If you or someone you love is seeking anxiety treatment in Calgary, we can help. The following pages provide some general information about anxiety disorders to help you get started. Please feel free to contact us for further information at the phone number above if you have questions or would like to book an appointment.
Anxiety is a state of fearful, agitated uneasiness that we can experience physically (as in knots in the stomach, tension in our muscles, shallow breathing, shaking, rapid heart rate, tunnel vision, sweating) as well as cognitively and emotionally (intense apprehension or worry about something bad happening or freezing in fear in response to a current stimulus that we find frightening).
A certain degree of anxiety is a normal part of the human experience. It is common to feel anxious about speaking in public, or just before a job interview.
The difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder, however, is that the latter involves a degree of fear or worry that is so intense or pervasive that it causes clinically significant distress, over and above what the majority of individuals might experience in the same situation. An anxiety disorder also causes some form of impairment in a person’s ability to function in daily life. Your ability to perform well at work, for example, to interact with others socially, to travel, to engage in certain activities with friends, or to feel safe certain settings can be made very difficult by an anxiety disorder.
There are a number of different anxiety disorders that are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition. The following brief list includes short descriptions of each disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive and chronic anxiety and worry about a variety of events or activities. This worry is pervasive even in the absence of anything bad happening or is out of proportion to the actual risk involved. Accompanying the excessive worry is restlessness, fatigue, impaired concentration, irritability, increased muscle aches and/or difficulty sleeping (note that some of the symptoms of generalized anxiety listed here are also symptoms of depression; there are additional features that distinguish depression from anxiety).
Social Anxiety Disorder (or social phobia) is fear of being humiliated or embarrassed in a social or performance situation, where the individual is exposed to unfamiliar people or close scrutiny. The person fears calling attention to themselves or looking and sounding foolish, and either avoids social settings or performance situations or endures them while experiencing intense anxiety.
A Specific Phobia is intense fear--of an object, person or situation--that is disproportionate to the risk or threat posed by whatever is stimulating the fear. The person with a specific phobia avoids the object of their fear or experiences intense anxiety when exposed to it or anticipating exposure.
Panic Disorder involves experiencing persistent and unanticipated panic attacks (a sudden surge of intense fear or anxiety that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following: racing heart sensations, shortness of breath, shaking, trembling, a feeling of choking, chest pain, nausea, feeling chills, dizziness, paresthesias (numbing or tingling sensations), derealization (feelings of unreality), depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), fear of losing control, or fear of dying), followed by at least one month of persistent worry about experiencing additional panic attacks or engaging in maladaptive behavior intended to avoid experiencing further panic attacks.
Agoraphobia is the fear of experiencing a panic attack in a situation in which it would be difficult to get help or to escape, resulting in avoidance of such situations as public places or crowds or travelling in a vehicle.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder consists of having obsessions and compulsions that are debilitating to a person's life. Obsessions are recurrent and intrusive ideas, thoughts and images that are unwanted and that cause significant anxiety unless certain actions (compulsions) are taken to relieve the anxiety. Compulsions are certain repetitive and ritualistic behaviors that are undertaken to temporarily relieve the anxiety brought on by the obsessions. For example, you might become obsessed with the recurrent thought that you will contract a deadly bacteria and die if you don't wash your hands twenty times in a certain way. The compulsion is then washing your hands that many times.
In all of the above disorders, an additional criteria is that the anxiety and associated avoidance behaviors cause clinically significant distress and impairment in one's normal routines, or social or occupational life.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect about 18% of the adult population in the United States (*http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics). Some specific disorders occur twice as often in females as males (for example, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder), while others occur at the same rate between men and women (for example, social anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder) (see earlier reference). The good news is that anxiety disorders are treatable! The bad news is that only about a third of those who suffer seek treatment (see earlier reference). Anxiety disorders also often co-occur with depression, with nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression also meeting criteria for an anxiety disorder.
Treatment of the various anxiety disorders listed above typically consists of combining the use of prescribed medications (usually an anti-depressant medication of the SSRI type) that help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and panic, along with cognitive behavior therapy, or as it is commonly referred to, CBT. Medications can be prescribed by your family physician or by a psychiatrist. Cognitive behavioral therapy would be offered by a qualified mental health practitioner such as a psychologist or counsellor.
The cognitive part of CBT examines fear-based automatic thoughts and core beliefs that perpetuate anxiety and helps identify more adaptive and constructive ways of thinking to replace the thoughts that keep the anxiety going. The behavioral part of CBT typically consists of training your body and muscles to relax (which, by itself, can be very beneficial) and then learning to remain relaxed while being exposed to the feared stimulus, in small, manageable, incremental steps, either in imaginative recall or in real-life situations. This has been shown to be a very successful treatment protocol for anxiety.
Our qualified counsellors can work with you to provide two essential components for recovery: 1) a safe and trusting environment for healing to take place, and 2) guidance in applying specific techniques for recovery.
Research on the therapeutic components of effective therapy indicates that some of the most important elements--as influential as the specific techniques and tools your therapist uses to treat Anxiety Disorders--include the helping relationship that you develop with a caring and trusted professional, who will listen to you carefully and provide guidance and support, and an environment that instills hope, or a positive expectancy.
In addition, one of our counsellors can help you to assess the scope and severity of your anxiety, review with you some possible treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy and may recommend that you consult your physician regarding prescription medication options. We can also help you to organize a plan that involves trying out different behaviors, such as relaxation and exposure in a safe and organized way, practicing new ways of thinking, developing new perspectives, and making changes in how you relate to yourself and to others. Having a counsellor work with you can be like having your own coach / consultant / practitioner in your corner, helping you to clarify your goals, see the steps to take to reach your goals, avoid the pitfalls along the way, and use your personal strengths along the way to enhance your recovery.
By Edmund J. Bourne
by David Burns
This book is a highly recommended self-help manual for overcoming depression and anxiety. It includes a section on improving communication in your relationships. Dr. Burns uses a cognitive-behavioral approach to treatment, focusing on changing patterns of thinking and taking positive behavioral steps to reducing anxiety.
The following links lead to online resources that may help further:
Dr. David Burns' official website on anxiety and depression.
If you have any questions or would like to contact us by email, you can complete a brief confidential contact form here. Once you submit the contact form, a Cobb & Associates intake staff member will respond as soon as possible.
The Calgary Couples Counselling Centre (a subsidiary of Cobb & Associates Inc.) is located in southeast Calgary (near Leons and Trail Appliances on 11th Street SE). Please click here for our full address and a map to our location. We are currently accepting new clients and warmly welcome self-referrals and referrals from physicians and other professionals.
We appreciate your interest in our services and hope this information has been helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions.