Everyone experiences some anxiety as a result of everyday pressures, stress, worry, and uneasiness. It is when the symptoms of anxiety become dominant and overwhelming that help is needed. The symptoms of anxiety can be physiological, such as excessive sweating, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations; they can be cognitive, such as intrusive or repetitive thoughts; or they can be behavioral, such as avoiding certain people and/or situations. Mindfulness-based interventions are particularly helpful in the treatment of anxiety disorders because they soothe the nervous system and thus reduce physical symptoms, they bring awareness to previously unconscious thought patterns that reinforce anxiety, and they positively reframe thoughts and situations so that avoidance is no longer necessary. The most common anxiety disorders are:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
• Excessive and continual worry and apprehension about everyday events, activities, or people. Symptoms include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
Social Anxiety Disorder
• Persistent fear of social or performance situations, so much so that it leads to avoidance of these situations and interferes work functioning, social activities, and relationships.
• Excessive fear of a specific object or situation, such as fear of flying, heights, spiders, public speaking, seeing blood, etc.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
• Intrusive thoughts and/or repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking, counting, etc., that are persistent and cause distress as well as interfere with social and occupational functioning.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
• A person experiences or witnesses an event that causes intense fear, helplessness, and/or horror, and as a result has intrusive memories and thoughts about the event that interfere with normal functioning.
Panic Attacks with or without Agoraphobia
• Panic is a discrete experience of intense fear that includes physical symptoms such as chest pain, pounding heart, and nausea, that comes without warning. People then fear having another attack and avoid situations that they think may trigger the panic. Agoraphobia is extreme fear of leaving the safety of home, being in crowded places such as supermarkets, movie theaters, or public transportation, that sometimes accompanies the panic.