals whose careers are blocked because of their anxiety in meetings, presentations, and public speaking
- college students who are so anxious in class that they can’t retain information
- parents who are anxious about their children’s well-being
- people who are afraid to fly or to have an MRI
- people who are anxious about dating
- people who lie awake worrying at night
- people who catastrophize when things don’t go according to plan.
- Why suffer when you can feel better?
What Are Examples Of Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes—no two people will experience anxiety in exactly the same way. Moreover, not all of the conditions listed below are exclusive to each other (e.g. someone who suffers from social anxiety may also experience panic attacks).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
The hallmark of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive worry. If you’re struggling with GAD, you may constantly feel restless, have trouble focusing, or anticipate the worst-case scenario in every situation.
Perhaps you know that your fears are irrational, but you still can’t control them. Everyday events and situations can feel threatening—for no reason at all. An ordinary day at work may fill you with dread because you think you’re going to make a terrible mistake and your boss will fire you. Or you might have a phone call with a close friend who is on the best of terms with you, but you fear that they’ll confront you.
As much as you try to talk yourself down from these worst-case scenarios, your brain can’t seem to “shut them off.” In this way, worry begins to consume your life and limit your ability to make healthy decisions.
While most people think of social anxiety as the fear of being around other people, the truth is more complex than that. Some forms of social anxiety are general and include all social settings, but others only occur in specific environments. For instance, suppose a dancer messes up their performance at a recital. As a result, each time they perform afterward, they freeze up, panic, and can’t perform well. In all other social settings, they feel fine, but whenever they’re on stage, their anxiety gets the best of them.
If you feel an exaggerated sense of fear around others—like they’re going to judge you or criticize you—that’s probably a sign that you’re dealing with social anxiety. In the end, this fear can lead to profound loneliness, causing you to withdraw and isolate yourself from others.
Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder
Anxiety doesn’t just affect the mind—it affects the body, too. Nowhere does this become more evident than in panic attacks. Basically, a panic attack happens when anxiety becomes so powerful that it triggers a reaction in your body. When you experience a panic attack, your breath may quicken, your heart may race, and you may feel like you’re going to pass out. Sometimes, you might even fear that you’re going to have a heart attack or die.
Most of the time, panic attacks are a symptom of a condition called panic disorder. And although panic attacks are often limited to certain situations (e.g. someone with social anxiety may experience a panic attack while giving a speech), they can also arise randomly or without any particular cause.
One of the least-known forms of anxiety is agoraphobia. Similar to claustrophobia, agoraphobia is characterized by fear of places that make you feel trapped. But unlike claustrophobia, agoraphobia isn’t driven by fear of cramped spaces (such as elevators or MRIs). Instead, agoraphobia is defined more as the fear of open spaces.
For instance, suppose you witnessed a violent incident outside your home. Now, every time you leave your house, you are seized with panic and worry that the traumatic event will happen again. What’s particularly unnerving is that you have no control over whether or not it happens again—which leaves you feeling trapped and unable to escape.
In the end, agoraphobia can cause you to spend unhealthy amounts of time indoors. As a result, you may become lonely and neglect your relationships with others.
But you may still have questions about anxiety therapy…
Is it expensive?
Anxiety itself is expensive! Anxiety steals the joy from your life; your ability to model calm problem-solving thinking and optimism for your children, if you have them; your enjoyment of relating to others in your relationships and friendships (you can’t relate if you’re anxious about what others think of you); your effectiveness in your career; your physical health.
Treatment for anxiety is an investment in your self—for yourself! It also benefits your family, your friends, and your work. How can you afford not to get anxiety therapy?
Do I have to take medication?
Some people benefit from talk therapy alone and never need medication.
Others benefit from talk therapy plus medication for a period of time. Studies (such as one by Steven Hollon, Ph.D., professor, psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn; Scott Krakow, D.O., assistant unit chief, psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, New York City; Aug. 20, 2014 JAMA Psychiatry, online) show that for people who need medication, the combination of medication plus talk therapy is more effective than medication alone.
We’ll work together to determine the best course of action for you, and if that is ultimately adding medication to the talk therapy, I’ll refer you to a trusted medical doctor who can prescribe medication and follow you for the medical part, while I continue therapy with you.
Does it take a long time?
It’s not a quick process to get to the bottom of anxiety and deal with its presence throughout your life, but the more you dig in and commit to your treatment, the better you’ll feel.
You may see improvements relatively soon—again, everyone’s different—but to really understand your anxiety and apply the things you learn throughout your life takes time. After all, you didn’t just suddenly become anxious after being calm your whole life, right?
Case study and testimonial
Seth was referred to me by a colleague. Note: This is a composite character. I will never use actual patient material on this website or in any writing I do. However, testimonials are from patients. He had been promoted at work and was having panic attacks. Before getting the referral to me, he had gone to a psychiatrist and gotten medication to help with his anxiety, and the medication was working somewhat. However, he hated the feeling that anxiety was running and ruining his life.
He was smoking, despite his father’s death from lung cancer, drinking too much, and having risky anonymous sex.
Among the many issues we explored over time were his mother’s anxiety and her high expectations of him; his feeling that he was always disappointing his mother and his bosses; his anxiety around meetings at his job; the role of smoking, drinking and risky sex in his life and whether they helped with the anxiety or made it worse; and his anxiety around dating.
He lost his job in a merger, and became even more anxious.
Progress to a satisfying life
We explored how his thoughts affected his anxiety, and he learned to better control his thoughts. We worked together on managing his anxiety through his unsuccessful job search. He credits me with inspiring him to establish his own business, and I helped him deal with the inherent challenges.
As we continued working on his anxiety, he became ready to stop smoking, and successfully quit. He later talked to his psychiatrist to get help in tapering off the medication he had been taking for anxiety. He began dating and has now been in a satisfying relationship for many years.
He understands that he will never please his mother, and now has a warm, more autonomous relationship with her.
He no longer gets anxious in meetings and in dealing with types of people he used to be extremely anxious around.
He has moderated his drinking.
While Seth started feeling better overall in a few weeks, the profound changes took a number of years of therapy.
Testimonial from patient who began anxiety therapy
“Over the past three years, Diane has been instrumental in providing guidance and advice that has enabled me to lead a far more happy and fulfilling life.
In her approach to treatment she is direct, firm and consistent, whilst also being warm and supportive.
She introduced me to psychological concepts and techniques that I use every day to help me to reduce anxiety and frame issues more effectively. She used techniques such as metaphors and real-world examples to help me learn and internalize these practices.
She has been enormously effective in teaching me how my thoughts and actions are based upon key fixed ideas and perceptions which are embedded but flawed and then using this framework to repeatedly examine things that happen in my life day to day so that the fundamentals of anxiety, frustration and anger are addressed as opposed to the symptoms.
For anyone who is serious about getting well and having a happier, more fulfilling life, I couldn’t recommend her enough.”
A satisfying life isn’t ruled by anxiety!
You can feel better; relate to people (instead of being consumed by anxiety about what they think of you); and enjoy your accomplishments, activities, and career when you’re not leading with your anxiety.
If you’re a parent who’s in therapy for anxiety, you can give your child one of the best possible gifts in life: the model of dealing with life in a calm, problem-solving, optimistic fashion.
If anxiety is preventing you from fully enjoying your life, I can help. Treatment with an experienced therapist can help relieve your symptoms of anxiety and help you develop an optimistic approach to life that will feel good!